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Cartoonist Noah Van Sciver has been crafting his own special brand of throwback indy comix since the mid-2000’s. His one man anthology, Blammo, is up to issue #9, and it would fit quite comfortably between classic Eightball’s & Yummyfur’s on the funny book racks! It was with Fantagraphics’ critically acclaimed anthology series, Mome, that Noah started to reach a wider audience, and soon after that his first graphic novel would be published; The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln. Van Sciver was born in New Jersey, but has lived in Denver, CO for most of his adult life, where his oft times publisher Kilgore Books & Comics is located.
AdHouse Books recently published a collection of his comics titled Youth is Wasted, and Fantagraphics has 2 more upcoming projects with Noah in 2015: Saint Cole & Fante Bukowski.
Noah has been nominated multiple times for an Ignatz Award(which is sort of like an Oscar for Small Press comics…), and has had his work featured in the prestigious Best American Comics annual.
You can check out more of Noah Van Sciver’s comics like his day-to-day “Diary Comics”, and other serialized stories on his tumblr site here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my websitecomicstavern.com- Andy Yates
Ever wonder what categories are the most popular in graphic novels?
Think it’s all manga and superheroes?
Well, as you can see on the chart to the left, it’s fairly diverse.
How did I come up with these percentages?
First, there’s this group called BISG. They make sure all the standards that booksellers and publishers use work. One thing they standardize are called BISAC subject codes. These help booksellers to categorize what they sell, either online or onshelf.
Books In Print is a big database run by R.R. Bowker, who also manage EANs and ISBNs for Anglo-American publishers. If it’s got an EAN, they list it. Even for the rinky-dink publishers you’ll never hear of.
With a little trial and error, and hacking of URLs, I figured out a way to search BISACs for specific years. That’s a work in progress, and I’ll publish that data at a later date.
But it’s quite easy to search for EVERYTHING by a specific BISAC code, regardless of date.
Here are the numbers for the above chart:
TOTAL Everything Else
Some caveats: BISACs are assigned by publishers. A title may have more than one BISAC subject code. A title may have a “graphic novel” BISAC, yet not be a graphic novel. (For example, a Golden Book easy-to-read Spider-Man story book.) Version 2 of the BISAC subject codes dates to November 1997, which predates the modern era which started in 1999 with the importation of Pokemon titles by Viz Media.
(Library subject headings are just as muddled. Some titles use “Comic books, strips, etc.”; some use “Graphic novels”. But if we standardize the search terms, one can still study trends.)
Note that graphic novels for kids outnumber superhero titles for a general trade audience…
Manga’s numbers have decreased over the years (2013, Manga only had 14% of the titles), and “everything else” has grown (36% in 2013).
What’s it all mean? Stay tuned… I need to fill in the years from 1970 to 2011.
Here’s the raw data for each BISAC subject I could find, including ones since deactivated. (Yes, they still show up…)
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / General
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Anthologies
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Comics & Cartoons
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Educational
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Graphic Novels / General
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Crime & Mystery
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Erotica
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Fantasy
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Horror
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / General
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Media Tie-In
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Science Fiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Superheroes
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Romance
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Crime & Mystery
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Erotica
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Fantasy
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / LGBT
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Historical Fiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Horror
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Media Tie-In
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Nonfiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Romance
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Science Fiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Sports
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Yaoi
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Manga / Religious
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / History & Criticism
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Literary
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Nonfiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Contemporary Women
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / LGBT
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Historical Fiction
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Religious
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS / Adaptations *
ART / Techniques / Cartooning
HUMOR / Form / Comic Strips & Cartoons
HUMOR / Comic Books, Strips, etc.
JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Christian / Comics & Graphic Novels
JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / General
JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / Manga
The challenge I set myself (besides making a whole book in 24 hours!) was to make a comic book that an adult could read aloud to a child. (Usually comics are rather difficult to read aloud.) So there are bits that might be slightly wordy, but I was doing that to try to make it read better. It was an experiment, so see if you think it works!
Oh, and did you notice that big crowd scene, when Jamie the scribble is on display at the art museum? I got some help with drawing the crowd from the amazing team of Kendal College assistants who stuck with us through the night, in two shifts. A lot of the people were drawn by Janet (here with her sketchbook), who's ace.
And here are Phil Welch and Katie White, who stayed with us through the WHOLE 24 HOURS and created an AMAZING BLOG, tweeting as @24hcm and using the #24hcm hash tag. Also, a little look at my work desk, and a pose on the following Sunday with festival-mascot-creator Felt Mistress and the two top festival coordinators, Julie Tait and Sandra Wood. Thanks so much, everyone!
Stacy Whitman, Publisher of the Tu Books imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, gives us a recap of the 2014 New York Comic Con (NYCC) event and two big panels on diversity.
The #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #geeksofcolor hashtags were well represented at Comic Con this year, with three panels discussing diversity and several more panels where the subject came up. Publishers were showcasing their diverse titles among their frontlist promotions. And panels about diversity topics, even those held in large rooms at inconvenient times, were standing room only all weekend—a clear sign to me that this subject is on the minds of more and more people lately.
I missed the #WeNeedDiverse(Comic)Books panel, but you can see a recap of it here. Read on for recaps of the panels I attended:
Geeks of Color Go Pro panel
I arrived early, wanting to be able to get a good seat, and only two people were waiting in line—which made me nervous. Last year, the Geeks of Color panel was packed full. Would they repeat that this year the 8pm Thursday time slot, which admittedlywas less than ideal?
I needn’t have worried. Soon the room filled to capacity, perhaps 400-500 people, mostly people of color who were fans, interested in writing or illustrating themselves, or who had family members interested. Diana Pho, an editor at Tor, moderated the panel. Panelists were LeSean Thomas (BLACK DYNAMITE: THE ANIMATED SERIES; THE LEGEND OF KORRA; THE BOONDOCKS), Tracey J. John (MTV.com; Gameloft), Alice Meichi Li (Dark Horse), Daniel José Older (Author, HALF-RESSURECTION BLUES); and I. W. Gregorio (Author, #WeNeedDiverseBooks).
from L to R: Diana Pho, LeSean Thomas, Alice Meichi Li, Daniel José Older, I.W. Gregorio, and Tracey J. John
Most of the time was taken with each panelist sharing their story of how they went pro. Their answers for how they became an animator, a writer and editor, an illustrator, a video game writer, and a surgeon and writer were as diverse as the panelists themselves, showing how many paths there are to a professional creative career. For example, Boondocks and Legend of Korra animator LeSean Thomas grew up in the projects and never attended college, but instead got into comics because the materials to draw were pretty cheap, he said. He found opportunities when he showed his work to his boss at a sports store where he worked after high school, and learned as he worked his way up.
Daniel José Older, on the other hand, was a paramedic and antiracist organizer. Getting published took him six years. “The publishing industry will make you learn patience,” he said.
I.W. Gregorio wanted to become a writer but followed the path to becoming a doctor because that was what one did in her family. But one day, someone told her, “you’ll never become a writer,” and that, she said, ticked her off enough to want to prove them wrong. She also mentioned that her job as a surgeon makes her writing career possible and gives her stories to tell.
Others spoke of internships, art classes, balancing day jobs, getting master’s degrees, and community building.
Tracey John, when asked what she wished she knew when she began, said that she wished she had known to challege the status quo. Now, she’s more willing to ask tough questions, she said—such as “why does Princess Peach need saving?”
Older suggested that writers of color need to “reimagine what success means for each of us” and to build community “rather than think of it as networking.” For people who are getting started, he suggested to find people who are willing to ground you and challenge you.
Alice Meichi Li said that “you are an average of the five people you interact with most in your life,” so look for people who fit three categories: an older mentor, an equal, and someone you can mentor, because you learn a lot from teaching.
The big question of the night came from one of the last audience members to ask a question: Why are we still having this conversation? When will we not need a geeks of color panel at 8:00pm in the corner? Diana Pho replied that she thinks we’ll need such panels until we hit critical mass—not just at Comic Cons, but in all of pop culture, of people who believe diversity matters. We here at LEE & LOW agree with Older’s concluding remark: the more people speak up, the less circular the conversation will be, and we can push the conversation forward.
Women of Color in Comics panel
Friday was the Women of Color in Comics panel, which I was thrilled to see was an equally packed room. Moderated by Regine Sawyer of the Women in Comics Consortium, this panel also featured Alice Meichi Li (Dark Horse), Alitha Martinez (penciler and inker for Marvel), Jamila Rowser (Girl Gone Geek blog), Juliana ‘Jewels’ Smith (comics artist, (H)AFROCENTRIC), Barbara Brandon-Croft (cartoonist), Geisha Vi (cosplay model), and Vanessa Verduga (actor, writer, producer).
A packed audience for the Women of Color in Comics panel
From L to R: Geisha Vi, Barbara Brandon-Croft, Jamila Rowser, Vanessa Verduga, Alice Meichi Li, Juliana ‘Jewels” Smith, Alitha Martinez, Regine Sawyer
The moderator, Regine, started out by asking what drew the panelists to comics and how they got started. Again, a diverse range of answers—from family influence to students introducing their teacher to comics, to a natural desire to draw as a child—led to a diverse range of paths into their professional work.
The panel also discussed the ongoing harassment issue in comics as well as genre and gaming. Young women are the fastest growing demographic, changing the base of the comics industry. The panelists were asked how they address feminine issues in their work. Alice Meichi Li (who was on the Geeks of Color panel), said that she loved how panels such as these were getting bigger. She addresses feminine mythology, the heroine’s journey, in her work, and argued that visibility made all the difference for readers. She told a story of reading Wizard magazine growing up, where the list of top ten writers in the back of the magazine were all white guys every time, except occasionally Jim Lee. To be able to see all kinds of people creating comics helps create demand from more diverse readers.
Jamila Rowser from the Girl Gone Geek blog said that from a fan perspective, the changing face of the industry shows the demand and the need for representation of women, particularly accurate representation of women of color. “When you don’t see people like you doing things you love, it’s discouraging,” she said.
The panelists also spoke of how sometimes they might feel invisible in the industry—Alitha Martinez, who has worked at major comic book houses as an artist, including work on a Batman comic, said that she’d been mistaken for cleaning staff before when arriving for a panel or other major professional event. Vanessa Verduga mentioned that sometimes she feels an expectation to whitewash herself, to fit within an expected personality structure rather than to be herself.
When asked why diversity was important in the first place, Jamila Rowser answered that a lack of diversity can stop readers’ enjoyment, but it can also discourage future creators, and stories set in the future with no diversity “erase our presence in the future.”
Alitha Martinez noted that women of color can’t remain on the fringes, shouting from the outside. She said that women tend not to approach editors at Marvel and DC, and that those are the places where change needs to happen most because they’re the biggest. In addition, Alice Meichi Li said that if we want to see change, as readers, we need to support that change with our wallets. “Ignoring creations by women and people of color is ignoring community,” she said. “Find your audience, know your community, know how to speak to them, and create your own niche.”
Throughout the weekend, I saw a widely diverse audience excited about comic books, animation, science fiction, fantasy, and games. Cosplayers were in abundance, including people of color. Here are a couple of my favorites:
NYCC is a great example of why #WeNeedDiverseBooks, like those we publish!
Marvel saved some big reveals for their NYCC curtain call. Among the top of those announcements is the creative team on Spider-Gwen #1. The ongoing series will be written by Jason Latour with Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renz. Introduced in Edge of the Spider-Verse #2, Gwen Stacy Spidey has become an overnight fan favorite and the series was a no brainer for Marvel. Spider-Gwen ongoing will debut in February 2015.
Nick Lowe announced Spider-Woman #1 with the creative team of Dennis Hopeless and art by Greg Land in November.
Also announced on the panel was the Slik ongoing series launching February after Spider-Verse. Starring Cindy Moon, the character recently introduced inAmazing Spider-Man who was bitten by the same radioactive spider that gave Peter Parker his powers. Supernatural writer Robbie Thompson pens the book, while artist Stacey Lee draws them and Eisner Award winner Dave Johnson provides the covers.
We’ll update more as it comes in but in the meantime enjoy these gorgeous cover reveals.
UPDATE: Marvel announces Scarlet Spiders, a three-issue miniseries written by Mike Costa and drawn by Paco Diaz. Spider-Verse Team-Up will be coming in November. Each issue has two stories in it, pairing classic Spidey writers and artist with newcomers.
After a few months of truly bizarre speculation across the internet, and denial from the publisher, Marvel confirmed this morning at their Axel-In-Charge panel at New York Comic-Con that they are indeed canceling their main Fantastic Four title. The publisher seems like they are planning something new for their roster of Fantastic Four characters, but this is mere speculation at this point. The comic is ending in 2015. CBR ran a quote from the panel that featured current author of the title James Robinson speaking on the surprise cancellation of the comic.
“That’s the thing — everyone’s upset now because the book is going away,” Robinson said. “Are they buying the book? I don’t know if they are. A lot of it is just people like to get online and moan and complain. I guarantee you if you kill of any character, the most obscure character, you’ll get one angry person that claims it was their favorite character. Jack Frost, golden age character, they’ve done something to him. Where’s the razor blades, I’m slashing my wrists. People do that on the internet, so you have to take that with a grain of salt.”
The author deserves some massive props for talking about his run on the title so honestly. Hopefully this coming change for the Fantastic Four will be what is necessary to get the book boosted into the top 50 of the Diamond Sales charts. Marvel’s first family deserves it after all.
Today during DC’s “Download This!” panel new books were announced that will expand the publisher’s digital comics universe. Wonder Woman 77 will be written Marc Andreyko with cover art contributed by Nicola Scott. No story details or interior artist were mentioned, but the comic will debut as a six-part weekly series in December with print editions to follow. The series follows Lynda Carter’s TV Wonder Woman and is a natural extension of what the publisher started when they launched Batman 66.
Fables: The Wolf Among Us spins out of the popular Telltale games series which was originally based on the Bill Willingham Fables series. The creative team on the digital comic will include Matthew Sturges who will co-write with Dave Justus with art by Steve Sadowski, Travis Moore, and Shawn McManus. Covers will be by Chrissie Zullo. This will be Vertigo’s first digital series.
Mortal Kombat X will be written Shawn Kittelsen and drawn by Dexter Soy with covers by Ivan Reis. The series serves is a prequel to the highly anticipated game of the same name by NetherRealm Studios and Warner Interactive Entertainment. The story takes place 25 years after the events of 2011’s Mortal Kombat game and will tell the stories of characters both new and old.
NYCC started all a-bluster with large announcements, crazy crowds, fantastic costuming, crowds, swathes of booths manned by insightful and fun comics publishers ready to show off their books; also crowds. I swung by The Oni Press Comicstravaganza panel to see what Oni Director of Publicity John Schork had in store for us and safe to say, he did not disappoint.
If you haven’t played Doublefine’s Costume Quest, stop reading and go play it right now. Filled to burst with Doublefine’s usual wit and charm, cartoonist extraordinaire Zac Gormanbrings a fun tale in time for Halloween of a monster in a child-stealing society who only wants to hang out with his friends and eat candy. Gorman’s work is a personal favorite of mine and I’m really rather excited to see him work on this property!
No matter how much work Cullen Bunn gets at Marvel, the writer of one of Oni’s most successful titles, The Sixth Gun can’t seem to stay away. His new series Terrible Lizard, featuring artist Drew Moss, colorist Ryan Hill, and letterer Crank! looks to surprise and excite when it hits the stands. A young girl befriends a time-shifted dinosaur and together, they fight giant monsters. Safe to say, I’m sold.
Page from “Kaiju Max” by Zander Cannon
It looks like Oni is going whole hog with giant monsters with their next new series Kaiju Max. Zander Cannon, known for working on Top 10 and Smax with Allen Moore, now writing for himself (as well as coloring and lettering) brings us the battles and romps in a top-secret prison island for dangerous Kaiju inmates, kept in line by their Sentai, mech-weilding guards. I haven’t been following Cannon’s career too carefully, but now I wish I had!
B&W Cover for “The Sixth Gun: Dust to Dust”
Man, Bunn is all over the place! Hot on the heels of the Sixth Gun series and Terrible Lizard is a new miniseries in the Sixth Gun world; Dust to Dust. According to Schork, this book, while guaranteed to please any and all fans of the series, is particularly a treat for readers who are fond of character Billjohn O’Henry.
John Schork was a fun and charismatic host who, after the announcements were said and done, used the rest of the time to field questions from the audience and play a little game which involved attendees stating a non-Oni title they’re enjoying and Schork recommending an Oni title would also enjoy as well as providing them with a free copy. Books such as Charles Soule’s Letter 44, Joshua Fialkov’ The Bunker, Cullen Bunn’s The Sixth Gun, Rick Spears’ The Auteur, and Ted Naifeh’s Princess Ugg were recommended. I am not ashamed in saying that I took advantage of the system by naming James Stokoe’s Orc Stain specifically to receive a free copy of his Oni book, Wonton Soup. I wouldn’t try it though, Schork’s onto us. Oni is a publisher that too often flies under the radar of many a reader, but that definitely appears to be changing and I look forward to seeing more of their line!
Marvel Studios new Daredevil television show debuted some new footage and promotional material at their panel during New York Comic-Con.
Included in the panel were cast members Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Toby Moore (Wesley), Bob Gunton (Leland Owlsley), Ayelet Zurer (Vanessa), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Ben Urich), Elden Henson (Foggy Nelson), Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page), and Vincent D’Onofrio (Wilson Fisk.) Steven S. DeKnight, the showrunner of Daredevil was also in attendance. Rosario Dawson’s mystery character has been revealed as Claire Temple, who has ties to Goliath, and Luke Cage.
Take a look at this new shot of Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock:
Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada showed off his concept art for the show.
Welcome to TGI-FOC, a weekly feature at The Beat about comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of the retail process that don’t merit a full column. I changed the name, for reasons. It’s a thing now.
It’s come up recently, so here’s the quick rundown of how I sell and recommend comics. First rule? Every comic is someone’s favourite. From AXIS to Tarot to Lumberjanes and beyond, there’s someone out there who is going to be blown away by the contents of a random comic. The goal, as always, is to match the comic to the audience, and to offer as little commentary as possible – unless asked point blank for an opinion. There’s a huge difference between “what’s this book about” and “what do you think of this book” – though in my experience, very few retailers and readers realize this. The amount of times I’ve heard people answer “what’s this book about” with “it sucks” is staggering, and it makes me sad. What if the person is the type who’d enjoy something you wouldn’t? When giving a recommendation or warning a potential reader of the dangers of reading, context is always key – which brings me to the second rule: always, always, always find out what a person likes before handing out recommendations. Do this by asking about their likes outside of the medium. It’s the best way to get the full range of a person’s likes, and it does a hell of a lot more for you than “I like Batman” or “I guess Saga is pretty good”.
Something to avoid? Recommending comics because you over ordered, or ordered lots. When you’re asked for a recommendation, someone is trusting you to help them out, not yourself. And sure, you might move a few copies of the book you over ordered, but at what price? If the customer doesn’t like the book, you’re going to have a harder time trying to sell them books in the future. Forget about the short term gain, and build a relationship that will help sustain your business. This is the reason why I never recommend books like AXIS to new readers – even if they’re looking for a book that has “a little bit of everyone in it”. A book like AXIS, you recommend to the folks who live and breathe Marvel, and the smattering of others who would be interested in the kind of bombastic story presented within. By and large, this kind of customer has a working knowledge of comics and a bit of the history – or at least enough to get them through the story with little incident. You would never, ever toss a new reader straight into the deep end, unless you knew they liked a bit of a challenge and like to troll Wikipedia (I have a few customers like that).
Anyway, there’s something out there for everyone, and little is accomplished by tearing down without context, at least as a retailer.
I’m not sure what the deal with October is, but I’m pretty sure the comic companies are trying to drown me in product. The first two weeks of the month have been weighed down with a lot of product, and after going through the FOCs for the last few weeks, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see lighter weeks any time soon. The one good thing? The torrent of product gives me a lot of material to work with when it comes to talking about comics and marketing.
First, a big thumbs up for IDW’s push of V-Wars.
What you have there is a picture of the first trade (just $9.99), a value priced rerelease of the first issue ($1), and the clearly marked start of the second story arc. That’s a pretty good way of making sure anyone can try and continue to buy the series with relative ease.
Elsewhere, DC’s digital division hit the nail on the head by having the print editions of Flash: Season Zero #1 and Arrow: Season 2.5 #1 hit the stands just before and on their premieres respectively. People who were already excited about both shows found additional product, and others who didn’t know the shows were on or coming back were made aware. DC went the extra mile with Arrow by offering the first issue of Year One for a dollar, and having a great jumping on point in the character’s regular DCU ongoing (with one of the show runners acting as co-writer). As for The Flash, a solid effort was put in, but man, having a “Year One” story available for Barry Allen in the DCU would have been a great move, even if it was just the start of a mini set in current continuity.
As it stands, DC has been having a digital sale on a bunch of great <em>Flash</em> reads over at ComiXology, and has been doing so since the show premiered, so that’s pretty cool.
On the other hand, I’m not exactly sure what DC’s plans are for Constantine. I know they’re going to have a dollar book available when the show hits the airwaves, but where’s a good place for new fans to drop in on an ongoing? As it stands, my go-to is going to be recommending the newly minted Hellblazer trades and move things from there, but it hurts that I can’t point new readers in the direction of something currently in motion. The most recent issue of Constantine was an Earth Two tie in, which would only beget more questions than answers, and the collections of his current series throw him headlong into a big, messy crossover in the second trade. That’s not really an ideal situation, but it’s what’s there.
Though hey, points for the digital team for once again noticing a good marketing opportunity and plugging Constantine into the first issue of Injustice: Year Three. Again, the more ideal thing would be to have something with less baggage, but adding the character to one of their biggest digital successes certainly can’t harm things.
A couple of things to look out for on this week’s FOC for both retailers and readers alike:
Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C is on the list this week for shipping in late November. The reason for the big gap? Fraction and Ward are opening the thing with an eight page fold out. They wanted it to be larger, but apparently they’re jutting up against the edge of what can be done. Anyway, if you’re interested in a psychedelic gender-swapped version of Homer’s Odyssey – or know of anyone who might be – make sure your orders are placed sooner rather than later. (Spoiler alert: this is going to be crazy and wonderful and why wouldn’t you want such a thing?)
Also: Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey’s Tooth and Claw #1 is on the list. 44 pages of stunning artwork, digging deep into an anthropomorphic fantasy world filled with magic and gods and all sorts of wonderful things. People who have read Astro City and things like Arrowsmith know that Busiek puts his all into his creator owned book, and the man’s imagination left unbridled is a sight to see. Ben Dewey’s art is some pretty next level stuff, and they’ve got the Eisner award winning Jordie Bellaire handling the colours – which means it will also be one of the best looking books on the stands at the beginning of November. Oh, and it’s just $2.99. A bargain!
TO BE CONTINUED…
And that will have to do it for this week. Real Thanksgiving is happening this weekend in Canada, wherein we celebrate the fact that an explorer didn’t freeze to death. Seriously, that’s why we celebrate it. And what’s more Canadian than celebrating the fact that you haven’t already frozen to death?
Anyway, prep for the holiday and the various festivities means this is short and late. Such is life. Until next time.
Marvel Comics just unveiled a ton of new information regarding their publishing line, and even announced some brand new female-led titles. The news broke at Marvel’s Cup O’ Joe Panel, where Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada, announced a brand new crossover with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, the All-New X-Men, Star-Lord, Cyclops and Nova. The crossover is entitled The Black Vortex and begins in February 2015. TheBlack Vortex is said to be an ancient artifact, that sort of functions like the cosmic cube, it unlocks the hidden potential within an individual. It also seems like this crossover is going to be more focused on the cosmic side of the publisher’s massive world. The Black Vortex has an Alpha special drawn by Ed McGuinness that launches the story, followed by an Omega special also drawn by Ed McGuinness that ends the story.
The Star Wars titles are all confirmed to be coming in February including Star Wars #1, Darth Vader #1, and Princess Leia #1. Another Star Wars title was announced as Star Wars – Kanan: The Last Padawan by Greg Weisman and Pepe Larraz which is coming in April of 2015.
Captain America #1 and Avengers & X-Men: AXIS Act II Inversion both kick off in November.
Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso chimed in with this amusing quote:
“Wolverine is dead next Wednesday, Rocket Racoon is arguably one of the most popular superheroes in the world, Thor is a woman, Captain America is African-American – did you ever think that you would see that?”
Speaking of their most beloved new female characters, Marvel has just announced Operation S.I.N. utilizing Peggy Carter of the upcoming television series. Some of the other S.H.I.E.L.D. architects like Howard Stark are also going to make an appearance in the story. The event has the same trade dress as Original Sin, and is said to spin out of that story. It’s written by Kathryn Immonen with art from Rich Ellis.
James Patterson’s Maximum Ride is coming to Marvel in graphic novel form. The first five issues of the book will launch in Spring 2015. The adaptation is written by Marguerite Bennett and Alex Sanchez.
There has been a lot of hullabaloo on Marvel Studios not capitalizing on the ‘Grooting’ phenomena that has been sweeping the internet. This is in reference to the Guardians of the Galaxy character Groot dancing behind Drax the Destroyer a.k.a. actor Dave Batista’s back during the end credits of the film. In the meantime, the seedy underbelly of the arts & crafts internet websites, such as Etsy, have been taking advantage of the merchandising hole left by the lack of an official Marvel figure. Even internet videos containing cast members of the film like Michael Rooker (Yondu) and Dave Batista can be viewed reenacting the ‘Grooting’ moment. The figure was made by Marvel Entertainment and KIDdesigns, and the news broke via Mashable. Included with the figure, is a tiny speaker which allows fans listen to an alternate version of Jackson 5‘s I Want you Back, in order to get the full ‘Grooting’ experience. Each toy will set your wallet back by a light $14.99. Look for the figure on store shelves Christmas day, and be slightly angry that the toy’s arms don’t move! Also, make sure you keep this toy away from any talking Raccoons, in fear they might strike up an unlikely friendship!
IDW dropped a new title on X-Files fans today. Chris Carter’s other show Millennium will be coming to IDW in comics form. Written by Joe Harris, who also pens IDW’s X-Files: Season 10 and featuring interior art by Colin Lorimer, series creator Carter will reprise his “Season 10″ role as executive producer for this mini series. The show, which lasted three seasons, follows Seattle-based ex-FBI agent Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) as he tracked down serial killers using his paranormal ability to see through the eyes of murderers.
In an interview today Joe expressed his motivations on the new series, “Millennium” has a ton of great ideas that were never fully explored, along with shifting focuses of the show itself.”
The five-part mini series will spin out of the events of X-Files #17 and will have a lot of interaction between Mulder and Black, much like the TV show spun out of the X-Files show.
Millennium #1 will be available in early 2015 from IDW Publishing.
As revealed today at New York Comic Con 2014, Valiant announced QUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! #1 (of 4) – the FIRST ISSUE of a new limited series jumping-on point for the multiple Harvey Award nominated series. It’s also the first in a new series of limited series for the world’s worst superhero team. QUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! will feature award-winning writer James Asmus (Gambit, Thief of Thieves) and Eisner Award-winning artist Steve Lieber (Superior Foes of Spider-Man) bringing the most talked-about duo of semi-professional heroes in comics to a whole new high!
Valiant released this statement for the books solicitations:
Valiant’s a-number one team of super-hero misadventurers get it where it hurts – right in the cerebral cortex! – this January when James Asmus and Steve Lieber make their worst fears a reality inQUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! #1 (of 4)! Featuring covers by Mike Hawthorne (Deadpool),Johnnie Christmas (Sheltered), and Eisner Award winner Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals), make with the sales on this one and we promise not to hurt the goat…maybe…
QUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! #1 (of 4) will be in stores January 2015
During Marvel’s exclusive retailer meeting at NYCC, the publisher made a few updates concerning recent announcements. One of which will make the Spidey fans ecstatic was word of a new Spider-Gwen series in February of 2015. No official title was given but will see writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez returning to the character. No artwork or further details were given during the presentation. The character first appeared in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 and with this new announcement looks like she’ll be surviving the upcoming Spider-Verse event in the Marvel 616.
From L to R: Dalton Ross, Robert Kirkman and Sean Mackiewicz at Skybound’s The Walking Dead panel at NYCC
“The Walking Dead is a very unreal way to explore some very real topics: there’s loss, triumph and accomplishment against all odds,” creator Robert Kirkman explained Thursday to a packed audience of fans at the 2014 NYCC panel for his Eisner award-winning comic series. “Also there’s the zombie killing, that part’s pretty cool,” he added. Kirkman was joined by Walking Dead Editorial Director Sean Mackiewicz, and the panel was moderated by Entertainment Weekly’s Dalton Ross. Ross had his hands full with quick-witted Kirkman who at one point jokingly informed Ross that he would be canceling his EW subscription based on Ross’ weak selection of twitter-submitted fan questions.
Kirkman proved an engaging and thoughtful speaker, and gave many hints to the future of The Walking Dead comic series as well as the hit AMC television show. Ross began his series of questions by asking about the recent time jump in issue #127 which both Kirkman and Mackiewicz affirmed is roughly two years after the events of the “All Out War” story arc. Kirkman confirmed he intentionally left the length of the time jump vague so he could craft the narrative without specific time restrictions. He cited that aging Carl helped move that character forward, and noted that Carl’s recent adoption of his one-sided sunglasses was an indicator of the character’s insecurity: “He wants to kinda hide that aspect of himself, and we’ll be exploring that a lot moving forward. You can expect Carl’s look to possibly evolve over time.” He also told the crowd to “be on the lookout for issue 134″ [due to be released November 12] to see big changes in Carl’s character. In terms of Carl’s eye loss eventually becoming a part of the AMC television series, Kirkman said: “I’m not saying it’s definitely happening-but it’s definitely an option. We don’t adapt the comic book directly, as everyone can see from watching the show, but we certainly wouldn’t shy away from a thing like that.” Kirkman then jokingly added: “so you know-season 7!”
Ross inquired when comic fans would finally get a good look at the ‘Kingdom’ and the ‘Sanctuary.’ “There’s a lot yet left to reveal,” Kirkman said, “there’s a lot of characters out there that haven’t been seen in a while.” This led Ross to reply: “Yes, Michonne!” Kirkman agreed, and said fans should anticipate the return of Michonne around issue #150.
When asked about the future of Rick’s character, Kirkman explained: “This current plan for Rick and the outcome of ‘All Out War’ is something that I’ve been working towards for a few years now…everything up to this point [in the comics series] was planned before the show existed-you know I never really go: ‘oh, I could make them go live on an island’ or ‘grow a vegetable garden.’ It always seems to just come to me and I go: ‘yeah, we’re doing that!'” Kirkman further explained that although he’d always had a road map for that particular story arc, he did adjust it along the way because he loves having the ability to “turn on a dime.” He went on to say that there were “certain deaths that I’ve just decided to do that issue because in life I feel like tragic events can happen without any kind of preparation, and I like to try and infuse that in the book.” He also said his decision to kill Shiva, Ezekiel’s pet tiger was one of these of-the-moment decisions. Kirkman then added: “Neegan was at no point going to die.”
In terms of character design, Kirkman indicated that artist Charlie Adlard often has the final say. He elaborated on how collaborative the process was between himself and Adlard in terms of creating Rick’s evolving appearance. Often, Kirkman said, Adlard will shoot down looks he imagines for the character. He also noted that he gave Adlard “no guidance” on how the Governor should look: the design was entirely Adlard’s creation.
Kirkman did not hesitate in his answer to the twitter-submitted question: “Will we ever see Lucielle again?” “Yeah, definitely,” Kirkman replied. After a few cheers went up from the audience he continued: “these are questions you should be asking: ‘Where’s that bat? Who has it?’ Everything will be revealed eventually. There’s a lot of stuff people may not be thinking about that has been pulled out of the book that will be put back in when the time is right.”
Another twitter question asked-regarding the television series’ recently released season 5 teaser trailer: “Is the cop from the trailer female-Negan?” Kirkman answered: “What? No, that is definitely not female-Negan in the trailer,” then teased the audience by adding: “Close, though!”
During the fan Q&A portion of the panel Kirkman and Mackiewicz didn’t shy away from hinting at spoilers. When Kirkman was asked “Will you ever bring the character of Morgan Jones back in the television series?” he replied: “It’s just a matter of when it’s right for the story and when Lennie James, the fantastic actor that plays Morgan, will be available.” He went on to confirm: “that’s something we’re working toward, he will appear in the Walking Dead show again.”
Another fan asked how Kirkman came up with the character of Rick. The series creator went into great detail, explaining:”really the reason that Rick is this small town police officer-I mean, he’s a crappy police officer-he never really fired his gun, he’s not super-cop-often times in apocalyptic stories or action stories like ‘The Walking Dead’ you kind of deal with the best of the best: this guy who is uniquely capable of dealing with the situation, he’s Bruce Willis and he’s bulletproof.” By contrast, Kirkman continued, “I wanted to do a story about the normal people, the people that aren’t necessarily capable of handling this or accomplishing anything or really surviving-and see how long they survive and how they rise to the challenge,” at which point he added, “though I guess he [Rick] is a little bulletproof if I’m honest.”
When a nervous, star-struck fan timidly asked: “Which character in the comic book so you think is most like how you think you’d react in the zombie apocalypse?” Kirkman’s reply of: “Eugene maybe? The guy who lies so people will protect him” drew a wave of laughter from the audience, prompting him to quip: “just being honest!” More brutal honesty was displayed when both Mackiewicz and Kirkman answered which of the many deaths in ‘The Walking Dead’ comic was their favorite. “Probably Glenn’s,” Mackiewicz began-and continued over the sounds of anguish from the crowd-“it just affects me-in that I wonder what a miserable human being Robert is sometimes-every beat is just that much worse and is’ twist the knife,’ he can’t even get [Maggie's] name out and his eyeball is just on his cheek: like he can see himself dying!”
At that moment an audience member shouted “Masochist!” at Kirkman who conceded, “a little bit.” Kirkman went on to say that while Glenn’s death was important, his favorite death scene was probably Abraham’s “because it was so sudden” and that he thought Abraham’s ability to finish talking to Eugene as he was dying was weird, but cool. Mackiewicz added that Abraham’s death was a “last minute decision” and Kirkman agreed, saying that he originally planned to have both Eugene and Abraham survive issue #98, but ultimately decided it would be unrealistic. He jokingly noted that Eugene must have survived “so he could build a windmill.”
When asked why his Atlanta didn’t have more black people, Kirkman answered: “I feel like our cast diversified a bit as we moved on, but there’s always more we can do towards that.” He then joked: “we try to keep the cast as not-white as possible because white people are terrible.” The same fan asked if we would get to see the response to the zombie threat from places other than the Atlanta/greater Washington D.C. area we’ve seen so far. Kirkman explained that the companion/spin-off series to AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ announced last fall would find it’s characters battling the zombie threat in new locations.
Further questioning led Kirkman to hint that Rick or Negan may not survive the coming events, and that if Rick did die Kirkman believed Andrea would be the most likely character to fill his shoes. But what if Kirkman was forced to choose a Walking Dead character to survive the zombie apocalypse with? Kirkman chose either Negan: “if I was on his good side” or “Carol-from the TV show-she’s pretty tough. She’d probably keep me safe the longest.” When asked: “Could there be a female villain and could she be a Latina?” Kirkman replied, “Absolutely-there’s a very good chance of that, so keep reading! It’s possible that character’s already been introduced. There’s a spoiler for you!” A few murmurs from the crowd indicated that Rosita was the character they believed Kirkman may have been referring to.
Towards the end of the Q&A a young girl approached the microphone and asked: “Is there ever going to be an end to the zombie apocalypse?” Kirkman replied: “You look about my daughter’s age so, not ’till you’re in college! I mean, logically… the zombies aren’t going to last forever, and it’s true that there’s new zombies being created all the time, when people die,” he paused, then mused: “I’m talking about this to a child, which is awkward,” before continuing: “but you know, logically as the population’s getting smaller fewer zombies are being made, so it really is just a game to outlast them. It could end at some point if all the human beings don’t die before that point-which is an upbeat thing to think about-sweet dreams, kiddo!”
Kirkman went on to affirm that he does know how he plans to end the comic series, but that it’s “a very long way away-you know, my daughter getting through college and all.” He added that telling the story over a number of years is what “excites him” the most, and that he wants to fulfill that dream-a dream he’s had since he began the series over ten years ago.
Today, Dark Horse sent out word that Peter Hogan (2000 AD, Tom Strong) and Steve Parkhouse (Milkman Murders, Doctor Who) will be returning to Resident Alien for a new stand alone science-fiction/murder-mystery series. Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #0 is on sale April 29, 2015 and is just the first of a four part series from Dark Horse Comics.
Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle is actually a stranded alien explorer hiding out in a sleepy town in the Pacific Northwest. His short time as a doctor in Patience, Washington, has kept him busy solving mysteries, though! With a few successes under his belt, Harry tackles another one after the contents of an old briefcase hint that a murderer could be hiding in town in plain sight—using an alias. Sound familiar?
In an interview this week Hogan talked about coming back to the series saying, “We always have a lot of other material to cover with each series and we certainly don’t want to wrap this whole thing up anytime soon. We’re having too much fun.”
Expect to hear more about the book and other announcements from Dark Horse this week as New York Comic Con gets officially underway Thursday.
If Men of Wrath‘s ‘Mail of Wrath’ letters column is true, author Jason Aaron has one bleak family tree. His latest creator-owned title comes from the same deep, dark pit that birthed his previous collaboration in the space, Southern Bastards; and even if he is bringing in a different team for this title, it has that same tone of the other series. Protagonist Ira Rath is one seriously messed up guy, and this issue goes out of its way to paint the shades of an anti-hero who still somehow manages to be interesting enough to follow. Tales with lead characters that are this deadly can sometimes be difficult to relate to in the necessary manner, but Aaron crafts point-of-view narration towards the beginning of the book that immediately dispels all other reservations that fans may possibly have regarding the way that the audience reacts to these characters.
There are so many things that could have gone completely wrong with this story that Aaron seemingly avoids. The author could have softened up Ira too much, and he could have reversed one of the terrible scenes that happen towards the middle of the book. He could have put too much explanation as to why Ira is the way that he is, but there is one simple scene and narrative hook that ties this entire issue together with ease. There are many positive aspects about Men of Wrath #1 worth writing home about, but there is one that is especially genius which actually came as a surprise to me–the pencils of Ron Garney.
Garney isn’t someone who has created comics in the independent space before. Here, the artist reigns in his craft and tells a story that is much more focused and down to earth. For someone who drew Thor recently, this is quite impressive. The pencils in the tale are not incredibly detailed here, as they only show the necessary additions to the story, but everything presented is solid here. Matt Milla assists the art greatly with his bold color choices. The sections toward each half of the comic are very clearly defined from each other. Flashbacks have a different tone that is easy to differentiate from the main comic. It also helps that Garney approaches the flashbacks differently in how he draws the stories. The attention to detail on clothing choices and other flourishes are subtle additions that serve to enhance the story.
Possibly the best part about this comic is the note at the end written by Aaron. The author paints a vivid picture through words about how everything in the story meshes into his own personal life. It’s something that is hopefully included in the trade, because it does help put the very heavy story into the appropriate context and celebrate the fact that the audience is reading a story about someone who is truly horrible. The text is unconventional, and something that needs to be included if there is ever a trade of the series. It also may be slightly disheartening that this does exist in the midst of something like Southern Bastards. This story is missing some of the scenery and the personality of that titles’ more deep-fried sensibilities. Also, at a certain point, it is almost like Aaron is competing with himself in the amount of books he is writing.
Even in the context of Southern Bastards, Men of Wrath is something that will churn your stomach in the best way. Aaron is almost doing his equivalent of Garth Ennis in this story. Either way, this is one messed up comic book that I took sheer delight in reading. If you give Men of Wrath your time this week, it will allow suck readers to stare into the bleak pit of aforementioned despair. This comic is really messed up, but in the most painfully, delightful manner.
We are excited to announce that the all-ages adventure book, The Tall Tales of Talbot Toluca – Quest For The Ore Crystals, is the recipient of a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Award. The kickstarter funded project combines the fun visual style of comics with interactive puzzles and games, resulting in an all out adventure for all ages. Now available for purchase via our online shop and also on Amazon.com
Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Results
“Celebrating Youthful Curiosity, Discovery and Learning through Books and Learning”
Jenkins Group is proud to announce the winners of the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. Launched in 2007, the awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to celebrate children’s books and life-long reading. Congratulations to all the winners!
Listed below are the Moonbeam Spirit Award winners, followed by the seventh annual 2014 Moonbeam Awards results, listed by category, and Ebook category winners.
Creating books that inspire our children to read, to learn, and to dream is an extremely important task, and these awards were conceived to reward those efforts. Each year’s entries are judged by expert panels of youth educators, librarians, booksellers, and book reviewers of all ages. Award recipients receive gold, silver and bronze medals and stickers depicting a mother and child reading and silhouetted by a full moon.
Welcome to Go FOC Yourself, a weekly column at The Beat about comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of the retail process that don’t merit a full column. This week, I’ve been diving through the back issues in our overstock and I have caught a little space madness. This will turn out quite well.
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #9
For the course of this book’s entire run, I’ve been typing “Superman Unchined”, which is a thing that I want to seen drawn for reasons. You definitely needed to know that, especially given my propensity for grammatical errors.
This week’s final order cut off has the last issue of Superman Unchained, and now I can set fire my feelings of disappointment and send the whole thing off to sea. While Scott Snyder and Jim Lee put together a phenomenal book, DC could have done so much more with this series. So, so much more.
The series launched in June last year with an eye to become the flagship Superman title as the Man of Steel movie hit the theatres. A new ongoing featuring white hot creator Scott Snyder and artist powerhouse Jim Lee? There was almost no way DC could screw up this marketing opportunity. And yet.
Starting with the baffling Unchained moniker, the entire run of this series runs like “how to not sell a series” seminar. Launching a new Superman book along with the movie? Smart. Doing so without the easy cash in of the unused Man of Steel series title? A little foolish. Then there was the decision to attach a creative team whose time was heavily taxed, resulting in heavy delays. While seeing the names Scott Snyder and Jim Lee on a Superman book definitely moved a few copies, the shipping schedule did more harm than good. Add to that the fact that this was nothing more than a mini-series disguised as an ongoing, and things get a bit dicier.
There are two things a series needs to have going for it in order to sell: it has to be regular, and it has to be ongoing. The characters and creative team involved certainly matter to a great extent, but all is for naught if a series doesn’t ship on time, or if it has a pre-announced end point. Retailers and fans alike will react negatively to books with pre-set end dates and late shipping books.. If a series manages to combine both qualifiers, it’s doubly bad. Do you know where a series by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee should be on the sales charts? Name power alone says it should be destroying Batman, let alone a launch tied in with a movie watched by millions of people. In practice, it moves a little over half the copies that Batman does. Is that where Jim Lee should be on the stands? Most certainly not – but you can’t shrug off the effects of a late shipping book. Late shipping books tell the reader that they are going to have to wait for content – and if the word “wait” is floating around in their heads, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump over to “I might as well wait until this comes out in collection”. Why tease yourself with content once every… three months? Why not wait to get the whole story?
This reaction is always compounded when a series is only set to run a certain amount of issues. DC curtailed a lot of this by leaving the status of this series deliberately vague. History stated that if Jim Lee was attached as an artist, the consecutive run wouldn’t be a long one, owing to his general production pace, and the demands placed on him as one of the higher ups in DC – but the question remained: would the series continue with different creative components? Would Unchained become a strange boutique book for big creators, or would it go the Astonishing X-Men route, tossing on creative team after creative team until the whole thing lost steam and came to a halt? The answer turned out to be “retroactive mini-series” which is the worst of all possible outcomes. While a different creative team is never ideal, it does elongate the span of time a retailer can sell a book – because make no mistake: a book might be popular when it is coming out, but sales (especially back issue sales) take a steep nosedive the moment that a final issue hits the shelves. Why? Well, if the series has ended, and the momentum has stopped, why not wait for a collection? There’s no impetis to go forward, no reason to collect. And so, a book like this bleeds away 75% of its sales over the course of it’s 9 issue run, both a success (because it always sold enough) and a failure (because it could have been so much more). And in the course of it’s run, it also damaged the idea of a Superman series selling in the current market. Have you seen the numbers for the Geoff Johns/John Romita Jr. run? Pitiful, considering the players involved, and I suspect it has a direct correlation to the fact that DC couldn’t properly execute a big launch tied to a movie, with two of the company’s biggest creators and a new number one. Seriously, how do you mess that up?
Speaking of the whole “finite series” stigma, have you ever noticed how Marvel generally doesn’t tell people when something has reached the end of it’s run? For the most part, they wait to let people know about the last issue in a series until after a retailer places their final orders for the final issue. In this way, they bypass a bit of the “finite series” stigma, and can squeeze a few extra sales out of a dead series. It’s short term thinking at it’s worst, and probably effects titles like Loki and Hulk when they disappear for a few months without much in the way of explanation. (Yes, I know both series were put on hold while the Original Sin series ran, but you had to be the type who pays attention to the actual comics and the Comics Internet, and a good chunk of reatilers do not do that. So.)
ON ITS AXIS
art by Jim Cheung
This has already passed the point of being on the final order cut-off, but the heft of the event demands a little bit of comment: I breezed through the copy of AXIS #1 that Marvel provided about a week back, and noticed a few interesting things. One: the file was called Days of Future Now, which I would guess was the working title for the storyline. Two: the story does rely heavily on the events that have taken place in Uncanny Avengers, so much so that it could almost function as a continuation of that series. The recap page does take care of the bigger plot points that need to be addressed, but if you’re the type to require more of a complete experience, I would definitely hazard on the side of grabbing the Road to AXIS issues of Uncanny Avengers – and if you’re the really plot sensitive type, I’d get the whole damn series. A note: with the right attitude, you can read AXIS just fine without complication – in fact, the majority of folks predisposed to this kind of story will and love it. That said, there are more than a few delicate flowers out there who will need to start grabbing copies now. If you’re a retailer and know the type, make sure you have back issues at the ready. If you’re a customer, and feel the itch, start looking now before someone else does.
FOC PICK OF THE WEEK // RASPUTIN #1
Russia’s famous love machine.
So many reasons to pick up this series. I started following Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo when they started Proof together, and both have grown considerably in that time. Alex is now a New York Times best selling author, and Riley has gone on to produce some stunning works, from creator owned book like Green Wake, all the way to the trippy drug sequences in the later issues of Daken: Dark Wolverine.
This series digs right into the heart of all the weird Russian history stuff that I loved as a kid – only this is comics, so things get strange pretty fast. Rasputin by way of dark magic and occasional bears. This is something you need.
TO BE CONTINUED…
And that’s where things end for this week. Next time, the first batch of November releases will hit the sheets, and we’ll go through all of that then. And hey, maybe I’ll get around to changing the title of this series. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’m taking suggestions, BTW.
Stay tuned for Monday when my Retailer’s View series resumes with an update on how The Death of Wolverine is selling and the preliminary results of speculators flocking to the series. Until then, you can check out my column on events in general, and stress the hell out.
The Death of Wolverine has gone over exceedingly well – or at least it has in my shop. Putting aside sales numbers (which were apparently great), the event has garnered quite a bit of attention in the medium and the shop in general. After putting a few copies in the window, we get a steady flow of people who either haven’t read comics or haven’t read comics in years walking into the store, wondering what’s going on – and as any retailer will tell you, getting people through the door is often half the battle. Local news affiliates stopped by the store to interview me about the Wolverine statue that folks are pushing to erect in the city in the wake of the runt’s impending death, which has garnered a few more drop ins. And a bonus? The story has been pretty great and has featured quite a bit of reader retention. I mean, the first three issues could have been terrible, and a certain amount of people would have stuck out to the bitter end, but quality books are far easier to sell, and ease is always appreciated. In the end, I should have no problem burning through the hefty order I placed, which is a calming notion. Unfortunately, the whole thing seems to have awakened more speculators, which is really sticking in my craw.
First things first: I would never begrudge a person who wants to make money off of their comic purchases. Doing so would be blindingly hypocritical coming from a man who puts food in his mouth by doing the same thing on a bulk-purchase scale. If you want to buy several copies of Harley Quinn a month and sell a few of them on the internet for a few extra scheckles, go right ahead! Go forth and reap those rewards. My problem comes up when the speculative market starts to overwhelm the reading market, creating shuddering blips in supply and demand that end up distorting the value of comics, perceived or otherwise. That’s when things get dangerous, and we’re getting closer and closer to the tipping point with each and every event these days.
When most people think of speculation, they think of the decadent excess of the 90s, when retailers were purchasing comics by the pallet and customers were buying them buy the case. Despite the fact that the industry was drowning in product, there was the idea that certain comics were going to be worth money, based off of past performance. Pouncing on this, comic companies did everything and anything they could do to get some quick, easy money. Multiple covers were produced, holograms and foil and glow-in-the-dark inks were introduced into the printing process, and everyone generally went crazy manufacturing inflated demand for a large supply, never stopping to scale back and look at the quality and contents of what was being sold. In the end, the basic retail forces of proper supply and demand reasserted themselves. Things crashed, and crashed hard.
You can find these everywhere. One is watching you right now. Another phones you weekly, but never speaks.
Our current market is a reflection of what happened in the nineties, both in terms of its’ current shape, and the effect that speculation is having on it today. While I feel as though the quality of the product has never been higher in terms of storytelling and paper stock, quantities are nowhere near what the industry was shifting even just a decades ago. Some of that is due to the general attrition that has come to once strong mediums like radio, television, music and movies, but a good deal of it emerged from the sense of worth that comics have been stuck with since the speculative bubble popped. Not only were people purchasing comics by the handful expecting to make a mint, people were buying $2 comics for wildly inflated prices. Both parties have been unhappy to learn that their investments have largely not paid off. Every single day, I get at least one call from someone hoping to unload a collection of “really old comics” on me for stacks of cash, and almost every single day, I have to inform said parties that their piles of comics are worth next to nothing. Whether I’m telling them that they won’t see a large return on their bulk purchase, or that they spent $20 on a book that is only worth cover price, the fact remains: I am telling them that their comics are worthless. Most eventually take that bit of information and simplify it to “comics are worthless”. A person with that idea floating around in their head certainly isn’t predisposed to discovering or rediscovering the medium – and that’s a huge problem that the boom left the current industry with.
Compounding this is the fact that bulk speculation still occurs today. There are still people out there buying piles of The Walking Dead and Harley Quinn in hopes that they will be turning a profit on said books in the near or far future. Hell, there are retailers who purchase copies of books and deliberately short stack the shelves and keep stacks of books in their back room, all in the hopes of getting more cash at a later date. While I can’t really blame anyone for doing this, or making money off of a book when demand is tight and supply is high, it always puts a deep dark pit in my stomach. Playing with or deliberately creating blips in supply or manufacturing and manipulating demand never ends well. It’s dynamite in the short term, but it can not be relied upon in the long term, and it is often irreparably damaging. You can take a look at any economy that has toyed with building and manipulating supply and demand for profit and see the effects. The short term is always wonderful, but the long term? The long term is often nightmarish. And sure, everyone and everything can and often will recover, but not without incurring loss. The comic industry has been through such a period once. It’s threatening to do it again, as multiple covers and gimmicks sweep through the culture again, everyone searching for the quick dollar and the easy sell.
I’m not going to pretend like I’m not a part of this: I ordered far more Death of Wolverine than I could sell to readers. I did this, because I knew that speculators would want to get their hands on some copies, and that some would want multiples. I knew that these same speculators would look at the variants offered, and place down extra money to procure them. I increased my orders because I knew that ordering less would leave my readers high and dry. They’d be waiting for second printings while other people slid their copies in bags, never intending to read them or return to the store. I would damage my relationship with my regular customers for those with temporary deep pockets. In such a situation, I am damned if I do place a big order, because I’m enabling something that will clearly not end well, or I am damned if I don’t, because my regular customers will suffer. In the end, I try to do my best to make sure that my regulars are served, and leave the rest to be what it will be. That’s all I really can do.
Now, to really illustrate my outlook on this, I want to share with you a recent encounter I had at the store. A man walked in, looking to purchase any and all of the Death of Wolverine #1 variants that we had. One of everything. I gladly did this, and offered him a discount, because he was dropping a sizeable wad of cash on what was essentially the same book reprinted however-many-times-over. Four weeks later, the man returns to buy all of the Death of Wolverine #3 variants. A note: he did not come to the store to grab our #2s. He was just hitting the store as it was the most convenient place for him at the moment. After purchasing the books, he asked if there was a way we could offer him a discount of some kind for whenever he came through the door. I asked if he would be interested in grabbing issue four and it’s various covers from us. He said he didn’t know, because he wasn’t sure where he’d be. I let him know that we give discounts to people who subscribe to or pre-order certain series, because it helps us know what to order. He then said, (and this is word for word), “So even though I’ve spent more in your store in one month than some of these guys spend all year, you won’t give me a discount?”
More like “rad-mantium”, amirate?
Now, I never said I wouldn’t give him a discount, but at that point, his voice was getting sharp and irritated, and I was in no mood. He was essentially asking me what I valued more: his admittedly arbitrary patronage (a further note: I had never seen this man before in my eight years of working at the store) or someone who came in week after week, month after month, and kept us in business. I kindly informed him that discounts were reserved for regular customers, at which point, he stormed out of the establishment. I doubt I will see him again. That said, I really doubt I was going to see him before or after October 15th when the final issue hit, and he purchased that last of the run. At the end of the day, I’m not losing sleep over that one – and I have the added bonus that the copies he was going to procure will probably end up in the hands of someone who will come back.
In the end, that’s all a store can do. People will always come in and do as they will – the only thing you can control is the way you act and react to them. As a retailer, you will never be able to stop speculation – but you can do everything in your power to temper the effects. Make sure that above all else, you are serving your regulars, and that you have the product and mindfulness to keep pushing to make more people come into and return to your store. The easiest way to do this? Don’t speculate yourself. Purchase to match demand as well as you can, and when you don’t, resist the urge to mark up your final copies. There’s a reason why the comic companies priced the comic the way they did: that’s what they believe the contents within are worth. $3, $3.50, $4… that’s the real monetary worth of a comic, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Be good in your ordering, be great to your customers, and reward those who are good to you in return. If enough retailers do this, the industry shouldn’t have trouble moving forward.
[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]
IN REAL LIFE, a graphic novel collaboration between journalist/author Cory Doctorow and comics creator Jen Wang, centers on a young gamer named Anda who becomes enraptured by an massively multiplayer online game (MMO) called “Coarsegold Online”. While logged-in, she makes new friends, including a gregarious fellow gamer named “Sarge” and a “gold-farmer” from China named Raymond. It’s the latter whose activities, which center on illegally collecting valuable objects in the game and selling them to other players from developed countries, begin to open up Anda’s perspectives on the concepts of right and wrong, and the power of action towards civil rights.
The book was a true eye-opener for me, as I’m not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination beyond the occasional dalliance on my console system at home. I was delighted when I received an opportunity to chat with Jen Wang about the origins of this project, its underlying themes, and how much of her own gaming experience played into the development of the narrative.
How did IN REAL LIFE (IRL) find its genesis? Did you know Cory Doctorow prior to working on this project?
Prior to IN REAL LIFE I was familiar with Cory Doctorow as a blogger and activist but I hadn’t read his fiction. ANDA’s GAME, the short story IRL is based on was actually the first piece I read. My publisher First Second sent me a link to the short and asked if I’d be interested. After reading that, it was hard to say no!
What is it about the subject matter that drew you in initially?
I like that it takes gaming, which many people see as frivolous entertainment, and gives it a real life context. The internet is inherently a social platform and it makes sense that it reflects our darker tendencies, such as exploiting people. I also like that it touches on the tension between China and the West. There’s just so much interesting material to explore and at the end of the day it’s still a simple story about two teenage gamers from different countries who become friends.
Your previous work, KOKO BE GOOD, also published through First Second, was solely written and illustrated by yourself. Do you find that there are inherent advantages in the collaborative process, and is there a method you prefer over the other?
It’s definitely a lot easier to illustrate your own work, that’s for sure. The collaborative process is more challenging, but you also get a second point a view and a direction to work towards. Sometimes in your personal work it takes a lot of soul searching to figure out what you’re trying to say but a collaborate project allows you to bounce off other people’s ideas and that’s really refreshing.
On the day to day work on the graphic novel, what was the working relationship between Cory and yourself? Were you in constant contact?
During the scripting phase of the book we were sending a lot of emails. I would write a draft, send it to Cory, and he would send some notes and bounce some ideas back. We went through maybe 8 or so drafts so it took a little while to nail down the final. I was pretty much left alone at the drawing stage, however.
How much of a specific vision did Cory have in the initial “Anda’s Game” script, and how much input did you have on character design before the development of IRL? Do you feel like Anda specifically has your “stamp” on her?
I had pretty much free reign as far as design went, so that part was fairly easy. When First Second approached me to do the project they wanted me to feel comfortable writing my own take, so mostly it was me pitching ideas to Cory and him giving me notes. I do feel like I have my stamp on Anda but then again I don’t know how it wouldn’t have happened naturally. She’s a nerdy teenage shut in and having been one myself I can relate to that a lot.
The gaming details throughout are very specific, do you have a significant gaming/MMO background as a user? If not, is that an area where Cory contributed significantly?
I don’t really have a background in MMOs but I played World of Warcraft for a couple weeks prior to starting the project. That plus a combination of sandbox games I’ve played were the inspiration for Coarsegold online. I mostly tried to create a game that felt familiar and yet tailored it to things I like in games. I’m very much into customization and resource management so it was fun to add things like to the book.
How do you sense that communication has changed for Generation Y and The Millennials? Do you find that you side more with Anda or her mother in what technology brings to social interaction?
I’m definitely on the Millennials side. I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I didn’t have access to the internet as a teenager. I met so many other young artists online and they really motivated me to create and challenge myself. Without it, I would’ve had to seek these people out in college in person and I would’ve been a lot more lonely and isolated. There are risks to putting yourself online but there are risks to be alive in the real world as well. The best you can do is exercise caution and be smart about your privacy in the same way you would anywhere.
Is there anything from your own experience pulled into Anda’s story, at least from a characterization standpoint? Do you see Anda as a role model? Was that the intention all along?
I was a lot like Anda in high school. I was a teenage hermit who spent a lot of time connecting to peers online within my community of choice. Like Anda, I found my identity online because I was able to meet other people like myself. I see Anda less as a traditional role model and more as someone readers could relate to. Like Anda, most young people now are discovering the world through the internet and it can be a difficult place to navigate.
What drove the design of the world of Coarsegold? Any specific influences?
World of Warcraft is the main one, but I also looked at the Final Fantasy games, Skyrim, and more open world games like Animal Crossing, The Sims and Second Life.
What was the thought process on the color-design that differentiates Coarsegold from “the real world”?
I definitely wanted Coarsegold to be more bright and colorful by contrast as a reflection of Anda’s feelings toward both realities. I used different filters and colored textures so that real life was a little more tan and monochromatic while Coarsegold looked lively and exciting.
When Anda somewhat bridges the gap between the two by changing her hair color to match her avatar, what kind of sea-change does that indicate for her personally?
At that point in the story Anda has finally found purpose and confidence in her role as a Fahrenheit. Not only has she befriended Raymond and discovered this world of goldfarming, but she’s taken on the task of helping him. It’s a decision she’s been able to make for herself separate from what her peers have led her to believe, and changing her hair color is a symbol of this newfound confidence.
IN REAL LIFE defies expectations a bit in that it shifts a bit touching briefly on females in gaming (with the very succinct hand-raising scene in the classroom and some of the concerns of “Sarge”) and then moves into an area centering on economics and specifically civil rights. Do you sense a strong correlation between the two themes?
Oh, for sure. As in real life, the conflict within Coarsegold comes from who is considered an “other.” As a young girl in gaming, Anda is a minority, yet she’s in a position of power compared to Raymond who is not only a foreigner who doesn’t speak English, but also a goldfarmer. They’re able to connect as outsiders of this gaming establishment and both are fighting for the right to be themselves and be seen as equals.
I have to admit that the term “gold farming” is fairly new to me (as a non-gamer), and IRL paints a very morally grey picture around that activity, what do you feel as though readers should take from the book’s portrayal of that subject?
Gold farming was new to me too until I started researching for this book. There is a lot of grey area and it’s still evolving. What I do hope the readers takes away from IRL is the ability to keep an open mind about the people on the other side of the tracks and be empathetic to their struggles. On the surface the gold farming community appears to be taking advantage of game-makers and the “purity” of the game. On the other hand the gold farmers themselves are actually big fans who can only participate by being taken advantage of.
What inspired the creation of Raymond? Both in the look of his avatar and the character’s plight in China?
I wanted the goldfarmers to look small and vulnerable compared to everyone else. They haven’t been able to level up their characters and they’re not customized so Raymond doesn’t look any different from his peers. I also wanted them to not look human so as to “otherize” the goldfarmers in the eyes of Anda and Lucy at the beginning of the story. For Raymond’s human backstory I took a lot of inspiration from a book I read called FACTORY GIRLS: FROM VILLAGE TO CITY IN A CHANGING CHINA by Leslie T. Chang. It paints these very compassionate portraits of young female migrant workers and the everyday victories and struggles they face. Raymond comes from a very disadvantaged background but he’s also clever and ambitious enough to get what he wants (to play Coarsegold) with the means that he has.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate as a creator publishing a book within the Young Adult literary genre? Does that affect the kinds of stories you hope to tell?
I don’t make it a point to be an educator, but I hope my stories reflect the world I’d like to see and the problems I’d like us to overcome.
If there was one-key take away or message from IN REAL LIFE that should highlighted, what would that be?
Be compassionate to others and be aware of how your role in the community may be inadvertently hurting others less privileged than you.
What’s next on the horizon for you post the release of IRL next month? Any new projects that you can share?
I have a couple new projects I can’t really talk about yet, but I’m excited to share I’m co-organizing a new comics festival in Los Angeles called Comics Arts LA. It’s a one day event that will take place on December 6th. We’ve got really great exhibitors lined up so it’s going to be fun. If any readers out there are in Southern California that weekend, I encourage you to come check it out! http://comicartsla.com
IN REAL LIFE will be available in a bookstore near you on October 14th through First Second
The Skeletons Outside The Closet Can Be The Most Dangerous
By David Nieves
Steve Niles has made a hell of a living in the horror genre. Having critical and commercial success can be a curse on any creator, but he’s constantly found new ways of invigorating humanizing takes on demons and monsters. His latest creation, IDW’s The October Faction, may be his weirdest story to date, and that’s far from a bad thing.
October Faction is the story of the Allan family. A faction falling apart at the seems from events in their past that are beginning to come full circle. Frederick (a retired monster hunter) has been more focused on teaching his lessons and lectures about things that go bump in the night rather than being a father. His wife Deloris is sneaking around doing something sketchy behind his back that could have serious consequences for all involved. His son and daughter; both of whom have interesting abilities when it comes to specters, are figuring out a way to get long overdue attention from their father. While there’s teases of witchcraft, demons, and everything black magic has to offer; the real story is the family itself. We see this nuclear family has nuclear sized issues. In a way it feels comparable to if the Adams family became a dysfunctional mess, it wouldn’t just be their problem it would be all of ours.
The majority of debut issues in the market limp on a similar crutch of over exposition. Writers try to convey an exorbitant amount of information that steals the mystery from the narrative and consequently from the enjoyment of the readers. Niles crafts this opening chapter in the polar opposite. We get these gripping teases of who the Allan family was without overburdening the audience. A good story knows the necessary moment to peel back the information and October Faction is shaping up to go in that direction. That’s not to say the book doesn’t suffer from some minor opening flaws. The issue could have focused on Fredrick and his wife without having to introduce the daughter until future chapters and it ends a bit abruptly. However, none of that drastically hindered the enjoyment found within these pages.
IDW’s non-licensed properties all have a somewhat uniform aesthetic feel. October Faction fits right in with co-creator Damien Worm on art duties. Each page is one impressionist gothic painting after another. It’s a risky style for general comics’ audiences, but one that’s right at home in this specific genre. With Worm’s art you either really love the Kelly Jones and Sam Keith influences or you really hate them, personally I found myself enjoying the art. Although one of the challenges of the series going forward will be balancing details of the action with heavy darkness the illustration needs in order to thrive. It seems as though the creators are up to the task.
The October Faction is not for everyone, but horror comic fans will find a new interesting world where monsters and legends will be presented in unique ways. Issue one had a few stumbles but its got enough hook for the audience to stick around see what the next few issues will bring. This is shaping up to be Steve Niles doing what he does best; figuring out his own demons and desires through storytelling which makes October Faction worthy of being on your radar.
This summer saw the release of Hercules (Radical Studios, dir. Brett Ratner). Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took his place in the long line of strongmen to portray Greece’s most enduring icon. It was a lot of fun, and you should go see it. But, as one might expect from a Hollywood piece, the film takes a revisionist approach to the world of Greek myth, especially to its titular hero. A man of enormous sexual appetite, sacker of cities, and murderer of his own family, Hercules is glossed over here as a seeker of justice, characterized by his humanity and humility. And it is once again Hercules, not Heracles: the Romanized version loses the irony of the Greek, “Glory of Hera.”
This is neither the Hercules of ancient myth, nor is it the Hercules of Steve Moore’s graphic novel, Hercules: The Thracian Wars (Radical Comics, 2008), on which the film is loosely based. It is perhaps not surprising then that Moore fought to have his name removed from the project, at least according to long-time friend Alan Moore. Steve Moore died earlier this year and buried deep in the closing credits of the film is a dedication in his memory.
When he wrote his comic, Moore strove to fit his story into the world of Greek myth in a “realistic” way. Though the story (and that of its sequel, The Knives of Kush) is original, the characters and setting are consistent with the pseudo-historic Bronze Age of Greek legend. The film jettisons much of this careful integration for little narrative gain. I am never opposed to revisions to the myth (myth, after all, can be defined by its malleability), but why, for instance, set the opening of the film in Macedonia in 358 BCE instead of 1200? It adds nothing to the story, but confuses anyone with even a passing knowledge of Greek history — our heroes should be rubbing elbows with Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father. The answer to this question, I suspect, is a sort of Wikipedial historicity: Hercules and his companions are hired by a fictional King Cotys, a name chosen by Moore as suitably Thracian — and there was a historical Cotys in 358.
The Thracian Wars is set well after Hercules has completed his twelve labors: in the loose chronology of Greek myth, we are somewhere between the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the battle of the Seven Against Thebes. Hercules arrives in Thrace as a mercenary, along with his companions Iolaus, Tydeus, Autolycus, Amphiarus, Atalanta, Meleager, and Meneus, the only character made up by Moore. (The Hollywood film production jettisons those characters who might have LGBT overtones: Meneus is Hercules’s male lover, and Meleager is constantly frustrated by and therefore exposes Atalanta’s lesbianism.) Though no story of Greek myth involves all these characters, they all belong to roughly the same generation — the generation before the Trojan War. These characters could have interacted in untold stories.
But they don’t interact well. As Moore notes in the afterword to the trade paperback, “Hercules was a murderer, a rapist, a womanizer, subject to catastrophic rages and plainly bisexual…I wouldn’t have wanted to spend much time in his company.” The rest of the band is not much better. Where the film presents a band of brothers, faithful to each other to the death, in the comic these characters loathe each other and are clearly bound not by love of each other but the need to earn a living. They are mercenaries, with little interest in the morality of their actions.
Legendary Greece, then, is without a moral center. Violence and bloodshed are never far away. Sexual activity is fueled only by deceit or lust. The Greek characters speak of their Thracian surroundings as barbaric, but we are never shown any better. The art of the comic articulates this grim reality. Eyes are frequently lost in shadow, for instance, dehumanizing the characters further. Throughout, artist Admira Wijaya deploys a somber color palette of greys, browns, and muted reds to convey a bleak world.
This, then, is the great disconnect of Greek myth with the modern world. In our times, our heroes of popular culture must be morally pure; only black and white values can be understood. So-called “anti-heroes” are occasionally tolerated in marginal media, but even here their transgressions are typically mitigated somehow (think of the recent television series Dexter, in which the serial killer is validated by his targeting of other serial killers — the real bad guys). The heroes of Greek legend — the word “hero” itself only denoted those who performed memorable or noteworthy deeds, without a moral element — often existed solely because they were transgressors. Tantalus, Oedipus, Orestes: their stories are of broken taboos, stories of cannibalism, incest, kin-slaying. Later authors may have complicated their stories, but violation is at the core of their being.
Sure, the common people of ancient Greece benefited from Hercules’s actions as a slayer of monsters, but none of his actions were motivated by altruism. Rather, it was shame at best that moved him: in most tellings, his famous twelve labors were penance for the death of his family at his own hands. Many of his other deeds were motivated by hunger, lust, or just boredom. In the film, Johnson’s Hercules finds a sort of absolution for his past crimes. In the comic, redemption is not an objective; in fact, Hercules doesn’t even seem to recognize the concept.
Hercules is a figure of strength and power, a conqueror of the unknown, a slayer of dragons (and giant boars and lions). The Hercules of Hollywood shows us strength. The Hercules of myth — and of Moore’s comic — shows us the consequences of that strength when it’s not carefully contained. There is a primal energy there, a reflection of that part of our souls that is fascinated with, even desires, transgression. As healthy, moral humans, most of us conquer that fascination. But myth is our reminder that it always, always bears watching. Hollywood isn’t going to help you do that.
Featured image: An engraving from The Labours of Hercules by Hans Sebald Beham, c. 1545. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.