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Marvel’s secret weapon: color

Justin Ponsor's work with textures

So claims former Marvel Talent Coordinator Bon Alimagno in his latest portfolio review at iFanboy. And I believe him.

Alimagno was at Marvel from 2009 to 2011, and during that time he helped to establish a system of colorists pinch hitting on deadline crunches. But perhaps more significantly, he helped foster a house style based not on a specific penciler’s style but on a color palette he nicknamed “the perfect sunset” palette.

“From my time at Marvel, the editors valued colorists with warmer palettes rooted in playing off reds and oranges and lighter yellows and blues. Led by Richard Isanove, Laura Martin and Justin Ponsor, this style set the tone for the entire line and gave Marvel’s comics a much more inviting look and feel than most of the DC Comics line.”

This kind of consistent color tone could also help other books stand out when they broke the pattern. As he explains, Dean White’s work on Uncanny X-Force, which went against this palette by using whites, helped turn a lot of heads to Jerome Opeña’s art. The next time you’re at the comic shop, take a look at Marvel’s new releases and see if you can identify what palette is being used.

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The Fifth Color | AvX Halftime: the future versus our place within it

This wasn’t the halfway point I was expecting. When it comes to summer events, it’s kind of an unstated rule that there’s going to be a bigger focus on spectacle rather than content. When a giant cosmic force of life and death barrels toward your planet, you expect all the heroes to get some new costumes, maybe pick up a couple of new skill sets and give it all they’ve got to battle the Big Bad of Summer 2012. Not a philosophical comment on the nature of man and their relationship and understanding of the future.

Of course, that’s awesome, but unexpected.

It’s like getting a box of Fruit Loops, and about halfway through the box you find the answer to life, the universe and everything (to borrow a phrase). Sure, it’s not the most reliable answer, as it came out of a box of Fruit Loops, but how astounding is it that it’s even here? Does it give the answer more or less weight considering where you found it?

Let’s talk a little thematic philosophy and also kicking and punching in this week’s Avengers vs. X-Men Round 6, shall we?

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The Fifth Color | Forward into the past with Marvel in September

Space Punisher #3


Hey, did anyone else notice that $3.99 books are coming with a free online copy? This announcement must have missed my eagle eye because this week it sort of came to me as a happy surprise. I know I’ve only recently learned to love the digital comic, and it’s actually been super-helpful when I miss an issue or want to share my comics with people in another state. Having Avengers vs. X-Men be so interactive really warmed me up to letting comics online and in person coexist comfortably. If you haven’t bothered with it yet, try it out and create your own little library online for free.

Also, as I turn my gaze toward the end of summer and the new cycle of comics due to hit the shelves in September, I wonder why some titles have two solicitation entries or just one with the numbers listed together? Won’t each comic have enough information to be sold as a separate entity, or are we getting to the point in modern comics storytelling that 32 pages can’t contain the decompression? Why are some books twice a month and others just one? Join me, won’t you, as we take a look at what Marvel will be sending our way this September and try and make heads or tails of the future.

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Quote of the day | Zak Sally on what Marvel owes Jack Kirby

Kirby's original art for Avengers #16

“I think Marvel Comics should pay for the Jack Kirby Museum. They should fund the thing in its entirety, right now – and not a temporary, pop-up (which would still be awesome), but a permanent, brick and mortar space. what is that – 10, 20 million bucks to do it right? that’s a drop in the bucket. and all profit from the museum in perpetuity could go to the Kirby estate.”

Sammy the Mouse creator Zak Sally, offering an intriguing suggestion on what Marvel could do to pay its considerable debt to Jack Kirby. Sally goes on to say: “I actually believe that, framed in a less rant-fueled, angry setting, a campaign to get Marvel (and Kirby did no small amount of work/ creation for DC, either) to pony up for the museum is a pretty damn good idea, and I would urge saner, more reasonable minds who agree with this idea to put it forth in whatever way they deem fit.” I actually think this is a pretty good idea, too. Donating a considerable sum or outright paying  for the museum would go a long way towards generating considerable goodwill and acknowledge Kirby’s considerable contribution to the company without having to outright pay the family or (I suspect) suggest any possibility of Kirby’s estate having a legitimate claim to the characters’ copyright.

Grumpy Old Fan | Who won the ‘80s?

Where the over-people gather to watch big-screen botanical throwdowns

A couple of weeks ago, I wondered whether we could trace the entire sidekick-derived wing of DC’s superhero-comics history back to Bill Finger. Today I’m less interested in revisiting that question — although I will say Robin the Boy Wonder also owes a good bit to Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane — than using it as an example.

Specifically, this week’s question has nagged me for several years (going back to my TrekBBS days, even), and it is this: as between Alan Moore and the duo of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, who has been a bigger influence on DC’s superhero books?

As the post title suggests, we might reframe this as “who won the ‘80s,” since all three men came to prominence at DC in that decade. Wolfman and Pérez’s New Teen Titans kicked off with a 16-page story in DC Comics Presents #26 (cover-dated October 1980), with the series’ first issue following the next month. Moore’s run on (Saga of the) Swamp Thing started with January 1984’s issue #20, although the real meat of his work started with the seminal issue #21. Wolfman and Pérez’s Titans collaboration lasted a little over four years, through February 1985’s Tales of the Teen Titans #50 and New Teen Titans vol. 2 #5. Moore wrote Swamp Thing through September 1987’s #64, and along the way found time in 1986-87 for a little-remembered twelve-issue series called Watchmen. After their final Titans issues, Wolfman and Pérez also produced a 12-issue niche-appeal series of their own, 1984-85’s Crisis On Infinite Earths.* The trio even had some common denominators: Len Wein edited both Titans and Watchmen (and Barbara Randall eventually succeeded him on both), and Gar Logan’s adopted dad Steve Dayton was friends with John Constantine.

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The Fifth Color | Comic books can never die

What if this... was it?

I had a dream last night that comic books were dead. It wasn’t a bullet or a ray gun that killed them; it was just economics and a general shift of popular culture. The bottom dropped out of the New 52 and DC couldn’t regain lost readers. Marvel moved out to Los Angeles, and their publishing arm waned after relentless budget cuts and eventually dwindled down to nothing. Robert Kirkman had a huge lawsuit over rights and appropriations, and he left to go work on movies and television, taking a lot of young hopefuls with him. Popular titles got sold off like police auctions, and creators left comics for the greener and more lucrative pastures of other media. Less comics came out every week, leaving comic shops to stock up on action figures or Magic cards, eventually phasing out their back issue stock and relegating comics to a small corner of the store. Eventually, comics just disappeared entirely.

After the massive, colossal hit that is Marvel’s The Avengers, there’s a lot of buzz in the air about what comes next. What will be the next property to hit the big screen? Will it tie into the new movie continuity? Will Joss direct the next Avengers installment? Even on my way into the theater for the midnight showing of the Avengers movie, I had friends trying to tell me what the next “obvious” sequel was going to be. With as much success as Marvel Studios has seen this year and others, the doors are wide open for all sorts of properties to find fresh new life in a whole new medium. But none of this brave new frontier of pop culture seems to really involve the actual comics medium. So let’s talk about it.

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Cullen Bunn on the end and aftermath of The Fearless

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).

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The Fifth Color | The three Furys

Sir Not Appearing in this Theory

What follows is a theory about one of Marvel’s most resilient characters, Nick Fury, and all the forms he takes. From a sergeant with the Howling Commandos to an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Samuel L. Jackson and beyond, the character of Nick Fury endures. But why? Let’s talk about Battle Scars #6 and look at all the Furys (Furi?) we have on the table.

WARNING: Yep, talking about Battle Scars again, so if you’ve picked up issue #6 or are just a fan of internet spoilers, read along!

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The Fifth Color | Forward into the Past with Marvel in July ’12

Wolverine & the X-Men #14

Oh Spoiler Image! You shouldn't have!

Looking at the solicitations isn’t what it used to be, folks. We work with such a strange system already, trying to see into the future of three months from now and what we’ll like then, and the recent shift from paragraphs to bullet points just brings home the futility of it all. Who are the solicitations for? The readers, looking to get an idea of what’s to come with their favorite characters and titles so they can plan accordingly? Are they for the retailers, who have to pore over these lists and cover images, and figure out what people are going to want casually versus regularly? And what if, say, a month from now, a writer or artist has a better chance to tell you more about their book and reveal something the solicits couldn’t tell you? What if a book you see now just doesn’t make it to the print and we’re left with an echo of what could have been? This information can change with a story edit or a creative team switch-up. How do we handle this information anymore?

Well, hopefully I can take a look at what July means for Marvel and for you, the consumer. Gird your loins, Gentle Reader, and let’s look at what the House of Ideas wants you to know about Comic-Con Month, also known as ‘July’.

WARNING: Since Avengers vs. X-Men #2 came out this week, I might drop a few spoilers for that when talking about what that book might become later on. Also, I make an educated guess about a [REDACTED] name, so that means I also read Wolverine & the X-Men #9. Grab your copies and read along!
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Marvel to publish limbo’ed Muppets story in July

Last year BOOM! Studios’ licenses for the various Disney properties expired, and one of the casualties of that was a four-issue Muppets arc by Roger Langridge that had not been printed yet. “As far as I understand it, the unpublished work I’ve done for Boom isn’t technically Disney’s until it’s published, and obviously Boom can’t publish it without a license,” Langridge said at the time. “So it’s in a kind of limbo right now. In the best of all possible worlds, I’d like to think that Boom and Marvel can come to some kind of arrangement whereby Marvel can eventually release the work.”

Apparently some sort of arrangement has been reached, as Marvel has solicited the first issue of a four-issue Muppets miniseries for July, featuring that “lost” story by Langridge. Here’s the solicitation:

MUPPETS #1 (of 4)
The four-part Muppet Show story “The Four Seasons” – for the first time in print!
Cover by TBD
• Kermit and the gang put on a show to celebrate spring’s arrival at the Muppet Theatre!
• A special guest — Meredith the Mountain Gorilla — arrives to perform on the Muppet Show, and her many admirers compete for her affections.
32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99

The miniseries follows Marvel’s reprintings of other Muppets material produced by Langridge while BOOM! had the license. Langridge said he wasn’t aware that Marvel was publishing the comic until he read it on the internet, but he did know it would be published in Italy.

“I’ve been working with Disney Italy on a few things they wanted tweaked (they needed Gonzo’s nose redrawing), so presumably that’s where Marvel are getting it from,” he said on his blog, adding, “If anyone from the appropriate department of Marvel is reading this, I can send you my scripts if you want, rather than translating from Italian back into English. (I remember reading British Disney comics as a kid where Carl Barks’ dialogue had been totally rewritten and it made my teeth hurt.)”

The Fifth Color | AvX round one rundown

round one... FIGHT!

If you watch boxing or, say, UFC, first round knockouts can be incredibly disappointing.  Depending on the build-up and the hype put on for the match, it can seem like a waste of talent.  Worse, it can seem like a waste of your time and money that you spent ordering the darn pay-per-view or getting tickets ringside.  Maybe you watched months of lead up, interviews, training docs, compilations of past fights and then, with one right hook, Junior Dos Santos is champ and FOX has some air time to fill.  You can know your combatant so well that seeing anything less than three full rounds just won’t showcase their talents enough for a satisfying contest.

Well, with Avengers vs X-Men #1, you don’t have anything to worry about as far as first round TKOs go.  With around 31 pages to fill, it feels like each team barely gets into the ring.

WARNING: Below, we will shorten some titles and talk about AvX #1, AvX #0 and about combat sports in general, the latter not too well.  It’s a metaphor bonanza so grab your copies and read along!

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The Fifth Color | My public apology to digital comics

Marvel Infinite Comics

Everyone thank @richginter for the snazzy logo!

Dear Digital Comics,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I considered you gimmicky and fake. I’m sorry I thought that you were unwieldy on my computer screen and that your pictures were badly scanned. I’m sorry I spurned your free codes, and I looked down my nose at your formatting and strange reading interactions. Most of all, I’m sorry that, deep down in a small corner of my heart, I thought you were going to take away my job. I’ve been working at my local comic shop for more than 10 years, so that’s a long time to get set in your ways and feel that any new idea might threaten your way of life.

For a long time, I’ve really felt there was an either-or issue between print comics and digital comics. I tend to be a very partisan kind of person (Go Marvel!), so it’s not a surprise that I weighed the merits of both, made my choice and then dug in my heels. Digital comics, I felt, required so much of me technologically (a computer, a good monitor, access to the internet in some cases, etc.) that I didn’t think about all the requirements that print comics ask of readers as well (a healthy income, access to a good comic book shop, some research into what exactly was on the shelves, etc.). The way that comics are read on a screen was just going to be inherently different than the way they’re read in print and that, in a direct transfer, we were just going to lose something in the translation. Besides, there have been years and years to make the returns on print comics better than a digital file; personally, I grew up tracing the heroes in my comics to learn how to draw. You can trade them, give them away, share them with friends and some days, just put them all in a big pile and roll around like a chinchilla (not recommended). I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the big advantage that print comics have over digital: selling them. It would seem in the great debate that paper just covers digital comics for the win.

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Charge it: Visa hires Marvel to make comic about ‘financial safety’

Comics fans have long been familiar with promotional comics, with everything from last year’s General Mills comics to the exultant Meatloaf comic in 1980s Marvel titles. And coming across the Robot 6 news desk is word of a new title aimed at kids and sponsored by the credit card company Visa.

Titled Avengers: Saving The Day,the one-shot title is intended “help introduce children to basic money concepts” according to the press release, which is a valid point considering how expensive it must be to be a super hero.

“In today’s increasingly complex financial world, we must find creative ways to help parents and educators teach children the fundamentals of money management,” Visa’s Jason Alderman is quoted in the press release. “A comic book with Spider-Man and the Avengers is the perfect device for making the sometimes dull subject of financial literacy entertaining and educational.”

The 16-page book is written by Generation Hope‘s James Asmus and illustrated by Andrew Di Vito, depicting the aforementioned Avengers team going after Mole Man during a botched heist attempt. According to that press release, the comic will be supplemented by a “teacher’s guide which introduces concepts such as budgeting, saving and banking.”

Personally, I’d love to see more about the financial habits and credit card bills someone like Spider-Man might rack up — first off, where would he carry a Visa card in that skintight suit of his?

The Fifth Color | Marvel in May 2012: Comics and a movie

Captain America and Hawkeye #631 - cover by Patrick Zirchler

Dino-Cap is the breakout star of 2012!

Ah, the movie month of May! That lovely little month where everyone goes to the theaters to see the summer blockbuster season kick off! And here we are folks, just three months away from the Avengers, a movie even five years ago I thought couldn’t be made. Can you believe that Marvel Comics, a nigh-bankrupt company at the end of the 1990s, branched out into their own movie studio and not only made millions off of lesser-known characters such as Iron Man and Thor, but gathered them all together into one big film that’s one of the most anticipated movies of the summer? Really! Think about it for a moment and raise a glass to the folks at the House of Ideas because man. You’ve come along way, baby.

Anyhoo, back to the comics.

Looking over the Marvel solicitations for May 2012, they might seem kind of sparse, but do not let first glances deceive you. Sure, there’s not a lot of all-new books, AvX rolls along from its big debut last month and things seem kind of quiet on the western front, so to speak. But there is a lot of weird, fun and thoughtful issues headed out this merry month of May, and some stuff might even pass you by.

So what are we going to pick up as we beat a path to our local comic shop, whipped into a comic book-buying frenzy by the pageantry and action presented on the silver screen? Let’s take a look!

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The Fifth Color | Justice is like lightning

Thunderbolts #170It was right about the time that Merlin stepped up to speak in the most recent issue of Thunderbolts that I had to check the cover and make sure I had picked up the right book. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Thunderbolts and have really seen them bloom into something rather special in the Marvel Universe, but there was this strange feeling in the back of my mind this issue. Something about how all the Thunderbolts had new Ren Faire costumes to fit into the Camelot scheme that were similar to their usual togs. Something about the casual guest star factor with the court of King Arthur (especially the Black Knight, I miss that guy!). Something about how all the characters worked together or didn’t, depending on the situation and the greater needs at hand.

But really, while listening to Merlin I suddenly realized that I had seen a story like this before. Not the exact same story, but going to Camelot, overcoming adversity, the comparisons between the heroes and the knights of old, even the stylish dress up factor made me want to go find old issues of “The Morgan Conquest,” the post-Heroes Reborn issues of the Avengers from Kurt Busiek and George Perez. It’s not too surprising that the T-Bolts would remind me of a by-gone era of Avengers lore. In fact, taking a closer look, there’s a lot to be said for this rag-tag team of super villains being taught redemption and their exploits in battling evil.

Could it possibly be that the oldest trick in the Thunderbolts book was becoming a reality?

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