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“You have to be scrappy. There’s a tremendous amount of noise. There’s more good comics coming out right now than probably any point in the history of comics. In order to make Valiant stand apart and let everyone know what we’re up to, you have to get a little bit P.T. Barnum from time to time. We have a tremendous amount of fun doing it, but we also want to make sure that anything that we do is in service to the storytelling of the books. That’s something that we take very seriously.”
— Valiant Entertainment’s Hunter Gorinson, discussing cover gimmicks like the 8-bit animated “variant” for Unity #1 in a lengthy group interview with Comic Book Resources that addresses the publisher’s growth, marketing to retailers, development of stories and events, and more. Unity #1 sold a reported 68,500 copies to the direct market.
Publishing | Jody LeHeup, who joined Valiant in May 2012 as associate editor, has left the publisher, and will focus on his writing career. However, he noted on Twitter, “I am open to discussing editorial work as well.” LeHeup previously worked for four years at Marvel, where he edited such titles as Deadpool, X-Force and the Eisner-nominated Strange Tales before being let go in October 2011 during a round of layoffs. [Twitter]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon pointed out a disturbing paragraph in this article about the dangers of being a political cartoonist in the Middle East: Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan hasn’t been heard from in months and may be dead, according to Robert Russell of the Cartoonists Rights Network International, which has been advocating for Raslan’s release from prison. Raslan was arrested last year, and Russell was told his trial was delayed and then that he had been killed. [CNN]
Comics | The Venezuelan government is issuing illustrated versions of the country’s constitution to all school children, and plans are already under way for another edition that will be in comics format. [Foreign Policy]
Just a few months after unleashing a talking goat cover to Quantum and Woody #1, Valiant has revealed another unconventional, QR-activated variant: the “8-Bit Evolution Variant” to November’s Unity #1.
Valiant calls it the “first fully animated 8-bit cover,” although it’s really a two-and-a-half-minute animated short that can be viewed on a mobile device via a code found on the cover — or watched right now. The clip gives background on the book’s main characters — X-O Manowar, Toyo Harada, Eternal Warrior, Ninjak and Livewire — in the distinctly whimsical 8-bit style, which Valiant has used before on a series of covers. The video was produced in partnership with YouTube channel CineFix, as part of its “8-Bit Cinema” series.
Unity #1, written by Matt Kindt and illustrated by Doug Braithwaite, is scheduled for release on Nov. 13.
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:
Valiant Entertainment not only became a corporate member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund this week, but also debuted a variant cover edition of Quantum and Woody #1 that will be sold at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month to benefit the organization.
Drawn by Tony Millionaire of Maakies and Sock Monkey fame, the Quantum and Woody #1 CBLDF Liberty Variant will be limited to 750 copies. It’ll only be sold at the CBLDF’s booth at San Diego and via the CBLDF website.
Check out the full cover below.
Amazon Publishing launched its Kindle Worlds store this morning with more than 50 works, including Shadowman: Salvation Sally by Tom King, X-O Manowar: Noughts and Crosses by Stuart Moore, and Harbinger: Slow Burn by Jason Star, all inspired by the Valiant Entertainment properties. In addition, the Self-Service Submission Platform is now open, allowing writers to publish stories based on certain licensed properties and earn royalties in the process.
Billed as the first commercial publishing platform for fan fiction, Kindle Worlds was announced last month as “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games.”
Comics | Could the competition to become the 2017 U.K. City of Culture hinge on … Desperate Dan, the pie-eating Wild West strongman from the long-running children’s comic The Dandy? Hull Daily Mail columnist Angus Young thinks the character could give Dundee the edge over fellow finalists Leicester, Swansea Bay and, yes, Hull. Dundee, Scotland, is home to The Dandy and The Beano publisher DC Thomson, and features statues of Desperate Dan and Beano character Minnie the Minx in its city center. “Having your picture taken next to the barrel-chested grizzly-chinned hero is apparently one of the top-ten things to do when visiting Dundee,” Young writes. “[…] This a bloke who thinks nothing of eating several cow pies in one sitting. A cowboy so tough he shaves his chin with a blowtorch and sleeps in a reinforced bed filled with building rubble.” The winner will be announced in November. [Hull Daily Mail, The Evening Telegraph]
When Amazon Publishing unveiled Kindle Worlds last month, one of the first questions in comics circles was which publisher would be the first to sign on to the program, which allows fan-fic writers to earn royalties for certain corporate-approved stories. Now we know the answer: Valiant Entertainment.
The recently revived publisher was announced this morning as part of the second wave of licensors, alongside bestselling authors Hugh Howey (Silo Saga), Barry Eisler (John Rain novels), Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines) and Neal Stephenson (Foreworld Saga). Under the agreement, writers will be able to create and sell stories inspired by Bloodshot, X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger and Shadowman, with more properties expected to be added later.
In addition, the Kindle Worlds Store will launch later this month with more than 50 commissioned works, including “Valiant-branded” short stories by Jason Starr, Robert Rodi, Stuart Moore and others. The Kindle Worlds self-service submission platform will open at the same time.
Conventions | More than 30,000 people descended upon the 24th annual Motor City Comic Con over the weekend, with attendees reportedly waiting for up to two hours just to get into the parking lot, and then another one to four hours to get in the doors of Novi, Michigan’s Suburban Collection Showplace. Comics legend Stan Lee and The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus apparently contributed to the long lines, but the site was also hosting two other events and undergoing construction of a hotel, leading to a parking shortage. According to The Oakland Press, some fans parked as much as a mile away; traffic was backed up for miles. For the first time, the convention offered advance tickets, allowing attendees to pay extra in exchange for not having to wait in line. However, because of a mess-up, even those who pre-ordered had to wait in line. Related: Lee talks to USA Today during the convention. [The Oakland Press]
Events | Heidi MacDonald beats everyone else to the punch and files the definitive report on the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which featured a flurry of graphic novel debuts and appearances by artists as diverse as Taiyo Matsumoto (Tekkonkinkreet) and Andrew Hussie (Homestuck). [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | BOOM! Studios will publish a line of Robocop comics beginning in August. Dynamite Entertainment had the license previously, but company President Nick Barrucci said the rights reverted to the licensor, who granted them to BOOM! [ICv2]
Publishing | Brian Truitt takes a look at Valiant’s lineup for the second summer of its new life, and he talks to the creators about the relaunch and their plans for the future. [USA Today]
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]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our look at what comics and other things we’ve been perusing lately. Today our special guests are Caleb Goellner, Buster Moody and Ryan Hill, the creative team of Task Force Rad Squad, the hot new comic find of 2013. Especially if you were ever a Power Rangers fan. Or even if you weren’t, as Moody and Hill’s art is just kind of wonderful on its own. Our old friend and former colleague Graeme says it “pretty much does for Power Rangers what Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots does for Transformers,” and that’s a very apt description. You can download it yourself here, and pay whatever you think is fair.
And to see what Task Force Rad Squad + the Robot 6 Irregulars are reading, click below …
Passings | French cartoonist Theodor Friedrich Otto Aristidès, aka Fred, passed away Tuesday in a Paris hospital at age 82. He was best known for Philémon, his surrealistic comic about a French farm boy who fell down a well into a fantasy world akin to Wonderland. Fred was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 1980, and had been the oldest living recipient. [L’Observateu de Beauvais]
Creators | John Layman, who’s writing the 900th issue of Detective Comics (No. 19 in the New 52 continuity) talks about his plans for that and his creator-owned series Chew, and contrasts the two: “Well, the cases are weirder in Chew. There is an element that’s the same – you introduce a conflict, and then you have a detective with a certain skill set resolving it. … Batman’s just happen to be gadgets and fists. I guess if there’s a formula in the skeletal layer, it’s probably the same.” [Hero Complex]
“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.”
Comics are more than just drawing pretty pictures and great muscled physiques. They’re about telling a story, through sequences of images but also through the image itself. And British artist Rian Hughes has spent years figuring out how to tell a story, in sequential art as well as in standalone images, package designs and even fonts.
After bursting onto the comics scene as an artist in Escape and 2000AD, Hughes expanded his skills to become a designer and illustrator for comics in England, Europe and the United States. He went on to design a number of logos and mastheads for DC Comics, Marvel and Valiant, and his work on Wildcats 3.0 and Invincible Iron Man proved to be high-water marks for comic book covers. Image and Knockabout Books recently began reprinting some of Hughes’ early comics work, and this summer will see the release of an artbook chronicling his portraits taken from London’s underworld burlesque scene.
For this week’s “Conversing on Comics,” I spoke with Hughes about his forthcoming art book and other upcoming projects, and received a look at his past work, including a never-before-seen set of designs he created for Invincible Iron Man.