Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Passings | Longtime Mark Trail artist Jack Elrod Jr. died Wednesday at age 91. Mark Trail was created in 1946 by Ed Dodd, who brought on Elrod four years later as a background artist. When Dodd retired in 1978, Elrod took over the comic strip, and earned many awards from environmental organizations. He also made a significant change due to reader feedback, removing the title character’s pipe after a 6-year-old fan wrote to him saying, “It is bad for his health, pollutes the air, and it is dangerous to the birds.” Elrod retired in 2014, handing over Mark Trail to current artist and writer James Allen. [Gainesville Times]
Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creator Bryan Konietzko will make his graphic novel debut with Threadworlds, a sci-fi series to be published by First Second.
Scheduled to debut in 2017, Threadworlds is set on a group of five planets that share a single orbit, each with its own intelligent species and level of technology. The story centers on Nova, a stubborn and brilliant young scientist from one of the most primitive worlds who refuses to adhere to the rules of a superstitious, oppressive empire that forbids girls to read and write. The series will follow a chain reaction of scientific discovers from planet to planet that sweep up Nova in a journey.
Political cartoons | The artist who drew the iconic “Je Suis Charlie” cover for Charlie Hebdo says he’s no longer interested in drawing the Prophet Muhammad. In an interview with a French magazine, Rénald Luzier, who goes by the pen name Luz, said “I am tired of him, just like [former French President Nicolas] Sarkozy. I am not going to spend my life drawing them.” Luz was running late the day that two gunmen attacked the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people, and his tardiness saved his life. [Comic Riffs]
As the reviews editor for Comic Book Resources, I accumulate a lot of collected editions. For better or worse, trade-waiting has become a part of the comics landscape, but it’s easy to tell when a collection rises above the pack. Whether it’s through superior craftsmanship, incredible bonus material, attention to the little details or a combination of all three, there are always a few trades that rise to the top, and make for an enjoyable reading experience and a fantastic display piece.
Thus, here are a few of my favorite collected editions of 2014, factoring in the strength of the original material, and what makes the collection worth picking up for those that might already own the single issues — ranging from budget-conscious trades up through the incredibly pricey omnibus editions.
Tear up your holiday wishlist, because the chances are that whatever was on it is nowhere cool as this device from Ellusionist, which allows you to launch actual fireballs — “magnificent balls of fire,” as the manufacturer calls them — from the palms of your hands, as if you’re X-Men foe Pyro or Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation. Seriously.
As the website cautions, the Pyro Fireshooter by Adam Wilber is not a toy. Definitely not. It’s a pyrotechnic gadget for adults who … want to look badass, and possibly set things on fire. Magnificent balls of fire!
The website contains all the details — four individually triggered barrels, flash cotton or paper packs, etc. — along with a pretty cool video (which, alas, isn’t embeddable) and the price: $174 each, which seems pretty reasonable. Not that I’ve bought a lot of handheld fireball launchers, mind you …
With April sales numbers released from Diamond Comic Distributors, a subtle pattern has revealed itself: Dark Horse has reclaimed its position as fourth-largest publisher from IDW Publishing for three months straight. It’s a streak of growth in market and dollar share that hasn’t happened for Dark Horse since fall 2011.
It’s great news for an industry mainstay that seemed to be getting eclipsed by the younger IDW at its own game of mixing licensed properties with creator-owned titles. Whether it’s temporary or not, digging into the sales charts, it’s clear there’s more stability in Dark Horse’s catalog than there might first seem.
Obviously Star Wars is the property many know the company for, and when it was announced the license would move at the end of this year to Marvel, some worried how Dark Horse would carry on. However, most publishers realize that no license is forever, so Dark Horse has built a diverse library that seems to be lifting it up now. Despite such diversifying, Star Wars is still the big seller at comic shops, but it’s only the beginning. The back-to-back launch of The Star Wars, a comics adaptation of an early draft of George Lucas’ screenplay, and a back-to-basics Star Wars by Brian Wood provided two accessible titles; if you’d ever seen the original Star Wars trilogy, you’re all set. The last issue of The Star Wars comes out later this month, with a collection in both hardcover and softcover to follow in July.
Graphic novels | Two volumes of The Walking Dead Compendium topped BookScan’s list of the Top 20 graphic novels sold in bookstores in March, and Vol. 60 of Naruto was No. 3, but ICv2 thinks the new Avatar: The Next Airbender graphic novel premiering at No. 4 is headline-worthy. [ICv2]
Awards | With his duties complete, Charles Hatfield describes what it was like to be an Eisner judge. [See Hatfield]
Creators | Gilbert Hernandez talks about his childhood and that influences, from Dennis the Menace to Steve Ditko, that shaped his latest graphic novel, Marble Season. [The Chicago Tribune]
Following Thursday’s announcement of the gold titles for Free Comic Book Day 2013, Dark Horse has revealed the rest of its lineup, which includes the long-awaited debut of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, by Gerard Way, co-writer Shaun Simon, artist Becky Cloonan and colorist Dave Stewart.
Announced in 2009, the follow-up to the acclaimed Umbrella Academy originally was described by the frontman of My Chemical Romance as “almost like a strange kind of love letter to the really great comics of the ’90s that kind of pushed things.” However, in the three years since the announcement, a lot changed.
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 an odd one for me this week; if I had $15, I’d probably just grab two of DC’s Zero Month books (Batman Incorporated and Flash, both $2.99) and then skip straight to the $30 portion of the week so that I could pick up the Showcase Presents Amethyst, Vol. 1 collection (DC, $19.99), if only to reassure me that the original series was good after last week’s revival.
If I were to splurge, I’d step outside of DC’s purview and go for IDW’s Joe Kubert Tarzan Artist Edition. I was one of the many people who didn’t really “get” Kubert as a kid, but his linework won me over as I got older, and the chance to see some of his best-looking art in “real size” is something that I’d love to be able to embrace.
If I had $15, I’d get Batman Incorporated #0, probably the only DC zero book I’ll get, and Vol. 11 of Yotsuba&!, because I could use some irrepressibly cute manga about an adorable green-haired girl right about now.
If I had $30, I’d put away Yotsuba&! and get Barbara, Osamu Tezuka’s manga about a would-be artist who takes in a lovely but strange homeless woman, only to become convinced that she is his personal muse. I know there was a bit of grumbling that DMP went the Kickstarter route in getting this published, but honestly, I’m just happy to have more Tezuka in print.
What constitutes a splurge purchase? How about six, hardcover, slipcased volumes of Robert Crumb’s sketchbook work, priced at about $1,600, courtesy of the fine folks at Taschen? Yeah, I think buying that would be a “splurge purchase.” It would also constitute sheer madness and a one-way trip to the poorhouse, but at least you’d have all those nice Crumb books to keep you company. I’m sure they’d make a fine pillow.
Publishing | DC Comics’ Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, topped the Nielsen BookScan list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in July, one of five Batman books to populate the Top 20. The remainder of the chart was dominated by manga — five spots, with the newest volumes of Sailor Moon and Naruto claiming Nos. 2 and 3 — The Walking Dead — three volumes, with the latest slipping from No. 1 to No. 4 — and Dark Horse’s two Avatar: The Last Airbender books, by Gene Luen Yang, both of which remain in the Top 10. [ICv2]
Publishing | Archaia CEO PJ Bickett talks about some new planned digital products and the current Archaia strategy for its books: “As of right now for 2012 we’ve really focused on some key titles and in building those out as real brands. In the past we’ve taken more of a throwing it out there and hoping for the best [approach] and now we’re taking a more strategic, targeted and strategic approach. We’re seeing a lot of great efforts as a result of it.” [ICv2]
With The Legend of Korra, the new sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, hitting screens last week, the folks at Tor.com asked Faith Erin Hicks to draw a comic about her feelings toward both series. She obliged, with the combination of professionalism and fangirlishness that we have come to expect from her. Go, read, laugh.
As an animator on Avatar: The Last Airbender and the supervising director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Dave Filoni is the perfect person to draw a mash-up of those two universes. And so he’s accommodated us.
(via Leigh Walton)
Publishing | Single-issue comics sales last month were up 22.26 percent over February 2011, and graphic novels were up 15.6 percent, making for a good month for publishers and retailers. (Of course, there were five Wednesdays in February, which may have something to do with it.) As in previous months, DC sold the most comics but Marvel, with higher cover prices, topped its competitor in terms of dollar share. [ICv2]
Publishing | The top-selling graphic novel in bookstores last month was part one of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, written by Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese). The Walking Dead books took four of the top 20 spots, or a healthy 20 percent of the list, and 13 of the bestsellers were manga. [ICv2]
Publishing | Marvel is cutting costs on its $2.99 comics by going with “self covers,” which just means that the covers are the same paper as the inside of the comic, rather than heavier stock. As the insides are glossy paper anyway, Todd Allen feels the difference is barely noticeable—and that the real news is that Marvel is finding it necessary to cut costs once more. [The Beat]
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 try something new first with the Xeric-winning Fantastic Life GN (Big If, $9.95) by Kevin Mutch. I’ll always give Xeric winners a second look, and this looks built for me: slackers, punk rock, zombies. Next up I’d get the ongoing adventures of Butcher Baker – the Image one – with Butcher Baker Righteous Maker #8 ($2.99). I’ll admit that the series went off a little bit around #5, but I’m still holding on for hopes it’ll right itself or I’ll figure out what I’d been missing. Lastly, I’d get Secret Avengers #21.1 (Marvel, $2.99). Seriously, is Rick Remender becoming the writer of all-things secret in the Marvel U? I’m not complaining though, as he’s bringing his Uncanny X-Force mojo and, from what it looks like, a lot of new cast members.
If I had $30, I’d get my usual pull of The Walking Dead #93 (Image, $2.99) and a Hickman two-fer, Fantastic Four #602 (Marvel, $2.99) and FF #14 (Marvel, $2.99). If you would have told me two years ago I’d be seeing two Fantastic Four titles (and two I’d be reading, no less) I would have been gobsmacked. Hickman does it again. And that’s it.
What, you say I didn’t spend my full $30? It’s a light week for me, so I’d spending the remaining on bags and boards or, *gasp*, food as it says in the title. Tijuana Flats, Taco Tuesday, be there.
Coming back if I could splurge, and I’d put down my tacos and pick up the ADD HC (Vertigo, $24.99) by Douglas Rushkoff, Goran Sudzuka and Jose Marzan Jr. From the outside it looks like The Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game, and Rushkoff looks to be just the one to make that mash-up more than, well, a mash-up.
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]