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The legacy of Karen Berger and Vertigo

The news of Karen Berger leaving Vertigo spread quickly. It wasn’t so much that it was a surprise, but that it finally happened. DC Comics Entertainment has been going through significant changes over the past couple of years, including grabbing characters long associated with Vertigo and returning them to the DC Universe, and rumored changes to creator contracts. Despite the unfortunate end, Berger leaves behind an amazing legacy no matter what becomes of the nearly 20-year-old imprint.

I have a very clear memory of high school in the 1990s where kids much cooler than me were reading The Sandman. These were kids who otherwise didn’t read comics, and certainly not the superhero stuff from Marvel and DC. This was not an isolated incident. Vertigo in the ’90s brought a new audience to comics, a maturing audience with interests in horror, fantasy, suspense and mythology. These readers didn’t have access to, and probably weren’t ready for, the underground or alternative comix scene. As superhero comics turned into garish collector items, Vertigo provided the alternative: stories.

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NYCC | A round-up of news from Friday

Trillium

After a late afternoon opening to the general public on Thursday, the New York Comic Con kicked into high gear today with panels, announcements and the usual con craziness we’ve come to expect from big shows. Here’s a round-up of comic-related news and announcements coming out of Friday. If you missed anything from Thursday, I’ve also got your back. I’d also point you to Brigid Alverson’s rundown of the ICv2 sessions before NYCC that go deep on comic sales in 2011 and 2012 thus far, if you’re into that.

• Keith Giffen returns to the stars next year with Threshold, a new DC Comics series that features Blue Beetle, Space Ranger, Star Hawkins, the original Starfire and other space heroes, with a Larfleeze back-up. Giffen also seemingly confirmed that the current Blue Beetle series is coming to an end.

• Vertigo announced several new projects today, including The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, Trillium by Jeff Lemire and an Unwrtten/Fables event that will see the Unwritten characters wander into the Fables comic. Snyder said that American Vampire will go on hiatus after issue #34 so he and artist Rafael Albuquerque can catch up on it. When it returns, it’ll jump ahead to the 1960s.

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Comics A.M. | Batman dominates August bookstore sales

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Retailing | DC Comics dominated bookstore graphic novel sales in August, probably because of the release of The Dark Knight Rises and a “buy two, get one free” sale on DC graphic novels at Barnes & Noble. Six of the Top 10 titles are Batman comics, with The Walking Dead, Watchmen, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Naruto each taking a slot as well. [ICv2]

Creators | Judge Dredd writer John Wagner talks about the origins of his character, the importance of U.K. publisher DC Thomson, and his dislike of digital comics. [The Daily Record]

Creators | Nick Spencer guests on Kieron Gillen’s podcast to discuss Morning Glories. [Kieron Gillen's Workblog]

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Comics A.M. | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan tops 9 million in Japan

Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]

Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!’” [MTV Geek]

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Comics A.M. | Remembering Maurice Sendak; IDW’s digital sales

Where the Wild Things Are?

Passings | The Comics Journal collects tributes to Maurice Sendak, the legendary children’s book author and illustrator who passed away Tuesday at age 83. Philip Nel, director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature, also writes an obituary for the influential creator of Where the Wild Things Are. [TCJ.com]

Publishing | In an interview with the retail news and analysis site ICv2, IDW Publishing President and CEO Ted Adams says that while digital sales are at 10 percent of print sales, both are going up: “There’s just no question at this point that selling comics digitally is definitively not impacting [print] comic book sales. If anything you could make the argument that the success of digital is driving more print comic book sales. The correlation at this point is that increased digital has resulted in increased print. Whether or not that is a direct correlation, I don’t know how you would figure that out. I can say with no uncertainty that our increased digital revenue has come at a time when we’ve had increased comic book sales.” [ICv2]

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Roberson no longer writing an arc of Fairest

Fairest #3

Following his announcement that after an upcoming arc of the Fables spinoff Fairest he’s done writing for DC Comics, writer Chris Roberson said today that the Fairest arc he was scheduled to write is no longer happening.

“Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I won’t be writing a Fairest arc after all,” Roberson said on Twitter. “It was decided my services were no longer required.”

The tweet was soon followed by a show of support from Fables creator Bill Willingham: “Not decided by me. I will work with @chris_roberson any time. Any place.”

If you missed it yesterday, Roberson announced he would no longer write for the publisher based on their treatment of other creators and their heirs. “My reasons for no longer wanting to be associated with DC don’t stem from anything to do with my personal experiences there, but from watching the way that the company has treated and continues to treat other creators and their heirs,” Roberson told CBR yesterday. “The counter-suit against the Siegel estate and the announcement of the Watchmen prequels were the specific incidents that crystallized my feelings on the matter. I’d like to make clear, though, that I have nothing but nice things to say about the editorial staff at Vertigo with whom I’ve worked for the past few years.”

Roberson, who has written not only the awesome iZombie and various Cinderella spinoff mini’s but also took over as writer of Superman after J. Michael Straczynski left the title, has taken a stand based on principle and has now paid the price by having paying work taken from him. No doubt he expected it–hell, given DC’s history, everyone probably knew this would happen–and I give him big props for doing it anyway.

And as Kurt Busiek said in our comments section yesterday, DC ain’t the only game in town. “I am privy to a little inside information of what @chris_roberson will be doing instead of his Fairest arc and it will be awesome. So there,” Willingham said.

Update: Roberson says that he has been paid for the work he’s already turned in on Fairest.

Nominees announced for 2012 Hugo Awards

Finalists have been announced for the 2011 Hugo Awards, which recognize the best in science fiction and fantasy. Presented annually since 1955 by the World Science Fiction Society, the Hugo is among science fiction’s most prestigious awards.

This year’s winners will be presented Sept. 2 in Chicago during Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention.

The nominees for best graphic story are:

Digger, by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
Fables, Vol. 15: Rose Red, by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
Locke & Key, Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)
Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
The Unwritten, Vol. 4: Leviathan, created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

This is the fourth year for the graphic story category. Girl Genius, which won the first three years, was not included on the ballot at the request of creators Phil and Kaja Foglio.

Nominees of note in other categories include Dan dos Santos for best professional artist, xkcd creator Randall Munroe for best fan artist, and Captain America: The First Avenger and Hugo for best dramatic presentation-long form. See the full list of nominees on the Hugo Awards website.

Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales continues trend of adapting, well, fables and fairy tales

I don’t know who to blame for the current revival of popular interest in fairy tales and fables. It’s probably Shrek that got popular audiences thinking about those stories again, but for me and a lot of other comics fans, it will always be Bill Willingham’s fault. Maybe “fault” isn’t the right word, because though there’s a lot of fairy tale crap coming out (looking at you, Mirror Mirror), discerning audiences can pick through the bad stuff  and sample some great adaptations of stories that are the very definition of “timeless.” I’m all for that.

One promising new book is Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales, an anthology by several webcomics creators. Edited by Kel McDonald (Sorcery 101), the 200-page book features stories by McDonald, Kory Bing (Skin Deep), Jose Pimenta (From Scratch), Mary Cagle (Kiwi Blitz), KC Green (Gun Show), Kate Ashwin (Widdershins), Katie and Shaggy Shanahan (Silly Kingdom), and Lin Visel (The Chipperwhale). The stories include familiar favorites like “Puss in Boots” and “Rapunzel” as well as less-known tales like “The Singing Bone” and “Tatterhood.” It was some sample pages by the Shanahans that sold me on it (see a snippet below) and now I’m looking forward to checking out the rest.

Do you enjoy all the recent fairy tale adaptations or are you tired of them? If you’re picking and choosing, which are worthwhile and which need to be hidden beneath a troll-infested bridge?

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WonderCon | A round-up of announcements from Saturday

The second day of WonderCon in Anaheim, California, featured announcements ranging from Marvel’s new Captain Marvel series to Dark Horse’s new motion-comics venture to IDW Publishing’s Womanthology miniseries:

• In his “Talk to the Hat” panel, Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort revealed that Carol Danvers, long known as Ms. Marvel, will become Captain Marvel in a series by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy. He also announced that, spinning out of his Astonishing X-Men run, Greg Pak will team with Stephen Segovia for X-Treme X-Men, which includes Dazzler in its lineup. “You have no idea how hard I’ve fallen for this woman,” Pak told Newsarama. “She’s so much fun to write — she’s funny and real and wry; she’s a survivor who’s seen it all and lived to tell the tale; and she will save your life with rock and roll.”

• Dark Horse will bring motion comics featuring such characters as Hellboy, Conan, Usagi Yojimbo and the Umbrella Academy to Felicia Day’s new YouTube Channel Geek & Sundry, beginning April 2.

• IDW Publishing will follow Womanthology: Heroic, the Kickstarter-funded graphic novel anthology showcase for female creators, with a five-issue miniseries titled Womanthology: Space.

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Food or Comics? | Friends With Boysenberries

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Friends With Boys

Brigid Alverson

This is one of those tough weeks when the floppies aren’t doing it for me, so I want graphic novels, and graphic novels aren’t cheap. At the $15 level, I’ll pick up vol. 1 of Soulless ($12.99), Yen Press’s manga-style adaptation of the first volume of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. With a sharp-witted heroine pitted against vampires and werewolves, and detailed yet dynamic art by the talented rem, it is a solid and entertaining read.

My first choice of the week has to wait until I have $30, though, because Faith Erin Hicks’s Friends With Boys is priced at $15.99. Worth it! Hicks is another talented storyteller and her tale of a home-schooled girl starting high school with three brothers looming over her—but without her mother, who has recently left—is funny and sweet and very heartfelt. So when I’m done with the vampire-killings, this is the book I want to read.

For my splurge, I’ll start with the thick second volume of Archie: The Married Life ($19.99), which collects the second six issues of Life With Archie magazine. The “Archie Marries” stories are fast-moving soap operas, and this comic is one of my guilty pleasures. And then I’ll add the first volume of the Girl Genius hardcover omnibus ($34.99), which is truly a splurge as it’s a free webcomic, but I’d love to have this one in print, for keeps.

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Frosty first look at Adam Hughes’ cover for Fairest #3

Adam Hughes has revealed his cover for the third issue of Fairest, Vertigo’s upcoming Fables spinoff series that will spotlight such female characters as Thumbelina, Rapunzel, Snow White and Rose Red. While the six-issue initial arc, by Fables creator Bill Willingham and artists Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning, centers on Briar Rose, Hughes puts Lumi, the Snow Queen (previously seen in the background of his cover for Fairest #1) front and center.

Check out the full image below. Fairest debuts from Vertigo in March; the third issue arrives in May.

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Previews: What Looks Good for March

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.

Finally, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Abrams Comicarts

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]

Abstract Studios

Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]

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Food or Comics? | Arroz con Archaia

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

20th Century Boys, Volume 18

Chris Arrant

If I only had $15, I would only be buying one title this week: 20th Century Boys, Vol. 18 (Viz, $12.99). Sorry Americanos, but Naoki Urasawa is delivering a gripping, sprawling drama that most other books can’t live up to. Wait, I’m wrong – I’d buy two comics with a $15 budget this week; I’d snag the $1 The Strain #1 (Dark Horse, $1) for the price point and Mike Huddleston. I’ve read the novels, but for $1 I can’t miss sampling at least the first issue.

If I had $30, I’d be thankful to double-back and first get Uncanny X-Force #18 (Marvel, $3.99). This issue, the finale of the “Dark Angel Saga,” has been a long time coming and I’m excited for the writing, the art and the story itself; and I can’t forget colorist Dean White, sheesh he’s good. After that I’d pick up my usual Walking Dead #92 (Image, $2.99) and then try Ed McGuinness’ new work in Avengers: X-Sanction #1 (Marvel, $3.99). I’m a big fan of McG’s work, but also realize just how different he is than the standard Marvel (or mainstream super-hero) artist in general. I’ve loved his storytelling sense since Mr. Majestic, and will pick up most any of his work without knowing much about the book itself. Next up would be James Robinson & Cully Hamner’s The Shade #3 (DC, $2.99). I’m surprised DC hasn’t done more marketing for this book, especially considering it’s a character who’s never held a series before; they’ve done little-to-any marketing to define just who the character is, relying on his ties to a lesser-selling series that ended ten years ago (no matter how good it was). Getting off my soapbox: those that have been reading The Shade know it’s good. After that I’d round it off with the best looking comic on shelves, Batwoman #4 (DC, $2.99).

If I was to splurge, I’d double-up my J.H Williams 3 fix with the final volume of Absolute Promethea (DC/ABC, $99.99). Although I already own these issues in singles, getting it over-sized and in hardcover is a treat. I’m hoping it also includes some production art or process sketches – I’m a nut for that.

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Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland postponed until Sept. 2012

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland

Bill Willingham’s Fables original graphic novel Werewolves of the Heartland, originally set to debut this fall, has been officially postponed until Sept. 5, 2012, Vertigo revealed this morning. No reason was given for the delay.

Announced in 2009 at Comic-Con International, the graphic novel follows Bigby Wolf as he searches the Midwest for a new location for Fabletown: “In his wanderings, Bigby stumbles across a small town named Story City, that, amazingly enough, seems to be populated by werewolves. Who are they and where did they come from? They aren’t Fables, but they sure aren’t normal mundys. They seem to already know and revere Bigby, but at the same time they’ve captured and caged him – but why? Unravelling the many mysteries of Story City may cost Bigby more than his life.”

The 160-page book features interior art by Jim Fern, Craig Hamilton and Ray Snyder, and a cover by Daniel Dos Santos.

Fables #108 arrived in stores last week. The spinoff anthology Fairest premieres in early 2012.

Food or Comics? | D is for Daredevil, DeConnick, Deadlands and ducks

Supergirl

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Graeme McMillan

As we’re heading towards the middle of August, it’s no surprise that curiosity is getting me to pick up more than a few DC books just see how particular series “end;” I’d be getting Justice League of America #60 and Legion of Super-Heroes #16 (both DC, $2.99) anyway, because I’ve been following those series for awhile, but I’m likely to add Batman #713 (DC, $2.99) to the pile as well, if only to see the explanation as to why Dick quits being Batman before the big relaunch. But it’s not all endings for me with my $15 this week; I’d also make a point of grabbing Daredevil #2 (Marvel, $2.99), because the first issue was just breathtakingly good, and the series became a must-read before I’d even reached the last page.

If I had $30 this week, I’d add to my list of DC final issues with Supergirl #67 (DC, $2.99), which Kelly Sue DeConnick has talked up in interviews as being the highpoint of her short run to date and a great capper to the series as a whole. I’d also check in with the third issue of David Hahn’s All Nighter (Image, $2.99), as well as see if Nick Spencer’s Iron Man 2.0 is worth a look with the mini-collection of the first three issues, Iron Man 2.0: Modern Warfare (Marvel, $4.99).

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