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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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Comics A.M. | DC Comics’ digital move into the ‘mainstream’

DC Comics

Digital comics | Technology journalist Andy Ihnatko discusses the significance of DC Comics’ expansion of its digital-comics availability from comiXology and its branded app to the iBooks, Kindle and Nook stores: “Now, all of the company’s titles have a presence in the same bookstore where hundreds of millions of people worldwide buy the rest of their content.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

Conventions | Steve Morris reports in on this past weekend’s Thought Bubble convention, in Leeds, England, which sounds like it was amazing. [The Beat]

Conventions | Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Young Lee has an account of Durham’s NC Comicon. [Technicianonline.com]

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Grumpy Old Fan | The freak flag flies for DC in February

Abraham Lincoln, Supervillain Hunter

I hear a lot of rumbling from the February solicitations — the First Lantern, the last Hellblazer, the new JLA — like the Next Big Things are simmering under the surface. Yes, this is how DC wants me to think, but there’s no guarantee that my anticipation will live up to the books themselves. Still, at least things are happening, which is nice. There are endings and beginnings, changes and reintroductions, and a few good reprints too.

So, without further ado …

JUST BE GLAD IT’S NOT “20,000 LEAGUES”

The “expansion of the Justice League” advertised in Justice League #17 may be related to the new Justice League of America, but I suspect it will have more to do with the main League’s roster additions (which, if memory serves, were teased back in summer 2011). I base this mostly on the fact that JLA #1 comes out two weeks before JL #17, and therefore I doubt DC would want its latest high-profile first issue to spoil the end of “Throne of Atlantis.”

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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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What Are You Reading? with Brady Sullivan

Happy Veterans Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and other things we’ve been perusing of late. Today our special guest is Brady Sullivan, the writer of Death Springs, a free weekly webcomic with artist JC Grande (Image’s Johnny Monster). He also has several print projects currently out or hitting the shelves soon, including the recently released action/satire Revolution Aisle 9.

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

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Food or Comics? | French fries or Freelancers

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.

47 Ronin #1

Brigid Alverson

If I had $15, I’d spend the first $3.99 on the first issue of 47 Ronin, a retelling of a Japanese legend written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai. I saw a preview of this and it looks phenomenal. Next up is my favorite soap opera, Life With Archie #24 ($3.99), in which Moose contemplates running for the Senate and The Archies reunite. This comic is consistently well written and the stories really drag me in. I’ll slap down another $3.99 for Popeye #7, because I’m a Roger Langridge fan. And because I love a bargain, I’ll finish up with Freelancers #1, a new series from BOOM! Studios that looks kinda fun — and hey, there’s a variant cover by Felipe Smith, one of my favorite manga artists.

If I had $30, I’d revert to my childhood and pick up the Doctor Who Annual ($12.99) from Penguin. When I was a kid, the British comics annuals were the high point of the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I have a vintage Doctor Who one tucked away somewhere. It’s probably aimed at kids but that just means I can share it with my nephew and nieces.

The splurge item to get this week is the new box set of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This is Miyazaki’s longest manga by far, and the story continues after the movie ends. It’s going to be the same large format as Viz’s earlier box set, but the seven volumes are being bound as two this time. It’s $60, but I noticed Amazon is offering a steep discount, so I’ll add another splurge: Nickolai Dante: Sympathy for the Devil ($29.99), a story that ran in 2000AD. I saw artist Simon Fraser describe it at NYCC this way: “Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can.” Sold!

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Grumpy Old Fan | 43 for 43

The longest journey begins with a single issue

Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.

The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.

* * *

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s January solicits: See 2013 — and die!

Sadly, no Slim Pickens variant

The biggest news from this round of solicits is probably the cancellations of Blue Beetle, Grifter, Legion Lost, and Frankenstein. I’ve been buying Beetle and Frankenstein, so I’m sorry to see them go.

Naturally, this means we can look forward to four new titles in February. If I had to guess, I’d say a new Shazam! ongoing series will spin out of the current Justice League backup, but according to January’s solicitation, the backup doesn’t seem to have reached a suitable stopping place. It’s possible that February’s Issue 17 could wrap everything up one week and lead into Shazam! #1 the next, but that would depend on Justice League shipping on time (in the third week of the month), and I’d think DC would want more wiggle room in case of a delay. Accordingly, the odds of a Shazam! series in the next batch of solicits seem rather long.

Still, the backup series has been running in Justice League since #7, so (counting the Shazam-centric Issue 0, but subtracting the lack of backup in Issue 13) February’s Issue 17 would mark its eleventh installment.  That is subject to change, since the October solicits advertised a Shazam! backup which was not in the actual issue.  Still, if my rough math is correct, that’s about 154 total pages of story — more than the New Teen Titans: Games paperback, but less than the Superman/Shazam collection — but the solicit for January’s Issue 16 (part 11, remember) just talks about continuing the origin. With that in mind, even if Issue 17 concludes the backup, the character could still appear in JL as a Leaguer until he does whatever he’s going to do in “Trinity War.” Yadda yadda yadda, now I think probably no new Shazam! series until that event is over.
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NYCC | Giffen, Raney, Kolins go cosmic in DC’s Threshold

Having worked on comics like Legion of Super-Heroes and Marvel’s Annihilation event, among many others, Keith Giffen knows cosmic stories. He’ll get to flex those star-spanning muscles once again with a new DC Comics series called Threshold.

The comic will feature two stories — the first, drawn by Tom Raney and titled “The Hunted,” will feature the Omega Men, Blue Beetle, Star Hawkins, the original Starfire, Space Ranger,Space Cabbie and a new Green Lantern named Jediah Caul. It spins out of the Giffen-written Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1, and Giffen said it was like “doing a science fiction version of Battle Royale and giving everyone a gun.”

“… these characters and concepts will bump up against the New Guardians characters in the annual,” Giffen told Newsarama’s Vaneta Rogers. “So it’s a New Guardians story, but it will introduce readers to this concept. And then it spins out of the annual and the last issue of Blue Beetle. We’re trying to make Threshold a success and get as many eyes on this new ongoing series as possible.”

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Joshua Middleton shares art from Green Lantern animated series

While comics fans may miss seeing new work from Joshua Middleton on comics shelves (the covers to Sword & Sorcery and Before Watchmen were nice!), there’s some consolation in knowing that although the artist isn’t actively illustrating comics he is keeping within the superhero landscape. Middleton recently posted some landscape designs he created for Warner Bros. Animation’s Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which he worked on for some time. What he’s revealed so far is his renditions of Oa, interplanetary headquarters of the Green Lantern Corps. In his brief post, Middleton explains some of the obstacles from an art direction standpoint to the Green Lantern concept and how he overcame them for his work on the series.

“One major problem from an art direction perspective, with Green Lantern: The Animated Series and anything Green Lantern in general, is the overabundance of green,” Middleton writes. “It can be difficult to come up with nice color palettes when everybody and everything in the scene is glowing green. Matters were not made better with the introduction of Red Lanterns, as we now had the world’s weirdest Christmas to deal with.”

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Grumpy Old Fan | Relaunch roundup, Part 2

The Flash, by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

[Note: all this was written before I read any of this week’s comics.]

As mentioned last week, part of this look back at my New 52 reading is the chance to see where I might drop some titles. Not that I want to be negative unnecessarily, but it’s always good to make sure you really like what you buy. While I do buy some books “just because,” it’s very easy simply to fall into the habit of reading the same things month in and month out, neither looking forward to them nor missing them when they’re gone.

Therefore, let’s push through some bad vibes and talk about a couple of books I let drift away. Besides Superboy (covered last week), there was Red Lanterns (written by Peter Milligan, penciled by Ed Benes) and Grifter (written by Nathan Edmondson, penciled by CAFU). Originally I liked Red Lanterns because I thought it had recast Atrocitus as a distracted middle-management type, questioning his place in the universe while his functionaries went down their own demented paths. However, as the months went by the series never really built up any momentum, and for a premise based around the blood-spewing power of RAGE!!!1!! that’s not so good. Much the same applies to Grifter: thought it had potential, but it didn’t hold my interest.

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Comics A.M. | Despite overall growth, sales slipped for most of Top 25

Aquaman #12, one of just two ongoing titles in August's Top 25 that saw an increase

Retailing | ICv2 analyzes the August direct market numbers and comes up with some interesting patterns: While the market as a whole is up, the number of comics with sales of more than 1,000 has been declining; sales dropped a bit for most ongoing comics series in the Top 25, but strong sales of Before Watchmen and two annuals more than compensated for that; and graphic novels sell in far lower numbers than comics, but because many of them are backlist titles, the numbers still increase from year to year. ICv2 also posted lists of last month’s Top 300 comics and graphic novels. [ICv2]

Publishing | Yet another big publisher spawns a graphic novel imprint: This time it’s Penguin, whose Berkley/NAL division will launch a graphic novel imprint, InkLit, next month. Helmed by former DC vice president and Yen Press co-founder Rich Johnson, InkLit will publish both original graphic novels and adaptations of prose works. The line will begin with Vol. 1 of Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega, which collects the trades published by Dynamite; the second volume will be all new material. Also in the works are books by Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Sage Stossel. [Publishers Weekly]

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Comics A.M. | Direct market sales soar in August; Art Cumings dies

Avengers Vs. X-Men #9

Comics | The August direct market sales numbers are in, and things look good: Comics sales are up almost 20 percent over August 2011, and graphic novels are up 15 percent. This isn’t just a fluke, either: Year-to-date sales are up about the same in both categories. DC had a slight edge in market share, Marvel did slightly better on unit sales, and interestingly, the Big Two stole back a bit of market share from everyone else. And as with bookstore sales, Batman ruled the direct market: “The influence of The Dark Knight Rises is more obvious in the bookstore channel with its tendency to foster backlist sales (Frank Miller’s 1980’s classic, The Dark Knight Returns was tops in the bookstores), while the direct market sales are concentrated more on the most recent releases such as Johns’ Batman: Earth One, which was released in July and Snyder’s New 52 volume that was out in May.” [ICv2]

Passings | Illustrator and panel cartoonist Art Cumings has died at the age of 90. Mike Lynch describes Cumings as “an illustrator’s illustrator and a cartoonist’s cartoonist”; his work appeared everywhere from Dr. Seuss books to Penthouse magazine, and it’s worth hitting the link to see his Balloonheads cartoons from the latter. (NSFW, but in a cute, colorful way.) [Mike Lynch Cartoons]

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Comics A.M. | Origins of Green Lantern Simon Baz; ‘Ultimate’ legacy

Green Lantern Simon Baz

Comics | Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns talks with The Wall Street Journal about the introduction this week of the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps Simon Baz, an Arab-American Muslim from Dearborn, Michigan: “As fantastic as the concept of Green Lantern is of an intergalactic police force, the comic has had a history of grounding in the now and dealing with modern characters and concepts and Simon Baz is that. I wanted to create a character that everyday Americans have to deal with. When 9/11 hit, he was 10-years-old. His family was devastated, just like every other American. He’s grown up in that world. It’s just part of the daily life, the new normal.” [Speakeasy]

Comics | The new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, reaches a key moment in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #14, when Aunt May gives him Peter Parker’s web-shooters and the formula for for his web fluid. Writer Brian Michael Bendis explains why he waited so long to pass along the iconic tools: “‘This is like Excalibur. This is it. This is like being bequeathed the sword,’ Bendis says. ‘But, young Miles and (his friend) Ganke trying to figure out how to make web fluid is going to be my favorite stuff to write ever in the history of writing of anything. Just because someone gives you a formula and says, “Here, cook this,” doesn’t mean you can.’” [USA Today]

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