Dark Horse has been making a concerted effort over the past year to develop its superhero line, with titles like Ghost, X and The Victories. On Wednesday, the lineup expands further with the launch of the Captain Midnight ongoing series, written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Fernando Dagnino.
I can’t help but be excited by the potential appeal for this new series, which throws the World War II scientist-hero into the present day — particularly after Williamson praised James Robinson’s Starman: ”It’s one of the few books that — it made me cry.” My cautious optimism for the series was cemented in the midst of my interview with the writer, when he said of the Dark Horse superhero approach: “There is a subtle way to handle the superhero universe, and that’s what Dark Horse is doing.”
Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to enjoy the preview the publisher offered for Captain Midnight #1, on sale Wednesday.
Tim O’Shea: You leap right into the action with Issue 0, in which Captain Midnight lands in the present day, after just having been in the midst of World War II. What does it say about the character that he wasn’t thrown by being flung into the future?
Joshua Williamson: We knew that we wanted to separate Captain Midnight from other time-lost characters and set up two aspects: 1) He was disappointed by the future; 2) He was not surprised by time travel. Midnight was a genius first and a superhero second.
Midnight is a very interesting character in that he is no-nonsense and has such a black-and-white outlook on the world — very matter-of-fact. We wanted to get that across to our readers quickly in the zero issue and found that was the best way to do it.
Dark Horse’s Catalyst Comix, a title I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced in October at New York Comic Con, at last debuts today. Joe Casey is a writer who starts every project with a manifesto, and this one is no different: Relaunching a relatively unmourned line of comics in his own image, he’s seeking to create a superhero book that’s an antidote to “the overly conservative nature of Marvel and DC.” I can appreciate that ambition, but what really sold me is the sheer depth of the pool of artistic talent assembled to bring Casey’s scripts to life: Dan McDaid, Ulises Farinas and Paul Maybury drawing the three strips that make up each issue. Rafael Grampa, Paul Pope and Brendan McCarthy are rotating as cover artists.
I spoke to Dan McDaid on the eve of the book’s launch to discuss working within this all-star team of creators, and he shared his process on creating a typically powerful, apocalyptic-looking sequence of his strip, starring Frank Wells, the hero formerly known as Titan, from Will to Power.
With a click of the “Buy Now” button, readers could download 50 first issues through the company’s online storefront. Worth $168.50, the titles ranged from from the first issues of 1994′s Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction and 2002′s B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth to far more recent series, like The Massive, Mind MGMT and The Black Beetle: No Way Out.
“The success of our digital promotion illustrates the growing reach of digital comics, which we believe are an important element in the recent resurgence of physical comic book and graphic novel sales,” Dark Horse President Mike Richardson said in a statement.
Publishing | Dark Horse President Mike Richardson discusses how he became one of the first publishers of manga in the United States, explains how the company selects its titles, and suggests some manga for first-time readers. [Previews]
Digital comics | Retailer Ron Catapano points to the comiXology server crash triggered by the response to the free Marvel comics promotion as “the problem with digital content that fans keep complaining about”: “I can’t read the books I paid for because I can’t save them on my own computer and I’m limited in what I can save to my tablet by the small storage on tablets. Instead, the books I pay for are kept by comiXology and as long as I have a high speed internet connection available… I can log on and read my books on their web site or I can download a few to my tablet. BUT NOT TODAY … because someone decided it was a good idea to put 700 Marvel issue #1′s up for free at the same time.” [ICv2.com]
Legal | A federal judge on Friday denied DC Comics’ bid for sanctions against the attorney for the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, finding that Marc Toberoff made “no deliberate attempt to mislead” during the discovery process and, perhaps more importantly, did not interfere with the publisher’s rights to the Man of Steel when he allegedly inserted himself into settlement talks in 2001. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Stan Lee will be deposed this week by lawyers representing Stan Lee Media in its multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Disney involving the rights to the characters the legendary writer co-created for Marvel. Stan Lee Media, which no longer has ties to its namesake, claims Disney as infringed on the copyrights Iron Man, the Avengers, X-Men and other heroes since 2009, when it purchased Marvel. The long, tortured dispute dates back to a sequence of events that occurred between August 1998, when Marvel used its bankruptcy proceedings to terminate Lee’s lifetime contract, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the House of Ideas and signed over his likeness, and any claims to the characters. Stan Lee Media has long claimed that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company the rights to his creations and his likeness. SLM asserts in the latest lawsuit that neither Marvel nor Disney, which bought the comic company in 2009, has ever registered Lee’s November 1998 agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Awards | Dan Perkins, better known to his readers as Tom Tomorrow, is the winner of this year’s Herblock Prize for excellence in editorial cartooning. Panelist Matt Bors cited his “consistently hilarious takedowns of women-bashers, gun culture and the president’s abuse of executive power.” The finalist was Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman. The award includes cash prizes of $15,000 (after taxes!) for the winner and $5,000 for the finalist. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson explains how the company develops licensed properties, specifically “expanded universes” that build on the world of a movie or video game: “So we came up with the idea that we could approach these licensed properties as sequels, particularly in the early days when we focused primarily on film. We’d sit down like fanboys and say ‘Okay, that was great, what can we do next?’” [Forbes]
Stan Sakai is taking a break from his long-running series Usagi Yojimbo, and he explains why in a short comic on the Dark Horse site: He’s taking time off to draw 47 Ronin, a historical tale written by Dark Horse President Mike Richardson. The comic is cute and turns what could just be a creator’s note into a dynamic encounter with lots of action and a funny twist at the end. In other words, it’s pure Sakai. And yes, he promises he will resume work on Usagi Yojimbo once he’s done with 47 Ronin.
(via Comics Worth Reading)
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 spend the first $3.99 on the first issue of 47 Ronin, a retelling of a Japanese legend written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai. I saw a preview of this and it looks phenomenal. Next up is my favorite soap opera, Life With Archie #24 ($3.99), in which Moose contemplates running for the Senate and The Archies reunite. This comic is consistently well written and the stories really drag me in. I’ll slap down another $3.99 for Popeye #7, because I’m a Roger Langridge fan. And because I love a bargain, I’ll finish up with Freelancers #1, a new series from BOOM! Studios that looks kinda fun — and hey, there’s a variant cover by Felipe Smith, one of my favorite manga artists.
If I had $30, I’d revert to my childhood and pick up the Doctor Who Annual ($12.99) from Penguin. When I was a kid, the British comics annuals were the high point of the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I have a vintage Doctor Who one tucked away somewhere. It’s probably aimed at kids but that just means I can share it with my nephew and nieces.
The splurge item to get this week is the new box set of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This is Miyazaki’s longest manga by far, and the story continues after the movie ends. It’s going to be the same large format as Viz’s earlier box set, but the seven volumes are being bound as two this time. It’s $60, but I noticed Amazon is offering a steep discount, so I’ll add another splurge: Nickolai Dante: Sympathy for the Devil ($29.99), a story that ran in 2000AD. I saw artist Simon Fraser describe it at NYCC this way: “Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can.” Sold!
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics — now with 100 percent more JK Parkin! Michael May, Graeme McMillan, Chris Arrant and JK have each picked the five comics they’re most anticipating in order to create a Top 20 (or so; we overlap sometimes) of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
47 Ronin #1 (Dark Horse, $3.99): Mike Richardson, Dark Horse’s head honcho, teams with Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai to retell the story of the 47 ronin who avenged their master after he was forced to commit ritual suicide for assaulting a court official. It will be both very cool and a little odd to see Sakai drawing samurai that aren’t anthropomorphic animals and aren’t in black and white (the book’s full color), but I’ve always admired his clean style. As an added bonus, Kazuo Koike of Lone Wolf and Cub fame consulted on the project, so this should be a treat.
Great Pacific #1 (Image Comics, $2.99): Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo have come up with a book that I just love the high concept behind: the heir to one of America’s most successful oil companies moves to the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch and declares it a sovereign country. He then fights giant sea monsters, based on the preview art that’s been released, which is an added bonus.
Marvel NOW!: This might be cheating, but Marvel has 10 new comics debuting in November under the Marvel NOW! banner. Mark Waid on Hulk? John Romita on Captain America? Matt Fraction writing Fantastic Four and FF? Jonathan Hickman on Avengers? Yeah, I’ll just lump all these together and hope no one notices I’m gaming the system here …
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown: Fantagraphics continues its series of high-end collections of the best of Carl Barks’ duck stories, with the Christmas-themed third volume arriving just in time to be stuffed in somebody’s stocking.
Retrovirus (Image Comics, $16.99): Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s latest graphic novel, drawn by Norberto Fernandez, is about a research scientist who specializes in viruses heading to Antarctica to examine a perfectly preserved caveman. I’m a fan of Palmiotti and Gray’s work together, from Jonah Hex to The Monolith (which gets the collection treatment in November), and this one sounds like it could be a lot of fun.
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our guest today is writer and artist Jimmy Palmiotti, who you know from All-Star Western, Monolith, Phantom Lady, Unknown Soldier, Creator-Owned Heroes, Queen Crab and countless more.
To see what Jimmy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Auctions | Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at auction Thursday for $657,250, shattering the record for a single piece of American comics art set last year by a splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 ($448,125). However, the price falls well short of the $1.6 million shell out last month for the original cover art for Tintin in America. A 9.8 graded copy of X-Men #1 was also sold by Heritage Auctions for $492,937.50, more than twice the previous record for that comic. [ICv2]
Publishing | Lily Rothman takes a look at iVerse’s newly announced comics-only crowdfunding platform Comics Accelerator, which will allow immediate delivery of digital rewards in a more sophisticated format than an e-mailed PDF and cap its share of the take at $2,500. As Laura Morley of Womanthology points out, it can go both ways: Being on Kickstarter, a trusted platform with wide visibility, helped boost the project, but on the other hand, “Any site that’s able to take advantage of the fact that comics online already work as a big community, as a place where people talk to their friends and promote things they’re interested in, is likely to do well.” [Time]
To see what Jessica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Creators | Ali Ferzat, the Syrian cartoonist who was abducted and beaten last year because of his criticisms of the government, was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” “Tyrants often don’t get the jokes, but their people do,” Pulitzer Prize-winning Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker writes in his tribute to Ferzat. “So when the iron fist comes down, it often comes down on cartoonists.” [Time]
Publishing | In one of its wide-ranging interviews with comics publishers, the retail news and analysis site ICv2 talks with Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson about the state of the market, the loss of Borders, his company’s 2011 layoffs, webcomics, and some early missteps with its digital program: “Quite honestly we’ve run into a few issues because the programs that we’ve done haven’t worked as well as we wished. We created some exclusive material and got less participation than we had hoped for. [...] We gave codes out to retail stores to drive customers into their stores. They could pick up the exclusive content by going to their participating comic shop. Evidently we didn’t do a good enough job getting the word out, so we’re retooling that.” [ICv2.com]
Dark Horse President Mike Richardson is teaming with two samurai masters to tell the tale of the 47 Ronin, about a Japanese feudal lord who was forced to commit ritual suicide, and the samurai-turned-ronin who avenged his death. Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai will draw the project, while Kazuo Koike of Lone Wold and Cub fame will serve as an editorial consultant.
“I’ve been fascinated with this story from the earliest days of Dark Horse, visiting the significant locations and doing research during my trips to Japan. For years I’ve been looking for just the right artist, and it finally dawned on me that he was right here at Dark Horse,” Richardson said in a press release. “Stan Sakai is a master storyteller who knows the material, and his artistic interpretation is perfect for the story. What’s more, my friend, legendary manga writer Kazuo Koike , has served as editorial consultant for the project.”
“I have known the 47 Ronin story about all my life, and I paid a pilgrimage to their grave site when I was in Japan in 2009. This is a significant event in Japanese history, and when Mike asked me to illustrate the story I jumped at the chance. I’m known for the research I do, but I was amazed at the research and knowledge Mike already had. I’m having a blast with this,” Sakai said. .
47 Ronin will be on comic stands November 2012. Check out a piece of Sakai’s art after the jump, as well as the video from CBR that announced the project.
Dark Horse motion comics will be one of six original series for the new channel, which launches April 2. They’ll join shows featuring Wil Wheaton, Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt, and Day herself. The channel “will present the very best of indie geek culture by exploring fun themes in comedy, gaming, comics, music, and literature that are sure to captivate audiences every week. Geek & Sundry will also provide a social destination and community for fans connecting online and offline about nerd culture worldwide,” according to the press release.
Dark Horse’ motion comics will air every Wednesday, starting with Dark Horse President Mike Richardson and Jason Alexander’s The Secret. The 40-minute video is directed by Erik Bruhwiler and produced by Richardson.
“We’re so incredibly excited to produce and develop a channel based on what we think the fans will enjoy the most,” said Felicia Day, cofounder, producer, and star of Geek & Sundry. “From Dark Horse Comics to Wil Wheaton, there’s a killer team of talent on camera and off that will help build on the success of The Guild and Dragon Age: Redemption.”
“This is an exciting new extension of our comics business. Our technology is state of the art and the tales are extremely engaging. Add Erik’s genius to some of the greatest creators in the comics business and the project becomes irresistible,” said Richardson.