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Comic-Con’s 6 biggest comics surprises

little nemo-idw

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland

In case you didn’t notice, Comic-Con International happened last weekend. As always, it was an epic affair with tons of announcements, stunts and surprises. Amid cannons firing, actors dressing up as themselves, and big movie plans, there were also a good number of genuine surprises from comics.

Usually I end up picking a winner of Comic-Con, but after Dynamite Entertainment flooded the air waves with announcements the days before the event, no one else seemed to stand out as the clear winner. It’s not that everyone slacked off, however: They brought a good variety of interesting and exciting projects, and a number of standout announcements made my ears perk up. So instead of declaring a winner, I’m going to run down my Top 6 Comic-Con surprises in comics.

Before I start, though, two publishers deserve a little recognition for serious contenders for the Comic-Con crown. Top Shelf Productions classed up the joint by bringing in Congressman John Lewis for the debut of his graphic novel, March: Book One with artist Nate Powell and co-writer Andrew Aydin. I have little doubt this trilogy will end up being a historic release with profound benefits for schools, libraries and organizations looking for a powerful teaching tool and first=person account of the Civil Rights Movement and non-violent resistance. Plus, come on, photos of Lewis meeting Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lou Ferrigno? Everybody else, just pack it up. Maybe not as much of a milestone, but IDW Publishing also deserves a nod for the pure quantity and variety of good-looking books announced.

OK, on with my list:

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Talking Comics with Tim | Russell & Wheeler on ‘God Is Disappointed in You’

God Is Disappointed In You

God Is Disappointed In You

I happen to be a person of faith who also has a sense of humor. As a result, the effort by writer Mark Russell and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler to accurately, yet comically, condense the Bible, God Is Disappointed in You, amused the hell out of me. In Catholic high school, I once offended several people by characterizing a newly unveiled statue of Christ (hands outstretched blessing a crowd) as showing the son of God opting for a “basketball zone defense.”

Fortunately Russell and Wheeler, are far superior at comedy (and religious scholarship) than I have ever been. The book clicked with me from the opening pages. While it will not be released until August, you can preorder it now from Top Shelf.

Tim O’Shea: First question goes to Shannon, thanks to his part of the book dedication. Just to clarify: In the dedication, in which both you and your mom were glad you were not struck by lightning, you also thank Patricia, who survived a lightning hit. I have to hear the story about that.

Shannon Wheeler: My mom manages to be in the middle of all sorts of zeitgeists. Elvis played at her high school. When I was little we went to see Jim Jones preach (before Guyana). She managed to stop by the Koresh compound mid-standoff (she bought me a novelty Frisbee from a roadside vendor). She seems to be at the right place, or wrong place, at the right, or wrong, time. In college she was hit by lightning. It knocked the shoes off her feet and threw her into a ditch. She couldn’t move her legs. A couple of co-eds carried her back to her dorm. The doctor told her to take a warm bath and call back if the feeling didn’t return. Over the next couple hours everything returned to normal. She said it was “tingly” — the same as when your foot falls asleep. She had a circular carbon mark on her side for a bit. Some Native Americans believe that being hit by lightning makes you a shaman. She tells the story like it was no big deal.

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SDCC ’13 | Saturday programming schedule released

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International continued to reveal the programming schedule for San Diego as they rolled out the panels and events scheduled for Saturday, July 20.

The third day brings panels from Skybound, BOOM!, Archaia, Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, Drawn + Quarterly, Top Cow, Archie, Action Lab Entertainment, IDW and Rebellion, Dark Horse, Image Comics, Valiant and Lion Forge Comics, the makers of those Saved by the Bell and Knight Rider comics that are coming soon. DC has panels dedicated to Green Lantern, Superman’s 75th anniversary, Sandman and Batman: Year Zero, while Marvel has panels on Infinity, their video games, animation slate and their movies, which include Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (no doubt they’ll have a little more than that). In what is likely his first trip to Comic-Con, Congressman John Lewis will be on hand to talk about his book from Top Shelf, March.

You’ll also find spotlight panels on Russ Heath, Sam Kieth, Val Mayerik, Vera Brosgol, John Romita Jr., Jon Bogdanove, Jim Lee, George Perez, Gerry Conway, Frank Brunner, Roy Thomas and Paul Dini, as well as a tribute to Joe Kubert. The day wraps up with the annual CCI Masquerade.

Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:

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From Chuck E. Cheese to Carolina Chickadees: Six questions with Robert Venditti

robotroulette

Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.

Joining us today is writer Robert Venditti, who you know from X-O Manowar, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps., Demon Knights, the graphic novel adaptations of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Homeland Directive and The Surrogates

Now let’s get to it …

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Top Shelf rolls out new books from Harrell, Russell and Wheeler

monster-on-the-hill-cropped

Top Shelf Productions has announced the July debut of a series of all-ages graphic novels by veteran cartoonist Rob Harrell, and a “condensed” version of the Bible by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler.

Harrell’s Monster on the Hill ($19.95) is set in a fantastical version of 19th century England, where every little town is terrorized by a unique monster, much to the pleasure of the citizens, who view the ferocious creature as a matter of local pride and a magnet for tourism. That is, except for the residents of Stoker-on-Avon, whose monster Rayburn is a little down in the dumps and in need of a makeover from the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and street urchin Timothy.

And then there’s God Is Disappointed in You ($19.95), the irreverent yet faithful retelling of the Bible written by Russell and illustrated by Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man). It’s billed as “a must-read for anyone who wants to see past the fog of religious agendas and cultural debates to discover what the Bible really says.”

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Previews: What Looks Good for April

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.

As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Crater XV

Graeme McMillan

Crater XV HC (Top Shelf, $19.95): I’ve been following (and loving) the serialization of Kevin Cannon’s follow-up to Far Arden in the digital pages of Double Barrel, but I know that I’ll be picking up this hardcover collection of the further adventures of sea dog Rusty Shanks nonetheless. The Canadian space program deserves no less.

In The Days of the Mob HC (DC Comics, $39.99): To say that Kirby’s 1970s take on the organized-crime world of the 1930s is something I’ve been longing to read since I first discovered its existence would be an understatement, so I’m definitely looking forward to this deluxe reprint, complete with material that wasn’t in the original edition.

Indigo Prime: Anthropocalypse TP (Rebellion/2000AD, $24.99): John Smith’s cosmic authorities are one of comics’ most secret treasures, I think, especially when he’s paired with an artist like Edmund Bagwell, who brings a wonderful Euro-Kirby influence to the stories in this collection. Really looking forward to this one.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen GN (First Second, $17.99): As a sucker for good autobiographical comics and also good food writing, the idea of Lucy Knisley creating a food-centric memoir — complete with recipes! — is far too good to ignore. I love that publishers like First Second are publishing work like this.

Solo Deluxe Edition HC (DC Comics, $49.99): Even though I own most of these issues from their original appearance, the oversized hardcover format is waaaay too tempting when you consider some of the material this book has up its 500+ page sleeve: Paul Pope covering Kirby! Brendan McCarthy channeling Ditko as only he could! The amazing Darwyn Cooke issue! The only thing that could make this better would be if it included work completed on follow-up issues before the plug had been pulled … But maybe that can appear in a second volume, one day…

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Robot 6 Q&A | James Kochalka on the end of American Elf

After 14 years, and more than 3,500 cartoons, James Kochalka is bringing his diary comic American Elf to an end. Since October 1998, Kochalka has been chronicling small slices of his daily life in short comics, seldom longer than four panels, and if you read the comic, you already know he has mixed feelings about ending it.

Of course, Kochalka has plenty still going on, including the animated version of his comic SuperF*ckers, plus teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies, playing rock music and being the Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont. He’s going to keep the American Elf site live, and of course, you can get the collected editions from Top Shelf (and digitally via comiXology).

Keeping a diary comic for 14 years is a singular achievement, so we asked Kochalka to talk a bit about the experience of creating — and living — American Elf.

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Previews: What Looks Good for February

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.

As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

G.I. Joe #1

Graeme McMillan

G.I. Joe #1: As if G.I. Joe wasn’t entirely in my guilty pleasure wheelhouse already, IDW Publishing relaunches the title with Fred Van Lente as writer and the tease of social and media commentary as the team is forced to go public in its fight against Cobra. Seriously, that’s just unfair, people. (IDW, $3.99)

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life As A Weapon TP: One of the best-looking comics around, thanks to David Aja (and Javier Pulido, on a couple of the issues contained herein), and something that I suspect I’m going to want in a collected edition to give to friends wanting some fun, fast-moving action stuff to read. Best thing Matt Fraction’s done in a long time, too. (Marvel, $16.99)

New Tales of Old Palomar HC: Continuing my Love and Rockets education, a chance for me to pick up Gilbert Hernandez’ return to Palomar in this new collected edition of his Ignatz series. This is definitely my favorite of Beto’s work, so I’m happy to see more. (Fantagraphics, $22.99).

The Sixth Gun: Sons of The Gun #1: A new spin-off series from Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s spectacular horror western? Why, I really don’t mind if I do, thanks very much. For added benefit, having Brian Churilla show up for art duties is pretty sweet, as well. (Oni Press, $3.99)

Young Romance: A New 52 Valentine’s Day Special #1: Even if I’m feeling less than enthused about the majority of DC’s superhero line lately, I have to admit, the idea of a Valentine’s Day special one-off is just far too tempting for me to ignore. (DC Comics, $7.99).

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Countdown to Friday premiere of SuperF*ckers cartoon

Top Shelf points out that Cartoon Hangover has been adorably counting down to the Friday debut of SuperF*ckers, the online animated series based on the comics by James Kochalka. If you’ve read the series, which the publisher describes as “obscenely funny,” or even just read about it, you have a pretty good idea what to expect from the cartoon: teen superheroes doing, and saying, bad and occasionally disgusting things. If that’s not enough to sell you on the animated SuperF*ckers, it’s produced by Frederator Studios, the folks behind Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors.

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Preview: Take a look at Diana Thung’s August Moon

Diana Thung’s August Moon, out this week from Top Shelf Productions, brings magical elements into a grittily realistic setting in a way that’s reminiscent of the films of Hayao Miyazake. The underlying theme, of outsiders disrupting harmony with the (mostly) unseen spiritual elements of nature, will seem familiar as well. Thung’s story is set in the town of Calico, which is mostly cut off from the rest of the world and is watched over by large, rabbit-like creatures. Any notion that this is going to be a warm-and-fuzzy story is shattered early on, when two of the creatures are shot, one fatally. The body attracts the attention of a scientist, who comes to town with his daughter Fiona to investigate. Meanwhile, Jaden, a strange child who is the grandson of a street vendor, is trying to protect the creatures’ secrets. It’s a very classic sort of story told in an unusual style, with plenty of quirky originality, and the book has already garnered praise from Junot Diaz and Hope Larson. But don’t take their word for it — check out our preview and see for yourself.

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Have a few extra bucks? Check out Top Shelf’s annual $3 sale

Here’s a deal that’s virtually impossible to pass up: For the next two weeks, Top Shelf Productions is holding its annual $3 web sale, which is exactly what it sounds like. Through Sept. 28, the publisher is marking down more than 170 of its graphic novels and comics, with 100 of those titles available for $3 or less.

That means for three bucks you can get books like Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin’s Gingerbread Girl, Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots or Kolbeinn Karlsson’s The Troll King. One dollar can land you an issue of James Kochalka’s SuperF*ckers or Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele’s The Surrogates, but that’s just for starters. There are also discounts for recent releases, like Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder ($10) and Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. III): Century #2 and #3 ($5 each).

What’s more, Top Shelf is charging a flat fee for shipping and handling, regardless of how many books you order. You can see the complete list on the publisher’s website.

Food or Comics | Marzipan or Captain Marvel

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Dark Horse Presents #14

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d settle in first with Dark Horse Presents #14 (Dark Horse, #7.99). This is no mere anthology: Dark Horses seems to be increasingly using it as an alternate means to serialize new single issue stories, especially with this new issue, as the publisher has expanded it to 100-plus pages. Nexus, Finder, a new Ghost series, AND the new Buddy Cops series by Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner? Sold! Moving on from that, I’d next get Saga #5 (Image, $2.99), which is completely not what I wanted this to be, and turned into something else I want even more. My third and final pick of this big week is Avengers Vs. X-Men #8 (Marvel, $3.99). I believe this is Bendis’ first issue as the lead writer post-Phoenix Force 5 and I’m interested to see him bring his dialogue to this. Seeing Adam Kubert on this brings up some questions for me, as I never really saw Kubert’s style fitting in with the overall aesthetic Marvel’s been pushing these past couple years.

If I had $30, I’d get a second anthology title – World War 3 Illustrated #43 (Top Shelf, $7.00). I’ve been remiss in buying this series for the past few years, but after stumbling over it in Previews a couple months back I made it a point to seek it out next time it came out. After that I’d get Glory #28 (Image, $2.99), Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s warrior-woman epic. Each issue manages to outclass the one before it, and I’m thrilled and surprised Ross has been able to do five entire issues with no delays or fill-ins. Finally, I’d get Daredevil #15 (Marvel, $2.99). The media-sensitive side of me is torn about this book now because for a time it was considered Marvel’s best kept secret, but now with the creative team coming out of the Eisners with a wheelbarrow full of awards I have to throw away my elitist mentality and fight off my expectations that the quality will drop now that it’s more well-known. Good thing Chris Samnee is on it, and they’re off to Latveria!

If I could splurge, I’d get Stuff of Legend Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Th3rd World Studios, $29.99). I remember reading a preview of this in a previous Free Comic Book Day sampler issue, but I seemed to have missed or forgotten about it in whatever single issues it’d been released in, so I’m glad I took notice of this. I’m a big fan of artist Charles Paul Wilson III, and this story of kids’ toys fighting in World War II sounds so crazily fun I’m excited to read it all in one sitting.

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SDCC ’12 | Three big sales for those who aren’t going to San Diego

Even if you can’t make it to Comic-Con International, which officially kicks off this morning in San Diego, you can still enjoy some convention-sized savings, courtesy of a trio of sales:

• Top Shelf Productions is celebrating its 15th year at the convention with Cyber-Con, featuring digital editions of such new releases as The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire, American Elf 1999 by James Kochalka, and The Lovely Horrible Stuff by Eddie Campbell, and discounts on digital comics by creators appearing at Comic-Con. You can see the full list on the Top Shelf website; the sale ends Sunday.

• Fantagraphics, meanwhile, is holding its second annual Can’t-Make-It-to-Comic-Con Sale, offering buyers a coupon code that will score them 20 percent off everything on the publisher’s website, and 50 percent off its “biggest and heaviest books.” The deal ends Sunday.

• And comiXology is offering its own Comic-Con special, with a half-price sale on digital editions of IDW Publishing’s Godzilla comics.

Food or Comics? | BatterPug

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Battlepug, Volume 1

Chris Arrant

If I (only) had $15, I’d first pick up Creator Owned Heroes #2 (Image, $3.99). This format is something I revel in, and it doesn’t hurt to have good comics like those from Palmiotti, Gray, Noto, Niles and Mellon. After that I’d get the long-awaited Infernal Man-Thing #1 (Marvel, $3.99). I only found out about this delayed-’80s series in the early 2000s, but I had the chance to speak to Kevin Nowlan about a year back and we talked at length about the book. He showed me some art and I was sold. Third on my list would be Invincible #93 (Image, $2.99). The Walking Dead might be getting all the attention, but if I had to chose between all of the books Kirkman’s written it’d easily be Invincible. He and artists Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley continue to bring their A-game here, and this new format with Ottley and Walker trading pages is great. With the last bit of my $15 I’d pick up Avengers Vs. X-Men #7 (Marvel, $3.99). This has easily become one of the greatest event series since Civil War, and the last issue in particular sold it with the twin stylings of Jonathan Hickman and Olivier Coipel. You might say I have diminished thresholds when it comes to event series, but I see it as a different kind of comic than, I don’t know, Dan Clowes or something. It’s its own thing, and in this case it’s very good at it.

If I had $30, I’d get Mike Norton’s Battlepug HC (Dark Horse, $14.99). Call me a fool for buying a free webcomic in trade, but I missed the boat when this was coming out online. Norton has won me over with his work through the years and I have no problem shelling out $15 bucks to see it in this hardcover format – even if I’m not a dog person.

And for splurging, I’d get Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig HC (Top Shelf, $19.95). This is exactly the kind of book that fits in my wheelhouse, but like Battlepug I missed out on this when it was first published. Like some sort of Hackers movie done right (sorry Angelina!), I want to learn more about this and eschew my status as a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.

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Robot 6 Preview | Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig

Wizzywig

Courtesy of the fine folks at Top Shelf Productions, we are pleased to bring you a preview of Ed Piskor’s latest graphic novel, Wizzywig.

Wizzywig is the story of Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, a precocious child who grows up to be one of the most notorious computer hackers in America. An orphan raised by his grandmother, Kevin is a lonely, socially awkward child who, apart from his sole friend Winston, can only count on his skills with computers and breaking into the “Ma Bell” telephone system for solace and entertainment. As he grows older his pranks get more daring, more dangerous and attract the attention of the federal government, which in turn finds him a fugitive on the run. Culled from true stories of real-life hackers, Wizzywig follows not just Kevin’s development from computer geek to wanted man, but also follows the story of the Internet and personal computing itself, and how it changed from handheld, landline phones and 14K modems to social networks and instantaneous communication.

Wizzywig comes out in stores in July. Check out the preview as well as a short promotional video about the book, below.

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