The mythologies built by comics, particularly superhero comics, is often pointed out as one of the great accomplishments of the medium.
There’s no doubt the Marvel and DC universes are impressive feats of world-building. In Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe proclaimed the Marvel Universe “the most intricate fictional narrative in the history of the world”. If you discount DC because of its various universe resets from Crises and Flashpoints and what-have-yous, I guess that’s true. Whoever gets to wear the crown, both sets of characters have been generating dozens of stories, usually hundreds of stories, every month since the late 1930s. Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon universe might be in third place.
Of course, superhero comics aren’t alone in this: In Japan, popular manga series also tend to get pretty long in the tooth. Osamu Akimoto’s police comedy Kochikame has been running weekly since 1976, resulting in more than 1,700 chapters collected in nearly 200 volumes. Takao Saito’s twice-monthly crime manga Golgo 13 is older, having launched in 1969. One Piece has 69 volumes, Naruto has 64, and Bleach 58.
These are amazing accomplishments, but we don’t appreciate the satisfying arc of a finite story often enough.
Although tickets for this year’s Comic-Con International don’t go on sale until Feb. 16, it’s likely they’ll go fast, and many fans who want to attend will have to look for other ways to get a badge.
Here’s one of those alternative opportunities: WeLoveFine is holding an X-Men & Wolverine Design Contest, with the grand prize being a trip to San Diego for this year’s. All you have to do to enter is design a T-shirt featuring the X-Men that’s good enough to impress the judges — one of whom is legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont.
Claremont, one of comics’ “Iron Men,” knows a thing or two about the X-Men, and he worked with some of the industry’s best artists during his almost 200-issue run on Uncanny X-Men. So it’s a bit intimating, to say the least, but if you’re up for the challenge, then best of luck … we hope you survive the experience.
More details on the contest can be found below.
Although I had seen the X-Men on an episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, my real introduction to Marvel’s mutant heroes was with 1983′s The Uncanny X-Men #173, purchased for me by my mother while I was home sick with one childhood illness or another. That issue also introduced Storm’s ’80s-punk look, meaning that, until I discovered a direct-market store and a back-issue bin a couple of years later, the only Ororo Munroe I knew had a mohawk and studded collar. (As an aside, Paul Smith’s rendition of Rogue, with her skunk stripe, led me to think for the longest time that she was middle-aged rather than a teenager.)
To this day, that version of Storm remains my favorite. It apparently also holds a special place in the heart of Sam Humphries, writer of Sacrifice, Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates and Uncanny X-Force, has launched F Yeah Mohawk Storm, a blog devoted to “comics, covers, fan art, cosplay, and fashion celebrating Mohawk Storm.”
You have to wonder what took so long for this to happen …
Comic creators come and go, but it’s the ones who stick around and become veterans who tend to make the biggest mark on the industry. Some work continuously in comics while others take a hiatus from the business and then return later: Jack Kirby did it, as did James Robinson, Alex Toth, Brian K. Vaughn and others.
One of the most recent big splashes by a returning veteran has been Greg Capullo, who took a hiatus from comics in the 2000s after making a name for himself on Spawn, X-Force and Quasar. In 2009, he limbered up working on Image’s Haunt and sealed the deal when he jumped to DC Comics in 2011 to relaunch Batman with Scott Snyder. That got me thinking: Are there other creators floating around on the outskirts of comics, or outside of comics completely, who could pose a formidable force if they returned to comics — and more importantly, if the comics industry knew how to use them? It’s with that in mind that I compiled this list.
Conventions | Attendance at New York Comic Con was about 116,000, according to ReedPop Group Vice President Lance Fensterman, who talked about why lines were so long outside the Javits Center, the decision to put artists alley in the North Pavilion, and the problem of counterfeit badges. The construction at the Javits will be complete next year, opening up an additional 90,000 square feet for the event. [ICv2]
Conventions | Sam Thielman explores the way marketers use New York Comic Con to sell everything from video games to Craftsman tools. [Adweek]
Conventions | Scott Cacciola tags along after Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez, a huge comics fan in both senses of the word, as he makes his way through NYCC, hangs out with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, and checks out artists alley. [The Wall Street Journal]
Legal | Marvel has sued a Jerusalem retailer for $25,000, claiming the well-known Kippa Man store is infringing on its trademarks by selling unlicensed yarmulkes bearing Spider-Man’s likeness. “A reasonable consumer could be fooled into thinking that the infringing product is manufactured and/or sold by the plaintiff with the knowledge and/or approval of the defendant,” Marvel said in its complaint. Kippa Man owner Avi Binyamin notes the yarmulkes are manufactured in China, and that he only sells them. “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing,” he told The Jerusalem Post, theorizing that he’s being targeted because his store is well known. The Times of Israel characterized the lawsuit as “the first move by Marvel against what it perceives as widespread copyright infringement in Israel, where products featuring its copyrighted superheros are commonly sold.” [The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel]
Madelyne Pryor, the Jean Grey lookalike introduced in Uncanny X-Men #168, was put through the ringer by writers over the years, as she went from being Scott Summers’ wife and Cable’s mother to a clone of Jean Grey and eventually a supervillain. You’ve gotta love any Wikipedia entry that comes with the caveat, “Madelyne’s biography has been rendered particularly complicated because of the many retcons involved in the publication history of both her character and that of Jean Grey.”
But that wasn’t always the plan for the character, as legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont notes in the video below. The footage is from an interview conducted for the upcoming documentary Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont’s X-Men. Filmmakers were able to reunite Claremont, writer Louise Simonson and editor Ann Nocenti for a discussion of their time working on the X-franchise.
Since the dawn of the medium, comic books largely have been the creation of writers and artists working hand-in-hand to produce the characters, stories, titles and universes you follow each week. Recently, however, lawsuits by comic creators against publishers — and sometimes other creators — have raised the question of where, when and how a comic is truly created. Are they the product of the writer, with the artist simply tasked to illustrate the story based on instructions laid out in a script or outline? Or is it a communal effort, with writer and artist both providing unique contributions to the creation of the character and setting, each serving as a storyteller in the planning, coordination and draftsmanship of the actual comic pages? In recent years, comics have become a writer-centric medium, for better or worse, but artists continue to play a crucial, if sometimes overlooked, role in the design of characters and transformation of the writer’s scripts into, you know, comics.
In an interview with ICv2.com, Howard Chaykin relayed a story about how an unnamed writer views an artist’s contribution as “absolutely nothing to do with the creative process in comics.” “I am of the belief that the artist does 50 percent of the ‘writing’ in comic books,” said Chaykin, who’s worked as a writer and artist for decades. “I think the guy is plum crazy. It staggered me in its limited understanding of what comic books are about.”
Creators | How did Darwyn Cooke get involved with the Before Watchmen comics? “I was kind of dragged into it kicking and screaming by [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio. He had been discussing this for what does amount to several years now, and the first time he had approached me about it, I had actually turned it down simply because I couldn’t see doing anything that would live up to the original. And, it was about a year later, the story idea that I’m working on now sort of came to me and I realized that there was a way to do the project, and I had a story that I thought was exciting enough to tell. So I phoned Dan up and said, ‘Hey, if you still got room, I’m in.’” [Rolling Stone]
Creators | Ron Marz discusses Prophecy, his upcoming comic that turns the whole Mayan calendar thing into a crossover event that will bring together an eclectic group of characters, and defends the idea of crossovers in general: “If your objection is “they’re not in the same universe,” or a crossover somehow offends your sense of continuity, I’d suggest you’re missing the point. More than any other medium, comics are about unfettered imagination, about making the impossible possible. If you’re going to let some perceived “rules” prevent you from telling an exciting story, you’re just not trying very hard. Having a sense of wonder, of discovery, is much more important than following some set of perceived rules and regulations.” [MTV Geek]
Publishing | The 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece has sold more than 3 million copies in Japan in less than two months, beating the two previous volumes to that goal. No other manga has sold that many copies so quickly since the market research firm Oricon began releasing sales figures in April 2008. [Anime News Network]
Comic strips | After 33 years on the comics page, Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia is hanging up her cigarette and typewriter and calling it a day. Hollander is upfront about the reason: “After the Chicago Tribune dropped Sylvia, my income was cut by half and Sylvia disappeared from my hometown. I felt the loss.” She will continue to post vintage Sylvia strips on her blog. [Bad Girl Chats]
Legal | A Belgian court has rejected a five-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have the 1946 edition of Herge’s Tintin in the Congo banned because of its racist depictions. “It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to … create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment,” the court said in its judgment. Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, who launched the campaign in 2007 to ban the book, plans to appeal. [The Guardian]
Publishing| John Rood, DC’s executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development, discusses the results of the New 52 readership survey, noting right of the bat that it’s “not indicative of the actual system wide performance,” which makes you wonder what it’s good for. He has some interesting things to say about bringing back lapsed readers and the demographics of DC readers in general, though. [Publishers Weekly]
One of the key figures in modern comics is Chris Claremont. After the epic period of creativity that came out of the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, Claremont emerged as one of the preeminent storytellers in the Bronze Age. Claremont became a defining voice for modern superhero comics through his work on Uncanny X-Men and related titles, and although he didn’t create the concept, he’s the one who made it work–and made it flourish.
After doing a number of peripheral X-Men titles and other work in recent years, the writer stepped away from mutants–and comics at large. The final issues of X-Men Forever 2, New Mutants Forever and Chaos War: X-Men came out in early 2011 but were written by the New York-based writer in late 2010. For over a year now, Chris Claremont hasn’t written a single page of comics script.
Although he’s turned his focus to prose novels for the time being, Claremont remains in tune with developments in the comic industry that he worked in for so many years. In a far-ranging discussion with the London-born writer, we talked about the modern comics movie blockbuster, digital comics, the seduction of work-for-hire and news about his own creator-owned comics.
Chris Arrant: 2011 was a different kind of year for you and for fans of your work, Chris. What are you planning for 2012?
Chris Claremont: Well, I’ve got a prose novel making the rounds to potential publishers, and a short story in Simon & Schuster’s Under The Moons of Mars: New Adventures of Barsoom anthology. I’m working on another novel that’ll hopefully be in a position to start sharing with publishers soon as well. This year’s the first time I’ve been able to do things that are all totally mine and all totally different.
Chris Arrant: Are these sequels to your Willow novels or perhaps the First Flight novels you did a few years back?
Chris Claremont: No, the Willow books are George Lucas’; the fate of that is up to him. And these aren’t connected to First Flight either. They’re all in different genres with different emphasis. The novel making the rounds now is a young-adult adventure, and the novel on my desk right now that I’m stitching together for my agent is much more of a mystery/suspense.
Chris Arrant: Even if you’re working outside of comics currently, you’ll always be associated with the medium. Given that you have a little distance from the day-to-day of working in comics, what are your thoughts about the comics industry and medium as a whole?
Chris Claremont: This is the first time in 40 years that I haven’t written a line of comics work in a year. That is part of what’s enabled me to do a lot more prose. It’s a totally different experience, and I’m getting used to being on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out.
Creators | Longtime Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont is donating his archives to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The collection includes materials for all of his major writing projects over the past 40 years, notebooks with story ideas, drafts of short stories, plays, novels and comic books, and materials from his early training in the theater and his career as an actor. “We hope this is the first of more comics papers to come to the University,” said Karen Green, Columbia University’s ancient/medieval studies librarian and graphic novel librarian. “We want it to be a magnet for these kinds of archives in New York City, where the comics medium was born.” [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Michael Cavna talks to two comics creators with very different takes on Occupy Wall Street, sequential journalist Susie Cagle, who was arrested as part of the Occupy Oakland protests, and conservative editorial cartoonist Nate Beeler, who walks past the Occupy D.C. site every day and regards it as “quaint,” smelly, and out of step with the rest of the country.” [Comic Riffs]
Although Chris Claremont didn’t create the X-Men, he’s the one that defined them from 1974 to 1991, leaving a lasting impact on the characters and influencing future writers who worked on the franchise. And in a new documentary called Comics In Focus: Chris Claremont’s X-Men, the documentary filmmakers behind the recent Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis films take on the legendary scribe’s impact on Marvel’s mutants. And to get it made, they need your help.
Using the popular crowd-funding website Kickstarter, the documentary producers Sequart Research & Literary Organization and Respect Films are asking for $3,500 in fan support to make the film happen. Director Patrick Meaney spoke with Claremont as well as many of his chief collaborators such as Art Adams to get the inside-baseball perspective on the the writer and his definitive work.
If the funding is met and the film does well, the producers hope this will be the first in a series of Comics In Focus documentaries looking at the major moments in comics history.
So far over $400 of the $3,500 has been raised with 28 days to go, with excellent prizes for those that donate $10 or more.
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. We’re coming a little late today due to a power outage in my neck of the woods — due to a blackout, not because I spent the money for the electric bill on Flashpoint or Fear Itself tie-ins.
If I had $15, my first pick off the shelf would be Vengeance #1 (Marvel, $3.99); I love Joe Casey, and especially when he’s given a long leash and room to play in a big universe. Seeing Nick Dragotta drawing this is an added bonus. Next up would be comics’ dueling summer blockbusters, Flashpoint #3 (DC, $3.99) and Fear Itself #4 (Marvel, $3.99). After that, I’d get the excellent Flashpoint: Batman, Knight of Vengeance #2 (DC, $2.99); when Azzarello is on the ball he’s great to read, and this seems to be that.