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‘Detective Comics’ #19 celebrates 900 issues — is it worth $7.99?

detective900-tease

If the DC Comics New 52 reboot hadn’t happened, Detective Comics would have reached its 900th issue this month. That wasn’t lost on DC, which celebrated the milestone this week with the release of an 80-page, $7.99 anniversary issue. The issue sports the New 52 debut of an old favorite, and a tribute to the number 900 in a story that ties into the larger ‘Emperor Penguin’ arc running through the comic. It also features back-up tales starring Bane, Man-Bat and the Gotham City Police Department, as well as a gallery of art by various artists.

So does this oversized issue do justice to its 900-issue legacy? Here are a few opinions from around the web …

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Comics A.M. | ‘Philémon’ creator Fred dies at age 82

Philémon

Philémon

Passings | French cartoonist Theodor Friedrich Otto Aristidès, aka Fred, passed away Tuesday in a Paris hospital at age 82. He was best known for Philémon, his surrealistic comic about a French farm boy who fell down a well into a fantasy world akin to Wonderland. Fred was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 1980, and had been the oldest living recipient. [L'Observateu de Beauvais]

Creators | John Layman, who’s writing  the 900th issue of Detective Comics (No. 19 in the New 52 continuity) talks about his plans for that and his creator-owned series Chew, and contrasts the two: “Well, the cases are weirder in Chew. There is an element that’s the same – you introduce a conflict, and then you have a detective with a certain skill set resolving it. … Batman’s just happen to be gadgets and fists. I guess if there’s a formula in the skeletal layer, it’s probably the same.” [Hero Complex]

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Rare comics and original art fetch $4.4 million at auction

John Higgins' color guide for the cover of "Watchmen" #1

John Higgins’ color guide for the cover of “Watchmen” #1

Vintage comics and original comic art brought in $4.4 million over the weekend during a Heritage auction in New York City, Artinfo reports. Among the bigger sales were a CGC-graded 6.5 copy of Detective Comics #27, for $567,625, and John Romita Sr.’s original cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #121, which fetched $286,800.

As we noted on Friday, Dave Gibbons’ original cover art for Watchmen #1 sold for $155,350, with the first three covers going for a combined $216,892.50. John Higgins’ color guide for the first cover was bought for $7,767.50. The remaining covers for the 12-issue landmark series are expected to go up for auction later this year.

Wired.com delves into the history of the 12 covers, which were purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in 1993 by former Wizard Publisher Gareb Shamus for what’s been reported to be in the neighborhood of $26,000. The article doesn’t repeat that figure, but it does say what was paid was “a bargain price” (for instance, Higgins’ color guide for the cover of Watchmen #1 was picked up for $50, which was then five to 10 times the usual price).

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Former investigator accused of stealing comics from defendant

Detective Comics #27

You may recall the story of Anthony Chiofalo, a corporate attorney accused of embezzling $9.3 million from his Texas employer and then spending a sizable chunk of that money on high-priced collectibles, including a copy of Detective Comics #27 worth $900,000.

Well, now that story has another chapter — one starring a former investigator for the Harris County District Attorney’s office who appeared today in federal court on charges that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Chiofalo’s seized comic books and attempted to sell them.

The Houston Chronicle reports Lonnie Blevins was arrested following a lengthy federal investigation into accusations into items that disappeared following a raid on Chiofalo’s home and storage units. Blevins is accused of stealing dozens of the vintage comic books, possibly worth more than $1 million.

“There were so many, they just decided to take a few,” Chiofalo’s attorney Paul Doyle told the newspaper. “Talk about a breach of trust.” He plans to file a motion to dismiss based on misconduct.

Chiofalo’s other collectibles included a boxing robe worn by Muhammad Ali, a signed first edition of The Godfather and a baseball helmet signed by Pete Rose. Presumably they’re safe and sound.


Comics A.M. | ComiXology inks Delcourt deal; Detective #27 auction

comiXology

Digital comics | ComiXology, which earlier this week announced the opening of a European branch, has revealed its first big score: a digital-distribution agreement with Delcourt, the top independent publisher in France. And comiXology kicked off the agreement by updating its dedicated Walking Dead app to include a French interface and the French editions of the comic. The company also plans a dedicated Lanfeust of Troy app, and of course it will roll out Delcourt titles on its regular app as well. [ComiXology]

Auctions | A copy of Detective Comics #27, which contains the first appearance of Batman (or, as he was called in 1939, “the Bat-Man”), will go on the auction block later this month. The comic, which is CGC rated 6.5, is expected to fetch $500,000, but there’s no reserve, so this might be an opportunity to pick up a bargain. [Art Daily]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Unfolding DC’s April solicitations

Work it, Dr. Fabulous!

Occasionally I talk about how perfunctory the monthly solicitation ritual can be … but not so for April!

On the same day the solicitations were released, Comic Book Resources launched its new “B&B” column, featuring editors Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase, and chock-full o’ factoids about various books. Moreover, the solicits were themselves packed with new story arcs, new creative teams, and an even more heightened feeling of coyness.

A big part of this coyness comes from April’s cover gimmick. Actually, we readers can only see half of the gimmick — because while every New 52 book will sport a fold-out cover, the solicits only show the left side. (Makes me wish there were a retailers-only edition of Previews, as this is just the kind of thing which surely irritates them.) To add to the anticipation, every New 52 solicitation ends with a question. Accordingly, this month more than usual, the solicits are structured precisely to set up dire consequences and leave them unresolved. Suspenseful!

Ah, but that sort of thing only encourages me. Let’s dive in, shall we?
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Attorney accused of embezzling had expensive taste in comic books

Detective Comics #27

Texas authorities are trying to track down comic books worth hundreds of thousands of dollars purchased by an attorney accused of embezzling more than $9 million from his employer.

Anthony Chiofalo, 51, appeared Monday in a Houston courtroom after spending seven months fleeing felony theft charges with at least $150,000 in cash he’d allegedly siphoned from Tadano America. An attorney who had been disbarred in New York, Chiofalo was hired by the company in 2009 as head of legal affairs; within a year, prosecutors say he began setting up dummy law firms that charged his employer for litigation work — to the tune of $9.3 million.

The Houston Chronicle reports Chiofalo is said to have spent a significant chunk of that money of comic books and sports memorabilia: When his home and storage units were raided, authorities found a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, a first-edition Playboy, and a copy of Detective Comics #27 worth about $900,000.

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Grumpy Old Fan | 43 for 43

The longest journey begins with a single issue

Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.

The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.

* * *

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What Are You Reading? with Alex de Campi

Megillat Esther

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week we’re joined by music video director and comic book writer Alex de Campi, whose works include Smoke, Kat & Mouse, Valentine and the in-production Ashes.

To see at Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Comics A.M. | Council OKs San Diego Convention Center expansion

Comic-Con International

Conventions | San Diego City Council has given final approval to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as necessary to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. The project still faces a legal challenge to a financing scheme involving a hotel-room surtax, as well as state regulatory approval, leading the city attorney to caution that the targeted 2017 completion date is just “a goal.” Whether Comic-Con organizers can be convinced to sign another three-year extension to their contract remains a big question. [NBC San Diego]

Conventions | Most of Heidi MacDonald’s article about New York Comic Con is behind a paywall at Publishers Weekly, but she pulls out some stats at The Beat: Ticket sales are up 190 percent over this time last year. As the capacity of the Javits Center is somewhere south of 110,000 people, this means the ReedPOP folks won’t sell any more tickets than last year, but they are selling out faster. Three-day and four-day passes are already gone, only Friday tickets remain, and ReedPOP vice president Lance Fensterman expects everything to be sold out by the time the show begins. [The Beat]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Relaunch roundup, Part 1

After a year, I still don't quite get the knee-braces

Because it’s the first week of the New 52 Year Two, the time has come to review where I stand at the end of Year One. It also happens to be the week I’m away on a bidness trip, unable to react to whatever dern-fool thing DC did on Wednesday.

That would probably take a back seat anyway, because I’m a little curious myself to look back at these books. In terms of reading habits, it’s been a rather funky year. Some weeks I wouldn’t have time to read everything I bought, and sometimes that meant books just dropped off my radar. I caught up with a few of these, but a few I just didn’t miss — which, of course, is never a good thing.

You’ll remember that last year I bought all 52 first issues, and talked about each as September proceeded.  Of those which remain, I am reading 27: Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Firestorm, Flash, Frankenstein, Green Lantern, GL Corps, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.

Additionally, I was reading six titles that have since been canceled: Blackhawks, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Resurrection Man and Static Shock. For a while I also read Grifter, Red Lanterns, and Superboy. Filling in some of those holes are second-wave titles Batman Incorporated, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest and Dial H.

To keep your eyes as glaze-free as possible, this will be a two-part survey. Today we’ll look at the Superman and Batman families, the “historical” titles, the main-line Justice League books, and a few others.

Onward!

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Grumpy Old Fan | Feeling lucky? DC’s October solicits

Image Comics Presents Arkham Asylum

July’s a great time to anticipate October: football; temperatures on the brisk side; the crisp smell of falling leaves; the cold rains that somehow aren’t depressing. I also like that DC Comics seems to be settling into its own seasonal patterns, using the fall to set up a slew of new creative teams and launch big new storylines. Having all those #13 issues in the run-up to Halloween doesn’t hurt either.

Of course, now we get to judge them all harshly, based on a few sentences and a photo for each….

COMINGS AND GOINGS

John Layman and Jay Fabok come aboard Detective Comics, replacing Tony Daniel. Daniel leaves regular Bat-work after several years writing and penciling in various combinations. I was never really enthralled with his writing, which seemed content mostly to approximate what a Batman story should be; but if Detective’s sales are any indication, I am in the minority. Daniel moves over to Justice League for two issues, so that likely eases the pain.
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Grumpy Old Fan | Ed Brubaker isn’t walking through that door

Gotham Central #1

What does Ed Brubaker leaving Captain America have to do with New-52 storytelling? For me, the connection goes through Gotham Central.

Okay, that requires a bit more explanation. Mr. Brubaker isn’t leaving Captain America on bad terms, but apart from Winter Soldier he’s not especially interested in writing any more superhero comics. It’s not the same as Chris Roberson’s principled departure from DC, but it puts me in a similar mood.

Like Roberson, Brubaker is a good storyteller who can incorporate shared-universe lore effectively into his comics. For example, Winter Soldier’s first issue started out as a straightforward super-spy caper, but abruptly veered close to Silver-Age-Wacky territory with [SPOILER ALERT, I guess] the arrival of a gun-toting ape. The rest of the arc combined a couple of longtime Fantastic Four villains (one minor, one pretty major) with the threat of regional warfare. It never did get truly goofy, but it was rooted in a Marvel Universe where the former Soviet Union had some pretty odd operatives. Of course, the Winter Soldier concept itself is a retcon (Bucky was revived as Soviet covert agent) of a retcon (he died near the end of World War II).

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Grumpy Old Fan | The resurrection of Paul Kirk

He hunts the world's most dangerous game!

Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson’s “Manhunter” was the story of Paul Kirk, a big-game hunter, ex-superhero and retired covert operative who was killed by a rampaging elephant and revived by the mysterious Council. Dedicated to world domination, the Council also created enforcers out of Kirk’s clones, and trained them all to be unstoppable assassins. Kirk rebelled, of course, earning the Council’s wrath; and that’s where the main story picks up.

The seven-part serial ran in Detective Comics #437-443 (October/November 1973-October/November 1974). Appearing initially as an eight-page backup feature, its final chapter was a full 20 pages, not coincidentally because it guest-starred Batman. As such, the whole thing would fit in an 80-Page Giant with room to spare, but it is full of tight, dense storytelling that encourages multiple readings. Among other things, it received a total of six Shazam awards from the Academy of Comic Book Arts: Best Short Story (“The Himalayan Incident,” 1973; “Cathedral Perilous,” 1974), Best Writer (Goodwin, 1973-74), Outstanding New Talent (Simonson, 1973), and Best Feature-Length Story (“Götterdämmerung,” 1974). It was one of Simonson’s first big projects, and his early work combines a raw, organic quality with energetic, propulsive layouts. Each short chapter packs a full issue’s worth of plot, character, and action into its eight pages, and the finale makes a regular-length issue feel like an annual. Even Batman’s potentially-distracting involvement helps distinguish Kirk from DC’s garden-variety masked men. You’ll want to read it slowly to catch all the details, but it’ll keep you turning pages to find out what happens next.

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Quote of the day | ‘Detective Comics’ is an oxymoron

“Batman is considered THE detective in comics (he first appeared in Detective Comics and has been there for 70+ years, after all) and the rest of the Bat-Family are right up there with him. But, the reputation, I’m sad to say, is undeserved. It’s HARD to write a detective in a comic book format. I know. I’ve been there. There’s only so much room for clues and for drawn out searches. Stories in comics have to move so fast that being a detective, even for Batman, usually comes down to a trail of muddy footprints, with a mud that comes ONLY from one certain place in an area of five square yards, where the murderer happens to be standing right now …”

Paul Tobin, killing my long-held dream that Detective Comics will ever live up to its name.

Is he right, though? I love Paul Tobin, but is it that tough to write a mystery comic? Seems like Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker might disagree. Or is it just tough to write a mystery comic featuring Batman or other superheroes? Tobin’s certainly correct that most Batman stories aren’t actually detective stories, but is that a problem with the comics medium, the superhero genre, or just the writers themselves?

Is it a problem at all? Am I the only one who’d really enjoy seeing Batman do some actual sleuthing? Or Lois Lane put some actual investigating into her journalism?


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