Saturday, August 13, 2011

Post-Pointal Discussion: The Cover To Stormwatch #1 Revealed



Thursday, August 11th, 2011

By David Hyde

When we first released the covers for DC Comics-The New 52, we held off on unveiling the STORMWATCH #1 cover to maintain the mystery of who was on the Stormwatch team.

Now, take an exclusive first look at Chris Burnham’s cover for STORMWATCH #1. The issue will be available in stores and digitally on September 7th.

I think the burning question on all our minds, and this relates to the whole of the New 52, is "Why?" Also, often, "what were they thinking?"

You see, I was intrigued by the prospect of the Martian Manhunter joining Stormwatch, a United Nations sanctioned super team that was something like a serious version of the JLI. Especially once it was revealed that the Manhunter-less Justice League would flash backwards five years to the new origin of the team, it would have been neat for Stormwatch to follow suit. J'Onn working alongside Winter and Fahrenheit and Fuji and the rest, with maybe a Global Guardian or two thrown in for flavor. Then you could flash forward to the new status quo with J'Onn recruiting Wildstorm heavy hitters Apollo and Midnighter to the team. We already knew Jack Hawksmoor was team leader, and since all three started out in Stormwatch before forming the Authority, you already had a ready made spin-off in the works. If the Martian Manhunter is more of a by-the-book, peaceful heroic type against the fascist socialism of the other leads, we would be bound to see a schism into two teams eventually. It makes sense to launch Stormwatch with Wildstorm's most popular characters, then evolve from there. Plus, it made for a very solid cover that would naturally appeal to fans of guys like Bryan Hitch and Frank Quitely.



As rendered, Midnighter's horrible new costume was downright tolerable, even with that ridiculous spike on his chin. Now look at the top image. It isn't terrible, and as third issue covers go, it's kind of cute. However, it sucks as a debut cover, especially following up on the solicited image. If I ordered one of those cover portfolio packages DC was soliciting, I would be pissed. Either because the advertised art was excluded, or because it was included but not the actual comic cover art, you're screwed one way or the other. Further, the first two covers as solicited match the grim tone of the interior art by Miguel Sepulveda and Al Barrionuevo, neither of whose names I will spell check by Google at my peril. The "revealed" cover sharply contrasts with not only the interiors and marketing to date, but also is garish in a way sure to display their base of Authority fans. Those guys like an air of sophistication, whereas this looks like a Marvel seriocomic mini-series starring former members of the Defenders or Champions thrown together with irony.

By the way, I don't believe I've mentioned this, but Wildstorm fans are kind of ticked off about this merger. Midnighter and Apollo were a married couple helping to raise Jenny Quantum, and now they're just meeting with the prospect of Midnighter being closeted being dangled. Wildstorm continuity is totally getting boned here, which is not endearing anyone.



Setting aside the fanboy complaints and the aesthetic dissonance this new cover represents, another excellent question is what exactly DC was trying to hide in not revealing this image. When Green Lantern: The New Guardians #1 was solicited, they tried (in vain) not to tip off the fact that Kyle Rayner was leading a group of already familiar power ring wielders. We still didn't know that Hal Boredon was going to once again lose his ring to Sinetro (or basically any opposition besides Guy Gardner,) and maybe somebody cares that the Star Sapphire rep appears to be Fatality instead of Carol Ferris. Point being, there was a reason to conceal the art and membership. With Stormwatch, why? We knew Apollo, Midnighter, Martian Manhunter, and Jack Hawksmoor was on the team straight out of the gate. The cover confirms the Engineer, Jenny Quantum, and a new character. So? We knew this from interviews and the cover to #2, which expands the membership anyway. The second cover image was also a far better debut prospect, I might add.



What do we gain from the switch in covers? Retailer and reader animosity at the deception? Guaranteed returnability at the distributor level? A less aesthetically appealing cover that turns away potential readers through art less indicative of the actual content? The revelation of a goofier looking team than promised, and a better look at J'Onn J'Onzz's increasingly worse costume? Is this just artistic license, or is DC screwing with the shape of J'Onn's head again, and what is with the endoskeletal forearm gauntlets? Dude is tucking his harem pants into his boots, which I guess kind of goes with the dhoti, but GTFO with that whole angle. Somehow, cavalier boots and trunks are seeming less hokey, y'know?

All I know is that I've been sold a bill of goods, which I have paid for in advance and spoken well of in a public forum. I'd prefer DC make this a variant, but the same art style looks to be on the third cover. It's a better piece, and I have nothing against artist Chris Burnham in general. I'm just going to be really unhappy if I have two issues of this story in a very distinctive, moody style, only to go straight super-hero with the third. It will be yet another indication that DC has made massive, controversial changes without the forethought to do the job right.

14 comments:

Jill said...

I don't think you should use blanket terms like 'Wildstorm fans are kind of ticked off about this merger' many of us are quite excited about it, thankyouverymuch. I participate in a Wildstorm forum and most of us are very happy. The Authority characters have been treated horribly by some of the writers that got ahold of them, and a clean start is actually a good thing for them, imo, especially since Cornell seems to get what made them appealing. Yeah, I am not thrilled about the costumes on Apollo and Midnighter, but those can be changed later, and the costumes look better on this new cover than any of the ones preleased previously. Apollo actually looks like, well, APOLLO. On the first one, the writer of the book mixed him up with Jack Hawksmoor, that can't be a good thing for him to be so unrecognizable. Wildstorm fans went ballistic over this cover, but not in a bad way, for the simple fact that Apollo has his halo, which was missing from all other images released to date. I know several o us were worried they'd gone and moved his most distinctive feature. I am very much looking forward to seeing Apollo and Midnighter meet for the first time, since that is something we never saw before, they were just together right from the start. Them doing the adoptive father thing was cool, but if they kept the history, Jenny wouldn't be in the book at all, she died, so it's not as if we'd get to see that anyway.

I do think the other cover captured the tone of the book better, but I'm not getting fussed over it.

What do i think DC was trying to do? I think there are a couple things going on here. I think the costumes were not finalized on the first cover, judging by how they've been futzing with Apollo's look in particular. First he's in this costume, but no halo, no glow, then it's glowing, presumably as a substitute for the halo, then it's not glowing and his halo is back... and Midnighter's cowl is different, etc. I also think that based on this, the cover for Action comics and the cover for Green Lantern: New Guardians which were all changed to become more action focused, that they wanted more 'traditional' superhero action on the covers. That's all. I it's not a move i necessarily agree with, but I think that's all there is to it, they weren't trying to 'hide' anything.

mathematicscore said...

First thing, I agree that there is a ton of weirdness going on with the whole DCnU that is clearly evidence they don't fully know what they're doing. And I'll certainly grant you that there were tonal qualities to the original covers that were good. Especially the sencond one. That said, I do not have a huge problem with this cover or style. I enjoy guys like Freddie Williams who do this sort of detailed, high action style. And as for the tweaks to costumes, the only ones I really see are to MM. The forearm gauntlets are cool by me and while I would be feeling a little more brow I wonder if they're not going for a weatherman look with that hairline look? The pants give it a bit of a martial artist thing, which I think works with the character. Also, every thing to Apollo's left is that I like to see in a superteam, the acting in particular. Jenny Quantum's raspberry seems a little off but not horrible. The new guy's cowering recalls a JLI-is dichotomy; if they kept up the action/intrigue side of the bargain (which JLI never quite did) This could be my jam for quite some time.

In summation, DC editorial clearly is flailing, but this seems to affect Stormwatch with netgains, so I'm guardedly hopeful.

Also, notice how Apollo has Superman's collar now? And somebody give Midnighter back his coat.

And finally, for reals, I will not be cool with any extended closeting of, well, anybody.

will_in_chicago said...

I am willing to wait to see what comes out. I do think that the costumes could be better and I like the other images better. (A purplish blue seems to work well for J'Onn.)

Jill, maybe you can ask some of the people on the Wildstorm forum mmebers to stop by here. I like a lot of the concepts I am seeing here, but I have to confess to not being very familiar with the Wildstorm characters. (I am willing to learn more, if you can point me in the right direction.) I want to see a comic that both fans of J'Onn J'Onnzz and the Wildstorm characters can say does justice to the concepts of hte characters. I would have preferred another cover than the one that is being solicitied. As I have said here before, I think that writers and artists should communicate with their fans -- and get some feedback. I hope for something more than a J'Onn J'Onnzz and Wildstorm version of Superfriends.

Costumes are easy to change (particularly for shape shifters from Mars). I just hope that the characters are going to be familiar to the readers, with good art and great stories. If not, I am willing to predict that we will see a DC Implosion fairly rapidly. (I am not sold on much of the DCnU already.)

mathematicscore said...

Oh, and one other thing, I rather like the body type used in this image. J'onn looks lean but strong, and therefore dynamic as opposed to bulky. I'm cool with that.

FLD said...

Jill, one of the good things about using blanket terms is that it encourages folks to voice corrections. Of course, with any statement of the sort, it's at least half true. You must admit that there is some ire in WS fan circles, while others take the "wait and see" approach, or are like yourself more full optimistic.

I agree that Cornell seems to offer hope for both sides of this merged team, and I'm glad it wasn't just me confused about Jack Hawksmoor looking like Apollo on that cover. If there's any legitimate rationale, that's it, but a quick dye job and a digital halo (which I confess I've never noticed) would have done the trick.

I'm not as hung up on specific changes as the indecisiveness that they indicate. Wonder Woman's being in and out of pants drives me nuts, and I prefer DC/WS expand their range rather than turn everything into a variation on straight super-heroes (Jonah freakin' Hex, for instance.) I think Wildstorm had been pretty thoroughly mauled as a stand alone universe by the end, so I welcome the characters into the DCU, where they can both contribute and find some stability. I'd just rather see more WS in my DC, rather than Stormwatch conforming to DC tropes like the static group shot of the "All-New! All-Different! All-Action!" sort.

Enjoying the comments from everyone, but nothing to add myself for now...

mathematicscore said...

A good point Frank that WS's more mature themes (as in pretty much everything Ellis touched, Stormwatch PHD, and, say, Team 7) could add a lot to DC's palette. I think I'll always be a sucker for well done superheroics though. The cover for issue three (and the general habit of having J'onn Martian Visioning every-which-way) makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

FLD said...

I do like the return of Martian Laser Vision. I'd like a different color, though. I liked the white beams they used to show, but I'd be happy with anything other than Superman Heat Vision red. Blue would be pretty unique...

mathematicscore said...

I've been developing the idea that Martian Manhunter "learns" powers from others if they are biologically inherent. One can argue shape changin and all that comes with it are natural Martian powers, but Heat vision or flight were perhaps copied by his shapechanging DNA when he encountered beings with those attributes. So to me, heat vision is martian vision.

FLD said...

I like it! Ties into the Silver Age and everything...

will_in_chicago said...

This also would give J'Onn the ability to adapt his power set as needed. Ironically, the only hero in the DCU who adapts his "power set" somewhat regularly is Batman, who is known for adjusting his costume and equipment. Perhaps the fact that Martian DNA can duplicate inherent powers does make him, in the words of Superman, the most dangerous potential adversary on the planet.


White or blue beams would work well. I think that the purple in the costume should tend to blue. I would still prefer a stronger collar.

LissBirds said...

Another costume redesign?

They just redesigned his costume a year ago and now it's changed again. No temporal ridges...that's just too Cardassian for me. No "gauntlets," which don't look like gauntlets to me but look rather insect-like. Also, it seems as though they're taking great pains to hide that funky red symbol on his pants...which I can only think is because they were still working out ideas for it.

I'm confused by everything in DC comics now. The reboot that was supposed to simplify things is only making things more complicated, and there's only so much effort I'm going to put into reading something that's supposed to be a diversion from things that take effort to do.

I'm still going to buy Stormwatch anyway and give it a try and then decide whether or not it's worth it. Who knows, it might be good. But what really bothers me is not the choice of costume or what have you, but DC's constant need to change things--it makes me feel that a.) the editors don't know what they're doing or b.) they don't know what their audience wants, and I want neither of those to be true. Find a forumla that works and stick with it.

FLD said...

I'll go with both options. DC Comics is like a sweaty, zit-faced teenage boy with unrealistic expectations and no game trying with absolutely no success to bang every pretty girl in sight. It's just this jittery, awkward, creepy, lecherous, overbearing mass of Do Not Want.

Anj said...

Was interested in your take of the new cover. Thanks for the great post.

I don't understand why it was 'hidden' unless it simply wasn't done.

And I don't like the J'onn costume at all.

Don't think J'onn is a big enough draw to lure me here unless I read spectacular things. So let me know if I should get the book!

FLD said...

Anj, I'll be covering the good and bad here on a monthly basis, so we shall see...