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The Futures Index is taking a break for the holidays. In fact, this post looks to be about 1,300 words on the value of taking a break. You might not think the topic should take that much space, but breaks can be tricky things.
For starters, downtime isn’t always an easy commitment, not least because it means giving up control. If you’re not checking messages until Jan. 2, you’re admitting that the world can get along without you. Accordingly, comics publishers that have new material for Dec. 24 and 31 are telling their customers not to worry — the comics will be there for them. (There are a lot of “important” comics out this week too, like the Robin Rises special and a few installments of the Lantern books’ “Godhead.”)
Still, no matter what — or if — you’re celebrating, the last week of December all but forces you to slow down, because so many others are. Sometimes this slowdown doesn’t occur until the very last hours of the 24th or 31st, when you’ve done all you can do and the ticking clock can no longer be outrun.
DC Comics faces a similar deadline on April 1, when its regular roster of series goes on hiatus for two months. We know already the Convergence comics will feature stories set in previous versions of DC continuity, but so far we can make only educated guesses (at best) about what will be next.
A Texas company has sued Harris County and its district attorney’s office over high-priced comic books that were seized in an embezzlement case, only to be stolen by investigators.
As you may recall, attorney Anthony Chiofalo was charged in January 2013 with siphoning from employer Tadano America upwards of $9.3 million, much of which he spent on sports memorabilia and vintage comics, including a Detective Comics #27 worth about $900,000. His house and storage units were raided, and the collectibles seized as evidence — all standard procedure.
But then two investigators with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office allegedly hatched a scheme to steal some of those comics — worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — and sell them at a Chicago convention. Lonnie Blevins, who left the DA’s office before his arrest in February 2013 on federal charges, pleaded guilty in May 2014 to stealing the vintage comics; his former partner Dustin Deutsch was indicted just last month. Not to be forgotten, Chiofalo was sentenced in May to 40 years in prison.
Now, Courthouse News Service reports, Tadano America is seeking damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and fraudulent concealment, accusing the DA’s office of failing “to notice that their employees removed several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of highly collectible comic books” from storage units. The crane manufacturer obtained an $8.9 million judgment against Chiafalo in 2012, making those comics the company’s property.
Crime | Police in San Antonio, Texas, arrested two men on Friday on charges of stealing $5,000 worth of comics from a local collector. After the robbery, the collector contacted local comic shops and asked them to keep an eye out for the stolen goods. Several retailers gave police information, including a license plate number, that led to the arrests of Gino Saenz and Jose Gonzalez on charges of theft. [San Antonio Express-News]
Digital comics | Humble Bundle sold $3 million worth of DRM-free digital comics in 2014, the first year in which the company included e-books and comics in its bundles. Total e-book revenues were $4.75 million, of which $1.2 million went to charity (including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund). That may sound like a lot of money, but as director of e-books Kelley Allen said, “The numbers generated by the book bundles look like a rounding error in comparison to video games,” because the audience for the latter is so vast. Humble Bundle’s e-books are DRM-free, which has been a stumbling block for traditional book publishers, but comics publishers are more flexible, Allen said. [Publishers Weekly]
Happy holidays and welcome to Shelf Porn, your weekly look at one fan’s collection. Today we show off the web-tangled shelves of Alex in the Philippines, a huge fan of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
If you’d like to see your collection here, you can find instructions on how to submit it at the end of this post.
And now let’s swing into things with Alex …
A while back I wrote that DC Comics could stand to cancel some books, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. DC’s March solicitations are among the most significant of the New 52. The August 2011 solicits, which were the last of their particular era, were relatively routine; back then, every superhero title was either being canceled or relaunched. By contrast, March 2015 looks like the start of another line-wide makeover. It will see the end of several series, including some charter members of the New 52.
The solicits actually extend to the week of April 1, which will feature a slew of annuals, the final issues of the three weekly series, and Convergence #0. (All that will cost you $54.89 retail.) With Convergence then taking over April and May, readers will have to wait until June’s solicits (coming in February, of course) for the first full picture of the New However-Many. Although the nature of Convergence still suggests that some old, familiar elements will be reintroduced into the New 52 — because why say “every story matters” if you’re not going to use at least some of them going forward? — these solicits are arguably the strongest indication to date that the New 52 isn’t going away.
The shortlist has been announced for the 2015 Stan Lee Excelsior Award and the new Stan Lee Excelsior Award Junior, whose winners are selected by students at secondary and primary schools, respectively, across the United Kingdom.
Established in 2011 by Paul Register, a school librarian in Sheffield, the Stan Lee Excelsior Award is designed to promote comics and to encourage children and teenagers to read. The Stan Lee Excelsior Award Junior is being introduced this year.
The winners — first, second and third place — will be announced in July. The nominees are:
Stan Lee Excelsior Award
- All-New Ghost Rider: Engines of Vengeance, by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore (Marvel)
- Barakamon, by Satsuki Yoshino (Yen Press)
- Rocket Girl, Vol. 1, by by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder (Image Comics)
- Red Baron: The Machine Gunners’ Ball, by Pierre Veys and Carlos Puerta (Cinebook)
- Superman/Wonder Woman: Power Couple, by by Charles Soule and Tony S. Daniel (DC Comics)
- Moonhead and the Music Machine, by Andrew Rae (Nobrow)
- Alone: The Vanishing, by Bruno Gazzotti and Fabien Vehlmann (Cinebook)
- Ms. Marvel: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (Marvel)
A little over a year ago, I asked, “what do we want out of a [superhero] comic-based TV series?”
This season, DC Comics fans have plenty of material to fuel that debate. I still haven’t seen any of Gotham or Constantine, but I’ve really enjoyed the combination of The Flash and Arrow. With both shows taking a break for the holidays, today I want to see what satisfies and what doesn’t.
* * *
It took me a while to warm up to Arrow. After taking most of last season to catch up — and, as it happens, missing the Barry Allen episodes — I seem to have gotten on board just at the right time. Because I am not a fan of superhero shows that de-emphasize the “superhero” part, it was harder for me to accept that Oliver Queen would skulk around the urban jungle in a hood and eyeblack. That sort of intermediate realism (which now reminds me of the short-lived TV show based on Mike Grell’s Jon Sable comics) somehow requires more suspension of disbelief than a full-on costume and codename does.
Crime | Wichita, Kansas’ KWCH TV is showcasing the Nov. 19 burglary of comics and collectibles store Riverhouse Traders as its Crime Stoppers crime of the week. The thieves apparently knew what they were looking for, and stole a reported $300,000 worth of rare comic books and memorabilia, leaving owner Mark Rowland with an unwanted shift in priorities: He has always given free comics to local children who get As on their report cards, and he provides gifts to local families at Christmas, but this year he has to cut back to pay for a security system. [KWCH]
Creators | Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Terry Dodson discuss their new graphic novel Teen Titans: Earth One. George Perez and Marv Wolfman’s Teen Titans were Lemire’s gateway to comics, so he was particularly enthusiastic about this project, and, he that affected his choice of a cast: “My decision early on was just to use the unique characters that Marv and George created that weren’t sidekicks, and that freed me from having to establish the adult superheroes in this world.” [Comic Riffs]
Thirty years ago, as part of the first ship week in December 1984, the debut issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths arrived in comics shops. Cover-dated April 1985, and scheduled to appear on newsstands during the first week of January, it was the flagship title of DC Comics’ year-long 50th-anniversary celebration. The two-year Who’s Who encyclopedia had launched a month earlier, and most of DC’s series would tie into Crisis at some point; but this was the book that promised big changes.
We talk a lot about the legacy of Crisis — high-stakes events, crossovers, reboots, etc. — but that can obscure the story itself. For all that it was designed to do, and all that it promised, Crisis remains both uneven and intriguing. At times it can read like a ramshackle assembly of exposition and spectacle, held together by the combined wills of its creative team. Some of it is flabby, some of it is clunky, but Crisis can still be thrilling, and even touching. In any event, it remains one of the great mileposts of DC history, so it can certainly stand another look.
Today is for the first issue, but this series will continue periodically throughout 2015. Grab your own copies of Crisis and follow along!
A unique partnership between a Beirut university and an construction magnate is designed to bring new attention to the long and interesting tradition of comics in the Middle East.
According to Al-Fanar Media, the American University of Beirut and businessman Mu’taz Sawwaf are working to create a coordinated academic program focused on comics, along with an annual conference, awards ceremony and an archive of Arab comic art.
That’s a far cry from the record $3.2 million paid in August for a pristine copy of the 1938 first appearance of Superman, but certainly nothing to sneeze at.
“High-end, vintage comic books across the board continue to show incredible market durability,” Ed Jaster, Heritage’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “The auction total, at $7.17 million, is the third-highest grossing comics auction in history, period.”
Other comic book highlights of the Nov. 20-22 auction include a CGC-graded 7.0 copy of Pep Comics #22, featuring the first appearance of Archie Andrews ($143,400) and a CGC-graded 6.5 copy of Captain America Comics #1 ($107,550).
The auction house also noted high prices paid for the first appearances of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, which it attributes to anticipation for the characters’ big-screen debuts: a CGC-graded 5.5 copy of All Star Comics #8 sold for $44,813, more than triple its list value, and a CGC-graded 3.5 copy of More Fun Comics #73 went for $38,838, 10 times its guide price.
Also of note: Bill Everett’s original cover art for 1967’s Strange Tales #152, depicting Doctor Strange and Umar, sold for $71,700, while Frank Frazetta’s 1967 cover painting for Jongor Fights Back fetched an impressive $179,250.
DC Entertainment is making its monthly titles available for download on iVerse Media’s ComicsPlus App, with the publisher’s back catalog set to be added in the coming weeks.
The move comes as the digital distributor releases ComicsPlus 8.0 for iOS 8, which features the new uView enhanced reading experience, graphic novel rentals with offline reading, improved search capabilities, ePub, PDF, CBR and CBZ file support, an in-app parental controls.
“We want to be wherever comic fans are building their libraries and this new partnership with iVerse Media brings bestselling DC Entertainment titles from DC Comics and Vertigo to a broad, new digital audience,” Derek Maddalena, DC’s senior vice president of sales and business development, said in a statement. “The fantastic new features in the ComicsPlus app, paired with our iconic characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, deliver a great digital reading experience.”
Read iVerse’s ComicsPlus 8.0 press release below:
Artist Ken Farnsworth started out painting murals and other art on the walls of the store, which is located in a rather plain commercial building, at the invitation of owner Rusty Simonetti. And when he ran out of wall space, Farnsworth turned his gaze upward — to the ceiling, which was made of white acoustic tile.
Crowdfunding | Digital Manga Publishing’s recent Kickstarter campaign raised some questions as to the proper role of crowdfunding in publishing. When DMP acquired the rights to all of Osamu Tezuka’s manga that haven’t already been translated into English, CEO Hikaru Sasahara launched an ambitious Kickstarter effort to publish about 400 volumes in just a few years. The campaign raised eyebrows not only because of the large amount of money involved (with stretch goals, it would have been more than half a million dollars) but also because it went beyond the direct costs associated with single volumes to include travel and staffing. That campaign failed, but DMP immediately launched another one that’s closer to the usual model. I interviewed Sasahara and one of his most prominent critics to get both sides of the discussion. [Publishers Weekly]
(NOTE: The Futures Index is on Thanksgiving vacation, so you’ll get a double dose next week.)
It doesn’t look good for the current Universe Designate 2. If the title of the miniseries Earth 2: World’s End weren’t enough of a clue, the setup of its companion Futures End tells the tale: Apokoliptian troops devastate the planet, forcing the refugees into the main DC Universe (Designate Zero). Moreover, glimpses of the previous Earth-Two — one-time home to DC’s Golden Age heroes and their legacies, like you didn’t know — suggest that it might be making a comeback.
Considering the New 52 relaunch eliminated the original versions of the Golden Agers, their collective reinstatement isn’t without its own set of issues. A few months ago I looked at how the current Earth-2 has distinguished itself from its predecessor. Therefore, today let’s ask how the return of that predecessor might work.