You might know writer Grant Morrison from his recent amazing runs on Action Comics and Batman, or perhaps from Animal Man, JLA, or his bestselling book on comics, Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero. Or you might know his more esoteric work like The Invisibles, Doom Patrol, SeaGuy and We3, or his upcoming DC magnum opus Multiversity. Any way you cut it, you know the name. Grant Morrison is one of the creative movers and shakers in the world of comics. But did you know he doesn't just do superheroes?
Happy! is the deeply noir tale of Nick Sax, an ex-cop turned hit man whose life is in a state of quickly changing and ever-endangering flux. When a hit goes wrong, he's on the run from both the mob and a psycho killer in a Santa Claus suit. And then there's that tiny flying blue horse named Happy that only Nick can see…
Morrison's partner on Happy! is artist Darrick Robertson who most folks might know from The Boys. Like that series, Happy! is mature readers only because of excessive violent, sexual, and language content, so be warned. That said, this is a really terrific collection. This trade from Image Comics collects the first four-issue mini-series and lists at $12.99, and is available at All Things Fun! this week, check it out!
Yeah, it's a kids book. Usually this kind of stuff Allison handles, and I get the scary mature readers only comics. But when this comic dropped into my lap, it was just too much fun to resist. Batman: Li'l Gotham is great!
Written by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs, with moody but kid-friendly cartoonish art by Nguyen, Batman: Li'l Gotham is the perfect counterpoint and companion to DC's other kids favorite Superman Family Adventures by Franco and Art Baltazar (who also brought us Tiny Titans). Nguyen and Fridolfs brings us two relatively in-continuity tales of autumn holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving.
There is lots of fun stuff here for both adults and kids of all ages. Batman teaches Damian about Halloween and the Penguin attacks the Thanksgiving Day Parade. It's almost a wonderful throwback to the good old days when heroes didn't have to die and world was always in peril - just fun adventure.
And I loved the Halloween full page with the Golden and Silver Age Flashes holding hands, Darkseid chilling with a Slurpee, and Hush and a mummy checking each other out. Didn't I tell you this was fun?
Batman: Li'l Gotham #1 is on sale this week at All Things Fun!, make sure you get down there and pick up your copy today. Originally only available digital, here's your chance to have a copy of your very own, to hold in your hands, and share with your family.
By Glenn Walker
It is a good time to be a comic book archer. Green Arrow is coming back to the TV screen with a series called "Arrow" in the fall, and this summer Oscar winner Jeremy Renner blew us all away as Hawkeye in the big screen version of Marvel's The Avengers. They have both come a long way from being just Batman with a bow and the low man in Iron Man's rogues gallery.
The Archer, or the Bow and Arrow Guy, is one of the comic book hero templates. When the average comic book reader thinks 'archer' or 'bow and arrow guy,' they think Green Arrow or Hawkeye, depending on whether you're a DC or Marvel fanperson. The truth is that's only the tip of the arrow so to speak. Welcome to a handy tour of the bow and arrow folks of the comic book world, and trust me, there are a lot of them… but we'll start with the big guns, ahem, bows…
Green Arrow has been rebooted, revamped, re-thought and (this one is for you, Allison) re-jiggered several times, but for the most part, his origins remain the same. Green Arrow was created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp, and first appeared in 1941's More Fun Comics #73, which coincidentally also featured the first appearance of Aquaman. Spoiled brat millionaire Oliver Queen was stranded on a deserted island (or another similar isolated nowheresville) and had to learn archery to survive. His rescue usually happens at the hands of criminals whom Queen takes down with his mad archery skillz, and is thus inspired to become a full-time crimefighter, the Green Arrow.
Along the way, Queen built an arsenal of trick arrows, a secret headquarters the Arrowcave, specialized vehicles like the Arrowcar, the Arrowplane, and even the Arrowboat, and his adopted ward, also trained in archery, became his sidekick, Speedy. Quickly Green Arrow was looked upon as nothing more than Batman with a bow, or worse yet, a knock-off Batman.
Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams changed all that with their late 1960s take on the character, giving him a new costume, facial hair unheard of for superheroes, and a liberal attitude in a time when comic book characters did not have social consciousnesses. The new Green Arrow became wildly popular, was eventually paired up with both Green Lantern and romantic interest Black Canary in the award-winning Green Lantern/Green Arrow series. In one story, he was conflicted by Speedy's heroin addiction, an event which would follow that character for the rest of his career.
The Justice League's resident archer and left wing voice of reason remains an iconic hero today, recently conquering live action prime time as supporting cast in "Smallville," and soon to return in a new vision in "Arrow." In the comics, he has his own title in DC Comics' New 52, albeit younger, slicker, and less liberal - more Tony Stark than Oliver Queen. Times change, I guess.
I've talked about Hawkeye the Marksman here before briefly. Hawkeye AKA Clint Barton was introduced as a reluctant foe of Iron Man in 1964's Tales of Suspense #57, and created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. After a few more less villainous appearances, he became an Avenger in the first major membership shake-up of that team, becoming one of 'Cap's Kooky Quartet.' There, training by Captain America was joined by his weapons mastery taught him by the villain Trick Shot (another archer) and future Avenger the Swordsman.
While like Green Arrow, Hawkeye made use of gimmicked arrows, his character was more fleshed out by his abrasive personality. He was always the stirrer, the smart aleck, and always bucking to lead the Avengers over Captain America. Ironically, years later, Hawkeye would become the leader of the West Coast Avengers, a product of having Cap as a role model. While Green Arrow may have preceded Hawkeye by decades, the latter's emergence as a fully formed character preceded that of the former. Also on the copycat scale, Hawkeye's romantic interest for some time was the Black Widow, and later he married Mockingbird, both characters having more than a passing similarity to Green Arrow's Black Canary.
The Avengers resident archer has become one of the most reliable and stalwart members of the team. Whether he goes by the name Hawkeye, Goliath, or Ronin, he can usually be found at the front of the fight, charging headlong into battle, no matter if Ultron or Kang will just laugh off a trick arrow or not. That's just our Hawkeye, brave beyond reason.
Archers of the Golden Age
Back over at DC, that company published adventures of the original heroic archer, Robin Hood, as early as 1938. Robin Hood Tales was originally published by Quality Comics but eventually by DC after they acquired several of their characters and magazines. Of course, Robin Hood being a public legend, copyright is kinda off the table, but there you go.
Quality also had a feature called "Alias the Spider" in Crack Comics. Created by Paul Gustavson, Tom Halloway fought crime with his bow and arrows, his valet Chuck, and a cool car called the Black Widow. In modern times writer James Robinson retconned the Spider into a foe of The Shade, and not necessarily a hero or even a nice guy at all, in his amazing Starman series. Grant Morrison also created a legacy of the character with I, Spyder, however briefly, in his Seven Soldiers.
Quality also had The Marksman. Fawcett Comics featured Golden Arrow. Centaur Publications had The Arrow, also created by Paul Gustavson, who was briefly revived in the 1990s by Malibu Comics. He can also be seen in Dynamite's comic featuring public domain heroes, Project Superpowers. There was also the Huntress in Yellowjacket Comics from Charlton, not to mention Young Robin Hood, and the Green Knight, all costumed crimefighters of the Golden Age who used the bow and arrows.
Sidekicks and Legacies
The aforementioned Speedy was Roy Harper, Oliver Queen's ward. He had two different origins, both similar, much like his mentor's various beginnings. Eventually he grew up to become Arsenal, and then Red Arrow, a full-fledged member of the Justice League. Later GA took on another sidekick named Speedy, this time the teenaged runaway, Mia Dearden. The second Speedy was notable for being both a child prostitute and one of the few HIV positive characters in comics.
Much like Batman in this regard, Green Arrow has not only been sidekicked by three kids, but one of them is also his son. While GA was dead (don't ask, you know how death works in comic books, it's temporary at best) his son Connor Hawke took up the bow and mantle of Green Arrow, and like Roy Harper years later, Connor also took Ollie's place in the Justice League for a while.
Not to be outdone, while Marvel's Hawkeye was dead (I did tell you not to ask, didn't I?), Kate Bishop in the Young Avengers took up the bow, as well as several other weapons, and began calling herself Hawkeye. It should be noted at this point, that Hawkeye, like Roy Harper, is an expert of all projectile weapons, not just arrows. Daredevil's arch-foe Bullseye's whole schtick revolves around this particular skill.
One more legacy, and it's another embarrassing reminder of the days when Green Arrow was just Batman with a bow. He too had international counterparts who were inspired by him. Where Batman has the Batmen of All Nations, which eventually evolved into Batman Inc., Green Arrow had the Green Arrows of the World. Their membership included the Ace Archer of Japan, the Phantom of France, the Bowman of the Bush, Verde Flecha, the Bowman of Britain, and the Polynesian Archer. Hey, Grant Morrison, wanna write Green Arrow next?
There have been a fair amount of baddies who have used the bow and arrow motif for evil as well. The Golden Age Superman and the 1966 television Batman were plagued by the villainous Archer. Also in the Golden Age, Wildcat's foe, the Huntress (also known as Tigress) used a crossbow. This choice of weapon was passed down to both her daughter, Artemis, as well as her heroic namesake, the Huntress.
Many of the villains with bows however were members of Green Arrow's mostly forgotten rogues gallery. Among them were Black Arrow, the Crimson Archer, Cupid, Ape Archer, Funny Arrow, the Iron Archer, John Centaur, most lost to the sands of time. The most known of these would probably be the Rainbow Archer and Red Dart (who our buddy Grant Morrison actually did dig up for his JLA run). Later on there was also Shado, GA's on again/off again lover; Natas, who trained Green Arrow and Deathstroke among others; and Merlyn the Magician of the League of Assassins, one of the hero's most dangerous foes.
In the old days Green Arrow frequently faced a female rival named Miss Arrowette, whose daughter Arrowette with a bit of retconning became a major player in Young Justice. Combined with the aforementioned Huntress' daughter, she is the inspiration for the double agent character of Artemis in Cartoon Network's "Young Justice" cartoon. There was also the Blue Bowman, in reality Batman foe the Signalman, who got the idea of being a bow and arrow villain by being cellmates with Green Arrow enemy Bull's Eye.
There are many other archers, on both sides of the law. I've haven't covered Artemis who was once Wonder Woman, Yondu the Alpha Centaurian archer from the 31st century's Guardians of the Galaxy, Firestorm foe Moonbow, White Feather of the Inferior 5, brief Justice Leaguer Maya, any of the Old West archers, Shaft, Archer (sans Armstrong), Legolas, or even Xeen Arrow, the Green Arrow of Dimension Zero yet. But there's only so much space. Be assured there have been many behind the bow in the comics, and there will be more.
I'll see y'all next time. I'm off to the movie theater to see Brave. I hear that Princess Merida is a heck of a shot too…
I love me some Shadow. Seriously, The Shadow is one of the superhero archetypes from the pulp magazines of the 1930s, and one of the direct inspirations for the Batman, among others. In the past few decades, The Shadow has not fared well in comics in my opinion, but then again, I'm a purist when it comes to the character.
When I had heard Garth Ennis was writing the new series for Dynamite Comics, I was really dreading it, as Ennis has a reputation for hating superheroes - witness his series The Boys, who knows what he would do with one of the original superheroes?
I need not have worried. Garth Ennis gets The Shadow, properly set as a period piece, pre-WWII, and maybe just a bit more violent than I would have preferred (this not for the kiddies), it is almost exactly the type of story I would have wished for.
And artist Aaron Campbell's gritty cityscapes and neighborhoods are perfect for the period and the storytelling. This is a killer combination. I am reminded of Matt Wagner's Sandman Mystery Theater, of which The Shadow was also a primary inspiration. Highly recommended! Get over to All Things Fun! and get your copy today!
By Glenn Walker
The mantra used to be Comics aren't just for kids anymore, but these days things have changed. A thought occurred to me several weeks back while watching the Super Bowl. We have gone mainstream. The nerds have inherited the earth.
I had friends and family call me during the game, not about the game, mind you but about the commercials, pushed to call by seeing trailers for the new Ghost Rider flick, and The Avengers of course. They didn't call me to find out what these movies are because they already knew – they wanted to know what I thought of them. They also wanted to know if there would be previews for The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, or even The Man of Steel during the game as well.
None of these things were unknown entities. They were all known quantities to folks who know nothing about comic books. This was not a game of ask-the-geek because he'll know what the hell it is, it was ask-the-geek because he'll know if we should see it. Gone are the days of only nerds knowing how many days until the next comic book movie comes out, now everyone is on that clock.
And for clarification, when I say things like nerd, geek, fanboy, etc., it's a term of endearment, and to differentiate ourselves from this new type of fan, the mainstream fan. Remember the days when nobody knew who Green Lantern was outside of your comic shop? Well, game over, your mom knows Green Lantern now. He's Ryan Reynolds in that flick that bombed last year. But still, there is awareness.
Almost all of our Hollywood blockbusters these days, whether they succeed or not, are based on comic books. Audiences around the world get indoctrinated to geek culture on a weekly basis watching "Big Bang Theory." Kevin Smith just started a nerd version of "Hardcore Pawn" set in his own comic book shop. Comics-based "The Walking Dead" gets better ratings on AMC than "Mad Men."
Comic book culture has gone mainstream. It has already happened. Nerds rule. The bad news is we're no longer special. Just sayin'.
By Allison Eckel
Editor’s Note: Contains spoilers. Be sure to read Justice League #5 before continuing!
Five months into Geoff John’s reboot of the Justice League, I am still enjoying the ride. The characterization tweaks of these icons are fun to discover. But there’s a moment in Justice League #5 (on shelves now) that actually turned my stomach and left me feeling icky.
It wasn't gore such as can be found in Animal Man. It was a character moment so incongruous with my expectation that I almost put down the book.
As the heroes rush off to face Darkseid, Batman pulls Green Lantern aside for a quiet talk. GL has been rushing at Darkseid full force, and each time has been beaten senseless. So, Batman tries to talk GL into a different tactic. Ok, that makes sense. But then, he pulls off his cowl, introduces himself as Bruce Wayne, and gives a quick synopsis of the parental tragedy that drove him to vigilantism. He ends with a gentle, well-crafted moral: "This is bigger...than you are. Get out of your own way. Focus on what's important here".
WHAT?!? The most closely guarded secret in all of the DCU is Batman’s true identity. The Bat family would sooner die than expose their own identities simply because they could then be traced to Bruce. That must still be true in the New 52. Nightwing mentions this in last week's new issue #6, when he worries that his clandestine activities may be realized by his circus folk, and Nightwing's connection to Bruce Wayne will be revealed.
But, here’s Bruce, taking off his cowl in the middle of the street and easily revealing himself to Green Lantern. No, it’s wrong. I don’t like it.
Plus, Bruce summarizes his origin story in such a well-adjusted way I have to wonder why he still feels the need to wear tights at all. Part of Batman’s milieu is that he’s driven to a vigilante life by this childhood tragedy that he does not discuss. His Bat family all know it, they know why Bruce secretly guards the dilapidated alley and theater location of the end of his childhood, but no one lets on – it is topic non grata. Batman is left alone to be angry, driven, secretive – and deserving to stand as an equal to Superman and Green Lantern.
Yet, here’s Bruce succinctly rattling off this story as if it’s a tale of a childhood week at camp that taught him a valuable lesson in leadership.
I understand that this scene is meant to show Batman’s ability to strategize and manipulate his teammates – in a good way – while working in his origin story for all the new readers. Plus, for some reason yet unveiled, he wanted to remove the cape for transport through the boom tube. But, through the past 60-plus years, he has found other ways to be a field commander. Some New 52 changes I can live with (no Nightwing finger stripes, more than one Firestorm, etc.), but this touchy feely sensitive Batman is a step too far.
By Allison Eckel
Three weeks of new DC Comics titles, and Batwoman appears in the top five of nearly all reviewer lists as the best of the crop. Keeping her company are Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Batman. The fifth spot on the leader board seems to be the wild card slot, chosen depending on the reviewer’s particular tastes. I have to agree that those four titles are compellingly written with art that takes typical comics storytelling to new levels. However, I don’t really like them.
I set out to say that I don’t really like Batwoman specifically, but realized that the others didn’t really excite me either. I have been dragging my feet trying to complete this article because I can’t quite explain my statement – like that “Ollie-ness” so missing from J.T. Krul’s new version of Green Arrow. Elusive, undefinable, and really kind of important.
But, I don’t really have to like these particular books because the 48 other choices are designed to offer something compelling for almost every type of reader. While they don’t quite go that far, they come close. Pre-DCnU, readers had simple choices. You want a strong hero-led book? Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman. You want an ensemble cast? Justice League, Justice Society, or Legion. There were a few others on the fringes, but they were not the central tent pole titles.
We are still in early days, but in the DCnU, I don’t see a clear core of books that all must read. Perhaps because in rolling out the new universe, the company is giving almost equal weight to every title. Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. seems almost as important in the grand scheme as Wonder Woman. Could this be due to the dual layer of storytelling presented in each book? We have the creative team’s story and then we have the way it all fits in with the bigger picture of post-Flashpoint and that glowing Mystery Lady that only Superboy seems to sense. By inserting her into every #1, DC is telling readers that even I, Vampire will somehow be important.
That should free readers to sample all of the books and commit to the ones they truly like. We all like different things for different reasons, so I am a little surprised that the group of Batwoman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Batman so consistently land at the top of every list. I suspect mob mentality or a feeling of, “Well, So-and-so said it’s really great so it must be.” And as I said, they are all well-done. But so are a lot of other books. So, I am breaking from my pundit colleagues, going out on a limb, and saying that I really didn’t enjoy Batwoman.
Now, because I am a comics reviewer who focuses on DC Comics, it is in my (non-existent) contract to compile my own list of top DCnU books so far. In case you have the patience to read yet another list, mine is below. These are the books I am really excited to read regularly. I would like to read your list, but only if you choose the books you sincerely enjoyed, not just the ones everyone is lauding.
Allison’s Favorite DCnU Titles (So Far):
#1: Justice League
#2: Demon Knights
#3: Wonder Woman
#4: Green Lantern
Now, I have yet to read quite a few books. I am most excited to read: Flash, Firestorm, Aquaman, Superman, and all the books released while I was trying to write this, including Supergirl, Captain Atom, Birds of Prey, and the very sexy Catwoman. My leader board is likely to change.
For now, the comments section is open (here and on our Facebook page: All Things Fun! Comics). Share your pics for the DCnU titles that excite you so far. And if it’s Batwoman, tell me why.
By Allison Eckel
Bruce Wayne has finally returned. Whew. Glad that’s over with. Oh, wait; Grant Morrison’s writing it? Then, it’s not that easy, is it? We all knew Bruce would return, but to get the full impact, of course you will need more than one issue. To help you navigate Bruce’s road home, consider this blog post your road map to the really great stories bringing our favorite Caped Crusader back to the DCU.
You should have been traveling with our Dark Knight through time in Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne. Issue 5 (of 6) went on sale October 13, in case you missed it. Don’t wait for issue 6 (November 10) to follow the other “return” titles coming every week between now and then (I have bolded the dates so you can easily jot them down).
So, also released October 13 was the first set of titles in Bruce Wayne: The Road Home. This limited series of one-shots takes us through the current state of Bruce’s “Bat Family” with an intimate look at how they have fared in his absence. This is the first major installment of Bruce’s return story not written by Grant Morrison. They are also not all written by one person. Fabian Nicieza (Robin, Red Robin) sets the tone with the first two issues, and different writers take the rest. And although they are not numbered sequentially, they are designed to be read in order. The first issue (Batman and Robin) is everything I love in a Batman book. It is intelligent; elegant; contemplative. Bruce is no longer dark, brooding, angry, and unable to hear the pleas of his loved ones. This Bruce is a return to a form we haven’t seen in… well, a really long time. The final issues of The Road Home ship this Wednesday, October 27.
On November 3, you get Batman and Robin #16 by Morrison, which ties up the current story arc with Black Glove, Joker, and Professor Pyg while crossing with Bruce’s return. November 17 brings the launch of Batman, Inc., the new framework the will guide the Bat Family and their work in Gotham. That day also brings, finally, Morrison’s finale, the one-shot Batman: The Return (with art and a variant cover by David Finch).
But there’s something missing. Oh, right: The conclusion to Morrison’s time-travel epic The Return of Bruce Wayne. Issue 6 ships as Batman, Inc. launches. Only time will tell if this juxtaposition is intentional or unfortunate. Call me a blue lantern, but I’m hoping Morrison planned it all this way. Bruce’s return has been a fantastic, well-written ride and I am looking forward to seeing it through to the next era of Batman.
Read Bruce Wayne: The Road Home issues in this order:
Batman and Robin (Oct. 13)
Red Robin (Oct. 13)
Outsiders (Oct. 13)
Batgirl (Oct. 13)
Catowman (Oct. 20)
Commissioner Gordon (Oct. 20)
Oracle (Oct. 27)
Ra’s al Ghul (Oct. 27)