We are going to have a phenomenal year.

There’s a current running through the industry, an excitement emerging from the landscape of 2005, which only grows with every announcement. The level of the competition and the talent continues to increase, and just from the stuff that’s been revealed thus far, the first quarter of the year is going to have some very interesting Wednesdays. And with this set of months rapidly coming to an end, everything turns to the future and what makes it the place you want to be. So, in the spirit of forward thinking rhetoric, what follows are the top three things that give me very good feelings about the next year

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. Enjoy.

Soldier Of Victory

It’s good to have Grant Morrison back.

Since following up his New X-Men run with an exclusive signing to DC, fandom has been patiently waiting for that project. That largely ambitious Morrison project that stands poised to change the game, as only Morrison can. Something that only he would even think of tackling. I wasn’t feeling Seaguy, but even with the brilliance that is WE3, you could tell the acclaimed scribe was holding back, warming himself up, going for a slow jog before really taking off. And seriously, if Seven Soldiers isn’t considered a marathon, I don’t know what is.

Thirty chapters, spread across seven different minis and two bookends, chronicling the exploits of a super team that isn’t even aware that is one. Connectible and collapsible, you can read whichever of the minis you choose and be treated to a complete story, but things that happen in one series will reverberate throughout the others. On paper, it sounds like an incredible endeavor, something nearly impossible for one writer to be responsible for, the amount of planning and structure to pull it off having to be extensive and highly coordinated. The sheer scale of this is already impressive, and I haven’t read word one yet, but remain highly confident it’ll be one of the biggest events of the year. At least until All-Star Superman with Frank Quitely hits later in the fall, triggering a massive, and rightfully deserved fanboy orgasm. Morrison and Quitely on Superman is one of those creative pairings that people have been throwing out there for years, thinking if it’s repeated just enough times, it’ll finally come true, and even though it won’t see print for several months, there’s no denying the alarming potential of the forthcoming run.

A recent Newsarama feature
only adds fuel, Morrison once again making comics smarter with his interviews, dropping story concepts and ideas into the wild, like he’s unaware of just how well they’ll be received. Coupled with his frantically paced arc in JLA Classified that proves he’s still one of the best when it comes to superheroes, and you don’t have to be a genius to figure this all out. In only two issues, the JLA are trapped in an infant universe, Gorilla Grodd is burning cities and eating superheroes, Batman has a flying saucer and matching boom tube gauntlet, and the Ultramarines are treated as a group of characters that we’ve known forever. There’s one single page of set-up, and then things blaze from one end of the story to the other, the images, layouts, and dialogue assaulting you on every page. There’s no explanation, no apology, only heroes doing unbelievable things scene after scene, and if Morrison can pull this off using the main heroes as simple background noise, what do you think he’s got for Superman?

Like I said, you don’t have to be that smart to know what this means…

Parental Advisory Suggested

Man, I remember Sin City as the comic I was afraid to let my pops catch me with.

Think my first ever issue, was the first chapter of the A Dame To Kill For mini, and I’d seen the solicit in Previews and was instantly attracted to it, because of that “mature readers” tag, and the possibility of excessive violence and some black and white nudity. It almost goes without saying, that my poor little teenage mind didn’t even comprehend how and why these comics were so notable, feeding myself early Image books and company wide crossovers on an intravenous drip, so even with the nudity, it wasn’t long before I lost track of the series among whatever else I thought was the epitome of four-color entertainment. Wasn’t until much later that I went back and found a stack of trades and got myself back in the game. The original Sin City collection holds the distinction of being one of the few trades I’ve devoured in one sitting, telling myself that I was putting it down with every chapter break, but finding that goal more and more impossible as I neared the end. As impossible as the initial movie reports actually.

What people were talking about sounded like some fanboy fairy tale. That Robert Rodriquez was shooting the entire thing directly from Frank Miller’s source material, and that Miller himself was co-directing the whole thing. That Quentin Tarantino was handling a chapter of the movie, and doing it for a dollar. That the cast included Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, and several others. That some movie studio would actually pay for something so intentionally unorthodox. To me, this was a real life version of the Wizard Casting Call, where you can put Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson and Denzel in the same movie, just because you know it’s never going to happen. My boy Nate kept telling me it was the real deal, and in my infinite wisdom, I responded, “Yeah, I’ll believe when I see it.” Well, I’ve seen this trailer a couple times, and I have to be honest…it looks like the real deal to me.

The little preview that briefly leaked onto the net following the San Diego con got my interest, but the official clip, now available in glorious QuickTime, looks absolutely lovely, and is one of those things that the backwards “mainstream” will initially refuse to believe originated as a simple “comic book.” It’s too dark, it’s too stylish, it’s too faithful to its source, and there aren’t any costumed guys running around and beating each other to death in it. I loved Spider-Man 2, will hopefully love Batman Begins, but Sin City is a comic-based movie that doesn’t look like it’s based on a comic. It just looks damn, damn good, and now we’ve got another flick to look forward to in the spring.

And that hot trailer? It’s found right here. See for yourself.

Who Is The Black Panther?

I think I’m over the whole Priest thing now.

Because, you know, initially, the news that Marvel was giving the Black Panther another monthly series, but that it wouldn’t be written by Christopher Priest, wasn’t sitting well with me. Not that anyone ever asked me about it, or that another grown man needs me to defend him or his work, but after being there for five years as Priest actually made BP worth reading, it was a bit of a letdown. You know how it is, when a creator becomes synonymous with a particular character or property. Said creator develops insane fans that refuse to see anyone else responsible for the characters they made notable, and what can I say, Black Panther and Priest engenders that fanboy in me.

However, it doesn’t blind me to the obvious fact that Marvel is making a concerted effort at pushing this revamp into the marketplace, with premier catalog placement and JRJR at the artistic helm. There are several big launches in February that Marvel could’ve turned into spotlight projects, chief among them Young Avengers, but BP got pole position, and that’s almost enough to quiet the cynic that wonders what Priest could’ve accomplished paired with an artistic powerhouse. What has me officially onboard, are the interviews that writer Reginald Hudlin has been hitting the news sites with, because after hearing him talk about the new gig, it’s a little difficult to argue that he doesn’t “get” it. Hudlin’s viewpoint on the nation of Wakanda impresses me the most, because that’s really the critical aspect that separates Black Panther from everyone else in Marvel’s stable. Here is a guy with his own country, that just happens to be the most technologically advanced on Earth, but no one’s managed to roll through and take it all away from him.

Wakanda should be a little pocket of the future, lorded over by the baddest man alive, and that sounds incredibly similar to what Hudlin is planning. Some of the initial press is claiming that this is the year when Panther takes his true place at the forefront of the Marvel Universe, and that’s incredibly relevant for a couple reasons. Chiefly is the diversity issue, as unfortunately, the landscape isn’t allowing for any characters, save the familiar heavyweights, onto the upper levels of the sales charts, let alone black ones. Any and every time that comes up, it’s always simultaneously interesting and frustrating to hear others weigh in on the issue. Because I know, sooner rather than later, someone will show up and swear that the whole thing doesn’t matter, and that companies should simply endeavor to put their heads in the sand and give us another Batman or Spider-Man book. Well forgive me for being naïve, but that’s not good enough.

I’ve been reading comics since ’92, and quite obviously, a lack of black characters hasn’t significantly affected my love for them. Making some kind of emotional connection to a character, being able to relate to them on some level, is what’s most important, of course, but I only have to encounter one that not only embodies me emotionally, but physically as well, to understand there’s a difference. For the same reason I get this extra charge when I’m watching Denzel or Will Smith on screen, the sensation is the same as the one that came from reading Runaways, and watching as this team of errant teenagers followed the lead of Alex Wilder, a young black teen with the same geeky interests and big glasses that I had back in the day. Only one example of course, but these are the things that prevent me from leaving this particular issue alone. We need more strong black characters in comics, the same way we need more female characters that aren’t being beaten, raped, or in some way brutalized on a regular basis. Do not underestimate how important this stuff is, from both a long and short-team standpoint.

So, naturally, Priest or no Priest, I am incredibly excited about the return of the Black Panther to the monthly racks, and the vote of confidence Marvel seems to be giving it. And I can only hope you’re excited about it too, for whatever reason that may be…

I’m sure there are several more things to look forward to in the upcoming year, but these were the ones that to me, demanded some additional mention. My question to you all is…what has you charged up for 2005? What do you think is the most important event of the new year, and what progress can the industry make in the next twelve months?

Your thoughts as always are appreciated, and I’ll be back in two weeks.


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