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Marvel cancels Alpha Flight with January’s Issue 8

Alpha Flight #8

Less than two months after announcing the title had been upgraded from an eight-issue miniseries to an ongoing, Marvel has canceled Alpha Flight — with Issue 8.

The blow was delivered this afternoon in Marvel’s January 2012 solicitations, where the publisher labels “the big showdown between Alpha Flight and the Master of the World,” somewhat uncharacteristically, as “THE FINAL ISSUE!” (Marvel tends not to telegraph a title’s cancellation.)

“Fans and friends, I’m sorry to confirm that #AlphaFlight will indeed end with issue #8,” co-writer Greg Pak said on Twitter, “but the book was originally conceived as an 8 issue mini, so we’re still telling the big, fun story we intended from the start. THANK YOU, #AlphaFlight fans — you guys are the best and have provided us huge amounts of fun and inspiration. And have no fear … the story’s heading for a huge, satisfying ending that @fredvanlente and I have been champing at the bit to unleash for months.”

Featuring the creative team of Pak, his Incredible Herc collaborator Fred Van Lente and artist Dale Eaglesham, Alpha Flight had a strong debut in June, selling an estimated 45,850 copies and claiming the 20th spot on Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 300 for the month. Sales dropped off dramatically with the second issue, to 26,860; by September’s Issue 4, that number had fallen to about 23,400, barely hovering above Marvel’s traditional line of death.

The cancellation, however, seems par for the course for Alpha Flight, a property that’s had a difficult time finding its footing, and an audience, since the end of its original 130-issue run in 1994 (some might argue since creator John Byrne left in 1985 after 28 issues). The four subsequent revivals were short-lived, with the longest lasting just 20 issues.

The Fifth Color | This Banner…This Hulk!

A Marvel Riddle for the agesApologies for my absence, but I think it all worked out in the end, because this week we celebrate the end of Greg Pak’s six-year run on the Incredible Hulk. And we do so by talking about someone else’s comic.

Fantastic Four #51 is titled “This Man… This Monster.”  It’s one of those inspiring cover blurbs like “Spider-Man No More!” and “This Issue: Everybody Dies!”  Phrases which catch the eye and demand you read the book.  “This Man…This Monster!” is about the struggle of man… versus also man; our darker parts or outer appearance versus who we really are, inside.  You’ll notice there is nothing between the man and the monster, just an ellipsis.  It’s not “This Man AND This Monster,” which would suggest two different people, nor is it “This Man, This Monster” suggesting they are one and the same.  Three little dots almost let the reader decide as to what exactly the inner struggle is.  And that’s kinda what I’ve been doing with the Incredible Hulk throughout my adoration of the book.

No matter who he fought, the internal battle is key.  It’s tortured scientist Bruce Banner versus his raging alter-ego in a never-ending stalemate over who gets to be human.  I can’t say this is always the thrust of an issue or storyline, but it IS the thrust of the really good ones. The ones that make you think, and linger with you long after you’ve put the book away.  We come for the “Hulk smash,” but stay for the “Hulk think.”  And then Incredible Hulks #635 came along and blew my freakin’ mind.

Because after six years, the struggle is over. (A few SPOILERS after the jump!)

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First day of school for CBLDF Comics College

Cully Hamner's Flash, one of the drawings in the CBLDF auction

Here’s an opportunity to do good by doing something awesome: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is launching Comics College, a series of “Master Sessions” on the craft and business of comics, led by well-known professionals. The campus is the CBLDF offices in New York; the first class is on Saturday, Sept. 17, and will feature Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers, Incredible Hercules) and Greg Pak (Incredible Hercules, Incredible Hulk) discussing the ins and outs of self-publishing.

Can’t make it to NYC? You can still kick in and support the CBLDF by bidding on some of the pieces in their eBay auction, which ends on Sunday.

Or you could, you know, just give them some cash. But this is more fun.

What Are You Reading? with Von Allan

Hello and welcome once again to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Von Allan, creator of the self-published graphic novel series Stargazer. The first volume is still available, while the second one is due in shops in October.

To see what Von and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Greg Pak and Mike McKone team up for Astonishing X-Men

Astonishing X-Men #44

Fresh off his run on The Incredible Hulk, writer Greg Pak will team with artist Mike McKone on Astonishing X-Men, Marvel announced today.

Their run begins in November’s Issue 44 as Storm seeks out Cyclops in a story that Marvel promises will feature “not just all-out action, but possibly a surprising romance.” But wait, isn’t Ororo, queen of Wakanda, married to T’Challa?

“After Xavier, the X-Men’s two greatest leaders are Scott and Ororo,” Pak says in an interview at Marvel.com. “They’ve borne responsibilities few others can conceive. And just those experiences alone should provide them [with] reasons to bond. But maybe they’ve just never had a moment to consider it; each has always seemed to be wrapped up in a wild romance with someone else. The current Scott/Emma and Storm/T’Challa relationships are amongst the most passionate in the Marvel Universe. So yes, what the heck is going on? I’ll just say that everything that’s happening is utterly inconceivable, but completely real, completely in character, and completely in continuity.”

Astonishing X-Men marks a return to Marvel’s mutant franchise for both Pak and McKone. Pak wrote two X-Men: Phoenix miniseries as well as Magneto: Testament, while McKone co-created Exiles and drew issues of X-Men: Prime and X-Men: Unlimited.

“I am so ridiculously happy to be working with Mike on this book,” Pak says. “He’s tearing it up with his trademark clean lines, dynamic action, and phenomenal character work. And he’s cranking up the sexy like nobody’s business. Just look at that cover.

Comics A.M. | Flashpoint gets real? 31,000 flock to Otakon

from Flashpoint #4

Publishing | Popular comic-book guest star President Barack Obama will make a brief appearance in this week’s Flashpoint #4. DC Comics Executive Editor Eddie Berganza told USA Today that the inclusion of the actual President, rather than a fictional counterpart, signals that the danger is real — something that will get pushed as the publisher prepares for the September relaunch. [USA Today]

Publishing | Fantagraphics announced the lineup for the first volume of its EC archives series, which will collect Harvey Kurtzman’s war stories. [Fantagraphics blog]

Conventions | More than 31,000 anime and manga enthusiasts flocked to Baltimore over the weekend for Otakon, one of the biggest fan-oriented anime conventions. There were a few anime and manga licenses announced, but mainly it was a meet-and-greet for fans and publishers. [Anime News Network]

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What Are You Reading? with Chris Butcher

Casanova: Avarita #1

Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Chris Butcher.

Butcher is the manager of The Beguiling in Toronto and founder of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival. He’ll be at the UDON Booth #5037 and The Beguiling Original Art Sales Booth #1629 at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend.

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

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Talking Comics with Tim | Dale Eaglesham

Dale Eaglesham's Variant Cover: Alpha Flight 2

Today marks the release of the second issue of Marvel’s new Alpha Flight eight-issue miniseries. Given how committed and enthused the creative team of writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente (on evidence in the two writers’ May 2011 CBR interview) along with artist Dale Eaglesham are about the project, I hope it becomes a regular series, quite honestly. To mark the release of the latest issue, Eaglesham agreed to an email interview. I never tire of conducting discussions of this type, where I can find out the approach an artist takes in certain scenes or with particular characters. If you’re as much a fan of this latest incarnation of Alpha Flight as I clearly am, do Eaglesham the favor of following his marching orders (detailed in the last part of this interview) so that the book can hopefully become an ongoing. In addition to discussing Alpha Flight, I was pleased to learn more about the local charity that Eaglesham supports: Refuge RR, a local animal refuge.

Tim O’Shea: Your art clearly meshes well when in collaboration with writers like Van Lente and Pak, it seems like they give you opportunity to stretch the boundaries of what you can do as an artist. For example, in the shocking reveal of issue 1, I was struck by the flock of birds flying behind Heather. Was that something specifically requested in the script or was that totally your idea?

Dale Eaglesham: That was actually my idea. It was just a casual symbol I put in there, referring to lost freedom, for Mac, but also for the whole country. It foreshadows what’s coming for Alpha Flight and Canada, and creates a sense of foreboding. You know when all the birds fly away, there’s danger nearby… I love when I get a big shot like that, it allows me to add layers to the art.

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What Are You Reading?

Lost Girls

Hello and welcome to Wha Are You Reading? Today our special guest is illustrator, photographer, writer, filmmaker and jazz musician Dave McKean, whose works include Cages, Mr. Punch, Signal to Noise, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Violent Cases, Coraline and many, many more. He has a new book with writer Richard Dawkins, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, coming out in October, as well as a graphic novel called Celluloid coming out from Fantagraphics in June. Special thanks to Chris Mautner for asking him to participate this week.

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

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The Fifth Color | Forward into the Past with Marvel solicitations for August 2011

Fear Itself: HF #5

August is going to look a lot like this

So here we are, looking ahead to August. The confetti and streamers from what will probably be the most successful year of Marvel films to date (three summer movies released consecutively helps!) will be quietly swept up, the San Diego Comic Con will have probably released tantalizing footage of the next year’s main event, the Avengers movie and oh, yeah. Something something comics something.

Looking to my extensive notes, I have dusted off the leather tomes of yesteryear and found that 2010 wasn’t half as lively as this year is shaping up to be. Sure, it was a month of endings and beginnings, plus vampires were everywhere and Shadowland was just kicking out the jams in all its mini-series glory but … looking back now, maybe it’s the nostalgia that keeps me from thinking better of the books that came out in August last year. Maybe it’s because I already know what became of each ending or beginning, how important vampires turned out to be and that yes, the Cable & the New Mutants: X-Force HC was a clue that Nate Summers was going to bow out at the end of Second Coming (man, Second Coming was last year? It feels like it’s been longer than that…).

With that in mind, can I tell you how excited I am for Fear Itself #5? Come look ahead at August and see what Marvel has in store after their banner year in film.
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The Fifth Color | Forward into the Past with Marvel for June ’11

Fear Itself #3

[Editor's Note: Due to technical issues, Carla's column from last Friday was delayed until today.]

It is more fun to announce things at comic conventions where there’s a live audience to ooh and ahh at all the new and exciting products you’re putting out than it is to post it on the internet. It’s the difference between selling your car in a showroom as opposed to an ad on Craigslist. I’m sure there’s a dirty joke in there somewhere, so feel free to fill it in for yourself, but the point remains. So that’s why we didn’t get the Marvel Comics solicitations for June 2011 when we usually do; as all the other kids down the block showed off their upcoming new comics, Marvel waited until C2E2 was over because the big show came first.

Or so I thought.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Marvel Comics has unleashed the full power of their June line-up. They weren’t waiting for the live announcements to go first, they were keeping their readership safe from the imminent disasters that will befall us in the future! They were protecting us! They had only our safety in mind and now the true story can be told! I present the June 2011 solicitation list that will very nearly END EXISTENCE AS WE KNOW IT!!!

Anyone prone to heart conditions, seizures or who could be pregnant, read the following list of colossal entertainment at your own risk. These comics are rated M for “Oh MY God, these comics will crack the internet in half!”

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Comics A.M. | Comic-Con sales, credits mystery and women creators

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con | Registration opened this morning at 6 PST for Comic-Con International following technical problems on Nov. 1 that forced organizers to shut down sales after only a handful of badges were purchased. Registration is for daily passes and four-day memberships without Preview Night. Those with the Wednesday preview sold out on the final day of this year’s convention (more could be released later, depending on returns and cancellations). Prices have increased slightly, from $100 to $105 for four-day memberships and from $35 to $37 for single-day passes ($20 for Sunday). Comic-Con International will be held July 20-24 in San Diego. [Comic-Con International]

Legal | Sankaku Complex wades into Tokyo’s resurrected “anti-loli” legislation, and finds the revised bill has been expanded to target manga, anime and video games that “‘improperly glorify or emphasise’ illegal sexual acts, such as rape, groping, BDSM, voyeurism, exhibitionism, etc., by extension including underage sexual activity as well.” The previous version focused on the depictions of “fictional youths,” a controversial term that’s been dropped from the legislation. [Sankaku Complex]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Phoenix

Publishing | Veteran writer J.M. DeMatteis has resigned as editor-in-chief of Ardden Entertainment, fledgling publisher of Flash Gordon and partner in the planned revival of Atlas Comics. DeMatteis, who joined Ardden in February 2008, cited creative differences with Co-Publishers Brendan Deneen and Rich Emms. Deneen has assumed the role of editor-in-chief. [J.M. DeMatteis' blog]

Comic strips | Non Sequitur cartoonist Wiley Miller comments on the decision by more than 20 newspapers to replace the Oct. 3 installment of his strip because it mentioned the Prophet Muhammad: “[Editors] didn’t see the satire was on them, of being petrified to run anything related to him. But this whole thing has just gotten so silly over the years. It’s something I can’t lay off. It’s my job as a satirist to point out the stupidity in the world. And the editors fell right in line with proving how stupid it is.” Andrew Alexander, ombudsman for The Washington Post, criticized his newspaper for pulling the strip. [Fox News]

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Hercules leads an all-new God Squad in Marvel’s Chaos War

From "Chaos War"

From "Chaos War"

Marvel’s next cosmic event will kick off in October with Chaos War, a five-issue miniseries featuring an all-new God Squad led by the newly returned Hercules.

Announced this afternoon by Blair Butler on G4TV’s “Fresh Ink,” Chaos War comes from the former Incredible Hercules team of Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente and Khoi Pham.

The miniseries centers on an attack on Earth by the Chaos King, who has amassed an army of alien slave gods. The only force that can stop him is an unlikely team of Marvel gods and cosmic entities: Thor, Galactus, Sersi, Silver Surfer, Venus … and, of course, Hercules. As if the re-formed God Squad weren’t enough to do the job, Butler said the Hulk assembles “the surviving members of his family” to face the Chaos King’s forces.

Watch video of the segment after the break or at the Attack of the Show! website.

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Talking Comics with Tim: Fred Van Lente

Amazing Spider-Man 602

Amazing Spider-Man 602

Fred Van Lente is hellbent on getting his name on the cover of every Marvel comic, or so it would seem. I could try to list all the Marvel titles he has written, is writing or will be writing, but we’d never get to the actual interview. Suffice to say that Marvel keeps him busy. And then there’s Action Philosophers (Van Lente’s successful independent collaboration with artist Ryan Dunlavey). Back to Marvel, this week marks the start of his Spider-Man/Chameleon storyline with the release of Amazing Spider-Man 602. Here’s the official word on Van Lente–he “is the New York Times bestselling author of Incredible Hercules (with Greg Pak) and Marvel Zombies 3, as well as the American Library Association award-winning Action Philosophers. His other comics incldue Comic Book Comics, MODOK’s 11, X Men Noir and Amazing Spider-Man.” Van Lente was kind enough to do an email interview with me about his various projects.

Tim O’Shea: Marvel is clearly pleased with X-Men Noir, given that they have announced a follow-up with the same team, Mark Of Cain. Given that a great deal of your writing for Marvel is within the “main” Marvel U, how liberating is at as a writer to get to play around with characters in a Noir universe?

Fred Van Lente: I always like to have big, bloody Grand Guignol endings, with bodies heaped up on stage like at the end of a Shakespeare tragedy. Nothing says “dramatic climax” like “everybody dies.” One of the nice things about working with the X-Men franchise in the Noirverse is that it has so many characters there are always some left over no matter how many you knock off. XMN1 we whacked Jean Grey, Magneto, Mastermind, Blob, Unus, Beast, Banshee, Rogue, Iceman, Gambit and Qucksilver, but we still had Wolverine, Puck, Cyclops, Angel, Professor X, and the Scarlet Witch to kick around.

In Mark of Cain they’ll be joined by a large bulk of the “All-New, All-Different” cast, including Noir analogues of Juggernaut (obviously), Emma Frost, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus, and a few surprise appearances as well.

We’ve already been asked about a third installment, so my co-creator Dennis Calero and I will have to be careful not to kill everybody off. Even the X-Men have their limits in terms of mortality.

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