Paul Bettany Talks "Age of Ultron," Working with James Spader & More
Creators | Responding to the removal of Maus from Moscow bookstores as the Russian government cracks down on Nazi symbols, Art Spiegelman said, “It’s a real shame because this is a book about memory. We don’t want cultures to erase memory.” Retailers fear the swastika on the graphic novel’s cover may be enough to run afoul of a new law prohibiting “Nazi propaganda” as the country prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany. “I don’t think Maus was the intended target for this, obviously,” the cartoonist told The Guardian. “But I think [the law] had an intentional effect of squelching freedom of expression in Russia. The whole goal seems to make anybody in the expression business skittish.” [The Guardian]
Comics are art, and sometimes art is comics. The print collective Secret Panel, which ROBOT 6 wrote about last fall, has released two new limited-edition prints by Becky Cloonan and Matt Taylor focusing on Sex Criminals, the acclaimed Image Comics series by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (now being developed for television).
This is the fourth release for Secret Panel since its launch in October, following prints based on Nameless, Hotline Miami and Revival. Here are Taylor and Cloonan’s prints, the latter of which isn’t exactly safe for work:
Retailing | Susana Polo interviews several members of the Valkyries, the organization of women who work in comic shops, and examines the “Valkyrie Bump,” the sales boost that some comics, such as Sex Criminals, Lumberjanes and Batgirl, get when they benefit from their extra support. [Publishers Weekly]
Political cartoons | Reporter James Hookway interviews the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who’s facing sedition charges, and provides some background on Malaysian politics and trial of Anwar Ibrahim, which is the topic of some of Zunar’s controversial cartoons. [The Wall Street Journal]
Museums | The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has added comics to its permanent collection for the first time. Abigail and William Gerdts donated 176 comics, including Zap Comix and Arcade: The Comics Revue. Judith Brodie, curator of modern prints and drawings, cited the influence of comics on artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein: “They were all drawing their inspiration from cartoons and comic books. It seems totally logical that we’d want a representation of those.” [The Washington Post]
Passings | Greek cartoonist Ilias Skoulas died passed away Thursday at age 87. Skoulas began his career as an editorial cartoonist at the age of 32, and his work was published in numerous Greek newspapers and magazines, as well as 13 books. [Greek Reporter]
Like comiXology and Marvel Unlimited, DC Entertainment and Image Comics are celebrating Comic-Con International with sales on select digital titles.
Through Tuesday, DC is marking the 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight by offering digital downloads of a whopping 750 Batman comics for 99 cents each. These aren’t typical dollar-bin titles, however; they include The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween, No Man’s Land, Year One, Hush, The Court of the Owls and All Star Batman & Robbin the Boy Wonder. If you’re wanting to go way back, there are comics dating back to 1938, with Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27.
If you’re a fan of both Sex Criminals and The Wicked + The Divine, you’re in luck: USA Today has unveiled Chip Zdarsky’s alternate cover for the second issue of the new Image Comics series … featuring creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.
Debuting this week to positive reviews, The Wicked + The Divine centers on 12 gods who are reborn every 90 years as the ultimate pop stars.
Retailing | Image Comics took seven of the Top 20 spots on Nielsen BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in May, with multiple volumes of Saga and The Walking Dead once again appearing, joined by the first collection of Sex Criminals. Kodansha Comics took six spots, with the most recent volume of Attack on Titan at the top of the chart, followed by the first volume. Four more volumes were scattered around the list. Legendary’s Godzilla movie tie-in, Godzilla: Awakening, placed at No. 3. [ICv2]
Legal | The Japanese legislature has moved forward with a bill that would criminalize possession of child pornography, which is expected to pass the Diet before it recesses on June 22. The new law would ban photos and videos made using real children but excludes manga and anime. [The Japan Times]
Manga | The 13th volume of Hajime Isayama’s hit dystopian fantasy Attack on Titan sold 1.4 million copies in Japan during its first week of release: 1.13 million copies of the regular edition, and 270,000 of a special edition that includes the original video animation. Kodansha ordered a 2.75 million-copy initial print run, a record not only for the series but for the publisher as well. The 66th volume of One Piece holds the record in Japan for highest sales in the first week with nearly 2.3 million copies. [Crunchyroll]
Publishing | Darren Davis of Bluewater Productions, talks about the evolution of his company and the origin story of its Female Force bio-comics line: “[W]e saw a comic book done of Barack Obama and John McCain during the 2008 elections, and my partner joked and said, ‘Why don’t we do Hillary?’ And I thought, oh my God, that’s a brilliant idea.So I thought, let’s do this, but let’s do it differently. Let’s not do it like everyone else, with a boring biography. We did it with a female empowerment angle. We released Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin at the same time, and whether you like Sarah Palin or hate Hillary Clinton, you have to respect both of them for where they came from and who they are.” [The Beaverton Leader]
This year’s Eisner Awards nominations were dominated by two publishers, Fantagraphics and Image Comics, with the former earning 18 and the latter 17 (plus three shared). To celebrate the occasion, Image is holding a 50 percent-off sale on digital editions of all 10 nominated titles, for a limited time. That means you’re getting single issues for just 99 cents each.
Whether you’ve fallen behind on some of the series or want to see what all the hubbub is about, now is pretty good time to check out East of West, Lazarus, The Manhattan Projects, Nowhere Men, Outlaw Territory, Pretty Deadly, Rat Queens, Saga, Sex Criminals and Zero.
Legal | In a decision that will undoubtedly usher in more Holmes and Watson novels, comic books, movies and television, a federal judge has issued a declarative judgment that the elements included in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published by Arthur Conan Doyle before Jan. 1, 1923 are in the public domain in the United States. That means creators are free to use the characters and elements from those stories (but not from the 10 published after 1923) without paying a licensing fee to the protective Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Ltd.
The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed early this year by Leslie Klinger, who served as an adviser on director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes films and with Laurie R. King edited In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new stories written by different authors. Although Klinger and King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection, their publisher received a letter from the Conan Doyle estate demanding another fee; in response, Klinger sued. [The New York Times]
Normally, photo covers are pretty boring and easy to pass by, but Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Olan Mills-style portrait for the fourth printing Sex Criminals #1 is … well, indescribably awesome. Unveiled this morning by Image Comics, the cover features Fraction with his hands on Zdarsky’s shoulders while the latter cradles first-printing copy of Sex Criminals #1. The entire image is delightfully awkward, with both gazing vacantly into the distance.
And then there’s the timely blurb at the top, which references Fraction’s recent amicable departure from Marvel’s upcoming series Inhuman.
While I won’t go so far to say it’s the first time creators’ photos have been used for cover, it’s certainly a rare occurrence, and undoubtedly one of the most creative uses of a multiple-printing variant. Also, it should absolutely become tradition that any fourth printing of a comic breaks the fourth wall.
Welcome to Best of 7, our new weekly wrap-up post here at Robot 6. Each Sunday we’ll talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out on Wednesday.
So without further ado, let’s get to it …
Digital comics | Apple rejected 59 comics this year for in-app buying, although many of them were allowed into the iBookstore. I looked at the phenomenon, and talked to Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson about the effect that had on Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, which is available via the comiXology website and Android app, iBooks, and Image’s own website, but can’t be bought in-app from comiXology’s iPad app. “”It absolutely hurt digital sales on Sex Criminals #2,” Stepheneson said. “This is a series that is getting fantastic word of mouth, it’s amazing work by Matt and Chip that is receiving rave reviews and selling out instantly. Not being able to offer the book to curious readers through our app or the comiXology app is a significant deterrent to reaching the widest possible audience.” [Publishers Weekly]
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. It’s only Monday, but our contributors have their eyes on Wednesday releases, ranging from Sex Criminals #1 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky to the fifth volume of A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori to the Dark Horse collection of Cameron Stewart’s acclaimed webcomic Sin Titulo.
To see what we’re looking forward to this week, just keep reading.
When Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals debuts next week from Image Comics, some readers will be exposed to Chip Zdarsky for the first time. And I tell you, it’ll be an unforgettable experience.
Zdarsky may be virtually unknown to devotees of mainstream comics, but for the people of Toronto and those in certain corners of the Internet, he’s a bit of a phenomenon. I was introduced to his work around 2003 through a collected edition of his comic strip Prison Funnies, and then through discussions on the Warren Ellis Forum. He was one of the early members of the web collective Act-I-Vate, contributing a short-lived but legendary series called Zdarsky-verse, which included a drug-fueled Pac-Man.