Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Adventures of Superman and the Future of Digital Comics

If you perused the comic news world yesterday you probably picked up on this exciting news story. In April DC will be unveiling a new digital first series called The Adventures of Superman. Much like the current Legends of the Dark Knight this will be an out of continuity anthology series. Both are based on former print only series that starred the two main DC heroes.

The first set of stories will be written by Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game, Ultimate Iron Man) and Aaron Johnston (Formic Wars, Ender in Exile) and drawn by Chris Sprouse (Tom Strong) and Karl Story (Nightwing, Tom Strong). The inclusion of Card, a known anti-gay marriage proponent, has raised a few eyebrows around the comic reading world.

After this first story we get to see Jeff Parker (Thunderbolts, Hulk) and Chris Samnee (Daredevil, Thor The Mighty Avenger) tackle the hero from Krypton. You can see Samnee’s take on Superman to the side there. Many other writers and artists have already announced their involvement in the project including: 

Dan Abnett
Ed Benes
Mitch Breitweiser
Giuseppe Camuncoli
Nathan Edmondson
Joshua Hale Fialkov
Christos N. Gage
Marc Guggenheim
Justin Jordan
Matt Kindt
JT Krul
Max Landis
Andy Lanning
David Lapham
Jeff Lemire
Michael Avon Oeming
Riley Rossmo
Stephen Segovia
Bruce Timm
Marcus To
Marv Wolfman

A lot of those names are very exciting, but one to me really stands out: Bruce Timm! I think this will be his first involvement in a Superman-centric story since the early 2000’s when the Justice League cartoon had its own comic. I also can’t wait for more art from Samnee. His teaser image just looks so happy and colorful, it really feels like Superman. The list seems to be a who’s who of creators, including some who rose to fame with their own independent creations. Hopefully this means that DC is willing to try and hire folks who are interesting and different and give them a crack at making a great Superman story. Artists like Ken Garing (Planetoid), Katie Cook (Gronk), and Tom Scioli (Godland) or writers like Jim Zub (Skullkickers) and Benito Cereno (Hector Plasm, The Tick) would all be really cool choices to see work on this series. 

No, you're wrong. Shadowhawk first appeared in Youngblood #2
The Adevntures of Superman and Legends of the Dark Knight are important, I believe, for a few reasons. First, the digital aspect cannot be overlooked. These are stories that will run digitally first before being collected later and sold in print. I love going into the local comic store but I believe if comics want to stay relevant then they must embrace this digital format more, which seems to be 
occurring. Digital comics are available to anyone with a smart phone or tablet. Raise your hand if you don’t have a smart phone or a tablet. If you have your hand raised you’re a liar, Amish, or my grandma. If you’re my grandma, Hi Grandma!  If you’re Amish then you better be on rumspringa. Digital comics are the way to entice more people to enjoy our favorite medium. Which brings me to my second favorite thing about these two series, they are out of continuity. I imagine it doesn’t matter if you skip Card’s run at the beginning and then pick up Parker & Samnee’s because the tales won’t necessarily be woven together tightly. Not only does that sometimes make for a more enjoyable reading experience for established comic fans it lets new fans in the door. I am hopeful that if DC finds success we will see digital first series from Marvel as well. Perhaps a Web of Spider-Man or Tales of Asgard. Maybe Image could even get in on the action! There's no reason we couldn't have The Legends of Allen the Alien or a Tales of the Walking Dead. Stories that take place outside of continuity and feature interesting and diverse creative teams.

To bring it full circle, I think it’s important that they are bringing in such a wide variety of artists and writers on these titles. Marvel has been employing similar tactics of finding unknown or semi-popular independent creators and bringing them into the fold. If you go and pick up Marvel’s Strange Tales or Strange Tales II you can find works by a lot of offbeat or different creators. Even though these tales are out of continuity, they often lead to new ideas being introduced into the Big Two universes and helps these creators to get a steady paycheck. Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction, and Rick Remender all joined up with Marvel after becoming famous as indy guys. Comics is just like any other industry and sometimes things get a little inbred. When you have the same group of folks making creative decisions or writing/drawing you just get the same ideas, emotions, and beliefs hashed over and over again. It isn’t healthy. It creates an insular community that excludes new fans, new ideas, and new creators from being interested or successful. If things like Adventures of Superman and Strange Tales are successful, it entices the Big 2 to take more creative liberties and to branch out more. That’s good and will give us all a more diversified landscape to read from in the future and help to get new readers on board with established characters. 

Be sure to check out DC Comics Digital App or Comixology this April!


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