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Previews: What Looks Good for November

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

John Parkin

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.

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What Are You Reading? with Jimmy Palmiotti

Dark Horse Presents #13

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.

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Comics A.M. | Todd McFarlane cover sells for record $657,250

The Amazing Spider-Man #328

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]

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What Are You Reading? with Jessica Campbell

Quoi!

Happy Earth Day and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our guest is Jessica Campbell, design manager for Drawn and Quarterly as well as a painter.

To see what Jessica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Comics A.M. | Ali Ferzat named one of Time’s Most Influential People

Matt Wuerker's cartoon in support of Ali Ferzat

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]

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Richardson, Sakai, Koike team for 47 Ronin

47 Ronin

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.

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WonderCon | Dark Horse motion comics coming to YouTube

Courtesy of Guild creator Felicia Day’s upcoming Geek & Sundry, motion comics featuring Hellboy, Usagi Yojimbo, Conan and other Dark Horse characters will soon make their way to YouTube.

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.


ComicsPro: Daredevil: Born Again Artists Edition, lots on digital, more

Daredevil: Born Again

ComicsPRO, the trade organization for direct market comic book retailers, held its annual meeting last week, welcoming retailers from all over for presentations and discussions with various comic companies and other industry reps.

“Advocacy is a vital and important cog in the ComicsPRO machine. Too often, the retail segment is absent when industry plans are formulated and partnerships are forged,” says Joe Field ComicsPRO president, on the group’s website. “As ComicsPRO grows, our goal is to give retailers an equal voice with our other industry partners, so we can take an active role in the decisions that affect all of us.”

Although the meetings are typically closed to the press, some information from the three days in Dallas has come out:

  • Retailer Matt Price, who blogs at Nerdage, shared several tidbits this weekend from the show. Of note is the list of projects that publishers discussed at the show, which include Avengers vs. X-Men, Before Watchmen, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and an announcement from IDW that they’re planning an Artists Edition of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again storyline.
  • Mike Richardson, Dark Horse president and publisher, gave a keynote at the event on digital comics, on how “changes have been a constant and necessary partner” for the comics industry.
  • Speaking of which, iVerse Media and Diamond Comic Distributors announced a new Digital Comic Reader App at the meeting. “By adding the Digital Reader App into the Diamond Digital program, we’re completely removing our own digital store. This is a much cleaner solution for retailers and will give them the same kind of tools companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are using to sell digital on these devices,” said iVerse CEO Michael Murphey.
  • Image Comics sponsored a lunch where Publisher Eric Stephenson spoke on independence and creativity. You can read his entire speech over at iFanboy.
  • Thomas Gaul of Corner Store Comics and Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, Calif. was elected to the ComicsPRO board, replacing founding member Brian Hibbs.
  • And speaking of Brian, he posted some of his notes on DC Comics from the meeting, including some digital information and the fact that they plan to release the full results from the Nielsen survey to retailers.
  • Bob Wayne, DC Entertainment’s senior vice president of sales, was honored with the ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award.

Comics A.M. | 30 years of Diamond; Angoulême memories

Diamond Comic Distributors

Publishing | John Jackson Miller profiles Diamond Comic Distributors to mark its 30th anniversary, offering a timeline of major events in the company’s history. [Comichron]

Conventions | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai and AdHouse Publisher Chris Pitzer both report on their experiences at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. [Angoulême]

Retailing | Dark Horse Publisher Mike Richardson will give the keynote address at this week’s ComicsPRO Annual Membership Meeting. [NewsOK]

Retailing | Hypno Comics will open Saturday in Ventura, California. [Ventura County Star]

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Talking Comics with Tim | Jim Gibbons on Brain Boy

Brain Boy Archives

On general principle, I love any project with an alliterative name like Brain Boy. And even though JK Parkin just interviewed Dark Horse Assistant Editor Jim Gibbons, when I found out he had the scoop on the Brain Boy Archives that Dark Horse is set to release this Wednesday, November 16, I pestered Gibbons for a brief email interview. The 1962/1963 six-issue series serves as the only comic written by prose novelist Herb Castle. And while Castle developed the origin with legendary artist Gil Kane, after that first appearance, the actual series was drawn by then-newcomer Frank Springer. Inspired by the Cold War landscape of the early 1960s , the short-lived series proved a great springboard for discussion with Gibbons.

Tim O’Shea: How did the idea first come about to develop a Brain Boy archive?

Jim Gibbons: This was all Dark Horse Comics’ head honcho Mike Richardson’s idea. That guy knows his old comics like nobody’s business and we—as a company—wouldn’t have as extensive or as impressive an archival collection series without the passion Big Mike brings to the table for a lot of these projects. As a relatively young guy, I’d never heard for Brain Boy—and may not have had I not been assigned to work on this project with editor extraordinaire Philip Simon—but man, I enjoyed every wacky turn of this short-lived comic series.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons on moving from marketing to making comics

Jim Gibbons and Hellboy, as drawn by Dan Hipp

Earlier this year Jim Gibbons, publicity coordinator for Dark Horse Comics, made the jump from the publicity side of the business to the creative, as he became an assistant editor for the publisher. Old habits are hard to break, though, so when he emailed me recently to suggest a few possible interview subjects he’s been working with in his new role, I thought I’d see if he’d be interested in answering a few questions about his new job.

We spoke with Gibbons, who is also a Wizard Magazine alum, about his move to Dark Horse back in 2009, so catching up with him again about his new role seems to bring everything full circle. My thanks to Jim for agreeing to answer my questions.

JK: When did you start working for Dark Horse, and what were you hired to do?

Jim: I was hired on as a publicity coordinator in 2009. In fact, Sean T. Collins interviewed me about being hired by Dark Horse for Robot 6 way back when! As a publicity coordinator, I was responsible for arranging stories (interviews, previews, artists process pieces, etc) with a number of different online outlets and just generally doing everything in my power to get coverage for Dark Horse projects both big and small. I was (Still am!) a massive comics fan, so making it my business to learn the ins and outs of numerous different comics and graphic novels in order to promote them properly was a pretty fun way to make a living. At a certain point, putting in a lot of effort to increase the amounts of online publicity Dark Horse was getting on top of my passion for these projects and comics in general gained me some recognition by folks like Dark Horse president/publisher/head honcho Mike Richardson, VP of marketing Micha Herschman, senior managing editor Scott Allie, editor Sierra Hahn and my old boss, the director of publicity, Jeremy Atkins and the prospect of moving over to editorial was put on the table. (A big, big thank you to those fine folks, by the way! Especially Scott Allie and Sierra Hahn—many, many thanks!) I excitedly confirmed I’d love to move to the editorial department and when the stars aligned, I was transitioned from one dream job to the next!

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Comics A.M. | Borders bonus plan OK’d; more on Dark Horse layoffs

Borders

Retailing | A judge on Friday approved a proposal to pay Borders Group executives up to $6.6 million in bonuses as the bookseller reorganizes under federal bankruptcy protection. The company had originally requested $8.3 million — that figure met with objections from the U.S. bankruptcy trustee — in a bid to retain key corporate personnel. Since Borders filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 16, 47 executives and director-level employees have left, leaving only 15 people in senior management positions.

The approved plan comes with conditions, tying some bonuses to the company’s ability to pay creditors and save $10 million over the next two years in leases on the remaining stores or in non-personnel cost reductions. [Businessweek, AnnArbor.com]

Publishing | Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson talks more about the publisher’s recent layoffs, saying that some reports of the cutbacks were overblown: “We have 150 employees. We let seven people go across three different divisions. What is that 4%, 5%? Our staff was just getting too large. The real reason for the layoffs is that we get worried about the cost of doing business. We’re sitting there looking at the rising health insurance costs, the changes in the cost of doing business. We thought we were going to get some relief in the form of cover prices moving to $3.99, but I guess the market’s made a really strong statement on that price. Meanwhile we’re getting squeezed on paper and printing costs at the same time — and creators certainly don’t want to take any less money.” [ICv2.com]

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Comics A.M. | Lithuanian publisher fined over The Simpsons comics

Duffman

Legal | The Lithuanian publisher of The Simpsons comic has been fined for breaching laws banning the advertising of alcohol with its depiction of Duff Beer, the fictional brand consumed by Homer and other residents of Springfield.

Although Simpsons creator Matt Groening has never licensed the Duff trademark out of concern that it might encourage children to drink, companies in several countries have released beer using the Duff name (Fox and Groening sued an Australian brewery for doing so in 1995, forcing the product to be pulled from shelves and destroyed). The existence of unlicensed Duff beers apparently was enough for a government watchdog, who handed down the more than $4,000 fine. The publisher said it has stopped publication of The Simpsons while it tries to address the Duff matter — a major issue, considering that Bongo Comics reportedly doesn’t permit content changes to licensed titles. [The Australian]

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Dark Horse to unveil its digital comics app at C2E2

Dark Horse Digital

Dark Horse has announced it will offer a first look at its somewhat-delayed digital comics app this weekend during the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.

Announced in October at New York Comic Con, the planned January launch of the publisher’s digital comics program was put on hold because because of Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store (something Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson confirmed earlier this month).

But now the beta version of the app is ready to be shown off at booth #601, with Dark Horse staff on hand for demonstrations, to answer questions and allow fans to take it for a test run.

Check out the official press release after the break.

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Comics A.M. | Dark Horse CEO on state of industry; BOOM! changes

Mike Richardson

Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview with retail news and analysis site ICv2, Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson discusses the state of the market, the potential impact of Borders’ bankruptcy, digital comics, the decline in manga sales, the success of Troublemaker and more. Of particular note is Richardson’s confirmation that Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store was behind the delay of the planned January launch of Dark Horse’s digital comics program. He also says that Frank Miller is working on the third issue of his 300 prequel Xerxes, which is expected to be “roughly six issues, but he hasn’t exactly decided yet.” [ICv2.com]

Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson provides an overview of recent changes to BOOM! Studios’ kids’ line, from the loss of the Pixar licenses to a new imprint name — changed from BOOM! Kids to kaboom! — to the announcement this week of a Peanuts original graphic novel. “BOOM Kids! was designed to publish children’s comics — kaboom! is designed to be a true all-ages imprint, and for that reason Peanuts is the perfect launch title, the sort of material that adults and kids read alike,” CEO Ross Ritchie said. “Roger Langridge’s Snarked! is along these lines, as is Space Warped and Word Girl.  I put the Word Girl announcement on my wall on Facebook and immediately there were a zillion adults commenting, ‘My child loves this show but I’m buying this comic book for myself!’  The title mix will be broader for kaboom! than it was for BOOM Kids!” [Publishers Weekly]

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