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The Middle Ground #78 | 10 things to keep you out of stores, trouble this weekend

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving this week! Which means it’s “Black Friday” this week! Which means, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to spend Friday staying far away from the madding crowds crushing themselves to death or a worryingly-close equivalent in search of a great bargain. So why not spend the time reading some comics, instead? For once, here’re some digital comics I think you should download and read instead of leaving the house this Friday.

This isn’t any kind of “best of” selection; it’s literally just a list of things that you may have missed that jumped out at me while perusing and ComiXology’s selections this weekend, many of which are favorites of mine for reasons both strong and entirely random.

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Food or Comics? | Vess, Wonder Woman, Mudman and more


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.

Graeme McMillan

What’s that, you say? Paul Grist’s new Mudman series starts this week (#1, Image Comics, $3.50)? Well, that’s how I’m starting my $15 haul this week. While I’m at it, let’s add Avengers Origins: Luke Cage #1 (Marvel, $3.99) and Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory #1 (Dynamite, $3.99), before finishing up with the third issue of Wonder Woman (DC, $2.99) for a superheroic week that goes from the earth to the gods, with some blaxploitation and aliens thrown in the middle for flavor.

DC would dominate the other half of my budget if I had $30. I’d be grabbing the third issues of Green Lantern Corps, Justice League and Supergirl ($2.99 each, except Justice League for $3.99), but I’m surprising myself as much as anyone else by grabbing The Bionic Man #4 (Dynamite, $3.99) for my final pick – I read the first three issues in a bunch this weekend and really enjoyed the book to date much more than I’d been expecting.

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Quote of the day | Hey, kids! Comics!

Reading Robo

There are several cool quotes in this post by Atomic Robo writer Brian Clevinger, especially in the letter from a mom whose 6-year-old son is now reading at a fifth-grade level thanks entirely to his love of comics, specifically Atomic Robo and other Red 5 comics. In fact, he loves them so much that he took an issue of Atomic Robo to school to read to his classmates. You can see whether they loved it from the photo.

The part that really got my attention, though, is in Clevinger’s comments at the end:

I would just like to point out that Volume 6, Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X, is the darkest story we’ve told. Yet it’s still appropriate for children.

It’s no secret there are still comics that are appropriate for kids. Marvel and DC are even making a couple themselves. But after a week or so of focusing on the comics that aren’t appropriate for children, it’s refreshing to see a story about one that’s not only kid-friendly, but as Clevinger points out, “universally praised by adults” as well.

Food or Comics? | Casanova, New 52 and more

Casanova: Avaritia

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.

Chris Mautner

If I had $15:

I’m very excited to read Casanova: Avaritia ($4.99), the first new Casanova storyline in what seems like a dog’s age. There’s something about this series that seems to bring out Fraction’s best, perhaps it’s the mere fact he’s working with Fabio Moon and (this time around) Gabriel Ba allows him to rise to the occasion. That and The Boys #58 ($3.99) will probably round out my initial purchases.

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Brian Clevinger reveals his Firestorm story that will never be

Firestorm from Brightest Day

Before the New 52 created the need for an all-new Firestorm, Atomic Robo-writer Brian Clevinger was going to pick up the character where Brightest Day had left him. At the Atomic Robo blog, Clevinger talks about being approached by DC and working with them to come up with an initial six-issue story outline. He extensively covers not only his approach to the character, but an issue-by-issue look at the outline.

I don’t mention this in a “Boo Hoo! Why couldn’t we have had this?!” kind of way. In fact. Clevinger expresses nothing but well-wishes for Firestorm’s new creative team of Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver and Yildiray Cinar. But it is a fascinating look at the creative process and a fun peek at what might have been.

[Ronnie and Jason] are two guys who share something incredible. Something that can help to make the world a better place. But it’s something that would never exist without both of them. And they don’t necessarily agree on how to use it. They didn’t grow up together, they didn’t come into this as friends, it was pure random chance that it takes these two guys to make something amazing happen. I mean, maybe this is just me turning every conversation into something about Robo, but this sounds a lot like Scott Wegener, me, and Atomic Robo.

(Image via It’s a Dan’s World)

Food or Comics? | The League of Spontaneous Olympians

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.

Spontaneous #1

Graeme McMillan

If I had $15 this week, the first thing I’d grab would be a complete nostalgia-buy: DC Retroactive: Justice League of America – The 70s #1 (DC, $4.99), because I am a complete and utter sucker for JLA stories, and grew up reading old back issues of the title I found at used bookstores. This would be worth it for the reprint at the back alone, never mind the new story by Cary Bates that looks like it’s playing around with the multiverse one more time. To accompany that, I’d also pick up the first two issues of Joe Harris and Brett Weldele’s Spontaneous (both $3.99), because – even though I missed the Free Comic Book Day release of the debut – I’m a fan of Harris’ Ghost Projekt and Weldele’s work on The Surrogates, and curious to see just where a book about spontaneous human combustion can actually go.

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Comics A.M. | Kodansha International closing; Blizzard ending Tokyopop deal?


Publishing | Kodansha Ltd., Japan’s largest publisher, will close its 48-year-old Kodansha International subsidiary by the end of April. The division is a separate company from the New York-based Kodansha USA, which Kodansha Ltd. established in 2008. Kodansha International specialized in English-language translations of Japanese books and original English-language books on Japanese topics, and published the occasional few manga-related title. At the February press conference at which incoming Kodansha Ltd. President Yoshinobu Noma announced the publisher’s 46.7 percent stake in Vertical Inc., he revealed the company would increase its focus on digital publishing and overseas markets. [The Japan Times, Anime News Network]

Publishing | Video game developer Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind World of Warcraft and Starcraft, is rumored to be ending its licensing agreements with troubled U.S. manga publisher Tokyopop. Although the report comes on the heels of Tokyopop’s latest round of layoffs — Troy Lewter edited many of the current Blizzard titles — the two events are apparently unrelated. [Lore Hound, via Joystiq]

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

20th century Boys

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday 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 what we call our “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Brigid Alverson

If I had $15,

I’d get volume 13 of 20th Century Boys. This series is fantastic, and I hear there’s a big reveal in this volume.

If I had $30,

I’d add some floppies to the mix. This is a good week for a lot of the series I have been following on and off: Atomic Robo: Deadly Art of Science #4 ($3.50), Sixth Gun #9 ($3.99), Kill Shakespeare #9 ($3.99). Since I have a bit left over, I’ll throw in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #716 ($3.99), because I really have been enjoying that classic Disney.

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Red 5 founder talks digital strategy

Red 5 was one of the first comics publishers to jump into digital distribution, and Atomic Robo is one of the first digital success stories, so when Red 5 founder Paul Ens talks about his company’s digital comics strategy at, it’s worthwhile to listen in.

Red 5 led with the best-sellers, making their top titles, Atomic Robo and Neozoic, available for the iPhone back when each issue was a separate app. And Ens says the comics are selling, with both revenues and the number of comics downloaded increasing every month. “In terms of total sales revenue, it’s still small but growing,” he says.

Earlier today, Mark Millar expressed some concern that creators would not make as much money from digital comics. Ens has a different take, and I’m going to quote his answer at length, because I think he nails it:

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

John Byrne's Next Men

Welcome once again to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy based on certain spending limits — $15, $30 to spend and if we had extra money to spend on what we call the “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Michael May

If I had $15:

There are a lot of great periodicals coming out this week, so I’d have some hard choices to make. With only $15, I’d concentrate first on those with the cheapest prices: the first issue of Dark Horse’s new Mighty Samson ($3.50), Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #2 ($3.50), and Mouse Guard: Black Axe #1 ($3.50). I’m already a huge fan of both Atomic Robo and Mouse Guard and – based on its concept and vague memories of stories I read as a kid – hope to become one of Mighty Samson too. I’d spend the last of my money on Northern Guard #1, because I’m a sucker for Canadian superheroes.

If I had $30:

I’d add Doc Macabre #1 ($3.99), John Byrne’s Next Men #1 ($3.99), and Strange Tales 2 #3 ($4.99). “Doc Macabre” is an awesome name and I love Steve Niles’ pulp stuff, I’ve been waiting 16 years for that Next Men issue, and the Strange Tales book has a Kate Beaton story in which the Avengers go to a carnival. I’d pay five bucks just for Beaton’s deal, but it’s also got a Thing tale by Harvey Pekar (and yes, Harvey Pekar is in the story).

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | Getting to know Brian Clevinger

Not necessarily Brian Clevinger

Brian Clevinger first came to my attention with Atomic Robo and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Anyone who writes dialogue like “I beat them with my violence” is aces with me.

Of course, by the time Atomic Robo came to town, Clevinger was already a familiar name to fans of his award-winning webcomic 8-Bit Theater. And he’s becoming known to even more folks with his Marvel work. He wrote the back-up stories for World War Hulks: Wolverine vs. Captain America as well as the mini-series that features a space trucker and the line, “Doom does not mop”: Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet. And starting next month, he’ll be writing the WWII adventures of Captain America in Captain America: The Fighting Avenger.

Let’s get to know him:

Q: Who’s your personal hero?

A: My grandfather is an obvious choice. My parents too. They’re good people.

Q: What’s your morning routine?

A: First Charlie wakes me up 10 seconds before my alarm goes off. It looks like this. Then my alarm goes off. Then I feed the damn cats, start some coffee, check my email, skim Twitter, poke at a couple websites, and get to work.

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Robot reviews: Short takes on digital comics

Now that I have an iPad, I have been paying more attention to digital comics releases, particularly to comiXology’s weekly e-mail blast. I sampled some of their recent offerings and found them to be a mixed bag—three very good single issues and a graphic novel that was kind of mediocre. The lower price made digital a good deal for all of these, and with comiXology’s web app, they are available to anyone with a browser and a few dollars.

The Royal Historian of Oz #1 Andy Hirsch’s expressive art really lights up this story of an L. Frank Baum wannabe who makes it to the real Land of Oz—and steals a bunch of their stuff. His hapless son, who has barely been keeping things together, is less than thrilled to learn that his house is now home to an assortment of (mostly living) Oz artifacts, and the ruler of Oz isn’t happy with the situation either. Writer Tommy Kovac makes the characters grounded and convincing despite the fantastic circumstances, and Hirsch does a great job of bringing Baum’s lesser-known creations to life, filling the panels with quirky details. It’s in glorious black and white, with a bit of an underground comics vibe, and at 99 cents (a penny less than the print edition!), it’s a solid bargain.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #1

Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comes home and what stays on the shelves. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if we only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.

Check out Diamond’s full release list if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Michael May

If I had $15:

As usual, I’d spend it on single issues. Starting with Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #1 ($3.50), then picking up a couple of Moonstone books: Zeroids #2 ($3.99) and Return of the Originals: From the Vault – The Pulp Files ($1.99). I enjoyed the first issue of the genre-mashing Zeroids and have been looking forward to the next part of the story; From the Vault is sort of Moonstone’s version of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or DC’s Who’s Who. I don’t know nearly as much about the classic pulp characters as I’d like, so I’m looking forward to the education. Next I’d check out IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons #1 ($3.99) to see if they’ve figured out how to do a good D&D comic. That brings me to $13.47.

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Neonomicon #2

Retailing | Tallahassee, Fla., comics store Secret Headquarters has announced it is refusing to sell Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon #2 “due to pornographic content,” and will no longer carry the Avatar Press series: “Secret Headquarters is deeply dismayed that Alan Moore continues to use his reputation as a quality comics author to promote his bizarre sexual philosophies.” [Bleeding Cool]

Comic-Con International | It’s that time of year again: Memberships for Comic-Con 2011 go on sale at 9 a.m. PST Nov. 1. Note, though, that four-day memberships with Preview Night sold out on the last day of this year’s convention. [Comic-Con International]

New York Comic Con | Brigid Alverson rounds up the kids’ comics news from last weekend’s convention, while Kai-Ming Cha tackles manga. [Publishers Weekly]

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | Atomic Robo vs. the X-Men in… “The Time Topic”

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I have a confession. I don’t usually like time-travel comics. Or time-travel stories in any medium really.

You’d think I would. I love awesome things and what’s more awesome than going back to dinosaur times or trying to assassinate baby Hitler? But I tend not to like messy stories and time travel is so freaking messy.

Take the X-Men for instance. How many alternate futures do those guys have? Someone’s always coming back from the future to change something in our present. They say that they’re doing it to make the future a better place, but it never really works out that way, does it? In X-Men comics, when you change something in the past, it doesn’t do a damn thing to your version of the future. It just creates a divergent timeline so that, yes, a better future does exist somewhere, but it’s still possible to visit the nasty, Sentinel–filled future that you came from. The result is infinite possible futures with infinite possible versions of yourself and your friends. That makes for some okay Events for a while until there are so many futures to keep track of that it becomes more migrainoid than amusing. That’s what I mean by messy.

There’s another way of doing it though. Time-travel will always be complex. Should always be complex. That’s part of its fun. But it doesn’t have to barf a zillion different futures all over you in the process.

An atomic example, after the break.

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