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Comics A.M. | FCBD attracts 1 million; Bill Finger Awards announced

Free Comic Book Day

Retailing | More than 1 million customers visited participating stores on Free Comic Book Day, according to a survey conducted by Diamond Comic Distributors. More than 2.4 million of the record 2.7 million comics ordered by retailers were handed out. What’s more, nearly 54 percent of stores saw higher profits than usual for a Saturday, while more than 37 percent reported higher profits than on a typical Wednesday. [ICv2.com]

Awards | Bob Haney and Del Connell will receive the 2011 Bill Finger Award for Achievement in Comic Book Writing, established in honor of the late writer, considered the “unsung hero” of Batman. Haney, who passed away, in 2004, is best remembered as co-creator of the Doom Patrol and Metamorpho and for his work on DC titles like The Brave and the Bold, Teen Titans and Aquaman. Connell, who began his career at Disney Studios working on such animated projects as Alice in Wonderland and The Three Caballeros, became a prolific writer and, eventually, editor-in-chief at Western Publishing. He also wrote the Mickey Mouse comic strips for more than 20 years. Connell, 94, will accept his award July 22 during the Eisner Awards ceremony at Comic-Con International. [Comic-Con]

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Comics A.M. | Bill Blackbeard passes away; Borders probes data leak

Bill Blackbeard

Passings | Writer, editor and historian Bill Blackbeard, widely credited with saving the American comic strip from the ash heap of history, passed away on March 10 at a nursing home in Watsonville, Calif. He was 84. A lifelong collector of comic strips, Blackbeard founded the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art in 1968, filling the garage and basement with thousands of bound volumes of old newspapers let go by libraries when they converted their archives to microfilm. His collection grew by the 1990s to 350,000 Sunday strips and 2.5 million dailies, which eventually made their way to Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Blackbeard wrote, edited or contributed to more than 200 books on cartoons and comic strips, including The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, 100 Years of Comic Strips and Fantagraphics’ Krazy & Ignatz series.

Numerous obituaries and reminisces have appeared since yesterday, most notably from R.C. Harvey, Tom Spurgeon, Jeet Heer, Dylan Williams, ICv2.com, and Dan Nadel, who collected a handful of tributes. [The Comics Journal]

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Nominees announced for 2011 Hugo Awards

The Unwritten, Vol. 2: Inside Man

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 winner will be presented Aug. 20 in Reno, Nevada, during Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention.

The nominees for best graphic story are:

Fables, Vol. 14: Witches, written by Bill Willingham; illustrated by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Jim Fern, Craig Hamilton and David Lapham (Vertigo)
Girl Genius, Vol. 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
Grandville Mon Amour, by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler; colors by Howard Tayler and Travis Walton (Hypernode)
The Unwritten, Vol. 2: Inside Man, written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

This is the third year for the graphic story category. Girl Genius won the award the two previous years.

The full list of nominees can be found on the Renovation website.

Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Dark Horse Presents #1

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday 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 what we call our “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, the first pick this week would be the relaunched Dark Horse Presents #1 (Dark Horse, $7.99). As a reader of the title in all its previous incarnations, I have a love for the format but also a desire to see them improve on it; editor Mike Richardson seems to have the right mix of big names and up-and-comers to make this work. Second up would be DMZ #64 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), and this issue is the final issue in the “Free States Rising” arc and the first real sit-down between Matty and Zee in ages. Third would be Rick Remender’s covert ops squad Uncanny X-Force #8 (Marvel, $3.99). At first glance I question why I like this so much, but when I think about it, it becomes easy: I enjoy Remender’s storytelling, the artists they’ve had and the fearless nature to dig up some classic concepts from early 90s X-Men comics and general Marvel U stuff.

If I found $30 in my pocket instead of $15, I’d double back and pick up a pair of Invincibles: Invincible #79 (Image, $2.99) and Invincible Iron Man #503 (Marvel, $3.99). I really enjoy what these two teams are doing: carving out long expanding story-arcs that can only happen with long-term teams like these two have been fortunate enough to have. Third would be Jason Aaron and Daniel Acuna’s Wolverine #8 (Marvel, $3.99); although Daniel Acuna is known as a more glossy artist akin to Ed McGuinness meets Alex Ross, I think he really bucks that with the story arc he’s working on here. Lastly would be Avengers #12 (Marvel, $3.99) -– it really blows my mind that Bendis and Romita can do such a throw-back classic Avengers story and still keep the high sales going. I’m not complaining -– I love these stories as much as I love Avengers comics of lore, but they never sold this well.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Fear Itself #1

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday 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 what we call our “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Graeme McMillan

There comes a time when curiosity overwhelms common sense, which is why if I had $15 this week, I’d pick up Fear Itself #1 (Marvel Comics, $3.99). I’m not sold on the series, as much as I love crossovers – Immonen on art is a big draw, but Fraction has been very uneven recently for me – and, despite some of the reviews I’ve read, I’m hearing word that it’s more of a case of “You’ll like this if this is the kind of thing you like” book than a home run. We’ll see. I’m much more excited about Nate Simpson’s Nonplayer #1 (Image Comics, $2.99); the previews look amazing, and everyone I know who’s read a preview copy has only had glowing praise for it. I’ll also be picking up the second (and final) issue of IDW’s crossover event Infestation ($3.99), as I want to know how the whole thing ends up, and the spoilers for Brightest Day #23 (DC Comics, $2.99) make that a must-have, too, even if it’s more for “They’re doing WHAT?” reasons than genuine excitement.

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Digital comics: What’s hot on the small screen

The digital comics scene continues to be a bit of a mishmash.

Every week, I get an e-mail from comiXology listing all of its new issues for the week, but the order seems to be somewhere between alphabetical and random. Viz Media also does a nice job of letting me know what’s new on its app. Graphicly sends a chatty e-mail featuring a couple of titles, but the company doesn’t put them front and center in its app, so I have to go looking for them (and it’s not the most intuitive interface). And while I know the iVerse folks have been busy, they don’t update their blog or (as far as I can tell) send out e-mails. This is all my way of saying that while the following may seem heavy on comiXology content, that’s not because I’m biased — it’s because comiXology has more titles and is doing a better job of promoting them.

That said, I thought it would be helpful to sift through this week’s offerings and pull out some good weekend reading.

A couple of classic series are debuting on comiXology this week. Having attended both the Vertigo panel and the Bill Willingham spotlight panel at C2E2, I was interested in seeing more of Fables, so it’s a happy coincidence that Jack of Fables #1 is up there for free. It’s just as clever as the main series, and Tony Akins’ supple penciling is a treat for the eyes. (One of the things I enjoy about Fables is that there is plenty of eye candy for the ladies as well as the guys.) Sometimes the free samples are kind of mingy, but not here: This is the whole first issue of Jack of Fables, and if that whets your appetite, Issue 2 is up there for $1.99.

Also new this week, although, sadly, not free, is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin. The first six issues, comprising two complete story arcs, are up this week.

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Telltale developing Fables, Walking Dead video games [Updated]

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 1

Telltale Games is set to announce an agreement with Warner Bros. Interactive to develop video games based on Fables, the acclaimed Vertigo series created by Bill Willingham, All Things Digital reports.

That’s in addition to the earlier rumored games based on AMC’s wildly popular Walking Dead, itself an adaptation of the Image Comics series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.

The San Rafael, Calif.-based Telltale has created episodic games based on CSI, Wallace & Gromit and Jeff Smith’s Bone. It’s now working on series for the Jurassic Park and Back to the Future franchises. Details of the Fables and Walking Dead games are slim — what you’ve read is all that’s been revealed — but more information should be announced after Telltale’s presentation wraps up later today in San Francisco.

Debuting in 2002, Fables centers on characters characters from folklore and fairy tales who live in exile in modern New York City and elsewhere in the “mundane” world. It’s a premise that certainly lends itself to Telltale’s brand of episodic games.

Update: IGN talks briefly with Kirkman, who says The Walking Dead game will fall “within the comic book world.” Telltale also has released promotional art by Adlard, which you can see after the break.

Update 2: Telltale has made the official announcements about both games. Read the press releases below.

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What Are You Reading?

Deadpool Team-Up #886

Hello and welcome to a special “birthday bash” edition of our weekly “What Are You Reading” feature, where the Robot 6 crew talks about what books we’ve read recently. Usually we invite a special guest to share what they’ve been reading, but since today isn’t just an ordinary day for us, we thought we’d invite a whole bunch of special guests to help us out — our friends and colleagues from Comic Book Resources, Spinoff and Comics Should Be Good!

To see what everyone has been reading, click below …

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What Are You Reading?

Smile

Happy holidays and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today’s special guest is Caanan Grall, creator of the webcomic Max Overacts and the Zuda strip Celadore.

To see what Caanan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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How to build your own Fables puppets, by Mark Buckingham

Fables Puppet Theatre

The Fables crew and Vertigo really knocked one out of the park last week with Fables #100, the mammoth-sized anniversary issue that included a 62-page main story (the bulk of which was an awesome battle of magic and mayhem between Mister Dark and Frau Totenkinder), several back-up stories, a board game and a do-it-yourself Fables puppet theater. If you enjoyed that last one but weren’t sure how to proceed with turning the 2-D comic page into a 3-D theatre, artist Mark Buckingham shows you how to do it over on the Vertigo blog. Get yourself some color copies of the pages (so you don’t have to tear apart the book itself) and some card stock paper, grab some glue and scissors, and go to town.

Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Thor: The Mighty Avenger

Welcome to our weekly “Food or Comics?” feature, where we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comics come home for Christmas dinner and which ones stay on the shelves, sitting cold and lonely through the holidays. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if they only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.

Check out Diamond’s release list for this week to play along. Because of weather issues, shops on the West Coast won’t be getting everything; Brian Hibbs has a list of what to expect in his store in San Francisco, which should give you an idea of what is and isn’t showing up out here.

Brigid Alverson

If I had $15…

No question, I’d get the first trade of Thor: The Mighty Avenger ($14.99). Back when I read superhero comics, The Mighty Thor was one of my favorites, and I’d love to revisit the character without getting tripped up by all the continuity I missed. This series has gotten great word-of-blog, particularly since it was canceled, and that has me curious as well.

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Comics A.M. | Diamond plans digital service? Eisner judges named

Diamond Comic Distributors

Retailing | Rich Johnston confirms that Diamond Comic Distributors is developing a digital comics service that, in the words of a company representative, “will be entirely focused on driving sales of digital comic-related content through brick and mortar comic book specialty retailers.” No details were made available, but an official announcement is expected “in the near future.” In the meantime, Johnston gathers initial reactions from several retailers. [Bleeding Cool]

Publishing | Amit Desai, who has worked at Warner Bros. since 2004, has been named as DC Entertainment’s senior vice president, franchise management: “In his new role, Desai will develop and implement the individual franchise plans for Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash, MAD Magazine, Vertigo titles, and other DC properties. This will include driving wider cross-promotional support across all Time Warner divisions.” [press release]

Publishing | Alex Segura, former publicity manager at DC Comics, has been hired by Archie Comics as executive director of publicity and marketing. [press release]

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Action Comics Annual #13

Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comics come home and which ones stay on the shelves. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if they only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.

Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Graeme McMillan

If I had $15, I’d spend the first $2.99 on the last King City, which definitely appears on this week’s list. Yay! Then I’d split the remaining $13 between two DC Comics: Paul Cornell’s Action Comics Annual #13 ($4.99), in which a young Lex Luthor meets Darkseid (Editor Wil Moss promised me on Twitter the other week that this will fulfill my sick, sick desire for more comics like Jack Kirby’s Super Powers toy tie-ins from the 1980s, so I’m entirely sold) and Vertigo Resurrected: Winter’s Edge #1 ($7.99), a collection of long out-of-print seasonal tales starring Vertigo favorites and forgotten ghost characters from Christmas Past. Be warned: I’m a sucker for Holiday comics, so expect to see me picking those a lot in the next few weeks. It’s the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, after all.

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Fables ‘Supergroup’ storyline to bring spandex to Vertigo

art by Joao Ruas

Fables #102

Superheroes at Vertigo? What the heck?

On Vertigo’s Graphic Content blog, Pamela Mullin released a trio of covers this morning that give an indication of what will be going on in the Fables-verse after the big battle with Mister Dark in issue #100. And it appears to involve superheroes.

“Now, we all know that Fables already have magical powers and use them, well, in their own clothes,” she wrote. “So why has Pinocchio suddenly got it in his head that he needs to design tight fitting costumes for a carefully selected team of Fables? In fact, why was the little brat caught looking over his own comic book collection, mumbling things like, ‘We can call him Werewolf Man, and he can be the Golden Knight, and she can be called The Green Witch?’”

That looks like Ozma on the cover to Fables #102, which was done by Joao Ruas.

After the jump, you can also check out covers to Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #1 by Chrissie Zullo and Jack of Fables #50, the oversized final issue, by Brian Bolland. All three come out in February.

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Fables #100 to feature puppets, board game and new art by Willingham

Fables #100

Vertigo has released some details on the big 100th anniversary issue of their long-running Fables series. Those of you who read previous issues know that one of the Fables characters has challenged the evil Mister Dark to a duel, and it sounds like that duel will make up the bulk (62 pages, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy) of the $10 issue. But it will also include:

• A 10-page prose story written by Buckingham and drawn by Willingham. Although Willingham is known primarily as a writer nowadays, he used to both write and draw his creation, The Elementals. Plus he worked for TSR as an artist before that, drawing the covers to Dungeons & Dragons books and modules.

• A set of do-it-yourself Fables puppet theater illustrated by Buckingham

• A three-page story written by Willingham with art by Cinderlla artist Chrissie Zullo

• A three-page story written by Willingham with art by Joao Ruas

• A two-page Fables board game, illustrated by Buckingham, with game rules by Willingham

• Four celebrity “Burning Questions” stories, all written by Willingham, featuring questions from actors who are also Fables fans, with art by Adam Hughes, J.H. Williams III and Dave Johnson.

The 100-page square-bound book arrives in shops Dec. 8.


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