When the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 invaded and seemingly conquered Earth-New 52 in Forever Evil #1, claiming to have killed the members of the Justice Leagues, the home-Earth villains took over DC comics, scrawling their names over the logos of their foes and initiating other evil acts like using decimal points in their issue numbers and putting the wrong stories in the wrong titles. (A Dial H epilogue and a Lobo one-shot in Justice League comics? A Batgirl story in a Batman comic?). But, most nefariously of all, the villains of DC Comics raised the price of each issue by a dollar and launched one of the biggest gimmick covers schemes in the modern history of direct market super-comics: heavy, plastic, 3D lenticular covers primed to be collected more so than read, and sparking insidious speculation, goosed my unpredictable shortages to many retailers. The monsters.
But while most attention has been focused on the covers, there are, in fact, stories beneath them, and so for the past three weeks we’ve been not judging the books by their covers, but by their contents. (Here’s Week One, Week Two and Week Three, if you missed ‘em.) As in the previous months, I’ve been ranking the books on their overall quality, on a scale of one to 10: Not Very Good, Somewhat Disobedient, Naughty, Morally Deficient, Without Scruples, Iniquitous, Wicked, Maleficent, Evil and Absolute Evil (although, as none received a perfect 10, you might want to adjust your reception of my ratings up by one).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve been noting how connected each is to the Forever Evil event that ostensibly led to this state of affairs at DC, so, if you’re only interested in these things for their narrative import rather than their creators or characters, you’ll know which are worth your attention. So let’s take one last wallow in the evil of (almost) every issue of this week’s Villains Month, and hope for the swift and triumphant return of our heroes starting next month.
Just a few months after unleashing a talking goat cover to Quantum and Woody #1, Valiant has revealed another unconventional, QR-activated variant: the “8-Bit Evolution Variant” to November’s Unity #1.
Valiant calls it the “first fully animated 8-bit cover,” although it’s really a two-and-a-half-minute animated short that can be viewed on a mobile device via a code found on the cover — or watched right now. The clip gives background on the book’s main characters — X-O Manowar, Toyo Harada, Eternal Warrior, Ninjak and Livewire — in the distinctly whimsical 8-bit style, which Valiant has used before on a series of covers. The video was produced in partnership with YouTube channel CineFix, as part of its “8-Bit Cinema” series.
Unity #1, written by Matt Kindt and illustrated by Doug Braithwaite, is scheduled for release on Nov. 13.
DC Comics kicked off its Villains Month last week, as the evil opposites of the Justice League invaded the DC Universe, seemingly disposing of all the heroes and taking over the world.
Likewise, the villains have been taking over DC’s New 52 line of comic books, with the MIA heroes finding the covers of their books occupied by bad guys. Those are, of course, the collectible and somewhat-controversial (among retailers) 3D lenticular covers.
But as the case with books, we shouldn’t judge a comic by its cover, so let’s continue reviewing our way through the contents of the Villains Month issues. As with last week’s batch, I’m rating each book on a 10-point scale of how evil it is, with “Not Very Good” being the worst and “Absolute Evil” the best, and noting its connectivity to the Forever Evil crossover event that sparked the promotion in the first place.
Boutique home video distributor Criterion commissioned Samuel Hiti (Los Tiempos Finales, Death-Day) and a list of other great comics artists to create artwork for the individual films in the company’s box set for the long-running Zatoichi series starring Shintaro Katsu as a blind, but incredibly quick and accurate swordsman. Hiti designed the cover for Zatoichi the Fugitive, the fourth in the series.
Twenty-five Zatoichi films were produced between 1962 and 1973, making it the longest-running action series in Japanese history. There was also a four-season TV series in the late ’70s. The Criterion box set collects those first 25 feature films in one package for the first time, but doesn’t include 1989′s Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, written and directed by Shintaro Katsu himself.
Simply by “liking” the book’s Facebook page, fans will be entered into a contest, with one winner selected to be depicted in the 17th issue of Mind MGMT. If you’re already liked the page, you’re already entered.
Debuting in May 2012, the series follows a young journalist named Meru, who investigates a bizarre case of memory loss on an airline flight only to stumble headlong into a world of super-spies, hypnotic advertising, weaponized psychics and talking dolphins.
Fox is developing a film adaptation of Mind MGMT, produced by Ridley Scott through his Scott Free banner.
Mind MGMT #14 goes on sale Aug. 28.
Publishing | Sales of comics, graphic novels and digital comics totaled $750 million in 2012, making that year the best of the millennium so far for the comics business, according to the retail news and analysis site ICv2. Total print sales were estimated at $680 million and digital at $70 million, a hair over 10 percent of print and almost triple the 2011 total of $25 million. The website also breaks down the top properties in eight graphic novel categories (superheroes, genre, manga, etc.), based on interviews with retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Interestingly, Hawkeye is nestled at No. 7 on the list of Top 10 superhero properties, between Iron Man and Spider-Man. [ICv2]
Publishing | Torsten Adair takes a look at IDW Publishing’s financials, and they’re looking pretty good. [The Beat]
Retailing | Saying that video games, texting and digital comics have killed interest in collectibles, 80-year-old Joseph Liesner is closing his Sunnyside, Queens, store Comic Book Heaven after nearly three decades. “The store’s not making any money,” he says, “and, besides, I’m as old as Methuselah.” The store will remain open for another two months, with Liesner using the time to search for a much younger girlfriend via a sign in the window. [Sunnyside Post]
Design is integral to comics. In its basic form, it’s used by artists to tell story through panel composition and transitions, but in broader terms it’s the logos, trade dress and visual platform by which comics are shown to the public.
Last month at HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina, cartoonist/designer Rich Barrett moderated a panel that looked at the approach and examples of graphic design in use in the medium. With a panel that included cartoonist/designers like Jim Rugg, Matt Kindt and Robert Wilson IV, publisher/designer Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books and non-comics desginer Matt Stevens, Barrett shepherded the room through slideshow series of impressive design, from page layouts to book covers to book packaging.
The indie-centric design group talked about the use of design by mainstream creators like Jonathan Hickman, Chris Ware and Chester Brown, and its changing role of design as the methods by which comics being sold have changed over the past 20 years.
Although no recording of the panel exists (as of yet), Barrett has shared his slideshow presentation here:
Awards | Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, written by Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton and illustrated by Greg Chapman, won the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a graphic novel, presented over the weekend by the Horror Writers Association. Winners with a comic-book connection in other categories include Caitlin R. Kiernan (novel, The Drowning Girl), Jonathan Maberry (young-adult novel, Flesh & Bone), and Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (screenplay, The Cabin in the Woods). [Horror Writers Association]
Graphic novels | Heidi MacDonald looks at Dark Horse’s plans to expand its Originals line of creator-owned graphic novels this year; upcoming releases include print editions of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Bandette and Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo, as well as a new graphic novel, Bad Houses, by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil. [Publishers Weekly]
DC Comics goes bad in September, turning all 52 slots of its superhero line over to its less-savory characters. That’s pretty much the story of the superhero solicitations, although there are some interesting collections coming this fall.
On its face, Forever Evil sounds like a pretty straightforward, traditional superhero story. I think the “heroes disappear, villains romp” plot was even an episode of Super Friends. Accordingly, all things being equal, I have no problems with using it for a line-wide crossover. No doubt the DC Comics of 2013-14 will season it with plenty of violence and depravity, sucking away my goodwill accordingly; but those details will have to wait until the comics themselves come out.
THE SHAPE OF EVIL
In fact, the part of “Villains Month” that interests me most is its structure. Yes, there are 52 single issues coming out of the superhero line in September, plus Forever Evil #1. However, those 52 issues ostensibly “represent” only 18 series: Action Comics, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman/Superman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics, Earth 2, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Justice League, JL Dark, JLA, Superman, Swamp Thing, Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. Furthermore, 16 of the 52 are Bat-books, more than the Justice League books’ 10 issues and twice as many as the Superman books’ eight issues. Add Batman/Superman #3.1, and 35 of the 52 will have “Batman,” “Superman” or “Justice League” on their covers. In fact, 16 of the 18 series are already on my pull list (sorry, Green Arrow and Teen Titans), so I’ll probably be putting back a fair amount of these, which won’t make my comic shop’s job any happier.
Conventions | Comic-Con International in San Diego is about six weeks away, so it’s time for Tom Spurgeon to post his massive list of tips for those planning to attend: “It helps to remember that the hassle of going to Comic-Con is mostly an accident of our recent cultural history — All those spectacle movies! All those fantasy franchise books! Marvel’s post-bankruptcy comeback! All those graphic novels! The toy explosion! The rise of manga and anime! — rather than something the convention itself enjoys or endorses or requires or was ever shooting for. I honestly don’t have any more fun going now than I did in ’96 or ’01, back when it was so much easier to attend the con that the worst-case scenario was registering on-site and staying in a $65 hotel ten blocks away. It wasn’t that long ago! But I also can’t stress this enough. I still have fun.” [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Calvin Reid looks at Archie Comics’ growing book-market presence, which has exploded since the publisher signed Random House as its distributor in 2010. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Matt Kindt, author of Red-Handed, writes about how becoming a comics creator has made it impossible for him to enjoy reading comics for their own sake. [The Huffington Post]
Awards | Animal Land, by Zatch Bell creator Makoto Raiku, took the Best Children’s Manga honors in Kodansha’s 37th annual manga awards. The sports manga Gurazeni won the overall award for best manga. [Anime News Network]
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Everyone still may be coming down from the excitement of Free Comic Book Day and the blockbuster opening of Marvel Iron Man 3, but we’re already looking ahead to Wednesday’s releases and Saturday’s two noteworthy events: Kids Comic Con and Long Beach Comic Expo.
But first, back to Wednesday, as ROBOT 6′s contributors single out some of the best titles going on sale this week, including a new edition of Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits, You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack and Red Handed.
Today is one of my favorite days of the year, as most Major League Baseball teams have their opening day. In late February, when writer/artist Matt Kindt tweeted that he was returning from a St. Louis Cardinals spring training trip to Florida, I got him to agree to an interview on the spot.
This exchange took place before Dark Horse’s WonderCon announcement that Kindt’s series, Mind MGMT, would have a finite 36-issue run.
In addition to discussing his Dark Horse series, and our shared appreciation of baseball (despite his Cardinals eliminating my hometown Atlanta Braves from playoff contention last season), we delve into the May 7 release of his First Second book, Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes. There are few storytellers that set a narrative environment as uniquely as Kindt can. This go-around he establishes the city of Red Wheelbarrow to serve a larger homage to classic detective fiction.
For additional insight into Kindt’s work on Mind MGMT, be sure to read Jeffrey Renaud’s CBR interview with the writer/artist from early February.
As a longtime fan of Kindt’s narrative sensibilities, I hope he gets in contact with the right folks with the MLB in order to pursue that baseball project.
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.
If I had $15, I’d buy the leading contender for best ongoing series this year, Saga #10 (Image, $2.99). I loved the last issue focusing on the Will, but I’m excited at the prospect this one teases of Izabel returning – although in a red-tinged, seemingly evil demeanor. After that I’d get another creator-owned gem with Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle #2 (Dark Horse, $3.99). I love the latitude Dark Horse is giving Francavilla in the design packaging here – that cover is something special — and luckily, the insides have the promise of being even better given what happened last issue. Third and last in my $15 haul this week would be Dark Horse Presents #21 (Dark Horse, $7.99). Criminally underrated and consciously mind-blowing, this issue promises three new serials debuting plus a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Paul Chadwick about alien saucers. Why isn’t this a top-selling book?
If I had $30, I’d make it a Dark Horse trifecta with Conan the Barbarian #13 (Dark Horse, $3.50). How does Brian Wood do it, finding such great artists that no one else knows about like Mirko Colak? This time, Conan tries to conquer the desert. Then I’d do a Marvel trifecta: Avengers #6 (Marvel, $3.99), Nova #1 (Marvel, $3.99) and Thor: God of Thunder #5 (Marvel, $3.99). Avengers has seemingly the origin of my formerly most favorite D-list hero in the Marvel Universe, Captain Universe – until she upgraded to the A-list as an Avenger. Then Nova has a spirited, seemingly kid-friendly romp by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. Then Thor … Thor. This thoroughly dark and mythic story has made Jason Aaron’s beard even more ominous than before.
If I could splurge, I’d get Alter-Ego #115 (TwoMorrows, $8.95). Normally a magazine about comics, in this issue they collect some lost gems – namely the stereoscopic comics (3-D!) – of the 1950s. 3-D glasses included, this issue contains work by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan (!!), George Tuska and more. Truly a highlight of the week.
To see what Josh and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.