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DC’s Diane Nelson among entertainment’s most powerful women

Diane Nelson

The Hollywood Reporter continues its industry power surveys with a list of the 100 most powerful women in entertainment that includes DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson at No. 49.

No stranger to Hollywood, Nelson was president of Warner Premiere and shepherd of Warner Bros.’ blockbuster Harry Potter franchise before being appointed in September 2009 as head of the studio’s newly formed DC Entertainment division, designed to better exploit the comic-book properties across all media. Five months later, Nelson named Dan DiDio and Jim Lee as co-publishers and Geoff Johns as chief creative officer; in September 2010, the company announced a “bi-coastal realignment strategy” that saw the closing of WildStorm and the move of business/administration and digital-content operations to a new office tower in Burbank, California, less than a mile from Warner Bros. Studios. It was under Nelson that DC launched its New 52 initiative and expanded its digital reach.

“She’s the gatekeeper for the entire DC brand, which includes films like The Dark Knight Rises ($1.08 billion in worldwide grosses) and such TV series as The CW’s new high-performing drama Arrow and various shows on Cartoon Network,” The Hollywood Reporter writes in its brief profile of Nelson. “Simply put, if you are a producer and you want to develop one of DC’s characters, you have to go through Nelson, 45. She also oversaw the relaunch of the entire line of DC Comics and created a plan for same-day digital comics on all platforms and partnering with Warner Bros. to develop new projects.”

Last week the trade paper named Robert Kirkman and Neil Gaiman among the 25 most powerful authors in Hollywood.

Comics A.M. | Tezuka Productions and Diamond ink distribution deal

Astro Boy

Manga | Tezuka Productions, which handles the works of Osamu Tezuka, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to distribute its comics, toys, T-shirts and other products outside of Japan. [Previews World]

Comics | Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, discusses the clash between the creative drive and the corporate interest, as it played out at the House of Ideas: “There’s certainly a cautionary tale in there, but I think it’s inevitable — because Marvel Comics is a really rich example of the way that pop culture works and that the Marvel story really gets to the way that art and commerce are always going to be battling it out in pop culture. If you’re trying to have mass appeal and artistic expression at the same time, there are going to be compromises. And when you bring powerful corporate interests into the equation, it’s pretty predictable what will happen.” [The Phoenix]

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The legacy of Karen Berger and Vertigo

The news of Karen Berger leaving Vertigo spread quickly. It wasn’t so much that it was a surprise, but that it finally happened. DC Comics Entertainment has been going through significant changes over the past couple of years, including grabbing characters long associated with Vertigo and returning them to the DC Universe, and rumored changes to creator contracts. Despite the unfortunate end, Berger leaves behind an amazing legacy no matter what becomes of the nearly 20-year-old imprint.

I have a very clear memory of high school in the 1990s where kids much cooler than me were reading The Sandman. These were kids who otherwise didn’t read comics, and certainly not the superhero stuff from Marvel and DC. This was not an isolated incident. Vertigo in the ’90s brought a new audience to comics, a maturing audience with interests in horror, fantasy, suspense and mythology. These readers didn’t have access to, and probably weren’t ready for, the underground or alternative comix scene. As superhero comics turned into garish collector items, Vertigo provided the alternative: stories.

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Stan Sakai draws a comic to explain Usagi Yojimbo hiatus

Stan Sakai is taking a break from his long-running series Usagi Yojimbo, and he explains why in a short comic on the Dark Horse site: He’s taking time off to draw 47 Ronin, a historical tale written by Dark Horse President Mike Richardson. The comic is cute and turns what could just be a creator’s note into a dynamic encounter with lots of action and a funny twist at the end. In other words, it’s pure Sakai. And yes, he promises he will resume work on Usagi Yojimbo once he’s done with 47 Ronin.

(via Comics Worth Reading)

Philadelphia’s Locust Moon to hold inaugural comics festival Dec. 16

Philadelphia comic shop Locust Moon has had an ambitious year with a relocation and an anthology published by Dark Horse, but it’s not done yet. On Dec. 16, the three-year-old store is organizing a one-day comics convention in West Philadelphia’s Rotunda called, appropriately enough, the Locust Moon Comic Festival.

“There are plenty of comic conventions in Philly, but we want to do something that’s not about video games and Star Trek and professional wrestling and geek culture,” store owner Josh O’Neill said in a statement. “[Locust Moon Comics Festival] is about the fierce creativity of cartoonists and writers and illustrators who follow their own paths and speak from the heart. We want to exalt the infinite possibilities of the medium and acknowledge the intrepid talents that restlessly explore and expand its edges.”

The festival lineup includes its poster artist Farel Dalrymple, Jim Rugg, Box Brown, Brandon Graham and David Mack. As part of the festival weekend, Locust Moon will host a gallery show at its store location that weekend and an “all-star” Drink & Draw the day before the festival.

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Steve Ditko writes essays about Spider-Man’s creation

After retiring from mainstream comics in 1998, legendary comics creator Steve Ditko has been a hard man to find. Admittedly, he wasn’t much easier to find before his announced retirement. Since very early on in his career, Ditko has been at odds with the celebrity nature that his work has earned with fans and fellow creators — avoiding the spotlight, refusing interviews and distancing himself from the community nature of the comics industry. In a way, Ditko has become comics’ equivalent of J.D. Salinger, rarely releasing new work and eschewing the modern notion that creators engage with fans and press. Stan Lee, he’s not.

So the news coming out that Ditko has written several essays about Spider-Man in various independent publications is something eye-opening for fans, be they casual admirers or the ardent devotees like U.K. television personality Jonathan Ross, who tracked down Ditko for a 2007 documentary (he declined to be interviewed or photographed). Earlier this year, Ditko published an essay called “The Knowers & The Barkers” in his comic book #17: Seventeen, and a second just popped up in the comic fanzine The Comics Vol. 23 No. 7, published by Robin Snyder, Ditko’s former editor at Charlton and Archie. This second essay, “The Silent Sel-Deceivers,” reportedly runs a page and a half and features Ditko addressing the creation of Spider-Man.

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Confused by ‘fiscal cliff’ debate? Allow Montgomery Burns to explain

Although he’s still reeling by the defeat of Mitt Romney — hey, he didn’t heed valuable advice — C. Montgomery Burns pulls himself together to deliver a helpful explanation of the “fiscal cliff” from within the ominous-looking headquarters of the Springfield Republican Party.

“Think of the economy as a car and the rich man as the driver,” he offers in a new Simpsons promo. “If you don’t give the driver all the money, he’ll drive you over the cliff. It’s just common sense.”

Watch the video below. New episodes of The Simpsons air Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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Charles Schulz’s love letters expected to fetch $250,000 at auction

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts captured the hearts and minds of millions during its long run, and continues in various cartoons, comic spin-offs and other products. But as it turns out the beloved cartoonist also used his Peanuts characters to win the heart of at least one woman during a brief courtship.

The renowned Sotheby’s is hosting an auction of a series of very personal letters that Schulz sent in 1970 and 1971 to a photographer he met named Tracey Claudius during the waning years of his first marriage. Although never intended for public display, these communications from Schulz reveal an endearingly romantic side of the usually reserved cartoonist. Sold by the family of Claudius to pay medical bills, the 56 pages of letters include 22 original drawings of Peanuts characters. The auction house expects them to bring in at least $250,000.

The Associated Press notes that in two letters, Schulz told Claudius he must stop calling her because the long-distance charges had been discovered by his wife: “Soon after, he created a strip in which Charlie Brown berated Snoopy for his obnoxious behavior when he’s not allowed to go out ‘to see that girl beagle.’ In subsequent panels, Charlie warns Snoopy ‘you’d better start behaving yourself’ and when Snoopy picks up the telephone, Charlie Brown yells ‘And stop making those long-distance phone calls.’

First look: Lettered pages from Dark Horse’s new Star Wars series

Nerdist has debuted a first look at lettered pages from Dark Horse’s Star Wars, the new series from Brian Wood and Carlos d’Anda set during the three-year gap between Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Announced at Comic-Con International, the title picks up where fans left Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo after the destruction of the Death Star. “Luke is hurting from the death of his family and Ben, Leia is in mourning for her family and her entire planet, while trying to shoulder the burden of managing the Rebellion alongside Mon Mothma,” Wood told Comic Book Resources in July. “Han is still kind of a jerk. Luke only has the barest sense of what the Force is, and will attempt to learn what he can on his own.”

Star Wars, which features covers by Alex Ross, debuts in January. See part of the preview (including a strutting Darth Vader) below, and visit Nerdist for more.

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Comics A.M. | Woman shot following Walking Dead argument

The Walking Dead

Crime | Police say a Willston Park, New York, man shot his girlfriend in the back Monday following an argument about the AMC adaptation of The Walking Dead. Twenty-six-year-old Jared M. Gurman reportedly believed a military mishap could lead to the release of a virus, triggering a zombie apocalypse; Jessica Gelderman, 27, thought the idea was absurd. According to police, the argument escalated and even continued through text messages after Gelderman left the apartment to spend the night at her parents’ house. When Gelderman returned to try to smooth things over with her boyfriend, police allege he was sitting on the stairs with a .22-caliber rifle; a single round pierced her lung and diaphragm and shattered her ribs. Gurman was arrested when he took Gelderman to the hospital. She’s in stable condition with the bullet still in her body. [Newsday]

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Amazon debuts Kindle subcription service for kids — with comics

Amazon.com has launched Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service that offers access to thousands of handpicked books, movies, television shows, games and educational apps appropriate for children ages 3 to 8. The online retail giant promises, “Parents don’t have to spend time (and money) guessing what their kids will enjoy, and kids can explore a world of age-appropriate content on their own — no ads, no in-app purchases.”

The service, included as a free trial on every new Kindle Fire, debuts with a library that includes the Disney-released Marvel picture books, Warner Bros. Consumer Products-produced DC Comics apps, Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate, Bill Amend’s FoxTrot, Mark Tatulli’s Lio, and Graphic Universe’s “Graphic Myths & Legends, Sherlock Holmes and “Manga Math Mysteries” series. Presumably we’ll see more kids’ comics as the rollout continues.

The monthly subscription is $4.99 a month for one child, and $9.99 for up to six (cheaper for Amazon Prime members).

Watch Marvel’s first-look trailer for Avengers #1

Marvel has released a trailer featuring the first look at Avengers #1, the new series by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena debuting today as part of the publisher’s Marvel NOW! initiative.

The greatest heroes in comics together on one unbeatable team! Now shipping twice a month, the Avengers “go large,” expanding their roster and their sphere of influence to a global and even interplanetary level. When Captain America puts out his call, who will answer? Big threats, big ideas, big idealism — these are the Avengers NOW!

Hickman took to the Comic Book Resources forums over the weekend to answer questions about the new series, and teased how he plans to approach such a large cast: “3 issues everyone, 3 issues smaller teams, rinse, repeat (until I don’t).”

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The Middle Ground #132 | At knockdown prices

Ah, the joys of comic book sales. With everything that appears in your local store on a weekly basis, you could be forgiven for overlooking some treasures waiting for you in the back issue bins or the graphic novel back stock shelves, but when the sales come along, it can be a gift: Not only a reason to dive into the back pages of things you might’ve missed, but also a chance to get them for less money than you would’ve paid the first time around.

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Quote of the Day | ‘Comics needs Karen Berger!’

“I was [...] seriously disappointed when I’d heard about the demise of Vertigo’s Hellblazer recently announced, in favor of transitioning the lead character into the DCU entirely, not an idea I’m overly fond of. As a longtime reader of Hellblazer it was disheartening. I felt as if Vertigo was beginning to slowly be sucked dry, its life’s blood drained away. And with the departure of Karen Berger I have to admit that I’m feeling even more disheartened. And speaking as bit of a fan here, not an industry professional, I’m feeling torn between a struggle of anger about some things and rather optimistic for what the future may hold for Karen, and in turn for us as readers. As a creative editor Karen has something to say, always has, and I’m certain her voice will rise up out of the din and resonate with something new. And when that voice does sound, in whatever form that may take, I know I’m there to listen. Comics needs Karen Berger! ”

J.H. Williams III, responding to Monday’s announcement that Karen Berger, executive editor and senior vice president of Vertigo, will leave after nearly 20 years at the helm of the DC Comics imprint

Food or Comics? | Avocados or Avengers

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Avengers #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start out with Legend of Luther Strode #1 (Image, $3.50). I was behind the times on the first series, but now I will raise my fist to the air and decree “NO MORE!” (to the stunned silence of my local comic shop owner). Justin Jordan really brought a different take on this story, but for me the sizzle on this is Tradd Moore’s art. It reminds me of Sam Keith’s middle-period during his Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine run, and that’s nothing but a good thing. After that I’d get Stumptown #4 (Oni Press, $3.99). Some might compare Dex’s journey to that of Jessica Jones in Marvel’s Alias, but it’s anything but. Greg Rucka really knows how to make a story feel more than just mere fiction. My third pick this week would be Invincible #98 (Image, $2.99), seeing Mark Grayson get his powers back – just in time to be stomped into the ground, from the looks of it. Reading this series since the first issue, I’m noticing the colorist change more and more here; John Rauch definitely is a step removed from FCO Plascencia, and I’m still getting used to it. Kirkman and Ottley are delivering here so well that Domino’s should be jealous. (ba-dum CHING!) Last up in my Wednesday haul would be Avengers #1 (Marvel, $3.99). I’ve noticed in doing Food or Comics for as long as I have how I’ll routinely follow writers but when they manage to get an artist I particularly like I’ll fall over myself trying to get to it. Case in point, this book, with Jonathan Hickman joining forces with Jerome Opeña to kick off a new era for Marvel’s flagship book. I’m all for “Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers,” but I’m even more excited to see Opeña’s take on this.

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