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Not a lot in DC Comics’ May solicitations really strikes me as “new.” That’s due partly to a lot of the new books being set to launch a month earlier. Generally, the superhero line continues to contract, while The New 52 — Futures End kicks off, the New 52 version of Doomsday keeps rampaging through the Superman titles, and Batman Eternal rolls on. Nevertheless, I do have the irrational sense that the line is gearing up for something even more significant, and will be adding new series over the next few months.
Still, if we’re to get excited about the regular fare, we may have to read between the solicitations’ lines — so let’s get on with it, shall we?
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A NEW 52 FOR THE NEW 52
And here it is, Futures End. Last year I wrote the New 52 needed its own version of 52, the year-long miniseries that spanned time and space to focus on the lesser lights of the superhero line. I talked about exploring the geography of the still-new shared universe, doing character studies, and essentially giving the reader a good sense of place and/or connection.
Caliber Comics, which in the 1990s published the debut works of such creators as Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Guy Davis and Michael Allred, is plotting its return within the next few months, with founder Gary Reed again at the helm.
Now a division of Caliber Entertainment, a company formed by Reed and Eagle One Media President Eric Reichert, the revived Caliber will focus primarily on graphic novels and collections of previously released material. Transfuzion Publishing, which Reed launched in 2007 with Rafael Neives, will become a graphic novel imprint of Caliber.
“As far as new monthly comics go, that is a massive undertaking that we’re not going to tackle immediately,” Reed said in a statement. “We will likely look to partner up with an established company on the comic ‘floppies’ because in today’s market, you can’t just make it unless you have enough awareness in the comics market.”
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “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.
I should add that this post contains SPOILERS for Batman #28 and All-New X-Men #23, so read at your own risk. Now let’s get to it …
DC’s serialized superhero-style comics operate on two basic levels: First, they’re an array of periodicals, with a different lineup of issues published each week. Next, those installments are collected into distinct volumes and published on a separate schedule. That’s nothing new. The single-issue reader sees the books differently from the collection-oriented reader, and each way has its advantages and disadvantages. These days, however, caught somewhere in the middle is the miniseries.
Since the New 52 relaunch, miniseries have been a lot more scarce in DC’s superhero line. That’s understandable, considering that the New 52 itself began as a group of ongoing series, and (even if DC isn’t putting out exactly 52 of ‘em each month) it takes a good bit of effort to maintain that many regular titles. Nevertheless, not so long ago, superhero-style miniseries were about as plentiful as their ongoing cousins. The last time I looked at the numbers in detail was in the summer of 2008 — when, over the previous five years, miniseries issues accounted for about one-third of the superhero line’s output.
Of course, DC still produces big event-style miniseries — just look at Forever Evil and its spinoffs, to say nothing of the Before Watchmen minis — but those tend to be sure things, as are the recent Damian Wayne and Batman: Black and White miniseries. The kind of miniseries that tests the market’s appetite for a particular character — think Huntress, My Greatest Adventure or Human Bomb — has become considerably more rare since the New 52 debuted. Instead, the New 52 has produced low-selling, quickly canceled ongoing books like Blackhawks, Sword of Sorcery, Threshold and Green Team. That track record isn’t exactly flattering, so today we’ll look at whether DC might want to ease up on the ongoing-series commitments, and put more minis back on its schedule.
“I know there’s a certain appeal for creators to work on the classic characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, but I’ve said this before: I asked creators who have worked on those books who the people were doing the books ten years ago, and they don’t know! But I can say, ‘Who worked on Sin City?’ and they’ll go ‘Frank Miller.’ Who worked on Hellboy? Mike Mignola. Who worked on The Goon? Eric Powell. They know it instantly. So to me, the lure of creating your own character and owning it — owning your own universe and being associated with that — in the long run for talented writers and artists makes me question why someone would toil away on a company owned character for years and years of their lives.”
– Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson, discussing his company’s commitment to publishing creator-owned work
For years I’ve imagined running my own comic book store. I’ve dreamed of it, even planned; sometimes I scope out locations while driving around town. I’m sure lots of fans have similar fantasies, but unlike everyone else, I would run the best comic shop ever. Not only would it be the best, it would be the most unique shopping experience. It would be perfect.
Of course, reality would be significantly different, and probably far less impressive. I mean, I’m fairly confident I could make a better store than the guy from The Simpsons. But how would I really make it stand out? When I sit down and think about it, I don’t understand how anyone would think it’s a good idea to open up a store.
Here in Los Angeles, like in a lot of major cities, we’re pretty spoiled. There’s no shortage of truly exceptional stores, whether you’re in the Valley, in Hollywood or on the Westside. And if you want that old, crummy comic dungeon of yore, there are a few of those as well. The Westside might not be quite as saturated, but L.A. is generally well-covered, which means there might not be room for a new store. Invariably, I would be stepping on someone’s territory. A store here would either create bad blood with the nearest specialty shops and their patrons, or it would really have to go in a different direction and appeal to a neglected or untapped demographic. That’s certainly possible. On the other hand, L.A .rent is notoriously high.
Publishing | DreamWorks Animation’s announcement on Monday that it is launching its own book-publishing unit doesn’t mean the end of the road for its comics licensees, at least not yet: ICv2 talked to representatives from IDW Publishing, which publishes the Rocky & Bullwinkle comics, and Ape Entertainment, which has had a number of DreamWorks licenses, and both say that this won’t affect their comics. [ICv2]
Auctions | A collection of comics that included the first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and the British satirical comic Viz, as well as long runs of several Marvel series, brought in almost £25,000 (about $41,300 U.S.) at an auction in Newcastle, England. The majority of the comics were from a single collector whose wife decided to put them up for sale after he died. For those who are curious about the details, Duncan Leatherdale of The Northern Echo liveblogged the auction. [BBC News]
Comics sales | ICv2 crunches the January numbers and calculates that just one comic, Batman #27, sold more than 100,000 copies in January, something that hasn’t happened since August 2011; this follows a weak December in which only three comics broke the 100,000 mark. The retail news and analysis site also lists the top 300 comics and graphic novels for the month. [ICv2]
Creators | Batman writer Scott Snyder talks about his plans for Batman #28, writing the Riddler, working with artist Greg Capullo on the action sequences, and getting ready for Batman’s 75th anniversary. [Hero Complex]
Creators | Eugenia Williamson profiles Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, whose work as artists on the Adventure Time comics has brought them an unexpected measure of fame. [The Boston Globe]
Love and romance are in the air, and this week we feature a collection that was built on both. Jasmin turned her boyfriend, Aron, onto comics two years ago, and today he submitted his collection of romance-themed comics, just in time for a certain heart-filled holiday coming up next week.
Although the two are currently in a long-distance relationship, one way they’re keeping in touch is through comics. Check it out below, and Happy early Valentine’s Day to Aron and Jasmin.
Putting Geoff Johns (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciller), and Klaus Janson (inker) on Superman sends a strong message to the cape-comics marketplace. At its core, that message seems to be “we’re not fooling around with the Man of Steel.”
Whether clad in T-shirt or Kryptonian armor, Superman has been the face of the New 52, in good ways and bad, since the 2011 relaunch. A Johns-written, Jim Lee-drawn Superman was part of the first New 52 comic published, namely the first issue of Justice League. Therefore, it’s eminently appropriate for one of DC’s highest-profile writers to take on its flagship character in his eponymous series. Likewise, art by longtime Marvel stalwart JRJr and veteran inker Janson is also appropriate to Superman’s central position in DC’s superhero line.
However, Johns also comes to Superman with a certain set of expectations, starting with his anticipated tenure. Writer/artist George Pérez and finisher Jésus Merino kicked off the current series, but they didn’t stay long; and for several months Superman struggled to find a consistent creative team. Incumbent writer Scott Lobdell came aboard with issue #13 and is scheduled to stay at least through April’s issue #30. That’s a year and a half, give or take a Villains Month, and it’s allowed Lobdell to leave his mark on Superman’s adventures. Moreover, Lobdell arrived about two-thirds of the way through Grant Morrison’s run as Action Comics writer, so for about a year, Lobdell has at least offered some consistency while Action tried to lock in a creative team. Johns has just come off two years writing Aquaman — not to mention multi-year runs on Green Lantern, Action, Flash, JSA, and Teen Titans — so it’s not unreasonable to think he’s got at least a couple of years’ worth of Superman in him.
Comics | Once the paperwork is complete, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library will officially own the original artwork for the 1964 DC Comics story “Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy,” fulfilling one of artist Al Plastino’s final wishes. Plastino, who passed away Nov. 25 at age 91, was surprised to discover at New York Comic Con a month earlier that the pages hadn’t been donated to the library five decades earlier, as he’d been led to believe, but were instead set to be sold at auction on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. The auction was put on hold until questions of ownership could be resolved, and Plastino spent the final weeks of his life campaigning for the return of the artwork, even petitioning a judge to force the auction house to reveal the name of the seller. DC Entertainment intervened in December to acquire the pages and give them to the library. “We are thrilled to receive this historic artwork and look forward to sharing it with the public when the legal transfer is completed,” library director Tom Putnam said in a statement. [Newsday]
Well-regarded Brooklyn retailer Bergen Street Comics has announced it will stop shelving most monthly titles from DC and Marvel. However, customers will still be able to subscribe to or preorder those books through the Park Slope store.
Writing on Twitter, co-owner Tom Adams explained the decision “Will enable us to better serve our customers. Strength of self contained, creator controlled comics will let us move away from double shipping, editorially driven, artist-swapping, inconsistent, tied into events/gimmicks comics. Trying to keep this a going concern/think long term.”
Since its opening in March 2009, Bergen Street has developed a reputation as a supporter of independent and self-published comics, and has played host to numerous creator signings and art shows.
Elaborating on the announcement, Adams said the continued shelving of DC and Marvel’s output “just doesn’t make financial sense” to the store. “Specific to our shop and my personal interests/passions,” he tweeted. “Nothing to do with other shops/state of comics in general. [We] represent such an insignificant amount of Big 2 sales this should mean nothing to anyone other than our regulars.”
What started as a collection of Harry Potter merchandise has grown well beyond that into comics, video games and much more — but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a Sorting Hat in the pictures below.
“I started collecting seriously when I was about 11,” says Jordan from Southern California, who is now 24. “I bought my first piece of Harry Potter merchandise, and I was committed. Up until about six months ago, my main collection could be considered a small museum of HP collectibles. Though since the books and movies have ended, I made the hard decision to move on from that and packed up 90 percent of it to be put into storage. I am now finally able to fully display my other interests and hobbies, and I hope you enjoy my new collection display as much as I do.”
Check out pictures and video of her comics, books, toys and collectibles below.
“If you’d asked me several years ago, I likely would have spoken about some tipping point where you have too much and everything crashed. Part of that is that I grew up in a world where there was one X-MEN book, one AVENGERS book and, well, three SPIDER-MAN books (counting MARVEL TEAM-UP.) But today, I think that, while there is a tipping point potentially somewhere out there on the horizon, it’s nowhere near as close as we sometimes like to think (or fear.) What matters is the quality of the work. How many BATMAN books are there at this point, every month? How many WOLVERINE books? And still, those characters are more likely to sell better than, I don’t know, THE FLASH or STORM. The audience likes what it likes, and so long as what you produce is good, they will always be content to have more. It’s when the quality goes down that you have a problem — but you have that problem with there being only one book as well.”
– Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, responding to a question on his Formspring about how to address character “oversaturation,” if it’s even an issue that exists
The Young Adult Library Association has announced its 2014 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, a list of 78 titles that range from history and autobiography to superheroes and mystery.
The finalists were selected by a committee from among 122 nominees recommended for readers ages 12 to 18. From those 55 titles, 10 were singled out for exemplifying “the quality and range of graphic novels appropriate for teen audiences.”