INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
Do you have what it takes to join the Gang of Harleys?
Harley Quinn collaborators Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti will host the first “Great Harley Quinn Cosplayer Showdown” Friday at the DC Entertainment booth at Comic-Con International.
Diamond Comic Distributors has unveiled the Free Comic Book Day 2015 commemorative T-shirt designed by Amanda Conner and colored by Paul Mounts.
The tee, which will be available in adult and youth sizes from the January issue of Previews, depicts images of a variety of young readers — one of them otherworldly — enjoying comic books, set against a FCBD logo.
“I remembered what many of us comic book readers actually are … frustrated superheroes,” Conner said in a statement. “I thought about making a piece of art that would resemble a superhero insignia. Hopefully when you see it from a distance, that’s what it looks like.”
It’s pretty widely known by now that one of the smells in the special rub-and-sniff Harley Quinn Annual #1 is of a less-than-legal, but incredibly distinctive, drug. As a result — even at New York Comic Con 2014 — there have been many jokes about the results of rubbing and smelling the marijuana-scented section of the comic.
Hilariously, through its MAD Magazine website, DC Comics has released an “important message from the DC Comics department of ethical reading,” which continues the running gag of the drug’s distinctive smell — “something called Cannibisylocibe 7-A” — and the possible side effects.
It surprised me to see Jimmy Palmiotti pursuing yet another Kickstarter in 2014, considering he had successfully completed one earlier in the year for Denver. This new one, launched this week, focuses on Sex and Violence Vol. 2.
My decision to interview the veteran writer wasn’t based on aiming to help him achieve his Kickstarter goal; he’s days, if not hours, away from achieving that. Instead, I hoped to tap into some of the knowledge that allows him to so effectively operate crowdfunding campaigns (many of the completed projects can be bought at the PaperFilms shop).
Not only did the creator offer some of the lessons learned from his past Kickstarters (hint: avoid the shipping costs from hardcover), but he also proved quite candid about the challenges of swimming in creator-owned waters. Palmiotti also was willing to elaborate about his perspective on last week’s controversy about Milo Manara Spider-Woman #1 variant cover.
Retailing | A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order halting the $21.4 million purchase of retail chain Hastings Entertainment by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association. The order was granted at the request of two Hastings shareholders who sued to stop the sale, insisting the price paid for the retailer is too low; it will remain in effect until a hearing can be held on June 12. Hastings issued a statement Monday pledging to “vigorously dispute these claims.” Hastings operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more. [Amarillo Globe-News, via ICv2]
Retailing | Amazon may be charging full price for Hachette’s graphic novels as part of its continuing contract dispute with the publisher, but Barnes & Noble has leaped into the breach with big discounts and a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on Hachette’s Yen Press manga and Little, Brown’s Tintin books. [ICv2]
Crime | Police in St. Charles, Missouri, are looking for a man who accosted an employee of the Fantasy Shop outside the comic store Monday morning and demanded she hand over a bank bag. The suspect, who indicated he had a gun, then fled with an undisclosed amount of money, leading to five local schools being put on lockdown for about 90 minutes. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
Creators | Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato discuss taking over as the creative team of Detective Comics with Issue 30. “We just want to carve out a small space in the Bat-world and craft stories that resonate with the legions of fans out there,” Buccalleto says. “It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of this legacy.” [USA Today]
It’s been about 10 years since the first ongoing series of popular Batman: The Animated Series export Harley Quinn published its 38th and final issue, so she was due — if not overdue — for another shot, particularly given that DC Comics’ current strategy means publishing a certain number of books each month, and the market seems to be rejecting a lot of those. Looked at in that light, then, this week’s Harley Quinn #1 was something of an inevitability.
The character certainly hasn’t been idle all that time, of course: She was a frequent presence in the Bat-books, shared the 2009-2011 Gotham City Sirens with Catwoman and Poison Ivy, briefly joined the Gail Siomone-written Secret Six and, with the New 52 reboot, she received a new origin story and costume in the pages of Suicide Squad. And, of course, she appeared at least briefly in various Batman cartoons during that time, as well as in the extremely popular Batman: Arkham video games and the more recent Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Certainly the character is popular, and while different fans probably like her for different reasons, the important factors seem to be that 1.) she’s a lady, 2.) she’s a sexy lady, and 3.) she offers the same sense of anarchy and dark humor as her sometimes-boyfriend The Joker, but without the depravity. More often than not — particularly in the comics and cartoons — she’s as much antihero as villain, a safer alternative to The Joker, whose evil serial killer portrayal is no so deeply embedded into the character that it can be difficult for creators to walk him back toward any more lighthearted portrayals.
Publishing | Retail news and analysis website ICv2 breaks down November’s comics sales to the direct market and finds year-to-date sales up 9.33 percent over last year, with an 11.09 percent increase in comics and 5.55 percent in graphic novels. Batman #25 topped the comics chart with more than 125,000 copies, followed at No. 2 by Harley Quinn #0 with about 114,000. In the graphic novel category, the latest volume of The Walking Dead led with about 25,000 copies sold in November. ICv2 also lists the top 300 comics and graphic novels for November. [ICv2]
Creators | Molly Crabapple talks to Art Spiegelman, and draws his portrait as well. [Vice]
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]
Harley Quinn #0, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner and drawn by more than a dozen artists, arrives today in stores and contains the winning entry from the DC Entertainment Open Talent Search. The page, by Jeremy Roberts, is notable in that it is significantly toned down from the controversial script released in September.
DC came under fire from readers and advocacy groups alike for the original tryout page, which directed artists to depict the fan-favorite character naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide, a scene Palmiotti explained was merely a surreal dream sequence.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness called the contest “extremely insensitive” and “potentially dangerous,” leading the publisher to apologize to anyone who may have been offended by the script while reiterating its intended “cartoony and over-the-top in tone.”
The original script described the fourth panel as, “Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of ‘oh well, guess that’s it for me’ and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.”
But in the published Harley Quinn #0, the first three panels remain the same — Harley holding onto a cell tower during a thunderstorm, feeding alligators and tickling the roof of a whale’s mouth — but the final one has been drastically changed: Instead of contemplating suicide in her bathtub, the character is shown riding a missile, Dr. Strangelove-style, high above the Earth.
Although the tryout script didn’t include dialogue, the overall tone of the page seems to lack the “Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach” Palmiotti said that he and Conner intended.
Harley Quinn #0 is in stores now.
The Forever Evil and “Gothtopia” crossovers don’t exactly dominate DC Comics’ January solicitations, but compared to the more mundane goings-on in the other series, they tend to stand out. For that matter, Forever Evil doesn’t sound like it’s promising much more than a lot of clenched jaws, dark humor and grim spectacle.
Still, if it has to happen sometime, it might as well be in January. I don’t mind January so much; it’s the darkest month of the year, but after a hectic holiday season it’s a chance to catch one’s breath. Going back to work after New Year’s Day and realizing there’s not much more to do but look forward to spring is like waking up at the crack of dawn and surveying a wide, flat, featureless plain — gray from the winter cold and just barely lit by the first rays of the distant sun — and realizing that if you’re going to make it across that plain, you’d better start walking.
Sometimes you just have to get through January, is what I’m saying — but sometimes getting through it isn’t so bad.
Whew! How was that for an intro? Weren’t we talking about comics?
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Apparently, it takes three respected organizations to reiterate what fans had been saying for a week in order for DC Comics to admit: Maybe the fans have a point.
As we reported Friday, the publisher apologized to anyone offended by the talent search tryout page that asked artists to depict Harley Quinn naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide. While the apology is welcome news, the entire rundown of the event reveals an unfortunate approach to handling controversy. Let’s take a look at the timeline of the Harley Quinn suicide debacle:
• Thursday, Sept. 5: DC launches the contest with a script excerpt of four panels that culminate in an apparent suicide scene. Fans on Tumblr, Twitter and elsewhere begin to react.
• Saturday, Sept. 7: Co-Publisher Jim Lee posts a series of tweets explaining context and attempting to clarify the intent of the story.
• Tuesday, Sept. 10: Co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti posts an apology on his Facebook page, and clarifies the controversial panel is part of a surreal dream sequence. “I hope all the people thinking the worst of us can now understand that insulting or making fun of any kind was never our intention,” he writes. “I also hope that they can all stop blaming DC Comics for this since it was my screw up.”
DC Comics has apologized to anyone offended by the controversial Harley Quinn tryout page that asks artists to depict the fan-favorite character naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide, and reiterated “the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone.” However, the publisher appears to be continuing the DC Entertainment Open Talent Search.
The statement was issued Thursday, shortly after the the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness expressed their disappointment in the publisher, calling the contest “extremely insensitive” and “potentially dangerous.”
Their comments capped off a week of growing criticism about the panel, which Harley Quinn co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti clarified on Tuesday is part of a surreal dream sequence intended to have “a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach.”
“We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis” the three groups said in a joint statement, published by USA Today and The Huffington Post. “This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers,” the statement continued. “On behalf of the tens of millions of people who have lost a loved one to suicide, this contest is extremely insensitive, and potentially dangerous. We know from research that graphic and sensational depictions of suicide can contribute to contagion.”
Responding to the backlash to the tryout page for DC Entertainment’s Open Talent Search, Harley Quinn co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti has clarified that a scene depicting the fan-favorite character in a bathtub, seemingly planning suicide, is merely a surreal dream sequence.
“That the tryout Harley Quinn page went out without an overall description of tone and dialogue is all my fault,” he wrote this morning on his Facebook page. “I should have put it clearly in the description that it was supposed to be a dream sequence with Amanda [Conner] and I talking to Harley and giving her a hard time. I should have also mentioned we were thinking a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach was what we were looking for. We thought it was obvious with the whale and chicken suit, and so on, but learned it was not. I am sorry for those who took offense, our intentions were always to make this a fun and silly book that broke the 4th wall, and head into issue 1 with a ongoing story/adventure that is a lot like the past Powergirl series we did. I hope all the people thinking the worst of us can now understand that insulting or making fun of any kind was never our intention. I also hope that they can all stop blaming DC Comics for this since It was my screw up. The idea for the page to find new talent is an amazing one and we hope that can be the positive that comes forward from today on … that we get some new talent working in our field because of this unique opportunity.”
Preview Night doesn’t begin for another 11 hours, but judging from the flurry of announcements, Comic-Con International has been well under way since, oh, about Monday. So, if it feels like you’re already falling behind, that’s because you probably are.
To help you catch up, we’ve rounded up early news from DC Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Madefire and Marvel, along with a few other convention-related items.
• Dynamite Entertainment came out of the gate running this week with news that Steve Niles and Dennis Calero will reboot Army of Darkness, James Robinson will launch his crime romance Grand Passion, the Legends of Red Sonja miniseries will team Gail Simone with an all-female creative team that includes Marjorie M. Liu, Nancy A. Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mercedes Lackey, Nicola Scott and Devin Grayson, Peter Milligan will debut his sci-fi action series Terminal Hero, Duane Swiercyznski will expand the publisher’s crime line with Ex-Con, Howard Chaykin will return to The Shadow with the miniseries Midnight in Moscow, NBC’s Heroes will get a “fifth season” in a series written by Cullen Bunn, the acquisition of the Robotech license spawns a Robotech/Voltron crossover, and The Heart of the Beast, the graphic novel by Dean Motter, Judith Dupré and Sean Phillips, will receive a 20th-anniversary prestige-format edition.