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Comics A.M. | Is a battle over Thanos building? Tim Marchman redux

Thanos

Creators | Following the appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor and the cameo by Thanos in The Avengers, Marvel appears poised to expand the cosmic elements of its cinematic universe with The Guardians of the Galaxy. While some fans eagerly await a movie announcement next week at Comic-Con International, Thanos creator Jim Starlin (who had to buy his own tickets to Thor and The Avengers) may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge: Heidi MacDonald points out that Starlin has posted an early drawing of the Mad Titan on his Facebook page, writing, “This is probably one of the first concept drawings of Thanos I ever did, long before I started working at Marvel. Jack Kirby’s Metron is clearly the more dominant influence in this character’s look. Not Darkseid. Both D and T started off much smaller than they eventually became. This was one of the drawings I had in my portfolio when I was hired by Marvel. It was later inked by Rich Buckler.” [The Beat]

Comics | Tim Marchman, author of that much-discussed Wall Street Journal article, is at it again, this time interviewing Watchmen editor Len Wein about his work on Before Watchmen, and including the interventions of DC Comics Publicity Manager Pamela Mullin as part of the story. Between the embargo on the comic and Mullin doing her job, it sounds like the most interesting parts of the interview never made it into the final product. [The Daily Beast]

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Dave Gibbons talks digital comics and ‘very exciting’ new platforms

Dave Gibbons

When most fans think of Dave Gibbons, his seminal work with Alan Moore on Watchmen is likely the first thing that comes to mind. However, the acclaimed artist and writer prefers to look toward the future, even brushing aside a question about Before Watchmen, the sprawling DC Comics miniseries that’s been the topic of so many recent conversations, with a terse, “I have no comment on that.”

During Kapow! Comic Convention, Robot 6 spoke briefly with the legendary creator about his views on digital comics, DC’s New 52 and the state of the industry.

Robot 6: You’re seen as a huge influence, but who excites you in the field these days?

Dave Gibbons: Asking an open ended-question like that is very dangerous, ‘cause invariably I’ll think of people who I greatly admire when you’re not here. I can say in general what I find interesting at the moment are the creator-owned books. I’m really pleased with all the things like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where people can get finance to do their own comics. The Internet allows people to very quickly build up a large audience. It allows publishing without huge overheads, which is very positive. I love the fact that in today’s comic world, classic work is readily available in brand-new formats, such as the IDW Artist’s Edition series.

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Quote of the day | Dan DiDio on Before Watchmen’s ‘big selling point’

From "Before Watchmen: Minutemen" #1, by Darwyn Cooke

“The big selling point is that this material is true to the source material, but it gets the chance to examine all the aspects of Watchmen that made it great. We’re seeing the characters in a different light, but also a light that is reflective of the original material.  And we found ways to really push the stories in new directions but be true to the original concepts and conceits.

We’re bringing on some of the greatest writers in comics today, as well as the greatest artists, and together they’re creating a package that we feel could stand side by side with the original material.”

– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, discussing the draw of Before Watchmen

Comics A.M. | Plan to replace New York’s Javits Center falls apart

Jacob K. Javits Center

Conventions | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has mothballed plans for a giant convention center in Queens, leaving the unlovely, unloved, but well-situated Javits Center as the home of New York Comic-Con for the near future. [The New York Times, via The Beat]

Publishing | Alex Klein sees the “outing” of Green Lantern Alan Scott as a desperate move to boost sales by a publisher whose market share is dropping: “Switching up sexual orientation is a cunning way of compensating for flagging sales and aging characters. In the meantime, the industry is rebalancing: toward independent publishers, author ownership, and cross-platform digital tie-ins. As small studios sap talent from the giant conglomerates, comics are changing—and there’s a lot of money to be made in the process—just not in the comics themselves.” And he talks to The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and Image publisher Eric Stephenson about what they can do that the Big Two can’t. [The Daily Beast]

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Food or Comics? | Creator Owned Hero Sammiches

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

DMZ, Volume 12: The Five Nations of New York

Graeme McMillan

Here’s the thing: I really can’t decide if I want to spend part of my $15 this week on Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 (DC, $3.99). On the one hand, it’s a new Darwyn Cooke comic, and on almost every other occasion, I’d be all over that. But on the other … It’s Before Watchmen. And I don’t even mean that in the “I have moral qualms about DC’s ‘ownership’ and use of the characters” sense — although I do — but in the “I didn’t actually LIKE Watchmen that much, so why should I be interested in a prequel?” sense. Let’s table that one, then, and wait and see what happens in the store. Instead, I’ll grab Earth 2 #2 (DC, $2.99), the new Simon Spurrier book Extermination #1 (BOOM!, $1) and the weirdly-coming-out-a-month-before-the-movie Amazing Spider-Man Movie Adaptation #1 (Marvel, $2.99), if only because it’s been years since I’ve read a comic book adaptation of a movie and I want to support Marvel’s odd apparently-spoiling-itself plan.

If I had $30, I’d put Spidey back on the shelf and grab the final DMZ collection (Vol. 12: The Five Nations of New York, DC $14.99). I’ve been following the collections of Brian Wood’s series for awhile, and have been patiently awaiting this one since the series wrapped in single issues awhile back. Don’t spoil it for me, please.

Splurge-wise, I’d likely pick up the GI Joe, Vol. 2: Cobra Command, Part 1 TP (IDW, $17.99). The movie may have been put back, but I don’t care; IDW’s Joe comics are my brand of military machismo, and I dropped off the single issues in favor of collections as soon as this crossover started. Time to get caught back up and try not to think about poor Channing Tatum.

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Before Watchmen TV commercial debuts

DC Comics corporate sibling Entertainment Weekly has unveiled what it calls a rough cut of the 30-second television spot set to premiere Tuesday for Before Watchmen, the sprawling — and much-discussed — prequel to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

According to Fast Company, the ad will air on IFC, BBC America and G4, as well as on social media, with an extended one-minute version appearing on the DC website. The first of the seven miniseries, Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen, debuts in stores and online Wednesday, leaving a narrow window for the promotional blitz.

However, John Cunningham, DC’s vice president of marketing, says that was a conscious decision. “We realized that the books needed to be available as soon as people saw the ad,” he tells Fast Company.

The spot will air during such programs as The Onion News Network, Doctor Who and Attack of Show. You can watch the rough cut, and check out images from the commercial, below.

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Comics A.M. | Ailing artist Oliver Nome’s call for help

Wonder Woman, by Oliver Nome

Creators | Freelance artist Oliver Nome, who has worked for Wildstorm and Aspen but has no health insurance, is suffering from a brain tumor, and his dealer is selling off his art to help pay for the surgery. [Blog@Newsarama]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller looks at the shape of the comics market in 1995, before Diamond Comic Distributors had a virtual monopoly on distribution. [The Comichron]

Awards | The voting deadline for this year’s Eisner Awards is Monday. [Comic-Con International]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Who won the ‘80s?

Where the over-people gather to watch big-screen botanical throwdowns

A couple of weeks ago, I wondered whether we could trace the entire sidekick-derived wing of DC’s superhero-comics history back to Bill Finger. Today I’m less interested in revisiting that question — although I will say Robin the Boy Wonder also owes a good bit to Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane — than using it as an example.

Specifically, this week’s question has nagged me for several years (going back to my TrekBBS days, even), and it is this: as between Alan Moore and the duo of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, who has been a bigger influence on DC’s superhero books?

As the post title suggests, we might reframe this as “who won the ‘80s,” since all three men came to prominence at DC in that decade. Wolfman and Pérez’s New Teen Titans kicked off with a 16-page story in DC Comics Presents #26 (cover-dated October 1980), with the series’ first issue following the next month. Moore’s run on (Saga of the) Swamp Thing started with January 1984’s issue #20, although the real meat of his work started with the seminal issue #21. Wolfman and Pérez’s Titans collaboration lasted a little over four years, through February 1985’s Tales of the Teen Titans #50 and New Teen Titans vol. 2 #5. Moore wrote Swamp Thing through September 1987’s #64, and along the way found time in 1986-87 for a little-remembered twelve-issue series called Watchmen. After their final Titans issues, Wolfman and Pérez also produced a 12-issue niche-appeal series of their own, 1984-85’s Crisis On Infinite Earths.* The trio even had some common denominators: Len Wein edited both Titans and Watchmen (and Barbara Randall eventually succeeded him on both), and Gar Logan’s adopted dad Steve Dayton was friends with John Constantine.

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Before Watchmen is ‘a love letter’ to Moore’s creation, Dan DiDio says

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 variant cover by Jim Lee

Just as the initial reviews of Before Watchmen begin to trickle in, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio takes to The Guardian to defend the sprawling prequel, which he calls “a love letter” to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and to respond to the writer’s scorching criticism of the project as “completely shameless.”

“Honestly I can understand why he might feel the way he does because this is a personal project to him,” DiDio tells the U.K. newspaper. “He has such a long and illustrious career and he’s been able to stand behind the body of work he’s created. But quite honestly the idea of something shameless is a little silly, primarily because I let the material speak for itself and the quality of the material speak for itself.”

He reiterates that DC won’t “shy away from the controversy on this – as a matter of fact we’re embracing it because we have belief in the strength of the product and stand behind it.”

DiDio also dismisses assertions by Moore that DC is “still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago,” saying that, “all the characters in all the universes and all that we do in comics, we’re constantly building on other people’s lores and legends. […] Realistically some of Alan’s strongest works at DC outside of Watchmen were built off of characters like Swamp Thing which was created by Len Wein, Superman, Batman, so many of our great characters he’s worked on and they helped build his career.”

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How artists’ contributions to the creation of comics are overlooked

Watchmen co-creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Photographer unknown)

Since the dawn of the medium, comic books largely have been the creation of writers and artists working hand-in-hand to produce the characters, stories, titles and universes you follow each week. Recently, however, lawsuits by comic creators against publishers — and sometimes other creators — have raised the question of where, when and how a comic is truly created. Are they the product of the writer, with the artist simply tasked to illustrate the story based on instructions laid out in a script or outline? Or is it a communal effort, with writer and artist both providing unique contributions to the creation of the character and setting, each serving as a storyteller in the planning, coordination and draftsmanship of the actual comic pages? In recent years, comics have become a writer-centric medium, for better or worse, but artists continue to play a crucial, if sometimes overlooked, role in the design of characters and transformation of the writer’s scripts into, you know, comics.

In an interview with ICv2.com, Howard Chaykin relayed a story about how an unnamed writer views an artist’s contribution as “absolutely nothing to do with the creative process in comics.” “I am of the belief that the artist does 50 percent of the ‘writing’ in comic books,” said Chaykin, who’s worked as a writer and artist for decades. “I think the guy is plum crazy. It staggered me in its limited understanding of what comic books are about.”

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Comics A.M. | Chris Roberson speaks on his split with DC Comics

Chris Roberson

Creators | iZombie writer Chris Roberson discusses his recent public announcement that he would no longer accept work from DC Comics and his subsequent dismissal from his last writing job for the publisher. “Well, this has been building over the last few months, and mostly had to do with what I saw DC and Time Warner doing in regards to creator relations. I think the first thing — you have to understand that when I first started working for DC in 2008, the Siegels had just recaptured half of the copyright for Action Comics #1 and I felt very good about that. That seemed like a very positive step. And then over the course of the last few months there has been the counter-suit against the Siegels’ lawyer, Marc Toberoff, and I was less sanguine about that, and starting to get a little itchy about it, and then there were just a few general things about the way that it seemed that DC regards creators now that are working for them — and I can talk about that more in detail — but the real kind of proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the announcement at the beginning of February of Before Watchmen, which I just thought was unconscionable. And so I had already signed a contract by that point to do six more issues of iZombie, of which three of them had been turned in, and so I just made the decision to go ahead and turn in the remaining three, not wanting to jeopardize the livelihood of my collaborators Mike and Laura Allred. But once I turned in the last one, even though I had other work lined up, I would have to at least — if only for my own peace of mind — let people know that I wasn’t happy with it.” [The Comics Journal]

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Best look yet at Before Watchmen pages, character designs

Ozymandias character design by Jae Lee

While fans and retailers at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo were given a first glimpse at interior art for DC Comics’ sprawling Watchmen prequels, BuzzFeed now provides the best look yet at pages and character designs from Before Watchmen in the form of photos of a binder at the DC offices. Among the images are interiors from Rorschach, by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, Silk Spectre, by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner, Ozymandius, by Len Wein and Jae Lee, and Curse of the Crimson Corsair, by Wein and John Higgins. There are also character designs by Bermejo, Conner, Cooke, Higgins, Andy and Joe Kubert, and Lee.

Before Watchmen debuts in June.

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Comics A.M. | Ali Ferzat named one of Time’s Most Influential People

Matt Wuerker's cartoon in support of Ali Ferzat

Creators | Ali Ferzat, the Syrian cartoonist who was abducted and beaten last year because of his criticisms of the government, was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” “Tyrants often don’t get the jokes, but their people do,” Pulitzer Prize-winning Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker writes in his tribute to Ferzat. “So when the iron fist comes down, it often comes down on cartoonists.” [Time]

Publishing | In one of its wide-ranging interviews with comics publishers, the retail news and analysis site ICv2 talks with Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson about the state of the market, the loss of Borders, his company’s 2011 layoffs, webcomics, and some early missteps with its digital program: “Quite honestly we’ve run into a few issues because the programs that we’ve done haven’t worked as well as we wished. We created some exclusive material and got less participation than we had hoped for. […] We gave codes out to retail stores to drive customers into their stores. They could pick up the exclusive content by going to their participating comic shop. Evidently we didn’t do a good enough job getting the word out, so we’re retooling that.” [ICv2.com]

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Quote of the day | Erik Larsen on the indecency of Before Watchmen

“Some really good people are working on Before Watchmen and it saddens me to see that. I won’t be supporting it in any way. I just can’t. And in all honesty — I can’t help but feel a little bit less for every creator who works on these books. Have you no decency?”

Erik Larsen, wading into the continuing controversy surrounding DC Comics’ sprawling prequels
to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

DC Comics offers a first look at Before Watchmen pages

DC Comics has updated its New Frontiersman promotional website with a first, albeit small, look at interior artwork from Before Watchmen, the sprawling prequel to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The portfolio, featuring art by the likes of Lee Bermejo, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Adam Hughes, J.G. Jones and Jae Lee, was shown Thursday at the Diamond Retailer Summit and Saturday at the “DC All Access: Before Watchmen” panel at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.


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