Friday, November 18, 2011

What Lurks in the Longbox? #14: Is Marvel "New52" on the way?

All eyes seem to be on DC Comics right now with their "DC New 52" relaunch event that kicked off in September.  Recent reports indicate that DC has taken a significant market share lead over their longtime rival Marvel.  

And it's not just their comics that have people talking either. 

One week ago Cartoon Network premiered a special one-hour preview episode of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which will officially launch in 2012.  In addition, the network announced "DC Nation," a huge initiative that is coming next year.  DC Nation is a block of programming that will focus on three areas: 1) new episodes of shows like Young Justice and Green Lantern; 2) animated shorts featuring properties from DC's huge library of characters, including Lego Batman, Teen Titans, and Doom Patrol; and 3) something new called "interstitials."  Sam Register, the Executive VP of Creative Affairs at Warner Brothers, recently described interstitials as "live action news segments that allow you to see what's going on in the DC Nation."  A huge Mego doll collector was mentioned as one of those segments, with the concept being that all of us are part of the DC Nation, not just the people working directly in the industry.

Green Lantern: The Animated Series premiered on Cartoon Network last Friday.

In a recent presentation, Register previewed some of the content that will be included in the new programming block.  He mentioned that "With all that content, every week on Cartoon Network you will see something promises the viewer that they will be able to see something new every time they come on."  He also gave a brief mention of another new show: the upcoming "Beware the Batman" animated series that is premiering in 2013.  

Meanwhile, it appears that Marvel has some serious catching up to do, although it has become very obvious that something is in the works at the House of Ideas.  During the past month Marvel started announcing cancellations on several titles including Iron Man 2.0, All-Winners Squad, and Alpha Flight (although technically this one was originally a mini-series that was changed to an ongoing series, and then back to mini-series status).  Was there some corporate cost-cutting going on here, or just a general trimming of titles with sales that were not meeting expectations?

Shortly after hearing this news, Marvel took it a step further and cancelled two series that had not even seen the light of day yet: Victor Von Doom, which had already been solicited, and Destroyers, which was not even scheduled to be released until 2012.  Then a couple days later, it became official that X-23 would be ending as well.

Earlier this week, one of my Facebook friends posted the sad news that PunisherMax, one of my favorite titles, would be coming to an end with Issue #22.  PunisherMax is a "mature readers" series by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon that has featured some of the most intense Punisher storylines ever seen, which is saying a lot considering the legacy of Garth Ennis' run on the previous volume of the series.  Aaron also took several classic Marvel villains and successfully brought them into the MAX universe, including The Kingpin, Bullseye and Elektra.  A recent article I read mentioned it was not so much a cancellation, as it was a planned ending to the storyline.  Jason Aaron stated "PunisherMax is ending, the way I always intended.  It was not cancelled."

PunisherMax will end its run with issue #22.

For this humble blogger and comic reviewer, yesterday's announced cancellations of Black Panther and Ghost Rider have confirmed that Marvel is taking the first steps toward a significant change in their universe, perhaps at the same level as DC's "New52" event.  In addition, according to a recent twitter post, the following titles are also facing the chopping block (although these are not confirmed yet): Daken: Dark Wolverine, Thunderbolts, Generation Hope and DeadpoolMax.  

So what's next?  Marvel's Point One comic that was released last week gives several clues to major storylines coming in 2012, but something tells me this is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Could the "retro" variant cover for Marvel Point One indicate a DC-like relaunch? 

Will Marvel do a total revamp/relaunch of their entire line like DC did?  If so, won't they face criticism for copying what DC already did?  Or, does Marvel have a totally different plan in mind?  In any case, it definitely appears that 2012 will be another interesting year in the comic book industry.  Like everyone else, I'll stay tuned and see what happens next. 

Scarlet Spider is one of the new series that was previewed in Marvel Point One.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Lurks in the Longbox? #13

Jughead #200 Anniversary Issue!

Writer: Tom Root    Artists: Rex Lindsey, Jim Amash 

Jughead celebrates its 200th issue with an appropriate story that focuses on the title character’s one true love: food.  Jughead’s curiosity about a new diner results in him trading his most “prized earthly possession” to a witch (disguised as a waitress) in exchange for a sandwich that he describes as “paradise on a bun.”  Unfortunately, he discovers far too late that the price to be paid for that sandwich is something he has never experienced before, and it’s up to Archie, Veronica and Betty to rescue him from this predicament.

In order to help Jughead retrieve what he has lost, each of them is also forced to trade something of incredible value, resulting in a “Butterfly Effect” scenario that leads to more complications.  A special guest star steps in to put things right, but it’s Jughead that eventually saves the day and returns everyone’s life to normal, while learning a valuable lesson about healthy eating. 

The creative team provided readers with a fun all-ages story, with extra credit given for delivering a special anniversary issue without raising the cover price, like most major publishers do.