Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Find the Flash: Comic-Con '07

As I noted yesterday, Kelson Vibber--the man behind Those Who Ride the Lightning--was on the floor at this year's Comic-Con International and reported on the event for Comics Should Be Good. As usual, Kelson ran into a few scarlet speedsters at the convention. Perhaps surprisingly, however, this year only Lady Flashes were to be found! Visit Kelson's blog to check out his Flash finds or to survey his complete photo album for Comic-Con '07.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Comic-Con '07

This weekend the 2007 Comic-Con International was held in San Diego, California. Our friend Kelson Vibber was on the scene to provide daily convention reports for Comics Should Be Good. Naturally, there was plenty of exciting news coming from DC Comics concerning our favorite superhero speedster, and more than a few tidbits focusing on his infamous arch-enemies emerged as well. Here's a quick look at those Comic-Con announcements relating to the Flash and his Rogues...

  • As reported by the Comics Continuum, Mark Waid has been named Editor-in-Chief for BOOM! Studios. Waid, who is no longer restricted by an exclusive contract with DC Comics, will replace publisher and co-owner Ross Richie on August 1st. The announcement follows rumors that Waid will soon leave The Flash.
  • Did the Pied Piper and the Trickster participate in the beating that lead to Bart Allen's death, despite their claims to the contrary in Countdown? Confused by the visual evidence presented in The Flash #13, a fan posed that question to Paul Dini during the DC Big Guns panel. According to Newsarama, Dini explained that "if that was indeed the case, it was a result of miscommunication between the writers." When asked how he felt about the fourth Flash's death, writer Geoff Johns answered with, "Next question."
  • There may be a reason for Geoff Johns's reluctance to discuss the death of Bart Allen. Comic Book Resources reports that a fan at Friday night's DC Nation panel asked, "How finished is Bart's story?" Dan Didio passed that question to Johns, who responded by exclaiming, "Don't spoil it!"
  • The Rogues Gallery appears prominently on early artwork released to promote Salvation Run, a seven-issue mini-series by Bill Willingham and Sean Chen that will launch in November. Willingham elaborates on the concept behind the mini-series in an interview with Newsarama. Based on the artwork, it seems a sure bet that we'll see the likes of Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Heat Wave, the Weather Wizard, and Abra Kadabra take a starring role alongside the other supervillains of the DC Universe.
  • Thursday night at Comic-Con Warner Bros. Animation confirmed the cast for the upcoming Justice League: The New Frontier animated feature. As Newsarama notes, Neil Patrick Harris will indeed be providing the voice of the Flash.
  • Stan Berkowitz, a writer for The Batman animated series, was on hand at Warner Bros. Animation's panel on Friday and spoke about the Flash's role on the series. According to Comic Book Resources, Berkowitz confirmed that, in keeping with their vision of a classic Justice League, the scarlet speedster appearing next season is intended to be Barry Allen. The writer added, "All you Wally West fans can pretend it's Wally." Additionally, The Batman episode featuring the Dark Knight's team-up with the the fastest man alive will also feature the Mirror Master, voiced by John Larroquette. "You wonder if Gotham's going to survive this guy," Alan Burnett said of the supervillain's guest appearance.
  • Wizard has posted a report on Mattel's convention presentation, including sneak peeks at the Justice Leage Unlimited set--which features an action figure of Gorilla Grodd--and next year's DC Universe line.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Live Action: "The Trickster"

“The Trickster” (February 7, 1991)

Writers: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Danny Bilson
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: When private detective Megan Lockhart is abducted by James Jesse, a crazed criminal with a penchant for the theatrical, the Flash races to her rescue. The madman’s run-in with the scarlet speedster serves only to prompt a dangerous obsession, however. Jesse decides that in order to bring about his superhero rival’s downfall and recapture the lovely Lockhart he requires a new identity. Soon, Central City is being threatened by the perilous pranks of the Trickster!

Commentary: At long last, The Flash embraces its comic book heritage by bringing one of the crimson comet’s infamous Rogues to the screen! “The Trickster” is the first of a series of episodes produced after the network finally decided it was only fitting to feature costumed supervillains on the series. Interestingly, Bilson and DeMeo initially had hoped to present James Jesse as a fantasist whose shenanigans as a supervillain were nothing more than elaborate, internalized delusions. A hint of this remains in the finished script but, unfortunately, that intricate conception of the character was abandoned--primarily as both the studio and network refused it, deeming such a delusional adversary unworthy of our hero--in favor of a more traditional superhero scenario. Guest star Mark Hamill is marvelous, creating a vivid persona that would live on for years in his performances as the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series and beyond. (In addition to featuring in The Flash’s series finale, Hamill even reprised the role of James Jesse in an episode of the animated Justice League Unlimited.) Unfortunately, it’s easy to see why the Trickster was chosen as the first of the Flash’s Rogues Gallery to put in an appearance on the live action series. The character presented here bears a greater resemblance to Batman’s famous arch-nemesis than to his own comic book counterpart. Fortunately, Hamill is endlessly entertaining in acting out the Trickster’s eccentricities and there are just enough moments of outright macabre humor to balance out the episode’s general wackiness. Additionally, Joyce Hyser puts in an encore performance as the sassy Megan Lockhart, invigorating Barry Allen’s love life and fueling jealousy from Tina McGee. It’s satisfying to see our brave but bashful hero finally get the girl. There’s also a very funny subplot in which Officer Bellows becomes convinced that his partner, Officer Murphy, is the man behind the Flash’s mask. Hilarity ensues. “The Trickster” doesn’t feature The Flash's most stunning plot but it seems to represent a step in the right direction. The episode is entertaining, it features an unforgettable villain, and it serves up a healthy dose of comic book nostalgia.

High-Speed Highlight: During an overzealous effort to apprehend the Trickster, the Flash is unable to keep his footing at high speed as he slips and falls again and again on thousands of marbles sprayed across a Central City roadway.

Quotable: “That red costume, with that lightning bolt insignia signifying his dark power… There’s only one man who can stop the Flash! There’s only one man who can rescue my faithful companion, Megan Lockhart, from the Flash’s evil clutches--and I am that man!” --James Jesse finds a new purpose in life

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fast Math

Could the fastest man alive also be the world's greatest mathematician simply by virtue of his speed? Or is Johnny Quick trying to pull a fast one? "Complicated problems that normally would take months to solve are worked out by Johnny Quick in a twinkling!" Adam Barnett, writing at Comics Make No Sense, isn't willing to accept the Golden Age speedster's mathematical shenanigans.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

June Sales

Diamond Comic Distributors have released their final North American sales estimates for the month of June. That data is now available at Comic Buyer's Guide. Predictably, DC Comics's execution of the fastest man alive seems to have paid off for the publisher. The highly-publicized death of Bart Allen helped to return The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive to the top twenty for its final issue. (One year ago, the relaunched title's debut issue reached seventh place.) The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 is eighteenth on the list of top-selling comics for the month with approximately 76,813 copies sold. On the sales chart, the scarlet speedster is surrounded by the Rogues who saw to his demise; The Flash is bracketed here by two issues of DC's Countdown.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4 ($2.99) Dark Horse - 102,366
11. Captain America #27 ($2.99) Marvel - 99,046
12. Avengers Initiative #3 ($2.99) Marvel - 92,282
13. X-Men: Endangered Species One-Shot ($3.99) Marvel - 87,919
14. World War Hulk: X-Men #1 ($2.99) Marvel - 85,020
15. World War Hulk: Front Line #1 ($2.99) Marvel - 84,334
16. Uncanny X-Men #487 ($2.99) Marvel - 81,430
17. Countdown #47 ($2.99) DC - 77,456
18. Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 ($2.99) DC - 76,813
19. Countdown #46 ($2.99) DC - 76,315

Monday, July 23, 2007

Countdown Continuity

In the pages of DC Comics's Countdown, the Trickster and the Pied Piper are embroiled in some wild misadventures. Countdown #42 saw the pair of Rogues ejected from an airplane at altitude whilst handcuffed to one another! When the cliffhanger continued in Countdown #41, however, a number of factors in their perilous predicament had changed. Drawing our attention to an embarrassing lack of continuity in the series' artwork, Funnybook Babylon's Downcounting: A Guide for the Perplexed invites you to play a game of "Spot the Differences" in comparing Carlos Magno's illustration of this suspenseful scenario with work from Dennis Calero.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Honored Dead

In honor of Bart Allen's death in the pages of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, Wizard has put together a list of the fifty greatest deaths in comic book history. Not surprisingly, you'll find the late, great Barry Allen near the top of the list. The Flash comes in at number two on the countdown chosen by the magazine's staff, losing first place to the man of steel--for whom, of course, death was only a temporary inconvenience. Barry's longtime foe Captain Boomerang--who died facing off against Jack Drake in Identity Crisis #5--also makes the list at number twenty-four.

For its first major crossover event, DC swore that its Crisis would have serious consequences. But not even the most jaded fan believed that the publisher would sacrifice longtime DC mainstay the Flash in the process. Deemed a wild card due to his ability to travel between alternate universes, the Anti-Monitor imprisons Allen in the antimatter universe of Qward. Freeing himself, he uses his super-speed to destroy the Monitor’s equipment, pushing his acceleration to unheard-of levels against power-draining antimatter. The exertion is too much, and Allen dies the quintessential hero’s death, sacrificing himself to save countless others.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On Sale: All-Flash #1

On sale today from DC Comics is All-Flash #1, the one-shot special featuring the return of Wally West. The transitional issue also heralds the return of Mark Waid as the series' writer, with art provided by no less than five illustrators: Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Manuel Garcia, Joe Bennett, and Daniel Acuña. Wally and his family have returned to their reality of origin, but the scarlet speedster soon learns that his homecoming was prompted by the cold-blooded murder of his young protégé! A second preview of the issue has been released by DC and is available at Newsarama; ten pages of the thirty-two page special are now available for perusal online. Wizard has also made mention of the issue in the most recent installment of their Market Watch column.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Infinite Covers

DC Comics has gone variant cover crazy. Since the end of Infinite Crisis last year, we've seen no less than five issues of The Flash featuring variant cover artwork. Your copy of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 might feature the Black Flash or it might feature the Flash's empty costume. This week's All-Flash special is available in two varieties, with covers by Joshua Middleton and Bill Sienkiewicz respectively. Kelson Vibber has updated Those Who Ride the Lightning with a guide to those issues of the scarlet speedster's comic that were published with more than one cover. Additionally, Vibber's blog spotlights the holofoil-emblazoned centennial issue variants that DC Comics published back in 1995.

Update: ComicsPRO, a trade organization for direct-market comic book retailers, has released its first official position paper--and it just so happens to concern the use of variant covers to influence sales! Newsarama has posted the press release, and it's worth a read.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Upcoming: The Flash #233

DC Comics has revealed their solicitations for the month of October. Among them is The Flash #233. Mark Waid is joined on the issue by John Rogers. As Wally West's adventures in superhero parenthood continue, it seems as if readers will get some long-awaited answers concerning the West family's leave of absence from the DC Universe proper; the forthcoming issue will launch an all-new back-up feature--"The Fast Life"--chronicling the scarlet speedster's experiences during Infinite Crisis. Doug Braithwaite's cover for the issue also offers us our first glimpse of the costumes that will be worn by the fastest-father-alive's junior speedsters!

Written by Mark Waid & John Rogers; Art by Daniel Acuña and Doug Braithwaite; Cover by Doug Braithwaite. The Justice League steps up to take away the Flash's loved ones in the name of the law! Also in this issue: "The Fast Life" begins! This backup feature by Waid, Rogers (Blue Beetle) and Doug Braithwaite (Justice) picks up from Infinite Crisis and reveals the secrets behind the West Family’s otherworldly exile! DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale October 24, 2007.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Live Action: "Beat the Clock"

“Beat the Clock” (January 31, 1991)

Writer: Jim Trombetta
Director: Mario Azzopardi
Editor: Greg Wong

Synopsis: Jazz musician Wayne Cotrell is playing his saxophone on death row, waiting as the clock counts down to his midnight execution. A last-minute phone call suggests to Barry Allen and Julio Mendez that the man is innocent, however, and that the tragic killing of his lover was staged! The two police scientists must move fast to unravel the mystery behind legendary jazz diva Linda Lake’s disappearance and save Cotrell from the electric chair.

Commentary: It is remarkable how diverse The Flash’s stories are. “Beat the Clock,” like many of its predecessors, is unique and distinctive in comparison to other episodes of the series. This was a television show that continually proved that it was capable of successfully combining superhero action with a variety of other dramatic genres. Interestingly, this installment nearly takes place in real-time; the episode opens less than an hour before jazz musician Wayne Cotrell’s appointment with the electric chair and counts down to the scheduled moment of his execution. In the realm of cinematography, the plot’s emphasis on time prompts a number of creative shots that draw our attention to a variety of clock faces; nearly every scene contains a clock, maintaining our focus on the passing of crucial moments. Despite this set-up, however, there are more than a few moments when the drama seems to be unfolding at an unnaturally slow pace. The episode’s guest stars--including Angela Bassett as jazz singer Linda Lake--offer up some fine performances. Ken Foree is particularly entertaining as Whisper, the villain’s menacing henchman. More importantly, however, the script grants both Alex Désert and Amanda Pays the opportunity to bring some dimension to Julio Mendez and Dr. Tina McGee. All too often these supporting characters are mere caricatures, supplementing John Wesley Shipp’s strong performance by offering shallow comic relief. For evidence, look no further than the disappointing “Shroud of Death.” Here, it’s a relief to watch the show’s co-stars acting as believable characters with something to contribute to an engrossing plot. Shirley Walker’s soundtrack is more important than ever in a story inspired and driven by jazz music. The score contributes a great deal to the tale’s unique tone. The episode carries its share of minor flaws but, with its emphasis on character and atmosphere, “Beat the Clock” is an entertaining and well-scripted drama.

High-Speed Highlight: As the prison executioner pulls on his lethal switch, the Flash arrives in the nick of time to speedily unravel a series of restraints, releasing an innocent man from the electric chair with barely an instant to spare!

Quotable: “You’ll never make it in time. I can do it. Listen! Listen! I can make it, because I’m…” --Barry Allen attempts to reveal his secret identity to his partner only to be interrupted

Special Thanks: Thanks, as always, go out to Kelson Vibber for the screen captures featured here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reviews: The Flash #13

Bart Allen is dead, brutally murdered by the Flash's increasingly vicious Rogues Gallery. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 brings an abrupt end to the story of the fourth man to wear the crimson comet's costume. Though Marc Guggenheim's narrative voice is as strong as ever and Tony Daniel's art is clear and commendable, this sensational saga seems little more than a macabre publicity stunt staged by DC Comics. Thirteen just may be an unlucky number for The Flash. What are readers across the web saying about the grim final installment in this controversial comic series? In the case of The Flash #13, in the wake of the scarlet speedster's execution, the net is understandably awash with commentary...

  • All About Comics's Phil Mateer reacts to the issue's drama with droll sarcasm. "Gosh, my heart is overcome with the tragedy of Bart’s death--or would be, I guess, if this had any sense of poignancy or drama, and didn’t just seem like a soulless corporate reaction to the current lack of interest or sales to this version of the character."
  • Rokk Krin of Comic Book Revolution feels that this was an exhilarating story from Marc Guggenheim. "Near the end of the issue, the reader is frantically turning the pages, hoping against hope that Bart would survive this story." This reviewer, however, also poses the question that will forever linger in our minds: "Was it really necessary to kill Bart Allen?"
  • Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter feels that this was a downright unpleasant end to an unremarkable series. After summarizing the issue's macabre plot, Spurgeon asks, "Does any of that sound fun? It shouldn't. It wasn't! It was sort of like being dragged behind a boat for ten seconds after falling off your water skis. There's no permanent damage, but it's unpleasant as all hell while it's happening. The plot here practically defines dreary, as you're essentially watching someone get murdered, and the script work seems ten years behind Guggenheim's recent stint on Blade."
  • The Flash #13 shares a blog spotlight--along with Justice League of America #10--as the Book of the Week at Jimmy Olsen's Blues. The tongue-in-cheek review is written from the perspective of the fallen scarlet speedster himself: "To DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio: You've finally painted yourself into a corner. You spent all this energy and soaked up a year's worth of negative response and kept my book around, only to Black Flash me anyway. Good luck finding the next Flash, smart guy..."
  • Adam Chapman, writing at ComiXtreme, grants the story four out of five exclamation points, noting that the series has come to an unceremonious end just as it was evolving into something exceptional. "Ultimately, I still feel that it misses plenty of opportunities, and is an abrupt end to what Guggenheim was putting together on this book. Guggenheim deserves a massive amount of praise, because he took this book, which had become virtually unreadable and unenjoyable, and made it good again... It's a shame that the book is now ending."
  • Kenneth Gallant of Broken Frontier is left with the opinion that The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive was nothing more than a failed experiment. "The argument that the Flash is a generational character is debatable at best, and it became painfully obvious that Bart Allen wasn’t up to the task of replacing a character like Wally West."
  • Film Frontier Reviews's JediSheltie, like many other readers, "wouldn't have minded seeing Bart succeed as Flash." Unfortunately, the young speedster was never given a proper chance. "Bart always would have that headache inducing back story, but that hardly meant his character couldn't be compelling. Leaching him completely of the sense of humor and turning him into a such a stock character signaled bad things from the start. Bart has left us, the Flash is dead."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Death in the DC Universe

At his blog, Impulse co-creator and onetime Flash artist Mike Wieringo has posted a personal commentary regarding the death of Bart Allen in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13. While his response is not concerned with the events of that particular issue, however, it considers the overall shift in tone and content that has become evident in the comic book stories published by both DC and Marvel. Has the once lively, humorous, and impulsive Bart Allen become the victim of a dark publishing trend that demands death from its heroes and villains? If so, has this particular practice reached its gross limit, and can readers look forward to a return to more fun and hope-filled adventure? Wieringo's commentary is also accompanied by an all-new sketch of the fallen hero.

"...I suppose the difference for me is that–-[in] my own personal point of view–-the contrast between Marvel and DC has been for years that Marvel’s books were always darker in tone–-more supposedly based in the ‘real world'... and that DC’s offerings were brighter... more colorful and came from more of a place of hope and light. The heroes of the DCU stood for optimism and the promise of a brighter future in the face of forces that would bring darkness and destruction to the world. In essence, the DCU was, to me, the place for a more stark contrast between the forces of light/good and the forces of darkness/evil... DC comics were always more colorful and fun for me. Now Bart Allen joins the ever growing list of characters who are dying in the DCU..."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Interview: Marc Guggenheim

Newsarama has posted an interesting interview with "the writer who was handed the figurative gun and had the target pointed out to him"--Marc Guggenheim, who scripted five issues of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, revitalizing a lackluster title, before unexpectedly executing the scarlet speedster himself. Guggenheim discusses the details of this unusual assignment and some of its far-reaching ramifications for the Flash, his Rogues Gallery, and the DC Universe at large.

"My job was to establish Bart as the Flash. It just so happened that my job was to establish him as the Flash and then kill him... My goal was that, if I was going to kill Bart, I was going to make sure that Bart died as a Flash. In fact, that’s the whole reason for page thirteen of issue #13, with Bart screaming “I am the Flash!” I really wanted to try to establish Bart as a legitimate Flash before we killed him. And I was very careful in all the interviews and all the message board postings I did to not lie--I repeatedly said that I was not bringing Wally back, and that’s true. I wasn’t going to do it. No one asked me if someone else was going to do it, though."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Show and Tell

With family visiting from out of town, I returned home one afternoon last week to discover that someone had gotten into my briefcase, crumpled up many of my notes, and made off with a notepad. When my four-year-old niece proudly presented me with this drawing, however, I simply had to forgive her. What we have here, in case you can't pick up on some of the trademark visuals, is a stunning crayon illustration of Superman racing the Flash. (One of her favorite episodes of Superman: The Animated Series--and, obviously, it is a fondness she shares with her uncle--is "Speed Demons.")

That's the man of steel on the right, see? His emblematic shield may appear as an awkard square but the costume is unmistakable. I'm not certain why the Flash appears here as a cyclops--we'll call it artistic license--but I think she's done a fine job of depicting the scarlet speedster. Once I finished admiring the work, I knew I had to post this to the blog. Might my niece have a future in illustrating for DC Comics? I'll just have to continue to supply her with a healthy dose of comic books for inspiration.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Upcoming: All Flash #1

DC Comics has released a six-page preview of All Flash #1, scheduled for release later this month. These panels offer us the first glimpse of Mark Waid's triumphant return to Flash comics. They also showcase some absolutely stunning artwork from Karl Kerschl. Personally, I would say that there's a grace and fluidity to Kerschl's art that connects beautifully with the scarlet speedster and his superpowers. It looks like this interim special is something to look forward to. Fans can find all six preview pages posted at Newsarama.

Scheduled to arrive in stores on July 18th, All-Flash #1 is written by Mark Waid with art by Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Manuel Garcia, Joe Bennett and Daniel Acuña. This issue features covers by Joshua Middleton and Bill Sienkiewicz, which will arrive in stores in a split of approximately 50/50. This issue spotlights the aftermath of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13.