Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Image Expo returned on Thursday, and it wasn’t messing around. Each year, Image Comics seems to pack bigger announcements and bigger surprises into a single-day event. And the diversity of creators and genres gets that much better, too.
This year’s Image Expo — held again at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, following last July’s event at Comic-Con International in San Diego — included the now-standard keynote address by Publisher Eric Stephenson. He reviewed the past year’s successes and echoed plans to make Image the No. 1 publisher, but aside from throwing the gauntlet down at the feet of Marvel and DC, his address avoided some of the controversial statements and manifestos of years past. While I appreciate a good sabre-rattling, it allowed the focus to remain squarely on the creators and their comics.
With that in mind, here are my six favorite announcements from Image Expo 2015:
It was exciting Tuesday when Marvel Studios unveiled its Phase Three plans, with nine feature films, including Black Panther, starring Chadwick Boseman, and Captain Marvel, featuring the Carol Danvers version. However, amid the enthusiasm, there was some hand-wringing.
Are we about to be oversaturated with superheroes? Is the movie-going public going to get sick of capes and tights? Are superhero movies a fad that will go the way of the Western?
Between Marvel, Warner Bros., Fox and Sony, there are more than 30 superhero movies planned between next year and 2020. An average of five movies a year will be released, peaking in 2016 and 2016, with eight films each. No doubt more announcements will follow as we make our way through the decade.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed. Immediately after Tuesday’s press event, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was asked if he was concerned about the increasing number of superhero films. He pointed out that it’s “a challenge we’ve faced for many, many years.”
This fall has been particularly exceptional television adaptations: The Walking Dead season premiere pulled in more than 17 million viewers, while more than 8 million watched the first episode Gotham, making it Fox’s best fall drama debut in 14 years. More than 6 million raced to see The Flash pilot, giving The CW its highest ratings ever. About 5 million are regularly tuning in for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and nearly 3 million for the third season of Arrow.
It’s not limited to live-action series, either: 2 million people watch Teen Titans Go!, and more than 1 million tune in to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Nickelodeon.
On the big screen, all four feature films starring Marvel characters — X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — each grossed more than $700 million each worldwide. So far, comic book movies have generated more than $3.8 billion dollars this year. While it’s unknown how many of those dollars are from repeat viewings, that’s still a lot of people.
What a difference a decade makes. New York Comic Con is now North America’s biggest comic book convention, attracting a reported 151,000 people to this year’s event, and surpassing Comic-Con International, which has been forced to cap attendance at about 130,000. In just eight years, producer ReedPOP has managed to surpass what San Diego organizers took 40 years to build.
It may sound like exciting news, but here on the West Coast, we’re crestfallen, heartbroken even. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for nearly 15 years, which virtually makes me a native. The city has a long-running rivalry with New York City, which always goes on about how it’s the best at everything. Well, you can have your best pizzas, but this was ours! OK, sort of. San Diego is close enough to LA to pretend as if Comic-Con International is ours. Let’s face it: Every other part of Southern California is essentially a suburb of Los Angeles, so it’s always been a point of pride that although modern comics were born in New York City, here is where they’re celebrated the loudest and biggest.
Nearly one month after what would’ve been Jack Kirby’s 97th birthday, the announcement was made: Concluding a five-year copyright battle, and decades of contention about credit and compensation, Marvel and the Kirby family revealed Friday that they had reached a settlement, just ahead of a conference to decide whether the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the case.
“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes,” they said in a joint statement, “and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”
This is, without question, excellent news, and cause for celebration.
As is typical with settlements, the terms of their agreement aren’t made public, and the one-sentence statement gives no indication of how Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history will be honored.
Those close to Kirby’s family have been reserved with details. In some instances, they don’t appear to know any more than we do.
Writer and producer Denise Dorman, wife of artist Dave Dorman, kicked off far-ranging discussion with her recent post about the shifting convention scene, and how it’s affected their income — specifically, her view that cosplayers have become to the “new focus” of the events, to the detriment of creators, publishers and vendors.
It’s certainly true that comics conventions have become more popular and more numerous than ever, and with their success comes an evolving experience both for attendees and exhibitors. However, Dorman’s essay is front-loaded with a lot of perplexed annoyance at kids today and their cosplaying, Instagram and selfies.
Unfortunately, much of the discussion that’s followed so far has focused on defending cosplayers. That was my initial response too — after all, I’ve seen some people wearing elaborate and imaginative costumes walking on the floor with their overflowing bag of comics, or their original art delicately being transported somewhere safe. Plenty of cosplayers love comics, and if they stop at a booth, you can bet people around them are checking out both them and the table they’re perusing. I’ve seen it happen so often at Comic-Con International.
Over the weekend, I witnessed what has the potential to turn into a grassroots campaign to help one of my favorite charities, The Hero Initiative.
Singaporean author Wayne Rée released his debut book Tales from a Tiny Room at the Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention, perhaps not the obvious venue for the introduction of a collection of short stories. Sure, there are accompanying illustrations by several comics artists, and a number of the stories seem ripe for adaptation as comics, but it’s definitely straight prose. Still, Rée chose the convention because comic books have long influenced him. This is not some keen observation; he’s open about it. For about a year, he wrote a series of columns about his journey of discovering comics at The Comics Observer (no relation to this column!).
On Twitter and Tumblr, he frequently cites his love of Spider-Man, Warren Ellis and Jamie S. Rich. He even received permission to use a portion of Matt Fraction’s talk “Batman Dreams of Hieronymus Machines” as the opening quote for Tales from a Tiny Room. And so, as a way to give back to what has given him so much, Rée announced he would donate one Singapore dollar to The Hero Initiative for every copy sold at the convention.
Walt Disney Animation has premiered an adorable two-minute clip from Big Hero 6 that highlights the relationship between young Hiro and his robot Baymax, and has me looking forward to the Nov. 7 release of the film.
Even from the limited glimpses we’ve gotten of them, the characters are already appealing. I sure would be down for reading more stories about them. However, Marvel has no plans to release any comic books in conjunction with the premiere of Big Hero 6 — no reprints of the original stories that inspired from the movie, no new comics … nothing.
As the first Disney animated movie to take advantage of the House of Mouse’s $4 billion purchase of the House of Ideas, you’d think this would be pretty exciting for Marvel, and something it would want to promote. And yet, Marvel is surprisingly quiet about Big Hero 6.
There are no plans to reprint the 1998 original Sunfire & Big Hero 6 miniseries by Scott Lobdell and Gus Vazquez, or the 2006 follow-up Big Hero 6 by Chris Claremont and David Nakayama . Asked about that last week by Comic Book Resources, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso explained, “The characters and stories that have appeared in our comics are very different from what they are in the film. Releasing material that would be viewed as movie tie-in product would be a disservice to filmgoers. We wanted the Disney folks to be able to create their own unique style and story, unencumbered by those older stories.”
Although U.S. publishers occasionally experiment with weekly series — DC Comics, for examples, will soon have three on its plate, with Batman Eternal, New 52: Futures End and Earth 2: Worlds End — comic books in North America traditionally have been released on a monthly schedule. It’s been that way for decades.
However, today sees the conclusion of weekly miniseries that not only make you reconsider that tradition, but also leads you to wonder whether the story’s impact would have been lessened by monthly release.
Created by writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman and artist Afua Richardson, the five-issue Genius was published weekly throughout August by Top Cow Productions (the final two installments went on sale this morning). This break from the tradition allowed the story to build a momentum that would have been missed had it unfolded over the course of five months.
Marvel released its November solicitations, and as I’ve feared for a few months now, New Warriors by Christopher Yost and Marcus To is ending with Issue 12. This isn’t exactly a surprise, as anyone even casually watching its sales probably saw this coming: July’s Issue 7 sold about 17,000 copies, a few thousand below the traditional line of death for a Marvel title.
While the writing may have been on the wall, it’s sad to see such a fun and spirited comic go away. As a longtime fan of New Warriors, this fourth attempt to revitalize the property was the most true to the fondly remembered original series by Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley and Darick Robertson. The bright and energetic art was fantastic, the dialogue was pitch-perfect, and yet … it just didn’t click with enough readers.
So what’s the problem?
Unfortunately, the creators had an uphill climb for a number of reasons. Some are unique to the New Warriors and others are shared by non-marquee properties at Marvel, DC and other publishers. In February, when this New Warriors series launched, I celebrated the B-list characters and their comics. Now six months later, we’re staring down the barrel of cancellation. These B-listers are a double-edged sword, so now it’s time to look at the edge of the sword that we don’t like (or however that metaphor works).
When DC Comics relaunched its superhero line in 2011 with the New 52, there was an unmistakable sameness to the aesthetic of many of the titles. Sure, there have been some eye-catching exceptions, but for the most part, the Jim Lee-led character redesigns have exerted great influence over the DC Universe for the past three years.
If you’re a fan of Jim Lee, that’s pretty awesome. If you’re a fan of a lot of artists and styles, that’s less awesome and has made the New 52 sometimes frustrating and occasionally baffling. There are more than 75 years’ worth of characters bursting with the imagination of hundreds of creators. Why filter all that down to such a narrow experience for readers? I love Oreo cookies, but can I ever have chocolate chip cookie?
But then, along comes new Batman Group Editor Mark Doyle, who moved from Vertigo in February. Suddenly, there’s a new creative team, a new costume and a new outlook, for Batgirl, followed by announcements of Gotham Academy, Arkham Manor and, just Tuesday, Gotham By Midnight, demonstrating that Batman and his world are a resilient and powerful corner of the DC Universe. It’s one where offering different aesthetics adds a richness to the entire line while (possibly) attracting the eye of those looking for something different in their reading experience.
Essentially, Doyle just installed a snack bar. So let’s go eat!
Comic-Con International has come and gone, and like every year, we’re left with a metric ton of announcements, hints, speculations, sneak previews, leaked footage and open questions.
There also seemed to be more pre-convention announcements than I can remember seeing in previous years. If the past week or so of frenzied news wasn’t enough, panel coverage and from is still rolling out. Based on the past several years, we should see those continue to be doled out for the next week or two.Comic-Con is truly a month-long event, maybe almost two months when all is said and done. So it’s understandable if it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of what was announced when or to even remember that awesome thing I was so excited about a week ago but can’t name now.
There are plenty that stuck with me, however; I’ve already written about comiXology’s DRM-free titles, and some of Image’s upcoming titles, and there were plenty of others. Of course, I can’t mention all of the cool things to emerge from Comic-Con — that would just be a near duplication of everything we’ve heard about for about a month now. So instead, here are six (more) things from Comic-Con I can remember thinking were extra-awesome:
For the first time in 14 years, I’m not going to Comic-Con International in San Diego, not even for a day. I didn’t think this would bother me, but I have to admit that I’m bummed I’m missing out on the biggest week in comics.
There are numerous comics conventions across the country, and even around the world, that use the term “comic-con, but there’s just one Comic-Con. If you really need clarification, fine, call it the San Diego Comic-Con, or, as it’s becoming increasingly known, “nerd prom.” I scoffed at that nickname when I first heard it, because even after all this time, “nerd” still seemed derogatory (I blame my sister). But now I feel like it’s a perfect name for it, because just like your high school prom, everyone talks about it weeks and months beforehand, it seems like everyone is going, and if you aren’t, you feel left out of the fun.
Growing up in Massachusetts, I heard about two comic book events that were truly legendary, epic destinations that had to be experienced at least once in your life: One was in San Diego and the other was in Chicago. Only one of those two has really held on to its mythic status as a holy destination for anyone who loves comics, and the related family of genre and pop culture entertainment to which many of us have devoted so much. I moved to Los Angeles in 1999, and I knew an added bonus was that I would at last get to attend Comic-Con.
Superhero comics deal in extremes: Characters overreact, the world is in constant jeopardy, and the solution almost always involves physical combat. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when the #FireRickRemender fiasco erupted. There was no conversation. Instead, people hurled accusations and argued over whether a writer should keep his job, while others mocked the whole thing. The rest of us silently watched from the sidelines, and that was pretty much it: That was how comics professionals, fans and industry observers handled a three-page scene from Captain America #22.
I guess I should be happy that people are so passionate about these stories and the creators behind them. If we were all so blasé and detached, sales would probably not just be flat so far this year, they’d be in the gutters. Yet I can’t help but feel disappointed, because I know we can do better than this.
For a long time, there were limited options to become a professional comic book creator. Option 1 was to just figure it out yourself, with lots of mistakes along the way. Option 2 was to go to a proper school to study fine art, which usually meant discovering on your own how to co-opt what was being taught for your own comics purposes. Option 3 was to buy How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema.
But as the years have passed, more options have surfaced, reflecting the richer comics field that now exists. More colleges have courses or majors that specifically focus on comics, but if that’s not a deep enough immersion, there are now a number of alternatives. Sure, you could still choose between those original three options, or you can consider one of these five venues of learning, each fitting different styles and budgets for all kinds of creators. After all, everyone learns differently.
1. The Kubert School
Originally named The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, The Kubert School was the first and remains the only accredited school in the United States devoted entirely to making comics. The three-year vocational college for cartooning and graphic art is located in Dover, New Jersey, about 45 minutes from New York City. Founded in 1976 by comics legend Joe Kubert (Sgt. Rock, Tarzan, Hawkman), it is now run by his sons Andy and Adam Kubert, who have had a string of hit comics at Marvel and DC.