THE HOSTILE TAKEOVER OF SUPERMAN

When in the course of certain events . . .

When I told my son, long time fanboy of comics for a few decades, that Jim Lee was made co-publisher of DC Comics, he grinned and made an obscene gesture as Mr. Lee’s proxy. Fanboys are notorious gossips and are not without very strong opinions. “I’m gonna fuck, DC.” When I inquired why Mr. Lee would do such a thing especially when he had been promoted to such a high level of the company, all he could say was, “You just watch.” I shrugged it off thinking it was some kind of strange fanboy behavior I’d never understand.

You may think I was prejudiced somehow by this interaction but honestly I couldn’t see the logical reason behind such a statement. In the course of the article, I will be presenting facts; gathering data, and journaling the ‘adventure’ that has been at least 4 years in the making.

Then came Flashpoint, originally constructed by Geoff Johns. The last issue showed DC was now going to combine the Vertigo, Wildstorm and DC universes and Grifter, a Wildstorm character, was to be on the Justice League at some point. The new universe was conceived in an editorial retreat in October, 2010. Bob Harras, formerly of Marvel and then Wildstorm under Jim Lee (now co-pub), was made Editor-In-Chief of DC Comics the previous month.

Evil laughter ensued from the house fanboy. I should probably add that he was mainly a Marvel fan, but also read some indies as well, and definitely was up on all the machinations of the publishing houses.

Before the new 52 actually occurred, I was at a comic book shop going through the sale bins looking for Superman comics. One of my son’s friends, another fanboy who actually did the ordering for a local comic book shop, came over to me with a Grifter comic and said, “This is the future of the DC universe!” If he had had a moustache, he would have twirled it. I told him to “get that shit away from me.” Was I worried about the new 52? Yea, I was. I was already having PTSD from WONK and Grounded. Flashpoint had fridged Lois again and Superman was only Kal-El, not Clark Kent. No Smallville. But the writer had added it was a cliché to kill off Lois – and it was, but it was not the last time she would be fridged in new 52 era.

The new 52 began on August 31, 2011 with Justice League declared the flagship of the universe with Geoff Johns as writer and the former head honcho of Wildstorm, Jim Lee drawing. Lee also redesigned most of the characters putting a ‘majestic’ collar on the Man of Steel. Superman was no longer the flagship character. His identity and stories would be guided by Justice League and their future plans.

All issues carried #1 on their covers. Aside from Justice League, all other books started in September, 2011. I have been doing statistics on the top 10 books of that time plus any others that involve Superman or that strike my fancy.

I started my statistics using October, 2011 order numbers involving the 2nd issues. This seemed a good place to start without the anomaly of the #1s.

Action Comics #2 orders were 153,855, still riding high from the #1s with top writer, Grant Morrison. He was creating a new Superman building 5 years in the past. Only Action Comics and Justice League have this five year gap. Again, Superman’s story would be contingent upon Justice League’s plans.

All prominent characters from the Wildstorm universe had their own books, except for one. Mr. Majestic. He was nowhere to be found in the new 52. Reason: He was being called Superman. An alien with no human ties who didn’t have much of a moral core and who had a superpowered girlfriend. Jim Lee had created Mr. Majestic because he thought it was dumb for Superman not to use his powers to their full extent. More on that later.

Superman #2 orders were 94,233. Veteran George Perez’s story took place in the present or five years in the future of Action Comics. The five year gap was a bottomless pit and even Superman “wished things could be different.” No one knew who this new Superman was and it certainly didn’t bode well when Perez left the book after issue 6 not knowing who this new Superman was or what editorial kept in or out of the book. Shades of things to come.

One year later, October, 2012, Issue #13, Morrison kept his story in the past despite rumblings of bringing it into the present and order numbers were 67,241. A loss of 56.3% (or -86,614) from it’s number 2 issue. Although Morrison fans have often said wait for the TPBs and not get the individual issues. what happened? Why did Morrison decide to keep the book in the past? He was not writing foundational Superman because of what was happening in Justice League after it jumped into the present. And Justice League being a team book certainly wasn’t giving Superman any foundation. The Kent marriage (hinted in Action 12) was declared dead before new 52 began and now everyone knew why. The fauxmance, lightswitched in Justice League #12 but with a HUGE multimedia campaign by Lee and Johns. Superman, aka new 52 Mr. Majestic, had a supergirlfriend now, Wonder Woman.

In Superman, Keith Giffen & Dan Jurgens wrote him for six months after Perez. These two top veterans who knew Superman inside and out were unable to breach the editorial barrier. They had to include Wildstorm baddie, Helspont, into the story. Superman and Action often had the character dealing with alternate realities and timelines but never anything about Clark Kent at the Daily Planet. Does anyone truly believe that these two creators would have Clark dating Lucy Lane as his ‘love interest’? By issue #13 in October, 2012, the book had yet another creator taking over. Scott Lobdell. A veteran of Marvel and then Wildstorm, just like his Editor-In-Chief, Bob Harras, who was at the editorial retreat in October, 2010. Orders for issue #13 were 52,155. A drop of 44.7% (-42,078).

In October, 2013, 2 years after the DCU was rebooted, Action Comics had abysmal numbers. Wasn’t that the reason given for the reboot? And the character of Superman was hard rebooted. Not reboot lite like Batman. What happened during that year? Andy Diggle took over Action for #19 and then quit to have Tony Daniel finish his run (20-21). He said he left for professional reasons. But later we learned, he would not write the fauxmance, which had never appeared or was even mentioned in Action Comics. So Bob Harras tapped Scott Lobdell to write both Action and Superman. Scott Lobdell’s final issue, Action #24 had 39,620 orders for a drop since #2 of 74.2% (-114,235 prints). The worst dive of any new 52 ‘top 10’ book. 114,235 orders is a top selling book on any given month. Why did DC Comics allow it’s first superhero to be desecrated to this point just 4 months after his hit movie, Man of Steel?

Greg Pak took over writing duties in November, 2013 and the fauxmance was mentioned for the first time in Action Comics. He was not allowed to use Lois Lane. Also Charles Soule got the job of writing the fauxmance book which debuted in October, 2013. It’s first issue with a double icon lineup failed to reach 100,000 orders.,

Lobdell continued to write Superman even after publicly sexually harassing a female creator on a comics panel in late 2013 and in March, 2014 Superman was at it’s lowest point with 33,633 orders (down 64.3% or -60,600). Lobdell’s last issue for Superman was May, 2014 with the Doomed event prelude. Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. took over the book in June, 2014 (#32) bringing up the orders to 89,140 (down only 5% or -5,093). Quite a jump. But for nearly three years, Superman fans were exposed to a concept of Superman they didn’t know and couldn’t trust. Johns will be bringing back Metropolis, the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White. Things that are staples of the Superman mythology.

Who was responsible for Superman falling to these depths of near obscurity? Especially during his 75th anniversary year in 2013?

Scott Snyder went to Dan Didio with a Superman story he wanted to write. Didio sent him to Jim Lee. Why? Lee decided he would draw the book and they would use it to celebrate Superman’s 75th anniversary. (Apparently if it wasn’t for Snyder, Superman would have had no other additional book but the fauxmance to celebrate his 75th anniversary.) Snyder’s story was classic Superman mythology involving Metropolis and Lois Lane.

Superman Unchained debuted in June, 2013 as the top comic with 251,456 orders to coincide with the Man of Steel film and perhaps to get the movie going public interested in the character again. The second issue was the top comic for July, 2013 with 165,754. Since comic book #1s usually are an anomaly statistically, I will continue to use the second issue stats. In August, Unchained was the top DC Comic at #2 with 136,319 (down 18% or -29,435). September brings unique books (or stunts) and so there was no Superman Unchained scheduled. However, it was scheduled for October, 2013, the same month as fauxmance book debut. Superman Unchained #4 got bumped to November, 2013. (more about this pattern later) So if any new readers jumped on board previously to September, this slowed down the momentum of the book. Plus new readers’ experience would not be good if they weren’t able to read their book on a regular basis. So much for rebooting the entire universe for new readers, right?

Unchained #4 was published in November and managed to be the 3rd highest DC Comic and was 4th for the month with 110,611, a drop of 55,153 from it’s 2nd issue or -33.3% (which is comparable to Batman’s drop from it’s #2 issue in October, 2011). Superman Unchained #5 was released on New Year’s Eve, highly irregular for a top selling book but had the 5th highest book for the month and 3rd DC Comic with the most orders. 96,322 orders which was a drop of 41.9% or 69,432 less orders than it’s 2nd issue.

In 2011, co-pubs Didio and Lee said that new 52 books would go out on time even if creators had to be added to a book to complete it. In 2013, that mandate got thrown out the window for one book in particular, Superman Unchained. The book that was based on standard Superman mythology and did not involve the fauxmance going on in the new 52.

On January 21, 2014, Scott Snyder tweeted that the final issue of Unchained #9 would be coming out on April 30th, 2014. He stated that the book was always only 9 issues long. That would mean that Snyder was finished scripting the book and fans would get an issue monthly. A solicit for April, confirmed Snyder’s statement.

For those of you who don’t know, your local comic book shop has to order books three months in advance, usually by only reading a solicit from the publisher and those are the numbers reflected in the monthly stats provided by Diamond, the distributor. More about that later.

Superman Unchained was not published in January or February, 2014. In March, 2014, fans got #6 which was 2nd only to Batman in orders. 94,147 orders which was a drop of 71,607 or -43.2% since issue #2.

On April 2, 2014, DC announced that they were canceling the last two issues of Unchained (8 & 9) but promised to resolicit. In other words the book was delayed so much, they could not use the order numbers accumulated for the original solicit dates. This way of doing business terrified some fans who did not understand, this is not unusual for a book involving Jim Lee. Fanboys can tell you all about Divine Right, a book written and drawn by Lee when he was head of Wildstorm. It took him two years for twelve issues with many resolicits. Another book was All Star Batman and Robin (an out of continuity book which had the fauxmance) which Lee never finished despite the fact Frank Miller, the writer, said there were four or five issues left. Ten issues were published between 2005 and 2008. In 2009, Lee acknowledged it was he who caused the delays in the book. In 2010, DC announced the book would finish under the name, Dark Knight: Boy Wonder and would run for 6 issues beginning in February, 2011. Lee never did those issues because he was working on Justice League for the new 52 by that time.

And I didn’t even mention WildC.A.T.S with Grant Morrison (only 1 issue published) or Batman: Europa (nothing published). Plus, supposedly “because he felt his role as publisher and his growing family demands interfered with his role as an artist, Lee left Image Comics and sold Wildstorm to DC Comics in late 1998, enabling him to focus once again on art.” It couldn’t be because Wildstorm products were notoriously late or incomplete? And what fan needs that kind of treatment?

But I digress . . .

Scott Snyder apologized for the delay of Superman Unchained (which wasn’t his fault). Lee only said the book would have more pages (meaning #9, we now realize), but never has said he was sorry for the still continuing delays. This from the co-publisher who adamantly said “books will be on time.” Question: What good is a promise of more pages from a creator who can’t even finish a ‘normal’ amount of pages?

Superman Unchained #7 was finally published in July, 2014. But the constant delays had taken it’s toll on fans. The book was no longer in the top 5 or top 10. 14th for the month with 69,523. A drop of 96,231 or -58% since it’s 2nd issue.

Another pattern fans have noticed with Unchained is that when it is solicited for a date which falls on the same day as the fauxmance, Unchained gets bumped. Superman fans can no longer trust a classic Superman mythology book will ever get published with any regularity especially while the artist, co-publisher, attendee of the 2010 editorial retreat, is connected with said book.

Superman Unchained #8 has been re-solicited for September 10th which is highly unusual for DC Comics stunt month. If released in September, it will be buried by Future’s End #1s. One shots. Remember #1’s sell more than other numbers because collectors join the party. It’s not about the story but that number on the cover.

If Lee waits around for an October or November release date for #8, then we may have a repeat of October, 2013. No Unchained. #12 of the fauxmance will be Charles Soule’s last issue and in November, the book will be taken over by Peter Tomasi. It appears that a bestselling book by Scott Snyder is not given the same consideration as a book which is more in line with what was decided in the 2010 editorial retreat.

The oversized #9 is not even on the horizon. It’s been over a year since Superman Unchained #1 appeared and Jim Lee couldn’t get 8 more issues done within that period of time, most of which was during Superman’s 75th anniversary.

Amongst all this new 52 demoralizing of Superman, Action #1 from 1938 has had phenomenal sales. In 2010, a book sold for 1.5 million dollars. In 2011, a book sold for 2.0 million dollars. Currently, there is bidding on a third book which is reaching over 2.0 million dollars.

Was turning Superman into Mister Majestic with everything but the S shield on his chest really worth it? And who keeps their job, degrading the most recognized character around the world? But I guess redesigning cereal box characters is more important than drawing a top selling Superman story to celebrate his 75th anniversary.

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August 21, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Baudy's Reviews, BaudyBlahBlahBlah, Lois Lane, Superman.

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