Today is Free Comic Book Day, and here’s a rundown of some of the comics that caught my interest. If you want to check ‘em out before you go, CBR has previews of many of the FCBD titles. (My FCBD comics came from my favorite Boston comics shop, Comicopia.)
Hands down, the one comic everybody wants is Archaia’s hardback anthology, which includes brand-new stories from six of their titles: Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, Return of the Dapper Men, Rust, Cursed Pirate Girl, and Cow Boy. The stories stand on their own but also tie in to the books in clever ways; the Mouse Guard story is a puppet show, and the Rust story features a boy writing a letter to his father (as his older brother does in the book). This book is a keeper; it even has a nameplate inside the front cover. Here’s a list of where Archaia creators will be doing book signings this FCBD.
BOOM! Studios has a nice flipbook with several Adventure Time comics on one side and Peanuts on the other. The Peanuts comics are mildly funny, but the Adventure Time side is edgier and features extra stories by Lucy Knisley and Michael DeForge. The stories are colorful and lively, and DeForge’s contribution, about a bacon ecosystem that supports tiny breakfast organisms, is downright surreal.
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 only had $15, I would only be buying one title this week: 20th Century Boys, Vol. 18 (Viz, $12.99). Sorry Americanos, but Naoki Urasawa is delivering a gripping, sprawling drama that most other books can’t live up to. Wait, I’m wrong – I’d buy two comics with a $15 budget this week; I’d snag the $1 The Strain #1 (Dark Horse, $1) for the price point and Mike Huddleston. I’ve read the novels, but for $1 I can’t miss sampling at least the first issue.
If I had $30, I’d be thankful to double-back and first get Uncanny X-Force #18 (Marvel, $3.99). This issue, the finale of the “Dark Angel Saga,” has been a long time coming and I’m excited for the writing, the art and the story itself; and I can’t forget colorist Dean White, sheesh he’s good. After that I’d pick up my usual Walking Dead #92 (Image, $2.99) and then try Ed McGuinness’ new work in Avengers: X-Sanction #1 (Marvel, $3.99). I’m a big fan of McG’s work, but also realize just how different he is than the standard Marvel (or mainstream super-hero) artist in general. I’ve loved his storytelling sense since Mr. Majestic, and will pick up most any of his work without knowing much about the book itself. Next up would be James Robinson & Cully Hamner’s The Shade #3 (DC, $2.99). I’m surprised DC hasn’t done more marketing for this book, especially considering it’s a character who’s never held a series before; they’ve done little-to-any marketing to define just who the character is, relying on his ties to a lesser-selling series that ended ten years ago (no matter how good it was). Getting off my soapbox: those that have been reading The Shade know it’s good. After that I’d round it off with the best looking comic on shelves, Batwoman #4 (DC, $2.99).
If I was to splurge, I’d double-up my J.H Williams 3 fix with the final volume of Absolute Promethea (DC/ABC, $99.99). Although I already own these issues in singles, getting it over-sized and in hardcover is a treat. I’m hoping it also includes some production art or process sketches – I’m a nut for that.
Red 5 was one of the first comics publishers to jump into digital distribution, and Atomic Robo is one of the first digital success stories, so when Red 5 founder Paul Ens talks about his company’s digital comics strategy at TFAW.com, it’s worthwhile to listen in.
Red 5 led with the best-sellers, making their top titles, Atomic Robo and Neozoic, available for the iPhone back when each issue was a separate app. And Ens says the comics are selling, with both revenues and the number of comics downloaded increasing every month. “In terms of total sales revenue, it’s still small but growing,” he says.
Earlier today, Mark Millar expressed some concern that creators would not make as much money from digital comics. Ens has a different take, and I’m going to quote his answer at length, because I think he nails it:
With all of next week’s Comic-Con International’s panels fully revealed, those of you who are attending are probably putting together your schedule as we speak … but don’t forget to factor in some of the cool stuff that’ll be going on on the floor. Here’s a list of stuff you can do and people you can meet at various booths, with no doubt more on the way:
• Dark Horse Comics will have Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Morgan Spurlock, Stan Sakai, Mike Mignola, Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Eric Powell, Joss Whedon, Janet & Alex Evanovich, Felicia Day and more at their booth.
• BOOM! Studios also released their booth schedule, which features appearances by Mark Waid, Claudio Sanchez, Peter David and Tad Stones, who created Darkwing Duck.
• Fantagraphics has released their booth schedule, along with a list of new books that will debut at the show. These include new volumes of their Peanuts collections, a new Prison Pit book, several Ignatz titles and Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories.
The 2009 San Diego Comic-Con is less than a month away, with preview night kicking things off on Wednesday, July 22. If you are a publisher, creator, retailer or any other kind of exhibitor who would like to let folks know about any special plans you have for the show (panels, signing schedules, exclusives, debuts, etc.) drop me an email and I’ll run it here.
Also, to the right is the 40th anniversary souvenir book cover, featuring art by the great Rick Geary. Comic-Con debuted it on their Twitter feed, where they’ve also been announcing panels and auctions for membership badges.
Publishers | Red 5 Comics will be at booth S-9 in the small press area, with the creators of We Kill Monsters, Neozoic, Atomic Robo and Afterburn available for signings.
Books | Scott Morse says he’ll have about 100 copies of The Ancient Book of Sex and Science, which sold out before its release after being mentioned on BoingBoing. He’s also taking orders for a signed and numbered edition, which he’ll bring to the con if you order one.
Exclusives | Becky Cloonan will have a set of four silkscreen prints at the con, limited to 100 “signed, numbered, stamped and enveloped” copies.
I asked if she and the 5/Pixu crew had another book planned for this year, but she said they’ve all been so busy they haven’t been able to do one. She also said she’ll have a big announcement at the con, and she’ll have a table with with Brian Wood, Cliff Chiang and Jill Thompson.
Mini-comics | According to Ben Towle, J Chris Campbell of Wide Awake Press is putting together a Michael Jackson memorial mini-comic to sell at the con, which will feature stories and pin-ups of the King of Pop.
Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #1-5
Written by Brian Clevinger; Illustrated by Scott Wegener
Red 5 Comics; $2.95/issue
One of the things I loved most about the first Atomic Robo series was that each issue stood on its own and told a different story from the others. Nikola Tesla’s greatest creation could fight giant ants in one issue and mummies in the next. You just never knew what you were going to get.
It was the perfect format for a monthly serial. In a time when I almost always wait for the collections on independent books, Atomic Robo made me excited to tune in each month for the next installment. There was no incentive to hold off and read the story all at once later on. It was all about instant gratification.
When I heard that the second mini-series, Dogs of War, was going to be more of a serialized story, I was worried that it would lose some of that spontaneity that I’d loved so much the first time around. It didn’t though. Dogs of War focuses on Robo’s service fighting Nazis in WWII and the stories are connected, but there’s still a great deal of variety from issue to issue. There’ll be a little more flow in the eventual collection than there was in the last volume, but it’s still very much an instant gratification kind of book.