Top Cow Productions
Preview Night doesn’t begin for another 11 hours, but judging from the flurry of announcements, Comic-Con International has been well under way since, oh, about Monday. So, if it feels like you’re already falling behind, that’s because you probably are.
To help you catch up, we’ve rounded up early news from DC Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Madefire and Marvel, along with a few other convention-related items.
• Dynamite Entertainment came out of the gate running this week with news that Steve Niles and Dennis Calero will reboot Army of Darkness, James Robinson will launch his crime romance Grand Passion, the Legends of Red Sonja miniseries will team Gail Simone with an all-female creative team that includes Marjorie M. Liu, Nancy A. Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mercedes Lackey, Nicola Scott and Devin Grayson, Peter Milligan will debut his sci-fi action series Terminal Hero, Duane Swiercyznski will expand the publisher’s crime line with Ex-Con, Howard Chaykin will return to The Shadow with the miniseries Midnight in Moscow, NBC’s Heroes will get a “fifth season” in a series written by Cullen Bunn, the acquisition of the Robotech license spawns a Robotech/Voltron crossover, and The Heart of the Beast, the graphic novel by Dean Motter, Judith Dupré and Sean Phillips, will receive a 20th-anniversary prestige-format edition.
While many of us are preoccupied with Tuesday’s election, Guy Fawkes Day or what titles we’ll pick up at the comic store, Matt Hawkins’ mind is on something far more important, and far more personal: that day, exactly two years ago, when he nearly took his own life.
On his Facebook page, the president and chief operating officer of Top Cow Productions writes frankly about what brought him to the brink of suicide — divorce, a messy personal life and a belief that his children would be better off without him — and just how close he came to going through with it.
“Once I made the decision to do it I recall feeling an odd sense of relief and calm, which is kind of frightening in retrospect,” Hawkins writes. “I spent a few hours putting my affairs in order and wrote a series of emails that I saved as drafts to send all at once so I wouldn’t see the responses. I hand wrote a letter to my boys essentially saying this wasn’t their fault and that I loved them. I left the letter on my table with a copy of my will, etc. I then drove down to Santa Monica beach with my gun in my computer bag and went down and sat on one of the cliffs there overlooking the water. I couldn’t think of a better place to die. I sat there thinking about things still oddly calm and ultimately the thought of missing out on my boys future and the possible stigmatizing of them from my own cowardly death shook me out of the calm fog. I started shaking violently and changed my mind.”
“Here’s the thing that I think everyone needs to realize, the medium and the ways of distribution for putting out these stories will always change, whether it’s an iPad or your television, whatever version it is. But if you can tell cool stories about compelling characters with good art and design [you'll survive]. People have been drawing comic book stick figures on caves for tens of thousands of years. People like this kind of story. There’s going to be storytelling in some form forever because people like to be entertained. If you can tell and build great characters and stories and tug at the heart strings and hit emotional highs and lows that will effect people with the storytelling, I think you’re going to survive and shift in medium as long as you don’t do anything catastrophic.”
– Top Cow President Matt Hawkins, on the challenges facing a changing comics industry
Digital comics | Rob Salkowitz, who’s making the rounds to promote his new book Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, has the best summary yet of the digital comics phenomenon: “Digital doesn’t cannibalize the industry; it grows it by encouraging fandom.” (Robot 6 contributor J. Caleb Mozzocco reviewed Salkowitz’s book this week.) [Flip the Media]
Creators | Christos Gage may have created a new genre, “geezer noir,” with his graphic novel Sunset, the tale of an old soldier and former hitman who sets off after his old boss when he fears his ex-wife and child are in peril: “‘He’s got this craggy face and you see his life written in the lines of his face, and black and white makes that so much more powerful,’ the writer says. He credits artist Jorge Lucas for giving him all the facial expressions that stand in for a lot of talking: ‘He was never going to have interior monologues. I don’t think he overanalyzes what he does all that much.’” [USA Today]
Publishing | Top Cow Productions has announced details of its retailer program for the relaunch of Cyber Force, which is using Kickstarter to raise enough money to make the first five issues of the reimagined series available for free, both digitally and in print: Retailers will be charged 25 cents per copy for the first five issues, but will receive incentive variant covers — with suggested prices of $10 and $20 — to offset the cost of the comics. The Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $50,000 of its $75,000 goal with 17 days remaining. [ICv2]
Publishing | Former DC Comics editor Janelle Asselin, who now works for Disney, talks about her experiences at the editor’s desk and offers one reason there are so few female superhero comics creators: Women aren’t lining up for the job. “In my time at DC, exactly one woman reached out to me via email, and I hired her,” she said. “I didn’t hire her BECAUSE she was a woman, I hired her because she was good, of course. But in that same amount of time, probably at least two or three men a week contacted me looking for work, some of them intensely pushy and many of them decidedly not good. I think more female creators should put themselves out there. The numbers are growing, we all can see that, especially in indie comics and comics published by traditional publishers, but if there are women who want to work on super hero books, they need to speak up.” [Women Write About Comics]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald catches word that Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik is moving on to a new job, which will be announced next month at Comic-Con International (Rich Johnston contends that gig is at BOOM! Studios). Friday will be Sablik’s last day at Top Cow; Social Marketing Coordinator Jessi Reid will assume his marketing duties. [The Beat, Bleeding Cool]
Creators | Through its partnership with the Small Press Expo, the Library of Congress has acquired works by cartoonists Matt Bors, Keith Knight, Jim Rugg, Jen Sorensen, Raina Telgemeier, Matthew Thurber and Jim Woodring. Dean Haspiel’s minicomics collection was added to the holdings just last week. [Comic Riffs]
Creators | Dean Haspiel discusses his frustration with creating stories for franchise characters, even working with regular artists and writers for the series, and never hearing back from the editors: “I have a deluge of sad short stories and a bunch of outstanding pitches sitting atop [or buried underneath] comic book editorial desks that will continue to prove that it is nearly impossible to pitch solicited, much less, unsolicited stories. The hurtful part? Editors woo me into thinking I have a chance. I don’t have a chance. Maybe I shot my wad at Vertigo where I pitched and delivered three, critically acclaimed graphic novels? Maybe I’m considered the odd memoir artist who dabbles in digital genre. And, so I’m stuck between too mainstream for the indie crowd and too indie for the mainstream crowd. That used to bother me but now I’m okay with it because, frankly, that’s a cool place to be if you can make ends meet.” [Welcome to Trip City]
Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat talks about his decision to shift from portraying generic characters in his cartoons to zeroing in on a real person, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the consequences of that choice. Farzat’s drawings started showing up on protest signs, and then he was attacked and savagely beaten by three men: “”I could hear them saying ‘break his hands so they never dare challenge his masters again.’” Farzat is now living in Kuwait but hopes to return to Syria some day. [Reuters]
Awards | Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword has been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as part of the prestigious Nebula Awards. “When the nice lady from the Nebula committee called me, she said this is ‘essentially the Nebula Award for young adult books’,” Deutsch writes. Although graphic novels are specifically mentioned in the Andre Norton Award guidelines, this appears to be the first time one has been nominated. The award was established in 2005 in honor of prolific science fiction and fantasy author Andre Norton, who passed away that year. The winners will be announced May 21 in Washington, D.C., during the Nebula Awards banquet. [SFFWA]
Passings | We’ll collect reactions later today to the sudden death of respected comics and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie — Comic Book Resources has remembrances from more than a dozen industry figures — but I wanted to go ahead and point to a handful of links: The Associated press obituary; a few words from Christopher Irving, accompanied by a beautiful portrait of McDuffie photographed by Seth Kushner on Feb. 13; the origin of Static; and a look at Spider-Man anti-drug PSA comics written by McDuffie. There’s also McDuffie’s message board, where he interacted candidly with fans on a regular basis. Two threads are devoted to the news of his death and memories of the creator they often referred to as “the Maestro.” The site’s administrator has posted a message last night on the main page: “Dwayne’s family and friends would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of condolences. They are much appreciated in this difficult time.” [Dwayne McDuffie]
Comic strips | Scott Adams’ Dilbert is moving to Universal UClick after two decades with United Feature Syndicate. The news doesn’t come as a big surprise, as it was announced more than three months ago that Peanuts would make the same move in February. Both properties are represented by Peanuts Worldwide. UClick will begin management of Dilbert.com on Saturday, with print syndication to follow in the summer. Dilbert will join a lineup at the syndicate that includes Doonesbury, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield and Ziggy. [press release]
Comic strips | Writer Mary Schmich and artist June Brigman discuss the end of Brenda Starr, whose final strip runs on Sunday. “(Brenda) is a continuity strip, like a soap opera. Those have been dropping like flies,” Brigman says. “It is amazing she has lasted. It’s not a laugh-a-day strip. It requires some effort, like reading the paper every day.” [Boston Herald]
Retailing | Gendy Alimurung chronicles the final days of the Borders Books and Music location is Los Angeles’ Westwood neighborhood: “The protracted demise is helping [12-year employee Camilla] Ostrin gradually acclimate to her new reality, at least. Empty bookshelves are the saddest part. She’s used to seeing them full. Customers likely would agree; they don’t seem to understand that the store isn’t being restocked, that the new Obama calendars aren’t coming in, or that once the Paperchase journals are gone, they’re gone.” [LA Weekly]
Publishing | Retail news and analysis site ICv2 concludes its two-part interview with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, who addresses the struggle between “tightly interwoven continuity” and accessible comics: “… You run the constant battle of people saying ‘we need one-shots for people to jump on to,’ but the ordering trends don’t play to that a lot. The ordering trends play to ‘is this tied to an event.’ It was very evident with DC’s Brightest Day and Darkest Night orders. It was very evident during Civil War. So you hear that said a lot but most of the sales are very contradictory to those desires. Making books as easily entered into as possible is something we try to pay close attention to. I’m not going to deny that we don’t get lost in our own soup sometimes which is the nature of serialized story-telling. It’s hard to keep the revenue numbers without tying in books to leverage off the big books.” [ICv2.com]
Comics | An anonymous family in the South was saved from foreclosure when, as they were packing up the home they had lived in since the 1950s, they discovered a copy of Action Comics #1 in the basement. The struggling couple contacted ComicConnect, which had brokered record-breaking sales of the June 1938 for $1 million in February and $1.5 million in March. The online auction company in turn convinced the bank to hold off on foreclosure. The couple’s copy of Action Comics has been graded Very Good/Fine, and is expected to bring upwards of $250,000 when it goes up for auction later this month. [ABC News]
Retailing | Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest bookstore chain, put itself up for sale Tuesday as it struggles under economic pressures and the shift away from paper books. Company founder and chairman Leonard Riggio may form an investor group to buy the 720-store chain. [The Wall Street Journal]