How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
Passings | Dr. Scott Henson, who retired from a career as a neurosurgeon and became a cartoonist, has died at the age of 52. Henson, who treated Superman actor Christopher Reeve after his fall, took up the pen after his health problems forced him to leave the medical field and created the panel cartoon Natural Selection under the pen name Russ Wallace. The cartoon was picked up by Creators Syndicate and syndicated nationwide. [The Charleston Gazette]
Publishing | Deb Aoki provides a thorough analysis of Tokyopop’s Anime Expo panel, in which the once-shuttered manga publisher announced a new title and hinted at more. [About.com]
Creators | Paul Levitz discusses Worlds’ Finest, his buddy comic featuring Power Girl and Huntress: “There’s always been a certain level of humor and cool confidence in a light way associated with Power Girl that’s been fun, and the Huntress has always been the more determined of the women in the DC Universe — a woman with a sense of mission and a crossbow ready to take your eye out. [USA Today]
Conventions | Three-day tickets went on sale this week for New York Comic Con. Confirmed guests so far include Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola and Josh Gates. [Collider.com]
Publishing | The revelation that DC’s newly reintroduced Green Lantern Alan Scott is gay has moved Christian comic publisher Art Ayris, who is also the executive pastor of a Baptist church, to announce that his company Kingstone Media won’t be including gay characters in its lineup: “If Kingstone is the only comic book company in America doing it, we will stand for the things God says are godly and stand against things that clearly fall under the category of sin.” [Baptist Press]
Retailing | The Avengers movie seems to be bringing new customers into comics stores looking for Marvel titles, at least in Maryland. Pullbox requests for Marvel comics are also up, suggesting some of the uptick is from existing customers. [The Star Democrat]
Crime | Michael Lewis, owner of Rocket Comics in Pensacola, Florida, is being held on a $11,000 bond after his store was raided by police for allegedly selling “Spice,” a synthetic form of cannabis. [WEAR ABC]
Publishing | The Economist’s Babbage blog takes a look at R. Stevens’ successful Kickstarter for his webcomic Diesel Sweeties, which raised $60,000, far overshooting his initial goal of $3,000. [The Economist]
Creators | Gary Groth previews his interview with renowned children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who passed away last week at age 83. The interview, conducted in October, is scheduled to appear in the next issue of The Comics Journal. [TCJ.com]
Creators | Veteran artist Jules Feiffer is publishing his first graphic novel (not counting a graphic novel-ish work in the 1970s), and he says his fans won’t recognize it, as it’s in a much more realistic style than his other work. Feiffer got his start in Will Eisner’s studio but felt he couldn’t draw like the other artists there, but he seems to have developed the ability recently: “Now I seem to be able to work in the adventure story drawing style. All of this comes out of my early love of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler.” [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Creators | Pitting teenagers against one another for a television reality/talent show, America’s Got Powers may sound a bit like The Hunger Games, but artist Bryan Hitch says there’s more to it than that: “The talent show/gladiatorial stuff isn’t the story, though — it’s the setting against which the story takes place and at heart this is the story of two brothers and how they changed the world, or at least the world from their point of view. It’s personal, emotional and, given my own visual tendencies, massive, explosive and destructive!” [USA Today]
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.
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.
Judge Bao and the Jade Phoenix - A detective story set in ancient China. Plus: cool name.
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.
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.
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]
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]
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.
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!
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]
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.