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Report Card | From ‘Hawkeye’ to Spongebob to ‘Green Team’

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Welcome to “Report Card,” our new week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.

So read on to find out what we thought of Hawkeye #11, the second issues of Green Team and The Wake, SpongeBob Comics Annual #1: Super-Giant Swimtacular and much more.

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Petersen’s process for ghostly ‘Legends of the Guard’ cover

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I love when Mouse Guard creator David Petersen writes process posts, particularly when they involve the construction of models to help him draw mouse-sized rooms (or entire towns), and sewer tunnels ideal for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. His latest, for the cover of Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 2 #3, doesn’t feature any little papercraft houses, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

From reference material and initial sketches to inks and the finished illustration, the artist walks us through the creation of the cover, which features a trio of musicians “that could play so well, they’d call back the dead.” However, the execution proved a little complicated.

“The inks were a bit tricky because of the ghost effects,” he writes, “and at several times while inking I worried this cover wouldn’t work the way I was proceeding with it, but I just pushed through figuring I’d make sense of it all in color.” And it did, as you can see from the finished cover above.

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Vol. 2 #3 arrives Aug. 28.

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Comics at the book con: A day at BookExpo America

Andrew Aydin and Rep. John Lewis

Andrew Aydin and Rep. John Lewis

BookExpo America takes place the Javits Center, just like New York Comic Con, but it’s a completely different kind of show. It’s a trade show, not a consumer show, so the folks in the aisles aren’t fans looking for a fix, they are potential customers to be wooed. And what you see there is a pretty reliable guide to what everyone will be talking about in a couple of months.

So if you happened into the little graphic novel enclave at the right time, you might see Gene Luen Yang sitting there, pen in hand, ready to autograph a free Avatar graphic novel for you, or maybe Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights pioneer, sitting next to Andrew Aydin, with ashcans of their graphic novel about Lewis’ life, March, and while you might have to wait a few minutes for your turn, you wouldn’t have to stand on the sort of long lines they might draw at San Diego. The pace is more leisurely than a comic convention — the creators chat as they sign your comics — and the blasting noise of video game and movie displays is blissfully absent.

It’s true there aren’t a lot of comics publishers at BEA, although there are a fair number of book publishers who include comics in their lines. Abrams didn’t send their ComicArts people, but if you consider Diary of a Wimpy Kid to be a comic (I’m always happy to claim that one for our side), then they were well represented, and many attendees had Wimpy Kid stickers on their badges.

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Robot Review | ‘Sharaz-De: Tales from the Arabian Nights’

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Sharaz-De: Tales from the Arabian Nights
By Sergio Toppi
Archaia; $29.95

In his foreword to Sharaz-De, Walt Simonson describes picking up Sergio Toppi comics in their original Italian during the ‘70s. Though Simonson doesn’t read Italian, he was attracted to the art, and it’s easy to see why. Every page invites the reader to stop and study. Toppi is a master at cross-hatching. He gives people, animals, and settings layers and layers of detail through thousands of short lines, all directing the eye to exactly the place he wants it to go. He pulls me in not just panel after panel, but figure after figure. Fortunately, Sharaz-De has large pages with lots of room, and as adept as Toppi is at filling those pages with ink, he’s equally skilled at using negative space to balance out compositions and give the eye a break.

I empathize with Simonson’s being so pulled into this stuff even though he didn’t understand the text. I’ve often been tempted to pick up European comics that I couldn’t read simply because they were beautiful. I’ve always resisted though, because I’m too interested in story to be able to enjoy comics purely for their visuals. That’s why I get excited when publishers like Archaia translate these books for English readers.

I read Toppi’s Sharaz-De back-to-back with another graphic novel, A Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay and Friends. There’s a line in Guay’s book that was written by Holly Black: “Tricksters tell the truth in a way that makes it lies.” That stuck with me, because I think the opposite is true of great storytellers, who tell lies in a way that makes them truth. That’s an appropriate description of what’s going on in Sharaz-De. It’s not only what Toppi is doing, but his main character as well.

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Archaia releases Cyborg 009 comic with ‘digital variant cover’

Last year, we got the news that Archaia is reworking the late Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic manga Cyborg 009 as a Western-style comic. This week, we get a first look at it as they post the first issue on comiXology. Cyborg 009: Chapter 000, priced at $2.99, is actually a package deal, with the first 17 pages of the new version (to be released as a graphic novel at Comic-Con International) and the first 61 pages of the manga. While the real intention is probably to whet readers’ appetites, the release also coincides handily with Ishinomori’s 75th birthday.

(For those who like to get back to roots, Shaenon Garrity has a loving explanation of the original, which is available on comiXology for $4.99 a volume).

Anyway, the coolest thing about this sampler is something you won’t see on the hard copy: the “truly digital” variant cover. It’s a cover that can only appear on the digital comic because the image builds up with a series of swipes. This type of reveal has been used before, in Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Insufferable and Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men #1: Infinite (written by Waid and drawn by Stuart Immonen), but this is the first time I have seen it on a cover. And it will likely be unique, not just to digital but to comiXology, because it uses comiXology’s Guided View to achieve the effect.

You can check out an animated GIF of the cover below.

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Preview | Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde’s Mumbai Confidential

Continuing our look at upcoming graphic novels from Archaia, the publisher provided ROBOT 6 with a peek at pages from Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde’s Eastern noir comic Mumbai Confidential. The story follows a washed-out, drug-addicted, former member of a government hit squad as he investigates the hit-and-run that put him in a coma for a month. Turns out, it’s an investigation his former bosses don’t want anyone performing.

Mumbai Confidential has been available digitally since July, but will get its hardcover, print debut in March.

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Preview | Yehudi Mercado’s Pantalones, TX

Animator Yehudi Mercado brings the zaniness of modern kids’ cartoons to his super-fun, all-ages graphic novel Pantalones, TXDon’t Chicken Out. It sort of looks like a Cartoon Network version of Dukes of Hazzard, as a band of kids in rural Texas try to outwit, outrun and out-prank a taco truck-riding sheriff and his giant chicken.

The book is available now digitally and the hardcover, print edition arriving in March. Archaia has provided ROBOT 6 with a five-page preview, below:

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Exclusive Preview | Vol. 2 of Josh Tierney’s Spera

Josh Tierney’s Spera is a unique take on the fantasy epic. Rather than telling a straight story about a couple of girls trying to rescue one of their kingdom’s from the evil family of the other, the series offers the quest as the framework that holds the book together, but in an anthology-like format. Each story is written by Tierney, but drawn by a different artist, and the tales vary in how much they relate to the main plot. Some push it along directly, while others are diverting side-adventures.

That’s a template employed by a lot of TV shows, and it also works for Spera. It’s a meandering adventure, but a lovely and diverting one. Tierney is working with some wonderful artists, and the upcoming second volume, which goes on sale Feb. 5, will feature work by Giannis Milonogiannis, Kyla Vanderklugt, Afu Chan, and Timothy Weaver.

Archaia has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview, below:

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Exclusive Preview | R.J. Ryan and David Marquez’s The Joyners in 3D

Archaia has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of The Joyners in 3D, which reunites Syndrome collaborators R.J. Ryan and David Marquez. As the title suggests, it’s a 3D graphic novel about a family named Joyner, but it pays special attention to father George, an inventor. As his technology business is taking off, his private life is falling to pieces thanks to “personal betrayals, industrial intrigue, and sexual desire.”

The book, which comes with two pairs of 3D glasses, will be published later this year.

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Exclusive Preview | Archaia’s Cyborg 009

Archaia and Ishimori Production Inc. are teaming up to re-interpret Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic manga series Cyborg 009 for Western readers. The new edition is written by F.J. DeSanto (The Spirit, Immortals: Gods and Heroes) and Bradley Cramp (Gattaca), and illustrated by Marcus To (Red Robin, The Huntress). Archaia has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of the graphic novel, set for release early this year.

The story is about nine people who are kidnapped from around the world to become test subjects by The Black Ghost Organization, a secret society that provides weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder. The victims are put through a series of experiments that transform them into super-powered weapons, but with the help of a compassionate project scientist, the living weapons rebel, escape, and set off on a mission to stop Black Ghost from plunging the world into a perpetual state of war.

The publisher states: “Created in 1964, Cyborg 009 was Japan’s first and most-popular super-team, quickly becoming one of the most influential manga series of all time. The original manga has been published in over 250,000,000 copies of weekly comics and comic books worldwide.” There’s also a new, 3D CGI animated feature film in the works in Japan, and DeSanto is working to produce a live-action version.

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Food or Comics? | Black beans or Black Beetle

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Black Beetle: Night Shift

Graeme McMillan

It’s beginning to look a lot like the final Wednesday before Christmas (and the final full one of the year), so with my $15, I’d get some gifts for myself that I know I’ll enjoy: the second issue of Chris Roberson (and now, Dennis Calero)’s Masks (Dynamite, $3.99), the third issue of Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity (Image, $2.99) and Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle: Night Shift #0 (Dark Horse, $2.99). Also, I suspect that I’ll be unable to resist the first part of Vertigo’s adaptation of Django Unchained (DC/Vertigo, $3.99), too.

If I had $30, I’d add another pile of favorites to that list: Judge Dredd #2 (IDW, $3.99), the by-now-amazingly-late-but-still-enjoyable Bionic Woman #6 (Dynamite, $3.99), Hawkeye #6 (Marvel Comics, $2.99), and the latest issue of the always-wonderful Saga (Image, $2.99).

When it comes to splurging, however, then I’m going to be playing it relatively cheaply: That Star Trek 100-Page Winter Spectacular (IDW, $7.99) feels like it might offer just the kind of space-age cheer I’ll be grateful for by mid-week … Happy Warpspeed Holidays, all.

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NYCC | Archaia announces programming, debuts and giveaways

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Archaia Entertainment has announced its programming and signing schedule and giveaways for New York Comic Con, held Thursday through Sunday at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. The publisher will use the event to debut the hardcovers Last Days of an Immortal, by Fabien Vehlmann and Gwen de Bonneval, The Grand Duke, by Yann and Romain Hugault, and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 Black and White, by David Petersen.

Along with three panels — “How to Prepare an Effective Submission” on Friday, “Transmedia in Graphic Novel Publishing” on Saturday and “How to Tell a Better Story Through World-Building” on Sunday — Archaia has scheduled more than 100 autograph sessions (Booth #1520), including those by Brian Froud and Wendy Froud (the complete schedule can be found on the company’s website).

In addition, Archaia will give away copies of its Free Comic Book Day hardcover to kids (while supplies last), along with convention-exclusive autograph cards for upcoming titles Bolivar, Cyborg 009, The Joyners in 3D, Mumbai Confidential, Pantalones, TX, The Reason for Dragons, Space: 1999: Aftershock and Awe, Spera Vol. 2, and Strange Attractors. There also will be limited-edition tip-ins for the hardcovers Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy Bastian and Iron: Or, the War After by Shane-Michael Vidaurri. Both creators will be signing throughout the convention.

But wait! There’s more! Like copies of a 26-page preview for Charles Soule’s upcoming graphic novel Strange Attractors, demonstrations of Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game Box Set, a limited number of portfolio reviews by Archaia CCO Mark Smylie, and gaming stations for demonstrations of Meteor Entertainment’s upcoming free-to-play online mech game Hawken.

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Skelton Crew to produce Mouse Guard replicas

Archaia Entertainment struck a deal with Skelton Crew Studio to produce prop replicas based on David Petersen’s award-winning fantasy series Mouse Guard. The line of pewter collectible swords, shields and other armament will debut in time for Christmas with the Black Axe (you can see the design at right).

Launching in 2006, Mouse Guard centers on an elite group of warriors charged with protecting their fellow mice from the elements, predators and other dangers. The series has won Eisner Awards for best anthology, best graphic album and best publication for kids.

Owned by Israel Skelton, the Maine-based Skelton Crew crafted the collectible keys based on IDW Publishing’s Locke & Key and is creating replicas from Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory.

“I’m thrilled about getting these into the hands of my fans,” Petersen said in a statement. “Israel has done amazing work bringing the Locke & Key keys to the real world, and I love working with him on the intricacies of all of the mouse weapons and arms so that he can work his magic with them. He’s a true craftsman who cares about the details as much as my fans do.”

Comics College | Marjane Satrapi

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Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

This month we’re looking at the output of a cartoonist that in the past decade has captivated an audience that has largely avoided comics, Marjane Satrapi.
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Comics A.M. | Dark Horse to renumber B.P.R.D. with Issue 100

B.P.R.D. #100

Publishing | Dark Horse editor Scott Allie explains the publisher’s plan to start numbering B.P.R.D. sequentially, starting with #100, rather than as “an ongoing series of miniseries”: “The reason to make the change was in part how many times [San Francisco retailer and industry pundit] Brian Hibbs told me, ‘Well, really B.P.R.D. is an ongoing…’ And he’s right. Another part of the reason is that as we’ve moved into doing more short stories — two- or three-issue stories — we get those new issue #1′s too often. You do new #1′s to give readers jumping on points, but when they’re coming so quickly it becomes more confusing than anything else. Depending on how retailers rack, you could have two or three B.P.R.D. #1′s on the shelf at a time, and it’s hard for readers or retailer to know what to read next. So while I know it will cause a little confusion to suddenly have #100 out there, a few months down the road it’ll make everything simpler.” [Comics Alliance]

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