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Cheat Sheet | From ‘Li’l Gotham’ to ‘Ultron #1AU’ to Torino

cheat-sheet-april8

Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. After an almost-uninterrupted string of U.S. conventions, from Emerald City Comicon and Fabletown & Beyond to WonderCon and MoCCA Arts Fest, eyes turn to Europe this weekend for the Torino Comics festival.

Meanwhile, our contributors select their picks for the best comics going on sale Wednesday, including Batman: Li’l Gotham #1, Relish and The Flash Chronicles, Vol. 4.

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Remembering Carmine Infantino

Lightning strikes Barry Allen in Showcase #4

Carmine Infantino empowers Barry Allen in Showcase #4 (1956; inks by Joe Kubert)

As part of a career in superhero comics that reached back to their beginnings, Carmine Infantino was one of the pillars of the Silver Age, and not just because he was a big part of its formative moment. His sleek redesign of the Flash became the avatar for DC Comics’ resurgent superhero line, and his unique style helped define not just the Scarlet Speedster’s world, but eventually all of the company’s titles.

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The New 52 creative management review

Justice League #1 (2011)Apparently we misunderstood: The New 52 doesn’t refer to the number of titles DC Comics publishes each month but rather the number of times each title changes creative hands. That’s what it seems like sometimes, what with firings by email, quitting on Twitter, rehirings and more. The general impression from behind-the-scenes tales is that the New 52 is in chaos. However, the end product might suggest DC is actually somewhat holding it together.

Creative changes are nothing new; turnover is inevitable. The key is how that turnover is managed. The ideal is to have a long and satisfying run by a cohesive team smoothly transitioning to a new team. Lord knows that doesn’t always happen, and we’ve certainly been hearing about it not happening recently.

With all of the news of creators coming and going, or going before they even get there, it’s easy to get distracted from the results of the finished product. So, I decided to take a look at a sampling of DC’s New 52, from its launch in late summer 2011 to today, and see how the stability of various titles was affected by creative changes. For my survey, I looked at the Justice League family of books, which includes the flagship Justice League, as well as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and others generally associated with the JLA that haven’t had a big Hollywood movie.

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What Are You Reading? with Brandon Thomas

Uncanny X-Force #1 J. Scott Campbell variant

Happy Easter and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where we review the stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we are joined by Miranda Mercury and Voltron writer Brandon Thomas, whose collection of original art and other stuff we featured in Shelf Porn yesterday.

To see what Brandon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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From Birmingham to Gotham City: Six questions with Mark Waid

Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.

Trying his luck today is comic writer, guest lecturer and sometimes keynote speaker Mark Waid. He’s the man behind Thrillbent.com and the writer of such comics as Indestructible Hulk, Daredevil, Insufferable, Steed and Mrs. Peel, Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom, Kingdom Come, The Flash, Captain America, Legion of Superheroes, Amazing Spider-Man, Irredeemable, Fantastic Four and many more.

Now let’s get to it …

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Grumpy Old Fan | Unfolding DC’s April solicitations

Work it, Dr. Fabulous!

Occasionally I talk about how perfunctory the monthly solicitation ritual can be … but not so for April!

On the same day the solicitations were released, Comic Book Resources launched its new “B&B” column, featuring editors Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase, and chock-full o’ factoids about various books. Moreover, the solicits were themselves packed with new story arcs, new creative teams, and an even more heightened feeling of coyness.

A big part of this coyness comes from April’s cover gimmick. Actually, we readers can only see half of the gimmick — because while every New 52 book will sport a fold-out cover, the solicits only show the left side. (Makes me wish there were a retailers-only edition of Previews, as this is just the kind of thing which surely irritates them.) To add to the anticipation, every New 52 solicitation ends with a question. Accordingly, this month more than usual, the solicits are structured precisely to set up dire consequences and leave them unresolved. Suspenseful!

Ah, but that sort of thing only encourages me. Let’s dive in, shall we?
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Food or Comics? | Happy New Potatoes!

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

The Chimpanzee Complex

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start the new year off right with Invincible #99 (Image, $2.99). The build-up (or teardown?) to Issue 100 has been great, and honestly I never quite trusted Dinosaurus to begin with so I’m glad to see this finally boil over. I’m all ears – and eyes – for this and the next issue. Next up I’d get another Image joint, Prophet #32 (Image, $3.99). Kudos to Brandon Graham for being confident in himself enough – and choosy enough in his collaborators – that he’s stepping back and letting artist Simon Roy write and draw a one-off issue. And the story of a Prophet clone gone native sounds mighty enticing. Third in this week’s haul would be Punk Rock Jesus #6 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). I feel a slight bit of remorse at how fast this series has gone – it seemed like a whole lot of introduction, a brief second act and now we’re being pushed into the finale. Still, one of the best series of 2012 (with this finale sneaking out two days after 2012). Finally, I’d get James Stokoe’s Godzilla: Half-Century War #4 (IDW, $3.99). I’ve become big fans of Ota and Kentaro here, and Stokoe has really populated this world with all kinds of special and grotesque. Excited to see what comes up here!

If I had $30, I’d continue my mad dash through my local comic shop with two Marvel picks: All New X-Men #5 (Marvel, $3.99) and New Avengers #1 (Marvel, $3.99). All-New X-Men has been surprisingly refreshing for me; I always love Stuart Immonen’s, but what’s startled me is how fresh and unencumbered Brian Bendis seems here with the writing. On the New Avengers #1 tip, I liked Hickman’s other Avengers work so far but I’m even more interested in how artist Steve Epting draws this unique cast. Plus, I loved Epting’s first run on Avengers – leather jackets, people! Next up I’d return to Image and get Glory #31 (Image, $3.99). This is going to be a great collection when the whole thing is done, but right now we’re knee-deep in the series itself as Glory faces off with her sister Silverfall. Hey Rob Liefeld – this Silverfall character could be something special for more after this series ends! And finally, I’d get Manhattan Projects #8 (Image, $3.50) and anxiously await the big reveal of the secret powerbrokers in the MP universe. I can’t wait for Hickman to blow my mind.

If I could splurge, I’d buy the back-to-back first and second volume of Chimpanzee Complex (#13.95 each, Cinebook). Coming to America with no press at all, I found this in Previews a while back and have been excited by its potential: a Franco-Belgian comic that reveals the astronauts who returned from the moon in 1969 were doppelgangers, and the fallout from that discovery. 2010 meets Orbiter. Bring it on.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s March solicitations come in like a lion

The sociopathic apple doesn't fall too far from the incredibly-driven tree

No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl.  There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.

Ready? O-kay!

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.

As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).

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A look at Francis Manapul’s sketches and layouts for The Flash

The first collected volume of the New 52 era of The Flash has hit shelves, and on its blog, DC Comics is showcasing rough layouts by artist and co-writer Francis Manapul. And they’re gorgeous.

In comic stores now (and in bookstores later this month), The Flash, Vol. 1: Move Forward collects the first eight issues of the run by Manapul and co-writer/colorist Brian Buccellato and doesn’t spare on the the extra features, with an inside look at layouts and sketches done by Manapul — some of which are being rolled out on DC’s blog (and below).

In the new wave of creators and runs from the New 52 relaunch, Manapul’s work on The Flash has been a standout for both its art and writing. As most of DC’s marketing is geared toward writers and story developments, it’s a welcome change to see the publisher leaning so heavily on the artistic component.

After years in the industry, Manapul seemed to come of age at DC, first with his work on the Superboy story inside Adventure Comics with writer Geoff Johns, then on the Flash title with Johns, and now on the New 52 Flash title. Much in the way Scott Snyder has become one of DC’s top writers, Manapul is emerging as one of the publisher’s leading artists.

Getting back to the subject of these excellent layouts, DC promises to post more on its blog later this week.

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Food or Comics? | Multiple Warheads of lettuce

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d dutifully pick up Dark Horse Presents #17 (Dark Horse, $7.99). With all the stories and the variety of genres, this is a comics haul all under one roof. This month’s issue has a great looking Carla Speed McNeil cover, and inside’s star looks to be Richard Corben adapting an Edgar Allan Poe story. Beat that, comics! After that I’d do an Image two-fer with Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1 (Image, $3.99) and Invincible #96 (Image, $2.99). On the Multiple Warheads front, I’ve been salivating over this ever since it was announced – I bought the premature version of this back when it was published by Oni, and it’s built up in my mind as potentially greater than King City … and I loved King City. In terms of Invincible, I feel this book has the best artists working in superhero comics – and the writing’s not to shabby either. They’re doing a lot of world-building here, and having Cory Walker join with Ryan Ottley on this essentially split book makes it the highpoint of the series so far.

If I had $30, I’d double back to Image and get Prophet #30 (Image, $3.99). Of all the prophets, I love Old Man Prophet the best – and this issue looks like a mind-bender. After that I’d get Ghost #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99). Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto look like a dream team and Dark Horse really scored a coup by getting them together on this book. I was a big fan of the original series (Adam Hughes!) so I’m excited to see if this new duo can make it work in a modern context. Third up would be Secret Avengers #33 (Marvel, $3.99). Make no mistake, I love that Rick Remender is so popular now that he’s graduated to the upper echelon of books, but I’m remorseful he’s having to leave his great runs on this, Uncanny X-Force and Venom. This Descendents arc is really picking up steam. Lastly, I’d get National Comics: Madame X #1 (DC, $3.99). I’m a fair-to-middling fan of Madame Xanadu, but the creators here – Rob Williams and Trevor Hairsine – mean it’s a Cla$$war reunion! Love that book, love these guys, and love my expectations here.

If I could splurge, I’d splurge all over Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine (Dark Horse, $15.99). Can DH do two excellent anthologies? We’ll see… but fortunately they’ve got Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy to lead the way in this pulpy throwback. Shine on, you crazy super-detailed diamond, shine on.

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Comics A.M. | Council OKs San Diego Convention Center expansion

Comic-Con International

Conventions | San Diego City Council has given final approval to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as necessary to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. The project still faces a legal challenge to a financing scheme involving a hotel-room surtax, as well as state regulatory approval, leading the city attorney to caution that the targeted 2017 completion date is just “a goal.” Whether Comic-Con organizers can be convinced to sign another three-year extension to their contract remains a big question. [NBC San Diego]

Conventions | Most of Heidi MacDonald’s article about New York Comic Con is behind a paywall at Publishers Weekly, but she pulls out some stats at The Beat: Ticket sales are up 190 percent over this time last year. As the capacity of the Javits Center is somewhere south of 110,000 people, this means the ReedPOP folks won’t sell any more tickets than last year, but they are selling out faster. Three-day and four-day passes are already gone, only Friday tickets remain, and ReedPOP vice president Lance Fensterman expects everything to be sold out by the time the show begins. [The Beat]

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Food or Comics? | Stelle or Steed and Peel

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Showcase Presents Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld, Volume 1

Graeme McMillan

It’s an odd one for me this week; if I had $15, I’d probably just grab two of DC’s Zero Month books (Batman Incorporated and Flash, both $2.99) and then skip straight to the $30 portion of the week so that I could pick up the Showcase Presents Amethyst, Vol. 1 collection (DC, $19.99), if only to reassure me that the original series was good after last week’s revival.

If I were to splurge, I’d step outside of DC’s purview and go for IDW’s Joe Kubert Tarzan Artist Edition. I was one of the many people who didn’t really “get” Kubert as a kid, but his linework won me over as I got older, and the chance to see some of his best-looking art in ”real size” is something that I’d love to be able to embrace.

Chris Mautner

If I had $15, I’d get Batman Incorporated #0, probably the only DC zero book I’ll get, and Vol. 11 of Yotsuba&!, because I could use some irrepressibly cute manga about an adorable green-haired girl right about now.

If I had $30, I’d put away Yotsuba&! and get Barbara, Osamu Tezuka’s manga about a would-be artist who takes in a lovely but strange homeless woman, only to become convinced that she is his personal muse. I know there was a bit of grumbling that DMP went the Kickstarter route in getting this published, but honestly, I’m just happy to have more Tezuka in print.

What constitutes a splurge purchase? How about six, hardcover, slipcased volumes of Robert Crumb’s sketchbook work, priced at about $1,600, courtesy of the fine folks at Taschen? Yeah, I think buying that would be a “splurge purchase.” It would also constitute sheer madness and a one-way trip to the poorhouse, but at least you’d have all those nice Crumb books to keep you company. I’m sure they’d make a fine pillow.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s December is getting closer all the time

Not the face!

Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.

In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them?  Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.

Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!

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Lora Zombie’s burlesque take on DC’s superwomen


Russian artist Lora Zombie has a portfolio full of work influenced by comic book iconography, though posed in a resolutely non-traditional form. She paints DC Comics’ female characters in work reminiscent of classic pin-up art, while her take on their male counterparts features them in a particularly non-dynamic fashion (but dig Batman’s Chuck Taylors!). Prints of all these are available at Eyes On Walls. Much more below.

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Food or Comics? | Amontillado or Amulet

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Locke & Key: Grindhouse

Graeme McMillan

I don’t know quite why, considering I’ve been feeling cynical and disinterested in the DC Universe over the past couple of weeks, but I find myself tempted by both Flash Annual #1 and Justice League International Annual #1 (both DC Comics; $4.99) this week; something even more surprising considering I haven’t been following the JLI series past trying out the first issue. And yet, if I had $15 this week, I suspect I’d be using a chunk of it for that. I’d also grab Joe Hill and Gabriel Hernandez’ Locke & Key: Grindhouse (IDW Publishing, $3.99), because, well, Locke & Key is a very, very good comic book.

If I had $30, I may find myself picking up the first collection of Peter Panzerfaust (Vol. 1: The Great Escape; Image Comics; $14.99) because I like the high concept behind it even if I managed to miss the single issues. People who did pick it up in singles: Is it the kind of thing I’d like, do you think?

Should I find the money and ability to splurge, I find myself surprisingly drawn to Dark Horse’s Star Wars Omnibus: Clone Wars Vol. 1 ($24.99); I blame people in my Twitter feed talking about Star Wars Celebration last week, and my thinking, “I haven’t really kept up with Star Wars in ages” in response. Does that count as peer pressure?

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