May
16

“Last Son” – A Sentimental Journey

Posted by Chris Eckert on Friday, May 16th, 2008 at 03:59:29 PM

A little over two years ago, DC launched their “One Year Later” revamp/relaunch, with a year-long weekly series 52 as its centerpiece. Layout artist Keith Giffen described the book’s appeal to fans:

I call [it] the NASCAR book, because nobody goes to a NASCAR race to watch the cars go around in circles. You go for the crash. You hope for that blistering, horrifying crash. People are going to be watching 52, waiting for us to screw up… it’s not going to happen.

And he was right; people came to 52 looking for blood, but the series never “crashed” off its weekly schedule and was generally well-liked. Its weekly successor, Countdown [to Final Crisis] may have not been as successful or well-liked, but no one could argue that it wasn’t on time! But while both 52 and Countdown kept running on time, these bastions of punctuality served as a smokescreen for the fiery wreckage that was DC’s Demolition Derby of Scheduling, a/k/a “Pretty Much Every Non-Weekly Book DC Published”. A lot of books have had production problems in the past two years, but when the history books are written the “Last Son” storyline in Action Comics will likely go down as The Didio Era’s biggest disaster. And trust me, there have been plenty of other candidates.

I have put this article together not to point and laugh at the bodies being hauled out of the twisted chrome and steel of Action Comics. I am not trying to personally impugn the creators, editors or their support staff, or complain about how I “deserve” a monthly fix of my favorite superhero. I’m sure everyone involved had their reasons, none of which I will pretend to know. I’m not even trying to make fun of a bad comic; when all is said and done “Last Son” is going to make a nice little hardcover collection. But this happened. This was a heavily promoted comic, the sort of thing that (like Secret Invasion and Final Crisis or what have you) received mainstream attention, promotional posters, previews posted on EW.com. This was expected to be big. And this is what happened to it. I feel like it deserves documentation. Here now, we present a timeline of how this humble six five part story came to be:

JUNE 4, 2005: At Wizard World Philadelphia, it’s announced that DC has signed exclusive contracts with both Adam and Andy Kubert. Neither Kubert is given an immediate assignment, but Andy talks about wanting to do Batman (which he would, but that’s another article). Adam closes their initial interview by stating, “Nothing is definite until I have a script on my board, but if it works out the way that it’s been suggested it’ll be huge.”

FEBRUARY 27, 2006: Rich Johnston, traditional gateway for industry gossip, rumors that Richard Donner would be joining his former assistant Geoff Johns on Action Comics at the conclusion of Infinite Crisis.

MARCH 15, 2006: “One Year Later” officially starts for Superman, as Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns collaborate on “Up, Up and Away”, an eight part story that runs through June of 2006.

APRIL 14, 2006: The debut of the Johns/Donner/Kubert team, now generally common knowledge, does not get announced for the first issue of Action following “Up, Up and Away. Superman writer Kurt Busiek states in an interview that “something happened to put the debut of the new Action team off a little bit, something I’m not at liberty to discuss without blowing some secrets.” The new Action team is promised to debut in October, after Busiek and Fabian Nicieza’s “Back in Action” storyline, through Action #841-843. The new team, given a three month span to catch up, will debut in Action #844.

JUNE 26, 2006: Rich Johnston again reports on the Johns/Donner/Kubert Action team, showcasing Wizard’s hasty removal of the team’s mention on their website.

JULY 15, 2006: In what is to my recollection an unprecedented move, DC releases its October 2006 solicitations and solicits Action #844 with no actual content information:

ACTION COMICS #844
For information on this issue, please see the August issue of Previews!
On sale October 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The timing of these solicitations was such that they were released a week before the San Diego Comic Con, where DC planned to make their Big Announcement.

JULY 21, 2006: After months of attempts at secrecy, Richard Donner appears to admit that he will be co-writing Action Comics a day early, appearing on a Friday panel at the San Diego Comic Con. Over the course of the weekend, Johns and Donner claim their collaboration on Action is “open-ended”, and promise to reintroduce Brainiac, a character Johns had been promising to bring back to since his abrupt disappearance in the 2005 Teen Titans/Outsiders crossover that preceded Infinite Crisis. Johns also claimed that he and Donner had plans to revamp Parasite, team Batman and Superman, and feature Lex Luthor mourning his dead “son” Connor Kent in the series. As of this writing, none of these things have happened, and will presumably never happen with Donner’s involvement.

AUGUST 21, 2006: Action #845, part two of “Last Son” is solicited for release on November 22, 2006.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2006: Action #846, part three of “Last Son” is solicited for release on December 27, 2006.

OCTOBER 16, 2006: Action Comics Annuall #10 is solicited for released on January 31, 2007. It replaces Action on DC’s schedule for the month of January.

Action Comics 844OCTOBER 25, 2006: Action Comics #844 ships as scheduled.

NOVEMBER 13, 2006: Action #847, part four of “Last Son” is solicited for release on February 14, 2007. It is advertised as containing a 3-D section, and being sold in two editions: one
with 3-D section and accompanying glasses, one without.

NOVEMBER 22, 2006: Action Comics #845 ships as scheduled.

DECEMBER 8, 2006: DC issues a press release announcing that Action #847 will not contain the fourth part of “Last Son”, but will instead contain a fill-in story by Dwayne McDuffie and Renato Guedes: “With Metropolis under siege from General Zod and the villainous hordes of the Phantom Zone, Clark Kent’s friends and family watch in horror as Superman heads into danger against the greatest odds of his career!”

DECEMBER 11, 2006: Action #848 is solicited for release on March 28, 2007 and is announced to contain “Last Son” part four, previously solicited to appear in Action #847.

DECEMBER 27, 2006: Action Comics #846 misses its ship date.

JANUARY 14, 2007: DC releases its solicitations for April 2007. Perhaps wisely, no issue of Action is offered.

FEBRUARY 7, 2007: Action Comics Annual #10 is released, one week late.

FEBRUARY 12, 2007: Action #849, part two of a fill-in story by Fabian Nicieza and Allan Goldman, is solicited for release on May 16, 2007. Action #850, a stand-alone story by Kurt Busiek and Renato Guedes, is also offered for release on May 30, 2007.

FEBRUARY 14, 2007: This was the first scheduled date for the release of the fourth part of “Last Son”. It did not ship. Part three had not shipped by this point.

FEBRUARY 15, 2007: DC issues another press release, stating that Action #848 will not contain the fourth chapter of “Last Son”, nor will it appear in stores on March 28th. Instead it will contain the first part of a two issue story by Fabian Nicieza and Allan Goldman, and arrive in stores April 25, 2007. I can’t recall if this was actually announced after issue 849 was solicited with part two of this story, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that was the case.

FEBRUARY 28, 2007: Action Comics #846 (“Last Son” pt 3) ships, two months late.

MARCH 19, 2007: Action #851, which will TOTALLY FOR REALS be the fourth chapter of “Last Son” is solicited for release on June 27, 2007.

MARCH 28, 2007: Action Comics #847, a fill-in by McDuffie & Guedes, ships. It’s a month and a half later than Action #847 (“Last Son part 4″) was supposed to be, but it was rescheduled when the new content was announced.

MARCH 28, 2007: Oh yeah, this was also the second scheduled date for the release of the fouth part of “Last Son”. It did not ship.

APRIL 25, 2007: Action Comics #848 is released, about a month late.

JUNE 27, 2007: This was the third schedule release date for the fourth part of “Last Son”. You’d think the third time was the charm, but no.

JULY 4, 2007 Action Comics #851, part four of “Last Son” is released. Depending on how you look at it, it is either one week, three months or four months late.

JULY-NOVEMBER 2007: Having pushed the finale of “Last Son” to the unsolicited Action Comics Annual #11, Johns and Donner are free to continue their Action run without Kubert. Donner’s involvement is short-lived, lasting only through Action #854-856, a three-part Bizarro story with Eric Powell art. Beginning with October’s Action #857, “Superman & the Legion of Superheroes” is written solely by Johns.

NOVEMBER 19, 2007: Action Comics Annual #11, the final chapter of “Last Son” is solicited for a release date of February 13, 2008.

JANUARY 2008:

laughinlex

FEBRUARY 13, 2008: Oh, what do you think?

MAY 7, 2008: Action Comics Annual #11, the finale of “Last Son” is released. This issue:
** is nearly three months late from its solicited release date
** had an initial solicited release date just over a year after the natural “fifth issue” of a monthly story would have been released
** is released nearly two years after what would’ve been the hypothetical “post-Up, Up & Away” launch date of the run.
** is published after about ten issues of Action have been released that take place “after” this issue.
** is released very nearly three years after Adam Kubert’s three year exclusive contract with DC was announced.

And there’s one last thing worth noting about the final chapter of “Last Son”; while they waited over a year so that Adam Kubert would be the sole artist of the story, they did not choose to afford any time to let Dave Stewart do the coloring. So after four chapters of this:

Action Comics 851, colored by Dave Stewart

the final chapter is colored, competently but in a typical contemporary Photoshopped gradient/filtered style by Edgar Delgado:

Action Comics Annual #11, colored by Edgar Delgado

I don’t know how long it typically takes Stewart to color a comic, but DC had long abandoned the “monthly” reader with “Last Son” by the time the final chapter was released last week. The real market here is for the collection, which would be an evergreen “blockbuster Superman story” graphic novel, like an extended Superman II with an unlimited effects budget. The shift in coloring will be, in my eyes, kind of jarring in collected form. Perhaps they can get Stewart to recolor the story? They had entire sequences of Infinite Crisis redrawn and redialogued for the collection.

Regardless, “Last Son” is finally complete. I don’t know what will become of the remainder of Adam Kubert’s DC exclusive, or if we’ll ever see these other stories the Johns/Donner team wanted to tell, but we have “Last Son”. Let us remember it every time a book we like is delayed a few weeks or a month, and we wish to hurl blogosphere invective at the creative staff.

Posted in Articles, Pull List Analysis · Read more by Chris Eckert

20 Responses

  1. I know what will become of the remainder of that exclusive.

    He’s gonna draw him a whole bunch of crying. Or are we forgetting about “DC Universe: Last Will and Testament” with Brad Meltzer already?

  2. They would obviously be best served to keep Adam on covers, one-shot graphic novels, or special projects not tied to continuity. Not that he was quite as bad as his brother, but I was a bit surprised that Andy Kubert was put on “The Brave And The Bold” with Straczynski–these guys just need to stay away from monthly books if they can’t do monthly.

  3. Very interesting story. I’m a DC fan but didn’t care about Action as soon as I heard Richard Donner was going to be a part of it. No because of any dislike for him (I hardly know anything about him.) But mostly because I knew it meant more close ties between the original Superman movies and the comic book lore. Ugh. I’m a Byrne “Man of Steel” guy myself so i didn’t want any part of it.

    Anyways, thanks for the recap. Was the complete story good after all of that?

  4. The fun part of course is that all the other comics in DC-land have been merrily wandering along assuming that one of the characters introduced in this arc would be sticking around. They have had a few storylines set post-’Last Son’ that have that character around.

    so what does the final chapter of Last Son do? Takes that character off the playing field.

    oh, gg, DC. I guess the stories that had that character around are now relegated to HYPERTIME.

  5. “I am not trying to personally impugn the creators, editors or their support staff, or complain about how I “deserve” a monthly fix of my favorite superhero.”

    I’m not attacking you, Chris, it’s just this notion that we don’t deserve books being released on time I’m not a fan of. We, as customers, by having pull lists, which I think most of us do, are entering into an agreement to buy the books when they’re released. We’re given a 3 month heads up through Previews to know what’s coming out so we can not order the book before it ships. It’s essentially a bilateral contract. Anyway, when DC pulls stuff like shipping issues late or publishing fill-ins, they’re not giving us what we agreed to pay for.

    Beyond that, there’s no reason for these books to be late. It’s not like DC is publishing highbrow art. It’s not like some sort of artistic vision needs to be nurtured. Just draw Superman punching some bad guy, write and draw 30 pages of filler, and it’s done. There’s no possible excuse for that taking more than 3 months.

  6. Kenny,

    I basically put that in as a boilerplate to avoid arguing about this sort of thing. I mean, I agree that as a professional organization that DC, Marvel and other companies should all release comics as scheduled. I think you’re kind of off-base with the pull list contract idea, since the actual publishers have absolutely zero involvement with that agreement between you and a retailer, and even with a pull list at any self-respecting comic shop, you should not be ‘bound’ to purchase things that were not shipped as solicited.

    Again, I didn’t feel like getting into this, but delays in creative projects happen constantly across all types of media. Superhero comics are bound to a monthly schedule that really exacerbate this lateness, and comic fans often seem to think that being honest and soliciting something as bimonthly or quarterly is a betrayal of their sacred right to monthly comics, and bitch about it. Those are more the people I was talking about with the “deserve” line.

    Finally, I know you hate superhero comics and think they’re retarded or something, but what the hell is up with your last paragraph? You have a binding contract that means you deserve your comics, but you think they’re stupid punchfests that no one should try to think about?

  7. Kenny, I’m not sure of you are aware of this, but you don’t ever directly deal with DC. Your pull list is just an agreement you and your store have with each other, and even in that case, your store doesn’t even deal with DC directly. They deal with Diamond. It’s too much for any publisher to deal with the myriad of stores, so they let Diamond do that. It would seem kind of silly for each store to have a line into DC and Marvel and Fantagraphics.

    DC has never agreed to do anything with you. They agree to work with Diamond and let them know when and what content they will make available. Diamond deals with stores and tries to adhere to some standards to let retailers know when stock has changed or pushed back. If an issue contains material that is not what is originally solicited after the FOC has passed, it is made completely returnable. Your store agrees to hold off any issues that you ask for when they come in and give you a discount. You agree to buy them.

  8. Chris,

    I actually don’t hate superhero comics. What I hate is how superhero comics are made and sold and the low standards they hold themselves to. My annoyance mostly comes from how manga is produced on a tight schedule and is not only rarely, if ever, late, but kicks the ass of American comics in sales. DC and Marvel will both moan and moan and moan about how it’s unfair to expect their books to come out on schedule all the time, or how 100,000 books sold in a month is a major hit, or how something like One More Day will somehow miraculously bring kids back to reading comics, but they constantly ignore the elephant in the room – manga is *killing* American comics.

    I don’t think superhero comics are inherently retarded and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading or enjoying superhero comics, I just think most of what’s coming out now, superhero wise, is dreck and not deserving of the constant kid gloves treatment people give Marvel and DC.

    You guys are right and I was wrong when I said there’s a bilateral contract being formed between the comic publisher and the customer when orders are placed by pull bags. But still, it’s kinda crappy to have a store place a big order for, to keep the example germaine, Last Son comics and then not ship them for over a year. My point with superhero comics is it’s not like DC is putting out Watchmen every month, a book that was art and was worth waiting the year plus on shipping delays. The normal stuff DC and Marvel produce is paint by numbers generic content. It’s commodity, not art.

    There’s nothing wrong with enjoying commodity and there’s nothing saying the commodity can’t be good. I know very smart people who *love* Law & Order. I’m sure some Law & Orders are better than others. But it’s not like Law & Order is a year late on an episode. They air 26 episodes like clockwork every year. There’s *no* excuse why the run-of-the-mill superhero book can’t come out like that. Waiting a year for a Kubert or Joe Mad to draw a comic isn’t a worthwhile excuse. Look at the French – I think it was Humanoids who straight up *fired* Travis Charest for being late on a book.

    That’s my whole bone. I want Marvel and DC to stay in business because I enjoy superhero stories. I like manga, but I don’t just want to read One Piece and Naruto all day. If Marvel and DC don’t get their act together, I believe that will happen. They’ll stop publishing superhero comics and just license out their IPs for movies and Under-Roos.

  9. Pedro,

    I didn’t get a chance to read your post earlier. You’re missing the bigger picture.

    Comic stores order based on their pull list numbers. If a comic store has 20 people pulling Superman, they’ll order say 10 more for the shelf. If something like Last Son is marketed and an additional 10 people ask for Superman to be pulled, the comic store will normally increase their overall orders proportionally. So, 10 more pulls is 50%, and 50% of the total 30 on a normal month is 15, so as opposed to a normal month’s order of 30 Superman comics, they’ll order 45.

    So, in our example, a shop has 45 orders tied up in the big Superman event. For that month, that means the store is typically going to order 15 less of periphery books, like indie titles.

    If DC doesn’t ship the big event, and either doesn’t ship anything at all or ships a fill-in story, the comic shop won’t sell the extra 15 books they ordered. They may not even sell the normal amount of the 30 they sell each month.

    So, now the comic store has its money tied up in worthless stock. Stock they won’t sell, all because DC solicited books they didn’t deliver.

    That’s how pull lists translate into product shipped by DC.

    Now, if this product that was late was something on par with Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns, then it’s high art and the sales will be there eventually. But it’s not. It’s vapid, empty dreck – not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying vapid, empty dreck (God knows I enjoy my share of shit) – and it won’t be sought by anybody past the initial marketing buzz.

    Like I said above, the French and the Japanese companies don’t put up with this stuff. If creators don’t deliver, they’re fired and the “book” is dropped. The Japanese are also *destroying* Americans in comic sales. And everyone ignores this. I honestly believe the disposable art from Japan is outselling the disposable art from America because the Japanese treat it like disposable art.

  10. There are a lot of factors you’re not looking at. If a book is significantly delayed (ninety days, I think?) the book is fully returnable. If a book contains material different than what is solicited (either different creators or a different story) it is fully returnable. In the scenario you posited, if the store can sell fifty copies of Story A but only thirty copies of Story B, the store can return the twenty excess copies when A is replaced by B. With improved Final Order Cutoff dates, a store should even be able to ratchet their order back to the smaller Story B quantity before they even receive the comics. It’s still annoying and disappointing for both parties: the customer does not receive what they want when they want it, and the retailer does not sell the more popular story in a higher quantity, but both have a remedy. This is why I said that no one should be locked into buying something they “didn’t want”.

    As for your comparison to manga, it’s not really applicable because all of the popular manga titles you’re describing are reprints in the American market. Of course there aren’t delays in publishing One Piece or Naruto: the finish product already exists months or years ahead of where the American publishing schedules sit. I’m not familiar enough with the Japanese market enough to know if popular titles are ever delayed in their initial release schedule, but I do know that most titles are produced by a studio system that has significant differences from the comic book market in America. Ditto Europe, where things don’t come out on a lockstep monthly schedule, and where Travis Charest got fired after literally *years* of being behind schedule on a standalone album. I’m not familiar with many other cases of people being fired or books being dropped, so maybe I’m missing something here.

    The television example is also flawed, because delays do occur; shows have shortened seasons or are delayed because of stars’ problems or outside obligations; witness how Sopranos had seven (or six and a half according to them) seasons, ranging from eight to thirteen episodes, spread out over a period of nearly a decade. Even when shows seem to relentlessly churn out episode after episode (take your Law & Order example), there’s a literal army of writers and directors working on different episodes, with a large cast of actors. If Chris Meloni can’t film for a month, or a writer is late with a script, or if a director takes a film deal and isn’t available for most of the season, other people can and do fill in. Television shows don’t “solicit” episodes, so no one gets pissy because a particular episode that was “scheduled” to air in October 2006 is pushed back until May 2007, or pushed back to the following season.

    American superhero comics are their own rough beast; they’re expected to be released monthly because of practices established for various reasons seven decades ago. More recent expectations dictate that a story like “Last Son” is completed by the same three primary creators. Your argument that these comics are “vapid, empty dreck” seems to suggest you shouldn’t care at all if the story contained in a given issue is a Donner/Johns/Kubert story, a McDuffie/Guedes story, a reprint of a Jurgens story, or a crappy story about Superman punching dudes thrown together by a bunch of high schoolers. But a significant portion of the market cares.

  11. Chris,

    I like vapid, empty dreck. I truly do. I think most people do. I think being absorbed in heavy work that has layers of subtext and message all day is a path to madness. I keep calling American superhero stories vapid, empty dreck to drive the point home that it’s not Watchmen with it’s year long delay on Watchmen #12. It’s Superman by Donner/ Johns/ and Kubert. By all accounts, it’s Kubert taking a year to draw an issue. Frank Quitely and Bryan Hitch can get away with a lengthy delay on a book because it’s heavily detailed art full of nuance and experimentation. Kubert is a yeoman artist, albeit a good one. There’s no eartly reason, outside of personal problems, that a book from him should be late.

    When I was talking about manga *never* being late, I wasn’t referring to American reprints. I’m not stupid – I know the books in Barnes & Nobles are reprints. I mean the anthologies that are printed in Japan. Those guys are *never* late, and if they are, they’re dropped *immediately*. The big difference with manga production versus American production is every lead manga creator has a studio of assistants. It’s an apprenticeship over there. A guy serves as a background assistant for a while and then over time, builds a reputation, pitches a story, and starts his own small studio. In the Last Son example, Kubert is on his own. It’s perplexing to me why he would even be allowed to draw an entire book on his own if the result is a year late book full of yeoman work.

    You’re right, I don’t care at all who a Superman book is by, but I know many people do. That means those many people are getting screwed by books being a year late. That then means less customers in a rapidly shrinking market, which means less potential for new guys like Kirkman or Harisine to be discovered doing stellar work on tiny monthlies that exist off the “long tail.”

    I want American superhero books to survive because I like fun, well crafted tales of guys like the Flash, Iron Fist, and Captain America. I also like watching guys like Kirkman and Harisine come up. But every book that’s a year late means less potential for stuff like that.

    Anyway, thank you for the discussion. I enjoy engaging you guys on this board not to troll, but because you guys *really* make me think. I was wrong about stores being stuck with books different than what they ordered. I didn’t know any of that. Thank you for your time today in this discussion.

  12. I’m still not really sure why things are a binary between Watchmen and “artistically empty bullshit”, and why you’re sort of de facto declaring everything that you haven’t decided you like to be worthless and made by “yeomen”.

    I am still not an expert in manga, and I will cede to your expertise but: have they ever fired people and dropped stories because of lateness? You make it sound that if someone walked into the offices tomorrow and went “hey we can’t get you any more Naruto for a few weeks” that Shonen Jump would pull the plug on the series and force them to close up shop. While that sort of dedication to punctuality is admirable on some level, it’s also absolutely insane.

    I think we fundamentally disagree on how applicable various things in the Japanese Manga Market can be cross-applied to the American Direct Sales Market, whether or not the superhero market is as shitty and dying as you seem to suggest, and whether there is some sort of zero-sum game between the books you’re writing off as lousy pieces of shit and the things you’re praising as enjoyable pieces of shit. Captain America has had a huge surge in sales in the past year or two, with no discernable connection to all of Marvel and DC’s late books (never mind the fact that the book itself was repeatedly delayed). Iron Fist and Walking Dead both are successful monthly titles and I assume that it’s not a 1:1 ratio of people picking up or dropping Action Comics to their own sales. It’s not a zero sum game.

    And Trevor Hairsine is a completely baffling example for you to use in this discussion; I know that some of the creative shufflings were not entirely his doing, but as near as I remember the only book he’s drawn to completion in the past five years is Ultimate Six. He pinballed from Cla$$war to Captain America and then did various abortive Ultimate books, like Ultimate Secret where he must have missed a deadline or something and did not draw issue 3, and then ended up not drawing either of the two follow-up series despite being announced for them; plus Ellis was delayed with scripts. His last work was Wisdom, which he broke his hand in the middle of and only completed two issues. Alongside all these other high profile superhero comics, he managed to draw X-Men Deadly Genesis with only a couple delays. I suppose replacing him with other artists is in line with your vision of the comics industry, but in your opinion, with a talented yeoman like Hairsine, how long should the American comics industry wait until they kick him out on his delaying ass? I mean, this Colossus one-shot coming out on Wednesday was, according to him, due “in stores by the end of the year”. Is it going to be on the level of Watchmen, or should he be flipping burgers?

  13. Chris,

    If you don’t see the artistic difference between Watchmen and practically every other superhero book ever made, then there’s no point in having this discussion. Although, I guess I can see your point if you’re putting Last Son or whatever on the same level as Watchmen – to you a late book is a late book and because all superhero books are awesome, the lateness is just part and parcel of making a good book versus a bad book, right?

    Anyway, you seem to be confusing my saying Captain America or whatever is an enjoyable piece of shit with me thinking the book is worthwhile. You’re doing that typical internet thing where someone says, “I don’t like ice cream,” and you’re taking it personal because you do like ice cream. I’m sorry that’s happening. I’m not trying to insult you because you like superhero books. I’d be a hypocrite if I did.

    Ice cream is shitty food. It’s vapid, empty calories that serves practically no nutritious value. But we still eat ice cream because it’s fun. Just because I’m saying ice cream is shitty nutrition wise doesn’t mean I don’t like it, it means I’m not fooling myself about ice cream being a shitty thing to ingest because it just makes you fat. American superhero comics are the same way. They’re shitty brain food, but they’re fun, so we ingest them knowing they’re shitty. If you think ice cream or superheroes aren’t shitty for you, you’re fooling yourself.

    As for the Japanese market, a comic like Naruto, One Piece, or Bleach has never been late, so there’s no precedent for an extremely high profile book being late and subject to cancellation. It would be like Cerebus having been late – the creators involved had the work ethic and systems in place to ensure they never ran into that.

    In Japan, say Tite Kubo gets the flu and can’t draw. He has a staff of guys regularly doing backrounds for him and each is expected to know his style. If Tite gets the flu and can’t draw, then his assistants fill in until he can. But generally speaking, the Japanese artists work *so* far ahead that they almost never run into that problem.

    As for Harisine and Kirkman, I used them because they’re both guys who are coming up in the mainstream now after being discovered off of independent books that survived purely on the long tail. As to why the timeliness of Action matters, books like Battle Pope and Cla$$war only got published because they were hoping to attract the attention of people who were buying Action or whatever and wanted a different sort of read.

    Of course, the hidden fun with using Kirkman and Harisine in a discussion on lateness is neither one can keep a schedule to save their lives. With Harisine, Marvel has had no problems with kicking him off a series and putting someone on who could pencil the book in time. With Kirkman, he’s paying for this stuff out of his own pocket and his readers are becoming accustomed to just waiting for his trades.

    Anyway, no one’s forcing the Big Two, or any publisher, to solicit to Diamond on a monthly basis. But if DC, to stick to the example, wishes to solicit Action on a monthly basis knowing retail stores are creating their budgets based on the solicitations, then they have a responsibility to ship the damn book.

  14. “If you don’t see the artistic difference between Watchmen and practically every other superhero book ever made, then there’s no point in having this discussion.”

    Kenny, if you don’t see that there is a gradient of artistic merit and not a dichotomy between “Watchmen” and “everything else”, and that entertainment and artistic merit can come mixed and matched, there’s no point in ever having any discussion ever about superhero comics.

  15. Kenny,

    I am saying that lateness of books and quality of books are a gradient. I realize that books that I have enjoyed — The Invisibles, Stray Bullets, Captain America, Planetary, New X-Men, Ragmop, Dork, All-Star Superman, Watchmen, Cerebus, etc. etc. etc. — have all had delays for different reasons. The delays have rarely affected my enjoyment of the books once the completed story is released. I am not sure which of these books (if any of them) would be good enough for you to be considered “like Watchmen” (besides maybe Watchmen), but I don’t feel like these books have to be as good as Watchmen or otherwise considered worthless shit that makes me fat. I don’t see it as a binary at all.

    And yeah, Cerebus fell off the monthly schedule quite a few times. Maybe not towards the end once Sim became a super-disciplined semi-hermit, but it took something like 326 months for him to release 300 monthly issues, so there were some delays in there. Also, according to a couple things I found on the internet, Naruto only averages about 46 “weekly” installments per 52 week-years, so it sounds like something is either delaying or rescheduling it.

    I don’t really know why we’re still having this discussion, I am certainly not trying to say that “Last Son” is a brilliant work of art, but I also don’t want to throw an entire industry under the bus because it doesn’t live up to your opinion of Watchmen or a nebulous collection of art comics.

  16. There’s no purchase in replacing Kubert on the arc if it means the eventual collection is going to see its sales suffer as a result. I doubt Last Son = Watchmen, but I agree with Chris that it has the potential to be an “evergreen” blockbuster Superman story. That’s where the real money is to be made on the enterprise – the sales of the monthly comic are frankly a joke, and even if they’d stayed at 70-80K would pale beside the potential for a long-term income stream.

    That of course begs the question of whether sales of the collection *would* suffer if Renato Guedes took over halfway through, and on that we can only speculate. Given the way Infinite Crisis is now perceived, however, as an artistic mess, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that having the book drawn by “Adam Kubert & _______” would make the collection less popular, or less enduring, then having it drawn by Kubert alone.

  17. Tangential note about manga: Shonen Jump always takes a holiday for the Japanese Golden Week holiday, which was a couple weeks ago; so there’s pretty much a guaranteed one-week hiatus for every comic they publish. However, Naruto also took a hiatus a couple weeks before Golden Week this year. I dunno if that was beach-vacation week for the Naruto team or what.

    Could anybody suggest some reading that compares the operation of the Japanese studio system to American creative teams? I’m not much of an expert myself, even though I’m a Naruto junkie.

  18. Another point of interest is how Last Son both introduced and did away with the Christopher Kent character, while Kurt Busiek went on to use the character beginning with Pt. 2 of his Camelot Falls story in Superman #662 on through his last issue on the title (Superman #675).

    This relegates Kurt’s work for the Super-office at DC as occurring between the panels somewhere in Last Son, albeit not all that harmoniously.

    It begs the question, why did Kurt Busiek write a character into his own title that was going to be removed at the end of Last Son if Last Son was intended to be the initial 6-issue arc for Action Comics following the One Year Later storyline? Quite a bit was made of how convivial the collaboration between Johns and Busiek was and to my recollection there were at least a couple instances where Busiek and Johns met face to face in a “summit” sort’ve manner to map out plans for the Superman and Action Comics titles.

    When posed to Kurt, this is his response:
    http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1229853&postcount=4011

    Hope this makes sense.

    So was it really all about the art?

    It’s no secret Superman has had legal and ownership questions swirling around him the last year…particularly as it pertains to the Superboy. Superboy-Prime of course being a prime (I swear I can’t think of another adjective) example being unceremoniously referred to now as SuperMAN-Prime.

    Busiek had a single issue devoted to Krypto that was solicited twice and even shows up in the Next Issue panel of one of the Superman issues. The stock comment toward any inquiry why the issue never saw the light of day has been, of course, “no comment.”

    Yet another more recent alteration was made to the fill-in between Kurt and James Robinson taking on the Superman title that was initially solicited as being written by Keith Champagne with an Alex Ross cover of a different vantage point of the events of Action Comics #1. The Champagne issue and the cover were scrubbed in favor of an inventory issue originally planned for Superman Confidential before it got cancelled. A new cover was done by Ross as well. All instance of any connection with Action Comics #1 being done away with.

    This is noteworthy in relation to Last Son because for a good part of the first two parts Christopher Kent is referred to as Super-boy several times. Was Chris Kent meant to have more lasting impact? Was there a plan to introduce the character as a new Superboy of some kind? Is there anything to it possibly being more than just art problems that plagued this book during this storyline?

    It’s curious to me at least.

  19. [...] all that said, we know that there’s a problem at DC. The lateness issues that plagued the Superman titles didn’t only frustrate fans who wanted to read the upcoming [...]

  20. [...] in the world of superheroes, Action Comics #851 was the penultimate step in the sentimental journey of “Last Son”, a five part story that took about two years for Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, and Adam Kubert to [...]

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