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Skottie Young debuts his ‘Spawn’ #250 variant cover

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Skottie Young has revealed his variant cover for the landmark 250th issue of Spawn, set for release Jan. 28 from Image Comics.

The 64-page issue, written by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and illustrated by Szymon Kudranski, marks the climax of the current story, clearing the way for the return of Al Simmons and the introduction of the new creative team of Paul Jenkins and Jonboy Meyers.

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Todd McFarlane traces the evolution of Spawn’s costume

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Ahead of the arrival of the landmark 250th issue, Todd McFarlane has unveiled “The Evolution of Spawn,” a graphic tracing the character’s numerous costumes, from the original design to the Greg Capullo-drawn Commando Spawn to Jonboy Meyers’ upcoming interpretation.

“And if you’re doing the math, that’s 24 YEARS. TWENTY-FOUR!!!!!!!!” McFarlane writes on Facebook. “It’s cool to look back and see how things have changed since 1992….it’s hard to believe we’re already coming up on our #250th issue.”

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Six of the best announcements from Image Expo 2015

paper-girls-teaserImage Expo returned on Thursday, and it wasn’t messing around. Each year, Image Comics seems to pack bigger announcements and bigger surprises into a single-day event. And the diversity of creators and genres gets that much better, too.

This year’s Image Expo — held again at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, following last July’s event at Comic-Con International in San Diego — included the now-standard keynote address by Publisher Eric Stephenson. He reviewed the past year’s successes and echoed plans to make Image the No. 1 publisher, but aside from throwing the gauntlet down at the feet of Marvel and DC, his address avoided some of the controversial statements and manifestos of years past. While I appreciate a good sabre-rattling, it allowed the focus to remain squarely on the creators and their comics.

With that in mind, here are my six favorite announcements from Image Expo 2015:

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Image, BOOM! again named Gem Awards publishers of the year

diamond gem awardsIt’s deja vu all over again for the Diamond Gem Awards: Voted on by comics retailers, the winners this year look a lot like the 2013 lineup, with Image Comics and BOOM! Studios once again taking honors as top publishers in their divisions. Marvel was named top dollar publisher, DC Comics as top backlist publisher and Viz Media as top manga publisher — just like in 2012 and 2013.

The first issue of the widely acclaimed Ms. Marvel was honored as comic book of the year in the under $3 division, and Thor #1 was the choice among pricier comics. The Amazing Spider-Man #1 brought in the most dollars, however. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was named the best all-ages comic of the year, Batman: Earth One took the honors as best original graphic novel, and Box Brown’s Andre the Giant was the best indie comic.

In terms of who got what, DC Comics won seven awards, Marvel won six and Dark Horse won three, including best anthology for Dark Horse Presents, another three-peat.

Here’s the full list of winners:

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Comics A.M. | Police face ‘Charlie Hebdo’ suspects in twin siege

 

Crime | Police have surrounded an industrial park in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, France, 25 miles north of Paris, where the two suspects in Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo are believed to be hiding. Police say brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi have taken over a print shop and are holding a hostage, and have reportedly told negotiators they wish to die as martyrs. The Associated Press reports that a second, apparently linked siege at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris is believed to involve Amedy Coulibaly, suspected of killing a police officer on Thursday. Police say he’s holding at least six hostages. [The Guardian]

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Landry Walker on the ‘liberating’ return of ‘Danger Club’

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Danger Club, the teen-superhero miniseries from writer Landry Q. Walker, artist Eric Jones and colorist Rusty Drake, earned acclaim upon its debut in April 2012 for its blend of classic comic-book archetypes and decidedly darker sensibilities. It’s a violent mix of Teen Titans, Watchmen and Lord of the Flies, with young sidekicks — both heroes and villains — left to their own devices after their mentors head into space to face a cosmic threat, and then never return.

However, just as the Image Comics miniseries was kicking into high gear, it was derailed by real-world concerns when the fourth issue was delayed after one of Drake’s children was struck by a car. That contributed to a domino effect, with Issue 5 arriving in April 2013, after which Danger Club went on hiatus.

However, that changes late this month, when the eight-issue series returns for its final leg: Issue 6 goes on sale Jan. 28, followed by Issue 7 on Feb. 25 and Issue 8 on March 25.

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Exclusive | Williamson takes ‘Birthright’ on the road

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Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan have a fun series going with Birthright. Debuting in October from Skybound, the fantasy is in the middle of its first arc, introducing Mikey, a boy from our world who crossed over to a fantasy world at age 10, only to return a year later as a 30-year-old warrior hero. After a rocky reunion with his family — his father Aaron, his mother Wendy and his “older” brother Brennan — Mikey escaped police custody and went out on the road, on a mission to take out five evil wizards who found their way into our reality.

However, not all is as it seems: Mikey is under the influence of the Nevermind, an evil presence at the core of problems in the other world, and his mission is anything but transparent.

ROBOT 6 spoke with Williamson about the direction of Birthright, balancing different aspects of the story, and the importance of choice and family as the series moves forward. Skybound also provided us with exclusive pages from Issue 4.

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Exclusive preview | It’s time to mourn in ‘C.O.W.L.’ #8 preview

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Image Comics has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at C.O.W.L. #8, by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis, which sees the cast of the series — the Chicago Organized Workers League — mourning the loss of one of their own. The issue arrives Jan. 28, continuing the series’ second arc.

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Exclusive preview | The supernatural invades Grecian & Rossmo’s ‘Rasputin’ #4

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Image Comics has provided Robot 6 with an exclusive first look at Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo’s Rasputin #4, continuing the origin story of Grigori Rasputin, one of the most fascinating figures in Russian history. And given the legends about Rasputin himself, it’s understandable why the pages have more than a slight supernatural angle.

“He was always so larger than life, everything about him was exaggerated,” Grecian told CBR in 2014. “It’s almost impossible at this point to separate the truth from the tall tales, which frees us up to tell any kind of story we want to. He fictionalized himself and his biographers and detractors fictionalized him after death, so I feel like you can sort of swirl everything around in a big pot and add your own spices and come up with just about anything.”

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Ed Brubaker on letting ‘Criminal’ out of jail with ‘Savage Edition’

thefadeoutcvrmagazineSince they signed an exclusive five-year contract with Image Comics last year, the crime-comics duo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have been rolling out newer, weirder stories with the finale of Fatale and their latest Hollywood noir The Fade Out.

But at the end of this month, they’ll return to their biggest project, the anthologized yet interconnected neo noir series Criminal. Originally published though Marvel’s Icon imprint beginning in 2006, the series returns on Jan. 28 with a one-two punch of Coward, the first Image Comics trade collection, and an all-new magazine-sized one-shot titled Criminal: Savage Edition.

We caught up with Brubaker about the return of Criminal, the one-shot’s mix of prison life and ’70s genre comics, and the future of his partnership with Phillips.

ROBOT 6: You’ve spoken a lot about picking up new readers with each project you’ve launched at Image, and because it’s been a few years since you and Sean did a brand-new Criminal volume, I thought we’d start with the basics. How do you describe Criminal to those who haven’t read it? It’s a series with a high concept behind it, but it’s not one of those “It’s The Big Sleep … in Space!” kind of high concepts.

Ed Brubaker: It really doesn’t have a high concept, does it? I usually just lean on saying it’s won a bunch of awards and is critically acclaimed, because I don’t know how to “one-sentence” it. But let’s try …

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Todd McFarlane dusts off very first Spawn promo art

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Todd McFarlane frequently uses his Facebook page to inspire fans with lessons he’s learned in his own life, and his latest post is little different — except that it features the first piece of Spawn promo art, drawn on the day he left Marvel in 1991.

“When I left Marvel … I JUMPED OFF THE CLIFF into the unknown to start Image Comics and then McFarlane Toys,” he writes. “But I knew in that by following my heart, I would be a better husband and father. No amount of money could be buy me that!!!

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Could we see a ‘Saga’ game? ‘Never say never,’ Vaughan insists

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Given the commercial and critical success of Saga, the space opera from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, it seems likely the Image Comics series has been eyed by more than a few film and television producers. However, the writer says he would be more interested in a video-game adaptation.

“That’s actually something that has come up,” he told The Verge. “A Saga video game, particularly if it’s sort of about characters other than the main characters in our story, is really exciting to me — even more exciting than a film or TV show. So, uh, never say never.”

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Comics A.M. | Creator loses original art, more in car break-in

Josh C. Lyman

Josh C. Lyman

Crime | Artist Josh C. Lyman reports that thieves broke into his car sometime on Monday or Tuesday and stole about 40 pieces of original art (some of it commissioned), 1,200 prints, plus convention setup materials, art supplies and clothes. “I’m more devastated in the fact my originals are all gone … some of my better non-commissioned work of the last 3 years … along with all of my tools I have earned and acquired during the aforementioned periods. Tshirts and the like I can slowly replace … but it’s the matter of having all this potential art for shows gone; along with all the posters I had left,” he writes. Lyman contacted police and has notified local comic shops to keep an eye out for the missing work, and he has posted images of the stolen art. [Facebook, via Bleeding Cool]

Censorship | Rachael Jolley takes a long and wide view of the pressures that political cartoonists are subject to, looking at several recent attempts to suppress editorial cartoonists as well as the history of tensions between creators of political cartoons and those they portray; the article also includes comments from Neil Gaiman on the topic of censorship. [The New Statesman]

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Nate Simpson’s ‘Nonplayer’ #2 gets a cover, likely May release

nonplayer2It turns out that Nate Simpson’s long-awaited Nonplayer #2 is not only finished, it has a tentative release date — and, as you can see at right, a cover.

Following up on last week’s announcement, the artist reveals the issue likely will be listed in Image Comics’ solicitations for May, a little more than four years after the critically acclaimed debut of Nonplayer #1.

In an FAQ posted on his website, beneath the headline “Halley’s Comic Returns,” the artist also elaborates on the factors that led to the lengthy delay between issues (in addition to the previously mentioned shoulder injury, new child and day job, Simpson reveals he also helped to care for his mother, who passed away last year).

“… I ended up having to throw out the original first six pages of #2,” he writes. “They felt like they had been drawn by somebody whose eye was not on the ball, which they were. When I finally shook off the brain-fog and gave the first pages an honest read, it was clear they’d have to be redone. Super bummer. On top of all that, I had contrived to switch from Photoshop to IllustStudio to streamline my pipeline. Not only did it take me a while to get comfortable with the new interface, the work I did with the program felt lifeless because of the way the linework was automatically stabilized. I finally found the right settings to replicate the feel of the first issue, but that took time. And then time ran out.”

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Comics A.M. | U.K. publisher Great Beast to close

Great Beast

Great Beast

Publishing | The British independent publisher Great Beast, which has released the work of Dan Berry, Marc Ellerby and Isabel Greenberg, among others, will close on Jan. 7. Founded in 2012 by Ellerby and Adam Cadwell, the publisher was something of a victim of its own success, as Cadwell explains: “As the group got bigger, as the books became more successful and as we widened the range of shops we sold to there became more of a need for the management and promotion to come from one or two people and Marc Ellerby and I (Adam Cadwell) happily took up that role. However, as time went on we found that the time spent working for the benefit of the group was getting in the way of us actually making our own comics, which is why we started the group in the first place… We looked at many ways of monetising the group so we could pay someone to run things whilst still giving the creators the bulk of the profits but we just couldn’t find a fair way to make it work.” [Great Beast Blog]

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