How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
Emerald City Comicon may not come with the metric ton of announcements that Comic-Con International does, but in a way it’s all the better for it. Comics still feel as if they’re front and center just where I like them, and the announcements have more charm because they aren’t screaming to be heard over the din of film and television rollouts.
One year, I’ll get up to Seattle to experience the event firsthand, but in the meantime, I get to absorb all the news and photos like everyone else, as they’re posted online. ECCC even streamed all of its panels on flipon.tv. Anything that happened in Room 301 is free for anyone to watch. Everything else can be purchased with a full archive pass for $14.95. Or if, you don’t want to sit through hours of panel footage, there’s CBR’s coverage or, heck, try Google or something.
A number of announcements jumped out as particularly noteworthy, so let’s run through The 6 Best Things from ECCC. And from my count, Dark Horse won Emerald City. Your miles may vary though, so post your favorites in the comments.
1. The Goon is back!
It will be good to have Eric Powell on the stands again. He’s a creative voice that is such a burst of fresh air, both in his art and the maverick stories he tells.
Following the previously announced one-shot One for the Road, the Goon will return in a series of miniseries and one-shots, somewhat similar to the structure of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and related comics. Occasion of Revenge will debut in July, and it looks to be a tonal match to the more grim Goon graphic novel Chinatown. When the character showed up more than 10 years ago, the mix of dark humor and horror quickly won over a cult following that has only grown since. Powell has been busy elsewhere lately, but I’m thrilled to hear he’s recharged and ready to put out more fantastic comics.
2. Dark Horse doubles down on creator-owned
Dark Horse has a long history of publishing creator-owned comics, and it’s great to see Mike Richardson & Co. stick to that part of their business — and it’s especially great when the titles announced are so eye-catching.
Curt Pires is a name I’m only now seeing, but he’s already been winning people over with his Monkeybrain digital title Theremin and his self-published comic before it, LP. I love seeing new talent take off, and I’m intrigued by how he describes his upcoming Pop in an interview with CBR. It doesn’t get much more bold than Pires ending the interview by saying Pop is “a statement on what I want comics to be.” I was previously sold on artist Jason Copland, so that’s a fantastic bonus.
The other title announced is Deep Gravity, a sci-fi miniseries by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko based on Richardson’s story concepts. Co-writers Hardman and Bechko’s involvement all but guarantees it will be a worthy read; they have experience writing licensed properties like Star Wars and Planet of the Apes, so it’s great to see them get some more creative freedom. Hopefully, we’ll see more new worlds from them. If only Hardman were doing the art as well, but judging by the preview, artist Fernando Baldo looks quite capable.
3. DC doesn’t back down from Earth One original graphic novels
With only a softcover edition of Superman: Earth One Vol. 1 seeing release last year from DC Comics’ line of original graphic novels, I was beginning to wonder whether, despite that title’s widely touted sales figures, the experiment hadn’t worked out. But apparently the publisher was only taking last year to ramp back up.
DC announced that Teen Titans: Earth One will debut later this year from writer Jeff Lemire and artists Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson. Lemire is a brilliant choice: As Dan DiDio noted, he had an impeccable track record creating graphic novels before his superhero work at DC. His Essex County remains a high water mark among Top Shelf’s already stellar catalog, and The Nobody was a fantastic follow-up. But Lemire also shows an understanding and affection for superhero comics and DC’s universe in particular with his work on Animal Man and Green Arrow. The Dodsons are clear and strong storytellers who produce likeable and attractive characters, so again, a smart move to use them for a project geared toward bookstores.
We also got an update that DC intends to release a new Earth One graphic novel once a quarter, with sequels to the previous Superman and Batman books, plus the highly anticipated Wonder Woman: Earth One, by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, planned for 2015. I never understood why the two major publishers with the world’s most recognizable characters were so resistant to create material explicitly intended for people not knee-deep in their universes. I was glad to see a shift happen and I’m even happier to see DC give this a serious and sustained attempt with some entertaining results.
4. Fantagraphics news I forgot about that I’m excited about again
The Fantagraphics panel had some bits buried in it that got me all excited. They were mentioned rather casually, so I thought it was strange such exciting news wouldn’t be featured more prominently; it turns out they had been announced before. I completely forgot I previously flipped out about them at the time, so they were new to me all over again. But the updates are still pretty exciting on their own, so it’s worth flipping out all over again.
At last, we’re getting a collection of Zap Comix! This was originally announced in 2011 at Comic-Con International for a planned fall 2012 release. Needless to say, it’s been a rough year or two for Fantagraphics, what with the tragic loss of Kim Thompson. I don’t know if that played a factor in this delay, but whatever the reason, Gary Groth is said to be nearly finished with The Complete Zap Comix. In fact, it’s already listed on Fantagraphics’ site as a great big box set for $500. It’s also on Amazon with a release date of Nov. 5. R. Crumb’s Zap was one of the seminal underground anthologies of the late ’60s and I’m thrilled to finally see it get such prestige treatment in the Reprint Age. As further enticement, the set publishes for the first time the lost Issue 17. I don’t know if I can swing $500, so hopefully the set will be broken up and sold at more modest increments. This also gives me hope for a complete collection of Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly’s Raw. While that indie comics anthology was released about a generation later, it was also a crucial piece of comics’ development that has remained largely unseen to modern readers.
There’s also the good news of Fantagraphics increasing its classic Disney comics output, fortunately still unhindered by the Disney/Marvel merger. Don Rosa will finally get his due in America as a Duck artist worthy of following Carl Barks. As Groth mentioned in the panel, “We’re recoloring all of Don Rosa’s work in accord with his wishes. It’s the first time the coloring is precisely to his liking.” Looks like I’ll be buying The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck again, with no regrets.
5. ElfQuest goes back to the Original Quest
Speaking of classic comics, Dark Horse’s commitment to ElfQuest just gets better and better. For those (like me) who never read the original black-and-white series, or (like me) never got the expensive DC hardcover archive reprints, soon there will be a much easier way to jump in. Sure you could read the whole thing online, but if (like me) you want to keep your bookshelf happy, this looks to do the job.
The Complete ElfQuest Vol. 1: The Original Quest will offer up a healthy sampling of the first 720 pages of the fantasy epic by Wendy Pini and Richard Pini. But if you’re looking for something more special, there’s the giant-sized Gallery Edition, which reproduces the original art pages of the first five issues. This prestige treatment is similar to IDW’s impressive Artist Editions where you’re getting direct scans of the art at the full size of the original pages. As far as I know, this is the first of this type of publication that Dark Horse will release and I’m guessing it could be a trial for future similar releases.
This comic was a fairly big deal for comics in the late 1970s, and it is a milestone in the development of creator-owned comics that we enjoy today. For it to get such respectful production says a lot about the Pinis and the world they created.
6. ECCC respects cosplayers
This isn’t so much an announcement, as an acknowledgement of ECCC taking a problem seriously and addressing it professionally. The Costumes are Not Consent signs were displayed throughout the convention center, and the anti-harassment policy is clearly spelled out on the event’s website. There have been convention horror stories, and stories of just lame and unnecessary behavior. Regardless of how much it crosses the line, it’s not acceptable. Emerald City organizers are taking care of themselves and their patrons, and they’re also helping to get the word out that sexual harassment or any kind of inappropriate behavior at comic conventions isn’t going to be blithely ignored. The more everyone feels comfortable, the more fun we all have at conventions.