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Since they signed an exclusive five-year contract with Image Comics last year, the crime-comics duo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have been rolling out newer, weirder stories with the finale of Fatale and their latest Hollywood noir The Fade Out.
But at the end of this month, they’ll return to their biggest project, the anthologized yet interconnected neo noir series Criminal. Originally published though Marvel’s Icon imprint beginning in 2006, the series returns on Jan. 28 with a one-two punch of Coward, the first Image Comics trade collection, and an all-new magazine-sized one-shot titled Criminal: Savage Edition.
We caught up with Brubaker about the return of Criminal, the one-shot’s mix of prison life and ’70s genre comics, and the future of his partnership with Phillips.
ROBOT 6: You’ve spoken a lot about picking up new readers with each project you’ve launched at Image, and because it’s been a few years since you and Sean did a brand-new Criminal volume, I thought we’d start with the basics. How do you describe Criminal to those who haven’t read it? It’s a series with a high concept behind it, but it’s not one of those “It’s The Big Sleep … in Space!” kind of high concepts.
Ed Brubaker: It really doesn’t have a high concept, does it? I usually just lean on saying it’s won a bunch of awards and is critically acclaimed, because I don’t know how to “one-sentence” it. But let’s try …
Legal | Attorney Evan Stassberg finds two significant problems with Comic-Con International’s trademark-infringement claim against Salt Lake Comic Con over the use of the term “Comic Con”: There are a lot of shows called “comic con,” so it could be argued it’s a descriptive term that’s not specific to the San Diego event, and precisely because there are so many events that use that term, it could be argued that Comic-Con International organizers haven’t been policing their trademark. Strassberg adds, “The Salt Lake organizers’ steadfast defiance and ongoing gravitas has turned a simple trademark dispute into a national news story with mountains of free publicity for the Salt Lake event. If this was intentional, it is an astonishing display of marketing genius. If this was mere happenstance, it is the comic book convention equivalent of the accidental invention of Post-It notes.” [Deseret News]
“Everyone who’s ever written Captain America has wanted to bring Bucky back, and I was the first person who arrived at a time where they were willing to … The whole thing when Bucky died was a ret-con that Stan Lee did because he didn’t like sidekicks, and Jack Kirby went along with it because he thought it was this great way to add tragedy to Captain America […] But honestly, when I got the book, I was asked, ‘What would you want to do?’ and I said, ‘Well, I have this idea about how to bring back Bucky, where he is like a really cool bad guy who’s actually an adult.’ And Joe Quesada said, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting, because we just this big summit where we were arguing over whether we could bring back Bucky or not, because Captain America is not selling.’
I was working on a thing with Gene Colan years later — his last comic that he ever did; he drew Captain America, he co-created the Falcon — and I asked him, ‘How come you guys never brought Bucky back?’ And he said, ‘Oh, y’know, we were doing this story where Bucky came back and he turned out to be a robot, and I asked Stan, “Why don’t we have it be the real Bucky?” and he said, “Aw, sales aren’t low enough yet.”‘ Stan was always OK with [resurrecting Bucky], because he always left the door open — like when Bucky died, they always put the word ‘supposedly’ in there, so I felt like the door was left open. I got a lot of flak for it at the time, because it was a ret-con, but I also tried really hard to make sure the ret-con worked with the actual con, if that makes sense.”
– Ed Brubaker, in a wide-ranging discussion that touches upon his Captain America run, his collaborations with Sean Phillips and Steve Epting, and the five-year deal he and Phillips signed with Image Comics
Events | The second annual Black Comic Book Festival will take place this weekend at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. The lineup of guests includes Norwood Steven Harris, Grey Williamson and Tim Fielder. “It is the largest gathering of black comic book fans in the country,” says Schomburg Director Khalil Gibran Muhammad. “There is something for everyone from the aspirational 9-year-old illustrator, to the costumed superheroes, to the lifelong collectors.” [New York Daily News]
Creators | Ed Brubaker discusses the exclusive deal he and Sean Phillips signed with Image Comics, announced last week at Image Expo: ” It’s almost like having your own label or something. Just the fact that we can green-light our own projects and we have approval over format, everything. … I feel like we have such a core audience that seems to follow us from thing to thing, so let’s take advantage of that and really just experiment and go crazy and just be artists.” [IGN]
In three short years, Image Comics has turned Image Expo into the first big comics event of the year. Interest in the publisher’s announcements has reached the point where I wish there were live-streaming video of the presentation. Maybe next year. For now, we have to settle with live coverage, which was still pretty fun. Image Expo didn’t disappoint: It seemed as if every title announced caught my interest. There are a few that stand out, however, so here are my Top 5 picks of the announcements that went above and beyond.
1. Image signs Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips to a five-year exclusive contract
The acclaimed collaborators have a perpetual green light at Image to do whatever they want for the next five years. That’s a big vote of confidence, and a real commitment to support Brubaker and Phillips. It must be quite a relief for them to not have to worry about crafting the perfect pitch and convincing someone to believe in their story. They just get to create. It’s an exciting arrangement, and one I hope will serve as a pilot program for others equally worthy.
A lot of big announcements came out of Image Expo today — among them, new projects from Grant Morrison, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Snyder and Jock, and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie — but the most significant may be an unprecedented five-year deal with frequent collaborators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
The agreement allows the creators, in the words of the publisher, “to do anything they want with total freedom, total control, and total ownership over their projects.” Or, as Brubaker told The New York Times, “It really is like a movie studio gave you an overall deal where you could green light your own projects. If you wanted to do a four-hour Russian film, you could — you may not make a profit, but you could do it.”
The first project under the deal will be The Fade Out, which Brubaker said at the expo is “loosely based on things that happened in Hollywood in the ’40s.” It will debut this summer, following the conclusion of Fatale with Issue 24.
Brubaker and Phillips first worked together in 1999 on Scene of the Crime, and reteamed for Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito and Fatale.
Image Publisher Eric Stephenson explained the deal with the Eisner Award-winning duo was easy to approve, telling The Times, “Whoever is looking back at comics history is going to be looking back at the work of certain creative teams and Ed and Sean is one the biggest teams we’ve had.”
Awards | Sean Phillips was named as best artist and Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, as best comic/graphic novel at the 2013 British Fantasy Awards, presented Sunday at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, alongside the World Fantasy Awards. [British Fantasy Society]
Publishing | Tim Pilcher of Humanoids talks about his company’s new plans to distribute its graphic novels in the United Kingdom through Turnaround Publisher Services. [ICv2]
Conventions | Italy’s Lucca Fest had a record-breaking show, with 200,000 tickets sold and 300,000 attendees in all. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Remember the sound that resonated around the world on July 24? The unison gurrrr-klap! noise made by thousands of readers groaning and slapping their foreheads simultaneously, accompanying the release of Constantine #5, and the eponymous warlock usurping the powers of Shazam? Yeah, you’re bound to. That earth-shaking racket was the first thing I thought of when I saw this the other day at Sean Phillips’ blog, drawn for the 1995 UKCAC convention booklet.
Preview Night doesn’t begin for another 11 hours, but judging from the flurry of announcements, Comic-Con International has been well under way since, oh, about Monday. So, if it feels like you’re already falling behind, that’s because you probably are.
To help you catch up, we’ve rounded up early news from DC Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Madefire and Marvel, along with a few other convention-related items.
• Dynamite Entertainment came out of the gate running this week with news that Steve Niles and Dennis Calero will reboot Army of Darkness, James Robinson will launch his crime romance Grand Passion, the Legends of Red Sonja miniseries will team Gail Simone with an all-female creative team that includes Marjorie M. Liu, Nancy A. Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mercedes Lackey, Nicola Scott and Devin Grayson, Peter Milligan will debut his sci-fi action series Terminal Hero, Duane Swiercyznski will expand the publisher’s crime line with Ex-Con, Howard Chaykin will return to The Shadow with the miniseries Midnight in Moscow, NBC’s Heroes will get a “fifth season” in a series written by Cullen Bunn, the acquisition of the Robotech license spawns a Robotech/Voltron crossover, and The Heart of the Beast, the graphic novel by Dean Motter, Judith Dupré and Sean Phillips, will receive a 20th-anniversary prestige-format edition.
Manga | As part of the 45th-anniversary celebration of Weekly Shonen Jump, legendary Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump creator Akira Toriyama will launch a new manga series called Ginga Patrol Jaka (Galactic Patrol Jaka) in the magazine’s July 13 issue. Teased only with vague declaration “The ‘legend’ of hope for the entire world returns here!!,” the series marks the 58-year-old artist’s first manga since the 2010 one-shot Kintoki, created for Weekly Shonen Jump‘s “Top of the Super Legend” project. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Carol Tyler speaks frankly about her struggle to finish the third book of her trilogy You’ll Never Know while taking care of her dying mother and her seriously ill sister, who are characters in the book: “I literally had to do the back end of Book III in hospitals, nursing homes, at the chemo place and in waiting rooms. It was insane.” She also discusses her style choices and how the finished books differed from her original art. [The Comics Journal]
Sean Phillips has posted previews of the upcoming Art of Sean Phillips book, which arrives in September from Dynamite Entertainment.
One of the noteworthy things about these images is that Phillips (or more likely, a friend or member of his family) must have kept all the comics he produced as a kid. Most of us probably did this kind of stuff as children, but few would ever bother to preserve it (that said, someone in Brandon Graham’s family clearly has, too). Phillips’ kith and kin must have foreseen his inevitable rise to greatness: Indeed, it’s within a just a few short years that Sean was being published professionally by DC Thomson, while still a teenager. A couple of years later, Phillips would be working for 2000AD, the usual launchpad for international success for U.K. creators.
If you want to capture a ghost, call the Ghostbusters, but if you want to steal a ghost, apparently you need Jackson T. Winter.
Winter is the main character in Ghosted, a new series from Skybound by Joshua Williamson (Masks & Mobsters) and Goran Sudzuka (Y: The Last Man). Announced at the “Skybound On The Rise” panel at the Emerald City Comicon, the five-issue miniseries is about a thief, Winter, who is broken out of jail by a collector putting together an Oceans 11-esque team of experts with the intent to “steal” a ghost.
“Winters is not a good guy. He’s cold, but you can see fire in his eyes — a genius criminal who takes planning capers to another level,” Williamson told USA Today, who have several preview pages from the first issue. “It’s about money and he uses people to get what he wants. He’s seen some really screwed up things that have left him feeling cursed and haunted. The man has seen death in many forms and understands its power.”
Fatale artist Sean Phillips will provide covers for the comic, which starts in July.
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 be tempted to blow it all on the recolored Death of Superman collection for the ’90s nostalgia. But then I’d probably flip through it and come to my senses, and instead get something new like Fatale #12 ($3.50) by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, which looks like it’s going to be a trip, flashing back to Medieval times but self-contained as a good entry point for new readers. That’s smart comics. Speaking of smarty-pants, I’d probably get The Manhattan Projects #9 ($3.50) by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. It’s the first part of a two-part story about scientists trying to take over the world. There will probably be lots of words that leave me dizzy. I likely wouldn’t be able to resist Matt Wagner writing The Shadow: Year One #1 ($3.99) because, you know, The Shadow knows. I haven’t been following IDW’s G.I. Joe universe but G.I. Joe #1 ($3.99) by Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth seems like a good opportunity to try it out. And I’d finish it off with Cyber Force #3 by Marc Silvestri and Koi Pham because it’s free.
With $30, I would add to the above. Darkhawk is on the cover of Avengers Arena #4 ($2.99) by Dennis Hopeless and Alessandro Vitti, so I’d be compelled to buy that. I’ve been meaning to check out Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening’s Ghostbusters since I hear it’s real fun, so the relaunched Ghostbusters #1 ($3.99) is a perfect opportunity. Morning Glories #24 ($2.99) by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma seems too intriguing to pass up. I am so behind on the X-books, but I’d be real tempted to try Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo’s Uncanny X-Men #1 ($3.99).
My splurge item would be tough. I’d be real tempted to get either the Iron Man Omnibus collecting the entire run of David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita Jr., including the famous alcoholism story, or Counter X: Generation X – Four Days by Brian Wood. But I’d probably end up instead getting the Daredevil By Mark Waid, Vol. 1 hardcover for $35. I don’t know, do I need to justify this purchase? It’s probably the most beloved superhero comic of last year, maybe for the last couple of years. It paved the way for similarly rejuvenating series at Marvel like Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, and Young Avengers. The art by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin is swoon-worthy. And it wants to be on my bookshelf, dagnabbit!
To see what James and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
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. I’m filling in this week for Michael May, who is off in Florida spending his splurge money on mouse ears and giant turkey legs.
If I had $15, I’d start of the week with Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga #7 (Image, $2.99). Saga has become a real bright spot in comics for me being sci-fi without being “sci-fi,” being romance without being “romance,” and being great at being great. It gives me the same excitement the way Bone, Strangers In Paradise and A Distant Soil did back in the early 90s. Next up would be Punk Rock Jesus #5 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) by Sean Murphy. Murphy’s really exceeded my expectations here, creating a nuanced and elaborate world that has great art as a bonus. You can really tell Murphy’s been thinking about this story for awhile now. After that I’d get Invincible #97 (Image, $2.99), to finally get the truth behind the new Invincible, Zandale. I’ve been enticed by what’s been teased so far, and I hope the inevitable return of Mark Grayson doesn’t prevent me from seeing more of Zandale in the future. Last up with my $15 budget would be my call for the best superhero book on the stands today, Wolverine & The X-Men #20 (Marvel, $3.99). I feel like the title isn’t getting the attention it deserves with Marvel NOW! upon us, but Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw are absolutely delivering it here.
If I had $30, I’d double back and double up on Brian Wood with Conan The Barbarian #10 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and The Massive #6 (Dark Horse, $3.50). The Massive has survived the monumental loss of artist Kristian Donaldson, forging on in Wood’s story of one ship trying to survive in an ecological destitute Earth. Over at Conan The Barbarian, Declan Shalvey looks to be bringing the goods and showing he’s more than a Marvel superhero artist. After that I’d get the second series debut of Where Is Jake Ellis? (Image, $3.50) by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic. This is a mighty pairing, and seeing them peel back the layers on Jake Ellis has been fun.