I had little interest in the new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series until I read in a recent “DC Nation” column that it is to be a continuation of the original series rather than a re-start. That’s cool, I think. It inspired me to work my way completely through the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives series for the first time ever, if I finish it. Right now I’m in the middle of volume three, so wish me luck. By the time I finish, there will be a new archive volume collecting the 1980s series.

The first issue of the new series is (not unexpectedly) darker than the original, but it’s too soon to get a sense of where they’re going with it. I’m unfamiliar with the work of writer Nick Spencer, but the work of penciller Cafu reminds me a bit of Gary Frank’s. I don’t have much else to say about this series yet, but is anyone else reading it?

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Add to that, DC did absolutely zero merchandising for Static Shock. No tie-in comic, no action figures, no video game, no coloring books, no nothing! Was it even released on DVD? But then Static was a Milestone creation, not a DC one, so I'm sure royalties played a major part.
Weren't DC and Milestone in contention for a long while? Maybe DC didn't have the rights to market Static.
According to Wiki, Geoff Johns wanted to use Static in his Teen Titans relaunch of 2004 or so, but he found there was a lot of red tape to get around. That would have been quite high-profile.

I wonder why Static didn't get a look in in McDuffie's Milestone-JLA crossover either?

My first instinct would be to assume that McDuffie still owns part or all of the character, so DC/Warner would have to pay him a cut of anything they make on Static. Thus they may see an advantage in using their resources to push properties that they wouldn't have to share the return on.

Also according to wiki, there's a Static ongoing planned for 2011.
I think there is a kind of hierarchy in the DCU, but it doesn’t come from where Philip thinks. It comes out of the fact that readers have more connection to some characters than others. Readers are more likely to have that kind of interest in a character when the character has been well handled or has had a good series at some point. Aquaman has never been a favourite of mine, but he does have his fans. His Silver Age title lasted longer than Hawkman’s and the Atom’s. (He had a cartoon in the later 60s, which perhaps helped.)

In the 70s there was already a subtle hierarchy in the DCU, in that some characters (the members of the JLA) were more central to it than others (say, the Creeper or Metamorpho). What stood behind this was that the DCU of the 60s wasn’t all that integrated. Mort Weisinger’s Super-books were highly integrated, but with each other, not the rest of the DCU. Julie Schwartz’s titles were somewhat integrated (not as heavily), but again, with each other more than the rest of the DCU. So in effect the Schwartz part of DC’s output (which included Justice League of America) was where DC’s shared universe was, and the knock-on effects of this (and Schwartz’s use of them in back-up slots after their titles failed) made the lesser Leaguers more central to the DCU of the 70s than the superheroes introduced by other DC editors in the mid to late 60s (or, for that matter, the characters from Kirby’s features from his 70s stay at DC, except Morgan Edge). Although the DCU became more integrated in the 80s, the prominence of JLA/Schwartziverse group in the 60s/70s and the affection many fans have for their Silver Age stories has been the basis of their subsequent prominence.

Captain Atom has probably never made the same kind of connection with as many readers. I’ve argued he’s a seminal character, because he was the first (I believe) of the fly and handblast guys. But that doesn’t mean he has anything to offer that his imitators don’t, or that he has qualities that might allow him to capture the interest of readers who aren’t already interested in him. One reason some of us are interested in his 60s stories is Steve Ditko drew them, but that’s not necessarily enough to make us interested in seeing him handled by others. (Incidentally, I would think he was almost identified as Monarch because he had a series and it was flagging, making him prominent enough for the reveal to have potential shock value and disposable enough to be so used.)

In theory, when a character has something going for him, but not enough, a revival might add the extra he needs. (I think Captain America is still on the stands today partly because Lee bought something extra to the character when he was revived.) But the market changes, and the time might be past when it’s receptive to such revivals. Some characters have almost nothing going for them. Also, negative encounters with a feature can leave readers with an aversion to it.

I liked the Ditko Blue Beetle stories I read in reprints as a kid, but I don’t think he had so much going for him that one would have expected him to be a big success in the 80s just from begin revived by creators working in a contemporary style. It seems to me turning him into one half of a double act with Booster Gold was adding that something extra he needed.

Again, when DC revived the Flash’s and Green Lantern’s features in the early Silver Age it updated the characters. Passing the Question identity on to a second generation character is a kind of updating.

JMS is apparently seen as a top writer, and he was involved with DC’s latest try with the Archie heroes. They seem to me to fall into a class of heroes a lot of fans know about and few people care about, so it doesn’t surprise me they didn’t do better.

Some features DC has tried again and again. It initially tried to do Captain Marvel in a Fawcett style, in its 70s Shazam! title. When that flagged it switched to a non-cartoony art style and moved the feature into World’s Finest, but the stories remained gentler than other DC stories of the period. (The last two instalments appeared in the Adventure Comics digest.) The creators who worked on the feature along the way included Julie Schwartz, Denny O’Neil, Elliot S. Maggin, E. Nelson Bridwell, C.C. Beck, Bob Oskner, Kurt Schaffenberger and Don Newton.

Elsewhere - in Justice League of America, the Superman vs. Shazam tabloid, and DC Comics Presents - DC did stories with the Marvels in the style of other superhero features of the period. Roy Thomas also used the Marvels (and Mr. Mind) in All-Star Squadron.

Post-Crisis I think DC tried to reposition Captain Marvel in the mainstream of the DCU, but his 80s revamp mini, Shazam! The New Beginning (by Roy and Dann Thomas and Tom Mandrake), didn’t lead to an ongoing. In the 90s Jerry Ordway revamped him again, and wrote and painted the covers for the series that followed, The Power of Shazam! A spin-off character, Thunder, was added to the cast of Legion of Super-Heroes.

In the 00s Captain Marvel was added to the cast of JSA (along with Black Adam). Subsequently DC has made prominent use of Black Adam and Mary (in 52, Countdown and Final Crisis), revamped the Shazam feature in the Trials of Shazam mini, had Jeff Smith (fresh off Bone) separately revamp the feature for kids in the Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil mini, and published a kids’ ongoing, the just-cancelled Billy Batson & the Magic of Shazam!

Another character DC has recurringly attempted to make a go of is Plastic Man. It's tried a new series in 1966-1968 (written by Arnold Drake), another in 1975-1977 (with Ramona Fradon on the art), a co-feature in Adventure Comics in 1979-1980 (Martin Pasko [mostly] and Joe Staton; further instalments of their version appeared in Super Friends), a mini in 1988 (written by Phil Foglio), a special in 1999 (written by Ty Templeton), and an ongoing by Kyle Baker in 2003-2007. He also appeared as a member of the cast of JLA during its Grant Morrison run and subsequently.

DC revived Blackhawk’s feature in 1975-1976 (this was one of a number of revival titles of the period; they all quickly failed except Green Lantern), revived it again as a WWII feature in 1982-1984 (Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle), commissioned a mini by Bill DuBay and Carmine Infantino that it didn’t publish, had Howard Chaykin revamp it in 1987-1988, put this version into Action Comics Weekly, gave Blackhawk his own title again, and put out a final special in 1992.

DC did try a Static Shock tie-in, the mini Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool, in 2000-2001. According to John Jackson Miller's Comichron site, its Diamond sales were very low indeed, starting at an estimated 7,716 in its debut month and downhill from there. I don't know how Time Warner organises its merchandising: the decisions in relation to Static Shock needn't have been up to DC.

ISSUE #2: My THUNDER Agents Archive reading has hit a snag (due to the recent release of Archie Firsts, Li’l Abner Vol. 2 and Phantom Dailies Vol. 2 among other things), but the second issue of the new series was pretty good. It features the new Lightning and is set against an educational and historical backdrop of Kenya. The new series has a bit of the flavor of JMS’s Supreme Power, but maybe not quite that dark.

I see DC is bringing out some early Wally Wood Thunder Agents comics in a DC Comics Presents at the end of Dec.

 

» View Larger Image

 

Written by WALLACE WOOD, STEVE SKEATES and others; Art by WALLACE WOOD, GIL KANE, STEVE DITKO and others; Cover by WALLACE WOOD

As DC's new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS series gets under way, relive these legendary tales from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #1, 2 and 7! Don't miss the origins of the team's members, the death of a lead character, and more.
Maybe its time I got reacquainted with NoMan and Co?

Yes, that caught my eye as well. Hopefully they will continue if the new series is successful.

There were two things I particularly liked about THUNDER Agents #2, but when I posted I only mentioned one of them. I like it when comic books educate as well as entertain, but I also like it when comics try to explain the clearly fantastic with “comic book” pseudo-science (when it’s consistent and done well, I should add). Case in point, the explanation of how the Lightning suit works: “The suit uses closed time-like world lines and relativity curves in quantum states to subvert and trade the properties of time and distance in measurable amounts.” This explanation is then summed up as: “The suit lets you run real fast, but when you use it, it shortens your life.” Funny.
The DC Comics Presents… T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents 100-Page Spectacular which shipped last week is a good complement to the new series and a great introduction to the organization… if you can get past the eight buck price tag. Yikes!
I picked it up, and liked it quite a bit. But boy, Gil Kane didn't really stretch when he designed the Menthor costume, did he?

I haven't been to the comic shop in two weeks.  I'm hoping this will still be there when I get there tomorrow.

 

...if you can get past the eight buck price tag. Yikes!

 

US$8 will cost me AU$12 here in Australia which is "Yikes" X 150%!.  One of the reasons my pull list has shrunk since landing here.

 

(The Aussie dollar is now = to the yankee greenback - quite unprecedented.  Hope I see a commensurate drop in the price of US comics here soon as a result.)

It's still a bargain compared to the originals and the Archives!

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