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Report Card | From ‘Fantastic Four’ to ‘Dropout’ to ‘Haggard West’

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Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.

This week, however, was Comic-Con International — that’s the top story of the week right there, maybe followed by the Eisner Awards being announced. Beyond that, though, were a ton of new comic announcements from various publishers. Having been in the belly of the best for most of last week, I’m not in any position to even know all the announcements that were made, much less how to prioritize them. So this week only — or at least until next year’s con — I’m going to skip the news countdown and just direct you to read Robot 6 and Comic Book Resources’ home pages, where you can read’em.

Despite the con, comics still came out this past Wednesday, so read on to find out what we thought about Fantastic Four, Kill All Monsters, the new Monkeybrain title Dropout and more.

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Quote of the Day | Walter Mosley on the comics he read as a child

Fantastic Four

What were your favorite books as a child?

I know that as a working writer I should answer this question in such a way as to make me seem intelligent; maybe Twain or Dickens, even Hesse or Conrad. I should say that I read intelligent books far beyond my years. This I believe would give intelligent readers the confidence to go out and lay down hard cash for my newest, and the one after that.

But the truth is that the most beloved and the most formative books of my childhood were comic books, specifically Marvel Comics. “Fantastic Four” and “Spider-Man,” “The Mighty Thor” and “The Invincible Iron Man”; later came “Daredevil” and many others. These combinations of art and writing presented to me the complexities of character and the pure joy of imagining adventure. They taught me about writing dialect and how a monster can also be a hero. They lauded science and fostered the understanding that the world was more complex than any one mind, or indeed the history of all human minds, could comprehend.

Walter Mosley, author of the Easy Rawlins mystery novels, in a interview with The New York Times.

You can read more about Mosley’s comic geekery, including Maximum Fantastic Four, the oversized edition of Fantastic Four #1 that is blown up to show one panel per page, here.

(via Oz and Ends)

Andry Rajoelina illustrates power of connection in Super Families

Superdad

Animation designer Andry Rajoelina has created an uplifting, and occasionally funny, series of prints featuring the families of superheroes. That’s “family” as in Superman Family, not as in Jonathan, Martha and Clark Kent. The first set was focused on DC, but he’s now done a second group with Marvel characters.

Some of the characters, but not all, are biologically related, and that’s part of what makes the series so heart-warming. One of the nicest, most reassuring messages of the X-Men was always that people without families could form their own. (I’ve always loved the idea of the X-Men as a family much more than the idea of them as a school.) Rajoelina’s two series highlight that. They focus on adult/child relationships (the Fantastic Four leaves out Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm, for example), but Rajoelina is able to figure out a workaround for Green Lantern, even if it’s a little sad in a humorous way.

Prints of the Justice Families series can be purchased at the Geek Art Store.

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What Are You Reading? with Brendan Tobin and Pedro Delgado

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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at all the comics and other stuff we’ve been reading lately. Our special guests today are Brendan Tobin and Pedro Delgado, who run the March MODOK Madness site. And with this being March, the madness is in full swing, so head over there to check out a lot of fun art featuring everyone’s favorite big-headed villain.

To see what Brendan, Pedro and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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The slow death of superhero deaths

Batman Incorporated #8

Batman Incorporated #8

Here we go again. A major news outlet has enthusiastically run the exclusive story that a major comic book character dies in a comic released today. Superhero deaths and their inevitable resurrections have been a staple of comics for decades thanks to the sales bump they tend to get from press coverage. But the giddy acceptance of superhero deaths is starting to crack.

Since the heady days of “The Death of Superman,” mainstream news has loved a dying superhero icon. In 1992, Superman’s death was such a big deal, newspapers were writing hand-wringing editorials about what it could mean for the state of America. Right from the start, DC Comics only guaranteed he would be dead until March 1993, but somehow that got lost in the din of cultural symbolism and frenzied collectability. People really thought he was dead, even if they sensed it was financially the stupidest thing DC could do. Needless to say, Superman came back. And ever since, it seems Marvel and DC have been chasing that same media buzz by (temporarily) killing off their marquee characters, whether it be Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man or even the Human Torch. But with each passing media blitz, an interesting thing is happening: Mainstream outlets are beginning to become just as jaded about superhero deaths as we longtime readers are.

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The Fifth Color | Love stinks in the Marvel Universe

Astonishing X-Men #51

Enjoy this while we can.

Love stinks. Yeah, yeah.

It’s the ugly truth and a catchy song, but neither of those makes the statement any less real for the Marvel Universe. If I ever found myself trapped in the funny pages of my favorite Marvel comic, the first thing I’d do is move out of New York City. The second would be to never, ever fall in love. It’s just bad news, a death sentence, a waste of time that will only be written and rewritten at the first sign of a sales slump or a lazy story. Lust is one thing, one-night stands, longing looks, flings and things are all a different story, but love? Real, true, committed love? The kind that some believe you only see in fiction? Don’t look for it in the pages of Spider-Man.

More sad truths persist: There’s just not a lot of profit in true love. The Stable Adventures of Spider-Man and His Wife is way too long to grace a comic cover and doesn’t grab our attention as much as an unanswered question will; the romantic chase is what keeps readers tuned in, but even that can sour if it’s not shaken and stirred from time to time. Look at Rogue and Gambit! They’ve been Will-They-Won’t-They since they laid eyes on one another and became such a staple of shipping hearts of ’90s children (like myself) that their very characterization withered on the vine. They lost all sense of who they were without one another but still couldn’t commit to a permanent relationship. And those who have? The merry, married Marvel heroes?

It’s not pretty. If I was the Beaubier-Jinadus, I would have made a very firm pre-nup. Is there any hope for a happy Valentine’s Day for these newlyweds? Read on!

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Some thoughts on all the comics I bought Wednesday

It’s Thursday afternoon as you’re reading this, but it’s still Wednesday night as I write it. Usually on Wednesdays, I work at my day job until 5 p.m., and then, after I shout “Yabba-dabba-doo!” and slide down the tail of my sauropod/steam shovel, I hop into my car and drive to my local comic shop and pick up a small stack of comic books. Then I return to my apartment and read them, and then I write brief reviews of them all for a weekly feature I post on my home blog and then I write my weekly post for Robot 6.

Wednesdays are, generally speaking, pretty busy days for me. This one’s even busier than usual, as in addition to the above, I have a few extra writing assignments I need to finish before the end of the week and I still have two homemade Christmas presents for loved ones I need to finish putting together.

So then I had a brilliant idea! Well, an idea. Maybe instead of writing two blog posts tonight, one for Every Day Is Like Wednesday and one for Robot 6, I would just write my usual Wednesday-night blog post and put it here instead of there, thus killing two birds with one stone, as the saying, which was popularized back when people still killed birds with stones, goes.

Here then, are a few paragraphs about each of the new comic books I bought and read this Wednesday (now if only I could give blog posts as a Christmas gifts to my family members, the rest of this week would be pretty chill):

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What Are You Reading? with Joshua Williamson

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we welcome special guest Joshua Williamson, writer of Masks and Mobsters, Captain Midnight (which has been running in Dark Horse Presents), Uncharted, Voodoo and much more.

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

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Six by 6 | Six canceled comic movies we would love to have seen

Comics have become ideal source material in Hollywood’s eternal search for the next blockbuster. But in the numerous attempts to transform comic-book heroes into movie stars, some have, inevitably, failed in the making. I don’t mean failed as in bad, but rather adaptations that were announced only to be canceled before moving into production. For today’s “Six by 6,” I look at six instances of movies that spiraled into an early grave, and commiserate over what could’ve been.

1. George Miller’s Justice League: In 2007, Warner Bros. was hard at work developing a a feature based on DC Comics’ top superhero team. In September 2007, the studio announced the hiring of director George Miller of Mad Max and Happy Feet fame, and pushed to get the film finished before the writers’ strike.  The proposed budget clocked in at $220 million, with set already being constructed by early 2008 in Australia. Producers even went so far as casting Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern and Adam Brody as the Flash, before the project was abruptly shelved. After the creation of DC Entertainment in 2009, this Justice League movie was permanently canned in favor of a new approach. I would love to have witnessed a movie like this. Miller is an excellent, and mind-bendingly diverse, director, and much of the movie would have relied on the strength of the script.

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Food or Comics? | Granola or Grandville

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.

Grandville: Bete Noir

Chris Mautner

If I had $15, I’d go with Megaskull, a collection of short, extremely politically incorrect comics by British cartoonist Kyle Platts. Platts is working a similar vein of humor to Johnny Ryan in his Angry Youth Comics days, so those easily offended by jokes about, say, abortion should probably stay away. Those who still own a copy of Truly Tasteless Jokes will want to check this out though.

If I had $30, I’d ignore Megaskull and go with what would pick of the week for me: Grandville: Bete Noire, the third entry in Bryan Talbot’s excellent, ongoing funny-animal detective series, this time finding Inspector LeBrock tracking down an assassin in the city’s art scene. Talbot’s blood-soaked blend of noir, satire, mystery and, um, furry antics might seem a bit odd at first glance but it proves to be an intoxicating and engrossing blend.

Splurge: Grendel Omnibus, Vol. 2 collects one of the most interesting runs starring Matt Wagner’s titular killer, largely due to the art work of the Pander Brothers. I’ve never had the chance to really sit down with this material beyond the occasional five-minute glance, so mayhap this is my chance to dive in.

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Comics A.M. | Viz’s digital strategy; keeping Fantastic Four fresh

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha

Digital comics | I talked to Viz Media Executive Vice President Alvin Lu and the head of Viz Labs, Gagan Singh, about the company’s digital strategy, which includes the recent announcement that their digital magazine Shonen Jump Alpha will publish manga chapters simultaneously with Japan; the idea, Lu explains is to create the same sort of weekly ritual that superhero comics readers have, and to use the digital releases to build a community both online and in the real world. [Good E-Reader]

Creators | Fantastic Four was the first Marvel Universe comic, so it has been around for a while, but writer Matt Fraction is doing his best to keep it fresh: “Anything you can do to run contrary-wise to expectation to keep people guessing and wondering and entertained and surprised, you should do because otherwise people are going to dismiss the book as ‘Been there, read that.'” [USA Today]

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Marvel NOW! Test Case 001: Caleb reads Fantastic Four #1

As most of you are well aware, Marvel NOW! is Marvel’s new initiative to re-brand and re-freshen its line of superhero comics, which seems to be a sort of undeclared response to DC Comics’ 2011 New 52 relaunch.

Whereas the Distinguished Competition rebooted its continuity as well as giving all its series new No. 1 issues, Marvel’s effort is more akin to the branding enterprise that followed past crossover events (“The Heroic Age,” “Dark Reign,” “The Initiative,” etc), albeit to a far greater extent: In addition to bearing uniform cover design, many of the NOW! books are also being relaunched with new No. 1 issues and getting new creative teams (although many of those teams are simply swapping assignments; for example, the guy who was doing Avengers is now doing an X-Men comic,while a guy who was doing an X-Men comic is now doing an Avengers comic, and so on).

The idea, one imagines, is, as always, to sell more comics — to lure lapsed readers, Marvel-curious readers and (judging by the numbers of variants being published) collectors and speculators to try out some of the new and/or refurbished comics. It worked on me, so I thought it might be interesting (or at least something to write a blog post about, which is basically the same thing for me) to use myself as a case study to examine a single instance of a new reader trying out a Marvel NOW! book.

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Food or Comics? | Fantastic Fork

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. I’m filling in this week for Michael May, who is off in Florida spending his splurge money on mouse ears and giant turkey legs.

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

Chris Arrant

Saga #7

If I had $15, I’d start of the week with Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga #7 (Image, $2.99). Saga has become a real bright spot in comics for me being sci-fi without being “sci-fi,” being romance without being “romance,” and being great at being great. It gives me the same excitement the way Bone, Strangers In Paradise and A Distant Soil did back in the early 90s. Next up would be Punk Rock Jesus #5 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) by Sean Murphy. Murphy’s really exceeded my expectations here, creating a nuanced and elaborate world that has great art as a bonus. You can really tell Murphy’s been thinking about this story for awhile now. After that I’d get Invincible #97 (Image, $2.99), to finally get the truth behind the new Invincible, Zandale. I’ve been enticed by what’s been teased so far, and I hope the inevitable return of Mark Grayson doesn’t prevent me from seeing more of Zandale in the future. Last up with my $15 budget would be my call for the best superhero book on the stands today, Wolverine & The X-Men #20 (Marvel, $3.99). I feel like the title isn’t getting the attention it deserves with Marvel NOW! upon us, but Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw are absolutely delivering it here.

If I had $30, I’d double back and double up on Brian Wood with Conan The Barbarian #10 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and The Massive #6 (Dark Horse, $3.50). The Massive has survived the monumental loss of artist Kristian Donaldson, forging on in Wood’s story of one ship trying to survive in an ecological destitute Earth. Over at Conan The Barbarian, Declan Shalvey looks to be bringing the goods and showing he’s more than a Marvel superhero artist. After that I’d get the second series debut of Where Is Jake Ellis? (Image, $3.50) by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic. This is a mighty pairing, and seeing them peel back the layers on Jake Ellis has been fun.

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Comics A.M. | Tokyo’s Comic Market receives threat letter

Comic Market 82 (Summer 2012)

Conventions | Organizers of Tokyo’s Comic Market (aka Comiket), the world’s largest self-published comic book fair, have received a threat letter, leading them to consider their options for the planned Dec. 29-31 event. The preparations committee said it has been in contact with local police and the Tokyo Big Sight, where the semiannual convention is held. The incident follows a series of threat letters containing powdered and liquid substances sent in the past month to more than 20 locations linked to Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. About 560,000 attended Comic Market 82 over its three days in August (that’s turnstile attendance, not unique visitors). [Anime News Network]

Creators | Patrick Rosenkranz catches us up on S. Clay Wilson, who suffered a massive brain injury in 2008 (the cause isn’t clear) and is still recovering. “Wilson’s favorite word is still ‘No!’ He used to be a motor mouth but now he’s mostly monosyllabic. After a long life dedicated to being the baddest boy in comix, he’s become a grand old man, but he’s no longer in his right mind. He used to be able to out-talk, out-booze, out-cuss, out-draw, and outrage almost anyone but he doesn’t drink, smoke, snort or draw dirty pictures any more. He doesn’t walk much either and seldom leaves the house, and only in a wheelchair.” [The Comics Journal]

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Kerry Callen likes a (Kirby-tech) challenge

From the original page by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott from "Fantastic Four" #64

After his recent gif animation of the classic cover to Fantastic Four #51, Robot 6 favorite Kerry Callen was challenged by the Jack Kirby Museum‘s Richard Bensam to try his hand at animating some of The King’s signature tech. See the eye-popping results below.

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