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Graphic novels | Sales of graphic novels are up 10 percent so far this year compared to the same period in 2013, according to Neilsen BookScan, which tracks sales in bookstores and other general retail channels. In terms of unit sales, that’s about 5.6 million books sold this year, as opposed to 5.1 million in 2013. The trend is echoed by Diamond Comic Distributors’ numbers for the direct market, which show graphic novels up 3.8 percent in dollars and 5.8 percent in unit sales year to date. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Alison Bechdel is having a busy week: Following the news that she has been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship, she announced her new book: The Secret to Superhuman Strength, a memoir of her obsession with exercise and a history of American fitness fads, to be published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. [The New York Times]
Conventions | With the 20th Small Press Expo kicking off Saturday in Bethesda, Maryland, The Washington Post’s Lori McCue singles out three of the show’s biggest draws: appearances by Jules Feiffer, Lynda Barry and Bob Mankoff. Meanwhile, Michael Cavna spotlights Fear, My Dear, the new release from convention guest Dean Haspiel. [The Washington Post]
Creators | As he prepared to head out to Small Press Expo, Farel Dalrymple paused for an audio interview about his newest book, The Wrenchies, which will debut at the show. [Comics Grinder]
Creators | Writer Tom Taylor teases what we can expect in his new Superior Iron Man series. [Previews World]
Comics | Writing for The Advocate, Jase Peeples takes note of the diversity of DC Comics’ extended Batman family — from Batwoman to Batwing to Barbara Gordon’s roommate Alysia Yeoh — and talks with writers Gail Simone, Grant Morrison, Marc Andreyko, Tom Taylor and Chip Kidd. “I would like to think that people can pick up books like Batman Incorporated or The Multiversity and see their own lives reflected,” Morrison says. “But I’d always caveat that with the need for us to see more diverse writers and artists, because that’s when I think the walls will really come down. As a straight [white guy from Scotland] I can only do so much, and I find even sometimes when you do this, you do get accused of tokenism or pandering. I don’t mind it. I can put up with that, but I’d rather see a genuine spread of writers and artists creating this material.” [Advocate.com]
Publishing | The latest BookScan numbers reveal June was a good month for manga in bookstores, with eight volumes of Attack on Titan making the top 20 — a new record. The first volume topped the list, which means new readers are still discovering Hajime Isayama’s dark fantasy. Overall, manga had a slight edge, with 11 titles, and all three volumes of Saga were on the list, but only one volume of The Walking Dead. And despite the Amazon-Hachette battle, the Yen Press title Sword Art Online: Aincrad made the chart. [ICv2]
Publishing | ICv2 and Comichron’s John Jackson Miller joined forces to calculate the size of the entire comics market, including the direct market, bookstore and digital channels, and both single issues and graphic novels. Inevitably some things get left out, such as subscription services, sales to libraries and the juggernaut that is the Scholastic Book Fair, but it’s a good snapshot. The bottom line: $850 million in 2013. [Comichron]
Passings | Frank Cummings, an artist for the comic strip Blondie, has died at age 55, according to a posting on Blondie.com. No cause of death is given, but this obituary (in Italian) states he had a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Cummings started his career as a commercial artist and self-published his own satire magazine, JAB. Later on he illustrated the newsletter of diet and exercise guru Richard Simmons and did movie parodies for Cracked. He joined Blondie in 2004 as an assistant to head artist John Marshall. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | Former DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz has debuted an “occasional” column on the retail news and analysis site ICv2. [ICv2.com]
This week DC Comics released four more annuals, three of which are set in the past and one of which is a big, bridging chapter in an ongoing plot line. All are penned by the regular writers of their series, and are $4.99 for 38 pages. What else do you need to know?
Oh, who made them, what they’re about and whether they’re any good? Oh, sure, I can tell you that …
Graphic novels | Image Comics had a strong December in bookstores, snagging nine slots on BookScan’s Top 20 chart: Eight volumes of The Walking Dead (including the very first one, at No. 4), plus the first Saga collection, which was originally released in October 2012. The first two volumes of Attack on Titan, which are more than a year old, were also on the chart. [ICv2]
Legal | Colleen R. LaRose, aka “Jihad Jane,” was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for her role in a failed conspiracy to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew images of the Prophet Mohammed that offended many Muslims. [The New York Times]
It’s been more than a year and a half — 19 issues and an annual — but the New 52 version of Earth 2 still feels like a work in progress.
The series began with the last battle of an Apokoliptian war that claimed the lives of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, which was followed soon afterward by the debuts of “wonders” (not “marvels,” no sir) like the Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. To a certain extent, each was meant to remind readers of the heroes of the original Earth-Two, where Superman and Lois Lane met in 1938 and married in the early 1950s, and where Batman and Catwoman saw their daughter Helena become a successful attorney. When everything started getting organized into a Multiverse in 1961, Earth-Two became the home of DC’s Golden Age characters, including Jay Garrick’s Flash and Alan Scott’s Green Lantern. Indeed, for more than 70 years Jay and Alan were part of DC’s first generation of superheroes, serving as inspiration for the many who followed.
Not so with the current Earth 2, where Jay and Alan are themselves inspired by the heroic sacrifices of that world’s Trinity. On one level, Earth 2 is a way to reintroduce those characters in a present-day context, breaking them down into more basic forms and building them up through a series of fiery trials. Talk about a “never-ending battle” — in Earth 2, war is never far away, whether it’s the reminders of past devastation or the dark portents of new tragedies. Originally I thought this might be writer James Robinson’s way to evoke the world-at-war atmosphere of the 1940s, but now I’m not so sure. Current writer Tom Taylor may simply want to put the “wonders” through a pretty rigorous series of tests. Now, that in itself has become a well-worn DC trope (Geoff Johns personified it some 10 years ago with his updated Reverse-Flash), and it’s not one of which I am especially fond. It has tended to emphasize the “testing” more than the eventual triumph, so it threatens to become a trial for the reader as well.
And yet, like Caleb appreciating the Taylor-written Injustice: Gods Among Us,I have looked forward to each new issue of Earth 2. It’s definitely not the original. Sometimes it’s barely an homage to the original. However, it needs to be its own thing, and this week I’ll tell you why.
Or: “How I Learned to Quit Worrying and
Love Like Injustice: Gods Among Us.”
Knowing me as well as I do, I would have expected to absolutely hate Injustice: Gods Among Us, the digital-first comic based on the fighting game from the makers of Mortal Kombat, written by Tom Taylor and drawn by some eight different artists. It’s newly available in a hardcover collection of the first six issues that bears the tagline “The World-Wide #1 Bestselling Comic,” which I found dubious without qualification. (The whole world? Even counting Japan, where they have the One Piece and what do the kids read these days, the Naruto?)
Why would I expect not to like it? Well, a couple of reasons.
The costuming is pretty extreme. I was aesthetically offended by many of the New 52 costumes, which in general seem to be a compromise between the characters’ most popular outfits, whatever was in style at Image in 1992 and something that a Hollywood costuming department might put together for a live-action superhero movie or television series. Injustice took many of those designs even further, so that its Flash, for example, was wearing at least as much padding as NFL Super Pro.
Editorial cartoons | The Durban, South Africa, police have confirmed they’re investigating criminal charges against cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, who goes by the pen name Zapiro, stemming from a cartoon that portrayed the Hindu god Ganesha in a manner many Hindus found offensive.
The cartoon, which criticizes the local cricket organization for corruption, depicts a scowling Ganesha holding a cricket bat and piles of cash while the head of the cricket organization is being sacrificed before him. Businessman Vivian Reddy, whom the newspaper The Citizen notes is also a benefactor of the African National Congress, filed a criminal complaint; the cartoon has also sparked protests among local Hindus, who marched on the offices of the Sunday Times last week. The ANC is also taking the anti-Zapiro side, perhaps in part because of his depictions of its president, Jacob Zuma. Zapiro, meanwhile, isn’t taking calls, but he stated a few days ago that he stands by his cartoon, adding, “It didn’t cross our minds that so many people would be upset.” [The Citizen]
The success of DC Comics’ digital-first Injustice: Gods Among Us comic comes to an end this week — at least temporarily. The comic book prequel to the NetherRealm Studios fighting game finishes its first digital run with Injustice: Gods Among Us #36, but there’s still more to come.
Writer Tom Taylor will return in 2014 for new weekly installments of the series, picking up where Issue 36 leaves off.
“I said early on that we had a definite ending in mind for our story,” he told IGN. “I knew that the story we were telling in these 36 chapters was essentially the break-up of the World’s Finest friendship. When Superman and Batman’s relationship became irreparable, that’s when our story would end. That tale is told now. However, we have another story to tell in the pages of Injustice, and that story will begin in January 2014.”
In addition, an Injustice Annual issue is solicited for Nov. 13, written by Taylor with art by Xermanico, introducing Lobo to the world of Injustice and pitting him against a super-powered Harley Quinn.
Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew apologized today for four comic strips that were formerly posted on his Facebook page Demon-Cratic Singapore. In a statement released by his lawyers, Chew said, “I accept that (the) comic strips had misrepresented to the public that the Singapore Judiciary administers differential treatment to individuals based on their nationality, social status and political affiliation, and that there have been specific criminal cases in which decisions were made by the Singapore judiciary on the basis of the above factors rather than on the merits.” In light of the apology, and the fact that the strips have been taken down, the Attorney-Generals Chambers has dropped contempt of court charges against Chew. The cartoonist was also charged with sedition in April, but those charges have been dropped as well. [Straits Times]
DC Entertainment will release a motion comic the explores the backstory of the upcoming Mad Max video game from Avalanche Studios and WB Games.
Written by Tom Taylor (Injustice: Gods Among Us, Earth 2) and illustrated by Jason Shawn Alexander (Legends of the Dark Knight), the story introduces Max’s trusted mechanic Chumbucket, who plays a central role in the game, which will be released next year in conjunction with director George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.
“I love the Mad Max movies,” Alexander tells USA Today, adding that the motion comic “was a great bit of nostalgia for me and also an opening to lend my own touches to this iconic character.”
In the game, set in the post-apocalyptic world of the movie series, Max must cross a desert wasteland after his Interceptor his stolen by a gang of marauders.
History | Scholars will present their research this week on The Glasgow Looking Glass, which is believed to be the very first comic book, at the International Graphic Novel and International Bande Dessinee Society Joint Conference in Glasgow Published in 1825, the work is a satire of early 19th-century Scottish fashions and politics. [ITV]
Retailing | Aaron Muncy, owner of The Comic Shop in Decatur, Alabama, is matter-of-fact about his business: There isn’t much of a kids’ market, he says, and he has no time for collectible comics: “Since it’s worth so much money — it’s just straight to eBay and get rid of it. I’ll leave it in the store for a week or two if I pick it up, just to give my customers a chance but it’s worth too much money to have sitting around.” [WAFF]
The first issue of the improbably titled Injustice: Gods Among Us includes a dystopian future featuring a fascist Superman, a half-dozen or so superheroes, a handful of supervillains, a pregnant Lois Lane, the deaths of multiple characters, a submarine hijacking and the detonation of a nuclear bomb.
I was most interested in what everyone was wearing.
Injustice is the print version of the digital-first comic based on the upcoming fighting video game from the makers of Mortal Kombat. The game is, of course, based on DC’s characters, so with the release of this issue, the circle is complete: This is the precise part of the tail where the transmedia ouroboros chomps down.
The aspect of DC’s overall New 52 refurbishing — from the de-cluttering continuity reboot to the costume redesigns — that has most fascinated me is that the timing seemed to indicate it was part of a transmedia strategy, which of course has led to months of trying to figure out why particular changes or decisions might have been made, and what that indicates about the publisher’s priorities.
This deep in to the New 52, it’s clear DC eschewed making its comics universe more closely resemble that of the popular, all-ages cartoons like Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, the decades of assorted Batman shows and even Young Justice, which seems rather remarkably able to synthesize aspects of complicated comic-book continuity. And it’s clear the publisher has instead focused its energies on the older teen/adult audiences of video games Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City and, to a lesser extent, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and their DC Universe Online video game.
So here’s a comic book based on the company’s next big video game, which was being developed and produced just as the New 52 line was being developed and produced: What will this comic look like? What will it be like?