Dark Horse Comics
In case you somehow overlooked the listing in Dark Horse’s July solicitations, Ryan Kelly is reteaming with frequent collaborator Brian Wood for a three-part arc on Star Wars, beginning with Issue 7. The duo previously worked together on Local, The New York Four and its sequel The New York Five, and arcs of Northlanders and DMZ.
Teasing his debut on Star Wars, which is set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Kelly has previewed on Instagram his renditions of Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.
Star Wars #7 arrives July 10.
Gather ‘round, kiddos, because we begin with another tale of Gen-X adolescence!
From 1977 through 1986, I grew from a snot-nosed third-grade punk into a snot-nosed (I had allergies) high-school senior, accompanied along the way by at least one big-budget sci-fi/fantasy movie milestone.* Specifically, right in the middle of the run were three sequels by which every self-respecting fan swears: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Superman II (released in the United States in 1981) and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Each built on its predecessor using darker elements and/or more “mature” themes, because each had the sequel’s luxury of an established setting.
For Young Tom, though, the cumulative effect of these three movies was mind-expanding, if not mind-blowing. I’m not talking about Empire’s Big Reveal (echoed coincidentally in Khan) or the unsettling sight of a powerless Clark Kent. Instead, each catapulted the fevered suppositions of a junior-high imagination to higher levels of awareness. I went into the theater each time wondering will this be as good? and came out giddy at how much better each one was.
So what’s this have to do with comics? Read on …
While we eagerly await the preview of The True Lives of the Fabulous Kill Joys, the new series from Gerard Way, Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan, as part of next month’s Free Comic Book Day offerings, Dark Horse further whets our appetite for the title’s June debut with a look at Way’s own variant cover for the first issue. That premiere issue also boasts covers from Cloonan and Way’s Umbrella Academy collaborator Gabriel Bá.
Here’s the official description: “Years ago, the Killjoys fought against the tyrannical megacorporation Better Living Industries, costing them their lives, save for one—the mysterious Girl. Today, the followers of the original Killjoys languish in the Desert while BLI systematically strips citizens of their individuality. As the fight for freedom fades, it’s left to the Girl to take up the mantle and bring down the fearsome BLI or else join the mindless ranks of Bat City!”
Way’s cover is a 1-in-50 variant. The True Lives of the Fabulous Kill Joys #1 goes on sale June 12.
Whether WonderCon stays in Anaheim is still up in the air, but no doubt it’s already becoming a favorite event for Southern California. Year Two already appears exponentially more successful than last year, when WonderCon first took up residence in Disney Town.
Three-day badges and badges for Friday and Saturday sold out early, when last year you could easily do a walk-up on any day. The fast acceptance of WonderCon is at least in part due to those burned out on Comic-Con International or frustrated at the five-second sellout looking for a local alternative. It’s not just a good substitute, it’s a great convention. It also had the first big comics announcements of the year to kick off convention season. Looking through coverage here at Comic Book Resources and beyond, there were plenty of things that ranged from boring to intriguing to exciting, but three stood head and shoulders above the rest because of their potential to appeal to larger audiences.
With comics sales on the rise, these publishing moves not only do their part in boosting momentum but in helping the gradual shift of social perception of the comics form. Comics like these always excite me because it’s a reminder of the unique reach comics can have in grabbing people’s attention when the right pieces are in place. More and more these days, there are comics for anyone and when innovative thinking is applied as it is here, they stand a better chance in reaching people that don’t make it a habit of seeking out comics. Of course, comics have long had a problem getting these kinds of things right, so as we’ll see there are challenges, but the potential is exciting.
Today is one of my favorite days of the year, as most Major League Baseball teams have their opening day. In late February, when writer/artist Matt Kindt tweeted that he was returning from a St. Louis Cardinals spring training trip to Florida, I got him to agree to an interview on the spot.
This exchange took place before Dark Horse’s WonderCon announcement that Kindt’s series, Mind MGMT, would have a finite 36-issue run.
In addition to discussing his Dark Horse series, and our shared appreciation of baseball (despite his Cardinals eliminating my hometown Atlanta Braves from playoff contention last season), we delve into the May 7 release of his First Second book, Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes. There are few storytellers that set a narrative environment as uniquely as Kindt can. This go-around he establishes the city of Red Wheelbarrow to serve a larger homage to classic detective fiction.
For additional insight into Kindt’s work on Mind MGMT, be sure to read Jeffrey Renaud’s CBR interview with the writer/artist from early February.
As a longtime fan of Kindt’s narrative sensibilities, I hope he gets in contact with the right folks with the MLB in order to pursue that baseball project.
In what Lucasfilm and Dark Horse call “the biggest event in the history of Star Wars comics,” the publisher revealed over the weekend at WonderCon it will adapt George Lucas’ rough-draft original screenplay for the 1977 blockbuster.
Debuting in September, the eight-issue miniseries will be written by LucasBooks Executive Editor J.W. Rinzler and drawn by Mike Mayhew.
Lucas’ original version, called The Star Wars, featured elements that found their way, in substantially altered form, into ground-breaking movie franchise: “lazer swords,” Jedi Annikin Starkiller, General Luke Skywalker, an alien Han Solo, and evil Sith Knights.
“I’m not sure where I first read about The Star Wars—it was years and years ago — but the idea of Luke Skywalker being an older Jedi General, and Han Solo being a six-foot-tall lizard, turned my Star Wars fan brain on its side,” longtime Star Wars editor Randy Stradley said in a statement. “I always assumed this would be one of those stories that would be ‘lost to history,’ so getting to work on bringing it to life is kinda like a dream come true.”
WonderCon Anaheim 2013 kicked off yesterday at the Anaheim Convention Center, with badges for Friday selling out at some point during the day. Saturday and three-day badges already sold out, so it looks like just Sunday is left if you were hoping to attend but didn’t purchase your badge in advance.
There weren’t a lot of announcements coming out of the show yesterday, and in fact I’m not completely sure what could be considered “WonderCon news” and what was just, um, news, but here’s a round-up of stuff you may have missed from Friday:
• 2014 will bring a crossover between DC’s two Earths, according to Earth 2 writer James Robinson. “If I’m talking about a big event that’s happening in 2014, it’s all these characters meeting each other,” said Robinson, citing Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Justice Society during his spotlight panel in Anaheim. Robinson also said his goal was to make sure the writers involved in the event were invested in the story, and described himself as “the point guy” when it comes to the event, saying that Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio are also very involved. Earth 2 is also getting its own Batman, and the book will also feature the introductions of Starman (Ted Knight), Red Arrow (Earth 2′s version of Green Arrow), Hourman, Wildcat, Mister Miracle and Big Barda in the future.
Something like a cross between fan fiction and minicomics, doujinishi are most often defined as self-published parodies, extrapolations or fantasies revolving around popular, existing (and generally copyright-protected) characters and franchises. They’re generally created by fans for other fans, although the doujinishi culture is so pervasive in Japan that the phenomenon is tolerated and, in some cases, even encouraged and participated in by professional creators (and copyright holders).
Western otaku have likely seen more than their fair share of doujinshi, but more casual Western comics fans likely haven’t had any real exposure.
Enter Dark Horse’s recent Neon Genesis Evangelion: Comic Tribute, an officially sanctioned, professionally curated and created, $11, 170-page doujinishi-style anthology, produced and published in the digest-sized tankobon format made familiar to American manga fans over the past decade and a half or so.
But what is it, exactly? A bunch of different manga creators, the most prominent among them probably being Sgt. Frog‘s Mine Yoshizaki, providing short, parodic riffs on various aspects of the Evangelion franchise. Think of it as the manga equivalent of a celebrity roast.
A famous British band once sang about how it “Just Can’t Get Enough,” which is how I feel about the work of Andrew Robinson. But luckily for me, there’s about to be a whole lot more of him this year.
Robinson has been releasing pages on his DeviantArt page from his long-awaited graphic novel The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story. Announced in October by Dark Horse, it’s a biography of the famed manager who acted as shepherd/friend/taskmaster for the revelatory music group the Beatles. The graphic novel is written by comics newcomer Vivek J. Tiwary, a Broadway veteran with 25 Tony Awards for his work on The Addams Family, Green Day’s American Idiot and The Producers.
The Fifth Beatle has been a three-year labor of love for Robinson, creating the 120-plus pages entirely by hand using pencils, pens, markers, acrylics, watercolors, gouache and more. The project has drawn him away from the public eye save for some cover work, but that time away looks to be paying off.
At a time when an overwhelming number of comic-book teasers consist of a cryptic phrase on black background, Dark Horse took a far more creative approach for Dream Thief, the upcoming supernatural-crime miniseries by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood. As you can see, the fun push for pre-orders comes in the form of a paper doll, above, and a papercraft figure — “Zero Points of Articulation!” — both of the comic’s protagonist John Lincoln.
The comic, which debuts May 15, follows the thief as he becomes a vessel for vengeful spirits after stealing an ancient mask from a museum.
“Dream Thief has a lot of superhero tropes: there’s a mask/outfit, there are non-traditional superpowers, there is a need for a secret identity, and there are incredible circumstances,” Nitz told Comic Book Resources earlier this month. “So I think a non-comics reader might easily classify it as a superhero book. But it’s a pretty straightforward crime story, and I think comic book readers will pick up on that. They’ve seen it all before from the cape and cowl set. It’s my hope that Dream Thief strikes a new chord.”
Digital comics | Although the Marvel Unlimited and DC Comics apps work very differently, Noel Murray has similar complaints about both: Specific titles are difficult to find, and the damn things keep crashing: “Frankly, while some of the other major comics apps have better search functions — Dark Horse’s, for example — none of the big companies have created the digital comics retailing equivalent of an Amazon or iTunes.” [Hero Complex]
Publishing | Drawn & Quarterly has announced its fall lineup, which includes Peter Bagge’s biography Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. [Drawn & Quarterly]
Publishing | Dark Horse President Mike Richardson discusses how he became one of the first publishers of manga in the United States, explains how the company selects its titles, and suggests some manga for first-time readers. [Previews]
Digital comics | Retailer Ron Catapano points to the comiXology server crash triggered by the response to the free Marvel comics promotion as “the problem with digital content that fans keep complaining about”: “I can’t read the books I paid for because I can’t save them on my own computer and I’m limited in what I can save to my tablet by the small storage on tablets. Instead, the books I pay for are kept by comiXology and as long as I have a high speed internet connection available… I can log on and read my books on their web site or I can download a few to my tablet. BUT NOT TODAY … because someone decided it was a good idea to put 700 Marvel issue #1′s up for free at the same time.” [ICv2.com]
Legal | A federal judge on Friday denied DC Comics’ bid for sanctions against the attorney for the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, finding that Marc Toberoff made “no deliberate attempt to mislead” during the discovery process and, perhaps more importantly, did not interfere with the publisher’s rights to the Man of Steel when he allegedly inserted himself into settlement talks in 2001. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Stan Lee will be deposed this week by lawyers representing Stan Lee Media in its multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Disney involving the rights to the characters the legendary writer co-created for Marvel. Stan Lee Media, which no longer has ties to its namesake, claims Disney as infringed on the copyrights Iron Man, the Avengers, X-Men and other heroes since 2009, when it purchased Marvel. The long, tortured dispute dates back to a sequence of events that occurred between August 1998, when Marvel used its bankruptcy proceedings to terminate Lee’s lifetime contract, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the House of Ideas and signed over his likeness, and any claims to the characters. Stan Lee Media has long claimed that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company the rights to his creations and his likeness. SLM asserts in the latest lawsuit that neither Marvel nor Disney, which bought the comic company in 2009, has ever registered Lee’s November 1998 agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. [The Hollywood Reporter]
The ugly truth is that I can’t afford Dark Horse Presents. Not without making cuts to my pull list that I just don’t want to make. Fortunately, publisher seems to understand this, and is making it easy for me with its zero-issue program, collecting stories from DHP into one-shots that may or may not lead into ongoing series. I’m able to keep up with some of my favorite creators and characters this way in a format I enjoy, while also discovering some new stuff like Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas’ steampunk/fantasy comic Amala’s Blade.
A couple of things attracted me to the one-shot right away: its sword-wielding heroine, and Dialynas’ art. The look of the comic combines the expressive designs of someone like Faith Erin Hicks with the European-influenced grittiness of maybe Simon Roy. There are also cyborg pirates and a monkey in a derby, but I never know how much I can trust those things. Besides the derby-wearing primate that ripped me off in St. Augustine that one time, it’s easy for writers to throw gimmicky concepts into a story just to elevate the Awesomeness Quotient. It’s a whole other thing to be able to integrate those concepts into the world in a believable way and make them work for the story. Horton’s script does that not just with the crazier story elements, but with the genre itself.
More often than not, steampunk is a setting, not a genre. Most “steampunk” stories I read are that way only because someone decided to throw in some goggles, gears and maybe an airship or two. In Amala’s Blade, Horton and Dialynas explore the very idea of steampunk, and in the process call into question its relevance. It’s tough to tell after one issue, but I think this doubting is intentional.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the big announcements that came out of this weekend’s Emerald City Comicon, our contributors’ picks for the comics of the week — from Age of Ultron to Al Capp — and the top events to look for in the next seven days (hint: convention season is fully under way).