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As the reviews editor for Comic Book Resources, I accumulate a lot of collected editions. For better or worse, trade-waiting has become a part of the comics landscape, but it’s easy to tell when a collection rises above the pack. Whether it’s through superior craftsmanship, incredible bonus material, attention to the little details or a combination of all three, there are always a few trades that rise to the top, and make for an enjoyable reading experience and a fantastic display piece.
Thus, here are a few of my favorite collected editions of 2014, factoring in the strength of the original material, and what makes the collection worth picking up for those that might already own the single issues — ranging from budget-conscious trades up through the incredibly pricey omnibus editions.
If you’re looking for some Halloween reading, there’s still time to snag the Humble Horror Book Bundle, whose mix of prose and comic-book scares includes Afterlife With Archie, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Locke & Key. However, that’s only for starters.
Humble Bundle allows customers to purchase DRM-free downloads for as little as a penny, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity (in this case the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund).
Awards | Alexis Deacon has won the 2014 Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize for “The River,” “a luscious, tangled, whispering kind of story” that earned him £1,000 (about $1,611 U.S.). The runners-up were Fionnuala Doran’s “Countess Markievicz” and Beth Dawson’s “After Life.” The short-story competition has been held annually since 2007 by London’s Comica Festival, publisher Jonathan Cape and The Observer newspaper. [The Observer]
Publishing | Mark Peters spotlights Archie Comics’ recent transformation from staid to startling, with titles like Afterlife With Archie and the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. [Salon]
Conventions | Ahead of New York Comic Con, George Gene Gustines shares producer Michael Uslan’s program from a 1964 comics gathering in New York City; it actually was released after the show, and includes some thoughts on how things could be improved, mainly by shifting the focus from buying and selling comics to bringing in creators so the fans could meet them personally. Nonetheless, Steve Ditko was there, and the list of registered participants included George R.R. Martin. [The New York Times]
Creators | Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talks about taking Sabrina the Teenage Witch to the dark side in her new series, a Riverdale horror story in the same vein as Afterlife With Archie. In this case, rather than zombies, Aguirre-Sacasa is drawing inspiration from the 1960s film Rosemary’s Baby. [Hero Complex]
Legal | At the request of a state-owned distributor, the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor is investigating charges that Marvel comics are “propaganda of a cult of violence,” specifically, violence against Russian targets. The agency will review Avengers #1, due out in Russia in August, “regarding the use of Soviet symbols, the presentation of the characters as Russian service personnel, and the incitement of violence and cruelty,” according to the the Russian Legal Information Agency. This seems to be about the Winter Guard and specifically about Vanguard, who wears a hammer-and-sickle logo; the European publisher, Egmont, plans to remove the logo for the Russian release. Roskomnadzor has the option of issuing an official warning; a publisher who gets two of these in a year may have its license revoked. [CNET]
The motion-comics platform Madefire announced this morning that four more comics publishers have signed on: Arcana, Archie Comics, Lion Forge and Seraphim.
There’s a definite skew toward horror in this announcement: The first Archie title to go on the platform is the zombie comic Afterlife With Archie, the Arcana title mentioned is The Intrinsic, and Seraphim is the publisher of horror writer Clive Barker’s work. The outlier is Lion Forge, which is best known as the creator of digital-first adaptations of 1980s TV shows; its first Madefire comic will apparently be Knight Rider.
That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Madefire seems determined to make motion comics for adult readers. The current lineup includes Tom Taylor’s dark Batman/Superman story Injustice: Gods Among Us, as well as Batman: Arkham Origins, Hellboy in Hell and Infinite Crisis.
Madefire is available as an iOS app and on DeviantART. It’s not unlike Thrillbent, although the Madefire comics I’ve read have more aggressive animation. On Thrillbent, each swipe makes one thing happen — a panel is revealed, a word balloon appears, the background shifts somehow. Madefire also works on swipes (or page turns on DeviantART), but several things may happen with each page turn, so the reader is a little less in control of the timing. That may be a plus in horror comics, because it allows the creator to surprise the reader in a way that can’t really happen on the printed page.
Archie Comics is in an unusual position among North American comics companies, as not only is a majority of its titles geared toward younger readers, but a majority of that audience is female.
Curious to learn how Archie maintains that readership, I reached out to President Mike Pellerito to discuss how he envisions the market for the company’s core kids line, and how he seeks to expand what it offers. Of course, the recent hiring of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa as chief creative officer and his potential impact on the line became central to the discussion.
In the comments section, please be sure to answer Pellerito’s question to Robot 6 readers.
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “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.
This week we focus in on some great new comics, including Veil and Afterlife with Archie, as well as the benefit auctions for Stan Sakai and his wife. Plus free comics! What’s better than that? So without further ado, let’s get to it …
Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).
However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]
Retailing | The rental chain Tsutaya and the bookstore chain Yurindo have returned Kuroko’s Basketball books and DVDs to their shelves after “X-Day,” Nov. 4, passed without incident. Someone has sent hundreds of threatening letters to convention sites, bookstores, the media and Sophia University (the alma mater of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki), over the past year, and the most recent batch of letters said that “X-Day will be on the final day of the [Sophia University] school festival.” Meanwhile, police are checking security cameras near all the mailboxes in the districts from which the letters were mailed, looking for suspicious people. [Anime News Network]
Comics | Brian Steinberg looks at Archie Comics’ most radical move yet: the relatively adult Afterlife with Archie, which literally turned America’s most iconic teenagers into zombies. Steinberg talks to Archie CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, artist Francesco Francavilla and others about the significance of this comic, which sold almost 65,000 copies to the direct market. [Variety]
Conventions | Declaring this weekend’s inaugural Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal, Cumbria, England, a success, organizers have already announced the dates for next year’s event: Oct. 17-19. “Our first year has been everything we could have wished for,” said festival director Julie Tait. “There was a huge buzz right through Kendal – from The Brewery Arts Centre right to The Box on Wildman Street, as well as at the shopping centre and the library. The town has really got involved and there has been art work on every street. It feels like the weekend has involved everyone – from adults following their passion for Viz humour to kids learning how Peppa Pig was created.” This year’s festival featured guests ranging from Charlie Adlard and Ed Brubaker to David Lloyd and Trina Robbins. [Cumbria Live]
Afterlife with Archie started out for me with a couple of potential negatives: I’m not a fan of horror comics, and I firmly believe the zombie subgenre has played itself out. But if there’s one factor that could make me enjoy a zombie comic, it’s the art of Francesco Francavilla.
The ongoing series, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, marks a significant departure for Archie Comics, in large part because it’s the publisher’s first direct market-only release. One has to wonder how much this will benefit the publisher, whose audience is found primarily outside of specialty stores, and whether its potential success will lead to more direct market-only titles.
But enough about the business aspects of Life with Archie; let’s focus on what makes its debut issue such a must-read. As much as the Archie line has redefined itself in recent years (the marriage storyline/titles, the introduction of gay character Kevin Keller, etc.), the use of an artist like Francavilla represents another leap. I count him among my favorite current artists for much the same reason I rave about Gabriel Hardman; When reading a story by either creator, the experience is like having a film playing in my head.
“I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, although I certainly know what that is. And what I love about that concept is as much as it’s a zombie story, it’s also Pride and Prejudice. It’s the exact same thing with Afterlife: As much as this is a hardcore horror zombie book, it’s still an Archie book. Who is Archie going to take to the Halloween dance? Betty or Veronica? Why does the zombie apocalypse start? Because Sabrina the Teenaged Witch messed up a spell, which she is constantly doing in the comic book. Who but Reggie would be the guy who runs over Hot Dog? If anybody has a dark secret like ‘I killed Hot Dog!’ it’s going to be Reggie Mantle.”
— writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, talking with Vulture about Afterlife With Archie, which debuts today. Deadline also has the exclusive New York Comic Con trailer for the series, which is illustrated by Francesco Francavilla
Creators | Jeff Smith, who was named last week to the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, talks briefly about the importance of the organization, and the 2010 challenge to his all-ages graphic novel Bone in a Minnesota school. [Comic Riffs]
Comics | Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla have a few things to say about the new zombie series Afterlife With Archie. “We are taking a series of characters known to be lighthearted and young adult-oriented and doing a horror comic with them, so the mood, atmosphere, and setting are very important to make this a believable horror and not a comedy horror,” says Francavilla, who’s also the creator of The Black Beetle. “Fortunately, I am really good at making things dark and ominous.” [The Associated Press]
The new zombie Archie serie, Afterlife With Archie will debut Oct. 9, the day before NYCC kicks off, and the Archie folks are inviting everyone to celebrate by dressing up as a zombified version of their favorite character. Cosplay as zombie Jughead, Sabrina, even Katy Keene, and stop by the Archie Comics booth (#1936) during the convention for a copy of the comic with a special, cosplayer-exclusive cover by Robert Hack. You can also enter for a chance to win one of three grand prizes: a year’s worth of Archie comics.
Announced earlier this year, Afterlife With Archie will be penned by former Glee writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Francavilla.