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Patrick Zircher on Shadowman, plus an exclusive preview of Issue 3

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.

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Comics A.M. | Angoulême announces official selections

40th Angoulême International Comics Festival

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]

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Comics A.M. | Appeals court to hear Superman copyright case today

Superman

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]

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Valiant sponsors U.S. luge team, designs X-O Manowar uniforms

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.

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Comics A.M. | The Oatmeal creator raises $1M for Tesla museum

Nikola Tesla

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]

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Comics A.M. | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan tops 9 million in Japan

Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

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]

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Comics A.M. | Top Cow reveals Cyber Force retailer incentives

Cyber Force

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]

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Robot 6 Q&A | Jody LeHeup finds a new home at Valiant

This is not Jody LeHeup

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.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Fred Van Lente

Neal Adams Variant Cover

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?

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Comics A.M. | Cyborg 009 reimagined; A Distant Soil artwork needed

Cyborg 009

Publishing | According to the San Diego Comic Con schedule, Archaia will publish an adaptation of Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic sci-fi manga Cyborg 009, “reimagined” in Western style. The adaptation will be written by F. J. DeSanto and Brad Cramp, and illustrated by Trevor Hairsine. In case you missed it, David Brothers recently wrote a fascinating piece on the original. [Anime News Network]

Creators | Colleen Doran is looking for original art from her creator-owned series A Distant Soil. “I require good quality scans of the art for the future editions of the print books, as well as the upcoming digital editions … If you purchased A Distant Soil original art, I would be very grateful if you would get in touch with me.” [A Distant Soil]

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Confirmed: Ninjak is back

Valiant Entertainment released a Ninjak teaser earlier this week, and now here’s the payoff: The ninja spy is indeed returning, in September’s X-O Manowar #5and as you can see, he’ll be going sword-to-lightning-sword with Aric of Dacia.

Here’s the quick summary from the press release:

X-O Manowar has landed on Earth – and now the world’s most lethal intelligence agent has a new target. But who is the operative known as Ninjak? And who – or what – has marked Aric of Dacia for death by his blade? Find out when the all-new, all-ruthless Ninjak makes his shocking debut – and cuts his way to the forefront of the Valiant Universe!

Robert Venditti will continue to script the series, but Batman R.I.P. penciller Lee Garbett will take over as artist, replacing Cary Nord, who illustrated the first arc. Comic Book Resources talks with Vendetti about Ninjak’s return to the Valiant Universe.

The teaser image (below) will be the cover of X-O Manowar #5, and the image above is the interlocking variant covers by Patrick Zircher. Philip Tan will also do a pullbox-exclusive variant cover.

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Valiant teases the return of Ninjak

Valiant Entertainment has unveiled a tantalizing, and bloody, image trumpeting the September return of Ninjak, the wildly popular ninja spy created by Mark Moretti and Joe Quesada.

Introduced in July 1993′s Bloodshot #6, Ninjak was the world’s top espionage expert and the enforcer for the mysterious Weaponeer organization who quickly became one of Valiant’s most popular characters. By February 1994, he was the star of his own series, which ran for 26 issues. After video-game company Acclaim Entertainment bought Valiant in 1996, Ninjak, like the company’s other characters, underwent a game-friendly overhaul. The creative team of Kurt Busiek, Neil Vokes and Michael Avon Oeming, launched a second series in March 1997 featuring a teenage Ninjak who received ancient ninja powers from a video game.

Ninjak will join a revived Valiant lineup that already includes X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot and Archer & Armstrong. Check out the full teaser below.

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Giving Valiant a new look: A conversation with designer Rian Hughes

Valiant Entertainment does nothing by half measures, so it’s no surprise that when they were thinking about a new look for their relaunch of four classic Valiant series from the 1990s, they went with a top designer: Rian Hughes, whose credits include not only design work for corporate clients such as Virgin Airways and Penguin Books but also comics design and illustration; he drew a number of series for 2000AD and designed the UK edition of Love and Rockets, among other projects.

We talked to Hughes about his redesign of the Valiant logo and cover elements for this year’s new series. Hughes also talks about some of the other covers he has designed, including Iron Man and Howard Chaykin’s Challengers of the Unknown. And font freaks (you know who you are!), check the end of the interview for a special challenge!

Robot 6: What is your association with Valiant Comics—did you read them in the 1990s? If so, when did you start reading–what “era” seems the most important to you?

Rian Hughes: I confess I didn’t pick up many comics at all in the ’90s, as I was going through a period where comics simply weren’t one of my main interests. I’d become a bit burned out working on 2000AD for several years, and was pursuing work in mainstream illustration, advertising and graphic design, so the ’90s are a bit of a blank for me. I’d follow the work of fellow Brits who happened to be friends and acquaintances—Morrison, Milligan, Moore and co—but outside of that, a lot passed me by. Which is no reflection on Valiant, of course!

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Comics A.M. | Marvel answers frustrated mom’s call for help

West Coast Avengers #1

Comics | When 4-year-old Anthony Smith didn’t want to wear his hearing aid because superheroes don’t wear them, his mother emailed Marvel to ask if they had any pictures of superheroes wearing a hearing aid. Not only did Marvel editor Bill Rosemann respond with an image of the cover of 1984′s West Coast Avengers #1, which featured Hawkeye wearing a hearing aid, he also had artist Nelson Ribeiro transform Anthony into a superhero, Blue Ear. [Concord Monitor]

Publishing | Former Marvel editor Jody LeHeup, who was let go by the publisher in October during a round of layoffs, has joined Valiant Entertainment as associate editor. [press release]

Conventions | Rich Lopez has a gallery of photos from last weekend’s Dallas Comic Con. [The Dallas Voice]

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Comics A.M. | WonderCon still hoping for return to San Francisco

WonderCon

Conventions | David Glanzer, Comic-Con International’s director of marketing and public relations, looks back on this year’s WonderCon, which was held in Anaheim, California, rather than in San Francisco, touches upon the uncertainty about the location for next year’s show — “we just don’t have dates at the Moscone Center yet” — and discusses changes to pro and press registration for Comic-Con. [ICv2]

Conventions | Grant Morrison talks about MorrisonCon, the Sept. 28-30 convention billed as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” “It’s not going to be ‘Come here and buy some comics and listen to a few panels,’ ” he says. “After two days you will be a changed person.” Tickets for the Las Vegas show, which is limited to 1,000 attendees, cost $767, and include a two-night stay at the Hard Rock Hotel, access to the guests and after-hours parties. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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