The comic book annual has, in recent years, become an endangered species. Once an oversized, extra-length dose of the characters and concepts a reader could count on appearing once a year (or, you know, annually), the changing funny-book landscape has made them a less appealing proposition.
The rise of the graphic novel and trade paperback collections made “novel-length” adventures appearing in actual, off-the-rack comic books somewhat obsolete. The rising price of comics helped make annuals seem less practical; if a 20- or 22-page comic costs $2.99 or $3.99, a 48- or 56- or 64-page one would be prohibitively expensive. And with the shrunken market, it doesn’t make sense for a publisher to release an additional, extra-long issue of almost every title in its line.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. Michael, Graeme, and Chris Arrant have each picked the five new comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a Top 15 of the best new comics coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Golden Age of DC Comics: 1935-1956 HC (Taschen, $59.95): If you were as jealous of everyone who could afford the mammoth 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Myth-Making from a couple of years ago as I was, here’s some great news; Taschen is reissuing the material in a series of different (cheaper) volumes, reworked and expanded with new art and commentary by Paul Levitz. The next in the series, covering the Silver Age, is the one I’ll really covet, but you know that this will be awesome.
Julio’s Day HC (Fantagraphics Books, $19.99): Continuing my education in all things Love and Rockets, this never-collected Gilbert Hernandez strip from the second series of L&R is one of those things that goes on my “Want” list almost as soon as I discovered it existed.
Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1 (of 4) (Image Comics, $3.99): I’ve been waiting for more Multiple Warheads since Oni Press put out the first issue a few years back. Now that I know it’s 48 pages for just $3.99 and in color, it seems worth the wait. Brandon Graham is an amazing talent.
Sailor Twain HC (First Second, $24.99): I dropped off Mark Siegel’s amazing webcomic online fairly early, promising myself that I’d get the inevitable collected edition when it was all done and read it in one sitting. I’m glad it’s finally here.
The Zaucer of Zilk #1 (of 2) (IDW Publishing, $3.99): Without doubt, my favorite superhero comic in years – I read it in its 2000AD incarnation – I am overjoyed to see this get a US release like this. Hopefully, everyone will read it and realize just how great Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing are, leading to all manner of zequels (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
The name of DC Comics’ latest publishing initiative, National Comics, is a reference to the publisher’s long history–National Comics was the name of the publisher before becoming DC Comics. It was also the title of an anthology comic series published by Quality Comics in the 1940s, which featured characters that would eventually be purchased and absorbed into the DC Universe.
Speaking of which, one of the characters that DC bought from Quality was Kid Eternity, who debuted in Hit Comics #25 in 1942. A young boy killed 75 years before he was supposed to die, the powers that be sent him back to Earth to fight the good fight, giving him the power to summon historical and mythological figures to aid him in his mission. DC has revived the character a few different times and retconned his history–at one point he was Captain Marvel Jr.’s brother; at another point the historical figures he was summoning were revealed to be demons. Most recently Kid Eternity appeared in the pre-New 52 Teen Titans title.
This time around Kid Eternity is revived by Jeff Lemire and Cully Hamner, in a one-shot that came out this past Wednesday. Is it a concept worthy of revival–and your money? Here are a few reviews from around the web to help you decide:
Since the dawn of the medium, comic books largely have been the creation of writers and artists working hand-in-hand to produce the characters, stories, titles and universes you follow each week. Recently, however, lawsuits by comic creators against publishers — and sometimes other creators — have raised the question of where, when and how a comic is truly created. Are they the product of the writer, with the artist simply tasked to illustrate the story based on instructions laid out in a script or outline? Or is it a communal effort, with writer and artist both providing unique contributions to the creation of the character and setting, each serving as a storyteller in the planning, coordination and draftsmanship of the actual comic pages? In recent years, comics have become a writer-centric medium, for better or worse, but artists continue to play a crucial, if sometimes overlooked, role in the design of characters and transformation of the writer’s scripts into, you know, comics.
In an interview with ICv2.com, Howard Chaykin relayed a story about how an unnamed writer views an artist’s contribution as “absolutely nothing to do with the creative process in comics.” “I am of the belief that the artist does 50 percent of the ‘writing’ in comic books,” said Chaykin, who’s worked as a writer and artist for decades. “I think the guy is plum crazy. It staggered me in its limited understanding of what comic books are about.”
Creators | How did Darwyn Cooke get involved with the Before Watchmen comics? “I was kind of dragged into it kicking and screaming by [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio. He had been discussing this for what does amount to several years now, and the first time he had approached me about it, I had actually turned it down simply because I couldn’t see doing anything that would live up to the original. And, it was about a year later, the story idea that I’m working on now sort of came to me and I realized that there was a way to do the project, and I had a story that I thought was exciting enough to tell. So I phoned Dan up and said, ‘Hey, if you still got room, I’m in.’” [Rolling Stone]
Creators | Ron Marz discusses Prophecy, his upcoming comic that turns the whole Mayan calendar thing into a crossover event that will bring together an eclectic group of characters, and defends the idea of crossovers in general: “If your objection is “they’re not in the same universe,” or a crossover somehow offends your sense of continuity, I’d suggest you’re missing the point. More than any other medium, comics are about unfettered imagination, about making the impossible possible. If you’re going to let some perceived “rules” prevent you from telling an exciting story, you’re just not trying very hard. Having a sense of wonder, of discovery, is much more important than following some set of perceived rules and regulations.” [MTV Geek]
Hello and welcome to a special holiday edition of What Are You Reading? Actually it’s just a normal edition of What Are You Reading?, because changing the font color to red and green, and adding twinkling lights around the border just made it harder to read.
Our special guest this week is Andy Khouri, associate editor over at ComicsAlliance, where he drops comic news and commentary on a daily basis.
To see what Andy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop 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.
If I had $15, I’d get one from almost every box–Image’s Invincible #85 ($2.99), DC’s DMZ #71 ($2.99), Marvel’s Wolverine and The X-Men #2 ($3.99) and independent title RASL #12 ($3.50). Not much to say about any of these I haven’t already said, except anytime Cory Walker draws a book I’d pay twice cover price.
If I had $30, I’d sneak out of Thanksgiving preparations to first get a book I was surprised I liked as much as I did, despite the last issue’s ending: Shade #2 (DC, $2.99). One thing I wasn’t amped to see was Deathstroke, but given James Robinson and Cully Hammer’s track record I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Next up would be the epic (in my mind, at least) team-up of Warren Ellis and Michael Lark on Secret Avengers #19 (Marvel, $3.99). Seeing Ellis boil down the concept into “Run the mission. Don’t get seen. Save the world.” Hits me right between the eyes, and this new issue’s preview has be salivating over it. Last up, I’d pay the giant size price tag for Fantastic Four #600 (Marvel, $7.99) although my patience has worn a little thin with ending the series then bringing it back for #600.
Awards | Stan Lee will receive the Producers Guild of America’s 2012 Vanguard Award recognizing achievement in new media and technology. “Stan Lee’s creative vision and imagination has produced some of the most beloved and visually stunning characters and adventures in history,” Producers Guild Awards co-chairs Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim said in a joint statement. “He not only has created content that will forever be in our culture but continues to make strides in the digital and new media realms, keeping the comic book industry fresh and exciting. Stan’s accomplishments truly encompass the spirit of the Vanguard Award and we are proud to honor him.” George Lucas and John Lasseter are among the award’s previous recipients. [press release]
Welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Chris Duffy, editor of First Second’s Nursery Rhyme Comics. We spotlighted this anthology project all week here on Robot 6; check out our interviews with Chris as well as contributors Scott C., Aaron Reiner, Richard Sala and Eleanor Davis.
And to see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
In our first two installments of our spotlight on themed sketchbooks we’ve had classic heroes and classic actresses; in today’s installment, we mix those together and sprinkle a little bit of magic on it. Comics blogger Lan Pitts has traveled to various conventions and collected an all-star assortment of talents in the effort of illustrating DC’s magician, Zatanna.
“My first job was as a magician’s assistant,” Pitts tells Robot 6. “I’ve always been fascinated by magic and it’s history. I had a few Zatanna sketches in my other sketchbooks and realized I loved to see what an artist would do for her than any other character. So she became my “totem” character, if you will, and I just wanted her to have her own sketchbook.”
Pitts has accumulated over fifteen renditions of Zatanns in his themed sketchbook, but has plenty of room for more. He collected a few new additions at DragonCon earlier this year, and hopes to attend New York ComicCon in October for more.
Whether you’re an artist who wants to sketch in this unique book or just a fan who wants to see more, visit Pitt’s blog for more information.
Comic-Con International in San Diego kicks off Wednesday night, July 21 and runs through July 25.
• Artist Cully Hamner wasn’t originally listed as appearing on the Red movie panel on Thursday, despite the fact that he drew the limited series, but it looks like everything’s been worked out and he will indeed be there. Here’s his full schedule.
• BOOM! Studios will host their annual party on Thursday night at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Odysea Bar, starting at 9 p.m. The BOOM! Studios Five-Year Anniversary Drink Up will feature Mark Waid, Ross Richie, Matt Gagnon, Chip Mosher and the rest of the BOOM! crew with various BOOM! creators in attendance “for a night of relaxed fun.” No RSVP or tickets are required.
And speaking of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, I received an email from them about their Comic-Con plans as well:
“Odysea Lounge at Hilton San Diego Bayfront hopes you will make us your ‘Con Bar’ this July. We welcome all attendees of Comic-Con International to indulge in our fresh, hand-muddled cocktails and our dazzling bay front views. Come order right from your seat from one of our brand new iPads and enjoy Happy Hour daily, 4P-6P and 10P-12A. Our staff is ready to serve you throughout Comic-Con and look forward to making this year a memorable one.”
• Radical Publishing has released their booth schedule, which will include signings by Jimmy Palmiotti, Wesley Snipes, Peter Milligan, Paul Gulacy, Sam Worthington, Rick Remender and many more.
• Kurt Busiek shares his schedule for the con, as well as some thoughts on the Westboro Baptist Church picket that Kevin mentioned last week. He says the best way to respond is to ignore them, then adds, “But on Twitter last night, among the suggestions for counter-statements against the WBC’s rallying cry of ‘God Hates Fags,’ this lovely response came up, coined by Lori Matsumoto and designed by Dane Ault.” Check out the image up top to see the suggested response.
• Which reminds me, Andy Mangels sent word about the 23rd annual Gays in Comics panel and a mixer/silent auction, both on Saturday at the show:
Batwoman’s starring turn in DC’s Detective Comics was honored Saturday night as outstanding comic book at the 21st annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City.
Presented by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the awards recognize media for their representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and issues.
The critically acclaimed run on Detective Comics, which began in June with Issue 854, featured Batwoman in a lead story by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III, and The Question in a co-feature by Rucka and Cully Hamner. Both characters are lesbians.
The new Batwoman, Kate Kane, was introduced in summer 2006 amid a hail of mainstream-media coverage. But a long-rumored Batwoman series faced one delay after another, which some chalked up to DC’s nervousness about the potential effect the character’s sexual orientation could have on the lucrative Bat-brand. Finally, in February 2009, it was officially announced that Batwoman would step into the void left by the “death” of Bruce Wayne and become the star — temporarily, at least — of DC’s longest-running title.
Rucka revealed in December that he and Williams will reunite later this year for a Batwoman solo series. Their Detective run ended with Issue 860, and was followed by a three-issue arc by Rucka and Jock.
Renee Montoya was created for Batman: The Animated Series, but debuted first in March 1992 in Batman #475. A Gotham City police detective, she played a prominent role in the acclaimed series Gotham Central, in which she was confirmed as a lesbian. She assumed the guise of The Question after the death of Vic Sage in 52.
The other nominees for the GLAAD Media Award were Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Madame Xanadu, Secret Six and X-Factor.
Cully Hamner is an artist who never disappoints me. So I was immensely pleased that he and I were able to finalize this email interview in the chaos of the holiday season just in time for our one-year anniversary at Robot 6. We start the interview discussing his current collaboration with Greg Rucka on The Question co-feature in Detective Comics. From there, due to the film that is currently in production and the trade paperback collection that was released in mid-2009, we discussed his 2003/2004 Homage/Wildstorm collaboration with writer Warren Ellis, RED. There’s so many projects I could have discussed with Hamner, but I’m grateful he was willing to discuss RED to the degree he did. Hamner is clearly an artist who looks forward, not back–which makes me appreciate his indulging my RED interest in this discussion.
Tim O’Shea: How hard is it to convey emotion with the Question, the face is taken out of the dynamics, but you do still give a hint of her facial dynamics in certain scenes?
Cully Hamner: It’s a matter of considering that, even though you see no specific facial features, the planes of the face are still there and will react to light and shadow. It’s not a total blank, you know, Renee’s real face is under there, along with a range of expressions. So, when I look at it like that, it becomes a much simpler thing than you might think. So, what I do is just go ahead and draw an outline of the modeling on the face, and Dave McCaig (and before him Laura Martin) colors over that, and then drops my linework into a color. It’s not a full range of emotion like a detailed face would have, but I’ve been able to get across a few things well enough. Seems to work.