This week IDW Publishing released the first issue of its Mars Attacks series, and, like so many comics these days, the book was being promoted with variant covers. Unlike many comics these days, however, the number of variant covers accompanying this particular issue was mind-bogglingly large: 55.
That’s not a typo, and you’re not suffering from double vision. There are actually 55 variant covers for Mars Attacks #1.
Which makes this as good a time as any to take a few moments to consider the variant cover in general. So, variant covers — threat, menace, the work of the devil or the absolute worst things ever? (I’m sorry, “none of the above” is not an option. Please select one of the four options.)
When it comes to moving comic books in the direct market, variant covers must work or publishers wouldn’t employ the strategy with such frequency. But the way variants seem to work — enticing comic shops to order more issues of a particular book than they might otherwise do so that they can get the variant covers, many of which are only attainable to shops that meet a certain buying threshold — does overall damage to the industry, in my own generally ill-informed opinion. And, I think, does some small amount of damage to the medium. (Go ahead and click “Continue Reading”; I’ll get to a review of Mars Attacks #1 eventually, I swear)
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, this ever-lovin’ comics fan would first pick out Dark Horse Presents #12 (Dark Horse, $7.99). First off: John Layman and Sam Kieth doing an Aliens story, can you believe that? That debut, coupled with the return of Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus, makes this another DHP worth buying. After that, I’d jump into Prophet #25 (Image, $2.99) to see Brandon Graham’s rollicking story with special guest artist Farel Dalrymple. The creators lined up on this Extreme Comics revival continue to impress me, and I’m excited to see new work by Dalrymple here. Third up would be Secret Avengers #27 (Marvel, $3.99), and I’m all hyped up to see how Rick Remender handles the touchy subject of Marvel’s original Captain Marvel. As for the artist, I’m still waiting for Renato Guedes to wow me the way he did before he jumped from DC to Marvel; the previews for this show some promise, so I’m excited to see the entire package.
If I had $30, I’d double back to get the return of Batman Incorporated #1 (DC, $2.99). Grant Morrison’s schedule, along with the New 52, seemed to harpoon this title last year, but I’m hoping this is some attempt to right that ship. Next up would be Fantastic Four #606 (Marvel, $2.99), seeing Jonathan Hickman come full circle as his run nears conclusion by going back to where the FF started: with four people in space suits. Ron Garney is an interesting choice to draw this one, and his take on the Thing is right up there with Stuart Immonen’s. Last up would be Irredeemable #37 (BOOM! Studios, $3.99). I admit I switched to trades a couple issues ago, but I’m jumping back in — spoilers be damned — to find out the end to this story. I’m a little bit morose that artist Peter Krause isn’t the one drawing the finale given all he put into this, but Diego Barretto is an able artist to draw what Waid has set out for this final issue. Oh, hey, I’ve got $5.06 left so I’ll live up to the the title of this Robot 6 feature and get some food: a hot dog from Voodoo Dogs in Tallahassee. Have you seen their new commercial?
If I could splurge, I’d finish eating my hot dog and pick up Comic Book History of Comics (IDW Publishing, $21.99). I’ve failed at life when I couldn’t track down all six of these issues on my own, but IDW offering it all up in one package saves me from that level of hell. Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey have put on a master class here in doing bio comics, especially bio comics about comics, and as a journalist, comics fan and would be comics writer myself this hits all the right spots for an engrossing read.
The Martians are returning to Earth in IDW Publishing’s new Mars Attacks series, based on the 1950s trading cards and the 1996 Tim Burton movie, and the publisher has put together a solid creative team for the project: Eisner-winning writer John Layman (co-creator of Chew) and Hitman artist John McCrea.
The Topps trading card company this year is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mars Attacks; it started as a set of trading cards that were directly inspired by comics and illustrated by Golden Age artists Wally Wood and Bob Powell. Pulp artist Norman Saunders painted the cards, and you can see the complete set at his website (now maintained by his son). They feature flying saucers destroying the Golden Gate Bridge, entire cities being incinerated, a pilot set aflame in his cockpit, space-suited aliens menacing screaming women, giant insects, even a dog being zapped before the eyes of a little boy. The cards were marketed to children, and apparently they did quite well, but once the grownups saw them the fun was over, and Topps was compelled to revise some of the cards and then stop production entirely.
Most people are probably more familiar with the Tim Burton film based on the cards. IDW’s comics will feature new stories based in the Mars Attacks universe, but it sounds like the tone may stay close to the original. In the press release, Topps executive Ira Friedman said, “[John McCrea's] experience drawing over-the-top violence on comics like Hitman, Judge Dredd and The Boys, coupled with John Layman’s penchant for twisted, offbeat humor makes them the perfect team to relaunch Mars Attacks.”
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15, I’d start with Alpha Flight #1 ($3.99). I had mostly positive feelings about the prequel issue with the only negatives being a mixture of “that doesn’t look like Sasquatch” and some anxiety born from being used to disappointment from Alpha Flight books. Neither of which has anything to do with the people creating the next eight issues, so I’m looking forward to this in a way that I haven’t since John Byrne left the book. Next I’d grab Flashpoint: Grodd of War #1 ($2.99), because an all-out Gorilla Grodd comic sounds awesome. And then I’d give Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths #1 ($3.99) a shot to see how well IDW can manage two Godzilla comics at a time. They certainly managed the first one well. Finally, I’d pick up Mickey Mouse #309 ($3.99) because it’s a globe-trotting adventure with a ton of guest-stars, including my favorite: The Phantom Blot.
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 judge on Friday approved a proposal to pay Borders Group executives up to $6.6 million in bonuses as the bookseller reorganizes under federal bankruptcy protection. The company had originally requested $8.3 million — that figure met with objections from the U.S. bankruptcy trustee — in a bid to retain key corporate personnel. Since Borders filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 16, 47 executives and director-level employees have left, leaving only 15 people in senior management positions.
The approved plan comes with conditions, tying some bonuses to the company’s ability to pay creditors and save $10 million over the next two years in leases on the remaining stores or in non-personnel cost reductions. [Businessweek, AnnArbor.com]
Publishing | Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson talks more about the publisher’s recent layoffs, saying that some reports of the cutbacks were overblown: “We have 150 employees. We let seven people go across three different divisions. What is that 4%, 5%? Our staff was just getting too large. The real reason for the layoffs is that we get worried about the cost of doing business. We’re sitting there looking at the rising health insurance costs, the changes in the cost of doing business. We thought we were going to get some relief in the form of cover prices moving to $3.99, but I guess the market’s made a really strong statement on that price. Meanwhile we’re getting squeezed on paper and printing costs at the same time — and creators certainly don’t want to take any less money.” [ICv2.com]
Broadway | A fourth actor was injured Monday night during a performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the $65-million musical that’s been plagued by delays and technical mishaps. Aerialist Christopher Tierney, who serves as a stunt double for Spider-Man and the villains Meeks and Kraven, fell about 30 feet when the cable to his harness snapped during the closing minutes of the show. Some equipment reportedly dropped into the audience as well. The performance was put on hold and then canceled as an ambulance arrived at the Foxwoods Theatre to take Tierney to Bellevue Hospital. Tierney is in stable condition, but no further information has been released. [BroadwayWorld, The Associated Press, CNN]
Publishing | Fantagraphics has laid off Dirk Deppey,The Comics Journal‘s online editor, former managing editor, and longtime writer of the Journalista! blog. His final day is Wednesday: “No regrets: The last ten years have kicked ass. I’ve done great things and meet interesting people, and was paid it. How great is that?” [Twitter]
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.
Chew, the action-comedy series by John Layman and Rob Guillory, has been one of the surprise hits of the past year, earning critical acclaim, Eisner and Harvey awards, spots on The New York Times bestseller list, and the attention of Hollywood.
So you might expect the speculator market to take interest in the quirky comic, which centers on police detective turned FDA agent Tony Chu, a cibopath who receives psychic impressions from whatever he eats. But does that interest amount to, say, $13,000? For one issue?
Guillory points this morning to an eBay auction for a Certified Guaranty Company-graded 10.0 copy of Chew #1 — it’s billed as “the ONLY one” — for a starting bid of $3,500. Or you could buy it now for a mere $12,999.
“Will this sell?” Guillory asked. “WILL IT?” He goes on to call the “Buy It Now” price “a steal.”
When asked on Twitter whether the issue is worth that much, Guillory responded, “As co-creator and artist of the book, I can (without bias) say YES. YES, IT IS.”
If you have an extra $13,000 burning a hole in your pocket, take note: The auction ends on Saturday. Chew #15, priced at just $2.99, is set for release on Nov. 10.
Welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what’s on the night stands of the Robot 6 crew. This week our special guest is Kody Chamberlain, who you might know from such comics as Punks, newuniversal: 1959, The Foundation and his latest, Sweets, from Image Comics.
To see what Kody and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …