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As the finishing touches are put on Comic-Con International ahead of Preview Night, The Hollywood Reporter releases an interview with DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson that’s a blend of polite sidestepping of delicate or unannounced subjects — the departure from Warner Bros. of her boss Jeff Robinov, Man of Steel 2, the long-developing Justice League movie — and insight into how the media giant views the DC properties.
Naturally, given the outlet, much of the discussion involves film and television, with Nelson addressing why she thinks Man of Steel succeeded while Green Lantern didn’t, and why DC’s movie plans have been developing so slowly, the conversation veers a little closer to comic books when she’s asked what five characters she’d like to seen on the screen.
“Sandman is right on top,” Nelson responds. “I think it could be as rich as the Harry Potter universe. Fables. Metal Men. Justice League. And yes, I’m going to say it: Aquaman.”
Welcome to “Report Card,” our new week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read. And what a busy week it was, as, despite there being a major U.S. holiday, we saw a lot of publishing news coming out of Image Comics and Vertigo, and quite a few great comics.
So read on to find out what we thought of the first issues of Batman ’66, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Deadpool Kills Deadpool and more.
While many of us were enjoying our holiday, Comic-Con International organizers were busy releasing the programming schedule for Thursday, July 18, the first full day of the San Diego convention. The rundown for Friday, July 19 should come along early this afternoon.
As we’ve come to expect, Thursday’s lineup is a healthy mix of comics, television, toys, fantasy and film (although light on the latter, which take center stage on Friday and Saturday). The comics programming includes panels from Avatar Press, Bongo Comics (it’s the publisher’s 20th anniversary), BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse, DC Entertainment, Kodansha Comics, Marvel, Monkeybrain Comics (it’s that publisher’s first anniversary), TwoMorrows, Vertigo, Viz Media and Warp Comics.
However, that’s only for starters, as there are spotlights on Chris Samnee, Jeff Smith, J.H. Williams III, Dan Parent and Gary Frank, The Walking Dead‘s 10th-anniversary panel, and discussions about digital comics, gender in comics, LGBT webcomics and much, much more.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:
The New York Times premiered a small image of the cover for The Sandman: Overture #1 in its article about concentrated efforts to rebuild Vertigo, but artist J.H. Williams III wasn’t happy with how dull it appeared on the newspaper’s website. And so, lucky for us, he’s revealed super-sized versions on his own blog, both with text and without.
Debuting Oct. 30, the bimonthly six-issue miniseries details the events that led Morpheus to be exhausted and so easily captured in 1989′s The Sandman #1. Boasting covers by Williams and original series cover artist Dave McKean, the title will alternate with The Sandman: Overture Special Edition, which includes Gaiman’s original scripts, Williams’ concept art and sketches, interviews with the creative team and more.
If the recent New York Times profile of former Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger — to say nothing of industry sentiment — made it appear as if the position and prestige of the 20-year-old imprint have been greatly diminished under the restructured DC Entertainment, the company would like to assure you otherwise.
A new Associated Press article, which seems tailored in response to that May 29 piece, turns the spotlight away from Berger and on to her successor Shelly Bond, who has worked at the imprint since its launch in 1993.
The Times contends that Berger’s departure in March “raises questions about the future of Vertigo and where its renegade spirit fits into an industry and a company that seem increasingly focused on superhero characters who can be spun off into movies and TV shows.” However, Bond speaks in rosier terms about the direction of the imprint, which lost its last founding title — and longtime flagship — in February with the end of Hellblazer (which was resurrected in the DC Universe as Constantine).
“I am so ready to bring in some new blood and new bravado and just continue to show the masses that comics are the most essential part of pop culture,” she tells The AP.
In March, DC Comics debuted Constantine, a new series focusing on the hard-living occult detective John Constantine. No big deal, right? Not so. For more more than two decades, the character was one of the pillars of the the publisher’s “mature readers” Vertigo imprint, starring in the long-running Hellblazer.
Following brief minor dalliances in some event titles in 2010 and 2011, Constantine was made a key figure in the New 52 title Justice League Dark. The aforementioned Hellblazer ended earlier this year with its 300th issue, paving the way for a full-fledged transition of the Liverpudlian warlock into the realm of superheroes. Readers greeted the new Constantine series with both hope and trepidation, and although the first issues are out — so is the jury.
With that in mind, it’s interesting to look at other characters that have called Vertigo home, and how they might fare in the DC Universe of the New 52. Some, like Constantine, crossed over with a bang, while others like Lucifer Morningstar and Kid Eternity, not so much. For this installment of “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six characters or teams that could possibly make the transition well. Please note than many of Vertigo’s best-remembered series aren’t wholly owned by DC but rather in creator-participation deals like Preacher, Transmetropolitan and 100 Bullets; so while the idea of Spider Jerusalem reporting on the state of things in Gotham City might be amusing, I’ve left those off the table for reality’s sake.
In the recent New York Times profile of former Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger, Dave Itzkoff writes that DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio “said it would be ‘myopic’ to believe ‘that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.’” It’s a weird way to structure the quote, but assuming Itzkoff is accurately capturing what DiDio meant, that’s a controversial stance for DC to take.
But he kind of has a point. Heidi MacDonald rightly notes that Vertigo books make up roughly one-third of DC’s list of essential graphic novels, but if we’re just going by sales, Vertigo’s slice of DC’s pie does look pretty small. According to Diamond Comic Distributors, just 6 percent of DC’s graphic novels in April’s Top 100 were Vertigo titles. The percentage was a lot higher in March (15 percent), but only 7 percent in February. The number of Vertigo titles in the Top 100 has been pretty consistent in the past three months: two or three. What made the difference in March was that DC had less Top 100 titles overall. Of course, that only covers a short amount of time and only includes direct market sales, but if we look at a list of what DC considered its top-selling graphic novels as of last autumn, only about 13 percent of those are from Vertigo. None of that is super-scientific, but it paints a pretty good picture of how much Vertigo contributes to DC in terms of sales.
Musician and comics writer Gerard Way once pitched a Batman miniseries to DC Comics titled Kingdom of the Mad, and this weekend on Twitter the former lead singer of My Chemical Romance started sharing some of the concept art.
The designs are “from a comic I pitched to DC the year Gab[riel Bá] and I won the Eisner” in 2008 for The Umbrella Academy, Way said on Twitter. He notes that it was approved and would have been released through Vertigo; however, he tweeted, he “Never got to write it. Sadface.”
Check out the cover and designs for Batman and Mr. Freeze below.
Publishing | Dave Itzkoff profiles Karen Berger, who stepped down in March after 20 years as executive editor of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint (she still consults on a few projects). The story has a wistful tone, with Berger suggesting that DC is more interested in its company-owned characters and Co-Publisher Dan DiDio basically agreeing, but noting it’s an industry-wide trend. He said it would be “myopic” to believe “that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead,” adding, “That’s not what we’re in the business for. We have to shoot for the stars with whatever we’re doing. Because what we’re trying to do is reach the biggest audience and be as successful as possible.” [The New York Times]
For the Brandon Graham completists, the King City creator and Prophet writer has posted the pages from the Madame Xanadu short story he drew for the 2010 House of Mystery Halloween Annual, preceded by his recollection of the Vertigo experience (aka “before I came up with my ‘never ever work at DC ever’ plan”). While the artwork is lovely, the process was a bit of a mixed bag.
“It was fun enough to draw and paid well but I don’t actually recommend anyone track it down. (I really didn’t like the story),” he wrote. “After this I wanted to make sure I only put out books I would want to buy myself. Live and learn and all that.”
Vertigo has unveiled a preview of American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell #1, a one-shot co-written by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, with art (naturally) by Albuquerque. It sports a variant cover by Tony Moore.
Arriving June 12, the special features the return of fan-favorite vampire hunter Travis Kidd (introduced in the series’ “Death Race” arc) as he tracks a pair of newly turned young lovers — the “Heartbreak Killers” — across the American heartland.
“This is my first time writing for Vertigo and it’s a big honor,” Albuquerque said in March. “Once it was decided we would go on hiatus, I approached Mark (our editor) with the idea of doing this special, so the fans could have a ‘taste of blood’ while waiting for the book’s return. He liked the idea and we (Scott Snyder, Mark and I) began talking about it.”
“Yes he [Aquaman] talks to fish, but it’s more interesting to find out what drives him and motivates him. How are those powers a metaphor that we can relate to? [...] The best characters are relatable. They don’t have to be relatable in a literal sense where they have a problem with a job. The things that they experience and the things that they go up against have to reflect upon us emotionally. It doesn’t have to be timely. It’s nice when it’s timely, but it has to be emotional.”
– Geoff Johns, addressing his penchant for injecting new life into neglected characters, in an article that includes a rundown of DC and Vertigo titles that influenced him as a young fan
What’s that, you say? You find it hard to believe there’s a comic book series by Gilbert Hernandez that’s not only out of print but has never been collected in trade paperback?
Oh, but it’s all too true. Read on to learn more …
“We haven’t signed contracts yet but I have every reason to believe we will be starting season two in comic form next year,” Cornell tells Alex Dueben at Suicide Girls. “In February, even. We’ve been talking to some lovely people about this and I think Saucer Country readers have a huge reason to be hopeful. I’m very much thankful to them for that.”
Axed in January in a round of DC Comics cancellations that included DC Universe Presents, I, Vampire and Superman Family Adventures, the creator-owned series follows New Mexico Gov. Arcadia Alvarado who, on the eve of announcing her candidacy for president, is abducted by aliens. It debuted in March 2012 to nearly 16,000 copies, but by November’s issue that number had been more than cut in half. Saucer Country was nominated in March for a Hugo Award.
Less than a month after DC Comics announced that Astro City will return in June as part of “DC proper,” the company has revealed the acclaimed superhero series by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross will actually be released under the Vertigo banner.
While that will make little difference to fans of the long-running comic, the move helps to bolster the mature-readers imprint, which only recently lost the Hugo Award-nominated Saucer Country and its longtime flagship Hellblazer (relaunched as Constantine in the DC Universe). Astro City will certainly stand out as a rare example of a superhero title on the Vertigo stable.
Debuting in 1995 at Image Comics before ultimately moving to Wildstorm, Astro City centers on the denizens of a mecca for super-powered beings. The title has been on hiatus since DC shuttered the Wildstorm imprint in 2010. The new series continues from the previous arc, a Silver Agent two-parter that served as an epilogue to Astro City: The Dark Age.