Ask Collected Editions #2 - Young Justice Cartoon and Trade Paperbacks

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's time for another edition of our semi-regular series, Ask Collected Editions!

Before I begin what's going to be a very long answer to a short question, let me say that if you'd like to participate in Ask Collected Editions, send your questions to our Yahoo account (see address in footer) and I'll try to answer them in the next segment. (Questions may be edited, not all questions may be used, etc., etc.) Thanks!

Today's question comes from our friend Chris Marshall at the Collected Comics Library. (Chris has recently posted a rumination on comics violence that's worth listening to.) Chris asks:
With the announcement of the Young Justice League animated cartoon, do you think we will see any Young Justice trades? Or Absolute?
Short answer: Outcome doesn't look good. (Read more after the jump.)

For the long answer, let's start with a little background:

There were a couple of years, by my estimation, where writer Peter David seemed a household name at DC Comics. David's harpoon-handed Aquaman might've caused some controversy, but his distinctive vision of the character ran forty-six issues. He started writing an equally groundbreaking Supergirl series about halfway through Aquaman, and it was only a few months after his Aquaman run ended that David began Young Justice. Whereas Supergirl offered a dark and spiritual approach on the character that grabbed readers' attention, Young Justice was a more familiar take on Teen Titans than what readers had seen lately -- with a heavy dose of David's trademark humor -- and both quickly caught on. Supergirl ran for 80 issues and Young Justice for 55, with David as the constant primary writer for both, and Young Justice even warranted its own crossover or two.

And then David got caught in what I've always thought history should call the DC Comics trade paperback explosion.

The DC Comics Trade Paperback Explosion
Around 2003-2004, someone at DC Comics really woke up to the idea of collected editions as a viable comics-reading source. Consider that when Young Justice and Supergirl both ended in 2003, though many DC series were already appearing regularly in trade (JLA, JSA, Geoff Johns on Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow), DC's heaviest hitters -- Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, namely -- still weren't regularly collected. By the end of that year, Batman: Hush would be followed by the trade paperback-ready Broken City and As the Crow Flies; Superman would have Godfall, For Tomorrow, and new teams on each of the titles; and Greg Rucka would take over on Wonder Woman -- all of these titles have been for the most part consistently collected since. Ancillary titles like Robin and Birds of Prey received new creative teams, subsequently collected in trades, at the same time.

The give and take of DC's growing trade paperback awareness is present in the end of David's time at DC. First, somewhat ludicrously, DC announced a collection of the final issues of David's Supergirl series, Many Happy Returns, after the series had already been cancelled. This is not so strange to us now (see Shield and Web, among others), but at the time there's an extent to which this seemed like DC saying "We really like David's Supergirl, just not enough to keep publishing it." The small controversy reflects some of the time's uncertainty as to what sales responsibility the trade had to the monthly series and vice versa.

Collecting All (Fallen) Angels
The Supergirl trade might have also been in part to entice readers to David's next series, Fallen Angel, which teased a tenuous relationship to Supergirl. David was vocal (but often misquoted) that he heard from fans who liked the first issues of Fallen Angel ... enough that they planned to get the collection instead; David pointed out that skipping the monthly issues and waiting for the trade condemned Fallen Angel to be cancelled before trades would come out. Indeed, Fallen Angel lasted only twenty issues and received one trade before David moved the book to IDW; DC released a second trade of their Fallen Angel material only after the book's IDW success.

Compare DC's handling, by the way, of David's Fallen Angel and that of Marc Andreyko's Manhunter series just a few years later. Both were series with low sales but a fervent fan base; however, by the time Manhunter came about, DC seemed to have a better handle on the monthly series/trade issue, resurrecting an almost-cancelled Manhunter a couple of times and each time buffeting it with a collection, as if recognizing now that a couple of lower-selling monthly issues are worth the title's longer life in collection form; something it seems IDW figured out with Fallen Angel faster than DC did.

Adding insult to injury was that the success of David's Young Justice helped to inspire the popular Cartoon Network Teen Titans cartoon, and that plans for the cartoon plus the aforementioned trade paperback explosion brought on the cancellation of Young Justice and the start of Geoff John's Teen Titans series -- another fresh start that would serve to launch a series of ongoing trade paperbacks. Here again, it's hard not to visualize it as Peter David getting run over by the trade paperback explosion; with Fallen Angel at IDW, David would leave DC but good and not be seen there again, unfortunately, since.

A New Young Justice Collection?
If all of that isn't enough to suggest why DC might shy away from another Young Justice collection (beside A League of Their Own, which collects issues #1-7, and Sins of Youth, which collects the Young Justice: Sins of Youth miniseries that began but not any actual Sins of Youth issues) consider that there's not an easy storyline to collect at this time. Issue #8 is a Chuck Dixon fill-in; issues #9-11 deal with a mind-controlling cult and Red Tornado's custody of his daughter; issues #12-13 are a crossover with issues of Supergirl; issue #14 is a Day of Vengeance crossover, and issue #15-16 feature Arrowette before Sins of Youth pretty much begins. This would have to be a fairly ambitious trade -- either including the Supergirl issues or adding a lot of explanation pages -- to be readable, and I doubt DC will think the new Young Justice series warrants that.

If anything, I note that both Young Justice trades are out of print, and maybe DC will issue a new printing with a new logo and trade dress. I'd like to see more collected Young Justice material, but this is as much as I expect.

Disclaimer
Let me close by mentioning, as I suggested above, that Peter David is possibly one of the most misquoted men in comics. I like David's work and I agree with many of his opinions, and I admit that my fan history above may not be 100% accurate -- I wasn't there and I wasn't privy to the inside dealings, this is just what I've pieced together from articles and interviews and what I've intuited. But I don't want to add to the volume of Peter David misquoting out there (and indeed I'm probably one of those wait-for-traders who killed Fallen Angel), so I add this disclaimer that if in any way something David says differs from what I've suggested above, Peter David knows best.

Tune in next time for another edition of Ask Collected Editions!
Collected Editions 2016 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

15 comments:

  1. More likely with Young Justice is that DC will release a kids comic series under their Johnny DC brand and collect that rather than promote collections that, really, only share a name with the TV series and little else.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also very possible. Though, I've marveled at how quickly DC has introduced an Aqualad "physically similar" to the Young Justice cartoon Aqualad, and Geoff Johns has said these are meant to be the same character in different mediums; I wonder if that suggests more strongly that they will try some DC Universe branded Young Justice trade (even reprinting the old trades) in addition to Johnny DC.

    Maybe Young Justice DC Direct action figures, too?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Supergirl and Young Justice were my first legitimate forays into comic collecting - I'd followed the animated Batman/Superman comics, but more out of fidelity to the awe-inspiring Diniverse cartoons - so I've got the complete runs in boxes in my basement.

    Interesting timing on this post, though, since I just got through rereading both full runs. They're still very good, even though some bits (especially a few gags in YJ) seems somewhat dated. I can imagine these being difficult to collect in trade format, especially because YJ had a habit of crossing over with Robin, Superboy, and Impulse, resulting in many stories left unfinished or choppy for readers of YJ alone. Supergirl never had that problem, although her first story arc is essentially 50 issues long (initially, the first ten or so had been collected).

    Abandon all hope for Supergirl collections. No one at the DC office seems to be clear on whether or not the Matrix Supergirl still exists after the infamous reality punch, and aside from a fleeting reference in the lackluster "Reign of Hell" Linda Danvers is nowhere to be seen. As for Young Justice, I'd love to see it collected, if only because it was among David's most imaginative and entertaining work; the cartoon might bring enough of a fan base for DiDio & Co. to sit up and take notice. (And hey, if it gets Greta "The Secret" back into continuity, I'll buy any title she appears in.)

    Not, though, if David has anything to say about it. I always got the sense that David felt betrayed by the treatment DC gave him; he remarked once (assuming, that is, he wasn't misquoted) that YJ was essentially cancelled because Geoff Johns wanted to use the characters in Teen Titans. Superboy and Impulse have a conversation near the end of YJ about their favorite comics being cancelled and how heartbroken they are about it, while "cool" comics like Robin's get to continue being published. And the final arc of Supergirl is essentially an open letter in opposition to the kind of nostalgic writing that Johns is famous for; in "Many Happy Returns," the return of the pre-Crisis Supergirl creates universe-altering havoc, eventually killing Linda's daughter. After "Fallen Angel," I wouldn't be surprised if David pulls an Alan Moore and says "Take my name off the damn thing."

    ReplyDelete
  4. Funny you should mention that "my favorite comic was canceled" scene; in a moment of wonderful synchronicity, Speed Force has a post on that very scene today.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Young Justice trades seem to be a running gag at the DC panels I've been to at conventions. There's always someone asking about them, and whoever DC has always shoots them down.

    As for Fallen Angel, get ready for another coincidence. IDW finally got the rights to reprint the entire DC run, including the 8 issues that DC never collected. Fallen Angel Omnibus Volume 0 comes out...next week!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Are the planets aligning or something? I haven't seen this many convenient coincidences since reading the insane deus ex machina endings to the stories collected in "Superman in the Fifties." Perhaps the fates are letting us know that a YJ collection is indeed in the cards...

    Somebody call Grant Morrison and see if the aliens he talks with know anything about this.

    ReplyDelete
  7. To be honest, if it was just because Geoff wanted the characters, I'm cool with that; given the choice, I'd rather have had the Johns era of Teen Titans over more Young Justice. It was probably a combination of that and sales though. I recall being told that by the tail end of the series, it wasn't exactly doing so hot.

    Far as his Supergirl goes; I heard it got really heavy into the Christ and biblical sort of allusions. I just kind of tuned out from there. Too much of that in my superhero comics just sends me in the opposite direction.

    Honestly, I don't miss Peter David too much at DC. He seems to mesh more with Marvel. Judging by the quality of material he's churned out when there. I'd be down for him having another stint at DC if he were to write Batman though; as a huge Bat mark I'd be interested to see where he'd take it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Kelson

    That's only because bob Wayne is tone-deaf to market realities and generally looks to be angry at having to show up to another convention.
    Seriously, I always get the impression he'd rather be getting root canal work than have to sit through another panel.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I know PAD can write "serious," dl316bh, but given his reputation at DC as a "funny" writer, I can just hear the shreiks now if he were announced on Batman.

    Something else DC could do -- no chance, but would be cool -- would be to have PAD write a Young Justice special in celebration of the cartoon. Also good would be to have Todd Nauck draw some of the Young Justice Johnny DC series.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @sdcinerama: "I always get the impression he'd rather be getting root canal work than have to sit through another panel."

    Yeah, that sounds about right!

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Collected Editions: Yeah, but they shriek anyways. I mean, let's call a spade a spade here man. The internet comics fandom does nothing but bitch to the point where I question whether some of them truly even like comics. If Geoff Johns were announced on Batman tomorrow I'm sure the internet fans would find some reason to be mad.

    Besides which, I think Batman could mesh well with his writing chops he's employed over at Marvel. When Peter David isn't focusing on the funny like he did in DC, he seems perfectly capable of making some pretty epic - or at least very consistantly enjoyable - runs. I'd like to see if he could bring that magic to Batman. And hey, if he brings a bit of humor into it, I'd be down with that; I'm not one of those guys who thinks Bruce Wayne needs to be uber gritty all the time and I actually like it when he's a bit nicer than growling at everyone that Gotham is his city etc.

    So I personally think it would be interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree that the "Internet fans" seem REALLY negative; one of the things I like about this site and its reviews is even when something isn't very good, it's not just bashed as being "terrible" but instead valid criticisms are raised against it, indicating why the story didn't succeed.

    I check out ComicBookResources.com on a regular basis, and there's one recurring article (I won't name it here) that I refuse to read, because they review the week's comics, and there might be one or two they consider "good", a few that they consider "okay", and the rest that they consider to be garbage! If you hate comics so much, why spend all that time and money on them?

    ReplyDelete
  13. If you're talking about the column I think you are, it's because I don't think he does spend all that time and money on it. At the bottom is a note saying that if someone wants a comic reviews, send a PDF. The top list are only the comics he actually buys.

    There's a reviewer like that on Comics Bulletin too, maybe even worse; said reviewer single handedly got me to pretty much stop going to the site. I go to places like that to read reviews and see fair criticism, not outright bashing of pretty much any comics going. Hence why I like blogs like this lately.

    I've also stopped going to comic related forums. Used to post a decent bit at Comicbloc. Got pretty tired of the atmosphere and eventually just stopped going for the most part. Not worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thx, CE! I guess it was all the questions posed by fanboys at the conventions that got me started on this topic.
    I had a nice run of YJ including the early Robin/Superboy/Impulse "team-ups" before there was a series. I miss them greatly and would like to have them back. Perhaps DC will gets off their butt and release them digitally. Hey, I can dream!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Young Justice is one of those series where I'd buy the trades in a heartbeat if they came out. Supergirl and David's original volume of Captain Marvel too.

    ReplyDelete