Trade Perspectives: Have a Geoff Johns Omnibus, why don't you?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It would be very easy for this to become a post along the lines of "Who does this Geoff Johns think he is getting three Omnibus editions of his work when X number of writers still languish in collected limbo," etc. Let me say at the outset then that I like Geoff Johns's DC Comics work quite a lot; moreover, the way in which this one person has very really rejuvenated comics almost entirely through enthusiasm and good work is quite remarkable, and Johns deserves the many accolades he's received.

Rather, the bottom line of this post will be more along the lines of that I entirely understand why DC Comics is now soliciting hardcover Omnibus editions of Johns's Flash, Hawkman, and Teen Titans work, but that I think these will ultimately be somewhat funny and awkward collections. Much admiration, much understanding -- but these are going to be somewhat funny and awkward collections.

Let's begin.

It is very clear to me why DC Comics will publish a Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus series. Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. aside, Flash and JSA are the two series where Johns first gained public notice. Half of his Flash run (about the third Flash Wally West) featured art by Scott Kolins, who continues to contribute art to Johns's new Flash series about the second Flash Barry Allen. Johns's Flash stories were a big deal at the time, including the anniversary issue Flash #200; Johns's Flash stories carried over into a number of specials and such that were not originally collected in paperback; and Johns wrote a complete Flash story from beginning to end, with a distinct and pointed ending -- the series even went on an extended hiatus when Johns left.

The same cannot be said for Johns's Teen Titans and Hawkman runs.

Don't misunderstand -- these are both really great comic book runs. Johns breathed new life into the Teen Titans franchise once considered dead for good, and the initial trade paperback, Teen Titans: A Kid's Game, remains one of my all-time favorite trade paperbacks. Johns's Hawkman, as well, was a remarkably accessible take on a character also considered unworkable, and Johns's Thanagar story that brought in the mid-1990s Hawkwoman is also a personal favorite.

But ...

Johns's Teen Titans fares very well through about issue #26 -- that includes crossovers with Outsiders and Legion of Super-Heroes, and popular artists including Mike McKone and Tom Grummett. The two fill-in issues by Gail Simone probably won't be collected; then issues #30-33 deal with Infinite Crisis. Still good-ish issues, but a lot of artists roll in and out -- Tony Daniel, Todd Nauck, and others.

Post-Infinite Crisis, Johns's Titans "One Year Later" stories are also quite good, from about #34-40. Tony Daniel became the series' regular artist, but bows out after this, and a spate of guest artists finishes Johns's final "Titans East" storyline through #46. That last issue, co-written by Adam Beechen as Johns himself leaves the title, ends on something of a cliffhanger (or at least a downer) -- it's a far cry from the strong, distinct end of Johns's Flash story.

Ditto Johns's Hawkman. This book starts strong with co-writer James Robinson and artist Rags Morales with Ethan Van Skiver and Don Kramer. The book goes strong through issue #19 and even into the great "Headhunter" three-parter #20-22. Issue #22, however, ends on an uncertain and emotional cliffhanger for Hawkman and Hawkgirl, just before the JSA: Black Reign crossover. The cliffhanger (Hawkman taking on a more violent persona) is not resolved in those issues, and Johns leaves the book right after; the single issue and collected reader never quite got any closure, and neither too would the Omnibus reader.

I should mention here that I'm one hundred percent certain there's a JSA by Geoff Johns Omnibus coming right down the pike behind these books. I'm sure as the day is long, DC wouldn't be collecting Johns's Flash, Hawkman, and Teen Titans without the intention to collect his JSA issues too (including, one hopes, the first five issues by David Goyer and James Robinson without Johns). Johns's JSA is pretty great throughout, but Johns leaves just in the middle of JSA's run up to Infinite Crisis, then Keith Champagne takes over for a bit, and then Johns pops in for one more issue before Paul Levitz takes over.

JSA is a bit more straightforward than Teen Titans and Hawkman, but all three beg the question: Does anyone really want to read only Geoff Johns's issues of a book, if reading just Johns's issues and not the ones right after or ones by fill-in writers leaves you with just half the story? Maybe one would want to see a collection of unrelated stories by one artist to examine that one artist's work, but to read three-fourths of a story just because the story is by Johns seems, again, rather awkward.

And I imagine the reader who has never read these stories before, who buys two or three hardcovers at $50-$75 each, and then comes to the end of these books only to find them ending on a sour or somewhat uneven note. These books seem like a good idea, and will probably look good on the shelf, but I fear they'll end up disappointing in the end.

If I were DC Comics (I say, self-righteously), I might not be marketing these as "by Geoff Johns" omnibuses. Sure, Johns's name could be on them as loud and large as Brad Meltzer's on Identity Crisis or Grant Morrison's on Final Crisis, and Johns might indeed be the selling point for these collections, but it would seem to me the company gets more freedom calling these just the Hawkman Omnibus and the Teen Titans Omnibus. Bill them as Modern Marvels the Modern Library Collection or some such. That way, at least, the reader can get the one or two extra stories that round these collections out.

I'll be interested to see DC's official solicitation for these books, how the final volumes from each series shape up, and what omnibus editions DC publishes next outside of the "Geoff Johns series." Which of these are on your definite "to buy" list?
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17 comments:

  1. Definitely Flash & Hawkman. I disliked his run on TEEN TITANS going ahead. The trades after & around Infinite Crisis were irritating. I'm running to get the trades before they sell out.

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  2. Thank you for this excellent review and commentary. I am a big fan of Omnibus collections (though I typically wait until they come out in Paperback form). I also am a fan of Geoff John's writing. I definitely have to agree with you, however, that it would be to everyone's advantage if DC were to include the other "fill-in" stories by other authors so that the stories are complete and readers are not left with frustration.

    I will revisit these collections sometime after they have been published and I can see other (perhaps more eager) reader's reviews before I decide to buy or not.

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  3. I never before considered how many Johns runs ended without satisfying conclusions (and the one that didn't is the only run of those you mention that I haven't read to the end). Say what you want about Morrison, he does try to conclude things more meaningfully (of course I'm sure someone can come up with a good example of the contrary).

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  4. It didn't seem to me that the Hawkman Omnibus was being billed as "by Geoff Johns," unlike the Flash and Teen Titans books. That should give DC an "excuse" (not that it needs one) to collect important issues written by others.

    I think DC should take a page out of Marvel's book here and not skip any issues, regardless of who they're written by. Marvel will soon be publishing a Spider-Man by David Michelinie & Todd McFarlane Omnibus, but not every issue collected will feature both creators. As Marvel has explained it, having two creators in the book's title simply means that at least one of those creators is working on each issue, not necessarily both.

    Thus, the Spider-Man Omnibus will include important issues with fill-in art by Erik Larsen and Mark Bagley that might otherwise have been skipped over (and in fact were skipped, in previous trade collections). I really hope this will be the case for DC when it releases the Teen Titans and Hawkman collections.

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  5. Correct, the Hawkman solicitation doesn't overtly say "by Geoff Johns Omnibus" like the Teen Titans and Flash books do. Which is weird, because of all three, Hawkman is the one with the most material written by Johns specifically from beginning to end (alongside James Robinson).

    And I'd also note that whereas DC calls the Flash Omnibus a "by Geoff Johns" omnibus, the cover (above) doesn't say "by Geoff Johns Omnibus" in the same way that the Kirby Omnibuses say "Jack Kirby's Fourth World." No telling what the book spines will say, but it remains possible that "by Geoff Johns Omnibus" is a bit of hyperbole on the part of DC, and that none of these omnibuses will be specifically limited to Johns's work.

    Then again, JLA Deluxe doesn't say "JLA by Grant Morrison Deluxe," and it's limited to just Morrison's work to the exclusion of others, so to an extent it's hard to say until the book's in our hands ...

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  6. JLA seems like something which would have benefited from it being a full collection...I recall great arcs/one offs by notable creators like Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Dennis O'Neil, Geoff Johns, Kurt Busiek, Chuck Austen & Bob Harras. Heck, I'd have given them some credit had they included ONE MILLION, AZTEK, EARTH 2 & ULTRAMARINE CORPS (not too sure about the last two being included in the Deluxe)

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  7. Magnificent review and commentary, as usual.

    I won't be getting the Teen Titans nor Hawkman nor Flash.

    I got Teen Titnas paperbacks just a while ago, and I have no reason to get an omnibus that'll only collect Jones stories. Too many blank spaces.

    The Flash Omnibus was something that catched my attention, but $75 for so little pages is overkill. Too much money for something that is not incredibly relevant for modern stories.

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  8. I'm getting the Flash ones 'cause I like me some Wally West, but neither Hawkman nor the Titans have ever really appealed to me.

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  9. I'm curious where our Flash Mark Waid ombnibus is as even Johns stories use a lot of ideas which Waid created and/or expanded upon from earlier writers using them in modern stories.

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  10. I don't see there being a Flash by Mark Waid omnibus, if only because I'm sure DC wants to move away from Wally West and towards Barry Allen to limit confusion among new fans coming to comics when the Flash movie comes out in a few years.

    Geoff Johns is kind of a special case; he's a big name writer, so his stuff is going to sell well; he's currently writing the Flash, so previous issues of his Flash comics (even if they feature a different Flash) would likely sell well; and he's the Chief Creative Officer, so they want to keep him happy and line his pockets with royalties from all these omnibus books!

    Not saying I wouldn't like to see a Waid Flash omnibus, but rather just giving reasons for why I don't see it happening.

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    1. Chief Creative Officer deals with adaptations though, it has nothing to do with editorial or writing comics.

      Also, the simpler reason why we wouldn't see a Waid Flash omnibus is because Waid currently has a poor relationship with DC.

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  11. I'm just glad to see DC get in on the omnibus game. I know they've done a couple before, but three at once seems like a huge increase.

    I'm definitely on for Flash. Probably for Hawkman. Probably not for Teen Titans.

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  12. Quite a bit of hubbub lately over DC's non-answers about Wally West at the cons. One would hope they have big Flashpoint plans for Wally, and then maybe a Flash/Mark Waid omnibus coming down the pike once the Geoff Johns omnibuses finish -- that'd probably repair a little fan hurt, at least.

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  13. I'm just stunned they won't let Wally on Robinson's Justice League. As you say, it isn't like he's doing anything. I'd argue the same for John Stewart's Green Lantern. That's a team that needs more than the one name (Dick Grayson's Batman) that it already has, and either of those is bigger than anyone else on that team.

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  14. I still maintain that DC is going to keep Wally in a low profile because of the new Flash movie. John Stewart is a bit of a different case, as the GL movie establishes that there are many Green Lanterns (even if Hal is the only one from earth) and the Justice League cartoon was on for what, 5 seasons? with John as GL. Granted, Wally was in the Justice League cartoon, but how often was it actually said that it was Wally and not Barry? I can think of one episode where the JL had to unmask among themselves and Batman introduced everyone's secret identities. There was also a Flash-centric episode that focused on the rogues, but even then I'm not sure if they actually used Wally's name. Meanwhile, it was obvious which Green Lantern they were using, and in fact they usually referred to John by his name rather than as "Green Lantern."

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  15. I'm a Wally fan, too, but it makes sense Robinson wouldn't have Wally on his team. Wally is a former Big 7 Justice Leaguer, of course, and Robinson's League is about the second-stringers; from that view (only), Jesse Quick makes more sense.

    Should DC do something with Wally West? Sure. Would I like to see Wally somewhere in the DC Universe? Yes. But the extent to which the Wally fandom has not died down with Barry's return -- as opposed, I'd say, to the pretty consistent "Connor who?" once Oliver came back -- says to me that Wally's going to be OK.

    I don't necessarily mind DC letting the character rest -- his last series was not a big seller, mind you, and I felt DC's attempts to put Wally in the spotlight became a little desperate. I'm confident that if DC gives Wally a minor role for a while, and then gives him a good miniseries or two, the fans will still be there for Wally like they are now.

    Me, I'm still thinking we'll see a good Wally presence in Flashpoint ...

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  16. I think my problem with Robinson's League is that the JLA isn't about second-stringers - saving maybe the mocked Detroit era or the fondly-remembered JLI period. At the risk of generalising, and especially with a movie due in 2013, it should be about big names. That's how it's distinct from any other random DC superhero team or even Marvel's Avengers, which has traditionally featured smaller characters in larger roles.

    And, to be frank, having Dick Grayson's Batman on the team undermines the "second stringers" argument - the guy is holding down three books at the moment (Detective, Batman, Batman & Robin). Arguably Tim Drake ought to be included as the "Bat family representative" instead, if they wanted a low-key "next generation" team.

    Wally just seems a natural fit given the principle of Robinson's team, drawing, as it does, from the Teen Titans and trying to create a "next generation" vibe. Hell, I'd throw in one of the three non-Hal-Jordan Green Lanterns as well if you wanted to create the sense of "the future of the DCU." Which is, admittedly, a great hook, but executed horribly.

    Don't get me wrong - I know why editorial are keeping Wally out, but I just don't think that the JLA has the star power that it really needs.

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