2010 was a year like no other for comics — from the stories in the pages to the stories behind the scenes and even on the big screen. But as big as it was, 2011 is out to do 2010 one better.
Newsarama is back for its third annual look forward for the biggest and brightest in the New Year. In Newsarama’s 11 for ‘11, we’ve hit the streets and analyzed the treats to find out who’s big, what’s happening, and what’s next. In the first of our weeklong series, we turn to the crown jewel of the comics industry itself: the characters.
Comics wouldn’t be anything without characters. From the multi-faceted adventures of the X-Men to the beloved Charlie Brown in Peanuts, it’s the personalities on the page and on the screen in comics that make them memorable to kids and adults alike. In this year’s list, a menagerie of characters came forth -— running the gamut from super heroes to pulp icons and even a whip-smart explorer from Belgium. From long-running serials to newer heroes, and even a classic character brought back from the archives, 2011 is shaping up to be a banner year for comics and comics fans.
Moon KnightAlthough created some 35 years ago, Marvel’s Moon Knight has a hard time stepping out of the shadow of other cape-wearing, shadow-hugging, special-forces trained avenger across town. Currently showing up as a member of the Steve Rogers-led Secret Avengers, Moon Knight is best known as well-resourced crime fighter with few friends except the personalities in his head. But at this year’s New York Comic Con, news came out that Marvel’s top writer Brian Bendis and long-time collaborator Alex Maleev (Daredevil, Spider-Woman, Scarlet) are scheduled to relaunch the character in an all-new ongoing series in 2011, with the writer saying it will be a “complete reinvention of the character on every conceivable level.” After Marvel’s reshuffling of Spider-Man in “Brand New Day”, this announcement suggested that the self-titled Fist of Honshu could see a Brand New Knight.
The Bat FamilyLast year at this time, Bruce Wayne was presumed dead and Dick Grayson was just getting use to the fit of the cape and cowl — but fast forward 12 months and over 50 various issues of Batman titles, and Gotham City is in the midst of a new status quo to a level unseen in decades. After years of his civilian identity acting only to finance his crime-fighting lifestyle, the newly resurrected Bruce Wayne is taking the business savvy of Wayne Industries to create a corporate league of Batmen across not only our United States, but the world. With multiple Batmen (and women!) and multiple Batman series, it’s never been a better time to wear the Bat -symbol on your chest. But can two Batman — Dick and Bruce — co-exist, and can Bruce (and DC) franchise out the Dark Knight to become a global network of crime-fighters?
Considered a beloved icon on par with Charlie Brown and Spider-Man in Europe, TinTin remains relatively obscure in the United States — but with a Steven Spielberg-helmed motion picture adaptation scheduled for release in December 2011, that could all change. Originally conceived by cartoonist Georges Rémi — aka Herge — as a newspaper strip in 1928, the series went on too become 24 standalone volumes that become one of the foundations for modern European comics. Although dissimilar to American superhero comics, Herge’s Adventures of TinTin shares much with classic American animation and the all-ages style used by Pixar. Spielberg’s film adaptation uses digital motion capture and finds the famed director joined by genre-fan darlings: Peter Jackson as producer, and Edgar Wright writing the script based on three original TinTin comics. The big question is this: can the combined forces of Spielberg, Jackson and Wright give TinTin a lasting impression on worldwide audiences without straying too far from the beloved source material — and will an American publisher bring back the complete comic series in print?
Fantastic FourAfter months of waiting, January’s Fantastic Four #587 will reveal which of Marvel’s First Family is hitting the chopping block, and setting off a chain of events that could propel the group to a new status quo. Marvel editor Tom Brevoort has stated numerous times that the Fantastic Four series is ending, and just days ago Marvel released news of a new series simply titled FF with a 3-part insignia on its cover. As series writer Jonathan Hickman enters what’s been called the second stage of his tenure on the title, speculation abounds over who will inhabit the Baxter Building in 2011. Could a new FF series mean a replacement for the team, or perhaps a new name culled from recent stories such as “The Future Foundation”? How will the team interact with the upcoming Fear Itself event? Why is Spider-Man crossing over in March? And most importantly, how will a death in the team impact the Richards and their extended family?
Green LanternThrough Blackest Night and into Brightest Day, Green Lantern has emerged as a beacon of renewed creativity for both DC Comics and its burgeoning movie slate. Longtime scribe Geoff Johns reached his heralding heights with the Green Lantern title (as well as Flash), becoming the publisher’s Chief Creative Officer and the resident playmaker for DC’s stories as a whole. And in the larger movie industry, the upcoming Green Lantern film is positioned to turn DC’s movie slate from a one-note song with Batman to a choir of successful franchises. A lot is riding on the success of the Ryan Reynolds-led flick, and both DC and its parent company Warner Brothers hope to make some green out of the Lantern in 2011.
ThorWhile always a memorable and unique character in Marvel’s pantheon of heroes, the mighty Thor has never been as popular as he is today. After the remarkable resurrection in 2007 by writer J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel, the flaxen-haired hero has stood front-and-center in a rejuvenated Avengers-centric Marvel universe in comics. With Marvel “Architect” Matt Fraction on his core series and numerous miniseries and one-shots hitting shelves in the next few months, they’re all seasoning the field for Odinson’s big-screen debut in his first film. Helmed by Shakespearian director Kenneth Branagh and using an ensemble cast of rookies, veterans and cult stars, Thor is nonetheless a risky gambit for mainstream audiences. Can they blend the medieval epics akin to Lord of the Rings with the Marvel-style superheroics seen in Iron Man into an identifiable and relatable hero to match the success of the Iron Man films?
Superman & Wonder Woman
Although both Superman and Wonder Woman are two of the most popular comic characters in the world, in recent months they’ve been between a rock and a hard place — both in comics and in film. Although on the proverbial ropes, any boxing fan will tell you that it could be the place where they could make their biggest comeback yet. On the comics front, the recent revamp by writer J. Michael Straczynski proved lackluster and short-lived, with the writer leaving both characters’ flagship titles after only a few issues. On the movie front, DC is working hard to re-start the Superman franchise and see if they can ever get a Wonder Woman film off the ground. There’s no question DC wants these two pillars of its company to be at the top of the charts — it’s just a question of what they’re willing to do to get them there. For Wonder Woman there’s a long-gestating All-Star Wonder Woman series by Adam Hughes in the works, and in October it was revealed that DC is working with veteran TV producer David E. Kelley on a television series pitch. For Superman, Dark Knight movie maven Christopher Nolan has paired with director Zack Snyder and are aiming to release the reportedly titled Superman: Man of Steel in December 2012, with casting expected to be announced in early 2011.
Spider-ManSwinging out of the “Brand New Day” era of his titular title and into the “Big Time”, Marvel’s wallcrawler is coming into a new world — both in comics and in movies. In the comics, series writer Dan Slott is bringing all the new toys –—and renewed classics — from the BND era into a streamlined monthly series, while the character’s also appearing in several other titles. That’s not to mention Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, which in 2011 promises to bring the death of the Ultimate line’s flagship character. Outside of comics, shooting has begun on the relaunch of the character’s film franchise with an all new cast, director and story. While the wholesale canning of the Raimi-era movie franchise left some fans cold, the new youth-oriented cast has received tentatively positive remarks from industry watchers. Although this new reboot isn’t scheduled for release until summer 2012, fans will be watching every step of the way with their expectations — and the film’s bottom line — at stake.
FlashAlthough the Flash has been one of DC’s fastest heroes since his inception, he’s been running to catch up with fellow JLAers Batman, Superman and Green Lantern for attention by audiences — both among comic fans and the modern mainstream. The recent return of Geoff Johns to the Flash has given the scarlet speedster a spring in his step, and the hero and his extended family is racing into a new event series titled Flashpoint — which is shaping up to be as much a game-changer as Blackest Night was for Johns’ other title, Green Lantern. On the movie front, screenwriters for the upcoming Green Lantern film were hired to take their craft to the Flash, reportedly to be based on Geoff Johns’ comic run. Although no news regarding a director or casting has been announced, look for more on that run surrounding the release — and hopeful success — of the Green Lantern film.
BatwomanFollowing up an earlier appearance on this list by the Bat family of characters, this solo spot for Batwoman might seem like an anomaly — but with the creative success of her run in Detective Comics and the potential revealed in the recent #0 issue of her own titular series, this character could be one for the history books. Although the name was originally created for a love interest for Batman in the 1950s, the modern Batwoman made her debut in the seminal weekly series 52. Although mainstream media on the character’s sexual orientation might have overwhelmed DC Comics at the time, in 2009 she assumed the lead in the publisher’s longest-running serial, Detective Comics. In a well-executed run by writer Greg Rucka and artists J.H. Williams III and Jock, the character was given a definitive origin, nemesis and overall style — both in story and in art. Fast-forward to February 2011, and the character leaps into her own series, with Williams assuming both the writing and illustrating roles, with assistance from co-writer Haden Blackman and rising star artist Amy Reeder. Given Williams’ Eisner-winning tour-de-force in his previous run with the character, this upcoming series has a lot of people hoping for a repeat performance and a more long-lasting impact for this revolutionary character.
While Spider-Man is widely considered the face of Marvel Comics, you could argue that Captain America is the publisher’s heart. Introduced in 1941 as a Nazi-punching patriotic hero, the character was Marvel’s biggest hit in the Golden Age of comics. In recent years, the star-spangled hero has been rejuvenated, both in his self-titled series by Ed Brubaker and the wholesale renewal of the Avengers as Marvel’s flagship franchise by Brian Michael Bendis. Cap currently sits as America’s top cop in the comics universe, with two solo series, several miniseries, and a leading role in several Avengers titles. Although Captain America was the first Marvel hero to be adapted to film in a forgotten 1944 serial, this July’s Captain America: The First Avenger marks his first proper debut in movie-houses as we know it, with a plot speculated to blend the theatrics of Saving Private Ryan with the classic feel of The Rocketeer — with the latter’s director, Joe Johnston, onboard to direct. Frequent comics-to-film star Chris Evans leads the cast, and is joined by hot genre stars Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones. Can Marvel create an All-American superhero that both domestic and worldwide audiences grab onto, and can the comics keep up with the character’s potential mainstream success? We’ll see.
IN THE CORNER OF OUR EYE
Although eleven is a big number — one more than last year -— it’s still not enough to list all of the characters primed to break out in 2011. Here’s a list of some others on our radar:
Black Panther: Longtime Marvel stalwart T’Challa has entered the urban jungle recently as he’s assumed the beat of Daredevil as protector of New York’s Hell Kitchen in the series Black Panther: The Man Without Fear. After his marriage to X-woman Storm and short-term replacement by a female family member, T’Challa is back starring in an ongoing series. And with the drums beating on the Avengers flick in 2012, Black Panther is on the short-list for new draftees should the film succeed.
Invincible: Long known as the unofficial flagship title of Image’s superhero line, Invincible has become a genre-redefining classic melding a lifelong love of superheroes by its creators with modern sensibilities and the freedom to do things company-owned characters couldn’t do. After the success of its spiritual sister series The Walking Dead, Invincible is ripe for continued success and mainstream attention.
Conan: As Dark Horse spreads out its long-running line of comics into different series, shooting is wrapping up on the raven-haired barbarian’s return to the big screen. Can 2011 be the year Conan once again dominates the hearts and minds of fans once more?What character do you think will have the biggest impact on 2011?