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Food or Comics? | Happy New Potatoes!

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.

The Chimpanzee Complex

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start the new year off right with Invincible #99 (Image, $2.99). The build-up (or teardown?) to Issue 100 has been great, and honestly I never quite trusted Dinosaurus to begin with so I’m glad to see this finally boil over. I’m all ears – and eyes – for this and the next issue. Next up I’d get another Image joint, Prophet #32 (Image, $3.99). Kudos to Brandon Graham for being confident in himself enough – and choosy enough in his collaborators – that he’s stepping back and letting artist Simon Roy write and draw a one-off issue. And the story of a Prophet clone gone native sounds mighty enticing. Third in this week’s haul would be Punk Rock Jesus #6 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). I feel a slight bit of remorse at how fast this series has gone – it seemed like a whole lot of introduction, a brief second act and now we’re being pushed into the finale. Still, one of the best series of 2012 (with this finale sneaking out two days after 2012). Finally, I’d get James Stokoe’s Godzilla: Half-Century War #4 (IDW, $3.99). I’ve become big fans of Ota and Kentaro here, and Stokoe has really populated this world with all kinds of special and grotesque. Excited to see what comes up here!

If I had $30, I’d continue my mad dash through my local comic shop with two Marvel picks: All New X-Men #5 (Marvel, $3.99) and New Avengers #1 (Marvel, $3.99). All-New X-Men has been surprisingly refreshing for me; I always love Stuart Immonen’s, but what’s startled me is how fresh and unencumbered Brian Bendis seems here with the writing. On the New Avengers #1 tip, I liked Hickman’s other Avengers work so far but I’m even more interested in how artist Steve Epting draws this unique cast. Plus, I loved Epting’s first run on Avengers – leather jackets, people! Next up I’d return to Image and get Glory #31 (Image, $3.99). This is going to be a great collection when the whole thing is done, but right now we’re knee-deep in the series itself as Glory faces off with her sister Silverfall. Hey Rob Liefeld – this Silverfall character could be something special for more after this series ends! And finally, I’d get Manhattan Projects #8 (Image, $3.50) and anxiously await the big reveal of the secret powerbrokers in the MP universe. I can’t wait for Hickman to blow my mind.

If I could splurge, I’d buy the back-to-back first and second volume of Chimpanzee Complex (#13.95 each, Cinebook). Coming to America with no press at all, I found this in Previews a while back and have been excited by its potential: a Franco-Belgian comic that reveals the astronauts who returned from the moon in 1969 were doppelgangers, and the fallout from that discovery. 2010 meets Orbiter. Bring it on.

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What Are You Reading? with Joshua Williamson

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we welcome special guest Joshua Williamson, writer of Masks and Mobsters, Captain Midnight (which has been running in Dark Horse Presents), Uncharted, Voodoo and much more.

To see what Joshua and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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The Fifth Color | Who are the Avengers NOW?

NOW is the time for adorable variants!Marvel NOW! is not half bad! In fact, from this new vantage point where we’ve mostly seen the first major debuts roll out through November, I can say that it’s a bigger success than the Heroic Age. There’s been some significant changes to theme and tone of our superheroes while still leaving continuity intact and everyone recognizable to the public. Everything that happened in the past few months of comics has carried over into the NOW!, we’re just looking at it with a new style, a fresh coat of paint and, of course, oodles of variant covers.

Story styles and artistic choices come and go, and while we might love a particular run or artist team, we have to adapt and move into more modern and evolving ideas for the Marvel Universe. Sure, I’m not too on board with the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy series because I really enjoyed their previous iteration, but if you look at the last series, it was a far cry from what it was when it started. Why not give the new book a chance and see if it can hook me in all over again? Losing Peter Parker as Spider-Man (for a while) is a big deal, but why not watch just to see how Dan Slott pulls this whole thing off? Change is good is what I’m trying to say, and Marvel NOW!, while still essentially the same heroes and villains we know and love, is also a lot of change.

It’s weird to think that Brian Michael Bendis pretty much set the Avengers for the modern era. Yes, great storytellers had come before to establish what we all know and love about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but Bendis really did blow all that up and rebuilt Marvel’s premier super-team from the ground up. From Stark Tower to the essential leadership of Captain America and Iron Man to who’s on the roster and why, to endless, endless lunches, most new comic readers know of the Avengers through Bendis’ work. He’s the man who made us read the book, for better or for worse and for six years, he’s been the bottom line in Earth’s Mightiest Heroism. It’s a really tough act to follow, but if anyone is going to make us say “Bendis who?” in the next few months, it’s Jonathan Hickman. Starting from the first issue (on sale this week!), there’s a stage being set that will change the way we view the Avengers and their place in the grand scheme of the universe.

But who are the Avengers? What does it mean to join their ranks? How is it that, within the confines of a single issue, we’ve learned the essential secret to this new NOW! series? Click on, Dear Reader, and I will explain.

WARNING: I’ll be talking about the contents of Avengers #1, but you still probably want to read Avengers #1 and see for yourself if any of my theories match up. So grab a copy and read along!

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Comics A.M. | Woman shot following Walking Dead argument

The Walking Dead

Crime | Police say a Willston Park, New York, man shot his girlfriend in the back Monday following an argument about the AMC adaptation of The Walking Dead. Twenty-six-year-old Jared M. Gurman reportedly believed a military mishap could lead to the release of a virus, triggering a zombie apocalypse; Jessica Gelderman, 27, thought the idea was absurd. According to police, the argument escalated and even continued through text messages after Gelderman left the apartment to spend the night at her parents’ house. When Gelderman returned to try to smooth things over with her boyfriend, police allege he was sitting on the stairs with a .22-caliber rifle; a single round pierced her lung and diaphragm and shattered her ribs. Gurman was arrested when he took Gelderman to the hospital. She’s in stable condition with the bullet still in her body. [Newsday]

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Wait, is that ROM in that Age of Ultron panel?

If it seems like only last week that we were looking back on Marvel’s 1980s sci-fi series ROM: Spaceknight, that’s because we were. Spurred by Hasbro’s new trademark filing for ROM, we summed up the inauspicious history of the Parker Brothers action figure, and the more successful — and more fondly remembered — comic book it spawned.

But no sooner had we left Galador and the Dire Wraiths behind than Comic Book Resources debuted art from Marvel’s Age of Ultron #2, by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch. And right there on the massive two-page cork board, squeeze between photos of Doctor Strange and Wiccan, is none other than ROM, greatest of the Spaceknights!

Are the two things related? It’s certainly possible — after all, Marvel and Hasbro have had a long (and presumably profitable) relationship that continues to this day with Avengers and Superhero Squad action figures, giant plastic Hulk hands and the like. So who better than the House of Ideas to help revive that plastic relic of 1970s toy chests? However, it’s unlikely Marvel would plunk another company’s character into a major story event, particularly after it’s had to untangle its own creations from licensed properties over the decades (ROM, Micronauts, Godzilla, et al). It seems more probable that Bendis and Hitch are having a little fun, dropping a figure from Marvel’s past among some of its more prominent players. Still, though, an Easter egg like that is usually tucked away along the edges of a panel or a page, not smack-dab in the middle …

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Quote of the Day | Brian Bendis feels like he’s won something

“Not to sound like a doofus, but as of tomorrow I am officially an X-writer and I couldn’t be more honored. I feel like I’ve won something. I used to work behind the counter at Super City Comics in Cleveland. We would argue X-Men all day — as of tomorrow all arguments … won! Switching from Avengers to X-writer isn’t just some new gig. It’s a complete brain change. My entire psyche feels different. Scary. Exciting.”

– writer Brian Michael Bendis, looking forward to the Wednesday debut of Marvel’s All-New X-Men

NYCC | A roundup of news from Saturday

The Last of Us

While I was enjoying my time at APE up in San Francisco, the New York Comic Con was raging on with announcements and such. Before I get into a rundown of the comic-related news coming out of the East Coast today, let’s jump back to yesterday real quick so I can update one of the items from my Friday round-up. I mentioned that Dark Horse would publish a comic based on the upcoming video game The Last of Us, but I didn’t know at the time the most important part — the always awesome Faith Erin Hicks is co-writing AND drawing the comic. That’s a “Stop the presses” moment if I’ve ever seen one.

Ok, now on to Saturday …

• Apparently space is the place at NYCC … following DC’s announcement of Threshold yesterday, Marvel officially announced the return of two of their cosmic titles — Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova. Guardians, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Steve McNiven, comes out in February and apparently will feature Iron Man, or at least someone in his armor. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness are the creative team for Nova, which features Sam Alexander, the Nova from Avengers vs. X-Men.

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Food or Comics? | Beurre manié or Building Stories

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.

Building Stories

JK Parkin

If I had $15, I’d start with a couple of Marvel firsts, even though one of them isn’t technically a first issue: Uncanny Avengers #1 ($3.99) and Red She-Hulk #58 ($2.99). This is the first week of Marvel NOW, and they’re starting with books by creative teams I’m excited about. Next I’d get Stumptown V2 #2 ($3.99) and wind things up with the Halloween Eve one-shot. I actually supported the Kickstarter for the latter, so my copy is probably already on the way to my mailbox, but hypothetically let’s assume that it wasn’t. It’s by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, two creators whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past. So if it wasn’t coming to me in the mail, it would come home in a paper bag from the comic shop.

If I had $30, I’d add an outgoing Marvel title (Marvel THEN?), Fantastic Four #611, which features the end of Hickman’s run before he moves on to Avengers and Matt Fraction takes over the first family of Marveldom. Next I’d grab Green Lantern Corps #13 ($2.99) as I like the direction the GL books have been headed in lately, and Conan #9 ($3.50), the second half of Brian Wood’s collaboration with Vasilis Lolos. Finally, I’d grab Point of Impact #1 ($2.99), the new crime book by Jay Faerber and Koray Kuranel.

This is a splurge in price only; if I had $50, then Chris Ware’s Building Stories would definitely have been at the top of my buy list this week. It’s a big box of little comics, as Chris put it, and as luck would have it I really do have $50 in gift certificates that I got for my birthday to buy it with. Thanks Mom and Dad!

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What Are You Reading? with Alex de Campi

Megillat Esther

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week we’re joined by music video director and comic book writer Alex de Campi, whose works include Smoke, Kat & Mouse, Valentine and the in-production Ashes.

To see at Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Chain Reactions | Avengers vs. X-Men #12

Avengers vs. X-Men #12

Marvel’s latest blockbuster crossover series, Avengers vs. X-Men, which was written by everybody and drawn by everybody else, wrapped up this week. Issue #12 featured writer Jason Aaron in the driver’s seat, while Adam Kubert, John Dell and Mark Morales provided the visuals for the big finale.

So did the ending sizzle or fizzle? Carla shared her thoughts on Friday, and here are a few more opinions from around the web (beware of spoilers in many of the links):

James Hunt, Comic Book Resources: “…the final issue manages to pull the disparate story threads together and deliver a conclusion that, somehow, is satisfying. In part, that’s because it cheats, pretending that previous issues hit story beats that they manifestly didn’t. The issue opens with a recap that doesn’t quite resemble what came before, and a clutch of flashback scenes plug in story elements one suspects should have been made clearer much earlier on. The editorial lurch is self-evident, and jarring — but crucially, it’s one that’s forgivable, because it improves the issue and clears the way for the finale the event deserved.”

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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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Comics A.M. | Why collectors’ market is booming; Homestuck Kickstarter

Action Comics #1

Comics | Auction prices for comics and original comics art have soared over the past few years, ever since a copy of Action Comics #1 broke the $1-million mark in 2010. Barry Sandoval of Heritage Auctions (admittedly, not a disinterested party) and Michael Zapcic of the comics shop Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash discuss why that happened—and why prices are likely to stay high. [Underwire]

Crowdfunding | Homestuck is a phenomenon. Kickstarter is a phenomenon. Put them together and you get … a Kickstarter to fund a Homestuck game that raises $275,000 in a matter of hours. [Kotaku]

Creators | Brian Michael Bendis looks back on his eight-year run on Marvel’s Avengers franchise. [Marvel.com]

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The mob has spoken: Creators trump characters (mostly)

From Brubaker to Brubaker

Our informal poll last week about whether it’s a familiar creator or a familiar character that draws readers to a new title received more than 100 responses. That makes it about as accurate as some of the regular polls tracking the U.S. presidential race these days.

In case you missed it, in extrapolating from Kurt Busiek’s similar poll, I asked for people to chime in on what primarily gets them to throw down their money for a comic: creators or characters. Of course, I laid out my bias right away, and not everyone’s answers were completely clear cut, so we’ve probably got a pretty significant margin of error. But I was pleased to see that the majority of commenters either put creators first, or considered both when making a decision.

Of the 112 responses at the time of this writing, 85 said they either put creators first or relied on some kind of mix of creators and characters. Of that group, it was evenly split on creators (43) and a mix (42). Just 25 said characters held more weight than creators. While a third option wasn’t given in my original post, it was good to read about other factors that influence comics purchasing. A handful mentioned concept, theme, genre and, I guess, marketing. And two said story, which I guess means they read comics in the store before paying for them.

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Post-AvX, is Marvel quietly renovating its Architects line-up?

Marvel made a lot of hay over the introduction of its five key writers, the Architects, in 2010. “The very fabric of the Marvel Universe is changing and the Architects are the ones leading the charge.” the publisher said in its initial press release. But now, with its event series Avengers Vs. X-Men winding down and Marvel NOW! taking shape for the fall, those original Architects look to be in the middle of a renovation.

Marvel’s chief writer for the past few years, Brian Michael Bendis, is going from three key titles (Avengers, New Avengers, Avengers Assemble) to one (All-New X-Men); Matt Fraction is ending his long-term commitments on Iron Man and Thor to work on the Baxter Building with Fantastic Four and FF (along with Hawkeye); Jonathan Hickman is passing off all of his titles to take on Bendis’ Avengers and New Avengers load; and Jason Aaron has shuffled off Wolverine and The Incredible Hulk for just two titles in the Marvel NOW! era (at least, only ones announced), Wolverine & The X-Men and Thor: God of Thunder. Marvel stalwart Ed Brubaker, who revitalized Captain America, has whittled Marvel Universe workload to one book (Winter Soldier) that doesn’t seem to be a centerpiece of the company’s publishing plans.

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Comics A.M. | Sergio Toppi dies; what makes Spider-Man special

Sergio Toppi self-portrait

Passings | Italian comics artist Sergio Toppi has died at the age of 79. Most of his work seems to have been in Italian and French, but Archaia has plans to publish an English-language edition of his version of the Arabian Nights, Sharaz-De. [The Beat, Archaia]

Comics | Brian Truitt marks Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary by talking to creators from Stan Lee to Brian Michael Bendis about the 10 traits that make the web-slinger special. On a related note, Complex runs down the 50 most iconic Spider-Man images. [USA Today]

Publishing | If you’re interested in self-publishing, Todd Allen’s latest article about Ingram’s new, lower-cost color print-on-demand service is a must-read. Allen does the math for several different scenarios, in terms of format and distribution method, and boils it down into several handy charts. [Publishers Weekly]

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