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Captain Comics: Updates to the DCUniverse and more hot topics

Andrew A. Smith, Tribune News Service on

Published in Comic Books

The comics ticker is rattling away with news -- good, bad and uncertain:

FLASH! Fans of DCUniverse.com, the DC Comics streaming service, have had reasons to be nervous of late. But Comic-Con International: San Diego has given them reason for hope (maybe).

Despite the apparent success of its first two live-action shows, DCU's debut of "Swamp Thing" was marred by the abrupt announcement of its cancellation (after it had already been truncated by three episodes). And the live-action "Stargirl," originally scheduled to premiere in the fall, has been pushed back to 2020. Meanwhile, WarnerMedia (which owns DC Comics) is prepping a streaming service with all of WB's properties, not just DC -- which some fear will replace DCUniverse.

But the Warner Bros. Television Group has announced a two-hour DC Universe showcase Saturday, July 20, from 7-9 p.m. PDT at the San Diego Comic-Con. That's some valuable retail time, even if the show is set in the Indigo Ballroom instead of the more prestigious (and larger) Hall H. The program promises "sneak peeks, first looks and breaking news for 'Titans,' 'Doom Patrol,' the second half of 'Young Justice: Outsiders' and the upcoming animated comedy series 'Harley Quinn'."

Plus, WBTVG is sharing a booth with DC Comics. They wouldn't be so chummy if WB planned to punt on DCUniverse.com, would they? Perhaps it will, after all, survive as a separate entity, or be folded into the WarnerMedia service with its offerings intact. For those of who have been enjoying the superhero movies, animated films, cartoons and huge comic book cache, that would be very good news, indeed.

Which is not to slight WBTVG's other offerings at San Diego. Given DC's huge presence on the small screen, the company has scheduled a lot.

WBTVG will screen the "Batwoman" pilot and a new "DC Super Hero Girls" episode. "Black Lightning," "The Flash," "Pennyworth," "Riverdale" and "Supergirl" will each receive special video presentations. Even the soon-to-conclude "Arrow" will get a special presentation, which will be, hopefully, a proper send-off.

Plus, there's plenty of non-comics fare, like "Legacies," "Supernatural" and "Veronica Mars." Busy, busy, busy WBTVG.

FLASH! "Spider-Man: Far From Home" arrives July 2, with Jake Gyllenhaal starring as Mysterio, who claims to be a superhero from a parallel Earth.

It could be true. As "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" established, we live in a multiverse, where any conceivable variation of people and things can exist. So sure, former movie special effects maestro Quentin Beck could, in fact, be a hero named Mysterio.

Hahaha! Sorry, I just wanted to see if I could type that with a straight face. Mysterio is, of course, has been one of Spider-Man's foes in the comics for 55 years. He was even one of the original Sinister Six, an evil cabal that also included Dr. Octopus, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Sandman and Vulture, and was dedicated to Spidey's destruction.

The comic book Mysterio's specialty is convincing illusions. The "magic" he displays in his 1964 debut turns out to be created by hidden technology, and in later stories he's more subtle, using special effects to convince the wall-crawler that he's gone insane, for example, or that he's been shrunk to the size of an actual spider.

But, sure, let's say Mysterio is a hero, with actual super-powers. (Wink.)

FLASH! Speaking of "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," it arrives on Netflix June 26. Hint: Watch it on the biggest screen you can.

And one last word on the live-action film: The UK's Titan Comics has published the "Spider-Man: Far From Home Movie Special" in hardcover ($19.99) and softcover ($12.99). The book is in the same format as the impressive "Marvel Films: The First Ten Years" hardcover from late last year. It contains interviews with Gyllenhaal, Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Zendaya (MJ) and behind-the-scenes teams who handled the movie's stunts, costumes and special effects.

FLASH! DC's long-running "mature readers" label Vertigo is officially kaput.

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Vertigo was quite prestigious in its heyday. Run by the inestimable Karen Berger, Vertigo grew from primarily a bunch of adult horror books to a more varied line that pretty much had the high-quality, creator-owned, older-reader corner of the sandbox to itself. Vertigo gave us Jason Aaron's "Scalped," Brian Azzarello's "100 Bullets," Mike Carey's "Lucifer," Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitan," Garth Ennis' "Preacher," Neil Gaiman's "Sandman," Brian K. Vaughn's "Y: The Last Man," Bill Willingham's "Fables," Brian Wood's "DMZ" and big, dark epics with characters like John Constantine and Swamp Thing. (If you don't recognize some of these books, don't worry, they'll soon be adapted to movies or TV, if they haven't been already.)

But Berger was fired, Vertigo contracts no longer allow creators to own their creations and the experimental environment that was once Vertigo's hallmark is long gone. Berger's creator-friendly atmosphere has moved to a variety of other publishers, and the big-name creators have moved with it. It's good that the things that made Vertigo great are now so widespread, but sad that Vertigo no longer offers the things that made it famous.

Ominously, the death of Vertigo is part of a re-structuring at DC Comics, which is consolidating all of its various imprints into three lines: DC Kids, featuring all the younger-reader material; DC Comics, primarily its superhero universe; and Black Label, offering more adult fare. That may be a canary in the Batcave, signaling behind-the-scenes problems at DC that can't be anything good for the industry as a whole.

But killing off the watered-down Vertigo is really no loss. The great creators are still putting out terrific work, but elsewhere. And if Vertigo can't live up to its rep, why publish it?

FLASH: Speaking of quality, Dark Horse adaptations.

In addition to original comics like "Hellboy" and "Umbrella Academy," Milwaukie, Oregon's Dark Horse Comics publishes a number of adaptations and continuations of such properties as "Aliens," "Predator," and "Stranger Things." Add "The Orville" to the list.

"The Orville" #1 (of 4), by "Orville" executive producer David A. Goodman and artist David Cabeza, arrives July 17. The miniseries, consisting of two, two-issues "episodes," will bridge the first and second seasons.

Spoilers are embargoed, but I think I can paraphrase the descriptions and stay safe. The first issue introduces at least two major plots: Kelly runs into complications when trying to enroll Bortus' child in school, while Ed and Gordon investigate a century-old distress signal.

And it's good. The art isn't showy, but it does a good enough job with likenesses to suggest the actors who play the major roles. The story, "New Beginnings Part 1" (of 2), can't replicate the speed of TV's rapid-fire dialogue, but it does get the "voices" right.

That's some of the big news to get out of the way before Comic-Con gets here for real. Then there won't be room enough for it all!

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(Contact Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).)

(c)2019 Andrew A. Smith

Visit his website at comicsroundtable.com.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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