Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
With April sales numbers released from Diamond Comic Distributors, a subtle pattern has revealed itself: Dark Horse has reclaimed its position as fourth-largest publisher from IDW Publishing for three months straight. It’s a streak of growth in market and dollar share that hasn’t happened for Dark Horse since fall 2011.
It’s great news for an industry mainstay that seemed to be getting eclipsed by the younger IDW at its own game of mixing licensed properties with creator-owned titles. Whether it’s temporary or not, digging into the sales charts, it’s clear there’s more stability in Dark Horse’s catalog than there might first seem.
Obviously Star Wars is the property many know the company for, and when it was announced the license would move at the end of this year to Marvel, some worried how Dark Horse would carry on. However, most publishers realize that no license is forever, so Dark Horse has built a diverse library that seems to be lifting it up now. Despite such diversifying, Star Wars is still the big seller at comic shops, but it’s only the beginning. The back-to-back launch of The Star Wars, a comics adaptation of an early draft of George Lucas’ screenplay, and a back-to-basics Star Wars by Brian Wood provided two accessible titles; if you’d ever seen the original Star Wars trilogy, you’re all set. The last issue of The Star Wars comes out later this month, with a collection in both hardcover and softcover to follow in July.
Legal | Signe Wilkinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, has been named in a defamation lawsuit filed against the newspapers by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and his wife Lise Rapaport. The judge and his wife accuse the two papers of running a smear campaign against them, and the suit specifically mentions a Wilkinson cartoon satirizing their marital and work relationship (it’s complicated). Blogger Alan Gardner adds that he hasn’t been able to find a case in which a cartoonist was successfully sued for defamation, although in this case the newspapers’ reporting is part of the issue as well. [Philadelphia, The Daily Cartoonist]
Legal | Those wondering how Stan Lee Media can possibly afford its long, and so far entirely unsuccessful, legal battle with Marvel and Disney may want to read this brief Wall Street Journal article about “litigation finance” — which it characterizes as the growing practice of investing in lawsuits. However, pointing to the fight over the rights to Spider-Man and other characters, writer Rob Copeland points out there are high risks: namely, that investors could never see financial return. As we’ve noted before, Stan Lee Media’s efforts are backed by a group of investors that includes the $21 billion hedge fund Elliott Management, which helps to explain why the lawsuits keep coming. [MoneyBeat]
“It is dreadful. But, this is what happens: You get better with time. I actually have been looking at it the last couple of days because I’m writing something where I have to reference things that happen in that first issue. The voice isn’t there. John [Byrne] and I had a completely different take on what the writing should be like on it. We didn’t have different ideas from each other, but together we’d agreed on this approach to the writing of it. It worked fine, but I realized after doing it that it wasn’t the book I had in mind.
It’s pretty primitive, and yet it does present all my ideas. It’s not like at some point I said, ‘Oh, we’ve gotta ignore everything that’s gone before!’ It’s one of the things I’m proudest of looking at 20 years worth of this stuff. I didn’t write myself into any corners, I didn’t have to hit any reset buttons, I’m still referencing things that are in these first couple issues of Hellboy. To some extent, I got it right right out of the bat story-wise. It’s the way it’s drawn and colored, all that stuff has gotten radically refined.
— Mike Mignola, reflecting on Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1, released in March 1994. The 20th anniversary of that first issue will be celebrated Saturday worldwide with Hellboy Day. You can see the list of participating retailers at the link.
I knew that Saturday is Hellboy Day, with events held around the globe to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1 — but nobody told me there would be chocolate!
Pop Candy has the details about the limited-edition series of Hellboy chocolates, designed by renowned chocolatier Richard Ruskell, and featuring wrapper art by Mignola and names like Abe Sapien Sea Salt Bar, “Taste the Justice” Lobster Johnson Bar and Hellboy Inferno.
They’ll be available Saturday during the Hellboy Day event at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, and afterward at Sweet! Hollywood.
“I know there’s a certain appeal for creators to work on the classic characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, but I’ve said this before: I asked creators who have worked on those books who the people were doing the books ten years ago, and they don’t know! But I can say, ‘Who worked on Sin City?’ and they’ll go ‘Frank Miller.’ Who worked on Hellboy? Mike Mignola. Who worked on The Goon? Eric Powell. They know it instantly. So to me, the lure of creating your own character and owning it — owning your own universe and being associated with that — in the long run for talented writers and artists makes me question why someone would toil away on a company owned character for years and years of their lives.”
– Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson, discussing his company’s commitment to publishing creator-owned work
Dark Horse took a rather novel approach with its holiday card this year, turning to Art Baltazar and Franco of Tiny Titans and Itty Bitty Hellboy fame to create not just a card but an unfolding comic, with cameos ranging from Darth Vader and Battlepug to the Mask and Publisher Mike Richardson.
See the rest of the card/comic below.
As dangerous as it’s proved in the past, I’m refining another theory. Comics fans are divided into two schools: those who like expressionist comic artists, and those who like realist art. Were your tastes decided by what comics you were exposed to first? Or did you start off liking one school, and develop into a love of the other?
I can see a pattern emerging through my comics-reading history where I start off as a kid loving the Kirby reprints I’m first exposed to, grew up loving Mick McMahon’s work in 2000AD and came back to comics as an adult under the spell of Mike Mignola. In my time, I’ve admired the work of realists like Neal Adams, Brian Bolland and Bryan Hitch, but it’s the work of those three expressionists that I always return to.
So imagine the pleasure I got seeing McMahon sharing his process for a cover for Dark Horse Presents #32. The January solicitations had passed me by, but that issue really is one for the old -chool 2000AD fans — the collaboration between Mignola and McMahon is joined by a new strip by Brendan McCarthy, “The Deleted.” Now that I think about it, a collaboration between McMahon and Mignola has a fairly inevitable feeling about it. No two comic artists have ever sought to refine their styles so much, constantly paring their work down in a pursuit of minimalism.
We’re living in a “Lil’ Golden Age,” as publishers have discovered the genius of comics creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani.
After showing off their trademark style on the DC heroes in comics like Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures, the duo has been tapped to create fun new versions of Hellboy and Battlestar Galactica. The collaborators also have their own line of original characters, following a successful Kickstarter project.
The kid-friendly designs they’ve applied to comics also work pretty well as plush toys, something Dark Horse is jumping all over it introduces plush versions of Itty Bitty Hellboy and Abe Sapien.
No word yet on when you’ll be able to cuddle with Mike Mignola’s signature creations, but Tomopop can show you what they’ll look like.
Have you ever received an unexpected gift that made you instantly happy? That’s how I felt in late April when Dark Horse announced Itty Bitty Hellboy, a five-issue all-ages miniseries by Art Baltazar and Franco (known for their Eisner Award-winning run on DC’s Tiny Titans and, more recently, Superman Family Adventures). Ahead of the comic’s debut on Wednesday, I spoke with Art and Franco about their fun-loving Aw Yeah-ification of the Mike Mignola/Hellboy universe.
Tim O’Shea: How hard was it to settle on the Itty Bitty Hellboy title?
Franco: That was pretty easy. Artie takes all the credit for that one. What title would best encapsulate what we wanted to do with the character than make him itty bitty!
Art Baltazar: Yes! We went through a few different adjectives before “Itty Bitty” won our hearts.
Jason Latour, artist on the Mignola-verse titles Sledgehammer 44 and B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror, has posted the image below to his blog, and it’s a doozy. His work on those two Hellboy spinoffs has been under-praised, pitched perfectly between the contributions made to Dark Horse’s flagship line by the likes of Guy Davis and Duncan Fegredo. This composition was produced as badge designs and
program cover an exclusive print for this year’s HeroesCon, which as Latour points out, has been an ambition of his for most of his life. That’s another one scratched off the bucket list.
Close-ups of several of these panels can be seen at Latour’s Instagram feed, in various stages of completion. He’s on something of a hot streak as an artist and a writer these last couple of years. I don’t buy that many Marvel comics these days, but his presence on Winter Soldier sold it to me. I’ll miss it, but here’s hoping he makes his way back to Dark Horse for more digging around in Mignola’s sandbox.
Saw this via Mike Mignola’s Facebook feed: I feel like I’m maybe the wrong man to bring you this news, but Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab are Elizabeth Barrial or Brian Constantine, a pair of Californian perfumiers who “specialize in integrating mythology, archetypes, folklore, poetry, and visual artwork with scent.” They’ve produced themed ranges influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and the works of Neil Gaiman in the past, and now they’ve brought out The Hellboy Collection, a “series based on the characters, locations, themes, and concepts in the world of Eisner-award winning Mike Mignola’s Hellboy.”
There’s a lot of humor present in this range: Hellboy’s signature fragrance is described as “aftershave, candy wrappers, brimstone, and cat.” There’s a scent called “A Plague of Frogs” described as “rubbery, wet, and warty.” Trevor Bruttenholm’s is “a classic men’s cologne mixed with the scent of old, yellowed books, a splash of bay rum, and summoning incense,” and Kroenen’s has the extremely pervy-sounding “shining black leather, gleaming metal, labdanum, and myrrh.” Funny stuff, but showing the B.P.A.L. crew are obviously fans of Mignola’s work.
The thing is, I don’t need this because I reckon I already smell like Trevor Bruttenholm without even needing a bottle of perfume, but this is possibly the oddest sounding product licensed from a comics property ever, and for that it deserves a hearty round of applause.
Sure, there was plenty of news released by just about every comic publisher over the weekend at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (as rounded up right here), but the most exciting thing I noticed about the convention was Dave Johnson’s Instagram feed going ballistic. If he produced a sketch for you at the event, chances are he recorded it for posterity on his phone and has posted it already. And if you’re really lucky, Eric Canete has logged in and made a daft gag about it, too.
Also below: the sexiest Death ever.
There’s more to superheroes than those residing at Marvel and DC Comics. Sure, they might dominate the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re by default the best.
Outside the realms of the Big Two, superheroes are thriving on the more independently minded scene. From a mixture of throwback superheroics to off-beat adventures, and even some superheroes who are willing to go where DC and Marvel wouldn’t let their own properties, there’s a cornucopia out there for readers. And now, we’re spotlighting six standouts in that superhero mix in this week’s “Six by 6.”
Comics| Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, expressed dismay about the backlash to DC Comics hiring sci-fi author, and outspoken gay-rights opponent, Orson Scott Card to write Adventures of Superman. Card is a board member of the organization, which works against the legalization of same-sex marriage. “This is completely un-American and it needs to be stopped,” Brown said. “Simply because we stand up for traditional marriage, some people feel like it’s OK to target us for intimidation and punishment.” NOM last year launched boycotts of Starbucks and General Mills because of their support of same-sex marriage initiatives. [The Huffington Post]
Retailing | Gabi Shepherd, owner of Olympic Cards and Comics in Lacey, Washington, talks about the importance of courting teenagers, who are often not welcome in other retail stores: “I have found that if I am going to make this the community center that I want to make it then the kids are a big part of that. It makes them feel good when they come in and someone knows who they are. It’s important. It’s respect.” [ThurstonTalk]