EXCL. PREVIEW: Marvel's "Darth Vader" #9 Puts the Sith Lord at a Crossroads
Creators | In a new profile of Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 addresses the death threats made against him by ISIS and the fatwa issued against the animated adaptation in Saudi Arabia, and reveals he recently met with Kuwaiti police “to answer the charges of being a heretic.” Mutawa also blames pressure from “a handful of conservative bloggers” in the United States for The Hub not following through with plans to air the animated series. He said that after President Obama praised his work in 2010, attacks on him escalated in the United States, where he was painted as a jihadist “intent on radicalizing young kids to make them suicide bombers. And here [in the Gulf] I became an apostate Zionist. My mother told me growing up, be careful who your friends are because you end up inheriting their enemies. And that’s what happened: I don’t know President Obama. I’m very honored he called me out. But the hate became magnified after that.” [Al-Monitor]
Publishing | Admitting that “I don’t think men are as sexualized as women” in Marvel comics, Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso says the publisher is moving toward including more types of female characters: “We believe there’s an audience of women out there who are hungry for this and we want to make sure they get it. This is affirmative action. This is capitalism.” Later he states, “I challenge you to find in Ms. Marvel anything that resembles the Playboy model standard. But I don’t want to be Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes. We’re creating stories. I don’t want to say there’s no room for stuff that’s not just fun. Then you’re censoring yourself. I want to make sure I have books like Ms. Marvel and Black Widow that I’m proud about and could give to my daughter. But at the same time I don’t want to be the PC police and say you can’t be naughty; you can’t be fun.” [The Telegraph]
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
I was pleased to see Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso acknowledge concerns over the variant cover by Milo Manara for Spider-Woman #1, and even go so far as to explicitly apologize for the mixed message the cover caused.
“We always listen to fans’ concerns so we can do better by them,” Alonso stated to CBR for Friday’s installment of the weekly Axel-in-Charge interview column. “We want everyone — the widest breadth of fans — to feel welcome to read Spider-Woman. We apologize — I apologize — for the mixed messaging that this variant caused.”
He went on to note that it is not the official cover for the series, and is equally not as representative of the title as a pet variant by Skottie Young might be. That’s a fair point. However, I would argue that there is a difference between a Milo Manara variant and any other random variant. That cover exists within the context of the title character of the comic and the historical depiction of women in comics, if not media in general, juxtaposed with a cartoonist known for erotica being commissioned to provide material for a comic with a T+ rating (13 and above).
“We always listen to fans’ concerns so we can do better by them. We want everyone — the widest breadth of fans — to feel welcome to read Spider-Woman. We apologize — I apologize — for the mixed messaging that this variant caused.
And that’s what this cover is. It’s a limited edition variant that is aimed at collectors. While we would not have published this as the main cover to the book, we were comfortable publishing this as a variant that represented one artist’s vision of the character — a world-renowned artist whose oeuvre is well-known to us, and to collectors. It is not the official cover for the issue. It is a collector’s item that is set aside or special ordered by completists — and it doesn’t reflect the sensibility or tone of the series any more than the Skottie Young variant or Rocket and Groot Spider-Woman variants. If you open up the book, you’ll see that this series has everything in common with recent launches we’ve done, like Black Widow and Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk and Captain Marvel. It’s about the adventures of two women that have complete agency over their lives, and that are defined by what they do, not how they look.
We’re far from perfect, but we’re trying. It’s been a priority for me as EIC to make our line and our publishing team more inclusive. We’re at an industry high of around 30 percent female in editorial group, about 20 percent of our line is comics starring women, and our Senior Manager of Talent, Jeanine Schaefer, actively looks to bring more female writers and artists into the fold each month. In fact, very soon we’ll be announcing new series and creators that I’m very excited about.”
– Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, addressing criticism of the Milo Manara variant cover for Spider-Woman #1, in this week’s “Axel-in-Charge” on CBR
Publishing | The latest BookScan numbers reveal June was a good month for manga in bookstores, with eight volumes of Attack on Titan making the top 20 — a new record. The first volume topped the list, which means new readers are still discovering Hajime Isayama’s dark fantasy. Overall, manga had a slight edge, with 11 titles, and all three volumes of Saga were on the list, but only one volume of The Walking Dead. And despite the Amazon-Hachette battle, the Yen Press title Sword Art Online: Aincrad made the chart. [ICv2]
Publishing | ICv2 and Comichron’s John Jackson Miller joined forces to calculate the size of the entire comics market, including the direct market, bookstore and digital channels, and both single issues and graphic novels. Inevitably some things get left out, such as subscription services, sales to libraries and the juggernaut that is the Scholastic Book Fair, but it’s a good snapshot. The bottom line: $850 million in 2013. [Comichron]
“On the Internet, sometimes what appears to be an explosion is really just a fart. The accusations are totally without merit. A handful of people who have it in for Rick started a witch hunt against him, claiming he had written a scene in Captain America #22 that portrayed the Falcon engaging in what amounted to statutory rape. They used social media to spread the word, and we got some angry emails — about 90 percent which came from people who stated right out the gate that hadn’t even read the issue, but were incensed by what they’d heard Rick had written.
Let me be clear: An attack on Rick’s integrity is an attack on Marvel’s integrity. We would never publish a scene that had one of our super heroes engage in such an act. Jet Black is a 23-year-old woman. She was a pre-teen at the start of Rick’s run, but since that time, the book has jumped forward 13 years in the future, and Jet — along with Steve and Ian — has aged 13 years. In Captain America #22, it is explicitly stated that Jet is 23, and she is rendered [by artist Carlos Pacheco] as a fully adult woman. Jet Black is a 23-year-old woman. End of story.”
– Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, talking with Comic Book Resources about the social-media firestorm that followed the release of Captain America #22
Manga | Attack on Titan is as much of a manga juggernaut in its native Japan as it is the United States, and the 13th volume had a print run of 2.75 million copies, a new record not only for the series but for publisher Kodansha. [Crunchyroll]
Comics | Tom Risen has a thoughtful piece, which includes an interview with Axel Alonso, on how superhero comics have changed since the War on Terror began: “Superheroes since the 2000s have increasingly held up a mirror to controversies like mass surveillance, remote killings using drones and the ‘with us or against us’ mentality espoused by former President George W. Bush. Misuse of military technology also played a key role in recent movie adaptations featuring Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man, showing how fighting dirty to defeat evil can make America its own worst enemy.” [U.S. News & World Report]
Legal | The creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 says he hasn’t been officially notified of a reported ban of the animated adaptation of his comic in Saudi Arabia. “Nobody ever contacted me, nobody ever asked me any questions,” Naif Al Mutawa says. There have been numerous Twitter campaigns against me for a while now and so for me it’s not new. Maybe it is true this time, but I find it very difficult to believe that a group as influential and high profile as them [Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta] wouldn’t recognize the good that The 99 has done for Muslims around the world.” He adds that the comic has been available in Saudi Arabia for seven years, while the cartoon has been airing for two and a half years, making the timing of a ban “a bit weird.” [Gulf Business]
To help promote its All-New Ghost Rider, which introduces a new Spirit of Vengeance with a new vehicle, Marvel is turning to some folks who know a little bit stylish rides: the editors of Lowrider Magazine.
As part of a new partnership, new Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider (and a scantily clad friend) will grace the cover of the magazine’s special April issue, “Marvelous Mayhem,” with an illustration by series writer Felipe Smith. Inside, readers will find an interview with Smith and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, as well as artwork by Tradd Moore from All-New Ghost Rider #1.
“While we don’t have any market research, the eyes don’t lie. If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging. They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.”
– Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, discussing comics’ shifting demographics
If there are Marvel fans who aren’t following Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso on Twitter, they’re missing out on a lot of previews of upcoming comics in various states of production. For instance, on Wednesday he unveiled a first look at a colored page from the first issue of Moon Knight, by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire.
Launching in March, the series returns Marc Spector to the streets of New York City, and places the focus on the character’s horror roots.
“The book is filled with oddities,” Shalvey told Comic Book Resources last month. “It starts with a man in a white suit and mask with big moon on his forehead, remember. I will say this: Moon Knight investigates the strange and dark corners of the Marvel Universe, and boy, there are weird things there.”
While much of the comics industry is caught in that bubble between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso is busy tweeting sneak peeks at art from a handful of titles, including the debut issue of Moon Knight by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey.
Among the other offerings are pages from All-New Ghost Rider #2 by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore, Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #1 by Rick Remender and Roland Boschi, and All-New Invaders #2 by James Robinson and Steve Pugh. Check them out below.
Publishing| Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talks about bringing more Latino characters — and more diversity in general — to the Marvel lineup: “People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included. This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.” [Fox News Latino]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses winding up his run on Action Comics: “Symbolically I’m not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I’ve got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So it’s gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.” [Comics Alliance]
Publishing | More than 4,000 new comic titles were released in the European Francophone market in 2012, marking the 17th consecutive year of growth. According to the Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinée, the French association of comic strip critics and journalists, more comics were produced in the Francophone market than in the United States. [RFI]
Comics | The death of Spider-Man hits the mainstream media, with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso asserting, “We didn’t make this move lightly.” Stan Lee called it “a helluva birthday present” but added “But then, a little voice in my head whispered, ‘never say never. Just go with it while you can because Marvel, the House of Ideas, will always have a surprise up its creative sleeve for you and the rest of Marveldom Assembled!'” Entertainment Weekly’s Geoff Boucher said the ongoing deaths of superheroes are starting to feel “a little gimmicky” but he also nailed why the publishers do it: “if you look at who’s buying Marvel and DC, it’s long term fans and those readers are going to complain about this and debate about it — but are going to buy two copies.” [New York Daily News]
Comics | Ahead of Joe Quesada’s appearance tonight on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the debut Wednesday of Uncanny Avengers, Marvel unpacks its Marvel NOW! initiative for the national press. “This ain’t a reboot, we’re simply hitting the refresh button. ‘Marvel NOW!’ simply offers a line-wide entry-point into the Marvel Universe that you’re already reading about,” Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso says. Tom Brevoort, senior vice president of publishing, calls it “a game of musical chairs” for creators, who will be switched around to make things interesting. [The Associated Press]
Creators | Writer Gail Simone discusses the coming battle between Batgirl and Knightfall in Batgirl #13, as well as the impending return of The Joker: “The Joker is really the Elvis of comic-book villains. There’s no one with his primal star power, there’s no one else anywhere who has sent more chills up the spines of readers, because there genuinely is something terrifying about him.” [USA Today]