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Comics A.M. | ‘Philémon’ creator Fred dies at age 82

Philémon

Philémon

Passings | French cartoonist Theodor Friedrich Otto Aristidès, aka Fred, passed away Tuesday in a Paris hospital at age 82. He was best known for Philémon, his surrealistic comic about a French farm boy who fell down a well into a fantasy world akin to Wonderland. Fred was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 1980, and had been the oldest living recipient. [L’Observateu de Beauvais]

Creators | John Layman, who’s writing  the 900th issue of Detective Comics (No. 19 in the New 52 continuity) talks about his plans for that and his creator-owned series Chew, and contrasts the two: “Well, the cases are weirder in Chew. There is an element that’s the same – you introduce a conflict, and then you have a detective with a certain skill set resolving it. … Batman’s just happen to be gadgets and fists. I guess if there’s a formula in the skeletal layer, it’s probably the same.” [Hero Complex]

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Comics A.M. | Manga sales slip in Japan for first time since 2009

One Piece, Vol. 67

Manga | The Japanese market research firm Oricon reports sales of manga volumes (tankobon) slipped 1.5 percent last year, to about $2.886 billion, the first decline since the company began reporting the figures in 2009. [Anime News Network]

Graphic novels | The Scottish Archaeological Research Project has put together a rather lively looking graphic novel about the history of Scotland, including such little-known events as the Storegga Tsunami. [BBC News]

Manga | Someone with a sharp eye spotted a manga license that hasn’t been officially announced: Kodansha Comics will publish Sherlock Bones, a series about a crime-solving boy and a talking dog, by Shin Kobayishi (Drops of God, Kindaichi Case Files) and Yuki Sato (Yokai Doctor). [allfiction]

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What Are You Reading? with Alex de Campi

Megillat Esther

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week we’re joined by music video director and comic book writer Alex de Campi, whose works include Smoke, Kat & Mouse, Valentine and the in-production Ashes.

To see at Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Comics A.M. | Council OKs San Diego Convention Center expansion

Comic-Con International

Conventions | San Diego City Council has given final approval to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as necessary to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. The project still faces a legal challenge to a financing scheme involving a hotel-room surtax, as well as state regulatory approval, leading the city attorney to caution that the targeted 2017 completion date is just “a goal.” Whether Comic-Con organizers can be convinced to sign another three-year extension to their contract remains a big question. [NBC San Diego]

Conventions | Most of Heidi MacDonald’s article about New York Comic Con is behind a paywall at Publishers Weekly, but she pulls out some stats at The Beat: Ticket sales are up 190 percent over this time last year. As the capacity of the Javits Center is somewhere south of 110,000 people, this means the ReedPOP folks won’t sell any more tickets than last year, but they are selling out faster. Three-day and four-day passes are already gone, only Friday tickets remain, and ReedPOP vice president Lance Fensterman expects everything to be sold out by the time the show begins. [The Beat]

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Image reveals Chris Giarrusso variant cover for Chew #29

From Chris Giarrusso's variant cover for "Chew" #29

Image Comics has announced a Chris Giarrusso variant cover for October’s Chew #29, by John Layman and Rob Guillory. For every 10 copies of the issue retailers order, one of those will feature a Giarrusso variant.

Best known for G-Man, Giarrusso previously created Image 20th-anniversary variants for Youngblood, Spawn, The Savage Dragon, The Walking Dead, ShadowHawk and Morning Glories.

Check out Giarrusso’s variant and Guillory’s regular cover below. Chew #29, which originally was scheduled for September release, goes on sale Oct. 17.

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What Are You Reading? with Paul Allor

Happy Labor Day, Americans, and welcome, everybody, to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Paul Allor, writer of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spinoff, Fugitoid, as well as his own anthology Clockwork.

To see what Paul and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below:

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Comics A.M. | Update on Cerebus negatives; rise of ‘foodie comics’

Cerebus #26

Comics | Last week a building fire destroyed the negatives for Dave Sim’s Cerebus: High Society, but George Peter Gatsis reports that more than half the 500 pages already had been scanned for the audio/visual digital edition (covering issues 26-50). For the other pages, Sim will be getting the best possible printed material and, hopefully, high-res scans. [Bleeding Cool]

Comics | Food writer Jon Watson addresses “the rise of foodie comics,” singling out Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory: “It helps that the book is extremely well written, but I’m interested in a well-executed crossover of foodie culture into pop culture. It’s not often that happens when it doesn’t elicit a groan or feel forced. I think that, as food culture has grown of the last few decades, it is organically inspiring other art forms rather than feeling like an attempt at commercialization.” [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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Comics A.M. | Retailers remain upbeat: “2012 is rocking it”

The Walking Dead #100

Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on the retailer lunch at Comic-Con International, where spirits were running high after an exceptionally good year, with sales up 13 percent over 2011. Retailers shared success stories, Diamond Comic Distributors offered incentives for new businesses, and MacDonald pulled out an interestingly eclectic list of titles that are spurring sales, including The Walking Dead, Saga, and Jeffrey Brown’s cat cartoons and Vader and Son. [Publishers Weekly]

Publishing | ICv2 talks to the Viz Media executives about a range of topics, including the stabilization of the manga market, new interest from comics retailers, the shift to digital, and an uptick in the popularity of shoujo (girls’) manga. [ICv2]

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Exclusive sneak peek: Rob Guillory’s tri-fold cover for Chew #30

Chew #30 marks the halfway point of the series, according to writer John Layman. If you paid attention to the previous 29 issues, here’s a fun treat … a sneak preview of the tri-fold cover by Rob Guillory. The colors are unfinished, but the colorful cast is all there, along with a few Easter eggs.

Check out the cover in full below.

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Mars Attacks, and the invasion of the variant covers

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)

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Food or Comics? | Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Dog

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Batman, Inc. #1

Chris Arrant

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.

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Layman and McCrea relaunch Mars Attacks

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.

Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Alpha Flight

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Michael May

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.

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man musical returns Thursday; Noveck lands at Syfy Films

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

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]

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Comics A.M. | Borders bonus plan OK’d; more on Dark Horse layoffs

Borders

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]

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