INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
Image Expo returned on Thursday, and it wasn’t messing around. Each year, Image Comics seems to pack bigger announcements and bigger surprises into a single-day event. And the diversity of creators and genres gets that much better, too.
This year’s Image Expo — held again at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, following last July’s event at Comic-Con International in San Diego — included the now-standard keynote address by Publisher Eric Stephenson. He reviewed the past year’s successes and echoed plans to make Image the No. 1 publisher, but aside from throwing the gauntlet down at the feet of Marvel and DC, his address avoided some of the controversial statements and manifestos of years past. While I appreciate a good sabre-rattling, it allowed the focus to remain squarely on the creators and their comics.
With that in mind, here are my six favorite announcements from Image Expo 2015:
Crime | Police have surrounded an industrial park in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, France, 25 miles north of Paris, where the two suspects in Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo are believed to be hiding. Police say brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi have taken over a print shop and are holding a hostage, and have reportedly told negotiators they wish to die as martyrs. The Associated Press reports that a second, apparently linked siege at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris is believed to involve Amedy Coulibaly, suspected of killing a police officer on Thursday. Police say he’s holding at least six hostages. [The Guardian]
Oni Press series Hellbreak met a bit of a delay earlier this year, with coloring duties migrating from Eisner-winner Jordie Bellaire to Eisner-winner Dave Stewart, and Terrible Lizard, also written by Cullen Bunn, took the book’s place on the schedule. But the book — written by Oni veteran Bunn and illustrated by The Secret History of D.B. Cooper‘s Brian Churilla, is on track for a March 2015 debut.
“It follows a group called the Kerberos Project, which is working closely with the Catholic Church,” Bunn told CBR of Hellbreak in March of this year. “We find out that when someone is possessed, their soul is actually displaced so a demon or devil takes up residence in the person’s body and kicks their soul into Hell. There are an infinite numbers of Hells out there, each one different, each one ghastly and horrible in its own way.”
ROBOT 6 has the first look at a variant cover for issue #1 illustrated by Cliff Chiang, who recently wrapped an acclaimed three-year stint on Wonder Woman. Retailers can “unlock” the Chiang variant by ordering 100 copies of Hellbreak #1. The issue will have a total of three variants, each with a $3.99 cover price; but the standard cover by Churilla will be sold for the introductory price of $1. Chiang’s variant and Churilla’s standard cover both follow in full below.
All-New Doop (Marvel): It’s perfectly appropriate for any series starring peripheral X-Men character Doop to be a weird one, however, the miniseries collected in this trade paperback is weird in a weird way.
Doop was created by writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred for their iconoclastic (and somewhat -controversial) 2001 X-Force run, which was then relaunched under the name The X-Statix. The premise involved a group of celebrity-wannabe mutants who used their powers for fame and fortune by starring in a reality show; holding the camera was a mysterious, gross, floating, potato-shaped green creature that spoke its own, indecipherable language and answered to the name Doop.
Milligan imagined a dramatic behind-the-scenes life for the character in a two-part, 2003 Wolverine/Doop miniseries, and writer Jason Aaron ran with the joke, including Doop as a member of the faculty at the Jean Grey School during his Wolverine and The X-Men run. For the most part, Doop functioned as a background joke, one more signifier of the zany environment of the new school for young mutants, though Aaron did pair with Doop’s co-creator Allred for a one-issue story that focused on the character as a behind-the-scenes, floating potato-thing-of-all-trades.
Milligan returns to the character for this miniseries, in which Allred only provides the covers, while David LaFuente draws the majority of the art. Milligan takes Doop’s behind-the-scenes portfolio to an extreme, marking him as a character capable of traveling through “The Marginalia,” entering and exiting the comic-book tales in order to influence their outcome.
The story Doop influences here is “Battle of the Atom,” the Brian Michael Bendis-helmed X-Men crossover that involved Cyclops’ X-Men team, Wolverine’s X-Men team and an X-Men team from the future engaged in a fight over what to do with the teenage original X-Men plucked out of the Silver Age and currently hanging around the present.
In 2010, a time when the Star Wars prequels still lingered as a bitter aftertaste, Cliff Chiang created a set of posters that embraced both the franchise’s classic characters and the imagery of World War II-era propaganda campaigns– right down to the Empire’s version of “Loose lips sink ships.”
Now fast-forward four years, to a time when fans eagerly search for even the smallest details about director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII, which will not only launch a new trilogy, but a new era. The latest scrap of information from the film’s set comes courtesy of veteran producer Frank Marshall — husband of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy — who tweeted a photo of the warning that greets visitors at Pinewood Studios: Chang’s poster that oh-so-gently reminds us, “Loose Lips Bring Down Starships.”
Saturday, aka Day 2, of HeroesCon was much busier for creators, so I didn’t always get the opportunity to chat with them that I did on the first day of the Charlotte, North Carolina, convention. In those instances, in place of project updates I provide links to the creators and/or their related works.
“I felt a lot of pressure taking on this icon and knowing that Wonder Woman means so much to so many people. When I’m drawing her, I try to think about what that character is and make sure that I am paying respect to what other people feel about her. I’m trying to draw a character; I’m trying to draw a living, breathing person and make them feel as alive as I can to the reader. It’s funny when people come up to me and say they really like the way I draw her. They appreciate that she’s not oversexualized. That’s really a decision that an artist has to make — and it’s a lot of decisions. It’s not just, ‘Hey, whoops, my pen slipped and she’s suddenly too sexy.’ You’ve got to draw that thong bikini, you’ve got to draw those big boobs and all that stuff. I feel like we have to check ourselves and say, ‘Well, is this really accomplishing telling the story that we want to tell?'”
– artist Cliff Chiang, talking with CBR TV about developing his take on DC’s Wonder Woman
All Star (NBM): The latest graphic novel from Joe and Azat‘s Jesse Lonergan, All Star gets a lot of mileage out of its setting in both space and time. The space is an extremely small small town of Elizabeth, Vermont, a place with little to do and little chance of escape for the young, caged tiger types who are coming of age there. The time is 1998, and Lonergan returns again and again to the sports, politics and pop culture of the time for knowing gags, commentary on the events of the story or even just color.
Our protagonist is Carl Carter, the cocky, hot-shot all-star of the title, a fantastic baseball player whose skill could take him far from town once he graduates, and has made him one of his school and town’s most popular residents, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering brother (who is also his teammate).
One night, after drinking way too much at a party, he and his best friend make a stupid decision, one that gets his friend expelled from school and sent on a completely different path than Carl, who suspects his baseball skills and the importance of the sport to his school got him off light.
He begins soul-searching from there, and realizes too late how screwed-up his world is, and actually has been for a while, but it’s too late to do anything about. A tragedy — in the sense that it ends sadly rather than happily — All Star captures small-town adolescence perfectly (perhaps all too perfectly, depending on a reader’s mood and propensity for elegiac nostalgia), and is actually a great deal of fun, despite the down ending and the heavy melodrama.
Graphic novels | An estimated 200 students, faculty and community members gathered Saturday at the College of Charleston in South Carolina to protest proposed budget cuts to that school and the University of South Carolina Upstate in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — for their summer reading programs. The South Carolina House of Representatives approved a proposal early this month that would slash $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston and $17,142 for USC Upstate, which represent what each school spent on the programs. The budget is now before the state Senate. [The Post and Courier]
DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
Arriving on shelves Wednesday, Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Iron not only collects issues 0 and 13-18 of the DC Comics series but also includes such behind-the-scenes material as Cliff Chiang’s character designs for Orion and a rough sketch for the zero issue splash page. While much of the art debuted last year at New York Comic Con during the “Concept to Page” panel, the trade paperback also features Jim Lee’s take on Orion, which DC has provided exclusively to ROBOT 6, along with some of Chiang’s art. You can see it all below.
Brooklyn Brewery is celebrating the return of New York Comic Con on Oct. 10 with a redesign of its superhero-inspired brew Brooklyn Defender, courtesy of Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang. The American Black Ale was created exclusively for the convention last year, when it sported a design by Tony Millionaire.
“We’re thrilled to have Cliff design the Defender this year,” wrote Brooklyn Brewery’s Brian Dochney. “We’ve been admiring his design work for years, and his Wonder Woman run has been on our pull list every week. Cliff has given us a darker more contemporary Brooklyn Defender, willing to brave any bar to defend against his gallery of rogues the ‘Foam Jobs.'”
The ale was created by brewmaster Garrett Oliver, and it sports a vintage logo designed by the legendary Milton Glaser, New York magazine co-founder and the man behind the DC Comics bullet and I ♥ NY.
Brooklyn Defender will be relaunched Sept. 21 at the Brooklyn Brewery Tasting Room, and will be available before and during New York Comic Con at select venues (see the full list here).
DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee will appear with a half-dozen DC creators on the Jan. 22 episode of Face Off, the Syfy competition series that pits special-effects makeup artists against each other.
The episode, shot in July at Comic-Con International, challenges the competitors to create their own superheroes with assistance and advice from Lee, Mark Buckingham, Cliff Chiang, Tony S. Daniel, David Finch, Nicola Scott and J.H. Williams III. The winning design will be featured in Justice League Dark #16, which goes on sale Jan. 30.
It’s Thursday afternoon as you’re reading this, but it’s still Wednesday night as I write it. Usually on Wednesdays, I work at my day job until 5 p.m., and then, after I shout “Yabba-dabba-doo!” and slide down the tail of my sauropod/steam shovel, I hop into my car and drive to my local comic shop and pick up a small stack of comic books. Then I return to my apartment and read them, and then I write brief reviews of them all for a weekly feature I post on my home blog and then I write my weekly post for Robot 6.
Wednesdays are, generally speaking, pretty busy days for me. This one’s even busier than usual, as in addition to the above, I have a few extra writing assignments I need to finish before the end of the week and I still have two homemade Christmas presents for loved ones I need to finish putting together.
So then I had a brilliant idea! Well, an idea. Maybe instead of writing two blog posts tonight, one for Every Day Is Like Wednesday and one for Robot 6, I would just write my usual Wednesday-night blog post and put it here instead of there, thus killing two birds with one stone, as the saying, which was popularized back when people still killed birds with stones, goes.
Here then, are a few paragraphs about each of the new comic books I bought and read this Wednesday (now if only I could give blog posts as a Christmas gifts to my family members, the rest of this week would be pretty chill):
Publishing | DC Comics may no longer hold the rights to create new stories about The Spirit and other pulp heroes like Doc Savage and The Avenger, but it does retain the license to publish The Spirit Archives for “the foreseeable future,” according to Denis Kitchen, agent for the Will Eisner estate. Most of the hardcover collections are out of print. [The Beat]
Digital comics | Third time’s the charm for retailer Steve Bennett, as he goes through three different tablets (one was stolen, one malfunctioned) on his way to the ideal digital comics experience. [ICv2]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon kicks off his annual round of holiday interviews with a lengthy conversation with Alison Bechdel, creator of Fun Home and Are You My Mother? [The Comics Reporter]