INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
Small Press Expo, that magical indie-comics festival that takes place each autumn in Bethesda, Maryland, is upon us once again. The show is traditionally thronged with noteworthy cartoonists and graphic novels, and this year proves no different, with folks like Emily Carroll, Jules Feiffer, Renee French, Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, Raina Telgemeier and Brandon Graham scheduled to attend.
While the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel isn’t a labyrinthine structure that requires mapmaking skills to traverse, if this is your first time at the show, or if it’s been awhile since you last attended, you might be looking for some helpful advice on how to navigate it. Here then are six suggestions on how to get the most out of your SPX experience.
1. Get there early. The first thing you can expect to see when you enter the hotel is a long entrance line that snakes around the hallway. While it tends to move (somewhat) quickly, if you’re not a fan of standing in line I’d recommend getting there early. Or at least preparing yourself to spend some downtime waiting for your turn (which, honestly, you’re going to do if you want to get a book signed by, say, Jules Feiffer).
Archie Comics has launched what it calls its new app — it’s really an update of the publisher’s existing iOS and Android apps — with an offer of 100 free comics for those who download it. And there may be more: I asked Archie’s Alex Segura how long the promotion would be in effect and he said, “We’re looking to have this up for about a month, and if downloads reach a certain threshold, we’ll be unlocking more free books on a tiered basis to celebrate the new app launches on Android and iOS.”
There’s quite a range of free comics available on the app, including classics, recent releases and comics that feature the side characters Jinx, Sabrina (original and manga versions) and Cosmo the Merry Martian. Not present: Afterlife With Archie, which carries a teen rating as opposed to Archie’s standard all-ages rating. There are also no Sonic, Mega Man or New Crusaders freebies, although they are available for in-app purchase. Say what? Yes, this app is built on iVerse’s Comics Plus platform, so you can buy new comics in-app. The app also includes Archie Unlimited, an all-you-can eat subscription service that allows subscribers to read a ton of comics, both new and back issues; because it’s integrated into the app, you can then buy the ones you want to keep.
Here are my picks for six free Archie comics that make entertaining reading, especially on a lazy summer weekend.
We’re a little more than halfway through the year, which makes it the perfect time to pause and separate the truly exemplary comics from the merely mediocre.
Below are six of my favorite comics of the year thus far. Many of them will likely make their way into my final “best of 2014″ list come December, but I reserve the right to completely change my mind between now and then.
In any case, let me know what comics you’ve enjoyed reading thus far (or how crazy I am for forgetting Graphic Novel X) in the comments section.
Superhero names carry a lot of weight, both in their fictional universes and our world. As we’ve seen time and again in comics, sometimes a costumed identity proves more popular than the actual character, leading to the decision to put someone else in the costume, either in an effort to boost reader interest (and, therefore, sales) or to simply take the story in a different direction.
In this week’s Six by 6, we look at six legacy, or “replacement,” heroes who ended up overshadowing their predecessors. Some, such as Green Lantern and The Flash, you may know; however, others may surprise you.
In case you missed it, Amazon announced last Thursday their intent to buy the popular digital comics provider comiXology. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, and terms were not disclosed.
Maybe this explains why my Prime membership went up in price? OK, probably not. But this is a major shift for the industry, as the biggest seller of digital comics will be owned by a mega Internet company. It’s really too soon to know exactly what this will all mean, but here are a few thoughts I’ve had after shifting through the announcement and some of the reactions to it.
New comics come out every week, by the dozens. Add that up by the month or the year, and it’s virtually impossible to keep track. Certain runs on some titles rise to the top by a mixture of critical acclaim, proper marketing and the right timing, but if all of those factors aren’t perfectly aligned, good comics fall by the wayside.
In this edition of ROBOT 6’s “Six by 6,” we look at six noteworthy creative runs on superhero comics worth a second look, even if that means a trip to the back-issue bin.
Death, taxes and new comics. Those are just a few things we can expect in the New Year (not YOUR death necessarily, just death in general). Anyway, lots of comics will be published this year. Here are six I’m really looking forward to and that I think you should be excited about as well. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.
1. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Random House). A bit of an obvious choice perhaps. Still, whether you loved Scott Pilgrim or hated it to tiny, tiny pieces, there’s little doubt that O’Malley’s big follow-up to his uber-successful and much ballyhooed series is going to draw a lot of attention from all corners of comics fandom. There’s a lot of people curious about this book, about which little is known other than it takes place in a restaurant. Count me among them.
2. Arsene Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics). Is Olivier Schrauwen one of the most amazing, inventive and original cartoonists to come along in decades? Well, duh. If you’ve read The Man Who Grew His Beard, My Boy or perhaps the initial chapter of this (I’m assuming) invented tale of the author’s grandfather, you know how creative and fearless he can be. This might well be the book I’m most looking forward to this year.
It happens every year: Despite the best efforts of authors, publishers and publicists, there are smart, funny and downright entertaining comics that fail to get their proper due. It’s a truth made more manifest every year as production and publishing costs are lowered and more and more people find ways of getting their work on print or online.
So once again I’ve put together a list of some books I thought could have used a bit more love, at least in terms of coverage if not also sales (though usually it’s both). These aren’t necessarily the best books of the past year – I’m not sure I’d swap any of them out for my own top 10 list – they’re just really good comics that didn’t seem to get enough attention. Let me know what you’d add to the list in the comments section below.
The big news (for me at least) of the past week was Dan Nadel’s announcement that he has decided to close up shop on PictureBox, his publishing empire. While I completely understand his desire to focus his energies on other things it’s sad news nevertheless. PictureBox was one of the most interesting and daring comics publishers out there and the books they released helped change the conversation about what comics should be.
Thankfully, Nadel is going out with a bang in the form of a 50 percent-off sale through Jan. 2. PictureBox published so many excellent books by so many talented cartoonists – Lauren Weinstein, Mat Brinkman, Jonny Negron, Frank Santoro, Ben Jones, etc. – that making a few essential recommendations is a tough task to put it mildly. Still, if you’re looking to take advantage of the sale, and aren’t sure what to buy, here are some books I enjoyed a great deal and think you might too.
1. Gold Pollen and Other Stories by Seiichi Hayashi. One of the sadder tragedies of PictureBox’s closing is it comes just as critic and scholar Ryan Holmberg’s two new lines – Ten Cent Manga and Masters of Alternative Manga – were just getting started. I greatly enjoyed the two books in the Ten Cent line (The Mysterious Underground Men by Osamu Tezuka and Last of the Mohicans by Shigeru Sugiura) but it was Gold Pollen that really floored me. This collection of highly symbolic short stories (one uncompleted) present some really daring, exciting work by Hayashi (author of Red Colored Elegy), particularly the elegant, minimalist Red Dragonfly. That, combined with Holmberg’s insightful, educational essay make this my favorite book of 2013 thus far. The good news is that apparently Holmberg has found a publisher interested in picking up the Ten Cent Manga line. No word yet if the Alternative Manga line will find a benefactor, but let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Seeing films and television series adapted as comic books is nothing new, but in the past decade we’ve experienced a new phenomenon in which canceled TV shows are finding a second life, and a second chance, in comics form. In many cases, these properties pick up right where their television runs left off, such as in Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight and IDW Publishing’s recent X-Files launch. So with that in mind, we turn to six other beloved genre shows that deserve a comic-book revival.
Some might say we’re experiencing the Golden Age of superheroes in film, but in reality it’s just live-action catching up to animation. Warner Bros. Animation has been a trailblazer in that area, with 26 feature films based on DC Comics’ characters since 1993. And with the recent release of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, based on the 2011 Flashpoint crossover, we’ve come up with a half-dozen other DC series or arcs Warner Bros. could (and should) look to for future animated films.
Sure, everyone gets worked up about turning comics into movies, but what about the other way around? Cartoonists have been attempting to cram great works of literature or art into tiny panels since the birth of Classics Illustrated. But many of these adaptations, despite the noblest of intentions, fall horribly flat or fail to evoke a tenth of the original work’s greatness.
There are exceptions of course; comics that not only manage to capture or add to the spirit of the original work, but in a few cases are the equal or better of the source material. Here then are six such examples. Feel free to include your own nominations in the comments section.
It was about a year ago that Monkeybrain Comics, the all-digital, creator-owned comics publisher headed up by Chris Roberson and Allison Baker, burst onto the scene. A year later, they’ve published roughly two dozen titles, many of which have found print homes and one of which, Bandette, brought home a few Eisner nominations.
In celebration of their big year, we thought we’d list six of our favorite Monkeybrain titles, but we couldn’t quite narrow the list down that far, so you’re getting one bonus selection as well.
This Sunday is Bloomsday, that special time of year when people around the world draw together to celebrate one of the finest works of English literature, Ulysses by James Joyce. Or they try to, anyway.
If you haven’t attempted to read Joyce’s magnum opus before, it can be a little rough going. In honor of the literary holiday, I thought I’d list six Joyce-themed comics you can read on Sunday in addition to (or, if you must, in place of) Ulysses. You wouldn’t think there could possibly be that many Joycean comics available to the casual reader but I assure it’s so. Steady on, stately, plump Buck Mulligan!
1. Boom Boom #2 by David Lasky: Lasky has done enough Joyce-themed comics to fill at least a thick-sized pamphlet if not an actual book (and really, at some point I need to devote a “Collect This Now!” column to those works). But if you’re looking for just one comic to read this Bloomsday, I would strongly recommend starting here, with the second issue of Lasky’s ’90s-era one-man anthology. In Issue 2, Lasky tells various anecdotes about Joyce during his time writing Ulysses, but his method is both inspired and unique. He apes specific, iconic Lee/Kirby comics, especially Fantastic Four #1, imbuing Joyce’s comparatively mundane life with grandeur and heroism. Even after all these years, it’s still a pretty boss idea. Once you’re done with that comic, consider picking up Lasky’s “Ulysses” minicomic adaptation as well.
In March, DC Comics debuted Constantine, a new series focusing on the hard-living occult detective John Constantine. No big deal, right? Not so. For more more than two decades, the character was one of the pillars of the the publisher’s “mature readers” Vertigo imprint, starring in the long-running Hellblazer.
Following brief minor dalliances in some event titles in 2010 and 2011, Constantine was made a key figure in the New 52 title Justice League Dark. The aforementioned Hellblazer ended earlier this year with its 300th issue, paving the way for a full-fledged transition of the Liverpudlian warlock into the realm of superheroes. Readers greeted the new Constantine series with both hope and trepidation, and although the first issues are out — so is the jury.
With that in mind, it’s interesting to look at other characters that have called Vertigo home, and how they might fare in the DC Universe of the New 52. Some, like Constantine, crossed over with a bang, while others like Lucifer Morningstar and Kid Eternity, not so much. For this installment of “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six characters or teams that could possibly make the transition well. Please note than many of Vertigo’s best-remembered series aren’t wholly owned by DC but rather in creator-participation deals like Preacher, Transmetropolitan and 100 Bullets; so while the idea of Spider Jerusalem reporting on the state of things in Gotham City might be amusing, I’ve left those off the table for reality’s sake.