"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Broadway | The $70-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will emerge Thursday from its three-week hiatus a vastly changed production, featuring five additional flying sequences, expanded roles for Aunt May, Uncle Ben and Mary Jane, a scaled back (and transformed) Arachne, new songs and a lighter tone. “There is still a ton of emotional complexity in the musical, and some of that original darkness,” says playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was hired to help rework the script. “But we all also wanted a show that would honor the rich legacy and history of the Spider-Man story: the high school love story, the pretty girl next door, the science geek who is coping with new powers.” The new opening night is set for June 14. [The New York Times]
Publishing | Gregory Noveck, former senior vice president-creative affairs at DC Entertainment, has been hired as senior vice president of production for Syfy Films, a joint venture of Syfy and Universal. Noveck, who oversaw DC’s film and television ventures, left the company in August amid a massive restructuring. [Heat Vision]
Retailing | A bankruptcy judge is expected to hear arguments today from the bankrupt Borders Group, which is seeking to pay $8.3 million in bonuses in a bid to retain key corporate personnel. The struggling bookseller says that 47 executives and director-level employees have quit since the company declared bankruptcy on Feb. 16 — two dozen just this month — leaving only 15 people in senior management positions. In a court filing last week, U.S. bankruptcy trustee Tracy Hope Davis objected to the bonus proposal, characterizing it as “a disguised retention plan for insiders, which also provides for discriminatory bonuses for non-insiders.” [The Detroit News]
Publishing | Todd Allen looks at sales estimates for the first issues in Marvel’s “Point One” initiative, which featured self-contained stories designed to serve as a jumping-on point for new or lapsed readers: “With the sole exception of Hulk, retailers ordered less copies of the ‘jump on’ issue, than the regular series. If you figure people picking up the title would also pick up the ‘.1′ introductory issue, this is a flaming disaster and there aren’t going to be a lot of these comics finding their way into the hands of new readers. It smack of very low buy-in from the retail community.” [Indignant Online]
Publishing | Dynamite Entertainment CEO Nick Barrucci talks frankly about the state of the marketplace, digital comics, and his company’s plans. He also acknowledges some missteps: “Green Hornet was a license we paid a lot of attention to last year, probably too much attention. Going back to what we were talking about earlier, putting out too much product, we put out too much Green Hornet product. Part of it is that we wanted to get trade paperback collections out in time for the movie, and we did that, we succeeded. We built up our market share and we generated more revenue for us and the retailers. I’m going off on a tangent here, so I apologize, but we took that money and reinvested into projects like Vampirella, like Warlord of Mars, like the upcoming Kirby: Genesis. But we overdid it, and that we realize, which is why you don’t see us doing four Vampirella titles and four Warlord of Mars titles.” [ICv2.com]
Creators | For its annual Comics Issue, the Village Voice takes a fascinating, lengthy and very depressing look at the often-grim financial reality faced by cartoonists — an environment to which, it turns out, the Village Voice contributed. “I’m not sure how much you’ll be allowed to write about this,” says Dan Perkins (Tom Tomorrow), “but of course the Village Voice Media chain is one of the major culprits in this —their decision to ‘suspend’ cartoons [in 15 papers in 2009] dealt a serious blow to the struggling subgenre of alt-weekly cartoons.” It’s noted parenthetically that Tom Tomorrow will return to the paper “within a few months,” and that “many of the artists in this issue aren’t getting paid, but have contributed work for the exposure.” [Village Voice]
When the editors of the Graphic NYC blog asked Incredible Change-Bots creator Jeffrey Brown to discuss his influences, they had an essay in mind, but after working on the idea for some time, Brown came back with something different: A comic.
In the charming I’m Really Good at Playing, Brown uses his interactions with his son Oscar to make some points about creating comics, some obvious—his comics are inspired by childhood love of both comics and action figures, in which good and evil were clearly demarcated and good always triumphed at the last minute—and some subtle, like the way his wife can’t impersonate a shark as well as he can. As an extra bonus, he provided a diagram of his initial thoughts and how he turned them into panels of the comic, and he goes through all the steps at his blog.
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!
As Transformers 3 draws inexorably nearer, I find myself dreading the conversations I know I’m going to have.
My friends will ask, innocently, “Have you seen Transformers 3, yet?”
“No,” I’ll reply, hoping they’ll lose interest and change the subject.
“Why not? It looks great! I thought you were into all that sci-fi, comic booky stuff.”
At which point I’ll either have to lie and say that I just haven’t gotten around to it yet (a tactic I’ll feel horrible about later), or tell the truth about hating Michael Bay movies and come off sounding like a complete snob. Which of course I am, but nobody likes defending themselves against that, especially when it’s true.
You see, my friends just don’t get it. If it’s big, if it’s blockbustery, if it’s got giant robots and it’s based on a popular cartoon from the ‘80s, they’ll go see it regardless of how crap it is. “I know it’s not great,” they’ll tell me, “but come on. It’s fun!” I could argue that last point, but by now I’m tired of the conversation.
I know I’m going to get this because I went through it two years ago with Transformers 2. I don’t want to go through it again. Fortunately, this year I have something with which to deflect the conversation into a positive direction. I have Incredible Change-Bots.
The second volume of Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots debuts at the C2E2 comics convention this weekend, where the creator will be in attendance. Over on his blog, Brown also reveals a piece of art titled “Bew! Bew! Bew!” that will be featured in a Change-bots art show at the Scott Eder Gallery in May. The gallery has a table at the con, where the artwork will be displayed.
And if that’s not enough, Brown also recently announced a new Change-Bots fan club offer, which you can either take advantage of on the web or at C2E2 this weekend. You can find Brown at the Top Shelf booth (#810).
Or does he? According to cartoonist Jeffrey Brown’s interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben, the upcoming sequel to his hit transforming-robot action-parody Incredible Change-Bots owes a bit less to the robots in disguise and more to his desire just to play around some more with the characters he concocted for Volume One — and to spoof the Superman mythos, of all things…
There are a lot of superhero parodies, but not a lot of transforming fighting robot parodies. Does it help, knowing you’re treading on ground no one’s covering?
[Laughs] It’s hard to say how much that helped. I think especially with the second book, it became less a parody of Transformers and more just being interested in these characters…who just happen to have the same functions as Transformers. It becomes more of its own thing. I think it’s one reason why I’ve enjoyed the Change-Bots stuff more than I enjoyed doing [the superhero parody] “Bighead.” It doesn’t feel as much like it’s something that’s been done to death already.
To highlight the New Chicago Comics exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, NBC Chicago ran the above segment, which features creators Jeffrey Brown and Paul Hornschemeier talking about their work. The exhibit features their work, as well as that of Lilli Carré and Anders Nilsen.
Mark your calendar and start saving your pennies: Top Shelf has announced its entire 2011 lineup, in chronological order, and it’s going to be quite a year. In addition to a varied line of adult graphic novels, the indy publisher is greatly expanding its children’s line and inaugurating a “Kids Club” website just for those books. Some highlights:
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #2 – 1969, by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill: The latest chapter of Moore’s epic moves to 1960s London, the epicenter of psychedelic cool. Due out in July.
Any Empire, by Nate Powell: Powell won an Eisner Award two years ago for Swallow Me Whole, and now he’s back with another book about the secrets of childhood, this one focusing on violence in suburbia. Also due out in July.
Incredible Change-Bots Two, by Jeffrey Brown: The catalog text describes this as “a nostalgic tribute not only to Saturday morning cartoons but also to Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots One,” which is as good a reason as any for fans of the first book to pick up the second. Watch for it in March.
Gingerbread Girl, by Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin (who we interviewed last summer about it): This sounds like a pileup of wackiness, with multiple narrators following a young woman, trying to see if her mad-scientist father used part of her brain to make her a sister. Due out in May.
Okie Dokie Donuts (Story 1): Open for Business, by Chris “Elio” Eliopoulos: Trouble in the donut shop! Chris Eliopoulos is an animator for the children’s television show Yo Gabba Gabba, and you can see his webcomic The Bravest Nino at the Top Shelf site. Due out in June.
And, for those who can’t get enough alternative manga, another volume of AX! There’s a lot more in their catalog, so go, read, and plan!
Brigid did a round-up yesterday of various holiday gift-giving suggestions, so I thought I’d follow suit with some that I’ve seen lately.
• The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is auctioning off original art by Paul Pope, Eric Powell, Gabriel Hardman, Tom Fowler, Dan Paosian and many more, as well as lunch with Chew writer John Layman in New York next week.
• I remember shoveling a whole bunch of quarters into the X-Men arcade game back in the day; my friend Mike and I beat the game as Nightcrawler and Wolverine. If you have an Xbox fan in your life, they too can fight the Blob, Magneto and more in side-scrolling action, as the game will be available on Xbox Live Arcade Dec. 15.
The PlayStation Network, unfortunately, won’t get it until February, so you’ll have to find something else this holiday season for the PS3 fan in your life. Joy to the world! The game will hit the PlayStation Network Dec. 14!
• Comics creator Ben Towle has a 20 percent off sale going in his web store, where you can purchase original art from books like Midnight Sun, signed copies of Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean and superhero commissions.
Goodness gracious, look at all the terrific titles that are on sale for $3 over at Top Shelf Productions’ website. That’s some 70 in all, including books by Alan Moore, Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Scott Morse, Liz Prince, and Renee French. Another 30-plus comics and graphic novels are also on sale for suitably impressive amounts — the complete Lost Girls from Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie and the complete Alec: The Years Have Pants by Eddie Campbell may be purchased for just $25 and $20 respectively, for pete’s sake. Top Shelf’s $3 Sale lasts through Friday, September 24th, so get ‘em while the gettin’s good!
In a story that is becoming depressingly familiar in the comics world, Rachel Dukes and Mike Lopez, the creative force behind Poseur Ink, are having a family emergency and need to sell off all their copies of their music-themed comics anthologies Side A and Side B.
Right now Side A, which includes work by Sean Azzopardi and Julia Wertz, is just five bucks, while Side B, with a cover by Lucy Knisley and comics by Knisley, Box Brown, Jeffrey Brown, Brandon Graham and Mitch Clem, among others, is $11.99. (Here’s a review, and Johanna Draper Carlson, who picked it up at MoCCA, said “So far, the best anthology I’ve seen all year.”)
Dukes says the books won’t be reprinted. Details on the liquidation sale are here.
The ‘Bots are back in town! Well, they will be sooner or later, anyway — attending the San Diego Comic-Con is keeping creator Jeffrey Brown from polishing off the last few pages of Incredible Change-Bots Two, the sequel to his loving parody of the Transformers and Go-Bots of ’80s action-figure and cartoon fame, until August. (And yes, the “two” is fully spelled out.) But it’s not keeping him from talking to us about the upcoming Top Shelf release, one of, like, a bajillion books the publisher talked up at its panel today.
How long have you been planning Incredible Change-Bots Two? Did you need to see how the first volume did, or were you full-steam-ahead from the jump?
I started thinking about it shortly after finishing the first on. The book was so much fun to write, and draw, and the characters were already kind of taking on their own life. Plus people really liked the first one, and I hope that someday I’ll make enough things that people like, that they’ll like me too.
What’s the basic scoop on the sequel, storywise? Any new ‘Bots to look forward to?
At the end of the first book, Shootertron was defeated and left in a pile of rubble on Earth while the other Change-Bots headed into space to find a new home. Shootertron wakes up, but has lost his memory, but the other Change-Bots end up back on Earth because of some miscalculations, and a run-in with Shootertron becomes inevitable. There’s lots of new ‘Bots, but they mostly get killed off right away, because there’s not enough room in the book. I liked how the old cartoons did that too, introduce a new character and then the character disappears at the end of the episode.
A sequel to Marvel’s surprise-hit alternative-superhero anthology Strange Tales has long been rumored, and now a post at cartoonist Paul Hornschemeier’s blog reveals the truth: Strange Tales 2 is on its way. No official word on when it’ll arrive, or on who else will be joining the anthology this time out, but based on what The Perry Bible Fellowship‘s Nick Gurewitch has said about a Galactus strip he’s working on, and this table of contents from Jeffrey Brown’s Process minicomic boasting the inclusion of Strange Tales sketches, they seem to be likely candidates. Meanwhile, I’ve heard tell that Becky Cloonan and Michael Kupperman will be making their triumphant returns to the project. Stay tuned!