The comic book annual has, in recent years, become an endangered species. Once an oversized, extra-length dose of the characters and concepts a reader could count on appearing once a year (or, you know, annually), the changing funny-book landscape has made them a less appealing proposition.
The rise of the graphic novel and trade paperback collections made “novel-length” adventures appearing in actual, off-the-rack comic books somewhat obsolete. The rising price of comics helped make annuals seem less practical; if a 20- or 22-page comic costs $2.99 or $3.99, a 48- or 56- or 64-page one would be prohibitively expensive. And with the shrunken market, it doesn’t make sense for a publisher to release an additional, extra-long issue of almost every title in its line.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. This weekend, we turn our attention to Boston Comic Con, which bounces back after being postponed in April amid the search for the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.
However, Saturday is still five days away, so first the ROBOT 6 contributors take a look at what’s arriving in stores on Wednesday, and make their choices for the best bets. Keep reading for the first issue of Captain Midnight, the final issue of It Girl and the Atomics, and more …
Editorial cartoons | Michael Cavna interviews Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s demand that the newspaper apologize for an April 25 cartoon in which the politician is depicted boasting that “Business is booming in Texas!” beneath a banner that reads, “Low Tax! Low Regs!,” juxtaposed with an image of the deadly fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas. “It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon,” Perry wrote in a letter to the editor. “While I will always welcome healthy policy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has reportedly called for Ohman to be fired.
Scott Snyder was already one of DC Comics/Vertigo’s rising stars when he began writing Detective Comics two years ago. In fall 2011, as part of DC’s New 52, Snyder moved over to the main Batman title and began writing Swamp Thing as well. His Batman work has helped put the title on a number of best-of-2012 lists, Swamp Thing is in the midst of the “Rotworld” crossover, and his collaboration with Jim Lee on a new Superman title will begin in 2013. American Vampire is going on hiatus for most of the year, but that will help him and artist Sean Murphy debut The Wake. I spoke with Snyder on Dec. 13, just after Batman #15 was published.
Thanks to Scott for his time, and to DC’s Alex Segura and Pamela Mullin for making the interview possible.
Tom Bondurant: I don’t know about the preliminaries [but] I will say that one phrase that kept coming to mind when I was thinking about interviewing you was that line from Ghostbusters: “How is Elvis, and have you seen him lately?”
Scott Snyder: [laughs] Thanks! Well, I’m a huge Elvis fan, so that really starts the day off right, hearing that.
No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl. There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.
As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).
[Note: all this was written before I read any of this week’s comics.]
As mentioned last week, part of this look back at my New 52 reading is the chance to see where I might drop some titles. Not that I want to be negative unnecessarily, but it’s always good to make sure you really like what you buy. While I do buy some books “just because,” it’s very easy simply to fall into the habit of reading the same things month in and month out, neither looking forward to them nor missing them when they’re gone.
Therefore, let’s push through some bad vibes and talk about a couple of books I let drift away. Besides Superboy (covered last week), there was Red Lanterns (written by Peter Milligan, penciled by Ed Benes) and Grifter (written by Nathan Edmondson, penciled by CAFU). Originally I liked Red Lanterns because I thought it had recast Atrocitus as a distracted middle-management type, questioning his place in the universe while his functionaries went down their own demented paths. However, as the months went by the series never really built up any momentum, and for a premise based around the blood-spewing power of RAGE!!!1!! that’s not so good. Much the same applies to Grifter: thought it had potential, but it didn’t hold my interest.
To see what Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
Today I am pondering that Ivan Brandon essay on TheAwl.com, and the things comics can do that movies just can’t.
Last week I mentioned the Lazarus Pit as an example of a comics staple that Batman movies — any Batman movies, arguably — would probably be reluctant to use. While the Pit comes with certain restrictions and side effects, it still boils down basically to an unlimited supply of extra lives. It runs counter to the idea of Batman as being grounded in reality, but in the context of a shared universe where Batman pals around with extraterrestrials (and their agents), a super-powered Amazon, and the King of Atlantis, it’s not that far-fetched. This is the old “Character Y could solve Character X’s problems” hypothesis, and it tends to be met with “Character X and Character Y play by different rules.” A good example of the latter was a “No Man’s Land” story featuring Superman (coincidentally collected in the new NML Vol. 3), where the Man of Steel’s well-intentioned assistance in trying to rebuild an earthquake-devastated Gotham turned out to be exactly wrong under the circumstances.
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly rundown of what comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out recently. Today our special guest is cartoonist Austin English, creator of the graphic novel Christina and Charles and publisher of Domino Books.
To see what Austin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
August brings the preludes to the Swamp Thing/Animal Man crossover that writers Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have been talking about for awhile now, as Team Red and Team Green take on The Rot. According to Lemire, the crossover, Rotworld, is an “epic superhero/horror story” that he’s been working with Snyder on for the past year. “Buddy Baker and Alec Holland join forces to lead a pre-emptive strike deep into The Rot, the consequences of which will tear both of their worlds apart forever,” he said on his blog.
The crossover runs through each title’s 17th issue and will feature art by regular series artists Yanick Paquette and Steve Pugh, who worked together on the above joining covers for Animal Man #12 and Swamp Thing #12.
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.
It’s a week of familiar faces for me this time around. If I had $15, it’d go on Action Comics #8 (DC, $3.99), which completes Grant Morrison’s first story arc on the title — even though we’ve already had the second one; thanks, fill-ins! — as well as Supreme #63 (Image, $2.99), with Erik Larsen illustrating the final Alan Moore script for Rob Liefeld’s Superman knock-off (I’d love to see a well-done collection of all of these issues one day, now that the Moore run is completed). Also on tap, the final issue of OMAC (#8, DC, $2.99) and the long-awaited return of Busiek, Ross and Herbert’s Kirby: Genesis (#6, Dynamite, $3.99), because a man needs as much well-done Jack Kirby-inspired comics as possible, goshdarnit.
If I had $30, I’d add Hulk #50 (Marvel, $3.99) to once again celebrate what Jeff Parker had managed to do with a book and concept that, by all rights, should’ve disappeared a long time ago. (In all honesty, I much prefer the Red Hulk to the classic version these days, and it’s all Parker’s doing, along with his various artistic compatriots on the title.) Everyone who isn’t reading it: This is a jumping-on point issue! Try it and see if you don’t love it, too. And, despite the unevenness of earlier issues, Matt Fraction’s Casanova: Avarita #3 (Marvel, $4.99) is also a must-read; I really didn’t like the first issue, but loved the second. We’ll see where the book goes next.
Should I be splurging, then this week the splurge is on Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe HC (DC/Vertigo, $22.99). One of my favorite comics of all time, I’m likely going to end up getting this over-sized, recolored reprint just because I genuinely can’t resist the optimistic, hopeful tone of the book and its love of superheroes.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today our special guest is Jamaica Dyer, creator of Weird Fishes and Fox Head Stew, which can be read over at MTV Geek. She also recently did a concert report in comic form from San Francisco’s Noisepop for Spin Magazine.
To see what Jamaica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Here is what you need to know going into this week’s post: I sat down with a list of DC’s current and upcoming superhero-universe comics, and rearranged it into a big chart. Now I have to make that little factoid exciting. Join me, won’t you?
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The watchword of any shared universe is “consistency.” Superman’s adventures in Superman and Action Comics may be produced by two different creative teams, and they may even take place in different timeframes, but they be must at least coexist peacefully both with each other and with the rest of DC’s superhero line. That’s part and parcel of corporately-controlled superhero comics, regardless of any tension with a professional’s creative freedom.
Following today’s creative-team reshuffling that sees Steve Pugh return to DC Comics’ Animal Man, artist Travel Foreman stopped by the Comic Book Resources forums to explain why he’s leaving the well-received series for Birds of Prey.
“The change on Animal Man boils down to the reason I was on the book to begin with, which was that I needed to take on a job after my mother died (to deal with the financial end of someone being sick for a while and then passing) and Animal Man was the only thing DC was going to let me do. Which in any other time frame would have been perfect,” Foreman wrote. “But really the context of me dealing with the death of my mom and drawing the kind of content in Animal Man just burned me out sooner than I thought.”
Foreman, who before Animal Man was best known for his work on Com.x’s Cla$$war and Marvel’s Immortal Iron Fist, launched the series in September with writer Jeff Lemire as part of DC’s New 52. But with the solicitations for March’s Issue 7 came the news that Pugh would fill in as artist — well ahead of today’s announcement. Pugh continues his fill-in with Issue 8 before becoming the regular artist the following month.
“I had hoped to stay on the book until at least the spring so that the artist I wanted to replace me was free from his commitments,” Foreman continued, “but I would have ultimately just dragged the book down if I did, because it was becoming harder and harder to concentrate on the work. Steve was bending over backwards on his fill-ins to keep the book on schedule so you have to keep that in consideration. Really, he won’t skip a beat once he’s doing the book full time.”
On his blog, Lemire wished his collaborator well, writing that, “The success of Animal Man is due in no small part to Travel’s artistic vision and I was lucky to have worked with him.”
(via The Beat)
DC Comics announced they’re reshuffling the deck a bit on the New 52, with Birds of Prey artist Jesus Saiz is moving to Resurrection Man and Resurrection Man artist Ferndando Dagnino moving to Suicide Squad. Both are effective with issue #9 of each series, which also happen to contain a crossover between the two titles.
“I’m going to miss Birds of Prey immensely, although it’s also true that I was dying to work on the Dark line of books,” Saiz told DC’s The Source. “There’s some very interesting stuff happening in these books, and I’ve always considered horror / creating dark settings are some of my stronger areas as an artist, and I really haven’t had many chances to flex those muscles working in this genre during my career. So…I think I’m really going to enjoy working on Resurrection Man! Crrrrazy fun!”
“Call me insensitive but I must admit I’ve really enjoyed killing Mitch twice or thrice per issue,” said Dagnino. “Nevertheless, it all falls into place knowing that he will be in Jesus’ hands now. This run on Resurrection Man has REALLY been loads of fun but now I must confess I am even more excited to take over the responsibility of dealing with such a thrilling cast of characters as the Suicide Squad. Harley…I’m coming!”
No word yet on who will be drawing Birds of Prey after Saiz, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out later today. The cover above, for Resurrection Man #9, is by Rafael Albuquerque.
“A big reason I love the Animal Man character so much is because of the work Steve did on the character back in the 90′s with Jamie Delano,” Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire posted on his blog. “In fact, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that I have been heavily influenced by a lot of the concepts Steve an Jamie created and represented them in my tenure on the book. So, to have Steve join colorist Lovern Kindzierski. letterer Jared K. Fletcher and I is a a dream come true for me. Steve is an incredibly talented illustrator as well as an extremely professional and reliable guy and with everything we have planned on Animal Man coming up, I know the Baker Family is in good hands!”