"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Three factors interest me after reading the first issue of Southern Cross, the Image Comics mystery–set on a futuristic tanker spaceship–by writer Becky Cloonan, artist Andy Belanger and color artist Lee Loughridge. Something about the way the cast is introduced as the series lead Alex Braith boards the tanker flight to Titan (a refinery moon) plays out in a manner that is reminiscent of a 1970s murder mystery movie set on a train. Secondly, the cinematic scale of some of Belanger’s establishing shots, particularly of the tanker itself. But most of all, I find myself taken by the troubled and somewhat internally conflicted character of Braith herself.
Comics are art, and sometimes art is comics. The print collective Secret Panel, which ROBOT 6 wrote about last fall, has released two new limited-edition prints by Becky Cloonan and Matt Taylor focusing on Sex Criminals, the acclaimed Image Comics series by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (now being developed for television).
This is the fourth release for Secret Panel since its launch in October, following prints based on Nameless, Hotline Miami and Revival. Here are Taylor and Cloonan’s prints, the latter of which isn’t exactly safe for work:
Retailing | Susana Polo interviews several members of the Valkyries, the organization of women who work in comic shops, and examines the “Valkyrie Bump,” the sales boost that some comics, such as Sex Criminals, Lumberjanes and Batgirl, get when they benefit from their extra support. [Publishers Weekly]
Political cartoons | Reporter James Hookway interviews the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who’s facing sedition charges, and provides some background on Malaysian politics and trial of Anwar Ibrahim, which is the topic of some of Zunar’s controversial cartoons. [The Wall Street Journal]
Although Southern Cross, the sci-fi horror series from Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger and Lee Loughridge, doesn’t debut from Image Comics until March, its production blog has already proved itself a must-read. Or a must-view, in any case.
The series follows Alex Braith as she boards the oil tanker Southern Cross en route to Saturn’s moon Titan to collect her sister’s remains, retrace her steps and uncover answers about her death.
On the blog, the creators have posted everything from character designs to logo treatments for the comic’s galactic oil company to — best of all for anyone who ever spent hours poring over schematics of Titans Tower or the U.S.S. Enterprise — a top-down blueprint of the Southern Cross itself.
Conventions | ReedPOP Senior Vice President Lance Fensterman talks about how New York Comic Con reached 151,000 attendees this year, what went well, what could have gone better, and what he learned for next time. The new badges and check in/check out system, introduced last year, let producers know exactly how long people stayed at the show, and that turned into a nice surprise for two attendees: “There was a couple [last year] who literally spent every minute that was possible at New York Comic Con for three and a half days. We reached out to them and did something special for them—gave them a bunch of free stuff and free tickets because they were at the show longer than anyone who wasn’t paid to be at the show.” [ICv2]
Political cartoons | Egyptian cartoonists Mohamed Anwar and Andeel discuss the difficulty of critiquing Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who doesn’t tolerate dissent; Anwar is a cartoonist for a mainstream newspaper and pulls some punches as the tradeoff for reaching a wide audience, while Andeel has moved over to the alternative press, where he can speak more freely. [The Guardian]
DC Comics’ Batgirl, with its new costume, new direction and new creative team, has its own “(un)official blog,” and now so too does Gotham Academy. Launched over the weekend, Inside Gotham Academy — “the almost official blog” for the upcoming series — so far features promotional pieces, some covers and fan work, but it’s also teased that the series creators (Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl and Romain Gaschet) may post there.
Becky Cloonan’s Demeter won the 2014 British Fantasy Award for best comic or graphic novel, presented Sunday at FantasyCon 2014 in York, England.
“It’s amazing how much love people have shown my comic Demeter,” Cloonan wrote Sunday on her Facebook page. “I really appreciate it, especially since all the nominees were incredible. Sorry I couldn’t attend the ceremony, but thank you for all the support and kind words! I’m sincerely honored.”
The final installment of a trilogy standalone self-published comics that also includes Wolves and The Mire, Demeter is a haunting and tragic tale of love and loss inspired by Greek myth. It was also nominated this year for an Eisner Award.
The comic competed for the British Fantasy Award against Jennifer Wilde, by Maura McHugh, Karen Mahoney and Stephen Downey; Porcelain, by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose; Rachel Rising, by Terry Moore; Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples; and The Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross.
DC Comics has released three new promos introducing the students of Gotham Academy, debuting in October from writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher, artist Karl Kerschl and colorist Romain Gaschet.
Announced in June, the teen drama is set in the city’s most prestigious school, where students attend classes (and get into mischief) in “the shadow of Batman and the craziness of Gotham.”
Mondo has announced the complete lineup for the inaugural MondoCon, the Sept. 20-21 event in Austin, Texas, celebrating film, music, art and toys. And it turns out the participation of artists Geof Darrow, Francesco Francavilla, Jock, Mike Mignola and Bernie Wrightson is only the tip of the comics presence.
There’s the world premiere of Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD, a documentary celebrating 35 years of the influential comics anthology (watch the trailer below); a “Designing Movies” panel, with Darrow, Jock, Mignola, Wrightson and others discussing their film work; and “Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy,” which includes a presentation of eight minutes of never-before-seen animation from an uproduced adaptation of his comic.
In addition to writing the upcoming Gotham Academy and publishing her own books like Demeter and Wolves, Becky Cloonan also makes a killer zucchini bread, according to comic book foodie C.B. Cebulski.
“Usually when I go out with award-winning writer/artist Becky Cloonan, our conversation tends to focus on comics. But when we sat down over oysters and cocktails up at Boston Comic Con this past weekend, she turned to me and asked, ‘Hey, do you like zucchini bread?’, which she followed up by pulling foil-wrapped loaves out of her bag,” Cebulski wrote on his food blog. “Having just moved back to New Hampshire, Becky has a garden that’s giving her a bounty of summer squash she can’t eat all by herself. So she baked up a bunch of bread for her friends at the show.”
When DC Comics relaunched its superhero line in 2011 with the New 52, there was an unmistakable sameness to the aesthetic of many of the titles. Sure, there have been some eye-catching exceptions, but for the most part, the Jim Lee-led character redesigns have exerted great influence over the DC Universe for the past three years.
If you’re a fan of Jim Lee, that’s pretty awesome. If you’re a fan of a lot of artists and styles, that’s less awesome and has made the New 52 sometimes frustrating and occasionally baffling. There are more than 75 years’ worth of characters bursting with the imagination of hundreds of creators. Why filter all that down to such a narrow experience for readers? I love Oreo cookies, but can I ever have chocolate chip cookie?
But then, along comes new Batman Group Editor Mark Doyle, who moved from Vertigo in February. Suddenly, there’s a new creative team, a new costume and a new outlook, for Batgirl, followed by announcements of Gotham Academy, Arkham Manor and, just Tuesday, Gotham By Midnight, demonstrating that Batman and his world are a resilient and powerful corner of the DC Universe. It’s one where offering different aesthetics adds a richness to the entire line while (possibly) attracting the eye of those looking for something different in their reading experience.
Essentially, Doyle just installed a snack bar. So let’s go eat!
Even as DC Comics announces another intriguing addition to its Batman line, the horror title Gotham By Midnight, artist Karl Kerschl has unveiled the first look at colored panel from Gotham Academy #1, offering a hint at what readers can expect from the October-debuting series. He has also posted a few black-and-white panels on his blog.
Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher, with art by Kerschl and colorist Romain Gaschet, Gotham Academy is a teen drama set in the city’s most prestigious school (or, as the official description reads, “set in the shadow of Batman and the craziness of Gotham City”).
Legal | Attorney Tom Goldstein, co-founder of the respected SCOTUSblog, has joined with Marc Toberoff to represent the heirs of Jack Kirby in their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of the Second Circuit’s affirmation that the artist’s contributions to Marvel between 1958 and 1963 were work for hire and therefore not subject to copyright termination. In a response filed this week to Marvel’s brief urging the high court to decline review, Goldstein and Toberoff again challenge the Second Circuit’s “instance and expense” test and its definition of “employer,” and argue, “Many of our most celebrated literary and musical works were created before 1978 and signed away to publishers in un-remunerative transactions. Termination rights were ‘needed because of the unequal bargaining position of authors.’ It would be hard to find a better example of this than the prolific Jack Kirby, who worked in his basement with no contract, no financial security and no employment benefits, but without whom Marvel might not even be in business today.” [Hollyqood, Esq.]
Retailing | Memo to politicians: You don’t win friends and influence people by taking up five spots in a comic store’s parking lot with your campaign bus on a Wednesday — especially when it’s Batman Day. [The Clarion-Ledger]
In the wake of Comic-Con International, The A.V. Club launched a week-long celebration of comics — called, appropriately enough, Comics Week — that’s included a discussion about diversity by Janelle Asselin, Karl Bollers and G. Willow Wilson, an interview with Becky Cloonan, a spotlight on the comics-inspired song “Alley Oop,” and a comics tribute by Ryan Brown (God Hate Astronauts) to his influences.
However, as much as I’ve liked all of the pieces, my favorite so far is easily cartoonist Chad Sell‘s touching ode to Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s The Authority #8, and how the depiction of Apollo and Midnighter’s relationship affected him as both a closeted teen and as a budding artist.
After the January Image Expo, Image Comics received some flak because most of the creators on stage were white men. On Wednesday, Publisher Eric Stephenson’s keynote address to the Image Expo held in conjunction with Comic-Con International included the following comments: “If we want to build a more diverse industry, though, if we want to develop a more diverse talent pool, then it is of utmost importance that we produce comics that appeal to as wide an audience as possible …”
That was said within the context of the historic gender disparity in comics, especially when looking at mainstream comics and the direct market. There’s more evidence than ever that the gender disparity in readership is no longer true; women are just as likely to read comics as men. If that’s true, then one would hope that just as many would be likely to attempt to make comics. That doesn’t seem to have come to pass in this corner of the industry, but Image announced a trio of upcoming releases that will hopefully start to shift the momentum in the right direction. If nothing else, these are among the most promising books to be announced at Image Expo, and they build on the gratifying surge in creator-owned comics.