REVIEW: "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is a Lot of Fun, a Little Flawed, and Whedon All the Way
Comic Books, Film
Passings | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn died Sunday in New York City from pancreatic cancer. He was 67. Sporn’s short film Doctor DeSoto, based on William Steig’s book, was nominated for an Oscar, and his The Man Who Walked Between the Towers won several awards. He created animated adaptations of a number of children’s books, including Lyle Lyle Crocodile and Goodnight Moon, for HBO. In comics circles, he was also known as a blogger who turned up cool bits and pieces of animation and art. [Variety]
Publishing | Torsten Adair crunches some numbers from The New York Times 2013 bestseller lists, looking at each category and, in some cases, each publisher separately and breaking down the charting books into easy-to-follow pie charts. [The Beat]
Amazon Publishing launched its Kindle Worlds store this morning with more than 50 works, including Shadowman: Salvation Sally by Tom King, X-O Manowar: Noughts and Crosses by Stuart Moore, and Harbinger: Slow Burn by Jason Star, all inspired by the Valiant Entertainment properties. In addition, the Self-Service Submission Platform is now open, allowing writers to publish stories based on certain licensed properties and earn royalties in the process.
Billed as the first commercial publishing platform for fan fiction, Kindle Worlds was announced last month as “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games.”
When Amazon Publishing unveiled Kindle Worlds last month, one of the first questions in comics circles was which publisher would be the first to sign on to the program, which allows fan-fic writers to earn royalties for certain corporate-approved stories. Now we know the answer: Valiant Entertainment.
The recently revived publisher was announced this morning as part of the second wave of licensors, alongside bestselling authors Hugh Howey (Silo Saga), Barry Eisler (John Rain novels), Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines) and Neal Stephenson (Foreworld Saga). Under the agreement, writers will be able to create and sell stories inspired by Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger and Shadowman, with more properties expected to be added later.
In addition, the Kindle Worlds Store will launch later this month with more than 50 commissioned works, including “Valiant-branded” short stories by Jason Starr, Robert Rodi, Stuart Moore and others. The Kindle Worlds self-service submission platform will open at the same time.
There’s more to superheroes than those residing at Marvel and DC Comics. Sure, they might dominate the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re by default the best.
Outside the realms of the Big Two, superheroes are thriving on the more independently minded scene. From a mixture of throwback superheroics to off-beat adventures, and even some superheroes who are willing to go where DC and Marvel wouldn’t let their own properties, there’s a cornucopia out there for readers. And now, we’re spotlighting six standouts in that superhero mix in this week’s “Six by 6.”
To see what James and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
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. I’m filling in this week for Michael May, who is off in Florida spending his splurge money on mouse ears and giant turkey legs.
If I had $15, I’d start of the week with Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga #7 (Image, $2.99). Saga has become a real bright spot in comics for me being sci-fi without being “sci-fi,” being romance without being “romance,” and being great at being great. It gives me the same excitement the way Bone, Strangers In Paradise and A Distant Soil did back in the early 90s. Next up would be Punk Rock Jesus #5 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) by Sean Murphy. Murphy’s really exceeded my expectations here, creating a nuanced and elaborate world that has great art as a bonus. You can really tell Murphy’s been thinking about this story for awhile now. After that I’d get Invincible #97 (Image, $2.99), to finally get the truth behind the new Invincible, Zandale. I’ve been enticed by what’s been teased so far, and I hope the inevitable return of Mark Grayson doesn’t prevent me from seeing more of Zandale in the future. Last up with my $15 budget would be my call for the best superhero book on the stands today, Wolverine & The X-Men #20 (Marvel, $3.99). I feel like the title isn’t getting the attention it deserves with Marvel NOW! upon us, but Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw are absolutely delivering it here.
If I had $30, I’d double back and double up on Brian Wood with Conan The Barbarian #10 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and The Massive #6 (Dark Horse, $3.50). The Massive has survived the monumental loss of artist Kristian Donaldson, forging on in Wood’s story of one ship trying to survive in an ecological destitute Earth. Over at Conan The Barbarian, Declan Shalvey looks to be bringing the goods and showing he’s more than a Marvel superhero artist. After that I’d get the second series debut of Where Is Jake Ellis? (Image, $3.50) by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic. This is a mighty pairing, and seeing them peel back the layers on Jake Ellis has been fun.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week we’re joined by music video director and comic book writer Alex de Campi, whose works include Smoke, Kat & Mouse, Valentine and the in-production Ashes.
To see at Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
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.
If I had $15, I’d buy Boys #70 (only two issues until the big finale) and Classic Popeye #2, IDW Publishing’s ongoing series of reprints devoted to Bud Sagendorf comics from the 1940s, as the first issue was much more fun than I expected it to be.
If I had $30, I’d put those comics back, but would be stuck between a couple of books. The first would be Aya: Life in Yop City, which collects the three previous Aya books by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie in one volume. These are great, funny comics, full of life and observation regarding a culture — in this case African culture — most Westerners know nothing about.
There’s also A Chinese Life, a massive doorstop of a memoir by Chinese artist Li Kunwu (with help from writer Philippe Otie) chronicling his life and times. Kunwu lives through some of modern China’s most tumultuous periods, including the Cultural Revolution, and hopefully his book will, like Aya, humanize a time and culture that for many is just a few lines in their history book.
Finally, there’s Message to Adolph, Vol. 1, one of Tezuka’s final works, set during World War II, about three people named Adolph, one a Jew, the other a German boy living in Japan, and the third the fuhrer himself. Originally published by Viz about two decades ago, Vertical has taken it upon themselves to put out a newly translated version which is great news for those that missed this great manga the first time around.
Is there a greater splurge purchase this week that Dal Tokyo, the collected version of Gary Panter’s off-kilter comic strip? I plugged this book last week, but it deserves another one. I’ve been waiting for this book for awhile.
For the scholarly comics type, the splurge of the week might be Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, a look at the creator of Barnaby and Harold and the Purple Crayon and his wife, a children’s author with whom he frequently collaborated.
This was another of those weeks where I ahd a hard time picking just one comic to focus on this week, so I thought I’d do another round-up post. Four first issues from four different publishers arrived on Wednesday, so let’s see what’s in today’s mystery basket …
Archer and Armstrong #1
Story by Fred Van Lente
Art by Clayton Henry and Matt Milla
Published by Valiant
Todd Allen, The Beat: “When the teasers for Archer and Armstrong #1 came out, there was a little bit of noise from the political parts of the web about what an awful liberal smear job the book was because of some villains billing themselves as the 1%. I’d gotten a good laugh out of villains calling themselves the 1% and wearing golden masks of bulls and bears (an obvious stock market joke) and I figured the usual noisy political types might be over-reacting. Come to find out, Archer and Armstrong is a much more political book than I was expecting. It’s also utterly hilarious. Unless you’re a dogmatic Republican with limited-to-no sense of humor. If you’re one of those, stay FAR away from this comic. It will set you off.”
In May, Valiant Entertainment announced a new addition to its editorial team, former Marvel editor Jody LeHeup. Probably best known for overseeing the Harvey Award-nominated (and Robot 6 favorite) Strange Tales anthology series, LeHeup also worked on books like Deadpool, X-Factor and Uncanny X-Force before being let go by the company last year in a round of layoffs. Marvel’s loss, though, was Valiant’s gain, as he joined former Marvel office mate Warren Simons at the reborn company.
My thanks to Jody for answering my questions, as well as to Valiant’s Hunter Gorinson for helping to make this interview possible.
JK Parkin: What made you decide to join the Valiant team?
Jody LeHeup: There were a bunch of reasons. The first and biggest reason was that when Valiant approached me for the job, they made it very clear that they were serious about their commitment to quality. As an editor, a storyteller and a writer, that is without question the most important thing to me. After talking at length with the guys, I knew that editorial would have the support it needed in order to put out some of the best comics on the stands, and it was music to my ears. Beyond talking about it, their commitment was evident in the work itself and in the care they were taking with every aspect of the company’s revitalization. It was inspiring, and I really felt like I had found a home.
The hardworking writer Fred Van Lente gets even more busy in the next few months. In October, as discussed (in a Van Lente interview) in last Friday’s Axel-In-Charge, the writer will team with artist Alessandro Vitti in a holiday-themed one-shot, Marvel Zombies Halloween. But more immediately, on August 8, Valiant Entertainment will release the first issue (previewed last week by CBR) of the new Archer & Armstrong ongoing, teaming Van Lente with artist Clayton Henry. Given my love of Van Lente’s brand of comedy and the knowledge that the series teams an 18-year old assassin with a soused immortal, I fired up the computer to conduct an email interview with Van Lente. I have to say that Van Lente catches my attention when he said in our exchange: “I’ve never written a book like this.”
Tim O’Shea: Would it be fair to say that Valiant sought you out for Archer & Armstrong based partially on the success and tone of your co-writing gig on Hercules?
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, I’ve got a reputation now as the funny superhero guy, even though Incredible Hercules started out as a story about a guy trying to atone for murdering his entire family — Judd Apatow, are you reading this?!
If memory serves, what made Warren Simons think I’d be right for Archer & Armstrong was my Taskmaster GN, which is a classic example of me getting my hands on a character and thinking, “Okay, this is my chance to do a straight-up thriller, do a real grim and gritty thing here.”
But the more I worked on it the more the crazy ideas creeped in until it had a town full of Hitlers and characters like Don of the Dead and Redshirt, the Überhenchman and I was like, “Boy, you really screwed that up, Fred” but it’s become the most beloved thing I’ve done at Marvel, at least in terms of people tracking me down and saying how much they enjoyed it. So, what are you going to do?
It looks as if Occupy Wall Street only scratched the surface, as come August the combat-trained teen Archer and the inebriated immortal Armstrong will discover that the One Percent is part of an ancient cabal that could save the dollar but destroy the world. And they’re doing it while creepy animal masks within a Masonic crypt beneath Wall Street.
The One Percent makes its debut Aug. 8 on the last page of Valiant Entertainment’s Archer & Armstrong, and then returns in Issue 2, out Sept. 5. Writer Fred Van Lente, who reteams with Incredible Hercules artist Clayton Henry for the series revival, says that storyline continues the long comics tradition “of ripping social issues from the headlines so the heroes can punch them in the face.”
“In later issues they’ll fight ninja nuns beneath the Vatican Library and learn the secret connection between Nazi occultists and Tibetan monks,” he tells The Associated Press. “So claiming that the American financial markets are secretly controlled by a Masonic cult of devil-worshippers sacrificing the homeless to the New Testament demon Mammon beneath the NYSE wasn’t really that big of a stretch.”
Check out Valiant’s teaser for Archer & Armstrong #2 below:
Legal | A federal judge has dismissed two claims by comics creator Jason Barnes, aka Jazan Wild, against songwriter Andreas Carlsson but will two others to move forward in a lawsuit over a graphic novel biography. The two signed a deal in 2007 for Dandy: Welcome to a Dandyworld, with Carlsson allegedly retaining the copyrights and Barnes receiving pay plus a percentage of book sales and a cut from any merchandising and movie deals. Carlsson filed suit three years later after Barnes posted Dandyworld online, a move the artist answered with a countersuit claiming, among other things, copyright infringement, bad faith and breach of contract because the songwriter published a bestselling novel in Sweden “inspired by a graphic novel created by Andreas Carlsson and Jazan Wild.” Barnes, who claims he never received residuals from the sales of the novel, asked a federal judge to determine copyright ownership. U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder refused to enter summary judgment about Barnes’ copyright, saying ownership will rest on whether he was an independent contractor of Carlsson’s employee, and dismissed the artists’ claims of negligent representation and fraudulent inducement. However, Carlsson will have to face accusations of breach of contract and bad faith.
If the name Jason Barnes, or Jazan Wild, seems familiar, it’s because two years ago he sued NBC and producer Tim Kring for $60 million, claiming elements from the third season of Heroes were stolen from his 2005-2006 comic series Jazan Wild’s Carnival of Souls. [Courthouse News Service]
Sales charts | The American Booksellers Association has released its list of the top-selling graphic novels in indie bookstores for the eight weeks ending May 27. At first glance, it looks like it’s mostly literary graphic novels (Habibi, Are You My Mother?) with a healthy sprinkling of The Walking Dead. [Bookselling This Week, via The Beat]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses the second issue of Batman Incorporated, which features Batman’s lover and Robin’s mom, Talia al Ghul. [USA Today]
Comics history | Could comics history have been radically different if Jerry Siegel had a different last name? Larry Tye, the author of the new Superman a biography, talks to Fresh Air about the origins of the Man of Steel and how he changed over the years: “The editors in New York over time started to exercise their editorial control. They saw this as both a character and a business. They would go down to the level of dictating just what his forelocks looked like. They could be too curly. His arms should be shorter and less ‘ape-like.’ And Joe should get rid of his hero’s ‘nice fat bottom.’ His editor told him that he worried that that made Superman look too ‘la-dee-dah.’ And they were really concerned about the image of the character.” [NPR]
The unexpected thing about catching up on the output of the original Valiant line wasn’t that it made me more optimistic and enthusiastic about the upcoming relaunch of X-O Manowar and the entire Valiant Universe; part of me had been expecting that reaction based on the pedigree of those involved with the relaunch, if nothing else. What was a surprise, though, was that reading early issues of books like X-O and Harbinger made me think about the benefits of revivals and characters outlasting their original creators. Continue Reading »