Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
• Of course you can’t have Comic-Con without news about Comic-Con itself. CBR’s Kiel Phegley spoke with CCI’s David Glanzer about the show, while Ryan Ingram spoke with Scott Morse about the Tr!ckster satellite event. And it seems like every non-comics media outlet reports on the show in some form or fashion; here’s an article by The Christian Post about religion and the show, for example. And finally, Tuesday brought the tragic news that a con attendee camping out for today’s Twilight panel was killed in front of the convention center after being struck by a car.
• I’m not 100 percent sure if it qualifies as Comic-Con news, but since it was officially announced in the Entertainment Weekly Comic-Con issue, let’s just go with it. Marvel’s big news going into the Con is that they plan to relaunch several titles later this year as part of “Marvel NOW!” Their recently released solicitations reveal they plan to cancel nine titles in October, but of course you can expect many if not all of them to come back in some form or fashion as Marvel NOW! rolls out.
• Mike Mignola and Hellboy return this December in Hellboy in Hell, the first four-issue miniseries in a series of miniseries about the title character’s post-demise adventures.
KISS frontman, reality star and licensing entrepreneur Gene Simmons is no stranger to comics, having fought Doctor Doom and teamed up with Howard the Duck back in the 1970s. More recently, the band has appeared in comics published by IDW Publishing and Archie.
USA Today reports that Arcana will have 200 copies of his new Simmons Comics Anthology book at Comic-Con International, where Simmons will be “on hand to debut exclusive art and talk to fans about the three properties that are the beginning of his comic-book universe.” The anthology reprints the first issues of Zipper, a “leather-clad reluctant hero;” Dominatrix, a “CIA meets T&A” heroine; and a Gene Simmons House of Horrors tale. According to a press release, it also includes the first chapter of the all-new crossover event, “The Slave Trade,” where Zipper and Dominatrix will face off against each other.
Simmons says the plan is to release the comics bi-monthly, and, of course, to license and merchandise them into T-shirts, Bobbleheads and more. Simmons will be doing a book signing on Friday, July 13 at 2 p.m. at Arcana Comics Booth #2415. Fans will get the chance to meet Gene and get their photo taken with real-life versions of Dominatrix and Zipper.
Written by Bruce Brown and Dwight L MacPherson
Art by Thomas Boatwright
As I mentioned in last week’s What Are You Reading? (where I incorrectly referred to it as Howard Lovecraft and the Ice Kingdom), I didn’t care for Bruce Brown and Renzo Podesta’s Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom. I liked Podesta’s art for the most part, but some of his choices bothered me. Like, when a character sees a city of ice for the first time and marvels at how glorious and beautiful it is, maybe the audience should be able to see it too instead of just taking the character’s word for it. The greater problem though was that it was that it was too clunky about the way it tried to balance Lovecraftian horror with a kids comics sensibility.
There were some cool, creepy moments, but they were ruined by simplistic characterization and actions that just didn’t feel real. That’s most clearly illustrated in the scene where young Howard Lovecraft meets C’thulhu for the first time. I’m not a Lovecraft scholar (hell, I’m barely even a fan), but I know that the elder gods are supposed to be huge and terrifying; that just looking at them drives people insane. But when Howard meets this monster, he runs away and beats the Deep One by stopping short at a cliff so that the pursuing Wile E. C’thulhu flies right over. Howard then saves the repentant beast and names him “Spot,” a nickname the elder god gratefully accepts from his new master. The whole scene struck me as ridiculous and I wasn’t sure how anyone could salvage Frozen Kingdom to make a better second volume. But Brown (with the help of new co-writer Dwight MacPherson) does.
Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom picks up where Frozen Kingdom leaves off in the story, but the tone is all different. This is a flawed comparison, but I kept thinking of Edward Gorey as I read it. Frozen Kingdom tried to be all-ages by throwing in things for both adults and kids, but failed because it was too easy to draw circles around its parts and say, “This is for kids” and “This is for grownups.” Undersea’s approach is the kind that Neil Gaiman’s always advocating for: that it’s okay to tell a story for children and make it good and scary. Kids will recognize themselves in Howard Lovecraft and think it’s pretty cool that he has a monster for a friend (Howard doesn’t treat him like a puppy in Undersea), a humorously loony dad (who was genuinely disturbing in the first book), and a dauntlessly resourceful cop as a mentor (a new and very welcome character). There’s also a pretty awesome cat. And while readers are enjoying all that, they’re encouraged to be good and creeped out by the world.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.
Finally, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]
Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]
It’s Christmas Eve, and we’re winding down here at Robot 6 to go spend time with family and friends. Before heading off to celebrate, though, you’ll find a collection of holiday-themed links after the jump, along with this year’s collection of holiday cards we received.
On behalf of all of Robot 6, have a great holiday and stay safe. We’ll see you next week.
(Above: a Christmas showdown by Matthew Petz)
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.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Life with Archie is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Richie Rich Gems Winter Special - In addition to their modern-look Richie Rich, Ape has also re-introducied the classic version in both new and reprinted adventures. I missed the solicit for Richie Rich Gems #44 last month (which picked up where the Harvey series left off in 1982), but the series continues with not only the Winter Special, but #45 as well.
Dragons vs Dinosaurs - I haven’t had great luck with Arcana’s books in the past, but c’mon. The title alone…
Hero Happy Hour: On the Rocks - This, on the other hand, is no risk at all. I’m a big fan of Dan Taylor and Chris Fason’s superhero bar stories and this is an all-new, 80-page adventure. Not reprints; not even a printed version of the webcomic. It’s all-new and I need it.
The Dare Detectives: The Snow Pea Plot Collected Edition – Archaia prepares for their publishing Ben Caldwell’s Dare Detectives: The Kula Kola Caper by re-publishing the first story that was originally put out by Dark Horse.
Writer Eric Hobbs made his bones last year with The Broadcast, a graphic novel about neighbors gripped by the panic caused by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast. This week sees the release of a new graphic novel, Awakenings, penciled by Gabe Pena. Awakenings is a supernatural cop story set in a future version of New York City and featuring a cop who is accused of murdering his own son. Hobbs self-published Awakenings as a black-and-white comic before it was picked up by Arcana, so I asked him to tell me a bit about his experience with self-publishing and the evolution of the story.
Brigid: The Broadcast was my introduction to your work, but I know you actually wrote Awakenings first, and actually self-published it with black-and-white art. Can you tell me the story of how that happened and how it worked?
Eric: Awakenings has been a long, long time coming. I think I wrote Awakenings about a year before Broadcast so it’s kind of crazy to see it hitting stands a year after Broadcast was released.
Basically, Awakenings came into existence because a friend introduced me to comics and I quickly decided I wanted to get involved as a creator. Most people are shocked to hear this, but I started writing Awakenings about a month after picking up my first comic. I fell in love with the medium that quickly and wanted to do something right away.
Anyway my friend and I were going to do it together but that fell through so I started looking online for an artist to bring on board. I eventually found an incredibly talented penciller in Gabe Pena, and the thing just kind of took off from there. I brought on an inker and a letterer and just slowly started to teach myself the business of comics publishing.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the project wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the fact that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing as a publisher. Even though we had a book that was getting great reviews and moving a good number of units each month—I was barely making enough to pay the print bill let alone everyone I had promised page rates to. We put out four great issues, but I put myself in so much debt I had to shut down production. I had to move back in with my parents. It was … it was kind of a crazy time.
One of the books Arcana is bringing to the San Diego Comic-Con is SideShows by Erik Hendrix and Michael David Nelson. The graphic novel, set in Las Vegas in the 1950s, is about super-powered circus attractions who work for the mob. Hendrix was kind enough to send over a preview; check it out after the jump.
The San Diego Comic-Con kicks off with a preview night on July 20, then runs July 21-24. If you are a comics creator or publisher, and you’re planning to bring something new to the con — a sketchbook, a print, a graphic novel debut, anything! — then we want to hear from you. Drop me an email (before Wednesday!) and let me know if you’ll have something cool on hand that attendees should know about. Feel free to send any artwork as well.
In addition to the portfolio of DC relaunch covers I mentioned this past week, Graphitti Designs will also sell a variant cover edition of Flashpoint #1 at their booth during the show.
The San Diego Comic-Con runs kicks off with a preview night on July 20, then runs July 21-24. If you are a comics creator or publisher, and you’re planning to bring something new to the con — a sketchbook, a print, a graphic novel debut, anything! — then we want to hear from you. Drop me an email and let me know if you’ll have something cool on hand that attendees should know about. Feel free to send any artwork as well.
This time around we have panties from Pantheon (seriously), more Mimoco, word of an announcement by Dark Horse, plans for Viz and Arcana, several Hasbro exclusives and more. So let’s get to it …
Skullkickers creators Jim Zubkavich and Edwin Huang will be at the Image Comics booth #2729, selling hardcovers of the first volume of Skullkickers with an SDCC-exclusive cover. You can find more details here.
Small comics publishers have been jumping onto the digital bandwagon in droves, and the latest to come aboard is Arcana Comics, publisher of 100 Girls, Helen Killer, and Clockwork Girl, which is soon to be a movie—no, sorry, a “3D animated feature.” Arcana launched its own comics app, based on the comiXology platform, this morning.
This isn’t exactly new territory for Arcana, as at least some of their books have been available for quite a while via comiXology’s Comics app, and Clockwork Girl was one of the free e-books offered by Wowio last year. It’s interesting, though, that they have taken the additional step of creating their own app. While that makes sense for a publisher with a strong image (such as DC or Marvel), Arcana is less well known and their comics are more of a mixed bag. I can’t imagine there’s much of a crossover between the teen-friendly 100 Girls and Helen Killer, or the fantasy comic Kade. Harlequin romance readers will read anything that’s a Harlequin romance, regardless of the author or even the cover art, because they know exactly what they are going to get; I doubt that Arcana Comics evokes the same response. That’s a good thing—their line actually has some interesting variety. But it makes branding by publisher problematic.
Of course, Arcana still has a healthy 60 series available via the comiXology app, and the two apps sync with one another, so clearly they are covering all the bases. But making your own app must involve quite an investment—it will be interesting to see how this pays off for Arcana.
Wowio was a pioneer in digital comics back in the olden days, when they offered free, ad-supported digital comics. The company has been through a lot of changes since then, and the comics aren’t free any more, although they do offer a free download every month (usually a pretty good one) to readers who “like” them on Facebook. And unlike other digital distributors, they offer books in PDF and ePub format, so they are portable and can be moved from one device to another. (In other words, you can actually own these digital comics.)
Spacedog Entertainment developed comics and graphic novels that were then published by other publishers and shopped around for film development. Their properties include The Covenant and Proximity Effect (published by Top Cow), The Gift (Image), and Helen Killer (Arcana).
Now Wowio has acquired Spacedog and is relaunching it as a graphic novel imprint, starting with four previously published titles: Helen Killer, Fiction Clemens, Death Comes to Dillinger, and M.I.T.H. The comics are priced at 99 cents each, and the plan is to publish an issue a week, starting in April, and to expand the line to include other Spacedog properties, including those mentioned above.
I was exchanging e-mails with Sean O’Reilly, the founder and CEO of Arcana Studio, just before Borders filed for bankruptcy, so when the other shoe dropped, I asked him to talk a bit about how it affects his business. Arcana is a small publisher, and I assumed the bankruptcy would have a big effect on them. What interests me about his response is the importance of the middleman, Diamond Book Distributors, in this case.
As always, I also wanted to talk about the different ways the company gets its books out to readers, and the relative importance of the different channels. Having spent the weekend at C2E2 talking about these different factors, I was interested to hear how they directly affect a single publisher.
Brigid: How much of your revenue comes from each channel—comics shops, bookstores, online sales, digital?
Sean: While digital is an ever-growing market to keep an eye on, that part of the industry is still in its growth phase. The majority of Arcana’s current sales come from bookstores and online – still primarily through Diamond Comics and Diamond Books, Amazon, eBay and of course you can find our product in local comic shops as well. That said, we’ve made a significant turn away from the ‘floppy’ comic market and are concentrating on the graphic novel market. Digital is the next step and we’re working with Comixology, Wowio, Graphic.ly and others.
Wowio is being kind of coy about the title of the book, but I’ll spoil it for you: Go to their Facebook page, click the “Offer” tab, click “like,” and you can get a free e-book of Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna’s The Clockwork Girl. Instructions are on their site for the Facebook-impaired. Enjoy!