Max Landis' New Comic, "Green Valley," Presents a Fantasy-Free Tale of Knights and Redemption
Comics strips | Terry LaBan and Patty LaBan are bringing their syndicated comic strip Edge City to an end after 15 years. In his farewell message, Terry LaBan cites not only exhaustion but also a sense that the funny pages aren’t what they used to be: “It’s rare to meet anyone who reads a newspaper anymore, at least anyone under the age of 50. Comic strips, which once occupied a place at the center of pop culture, have fallen completely off most people’s radar. As much as we love it, it’s depressing to work in a form that seems to have lost its relevance and is, for the most part, ignored.” [The Daily Cartoonist]
Film company Framelight Productions has launched a $20,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund Sword of Wood, a graphic novel based on an unpublished medieval horror story by Chuck Dixon. Framelight acquired the film and transmedia rights to Dixon’s story in 2010, and has hired the writer and artist Estève Polls to create the graphic novel.
Set during the First Crusade, Sword of Wood follows a holy knight named Lord Corrington who returns to his hometown to find the village ransacked by a swarm of vampires led by a villainous lord dubbed “the Apostle.”
Batman is celebrating his 75th birthday this year, which may come as a surprise. I mean, look at that smooth, handsome face, or what little of it is visible beneath his cowl. Look at those ripped muscles, or the way he runs across rooftops and beats up criminals — why, Batman doesn’t look a day over 35!
Now just as it did recently for Superman, DC Comics is releasing a pair of hefty, 400-page hardcover collections that serve as a sort of survey for how the character has been portrayed and functioned in the publisher’s comics line during since his first appearance. Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years and The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years aren’t exactly the comics equivalents of greatest-hits albums, but they are nice starting points for newcomers and/or casual fans, offering quick, compelling overviews of the title characters through the decades.
The Batman volume, featuring Jim Lee’s rendition of the character from the 2003 storyline “Hush” on the dust jacket, must have been particularly challenging to assemble, given the thousands and thousands of pages of Batman comics, featuring dozens of different takes by scores of creators.
“If you want to put politics in your own comic, go ahead, that’s a great thing. But to put it in mainstream superhero comics and use them as a platform for your own political views is something we object to. And we object to it from both ends. We don’t think these characters should be used for anyone’s point of views even if they agree with us. When I wrote these characters, I didn’t have them present my political views or any political views at all other than their own that are part of their character. Such as Batman is anti-gun. I wrote a lot of anti-gun speeches for Batman that were well-justified and compassionate. I am not personally anti-gun or anti-Second Amendment, but that’s the character. You don’t write it different than what’s established. That was basically our premise, that these were iconic characters shared by generation after generation and should be pretty much just left alone as good guys and bad guys.”
Creators | Stan Lee arrived at Sydney Airport for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo and was immediately presented with a “Captain Australia” shield, colored gold and green rather than red and blue. The Supanova Pop Culture Expo kicked off today, and continues through Sunday. [The Daily Telegraph]
Comics | Hussain Al-Shiblawi says he doesn’t usually mind the pamphlets he regularly receives from the local Bible Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia; even though he’s Muslim, he finds them inspirational. But he takes strong exception to the latest one, a Jack Chick tract titled Unforgiven, which claims that all Muslims are going to hell. The pastor, who declined to go on camera, says his church doesn’t create the pamphlets, it just distributes them, but he’s willing to meet with Al-Shiblawi to discuss the comic. [WDBJ News]
Awards | The awards ceremony for the recently renamed Stan Lee Eagle Awards has disappeared from the program of the London Film and Comic Con, and has been replaced by the True Believers Comic Awards. It’s not clear whether this is just a name change or something more, as Mike Conroy, the organizer of both awards, had no comment, but the Stan Lee nominations page is gone. There is an online voting page for the True Believers Comic Awards, however. Lee is still scheduled to attend the event in person. [Down the Tubes]
Creators | Writer Caitlin Kittredge talks about her first comic, Coffin Hill. [The Kindle Post]
Creators | I interviewed the “three-headed monster” behind the Adventures in Cartooning books — James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost — about their new kids’ graphic novel Sleepless Knight. [Good Comics for Kids]
Pop culture | Eighty years ago today, Donald Duck was introduced as a supporting character in the animated short “The Wise Little Hen,” part of Walt Disney Productions’ Silly Symphonies series. His comic strip debut came a few months later, in an adaptation of the short by Ted Osborne and Al Taliaferro that ran in Sunday newspapers between Sept. 16 and Dec. 16. To mark the milestone, the National Turk publishes “a love letter to the duck,” while The Telegraph offers 10 surprising facts about the character. [National Turk, The Telegraph]
Political cartoons | The South African cartoonist Zapiro, himself no stranger to controversy, said the Eyewitness News cartoon depicting the South African legislature and the people who voted for them as clowns (and calling the voters “poephols,” or idiots) was a mistake. “I think the EWN cartoonists made a big error in the way they depicted the voters, what they called them and the shadow in the bottom corner, which could be misconstrued as meaning black voters,” he said. “They should have – and the editors of EWN should have – picked it up. But, they have apologised and anything that goes beyond that now is just bandwagoning by politicians.” Meanwhile, a fake Zapiro cartoon made the rounds on social media over the weekend. It’s based on a real 2002 cartoon that showed doctors finding the brain of then-president George W. Bush while giving him a colonoscopy; the fake cartoon substitutes South African President Jacob Zuma, who went into the hospital over the weekend. [Times Live]
Chuck Dixon might be best known for his hard-charging stories of Batman, the Punisher and G.I. Joe, but he’s more than a work-for-hire writer — even though he’s good at it. Dixon got his start in creator-owned comics with 1984’s Evangline at Comico (and later First), and now after three decades as primarily a hired gun, he’s returning to his roots with a renewed vigor and years of experience under his belt.
The co-creator of DC stalwarts like Bane and Birds of Prey tells ROBOT 6 his future looks to be predominately focused on creator-owned comics, and he has no less than three creator-owned projects in the works — including one with his former collaborator Graham Nolan. That’s in addition to his recent foray into prose military fiction; after the success of the SEAL Team Six novels with Dynamite Entertainment, Dixon has gone into business for himself with a new series titled Bad Times, featuring a group of scientists and Special Forces solders who are transported 100,000 years into the past. With his time on G.I. Joe coming to an end with April’s G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Dixon’s next tour of duty may end up being his greatest yet.
Manga | While at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, I had a chance to study the French manga market and talk to some of the publishers. Manga represents more than one-third of the French comics market (last year, there were more new manga releases than BDs), and sales and production dipped for the first time last year. [Publishers Weekly]
Comics | Gary Cox rounds up reactions from refugees to the Australian government’s online comic that warns them not to try to enter the country without a visa. “The people who are coming here are not economic migrants, they’re coming to have a safer, peaceful life here,” says Ibrar Hassani. And an advocate for refugees pointed out that the images of refugees suffering in detention centers were evidence that the government is deliberately mistreating them. [SBS]
You might think you know about DC’s Birds of Prey … but do you really? Created in 1995 by Chuck Dixon, Gary Frank and editor Jordan B. Gorfinkel, the team led by Oracle (and later Black Canary) is arguably the best-known female superhero team in comics. Although the short-lived live-action television series didn’t do it any favors, the team — and the title — have gone on to become a staple in DC’s superhero playbook. But in all those stories from Dixon to Gail Simone and on to the New 52 adventures, do you remember the time they fought in World War II? I didn’t think so.
In 2001, Dixon worked with Argentine artist Lito Fernandez on a throwback issue depicting Babs and Dinah’s life as a “WW2 Era aviation newspaper strip,” the writer recalled. Paying homage to the likes of Milton Caniff and Frank Robbins, the issue was planned to be published similar to the WWII comic strips with black-and-white weekday serials and full-color “Sunday” sections. Created as an inventory issue to run in the Christmas season, for one reason or another it was never published, and Dixon left the series the next year.
This story seemed doomed to be lost in the sands of time, but Dixon posted the unlettered, uncolored pages Fernandez drew (they’ve been there for a while, apparently, but this is the first I’ve seen them). Here’s a sample, but visit Dixon’s site for the entire story.
“Comics used to be easy. You pitched something and if one publisher didn’t buy it, another would. Margins are tight now, and few comics are profitable. So it’s more like the Hollywood model of pitches and notes and so and so on while years crawl by. The same reasons I never wanted to write a screenplay are now present in comics. The ebooks let me just write the damned thing, and it’s out for public consumption within weeks.”
Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., the company founded by the creator of Tarzan and still run by his family, has begun publishing webcomics based on six of the author’s most famous creations. Roy Thomas and Tom Grindberg (who have been producing the Tarzan comic strips since 2012) continue creating new stories featuring the ape man, while Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle explore the Earth’s Core world of Pellucidar. Writer Martin Powell is joined by four different artists on the remaining series: Carson of Venus (with Thomas Floyd and Diana Leto), The Eternal Savage (with Steven E. Gordon), The Cave Girl (with Diana Leto), and The War Chief (with Nik Poliwko).
The ERB Inc. website has samples of each series for free, and readers can then subscribe to all six for $1.99 a month. Each series updates weekly, so that’s about 24 pages for just $2; a great deal.
I had some questions about the initiative, so I contacted Powell, who was extremely helpful. For one thing, these webcomics don’t affect Dark Horse, which still holds the license for printed Tarzan comics. He also explained why there’s no series for John Carter: “I originally auditioned for John Carter of Mars, but Disney/Marvel still has a hold on it. Still, ERB Inc. was apparently impressed enough that they offered me Carson of Venus and allowed me to assemble my own art team, which I’ve done for my other four ERB comic strips as well. So, you could say in a sense that I am Carson … we both aimed at Mars and ended up on Venus!”
[Bane co-creator] Graham [Nolan] and I both signed participation agreements, which are good in perpetuity. So it’s not up to them whether they take care of us. We’re taken care of. We’ve seen money from Bane all along – the Lego games and the little Bane-shaped piece in the Spaghettios. We always get a piece of what Bane makes. We’ll see money from this movie. They have graphs and charts to figure out how much based on how many lines of dialogue he has and how much he’s in the movie and how much impact he has on the story. We were part of it the last time when Bane was in the last [Joel] Schumacher film really briefly. We participated in that.
– Chuck Dixon, on the benefits of creating Bane for DC Comics
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our guest this week is writer and letterer Ed Brisson, whose comic Comeback with artist Michael Walsh arrives in November. He’s also the writer of Murder Book and Black River.
To see what Ed and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Legal | In a motion for summary judgment filed Monday in the long-running legal battle for the rights to Superman, attorneys for Warner Bros. are revisiting their 2009 argument that the estate of Joe Shuster has no grounds to reclaim the artist’s share of the copyright to the Man of Steel. They point to a 1992 agreement in which the estate relinquished all claims in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” which included DC Comics paying Shuster’s remaining debts follow his death earlier that year, and providing his sister Jean Seavy with a $25,000 annual pension. Daniel Best has the documents, while Jeff Trexler provides context, noting that the new filing “filing wasn’t a Perry Mason-esque unveiling of surprising new facts. Rather, it was a routine motion for summary judgment.” A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 20. [20th Century Danny Boy, The Beat]