Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this editorial is that of its author.
San Diego Comic Con 2023 has begun, and since the major studios are not there (likely because of the current writer and actor strikes), the floor is dominated by comics! The first day (Thursday) started off with a bang with several series updates and two new series announcements that involve Batman and the Batman Universe!
First up, we had the announcement of the Justice League vs. Godzilla vs. Kong miniseries. A tie-in to the cinematic universe that Legendary Pictures has been developing with WB. Written by Brian Buccelleto, a colorist and writer most famous for his partnerships with Francis Manapul during the New 52, with art by Christian Duce, who’s worked on the Batman/Fortnite crossover, The Flash, and I Am Batman recently, and colors by Luis Guerrero. The Batman focus in this series is likely to be about as expected in any major Justice League crossover – have some good moments, but likely cede the pages more to the League members who can put a physical dent in their titanic foes. However, his strategy and detective work might bring an unexpected solution to the problem of fighting megafauna!
DC is definitely putting a lot of money behind this, likely because it’s tied to their marketing budget for their monster universe movies. The 15 dollar sound effect covers, which have either Godzilla or King Kong’s roar embedded into them, are a fun gimmick, though way overpriced for most customers. Unfortunately, my guess is that this seven issue miniseries will be similarly received to the Jurassic League miniseries last year – a lot of amused reactions because of the fun novelty of the concept, but not a whole lot of excitement around the actual release. Since no monster movie is scheduled for release when this book will start coming out in October, there’s not likely to be a big upswell of new customers, either. All in all, a fun idea, but likely going to disappear like Marvel’s Dark Ages event. (What Dark Ages event, you ask? EXACTLY!)
Tom King gave updates on his Penguin ongoing series starting in late August. In keeping with many of his previous projects, King casts the feathered villain as a government operative. It will be quite interesting seeing Batman’s world through King’s pen from the perspective of the Penguin, for sure. Fans of mid-2000s Iron Man will be thrilled that artist Rafael de la Torre will be drawing Gotham and its dark son.
Tini Howard (and a pre-recorded Chip Zdarsky) talked about the upcoming Gotham War between Batman and Catwoman. Catwoman’s crime syndicate will attempt to propagate non-violent crime, but her skill at consolidating the gangs of Gotham pushes the issue too far for Batman to ignore. Howard hints that the Batfamily will likely end the event split in half between the two on again/off again lovers.
As a fan of what Chip Zdarsky is writing in Batman, and someone intensely turned off by what Tini Howard is writing in Catwoman, this event is sadly not appealing to me. Especially with the strong hints that the Batfamily will be ripped apart. Batman editorial gets the idea that Batman needs to be alone and sad very frequently, and it generally results in crossovers whose main goal is to make Batman sad and alone (War Games, Death of the Family, The Wedding). Hopefully Zdarsky will last long enough on the Batman title to put things back together again. Howard also hinted that after Gotham War comes what could be the climax of her run – almost certainly the main confrontation between Catwoman and Black Mask. One can only hope that will also lead to her finishing up the story she wants to tell.
Rafael Grampa revealed part of his process and some details from his upcoming Batman: Gargoyle of Gotham miniseries. Up to about six new villains will appear in this alternate universe series, as well as delving into Bruce Wayne’s birth and his relationship with his mother. Batman will also “kill” the Bruce Wayne identity to wholly devote himself to fighting crime.
Though of course it’s impossible to tell from the little we’ve seen so far, Gargoyle of Gotham seems like it’s going to be another Batman: One Dark Knight or Batman: Dark Prince Charming – a lot of hype for a beloved or vivid artist jumping into writing and drawing for an out of continuity artist’s project…leading to the project being swallowed up by time like a stone dropped in a river. I still think that most artists who try this kind of project would be best served by having a co-writer who can be a journeyman trainer for things like dialogue and theme and structure. Additionally, Grandpa’s ideas, like “this time we’ll focus on Martha Wayne instead of Thomas” and “we’ve never seen Bruce being born” have either been promised before but executed extremely poorly (Brian Azzarello in Batman Damned, particularly), or just sound completely irrelevant to the kinds of things that actually get readers interested in Batman. I think in general, pairing prominent and experienced writers with popular artists on prestige projects like the One Bad Day initiative is likely to lead to better effects in the long run, even though I wish that kind of energy could also be devoted to the main continuity, so these books can be referenced and have a longer term impact. For all my personal critiques of Sean Murphy’s White Knight universe, his dedication to telling an ongoing story has meant that the book doesn’t disappear after a splashy release, but develops a following over time that means more people will remember it fondly as a story and universe with some weight to it. Gargoyle of Gotham will be visually and emotionally intense, but unless Grampa finds a way to extend the story, I believe it’ll be forgotten once again. A shame.
Ram V revealed that artist Dustin Nguyen will be drawing some upcoming issues of Detective Comics. Additionally, another Intermezzo is coming, a four part arc starting in October called “Outlaw”, featuring Batman being rescued by cowboys.
Hopefully the announcement of artists for upcoming issues of Detective Comics means that DC will be committing to one artist per issue. But I think that’s unlikely, sadly. Nguyen’s run on Detective Comics with Paul Dini (which continued into Streets of Gotham) showcased his strong style. We’ll likely be seeing a much more sketchy and watercolor style in this run with Ram V, based on how Nguyen’s style has evolved in the past 12 years. It’s also a bit concerning to hear that Batman will be rescued by the cowboys, as Ram V has generally put Batman at a disadvantage for most of his run so far. And since it’s mostly been building to the climax, that is somewhat understandable, but it would be nice if in an interlude or shorter stand alone type story, he’d give Bruce some time to shine as a major hero in his own right.
Lastly, “hivemind” writing duo Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing talked about their two series coming up. First, their sequel to Batman Beyond: Neo-Year, telling what happened to Terry and his new allies, with art by Max Dunbar. The big announcement, however, is that the duo is doing a 12 issue miniseries called “Outsiders”, featuring Batwoman, Batwing, and The Drummer from Warren Ellis’s Wildstorm series Planetary – though this one appears to be a woman, so possibly an alternate universe version! Kelly and Lanzing say this series is an archaeology adventure, and will start in Winter 2023 (likely November or December). Art is by Robert Carey, and the samples shown look pretty great!
The Hivemind’s digging into the darkest forgotten corners of the DC Universe for twelve issues of truly weird pop-culture adventure archeology.
This book is an impossible dream.
— Jackson Lanzing (@JacksonLanzing) July 20, 2023
Firstly, it’s awesome to see Kate Kane and Luke Fox get some love! Not sure that DC really needs to keep pushing the Wildstorm characters in their mainstream comics, but it’s been an obsession of Jim Lee’s since the New 52 pushed Midnighter and Apollo into the mainstream universe, so it will continue. Secondly, I’m happy to see the Outsiders finally get a series after years and years of short stories. I think Lanzing and Kelly are a very fun writing duo – their Clayface One Bad Day one shot was one of the best of the bunch, and they’ve written consistently fun things for DC and Marvel since Batman and Robin Eternal in 2015. I am sad that Brandon Thomas won’t get a chance to write the Black Lightning, Duke Thomas, Katana, and Metamorpho Outsiders that he worked on in short stories and arcs from Future State onwards. However, as I said, Kelly and Lanzing are very good, and I’m sure this miniseries will be quite fun, especially with such a great lead cast.
That wraps up Thursday’s announcements and commentary! Tune in for more commentary on SDCC’s revelations about the Batman Universe comics in 2023!