Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Image Expo returned on Thursday, and it wasn’t messing around. Each year, Image Comics seems to pack bigger announcements and bigger surprises into a single-day event. And the diversity of creators and genres gets that much better, too.
This year’s Image Expo — held again at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, following last July’s event at Comic-Con International in San Diego — included the now-standard keynote address by Publisher Eric Stephenson. He reviewed the past year’s successes and echoed plans to make Image the No. 1 publisher, but aside from throwing the gauntlet down at the feet of Marvel and DC, his address avoided some of the controversial statements and manifestos of years past. While I appreciate a good sabre-rattling, it allowed the focus to remain squarely on the creators and their comics.
With that in mind, here are my six favorite announcements from Image Expo 2015:
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So let’s take a look at the last seven days in comics …
Preview Night doesn’t begin for another 11 hours, but judging from the flurry of announcements, Comic-Con International has been well under way since, oh, about Monday. So, if it feels like you’re already falling behind, that’s because you probably are.
To help you catch up, we’ve rounded up early news from DC Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Madefire and Marvel, along with a few other convention-related items.
• Dynamite Entertainment came out of the gate running this week with news that Steve Niles and Dennis Calero will reboot Army of Darkness, James Robinson will launch his crime romance Grand Passion, the Legends of Red Sonja miniseries will team Gail Simone with an all-female creative team that includes Marjorie M. Liu, Nancy A. Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mercedes Lackey, Nicola Scott and Devin Grayson, Peter Milligan will debut his sci-fi action series Terminal Hero, Duane Swiercyznski will expand the publisher’s crime line with Ex-Con, Howard Chaykin will return to The Shadow with the miniseries Midnight in Moscow, NBC’s Heroes will get a “fifth season” in a series written by Cullen Bunn, the acquisition of the Robotech license spawns a Robotech/Voltron crossover, and The Heart of the Beast, the graphic novel by Dean Motter, Judith Dupré and Sean Phillips, will receive a 20th-anniversary prestige-format edition.
Even as Marvel further expands its mutant universe in April with the debut of X-Men by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel, it will cancel two more X-titles as part of the finale of the “X-Termination” crossover event.
The publisher’s solicitations for April reveal that it will end David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre’s Age of Apocalypse with Issue 14 and Greg Pak and Andre Araujo’s X-Treme X-Men with Issue 13, with the latter teasing that “Kid Nightcrawler makes the ultimate sacrifice.” The two series will be sent off with interlocking covers by Guiseppe Camuncoli that connects to Astonishing X-Men #61, by Marjorie Liu and Matteo Buffagni, which was also part of “X-Termination” (see all three above). That title survives.
Both Age of Apocalypse and X-Treme X-Men recently had dropped below the 20,000-copy mark, traditionally viewed as Marvel’s “line of death,” with the former selling an estimated 19,337 copies to the direct market in December, and the latter just 16,682.
Events | Richard Pachter surveys the graphic novel scene at Miami Book Fair International, which this year will include appearances by Chris Ware, Derf Backderf, Marjorie Liu, Dan Parent and Chip Kidd, among others. [The Miami Herald]
Events | A group of Canadian creators and publishers are in Tokyo right now for the International Comics Festa, where they are selling an anthology that includes work by Darwyn Cooke, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and Seth. Manga blogger Deb Aoki is there too, and she has all the details. [About.com]
Graphic novels | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has written to the Enfield, Connecticut, school district to ask that Matthew Loux’s SideScrollers be reinstated to its summer reading list and to point out that the district did not follow its own procedures when it removed the book last month after the mother of a ninth-grader complained about the graphic novel’s profanity and sexual references. [CBLDF]
Digital comics | Digital distributor iVerse has unveiled a new deal to sell foreign-language translations of Marvel and Archie comics worldwide. iVerse will have exclusive global rights to Marvel’s foreign-language comics, both floppies and trades, while for Archie they will create apps in different languages for different countries, starting with Japan, China, and India. iVerse CEO Michael Murphy says that 50 percent to 65 percent of the company’s digital sales are to international customers (including Canada). Nonetheless, the comics will be “platform-independent”: iVerse will provide translation (through a combination of machine translation and human editors) and distribution, so the comics will be available through their Comics + app but also through other channels, such as Amazon or iBooks. [Publishers Weekly]
“The wedding of the year”–at least according to the promotional email I got yesterday–hit comic shops both virtual and real this week, as Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle tied the knot in Astonishing X-Men #51. The issue came with quite a bit of publicity for Marvel, along with the protests from anti-gay marriage factions, gay marriages in comic shops and a show of support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (as well as an invitation to his house for a BBQ).
But once all the pomp, circumstance and hype is over with, we’re left with a comic story, one crafted by Marjorie Liu, Mike Perkins and Andrew Hennessy. Was it any good or not? Here are a few reactions from around the web to tell you what a few folks thought of it:
Andy Hunsaker, CraveOnline: “Comic book weddings are much like pro wrestling weddings – they almost always go disastrously wrong before they can ever manage to go right. However, with Astonishing X-Men #51, Marvel shows they’ve got more integrity than the WWE by actually going through with their hyped-up same-sex marriage rather than chickening out and admitting it was a publicity stunt, like WWE did with Billy & Chuck several years ago.”
Martin Gray, Too Dangerous for a Girl: “This is really rather good. Yes, Marvel has pumped this wedding for everything it’s worth in the real world, but as a special issue it holds together rather well. While the wedding party isn’t attacked by the Circus of Crime or whomever, the other tradition of gorgeous nuggets of characterisation is adhered to by writer Marjorie Liu. So we have Rogue wondering what would have happened had her two evil mothers, Oracle and Mystique, tied the knot, while Wolverine recalls the tragedy of his own wedding day, without raining on Northstar’s parade. And there’s a lovely line from Beast emphasising that the heroes of the various teams really are simply one big (occasionally) happy family.”
Graphic novels | The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation and the American Library Association will launch the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Prize for Libraries at the ALA summer conference, held June 21-26 in Anaheim, California. Three libraries each year will be selected to receive all the books nominated for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, as well as a $2,000 voucher to buy additional graphic novels and a $1,000 stipend to hold comics-related or author events. Libraries to register to win at the ALA conference; winners will be announced June 24. [Publishers Weekly]
Graphic novels | Calvin Reid and Heidi MacDonald look at the graphic novel presence at last week’s BookExpo America. [Publishers Weekly]
Being a judge in the Eisner Awards meant making hard choices. It’s like being an admissions officer at Harvard: You could make a top-notch set of picks, throw them away, and still have a strong field for the second set. With six judges each having a different voice, sometimes a book that one or two of us think is the greatest thing since sliced bread doesn’t make the final cut.
Here’s my short list of comics that, if it were up to me, would have gotten Eisner nominations.
Best Limited Series
One of my favorite series of 2011 was Spontaneous, by Brett Weldele and Joe Harris. It’s a great crypto-mystery about spontaneous human combustion, with a nerdy know-it-all played off against an aggressive reporter. The story has its flaws, but I couldn’t put it down.
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Nina in That Makes Me Mad: We had an unusually strong field of children’s books, even after we split the category into two age groups, but this book was my first choice for a nomination. The writing is sharp and perceptive, and Hilary Knight’s illustrations are amazing. Even the page layouts are awesome. This is a book that speaks directly to children, in a voice they can understand, yet does it with an elegance that adults can appreciate as well.
Marjorie Liu is the sort of writer other writers envy. We in the comics world know her for her Marvel work, including X-23 and Black Widow and, most prominently, her just-announced gig as writer for Astonishing X-Men, but she has a whole other life as a prose novelist. Her latest books are Within the Flames, the tenth in a series of paranormal romances about shape-shifters, and The Mortal Bone, an urban fantasy novel about a woman whose body is covered with demonic tattoos that come to life. I talked to Marjorie this week about her work in all three genres, and her plans for the near future of the X-Men.
Brigid Alverson: You were writing prose novels before you wrote comics. What sort of adjustments did you have to make to your writing (both style and process) when you moved from one medium to another?
Marjorie Liu: I had two great mentors when I first started: my editor, John Barber, and editorial assistant, Michael Horwitz. Both of them “held my hand” through the process, giving me sample scripts and a lot of wonderful advice. What I found that helped (sometimes, not always) was focusing just on the dialogue. I’d imagine these characters caught in the moment, and write down their conversations. Then, I’d break it into panels.
But yes, it was an adjustment. When I write a novel, I’m responsible for every aspect of storytelling: I have to provide the visuals, all the emotion, through my words. Plus, the story is a lot longer—upward of 100,000 words. Comics are much shorter, and I have a partner-in-crime: the artist, who tells the story through his or her illustrations. It’s such a privilege to participate in that kind of storytelling.
Hello and welcome to a special holiday edition of What Are You Reading? Actually it’s just a normal edition of What Are You Reading?, because changing the font color to red and green, and adding twinkling lights around the border just made it harder to read.
Our special guest this week is Andy Khouri, associate editor over at ComicsAlliance, where he drops comic news and commentary on a daily basis.
To see what Andy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Holy hand grenade, it’s been a week of nasty cancellations over at the House of Ideas! Yesterday it seemed like it wouldn’t stop as smaller titles were stripped away seemingly far too soon. Ghost Rider feels like it only just got here, but that’s now ending with issue #8. X-23, a successful breakout character in her own right (and currently on my TV screen in Ultimate X-Men vs. Capcom 3) is gone with Kssue 20. We’ll also be saying goodbye to a personal favorite: Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive is ending as of #529. 2012 does not seem to be a good year for new ideas as, while I can’t say that a Kirby-created character and two male-derivative heroines are all that new, we’re losing some of the more fringe books while our core titles seem to be bringing up old fan favorites.
Then, while PunisherMAX is coming to a conclusion rather than a short and final stop, there’s a quote from a Marvel representative saying that “A big change is coming to the MAX universe and nobody can miss what we’ve got coming.” Couldn’t tell you why, perhaps it’s the littered canceled titles scattered before them, maybe it’s the fact that the MAX titles are a struggle to publish and promote, but this statement doesn’t rest any fears.
The marketplace is vast; I mean, have you seen a Diamond catalog? While I think it’s a little thinner that usual these days, that doesn’t mean it’s not a PHONE BOOK OF COMICS AND COMICS ACCESSORIES produced monthly. Sure, maybe a little more white pages than yellow, but that’s still a lot of published titles you may honestly never see. Or perhaps want to see, as the range and scope of subject matter extends far beyond super-heroes. Marvel itself publishes Halo and Sense and Sensibility comics, and then everything in between. And while I might think Jane Austen is a bore, someone reading right now might be willing to club me with a shoe for maligning the great Jane’s name (please don’t hit me with a shoe). One reader’s Gravity is another reader’s Sammi the Fish Boy. While every comic may have a fan, they might not always have an audience.
Marvel has canceled books before they hit the shelves, before retailers have had a change to order them, and I’m sure there’s even books pitched right now that might never see the light of day. What do we do? What can we do as readers to change such a system, and how do we keep the hope alive? Here are a few thoughts.
The first-ever C2E2 — Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo — is all but over, and no doubt Brigid and Michael will have more to say about the whole experience here soon. For now, here’s a roundup of news and info coming out of various panels from today, to go with our roundups from Friday and Saturday.