"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Former Marvel editor Aubrey Sitterson has made the leap to the wonderful world of freelance writing. To mark this critical career jump, Sitterson stopped by Talking Comics with Tim to discuss his transition from editor to writer, as well as his current and upcoming projects — namely the Gear Monkey tale (by Sitterson with art by Nate Lovett) that appears in DoubleFeature Comics‘ digital release Fantasy Double Feature #3, and Redakai (for Viz Media). I was interested to learn why Sitterson lettered his own Gear Monkey tale, as well as to discuss his love of wrestling.
Tim O’Shea: You started out in the industry on the editorial side, but am I correct in assuming it was always in hopes of pursuing a full-time writing career?
Aubrey Sitterson: You’re ab-so-lutely correct, sir. While I really enjoyed my time editing comics, the goal has always been to transition into a comics writer. It was all part of my devious master plan to start at Marvel as an intern in college, get hired as an Assistant Editor, stick my finger in as many pies as I could, learn at the knee of two of comics’ best editors (Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso) then strike out on my own in pursuit of Complete and Utter Comics Domination. I’m still working on that last part.
Passings | Jan Berenstain, who with her husband Stan created the popular children’s book characters the Berenstain Bears, passed away Friday at a hospital near her home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Berenstain, 88, had suffered a stroke earlier in the week. Since the release of The Big Honey Hunt in 1962, the Berenstain Bears series has grown to more than 300 books and sold about 260 million copies worldwide, inspiring animated television specials and series, museum exhibits and a stage show. Stan Berenstain passed away in 2005 at age 82. [The Washington Post]
Events | This year’s 24-Hour Comics Day will be held Oct. 20. [ComicsPro]
Comics | Here’s a variation on the comics-aren’t-for-kids-anymore theme, with reasonable parents who know they need to check what their kids are reading, and a retailer who gets it. [WNYT.com]
Just two weeks after Viz debuted Shonen Jump Alpha, its digital replacement for Shonen Jump, the publisher has forced a group of fan translators to stop posting chapters of a number of Viz series.
The scanlation group Mangastream posted the news on Saturday that Viz had forced it to stop releasing chapters of seven series, including the ultra-popular Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, which are included in Shonen Jump Alpha. They couldn’t resist a snort of derision:
They’ve succeeded in little more than invoking inconvenience to the community as their digital magazine missed the mark; it runs several issues behind and only features 3 of the above series. So long as their product continues to be slow, awkward and inferior to something a ragtag group of nobodies can churn out in a few hours – fans will continue to look to scanlation groups and aggregators for their weekly fix.
This is the first time that I can recall (someone will probably correct me on this if I’m wrong) that a publisher has gone after the scanlators themselves, rather than the sites that carry their work. Onemanga.com, once one of the top 1,000 sites on the whole internet, and most of the other “free manga” sites are aggregators who depend on a handful of speed scanlators to bring them the latest chapters of the most popular titles. While shutting down those sites has proved problematic, cutting off their source of material may be more effective than a cease-and-desist letter. On the other hand, it may not: one aggregator site lists 363 translators for Naruto alone.
One fan took their complaint right to the source, the Shonen Jump forum:
Here’s good news for fans of the television show Smallville who were left without their fix in May when the series went off the air for good: DC announced today that Smallville is coming back as a comic, which will be released first in digital and then in print form. The series will be written by Bryan Q. Miller, who was a scriptwriter for the show, and will pick up where the television story left off. Pere Perez, who worked with Miller on Batgirl: The Flood, will handle the art, and the digital cover above is by Cat Staggs.
DC has an interesting strategy for this comic: It will launch as a digital comic on April 13, with a new digital chapter coming out each week. (No word on pricing or length.) About a month later, it will come out as a print comic, collecting the chapters and adding an episode guide; the first print comic is due out on May 16, and Gary Frank (Superman Secret Origin) will be doing the covers for the print issues.
The weekly chapters are an interesting twist. Not only do they mimic the timing of the original show, they make the comic more of an immediate experience, something people come back to frequently and discuss in real time, as opposed to a monthly event. IDW is doing something similar with its Transformers series Autocracy, publishing an eight-page digital chapter every two weeks, priced at 99 cents. And of course there’s Shonen Jump Alpha, the digital reincarnation of Viz’s Shonen Jump, which publishes a chapter a week of six different manga within two weeks of their Japanese release, with a teen-friendly price of 99 cents per issue (less if you get the yearly subscription).
Diamond has released its Silver Sponsor comics for Free Comic Book Day, meaning that the full array of FCBD comics is now before us. There’s quite a variety: Judge Dredd, Buffy, Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season, Smurfs, Donald Duck, Voltron, My Favorite Martian. There’s an anthology of Middle Eastern comics and a (censored) Howard Cruse comic. Over at The Beat, commenter Torsten Adair points out that BOOM! Studios is putting out a Dune comic that hasn’t been announced anywhere else—although the solicit text makes it clear that this is just the first of a series: “a must-have precursor to the epic launch of the adaptation of Dune books from BOOM! starting in July!” And Marble Season was only announced on Thursday. On the other side of the news cycle, the Oni Press selection, Bad Medicine, was first announced in 2008 and is just now coming to the surface—it isn’t even on Oni’s website. The writers are the extremely busy team of Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, and the art is by Christopher Mitten.
A few other observations: The Gossamyr comic from Th3rd World Studios features art by “talented newcomer Sarah Ellerton.” I don’t know who let that by, but Ellerton is anything but a newcomer; she has been making webcomics (Inverloch, The Phoenix Requiem) for close to a decade now, although it’s clear from the cover that her art has matured quite a bit. Viz is back in the FCBD game but not with their Shonen Jump samplers of years gone by; this year they are all about Voltron Force, and they were pretty excited about these graphic novels at NYCC this year. Yen Press is highlighting their adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices, which was announced at NYCC.
“We had a record amount of entries from publishers this year with more than forty-five different titles” said FCBD spokesperson Leslie Jackson. “Retailers on the committee had a tough time deciding on which titles to choose for Gold sponsorship, but we’re sure fans will be pleased with the line-up for next year.”
While the choices may have been difficult, it’s hard to imagine that someone couldn’t come up with something more enticing than what Image has to offer: “An anthology featuring all-new stories with a mix of Image’s old and new best loved characters!” Could you possibly get any vaguer than that? They don’t even have a cover design. If my comic got bumped for that, I’d be steaming. On the other hand, Archaia’s 48-page hardcover, featuring new material (not reprints or bits of something to come) looks mighty sweet, all the more so because they name names: A Mouse Guard story from David Petersen, a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth story by Ted Naifeh and Cory Godbey, a side story from Royden Lepp’s new graphic novel Rust, a Cursed Pirate Girl story from Jeremy Bastian, a Cow Boy story by Chris Eliopoulos and Nate Crosby, and a Dapper Men tale from Jim McCann and Janet Lee. There’s this year’s wow factor.
The line-up actually seemed pretty obvious to me, so I went back and looked at the Gold Sponsors for the past five years. Sure enough, six of the publishers are there every year: Archie, Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, Marvel. Since five of these are also Diamond’s premier publishers, and Archie is a newsstand juggernaut, there’s no surprise there. BOOM! Studios has been a Gold Sponsor for the past four years and Archaia for the past three. The other slots vary: Ape Entertainment was a Gold Sponsor in 2011 and 2010 but is missing this year, and Bongo and Oni are back after a two-year absence. Others who have popped up once or twice in the past five years: NBM/Papercutz (2011), Drawn & Quarterly (2010), Viz (2008 and 2009), Dynamite (2008), Virgin (2008), Gemstone (2007), and Tokyopop (2007).
There’s more to come: The Silver Sponsors will be announced next week.
Creators | Sarah Glidden, creator of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, chronicles her time at Occupy Miami Nov. 15-21 in a sketchbook. [Cartoon Movement]
Creators | Corey Blake follows up on the Bill Mantlo story published by LIfeHealthPro, including some clarifications of issues raised in the story and additional details on various fundraisers over the years to help pay for Mantlo’s care. [Corey Blake]
Creators | Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast interviews Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich about piracy and the Stop Online Piracy Act. [Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast]
Comics | Calling Tintin a “Catholic hero,” the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano took strong exception to the decision by U.K. publisher Egmont to sell the controversial Tintin in the Congo with a protective band around it — or, as the paper says, “wrapped up like a pornographic magazine and consigned to the adults-only section” of bookstores because of its portrayal of racial stereotypes. If you’re going to do that, the editorial argues, why not ban Boy Scouts, which were founded by notorious eugenicist Anthony Baden-Powell? “But then, he was English,” the paper snidely concludes. [Agence France-Presse]
Digital | ComiXology confirmed Tuesday that the Comics by Comixology app will be available for Amazon’s Kindle Fire when it goes on sale next week. ComiXology CEO David Steinberger said the company is prepared for the smaller screen size the Fire has, compared to the iPad: “Ah, well we’re lucky there, because our Guided View reading technology was designed first for a very small device — the iPhone — long before tablets became the norm. A great comics reading experience is one of the core reasons we’re so successful, and it translates great to all devices, from small to large. The Comics by comiXology reading experience is the same on all platforms, so it’s going to be very familiar to our fans. You can toggle in and out of Guided View with a simple double-tap. The Fire has a great screen, and for those pages that have lettering a little too hard to read, Guided View is a fun way to get in there and see the details.” [Chicago Sun Times]
News and reports from the New York Comic Con rolled out even after the lights were turned off on Sunday; here are a few of them, as well as some tidbits we missed the first time around:
• Marvel announced an ongoing Age of Apocalypse series by David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre, spinning out of the current “Dark Angel Saga” storyline in Uncanny X-Force. [CBR]
• Designer Chip Kidd is writing a Batman book called Batman: Death by Design with art by Dave Taylor. It’s due out next summer. [ComicsAlliance]
• USA Today spotlighted Captain Brooklyn, due next May from Jimmy Palmiotti, Frank Tieri and Amanda Conner. The three-issue miniseries will be published by Image Comics. [USA Today]
• Following the convention, Marvel has released pages from the Prep & Landing story that will appear in a few of their upcoming November comics. [CBR]
Viz Media announced at the New York Comic Con this weekend that they plan to phase out the print edition of Shonen Jump magazine and replace it with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital publication offered through their website and their various iOS Viz Manga applications.
Accoridng to the press release, Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will feature serializations of Bakuman, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece and other manga “only two weeks after it debuts in Japan’s massively popular Weekly Shonen Jump Magazine. Currently, Japanese releases are often several months to years ahead of North American print titles; Weekly SJ Alpha eliminates the delay in unprecedented fashion.” To help North American readers catch up, they plan to release “a limited collection of digital graphic novel speed-ups” that will bring readers up-to-date with Japanese releases.
Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will kick off Jan. 30, and fans can either purchase an annual membership that provides access to 48 weekly issues for 52 weeks for just $25.99, or can “rent” issues for 99 cents for four weeks of access. The last print issue of the North American Shonen Jump magazine will come out in March.
“Simultaneously publishing an official translation of the most popular comics magazine in the world has been a dream since manga publishing began in North America in the 1980s,” said Alvin Lu, senior vice president and general manager. “This is how manga is meant to be read in English–weekly, current, authorized and on the go. Now with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, it’s about to happen for real.”
Check out the full press release after the jump.
Viz Media announced the launch of their online manga site, VIZManga.com, at their 25th anniversary party in San Diego last night. The site syncs with their iPad and iPhone apps, so users can buy the manga on one platform and read it on all three, and it is also compatible with Android devices. As with the iOS apps, the manga is priced at $4.99 per volume, but Viz is offering 40% off all volume 1’s through July 31 to get people started. In addition, the first chapter of every manga is available as a free preview. Viz has been aggressive with their digital strategy, so the new site launches with over 300 volumes comprising more than 40 series, and some, such as Bakuman, are up to date with the print releases.
Square Enix is a Japanese publisher of manga and video games. It licenses print manga (including such high-profile titles as Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler) to Viz Media and Yen Press, and last year launched an online manga site that carries both those titles and 13 others. However, several reviewers (myself included) found the price of $5.99 per volume (in a streaming-only, no download format) to be a bit on the high side.
From now through Aug. 10, however, Square Enix is offering the first volume of any of its 15 series for free to readers who “Like” the company’s Facebook page or get a special URL at SDCC.
There are a lot of caveats to this: The offer is open to residents of North America only (“Regional eligibility will be determined by MindMax® geolocation services,” says the press release, which sounds a little ominous). You’re also going to have sign up for a Square Enix account and download its proprietary reader. The press release seems to say you have to have a Windows computer to use the reader, but I managed to make it work on my Mac.
Obviously, the Square Enix folks are trying to get people to sign on with their sites. Their registration process is pretty cumbersome; I signed up a few weeks ago and I counted five separate registration processes, including creating two passwords, before I could buy a book in their store and read it on my computer. Offering a free volume may make readers a bit more patient with the process, though. I’m curious to hear what other people think, so if you take them up on the offer, feel free to drop back here and comment on how you liked it.
Publishers try to keep new projects under wraps, but there’s a whole cottage industry out there of folks who look through the Amazon listings for new books. The latest one, spotted by Albert Ching of Blog@Newsarama: A listing for Castle: Deadly Storm, by Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Lan Medina. Albert goes out on a fairly short limb and guesses that this is a graphic novel (Medina is listed as the illustrator) based on the ABC series Castle, and indeed, the Hachette Book Group International catalog confirms this—check out page 65. Quick plot summary: This “adaptation” of Derrick Storm’s first novel adventure takes our hero from the gritty world of the private eye all the way to the globe-hopping intrigue of the CIA.” The book is hardcover, 112 pages, full color priced at $19.99 (already discounted to $13.59 on Amazon) and published by Marvel.
Manga blogger Lissa Pattillo has spotted a few more finds on Amazon.ca (Lissa is Canadian, so all prices are in Canadian dollars, but it looks like the U.S. prices are almost the same): a Fullmetal Alchemist box set that includes all 27 volumes of the manga, a novel, and other extras, all for $219 (discounted to $137.93) and due out in November, and an omnibus edition of Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo, 880 pages of Tezuka goodness for
Viz, the largest publisher of manga in the U.S., announced five new additions to its Viz Kids line yesterday, and they quietly added a twist: Several of the new series are not coming from Japan.
This is news because Viz is really a Japanese company operating in the U.S.; its parent companies are the Japanese publishers Shueisha and Shogakukan and their joint licensing company, Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions. Naturally, Viz has always focused on Japanese manga, and when every other manga publisher in the U.S. started publishing global (non-Japanese) titles, Viz announced its willingness but hung back.
The new Viz lineup changes all that. The press release lists four graphic novels, and three are created specifically for Viz:
Mameshiba on the Loose!, a graphic novel featuring Mameshiba, creatures that are a cross between a bean and a dog. While Mameshiba are popular in Japan (and, like Domo-kun, not necessarily a children’s product), Viz’s graphic novel is a homegrown effort; the Amazon page lists James Turner as the writer and Jorge Monlongo and Gemma Correll as the artists.
Mr. Men and Little Miss: The Japanese do love their adorable, rounded, anthropomorphic creatures, but Mr. Men and Little Miss were created by British author Roger Hargreaves and have a huge fandom in the U.S. and Europe. Why did Viz choose these? Maybe because there’s an animated film in the works, maybe because they are just so awesome. Expect to see Little Miss Sunshine, Mr. Bump, Mr. Strong and Little Miss Daredevil books pop up next spring.
Voltron Force: This is a straight-up tie-in with the Nickelodeon animated series of the same name, which in turn is an updated version of the 1980s cartoon Voltron. I know someone out there is going to be made very happy by this. I couldn’t possibly describe it any better than whoever wrote the press release:
Viz Media has put itself in the vanguard of manga publishers by being the first to offer its own iPad app. And Viz didn’t just launch it and forget it, either — the company has been aggressive about putting new series and volumes onto it. Throughout March, the publisher is offering the first volume of each series for free. That’s a great deal for readers — about 200 pages of story for the same price you would pay for a 32-page American comic — and it’s also smart on Viz’s part, because the thing about manga is that you can’t read just one. The publisher is gambling that those cheap first volumes will be the gateway drug for readers.
All the manga in the app are from the Shonen Jump, Shonen Jump Advanced, and Shojo Beat lines, teen-friendly titles that fall into familiar genres: Naruto, Vampire Knight, Bleach, as well as some newer and lesser-known titles such as Natsume’s Book of Friends and Captive Hearts.
When you think about it, this isn’t that different from what Viz does with its Shonen Sunday and SigIKKI imprints: It puts up chapters for free on the web, then takes them down when the print volume comes up — but leaves the first chapter of each volume up as a free sample.