X-POSITION: "Extraordinary X-Men's" Lemire Plans the Fall of Kingdoms
My favorite Thor-themed joke appeared in The Sandman, where the god of thunder delivers the off-color punchline “You’re Thor? I’m tho thore I can hardly pith!” But next on the list may be this groan-inducing yet adorable visual gag from Charmin — first, because deep down inside I’m 12 years old, and second … because it’s a toilet paper manufacturer.
Of course, I’m hesitant to mention to Charmin that Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, through the character Kate Bishop, made the same play on “Asgardian” eight years ago in Young Avengers #6 (below) — although, in fairness, it was in a wildly different context.
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.
Graphic novels | Graphic novel sales are up 6.59 percent in comics shops, and they are also up in bookstores, according to the latest issue of ICv2’s Internal Correspondence. Sales have been increasing in the direct market for a while, but this is the first uptick in bookstore sales since the economy crashed in 2008. There seem to be several factors, including the popularity of television and movie tie-ins — the success of DC’s graphic novel program linked to Man of Steel is singled out — and a turnaround in manga sales. The article winds up with lists of the top properties in a number of different categories. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Here’s today’s news article on Crunchyroll’s new digital manga service, which offers same-day releases of 12 Kodansha manga titles for free and an all-you-can-eat service for $4.99 a month. Tomohiro Osaki interviews Japanese publishing insiders, who are upfront about the fact that this is an attempt to compete with pirate sites, and translator Matt Thorn, who says that better translations on the official site may lure readers away from scanlations. [The Japan Times]
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.
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]
The New York Times premiered a small image of the cover for The Sandman: Overture #1 in its article about concentrated efforts to rebuild Vertigo, but artist J.H. Williams III wasn’t happy with how dull it appeared on the newspaper’s website. And so, lucky for us, he’s revealed super-sized versions on his own blog, both with text and without.
Debuting Oct. 30, the bimonthly six-issue miniseries details the events that led Morpheus to be exhausted and so easily captured in 1989’s The Sandman #1. Boasting covers by Williams and original series cover artist Dave McKean, the title will alternate with The Sandman: Overture Special Edition, which includes Gaiman’s original scripts, Williams’ concept art and sketches, interviews with the creative team and more.
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.
The news of Karen Berger leaving Vertigo spread quickly. It wasn’t so much that it was a surprise, but that it finally happened. DC
Comics Entertainment has been going through significant changes over the past couple of years, including grabbing characters long associated with Vertigo and returning them to the DC Universe, and rumored changes to creator contracts. Despite the unfortunate end, Berger leaves behind an amazing legacy no matter what becomes of the nearly 20-year-old imprint.
I have a very clear memory of high school in the 1990s where kids much cooler than me were reading The Sandman. These were kids who otherwise didn’t read comics, and certainly not the superhero stuff from Marvel and DC. This was not an isolated incident. Vertigo in the ’90s brought a new audience to comics, a maturing audience with interests in horror, fantasy, suspense and mythology. These readers didn’t have access to, and probably weren’t ready for, the underground or alternative comix scene. As superhero comics turned into garish collector items, Vertigo provided the alternative: stories.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our guest is Mark Sable, the writer and co-creator of Image’s Graveyard of Empires with Paul Azaceta and the upcoming Duplicate from Kickstart Comics with Andy MacDonald. You can find his work and thoughts at marksable.com and contact him @marksable on the Twitter.
To see what Mark and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
“I’m imagining a hypercritical audience of roughly 50 million people going, ‘That’s not Sandman!’ But then I think, the great thing about Sandman was that from the moment I discovered the internet, and that people were talking about Sandman on the internet — which would have been, like, rec.art.comics.dc circa 1989, end of ’89 — what people were saying then never changed for the next seven years of comics. All they ever said was, ‘It’s not as good as it used to be.’ And the earlier stuff was always whatever somebody had picked up first and loved. And it carried on, with people talking about when Sandman was good, all the way up through 75.”
– Neil Gaiman, discussing his expectations for the release of the newly announced prequel
to his celebrated Vertigo series The Sandman