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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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We’re probably as excited about Young Avengers as we are about any of the titles launching as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative. Not only does the series reunite Phonogram collaborators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, it teams Young Avengers mainstays like Hulking, Wiccan and Kate Bishop with Miss America, Marvel Boy and fan favorite Kid Loki — at least for starters.
“… What I want to do in Young Avengers is build a kind of larger metastructure that you can use to explore any part of the teen-leaning Marvel Universe outside the traditional doctrines of the larger government side heroes,” Gillen told Comic Book Resources in October. “I have a real strong vision for 12 issues. I have no idea if I’ll be staying on after that or going, but I have 12 definitive, brilliant issues, or maybe 13. After that Young Avengers will be set up as a device where you can go to any of the Marvel Universe locales where teen heroes live and work like the West Coast with the Runaways or the Jean Grey School. It’s a very wide ranging book in that way. For me it’s super heroism as a metaphor for talent and deciding what you want to do with it. There’s a line in my original proposal for this that the original Young Avengers book was kind of about being 16. This book is about being 18.”
Although we still have to wait a few weeks for the debut of Young Avengers — Jan. 23, to be exact — Marvel has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at Issue 2, due to arrive Feb. 27:
Sixteen heroes enter, one hero leaves in Avengers Arena, the new Marvel NOW! series by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker and Allesandro Vitti. At least that’s the plan of the diabolical Arcade, who drops such young Marvel characters as X-23, Reptil, Nico, Chase, and Juston and his Sentinel into Murderworld for a twisted kill-or-be-killed reality-show scenario.
Marvel has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of Avengers Arena #4, by Hopeless and Vitti, which the solicitation text teases pits the Runaways against Avengers Academy. The issue goes on sale Feb. 13.
Publishing | Pulp heroes The Spirit, Doc Savage and The Avenger disappeared from the DC Comics lineup more than a year ago, with Co-Publisher Dan DiDio now confirming on his Facebook page that the company’s rights to the characters have lapsed. Brian Azzarello paired the vintage characters with Batman, Black Canary, the Blackhawks and other current DC heroes in his First Wave miniseries, which launched in 2010. Heidi MacDonald adds, “we’ve heard that at WB it was pointed out that DC paying good money to license old characters didn’t make much sense when they had their own catalog of little-used characters to exploit.” [Blog@Newsarama]
Digital comics | As noted here Monday, comiXology was No. 3 on the list of top-grossing iPad apps of 2012, and in the press release announcing this, the comiXology folks dropped another number on us: They have served more than 2 billion pages since their launch three years ago. [comiXology]
In just three months, we will be pretty entrenched into the new NOW! of Marvel. So far, so good, right? Can’t say that they’ve all been hits, but considering the alternative (*cough*reboot*cough*), I’d say we’re doing pretty well.
Will this be an era that’s looked back at as a radical change in publishing and a landmark era of storytelling for Marvel? I get the feeling that a lot of people are hoping so, most of them in marketing. This is a fresh face for the Marvel brand, and we should be looking at a moment that will be well-documented by journalists, historians and (more importantly to the layman) comic book price guides. Sadly, my precognitive powers are only available in March solicitations, so let’s look at those and see what NOW! will look like then. Or THEN! I’m not sure.
First, let’s talk about the trades. I rarely get to do so because they’re always at the bottom and there’s normally a huge amount of comics to sort through and events to define before we reach the reasonable road of the trade paperback. But in March, Marvel NOW! will officially be the final status quo on the shelves, so we’ll begin a steady stream of trades for major titles in hardcover and softcover format.s The first volumes of Uncanny Avengers, Iron Man and Avengers will be out in hardcover, with Fantastic Four, Red She-Hulk and X-Men: Legacy getting softcover editions; I think the change in format probably has to do with the price of the original issues.
This week saw the release of another Marvel NOW! title, but this one was a little bit different than the others. For one thing, it isn’t a relaunch of an existing title — at least, not directly — and it’s gotten some attention already for its similarities to The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Avengers Arena, by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker and Frank Martin, has the classic X-Men villain Arcade kidnapping 16 young Marvel heroes and throwing them into Murderworld, where it’s kill or be killed. Plus, y’know, it’s Murderworld, so there’s more to worry about than just your temporary ally turning on you.
So does the book deliver, or does it leave you “hungering” for something else? (Ack, that’s bad; sorry about that). Here are a few reviews from around the web:
Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources: “After an opening sequence set (presumably) near the end of the series’ set-up, Hopeless re-introduces readers to the characters that he’s lined up to get kidnapped by Arcade in the latest iteration of his Murderworld complex. Here, these sixteen characters are given 30 days to kill or be killed, with only one allowed to be standing at the end of the time period. If this sounds a little bit like The Hunger Games (or going further back, Battle Royale or even The Long Walk), you aren’t alone in that assessment. Hopeless has Arcade acknowledge the similarity and move forward from there, a nod to the connection between the two. But once you get past that, there’s actually less to get worked up over than you might suspect.” (2.5/5)
After taking to ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live in October to launch its Marvel NOW! initiative, Marvel is ready for the big leagues: Alex Trebek.
On Thursday, Marvel NOW! will get its own category on Jeopardy!, testing the three competitors’ knowledge of the Marvel Universe. Given the timing of the new series announcements and the delay between the game show’s taping and broadcast, the questions — excuse me, answers — may be a bit tougher than those in the average comic-book category.
You’ll have to check your local listings for when and where Jeopardy! airs.
Legal | A Belgian court of appeals has ruled that Tintin in the Congo is not racist and stated that the book has “gentle and candid humour.” The ruling came in a case brought in 2007 by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, an immigrant from the Congo, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations. Although Herge himself expressed regret in later life for the book, which includes numerous depictions of black characters as stupid and inferior, the court did not support the plaintiffs’ claim that “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.” [Sky News]
Last month DC Comics announced it will celebrate the February launch of Justice League of America with a staggering 52 variant covers that not only hit that magic number but also feature the flags of each of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (better luck next time, Northern Mariana Islands). As sales gimmicks go, it’s certainly … excessive, something even the publisher seems to recognize.
Not one to pass up a chance to rib (and one-up) the competition, Marvel has now revealed Stuart Immonen’s clever — if not exactly accurately named — 53 State Birds Variant for February’s Uncanny X-Men #1. As so many Marvel variant covers do, this one features the ubiquitous Deadpool and “all 52 state birds (+1).”
Marvel NOW! is not half bad! In fact, from this new vantage point where we’ve mostly seen the first major debuts roll out through November, I can say that it’s a bigger success than the Heroic Age. There’s been some significant changes to theme and tone of our superheroes while still leaving continuity intact and everyone recognizable to the public. Everything that happened in the past few months of comics has carried over into the NOW!, we’re just looking at it with a new style, a fresh coat of paint and, of course, oodles of variant covers.
Story styles and artistic choices come and go, and while we might love a particular run or artist team, we have to adapt and move into more modern and evolving ideas for the Marvel Universe. Sure, I’m not too on board with the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy series because I really enjoyed their previous iteration, but if you look at the last series, it was a far cry from what it was when it started. Why not give the new book a chance and see if it can hook me in all over again? Losing Peter Parker as Spider-Man (for a while) is a big deal, but why not watch just to see how Dan Slott pulls this whole thing off? Change is good is what I’m trying to say, and Marvel NOW!, while still essentially the same heroes and villains we know and love, is also a lot of change.
It’s weird to think that Brian Michael Bendis pretty much set the Avengers for the modern era. Yes, great storytellers had come before to establish what we all know and love about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but Bendis really did blow all that up and rebuilt Marvel’s premier super-team from the ground up. From Stark Tower to the essential leadership of Captain America and Iron Man to who’s on the roster and why, to endless, endless lunches, most new comic readers know of the Avengers through Bendis’ work. He’s the man who made us read the book, for better or for worse and for six years, he’s been the bottom line in Earth’s Mightiest Heroism. It’s a really tough act to follow, but if anyone is going to make us say “Bendis who?” in the next few months, it’s Jonathan Hickman. Starting from the first issue (on sale this week!), there’s a stage being set that will change the way we view the Avengers and their place in the grand scheme of the universe.
But who are the Avengers? What does it mean to join their ranks? How is it that, within the confines of a single issue, we’ve learned the essential secret to this new NOW! series? Click on, Dear Reader, and I will explain.
WARNING: I’ll be talking about the contents of Avengers #1, but you still probably want to read Avengers #1 and see for yourself if any of my theories match up. So grab a copy and read along!
Taking a page from DC Comics’ New 52 playbook, Marvel will collect all of the first issues from its Marvel NOW! initiative in a 688-page oversized hardcover omnibus edition, Publishers Weekly reports. Arriving in June, the $99.99 volume will feature a cover by Joe Quesada.
Announced in July, Marvel NOW! was billed as an easy entry point into the Marvel Universe with a rollout of new or relaunched series that began in October with Uncanny Avengers and continues through February with titles like Uncanny X-Men, Nova and Fearless Defenders. The omnibus will collect more than 30 issues.
Buoyed by Marvel NOW!, the publisher led the direct market in both dollar and unit amounts in November, and claimed eight of the Top 10 spots on the Diamond Comic Distributors sales chart. All-New X-Men #1 took the top spot, with the debuts of Captain America, Deadpool, Indestructible Hulk, Iron Man, Fantastic Four and Thor: God of Thunder, and the second issue of Uncanny Avengers crowding out most of the competition.
Read the solicitation text for the Marvel NOW! Omnibus below:
The Avengers are once again assembling, this time under the watchful eye of writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Jerome Opena.
“The idea is that the Avengers have to get bigger,” Hickman told Comic Book Resources. “That means bigger in every sense. That means the roster has to be bigger, and the missions have to be bigger, and the adversaries and scenarios they find themselves in have to be larger. I’ve played with this stuff a little bit over in the Ultimate Universe. Obviously, it’s a completely different weight class here, but in a lot of ways that’s the kind of velocity that the book should have. We (Tom Brevoort and I) also felt like that if the book was going to be about an Avengers world, it should look more like the world. Of course there are complications starting out when the necessary movie characters are five white dudes and a white lady, but, you know, bigger roster. Frankly, I’m really, really excited at how we address that. The lineup is killer.”
Is bigger better? Here are a few thoughts from around the web:
Martin Gray, Too Dangerous for a Girl: “Writer Jonathan Hickman makes a confident Avengers debut, introducing new threats, promising big things and couching it all in a framework that manages to feel mythic, but not pompous. Ex Nihilo, apparently a ‘Higher Evolutionary’, has the calm arrogance of the supposed superior being, while main Avengers players Iron Man and Cap carry the assurance of men who have stared down gods, and beaten them. The capture of five Avengers, prompting Cap to break out the new team, has echoes of the All-New X-Men’s debut with Krakoa, but it’s a classic set-up because it works. And the difference here is that Iron Man saw that something this big was coming, so he and Cap have spent the previous month signing up new recruits, putting them on call.”
Marvel has released a trailer featuring the first look at Avengers #1, the new series by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena debuting today as part of the publisher’s Marvel NOW! initiative.
The greatest heroes in comics together on one unbeatable team! Now shipping twice a month, the Avengers “go large,” expanding their roster and their sphere of influence to a global and even interplanetary level. When Captain America puts out his call, who will answer? Big threats, big ideas, big idealism — these are the Avengers NOW!
Hickman took to the Comic Book Resources forums over the weekend to answer questions about the new series, and teased how he plans to approach such a large cast: “3 issues everyone, 3 issues smaller teams, rinse, repeat (until I don’t).”
Legal | Disney has filed a motion to dismiss a $5.5 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in October by failed dot-com Stan Lee Media Inc. in its sixth attempt to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. Disney calls the lawsuit “completely frivolous,” and argues, in part, that the claims have already been litigated and rejected. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Publishing | As final print edition of The Dandy promptly sells out and the venerable U.K. children’s comic migrates online, David Fickling briefly discusses why he launched The Phoenix — a weekly geared for readers ages 6 to 12 — nearly a year ago, and why comics aren’t dead: “Reading comics was always a delight. Reading them under the bedclothes or the desk, even better. Now at last the experts are understanding the importance of reading comics. The loss of reading for pleasure has been identified as one of the principle reasons for falling standards of literacy. Perhaps part of the reason for our disgraceful literacy rates is that we don’t have comics. Comics are a link to books not competition; in short they are a great leveller.” [The Telegraph]
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.”