Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
In what Top Shelf Productions describes as possibly “the first — and the last — time Jon Stewart ever features a graphic novel,” Congressman John Lewis appeared last night on The Daily Show, where he discussed meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” and his memoir of the civil rights movement March.
“People must understand,” Lewis said, “and that’s why we did [these] two books here, March Book One and Book Two, to tell the story, so our young people — our children and their children — will understand what happened and never forget it.”
The second volume of Rep. John Lewis’ autobiographical trilogy March is darker than the first one, both literally — artist Nate Powell fills many panels with almost unbroken blackness, as he depicts smoke, night and noxious fumes — and figuratively, as it shows human cruelty at its worst. Even in its lighter moments, Book Two shows the flaws as well as the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement. As this era recedes from living memory to history books, it’s in danger of dwindling to a series of inspirational images and iconic figures. Book Two of March is a bracing antidote to that.
March‘s first volume focused on Lewis’ youth and his involvement with the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins of 1959-1960, his first experience with nonviolent social action. In Nashville, the protestors were mostly students, their leaders were mostly religious, and they took the principle of nonviolence seriously. The refusal to answer violence with violence, whether verbal or physical, was integral to their actions. While there are violent moments in Book One, the story doesn’t dwell on them.
In Book Two, on the other hand, Lewis jumps right in with an attempted murder: The manager of a diner not only refuses to serve Lewis and a colleague, he sends his staff away, turns off the lights, turns on a fumigator spraying insecticide gas, and locks the door. The opposition has moved from harassment to deadly force, and while Lewis was rescued by firefighters (who must have been called by someone), it’s clear from the start that the stakes have been raised.
This past Friday, Pat Quinn, SCAD Atlanta Associate Chair of Sequential Art, invited me to observe GENERATE, the school’s version of 24-hour comic day. (SCAD calls it GENERATE to allow any other of the school’s departments that wants to participate can do their own 24-hour challenge). The event kicked off at 10 AM on Friday. Students participating in GENERATE are challenged to create a 24 page black and white print ready comic in 24 hours from a blank slate. This year, they introduced an option for students to form a team to produce the book, those who chose that option had to also color the comic.
Top Shelf has kicked off its annual $3 graphic novel sale, with prices slashed on more than 180 titles, with many offered for as little as — you guessed it! — $3. Some even go for just $1.
For instance, hardcovers like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. III): Century and March: Book One are half-priced, while Essex County is just $10. Incredible Change-Bots books one and two can be yours for $3 each, while The From Hell Companion is going for $1.
For the first time, the publisher is offering digital add-ons, which means in most cases you can purchase a physical copy, and get a DRM-free edition for just a couple of dollars more.
Top Shelf uses the sale to help fund next year’s publishing slate. The sale runs through Sept. 26. Check out a selection of offerings below, but for a complete list, visit the publisher’s website.
In early August, in the wake of Mike Dawson’s conversation-starting essay, Magic Whistle creator Sam Henderson assessed the mitigating factors affecting his work as a cartoonist, laid many of the challenges at his own feet. As refreshing as it was to read a candid assessment of his creative plight, I was curious to learn Henderson’s mindset after people he responded to his post. While I was at it, of course, I angled to get a glimpse of his creative process.
Although U.S. publishers occasionally experiment with weekly series — DC Comics, for examples, will soon have three on its plate, with Batman Eternal, New 52: Futures End and Earth 2: Worlds End — comic books in North America traditionally have been released on a monthly schedule. It’s been that way for decades.
However, today sees the conclusion of weekly miniseries that not only make you reconsider that tradition, but also leads you to wonder whether the story’s impact would have been lessened by monthly release.
Created by writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman and artist Afua Richardson, the five-issue Genius was published weekly throughout August by Top Cow Productions (the final two installments went on sale this morning). This break from the tradition allowed the story to build a momentum that would have been missed had it unfolded over the course of five months.
Top Shelf Productions is again celebrating Comic-Con International with a “Cyber-Con Sale,” offering deep discounts on 150 digital titles, including March Book One, Monster on the Hill, God is Disappointed in You, American Elf and From Hell.
The publisher’s “biggest digital sale ever” also includes Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus, available now for the first time in digital form. (All of the Top Shelf titles are DRM-free, too, and downloadable in PDF, CBZ or ePub formats.)
But for the Top Shelf aficionado, there’s this: comiXology’s Top Shelf Treasury, featuring 172 titles — every comic and graphic novel the publisher offers on the digital platform, more than 25,000 pages in all — for $149.99. As Chris Ross, Top Shelf’s director of digital publishing, said today during the company’s Comic-Con International panel, that collection would give readers “a bachelor’s degree in independent comics.”
The “Cyber-Con Sale” ends when Comic-Con does — Sunday. So you’ll have to act fast.
Jeffrey Brown, whose Goodnight Darth Vader arrives next month, returns to the world of the Incredible Change-Bots in September with a 224-page collection that promises rare “odds, ends and missing parts” from his celebrated send-up of the shape-changing robot genre.
According to Top Shelf Productions, Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something collects both previously published and rarely seen material, including short stories, gallery show pieces, toy and game designs, and interviews with nearly every Change-Bot.
Brown introduced the Incredible Change-Bots in a 2007 graphic novel that follows the Awesomebots and the Fantasticons as they move their war from Electronocybercircuitron to Earth. It was followed in 2011 by a sequel, in which Fantasticon leader Shootertron, left behind when the rest of the Change-Bots returned to their homeworld, struggles to find an identity on Earth.
Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something can be preordered now for $19.95. Top Shelf is also offering an exclusive limited-edition hardcover for $24.95.
Humble Bundle’s new eBook offering has expanded with the addition of two more titles from Top Shelf Productions: The From Hell Companion, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, and Too Cool to Be Forgotten, by Alex Robinson.
The promotion allows you to name your own price — as little as a penny — for DRM-free digital editions of March: Book One, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, and Wizzywig, by Ed Piskor, plus prose work by the likes of Cory Doctorow, Terry Goodkind and Tobias S. Bucknell. Those who more than the average amount offered (that’s $9.68 at the moment) now can unlock From Hell and The From Hell Companion, Too Cool to Be Forgotten and James Morrow’s prose novel Shambling Towards Hiroshima.
A portion of the proceeds from the Humble eBook Bundle IV benefits the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Doctors Without Borders. The promotion ends June 11.
Top Shelf Productions has teamed with Humble Bundle for an eBook offering that includes three acclaimed graphic novels: From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell; March: Book One, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, and Wizzywig, by Ed Piskor.
Humble Bundle, which made its entry into comics last month with a successful Image Comics promotion, allows customers to name their own price for DRM-free titles. In the case of the Humble eBook Bundle IV, a penny can score you digital copies of March, Wizzywig and the prose Sword & Sorcery Anthology; those who pay more than the average amount offered (that’s $9.67 at the moment) can unlock From Hell, plus Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Alchemist and Tobias S. Bucknell’s The Executioners. For $10 or more, you can get Lovecraft’s Monsters: Anthology and Yahtzee Croshaw’s Jam.
As a lifelong Georgia resident, I can verify the state is relatively sedate for most of the year. However, this week, Winter Storm Leon blew into town and threw a monkey wrench in the lives of metro Atlanta residents as well as its myriad outlying cities/suburbs, which include Marietta, location of the editorial office of Top Shelf Productions.
As Publisher Chris Staros wrote on his Facebook page, he found himself amid the Interstate-75 chaos of gridlocked people trying to get home on Tuesday afternoon. To a certain extent, he considers himself one of the lucky ones, as he was able to exit the interstate and make his way down non-pretreated back roads to Marietta’s Hilton Hotel. That’s where he hunkered down for the next two days.
“A 2-day survival party commenced at the bar, and a good time was had by all my new friends who weathered the storm with me,” he wrote. “My heart goes out to all the people who had to sleep in their cars over night, or abandon them, or who got in wrecks, as it was a cold cold night, and a disaster all around. In any event, home safe and sound … and if you ever want to know what it’s like to ride a glacier, you can ask me. As, now I know!”
ROBOT 6 contacted Staros to make sure it was OK to recount his experience for readers. While catching up with him, it also proved a good chance to find out what’s on the horizon for the ever-busy publisher.
Between the chart-topping sales, rave reviews and widespread media coverage, it’s pretty easy to make a case for March: Book One as graphic novel of the year. To ensure that Rep. John Lewis’ congressional colleagues don’t miss out on the acclaimed civil-rights memoir, publisher Top Shelf is presenting all of the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives with digital copies of the book, along with the groundbreaking comic that inspired it, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.
In a letter accompanying the gift, Lewis explained that March “is not just my story, it’s the story of a movement, the story of a generation that stood up for justice in our country.”
The Georgia Congressman continued, “Just like the comic book I read more than 50 years ago, it is my hope that this graphic novel can inspire new generations to speak up and speak out, to make their voice heard, and, hopefully, to make our nation a more just and peaceful place for all.”
Co-written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, the graphic novel recounts Lewis’ you in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King Jr., and the Selma to Montgomery marches. The second volume in the planned trilogy is set to arrive next year.
Last night, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show devoted a full 10-minute segment to March, its creators Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, and to Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, the 1958 comic that helped to inspire the civil-rights movement.
While many authors, musicians and politicians have cited increased sales and profiles following their appearances on The Colbert Report — the frequently mentioned, by Stephen Colbert himself, “Colbert Bump” — March seems seems to be the beneficiary of the lesser-known “Maddow Bump”: Following last night’s episode, the book rocketed to No. 12 on the Amazon Best Seller list, its peak position.
Maddow, an avowed comics fan, recently conducted a one-hour interview with Lewis about March at the Kentucky Author Forum. CBR spoke with the March team in June, and in July at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
As we reported earlier this week, publisher Top Shelf Productions has partnered with Fellowship of Reconciliation to offer Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story in a digital bundle with March. Watch the Maddow segment below.
A young girl ventures into an abandoned, labyrinthine city in order to find her lost brother, despite it’s being haunted by malevolent demons. One of the strengths of Wartman’s debut graphic novel is that he doesn’t vary much from that core story outline. He dabbles in a lot of overly familiar genre and mythological tropes to be sure (there’s some business with the demons being named and people entering the city forgetting who they are) but he doesn’t play up these elements too strongly or let them overwhelm the story, instead keeping the focus on the girl and her desire to locate her brother. I also liked the relationship between the girl and a somewhat helpful demon who seems so astonished that someone would willingly enter the city that he ends up acting as a benefactor. Again, it’s a familiar trope, but paces the story well enough that it never once feels rote or cliched.
Another key to the book’s success is the city itself. I can’t emphasize enough the need for cartoonists, especially young cartoonists, to set their stories in a well-defined universe. This is especially true in fantasy stories, where the reader needs to get a sense of the physical world the characters inhabit in order to be willing to accept the supernatural and logic-defying events that occur in the story. You can’t map out Wartman’s city in your head, but the seemingly endless panels of well-detailed corridors, stairs, gardens and passageways give a sense of scale to the story. The city seems so foreboding and ancient, you worry the characters really will lose their way. Overall I just appreciated this well-structured, engrossing adventure tale and hope it’s a sign of more good things to come from this particular cartoonist.
Back in April Alan Moore told Padraig O. Mealoid that he was almost finished with the follow-up to Nemo: Heart of Ice. Titled Nemo: The Roses of Berlin, the graphic novel follows the further adventures of Janni Nemo, daughter of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen member Captain Nemo, as she takes over the family business (and submarine).
Thanks to Forbidden Planet, we now have some additional details on Roses of Berlin, including a cover, a release date and solicitation text:
“From The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! Sixteen years ago, notorious science-brigand Janni Nemo journeyed into the frozen reaches of Antarctica to resolve her father’s weighty legacy in a storm of madness and loss, barely escaping with her Nautilus and her life. Now it is 1941, and with her daughter strategically married into the family of aerial warlord Jean Robur, Janni’s raiders have only limited contact with the military might of the clownish German-Tomanian dictator Adenoid Hynkel. But when the pirate queen learns that her loved ones are held hostage in the nightmarish Berlin, she has no choice save to intervene directly, traveling with her aging lover Broad Arrow Jack into the belly of the beastly metropolis. Within that alienated city await monsters, criminals, and legends, including the remaining vestiges of Germany’s notorious ‘Twilight Heroes’, a dark Teutonic counterpart to Mina Murray’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And waiting at the far end of this gauntlet of alarming adversaries there is something much, much worse.”