January 29, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for January 29th, 2016-- Scooby Doo & "Weaponized Nostalgia"

** Let's catch up on the panels we pattered about this past week.



** Cabinet of Blood by Rob Kirby-- On his Tumblr blog, Rob Kirby presents a new comic that will be part of next Fall's THE SHIRLEY JACKSON PROJECT: COMICS INSPIRED BY HER LIFE AND WORK from Ninth Art Press.


** Review: Whit Taylor’s Up Down Clown tackles mental health issues (The Beat)-- At the Beat, John Seven reviews Whit Taylor's Up Down Clown, also from Ninth Art Press.
Taylor mixes up the chronology in such a way that the temporal makes way for the psychological, as Gabe’s awareness of what is actually happening to him becomes clearer to him the more he drowns in the behavior. He may be stricken by a crippling depression, but he is also blessed with a soaring energy that seems to help him get things done, unless it’s derailing him by causing him to misplace a natural sense of boundaries and appropriate behavior.

** ERIC STEPHENSON PREVIEWS WHAT'S NEXT FOR IMAGE, LAMENTS "BLAND" COMICS INDUSTRY & MAKING IMAGE THE #1 COMICS PUBLISHER IS ERIC STEPHENSON'S GOAL (Comic Book Resources)-- In lieu of a keynote address at an Image Expo this year, Image publisher turns to CBR to discuss the state of Image Comics and the comic industry in general.
I mean, I'm not going to claim we don't have our share of misses along with the hits, or that there aren't things Image can do better -- but looking at the vast majority of comics that came out in 2015, it was just a pretty dull year. I don't think Star Wars was much of a surprise. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and given the kind of talent involved, it would have only been surprising if those books hadn't done well. The fact that Star Wars is bolstering Marvel to such a great degree is more interesting to me than the actual comics, though, and I think that's one of the biggest problems with comics as a whole right now. Talking about comics and analyzing the industry has, by and large, become more interesting than a lot of the work being generated.
 ** G. Willow Wilson has a short post up on her Tumblr about some health difficulties that her family is going through right now.
My youngest daughter has been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. Fortunately, it’s reparable, and her longterm prognosis is good, but it will require major surgery. I will in all likelihood be spending much of the remainder of the winter and spring in and out of hospitals.
We're glad to hear that the prognosis is good but our thoughts and prayers are with Wilson and her family during all of this.



** Jack Davis's cover of TV Guide (1976) featuring the cast of Barney Miller, with a great focus on Abe Vigoda who sadly passed away this week.

** 'WicDiv', 'Midnighter', 'Lumberjanes' Among GLAAD Nominees (Comics Alliance)-- Andrew Wheeler covers the comics that are among GLAAD's nominees this year.  The full list of all nominees is up at GLAAD's website.



** DC Entertainment announces new slate of Hanna-Barbera titles (Entertainment Weekly)-- DC Comics, who have had the comic license for Scooby Doo and other Hanna-Barbera comics, just announced that they'll be revamping the line of comics to make them more... DCish?  DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio talked a bit about DC's approach to these comics.  
“From a personal standpoint, I was always a fan of the old Hanna-Barbera characters, having grown up on them,” says Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Entertainment. “I think what you find right now is there’s so much material on pop culture, and these characters resonate with so much of our fanbase. It was so fun to go out and look at them, but not just bring back versions that existed 40, 50 years ago and really look at it the way of saying, if these characters were created and interpreted today, how would they exist? So we handed off our materials to a number of top creators, and what came back was an exciting look that felt very true to the existence of the characters.”
So this is coming from the company that gave us the "Before Watchmen" debacle a couple of years ago.  I wonder when we're going to get a Blue Falcon and Dynomutt series from Brian Azzarello and Darwyn Cooke?

The non-cynical part of me wants to think that this is DC's approach to getting kids like my almost-twelve-year-old son into the comics.  That Jim Lee-designed Scooby Gang looks different enough to be possibly interesting, even if it's full of some silly cliches at this point (tribal tattoos?)  Of course, Amanda Conner's redesigns for The Flintstone's looks almost as silly as the John Goodman film from years ago.



But I was surprised Thursday morning as this news was breaking that so many comic fans in their twenties, thirties and forties looked like they were getting into this.  Undoubtedly, there's some good talent on these comics.  Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner's Future Quest looks quite intriguing but a big part of me hopes that these comics aren't being designed to just appeal to the people who loved these cartoons when they were kids.  I really, really hope that these are designed to appeal to kids who are digging on Raina Telgemaier and Jeff Smith comics, but I kind of doubt that.  Howard Porter on a Scooby Doo comic seems like horrible casting and Amanda Waller's Flinstones design is stupidly ridiculous.

But of course, nostalgia is what's holding up Direct Market portion of the comic industry right now.  Comics based on movies, tv shows and cartoons are all the rage right now.  Just look at how the success of Marvel's Star Wars comics has bolstered that company right now.  Even companies like IDW and BOOM support a lot of their more creator-driven comics using the success of JEM and other 1980's era comics to probably underwrite a lot of more prestigious but lesser selling comics.

This week at Variety, Maureen Ryan wrote about the new X-Files television show and a lot of what she says feels like it could be applied to DC's Hanna-Barbera comics and Marvel's Star Wars comics.
As a TV critic, it’s weird to be in a position of actively hoping that some shows never come back. For a long time, a significant chunk of the job consisted of campaigning for marginal shows that deserved more chances and better odds. But these days, comebacks for successful shows and updates of cult properties are almost more common than pilots based on fresh concepts. At press tour, when a Showtime executive said “Never say never” when asked about a “Dexter” retread, all I could think is, “Please, for the love of Deb, say never.”
You could even view the way that Marvel Comics and DC Comics (note I'm highlighting the parts of the companies that produce comics and not the movies) maintain their superhero comic books as a part of this "weaponized nostalgia" as Ryan calls it.  But certainly this Scooby Doo revamp has the strong stench of this as Jim Lee redesigned these characters to look like something out of a Vin Diesel movie.

Personally, I'm waiting for Amanda Conner and Keith Giffen to create something new.  Looking at that Eric Stephenson interview on CBR, you've got to give Image credit for giving creators an outlet to produce Lazarus, Descender, and Paper Girls.  Wouldn't it be nice to see more creators have that kind of opportunity?  I'd even take a new concept from Jim Lee, who hasn't had one since Divine Right launched at Wildstorm almost 20 years ago.  

Unfortunately, so much of the Direct Markets and, therefore, comics are driven by this desire for nostalgia over discovery.  But that's also the way that most of our pop culture is nowadays.  (And I write all of that as I have J.J. Abram's Star Trek movie playing on the TV.)

So, updated Scooby Doo and Space Ghost?  I guess that sounds fine but I hope the goal is to show young kids just how great some of these old concepts are rather than reminding people who were able to watch these when they were on the Saturday morning cartoons how much of their childhood Hanna-Barbera shaped.  But it's hard to see that kind of intent out of DC which has been marketing-event driven for the past 5+ years.  Is this really all that different than The New 52, Before Watchmen, The Sandman: Overture or even DKIII?  DC has been mining their past to try and figure out what their future is.  This just feels like another one of those attempts.