Monday, May 21, 2018 • Morning Edition • "Memorial to dead childhoods."

Your Top Creative Runs part 32

Written by rdrsfn82 on Tuesday, February 01 2011 and posted in Features
Two books about cops dealing with superheroes/villains and two Batman related books, even through there's only three books in this entry.

71. 109 points - Powers (Bendis/Oeming) - 5 first place votes
vol 1 #1 - #37
vol 2 #1 - #30
vol 3 #1 - present
I'm reading this right now, so again it will not get too much into the plot beyond the first few trades. Lo siento. Still, the book has a pretty interesting publishing history so let's focus n that.

Created in 2000 by Brian Bendis and Michael Oeming, Powers follows cops Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim as they work on crimes involving super powered beings. The series came about as Bendis and Oeming were looking to do a book together. Bendis had to that point mostly done crime comics, but was a lifelong fan of superheroes. His idea was to combine a crime book with superheroes, while also looking at the idea of superheroes as celebrities and trying to peel back the curtain like a biography or a Behind the Music special. Up to this point both creators had only worked on books in black and white, but Bendis believed this book would look better in color and convinced Oeming to try it out.

The series was originally published by Image Comics, and the debut issue sold only OK numbers, but the publisher and head of marketing at Image were fans and decided to give the book a big push, double shipping the second issue, and fans responded, leading to a reprint of #1. The series sold well for Image, well enough that Oeming was able to quit his day job and become a full time artist. The growing popularity of Bendis at Marvel, and the demands on his time, led to the series shipping at a less that regular monthly rate and it went on hiatus after issue #30.

The series then moved to Marvel's new Icon imprint in 2004, a place for Marvel creators to do creator owned books, such as Criminal, Kabuki, and Incognito. Powers was one of the two books to launch the new imprint along with Kabuki. One of the reasons Bendis and Oeming were willing to make the switch was publisher Jim Valentino leaving Image Comics, as he was one of the big proponents of the series early on. Upon the move to the Icon imprint the series saw a slight increase in sales, though the delays continued to happen as a result of Bendis writing every book at Marvel during this time period. Issue #12 of volume two was treated as a big event as it represented the 50th issue of the series. The original plan was to have Bendis draw the issue with Oeming writing, but Bendis suffered an injury to his eye and ended up able to only do the cover and not the full issue. Further delays on the series led to another hiatus before relaunching as volume three with a new #1.

The series is well known for gimmicks on the covers relating to the stories. For instance the arc focused on the death of Olympia, a Superman type character who had wild rumors about his sex life leaked just before his death, had each cover done to look like a celebrity gossip magazine cover similar to People or Us Weekly or whatever. The arc even featured an issue written and illustrated in the style of a magazine, with articles, pictures, no panels, and mostly written in prose style. Other issues had similar non-traditional styles such as an issue presented as a court transcript with the only art being done in the style of court sketches.

The series has attracted Hollywood attention a couple of times over the years, first with talks of a movie in 2002, and then with talk of a TV show on FX over the last few years. While the movie has probably fallen apart, the TV show seems to be very much alive with lots of hints and teases of updates coming from Bendis and FX over the last year or so.

70. 111 points - Gotham Central (Brubaker/Rucka)
#1 - #40
This one is brought to us once again by Allen, who volunteered to do this because I mentioned I planned on reading this once volume one is released in softcover in March, so I don't have to spoil the book or do an inadequate job summing up the series. For this, I am very, very thankful to Allen. Take it away.

It may be a cliché to say that the city of Gotham, with its crime and corruption through all levels is almost as important to the Batman mythos as Batman himself, but there is some truth to it. And nowhere is that explored better than in this series written by two of the best crime writers in comics, enhanced by a terrific almost film noir art style. As the title suggests, the focus on this book was Gotham City Police Department, and the detectives who work in a city where the weird is commonplace. The book alternated between the day and night shifts of Gotham Central, and featured existing characters, such as Renee Montoya, Josie MacDonald (who first appeared in a Detective Comics back-up), Commissioner Atkins, and Captain Maggie Sawyer.

In most of the stories, a well-known Batman villain played an important part. And even though Batman himself only showed up rarely, his presence in the city overshadowed virtually everything, something many in the police force both reviled and respected at the exact same time. Their frustration at not being able to do their jobs because of the "freaks," as they were called, was something Rucka and Brubaker clearly portrayed. For example, when a robbery cannot be solved, it would be said "Catwoman did it." And turning on the Bat-Signal was seen as a humiliating admission of failure. We see Commissioner Akins removing the Bat-signal because of War-Games, and even Batman coming under suspicion of murder. But we also had an issue through the eyes of a temp who developed a crush on Batman and would fantasize about him.

In the course of the series, Montoya was revealed to be a lesbian for the first time, and the object of Two-Face's affection. The cops had to deal with a genuine Joker crime spree, complete with an internet countdown to the next strike, and various plots from Mr. Freeze and Mad Hatter, and discovering a murder victim wearing a Robin costume. One story most illustrative of what the book was trying to accomplish involved a particular officer being caught in a laboratory accident and turned into the kind of comic book monster that often shows up once before being beat up by the hero of the story. Only this time, we see the impact of this tragedy, not on the monster, but on the officer's friends and family. The series in essence gave a perspective on comics events far beyond merely focusing on the super-heroics, but gave a true street-level view of the chaos of such events as the War Games Batman crossover and Infinite Crisis.

And of course, in any story about Gotham City itself, there is a great exploration of the level of corruption throughout the city's power structure, including issues seen through the eyes of corrupt officers, and of the true rot within the city that destroys the lives of everything it touches, on cops both good and bad. From Montoya's life being completely turned inside out after being outed as a lesbian against her will, to Detective Allen's being victimized by a crooked superior, to a corrupt officer running afoul of Poison Ivy.

The series was the winner for several Eisners (including Best Writer for Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, and Best Penciller/Inker for Michael Lark) and Harvey awards over its short life, and despite notoriously poor sales, DC allowed it to continue for 40 issues. There were even talks of a television series based on the book. However, Brubaker and Lark moved on to other projects, leaving Rucka to decide to end the book. But in the meantime, fans were treated to outstanding characters, some great stories, and a unique point of view on Gotham City, on Batman, and on the DCU as a whole. Gotham Central was truly one of the most interesting and well-executed series, from beginning to end, that DC has ever put out.

69. 112 points - Robin (Dixon) - 2 first place votes
Robin #1 - #5
Robin II #1 - #4
Robin III #1 - #6
#0 - #100
In 1991, Chuck Dixon was chosen to give Tim Drake, the new Robin, a solo miniseries. It would prove popular enough that he then was chosen to do two sequels, which also were well received. This led to the first ever solo ongoing book for any Robin (as you'll remember, earlier we saw Dixon also gave Nightwing his first solo series, a few years later). Dixon wrote the book for the first 100 issues, leaving in 2002.

The character of Tim Drake greatly differs from the previous two Robins. For one thing, his dad is still alive and he chose to be a hero out of a desire to be a hero and not a tragic event that spurned a desire for vengeance or a broken childhood that caused him to want to make up for past mistakes. Another thing that separated Tim from the other Robins was his natural ability at crime solving and detective work, as opposed to natural fighting ability. The previous Robins had been natural athletes that had to learn how to do the detective side of things, while Tim was the other way around, even starting to use a bow staff to help even the playing field in fights due to his initial lack of skill or strength at hand to hand combat.

During his run on the title, Robin grew from an inexperienced sidekick character into a well rounded hero who was the leader of the team in the book Young Justice. One of the early arcs that really helped Robin grow as a character was the fallout of the event Knightfall that saw Batman broken by Bane. As a result of this, Robin was forced to go out and work without Batman for a time, during which he gained confidence and realized he could stand on his own as a hero.

Other than Tim, Stephanie Brown played an important role in the series as well. Created as a one off character in Dixon's run on Detective Comics, she proved popular with fans and the next year was added to the Robin comic in a supporting role. The daughter of the villain called Cluemaster, Stephanie wanted to bring him down and ruin his plans and did so by becoming a masked vigilante called Spoiler. Over the course of the series, Robin goes from seeing her as a pest to seeing her as a valuable ally to the two becoming a couple.

Dixon's run on this series greatly helped the popularity of the character as well as define his personality, abilities, and relationships with other characters. Dixon would briefly return to the character in 2008 before leaving the company altogether due to some issues that haven't been fully divulged later in 2008. Why DC would choose to get rid of the guy that has written some of the best Batman related books of the last 20 years is a mystery to me.

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