Creators | Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson and Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson discuss their mutual admiration and their excitement about exhibiting their work together next spring at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University. [Comic Riffs]
Legal | Chinese cartoonist Wang Luming, who uses the nom de plume “Rebel Pepper,” was arrested Wednesday, one day after he posted an online cartoon critical of police who were facing off with protestors rather than helping flood victims in the city of Yuyao. Residents have been critical of the government response to the flood, which put 70 percent of the city underwater, but a recently passed law suppressing online commentary has muted the criticism on social media. The Beijing Times (part of of the traditional media, which is heavily controlled by the Chinese government) claimed that Wang was arrested not because of the cartoon but because he spread a false rumor online (Reuters reports the police told his girlfriend it was because he forwarded a post about a woman and her child who starved to death in the floods). He was released Thursday and tweeted, “When I have time, I’ll tell you about the interesting night I spent at the police station.” [Foreign Policy]
Political cartoonists | Michael Cavna looks into a report by the Cartoonists Rights Network International that Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan was executed in July. Raslan was arrested last year by Syrian security forces and, together with a group of journalists, artists and other “intellectuals,” sentenced to life imprisonment. “Somehow, along the way to prison young 28-year-old Akram Raslan (and possibly others) was peeled off, taken out and executed,” the post said. “He is reported to be in a mass grave somewhere near Damascus.” However, CRNI’s Robert Russell told Cavna they have been unable to confirm the report, which came from a “reliable source” close to Raslan’s family. [Comic Riffs]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid file a comprehensive con report on New York Comic Con, including a conversation with ReedPOP Global Vice President Lance Fensterman and a look at the panels and booths. [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
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.
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.
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.
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.
As Stan Lee sayings go, “Every comic book is someone’s first” isn’t quite as well-known as “With great power comes great responsibility,” but it’s nevertheless one that comics editors and creators should integrate and internalize just as thoroughly. It’s probably much less true today, now that comics are sold primarily through specialty shops (and, increasingly, online) instead of on newsstands and spinner racks, than whenever Lee first said it.
But regardless of whether Executive Assistant Assassins #13, Fearless Defenders #7 or Tarot Witch of the Black Rose #81 — to pick three titles from this week’s shipping list — will actually be anyone’s first comic book, as long as publishers continue to sell comics as serialized stories, then the thought that one of those could be someone’s introduction is a pretty good guiding principle for creating those comics.
With that in mind, this week I read a handful of second issues of some prominent new books from the biggest players in the direct market, with an eye toward how friendly the material might be toward a new reader starting the series — or comics in general — with that issue.
Business | Following weeks (if not months) of rumblings, Warner Bros. has made it official: Jeff Robinov, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group president who oversaw the 2009 restructuring of DC Comics into DC Entertainment, will leave the studio following a reorganization that establishes a new leadership team: Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution, Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production, and Toby Emmerich, president and chief operating officer of New Line Cinema. It doesn’t appear as if Robinov will be replaced. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, who initially reported Robinov, presumably will answer directly to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; following a shakeup last month in the television and home entertainment division, Nelson reported to both Robinov and Tsujihara. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Today Greg Pak, writer of Batman/Superman, Vision Machine, Red Skull, Incredible Hercules, X-Treme X-Men and many other comics, steps up to the wheel.
Now let’s get to it …
“What makes it compelling as a story and a character is his tremendous backstory, which sets up the character as someone who is different than everybody, but striving to help. That sense of somebody that is an ‘other,’ someone who doesn’t belong but is doing his best to do the right thing all of the time. That’s incredibly compelling and universal. All of us, no matter how much we feel complete, sometimes feel like we’re on the outside, feel like we’re alone, feel like we’re strange and different. That’s why the Harry Potter books and movies are so popular. That’s why the X-Men are so popular. That’s why just about every pop culture phenomenon you can think of is so popular.
It’s amazing how many of the stories we love to cherish explore that sense of being different. That’s a universal human condition. And the reason Superman, in particular, is so compelling is because he’s on the outside, yet he’s doing his best to help everybody. That moral core of the character is something that we all, deep down, want to aspire towards. It’s that struggle to do the right thing that is really compelling. And it’s not easy for him. I think that’s another thing that great Superman writers have explored over the years. This is a guy that — everything should be easy for him because he’s Superman and he can do anything, but he is still in a constant struggle to figure out what the right thing to do is and how to do it.”
– Greg Pak, writer of DC’s upcoming Batman/Superman series, explaining to Comic Book Resources what makes the Man of Steel such a compelling character
Even as Marvel further expands its mutant universe in April with the debut of X-Men by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel, it will cancel two more X-titles as part of the finale of the “X-Termination” crossover event.
The publisher’s solicitations for April reveal that it will end David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre’s Age of Apocalypse with Issue 14 and Greg Pak and Andre Araujo’s X-Treme X-Men with Issue 13, with the latter teasing that “Kid Nightcrawler makes the ultimate sacrifice.” The two series will be sent off with interlocking covers by Guiseppe Camuncoli that connects to Astonishing X-Men #61, by Marjorie Liu and Matteo Buffagni, which was also part of “X-Termination” (see all three above). That title survives.
Both Age of Apocalypse and X-Treme X-Men recently had dropped below the 20,000-copy mark, traditionally viewed as Marvel’s “line of death,” with the former selling an estimated 19,337 copies to the direct market in December, and the latter just 16,682.
Censorship | At least one comic, alas unnamed, was among the thousands of books removed this week from a Turkish government restricted list. Most of the bans were widely ignored anyway, but Metin Celal Zeynioglu, the head of Turkey’s publishers’ union, pointed out one important effect of lifting them: “Many of the students arrested in demonstrations are kept in prison because they’re carrying banned books. From now on, we won’t be able to use that as an excuse.” [The Australian]
Publishing | Tom Spurgeon’s latest holiday interview is with Shannon Watters, the editor of BOOM! Studios’ children’s comics line, which includes Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors and Peanuts. [The Comics Reporter]
It’s become an annual tradition here during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we’ve done in past years, we asked a cross-section of comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they’re excited about for 2013. We received so many this year that we’ve broken it down into two posts; watch for another one Tuesday.
But for now, check out all the great stuff people shared with us, including hints at new projects and even some outright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded. Also, thanks to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
JIMMIE ROBINSON (Bomb Queen, Five Weapons)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
Image’s Saga, Fatale, Hawkeye‘s reinvention is fresh and exciting, Peter Panzerfaust, Enormous by Tim Daniel. It’s hard to pin down just one because there is SO much good work coming out nowadays — from many publishers across the board.
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.
If I had $15, the third issue of Batman Inc. would be a must for me this week [after Chris turned in his picks, DC announced that the issue will be delayed until next month], especially since it features the return of Matches Malone, a character I wasn’t even aware I missed until now. I might also spring for the first issue of Axe Cop: President of the World, a new limited series featuring the hatchet-swinging lawman.
I read very little manga by Moyoco Anno, but what I have read has impressed me and what I’ve read about her has made me want to seek more of her work out. So with $30, I’d almost certainly nab Sakuran, Vol. 1, about a high-priced courtesan/geisha looking to escape her gilded cage.
If I really, really wanted to splurge, I’d plunk $125 down for the second printing of the Wally Wood EC Stories Artist Edition from IDW, of which I’ve only heard wonderful things. If my splurging had to be a little budget-friendly, and I was in a more academic mood, I’d at least flip through Cerebus: The Barbarian Messiah, a collection of critical essays on Dave Sim’s controversial opus.
Nearly lost amid all the media attention over the upcoming wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu in Astonishing X-Men #51, and the response by One Million Moms, is the revelation that the event was originally planned for another Marvel series — albeit one canceled almost five months ago.
Responding on his message board to news of the impending nuptials, former Alpha Flight artist Dale Eaglesham wrote, “This drives me absolutely crazy: Greg [Pak], Fred [Van Lente] and I do all the work of bringing the series back and they cancel it on us. Why didn’t they let US do the wedding ‘event’ which is clearly garnering attention, to stimulate readership [and] perhaps keep Alpha Flight going? This pisses me off. Oh no, let the ‘X’ books do it, as if they don’t get enough attention. Sigh. … This wedding was in the works on AF.”
Marvel has not yet responded to Robot 6′s request for comment.