INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
“I was kind of joking, but kind of not joking about MJ. And I was like, ‘What if MJ is a dude?’ Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking! … So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”
— The Amazing Spider-Man 2 star, and longtime Spider-Man fan, Andrew Garfield, recounting to Entertainment Weekly a conversation he had with producer Matt Tolmach about Mary Jane Watson. (The actor even has a male MJ in mind: Friday Night Lights and Chronicle star Michael B. Jordan.) In the process, Garfield may have just restarted the game of telephone some mainstream-media outlets played in 2011 when Marvel announced that biracial teen Miles Morales would be the new Ultimate Spider-Man.
Are you getting excited? New teasers and trailers are being released almost every day now. The countdown to Summer Movie Season is officially on, and the big blockbusters adapting comics are looking promising. Iron Man 3 has an armada of armors flying around; can’t really go wrong there. The Wolverine has ninjas as far as the eye can see. And the bearded and brooding Man of Steel might even end up being good. Throw in a little Kick-Ass 2 and RED 2, sprinkle with R.I.P.D. and 300: Rise of an Empire, and top it off with 2 Guns, and you’ve got yourself one fun summer.
While we still get clunkers, the ratio of good to suck has definitely improved. It used to be that the old chestnut response to a movie adapted from a novel could be more often than not applied to movies adapted from comics: The book was better. And it’s often still true. But there are times when the movies do it better than comics, and while that’s great for the filmmakers and audiences, in a way it’s an indictment on the comics-makers.
Comics offer more boundless creativity than almost any medium. With comics, there’s no studio executive, no creation-by-committee made up of shareholders and board members with less experience creating and telling stories than their companies’ interns. It’s why Tony Stark being an alcoholic doesn’t fly with Disney and was removed from Iron Man 3. Comics can still include collaboration and compromise but they can just as easily be the result of a single voice. Even with the most heavy-handed editorially mandated comics, they’re still created by a fraction of people needed to make a Hollywood movie. Comics are generally more spontaneous, imaginative and clever than most major studio movies. But sometimes, Hollywood gets the jump on comics.
Vintage comics and original comic art brought in $4.4 million over the weekend during a Heritage auction in New York City, Artinfo reports. Among the bigger sales were a CGC-graded 6.5 copy of Detective Comics #27, for $567,625, and John Romita Sr.’s original cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #121, which fetched $286,800.
As we noted on Friday, Dave Gibbons’ original cover art for Watchmen #1 sold for $155,350, with the first three covers going for a combined $216,892.50. John Higgins’ color guide for the first cover was bought for $7,767.50. The remaining covers for the 12-issue landmark series are expected to go up for auction later this year.
Wired.com delves into the history of the 12 covers, which were purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in 1993 by former Wizard Publisher Gareb Shamus for what’s been reported to be in the neighborhood of $26,000. The article doesn’t repeat that figure, but it does say what was paid was “a bargain price” (for instance, Higgins’ color guide for the cover of Watchmen #1 was picked up for $50, which was then five to 10 times the usual price).
John Romita Sr.’s original cover art for the landmark Amazing Spider-Man #121 has reached $268, 875 in online bidding ahead of a live auction scheduled for today in New York City.
The piece is being offered as part of Heritage’s Vintage Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction, which includes Dave Gibbons’ iconic Watchmen covers, an original Calvin and Hobbes strip by Bill Watterson, and 10 pages from Dave Sim’s Cerebus: High Society.
The Amazing Spider-Man #121, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” was a defining moment not only for Peter Parker but for the comics industry; as Heritage Auctions notes in its description, some point to the story as the end point for the Silver Age. (This was the end of innocence for comics,” Arnold Blumberg wrote in Comic Book Marketplace. “It remains one of the most potent stories ever published.”)
Publishing | The Amazing Spider-Man #700 led the pack in the December comics numbers with 200,000 copies selling to comics shops, and with a cover price if $7.99, it racked up a cool $1.6 million in sales. Avengers #1 sold 186,000 copies but at a more reasonable price, so the dollars didn’t pile up as high for that one. ICv2 also has the December charts for the Top 300 comics and graphic novels in the direct market. John Jackson Miller takes it to the next level with sales estimates for the top 1,000 comics and trades of 2012. [ICv2]
Publishing | At the other end of the scale, Rob Clough talks to Chuck Forsman, the guy behind micropublisher Oily Comics. [The Comics Journal]
There’s a professional wrestler named Cody Rhodes. His family has been in the wrestling business for longer than he’s been alive, his father being the legendary Dusty Rhodes and his brother the offbeat Golddust, both working for the WWE. Following family tradition, he’s a fantastic wrestler, absolutely charming and has only recently gotten the crowd’s attention through a horrible-looking mustache.
Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.
As I said, Cody Rhodes is fantastic. He’s worked with legends, played mostly heel roles and tried to work the crowd against him. He even had a stint with a Doctor Doom-esque look, complete with mask, dark hood, minions and a hatred for the ugliness of WWE fans. I thought it compelling, at least, but most crowds seemed to find it lukewarm at best. He brought a sense of prestige back to the Intercontinental Title; it’s already moved on and stagnated once more. Nothing seems to stick with a guy who has so much going for him … until this mustache. After some time off for an injury, he returned to a tag-team partnership with — gracious, just look at it. It’s horrible. It’s laughable. Patchy in places, it just doesn’t fit his face quite right, making him look less like Tom Selleck and more like a guy with candy in his unmarked van. The very night he returned, the audience seemed to wake up. A spontaneous chant of “Co-dy’s mus-tache!” broke out and has followed him since. Other wrestlers can poke fun at it, he can be angry and indignant about it, bad guy wrestlers can support this horrible decision and somewhere down the line, there can be a “Mustache Match” or something where the thing is removed and we have story line closure.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Superior Spider-Man is Cody Rhodes’ mustache.
Confused? Read on!
WARNING: We’ll be talking extensively about The Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 as well, so grab your copies and read along!
One of the most interesting things about the big plot development in this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #700 isn’t its effects on the Marvel Universe, or even fan reaction, but rather the lengths mainstream media outlets go to find a different angle for their coverage of the story. Take, for instance, CNN, which paired an interview with writer Dan Slott and editor Steve Wacker with a rundown of “13 comics that caused controversy, ranging from DC’s reintroduction of Alan Scott as a gay man and Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s recent abortion storyline to Superman’s renouncement of his U.S. citizenship (I’d already forgotten about that) to the tea party dust-up over Captain America #602.
Publishing | More than 4,000 new comic titles were released in the European Francophone market in 2012, marking the 17th consecutive year of growth. According to the Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinée, the French association of comic strip critics and journalists, more comics were produced in the Francophone market than in the United States. [RFI]
Comics | The death of Spider-Man hits the mainstream media, with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso asserting, “We didn’t make this move lightly.” Stan Lee called it “a helluva birthday present” but added “But then, a little voice in my head whispered, ‘never say never. Just go with it while you can because Marvel, the House of Ideas, will always have a surprise up its creative sleeve for you and the rest of Marveldom Assembled!'” Entertainment Weekly’s Geoff Boucher said the ongoing deaths of superheroes are starting to feel “a little gimmicky” but he also nailed why the publishers do it: “if you look at who’s buying Marvel and DC, it’s long term fans and those readers are going to complain about this and debate about it — but are going to buy two copies.” [New York Daily News]
“He’s not Superman. Spider-Man doesn’t always win. He’s us. We do our best, but sometimes we fall short. What makes him heroic is that he stays on the right path. There’s a victory in this story for Peter if you’re willing to see it. Any superhero can look heroic in the winner’s circle, when they’re adored and showered with praise. But when you’re in a losing battle, when the world’s against you, when everyone thinks you’re a menace, but you do the right thing anyway … that’s when you’re better than a superhero. That’s when you’re Peter Parker.”
I love comic books, too. They’re awesome. I get plenty worked up sometimes about what goes on in the pages of my favorite books because they’re not doing it right! I get it. I’ve devoted countless hours to these characters. Heck, I’m the guy who ran a New Warriors fan site for years, tracking the chronological order of every random appearance, no matter how minor. And I did it completely without irony! So I get the emotional investment we have for these characters.
I also get how fun it is to use social networks. I use Facebook a lot, and Twitter, too, and it’s easy to get riled about something you see posted there. There’s no ‘dislike’ button to click so sometimes you just have to vent. And sometimes it feels like a regular old “how could you?!” just isn’t enough, that it just doesn’t get across how deeply you disagree with a plot development.
Regardless, none of that justifies sending threats. Dan Slott has received some extreme reactions to the leaked details of The Amazing Spider-Man #700 that go so far beyond normal fan griping that I wondered just what could’ve provoked such a backlash. So I reviewed the leaked information, and I have to say my response was, “That’s it?“
Marvel has revealed Joe Quesada’s variant cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #700, the final issue of the long-running series, which is ending as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative. The issue features a regular cover by Mr. Garcin, and a second sketch variant by Quesada.
Before the year closes out, fans are in for one of the biggest shocks to hit the life of Peter Parker. Just when you thought all was going well for the World’s Greatest Super Hero, think again. This December, secrets are revealed, but the twists and turns are not done yet! Join Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, and a cavalcade of talented writers and artists in witnessing Amazing Spider-Man come to a close as we celebrate 50 years of Spider-Man!
The Amazing Spider-Man #700 will be one of only two Marvel comics on sale Dec. 26, which Diamond Comic Distributors as designated as a skip week because of the holiday. The other is Avenging Spider-Man #15.1, by Chris Yost and Paco Medina, which continues what Marvel is billing as “the must-read story.” See the full Quesada cover below.
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and other things we’ve been perusing of late. Our guest today is Tyler James (@tylerjamescomic), the publisher of ComixTribe, which is both an online resources for comic creators and a new creator-owned imprint. Tyler is also the writer of the superhero murder mystery The Red Ten, which goes on sale Dec. 19, and the organizer of the annual 30 Characters Challenge, in which writers and artists attempt to create 30 characters in just 30 days, one for every day in November (it’s under way now at 30characters.com).
Here’s what Tyler and the Robot 6 crew are reading this week:
Publishing | Matthew Garrahan’s profile of reclusive Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is somewhat sharper than the Los Angeles Times story linked last week, as it includes accusations that the 69-year-old billionaire threatened an employee, made a racially insensitive remark, and maneuvered Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney and three other executives (all African-American women who reportedly referred to themselves as “The Help”) out of their jobs. Nikki Finke follows up at Deadline with details of Disney and Marvel’s attempts at damage control, as well as the news that Disney has settled with the three former execs. [Financial Times]
Retailing | Comics shop veteran Amanda Emmert, executive director of the retailers’ association ComicsPRO and owner of Muse Comics in Colorado Springs, talks about retailing, the health of the industry, and the popular perception of comics shops as men’s clubs: “I have new customers who walk in and tell me how strange it is for a woman to work in a comic book store or a gaming store. Their experience comes more from watching The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, as you pointed out, than from seeing a great number of stores, though. I am very lucky to work for ComicsPRO; I get to work with hundreds of stores around the country, a large percentage of which are owned or operated by women.” [Colorado Springs Gazette]
John Jackson Miller takes a hard look at the July sales charts, starting by parsing the numbers for the month’s top seller, The Walking Dead #100. Diamond Comic Distributors estimates place sales of the regular comic at 335,000 copies, plus almost 31,000 of the $9.99 Chromium Edition. That’s a bit less than the 383,612 copies Image Comics announced, but as Miller notes, the Diamond numbers don’t include reorders, overseas sales, newsstand sales and other channels.
Anyway, just adding those first two numbers, U.S. direct-market sales of the regular issue and the variant cover, this comic sold 366,000 copies, setting a new record for the highest orders for a comic in a single month, handily beating The Amazing Spider-Man #583 (the Barack Obama issue), the previous top seller for the 21st century, and The Darkness #11, Image’s previous all-time top seller.
Miller spends a bit of time contemplating whether variant covers should be included in the one-month total. I paused to wonder how many of the variants are being bought by collectors who are picking up the standard cover as well, but in the end, a sale is a sale, regardless of why it occurs.
While all this is great news for Image, Miller makes an observation further down in the post that should give readers pause: “As reported last Friday, the market overall continued to percolate, up nearly 20% over the previous year. A gap is developing between the sales of the Top 300 graphic novels and graphic novel sales overall; the Top 300s for the last seven months are up 25% over last year, whereas everything in the category is only up 14%. That suggests a list that’s been top-heavy with unit volume and/or dollars.”
It would be interesting to take a closer look and see where the drop-off occurs; it may not be at 300, and if it’s further up the list, that would suggest a winners-and-losers scenario that could be bad news in the long run.
Auctions | Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at auction Thursday for $657,250, shattering the record for a single piece of American comics art set last year by a splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 ($448,125). However, the price falls well short of the $1.6 million shell out last month for the original cover art for Tintin in America. A 9.8 graded copy of X-Men #1 was also sold by Heritage Auctions for $492,937.50, more than twice the previous record for that comic. [ICv2]
Publishing | Lily Rothman takes a look at iVerse’s newly announced comics-only crowdfunding platform Comics Accelerator, which will allow immediate delivery of digital rewards in a more sophisticated format than an e-mailed PDF and cap its share of the take at $2,500. As Laura Morley of Womanthology points out, it can go both ways: Being on Kickstarter, a trusted platform with wide visibility, helped boost the project, but on the other hand, “Any site that’s able to take advantage of the fact that comics online already work as a big community, as a place where people talk to their friends and promote things they’re interested in, is likely to do well.” [Time]