by David R. Black
Welcome to Scattershot!
In last month's Sleep Deprived Crank , I challenged our readers and staff to create a new monthly column. Unfortunately, no suckers - I mean, volunteers - stepped forward to meet the challenge. I threw down the gauntlet and nobody picked it up.
So I'm doing it myself.
What is Scattershot? What kind of column will it be? Well, the Random House dictionary defines scattershot as something "delivered over a wide area and at random; generalized and indiscriminate."
This column will be all over the place, just like the definition suggests. My interests in the comic book world are an eclectic mix - from sci-fi to sword & sorcery to superheroes; from back issue hunting to quarter bin binges to trade paperback splurges. I'm all over the place, hopping from one end of the industry to another.
Writing in-depth analyses of comics tends to become overly pedantic at times, and my quick and dirty commentary in Scattershot will avoid that. Couple that with the notoriously short attention span of every Internet surfer out there, and I think I have a recipe for success!
So let's get moving! Take a deep breath and repeat after me:
Ever wonder if colorist Michelle Wolfman is related to writer/editor Marv Wolfman? Anybody know if they're husband and wife? Father and daughter? No relation at all?
(Michelle Wolfman did a lot of work for DC in the 1980's, coloring Blue Devil, Wild Dog, and early issues of Flash (volume three). She also did Tomb of Dracula and John Carter, Warlord of Mars for Marvel in the 1970's.)
What will happen to all the leftover copies of Batman: The Ten Cent Adventure? Retailers ordered vast quantities, largely due to the low price, but about half of the stores I frequent still have rather large stacks left over.
Will retailers eventually put the unsold copies in the quarter bin, thereby increasing the cost of buying it? Will quarter bins everywhere be converted into dime bins? Will quarter bins be segregated into two separate compartments, making the Ten Cent Adventure a second class citizen? Or will retailers just give the excess copies away?
I hope the latter is true. Although, now that I think about it, I might buy the excess issues myself. My apartment could use new wallpapering....
Did you know......That the first black DC character to get an action figure was Machiste? The co-star of "The Warlord" received the action figure treatment in the early 80's courtesy of Remco. Other figures in the set included the Warlord, Mikola Rostov, Deimos, Hercules, and Arak, Son of Thunder.
Have you noticed how quickly Mark Waid dropped off the industry's proverbial radar screen? One minute he's writing the Flash and JLA and receiving all sorts of fan attention, and the next minute he goes to CrossGen and is all but forgotten.
Not only is fame fleeting in the comics industry, but creator popularity is tethered tightly to the characters they're writing. How many JLA readers followed Waid to CrossGen? How many Flash readers did? Probably not many. JLA has maintained strong sales figures, and the Flash, since Geoff Johns assumed the writing chores, has maintained (and even bested) the sales figures on Waid written issues.
(I should note that this phenomena is not unique to comics. It occurs in all types of literature. For example, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels - and their derivatives - still sell well and are readily available in most bookstores. Burroughs' Pellucidar series and Barsoom (Mars) series, on the other hand, are both difficult to find, despite being, in my opinion, better written. If anyone ever finds a copy of "Thuvia, Maid of Mars" for sale at a decent price, let me know!)
Readers tend to follow characters over creators. This is especially true for the first tier characters such as Batman, Superman, et al. As DC has proven in the past by denying top notch talent the chance to write Superman, anyone can write a Man of Steel comic and have it sell well. My cat could write Superman and it would still sell.
The disappearing act done by Waid does not bode well for other DC affiliated creators lured away to CrossGen. I predict Chuck Dixon will be the next major casualty. (Mr. Dixon's last issues of Robin, Nightwing, and Birds of Prey all hit the stands this month).
Will Dixon be able to take his readers with him to CrossGen? The optimist in me hopes so, but the realist doubts it. Much of Dixon's readership is a built-in audience, meaning they're there for the Bat-family characters irregardless of who's writing.
Will Bat-family readers sample an issue or two of Dixon's work at CrossGen? Sure. But getting them to stay is the tough part. Aside from loyal Dixonverse followers, expect most casual comic readers to say "Chuck who?" by the time 2002 becomes 2003.
I bought Animal Man #33 just for the cover. While trawling through the back issue bins, Brian Bolland's vivid artwork caught my eye and instantly evoked thoughts of the hardships faced by the USA in the past few months.
As seen in the image on the right, a bald eagle (the USA's national symbol) has been injured by an unseen foe. Unable to help because he's a fictional character, Animal Man can only comfort the wounded eagle by gently cradling its head. A single tear drips from Animal Man's eye, symbolizing the silent pain many Americans have felt.
Bolland's cover, although done ten years ago in a totally different context, shows the power of a visual medium such as comics.
Comics evoke feeling.
Comics stir memory.
Comics bridge the gap between extraordinary event and everyday person.
If Lady Quark, Neutron (a Superman and Titans villain), and E. Lectron (a pen named used by Lou Fine) all got together, could they make an Atom?
Blackhawk #260 was worth the quarter I paid for it, but barely. Published in July of 1983, this issue offers three stories tied together by a "Blackhawk Diary" framing device. Basically, Blackhawk himself reads through diary entries written by members of his squadron and narrates them for us readers. (I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my boss snooping through my diary!)
The first story features Andre, the French Blackhawk, and tells the tale of the only woman who's able to resist Andre's legendary charm. There's some nice, moody artwork by Howard Chaykin, but the story's ending is telegraphed from page one by writer Mark Evanier.
Hendrickson gets the spotlight in the second story, and he manages to ruin a USO comedy routine in no time flat by telling the soldier-comedian that "you treat your [Army] supervisors with no respect....You do not laugh at your supervisors." Predictably, Hendrickson's opinion of the young comedian changes when he heroically prevents Hendrickson from boarding a booby-trapped plane.
The third story, starring Blackhawk himself, is worth a look at for the Alex Toth and Frank Giacoia art. Other than that, the story is forgettable.
Ironically, it's the letter column that redeems the issue. Containing a mini-interview with Will Eisner, the Blackhawks' creator, the letter col provides a fascinating look at how creative synergy flourished at Quality Comics. If you've ever wondered about the process that culminated in the Blackhawks receiving the starring role in Military Comics, then this is an excellent read. You'll even learn who the individual Blackhawks were named after!
OK, that's it for this month!
Whew, I gotta catch my breath.....
David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....
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This piece is © 2002 by David R. Black
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