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Comics A.M. | Graphic novel sales rise again in book market

The Walking Dead, Vol. 18

The Walking Dead, Vol. 18

Graphic novels | Graphic novel sales are up 6.59 percent in comics shops, and they are also up in bookstores, according to the latest issue of ICv2′s Internal Correspondence. Sales have been increasing in the direct market for a while, but this is the first uptick in bookstore sales since the economy crashed in 2008. There seem to be several factors, including the popularity of television and movie tie-ins — the success of DC’s graphic novel program linked to Man of Steel is singled out — and a turnaround in manga sales. The article winds up with lists of the top properties in a number of different categories. [ICv2]

Digital comics | Here’s today’s news article on Crunchyroll’s new digital manga service, which offers same-day releases of 12 Kodansha manga titles for free and an all-you-can-eat service for $4.99 a month. Tomohiro Osaki interviews Japanese publishing insiders, who are upfront about the fact that this is an attempt to compete with pirate sites, and translator Matt Thorn, who says that better translations on the official site may lure readers away from scanlations. [The Japan Times]

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Matteo Scalera, sketch machine

header_by_matteoscalera

These last few days, the good burghers of the Essential Sequential agency have been posting sketch after sketch by Italy’s Matteo Scalera to their Instagram account. Scalera might not be the biggest name in their stable of artists (which includes Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson and Dan Panosian), but he’s producing stylish work, redolent of another couple of Essential Sequential artists, Eric Canete and Sean Gordon Murphy. I’d throw Declan Shalvey and Robbi Rodriguez in as another couple of touchstones, too. A little further digging reveals Scalera’s blog and his DeviantArt page are the places to find better-quality, less ruthlessly cropped, versions of these illustrations. His DeviantArt account reveals him to be an absolute sketch machine — he’s numbering them, and has reached 533.

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The Fifth Color | Different states of Captain America

Captain America #11

the cover to Captain America #11 by Carlos Pacheco

Everyone needs a little reinvention now and then. It’s human nature to take a look at ourselves and try on a different hat to see if it changes anything. Halloween, cosplay, even just a vacation to another place can be a way to escape the person we are now for the person we could be. Sometimes, the reinvention sticks; after all, none of us is who we were in high school. Sometimes it’s a terrible idea that we can pull ourselves out of, like a bad haircut. Either way, who we are remains essential while the trappings can change for a fresh perspective.

Comic characters need the same thing, much to our chagrin. Some of these heroes have been around for 60 or 70 years, so obviously they can’t be the same people they were in World War II. There have been cultural shifts that practically demand characters change to keep up with the times and standards; we just don’t call characters “Lass” or “Lad” anymore, and Sue Storm’s early Invisible Girl years can be embarrassingly sexist. Comic book characters have to retain their audience, if not attract a new one every generation, and a new costume can go a long way in creating a water mark for when fans started reading a particular title. Most of all, creative teams demand these changes as no one wants to write the same character over and over, year after year, without a chance to make their mark on the hero’s legend. And much like a bad haircut, sometimes these changes don’t go over very well with fans; this still does not change the character at heart.

It can be even more difficult when a comic book character is more than a hero, but a symbol of a country. Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. have brought us 10 issues of a new chapter in Captain America’s life and there has been so much change it might be hard to swallow. Because Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting were so wildly successful with their reinvention eight years ago, we’re having a hard time letting go of what was working for something new and decidedly different. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad haircut to be suffered through; if anything, a reinvention can help fans look at a beloved hero in a new way, just another facet of their history and character.

WARNING: We’ll be talking about the Marvel NOW! run of Captain America and, mostly spoilerly, Captain America #10 where a bunch of stuff happens. Grab your copies and read along!

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Shawn Crystal gets personal with artist podcast ‘InkPulp Audio’

inkpulp_audio_logo_by_inkpulp-d5k5utdMuch in the way Marc Maron’s WTF podcast provides a more personal, and sometimes profound, look at comedians as they’re interviewed by a fellow comedian, comic artist and Savannah College of Art and Design professor Shawn Crystal has turned the spotlight on comic-book creators.

Earlier this year Crystal launched the podcast InkPulp Audio (available on iTunes here), and it’s already generating buzz among his fellow creators. The artist who introduced me to it said, tongue in cheek, that he’s “hoping Crystal will soon be the Oprah of comics.” While that remains to be seen (keep checking under your chairs for that new car), the podcast finds him talking shop with such artists as Sean Murphy, Eric Canete, Ryan Stegman and Rick Remender.

The idea for the podcast came to Crystal as he found himself at a crossroads.

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What Are You Reading? with James Hornsby

rocket-raccoon-and-groot-tease

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look into the reading habits of the Robot 6 gang. Today’s special guest is James Hornsby, the cartoonist behind Botched Spot and Over Like Olav.

To see what James and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below …

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What Are You Reading? with Brandon Thomas

Uncanny X-Force #1 J. Scott Campbell variant

Happy Easter and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where we review the stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we are joined by Miranda Mercury and Voltron writer Brandon Thomas, whose collection of original art and other stuff we featured in Shelf Porn yesterday.

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

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Nick Spencer is holding too many secrets in ‘Secret Avengers’

Holding too many cards spoils the game.

Holding too many cards spoils the game.

I didn’t talk about the first issue of the new, more NOW! Secret Avengers last week for a few reasons: First off, I try to keep things positive as I can here at The Fifth Color; I can’t say I always succeed, but being fair is good goal to shoot for. Secondly, I would have wanted to talk about the ending of Rick Remender’s run on the title way more than Nick Spencer’s new gig. Seriously, how amazing was that last issue? Remender really pulled out all the stops on his fascinating robot revolution and really made me sit up and take notice toward the end despite what was more of a expositional start. I hope he has time to come back to his philosophical super-science take on man vs. machine, but I’m guessing it’ll be awhile before Deathlok is back under his employ. Then again, the Uncanny Avengers are specifically the “non-discriminatory: Avengers group, so maybe Deathlok will be sneaking into a few more pages- and see? I told you.

Lastly, it was the day after Valentine’s Day and I am a huge sap.

Thankfully, the esteemed Michael May was dashingly handsome enough to compare the new NOW! Nick Spencer spy story with the similarly cast new storyline in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Avengers Assemble. Comparing their sp-ytastic stories against one another, it was easy to see where one had suceeded at being a movie-like throwback to secret agent action and where one sadly failed.

Below, I’m going to talk about how Secret Avengers drew the short straw in comic storytelling and how that cool new ‘indy look’ for Marvel comics can fall flat on it’s face. Join me, won’t you?

WARNING: We’re talking about Secret Avengers #1 and Winter Soldier #14, so grab your copies and read along!

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Food or Comics? | Snapple or Snapshot

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Snapshot #1

Graeme McMillan

It’s a busy week at the store for me, it seems. If I had $15 this week, I’d pick up Harbinger #0 (Valiant, $3.99), the one-shot revealing the backstory of the surprisingly compelling relaunch/reboot of the 1990s series, as well as the first issues of Fearless Defenders (Marvel, $2.99) and Snapshot (Image, $2.99). The latter, I’ve already read in its Judge Dredd Megazine serialization, but I’m really curious to see if it reads differently in longer chapters; the former, I’m just hopeful for, given the high concept and involvement of Cullen Bunn.

If I had $30, I’d add the reissued 7 Miles A Second HC (Fantagraphics, $19.99) to my pile. I remember reading the original Vertigo version of this in the 1990s, and am definitely curious to see what this recolored edition, with pages restored after being cut from the Vertigo edition, is like.

Splurging, I find myself drawn to IDW’s Doctor Who Omnibus, Vol. 1 ($29.99). I blame the lack of new Doctor Who on the television right now. That month-and-a-bit is far too long to wait …!

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Comics A.M. | Rob Liefeld is a ‘Doer’; critic Les Coleman passes away

Prophet #21

Creators | For Slate’s “Doers” feature — “People who accomplish great things, and how they do it” — David Wiegel spotlights Rob Liefeld’s decision to revive his Extreme Studios line by handing over the properties to creators like Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Tim Seeley. Acknowledging his critics prefer these new versions of Glory, Prophet and Bloodstrike to his originals, Liefeld tells the website, ““The internet snark has zero effect on me. I was there 20 years ago, I’m out there on the convention circuit, I experience the real and tangible enthusiasm for me and my work. You can’t rewrite the history books, you can’t eliminate the impact of my work and my characters. [...] Rob Liefeld is to today as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan are to my kids.” [Slate.com]

Passings | Paul Gravett pays tribute to the late British writer and critic Les Coleman. [Paul Gravett]

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Food or Comics? | Black beans or Black Beetle

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Black Beetle: No Way Out #1

J.K. Parkin

If I had $15, I’d start with Black Beetle #1 (Dark Horse, $3.99), Francesco Francavilla’s pulp action hero who jumps into his own miniseries after a run in Dark Horse Presents. I’d also grab Threshold #1 (DC Comics, $2.99), which continues the story from last week’s New Guardians annual, featuring a new Green Lantern and a whole bunch of cosmic DC characters. I’d also grab Comeback #3 (Image, $3.50), as I just got around to reading the first issue and really enjoyed it. They’re doing some fun stuff with time travel that should make for a cool series. That leaves room for one more, which is a hard choice … but let’s go with Indestructible Hulk #3 (Marvel, $3.99), because I love the new direction and take on the character and his status quo.

If I had $30, I’d also pick up Saga #9 (Image, $2.99) and Daredevil #22 ($2.99), because, well, Saga and Daredevil. I’m also really digging what Kelly Sue Deconnick is doing with the Avengers, so next I’d get Avengers Assemble #11 (Marvel, $3.99). Lastly, I’d grab Captain America #3 (Marvel, $3.99), as I’m really worried about Cap and the kid, and hope they come out of Zola’s world OK.

Finally, for my spulrge, I’d go with the big Paul Pope book from Image, One Trick Rip-Off ($29.99).

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Food or Comics? | Steak or Star Wars

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Star Wars #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15 (big “if” this week!), I’d take a break from the struggles of adult life and find sanctuary in the pages of high mythology thanks to Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #4 (Marvel, $3.99). Aaron and Ribic have really build up an excellent foil for Thor in the God-Killer, and also snuck in the idea of Young Thor and Old Thor – something I’d love to see expounded upon in their own series or one-shot (hint-hint). Second up would be the startling potent promise of Star Wars #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99). I never thought I’d see Brian Wood do a Star Wars comic, but I’m so glad he is – and seemingly doing it on his own terms. Thinking of him writing Princess Leia, and the potential there specifically has been rolling around in my brain for weeks. Third, I’d get two promising artist-centric series (at least for me) in B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth — Abyss Time #1 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and TMNT: Secret of the Foot Clan #1 (IDW, $3.99). James Harren and Mateus Santolouco, respectively, are two artists I’ve been keen on for the past year and both of these books look like potential breakouts to a bigger stage. On the TMNT side, I’ve always thought Shredder and the Foot Clan to be one of the most overlooked great villains in comics, so I’m glad to see some focus on that and some potential answers.

If I had $30, I’d continue my super(comic)market sweep with Womanthology: Space #4 (IDW, $3.99). This series has two things I love: new, young creators and a space theme. I’ve been on a space opera/sci-fi kick for a while now thanks to Saga and re-reading some Heinlein, so this anthology series comes to me most fortuitously. Next up would be Legend of Luther Strode #2 (Image, $3.50). Luther Strode is a real down-and-out kind of hero, like some sort of action-based Charlie Brown. Tradd Moore’s artwork really makes this sing, too. Finally, I’d get two Marvel books with Secret Avengers #36 (Marvel, $3.99) and Wolverine and the X-Men #23 (Marvel, $3.99). I’m gritting my teeth on the latter – not because it’s bad, but because it isn’t as good for me as the previous arcs. For Secret Avengers, I feel Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s run on this has been sadly overlooked in the wave of Marvel NOW books, but this mega-arc about the Descendents and now Black-Ant has been great. I’d love to see Black-Ant as a permanent part of the Marvel U.

If I could splurge, I’d throw practicality out the door and shell out big bucks for the Black Incal deluxe hardcover (Humanoids, $79.95). There’s few times I’d spend nearly 80 bucks on a comic, but this classic story by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius is one of those once-in-a-blue-moon kind of things. This has been reprinted numerous times (I have an older one), but I’m re-buying the story here for the deluxe treatment this volume has with its large size.

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What Are You Reading? with Brian Cronin

Mara #1

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we take a look at the comics, books and other things the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately. We kick off the new year with Brian Cronin from Comics Should Be Good! as our special guest. In addition to running our sister blog, Brian is also an author, having written two books on comics trivia. He also runs the blog Urban Legends Revealed, where he talks about sports and entertainment urban legends.

To see what Brian and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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Chain Reactions | Uncanny X-Force #35

Uncanny X-Force #35

Wednesday saw the end of Marvel’s well-received Uncanny X-Force, by Rick Remender, Phil Noto and Frank Martin Jr., as Remender moves on to Captain America and Uncanny Avengers, and two new comics with “X” and “Force” in their titles launch as a part of Marvel NOW! Still, this is a book that will be worth missing once it is gone, as noted by the reviews for this final issue, so let’s raise a glass to the last three years of stories by Remender and company:

Maxwell Majernik, Comicosity: “I am sad to see the series go. It was hands down the consistently best X-comic and one of my most looked forward to books each month. Remender really got these characters. We won’t see another Deadpool like this for a while. Psylocke, even though she will be headlining the new Uncanny X-Force comic, is going to be tough to write after how perfectly Remender wrote her and her powers. Even Evan, who has had a lot of time to shine in Wolverine and the X-Men, comes off as a great character in this series.”

Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources: “The best part of the book is not the surprise happy ending, though, as surprising as that may sound. (And it is a nice ending for that character.) It’s actually a small conversation between Genesis and Deadpool. It’s a good way to wrap up Genesis’s “is he going to be Apocalypse?” story, and it’s handled in a way that justifies Deadpool’s presence throughout all 35 issues of this series in one fell swoop. It’s hard to serve up being both touching and crass in just a few panels, but I like that Remender manages to do just that. I’d expect nothing less, honestly.”

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Food or Comics? | Black beans or Black Beetle

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Black Beetle: Night Shift

Graeme McMillan

It’s beginning to look a lot like the final Wednesday before Christmas (and the final full one of the year), so with my $15, I’d get some gifts for myself that I know I’ll enjoy: the second issue of Chris Roberson (and now, Dennis Calero)’s Masks (Dynamite, $3.99), the third issue of Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity (Image, $2.99) and Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle: Night Shift #0 (Dark Horse, $2.99). Also, I suspect that I’ll be unable to resist the first part of Vertigo’s adaptation of Django Unchained (DC/Vertigo, $3.99), too.

If I had $30, I’d add another pile of favorites to that list: Judge Dredd #2 (IDW, $3.99), the by-now-amazingly-late-but-still-enjoyable Bionic Woman #6 (Dynamite, $3.99), Hawkeye #6 (Marvel Comics, $2.99), and the latest issue of the always-wonderful Saga (Image, $2.99).

When it comes to splurging, however, then I’m going to be playing it relatively cheaply: That Star Trek 100-Page Winter Spectacular (IDW, $7.99) feels like it might offer just the kind of space-age cheer I’ll be grateful for by mid-week … Happy Warpspeed Holidays, all.

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What Are You Reading? with Gardner Linn and Dave Lentz

Signs and Meanings

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guests are Gardner Linn and Dave Lentz, the creative team behind the webcomic Registered Weapon — “the internet’s only webcomic starring a robotic cash register who fights crime.” They just kicked off their latest story, Case 006, on Nov. 12, and you can also download the first ten pages from their site if you prefer to read in bigger chunks.

To see what Gardner, Dave and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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