Artist pulls out of Superman comic, cites Card controversy

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Richard Neal

Local comic book store owner Richard Neal has been one of those at the forefront criticizing DC Comics for tapping virulent homophobe Orson Scott Card to pen a Superman story for them; Neal announced his Zeus Comics wouldn’t carry it when it was released.

Well, he will have to wait even longer until that day comes. Chris Sprouse, the artist hired to draw the comic, has pulled out of the assignment, citing the Card controversy.

That doesn’t mean the comic is dead, however; DC says it will hire another artist — a fact that distresses Neal.

“In the same week Carly Rae Jepsen and Train cancel a Boy Scouts of America concert appearance by standing up for LGBT equality, we get this from DC,” Neal sighs. “I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen, but I know what I was hoping to happen. However there will be no parade, no victory celebration for equality. DC relied on the artists to make the decision for them. If there is any victory, it’s in the meaningful conversations held in comic shops across the country about LGBT [rights] and marriage equality. The victory is in the community we create with each other.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: CW33′s ‘Gay Agenda’

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Zeus Comics’ Richard Neal talks to CW33′s Doug Magditch about his decision not to carry the new Superman comic after DC Comics tapped anti-gay bigot Orson Scott Card to help write it.

In this week’s installment, CW33′s Doug Magditch talks about backlash against DC Comics for tapping an anti-gay bigot to help write the new Superman; the Associated Press’ reluctance to refer to married same-sex couples as “husband” or “wife”; and the furor over an anti-gay prom in Indiana. And as usual, don’t miss my cameo! Watch it below.

—  John Wright

Gay Green Lantern debuts today

We reported recently about the big news in the comic book world (other than the huge success of The Avengers): First Marvel announced the long-time gay character Northstar would marry his boyfriend (that takes place in the issue coming out June 20). Then DC Comics — which last fall reintroduced its entire superhero universe with all-new No. 1 issues — revealed that the iconic Green Lantern (who I like to call Queen Lantern) would come out as gay.

Well, not exactly.

Yes, the character of the Green Lantern is gay. But not really coming out.

As part of the relaunch, DC has modernized the tales of most of the characters. Many of the heroes were introduced in the 1940s as Nazi fighters, including the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who was blond and wore a cape. In the 1960s, he was replaced by the modern Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, and the green-and-black bodysuit was introduced.

Well, Alan Scott is back. But so is Hal Jordan. It’s not really all that confusing.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Marvel’s Northstar is marrying his boyfriend

Anyone who has been reading Marvel Comics for the better part of two decades, knows that mutant superhero Northstar bats for our team. But the big news this morning is that not only is he gay, he’s also off the market — or soon will be.

Marvel announced on The View what Richard Neal at Zues Comics on Lemmon has known for a while: That in issue no. 50 of Astonishing X-Men, out tomorrow, Northstar finally pops the question to longtime boyfriend Kyle. That makes Northstar the first major gay comic book hero to marry his same-sex partner.

Maybe if you don’t follow comics, that’s no big deal. But if you do, it’s huge.

“It makes me so happy to unite my community and my passion like this,” says Neal, who is gay.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cher is the latest gay icon to get a comic book

I’m not sure who’s running things over at Bluewater Productions comics, but they know their gay audiences. Following up on previous celebrity bio-comics like Lady Gaga, Madonna and Ellen DeGeneres, the publisher announced today that Cher will get the comic treatment this December. Her story will be the latest issue of their series Female Force. The 32-page comic will feature art by Zach Bassett and Warren Montgomery. The cover is by DC Comics Joe Philips. From BlueWater Productions:

Writer Marc Shapiro said Cher’s life and career “reads like a comic book.” “The clothes, the times, the attitudes of the decades she’s lived through. The different styles of music she’s been involved in. So much of what Cher has experienced is so flamboyant, over the top and just plain out there,” said Shapiro. “She has been very much the real life equivalent of a superhero, and writing about Cher, to a large degree, has been just about letting my imagination go.”

With no specific date mentioned, Bluewater says to expect the comic in the month of December at comic book shops, Barnes & Noble bookstores and Amazon.

—  Rich Lopez

Batwoman begins

DC Comics’ lesbian superhero gets her own imprint, a pantheon of new supervillains … and maybe a girlfriend.

GIRL ON GIRL | DC revamps its comic world with an all-new updating of its lesbian Batwoman character.

Following a hugely successful, starring storyline in DC Comics’ Detective Comics title, the openly lesbian Batwoman begins her own titular, monthly series starting Sept. 14.

Part of DC Comics’ reboot and re-launch of its entire line of titles – with 52 all-new No. 1 issues, including Stormwatch featuring superpowered gay couple Apollo & The Midnighter – Batwoman follows the adventures of Kate Kane, a flame-haired, former U.S. Military Academy cadet discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

First introduced in 2006’s 52 miniseries as the ex-lover of lesbian policewoman Renee Montoya (a character from the excellent, GLAAD-nominated Gotham Central series), Batwoman went on to star in DC’s Detective Comics between 2009-2010 – written by Greg Rucka and superbly illustrated by J.H. Williams III  — which saw her go up against a Lewis Carroll-quoting, Tim Burton-worthy Goth nemesis, Alice, while revealing Kane’s origin story. This critically acclaimed arc was later collected in the Batwoman: Elegy trade-press graphic novel.

November 2010 saw a prelude to Batwoman’s solo series with a “Zero Issue,” co-written by new series team J.H. Williams  — also returning as an artist — and H. Haden Blackman, blending illustration styles within an inventive, sophisticated narrative approach.

Here, Williams discusses the new and past series, how the DC line’s reboot affects Batwoman (the series was originally slated to kick off in 2010 but was held up to be part of the event), and whether a girlfriend is in Kate’s future.

— Lawrence Ferber

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Dallas Voice: What’s the biggest difference between this new Batwoman series and her initial Detective Comics run? J.H. Williams: The type of story we’re leading off with. Her last stint was boiled down to her origin and the basic superhero versus ultimate nemesis sort of thing. We wanted to expand on that because she needs a pantheon of villains, so we set out to do that in ways that are fun. We do it in the art a lot, mixing styles, and we brought that into the writing, too. The lead story deviates in that way  — even though it’s very much a continuation of what came before and what’s motivating her now, the foe she faces is a very different one [from last time]. The first arc is a very much supernatural horror story and what that’s like for a costumed or uniformed vigilante who doesn’t have superpowers per se. It’s pretty intriguing, but it’s just one piece of a bigger picture we are going to expand upon over the first three arcs.

What’s the name of this first arc’s villain? The Weeping Woman, and she’s based on Mexican folklore, which goes into a lot of cultural stuff. Everything developed for the new villains is based on urban legends. It’s key, making them have a logical point of origin, so we’re not just throwing random characters in, and hopefully have them be strong enough to hold their own outside the story we’re telling.

Can you elaborate on the story arcs that follow? The first one dovetails into a James Bond-ian espionage plot, then to an epic fantasy kind of plot. Even though those are very different from one another, we have figured out how to make them be a bigger whole and form one giant story. Instead of trying to pigeonhole the kind of series we’re doing to one thing, I want to pursue how far we can take things and how we can work in unison when all is said and done. When people go back and read “Elegy” and see what’s upcoming they’ll see the sense of diversity in the types of stories can be told.

What will Kate’s love life be like? We saw her hook up at a nightclub in the Zero Issue. She’s openly dating, but fun-dating. With the start of the new series we show that she wants to take a turn for something different, a normalcy, because her life as Batwoman is an extreme one. Superheroes today can never make their personal relationships work. But we’re going to build toward a solid relationship with somebody. She wants that person to come home to.

You’ve included many queer characters in your previous work including Promethea, written by the very pro-gay Alan Moore, and 1994’s Deathwish, which featured a transgendered protagonist. Did you base any element of Kate on a real woman or lesbian you have met or known? Not really. Her sense of realism comes from the fact we want to humanize this character as much as we can. The key to any character is no matter where they come from, sexual orientation, whatever, they need to be relatable as human beings.

What did you think of the mainstream media hubbub about Batwoman being a lesbian when the news first hit in 2006? The way DC announced the character way back when put people on their heels a little bit. There wasn’t any solid plan behind the character yet, so some took it as a publicity stunt  — and it wasn’t at all. As people started to see there was potential for this character as a deep-rooted one you can believe in, some of that hubbub went away. She’s a legitimate character people can find things to relate with. We’re not being exploitative with her being a lesbian. We’re treating it as with any other character regardless of what their sexual orientation is  — that’s a small part of who they are as a person. It’s not all about her being a lesbian and I think that’s made her a bit of a beacon for people to get behind the character instead of it being a publicity grab or something that doesn’t sit as a three-dimensional person.

What sort of feedback have you personally received from the lesbian community since Elegy? Any anecdotes to share? I remember one moment doing a signing in New York City. One of the girls standing in line when she came up to get her book signed said, ‘Thank you for drawing a real lesbian and not a stereotypical one.’ And then she said, ‘like me!’ and waved her hand across her forearm. That was fantastic. It gave me a sense that we’re definitely doing things the way they should be done.

The relaunch of DC Comics’ entire line in the wake of its ‘Flashpoint’ event sees a lot of characters reconceived, rebooted, and many stories and series go back to one. How will this affect Batwoman and her past? We have to acknowledge the new, post-’Flashpoint’ continuity, but we worked on this series for such a long time and so far headway into the story we didn’t have the luxury of going back and disregarding what came before  — and I didn’t want to. So although she exists in the new DC status quo, those previous events still happened, which is good. The Batwoman character is so new, anyway, it would be a real disservice to disregard her roots this early on.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Ryan Reynolds goes from comic book to movie back to comic book

It’s the ultimate in meta-media: A Comic book about an actor who makes a live action movie, playing a comic book character. Because just as Ryan Reynolds is in theaters playing the Green Lantern, Blue Water Comics — which specializes in the graphic-novel-as-pop-biography — has released the latest in the “Fame” series on the hunky actor. Here’s a peak:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Green energy

It’s hit & myth with ‘Green Lantern’

‘TRON’ WITH ALIENS | Ryan Reynolds is ripped as the Green Lantern — who cares if he can act?

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

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2.5 out of 5 stars
GREEN LANTERN
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong.
Rated PG-13. 115 mins.
Now playing in wide release.

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They are debates familiar to most comic book fanboys: Who would win a foot race — Superman or the Flash? Who’s smarter: Batman or Brainiac? Can Mr. Freeze make a beam so cold … well, you get it. It’s pointless fantasy-stuff — a script for The Big Bang Theory played out in real life dozens of times a day.

Add to that this conundrum: Is the human will stronger than the sense of fear? That’s the ultimate premise of Green Lantern, the latest DC Comics hero to nab his own film franchise. And if you don’t know the answer right now, well, you’ve never read a comic book. Or seen a summer movie.

Hal Jordan, the Earthling who became part of the Green Lantern Corps of protectors of the cosmos, was always one of my favorite superheroes. By day he was a test pilot — a test pilot! — but by night he could fly without an airplane or a cape, and got to wear a cool-ass ring and tights. Magic jewelry and camping equipment: It tapped into every gay pre-teen male’s competing desires to be butch and fabulous.

There’s a lot of mysticism and mythology in this cosmically scaled fantasy, and director Martin Campbell has settled on a phantasmagoric style more Bosch and Giger than Jack Kirby. Many of the scenes, especially those on the planet Oa, have the pearly, soft focus of ‘70s porn. It makes for a unique look, especially as populated by thousands of alien species (humans are the poor green trash of the Corps), but it also makes you constantly aware that you are watching a CGI movie. Avatar made you believe in a different world; Lantern makes you believe only in the rampant use of green screen. It’s TRON with aliens.

Which is not to say it’s terrible. In fact, I tried, at various times before, during and after the movie, to want to love it or to hate it; I could do neither.

The script, co-written by Brothers & Sisters creator Greg Berlanti, isn’t humorless, but lacks the razor wit and comic pacing of Iron Man. (The best line comes when Hal’s girlfriend, played by Blake Lively, notes that the mask does not hide his identity very well: “I’ve known you my whole life, you think I wouldn’t recognize you because you covered your cheekbones?”)

Ryan Reynolds has always been so pretty, that not being much of an actor has been inconsequential. It’s not that he can’t act, it’s that no one cares much about seeing him try. With his chiseled face and ripped, lean body, he’s nice to look at. But his puppy dog eyes and a toned-down bad-boy attitude make him somehow more appealing here.

At least Reynolds registers some personality; I practically had to consult my notes to recall that Lively was even in it. One of the weaknesses of the plot is that there are so many extraneous characters: Hal’s best friend; his fellow Lanterns; the seems-to-be-the-villain-at-first senator (Tim Robbins); the turns-out-to-be-not-much-of-a-villain nebbish (Peter Sarsgaard, who’s so weird he’s good); and the CGI villain, a Lantern run amok called Parallax. It’s a classic case of franchitis: The filmmakers are so concerned with trying to create a franchise series, they forget to make the movie in front of them.

Well, maybe not forget, but they could do a better job of letting the story play out in more epic fashion. (Berlanti writes for TV, and the script has a tendency to tie up issues in the space between where commercial breaks would go.) Stay to till after the end credits to fully appreciate where Green Lantern 2 will start.

Or don’t. It hardly matters.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens