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Before there were comic books, there were medieval manuscripts

From the Holkham Bible Picture Book

From the Holkham Bible Picture Book

Using the British Library’s “Comics Unmasked” exhibition as a springboard, the Department of History and Classics delves deep into history for a selection of medieval manuscripts that could certainly be considered as early comic strips.

The library’s Medieval and Early Manuscripts Blog gives a shoutout to the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry, characterized by Bryan Talbot and others as “the first known British comic strip,” but the curators don’t stop there. For instance, there’s the Holkham Bible Picture Book (1327-1335), with its beautifully colored sequences from both the Old and New Testament, which is “sometimes described as England’s first graphic novel.” Julian Harrison, the library’s curator of early modern manuscripts, points out that it even employs banners for dialogue, much like word balloons in modern comics.

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Sword & sorcery gets biblical in ‘Monomyth’

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The sword & sorcery subgenre, by its very definition, is rooted in fantastical worlds populated by sword-wielding heroes and supernatural events. It’s a setting writer Siike Donnelly and artist Eric Ninaltowski explore in their three-issue miniseries Monomyth, which draws inspiration from the Bible … known for its sword-wielding heroes and supernatural events.

Debuting July 30 from OSSM Comics, Monomyth takes the story of Adam and Eve, but arrives at a different result: In this series, Lucifer never fell from Heaven, and instead stopped Adam and Eve from eating from the Tree of Knowledge and being expelled from the Garden of Eden. In this story, it’s the archangel Michael who falls from Heaven, and here he’s assembled his own army to invade — and annihilate — Eden. The unlikely savior for the then-budding human race is the Lucifer and Enoch, known in the Bible as the son of Cain, who is, as Monomyth‘s creators call him, “rebellious, angry and a natural fighter.”

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‘Think Tank’ special to benefit Wounded Warrior Project

TTPTSD001_Proof_rev(1)-1Top Cow’s Think Tank special out next week is subtitled “Fun with PTSD,” and series co-creator Matt Hawkins makes it clear in the back matter of the issue that despite what that phrasing might suggest, he’s not making fun of post-traumatic stress disorder. After thoroughly researching the topic for the issue — which sees main character Dr. David Loren helping a SEAL team member with PTSD — he decided to donate 25 cents for each copy sold to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit dedicated to providing a variety of services to wounded military veterans — including victims of PTSD.

“With Think Tank I’ve done a lot of tongue-in-cheek stuff combined with serious subject matter and this was initially intended to be just another subject I wanted to tackle.” the writer and Top Cow president/COO told ROBOT 6. “Getting into it and seeing 250-pound buff military guys in tears is really hard to watch. The best explanation I can give is that people with PTSD feel kind of lost. They really don’t know what to do and are confused by their mind seemingly turning on them. For many, cognitive behavioral therapy and time will heal the scars on their souls but some will live out their days like that unless science can figure out a way to repair it. With the advances in brain research I think we’ll be making great strides in the very near future.”

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Read David Petersen’s FCBD ‘Mouse Guard’ tale

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For those who didn’t get a chance to pick up Archaia’s Free Comic Book Day offering, Mouse Guard creator David Petersen has posted his contribution to the hardcover special, “Black Axe: The Tale of the Axe Trio.”

“This is the 5th year I’ve done a FCBD story and the 4th in a row of this type,” he writes on his blog. After my first offering, I started the tradition of opening each story with a younger version of a Mouse Guard character being told a morality tale which shows the audience a bit of insight into how that character became who they are as an adult mouse. This year’s story is being told to Rand, and it deals with some mythic lore about the history of the Black Axe: The Tale of the Axe Trio.”

Check out some of the story below, and visit Petersen’s blog for the entire tale.

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How many ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ variants are there (and what do they look like)?

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Marvel welcomed back Peter Parker this week in a relaunch of The Amazing Spider-Man that brought with it an avalanche of variant covers that undoubtedly triggered ’90s flashbacks with some readers (that may explain why you suddenly began worrying about Ross and Rachel and the whereabouts of your Rollerblades). But just how many covers are there?

The publisher hasn’t released an official figure, but best counts put the number close to 50, most of which are retailer custom covers purchased exclusively by stores and conventions. To get their hands on one of those exclusives, a retailer (or a convention, or a trade group like the Comic Book Retailers Alliance) had to order a minimum of 3,000 copies of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 for a standard edition; for a sketch version, the number dropped to 1,500 (both are the standard numbers for Marvel’s custom variants).

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C2E2 | Dark Horse keeps on truckin’ with ‘Ghost Fleet’

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Buzzkill writer Donny Cates is teaming with Space-Mullet cartoonist Daniel Warren Johnson and colorist Lauren Affe for Ghost Fleet, a 12-issue series the Dark Horse teases will blend big rigs and conspiracies.

Arriving Nov. 5, the action series centers on Ghost Fleet, the go-to trucking service for transporting the world’s most valuable, most dangerous and most secretive cargo. But when one driver takes a peek at his payload, his life is changed forever.

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Read all six strips from The Guardian’s Weekend comics special

From "Art And Anarchy," by Michel Faber and Roger Langridge

From “Art And Anarchy,” by Michel Faber and Roger Langridge

If you’re looking for some Monday reading, The Guardian has released online all six comics created for the special issue of its Weekend magazine that brought together novelists like Gillian Flynn, Audrey Niffenegger and Margaret Atwood with comics artists like Dave Gibbons, Frazer Irving and Christian Ward. There are also articles in which Dave Eggers, Roger Langridge and Michel Faber, and Flynn offer a bit of insight into their contributions.

The issue, released in print on Saturday, is designed to celebrate he British Library’s upcoming exhibition “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.”

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Gordon’s alive: A Flash (and a Ming) for all eras

imageI wonder… is there an equivalent to Glen Weldon’s Superman: The Unauthorized Biography that tracks the 80-year career of Flash Gordon? Only, instead of tracing society’s shifting tastes in authority figures, it instead contextualizes the spirit of athleticism over its eight-decade lifespan.

When Alex Raymond launched the comic strip in 1934, Flash was a polo player. Flash forward (heh heh) to the 1980 movie, and he’s a quarterback for the New York Jets. During the ’90s, the Flash Gordon animated series introduced the character as a skateboarding enthusiast; he’s a track-and-field star in the Syfy series … which isn’t exactly the coolest sport, but an appropriate one in a world that’s become conscious of concussions and other injuries

Dynamite Entertainment’s new Flash Gordon, written by Jeff Parker and illustrated by Evan Shaner and Jordie Bellaire, casts the title character as an extreme sports aficionado. It’s a little out of date: Flash is introduced doing a dangerous bungee jump off a bridge, reminiscent of a similar scene in the Vin Diesel movie xXx (the most extreme spy, dude, way cooler than that lame-o James Bond). Still, it does establish something crucial about Flash: The world is far too tame for his wild, adventurous spirit. Flash gets a slap in the face and a stern, parental warning to stop with his childish garbage (one imagines the frequently bare-chested Alex Raymond Flash would have instead been applauded). Is there a place for him somewhere that isn’t totally lame?

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The Guardian brings together novelists, artists for comics issue

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From “Masks” by Flynn and Gibbons

To celebrate the British Library’s upcoming exhibition “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” The Guardian’s Weekend magazine is devoting Saturday’s issue the medium, with six new collaborations between well-known novelists and established comics artists.

The Guardian website has already debuted Do You Hear What I Hear? by A.M. Homes (The End of Alice) and Frazer Irving, and Masks by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and Dave Gibbons. Still to come: Freeforall by Margaret Atwood and Christian Ward; Thursdays, 6-8pm by Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife) and Eddie Campbell; Having renewed my fire by Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius); and Art and anarchy by Michel Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White) and Roger Langridge.

The magazine will appear in print on Saturday.

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Exclusive first look at Mike Kunkel’s cover for ‘Scratch9: Cat of Nine Worlds’ #2

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Writer Rob Worley has provided ROBOT 6 with a preview of Scratch9: Cat of Nine Worlds #2 that includes an exclusive first look at the cover by Herobear & The Kid creator Mike Kunkel.

Debuting in 2010, the Eisner-nominated kids comic follows the adventures of a young, naive cat who can summon any of his eight other lives for help. Drawn by Joshua Buchanan, Cat of Nine Worlds kicks off in June with a new adventure from Hermes Press that finds the villainous Dr. Schrödinger allying himself with Strick (introduced in next month’s Free Comic Book Day Special), who could shape up to be Scratch9′s greatest foe. (Full disclosure: Worley is CBR’s lead developer.)

Available now for pre-order (Diamond code MAY14 1449), Scratch9: Cat of Nine Worlds #2 arrives July 2.

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‘Chew’ goes high fantasy with ‘Warrior Chicken Poyo’

warrior chicken poyoTwo years after the release of Secret Agent Poyo, a one-shot starring the cybernetic kung-fu rooster from Chew, Image Comics promises another spinoff that will put that one to shame: Warrior Chicken Poyo, again by the Chew team of John Layman and Rob Guillory.

Secret Agent Poyo was the most important comic ever published by Image, in addition to being the best comic book ever published in the entire history of humanity,” Layman, never one for hyperbole, said in a statement. “And Warrior Chicken Poyo is SO good, it will make Secret Agent Poyo look like rancid, smelly garbage! THAT’S how good it’s going to be! Warrior Chicken Poyo will change comics forever, as well as the life of anybody who reads it.”

Related: Image Comics Solicitations for July

While Secret Agent Poyo put a James Bond slant on the world of Chew, Warrior Chicken Poyo is described as high fantasy — “The Lord of the RingsConan, and with a dash of The Wizard of Oz thrown in.”

Priced at $3.50, the 36-page comic includes a pinup gallery by a host of artists. Chew: Warrior Chicken Poyo #1 arrives July 9.

Buccellato and Tuazon bring ‘Foster’ to OSSM Comics

foster1Foster, the supernatural thriller created by The Flash and Detective Comics co-writer Brian Buccellato, will be released for the first time in its entirety in July by publishing startup OSSM Comics.

Written by Buccellato and illustrated by Noel Tuazon (Tumor), the series debuted in February 2012 from Dog Year Entertainment. However, just five of the planned six issues were released.

Set in a world where technology is stuck in the analog 1970s, Foster centers on a haunted war veteran who becomes the guardian of a 6-year-old boy wanted by a shadowy race of supernatural creatures.

Foster is such a personal story for me,” Buccellato said in a statement. “As a father of a teenage boy, I wanted to write about fatherhood and specifically the male need to protect your child from the physical dangers of the world. Foster’s trying to forget the Vietnam War at the bottom of a bottle when he encounters a boy who changes his life. Suddenly he has to navigate a world where technology is stuck in the analog ’70s and supernatural creatures and twisted scientists lurk around every corner. Noel Tuazon really captured the gritty, urban horror at the heart of this story.”

Foster will be available for $12.99 beginning July 2.

‘Marvel Universe Live!’ arena show gets a comic prequel

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Marvel Universe Live!, the upcoming multimillion-dollar arena tour show from Marvel and Feld Entertainment, is getting its own comic-book prequel. You have to buy tickets for the production to snag one, though.

The limited-edition one-shot, by Frank Tieri, Miguel Sepulveda and Jay David Ramos, with a cover by Mike McKone, is available for free to those in the continental United States who order tickets to the show between today and June 1.

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‘Justice League United’ #1 scores a ‘Canada’ variant

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DC Comics’ upcoming relaunch of Justice League of America was announced in August as Justice League Canada before it was changed in January to Justice League United. But with the arrival next month of Issue 1, the name will revert once more to Justice League Canada — if only on one cover.

Confused? Don’t be. As the Toronto Star reported over the weekend, the publisher will release a Canadian variant for the debut issue, featuring a recolored version of Mike McKone’s cover emblazoned with “Justice League Canada” (complete with maple leaf emblem). It will be available to all retailers.

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DC teases ‘Futures End’ with new Escher-inspired image

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Timed to coincide with the lunar eclipse, DC Comics last night released a teaser image for its new weekly series that promises, “When Futures End … the Blood Moon Shall Rise!”

Launching with a zero issue on May 3 as part of Free Comic Book Day, Futures End propels the New 52 storylines ahead five years for an exploration of the nature of heroism as well the past, present and, yes, future of the DC Universe. The series is written by Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire, with a roster of artists that includes Ryan Sook, Ethan Van Sciver, Jesus Merino, Aaron Lopresti, Jurgens and Giffen.

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