Comics sales | Is Mark Millar on to something after all? The first issue of Jupiter’s Legacy sold more than 105,000 copies to direct market stores in April; the only other Image comic to reach those numbers in recent years is The Walking Dead. ICv2 runs the numbers and also posts the Top 300 comics and graphic novels for April. [ICv2]
Passings | Matt Groening’s mother has died at the age of 94. Although she always went by Margaret, Groening borrowed her name for Marge Simpson in his animated series The Simpsons. [Comic Riffs]
Retailing | Amanda Emmert has resigned after nine years as executive director of ComicsPRO, the direct-market trade organization. [ComicsPRO]
I’m totally digging Valiant Entertainment’s comics right now. When I met a couple of the guys from the company at the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, they were extremely friendly and generous, especially considering I showed up at their table as the event was shutting down for the day. I stocked up on their books and have been diving in ever since: X-O Manowar was great fun; I’m halfway through Harbinger, and it’s even better; and I’m really looking forward to Archer & Armstrong, which had a funny and clever first issue I read on comiXology. Fantasy world-building is one of those things comics can really excel in, as evidenced by the Marvel and DC universes, so it’s always exciting when a new one comes along that does it so well.
However, I have some concerns about some things I’ve read. In case you don’t know, these current Valiant titles are relaunched versions of the series published in the ’90s by Valiant Comics. That company was very successful and was eventually bought by the video game company Acclaim Entertainment, which went bankrupt soon after, taking Valiant down with it. A number of years passed until a new company called Valiant Entertainment purchased all of the original properties, and began bringing them back to life. Sounds like a happy ending, and it mostly is — but there are a couple of red flags.
Before I get into all of this, though, it’s important to note that Valiant Entertainment has done nothing legally wrong. I’m not a lawyer, but as far as I know, the company is under no legal obligations to change its actions. That said, there’s a lot of goodwill capital to be gained by doing right by the creators of the original properties.
“We Acclaim creators signed contracts before we started working on our projects that had a clause saying we could buy the rights to the material back for half the profits the material made in the previous 3 years. Several years after Acclaim went under, Priest and Bright tried to get the Q/W rights and were told that the contracts we signed were never submitted to a different division of Acclaim and were thus considered invalid. Someone else came in and bought up all the Valiant/Acclaim leaving us with nothing. I’ve been following what Priest/Bright were doing because I wanted the rights to Trinity Angels back. But the legal fees it would cost to get it back would just be too much for us. I’m pretty sure Priest/Bright are not pleased with the new Q/W, but I don’t know that for a fact. As I said, I know if they went in and re-vamped Trinity Angels, I would be furious. There are only three properties that sprung completely from my imagination — Strikeback, Trinity Angels, and Tanga. I consider them my children and would not abide anyone else giving voice to those characters.”
– Kevin Maguire, creator of the 1997-’98 Acclaim series Trinity Angels, reacting to news that Valiant Entertainment is resurrecting Quantum and Woody, the mid-’90s brainchild of Christopher Priest and Mark Bright. “I will announce right now that if they have any intentions of re-vamping Trinity Angels without me, I will be 1000% against it,” he said. “I should have the rights to the material, just as Priest/Bright should have the rights to Quantum and Woody.”
In an interview today with Comic Book Resources, Valiant CEO and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani said the company has spoken with Priest and Bright “about a bunch of different projects — most recently one that I’m super-excited about.” “We have a couple things up in the air with Chris, and we’re pulling to circle back and solidify them now that we have the new series up and running in a place we’re happy about.”
Crime | Comix Experience in San Francisco was robbed at gunpoint Friday afternoon, with two young men demanding that owner Brian Hibbs empty the cash register containing about $75 and turn over an iPhone used for credit card transactions. A Lower Haight neighborhood blog interviewed Hibbs about the incident: “Divis [Divisadero Street] is generally pretty safe these days, so I was a LITTLE shocked at, y’know, a ‘brazen daylight armed robbery’ of it — but I am kind of more shocked that anyone thought that a comic book store was a high value target about an hour after they opened. Hell, life is like 85% credit cards these days, so even at our fattest there’s seldom enough to risk that kind of jail time, in my opinion …” [Haighteration]
History | Scholar Carol Tilley gives a first-person account of her research on Fredric Wertham, the super-villain of comics history, and how looking through his papers led her to an unexpected conclusion: His published works misrepresented what his research subjects had told him: “For many hard-to-articulate reasons, I didn’t want to write the scholarly paper on Wertham and the problems I found in his evidence, but not to write it seemed a disservice to the young people whose words and experiences Wertham distorted to help make his case against comics.” [Boing Boing]
Creators | Artist J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel, Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who) recounts how he and his wife lost everything but their cat and the clothes they were wearing during Hurricane Sandy — and how what happened afterward changed his perspective: ““When things are going right, you really don’t know what kind of world you’re living in. You tend to be cynical. But there has been such an outpouring of support not just here but from the comics community — we did a podcast interview, for example, and I mentioned how we had to go to the laundromat every day because of our clothing situation. As a result of that, two days later I went to my studio was packed full of care packages with toiletries and other necessities. It showed that what should have been a real tragedy turned into a blessing. It gave me a much more positive outlook.” [The Conway Daily Sun]
Business | Marvel parent The Walt Disney Co., which just purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, reportedly has begun an internal cost-cutting review that could include layoffs in its studio and other divisions. The cutbacks are believed to focus on jobs that are no longer needed because of technological advancements and redundancies created by the acquisition of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. Disney has made a series of staff cutbacks over the past couple of years, beginning in January 2011 with 200 jobs in its interactive division; Marvel trimmed about a dozen positions in October 2011. [Yahoo! Finance]
Publishing | Robert Stanley Martin takes a new look at Jim Shooter’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Marvel. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
Possessed by a spirit that dwells within him, charged with protecting the people of New Orleans from ghastly creatures from the beyond, Shadowman has always been a dark character. With the revival of this classic Valiant series, Patrick Zircher and Justin Jordan have “hit the refresh button,” as Zircher says below, going back to the moment when Jack begins to experience himself as the Shadowman and moving forward from there. His old nemesis, Master Darque, is still in the picture, but Jack’s more immediate problem is a horrifying new villain, Mr. Twist. I talked to Zircher, penciler and co-writer of the series, about where he and Jordan plan to take Jack. Valiant also provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of Shadowman #3.
Robot 6: How did you get this gig? And did you start out as a co-writer as well as the artist, or did that just evolve?
Patrick Zircher: Warren Simons, Valiant’s executive editor, called. Warren and I had worked together at Marvel on Thor, Iron Fist, and several other books. Warren was one of Marvel’s best, and he has always been willing to let me expand as a creator. I first began inking my own work for Warren and we talked even then about writing, too. With Valiant, from the get-go we discussed it as well as drawing. The capacity of the writing has evolved. As I’ve shown what I can do, I’m, happily, writing more.
Awards | Although the website for the 40th Angoulême International Comics Festival is down, several outlets managed to pick up on the official selections for the 2013 festival, to be held Jan. 31-Feb. 3. Contenders for book of the year include Big Questions by Anders Nilsen, Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Fables by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges and others, The Hive by Charles Burns, The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon, Paying For It by Chester Brown, and The Walking Dead Vol. 16 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. Fatale Vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and The Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case were among those named in the crime comic category. [BoDoi]
Publishing | Bluewater Productions Publisher Darren G. Davis isn’t afraid to talk about real numbers: Bluewater’s income is about $2 million a year, and the most popular titles sell 5,000 to 10,000 copies apiece, although others never make it out of the triple digits. And while he admits he doesn’t have a thick skin, Davis says he has gotten used to criticism: “I’ve learned that I’m not my company. When they attack my company, they are not attacking me personally.” [The Columbian]
Legal | The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today on whether a negotiated 2001 deal DC Comics should prevent the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel from reclaiming his portion of the rights to the Man of Steel under a provision of U.S. copyright law. A federal judge determined in 2008 and 2009 that the writer’s heirs had successfully recaptured the copyright, asserting that because the 2001 agreement hadn’t been formalized, there was no deal. The appeals court is also set to review a ruling allowing DC to sue Marc Toberoff, who represents both the Siegel family and the estate of his collaborator Joe Shuster, for interfering with its agreements with the heirs. [Business Week]
Creators | Collaborators Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher talk about the latest Valiant relaunch, Shadowman. [USA Today]
Creators | John Ostrander, who writes several Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, gives his take on Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. [ComicMix]
In what The Wall Street characterizes as a low six-figure deal, Valiant Entertainment has signed as a sponsor of USA Luge for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The comics publisher has also designed the team’s uniform to look like the armor of X-O Manowar.
“The sponsorship is going to help the team in a couple of ways,” explained Gordy Sheer, USA Luge’s director of marketing. “… They’ll look good and they’ll feel fast, but also Valiant is helping the team with financial support. We’re a small sport, and every bit of help that we get is absolutely meaningful and directly affects our ability to perform.”
In the video below, Wall Street Journal reporter John Jurgensen notes that while movie studios (including DC Comics parent company Warner Bros.) routinely promote projects through NASCAR sponsorships, this appears to be the first time a company has used a national athletic team to advertise a character.
“For Valiant the idea is to kind of become a household name,” Jurgensen said. The publisher relaunched its comics line in May, with X-O Manowar as its flagship.
Crowdfunding | Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, raised $1 million in just over a week on Indiegogo to help fund the restoration of Nikola Tesla‘s laboratory as a museum, surpassing the $850,000 goal. “THANK YOU SO GODDAMN MUCH,” Inman wrote on his blog. “WE ARE GOING TO BUILD A GODDAMN TESLA MUSEUM.” There are still 34 days left in the funding campaign. [The Associated Press, The Oatmeal]
Publishing | Warren Simons, executive editor of Valiant Entertainment, discusses gathering the talent for the Valiant relaunch, refining the characters for modern-day tastes, and keeping the books accessible to new readers. He also gives some hints about what to expect from Valiant’s upcoming series Shadowman. [Previews World]
Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!’” [MTV Geek]
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]
In May, Valiant Entertainment announced a new addition to its editorial team, former Marvel editor Jody LeHeup. Probably best known for overseeing the Harvey Award-nominated (and Robot 6 favorite) Strange Tales anthology series, LeHeup also worked on books like Deadpool, X-Factor and Uncanny X-Force before being let go by the company last year in a round of layoffs. Marvel’s loss, though, was Valiant’s gain, as he joined former Marvel office mate Warren Simons at the reborn company.
My thanks to Jody for answering my questions, as well as to Valiant’s Hunter Gorinson for helping to make this interview possible.
JK Parkin: What made you decide to join the Valiant team?
Jody LeHeup: There were a bunch of reasons. The first and biggest reason was that when Valiant approached me for the job, they made it very clear that they were serious about their commitment to quality. As an editor, a storyteller and a writer, that is without question the most important thing to me. After talking at length with the guys, I knew that editorial would have the support it needed in order to put out some of the best comics on the stands, and it was music to my ears. Beyond talking about it, their commitment was evident in the work itself and in the care they were taking with every aspect of the company’s revitalization. It was inspiring, and I really felt like I had found a home.
The hardworking writer Fred Van Lente gets even more busy in the next few months. In October, as discussed (in a Van Lente interview) in last Friday’s Axel-In-Charge, the writer will team with artist Alessandro Vitti in a holiday-themed one-shot, Marvel Zombies Halloween. But more immediately, on August 8, Valiant Entertainment will release the first issue (previewed last week by CBR) of the new Archer & Armstrong ongoing, teaming Van Lente with artist Clayton Henry. Given my love of Van Lente’s brand of comedy and the knowledge that the series teams an 18-year old assassin with a soused immortal, I fired up the computer to conduct an email interview with Van Lente. I have to say that Van Lente catches my attention when he said in our exchange: “I’ve never written a book like this.”
Tim O’Shea: Would it be fair to say that Valiant sought you out for Archer & Armstrong based partially on the success and tone of your co-writing gig on Hercules?
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, I’ve got a reputation now as the funny superhero guy, even though Incredible Hercules started out as a story about a guy trying to atone for murdering his entire family — Judd Apatow, are you reading this?!
If memory serves, what made Warren Simons think I’d be right for Archer & Armstrong was my Taskmaster GN, which is a classic example of me getting my hands on a character and thinking, “Okay, this is my chance to do a straight-up thriller, do a real grim and gritty thing here.”
But the more I worked on it the more the crazy ideas creeped in until it had a town full of Hitlers and characters like Don of the Dead and Redshirt, the Überhenchman and I was like, “Boy, you really screwed that up, Fred” but it’s become the most beloved thing I’ve done at Marvel, at least in terms of people tracking me down and saying how much they enjoyed it. So, what are you going to do?