It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.
Finally, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]
Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]
Action! Mystery! Thrills!: Comic Book Covers of the Golden Ages, 1933-1945
Edited by Greg Sadowski
Fantagraphics Books, 208 pages, $29.99
Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1
Edited by Blake Bell
Fantagraphics Books, 224 pages, $39.99
Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics
Edited by Michael Gagne
Fantagraphics Books, 200 pages, $29.99
Our current publishing era has been dubbed the Golden Age of Reprints by a number of online pundits, myself included, and it’s not too hard to see why. Classic comics that fans and scholars never thought would make it to the bookbinders, let alone be available in an affordable version, are now coming off the presses at a staggering rate.
One of the benefits of this plethora of reprint projects is it allows us to re-examine certain noteworthy periods of comics history, help us discover long ignored artists and fully consider cartoonists who, though their names might have been recognizable, have largely been unappreciated except by a few. The alleged Golden Age of comics in particular has benefited from this scrutiny, not only in illuminating people like Fletcher Hanks but in showcasing work by folks like Jack Cole and Bill Everett.
One of the people leading the way in this specific endeavor is editor Greg Sadowski, who, in anthologies like Supermen! and Four Color Fear, has given average readers access to comics from well-covered eras (i.e. the early superhero and horror trends) merely by republishing stories that didn’t come from Marvel (or whatever it was called at the time), EC or DC.
Sadowski’s latest book, Action! Mystery! Thrills! has a somewhat even narrower focus, dealing entirely with comic book covers from the Golden era. It makes a certain amount of sense. While covers are still an integral part of marketing and selling a comic, they were even more essential back in those early, heady days, when you competed with hundreds of other titles and an eye-catching cover could mean the difference between profit and cancellation (or at least that’s what many editors and publishers of the time felt).
Publishing | Number-crunching the direct-market charts, John Jackson Miller determines that sales of comics ranking in Diamond’s Top 300 increased by more than 3 million copies in 2011, bringing the total to 72.13 million. Dollar sales, too, rose by nearly $3 million, even as the average price of comic dropped by about a dime, from $3.58 to $3.49. [The Comichron]
Creators | Artist Fiona Staples has responded to Dave Dorman’s objection to her cover for Saga #1, which shows a woman breastfeeding an infant: “I find it a little hard to fathom why anyone would object to a depiction of breastfeeding, even if it were on a kids’ comic, which it isn’t. I have yet to hear a line of reasoning that makes sense to me. That said, anyone who wants to be grossed out by our comic is of course free to do so. I’m just going to fixate on the part where a master painter called me a ‘gifted artist.’” [ComicsAlliance]
Disney is under fire from a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank for opposing a plan that would allow casino developers to build massive resorts in South Florida, all while the entertainment giant licenses its Marvel comics superheroes to gambling websites.
The Institute for Liberty, an opponent of healthcare reform that characterizes itself as “an aggressive defender of the rights of individuals to pursue the American dream,” has launched a television ad called “Disney’s Dark Side” that accuses the company of hypocrisy: Although the House of Mouse contends it’s “protecting Florida’s family-friendly image,” IFL argues it’s more concerned with these resorts encroaching on Walt Disney World’s market share.
“The truth?” the TV spot’s narrator says. “Disney’s so-called family-friendly image includes profiting from licensing comic book characters to online casinos.”
That’s certainly true. An online search for “Marvel casino slots” brings up countless results — including, plainly enough, Marvel Slots, which provides information on games featuring Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Captain America, Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four. Blade, Daredevil and Elektra also have their own slots (as you can see in the image above). Of course, it’s not only Marvel: Warner Bros.-owned DC Comics has a deal with Cryptologic for online slots featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Sandman, Watchmen and Green Lantern, among others. There’s also one based on Mike Mignola’s Hellboy.
But neither Warner Bros. nor Dark Horse has a dog, or a resort, in the South Florida casino fight. You can watch the TV spot below.
Publishing | John Jackson Miller takes apart the December sales numbers and finds that while comics were up for the month, graphic novel sales fell just enough to prevent the direct market from having its first up year since 2008. In fact, trades are down 16 percent from December 2010, and Miller spends some time discussing why that might be — and why next year might be different. [The Comichron]
Publishing | Houghton Mifflin has high hopes for Are You My Mother?, the new graphic novel from Fun Home author Alison Bechdel: The publisher plans a first printing of 100,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]
Retailing | Diamond’s Retailer Summit will be held the two days before the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with attendees receiving free admission to the April 13-15 convention. [ICv2]
Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors does for super villains what Harry Potter did for magicians—throws them together into an elite boarding school and lets the dynamics of the schoolyard take over, with a bit of intervention from the adults. The first six-issue arc, published by Image, was very well received, and writer Mark Andrew Smith announced yesterday that the next six-issue series, Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors: The Battle of the Superhero Archives, has been written and the first three issues are drawn. Artist Matthew Weldon, who illustrated Smith’s The New Brighton Archeological Society, is taking over the art chores from Armand Villavert for this arc.
Smith isn’t letting any grass grow under his feet: “I’m starting writing on series three and hope that the third series can be drawn while the second one is being created,” he writes. It’s worth noting that Gladstone actually was published on a monthly schedule; the fact that Smith works with a generous buffer may have a lot to do with that.
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has named Alex Cox as its deputy director, responsible for oversight of the organization’s home office and fundraising program. Cox, who came to the CBLDF in 2010, previously served as development manager. [CBLDF]
Publishing | Marvel Talent Coordinator Bon Alimagno is leaving the publisher for a position at San Francisco-based software company The Apollo Group. Previously editor of Harris Comics, Alimagno handled freelance scheduling at Marvel, working with David Bogart, the publisher’s senior vice president of business affairs and talent management. [The Beat]
Graphic novels | The Texas Library Association posts its 2012 Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List of recommendations for tweens and teens. [Texas Library Association]
If the rapid approach of the holidays has pushed you into panic mode, just relax, because you’ve already found the perfect gift for the superhero-comics fan in your life (or, y’know, yourself): a superhero Snuggie, or as the trademark sticklers prefer to call it, a “Comfy Throw Blanket With Sleeves”!
If you can’t fight crime like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Spider-Man, you can at least look like them — well, kind of? — while remaining toasty in the comfort of your own beige living room, while sitting on your own beige sofa and watching your own (probably) beige television. Hey, I’m only going by the product photos, which do a better job of advertising furniture than selling one-size-fits-all Snuggies Comfy Throw Blankets With Sleeves using two models and Photoshop.
Batman is out of stock, but you can still get Superman ($30.97), Wonder Woman ($25.99) and Spider-Man ($24.95) while supplies last! Act now and you’ll get … I don’t know, peace of mind? The satisfaction of seeing your loved one smile uncomfortably while modeling, and pretending to appreciate, a garish, yet comfy, fleece shroud? Yeah, probably that.
Mark Andrew Smith has posted the first issue of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors on his Tumblr for free. Featuring art by Armand Villavert, Gladstone’s School is an all-ages comic that has in-jokes to entertain adult comics fans and plenty of superhero action to engage the kids, so it really does work for all ages. The first volume of the collected edition came out on Wednesday.
Tumblr is an awkward platform for previews—the last page of the comic appears at the top of the site, and you have to scroll down to get to the beginning—but in this case it’s worth it because Smith has annotated the pages, so it’s bit like getting the director’s commentary.
Monk explains on his website: “Superheroes are icons of male power and potency whose comic book and film adventures see them engaged in epic battles across the universe, yet these mythic figures have another life as consumer objects to be found in commercial and domestic contexts. Placed in carrier bags and hung on a hook in a domestic space they become recently purchased objects, robbed of the enormous power they wield in their narratives, their dynamic energy stymied. Despite this reduction they remain irresistible in their cartoonish rage and pride.”
No matter how nuanced current superhero comics may be, to the general public they are still fairly simple. Superheroes are the good guys, supervillians are the bad guys, and it’s easy to see who is who. That’s why kids like to dress up as superheroes on Halloween — and why should they have all the fun?
Yesterday the Occupy Wall Street folks staged an event called “Superheroes versus Economic Supervillains,” featuring Gan Golan, creator of The Adventures of Unemployed Man, playing his own superhero. Golan orchestrated the event and created the other characters as well, including working-mom superhero Wonder Mother (at last!), a huge slot machine that stands in for the New York Stock Exchange, and my favorite, Krug Man, a superhero version of Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. It’s all in good fun, but it’s also publicity for the book. Indeed, Golan’s rich imagination seems to be his most valuable asset; he is working on another book and a possible animated version of The Adventures of Unemployed Man.
Legal | The fate of Michael George was placed in the hands of the jury Thursday after closing arguments in the trial of the former retailer and convention organizer accused of the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Although a comic collector places George in the shop around the time of the shooting, George’s mother insists he was asleep on her sofa. The jury deliberated for about two hours Thursday, and is expected to continue this morning. [Detroit Free Press]
Legal | Manga blogger Melinda Beasi contemplates the larger implications of the arrest of Brandon X for bringing manga into Canada that authorities deemed to be child pornography: “What terrifies me about Brandon’s case is that each time we allow our courts or communities (any courts or communities) to criminalize comics (any comics), we are inviting them to criminalize our own.” [CBLDF]
Color is so important to comics that most teams have a separate colorist, yet how much do we think about the significance of a particular palette? Darius A. Monsef IV, chief blogger at COLOURlovers, has spent quite a bit of time thinking about it, and he has produced a large infographic that compares the color schemes of good versus evil, both in costumes and in overall coloring. Some of the factoids are obvious (white for good characters, darker colors for evil, green for radioactivity), some are surprising (apparently orange and purple, paired with white and gray, signify neutral characters in the comics world). Also, the good guys are usually clad in primary colors and villains in secondary colors. And the analysis of the colors used by DC and Marvel is fascinating (in a color-nerd sort of way)—DC uses way more black, while Marvel skews red. The infographic also has a handy chart of costume color changes over the years.
Eleven Fine Art in London kicks off an exhibit called “Supermen- An Exhibition of Heroes” Sept. 16, which features collages of real-life heroes made from fragments of comic books.
In honor of the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11, Ben Turnbull’s collages “celebrates the real life heroes, the firemen, and policemen who protect us everyday, in iconic new images meticulously constructed from fragments of fictional superheroes including Captain America, Daredevil, and The Fantastic Four as well as Batman, Spiderman (sic), and the Hulk,” according to the gallery’s website.
“The life-changing events of 9/11 led us all to believe in the need for real life superheroes,” Turnbull said on the site. “Superman didn’t fly down to save the falling buildings, there was no Caped Crusader ready to do battle with the arch-enemy and Spidey didn’t spin his web. Without the need of a phone-booth or a revolving door these true patriots donned their iconic costumes and sacrificed life and limb for what they believed in. With every cut-comic hero and dialogue I hope to bring out the true merits of the Brave and the Bold in their fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way.”
You can check out more of the artwork here. The exhibit runs through Oct. 22.
Usually this feature highlights webcomics that have just gotten started and have a small archive, but today’s choice is a little different: You should start reading Chris and Kyle Bolton’s Smash now so you will be up to speed when Season 2 debuts on Aug. 25. Briefly, it’s the story of a 10-year-old boy who inherits superpowers —a nd the great responsibility that comes with them — when his local superhero bites the dust. The opening chapters are notable for some very funny sequences in which Andrew, our hero, has to master his superpowers; there’s a lot of slapstick, and it turns out the ability to fly is a mixed blessing if you’re afraid of heights. Candlewick will publish the first season in book form, which is another reason to read it online now, as comics have a tendency to disappear from the web once they are published in print.