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1. Review: Valhalla Mad #1 Offers Incentive to Raise a Glass

ValhallaMad_01Story:

Joe Casey

Art:

Paul Maybury

Letters:

Rus Wooton

Designer:

Sonia Harris

Flats:

Ricky Valenzuela

Publisher:

Image Comics

Their names are legend: the Glorious Knox! Greg Horn the Battlebjörn! Jhago the Irritator! Three warrior gods vacationing on Earth, just looking to get their drink on and have a good time! Join the drunken festivities with toastmasters JOE CASEY (SEX) and PAUL MAYBURY (SOVEREIGN). The new mythology begins now!

Joe Casey’s Valhalla Mad has been a long time coming. The author’s satirical look at Thor and the Warriors Three from Marvel certainly had a lot of potential when it was initially announced. Joining Casey for pencils in his exploration of myth is Paul Maybury. Knox, Greg, and Jhago return for a visit to Earth home to find things out of place and the innocence of the previous decades that they were used to almost completely eradicated.

The first thing really striking about this comic is how it is presented to the reader with production design that can be likened to that of an old book. The first page for readers to see after the opening the title adds more to the texture of the series looking like a frayed old manuscript — where thereafter the series reveals a credits page with beautifully aged font. Graphic designer Sonia Harris’ influence can really enjoyed by the reader. Maybury’s pencils are subtle and designed to seem ancient, the artist perfectly colors his own work — allowing his pencils to accentuated in just the right manner. Also, the Jack Kirby designs on the leads are wonderfully retro — and make me wish that the Odinson retained more of his classic look as well. Readers can tell that Maybury has a deep love of the King’s artwork, as this series doesn’t seem to be talking down to those older 60’s comics.

Casey’s flowery prose given to the three leads are presented in a poignant, but in an interesting manner that illustrates the author’s strong command on language. As the series goes on it will be interesting to take a look at how far the scribe has developed the mythology of Viken, the homeworld of the gods. One such example of fine mythology is how Knox and his people are returning to Earth, and happy to see the older members of the force that they had previously spent time with before. The different attitudes towards the three characters allows for a comparison of the different world of the 60’s comics that the trio likely originated from. Surprisingly, it takes the the trio of this comic quite a while before they are able to taste the mead of our world. However, the scene in which they do is justly audacious.

This first issue barely has a plot — being that there are a couple of people coming back to Earth to spend some time partying. With comics now being so driven by events and violence, spending a few moments getting to know who these characters are is pleasant. Also, seeing the people of Earth’s different reactions to these characters is quite profound. Not every bystander in this comic has the same thing to say about these people. Some remember Knox and company — and some do not. Next installment offers some teases of the plot kicking into gear and becoming more grand. For the time being, this comic should offer Thor fans some old-fashioned mead-induced fun. Maybury’s detailed and triumphant artwork paired with Casey’s love of wordplay transforms this first installment into a joyous celebration of the different kinds of places comics can take us.

0 Comments on Review: Valhalla Mad #1 Offers Incentive to Raise a Glass as of 5/23/2015 11:03:00 AM
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2. Review: A-Force #1 Delivers on Captain Marvel Punching a Shark in the Middle of Secret Wars

A-Force_1_Molina_Variant1

Writers: 

G. Willow Wilson

Marguerite Bennett

Artists:

Jorge Molina

Craig Yeung

Colorists:

Laura Martin

Matt Milla

Letterer: 

VC’s Cory Petit

Marvel’s Mightiest Women finally get their own explosive series! In a secluded corner of the Battleworld, an island nation is fiercely protected by a team of Avengers the likes of which has only ever been glimpsed before… Fighting to protect the small sliver of their world that’s left, the Amazing A-FORCE stands shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to take on the horde!

What’s left to be said about Marvel’s A-Force? After The New Yorker author Jill Lepore doused the characters inside with criticism, author G. Willow Wilson came back with a defense that really cemented a reason for the title’s existence. This is the Marvel Universe, and these are the ladies of the Marvel Universe coming together in the middle of Secret Wars. Bringing me back to the first question: what’s left to be said about Marvel’s A-Force? The answer is if the title is actually any good — to which I would respond: yes…yes it is.

Jorge Molina delivers some interiors that are more than worthy of the beautiful Jim Cheung cover gracing this issue. The linework and facial expressions from the various characters are rendered with absolute care. It’s easy to differentiate the various heroine’s lacing the tale as well, thanks in part to the excellent coloring of Laura Martin and Matt Milla. From a presentation perspective, the way that this book introduces itself is breathtaking. The first couple pages hide a double-page spread that dovetails into the nicely introduced recap section. The excellent facial perspectives really bring out another strength of the art in this title: the ambitious layouts allow for some truly dynamic action.

The ladies of the Marvel Universe unite to defend Arcadia — which is the name of the A-Force island contained within Secret Wars. Also, Marvel definitely delivers on that preview promised with Captain Marvel punching a shark — I’ll be forever grateful for that. This title gets some props for giving Dazzler a moment to shine, as well as many supporting cast members featured in this issue. Thanks to the art of Molina even the moments of downtime really do some poignant here (see the opening pages.)

Eventually the larger perspective of Secret Wars begins to shed some light on how the girls ended up in the singular location. The way the narrative is thrust into into the greater conflict seems appropriate — and actually makes the conflict more natural than it would have been if it wasn’t launching during the event. This is actually a pretty good Secret Wars tie-in as well. There’s a few characters in this narrative that are going to surprise readers. We don’t quite know everyone in the cast just from the cover here. Also, many of the relationships have been changed since we are thrust in the middle of Secret Wars. Reading the main title is essential for full reader comprehension to start to get a sense of how the world is actually different. This isn’t just the Battleworld of the Secret Wars from 1984, it’s a new Battleworld that’s much better fleshed out. In fact, new elements of Battleworld are introduced into this issue that should offer even more intrigue to the current status of the event as a whole.

It’s also hard not to appreciate how Wilson and Bennett turn the attention towards a few of the characters in the Marvel Universe that aren’t as well known. Just handing over the screen time to characters like Phoenix or Captain Marvel would have been fun, but the authors go a step further in introducing some old favorites. While there is indeed a lot to love about the issue, the best part of A-Force #1 is how it both retains a plot and functions as an excellent addition to the current Secret Wars crossover. Marvel is changing the direction of the current Universe, and it’s up to the ladies to protect it. Wilson, Bennett, and Molina are destined to help the women of Arcadia defend their region of Battleworld against harm in the pages of A-Force.

Capture1

1 Comments on Review: A-Force #1 Delivers on Captain Marvel Punching a Shark in the Middle of Secret Wars, last added: 5/22/2015
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3. Exclusive: Titan’s Doctor Who Comics Day poster art from series artist Neil Edwards

The folks at Titan are really teasing their upcoming three four Doctor crossover story line from Hugo-nominated Who writer Paul Cornell, slated for release on August 12 ahead of their second annual Doctor Who Comics Day on August 15. On Monday, Diamond revealed the poster art to advertise the upcoming Doctor Who Comics Day event to their retailers. Drawn by series artist Neil Edwards (Justice League United), you’ll be seeing the art in local comic shops in the near future, but allow us to leak that to you now, Whovians:

DW_Door_Poster_2015_v2 (2)

 

So we’ve got three Doctors, a TARDIS, and what looks like a rock quarry. No sign of the War Doctor, though…wait! What’s that shadowy figure in the upper left of the lower image?

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4. Review: Psycho Bonkers #1 is a cheat code for fun

Psycho Bonkers #1

Psycho_Bonkers-v1-01

 

Story: Vince Hernandez

Art: Adam Archer

Colors: Federico Blee

Letters: Josh Reed

Publisher: Aspen Comics

 

 

Like a lot of you; I love me some comics, I love me some games. Adaptations or series based on –one or the other–seem to be more frequent in the age of modern marketing. Every once in awhile something comes along which incurs the two worlds to make one completely new thing. Aspen Comics, a company not known for all-ages material, creates that thing. They call it Psycho Bonkers, we call it an instruction manual for fun.

Psycho Bonkers is a tale of a technologically advanced world obsessed with kart racing. Picture Mario Kart, but with more LEDs and blinky things. This story, written by Vince Hernandez, is about a rambunctious girl named Shine and her anamorphic mouthy car named Shiza. Readers are dropped in the middle of the duo trying to win the historic Bonk Rally race Shiza has been obsessed with since she was a little girl growing up in a racing family. It’s a journey of twist, turns, and atmospheric drops while avoid the distractions of other drivers.

Shine is a compelling character living in Aspen’s version of a Pixar story. Like any good animated story, there’s an element of real world tragedy that drives her. Her rebellious outer shell hides a deep mystery of her family’s turmoil that’s peeled back through flashbacks.

The debut issue gives readers a glimpse of Shine’s family, love interest, and supporting cast without making them feel buried in exposition. Though, Gabbo the repair bot that lives in Shiza would have benefitted from playing the straight man to the colorful character of the car instead of having a similarly sarcastic voice as the car.

Visually the art of Adam Archer is mix of frenzy and clean line work. The team’s love of video games shines through with nods to some of your favorite racing games *CoughNintendoDon’tSueCough* . Psycho Bonker’s underlining theme is speed and the book shows it by making everything feel like it’s in constant motion.

Psycho_Bonkers-v1-01-2

For a publisher known for mature themed fantasy tales, Psycho Bonkers is uncharted waters. Lap one is a spark of speed fueled heart they can hopefully build on. It has a few things to work out, but delivers an emphatic opening that mixes the excitement of a racing game with comic book storytelling. You should definitely “press start” on this title.

1 Comments on Review: Psycho Bonkers #1 is a cheat code for fun, last added: 5/21/2015
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5. Matter-Eater Lad Visits the Stately Beat Manor Staff Comics Pull: 5/20/15

mattereaterlad6581

The Beat Staff has been…busy lately with two events going on and the Ultimate Universe coming to an end (sort of) this week. All of us that write here at The Beat live at the Stately Beat Manor where our heads are stuck in the printed page from early morning to late in the day. However, we’ve had some…distractions as of late. We have had a series of unwelcome guests from the pages of these…comic books come and crash our party — or unwavering focus on delivering the news delivered straight to our astute fans and readers. Unfortunately, our newest guest did the unthinkable when he made his way over to the Beat Manor. His name — Matter-Eater Lad of the Legion of Superheroes. We noticed our comics supply dwindling over the past few weeks, and in truth, we we’re happy with it. Here at the Manor, the Beat Staff has been running low on space to store their books — but when crucial high priced back issues were missing from the pile, we had a feeling that something was wrong. After a Beat Stakeout we caught one of the weirdest legionnaires in the act of literally devouring expensive older issues. We took him to small claims court and relinquished a large part of the Legion’s monetary reserves. All’s well that ends well — here’s our top comics picks for this week.


Alex’s Picks:

666583_f0f87e874cf5202bf64b6fbadd5ea574862aecd6

A-Force #1

Writer: G. Willow Wilson & Marguerite Bennett Artist: Jorge Molina Cover: Jim Cheung

Marvel’s Mightiest Women finally get their own explosive series! In a secluded corner of the Battleworld, an island nation is fiercely protected by a team of Avengers the likes of which has only ever been glimpsed before..Fighting to protect the small sliver of their world that’s left, the Amazing A-FORCE stands shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to take on the horde!

No single issue this week has been buzzed about more than A-Force #1. The comic has been the headline of more than a couple of fascinating news stories, and was supposed to be announced on The View. Afterwards, a piece from Jill Lepore via The New Yorker lit the internet on fire. Now, the comic is finally here written by the incredibly well respected author G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett featuring the art of Jorge Molina. The comic is a tie-in to Marvel’s new Secret Wars event, that fetures various Avengers females teaming up together in a certain region within Battleworld. The pedigree of the tale alone should allow it to become more than just a silly news story — but it’s up to the quality of the book to capture the attention of the readers.

Oh-Killstrike-1-Cover

Oh Killstrike #1

Writer: Max Bemis Artist: Logan Faerber Colorist: Juan Manuel Tumburus Letters: Jim Campbell

WHAT’S TO LOVE: Say Anything frontman Max Bemis writes a love letter to 1990s superhero comics in this tongue-in-cheek homage to the era, featuring the art stylings of Logan Faerber – reminiscent of works by Chip Zdarsky and Jeff Lemire. Much like Polarity, Oh, Killstrike is very personal to Bemis: It’s about a new dad who loves comics from his youth. Part twisted buddy comedy, part profound coming-of-age story, we could not stop smiling when reading Oh, Killstrike. WHAT IT IS: Jared, a new father, fears parenthood. An old comics fan, he turns to them for comfort. But when he unwittingly lets loose his favorite character, Killstrike – a single minded, vengeance loving anti-hero – onto the world, Jared must find a way to send him back before he harms all the people he loves the most. But before that happens, Killstrike leads Jared on a quest of self-discovery to make him realize the kid who loved this character is not the man he has become.

In the wake of the end of the Ultimate Universe, we chose to look at something a little different — Oh Killstrike #1 from Boom Studios. The series has an incredibly enticing premise, featuring a vengeance seeking 90’s rebel attempting bothering the life of Jared, a brand new father attempting to escape his stressful via the escapism of comic books. Killstrike is on the difficult new quest of acclimating Jared to his upcoming quest of being able to cope with a brand new kid. Author Max Bemis has written some interesting stories with titles like Evil Empire and Polarity. He’s joined by Logan Faerber — an alumni of Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time, and Regular Show — this story is a departure from the rest of Faerber’s works.


Brandon Schatz’s Pick:

Optic Nerve #14

Optic Nerve #14

Optic Nerve 14 brings Adrian Tomine’s multifaceted, expressive cartooning to a new peak with two stories and a bonus autobiographical strip. “Killing and Dying” is about a father’s struggles to be supportive: it centers on parenthood, mortality, and stand-up comedy. “Intruders” depicts a man obsessively trying to find his way back to a former life by revisiting places he once knew. Optic Nerve 14 will appear on the twentieth anniversary of Tomine’s beloved comic book series, in whose pages the landmark graphic novel Shortcomings was first published. Each story in Optic Nerve 14 reveals new dimensions to Tomine’s unique visual sensibility and complex, character-driven stories.

A new issue of Optic Nerve is a rare and beautiful thing to behold. Adrian Tomine is one of those fancy-pants comic creators who make the bulk of their “money” doing “art” for the “New Yorker” instead of rolling in the fat stacks of cash that exist in the comic book industry. As a result, issues of Optic Nerve occur few and far in-between – but the results are always stunning. Everyone in Optic Nerve seems to be screaming just behind the eyes whether they know it or not, as they claw and attempt to find perfection in flawed worlds. Equally uncomfortable and exquisitely beautiful, this is the event comic I wait each and every year (or two) for.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have stacks of comics in boxes to ignore as I read through this before my store opens.


 

1 Comments on Matter-Eater Lad Visits the Stately Beat Manor Staff Comics Pull: 5/20/15, last added: 5/20/2015
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6. All the Secret Wars News You Can Handle from the last 48 Hours

Even without an issue of Secret Wars proper this week, the news coming out of Marvel regarding the event has been overwhelming. Get a snack and relax as we inform you on all the big new coming from the publisher about the event from the last two days — it’s kind of a lot!

1. Get ready for the ‘THE FINAL WAR.’

SCWARS2015006-AlexRoss-084ea

This morning CBR debuted the brand new new solicits for the publisher where Thanos stands in what seems to be the pit introduced in Secret Wars #2 with a solicit reading reading: THE FINAL WAR! I think this Alex Ross cover has my attention…

2. Something is happening…8 Months Later?

8monthslater

AS IF that wasn’t enough for you, Marvel also announced on Newsarama yesterday that their books after Secret Wars are picking up a full 8 months after the big event! It’s interesting to hear that Marvel is billing 8 months as their mysterious number. Fans already got a taste of the Marvel Universe 8 Months Later with the Free Comic Book Day Avengers story. Sneaky! The House of Ideas went onto to state that A-Force and Weirdworld are continuing after the event (AWESOME!) Maestro, Mrs. Deadpool & The Howling Commandos, and Uncanny Inhumans will all be part of the new Marvel Universe (reboot?) So let’s look for the reboot publishing initiative in Fall 2015.

3. Uncanny X-Men #600 Delayed!

UXM-cover-600-variant-523d5-720x1092

Uncanny X-Men #600 has been delayed until AFTER Secret Wars. That’s huge news as Marvel has been seeding some massive plot developments for Cyclops in Secret Wars that need to be addressed in Bendis-written titles eventually! Uncanny X-Men #600 has been delayed into October, and it is the last X-Men title written by Bendis.

The author commented on the story through Tumblr: the Internet is half lying to you. It is not shipping in October because I am a massive spastic fuck up. it was bumped until after secret wars for editorial and commercial reasons. not my call. this was marvel. but they have their reasons.

4. Mike Zeck is getting an Artist’s Edition with a Secret Wars reprint.

zeck
Finally, the extremely important 80’s Marvel artist Mike Zeck known for a little story entitled Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt, and an obscure comic called Secret Wars first published in 1984 is getting an Artist’s Edition featuring his Marvel work called: Mike Zeck’s Classic Marvel Stories: Artist’s Edition.

The author said the following about working on the original Secret Wars with Jim Shooter via this comment with CBR: I didn’t think much about that at the outset, but when issues started hitting comics outlets, it became evident that it was “a big deal with a lot of attention!” Deadline pressures and other elements made the work less enjoyable than some other projects but [it was] definitely worthwhile in the end. “Secret Wars” totally succeeded in bringing attention to Marvel comics via the series and the toy tie-ins. I always hear from fans at conventions that it was “Secret Wars” that prompted them to start reading comics. Very gratifying.

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7. X-O Manowar is “blending character drama and widescreen action” for Exodus

X-O Manowar has been an instrument of war over the past 30+ issues that has seen Aric of Dacia dismember and kill others with the X-O suit of armor. Then, he started to change. As a king of his Visigoth people that are once again reunited — Aric was thrust into a survival role, and is now constantly attempting to keep the fighting away from his home in the Valiant Universe. The upcoming X-O Manowar storyline entitled ‘Exodus’ stays in that same tradition, as the tale see’s Aric attempting to once again keep the peace. When the Vine and one of Aric’s old enemies come back to Earth, he’s going to have his hands full over the next couple of issues. The creative team on Exodus features none-other-than Robert Venditti alongside the excellent Rafa Sandoval, formerly of DC Comics, now a Valiant exclusive.

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X-O Manowar spent so much of his life fighting the Vine and now he must be their champion – how will Earth react, said editor Valiant Editor Tom Brennan. Or his fellow survivors of Vine enslavement for that matter? We’re going to answer those questions and more, and Rafa Sandoval’s ability to brilliantly blend character drama and widescreen action is the perfect compliment to Rob’s story of what it truly means to be a hero.

X-O MANOWAR #39 (NEW ARC! “EXODUS” – PART 1)

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI

Art by RAFA SANDOVAL

Cover A by RAFA SANDOVAL (MAY151599)

Cover B by ROBERT GILL (MAY151600)

Variant Cover by CAFU

Variant Cover by BRENT PEEPLES

$3.99 | 32 pages | T+ | On sale AUGUST 12 (FOC – 7/20/15)

The issue comes right after X-O Manowar #38, which is Aric’s big wedding issue that also features a cadre of excellent artists and writers.

xo-038-cover-a-sandoval-129924

X-O MANOWAR #38 (WEDDING SPECTACULAR!)

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI with AMY CHU, ANDY RUNTON, and RAFER ROBERTS

Art by RAFA SANDOVAL with CLAYTON HENRY, CAFU, ANDY RUNTON, and RAFER ROBERTS

Cover A (Wraparound) by RAFA SANDOVAL (MAY151599)

Cover B by CARY NORD (MAY151600)

Cover C by CAFU (MAY151601)

Variant Cover by JAY FABARES (MAY151603)

Variant Cover by TOM FOWLER ((MAY151604)

Blank Invitation Variant Also Available (MAY151602)

$4.99 |48 pgs.| T+ | On sale JULY 1 (FOC 6/8/15)

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8. A First Look at Pop Star Assassin

FC

Pop Star Assassin, the new comic by writer/creator Ed Lavallee and art by Marcelo Basile, is a mesmerizing and surreal look into the life of Bruce, an Elvis impersonator who thinks the real Elvis was his father. The explosive first issue sees Bruce thrown into a wild situation stuck between G-Men, mobsters, and shadow agencies. All of whom are trying to use him for their own needs. As the climatic events unfold Bruce is left tying to figure what is going on, who he really is and what his connection to Elvis is. If you like guns, action, espionage, the mob, G-Men, Elvis and shadow agencies then you will love this book. Definitely check it out. Here is the exclusive interview with writer/creator Lavallee.

Where did you come up with the concept for Pop Star Assassin?

Pop Star for me has been a life long endeavor heavily influenced by all of the movies and television I watched as a kid growing up in the 70’s. Celebrity back then had a certain cache and cool that studio stars of today can’t duplicate. Genuine cool. Elvis, McQueen, Bruce Lee, Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Saturday morning cartoons and Black Belt Theater. When these stars passed away it was always under bizarre circumstances or conspiracies that just added more to their legendary status. In my mind this made a perfect idea to to build a story around.

edWhat is the story about and where do you see it going?

Pop Star Assassin is one mans journey to discover who he really is and where he comes from. The main character Bruce, believes he is the son of the King of Rock & Roll which is true to a degree, but not the whole truth. Turns out he is the catalyst in a government conspiracy involving Look-A-Like™ robot assassins hellbent on taking over the planet. In a nutshell anyway.

What are your influences comic wise and writing wise?

My influences, like I said stem from all the movies, books, comics, and cartoons I absorbed as a kid, which luckily I never grew out of. Star Wars was huge influence on me. As a kid it was THE greatest movie to ever grace the big screen. Comics – Frank Miller, John Byrne, most Marvel comics, Heavy Metal magazine, Savage Sword of Conan. Anything I could get my hands on really. The one creator I look up to the most and consider my biggest influence is Mike Mignola. Great all around creator, artist, writer. A true visionary in my opinion. My influences would not be complete without Tarantino on my list. True master of storytelling, character building and dialogue in my opinion.

Who else worked on the comic with you and what was their part?

I created Pop Star Assassin and co-wrote the first 3 issues with fellow comic book writer Matt Cashel. Matt wrote the Image comic Paradigm and is currently working on a new title called Blank Walls. Look for it soon and please support the HELL out of it as well. Us indy guys rely on each other and a grass roots kind of marketing to help get the word out there. The artist on Pop Star Assassin is the one and only Marcelo Basile from Argentina. A true master of his craft and all around great guy! His work on Pop Star is incredible. Each new page he turns in blows me away. Great stuff happening with issue 2 as I type this up.

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What is the vibe you are going for with the comic and art?

Well, Pop Star is set in late 1977, so we’re going for a funky, groovy, gritty, over-the-top, low-sci-fi action adventure trip. A Tarantino-esque vibe for sure. Definitely a strong R rating. You picked up a copy – what did you think?

What other comics are works do you have out?

I have a OGN published through Archaia titled, Revere: Revolution in Silver. Revere is my first professionally published work. I am currently working on a follow up with volume 2 – Revere: Salem’s Plot. We’re about 25 pages in on the art of it. I am also working on a couple of books for Outland Entertainment (www.outlandentertainment.com) – ITHACA and BACKLANDS. We hope to make some official announcements soon. There are a lot of great things cooking over at Outland, so check them out if you get the chance.

How was C2E2?

C2E2 was a great show. A bit overwhelming for me really. It was my first time and just the size and number of people was incredible. I am used to doing smaller, local shows so it was a real eye opener. Made a lot of contacts and new friends. Picked up some great artwork and cool books from fellow creators. Talked to a couple of pros and got copies of PSA into their hands so that was pretty cool. Over all pretty fantastic time. Denver Comic Con is next!

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What do you think about the state of independent comics?

I think independent books are on a very healthy road right now. Image is really setting the gold standard for creator owned books and is in my opinion the place to be for great stories from top flight creators. I feel like there are so many options for independents to get their books into the hands of fans with Kickstarter and crowdfunding, as well as a number of options to get books published digitally. If one door is closed, there are a bunch of others you can go through and find success. No retreat-no surrender.

What is in the works for you right now?

Right now I’m gearing up for Denver Comic Con Memorial Day weekend and then another big convention in my home town of Kansas City in August. There is a slight chance I may be attending a convention in Las Vegas in June. On the writing side of things issue 2 of Pop Star is in full effect, with finished art coming in daily. I’ll start wring Ithaca in June. Backlands issue 1 is in production. We hope to debut at the Kansas City Comic Con with an exclusive cover. I have a couple of other projects in the early idea phase just waiting for the iron to get hot. Stay tuned there is a lot more coming soon.

Any other promotional ventures you are planning for the comic?

No new promotions for Pop Star Assassin right now. I put together a special prize pack for our 500th like on the Pop Star Facebook page – will probably do another giveaway when we hit 1000 likes. Stop by the Facebook page at Popstar Assassin for all of the latest news and updates. And for those of you that don’t have your copy of issue 1 I have them available. Message me on Facebook for details.

Thanks for everything. Rock and Roll!

Follow Seth Ferranti on Twitter

 

 

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9. Review: Secret Wars #2 Is a Solid First Issue in Disguise

Secret-Wars-2-spoilers-preview-5Writer:

Jonathan Hickman

Artist:

Esad Ribic

Colors:

Ive Svorcina

Letters:

Chris Eliopoulos

• WHEN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE IS GONE, ALL THAT REMAINS IS BATTLEWORLD!
• LEARN THE SECRETS OF THIS BRAVE NEW REALM IN THIS SPECIAL OVERSIZED ISSUE!

Well folks…that’s how to write an event comic.

Secret Wars #1 had so many plot threads to tie-up that it didn’t really have a chance of being a good story in it’s own right. After all, the series opened with the direct continuation of the really interesting plot thread from New Avengers #33 — a story that a lot of Secret Wars readers probably never looked into. The issue even bookended with that same plot point, but in a manner that is likely set to alienate new readers. Even those that are familiar with the first series (from the 80’s) or have read previous Secret Wars comics may not have recognized the new forms that the Beyonders took in the story. With that, comes Secret Wars #2, a story that shifts the Marvel Universe into a brand new place. Without giving away too much, I would like to say that this installment is about Battleworld. Somehow the Marvel press train actually managed to skirt more than a couple surprises about this story that are hidden from even the most astute readers.

The Marvel Universe is gone and Battleworld is now here, but everything else about what is inside the new Secret Wars issue #2 remains a shroud of wonderful mystery. Author Jonathan Hickman bends the mythology of the Avengers franchise, and once again mixes and matches everything he has created into a beautiful mess here. All the pieces already established in Avengers and New Avengers are rearranged in this issue, which is full of characters forming new relationships with each other that feel ancient. When Jim Shooter first ushered in the original Secret Wars series, he did so with pride, promising some lofty goals. Where that series eventually devolved into mindless fighting — this Secret Wars saga promises something else via this issue.

Sure new status quotas, characters, and relationships, are something frequently seen in the Marvel Universe — but this exact world has new things to say about characters.

LIGHT SPOILERS: One such example of these new things are the way that the Thor characters all have different relationships amongst themselves and with others. Yes, there are a ton of people with hammers arranged in this issue — but that doesn’t mean everything about surprise of the heroes’ own mythology is known to the reader.

Thankfully, this inversion of the original premise makes the actual saga of Avengers (the 2012 volume) less relevant. For some fans, that might be a let down, but this new Secret Wars needs to last and be burned into the mythology of the Marvel Universe. If everything about this comic sounds incredibly complicated — that’s because it is — however, this issue did the right thing by averting expectations and shifting pieces off of the board. The main criticism of the tale is that it just should have been the first issue. Confusing readers with context about a threat that they are unfamiliar with is not the good for the average fan. If any new reader is interested in this saga, hand them this second issue first. It will avoid some questions that will lead to trouble further down the round.

This tale is also much more suited to the art of Esad Ribic now. His depiction of Doctor Doom is nothing less than terrifying. The opening scene calls for a certain type of emotion that proves why Ribic can be counted among the best in the industry. Ive Scorcina’s color palette is also a haunting and beautiful. Secret Wars has an expansive scope that is perfectly explored within this tale. Key moments of action retain the fluidity necessary of great comics while still evoking the cerebral line work and sheer beauty of what Ribic is depicting in this comic.

Never before have I seen an event series so confident in it’s own ideas — as Hickman packs the story with loads of Marvel mythology in a king-sized ration. There are but a few plot threads tethering this story to our version of Marvel reality, but this story is meant to be witnessed through the eyes of the outsider, purposefully alienating the reader. For a Marvel comic filled with explosive wonder look no further than this week’s Secret Wars #2. Hickman and Ribic create mythology of lasting impact in Secret Wars #2.

3 Comments on Review: Secret Wars #2 Is a Solid First Issue in Disguise, last added: 5/18/2015
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10. The Retailer’s View // Bridging A Gap With The Archie Kickstarter

The Retailer's View

So I launched a comic store on Free Comic Book Day. It was quite the trick, trying to get things ready for the day with things exploding all around. We had ordered a point of sale system from Diamond, but when we phoned to ask them where it was a week after the supposed delivery date, we were told it had yet to ship. Before that moment, we were assured that it was on its way numerous times. We buckled down, bought the disperate parts of a computer, and assembled the damn thing ourselves with installed software. All in all, by the time we opened our doors to a line of already waiting customers, we were equal parts ready and not ready at all, but prepared enough to make the day work perfectly.

While I’m still new at owning a shop, it appears as though the feeling of prepared chaos is at the heart of running a small business. Measured doses of fear mix with confidence and produce a sheen of outward competence. That’s what I’ve taken from this experience and the numerous books and articles I read about making a go of things.

It will always be a tough go when you’re a relatively small force working against the never-ending tendrils of life and circumstance, but with enough diligence, passion and luck, things can always work out. The trick, it seems, is being able to find creative solutions to problems when they arise, using popsicle sticks and glue with enough ingenuity to hold the weight until you can afford a sturdier foundation. The other trick, is convincing people that what they’re standing on, is concrete.

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Earlier this week, Archie Comics announced a Kickstarter that would see the launch of their #NewRiverdale initiative. Born out of the excitement surrounding the company’s upcoming Archie #1 with Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, the company was (and still is) asking for $350,000 to fund the production and marketing for the first six issues of three companion books in the line – a Jughead title with Chip Zdarsky and an unnamed artist, a Betty and Veronica book with Adam Hughes providing script and art, and a Life with Kevin series, written and drawn by the character’s creator Dan Parent, with inks from artist J. Bone. Needless to say, the internet had questions and opinions about this. Why would a company like Archie need to do a Kickstarter? Were they cash strapped? In trouble? What happens if the Kickstarter isn’t funded? And if it is, where does the money go specifically?

To the company’s credit, they came back and answered most of the questions brought up with swiftness and as much transparency as they could muster. They met the base question of “why seek funding” with vague details about distribution and retail real estate deals with Wal-Mart and Target, and the nebulous costs thereof. If the Kickstarter isn’t funded, they said they would still be moving forward with those titles, but the timelines and formatting might have to change. The biggest question about this Kickstarter that currently remains unanswered is in regards to the breakdown of where the money will go. That’s perfectly understandable, as there’s not a smart business in the world that would willingly divulge the details of various contracts and cost specifics to the general public. That said, there is a disconnect that remains – and it all comes back to the structure that Archie is building for this new line, with this Kickstarter.

I’ve spent a few days reading up on the specifics of this Kickstarter, and I’ve spent a few years ordering comics from this company, so what follows is the appearance of this popsicle structure from this specific vantage point. Please keep in mind, I do not have any inside information on the company, their financials, or the specifics of this Kickstarter beyond what they have willingly offered the public using various platforms and forums. That said, so much of this business is built on perception, that I feel the need to detail exactly what Archie’s structure looks like to a person in my position: the retailer who will be supporting this initiative in store with orders, and the new business man, who just went through the process of procuring funding for his own (smaller scale) project.

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Let’s start with the Kickstarter. I’m a big fan of Kickstarter, and its ability to sell a product directly to customers who need it. If I’m being perfectly honest, going to Kickstarter was an option that we (my business partners and I) were thinking of when we were looking to fund our store. Eventually we decided against it because of the various responsibilities and connotations that Kickstarter brings with it. As with all requests for funding, you have to put forth a solid business plan and superior product in order to receive what you need to go forth. Opting for the relatively easier process of heading to various banking institutions with our hats in hands afforded us the opportunity to detail our plans, services and structure in relative secret. Going with Kickstarter means you have to provide the public with sufficient reasoning to fund your project, as well as the math to back that up.

The big problem Archie Comics is running into involves warring ideas. As a self-sufficient publishing company, they have certain contracts and financial details that they need to keep confidential. However, they are taking a step out of the “self-sufficient” bounds by asking for money – which demands that the math be shown. It might be a popsicle stick solution to a unique problem, but they are doing a poor job in convincing me that it can support the weight.

Don’t get me wrong: Archie as a company isn’t saying anything wrong. They are building a compelling narrative around this Kickstarter that I can get behind. They aren’t Marvel and DC. They don’t have parent companies, and so while they might be big, they’re still relatively small. This affords them the opportunity to move and change with greater ease, but such freedom also comes with a lack of safety net, so to speak. Opportunities arose, and tied up some funds. It happens. What’s losing me are the actions that have surrounded this launch, as well as the product currently being offered with the Kickstarter.

Over the past four years, the company stopped publishing their digest line, and now only produce double digests, and “jumbo” digests. They had a line of seven single issue comics including Archie, Archie and Friends, Betty & Veronica, B&V Spectacular, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead, which – before the announcement of any #NewRiverdale titles, had dwindled down to an almost monthly Archie title, and a bi-monthly Betty & Veronica. Books like Kevin Keller started up and heralded in a wave of change including which brought about titles like Life with Archie, Afterlife with Archie and the new Sabrina series. The first two concluded their runs long ago, while the latter titles have slipped on the publishing schedule hard. Afterlife with Archie #5 shipped a year ago today, and issue #8 just shambled it’s way onto the stands, with #9 still waiting to be resolicited and put back on the schedule. The first issue of Sabrina came out in October, and the second one didn’t ship until April, giving me the opportunity to quit my job and open a small business in between with room to spare. #3 is supposed to come out this May, and issue #4 has yet to be resolicited. At this point, I don’t expect #3 to come out anytime soon, and the subsequent issues of both titles probably won’t be seen until August at the soonest.

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Now additionally, Archie has their Dark Circle line up and running. Conceived as decidedly un-Archie takes on characters in their superhero catalogue, it is the third launch of the line in almost as many years. The first happened in late 2012 when the company launched New Crusaders alongside an ambitious digital program that would later inform Marvel’s own Unlimited app. This came to an abrupt stop a few months later, with plans for the second arc being scrapped after three issues were solicited, never to be published. The line popped up again in late 2013 with the first arc of Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid’s version of The Fox. It too ran five issues before disappearing from the schedule until now. Right now, the Dark Circle line appears to be doing okay. Issues continue to ship, but the new Shield title that is to be part of the line was already bumped back a couple months, and had to be resolicited.

The publisher also promised a Lena Dunham written run on Archie in the first half of this year, that has yet to appear on the schedule. Now, there are almost definitely reasons for all of these things. From my understanding, the superhero line took a couple of tries to stick, and this time it just might – especially given the caliber of work being produced. The horror line had delays owing to writer Roberto Aguire-Sacassa’s involvement in writing a treatment for a pilot based off of the Archie characters that was being considered at Fox, and Francesco Francavilla getting dinged by a car. The Lena Dunham thing? Honestly, she’s probably busy and comics don’t really pay a lot. Learning a new language in comic scripting could have pushed things back, or maybe they’re holding onto it to follow up Mark Waid and Fiona Staples on the main Archie title. It’s hard to say, and I doubt they would tell me the specifics of a project in development like that. Regardless, the company has had a less than stellar track record in terms of content production over the past few years, and the through line seems to be excitement outweighing timing. This Kickstarter seems to be a continuation of this trend, as the company wants to get the full slate of companion titles on the table as swiftly as possible to capitalize on the groundswell of interest that Archie #1 is getting them.

There’s also a problem with the product that is being offered as part of the Kickstarter – which features a bevy of options ranging from print comics to digital downloads. The main thrust seems to be built around physical copies of the books to come, with print comics being offered at the $10 tier. There’s a couple of reasons why this doesn’t quite work. The first is simple: despite whatever digital accoutrement that comes with the physical product, the company is still asking funders to spend $10 on something that will be worth $3.99 on the stands. Beyond that, they are offering the very same product that will be on the stands in comic shops, albeit with a different cover, at some levels. Beyond asking $10 minimum for this privilege, they are ensuring that copies of the self same book will be in the hands of readers who will then not have to go into shops.

Life With Kevin #1 Preview

Now, I am completely fine with content taking the most direct approach to the consumer. In a perfect world, that’s the best delivery system for getting product to readers, and even as a retailer, I don’t mind being cut out of that equation. The problem – or at least the problem as I see it – is the fact that with Archie #1 already in hand, there would be a handful of people who won’t come in store to grab a copy from retailers. This in turn could communicate a lack of interest in the product to retailers in some way, shape or form. Even if the book still goes over like gangbusters, who will be returning for the second issues? In addition to figuring out regular reader retention, retailers will have to guess at potential interest from parties who already have first issues.

Walk your digital fingers around this site for a little bit and take a look at the nearest sales chart. Retailers by default are a cautious bunch – and who can really blame them when the product they’re being provided is non-returnable? As a result, they will account for a potential loss sooner than they’ll account for a potential sale more often than not – and that would go doubly for something that they can’t even come close to measuring, like the amount of Kickstarter product Archie will have sent out to their region. Those non-existent customers on day one will be counted as such, and the numbers going forward will reflect that, which is not a good look for this line.

Beyond that, there are things that Archie could do to turn this around. Unfortunately, at this point, they can’t change their recent publication track record – at least not in terms of recent launches. They can put emphasis on their Action line of Sonic and Mega Man comics, which has delivered consistently through out the years. That’s proof positive that they can deliver, and that should clearly be noted. As for the problems with product delivery, if I’m seeking funding from someone (and I was, just recently), they’re going to want to know the specifics of why these delays happened, and what is being done to prevent that from happening going forward.

Archie 1 Zdarsky

As it stands, there’s very little out there that fills me with confidence in terms of how this product will be delivered in a timely manner. Fiona Staples does the art for Saga, and that book comes out on a modified schedule to make sure it comes out on time, as promised. It’s a great system that has allowed the book to soar in terms of creative energy, and physical sales. Is there a sufficient amount of time allotted for Staples to produce the artwork Archie needs in a timely manner while Saga continues? If not, is there a plan in place for the books’ shipping schedule? I know there have been reports that Fiona’s only contracted for three issues, which seems likely given her schedule, and Saga has been promised to continue at its current pace. Would Archie feature rotating artists or creative teams coming in to work on the book as needed? Will there be scheduled breaks occurring in between arcs? Both?

And what of the new books announced? As it stands, Jughead doesn’t have an artist attached, Adam Hughes is a notoriously slow artist, and the company still hasn’t decided what the print component of their Kevin Keller title will be. There seems to be a lot of pieces that have yet to slide in place, and these need to be addressed sooner rather than later. At the very least, something more should be said than Archie Comics CEO and Publisher Jon Goldwater saying, “In an ideal world these books would be monthly, yes. We would strive to have them out as regularly as possible.” Promising to try real hard is quite different than making sure there is a structure in place to ensure the product is delivered in a timely manner conducive to piquing and retaining reader interest and the money of retailers. This absolutely needs to be addressed first and foremost.

The other thing I would do is offer a Kickstarter exclusive product that will attract attention. Offering a product that will soon be available at a reduced price, even with all the digital support, is not enough for consumers, and is counter-productive for the titles’ ongoing sales. If you’re asking for $10 for a $3.99 product, you should make it something that will not be available otherwise. Toss in a digital copy of Archie #1 with a 24 page physical comic. Make eight or twelve of those pages an exclusive story that won’t be available individually otherwise. Fill the rest of the comic with concept art, preview images, or bits of pitch documents. Something like that is worth at least $10, and would go a long way to offering something unique to Kickstarter backers. Essentially: give your investors reason to invest, instead of asking for $10 while handing them a $4 product.

I want Archie to succeed. I want to see these books on the stands, and I want to sell these books to people, because I’m pretty sure they’re going to enjoy them. While I appreciate the unique circumstances the company finds themselves in, they have a lot of work to do in order to convince me that this is the right solution for this point in time – that this popsicle structure will hold the weight of what they’re building on top of it without collapsing. As a retailer, I need to see this before I can place orders with more confidence, and as a consumer and potential investor in this endeavour, I need a little bit more to free the funds to help make this happen. After all, while things might not be ideal, you still need to convince people there’s concrete at the foot of this. That, as it turns out, is what business is all about.

6 Comments on The Retailer’s View // Bridging A Gap With The Archie Kickstarter, last added: 5/18/2015
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11. The Circle of Life: Robert Venditti on Valiant’s Book of Death

The Valiant, Valiant’s own massive event series shifted everything in the publisher’s shared universe around to bring forth a new era in the history of the company. Now the publisher is trying to evoke a new direction for the Valiant Universe via the Book of Death. This title is the next big Valiant event crafted by the first author to ever create material in the 2012 relaunch of Valiant: Robert Venditti, who’s working alongside illustrators Doug Braithwaite and Robert Gill. Here, the author is set to take on more characters, concepts, and ideas than ever before (almost every character from the new Valiant world was featured on that previous teaser poster seen below!) We sat down with Robert Venditti to pick his brain about the upcoming event before the first issue goes on sale.

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Here’s a SPOILER warning for The Valiant before we dive into our conversation below:

Comics Beat: Can you give fans a primer for the Book of Death in the wake of The Valiant?

Robert Venditti: Yes, the Book of Death is about the new Geomancer, Tama, who we met at the end of The Valiant. Tama is a Geomancer that has come back from the the present. She is a young child, Tama was sent back by Gilad: the Eternal Warrior. He’s meeting her for the first time. He knows she’s a Geomancer, but he doesn’t know her on any personal level. Meanwhile all these things are going on in the Valiant Universe that I am almost hesitant to describe as natural disasters because they are far more horrific than that, but they are driven by nature and the environment. Gilad and Tama are wondering why now? What is the cause of it? Is the Earth acting out? What is the story? Meanwhile, Unity is wondering on some level if Tama is going to be causing this voluntary, or involuntary, or if she maybe the key to stopping it all. They want it back but Gilad doesn’t trust all of them because Geomancers have been killed before, most recently Kay McHenry in The Valiant. It’s his responsibility to protect Tama and find a solution for the problem.

I’m almost curious structurally if this story is almost the inverse of The Valiant, with the Geomancer character dying at the beginning — it seems as if Gilad has a completely different perspective now?

I think perspective is a great way of looking at it — perspective is what’s driving the entire story. You know, Gilad is someone who has been around for ten thousand years. He’s seen dark ages come and go — he’s seen all manner of things. He’s viewing the current events though this very long-term perspective that he has in the background of history, and of the planet, and of the Geomancers. Where the rest of the Valiant Universe is looking at this through the normal lifespan of the short-term perspective — I think the difference of those two perspectives is at the heart of the conflict. Whether you look at things from sort of a long term or short term point of view. In terms of picking up from The Valiant, or how it’s structured differently, I guess on some level The Valiant was the end of the relationship with Gilad and the Geomancer being Kay McHenry who we see dead at the end of that series. Spoilers! (Laughs.)

This is more the beginning of the relationship between Gilad and Tama, so I would say that they are opposites in that regard.

Can you elaborate on the themes and concepts of death in the Book of Death?

Let me think about that for a minute, I don’t want to give anything away! With the concept of death and the natural course of life, you might want to call it the circle of life? Obviously, death, life, and rebirth are the kinds of things that we have established with Kay McHenry dying at the end of The Valiant. Now you have a new child Geomancer, in terms of how nature is acting out the specific force that Gilad and Tama are fighting adjacent are all heavy themes that are playing into it. These are all themes that are much larger in how it plays a role in the event with some of the tie-in stories we are going to see. We’re going to see a lot of what the future of the Valiant Universe holds and births of characters. There’s going to be a lot of new concept and old concepts. There is also going to be a ton of content in every single issue, this is the most content heavy story that I have ever written.

How does the concept of death work in this shared Universe that Valiant has established?

In terms of the Valiant Universe as far as the DNA that the company was built on, you know there’s a maxim that goes back to the old the original 90’s incarnation of the Valiant Universe that dead means dead. That means when a character dies in the Valiant Universe, that means a character is dead. In that regard, Valiant is sort of a pioneer in that storytelling approach.

“That means when a character dies in the Valiant Universe, that means a character is dead.”

With all the characters featured on the teaser with Robert Gill, is it safe to assume that there is going to be a very large roster of characters in this event?

Oh man, I cannot even…I honestly don’t even know the amount of characters that are going to be in this event. You’re going to have all the characters that readers want to see, you’re going to have X-O and Eternal Warrior, and all these characters that readers are already familiar with. Their will be a ton of ‘new’ characters ‘new’ ideas, as well as a lot of mystery surrounding these ‘new’ things. We’re hoping to whet the appetite of the readers and give them that perfect balance of everything that they know and are familiar with. We want to give them a lot of new things to really peak their interest — and want to read Valiant books for a long time to come. Soon, they can see how those concepts and characters play out in future stories.

Hopefully this is another question that isn’t too spoilery, but along with some of those new concepts can we expect to be returning from the previous Universe that we haven’t seen yet.

Yes, (laughs.)

Yes, that’s all I want to know on that topic.

I also was wondering if you could elaborate on the inception of the event and how it came to be. For instance, did the creative team plan this story immediately following The Valiant?

It’s something that has been in the works for a very long time. Eternal Warrior is a character that has always been very interesting to me back in the original pitch phase, when Valiant first approached me about writing for the company with the two characters. I had to decide if I was going to put all my energy in writing a pitch for between Eternal Warrior and X-O. I chose X-O just because I felt that he was so unique, that blend of sci-fi, history, Visigoths, aliens and all this kind of stuff. I have always had an affinity for Gilad, and always wanted to write him. I got a chance to do him for a couple of issues in X-O, which are some of favorite issues that I have written. He’s a character that I have talked about for a really long time and always wanted to do a story with him. A lot of this has been in the works for a while. Now in terms of how it dovetailed in the end of The Valiant, that certainly informed the story and made it feel like the right time to turn this story in place. So it isn’t like Jeff and Matt were working for anything that I did, they totally came up with The Valiant on their own, but it seemed like a nice springboard to tell this story with Eternal Warrior in the lead.

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I was also smitten with the idea of you sort of kicking off the Valiant Universe with X-O Manowar #1, and wondered if there was any correlation with Book of Death: The Fall of X-O Manowar #1 being the last tie-in issue to launch in October.

It’s not coincidence necessarily — I’m the current writer of X-O — it was my title to do in the same way that Jeff Lemire is writing Bloodshot, (Joshua) Dysart will be writing Harbinger, and (Matt) Kindt will be writing Ninjak. They are the writers of those titles. Those (Book of Death) tie-in issues are additional titles, so there will be a regular issue of X-O Manowar that will also launch that month in addition to ‘The Fall of’ issues for each of the characters. They are not replacing the issues that are regularly shipping in that month, they are additional content on top of that, but I think it’s more of a matter of the current writers on those characters handling these issues as opposed to: I wrote the very first issue of the Valiant Universe, and I’m going to murder the Valiant Universe (laughs.) I don’t think I’m the alpha and omega or anything along those lines.

I really take a lot of pride in the fact that by the time that October issue comes out, I will probably be on X-O Manowar #42 or #43 at that point. When I took this book, I didn’t know how long I would be on it. I hoped it would be a year, I really hoped it would be for two years. Now I’m going on four, and that’s a really long run for something that is my first monthly series. It could very easily be someone else writing the X-O Manowar tie-in issue.

*It was brought to our attention during the interview that Robert Venditti has written more issues of X-O Manowar more than any other writer in the history of Valiant.*

That’s incredible and with the shape of the market the way it is, it’s great for you to be able to really sink your teeth into a character like that.

It’s always a push and pull, you always want to make sure that you have long term plans with your character, but that you have more short term planning — because you don’t know if you are going to be around for the long term plans. This is the first monthly series I ever took on, so it’s almost like beginners luck or I got spoiled. This being my first experience, I feel very fortunate about it.

Can you compare the differences and similarities with working with both Doug Braithwaite and Robert Gill on the series?

This is my first time working with Robert Gill. In terms of similarities, they are both great professionals, they are both great collaborators. They are the kind of people that have a lot of great ideas, and are both excellent storytellers. I trust both of them implicitly. I trust them to deviate from my scripts where they see fit. I rely on them and know whatever they come up with will be an improvement upon how the page is layed out or any of those things. In terms of differences, I don’t know. Robert just has such a great grounded grittier down-in-the-mud style that is great for this horror type story than what we are doing. It’s much different than Armor Hunters, which had a cosmic-type background, and space settings, and giant robots and aliens — it was much more science fiction fantastical if you will. Gill is really able to dig all around that, with things like the emotions of characters. Doug is amazing at design. A lot of stuff that he is doing is similar to what he drew in Armor Hunters, but in Book of Death he’s working with some of the designs for the new concepts that we were talking about. He’s also an amazing storyteller, and he’s great with emotions. He turned in a double-page spread with Eternal Warrior upfront and with the expression on the Eternal Warrior’s face, you can feel the 10,000 years Gilad has fought through. I really feel super fortunate to work with the people from Valiant.

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You hinted at a new status quota shift for Unity before, but could you tease anything else about the new developments for the team?

That’s really one of the central concepts of the story, it’s Gilad against the Valiant Universe. He’s one of the founding members against the team. If you go back to X-O Manowar in the ‘Homecoming’ arc, he’s actually the one that tried to talk to Aric in order to speak reason. The result of that conversation is what actually led to Unity in some ways. In some aspects, he even predates the Unity team. He’s been there for a very long time. It’s not a casual decision to break from that team and go off on his own direction. As much as he has friends and has fought alongside of the other Unity members — they still have a job to do. They still have other things that they have to consider beyond their friendship. It is a status quota change — and it’s nothing that anybody looks forward to with the possible exception of Ninjak. It’s a different mindset for all of them.

Would it be safe to assume that the relationship between Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior might have a special bond within the pages of Unity?

They certainly have spent a lot of time together in the Unity series. They have what Ninjak would classify with as a friendship — which is more like: we’re on the same side until we’re not anymore. That is how I sort of look at their relationship. Matt Kindt is really developing that a lot more than I have.

With Eternal Warrior going ‘rogue’ per see, could that effectively compromise their close relationship?

Oh, absolutely, we are going to see that for sure.

Thanks to Robert Venditti and Valiant for letting me to interrogate their team for 30+ minutes. For more on Valiant and the Book of Death stay tuned to The Beat!

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12. John Hurt’s “War Doctor” joins three Doctor crossover storyline

War doctorAs we reported to you yesterday, Titan comics has slated their release of the first of a five-issue three Doctor crossover story arc penned by Paul Cornell for August 12, just a few days ahead of Doctor Who comics day on August 15.

Today we learn that it’s not so much a three Doctor crossover as a four Doctor crossover. Doctorwhonews.net exclusively reports today that The War Doctor, as played by John Hurt in the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, will join Doctors 10-12 in the weekly series.

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13. Book & Me | Comic #7

Book & Me #7 by Charise Mericle Harper

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14. Review: Thor #8, Total Universe Woman

Thor #8

THOR2014008_DC11

 

Story: Jason Aaron

Artist: Russell Dauterman

Colors: Matthew Wilson

Letters: Joe Sabino

Publisher: Marvel

 

 

This is it, seven months of mystery and red herrings all culminate in Thor #8. Hey that sort of rhymes. If you’ve managed to avoid the spoilers of the character’s identity reveal, rest assured I will not be the fly in your ointment. What you read here will be as major spoiler free as it can possibly be, but we will talk a bit about what this new revelation could mean for the Marvel Universe’s future.

Jason Aaron once again scribes an excellent issue in the narrative of this new female Thor. Under the control of Cul, brother of Odin The All Father, The Destroyer has been sent to put an end to the goddess of thunder. Used to be Thor or as he’s simply refered to now, Odinson, and the All-Mother Freyja gathered an all-star group of female heroes to aid Thor in battle. What unfolds is an epic “girl power” combat the likes of which Marvel has never seen. The real beauty is how it manages to pull itself back from being a cliché and simply stay a — girls kick ass — book. What this particular issue does better than any before it is make use of its cameos without having them steal the focus away from our lead. Some of my favorite quips come from Jessica Drew’s lesbehonest lines. We even get teased with finding out what made Odinson “unworthy”. My money is on parking tickets or dropped the hammer on an elderly woman at a Home Depot. Once the end reveal of this new Thor’s true identity epilogues the book, readers will be left both excited for the future and wishing they didn’t have to go through Secret Wars to get there.

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The visual team of artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson have a unique style for a big action book like this. It’s best described as light hearted most of the way but nails the intense moments when it needs to. Really the only hiccups to be found in the book were some odd camera angle choices during simple dialogue scenes after the battle.

If you’re one of those readers that’s been on the fence about trying Thor, or you just like to jump in on the big moments; Thor #8 is worth the money.

Now let’s talk about what Thor means for the future of Marvel post Secret Wars. With this series being replaced (for the moment) with Thors, it could have been a place to return everything to the status quo. Nothing about where this issue went suggests that to be the case. I admit, in the beginning of all this I was hestitant about the changes to the character. Seeing new characters be built from the ground up always makes more sense to me than changing an existing character to make them relevant again.

Side Note: Hey Marvel if you really want to have every Thor ever in the Thors series, don’t forget these guys…

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Jason Aaron’s female Thor has been something special and unique in a publishing line we thought was all but out of fresh ideas. In a way he’s just getting started. Yes, it wouldn’t be the first time a superhero would be taken out by cancer. We know that this Thor’s story will end after Secret Wars in a tragic and guttwrenching way, but how we get there could be one of the most emotional stories Marvel has ever told.

1 Comments on Review: Thor #8, Total Universe Woman, last added: 5/14/2015
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15. Vibe (Paco Ramone) Visits The Stately Beat Manor Comics Pull: Staff Picks for 5/13/15

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After his continued success on a certain CW show, Cisco Ramone’s comics counterpart Paco Ramone (also known as Vibe) began to grow jealous of Cisco’s role on The Flash. The CW character has been able to take on some of the best material of the show serving as both the comedic relief and mad scientist. Wanting a piece of the action, Paco decided to hatch a plot for revenge via some of his best friends — the men and woman of the Beat Manor. First, we made Paco give us his staff picks, so we could deliver this fantastical article to the comics public, then we listened as Paco hatched one of the most sinister plans that several of the Beat Staff have ever heard. He decided to put a whoopee cushion on every single surface of S.T.A.R. Labs, and then replace Cisco with Paco for the day. He convinced several Beat Staffers to join him in his nonsensical farce. Unfortunately, The Reverse-Flash caught Paco (most of the Beat Staffers got out alive) and he was never heard from again. Disregard that story as you read about our top comics picks of the week.


Alex’s Picks:

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Injection #1

Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Declan Shalvey Colorist: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Image Comics

INJECTION explores how loud and strange the world is becoming, and the sense that it’s all bubbling into chaos—a chaos poised to become the Next New Normal—and that we did this to ourselves without thinking for a second about how we were ever going to live inside it.

Relatively little has been announced regarding Injection’s plot. Which doesn’t matter, as the creative team of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey have already cemented their names in the comics public as a great team. Shalvey has spent a lot of time getting the art up to the standards of Moon Knight, and spoken publicly about wanting experiment further in his main psychedelic style. This is going to be a red hot title this week even with the amount of crossovers shipping from Marvel and DC.

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The Mantle #1

Writer: Ed Brisson Artist: Brian Level Publisher: Image

THE MANTLE follows Robbie—just your average, run-of-the-mill guy—as he drunkenly stumbles out of a punk show one evening. On his way home he’s hit with lightning and wakes to find that he’s been chosen as the new host for The Mantle, a power set of unimaginable scope. Despite his lack of interest, he’s forced into action. The Plague, a being who has spent 50 years killing every previous host of The Mantle, is already coming for him.

Sheltered author Ed Brisson is jumping on The Mantle, a comic with the intention of deconstructing superheroes. The title features the art of Brian Level, who previously worked on a title called In the Dark from IDW and assisted with art for Lazarus from Image is joining Brisson for the series. Watching the military-rooted writer jump onto a title with Punk Rock themes and superhero aesthetics is something that has captured my interest.


Dave’s Pick:

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Southern Cross #3 (Image Comics)

(W) Becky Cloonan (A) Andy Belanger (CA) Becky Cloonan
The Southern Cross begins to give up its secrets, and Braith finds that the more she learns about her sister’s death, the less she actually knows her.
If Becky Cloonan has ever done anything not badass, I’ve yet to see it. Andy Belanger’s work has been nothing short of mesmerizing. Southern Cross is methodical sci-fi horror at its most intoxicating.

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16. Thoughts on ‘teaching’ reading (and why I don’t do it)

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Reading a Bird and Squirrel book by James Burks

I chimed in on a discussion on my local homeschooling list about one mom’s concerns that her son had stalled on the learning-to-read process. As usual I found I had a lot to say, so I’m scooping it here (and expanding a bit) in case it’s of interest to others. 

I’ll second what E. said: Six is really very young and at this point (and every point, really), the VERY BEST thing you can do is to read aloud a great deal. There are lots of studies to back up what many of us have been discovering and advocating for years about the immense and rather extraordinary benefits of reading aloud.

Some tricks we have used

• We always turn on the captions when our children watch TV. And it’s amazing how much reading they can pick up from scrolling through the DVR. Huck could distinguish between “Little Bear” and “Little Bill” at age three—his first sight words.

• Video games! or apps, etc. My kids have all picked up a lot of reading just from encountering the repeated text instructions and captioning that is a part of many games.

• Comics and graphic novels. Great reinforcement of decoding skills and incentive to read. My 3rd child learned to read from Tintin Comics. Her older sisters read them and she pored over the pictures until she began to pick up words. (I read them to her whenever she asked but that stage didn’t last long–she just loved to explore them them on her own!)  (I’ve written more about this here.)

• Word games and puns. We are a wordy, wordy family. Dinner-table conversation will often involve why a thing is called what it’s called–what the root word is, where it came from. Someone will hop up to look up a word origin. And scarcely a day passes without some terrible, groan-inducing pun trotting around the house. When I teach kids’ writing and lit classes (I’m teaching three different groups of kids at present), I begin every class by soliciting contributions to our ‘Word Hoard’—asking the kids to look out for interesting words during the week to add to our collection. They really get into the spirit of the game and we have amassed some splendid word piles over the weeks. The boys in my Friday afternoon class have turned it into a competition of sorts, unfurling mile-long words to impress their classmates. I’ve learned a lot of obscure medical terms in the past month, let me tell you.

• Riddles, jokes, joke books!

I am not a fan of 100 Easy Lessons because of so many similar stories of kids getting turned off to reading, or stressed/intimidated/bored–all feelings I don’t want kids to associate with reading.

Books of facts are great for young kids–early reader science stuff, etc. Again, lots of pictures to draw them in & help with decoding.

My primary advice is to not try to “teach” a child to read.

The process can be more organic, less structured. Help them along the way you helped and encouraged them to learn to talk. Read together, allowing lots of conversation and lingering and interruptions to hyperfocus on some little piece of a picture.* Looking for street signs (kids will pick those up as sight words very quickly and naturally). Or names of stores, etc. Text is all over our world, not just in books, and reading doesn’t have to be a Capital R academic exercise. People naturally want to find things out, and reading becomes a means of doing that–so sooner or later, every child will have an interest that drives literacy. What you can do is support that interest. Feed it! Rustle up some intriguing-looking books on the topic, preferably ones with a lot of art.

(Here I come back to video games: one of my girls got so interested in a certain game that she wanted to look up guides for it online, and HER reading took a huge leap forward as she began to devour information about this game. My role was to help her safely find resources on the internet, print out useful pages, provide supplies for assembling a binder (her idea)…so you can see there are many ways for a parent to be involved in the process, guiding, facilitating, without it looking like formal reading instruction–an activity that is so stressful for many children. Lots of so-called ‘reluctant readers’ will inhale anything you give them that’s about their favorite video game. Let them hunt for cheat sites. Who cares if they don’t figure out a game level on their own? They are learning crucial research skills–how to frame questions and find answers, and how to apply that information to a practical task. Hurrah for game cheats!)

Current example: Huck is obsessed with Rose’s Snap Circuits set. This morning I stood in the living room for the longest time, watching him—his back was to me—deeply absorbed in assembling one of the projects in the guidebook. He has worked his way through the entire project book with minimal help, following the picture instructions but also puzzling out chunks of text. Sometimes he asks for help with a mouthful word like “capacitor”—no self-consciousness, no sense that he is young to be expecting to be able to read a word like that. He can’t figure it out, he asks for help. But poring over this book, casually encountering these giant words that tell him things he wants to know, has catapulted his reading skills forward in a way no teacher, no matter how good, how patient, could reproduce. If I made him sit down to a reading curriculum, I can guarantee he would be restless and fretful within minutes. But he’ll spend the whole afternoon immersed in building projects out of this book, interacting with the pictures and text, following complex directions—and consider it ‘playing.’ As in, “Can I play with your Snap Circuits again today?” he’ll ask his big sister.

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*Let me elaborate on what I said above about “allowing lots of conversation and lingering and interruptions to hyperfocus on some little piece of a picture.” This is a mistake I’ve seen many adults make. A lot of adults have difficulty tolerating interruptions during a readaloud. There’s a whole big conversation to be had about how much background activity to allow — like, Legos keep little hands busy but can be very noisy. There are ways to work around that (spread out Legos on the floor before reading, since the noisiest part is the digging through the bin–things like that). But what I want to focus on right now are the interruptions that come when a child is looking at the book with you and starts talking over the narrative–pointing at things in the art, or otherwise being chatty about the book instead of listening to the story. This activity may actually be an indication of a big leap forward in skill acquisition–but we adults don’t always see it that way!

Here’s an example — when Rose was five or six, I remember reading her My Father’s Dragon. She was right at the point of emergent literacy, beginning to recognize words like street signs and store names as I mentioned above. We were about halfway through this short novel as a readaloud when she started pointing out Elmer’s name on every page. And “the dragon” and “the cat” — words repeated often in the story. But mainly it was the word “Elmer” (the main character). It got to where I couldn’t get through a page, because she kept pointing at the name all over the place. And I had a moment of being irritated and wanting to hush her–now now, let’s listen to the story. But it hit me in a flash that what we were doing together — what SHE was experiencing in this moment — had changed. It had started out “listening to a story.” Now it was READING. She had learned a sight word and was putting this new skill to use, with numerous opportunities to “practice” it on every page. No curriculum in the world could top this skill practice, because it was completely voluntary and completely absorbing her. It was HER activity, not one imposed upon her from the outside.

So, in that hour snuggled beside her on her bed, I let go of the whole listen-to-this-story concept. I kept on reading to her, page after page, but that was merely a background activity providing the vehicle for her discovery. “Elmer…Elmer…the dragon…” — little finger pointing, skipping around the page. We finished the book that way, with Rose only half paying attention to the words I was reading. When I got to the end, she said it was the best book ever and asked me to start it over. The second time through, she listened raptly to the narrative. :) Her brain had finished its self-assigned task. By the time I finished the book for the second time (a week or two later), she was reading very well on her own.

So that’s what I mean about stepping back to reassess an activity and your objectives….if a child is hyperfocusing on some part of the story that isn’t your voice reading the words, there is probably a very good reason. A wonderful thing about homeschooling is we have the luxury of time and space to allow this process to unfold at the child’s pace–there is no pressure to ‘get through’ a certain amount of material by a set date.

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17. MATT CHATS: “Lord Retail” on Selling Comics, Dealing with Digital and a Lot More

This is MATT CHATS, a weekly interview series with people involved in the making, publishing or selling comics. This week I spoke to someone in that last category. Jermaine Exum (a.k.a. “Lord Retail”) is the manager of Acme Comics in Greensboro, North Carolina. He’s built up a memorable web presence through message boards and Twitter, along with a great podcast named Acmecast, and seemed like the perfect person to discuss retailing with. Here’s my talk with Lord Retail.

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Jermaine Exum, written into a comic by Brian Michael Bendis.

Was it always a goal to network and make contacts through message boards and social media, or was that a happy accident?

It was absolutely not a goal. I was on the job at Acme for years before discovering comics discussion boards on the internet. I briefly used, what were they called, Newsgroups? The things where there were seemingly endless thread chains. But once I started at the store as an official employee I operated in isolation. I didn’t know it was isolation at the time though. We did the best we could in our part of Greensboro and that was the focus. The short story is that I went to Wizard World Chicago in 2004 which was very different from what I was used to as a Charlotte Heroes Con regular. My main take away was the Brian Michael Bendis panel where I saw several people join him on stage. This was at a time when I didn’t necessarily know what all creators looked like barring those on the Wizard Top Ten lists, so I assumed perhaps they were his family. Come to find out they were members of his Jinxworld message board. Upon learning that I was determined to be on stage with him next year. When I got home I chose a user name, Lord Retail as sci-fi writer M.A. Foster sometimes called me in the shop, and I joined. Over the course of a year I brought a retailer perspective to the discussions as well as recommendations of things to read similar to what I do for customers in the store. Then at the 2005 Wizard World Chicago, a fellow board member by the screen name of JustJeffery gave up his seat on the panel so I could be on the stage as well. 

How has your networking had a direct impact on the success of Acme Comics?

A lot of publishers, websites, and creators had message boards. But Bendis’ was the one I chose because of what I saw at the Wizard convention, how close he seemed to be with his fans from Jinxworld. I feel like I was a part of Bendis’ message board at precisely the right time. Both for me personally and for the utilization of the internet as part of the industry and fandom. I met fellow retailers like James Sime from Isotope in San Francisco which did a lot to reduce that feeling of retail isolation. I felt less like I was rolling the retail rock up the hill each day once I was able to talk to so many others and share ideas and solutions as well as frustrations. At that time the “eyes of the industry” were watching. Many creators actively used the board and interacted with posters, but many more just observed passively. Through that message board I met South Carolina’s Jonathan Hickman who came to Acme twice for Free Comic Book Day events, the late Jeremy Dale from Atlanta who was a FCBD regular for several years. I met Jim McCann who was with Marvel’s marketing department at the time and was a tremendous contact for me as a retailer. At that time there was no Marvel sales rep, but due to some of the posts I made, Bendis introduced me to David Gabriel who is now Marvel’s Senior VP of Sales. Communicating with him about various things that I felt needed reprints or stories that should be collected was a gamechanger. I won’t claim responsibility for it, but I did suggest that if Avengers #500-502 was collected as a Marvel Must Haves bumper edition, we would be able to sell more copies of the final issue #503 and the Avenger Finale. And when Marvel did reprint those issues as a Must Haves we were able to order and sell more copies of #503 and the Finale. So to say that networking online had a direct impact on the success of Acme Comics is an understatement. It raised our profile on a national level, with publishers, with creators. And it is where “Lord Retail” was born. As silly as that name sounds to me most of the time, it is a name that isn’t entirely unknown. I could only keep up with one message board and once I began to use Twitter in earnest I realized I could only keep up with one social media platform so the energy that was devoted to the message board converted to that. But I kept the Lord Retail name for Twitter and Instagram or some derivation of it. Sometimes I’m recognized and other times I’ve forged brand new credibility for myself and Acme Comics.

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How do you think it might have it had an indirect impact?

Indirectly is hard to say as its indirect. But its all about getting the name out there. Sometimes I have no taste for what I lovingly refer to as “shameless self promotion” but other times that is exactly what you have to do if you’re a retailer, creator, or publisher. You have to put yourself out there and also distinguish yourself. If you know the Word Balloon podcast, in its earlier days, the Bendis Tapes would consist of a call for questions on the message board that would be answered via the podcast. So through that, assuming my question wasn’t directly a retailer question, Bendis would be kind enough to say what store I was with. I remember there was a band traveling from the Pacific Northwest to the southeast who detoured a ways out of their way to come through Greensboro to visit Acme because they heard Bendis talk about the store on a Word Balloon podcast. That was and still is incredible. I’m pretty sure that many businesses would pay cash money to focus groups and marketing teams for that type of response. That kind of indirect impact continues. I’ve met creators at cons and introduced myself as Jermaine of Acme Comics. Then someone passes by, says hello to me as “Lord Retail,” then the creator recognizes that name and has a totally different reaction once they associate me with my online identity. Always a positive reaction. Once the creator knows who I am and that I am a serious retailer, they will sometimes share with me information I need to make smart orders as a retailer or develop marketing strategies beyond the generic solicitations. That was critical and invaluable on many occasions where we maximized sales on a new release or paperbacks that compliment new releases. Massive impact in an industry where their either is no sales rep, they don’t know anything, or they can’t tell you anything for fear you will abuse the information. But publishers and creators have treated me like a business professional since the advent of Lord Retail and not a fan retailer who will ruin or spoil their hard work. I have always and only used information to make the right choices for the store.

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“God Hates Astronauts” by Ryan Browne.

Do you have a specific audience in mind for those Tuesday night tweets about the next day’s releases?

When I make my Tuesday Night Cheatsheet tweets, no that hasn’t caught on as a hashtag, my primary audience are customers who are stuck in ruts, buying patters, or otherwise do not try new things. Customer who will not buy issue #7 or #33 of a series because they don’t have the #1. I’m from a generation of readers who rarely had access to first issues of anything. It was a rare and special moment to get a first issue compared to today’s frequency of first issues. Sometimes you have to sample a series to see if you like the format, the color, the storytelling. If a series added three to five preorders at all the stores out there, which would then cause them to increase orders to put a few copies out there on series they know how to sell, I think that would move the needle. The other audience I want to reach are other retailers. We’re all busy people and few are able to read everything or even several of the things they put on the shelves each week. But if I can share a pitch for something that I developed or a new marketing angle, this week I realized that the new Spider-woman series is something that fans of Fraction’s Hawkeye could absolutely connect with, then I will share that so other retailers can see what they can do. I’m big on figuring out what you know how to sell as a store. When we put Batman or Amazing Spider-man on the shelf, to a large degree they sell themselves. But books like God Hates Astronauts and Nailbiter, you have determine how to hand sell those series and who to sell them to. So anything I can do to help that process or at least get stores to think about that, I will do. Including reading 30+ comics over three t four hours. That’s not the way to enjoy comics, but its part of the job as I’ve defined it for myself. I will admit that reading each Convergence tie in this week took a toll on me. Not the quality of the work, but simply eye strain which is becoming an issue as I get older and may have to be a bit more selective than I currently am as far as Tuesday nights.

Acme Comics is a regional business, so how effective is your national/international presence at attracting customers?

Acme started in 1983 and was very much a regional business, but James Sime introduced me to the Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing award that is a part of San Diego Comic Con. I’m pretty sure he nominated the store the very first time we were nominated. And we were nominated for that award in the company of stores all over the world for six years in a row until this year. You can’t beat that type of exposure. We have customers who visit us from Brazil, Germany, England, France and other countries. We’re a destination for them whenever they are in North Carolina. I can’t directly say that they discovered us because of our online presence or if they found us via comic shop locator and enjoyed what we offer and the way we offer it. That’s a chicken or the egg scenario. I do know that our Acmecast podcast does reach out further than I could image. Apparently at the recent East Coast Comic Con, someone heard Stephen speaking at our table and told him that he was a regular listener when he was in China. We assumed the downloads in that region were errors or spam bots, but apparently not. Again that level of recognizability is something other industries would kill for.

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What kinds of efforts do you make for Acme Comics to be an indy-friendly shop?

There’s nothing wrong with primarily carrying Marvel and DC if they is the customer base and the store is satisfied only servicing that customer base. But as of right now it is impossible to ignore the fact that Image Comics is a force to be reckoned with in an all new way than in the 1990s. We’ve watched readers make evolutionary jumps in their tastes in an incredibly short people of time. In the past it took readers, myself included, years to break free of blind brand loyalty to try things from other publishers. DC’s New 52 did bring in new readers, but specifically with the debut of Fatale many of those readers instantly made the jump to Image Comics as a company to trust and watch. And from there Boom Studios or Valiant. They learned creator names like Hickman and Brubaker from mainstream material and trusted them to follow them to other publishers. I feel like those are more mainstream though and a true independent would be Black Mask right now. Because of the expanded palate that Image Comics created We Can Never Go Home got on the radar and is performing extremely well, more so than anything else from Black Mask so far. We sold out of issue #2 so fast on Wednesday morning that a newer customer actually believed we didn’t carry any copies which wasn’t true. They unfortunately arrived too late to grab one off the shelf. But if you follow the Acme Comics Instragram you’ve seen that we have a strong 10AM response from customers who hit the shelf hard to make their selections as soon as we open. Again its all about really looking through Previews magazine and studying the solicitations to see if there is something you know how to sell. If we have more than three preorders in on something new and untested, we try to really look at it to determine if it is something that perhaps seven or more people would buy if we could explain what it was and copies were available.

You’ve mentioned in that past that Acme Comics primarily focuses on comics. What other kinds of products do you sell?

Comics and graphic novels are the focus and core. That includes silver and bronze age comics, golden age if possible. As well as hardcovers and omnibus editions. We only carry brand new copies from the publishers, nothing used unless it is something critical that is otherwise out of print. We carry statues of iconic characters from Bowen and more recently Kotobukiya and Gentle Giant. We brand out a bit in our sister store Acme Comics Presents which is next door to the main stop. The focus there is all ages comics and graphic novels, but its also where we present additional items a comics fan might be into like S.H. Figuarts and S.H. Monsterarts action figures, props like the Batman utility belt, and vintage Transformers because that’s the thing I know best second to comics.

Are you exploring those categories less fully because of less interest, or for some other reason?

Being great at one thing as opposed to being just ok at three or four things is more important to us. I don’t know gaming. I literally don’t know how to do it and definitely don’t know how to sell it as a concept. So we don’t do it and never will. We dabbled in Magic cards in my early days but never offered in store gaming. You really have to do that well so it doesn’t encroach or disenfranchise the core comics fans and you have to be watchful that it quietly doesn’t become a less than profitable enterprise. Often stores that are successful at that kind of diversification will have a staffer who specializes in gaming, or comics, or some other area. It was more important to us to apply that knowledge diversification to comics and graphic novels. There will be general recommendations, but when customers have specific genres that they’d like recommendations for its helpful to have staff that enjoys, and through enjoying specialize in, science fiction, horror, super-hero, true independent, crime noir, etc. And if they enjoy those genres there will be cross pollenation between staff thereby strengthening the skill set they are able to draw upon for customers.

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I often read about how ComiXology and other digital distributors aren’t affecting the direct market, and know it’s not entirely true because I personally shifted away from print. What are your thoughts on the rise of digital comics and the effect that has on local comic book shops?

We do lose customers to digital. It happens to all stores whether the customer lets them know or not. It could be due to cost, portability issues, hardcopy issues, etc. But more frequently than that loss, digital comics have brought us customers. The digital comics marketplace is what the newsstand once was. That is where some new readers are born and where they sample a variety of available material. But frequently there is so much available that it is overwhelming. Imagine if you are interested in reading Spider-man and you’d like to do it using your tablet or other device. Here you go, here’s Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Sensational Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, and Ultimate Spider-Man. Here’s everything. Enjoy! There comes a point where that can be overwhelming and a bit of guidance would be helpful. That’s where the comic book store comes into play. Many customers come in already aware of Saga or Walking Dead because they read it digitally. When you come to the comic book store, that is where a reader may discover Ex Machina or Outcast. And in many case, not all, that customer will trust the local business who turned them onto a new series and will continue to shop with them to some degree if not entirely. Right now interest is high and it is the brick and mortar stores’ game to win or lose. You have to put your best foot forward with customer service, follow through for customers, and being a welcoming environment. The experience of being a part of a community and knowing who it is you are choosing to money locally with can trump digital convenience or online discounts.

With all of the attention you’ve gotten on your own personal brand, have you ever considered opening a store of your own?

I haven’t considered opening my own store because Acme is my store. Not literally, as I am just the manager. I shouldn’t say just, but I always have and continue to do so. Next year will be my twentieth year with the business which I’m pretty sure means that I have been with Acme longer than anyone else. Someone once said, you don’t change horses mid-stream and that’s still my thinking. I’m not across the stream yet. I have begun to think of Lord Retail as more of a brand as well as what my skills are other than reorganizing Spawn back issues and swiping cards though. Even in the best possibly circumstances, day to day retail drains the life energy out of you when it comes to personal projects. Your creator owned projects so to speak. But I hope to have something, anything, exciting to report sooner than later.

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“Old Man Logan” by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven.

What is Acme Comics doing to attract customers and sell comics that you aren’t seeing at other stores?

I think we attract customers by having a variety of comics and graphic novels we display in an attractive and eye catching way. We do have general shelves of course, but we are fortunate in that we have space to get creative. Wall of comics or rows of paperbacks can be overwhelming with everything blending together and very little distinguishing itself. Especially to new readers. New readers are not a myth, they exist. We have the space to give Image paperbacks their own display where some volume ones can be face out. We can create a display for the duration of Secret Wars were the issues will live as they release along with pertinent paperbacks such as Old Man Logan. The goal is to be friendly and attentive and not oppressive or aggressive. Our job is to connect people to the stories they want or the stories they may enjoy based on what we have heard them tell us. Or job is not to move units of product. And I think that experience makes us a destination store. We have many customers who bypass more convenient locations in the area or other parts of North Carolina and Virginia to reach us which is something that is not lost on us. I can’t say what is or is not on the shelves at other stores, I’m in Acme most of the time and nowhere else. Sometimes a person from somewhere out in the world will tweet to me that they can’t find something. But the solution to that is building a preorder relationship with the store. That is simply to say: I am interested in this item and I will buy it from you if you make it available to me. The comics industry is crazy, but that’s a fairly straight forward agreement. There are series we have cultivated readership for that perhaps is not common to all stores. Chris Giarrusso’s G Man graphic novels are a very known quantity among kids in Greensboro. They know the character and in many cases they grew up with the character. Even I forget that sometimes. We’ve built up a relationship with Chris over the years and at least once a year we bring him in to meet the customers. There is no marketing or advertising that works better than potential fans meeting the creator of material and having a great experience. That creates instant loyalty. Its easy to forget that comics are made by people, in some cases many people, and not by a machine.

Where do you see comic book shops going in the next several years, and even further than that?

Just today we were talking about how with the advances in technology, the video store is gone. The record store as an idea still exists, but struggles. The comic book store as an idea has endured. And I think a major contributing factor is the sense of community that a great comic book store can have. Familiar faces that recognize you and connect with you to varying degrees. If you’ve heard of the community building concept of the third place, the comic book store can be the third place. The first place is your home, the second place is where you work, but the third place is where you go for interaction, to be social, to experience a commonality of interest, or some combination of those. That is how the comic book store can remain relevant and through hard work, creativity, and attention to details it can remain financially viable. 

1 Comments on MATT CHATS: “Lord Retail” on Selling Comics, Dealing with Digital and a Lot More, last added: 5/13/2015
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18. Titan releases teases release of three Doctor summer crossover series on Doctor Who comics day

Titan comics released preview covers for their upcoming Doctor Who five issue series which sees release on August 12, a few days before their second annual Doctor Who comics day on August 15. Last year’s event featured give-away comic samplers and twitter contests for Doctor Who cosplayers to win exclusive San Diego Comic Con exclusive figures and autographed items.

Doctor Who Comics Day logo

So far Titan is tight-lipped about what this year’s Doctor Who comics day will roll out for fans of the time and space traveling Doctor. For now, check out the release from Titan below and the preview covers for the upcoming three Doctor crossover written by Hugo-nominated Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell:

TITAN COMICS ANNOUNCE DOCTOR WHO COMICS ​ 5-PART WEEKLY SUMMER EVENT
5-part weekly event written by Paul Cornell and illustrated by Neil Edwards, stars Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors and their comics companions!
The weekly event, running through August and September 2015, in place of the ongoing series, features all three Doctors from Titan’s regular ongoings. This epic event is the thrilling next chapter in Titan Comics’ bombastic Doctor Who publishing saga.

The first issue releases Wednesday August 12, supported by the global Doctor Who Comics Day on Saturday August 15!

Writer Paul Cornell has penned classic episodes from the Doctor Who TV series (‘Father’s Day’, ‘Human Nature/Family of Blood’, both Hugo-nominated), classic Doctor Who novels, as well as successful comic book runs on titles such as Wolverine, Action Comics, Demon Knights, and Captain Britain and MI:13.

The

e​vent follows straight on from the issue #15 conclusions of Year One, with the second years of the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors beginning after the event’s blistering finale!

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19. MATT CHATS: Brian Buccelleto on Transmedia Project “Sons of the Devil” Coming Soon from Image Comics!

Welcome to MATT CHATS, where I (Matt) talk to a person of interest in the comic book industry every Tuesday at 4:30 PM Eastern. Today I am speaking with an industry veteran but relative necomer to the Image renaissance. When Brian Buccelleto offered the first two issues of his upcoming Image series Sons of the Devil (also a short film) to reviewers on a recent episode of the Word Balloon podcast, I jumped at the chance to read them and talk to him. As a fan of his collaborations with Francis Manapul on The Flash and Detective Comics, I was not disappointed, more than happy to discuss with Brian the differences between something on the screen and on the page, the effect crowdfunding has on financials and other aspects of the creative process.

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Did you talk with Kyle Higgins about the process of bringing something from the screen to the comic book page?

He’s a really close friend of mine and so we talk about everything – including the process of filmmaking and comic books. That said, he helped me out a lot on the film. Shout out to Kyle!

How are your philosophies similar?

We love film and comics and want to do both. So I think everything we create is done with the hope of being able to tell the stories in both mediums.

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What do you think are the pros and cons of doing a film simultaneously with a comic, as opposed to adapting a film years later like Higgins did?

I think the biggest pro for doing it simultaneously is that you can actually SEE the story come to life on screen, which informs what you do in the comic AS you are doing it. Having actors take your material, interpret it, and make it their own helps you see the characters in new and interesting ways. Also, in the case of Sons of the Devil, we were able to secure interesting locations and have visual reference that I then gave Toni in the script. I think there was a certain level of synergy with doing both comic and film together. For Kyle and C.O.W.L./The League, I think adapting it later allowed him distance to cherry pick the best elements of his short. Honestly, I don’t know if there is a downside to either. Making comics and films are each awesome experiences… getting to do BOTH is off the charts awesome.

What are some storytelling benefits of telling a story both on the comic page and on the screen?

I think the two mediums are similar but have their own inherent advantages in how the story is told. Film is a forward-moving visual medium where you experience the story with sight and sound. There is a momentum to films that you want to sustain because you HOPEFULLY have the viewer’s undivided attention and you want to keep it. It’s more of a sensory experience for the viewer. Comics are also visual, but are experienced at a pace dictated by the reader. There is no captive audience. In some ways that’s a disadvantage… but the benefit of a comic is that a reader can spend as much time on a single page as he/she wants. And the reader can go back and re-read and really digest the material without it hurting the experience.

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What kind of audience did the Kickstarter attract? Was it more composed of fans of films or comics?

It was mostly comprised of fans of my work, who were intrigued by my transmedia concept.

Does the fact that the comic was funded through a Kickstarter campaign change the financials of the series at all? Because of the Kickstarter, for example, is the sales threshold lower?

II I don’t think being a Kickstarter project has any bearing on sales thresholds. In the case of SOTD, almost all of the funds we got went into the budget of the short film – which ended up costing more than what we got from Kickstarter. So financially speaking, the Kickstarter didn’t pay for the ongoing series. I had to get financial support from other means. But Kickstarter allowed me to start the comic book and get far enough down the road to pitch it to Image. This allowed me to take the concept from its initial plan as a one-shot to becoming an ongoing series.

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Kickstarter is as much about marketing tool nowadays as it is a way to amass funds. How big of an impact do you think the campaign has had on the visibility of the work?

Honestly, I don’t know how directly Kickstarter will factor into the marketing of the book. I had approximately 250 backers, so I don’t think that number will significantly impact the sales number for issue 1.

For any artists looking to be discovered, can you describe how you searched for an artist for Sons of the Devil?

I feel VERY lucky. I was searching an international portfolio website called Behance when I came across Toni Infante’s work. I also tried DeviantArt and inquired using social media.

What were some of the challenges of working with a less experienced artist?

Honestly, I don’t look at his art or our lack of American comic credits and think “less experienced.” He is a professional artist with an amazing skillset, and I haven’t had any challenges that you might associate with a new artist.

Were there any benefits?

Only that I get the honor of working with him.

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Was it hard letting go of the coloring duties for Sons of the Devil?

Not really. I’ve been coloring for 20 years and have had my fill. Of course, him showing me great coloring samples helped to make the decision easy.

You’re perhaps best known in the comics scene for your collaborations with Francis Manapul. Has it been difficult in any ways to be seen as a writer in your own right?

Not really. I made the decision to do my own solo stuff very early on, so that I could carve out my own identity as a writer. I self-published a book called Foster early on in our Flash run and did a 12-issue Black Bat story for Dynamite. I think it took a little more time for me to build trust within DC editorial so that they saw me as an individual in collaboration with Francis and not just the guy that he brought in to help. But to their credit, they have been very supportive of me and have allowed me amazing opportunities to shine on my own with Rogues Rebellion, Injustice and a few solo arcs on Flash. Oddly enough, I think Francis has had a tougher time being seen as a writer because he is such an amazing artist that it overshadowed his own writing chops. But he IS a writer/storyteller and has future plans to do his own solo stuff.

What are your hopes for Sons of the Devil professionally, creatively and personally?

Personally and creatively, I am always trying to grow as a writer and tell personal stories that resonate. So my hope is that each project I do is better than the last. Professionally, I would love for SOTD to be an ongoing series AND a television series.

SOTD_01_09 CMYK

Do you think the amount of great output from Image Comics good for business, or does it make it harder for your book to stand out?

I think there is always room for good books from every corner of publishing. The Image brand is obviously something any creator would want to be associated with. The amount of quality content that Image puts out means that retailers and fans will be more likely to try the book because Image’s track record is a promise of quality. As far as standing out among the other great books, I think that’s a challenge no matter how many books Image is publishing. There are 400 books that come out in a given month… so standing out is bound to be a challenge,

What’s the most exciting part of taking the plunge with a creator-owned series from Image?

Being able to tell the stories I want to tell EXACTLY how I want to tell them. Unfiltered.

You can find Brian on Twitter and his name on issues and trades in comic shops across the world.

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20. Review: Injustice Gods Among Us Year Four #1 (Digital) = Buy Me!

Injustice Gods Among Us: Year Four #1

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Writer: Brian Buccellato

Art: Bruno Redondo

Inks: Juan Albarrran

Colors: Rex Lokus

Publisher: DC Comics 

 

Since the series inception under writer Tom Taylor, Injustice Gods Among Us digital first book (based on the hit game by Mortal Kombat creator Netherrealm Studios) has been one of the overall best books in DC Comics line up. Now under the meticulous pen of current Detective Comics co-writer Brian Buccellato, Injustice methodically kicks off its Year Four story.

Chapter one is part epilogue along with being part set up as it deals with the aftermath of the destructive battle between Mr. Mxyzptlk and Trigon at the end of Year Three. Superman continues his crusade to save the human race from itself by his iron fist rule, Batman has gone into hiding as he plots his next idea to remove him from power, and all the while Ares schemes to return the worship of mortals to the gods instead of Earth’s metahuman pretenders. Since the series takes place five years before the events of the game, this volume is already hinting at some of the threads that are left to be tied together such as Damian’s transition to Nightwing and Batman’s plan to bring the heroes from the other dimension over.

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Buccellato continues to show why he’s one of comics most underrated writers. His understanding of how these characters differ from the regular DCU books is put to use in showing how the cracks in Superman’s regime develop. Hal Jordan and Superman show an intolerance for each other you wouldn’t see anywhere else. His Damian Wayne has a different type of chip on his shoulder compared to the regular DC version. It’s almost like he blames Batman for the actions that led to his killing Dick Grayson and that makes him as far from the boy seeking his father’s approval as you can get.

The art teams seen before in previous issues will be returning to action in Year Four. Issue one features the line work of Bruno Redondo. Out of all the artist the series has seen, Redondo’s work is most representative of the visual world established by Netherrealm in the game.

While this opening isn’t new-reader friendly to those who haven’t read any of the Injustice books or played the game; it’s a great continuation of the events unfolded thus far. Year Four is a carefully paced opening that’s a prime example of the writer’s strengths. Buccellato has a habit of making his characters earn their big moments, which make those points even better reads.

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21. All-New By Its Cover #4 (Covers For April 2015)

ALL-NEW-BIC

The column that judges a book by its cover, focusing on the month’s best-designed comic covers. For the month’s best-illustrated comic covers, see Best Comic Covers Ever (This Month).

 

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Deep State #5 by Matt Taylor

There are a lot of things working really well in this cover. The core image is very simple, while the complex red lines add texture. The color scheme is solid. But the thing that really grabs my interest is the realization that the gun to the back of his head looks like it could be his own, disappearing off to the side and coming out the other. Depending on how well the comic was trimmed at press, you could line them up side-by-side and create a repeating image (except for the texture that doesn’t quite match up).  It’s a fun concept.

 

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Ghosted #19 by Dan Panosian

I always enjoy seeing clever attempts at integrating the logo into the image. Filling most of the cover with the logo, dwarfing characters placed in front of it, gives the image an epic feel. Unfortunately, the other text elements seem like afterthoughts in comparison. Also, while I noticed right away that the logo was part of a fence, it took me awhile to realize that the “O” was a door opening.

 

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Outlast #8 by Paul Azaceta

I love the color palette of this image, except that the darkest black seems a little too loud. It could’ve been just a little more subtle. I love the mood of the cover, which reminds me a little of the indie game Kentucky Route Zero, but there’s something goofy happening with the perspective of the figure in relation to the background. He’s towering over that car. I like the placement of all the text elements, but every time I see the logo, I think it says “Outlast.”

 

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Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #7 by Mike Del Mundo

The only problem with this cover is that it disappoints me by being for an issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, a series that is very clearly not about a boy flying a kite with his robot while death looms overhead. Unless I’m wrong, and the series has been transformed into a quirky indie book?

 

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Ms. Marvel #14 by Jake Wyatt

I love the idea of integrating the logo in this way, but I think the composition would be much stronger if it was all moved up and to the left a little, kind of like this (please excuse the sloppiness of the edit).

 

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Adventure Time #36 (2nd Printing) by Jay Shaw

This might be the most epic Adventure Time cover I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the text placement on the printed cover kinda screws it all up. One AT fan I showed it to didn’t even realized it was Jake at first due to the way the logo interrupts the image. It might’ve worked better to make the logo smaller and move it to the lower right corner above the barcode.

 

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Howard The Duck #2 by Joe Quinones

The bottom is so cluttered with randomly placed elements, but the illustration made me smile, so it gets a free pass.

 

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Convergence Variants by Chip Kidd

I was tempted to be a smart ass and just copy/paste the text from my very first column, where I talked about concept dilution. Instead, I’m going to be a smart ass by linking to that installment, so you can see just how similar these covers are to the original example I used.

Apologies to Chip Kidd — I do enjoy your work a great deal. :-)

 


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.

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22. ComiqueCon Celebrates Women in Comics in November

by Zachary Clemente

 

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COMIQUECON 2015 COMING TO DEARBORN, MICH. NOV. 7; FESTIVAL

CELEBRATES GENDER DIVERSITY IN COMICS

 

ComiqueCon, a one-day festival celebrating women in comics, announced plans to bring its inaugural event to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich. on Nov. 7. The festival will bring together female artists, illustrators, publishers and fans for a day of fun and discussion on the growing impact of women readers of comics and graphic novels.

“We’re thrilled to bring today’s most talented ladies making comics together for this one-of-a-kind event. Women don’t just read comics – they make excellent comics, too!” said ComiqueCon founder Chelsea Liddy.

This year’s festival, which is co-sponsored by Green Brain Comics, has already announced several main stage presenters including: Leila Abdelrazaq, graphic artist and author of Baddawi; Nancy Collins, author of Vampirella; Marguerite Dabaie, author of The Hookah Girl; Alex de Campi, author of Smoke/Ashes, Archie vs. Predator, Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman and No Mercy; Nicole Georges, author of Calling Dr. Laura; Mikki Kendall, co-author of Swords of Sorrow; and Mairghread Scott, author of Transformers, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Bravest Warriors. Other planned events include a costume contest, artist VIP reception, discussion panels and a screening of the documentary “She Makes Comics.”

“It’s 2015 and it’s time to put the spotlight on some of the talented female creators working in the comics industry,” said Katie Merritt, co-owner of Green Brain Comics. “We at Green Brain Comics have always worked hard to highlight the diversity in the comics industry, both in the creators and the material they produce. Supporting ComiqueCon is a great way for us to continue that work.”

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Cover by Dave Acosta

In an effort to help with the festival’s initial startup costs, ComiqueCon recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Tilt.com. The campaign will run through June 6 and includes numerous sponsorship levels. Sponsors who donate at the $25 level are eligible to receive a limited edition variant of Swords of Sorrow No. 1 with cover art by artist Dave Acosta, scheduled to publish on May 6. Other incentives include admission to ComiqueCon 2015, limited edition ComiqueCon 2015 buttons, and admission to a private meet and greet VIP reception on Nov. 6 with ComiqueCon artists and writers. To participate in the crowdfunding campaign, visit http://comiquecon.com.

I don’t know about you, but this is the exact kind of event that I’m excited to see happen and I hope it goes very well for them. Originally from the Detroit area, this very well may be the event to pull me back after more than 10 years.

For more information on ComiqueCon, or for sponsorship opportunities, contact Chelsea Liddy at comiquecon@gmail.com.

 

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23. Secret Wonder Bondage Woman!

 
I recently read Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman alongside Noah Berlatsky's Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism, which had the bad luck to be published at nearly the same time. The two books complement each other well: Lepore is a historian and her interest is primarily in the biography of William Moulton Marston, the man who more or less invented Wonder Woman, while Berlatsky's primary interest is in analyzing the content of the various Wonder Woman comics from 1941-1948.

Lepore's book is a fun read, and it does an especially good job of showing the connections between late 19th-/early 20th-century feminism and the creation of Wonder Woman, particularly the influence of the birth control crusader and founder of what became Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger. The connection to Sanger, as well as much else that Lepore reports, only became publicly known within the last few decades, as more details of Marston's living arrangements emerged: he lived in a polyamorous relationship with his legal wife, Elizabeth, and with his former student, Sanger's niece Olive Byrne (who after Marston's death in 1948 lived together for the rest of their very long lives). Some of the most fascinating pages of Lepore's book are not about Wonder Woman at all, but about the various political/religious/philosophical movements that informed the lives of Marston and the women he lived with. She also spends a lot of time (too much for me; I skimmed a bit) on Marston's academic work on lie detection and his promotion of the lie detector he invented. As she chronicles his various struggles to find financial success and some sort of renown, Lepore's Marston seems both sympathetic and exasperating, a bit of a genius and a bit of a con man.

Because she had unprecedented access to the family archives, and is an apparently tenacious researcher in every other archive she could get access to, Lepore is able to provide a complex view not only of Marston and his era, but especially of the women in his life — the women who were quite literally the co-creators of Wonder Woman: Marjorie Wilkes Huntley, Elizabeth Marston, and Olive Byrne. She is especially careful to document the contributions of Joye Hummel, a 19-year-old student in one of Marston's psychology classes who, after Oliver Byrne graded her exam (which "proved so good she thought Marston could have written it") was brought in to help work on Wonder Woman. Originally, Marston thought he could use Hummel as a source of current slang, and to do some basic work around the very busy office. "At first," Lepore writes, "Hummel typed Marston's scripts. Soon, she was writing scripts of her own. This required some studying. To help Hummel understand the idea behind Wonder Woman, Olive Byrne gave her a present: a copy of Margaret Sanger's 1920 book, Woman and the New Race. She said it was all she'd need." When Marston became ill first with polio and then cancer, Hummel became the primary writer for many of the Wonder Woman stories. (Lepore provides a useful index of all the Marston-era Wonder Woman stories and who worked on them, as best can be determined now.)

Lou Rogers, 1912
H.G. Peter, 1943/44
Lepore also has a few pages on Harry G. Peter, the artist who brought Wonder Woman to life, and does a fine job of showing how Peter, who was about 60 when he got the Wonder Woman assignment, was also influenced by the iconography of the suffrage movement. He had been an illustrator for Judge alongside the far better known Lou Rogers, who created some of the most famous artwork of the later suffrage movement. Lepore writes: "To Wonder Woman he brought, among other things, experience drawing suffrage cartoons." (Not a lot seems to be known about Peter — Lepore has a note stating that "details about Peter's life are difficult to find, largely because, after his death in 1958, his estate fell into the hands of dealers, who have been selling off his papers and drawings, one by one, for years, to private collectors.")

Marston was hardly a perfect man or role model, and one of the things the story of his life and the lives of the women around him shows is the complexity of trying to live outside social norms. While Marston had some extremely progressive ideas not only for his own time but for ours as well, he was also very much a product of his era and location. That's no earth-shaking insight, but Lepore does a good job of reminding us that for all his liberalism and even libertinism, Marston still had many of the flaws of any man of his age, or of ours. He truly seemed to dislike masculinity, and yet lived at a time when it was difficult to imagine any way of living outside of it or its hierarchies, and his ways of analyzing the effect of masculinity and patriarchy were very much bound by his era's common notions of gender, biology, propriety, and race. Lepore does a fine job of showing not only how the assumptions and discourses of a particular time, place, and class situation shape notions of the possible in Marston's life, but also in the lives and politics of the early 20th century feminist movement.



However, Lepore's book is seriously under-theorized, and that's where Berlatsky comes in. The Secret History of Wonder Woman is aimed at a general audience, and Lepore is a historian, not a theorist. This would be less of a problem if Marston's life and work didn't scream out for the insights of someone familiar both with feminist theory and, especially, queer theory. (Lepore actually seems quite uncomfortable with the sexual elements of the story, and even more so in an interview she did for NPR's Fresh Air, where she can't help giggling over it all.) Berlatsky makes the excellent choice to take the queer elements seriously. He organizes his book into three large chapters, the first focusing on feminism and bondage, the second on pacifism and violence, the third on queerness. A brief introduction gives background on the comic and its creators; the conclusion looks at Wonder Woman's (sad) fate after Marston's death.

Berlatsky's writing is accessible — he's perhaps best known for founding the Hooded Utilitarian blog, so he's used to writing for a non-academic audience. (The blog has tons of Wonder Woman material, including lots from before the book, so you can follow Berlatsky's thinking as it develops, get more information and imagery, and see Berlatsky in conversation with many thoughtful, informed commenters and guest bloggers.)  Though his prose is not heavily academic, Berlatsky is well-versed in comics scholarship and has some good knowledge of both feminist and queer theory, all of which he uses to fill a relatively short book with a real density of ideas. It helps that the early Wonder Woman comics are so strange and suggestive; even after Berlatsky's most thorough analyses, it still feels like there's plenty left to say. (Which is no slight to him.)


In the introduction, Berlatsky describes the 1941-1948 Wonder Woman comics as “…an endless ecstatic fever dream of dominance, submission, enslavement, and release.” His first chapter then offers various ideas about bondage and fantasy, with the majority of its pages devoted to a complex reading of Wonder Woman #16 (you can see Berlatsky first thinking about this issue in a 2009 post at HU that gives a good overview the plot and substance, as well as lots of samples of the art). Ultimately, Berlatsky argues that the story is a representation of, among other things, incest ... and I'm not sure I followed him there. Something about the analysis feels forced to me, though I don't have any good rebuttal to it.

Chapter Two was more convincing for me, as Berlatsky has some cogent insights about violence, maleness, and superheroes: "Looking at Spider-Man's origin makes clear, I think, that superhero violence is built on, and reliant on, masculinity." Is Wonder Woman different? "It is certainly true that, in Marston and Peter's initial conception, Wonder Woman, like other heroes, often solves problems in the quintessentially superhero manner. That is, she hits things." Wonder Woman also participated in World War II, as the first appearance of her character coincided with the US entry into the war. "It was natural that Wonder Woman's alter-ego, Diana Prince, worked as a secretary for army intelligence, just as it was natural for Wonder Woman herself to foil spy rings and Nazi plots. Superheroes and war went together as surely as did goodness and power." But Marston wanted Wonder Woman to be something other than just a fist-fighting warrior, thrilled to hit anybody she could find. She is a fighter, but, Berlatsky says, a pragmatic fighter for peace: "The Nazis embody war; therefore, fighting the Nazis is fighting on behalf of peace. Or, more broadly, masculinity embodies war; therefore, fighting on behalf of an America that Marston sees as feminine means fighting on behalf of peace."

Berlatsky then goes on to show how some of Marston's psychological and social theories (particularly about the force of love) find expression through the Wonder Woman stories. Coming off of Chapter One, I was a bit skeptical about all this, but by the end of Chapter Two, I'd pretty well been convinced. The evidence Berlatsky marshalls from Marston's writings, particularly his book Emotions of Normal People, is compelling. (Emotions of Normal People itself is a fascinating source. Lepore describes it thus: "Emotions of Normal People is, among other things, a defense of homosexuality, transvestitism, fetishism, and sadomasochism. Its chief argument is that much in emotional life that is generally regarded as abnormal…and is therefore commonly hidden and kept secret is actually not only normal but neuronal: it inheres within the very structure of the nervous system." Berlatsky uses it well in the second and third chapters to show where some of the oddest Wonder Woman moments derive from.)


Chapter Three is what really won me over, I will admit, particularly because Berlatsky brings in ideas from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Julia Serano to explore the implications of various situations and images throughout Wonder Woman. As it explores Marston's lesbophilia and the manifold queer implications of the Marston-era Wonder Woman comics, the chapter ranges across all sorts of subject matter, including, among other things, James Bond and Pussy Galore (from Goldfinger). Berlatsky notes that unlike Ian Fleming's women "Marston's women don't want the penis; rather, his men want the absence of a penis — a unique female power."

There's too much good stuff in this chapter for me to summarize, but one especially interesting bit involves the relationship of the vagina and penis in Marston's idea of sex. Berlatsky quotes Emotions of Normal People: "The [woman’s] captivation stimulus actually evokes changes in the male’s body designed to enable the woman’s body to capture it physically. …[During sex] the woman’s body by means of appropriate movements and vaginal contractions, continues to captivate the male body, which has altered its form precisely for that purpose." Berlatsky summarizes: "Penises don't defile Marston's vaginas; on the contrary, Marston's vaginas swallow up penises."

(If that sentence doesn't make you want to read this book, then there's really no hope for you!)


Berlatsky then shows how these ideas play out in Wonder Woman. "Men in Wonder Woman are never as disempowered and objectified as women in James Bond or gangsta rap or Gauguin — a couple thousand years of tropes don't just vanish because you have a vision of active vaginas. Thus, when Marston flips the binary from masculine/feminine to feminine/masculine, the result is not simple hierarchy inverted. Rather, it's heterosexuality inverted — which is another way of saying it's queer." He then develops this idea to show that "For Marston, essentialism and queerness are not in conflict. Instead, queerness is anchored in, and made possible by, an essentialist vision of femininity. Femininity for Marston doesn't just appear to be strong and love; it is strong and loving. Women for him capture men not just as metaphor but as scientific fact. And it is from those beliefs that you get [in Wonder Woman #41] Sleeping Beauty rescued/captured by a semisentient vagina, or men turning into women on Paradise Island. Femininity makes the world safe for polyamory. You can't have the second without the first."

It's these sorts of insights that would have brought more nuance and complexity to Lepore's portrayal of the role of early 20th-century feminism in Marston's creation of Wonder Woman, but we can be grateful that we can read the two books together.


I've only barely touched on Berlatsky's arguments here, and may have misrepresented them simply by trying to summarize, so if they seem especially bizarre or off-base, check the book. (They may still be bizarre, but to my thinking, at least, they're more often convincing than not.) It's an extremely difficult book to summarize because its ideas and arguments are carefully woven together, even as, in an initial reading, it all often feels quite off-the-cuff, like an improvised high-wire act.

Wonder Woman has suffered in popularity in comparison to male superheroes, and even in this age of wall-to-wall superhero media, a planned Wonder Woman movie has had all sorts of problems getting started. Of course, no Wonder Woman is going to be Marston's Wonder Woman, which is one reason why it's unfortunate that DC hasn't been able to finish re-releasing the 1941-1948 Wonder Woman stories — some, as far as I can tell, have never been reprinted at all, and the most comprehensive collection, part of the DC Archive Editions, petered out after seven volumes, ending with issues from 1946. (Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics is quite good.) For the casual reader, the material in the Wonder Woman Chronicles, which got up to three volumes before apparently stopping in 2012, works well, though some of the best and craziest comics come later.  There just doesn't seem to be enough demand from readers, and so a trove of wondrously strange material remains generally unavailable.

Perhaps Lepore and Berlatsky's books will create enough new interest to spur DC at least to finish the Archive Edition releases. Personally, what I'd most like to see is a 300-400 page "Best of the Marston Years" collection edited by Berlatsky, because only the real die-hards need all of the various Wonder Woman stories, and it would be nice to have a one-volume edition of the most engaging and exemplary material.


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24. Book & Me | Comic #4

Book & Me #4 by Charise Mericle Harper

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25. Review: Sons of the Devil #1 Can’t Wait to Meet You!

SondsOfTheDevil_01

Writer: Brian Buccellato

Penciller: Toni Infante

Publisher: Image Comics

From New York Times Best Selling writer BRIAN BUCCELLATO and artist TONI INFANTE comes a psychological horror story about TRAVIS, an average guy trying to get by, who discovers that he has familial ties to a deadly cult. Told across three decades, SONS OF THE DEVIL is an exploration of cults, family, and the dark side of human nature. It’s TRUE DETECTIVE and ORPHAN BLACK meets HELTER SKELTER.

After a Kickstarter, publisher announcement, Image Expo appearance and months of build-up Sons of the Devil is finally here. Creator Brian Buccellato even spearheaded a short film to go along with the comic on release for the Image website. Needless to say, there was an immense amount of lead-up this issue; so…is the comic any good? My immediate reaction would mention that it isn’t quite that simple. Buccellato and artist Toni Infante seem to be working the story towards a big moment in later issues that makes this first issue a quiet storm before the rest of the series will hopefully pick up the pace.

Toni Infante’s art gives the story a heavy stylized line work that echoes back to someone like a Tradd Moore mixed with Sean Murphy. Nestled in the back of these pages is a horde of detail including multiple fixtures within the room itself. Infante’s layouts are impressive as well. He approaches the page by letting panels bleed out for texture purposes. One of the best parts of the issue is when Infante is given the mileage to muck around with the tone of the comic, adding a canine in the story. This presents a lot of potential for him to draw a pretty interesting looking devil via his excellent representation of the other creatures — especially when the actual depiction of Venice itself is already impressive. Sometimes, the facial expressions of the characters can get a little muddy, and the characters themselves are suffering from one too many lines on their faces that are obscuring the people of California.

Protagonist Travis is a broken man wandering through life after a tough upbringing. The book squanders at first in how it tries to make the audience sympathetic towards the lead. Fortunately, the tale picks up some steam in the latter half that serves to move the comic in the right line. This comic is pretty light on dialogue, and the plotting also slowly starts to move the rest of the pieces into place.

Sons of the Devil takes place in California which may take some readers by surprise. The story could easily function as some sort of companion piece for Southern Bastards tonally. Which tangentially brings me to another point — the rest of the cast doesn’t quite pop the way that they probably should. Most of them don’t quite reach the level of above being stereotypical supporting cast members. The one saving grace of this story is that the mythological elements have not yet been revealed here. With the high concept of the lead being the son of a devil being put in play, this story may have served audiences better in an expanded page count or even less compressed format here.

It’s hard to exactly call this story a character study, the art of Infante and the mindset of Buccellato seem to contain a sturdier emphasis towards action — which this issue is largely absent of. The cliffhanger and the rest of the story present a package that seems to be building towards a deeper climb with the dark parts of humanity. It’s virtually impossible to judge an entire comic based off of one issue, especially one containing such a high concept premise. Sons of the Devil #1 is the first set of building blocks towards a bigger story.

Sons of the Devil #1 launches May 27.

The short film from Image Comics is available here.

Check out our MATT CHATS column with the author.

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