It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Grave Doug Freshley – A lot of publishers are doing Weird Western comics lately and that’s just fine with me.
Spera, Volume 1 – I like the sound of this fairy tale in which a couple of princesses combine efforts to save their kingdoms. It’s not that I’m anti-prince, but that’s a cool, new way to do that story.
Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island – Warren Ellis doing Steampunk sounds thrilling, but really all they had to say was “pirates.” I bet this is still really good though, even if you’re pickier than I am.
Roger Langridge’s Snarked #1 – After a well-loved zero-issue, Langridge’s version of Wonderland gets its real, official start.
John Byrne, creator of Next Men, is working on his first all-new comic series in more than a decade, according to an Associated Press story.
Matt Moore reports that Byrne, who worked on Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, Amazing Spider-Man, Superman and many other titles back in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, is writing and drawing a new “period piece” called Cold War. Published by IDW, the series stars former MI6 agent-turned-freelancer Michael Swann. The first issue involves Swann attempting to stop a British scientist from defecting to the Soviet Union.
“He operates on a freelance basis, and occasionally his former bosses call upon him to handle something that is perhaps a bit too messy for Her Majesty’s Government to be involved” with, Byrne told the Associated Press. “So he knows that when he is called upon, things have reached some dire straits. His response to this is usually very straightforward and brutal.”
Byrne shared a few more details on his forums: “Altho set in the early days of the Cold War, this is NOT going to be a history book. I am playing quite freely with the order in which things happened in the real world. And I will not be tying Swann’s exploits to any specific year or sequence of years. Those with an awareness of the history of this period may spot a few landmarks — one in most particular plays an important part as a sub-thread to my overall tale — but no reason to start checking the History Channel in order to be able to follow what’s going on in this series!”
Publishing | Despite the debut of DC Comics’ Flashpoint and the release of the second issue of Marvel’s Fear Itself — big summer events for both publishers — no comic sold more than 100,000 copies in the direct market in May. Fear Itself #2 led Diamond Comic Distributors’ list of Top 300 comics with an estimated 96,318 copies, a decline of some 32,000 copies from its first issue. But it’s the debut of Flashpoint in the No. 2 slot, with an estimated 86,981 copies, that ICv2 says “has to be considered disappointing.” However, the retail news and analysis website is quick to point out that several stores have indicated they sold out of their initial orders of the book, suggesting it may have been under-ordered by event-wary retailers. ICv2 also notes a 17.3 percent drop in the Top 300 comics before explaining the situation isn’t as grim as that figure may suggest. However, it cautions, the same can’t be said for the graphic novel category, which was down just 6.2 percent from May 2010 — a month in which no title sold more than 5,000 copies. John Jackson Miller has further analysis. [ICv2.com]
Creators | In a piece titled “Happy Father’s Day; Glad You’re Not Here,” Neal Kirby pays tribute to his father, the late Jack Kirby, in the process exposing some of the bitterness over the way the comics legend has been credited in recent movie adaptations: “If [you're] unfamiliar with the comics industry, and just enjoy super-hero movies, you will notice my fathers’ name on some screen credits, usually buried at the end of the movie; sometimes, as in the recent Thor release, coming third after someone who had no hand in the characters’ creation other than being the editor-in-chief’s brother. Unfortunately, for the past several years, some in the comics industry who have had the benefit of longevity have used the opportunity to claim to be the sole creator of all of Marvels’ characters. Must be great to be the last man standing. It would seem that being backed by the public relations department of a large corporation buys access into the 24/7 news cycle.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Welcome once again to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy based on certain spending limits — $15, $30 to spend and if we had extra money to spend on what we call the “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15:
There are a lot of great periodicals coming out this week, so I’d have some hard choices to make. With only $15, I’d concentrate first on those with the cheapest prices: the first issue of Dark Horse’s new Mighty Samson ($3.50), Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #2 ($3.50), and Mouse Guard: Black Axe #1 ($3.50). I’m already a huge fan of both Atomic Robo and Mouse Guard and – based on its concept and vague memories of stories I read as a kid – hope to become one of Mighty Samson too. I’d spend the last of my money on Northern Guard #1, because I’m a sucker for Canadian superheroes.
If I had $30:
I’d add Doc Macabre #1 ($3.99), John Byrne’s Next Men #1 ($3.99), and Strange Tales 2 #3 ($4.99). “Doc Macabre” is an awesome name and I love Steve Niles’ pulp stuff, I’ve been waiting 16 years for that Next Men issue, and the Strange Tales book has a Kate Beaton story in which the Avengers go to a carnival. I’d pay five bucks just for Beaton’s deal, but it’s also got a Thing tale by Harvey Pekar (and yes, Harvey Pekar is in the story).
Letters of Note, a blog that posts letters related to history and pop culture, shares a letter from John Byrne to Chris Claremont on the creation of Kitty Pryde. In the letter, which is now owned by Jonathan Mueller, Byrne provides not only an illustration but powers, potential codenames (including Sprite and Ariel, both of which were eventually used, and Kittyhawk, which wasn’t) and the suggestion that she be on a second team of “X-Men in training.”
YouTube user haiku132 created a short, sweet fan film from J. Torres and Tim Levins’s short comic How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love John Byrne. It’s simple pan-and-scan, but the music and pacing are just right. Take two minutes to enjoy it.
(via J. Torres’s blog)
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned The Comics Reporter’s excellent list of “emblematic” ‘70s comics, and how I’d like to put together something similar. Thus, with help from the timeline at comics.org, I started putting together a short list of significant creators, books and characters that I thought defined ‘70s DC.
However, the more I thought about my list, the more it struck me as indicative of a company at odds with itself. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, DC boasted several successful long-term marriages of professional and property, including Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s New Teen Titans and Pérez’s Wonder Woman, Steve Englehart and Joe Staton’s Green Lantern, John Byrne’s Superman, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, Doom Patrol and JLA, and Mark Waid’s Flash. In the ‘70s, though, this wasn’t necessarily the case. Writers like Gerry Conway and Cary Bates became synonymous with Justice League and Flash, so much so that by the mid-‘80s (and the Detroit League and “Trial of the Flash”) they had arguably stayed too long.
IDW Publishing announced yesterday that John Byrne’s Next Men will return with new stories in December.
“When John started working for us three or four years ago, two things happened, and have been happening pretty much every month since then,” said IDW’s CCO/Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall. “I’ve been asking John about doing new Next Men comics, and fans have been e-mailing me demanding that we do new Next Men stories. Happily, after all this time, John is going to quiet us all down and do just that.”
Debuting in 1991, Byrne’s Next Men originally ran for thirty issues and a standalone prequel graphic novel, 2112. Next Men ceased publication in 1995 and left fans with a cliffhanger at the end of issue 30.
IDW has previously collected the existing Next Men material, in two black and white “Compleat” volumes and oversized Premiere Edition hardcovers, the third volume of which will be available in stores in September.
Saturday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, once upon a time, was “big movie day” at the con … back before every day became big movie day at the con. Still, today somewhat lived up to its reputation for being eventful, as the Avengers assembled on stage, Green Lantern movie footage was shown and one poor fan was stabbed in the eye while attending programming in Hall H, where several of the big movie panels took place. The victim was taken to UCSD Medical Center, while his attacker was taken away by police after attendees detained him.
In happier news, here’s what was announced on the comics front:
• Marvel Editor-in-Chief and Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada confirmed that Marvel is “gonna be doing some CrossGen stuff.” CrossGen, which published numerous titles like Sojourn, Way of the Rat, Abadazad and Meridian starting 1998, went bankrupt in 2004. Disney bought their assets that same year.
Their titles covered many different genres, from fantasy to horror to detective stories. “I think with the CrossGen stuff you’re going to see us attempt a little more genre publishing, which I think is much-needed in our imprint,” Quesada said. No word yet on what properties they plan to bring back.
• Kurt Busiek announced that American Gothic, the urban fantasy comic announced at last year’s WildStorm panel, will now be called Witchlands. The series will be drawn by Connor Willumson. Busiek is also working on an Arrowsmith novel titled Arrowsmith: Far from the Fields We Know, which will include illustrations by Carlos Pacheco.
Technology | Apple said it is adding new security measures to its iTunes store after a developer reportedly hacked into numerous customer accounts to boost the ranking of his comic apps, which briefly dominated the book category. The company claims the weekend incident was an isolated — about 400 of its 150 million iTunes users were affected — but customers tell The Wall Street Journal that hackers have hijacked accounts before, with Apple doing little to stop them. [The Wall Street Journal]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald looks at the tug of war between San Diego, Los Angeles and Anaheim for Comic-Con International, and the tough decision facing event organizers. “This has been by far the most challenging thing we’ve ever done,” said David Glanzer, the convention’s director of marketing and public relations. “Nobody thought we wouldn’t have a decision by June.” The board hopes to make a decision before this year’s event kicks off in two weeks. “If we don’t [make an announcement],” Glanzer said, “a lot of the focus is going to be on that.” [Publishers Weekly]
Chris Ryall, IDW Publishing’s editor-in-chief, teases on his blog a new project by John Byrne. “It’s not STAR TREK- or ANGEL-related, but it is something you’ll recognize when it’s announced (and no, not NEXT MEN… yet…!),” he says. So what do you think?
There are several ways to get to know your audience, some more literal than others. Isaac Asimov had his Dear Readers, The Man himself has his True Believers; both are ways to draw you personally into what they’re talking about and soften the edges of what might be a sales pitch or a book introduction. She-Hulk, on the other hand, would threaten your X-Men comics.
The Jade Giantess celebrates her “excuse for publishing anniversary issues” this month and I’ve been waiting for this one since I realized the date. A fantastic fixture of the Marvel Universe, her pedigree is is kind of surprising when you stop to remember it. Not only is she a snap to draw in for a Marvel Heroes group shot, a recognizable face and figure, but she’s had the distinct honor of being a member of the Fantastic Four, a roster a fraction of the size of the Avengers (and she’s been one of them too!). She’s had an ongoing title in every decade since her inception, but it’s a heck of a thing to get her to stay around. I’d almost say that she’s the Marvel version of Charo, this great vivacious character that guest stars on multiple shows and everybody knows but doesn’t have her own regular gig on TV.
So what’s so sensational about her? Why do people continue to use a character who’s basic being (a female analog of a male hero) isn’t very Marvel at all? Venture forth! Continue and read more!
Continue Reading »
Digital comics | Sony launched its much-anticipated PlayStation Digital Comics service on Wednesday with hundreds of titles from such publishers 2000 AD, Archie, Disney, IDW Publishing and Marvel. Several titles, including Atomic Robo #1, G.I. Joe #0 and Young Salem #1, are being offered for free download to PlayStation Portables. [PlayStation Blog, Kotaku]
Crime | More details emerged Wednesday in the family feud that led to the arrest last week of Alfonso Frank Frazetta Jr. on charges of stealing 90 of his father’s paintings from the Frank Frazetta Museum near East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. A notary supported Frank Jr.’s claim that his 81-year-old father had authorized him, in a signed document, to secure the paintings “by any means possible.” The notary also said she revoked the power of attorney held by Frazetta Sr.’s other three children Bill Frazetta, Holly Taylor and Heidi Gravin. A judge reduced Frank. Jr.’s bail from $500,000 to $50,000. Meanwhile, Frazetta Sr.’s art collection, valued at $20 million, has been removed from the museum by Bill Frazetta, who says, “They’re not going to be displayed back here in the Poconos after this.” [Pocono Record]
Crime | Closing arguments are expected to be delivered today in the trial of Jevon Sawyer, the 19-year-old accused of shooting retailer David Pirkola during the April 2008 robbery of Apparitions Comics and Books in Kentwood, Michigan. Pirkola, 58, spent weeks in a hospital and still hasn’t fully recovered from his injuries. [The Grand Rapids Press]
At Again With the Comics, Brian Hughes fondly remembers John Byrne’s landmark 1981-1986 run on Marvel’s Fantastic Four:
Under John Byrne, the matronly Sue became adorable, the Thing became craggy and frightening, the Torch was a fun hothead again, and Reed looked more brainy than brawny. The cumulative effect was a complete redesign of the team, without really redesigning anything. [...] As his tenure continued, Byrne mastered the art of keeping things changing and moving, without “breaking” anything permanently. The Thing devolved for a time, Frankie Raye gained Human Torch powers and briefly joined the team before becoming the next herald of Galactus, Reed and the FF first fought Galactus, then saved his life, an act that would haunt him later. The Inhumans, long hidden in the Himalayas, left Earth, a move that could be said to have led to their current space-bound status, and Doctor Doom regained his throne with the FF’s help, in an especially twisted, excellent storyline.”
This week Chris Mautner suggested we share our softer sides and each talk about three comics that broke down our tough-guy exteriors and made us openly weep as we turned the pages. It’s a risky venture, to be sure; to some members of our audience, this will destroy the “manly man” image we’ve worked so hard to build up on the blog, but for others, it will show there’s more to who we are than just bad jokes and Shelf Porn.
So here they are — six comics that made us cry. After reading our selections, be sure to grab a tissue and tell us what comics made you cry as well.
1. “We’re brothers, Tom”
I always thought Tom Strong was the weakest of Alan Moore’s ABC line (in fact I said so rather openly in issue #231 of The Comics Journal). Oh sure, there were lots of colorful dialogue and zany plots, but I felt the series was sorely lacking in gravitas. The characters seemed too thinly sketched to me and I couldn’t find myself forming enough of an emotional commitment to them to care about what happened to them. It kept hinting that there was a lot more going on under the surface, but that’s all it would do, hint.
That was until the final issue, no. 36, where, during the “end of the world as we know it” created by Promethea, Tom is confronted by the ghost of his arch-enemy Paul Saveen, who reveals that he is, in fact, Tom’s half-brother. What follows is one of the most tender scenes I’ve ever read in a superhero book (“Jesus Paul” Tom says, breaking down “We tried to kill each other.”) When, two pages later, Tom introduces Saveen to a passerby with a simple “This is my brother. This is my brother Paul” well, I just lose it. –Chris Mautner