Thursday, February 18, 2016

DC Comics Rebirth?


It will start with a voice, "I love this world,  but something is missing."

"It" being the next "event" (my words, not theirs) from DC Comics: DC Universe Rebirth. According to CCO Geoff Johns, DC Universe Rebirth follows in the steps of Green Lantern Rebirth and Flash Rebirth. A next chapter in the DC Universe.

Each of the previous Rebirth minis were about returning something to the DC Universe. Green Lantern Rebirth brought back Hal Jordan, Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps to the DC Universe. Flash Rebirth returned Barry Allen as the Flash. So, it stands to reason that DC Universe Rebirth will be about returning something to the DC Universe. But what?

What they seem to be saying is that DC Universe Rebirth will bring back the aspect of Legacy to the DCU. 

The more important question is...is it too late?


To be completely honest, neither of the so-called Big Two comic publishers have ever completely bounced back from the crash of comics in the 90s that nearly ended comics. These days, standard operating procedure is to bounce from one big Earth-shattering, status quo changing event to another, dragging readers along on a ride of change and "rebirth" where everything is "All-New" and "All-Different," and of course everything gets a shiny new coat of paint and a fresh set of new #1s to prop up sales.

Until the steam runs out on that, and everyone realizes that things have to change again because they need the sales.

According to an interview with DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns at the Comic Book Resources website some of the basics are:
With "Rebirth," the mainline DC Universe titles will be renumbered with new #1s -- except for "Action Comics" and "Detective Comics," the two longest-running series in DC's lineup, which will return to their original numbering at #957 and #934, respectively. All DCU books will return to a $2.99 price point (currently their lineup is split between $3.99 and $2.99 single issues), and select core titles (details to come on exactly which) will shift to a twice-monthly schedule.
Yes, because nothing will set readers straight quite like 30-some comics with shiny new #1s, and two books that are numbered in the 900s.
It started when [DC Co-Publishers] Dan [DiDio] and Jim [Lee] came to me and said that they wanted to end things at #52, and work build back to a shared universe and big stories. They wanted to take another look at everything.
I think that a lot of this goes back to the last "event" at DC, the less than spectacularly selling Convergence. There were some really good stories in that event, and some old time readers were happy to see the return of "their" heroes, even if for just a short time. The problem was that those readers wanted everything turned back to what they were used to. Personally, I think that would have been a bad idea.

I liked what I have read of DC Comics' "New52" line. They brought a lot of freshness and showed a willingness to do comics that weren't "just" super-hero books. We saw the return of horror and war comics, westerns and science fiction, as the powers that be at DC tried to regain the interest of lost readers, and gain new readers. Some of it worked, some didn't. A lot of books ended up getting cancelled because they couldn't find an audience, and the realities of post-Crash comics (even with deep corporate pockets backing the Big Two) mean that comics that once could have been given time and attention to find an audience no longer were given the chance.

This ended up creating a further disconnect between publisher and readers, as books fell to the wayside. It wasn't just DC doing this either, Marvel has had spates of cancellations of low selling books as well (particularly recently). This is just supposition on my part, based with talking to a lot of comic fans of all different walks of life over social media, but it seems to me that this is one of the lowest points for reader faith in the big comic publishers.


Over at Comic Book Resources, Johns says:
I've been a fan for years -- I have over 60,000 comics and 99 percent of them are DC Comics. I really see this as an opportunity, and like I've said before, take all the characters and thematics that we love -- from the past and the present -- and build a story that brought them all together, revealed new secrets and truths and mysteries, and moved it all ahead. Again, as someone who absolutely loves the DC Universe, to me it's maybe lost some things. Not only characters, but more intangibles. Some essence to what makes the "DC Universe" unique and brilliant and unpredictable. And every single character matters -- from Batman to Cassandra Cain to John Stewart to Saturn Girl to Blue Beetle to Lois Lane-- everyone is someone's favorite. And in comics, anything's possible.
"Everyone is someone's favorite." That right there is the bedrock of fandom, and why waves of cancellations brought dissatisfaction to readers. "Everyone is someone's favorite." This is something that I see often come up in comics conversations online, people don't feel that they should invest themselves in comics because they will probably end up being cancelled. With DC we've seen Blue Beetle, Static Shock and Jonah Hex books get caneled. Soon we will see books like Black Canary go away. Why? Because they want to bring back Birds of Prey (apparently).

I am not alone in feeling that the current (at the time of this writing) Black Canary book is pretty great. It is quirky and original, taking a character who was fairly generic in the New52 relaunch and making her interesting. The creative team found a way to make the character engaging, and something more than what she had been previously. I had always enjoyed this character, but in its 50+ years of history and stories it was typically little more than a face in a group, or part of the side story of some other character. For the first times in my decades of comic reading, I wanted to know what was going to be happening next month with Black Canary. The character became the lead in its adventures, rather than just an adjunct to another character's story.


Having Birds of Prey come back is great, particularly if it means that we will get to see a return of Lady Blackhawk to comics. But, part of my problem, part of where this disconnect between publishers and readers is that for those of us for whom Black Canary has found engagement cancelling her book so that the character can go back to being a team player is nonsensical. Women-lead comics shouldn't be a zero sum game.
It's in the same vein as "Green Lantern: Rebirth" and "The Flash: Rebirth." Some things alter and change, but it's more character-driven, and it's also more about revealing secrets and mysteries within the DC Universe about "Flashpoint" and The New 52 that are part of a bigger tapestry. A hidden and forbidden secret.
So, DC Universe Rebirth is going to be about restoring a legacy to DC Comics. We're going to get a new Justice Society book. The currently ongoing Titans Hunt mini is going to restore the classic Teen Titans to the DC Universe (I'm still not entirely sure how they're going to get around some of the changes like Cyborg being in the Justice League, but I'm guessing that he isn't going to have been a Titan now period). But, still, is it too little, too late?

A big part of the problem that DC Comics has had with issues of its own continuity have always been because the "fresh starts" have always been half steps. Whether it was Crisis On Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis or even the New52, each time there has been a reboot they have tried to make everything new and not change anything that they didn't have to change. For the New52, DC had Grant Morrison rationalize a way for a new character...who could still access the old stories (like Doomsday). In the Batman books Batman had three Robins over the course of five years, one of them dying and coming back to life. So much could have gone so simpler with a clean sweep each of these times.

But they didn't, and that is partially what brought DC to this point today.

Comics have been an important part of my life since before I could read. They've inspired many other of my hobbies throughout my life. Now I am wondering if this might now just be the jumping off point for the Big Two.

Update: DC Comics has announced the schedule for the next few months, so we know what titles are surviving and some of the new launches. None of these have announced creative teams.

June:
Rebirth Specials:
• AQUAMAN REBIRTH #1
• BATMAN REBIRTH #1
• THE FLASH REBIRTH #1
• GREEN ARROW REBIRTH #1
• GREEN LANTERNS REBIRTH #1
• SUPERMAN REBIRTH #1
• TITANS REBIRTH #1
• WONDER WOMAN REBIRTH #1

New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
• AQUAMAN #1
• BATMAN #1
• THE FLASH #1
• GREEN ARROW #1
• GREEN LANTERNS #1
• SUPERMAN #1
• WONDER WOMAN #1

New Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
• ACTION COMICS #957
• DETECTIVE COMICS #934

July
Rebirth Specials:
• BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY REBIRTH #1
• HAL JORDAN & THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS REBIRTH #1
• THE HELLBLAZER REBIRTH #1
• JUSTICE LEAGUE REBIRTH #1
• NIGHTWING REBIRTH #1
• RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS REBIRTH #1

New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
• HAL JORDAN & THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1
• JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
• NIGHTWING #1

New #1 Issues (Shipping monthly):
• BATGIRL #1
• BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY #1
• THE HELLBLAZER #1
• RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #1
• THE SUPER-MAN #1
• TITANS #1

Fall
Rebirth Specials:
• BATMAN BEYOND REBIRTH #1
• BLUE BEETLE REBIRTH #1
• CYBORG REBIRTH #1
• DEATHSTROKE REBIRTH #1
• EARTH 2 REBIRTH #1
• SUICIDE SQUAD REBIRTH #1
• SUPERGIRL REBIRTH #1
• TEEN TITANS REBIRTH #1
• TRINITY REBIRTH #1

New #1 Issues (Shipping twice monthly):
• CYBORG #1
• DEATHSTROKE #1
• HARLEY QUINN #1
• JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #1
• SUICIDE SQUAD #1

New #1 Issues (Shipping monthly):
• BATMAN BEYOND #1
• BLUE BEETLE #1
• EARTH 2 #1
• GOTHAM ACADEMY: NEXT SEMESTER #1
• SUPERGIRL #1
• SUPERWOMAN #1
• SUPER SONS #1
• TEEN TITANS #1

• TRINITY #1



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Before The OSR -- Talking True20


In those dark days at the end of the D&D 3.x era, I cast around looking for something simpler. My tastes in gaming were in flux, and I found myself wanting something that was a lot less complicated, but still let me have games with some robust characters in them. And along came Green Ronin's True20 game.

Based off of the D20 SRD and rules from Unearthed Arcana and Green Ronin's Witches Handbook (also by Kenson), designer Steve Kenson created a streamlined set of rules that were robust and still recognizable as being derived from the D20 rules. Originally designed for the first edition of the Blue Rose RPG, the True20 rules were like a breath of fresh air. And Blue Rose was great for more reasons than just the system. The game's setting material broke with the traditions of fantasy gaming and distanced itself from fantasy influences like Tolkien, Moorcock and Howard, and embraced the "romantic" fantasy genre exemplified by authors such as Diane Duane, Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce and others.

It was a nice breath of fresh air to see other genres getting some representation in fantasy gaming. Unfortunately some gamers, those who were used to their tastes being catered to, lost their shit over the fast that someone dared make a game that didn't allow them to continue to play in their same, safe fantasy settings.

I ended up playing the hell out of Blue Rose, and then when the generic True20 came out, I was even happier because then I could take a solid ruleset and use them for other genres besides just fantasy.

Here's some of the things that True20 gets right:

  • It uses the stat modifiers instead of the ability scores to quantify your character's abilities.
  • There are only three, fairly freeform, and broadly defined classes (adapted from the open content material of WotC's Unearthed Arcana for 3.x), and modifies them with Backgrounds and Paths to give you more customization options for your characters.
  • It gets ride of the long, long, long spell lists and replaces it with an again freeform Feat-based system, derived from the magic system for Witches that Kenson created in the Witches Handbook for 3.x from Green Ronin.
  • It seriously streamlines the skill lists.
  • Magic works in the exact same way as skills, so all of the task resolution revolves around the 20-sided die. The game uses just one dice.
  • Damage uses a Saving Throw rather ran a dynamic number that comes from rolling more dice. This streamlines combat further, meaning that there is a lot less dice rolling in the game and everything does faster.
A lot of this is fairly standard practice in a number of games now, but in 2005 while all of our heads were reeling from the hundreds, if not thousands, of D&D 3.x books that came out from Wizards of the Coast and pretty much every other publisher in tabletop RPGs, this was a breath of fresh air.

The timing of all of this coming out couldn't have been more fortuitous for me, because I needed something simpler, something that was easily available for players. True20 fit that bill rather nicely.

There was also a nice level of support. Green Ronin and a variety of third party publishers produced setting material for the system, and Green Ronin had supplements expanding each of the casses (and giving examples for using them in genres outside of just fantasy).

I won't say that there wasn't anything bad about True20, for example the importance of Feats meant that there were a lot of Feats in the rules and supplements. With a Feat-based powers system, that meant needing a lot of Feats in your games. Yes, they were slightly streamlined from "standard" D20 Feats, but each one still ended up being a special case for the rules. Depending on the type of campaign that you were running, that could mean a lot of Feats, and a lot of things to remember.

That didn't bother my games at the time, since we were all still dealing with a lot less complexity than we had been used to with our D&D or D20 Modern games at the time. So, it was all a matter of scale to us.

For those wondering about the title of this post, let me make a transition.

I got into True20 for much the same reasons that I would (eventually) get into Old School Renaissance games: I was looking for a much simpler approach to gaming. A few years back, when +Ethel B+David Rollins+Josh Thompson and eventually +Stacy Dellorfano got together to start playing fantasy games, we could have just as easily been playing a True20 game. In fact, we almost did.

When drafting +Ethel B into tabletop RPGs from MMOs like World of Warcraft, I went to look for simplicity. I didn't want her to deal with learning a bunch of complex rules and then find out she wasn't interested in RPGs. I wanted to "keep it simple, stupid" and find an easy to Grok, easy to run fantasy game that I could run via video chat. The first game on my list was True20, but I started nosing around the internet and discovered the whole retroclone movement where people were rebuilding early editions of D&D using the open content from the D20 SRD (much in the same way that Steve Kenson developed the True20 rules).

I started reading about games like Swords & Wizardry and the Basic Fantasy RPG and realized that I had found what I was looking for. These games were even simpler than True20. Reading up on the varieties of rules, I ended up deciding upon Swords & Wizardry Whitebox (with a couple of tweaks so that we could have thieves in our game) and we were off and gaming for more than three years now (and +Ethel B has attended two Gen Cons with an eye on her third).

There are probably a lot of things that could have gone a lot differently if I had decided to use True20 as my ruleset back when I was starting out.

I will also remind people of the standard rules around this blog:

https://xkcd.com/1357/




Friday, February 05, 2016

Steve Perrin Joins RuneQuest Development Team




In the spirit of bringing the band back together, Chaosium is delighted to announce that Steve Perrin is joining the design team for Chaosium's new edition of RuneQuest. "We knew that Steve Perrin’s place at the table, as both the creator and lead author of the original groundbreaking ‘78 and ‘79 editions of game, was a natural fit that harkens back to the genius and originality of RuneQuest", said Rick Meints, President of Chaosium.

In late 2015 Moon Design Publications and Chaosium successfully Kickstarted the RuneQuest Classic Edition campaign, a triumphant reissue of the iconic 2nd Edition of the RuneQuest rules and the supplements produced for it: Cults of Prax, Pavis, Big Rubble, Griffin Mountain, TrollPak and many others.

"We want to usher in the newest exploration of Glorantha with a tribute to the masterpiece opus of work that has come before. Part of Steve's role is to help insure that this edition contains the best possible game mechanics while maintaining backwards compatibility with RuneQuest 2", said Jeff Richard, creative director at Chaosium.

The new version of RuneQuest maintains backwards compatibility with earlier editions, while also containing a number of unique innovations that resonate with Glorantha, Greg Stafford's mythical campaign setting where RuneQuest started and to which it returns. This new edition incorporates Runes directly into both your character and the magic system you use, including their passions and motivations.

"The rules reinforce immersion in the setting even more than the original RuneQuest rules did, and ideas experimentally brought forth in Griffin Mountain reach their fruition", said Richard.

Seizing this unique chance to get this right, Chaosium has brought in a team of notable game designers to support Chaosium's rebirth of RuneQuest, including Sandy Petersen (Call of Cthulhu), Ken Rolston (Paranoia, Elder Scrolls, RQ3),  Chris Klug (James Bond 007 RPG, DragonQuest) and Jason Durall (BRP, Conan).

A special pre-release version of the new rules will be revealed at Gen Con later this year, along with introductory scenario sessions. A wealth of all-new campaign material and supplements for the new edition will follow.



Thursday, February 04, 2016

Heavy Metal Meets Big Hero Six In Skydoll

Skydoll is one of those European comics that I have always been curious about. It hits those spots for SF and cutsey that lay deep, deep inside of my soul. Now, thanks to Titans Comics, it looks like I might finally get to see what's up with it.

"Including work previously unpublished in English, Skydoll: Decade contains the first three books of the series with new lettering and translation, the 10-page "art book comic" Sky Doll #0, 12 unpublished pages from Heaven Doll, and 40 pages of tributes from artists including  Claire Wendling, Lostfish, Marguerite Sauvage, Lilidoll, Mijn Schatje, and Benjamin."

"When Noa the Sky Doll is liberated from her life of drudgery by missionaries, it turns out that she is more than just a pretty android built for pleasure. With religion, sensuality and what it means to be human all at stake, Noa must find her true purpose in life."







SKYDOLL: DECADE
Writers: Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa
Artists: Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa
Cover: Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa
Publisher: Titan Comics
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 232
ISBN: 9781782767367
Price: $19.99
On Sale Now


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Heavy Metal debuts on comiXology and Amazon’s Kindle Store


February 3rd, 2015 — New York, NY— Heavy Metal, comiXology and Amazon announced today a distribution agreement to sell Heavy Metal’s fan-favorite science fiction, fantasy and horror digital comics and magazine across the comiXology platform as well as Amazon’s Kindle Store. Today’s debut sees the addition of the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy anthology, as well as two new original comic series on both comiXology and the Kindle Store.

“We’re excited to finally bring longtime Heavy Metal fans a first class digital reading experience, and equally excited to introduce this classic anthology to a whole new generation of readers thanks to comiXology and Amazon,” said Heavy Metal co-CEO Jeff Krelitz. “Blowing the minds of first-time Heavy Metal readers is something that never gets old!”

“At comiXology, we’re thrilled to carry such an established publisher as Heavy Metal and we’re sure that sci-fi, fantasy, and horror comics fans everywhere feel the same,” said comiXology CEO and co-founder, David Steinberger. “Heavy Metal brings an edge to comics that we’re happy to have join us on comiXology and Kindle.”

Today’s digital debut of Heavy Metal on comiXology and the Kindle Store sees the following titles available, including two comic debuts:

  • Interceptor by Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett
  • Narcopolis based on the UK film
  • Heavy Metal #280

The Kindle Store gives readers access to millions of books on the most popular devices and platforms, including Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers, iOS, Android and more.

With over 75,000 comics, graphic novels and manga from more than 75 publishers, comiXology offers the widest selection of digital comics in the world. ComiXology’s immense catalog and cinematic Guided View reading experience make it the best digital platform for comic fans worldwide.

About Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal is an American science fiction and fantasy comics magazine, known primarily for its blend of dark fantasy/science fiction and erotica. The fourth oldest American comics publisher at nearly 40 years of age, some of the greatest European and American comic book writers and artists in history have appeared in the pages of Heavy Metal. Since the magazine’s inception in 1977, the Heavy Metal banner has been seen in video games, television, and a 1981 animated feature film. In 2015 the brand established it’s first-ever line of traditional monthly American comics.

About comiXology
ComiXology, an Amazon.com, Inc. subsidiary (NASDAQ:AMZN), has revolutionized the comic book and graphic novel industry by delivering a cloud-based digital comics platform that makes discovering, buying and reading comics more fun than ever before. ComiXology's Guided View reading technology transforms the comic book medium into an immersive and cinematic experience, helping comiXology become a top ten grossing iPad app in 2011 and 2012 and the top grossing non-game iPad app in 2012 and 2013. Offering the broadest library of comic book content from over 75 publishers - and independent creators as well - comiXology will not stop until everyone on the face of the planet has become a comic book fan. ComiXology is based in New York City, with operations in Seattle, Los Angeles and Paris. For more information visit www.comixology.com.

About Amazon
Amazon.com opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995. The company is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit www.amazon.com/about.