REVIEW: "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 Makes the Future of DC Comics Look Genuinely Bright
You’ll be forgiven if you missed Sweatshop the first time around. Sure, it was created, written and mostly drawn by Peter Bagge, and yes, it was published by DC Comics, but not for long. It lasted just six issues in 2003 and, according to Bagge’s afterword to the new collection (published not by DC, but Fantagraphics), then-DC President Paul Levitz decided to pull the plug around the time the second issue shipped.
The unlikely pairing of DC with talent like Bagge was apparently an outgrowth of editor Joey Cavalieri’s success with the hardcover Bizarro Comics anthology, which teamed “alternative” comics creators with DC regulars. Bagge, who had written DC’s poorly received nine-issue Yeah!, met with Cavalieri and decided on a pretty perfect premise for a comedic comic book. (Yeah!, by the way, was drawn by Gilbert Hernandez and was also collected by Fantagraphics rather than DC.)
Business | DC Entertainment parent company Warner Bros. is expected to offer buyouts to an unspecified number of employees as part of an effort to increase profits following a disappointing summer at the box office. The cuts are thought to be spread across the film, television and home entertainment units; if not enough workers accept buyouts, unnamed sources contend the studio may resort to layoffs. Warner Bros. wouldn’t comment on the report. [Bloomberg]
Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe has filed an appeal in Tokyo District Court, seeking to overturn his conviction on charges of sending threatening letters to venues and retailers linked to the Kuroko’s Basketball manga and anime series. Watanabe admitted to all the charges on his first day in court, and after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, he said, “I’m glad to accept the ruling so I can live over four years in prison,” so this is a reversal for him. [Anime News Network]
Normally, when we talk about art – which, of course, is different from mere entertainment – we like to phrase it in rarefied terms. We tend to want our art to focus on the examination or discussion of high-minded ideals like truth, beauty, justice, wisdom, or the existence of a sentient spiritual being and subsequent afterlife. Stuff like that. We want our movies, music and books to be concerned with the ethereal world, and not so much with the physical one, especially unpleasant or embarrassing tasks like defecating or sexual congress. Being reminded that only a thin layer of skin holds in all those slimy organs, blood and other icky stuff keeps us from musing on what special snowflakes we all are (not to mention the horror of our own eventual death).
When we do acknowledge that stuff, it tends to be in the form of “low” comedy or horror films, where jokes about going to the bathroom, violence, lustful urges and other aspects of our daily physical lives that make us uncomfortable, can be digested more easily because we often exhibit it in as loud and gross a manner as possible.
But delving knee-deep into viscera and body fluids doesn’t ipso facto mean you have to forego subtlety, nuance or poetry. Take Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit series for example.
“For those of you who’ve been following my NICKLDN TV development journey, I’d like to virtually grab you by the shoulders, shake you dizzy, and scream into your shocked face that Johnny’s and my TV show PIGGOATBANANACRICKET just got a GREENLIGHT from the head NICKLDN honcho in NYC,” Cooper wrote in a blog post titled “Grueling 5-Year-Long Job Interview Ends in TRIUMPH!!!” “We have our own TV show, guys!!!”
One of just two animated series ordered by the network (the other is Bad Seeds, from Chowder creator C.H. Greenblatt), Pig Goat Banana Cricket is described as “a series of absurd interwoven stories about four friends and roommates, Pig (the fool), Goat (the artist), Banana (the wise-guy) and Cricket (the brain).” It’s executive produced by David Sacks (The Simpsons, Regular show), who will co-write with Ryan. Cooper will also serve as art director.
A teaser animated by Nick Cross, who directed the pilot, was released last year (you’ll note Cricket was then a Mantis). Watch it below.
Comics | DC Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham discuss October sales, the date change for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and variant covers. Although the company is releasing 52 variants for Justice League of America #1, DC plans to cut back on variants in its other lines. “We’re going to pull back and drop variants from a handful of titles in the next solicitation cycle to pull back that number ourselves, where it didn’t seem the variant was making a substantial difference in the buy-in for the book or the perception of books,” Wayne said. “We’ll be looking at the remaining titles that have variants the following month.” [ICv2]
Comics | Speaking of variant covers, Tim Beyers of The Motley Fool discusses the dos and don’ts of buying variant covers as an investment. [Daily Finance]
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 spend the first $3.99 on the first issue of 47 Ronin, a retelling of a Japanese legend written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai. I saw a preview of this and it looks phenomenal. Next up is my favorite soap opera, Life With Archie #24 ($3.99), in which Moose contemplates running for the Senate and The Archies reunite. This comic is consistently well written and the stories really drag me in. I’ll slap down another $3.99 for Popeye #7, because I’m a Roger Langridge fan. And because I love a bargain, I’ll finish up with Freelancers #1, a new series from BOOM! Studios that looks kinda fun — and hey, there’s a variant cover by Felipe Smith, one of my favorite manga artists.
If I had $30, I’d revert to my childhood and pick up the Doctor Who Annual ($12.99) from Penguin. When I was a kid, the British comics annuals were the high point of the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I have a vintage Doctor Who one tucked away somewhere. It’s probably aimed at kids but that just means I can share it with my nephew and nieces.
The splurge item to get this week is the new box set of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This is Miyazaki’s longest manga by far, and the story continues after the movie ends. It’s going to be the same large format as Viz’s earlier box set, but the seven volumes are being bound as two this time. It’s $60, but I noticed Amazon is offering a steep discount, so I’ll add another splurge: Nickolai Dante: Sympathy for the Devil ($29.99), a story that ran in 2000AD. I saw artist Simon Fraser describe it at NYCC this way: “Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can.” Sold!
Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.
It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.
I’d imagine Mad magazine artist Jack Davis isn’t the first thing you think of when Valentine’s Day rolls around. But in ’50s and ’60s, he produced a stunning set of Valentine’s Day cards that would make Hallmark blush. And now comics publisher Fantagraphics is honoring those with a holiday-timed exhibition featuring Davis’ work along with other artists inspired by it.
Set to kick off Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Fantagraphics Bookstore in Seattle, the exhibition will include works by Peter Bagge, Johnny Ryan, Jim Woodring, Matthew Southworth and others. Davis himself will appear live via Skype at 6:30 p.m. Saturday from his home in Georgia. The exhibit itself is set to run through March 7, so even if you miss opening night you have a chance to see this unique collection of heart-themed art.
So if you’re Seattle-based and looking for something special for your loved one, consider swinging by Fanta’s bookstore. While you’re there, the surrounding district is hosting a number of visual and performing arts presentations as part of Georgetown Art Attack.
There is nothing he will not joke about and sometimes this is his only way of coping. When our baby was stillborn last October and I was lying in the hospital bed, he said he hoped our next baby wouldn’t be such a fucking wimp. It sounds horrible but at the time I needed to hear something like that a lot more than I needed the greeting cards people kept sending that said our baby was a fucking angel looking down on us. I think he has trouble getting close to people because of this kind of thing, but I’m a bit like that too so I found it reassuring. Of course he did cry too but only for a bit.
— Author and craft artist Jenny Ryan on her husband Johnny Ryan, as quoted in Jesse Pearson’s incredible interview with Mr. Ryan for The Comics Journal. In the course of the wide-ranging and often hilarious interview, Ryan also reveals (I think; I certainly had never heard it before) that his father was an abusive alcoholic.
I’ve spent years enjoying Ryan’s scabrously offensive humor comics like Angry Youth Comix and Blecky Yuckerella, as well as his extravagantly vicious action comic Prison Pit, and I’ve often wondered where his search-and-destroy ethos originated. My wife and I have also suffered three miscarriages, and maybe it’s bizarre to say this, but Ryan’s comics involving the gory slaughter of crying babies are one of the few works of art that really spoke to me about how this experience felt. Thanks to Pearson and Ryan’s jawdroppingly candid conversation, I finally feel like I understand both of these things, at least a little.
Legal | The judge in the trial of former retailer Michael George banned note-taking in the courtroom on Friday out of concern that two women were sharing information with George’s wife Renee. George is on trial for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, and Renee George has been barred from hearing the testimony of other witnesses because she may be called to the stand herself. Also, on Friday a witness testified he had called George’s store at around 5:30 on the day of the murder to ask why an Amazing Spider-Man comic had jumped in value from $5 to $40. Michael Renaud said he spoke to George for about five minutes and that George seemed to be in a hurry to get off the phone; the testimony places him at the crime scene rather than at his mother’s house, where he claimed to be at the time of Barbara’s murder. [The Detroit Free Press]
Conventions | Nearly 5,000 people turned out over the weekend for the second annual Detroit Fanfare, held at the Cobb Center. That’s slightly more than the number who attended the first event at the Dearborn Hyatt Regency, but half what organizer Dennis Barger Jr. had hoped for this year. [The Detroit News]
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Kevin Colden, whose comic work includes Fishtown, I Rule the Night, Vertigo’s Strange Adventures and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, among others. He’s also the drummer for the band Heads Up Display.
To see what Kevin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below …
SPX, or the Small Press Expo, returns to the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Md. this weekend.
The show’s special guests include Roz Chast, Jim Woodring, Diane Noomin, Jim Rugg, Ann Telnaes, Chester Brown, Johnny Ryan, Craig Thompson and Matthew Thurber, and fans who attend will also have the opportunity to meet and/or hear from Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen, Jessica Abel, Sarah Glidden, Alex Robinson, Brian Ralph, Mike Dawson, Meredith Gran, Roger Langridge and Julia Wertz, just to name a few. I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that our own Chris Mautner will be attending and conducting a Q&A with Johnny Ryan on Saturday, so be sure to tell him hi for us.
We’re getting down to the wire here, but we still have a couple more pre-SDCC things to share … first up, Fantagraphics sent over their booth and panel schedules, to go along with the massive list of books they’ll debut at the show. A list they keep adding to — check out the SDCC special edition of 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente they’ll have on hand. It’s so limited you can count the number of copies they’ll have on three fingers.
They’ll have a whole bunch of creators at their booth this year, including all three Hernandez brothers, Paul Hornschemeier, Johnny Ryan, Anders Nilsen and many more. Check it out after the jump.
Fantagraphics sent over their list of books debuting at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month, and boy is it packed tighter than my suitcase on vacation day. The publisher will have almost two dozen new books at the show, including the last Mome; new stuff from Michael Kupperman, the Hernandez Bros. and Johnny Ryan; tons of Eurocomics; a Lou Reed/Edgar Allan Poe joint; and more. Check them out:
Love & Rockets New Stories 4 by Los Bros Hernandez: Featuring new stories by Jaime and Gilbert, including new material featuring Maggie set in the present and during her teen years.
Mark Twain’s Autobiography by Michael Kupperman: Probably the one I’ve been looking forward to the most, Kupperman publishes Mark Twain’s “biography” since the day the author/humorist died through last year — including his affair with Marilyn Monroe and his time-traveling adventures with Einstein.
Prison Pit Vol. 3 by Johnny Ryan: More deranged, twisted ultraviolent fun from Ryan.
A group of comic creators have gotten together to create a comic book specifically for the kids in Joplin, who lost their homes after the devastating tornado destroyed around 8,000 buildings in the Missouri town.
Carmen Morais, a former editor for Nickelodeon Magazine, has recruited several cartoonists, designers and editors to help create the comic, titled Comic Express. Contributors, who are donating their time to the project, include Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), Johnny Ryan (Prison Pit), Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Mark Martin (Gnatrat) and many more. They’re using the site Indie GoGo to raise funds; the site works much like Kickstarter, where you contribute money and receive rewards based on the amount. Donations of $20 or more will receive the comic book, plus other goodies as the amount increases.
Although they’ve reached their goal to pay for the printing, you can still donate money and receive rewards; any money they raise over their target amount will go to the Joplin Public Schools’ Adopt-a-Classroom Fund to replace classroom supplies.