Topps and IDW team for MARS ATTACKS

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Those gruesome/adorable Mars Attacks! cards from the ’60s just got another resurrection: Topps and IDW will team for a comics series next year, just in time for the iconic card set’s 50th anniversary. And the door looks wide open for more branded entertainment.

A perfect distillation of the ’50s obsession with little green men mixed with EC’s gleeful gore, the cards were the work of artist Norman Saunders and inspired the 1996 Tim Burton film. PR below.

Leading into the Long Beach Comic and Horror Con, IDW Publishing and Topps today announced a long-term partnership to offer new comics based on the fan-favorite Mars Attacks. Created in 1962, Mars Attacks will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012 with major product launches throughout the year. IDW’s new comic series, as well as high-quality reprints of existing material, will be a cornerstone of that effort.

“We are excited to be partnering with Topps on this classic brand. Mars Attacks has always been a favorite of the comics creator community, and fans can look forward to top talent bringing their visions to fruition,” said Greg Goldstein, IDW’s Chief Operating Officer. “I know we will definitely bring the comics to the next level.”

Originally developed as a series of trading cards, Mars Attacks was created by Len Brown and Woody Gelman, after Brown was inspired by the Wally Wood cover to Weird Science #16 (EC Comics). The cards went on to achieve cult status for their then-shocking imagery, fully painted by pulp legend Norm Saunders, and remains a staple of pop culture. Topps revived the franchise in the mid 1990s with a second card set, comic book series and toy line. The story was also adapted into the 1996 feature film, Mars Attacks!, directed by Tim Burton.

“When looking for a comics partner for Mars Attacks, we wanted a publisher with the right creative sensibilities and an appreciation of our brand’s fifty-year legacy,” said Ira Friedman, Topps/VP, Global Licensing. “There’s no doubt that IDW will provide a great home for us. We’re looking forward to Mars Attacks complementing their existing stable of powerhouse franchises.”

Debuting in summer 2012, IDW’s comic series will offer the first stories of an all-new Mars Attacks universe, bringing the brand’s outrageous action and dark humor to a new set of tales.

Digital Update: Kobo Vox a Viable Platform for Digital Comics?

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By Bruce Lidl

Despite all the attention the Kindle Fire has generated in the weeks since its announcement, there is another very similar device coming to the market, even before the Fire arrives on November 15.  The Kobo Vox eReader is available for purchase today at $199, the exact same price as the Kindle Fire, and in fact they share the same size, form factor and screen resolution (1024×600).  The Kindle has a dual core CPU while the Vox’s is single core, they both have 8Gb of internal storage, although the Vox is expandable to 32GB with a MicroSD card, and both the devices run heavily modified versions of the Android operating system, that discourage, but do still allow users to install their own choice of apps, in contrast to Apple iPads.  

The first review of the Vox hit the web today, and it was quite positive, especially about the “social reading” aspects of the tablet.  Time will tell how popular tweeting your favorite passages will become with Vox owners.  More interestingly, Kobo, like Amazon with the Kindle Fire, has identified comics and graphic novels as potentially strong sellers for a color device, and according to the reviewer, has included a free Archie comic for Kobo purchasers.  Currently there are no comics or graphic novels available for purchase in the Kobo ebook store, but that looks to change.  And because of the ability to side-load Android apps, Vox owners should have access to graphic novels from the Amazon Kindle store and comics from the comiXology, Graphicly and comic publishing company stores.  So for those customers looking for a low cost color e-reader for digital comics, but are not interested or able to take advantage of Amazon’s broader content strategy, the Kobo Vox might be a viable alternative.

According to Amazon, the response to the Kindle Fire has been far beyond what even they had predicted, and there will be millions of them in users’ hands mere weeks after the official release.  Combined with the ongoing tidal wave of iPad sales, add in Kobo’s Vox sales, and we are about to enter a new era of color digital book consumption, ideally poised for digital comic books, in a way smart phones just do not provide.  Inevitably, a certain percentage of the comics read on these new devices will not come from legitimate sources, but will be downloaded pirated comics.  Jim Mroczkowski’s ongoing series of interviews with comic pirates makes clear that from a supply standpoint, motivated readers will continue to have access to high quality scans of every single comic printed, usually on the day of its release.  It will be interesting to see how the proliferation of new devices affects both legal sales and illegal downloads, although the interplay between the two remains controversial.  The large entertainment conglomerates, including the parent companies of both DC and Marvel, are nonetheless pushing hard for new harsher laws to regulate the Internet.  Digital civil liberties groups have raised strong objections to the new laws, but with the backing of big content and their lobbying might, the odds are certainly in favor of passage.

New campaign: A Buck for Jack

201110271649.jpgEarlier today we noted Stan Lee’s penchant for pacting. Sadly, his partner in the Marvel Age, Jack Kirby, did not live to see the era where his creations and influence dominate pop culture. In fact, his family is right now engaged in a bitter dispute with Marvel Comics over the rights to the characters he created.

Some have called, passionately, for a boycott of Marvel over this. and they would have the high ground. But if a boycott isn’t your style. Nat Gertler has started his own way to remember The King, a program called A Buck for Jack, which suggests you donate a dollar every time you go see a movie based on Kirby’s creations.

Now, I don’t want to miss these films – they’ve got filmmakers like Kenneth Brannaugh, Jon Favreau, and Joss Whedon, stars like Robert Downey Jr. and Natalie Portman, and a pretty good track record of quality. But I feel uncomfortable going to these movies knowing that they are not benefiting the goals of the man who brought so much creative energy to the work. So here’s what I’m doing: for every film I go to see that features Kirby-crafted concepts but made without financial tribute to Kirby, I’m giving a buck to Kirby’s legacy. For now, it will be by giving that money to the Jack Kirby Museum; if I ever find a way to give it to the Jack Kirby heirs instead, I will start directing the money there.


The campaign is completely unaligned with the proposed Kirby Museum, the Kirby heirs, or any other official entity. But it sounds like a good way to watch a Marvel movie and at least make some kind of concrete contribution to keeping Jack Kirby’s memory alive.

Raising the bar for comics

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Darryl Ayo is at it again with another in his ongoing series of rabble-rousing blog posts. This time he suggests that we need to take a look in the mirror in order to get comics more visibility.

It’s no coincidence, people. A resounding success in comic books is a hundred thousand units sold. A thunderous applause in comic strips is merely getting a new strip into the door. In rap music, bragging about either of these things would get you laughed out of the industry. The bar for success in comics needs to be set much higher and it should be enforced by those of you who operate under the pretense of bettering comics. Slowly, but surely, we will not find ourselves needing to boast about terrible sales or projects that merely get optioned.


It’s often noted that the comics industry is one of the friendliest creative fields, with the entrance level set at no more than a handful of mini-comics or webcomics, and success isn’t even defined as making a living from your work. As a result, sheer creativity is elevated and egos (no matter what you think of so-and-so) usually blow in at no more than a Category 1.

Nonetheless, Ayo does hit on a worrisome thought that most of us professional observers have pondered. Are we just TOO easygoing? Have comics become like that scene in THE INCREDIBLES where you get a ribbon just for entering the race — with the result that actual success is downplayed?

Ayo has a list of generalized suggestions for various comics practitioners to up their game. So who’s been dogging it?

Preview: Brandon Graham's "The Speaker" debuts in DHP #7

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Fresh off the announcement of his reboot of The Prophet for the Extreme Studios, Brandon Graham has a teaser for “The Speaker” a new story in December’s Dark Horse Presents #7.

“A man loses his voice—his voice goes off to see the world. Years later the man dies and the voice that walks like a man hears the news and returns home. The Voice has to deal with all the personifications of the man’s doubts, secrets, and ideas that are left behind.
 
“It’s got doubts using tuning forks like guns and ideas that smash the light bulbs over their heads like they were bottles in a bar fight,” says Graham.


Graham has been tearing it up with his ongoing KING CITY and MULTIPLE WAR HEAD series, as well as his genre-stretching blog.

Ricardo Delgado’s Age of Reptiles, Andi Watson’s Skeleton Key, and Mike Mignola’s Hellboy also appear in the issue.

Cartoonist talks about getting teargassed in Oakland

201110271305.jpgFrom reading her comments here and elsewhere, we knew that cartoonist Susie Cagle was tough as nails, but interviewed about her experiences at Occupy Oakland on Tuesday night when police teargassed and shot beanbags and rubber bullets at Cagle and hundreds of other protesters in Oakland, you’ll see how tough.

They’re tear gassing in there, and it’s all getting trapped by the buildings on either side. I really didn’t want to get shot, so, as soon as I saw them raising the guns, I just dropped to the ground. The whole time I was on the sidewalk, I was pressed up against the building. They started tossing flash grenades and tear gas canisters onto the sidewalk. I was standing with people who had just come out of their business to see what was happening, and they were attacked.

As I crouched down to protect myself, a teargas canister rolled right under my face and exploded.


Cagle — who planned to return to the protests yesterday — also plans a comic about the protests and the ensuing violence.

Jim Woodring has a new website!

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To cleanse our palate from the previous Stan Lee story, happy news that Jim Woodring’s website has been relaunched. Mary Woodring tells us “Be advised that Mr. Woodring has a brand new web site (designed by Plexipixel of Seattle) that is loaded with such features as an extensive gallery, ecards, wallpaper and links to various relevant media as well as other eye-tingling and spine-watering delights.”

A day with a Jim Woodring ecard is already a win!

And DO check out the gallery section. Your eyeballs will fuse with your brain.

TIMELINE: The many pacts of Stan Lee

What is a day in the life of Stan Lee like? Judging by the PR wire, as soon as he gets out of bed he asks himself “Whom shall I pact with today, True Believer?” and his people call some other people, and POW! a pact is born!

This week’s pact is with former Disney chairman Michael Eisner’s Vuguru, one of those shadowy multimedia companies that sits around and thinks about stuff. And sure enough, Stan will now help them create more stuff.

Michael Eisner’s independent digital studio Vuguru and comic legend Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. have partnered to produce original content across multiple platforms. Details of the deal, announced today, did not specify if any existing Lee properties will be involved.


Stan’s pacting is usually done via POW! Entertainment, and POW!’s Gil Champion was excited about the possibilities of this new pact. “It is the start of an exciting new chapter that will enable us to expand our storytelling into the digital realm and more quickly and effectively reach our global audience,” he said. “Stan and the creative team are delighted to begin developing new worlds and amazing characters and cannot think of a better partner than Vuguru to help realize this ambition.”

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Though they cannot think of better partners, they can surely think of OTHER partners. In recent months, Stan pacted with 1821 Comics for ROMEO AND JULIET: THE WAR and a whole line of kid’s entertainment.

“We’re not on a crusade of any sort. Our main purpose is we feel that there aren’t enough comic books or books for kids that really hit the target, that is that gives them excitement and humor together and are filled with surprises,” Lee said. “And have a whole new group of new characters that the kids can call their own, just as the teenagers called Spider-Man their own so many years ago.”

The first books under the imprint will include “Monsters Vs. Kittens,” from writer and artist Dani Jones, and “Once Upon a Time” in 2012, followed by “The Fuzz Posse,” ”Reggie the Veggie Crocodile” and “The Animal Band.”

After the pacting comes the thinking, and thus such things as “Reggie the Veggie Crocodile.”

Recently, Stan pacted with MTV for a contest where people could get the chance to make their own pact with Stan by working on this concept.

Before that, Stan and POW! pacted with Ricco Capital Holdings and Fidelis Entertainment to create Magic Storm Entertainment, a film entity that will think up film stuff for the world — and China. Hope this stuff doesn’t compete with the Vuguru stuff!

And Stan also teamed with Todd McFarlane and androgynous JPop star Yoshiki, for something called “Red Dragon” earlier this year.

Back in 2008, Stan pacted with Disney for a three-picture deal which included

1) “Nick Ratchet” – to be written and directed by Richard LaGravenese. His last outing as a director was the 2007 released “P.S. I Love You” starring Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler.

2) “Blaze” – to be written by Gary Goldman. Yes, this is the same guy who wrote such memorable gems as “Total Recall” and “Big Trouble in Little China.” No director has been announced.

3) “Tigress” – written by Zoe Green.


Because this pact kind of got lost in the shuffle, it had to be re-announced in 2010.

But in 2010, Stan also pacted with Archie Comics for something called “Super Seven.” A chill fell upon this pact later in the year when a toy company sued over the name Super Seven. Perhaps that is why it never came out?

2009 was a banner year for the Pact. Stan pacted with Viz and manga-ka Hiroyuki Takei to create ULTIMO, a superhero manga which is still running!

2008 yielded a bountiful crop of pacts for Stan. He also teamed with Brighton Partners and Rainmaker Entertainment to launch a new superhero property called “Legion of 5.” The Google trail for this pact seems to die out in 2008, for reasons unknown.

Back in 2005, Stan got his pact on with VIBE, the magazine of the urban lifestyle, to create an urban character:

The urban character, which is in the development stage, could be the next Spider-Man or X-Man, contemporary and universally liked by all but targeted to the 15- to 34-year-old comic book, video game, and action-hero lover. The character will be marketed as an action hero and will grace the pages of VIBE, as well as having its own graphic novel. Creators will take the animated character to DVD, television, and to feature film.


Amazingly they still publish VIBE, but what became of this urban character, we’re not entirely sure.

Also in 2005, Stan teamed with Vidiator for what was then called….WIRELESS CONTENT. This press release provides a nice snapshot of the early days of what we now know as “digital media.”

The alliance will help shape the emerging business of content distribution and M-commerce on wireless platforms. Vidiator will have an exclusive relationship with Stan Lee’s POW! Mobile for the creation and distribution of wireless content. Marrying creative ideas from one of the most fertile minds in the intellectual property business with Vidiator’s rock solid solutions transforms the mobile phone into a personal communications and entertainment device that travels with the consumer, enabling a stronger paradigm for pay-for-play content.

“Streaming broadband content, delivered wirelessly, will make the mobile phone even more indispensable than it is now,” says Ben Bajarin, analyst from Creative Strategies. “The possibilities arising from this technology are really exciting. With its animated graphics, images and audio and visual functionality, streaming multimedia will revolutionize the way people experience content like games, news, concerts and text on their mobile phones. Vidiator understands this opportunity and has the vision and technology to succeed.”


Vidiator understood the opportunity and they didn’t let it go to waste — the company is still around offering a bunch of 3G streaming services.

In 2004, it was Jay J. Armes a real-life crimefighter who lost his hands at an early age:

Says Stan, “When I first met Jay I was bowled over. I couldn’t believe that a real live person could have the incredible powers that he possesses. He even resembles my own fictional comic book heroes in the respect that most of them gained their super power through some sort of accident. Spider-Man had been bitten by a genetically altered spider. The Hulk was the product of a gamma ray experiment gone wrong and Daredevil was blinded by radioactive chemical. As for Jay J. Armes, he lost both his hands in a childhood accident at the age of twelve.”


So far we’ve made it sound like all these pacts have dissipated into the air like magical fairy dust. But that is NOT the case. One pact that made it to reality — if you call the halftime show of the NHL All-Star Game reality — was The Guardian Project in which Stan pacted with the NHL to create a superhero mascot for each and every team in the league. In turn, the Guardian Project eventually partnered with NBCUniversal to create CONTENT, acres and acres of glorious content: “Content that could emerge from the venture include graphic novels, television series and movies.”

Another successful Stan pact was his 2010 line of comics for BOOM!, which resulted in an actual line of actual comics featuring the characters that were originally announced. We’d have to rate this as one of the bigger results for a Stan pact. Perhaps the fact that BOOM! and POW! share a liking for exclamation points aided the thinking up of stuff.

Okay, this is fun, but we have other things to write, and we don’t want to mention the pact with Paris Hilton or Stripperella. Here’s the POW! page from an investment site which shows all of the companies they’ve pacted with. We shrank it down into one visual for your edutainment—so vast was the list that we couldn’t even get it in one screen shot so we actually had to make a panoramic screen grab:
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As you can see, Stan has even pacted with Marvel Comics — probably to create some multimedia content.

If this trip down pacting memory lane has taught us anything, it’s that one sure way to get a press release distributed is to announce a deal with Stan Lee. People like to take advantage of this. POW! gets to keep whatever leverage and stock price it has…and Stan gets to sit around and think up new ideas. All the time. Nice work if you can get it.