Since its launch in 2012, the Image series Skullkickers has filled the hole that was missing sword-and-sorcery, beer-drinkin’, raucous fight comic. We didn’t know we needed it until we got it, but now I’m glad it’s here. And now series artist Edwin Huang is stepping up his game with a deluxe art book containing his other creator-owned work, as well as that of some of his friend. And he’s using Kickstarter to do it.
The announcement, made Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, was accompanied by the digital release of seven licensed and original comics and graphic novels from UNDON’s back catalog: Street Fighter #0-4, by Ken Siu-Chong, Arnold Tsang, Alvin Lee, Alan Tam and others; Makeshift Miracle #1, by Jim Zub and Shun Hong Chan; and Super Street Fighter, Vol. 1: New Generations, by Ken Siu-Chong, Jim Zub, Chris Sims, Jeffrey Chamba Cruz, Sean Galloway, Joe Ng, Gonzalo Ordonez Arias, Long Vo, Omar Dogan and Edwin Huang.
Those initial seven titles will be followed by more from UDON’s back catalog, with new comics receiving same-day digital release.
“We’re very excited to have many of UDON’s original and licensed works available through comiXology,” UDON Publisher Erik Ko said in a press release. “We’ve been working hard to secure digital rights for many of our licenses for the past several years, and we’ve prepared a slate of licensed comics and graphic novels from our Street Fighter and Darkstalkers line, as well as selections from our manga, art book, and original graphic novel series’ that fans are really going to love.”
ComiXology announced a similar distribution agreement on Thursday with manga publisher Seven Seas Entertainment.
And just like clockwork, Comic-Con International organizers have rolled out the programming schedule for Friday, July 19.
On its second day, the San Diego convention kicks into high gear, with publishing panels from Dark Horse (including one dedicated to Joss Whedon’s titles, and another to Star Wars), DC Comics, IDW (including the Hasbro licenses), Marvel (including the perennial “Cup O’ Joe”), Oni Press, Titan Comics and UDON, retrospectives devoted to ElfQuest, Walt Kelly, Aspen and Strangers in Paradise, and tributes to the late Carmine Infantino and Kim Thompson.
Oh, and don’t forget the Eisner Awards ceremony, which caps off the day.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:
Everyone may be talking ab out this summer’s face-off between the Avengers and this X-Men, but that fight is patty-cake compared to the drawn-out gang war between Marvel and Capcom. As shown in a string of hit video games whose sales eclipse AvX 10 times over, people love seeing Street Fighter characters go up against Marvel’s finest. And now, comic fans — and video game fans — have a chance to find out more about the other side of that equation.
Earlier this month, UDON announced it’s re-releasing its string of Street Fighter comics to new audiences, and not just in print. Earlier this week, the publisher revealed it will begin serializing its Street Fighter comics — for free! — at StreetFighterComics.com. According to UDON, a new page will be published every weekday, with printed editions coming later this year.
Street Fighter has always seemed like a concept ideal for comics, and UDON has a lot of quality material that wasn’t given its due on initial release, so I’m excited for this to happen. I hope this is successful enough that they’ll re-release Sharknife artist Corey Lewis’ Rival Schools miniseries and the Street Fighter shorts he did a few years back.
Like clockwork, Comic-Con International organizers have released the programming schedule for Friday, July 13, the second full day of the San Diego convention. It sees publishers kicking things into high gear, with Marrvel’s “Cup O’ Joe” and DC Comics panels on the New 52 and Justice League and Green Lantern groups, as well as presentations from IDW Publishing, Oni Press, BOOM! Studios, UDON, and Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly.
That’s only for starters, though, as AMC’s The Walking Dead, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The CW’s Arrow make Comic-Con appearances, and creators as diverse as Joss Whedon, Kate Beaton, Larry Hama, Scott Snyder, Lynn Johnston, Dan Piraro, James Robinson and Jeff Lemire get the spotlight. There are also tributes to legendary creators Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon, as well as Comic-Con co-founder Richard Alf.
And to keep off the day, there’s the 24th annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.
We’ve selected some of the comics-related highlights below; visit the Comic-Con website to see the complete schedule.
In addition to writing the standout comics Skullkickers and Makeshift Miracle, Jim Zubkavich is an avid gamer and an editor at UDON Entertainment, which publishes comics and graphic novels based on games. So it’s only natural that he would be involved in Shifty Look, a new project from Bandai Namco Games, the creator of classic games like Pac-Man and, more recently, the Naruto Shippuden game. Jim will be one of a number of creators who will be turning classic characters into webcomics… But let’s let him tell us about it.
Robot 6: Can you explain what Shifty Look is all about?
Jim: Shifty Look is an experimental new website put together by video game/media giant Namco-Bandai. They have dozens and dozens of intellectual properties in their vaults and a lot of that material hasn’t been utilized in many years.
Rob Pereyda and some of his colleagues at Namco had this brilliant idea to use a bit of seed money and see if they could refresh/reinvigorate old content in a way that wouldn’t cost a ton but could also have impact. They struck upon the concept of webcomics and brought the UDON studio on board.
We went through lists of old IPs and did a bunch of research. Some of these titles were never released in North America, some hadn’t been used at all since the 80’s… but it’s a whole new world now. Properties that might have seemed “too Japanese” back then are a perfect fit for the modern manga-reading North American audience. Other games had a visual hook we could turn into something new or even just a title that sounded like it had potential.
Late comics have been on the minds of comic publishers recently. Earlier this month Oni Press sent out a press release stating they were “100 percent On-Time” last year, and earlier this week UDON Publishing released a statement saying the company will implement a new production schedule to try and prevent lateness.
“UDON has never been the most ‘timely’ of publishers, though we’ve always been one of the hardest working ones publishing and we’ve been here for 11 years!” says the official statement attributed to the staff of UDON. “We’ve made great strides over the past couple of years, but still, lateness is a problem and it’s one that we take seriously. Recently things had slipped pretty badly with our scheduling, and so we wanted to take a second to explain why sometimes a book is late, and what we’re going to do about it. Out of respect for all parties we can’t talk about individual projects, but just general reasons why a project might miss its release date.”
The statement goes on to speak generally about the causes of late books in thee production schedule and the new steps the company is implementing to ensure that it sticks to the announced release dates. In addition to promising to keep an up-to-date list of solicited projects and their release dates on the UDON website, the company also says it’s changing its previous stance and doing something that seems shocking it hasn’t done before.
Back in May Udon Entertainment announced they were launching a line of original graphic novels, starting with a book called RandomVeus. Created by Jeffrey Cruz and co-writer Leonard Bermingham, the book features a bouffant-sporting hero and a team of couriers as they “deliver mysterious packages to every corner of the wild world known as the RandomVeus! Octopus ninjas, jazz-playing demons, buxom lady-pirates, cyborg gorillas, samurai mushrooms, and one giant furry squid monster are all on tap in this zaniest of zany adventures!”
The book debuts this week in San Diego and can be found at the Udon booth, #5037. I spoke with Cruz and Bermingham about it, their backgrounds and more.
JK: Tell me a little bit about yourselves. Where do you live and how did you meet?
Leonard: OK. I have been a comic fan since I was eight since a got into comics through the awesome X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons. Been a fan ever since. I found I really got into writing when I was in university where I met Jeff. I went and did a Masters of Creative Media to try and sharpen my writing. That’s my origin story I guess.
Jeff: Well I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I enjoy my sequential art reading, which consist primarily of European and Asian books (there are American comics also) heh. Although drawing pretty much takes up a majority of my life (love it) and I’m not sure I’d want it any other way.
Toronto-based publisher Udon Entertainment, best known for comics based on Capcom games like Street Fighter, is launching a new line of original graphic novels—and dropping the monthly-comic format.
The line is launching with the first volume of RandomVeus, an original graphic novel by Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz, who has honed his skills working on Udon’s Street Fighter graphic novels. Here’s the publisher’s brief description, which I could not possibly improve upon:
Created by Jeffrey ‘Chamba’ Cruz and co-writer Leonard Bermingham, RandomVeus stars bouffant-sporting hero Raimundo and the team of One-Dimensional Couriers as they deliver mysterious packages to every corner of the wild world known as the RandomVeus! Octopus ninjas, jazz-playing demons, buxom lady-pirates, cyborg gorillas, samurai mushrooms, and one giant furry squid monster are all on tap in this zaniest of zany adventures!
That certainly seems to have a lot of crowd-pleasers, but don’t go looking for a monthly fix: Udon will be publishing these original stories strictly as graphic novels in an amply sized 8″ x 11″ format, and they plan to move in that direction with their game-based comics as well.
“We want to give our artists’ stories the best presentation possible right out the gate, so our focus is shifting to this deluxe format for our releases, dropping the monthly ‘floppy’ comic entirely,” says UDON managing editor Matt Moylan. “While comic book sales are down all over the industry, UDON continues to do very well with our trade paperbacks and art books. We’re taking the best of both by producing full length graphic novels at the same oversized dimensions that readers of our art books and ‘Ultimate Edition’ collections have come to enjoy.”
Many who have been following this blog know I’m a fan of both Image’s Skullkickers and Oni’s The Sixth Gun. So when I saw that the two creator-owned books were having a mini-crossover of sorts — or, to be more specific, an ad swap — I thought it might be fun to see if Skullkickers writer Jim “Zub” Zubkavich and The Sixth Gun‘ writer Cullen Bunn might be up for interviewing each other.
So the duo hit Skype and had a long conversation that covered many different topics — how they pitched their books, their writing process, how they work with their artists, finding time to write and much more. My thanks to both Cullen and Jim for doing this, with an extra tip of the hat to Jim for transcribing it. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of the interview.
Zub: So, let’s start right off with the big news. Did I hear correctly that you’re now writing full time? You quit your day job?
Cullen: I did. This is my third week as a full-time writer.
Zub: Awesome. What were you doing before that?
Image Comics has been on a role lately, it seems, with what I called earlier today “really strong, character-driven stories with a bold voice.” Although it couldn’t be any more different in subject matter than The Walking Dead, Chew and Morning Glories, in my mind Skullkickers fits into that same category with those titles. Writer Jim Zubkavich and artist Edwin Huang have created a fun fantasy comic with two incorrigible mercenaries out to make quick buck, with nothing playing out the way they’d hoped.
I spoke with Zubkavich, who works for UDON Entertainment when he isn’t writing comics, about the book and what’s coming up for the as-yet-unnamed stars. My thanks to Jim and Edwin, who shared some EXCLUSIVE art with us, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how some of the pages were created, including the crazy four-page spread from issue #3.
JK: For those who might not be familiar with it, what is Skullkickers?
Jim: The best way to describe Skullkickers is that it’s like a buddy cop film slammed into Conan – banter meets barbarians. It’s a sarcastically self aware sword & sorcery action-comedy series starring two monster mashing mercenaries who will do whatever it takes to get paid.
One of them is a surly stout dwarf with a violent temper and the other is a hulking brute who wields a strange anachronistic pistol that doesn’t seem to belong in their high fantasy world. In the first story arc neither main character is named, but our readers have christened them as “Shorty” and “Baldy” for the time being.
JK: I guess I assumed when I first saw the pistol in issue #1 that the story was taking place in some sort of medieval/industrial mash-up world, but now that you mention it … is there a back story to the pistol?
Jim: Yes, there is a back story but I’m not prepared to tip my hand on it just yet. The world of Skullkickers plays fast and loose with an indiscriminate medieval fantasy time period in terms of culture/technology. There may be the occasional cannon out there on a seafaring war galleon, but Baldy’s pistol is definitely out of the norm technology-wise and it will be explained at some point.
Broadway | The planned Jan. 11 opening for the $65-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark likely will be pushed back again, Kim Masters reports. Yet despite technical problems, actor injuries and repeated delays, preview performances are selling at an impressive 98.2 percent capacity. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Roland Kelts provides commentary on the passage by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly of controversial legislation to further restrict sexual content in manga and anime: “Now we have Version 2 of the non-existent youth bill, with its opaque language promising to monitor depictions of fictional characters government officials decide are too young to be engaging in the fictional activities government officials decide are too harmful to real youth that government officials decide are too youthful to view or read about them. Meanwhile, it remains legal in Japan to possess child pornography, live-action or illustrated, rendering most attempts at enforcement toothless.” Meanwhile, Japan Real Time, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal report on the new ordinance and the surrounding controversy. [TCJ.com]
Last week I asked comic folks if they had anything cool they’d be bringing to Comic-Con next week, and boy did they respond. Here’s the first of many posts that I’ll put up between now and the show to spotlight some of the cool items you can buy on the floor … and, when applicable, where else you can buy them if you aren’t at the show.
UDON Entertainment is celebrating their 10th anniversary with three hardcover books that’ll premiere at the show. Regular softcover versions will be available in stores in August/September and are available to pre-order now on Amazon.
For manga and anime fans, Anime Expo is the first of the big summer cons. This year only a handful of manga publishers showed up, but all had plenty of energy and some new announcements to make. That’s probably a good snapshot of the manga industry as a whole—there are only a few players left, but the survivors are pretty robust. Anime News Network has pretty exhaustive coverage of the con, and Animanga Nation does a nice job with a more casual feel.
Out of curiousity, I looked over con coverage from previous years to see who is missing this year. Bandai, Digital Manga, Tokyopop and Viz are clearly the survivors of the manga wars, although it was touch-and-go for Tokyopop for a while. Missing from the roster are Dark Horse, Del Rey, Seven Seas, Udon, Yaoi Press, and Yen Press, all of which have appeared at AX in previous years (although not recently), and ADV Manga, Aurora, Broccoli, CMX, DrMaster, and Go! Comi, which have all shut down or at least gone dark.
I thought it would be interesting to see how AX has evolved over the years, so let’s climb into the time machine and take a look at past cons.
Awards | These are shaping up to be the most-discussed Eisner Award nominations in a while, with much of the conversation centering on whether the judges “ignored” manga. Judge Andrew Wheeler wades into the debate as Brigid Alverson offers a defense of this year’s committee: “I think the true fault lies in the voters, who are not as well read as the committee and vote accordingly, and that comes back to what the Eisners are. People do tend to prefer one type of comics over another, and the Eisners speak to a more traditional crowd.”
Creators | Less than a month after he deleted his blog “for good,” artist Tony Daniel is back online: “I got po’d and pulled the blog down. But now I’m back and ready for more punishment.” [Tony Daniel]
Publishing | With the (somewhat controversial) announcement last week of Marvel Divas, David Brothers wonders what happened to Models, Inc., the all-ages miniseries by Paul Tobin and Vicenc Villagrassa that was scheduled to debut in February. [4thletter!]
Publishing | Project Manager Jim Zubkavich discusses the UDON Kids line of manga: “The manga market is growing up and we’re going to see a generational shift in those readers. Manga readers are getting older and they’re having kids or have nieces and nephews or younger brothers and sisters who are interested by the style and storytelling in manga. Having age-appropriate manga content for that age group and being able to introduce new readers to comics and manga has business potential but is also something we feel strongly about as fans of manga and anime as a whole.” [Good Comics For Kids]