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Report Card | From ‘X-Files’ to ‘Batwoman’ to ‘Tank Girl’

report-card-tease-1

Welcome to the first “Report Card,” a new feature we plan to run every weekend. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the week in review. It will include an overview of top news stories you might have missed, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read this week.

So read on to find out what we thought of Batwoman #21, X-Files: Season 10 #1, Becky Cloonan’s Demeter and much more.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Francesco Francavilla on ‘The Black Beetle’

The Black Beetle: No Way Out 3

The Black Beetle: No Way Out 3

Frequent readers of ROBOT 6 know I’m a big supporter of Francesco Francavilla, and particularly his Black Beetle character. Wednesday marks the release of The Black Beetle: No Way Out #3, the penultimate issue in the first of a series of miniseries for Dark Horse. As much as I was eager to learn about the pulp-fueled noir comic, I was equally keen to chat with Francavilla about his approach toward layout and storytelling in general.

As part of the interview, Francavilla shared some preview pages for the latest issue.

Tim O’Shea: Comparing the early adventures of the Black Beetle, as shown in Night Shift versus No Way Out issues 1 and 2, how liberating did it feel to be increasingly ambitious with your layouts on the pages?

Francesco Francavilla: Very liberating. One of the tricky parts of doing Night Shift was to have three small installments (chapters) of eight pages. I wanted each single chapter to be meaty enough to be entertaining on its own, but I also wanted each chapter to end with a cliffhanger. Going from that to a full 22 pages a month with No Way Out, I have much more room now to have fun with different layouts and give extra room for some big reveal sequences.

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Grumpy Old Fan | New beginnings in DC’s June solicitations

You unlock these doors with the key of imagination

You unlock these doors with the key of imagination

It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)

FIRST, AN ENDING

The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
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What Are You Reading? with Landry Walker

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew shares their picks for the Royal Rumble … I mean, talks about what comics we’ve read recently. Today our special guest is Landry Walker, writer of Danger Club, Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Little Gloomy, Tron and more.

To smell what Landry and the Robot 6 crew are cookin’, click below.

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Conversing on Comics with Dave Stewart

He’s one of the most prolific creators in comics, but odds are only a small segment of his audience knows him by name. One of the foremost colorists in the industry, Dave Stewart is in demand as a collaborator for today’s top artists, and one of the most versatile players on the comics scene. He’s also dominated the Eisner Awards’ coloring category, winning seven of the past nine years.

I reached out to Stewart because I’m an admirer of his work and, because frankly, we don’t hear nearly enough from him. We talked about his place in comics, and his role as frequent collaborator with the likes of Mike Mignola and J.H. Williams III. I also asked about his early ambitions to become penciler, and the potential of trying that again some day.

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Comics nominees announced for 24th GLAAD Media Awards

From "Earth 2" #2

The nominees have been announced for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s 24th annual Media Awards, which honor outstanding portrayals of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

The nominees for outstanding comic book are:

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Comics A.M. | Tezuka Productions and Diamond ink distribution deal

Astro Boy

Manga | Tezuka Productions, which handles the works of Osamu Tezuka, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to distribute its comics, toys, T-shirts and other products outside of Japan. [Previews World]

Comics | Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, discusses the clash between the creative drive and the corporate interest, as it played out at the House of Ideas: “There’s certainly a cautionary tale in there, but I think it’s inevitable — because Marvel Comics is a really rich example of the way that pop culture works and that the Marvel story really gets to the way that art and commerce are always going to be battling it out in pop culture. If you’re trying to have mass appeal and artistic expression at the same time, there are going to be compromises. And when you bring powerful corporate interests into the equation, it’s pretty predictable what will happen.” [The Phoenix]

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s January solicits: See 2013 — and die!

Sadly, no Slim Pickens variant

The biggest news from this round of solicits is probably the cancellations of Blue Beetle, Grifter, Legion Lost, and Frankenstein. I’ve been buying Beetle and Frankenstein, so I’m sorry to see them go.

Naturally, this means we can look forward to four new titles in February. If I had to guess, I’d say a new Shazam! ongoing series will spin out of the current Justice League backup, but according to January’s solicitation, the backup doesn’t seem to have reached a suitable stopping place. It’s possible that February’s Issue 17 could wrap everything up one week and lead into Shazam! #1 the next, but that would depend on Justice League shipping on time (in the third week of the month), and I’d think DC would want more wiggle room in case of a delay. Accordingly, the odds of a Shazam! series in the next batch of solicits seem rather long.

Still, the backup series has been running in Justice League since #7, so (counting the Shazam-centric Issue 0, but subtracting the lack of backup in Issue 13) February’s Issue 17 would mark its eleventh installment.  That is subject to change, since the October solicits advertised a Shazam! backup which was not in the actual issue.  Still, if my rough math is correct, that’s about 154 total pages of story — more than the New Teen Titans: Games paperback, but less than the Superman/Shazam collection — but the solicit for January’s Issue 16 (part 11, remember) just talks about continuing the origin. With that in mind, even if Issue 17 concludes the backup, the character could still appear in JL as a Leaguer until he does whatever he’s going to do in “Trinity War.” Yadda yadda yadda, now I think probably no new Shazam! series until that event is over.
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Grumpy Old Fan | Doubling down on the Darknight Detective

Yes, that is Benedict Arnold with a flaming sword

This week sees the print debut of Legends of the Dark Knight, the ongoing print version of DC’s digital-first Batman anthology. By design it’s not part of the regular Batman line, and therefore not counted as one of the New 52. However, it gives me an excuse to ask how many Bat-books DC Comics really needs.

Now, I don’t mean that to be as dismissive as it sounds. The current Batman line is built on years, if not decades, of steady readership and fan attachments, and you don’t just wave that away. Nevertheless, if there are only 52 slots in the main superhero line, must the Batman Family claim a quarter of them? The relaunch has made pruning these titles both easier and harder, and today I want to look at the opportunities it presents.

* * *

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The women of the DC Universe, by Peter Nguyen

Artist Peter Nguyen takes on DC Comics superheroines in a terrific print for New York Comic Con that includes everyone from Batwoman and Big Barda to Wonder Woman and Miss Martian. “There are some women who I left out I am sure but for the sake of sanity let’s just say they are the little dots in the back,” Nguyen writes on his blog. “Or off world fighting a greater threat. I had a ton of fun with this one and i hope you guys like it. I added a cosmic treadmill for fun so we can get at least one Flash rep in there amongst all the fliers, glider, and rock floating riders.”

See the full image below, and check out Nguyen’s work process on his blog.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s December is getting closer all the time

Not the face!

Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.

In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them?  Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.

Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!

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J.H. Williams III covers Texas heavy-metal band The Sword


I know nothing about The Sword, other than that the Austin, Texas-based heavy-metal band has great taste in choosing comic artists to provide album art: Batwoman artist/co-writer J.H. Williams III has revealed a host of design work for the group’s new release Apocryphon on his blog. More art from the project can be found below.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Relaunch roundup, Part 1

After a year, I still don't quite get the knee-braces

Because it’s the first week of the New 52 Year Two, the time has come to review where I stand at the end of Year One. It also happens to be the week I’m away on a bidness trip, unable to react to whatever dern-fool thing DC did on Wednesday.

That would probably take a back seat anyway, because I’m a little curious myself to look back at these books. In terms of reading habits, it’s been a rather funky year. Some weeks I wouldn’t have time to read everything I bought, and sometimes that meant books just dropped off my radar. I caught up with a few of these, but a few I just didn’t miss — which, of course, is never a good thing.

You’ll remember that last year I bought all 52 first issues, and talked about each as September proceeded.  Of those which remain, I am reading 27: Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Firestorm, Flash, Frankenstein, Green Lantern, GL Corps, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.

Additionally, I was reading six titles that have since been canceled: Blackhawks, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Resurrection Man and Static Shock. For a while I also read Grifter, Red Lanterns, and Superboy. Filling in some of those holes are second-wave titles Batman Incorporated, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest and Dial H.

To keep your eyes as glaze-free as possible, this will be a two-part survey. Today we’ll look at the Superman and Batman families, the “historical” titles, the main-line Justice League books, and a few others.

Onward!

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Comics A.M. | Origins of Green Lantern Simon Baz; ‘Ultimate’ legacy

Green Lantern Simon Baz

Comics | Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns talks with The Wall Street Journal about the introduction this week of the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps Simon Baz, an Arab-American Muslim from Dearborn, Michigan: “As fantastic as the concept of Green Lantern is of an intergalactic police force, the comic has had a history of grounding in the now and dealing with modern characters and concepts and Simon Baz is that. I wanted to create a character that everyday Americans have to deal with. When 9/11 hit, he was 10-years-old. His family was devastated, just like every other American. He’s grown up in that world. It’s just part of the daily life, the new normal.” [Speakeasy]

Comics | The new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, reaches a key moment in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #14, when Aunt May gives him Peter Parker’s web-shooters and the formula for for his web fluid. Writer Brian Michael Bendis explains why he waited so long to pass along the iconic tools: “‘This is like Excalibur. This is it. This is like being bequeathed the sword,’ Bendis says. ‘But, young Miles and (his friend) Ganke trying to figure out how to make web fluid is going to be my favorite stuff to write ever in the history of writing of anything. Just because someone gives you a formula and says, “Here, cook this,” doesn’t mean you can.’” [USA Today]

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Food or Comics? | Mais or The Massive?

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.

Spider-Men #1

J.K. Parkin

With my first $15 I’d get the following: The Massive #1 (Dark Horse, $3.50), X-Men #30 (Marvel, $3.99), Spider-Men #1 (Marvel, $3.99), and Saucer Country #4 (Vertigo, $2.99). That leaves me roughly 50 cents out of my budget. I dunno if it was planned this way or not, but two of Brian Wood’s latest projects, The Massive and his run on the X-Men (of the un-Ultimate variety), kick off this week. We also have the debut of Spider-Men, the crossover that features Peter Parker of the 616 Marvel U meeting up with Miles Morales from the Ultimate-verse. I’ve enjoyed the Miles Morales/Ultimate Spider-Man stories this far, which is the reason I’m getting it. Finally, Saucer Country is the best of the new Vertigo titles, featuring clever writing by Paul Cornell and great art by Ryan Kelly.

Add another $15 and I’d also get Captain America #13 (Marvel, $3.99), Uncanny X-Force #26 (Marvel, $3.99), Resurrection Man #10 (DC Comics, $2.99), and Frankenstein: Agent of Shade #10 (DC Comics, $2.99). Again, with some change left over for a candy bar or whatever. I laughed out loud at the big reveal at the end of the last issue of Captain America, as we learned who the new guy was behind the Scourge mask. I assume this is a What If? comic, along the lines of “What if (name redacted for spoiler reasons) wasn’t lame?” So I have to see this through. I mentioned this weekend on What Are You Reading? that I’d downloaded a whole bunch of the current run of Uncanny X-Force for 99 cents from comiXology, and since then I’ve completely caught up on the book, so I’ll definitley be getting the current issue. Add to that one of the final times I’ll get to see Abnett and Lanning’s Resurrection Man comic (sniff … well, it was probably a longshot anyway, based on how well his last comic did) and the debut of Matt Kindt on Frankenstein, and that rounds out my week of comics.

I don’t really have anything on my splurge radar this week, so maybe I’ll just hold onto the cash and save it for next time.

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