Devil’s Due Publishing
Conventional wisdom has it that free webcomics are supposed to be leading us to print versions that we’re willing to pay for. In the case of K. Lynn Smith and Plume, it’s worked the other way around for me. I was unaware of Smith’s webcomic until it was announced as a series for the reinvigorated Devil’s Due, but the concept – and the samples I saw of Smith’s art – grabbed me. After reading the two issues out so far, however, I got impatient for more and headed to the web version.
The title of the comic comes from something the main character’s father once told her: “Revenge is like a plume of black smoke. It seems tangible, but when you reach for it, you’re grasping nothing but air.” That – and the story’s opening on the main character’s holding a gun and surrounded by dead bodies – is a huge clue about where the story is headed, but it doesn’t reveal the most interesting part of this supernatural Western. Vesper Grey is the daughter of a treasure-hunting archeologist who’s given her a magic amulet he found. The amulet is attached to the soul of a young man name Corrick, who’s received supernatural powers along with the obligation to protect whomever wears the talisman. No spoilers, but it’s not hard to predict where the revenge element will come in, even though that hasn’t explicitly been revealed by the second issue.
Except for Corrick and some magical artifacts, the world of Plume appears to be the Wild West that readers are familiar with. Smith gives it a touch of magic to help it stand out from other Westerns, but the comic’s real draw is Smith’s skill at creating memorable characters and making readers care about them. She hooked me with humor, often just by way of expressions and body language, and that’s what kept me going through the two, printed issues. There was so much foreshadowing around the revenge plot though that I got anxious waiting to see it start and hit the Internet.
Chicago-based publisher Devil’s Due Publishing has had its share of ups and downs over the course of its 15 years. After fighting back from layoffs, restructuring and complaints about non-payment to freelancers, DDP has been on-track for a slow but measured increase of its publishing efforts. But in December, the company was dealt another blow.
On Dec. 29, a multi-story building in Chicago where Devil’s Due housed its inventory was consumed by a massive fire that destroyed most of the structure and virtually everything inside. In a message posted earlier this month on his Facebook page, company founder and CEO Josh Blaylock said he had been in the process of transferring the inventory to another facility, but much of the older DDP stock of comic books, graphic novels and other merchandise were in the building.
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 (big “if” this week!), I’d take a break from the struggles of adult life and find sanctuary in the pages of high mythology thanks to Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #4 (Marvel, $3.99). Aaron and Ribic have really build up an excellent foil for Thor in the God-Killer, and also snuck in the idea of Young Thor and Old Thor – something I’d love to see expounded upon in their own series or one-shot (hint-hint). Second up would be the startling potent promise of Star Wars #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99). I never thought I’d see Brian Wood do a Star Wars comic, but I’m so glad he is – and seemingly doing it on his own terms. Thinking of him writing Princess Leia, and the potential there specifically has been rolling around in my brain for weeks. Third, I’d get two promising artist-centric series (at least for me) in B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth — Abyss Time #1 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and TMNT: Secret of the Foot Clan #1 (IDW, $3.99). James Harren and Mateus Santolouco, respectively, are two artists I’ve been keen on for the past year and both of these books look like potential breakouts to a bigger stage. On the TMNT side, I’ve always thought Shredder and the Foot Clan to be one of the most overlooked great villains in comics, so I’m glad to see some focus on that and some potential answers.
If I had $30, I’d continue my super(comic)market sweep with Womanthology: Space #4 (IDW, $3.99). This series has two things I love: new, young creators and a space theme. I’ve been on a space opera/sci-fi kick for a while now thanks to Saga and re-reading some Heinlein, so this anthology series comes to me most fortuitously. Next up would be Legend of Luther Strode #2 (Image, $3.50). Luther Strode is a real down-and-out kind of hero, like some sort of action-based Charlie Brown. Tradd Moore’s artwork really makes this sing, too. Finally, I’d get two Marvel books with Secret Avengers #36 (Marvel, $3.99) and Wolverine and the X-Men #23 (Marvel, $3.99). I’m gritting my teeth on the latter – not because it’s bad, but because it isn’t as good for me as the previous arcs. For Secret Avengers, I feel Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s run on this has been sadly overlooked in the wave of Marvel NOW books, but this mega-arc about the Descendents and now Black-Ant has been great. I’d love to see Black-Ant as a permanent part of the Marvel U.
If I could splurge, I’d throw practicality out the door and shell out big bucks for the Black Incal deluxe hardcover (Humanoids, $79.95). There’s few times I’d spend nearly 80 bucks on a comic, but this classic story by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius is one of those once-in-a-blue-moon kind of things. This has been reprinted numerous times (I have an older one), but I’m re-buying the story here for the deluxe treatment this volume has with its large size.
And in today’s response to the question “Can’t you ever just be happy about something?” the answer seems to be “Apparently not.” After all, I can think of many reasons why I should be more upbeat about the return of Devil’s Due Publishing — not least of which is the promise to pay creators monies owed from the last incarnation of the company — but, to be honest, the best I can muster is a mix of apathy and cynicism. Where’s the joy?
Passings | Prolific colorist Adrienne Roy, who was a fixture of DC Comics for more than two decades, passed away on Dec. 14 following a year-long battle with cancer. She was 57. Although Roy’s work appeared in countless DC titles, from Green Lantern and Superman to Warlord and Wonder Woman, she’s best known for her extensive runs on Batman, Detective Comics and The New Teen Titans. Mark Evanier notes that “Her long tenure on Batman (more than 600 issues of various comics featuring the character) meant that her credit appeared on more tales of the Caped Crusader than anyone else except for Bob Kane.” CBGExtra posts an obituary written by her husband Anthony Tollin. [News from ME]
Publishing | Rich Johnston reports on rumored contract changes at DC Comics that would affect all new creator-owned titles in the DC Universe and Vertigo imprints. [Bleeding Cool]
Publishing | Storm Lion, the Singapore-based multimedia studio behind the 2008 Radical Publishing miniseries Freedom Formula, has closed on the heels the summer layoff of 30 employees in Singapore and Los Angeles. The closing leaves a planned movie adaptation, to be produced by Bryan Singer, “in limbo.” [The Straits Times]
You expect a press release to inflate a comic’s importance or puff up a creator’s track record. After all, the publisher is trying to convince the media that its announcement has news value. But every once in a while a release overreaches. Just a little.
Take, for instance, this one from Arcana Studio announcing the acquisition of a handful of Devil’s Due Publishing titles that I’ve never heard of. The first half of the release is standard fare, briefly describing the comics and hyping the performance of Arcana (“the company has been growing in leaps and bounds”). But then we get to this paragraph:
Arcana’s graphic novels and intellectual properties have grown in the last two years to be as wide a library of characters as Marvel’s. Marvel was acquired by Disney for $4 Billion, and is the second major comic library to be acquired by a Hollywood studio. DC Comics, which is owned by Warner Bros., recently announced a newly-revamped business model, focusing on reaching deeper into DC’s catalog of characters.
It’s investor (or acquisition) bait, to be sure. But, hey, Arcana isn’t the first small publisher — or, rather, transmedia entertainment company — to dangle the $4-billion Marvel purchase in hopes of snagging a big fish. (However, it may the only one to date to use the DC Entertainment restructuring as back-up.) I’m not dwelling on that, though.
Comic-Con International has released the programming schedule for Thursday, July 23, as well as some special programming for preview night. You can check out the entire day’s worth of activities right here for yourself. Here are some of the highlights …
- During preview night on Wednesday, Warner Bross Television will show some of their pilots for upcoming TV series — Human Target, Vampire Diaries and the remake of V.
Controversy | A U.K. charity is under fire for a comic strip depicting a crucifix-wearing boy bullying a Muslim girl. The comic appears in the latest issue of KLiC!, a magazine for children ages 8 to 13 in public care, published by The Who Cares? Trust.
Mike Judge of The Christian Institute says the comic is “a clumsy caricature, symptomatic of a culture which says it is OK to bully Christians in the name of diversity.” However, Natasha Finlayson of The Who Cares? Trust claims the crucifix was intended as “bling” and not a religious symbol. [Telegraph]
Legal | The Michigan Supreme Court has remanded the case of Michael George to appellate court for a full hearing to decide whether his murder conviction should be reinstated. The retailer and convention organizer was found guilty in March 2008 of the 1990 shooting of his first wife Barbara. However, the judge later overturned the jury conviction, citing prosecutorial misconduct and possible new evidence.
A hearing is scheduled for today to determine whether George will be released from jail pending a new trial. [Detroit Free Press]
Creators | Jules Feiffer talks about his long career, and working for Will Eisner: “I showed him my samples which he thought had no promise at all. And only when I started talking about his work and it was clear that I knew everything he had done, from the first thing that he had ever printed, that he got interested in me. He had men in the inner office working on The Spirit. There was a penciller named John Spranger and a letterer named Sam Rosen. All of these were good guys. All of [them] were very professional. And none of them had any interest in Eisner at all. This was just a job. And they actually thought Will’s stuff was rather old-fashioned. They just considered him old hat. And I considered him a great artist. And so essentially he hired me as a groupie.” [Bookslut]
Creators | Steve Duin chats with Playboy cartoonist Doug Sneyd at Emerald City ComiCon. [The Oregonian]
Creators | Graeme McMillan talks to writer Geoff Johns about Flash: Rebirth. [io9.com]
Publishing | Josh Blaylock, founder and president of Devil’s Due Publishing, explains those bizarre comics solicitations featuring President Obama: “Everyone’s doing just these little cameos and stuff. I said, let’s just go do something nuts. I want people to look at this and say ‘What the hell is this?’ ” [Chicago Tribune]
The nominees for the 2009 Joe Shuster Awards, which honor Canadian comics creators, were announced today. The five-year-old awards program is named after Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman. The list of nominees this year includes Darwyn Cooke, J. Torres, Karl Kerschl, Dave Sim, Kathryn & Stuart Immonen, Faith Erin Hicks and Seth, among many others.
Check out the full list of nominees in the press release after the jump.
We’ve all heard countless times that President Barack Obama is a fan of Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian, and we saw where his affinity for the wall crawler led a few months ago. Now the other sword has dropped.
On Sunday, Comic Continuum posted Devil’s Due Publishing’s solicitations for June, and they include a comic titled Barack the Barbarian: Quest for the Treasure of Stimuli #1, written by Larry Hama. There’s also a poster offered of the cover to the first issue by Tim Seeley (pictured above). Here’s the full solicitation text:
BARACK THE BARBARIAN: QUEST FOR THE TREASURE OF STIMULI #1
Written by Larry Hama, art by various, covers by Tim Seeley and Rachelle Rosenberg.
From a far away land rises a mighty hero. The son of peasants from two different realms, the one known only as Barak protects the people of Hope Kingdom at all costs. Watch as he takes on the likes of Boosh the Dim, Red Sarah, and Cha-nee the Grim in this first issue!
But wait, there’s more!