DC Entertainment and LEGO this morning announced that several of the publisher’s all-ages titles, including The Batman Adventures, Tiny Titans and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, on the LEGO Hero Factory app created by DC and sponsored by LEGO.
As the name of the app suggests, the emphasis is on digital comics based on the LEGO Hero Factory toy line — they’re free! — other kid-friendly DC books like Teen Titans Go!, Young Justice and Superman Adventures are also available for 99 cents per download.
“LEGO Hero Factory is all about building heroes so it’s the perfect match for an app that also features DC Comics Super Heroes,” Hank Kanalz, DC’s senior vice president of digital, said in a statement. “We’ve had a great, longstanding relationship with LEGO Systems and we’re really excited to bring these comics to kids through the LEGO Hero Factory app.”
J. Torres brings to our attention the premiere of Saturday Morning Webtoons, a new web “channel” linking readers to a lineup of all-ages webcomics from some familiar names: Boo Bear & Flo, by Jack Briglio (Digger & Friends, Scooby Doo) and Agnes Garbowska (Marvel’s Girl Comics, You, Me and Zombie); Gobukan, by J. Bone (Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Owl Magazine), The Little Tales of Otto & Olive, by Stephanie Buscema (Rocketeer Adventures, Pugs in a Bug); Orchard of Laughs, by Eric Orchard (Maddy Kettle, Yo Gabba Gabba: Comic Book Time); and Princess at Midnight, by Andi Watson (Glister, Skeleton Key).
In addition to the stable of weekly and biweekly comics, the site also offers each month a free downloadable comic; first up is Lopopo’s Lost Sock, by Alex Serra (Handy Manny, Teen Titans Go). Next will be Funnies Farm, by J. Torres (Archie & Friends, Disney/Pixar’s WALL-E) and Tracie Mauk (Comic Book Crossfire, Fight).
Legal | A teenager was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison for his role in the July 2010 theft of a valuable comic collection from an elderly Medina, New York, man, who later died of a heart attack. Eighteen-year-old Juan C. Javier, who pleaded guilty last fall to attempted second-degree burglary, is one of seven people whom police say were hired by businessman Rico J. Vendetti to break into the home of Homer Marciniak to steal his comics. Marciniak, 77, awoke during the burglary and was beaten, suffering only cuts and bruises. However, he had a fatal heart attack later that day. Eight people, including Vendetti and Javier, were indicted in November 2010; the indictments were dismissed against four of the accused so the U.S. Attorney could charge them with murder under federal law. [The Daily News]
Katie Shanahan first came to readers’ attentions in the Flight anthologies, but her most recent project is a collaboration with her brother Steven. Silly Kingdom is a 36-page, black-and-white, all-ages fantasy comic about a princess and prince who throw a surprise party for the 211th birthday of the kingdom’s wizard. Though the $10 price tag is hefty, there’s also a PDF version for $4 and Shanahan’s charmingly expressive art is always worth checking out. The book also includes bonus material like the making-of documentary comic excerpted above. Katie’s posted the entire making-of comic at her blog.
Last year, around this time, a Christmas comic caught my eye: Scrooge and Santa, by Matthew Wilson and Josh Kenfield. I liked it a lot—it mashes up a lot of Christmas traditions but still has a fairly original story, and the kinetic art made me think of an animated cartoon. So this year, I fired off some questions for Wilson and Kenfield about their story—which is back in comics stores this week, just in time for Christmas.
Robot 6: What was your favorite Christmas special (or movie or book) when you were a kid? (I see a lot of shout-outs to It’s a Wonderful Life—was that one of your favorites?)
Matt: Definitely It’s a Wonderful Life! It’s not only my favorite Christmas movie, but one of my favorite movies of all time. I love the honesty. It’s known as a feel-good movie, but people forget how dark it is. George Bailey spends most of the movie frustrated and angry. His life is so hard and difficult that he’s ready to kill himself. But in the end, when all his family and friends show him the impact a lifetime of doing the right thing has made, that joy is real and the feel-good moment is earned. That’s something I hoped to do with Scrooge and Santa, give everyone a feel-good Christmas moment without cheating and manipulating emotions.
As the end of 2011 approaches, websites and publications are unveiling various year-end lists and gift guides — so many that keeping up is a challenge. Here’s just some of what’s been released in the past few days:
• The Village Voice shares their list of the best comics and graphic novels of the year, a list that includes several collections of older material, Animal Man, Spaceman, Mister Wonderful and more.
• Comic creators Jim Woodring and Anders Nilsen, along with Thor star Chris Hemsworth, landed in the bottom quarter of Pop Candy’s annual 100 People of the Year list. The rest of the list will roll out all this week.
• The top ten comics list by Joe Gross of the Austin-American Statesman includes Criminal, Journey Into Mystery, Finder and Hark! A Vagrant, and is topped by Love & Rockets: New Stories #4.
• John Lucas at The Straight lists his favorite graphic novels of 2011, including The Cardboard Valise by Ben Katchor, Paying For It by Chester Brown and Habibi by Craig Thompson.
Nyuk nyuk nyuk! Papercutz, NBM Publishing’s all-ages graphic novel line, is launching a Three Stooges graphic novel by two veteran Archie creators, writer George Gladir and artist Stan Goldberg.
Gladir is the co-creator (with Dan DeCarlo) of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and was head writer for the best of the MAD Magazine clones Cracked, as well as one of the writers of Archie’s own version of MAD-type satire, Archie’s Madhouse, so he should feel right at home at Papercutz, whose line includes some very MAD-like parodies. The Three Stooges graphic novel Bed Bugged is a followup to the Three Stooges movie coming from the Farrelly Brothers this April.
But wait — there’s more! Papercutz is also planning to collect some classic Three Stooges comics, written by Norman Maurer and illustrated by Pate Alvarado, in a best-of format. Maurer joined the Three Stooges team when he married Moe’s daughter Joan (who will pen a foreword for the collection) and wrote several comics about the trio, some of which were illustrated by Joe Kubert. Maurer later became the Stooges’ manager and was a writer, director and producer for their movies in the 1960s.
If that whets your appetite, check out this bibliography of Three Stooges comics from days gone by.
Of all the Archie lines, the Jughead comics seem to be the most interesting. I know the main Archie comic has Kevin Keller and Kiss and all that, but the Jughead authors seem to mix things up a bit more and come up with more original story lines.
What struck me about this preview, though, was the art in the first story—it’s very much in the Archie tradition (look at Jughead’s sideways smile in the first panel, below) but somehow more dynamic as well. Penciler Ron Frenz seems to be a longtime Archie artist, so I don’t know why I’m noticing this for the first time, but it really pulled me in. That said, the first page is a bit disturbing; I think it’s the look on Archie’s face that does it. He’s simpering. Archie does not simper, dammit!
Anyway, here is a quick look at two stories from Jughead Double Digest #176; if you like ‘em, the comic goes on sale this week.
Mark Andrew Smith has posted the first issue of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors on his Tumblr for free. Featuring art by Armand Villavert, Gladstone’s School is an all-ages comic that has in-jokes to entertain adult comics fans and plenty of superhero action to engage the kids, so it really does work for all ages. The first volume of the collected edition came out on Wednesday.
Tumblr is an awkward platform for previews—the last page of the comic appears at the top of the site, and you have to scroll down to get to the beginning—but in this case it’s worth it because Smith has annotated the pages, so it’s bit like getting the director’s commentary.
There are several cool quotes in this post by Atomic Robo writer Brian Clevinger, especially in the letter from a mom whose 6-year-old son is now reading at a fifth-grade level thanks entirely to his love of comics, specifically Atomic Robo and other Red 5 comics. In fact, he loves them so much that he took an issue of Atomic Robo to school to read to his classmates. You can see whether they loved it from the photo.
The part that really got my attention, though, is in Clevinger’s comments at the end:
I would just like to point out that Volume 6, Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X, is the darkest story we’ve told. Yet it’s still appropriate for children.
It’s no secret there are still comics that are appropriate for kids. Marvel and DC are even making a couple themselves. But after a week or so of focusing on the comics that aren’t appropriate for children, it’s refreshing to see a story about one that’s not only kid-friendly, but as Clevinger points out, “universally praised by adults” as well.
Written and illustrated by Eric Powell
Colors by Dave Stewart
This comic is an all-ages story written as only Eric Powell (creator of The Goon) could write it. It’s basically the classic formula of a little girl and her pet monster, with a couple of hard twists thrown in, starting with one that is obvious on the cover: The little girl, Lula, has a beard and mustache.
That’s a daring choice all right, and Powell adds to it by giving Lula blank black eyes, so at first, actually, I thought she was wearing a V for Vendetta mask. But no, it’s all her, and it quickly becomes clear that far from being a caprice to make the book outrageous, Lula’s beard is an important part of the story.
Lula’s grandfather runs an unimpressive little circus featuring acts like Randy, The Man With the Strength of a Slightly Larger Man and an amazing two-eyed goat, and it’s not doing very well. There’s also a boy-faced fish that has a tendency to freak out.
The action starts with Lula getting a delicious chimichanga from a food stand. As she walks back to the circus, a witch beckons to her. “Whoa, Nelly!” Lula responds, “I’m not going into that house! It looks like Vietnam!” Then the witch farts. That’s pretty much how the whole book works, with Powell trotting out cliches from children’s literature and subverting them with snappy dialogue and fart jokes, which is why Chimichanga is one of those rare books that works for both children and adults (well, adults who can tolerate fart jokes, anyway). There’s not a bad word in the entire book (“Raspberries!!” is Lula’s biggest swear) yet it’s sharply written from an adult sensibility.
Lula trades the hairs for what she thinks is a shiny rock, but a few minutes later, the rock cracks and a monster climbs out—and eats her chimichanga. The monster, whom Lula promptly dubs Chimichanga, is big and hairy but not particularly fierce, so he is a perfect asset to her grandfather’s circus, although the other performers don’t like upstaged.
Spoilers after the cut.
Comics | A copy of Archie Comics #1, published in winter 1942, sold at auction last week for $167,300, setting a world record for an Archie title and a non-superhero comic. “Archie may have a ways to go to catch the likes of Superman and Batman, his Golden Age counterparts,” said Lon Allen, managing director of comics for Heritage Auctions, “but you can bet that collectors sat up and took notice when this comic brought that price. This amount exceeds the priciest of Spidey and Hulk comic books we’ve sold, which brought in excess of $125,000 each.” [Luxist]
Retailing | REDgroup Retail, which owns the Australian booksellers Borders and Angus & Robertson, has laid off 321 employees at the two chains following the closing of 38 stores. The company entered into administration last month. [ABC News]
Retailing | Borders Group has asked a bankruptcy judge for more time to decide whether to assume or reject its 681 leases, including those for 674 stores. If granted, the extension would give the company until Jan. 12, 2012, to deal with its leases. [Detroit Free Press]
Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview with retail news and analysis site ICv2, Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson discusses the state of the market, the potential impact of Borders’ bankruptcy, digital comics, the decline in manga sales, the success of Troublemaker and more. Of particular note is Richardson’s confirmation that Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store was behind the delay of the planned January launch of Dark Horse’s digital comics program. He also says that Frank Miller is working on the third issue of his 300 prequel Xerxes, which is expected to be “roughly six issues, but he hasn’t exactly decided yet.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson provides an overview of recent changes to BOOM! Studios’ kids’ line, from the loss of the Pixar licenses to a new imprint name — changed from BOOM! Kids to kaboom! — to the announcement this week of a Peanuts original graphic novel. “BOOM Kids! was designed to publish children’s comics — kaboom! is designed to be a true all-ages imprint, and for that reason Peanuts is the perfect launch title, the sort of material that adults and kids read alike,” CEO Ross Ritchie said. “Roger Langridge’s Snarked! is along these lines, as is Space Warped and Word Girl. I put the Word Girl announcement on my wall on Facebook and immediately there were a zillion adults commenting, ‘My child loves this show but I’m buying this comic book for myself!’ The title mix will be broader for kaboom! than it was for BOOM Kids!” [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Following its grim snapshot of year-to-date dollar sales in the direct market, ICv2.com has released a dreary analysis of the November charts: For the third time in 2010, the top-selling title failed to crack the 100,000-copy mark. Batman: The Return, priced at $4.99, sold about 99,500 copies, compared to the 144,000 sold by November 2009′s top title, Blackest Night #5. According to the retail news and analysis site, 20 of the Top 25 titles experienced a drop last month. As ICv2 noted last week in its initial report, dollar sales of comics were down 10.2 percent when compared with November 2009, while graphic novels jumped 14.84 percent, tied to the release of the 13th volume of The Walking Dead (it sold more than 19,000 copies). [ICv2.com]
Digital publishing | Google on Monday unveiled Google eBooks, a web-based e-book platform/digital storefront that boasts “the world’s largest selection of ebooks.” Dan Vado offers brief commentary. [TechCrunch]
Check out this video of Night Salad, a new book by the Scottish team of Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, who go by the name Metaphrog. At the Forbidden Planet blog, Joe waxes lyrical about the book and shows off some generous samples of the art, which is lovely and well worth the click. This is the latest of a series of books about the baby-faced Louis; earlier volumes have earned nominations for the Eisner and Ignatz awards. The story is a fable that works on two levels; children can read it as a simple story of Louis looking for a cure for his sick bird, while adults may see more sinster overtones. You can see more of Metaphrog’s work on their website, and an earlier Louis story, Red Letter Day at Serializer.