Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at all the comics and other stuff we’ve been reading lately. Our special guests today are Brendan Tobin and Pedro Delgado, who run the March MODOK Madness site. And with this being March, the madness is in full swing, so head over there to check out a lot of fun art featuring everyone’s favorite big-headed villain.
To see what Brendan, Pedro and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
As most of you are well aware, Marvel NOW! is Marvel’s new initiative to re-brand and re-freshen its line of superhero comics, which seems to be a sort of undeclared response to DC Comics’ 2011 New 52 relaunch.
Whereas the Distinguished Competition rebooted its continuity as well as giving all its series new No. 1 issues, Marvel’s effort is more akin to the branding enterprise that followed past crossover events (“The Heroic Age,” “Dark Reign,” “The Initiative,” etc), albeit to a far greater extent: In addition to bearing uniform cover design, many of the NOW! books are also being relaunched with new No. 1 issues and getting new creative teams (although many of those teams are simply swapping assignments; for example, the guy who was doing Avengers is now doing an X-Men comic,while a guy who was doing an X-Men comic is now doing an Avengers comic, and so on).
The idea, one imagines, is, as always, to sell more comics — to lure lapsed readers, Marvel-curious readers and (judging by the numbers of variants being published) collectors and speculators to try out some of the new and/or refurbished comics. It worked on me, so I thought it might be interesting (or at least something to write a blog post about, which is basically the same thing for me) to use myself as a case study to examine a single instance of a new reader trying out a Marvel NOW! book.
Spoiler’s Warning: This post contains potential spoilers for both the Avengers movie and Avengers Assemble #3.
Marvel followed the release of their big blockbuster Avengers movie with the third issue of Avengers Assemble by the team of Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, Danny Miki and Paul Mounts. The book features an Avengers team that mirrors the one from the film fighting a revamped version of their classic foes The Zodiac.
“I believe Tom [Brevoort] came to me and said it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a book out that had these characters in print. Because you’re involved in what’s going on in the creative committee, you’re probably the perfect guy to do it,” Bendis told CBR back in February. “[I thought] what we need is a book like this in continuity that matters, that’s really huge.”
The timing couldn’t have been better, as issue #3 reveals the big bad behind the Zodiac, which mirrors events in the Avengers film. But how is the comic itself? Here’s a round-up of reactions from various folks around the web:
Marvel’s big Fear Itself crossover event last year introduced readers to Odin’s brother, the Serpent, who along with the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, used seven divine hammers to turn several Marvel heroes and villains into his agents on Earth. Spoiler’s alert: Marvel’s heroes win, but in the wake of the event came the question of what happened to all those hammers.
Cullen Bunn, Matt Fraction, Chris Yost, Mark Bagley and Paul Pelletier answered that question in the pages of The Fearless, a miniseries that saw Sin and her boyfriend, Crossbones, in an Amazing Race-style adventure to find all the hammers. They were pitted against Valkyrie, a character ripe not only for an Asgardian-laced race against the forces of evil and some character development of her own. Over the course of the series, we learned a lot about the Valkyrie’s history, saw guest stars galore and even got a tease for a potential new series. Now that the miniseries has wrapped up, I chatted with Bunn about the comic, the characters he used and what he did with them. My thanks to him for taking the time to answer my questions.
JK: If I’m not mistaken, this was your first major project for Marvel since going “exclusive” with them. You’d done other stories for them and even other Fear Itself tie-ins, but is it safe to say this probably put you on the main stage of the Marvel Universe in a way you hadn’t experienced yet? Did you feel any pressure going into it because of the scope and the fact that it came out of a big Marvel event?
Cullen: Yeah, this was a big, intimidating undertaking. The Fearless featured most of the major Marvel superheroes in one way or another, and it spanned numerous locales. Luckily, I was working with a very supportive team who made me feel pretty comfortable going into this. They put a lot of trust in me with the series, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. Every time I sent some crazy note or suggestion for plot points, I expected them to yank me off the title, but they were pretty receptive to the idea of exploding sharks, a new team of Valkyrie, and Wolverine gutting Crossbones (among other things).
Publishing | Four months in, the DC Comics relaunch seems to be a success. The most recent sales figures show Justice League #1 selling more than 360,000 copies since August, and Batman #1 and Action Comics #1 selling more than 250,000. By contrast, Marvel’s strongest seller was Ultimate Spider-Man #160, which was in the 160,000-copy neighborhood. These figures seem to reflect sales in the direct market only; it would be interesting to see how many digital copies have been sold. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Awards | Nominations are open for this year’s Eagle Awards. [Eagle Awards]
Retailing | San Francisco retailer Brian Hibbs shares the top-selling graphic novels in his store for 2011, by units and by dollars. [Savage Critics]
Retailing | Christopher Butcher looks back on the events of the past year in the comics store he manages, Toronto’s The Beguiling. [The Beguiling blog]
Saturday at the New York Comic Con brought news for the Avengers, Superman, Legendary Comics and … Disney’s Prep & Landing? Here’s a round-up of announcements from the show today.
• With a big, blockbuster Avengers movie scheduled for next May, Marvel announced a new ongoing series, Avengers Assemble, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley. The book will launch next March and will feature most of the Avengers featured in the movie — Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk. The first arc will feature the villainous group the Zodiac.
• Marvel also announced that writer Rick Remender and artist Gabriel Hardman will take over Secret Avengers with issue #21.1, adding new members and pitting them against a new Masters of Evil.
• At the Cup O’ Joe panel today, Marvel also announced a Disney/Marvel crossover — Prep & Landing: Mansion: Impossible. It features the elves from the Disney television special who prepare homes for the arrival of Santa Claus every Christmas eve — only this time they’re trying to break into Avengers Mansion to get it ready for Santa. Written by director Kevin Deters and drawn by story artist Joe Mateo, the story will run in the back of the Marvel Adventures books as well as Avengers #19 in November.
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.
It is, thankfully, the last week of September which means that, if I had $15, I only have one more week of new launches from DC to pick out potential favorites, Sophie’s Choice-style. This week: Aquaman #1, Flash #1, Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Men #1, Justice League Dark #1 and Superman #1 make the cut (All DC, all $2.99 each).
If I had the chance to add some more money to take that total to $30, I’d go for some Marvel books: Brian Michael Bendis gets well-represented with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #2 ($3.99); New Avengers #16.1 ($2.99), his “new readers jump on” issue with art by Neal Adams; and Brilliant #1 ($3.99), his new creator-owned book with Mark Bagley. Here’s hoping I’m in a suitably Bendis-y mood when I read all of these ones.
Splurgewise, it has to be Habibi (Pantheon, $35), Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel. I know a few people who’ve had a chance to read it already, and everyone has made it sound like a large leap ahead from Blankets, and something almost worth the many-year wait it’s been since his breakthrough last book. I’m really looking forward to this one.
The cover of the August Previews catalog gives us an indication of how Marvel will follow up Fear Itself, and what we should expect to emerge from the publisher’s Sunday panel at Comic-Con International.
October will see the debut of The Fearless, “an event that shows readers what’s in store for their favorite characters in the wake of the Fear Itself event. Anyone that enjoyed Fear Itself should be interested in finding out how Captain America, the Avengers, and other characters from all across the Marvel Universe deal with the aftermath.”
Although further details haven’t been publicly released by Marvel or Diamond Comic Distributors, Newsarama reports that the twice-monthly series will be written by Matt Fracion, Cullen Bunn and Chris Yost, and illustrated by Mark Bagley and Paul Pelletier. The website also confirms the October launch of Incredible Hulk, by Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri.
Stay tuned to Comic Book Resources for more information as details surface from Comic-Con.
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. We’re coming a little late today due to a power outage in my neck of the woods — due to a blackout, not because I spent the money for the electric bill on Flashpoint or Fear Itself tie-ins.
If I had $15, I’d make a mad grab for American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #2 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99); I love what Snyder and Murphy are doing here, and anyone who knows me knows how big a fan I am of Murphy’s work. Next up would be the debut of Jonathan Hickman’s Redwing #1 (Image, $3.50); after seeing Hickman blossom at Marvel, it’s great to see him re-invest in creator-owned comics. Third would be Jason Aaron and Carlos Pacheco’s X-Men Schism #1 (Marvel, $4.99); I have a sense Aaron’s the kind of writer to bring his “A” game when it comes to special stories (he did it recently in Scalped #50), so I’m interested to see what he does here. Last up would be Northlanders #42 (DC, $2.99).
Over on his Facebook page, writer Brian Michael Bendis shares the cover to issue #2 of Brilliant, the new series he co-created with artist Mark Bagley for Marvel’s Icon line.
The comic, about a group of students who “invent” super powers, kicks off in July.
Marvel’s solicitations for July revealed a new/old project yesterday — Defenders: From the Marvel Vault #1 by Fabian Nicieza, Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley. Fans might remember that Busiek once worked with Erik Larsen on a Defenders title circa 2001. Busiek explains on his blog that the book’s editor, Tom Brevoort, had commissioned Nicieza and Bagley to do a fill-in issue just in case the regular team fell behind, and after Bagley drew it based on Nicieza’s plot, it went into a drawer, unscripted, and wasn’t used.
And when Marvel decided recently they wanted to publish it, Nicieza was unavailable to do it because he’s exclusive to DC. So they recruited Busiek, who wrote the script based on the art without a copy of Nicieza’s original plot (which Nicieza lost in a hard drive crash years ago):
The second C2E2 convention, hosted by ReedPOP in Chicago, wrapped up yesterday. Here’s an attempt to round up all the comic-related news that was announced at various panels during the show. I’d be surprised if I didn’t miss something.
While Marvel and DC Comics were both in attendance and held multiple panels, Marvel dominated in terms of the number of announcements, which is no surprise — DC tends to favor announcing new projects and creative teams on their Source blog rather than at conventions these days. I only point this out after seeing the long list of Marvel announcements and the far fewer DC ones in my summary below.
• Marvel confirmed earlier reports by officially announcing the creative teams for the two “Big Shots” titles they’ve been teasing, Daredevil and The Punisher. Irredeemable/Amazing Spider-Man writer Mark Waid will pen Daredevil, with Amazing Spider-Man artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin illustrating.
“Tonally, it’s still very much a crime series, but we’re toning down the noir a bit and playing up the high adventure a bit more,” Waid told Comic Book Resources. “He’s the Man Without Fear. I want to see that constantly. I want to see him diving face-first into perils that would make Green Lantern shriek like a little girl.”
–Artist Pete Woods, offering a helpful suggestion on how to get the upcoming Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Broadway musical back on track, now that artist Mark Bagley is once again working on Spider-Man.
DC Comics announced on their Source blog today that James Robinson and Mark Bagley will take over the flagship Justice League title in October.
Robinson, of course, is no stranger to the franchise, having written the upcoming Cry for Justice mini-series that features a spin-off team led by Hal Jordan and Green Arrow. And Bagley just wrapped up a 52-issue stint on Trinity, which featured, well, just about everybody in the DC universe.
“It’s a thrill to be given the reins of DC’s flagship team book and to know that my partner in crime(fighting) will be the esteemed Mark Bagley who’s dynamic storytelling skills I intend to make full use of,” Robinson said. “It’s further exciting/gratifying for me that I can dove-tail the events of Cry For Justice into the main book where post-Blackest Night will emerge a new team and a new exciting direction as they get caught up in the next wave of events building throughout the DCU.”
Robinson replaces regular writer Dwayne McDuffie, whose last issue was #33. As we noted at the end of May, McDuffie was fired from the series. A story by Len Wein is currently running in the title.
Although I wrote quite a lot over the past year about DC’s weekly series Trinity, I kept coming up with questions that went outside the scope of my weekly notes. Fortunately, writer Kurt Busiek was nice enough to participate in the following e-mail interview, conducted after Trinity concluded (and after he returned from a well- deserved vacation).
We discussed the nuts and bolts of producing Trinity, its connections to a couple of Busiek’s other DC projects, a few nitpicky items, and what the year-long series leaves behind.
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