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What Are You Reading? with Alex Dueben

Sacre Bleu

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Alex Dueben, who you probably know from his interviews for the main site, Comic Book Resources, as well as for sites like Suicide Girls.

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

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Previews: What looks good for February

Judge Bao and the Jade Phoenix

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Wonder Woman is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Archaia

Judge Bao and the Jade Phoenix - A detective story set in ancient China. Plus: cool name.

Avatar

Dicks #1 – Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s humor makes my top hat explode and my monocle fly off my face, but I remember this being pretty popular back in the day and I imagine that it’s new presentation in color and leading into a new storyline could make it popular again.

Bongo

Ralph Wiggum Comics #1 – This, on the other hand, is exactly my kind of funny. Kind of like 30 Days of Night, I’m astonished no one’s thought of it before. Too bad it’s just a one-shot, but hearing that Sergio Aragones is one of the contributors makes me want to poke myself with my Viking helmet to see if I’m dreaming.

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Comics A.M. | Man discovers $12,000 Spider-Man comic in attic

Amazing Fantasy #15

Comics | While going through a box in his attic, a Grange Park, Illinois, man discovered a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man, that he had bought as a kid. While other copies of the comic have fetched as much as $1.2 million, Chimera’s Comics is selling it for $12,000 due to its condition. [LaGrange Patch]

Comics | Brian Truitt profiles Marvel’s Fantastic Four, talking to Mark Waid, Tom Brevoort and Tom DeFalco about the long-running comic. [USA Today]

Publishing | Janna Morishima, formerly of Scholastic and Diamond Comic Distributors, has joined Papercutz as its first marketing director. [Papercutz]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Spider-Island’ tops sluggish July; BOOM!’s Disney titles end in October

Amazing Spider-Man #666

Publishing | Sales of comic books and graphic novels in July fell 6.17 percent versus July 2010, with dollar sales of comic books sold through Diamond Comic Distributors falling 4.27 percent and graphic novels falling 10.10 percent year-over-year. Unit sales for comics were only down slightly, at .52 percent, which ICv2 points out “indicates that comic book cover prices have in fact declined. The problem is that circulation numbers have not risen enough to make up for the decline in revenue from lower cover prices.” Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man #666, which kicked off the “Spider-Island” event, was the best-selling comic of the month, while League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III Century #2 from Top Shelf topped the graphic novel chart. John Jackson Miller has commentary.

Marvel saw a slight increase in its dollar market share for July when compared to June, while DC’s jumped from 28.03 percent in June to 30.55 percent in July. IDW, the No. 5 publisher in terms of dollar share in June, moved to the No. 3 position in July. The top seven publishers were rounded out by Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite and BOOM! [ICv2]

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Zip to publish Pekar’s Cleveland

Heidi has a nice bit of news at The Beat: Zip Comics is going to be publishing Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland, and Top Shelf will distribute it. I don’t think that first bit is exactly news, because Zip posted it on their blog when Pekar died, last July:

ZIP is proud to be publishing Harvey Pekar’s CLEVELAND which he finished writing and which is currently being illustrated by Joseph Remnant. We will keep you updated, and right now we’re looking at a summer/fall 2011 release for that.

According to the press release (quoted in full at The Beat), the book will mix Pekar’s own story with the history of Cleveland:

Harvey Pekar’s CLEVELAND covers familiar American Splendor-ous territory while weaving in chunks of Cleveland history, including the Indians winning the 1948 World Series, the notorious 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River as well as profiles of Cleveland “characters” like Charles Ruthenberg, leader of the city’s Communist party whose ashes were buried in the Kremlin wall. And of course cameos by Pekarverse regulars like Toby the Genuine Nerd, Mr. Boats and Harvey’s wife Joyce.

Sounds like my kind of book.

Page after glorious page of behind-the-scenes Strange Tales II art

line art for the Strange Tales II #1 cover by Rafael Grampa

line art for the Strange Tales II #1 cover by Rafael Grampa

Over at ComicsAlliance, Laura Hudson has a real treat for those of you who like your superhero comics with an alternative twist: 50-plus pages of sketches, thumbnails, pencils, inks, color studies and more from the Strange Tales II hardcover, which debuted this week. Click on over and get a glimpse at the creative process behind contributions from Kate Beaton, Jeffrey Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Farel Dalrymple, Rafael Grampa, Dean Haspiel, Jaime Hernandez, Paul Hornschemeier, Benjamin Marra, Edu Medeiros, Harvey Pekar, Frank Santoro, and Paul Vella. That’s hella Strange!

Comics A.M. | Adrienne Roy passes away; contract changes at DC?

Adrienne Roy

Passings | Prolific colorist Adrienne Roy, who was a fixture of DC Comics for more than two decades, passed away on Dec. 14 following a year-long battle with cancer. She was 57. Although Roy’s work appeared in countless DC titles, from Green Lantern and Superman to Warlord and Wonder Woman, she’s best known for her extensive runs on Batman, Detective Comics and The New Teen Titans. Mark Evanier notes that “Her long tenure on Batman (more than 600 issues of various comics featuring the character) meant that her credit appeared on more tales of the Caped Crusader than anyone else except for Bob Kane.” CBGExtra posts an obituary written by her husband Anthony Tollin. [News from ME]

Publishing | Rich Johnston reports on rumored contract changes at DC Comics that would affect all new creator-owned titles in the DC Universe and Vertigo imprints. [Bleeding Cool]

Publishing | Storm Lion, the Singapore-based multimedia studio behind the 2008 Radical Publishing miniseries Freedom Formula, has closed on the heels the summer layoff of 30 employees in Singapore and Los Angeles. The closing leaves a planned movie adaptation, to be produced by Bryan Singer, “in limbo.” [The Straits Times]

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

John Byrne's Next Men

Welcome once again to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy based on certain spending limits — $15, $30 to spend and if we had extra money to spend on what we call the “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Michael May

If I had $15:

There are a lot of great periodicals coming out this week, so I’d have some hard choices to make. With only $15, I’d concentrate first on those with the cheapest prices: the first issue of Dark Horse’s new Mighty Samson ($3.50), Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #2 ($3.50), and Mouse Guard: Black Axe #1 ($3.50). I’m already a huge fan of both Atomic Robo and Mouse Guard and – based on its concept and vague memories of stories I read as a kid – hope to become one of Mighty Samson too. I’d spend the last of my money on Northern Guard #1, because I’m a sucker for Canadian superheroes.

If I had $30:

I’d add Doc Macabre #1 ($3.99), John Byrne’s Next Men #1 ($3.99), and Strange Tales 2 #3 ($4.99). “Doc Macabre” is an awesome name and I love Steve Niles’ pulp stuff, I’ve been waiting 16 years for that Next Men issue, and the Strange Tales book has a Kate Beaton story in which the Avengers go to a carnival. I’d pay five bucks just for Beaton’s deal, but it’s also got a Thing tale by Harvey Pekar (and yes, Harvey Pekar is in the story).

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Harvey Pekar died from an accidental medication overdose, coroner finds

Harvey Pekar

Legendary comics writer Harvey Pekar died on July 12 as a result of an accidental overdose of antidepressants, a coroner has determined.

Pekar, 70, was found dead by his wife Joyce Brabner in their Cleveland Heights, Ohio, home. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller ruled his death by natural causes. “He did not take his own life,” said a spokesman for the coroner’s office. “His death came as a result of accidental ingestion of fluoxetine and bupropion.”

Fluoxetine, often marketed as Prozac, is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic attacks. Bupropion, also known as Wellbutrin or Zyban, is prescribed for depression and smoking cessation; it poses a risk of seizure when taken incorrectly.

Pekar, best known for his American Splendor series of autobiographical comics that inspired the acclaimed 2003 film of the same name, had been suffering from prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression. He was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990, which inspired him to collaborate with Brabner and Frank Stack on Our Cancer Year.

Talking comics marketing magnate Jeff Newelt, aka ‘Jah Furry’

photo by Seth Kushner from MOCCA 2010 Panel

There are more comics being produced now than ever before — from new releases to reprints and re-issues to comics coming in from outside the United States. And while the number of comics arriving weekly to your favorite store grows every year, the shelf space doesn’t. As comic books fight for your attention, some of the more entrepreneurial-minded creators are engaging their public directly. They do it with forums, newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and interviews with the comics press — but when does that leave time to … you know… create comics?

That’s where publicity person and uber-fan Jeff Newelt comes in. Newelt, who often goes by the moniker of “Jah Furry,” worked for years as  a publicity director for major companies such as Samsung, but left it all to go solo and to take his love of comics — and the craft of making comics — to the people.

As the minister of hype for webcomics collective ACT-I-VATE and working with friends such as Paul Pope, Newelt has brought attention to their work by reaching out to journalists and by communicating directly with fans through Twitter and Facebook.

He’s also parlayed his skills into editing, as the comics editor for the online magazine SMITH and in gigs for Heeb and Royal Flush. He also headed up the recent grassroots Harvey Heads gallery, with artists from all over the world drawing a rendition of Harvey Pekar. Newelt also edited The Pekar Project, and is speaking at the “Remembering Harvey Pekar” panel next weekend at New York Comic Con.

Through it all, Newelt has become an indispensable part of the comics world, as well as a staple of the New York City comics scene. In many ways he’s a 21st-century Stan Lee — goodwill ambassador for comics to the outside world. He offers a unique perspective on the creators he works with, and the vibrant scene he lives in. Don’t expect any hard-hitting journalism — this is just me seeing what makes the man tick.

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Dean Haspiel talks Cuba, Deadpool, Woodgod and missing Harvey

Photographed by Seth Kushner

This has been a year of ups and downs for Dean Haspiel.

He’s riding high after last week’s win at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. He, along with the crew of the HBO series Bored To Death, won for outstanding main title design, and Haspiel returned to his native New York City to continue the promotional blitz for his upcoming graphic novel Cuba: My Revolution with artist and family friend Inverna Lockpez. He just had a short feature published in Marvel’s Deadpool #1000 and has more work on the way for the House of Ideas. But this was also the year his friend and longtime collaborator Harvey Pekar passed away.

Throughout it all, Haspiel has become one of the strongest independent voices of comics (or “comix,” as he would say). His years of networking and socializing in the New York City comics scene came to fruition in 2006 with the inception of the ACT-I-VATE collective, resulting in several series making the jump from web to print in IDW Publishing’s ACT-I-VATE Primer. He continues to be a driving force in webcomics, with the third installment of his semi-autobiographical series Street Code just out from Zuda‘s newly transplanted home on Apple’s mobile-phone platform.

Today, he has a girlfriend, a studio full of friends dubbed DEEP6, a Sept. 15 signing at Midtown Comics, and new work appearing later this month in the second season of Bored To Death. On a recent morning, I talked to Dean by phone before he rode his bike to his nearby studio.

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

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1

Sales charts | Although Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World performed poorly at the box office, it continues to boost sales of the Bryan Lee O’Malley series on which it’s based. The six volumes claimed the top six spots on BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in August, followed at No. 7 by the latest volume of The Walking Dead, whose television adaptation debuts on Halloween on AMC. [ICv2.com]

Legal | The owners of BATS BBQ in Rock Hill, South Carolina, are digging in for a legal battle after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from DC Comics, which objects to their attempts to trademark the restaurant’s logo. [The Herald]

Publishing | Mark Millar discusses CLiNT Magazine, his new monthly venture with Titan Magazines that debuts today in the United Kingdom. [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser]

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Comics College: Harvey Pekar

American Splendor

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

This month we’re paying homage to a writer who left us a little too recently and too soon, the late, great Harvey Pekar.

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Talking Comics with Tim: Chris Samnee

Thor: The Mighty Avenger 3

Thor: The Mighty Avenger 3

This Wednesday will see the release of the third issue of writer Roger Langridge and artist Chris Samnee‘s Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Anyone reading our weekly What Are You Reading column knows how much I’ve praised the first two issues. Samnee and I spoke briefly at this past June’s HeroesCon and from there an email interview came together. In addition to Thor, we discuss some of Samnee’s past work as well as his upcoming collaboration with writer Jim McCann on I Am An Avenger 1. Earlier today, CBR posted a five-page preview to Thor: The Mighty Avenger 3.

O’Shea: What’s the most enjoyable aspect of working from a Roger Langridge script?

Samnee: Roger’s scripts are really funny – I laugh out loud when I read them! I love the humor as well as his ability to tell quiet, emotional moments. Since Roger’s also an artist, he’s really good with pacing and page turns as well. And the scripts have a very silver-age feel, which is right up my alley.

O’Shea: I keep re-reading Thor: The Mighty Avenger 1 trying to figure out what my favorite scene was–and I can ‘t decide if it’s when we first see the Rainbow Bridge on page 2; or the first scene where Thor smiles. Was the smiling Thor a character suggestion from Langridge or was that your idea?

Samnee: The smile was in the script. Roger made clear right from the outline for the book that this Thor smiles and enjoys himself. For me, that was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book, as an artist and a reader of comics. I’ve worked on a lot of heavy books – it’s a nice change of pace to be on something a bit lighter, a comic where the characters are having fun.

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

Rocketship

Rocketship

Retailing | Heidi MacDonald confirms rumors that well-regarded Brooklyn retailer Rocketship, the setting for numerous signings, release parties and art shows, has closed after five years. “We’ve come to the end of a five-year lease, and are deciding what to do now,” said co-owner Alex Cox. “Five years went by fast, and my partner and I are suddenly making some large life decisions about what comes next. We love the shop, and as fun as it is, we have to figure out what makes sense for us on a practical level.” [The Beat]

Pop culture | KRCW-Santa Monica (89.9 FM) will rebroadcast the 1991 radio production of American Splendor, starring Dan Castellaneta, from 7:30 to 8 p.m. PST today. This broadcast will appear on air and via KCRW.com live stream only, and will not be available on demand or via podcast. [KCRW.com]

Legal | The Wall Street Journal’s Tomomichi Amano looks at efforts by a newly formed coalition of Japanese and American manga publishers to crack down on U.S.-based scanlation websites. “People might say it’s like whack-a-mole,” says Vertical Inc.’s Ioannis Mentzas, “but we think even making one (legal) case will greatly change the situation.” [Japan Real Time]

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