Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Continuing with our annual “Looking Forward, Looking Back,” we asked creators and other industry figures what they liked in 2014, what they’re looking forward to in 2015, and what projects they have planned for the coming year.
In this installment, we hear from Jimmy Palmiotti, Mike Norton, Kurt Busiek, Caleb Goellner, Shawn Martinbrough, Benjamin Bailey, Greg Pak, Brandon Montclare, Eric Haven, Justin Greenwood, Natalie Nourigat and Dave Scheidt!
It’s pretty widely known by now that one of the smells in the special rub-and-sniff Harley Quinn Annual #1 is of a less-than-legal, but incredibly distinctive, drug. As a result — even at New York Comic Con 2014 — there have been many jokes about the results of rubbing and smelling the marijuana-scented section of the comic.
Hilariously, through its MAD Magazine website, DC Comics has released an “important message from the DC Comics department of ethical reading,” which continues the running gag of the drug’s distinctive smell — “something called Cannibisylocibe 7-A” — and the possible side effects.
“What we are learning is that the traditional idea of done-in-one stories not selling in comics just doesn’t apply to the new audience buying the books, and believe me, most of that new audience are female. I think the problem right now is we have some people running the companies that just aren’t going out and trying new comics or interacting with the next wave of readers and keep pushing things the traditional way they did years ago. The retailers themselves are seeing this happening daily now and I feel it’s the reason Image Comics will continue to grow and eventually outsell the big two, unless they start thinking outside the box and just make superheroes a PART of their publishing plan and not the entire thing and start looking at the different ways a superhero type of book can be done. Harley is one example, Hawkeye is another. The traditional graphics people associate comics with have been changing for years now and the market is embracing different looks and styles that are outside the house style and its pretty cool to see.”
It surprised me to see Jimmy Palmiotti pursuing yet another Kickstarter in 2014, considering he had successfully completed one earlier in the year for Denver. This new one, launched this week, focuses on Sex and Violence Vol. 2.
My decision to interview the veteran writer wasn’t based on aiming to help him achieve his Kickstarter goal; he’s days, if not hours, away from achieving that. Instead, I hoped to tap into some of the knowledge that allows him to so effectively operate crowdfunding campaigns (many of the completed projects can be bought at the PaperFilms shop).
Not only did the creator offer some of the lessons learned from his past Kickstarters (hint: avoid the shipping costs from hardcover), but he also proved quite candid about the challenges of swimming in creator-owned waters. Palmiotti also was willing to elaborate about his perspective on last week’s controversy about Milo Manara Spider-Woman #1 variant cover.
Retailing | A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order halting the $21.4 million purchase of retail chain Hastings Entertainment by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association. The order was granted at the request of two Hastings shareholders who sued to stop the sale, insisting the price paid for the retailer is too low; it will remain in effect until a hearing can be held on June 12. Hastings issued a statement Monday pledging to “vigorously dispute these claims.” Hastings operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more. [Amarillo Globe-News, via ICv2]
Retailing | Amazon may be charging full price for Hachette’s graphic novels as part of its continuing contract dispute with the publisher, but Barnes & Noble has leaped into the breach with big discounts and a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on Hachette’s Yen Press manga and Little, Brown’s Tintin books. [ICv2]
Nearly two months after Amazon announced the purchase of comiXology, the first title from the retail giant’s Jet City Comics imprint has debuted on the digital comics platform.
Wool: The Graphic Novel, an adaptation of the bestselling sci-fi novel by Hugh Howey, will be serialized in six biweekly issues beginning today on comiXology for $2.99 each. The full run is also available for $4.99 on Amazon.com as a Kindle Serial, with new issues arriving on the same schedule; comiXology will offer a $4.99 bundle once all six installments have been released.
A dark, dystopian story set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, Wool was published in 2011 by Howey as a novelette through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. As it attracted a following, he wrote more installments, which became the bestselling Silo Series. The graphic novel is written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and illustrated by Jimmy Broxton; a print edition will be released in August.
Amazon launched its Jet City imprint in July 2013, intending to serialize its titles for the Kindle, and then offer bundled digital editions and print collections. Naturally with the acquisition of comiXology in April, the distribution channels expanded.
The always-busy writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are back with a Kickstarter campaign for Denver, a 72-page original graphic novel for mature readers illustrated by Pier Brito. As with most things involving Palmiotti, there is an interesting angle to this particular project (his sixth Kickstarter) in that the creators have added a soundtrack to the story, written and composed by Hans Karl. Denver comes equipped with a direct story pitch: “… one man going against all odds to get back the woman he loves, all set in the not-too-distant future.” With 15 days left on the campaign, Palmiotti was happy to discuss this latest Kickstarter.
Publishing | DreamWorks Animation’s announcement on Monday that it is launching its own book-publishing unit doesn’t mean the end of the road for its comics licensees, at least not yet: ICv2 talked to representatives from IDW Publishing, which publishes the Rocky & Bullwinkle comics, and Ape Entertainment, which has had a number of DreamWorks licenses, and both say that this won’t affect their comics. [ICv2]
Auctions | A collection of comics that included the first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and the British satirical comic Viz, as well as long runs of several Marvel series, brought in almost £25,000 (about $41,300 U.S.) at an auction in Newcastle, England. The majority of the comics were from a single collector whose wife decided to put them up for sale after he died. For those who are curious about the details, Duncan Leatherdale of The Northern Echo liveblogged the auction. [BBC News]
Digital comics | ComiXology has released an update for its Comics iOS app with a few fixes and a new feature: a Wish List. The app also now supports Manga Fixed Format. [App Advice]
Digital comics | Rob Salkowitz takes a look at the issues surrounding digital comics platforms for libraries and discusses one possible solution, iVerse’s Comics Plus Library Edition. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Tyler James offers some solid advice for creators planning to use comiXology Submit. [Comix Tribe]
Conventions | Steve Duin has a largely tepid assessment of last weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con, declaring, “Thank God for Emerald City.” [The Oregonian]
It’s almost that time again — time for ROBOT 6’s annual takeover of the Comic Book Resources home page to celebrate our anniversary. With this year bringing our big fifth anniversary, we thought we’d get a head start with one of our annual features, “Looking Forward, Looking Back,” where we ask comics folks what they liked in 2013, what they’re looking forward to in 2014 and what projects they have planned for the coming year.
In this post, you’ll hear from Jimmy Palmiotti, Brandon Montclare, Joe Keatinge, Caanan Grall, Rafer Roberts, Josh Hechinger, Jim Gibbons, Scott Fogg, Evan “Doc” Shaner and Kyle Stevens from Kirby Krackle! Then come back later today and on Tuesday to read from more of your favorite creators.
It’s been about 10 years since the first ongoing series of popular Batman: The Animated Series export Harley Quinn published its 38th and final issue, so she was due — if not overdue — for another shot, particularly given that DC Comics’ current strategy means publishing a certain number of books each month, and the market seems to be rejecting a lot of those. Looked at in that light, then, this week’s Harley Quinn #1 was something of an inevitability.
The character certainly hasn’t been idle all that time, of course: She was a frequent presence in the Bat-books, shared the 2009-2011 Gotham City Sirens with Catwoman and Poison Ivy, briefly joined the Gail Siomone-written Secret Six and, with the New 52 reboot, she received a new origin story and costume in the pages of Suicide Squad. And, of course, she appeared at least briefly in various Batman cartoons during that time, as well as in the extremely popular Batman: Arkham video games and the more recent Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Certainly the character is popular, and while different fans probably like her for different reasons, the important factors seem to be that 1.) she’s a lady, 2.) she’s a sexy lady, and 3.) she offers the same sense of anarchy and dark humor as her sometimes-boyfriend The Joker, but without the depravity. More often than not — particularly in the comics and cartoons — she’s as much antihero as villain, a safer alternative to The Joker, whose evil serial killer portrayal is no so deeply embedded into the character that it can be difficult for creators to walk him back toward any more lighthearted portrayals.
Publishing | Retail news and analysis website ICv2 breaks down November’s comics sales to the direct market and finds year-to-date sales up 9.33 percent over last year, with an 11.09 percent increase in comics and 5.55 percent in graphic novels. Batman #25 topped the comics chart with more than 125,000 copies, followed at No. 2 by Harley Quinn #0 with about 114,000. In the graphic novel category, the latest volume of The Walking Dead led with about 25,000 copies sold in November. ICv2 also lists the top 300 comics and graphic novels for November. [ICv2]
Creators | Molly Crabapple talks to Art Spiegelman, and draws his portrait as well. [Vice]
Retailing | The rental chain Tsutaya and the bookstore chain Yurindo have returned Kuroko’s Basketball books and DVDs to their shelves after “X-Day,” Nov. 4, passed without incident. Someone has sent hundreds of threatening letters to convention sites, bookstores, the media and Sophia University (the alma mater of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki), over the past year, and the most recent batch of letters said that “X-Day will be on the final day of the [Sophia University] school festival.” Meanwhile, police are checking security cameras near all the mailboxes in the districts from which the letters were mailed, looking for suspicious people. [Anime News Network]
Comics | Brian Steinberg looks at Archie Comics’ most radical move yet: the relatively adult Afterlife with Archie, which literally turned America’s most iconic teenagers into zombies. Steinberg talks to Archie CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, artist Francesco Francavilla and others about the significance of this comic, which sold almost 65,000 copies to the direct market. [Variety]
Harley Quinn #0, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner and drawn by more than a dozen artists, arrives today in stores and contains the winning entry from the DC Entertainment Open Talent Search. The page, by Jeremy Roberts, is notable in that it is significantly toned down from the controversial script released in September.
DC came under fire from readers and advocacy groups alike for the original tryout page, which directed artists to depict the fan-favorite character naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide, a scene Palmiotti explained was merely a surreal dream sequence.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness called the contest “extremely insensitive” and “potentially dangerous,” leading the publisher to apologize to anyone who may have been offended by the script while reiterating its intended “cartoony and over-the-top in tone.”
The original script described the fourth panel as, “Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of ‘oh well, guess that’s it for me’ and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.”
But in the published Harley Quinn #0, the first three panels remain the same — Harley holding onto a cell tower during a thunderstorm, feeding alligators and tickling the roof of a whale’s mouth — but the final one has been drastically changed: Instead of contemplating suicide in her bathtub, the character is shown riding a missile, Dr. Strangelove-style, high above the Earth.
Although the tryout script didn’t include dialogue, the overall tone of the page seems to lack the “Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach” Palmiotti said that he and Conner intended.
Harley Quinn #0 is in stores now.
Apparently, it takes three respected organizations to reiterate what fans had been saying for a week in order for DC Comics to admit: Maybe the fans have a point.
As we reported Friday, the publisher apologized to anyone offended by the talent search tryout page that asked artists to depict Harley Quinn naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide. While the apology is welcome news, the entire rundown of the event reveals an unfortunate approach to handling controversy. Let’s take a look at the timeline of the Harley Quinn suicide debacle:
• Thursday, Sept. 5: DC launches the contest with a script excerpt of four panels that culminate in an apparent suicide scene. Fans on Tumblr, Twitter and elsewhere begin to react.
• Saturday, Sept. 7: Co-Publisher Jim Lee posts a series of tweets explaining context and attempting to clarify the intent of the story.
• Tuesday, Sept. 10: Co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti posts an apology on his Facebook page, and clarifies the controversial panel is part of a surreal dream sequence. “I hope all the people thinking the worst of us can now understand that insulting or making fun of any kind was never our intention,” he writes. “I also hope that they can all stop blaming DC Comics for this since it was my screw up.”