Johns & Frank Aim for 'Surprising and New' in Latest "Batman: Earth One" Volume
Every year ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman get together to talk about everything in Big Two superhero comics. Watch for Part 2 on Thursday.
Carla: Is it me or was 2013 crazy-busy? There were event comics, new titles, canceled titles, movies (plural for Marvel!), TV shows and video games. It seems like there’s no escape from comics, making it harder and harder to get a general idea of the industry. Some days I kind of envy the indie comic fans as it must be a lot easier to handle comics as they come, as opposed to our gestalt juggernaut that is the Big Two. How much DC business could you comfortably follow before overwhelm set in?
Tom: Well, for starters, I pretty much skipped all of the video game and Cartoon Network developments, because I don’t have time for either area.
Digital comics | Declaring that “the mainstreaming of digital publishing is nearly complete,” veteran technology writer Andy Ihnatko outlines three major steps the industry still needs to take: a move by Dark Horse to comiXology; the adoption of ePUB as an industry standard; and the abandonment of digital rights management. “We should be grateful to DRM,” Ihnatko writes. “‘What about piracy?’ wasn’t Marvel or DC’s only qualm about digital publishing, but it was a question that needed to be addressed before the major publishers could go all-in. But now that comiXology is up and running, and people have been ‘trained’ to use the new infrastructure, DRM is becoming less and less valuable with each passing quarter.” [Chicago Grid]
Digital comics | For readers only now discovering digital comics, Jeffrey L. Wilson provides a guide that covers the basics, from what they are to where they can be found and how much they cost. [PC Mag]
Creators | Jeff Smith, who was named last week to the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, talks briefly about the importance of the organization, and the 2010 challenge to his all-ages graphic novel Bone in a Minnesota school. [Comic Riffs]
Comics | Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla have a few things to say about the new zombie series Afterlife With Archie. “We are taking a series of characters known to be lighthearted and young adult-oriented and doing a horror comic with them, so the mood, atmosphere, and setting are very important to make this a believable horror and not a comedy horror,” says Francavilla, who’s also the creator of The Black Beetle. “Fortunately, I am really good at making things dark and ominous.” [The Associated Press]
“What you’ve seen over these decades is less of a black and white between the heroes and villains. Back in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, you had clear-cut heroes, clear-cut supervillains. Today, you have more of a blend, more of a gray area between the two. You have the rise of the sympathetic villain and the rise of the antihero. You have a lot of characters who follow the motto ‘The ends justify the means,’ and depending on what the ends are, are they a villain or a superhero? That’s what makes supervillains today more modern. We’ll show their back story, we’ll show their motivation. It’s not just about robbing a bank of $10 million. They’re a lot more complicated and layered and thematically rich today than they were in the past.”
— DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that touches upon Villains Month, digital distribution, and the whereabouts of Batman: Europa.
Conventions | The San Diego Chargers are opposing the proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center — viewed as crucial to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015 — saying it will interfere with plans for a new football stadium. Instead, the NFL franchise proposes building a second venue a few blocks away, which would be part of a complex that included the stadium but would not be contiguous with the existing convention center. [Los Angeles Times]
Conventions | Meanwhile, on the other coast, New York Comic Con is about to begin, and Luke Villapaz has seven tips for surviving the con. One additional point, though: While it’s nice that NYCC has its own mobile app, chances of its actually working inside the Javits Center, which is notorious for its many cell phone dead zones, are slim. [International Business Times]
Welcome to “Report Card,” our 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.
So read on to find out what we thought about Lazarus and Earth 2, as well as to review the news of the week!
When DC Comics announced Villains Month, it got people talking and not always in a good way. For every person saying it was a cool idea, there seemed to be at least one proclaiming it a jump-off point for various series if not the entire New 52. Business as usual for comics fandom.
What was different this time was the additional complaints from retailers about the way DC handled the event. The extra time needed to create the fancy, lenticular covers meant that they had to go into production before DC knew how many copies it needed. And unfortunately, when orders came in, the publisher discovered it had estimated too low, which created problems with meeting demand.
Brian Hibbs wrote about the situation for Comic Book Resources as well as on his own blog, and CBR ran a roundup of general reactions from store owners, but now that Villains Month is behind us, I wanted to get a deep perspective from a retailer on what worked, what didn’t, how readers actually responded with their money, and what lessons could be learned to make similar events less frustrating in the future. To that end, I contacted Mike Sterling, manager of Seth’s Games and Anime/Ralph’s Comic Corner in Ventura, California.
Sterling has been writing on the Internet about comics for longer than most of us. His Progressive Ruin blog has been running since December 2003, combining Sterling’s sense of humor and love of comic book weirdness with sharp observations about the direct market. He manages what used to be called simply Ralph’s Comic Corner, a shop that’s been active since 1980, but was purchased in 2009 by Seth’s Games and Anime. Sterling remains manager while the titular Ralph still handles the old comics business. It was because of his long-standing knowledge of comics retailing and his ability to be equally funny and frank when discussing it that I asked Sterling to talk with me about his experiences with Villains Month.
When the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 invaded and seemingly conquered Earth-New 52 in Forever Evil #1, claiming to have killed the members of the Justice Leagues, the home-Earth villains took over DC comics, scrawling their names over the logos of their foes and initiating other evil acts like using decimal points in their issue numbers and putting the wrong stories in the wrong titles. (A Dial H epilogue and a Lobo one-shot in Justice League comics? A Batgirl story in a Batman comic?). But, most nefariously of all, the villains of DC Comics raised the price of each issue by a dollar and launched one of the biggest gimmick covers schemes in the modern history of direct market super-comics: heavy, plastic, 3D lenticular covers primed to be collected more so than read, and sparking insidious speculation, goosed my unpredictable shortages to many retailers. The monsters.
But while most attention has been focused on the covers, there are, in fact, stories beneath them, and so for the past three weeks we’ve been not judging the books by their covers, but by their contents. (Here’s Week One, Week Two and Week Three, if you missed ‘em.) As in the previous months, I’ve been ranking the books on their overall quality, on a scale of one to 10: Not Very Good, Somewhat Disobedient, Naughty, Morally Deficient, Without Scruples, Iniquitous, Wicked, Maleficent, Evil and Absolute Evil (although, as none received a perfect 10, you might want to adjust your reception of my ratings up by one).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve been noting how connected each is to the Forever Evil event that ostensibly led to this state of affairs at DC, so, if you’re only interested in these things for their narrative import rather than their creators or characters, you’ll know which are worth your attention. So let’s take one last wallow in the evil of (almost) every issue of this week’s Villains Month, and hope for the swift and triumphant return of our heroes starting next month.
Publishing | Viz Media, the largest U.S. publisher of English-language manga, is poised to jump in to a new market: India. Kevin Hamric, the company’s director of publishing and marketing, was there this week, and he says the demand is there. “With India’s growing book and reading sector we have identified it as key to our growth,” Hamric says. “We receive many, many requests each and every month from fans in India to bring our product here.” [The Hindu Business Line]
Comics | As the Avengers turn 50, Noel Murray recounts their history and explains why they work so well as a super-team. [Hero Complex]
Conventions | The founder of this month’s incredibly successful Salt Lake Comic Con — it drew about 70,000 attendees in its first year — is planning a spinoff event for Jan. 9-11, the weekend before the Sundance Film Festival. [Salt Lake Tribune]
I talked about it last week, but there’s a lot to unpack in the recent Williams-and-Blackman-leave-Batwoman imbroglio. Part of it is DC Comics’ apparent need to keep characters relatively unchanged, which these days includes being young and unmarried. Co-Publisher Dan DiDio has already explained this in terms of heroic sacrifice, so I suppose that’s as close as we may get to official company policy on the matter.
However, before DiDio made his comments, I was wondering whether DC didn’t want the non-costumed half of Batwoman’s main couple to remain single and uncomplicated. After all, Maggie Sawyer goes back further than Kate Kane, and has appeared in both the animated Superman series and in Smallville. Thus, a certain part of the TV-watching public probably associates Maggie Sawyer more with Superman than with Batwoman; and DC might not want to have her tied permanently to the Bat-office.
This, in turn, brings up the issue of DC as a “content farm,” providing material for future adaptations. Obviously the publisher has almost 80 years’ worth of characters and stories ready to provide inspiration. Indeed, over the decades, that inspiration has gone both ways. However, more recently it seems like the adaptations have been influencing the comics to a greater degree than the comics have been influencing the adaptations, and in the long run that’s not good for either side.
I read all 13 of the Villains Month issues released this week by DC Comics, and in so doing I saw 89 people killed (Kryptonians and Thanagarians included) in all manner of ways. I saw people shot to death with laser guns, with regular old bullet guns, with eye-beams, with an arrow and even with an umbrella. I saw people stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, decapitated, blown up, pushed off buildings, flash-frozen and shattered. I saw someone’s neck snapped, someone’s life-force magically drained, people sliced in half with psionic energy, and others torn to pieces by claws.
I saw a bestial woman eat the still-beating hearts of her victims.
But man, the rabbit that Arcane tore in half? That’s the image that sticks with me from this week’s Villains Week offerings. Thank God they didn’t put that on the cover; imagine that arc of rabbit innards being flung your way in lenticular 3D!
DC Comics kicked off its Villains Month last week, as the evil opposites of the Justice League invaded the DC Universe, seemingly disposing of all the heroes and taking over the world.
Likewise, the villains have been taking over DC’s New 52 line of comic books, with the MIA heroes finding the covers of their books occupied by bad guys. Those are, of course, the collectible and somewhat-controversial (among retailers) 3D lenticular covers.
But as the case with books, we shouldn’t judge a comic by its cover, so let’s continue reviewing our way through the contents of the Villains Month issues. As with last week’s batch, I’m rating each book on a 10-point scale of how evil it is, with “Not Very Good” being the worst and “Absolute Evil” the best, and noting its connectivity to the Forever Evil crossover event that sparked the promotion in the first place.
Although the full episode isn’t available online just yet, Spike TV has released two lengthy clips from last night’s installment of Ink Master, which featured Batman artist Greg Capullo as a guest judge. One of my mother’s favorite shows (no joke!), the reality competition pits 16 tattoo artists against each other for a $100,000 prize.
In this week’s episode, titled “Skulls and Villains,” the elimination challenge called for the competitors to demonstrate their consistency by creating tattoos of iconic DC Comics rogues like Darkseid, Poison Ivy, The Joker, Bane and Catwoman — fitting, considering that September is Villains Month.
You can watch the clips below — each is more than five minutes long — and look for the full episode to appear on the Ink Master website. Or, check the Spike TV schedule to see when “Skulls and Villains” will air again.
Publishing | Sales of comic books and graphic novels to the direct market dropped sharply in August, compared to the same month in 2012 (10.39 percent and 24.55 percent, respectively), but ICv2 attributes the decline — at least as far as periodicals is concerned — to August 2012 having five Wednesdays while last month had just four. Year-to-date sales are still up over 2012, although things seem to be slowing down a bit. DC Comics shipped more comic books, but Marvel won in market share, and the top-selling graphic novel was the first volume of The Walking Dead, which points to a dearth of new graphic novel releases. [ICv2]
Conventions | Attendance exceeded 50,000 at the first Salt Lake Comic Con, held over the weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. This article focuses on families with children who attended, and includes some interesting conversations with parents who are obviously fans themselves and take an active interest in their children’s comics reading. [Deseret News]
Publishing | ICv2 notes the near absence of DC Comics and Marvel on the August BookScan chart, which tracks sales in bookstores. There were no Marvel titles in the Top 20, and the four DC titles — Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke and V for Vendetta — were all evergreens, not new releases. Particularly noticeable by their absence were any volumes of Wolverine or Kick-Ass, properties with movies released in July and August, respectively. What’s hot? Attack on Titan, apparently, with two volumes charting and Volume 1, which was released more than a year ago, getting stronger every month — which means new readers are finding the series now. Curiously, the series is not selling well in comics shops, perhaps because retailers simply aren’t ordering it. Eight of the top 20 volumes were manga, including the top seller, the 62nd volume of Naruto. Chart mainstay The Walking Dead placed four books, including the nine-year-old first volume. [ICv2]