Is Batman Likable?

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time enjoying Batman comics. I don’t mean to be negative. I really want to like them. I’ve been a huge Batman fan for years. Batman was my gateway to the rest of the DC Universe and comics in general, though more and more I find myself not in the mood to read a Batman story in favor of other areas of the DC Universe like Birds of Prey, Green Lantern, JSA etc… How can this be? How could I not like Batman anymore. The answer is that I still do very much, although there isn’t a whole lot in recent comics that reminds me of what I like about Batman. I decided to scour Batman’s 75-year history to remind myself what it is that I do and do not like about this important character from a reductionist point of view to create a new head-canon of Batman continuity that reminds me why I love the character instead of making me forget.

I experience this phenomenon, as I assume many people do, where if I read a comic that I do not enjoy, it seems to damage my love for the medium. Conversely, when I read a comic that I love, it strengthens my love for the medium. Thus for my own sake, I needed to become a reductionist. That is, I need to abandon “completionism” in favor of removing as many stories as I can that I do not enjoy so that my head-canon can become stronger, and thus maximize my enthusiasm for the medium. I’m not sure how many people feel this way. It sounds kind of strange writing it out like this, but it is undeniably how I feel.

This train of thought all started when I decided to give Scott Snyder’s Batman run another chance. Running out of old runs to enjoy, I decided that it was important to leave the past behind and try to see the good in the New 52 so that I could enjoy future runs as a part of a shared universe. I know that stories should stand or fall on their own merit, but strong stories feel even stronger when they are a part of a rich canon. As a consumer of fiction, I long for this sense of awe again that I have since lost when it comes to Batman. I want to live in a world again where the next great Batman story is just around the corner to make the canon even stronger. So I tried—I tried really hard, but the current canon does not feature the Batman that I want to read. So… Is Batman likable? He used to be. Then he wasn’t and then he was again, but now he isn’t. Let’s go back in time…

Batman’s character tends to undergo extremely long periods of stagnation. During the Golden and Silver Ages, Batman’s character didn’t have a ton of depth but still underwent some character development. In his initial outings in costume, Batman was an unrelenting, grim crusader for justice with mysterious motivations. With the introduction of the Robin character about a year later, he became an adventure-loving father figure and essentially remained that way until Frank Miller changed the character significantly. Most fans would argue nowadays that the Golden and Silver Age interpretation of Batman is far too brightly toned for their tastes. They might be right, but if Bill Finger and Gardner Fox were on one end of Batman’s tonal spectrum, then Frank Miller was on the opposite end with an overly dark and dramatic tone. There was, however, a 10-year long period where the tone of the Batman books was in perfect balance: the 1970’s.

The problem with Frank Miller’s influence on Batman is that his character ended up becoming a total dick to everyone close to him. This was not the case during the 1970’s. The books, under the creative direction of pioneers like Dennis O’Neil, Len Wein, Steve Engelhart, Neil Adams, Jim Aparo and Marshall Rogers, became much darker in tone and made Batman much more brutal to criminals, yet retained his fatherly affection to his family. The best example I could find of this is during Steve Engelhart and Marshall Roger’s run on Detective Comics.

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And in regard to his brutality toward criminals, look no further than issue #2 of Len Wein’s Untold Legend of the Batman.

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This is the Batman I find likable. This is also the characterization of Batman that influenced the creators of Batman: the Animated Series, so perhaps I feel the greatest nostalgia reading Bronze Age Batman because I was 7 years old when B:TAS first aired. It’s this simple but overlooked tonal balance between light and dark that makes Batman a likable character, in my opinion.

That all changed when Frank Miller arrived on the scene. Although I don’t necessarily think Frank Miller’s Batman is totally unlikable, the writers that Miller would inspire certainly pushed him that way. From 1987 onward, Batman became a total asshole. Right off the bat (oh, puns…) in Batman #408 (the issue right after “Year One” ends) we get the tough-love Batman who no longer trusts his family to get the job done and who prefers to isolate himself to everyone else’s (including my) frustration.
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Batman stays like this for almost 20 years. It is during this 20-year period that Batman becomes far less interesting than the rest of the Bat-Family. Since Batman is a total dick, the remaining members of the Bat-Family have something to rally against, and characters like Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Cassie Cain, Selina Kyle and Stephanie Brown successfully outshine their leader in some truly fantastic stories. There was a saving grace post-Frank Miller who ignored Frank Miller’s influence for the most part: Mike W. Barr. Mike Barr’s run on Detective Comics following “Batman: Year One” largely ignored the tonal shifts implemented by Frank Miller, and unsurprisingly didn’t last. I would argue, however, that he produced the most likable version of the Batman character in the post-Frank Miller era, and was the only person until the 2000’s to have Batman undergo a character arc. In his masterpiece Son of the Demon, Barr had Batman go through a very believable and relatable character arc where love and hope returned to his life once again in the form of a pregnant Talia Al Ghul.
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Mike Barr made Batman happy and hopeful… and it was extremely interesting.
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It also included a very touching beat in the Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul dynamic.
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By 2004, the main Batman books had become increasingly dour. Crossovers like Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive and War Games plus the JLA story Tower of Babel had propelled Batman’s dickishness to new heights (or depths?).
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It was because of Batman’s lack of trust for his partner that all of the “War Games” nonsense happened in the first place. It should be noted that alongside these grim, asshole-Batman stories also ran Devin Grayson’s Gotham Knights which did a wonderful job restoring Batman’s compassion and family dynamic, but was unfortunately pretty short-lived and not influential.

By the time Infinite Crisis began in 2005, writers like Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison began to notice the problem with Batman. In Mark Waid’s words during his interview with Alan Kistler:

AK: Right. Well, my question was, with writers like you and those I’ve mentioned and your emphasis on fun and wonder, is there any fear that we’re going back to the grim and gritty 80’s with stories like IDENTITY CRISIS, WAR GAMES where Leslie Thompkins is a killer, and where half of INFINITE CRISIS looks like it’s about Batman being betrayed? What do you think of that?

MW: The good news is, and I guarantee you this, when we’re on the other side of the CRISIS, those days are GONE. Just gone. We’re sick to death of heroes who are not heroes, we’re sick to death of darkness. Not that there’s no room, not that Batman should act like Adam West, but that won’t be the overall feeling. After all this stuff, after everything shakes down, we’re done with heroes being dicks. No more “we screwed each other and now we must pay the consequences.” No, we’re super-heroes and that’s what we do. Batman’s broken. Through no ONE person’s fault, but he’s a dick now. And we’ve been told we can fix that.”

Holy shit was this the best news for Batman fans. His characterization got so bad that Frank Miller, of all people, parodied the character in the form of All-Star Batman and Robin. More on that later.

During the weekly series 52, Grant Morrison began a transformation of the Batman character in an effort to return him to the adventure-loving Bat-dad of the 1970’s in the form of the “Thogal” ritual, wherein Batman goes on an inward journey of self-realization to purge his inner darkness. During Grant Morrison’s Batman run, Batman smiled again and began his first character arc in 20 years.
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By the time Bruce Wayne returned from his trip through time via the Omega Sanction, Bruce Wayne re-learned the importance of family after realizing that isolation and a lone-wolf attitude were not getting the job done. He recalls that Alfred was there to help him on that fateful night where he decided “I shall become a bat,” and concludes that the only way to accomplish his mission is to rely on his allies instead of pushing them away.
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This was the direction I really wanted to see the character go indefinitely. I wanted to see the era of Frank Miller’s influence end once and for all and move on to a new, more dynamic and likable Batman. But all that ended with Scott Snyder. This brings us to modern day Batman…

It did not take very long into the New 52 continuity reboot until I noticed that asshole-Batman was back. Scott Snyder now leads the charge of the Bat-books with a Batman who has clearly forgotten about his experiences with the Thogal Ritual and the Omega Sanction and has become a parody of himself once again. Recall the scene in Batman v2 issue #7 where Dick Grayson angrily (and rightfully so) berates Batman for being an emotionless asshole. How does Batman respond? He punches him in the face, of course.
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I realize he needed to get the Court of Owls fake tooth out of his mouth or whatever, but there were so many other ways to accomplish that without acting like an ass. Say…you know what this reminds me of?
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At least Frank Miller doesn’t have Batman hit Dick in the face for no goddamn reason.

Say what you will about Batman’s indifference to killing during the Golden Age, but Bill Finger’s and Gardner Fox’s contributions to Batman were nothing short of brilliant. I still find the original Golden Age stories very exciting, and when I realized that Scott Snyder was channeling that old continuity in his Zero-Year story, I was very excited. I couldn’t wait to see modern interpretation of the purple gloves, Doctor Death, and the first Bat-Mobile. The idea of departing from the Frank Miller continuity in favor of re-embracing the original continuity is fantastic and very Grant Morrison in its conception. If you recall one of the final pages of Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #13 where a young Jim Gordon is seen comforting an even younger Bruce Wayne who just lost his parents, you probably remember having your mind blown because this directly contradicts Frank Miller’s seminal “Batman: Year One” story where Gordon is shown to arrive in Gotham at the same time as Bruce Wayne. Gordon’s presence in Gotham as a young Lieutenant even before the Wayne murders, however, was a pre-Crisis establishment.
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Unfortunately Snyder’s “Zero Year” fell flat for me even on a second reading. Seeing Greg Capullo’s renderings and re-imagining of characters like Doctor Death was thrilling, but the story is brought to its knees by cringe-worthy prognosticating, and it perpetrates what had already become a very tired cliché as worded by Grant Morrison in a recent interview.

“Every comic book hero — TV heroes too, like ‘Doctor Who’ — must inevitably, relentlessly, repeatedly face a dedicated threat to his or her very essence and core. It’s no longer sufficient to commit a weird sort of crime in Gotham City; any given baddie has to gnaw at the very roots of Batman’s being, fuck up the private lives of his friends and relatives, make him doubt his raison d’etre, set his postal district on fire and blow up his cave.”

Worst of all is the poor characterization. Surprise! Batman treats Alfred like shit to the point where Alfred’s will to participate in Batman’s mission is totally baffling.
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Just fuck right off. Ok, Bruce? Thanks.

So “Zero Year” ended a few months ago, adventure-loving Bat-dad is gone, and Frank Miller’s influence is alive and well due to Scott Snyder’s undying boner for the man. The result is a Batman who treats his allies terribly, pontificates way too much and is arrogant to the point of ineptitude (see “Court of Owls”). But hey, people love it! Batman sells nearly 120,000 copies a month still, so what do I know.

Anyway, here’s my new, ruthlessly reductionist head-canon that I came up with. These are what I consider essential Batman stories (with a good characterization of Batman himself). While my actual head-canon includes a bit more, the vast majority of the stories not on this list I can honestly do without.

Batman: Year One (Batman v1 #404-407)
Detective Comics by Bill Finger, Gardner Fox (Detective Comics v1 #27-38)
The Joker/The Giants of Hugo Strange (Batman v1 #1)
The Origin of Batman (Batman v1 #47)
Eye of the Beholder (Batman Annual v1 #14, Detective Comics v1 #66, 68 )
When is a Door… (Secret Origins Special #1, Detective Comics v1 #140)
The Batwoman/Challenge of the Batwoman (Detective Comics v1 #233, Batman v1#105)
The Black Case Book (Batman v1 #65, 86, 112, 113, 134, 156, 162, Detective Comics v1 #215, 235, 247, 267)
Pavane (Secret Origins v2 #36)
Tales of the Demon (Batman v1 #232, #235, #240, #242–244; Detective Comics v1 #411, #485, #489–490; DC Special Series #15)
Batman by Neal Adams v1(Batman v1#200, #203, #210; The Brave and the Bold #75–76, #79–85; Detective Comics v1 #370, #372, #385, #389, #391–392; World’s Finest Comics #174–176, #178–180, #182–183, #185–186)
Batman by Neal Adams v2 (Batman #219; The Brave and the Bold #86, #93; Detective Comics #394–395, #397, #400, #402, #404, #407–408, #410)
Batman by Neal Adams v3(Batman v1 #232, #234, #237, #243–245, #251, #255)
Strange Apparitions (Detective Comics v1 #469-477)
Batman By Len Wein (Detective Comics #408, #444-448, #466, #478-479, #500, #514, Batman #307-310, #312-319, #321-324, #326-327,  World’s Finest Comics #207, DC Retroactive Batman – The 70s, Untold Legend of the Batman #1-3)
Batman by Alan Davis, Mike Barr (Detective Comics v1 #569-575)
Batman by Jim Starlin (Batman v1 #414-430, The Cult #1-4)
The Killing Joke (One-shot)
Birth of the Demon (Graphic Novel)
Son of the Demon (Graphic Novel)
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (Graphic Novel)
Dark Knight, Dark City (Batman v1 #452-454)
Vows (Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #2)
A Bullet for Bullock (Detective Comics v1 # 651)
No Man’s Land (Detective Comics by Greg Rucka)
Detective Comics by Greg Rucka (Detective Comics v1 #742-765, Death and the Maidens #1-9)
Gotham Knights by Devin Grayson (Batman: Gotham Knights #1–11, 14–18, 20–32)
Mad Love (One-Shot)
Detective Comics by Paul Dini (Detective comics v1 #821-837,839-845)
Suit of Sorrows (Detective Comics v1 #838)
Batman by Grant Morrison (Batman v1 #655-703, Batman and Robin v1 #1-16, Batman: The Return, The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6, Batman Incorporated v1 #1-8, Leviathan Strikes #1, Batman Incorporated v2 #1-13)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jamison Weber is a long-time comic book fan in his mid 20s with an Economics degree from UCSD. Currently he is working toward a graduate degree in mathematics education in Arizona, and continues to nourish his passion for comic books whenever he gets the opportunity.

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Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 4 (#8-1)

Howdy! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics of 2014. Before continuing on with my favorite eight print comics of 2014, please be sure to check out what led us here.

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- Honorable Mentions

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- #24 through #17

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- #16-9
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And in case you might have missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014.

 

Okay, onto the ELITE EIGHT! (aama and Saga were #10 and #9, respectively.)

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8. LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD by Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, Jorge Coelho, & various artists (MARVEL)
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Spinning out of the pages of the Young Avengers came Agent of Asgard, rushing through the gate to wow us all with its superb art, undeniable charm, excellent delivery, and legit handle on character. I never thought teen Loki could hold a candle to Kieron Gillen’s amazing boy Loki, but boy was I wrong. (And we also got a bit of girl Loki in there too!) This is such a stunning book. One of its primary strengths is in how Ewing, Garbett, and Woodard took a character that already has a predestined end point set in stone (and a distasteful one at that), but made us care about Loki and fight for Loki anyway! We believe there is good inside of him! He’s a GENUINE protagonist of the highest literary degree. We know Loki has to eventually become an old, shriveled-up asshole wearing his spandex green 60s outfit and spouting cheesy super-villain-isms… but thanks to Ewing, Garbett, and Woodard, maybe he doesn’t? Agent of Asgard made me feel as though the Marvel Universe is assuredly willing to shake up the status quo. Even lame, pesky, interfering line-wide crossovers (Original Sin and Axis, I’m lookin’ at you), which can so often ruin a book’s momentum, weren’t enough to break Agent of Asgard‘s stride. Kudos to that as well. In hindsight, I actually think merging with Thor for the Original Sin arc was a benefit to this title.

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7. THOR: GOD OF THUNDER & THOR Vol. 4 by Jason Aaron & various artists (MARVEL)
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My favorite from last year, God of Thunder, ended on a high note in 2014 and then soared even higher when it returned with the latest volume of Thor proper. I said it last year, Jason Aaron and Jason Aaron alone converted me into a Thor fan. And he’s kept me on board. The revolving cast of artists have hurt the title, but when the art is on, it’s super on—(Esad Ribic RULES, we need more Esad Ribic and we need him now). Where do I even start with the rest of the incredible stuff? A ton of things were great in 2014 for the Norse warrior. Dario Agger and Roxxon, IMO, are the first decent villains created in superhero comics for the 21st century. What is CATEGORICAL EVIL today? It’s corporations like Roxxon. Agger represents a dangerous new threat that captures something truly realistic and terrifying, much more than we’ve ever seen from Simon Stagg, Norman Osborn, Justin Hammer, or even Lex Luthor. Ditch the minotaur magick and this guy is the ultimate evil in all of comics. And duh, news story of the year, FEMALE THOR! Mega bonus points for Aaron taking Thor in this new status quo-changing direction, but even more points for doing it so well, so thoughtfully, and so goddamn dramatically. This wasn’t just media-service, a headline grab, or getting Whoopie to talk comics on daytime TV. This is the new Thor and she’s even more badass than the old. I’m willing to bet she’ll be even more developed as well.

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6. MOON KNIGHT Vol. 6 #1-6 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, & Jordie Bellaire (MARVEL)
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Warren Ellis! Let me repeat that. WARREN ELLIS. Moon Knight is the Art of the One-Shot perfected. Each of these six issues by Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire tells a single weird story in the most pure and visual way possible. No exposition, just good old fashioned comic book storytelling. These are stellar individual superhero stories that meet hard-boiled detective tales—and it works. Moon Knight is without-a-doubt the toughest SOB in superhero comics. Shalvey and Bellaire combine to spin Ellis’s scripts into an ethereal and gut-wrenching visual adventure with their unique artistic flair. And the issue #6 coda that tied it all back to the beginning was indubitably cool and done quite well. There was a lot of thought put into this book, a title which could have easily been bungled by a different creative team. In fact, the awful sex-abuser Brian Wood has done just that, taking what was arguably the best of the year and turning it into birdcage liner in one issue. But I won’t waste any more text on Wood other than to say that I’ve read his entire oeuvre and he’s easily the most overrated writer in the history of comics. Moon Knight is a type of book we normally don’t see coming out of the Big Two, and it was certainly a breath of fresh air. This will be a highlight on my bookshelf when it comes out in trade.

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5. JUDGE DREDD: MEGA-CITY TWO by Douglas Wolk, Ulises Farinas, & Ryan Hill (IDW)
WOLK ON DREDD
The master historian and super fan-boy (I mean that in the best way possible) writes Judge Dredd! And Douglas Wolk’s uncurbed passion shines through. Wolk hasn’t really written any comics before this (that I know of)—but he’s written more ABOUT comics than almost anyone. For the past decade, Wolk has been an inspiration and personal fave when it comes to his views on comicbookdom. Reading Comics was one of the first books I ever read that spoke to me as a superhero comic book consumer. It’s amazing to see such a tremendous mind and an exquisite FAN get to write such a valuable comic. Each issue is slammed full of controlled-chaos in the vein of the old 2000 AD issues. “KEEP CALM…THRILL FACTOR OVERLOAD” is definitely what I feel as I turn these pages. Wolk knows the scorched Earth of the Judges inside-and-out and he adeptly sculpts a scintillating, dynamic environment that bleeds historical richness. And the “Dredd’s Comportment” endings offer encyclopedic blurbs about the Judges and the Mega-Cities, written chronologically and continuity-obsessively (in the best way possible) as only Wolk can. The brilliance continues with Farinas’s prodigious Geoff Darrow-esque art as well. There are a thousand-and-one Easter Eggs on each page. Take all of the excesses of Hollywood and celebrity-worship, amp it up on speed, set it in a meticulously detailed post-apocalyptic future, and add one perfectly-characterized pissed-off Dredd and you have yourself a comic that is pretty much unrivaled in 2014. I’d pay top dollar to see Wolk and company’s take on Luna-1, Hondo City, Banana City, Texas City, East Meg-One, Brit City, and all the other colorful locales of Dredd’s planet.

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4. HIP HOP FAMILY TREE BOOK 2: 1981-1983 by Ed Piskor (FANTAGRAPHICS)
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What can I add that every other comic book critic in the universe hasn’t already said about the incredible Hip Hop Family Tree? If Piskor keeps pace, he’ll be in everyone’s Top Five for the next ten years or more. It doesn’t matter if you know about hip hop or if you like the music, Hip Hop Family Tree is incontrovertibly a national treasure. Piskor’s talent with handsome layouts, pencils, inks, and colors matches his uncanny knowledge of the history of rap. His work has become a sort of bible to me, the ultimate chronicle of one of the most significant cultural movements in American history. I can’t stress how IMPORTANT this book is. When Hip Hop Family Tree ends, it should end with an image of Piskor writing and drawing the first edition of Hip Hop Family Tree. Piskor himself has become just as crucial to the ongoing legacy of hip hop. And to top it all off, this book is crazy fun and DOPE AS HELL. Like the rap gods before him, Piskor definitely “rocks it like that.” Look for a cut-and-paste job for my synopsis on next year’s list when Book 3 comes out.

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3. SILVER SURFER Vol. 7 by Dan Slott, Mike Allred, & Laura Allred (MARVEL)
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When sublime art is introduced to a wonderful story, you get the latest volume of Silver Surfer. Slott had an unbelievable year and the Allreds always deliver. It’s so exciting to see the Allreds move from last years awesome FF to Silver Surfer, allowing them the opportunity to draw some of the freakiest cosmic creatures and outer space beings that Marvel’s sandbox has to offer. They unquestionably nail it on every panel and spread. Slott and the Allreds make me want to visit Marvel’s galaxies far, far away more than any other creators have in the past. I talked about relationship writing being at it’s peak with Saga and All-Star Western, but this takes the cake. Silver Surfer, however, went in a more adorable and heartwarming direction than those titles—dare-I-say more cute or old-fashioned than those titles. But cute and old-fashioned functioned in a fiercely phenomenal way for Silver Surfer! Silver Surfer is one of Marvel’s most endearing characters. Pairing him up with an opinionated human gal that refuses to not dress like a ladybug and who calls the surf board “Toomie” might seem like a recipe for disaster, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. The TONE of this book is admirably spot-on and Slott, with great respect for continuity and history, has a real command for what he does with Norrin Radd. Much of this series thus far has reminded me of Gaiman’s old Sandman with Norrin Radd filling in for Morpheus. It’s comedic, character-driven, well-timed, and completely engaging. I won’t lie, this is the first superhero comic that has made me happily tear-up in a long time. As Norrin states, “A pentagonal cascade happens once in a millennium.” So does a comic like this. Make sure you stop to check it out.

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2. THE MULTIVERSITY by Grant Morrison & various artists (DC)
MULTIVERSITY RULES.
Like other titles on my Elite Eight, The Multiversity doesn’t require much more praise or recommendation than it’s already gotten. It’s all been said by now and unless you’ve been living under a rock on an alternate Earth where The Multiversity isn’t published, then you already now how magnificent this delightful mind-fuck of a comic has been. A project years in the making, it seems like a miracle that it’s finally being published. The occult-influenced “Multiversity Map” by Morrison and Rian Hughes alone might’ve ranked this high, but to add the incredible story and rotating roster of the world’s best artists along with it quickly moves The Multiversity into the stratosphere. Any comic that sparks the kind of internet dialogue and persnickety annotations that this series has accumulated is a worthwhile comic. And this comic has more value than diamonds or gold. Morrison’s fantastic ideas (regarding superheroes, the state of the comic industry, and the very fabric of reality) are flowing even more freely and unrestrained than his fans are used to in The Multiversity, which is welcoming and surprising, especially for a book so intrinsically tied to the usually tightly-leashed main line of the DCU. This is meta upon meta upon meta—the layers are astoundingly complex. And yet, despite the wildness of Morrison’s narrative, there is a distinct level of accessibility that saturates each issue, providing a chance for those less familiar with or actively hostile toward his work to get a foot in the door. This truly is the comic book for everyone: DC purists, fans of the superhero genre in general, and the conspiracy-theory-oddballs that can find hidden meanings in the tiniest of references or themes. The best two issues of the year came out of The MultiversityThe Society of Superheroes and Pax Americana—the latter of which, created with Frank Quitely and Nathan Fairbairn, did things with the medium that have never been done before (except maybe slightly in Morrison’s own precursor to Pax Americana, Superman Beyond). Morrison said Pax Americana is Watchmen DONE RIGHT. I have to agree, and done in an economical forty pages at that. We are talking some serious NEXT LEVEL SHIT. With The Multiversity, Morrison pushes superhero comics (and all comics for that matter) to previously unexplored heights just when most literary critics thought there was nowhere left to go except down. Morrison proves that, as fans and critics of superhero comics, we don’t have to sink into the doldrums or throw our hands up in defeat as we get older. The medium shouldn’t pass us by, it should grow and develop with us. Superhero comics are alive and thriving. They are the highest, purest form of art on our precious Earth-33 and superhero story architects can do insane things (if they are allowed free reign to do so) that you simply can’t do on TV, film, or other print media. The Multiversity is genius-level smart, boisterously fun, playful, inventive, cutting-edge, and absolutely deserving of all the accolades it has received thus far. There is puissant magick in the 2D world of the comic book. That’s not a metaphor either. The Multiversity is powerful proof the magick is real.

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1. MIND MGMT by Matt Kindt (DARK HORSE)
mindmgmt1mindmgmt2
Whew. We’ve finally reached numero uno and it doesn’t get any better than this. Not even close. This is my CLEAR CUT victor. Ever since last year, Mind MGMT has slowly been building toward a huge mega climax. With each release, my admiration and dedication to this title has grown. Matt Kindt has built a real winner with Mind MGMT, the kind of winner that goes undefeated. Seriously, each issue gets better than the one before. With its powerful female protagonist (and female Big Bad too), unique and lovable characters, strange art style, and thrilling “occult magick meets metaphysical science” story, Kindt’s untapped imagination is at hard at work within the sparkling pages of Mind MGMT. There are developments and concepts happening in Mind MGMT that are so on the cutting-edge of sci-fi and spy writing, they undoubtedly will be adapted (albeit cheaply) in some way, shape, or form into Marvel or DC in the future. Mind MGMT is what superhero comics should aspire to be, and I wouldn’t even necessarily classify Mind MGMT as a superhero comic! I can’t remember the last time a comic consistently made me stop reading and say “WHOA” out loud so many times. Kindt always delivers and he always takes his story to that next unexpected level. Even when I expect the unexpected, I’m still stunned time and time again. The way information is conveyed, both to the reader and to the characters within the story is so refreshing and awe-inspiring. There’s nothing quite like it elsewhere. The “Field Guide” text that runs vertically along the side of most pages offers a subtle and often creepy connection to the story panels attached to it (or that come later or before). There are times, due to the unorthodox construction of Kindt’s layouts, when Mind MGMT seems to be speaking directly to the reader, but not in the traditional breaking-the-fourth-wall kind of way. It’s hard to explain the method by which it speaks, and that is pretty damn scary! Kindt has turned Mind MGMT into a chilling exercise in opening up different layers of consciousness as one reads. When Meru meets the First Immortal and that “Field Guide” text about the “triconscious state” crawled off the side of the page from where it “belongs” to the middle of the image panel, I was so surprised that I nearly lost my shit and threw the comic down. With all the weird meta stuff going on in regard to reader interaction, you might assume that the focus on story might get lost in the shuffle. But you’d be dead wrong. The ongoing narrative is fucking clinquant edge-of-your-seat material that is second-to-none. Kindt’s pencil-work is admittedly an acquired taste, but its ostensible shaky inconsistency compliments the story so well once you get used to it. Mind MGMT‘s potboiler builds upon itself month by month in such a way that you can’t help but voraciously crave the next dangerous moment that will undoubtedly come. You live and die with the characters that Kindt has beautifully crafted and fostered. And Kindt has skillfully shaped and molded a vivid universe for his characters to move about in as well. Kindt is clearly at the top of his game here and Mind MGMT always fires on all pistons. I can’t wait to see where he takes Meru next.

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Thanks for reading. See you in 2015!

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Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 3 (#16-9)

Don’t forget to read my…
HONORABLE MENTIONS for print comics in 2014
AND my…
TOP LIST COUNTDOWN for print comics in 2014, BOOKS #24 through #17
before continuing below.

And in case you missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014, if you are so inclined.
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Howdy! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics in 2014. I already posted the honorable mentions, and #24 through #17 but now it’s time for the TOP 16 of 2014!!! Here are books 16 through 9 (with the countdown eventually leading to my absolute favorite title of the year). The fourth and final part of my list (books 8 through 1) will follow soon. Thanks, enjoy, and leave some comments!
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16. ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND by Box Brown (FIRST SECOND)
andre badassss
I love pro wrestling. I love everything about it. So, naturally, a bio-comic about Andre the Giant is already right up my alley. And this book delivers in spades. An open examination of the complexity of Andre’s adventures, sometimes warmly touching and sometimes painting him in an honest negative light. Where does fact end and fiction begin? It’s often hard to tell when a celebrity is larger than life like Andre was, and even more difficult when the giant himself and those around him partook in a career based in performance and a weird mix of deception and hyper-reality. This is a comic I’ve been dying to see made since I was little and I’m glad that it finally exists. Brown’s renditions of classic wrestling heroes and villains are cute in just the right way. When I think of wrestlers, I often think of them as cartoonish caricatures flying around the ring, a sort of macrocosm for what goes on in the pages of your average superhero book. But wrestlers, the art of wrestling, and the backstage politics associated with wrestling, all have an intensely layered depth that most people don’t realize exists. Brown touches upon and balances all of this perfectly in his novel.

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15. THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, & David Rubín (FIRST SECOND)
jt, paul, and RUBIN
Despite the fact that JT Petty is a personal friend of mine, this entry isn’t just a cheap shill for somebody I know. This book would have been on this list even if Dean Koontz wrote it—although it wouldn’t have been nearly as good! Plus, Paul Pope—nuff said! Last year’s Battling Boy was incredibly dope Pope stuff, some of his best to date. 2014’s prequel to Battling Boy contains all of the same elements, but this time in black & white. With kinetic action sequences and elegant, absorbing character-building through graceful and gripping narrative, The Rise of Aurora West is a perfect companion piece to the original work, one that truly enhances the already vivid world of Arcopolis. Prequels are always dangerous territory to tread in (think Star Wars or Psycho IV), but this is exactly how it should be done. I can’t wait for the next round.

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14. NEMO: THE ROSES OF BERLIN by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill (TOP SHELF)
NEMO
Anytime a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book comes out, it is guaranteed to be one of the best of the year. And this is no exception. However, critically, this was probably the least praised of the LOEG titles so far. Is this the weakest of the LOEG books because it has less pop lit references and more film references? Maybe, but it still love it. Also, as a student of film, I kinda dig the slight change. Moore clearly loves Janni Nemo passionately and it shows as we follow her continuing arc into Fritz Lang’s Rotwang-constructed version of Metropolis‘ Berlin, a city controlled by the tyrannical Charlie Chaplin Hitler stand-in Adenoid Hynkel. C’mon just read that last sentence back and tell me this isn’t a solid gold premise. Kevin O’Neill’s art on this one is a bit more frantic and messy, harkening back to his Marshal Law days a bit, but it works, fitting in with the frenetic pace of the story.

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13. SANDMAN: OVERTURE by Neil Gaiman & JH Williams III (DC/VERTIGO)
sandman overture #3
I literally jumped for joy when this title was announced a couple years back. This is another example of a prequel DONE RIGHT. Combine arguably the best comic book story of all time with one of the undeniable masters of the comic book art craft and you have a damn near perfect title on your hands. Slow down the pace of the title to releasing one issue every six months and you lose all of your momentum in a heartbeat. Such is the case with Sandman: Overture. Only two issues came out in 2014! It’s a testament to the greatness of Gaiman and Williams, though, that Sandman: Overture still ranks highly on my list anyway. Still in an interesting narrative set-up phase at the moment, I’ve no doubt that Sandman: Overture will explode and rise in the ranks in 2015.

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12. PROPHET by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, and various artists (IMAGE)
prophet sick
Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s twisted take on a dead Rob Liefeld vehicle from the 90s is consistently one of the most ambitious, complex, and out there concepts in all of comics today. The narrative and visual ideas that come out of this book in regard to future technology, cloning, space-travel, and much, much more are so high-end in their development that they really set the bar for sci-fi writing. This is world-building/universe-building ON ACID. And this is such a visceral book—you don’t just read it, you FEEL every gloopy bodily-fluid splatter, vomited-up alien Neonaught fetuses, and squishy inter-species copulation down to your core. The art is overwhelming, mirroring the the insane world in which the Prophets dwell. If any other creative team was attempting to pull off such a wild ride, they probably wouldn’t be able to. Three cheers for Graham, Roy, et al. Prophet is fucking solid.

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11. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman & P Craig Russell (HARPER COLLINS)
graveyard book
P Craig Russell’s latest Opus (yes, he actually calls each of his published works “Opuses”) is such a wonderful feast for the eyes. Russell is one of the all time greats in comic book history and we are all lucky that he worked on the illustrative adaptation of Gaiman’s best selling Hugo and Locus award winning novel. Gaiman once said of The Graveyard Book novel that he felt it was like Rudyard Kipling in a cemetery. Russell, having already done a version of The Jungle Book before, therefore seems like the right choice for drawing The Graveyard Book. As you can see, the novel was ripe for adaptation and Russell’s eye-popping bright colors and neat and expressive pencil style, which he has brought to the table for decades now, fits like a glove, capturing the mystery, spookiness, beauty, and childlike awe of the story. I’m really surprised this isn’t on more End of Year Lists. So good.

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10. aama Vol. 2 by Frédérik Peeters (SELF MADE HERO)
aama vol. 2
TOP TEN! TOP TEN! Welcome to the TOP TEN. One of my favorites from last year returns to start it off! Frédérik Peeters is IMO one of the very best writer/artists out there today. Sharp, stylistic, bold, and daring. These words describe the edgy sci-fi weirdness that he brings to the game every time you turn one of his pages. Simply said, aama rules. And the story continues in 2014, revealing answers to old mysteries while opening new ones all at once. The art is fantastic, evoking the strangeness of a space opera, while evoking a strong sense of melancholy, which befits the nature of the tale. I said it last year (in my Best of 2013) that America needs to catch on to Peeters. America still hasn’t really celebrated him, but Angoulême (France’s biggest comic book awards) gave aama its top prize, so at least Europe gets it. C’mon people! Can’t wait for the next volume.

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9. SAGA by Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples (IMAGE)
saga baga
I agree with the general consensus—I think Saga was better than ever in 2014. This series, which deservingly won three Eisners (for art, writing, and best continuing story) has gone from being planetary brilliant to universally brilliant to COSMICALLY BRILLIANT. Just when you think Saga has peaked, it just gets better. I love it all. Every character, every Vaughan-type swerve and shocking twist, new developments, relationships bending until they nearly break, bizarre sci-fi concepts whittled down to the mundane banal world of the daytime soap, Staples’ impeccable pencils and colors, sexy characters being genuinely sexy—these are reasons to read this title. I’d live and die and soar through outer space and land on a million planets with Alana, Marko, Hazel, Izabel, and the royal Robots until the end of time. Vaughan writes such a damn good relationship. The saga in Saga is really an intense love story, handled with realism and a delicate authorial touch. Saga is destined to be one of the all time best. In fifty years, we’ll look back at this as a seminal title and think of it as a real game-changer, a classic beyond compare.

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COMING UP NEXT… LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THE ELITE EIGHT. STAY TUNED FOR THE BEST PRINT COMICS OF 2014!

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Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 2 (#24-17)

Don’t forget to read my HONORABLE MENTIONS for print comics in 2014 before continuing.

In case you missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014.
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And hello once more! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics in 2014. We already tackled the honorable mentions, but now it’s time for the TOP 24 of 2014!!! Here are books 24 through 17 (with the countdown leading to my absolute favorite title of the year). Part 3 of my TOP 24 (books 16 through 9) will follow soon. Thanks, enjoy, and leave some comments!
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24. ALL-STAR WESTERN by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and various artists (DC)
jonah HEXXX
One of the things that makes DC so great is that it highlights its characters from different time periods. And the Wild Wild West of DC is one of my favorite places to visit (when handled well). Palmiotti and Gray have indeed handled it well. The New 52 reboot kept Batman and Green Lantern’s histories fairly intact, but most folks don’t realize that most of Jonah Hex’s history was spared as well! Palmiotti and Gray use a ton of references and nods to the classic Hex of yesteryear while forming a heartwarming, beautiful love story meets gritty, brutal Western. I don’t think I “shipped” harder for Jonah and Tallulah than any other couple in fiction this year. Palmiotti and Gray even brought Hex into the present for an arc—a usually disastrous move and something most writers would botch horribly—but it was amazing and fresh. Highly recommended.

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23. BATMAN AND… by Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, & John Kalisz (DC)
Batman AND AKWAMAN
What a stupendous year for this title, IMO the best Batman book of 2014. The revamped Two-Face origin is the best Two-Face origin BY FAR and quite possibly the best Batman arc of the year. “The Hunt for Robin” and the start of “Robin Rises” is also in the running. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when I think of the quintessential Batman artists of the New 52 it is Gleason all the way. Gray and Kalisz’s inks and colors knocked it out of the park. Simply stunning.

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22. HAWKEYE Vol. 4 by Matt Fraction, David Aja, & Matt Hollingsworth (MARVEL)
SIGN-ING
There is a reason this book has won so many damn awards and has become the most highly decorated superhero title on the market. Fraction and Aja have turned “Hawkguy” into a living, breathing Master Class in design. Each layout is more interesting, unique, and awe-inspiring than the last. Just when you think it can’t look or feel and better, they wow you. Case in point above. You ain’t gonna see superhero comics like this anywhere else. Also mad props to the inventive lettering of Chris Eliopoulos.

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21. WILD’S END by Dan Abnett & INJ Culbard (BOOM!)
wild's end
I love Abnett and Culbard. This is their finest work since New Deadwardians and it’s been just as strong so far. Staying in the familiar realm of Victorian British Fiction with a sci-fi/occult twist a la GK Chesterton or W Somerset Maugham, Abnett and Culbard dream up a vivid and charming adventure mystery chock-full of anthropomorphic animal characters. Can’t wait to see where this War of the Worlds homage winds up.

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20. Annihilator by Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving (LEGENDARY)
annihilator
Grant Morrison is always lauded with praise every year. But 2014 is the first year in a long time where there doesn’t seem to be an equal amount of both praise and befuddled detraction. The average comic book reader is really starting to get Morrison. And it’s about damn time. Now, that being said, Annihilator isn’t necessarily an easy piece to digest or process with its layered meta narrative, multiple story-arcs, and running commentary on all things from sci-fi to the occult to Hollywood. However, Annihilator seems like Morrison’s most focused creator-owned work in over a decade. He’s found his stride with old concepts and made them refreshingly new again. And Frazer Irving, like Frank Quietly and Cameron Stewart before, has really become a “Morrison Guy.” This is an incredible thing. The stylized pencils we’ve come to expect, layouts, colors, spreads, marvelous epic backgrounds, you name it—Irving is dynamite on this title and it’s just as much his baby as Morrison’s.

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19. The Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, Rachelle Rosenberg (MARVEL)
superior foes
Let me preface this with a bit of blasphemy. I’m not a Spider-Man fan. Not since I was a little kid. Just never saw the appeal compared to a ton of other characters. But I try, try, try my best to read as much of everything as I can. And I won’t lie, Spider-Man had a pretty killer year. From the ending of Superior Spider-Man to charming varied heroes emerging from the expansive Spider-Verse (I’m looking at you Spider-Gwen), I read some pretty decent stuff. But the best and most refreshing of it all was the ongoing Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Everybody knows I love a good villain book and everybody knows that I love a book that captures 80s Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League humor. Superior Foes has the best of both worlds. I don’t know jack about some of the characters featured in this book, but I’m obsessed with them now and I’ll be damned if I don’t love the Marvel Universe much more now than before I started reading. Spencer and Leiber inject real LIFE and PERSONALITY into their characters in a way that most creators can only dream of. Swoon.

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18. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki (FIRST SECOND)
awago beach bumz
The Tamaki cousins have risen to prominence in 2014, becoming one of the most exciting creative duos on the comix scene. This One Summer is the first collaboration between the Tamakis since 2008’s Skim and it’s been way too long since we’ve seen their combined brilliance. The Shigeru Mizuki-esque art is gorgeous and clean. And the story instantly sweeps you away to the moody and complicated shores of Awago Beach. Coming in at just under 300 pages, this is a dense book, but it flows and captivates you so much that the pages seem to turn themselves. A touching and eye-opening coming-of-age tale that has a level of taste and sophistication (both visually and narratively) far beyond other similar comics or most YA fare dealing with similar subject matter.

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17. Zero by Ales Kot & various artists (IMAGE)
zero zero zero!!!
Ales Kot’s first ever creator-owned series garnered a lot of acclaim last year. This year, reviews have been a bit more mixed, but I think Zero really came into its own. The story itself, a non-linear tale about the life of a futuristic spy, is totally dope, but the thing that really hooks me about Zero is its rotating roster of artists. Every single issue has a brand new artist with a new take—and it’s always fresh and exciting. Not only that, Kot writes and directs his co-creators in such a way that every issue of Zero is a masterpiece of PURE VISUAL STORYTELLING. Zero is like Hitchcock illustrated. Sparse text, less exposition, more beautiful layouts and panels that tell the story through the images themselves. THAT is GOOD COMICS! I also love when writers pause within their story to speak about something important—the issue about rape victims during the Bosnian War was a gut-wrenching feminist scream. Whether or not Zero is your style, it definitely deserves your respect and attention.

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COMING SOON… the CHRONOLOGY blog’s “BEST PRINT COMICS of 2014 – Part 3,” which will feature my next batch of favorite books (#16 through #9).

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Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 1 (Honorable Mentions)

In case you missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014.
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And hello again! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics in 2014. First, we’ll start off with the honorable mentions. These books were awesome, but didn’t quite have what it took to make the main list. The honorable mentions are in alphabetical order below. (I’m not including write-ups since these are only my honorable mentions. If you’d like to chat about ‘em or know more details about my thought process while compiling this list, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment! I WILL be doing write-ups for my Top 24 or 2014, which will be posted soon.)
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Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman & Ty Templeton (CHARLESBRIDGE)
bill the boy
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Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast (BLOOMSBURY USA)
roz
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Daredevil Vol. 4 by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, and various creators (MARVEL)
ddv4
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Dark Horse Presents Vol. 3 by various creators (DARK HORSE)
dork IN
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The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser (IMAGE)
fader

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Hoax: Psychosis Blues by Ravi Thornton & various artists (ZIGGY’S WISH)
hoax

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Lazarus by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Brian Level, & Santi Arcas (IMAGE)
laz

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Miss Hennipin by Andy Douglas Day (SONATINA)
henni

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The New 52: Futures End by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, and various artists (DC)
52

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ODY-C by Matt Fraction, Christian Ward, & Dee Cunniffe (IMAGE)
ody-c

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Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs (KOYAMA)
safari

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Sex by Joe Casey, Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson, & other creators (IMAGE)
sexy sex

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Subcultures: A Comics Anthology by Whit Taylor and various creators (NINTH ART)
sub cult
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The Superannuated Man by Ted McKeever (IMAGE)
mckeever
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Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (MARGARET K McELDERRY)
thru da woodz
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Transformers vs. G.I. Joe by Tom Scioli/John Barber (IDW)
gi joe

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Young Avengers Vol. 2 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, & various artists (MARVEL)
YA v2

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COMING SOON… THE TOP 24 PRINT COMICS OF 2014!!! (With blurbs!)

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Best Archival, Reprinted, or Collected Comics of 2014

In case you missed it, here are my Top 14 Webcomics of 2014.

 

And without further adieu, here are my favorite reprinted/archive edition/collected print items that came out in 2014 (listed before you in alphabetical order). I’m not doing write-ups for them as I think these amazing titles basically speak for themselves. Lots of tremendously wonderful stuff was released this year.

 

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75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen by Roy Thomas/Josh Baker (TASCHEN / MARVEL)
75 yrs marvel

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Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (DC COMICS)
batmanga

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The Borgias by Alejandro Jodorowsky/Milo Manara (DARK HORSE)
borgias

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The Bungle Family 1930: Library of American Comics Essentials Vol. 5 by Harry J. Tuthill (IDW)
mr bungle

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Frankenstein Vol. 4: Roy Thomas Presents by Dick Briefer (PS ARTBOOKS)frankie

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JIM by Jim Woodring (FANTAGRAPHICS)JIM

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The Planetary Omnibus by Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, and other artists (DC)
planetary omni

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Miracleman by Alan “The Original Writer” Moore, Gary Leach, Alan Davis, and other creators (MARVEL)
miracle monkey

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Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition by Tove Jansson (DRAWN & QUARTERLY)
moominish

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Pogo Vol. 3: Evidence to the Contrary by Walt Kelly (FANTAGRAPHICS)
pogo bogo

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Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki (DRAWN & QUARTERLY)
showa 1

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Showa 1944-1953: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki (DRAWN & QUARTERLY)
showa 2

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Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library (FANTAGRAPHICS)
scroooooged

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Winsor McCay: The Complete Little Nemo 1905-1927 by Alexander Braun (TASCHEN)
windy mccool

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Zenith: Phase 1-2 by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell (2000 AD)
Zenith

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And don’t forget my TOP LIST of print comics for 2014 is COMING SOON!

xoxo

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Best Webcomics of 2014

I present to you, dear reader, my favorite webcomics of 2014. And posted before year’s end (for once)!

First, the honorable mentions.

The Sorensen Monologues by Jen Sorensen
Gunshow by KC Green
Kingdoms Lost by Boulet
Existential Comics
Subnormality by Winston Rowntree
Hey Pais by Sarah Bauer
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
Garfield Minus Garfield by Jim Davis/Dan Walsh
This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow
Batgirl/Supergirl by Mike Maihack
All Along the Wall by Emily Carroll
The Hole the Fox Did Make by Emily Carroll
Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran

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And the top 14 of 2014.

14. Priya’s Shakti by Ram Devineni/Vikas K. Menon/Dan Goldman
shakti
Some webcomics are worth more simply because of the message the contain and the importance of the message that is being delivered. Priya’s Shakti is a call for sanity regarding the abuse of women, especially in India. Gender-based violence is so commonplace it is considered practically natural in some parts of India. This comic not only interactively manifests itself as a breathing form of activism, but does so nicely with Goldman’s trippy photo-meets-illustration art and Devineni and Menon’s effective narrative as well. The literal intervention of the gods in the story gives us a reason to believe that change doesn’t require a deus ex machina, only an liberal dose of humanity instead.
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13. Axe Cop by Charlotte O’Brien/Amelia O’Brien/Tom Martin
axe cop
Ya’ll know Axe Cop, right? Well if you don’t then shame on you! Axe Cop is an online strip that started in 2009 by 5-year-old Malachai Nicolle and his brother 29-year-old Ethan Nicolle. Malachai used the wild untamed imagination of his little kid brain to draft the most insanely amazing surrealist tales, which his illustrator brother Ethan turned into a fantastic action-packed comic. (The strip was collected into print comics and eventually turned into an animated TV show on Fox starring Nick Offerman.) But recently, the Nicolles turned the reigns over to 9-year-old Charlotte and her sister 5-year-old Amelia, with art duties transferring to their 37-year-old uncle Tom. The results were delightful. Axe Cop has always spoken to me, especially since I’ve done a similar concept in my Comic Book Workshops that I hold for kids in Brooklyn, NY. Hey writers out there, if you are ever suffering from a creative block, ask a kid for story advice!

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12. Blimpakind by Talya Modlin
blimpakind
Beautiful napkin-sketchy artwork combined with an intriguing and captivating ongoing narrative make Modlin’s strip one of my faves. The pretty, purposefully cluttered layouts and use of primary colors are winning eye-poppers (and brain-poppers). Super piece of work that is a definite must read.
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11. The Key by Grant Morrison/Rian Hughes
the key
Master writer Grant Morrison and master designer Rian Hughes didn’t just combine to make the amazing Multiversity Map for DC Comics this year, they combined to make a short scroll-down webcomic for BBC News’ Freedom 2014 as well. With no words, the comic is simple yet effective, reflecting the current patriarchal/capitalist/corporate society in which we live, through the lens of an elegant sci-fi tale about a totalitarian quasi-future a la Repent Harlequin Said the Ticktockman. Sometimes the best stories don’t require any text. This is an example of visual storytelling at its finest.
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10. As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
as the crow flies
A teenage queer coming of age story set in the unassumingly scary backdrop of a Christian summer camp. What’s not to love? Gillman’s art is cute but serious all at once, an achievement only heightened by the fact that the whole strip is done entirely with colored pencils. This is the kind of heart-filled sex-political comic that should be educating our high-schoolers instead of what passes for “sex ed” in school these days.
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9. Demon by Jason Shiga
shiga demon
Demon is a definite page turner (or page clicker, I guess I should say). Shiga starts with his main character committing suicide over and over (akin to the best scene in Groundhog Day) for the first forty plus pages before getting to the meat-and-potatoes concept of a fugitive demon that can hop from body to body. Shiga’s simple cartoon style (done only in shades of red and black) mixed with gratuitous and graphic violence only add to the striking nature of his narrative.
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8. Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling
tom the dancing bug's richard scarry
A slight Michael Kupperman vibe gives this funny satire comic enough dadaist edge to make it one of the best of the year. Tom the Dancing Bug has been around since 1990, but now that the popular strip has firmly made its digital mark, Bolling is still as culturally and politically relevant as he ever was. Having already garnered numerous awards in the past, it wouldn’t surprise me if Tom the Dancing Bug continued its winning ways based upon recent offerings. Bolling was bitingly on-point in 2014.
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7. Flowertown, U.S.A. by Rick Altergott
flowertown
Like Bolling, Rick Altergott has been making great comics for a really long time. Having long ago conquered the hearts, farts, and minds of print comics, Altergott has continued to make funny (and make weird) online. The latest version of Flowertown, U.S.A., given mainstream delivery via VICE.com, was an R Crumb/Peter Bagge-esque romp that showcased Altergott’s signature comix-style art and crass cultural commentary. Destined to be a comedy classic.

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6. Trigger Warning: Breakfast by anonymous
breakfast
One of the best things to happen this year was the introduction of The Nib at Medium.com, an amazing host for indie webcomics of every kind. I didn’t get to read as many comics on there as I wanted to, but I did read Trigger Warning and it blew me away. Nothing so simple and succinct and blunt (in recent memory) expresses rape culture quite like this comic. Rape culture surrounds us. It is everywhere, not just in the form of back alleyway assaults and acid attacks in India. It permeates every facet of our daily lives here in America and much of society doesn’t even realize it—either via ignorance or because society is a masking-construct that normalizes date rape, fraternity mentality, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, sexism, misogyny, etc… Our patriarchal nightmare has also turned “no means no” into a game of lose-lose semantics. And the author of this work portrays all of those ideas and more in quick, devastating fashion. This is a must read for all. Powerful stuff. The first step in changing the world is prying open the world’s eyes.
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5. Comics, Everybody by Eugene Ahn/Chris Haley/Jordan Gibson/Jessica Marrs
p9-colors
For years, ComicsAlliance.com has been sporadically publishing Comics, Everybody, a spin-off of Chris “Adam WarRock” Ahn’s Let’s Be Friends Again. And for years, folks have enjoyed how Ahn and company neatly spell out the convoluted and confusing continuity histories of our favorite superheroes. However, no one has ever really given enough praise to Ahn, Haley, Gibson, and Marrs for just how great this comic really is! Informative and hilarious, I get excited whenever a new one pops up in my blogroll. (They only did five comics this year and I wish they did more.) For fans of superhero lore and fans of good humor, Comics, Everybody really is for everybody. And everybody should read it.

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4. Blobby Boys by Alex Schubert
blobby boys!
Blobby Boys rules. This comic is beyond dope and I love it. Schubert’s fucked-up, cracked-out nods to Nickelodeon, Adventure Time, Snoopy, Wayne Coyne, Etsy, and hipsterdom make this one of the most hilarious of the year. A Koyama Press indie strip turned mega huge via VICE.com, Through the bizarre and often dadaist misadventures of its main characters, Blobby Boys gives us something that is so cutting edge and relevant that it seems to be coming to us from the future (of pop culture).

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3. Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters by Patrick Dean
hp lovecraft
Noticing a trend? If it ain’t political, satirical, or non-sequitur weird, it’s something that forms mini-synopses of something else. And such is the case with Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters, which takes HP Lovecraft stories and adapts them into comics, albeit with a funny or silly point of view. A true genius concept (wish I’d thought of it!) that never fails to satisfy. Imagine the scariest Lovecraft tale, the one that sends shivers down your spine to the tips of your toes and through the ground into the mad dark chaos of the Old Ones. Now imagine that mind-altering ground-breaking story as part of a simple six-panel funny-cartoon. Solid gold.

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2. Super-Enigmatix by Richard Sala
sala
Richard Sala has a fabulous bibliography dating back to the early 1990s. If you aren’t familiar with his work, please treat yourself and check it out. This year, Sala created Super-Enigmatix, a narrative webcomic about a dastardly but charismatic super-villain in the vein of Fantomas or Diabolik. (This webcomic has been collected as In A Glass Grotesquely.) Sala’s signature art flair shines through here down to the last detail, including the elegant lettering. And the story is riveting to boot. This story is something straight out of Alan Moore’s Black Dossier—Super-Enigmatix could easily have been dueling with the Les Hommes Mystérieux in the background of that book. I won’t spoil the story, but suffice to say, if you are into beautiful illustration, pulpy detective tales, throwback anti-heroism, and classic masked super-villainy, this is a gem made just for you.

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1. Failing Sky by Dax Tran-Caffee
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I can’t even do this comic justice by showing mere images. There simply has never been anything like this before. Peter Knapp calls it the “Sleep No More of the Internet.” I concur. The sheer innovative format of this comic alone makes it not only worthy of the accolades it has received already this year (see list of Eisner Award nominees) but also makes it a joy to navigate. This comic was made for the web (and made with the web in mind). Scrolling up, down, left, right, and in zigzags to get the full scope of the images and story, you couldn’t ever really do this with print. Even the images I’ve chosen to show above are merely parts of a greater whole, taking up the space of multiple screens, that have to be scanned and panned with your track-pad or mouse to see in full. And the “node” structure of the tale puts the concept of non-linear to shame. Chapters in Failing Sky can be read in a myriad of different ways and orders—and that’s half the fun. Tran-Caffee’s gorgeous art is something to rave about as well. His perfect white charcoal-looking inks and pencils only add to the mesmeric vision of ghosts, robots, lovelorn sailors, and genderqueer detective-heroes. The story is beautiful too! I’ve decided to separate my Webcomic Top List from my Print Top List this year, but if I hadn’t Failing Sky damn well might have been number one anyway. It really doesn’t get any better than this in 2014.

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That being said, please stay tuned for my Top List of PRINT COMICS, coming soon!

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Continuity Errors of the New Age Revisited and Rethought

It’s not often that I address previous blog posts by posting anew, but this, I feel, warrants such a response. My previous posts cataloging all the supposed errors of the New 52 were filled with lots of vitriol aimed at writers using topical references (X-mas, New Year’s, etc…) that seemed to contradict specific time references (“last year,” “last month,” etc…). Since the reboot, I’ve often been perplexed by these contradictions and have been forced to “pick a side” so to speak, leaning toward accepting the latter (specific time references) as canon and relegating the former (topical references) as bunk. This not only dramatically influenced my list of errors, but made me think that DC’s entire narrative line was still stuck in 2013. However, with the recent publication of Detective Comics #37 DC seems to be saying that we are operating—at least for the moment—in relative real time. Detective Comics #37 celebrates the end of 2014. Harvey Bullock and Maggie Yip celebrate Christmas 2014 and welcome 2015—just like us here on Earth Prime!

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‘tec v.2 #37: It’s been one hell of a year.

Of course, if this is true (and it sure seems like it is), then my previous two posts have a lot of fixing required. Most of the topical references (not all of them) actually are okay now. My apologies to the holly jolly holidays! Plus, the timeline of the New 52 shouldn’t be as compressed as I’ve made it out to be.* Therefore, I will be redoing the list of errors soon. I will also be redoing a large section of the chronology as well. This is a big task, but such is my life. The good news is that I think there will be less errors. The bad news is that the errors that do remain (or pop up) will probably be more glaring than before. For example, Batman Eternal has a ton of specific references to “five years ago” and “a few months ago” that definitely will no longer work. Batman Eternal is a mess no matter how you spin it. Not only has it been poorly constructed and the worst weekly since Countdown, it will now also become an even worse continuity nightmare, pin-pricked to death with post-it-note caveats. Keep on the look out for an update. Until then, see you next time!

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Dark Horse Presents #4 by Evan Dorkin. This is how I feel lately.

 

 

 

*There are a few variations of the New 52 timeline, most of which are totally incorrect. The main two, however, are more workable. The first is a tightly compressed timeline that squeezes “Death of the Family,” Batman Inc, Forever Evil, “Hunt for Robin”/”Robin Rises,” Superman: Doomed, and Batman Eternal #1-40 ALL in Year Six. Seriously, if you read all of these issues they basically all refer to “Death of the Family” as happening months ago, essentially starting off the crazy year. The second is a timeline that goes in relative real time, thus linking us up to December 2014 and giving us more room to breathe. This second timeline is clearly better, no? The problem is that the second timeline is necessary to get us where we are now, yet most editors and writers at DC have tried their best to make it seem like mere months have passed when a year or more have passed. An easy solution would be to just slide years back and keep everything nice and tight, right? The problem with doing that is that Batman’s entire history has to be believably sandwiched-in. This includes four Robins and a Batgirl, among many other things. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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A Hypercriticism: Continuity Errors of the New Age (Part 2)

Don’t forget, this list contains errors that are related directly to Batman comics, not the entire New 52 line. Some of these get a bit nitpicky down the list, but hey, if you get specific with dates and times in your comics, odds are those specific things are going to bite you in the ass later. And I’m sure Jonni DC would argue that an error is an error no matter how big or small!

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26. In Batman & Robin Vol. 2 #2 (Writer Peter Tomasi, Editors Eddie Berganza, Katie Kubert, Harvey Richards, Mike Marts), Dick is said to have been Batman for nearly a full year. However, in order to be able to fit all of the Robins into the shortened and compressed New 52 timeline, the very longest Dick could have been Batman is only a mere NINE MONTHS!

27. Nightwing Vol. 3 #1 (Writer Kyle Higgins, Editors Katie Kubert, Bobbie Chase) also insinuates that Dick was Batman for nearly a full year. These early references to the “nearly a year” surely were the initial intention of DC editors immediately following the reboot, but as things developed over the course of 2011-2014, things clearly made it so that would prove to be impossible.

28. Batgirl Vol. 4 #1-9 and continued issues (Writer Gail Simone, Editors Eddie Berganza, Katie Kubert, Bobbie Chase), tell us that Babs’ full recovery from paralysis occurs almost exactly three years after becoming paralyzed. This is wrong. In order to jibe with the length of Robin “internships” and the shortened and compressed New 52 timeline, the longest Babs could have been out of action is ONE YEAR and SEVEN MONTHS. This also has to be true because Babs must debut before her other various appearances that occur throughout this year. The overall contributor to this major problem is that Simone delivers specific information seemingly without regard to the fact that other writers use Batgirl (chronologically) before she does. When Simone says “three years of paralysis, 3 years ago” in Batgirl #1, she is writing from December 2012, which is exactly “2 YEARS of paralysis, 2 YEARS AGO.” Either Simone messed-up and said “3 years” instead of “2 years” OR she messed-up by not realizing that other writers would insert Batgirl into continuity prior to her use of the character.

29. Batgirl Vol. 4 #1-7 (Writer Gail Simone, Editors Eddie Berganza, Katie Kubert, Bobbie Chase) also places Babs’ recovery and return to costume not long before a Christmas holiday. However, the Christmas setting cannot be reconciled on any correct New 52 timeline. We cannot place Batgirl #4-6 around X-Mas 2012 as it was intended by Simone et al (because that would be too late, ignoring Batgirl’s various other appearances), NOR can we even place these Batgirl issues around X-Mas 2011 either (because these issues make references to Bruce’s gentrification project, which would be premature since Bruce’s gentrification project isn’t introduced until 2012). Therefore, there is no way the first six or seven issues of Batgirl can actually happen before or near ANY X-Mas time at all.

30. Batgirl Vol. 4 #28 (Writer Gail Simone, Editors Bobbie Chase, Katie Kubert, Mike Marts) states outright that Batgirl #1 through Batgirl #28 comprises a mere “few month” time period. This is INSANE. I’ve read the stories and done the chronological math. From Batgirl #1 through Batgirl #28, at least a FULL YEAR (minimum twelve months) pass. We’ve already been forced to ignore the bogus Christmas setting, but imagine for a second if we do regard the holidays as a canonical backdrop (as Simone and company intended). That would mean definitively that Batgirl #1 through Batgirl #28, by Simone’s OWN INTERNAL LOGIC, should span even much longer than a full calendar year, possibly even TWO YEARS! “A few months?” No way, Jose.

31. Detective Comics Vol. 2 #1 (Writer Tony Daniel, Editors Eddie Berganza, Katie Kubert, Janelle Asselin, Mike Marts), which happens in early 2012, tells us that Joker has been responsible for various murders over the course of SIX YEARS. Of course, this should read “five years” instead of “six” since Joker doesn’t debut until 2007. UPDATE: This item is not an error. Detective Comics #1‘s “six year” reference includes Joker’s time masquerading as the Red Hood for a year prior to becoming the Clown Prince of Crime.

32. In Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2 #2 (Writers Paul Jenkins, David Finch, Editors Eddie Berganza, Rickey Purdin, Mike Marts) Alfred makes reference to Game 5 of the World Series, but it isn’t that time of year.

33. Hawk & Dove Vol. 3 #6 (Writer Rob Liefeld, Editors Eddie Berganza, Rickey Purdin, Rachel Gluckstern) takes place in 2012 and features the brutish hulking Blockbuster. However, Blockbuster’s New 52 origin/debut seemingly occurs in 2013—in The Savage Hawkman #19-20, which happens shortly after Justice League of America Vol. #5. (Simon Baz isn’t formally introduced to the JLA lineup until JLofA Vol. 3 #5, yet in The Savage Hawkman #20, Baz is already with the team and has been introduced to everyone).

34. The second feature from Detective Comics Vol. 2 #12 (Writer James Tynion, Editors Bobbie Chase, Katie Kubert, Harvey Richards, Mike Marts) has the GCPD incorrectly state Joker’s kill-count, putting it at over 300 as of late 2012. Detective Comics #1-4 listed his kill count at 114 only one year prior.

35. Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2 #10-15 (Writer Gregg Hurwitz, Editors Eddie Berganza, Bobbie Chase, Rickey Purdin, Mike Marts) is a Christmas/New Year’s tale that runs roughly from December 22-31. However, like most holiday themed tales in the New 52, these issues contradict other stories to such a degree that we unfortunately have to completely ignore their holiday-ness. Such is the case with this arc because Dark Knight #10-15 has to take place before the following “Death of the Family” and connected Batman Incorporated Vol. 2, both of which occur at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013 in order for things down the line to make sense.

36. Red Hood & The Outlaws #26 (Writer James Tynion, Editors Bobbie Chase, Rickey Purdin, Eddie Berganza) incorrectly tells us that Jason’s resurrection and start of his training happened “one year ago.” Since RH&TO #26‘s in-story narrative occurs in 2013, that means “one year ago” has to be 2012. However, this not only leaves us zero time to fit in Jason’s All Caste/League of Assassins post-resurrection trainings, but it also directly contradicts Red Hood & The Outlaws #2 (written by Scott Lobdell), which tells us that when Jason gets resurrected as a mindless zombie, his Lazarus bath quickly follows, which is in turn quickly followed by the start of his trainings. Red Hood & The Outlaws #2 also tells us that Jason was resurrected and started his training “a year-and-a-half ago.” Since RH&TO #2‘s in-story narrative occurs in 2012, that makes “a year-and-a-half-ago” to be (correctly) in 2010—giving us plenty of time to fit in the training sessions.

37. Red Hood & The Outlaws #17 (Writer Scott Lobdell, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darrin Shan, Eddie Berganza) shows Jason reflecting upon his recent time as the Wingman of Batman Incorporated, mentioning Damian’s time as Redbird from Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #3-4. However, this is a massively huge continuity error that forces the reader to assume not only that Damian dresses in the Redbird costume before Batman Inc #3 (since it runs continuously until Damian’s death in issue #8), but also that that is what Jason is referring to. In any scenario, there is no way Jason can be referencing Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #4 (as the editor’s note specifically implies) since it takes place after this issue!

38. In a flashback from Detective Comics Vol. 2 #14 (Writer John Layman, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mike Marts, Harvey Richards, Katie Kubert), Damian specifically says something about Joker’s “recent attack on the GCPD.” The attack he mentions, of course, is definitely more than just “recent.” It was the previous night.

39. Detective Comics Vol. 2 #18 (Writer John Layman, Editors Bobbie Chase, Katie Kubert, Mike Marts), a post-Damian death “Requiem” issue, has to go later than most of the other “Requiem” issues because the Bat-Family clearly isn’t illegal/outlawed in it. Unfortunately, ‘tec #18 is paradoxically otherwise written as if it goes right with the other “Requiem” issues.

40. All post-Damian death “Requiem” issues (Executive Editor Bobbie Chase) occur during a gap in Batman Incorporated Vol. 2. Note that Batman has a beat-up hamburger face from fighting, but Batman is not drawn with those injuries in any “Requiem” issues. Artists, not at fault, were probably not told to draw Bruce that way by editorial. Bruce does use makeup to mask his injuries (as we see him do in Batman Inc #9, Part 2), which might give an excuse for this flub, but I’m not quite buying that.

41. Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #1 (Writer Grant Morrison, Artist Chris Burnham, Editors Eddie Berganza, Rickey Purdin, Brian Smith, Mike Marts) shows the flash-forward to after Damian’s death, but fails to show Bruce’s facial injuries that will be present when the scene repeats later on. It is possible that Morrison and Burnham opted to do this purposefully in order to hide the future results of their story, but this seems unlikely.

42. The Bane section of Detective Comics Vol. 2 #19 (Writer James Tynion, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mike Marts, Katie Kubert) has a glaring continuity error. Via flashback, ‘tec #19 shows that Bane was en route to attack Gotham, but a bunch of Talons stopped him claiming that “a night of owls is about to descend.” The same flashback continues, showing Bane later fighting Batman in Dark Knight #7. This ostensibly tells us that the “Night of Owls” (including the tie-in issue of Dark Knight #9) occurs before Bane’s last fight with Batman in Dark Knight #7. This is impossible since issue #9 cannot happen before issue #7.

43. Detective Comics Vol. 2 #21 (Writer John Layman, Editors Bobbie Chase, Katie Kubert, Mike Marts) is said to take place “one week after Batman Vol. 2 #18” and “two days before the death of Natalya in Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2 #20.” Two days prior to Natalya’s death seems right on the money, but “one week” after Batman #18 should be amended closer to “two weeks” in order to accommodate other stories.

44. Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2 #21, Epilogue (Writer Gregg Hurwitz, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mike Marts, Darren Shan) tells us that Bruce decides to hang up the Batman boots for a full month after Natalya dies. There’s no way the compressed New 52 timeline will allow for that and still work with every thing else. Batman can be out-of-action for three weeks tops.

45. A flashback from Batwing #20 (Writers Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Mike Marts, Rachel Gluckstern) supposedly occurs around one month prior to Batwing #20, but in order to accommodate other stories featuring Batman, it has to be more like three weeks.

46. The main action of Detective Comics Vol. 2 Annual #2, Part 1 (Writers John Layman, Joshua Williamson, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mike Marts, Katie Kubert) supposedly takes place one week after Jane Doe’s appearance in the flashback from the very same issue. However, in order to accommodate other stories, the most time that could have passed since then is a mere few days.

47. In Superman Unchained #2 (Artist Jim Lee, Editors Bobbie Chase, Matt Idelson, Chris Conroy) Lex Luthor is incorrectly drawn without his pre-Forever Evil scarred-face look.

49. Batwing #24 (Writers Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Mike Marts, Rachel Gluckstern) shows a cell phone that gives us the dates October 5-7, but it should correctly be May in order to jibe with the other stories in the Bat line.

50. Catwoman Vol. 4 #18 (Writer Ann Nocenti, Editors Bobbie Chase, Rickey Purdin, Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern, Mike Marts) is a “Requiem” issue written as if it is occurs immediately after “Death of the Family.” This issue takes place both a few days before Batman and… #22 (“Batman & Catwoman”) and right before the debut of the JLA, which therefore actually places it around five-and-a-half months after “Death of the Family.”

51. Batman/Superman Annual #1 (Writer Greg Pak, Editors Bobbie Chase, Rickey Purdin, Eddie Berganza) incorrectly mentions the death of Superboy, which if true, would have made it officially post-Forever Evil, during which Kon-El dies and becomes briefly reincarnated as the cosmic Herald of Oracle (in the Forever Evil Teen Titans tie-ins). However, Batman/Superman Annual #1 acts as a direct follow-up to the previous Batman/Superman #7 AND goes before the equally problematic Superman/Wonder Woman #3-7 arc that features Warworld in the Phantom Zone (where Warworld winds up in this very issue). So, the premature reference to Superboy’s death is WRONG!

52. Superman/Wonder Woman #3-5 (Writer Charles Soule, Editors Bobbie Chase, Eddie Berganza, Rickey Purdin) uses an incorrect topical reference—stores are dressed for Christmas and Wonder Woman gives Superman an “early” X-mas present. Unfortunately, in order for other stories to fit in 2013, these issues can be set in early July at the latest.

53. Superman/Wonder Woman #3 (Writer Charles Soule, Editors Bobbie Chase, Eddie Berganza, Rickey Purdin) contains an editor’s note that supposedly places it “before the Justice League learns of the ARGUS Counter Strike Team.” Since “the ARGUS Counter Strike Team” simply means “the Justice League of America before its public debut,” we must ignore this note. The JLA has already publicly debuted at this point.

54. In the “Trinity War” prelude issue of Justice League Vol. 2 #19 (Writer Geoff Johns, Editors Bobbie Chase, Kate Durré, Brian Cunningham), Batman surprises the Superman and Wonder Woman by revealing that he knows about their developing sexual relationship. Because of the internal narrative of Superman/Wonder Woman #3-5, “Trinity War” must happen after Superman/Wonder Woman #1-7 (not including the Superman: Doomed prelude that forms the second half of issue #7), during which the entire world learns about Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship. There would be NO surprising the Big Two with anything. This is a HUGE error.

55. Nightwing Vol. 3 #29 (Writer Kyle Higgins, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern, Mike Marts) occurs right before Forever Evil. Dick’s cell phone says November 9, but it must actually be in EARLY JULY.

56. There is a flashback splash page in Justice League of America Vol. 3 #14 (Writer Matt Kindt, Editors Bobbie Chase, Rickey Purdin, Eddie Berganza) that depicts an image that never happened during Forever Evil. It shows a ton of heroes and villains engaged in battle, but it is riddled with continuity impossibilities. This scene could represent the horrible digital world that ensnared Stargirl and the rest of the heroes stuck inside Firestorm’s matrix during the crisis. But that is a bit of a stretch. We could also regard it as Stargirl’s imagination of what Forever Evil must have looked like based upon Steve Trevor’s estimated version of events, but that would also be a stretch as well.

57. Detective Comics Vol. 2 Annual #3 (Writer Brian Buccellato, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mark Doyle, Rachel Gluckstern, Matt Humphreys) tells us that the date is supposedly October 9-10, which is totally incorrect. In order for other items to fit neatly later on, we must be in summertime, specifically around mid July.

58. Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2 #26-27 (Writer Gregg Hurwitz, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mike Marts, Darren Shan) has an incorrect Christmastime setting. I’ve moved it back two years so that it can keep that setting—(this was possible because the story is very one-shotty and can literally go just about anywhere). However, this use of topical reference counts as an error because it was likely not the author/editor’s intention to have these issue occur years prior.

59. Batman Eternal #14-20 (Writers James Tynion, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Tim Seeley, Kyle Higgins, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mark Doyle, Katie Kubert, Matt Humphreys, Chris Conroy, Dave Wielgosz) has a side-arc involving Jim Corrigan and Batwing investigating Arkham, which simply IS NOT AT PACE with the rest of the Eternal arcs. They enter Arkham in Batman Eternal #6. Four days pass until we see them again in Batman Eternal #14. By Batman Eternal #18, a storyline three days later, the duo is still trapped underneath Arkham and Batman still hasn’t followed-up on or assisted with their investigation despite having ventured to the Underground with Bard and Croc himself! Even now, having gotten to issue #29 of the weekly series, the whole Corrigan/Batwing arc seems to have gotten lost in the messy shuffle. This pacing is so shitty it reeks of continuity error.

60. In Batman Eternal #21 (Writers James Tynion, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Tim Seeley, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mark Doyle, Matt Humphreys), Harvey Bullock inexplicably says that Jim Gordon and Jack Forbes both went to jail within a span of “some months,” which makes absolutely no sense and cannot be reconciled in any way given that the whole of Batman Eternal‘s in-story narrative has only occurred in one single month and has only taken up just over three weeks at the point where Bullock says this line.

61. Also in Batman Eternal #21 (Writers James Tynion, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Tim Seeley, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mark Doyle, Matt Humphreys), Batman says that his associates have “just found” Falcone’s knife, a scene that actually occurred two weeks prior (in Batman Eternal #20) based upon information given in this very same issue #21.

62. In Forever Evil #1 (Writer Geoff Johns, Artist David Finch, Editors Bobbie Chase, Brian Cunningham, Kate Durré), Glider is shown among the mass of super-villains that attend the large Crime Syndicate meeting. Glider could not possibly have attended due to happenings in other comics. Other sites have noted that Clayface (who is also shown) could not have attended either (as per events that unfold in Clayface #1). This is true about Clayface Basil Karlo, but the Clayface shown in the gathering scene is not Basil Karlo—this is Clayface II, the “Clayface of Japan!” Glider, however, must still be an error.

63. The timing of Batgirl Vol. 4 #24-33 (Writer Gail Simone, Editors Bobbie Chase, Mike Marts, Katie Kubert, Mark Doyle, Matt Humphreys) is way way off and cannot be reconciled. This is linked to previous Batgirl errors on our list, but merits its own notation. Here’s what’s up. Batgirl #33 specifically takes place after James Junior meets with dad in Blackgate in Batman Eternal #13. However, Batgirl #33 takes place right after Batgirl #32. The problem here is that Simone and her editors tell us that the linked Batgirl #32-33 occurs roughly TEN DAYS after Batgirl #24, in which Jim Gordon shoots Ricky Gutierrez. This is nuts. Batgirl #24 is a part of the “Wanted Arc” that is linked to Batgirl #23, which occurs at the latest way back months prior. Specifically, this means Batgirl #32-33 must be at minimum AROUND THREE-AND-A-HALF MONTHS after Ricky gets shot. Definitely NOT ten days.

 

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So, who are the overall worst offenders in regard to continuity in the New 52 (Batman line only)? Again, DiDio, Lee, and Harras bear the burden of every listed number based upon their positions with the company. But it’s Bobbie Chase, Mike Marts, Eddie Berganza, and Katie Kubert that seem to have had the most problems. Bear in mind this is not necessarily indicative of poor editing. Some of these things are minor gaffes barely worth mentioning—but others are big big ones that probably should have and could have been prevented. Who is to say if these teams are doing the best job they can do when dealing with such a large amount of published material week to week? Chase et al basically executive edited the past three years of the entire Bat-line. That’s no easy task. Could Chase and company have done better? Maybe they could have done a lot worse!

In regard to writers that have committed the most authorial no-nos, James Tynion, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, and Grant Morrison have erred the most. Despite this, their errors don’t usually seem to be that huge (with some exceptions, of course). On the other hand, Gail Simone, Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi, and Scott Snyder err less, but I find that their errors are much more glaring and egregious.

Naturally, the editors, writers, and artists that have worked on less issues have much fewer errors.

 

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that's all folks!

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A Hypercriticism: Continuity Errors of the New Age (Part 1)

continuity header blog

It may seem like I quibble too much about silly things such as plot or continuity, especially when there are so many other things to chat about when it comes to comics. I do! It’s true. And it may also seem as though I don’t often enough review/criticize storytelling or art either, instead preferring to carp about minor continuity muffs. But I figure there is so much damn plain old comic book criticism on the WWW that I might as well leave the complaining to the complainers. That being said, this “hypercriticism” is not about calling-out bad storytelling or bad editing (although narrative flaws might be exposed via the following hypercritical list)—it is more about simply showing the hiccups that have caused me great vexation while assembling my timeline of the New 52 thus far. If the list seems like I am caviling too much, it is only because this list is comprehensive and compendious.

Without further adieu I present to you a list of every continuity error that I have discovered in the New 52 that directly relates to Batman (the character as opposed to the specific title). Explanations will follow each listed item. When I began compiling notes for this list a few weeks ago, I thought there would be way more problems than there actually were. Although, that’s still not a great pull-quote for the New 52 is it? I do wonder, though, which reboot had more flubs in its first three years—the Modern Age or the New Age? I wonder which editorial team cared more?

1. Secret Origins Vol. 3 #2 (Writer Ray Fawkes, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Mark Doyle) erroneously lists the Wayne murders as taking place eleven years prior to Year Zero. This contradicts Batman #24, which tells us that the murders took place “fifteen years” prior to Year Zero when Bruce was ten-years-old. Secret Origins‘ time-frame would make Bruce fourteen-years-old at the time of his parents deaths, which is just plain wrong.

2. Detective Comics Vol. 2 #21 (Writer John Layman, Editors Bobbie Chase, Katie Kubert, Mike Marts) has a flashback showing Mio returning to Ra’s Al Ghul after her fight with Bruce in the Himalayas. This flashback takes place immediately after ‘tec #0, Part 4, which happens roughly in April 2004. However, in March 2013’s ‘tec #21, Bruce thinks back and says it happened “ten years ago.” More precisely, the event happened closer to eleven years ago. I’m niggling here and could probably let it slide, but it is worth noting anyway.

3. The second feature of Detective Comics Vol. 2 #0 (Writer James Tynion, Editors Bobbie Chase, Katie Kubert, Harvey Richards, Mike Marts) details Bruce’s return to Gotham after training. This second feature has an editorial note that incorrectly says “SEVEN YEARS AGO.” “Seven years ago” would place Bruce’s return somewhere in the tail end of 2006, but it actually takes place in late March of 2007. HERE IS THE LONG REASON WHY! A flashback from Batman #21 takes place “six weeks” after Bruce’s return (according to Alfred). Batman #21, which has an editorial tag of FIVE MONTHS later, also shows the Caped Crusader on his steam-bike returning from a coma to fight Riddler. We know that Batman defeats the Red Hood on the anniversary of his parents’ deaths, which, according to Peter Tomasi, is in September. Scott Snyder tells us in Batman #30 that Bruce goes into his coma after warring against Riddler in the summertime. This all means that the anniversary of the Wayne deaths must happen in September and summertime. This means the Waynes died definitively in EARLY SEPTEMBER. Early September also jibes well because of the following chain of uninterrupted events that occur: Bruce defeats Red Hood (Wayne death anniversary in early September), a week passes and Riddler blacks out the city, the super-storm ravages Gotham for another week, the Riddler takes over and puts Batman into a coma (still SUMMERTIME at this point i.e. mid September), Bruce wakes up a little less than a month later (presumably no longer summertime at this point i.e. mid October), Batman returns (FIVE MONTHS after the flashback from Batman #21 at which time Bruce had only been back in Gotham for a mere SIX WEEKS). Therefore, the flashback from Batman #21 is FIVE MONTHS before Batman’s mid October post-coma steam-bike return, meaning mid May. Furthermore, the second feature of Detective Comics #0, which details Bruce’s return to Gotham after training abroad, takes place FIVE MONTHS + SIX WEEKS before Batman’s mid October post-coma steam-bike return, which equals Late March of 2007—NOT the end of 2006. Phew.

4. Batwing #25 (Writers Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Artists Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Paul Mounts, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern, Mike Marts) has a “Zero Year” editorial note that says “Riddler has shut off Gotham’s electric power days before a giant super-storm strikes Gotham,” yet the electricity is clearly flowing, so this has to take place shortly before Riddler’s strike.

5. In Batwing #25 (Writers Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern, Mike Marts), which takes place in 2007 during “Zero Year,” the term 99%ers is bandied about. Unfortunately, the term “1%er” and the inverse “99%er” were not invented terms until around 2011, hence the 99%er’s anachronistic quality in this flashback. One could, of course, argue that the Occupy Movement started earlier in the fictional DCU, but I don’t think that was the intention of Gray and Palmiotti.

6. Flash Vol. 4 #25 (Writers Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato, Artists Francis Manpul, Chris Sprouse, Editors Bobbie Chase, Brian Cunningham, Harvey Richards, Wil Moss) shows a “Zero Year” Harvey Bullock, but this version of Bullock is incorrectly quite svelte as compared to the hefty Snyder/Capullo version from Batman Vol. 2.

7. Detective Comics Vol. 2 #25 (Writer John Layman, Artist Jason Fabok, Editors Bobbie Chase, Katie Kubert, Mike Marts) shows a “Zero Year” Harvey Bullock that is heavier than the one shown in Flash #25, but still not bulky enough to match the “official” Snyder/Capullo version.

8. Batman Eternal #2-3 and continued issues (Writer Scott Snyder, James Tynion, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Tim Seeley, Editors Bobbie Chase, Katie Kubert, Mark Doyle) state specifically that Jim Gordon became Gotham’s police commissioner “five years ago.” Batman Eternal occurs in 2013, which would mean “five years ago” would be 2008, yet in order to jibe with everything else, Jim must have become commish in 2007—(he is promoted at the end of “Zero Year”). Therefore, “Six years ago” would have been correct.

9. Batman Vol. 2 Annual #1 (Writers Scott Snyder, James Tynion, Editors Eddie Berganza, Katie Kubert, Mike Marts) takes place in 2012. In it there is a flashback showing the “Zero Year” debut of Victor Fries, which has a “six years ago” editorial tagline. This tagline incorrectly places the debut in 2006 instead of 2007. Therefore, as dumb as it sounds, this item must occur “six years ago” in the same sense as the “Zero Year” version of “six years ago” despite that fact that it is flashing-back from 2012.

10. Justice League Vol. 2 #3 (Writer Geoff Johns, Editors Eddie Berganza, Darren Shan, Brian Cunningham) has supplemental material at the end that shows an excerpt from a book by David Graves. In this excerpt, the publisher, Historical Publishing, has added a note that says Graves’ book about the debut of the JL, called Gods Among Us, is released in 2006. This would lead one to believe that the Justice League debuts in 2006. This is WRONG. The JL debuts in 2008.

11. Justice League Vol. 2 #3‘s (Writer Geoff Johns, Editors Eddie Berganza, Darren Shan, Brian Cunningham) supplemental material also shows that the Secret History of Atlantis book was checked out of the library in November 2011, which incorrectly implies that the debut of the JL takes place in 2006 as well.

12. Secret Origins Vol. 3 #1 (Writer Kyle Higgins, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern, Mark Doyle) retcons/alters the time Dick goes into the Batcave for the first time, which was originally detailed in Nightwing Vol. 3 #0. In Nightwing #0, Dick is led into the Batcave and drops a bombshell, revealing that he has already correctly deduced Batman’s secret identity. However, in the later-published Secret Origins #1, Dick has no idea and Batman dramatically reveals the information TO HIM. So, Secret Origins #1, despite functioning as a valid retcon while trumping Nightwing #0, technically qualifies as a continuity contradiction/error as well.

13. Secret Origins Vol. 3 #1 (Writer Kyle Higgins, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern, Mark Doyle) also violates the whole “not enough time for all these Robins in five years conundrum” by showing a training montage for Dick that occurs, at one point, during a snow storm. Yet, in order for the Robins to have enough room on the shortened New 52 timeline, the latest Dick’s mid-training can be is September.

14. Batman & Robin Vol. 2 Annual #2 (Writer Peter Tomasi, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern, Mike Marts) incorrectly has Batman refer to Commissioner Gordon as “Lieutenant Gordon.” Of course, he should be commish.

15. In a flashback from Batgirl Vol. 4 #6 (Artists Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, Ulises Arreola, Editors Eddie Berganza, Katie Kubert, Bobbie Chase), Batgirl is colored in her all black ensemble. However, at the point in her career the flashback depicts, she would have been wearing her original grey outfit.

16. In Action Comics Vol. 2 #7 (Writer Grant Morrison, Editors Eddie Berganza, Wil Moss, Matt Idelson) Jimmy Olsen anachronistically remarks that their situation is like “Under the Dome by Stephen King.” Action Comics Vol. 2 #1-16 is a run that’s set entirely around 2007-2008. Under the Dome wasn’t released until 2009. This is a small and inconsequential continuity gaffe, but worth noting. Otherwise, we simply have to imagine a world where Under the Dome was released in the 70s like Stephen King originally wanted it to be.

17. In a flashback from Batwoman #0 (Artists J.H. Williams, W. Haden Blackman, Dave Stewart, Editors Bobbie Chase, Rickey Purdin, Harvey Richards, Mike Marts) Batman is drawn with his yellow-oval costume, which is incorrect since Batman never wore a yellow-oval in the New 52.

18. Forever Evil: ARGUS #1 (Writer Sterling Gates, Editors Bobbie Chase, Kate Stewart, Brian Cunningham) has a flashback to Barack Obama creating ARGUS with Steve Trevor a couple months into his presidency, which places said flashback in 2009. However, the “five years ago” note attached to this Obama/ARGUS creation scene supposedly means “five years before Forever Evil,” which would mean 2008 and therefore doesn’t make sense.

19. Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #3‘s (Writer Grant Morrison, Artist Chris Burnham, Editors Eddie Berganza, Rickey Purdin, Brian Smith, Mike Marts) splashy “Leviathan web display” shows images scanned right off the pages of Morrison’s run from the Modern Age. Most of them are okay for the New 52, but Dick’s Robin costume is an obsolete one and should have been changed.

20. In a flashback from Batman and… #25-26 aka “Batman & Two-Face” (Writer Peter Tomasi, Editors Bobbie Chase, Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern, Mike Marts) Erin McKillen’s break-out and disfigurement of Harvey Dent is said to occur three years into the McKillen Sisters’ prison term. This is a straight-up continuity error. We know Two-Face encountered Robin Dick Grayson, which places his debut, at the latest, 2009. Even if we ignored Dick’s fight with Two-Face, Robin Jason Todd also fights Two-Face, which means the continuity error would still exist a year later in 2010. The earliest the McKillen Sisters could have gone to prison is in December of 2007 (where I have placed that occurrence). There’s no way in hell the McKillens could serve a three year jail term. Only seventeen months at the most.

21. In Red Hood & The Outlaws #2 (Writer Scott Lobdell, Editors Eddie Berganza, Katie Kubert, Bobbie Chase), Jason Todd says he was Robin for “years.” There isn’t enough room on this timeline for him to have been Robin for multiple years (or even two years). The longest amount of time he could have been Robin is around one year—and even that includes six months of training.

22. Secret Origins Vol. 3 #3 (Writer Scott Lobdell, Editors Bobbie Chase, Anthony Marquez, Mike Cotton, Eddie Berganza) retells the origin story of Tim Drake, which was first fleshed-out in Teen Titans Vol. 4 #0. The two stories are very similar, but there are notable dialogue and scenery changes for really no damn reason. The newer Secret Origins issue canonically trumps the older Teen Titans issue as an official retcon, but for the purposes of our list, the former retcon-issue bears the burden of error for having made the change.

23. Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #2 (Writer Grant Morrison, Editors Eddie Berganza, Rickey Purdin, Brian Smith, Mike Marts) has a flashback that shows Talia Al Ghul forming a team consisting of the DCU’s top villains, including Lex Luthor, Dr. Psycho, The Calculator, and Deathstroke. The panel that shows this team formation also INCORRECTLY includes Black Adam, who wouldn’t have debuted yet at that point.

24. Batwoman #2 (Artist/Writer J.H. Williams, Writer W. Haden Blackman, Artist Dave Stewart, Editors Eddie Berganza, Katie Kubert, Janelle Asselin, Mike Marts) has a background mural that shows the members of Batman Incorporated. It INCORRECTLY includes Renee Montoya, Black Canary, Huntress, Catwoman, Katana, Black Lightning, Batman Japan, and Gaucho. Montoya is pictured in the Batwoman mural dressed in her Modern Age Question garb. Renee was not a superhero in the New Age. Batman Japan’s debut, in the New Age, happens after Batwoman #2. Plus, he never wears the “Mr. Unknown” costume as a Batman Inc member anyway. Gaucho’s activation as a Batman Inc agent, like Batman Japan’s, comes later. The others simply are never Batman Inc members in the New Age. For example, Huntress would not have even met Batman at this point. Also, Black Canary would know absolutely nothing about Batman’s operations at this point (as made clear in Batgirl Vol. 4 #7). Similarly, despite being former Outsiders, Black Lightning and Katana would be in the same boat as Black Canary—totally out of the loop.

25. Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #0 (Writers Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Editors Bobbie Chase, Rickey Purdin, Brian Smith, Mike Marts) features Batman telling Ravil that Damian is eleven-years-old. WRONG! He’s ten!

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More to come in PART TWO…

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