Zero Hour Strikes! Young Zeroes

A true test of their mettle, Bass and Siskoid's coverage of DC's Zero issues takes them on a dark path, looking at young hero books like Anima, Damage, Gunfire and Xenobrood! Will they make it out alive and sane?

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Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.23 Supplemental

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9 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Young Zeroes

  1. Turns out Siskoid and I have the exact same problem with Ed Benes. Between his run on SUPERMAN (where Lois and other women were constantly fighting to have the lowest cut shirt or shortest skirt) and his run on JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (where, as Siskoid pointed out, Black Canary and other women were always posed to have their ass and breasts towards the camera) Benes became an artist whose style I liked but that appreciation was always comprosmised with by the rampant misogny that DC had going on during that time period.

    DC had so many issues during the latter 2000’s and early 2010’s. So. Many. Problems.

    While these issues are far from the cream of the crop, I do appreciate that DC was trying to broaden their super-hero line with younger characters, more “extreme” type characters, and whatever the hell Xenobrood was. A for effort. B- for execution. D for longevity.

  2. I agree with Mr. Bailey in that I like the way Mr. Benes eventually draws…but not what he chooses to focus on. He had a long run on Birds of Prey too, where he perfected his Black Canary ass shots, which seemed to be the antithesis of getting a strong female writer like Gail Simone on the book at the time.

    I can honestly say the art in Xenobrood #1 appears to be the worst comic art I’ve ever seen printed in a DC comic, especially that cover. Again, it’s no wonder I thought I had a shot at being a professional comic artist around this time. I’m glad Mr. Coker’s art has improved and he’s done fine stuff since, because I would hate to think this was someone’s best effort. I know that sounds harsh, but this isn’t an indie, homegrown comic printed off at Kinko’s…this is DC. How did this get greenlit? And why was someone with established cred like Doug Moench saddled with this art?

    I kind of hate that Gunfire was one of Len Wein’s last comic creations. He contributed so many great characters to comics that went on to media success (Swamp Thing, Wolverine, Lucius Fox, etc.) it’s sad that Gunfire was probably his last big super hero creation. It does seem like he’s trying to “go 90s”, much like his old Hulk partner Herb Trimpe was doing over at Marvel at the time, trying to ape the Image style. I’m not surprised Gunfire got his hands chopped off…I’m just surprised it wasn’t in some Infinite Crisis tie-in!


  3. I have a, let’s be honest, rarely paralleled commitment to DC’s New Bloods– but I had my limits. “Bloodlines” is largely defined by disappointment, so it should have come as no surprise that DC did not make a point of gauging reader response before going forward with developing numerous short-lived attempted spin-off projects. In retrospect, this was clearly driven by the investment of individual creators and editors in certain properties without regard for merit or demand. Even the biggest success story, Hitman, was about Garth Ennis and John McCrea looking for their next gig after The Demon was canceled from underneath them. The one advantage Anima had was that at least she was pitched by two novelists looking to break into comics, so there was a long game in mind beyond cashing a check for a summer annual in the midst of an industry entering collapse. But of course that also meant that the concepts of magic they wanted to explore in no way aligned with the sci-fi event intended to introduce Anima as she was shoehorned into probably the worst Titans annual ever at a time when a once favorite book was completely unspooling. I’ve read a few issues of the series, but only bought one or two new, and was in no way inclined toward pursuing further. The biggest thrill with #0 was playing spot-the-grunge. Meat Puppets were the one hit wonders behind “Backwater” who were famously covered by Nirvana in their MTV Unplugged performance. Francis Bean is of course Kurt & Courtney’s kid. L7 are best known for “Pretend That We’re Dead,” but had plenty more great tunes. Fugazi’s a punk band for whom I have too many secondhand albums given my non-appreciation. I was a big fan of the single “Supernova” and went on to many more Liz Phair albums. I’ll cop to always confusing The Muffs with The Murmers. White Zombie, Primus, and Smashing Pumpkins are hardly obscure. Wait–what were we talking about? Oh yeah, the book that only featured one panel of black people as gangbangers to make a point about a lineage of warriors dating back to cavemen. Intersection in 1994 was just where four stop signs met. I’m never going to be pro-bisecting the female lead of an ongoing series for shock value bodycount in a Prometheus one-shot, but it’s not such an entrenched opinion that I’m going to kick up a fuss.

    I share the theory that Gunfire existed because Len Wein was trying to stay relevant and Steve Erwin was looking for a parachute while exiting Deathstroke. You’d think that it would be more commercial than Anima, but I see issues of that book pop up here and there while browsing dollar bins. Out of 14 issues, Gunfire is all 1s & 0s. Poor Erwin was better-dealed before #6, but I only ever read #0, and remember nothing. Gambit and Bishop were the last x-characters introduced that I cared about, but I’m not sure whether biting one of their powers makes me more or less dismissive than Siskoid. Given that I own a set of the Argus mini-series but have no insights into Gunfire lore should be entered into evidence either way.

    Gary Carlson always had an eye for artists with Image-level potential, and he scored repeatedly with round robin illustrators on his Vanguard mini-series. It was always strange that the most common issue, the debut, had horrendous Tom Coker art. My assumption is that Xenobrood #0 was drawn long before any successive issues as an elaborate pitch or an abortive creator-owned bid, and that it was eventually picked up by DC on the strength of its Arthur Adams pastiche. I figure that’s who Carlson thought he was hiring, as well. Over the course of the first three issues, Coker begins transforming from a wannabe Image clone to a still rather pathetic Vertigo schlub. All of his covers reflect the later style, and he was replaced halfway through. Carlson got left holding the bill on Coker’s artistic expression. Chris Hunter replaced Coker halfway through Xenobrood, and the enthusiasm Doug Moench brought to the introductory script had abated by the conclusion. I bought the whole thing new, read once and disposed of the lot. It’s the best I can say about charmless Metal Men that I at least supported it more than the New Blood books. Despite the lack of a clear copyright claim, you know Moench must have a piece of this property, or they’d have been ground up in one of Didio/Johns’ massacres.

    I do regret not sticking with Damage. The character was a whiny little bitch and Tom Joyner’s early plotting lacked traction, but the title still had a lot going for it. The more I got into DC, the greater my appreciation for all of Damage’s continuity ties, especially underloved retcons like the Freedom Fighters and Young All-Stars. The character designs were jazzy in the style of the time, the villains were nifty, I liked his African-American love interest Wyldheart, and there were some semi-ballsy story choices made throughout. They did one of those then-rare cosplay covers that I always loved. Most importantly though, a fill-in or two aside, co-creator Bill Marimon was on board for the 20-issue run. I find his style to be very inviting, and extremely well complimented by the inks of Don Hillsman III. For a hot minute, Hillsman was “the” Martian Manhunter artist thanks almost solely to JLA Secret Files and Origins #1 coming out when that title was exploding, Manhunter turns up several times in the book, looking great, and only recently was I made aware that J’Onn was one of Damage’s many genetic “fathers” whose Martian DNA specifically allowed for his test tube casserole birth. I’m also a Vandal Savage fan, and he figured heavily into the final year of that book, parallel to his use by Christopher Priest in The Ray and Justice League Task Force. It’s a shame that he got thrown into late day Wolfman Titans, though that led to his revival under Devin Grayson for her Titans relaunch. That’ s where she introduced the story of Grant Emerson being a child sexual abuse survivor victimized by his false father set up by the Symbolix Corporation. Anyway, Damage was a much more interesting character than Nukon ever was, but Geoff Johns dressed them both like Al Pratt then decided one was enough during Blackest Night. I’ve been getting mileage out of all the leftover Damage story elements in Who’s Editing, since God knows it won’t happen anywhere else.

  4. I either never knew of Gunfire and Xenobrood, or I completely blocked their existence from my memory. As I mentioned when you last covered her, I was aware of Anima, and still think the concept behind the character has a lot of potential, but that could just be because I was into Jung back in my college days. Of all the characters covered today, I was most familiar with Damage, though I never read his series. I was also a big fan of JSA, but must have stopped reading the title before Damage joined the team. It sounds like it would be worth tracking down those issues.

    Thanks for another excellent episode.

  5. I came in to see how many people had corrected the (rather insistent, btw) “Damage becomes Atom Smasher” bit, but it seems I’m the first. Damage does join the JSA as an Atom legacy, but Atom Smasher is Albert Rothstein, the former Nuklon from Infinity, Inc. They even develop a sibling rivalry thing over their memories, or lack of, from Al Pratt.

    Anyway, great ep, I second your feelings with everything, but Xenobrood DID NOT intrigue me at all.

    The art in all these was abysmal so not much for 90s but amateurish.

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