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The Grumpy Color | Tom and Carla wreck 2012, Part 2

He won't admit it, but "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" always makes Galactus cry

At the end of every year, ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman get together over the e-mail tubes and talk Big Two comics.  Part 1 is here.

Tom: Something I’ve been curious about, off and on — what did Metro‘s customers think of the Man of Steel trailer? What do you think the average superhero fan wants out of a Superman book?

Carla: It’s mixed. It really is, some love it, some are grumbly and already ready to complain. I think what the average superhero fan and what the general fan wants are entirely different. Superman’s a difficult character to get right because of his status as a cultural icon and how much that character can mean to different generations. Some people just know Smallville and, at least from the trailer, it doesn’t even seem to be that. [Producer Christopher] Nolan’s influence looks pretty strong and, as much as formula might work in the Avengers movie mythos, the same style and tone for Batman really doesn’t jibe with the Man of Steel. Well, for me. Others might totally want a deep, emotional connection to an outsider and an outcast. Mind you, I’d tell them there are some great X-Men comics out there, but eh, what do I know? It’s a trailer, and very hard to judge on what the movie is going to be like when we see the full thing this summer.

What do you think the Man of Steel trailer is all about? What kind of Superman do we need in the new millennium?

Tom: To me, the basic Superman approach is that Superman always does the right thing. It’s not about the powers. The powers just underscore that he can do whatever it takes. So it’s easy for Superman to punch something, or fly into the sun. The question should be, how can he do what’s right? I think that applies regardless of millennium.
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The Grumpy Color | Carla and Tom wreck 2012, Part 1

The holidays always brings folks together

At the end of every year Carla Hoffman and Tom Bondurant exchange emails about the fortunes of the Big Two. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday!

Carla: Here we are, heading toward the year the Mayan calendar might not have thought would ever come: 2013. The future gets closer and closer! Technology advances! Politics change! And yet, comic books are still here. How cool is that? It’s been a heck of a year, full of ups and downs, movie premieres, new #1 issues and the never-ending race to produce better, faster comics.

I have to admit, Image has been doing a really great job keeping up with the Big Two, producing award-winning books in a variety of formats and getting involved in TV to draw new readers into a wide array of comic book genres. But we’re not here to talk about them! We’re here for the greatest shows in town, the Merry Marvel Marching Society and … our Distinguished Competitors.

My first question is kind of a no-brainer: How’s the New 52 treating you these days? And, after a year, is it still the “New 52″?

Tom: Well, as a practical matter, it’s the “New 52″ for as long as DC wants it to be. Actually, I think I have stopped seeing that little blurb on the covers. I happened to look at Aquaman #15 yesterday, kind of out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised it was there. Part of me thinks that it could confuse those hypothetical new readers, but then I thought that about “Earth One,” and that doesn’t seem to have hurt those books.
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Balloonless | Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

During the 1960s creation of Marvel Comics, when Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko conceived the core stable of characters and the emerging shared-setting of the Marvel Universe, the line’s writer/editor/spokesman Lee created a fictional Marvel Bullpen.

Based on the crowded, raucous studio environment of the Golden Age, which Kirby actually worked in and Lee essentially interned in, Lee’s Bullpen presented he and his collaborators and employees as a big happy family, joyfully creating comics for their young readers an environment that could seem as fun as working in Santa’s workshop.

At the time of its creation, Lee’s fantasy might have been a pure invention (although later, after Kirby and Ditko left the publisher and Lee was promoted out of his hands-on control of the line, such an environment would occasionally come into existence, depending on the year, the employees and the owner at the time), but it did hint at an aspect of reality.

The characters who were making Marvel comics were in many ways just as colorful and talented as the characters starring in them; the story of Marvel Comics is at least as exciting as any story in Marvel comics. And, in a very real way, Sean Howe’s book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is probably the Marvel story of the year—bigger, more epic and with greater conflict and drama than Fear Itself or Avengers Vs. X-Men or even that billion-dollar feature Marvel Studios released over the summer … the movie’s monstrous success being what gives Howe’s book a sort of validating end-point, a raison d’etre; to both Lee’s decades-long ambition to see Marvel characters on the big screen, and owner after owner’s ambition to become very, very rich off the heroes Kirby and company created.

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Chain Reactions | FF #1

FF #1

The Marvel NOW line-up continues to roll out first issues galore, with this past Wednesday bringing the snappiest-looking relaunch so far–FF #1 by Matt Fraction, Michael Allred, Laura Allred and Clayton Cowles. The sister title to Marvel’s original first family, FF #1 features a hand-picked replacement team that’s needed to fill in for Reed and company for a whole four minutes. What could possibly go wrong?

If you were on the fence about the title, here are a few opinions from around the web to help you decide which way to fall:

Ryan K. Lindsay, Comic Book Resources: “FF #1 looked to be the wildest book of the Marvel NOW! line up: Matt Fraction and Michael Allred on a crazy new science team for the Fantastic Four world. It was one of those books that was either going to be too good to be true or belly flop hard. Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t give much of an indicator either way except to leave worry it’s not off to a dazzling start — not that it feels like it’s started yet.”

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The Fifth Color | Man, machine and philosopher King


a robot for all seasons

Machine Man has had a pretty good career in comics. One of those trendy sort of alternative careers where he’s filled in on guest spots, played with cyberpunk in the ’80s, a bad-ass mission to kill in the late ’90s (along with one of the most important philosophical roles in Earth X), a good dose of cynicism and humor with Nextwave. Heck, he even fought zombies, which is the trendiest of things to do in fiction right now!

Because he’s been sort of a unique cypher for the writer and reader, I think Jack Kirby would be proud of his creation. I say this as if I would know anything about Kirby personally, but in a way, thanks to some amazing moments in the original pages of Machine Man under his pen, I think I just might know something of the King. Machine Man had a lot of questions in his creation, a sort of philosophy on man and humanity. Within the pages of gorgeous, larger-than-life art, Kirby himself invited us to answer the questions he posed in the story.

I’m three days late, but what can you do? You can take a little time with me and look back at the weird and the wonderful idea that started as “The Machine — As the Dude Next Door.”

WARNING:  We’ll be talking about the first volume of Machine Man, written by the King himself!  So find a copy and read along …

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The Fifth Color | Forward into the past: Marvel solicitations for November 2012

My Hero!

The Marvel year sort of ends in November, doesn’t it? Looking back, it seems like this is the month of fallouts from events, the rebirth of familiar titles, a new banner emblazoning our books, the loss of a few under-the radar hits. Everything changes, whether we like it or not, and the cycle begins anew right around the holiday season. I’m jumping back on the “Forward into the Past” arena with one of the more important times of year: August, when we talk about November like it’s January of next year. Confused? Me too. But hopefully if we just keep in mind how this usually goes, we’ll be able to fit right in as the old guard becomes the new guard and we lose Avengers Academy.

We should form a support group, you guys. That book has been my bright and shining star of Avengers hope for so long, I’m not sure what I’m going to do without it.

Hold back those tears! Let us forge ahead and see what these Days of Future’s Future might look like in Marvel’s solicitations for November.

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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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