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Comics A.M. | Despite overall growth, sales slipped for most of Top 25

Aquaman #12, one of just two ongoing titles in August's Top 25 that saw an increase

Retailing | ICv2 analyzes the August direct market numbers and comes up with some interesting patterns: While the market as a whole is up, the number of comics with sales of more than 1,000 has been declining; sales dropped a bit for most ongoing comics series in the Top 25, but strong sales of Before Watchmen and two annuals more than compensated for that; and graphic novels sell in far lower numbers than comics, but because many of them are backlist titles, the numbers still increase from year to year. ICv2 also posted lists of last month’s Top 300 comics and graphic novels. [ICv2]

Publishing | Yet another big publisher spawns a graphic novel imprint: This time it’s Penguin, whose Berkley/NAL division will launch a graphic novel imprint, InkLit, next month. Helmed by former DC vice president and Yen Press co-founder Rich Johnson, InkLit will publish both original graphic novels and adaptations of prose works. The line will begin with Vol. 1 of Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega, which collects the trades published by Dynamite; the second volume will be all new material. Also in the works are books by Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Sage Stossel. [Publishers Weekly]

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Keith Giffen takes over DC’s He-Man with Issue 2

He-Man #2

DC Comics today announced a fairly last-minute shuffle on its He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic. According to The Source blog, Keith Giffen will take over writing duties from James Robinson starting with the very next issue, September’s #2.

“He-Man and friends were a big part of my son’s young life,” Giffen said. “That meant that they became a big part of my life too. I can still rattle off the plotlines to more than a few of the cartoons and am still pretty good at reattaching the arms and legs of woefully abused action figures. I’m thinking that more than qualifies me to write the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic book. Well… that and the fact that I so want to. I mean, c’mon… it’s He-Man!”

Robinson was solicited as the writer for issues 2 and 3, and in fact is still listed on the DC Comics website as the writer for both (as I type this, anyway). The post doesn’t mention why they’ve made the abrupt change. Robinson is in San Diego this week, so no doubt the question will be asked.

Robinson is certainly busy enough right now, what with Earth 2 and apparently some sort of Image series that will be announced on Saturday.

George Perez couldn’t ‘wait to get off Superman’

Renowned creator George Perez, who stepped down as writer and breakdown artist of DC Comics’ relaunched Superman after just six issues, revealed he couldn’t wait to leave the high-profile title because of frustrations over repeated rewrites and a lack of creative freedom. “It was not the experience I wanted it to be,” he said.

“Unfortunately when you are writing major characters, you sometimes have to make a lot of compromises, and I was made certain promises,” Perez said in a recently released Q&A video from this year’s Superman Celebration, “and unfortunately not through any fault of Dan DiDio — he was no longer the last word, I mean a lot of people were now making decisions [..] they were constantly going against each other, contradicting, again in mid-story. The people who love my Superman arc, the first six issues, I thank you. What you read, I don’t know. Because the fact that, after I wrote it I was having such frustration that I told them, ‘Here, this is my script. If you change it, that’s your prerogative, don’t tell me. Don’t ask me to edit it, don’t ask me to correct it, because  I don’t want to change something that you’re going to change again in case you disagree.” No no, Superman is a big character. I was flattered by the responsibility, but I thought this was getting a little tough.”

“I didn’t mind the changes in Superman, I just wish it was the same decision Issue 1 or Issue 2,” he continued. “And I had to kept rewriting things because another person changed their mind, and that was a lot tougher. It wasn’t the same as doing Wonder Woman. I was basically given a full year to get Wonder Woman established before she actually had to be enfolded into the DC Universe properly. And I had a wonderful editor Karen Berger who ran shotgun for me. They wanted me to recreate what I did from Wonder Woman, but it’s not the same age, not the same atmosphere, I couldn’t do it any more. And the writer who replaced me, Keith Giffen, was very, very nice. I’ve known Keith since we both started in the industry, he called me up when they asked him to do Superman to make sure I wasn’t being fired off Superman. And regrettably I did have to tell him no, I can’t wait to get off Superman. It was not the experience I wanted it to be.”

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Grumpy Old Fan | That extra “one”: DC’s July 2012 Solicits

Overcompensating? Who's overcompensating?

Good grief, it’s the eleventh month of the New-52! The forty-six books left from the original class are just about ready to wrap up their first year, and in some cases their second collection. Where does the time go? (And when can we stop calling it the “New” 52?)

In fact, both Batman #11 and Animal Man #11 promise “stunning conclusions” to their inaugural arcs. Of course, the Owls storyline looks more like a traditional multi-title crossover (even if most of it takes place in the main Batman book), whereas Animal Man’s storyline only involves an Annual and a little bit of Swamp Thing. Usually I am frustrated with the very idea of looking ahead three-plus months, because it’s the serialized-comics equivalent of being forced to check your watch halfway through a movie. Here, though, knowing that these two series are headed for big finishes in July helps adjust my expectations about where they are now.

Similarly, we’ve seen three months’ worth of solicitations (and more than that in hype) on the two Earth-2 titles, but for me that’s built up anticipation. Despite the concept’s radical reworking, I’m eager to see how it all comes together.

Now to more specific comments….
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Talking Comics with Tim | Thomas Scioli

American Barbarian

Back in 2010, when Thomas Scioli started bolstering his online presence and entered the realm of webcomics with American Barbarian, I was curious to see how things would play out (as may or may not have been obvious in my June 2010 interview of him). I’ll be honest and admit that now, more than a year later (and with far more of the project online to read), American Barbarian far exceeds what I expected. As much as I have always enjoyed and respected his Kirby-influenced approach to visual storytelling, after reading this double post Apocalyptic tale, I am far more impressed with Scioli’s funky ear for dialogue. It’s like reading a 1970s comic written by a minimalist version of David Mamet. Doubting my quirky endorsement of the work? Then realize AdHouse is collecting the webcomic for a 256-page/6 ” x 9 ” /hardcover release early this year. If you don’t trust my tastes, then you should definitely trust AdHouse publisher Chris Pitzer. To mark the upcoming release, Scioli and I did another of our quick email interviews. Before diving into the interview, let me take a second to agree with JK Parkin’s sentiment in this post, back in June, that DC Comics should have considered Scioli for one of the New 52 titles that it launched back in September. So I was surprised to learn (as you can read in this interview) that DC did not contact Scioli when assembling the creative team for the new OMAC title. As I edited this interview I realized it was hard to find my favorite part of our discussion, but it may be the revelation that the look for Two-Tank Omen came to Scioli in a dream. A close second was learning a bit about his next webcomic, Final Frontier. Feel free to chime in with your favorite part of this interview and/or Scioli’s work in the comments section, please.

Tim O’Shea: As an independent creator, the job of marketing your work falls to you. Do you think over the years, you have gotten more comfortable marketing yourself? On a related note, how did you decide upon doing this one minute trailer for American Barbarian?

Thomas Scioli: Even the largest comics publishers don’t seem to have a budget for promotion, so I’d say any creator, independent or mainstream, can benefit from doing their own promotion. It’s something that I’ve never been comfortable with, but do out of necessity. I think I have gotten better about it, because in the beginning, it would give me crippling anxiety, now it’s just mild trepidation. The idea for doing a trailer came from having seen other people do it. AdHouse’s own Afrodisiac trailer and [Top Shelf's] Infinite Kung-Fu [trailer] are two that made an impression on me when they made the rounds. It got me excited about those two works, so I wanted to do the same. I’d been dabbling with animation, back when I started AmBarb so it was a natural outgrowth of that, too. Once you start doing a webcomic it isn’t long before you realize, hey, why not just do a cartoon?

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Grumpy Old Fan | A full bracket for DC’s March solicits

OMAC #7

Since the March solicitations kick off the back half of the New 52′s first year, it’s probably worth noting that the whole line remains unchanged: no “midseason replacements” like Justice Society, but no cancellations either. If I hear relieved sighs from OMAC and Men of War, certainly Dan DiDio and Jim Lee have to be pleased generally that they’ve gotten this far with the 52 intact.

Well, pleased or stubborn, I suppose. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Ahem.  Away we go…!

HISTORY LESSONS

One of my pet peeves about the New-52 is the sense that it lacks a meaningful “history.” For at least the last few decades, a reader might not have known exactly what had happened or when, but s/he could tell that these characters hadn’t just fallen off the turnip truck. I say this because the solicits for Justice League #7 and Flash #7 both allude to their books’ untold backstories. With Justice League, we’ll learn about membership turnover and other details of the five years between the League’s debut and today. (To be sure, some of that has already been alluded to in the League’s previous present-day appearances, like JL Dark #1.)

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Grumpy Old Fan | Successor stories

Justice League America #61

Don’t ask me how I remember this, but it was just about twenty years ago that the first previews of Dan Jurgens’ Justice League began appearing. After five years, the “bwah-ha-ha” era was winding down, and Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis were leaving Justice League America. Giffen was also stepping away from plots and breakdowns for Justice League Europe, with JLE’s scripter Gerard Jones taking over as the book’s only writer; and Brian Augustyn replaced Andy Helfer as both books’ editor.

With a number of the New 52 titles changing creative teams before they’re even a year old, it’s too early to start talking about any long-lived, let alone definitive, runs on a particular book. Still, DC clearly hopes these books will be around for a while, even without the folks who launched ‘em. It got me thinking about past changes of the guard, and how they have followed some well-established interpretations.

* * *

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Comics A.M. | Fan/pro Bill of Rights; comics used in major drug ring

Bill of Rights

Creators | Writer Peter David shares a “Fan/Pro Bill of Rights” related to proper behavior at conventions, starting with a “Prime Directive”: “Fans and Pros have the right to be treated by each other with the same courtesy that they themselves would expect to be treated. Fans and Pros who act like jerks abrogate the right to complain when they themselves are treated like jerks.” [Peter David]

Crime | A Denver judge sentenced Aaron Castro to 45 years in prison after Castro pleaded guilty to drug and extortion charges. Prosecutors say he ran a major methamphetamine distribution ring and laundered the profits by buying and selling valuable comics in the collector’s market. [KMGH Denver]

Digital | Robot 6 contributor Graeme McMillan catches an error in Marvel’s press release from last week: Marvel was not the first comics publisher to release an entire line of comics simultaneously in print and digital—Archie Comics was. [Blog@Newsarama]

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Nicola Scott joins Superman for three issues

Art from Superman #3

Former Birds of Prey artist Nicola Scott will step in for Jesus Merino on three issues of Superman, beginning with this month’s Issue 3.

DC Comics announced this morning that Scott will illustrate issues 3, 5 and 6, with regular artist Merino penciling Issue 4 before returning for Issue 7, which features the debut of new writers Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen. The duo replaces George Perez, who leaves as writer and breakdown artist following the sixth issue.

Scott, a DC-exclusive artist who also worked on Secret Six and Wonder Woman, will next collaborate with James Robinson on the relaunched Justice Society of America.

Superman #3, which pits the Man of Steel against a new foe targeting those dearest to Clark Kent, goes on sale Nov. 23. Check out a preview of the issue below.

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Comics A.M. | Nate Powell at U.N.; Stan Lee’s YouTube World of Heroes

Nate Powell at the U.N.

Creators | Any Empire and Swallow Me Whole creator (and our special guest this weekend for What Are You Reading?) Nate Powell appeared at the United Nations earlier this month with several teen-fiction writers who contributed to What You Wish For, a benefit book to fund libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in Chad. Video of the event can now be found on the U.N. website. [Top Shelf]

Business | Details on the collaboration between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s Vuguru have emerged: The two companies will work on a YouTube channel called “Stan Lee’s YouTube World of Heroes.” The channel is one of the 100 online video channels announced by the Google-owned video site, which seeks to add “professional, high-quality programming” to its site. [Los Angeles Times]

Business | They might move slow and eat people, but MSNBC estimates that zombies are worth about $5 billion to the economy. [MSNBC]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Already? DC Solicits for January 2012

"I throw him a growl I've brought all the way from Africa"

I was going to open with some snotty Wow, the holidays went by super-quickly! comment, but then I read the first issue of Justice League in seven weeks. Sometimes DC gets ahead of itself; sometimes it’s a little behind.  Happens to the best of us — sometimes you do two solicitation roundups in three weeks….

Anyway, with the January solicitations, the New-52 books each turn five issues old. Series wrapping up their first arcs this month include Blackhawks, Batwoman, Animal Man, and the Deadman feature in DC Universe Presents.  (Not to worry about the latter, because there is a lot of Deadman in these solicits.)  I’m not sure why five issues is such a wonky number for story arcs — there are five-issue miniseries all the time and they collect just fine. Still, I expected most of the New-52 books to take six issues for their introductory stories, and most of them may yet do that. Only a few books look to finish their first arcs after December’s issue #4s (Hawkman and Frankenstein, probably OMAC, maybe Batgirl), and those plus this month’s are barely an eighth of the relaunched line. It makes next month’s solicits more intriguing, I suppose.

Regardless, we live in the now (as it were…) so — onward to January!
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Giffen and Jurgens to replace Pérez on Superman

George Pérez will step down as writer and breakdown artist of Superman, Newsarama reports, to be replaced by Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens with Issue 7.

Pérez was teamed with artist Jesus Merino on the relaunched title, which debuted this week. There’s a possibility that Pérez will remain as finisher/inker.

Superman will be the second title from DC Comics’ New 52 that Giffen has stepped into as writer. News surfaced just last week that he will replace J.T. Krul on Green Arrow, teaming with Jurgens as penciler and Pérez as inker on the series.

Giffen is also drawing and co-writing O.M.A.C., while Jurgens is writing the relaunched Justice League International.

DC’s push for the New 52: A Supergirl for The Hunger Games crowd

Supergirl #1, by Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar

USA Today talks with Supergirl co-writers Mike Johnson and Michael Green about their approach to the relaunched title, and provides a five-page preview of the first issue, which goes on sale Wednesday. “We’re really excited about the opportunity to hand this book to a female reader who is into things like The Hunger Games,” Johnson says. “This is a strong character with her own point of view.”

• Writer J.T. Krul will be replaced by Keith Giffen and artist Dan Jurgens on Green Arrow with December’s Issue 4. The news comes just days after John Rozum announced he’s leaving Static Shock.

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How many Justice Leaguers can fit in the first issue of a Justice League comic?

I found Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott Williams’ Justice League #1, the inaugural effort in DC’s “New 52″ effort, to be thunderously disappointing. Listening to three months of sustained, daily hype has a way of raising expectations, I guess, and as cynical as I remained about so many aspects of DC’s relaunch, and despite the fact that I took each new tidbit of information with a grain of salt, that much exposure to positive PR still managed to raise my expectations rather high. Particularly for this book, since it was the flagship one, and the one being written by the publisher’s chief creative officer and drawn by its co-publisher.

But the quality of the comic book just didn’t really meet those high expectations.

There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of the most obvious, and one I saw cited most often in the slew of reviews and reactions I’ve since seen online, is that it fails to meet even the most basic, vague promise of its own cover: It’s not a Justice League comic, as the logo says, and it doesn’t features the characters pictured on the front. Two of them star in the book, and two more cameo, but it read more like The Brave and The Bold featuring Batman and Green Lantern…albeit a theoretical version of The Brave and The Bold, perhaps written by Brian Michael Bendis for an eventual trade collection of the first six-issue arc, as DC’s various Brave and the Bold books almost always tell a complete story with a beginning, middle and end in each and every single issue.

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DC Comics unveils decade-specific logos for Retro-Active

"Retro-Active" 1980s logo

Following DC Comics’ announcement at WonderCon of its Retro-Active one-shots bringing together writers and artists from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, the publisher has unveiled the decade-specific logos for the three series.

Debuting in July, each issue of Retro-Active will feature 26 pages of new content plus 20 pages classic stories reprinted from that era, spotlighting such characters as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash and the Justice League of America.

Although DC has yet to announce all of the artists involved, the writers include Dennis O’Neil, Cary Bates, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, William Messner-Loebs, Mike W. Barr, Louise Simonson (with Jon Bogdanove on ’90s Superman), and Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis (with Kevin Maguire on ’90s Justice League).

“The way [DC Comics] put it was, look at your run back when you were doing Justice League International, find a moment there and tell an untold story,” Giffen told Comic Book Resources. “It’s one last blow-out. It’s one last hoorah for the characters.”

Check out the other two Retro-Active logos below.

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