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Best of 7 | The best in comics from the last seven days

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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. Looks like I’m flying solo this week, so without further ado, let’s get to it …

Bill Watterson wins the Grand Prix at Angouleme

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Although its been almost two decades since Calvin and Hobbes ended, Bill Watterson’s comic strip still warms the hearts of fans around the world. Watterson’s legacy was honored in France at the 41st annual Angoulême International Comics Festival, where he received the Grand Prix award.

The honor is well-deserved for an award with a shortlist of equally worthy contenders — Watchmen co-creator Alan Moore and Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo. Traditionally the winner serves as president of the jury for the following year’s festival, but will the reclusive Watterson accept that responsibility? I guess we’ll find out. In the meantime, The Grand Prix wasn’t the only award given out at the festival — you find a complete list of winners here.

John Romita Jr. makes his … DC?

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This week the unthinkable happened — John Romita Jr., whose artwork has graced the pages of Marvel books for roughly 30 years, was announced as the new artist on Superman, teaming with DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. (Tom shared his thoughts on the news earlier this week).

Up until now, John Romita Jr.’s artwork has been synonymous with Marvel Comics. Following in the footsteps of his dad, whose art defined the look of Spider-Man, Romita has brought to life the adventures of Spider-Man, Daredevil, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor and just about every other major Marvel character out there. In fact, Romita’s only done a few projects outside of the Marvel U. in his 30-year career, including the creator-owned Kick-Ass with Mark Millar and the Image miniseries The Grey Area.

It’s huge move for the artist, who will get the chance to apply his trademark look on a new universe of characters. Joined by inker Klaus Janson and, of course, Johns, the trio will put a renewed focus on the Man of Steel and will no doubt draw in new readers — I know I’ll be checking out Superman when they take over.

A new Ms. Marvel flies into the Marvel Universe

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Although a lot of the publicity leading up to the new Ms. Marvel title focused on the race and religious preferences of Kamala Khan, the most important thing that I can share about this book is that it’s good. I say that not because I expected less from G. Willow Wilson (whose Cairo graphic novel was pretty great) and Adrian Alphona (Runaways! ‘Nuff said), but because sometimes these bigger social issues can overwhelm a comic, turning a it into an “important” after-school special instead of something that’s focused on developing characters and telling a good story.

And if there’s anything that did take center stage in the first issue, it was character development — Wilson, Alphona and the rest of the crew put the focus on developing Kamala Khan into a teenager you can both relate to and cheer for. Carla summed it up very well on Friday: “G. Willow Wilson is writing a common teen’s tale. Kamala Khan is not understood by her family, her peers can be bullies, she finds trying to fit in awkward and frustrating. This is an experience we’ve seen or had ourselves, it just so happens to be told through the eyes of a Muslim Pakistanti-American girl in New Jersey. Her ethnicity and religion aren’t used in broad brush strokes, like how ’80s-era Chris Claremont would throw in a ‘By the White Wolf!’ or ‘Unglaubich!’ and be done for the day. Comics don’t necessarily have the best track record for representing diversity in a way that doesn’t seem like a Captain Planet cartoon. Despite the media attention around this new series, Kamala is not defined by what makes her different. Who she is and what she wants to be is woven into the story, so while the details might be foreign to us, the weight of what’s happening is universal.”

I applaud the creative team and Marvel for not only showcasing diversity in this book, but also for telling a story and making a comic I want to buy again next month.

Bill Finger is not forgotten

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Although you won’t see his name in the credits of a Batman comic, movie or anything else, the man who was the “uncredited, unrecognized and unsung creative force in the creation of DC Comics’ Dark Knight Detective” has been getting his due from comic fans. Yesterday would have been Bill Finger’s 100th birthday, and although the campaign to get Finger a Google Doodle was ultimately unsuccessful, what it did do was raise awareness of Finger’s contributions to the character and the medium. If you want to know more about him, I’ll direct you to Kiel Phegley’s post from Friday, or if you just want to read some of his stories, Chris Sims offers a good list to start with.

Al Plastino’s artwork will end up where it should have been all along

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Back in October former Superman artist Al Plastino learned his original artwork for the 1964 story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy” was up for auction and not in the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, as he had been led to believe. Although Plastino passed away before seeing it happen, no doubt he’d be happy to know that the JFK Library will become the owners of his artwork very soon, fulfilling one of his final wishes.

Plastino spent the final weeks of his life campaigning for the return of the artwork, even petitioning a judge to force the auction house to reveal the name of the seller. While the auction was on hold, DC Entertainment stepped in to buy the pages and give them to the library. “We are thrilled to receive this historic artwork and look forward to sharing it with the public when the legal transfer is completed,” library director Tom Putnam said in a statement.

“I know what my father wanted and how upset he was at what happened, but I’m grateful to DC for doing what they did and I’m feeling at peace with the way things are turning out,” said his daughter MaryAnn. “It’s a piece of history, but it’s also a part of my father. It was something he created and I want to make sure it never disappears again. I’m glad other people will have a chance to see it. If he were alive, he would be honored.”

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