Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.
He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.
Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Cool Comic o' the Week: DC Bombshell Covers
I'll be honest, when I returned to comics, one of my initial gripes was the "variant" covers. Marketing being a major part of my college studies, I totally get it. There are plenty of obsessive comics readers willing to plunk down the extra three to four smackers a pop for differing cover images of the same story each month. I'm not one of those readers, albeit I'm not going to shy away if I find a red-hot variant sitting in my pull queue.
During the nineties, gimmick covers were all the rage, i.e. prism, platinum, foil, trifolds, embossments, holograms, everything but motherlovin' steel. It got to the point during that decade of excess in the comics world that enough was enough, since it became more about the danged covers than the material inside. This was the high age of "collectability" and nothing was out-of-bounds, not even those infernal bagged issues which you were guilt-tripped into never opening, not unless you were willing to depreciate their value. Thus, gullible nerds were found buying both the standard and bagged issues in said cases. I used to work in comics retail at the time and saw these things fly off the shelves, even if in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "dirty pool."
In the current market of comics, variants have become the profit-generating rage of the publishers. Two, three, sometimes four different covers hit the market for titles each month (Dynamite and Zenescope being two of the guiltiest offenders) and often a paltry limited run of retailer incentives featuring either virgin art only on the covers or, for the sex hounds of the collecting world willing to pay seven bucks extra, "risqué" editions featuring nudity. Again I flag Dynamite, who have to be mighty proud of themselves with Warlord of Mars for this very reason, since the already scantily-clad Dejah Thoris gets to strip tease even more on those variants.
Yes, variants in general tend to piss me off since one (especially a yeoman buyer) can blindly walk into a store and buy two of the same issue with different covers, obviously to the capitalist glee of their producers. One has to be diligent in what they're buying if his or her main purpose in buying comics to actually read them.
Despite this little rant, I'm going to turn hypocrite this month. DC Comics already turned a profitable hit with their 3-D Villains Month covers as prelude to "Forever Evil" not long ago. This month, they're doing a bit of cross-promotion with their "Bombshell Covers" to twenty titles from their New 52 lineup. This is based upon the statues available in comics and hobby shops that depict some of their most popular female characters like Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn and Batgirl in throwback pinup depictions.
These alternate covers are generated from girlie calendars, magazines, Depression era advertising and plane art from the thirties through the mid-sixties. While you're not going to see anything as steamy as Dejah Thoris minus her golden nipple covers, I'm going to throw in the towel and say these ingenious variants are sexy. Better yet, they're classy.
The affected titles are Action Comics # 32, Detective Comics # 32, Green Lantern # 32, Batgirl # 32, Batman # 32, Green Lantern Corps # 32, Justice League United # 2, Superman/Wonder Woman # 9, Batman and Ra's al Ghul # 32, Batman/Superman # 12, Batwoman # 32, Harley Quinn # 7, Justice League # 32, Red Hood and the Outlaws # 32, Wonder Woman # 32, Aquaman # 32, Catwoman # 32, Justice League Dark # 32, Superman # 32 and The Flash # 32.
Poison Ivy's nod to Bettie Page on the Bombshell cover of Detective Comics # 32 is about the hardest DC pushes the boundary line with these covers, while their inspired salute to Rosie the Riveter on the Wonder Woman # 32 variant serves as a reminder when America still had something to fight for. It's patriotic, even though non-comics folk will dismiss it as corny. We need heroes and heroines these days, and not just from a Hollywood profiteering perspective. Okay, some of the Bombshell babes are villainesses. Semantics.
The Bombshell covers take us back to a time when the United States' citizenry was bit more naïve and happily so. Now we live in a pessimistic, jaded society. Our cost for enlightenment is automatic skepticism and suspicion of one another. That's just how things are. Comic books are about escapism for those fifteen minutes one is engaged with them and therein, I believe, makes the Bombshell covers work, even if the subliminal design is to huckster high-priced collectibles outside of the books.
Listenin' to: The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Survival Sickness