Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Rucka, a Batwoman, a Zeus and a Heatwave

"The thing that kills me is that I like you, Kate. I really do. You're smart, you're sexy, you've got a sense of humor, and you don't think fabrics begin and end with flannel. But it's pretty clear you're not interested in getting serious, and I'm way past playing the field," Anna declares in her break up speech to lover Kate in Detective Comics 854, released last week.

103, 104, Greg Rucka, Batwoman, new location, a lot of information coming your way all at once.


We were in Dallas, Texas where the heat easily hit 103 although two different radio stations were saying 104.

We were at Zeus Comics. Zeus Comics is a comic book store which sells comics, graphic novels, collectibles and action features. For many years, it was further north on Oak Lawn Avenue but it's now relocated to 4411 Lemmon Avenue in a shopping center with, among other things, a spa and a Wingstop. The move's biggest benefit it is loses the cutesy, white gazebo look (exterior of it's former location) and gains a lot more window space and natural lighting.

We were there for Kate. Kate is Batwoman and she's the new lead for Detective Comics, the comic Batman's led for years but don't ask Greg Rucka what year that started. (1939, for those who need to know.)

Greg Rucka

Greg Rucka is the comic book writer, graphic novel writer and novelist who's writing the Batwoman Reborn series for DC's Detective Comics. His work on Wonder Woman (October 2003 through February 2006) is legendary and blends the mythic with today as Diana's ethical system is repeatedly tested. A smart studio would forget Joss Whedon and ask Rucka to write the script for a Wonder Woman feature film. Feature film? A film based on his limited edition graphic novel Whiteout (art by Steve Lieber) storms theaters in September with Kate Beckinsale in the lead role.

Rucka is one member of the circle. The most important members of the circle are the audience. And we wondered who would turn up long before we encountered the triple digit heat?

The smart and/or lucky ones turned up early before the heat was nothing but a solid wall. The signing began a little after ten a.m. and continued through five p.m. The first hours found a larger crowd but there was a steady crowd throughout the day.

In the noon to two o'clock hours, those walking in would "glow" or sweat for a good ten minutes after entering the store despite the brief walk from the parking lot to the store -- it was just that hot outside.

What was everyone there for?

A huge crowd was there just for Greg Rucka. They were big fans who he'd picked up throughout his glorious career and there were strong factions who felt his strongest work was Whiteout, factions who felt his strongest work was Marvel's Black Widow, Daredevil and Daredevil & Elektra, and strong factions who felt he'd never top his work with Wonder Woman. Most of those had high hopes for Batwoman because, as Greg from Denton told us, "No one writes the female characters like Rucka."

Greg Rucka signing

Rucka has plenty of female fans in the region and they turned out as well. Easily a third of those attending the signing were women. (We're counting only adults. Some adults brought children with them and they were primarily boys; however, there was a seven-year-old blond girl.) This doesn't fit the cliche or stereotype of comic book readers; however, we'd argue that it's due not only to the fact that Rucka is known for his strong writing of strong female characters but also due to the fact that the cliche is outdated and was never that true to begin with.

There were also some women present who were present for Kate. They knew nothing about Detective Comics really; however, they had heard about Kate.

Kate's a lesbian.

DC tends to play it both ways, wanting the publicity and also stressing it's no big deal.

Jennifer from Dallas (Uptown) was there with her partner Rose. She was there because of coverage of Batwoman, "I wouldn't even know [about the signing] if it weren't for that. This is a big deal because who doesn't know Batman? And it's a character from this universe who is going to be front and center, starring in the comic, and she's gay. She [Rose] was worried this was going to be a Rawhide Kid like thing where the whole thing was a joke -- a snicker at the gay character kind of joke. So we went online to find out about him and then did a dry run here last week and got a collection of some of his Wonder Woman writing to really check him out. I wasn't able to make it here Wednesday [when the comic debuted] but Rose came in and bought two copies. We really liked it and really have strong hopes for the series."

Rose added, "I was glad the break up [with Anna] took place early on because I was afraid any reference to her sexuality would be missing in the first issue or buried at the end. Instead, it takes place right after the first panels of action with Kate as Batwoman. An this J.H. Williams III has really created an arresting image for Batwoman. I love the differences between Batwoman and Kate. That includes that Kate has pretty eyes but you don't see Batwoman's eyes. I also find the relationship with her father intriguing and Alice [the villain] really has me curious."

The coverage from LGBT local media and word of mouth meant that several attending the signing were either finding out about Zeus Comics for the first time or find out that it had moved to Lemmon Avenue. By their own disclosures, this was the group visiting for the first time.

George (Oak Lawn section of Dallas) says he visits at least once a week, "always saying I'm just looking but usually leaving with four titles," and that the relocation has actually allowed him to shop at Zeus more, "In the past, I'd go once a month if that. You've got to go up Oak Lawn, it was this big nightmare shopping center that you had to deal with and drive all the way through to the back of the shopping center. I just didn't care for it. This is easier and I'm passing it daily, driving from home to work."

Alex from Mesquite agreed and added that he normally comes in on Sundays, "Put that in anything you write because a lot of stores like this wouldn't be open on Sundays. Zeus is open from noon to six p.m. every Sunday and it's just a really relaxed day to come in and browse."

And why was he visiting on a Saturday? Rucka? "No, he's a good writer," Alex acknowledged, "but for me it's the Bat. I'm just a huge fan of the entire Bat family. Not so crazy about Red Robin but hoping it gets better. But Batman, Batgirl, Huntress, Robin, Night Wing, just anything with the Bat hooks me. And the fact that it's Batwoman? I probably would have put off coming until later today but Batwoman got me up and out of the house before ten."

Brenda (Oak Cliff section of Dallas) was there for Batwoman as well and made it really clear that she's among those readers who seek out storylines written by Rucka, "Carrie [lead character in Whiteout] was just always on the ball, she just radiated smarts and, in a Lois Lane universe, that's not very common. I'm really looking forward to the movie [Whiteout] and I'm really looking forward to this [Detective Comics]. Batwoman's been a long time coming. Everyone else comes back. The library has a DC book published in the seventies and that's where I learned of Batwoman and Batgirl, the originals. So it's about time they revisited her. And I can't think of a writer better to handle her. The origins come in issues four through six and I'm really looking forward to that."

Brenda is a self-described "comics nut" and you could detect them quickly when conversing because they were the ones who knew all the ins-and-outs and had the details about what was coming up: the origin story getting dropped into the middle of the 12 issue run, the supporting feature getting more pages in up coming issues, a potential cross-over between it and Batwoman's story since the two leads are former lovers, and more.

"Yeah, I like to know as much as possible before reading, all the gossip," agreed Hal. "That really doesn't hurt my enjoyment. I mean, it's not like a spoiler and -- if you really think about it, I mean, spoiler? Announcing a character's death on the cover of an issue would be a spoiler but they do that all the time at DC and Marvel, don't they? Getting the gossip just really fills in the fun between issues, you know."

Hal lives in East Dallas with Missy who wanted it made clear that she was not "a tag along. I'm here more than he is. Hal's got five titles he follows religiously and it's very difficult to get him to read anything else. I read two religiously -- Wonder Woman and The Amazing Spiderman but if Miss America stays strong, I might add three. Otherwise, I check in and out. I'll follow a title for three to five issues and then grow bored with it and move on. Hal buys five titles a month, I usually buy about twenty-five. And I come in here and just look through everything all the time while Hal comes in, runs right to the new issues, grabs his titles and is ready to go."

And how long would she follow Detective Comics?

"I'll keep the autographed issue forever," she replied, as she flipped through. "But look at the drawing of this panel and these colors. If the next issue is anywhere as solid visually, I could easily add this to the don't-miss list."

David (downtown Dallas) wanted to ask first if we'd heard that a street in McKinney had buckled from the heat? We hadn't. (McKinney and Plano are to the north of Dallas.) He was one of the latecomers showing up in the final hour.

Asked what brought him out in the heat, he paused a moment before explaining, "I like Greg Rucka but that's not it. Zeus is a really cool store and they've got this new location and when you pay with your credit card, they have to get the approval online and you can hear their computer dialing up because, I guess, they don't have broadband. And stores are closing all over Dallas. Even in this area. They lost their bookstore and the store just sits empty, month after month. Tower [Records], further down the street, closed like two or so years ago and that store still sits there empty. I think it's great that they got Rucka to come to the store and I'm glad they've got so many people here but I really just came to show some support for Zeus."

And though most people we spoke with cited Rucka first as their reason for being there, there were a large number of people explaining as a second or third reason, or as an aside, that they were there just for Zeus.

"This is really a great store," Candice (Oak Lawn) told us pointing to various areas. "And they do really great things. I think it was fifty cents, the price, a few weeks back where they had a big sale on backlog and I just loved that. I was telling my dad that and he said, 'Comics cost fifty cents when I bought them.' Yeah, well, it's not the Pioneer Days, Dad. You're generally paying $3.99 before taxes on new comics today. So a sale like that is really appreciated and it allowed me to grab some issues I'd missed in the last months because I just didn't have the cash. And the staff is really nice. I found this store while doing my evening walk. It was a Saturday back in April and it was probably a few minutes before seven o'clock. I see it and I go running in. I'm grabbing comics like crazy and looking around. And then this woman comes in and says something to the guy behind the counter about how they need to be leaving for the party. I walk over and ask when they close? They closed about fifteen minutes before. I quickly paid and also apologized but they were cool about it and that's not generally the case at stores. Usually someone announces over a speaker or comes up to you and says, 'We're closing in five minutes.' I spend more money here than I should -- and now only bring cash to avoid maxing out my credit card which I could easily do in one trip here -- but I tell myself that it's a good cause because this is a great store."

And we'd agree with that and add that it was a great crowd turning out for the signing. We weren't sure what to expect but just knew, just knew, that, with an all day signing, there would be periods where no one was in the store or, if they were in the store, they weren't waiting to get anything signed and were instead looking at the merchandise. That was not the case. A steady, never-ending flow of people turned out to meet Greg Rucka who was kind enough to take pictures with anyone who asked (his assistant would snap the photos -- the photos of Rucka in this article were taken by our own Jess).

If you're in doubt as to how anyone could draw a crowd for seven hours of a triple-digit-heat day, check out Detective Comics 854 on sale now.

Batwoman autographed

[This article was written by Dallas, Dona, Jess and Isaiah. Photos of Greg Rucka were taken by Jess.]
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