INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
Creators | Responding to the removal of Maus from Moscow bookstores as the Russian government cracks down on Nazi symbols, Art Spiegelman said, “It’s a real shame because this is a book about memory. We don’t want cultures to erase memory.” Retailers fear the swastika on the graphic novel’s cover may be enough to run afoul of a new law prohibiting “Nazi propaganda” as the country prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany. “I don’t think Maus was the intended target for this, obviously,” the cartoonist told The Guardian. “But I think [the law] had an intentional effect of squelching freedom of expression in Russia. The whole goal seems to make anybody in the expression business skittish.” [The Guardian]
Conventions | Lance Fensterman, ReedPOP’s global senior vice president, talks about his company’s strategy of focusing on a few big shows, rather than a lot of smaller ones, and gives the numbers for last month’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo: Attendance was about 62,900, up 18 percent from last year, and the show floor grew by 15,000 square feet. Attendees are mostly in the 18-to-35 age group, and the majority are male, although the proportion of women at C2E2 has increased by 6 percent since 2011. Male or female, many of the folks on the floor seem to be “casual consumers” rather than “hardcore fans”: About 50 percent of attendees at New York Comic Con were there for the first time. “Depending on which exhibiting company you’re talking to, they either love it or they’re not sure what to do with it,” Fensterman said. “You’re delivering new readers and new potential consumers. We think it’s cool that you’re getting that fresh perspective, not quite so jaded (been there, done that).” [ICv2]
Publishing | I talked with TOON Books founder Francoise Mouly about her new imprint, TOON Graphics, which will feature “visual books” (picture books and comics) for readers ages 8 and up. The line launches with three titles: Theseus and the Minotaur, by Yves Pommaux, Cast Away on the Letter A, by Fred, and Hansel and Gretel, retold by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. [Publishers Weekly]
Commentary | Former DC Comics senior editor Joan Hilty tackles the issue of sexism in comics and calls for publishers to include more women in their senior editorial rank:. “Women are getting the bestselling books into stores and greenlighting the million-dollar movie franchises, but they’re barely represented among the creative executives who map out the universes and storytelling strategies. That’s where you cement broad-based, long-term loyalty to authors and characters, tap new audiences and trends, and grow readership, without which none of those books or movies would exist.” [The Guardian]
Buzzkill writer Donny Cates is teaming with Space-Mullet cartoonist Daniel Warren Johnson and colorist Lauren Affe for Ghost Fleet, a 12-issue series the Dark Horse teases will blend big rigs and conspiracies.
Arriving Nov. 5, the action series centers on Ghost Fleet, the go-to trucking service for transporting the world’s most valuable, most dangerous and most secretive cargo. But when one driver takes a peek at his payload, his life is changed forever.
Convention organizer ReedPOP is partnering with the social network Wikia to launch the C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay, described as “the biggest and most prestigious costume contest in the United States.”
Debuting in April at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, the competition will bring together veterans and amateurs alike in a battle for more than $10,000 in cash and prizes.
“With some of the amazing costumes we’ve seen at our other shows, we thought it would make for a great showdown between the best of the best in cosplay,” Lance Fensterman, Global Vice President of ReedPOP, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have teamed up with Wikia for the C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay to truly celebrate pop culture and the creativity of its fans.”
The inaugural event will feature a panel of celebrity judges that includes Ashley Eckstein (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Her Universe fashion line), Yaya Han (Heroes of Cosplay) and Nan Cibula-Jenkins (costume designer and head of costume design at The Theatre School at DePaul University).
Naturally, the subject matter — the Sentinel of Liberty flinging his mighty shield in front of Willis Tower, now the second-tallest building in the United States — is no accident: Sure, the convention is held at Chicago’s McCormick Center, but there’s also the matter of Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which opens just three weeks before the event.
Conventions | Last week’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo drew 53,000 attendees, the largest crowd yet for the Chicago-based show, which is in its fourth year. Reed Exhibitions Group Vice President Lance Fensterman talks about the high points of the show and plans for the next couple of years. [ICv2]
Graphic novels | Heidi MacDonald tracks the rise in popularity of graphic novels among librarians, whose support has been integral to the growth of the industry. Her well-researched article includes interviews with public librarians, school librarians, and academic librarians, as well as publishers and others in the field. It’s a comprehensive overview of one of the most important, and least reported-on, areas of our world. [Publishers Weekly]
Comics | Alex Hern looks at three comics that have long been out of print but are now back, or possibly on their way back: Flex Mentallo, Marvelman and Zenith. [The New Statesman]
Retailing | As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, Jacob Weisberg looks at how Amazon and Congress have managed to delay online sales taxes for more than a decade, giving online retailers a significant advantage over brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon, which has long fought any attempts to collect sales tax through lobbying, campaign contributions and threats to move to warehouse jobs, now supports the legislation, with Weisberg contending the retail giant “has played out the clock longer than it dared hope and would now like to be able to build warehouses everywhere without doing state-by-state battle over its ‘physical presence.'” The bill seems likely to pass the Senate, but its fate in the House is far less certain. [Slate.com]
Publishing | DC Comics has put together a guide to its graphic novel backlist, which will be available both in print and digitally. [Publishers Weekly]
Sure, there was plenty of news released by just about every comic publisher over the weekend at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (as rounded up right here), but the most exciting thing I noticed about the convention was Dave Johnson’s Instagram feed going ballistic. If he produced a sketch for you at the event, chances are he recorded it for posterity on his phone and has posted it already. And if you’re really lucky, Eric Canete has logged in and made a daft gag about it, too.
Also below: the sexiest Death ever.
Retailing | The direct market is looking good, with first-quarter sales up 29 percent over last year, according to figures released at the Diamond Retailer Summit. Heidi MacDonald reports, “There was no single element which seemed to be behind to surge, although sales of The Walking Dead comics and graphic novels were frequently mentioned. The general interest in “nerd culture” seems to be driving much of the merchandise and publishing growth, with more offerings in the housewares category a standout: Diamond is now offering their own line of such things as bottle openers and ice cube trays, such as a Walking Dead themed ice cube tray in the shape of body parts.” [Publishers Weekly]
Conventions | CBR and Robot 6 are covering C2E2 in depth, but for a quick overview, check out Christopher Borrelli’s recap and photo gallery. [Chicago Tribune]
I think IDW and Dark Horse are having some sort of competition at C2E2 this weekend to see who can overwhelm my email box with the most press releases, or at least that’s what it seemed like last night when a ton of press releases pop up around the same time from both companies. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve heard from both of them at the show thus far …
• Both companies announced they’ve picked up some new licenses. As I noted yesterday, Dark Horse will publish Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest starting later this year, and they’ve also picked up the license for new Halo comics. IDW, meanwhile, has picked up the license to the Jay Ward characters, with plans for series Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Rocky & Bullwinkle next year. Also, two of IDW’s other licensed titles will meet up in Mars Attacks Judge Dredd by Al Ewing and John McCrea. The first issue arrives in September.
• Both companies are also reaching into comics’ past to bring back some titles we haven’t seen in awhile. IDW announced that they’ll release deluxe hardcovers of Christian Gossett’s The Red Star this fall. They’re also bringing back Zombie War by Kevin Eastman, Tom Skulan and Eric Talbot in October. The original series was published by FantaCo and Tundra back in 1993. Dark Horse is resurrecting Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy, which was originally published by Burlyman Entertainment.
Here’s an announcement you don’t see very often — a price drop. Action Lab Entertainment, publishers of Princeless, NFL RushZone and the upcoming Molly Danger series, announced at C2E2 this weekend that they plan to drop prices on all their ongoing series later this year.
Starting with the titles in June’s Previews catalog, Action Lab’s ongoing, 32-page comics will drop from $3.99 to $2.99. The licensed NFL RushZone, which is 20 pages, will drop to $1.99 and come out twice monthly. This month sees the number of Action Lab’s ongoing titles almost double, as they launch several new mature readers comics under the Action Lab: Danger Zone imprint. These titles include Ehmm Theory, The Final Plague, Ghost Town and Night of the ’80s Undead.
Additionally, beginning with Jamal Igle’s Molly Danger in July, Action Lab will also offer “a number of 48 page oversized European style hardcovers at $19.99,” according to the press release.
While there may not have been a slew of big announcements coming out of DC’s C2E2 panels this weekend, there were several fun little tidbits that came up during the panels, particularly during the Q&A sessions. Here are a few that caught my eye from the New 52 panel and the Superman/Batman panel:
• While Static won’t be joining the Teen Titans, Bob Harris, DC editor-in-chief, did say something “might be happening with Static relatively soon.” Static Shock was one of the first titles cancelled after the launch of the New 52, and I don’t think we’ve seen the character since then (I should always ask Tom before I make statements like that). He’s the most well-known character to come out of the Milestone universe, having had his own cartoon, so a return would make sense.
• A fan asked whether there would be “an answer as to Renee Montoya’s status in the New 52″ and whether Batwoman will be drawn closer to the other Bat-books. “Yes and yes,” Harras said. Montoya took over as the Question in the pre-New 52 universe, and since that role is already taken by someone else entirely in the New 52, it’s doubtful she’ll be taking on that name again (though I wouldn’t rule it out completely). But she had a pretty rich history in the DCU even before that, so she’d be a welcome addition.
Dark Horse Comics announced at C2E2 this weekend that they’ve reached an agreement with creators Richard and Wendy Pini to bring the long-running cult hit Elfquest back to the printed page. The first release arrives in the fall and will be the prologue to Elfquest: The Final Quest, which is currently being serialized on BoingBoing. Following that, Dark Horse will release The Final Quest alongside all-new editions of previously published material.
“Dark Horse is a company I’ve admired ever since it sprang on the scene in the 1980s. Somehow, as large as they’ve grown, they’ve retained an independent spirit that Richard and I totally identify with. The quality of their offerings is legendary and I’m extremely happy that Elfquest is part of their lineup,” Wendy Pini said in a press release.
Publishing | In advance of Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada discuss who’s reading their comics, and the creative challenges of writing about characters who have been around for generations. Asked if he was the custodian of contemporary myths, DiDio answered, “You know, I feel like a renter, to be honest. I’m in charge at this moment, and the goal is to keep these myths healthy enough so that, eventually, you can pass them down to the next person who rents them.” [Chicago Tribune]
Conventions | Christopher Butcher, the organizer of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, talks about how the show has grown and what to expect this year, including an interesting slate of international creators, from David B. to Taiyo Matsumoto. [The Comics Reporter]