"The Flash" EP Kreisberg Shares Insight on Major Reverse-Flash Revelations
Passings | Bob Clarke, one of the original artists for MAD Magazine, passed away Sunday of complications from pneumonia. He was 87. Best known for his “Believe It or NUTS!” parodies, Clarke actually began his career at age 15 as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip before joining the Army, where he worked for Stars and Stripes. At MAD, he also drew “Spy vs. Spy” for many years, and illustrated the famed January 1961 back cover congratulating John F. Kennedy on his election (the front featured Richard Nixon; the editors were hedging their bets). [The News Journal]
Creators | Charles Soule talks about taking the reins of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing: “Swamp Thing isn’t just a horror book by any means — it’s also a book about superhero action and philosophy and humor. This is a title that’s open to just about anything.” Soule’s plans include new supporting characters and short story arcs that build up to a bigger structure. [USA Today]
Comic books are not only only awesome and filled with amazing characters and great art,” the Punisher star says, “but they’re also filled with vitamin B. And, as you know, vitamin B is essential for brain function and nerves and all kinds of good stuff. We’re trying to encourage kids to read. It’s a great way to get kids to expand their minds. You know, in the ’50s, horror and science fiction comics were banned in the state of New York. I’m of a mind that anything society wants to ban is probably good for you.”
You’ll notice that Jane also stealthily works in a plug for Bad Planet, the 2006 miniseries he created with Steve Niles, Tim Bradstreet and Lewis LaRosa. Free Comic Book Day is Saturday, May 4.
In “By the Numbers,” ROBOT 6 takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers. Our starting point this week is Wednesday’s announcement that retailers ordered a record-breaking number of comics for Free Comic Book Day, an international event that will draw millions of customers into specialty shops on May 4.
However, there was another figure that’s almost as impressive: the print run for the latest volume of the hit manga One Piece.
Retailers ordered more than 4.6 million comic books for the May 4 Free Comic Book Day, a 34-percent increase from last year — and a staggering 70-percent jump from 2011. Needless to say, that’s a record high for the 11-year-old event.
According to Diamond Comic Distributors, this year also will see nearly 2,000 retail accounts participating, still another record. The event coincides with the North America premiere of Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3.
Gold-level comics include Marvel’s Infinity, by Jonathan Hickman and Jim Cheung, described as “the opening shots of the war that will be heard around the galaxy” — likely to appeal to those Iron Man 3 audiences — and DC’s Superman Special Edition, which boasts a preview of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained.
Other offerings range from The Walking Dead (a new Tyreese story, paired with reprints of Michonne, The Governor and Morgan stories) and Ape Entertainment’s Sesame Street & Strawberry Shortcake to Archaia’s Mouse Guard/Rust flip book and Dark Horse’s Star Wars/Captain Midnight/Avatar sampler.See the complete list on the Free Comic Book Day website.
The snow is piled high where I am, and May seems like a long time away, but the Free Comic Book Day folks are getting into the spirit by posting some free previews (or “prevues,” as they spell it, since these are Previews prevues). The selection includes Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season, a Molly Danger comic by Jamal Igle that will be bundled with a Princeless story by Jeremy Whitley, Atomic Robo, 2000AD, Brian Wood’s Star Wars, and more.
As in previous years, the FCBD website is also running a series of creator interviews. These aren’t particularly deep; all the creators get the same set of softball questions (actual question, I kid you not: “Tell us why everyone should read comic books?”) but some of them, like Fred Van Lente, go beyond “Comics are AWESOME!!!!!” and have a bit of fun with it. Recent interviews worth a glance include Cory Godbey, who is working on an adaptation of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth; Emmanuel Guibert and Mark Boutvant on Ariol; and Robert Venditti on X-O Manowar. It’s all nakedly promotional, but it’s promoting comics after all, and there is some good stuff in there, both in the responses and the art samples.
Manga | The Japanese market research firm Oricon reports sales of manga volumes (tankobon) slipped 1.5 percent last year, to about $2.886 billion, the first decline since the company began reporting the figures in 2009. [Anime News Network]
Graphic novels | The Scottish Archaeological Research Project has put together a rather lively looking graphic novel about the history of Scotland, including such little-known events as the Storegga Tsunami. [BBC News]
Manga | Someone with a sharp eye spotted a manga license that hasn’t been officially announced: Kodansha Comics will publish Sherlock Bones, a series about a crime-solving boy and a talking dog, by Shin Kobayishi (Drops of God, Kindaichi Case Files) and Yuki Sato (Yokai Doctor). [allfiction]
Readers will get their first taste of the much-anticipated new Superman series by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee in DC Comics’ gold-edition offering for Free Comic Book Day.
The special issue also will reprint the first part of “Last Son,” the 2006-2008 Action Comics story arc by Geoff Johns, Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner, and Adam Kubert, described as “a great jumping-on point for fans who can’t wait to see Warner Bros. Pictures’ Man of Steel major motion picture.” The story may seem like an odd choice, given that the issue is more than six years old and was released before DC’s linewide relaunch, but it does reintroduce General Zod, the primary antagonist of Man of Steel, even if that continuity no longer exists.
The preview of the Snyder/Lee series, on the other hand, makes perfect sense, as its launch is timed to coincide with the June 14 opening of Warner Bros.’ franchise reboot. While DC has kept details of the new comic close to its vest — has Man of Steel even been confirmed as the title? — Snyder provided ROBOT 6 with a tease early this month.
“We’re going to be introducing a new villain, and we’re going to be trying to do the biggest and most epic Superman story we can!” he said. “So you’ll see the supporting cast — you’ll see Lana, and Lois, and Lex, and Jimmy and Perry. The story itself is really going to put Superman against a threat that will kind of shake him to his core psychologically and emotionally. We’re really really proud of it, and Jim is doing incredible work on it. So we can’t wait for you guys to see it!”
Free Comic Book Day 2013 is May 4.
Artist Becky Cloonan points out that this Huffington Post interview with her collaborator Gerard Way includes new art (above) from The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, the writer’s long-awaited followup to 2007’s The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite.
Following Thursday’s announcement of the gold titles for Free Comic Book Day 2013, Dark Horse has revealed the rest of its lineup, which includes the long-awaited debut of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, by Gerard Way, co-writer Shaun Simon, artist Becky Cloonan and colorist Dave Stewart.
Announced in 2009, the follow-up to the acclaimed Umbrella Academy originally was described by the frontman of My Chemical Romance as “almost like a strange kind of love letter to the really great comics of the ’90s that kind of pushed things.” However, in the three years since the announcement, a lot changed.
Legal | Human Rights Watch reports on the lawsuit filed by Malaysian cartoonist Zunar after he was arrested and his books seized by authorities. The court ruled that while the arrest, on grounds of sedition and publishing without a license, was lawful, the government’s continued possession of his materials was not. Zunar was never formally charged — a judge threw the arrest out after authorities could not point to any actual seditious material in his book, Cartoon-O-Rama — and therefore, the court ruled, the government had no right to continue to hold the books and must return them and pay him damages to boot. [Human Rights Watch, via The Daily Cartoonist]
Legal | Rich Johnston reports that copies of Howard Chaykin’s super-erotic Black Kiss 2 have been held at the border by U.K. customs. Diamond Comic Distributors is in talks with customs officials and hopes to get the books into the country next week. [Bleeding Cool]
If you’ve ever wondered where Free Comic Book Day came from, Cindy Custodio of Dusty Caravan Productions has put together a short-but-slick little documentary on its origins, featuring the event’s founder Joe Field. Set at his comic shop, Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif., the video also features Georges Jeanty and Zack Whedon, who contributed to Dark Horse’s FCBD offerings this year and visited Field’s shop for this year’s event.
Check it out below.
As I mentioned in my roundup of Free Comic Book Day comics, the Graphic Elvis preview from Liquid Comics was one of the more striking selections of the day, in particular because of Stan Lee’s Elvis tribute comic, illustrated by Jeevan J. Kang, which shows The King reaching the Pearly Gates. It’s a slimmed-down, pre-Vegas version of Elvis, who humbly falls into line with everyone else, amazing them with his lack of pushiness. “I wouldn’t expect him to be treated just like us,” says one man, who obviously hasn’t read his Gospels. And Elvis is almost turned away, but — no, I won’t spoil it, because now you can read the whole Graphic Elvis FCBD comic on Issu.
If you missed out on Dark Horse’s Free Comic Book Day releases, the publisher is making all four stories available digitally through the end of the month — for free, naturally — via its Dark Horse Digital store and app for Android and iOS devices.
That’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer/The Guild, by Andrew Chambliss and Georges Jeanty, and Felicia Day and Jonathan Case, and Star Wars, by Zack Whedon and Davidé Fabbri, and Serenity, by Whedon and Fabio Moon. Dark Horse’s 2011 FCBD title, Baltimore/Criminal Macabre, is also still available.
Legal | Iranian cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh has been sentenced to 25 lashes for a cartoon he drew that depicted Arak Member of Parliament Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani in a soccer jersey. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview, Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci talks about the comics market, the demise of Borders, digital comics and the slump in book sales: “[T]here are more and more trade paperbacks and hard covers coming out, so there’s less chance of getting as much attention as you’re used to, and reorders are down because of it. As the number of trade paperbacks and graphic novels increases, the number of SKUs increases, the number of units sold per SKU is decreasing. There are very few exceptions to this. I remember looking at the Diamond chart from a month or two ago and the bestselling trade paperback that month was 7,000 units. It might even have been a Walking Dead trade paperback, and as much as two years ago the bestselling trade paperback sold 12-15,000 units.” [ICv2]
Comics | With the success of The Avengers film, Kendall Whitehouse discusses the narrative techniques comics have “explored and exploited,” including “multi-issue story arcs, crossovers, team-ups, reboots and multiple title tie-ins,” noting they not only help sell more comics but also have blazed the trail for complex stories: “The story has now become a world unto its own that allows the reader to explore whichever dimensions are of the greatest interest. Follow the events from the perspective of Iron Man or Thor. Or just peruse the core series and ignore the supplementary story elements. The series presents a nearly unbounded narrative universe for the reader to experience. It is easy to interpret this with a cynical eye as nothing more than a series of cheap marketing tactics designed to pump sales. And yet, when well executed, something larger emerges.” [Knowledge@Wharton Today]
Retailing | Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day also served as the grand opening for Aw Yeah Comics, a store in Skokie, Illinois, owned (as the name suggests) by Tiny Titans creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani and retail veteran Marc Hammond. [Skokie Review, Time Out Chicago]