The shortlist has been announced for the 2014 Stan Lee Excelsior Award, whose winners will be selected by students from 77 secondary schools across the United Kingdom.
Established in 2011 by Paul Register, a school librarian in Sheffield, the awards are designed to promote comics and to encourage children and teenagers to read. The winners — first, second and third place — will be announced in July. The nominees are:
- Indestructible Hulk: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu (Marvel)
- Quantum and Woody: The World’s Worst Superhero Team, by James Asmus and Tom Fowler (Valiant)
- The Judas Coin, by Walter Simonson (DC Comics)
- Aliens: Inhuman Condition, by John Layman and Sam Kieth (Dark Horse)
- Earth 2: The Gathering, by James Robinson and Nicola Scott (DC Comics)
- Sherlock Bones, by Yuma Ando and Yuki Sato (Kodansha)
- Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z, by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. (Marvel)
- The Halloween Legion, by Martin Powell and Thomas Boatwright (Dark Horse)
Welcome to Best of 7, our new weekly wrap-up post here at Robot 6. Each Sunday we’ll talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out on Wednesday.
So without further ado, let’s get to it …
Comics | Rupp’s Comics in Fremont, Ohio, will display a rare comic this weekend as part of the store’s 22nd-anniversary celebration: Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48, published in 1933, is the first comic book to contain a single original story (as opposed to several strips, or a compilation of reprints from newspapers). The new format was not an immediate success, and the series was canceled after just one issue. [The News-Messenger]
Creators | It’s old but it’s good: The Comics Journal dips into the archives for a 1989 interview with Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. [The Comics Journal]
Creators | John Porcellino reflects on 25 years of King-Cat Comics. [du9]
It’s been more than a year and a half — 19 issues and an annual — but the New 52 version of Earth 2 still feels like a work in progress.
The series began with the last battle of an Apokoliptian war that claimed the lives of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, which was followed soon afterward by the debuts of “wonders” (not “marvels,” no sir) like the Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. To a certain extent, each was meant to remind readers of the heroes of the original Earth-Two, where Superman and Lois Lane met in 1938 and married in the early 1950s, and where Batman and Catwoman saw their daughter Helena become a successful attorney. When everything started getting organized into a Multiverse in 1961, Earth-Two became the home of DC’s Golden Age characters, including Jay Garrick’s Flash and Alan Scott’s Green Lantern. Indeed, for more than 70 years Jay and Alan were part of DC’s first generation of superheroes, serving as inspiration for the many who followed.
Not so with the current Earth 2, where Jay and Alan are themselves inspired by the heroic sacrifices of that world’s Trinity. On one level, Earth 2 is a way to reintroduce those characters in a present-day context, breaking them down into more basic forms and building them up through a series of fiery trials. Talk about a “never-ending battle” — in Earth 2, war is never far away, whether it’s the reminders of past devastation or the dark portents of new tragedies. Originally I thought this might be writer James Robinson’s way to evoke the world-at-war atmosphere of the 1940s, but now I’m not so sure. Current writer Tom Taylor may simply want to put the “wonders” through a pretty rigorous series of tests. Now, that in itself has become a well-worn DC trope (Geoff Johns personified it some 10 years ago with his updated Reverse-Flash), and it’s not one of which I am especially fond. It has tended to emphasize the “testing” more than the eventual triumph, so it threatens to become a trial for the reader as well.
And yet, like Caleb appreciating the Taylor-written Injustice: Gods Among Us,I have looked forward to each new issue of Earth 2. It’s definitely not the original. Sometimes it’s barely an homage to the original. However, it needs to be its own thing, and this week I’ll tell you why.
On the heels of Time magazine, National Public Radio has released a substantial list of the best books of 2013, which includes a dozen comics and graphic novels among its more than 200 titles (although, granted, not all of them are strictly “comics”). A handful of the selections should by now be familiar from previous best-of lists:
- Battling Boy, by Paul Pope (First Second)
- Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
- Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight, by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Dexter Soy and Emma Rios (Marvel)
- Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley and Gris Grimly (Balzer+Bray)
- Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories, by Ben Katchor (Pantheon)
- Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, by Allie Brosh (Touchstone)
- Julio’s Day, by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
- New School, by Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
- Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley (First Second)
- Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe, by Tim Leong (Chronicle Books)
- The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel, by Isabel Greenberg (Little, Brown and Company)
- You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack: Cartoons, by Tom Gauld (Drawn and Quarterly)
The parade of best-of-the-year lists continues apace, with critic Douglas Wolk selecting Time magazine’s Top 10 Comics and Graphic Novels of 2013:
- Sex Criminals, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
- The Phoenix: The Weekly Story Comic, by various (David Fickling Books)
- Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
- Fran, by Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)
- Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
- Zombo: You Smell of Crime and I’m the Deodorant!, by Al Ewing and Henry Flint (2000AD)
- Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories, by Ben Katchor (Pantheon)
- Very Casual: Some Stories, by Michael DeForge (Koyama Press)
- Bad Houses, by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)
- Incidents in the Night, Vol. 1, by David B. (Uncivilized Books)
Visit Time to read Wolk’s comments about each title.
It’s December, which means best-of-the-year lists, both large and small, will begin appearing at a mind-boggling pace. And while not all of them are comics-specific, many include a smattering of graphic novels and collections. Here are three of the most recent offerings:
• For the Best Graphic Novel of 2013, GoodReads members selected Beautiful Creatures: The Manga (Yen Press), Cassandra Jean’s adaptation of the bestselling young-adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. It beat out such contenders as March Book One, Boxers & Saints and Saga, Vol. 2.
• Slate’s list of the Overlooked Books of 2013 includes critic Tammy Oler’s recommendation of Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life As a Weapon (Marvel), by Matt Fraction, David Aja and Javier Pulido. “Fraction’s smart writing comes to life in stunning art and innovative panel layouts,” Oler writes, “making Hawkeye deeply entertainingly and moving.”
• At Salon, Laura Miller recounts 10 unforgettable graphic novels from 2013: Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang; Calling Dr. Laura, by Nicole J. Georges; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, by H.P. Lovecraft and I.N.J. Culbard; Encyclopedia of Early Earth, by Isabel Greenberg; How to Fake a Moon Landing, by Darryl Cunningham; Opera Adaptations, by P. Craig Russell; RASL, by Jeff Smith; The Freddie Stories, by Lynda Barry; The Property, by Rutu Modan; and When David Lost His Voice, by Judith Vanistendael.
So much time, money and creative effort is spent to bring comic-book superheroes to moving-picture life that it’s almost backward to contemplate how those adapted environments could be translated back into comics form. Thanks to technology, live-action and animated adaptations are finding new ways to convince viewers they’re seeing powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
And yet, these adaptations only go so far. Movies trade spectacle for (relative) brevity, offering two-plus hours of adventure every two to three years. The reverse is true for television, which is more prolific but often less earth-shattering. Both have to deal with practical considerations such as running time, actor availability, and the streamlining of complicated backstories. Thus, to borrow a phrase from politics, adaptations are often exercises in “the art of the possible.” By comparison, comics have much fewer limitations.
Therefore, comics versions of those adaptations must necessarily limit themselves, even if they only choose to work within some of those real-world limitations. Sometimes this is as simple as telling stories set within the adaptation’s version of continuity. However, sometimes comics are the most practical way to “continue” a well-liked adaptation, and thereby perpetuate its visual and tonal appeal.
Not content to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday, DC Comics and Drawn & Quarterly have gotten a head start on holiday sales.
Beginning Tuesday, DC Comics Digital will give away the first issue of a different digital-first comic each day for the next week: Tuesday is Legends of the Dark Knight, Wednesday is Batman ’66, Thursday is The Vampire Diaries, Friday is Smallville Season 11, Saturday is Batman Beyond 2.0/Justice League Beyond 2.0, Sunday is Batman: Li’l Gotham, and Monday is Adventures of Superman.
Drawn & Quarterly isn’t waiting, however: Between today and Dec. 2, the publisher is offering a 40 percent discount on any item — books, comics, posters, etc. — from its web store. Those include works released this year, including Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season, Rutu Modan’s The Poperty, Brian Ralph’s Reggie-12 and Anders Nilsen’s Rage of Poseidon.
Last week DC Comics rolled out its February solicitations, but Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns has already been talking up plans for April. He described the end of Forever Evil as the beginning of the New 52′s “Phase Two,” which would include a host of changes, introductions and reintroductions.
Of course, it’s not like the Internet needs an excuse for ill-informed speculation. In fact, I count just 46* ongoing series in February’s New 52 lineup — and one of those (StormWatch) will be ending in April – so DC will have some roster slots to fill. Therefore, this week let’s look at who might get called up and what DC might introduce.
* * *
Initially, DC divided the New 52 into categories like “Young Justice” (like Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes or Blue Beetle), “The Dark” (I Vampire, Swamp Thing, Frankenstein) and “The Edge” (Deathstroke, Grifter, All Star Western) to go along with the more traditional franchise-oriented groups based around Batman, Green Lantern, etc. This doesn’t quite work any more, mainly because 21e original New 52 series have since been canceled, and a lot of those came from The Edge, The Dark, and Young Justice.
There’s a bit of irony to this story of a comics dealer and a collector going to great lengths to acquire an intact comics collection … which they apparently intend to break up by selling off the comics individually.
Matthew Lane, the reporter who got the story for the Kingsport, Tennessee, Times-News, puts the allure of the collection right in his lead:
Imagine coming across a rare comic book collection, complete runs of Marvel and DC dating back to the beginning of the Silver Age of Comics. The first appearances of Spider-man, Iron Man, Wolverine, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
Indeed, that’s what makes this collection so interesting — its completeness. Seeing an entire run of issues, watching iconic characters pop up in the context of their times, is a special experience (albeit one that can now be duplicated fairly easily with digital comics). The collection of more than 46,000 comics seems to have attracted some attention among dealers, and it was ultimately purchased by retailer Brian Marcus and collector Charles Bond.
Auctions | Comics industry legend Maggie Thompson plans to put up for auction 524 comics from her personal collection. Thompson, who with her late husband Don was a longtime editor of the Comics Buyer’s Guide, estimates that she has 10,000 comics, all stored in a special vault-like addition to her home, which she built using the money from a previous sale, of Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first appearance of Spider-Man) and the first 100 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. Bidding on the first batch of comics, which includes The Avengers #1, Journey into Mystery #83 (first appearance of Thor), The Incredible Hulk #1, and original cover art from Conan #4, begins today. [The Associated Press]
Comics | ICv2 releases the results of its White Paper (previously reported at Comic Book Resources), which tracks comics and graphic novel sales in all channels. Briefly, the report shows that sales of comics and graphic novels are up, manga is up dramatically, and digital comics sales continue to increase — although growth is slowing a bit, which is to be expected as the base increases. [ICv2]
James Viscardi may have left Marvel, but he’s clearly not finished with comics: The publisher’s former associate manager, sales & communications has launched his own podcast, the aptly titled Let’s Talk Comics.
Described as “a new podcast that aims to tell the origin stories of all your favorite creators in the comics industry,” it debuted this week with an in-depth discussion with Rick Remender, the writer and artist known for his work on titles ranging from Strange Girl and Fear Agent to Uncanny Avengers and Black Science (and I’m looking forward to his upcoming Image Comics series with Wes Craig, Deadly Class).
“Rick Remender is quite the journeyman when it comes to being a comic creator,” Viscardi writes in his introduction to the episode. “He’s drawn comics, he’s written comics, he’s worked in animation and he’s written video games. In today’s show, Rick and I go down memory lane and tell some pretty fascinating stories about life as an up and coming creator, how he broke into Marvel (twice), and how he’s somewhat associated with Meg Ryan!”
You can listen to the lengthy interview below.
“Superman was the start of the whole superhero thing. He had the superpowers and wore that costume with the bright colors and silly cape. It’s the costume that was different. Zorro didn’t have superpowers, Doc Savage didn’t have superpowers; they could just do things a little better than the rest of us. The Shadow could be a superhero because he could make himself unseen, and if he appeared in a comic book today, he might be a superhero, though he doesn’t really wear a costume. I’m not an expert on the Shadow, but I think he just had a dark business suit and a sort of raincoat and a slouch hat. Superman’s costume was different because of the bright colors, that silly cape, those red boots, his belt, and his chest symbol. I mean, it’s ridiculous, because you really don’t need a costume to fly or fight bad guys. If I had superpowers, I wouldn’t wear a costume. [...]
Although a costume isn’t required of superheroes, the fans love costumes. The characters are more popular if they wear costumes. (Don’t ask me why.) In the first issue of the Fantastic Four, I didn’t have them wear costumes. I received a ton of mail from fans saying that they loved the book, but they wouldn’t buy another issue unless we gave the characters costumes. I didn’t need a house to fall on me to realize that — for whatever reason — fans love costumed heroes.”
– Stan Lee, from his essay for What is a Superhero?, from Oxford University Press
(For the story on Lee’s 1983 “centerfold” photo, visit Sean Howe’s Marvel: The Untold Story blog.)
Comics | A CGC-certified 9.2 copy of The Brave and the Bold #28, featuring the first appearance of the Justice League, was sold by Pedigree Comics for $120,000, a record price for the issue (cover-dated February-March 1960). ““The sale for $120,000 is a record price for any copy of Brave and the Bold #28, almost doubling the only recorded 9.4 sale (from April, 2004) of $60,375,” said Pedigree Comics CEO Doug Schmell. “The other 9.2 copy (with off-white pages) fetched $35,850 in May, 2008. This book is beginning to rise dramatically in demand, popularity and value, evidenced by the recent sales of two 8.5 examples (in September, 2013 for $45,504 and for $40,500 in June, 2013).” [Scoop, via ICv2]
Passings | “He took me seriously”: Shaenon Garrity writes the definitive obituary of webcomics pioneer Joey Manley, who died Nov. 7 at the age of 48. She talks to a number of the creators who worked with him over the years and puts his accomplishments into perspective. [The Comics Journal]