Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Latest review at Aintitcool.


Writer: Todd Dezago
Artist: Leanne Hannah
Publisher: Ardden Entertainment

"A-HA HA HA HA HA!! Friends?!? FRIENDS?!?! You are either a very foolish or a very brave little ghost -- but you amuse me so I'll let you speak and save the destroying you instantly for later!!"
-- Volbragg

I've thrown positive reviews CASPER'S way for the first 2 parts of this 3-part series, so I feel a sense of duty here to tackle the conclusion. For all the complaints over the years about the lack of substantive comic books out there geared for the younger reader, it really is not the case anymore. There are excellent comics being published every week that are not only appropriate for kids, they are actually good and can be enjoyed by adults as well...if they can check their cynicism and sarcasm at the door.

Ardden's CASPER & THE SPECTRALS has consistently been one comic I have faithfully promoted ever since I picked up the first issue just on a lark. I occasionally just grab a comic off the stands that I didn't know existed and give it a go. Usually, the result is disappointing and I never think about it again. Occasionally I get a pleasant surprise and CASPER was one like that -- a very pleasant surprise. The characters of Casper, Wendy, and Hot Stuff (along with their supporting casts) are updated for the modern era but faithfully retain their personalities and their childlike nice-ness and naivete. The beautiful character designs by Pedro Delgado are also faithful to the original Harvey Comics but with a more modern and angular animation-style design.

The "Spectrals" are the three major races of supernatural beings (Ghosts, Witches, and Devils) who live in segregated dimensions. Casper, Wendy, and Hot Stuff are all lonely among their own kind and find themselves drawn together despite their differences. Just as their friendship is growing, circumstances unfold that unleash a horrible monster called Volbragg who threatens to destroy their worlds and the world of the humans. In this final chapter, we see a bit of political conflict between Casper, Wendy, and Hot Stuff on how to tackle the menace. Casper wants to try and make friends withe Volbragg and Wendy just wants to take him down. Hot Stuff ultimately decides to be Casper's backup and inadvertently learns some key information that helps.

What we have here is another good comic book with a fine conclusion that demonstrates that even people with different ideologies and opinions can find ways to work together to confront common threats. In the end, it is the similarities and not the differences that draw us together. But the differences are what give life that spark of excitement and unpredictability.

I like the fact that the universally positive messages in this comic book come through the story and the characters and not page after page of preachy word balloons. The art in this issue is handled not by Pedro Delgado, who drew the first 2 issues, but someone new to my radar named Leanne Hannah. Her style is very similar to Delgado already, so she is able to pick up where he left off without a jarring shift in tone to the art. Her art has a charm all its own though, and I would like to see more of her work.

Hats off to Ardden for this series, and I look forward to more with these characters. I'm still waiting for that STUMBO THE GIANT comic though....

Thursday, September 23, 2010


An AICN chat with Atlas Comics' Jason Goodman and Brendan Deneen

In 1974, Marvel and DC found themselves challenged directly in the newsstand market by upstart Atlas Comics founded by Martin Goodman (founder of Marvel Comics). Atlas Comics were marked by a trade-dress and style that was intentionally similar to the Marvel Comics of the time – a bold and direct assault on the House of Ideas.

The success of Atlas Comics was short-lived, less than 2 years, but during that brief period of time they churned out some surprisingly strong comics written and drawn by some of the best in the business (Archie Goodwin, Michael Fleischer, Larry Hama, Howard Chaykin, Neal Adams, Mike Sekowsky, Steve Ditko, and more). However, when Atlas ceased publication, their rather large stable of characters disappeared...seemingly forever.

To most comic fans, Atlas has survived in memory as little more than an interesting footnote lost to history. For the industry though, Atlas was a pioneer as the first comics publisher to increase pay rates and provide co-ownership/profit-sharing opportunities for their creative artists. And most historically, Atlas was the first to return all artwork to the artists who produced the works. And that's where Atlas began and ended in comics history over three decades ago.

Last week, the comics industry was uniformly surprised to see an announcement that, in partnership with Ardden Entertainment, Jason Goodman (grandson of Martin Goodman) is planning to re-launch Atlas Comics at the New York Comic-Con on October 8, 2010. Ardden’s Editor-in-Chief and legendary comic writer, J.M. DeMatteis, was quoted in the announcement on Ardden's website saying “"The Atlas universe is filled with characters of tremendous potential. I look forward to being a part of this re-launch as we re-imagine these wonderful characters and send them off on new adventures for the first time in thirty-five years."

I immediately contacted Brendan Deneen, Co-President of Ardden Entertainment to talk about this new project. The following column is the result of a virtual chat between Deneen, Goodman, and myself conducted over the course of about 4 or 5 days.

ME: I would like to begin this conversation with Brendan Deneen. Tell me a little about how you got from the position of Production Executive at Dimension/Miramax Films to Co-President of Ardden Entertainment?

BRENDAN DENEEN (BD): Okay. I befriended Rich Emms when I was working as a book- and comic-to-film scout for Dimension/Miramax Films. In that role, I had come across a series called DARKHAM VALE that Rich was publishing through his small UK company, AP Comics. He would later go on to become Editor-in-Chief of Markosia.
During a visit to the States, he invited me to join him on a trip to the Wizard Magazine offices in Congers New York. We had a really good time during the bus ride, bonding over comics we loved, such as the Byrne/Claremont run on X-MEN. At one point, I pitched him a comic idea I created when I was 19 years old (in 1991!) called SCATTERBRAIN.

He seemed interested but I thought he was just being polite.

ME: Ha!

BD: About a month later, he brought it up and said he wanted to publish it. During that time, I believe, is when he was hired by Markosia as their EiC, and he brought SCATTERBRAIN with him and published it in 2006. We got great quotes from Michael Avon Oeming, Brian K. Vaughan, Geoff Johns, Jim Krueger, and Robert Kirkman; and some great reviews, including you guys, who called it one of the best indie books of the year.

I had been trying for years before that to get noticed by Marvel or DC but no luck, despite knowing editors at both companies. I figured SCATTERBRAIN would be the beginning and end of my comic writing career.

ME: It’s not an easy business to break into professionally these days outside of self-publishing. There was a time when even a person with marginal talent could find himself writing or drawing comics simply because he just happened to be around at the moment that an editor needed to fill a slot.

BD: Totally true! day, out of the blue, Rich emailed me and said "Hey, do you want to put together a Flash Gordon pitch?"

And I was like.... "Uh... HELLS YES!"

So, I put together a 4 or 5 page pitch, which would eventually become THE MERCY WARS arc. I also had the bare bones for the second and third arcs at that point as well. After they had read my treatment (and liked it), they then said, "Actually, there's this new Flash Gordon show coming up, would you be willing to do a new treatment set in the world of the show?"

ME: Ugh.

BD: I read a few of the episode scripts and came up with what I thought was a really bad ass WRATH OF KHAN-esque arc that took place between, I think, episodes 2 and 3.

ME: What did they think of it?

BD: They loved it...but then the show came out and...well, everyone knows that happened there.

So, I re-approached them with my original concept and they approved it. However, when I shopped the project around to a number of big publishers...NO ONE WAS INTERESTED! Image wouldn't even return my emails. It was almost laughable.

ME: That seems odd for a property as much a part of the popular lexicon as FLASH GORDON. I's friggin' FLASH GORDON!

BD: Exactly. So, Rich said we should start our own company...and that's just what we did!

ME: So, you and Rich went into business initially to publish the FLASH GORDON comic. How did J.M. DeMatteis come into it?

BD: Well, by that point, I was a literary and film agent and I had just started representing him. He said, "Hey, if you ever want something more than a writer, let me know." And I said something like "How about Editor-in-Chief?" and he said, "Sure."

That's a bit truncated...but not much!

ME: You make it sound so simple...

BD: It was very smooth. He and I already had a great working relationship and I knew him from my time at Dimension/Miramax.

ME: And the comic was well-received?

BD: We released FLASH GORDON #0 at the 2008 NY Comic-Con and sold out of a couple thousand issues over the weekend. We were blown away by the reception.

The first six issues sold very well and the critical response was, I'd say, 75/25 positive. Some people had problems with my writing or Paul's art, but most people loved the fact that I hewed so closely to Alex Raymond's concepts and that I was having FUN with it!!
And JM's notes were HUGELY helpful.

ME: So, this is about 2 years ago. In those 2 years, you've published FLASH GORDON successfully and grabbed a license from Harvey Comics to modernize Casper, Wendy, and Hot Stuff. But're relaunching an entire line of comics that are mostly known as a historic footnote from the mid-70s. How does this happen?

BD: For CASPER, J.M. and I just put together a KILLER concept, and I think Classic Media recognized that immediately. The book was (obviously) plagued with delays but we're VERY proud of it.

We're in talks right now with Classic to do a sequel.

ME: Seriously, one of my favorite comics of the last year. There's actually a very solid bunch of comics being published right now for the younger market that are very good for all ages and CASPER & THE SPECTRALS is one of them.

BD: Thank you! We appreciate it so much. Anyway, my mind started thinking about other licenses to pursue and for some reason, i thought of Atlas.

I had bought all those comics from the back issue bin when i was younger.

ME: A perfect transition point to bring Jason Goodman into this conversation. Jason, I'm curious about you and the process that got you to this point where you are about to perform the rather daunting task of relaunching your grandfather's line of comics.

JASON GOODMAN (JG): For me, fortunately, this journey began at birth. The bounty of comics that arrived daily at home was more than any kid could ask for - Marvel & Atlas - all hot off the presses! In what could most generously be described as the folly of youth (and most harshly as an act of pure idiocy/lunacy, albeit by a 10 year old), I sold my childhood comic collection in the late 70’s at my lemonade stand on the corner 90th St. and West End Ave. (pre-Antiques Roadshow). Fast forward through college and a Wall Street career to the mid-90’s when I finally went into the family business after my dad (Chip Goodman) passed. For 15 years now, I have published consumer magazines in every field from Log Homes to Pilates. However, I have always treasured the Atlas titles and characters and was waiting for the right moment to re-introduce them to the world – a moment when I had enough time to seriously devote to the project, and the right people to work with.

BD: I reached out to Jason and it turned out he was talking to a number of places already. We started meeting in New York City and just really hit it off. He had a cool vision for what he wanted the books to be, and had this great core of advisors and the four us just started brainstorming ways to bring the brand back.

It took awhile, because there were a lot of pieces to put together, but apparently it was worth it!!

JG: Brendan and the Ardden Entertainment gang, and my own creative team – they all have great passion, talent and intensity – I’m having a blast!

ME: Can you share a little of the vision? I ask because you're talking about reintroducing these characters into a market that feels almost overrun by super-heroes. How do you take these characters, clearly modeled on the late silver age Marvel style, and make them relevant and stand out from the crowd? I carry deeply-rooted nostalgia for many of the characters, but we have 2 or 3 generations of readers with no foreknowledge of Atlas at all. What's the pitch?

JG: The goal, put most simply, is to tell great stories! In that regard, we have a world-class creative legacy to build on. I won’t presume to bore you with the multimedia, cross-platform, multi-channel licensing, etc...suffice it to say, it’s all true and this is a money-making (should I say "profit seeking"?) enterprise - just a ridiculously fun and cool one.

BD: The key is that these are MORE than just superheroes. We're going to approach each title with that attitude....a great story first and more than just a couple of guys in spandex beating the crap out of each other. PHOENIX is a science fiction story more than it is a superhero story. It's about a dude who is abducted by aliens, imbued with crazy powers, and then escapes!! And THE GRIM GHOST is this horror/thriller about a man trapped between life and death.

ME: I bought the original PHOENIX #1 in Puerto Rico....I guess I was 3rd or 4th grade!

BD: Nice!!!

ME: In fact, I bought a number of Atlas comics when they were first published -- PHOENIX, GRIM GHOST, SCORPION, LOMAX, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES...

BD: Over the last week or so, I've been blown away by how many people have fond memories of them...including me!

ME: One of my personal favorites was FRIGHT starring THE SON OF DRACULA by Gary Friedrich & Frank Thorne. I kept looking and looking for that second issue....that never arrived! Any chance of reprint collections?

BD: We're talking about reprints! But that's another story.

ME: Of the concepts you are working on right now, do you expect to pick up any of the series from the point where they originally stopped or reimagine each one for the modern audience?

JG: Modernization is a natural – comics have always changed with the times. But you’re correct, the opportunity exists for us to take some truly nascent original Atlas story lines and start straight from there. Stay tuned.

ME: Okay. The characters are more than just super-heroes. That jumps the hurdle of Dynamite's PROJECT SUPERPOWERS. Are you looking at creating a whole "shared universe" concept or are you dealing with them as stand-alone concepts or some sort of combination?

BD: Stand-alone concepts for now. I love shared universes but I think that can become very dense, very quickly. I would love to do a big shared universe some day but i don't think it makes sense for Atlas.

ME: Are you planning ongoing series or...rather...a series of mini-series for the different concepts. Similar to your successful approach to FLASH GORDON?

BD: Yes, exactly. The first arc of each will be the origin story.

ME: You realize, of course, that PLANET OF VAMPIRES needs to seriously be front-loaded.

BD: Ha, yes.

ME: Seriously. Before the big vampire glut implodes.

JG: I stand proudly on my sunlit altar, wreathed in garlic, and say, “I fear no glut.” Seriously, though, we are going to roll these books out slowly, taking our time to pick the perfect creative teams and modern storylines for each one. We have no plans to dump a bunch of mediocre titles into the marketplace and hope for the best. We're here for the long term and we want each book to be as good as it possibly can. We think people are going to love what we have up our collective sleeves!

BD: It's funny because everyone has their favorite! We have an AWESOME concept for WULF, a very cool BRUTE idea that moves him totally away from "Hulk" and a great way to do IRON JAW. I'm not sure which titles will be next but we are talking about ALL of them. We're very, very excited.

ME: Any chance you're talking to some of the original writers and artists about contributing to the new line? In particular, I will sleep much better after this interview if I know you have at least APPROACHED Howard Chaykin about creating new stories for THE SCORPION.

BD: We're already talking to some A-list writers about a number of the titles.

ME: That's not a "no".

JG: I wouldn’t want to diminish your journalistic vigilance by giving you answers that would help you sleep at night.

ME: *sigh* I got to talking last week with a grumpy old fan and he expressed a cynical reaction to your announcement because he said Atlas was just an old Marvel rip-off. That type is going to be your toughest sell I think. So, from a marketing standpoint give me your approach to drawing in the jaded fan who might love the new Atlas if he would just give it a chance.

BD: I don't necessarily agree with that assessment of those original titles. But even if I did, we're approaching these with a 21st century mentality. And honestly, I've been developing intellectual property professionally for over a decade. I know comic books, novels and movies inside and out. I'm an editor at a major publishing company. I know good stories and how to develop them. And Jason has a great perspective on these things, too, and has this amazing Goodman legacy. We are updating the original stories while staying true to the core concepts of what made them so cool in the first place.

ME: Hell...all characters are derivative of some other character in some way. Even Superman was derivative of Doc Savage who was derivative of Gladiator who was derivative of Hercules...

BD: ...and Flash Gordon was King Features' answer to Buck Rogers.

ME: It is what you do with the character and the concept that makes it or breaks it.

In recent years, Marvel/Disney bought out Malibu and CrossGen and is in the process of relaunching some CrossGen titles. DC has licensed the Red Circle characters and the THUNDER Agents, plus bought the Milestone line and appears to be rolling the WildStorm characters into the DC Universe. Dynamite and ABC both brought back a number of public domain characters. With such a crowded market, how does Atlas make themselves relevant to the market and translate that into sales?

JG: In today’s business world, it is very difficult to find a market that isn’t extremely competitive – sometimes you just need a reason, the right reason. In my case, a great family history; a solid foundation of titles; a loyal, pre-existing fan base; and some great people to work with. One of the many great blessings of Atlas is that we have a deep bench of titles and characters to draw from. The nature of each story we tell will influence frequency and format....

ME: Do you see yourself making inroads with Atlas Comics in other retail venues than just local comic book stores? If so, what type of approach?

JG: Local comic book stores are the industry’s life blood and will continue to be the centerpiece of our retail distribution strategy. We certainly hope to supplement that with expansion into other classes of trade, and my consumer magazine experience (tens of millions of copies sold) should help that effort.

ME: Any insight into what's officially on the schedule (and when) and what is planned in the long term including writers and artists lined up?

BD: We'll be releasing the #0's for PHOENIX and GRIM GHOST via Diamond in the coming months, and then the monthly issues will start early 2011. Oh, the #0's will first be available at New York Comic-Con, then via Diamond/comic stores.

ME: I'm digging that GRIM GHOST cover. Who's the cover artist?

BD: Qing Ping Mui.

ME: Gesundheit!

BD: Ha! Someone on our team found him. The art on PHOENIX is by Ian and Guy Dorian. That's really all I can reveal right now.

JG: Forgive us if we keep some secrets...for just a while longer.

ME: Who gets the credit for the fantastic design work on the logos, masthead and covers?

BD: Rich Emms has done all the design work, and he's incredible at it.

ME: Final question goes to Jason and refers to the Atlas "brand". When someone says "Atlas", what do you want them to think?

JG: What’s a nice boy like you doing in a business like this? or preferably AWESOME! Seriously though, I would like Atlas to stand for great stories that have been told and great stories still to come.

ME: Thank you, both of you, Brendan and Jason, for your time and cooperation. I hope your efforts are rewarded and that you'll keep AICN and our readers in the loop on future Atlas and Ardden projects. Check out Ardden’s website and the Atlas Archives for more info!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

DC Comics Bi-Coastal Press Release Interpreted


Today at The Source, a press release announced that DC Entertainment/Comics was becoming bi-coastal. Here is the announcement (in yellow) along with my no-b.s. interpretation (in red).

(September 21, 2010 – New York) DC Entertainment, as part of its ongoing strategy to integrate the DC Comics business, brand and characters into Warner Bros.
DC Entertainment's ongoing strategy to diminish the importance of the publishing arm.

Entertainment’s content and distribution operations, will relocate its business functions related to and supporting multi-media and digital content production to Burbank, California. DCE’s publishing operations will remain in New York, continuing DC Comics’ 75-plus year legacy of leadership in the comic book arena. These announcements were made today by Diane Nelson, President, DC Entertainment.

We are moving everything and everyone of real importance to Hollywood. But we will continue to let the publishing arm plug along as a cheap feeder league for our Hollywood offices. At least for awhile.

“These organizational changes reinforce the strengths of DC’s greatest legacies – most importantly its people and its creative talent – and offer greater opportunity for maximum growth, success and efficiency in the future,” said Nelson.
We're gonna be firing a lot of people.

“Our two offices will stretch and build their respective areas of focus, while prioritizing and aggressively striving to connect and cooperate more strongly than ever before between them and with their colleagues at Warner Bros.”

DC Entertainment's Hollywood offices will be dictating what DC Comics can and cannot do in New York.

“This strategic business realignment allows us to fully integrate and expand the DC brand in feature films as well as across multiple distribution platforms of Warner Bros. and Time Warner,” said Jeff Robinov, President, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, to whom Nelson reports. “We are creating a seamless, cohesive unit that will bring even more great characters and content to consumers everywhere.”

We can make such an enormous buttload of money off our licensing, web, film, and television we plan to focus primarily on these areas rather than the comics.

The relocation process is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011, with DCE’s businesses related to the development and production of feature films, television, digital media, video games and consumer products as well as the company’s administrative functions relocating to a Warner Bros.-managed property in Burbank, CA. DC Comics’ publishing operations, which have been the bedrock since the company’s inception with an annual output of over 1,100 comic books, 300 graphic novels and MAD magazine, will remain in New York. The bi-coastal business units will work more closely together to continue elevating the powerful DCE brand.
Once we get everyone settled comfortably in Hollywood, we will reevaluate whether the New York offices are even necessary anymore. This should happen sometime early in 2012.

DC Entertainment was founded in September 2009 to fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand and characters across all media and platforms. The senior management team responsible for shepherding DCE through this reorganization is comprised of Nelson, Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer; John Rood, Executive Vice President, Sales, Marketing and Business Development; and Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, Co-Publishers of DC Comics.
The DC Entertainment reorganization team are of prime importance to the brand except for one of the last two on the list who may want to be sure his resume is up to date.


A little bit later in the day, a second press release came out that was ostensibly a "letter" from Dan Didio and Jim Lee as co-publishers of DC Comics to clear up the earlier announcement. The "co-publishers" designation makes me think about Michael and Jim in THE OFFICE and their ridiculous status as "Co-Managers" of Dunder-Mifflin.

The changes happening behind the scenes this week are part of a greater campaign to reshape DC Comics and build a company for the future. Our responsibility as Co-Publishers is to find a balance between short term opportunities and long term vision; between our strengths in traditional print formats and the infinite potential beyond print; between our characters’ rich legacies in the past and the bright promise for the future they hold.
Ummm. Uh...'s the deal. Longterm goal appears to be that DC Entertainment doesn't have much use for DC Comics anymore...

As we’ve said before, there’s much to celebrate about DC. The foundation for long-term success is already here.

You ever felt like someone was smacking you in the head repeatedly with a bat and telling you the whole time they love you?

The DC Universe features the modern adventures of the World’s Greatest Superheroes, as envisioned by an exciting mix of new and fan favorite comic book creators. Vertigo is committed to publishing cutting edge, creator owned comic books and graphic novels by a wide array of creative voices.
At least for now, we get to keep churning out super-heroes and stuff for the grown-ups with the Vertigo. Thank GOD we still have Vertigo for awhile longer. If it weren't for FABLES, though, that would'a probably gotten the axe too.

One of our first decisions of the Co-Publishers was to up the publication of MAD Magazine from a quarterly periodical to a bimonthly one. In the wake of that decision, the magazine has seen increased sell-through growth. And we’re thrilled that MAD’s brand of madcap humor now stretches across media, with a highly-rated television show on Cartoon Network. The Usual Gangs of Idiots are an important part of this company and pop culture.

As we move forward, we also have to acknowledge the need for change.
WAAAAHHHHH!!!!! We don't wanna change!!! Stop the hurt!!!!

After taking the comics scene by storm nearly 20 years ago, the WildStorm Universe titles will end this December. In this soft marketplace, these characters need a break to regroup and redefine what made them once unique and cutting edge. While these will be the final issues published under the WildStorm imprint, it will not be the last we will see of many of these heroes. We, along with Geoff Johns, have a lot of exciting plans for these amazing characters, so stay tuned. Going forward, WildStorm’s licensed titles and kids comics will now be published under the DC banner.
Goodbye Wildstorm. Hell. Even WE didn't realize there were still comics published under the Wildstorm banner. Other than Ellis's run on THE AUTHORITY and PLANETARY, there's really not anything of note to be remembered here. Of course, now DC Entertainment gets to claim all the credit now.

After this week, we will cease to publish new material under the ZUDA banner. The material that was to have been published as part of ZUDA this year will now be published under the DC banner. The official closing of ZUDA ends one chapter of DC’s digital history, but we will continue to find new ways to innovate with digital, incorporating much of the experience and knowledge that ZUDA brought into DC.
Buh-bye all you web comic creators. We thought you were a waste of time and effort anyway. Don't let the keyboard smack you on the way out.

We’ll be further expanding our digital initiative and making a lot more news in this space. As part of that transformation, the WildStorm editorial team will undergo a restructuring and be folded into the overall DC Comics Digital team, based in Burbank, which will be led by Jim Lee and John Rood.
Hold it! This is Dan speaking. Jim's gonna be moving to Hollywood???? What does this do for our "Co-Publishers" status here in New York???? Jim! Jim!

With nearly two million free downloads and hundreds of thousands of paid downloads, our digital foray is already reaching a new audience worldwide. We could not be more excited by the successful launch of our Digital Publishing products in June, which exceeded all sales forecasts and will be building on our early success with new applications for DC material on all major formats and hardware, partnering with Warner Bros Digital Distribution. It has extremely been rewarding to hear anecdotal stories of lapsed readers returning to the art form and of brick and mortar stores gaining new customers who sampled digital comics.
Digital is what all the kewl kidz want now. So, that's what we're throwing all our time and money behind now. Paper comics are dinosaurs on their way to extinction.

We remain, as ever, dedicated to working with the greatest creators this industry has to offer, while inspiring generations of creators and readers to embrace this medium that we all love.
It's been fun and it's been real, but really, it's the age of Hollywood for DC and comics ain't gonna be along for that ride much longer. Get used to it.

Jim Lee and Dan DiDio
DC Comics Co-Publishers

Jim "Hollywood" Lee

Head, DC Comics Digital team

Dan "New York" DiDio

DC Comics Co?-Publisher

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Great Comics Flood of 2010 - ComicMix news

The Great Comics Flood of 2010 - ComicMix news
Tue Sep 14, 2010 — by Mike Gold

The Great Comics Flood of 2010

Loudmouthed OPINION from the Editor-In-Chief

It has been reported that for the first time in 15 months no single comic book gathered more than 100,000 copies in orders in the direct sales market. Make that 93,459, to put a point on it.

Conventional wisdom has it that sales have dropped because the average cover price has gone up, and who am I to question conventional wisdom? But there’s another reason. A big one.

Historically, whenever one of the major publishers (which means Marvel and DC; I’m talking superhero comics here) felt they were being challenged by one or more upstart publishers, that company would flood the market with crap, usually reprints or revivals of frequently cancelled titles. The other publisher would rapidly follow. Before the direct sales tail started wagging the dog, it was believed there was only so much space in the newsstands and DC and Marvel could crowd the others out. That, of course, was nonsense: if the newsstands cared about comic books (how much profit is there in a 40 cent item?) nobody would have to crowd anybody out.

This philosophy extended to the direct sales market. When companies such as First, Eclipse and Malibu were making waves and racking up competitive sales, DC and Marvel started dumping product into the pipeline. How many times could you revive Kull The Conqueror? But retailers had to order at least a few copies because it was a Marvel Comic, and cumulatively all that sucked a lot of bucks out of retailers’ tills. Remember, they buy this stuff non-returnable.

But now comic book stores have dwindled down to a precious few and the big bookstore chains such as Barnes and Noble and Borders are coughing up blood, sales truly suck.

Which makes it real curious to see that Marvel is once again flooding the comics rack. Having finally lost the Kull license, the House of Idea has gone the Oreo Cookies route: they’re jerking their “going to the movies” properties as though they were crack fiends at a milk farm.

For example: the September Marvel Previews (books on sale November) lists no less than six Iron Man titles, eight Thor titles, and 13 Avengers books. There’s also two event series: Shadowland, which winds up with a mere four titles, and Chaos War, which boasts five.

I didn’t even mention the massive – and expanding – X-Men group. That’s old news.

27 issues featuring Thor, Iron Man, and/or The Avengers. Boy, you’d think there was a Thor movie coming out that, oh I don’t know, tied in to the Iron Man movies, to be followed by the big The Avengers movie.

So, why the flood? Is Marvel worried about competition from Boom, Dynamite, and IDW? I don’t think so. They started producing material for this latest dump just about the time the Disney takeover was ratified. They are trying to impress the Mouse.

Disney doesn’t care about their comic book profits, and nor does Warner Bros. Marvel and DC, respectively, are there as R&D, fodder for movies, television and animation – and their concomitant merchandising revenues. All Marvel and DC have to do on the publishing front is show a decent return on investment and their new masters will be content.

It’s hard for me to think of a way Marvel could better promote comic book bootlegging.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reviews of FREEDOM FIGHTERS #1 (DC Comics) and THE SCOURGE #1 (Aspen Comics)


Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art: Travis Moore
Publisher: DC Comics

“Um...I know its a cliche, but Houston, we have a problem.”
-- Human Bomb

Yeah. It's the Freedom Fighters. Name 'em all: Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady, Black Condor, Human Bomb, The Ray, Dollman, Firebrand, and The Red Bee (maybe also Miss America and Manhunter, a cheap rip-off of The Spirit). Basically, all the Quality Comics heroes from the 40s except for Plastic Man and the Blackhawks. I was first introduced to them in one of those multi-issue JLA epics in the 70s that teamed up the JLA of Earth-1 with the JSA of Earth-2 and the Freedom Fighters of Earth-X. As established within the DC continuity at that time, the FF lived on an Earth where the Nazis won WW2 and they continued to fight the fascist tyranny in the modern day. Years later, the Earth-2 series ALL-STAR SQUADRON retconned the FF as originally inhabitants of Earth-2, but who crossed over to Earth-X to help fight the Nazis there.

Establishing the characters on the alternate Earth gave them a powerful iconic position as, rather than forgettable members of a legion of costumed characters, the sole super-powered heroes of an Earth perpetually embroiled in an endless World War of brutality and oppression.

Then the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS series changed all that and plunked the team back into a continuity that didn't seem to need them. They were outdated, kind of silly, what with the half-naked lady and the corn-pone patriotic cliches spouted by Uncle Sam and the walking “pull-my-finger” joke, The Human Bomb. I do you make this team relevant to the modern DC Universe?

Enter Grant Morrison.

Morrison came up with some whacked out concept for reimagining the team for the modern day that gave them a unique place in the DC Universe. Now, they are tied into the S.H.A.D.E. (super-secret political organization) that sprung out of his SEVEN SOLDIERS project. In other words, the FF deal head-on with political intrigue/ideology, super-heroics, and delightfully twisted villains.

I am a fan.

I bought both the 2006 and the 2008 mini-series written by Palmiotti and Gray. In fact, I believe I even named the 2006 mini-series as a “Best Of” that year in the @$$ies. If I didn't, then it was a close call. So, yeah, I'm pleased to see this new FF ongoing on the stands. Although, if I might digress, I am only committing for 1 year because of Dan Didio's apparently new policy to never keep a team on an ongoing more than a year at a time to “keep it fresh.” “Keep it fresh” to me is just a signal to me to “drop a title” just like I did on POWER GIRL, BOOSTER GOLD, JSA, BATMAN & ROBIN (when the creative team switches in a month or two), etc. With monthlies priced like they are, it's always nice to know that I only have to commit for a year to a new DC title.

This first issue beats the pants off of many other first issues I've been reading lately. I do read a lot of first issues because I'm always looking for the next great thing. But very few ever make me want to pick up the second issue...and even fewer make it to the third. This is good old super-hero action and intrigue. No pages and panels of team members sitting around chit-chatting and sipping coffee. Nope. We kick off the book with Black Condor and Firebrand taking out a neo-Nazi super-villain group calling themselves “The Aryan Brigade” with some outstanding losers like “Bonehead” (who has, yep, bony spikes sticking out of his head). Then the story shifts to the Human Bomb landing a spaceship on an asteroid headed for Earth. Mission? Blow up the giant hurtling rock. Problem? HB discovers the asteroid is actually inhabited by some humanoid alien creatures. The story promptly shifts the action back to Earth where Phantom Lady and Ray encounter a small town full of alien-zombie-fied humans.

Once the Earth is safe again (a feat accomplished through highly entertaining means), the team is reassembled by Uncle Sam for a meeting with the President of the United States to undergo a mission to recover a Doomsday Weapon apparently hidden beneath Devil's Tower by the Confederacy back during the American Civil War. exciting cliffhanger that makes me already start counting down the days until issue 2 hits the stands.

So, here's the deal. Palmiotti and Gray know how to write solid, entertaining comic books. It doesn't matter whether we are talking about humorous super-hero (POWER GIRL), serious super-hero (HAWKMAN), western (JONAH HEX), or time travel (TIME BOMB). It's always always good. FREEDOM FIGHTERS is no exception. In fact, it allows them to play around with the more...psychedelic world of the Morrison concepts...and still give the reader a good, rousing super-hero adventure.

I don't know who Travis Moore is, but he does a bang-up job on the art.

Great characterization. Great pacing. Great concepts. Great art. All adds up to a great little comic book.


Writer: Scott Lobdell
Art: Eric Battle & David Curiel
Publisher: Aspen Comics

“You want impossible?! Turn around!”
-- Unnamed Cab Driver

This is a funny comic to review. It's difficult to truly assess it on its own because it's one of those first issues that is essentially the first 15 minutes or so of a movie. As a monthly comic book, it may be a good chapter in a graphic novel, but as a stand-alone floppy....I'm not sold on it.

THE SCOURGE is not a “bad” comic. That is clear. It lets fly the opening salvos of a monstrous assault on humanity and I see the potential inherent in the idea even if it is very derivative in some parts--particularly derivative with what look almost exactly like the “eggs” from the ALIEN film franchise as the source of infection for this transformative plague. The vampire and zombie obsession of the last decade doesn't show any sign of lightening up anytime soon, and the splinter concepts like THE SCOURGE feed off that interest. In this case, instead of vampires, zombies, or werewolves...we now have people infected with something that causes them to transform into living and breathing gargoyles.

The lead hero is a police officer named Griffin, who we learn through his internal monologue, has some personal problems. It is he and his best buddy, Newburgh, who are out on a mountain climb and encounter the aforementioned “eggs” and experience the subsequent infection and transformation of Newburgh into a monster. End of Act 1.

In evaluating why the comic didn't totally work for me, I've gone back through and tried to isolate the writing, art, or both and see what works and what doesn't.

The art is decent. Eric Battle can draw. There's some flaws, but generally, he seems to be a good storyteller and an above average penciller. I'd actually have preferred to see a separate inker on his work to see what someone else could bring to his pencils as far as mood and detail. The dialogue is good, though the cabbie saying “For fig's sake...” had me flashing back to things like “Sweet Christmas!” and “Holy Cripes!” It's a puzzle. Why does the combination not work like I think it should? I'm stuck, once again, having to focus on the pacing of the story. There are lots of panels, but not a lot happens from page to page. In other words, it seems to me that a lot more needed to happen in this comic to hook me. I'm curious about where the plot goes from here, but by the end of this first issue I am not particularly concerned about the lead characters.

Writing serial fiction is not as easy as it seems. The process of structuring individual stories to be able to stand on their own merits and still be a smaller piece of a larger story is a learned skill. Again, not a bad first chapter of a graphic novel or first act of a movie, but for an individual comic book it really needs to be more substantial for me to commit to the individual issues. Instead, it inclines me to prefer waiting until the first storyline is collected so I can get a whole story.

In sum, THE SCOURGE #1 is a decent set-up for something big, but rather than make me want to commit to the monthly it made me want to wait for the trade.