INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
It would be awfully hard to overstate the enthusiasm out there for Batgirl #35. As soon as the new creative team of Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr and Brenden Fletcher was announced, social media was buzzing; hell, it was singing. Fan art of the new costume began appearing online immediately, and cosplayers started dressing the new Batgirl based on nothing more than the initial promotional images and cover.
I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen this much enthusiasm for a DC Comics production. Universe-shaking developments — deaths, resurrections, infinite crises — major crossovers, and new series from the hottest creators are generally greeted with a dose of cold water from a certain faction of fans. DC readers tend to fall somewhere between “cautiously optimistic” and “openly hostile” when it comes to the publisher’s big decisions. But, for whatever reasons, I’ve seen none of that cynicism regarding the new direction of Batgirl.
Which is a long way of saying that expectations for this particular issue of this particular series are, in most quarters that care about such things, sky-high.
There are only ever three things that can happen with expectations: They can be met, they can fail to be met, or they can be exceeded. And, in general, the higher the expectations are, the less likely they are to be met.
So, as a comic book, how is Batgirl #35 …?
On the first day of HeroesCon 2014, the 32nd edition of the Charlotte, North Carolina, comics convention founded and still run by Shelton Drum, I tried to cover a lot of ground in taking photographs. When possible I found out about the current or upcoming projects in the pipeline for the creators photographed.
Publishing | Sales of comics, graphic novels and digital comics totaled $750 million in 2012, making that year the best of the millennium so far for the comics business, according to the retail news and analysis site ICv2. Total print sales were estimated at $680 million and digital at $70 million, a hair over 10 percent of print and almost triple the 2011 total of $25 million. The website also breaks down the top properties in eight graphic novel categories (superheroes, genre, manga, etc.), based on interviews with retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Interestingly, Hawkeye is nestled at No. 7 on the list of Top 10 superhero properties, between Iron Man and Spider-Man. [ICv2]
Publishing | Torsten Adair takes a look at IDW Publishing’s financials, and they’re looking pretty good. [The Beat]
Retailing | Saying that video games, texting and digital comics have killed interest in collectibles, 80-year-old Joseph Liesner is closing his Sunnyside, Queens, store Comic Book Heaven after nearly three decades. “The store’s not making any money,” he says, “and, besides, I’m as old as Methuselah.” The store will remain open for another two months, with Liesner using the time to search for a much younger girlfriend via a sign in the window. [Sunnyside Post]
Retailing | Publishers Weekly’s annual comics retailer survey yields some interesting commentary, although the sample size is small (just 10 stores): Sales are up, retailers are optimistic, and Saga is the hot book right now. Also, booksellers who underestimated the demand for Chris Ware’s Building Stories lost out to direct-market retailers who didn’t, making for some nice extra sales during the holiday season. And while readers seem to be getting tired of the Big Two and their event comics, they are more enthusiastic than ever before about creator-owned comics, and Image is doing quite well. [Publishers Weekly]
Awards | Ladies Making Comics presents the complete list of women Eisner nominees for this year, noting that women have been nominated in almost every category. [Ladies Making Comics]
Failure (Alternative Comics): Faithful readers of ROBOT 6 may recall the name of cartoonist Karl Stevens from a fall 2012 story about his Boston Phoenix strip Failure being canceled after an installment referred to Bud Light — one of the paper’s advertisers — as “diluted horse piss.” The Phoenix denied this at the time, and, coincidentally, several months later ceased publication all together (after a brief time in which it was split into five different newspapers with five different editors — Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik — until Cyclops assumed control over all five papers and it took the combined might of all of the Avengers to stop him … there’s a comic book joke for you!).
While that history may not be particularly relevant to readers, Stevens covers his side of the incident in his introduction to the Failure collection, which packages the final installments of his strip — right up to, and a few past, the “horse piss” one — into 150 pages of gorgeously drawn material.
What is important is that this is some great work, of the must-read variety. Failure, at this point in its existence, had become a sort of slice-of-life strip, with one to four panels devoted to anecdotes from his own life, including his relationship with his girlfriend, funny things his friends said or funny things he overheard. There are, additionally, plenty of flights of fancy starring his descendant in the far-flung future, and recurring characters like Bongbot, a time-traveling robot bong, and Pope Cat, a cat who is also the pope (if I’ve got that right).
What keeps Failure from being as mundane as you might imagine it, based on how I just described its premise, is what an incredible artist Stevens is. He works in a lush, highly detailed, representational style, as if he were drawing portraits rather than cartoons. Check this out:
Auctions | The original art for two Peanuts Sunday comics, one of them autographed by Charles Schulz, sold for a combined price of $78,200 at auction on June 6. [artdaily.org]
Creators | Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, who are doomed to be forever yoked by the parenthetical phrase “no relation,” reminisce about the days when they were paid for their work in beef, and talk about their digital-first strategy, serializing Zander’s Heck and Kevin’s Crater XV in their monthly digital magazine Double Barrel before releasing them in print. Mark Waid drops in to praise the Cannons for their digital strategy, saying, “If you let the audience access your material over the Web rather than force them to search — often in vain — for a retail outlet, they’ll be your fans for life.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune]
Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar has appealed a court decision upholding his 2010 arrest and detention, claiming police acted in bad faith when they arrested him under the Sedition Act because of his book Cartoon-O-Phobia, which had not yet been released at the time of his arrest. No charges were ever filed, as the police could not identify any actual seditious content in the books. A court ruled in July 2012 that Zunar’s arrest was lawful but ordered the police to return the books they had confiscated and pay him damages. An appellate court will hear the case next week. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald takes a look at Marvel’s new graphic novel line, which will launch in October with Warren Ellis and Mike McKone’s Avengers: Endless Wartime. [Publishers Weekly]
DC Comics will resurrect its well-regarded anthology Batman: Black and White beginning in September with six double-sized issues.
Originally published in 1996 as a four-issue miniseries, the anthology was the brainchild DC’s Vice President of Art Direction & Design Mark Chiarello, then a Batman Group editor, who sought out such top creators as Bruce Timm, Joe Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz, Neil Gaiman, Ted McKeever and Katsuhiro Otomo to offer their own interpretations of the Dark Knight — in black and white.
The concept was revived in 2000 as a series of backup features in Batman: Gotham Knights, featuring contributions by the likes of Alex Ross, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Jim Lee, Chris Claremont, Paul Pope, Steve Rude, Harlan Ellison, Paul Grist, Darwyn Cooke, Jill Thompson and Mike Mignola. That title ended in 2006, but several Batman: Black and White have since been adapted as motion comics by Warner Premiere and DC Entertainment, and inspired numerous statues released by DC Direct.
According to the solicitation text provided to MTV Geek, September’s Batman: Black and White #1 will feature stories by Chip Kidd and Michael Cho, Neal Adams, Joe Quinones and Maris Wicks, John Arcudi and Sean Murphy, and Howard Mackie and Chris Samnee. Priced at $4.99, the 48-page first issue is scheduled to arrive Sept. 4.
There’s more to life than staying indoors. And while comics fans might be typecast as more of the shut-in type, there’s more to us than that — but even for the reclusive among us, this book’s for you.
Yes, Let’s is a new picture book, illustrated by Maris Wicks and written by Galen Goodwin Longstreth, that follows a family’s day trip into the woods where a sing-song-type rhyming dialogue complements the adventures they’re drawn into. Here’s an excerpt of some of the text:
Let’s get into the station wagon, roll those windows down,
Let’s sing out loud and wave to cows as we drive out of town.
Let’s park the car beneath the trees and trade our shoes for boots,
Let’s set the timer, all say “Cheese!” then head into the woods.
Although not comics in the traditional sense, it tells a story using words and pictures, and Wicks is herself a comics creator — and this makes a great read for a comics fan or just someone who wants something for the family. The book even gives you a list of things to bring for your next outdoor trek. Here are three double-page spreads from the book: