DC Comics' "Rebirth" Character Designs for Batman, Wonder Woman and More
One upon a time, an entire subcontinent crashed into the largest continent. Tectonic plates collided, sending rocks jutting toward the heavens. Jagged peaks formed formed the Himalayas, and looming higher than any other was Everest. Sir Edmund Hilary famously journeyed to the top of the world, a feat that inspired generations of explorers to believe that no place on Earth is unconquerable. But they’re not always right, for on its icy, windswept cliffs, many an intrepid soul has succumbed to its perils. Everest is a mountain of madness. It’s a mountain … of death.
Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa’s Eisner-nominated comic High Crimes (Monkeybrain) follows the thrilling, high-stakes adventure of a lost soul named Suzanne “Zan” Jansen. She was an avid snowboarder until her Olympic dreams were cruelly crushed by an injury. Haunted by failure, her days are spent in an unbreakable cycle of drinking and self-loathing. She ends up involved in a sordid occupation: finding the missing bodies of those who disappeared on climbing expeditions. The dirty work is done by her grizzled, older business partner Haskell, who chops a hand off the dead, then returns to base to have it stored in his freezer. The fingerprints are traced by a corrupt police officer, and the identity lets them know which families to bribe.
One day, Haskell is dealt a bad hand. Literally. It belongs to a decades-old corpse who used to be Sebastian Mars. He’s not just a climber; he’s a person of interest. Inside the severed hand, Zan discovers a capsule containing a rolled-up microfiche of secrets. It turns out that it’s something like the Maltese Falcon: the stuff that dreams are made of, and a thing of extreme value to the wrong kinds of people.
This year, The Oatmeal dominates the Eisner Best Digital comic category as “the one that most people have heard of.” That’s pretty much in direct contrast to last year, which was populated by five relatively obscure titles. It’s a testament, I think, to the far-reaching diversity of webcomics, where few ever become pop culture superstars but many have devoted fanbase. You had indie-style comics like Ant Comic and It Will All Hurt, the haunting short story Our Bloodstained Roof and the classic Thimble Theater-inspired art of Oyster War.
The eventual winner, though, was the one that most closely resembled a traditional comic. Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Bandette (Monkeybrain Comics) was the first Eisner winner that had to be downloaded from comiXology — a true “digital comic” as opposed to a “webcomic.” I imagine that the familiar panel layout was the one least likely to send traditionalists into paroxysms. Heck, the tone of the story itself feels very much like a throwback to both Silver Age comic stories and European all-ages fare like The Adventures of Tintin. But so what? It’s old school, and in a way that made it refreshingly novel.
I’m not sure why I was so surprised that Matt Inman’s The Oatmeal received an Eisner Award nomination this year, but judging from some other online reactions, I wasn’t the only one.
It’s not like it doesn’t deserve it. The Oatmeal easily has a larger following than the other nominees. How many copies does a print copy have to move these days before it’s considered a success, 100,000?
The Oatmeal has hundreds of times more than that — 5 million unique readers according to a 2010 Seattle Weekly article. It’s even hugely profitable. That same article mentions Inman’s take-home pay in 2010 was a half-million dollars. A huge part of it is Inman’s expertise at SEO, which just means he played the same game that made BuzzFeed the household name it is today.
The Oatmeal covers a variety of subjects. Some of the entries have intentionally inflammatory subjects, such as ‘“How to suck at your religion” and “What it means when you say ‘literally.'” Inman tackles these subjects with the burning righteousness of an angry political pundit, depicting the wrong as googly-eyed fools and leaning heavily on the bold and italicized font settings. I thought for sure those would be the most popular strips on his site.
The Eisner Awards, arguably the most prestigious in the comics industry, will be presented July 25 during Comic-Con International. Among the assortment of awards given to artists, writers and colorists, there’s an odd little thing that’s a relative newcomer: the Best Digital Comic Award. Here’s the criteria: “The best digital comic category is open to any new, professionally produced long-form original comics work posted online in 2012.” They have to have a unique domain name, and they have to be “online-exclusive for a significant period” before being available in print.
Rather odd, considering that many of this year’s nominees barely qualify under those parameters. A “long-form comic” suggests an extended, dramatic story. The Oatmeal doesn’t really qualify (unless you consider the bid for a Tesla museum to be a real-life epic). High Crimes technically has a domain name, but it directs you to comiXology for digital download. It’s all part of the challenge in determining what, exactly, a “digital comic” is. Looking at previous nominees, there are several that don’t fit neatly within the rules.
Comic book awards. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. On the one hand, there are several challenges to clear. Who’s worthy of nomination? If it’s “Best Digital Comic,” what are you awarding it for — the way it takes advantage of its online environment, or the content? Generally, it’s the content, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t it be competing in the existing comic categories rather than be banished to the sidelines? (Several webcomics, including The Adventures of Superhero Girl, have been in contention in other categories … but only after their digital content has been converted in the traditional currency of ink and pressed wood pulp, as God intended.)
There’s been some criticism that the Eisner Award for Digital Comics tends to favor established creators from the print industry over those who made their names online. Or, in the case of Sugarshock … c’mon. Did you really think Joss Whedon wasn’t winning an award? You’d probably be struck down by lightning or something. (Incidentally, I tried to see whehter that comic was still online. I’d forgotten that it was on MySpace. Oh, man … the nostalgia.)
However, I think that, by and large, the winners have all been very good.
Karl Kerschl’s The Abominable Charles Christopher was one of the webcomics that made a splash among readers before it attracted award attention (a Joe Shuster Award in 2010, an Eisner Award nomination in 2010, and a very deserved Eisner win in 2011). What made The Abominable Charles Christopher stand out from the pack?
Comic-Con International organizers have rolled out the programming schedule for Friday, July 25, the second full day of the show.
And what a full day it is, with comics adaptations like AMC’s The Walking Dead, The CW’s Arrow and iZombie, and ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter all taking the stage. However, that’s not to say actual comic books are being slighted: There are panels devoted to Image Comics, DC Comics’ Batman, The Multiversity and more, Marvel’s Spider-Verse and The Avengers, Top Shelf Productions, IDW Publishing’s 15th anniversary and its Hasbro titles, Milestone at 21, gender in comics, LGBT comics for young readers and the (gulp) 30th anniversary of Power Pack.
Plenty of creators step into the spotlight, too, with panels dedicated to the likes of Neal Adams, Mark Brooks, Francesco Francavilla, Jae Lee, Mike Mignola, Terry Moore, Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan. To top it all off, there’s the Eisner Awards ceremony.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule.
Virtually every year, there’s a high-concept Eisner nominee that utterly baffles me. In 2009, it was Speak No Evil, the undocumented-immigrant parable where a guy has a hole for a mouth, and last year, it was the weird Ant Comic. This year, it’s probably going to be Brian Fies’ The Last Mechanical Monster.
It’s based on Fleischer Studios’ 1941 animated Superman short “The Mechanical Monsters,” probably best known as the first time, in any medium, Clark Kent stepped into a phone booth to change clothes. The first few pages of Fies’ comic look like screen shots of the original cartoon. After that intro, the the story picks up 60-plus years later. We’re already in some strange territory: a fan fiction is now in Eisner Award consideration. Only … this isn’t fan fiction about Superman or Lois Lane; it’s about the villain.
We’re also informed that “The Mechanical Monsters” is in the public domain (a factoid that took me back to when I first watched the cartoon, on a VHS purchased for cheap at Woolworths that stopped functioning after two viewings). That gives the comic an added layer of trickiness, but maybe this is as legit an adaptation as, say, CBS’s Elementary.
Comic-Con International has announced the nominees for the 2014 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, given annually to a store that has done an outstanding job of supporting the comics medium in both the industry and in the local community.
This year, a record 37 stores were nominated from across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore. The finalists will be announced the week before Comic-Con International, and the winner revealed July 25 during the Eisner Awards ceremony. The 2014 nominees are:
Comic-Con International is fast approaching, and so too is the deadline for online voting for the 2014 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: It’s midnight Friday (June 13).
Among those eligible to vote — you can do so here — are comics creators (writers, artists, colorists and letterers), editors, publishers, retailers, graphic novel librarians and scholars, and all nominees. The full list of nominees, which again includes Comic Book Resources for Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism, can be found here.
This year’s judging panel consisted of retailer Kathy Bottarini, author/educator William H. Foster, reviewer Christian Lipski, Comic-Con International board member Lee Oeth, library curator Jenny Robb and Eisner Award-nominated cartoonist/critic James Romberger.
Comic-Con International will be held July 24-27 in San Diego. The Eisner winners will be announced Friday, July 25 during the annual awards ceremony.
Manga | The 13th volume of Hajime Isayama’s hit dystopian fantasy Attack on Titan sold 1.4 million copies in Japan during its first week of release: 1.13 million copies of the regular edition, and 270,000 of a special edition that includes the original video animation. Kodansha ordered a 2.75 million-copy initial print run, a record not only for the series but for the publisher as well. The 66th volume of One Piece holds the record in Japan for highest sales in the first week with nearly 2.3 million copies. [Crunchyroll]
Publishing | Darren Davis of Bluewater Productions, talks about the evolution of his company and the origin story of its Female Force bio-comics line: “[W]e saw a comic book done of Barack Obama and John McCain during the 2008 elections, and my partner joked and said, ‘Why don’t we do Hillary?’ And I thought, oh my God, that’s a brilliant idea.So I thought, let’s do this, but let’s do it differently. Let’s not do it like everyone else, with a boring biography. We did it with a female empowerment angle. We released Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin at the same time, and whether you like Sarah Palin or hate Hillary Clinton, you have to respect both of them for where they came from and who they are.” [The Beaverton Leader]
One of my favorite times of the year is here: the announcement of the nominees for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. I love poring over each category to look for surprises, seeing books I never heard of or never got a chance to read. I guess when you get right down to it, I love getting to celebrate awesome comics.
It seems that with each year, the Eisners get better at reflecting the comics art form and industry at that moment. The judges not only hit the fan favorites and critical darlings, but also unexpected choices and hidden gems that truly benefit from this kind of recognition. It’s where quality instead of sales rule, as it should be for an award recognizing the very best of the industry.
This year’s Eisner Awards nominations were dominated by two publishers, Fantagraphics and Image Comics, with the former earning 18 and the latter 17 (plus three shared). To celebrate the occasion, Image is holding a 50 percent-off sale on digital editions of all 10 nominated titles, for a limited time. That means you’re getting single issues for just 99 cents each.
Whether you’ve fallen behind on some of the series or want to see what all the hubbub is about, now is pretty good time to check out East of West, Lazarus, The Manhattan Projects, Nowhere Men, Outlaw Territory, Pretty Deadly, Rat Queens, Saga, Sex Criminals and Zero.
Auctions | A rare copy of The Beano #1 from July 1938 — only about 25 copies are believed to exist — is being auctioned on eBay by Seaford, England, dealer Phil Shrimpton. With just four days remaining, the opening bid of £3,499 (about $5,875 U.S.) has yet to be met. As you can see on the website, the copy certainly isn’t in the best shape. The issue, which sold a reported 442,963 copies when it was released, introduced such characters as original cover star Big Eggo the ostrich, Lord Snooty, Wee Peem and Ping the Elastic Man (the racist caricature in the magazine’s logo is Little Peanut, who stuck around on the cover until 1947, when he was replaced by Big Eggo). “Every year or so another one seems to emerge – often found in someone’s attic,” Shrimpton says. “People didn’t really look at comics as collector’s items until the sixties and seventies, so lots of them got destroyed. Also a lot of the comics were destroyed during the war as people were more conscious about recycling the old issues.” [The Argus]
The Eisner Awards judges have selected trailblazing publisher Orrin C. Evans and Golden Age artists Irwin Hasen and Sheldon Moldoff for automatic induction this summer into the Will Eisner Comic Awards Hall of Fame.
Evans, who passed away in 1971, edited and published the first all-black comic book, 1947’s All-Negro Comics. Hasen, who created the comic strip Dondi with Gus Edson, drew the Golden Age adventures of such heroes as Green Lantern, Wildcat, the Flash and the Justice Society. One of Bob Kane’s primary ghost artists, the late Moldoff co-created such Batman characters as Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Bat-Mite and the original Batwoman and Bat-Girl.
The judges also chose 14 nominees from which voters may select four to be inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame:
Tentative categories — they may be altered at the discretion of the judges — are: best short story, best single issue, best continuing comic book series, best limited series, best new series, best publication for kids, best publication for teens, best humor publication, best anthology, best digital comic, best graphic album–new material, best graphic album–reprint, best reality-based work, best archival collection, best U.S. edition of foreign material, best writer, best writer/artist, best penciler/inker (individual or team), best painter (interior art), best lettering, best coloring, best comics-related book, best scholarly/academic work, best comics journalism periodical or website and best publication design.
Publishers who wish to submit entries must send one copy each of the comics or graphic novels, along with a cover letter that includes what’s being nominated, and in what categories, and the names of the creators. Creators may submit works for consideration if their publisher is no longer in business or is unlikely to submit nominations itself.
Entries should be mailed to: Jackie Estrada, Eisner Awards Administrator, Comic-Con International, P.O. Box 128458, San Diego, CA 92112. Submissions for the best digital comic category can be emailed to Estrada. The full list of nominees will be announced in April.
Additional details can be found on the Eisner Awards website.