Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
[Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
She was not Birds Of Prey‘s first writer, and probably won’t be its last, but Gail Simone has become associated pretty closely with the character of Barbara Gordon, and specifically Barbara’s identity as the omniscient info-broker Oracle. One might even say that only Simone could have returned Babs to her original role as Batgirl, as part of the New 52 relaunch. Since then, Simone has quietly made Batgirl into one of the more engaging Bat-books, spending as much time on her relationships as on her crimefighting.
This week’s issue (penciled by Fernando Pasarin, inked by Jonathan Glapion, colored by Blond) is a fine example. All those relationships collide when hardcore vigilante Knightfall decides she doesn’t like “common criminal scum” (and Babs’ boyfriend) Ricky Gutierrez suing ex-Commissioner Gordon. Meanwhile, Babs herself gets recruited by an old college roommate (now part of a super-secret spy outfit, of course) that wants to bring Knightfall down. All this while Batgirl has to deal with the current Batman Eternal status quo, in which snotty cops can (and do) refuse to arrest the Bat-crew’s various foes.
Conventions | The Phoenix Convention Center was evacuated Thursday, the first day of Phoenix Comicon, after a fire alarm was triggered by a damaged heat sensor (something similar occurred during last year’s event). Attendees were allowed back in to the venue after about 30 minutes. The convention, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people (leading organizers to cap attendance), continues through Sunday. [The Arizona Republic]
Retailing | Kirby Tardy, owner of Collectors Comics in Grand Rapids, Michigan, looks back at 35 years in the business. The store opened downtown in 1979 as Opalia’s Amorphium, and started out carrying a wide range of merchandise; since then it has gone in the opposite direction from many comics shops and focuses mainly on comics themselves, not peripheral items like figures or games. At one time there were several branch locations, and Tardy and his wife Debbie spent a lot of time going to comics conventions in the 1990s. The couple is planning to retire next year, but hopes the business will continue with new owners. [MLive.com]
Fans of The CW’s Supernatural television series will recognize Osric Chau as Kevin Tran, the honor student turned prophet of God who helped Sam and Dean translate various tablets of significant importance and had to deal with an overprotective mom.
Now the actor, who also appeared in The Man with the Iron Fists and Fun Size, is making the jump from the screen to the printed page, as his likeness will be used for a character in Red Sonja #10.
Red Sonja writer Gail Simone shared some artwork from the comic on her Tumblr, showing Chau in action as “the greatest swordsman in the entire world”:
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.