YOU CAN’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER
Since I was 9 years old, many decades ago, I knew this to be true, especially about comic books.
Justice League #12 was set to be in comic book shops on August 29th, a week later than usual. The above cover was what comic shops saw to order that issue three months in advance. On August 22, there was the media blitz of the Power Couple hookup. Change in cover. A rip off of a loving Superman and his wife, Lois Lane, from Superman v2 #212 (2004) which Lee had drew 8 years before.
Jim Lee, Co-Publisher, and Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer, apparently gave false information to play up this event such as Wonder Woman had been chasing this Superman since 1988 – and they allowed the media to twist and misconstrue what was happening in the new 52. They stated they knew this would be ‘controversial’ with the fanbase (but then so is the design of a belt) and they invited the “water cooler chatter.” With the addition of an adamant statement, this was not a stunt. Since when does water cooler chatter sell books? And when you say it’s not a stunt – it probably is, because if it walks like a stunt, talks like a stunt = it’s a stunt. Doesn’t matter if it was 2 years in the making or not. Media circuses are stuntastic events.
If the reaction of the Good Morning America peeps is any indication, the concept of Superman ‘dumping Lois Lane’ for Wonder Woman was appalling and vehemently rejected. They aren’t 18 to 34 year old males, but they are a reflection of the movie going public which puts more money into Warner Brothers’ coffers than comic books.
On August 24th, Bleeding Cool reported DC had about 150,000 JL12’s on order. Anyone who has been watching the monthly Diamond order numbers knows that was about a 27,000 increase for Justice League – if books were ordered 3 months in advance, who would be taking on the excess books? Larger comic book stores? The six they used for the first new 52 survey with 179 submissions? Covers (variants) will give a boost in sales of comic books. (See Marvel’s present strategy of a 1990’s idea)
Soon after that but before August 29th, DC announced the book had gone into a second printing complete with glitzy new cover of mid-air embrace. Again cover change to sell the book to collectors & people who love variants.
August 29th arrived and the book hit the shelves. Were there lines anywhere? My small shop had a sign to only take one, but a week later there were a pile left mostly with the new cover but some with the Aquaman cover, too.
If anyone bothered to read the story, which is why most people read any kind of book – the plot line was Wonder Woman dumps Steve Trevor (again) and she fires Trevor as the liaison to the Justice League (for his own safety) and then bemoans how lonely she is to Superman on top of the Lincoln Memorial, a piece of Greek architecture. Get it? She ‘reasons’ that since humans aren’t like them, that they will always be alone. So let’s be alone together. Desperate much?
The REAL story behind all this was in Justice League International Annual #1, the final issue for that book. Geoff Johns, co-wrote this issue with Co-Publisher, Dan Didio. Booster Gold from the future wearing an ARGUS badge (Steve Trevor’s group) returns to warn Present Day Booster Gold. Rip Hunter is chasing him so he only has a few moments to convey the message. He states that Present BG has to stop Superman and Wonder Woman or they’d (Booster Gold and the future) cease to exist. Future BG begins to dissipate before he can complete the warning because someone he trusted sabotaged his mission. Present BG sees a large monitor of Superman and Wonder Woman kissing. His immediate reaction – What the hell? And wonders if this is what he has to stop, but before he can wrap his head around it, he begins to disappear also – so did Rip get to him or did the power kiss obliterate the future? Either way – this book showed that the hookup was wrong. That it shouldn’t have happened.
So in JLI Annual #1 you have two of the top three people at DC Comics admitting that the hookup is cataclysmic to the DC Universe. And if it’s bad for the entire universe, it certainly can’t work for Superman and Wonder Woman as a couple continuing in that universe. Which most fans already know. This all is groundwork for the Trinity War in 2013. Last May, on Free Comic Book Day, we got a sneak peek into what may happen. Which Trinity they are talking about is unclear.
First of all, Justice League has not established the Trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman) yet. The Justice League leaped 5 years in issue 7 and so we don’t know what went on between issue 6 and 7. This 5 year gap also affects Action and Superman comics – yes, that’s right – so the stunt could be done without too much damage to the icons.
The Diana and Steve Trevor romantic relationship was the only one built within the pages of Justice League. This is classic mythos and is what Johns enjoys. He’s making Steve Trevor the hero of the story. And after a 25 year absence, Steve deserves a great development.
Johns quite quickly after August 29th said we would see Steve Trevor return early in 2013 with a new team, the Justice League of America. Two of those members were rejected by the Justice League, Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter. Catwoman and Katana are also involved – so there may be a Batman involvement. Hawkman and Stargirl, too. Vibe (don’t ask) and the new Green Lantern, Baz finish out the team as far as we know. So could the Trinity War involve Justice League, Justice League Dark and Justice League of America? We know there is a Trinity of Sin with Pandora (back stories in Justice League and FCBD issue), Phantom Stranger (has own book starting with #0) and the Question (who we’ve not seen hide nor hair of for almost a year). LOTS of trinities.
Wonder Woman in her own book is not the Wonder Woman in the Justice League. Steve Trevor is not in her book. But in Action and Superman, Superman and Clark Kent have had interactions with Lois Lane. For the first year of the books, Action takes place 5 years in the past and Superman is the present. Which present that is and how it coincides with Justice League’s past and present is vague – and probably designed that way.
In first week of August, Action #12 showed a Superman frantic about a dying Lois Lane. This was a huge emotional leap for the character since the previous 11 issues, if and when they were together, it was pretty meh. (Yes, because of the pre-planned stunt) This takes place 5 years in the past. He not only has to fight the bad guy, but he has to read every medical text to perform a quick surgery on her to save her life.
The initial two pages of that book give us a look at what came before. His life with the Kents (who are dead because Superman should be alienated and not have human tethers) and his first day at the Daily Planet (which hasn’t happened in the story yet). Then we see his involvement with the Justice League in the new 52. A panel of them all looking down from the Watchtower and Superman says, “It’s like a new Camelot.” (see previous article regarding that subject on this blog) Another panel shows us Superman with Lois Lane in a wedding dress looking lovingly at each other as other beings fly over a futuristic Metropolis. “A golden age has begun.” Then Superman says it’s a dream come true and Lois who can always snap him out of a fugue or magical embrace, brings him back to reality. She’s dying but she wishes it were true about them marrying. Then the book takes off from there with Lois injured and the bad guy wanting to take her niece away.
After the stunt, in September’s Action #0, Morrison gives us a glimpse of what happened previous to Action #1, and we see that Clark Kent is gaga over Lois Lane as a writer and a person with intelligence and strong convictions. Jimmy Olsen is the initial connection between the two as he TRIES to introduce them. Lois admired Clark’s blog (this is before he went to work at the Daily Star and then eventually the Daily Planet). We got to see how Lois christened Clark, Superman, and also the heart of Superman. His concern for humans less powerful than he is and his fight for truth and justice.
In the Superman book, which had 3 writers during its first year, it occurs in the present after a five year gap. We have seen nothing of that gap. We know Clark and Lois worked as partners at the Daily Planet during that time, but in issue #1, Lois had been promoted to head the new media division, thus separating the two. She has a boyfriend which we have seen twice. Once in issue #1 and again in issue #11. (This was an editorial edict.) He’s a foreign correspondent so it is not a day-to-day thing, not like it would have been between Clark and Lois in the five year gap. Basically Clark and Lois have been on stall for over a year. Why? Because of the stunt. Having Clark have feelings for Lois then hooking up with Wonder Woman would not make him a super man.
So the power hookup is not benefiting Superman either. It’s stalled his story in his own books. I understand they had to address the Diana question since the last quarter of a century before the new 52, Steve Trevor was out of the picture and they passed her around the Justice League. She’d have dreams about a married Superman and her hooking up – which did a disservice to all characters concerned.
Johns loves classic mythos. I’m hoping he shows everyone why Superman and Wonder Woman just don’t mesh romantically. Yes, they are beautiful, powerful and have fantastic bodies – but their core personalities and outlooks are different. Wonder Woman doesn’t understand his connection to humanity (Clark Kent) and she just may find out he has weaknesses that are prevalent in her enemies and her world. He would be in danger as much as Steve Trevor was. Wonder Woman was hell bent on killing the villain that tortured Trevor. Superman doesn’t kill. She’s Wonder Woman 24/7. They haven’t developed a secret id for her and probably won’t. Superman has Clark Kent. It’s how the alien is relatable to humans. He’s not following his heart and neither is Diana – this spells disaster.
Since Steve Trevor is still in the picture on the Justice League (of America) front and Lois Lane is still in Action and Superman (plus an appearance in JL #7) then readers will have to wait out the stunt and see where the story goes. More waiting for Superman fans – maybe or maybe not.
In September, Superman Annual #1, Scott Lobdell had Clark Kent thinking of Lois Lane as he loved his subway ride amongst the humans of Metropolis. Lois would fight for real news at the Daily Planet and not tabloid sexploitation which is what Clark is dealing with as the journalist and the superhero (if you read JL). Clark admits that he just plain misses Lois Lane.
With the announcement of the stunt, the hookup in desperation and loneliness, Morrison showing us a future inside Superman’s head, Clark’s love for the personality behind Lois Lane’s hardhitting news, and Lobdell’s revitalizing Clark’s love of humanity and missing Lois Lane, perhaps Superman fans can begin to see a developing triangle for two. We probably won’t get much while Johns possibly shows why Superman and Wonder Woman don’t work, but they can take it slow. Do it right. Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane deserve that much. Their 75th anniversary is this Spring. Their love story has sold comics for decades. It’s part of the universal consciousness and has been for generations. The Man of Steel movie comes out in June, 2013. Let’s hope DC Comics does right by these legendary characters and the love of millions around the world.
Yesterday Diamond released its order numbers for August, 2012. Despite the week in advance, get-‘em- while-they’re-hot promotion on multi media outlets, Justice League came up short over 3100 books compared to July. Batman beat it again in orders. And DC has a second printing with a shiny new cover. Why? Do covers really sell that well?
Even if curiosity seekers from the hookup promotion ‘come to call’ in September, they’re not going to get any Power Couple story. DC Comics is doing #0 issues, which is kind of like a #1, but not really. They are not going to gain those numbers which they had initially with the new 52. Either people don’t care about comics – or in this case, they don’t care for the Power Couple hookup.
So was the stunt successful? Or did it cause more damage than it’s worth?
If flashy covers and multimedia promotion can’t bring in new readers, then should DC Comics start thinking outside their boxed in mindset? Write a good story, perhaps, and focus on that? Widen the ‘target’ audience? Get with the times since more females go to the movies than males. If they write great stories, they will come . . . and if a wider audience is invited, it means more money.