Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Passings | Comics journalist and commentator Bhob Stewart died Monday at the age of 76. Stewart kicked off his career in 1953, at the age of 16, by publishing an EC fanzine; the following year, as Carol Tilley documented in a recent talk, he sent a copy to anti-comics crusader Fredric Wertham, along with some tart commentary. Stewart went on to become an influential voice in the conversation about comics; he wrote several books, taught classes at the School for Visual Arts, and curated the first exhibit of comics art in a major American museum. Heidi MacDonald credits him with inventing both Wacky Packages and the term “underground comics.” [The Beat]
Editorial cartoons | German cartoonist Burkhard Mohr has apologized for a cartoon depicting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a hooked nose, an image that critics said was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. The cartoon appeared in the early editions of the Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, but Zuckerberg’s face was replaced by an empty hole in later editions. “I’m very sorry about this misunderstanding and any readers’ feelings I may have hurt,” Mohr said. “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies that are totally alien to me” [ABC News]
Less than three weeks after the final issue of DC Comics’ The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires arrived in stores, Gail Simone has announced the cancellation of its companion series The Movement with May’s Issue 12.
Unfortunately, this book just never found a big enough audience,” the writer posted Sunday on her blog. “The people who loved it, loved it hard, but that number was too small. I am bummed about it, we wanted to do a book that didn’t read or look like anything else out there, and I think we accomplished that. I take the responsibility, I think it took a little while for people to really adopt the characters, which was a conscious choice but also a risky one in this very cautious market where people have to be extra careful of which books they choose.”
Launched in May 2013, The Movement and The Green Team were a look at the 1 percent and the 99 percent, the haves and have-nots, in the DC Universe: While The Green Team, by Art Baltazar, Franco and Ig Guara, centered on teens who used their wealth to purchase power — and super powers — Simone and Freddie E. Williams II’s The Movement focused on another group of teens who used their abilities to fight corruption in Corral City.
“Whenever a book is cancelled, people often get mad at the publisher — it’s understandable, but in this case, we received nothing but support from DC,” Simone wrote. “They knew it was a dicey prospect, a book not set in Gotham or Metropolis with no known heroes, and an unusual core theme. They knew it was a bit risky commercially and they did it anyway, and they let us run out to twelve issues to finish it properly, when almost any other publisher would have cut it earlier on.”
Time once again to revisit some thoughts about the year just ended, and offer some thoughts on the year to come.
First, let’s see how I did with 2013:
1. Man of Steel. Last year I asked “a) how well will it do with critics and moviegoers; and b) yes, of course, will it help set up Justice League?” It got a 55 percent (i.e., Rotten) ranking from Rotten Tomatoes (although 76 percent of RT visitors who cared to vote said they liked it). Financially, Box Office Mojo called it a “toss-up,” putting it in the same category as Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Wolverine, The Hangover Part III, Pacific Rim and, uh, The Smurfs 2. I liked it well enough — I seem to like a lot of things “well enough” — but perhaps Super-fan Jerry Seinfeld’s musings about missed opportunities speak best to the film’s reception. MOS itself didn’t help set up a Justice League movie, at least not as expressly as, say, Nick Fury talking about the Avengers; but I think it’s safe to say that the sequel will go a long way in that regard.
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Before writing titles like Birds of Prey, Secret Six and Batgirl for DC Comics, Gail Simone had a brief tenure at Marvel, working on Deadpool, the Deadpool-spinoff Agent X and the kid-friendly Gus Beezer one-shots. It’s been more than 10 years since those titles first saw print, but now she’s headed back to the House of Ideas to work on a new Deadpool story for the big wedding issue.
“Am I Excited? To be writing my first Marvel story in TEN YEARS?” she sad on her Tumblr. “Yes, I am!”
If you frequent her Tumblr, you know she talks fondly of Deadpool and the Agent X characters whenever she’s asked about them, so it isn’t surprising to see her once again writing the now-engaged character. Will her story perhaps involve some of the Agent X cast, like Taskmaster, Outlaw or the title character himself? I guess we’ll find out in April.
In addition to Simone and, of course, series regulars Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, Deadpool #27 will also feature stories written by Fabian Nicieza, Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Christopher Priest, Jimmy Palmiotti, Frank Tieri, Daniel Way and Victor Gischler, with art by Mike Hawthorne, Scott Koblish and “many more.” Check out the solicitation information below.
Publishing | Retail news and analysis website ICv2 breaks down November’s comics sales to the direct market and finds year-to-date sales up 9.33 percent over last year, with an 11.09 percent increase in comics and 5.55 percent in graphic novels. Batman #25 topped the comics chart with more than 125,000 copies, followed at No. 2 by Harley Quinn #0 with about 114,000. In the graphic novel category, the latest volume of The Walking Dead led with about 25,000 copies sold in November. ICv2 also lists the top 300 comics and graphic novels for November. [ICv2]
Creators | Molly Crabapple talks to Art Spiegelman, and draws his portrait as well. [Vice]
Events | The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University steps into the spotlight for the Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art, which celebrates the library’s move to a new 30,000-square-foot home on campus. The library’s extensive collection includes more than 300,000 original comic strips, 29,000 comic books, 45,000 books and 2,400 boxes of manuscripts, personal papers and the like. The festival, held today through Sunday, includes such guests as Eddie Campbell, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Herandez, Jeff Smith, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Kazu Kibuishi and Dylan Meconis. [The Associated Press, The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Alive]
Creators | Art Spiegelman talks about history, Maus, and being the creator of Maus: “I have to keep moving as best I can through the shadow of something that I’m glad I had pass through me.” [Tablet]
Conventions | A even bigger obstacle than the San Diego Chargers to the proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center could be the California Coastal Commission, which must approve the project before it can proceed (the stage agency has regulatory oversight of land use and public access to the California coastal zone). The commission’s 11 members are meeting today through Friday in Mission Valley, where they’re expected to consider staff objections about reduced access to the bay; a bridge, estimated to cost about $42 million, from the foot of Fourth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter has been floated as a solution. A public hearing is being held Thursday. The expansion of the convention center is viewed as critical to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. [U-T San Diego]
It’s been more than 14 years since a then-unknown Gail Simone and friends launched Women in Refrigerators, a website that attempted to catalog the female characters in superhero comics who have been “killed, raped, depowered, crippled, turned evil, maimed, tortured, contracted a disease” or otherwise suffered “life-derailing tragedies.” The list sparked reflection and debate, and ingrained the phrase “women in refrigerators” into the comic-book lexicon, and even beyond (it’s a reference to the grisly fate of Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend Alex DeWitt).
The website was, without a doubt, critical to fostering important discussion about the treatment of female characters, but just how influential, how powerful, is Women in Refrigerators? More powerful that Yelp, Slashdot or 4chan, it turns out, and (at No. 3) only slightly less powerful than Amazon.
That’s according to the November issue of the trivia/entertainment magazine Mental Floss, which has released its list of the “25 Most Powerful Websites” (see the entry below). Any list of that kind is, naturally, subjective, and Mental Floss‘ definition of “powerful” is especially nebulous. “[T]o us, powerful isn’t just about computations,” the magazine states, explaining the exclusion of Google, “it’s about changing what we eat, how we vote, and the ways we kill time at the office.”
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.
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.
While American Vampire is currently on hiatus, creators Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque have killed time until its return by releasing various specials. Earlier this summer we saw The Long Road to Hell, and this past Wednesday brought the American Vampire Anthology, featuring vampire tales by Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, Jason Aaron, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Jeff Lemire, John Paul Leon, Declan Shalvey and many more.
Anthologies can be hit or miss from story to story, but how did this one do? Here are a few reviews from around the web:
Here I am, like so many of you fine, wonderful people, relaxing at home instead of walking among the majestic masses of Comic-Con International in San Diego. Comic Book Resources and Robot 6 are keeping we homebodies abreast of all the news from this year’s mega-super-hyper event, so it’s kind of nice to be able to sit in a comfortable chair while still keeping informed and not having to pay $9 for a burrito.
Sure, it’d be nice to be there, wouldn’t it? To stand in line and take your chance at a microphone to tell the House of Ideas your opinion, ask questions of your favorite creative teams and get attention from the editorial team? Good news! That’s what social media can do for you! We live in an amazing time where a tweet to your favorite artist could be replied to with casual familiarity or a Tumblr post could get you a sneak peek at exclusive artwork. Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort has a Formspring account (now moved to Tumblr here) so you can ask him any question at any time of night. The people who produce comics are surprisingly at the hands of their public, which for Marvel, isn’t that new of an idea.
Preview Night doesn’t begin for another 11 hours, but judging from the flurry of announcements, Comic-Con International has been well under way since, oh, about Monday. So, if it feels like you’re already falling behind, that’s because you probably are.
To help you catch up, we’ve rounded up early news from DC Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Madefire and Marvel, along with a few other convention-related items.
• Dynamite Entertainment came out of the gate running this week with news that Steve Niles and Dennis Calero will reboot Army of Darkness, James Robinson will launch his crime romance Grand Passion, the Legends of Red Sonja miniseries will team Gail Simone with an all-female creative team that includes Marjorie M. Liu, Nancy A. Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mercedes Lackey, Nicola Scott and Devin Grayson, Peter Milligan will debut his sci-fi action series Terminal Hero, Duane Swiercyznski will expand the publisher’s crime line with Ex-Con, Howard Chaykin will return to The Shadow with the miniseries Midnight in Moscow, NBC’s Heroes will get a “fifth season” in a series written by Cullen Bunn, the acquisition of the Robotech license spawns a Robotech/Voltron crossover, and The Heart of the Beast, the graphic novel by Dean Motter, Judith Dupré and Sean Phillips, will receive a 20th-anniversary prestige-format edition.
With the end of Geoff Johns’ tenure on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s upcoming farewell to Batman, a fan’s thoughts turn naturally to other extended runs. Marv Wolfman wrote almost every issue of New (Teen) Titans from the title’s 1980 preview through its final issue in 1995. Cary Bates wrote The Flash fairly steadily from May 1971’s Issue 206 through October 1985’s first farewell to Barry Allen (Issue 350). Gerry Conway was Justice League of America’s regular writer for over seven years, taking only a few breaks from February 1978’s Issue 151 through October 1986’s Issue 255.
However, in these days of shorter stays, I wanted to examine some of the runs that, despite their abbreviated nature, left lasting impressions. At first this might sound rather simple. After all, there are plenty of influential miniseries-within-series, like “Batman: Year One” or “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” where a special creative team comes in to tell a particular story. Instead, sometimes a series’ regular creative team will burn brightly, but just too quickly, leaving behind a longing for what might have been.
A good example of this is found in Detective Comics #469-76, written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin (after Walt Simonson penciled and Al Milgrom inked issues 469-70). Reprinted in the out-of-print Batman: Strange Apparitions paperback, and more recently (sans Simonson/Milgrom) in the hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, these issues introduced Silver St. Cloud, Rupert Thorne, Dr. Phosphorus and the “Laughing Fish,” featured classic interpretations of Hugo Strange, the Penguin and the Joker, and revamped Deadshot into the high-tech assassin he remains today. Tying all these threads together is Bruce Wayne’s romance with Silver, which for my money is the Bat-books’ version of Casablanca. It’s the kind of much-discussed run that seems like it should have been longer. Indeed, I suspect it’s one of the shorter runs in CSBG’s Top 100 list.
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If that was all Red Sonja was, I wouldn’t want to write about her at all. She’s a lot more than that to me, and to her fans, I’m sure. A thousand imitators showing more flesh have come and gone, and Sonja is still here. […] But I also think it does a bit of a disservice to lump all male readers together like that, as well. I have found the male readership to be remarkably supportive of great female characters again and again, with Birds of Prey, with Wonder Woman, with Batgirl. I want a Red Sonja that isn’t just a cult title, with every character I love, when I take them over, I want to preach their gospel, I want people to know why I love them so much. Red Sonja kicks a megatonnage of ass, that’s what she does.
— Gail Simone, whose Red Sonja series debuts in July from Dynamite Entertainment, in a Q&A with ICv2
Simone goes on to say she will be changing the character somewhat: “I think she’d gotten a bit omnipotent, and a bit icy, over the years. I want her to be more impulsive and prone to rash judgment.” And she’s going to tinker with Red Sonja’s origin story because “it needs to be reconsidered and retold in a way that’s less about weird gender politics from ages ago.”
The metal bikini, though? That’s gonna stay, apparently. But Dynamite has commissioned regular and variant covers from some of the top female artists in the business, including Colleen Doran, Fiona Staples, Amanda Conner, and Steph Buscema, which opens the door to some interesting interpretations of the character.
Last month DC Comics announced it had put together a new list of “essential” graphic novels and collections, designed to help casual readers and completists alike. This week I picked up a copy of the 121-page catalog (Issue 1, of course) along with my regular Wednesday haul.
Now, we all love lists, and this looks to be more comprehensive than the 30-item Jeph Loeb-heavy suggestions DC had previously offered. Could the new DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013 actually represent the depth and breadth of DC’s vast publishing history, and at least try to give each major character the attention he or she deserved?
I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but judging from the two pages devoted to “Women of DC Comics,” the answer doesn’t look promising for said women. As Sue (of DC Women Kicking Ass) and Bleeding Cool have already pointed out, Green Arrow and the Flash both get two-page spreads (each, to be fair, split between a one-page portrait and a one-page checklist), while Wonder Woman has to share two pages with Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman and the Huntress. Although the DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013 could use more female-centric titles (no Power Girl, Manhunter, Stephanie Brown or Cass Cain Batgirl, or Stars and STRIPE, and not a lot of Supergirl), today it may be enough just to focus on Wonder Woman.