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Looking forward, looking back: Creators weigh in on comics in 2010 and 2011

I know it’s getting kind of late, and if I keep working on this one it won’t even be our anniversary anymore by the time it gets posted … so let’s do it.

Over the last couple of weeks Tim O’Shea and I have been reaching out to various folks around the comics industry, asking them six questions about 2010 and 2011. And boy did we get an awesome response. My thanks to everyone who took time to respond to us today, not only for this feature, but for everything else we’ve posted over the last 16 or so hours.

So check out the responses (and lots of cool artwork) below … this is a mammoth post, and I apologize in advance for any formatting problems or other issues on my end

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KURT BUSIEK (Astro City, The Witchlands, Kirby: Genesis)

The Witchlands

What were your favorite comics in 2010?

Offhand, I’d say THE 6TH GUN, USAGI YOJIMBO, CAPTAIN AMERICA, THOR THE MIGHTY AVENGER, FABLES and SMILE.

What works or creators got overlooked in 2010 that warrant more attention/praise?

I don’t know what got attention and what didn’t, really. Hope Larson’s MERCURY, I’ll say. Whatever attention it got, it shoulda got more.

What was the biggest news story of 2010, in terms of the comics industry?

Probably the shift toward digital distribution.

What do you hope to see from the industry in 2011?

More good comics!

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Ryan Cody takes flight with Icarus

Icarus

A few years back Ryan Cody caught my eye with a comic he illustrated called Villains. Published by Viper Comics, the book featured a former cubicle worker who blackmailed an ex-villain into teaching him how to be a bad guy. More recently, Cody has been drawing a mature readers title called Jesus Christ: In the Name of the Gun, and now the artist has decided to begin writing his own comics as well.

Late last year, Cody started posting pages of Icarus on his website, with plans to publish it using a print-on-demand company later this year. You can check out the first issue on Ryan’s website, but hurry — it comes down tomorrow. I spoke with Ryan about the project and his approach to getting it in people’s hands.

JK: Let’s start with the basics – what is Icarus about?

Ryan: Icarus is about how a career military man deals with his own conscious when it comes into conflict with direct orders. Major Robert Riley has served his country well and is the premier covert assassin. He has never failed a mission, never missed a target. A young girl named Delphi has had a premonition about the end of the Earth. She believes an alien force is coming with the goal of domination and enslavement. When she and other heroes go public with their story, chaos ensues including religious and financial upheaval. The church cannot control it’s parishioners and the government cannot control it’s people when they are being told a power greater than all of them is coming to destroy them. Global riots ensue and in the end, the governments of the Earth decide that these super-humans are causing more harm than good and put Riley in play to put an end to them. Heroes and villains must be put down in order for the populace to be put back in it’s place. The story focuses on Riley, Delphi and the various characters they encounter. There is much more to the story but I can’t go into it without blowing the cliffhanger at the end of the first issue.

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Quote of the day #3 | JMS’s vote of no-confidence in monthly comics?

“…Straczynski basically indicates that the future is stand-alone works and short runs, which strikes me as a terrible vote of no-confidence in terms of such a company’s — an industry’s! — bread and butter. If JMS doesn’t want to write continuing series, doesn’t that suggest that fans might want to reconsider reading them?”

The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon, analyzing the ramifications of J. Michael Straczynski’s decision to depart his runs on Superman and Wonder Woman for the original graphic novel series Superman: Earth One and similarly formatted projects. “I think that’s where the business is going,” JMS said in his statement; will it go there faster now that one of its most high-profile writers has made the switch?

NYCC ’10 | A round-up of news and announcements from this weekend

New York Comic Con

News from New York started pouring out last week before New York Comic Con even started, as publishers got a jump-start on press releases leading into the show, and ICv2‘s Conference on Comics and Digital provided plenty of discussion points about the current and future state of the industry.

• At Comic Book Resources, Kiel Phegley has a thorough report from the conference, where Milton Griepp of ICv2 shared that industry sales are down in 2010, as comic sales are only slightly up at 1 percent, with a 20-percent decline in the graphic novel category. Manga sales are also down 20 percent. The bulk of the conference focused on an area where the story isn’t quite so grim — digital comics. While ICv2′s 2009 report gave a $500,000 to $1 million sales estimate for digital, 2010′s number pointed toward a market of $6 to 8 million.

• Coinciding with the conference and the con, several companies, of course, had announcements regarding their digital plans. Dark Horse announced a new homegrown digital comics app that will work across the various Apple devices and on the web, offering single issues for $1.49. It will be available in January. BOOM! Studios made three announcements late last week, about its comics being available on the PSP and from MyDigitalComics.com. The publisher also announced the availability of Farscape through its comiXology app on the iPad and iPhone. Longbox announced that its comics app will be “the exclusive pre-installed service for purchasing, cataloguing and reading digital comics on all four of Notion Ink’s announced tablets.” And finally DC Comics announced Sunday that Hank Kanalz, former general manager of WildStorm, will head up the DC Digital Comics division in Burbank, Calif. Kanalz jumped right into his new role, leading a Sunday panel on DC’s digital initiatives.

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SDCC ’10 | ‘San Diego’s annual Super Bowl,’ Hitler costumes and Creator-Con

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International

With Comic-Con International kicking off in a few hours, the media circus is in full swing. Here are a few links to read while you’re waiting for the doors to open:

The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs talks to Stan Lee, Dan DiDio and Sergio Aragones, among others, about whether or not the con should move to another city. “Vegas, please. I’m advocating for all the hookers. All those fanboys would be like manna dropping from heaven. Honestly, some of those folks in the Storm Trooper suits REALLY need a little action. Now that I’ve said that, I should mention that I’ll be appearing for my Comic Con speech in a storm troopers costume. I take it back,” said Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed.

• USA Today spotlights video games, TV shows and movies that will be featured at the con this year, while the Wall Street Journal has their own list. Which ones will kill? The Hollywood Reporter might have some thoughts.

Heat Vision, meanwhile, talks to several screenwriters about adapting comics into movies.

• A popular topic with the media is costumes at Comic-Con; this one, about a Nazi memorabilia booth that’ll be set up at the show, is a bit more serious than you’d expect.

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The big question: Is DC moving to L.A.?

Hollywood

Jeff Robinov is based in Los Angeles. Diane Nelson is based in Los Angeles. Geoff Johns is based in Los Angeles. John Rood is based in Los Angeles. Jim Lee isn’t based in Los Angeles, but he is based down the road in San Diego. Dan DiDio was based in Los Angeles for years before he came to DC. Obviously Warner Bros. is based in Los Angeles. But DC Entertainment is still based in the historic capital of comics, New York City. For how long? I expect this will be a question that gets asked a lot as the first round of post-announcement interviews with the major players hits the Internet this afternoon.

The Grumpy Color: Carla and Tom bury 2009 (part 2)

Over the course of New Year’s weekend, by way of dissecting the past year in DC and Marvel superhero comics, Robot 6 columnists Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman traded e-mail messages. This is part 2 of the result. Part 1 is here.

Batman and Robin #1

Batman and Robin #1

Carla: So, after Infinite Crisis, DC was like “Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman leave!” and then proceeded to skip the time that they had left, probably because it would be boring not to see their star characters not in their books. 2009 only had Wonder Woman keep her post as Bruce Wayne and Superman have sort of ditched their titles. How’s that workin’ out for you? Excited to see “Bruce Wayne Reborn?” Think Superman even needs to be accessible to the new reader anymore?

Tom: We’ve talked before about the Dick Grayson Batman, and on the whole I’ve liked both the idea and the execution, but it is a weird balancing act. It can’t be too different, or it’ll be the ‘90s and Jean-Paul all over again — but it can’t be too much the same, because then what’s the point? Obviously Morrison has pulled it off most effectively in Batman And Robin, but I liked the Winick/Bagley issues of Batman too. I’m eager to see how Dick/Batman fits into the new Justice League.

As for the Superman books, they also remind me of the ‘90s, and particularly the days of the “weekly” Superman comics where the supporting cast was so huge that Superman was practically an afterthought. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, because I do think Superman can be unnecessarily complicated. I mean, to me the basic Superman image is Clark ripping open his dress shirt and muttering “this looks like a job for Superman!” If Nightwing and Flamebird and Mon-El had been able to capture some of that over the past year, I think the books would have been better-received. Instead there’s this whole “the world hates the S-shield” plot wrapped around a pretty familiar government conspiracy. Parts of it have been good, but sometimes I hope it satisfies everyone’s need for big convoluted storylines. [CH: Good call!] And I am looking forward to the “Batman Vs. History” miniseries, because how can you not want to see Grant Morrison writing Pirate Batman?

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The Grumpy Color: Tom and Carla bury 2009, Part 1

Blackest Night #6

Blackest Night #6

Over the course of New Year’s weekend, by way of dissecting the past year in DC and Marvel superhero comics, Robot 6 columnists Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman traded e-mail messages. This was the result.

Yeah, that’s right, e-mail. Why do things the easy way?

Tom: Okay, Carla — it’s the end of 2009, Blackest Night is in the home stretch, Siege is ready to start, and it’s our job to make sense of the past year.

First question: should Marvel be worried about the “Blackest Night surge” of the past two months?

Carla: Direct answer: no.

Longer, more thoughtful answer: Heck no.

“Okay, take this seriously Carla” answer: Last year, at this time, Marvel was hip deep in Secret Invasion tie-ins. The fact that DC has learned that slapping a banner on your books sells more copies is just proof we’re finally down to business. Whether that business is being bought by a multi-billion dollar entertainment corporation or learning that telling fans that one book is going to have catastrophic consequences throughout the entire universe catapults that book to superstar status, it all comes down to promoting the industry. Marvel’s been heralding big tent events for the past how many years with banner books and aftermath tie-ins, so for DC, it looks like they finally got the formula right.

TB: Well, DC has been doing “bannered books” since Crisis On Infinite Earths, but yeah — it seems like Blackest Night has hit some kind of fan sweet spot. Generally, though, I think that comes from a relatively simple premise plus the “power of Geoff Johns.” It seems to be enough, because previous DC crossovers sure haven’t had the coattails BN has.

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What are you excited about for 2010? Part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, over the last couple of weeks Tim O’Shea and I have been reaching out to various folks around the comics industry, asking them what they are excited about for 2010. We asked them to mention something they were anticipating as a fan and also something they were working on, if they could talk about it. Here’s round two; we’ll have round three up later today.

Jimmy Palmiotti

Splatterman

Splatterman

I am personally excited about what changes are coming at both DC COMICS and MARVEL COMICS. Most people look at change as a negative thing, but looking at the projects coming from both companies and the amount of multi-media projects coming our way, I cant help become excited to what the future holds. I think all these changes will help bring brand new readers to our industry and deliver some exciting projects to the loyal fans as well. see? a lot of positive vibes…there really is no reason to fear change. I believe in embracing it.

As far as what I have coming up… well , that would take a while, but the first thing that is coming to mind is the Image Comics one shot Justin Gray and I have in the works for this spring called Splatterman. Originally we were going to make this a few issues , but decided to go the graphic novel way and put it out as one book. It features beautiful artwork by Giancarlo Caracuzzo and Paul Mounts with a stunning cover by award winning artist, Tim Bradstreet. It’s the story of two comic creators [not us, lol] that create the ultimate horror comic character that comes back to haunt them. It’s crazy adult comics the way they were meant to be told. Anyone that enjoyed our Friday the 13th series and The Last Resort will understand what i mean.

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Old acquaintances shall not be forgotten

Cameron Stewart covers the Montreal Mirror

Cameron Stewart covers the Montreal Mirror

Happy New Year, everyone! Typically the first day of the new year is a time for reflection, for looking forward and looking back. And you might think that I would be tempted to do that very thing, especially since we just wrapped up our first full year here at Robot 6.

But I’m not gonna do that. Y’see, Robot 6 officially kicked off on Jan. 2, 2009. And tomorrow we plan to celebrate our first anniversary by bringing you a lot of really, really cool stuff — interviews, exclusive previews, countdowns and much more — as we take over the home page of Comic Book Resources for the day. It should be a lot of fun, so be sure to stop by in between football games and TV marathons.

In the meantime, after the jump you’ll find some links to other bloggers looking at 2009 and 2010. Enjoy, and we’ll be back in full force tomorrow. See you then!

(Artwork above is Cameron Stewart‘s cover to this week’s Montreal Mirror, as seen on his blog.

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Randal Jarrell leaves Oni to join the Army Reserves

Randal Jarrell

Randal Jarrell

Oni Press sent out a news release today announcing that their current managing editor, Randal Jarrell, has resigned to enlist in the United States Army Reserves. He will serve as a medic while attending nursing school.

“This was easily the hardest decision of my professional life,” Jarrell said in the release. “I love this company and the people I work with, and I am so incredibly proud of the work we’ve done over the last six years. I just feel I have a calling to serve not just this country, but the men and women in uniform who have already sacrificed so much.”

He’s has been with Oni since 2003, where he edited such titles as The Damned, First in Space, Salt Water Taffy and Northwest Passage. Randy is one of several people I always tried to stop and say hi to at the Oni booth at various conventions, as he is a genuinely nice guy and has been very supportive of the blog. So best of luck to him in his new and noble endeavor.

Jarrell will be succeeded by new hire George Rohac, who will take over his managerial duties as Oni’s operations director. His editorial workload will be divided among Oni’s editorial department run by editor in chief James Lucas Jones. That same department will be adding new associate editor Charlie Chu, formerly of 20th Century Fox, and promoting assistant editor Jill Beaton to associate editor.

A quick chat with Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons

Dark Horse Publicity Coordinator Jim Gibbons

Dark Horse Publicity Coordinator Jim Gibbons

Meet the latest addition to Dark Horse’s stable: Publicity Coordinator Jim Gibbons. Recently tapped to handle PR chores for Hellboy, Buffy, Conan, the Goon, various Sith and Jedi etc. following the departure of Jacq Cohen for fellow Pacific Northwest publisher Fantagraphics, Gibbons is the latest in long line of former Wizard staffers whose exit from that company gave them an entrance elsewhere in the industry. The transition for Gibbons, however, was just about as seamless as it gets — cross-country move excepted, that is.

I had a quick email exchange with Gibbons — a friend and former coworker — that should be of interest to anyone who’d like to get to know the guy who’ll be helping you get to know Dark Horse’s comics in the weeks and months to come.

Robot 6: Jim, how’d you land this gig?

Jim Gibbons: A few days after I was let go from my job at Wizard, my good buddy — and CBR Staff Writer — Josh Wigler sent me a link to the jobs section on DarkHorse.com and suggested I apply. I believe the end date for resume submissions at Dark Horse was set for about a week after I had lost my job, so it seemed fate was smiling upon me and where one door had closed, another had opened… and numerous other cliches. But, in all seriousness, things had luckily lined up for me in an oddly fortuitous way. Not only was there an opening at an amazing comic company right as I’d lost my job, but I had just written Wizard‘s Book of the Month feature on one of my favorite Dark Horse titles, Conan the Cimmerian. I guess I was a victim of some of strange but really good timing.

So, I wrote my cover letter, sent in my resume, didn’t make an ass out of myself in the interviews, thankfully had some fantastic people I had met during my time at Wizard put in a good word for me and was lucky enough to become a publicity coordinator at Dark Horse Comics.

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Cyber Monday sales-o-rama

Popeye, Vol. 4: Plunder Island

Popeye, Vol. 4: Plunder Island

Thanksgiving ’09 is only a memory, Black Friday has come and gone, and here we are at Cyber Monday, which depending upon whom you ask is either the year’s biggest sales day for online retailers or a wonderful marketing gimmick for same. And sure enough, comics publishers and retailers are getting in on the act with one-day-only deals.

On the superhero-y end of things, Marvel is offering 30% off annual Digital Comics Unlimited subscriptions today only to those who enter the promo code CYBER09. Over in indie-land, Fantagraphics has similarly discounted nearly all its 2009 releases — over 75 titles in all. And of course retailers like Midtown Comics are offering major discounts in honor of the holiday and its attendant shopping sprees.

My advice to you would be to consult Tom Spurgeon’s epic Black Friday Shopper’s Guide — a deliciously deep annual advice column for comics-interested holiday shoppers, featuring tips on fully 100 books and bargains both off- and on-line — and get cracking!

I’d also advise you to share any sales or deals you’ve spotted with your fellow shoppers in the comments …

What’s wrong with The A.V. Club’s Best Comics of the ’00s list?

avclub_logoEarlier today, The A.V. Club, The Onion’s for-serious arts and criticism auxiliary unit, released its list of the Best Comics of the ’00s, featuring 25 comics/graphic novels and (separately) five reprint collections, ordered alphabetically. Now, it’s just one of many media outlets producing lists of this sort as the decade draws to a close — pretty soon, we’ll be able to come up with a “Best ‘Best Comics of the ’00s’ Lists” list — and disagreement with such exercises is to be expected. Indeed, it’s sort of the point. But I found The A.V. Club’s list problematic in ways that go beyond the usual “That book?No way!” and “Hey, you forgot about …” complaints.

Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1

Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1

So let’s start by getting those complaints out of the way, since they’re the most subjective. The list’s own introduction cites a quartet of comics that just missed the cut — Scott Pilgrim, Astro City, The Walking Dead and the work of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez — and I could see reasonable cases being made for three of the four, not that I’d necessarily agree with them. Given the mainstream-accessible tenor of the list, I also think you can get enough of a sense of the standards being applied to argue for several obvious oversights: David B.’s Epileptic, Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde, for example. Moreover, the titles selected for particular creators can leave you scratching your head: One! Hundred! Demons! instead of What It Is, the gag/parody-centric Acme Novelty Library oversized hardcover rather than Jimmy Corrigan, Rick Geary’s The Mystery of Mary Rogers instead of, well, any of Geary’s other old-time crime books. Finally, in some cases, I think the selected books are bettered by other, similar efforts: I’d have picked B.P.R.D. over The Goon for quirky horror-action, for example, or The Walking Dead over Y: The Last Man for lengthy post-apocalyptic serials, or Shortcomings over Box Office Poison for slice-of-life drama.

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Oooh, another sale! With a Stan Bush soundtrack!

Johnny Hiro #1, from AdHouse

Johnny Hiro #1, from AdHouse

Your wallet may still be smarting from the beating it received at the hands of SLG and Buenaventura’s big bottom-line-boosting sales, but there’s no rest for the weary: Now the impeccably designed comics of indie publisher AdHouse Books are getting in on the act.

Click over to AdHouse’s holiday-season sale (initially announced right here on Robot 6!) to find killer deals on comics ranging from Joshua W. Cotter’s book-of-the-year candidate Driven by Lemons to serial Eisner Award-winner James Jean’s lovely sketchbook The Hallowed Seam: Process Recess Vol. 3 to Fred Chao’s multiple Eisner-nominated “adventure-scifi-love story” Johnny Hiro.

And to get you in the mood for saving money, why not watch this preview video for Driven by Lemons, set to the unforgettable strains of Stan Bush’s “The Touch” from Transformers: The Movie? After all, if you buy that comic, you’re a winner, you’re nobody’s fool.


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