Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Vertigo has announced the fall release of two Neil Gaiman deluxe hardcover editions, The Sandman: Overture and Free Country: A Tale of the Children’s Crusade.
The first may seem a tad optimistic, as the six-issue bimonthly miniseries by Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, which debuted in October 2013 as part of the 25th anniversary of The Sandman, has yet to release its final two chapters. Set to arrive in November, the deluxe edition will include all six issues, the gatefold from the debut issue, plus extras like pages from the Special Editions and script pages.
Academia | The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, is adding a masters of fine arts degree in applied cartooning that will allow students to focus on using the comics medium for journalism, medicine, business and other fields. [Valley News, press release]
Creators | With the arrival of the second issue of The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman talks about the joy of writing the first series and returning for this one, why he chooses to pen a story as a comic rather than a novel, and how his process differs as well: “When I’m outlining a comic, I write down the numbers 1 to 24, and I jot down what’s happening on each page, because I have to think of things in terms of pages, and double-page spreads. In a novel, if I want to move a scene, I just cut and paste. In a novel, it’s a completely different conversation.” [CNN]
J.H. Williams III has made a career out of taking comics art to the next level — and now he’s taking it from comic pages to the museum wall.
On March 15, San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum will host “Overture: An Evening With J.H. Williams III,” showcasing his original work, including selections from The Sandman: Overture, including the above cover from Issue 3. The museum has already installed several of Williams’ pieces in its gallery, but the artist promises “many more” leading up to the formal event on March 15.
Manga | While Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has been burning up the bookstore sales charts in the United States, the dystopian manga is also giving the smash-hit One Piece a run for its money in Japan. According to market research firm Oricon, Attack on Titan sold more than 15.9 million copies in the past year, just behind One Piece‘s 18.1 million (Kuroko’s Basketball is a distance third with about 8.8 million). Of course, Eiichiro Oda insanely popular pirate manga has little to fear: The 72-volume (and counting) series has 300 million copies in print in Japan, and 345 million worldwide. Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, meanwhile, is on its 11th volume. [ICv2]
Auctions | Select titles from Don and Maggie Thompson’s collection of rare comics — among them, The Avengers #1, Journey Into Mystery #83 and The Incredible Hulk #1 — sold at auction last week for a combined $835,384. A 9.6 copy of Tales of Suspense #39 alone fetched $262,900. [Heritage Auctions]
“It was terrifying. It was really, really scary. It was mostly really scary because — at the beginning of writing Sandman, nobody expected anything. All I wanted was not to be canceled. Back then, DC Comics had a really nice system, where they would give you a year to save face for everybody. So I knew I had twelve issues, and I loved the fact that I had my twelve issues. That was great! All I wanted was not to be canceled at the end of issue twelve, not to get the phone call.
Back then, I wasn’t nervous. Nobody was looking, nobody cared. Since then, “Sandman” has sold millions upon millions upon millions of graphic novels. You have a generation that grew up reading them, and then a younger generation that got infected. Now, I will do signings and it’s kind of weird that I’ll be signing copies of “Sandman” graphic novels for people who were not born when the first issues came out.”
– Neil Gaiman, on sitting down to write the six-issue Sandman: Overture
Vertigo has debuted the television commercial for The Sandman: Overture, the new miniseries by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III. The DC Comics imprint is billing the comic as “the first new Sandman story in 17 years,” which seems to overlook the 2003 graphic novel The Sandman: Endless Nights.
There’s no word yet as to where the ad will air, but last year’s Before Watchmen campaign was in heavy rotation on IFC, BBC America and (the now-defunct) G4.
The Sandman: Overture #1 was released Oct. 30.
I think it’s hard to overestimate the value of The Sandman, the 75-issue Neil Gaiman-written series that began its life as a revival of the late-’70s Joe Simon/Jack Kirby character, and ended up as 1,600-plus page epic that was one of the all-time best gateway comics — not to mention a powerful factor in the mainstreaming of adult comics content and a then still-emerging graphic novel market.
So Gaiman returning to Dream of the Endless (and the first Dream, rather than Daniel), for the first time since 2003’s The Sandman: Endless Nights? That should be a pretty big deal, right?
For The Sandman: Overture, which debuted this week, Gaiman is paired with Promethea artist J.H. Williams III (better known these days for his run on Batwoman), colorist Dave Stewart and letterer Todd Klein, who lettered all the previous Sandman comics.
As exciting as the project is, it also feels rather dangerous for writer, reader, character and publisher. You know what they say about going home again, after all, or catching lightning in a bottle.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman looked back to the very beginning of the acclaimed series to answer a lingering question: What left the mighty Lord of Dreams so weakened that he was able to be imprisoned for 70 years?
“We learn, as the story goes on, that he arrived in England exhausted, dressed for war, from somewhere very far away, and that was why they captured him so easily,” Gaiman told Fast Company ahead of the Wednesday debut of The Sandman: Overture, his six-issue collaboration with J.H. Williams III. “But I never told that story. And it’s big, and it’s very weird.”
However, over the course of the The Sandman‘s 75-issue run, there were at least two other untold tales that are certainly just as big, and undoubtedly just as weird — and they both involve the letter D (naturally).
“If we ever get to the 50th anniversary, I may tell the story of how the character of Delight became Delirium, or the story of how the first Despair died,” Gaiman teased. “But that’s the 50th anniversary, so there’s plenty of time.”
Although Destruction, who long ago abandoned his Endless duties and disappeared, was found during the series, Delight’s transformation into Delirium was a mystery to which not even Destiny knew the answer. And while clues were dropped about the death of the original Despair — she even appeared in 2003’s Endless Nights — readers were left wondering about the details, including who was behind it.
But, hey, we can hold out until 2038 for the answers, right?
“I started to feel an enormous amount of sympathy and empathy for Charles Dickens, because he was doing the same thing – a serialized story. And I started reading Dickens in a very, very different way. While writing The Sandman I’d go, ‘Ah, this is part of the big plot that you absolutely know what you’re doing, and this bit is you going, “I’m not quite sure what I’m doing here, so I’m gonna busk a little bit. And this is you just bringing on a character and just going I know I’ll find a use for you somewhere down the line.”‘ These days, probably the nearest thing to it outside of comics would be serial television, if you had just had one writer. […] But the one thing that TV has is the same thing wonderful thing that Dickens had, and same thing that I had – to be able to take stock of what you’re doing and what’s working as you go, to the point where you bring on somebody who was a little better than an extra and you go, ‘Actually, everybody really likes that guy and we like that guy! Let’s bring him back and have him do something else.’ And by season two he’s one of the stars and nobody actually remembers that he wasn’t even in the original outline. There were definitely things when I was writing Sandman that were like that. And in a peculiar way, there are moments when I’m writing Overture where I get to do little things that set up for later things that I wasn’t expecting.”
— Neil Gaiman, reflecting on writing The Sandman on a monthly basis, in an interview with RollingStone.com
I like this too-brief piece for The Guardian in which writer Neil Gaiman recounts the beginnings, and the “end,” of The Sandman and artist Dave McKean recalls the evolution of the comic’s distinctive covers.
“I’d been keeping it secret that the story would one day end. But, around issue 30, I began dropping hints,” says. “And it was explained to me that this couldn’t happen: with a successful monthly, when a writer leaves, a new one comes in. I decided not to argue. But in every interview I did, I said I hoped they would stop it when I left, because if they did I would keep on working for them. That percolated into the world and one day I got a call from Karen [Berger] saying: ‘You know, we really can’t keep this going after you’re done.’ That was the biggest thing Sandman changed: DC’s most successful comic was stopped because the writer was done. Otherwise, the brand would have been tarnished.”
As a nice bonus, there’s also a gallery of McKean’s favorite Sandman covers, complete with commentary. The Sandman: Overture, by Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, with variant covers by McKean, debuts Oct. 30.
DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
Neil Gaiman will be in Portsmouth, England, on Sunday as the city renames a road after his new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
The author’s first novel for adults since 2005’s Anansi Boys, the modern fairy tale follows an unnamed man who returns to his childhood hometown for a funeral only to be caught up in events that began 40 years earlier. The book was published in June.
Publishing | As the movie version of 2 Guns heads toward theaters this weekend, BOOM! Studios CEO Ross Richie talks about his company’s “creator share” model and his career in comics publishing, from Malibu Studios to Atomeka to BOOM!, which he co-founded on a suggestion from Keith Giffen, whom he describes as “the Aerosmith of comics”: “If Steven Tyler came up to you and said, ‘You really ought to produce albums,’ you probably would listen.” [The New York Times]
Legal | The prosecutor for Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers has decided not to pursue sedition charges against cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was arrested in April on charges stemming from a cartoon at his Demon-Cratic Singapore Facebook page. Chew still faces charges of contempt of court for “scandalising the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore.” That case will be heard on Aug. 12. [Straits Times]
Legal | Kevin Lim and Evaline Danubrata add some context to the story of Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was charged Thursday with contempt of court for several cartoons critical of the Singapore courts that appeared on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. This isn’t the first time Chew has run afoul of authorities; he was charged with sedition earlier this year for alleging official discrimination against the Malay population. Singapore recently enacted a law requiring licenses for news sites that report regularly on the country, a move that critics of the ruling People’s Action Party see as an attempt to silence dissent. [Reuters]
Retailing | Comic-store owners in the Tampa Bay area agree that sales are up, but they differ on the reasons why. [The Tampa Tribune]
After September’s market-chasing “Villains Month” solicitations, the October listings look a lot more normal. I say “more normal” because I only count 47 New 52 ongoing series, which means October’s new additions don’t balance out August’s cancellations. Forever Evil and other miniseries are picking up some of that slack, but obviously they won’t be around forever. If DC is serious about having 52 ongoing titles — and why wouldn’t it be serious about something so arbitrary? — now may be a good time to start pushing for that Crimson Fox series you’ve always wanted. Hey, DC has greenlit worse ideas …
NOT FOREVER, BUT CLOSE
Forever Evil is 2013-14’s big-event crossover miniseries whose hook is that the villains have taken over the world. Final Crisis was 2008-09’s big-event miniseries whose hook was that Darkseid (helped in part by a revived Secret Society of Super-Villains) had taken over the world. Final Crisis didn’t actually do much crossing over into ongoing series, but it did have an array of tie-in miniseries and specials, including one featuring the Flash’s Rogues Gallery.