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Comics A.M. | Relaunching Justice Society, rebuilding Billy Batson

Earth 2 #2

Creators | Alex Zalben talks to James Robinson about his rebooted version of DC Comics’ Justice Society in Earth 2, and the process of creating a world of one’s own: “It always starts with certain plot points that immediately come to you, and you always want those moments to happen at some point, and you work towards them. There are some characters that come to you almost fully formed in your mind, and those are you anchors. And same with the world, there are some aspects of the world that you say, this is what I want to do, here or there, or there. They’re the anchors, and you slowly begin to add the other pieces so it links, and forms, and becomes a whole tapestry.” [MTV Geek]

Creators | Geoff Johns talks about the new, more nuanced version of Billy Batson that he and artist Gary Frank are creating in the Shazam back-up stories in Justice League: “Billy is trouble, but trouble in a way that I think we’ll find understandable, relatable and fun. He has a heart, a big one, but he also has a protective shell around it. He’s mischievous, independent and strong. He’s conflicted, tough and sad. And many other things. For us, Billy had to be as complex and as interesting as his alter ego.” [Hero Complex]

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First look at the Courtney Crumrin hardcover

Courtney Crumrin, Volume 1: The Night Things Special Edition

Ted Naifeh got his copy of the Courtney Crumrin hardcover, and it looks classy and gorgeous. Having a color, hardcover version of Courtney has always been a cool proposition, but the early peeks at the cover design didn’t do justice to the final product. Courtney Crumrin, Volume 1: The Night Things, Special Edition also features remastered art and a sewn-in bookmark. It’s 136-page, will retail for $19.99, and will hit stores in April.

Exclusive: Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin ongoing starts in April

Add another comic to the list of ongoing series starring awesome female characters. Starting in April, Oni Press will publish a full-color Courtney Crumrin monthly series by creator Ted Naifeh. The continuing adventures of Naifeh’s girl monster-hunter is in addition, by the way, to next month’s Polly and the Pirates, Volume 2, written by Naifeh with art by Robbi Rodriguez, so 2012 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for young heroines.

I got to talk to Naifeh a little about Courtney Crumrin and his plans for the series:

Michael May: Thanks for talking with me, Ted. Let’s start with you. What scared you as a kid?

Ted Naifeh: Just about everything. Around the time I was Courtney Crumrin’s age, I was going to summer camp, and they told us some of the lamest fireside ghost stories you could imagine. I think they deliberately stuck with silly, half-baked stories. Or maybe they were chosen because they were local. Seriously, one was a frontier nurse whose hand was crushed in a mine accident, and so they sewed on the hand of a dead miner who apparently turned out to be a mad strangler. That was about the caliber. But damn if they didn’t scare the bejeezus out of me. That nurse followed me home and kept me scared for a year. A few years later, the first half hour of the movie Basket Case freaked me out so bad I didn’t sleep all night. I never did see the rest.

Now I realize I was just a super anxious kid and the scary stories were what my anxieties found to latch onto. Growing out of that phase really felt like a triumph, like I had, in a way, traversed a monster-infested underworld and come out the other side. Years later, I found myself relating so deeply to the kid in Sixth Sense it was astonishing. Like him, I learned to make friends with the monsters.

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Oni Press to publish color hardcovers of Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin series

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin series, Oni Press will release color “special edition prestige hardcovers” of the series. Courtney Crumrin, Volume 1: The Night Things, Special Edition will hit store shelves in April 2012.

“Readers love Courtney Crumrin for how vividly Ted renders the magical world he has dreamed up,” said Oni Press editor Jill Beaton in a press release. “The original versions were wonderful, and Ted is one of those cartoonists who really understands how to use black ink on a white page. Despite the level of detail, he avoided over-rendering his drawings, meaning that the work is still open and has room to breathe. It also means there is space for color. Warren is highlighting what is already there, filling in an extra dimension that previously was left to the reader.”

Naifeh is remastering the material, working closely with colorist Warren Wucinich to create a spooky palette “that accentuates what everyone loved about the original black-and-white art while providing a completely different way of seeing Naifeh’s fully realized world,” the press release says.

In addition to the color treatment, Oni Press’ art director, Keith Wood, is pulling out all the stops to make the Courtney Crumrin, Volume 1: The Night Things, Special Edition special. “In talking with Ted about what we wanted to do with the hardcover,” Wood said, “he told me that it should look like a book you’d find on Uncle Aloysius’ bookshelf, something Courtney might stumble on when snooping around his office. It’s going to be a cool object as well as a good read.”

The book features a special silver ink, embossed cover and an old-fashioned ribbon bookmark placed in the sewn spine. The 136-page, 6” x 9”, graphic novel will retail for $19.99

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished with Courtney Crumrin,” said Naifeh. “It’s been ten wonderful, creative years, and I’m happy to have done it at Oni Press. The fans have shown us tremendous support, and I hope they will enjoy the chance to relive these adventures with a brand-new hue.”

Check out some of the colored artwork after the jump.

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Previews: What looks good for February

Judge Bao and the Jade Phoenix

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Wonder Woman is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Archaia

Judge Bao and the Jade Phoenix - A detective story set in ancient China. Plus: cool name.

Avatar

Dicks #1 – Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s humor makes my top hat explode and my monocle fly off my face, but I remember this being pretty popular back in the day and I imagine that it’s new presentation in color and leading into a new storyline could make it popular again.

Bongo

Ralph Wiggum Comics #1 – This, on the other hand, is exactly my kind of funny. Kind of like 30 Days of Night, I’m astonished no one’s thought of it before. Too bad it’s just a one-shot, but hearing that Sergio Aragones is one of the contributors makes me want to poke myself with my Viking helmet to see if I’m dreaming.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Alpha Flight

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Michael May

Even if I didn’t have any money at all, I’d stand on the street corner and beg until I collected three bucks to buy Alpha Flight #0.1 ($2.99). I’ve never not bought an issue of Alpha Flight and I’m not breaking that streak this week. Fortunately I have $15 and can afford to get not only that, but also Rocketeer Adventures #1 ($3.99), which I’m only slightly less excited about. And since I’ve still got some money I’d add Drums #1 ($2.99) – because it’s been a while since I’ve read a voodoo story and this looks like a good one – and Snake Eyes #1 ($3.99). I’m not a GI Joe fan, but ninjas are cool and expect that I’d be entertained by a comic about one who fights an evil spy organization.

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Comics A.M. | C2E2 attendance rises; Borders closing 28 more stores

C2E2

Conventions | Early estimates place attendance three-day attendance at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo at 34,000, up from 27,500 at last year’s inaugural event. “Last year was disappointing,” said Eric Thornton, manager of Chicago Comics. “But now you definitely see this starting to take hold.” [Chicago Tribune]

Retailing | Borders Group has announced it will close an additional 28 stores, bringing the total to 228. The bookseller, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, had used the possibility of as many as 75 closings as leverage to negotiate lease concessions. This latest wave will bring the chain’s remaining store total to about 400. [Media Decoder]

Publishers | Chicago-based publisher Archaia, which expects sales of $11 million this year, has raised capital from a group of investors with local connections. [Crain's Chicago Business, via ICv2.com]

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Watch a live performance of Courtney Crumrin

COURTNEY CRUMRIN live w/ Ted Naifeh & This Can’t End Well from theisotope on Vimeo.

Here’s another one that came out of San Francisco’s Noise Pop event last month — Courtney Crumrin creator Ted Naifeh and indie musicians This Can’t End Well did a live performance of Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things.

“Performed before a truly packed house for San Francisco’s beloved indie music festival, Noise Pop, and truly a shining moment for the first-ever Noise Pop Culture Club,” said Isotope Comics owner James Sime on the store’s blog. “I think you will all really enjoy watching it and seeing what Ted and his merry band of fabulous musicians, actors and sound effectians brought to wow us with.”

Ted Naifeh summoning the Coven in Teen Titans

Teen Titans #83

Teen Titans #83

Somehow I missed the announcement in DC Comics’ solicitations for May that Ted Naifeh, creator of Courtney Crumrin and Polly and the Pirates, is drawing the new co-feature that debuts in Teen Titans #83.

The news may provide a bit of context for the Batman sample pages and character sketches Naifeh recently posted on his website. (A multi-part backup story seems like the perfect way to test the waters.)

The co-feature, which I think replaces the Ravager story — sorry, I haven’t read the title for quite a while — stars the Coven: Black Alice, a goth teen who can temporarily borrow the mystical powers of others; Traci Thirteen, the daughter of paranormal investigator Doctor Thirteen who can tap into the magic of cities; and Zachary Zatara, the cousin of Zatanna who can manipulate magic by speaking backward. Rex Ogle is writing the story.

On his blog, Naifeh told fans this doesn’t mean he’s forsaking independent comics.

“For those of you worried that I’m going to be swallowed up by the DC machine,” he wrote, “rest assured that I will remain predominately an indy artist, devoted to my personal projects. But a guy has to pay the bills somehow. And frankly, I’m not above taking a few mainstream fans with me to the dark side.”


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