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1. SDCC ’14: Jeff Lemire on creating a new universe in ‘The Black Hammer’

BlackHammer_Promo_LowRes_Final2By Kyle Pinion

In part two of our weekend long discussion with Jeff Lemire, we sat down with him to discuss his newly announced Dark Horse creator-owned title The Black Hammer to find out more about the influences of the title, its potential metaphorical under-pinnings and why he chose to go with Dark Horse for this series specifically.

When you’re getting into a creator owned title like The Black Hammer, I’m sure there’s a sense of freedom due to your direct ownership of the book, but is there a sense of added pressure of finding its audience as well?

I don’t feel a lot of pressure, not really. I just get excited about the idea and want to work on it. I stopped worrying about those kinds of things a long time ago. You just make the books you want to make and people will like it or they won’t. As long as you’re happy with it, who cares?

Why Dark Horse for this particular title? I know you have a new book (Descender) with Image, and all your upcoming work with Valiant. Why was Dark Horse the right publisher for The Black Hammer?

There’s a couple of reasons. I was at DC exclusively for four or five years, coming out of being for only one company for that long, there was certainly a sense of wanting to try new things and wanting to work with different people. Not being locked in with one person or one company again right away. With Dark Horse, one of my best friends is Matt Kindt, and they had done so well with Mind MGMT and Matt was very happy with how that book has been handled so I thought it would be cool to come over and do a book with Matt.

The actual premise of The Black Hammer has been talked about at length elsewhere at a number other sites, so what were some of the influences that led to getting to that point?

Well, the concept itself kinda reveals the influences, its about a group of superheroes who come from every era of comics. And they’ve been wiped out of continuity, and one day they wake up in this small farm and they have no idea why they’re there or how to get back. The influences are all there, you have a different character from each era of comic history that I love. You have a character named “Madame Dragonfly” who is sort of the embodiment of all those great 70’s House of Mystery/House of Secrets horror comics. You can see everything I love growing up is in there, which is kind of mashed with the stuff I normally do in my independent work like in Essex County with a focus on family and small town life. More quiet, character based storytelling. It’s mixing those two things together into something hopefully unique.

Is this the kind of story where the majority of the “super-hero action” takes place in flashback?

I guess you’d call them flashbacks. The bulk of the book is very much their life now, taking place in the small town, ten years after they arrived. They’re trying to live as normal people, a normal family, despite how strange they are and how strange their background is. That’s the bulk of the book, the in-continuity adventures and stuff from their past is just that, they’re vignettes or flashbacks that reveal more about their history and their relationships with one another and things like that.

Is there an ending already in place or planned?

Yeah, I know the ending just like how I knew Sweet Tooth was going to end. I knew the last page of that and I know the last page of this as well. But between the beginning and the end, it’s very fluid. There’s a lot of room to explore different things along the way. So, I know the end-point, but how long the whole series will be, it’s hard to say.

Is it a great amount of fun to write in different character voices from different eras?

Yeah, it’s definitely fun, but there’s also a balance…I had to experiment a bit. When I’m writing something from the 30’s, do I go full-on and try to emulate the writing style completely and go pastiche or do you adapt the sensibilities of that with a more modern voice? I just tried to find a balance there.

Is there any metaphorical material that you’re looking to mine into, ala Kingdom Come?

There is that, but I don’t really want to talk about it…it’s not a spoiler thing, but my thoughts and feelings on superhero comics will probably become pretty clear by the end of this, so we’ll just leave it at that. There’s stuff I love and stuff I don’t, I have opinions. There’s certainly a commentary about the state of the industry. It’s pretty blatant. But also, I have a love that stuff, for all of comics history, and I think this is a pretty sincere love letter to comics as well. It’s not just satire or commentary, it’s me kind of trying to show all the stuff I used to love to read.

You’ve had this idea for quite some time right?

It’s funny, this project has been gestating longer than anything I’ve ever done. I finished Essex County and I started working on this. You’ll be able to see the influence of Essex County in it right away, it very much is Essex County but with super-heroes. I’m not ashamed to say, that’s pretty fun to write. So that was about 2007-2008 when I started working on it, and I was going to draw it as a graphic novel. Then I started to work with Vertigo and DC and my career kind of took off doing other things like Sweet Tooth, and now I’m working on new things that I’m drawing myself. So, it just became obvious that this was something that I really wanted to do, but that I wouldn’t have time to draw the whole thing myself and that was part of the decision to come to Dark Horse and find an artist like Dean.

What does Dean bring to the book that is different from what you would have done had you drawn it yourself?

It’s very different, I met Dean at Thought Bubble, a festival in the UK, about two, maybe three years ago. But I had known his work before that, I followed his work at Vertigo and was a fan. I really admired his stuff, I felt it was very graphic, very bold style. He also has a sense of strangeness, like he can draw monsters, but with a strange humanity to them. I thought it would be interesting to filter superheroes through that strange dark voice that he has, I knew it would be unique and that it wouldn’t look like a normal super-hero comic. It would look like a strange super-hero comic. It can’t just be a thing I’m emulating, it needs its own voice for sure.

When we see the flashbacks, will different styles emerge?

We’re still very much in the process of deciding how far we go with that. How do we use color? Does he completely alter his drawing style for each era? So those are the creative things we’re sort of in the process of working out. I’m not sure what the answer is yet, as I’ve written two scripts and he’s still in the design stage. We’ll see how it plays out.

Having spent so much time at DC under your exclusive, you’re now spread amongst several different universes per se, is that an overwhelming feeling at all?

It’s fun, I love DC. I grew up reading DC and I have nothing bad to say about my time there. They treated me really great. There’s stuff I’m proud of and stuff I’m not so proud of. That just comes with doing a lot of stuff. It’s cool to play in new playgrounds like the Valiant stuff with new characters and a much smaller universe that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s brand new to me, so that’s fun. And, with this book, I’m creating my own comic book universe that is a combination of my own sensibilities and pulling things from history. It’s not so much overwhelming as it is fun. It’s fun to have fresh starts, new people to work with and new things to play with.

And The Black Hammer is coming in February 2015?

I believe March.

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2. Liked Guardians of the Galaxy? Check out this preview of Thanos: The Infinity Revelation

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It looks like Marvel has done the utterly impossible by turning Guardians of the Galaxy—a movie based on an obscure SF team of misfits—in a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, $65 mil at the BO certified feel good movie of the summer.

And their also releasing a bunch of comics that will keep the characters as fresh on the page as the screen. Among them is Thanos: The Infinity Revelation, a standalone graphic novel by Jim Starlin, the greater of GotG mainstays such as Gamora and Thanos. To make sure movie fans are aware of the book, Marvel has just released a newly lettered preview of the book, which goes on ales next Wednesday, 8/6. The story features Thanos and Warlock in the kind of cosmos battle for life and death Starlin is best known for, with guest stars along the way: the Guardians of the Galaxy, Silver Surfer, the Badoon, the Annihilators and—because this is a book by Jim Starlin—Death.

The book is part of a new line of oversized, original Graphic novels—a genre Marvel hasn’t had much presence in in recent years, but one they are putting some muscle behind. THe book also includes a code for a digital edition redeemable via the Marvel Comics app or online at the Marvel Digital Comics Shop.
 
THANOS: THE INFINITY REVELATION OGN (APR140765)
Written by JIM STARLIN
Art & Cover by JIM STARLIN
On Sale 08/06/14!

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3. Valiant brings entire library to iVerse

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It begins.

We’ve been hearing a ton o’ rumors about comics companies jumping aboard iVerse—probably the second largest dedicated digital comics platform—in the wake of Amazon’s acquisition of Comixology. While Amazon is great at selling books, publishers want to avoid a Hachette-like stand off and other weight throng maneuvers that Amazon is known for. While it’s not clear if iVerse and its ComicsPLus app have the infrastructure standing by to take on a big company, it’s an option…and a good one.

And so, Valiant has just announced that they are bringing their complete library—past and present—to iVerse and ComicsPlus. Titles offered include X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, Shadowman, Rai, etc. The first issues of the current titles are now available for free just to get you going. The deal runs throughout the month of August.

“Valiant has been consistently producing some of the best comics in the industry since their relaunch in 2012,” said iVerse Media founder and CEO Michael Murphey. “We could not be more proud to make their remarkable catalog and amazing characters available in ComicsPlus.”

In addition to the ComicsPlus app and website, Valiant’s titles will be made available to librarians and their patrons everywhere via the ComicsPlus: Library Edition app, which makes thousands of high-quality titles accessible to school and library patrons on any device, anywhere, and at any time.

“Valiant’s number one priority is to make our characters and content available to the largest audience possible, and, via our new partnership with iVerse, we have an incredibly exciting and important new channel to continue that mission,” said Valiant Publisher Fred Pierce. “With a potential readership that’s measured in the millions, we hope to win over even more fans to some of the most critically acclaimed comic books being produced anywhere today, just as we have month in and month out in comic book stores around the world.”


I expect this to be just the first of many ongoing iVerse announcements.

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4. SDCC ’14: Michael Cho on ‘Shoplifter’ – Influence of Advertisement & Social Media

by Zachary Clemente

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Michael Cho is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer currently residing in Toronto. He has worked with Marvel, DC, and others. His graphic novel, Shoplifter is out this September from Pantheon Books.

Comics Beat: How much is this story and these sort of emotions at this age [of the character] come from personal experience?

Michael Cho: It’s kind of hard to separate that. I think that almost all fiction is somewhat autobiographical. I didn’t go through this experience – I never worked at an ad agency and I don’t shoplift. But the emotions certainly come from that – part of the story is about being in your mid-20s and feeling like you’re sort of drifting and not going in the direction you want to get to your goals. I’m keenly aware of that because that’s what I felt like in my mid-20s – I was graduated from school, I went to art college, and I had a series of jobs but since I was outside of that structure of school where you’re told what to do, I was aware that what I wanted to do and what I was doing were two different things.

CB: I was under the impression, based on how personal the work feels, that you had worked in advertising before.

MC: No, but I am a freelance illustrator, so I’ve worked in and done assignments for advertising; and I know someone close to me who worked at an ad agency and a little bit of my inside knowledge of working in an agency comes from that. He went into the ad agency with the best of intentions and then when there was an economic downturn, their next account was cigarettes. I thought then “okay – this happens.”

CB: One of the things about Shoplifter I loved was your perspective on people in a city and your representation of advertisement in a city. Do you feel that comes from wanting to show ads as a large part of city life?

MC: Yeah, I think advertisement is ubiquitous and part of the theme of the book is the impact or influence of advertising in subtle and not so subtle ways. Whether it’s through social media or through [physical] ads, I was keenly aware when drawing it that I wanted to depict the advertising that permeates the city. Bus shelters, on the street, TV commercials – things like that; I wanted those things to be represented and be fully surrounding you at all times, so that was important for me to convey. Also, the city itself […] to be something of a character in the book; I wanted that city to be not just a background for the figures, but also to have scenes where the city itself is the character.

CB: Based on bits and pieces in the book and where you’re from, is this city Toronto?

MC: It’s based on Toronto because it’s grounded in what I know and it’s not a made-up world; Toronto is my hometown, so I tend to draw that. But it’s not actually Toronto – for instance the drawings of the subways are not Toronto subways.

CB: Those seem very New York.

MC: Yeah, they’re actually subways from Brooklyn. What it was for me is that it’s not meant to be a specific place; I never named the city – it’s meant to be any large city that that people gravitate to from smaller towns.

CB: The only way I could piece it together was during the airplane scene on TV – where the flight was coming from.

MC: That was a real event, actually. One of the reasons I included that was that I was watching broadcast coverage of an air crash that didn’t happen – it unfolded very much like it did in Shoplifter, I just changed a few bits around, but when I was watching it, all I could think was “Wow, this station really wants a disaster to happen.” Canadian media is always a little behind American media in the way it tries to sensationalize things, but in that case is it was one of those moments, and it was one of those things that had some parallels to the story.

CB: I got a sort of black and white depiction of social media in certain respects of our daily lives-

MC: In what way?

CB: Specifically in the club scene, there was a guy talking about how connected he is 24/7 and I feel that recently this is a very prevalent discussion – whether how social media affects us is “good or bad” and I feel a couple of the scenes spoke to me trying to say one or the other, but in the end I feel it said both.

MC: I definitely wasn’t trying to depict it as “bad” because I don’t think social media is bad, but I do think it has an impact and subtly influences the way we live our lives. There is a scene in there where one of the characters, says that as a result of social media, people are doing to their own lives what advertising does with products; they’re actually being pitchmen and marketers of their own lives, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. What I was trying to point out was that while we feel more connected to people, more than ever, there are moments where we are isolated, despite all this, and for all the connectivity we get – daily updates and awareness of others – people can still slip through the cracks and different kinds of walls get put up.

Vice versa, to flip that, with people whom we might not have any connection with at all, there might  be surprising connections that we may not be aware of that exist – and that’s a part of Shoplifter.

CB: That’s very thoughtful. I feel those themes were successful, considering I brought my own notions of social media and how it’s treating in fiction to the work.

MC: Yeah, I wasn’t trying to show it as negative in anyway because I don’t think you can say that about any communication medium. It’s the communication itself that may be positive or negative – but the medium itself is neutral. It’s like saying movies are bad because this one movie sucked. That’s ridiculous – you can’t blame the film stock or the process for that.

CB: This is your first full sequential story to come out?

MC: Sort of. I’ve done shorter stories – I kind of straddle all aspects of comics. I’ve drawn mainstream comic stories for Marvel and smart art jobs for DC. Chip [Kidd] and I did a nice Batman: Black & White story featuring Batman and Superman and I’ve also painted covers. I’ve also written and illustrated shorter comic pieces of my own that are sort of similar to Shoplifter in the sense that they’re just fiction – not genre-based at all and I used to put out a webcomic once a month which started out pretty short but got bigger as I got more confident at it; going from an 4-page story, to an 8-page story, to 16-page story; and I’ve had those types of stories published in some unusual places. They’ve appeared in literary magazines in Canada, and Houghton-Mifflin put out an annual anthology called The Best American Comics for which I did a story about the making of the atomic bomb which was picked by Neil Gaiman for the 2010 edition. So I’ve drawn other comics, it’s just that they’ve been outside mainstream channels.

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CB: Do you see Shoplifter as your entrance into a different part of your career – a different stage?

MC: I knew for a long time that I wanted to write and draw my own comics and graphic novels of the kind that influenced me when I was younger. In my teens, for example, when I felt like I was starting to drift away from comics, I discovered the Hernandez brothers [Jaime and Gilbert] and all the comics that came out from Fantagraphics in that era and I realized there was more to comics than I had originally thought. It opened up my mind to the idea of comics as a medium, not a genre. In some ways, I knew then that the comics I would write and draw would just be fiction and any stories I had intended to just write as prose could be comics instead.

Years later, when I was a freelance illustrator, I still knew that’s I wanted to go eventually. I wanted to be able to sign my name on a cover knowing that it was something I did completely from beginning to end myself. I set about putting together a few outlines of graphic novels I wanted to do, while also doing shorter stories, and Shoplifter was the first. There’s five somewhat interconnected stories that I want to work on as graphic novels over the next few years.

CB: Out of personal interest, when did you move from Korea?

MC: Oh, I moved here when I was about six and a half. I didn’t go to school in Korea, so my Korean is very poor; my mom and dad think I speak way better now just because I’ve started using the politeness terms. Are you Korean?

CB: On my mom’s side, yeah. She moved when she was 16 and has very fond memories of hanging out in little shops, reading until very late at night, when her father would pick her up, very upset.

MC: My vivid memories of Korea are drawing, giant robots mostly. In that era, there wasn’t much TV – it was all 6PM to 11PM, stuff like that. Since then it’s boomed and Korea’s now the high-tech capital of the world or something. I have very fond memories of that but I just never went to school there, so in some ways, English is kind of my first language. I’m in that 1.5 generation or whatever they call it.

I grew up in a town where there wasn’t as large an Asian community as Toronto, so I cultivated an “outsider” viewpoint on things and it’s been really helpful to me and I would never trade it for the world. It’s like there’s a Korean side of me and a Canadian side of me and I can relate to both, letting me see different sides of an issue; I’m very happy I have that ability.

CB: Thank you very much, Michael.

MC: Thank you.

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5. Breaking: SDCC cosplayer was injured as the result of a fall not an assault

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The San Diego Unified Port District Harbor Police have issued a second and final press release in regards to the case of the injured cosplayer at Comic-Con, and it has been ascertained that her injuries were most likely sustained as the result of a fall, not an assault.

BACKGROUND:
Shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, July 27, 2014, a juvenile female was found with significant injuries in the pool area of a hotel at 333 West Harbor Drive in San Diego. The juvenile female had attended Comic Con earlier in the day and still had her costume on. She was transported to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.

In connection with the case, Harbor Police arrested a 29-year-old man early Sunday morning, July 27 at the hotel. He was booked into San Diego County Jail at 11:20 a.m. on charges of sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The Harbor Police Investigations Unit has been investigating the incident, including the cause of the injuries to the victim.

INVESTIGATION RESULTS:
After the incident, Police began a thorough investigation of the facts, including a review of footage from multiple surveillance cameras, as well as the assistance of community members and Comic Con attendees who provided extensive information and sent photographs for review. The investigation concluded with a finding that the juvenile female’s injuries were not the result of a criminal assault, and were likely the result of a fall. Her injuries, and physical evidence at the scene, were consistent with a fall from the distance of approximately six feet.

This finding does not affect the charges against the 29-year-old male, which will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. Because this case involves a minor, no further information will be released about this incident.


While the number of accidents that occurred at the con should not be downplayed, the true facts of the case are not nearly as dire as suspected.
While our heartfelt wishes for her recovery are in no way changed, I can’t help but think that a wave of relief has flooded over the Comic-Con community. It’s also notable that 1 am Saturday is a busy time at the con, and that a lot of people must have seen what happened and helped police put together an accurate report.

Once again, all good thoughts to the injured girl and her family.

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6. Con BLOG wars: Hall H line kerfuffle leads blogger to quit

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Oh man. This really is the year everything got out of control isn’t it. Before we dig in here, I should note that I’m friendly with everyone mentioned below. I’ve talked to Jeremy at the SDCC Unofficial blog many times, appeared on their podcast several times, tweeted with Tony from Crazy4ComicCon, linked to them all and in general respected their passionate coverage of Comic-Con as a pop culture effort. So I’m just reporting what I hear.

The SDCC unofficial blog is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most authoritative blogs about the show with all kinds of news hints and tips. As mentioned before, I appear on their podcast, and members of the team I’ve spoken with seem engaged and professional. This year, blogger Sarah Mertan of ConShark was doing some writing for them, but she announced that she quit over—wait for it—an unofficial line for Hall H. It seems that on Friday night some people created their OWN LINE for HAll H, and those people included several from SDCCUB, who managed to keep the line secret and get A level wristbands. The SDCCUB people respond in the comments, and then Tony Kim from Crazy4Comic-Con went and wrote a novel:

Many of you may have made the assumption that those that blog about Comic-Con are one big happy family, unfortunately that is not the case.

This goes under “Very long, set aside beverage to read” or vl;sabtr. Shorter version as I can make out, is that Tony was also once a member of the SDCCUB team and quit over stuff, and now they badmouth him and there is no love lost. And then there’s the matter of the secret line and who should have said what and when and who. Kim writes:

If CCI had granted the SDCC Blog special access into Hall H for coverage, I would have been fine with that. Then it’s accounted for and I would trust CCI’s judgement call on it. People get special access all the time- no big deal. But instead, the SDCC Blog took the initiative and exploited a vulnerable part of an experimental system. Because of the ConShark’s courageous act, they got caught. As you can see from the comment section of the post, Jeremy takes no responsibility, blames her for not communicating, blames security for being wrong, and chalks it up to a big misunderstanding. Even though he is arguably the single most influential source for Comic-Con news, his last comment on the post included this:

“Next time we’ll just tweet out every unsanctioned line that forms, screw over folks who started them and invested their time, cause a situation for security to deal with and get CCI to hate us. I guess then everyone will be happy.”


So many sharks, so much jumping. =(

I know you are all sick of Comic-Con by now, and I will restrict my future comments to two big round-up posts over the weekend, but this is part of the problem. Secret lines! Secret wristbands! Secret podcasts and photos and CONspiracies. I can attest that there was bad blood between SDCCUB and C4CC — I’d gotten wind of it several times png before this and thoughts, “Small space, competitive market”…but Comic-con coverage really isn’t that small. I don’t know how many dedicated blogs the space can support but it’s more than one.

I’ll admit I got into Hall H on Saturday morning, but it was the first time I’d been in four years and it will probably be four years before I go again. It was cool alright, but I enjoyed my lunch at Sushi Deli and watching the casts of various vampire shows taking pictures with fans at the Hilton just as much. Every moment at Comic-con is precious. I get that Hall H is the Holy Grail of pop culture participation but is it really worth all this drama? I mean I know a lot of people think so but…life is too short, people.

Way too short.

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7. Update on the injured cosplayer

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I’m sure everyone has now read up on the details of the arrest regarding the 17-year-old cosplayed who was found injured and was presumably attacked at Comic-Con on Saturday night. The man who was arrested was 29-year-old Justin Kailor, a photographer associated with something called Project Cosplay. Kailor was friends with the victim, and indeed many photos of her are watermarked with Project Cosplay so she clearly had an ongoing relationship with the project. According to Kailor, the two went to the show together and argued at the Marriott about whether to leave or not, and he became worried when she left. About an hour later she was found bloody and unconscious at the pool or the Marina Marriott.

“I just wanted to call it a night and take her home to her parents and be on my way…,” he said. “She ran off and I didn’t follow. She didn’t answer the phone. She was gone for so long I asked security if they had seen her.”

About an hour later, he said, security found the girl unconscious and bloodied in the hotel’s pool area. He added he was with security when they heard she had been discovered and police were notified. The hotel manager did not return calls seeking comment.


THe girl’s family was interviewed by local news, and confirmed that the victim would have a long recovery, but the support of the cosplay community was much appreciated. Police haven’t commented on whether Kailor is involved in the assault on the victim; his arrest was in connection with giving her alcohol and unspecified “sexual contact” with a minor.

The investigation is still ongoing; anyone who has any information should contact sdhpiwatch@portofsandiego.org.

A few personal comments: it’s hard to imagine an idea more disturbing than a bloody, severely injured teen-aged cosplayed being found by a pool at the Marriott Marquis, possibly sexually assaulted, in the middle of Saturday night at Comic-Con. I’ve been by that pool, you’ve been by that pool. I took a shortcut through that pool nearly every day at the con. I stayed at the Marriott on Tuesday night, I’ve been there with groups, I’ve been there alone and so have you.

There is a great deal we do not know about this case, and I’m not going to speculate on what happened. But based on what we do know, there is nothing shocking, unusual or dangerous about the behavior of the victim. She did what hundreds and thousands of people have done at Comic-Con for years—dressed up, hung out with friends and moved around a place she assumed was safe.

What is shocking, unusual and dangerous is the behavior of whoever left her lying bloody by the pool.

I’m turning off comments here, but if anyone has any RELEVANT information regarding this, such as benefits, cosplay group response, or knowledgable insights, email me at comicsbeat @gmail.com. This is obviously a tragedy, and will contribute to a lot of the ongoing discussion about cosplay, consent and conventions.

Please continue to think good thoughts for this young woman and her family.

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8. SDCC 14: Becky Cloonan, The Killjoys of Moving…

By David Nieves

Since 1999 Becky Cloonan has been breaking down doors; whether they be from moving to new places or the ones every creator has to go through to make comics for a living. I had the overwhelming  joy of sitting down with her on the SDCC show floor last week. To no one’s surprise, I found her to be every bit the –best in the world– her poignant art style suggest.

We talked a little bit about her recent move back south of the wall. Becky has a genuine zest for life that would terrify the average person thinking about uprooting themselves to new surroundings. While she deals with the same angst of “where the grocery store is, the post office… trying to figure out my place in this neighborhood,” she finds inspiration and new contributions to the projects she’s in the middle of during her journeys.

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Reflecting back on the dystopian opera that was True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys, a process that’s been over five years in the making. The original story inspired the My Chemical Romance album Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys which then turned back into the comic book.  Killjoy’s end result being a Mad Max story with so much heart that it makes the tears shed in the opening of Up seem like a prick from a rose throne. On the subject of if the group would ever come back to tell more stories in the Killjoy’s world, all Cloonan would say is, “never say never.” It does sound as though it will be quite sometime before that would ever happen due to Shaun Simon’s upcoming projects, Gerard Way’s new album, and her own recently announced Image book Southern Cross.

Our conversation steered towards the comic book industry in general. After starting by self publishing her own books in 1999, she’s excited by how viable self-publishing has become over the last ten years. Not only has this been a coo for creators, but she’s noticed how much its changed the readership of comics. Cloonan and Way recently signed at Meltdown Comics in L.A. she was thrilled by the fact that “the line was like 90% girls and they all had their comics to be signed.” Her thoughts about the on going hot topic women in comics; Cloonan takes a very humble approach on the matter. In her words, “As much as I feel like I don’t represent women in comics, I don’t feel like I can carry that flag cause it’s too heavy (laughs). I represent myself, but at the same time I love to encourage young girls to get into drawing comics, get into reading comics.”

Her outlook on the future of comics is as upbeat as the artist’s demeanor. Cloonan talked about how all the conversations and strides we take today will pay off ten years from now. The artist emphasized, “It’s going to be healthier, it’s going to be bigger and we’re going to see even more amazing comics.”

Listen to our entire conversation below to hear just how fabulous Becky is:

Becky Cloonan isn’t just the story of a female creator in comics. After spending some time with her you start to see that she’s the tale of a girl who wants to tell stories through a lens of her ever-evolving perspective while along the way encouraging those of us with the same fears and anxieties to pursue their passions. The industry is a much better place for having her and you just can’t say that about everyone.

If you’re one of the five people on earth who haven’t read True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys check it out in stores and through Dark Horse Comics. Becky’s new Image book Southern Cross will be available in stores this Winter.

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9. SDCC ’14: A Conversation with Vivek J. Tiwary, writer of ‘The Fifth Beatle’

Vivek_Tiwary_TEDxFultonStreet_600pxBy: Kyle Pinion

Vivek J. Tiwary is a multiple award winning Broadway Producer whose productions have netted 25 Tony Awards and 44 Tony nominations. The culmination of decades of research, The Fifth Beatle, his graphic novel telling the tale of Brian Epstein, the man who discovered and managed The Beatles was released in November of last year. As of this past Friday, Tiwary is also an Eisner Award Winner as The Fifth Beatle won the award for “Best Reality Based Work”.

Just prior to this win, I had a chance to sit down with Tiwary and discuss this stunning graphic novel and some of the background behind it.

When did you first hear the name Brian Epstein?

I’m a life-long Beatles fan. My parents introduced me to the Beatles. My parents always say that I was listening to the Beatles before I was born, because my mom was listening to them when she was pregnant. I’ve always been a bit of a nerdy guy, a bit of an academic…following history, and in terms of comics, I’d get into creators. Who were the artists? The inkers? And similarly with bands, I’d get very involved in who signed them and who their managers were. I probably heard his name 30 years ago, but it was 20 years ago when I was in business school in Philadelphia that I decided to learn something about the guy. I realized that The Beatles and Brian were the team that wrote and re-wrote the rules of the pop music business, but I didn’t know anything about him. So it was about 20 years ago that I really said “Who is this Brian Epstein character that I heard who managed and discovered the band?”

I understand you spent 20 years in research for the project. What did that research entail?

Starting this project 20 years ago, if you put that in perspective; during that time, there’s no Wikipedia, no YouTube, no Google. There are none of these online resources that we take for granted today, and there are no books about Brian Epstein. The Fifth Beatle is the only book in print, graphic novel or otherwise, about Brian. So 21 years ago, I didn’t have any choice but to do interviews. I had basically read all of the respected Beatles books and slowly I put together a portrait of the people that knew Brian best. And then I just cold-called these people, and they were not the celebrity names. Certainly there are people like (Paul) McCartney and Ringo Starr who obviously knew Brian, but Brian’s management style was to shield the band from his struggles. There’s a line in the book: “You focus on your music, and I will play the business like my instrument, and you will never have to hear it.” The people who knew Brian best, like Nat Weiss, who is in the book, was his best friend and the Beatles’ US attorney. Sid Bernstein, who is not in the book by character, but his spirit is in the book, was the Jewish concert promoter who brought the Beatles over to the United States for the first time. And he and Brian shared some of the same struggles of being Jewish men hustling in the music industry in the 1960’s. It’s a bit strange to think of this now, but in that time, there wasn’t an extensive number of Jewish people in that industry, especially not in the United Kingdom where the industry was run by Lou Gray and Sir Joseph Lockwood – these older, white Christian Knights of the British Empire. It wasn’t run by individuals with names like Epstein. So literally I just figured out who were the people who knew Brian best, and I cold-called them. I focused on the people who were within driving distance, like Nat and Sid who were both New Yorkers, and I just said “Hey, I’m a young person, looking for more inspiration and I got inspired by the little bit I know about Brian, would you talk to me?” And I will be honest, I was so excited about reaching out to these people that I forgot to be intimidated, and not one of them turned me down. That’s how I began my research. Obviously it expanded from just the people who were nearby. I wound up talking to Joanne Newfield, who is now Joanne Peterson. She was Brian Epstein’s personal assistant, and she was literally there with him the day he died. So, she was a great reference to me, while living in Australia now. That’s how I did my research, with people living all over the globe.

Did sources ever conflict in their accounts of Brian at all?

All the time. This is one of the challenges that any biographer faces, but certainly one for anyone that is working on a Beatles-related project and for someone who is as little known as Brian. There were people who said “Brian would never do that” and someone else would say “Brian totally did that.” Even little things, like when I presented the book to some people, they would say “Brian would never call his mother ‘Mommy,’” with others knowing him very well saying that he was very close with his mom and would absolutely do that. So who do you believe? As a biographer, you have to do all the research that you can, and you either go with the person that you think is the most reliable on that issue, or you interview five people and if three of them say it’s one way, you have to go with the majority. Those are the two decisions you make. But at the end of the day, that’s the role of the biographer. You have to go with what you think is the truth.

When did Andrew Robinson come into the picture?

Like I said, it was about 20 years ago that I started researching the subject. It was about ten years ago that I decided that I wanted to write a graphic novel, and that started with scripting and figuring out how I wanted to tell the book. It was about five or six years ago that I was looking for an artist. I was making the book independently at first, before Dark Horse was involved, and I hired a gentleman named Mark Irwin, who was the book’s first editor and a very accomplished inker in his own right. But in his role for me he was working as an independent editor, helping me with my script and helping me to find an artist. He was working with Andrew at the time, and Andrew was one of the very first people that Mark recommended. I knew Andrew as a comic geek. I knew he was an amazing artist, and I knew he could certainly do the job and do it beautifully. But it was really when I sat down with Andrew and started talking to him that I realized that he was perfect. It was important for me, because it was my first graphic novel, and partially because I come from theater, which is a collaborative field. So working very closely with the artist was something that I wanted. It was clear that Andrew and I were going to have that kind of relationship. He also was a huge Beatles fan but understood that this was Brian’s story, and it was the human element of Brian’s story that really appealed to Andrew. To me, that was critical in the storytelling of The Fifth Beatle.

In relation to your theater background, how would you liken your role and Andrew’s role to the traditional ones seen in film and on stage?

If you’re looking at as a film, then I suppose I am both the writer and the director, and Andrew is the cinematographer, and the art department, and a bit of the music director as well. Much like a film, we really collaborated on everything. There were pages of my script where I was very specific. I knew in my head that I want four panels here, and I want one panel to look like this and a camera angle to be this. There were entire sequences where I said here is what the characters are going through and here is how they feel, here is what is emotionally happening and here is the dialogue, but I have no idea how to do this. Andrew would then come back to me with it all laid out. We really did both. There are some comic writers who are very particular and want things exactly this way, and there are some that have no idea and just provide dialogue, and I guess I’m a bit of both. There were some scenes where I was very meticulous, down to photo references, and then there were others where I wanted Andrew to have mastery over it.

I can’t imagine the feeling you must have had when you saw the finished product.

Oh my gosh, I remember the experience I had when I saw Andrew’s first page, which was page one, the Liverpool panorama, and it was like my heart literally skipped a beat. It was watching my dreams visually come to life. It was amazing.

How would you define the relationship that Brian had with John vs. the one he had with Paul?

Obviously, Brian’s relationship with John is deep and complex. John was the leader of the group when Brian started working with The Beatles, and by the end of their career as a band, John and Paul were both taking leadership roles. But in the beginning, there was no question that it was John’s band. So, Brian really did start working closely with John, because he was making a lot of the big decisions. A lot has been made about Brian and John and whether they had a romantic relationship, and there’s no question in my mind that Brian was attracted to all of The Beatles, in particular to John. But as you’ll see, the way I handled that in the book – I think that John teased him somewhat mercilessly as John I think was wont to do. John was one of these guys that had a very acerbic wit, and he put his friends through the ringer. To hang with John Lennon, you had to earn your stripes. So I really think there was a lot of love between the two of them, a lot of genuine love, but I don’t think it was a romantic love. If anything for Brian, it bordered on the love a father has for a child, in a lot of ways. I think Brian viewed the Beatles as the children, as a gay man, he would never have. A gay man in the 1960’s where it was illegal to be gay, forget about getting married and adopting. Brian was very paternal with The Beatles. There was a friendship there that was emotional and familial. I think Brian’s relationship with Paul was a little more business-oriented. Paul was more about the numbers, the image and the marketing than John was, and certainly at the end of the book there’s a scene where a number of people visit Brian on his death bed and he had these hallucinatory moments, Paul is one of the people that shows up. Obviously that’s a fantasy, that’s my creative license as an author, but you’ll see in that sequence they talk a lot about the business. Brian says “you’re the one that’s going to be in charge of the legacy,” because he knew that Paul was going to be the person that was going to take charge of the legacy most seriously from a business perspective. Not that John wasn’t proud of the legacy as the founder of The Beatles, and as a key member, but Paul is really the one that understood it from a business stand-point: The books, the greatest hits records, the preserving of the band historically, that’s a Paul thing and was also a Brian thing as well. Brian’s relationship with Paul had a more archival aspect if that makes sense, the caring about and the creation of history.
John also had other interests brewing at that time as well, with Yoko coming into the picture or about to do so.
Lennon once said “there were only two people in his entire life that he would listen to and do whatever they told him and that was Brian and Yoko.” And Yoko really comes into the picture where Brian left off, and John even says this, she filled an almost paternal void that he felt when Brian left. John sometimes needed somebody to tell him what the fuck to do. That’s not to say Yoko and Brian were similar. There was just a part of their relationship with John that was.

For those who have read the book, this has been a question that’s bantered back and forth a bit, how open to interpretation is the existence of Moxie?

Very! I will go on and let you decide how much to print because I do like the fact that you walk out of the book with the ability to debate that subject. That was the point. I want readers to not be sure about this. That being said, there was no real person named Moxie, however everything Moxie does was done by four assistants. She is most closely based on Joanne Peterson, who I mentioned earlier, who was Brian’s personal assistant, she was there when Brian died. She will readily say she had an innocent crush on Brian. She didn’t romantically chase him, but he was older, intelligent, well-dressed and debonair. He was everything that a man should be in her teenage eyes. She loved Brian in that sense in the way that Moxie does. Moxie is also one-part Wendy Hanson, who was another female assistant Brian had. She’s also one part Alistair Taylor, who was the assistant that first took Brian to The Cavern Club in 1961, which Moxie does in the book. She’s also one part Peter Brown, who worked very closely with Brian and very closely with The Beatles afterwards. So if I had to answer the question very specifically, she’s a conflation of four real-life people. I also wanted Moxie to be a little bit of Brian’s head. She’s Brian’s “moxie”, his ambition, his drive. She’s a lot of different things, so I hope her existence does cause some debate amongst fans of The Fifth Beatle and Beatles fans. While it doesn’t take more than a Google search to know that there was no real-life Moxie, everything she did is based on history. Brian took Joanne Peterson to a ball and ballroom danced with her. She said it was one of the best nights of her life. But JoAnne is not Moxie…at the end of the day, she’s my creation and I think she represents Brian’s ambition in life.

But Dizz is real though?

Dizz is very real unfortunately. There was a gentleman in real life named John Gillespie, people nicknamed him “Dizz”. He blackmailed Brian; he was a hustler. He flew to the UK and blackmailed Brian in public. Since we’re getting specific, I will say I made up the television interview. He did blackmail Brian in public, but it was at a party, not on television. Dizz was unfortunately a very real person.

Any future projects that we can get excited about?

There’s a few things that I have cooking that I can’t quite talk about, but I’m working with Alanis Morrisette, and we’re adapting her album Jagged Little Pill for the stage. We’re turning it into that into a Broadway Musical. I’m incredibly excited about that. I expect we’ll be able to announce our writer within the next few months. Tom Kitt is already attached to compose orchestrations and arrangements, which Tom did for me on American Idiot, of which I was a producer, and he’s a genius. He’s a Pulitzer and Tony winner for Next to Normal, so he’s amazing. That’s probably the key thing that people can get excited about. Right here at San Diego Comic Con, I wrote a short story for Harbinger Issue 25, their anniversary issue. It’s out and here at the convention. Gilbert Hernandez, the wonderful Gilbert Hernandez drew an exclusive cover for Harbinger and it’s a benefit for the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund), and we’ll be doing a signing here at the show. This is a dream come true, the man is a genius, to say that Julio’s Day was one of my inspirations for The Fifth Beatle would be an understatement, and I’m thrilled to be working with him. Harbinger 25 is out now, it’s in stores, and I’m very proud of the story I wrote for that. There’s certainly The Fifth Beatle film as well, which we’re in active development on. We’re in the casting process, and we’re on track to shoot next year.

Is Peyton Reed still attached to direct?

Now that Peyton is attached to Ant-Man, scheduling has become a bit of a tricky thing. Peyton loves The Fifth Beatle, we love Peyton, but we’ll have to see how the schedule plays itself out.

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10. SDCC ’14: Journal – 4 Days and 10 Years Later, What I’ve Seen and Learned

By Victor Van Scoit

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I planned on writing journal updates based on my daily experiences, but the time vortex that is San Diego Comic Con always wins at some point. With its voracious appetite it eats up every second of time that isn’t reserved for basic human survival – like sleep and sustenance – and even those begin to suffer. But I have time now to look back not only over the past few days, but the past ten years of attending San Diego Comic Con.

THE CONVENTION FLOOR
I was surprised that by Thursday afternoon I felt like I’d seen all ten football fields worth of pop culture goodness on the convention floor. Any additional time I spent was focused on Artist’s Alley and chasing down the final issues of Locke & Key. The former involving great conversations and artistic discoveries. The latter left me empty handed and proving that SDCC was no longer suited for back issue digging, and I would have to go to a smaller convention to experience the thrill of the hunt to fill in my collection.

The expectations of acquiring SDCC Exclusive merchandise remained in high gear. Hasbro was king with the biggest draw and people camping overnight, while Funko and Super7 had fervent demands for their toys as well. Publishers also pushed their exclusives often in combo with creator autograph sessions yet in both cases (toys and comics) the lines were in control.

In speaking with seasoned attendees there was a sense that while crowd size grew day-to-day the floor felt less packed and more maneuverable than in prior years. The Warner Brothers booth still drew large crowds for celebrity signings for the casts of Game of Thrones, The Hobbit and the like, but gone were the spectacle booths, holy grail giveaways, and additional celebrity signings that often caused traffic bottlenecks. Considering SDCC sold out of attendee tickets this year again, I was curious where all the people were especially since the number of off site ventures had decreased as well.

OFF SITE ACTIVITIES
The new mainstays were still there like Geek & Sundry Lounge, Nerd HQ, and PetCo Park’s Interactive Zone whose main draw is Adult Swim. Geek & Sundry served its niche audience well with activities like board games, video game demos, and panels featuring talent from their YouTube shows that kept attendees engaged and sticking around for their evening parties. PetCo Park’s Interactive Zone and the park near the Hilton Bayfront had brands that drew people in for a carnival like atmosphere. Nerd HQ continued to offer its Conversations for a Cause and celebrity photo opportunities but didn’t have as many offerings as last year that would keep attendees around, though they did throw a fun Thursday night dance party. Such as it was, there was a decrease in off sites that contributed to the sense that Comic Con wasn’t in crazy showbiz mode.

The decrease in Hollywood studio presence and other big branding attempts was definitely noticed. There were only a couple of hotels wrapped with ads for upcoming TV shows, and the number of parties and interactive branding spaces were small compared to years prior where there were 3-5 times as many. Consider that in 2011 when Trickster, the creator driven alterna-convention, was located in the wine bar across from the convention center. Each subsequent year they were pushed farther away from the convention center due to rising event space costs and the companies that could pay them. That same wine bar from 2011 remained unbranded and relatively empty all convention long. Rumors of greed had event space owners asking for five times more in 2014 for the same space in 2013. Mix in Hollywood being more cautious after not gaining returns on SDCC darlings like Scott Pilgrim and Cowboys and Aliens, one can speculate as to the diminishing presence.

LINES and PROGRAMMING
That’s not to say studios weren’t represented well in the lines for panels in Hall H, Ballroom 20, and the Indigo Ballroom. Attendees were quick to pull out the sleeping bags, pillows, and lawn chairs for their overnight stays so that they could gain a seat. Even the wristband mechanism that was implemented for Hall H this year seemed to help the organization. But once again it was curious to see how things had changed from what may very well be the peak of last year.

While all weekend long each of the big rooms had long overnight lines, once the rooms opened up the dynamic changed across each. Ballroom 20 would fill in for its first panel of the day and then the line hardly ever extended outside again. You could actually show up for the panel you wanted as much as an hour in advance and sometimes as little as five minutes and get your seat. Indigo Ballroom’s line remained strong compared to prior years but it benefited from better programming, yet suffered since it had less seats to offer than Ballroom 20. Such was the case Friday when I arrived at 4PM to check out both the Bob’s Burgers and Archer panels. The folks at the front of the line had been in line for four hours and were finally going to get in. These were two shows that would’ve been better suited in Ballroom 20 rather than, say, the world premiere of unknown pilot Scorpion. Perhaps we’re at a sea change where there’s not as many cultural phenomenon shows out there as there once was.

Hall H also showed how programming would affect it. I almost felt guilty being able to walk into a panel on Thursday in Hall H without having camped the night before. The only reason Hall H filled up on Thursday at one point was because Twitter notified everyone of Matthew McConaughey and Christopher Nolan’s presence. The Interstellar trailer wouldn’t be far behind and that sent everyone running. Hall H then came back in full force on Friday and Saturday with stronger programming and concluding with its usual Marvel Studios high come Saturday night. Marvel Studios still remains the Hall H crown jewel for popular culture fan as they displayed once again what other panels lacked – showmanship and hype. Just before the Marvel panel started at 5:30PM I spoke with those around me and they had only just gotten inside having been in line since 11PM the night before. That’s the harsh mistress I know the Hall H line to be.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE TEN YEARS MAKES
My first San Diego Comic Con I thought to myself, “They were right. This is big. This is way big.” The Hollywood dollars changed the game and many proclaimed SDCC was too big, overexposed, and couldn’t possibly get bigger. I thought I missed the boat to visit back when the convention was small. Each year it seemed as if something new was added like brand experiences in parking lots, video game companies participating, every hotel being wrapped in giant movie and TV posters. Hell, the Hilton Bayfront hadn’t even been built. Now I can’t even imagine San Diego Comic Con without the Indigo Ballroom or the Hilton’s Odysea Bar where I’ve met many creators and talented directors and actors. Little did I know that years later I would look back and think “My first year was tiny compared to all this.”

That first year I was helping to make HD quality video blogs for DivX’s content network. The company needed someone who understood the comic book landscape to host video segments. Back then there were no iPhones, small HD cameras, and Facebook and YouTube were nascent companies. So with high quality cameras the team would hit the floor each day looking for interviews and cool items I could point out to show exactly why comic books, pop culture, and this convention was great. It’s funny to think that there were probably only twenty similar camera crews on the floor back then. Whereas now it feels like the floor is swarming with camera crews and their portable devices, trying to record interviews and bits for their YouTube channel. You also better have industry contacts because those press and professional badges don’t go as far they used to.

Ten years also gave me the perspective to notice what I’ve alluded to earlier, which is that San Diego Comic Con just didn’t seem that crazy. I used to to enjoy walking from my hotel near Broadway down to the convention center so I could see all the brand take overs. And yet this year there wasn’t much of any pop culture interest until one would hit the area near the Hard Rock Hotel. My panel schedule of the day is typically filled with plan A, B, C, and D knowing I might not get into my first choice due to crowds. And yet this year the only reason I had to go to my second choice was due to mood and not capacity being reached in a room. While attendance for Comic Con 2014 didn’t go down the looming presence of the entertainment industry certainly did. Frankly this was the first San Diego Comic Con where I felt paced, I had time to meet with various friends, and got to do 95% of what I wanted to do. Did the entertainment money bubble burst and are we in for a few years of a normalized landscape? Is the Comic Con audience now so broad that studios and brands aren’t getting the discerning looks and cultural penetration they once were? I’ll be curious to see, and if I’m lucky I’ll get another ten years to find out.

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11. You have two hours to get your New York Comic-Con panel submissions turned in

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5pm EDT is the deadline for this year’s New York Comic-Con panel submissions. I’m sitting on a train desperately trying to be coherent and lucid enough to put together a proposal that will pass this kind of scrutiny:

Panel and screening slots at NYCC are in high demand, but are extremely limited. Last year, NYCC was unfortunately only able to accept less than 25% of all submissions into the schedule. So, before you submit, please make sure your application is the best it can be. NYCC is looking for programs that are original, exciting and creative. Most importantly, think about the value your panel will provide to fans and what sets your panel apart from others. This application does not guarantee you panel time at NYCC and instead only registers your request to hold a panel at our event.

The timing of the deadline — three days after San Diego while everyone in the industry is still in a brain haze or sitting in a sauna—is also, to be frank, kinda sucky. But it is what it is.

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12. SDCC ’14: Dysart, Kindt, Simons, and Venditti on Valiant’s Current Direction

By Alexander Jones

AH_003_COVER_BRAITHWAITE

Valiant is an incredibly dynamic and interesting superhero publisher that isn’t afraid to take risk after risk with their properties. Comics Beat had the opportunity to sit down with some of the brightest minds working at the comics company including Joshua Dysart (Harbinger: Armor Hunters & Harbinger: Omegas), Robert Venditti (X-O Manowar & Armor Hunters), Matt Kindt (Unity, Rai, & The Valiant), & Valiant Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons.

Comics Beat: The Valiant Universe is in a big place of transition right now with Armor Hunters. How do each of you manage to keep the tone of your own books, while still involving the individual characters in the event space? For instance, Harbinger still feels like Harbinger with or without Armor Hunters.

Joshua Dysart: I mean I just don’t read Rob’s scripts. It allows me to really keep my tone [laughs].AH_003_003

Warren Simons: They’re too intimidating for him.

Robert Venditti: You will paralyze in fear if you read my scripts.

Dysart: No, I actually think it’s because we all work together. We have a central vision and editorial team. I think that we are all valued for our voices and effort that we put in towards making these titles unique.

Venditti: It was never about we’re going to do this story, and he’s going to have to be in it. We’re going to do a story in other ways that your books are going to tie in and if so, what are your ways and let’s talk about them.

Dysart: Yeah, and you know when Rob and Warren came to me, they didn’t come to me with anything that I had to do. They were like ‘these are the parameters we have to keep in places, and there are some pieces in play here that are interesting’. That helps a lot, that’s a great way to work.

Venditti: When we came up with the premise for Armor Hunters, we were curious how these books were going to react to each other.

Dysart: And, I think that the truth of the matter is that conceivably, it would be exhausting to us and it would stretch the marketplace; but we have such a tightly integrated universe right now. We could conceivably make every storyline a crossover–it would be exhausting and terrible. I think our books could easily respond to each other right now in that way without it being forced.

Simons: I think that I have tried to make sure that the guys are all in clear and close contact with each other about what’s coming up. Rob just did a great job on the Armor Hunters: Aftermath issue, and that’s going to have and that’s going to cross into what’s happening with the Unity team. We want to make sure that nobody is stepping on one another’s toes. So that as Josh said, we are preserving their voice that we hired them for instead of forcing everyone to write a certain way.

Comics Beat: The next thing that I wanted to do was try to get a question for each of you. Rob I want to know with Armor Hunters,is Aric’s empire crippling? Or, is his time with the Visigoth people is coming to an end, or perhaps, is there a status quo shift coming up for the book? AH_AFTERMATH_001_COVER_BERNARD

Venditti: Yeah, I mean I think we have done status quo shifts almost every four issues since the series started. It’s something we have always tried to do. As far as him being a leader of the Visigoth people, when he came back with Rome, they got hit pretty badly after that fight–this is very long form story that we started with from the first issue. He comes from a group of about 40,000 people that were traveling around Europe. As he travels back to Earth with a suit of armor in the modern day and see’s what the world has become now, I think we start to see Aric evolve as a character that bears witness to the planet in a much different way now. The transition from him as being the leader of a small group of people to him being a leader of the globe. This is a global community now. Even the idea of the globe is a concept that is completely foreign to him.

Comic Beat: Now, Warren, as Valiant’s Editor-in-Chief, have your tasks changed at all?

Simons: A little bit. The company is growing, we are expanding. We just hired another Editor, Kyle Andrukiewicz.

Simons: Everything is heading in the right direction. I am still going to continue to edit and work on the books with the guys. Josh Johnson is an Editor up there working on Archer & Armstrong and The Delinquents. Associate Editor Alejandro Arbona is working on The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage, he’s just killing it, and he’s working on a bunch of other titles as well. We’re getting bigger, but I am continuing to edit many of the books that we are putting out.

Comics Beat: We just saw Bloodshot join Unity, how is that going to affect the greater team?

Kindt: Not that much really, we just have a killing machine on the team now. He’s going to come in handy I think at the end. I thought the interesting thing about having him join the ranks, was seeing his interactions with Livewire. Especially when keeping in mind the fact that she can talk to machines. She is the only person that can really stand up to X-O. Livewire can take control of his armor as well. This is especially interesting when keeping in mind that Bloodshot is a machine. Seeing them interact is going to make the comic engaging. They have tonal similarities as well. Livewire is continuing to question his humanity. Even though they are opposite in many ways, they have a lot of similarities.

Simons: The first eleven pages of Unity #10 are absolutely awesome. It’s extraordinary stuff!

Comics Beat: One of the things that I wanted to clarify for your books….

Dysart: And for Josh, I needed some clarification!

Comics Beat: So we have Armor Hunters: Harbinger, but how does it line-up with the Harbinger title proper, and Harbinger: Omegas coming up?

Dysart: The Armor Hunters: Harbinger book is primarily for the Generation Zero kids. If anyone is caught up on Harbinger, they moved from being lifelong prisoners of rising spirit to being prisoner to Harada, Now they are free. They are the protagonists of the Armor Hunters series. Their last big moment in the sun was Harbinger Wars, our last big crossover. Omegas is predominantly concerned with and Harada not necessarily that they come into contact with each other. Harbinger #25 happened, and these two series are sort of happening at the same time after Harbinger #25.

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Comics Beat: After the announcement of the Archer & Armstrong movie, how do all of you feel about the prospect of having these different Valiant characters that may be coming up on screen one day?

Simons: I think it’s great. I think that first and foremost we are a comic book publishing company; and we are really concentrating on the comics themselves and making the books as a good as possible, and not necessarily worrying about whether or not this will play into a movie, or whether or not this particular character will translate to the big screen. As you can probably confirm by reading the first 11 pages of Unity #10. [laughs] That said, I think it’s great. I think it provides us with the opportunity to expose our characters to a wider audience which is always important with a young company like ours.

Comics Beat: What new layers do X-O Manowar #0 and Unity #0 add to the mythology of both books?  UNITY_ZERO_COVER_ALLEN

Simons: You should tell them the story. It’s freaking awesome, a little bit of it.

Venditti: In the Armor Hunters X-O Manowar tie-in issues we are seeing the armor from the opponents’ perspective. We’ve gotten a lot of information about the armor recently in the X-O Manowar #0 Issues, I thought it would be a good time to focus on Aric as a character and what his origins were being a Visigoth. Which we got a sense of with X-O Manowar #1 in Rome with 402 A.D. Aric rallies armies behind him and he’s fierce, and he’s killing the Romans like crazy. What was the character like before all of that? We dealt some of that information in the earlier issues of X-O. The idea is that he is just a boy. We were all just kids at some point in our lives. We aren’t born amazing swordsman. The upcoming issue opens with a page one, panel one image of a 16 year old Aric throwing up behind a tree. Then you pull back and see that a huge battle has just taken place. All the Roman bodies are on the ground from the battle. The Visigoths are taken away to be buried, but the Romans are still there. His job, and the job of his friend Gafti, is to kill the mortally wounded Romans and put them out of their misery. Aric is struck by the violence of it, and so horrified, that he is actually throwing up. He doesn’t want his friend to see it. Like he had something bad to eat, but he doesn’t want his friend to see that he’s barfing his guts out.  It’s so horrific to him because he wasn’t born as that type of warrior. The book looks at him from that perspective. How do you get tested by battle, and how does this really hard conflict reveal things about you that you didn’t really know were even there–both for him and for Gafti?

Comics Beat: What about Unity #0?

Dysart: It starts with Livewire vomiting behind a tree.

Kindt: She is upset about everything that Aric did. (The room laughs.) Unity #0 is basically the first iteration of a super team set during WW1 lots of great parallels between that team and modern Unity. It’s interesting to see what events would happen to see making a modern Unity team necessary. I think we are going to do something interesting with the beginning and the end. We are going to do some of the inside cover stuff. There is a letter between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister that grounds the story in reality and sort of shows the politics behind getting this team together. There is also the idea of how this team is being assembled within the issue. In that era, the baseball cards were like little tobacco cards. I am going to have a little portrait of them in their backgrounds. I am going to do portrait cards for each member of the Unity team. It has information on them in the background. These are going to be giveaways for the comics.

Venditti: Are you going to put on the monkey suit?

Kindt: I used to wear a sock monkey suit.

Venditti: I have known Matt for ten years at least now. I was working for Top Shelf packing boxes for years. He was one of the creators. His first book, Pistol Whip was brand new when I started working there. Over the years, I would see him all the time at conventions as he was going through doing more books. He always did World War Two -era stories back then so he had this merchandising idea back where he created a cigarette case called Red Heine cigarettes, and the little logo was like a monkey. He had a cigarette tray that he wore around his waist, and he actually wore this to Wizard World Chicago and gave it away. The cigarette cases contained artwork. His face was cut out, but the rest of his outfit was the Big Heine monkey.

Kindt: The funny thing is, is that book is a really sad World War One story.

Comics Beat: Are any of your books tying into The Valiant?VALIANT_001_COVER_RIVERA

Simons: That’s a great question. I think that Armor Hunters will be a bit of a delineating point in the way that we, the universe operates with the giant aliens who basically have come down and attacked the earth. We have superheroes in our universe, so our response to what I have talked about with Matt and Josh with what the trajectory of the universe will be after that, I have seen a lot of it expanded with the Armor Hunters: Aftermath title that Rob is working on–Unity #12, #13, and #14 and another book with Josh that we haven’t announced yet.

Dysart: That and the world is in a really interesting place. It’s not just a mass scale invasion that happened right on the tail end of the outing of the pilot, so there’s this whole sub-group of human beings that have been manipulating markets and essentially controlling human affairs since World War II. It’s a bit of a shell shocked world–it’s not just the alien invasion, it’s not just out there anymore, it’s also in here. Everything has changed. So humanity is in a pretty frail interesting place.

Simons: How would our fictional Valiant Universe respond to something along these lines? The Valiant will be four issues, it will be in-continuity, and it will have a direct impact on the world after the story ends. It will have massive reparations for the universe.

Comics Beat: Is it safe to classify The Valiant as an event series?

Kindt: If it’s an event, it can only be classified as such because the scope is so big. It’s going to involve the entire Valiant Universe you know. So we are basically taking this small story as a mine cart that we are going to ride through the entire Valiant Universe and you are going to see everything–you are going to see it’s a great place to start if you have never read a Valiant book. You are not going to see the origin of every character, you are not going to know what Ninjak is all about; but you are going to see him, and you are going to be like that guy is awesome you know for like the little bit he is in, it’s a small story with a large scope

Simons: It will be accessible, it will be an entry point, but it will take a look at really the entire universe and wit will have bloodshot eternal warrior Armstrong, Kay, The Geomancer. They will come out of this changed for the most part.

Comics Beat: Because it is billed as a prestige format, do you think it could even last longer than the typical event if it has an era of nuance about it like something in the style of Kingdom Come?

Simons: Possibly, but we try to bill all our books like that to be honest with you. I hope Josh’s run on Harbinger is the defining run on Harbinger that’s on the shelf in 25 years. I hope the same thing about the first run of X-O or the first 12 issues of Unity. I really want all the books to feel special. We aren’t treating this one to feel more special. We want all the books to kind of have that feel that this will be the defining run. The scope of this along with Paolo’s extraordinary art that’s coming the pages just looks absolutely amazing. It will be something that will stand the test of time, but I am not walking into this project thinking that we are absolutely going to hit grand slam and that this will be on the shelves in 25 years’ time. I just want it to be as good as Unity, Harbinger, and X-O Manowar and that’s where we are starting at.

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Kindt: There are so many superhero comics on the market. What’s the point of putting another in the one world if you aren’t trying to do something different with it? Like I love coming into this universe, and I can come up with a creative way to tell the story maybe you have seen something similar, but you’re not going to see it being told this way with comics. These are things that I have never seen comics do before you know, that’s just what I love most about comics instead of just panel panel panel panel story. It’s more about what makes you think of comics as a medium you know, as much as the story.

Simons: I feel like everyone is bringing their A-game and that everyone is putting their heart into it.

Comics Beat: Thanks!

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13. SDCC 14: Neil Druckmann… For a Comic Book Writer, He Makes One Hell of a Video Game

By David Nieves

Few stories have truly transcended the bounds of their original media in meaningful ways. Sure movies have become games and vice versa, even we comic book faithful are no stranger to our favorite stories becoming cannon for Hollywood. The catch is few of these attempts ever delivered something that can truly be called an experience, or at least one we’d like to remember. In order for a multiple form story to thrive there has to be a unifying vision. Someone who can traverse the minefield of different studios or individuals trying to take something and change it beyond something fans can recognize, all in the name of mass consumption.

Dark Horse Comics figured out that being successful in bringing a story over from another part of the entertainment industry really only requires one thing, the person who knows it best. In short just call Naughty Dog creative lead Neil Druckmann and let him do anything he wants with whomever he pleases.

SDCC Friday, I got some one-on-one time with one of the best storytelling minds in any medium. We talked a bit about his initial story that would spawn one of the best games of all time, The Last of Us. Along the way he told us about his deeply rooted passion for comic books and revealed a new book coming this Fall. Of course we found time to rave about his collaborator on arguably one of Dark Horse’s best books The Last of Us: American Dreams, Faith Erin Hicks.

His new book, A Second Chance at Sarah will be in comic book stores this Fall through Dark Horse Comics. It’s an occult story involving time paradoxes, regret, and sacrificing for what you love most.

You can hear the full interview below.

After talking with Druckmann, it’s hard not to buy into his magnanimous amounts of  love for the comic book industry. Dude’s got legit comic cred, even before ever writing for Dark Horse.

Don’t count out The Last of Us as being done yet, according to Druckmann himself from our interview it was apparent there’s at least one more story to tell. Of course you can find The Last of Us Remastered out now for PlayStation 4, and the absolutely necessary The Last of Us: American Dreams can be found in comic shops and digitally through Dark Horse Comics.

Featured Image: Naughty Dog Twitter

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14. SDCC 14: Jeff Smith Spotlight, the Head of Comic’s Cool Table

By David Nieves
If you’re a lifer, comics have always been the cool thing. Certain people personify what’s “out there” and distinct about comics more so than any other industry; and at the very top of that list is Bone creator Jeff Smith. On SDCC Saturday afternoon, moderated by his friend Tom Spurgeon(The Comics Reporter), Jeff talked about all things Jeff Smith during his spotlight panel.

Opening with the news from Scholastic, Bone vol 1 will see a special Scholastic Anniversary edition of the book with colors and an eight page poem about the Rat Creatures alongside a whole bunch of pinups from Scholastic artists like Kate Beaton. Scholastic is set to release it in the Spring of next year.

You could tell by Jeff’s laid back demeanor and rocking back and forth in his seat that Tom held the opening talk with Jeff as if they were just having lunch together looking over comic books.  Jeff enlightened his buddy, along with the room 9 audience in attendance, about off-the-wall character design, getting older in comics, and meeting a larger age ranges of fans.

Jeff praised about the Rasl sculpture that was at his booth. A group of art students 3D built it for him, they took the little hints in the darkness of the engines to build something that resembles a Tesla Coil and an alternating engine. Seeing the final piece astonished Smith because he himself never knew what the inside of the engines never looked like because they were always draped in shadows, only showing hints of what was inside.

Smith was asked if SDCC was a better place to present your projects than when he started? “it’s a very different landscape then when I came into it. In 1991 there was only two kinds of comics; the mainstream Marvel and DC, then there were the alternative comics,” Smith explained. He defended the extravaganza known as Comic-Con for its potential to attract new readers.

His latest work, TUKI, is out first digitally with a print version available shortly after. What’s great about the print version is that it’s still read horizontally true to its digital roots. Unlike other digital to print books that have to crop pages in awkward ways. Jeff took the simple notion of keeping things the way they were meant to read.

One question he hears a lot was asked during this panel. Other company owned characters he’d like to do?
DC Comics said he could come do the second half of Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil whenever he wants but has no plans to do so in the near future. Unless he gets, “really bored or really broke.” The Rocket Raccoon 1 cover was also shown and he chalked that one up to it simply being, “up his alley.”

A fan asked Jeff, “when did he decide to make Bone more epic?
According to the cartoonist, the moment happened organically when he decided to turn the jokes it was based on into story. Particularly the stories he liked such as the works of Tolkien. It was a time where he couldn’t hide behind the Donald Duck style comics purely laced with jokes and running gags. In his words, “he had to come out.”

The last question was about how Smith transitioned Bone from college comic strip to real comic book. He had opportunities to bring bone to publishers but it would have required him changing or eliminating things like the Rat Creatures and selling his copyright. Before that time he’d never been inside a comic book store and during his first time inside one, saw that there were people self-publishing their own comics. It gave him the epiphany to create his own company and all the stories he’s done in his career.

With that the panel came to an end. You can listen to the full spotlight below (note: delay at beginning starts at 0:09) full of all Smith’s quips and insights about the industry. You can find Rasl, Tuki, and all things Bone on his website Boneville.com

 

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15. SDCC ’14: Image Dares to Give Us an All-Artist Panel (It Was Great)

by Zachary Clemente

Sometimes, it’s the smaller details that stand out most. Sure, Image Comics is pushing for changes in the comics industry and has really been an a great example of how different publication platforms bolster the climate for making comics. Sure, they’re making new programs for retailers to make it easier to manage Image’s extensive line of new comics when shelf-space is at a premium. But the fact that they put together an all-artist panel composed of a 4:3 women-to-men participants speaks volumes.

imageinnoThe features artists were Chris Burhman (Nameless), Becky Cloonan (Southern Cross), Gabriel Hardman (Invisible Republic), Sloane Leong (From Under Mountains), Amy Reeder (Rocket Girl), Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose), and Declan Shalvey (Injection).

Image Comics’ David Brothers started off with some questions about process and approach.. Burnham, working on Nameless with previous collaborator Grant Morrison found himself being stretched as he develops a working method of “strange geometry” and “super tangents” where he makes bizarre choices in representing perspective on a page. Hardman, asked about his process of storytelling, enjoys utilizing the available poetry to the limited amount of panels he’s able to use.

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Leong, collaborating with artist Marian Churchland (co-writing From Under Mountains with Claire Gibson) discussed the division of labor on the book. All of the internal art is her, while she and Churchland will work together on the covers. She then went on to touch on coloring in comics, a role she is often in.

Color depends on the art, too many comics have color because someone says “we need a color product.” – Sloane Leong

Reeder, when asked about her approach to coloring her own art on Rocket Girl, finds that her palette is very wide a single page can contain a wide variety. She draws from different influences when coloring the two time periods that are portrayed in the book, which create very different palettes.

Cloonan, who has previously self-publishers comics with her own writing and art, drawn for scripts will now be writing for Andy Belanger on their newly-announced Southern Cross. She went into the differences of roles, but ultimately iterated that it comes down to the sorts of challenges her working style will have to adapt to not being in charge of the visual narrative of the book. She will be doing all the covers however (which I am thrilled for) so it’s clear she and Belanger have a collaborative working relationship.

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Burnham and Hardman, two of the most technically-minded artist I’ve heard talk, discussed the different approaches to leading the readers’ eyes along the narrative of the page in an intuitive way – even though they approach with vastly different techniques. Burnham bounces the eye with dynamic movement, often breaking borders and panels out into a more fluid visual, mimicking the cadence of the story, while Hardman typically uses a static page layout, moving the eye panel to panel instead of using crazy compositions.

The panel was then opened up to the Q&A from the audience. A couple of younger fans asked about how the Image platform functions and what sort of work best fits with the publisher and it seemed that all the panelists were excited to discuss the ins and outs of the company’s breadth of published work and how the submission and ownership process works. Brothers, moderating, summed it up best.

We work for the creators [...] we want to do what you want to do. – David Brothers

One of the most interesting questions for the panelists was one about using photo-reference. All of the panelists had different approaches to it, some seeing it as a stage in their process, others seeing it as a sometimes-useful tool; a couple reluctantly seeing as almost “cheating.” Many credited photo reference as extremely useful for figuring out how cloth would drape and hand motion is captured – finding that portraying credible subtle movement as something worth succeeded at even through photo reference. As the topic was bounced about, critiquing the use, Shalvey had a good take on the process.

There’s a difference between reference informing the drawing and reference dictating the drawing. – Declan Shalvey

In the end, the panelists essentially agreed that reference can be a supremely useful tool, but when too heavily depended on, you just end up drawing a photo, not a panel. Additionally, the point that the drawn characters need to be viewed as “actors” and basing them directly off of photo-realistic reference undercuts the credibility of the visual acting and artistic ability.

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Lastly, an interesting question was their feeling on how people read their comics digitally, since many readers, such as ComiXology allow panel-by-panel reading. The resounded response was no – they don’t care at all. Most suggested that people are going to read they want to read and they just have to make the work speak best to all readers, digital or print.

Thanks for joining us for our Image Comics coverage! We’ll hopefully be right back at it in October for New York Comic-Con in October.

<3 – The Beat Staff.

2 Comments on SDCC ’14: Image Dares to Give Us an All-Artist Panel (It Was Great), last added: 7/30/2014
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16. The State of Conventions in 2014 (AKA – The Annual Gripes Turn Up)

SDCC-logoIt seems like every time SDCC rolls around, there’s a referendum on the state of comic conventions in the mainstream media and in the comics media.  Sure enough, Comic Con ’14 rolls around and the same old song repeats.  Let’s break the state of things down into the two components that get most of the dander up.

#1: A consumer convention is different from a trade show.

This year it was the New York Times that issued an article that didn’t really have a clue that there are two different type of conventions.  It’s always somebody.  I don’t think enough of it to link to it, but I’ll link to one of the responses here at The Beat.  Before I go over the differences between the two, let me drop some credentialing on you.  I’ve produced interactive exhibits for trade show booths.  In the medical industry.  Where they think nothing of spending $250K-$500K on trade show booth materials and staffing.  Oh, they’ll use the booth and elements of the booth at multiple shows, but that’s there to illustrate the vast difference  in budgets involved (although the TV and movie folks spend a bit more on their marketing than the publishers).

Convention centers usually have a little bit of government oversight.  Not always, but usually.  They’ll be partially funded with an eye on “economic impact.”  How is this measured?  Hotels around the convention center, bars and restaurants around the convention center.  Taxis.  Car rentals.  Bonus points for things that can have a tourist tax on them.  As I understand it, part of the problem with WonderCon and San Francisco is that the “economic impact” doesn’t hold a candle to a medical show or a tech show.  Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.

With a trade show, most people are staying in the hotels near the convention center or in a designated corridor of business class hotels.  There will be all kinds of after hours activities.  Multiple restaurants/bars/clubs rented out for the evening with open bar.  20-50 person steak dinners for extended sales pitches.  Most of those people not getting their meal bought for them will have a decent expense account and go to the GOOD (read: expensive) restaurants either around the convention center or in that business class hotel district.

SDCC is unusual in that it does have tradeshow levels of private events.  I’m not sure if the head count invited to those private events is the same (and the venue gets paid by head count), but they have them.  It completely misses out on the expensive meals, though.  That said, I’ve often wondered if the inflated hotel prices have really been taken into account in the SDCC economic impact studies.

Now, if we step away from SDCC and just talk about conventions in general.  A regional convention, where the bulk of attendees aren’t staying overnight, loses out on all of the above.  Maybe a slight a hotel room bump and some casual dining dollars.  A national show – one where you have a lot of attendees flying in – is going to get a hotel bump (but possibly more action for the tourist hotels, which may not be valued as much) and a casual dining bump, but not the big dining dollars.

The per attendee dollars spend in the community can’t touch a trade show.  Period.   If the show is big enough, it can even out, but consumer shows are more of a “fill in the open dates”  scheduling item in the greater scheme of things.

Don’t kid yourself, though.  SDCC is big enough, Anaheim and Las Vegas were drooling over getting that kind of attendence in town.  Nothing wrong with full planes, hotels and taxis.

Wonder Con, though, that’s another story.  No steak dinners.  Barcon might not be at a hotel bar.  You’ll have more people staying in different neighborhoods.  Lots of locals.  It’s just not going to track.  Should there be a Wonder Con in SF?  Absolutely.  Do they have a fight with Moscone over economic impact?  Yeah, that’s probably legit from an oversight perspective.  It would be nice if the tech industry leaned on some politicians for that.  Locals can be served too, not just out of towners.

#2 The new <insert here> is ruining conventions

Comic conventions, by and large, are pop culture conventions.  There, I said it.  There have always been celebrity autographs at all the shows I’ve ever been at.  I remember the Chicago Comicon, under the original management, would have huge crowds for the Babylon 5 and Kevin Smith panels.  I was even part of that with a “Mystery Babylon Theater 5000″ panel (before the pirated the idea at SDCC, thank you very much).  This is not a new thing, so much as it’s been more fully integrated.  It’s also part of conventions opening up to a wider audience.  Sorry, the audience is less focused than it used to be and commerce patterns have changed.

The person shouting the loudest about the changes this year seemed to be Chuck Rozanski of Mile High, who’s gotten a lot of PR by declaring he wasn’t bringing his retail booth(s) back to SDCC.  Rozanski is taking the position that he’s lost too much business to the publishers selling convention exclusives at their own booth.  He’s not the only one making complaints.  I’ve seen some complaints on the social channels that cosplayers are taking up space that could be occupied by comics fans who might buy something.

These are old trends that get brought up every year like they’re new things.  One of the consequences of comic shows being more of a pop culture convention is that you have a wider demographic.  Wizard World Chicago morphed into an autograph show where pretty much all the comics activities were in Artist’s Alley.  Some cosplayers come to convention for the comics and just enjoy dressing up.  Some come for the anime or movies and like dressing up.  And yes, some of the cosplayers are just there to dress up.  So what?  I know people who like to wear bow ties, too.  There’s also a growing trend of conventions as primarily a social experience.  You go to meet friends you see at conventions and to meet new people with common interests.  This seems particularly big on the anime side of the aisle.

There’s also been a looooooong developing story on the changing face of commerce at conventions.  It seems like the comics portion of shows is moving towards the direction of high end/rare back issues and hot books or deep discounts.  And perhaps a slice of “things to get signed by convention guests.”  Back issues are now something of an online shopping item.  And Rozanski ought to know about that.

To be honest, the Chicago shows – particularly Wizard – turned into such a deep discount flea market at one point that I started getting an attitude about paying $5 for tpbs.  I mean, a couple places were selling them for $4.  That’s the nature of the beast and I expect you really can’t pull that off at a national show.   (And we all have a friend who only goes to a convention the last day of the show to see what kind of fire sale prices he can get, right?)

With the more diverse crowd, you have increased opportunities to sell stuffed animals, t-shirts and novelties to people who aren’t there strictly for comics.  Nothing wrong with that, either.

Ever notice that nobody complains that the bootleg video booths aren’t nearly as prevalent as they used to be?

Is the complaint about the publisher booth having exclusives and diverting dolloars valid?  That’s a complicated question.

  • Are attendees spending money there instead of at retailer booths?
  • Are the exclusive item lines so long attendees  don’t have time for retail shopping?
  • Since it’s not weird somebody would buy a convention exclusive instead of a back issue they could order online, is this an argument about who should be the one selling the convention exclusive?  (Comics should be the textbook case study of “channel conflict.”)
  • Are the consumers spending more time in Artist’s Alley instead?

Yes, Artist’s Alley and the retail section are in conflict.  If I’m buying something and the person is in Artist’s Alley, unless the retailer has a pretty big discount, I’m buying it from the artist every time.  Supporting the artist directly is a full-on trend these days.  See Kickstarter.  See Patreon.

Do the publisher’s exclusives detract from Artist’s Alley sales?  I’m not sure.  I know a few people who swear by shows like Wizards put on because they don’t have much by way of publisher’s booths, so the comics fans at the show can go straight back to Artist’s Alley.  Sometimes they mention not having to compete with the exclusives, more often just that Artist’s Alley is where the comics part of the show is at.

As these conventions get bigger, more vendors want to get in and the price for the booths keeps going up.

But you know what else is absolutely true?  The booth prices are getting more expensive for the publishers, too.  And comics is not exactly a high margin business.

The demographics of the attendees are getting broader.  Exhibition costs are going up.  Buying patterns are changing.  Direct to consumer sales anger is flaring up again.  Alas, very few things in this world stay exactly the same.  This seems like a few different heads all coming to a head and it’s been a few years in the making.  Whether this extends down to the next layer of conventions – your NYCC, Emerald City and Wonder Con — remains to be seen.

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17. San Diego police seek information in vicious beating of cosplayer

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With Comic-Con winding up there has been a smattering of word on Tumblr and Reddit about a young female cosplayer dressed as Rgoer Rabbit being attacked and left bleeding by the side of the road. The story has been reported on Tumblr and Reddit, and after speaking with the girl’s parents, I have ascertained that it is unfortunately true. The SDPD is currently investigating the crime. I have removed the names from this, but if you have any more information, please do not contact the family directly. Call the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000. I repeat, DO NOT CALL THE FAMILY. Several people have already spoken with them and with their daughter in the hospital they do not need any more distress fielding phone calls.

According to the girl’s mother, her injuries are severe, and indicate a vicious beating. Here is the account of what occurred from Tumblr:

IF YOU WENT TO SAN DIEGO COMIC CON OR KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS, PLEASE READ.

One of my dearest friends was found on the side of the road, unconscious and bloody. She was wearing this cosplay on the day it happened. She was last seen with friends when she ran off after a disagreement. Please, please, please, if you have ANY information or saw her anywhere, contact her mother. The full information is down below. This isn’t okay and it’s sickening to know that this happened at a place people truly can enjoy themselves. Please spread the word.

 ”I just received a call from the San Diego Police Department and my daughter REDACTED aka REDACTED was found on the side of the road covered in blood with no ID unconscious. They are unsure what happened to her. My husband is on his way to the police station and then the hospital. If you have any information on what happened to her please send me a facebook message or call me at REDACTED. Thank you in advance”. -REDACTED

Obviously this crime is going to be added to the current discussion of all the issues regarding Comic-Con, harassment, cosplay, crowds and more. It’s a stark and heartbreaking reminder that even if Comic-Con is a wonderful fantasy world brought to life, there are real life predators out there. Have fun but play safe and sane. My heart goes out to this girl, who was an experienced cosplayed who had recently been to Anime Expo, and her family. Her mother says it was her dream to go to Comic-Con. Let’s hope that her attackers are caught and when she’s recovered she can come back in style as a heroine.

16 Comments on San Diego police seek information in vicious beating of cosplayer, last added: 7/29/2014
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18. Evangeline Lilly: Acting was a detour on her way to becoming a writer

EvangelinePhoto(1)

Photo by Sarah Dunn, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

By Hannah Lodge

Evangeline Lilly has made a name for herself by starring in classic portrayals of good vs. evil. Whether she’s eluding the Man in Black as Kate in Lost, fighting Orcs in The Hobbit Trilogy, or taking on new roles – such as Hope Pym in Marvel’s upcoming movie, Ant-Man – Lilly’s work is part of large legacies followed by devoted fan bases.

Lilly, who was a self-described loner in high school with a penchant for listening to Beethoven and writing, has an affinity for this fan base. “These are my kind of people, and they get me,” she said. “They don’t want me to be some kind of boring pin-up, girl-next-door type. They like the more eccentric, strange side of me.”

And so this year Lilly attended San Diego Comic Con in hopes of sharing more of that darker, eccentric side, by telling her own story: The Squickerwonkers. A children’s story that Lilly describes as a “graphic novel for beginners” with a chilling band of marionette puppets and the little girl who becomes a part of their world, The Squickerwonkers moves away from the stories of good vs. evil that Lilly’s characters are often associated with.

“It’s your actions that come to define who you are and can create negative consequences in your life, but that doesn’t make you innately unlovable,” she said. “Because all of the characters in these books have vices and do things that are naughty, but they’re all really loveable.”

Lilly wrote the first draft of the story when she was only 14 years old, and through collaboration with Illustrator Johnny Fraser-Allen, whose design credits include The Hobbit Trilogy and Tintin, was finally able to realize her dream of becoming a published author. Lilly said that the heart of the story has remained the same all of these years, but that through Fraser-Allen’s artistic vision, she was finally able to realize what her story should look like – and 40 re-writes later, has come up with the final version, which will be published by Titan Books in November.

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“The thing I had always known about the Squickerwonkers was that they were human, but not human,” she said. “So when he [Fraser-Allen] painted me a picture of marionette puppets on that stage, I went ‘Oh my god. That’s it. That’s exactly it. They’re human, but they’re not human.’”

In her personal time, Lilly does her fair share of both writing and reading. She connects with her fans by holding virtual book discussions over Facebook and Twitter. Over time the same core set of fans tends to show up, many of whom Lilly recognizes – and in a way the discussions have evolved into her very first book club, in electronic form.

“I was a very reluctant social media person. I thought it was something that disconnected people more than connected them,” she said. “I got very frustrated being in the public eye for so many years and not ever being able to actually speak directly to my fans, always having a second party be in the middle of that communication. So nine times out of ten I would read something or see an image of myself and think: but that’s not me. I felt frustrated at being generally misrepresented. So I finally decided OK, well, this is a way I can have direct access to the people who are interested in my work. And I can say this is who I am, so at least if I’m going to be perceived by the public, I can have some sort of control over that perception.”

Lilly said she recognizes that moving into literature can be an uphill battle, pushing against the notion that The Squickerwonkers is the product of a vanity project. But for Lilly, being a famous actress was never a goal; rather, an unexpected detour on her path to being a writer. In fact, Lilly said that her rise to stardom was exactly what she expected – and that she had very low expectations.

“It actually was everything I thought it would be, and I thought it would be pretty hellish. So that’s disappointing,” she said. “I never dreamed about being a movie star. I never dreamed about that kind of life, and never envied it. When I’d be at the grocery store and line up, I’d see tabloids and think: those poor people, what a miserable life… Acting is a fantastic creative outlet for me, and it’s a way of telling stories, which is what I’m really passionate about. I just happened to get a great opportunity to do it for a good amount of money, and at the time I was one of the brokest people I knew… And for me me this has been a sort of roundabout way to get to my dream, which is writing.”

And now that she’s pouring her passion into her own writing project, Lilly said she has an easier time looking at movie scripts through a less critical lens.

“By the end of Lost, I used to throw scripts across the room when no one was looking,” she said. “Now that I’ve started writing my own stories, I’ve surprisingly let up a lot when it comes to the acting side of things. Where now instead of being obsessive about it being a good story, I just want to go and have fun.”

Lilly said The Squickerwonkers will be a series of books, with the next releases each focusing on one character from the Squicker-world and how his or her vice led to the character’s demise. Lilly also plans to personally put out an interactive edition of the book, complete with voice acting from actor Sylvestor McCoy, known for his roles in The Hobbit Trilogy and Doctor Who.

In spite of her recently-announced role in the Marvel movie Ant-Man, Lilly said she’s reaching a point in her life where acting will likely become a smaller part of her world than writing.

“In a week, I’ll be 35. So the reality of being a female actress who is nearing 40 means there will be less and less work available, and that suits me just fine,” she said . “I hope that it’ll be more 25/75.”

Lilly’s still readily available to snag her dream role, though, which she said would be a part in a Wes Anderson film.

“He is right up my alley. He is quirky and strange but beautifully and incredibly aesthetic,” she said. “I would kill to do a Wes Anderson film.”

The Squickerwonkers is available online and in stores November 18.

1 Comments on Evangeline Lilly: Acting was a detour on her way to becoming a writer, last added: 7/30/2014
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19. SDCC ’14: Middle Grade Extravaganza – panel recap

By Matthew Jent

This Sunday morning panel was moderated by David Mariotte of San Diego’s own Mysterious Galaxy, a bookstore that specializes in “Martians, Murder, Magic & Mayhem.”

“Middle Grade Extravaganza” focused on the books and series for a pre-Young Adult audience, and the panelists were a mix of prose authors and graphic novelists, including Rachel Renee Russell, New York Times-bestselling author of the Dork Diaries series; EJ Altbacker, author of the Shark Wars series; “that scoundrel” Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series (whose greatest regret is that he has “but one life to give for Gondor”); Paul Pope, author/illustrator of the Eisner award-winning Battling Boy; P. Craig Russell, illustrator of the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, as well as a number of comics adaptations of timeless operas; the “ever mysterious” and sunglasses-clad Pseudonymous Bosch, author of the Secret Series and the upcoming Bad Magic; and Mr. 50-million-copies-and-counting Dav Pilkey, creator of Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot.

The Middle Grade panel at attention, with Paul Pope slouching in the middle.

The Middle Grade panel at attention, with Paul Pope slouching in the middle.

While it wasn’t a packed room, it was impossible to squeeze into the front rows — the fans here for this panel wanted to make sure they had a seat close to the authors.

David led off the panel by asking, “What is it about series that works so well with middle-grade readers?”

Paul Pope responded by paraphrasing Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics assertion that the space between panels allows readers’ imaginations to fill in the gaps, allowing for a richer experience. “Episodic fiction does something similar,” he said. “You get to fill in the gaps yourself. And it’s a tradition — even the Iliad was told in episodes. ‘Come back tomorrow night, at the campire.’”

Many of the panelists said it went back to their own experiences as middle grade-age readers and wanting to spend more time with favorite characters. “I wanted to read more about Harriet the Spy,” said Rachel Renee Russell. “You want to stay with those characters.”

Asked how they keep their stories accessible for tween-age readers, Brandon Mull said it comes down to writing good scenes. “I create a chain of good scenes,” he said, with “a main characters you can relate to. But a good story is a good story.”

During the audience Q&A, a young fan asked Paul Pope how he came up with the idea for Battling Boy. Pope said he wanted to make comics for an underserved audience. “I have nephews who were your age,” he said, “and they thought it was cool I was making comics, but they can’t see most of it. It’s geared toward adults. And I’ve done work for Adventure Time or Disney, but — when I was young, I read old Fantastic Fours or X-Men, but there just aren’t that many comic books now written for people of your age group. I wanted to write the best superhero for people your age, so they don’t have to keep going back to Batman, who is 75 years old, and Spider-Man, who is middle-aged.”

Another young fan asked Dav Pilkey if he’d had a mean principal himself when he was young, and if that helped inspire his book.

“My teachers and principals were very abusive, sometimes physically,” Pilkey said. “It did not help me. I remember telling me mother — not about the physical abuse, but the emotional, psychological abuse — and my mother told me, everything happens for a reason. Maybe something good will come out of this. I don’t think she had this in mind.”

Pope added that “One of the joys have writing to a young audience is, you retain your innocence. I’m writing to myself as a younger person in a lot of way.”

Pseudonymous Bosch, who wore sunglasses throughout the panel, added that, “It helps if your own maturity level stays where it was when you were 12.” He then took an “unselfie” of the audience, asking them all to cover their faces as he took their picture.

Rachel said that her Dork Diaries were inspired by her own children, who had struggled socially as kids, but who had grown into successful artists in their own right. She introduced her daughter Nicky in the audience, and who had taken over the illustrations for the Dork Diaries with the second book.

The Q&A unfortunately ended while there was still a line of young fans waiting to talk to the authors, but the panel headed off for a group signing that would hopefully allow for some one-on-one interaction. There’s often talk around the comics industry about whether comics have left younger fans behind, but at this panel it was clear that kids were still excited about comics and illustrated prose.

The key is — as it has always been — respecting the intelligence and imaginations of your audience, regardless of their age, and creating art that raises interesting questions.

“A hundred years ago, a good sci-fi writer might image we’ll have cars,” Brandon said. “But a great sci-fi writer will imagine we’ll have traffic jams.”

 

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20. The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 5: Chuck Palahnuik

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngLive from San Diego Comic Con, it’s More To Come! Publishers Weekly’s podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In part five of More To Come’s San Diego Comic-Con special podcast, Calvin Reid interviews award-winning author Chuck Palahnuik about his decision to write the sequel to his hit ‘Fight Club’ in comic book form, and the comics professionals who helped it happen. This has been San Diego Comic-Con 2014 from Publishers Weekly’s More To Come!

Download this episode direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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21. By Its Cover (07.09.14 – 07.16.14)

by-its-cover-E

A computer crash that I still haven’t been able to get fixed has resulted in my not being as thorough this time around as I would’ve liked. I hope you’ll let me know if there were any really good indie or GN covers I missed.

DC3301-88795

DETECTIVE COMICS #33

This is a fantastic composition. Shape of the gun and position of the figures inside already does a solid job of leading the eye from upper left to lower right, but the shifting color also helps. My one nitpick would be that the bullets at the lower left establish a ground plane that makes it seem like the gun is being fired into the ground, which I don’t think was the intent.

 

SECAVN2014005-DC11-54253

SECRET AVENGERS #5

This is an interesting contrast of fun and quirk (the goat, and the videogame-esque composition) and dark (the blood and chalk outline). I like the exclamation point and question mark, but I’m not sure I follow what the other face balloons are trying to express (if they’re expressing anything?).

 

RAI-003-COVER-B-CRAIN-adfe5

RAI #3

This is a nice image, but after issue one had so many different covers of just the main character, I find myself automatically assuming I’m looking at another variant before spotting the issue number. This cover is also a great example of demonstrating flow (good and bad). The top sword does a good job of leading our eye to the logo, but then the bottom sword leads us from the logo off to whatever cover is sitting to the left of this book (and it doesn’t help that the bottom sword is brighter than the top one). One of the challenges of creating a well-designed illustration is try to figure out a way to keep the viewer’s eye bouncing around within in the image.

 

ANXFACT2014011-DC11-c1730

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #11

I’ve been loving all the All-New X-Factor covers, so I’m going to be a little more critical of this one. After the previous issue had several characters shown full-figure, I think it would’ve been good to keep changing it up. In particular, this image would be a lot more powerful if it was a close-up that only showed the gun and the character’s head (with the words “You have five minutes to comply.”) I feel like going full-figure not only removes the impact, but the pose of the villain has a very campy ’60s Batman tone (and the Dutch angle doesn’t help). Unless that was the intent?

 

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GRAYSON #1

Look at this, its a DC cover with a centered logo! They even went above and beyond and centered it vertically as well as horizontally! I’m not sure the magenta and yellow really fits the character, but I like the illustration and logo placement. Though I think the cover would’ve balanced out better if the position of the barcode and 75 Years logo were reversed (see sloppy mock-up).

 

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THE LAST FALL #1

This is a really nice image, but there are a few things holding it back. The thin strokes of the logo are so thing that it kind of hurts readability. The logo also has some major kerning issues, and the shape of that “S” looks really awkward. The logo is also placed kind of strangely, in that the logo has been designed flush left but has been placed on the right. I also kind of wanted to see the logo interact with or relate to the image on the cover in some way.

TLF-2

Here’s a sloppy mock-up of how I might’ve approached it. The bar of flat color helps to frame the volcano, and placing the bar behind the character creates a more dynamic sense of depth. Having the logo contained within the bar also helps lead our eye from the logo to the figure (via the gun on the figure’s back), and then to the volcano the figure is looking at. This likely isn’t the only solution, but it’s the first one I went to.

For the font, I went with trusty Univers Thin Ultra Condensed, which has a very epic feel. It’s the font used for the logo of Aliens, the first edition of the Dark Knight Returns TPB, and the credits at the bottom of so many movie posters.


Kate Willaert is a graphic designer for Shirts.com. You can find her her art on Tumblr and her thoughts @KateWillaert. Notice any spelling errors? Leave a comment below.

3 Comments on By Its Cover (07.09.14 – 07.16.14), last added: 7/30/2014
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22. SDCC ’14: ‘DC Comics – The Weeklies’ panel

BMETRL_Cv26By Kyle Pinion

One of the bigger initiatives to come from the Big Two this year is the advent of the three weekly titles from DC Comics: Batman Eternal, Futures End, and Earth 2: Worlds End. With the latter on the verge of release, and Batman Eternal continuing to perform well in DC Sales Figures, members of the various creative teams for the titles gathered for DC’s Weeklies panel. Writers on hand included: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins (Batman Eternal), Dan Jurgens, Jeff Lemire (Futures End), Marguerite Bennett and Daniel H. Wilson (Worlds End).

The panel, moderated by Bob Wayne, was neatly delineated with each title receiving its own focus time. With that, things were kicked off with Batman Eternal.

- Scott Snyder thanked the attendees for picking up Eternal and making it such a sales success: “We came up with an idea that we felt would be so big and infect that neighborhood in Gotham. I helped write the first few and I’ll come back and do the last, but it’s these guys that are just killing it on the series. The great thing about it is that it’s not happening in a small corner.” Snyder also stated that when Batman returns in Issue 34, it will deal with the fall-out of Eternal, flashing forward past the Weekly time-frame, with the consequences of the series reverberating through a number of books.

- Fawkes discussed the breakdown of writer tasks and interests within their team, stating that he specifically will be writing the sub-plot dealing with Jim Corrigan and Batwing through the duration of the series. Higgins also chimed in, mentioning that despite coming onto the series late (replacing outgoing writer John Layman), his arc would begin in the 30′s and he would be bringing back The Architect in those issues (a character he co-created with Snyder in the Pre-New 52 Gates of Gotham mini).

- In describing the break-down of the series’ acts Higgins added: “The way that we’re structuring this is three acts. The end of the first big act of the series will be right around issue 20. Section two tees up something new and different with different characters. That’s the stuff I’m doing; I’m working with Jason Fabok to tell the end of section two.” Snyder added in that each of the acts are designed to raise the stakes until the city is on the edge of destruction while reaching a giant crescendo in its finale.

- Moving on to Future’s End, the panelists were a little less verbose regarding future plans, with a big as of yet unannounced event on the horizon, but they discussed the dynamics of the “incredibly unlikely group of writers” that make up their team. With Lemire pointing out that the unusual mix of writers gave way to the eclectic cast that makes up the title’s roster.

- Jurgens and Lemire were especially quick to praise Ryan Sook as the unsung fifth member of their team, who sat in on their writing meetings and created character sketches based on the ideas being bounced around.

- Regarding writer specific favorites, Lemire mentioned that it was Brian Azzarello who was gravitating towards Terry McGinnis, and this in turn led to a discussion amongst the panelists as to whether Terry is called Batman or Batman Beyond in the book proper. (A: He’s not called anything as of yet, as he has few associates per Lemire).

- Lastly, the panel’s focus turned to Earth 2: Worlds End, with “show-runner” Wilson describing the series as: “We’re in a situation where we’re continuing what’s going on in Earth 2 and there are some catastrophic events on the way and we’re bridging into the future. On the ground level, we have characters like Dick Grayson who are surviving on the ground, then you bump up a bit and you have the World Army, then, to the top level. Having all of this play out at the same time is really interesting; figuring out who deals with what and what’s happening to the world.”

- Both Bennett and Wilson agreed that the series will be shifting its gaze less to the big picture and more to the people within it, with Bennett specifically citing Batman Eternal as a huge influence on her work here: “It’s not just a story of attrition or the death of the world, it’s a story about the people in that world. It’s a story of triumph, of love and hope that’s coming out of the ruins.”

- Both writers also wanted to stress the importance of the series having a sense of accessibility, and the first issue will provide an intro as to the happenings within the Earth 2 monthly title.

- Lastly, Wilson mentioned that readers should be on the look-out for them to address some unanswered questions, particularly in regards to the fate of Sam, Alan Scott’s partner.

- The panel then moved into the Q&A portion, which begun with an elaboration on who is tackling what character in Futures End; Lemire is writing Frankenstein and any space characters, Giffen has the Cadmus team and Grifter, Jurgens is writing Tim Drake and Superman, and Azzarello oversees Terry McGuiness.

- Regarding any restrictions on ideas that the Eternal crew might have proposed, they said there weren’t any, and that in issue 20 the status quo will shift tremendously. With Tynion adding in: “We’re marching closer and closer to the end with every single issue, and issues #21-23 is the real turning point to set up that next section and things are going to start changing rapidly. Gotham is going to become very dangerous very quickly.” Fawkes also added that characters like Killer Croc, Jim Gordon, and Batwing will come out of the events of Eternal with new lives.

- On what the writers of Eternal would remember from the series as a whole: Snyder answered that the title is key theme. With Fawkes emphasizing this point, stating that the team wanted readers to believe this is the story that would destroy Batman, but once they reach the conclusion they’ll get the meaning of the title in that context.

- Snyder closed the panel stating that the coordinated work amongst the writers on Eternal affected the narrative of his upcoming Batman arc “Endgame”: “When I seehow much they’re doing, it was like, ‘Let’s make Batman do that too.’ ‘Endgame’ is about taking Batman and giving readers a Gotham they’ve never seen before.

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23. SDCC ’14: DC Animation announces ‘Batman vs. Robin’ and ‘Justice League: Gods and Monsters’

bvr-social-69431By Kyle Pinion

As per usual, DC Animation has announced the next part of its animated slate following the premiere of one of their films. This time the news came on the heels of the SDCC screening of Batman: Assault on Arkham.

While we already knew Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, the direct sequel to Justice League: War, was coming in 2015; two more films will be joining it on shelves next year. They are:

Batman vs. Robin, which despite sharing a title with an arc of the Grant Morrison Batman run, will be based on Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman “Court of the Owls” storyline.

and

Justice League: Gods and Monsters, an original story written by Bruce Timm, and is not related to the 2001 Dan Jolley comic.

No casting information was announced, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason O’Mara returned for another spin as Batman (having played the role in Justice League: War, Son of Batman, and will be reprising it again in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis). DC Animation is clearly getting committed to the idea of a new animated continuity between some of their films. We’ll soon see which of these will fall under that banner, if not both.

9 Comments on SDCC ’14: DC Animation announces ‘Batman vs. Robin’ and ‘Justice League: Gods and Monsters’, last added: 7/29/2014
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24. SDCC ’14: Cover Story: The Art of the Cover – panel recap

By Matthew Jent

Oh, gang. What a fun panel.

Moderated by legend-in-his-own-time Mark Evanier, “Cover Story: The Art of the Cover” took five artists, gave them five of their own covers apiece, and had them talk about them. The covers had been chosen ahead of time, without the artists’ knowledge, and Mark hoped at least one of the choices would be a cover the artist didn’t like.

“Even if we take some potshots at your covers — it’s coming from a place of affection. Even Rembrandt had a worst painting.”

The Cover Story panel: Evanier, Conner, Staples, Brooks, Lee, Sakai.

The Cover Story panel: Evanier, Conner, Staples, Brooks, Lee, Sakai.

We’d be here foreverlong if we went cover-by-cover, so let’s just hit some highlights.

Amanda Conner.

“Jack Kirby hated doing covers,” Mark explained. “He never knew when to do them. Before the comic, he didn’t know what the most exciting scene would be. During the comic, he didn’t want to interrupt his flow. When he was done, he wasn’t emotionally invested in that issue anymore.”

“I agree with Jack,” Amanda said. “I prefer sequential storytelling. I like Norman Rockwell — when you can look at a piece of art and tell lots of things are going on in it.”

Barbie42

Barbie #42. Marvel Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Okay — this was before I got into storytelling. Boy, they made me make her way too skinny.”

JSA Classified #4, DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

JSA Classified #4. DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Y’know — geez, lookit her boobs! I wanted to pull a moment of time out to focus on the cover, a moment that happens in between panels. So you don’t see this in the book, but it still moves the story along. Paul Mounts colored it — I put the stars in the background, but he did the burst. If I trust him and leave the background blank, he goes in and does a nice design.”

This cover gave Mark the opportunity to tell a Wally Wood/Power Girl anecdote, with Amanda’s encouragement: “Wally said, ‘I’m going to make her boobs larger every issue until somebody stops me. I think they just took him off the book instead.”

Zatanna #12. DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

Zatanna #12. DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Okay, I don’t always do big boobs, guys. This is another example of moments in time you don’t see often. Zatanna lives in San Francisco now, and I wondered, what does she do every morning, before she goes to fight things that want to destroy the universe? Probably the same things I do: get a cup of coffee, and a muffin, and read her iPad. Except, on the Golden Gate Bridge. My favorite thing is showing well-known superheroes doing an everyday thing that you and I do.”

Fiona Staples.

“Last night were the Eisner Awards, aka the Fiona Staples Show,” said Mark, by way of introduction. “The best thing about the Eisners is that whoop from the audience when they agree, yeah, that’s the one that deserves it.”

Done to Death #1. IDW. Art by Fiona Staples.

Done to Death #1. Markosia Publishing. Art by Fiona Staples.

“This was my first issue of my first comic. It was an oil painting, before I did everything digitally. They cropped it, but — that would have been my call. It’s an awkward place to cut off the image, at a joint, at the neck.”

Saga #18. Image Comics. Art by Fiona Staples.

Saga #18. Image Comics. Art by Fiona Staples.

“For Saga, the cover is part of the entire package. We don’t give away much story on our Saga covers. I usually do the cover before he scripts it — Brian told me, put Lying Cat on this one and make it dark. I had a feeling something bad was going to happen, so I gave Lying Cat a bloody mouth, like she’d taken a bite out of one of our heroes.”

Mark Brooks.

“For the last few years, I’ve been pretty exclusively a cover artist. It’s not really storytelling — I’m trying to sell the book. The cover has to be done the month before Previews hits — if we’re lucky, we have a short paragraph of what happens on the inside. The beauty of designing a character as a cover artist — I don’t have to worry about the interior artist who has to draw every angle of that character for 22 pages.”

Amazing Fantasy #1. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

Amazing Fantasy #1. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“My first for Marvel, ten years ago. It was introducing a new Spider-Girl. I really stunk at foreshortening, so her leg looks really weird. Joe Quesada designed the character, but I put in the pouches around her wrist — I still don’t know what purpose they would serve.” (An audience member shouts out — chaptstick!)

Cable/Deadpool #14. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

Cable/Deadpool #14. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“One of the few times Cable got one up on Deadpool. But to keep them in frame, I had to have him hold the gun by the trigger and almost let it fall down, over Deadpool’s head. To this day, I think it looks very weird.”

Mark Evanier chimed in that, in earlier days, Marvel would have rejected this one because the figures obscured the title.

“That’s different now,” Brooks said. “I can pretty much cover up the entire title, as long as it’s with the main character of the book.”

Deadpool #30. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

Deadpool #30. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“In the original solicit, Deadpool was dressed like Jimi Hendrix. Marvel found out Hendrix’s estate is very litigious. I had to go in and take out the striped shirt, take off the wig, and flip it so he wasn’t playing left-handed.”

Jae Lee.

“I always think I enjoy covers, but I always regret doing them. I’m not a fan of showing these out of sequence, because I’m afraid the same re-used images are going to crop up. I won’t have a lot to say about these because they were all done in a mad rush to get into the solicitations.”

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

“This was done for solicitation. It was an Ozymandias book, but the cover features the Comedian. Where this fight was happening, they were surrounded by falling action figures. I hadn’t finished it, so I cropped it and said, is this good enough for now? I said I would come back and finish it later. But I never finished it.”

Batman/Superman #8. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

Batman/Superman #8. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

“This was tough. It’s my second time drawing a car. I’ve been doing this 22 years and managed never to draw a car. I don’t know how to draw cars, so it has to be mangled. I don’t know how artists draw those things. The tires — I don’t know how you guys do it.”

“Also, Power Girl was much bigger than Superman, so we had to reduce her digitally. But then her head looked too big, so we had to reduce he head separately. It became a kind of Frankenstein project. I have a hard time looking at it.”

Amanda chimed in by saying she has no problem with cars, but hates drawing mangled wreckage.

“Oh, we should trade off,” Jae said.

Stan Sakai.

“I hate doing covers. I hate it with a passion. I have been doing covers with the same character for the past 30 years, so it’s difficult to think of a different situation for that character. The covers are done months ahead of time, and my writer, who is me, often has no idea what is going to happen in the interiors.”

Usagi Yojimbo #46. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo #46. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

“This was a commission — a guy commissioned me to do a kite festival. So it was four connected pages. We used it for two consecutive covers. The colorist is Tom Bluth, who is my colorist of choice. In Tom’s case, it’s always — do what you want, Tom. I give him very little direction. I’m surprised sometimes by his choices, but it’s always better than I would color things.”

Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters #1. Eclipse. Art by Stan Sakai.

Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters #1. Eclipse. Art by Stan Sakai.

“Strictly a job for the money.”

“That’s funny,” Evanier added, “I worked for Eclipse  — I don’t remember there being any money.”

Usagi Yojimbo #101. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo #101. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

“In Usagi, there’s always a little skull when somebody dies, and a guy always writes in saying how many skulls I had in that issue. So for this cover I drew as many skulls as I could. But then the guy didn’t write in, and I was disappointed. There was no logo, but Usagi is iconic now — when people see Usagi, they know it’s a Usagi cover.”

Donald Duck Adventures #32. Walt Disney Publications. Art by Stan Sakai.

Donald Duck Adventures #32. Walt Disney Publications. Art by Stan Sakai.

“Aw, I hate working for Disney. They kept saying ‘do it on model,’ but they didn’t give me any models! I must have drawn this duck’s head 7 times. The problem was, I was following the European design, which I prefer, and it’s a little different there.”

Evanier closed the panel by thanking everyone for participating, and saying he hoped panels like these remind folks that there’s always a story and a person behind the design choices of covers.

“These panels remind people — someone actually designed that. It gives people an appreciation for the art of the cover.”

4 Comments on SDCC ’14: Cover Story: The Art of the Cover – panel recap, last added: 7/30/2014
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25. SDCC ’14: Fashioning a Response to Cosplay Harassment

cosplay-not-consentComic-Con hit TMZ after America’s Next Top Model winner and media personality Adrianne Curry, dressed as Catwoman, chased down and whip-punched a man who thrust his hands down the tights of another model dressed as Tigra. As horrible as Sunday’s attack was, could this incident help us deal with such harassment more effectively?

Curry’s superheroic response to the sexual attack on her friend Alicia Marie underscores the importance of taking sexual harassment at comic conventions seriously. Comic conventions have experienced exponential growth in recent years, filling not only convention venues but downtown city streets into volatile vectors for sexually inappropriate behavior. And contrary to the stereotype-ridden TMZ video, dorky fanboys are not necessarily the only culprits – downtown San Diego has become a five-day Festival, with the Red Hour striking anew each time you walk out the Convention Center doors.

How to deal with the problem of harassment within and without Comic-Con was attracting the attention of multiple media outlets even before the attack on Alicia Marie — in fact, after I scheduled this post for publication on The Beat, even Perez Hilton found the Adrianne Curry incident to be a source of moral outrage. Over the next couple posts I want to add a legal perspective, since this happens to be an area in which I have clocked a few villains of my own, albeit with words instead of a whip.

Before we do, however, I want to address a thought that may have popped into the minds of some readers, namely, the notion that women such as Currie and Alicia Marie are themselves somehow asking for it. I actually witnessed a vivid expression of this mindset when a cosplaying woman outside the Con tried to fend off a guy’s come-on by handing him a business card and promoting her own work. The guy responded by  contending that there was no other way for a man to take the way she dressed than as a sign that she was looking to get laid.

This exchange stood in stark contrast to the professional discussion I’d just had with a longtime of the annual Comic-Con Masquerade, the amazing Broadway actress and theme-park entertainment designer Diane Duncan. Last Friday when we were walking through the convention chatting about cosplay she stopped to point out what she thought was a standout example of excellent craft, a woman dressed as Poison Ivy whose costume exhibited a number of characteristics that would have done well for her had she worn it for the Masquerade competition instead. The costume had a sensual vibe, yes, but that was an extension of the workmanship — whether the cosplayer’s aim in such artful attention to detail was self-expression, marketing a product, promoting her own business or a combination of all three, baiting men for sex was not the point.

As it turns out, the cosplayer was none other than Adrianne Curry, and as I read up on her and other models who cosplay I found myself in rather familiar territory. In advising on ethics and other legal matters in the fashion industry, it’s all too common to run across men who view what women wear as a sign of sexual availability, as opposed to a form of stylized expression that for many women in modeling, marketing, retail and design is an integral part of their professional identity.

The intrinsic connection between cosplay and fashion got me thinking about another connection they share: namely, unfortunate loopholes in current sexual harassment law. Although we often use the phrase “sexual harassment” when speaking of unwanted advances to cosplayers and fashion models alike, from a legal perspective the term typically refers to sexually inappropriate behavior in certain employment contexts. For example, because models are typically independent contractors, not employees, they are often not protected by sexual harassment laws, and a similar principle applies to comic convention cosplayers who are not there in the course of employment — regardless of how egregiously inappropriate the behavior may be, it technically is not a violation of sexual harassment law, nor would it fall under the purview of a typical harassment policy.

Within the fashion industry, this lacuna is being addressed primarily in two ways: through legal reform and private action. New York, for example, recently enacted a law that extends the protections in child labor laws to underage models, and efforts are ongoing to give volunteers and independent contractors new legal protections when sexually harassed. At the same time, the campaign against harassment within the industry is giving rise to new standards and practices that go beyond the limits of sexual harassment law while taking advantage of more general protections that other laws already provide.

We’re seeing a similar strategy evolve among cosplayers in regard to private action, most prominently in the work of Geeks for Consent, whose signs could be found throughout the convention center this year. I was glad to meet the group’s intrepid director, Rochelle Keyhan, briefly during Comic-Con, and have considerable regard for its efforts to call attention to this important issue. However, it’s also clear that a sharp divide persists between those calling for a more rigorous sexual harassment policy and Comic-Con itself, which has taken the position that a sufficient policy already exists. Awareness, as they say, has been raised, but the ideal provisions of a convention harassment policy remain a matter of dispute.

In my next post, we’ll take a deeper look at the Geeks for Consent campaign, the Adrianne Curry incident and existing law to see whether we can devise a new policy that will address the concerns of all sides in the ongoing debate. Meanwhile, if you have any opinions or experiences pertinent to this important discussion, please feel to leave them in the comments thread or shoot me an email at jeff.trexler@gmail.com.

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