It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.
Finally, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]
Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]
Action! Mystery! Thrills!: Comic Book Covers of the Golden Ages, 1933-1945
Edited by Greg Sadowski
Fantagraphics Books, 208 pages, $29.99
Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1
Edited by Blake Bell
Fantagraphics Books, 224 pages, $39.99
Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics
Edited by Michael Gagne
Fantagraphics Books, 200 pages, $29.99
Our current publishing era has been dubbed the Golden Age of Reprints by a number of online pundits, myself included, and it’s not too hard to see why. Classic comics that fans and scholars never thought would make it to the bookbinders, let alone be available in an affordable version, are now coming off the presses at a staggering rate.
One of the benefits of this plethora of reprint projects is it allows us to re-examine certain noteworthy periods of comics history, help us discover long ignored artists and fully consider cartoonists who, though their names might have been recognizable, have largely been unappreciated except by a few. The alleged Golden Age of comics in particular has benefited from this scrutiny, not only in illuminating people like Fletcher Hanks but in showcasing work by folks like Jack Cole and Bill Everett.
One of the people leading the way in this specific endeavor is editor Greg Sadowski, who, in anthologies like Supermen! and Four Color Fear, has given average readers access to comics from well-covered eras (i.e. the early superhero and horror trends) merely by republishing stories that didn’t come from Marvel (or whatever it was called at the time), EC or DC.
Sadowski’s latest book, Action! Mystery! Thrills! has a somewhat even narrower focus, dealing entirely with comic book covers from the Golden era. It makes a certain amount of sense. While covers are still an integral part of marketing and selling a comic, they were even more essential back in those early, heady days, when you competed with hundreds of other titles and an eye-catching cover could mean the difference between profit and cancellation (or at least that’s what many editors and publishers of the time felt).
The Quality Companion is a great book for lovers of comics history. It starts out with nine comics featuring heroes such as The Ray, Phantom Lady and The Human Bomb, with art by Jack Cole, Lou Fine and other comics luminaries, and then there is a detailed account of the history of the company. You may not have heard of Quality Comics (I hadn’t), but it was one of the early comics publishers and the original home of Jack Cole’s Plastic Man. Many of Quality’s characters were eventually absorbed by DC. The book is well-written and detailed, and the comics in the front are at once cheesy and fascinating.
TwoMorrows makes the book, and most of its other titles, available in two formats, a hardcover print book and a digital version. The digital book is a PDF, which means it can be downloaded and read on any device, without any concern about the distributor disappearing and taking it with them. That also means it could be easily pirated, and there’s a note in the front of the book telling people that if they downloaded it for free, they did so illegally. “Go ahead and read this digital issue, and see what you think,” the note continues. “If you enjoy it enough to keep it, please do the right thing and go to our site and purchase a legal download of this issue …” This makes so much sense that I don’t know why everyone else doesn’t do it.
It seems as if TwoMorrows has found a digital/print balance that works, at least for this type of book. The print edition is priced at $31.95 (marked down to $27.16 at the moment), and if you spring for it, you get the digital edition free. That’s quite a reasonable price for a book like this. Even better, the digital edition is priced at only $10.95. The print edition will obviously appeal to collector, but for someone like me, who wants to read the book and have it as a reference, the digital edition is a great deal, especially with no DRM.
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.
It’s a slow week, this week; if I had $15, I’d use it to catch up on some recent enjoyments like Action Comics #3 (DC, $3.99) and OMAC #3 (DC, $2.99), two of my favorite titles from the New 52 relaunch–OMAC in particular has been a really weird and wonderful joy–as well as the final issue of Marvel’s great and sadly underrated Mystic revival (#4, $2.99). I’d also see if the parody-tastic Shame Itself #1 (Marvel, $3.99) lives up to its potential, because “Wyatt Cenac + Colleen Coover” sounds pretty promising to these ears.
Awards | The Visual Effects Society has named Stan Lee as the recipient of the VES 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors individuals whose “lifetime body of work has made a significant and lasting contribution to the art and/or science of the visual effects industry by way of artistry, invention and/or groundbreaking work.” Previous recipients include George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ray Harryhausen and James Cameron. The award will be presented Feb. 7 at the 10th annual VES Awards. [press release]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports it raised $12,500 last weekend at New York Comic Con. [CBLDF]
Awards | Comic-Con International has opened nominations for the The Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, which awarded to “an individual retailer who has done an outstanding job of supporting the comics art medium both in the community and within the industry at large.” [CCI]
Will Eisner’s transition from superhero comics production lineman to game-changing action comics auteur to early master of the graphic novel is really something of a stunning career path when you think about it. It happened over such a long period of time that it isn’t seen as the kind of bold, unexpected move David Mazzucchelli’s sudden dismissal of Marvel heroes for one-color art comix is; but past Mazzucchelli there isn’t really anyone else who’s had a career in comics that traced so many disparate paths. Imagine, for context, Bryan Hitch cranking out Blaise Larmee-esque underground webcomics 10 years from now, or Jim Lee announcing his intent to take the reins as the new artist of Prison Pit.
What’s really stunning about Eisner’s many transitions as a comic book maker, however, (and let’s not forget his extended sojourns as a professor of comics and an artist of sequential-art instruction manuals for no less an institution than the United States Army while we’re at it) is that he never really reinvented the wheel, instead following a remarkably smooth and consistent progression from project to project, gig to disparate gig. The Mazzucchelli comparison is useful here as well: While even the smallest traces of the superhero artist who drew Frank Miller’s “Born Again” are barely visible in the work of the graphic novelist who gave the world Asterios Polyp, this page from Eisner’s early-’80s graphic novel prime is immediately, firmly recognizable as the product of the same hand that created The Spirit more than 40 years prior. More impressive still is the way Eisner uses the same bag of tricks he assembled in his decade as the auteur of a weekly (weekly!) superhero comic book on this little slice of understated, observational “serious” comics.
Willie & Joe: Back Home
by Bill Mauldin
Fantagraphics, 288 pages, $29.99
PS Magazine: The Best of Preventive Maintenance Monthly
by Will Eisner; Selected and with an overview by Eddie Campbell
Abrams, 272 pages, $21.95
There can arguably be no finer example of how to completely sabotage a successful career than what cartoonist Bill Mauldin did upon returning back to the United States at the close of World War II. The youngest person (he was 23) to win the Pulitzer Prize at that time, his gag cartoons, featuring dirty, worn-down, battle-hardened, embittered soldiers (most notably the pair known as Willie & Joe), which ran in Stars and Stripes and later in national newspapers, allowed soldiers to vicariously let off steam — someone out there knew what they were going through — and gave the citizens back home a look at the war that few media outlets at the time provided.
IDW Publishing announced yet another Artist’s Edition today at Comic-Con International in San Diego: A collection of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, to be released in 2012. The 144-page book will be shot from the original art, and the black-and-white strips will be photographed and reproduced in color in order to catch every nuance and correction — as you can see from the cover image. The book will also be in the large “Golden Age” format, which is bigger than the other Artist’s Editions.
Editor Scott Dunbier says this edition will focus on Eisner’s work from just after his return from World War II, because his work showed a new maturity in that period. “When he came back to the strip in 1946, he became, I think, one of the foremost comic artists ever,” Dunbier told CBR. “His storytelling reached such heights, he really produced a nearly unparalleled body of work during this period.” Dunbier and Dennis Kitchen, who is the agent for Eisner’s estate, are in the process of selecting the stories for the book.
To mark what would have been Will Eisner’s 94th birthday, Google is honoring him with a homepage “doodle” spotlighting The Spirit and the cartoonist’s imaginative blend of type and architecture. Scott McCloud, who helped design the piece, also writes a tribute to Eisner on the Official Google Blog: “For most of his career, Eisner was years, even decades, ahead of the curve. I saw him debating artists and editors half his age, and there was rarely any question who the youngest man in the room was. It helped that he never stood on ceremony. Everyone was his peer, regardless of age or status. None of us called him ‘Mr. Eisner.’ He was just “Will’.”
Publishing | DC Comics will roll out a marketing campaign next month in support of its new $2.99 price initiative. The campaign, apparently revealed in a communique to retailers, will include online banners, ads in January issues of Comics Buyer’s Guide, Comic Shop News and Wizard, in-book ads, and in-store posters, shelf talkers and cards. [Crimson Monkey]
Libraries | The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation has pledged $250,000 over five years to the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum facility, part of the Sullivant Hall renovation at The Ohio State University. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Broadway | The father of Christopher Tierney, the 31-year-old aerialist who fell a week ago during a performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, offers a full account of his son’s injuries: a hairline fracture in his skull, a broken scapula, a broken bone close to his elbow, four broken ribs, a bruised lung and three fractured vertebrae. Timothy Tierney said his son underwent back surgery on Wednesday, and took his first steps on Friday with the aid of a brace and walker. Doctors are “cautiously optimistic” that Christopher Tierney will eventually resume his performing career. [Arts Beat]
Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comes home and what stays on the shelves. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if we only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.
Check out Diamond’s full release list if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15:
As usual, I’d spend it on single issues. Starting with Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #1 ($3.50), then picking up a couple of Moonstone books: Zeroids #2 ($3.99) and Return of the Originals: From the Vault – The Pulp Files ($1.99). I enjoyed the first issue of the genre-mashing Zeroids and have been looking forward to the next part of the story; From the Vault is sort of Moonstone’s version of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or DC’s Who’s Who. I don’t know nearly as much about the classic pulp characters as I’d like, so I’m looking forward to the education. Next I’d check out IDW’s Dungeons & Dragons #1 ($3.99) to see if they’ve figured out how to do a good D&D comic. That brings me to $13.47.
At the Eisner Awards ceremony last night, Denis Kitchen announced that Will Eisner’s A Contract with God is coming to the silver screen, courtesy of writer and producer Darren Dean, co-executive producers Bob Schreck and Michael Ruggiero, and directors Tze Chun, Alex Rivera, Barry Jenkins and Sean Baker, among others.
Each of the directors will direct one of the graphic novel’s four adjoining chapters. Principle photography will begin in 2011.
“Getting to know Will Eisner was one of the great honors of both my personal and professional journeys,” Schreck said in a press release. “We are all well aware that the work ahead has a very high bar of excellence to aspire to set by Mr. Eisner’s pioneering achievements in storytelling.”
Read the entire press release about the project after the jump.
If you have a bit of time today, get comfortable and settle in with the transcripts of testimony by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger and Victor Fox in a 1939 court case in which Mr. Fox was accused of copying DC’s new and quite popular character Superman.
Ken Quattro, a.k.a. The Comics Detective, recently got a transcript of the case, and he sets up the story for us: In 1939, shortly after the spectacular success of DC’s Superman, Fox hired Eisner and his partner Jerry Iger to produce a knockoff. DC noticed, and they sued. In Eisner’s account of the story, Iger encouraged him to say he had created the story himself, but rather than perjure himself he told the truth, that Fox had commissioned it.
The transcripts, which make fascinating reading in their own right, don’t bear this version out. Under questioning, Eisner states quite clearly that he had created the tights-clad character himself in January 1938, before Superman appeared in any DC comic, and that Wonderman was actually inspired by another tights-clad character, The Phantom. (The judge gets pretty testy about this whole line of defense, insisting that when the character was created is not relevant; the finished product is what’s important.) As Quattro says, “Contrary to the image of the idealistic young artist risking his financial well-being on principle, it appears he succumbed to the urgings of his partner and their client.”
(Quattro notes something else that isn’t in the transcripts: As an editor, Eisner had reviewed and rejected the proposal for Superman, so he had actually seen it before it was published.)
The testimony provides some interesting sidelights on the way comics are made, and the judge is all over things—at one point, he criticizes Eisner for using pen names.
Wonderman is now in the public domain, and a helpful commenter to the first post points to a site where it can be downloaded.
Publishing | David Harper gathers reactions from a handful of Zuda creators to the closing of the website and the continuation of select titles through comiXology and the PlayStation Network. Chris Bolton, Sean Kleefeld, Crash Landen and Rich Lovatt have commentary. “From my vantage point,” Kleefeld writes, “the split between DC and Zuda (emotionally and philosophically) was about the same as can be seen between newspaper cartoonists and webcomic creators. There were these old school print guys who, for the life of them, could not wrap their head around free digital comic distribution.” [Zuda Comics]
Publishing | At Anime Expo in Los Angeles, Digital Manga Publishing announced it has acquired 10 new licenses. In addition, Wedding Peach artist Nao Yazawa will create a new series specifically for DMP’s eManga website. [Anime News Network]