X-POSITION: Burnham, Culver, Villalobos Spell Out "E Is For Extinction"
Welcome to Store Tour, ROBOT 6’s weekly exploration of comics shops, and the people who run them; think of it as the retailer version of Shelf Porn. Each Sunday we feature a different store, and also get to know the person behind the register.
This week’s store is Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy, 2438 W. Anderson Lane, Suite B-1, in Austin, Texas. We spoke with creative director Megan Ruch.
Publishing | Early analysis of 2014 manga sales shows that the category has appeared to turn around, with sales increasing last year, driven by the Attack on Titan juggernaut. [ICv2]
Publishing | Black Mask Studios, which started as the publisher of Occupy Comics and now publishes a number of series in different styles and genres, launched a YouTube channel this week as an outlet for its animation and motion-comics projects. [The New York Times]
Analysis | Rob Salkowitz kicks off the new year with big-picture questions about “geek culture”: With the popularity of comics-based movies, will continuity and nostalgia become less important? And will comics themselves become less important? “Putting out comics is a relatively costly and troublesome process with limited revenue potential relative to other ways of exploiting the intellectual property. A fan base that buys licensed merchandise and watches entertainment programming without needing a monthly fix of new art and story is probably considered a feature of the new comics economy, not a bug.” [ICv2]
Creators | Chew artist Rob Guillory, who will appear this weekend at Wizard World New Orleans, talks about the strange comics that he read as a kid (The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man) and the unexpected success of Chew, which will end next year with its 60th issue: “In the beginning, John and I were kind of like, ‘Well, best-case scenario, we can go 60 issues. Worst-case scenario, we can do five and go our separate ways and never speak again.’ I don’t know if we’ve seen the peak of our reception. I don’t think we’ll see how popular we’ve been until it’s over. When it’s wrapped and it’s the complete thing, I think people will start missing us.” [Best of New Orleans]
Continuing with our annual “Looking Forward, Looking Back,” we asked creators and other industry figures what they liked in 2014, what they’re looking forward to in 2015, and what projects they have planned for the coming year.
In this installment, we hear from Jimmy Palmiotti, Mike Norton, Kurt Busiek, Caleb Goellner, Shawn Martinbrough, Benjamin Bailey, Greg Pak, Brandon Montclare, Eric Haven, Justin Greenwood, Natalie Nourigat and Dave Scheidt!
Archie: The Married Life Book Six (Archie Comics): This is a phone book-sized collection of the final seven issues of Life With Archie, the series set in a possible future where Archie is married to Betty … and Veronica, in two alternate timelines. The narrative jumps between those parallel realities in a way that can be downright confusing when read in such a huge chunk as the collections offer.
While the stories feature the same fairly sprawling cast — and the character designs and are style are, as usual, in perfect harmony no matter whose names are in the credits — there’s more differences between the two timelines than just which girl Archie settled down with. In one timeline, Jughead is dating Ethel; in the other he’s having a baby with Midge. Likewise, Reggie is either a newspaper reporter or a mechanic with a reality show, and Moose is either Riverdale’s mayor or Riverdale High School’s janitor. And so on.
There are a few things both universes share, however, like Kevin Keller having been elected to the U.S. Senate, campaigning on gun control, an issue driven home by a mass shooting in the nearby Southport Mall. And, of course, in the final two issues, the “Death of Archie” and the epilogue that follows, the story is carefully, delicately crafted so that every line and every panel can be read so they’re the conclusions of both storylines, despite all the differences between the two.
Jae Lee’s work on Superman/Batman has simultaneously been among the most unique and divisive of DC Comics’ New 52. After years working on Marvel’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Lee’s return to superhero work has found a balance between iconic and creepy; while his style might seem tailor-made for the likes of Batman and Catwoman, his depiction of Superman has been both haunting and boyish in all the various main- and alternate-universe incarnations.
And now, DC is using those designs as the basis for a line of collectible figures.
“The nice thing about coming in to write the New 52 is I don’t have to worry about what came before the New 52. That stuff is great and it can serve as inspiration, but continuity is the devil. [laughs] As a writer, having to slavishly make sense of too much continuity can kill a story. Yes, you want to stay true to the spirit of things, and continuity can absolutely be your friend in creating resonance and a sense of history and paying off certain emotional things – BUT: It was a beautiful, beautiful thing for me walking into the New 52 and being able to look at a small range of stories that had been told, and those are the things that are set in stone, and the rest of it we can make up as we go. We can build the stories that make sense for our characters in order to tell the emotional story that we’re telling.”
– Action Comics and Batman/Superman writer Greg Pak, on juggling different timelines, and different worlds, in the two DC Comics series
Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World (DC Comics): The greatest virtue of the Greg Pak-written World’s Finest team-up title is also its main drawback: There’s really great, flat-out gorgeous artwork by Jae Lee … except when their isn’t. Lee draws the lion’s share of the book — about 70 of its 100-plus story pages — and it’s some of the artist’s best comics work; his heroic figures pose through a series of complex layouts, their anatomy and features those of real, if exceptionally beautiful, people, rather than musclebound action figures. The too-busy New 52 costume designs are stripped down to their essentials, the various bits of technology all look like mobile art installations, and Lee’s vision of a Gotham City park is appropriately, if amusingly, dark, twisted and exaggerated.
He might not have been the best possible choice for this particular storyline, which involves two different Batmen, Supermen and Catwomen, given his use of silhouettes and sparse panels, and the cacophony of color-coded narration boxes have to do a little more work than they might otherwise. But it’s jarring to the point of shocking when fill-in artists appear to help Lee, with Ben Oliver-drawn climaxes for the first and last issues/chapters, and an extensive Yildiray Cinar flashback in another issue. There’s also a rather tacked-on origin story of Darkseid and the main villain for the story arc, which appeared in September’s Justice League #23.1, drawn by two more artists.
Conventions | Organizers anticipate as many as 70,000 people will attend MegaCon, held Friday through Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, up from about 60,000 last year; that could translate to $23 million impact on the local economy, according to the Orlando Business Journal. Guests include Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Chuck Dixon, Adam Kubert, Greg Land, Stan Lee, Jimmy Palmiotti, George Perez, Herb Trimpe, Mark Waid and Skottie Young. However, the names drawing the most attention may be The Walking Dead stars David Morrissey, Danai Gurira and Steve Yeun. “We are the first convention in the U.S. to have both David Morrissey and Danai Gurira at the same time,” Jason Smith, MegaCon’s director of operations, told Florida Today. “The show is definitely a fan favorite of our attendees.” [MegaCon]
Action Comics is quickly becoming a fan favorite since the creative team of writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder boarded the series. With the release last week of Action Comics #27, it seemed like a good time to interview Kuder and get him to explain how his experience as a budding electrician had an influence on Lana Lang’s current career choice of electrical engineering.
Crime | A man in Augusta, Georgia, told police someone stole his collection of nearly 30,000 comics from a storage building at his friend’s home sometime between Nov. 13 and Dec. 30. Although the 85 boxes allegedly included signed issues, police valued the comics at just $1 each. [The Augusta Chronicle]
Publishing | ICv2 concludes its three-part interview with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley with questions about variant covers, Marvel NOW!, and staying in New York City. [ICv2]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald profiles new graphic novel publisher Magnetic Press, which is spearheaded by former Archaia and BOOM! Studios executives Mike Kennedy and Wes Harris. Magnetic will launch in April with a varied line that will focus strongly, but not exclusively, on translations of French comics. [Publishers Weekly]
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.