Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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 »
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.)
Publishing | Eight months after the launch of DC Comics’ New 52, Marc-Oliver Frisch takes a look at the reboot and concludes that it is not the “game-changer” it was touted to be. After an initial burst of sales when the series was launched, DC’s monthly numbers have settled down to about half the September sales, above the previous year’s levels but best described, as Frisch puts it, as “solid but not spectacular.” [Comiks Debris]
Digital comics | Anthony Ha looks at the success of the Pocket God comic, which is marketed alongside the game; more than 200,000 copies of the first issue have been sold, and sales for the whole series total 600,000. Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative thinks the strong sales are due in part to the 99-cent cover price: “Meanwhile, the traditional publishers don’t want to undercut their print prices, so they’re usually charging $2.99 or $3.99 for new issues. (Some older comics are available for considerably less.) Castelnuovo says that’s ‘just too expensive’ for digital comics, especially when they’re competing with something like Angry Birds, which offers more content for just 99 cents. And although Marvel and DC are sell digital collections, Castelnuovo argues that they should be doing more to bundle dozens or even hundreds of issues together, so that readers can ‘blaze through them’ the way that they will consume entire seasons of Mad Men or Game of Thrones.” [TechCrunch]
Crime | Michael Lewis, owner of Rocket Comics in Pensacola, Florida, is being held on a $11,000 bond after his store was raided by police for allegedly selling “Spice,” a synthetic form of cannabis. [WEAR ABC]
Publishing | The Economist’s Babbage blog takes a look at R. Stevens’ successful Kickstarter for his webcomic Diesel Sweeties, which raised $60,000, far overshooting his initial goal of $3,000. [The Economist]
Creators | Gary Groth previews his interview with renowned children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who passed away last week at age 83. The interview, conducted in October, is scheduled to appear in the next issue of The Comics Journal. [TCJ.com]
DC Comics’ Aquaman #7 marked the New 52 debut of archenemy Black Manta and the introduction of “the Others,” a super-powered team from the king of Atlantis’ past whose ranks included Kahina the Seer, a native of Tehran gifted with prophetic powers. Unfortunately for Kahina, however, her first appearance was also (presumably) her last, as she’s hunted down and killed by the helmeted villain in the issue’s opening sequence.
It’s a turn of events that didn’t sit well with comics writer, and fan, Dara Naraghi (Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland, Ghostbusters: Tainted Love), who’s posted an open letter to Aquaman writer Geoff Johns, reworked from a similar one he sent to Editor Pat McCallum, detailing his “extreme disappointment” as an Iranian-American reader in seeing an Iranian character killed off only eight pages after her introduction.
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]
“Yeah, of course — that’s what people want to think. But let’s be clear: The DC relaunch is a response to everything Marvel’s been doing, and not the other way around. You don’t set fire to your entire house for no good reason. And by the way, I tip my hat to them. They did something daring and it worked for them. They boosted sales of some of their books. But Avengers vs. X-Men is something that’s been on our docket for publishing for several years now.”
– Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, reacting to suggestions
that Avengers vs. X-Men is a response to DC’s New 52
Here is what you need to know going into this week’s post: I sat down with a list of DC’s current and upcoming superhero-universe comics, and rearranged it into a big chart. Now I have to make that little factoid exciting. Join me, won’t you?
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The watchword of any shared universe is “consistency.” Superman’s adventures in Superman and Action Comics may be produced by two different creative teams, and they may even take place in different timeframes, but they be must at least coexist peacefully both with each other and with the rest of DC’s superhero line. That’s part and parcel of corporately-controlled superhero comics, regardless of any tension with a professional’s creative freedom.
Publishing | David Gabriel, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, says that Marvel is putting “the biggest marketing investment that we’ve ever put into a series or an event” behind its upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event. The campaign will include online, social media, radio and television promotion. “They’re actually treating every issue as an event, because there’s a different fight going on in every issue, and I’m told that they are pushing every single issue through all 12 issues,” Gabriel said. “The story itself has three acts, and each of those acts has a natural marketing hook to it, so they’re pushing those as well.” [ICv2]
Publishing | While DC’s New 52 has been good for comics sales overall, there is a dark side: Sales of pre-reboot collected editions are down. ICv2 also lists the Top 10 comics and graphic novel franchises in a number of different genres. [ICv2]
Legal | The Justice Department brought more charges of fraud and copyright infringement against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues on Friday, but also revealed that Megaupload isn’t all that mega: The file-sharing site had only 66.6 million users, not the 180 million previously claimed, and fewer than 6 million had ever actually uploaded a file. The indictment mentions one user who uploaded almost 17,000 items, including copyrighted movies, which were viewed 34 million times. [The Washington Post]
I once attended a writing workshop by a popular, big-name comics writer in the 1990s who revealed a Dirty Secret that’s haunted me ever since. I’m paraphrasing, but he admitted that writers of corporate-owned superheroes rely heavily on fans’ pre-existing attachment to those characters. Obviously, the extent to which he was able to speak for his peers is questionable, but the implication was that he felt he could sneak sloppy work by readers, confident that their love for the characters would keep them buying the comics anyway.
Please please please don’t think that I’m accusing Duane Swierczynski of that. I have no reason to think that he’s doing anything less than his best work. It’s just that that Dirty Secret occasionally pops back into my head as I’m reading comics I’m not enjoying about characters that I like. And the New 52 Birds of Prey is one of those comics.
I discovered Black Canary through Green Arrow. I’ve been a Robin Hood fan my whole life, so it was an easy jump to digging Green Arrow, but I admit that I didn’t care for Black Canary at first. My intro to these characters was all post-Mike Grell, and all I knew about Canary was that – early in Grell’s Green Arrow run – she accused Green Arrow of cheating on her and left him. At the time I was learning about this history, there was a huge debate among Green Arrow fans about how justified Black Canary’s complaints were. But either way, Green Arrow’s reputation as a philanderer stuck. Eventually, it became apparent to me that – whether or not he’d been that way before – Green Arrow’s writers now considered commitment-phobia and infidelity to be important parts of his character. I began to lose interest in him and gave Black Canary a second look instead. I checked out Birds of Prey and dug it.
Legal | A Belgian court has rejected a five-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have the 1946 edition of Herge’s Tintin in the Congo banned because of its racist depictions. “It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to … create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment,” the court said in its judgment. Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, who launched the campaign in 2007 to ban the book, plans to appeal. [The Guardian]
Publishing| John Rood, DC’s executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development, discusses the results of the New 52 readership survey, noting right of the bat that it’s “not indicative of the actual system wide performance,” which makes you wonder what it’s good for. He has some interesting things to say about bringing back lapsed readers and the demographics of DC readers in general, though. [Publishers Weekly]
DC Comics’ sweeping linewide relaunch appealed primarily to avid fans and lapsed readers, according to the unprecedented survey conducted last fall by the Nielsen National Research Group. The publisher presented the results Thursday in Dallas at the annual meeting of ComicsPRO, the direct-market trade association.
More than 70 percent of respondents described themselves as avid fans who visit the comic shop once a week, while more than 25 percent of in-store consumers were lapsed readers. Just 5 percent characterized themselves as new or first-time readers.
Ninety-three percent of respondents were male, and more than 50 percent reported an annual income of less than $60,000 — a figure that John Rood, executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development, told ICv2.com “validated DC’s attempt to hold the price point for most comics to $2.99.” Just 2 percent were under the age of 18, with an overwhelming majority of respondents falling between the ages of 18 and 44 (no real surprise).
Also worth noting: 50 percent of digital readers also read print comics, while just 16 percent of print readers said they read or purchased digital comics. Forty-eight percent of digital buyers were over the age of 35.
The three-pronged survey was conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 11, specifically targeting consumers who purchased DC’s New 52 titles. In-store questionnaires — you’ll recall Patton Oswalt’s encounter with a “pushy” Nielsen employee — accounted for 167 responses, while 5,336 came from the online survey. A third group of 626 was pulled from customers who purchased New 52 books through comiXology or the DC app.
Following today’s creative-team reshuffling that sees Steve Pugh return to DC Comics’ Animal Man, artist Travel Foreman stopped by the Comic Book Resources forums to explain why he’s leaving the well-received series for Birds of Prey.
“The change on Animal Man boils down to the reason I was on the book to begin with, which was that I needed to take on a job after my mother died (to deal with the financial end of someone being sick for a while and then passing) and Animal Man was the only thing DC was going to let me do. Which in any other time frame would have been perfect,” Foreman wrote. “But really the context of me dealing with the death of my mom and drawing the kind of content in Animal Man just burned me out sooner than I thought.”
Foreman, who before Animal Man was best known for his work on Com.x’s Cla$$war and Marvel’s Immortal Iron Fist, launched the series in September with writer Jeff Lemire as part of DC’s New 52. But with the solicitations for March’s Issue 7 came the news that Pugh would fill in as artist — well ahead of today’s announcement. Pugh continues his fill-in with Issue 8 before becoming the regular artist the following month.
“I had hoped to stay on the book until at least the spring so that the artist I wanted to replace me was free from his commitments,” Foreman continued, “but I would have ultimately just dragged the book down if I did, because it was becoming harder and harder to concentrate on the work. Steve was bending over backwards on his fill-ins to keep the book on schedule so you have to keep that in consideration. Really, he won’t skip a beat once he’s doing the book full time.”
On his blog, Lemire wished his collaborator well, writing that, “The success of Animal Man is due in no small part to Travel’s artistic vision and I was lucky to have worked with him.”
(via The Beat)
While it seemed DC Comics couldn’t wait to get rid of Superman’s trademark trunks, in Malaysia those underpants are still red-hot.
According to New Straits Times, a suburb of Johor Bahru has been overtaken by fliers advertising “Superman’s Underpants,” billed as a cure for male sexual problems — and the residents have had enough.
“For me this could cause a bad influence among the community,” one retiree tells the newspaper. “Superman fans, especially the men, could be duped into spending thousands of ringgit to buy the product with the assumption that they could gain special powers by wearing them.” He goes on to point out that the product claims to enhance sexual abilities, and has nothing to do with Superman — who we’re pretty sure has that area covered.
Publishing | Longtime industry hand Jason Thompson has written a thoughtful essay on why the manga industry is in trouble, going beyond the American scene to point out structural problems in the Japanese market: An aging readership, the decline of print and the reluctance of Japanese publishers to embrace digital publishing in any coherent way. “Perhaps wary of creating an iTunes-like behemoth which could drive prices down,” Thompson writes, “publishers haven’t united in any reasonable way to create a consistent digital newsstand/bookstore format for their titles.” This, of course, has just made life easier for the scanlators. He also points to a shift toward the individual creator — it’s the big publishers who are hurting, while self-published and indy manga are on the rise. All this may sound familiar to American comics fans, but Thompson’s prescriptions for the future — more gag manga, simpler art, more color, and motion comics — don’t seem like convincing ways to rescue the industry. An iTunes-like behemoth is probably the way to go. [io9]
Awards | The Horror Writers Association has released the preliminary ballot for the 2011 Bram Stoker Awards, which includes a graphic novel category. [Horror Writers Association]