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Comics A.M. | Acclaimed editorial cartoonist Roy Peterson dies

Roy Peterson

Roy Peterson

Passings | Roy Peterson, editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun, died Sunday at the age of 77. During his 40-year career, Peterson won more National Newspaper Awards than any other Canadian creator, but he was remembered by his peers chiefly for his sense of humor and his mentoring of younger artists. [Vancouver Sun]

Publishing | CNN contributor Bob Greene profiles Victor Gorelick, the editor-in-chief and co-president of Archie Comics who began working for the publisher at age 17, in 1958. [CNN.com]

Creators | Craig Thompson talks about the short story he wrote and drew for First Second’s Fairy Tale Comics anthology, and he reveals an interesting fact: “For six years or so, my entire income was based on drawing kids’ comics for [Nickelodeon] magazine. Later on my career shifted to drawing ‘serious’ graphic novels aimed at adult readers, but I’ve always wanted to revisit my more fun and cartoony style.” Former Nickelodeon editor Chris Duffy is the editor of Fairy Tale Comics. [Hero Complex]

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Crisis on Earth-3D! Villains Month, Week Four

SSPX0164

When the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 invaded and seemingly conquered Earth-New 52 in Forever Evil #1, claiming to have killed the members of the Justice Leagues, the home-Earth villains took over DC comics, scrawling their names over the logos of their foes and initiating other evil acts like using decimal points in their issue numbers and putting the wrong stories in the wrong titles. (A Dial H epilogue and a Lobo one-shot in Justice League comics? A Batgirl story in a Batman comic?). But, most nefariously of all, the villains of DC Comics raised the price of each issue by a dollar and launched one of the biggest gimmick covers schemes in the modern history of direct market super-comics: heavy, plastic, 3D lenticular covers primed to be collected more so than read, and sparking insidious speculation, goosed my unpredictable shortages to many retailers. The monsters.

But while most attention has been focused on the covers, there are, in fact, stories beneath them, and so for the past three weeks we’ve been not judging the books by their covers, but by their contents. (Here’s Week One, Week Two and Week Three, if you missed ‘em.) As in the previous months, I’ve been ranking the books on their overall quality, on a scale of one to 10: Not Very Good, Somewhat Disobedient, Naughty, Morally Deficient, Without Scruples, Iniquitous, Wicked, Maleficent, Evil and Absolute Evil (although, as none received a perfect 10, you might want to adjust your reception of my ratings up by one).

Also, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve been noting how connected each is to the Forever Evil event that ostensibly led to this state of affairs at DC, so, if you’re only interested in these things for their narrative import rather than their creators or characters, you’ll know which are worth your attention. So let’s take one last wallow in the evil of  (almost) every issue of this week’s Villains Month, and hope for the swift and triumphant return of our heroes starting next month.

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Crisis on Earth-3D!: Villains Month, Week 3

rabbit

I read all 13 of the Villains Month issues released this week by DC Comics, and in so doing I saw 89 people killed (Kryptonians and Thanagarians included) in all manner of ways. I saw people shot to death with laser guns, with regular old bullet guns, with eye-beams, with an arrow and even with an umbrella. I saw people stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, decapitated, blown up, pushed off buildings, flash-frozen and shattered. I saw someone’s neck snapped, someone’s life-force magically drained, people sliced in half with psionic energy, and others torn to pieces by claws.

I saw a bestial woman eat the still-beating hearts of her victims.

But man, the rabbit that Arcane tore in half? That’s the image that sticks with me from this week’s Villains Week offerings. Thank God they didn’t put that on the cover; imagine that arc of rabbit innards being flung your way in lenticular 3D!

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s December: New homes for the holidays

Required reading

Required reading

DC Entertainment may not have planned it this way — “planning” being something with which DC may be only tangentially familiar — but I doubt its high-ups wanted to release these December solicitations the Monday after what had to be a pretty rough weekend.  When you’ve just had to deal with a celebrated creative team walking off a fairly successful book — citing “editorial interference,” and reminding people that the character’s original writer also left after increasing frustration with DC — you might not want to follow that up by calling attention to all the other changes coming before the end of the year.

And don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of Batwoman and “sucky personal life” talk before we’re done. Solicits first, though …

FOREVER MODEST

If the first week of Villains Month is any indication, a good bit of the decimal-point issues will feature stories set in the early stages of the Crime Syndicate’s takeover. This wasn’t that apparent from the September solicits, and subsequent months also appeared light on explicit crossovers. December is about the same, with Teen Titans dropping out of the crossover lineup, and Pandora and Phantom Stranger joining the three Justice League books, the three Forever Evil [Colon] miniseries, and Suicide Squad.

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Crisis on Earth-3D!: Villains Month, Week Two

villains

DC Comics kicked off its Villains Month last week, as the evil opposites of the Justice League invaded the DC Universe, seemingly disposing of all the heroes and taking over the world.

Likewise, the villains have been taking over DC’s New 52 line of comic books, with the MIA heroes finding the covers of their books occupied by bad guys. Those are, of course, the collectible and somewhat-controversial (among retailers) 3D lenticular covers.

But as the case with books, we shouldn’t judge a comic by its cover, so let’s continue reviewing our way through the contents of the Villains Month issues. As with last week’s batch, I’m rating each book on a 10-point scale of how evil it is, with “Not Very Good” being the worst and “Absolute Evil” the best, and noting its connectivity to the Forever Evil crossover event that sparked the promotion in the first place.

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s Cincinnati Comic Expo

Cincinnati Comic Expo

Cincinnati Comic Expo

Conventions | The fourth Cincinnati Comic Expo kicks off Friday, just a week after the inaugural Cincinnati ComicCon, but administrator Matt Bredestege says he thinks his show has a broader appeal: “We are more of a multigenre show. We have a lot of celebrities and vendors that aren’t comic-related. There’s also more cosplay (costuming) and activities for the kids.” Still, he says, local comics creators are the backbone of the show. The comics guest list includes Dough Mahnke, Art Baltazar, Eddy Barrows, Andy Bennett, Heather Breckel, Rich Buckler, Mike McKone, Yanick Paquette and Thom Zahler. [Journal News]

Creators | Writer Geoff Johns talks about the DC Comics crossover Forever Evil and how it will upend the publisher’s superhero universe while making an unlikely hero of Lex Luthor. [The Detroit News]

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Crisis on Earth-3D!: Villains Month, Week One

forever evil

If you’ve been keeping up with the events in the DC Universe, then you know things are looking particularly grim for the good guys.

At the conclusion of “Trinity War,” the Justice Leagues faced an invasion from the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 — “The birthplace of all evil,” as one character called it — evil counterparts of the Justice League. In the first issue of Forever Evil, these villains claimed to have killed all of the Justice Leaguers, they freed all the supervillains from all the super-prisons and organized them into an army called The Secret Society, they did some awful things to Nightwing and then even moved the moon to permanently block out the sun.

Those jerks.

To mark the occasion of evil temporarily winning (again), DC declared September Villains Month, and is interrupting the ongoing adventures of its heroes with special “.1″ issues starring various villains. Each of these was to bear a fancy plastic 3D cover that jacked the price up a buck and ultimately created shortages, an artificial collectors/speculators market and irritated a whole bunch of retailers, many of whom were already pretty irritated by having to figure out how to order something like, say, Justice League #23.3: Dial E, which fused one of the publisher’s best selling comics with one of its worst.

We — and by that I mean you and I, for the course of this post — aren’t going to concern ourselves with that aspect of the books, however. Instead, let’s look under those covers, whether they’re the fancy plastic 3D ones or the regular, cheaper “standard edition” ones and concern ourselves with the quality of the comics concealed behind the covers.

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Grumpy Old Fan | It only feels like ‘Forever’

All that evil and no goatees

All that evil and no goatees

Forever Evil #1 is an uneven debut for the seven-issue miniseries, revealing that the Crime Syndicate — for those who came in late, basically an evil Justice League from the parallel Earth-3 — has killed all the Leaguers and is recruiting allies among DC-Earth’s supervillains. Although a handful of scenes are genuinely chilling, much of it is exposition and survey, with some of that geared apparently toward ancillary miniseries. Geoff Johns’ script works well when his characters can give speeches, but turns awkward and simplistic in crowd scenes. David Finch’s pencils are appropriately murky and grim, although there’s not a lot of subtlety; and inker Richard Friend seems to have gotten quite a workout. (This is the superhero-comic equivalent of a downpour at dusk.) Fortunately, colorist Sonia Oback manages to bring some variety to the gloomy proceedings, whether it’s brightening up a neon-lit cityscape or energizing a crackling solar corona.

Still, for the start of the first “universe-wide” Big Event of DC’s New 52, Forever Evil #1 feels like an apocalyptic tease. The issue’s main shocks aren’t as shocking as one might imagine, and the demands of a shared superhero universe will require them to be reversed. There’s undoubtedly more carnage to come, but for now it’s an exercise in attitude.

Naturally, there’s more after the jump. SPOILERS FOLLOW …

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Johns, Lee and more talk villains in clip from ‘Necessary Evil’

geoff-johns-necessary-evil

To mark the launch on Wednesday of DC Comics’ Villains Month and Forever Evil, the much-publicized event series by Geoff Johns and David Finch, USA Today has debuted a clip from Necessary Evil: Villains of DC Comics.

Arriving Oct. 25 on Blu-ray and DVD, the documentary explores DC’s rogues in-depth through interviews with “with the famed creators, storytellers and those who have crafted the personalities and profiles of many of the most notorious villains in comic book history.” Legendary actor Christopher Lee narrates.

“The best supervillains, that resonate the most, they do it on two levels,” Johns says in the clip below. “They do it how they psychologically reflect or challenge your superhero and also, in the story, what they’ve done to affect the superhero’s life.”

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Trinity War,’ the worst of both worlds?

This cover is a spoiler, sort of

This cover is a spoiler, sort of. (Don’t look, you fool! Don’t look!)

Honestly, the post title is a little misleading. Overall, I liked “Trinity War.” It was paced well, the creative teams did a good job wrangling all the characters and (for the most part) keeping them in character, and both story and art were top-notch. Basically, it felt like an old-school Justice League/Justice Society team-up, and for this grizzled veteran of the crossover wars, that’s high praise.

Nevertheless, its conclusion frustrates me, and I can’t talk about it without a massive spoiler warning. About the only thing I can say without reservation is that this week’s Justice League #23 featured the conclusion of “Trinity War.” To reveal much more about it would spoil the last page of the issue.

This is a terribly ironic situation, because DC Comics has made no secret about the setup for the sequel miniseries, the seven-issue Forever Evil. However, in the interests of preserving at least a nominal sense of fair play, I can’t really talk about that either. It all makes me feel very cynical, just when I was feeling good.

Anyway, if you’ve read the issue — or if you don’t mind knowing absolutely everything that happens, including the usual history lessons and ill-informed speculation — let’s talk.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC goes dark in November

Ironically, not part of the "blackout"

Not part of the blackout

There’s no solicitation for Justice League 3000 in November, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Reworking a first issue from scratch, with a new artist and what sounds like a new tone, undoubtedly isn’t something even one of the Big Two can do on short notice. Instead, DC Comics goes back to the Bat-well both for November’s only new series, and to goose the sales of various superhero titles.

As always, though, there’s enough in the new batch of solicitations to keep us busy this week — so without further ado …

ALWAYS BET ON BLACK

Apparently “Zero Year” will include a “Blackout In Gotham” plot point that can stretch into a dozen other DC titles, including non-Bat-books like Action Comics, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps and The Flash. This makes a certain degree of sense, as it takes place back in the “before-time” of the George W. Bush administration, before the various superhero jurisdictions were established, so you’d expect someone like Superman to take a road trip if he thought Gotham needed him. However, thanks largely to this being Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, the blackout — which, as far as I can tell, would otherwise be just one part of one title’s flashback storyline — ends up involving more books than DC’s actual line-wide Big Event, Forever Evil. The latter includes the eponymous miniseries, three ancillary miniseries and the three Justice League books, but only two other ongoing series (Teen Titans and Suicide Squad, each of which has been tied into 4EVEv since it started). The total is “Zero Year” 13, Forever Evil 9, and almost half of the latter’s score is miniseries. Personally, I don’t mind a discrete Big Event, and I’m not surprised that DC would exploit “Zero Year.” I’m just a little surprised at how heavily it seems to be relying on “Zero Year” in November.

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If Nightwing doesn’t die, will he turn ‘Forever Evil’?

Art from "Batman/Superman" #5, by Brett Booth

Art from “Batman/Superman” #5, by Brett Booth

Despite the efforts of Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins to put to rest rumors that Dick Grayson will die as a result of DC Comics’ Villains Month, the whispers continue, in no small part because there’s no issue of the series in September.

“Nightwing doesn’t have a book that month, but we’re back after September,” Higgins assured CBR TV last month. “We’re back with October. Actually, the finale of the first arc in Chicago with the Prankster and Tony Zucco, that culminates in October with Issue 24. We’re still around, we’re doing our thing.”

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Grumpy Old Fan | Harvesting DC’s October solicits

One of these things is not like the others

One of these things is not like the others

After September’s market-chasing “Villains Month” solicitations, the October listings look a lot more normal. I say “more normal” because I only count 47 New 52 ongoing series, which means October’s new additions don’t balance out August’s cancellations. Forever Evil and other miniseries are picking up some of that slack, but obviously they won’t be around forever. If DC is serious about having 52 ongoing titles — and why wouldn’t it be serious about something so arbitrary? — now may be a good time to start pushing for that Crimson Fox series you’ve always wanted. Hey, DC has greenlit worse ideas …

NOT FOREVER, BUT CLOSE

Forever Evil is 2013-14′s big-event crossover miniseries whose hook is that the villains have taken over the world. Final Crisis was 2008-09′s big-event miniseries whose hook was that Darkseid (helped in part by a revived Secret Society of Super-Villains) had taken over the world. Final Crisis didn’t actually do much crossing over into ongoing series, but it did have an array of tie-in miniseries and specials, including one featuring the Flash’s Rogues Gallery.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Forever’-stamped: DC in September

This was also the working title of "The Sinestro Corps War"

This was also the original title of “The Sinestro Corps War”

DC Comics goes bad in September, turning all 52 slots of its superhero line over to its less-savory characters. That’s pretty much the story of the superhero solicitations, although there are some interesting collections coming this fall.

On its face, Forever Evil sounds like a pretty straightforward, traditional superhero story. I think the “heroes disappear, villains romp” plot was even an episode of Super Friends. Accordingly, all things being equal, I have no problems with using it for a line-wide crossover. No doubt the DC Comics of 2013-14 will season it with plenty of violence and depravity, sucking away my goodwill accordingly; but those details will have to wait until the comics themselves come out.

THE SHAPE OF EVIL

In fact, the part of “Villains Month” that interests me most is its structure. Yes, there are 52 single issues coming out of the superhero line in September, plus Forever Evil #1. However, those 52 issues ostensibly “represent” only 18 series: Action Comics, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman/Superman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics, Earth 2, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Justice League, JL Dark, JLA, Superman, Swamp Thing, Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. Furthermore, 16 of the 52 are Bat-books, more than the Justice League books’ 10 issues and twice as many as the Superman books’ eight issues. Add Batman/Superman #3.1, and 35 of the 52 will have “Batman,” “Superman” or “Justice League” on their covers. In fact, 16 of the 18 series are already on my pull list (sorry, Green Arrow and Teen Titans), so I’ll probably be putting back a fair amount of these, which won’t make my comic shop’s job any happier.

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Villains Month: DC’s own ‘decimal-pointed event-ish’ thingy

joker-lenticularIn late August 2011, just ahead of DC Entertainment’s’ high-risk relaunch of its superhero line, the company’s executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development emphasized the New 52 wasn’t merely a gimmick to seize more shelf space.

“To be clear – DC is not a market-share-chaser. If we were, we would not be creating a quality lasting direction across a controlled number of titles,” John Rood wrote on the DC Comics blog, setting up on obvious shot at Marvel. “We would instead be flooding the market with over 200 titles a month, changing your prices with abandon, killing off a character every quarter or so, and/or randomly announcing decimal-pointed event-ish thingies. We haven’t.”  That, of course, was a reference to Marvel’s Point One initiative and the then-recently announced Fear Itself #7.1, #7.2 and #7.3.

Now fast-forward to this morning, less than two years later, as DC rolls out the details of its newly confirmed “Villains Month,” the September event in which the company’s antagonists take center stage in the aftermath of “Trinity War”: As the Batman solicitations for September show, any issues DC had about decimal-pointed event-ish thingies appear to have resolved, because we’re presented with Batman #23.1: The Joker, Batman #23.2: The Riddler, Batman #23.3: The Penguin and Batman #23.4: Bane.

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