Axel-In-Charge: New X-Men Editorial Era, Garth Ennis' Marvel Return
I made no bones when I first wrote about the Joëlle Jones/Jamie S. Rich Lady Killer five-issue miniseries would be a must read, given the fact that award-winning veteran colorist Laura Allred would be gracing Jones’ art. While going into the first issue with elevated hopes, amazingly enough the Jones/Allred artistic team exceeded all of my heightened expectations.
Legal | The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn a June decision by the Seventh Circuit affirming that the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before Jan. 1, 1923, have entered the public domain. The estate had long insisted licensing fees be paid for the characters and story elements to be used in movies, television series and books, but author, editor and Holmes expert Leslie Klinger refused to fork over $5,000 for an anthology of new stories. In a series of legal defeats, the Doyle estate not only lost any claim to the stories but had to endure stinging public reprimands by Judge Richard Posner, who labeled the licensing fees as “a form of extortion” and praised Klinger for performing a “public service” by filing his lawsuit.
In its petition to the high court, the Doyle estate continues to cling to its argument (gleefully dismantled by Posner) that Holmes is a “complex” character that he was effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States; therefore, the entire body of work remains protected by copyright. Hoping to draw the interest of the justices, the estate points to a circuit split on the matter of extending copyright. The lawyers also repeat the unsuccessful argument that Klinger’s case shouldn’t have been heard until after his book was published. In June, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kegan refused to issue a stay to prevent the Holmes stories from officially entering the public domain. [TechDirt]
In addition to discussing the new status quo for Monkeybrain (which surprisingly stays much the same as before, as Roberson explains), we also delve into Edison Rex – Issue 16 arrives Wednesday — and dig into the writer’s first work for Dark Horse, Aliens: Fire and Stone, which debuts Sept. 24.
Conventions | Organizers anticipate as many as 70,000 people will attend MegaCon, held Friday through Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, up from about 60,000 last year; that could translate to $23 million impact on the local economy, according to the Orlando Business Journal. Guests include Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Chuck Dixon, Adam Kubert, Greg Land, Stan Lee, Jimmy Palmiotti, George Perez, Herb Trimpe, Mark Waid and Skottie Young. However, the names drawing the most attention may be The Walking Dead stars David Morrissey, Danai Gurira and Steve Yeun. “We are the first convention in the U.S. to have both David Morrissey and Danai Gurira at the same time,” Jason Smith, MegaCon’s director of operations, told Florida Today. “The show is definitely a fan favorite of our attendees.” [MegaCon]
Graphic novels | Marvel and DC Comics may dominate the direct market but the bookstore channel is another story: As ICv2 points out, neither publisher landed a title on Nielsen BookScan’s list of the 20 top-selling graphic novels in February. Instead, here’s what it looked like: six volumes of The Walking Dead, six volumes of Attack on Titan, two volumes of Saga, and single volumes of some well-established titles Locke & Key, Bleach, Naruto, Adventure Time and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the adaptation of the novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. That makes Image Comics the winner of the month, followed by Kodansha Comics, and the list is heavy on books with tween and teen appeal. [ICv2]
As part of its 2014 original graphic novel plans, Dark Horse will publish Two Past Midnight, by Duane Swierczynski and Eduardo Francisco, which pits Captain Midnight, Ghost and X against a psychopath named Tempus. In a brief interview with ROBOT 6, Swierczynski details how a change in publishing plans actually allowed him to work in more narrative cliffhangers than he might have otherwise developed.
Tim O’Shea: What can you tell readers about the cast and plot of Two Past Midnight OGN?
Duane Swierczynski: Two Past Midnight — or as the kids call it, 2PM — is a team-up of some very unlikely heroes squaring off against a freakish mind-controlling psycho who calls himself Tempus, as in “tempus fugit,” or “time flies.” Those heroes are Captain Midnight, Ghost and X, and they’re not exactly hanging out, swapping wisecracks and eating shawarma or whatever. The story is basically a nonstop carnival of violence; there is no time for shawarma.
Between his celebrated collaboration with Mark Waid on Daredevil, which relaunches in March as part of All-New Marvel NOW!, and his distinctive variant covers for Dynamite Entertainment and Marvel, Chris Samnee is an artist in high demand. But beginning in April, he returns to Dark Horse’s Angel & Faith — he drew a standalone issue of the previous series — to provide variant covers for the first arc of Victor Gischler and Will Conrad’s Season 10 run.
Dark Horse provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at his covers for Angel & Faith #1-2, while in the brief Q&A below, Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie explained why Samnee is the perfect artist for the job, and what readers can glean about the new season from what he drew.
Continuing with our annual “Looking Forward, Looking Back” feature for our big fifth anniversary, we asked various comics folks what they liked in 2013, what they’re looking forward to in 2014, and what projects they have planned for the coming year. In this edition, hear from Steve Orlando, Chris Roberson, Nick Dragotta, John Arcudi, Janet K. Lee, Kathryn Immonen, Lauren Sankovitch, Scott Allie, Valerio Schiti and Natalie Nourigat.
Once in a while, when I go into the comics shop to snag my weekly pile, there will be something on the shelf that catches totally unaware. On Oct. 2, I was delighted to discover the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Liberty Annual 2013 (published by Image Comics). Given that all the proceeds from the book (previewed here at CBR) benefit the CBLDF, I wanted to interview Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie, who directed the project. While I had his attention, I couldn’t pass up the chance to discuss some of the Dark Horse line as well.
Tim O’Shea: While seemingly an obvious question, I still think it worth asking: Why is it so important to you to volunteer your time for a project like the CBLDF Liberty Annual?
Scott Allie: Free speech is a near and dear cause, for me and for Dark Horse, and it’s still an uphill battle for comics. There are preconceptions about this art form that invite attacks, and we need to work to defend against that. I want creators and publishers to be free to put out what they want to put out, and for retailers to sell it without fear of prosecution, for readers to travel with their books without fear of incarceration. The CBLDF isn’t just about raising money in court cases. They’re about educating the population about the art form we love, and I want to be a part of that.
Abe Sapien had a rough 2012, having spent much of the year in a coma. But 2013 doesn’t look to be any easier for the B.P.R.D. agent — as it’s set to be both dark and terrible.
“He’d spent some time out of action as a field agent, and then got back involved in time to see Liz Sherman ignite the center of the world, releasing monsters and all sorts of other problems across the surface of the earth,” Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie said about Abe’s activities pre-coma. “He and the rest of the B.P.R.D. crew launched into action, fighting monsters all over, and eventually Abe was taken out by a young psychic girl during a mission in Texas. Since Abe’s been in the coma, in a life-support cocoon, his body has been changing …”
His story will continue with Abe Sapien: The Dark and Terrible, a new series written by Mike Mignola and Allie and illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara (Loki, Mystery in Space). Debuting April 3, the comic is the first issue of a “maxi-series” that will follow Abe as he travels across America, on the run from the B.P.R.D., as monsters continue to wreak havoc on the country — and as his own body continues to change in frightening ways.
I spoke with co-writer Allie about this new chapter in Abe’s story, and what it’s like to collaborate with Mignola.
Comics strips | An original 1986 Sunday installment of Calvin and Hobbes, drawn and hand-colored by Bill Watterson, has sold at auction for $203,150. The piece had been owned by Adam@Home and Red and Rover cartoonist Brian Basset, who exchanged original comics with Watterson in 1986. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Best of the year | The Top Ten lists are coming thick and fast now. Michael Cavna counts down his favorites of the year, which include Chris Ware’s Building Stories, Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, and Matt Dembicki’s Washington, D.C.-focused anthology, District Comics. [The Washington Post]
Best of the year | … and George Gene Gustines weighs in with his list. [The New York Times]
In a recent superhero comic, the artist introduced a character who was notable for his small stature. Nowhere in the first 20-odd-page issue did you see him clearly in scale next to normal-sized characters that demonstrated he was small. This was covered in passing in the dialogue. That’s bad comics. If you were telling this story over a campfire, one of the first things you’d say is that this guy was very short; you might make it specific, with a comparison. In comics, the art should do that for you. Something about a picture painting a thousand words. Visual info should be conveyed visually.
– Dark Horse editor Scott Allie, not referring to the specific panel above, but talking about the same thing.
Allie writes at length about the importance of visual storytelling to comics. He uses lots of examples, both positive and negative, but one of my favorites is when he points at some Alan Moore comics to prove that it doesn’t matter how talented the writer is. If the artist doesn’t convey the right information, the comic’s going to suck.
This isn’t to say that the art is more important than the writing. That’s not true, and neither is the reverse. What’s true is that art and words BOTH have to do their parts to make a good comic.
Publishing | Dark Horse editor Scott Allie explains the publisher’s plan to start numbering B.P.R.D. sequentially, starting with #100, rather than as “an ongoing series of miniseries”: “The reason to make the change was in part how many times [San Francisco retailer and industry pundit] Brian Hibbs told me, ‘Well, really B.P.R.D. is an ongoing…’ And he’s right. Another part of the reason is that as we’ve moved into doing more short stories — two- or three-issue stories — we get those new issue #1’s too often. You do new #1’s to give readers jumping on points, but when they’re coming so quickly it becomes more confusing than anything else. Depending on how retailers rack, you could have two or three B.P.R.D. #1’s on the shelf at a time, and it’s hard for readers or retailer to know what to read next. So while I know it will cause a little confusion to suddenly have #100 out there, a few months down the road it’ll make everything simpler.” [Comics Alliance]
Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.
It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.
Webcomics | Philip Hofer, the creator of the ComicPress WordPress theme used by many webcomics artists, discusses that and his new WordPress product, Comic Easel. [The Webcomic Beacon]
Creators | Peter Bagge talks about his comics and his relationship with Robert Crumb as both a contributor to and editor of Crumb’s anthology Weirdo: “With the style of work that I do, I like it to look on the surface like it’s shallow and stupid, but when you read it, the context is really sweet; [Crumb] saw that right away. I remember telling him ‘I have some story ideas, using fictional characters that are stand-ins for me, and I’m remembering things that are embarrassing and hard to write about. Even though I’m hiding behind a fictional character, I’m nervous talking about embarrassing events from my past. I’m a little bit afraid. He said ‘Those are exactly the stories you need to tell, especially if it won’t go away, and are always in the back of your head.’” [Graphic NYC]