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[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
Note: This post contains spoilers for Avengers #34.
The last couple weeks have been, to put it mildly, kind of crappy. Not just on a macro level — and there’s certainly been enough on the macro level to designate the last two weeks as crappy, as you can see on this handy chart courtesy of the excellent The System webcomic. But also on a personal level. Ferguson. My cat dying. Robin Williams. Ebola. Crap at work. Ugh.
Jonathan Hickman writes a dense story. I’d almost consider him the anti-Bendis in the matter/anti-matter chamber that is the Avengers. While Brian Michael Bendis focused on the small story (sometimes a bit myopically), Hickman branches out into the vast unknowns of space and reality, and presents stories in a massive scope and scale. He has complex, overarching plots that have enormous charts to keep track of timelines and major events. He creates mythologies for his own subcultures for readers to delve into. The threats his Avengers face are beyond the realms of mortal ken, which sometimes means beyond the reader’s ken as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that the Avengers are facing down greater problems and dangers than, say, ninjas or hoodlums. If you’re going to be the premier superhero team, you have to be challenged by something no one hero could face on her own. Giving the Avengers grand designs makes them seem more important and, therefore, more heroic when they succeed. On the other hand, sometimes a larger scope can be too large to grasp, and when the reader loses the personal interest of the story, it can be a chore to slog through. I’d be lying if it didn’t seem like homework sometimes to figure out Hickman’s builder/mapmakers/Ivory Kings/Black Priests cosmology, and that my eyes didn’t glaze over during some issues as I waited for the heroes to do something spectacular.
Well, the wait is over! The last three issues of New Avengers have gotten us back into the game with a huge reveal, some personal triumphs and tragedies, and I feel more invested in this Incursion story than ever before. What’s been going on? And why did it take so long to get to the fireworks factory? Read on!
WARNING: Spoilers (obviously) for the New Avengers #21-23.
Conventions | Organizers of the growing Asbury Park Comicon have announced that, after three years, they’re relocating the New Jersey convention to the Meadowlands Exhibition Center in Secaucus and renaming it East Coast Comicon. Founders Cliff Galbraith and Robert Bruce say the nearly 40-mile move was triggered by a sharp increase in rates at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel in Asbury Park, but the hotel’s manager thinks it’s because the venue couldn’t accommodate the dates requested by organizers. The inaugural East Coast Comicon will be held April 11-12, 2015. [Asbury Park Press]
Passings | Amadee Wohlschlaeger, who drew the comic strip Weatherbird for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 70 years, has died at age 102. Weatherbird, which debuted in 1901, is the oldest continuously published comic in the United States, and Wohlschlaeger (who went by just his first name) is one of just four cartoonists to draw it. He was named one of the top 10 sports cartoonists in the country, and his drawing of Stan Musial inspired the statue at Busch Stadium. [KSDK]
Passings | Chris Bird pens an obituary for Leon Kuhn, a British cartoonist who was active in socialist and progressive causes and whose work appeared regularly in the Morning Star as well as in The Big Book of Bureaucrats. He often marched in demonstrations carrying placards of his cartoons. Kuhn died last week at age 59; the sole news article about his death simply says he “died under a train” at a London subway station and that the death is not being treated as suspicious. [Counterfire]
Manga | ICV2 rounds up Viz Media’s announcements for the beginning of 2014, including three new series. [ICv2]
Creators | Jonathan Hickman and Tom Brevoort talk about Avengers #24.NOW, which kicks off the All-New Marvel NOW initiative. [USA Today]
“It’s a terrible jumping-on point. I don’t think I’ve written an issue 20-something of anything that I’ve done that is a good jumping-on point. With the way you can download all the books now and everything is collected in trades, I’m not even sure I buy into the validity of the argument that every issue should be able to be read as if it was somebody’s first issue. That, of course, may be a complete construct to prop up my inability to do that. [Laughs] So yeah, it’s a terrible jumping on point …”
— writer Jonathan Hickman, addressing the notion that the “Point Now” part of Avengers #24.NOW means the issue is a good jumping-on point for new readers. Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, has a differing opinion on the matter.
There’s no going around it: Marvel’s fall event Infinity is a slog.
Some people buy the book, read it, and then wonder what it was they just read. Some hate it, like tasting cod liver oil, and swear off of it entirely. There’s so much going on in each chapter, and no one holds your hand and explains a thing outside of a few dense bits at the beginning from the previous confusing chapter. It’s the first event book I’ve encountered in a while that actually has required material to read up on before starting it. How many would understand half of what was going on if you hadn’t been trying to parse the first issues of Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers and New Avengers to start with? Those books are all over the place, from the far reaches of space to New York City and Wakanda and Atillan, and new places that just get bombed out the next issues. It’s hard to keep track of it all.
Infinity is a little like sticking your hand in concrete: It’s thick, difficult to push through, might break your fingers when you try to pull them back out. OK, that last part was an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
Comics | You can’t buy this kind of publicity: Before the comic has even debuted, the U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail eagerly reports Royal Descent is being “slammed” by critics for its depiction of a thinly disguised Royal Family forced to fight to the death in a Battle Royale- or Hunger Games-style tournament. Not content to let the book be “slammed” by anonymous “enthusiasts,” writer John Farman joins in, saying, “I personally believe this is possibly the most controversial comic book to ever come out of the United Kingdom.” How’s that for hype? Royal Descent #1 arrives Nov. 6 from Edinburgh publisher Black Hearted Press. [Daily Mail]
Digital comics | Deb Aoki fleshes out some of the details of Crunchyroll’s new streaming manga service, which will feature chapters of Kodansha manga the same day they are released in Japan, for free. The subscription service allows readers access to all chapters of the manga for a monthly fee, not unlike Marvel Unlimited. [Publishers Weekly]
Hot on the heels of Age of Ultron, Marvel’s last event comic and the exclamation point to Brian Michael Bendis’ run on the Avengers books, comes the first issue of Infinity, which once again puts the Avengers at the forefront of a Marvel event. This time, the course is being set by current Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman, along with artists Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, John Livesay, David Meikis and Justin Ponsor.
So how did the first issue measure up? Here are a few thoughts from around the web:
Publishing | Along with the usual statistics — dollar and unit share, sales rankings, etc. — Diamond Comics Distributors this month began reporting the number of new titles shipped by the top publishers: DC Comics, which edged out Marvel in terms of market share in July, had only a handful more, with 121 comics and graphic novels versus Marvel’s 118. [ICv2]
Conventions | Sean Kleefeld gives a brief account of a number of panels he attended at Wizard World Chicago, including the “Batman & Psychology” panel and two by webcomics maven Brad Guigar. [Kleefeld on Comics]
Creators | Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman talks about the upcoming six-issue event series Infinity. [USA Today]
There are certain artists who prove that their work only gets better with each new project and new issue. Such is the case with Nick Dragotta on East of West, his new creator-owned ongoing series with Jonathan Hickman.
I relish any opportunity to interview Dragotta, particularly in the same week that East of West 5#. His ability to lay out some spectacular action scenes continues to be a given in this Image Comics series, but I have also grown to appreciate his ability to develop distinctive architecture as well as engaging, yet more sedate, scenes.
In addition to discussing East of West, Dragotta also brought me up to date on Howtoons, which we talked about in our first interview in 2011. As the father of a kid who loves do-it-yourself activities, I appreciate the involvement of the artist and his wife Ingrid in a project that fosters fun, educational activities for children. To learn he has gotten creator favorites of mine, such as Fred Van Lente (no stranger to educational entertainment), Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell involved is just icing on the DIY cake.
Back to East of West, the artist and I also got a chance to (hopefully) satiate Comics Should Be Good’s Greg Burgas’ curiosity regarding the East of West creative process that he broached in a recent essay on reviewing the art in comics. In addition, Dragotta was kind enough to share an unlettered page from East of West #5 as well as unlettered pages from issues 2 and 4. With the first trade (collecting issues 1-5) set for release on Sept. 11, we also discuss its potential impact on audience growth. Full candor: Dragotta blindsided me with his Rob Liefeld fan club confession. Seriously, though, it is refreshing to see a talent such as Dragotta reveling in the opportunity to do creator-owned work.
Happy Mother’s Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and what have you we’ve been checking out lately. Joining us today is Allison Baker, co-publisher of Bandette, Edison Rex and all the other Monkeybrain Comics you can find on comiXology.
To see what Allison and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at all the comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today our special guest is Chris Sims, senior writer for ComicsAlliance, blogger at Chris’s Invincible Super Blog and writer of comics like Dracula the Unconquered and Awesome Hospital.
To see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Happy Easter and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where we review the stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we are joined by Miranda Mercury and Voltron writer Brandon Thomas, whose collection of original art and other stuff we featured in Shelf Porn yesterday.
To see what Brandon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Cartoonists | A campaign to raise money to erect a 9-feet-tall bronze statute of Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane in his hometown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, is trailing about $23,000 short its goal ahead of an April 30 deadline. Alan Gardner points out that amount is reachable on Kickstarter. [The Arizona Republic]
Publishing | Kevin Roose has a brief chat with Bluewater CEO Darren G. Davis, who says that the company’s bestseller, the Michelle Obama bio-comic, sold about 150,000 copies; the CEO biographies do about half that number. [New York Magazine]
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 be tempted to blow it all on the recolored Death of Superman collection for the ’90s nostalgia. But then I’d probably flip through it and come to my senses, and instead get something new like Fatale #12 ($3.50) by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, which looks like it’s going to be a trip, flashing back to Medieval times but self-contained as a good entry point for new readers. That’s smart comics. Speaking of smarty-pants, I’d probably get The Manhattan Projects #9 ($3.50) by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. It’s the first part of a two-part story about scientists trying to take over the world. There will probably be lots of words that leave me dizzy. I likely wouldn’t be able to resist Matt Wagner writing The Shadow: Year One #1 ($3.99) because, you know, The Shadow knows. I haven’t been following IDW’s G.I. Joe universe but G.I. Joe #1 ($3.99) by Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth seems like a good opportunity to try it out. And I’d finish it off with Cyber Force #3 by Marc Silvestri and Koi Pham because it’s free.
With $30, I would add to the above. Darkhawk is on the cover of Avengers Arena #4 ($2.99) by Dennis Hopeless and Alessandro Vitti, so I’d be compelled to buy that. I’ve been meaning to check out Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening’s Ghostbusters since I hear it’s real fun, so the relaunched Ghostbusters #1 ($3.99) is a perfect opportunity. Morning Glories #24 ($2.99) by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma seems too intriguing to pass up. I am so behind on the X-books, but I’d be real tempted to try Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo’s Uncanny X-Men #1 ($3.99).
My splurge item would be tough. I’d be real tempted to get either the Iron Man Omnibus collecting the entire run of David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita Jr., including the famous alcoholism story, or Counter X: Generation X – Four Days by Brian Wood. But I’d probably end up instead getting the Daredevil By Mark Waid, Vol. 1 hardcover for $35. I don’t know, do I need to justify this purchase? It’s probably the most beloved superhero comic of last year, maybe for the last couple of years. It paved the way for similarly rejuvenating series at Marvel like Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, and Young Avengers. The art by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin is swoon-worthy. And it wants to be on my bookshelf, dagnabbit!