SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
[Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
A new Warren Ellis comic book, particularly a new creator-owned Warren Ellis comic book, is a big deal. Trees has the added bonus of absolutely fantastic art by Jason Howard. Image Comics celebrated the release by making the digital version of the first issue free pretty much everywhere.
“It’s not every day that a writer as important and influential as Warren Ellis launches a major new series, so making sure Trees reaches as many readers as possible is an ongoing priority for us here at Image,” Publisher Eric Stephenson said in a statement.
Debuting May 28, the sci-fi miniseries is set a decade after enormous, sentient tree-like creatures arrived on Earth, putting down roots and standing silent vigil, without even acknowledging the planet’s inhabitants.
“When we were developing the idea Warren asked me what kind of things I wanted to draw,” Howard, who previously collaborated with Ellis on Scatterlands, told Comic Book Resources. “I sent him a folder of a bunch of images that inspired me. From there he sent me the basic idea of, what if aliens landed and didn’t seem to do anything? What happens to society when these alien structures land but nothing comes out and after a while they become normal and they just stand there, like trees? I thought that sounded fascinating and could immediately visualize situations and story potential. I excitedly told him I loved it and we were off.”
In an industry that’s quick to trumpet distributor-level sellouts and multiple printing, publishers and creators are generally reluctant to reveal any actual sales numbers. Sure, there are those monthly direct-market sales estimates, but they’re just that — estimates (and most anyone who attempts to divine meaning from them is usually quickly reminded of their inaccuracy).
And so it was refreshing to see Warren Ellis disclose orders for the first issue of Trees, his new Image Comics collaboration with Jason Howard, in his Orbital Operations e-newsletter. Or, as he puts it, “I am going to tell you a thing that I probably shouldn’t.”
Retailers ordered about 38,500 copies — “I don’t recall the precise number and can’t check it right this second,” he writes — and he and Howard authorized a print run of 50,000.
Ellis confesses, “That’s a big overprint, and it could easily blow up in our faces — if the overprint doesn’t sell, then the print cost is taken out of our hides. On the other hand: if you go looking for it, and your store tells you it’s sold out or that they couldn’t get any, you can tell them that I told you we printed 12K extra copies.”
In doing so, he reveals it’s a “largely improvised” riff on a newspaper comic strip that will be serialized daily for free on his website, one panel at a time, for the long haul. Debuting the first installment, Ellis writes, “We’ll take a short break every four or five weeks, at which point we’ll run a digest of that block of panels somewhere or other (we have no serious plans in this direction beyond the intent, and are basically making shit up as we go along).”
Warren Ellis debuted his second prose novel, Gun Machine, earlier this month, but many of his longtime fans have been eagerly awaiting his next comics work. After all, it’s been a little while. “I’m not even sure I wrote any comics in 2012,” he told ROBOT 6 at the beginning of the new year. “A couple of issues of Secret Avengers, maybe?” Well, the wait is almost over.
This morning on his blog, the writer teased the above image for Scatterlands, his collaboration with Super Dinosaur artist Jason Howard, arriving in “late February.” No additional information was provided, but as there was no publisher mentioned and no lead time for a Diamond solicitation, we can probably presume Scatterlands is a webcomic. Here’s hoping more details will follow soon …
Skybound, Robert Kirkman’s Image Comics imprint, will debut limited-edition hardcovers of the writer’s series The Walking Dead and Thief of Thieves at New York Comic Con, held Oct. 11-14 in New York City.
The Skybound booth (#1229) will offer 1,500 copies of The Walking Dead Hardcover Compendium (Red Foil Version) for $100 each, as well as 1,000 copies of the Thief of Thieves Hardcover, Vol. 1, “I Quit” for $30 each.
In addition, Kirkman will participate in two NYCC panels: “Skybound: On the Rise,” with Shawn Martinbrough, Jason Howard and special guests (2:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12); and “Kirkmania!,” in which he’ll take questions from the audience (1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14). You can read the full Skybound panel and signing schedule below.
Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman is working on something completely different: Super Dinosaur, a children’s comic that will have a simultaneous print and digital release on April 1. But why wait that long? There’s a free preview up at comiXology right now. (That link takes you to the web version, but of course you can also read it on your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Android device.)
Kirkman talked to CBR about Super Dinosaur and his desire to publish an all-ages comic last December. The preview comes on pretty strong, with 10-year-old hero Derek Dynamo and his pal Super Dinosaur, a 9-foot tall, genetically altered Tyrannosaurus Rex, beating up a bunch of other genetically altered dinosaurs who are trying to steal Dynore, a useful but unstable mineral discovered by Derek’s scientist dad. The first few pages, naturally, are heavy on exposition, but it’s mixed with a lot of action and a bit of a twist at the end.
Kirkman plans to publish Super Dinosaur, which he wrote and Jason Howard illustrated, under his own Image Comics imprint, Skybound. While the first issue goes live, as mentioned above, on April 1, the second issue will be his Free Comic Book Day choice.
Last weekend Image Comics officially announced a one-shot with the utterly delightful title Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark: They Got Mixed Up! The book features two separate stories — “Sea Bear” by Jason Howard and “Grizzly Shark” by Ryan Ottley. There’s also an origin story written by Robert Kirkman. If you’d like to know more about the book, the creative duo behind it has set up a blog where they’re posting early concept art and additional info on the book.
No doubt an announcement about Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark joining the Guardians of the Globe will hit in the next day or so …