The master of the gleefuly macabre would have been 87 today, had he not died in 2000.
The master of the gleefuly macabre would have been 87 today, had he not died in 2000.
By GEORGE GENE GUSTINES and ADAM W. KEPLER
In June DC Comics fans were left shaking in their Superman skivvies after the publisher announced that it would reset all its continuing series and reintroduce their heroes, as if they were appearing for the first time. The hope was to entice new readers by simplifying decades of lore.
A page from a new version of Batwoman, part of the DC Comics' refurbishing of its lineup, which began five weeks ago.
Miguel Jose Barragan, a k a Bunker, will be in Teen Titans No. 3. He is Mexican and gay and, his creators say, flamboyant.
The gambit was risky: if it failed, it could alienate longtime readers and send an already declining industry into a tailspin.
But so far the heroes seem to have won the day. In the last five weeks, since the first of these 52 renumbered or new series were introduced, the sales of DC comics have increased by leaps and bounds. The first issue of the new Justice League, the company’s flagship book, has sold more than 200,000 copies, compared with the roughly 46,000 for each of the last few issues before the reboot.
An all-star creative team — the writer Geoff Johns and the artist Jim Lee — and the collector’s tendency to buy multiple copies of first issues almost guaranteed that Justice League No. 1 would be a top seller. But more surprising is that nine other series, including Action Comics, Batgirl and the Flash, at least doubled their normal sales and sold over 100,000 copies, a milestone that had proved increasingly difficult for comic-book publishers to reach.
“Up until the week of the launch, I thought this thing was going to flop,” said Brian Hibbs, the owner of the Comix Experience in San Francisco. But sales have exceeded his expectations. “There’s no way not to call this a success,” he added.
Mr. Hibbs, who also writes a regular column about the comic-book industry from the retailer’s perspective for the Web site Comic Book Resources, said: “Publishers were doing things that were chasing the readers away”: insular storytelling and large-scale events that required the purchase of multiple comics to follow the adventure. “I was really at the point this year where I was thinking we might not have a business in a couple of years.”
The DC initiative seems to have eased his concerns. “I’ve seen an awful lot of returning customers,” Mr. Hibbs said.
An East Coast retailer concurred. “It’s going to be a record-breaking sales month,” said Gerry Gladston, an owner of three Midtown Comics stores in Manhattan, who said second-month orders were similarly strong. “I have to say that DC’s diabolical plan is working, for now.”
He added: “People have been enjoying the stories, which is the important thing. It’s great to see new faces in the store.”
As part of its effort DC has also begun to offer each comic digitally on the same day of release in comic stores, but Mr. Hibbs said he didn’t think he had lost any customers as a result. “I’m pleasantly surprised,” he added, “by how enthusiastic the demand for print copies has been.”
(So far DC hasn’t released sales figures for digital downloads, despite loudly trumpeting the good news in print sales.)
DC trails Marvel Comics in market share, and others in the industry, like Mr. Hibbs, are still being cautious, waiting to see if DC can sustain interest over the long haul.
“If the stories are compelling, if the characters are sympathetic, if the situations energize the readership, people will come back,” he said. “If they are not, then they won’t
A man dressed as SpongeBob SquarePants was detained by police outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, officials said Wednesday.
The man was questioned but not arrested Tuesday in what a Los Angeles Police Department official described as a "brief incident with two females." No other details were available.
A photo of the scene on Hollywood Boulevard was taken by Steve Boelhouwer, who submitted it to The Times.
The incident was the latest run-in between characters who pose for pictures with tourists and then aggressively demand money, according to police.
City rules allow people to tip characters, but prohibit them from demanding payment.
By Noah Berlatsky
The massively popular '90s manga series is about to be re-released in a new English translation. Will it remind comics writers and movie-makers that girls like superheroes, too?
We are well into the age of the second-string superhero. In the past, to get star billing and a supersize promotional budget, heroes had to actually be iconic. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, even X-Men—they're all marquee stars with decades of pop culture exposure. But Iron Man? Green Lantern? Thor? Unless you've spent the past few decades huffing the effluvia of mylar protective comic bags, you probably hadn't heard of any of those people before their big screen debuts. It makes you wonder who's next. Elongated Man? Ant Man? How long before Bouncing Boy gets his own feature film?
And yet, even as the mighty Man-Thing shuffles out of the swamp for his close-up, one of the best-known superhero properties languishes in development limbo. Thanks to what Dlisted memorably referred to as an "American Apparel latex hell" of a costume and a concomitant surge of internet guffawing, the Wonder Woman TV series followed every other Wonder Woman screen project of the last 30 years into oblivion. Male heroes, no matter how obscure and ridiculously be-tighted, are in with a chance, but the American public draws the line at red, white, and blue stripper-wear packaged as feminism.
This isn't really all that surprising. The original Wonder Woman comic was very popular in the '40s, and the Wonder Woman TV series had success for a few years in the '70s, but it's been a good long time since female superheroes had any kind of widespread success. American superhero comics are, in fact, notorious for their clannish male nerd hermeticism. The scene in Heroes' third season where Hayden Panettierre is scoped out by a comic-shop-full of creepy guys is a stereotype, but it's built on the depressing truth that American mainstream comics are written overwhelmingly for men. Demographic data on comic readers is hard to come by, but several sources suggest that women make up only about 10 percent of superhero comic book readers at best.
The logical conclusion, then, seems to be that women don't especially like superhero comics. Nerdy nothing gains great power and saves the day—that's a story that appeals to guys far more than to girls. Guys want heroism and beating people up; girls want romance and being swept off their feet. Or so you might conclude if you'd never read Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon—which is about to be re-released in a new English translation later this month—was the '90s Japanese manga/anime that kickstarted the U.S. manga boom and ensured that that boom would be as much about female consumers as about male ones. Moreover, if you don't count Edward Cullen, Sailor Moon was probably the most successful new superhero of the last 30 years. A typical 14-year-old girl who likes sleeping late and playing video games, Bunny (whose name in a new translation is Usagi), like many a superhero before her, one day discovers she has great magical powers. Donning a distinctive costume, she races off to save the world from various bad guys, discovering inner strength she never knew she had and ... saving the day!
Again, Sailor Moon was wildly popular with girls, becoming Tokyopop's best selling series and even ranking number 1 in sales for all graphic novels sold in the United States in May 1999. It's not hard to see why it was so successful. Creator Naoko Takeuchi works the superhero tropes hard, but she mixes them with other, more traditionally girl-oriented fare. For instance, Takeuchi throws in a dark, mysterious stranger (the dashing Tuxedo Mask) for a dollop of angsty teen romance. She gives Sailor Moon a plethora of Sailor Scout friends—Sailor Mercury, the smart girl; Sailor Mars, the spiritual girl, and so forth—who seem to have stepped out of the clubby sorority-sister Nancy-Drew girl genre fiction of the '50s. She adds not one, not two, but three adorable talking cats. And, perhaps most importantly, Naoko mixes in fantasy with her superheroics. There are magic gems, dark forces, and the inevitable-but-still-genius revelation that Sailor Moon is not just a superhero—she is a princess.
The key to writing superheroes for girls, then, seems to be to write superheroes—but for girls. It's not like this is some sort of shocking, heretofore undiscovered secret formula. The early Wonder Woman comics by William Marston and Harry Peter focused on a superhero who was a princess and was surrounded by sorority-sister girlfriends and kept going to strange and wonderful fantasy lands—and, lo and behold, it was extremely popular. Buffy was about a superhero plus vampires plus romantic angst—and, again, jackpot. For that matter, the superhero-plus-magic-plus-romance equation that powered Sailor Moon wasn't an innovation, but an established, successful formula in its own right, referred to in Japan as the magical girl genre. (Another popular example translated into English is CLAMP's Cardcaptor Sakura.)
So, if it's clear that women like superheroes a lot, and it's further clear what sort of superheroes they seem to like most, why exactly is it so difficult for the large American companies that traffic in superheroes to create content that would appeal to what is, after all, half the population? Why are all the superhero movies about boys when there's so much evidence that girls would like a superhero movie about them, too?
The answers are fairly obvious, albeit depressing. You don't have to look much further than DC Comics' recent relaunch of its entire line of comics—a relaunch in which the company went from 12 percent female creators down to just 1 percent. DC did have the decency to apologize, but still, the point is clear enough. Mainstream comics is a boys' club, with no interest in reaching out to women and no clue how to do so even if they wanted to.
But if they're baffled, others are not. The new Sailor Moon translation comes out on September 13th, along with the first-ever English edition of the Sailor Moon prequel, Sailor V. Later this year, we'll get the film version of Breaking Dawn, the Twilight chapter in which Bella becomes a super-powered vampire and saves the day. And, in the meantime, DC and Marvel will no doubt continue to revive obscure, decades-old, corporate-owned flotsam. Go away, girlie—don't bother me while I'm working on my Man-Thing.
BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the health world
Watching a few minutes of a show about an "animated sponge that lives under the sea" impaired 4-year-olds' executive function, University of Virgina researchers found. (Nickelodeon)
September 12, 2011, 6:06 a.m.
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, prepares to snatch a golden idol from a South American temple in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones flees from a giant rolling boulder used to safeguard an ancient temple in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, confronts his lost love Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, contemplates the sought-after headpiece to the Staff of Ra in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, makes sure the setting sun is in precisely the right position as he prepares to uncover the location of the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones fights a Nazi-hired assassin at a street bazaar in Egypt in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Sallah, played by John Rhys-Davies, and Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, lift the Ark of the Covenant out of its resting place in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Karen Allen plays Marion Ravenwood in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, carries Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones is surprised by a venomous cobra in the forbidding Well of Souls in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Nazi Col. Dietrich, played by Wolf Kahler, left, French archeologist Renée Belloq, played by Paul Freeman, and the evil Toht, played by Ronald Lacey, examine the contents of the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Marion Ravenwood and Indiana Jones try to avoid the powerfully destructive forces unleashed by the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Steven Spielberg, directs Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones on the set of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Harrison Ford and Karen Allen pose for a publicity photo during location shooting in Tunisia for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Karen Allen poses for a publicity still for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Director Steven Spielberg uses a vast miniature set of the Tunisian desert to plan a complex shot for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
George Lucas, left, and Harrison Ford take a break from the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," circa 1980. (Lucasfilm)
Harrison Ford, left, and George Lucas take a break from the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," circa 1980. (Lucasfilm)
Executive producer and story creator George Lucas, left, poses with director Steven Spielberg on location in Tunisia during the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Harrison Ford watches director of photography Douglas Slocombe, director Steven Spielberg and art director Leslie Dilley set up a shot of the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol for a scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
In honor of the 30th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Emmy-winning writer and producer Damon Lindelof, in a guest essay for Hero Complex, describes seeing the action-adventure film for the first time when he was 8 years old. Let’s just say the movie made an impact on Lindelof, whose credits include “Lost” and the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot. Read his essay below, and enjoy photos from the set of “Raiders” and the film itself in the gallery above. Be sure to click CAPTIONS ON.
I remember with great clarity the last time I peed my pants.
This was not, contrary to later reports, an “accident.” It was a decision I made of sound mind and body and one that I make no apologies for. Despite overwhelming opportunity to release my bladder the way most civilized people do (that would be into a toilet), I made a conscious choice to do otherwise. I offer only two points in my defense; The first is that I was 8 years old. The second, and much more relevant, is that I was in a movie theater watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for the very first time. And there was not a chance in hell I was missing a single second of that glorious movie.
Truth be told, I had initially resisted the idea of going to see “Raiders.” I was much more interested in seeing “Clash of the Titans,” which opened the same day and had a Pegasus in it. Ultimately, however, my dad argued that “Raiders” was the superior pick because it had Han Solo. I narrowed my eyes suspiciously — “But… Han Solo is frozen in carbonite.”
“This movie happened before that.” My dad responded.
“How could it happen before a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?” I reasoned.
“Because this was longer ago.”
“How much longer?”
My dad leaned down, quite serious, and whispered, “The 1930s.”
And thus, I was effectively duped into seeing what even now, three decades later, stands as one of the most perfect movies ever made.
And here’s the thing: Although it’s easy to reduce “Raiders” to a “popcorn” movie — a piece of escapist adventure with fantastic action — very rarely is it appreciated for its pure innovative genius. This is something people seemed to be well aware of back in 1981 (it was nominated for a best picture Oscar), but over time, the legacy of “Raiders” seems to neglect just how incredibly revolutionary it was as a film. Therefore, as a debt of gratitude (and for everything I’ve stolen from it in my own work), I feel it’s only fitting to write a long overdue love letter to one of my favorite films ever. So without further ado…
Dear “Raiders of the Lost Ark,”
You are awesome. God, you are awesome.
I have seen you, in your entirety, more than one hundred times. I know there are folks out there that have seen you more than that, but they don’t know you like I do.
I really know you. I know what music you listen to and where your scars are. I know that you like to be kissed where it doesn’t hurt. And I’m sorry if that seems a little “creepy,” but hey, you’re into snakes and melt people’s faces off, so we’re speaking the same language, are we not?
So what, exactly, is it that I love most about you, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”? Man … I don’t even know where to start. But let’s get past the obvious stuff that all your other admirers seem so dazzled by (the whip!!!) and talk about what truly makes you unique.
I could go on for pages about just the little things. Like the sound you make when Indy punches someone in the face. Or that Marion’s superpower is drinking. And don’t even get me started on the coat hanger. Where did that Nazi even get that thing? Did he special-order it? “I need somezing that vill terrify people when I take it out, but then give them a false zense of relief when I reveal it is simply somezing on vich to hang my coat.” Seriously. The best. But I know you’ve probably heard it all before and therefore, I’ll stick to the big stuff. First and foremost…
I love you because Indiana Jones is a nerd. Granted, a highly capable nerd who knows how to ride horses and fight real good, but still, at his core, Indy is an academic who’s motivated purely by his desire to find and retrieve really cool stuff so he can put it in a museum where other nerds can appreciate it. Also, he wears glasses and gets nervous when hot female students write the words “Love You” on their eyelids. Do you have any idea how much commitment is involved in writing “Love You” on your eyelids? It’s really hard! Not that I’ve ever done it.
Because I haven’t.
And while we’re on the subject of Dr. Jones, here’s another thing I love about him. He’s actually scared of stuff. This doesn’t seem like something that should be celebrated, but it’s actually quite rare for the hero of a movie to be scared of anything. Do you know what Green Lantern is afraid of? Fear. He is afraid of being afraid. Does that even make sense? Here’s what makes sense to be afraid of — Hissing Cobras and Gigantic Bald Nazis with mustaches trying to kill you. And it was perfectly OK for me to be scared of them because Indy was too.
You know what else is wonderful about you? That over and over and over again, Indiana Jones has failure rubbed in his face, yet he refuses to give up. He gets the Golden Idol…. But it’s snatched away by a Frenchman. Indy finds the Well of Souls and recovers the Ark. It too gets taken away from him. Same Frenchman! Now Indy gets back the Ark and … oh no, Nazi submarine! They take the Ark and Marion… but Indy gets the drop on them with a bazooka! And yet, he can’t bring himself to destroy the Ark, so Indy is captured.
By the Frenchman.
Yeah, I know his name is Belloq. And I’m pretty convinced that he is another reason I love you so much. Because quality French bad guys are hard to come by and Belloq is la crème du la crop.
And so, we now arrive at your ending. This, more than anything else, is why my love for you is an undying one. Because we all know how movies like you are supposed to end. The hero fights off a bunch of evildoers, saves the girl, gets the thingamabob away from the bad guys before they can do any harm with it and then say something kinda cool before he rides off into the sunset.
But this, sweet Raiders, is not what you did.
Your big climax is not affected by Indiana Jones at all. He’s tied to a pole with Marion the whole time, completely helpless as Belloq and his Nazi pals open the Ark. And while most heroes would perform some incredible act of selfless bravery, what does Indy do? He shouts at Marion to not even look at whatever is coming out of the very thing he has coveted for your entire duration. And you know what?
I listened to him.
For the first 20 or so times I watched you, I shut my eyes tightly as I heard the Nazis scream for what seemed like five minutes. And when they finally stopped, I slowly peeked out to find Indy doing exactly the same thing.
In that moment, we were one. Terrified. Awestruck. And most of all, relieved that it was finally over.
Now I fully appreciate that Indy was rightly pissed that the Ark was ultimately taken away by the same shady Intelligence dudes who hired him in the first place (“Top people” indeed. Hrrrmumph!). but if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been treated to your final crowning achievement. I would never have seen the Ark, now packed unceremoniously in a simple crate, being wheeled down an impossibly long aisle in the largest warehouse ever. And for reasons I am far too lovestruck to fully articulate, let me leave it at this –
In a world where movies and TV shows often end in ways that are sometimes unsatisfying bordering on outrage-inducing (yeah, yeah, I know), your ending, darling Raiders, is absolutely, exquisitely perfect.
And that is how I shall always remember you. Locked away safely in the warehouse that is my heart … fully aware that it’s highly possible that you will burn a hole through my chest or at the very least, make the rats inside me run around in uncomfortable backward circles.
I love you.
Always have. Always will. And I am deeply grateful for the countless hours we have spent together. I will treasure them more than you can ever know.
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. Do you have a mailing address for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind’”? She left her T-shirt at my apartment.
“Steamboat Willie” made Mickey Mouse an overnight sensation in 1928, and less than two years later, the King Features syndicate contacted Walt Disney about adapting the character to a daily comic strip. The Mickey Mouse strip debuted on Jan. 13, 1930, in the New York Daily Mirror. For the first few weeks, it was written by Disney and drawn by his head animator, Ub Iwerks. But Disney and Iwerks were busy working on films and passed the strip to studio artist Floyd Gottfredson, who worked on it for 45 years — right up until his retirement in 1975.
The hardcover “Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley” (Fantagraphics Books: $29.95; 288 pp.), edited by David Gerstein and Gary Groth and published this summer, is the first installment in a complete reprint of the strip.
At the urging of King Features, Gottfredson changed the format from a gag-a-day to a continuing story line with adventures that often lasted three or four months. Sydney Smith’s wildly successful strip “The Gumps” was the obvious and often-cited model, but a number of popular strips were built around ongoing stories, including “Gasoline Alley,” “Barney Google,” “Wash Tubbs” and “Little Orphan Annie.”
Gottfredson’s Mickey strip both invoked and spoofed the adventure format. Mickey became a well-intentioned friend and amateur sleuth who got involved in mysteries to help someone in trouble. In “Race to Death Valley,” Gottfredson’s first story, Mickey keeps Minnie from being cheated out of her Uncle Mortimer’s gold mine by Pegleg Pete and Sylvester Shyster. He rescues Minnie when she’s kidnapped by Gypsies in “The Ransom Plot” (July-November 1931). He also works as a circus roustabout and a fireman. These exciting roles meant the comic strip Mickey maintained a more dynamic personality than the animated one.
Walt Disney described Mickey as “simply a little personality assigned to the purpose of laughter.” Many observers noted there was a good bit of Chaplin’s Little Tramp in the early Mickey: He was usually the irrepressible underdog (undermouse?), who came from behind to win.
Animator Fred Moore, who redesigned Mickey during the ’30s, giving the character his most appealing proportions, wrote: “Mickey seems to be the average young boy of no particular age; living in a small town, clean living, fun loving, bashful around girls, polite and as clever as he must be for the particular story. In some pictures he has a touch of Fred Astaire; in others of Charlie Chaplin, and some of Douglas Fairbanks, but in all of these there should be some of the young boy.”
As the animated Mickey became popular with children, parents began to object to any untoward behavior. These increasing restrictions made the animated Mickey dull, and he was gradually relegated to playing straight man to Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck. Gottfredson’s Mickey remained closer to the mouse Moore described. He gets the draw on a small town sheriff who’s been misled by Pete, turns a scarecrow into an improvised shelter in a rainstorm and disguises a squirrel as a ghost to scare off a gang of thieves. When the Phantom Blot ties Mickey up, saying, “Sorry I have to do this, but ‘Dead men tell no tales,’” he replies, “Yeh? Well, I’m still plenty alive!”
It would take Gottfredson a few years to hit his stride: Many of his best Mickey stories appeared in the later ’30s and ’40s. But the basic characteristics that would make the print version of Mickey popular after the studio curtailed his animated antics can clearly be seen in these first installments.
“Race to Death Valley” is the latest entry in Fantagraphics’ reprints of classic comic strips, and is sure to delight fans of Mickey Mouse as well as comic strip aficionados. The strips are clearly printed in a readable size, and editors Gerstein and Groth carefully document the origins of the strip. The only real flaw in the package is the inclusion of a few too many introductions and sidebars that inevitably overlap: They seem to bang into one another, like doors hung too closely together. But that’s a very minor down check in a delightful volume of comic strip derring-do.
– Charles Solomon
Comics icon Stan Lee churned out hundreds of characters during the great Marvel renaissance of the 1960s and his collaborations with artists such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and John Buscema created a vast and history-making tapestry of heroes and villains. But surely there were some duds in there, too, right? That was essentially the question posed by Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times and it led to this answer:
“Oh, no, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have written it. Wait a minute, there was one. Jack Kirby and I were doing the Fantastic Four. We needed a new villain — we always worked under tremendous deadlines; we were doing dozens of books a month. I said: “Jack, I think a great name is Diablo; why don’t you draw a guy called Diablo, and we’ll give him some kind of power.” And he drew a real scary-looking guy, but I had no idea who Diablo was or where he came from. I must have batted out something and Jack drew it, and to this day I can’t remember what the Diablo story was. The only thing I ever wrote that I don’t know what it was! So I think I didn’t like that particular issue.”
That issue, by the way, was “Fantastic Four” No. 30 from the summer of 1964 (you can find a great summary of the story right here). Morrison talked to Lee about plenty of other things, too, you can find her in-depth Q&A right here. If you’re a Marvel fan, by the way, and you live in Southern California, you might want to check out the closing night of the Hero Complex Film Festival.
– Geoff Boucher
June 1, 2011, 9:20 am
For anyone who ever dreamed of owning a copy of Action Comics No. 1 they will have their chance in September. On Tuesday afternoon, DC Comics announced that starting Aug. 31, the company would renumber its entire line of superhero comic books.
As the devoted know, Wednesdays are the days that new issues of comic book series arrive in stores and a typical week sees the release of more than 10 Marvel or DC titles each. But on Aug. 31, DC will release just two titles: the final issue of the “Flashpoint” mini-series, about an alternate timeline that has affected the DC Universe of characters, including Superman, Batman, Flash and Wonder Woman, and Justice League No. 1, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee. (Last February, the two men were promoted to crucial positions in the company: Mr. Lee was named co-publisher along with Dan DiDio, and Mr. Johns was named chief creative officer of DC Entertainment.) Starting in September, more No. 1 issues will follow for DC’s superhero line, which includes Action Comics, Superman, Detective Comics, Batman, Wonder Woman and more.
According to an article in USA Today, Mr. Lee has redesigned some of the character’s costumes and Mr. Johns has said his Justice League will focus on the interpersonal relationships of the team.
The renumbering rumors have been recent fodder for discussion on columns and message boards of various comic-book Web sites. One of the big questions regarding the move has been whether these are simply new directions for the various characters (say, Batman moves to San Francisco) or a “reboot” (a new take on the character that ignores previous continuity, say, Batman is now a teenager or an alien from the future).
In 1985 DC Comics published Crisis on Infinite Earths, a limited series intended to streamline the at times convoluted continuity of its heroes. At the conclusion of that series the idea of restarting every title with a new No. 1 was mulled but ultimately rejected.
Still, the post-Crisis alterations to some of the characters were substantial: Superman, who at that point had been published for 47 years and had encountered enough Kryptonians to fill a couple of stadiums, became the sole survivor of the doomed planet. His career as Superboy was also erased. Wonder Woman received a new series (and a new No. 1) that presented her as freshly arrived to the world and having never been a founding member of the Justice League. The murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the traumatic event at the core of Batman, was never found.
These alterations provided some fresh starts, but the changes caused countless ripples as continuity issues were addressed: The Legion of Super-Heroes, who hail from the 1,000 years in the future, were inspired to form by Superboy. If he didn’t exist, why did they come together? If Wonder Woman was not a founder of the Justice League, who took part in those early adventures? Various writers tried to answer these and other questions, sometimes coming up with nifty solutions.
But if the goal was to make the DC universe easier to understand, the end result was the opposite: to this day, fans frequently mention “pre-Crisis” and “post-Crisis” as a way to distinguish stories. Twenty years later, in the Infinite Crisis limited series, DC tried to clean continuity up again: Superman’s career as Superboy was back; Batman knew who murdered the Waynes; and Wonder Woman was a founder of the Justice League again. The end of the Infinite Crisis series resulted in the lives of DC’s superheroes jumping forward 12 months. The “One Year Later” stories began with new situations and settings for the heroes and readers slowly learned what had transpired to get the costumed champions to that point.
Any eventual return to the status quo is a double-edged sword: both a frustration point and consolation for long time readers. A basic tenet of comic books had been established: If you do not like a change to a favorite character, or his or her “death,” wait a year, 10 or two decades and it will be like it was before. So many events, seemingly pivotal, in the DC universe have been undone or evolved: the death of Green Arrow, the death of Green Lantern, the death of the silver age Flash.
While some readers have applauded the return of these Silver Age heroes, who were born in the 1960s, fans of their replacements — Connor Hawke, the son of Green Arrow; Kyle Rayner, who inherited Hal Jordan’s power ring, and Kid Flash, who graduated into the role of his mentor — have been saddened at their heroes’ being pushed out of the spotlight.
DC and Marvel have both renumbered series in the past to indicate a new direction for a super-hero title. In some cases – after clamoring from fans, a marketing ploy or editorial whim, they have also returned to the historical numbering. Perhaps most famously, Marvel restarted the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Captain America and Iron Man in 1996. The experiment – fresh takes on their long running characters known as “Heroes Reborn” – was eventually undone. The series were restarted, again, with new No. 1 issues. Some of those series, like The Avengers, eventually returned to their historical numbering, at least until another shake-up resulted in the title coming to an end and the New Avengers were formed, along with a new series and a new first issue. In January this year, when the Human Torch, a member of the Fantastic Four, died in issue No. 587, that paved the way for a new series, FF, with Spider-Man as a new teammate.
The original series ended with No. 588, but some Marvel fans thought that if the new title got a tepid reception, it would return to its historic numbering within a year, in time to get to issue No. 600 of the Fantastic Four. Last June, in addition to receiving a costume change, Wonder Woman reached issue No. 600 with a little comic book magic. The 600 issues were a result of combining Wonder Woman’s first self-titled series, which begin in 1942 and ended with No. 329, after the heroine sort-of died in “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” The new version of Wonder Woman, who was never a founding member of the Justice League, began Volume 2 of the series and lasted 226 issues. Another new direction, after the “Infinite Crisis” series that said Wonder Woman did help found the Justice League, spurred a third volume (and another Issue No. 1) that ran for 44 issues. When the three series were combined, Wonder Woman received her 600th issue.
In September, she’ll start up again with issue No. 1.
WASHINGTON — Sarah Palin is fortifying her small staff of advisers, buying a house in Arizona — where associates have said she could base a national campaign — and reviving her schedule of public appearances. The moves are the most concrete signals yet that Ms. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, is seriously weighing a Republican presidential bid.
While it is by no means clear that she would be willing to give up her lucrative speaking career and her perch as an analyst on Fox News to face the scrutiny and combat that would come with her entrance into the race, she is being pressed by supporters for a decision and has acknowledged that time is running out.
Two people familiar with the details of the real estate transaction said that Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, had bought a $1.7 million house in Scottsdale, Ariz. Like others interviewed for this article, they would speak only on the condition of anonymity so as not to anger the Palins, who have become especially protective of their privacy in the maelstrom that has followed them since 2008. The Arizona Republic reported over the weekend on speculation in Scottsdale that the Palins were the buyers of the house, reporting the purchase was through a shell company that hid their identity.
While Arizona would be a more convenient travel hub for a presidential campaign than Alaska, there are other reasons the Palins might want a house there. Their daughter Bristol recently bought a house in Maricopa, which is near Scottsdale.
Ms. Palin has reshuffled her staff, rehiring two aides who have helped plan her political events. And she is expected to resume a schedule of public appearances soon — perhaps as early as this weekend — to raise her profile at a moment when the Republican presidential field appears to be taking final form.
The drumbeat intensified on Tuesday night when the conservative filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon was quoted on RealClearPolitics, a political news site, as saying that he was releasing a feature film he made with Ms. Palin’s acquiescence about her tenure as governor of Alaska. The film is to be shown next month in Iowa, whose caucuses open the nominating contest.
Taken together, the moves are at odds with conventional wisdom — if not wishful thinking — among establishment Republicans in Washington that Ms. Palin has decided not to run. That thinking has been voiced increasingly as the party’s professional political class, which Ms. Palin has railed against, has sought to declare the field of candidates closed.
Ms. Palin would undoubtedly be able to raise substantial campaign financing and attract constant media attention if she ran. But she is a divisive figure in the party, and would have to overcome what polls have consistently suggested is skepticism and even opposition to her among some fellow Republicans.
Still, supporters of Ms. Palin say that her constituency beyond the Beltway remains eager, and aides and associates have said she is receptive to their calls of “Run, Sarah, run.”
“All indications are that she will be in — her supporters have an intuition about it,” said Jeff Jorgensen, chairman of the Republican Party of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, where Ms. Palin came in second in a straw poll last week. “People are looking for somebody, a Ronald Reagan reincarnate, who does not seem to be out there yet.”
If she were to enter the race, Ms. Palin would draw significant attention in a field that now features three other former governors — Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Jon M. Huntsman Jr. of Utah, and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota — and a smattering of other hopefuls, including Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
None of the likely and declared candidates have fully galvanized the Tea Party activists who form the core of Ms. Palin’s support.
When asked about her deliberations, Ms. Palin’s aides have pointed to recent televised interviews that they said were indicative of her thinking.
“I want to make sure that we have a candidate out there with Tea Party principles,” she told the Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity last week.
“We have got to have faith that the Republican Party is going to surface somebody who can take on both sides of the aisle,” she said on Fox Business Network.
Raising concerns about “sacrifices that have to be made on my children’s part,” she nonetheless told the Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren, “I have that fire in my belly.”
All of that said, Ms. Palin has shown that she is able to command maximum media attention when she wants it, and her book sales and public speaking fees depend to some degree upon her stature as a possible national leader.
Some of the staff changes she has made also serve the interests of her one-woman media conglomerate. In February, she hired a new chief of staff, Michael Glassner, a former adviser to Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, a step that sent the blogosphere buzzing that she would soon enter the race. But Ms. Palin is busy enough that she needs such a chief of staff in any case.
She recently parted ways with a communications aide, Michael Goldfarb, and with her foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, who is often tied to the neoconservative movement, bringing in a less hawkish adviser, Peter Schweizer. After dismissing two aides, Jason Recher and Doug McMarlin, who worked in the White House for President George W. Bush, she has recently rehired them.
And one of her advisers, Rebecca A. Mansour, had an embarrassing moment this week when the conservative political Web site The Daily Caller published messages she wrote to an online friend that included, among other things, criticism of Ms. Palin’s daughter Bristol. Ms. Palin’s aides have acknowledged that she will need a more disciplined operation if she pursues the presidency. But they have also said that in contrast with other hopefuls, she still has time to achieve that, because her network of supporters can be activated almost instantly.
Ms. Palin has identified the first filing deadlines to qualify for state primary and caucus ballots, telling Ms. Van Susteren, “that’s what will dictate my decision and my announcement.” The first of those deadlines do not arise until the fall, but meeting them can require arduous work that cannot start in earnest without a formal declaration.
Ryan Rhodes, a leader of the Tea Party movement in Iowa, said state voters expect candidates to invest real time there. A Tea Party bus tour through the state in June, Mr. Rhodes said, would be an ideal place for her to demonstrate her seriousness. “She’ll be on the top of a lot of people’s minds,” he said.
Michael D. Shear contributed reporting from Washington, and Marc Lacey from Scottsdale, Ariz.