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Issues Versus Years

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Supergirl’s 50th issue is getting extra pages, all-star creators, and a higher price point. Supergirl’s 50th birthday last year got a whole lot of nothing. Which is more important: years or issues?

Regular readers know I love the celebration of anniversary issues. If a title reaches an issue number divisible by 25, odds are I’ll write about it here. The bigger the number is the better it is. And if you change the numbering of a title just in time to celebrate a landmark anniversary issue, that’s fine with me.

But do you know what I like better than the celebration of an anniversary issue? I like the celebration of an anniversary of the actual characters first appearance or company’s creation. In my opinion, 50 years far outweighs 50 issues.

Tomorrow, DC is publishing the 50th issue of the latest Supergirl series. To celebrate it, Jamal Igle is reuniting with Sterling Gates on the main story. Helen Slater, the woman who played Supergirl in the 1984 film adaptation of the comic, is co-writing a back-up tale featuring the character for the issue. The issue will be 56 pages instead of the usual 32 and the price will be $4.99 instead of the usual $2.99. In other words, this is a really big deal.

Last year was Supergirl’s 50th birthday. Well, actually, the 50th anniversary of her first appearance in Action Comics #252. But regardless, there were no special, oversized issues to commemorate the event. No press releases sent out to the mainstream press. No coffee table books to honor the occasion. It was a slight so egregious that Wizard, a magazine that is essentially a press arm of the Big Two, made note of it in its January 2010 issue.

Fans of Supergirl shouldn’t feel so bad. Last year was also Batman’s 70th birthday. The year before was Superman’s. These are two of the most iconic characters in all of pop culture, not just comic books. They each have made billions of dollars for DC Comics and Warner Brothers. If any character should have their milestone year in existence celebrated, it would be those two. Again, there was nothing.

This year, this month actually, is the 75th year in existence of DC Comics. It is the company’s diamond anniversary. What is DC doing to celebrate this amazing milestone? A line of overpriced comic themed clothing and accessories at Bloomingdales, a revisit of their encyclopedic Who’s Who series and a series tracing the in-continuity history of the DC universe called Legacies.

By comparison, Marvel celebrated its 70th anniversary last year. It commemorated the event by reprinting some of its oldest and rarest stories in its Marvel Masterworks line, it brought out a series of specials featuring some of its long-forgotten characters, had 70th anniversary variants on all of its titles and had the trade dressing of their main line of books changed to let fans know that it was their 70th anniversary.

Marvel did more to celebrate its history. A cynic might say that it is just a way for Marvel to rake money out of its fans, but, really, are you saying the changes to Supergirl #50 aren’t? DC could have made money if it was more concerned with celebrating its longevity. But it appears that it couldn’t be bothered.

There is a lot of discussion about why exactly DC is unwilling or unable to recognize the landmark birthdays of itself or its characters. The ongoing legal action about Superman was given as one reason for his anniversary not being celebrated. The recent upheaval of DC Comics management is given as another. But whatever the reason, a rather substantial history is being all but ignored while a rather superficial one (tomorrow’s Supergirl issue is actually the 168th appearance of hers in her own title, if you add all of her series together) gets all the attention.

This summer, Wonder Woman will be renumbered to commemorate what would be her 600th issue. I’m sure that it will be an event, with extra pages, a higher cost and big name creators involved. I’m also sure that next year, when Wonder Woman celebrates her 70th anniversary of her first appearance, there will be no celebration at all. I believe that you shouldn’t celebrate the former if you are not going to celebrate the latter.

Also out this week:

Marvels: Eye of the Camera #6:

I was once a firm believer in the idea that to avoid any mess with creators who have issues with lateness was to give them enough lead time. If you have a problematic writer like Kevin Smith or a consistently late artist like Jim Lee, let them build up enough issues before you solicit their latest project. Give them enough cushion so if they run into problems, the entire project won’t be derailed. 

But they did that with this series and see what happened? It was announced for release way back in 2002. The first issue didn’t arrive until 2008, supposedly to give artist Jay Anacleto enough time to get enough issues in the can. The first five issues came out on time, but this final one is almost a year late. If you are a fan of Anacleto’s artwork, this delay might not be such a big deal. If not, then this must have been intolerable. Regardless, the series is finally over.

Kurt Busiek (W), Jay Anacleto (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

Chase Variant: One Shot is All I Need:

Rich Johnston is a controversial figure in the world of comic book journalism. Some consider him nothing but a gossip monger and a rabid self-promoter. Some consider him a rare investigative journalist in a field of press release rehashers. I think he’s more of the latter than the former, but he does have elements of both.

Johnston doesn’t just comment and report about comics, he also creates them. And, like his journalism, his comic writing is usually some sort of commentary on the four-colored world. His latest effort, on sale tomorrow, features a four-armed, genetically altered assassin much like the kinds of characters that made Image popular in the 90s. But he adds a philosophical component to the story, by having her action controlled by players of a Magic-like card game. Not your average everyday satire to say the least.

 Rich Johnston (W), Saverio Tenuta (A), Image Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Atomic Robo: Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #1:

Atomic Robo is almost the perfect concept. Being the adventures of a wise-cracking , atomic-powered robot, you can fit into almost any story. You can have humor, you can have action. You can have him fight Nazis in the 40s, aliens in the 50s or gangsters in the 30s. There is very little limitation on the time period, style or genre you can use.

This time around, Atomic Robo is living at the end of the 90s. He is about to leave NYC to travel to Japan on business. Of course, nothing is ever easy or goes as well as it should for Atomic Robo. His trip is delayed when a foe invades the Tesladyne offices. The foe he is about to fight is a legion of vampires from a, well, vampire dimension. It appears that Robo might miss his flight.

Brian Clevinger (W), Scott Wegener (A), Red 5 Comics, $3.50. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Perhapanauts: Molly's Story:

If you develop a team with an interesting concept—like, say, a group of ghosts, sasquatches and other supernatural creatures investigating supernatural occurrences—not only do you have an endless source of interesting stories, but you also have a bunch of interesting characters with their own stories to tell.

Molly MacAllister is the ghost of the group, and, as we all know, ghosts were one day living and breathing human beings. This one-shot tells her story and details the events that not only led her to become a member of the team, but also how she became a ghost. It will be tragic but it will let fan’s of the concept in on the history of one of their favorite characters, while acting as a jumping on point for newbies as well.   

Todd Dezago & Scott Weinstein (W), Jason Copeland (A), Image Comics, $3.50. One-Shot.

Doomwar #1:

If you haven’t been following the latest Black Panther series, apparently Doctor Doom has conquered Wakanda, its Vibranium reserves are being plundered and Storm is about to be executed. Of course, this captures a lot of attention. The X-Men certainly are not going to sit back and let one of their own be killed. And the Fantastic Four is not about to let their greatest enemy rape and pillage the land of their friends. So what we have is a war of global consequences.

This miniseries has the appearance of the recent Marvel strategy of putting a low-selling series on hiatus and starting a new miniseries to try to draw in more readers. Black Panther was landing well outside of the Diamond 100 for the last several months. But someone at Marvel must really want the title to succeed because this miniseries interlude is bigger and bolder than other examples of this tactic. Will it work? We’ll see.

Jonathan Maberry (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.


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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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