All posts in comics

Missing in action: Helena Bertinelli, Huntress

I must admit I’m behind on my comics reading – I’m one of the crazy ones who tries to read everything that DC Comics puts out, and with the New 52 plus mini-series this means a lot of books. And of course, despite crossovers and events and the like, that’s not really how DC (or Marvel, or any other comic publisher) intends their output to be consumed. It would be foolish to think that one comics fan would like everything a company produces, because they produce material for different audiences and tastes. I also found that when I tried to read everything that was out each Wednesday, I’d actually have forgotten what had gone on in the previous issue of whateveritwas. I’m hoping that’s because I was trying to read too much, not that I’m getting old and forgetful.

Anyway, point is, my backlog of New 52 titles is such that I decided to not try and keep up, but gather up blocks of say six issues and read them in one go. As it happens, the six issue block is more or less the length of a story arc for the New 52. And now all of the ongoing titles, and a couple of the minis, have reached the six-issue mark, it’s time to get organised.

I was thinking of tackling them alphabetically (Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, etc), but this morning when I logged into Twitter I found the excellent blog DC Women Kicking Ass were doing a series of tributes to the post-Crisis Huntress, Helena Bertinelli. The Huntress has her own New 52 mini-series, which ended yesterday, and while I haven’t read it, it reveals that the Huntress is actually Helena Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s daughter from Earth-2, as opposed to Helena Bertinelli, the daughter of a mafia boss who became a vigilante in order to get revenge after seeing her family murdered.

The Huntress is one of my favourite characters in fiction, and for me it has to be Helena Bertinelli. She’s the Huntress of Birds of Prey and the pre-New 52 Batman continuity, and is the Huntress of the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated series.

She’s also supremely kick-ass, and it’s a shame that she seems to have vanished.

So my first choice then to get into my six-issue blocks of New 52 comics will be the complete Huntress mini-series. It’s written by Paul Levitz, with art by Marcus To and John Dell, and I did read the first issue when it came out and I rather enjoyed it, even if I thought it starred Helena Bertinelli.

After that, I might go back and read some of her other miniseries that I’ve never actually looked at before, including Greg Rucka’s Cry for Blood and the Huntress Year One miniseries. I’ll also dig out Double Date, the Huntress episode of Justice League Unlimited, and my favourite episode of the whole series (written by Gail Simone, of course).

And I’ll try to remember that comics is comics is comics, and just because Helena Bertinelli is missing for the moment, doesn’t mean she’ll never come back.


New interviews, and the Vertigo Comics 2012 sampler

Three new interviews with me have gone online over the last couple of days. These are at:


I’ve been trying to get on top of my comic to-be-read pile recently, but when I heard that Vertigo Comics (DC’s mature imprint) had put out a sampler of forthcoming titles that includes Saucer Country by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly, The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard, and Fairest by Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning and Adam Hughes (with a future story arc by Lauren Beukes), I just had to grab it from my local comic store.

And I’m glad I did. For some reason I’ve never really delved into the world of Vertigo (although I do have every issue of The Unwritten by Mike Carey to make a start on at some point), perhaps because superhero comics are my primary interest and it’s hard enough to keep up with them, without adding anything else to the pile. But this sampler is a knockout – I’m definitely going to pick up the above-mentioned titles when they hit, plus Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child – the only one of the four new titles in the sampler that doesn’t have anyone I know involved (which is itself a cool and strange thing).

And it’s free, so check it out.

Revisionland Hotel and a red lizard man in a cape

A few friends are on the agent/publisher hunt at the moment, and someone pointed out this nice little blog post from Erin Morgenstern from about 18 months ago. Of course, since then, Erin’s career has taken a rather dramatic leap, with her debut novel The Night Circus spending so far five weeks in the New York Time Bestseller list. Her old blog post is a nice reminder that writing takes a lot of work, and everybody starts somewhere.

I’ve currently checked into what Erin calls “Revisionland Hotel” myself with nothing but the manuscript of Hell Space and an endless supply of tea. A month and half to go on this thing, and so far, so good.

Like I don’t have anything else to do, I also started up a Secret Project the other day. It’s actually quite nice, because it gives me something else to tinker with when I have Hell Space fatigue. Anyway, indulging in some research for it I came across what might be the worst panel of modern comic art I’ve ever seen:

However… I actually quite like it! It’s rather sweet, and was pencilled by Mart Nodell. Nodell was the creator of The Green Lantern back in 1941, and by the time he drew the above panel (from Green Lantern #19, the 50th anniversary special from 1991) he was 76 years old and had been retired for 15 years.

I’m very tempted to get that panel on a t-shirt, actually!

DC | The New 52 | Week 4

Running behind a little with my comics, thanks to FantasyCon last weekend. I’m still contemplating a post about that event, but in the meantime you can read a round-up of reports here.

Last week saw the final 13 books from DC Comics as part of the New 52. Obviously there will be more titles coming in the future, and this week sees the start of two 6-issue limited series (The Huntress and The Penguin: Pain and Prejudice). But in the meantime, that’s our lot.

So, another set of recommendations for good reads. You won’t go wrong with:

Aquaman, The Flash, I, Vampire, The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men, Teen Titans.

Of those, I, Vampire was the real surprise – in fact, although I’ve made such a claim each week, I think this might be my favourite new book. It’s sophisticated, and beautifully paced, and is quite brilliant. It was one of those books that was really an unknown quantity and I’m very pleased to a comic like this as part of the new line-up.

Today the first set of second issues comes out. I’m still picking my pull-list, but I do have until 7pm tonight to decide!

DC | The New 52 | Week 3

This week saw twelve new first issues from DC Comics – one short of the magic thirteen thanks to Justice League #1 coming out on its own in week 0. So once again – no reviews, no rankings, no ratings, just a list of recommendations for those who want to take a look without grabbing the whole shebang.

My recommendations for week 3 are:

Batman, Birds of Prey, Captain Atom, DC Universe Presents, Nightwing, and Supergirl.

Of those six, Batman and Nightwing are absolutely essential – brilliant art, brilliant writing, and actually brilliant lettering as well. I’d go so far as to suggest that Nightwing is my favourite of the 39 comics so far released, with Batman and Supergirl not too far behind.

This week saw the release of two of my most anticipated comics – Catwoman and Wonder Woman. Catwoman is my second favourite character, after Hawkgirl, and I’m not sure what I expected or wanted out of the first issue of this new series. As a fan of the Brubaker/Cooke run back in 2002, it’s safe to say that this new interpretation is very different.

Wonder Woman is being written by one of my favourite writers, Brian Azzarello, and while I enjoyed the first issue, I also thought it was the most inaccessible comic ever. I’m not actually sure that is a bad thing, and there is nothing wrong with a comic that makes you work for it a little, but under my entirely arbitrary rules for recommendation – to provide a selection of the week’s new titles that I would guarantee to be a good read for those who are new to comics, or unfamiliar with them, or who can’t or don’t want to get all twelve new issues – I just can’t add Wonder Woman to this week’s list.

Next week is the last of the new 52, and out of the thirteen books contains quite a few that I’ve been looking forward to for some time including The Savage Hawkman – dare I hope that Hawkgirl will feature?

DC | The New 52 | Week 2

Another week, another set of 13 brand new first issue comics from DC. Last week I picked seven recommendations, this week it’s the same.

So, my picks for those who don’t want to get the whole lot but want some great comics: you will not go wrong with Batwoman, Demon Knights, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Grifter, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, and Superboy.

Batwoman continues to be the most visually stunning comic I’ve ever seen, but the two big surprises this week were Grifter and Red Lanterns. Grifter is a refugee from the ex-Wildstorm universe, and as I’d never read anything featuring him before, I had no clue what to expect. Red Lanterns, in theory, is a pretty limited concept (a group of primal, almost unthinking Lanterns fuelled by rage), but this comic is a heck of a lot of fun.

Next week has some real doozies. I can’t wait!

DC | The New 52 | Week 1

It’s no secret I’m a fan of DC Comics, who this week kicked off their New 52 reboot with the first full week of books (Justice League #1 having come out last week). I’ve had a few people ask me what I thought of the first 13/14 issues, but as a writer I’m not too keen on commenting on the creative works of others. So no reviews, or rankings, or anything like that.

But I’m happy to give a recommendation, because not everybody wants to buy all 52 comics this month. While I enjoyed all 13 books this week, I enjoyed some more than others. So here’s my list of books I think you’d dig, if you wanted to just sample a selection. You won’t go far wrong with: Action Comics, Animal Man, Batgirl, Men of War, OMAC, Stormwatch, and Swamp Thing.

Week 2 looks pretty interesting – another 13 books are on the way, including Batwoman, Demon Knights (written by Paul Cornell), and Resurrection Man (co-written by fellow Angry Roboteer Dan Abnett). Should be a fun week.

The best thing about the New 52 – great comic books aside – is that from their release on Wednesday, most of my social media feeds were chocker-block full of comics discussion. And that can’t be a bad thing!

Batman Live!

Last night we saw Batman Live, the arena show currently running in Manchester. It’s sort of a trial run – if successful, the show will head to America following it’s UK tour.

One of the problems with something like that is nobody really knows what it is supposed to be. It’s not a musical. It’s theatrical, but it’s not a drama or a play. Really the best way to actually describe it is to say it’s like a musical, but without the songs. It’s big, with acrobats and circus performers, some amazing set design and cool sequences. Behind the stage is a huge bat-shaped screen, which really kicks the show into something else – the screen acts like a motion comic, flicking through pages to indicate scene changes and providing a giant backdrop of Jim Lee art and design against which the action unfolds.

We were in the floor-level seats, which gave me the opportunity to walk around the stage and get some pictures. Me and the stage, taken from our own seats:

Stage front:

And the other side. And yes, there were plenty of people – young and old alike – dressed as characters from Batman:

The show is about Dick’s journey from being a member of the Flying Graysons to becoming Robin. While the main antagonist is The Joker, aided by Harley Quinn (whose note-perfect performance was easily the highlight of the show), along the way we meet The Penguin, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and Catwoman – Catwoman, I am pleased to say, was portrayed accurately as a neutral anti-hero rather than a villain.

It wasn’t perfect, not by a long chalk – it was clearly a very toned-down show suitable for young children, so all of the fight sequences were slow and lacklustre, featuring some very poor choreography, and the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne – the pivotal moment, surely – actually took place off-stage. Unfortunately, it was the awkward moments that stick in the memory – such as the leisurely Kirby wire representation of Batman and Catwoman’s fight/pursuit across the rooftops of Gotham, rather than the bits that were really amazing – such as Harley Quinn’s attack on The Joker’s hot air balloon with, you guessed it, a bazooka.

But hey, it’s a family show and it was a fun night out. With some tweaks and development it could be really good, and I imagine some retooling will take place before it heads Stateside.

I also counldn’t resist the rather large, rather thick and rather price programme.

I didn’t take any video during the performance, but there are a couple of good clips from the same show we were at online, which give a feel of what it was like:

Earlier in the afternoon, we headed into the Generation Pop art gallery, which is holding an exhibition of DC art to coincide with Batman Live. I was expecting original comic art, but the exhibition was actually entirely glicee fine art prints of Alex Ross and Jim Lee work. Some of the pieces – including a giant 50″ widescreen Alex Ross painting of the original seven members of the Justice League of America – were amazing, and they were all for sale.

So… um… we bought one! Not the Alex Ross masterpiece – at £1700 that was a little expensive (!), but a neat Jim Lee piece. It’s being shipped from LA, and should be here in a couple of weeks. But I’ll save another blog post for that when it is up on the wall in our library!

My first comic

I’m currently re-reading the 2002 series of Catwoman from DC Comics. This volume ran to 83 issues and was cancelled in 2010, despite a lot of critical acclaim. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was one of DC’s best comic books in its entire 75 year history.

Anyway, I’ve hit issue 33, and from this point I need to branch out across all of the Bat-books to read War Games, DC’s epic crossover event from 2004. It occurred to me as I got a checklist of titles up that this is where I started reading DC.

Unlike most comic readers, I never read comics as a child other than Tintin and Asterix. I did have one issue of Iron Man, one of Batman, and one of the Marvel character compendium/encylopedia things sometime in the mid-80s, but no more than that. Later, a friend in high school brought in some 2000ADs he was reading, but again, I never really paid much attention.

It was only in 2003, on a whim, that I decided to see what 2000AD was like now/then. I bought the latest issue and was hooked, then remembering that Iron Man I’d had all those years ago, I ventured into a comic shop. Over the next few months I tried various titles including Iron Man, Fantastic Four, 4 (the Marvel Knights mature-content version of Fantastic Four), and The Avengers. Although I was drawn to Marvel for some reason – I think perhaps because their characters were less familar to me, while DC’s roster looked twee – they never really clicked with me. I remember in particular Iron Man being a very odd comic – Tony Stark was the US Secretary of Defence, and was best friends with George W. Bush. Bush even appeared as himself in a couple of issues as Iron Man battled Iraqi terrorists and… well, that wasn’t my idea of escapism.

And then I thought, what the hell, I’ll try Batman. How can you go wrong with Batman? I had been reluctant up until then because I thought perhaps Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman would all be a bit stale and old and uninteresting. I mean, what could you do with these characters that hadn’t been done a thousand times before?

That issue of Batman I picked up was the first part of the War Games event, Batman: The 12c Adventure.

I couldn’t believe it. This was the comic I was looking for. It was superbly drawn and superbly written. With the help of the friendly comic shop owner, we got a pull-list of DC titles together – including every issue of War Games – and my adventure began. Seven years later, I’ve got a book deal and am doing the final edit on a superhero novel that I wrote to express my love for superheros and superhero comics. Might oaks from little acorns grow, etc etc.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a comic to read.

Superman and the Seven Wonders

A busy, interruption-free Monday. I’m pleased to report a solid chunk of editing was done on Seven Wonders – all but two of the new chapters are written and in place, and the next step is to finalise the order of the first half of the book, which consists of flashbacks and the “present” timeline. Balancing the two and making sure everything happens in the right order is actually the most difficult thing about this edit. I somehow doubt I’m going to be so free and easy with timelines in future books

Speaking of superheroes, today saw the actual cover to the new Action Comics #1 revealed, along with solicitation information for October’s Superman titles, and a few other bits and pieces about the new Superman and how his story is a] different to the old one and b] how it fits into the DCnU.

Personally I preferred the original promo image for Action Comics #1, but I do think this new one is more reader-friendly. And, it is pretty cool. I’m a huge fan of Superman, as I may have mentioned, and September is shaping up to be one heck of an interesting month.

It was also announced today that the 52 new first issues are being collected in a gargantuan 1,216-page hardcover book.

And yes, my pre-order is in.