INTERVIEW: "Fantastic Four" EP On Character-Driven Approach, Sequel Plans
Comic Books, Film
That’s some stunt.
For quite a while now, publisher Archie Comics has been engaged in an ongoing campaign of stunt comics, all seemingly calculated to secure the most mainstream media coverage. They introduced characters that made the notoriously conservative comics more representatively diverse. They had a same-sex marriage. They married Archie to Betty…and they married Archie to Veronica (In alternate future timelines, of course). They killed Archie. They had the gang from Riverdale meet Kiss, President Barack Obama and then-Governor Sarah Palin, and even a Predator. They even launched an honest-to-God, mature-readers horror comic in which Archie and friends battle to survive a zombie apocalypse.
But relaunching Archie with a new #1, a new creative team and a new direction has got to be their best stunt yet. Certainly, the move boasts some of the same calculation that went into those mentioned above (many of which did produce some good comics, no matter how cynically you want to view the decisions behind them). Hiring Mark Waid, one of the more popular and maybe the most reliable of superhero writers, and Fiona Staples, an immensely talented artist who achieved superstardom via creator-owned Image series Saga, is every bit as attention-getting as setting the issue counter back down to #1, or having an ungodly 21 (Twenty-one!) covers, or divorcing the book from its long-time house style.
It works though, and it works for the most simple of reasons: The new Archie #1 isn’t just new and it isn’t just different, it’s also very good.
Creators | Fast Company named writer Kelly Sue DeConnick as one of its 100 “Most Creative People in Business 2015,” a list that includes innovators in technology, scientific research, entertainment, medicine and social media. The writer of such comics as Bitch Planet and Pretty Deadly, DeConnick is cited specifically for “reanimating a superhero,” Captain Marvel. [Fast Company]
Awards | Bad Blood, the Dark Horse miniseries written by Jonathan Maberry and illustrated by Tyler Crook, won the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a graphic novel, presented over the weekend by the Horror Writers Association. [Horror Writers Association]
Libraries | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has responded to the recent removal of a copy of Gilbert Herandez’s Palomar from a high school library in New Mexico following complaints from a parent, who called the acclaimed graphic novel “pornographic.” Taking a local television station to task for its “biased reporting,” the organization notes the removal of the book by Rio Rancho Public Schools officials appears to violate the district’s own challenge policy. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund]
Manga | Here’s an interesting insight into the Japanese publishing industry: Deb Aoki, in Tokyo as a judge for the Manga Translation Battle, collects a series of her tweets and the responses of others (including a number of pros) to the symposium that followed the awards reception. The juxtaposition of two charts is startling: Manga sales are sharply down in Japan but rising in the United States, although of course the orders of magnitude are different. In keeping with the theme, she also discusses what makes a “good” translation, with actual manga translators weighing in with their opinions. [Storify]
It was Mark Waid Week last week at Marvel, and the veteran writer penned two more winning installments of S.H.I.E.L.D. (issue #3) and Daredevil (issue #13).
For the latter, Waid and artist Chris Samnee (with colorist Matthew Wilson) poked fun at the old “loved one in danger” trope, as Daredevil fought to save Kirsten from an unknown opponent. Not only did this happen with the express acknowledgment that Daredevil’s relationships tend to have unhappy ends, it explored just who might want to abduct her, and put a couple of subplot-servicing twists on top just for good measure. Waid and Samnee have been so reliably good for so long on this title that they may risk being taken for granted, but this issue was a real treat. Done in one but with a final-page hint of future danger, Waid’s script was propulsive enough to keep the reader both involved and guessing throughout.
Winter finally caught up with the Memphis suburbs over the past couple of weeks, bringing nasty bouts with freezing rain and (currently) a little snow. Digging out from under the ice has been more tedious than anything else, but the persistent cold kept us all housebound for a little while. Of course, compared to folks in other parts of the country, we are very lucky.
Still, the mere idea of days at home with nothing else to do made me want to search the DC archives on comiXology for decent binge-reading material. Everything from the New 52 forward is available there, so the following recommendations are for older series. I’ve tried to stay away from the bigger names, and go instead for stories and series which might make the time indoors a little more tolerable. They’re also organized according to Convergence eras, so even if you’re not coping with the cold, you can still look forward to April and May.
Legal | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was arrested last night on sedition charges stemming from a tweet criticizing the court that upheld the sodomy conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. On Tuesday, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar posted a screencap of the offending tweet, which said, “Followers (Barua-barua) in black robes were proud in delivering judgement. Reward by Mr Politician must be lavish,” reflecting the popular opinion that the conviction was a political ploy by the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak to silence Anwar. Zunar then tweeted a cartoon of Najib as the judge handing down the verdict. Although his lawyer said Zunar offered to come in to answer questions, he was brought to the Dang Wangi police station, where he can be detained until Saturday — or longer, if police renew the remand order. [The Rakyat Post]
Retailing | Susana Polo interviews several members of the Valkyries, the organization of women who work in comic shops, and examines the “Valkyrie Bump,” the sales boost that some comics, such as Sex Criminals, Lumberjanes and Batgirl, get when they benefit from their extra support. [Publishers Weekly]
Political cartoons | Reporter James Hookway interviews the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who’s facing sedition charges, and provides some background on Malaysian politics and trial of Anwar Ibrahim, which is the topic of some of Zunar’s controversial cartoons. [The Wall Street Journal]
“I’ve been such a jerk. (Your pull quote.) I used to look down my nose at stores that would order only Marvel and DC Comics and only enough to sate their Wednesday customer base, and now I get it. At Aw Yeah Comics, we’re far more diverse than that, but even still, there’s only so much money we can spend because there’s only so much money our customer base — not just our regulars, but even our potential customer base — has.”
— writer Mark Waid, on what being a retailer has taught him about comics, in an interview with Comic Book Resources announcing that he and partner Christy Branch are reincorporating their Indiana store Alter Ego Comics as Aw Yeah Comics Muncie
Publishing | Portland, Oregon, will be the home base for Heavy Metal’s new line of comics, which was announced in October, following the company’s sale to David Boxenbaum and Jeff Krelitz. “I think it’s being closer to the talent,” Krelitz said. “If you wanted to be a painter in the early 20th century, you went to Paris. The comics line launches in March with the second season of Michael Moreci and Steve Seely’s Hoax Hunters. The company plans to be publishing eight original series by the end of this year and another 12 next year, building up to 50 in five years. “We’re positioning to be a premier publisher,” Krelitz said. [The Oregonian]
Passings | Editorial cartoonist R.K. Laxman, who maintained a running commentary on Indian politics for almost 60 years, has died at age 93. The younger brother of novelist R. K. Narayan, Laxman got his start illustrating his brother’s work as well as doing drawings for local newspapers. He became an editorial cartoonist for the Times of India around 1947, about the time India became an independent country, and stayed there until 2010. Laxman’s most famous creation was the Common Man, a character that stood in for the average Indian. As the official obituary in the Times of India said, “His Common Man, created in 1957, was the symbol of India’s ordinary people, their trials and tribulations, their little joys and sorrows, and the mess they found themselves in thanks to the political class and bureaucracy. But despite the sobering reality of this, there was never any rancour in Laxman’s cartoons. His humour was always delightful, and no one could hold a candle to his brushstrokes.” [Times of India]
IDW Publishing will release print collections of titles from Thrillbent, the digital comics site founded by Mark Waid and John Rogers, beginning in the spring with Empire Volume Two and Insufferable. Under the partnership, IDW will also publish a new edition of the sold-out Empire Volume One.
Founded in 2012, Thrillbent is “an experiment in new-media publishing” whose lineup also includes The House in the Wall, Moth City, Everstar and Valentine.
The sequel to the series created in 2000 by Waid and Barry Kitson, Empire Volume Two continues the saga of Golgoth, the evil armored despot who defeated all of Earth’s heroes and conquered the planet. Insufferable, which Waid created with Peter Krause, explores what happens when a hero’s sidekick grows up and goes to war against his mentor, and what it would take to bring them back together for one final adventure.
Here we go again.
According to a distributor listing for June 2015 (are we really looking that far ahead now?), James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s current run on Marvel’s Fantastic Four will be released in a collection called Fantastic Four Vol. 4: The End is Fourever that includes a “Triple Sized Final Issue 645″. Sighted today at New York Comic Con during a retailer presentation was a big logo for the James Bond-esque title, but there was little other information. Maybe we’ll get an announcement while you’re reading this article, so follow CBR’s comprehensive coverage of NYCC (cheap plug)!
There have been rumors about Marvel ending the Fantastic Four (and possibly the X-Men) to spite Fox, which owns the film rights to both properties effectively in perpetuity, but that seems petty. Who opens a comic and asks, “I wonder what this licensing property will do this week?” We read comics for the stories, characters and creators; corporate politics is probably the last thing fans want to think about while (hopefully) enjoying the latest issue. And people are still opening up new issues of Fantastic Four, as the book’s sales are pretty steadily in the 28,000 range these past two months. Not Batman numbers, but still …
Legal | The Japanese publisher Square Enix has filed a counterclaim against SNK Playmore, asking Osaka District Court to rule that its manga Hi Score Girl doesn’t infringe on copyrights held by the video game company. Earlier this year, SNK brought criminal copyright violation charges against Square Enix after learning Hi Score Girl contains more than 100 unauthorized images of characters from SNK Playmore games. The manga has been put on hold because of the dispute. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Who’s buying, and how much are they spending, at conventions? Rob Salkowitz mines the numbers from a recent Eventbrite poll of convention-goers to get some answers: Most people spend between $100 and $500 per person; cosplayers actually spend a bit more than average; and women shell out more money at conventions, while men spend more online. [ICv2]
Manga | Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, the bestselling manga in Japan, is getting a spinoff: Starting with the January issue, which ships in December, the manga magazine Saikyo Jump will carry a series focusing on Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates. There doesn’t seem to be any information yet on who the creators will be. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | In a business-oriented interview, Mark Waid talks about the strategy behind his digital comics site Thrillbent, especially its appeal to diverse groups of readers. The key is flexibility, Waid said, in terms of platforms and content. His goal is to make the comics readable on any digital device, which he says is not difficult once the site is set up. In terms of content, he says, “Pay attention to the audience, let them tell you who you’re clearly not serving, and go after them.” [The Wall Street Journal]
Legal | A 54-year-old man was sentenced this week in a Quebec court to 60 days in jail for watching pornographic anime featuring characters that appeared to be minors, a violation of Canadian law. A former private security guard, Regis Tremblay admitted he watched the cartoons several times in January 2012 out of “curiosity” while working at Canadian Force Base Valcartier, north of Quebec City. Investigators say they discovered 210 “hentai” files from a hard drive, and 501 “incriminating” web addresses from Tremblay’s browser history. Following his jail sentence, Tremblay will have to register as a sex offender. [Canoe]
Conventions | Richard Bruton notes that the Dublin International Comic Expo (DICE) has taken the unusual step of posting a link to its harassment policy at the top of its home page. “Having a quick look around it’s the only comic event/festival/expo/con site to feature it so prominently,” he writes. “Some make mention of their policies in FAQ or About sections, but as far as I know DICE is the first to do so this way.” He does take issue with one vaguely worded item in the policy, though: “In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material.” [Forbidden Planet]
As a child of the ’80s, I’m well aware of the PSA comic. There was a lot of media at the time intended to teach kids about the dangers of everything from drugs to molestation to crossing the street. It was difficult to avoid that “very special episode” of your favorite television series, or that equally special Spider-Man comic in which the wall-crawler confronts drug abuse in Canada.
They were often heavy handed, with strong narration reminding you to tell an adult, or scary scenes depicting the the horrible death of a minor or previously unknown character. Pop culture tried to use its powers for good, and often these PSAs were skipped over, at best, or mocked tremendously in our older years.
But then there are those times when a comic can actually teach you something, or provide a little solace in its handling of a tough issue. I’ve talked here about the X-Men comic I received in a burn ward to help kids cope with the trauma, and there’s also a line of called Medikidz to explain other medical issues like cancer, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. These are pretty weighty topics, but a comic can make the information easier to digest. For the “PSA” comic, it seems like the more specific the information given is, the better the story comes out, and the more helpful it can be to a younger reader.
Does the same hold true for older readers? Recently, Daredevil #7, by Mark Waid and Javier Rodriguez, dealt with a mature topic that wouldn’t really fly with a younger audience. Did it hit its marks, or was this just another “very special episode” with Matt Murdock? Read on and find out.
WARNING: Spoilers for Daredevil #7, so please do yourself a favor and grab a copy and read along!