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Comics A.M. | Original Calvin and Hobbes strip sells for $203,000

Comics strips | An original 1986 Sunday installment of Calvin and Hobbes, drawn and hand-colored by Bill Watterson, has sold at auction for $203,150. The piece had been owned by Adam@Home and Red and Rover cartoonist Brian Basset, who exchanged original comics with Watterson in 1986. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Best of the year | The Top Ten lists are coming thick and fast now. Michael Cavna counts down his favorites of the year, which include Chris Ware’s Building Stories, Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, and Matt Dembicki’s Washington, D.C.-focused anthology, District Comics. [The Washington Post]

Best of the year | … and George Gene Gustines weighs in with his list. [The New York Times]

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DC is ‘supremely proud’ of just-canceled Hellblazer, Dan DiDio assures

John Constantine, by Renato Guedes

Seemingly in response to blowback from Thursday’s surprise announcement that one-time Vertigo flagship Hellblazer will be canceled and resurrected in the New 52 as Constantine, DC Comics has released a statement from Co-Publisher Dan DiDio expressing pride in the nearly 25-year-old series.

“We’re supremely proud of Vertigo’s Hellblazer, one of the most critically-acclaimed series we’ve published,” DiDio said. “Issue #300 concludes this chapter of Constantine’s epic, smoke-filled story in style and with the energy, talent and creativity fans have come to expect from Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini. And no one should worry that John is going to hang-up his trenchcoat — he lives on in March, in the pages of the all-new DC Comics New 52 ongoing series, Constantine, by writer Robert Venditti and artist Renato Guedes.”

If the statement was meant to soothe fans of Hellblazer, the only remaining title from Vertigo’s 1993 launch, it didn’t work. One commenter on the DC Comics blog insisted that, without the comic’s trademark vulgarity, nudity and adult themes, “it cannot possibly be the same.” Another referred to the upcoming Constantine as “basically Hellblazer-lite.” Still another fan offered his take on DiDio’s comments, summarizing, “We are very proud of Hellblazer so we are cancelling it. This logic is perfectly sound!” (At our sibling blog Comics Should Be Good, Sonia Harris offers her own thoughts on the announcement, and ideas for making Constantine for financially lucrative.)

However, Venditti, best known for his work on The Surrogates and the newly revived X-O Manowar, assured his Twitter followers that, “I have a TREMENDOUS amount of respect for Constantine and the creators who made him who he is. I’m taking this very seriously.” Asked whether the New 52 version of John Constantine will still be bisexual, he replied, “Keeping everything under wraps right now, but the goal is to keep Constantine recognizable. Don’t fix what ain’t broke! “

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson helps Superman find Krypton

Action Comics #14

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is famed as host of PBS’s NOVA scienceNOW and as a frequent guest on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. But as of this week, he’ll also be known as the man who located Krypton.

In a story called “Star Light, Star Bright” in Action Comics #14, which goes on sale Wednesday, Tyson himself helps Superman find his homeworld on the last day of its existence.

“As a native of Metropolis, I was delighted to help Superman, who has done so much for my city over all these years,” Tyson said. “And it’s clear that if he weren’t a superhero he would have made quite an astrophysicist.”

In reality, using information provided by DC Comics, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History did pinpoint a red dwarf star capable of supporting of Krypton-like planet in the constellation Corvus — 27.1 light years from Earth. The star can be seen at right ascension 12 hours, 10 minutes, 05.60 seconds, and declination 15 degrees, 04’ 15.66.

“This is a major milestone in the Superman mythos that gives our Super Hero a place in the universe,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. “Having Neil deGrasse Tyson in the book was one thing, but by applying real world science to this story he has forever changed Superman’s place in history. Now fans will be able to look up at the night’s sky and say – ‘that’s where Superman was born.'”

Comics A.M. | Prosecution lays out case against artist Brett Ewins [Updated]

The Art of Brett Ewins

Legal | The prosecution has laid out its case in the trial of former 2000AD artist Brett Ewins, who was charged with “grievous bodily harm with intent” following a January incident in which he allegedly stabbed a police officer responding to complaints about a man shouting throughout the night. Ewins, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia years ago and is on medication for it, suffered cardiac arrest during the confrontation and was hospitalized for three weeks. He reportedly has no memory of the incident. The defense will contend that the blow to the head rendered him unconscious (like a sleepwalker) so he was not aware of what he was doing. [The Evening Standard]

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Quote of the Day | Happy birthday, DC’s New 52

“The New 52 is one year old today! We knew going in that it was a major risk and heard every concern, but we had faith in what we were doing and felt it was the right thing for our characters, company and industry. Needless to say, the relaunch achieved everything we hoped for and more! Thanks to everyone for taking the chance and joining us on this wild ride. We have a month long celebration with Zero Month in September and knowing what we have in store for 2013, its easy for me to say, the best is yet to come.”

– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, marking one year since the Aug. 31, 2011 debut of Justice League #1
by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, the flagship of the company’s linewide relaunch

DC Comics hints at linewide crossover in late 2013

While DC Comics is marking the first anniversary of the New 52 in September with a Zero Month, for the second anniversary the publisher is considering a much larger celebration: a linewide crossover.

“I’d love to be able to celebrate the anniversary of The New 52 with something that feels so special and something that unifies the line thematically (maybe not story-wise),” Co-Publisher Dan DiDio tells ICv2.com. “We’re leading to probably our first crossover event in the latter half of next year, but you’re going to see a better continuity developing through the line.”

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Comics A.M. | DiDio and Lee on state of DC and industry

Jim Lee

Publishing | ICv2 sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio that takes the long view of the past year, covering the launch of the New 52, the effect of digital and the loss of Borders, and the recent discussions around creators’ rights. “It’s a cyclical thing. It’s an issue that constantly comes back,” DiDio said. “We hear about the great jobs and the great books that creators might participate in, but what we don’t hear about are all the books we’ve invested in over the years that never delivered, where we’ve invested in the talent and the time to make sure they had the opportunity to tell the stories they tell. It’s a very big picture, and it’s a very complex issue that can’t be boiled down. One thing I feel the most strongly is that I feel extraordinarily confident that we do everything we can to make this a very creator friendly company, to make sure they have an opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell with our characters and also in their creator owned stories too.” [ICv2]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Sidekicks, icons and DC public relations

And now I am hungry for waffles. Mmmm ... waffles ...

A brief indulgence before we get started: July 14 marked eight years since I started blogging about comics on my own little website, the now-dormant Comics Ate My Brain. Since one of my first posts was called “Robin Problems,” it’s a happy coincidence that this week we return to the original superhero-sidekick identity.

Although I’m not always happy with DC Comics as a company, I have a lot of empathy for the people who work on superhero comics, especially those who populate convention panels. Regardless of how we think they’re doing their jobs, those are still their jobs, and I wouldn’t want to go to work every morning facing a steady torrent of criticism from my customers. (We lawyers get more than enough workplace second-guessing as it is.) It also can’t be easy traveling around having to face one’s critics in person.

That said, if the alternative-fuels industry could harness avoidable fan outrage, DC Comics would be the new OPEC. Once again demonstrating a knack for how not to behave, its panelists practically laughed off legitimate questions about switching out fan-favorite Bat-protege Stephanie Brown for the “more iconic” Barbara Gordon.

After those original accounts appeared online (on Friday the 13th, no less), more details emerged to help explain just who did what. It’s still a situation where DC higher-ups asked to remove Stephanie (which, it can’t be said enough, is really asking for trouble); but apparently the series’ writer got to choose her replacement. Don’t worry, we’ll get into all the nuances.

Onward!

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Watch DiDio and Lee talk Before Watchmen at LA Times Festival of Books

Moderator Geoff Boucher, left, and DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee

Nerdist has posted video from the LA Times Festival of Books panel in April in which DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee discussed Before Watchmen, the hotly debated sequel to the influential 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The conversation was widely reported on at the time, but now you can watch it for yourself.

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What’s new with the New New New 52 books?

On Friday, DC Comics announced four titles will launch in September, at which point the New 52 DCU (or New52U) will be one year old, and every title will get a special zero issue (you remember; you were there).

At this point, it’s unclear whether DC will be canceling four existing books to make room for this third wave of new titles — remember when the publisher announced a half-dozen new books in May, it was to replace a half-dozen canceled ones — but given the amount of work that went into making “The New 52″ a thing, it seems likely that four books will be canceled shortly to keep the number consistent.

Of course, DC doesn’t always do what seems most likely, does it? For example, when rebooting and relaunching the entire line of comics in an attempt to increase readership by seeking out new audiences, it mostly just rearranged their creative teams, so the “new” DC Comics were being made by the same people who made the “old”  DC Comics, which is a little like a losing baseball team deciding to have all the players trade positions and see if that helps.

But what about these new titles? Who is making them, and what chance do they have in today’s market? Better than Hawk and Dove and OMAC? What chance do they have of growing today’s market or, at the very least, growing DC’s readership?

Let’s take a closer look at the books, and judge them by the judge-able information DC has released: Continue Reading »

Comics A.M. | DC Comics sticking with hardcover-first policy

DC Comics

Publishing | Bob Wayne, DC Comics’ senior vice president of sales, and John Cunningham, vice president of marketing, discuss May sales figures, which show the publisher edging closer to Marvel in market share and Batman topping Justice League. Wayne also explained why DC won’t change its practice of publishing collected editions first in hardcover, then as inexpensive paperbacks: “While certain titles do get a deluxe or an Absolute Edition at some point, we think our retailer would be leaving a lot of money on the table if we didn’t give consumers the chance to buy hardcovers first on select titles. The sales we are having in both channels on Batman and Justice League in the month of May indicate that we don’t have that many people waiting the trade, looking for that cheaper edition. A lot of people seem to want a nice durable hardcover and we plan to follow this model for the foreseeable future.” [ICv2]

Piracy | Manga scanlators (and proprietors of other bootleg comics sites, such as HTMLComics.com) have argued that reading manga on their sites is no different from checking it out of the library. Librarian and graphic novel expert Robin Brenner explains why that just isn’t so. [About.com]

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DC’s September launches will push its line past 52 (at least for now)

Although DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio emphasized just last month that his goal is to keep the core DC Universe line at 52 titles, with new books introduced only after others are canceled, this morning’s official announcement of four series debuts alongside the September “Zero Month” initiative will push the count past that magic number. At least temporarily.

IGN.com confirmed with DC that there will indeed be more than 52 in September with the addition of the “Night of the Owls” spinoff Talon, the fantasy Sword of Sorcery (anchored by “Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld” with a “Beowulf” back-up), The Phantom Stranger and the DCU/Wildstorm-merging Team Seven. Each title will debut with a zero issue, and then continue in October with #1.

However, that doesn’t mean no New 52 titles are being canceled: The publisher already revealed that Justice League International will end in August with Issue 12 (artist Aaron Lopresti is now penciling the Amethyst feature in Sword of Sorcery), and it’s likely it won’t be alone for long.

“We’ve announced one cancellation already, which is Justice League International, and at this time, we’re looking at reviewing the rest of the line,” DiDio told Newsarama. “But one of the primary goals is to maintain the number 52 as the number of series that we’ll be doing on a continuing basis. […] One of the things we try to do in this case is, as the expression goes, [not] throw the baby out with the bath water. So if a series does go away, we want to make sure we have a proper place for the characters, because the idea of just bringing everything to an end or a close so that nobody else can use anything else from there is detrimental to the line and the universe that we’re building. So the primary goal here is, even if a book comes to an end, that there’s some aspect of that series that moves forward and still continues on.”

DC has rolled out its “Third Wave” announcement with interviews across the Internet with Talon co-writer Scott Snyder, Sword of Sorcery creators Christy Marx and Aaron Lopresti, The Phantom Stranger writer Dan DiDio and Team Seven writer Justin Jordan. Check out the zero-issue covers for Batman Incorporated, Team Seven and Talon below. (Update: Now with full Talon cover and The Phantom Stranger promo image.)

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Quote of the day | Dan DiDio on Before Watchmen’s ‘big selling point’

From "Before Watchmen: Minutemen" #1, by Darwyn Cooke

“The big selling point is that this material is true to the source material, but it gets the chance to examine all the aspects of Watchmen that made it great. We’re seeing the characters in a different light, but also a light that is reflective of the original material.  And we found ways to really push the stories in new directions but be true to the original concepts and conceits.

We’re bringing on some of the greatest writers in comics today, as well as the greatest artists, and together they’re creating a package that we feel could stand side by side with the original material.”

– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, discussing the draw of Before Watchmen

The Before Watchmen controversy in a nutshell

Brian Truitt has a nice backgrounder on the Before Watchmen controversy at USA Today that allows both sides to state their case. If you’re just tuning in, on the eve of the sprawling prequel’s debut, this will save you a lot of time. The basic question: Should DC Comics create a prequel to Alan Moore’s Watchmen despite his opposition to the project?

DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

Former DC writer Chris Roberson: “Watchmen is a book, complete in one volume, with a beginning, middle and end. The continued attempts to recontextualize it as a ‘franchise’ or a ‘universe’ are, I think, part of the problem.”

Darwyn Cooke, one of the Before Watchmen creators, also observes that Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons does support the new books, and that his voice should not be ignored. (Cooke is also spotlighted in a separate article about the Before Watchmen: Minutemen miniseries, which debuts Wednesday.)

Still not heard from: Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie on how they feel about Moore’s reuse of their characters in Lost Girls.

Quote of the day | ‘Sometimes these things take on a life of their own’

“There was no master plan behind it all; we certainly had that character storyline in motion months ago before President Obama had come out with his statement, and the timing of the Marvel thing was coincidental because it was at Kapow that someone asked the question. You can’t necessarily manufacture that kind of attention in the mainstream press. Sometimes these things take on a life of their own, and this was a story that was literally picked up and went on its own. But that said, the point it raises is really good, it’s an interesting discussion. Dan’s answer came out of someone asking, ‘In the New 52, you’ve had a chance to change heroes ages and their origins and their race — why didn’t you change any sexual orientation?’ Basically Dan decided, you know what, maybe this was an opportunity to do some of that. The storyline comes out of that rethinking of what our standard policy was before.”

– DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, talking with Comic Book Resources about the timing of Co-Publisher Dan DiDio’s weekend revelation
that a previously established character will be reintroduced as gay


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