Marvel Month to Month Sales Charts December 2014: Time is Running Out for Marvel

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By Jason Enright

Welcome to my 12th and final month as your guide through Marvel’s sales numbers. Due to some career changes and advancements that my family and I have made, I can no longer write these articles. It has been fun and a great learning experience, and I thank you for joining me. But enough about me, let’s look at the monthly breakdown.

76 books in total
6 double shipped books (plus Axis which shipped 3 issues this month)
5 X-Men books (7 if you count X-Factor and X-Force)
6 Avengers books (7 if you count the Ultimates plus an Avengers Marvel Handbook special)
5 Annuals
18 AXIS and AXIS Tie-in Books
4 Death of Wolverine and Death of Wolverine Tie-in books
4 Spider-Verse and Spider-verse Tie-in Books
26 of Marvel’s 76 books or about 1/3 of their books this month are connected to one of their 3 current events

1 titles over 100,000 copies
1 titles between 75,000 and 100,000 copies
12 titles between 50,000 and 75,000 copies
34 titles between 25,000 and 50,000 copies
28 titles under 25,000
10 $4.99 books
61 $3.99 books
1 $3.50 book
4 $2.99 book

So as I was writing this article, Marvel made a big announcement about Secret Wars, and pretty much changed everything I was going to say. So I went through and altered the analysis to reflect the news that apparently the Marvel Universe as we know it is ending and possibly getting rebooted/ relaunched/ combined in some sort of new configuration later this year.

As we dig into the numbers, we’ll be looking at how the new Secret Wars news might affect the titles over the next couple months and asking lots of questions.

Thanks as always to ICV2.com and Milton Griepp for their permission to use these figures.

2. Amazing SPIDER-MAN
12/04  Am Spi #515  –  82,843
12/09  Am Spi #616  -	58,856
12/11  Am Spi #676  -	54,001
12/12  Am Spi #700  - 200,966
---
12/13  Superior #23   -  77,105  (  -5.1%)
12/13  Superior #24   -  76,131  (  -1.3%)
01/14  Superior #25   -  77,311  (   1.5%)
01/14  Superior #26   -  72,591  (  -6.1%)
02/14  Supr #27.Now   -  86,405  (  19.0%)
02/14  Superior #28   -  75,477  ( -12.6%)
03/14  Superior #29   -  76,568  (   1.4%)
03/14  Superior #30   -  75,431  (  -1.5%)
04/14  Superior #31   – 135,484  (  79.6%)[13,234]
04/14  Amazing v3 #1  - 532,586  ( 293.1%)[23,871]
05/14  Amazing v3 #2  - 123,945  ( -76.7%)
06/14  Amazing v3 #3  - 109,029  ( -12.0%)
07/14  Amazing v3 #4  - 117,917  (   8.2%)O.Sin 
08/14  Amazing v3 #5  - 101,655  ( -13.8%)O.Sin 
09/14  Amazing v3 #6  -  93,564  (  -8.0%)
10/14  Amazing v3 #7  - 116,051  (  24.0%)
10/14  Amazing v3 #8  -  99,549  ( -14.2%)
11/14  Amazing v3 #9  - 135,280  ( -14.2%)
11/14  Amazing v3 #10 - 100,899  ( -14.2%)
12/14  Amazing v3 #11 - 104,739  (   3.8%)
---
6 mnth  (  -3.9%)
1 year  (  37.6%)
2 year  ( -48.0%)
3 year  (  94.8%)
5 year  (  78.0%)
10 year (  26.4%)

Spider-verse keeps Spider-Man sales above 100k. There are 4 issues left (the event is scheduled to end in February), and hopefully the sales can stay this strong for the remainder for the series. Obviously Spider-man is going to stick around after Secret Wars as it is Marvel’s best seller; however there are some aspects of continuity that they could undo or redo. Perhaps the marriage to Mary Jane will make a comeback, or even their long lost daughter will return. Spider-Verse has also introduced a lot of new popular Spider characters and it will be interesting to see where they end up.

[Read more…]

Review: Spider-Gwen #1 Packs a Pun-ch

By: Lindsey Morris


spidergwn

 Spider-Gwen #1 

 Marvel Comics 

 Writer: Jason Latour

 Artist: Robbi Rodriguez

 Colorist: Rico Renzi

 Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

 Cover Artist: Robbi Rodriguez

As one of the latest phenomena in the comics industry, the pressure to put out a compelling first issue was certainly on for writer Jason Latour, artist Robbi Rodriguez, and colorist Rico Renzi. With over 200,000 pre-orders, a huge fan base, and a cosplay opportunity that caught fire on the con circuit, Spider-Gwen #1 was a smashing success long before anyone got their hands on the first copy.

The story follows up on Edge of the Spider-Verse #2 (sort of), which really should be considered the zero issue for this series. There is little recap of those events, which is unfortunate because it immediately puts the ongoing at a bit of an imbalance from a narrative perspective. New readers might find sussing out what’s going on difficult, but it seems fitting that the frantic speed this comic has picked over the past few months be mirrored in its plot – at least initially.

The artwork is definitely what stands out most for the book, with every page bringing something dynamic and bright. Rodriguez puts together panels that are tight, but sketchy, and Renzi uses a great cool palette throughout, punctuated by contrasts that will eventually make your eyeballs hurt. Every page pops with this mix of well-executed madness, and together they make visuals that are pitch-perfect for a comic about a girl bitten by a radioactive spider who also happens to play drums and fight crime.

The overall plot, however, leaves a little something to be desired. It’s a fun romp through the life of Spider-Gwen, don’t get me wrong, but there is an air of superficiality that just can’t be shaken. Constant phone checking, puns even Deadpool would groan at, and a villain without a clear motivation all add up to a plot going seemingly nowhere. This is a first issue, so some slack is merited, but Spider-Gwen would benefit immensely from being grounded in conflicts other than personal drama and directionless villains in the coming months.

Spider-Gwen #1 is an entertaining, if disjointed, introductory issue. Frenetic almost to a fault, the singular artwork and a vivid color palette lend themselves to the punchy writing and teenage antics. A worthwhile read for all comic fans.

Curb Stompage, Tiger Law and More with Ryan Ferrier [Interview]

By Matt O’Keefe

Ryan Ferrier jumpstarted his comic book writing career with the self-published Tiger Lawyer in 2010. In it he playfully poked at the wide breadth of interpretations of licensed characters, both story-wise and artistically, by splitting his creator-owned comic into two parts: one goofy and broad and the other dark and gritty, but both about the same protagonist. From there, Ferrier has gone on to build a career out of comics in both the styles he introduced in Tiger Lawyer #1. He balances writing more eclectic comics like D4VE from Monkeybrain and soon in print from IDW with darker ones like Brothers James and the upcoming Curb Stomp and Sons of Anarchy for BOOM! Studios. I spoke to Ryan about his humble small-press beginnings and speedy rise to publishers like Monkeybrain, BOOM! and IDW.

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Art by Felipe Torrent.

I thought the split between the fun and the serious in Tiger Lawyer was really clever. What made you decide to go that route?

It wasn’t planned; it just kind of happened. It started as a joke. I posted the script online for the funny half and Matt McCray, the artist, really got into it and said we should make it into a comic. So we did it and it steamrolled from there. That was all unplanned. After that half of the comic was completed I decided I wanted to put out a full issue and not just an ashcan, and at the time I really wanted to work with Vic Malhotra, whose art I just love. So we paired up and took it in a different direction with the crime noir more serious half. Because it was so unplanned we didn’t feel that we had to do it all fun [like the first half] and we could just do whatever we wanted with it. It was just comics people kind of goofing off, jamming with it. It just kind of took off from there. People dug it so we kept doing it.

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Art by Brian Level.

How’d you get people to pay attention to Challenger Comics when it first started up?

It has (or had, I haven’t touched it in a while) a pretty small following, but the people who did follow it were really cool and excited about it. And I think a part of it was how everyone involved in Challenger Comics had already worked hard for years trying to “break in.” So each person that contributed kind of had their own equity in the sense that they all had people rooting for them and followers from their other work. And it can’t be understated how important social media is for creators just starting out. Twitter’s just been amazing about getting the word out and spreading links around and getting attention. So it was kind of a culmination of all those different things. And the first year that we did Challenger we put out just a ton of comics. I had several banked up from before the site had even launched, and in the first year we had over a dozen [on the site]. We hit the ground running, which is now kind of biting us in the butt because Challenger slowed down a lot. I think that’s partly because everyone involved is seeing bigger work. So it’s a lot harder for any of us to make a free short because we’re just so busy right now.

Yeah, I saw that like three people from Challenger Books have had books published Monkeybrain?

Yeah. Monkeybrain was really cool. We all kind of got on that Monkeybrain train this year and that was just a really interesting transition. And I’m even seeing now that a lot of people who were or are involved in Monkeybrain stuff are catapulting to other things like Mike Moreci, Ryan Lindsay and Paul Allor. They’re all getting big work now so I think i think Monkeybrain’s a logical next avenue for people putting all their work online and getting their work out there independently like with Challenger. But at the same time Monkeybrain has top names doing books there. Gabriel Hardman has Kinski and Joshua Williamson has Masks and Mobsters. The closest thing I can equate Monkeybrain to, and I use this comparison a lot with Challenger, is that it’s a really cool online convention for people really into making interesting comics their own way.

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Art by Fiona Staples.

D4VE is coming out from IDW as single issues, right?

Yeah, that starts in Mid-February.

Why the shift from graphic novels to single issues for a Monkeybrain book?

You know, I’m not entirely sure. I’m certainly very cool with it. I think when I first started talking with IDW we were talking under the assumption that it would go right to trade. I can’t speak for Alison [Type] or Chris [Roberson], who run Monkeybrain, or anyone at IDW but I think that D4VE has had some good feedback and I think people dig it. At least I hope that’s why they want to do it in singles. But yeah, I’m interested in seeing how it does in a different market. Although at the same time there’s not too much difference between putting out a book at Monkeybrain and putting out a book in print with the exception of page count. That’s something a little bit different in the case of D4VE because of its digital roots. Some issues run a couple pages short, some run over. So that’s really the only kind of logistical challenge, but yeah, I’m really excited to see how it all plays out.

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Art by Valentin Ramon.

How did you tackle the page count challenge?

Well, in the case of D4VE with IDW we’re doing a whole bunch of new backmatter, so every issue is going to have some really cool original stuff. I know Issue 1 has a couple pin ups but moving forward with Issues 2-5 there’s going to be a whole bunch of cool stuff that me and Valentin [Ramon, the artist] are working on right now. And we’re doing all-new covers as well. I think each issue is going to have 3-4 variants and Valentin did a whole row of covers that connect to each other. It’s pretty exciting

Do you worry if cheap digital will cannibalize the sales for the print version?

That’s a really good question. I have thought about that many times, and I honestly don’t really know what to expect because this is also my first book at a bigger publisher. It’s my first time solicited in previews and being in regular comic shops and being on the shelves and stuff like that. Up until now I’ve just been super indy swinging it on my own, so I’m really curious to see how it goes. I think we’re still in a period of feeling out digital comics and I think there’s still a really big audience that is print only and an audience that’s digital only. I’ve heard lots of people say that they’re excited to read D4VE but they’re print people so they’ll get it once a trade comes out. So I’m hoping that [the print version finds an audience]. But at the same time I’m really just happy to have anyone read it, whether it be on ComiXology or the print books. I hope they buy the print books because I want them to be successful and I just quit my day job so [laughs] I would like to keep some money and hopefully it snowballs into more work. But I’m kind of not worried too much about it. More than anything, I’m grateful to have anything out. It’ll be interesting.

CurbStomp_001_Robot6_Preview_4-625x947

Art by Devaki Neogi and Neil Lalonde.

How’d you land a miniseries at BOOM Studios?

That’s a good question. I think I’m still figuring that out [laughs] but BOOM is awesome I love BOOM very much and they have been really really good to me. I guess long story short was that I met BOOM at a convention a few years ago and just started talking to them and some of their peoples. I actually started out lettering for BOOM. I do a lot of lettering still, and that for me has been a really good way to meet people in the industry, get experience and talk to editors. I don’t want to say sneak in through the backdoor because there’s no such thing, but for me lettering stuff was a way to build a relationship with editors and other creators. So yeah, that’s more or less how it happened. I started out lettering RoboCop two years ago and they were really nice to give me work and I’ve just been pitching stuff to them for awhile now and they were really stoked about Curb Stomp. Now that’s coming out, I think, two weeks after D4VE.

TBJ_04_014_preview

Art by Brian Level.

Curb Stomp seems to to be in a somewhat similar vein to Brothers James. Is that accurate?

I think in the sense that it’s not at all like D4VE or Tiger Lawyer you’re definitely on the right track. I think Brothers James is a little more of a genre book. I kind of hate using that term, but it’s really grindhousey pulpy. It knows what it is, it knows it’s in that cinematic, gritty world. I think that, if anything, Curb Stomp has a little more brightness to it. Which is really weird because Curb Stomp deals with more real social issues and there are a lot more messages in it than there were in Brothers James. And I think that Curb Stomp has a wider array of characters and different kinds of characters. That’s not at all to put down Brothers James because I love Brothers James. That was like my first passion project and I love what Brian and I have done with it; it was one of my favorite books to work on. But [Brothers James and Curb Stomp] are similar in that they’re really ultra violent but not in an offensive way, I hope. They’re more serious books and they’re more gritty. But Curb Stomp has a lot of humor and atmosphere and interesting and fun character stuff.

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Art by Toni Infante.

You mentioned the violence isn’t offensive in Curb Stomp and Brothers James. The violence in the Sons of Anarchy TV show is offensive to some people. How do you address that in the comic version? 

That’s a very good question. It’s very, very interesting writing Curb Stomp and Sons of Anarchy at the same time because in Curb Stomp there are a lot of my beliefs and a lot of real issues that we’re tackling. And not to fault Sons of Anarchy, but it knows what it is and it knows the kind of content that it has. So there are a lot of differences in how to approach Sons of Anarchy as opposed to Curb Stomp. Like, if I wrote the kind of violence in Sons of Anarchy that I write in Curb Stomp, it wouldn’t feel like Sons of Anarchy. But at the same time I think [Sons of Anarchy] is a modern book. It’s a really great show so there’s wiggle room there, but there’s a distinct difference in how to approach both of them. I’m about an issues into Sons and it’s been a really interesting experience. Although they’re both in the same wheelhouse as gang-related, violent, kind-of-thriller books they’re like apples and oranges in terms of what headspace I need to get into to write them.

Your career has been progressing at a steady clip. Have you been following any sort of game plan to get where you are now?

Oh, man. That’s a tough one. I think it’s very, very apt that you ask me this today, because I finally came to terms that I’m going to quit my day job in a few weeks. I’m at that point in my career when it’s really, really fucking terrifying. This is it and I’m either going to fail spectacularly or at best kind of keep my head above water. But I think the game plan… lettering’s helped out a lot, but it’s not something that you can rest on entirely, just hope writing gigs come out of it. Over the past six or seven years I’ve made a lot of sacrifices and just worked myself to the bone. That’s what you have to do; you have to work so much and for very little. You have to work and know that most of [what you’re working on] is not going to get published. You just have to kinda hope that you get good and nurture relationships. There are so many things that affect a career. There are so many different factors that go into getting a comic book series greenlit. I honestly don’t really know anything beyond that you just have to hustle. So that’s kinda what i’m going to keep doing. I’m not going to slow down now that I don’t have a day job. After taking the leap you just have to hustle ten times faster [laughs].

You can find Ryan Ferrier on Twitter and Tumblr. D4VE #1 just went on sale last week and Curb Stomp #1 comes out tomorrow 2/25. 

Interview: JP Ahonen on drawing bears, Sing no Evil and the Finnish comics scene

by Alex Dueben

sing_no_evil_4

 

Finnish cartoonist JP Ahonen made a splash last year with his energetic graphic novel Sing No Evil (co-written by KP Alare), about a rock band that has to struggle not only with rival musicians but a supernatural invasion of their home town. Originally published in Finland, Abrams brought out the English edition. Here he talks about making the book, sequel plans and what comics are like in his native land.

sing no evilI know you from your work in the “Flight” anthologies and I know you make weekly comics in Finland. Have you been interested in making longform comics?

When I first started doing comics, they were all longer stories. At the time I was interested in Jeff Smith’s “Bone” and so Sing No Evil felt like getting back to my roots and my own way of storytelling. I’ve never felt quite at home with doing weekly strips. I was given the opportunity to do one and I thought it would be really good practice and having the need to actually push something on a weekly basis and keep it going. It’s worked out really nicely. At first I tried doing the weekly stuff as this sort of basic one liner gag comic, but at some point I realized that I was allowed to do other stuff as well. It’s changed more into this weekly sitcom, in a way. There’s an ongoing storyline but the strips work as individual gags or scenes. When I collect the strips into a book I feel it reads a lot better. There’s more storytelling and more layers when you read them collected.

Those weekly strips of yours have a more traditional layout and in “See No Evil,” right from the beginning, you throw that out of the window.

I like to make good use of the medium. When it’s down to Earth–just people chatting or whatever–I feel the conversation should be easy to read and easy on the eye. For contrast when there’s a gig or an action scene, you’re free to go completely nuts. For me it’s something that feels natural and I hope it translates to the reader as well.

epilator

If the dialogue is the focus, you just use a grid.

The dialogue is one thing but I also want the reader to be able to focus on how the characters behave. Acting and directing and all that stuff is really important. One of my favorite scenes in the book is where Aksel sees a glimpse of Lily and his toes go like this. His body language shifts and I feel that keeping the same point of view so you can actually compare them side by side works the best, instead of spinning the camera all around, having closeups and have everything jumping around. That’s confusing and unnecessary.

Is the idea of making good use of the medium one reason you have a character like Bear, because there’s no real reason he’s an animal.

The other bands have animals as drummers as well.

True, but it’s not like there are a lot of animals in the book.

No. Bear is there firstly just for the sake of it. [laughs]

belfie

You like drawing bears?

Actually, no. [laughs] It was pretty difficult at the beginning, but I’ve gotten a lot better, I think. It also sets a baseline through the whole story that from the beginning the reader knows this is not really serious stuff and something unexpected might happen. I hope it works in that sense. Plus KP–my co-writer–and I are both guitarists and admire drummers. To us, they’re like animals. How can you use all your limbs and that choreography of knowing where everything is and keep up the tempo? There’s a symbolic value as well.

As you say, it’s a cue for when the story takes turns and becomes more fantastic, it’s not completely out of the blue.

There are other elements backing that up along the way. We were actually discussing it a lot with my Finnish editor but we all agreed that it works. On a second reading you can enjoy all the different clues and hints that you might have missed the first time. It also emphasizes the idea that the rival band’s leader notices that the pieces have been there all the time, but he hasn’t seen it. It depends, of course, on the reader whether you like it or not.

ikea2

The two of you spent a lot of time working out the structure?

Yes we’ve been really meticulous and anal about it. Especially me since, like I said, I really like to make good use of everything.

The more fantastic elements are something that wouldn’t fit in your weekly strips. If it was just a drummer and his girlfriend and the band, it could have fit there.

I missed doing action scenes, huge spreads and splash pages and really going crazy with the pacing and composition and trying out different techniques with the storytelling. Longer storylines might work in daily strips, but in the weeklies it’s difficult for the readers to keep track of what’s happening, what occurred last week and so forth. It just breaks up the pacing.

You mentioned before that you were working on a sequel. Had you always planned to do more than one book?

KP and I both felt there was more to this, so we kept some parts of the story back–but designed the first book as a standalone so it would work if only 15 people picked up the book and said, meh. [laughs] But I’m glad we get to do a sequel and hopefully other books as well.

sing_no_evil_2

How many books do you envision?

It’s either four or five books depending on how we’ll structure the material, but at this hour we have a synopsis for five books.

Do you want to say anything about the next book you’re working on?

What I can say is the band goes on tour and we venture more into Lily’s past. What we’d like to do is shed more light on each of the band members with each book. That’s why I want to keep it as five books.

There’s that scene where Lily had a very interesting response when Aksel asked her about her parents.

Yes. [laughs] That’s the direction we’re heading in.

sing_no_evil_3

Was it a challenge for you to draw the concert scenes and draw music?

I think the main challenge was making up my mind and trying to figure out which sort of approach would fit the best for each of the concert scenes. That’s what I gave a lot of thought to. The hardest part was trying to make up my mind in how to approach the concert scenes. When I had those locked down it was fairly easy–and super fun–to do the graphics and just go nuts with the layouts and energy.

Did you and KP actually write songs?

Yes. There are some lyrics that are borrowed from actual bands just to give the readers the opportunity to venture into what has inspired us and what the band’s sound might be like, but all Perkeros’s lyrics are mine.

You also translated the book from Finnish into English.

I hope it works. I got a lot of help from the Abrams staff and I think we found a way to rework all the Finnish puns. The Finnish version has a lot of wordplay with the terminology and the slang of music, brain chemistry and spells that’s been worked into the dialogue. I noticed that some of those just don’t translate. I got a lot of help and I hope we managed to get a text that is almost as rich as the original.

sing_no_evil_1

What is the Finnish market like? I know a lot of comics are published in Finnish.

Yes, it’s a small market. We’re only about six million people. There’s not the same kind of comics reading culture as in France, for example. The people who are making a living out of comics in Finland are the ones who have a daily strip which are then collected and then they have merchandize. Then there are guys like me who are somewhere in between. I hope I can continue making these so I don’t have to find other work.

It will be interesting to see what the reception is in, for example, Italy and Spain and Germany, where this has just come out. I feel like what I heard from my French publisher was that the feedback and the reviews have been good, but I think it’ll take a few more volumes to get our names out there. Let’s face it, we’re nobodies. [laughs] I understand we’re not your first choice in picking something up.

In Finland, is the model more Franco-Belgian albums or is it like Germany or Italy and places where it varies more.

It varies a lot. The majority is small press artsy stuff, I think. And then there’s a huge manga fanbase. I’m interested to see how that transposes later on and how that talent will transform into their own styles. Right now they’re copying their heroes, but some of it is mind-blowing. I’m really looking forward to that.

Who are the big artists in Finland that we should be reading?

The current best-seller is Pertti Jarla (http://fingerpori.org), who’s currently the biggest name in Finland, I guess. He works on “Fingerpori”, a daily strip that’s published almost in every newspaper of the country.

Tommi Musturi (http://boingbeing.wordpress.com) is versatile and very active in running his own publishing company Huuda Huuda (http://huudahuuda.com). He’s focused more on indie and small press stuff. There’s Ville Tietäväinen (http://linjamiehet.fi/villetietavainen/omatteoksetauthor/) whose insanely gorgeous graphic novel “Näkymättömät kädet” (Invisible Hands) tells about a Moroccan illegal immigrant that leaps over to Spain in search for work and money for his family. The story runs almost like a documentary, shedding light on the gruesome life of illegal aliens.

There are a lot of authors I expect big things from, including Tuuli Hypén, (http://www.tuulihypen.com) who’s been working on “Nanna”, a daily comic strip for years, and has now made her first children’s book. Her art is beautiful and I’m looking forward to what she has in store. Emmi Nieminen (http://mobile-emmi.tumblr.com) is super good, and her artwork is on par with all the pros I look up to. So far she’s been working on short stories, but I’m really expecting something big from her. Tea Tauriainen (http://madteaparty.sarjakuvablogit.com) is known for her trippy semi-autobiographical webcomics, which she’s collected in two volumes so far. I guess her random stories, quirky humor and crazy attitude just appeals to me.

So the comic books that are big tend to be collections of comic strips and not as many graphic novels?

It’s really a tough climate to do graphic novels. I feel that it’s also partly why there aren’t more Finnish books translated.

Yeah I’m not sure how well comic strip collections do well here, but we get almost none from abroad.

Yeah I’ve understood that there’s not a place for strips in France–and not much anymore here, either. I had to work double shifts in 2011 and take all the freelance gigs I could, just to get enough of a financial buffer–and by the time I got to “Sing No Evil” I was burned out. [laughs] It also ended up taking way more time than I had budgeted. It’s hard, but I hope that other Finnish artists get to do longer stories because I think their work is on par with the foreign market. It’s just a shame that only 800 people end up reading it.

You went to school at the University of Lapland, which is where you met KP, is that right?

Yeah, we both went to university there. I had something completely different in mind when I finished high school, though.

Is that up in the far North of the country?

You’d be surprised. It’s maybe halfway-ish. The Arctic Circle lies maybe ten kilometers from the city center. Even I was surprised when I was living there to look at the map and see, wow, the country goes on and on from here. I think it was a good thing that I ended up there instead of Helsinki. Pretty much all the other students came to that city from elsewhere as well so we ended up making a really tight bunch. We were really active in organizing events, parties, doing an anthology and so forth. It was like we were all in the same boat that floated somewhere in the tundra stuck in the ice. [laughs] I remember my first day meeting my fellow classmates and ending up in a bar together on a Monday. We hit it off. That was partly where the inspiration for my weekly comic strip came from. A lot of that was worked into that strip. It was a fun place.

 

DC Comics Month-to Month Sales: December 2014 – A Darwyn Cooke Overture

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By David Carter

Greetings, sales charts fans! It’s time once again to look at DC’s sales figures.

December was a good news/bad news month for DC. The good news is that they had the #1 comic for December (Batman) and they won the unit market share, based mostly on the fact that they pushed out a ton of product. (December was a five week month but most other publishers treated it like a four week month.) The bad news is that sales were down month-to-month across most of the DCU titles, both as a line average and on most of the individual titles as well. (The release of an issue of Sandman Overture kept the average of DC as a whole from going down.)

Looking at all of this month’s numbers after last month’s lends some credence to there having been some sort of small LEGO cover boost in November that is being corrected for in December’s numbers. Which seeing as (imho) the December Darwyn Cooke covers were much more interesting than the LEGO covers is a bit disappointing. But hey, LEGO is a known quantity to people outside of the comics club and retailers may have been banking on a few extra sales of the LEGO covers outside of their regular clientele. Or maybe I’m just imagining things in the data that aren’t really there.

Just before this column went to press, DC announced their post-Convergence plans for the DCU. (This is what I get for being so late this month!) I revised some of the entries below in light of the new information, but I’ll have much more to say about what it all means next month.

For the past couple of months I’ve been promising to talk about Vertigo.

[Read more…]

Interview: Andi Watson crafts up a monstrous three courses with Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula

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By Harper Harris

Andi Watson is a British cartoonist whose work has spanned from projects such as Dark Horse’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer to his creator owned work like Skeleton Key. In recent years, he’s moved into more youth-oriented material like Glister and Gum Girl.

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, his newest original graphic novel from First Second, centers on the title princess, and her struggles to run the monster-filled Underworld, in the wake of her layabout father doing little else than eating and complaining. After her father fires the chef, Princess Decomposia replaces him with a vampire baking whiz named Count Spatula. Their budding relationship is told within the pages of Watson’s latest offering.

I had an opportunity to sit down with Watson about the genesis of this new work, monsters, cooking, and his creative process.

What were your biggest influences on Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula? What was its genesis for you?

My biggest drive was to create an original graphic novel front to back. After a couple of decades of making comics I had never actually made a single volume that was over sixty-odd pages or hadn’t been serialised. I felt like it was a challenge I hadn’t overcome yet, and after making a lot of comics over the years, finding something fresh is always welcome. I also wanted to tell a story that combined the relationship and romance side of my work with fun genre things to draw. I’ve kind of flipped between the two, but in this book I put them together. So it was satisfying to write and a pleasure to draw.

How would you compare the process of working on Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula with your works just previous like Gum Girl or the Glister books? 

PrincessAndCount_100-29I guess they are all stories with a beginning, middle and an end. That was good training before stepping into a hundred-and-sixty page book. I find figuring out structure and pacing beforehand really helps me. With Gum Girl it was with twenty page stories and I found that discipline really useful. Being concise is a handy skill in comics, and it helped keep me on track. What set this book and Glister apart from Gum Girl was the lack of a long gestation period. I find I do my best work by knuckling down and just getting on with a story. When I’m drawing the pages and am ‘in the zone’ I don’t want any hold ups. Delays of even a few days make it harder to get back to ‘peak fitness’ so I prefer to keep my head down and keep working. That doesn’t always fit in with the publishing process but it’s how I’m best able to concentrate and maintain focus.

Compared to Gum Girl, Princess Decomposia has a bit more of stripped down artistic style (particularly being in black and white), why that choice? 

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Gum Girl interior art

Funnily enough, if you look at the Gum Girl line art, they’re quite stripped down too. That’s because it’s a colour book and I wanted to have lots of open shapes to hold the colour and little to no black. Working with colour meant spending a lot of time squinting at a computer screen and I wanted to cut that back with Princess Decomposia. I aimed to have as much of the work complete on the page as possible – including the lettering – and as it’s set in the Underworld, the black and white art is appropriate. I was also determined to work on the pace and rhythm of the pages rather than get bogged down in rendering realistic stonework. If the reader is absorbing and understanding the story without even realising it, then I’ve done a good job. The art is there to tell the story, not draw attention to itself. Having said that, the most satisfying aspect of drawing a comic is bringing a character to life, getting their body language and facial expressions right. If I do that and do it concisely, so much the better.

What was your process in writing this book? Did you have a set place you wanted to the story to end up, or did you let the characters run with the themes you determined?

Starting a new book is the hardest part of the whole process. I find it intimidating. The beginning is always made up of page after page of scribbled notes. I might have characters, but no story, or an interesting setting, but no characters. Everything has to mesh and the themes grow organically out of the material. Plot and character have to interact and shape each other. It’s a bit like pushing a very heavy bicycle up a steep hill. At a critical point I know I have enough and the story starts to come together and I can cycle down the other side of hill. I like to have a structure in place and an ending. I make sure I have room to maneuver and if new and better ideas, or a better ending occur to me, I can incorporate that into the story.

A good deal of your work centers on female protagonists, particularly in your all-ages titles, what draws your creative voice to the opposite gender so often? 

I guess it began way back when I made Skeleton Key. That was a reaction to what was on the shelves at the time: few female characters wearing fewer clothes. That’s changed quite a bit, not only are there more female characters but many more female creators. But I do enjoy drawing women and because gender stereotypes are pushed so heavily on women, I think they provide more dramatic story opportunities. Want to write a female physicist, plumber or warrior? That’s a story in itself.

Although done in an all-ages style, Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula definitely explores some grown-up problems…stress of work, delegating, the relationship with an older parent. Did you find maintaining a balance between the conflicts and the style difficult?

I think Princess Decomposia’s experience is one that kids and adults can relate to. A princess has a certain amount of privilege, but that is countered by her many responsibilities. A child understands having a parent in their life telling them what to do. An adult sees the responsibilities in their life that constrain their freedoms. The Princess is stuck between being a child and an adult and the story is about how she navigates that. I think a good story can appeal to everyone, there are different things that different age groups pick up on, stuff sitting under the surface.

You say in the back of the book that you make comics for “grown-ups and children and those somewhere in between.” What has led you down that unique path? Is it difficult to try to appeal to both children and adults?

It’s possible to make a book that appeals to both audiences, and it’d be nice to think that a parent and their child PrincessAndCount_100-30could find something to appeal to them in the same comic. It’s possible in movies and animation if you look at what Pixar have created, and I always return to Ghibli and their films as the best examples of that. As for myself, I’ve made books for kids and grown ups and enjoyed both. Breakfast After Noon was as challenging to make as Glister. They were equally fulfilling. I enjoy trying new things and although it makes career sense to find a niche and dig in, I’ve worked in different genres and looked for fresh challenges. That’s what keeps me interested in the medium, the freedom to work in different ways and tell all kinds of stories.

What were your inspirations for the designs and personalities of the characters, in particular the Princess, the Count, and the King?

The Princess arrived quite quickly in my sketchbooks. I knew I wanted iconic designs for the characters, being able to recognise them from their silhouettes. She has the distinctive bat-wing hair and puritan collar and cuffs in a nod to Wednesday Addams. The Count is a chef, so his outfit is the usual hat, jacket, necktie and checked trousers. He also has the smooth bald head and pointed ears like Nosferatu … his skin probably sparkles a bit too, like a sugar cube in sunlight. The King was tricky in that I needed him to look both old and healthy. So the shape of his face is rounded but within that he’s rather wizened. He also has the crown, so again, he’s recognisable from his outline.

Looking at your past works, you seem to have a soft spot for monsters, working on books like Buffy the Vampire SlayerHellboy, among others. Where did this love for monsters come from?

PrincessAndCount_100-31The monsters go even further back than that. There was a quilt monster, giant cat and hockey-playing Chinese hopping-vampires in Skeleton Key. The short answer is that they’re a lot of fun to come up with and a welcome change to draw. If my main characters are ‘human’ shaped then it’s a nice gear change to draw something unusual. And monsters are fun to write, even more so when they’re the protagonists, as in Princess Decomposia.

You also have done some coming of age and slice-of-life style stories…how did you decide to combine real life problems with the gothic setting of Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula?

The story and themes came naturally out of the characters. If the Princess is a dutiful daughter then I find it interesting to dig in and explore the relationships. If she has a certain kind of dynamic with her father then how will she react to Count Spatula? This spills out into the supporting characters like Clove the sous chef. If one character is overworked then Clove is the one who appears to have the balance right. It all goes into making the characters interesting and giving their actions a real-life foundation that readers can relate to.

Although a lot of the cooking in the book is fantastical in nature, did you do any research on cooking? I think what I’m really trying to ask here is…  Andi, are you fond of cooking?

I’m a lousy cook but an enthusiastic baker. Nothing super fancy, but I began when my daughter was little and we’d have fun making fairy cakes and covering the kitchen with flour. I’d recommend it as a way to get into baking, there’s no pressure, it’s enjoyable and even a slightly scorched rock cake is delicious. Time is a consideration, so I don’t have hours to spend on delicate confections, but I love making cookies, cakes, tray bakes and buns. Those recipes are hard to mess up.

What made First Second Press the best place to publish Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula? How did all of this fall into place on the publishing side?

In retrospect it was a big risk making an entire graphic novel without a publisher on board and it wasn’t until it was finished that I began to look around and get an idea of my options. Because First Second are graphic novel publishers, have a strong record with books for different age groups and have published things like Anya’s Ghost, I decided to give them a go. I thought they’d be a good fit, but publishing being the contrary beast it is, figured they’d give it a pass. I was delighted when they decided to go with it, and against expectations, things moved really quickly. I’ve really enjoyed working with the team there, it’s been a delight.

For readers of Princess Depcomposia, what are you hoping is their key takeaway from your work here?

I hope it’s a fun and entertaining read for everyone, with attractive art and a sweet story. I’d also like to think that there’s more than that under the surface for those who want to come back for seconds.

 What are your future plans after this big release?

I have a webcomic, Princess at Midnight that finishes at the end of January. It’s been years in the making, a kind of Game of Thrones for kids, about sibling rivalry in a fantasy world. I’m hoping to find a publisher for that as it’d be lovely to get it in print. I’ve also completed a graphic novel for grown ups that I hope to find a home for this year. As for new stuff, I’ve finished writing a new spooky graphic novel that I’ll start drawing soon. And if Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula finds an audience, I’d love to do more with those characters.

Review: She-Hulk Ends with a Smash, Not a Whimper

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She-Hulk #12
Writer: Charles Soule
 
Artist: Javier Pulido
 
Colorist: Muntsa Vicente
 
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
 
Cover Artist: Kevin Wada
 
Letterer: Jeanine Schaefer
 
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Last year All-New Marvel NOW! delivered a number of new series that tested the conventions of Big Two superhero comics. Ms. Marvel is the flagship example of that because of the attention it received from the media and its more-than-solid sales. She-Hulk, while not exactly under the radar, hasn’t received as much attention or attracted as big of a readership as Ms. Marvel, but is another prime example of the air of creativity Marvel has been encouraging since the success of Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye. Over twelve issues Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente and friends created an upbeat comic book series with honest emotions and real consequences that mined underused concepts and obscure continuity to terrific results.

The art from Javier and Pulido was a big highlight of the series, always brimming with energy. Pulido knows how to break the “rules” just right. His use of negative space is masterful, and the way he and letter Clayton Cowles break panel boundaries is experimental but not distracting. The artwork is perfectly complemented by bright, pop-y colors from Muntsa Vicente. The most similar art on the stands is in Daredevil from Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson, but its pages can’t match the pure sense of joy you find in She-Hulk.

I can’t read one of Soule’s books without considering his insane level of productivity. He’s a full-time lawyer and still has time for 6+ comics with his name on them to hit the shelves every month. With all that going on, I don’t understand how he found the time to do the amount of research his run on She-Hulk clearly required. Even as a lawyer himself, he clearly had to go to great lengths to get his facts straight. The mining of continuity was probably a still-bigger strain. Even the big bad, Nightwatch, is a character who only appeared in a handful of comics.

At first I found the message of She-Hulk #12 and, by extension, the message of the series as a whole, sort of trite. “Don’t cut in front of the line” didn’t feel like a powerful enough statement to end such a great series. However, folks over at Retcon-Punch published a post (which Soule himself linked to) that points out that the easy-way-out Nightwatch made a nice contrast to the hard-working Jennifer Walters. That caused me to change my tune on some level, but it didn’t completely erase my initial misgivings.

I was surprised that these twelve issues were what Charles Soule pitched, because the end felt a bit truncated. The very chatty fight went on a little too long, and the wrap-up scene needed more than two-and-a-half pages. Leaving the mystery of Angie the paralegal hanging didn’t help the feeling of abruptness. I’ll probably be reading Soule’s follow-up to that mystery wherever it appears, but since She-Hulk was billed as a self-contained book I expected to receive an answer to the question he raised within the pages of the She-Hulk itself. Sometimes leaving things lingering can be a good thing, but I didn’t feel like it was here.

That being said, I do love when writers build their own little universes within their books. I’m excited that She-Hulk will most likely pop up in one of Charles Soule’s Inhuman books based on the final pages of She-Hulk. If the rumors are true about Soule taking over Daredevil (and hopefully they are, and hopefully Pulido and Vicente are joining him) I fully expect Jennifer to make an appearance in that series as well.

She-Hulk was clearly a passion project for Charles Soule, and it showed in the end result. It’s nice to see a superhero book that embraces positivity for a change, even (especially?) when it’s not strictly about superheroics. I encourage you to look at the twelve articles Soule wrote on his blog, one for each issue of She-Hulk, to see how much he cares. Issue 12 was also the last Marvel book edited by Jeanine Schafer, who from my vantage point has done an admirable job helping to usher in a new era for corporate-owned comics. It’s nice that her position at Marvel ended on a high note.

Terry Moore Talks Rachel Rising, Sales Falling and the Rewards of Self-Publishing [Interview]

By Matt O’Keefe

Terry Moore has been writing, drawing and independently publishing comics for over twenty years, consistently to critical acclaim in an ever-changing market. I spoke with him about his most recent works Rachel Rising, which just completed its first long “act” with Issue 30, and SiP Kids, which has two issues out. I also talked with Moore about the comics industry as a whole and how his place in it continues to evolve within it. Read that and more below.
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Do you consider Rachel Rising #30 the end of the series’ initial story?
More like the end of an act. I never really thought about Rachel Rising as short story arcs. It was all kind of one long story to me. The original story was Lilith’s revenge, so [Issue 31] is a nice regrouping point.
Do you have an idea of how long it will go?
It depends on so many different things, but I do love the work.
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Do you think you could go as far as Strangers in Paradise or is that always gonna be your longest work?
I doubt I’ll ever do anything that long again. I think it’s difficult to sustain a series in today’s world. It was a different climate then.
Do you know what series you want to do after Rachel Rising?
I have a couple ideas, one pretty fleshed out, but I haven’t made a final decision. I’m kind of waiting until the moment comes. In the past, when I thought I had something ready for the next series, I chickened out when the time came because it didn’t feel fresh enough. So now I keep the ideas in my head and, when the time comes, ask myself if it feels right. I like to write for the now.
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Color by Steve Hamaker.

You’ve also been publishing SiP Kids recently. What was the impetus for that?
Two-fold. Robin, my wife, wanted me to do something all-ages, and I did, too. I come from an all-ages cartooning background so making comics like that comes naturally to me. I also wanted to revisit the Strangers in Paradise characters. I think they’re strong characters and they work nicely when you put them in different situations. It’s just a good ensemble cast that is very flexible. I wanted to get some SiP stuff back out there. This seemed like a fun way to do that without [doing] anything too heavy.
Are you still planning on publishing Strangers in Paradise novels?
Yes. The trick has been for me to manage to do that while continuing to keep a comic book deadline, and it’s been difficult for me to do anything over the last twenty years as I try to stick to a six-week schedule. I’ve noticed that most of the guys who are on steady monthly books are not the kind to be at conventions. [Drawing comics] is very time consuming work. It’s hard to sustain the effort needed for a novel [in addition to that], but that’s where my heart lies. I really want to get more out there.
San Diego Comic-Con 2013 Exclusive 20th Anniversary Color Strangers in Paradise #1 Cover Artwork by Terry Moore

Color by Steve Hamaker.

What’s it like working with Steve Hamaker on SiP Kids and the Strangers in Paradise Anniversary Edition
He’s wonderful. It’s easy to work with him, he understands [what I’m going for] and he brings so much to it. I love his textures and little touches. He goes every pencil so everything is right and it’s wonderful
Did you learn about him through Jeff Smith?
Yeah. Back in the 90s when [Jeff Smith and his wife] came to San Diego they went with Steve. That’s where I got to meet him and become friends. I’ve known him for a very long time.
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You mentioned the current climate for the comics industry. As sales go down prices naturally have to go up. Do you worry about having to charge $4 for a black-and-white issue that’s around 18 pages of comics?
Yes [laughs]. If I could charge $1.25 I would. I really would. But I can’t. Nobody can. The problem with the business of comics is you have grown men with families trying to make a living off them. That demands certain economic standards that everyone’s trying to struggle to keep up with. It’s not like it’s a business full of greedy old rich men trying to soak every penny. It’s just people with families trying to make a living. So it is what it is.
Sales going down changed everything. It put all the distributors but one out of business. It put most of the printers out of business. Paper has become super expensive. All of that business side of comics is unfriendly. It’s sort of an obstacle course that creators and publishers have to run before the book even gets to the comic book store. When it does it has this price tag on it and a struggling college kid looks at that price and has to make a choice. They really can’t walk out with ten books. They have to take closer to three. And the competition is just amazingly fierce right now. I honestly work much harder now to make the best comic I can than I ever did before because the competition’s so fierce. Being black and white and having a very strong price point I’ve got to make a good reason for somebody to invest their money. So I’m trying to make sure I’m making the book the best I can and that it has something fresh and interesting in there that they can’t find anywhere else. That’s really the only reason to keep buying a book, I guess, the hope that it is giving you something nothing else can. So I try to work on that level.
Have you ever considered transitioning to a bigger publisher like Image? I know Rachel Rising appeared in the back of an issue of The Walking Dead not too long ago.
I always loved the security of some father figure company taking me on and giving me some sort of lifetime security. That’s the fantasy of every writer, I think, but it doesn’t really exist. I’ve been with publishers in the past and it never quite turns out to be the security blanket that you want because you have to share the income and it comes down to a numbers game. I actually think one of the reasons I’m able to continue doing my books is because I stayed indy. I’m not sure if I’d have kept doing Strangers in Paradise and Echo and Rachel Rising if [I was with] another publisher that required minimum orders and things. So it’s a balancing game for me. How long can I hang out here on my own in this big ocean where big companies and their IPs fill cruise ships full of people? They’re big operations and I’m like this little one-man sailboat in the Atlantic [laughs]. So far I’ve survived. How much longer I can do it I don’t know, but it sure is nice to do something without having to check in with other people. You get to be flexible every single day about what needs to happen next. So that’s the good thing about being indy. And I get to do my own stuff so I’m still enjoying the rewards of being an indy book.
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Rachel Rising #31 is now on sale. Issue #32 and SiP Kids #3 are coming soon. You can find Terry Moore on his website, Twitter feed and Tumblr page.

Review: Real Life Lessons from Help Us! Great Warrior

By: Lindsey Morris

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Lesson #1 : Appearances can be deceiving. 

Help Us! Great Warrior is the latest effort from cartoonist Madeleine Flores, who took the strip from humble beginnings on Tumblr to the eight-issue limited series it now has with BOOM! Box. The comic found a strong following quickly when it was introduced online, so it’s no surprise that this new iteration has already seen acclaim and success. Who wouldn’t be able to relate to a lumpy warrior whose main concerns are looking cute, eating junk food, and defeating evil?

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Lesson #2 :  The sooner you beat the baddies, the sooner you can have dessert.

Flores and colorist Trillian Gunn create a landscape of pastel imperfection where monsters roam freely, sleepy time is mercilessly interrupted, and there is just never enough cake to go around. A cruel world, indeed. The titular Great Warrior is constantly called upon to help fight demons, but sometimes she just has better things to do, you know? All work and no play never worked out for anyone.

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Lesson #3 : Honesty is the best policy. 

From lamenting her lack of deodorant, to trying to pawn off heroic missions on her friends, Great Warrior is a charming goofball of a lead character. Her supporting cast of ladies, Hadiyah and Leo, bring personalities that help balance the levity of the book, offering more serious tones to the mix. Between the three of them, and Great Warrior’s new companion Buckets, they make a ragtag group of champions that will surely dominate the day in the issues to come.

Help Us! Great Warrior #1 is an excellent introduction to a great all-ages comic steeped in fantasy, snacks, and friendship.

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Mariko and Jillian Tamaki on This One Summer winning the Caldecott and Printz Honors

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By Harper Harris

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki‘s This One Summer was one of the most highly acclaimed graphic novels of 2014, popping up on a great number of top ten lists as well as winning an Ignatz Award for Best Graphic Novel. To say it was an attention grabber for the already heralded Canadian creators is an understatement.

Just last week, this tale of two childhood friends on the cusp of adolescence was awarded with the prestigious Caldecott Honor, being the first ever graphic novel to do so, along with the Printz Honor (and joins Gene Luen Yang‘s Boxers & Saints as the only other graphic novel to notch that award as well).

Mariko and Jillian were kind enough to join me for a brief Q&A regarding the recent wins and the creative process on this landmark work.

Where were you each when you learned you won the Caldecott Honor? Who called whom?

Jillian Tamaki: I was in bed.

Mariko Tamaki: I think we eventually texted each other about it.

Is there a sense of accomplishment or “I’ve made it” for winning such a prestigious award? Jillian, how does it compare to your Eisner nominations or the Ignatz award that This One Summer also received?

JT: The feeling is one of gratitude. I’ll never felt like “I’ve made it!” until I’m like a hunched-over old person still making things.

Is it more gratifying to get recognition outside of the world of comics, which you’ve done multiple times at this point?

JT: Both are gratifying. Honours granted by librarians are special to me because it represents a knowledgeable, discerning audience that actually works with young people. Honours granted by comics people are special because it means perhaps I am creating something of value within the medium.

Were you relieved that you both got nominated for this award, rather than one or the other as in some past awards?

MT: When one of us gets nominated, I generally see it as a misconception of how graphic novels work.  So, yes.

Do awards matter to you? I hope that’s not a weirdly loaded question.

JT: Um, they are nice, yes. Especially when there is money attached, because comics are not lucrative. But I try to not let outside validation determine the micro and macro decisions I make as a creative person.

MT: I guess awards help sales.  There are many awesome comics and books out there that have not been nominated, so we’re in good company either way.

This One Summer ended up on many top ten lists for 2014…how does it feel to have one of the most critically acclaimed OGNs of the year among fans? Is it rewarding to see that fans of more mainstream comics are picking up and really enjoying works like yours?

JT: Of course!

As cousins, were you making comics as kids together? When did you decide to pursue sequential art collaboratively?

MT: We lived in distant cities as kids, so there was little comics making.  It wasn’t until we made our first mini comic of Skim back in…2006 (?) that we started working together.

How long has this idea been gestating, and how long did it take to actually script and illustrate This One Summer?

JT: It took probably 3 years in total. It took a year of solid work to do the final artwork.
MT: Roughly 6 months to script.  Plus changes.

What was your working process on This One Summer? Especially since I understand you don’t live near each other? Was there an initial script first and then an art stage, or was it done in a more section by section basis?

JT: We Skyped a lot. Mariko scripts the dialogue with occasional actions. I do a sketch version. We edit it together, a lot. Then I do the final art.

Where were your individual high and low points in the creative process of this book? Were there any parts that drove you crazy or were difficult to pull off?

JT: The most difficult part was the editing of the sketch phase. As it is with any book, I’m sure.

When I started reading This One Summer, I almost thought it was autobiographical…do either of your personal experiences play a role in the story? Were any of the designs of the characters based on real people?

MT: Nope.  There is an actual cottage area that inspired TOS, up in Georgian Bay, Ontario, which I highly recommend people visit.

What is it about the adolescent stage of life that attracts you?

MT: I think most people spend their whole lives trying to figure out how and what to be.  As I understand it, it’s not something that stops with adulthood.  I think adolescence is interesting because it’s the start of this process.  Everything is just that much more on the surface that it is when you’re an adult.

I love how you use Rose and Windy watching horror movies as a kind of metaphor for seeing the world in a more adult way…are you big classic horror movie fans, or how did that aspect of the story develop?

JT: No, I am a chicken. It was easy for me to draw the freaked-out kids.

Your capturing of the pre-teen voice and body language is wonderful…where do you pull that from? Is it based on your memories, or did you embark on any research?

JT: I am fascinated by the storytelling potential of bodies. We are very attuned to what they are communicating and I like to stretch that to effect. Sometimes I get very hung up on tiny details that I’m sure no one will see, but I think it adds up to an overall sensitivity.

MT: I am a chronic eavesdropper.  Although the other day on the subway I was pretty sure some kid called me out for doing it so, I’m going to have to learn to be a little less gleeful listening to teenagers talk.

Rose’s family is fraying apart for much of the book. Why was it important to highlight the onset of familial strife, particularly seen from the eyes of a younger character?

MT: Who doesn’t have a little familial strife in their lives these days?  It would seem kind of weird to me not to include it, whether writing about kids or adults.

This One Summer is considered to be all-ages, but there are different elements that clearly resonate with adults, which sort of mirrors how Rose is beginning to see the world as well. Who do you feel is the intended audience for the book? Or do you feel like This One Summer is fairly wide-ranging in its appeal?

JT: I only think of a few ideal readers when I work on the book. Some of those readers are real people, some are imagined. They’re usually not young kids. Some are teenagers. Most are my age.

MT: I think a books audience is self selecting.  I don’t see a 10 year old reading this book cover to cover.  Beyond that I think the idea is to write about not for.

What made First Second your choice of publisher, and why return to them after Skim, specifically?

JT: Groundwood, which published SKIM, put out TOS in Canada, and they have done a wonderful job. First Second made sense in that they had very strong ties to the American library system, in addition to the Macmillan network. But I think it has been excellent having both publishers, as Groundwood can prioritize the Canadian industry. After all, we are Canadian authors and the content is largely Canadian.

How are your next individual projects coming along? Mariko, I understand you’re working on a new YA novel, and Jillian it sounds like you’ve got some more “irons in the fire” in addition to your work on Adventure Time.

JT: My webcomic “SuperMutant Magic Academy” comes out in book form in April from D&Q. Also in April, Youth in Decline is publishing a short story of mine called SexCoven. It will be part of their “Frontier” series.

MT: My next prose YA book, Saving Montgomery Sole, will be released by Roaring Brook/Penguin Canada in Winter 2016.

This One Summer is available through First Second and on sale at your local book retailer

Review: Divinity #1 adds meta-textual richness to the Valiant Universe

Divinity-A

By Harper Harris

Valiant Entertainment has been gradually earning a loyal fanbase since their return in 2012, but in the last several months their line has skyrocketed to the top of the list of publishers to watch. This is largely due to the inclusion of some fantastic talents that have joined up in the Valiant Next initiative, including Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Jen Van MeterPaolo Rivera, and more. Kindt in particular has really carved out his own section in the Valiant Universe, writing The ValiantUnityRai, and now, with Trevor Hairsine on pencils, Divinity, an original book that brings a new character to this fast-growing superhero universe.

The basic concept is pretty interesting: a Soviet cosmonaut is sent on a 30-year mission during the Cold War to the farthest reaches of our galaxy, only to mysteriously return in modern day with god-like powers. This allows for some potentially violent politicking between the communist god and the American military (and perhaps some of Valiant’s other heroes), not to mention the obvious culture clash inherent in the man returning to earth after several decades archetype. However intriguing this all might be, it isn’t wholly unfamiliar; what really makes this issue stand out, though, is the careful and complex style in which it is written.

Kindt takes the approach of utilizing a great metaphor to both describe and tell the story: the idea that time is like a book, with pages that can be flipped between at will. There are obvious ties to the famous Watchmaker chapter of Watchmen, but it is used quite well in its own right here. It allows the narration to skip around, introducing both Abram Adams (the cosmonaut/god) and David Camp, who might be our POV in the modern era. This overarching metaphor works brilliantly as a storytelling device and adds meta-textual richness to the actual comic book readers will hold in their hands.

It’s worth noting, too, that while the issue primarily lays the foundation of the story rather than focusing on its characters, the pieces that build up Abram Adams are unique and allow for some subtlety that could really pay off down the line. I particularly like the fact that Adams is a person of color in an otherwise Caucasian group of scientists, students, and soldiers in Soviet Russia. This is obviously a conscious choice, especially interesting as we see the contrast between the racial riots in America on TV while Adams’ comrades recommend him for the most important mission in their country’s history without a second thought as to his race.

The art by Hairsine, who has pencilled many issues of a variety of Valiant books, is mostly serviceable, but shines in small bursts. The talking heads pages where we see a bit of Adams’ education are nothing special, but the more action packed segments–those with rockets taking off and of a wince-worthy rock climbing accident–pack a surprising gut punch. As we get a glimpse of the oddly beautiful powers of Adams returned to Earth at the end of the issue, I’ll be interested to see how Kindt and Hairsine design future uses of this god’s unique and terrible power set.

Divinity doesn’t pack the excitement of The Valiant, but what it lacks in epic superheroics it makes up for with fantastic writing. It’s hard to tell whether the distinct style will continue with the book or whether it was just a great way to introduce the story, but either way Divinity is one to watch in an increasingly exciting line from Valiant Entertainment.

Templesmith Does Lovecraft

by Pamela Auditore

Anyone familiar with Spike TV Scream Award Winner and New York Times Bestselling Artist/Writer Ben Templesmith’s work knows he is profoundly influenced by HP Lovecraft. Even a cursorary glance at his art makes this apparent. Lovecraft’s influence is most directly on display in Templesmith’s most recent graphic novel Squidder.  A tale of a one time warrior doing battle and eluding the common place acolytes who’ve accepted the Dark Cephlopod Gods as their own.

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But now, the marriage is official!

Templesmith will be tackling Lovecraft himself, the horror master who has influenced creators for nearly a century, including Mike Mignola, Nic Pizzolatto (“True Detective”) and GRR Martin.

In an e-mail yesterday, Templesmith, announced he is temporarily forgoing a sequel to Squidder, for an adaption of HP Lovecraft’s “DAGON.” “A proto-Chuthullu story,” as the Kickstarter page calls it.

Dagon

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As Templesmith tells it:

“‘DAGON’ is the first Lovecraft story I ever read… and is just oozing in mood and fear [sic]…so I figured I’d turn the visuals it gives me in to a deluxe graphic novella. I finally get to handle some of the unspeakable horrors of Lovecraft, especially because it’s the 125th anniversary of his birth.”

Templesmith also says he will be working on Fell, and is in talks with Warren Ellis for more issues of Wormwood.

Chris Lewis Blends the Entertainment Industry with the War on Terror in IDW’s ‘Drones’ [Interview]

By Matt O’Keefe

Featured image art by Ramon Villalobos.

The second in a line of miniseries from the Comics Experience-IDW Publishing alliance (read more about that here), Drones by Chris Lewis, Bruno Oliveira, Anderson Cabral and E.T. Dollman is one of the most bizarre and buzz-worthy comics I’ve read in a long time. A story of two Predator drone operators visiting a terrorism-themed hotel in Las Vegas, the book seems designed to set you off-kilter as it compares the war on terror to the equally horrific entertainment industry. I spoke with writer Chris Lewis to wrap my head around the weird and wonderful comic I just read and learn a little about how it came to be published by new imprint Comics Experience and distributed via IDW.

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Art by Bruno Oliveira and Anderson Cabral.

What inspired you to write a story that melded terrorism with entertainment?

I actually don’t think I’ve melded anything that isn’t already unified. Terrorism is without a doubt the biggest form of entertainment in the world today. Wherever you look, whatever glowing screen you have in front of you, I can almost guarantee that one of the top stories is about terrorism. It’s on TV, on the Internet, on our minds. And we’re fascinated by it. Terrorism and entertainment are the peanut butter and jelly of our time. Drones is my attempt to explore this absurdity. Only when we realize how much we are consuming can we choose to change our diet. As for the story, the idea came from analyzing my own interests. I am fascinated by politics, war and Waiting For Guffman, and this was the book that allowed me to synthesize all three.

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Art by Bruno Oliveira and Anderson Cabral.

Were you concerned about the marketability of a story about a “terrorist theme park” when first developing Drones

Yes, but since my somewhat questionable definition of marketability is “everybody is dying to read the same kind of stuff I’m into” I figured it would be a sure hit!

Were you worried that the content would be deemed controversial, or did you feel protected under its satirical intent?

The only thing I was worried about was that the book would be passé by the time it came out. The fact that nobody has yet built a terrorism-themed hotel just boggles the mind. It’s a cash cow whose udders are full to bursting. Somebody needs to milk that liquid gold. Or maybe something similar does already exist, but its guests prefer the thrill of acting out their waterboarding fantasies away from prying eyes.

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Art by Bruno Oliveira and Anderson Cabral.

Drones is bizarre, in the best way. Everything about Drones, from the premise to the script to the art to even the lettering, gives off a sense of unease. What were you trying to accomplish by making the reading experience so surreal?

Las Vegas is stranger than fiction. So is the fact that these pilots are bombing people halfway around the world from the safety of air-conditioned trailers just outside the city. When you think about it, of course the U.S. military would choose to fly these missions from Vegas. The setting is perfect for both a job and a story that force you to suspend disbelief. Once you accept these things, it follows that the story is going to be a wee bit weird. And of course that old maxim: What happens in a terrorism-themed hotel in Vegas, stays in a terrorism-themed hotel in Vegas

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Art by Bruno Oliveira and Anderson Cabral.

You self-published three of the five issues and Kickstarted a trade before Drones was picked up by IDW. How was that experience valuable?

Because now I know how soul-crushingly expensive it is? Trying to self-publish single issues of a miniseries wasn’t a good strategy for me. For that to succeed you’ve got to have huge print runs and hit up a ton of conventions. I hauled those three issues around to one or two conventions, and people were naturally most interested in the first one. At that point I’m just thinking, “okay, maybe I can sell that person issue two next year…at cost.” The most valuable thing about that experience was getting in the scene, meeting artists and fellow writers, getting feedback from fans, learning what works and what doesn’t. The Kickstarter allowed me to do a relatively small print run of the trade. As opposed to the single issues, I now had with the trade a finished product available for readers, as well as something to show to potential collaborators and editors I hoped to work with.

You developed a small but loyal audience for Drones and then got it picked up by a major publisher. Do you think that’s an effective way to break in? Would you do it the same way again?

Well, even with this fantastic opportunity I’ve been given, I don’t think I’ve broken in to the industry quite yet. Maybe my tapping on the window got a little louder, though. Fellow Comics Experience member Jeremy Melloul just wrote a really interesting blog post about breaking in vs. building a career. In it, he talks about the necessity for creators to cultivate readership and build up a network of other professionals. With Drones, I’ve definitely taken a step in that direction, and would advise other aspiring creators to do just that – create.

drone operators

Art by Bruno Oliveira and Anderson Cabral.

When did Comics Experience and IDW approach you about publishing Drones? What role have they played in its development?

I’ve been a member of Comics Experience since 2010. Every issue of Drones has run the gauntlet of peer critique on the CE Creators Workshop. Jim Zub is one of the many professional writers who has popped in to offer advice, and he was kind enough to eviscerate an early draft of issue #1, saving me a lot of humiliation. I can truthfully and without exaggeration say that without Comics Experience there would be no Drones.

Andy Schmidt, former editor at Marvel and current president of CE, approached me in April 2014 to discuss the possibility of publishing Drones through his new partnership with IDW. I said yes right away. He forced me to think on it for a day, but I didn’t change my mind.

With previews coming up, are you concerned that the more conservative general comic book market will have trouble wrapping their heads around the material?

I’m going to drop a Si Spurrier blurb, in which he says “Drones is one of those books where – if you can just surrender yourself to the insanity and go with the flow – it all comes together very rewardingly.” The book has drone warfare, cross-dressing assassins, sexy surveillance, pancakes, and explosive goat fu action. What’s not to get?

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Art by Carlos Trigo and Andrew Crossley.

You’re currently Kickstarting your next book, MIXMANCER. It’s about a superhero DJ, which is unique but not as out of left field as Drones. Did you want your next project to be a little easier to digest or was that just the next thing you were anxious to write?

Yeah, I wanted to do something short and easy after wrapping up Drones. Funnily enough, however, Mixmancer turned out to be one of the most difficult single issues I have ever written. The structure (or main “track”) of the book is based on one of the most famous comics of all time. Then I started to drop in snippets of some of my biggest influences, so you’ll find bits of The Brady Bunch, Kool Keith, Beach Boys, and Vonnegut sprinkled throughout. My goal was to create the world’s first mashup comic, something like The Grey Album, just with, you know, pop-culture avatars and femur-wielding monkeys. And not nearly as famous.

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Art by Bruno Oliveira.

Drones #1 is now available in Previews with the order code FEB150450 and FEB150451 for the subscription cover. If you like surreal creator-owned, please share this to your local retailer. You can find Chris Lewis on Twitter @relicswish.

Interview: Jeff Lemire on the Stellar Future of Descender [Exclusive Art]

By: Lindsey Morris 

 

2015 is already a banner year for the creators of Descender, which has seen smashing success weeks before the release of its first issue. With the film rights recently acquired by Sony Pictures and amazing groundswell from the gorgeous preview pages, Descender is poised as an early contender for the best comic of the year.

Writer Jeff Lemire was kind enough to speak with Comics Beat about the incredible universe he has been crafting with co-creator and artist Dustin Nguyen in their new monthly ongoing series.


Comics Beat: Let’s start with a summary of Descender. What can readers expect from the series?

Jeff Lemire: So Descender is a science fiction comic in an ongoing series that I’m writing, and Dustin Nguyen is drawing and painting. The story sort of focuses on a young boy robot named Tim-21 who becomes, for various reasons, the most hunted robot in a universe where all robots, androids, and AI have been outlawed, hunted, and destroyed. There is something special about Tim and the secrets surrounding his origin that make him the most sought after robot in the universe.

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Jeff Lemire #1 Variant

CB: Tell me about the process for creating this story. You’re blending themes that you’ve worked with before in Sweet Tooth and Trillium like time, space, and being ostracized and hunted. Did this narrative come naturally to you?

JL: It certainly is an exploration of stuff that I’ve touched on in the past, but in a lot of ways … Like in Sweet Tooth, there’s the idea of the complete innocent, lost in a world full of fear and hatred and violence. Seeing it through his eyes is always something that has fascinated me and continues to.

I think as a parent myself, I kind of look at the world that my son will grow up in, and the fear and ignorance in everything going on – and it’s a scary place. I start to worry about what will happen when I can’t protect him from that anymore, so that’s always something that’s very much on my mind, and definitely something that went into Sweet Tooth, and again into Descender.

I think Descender has maybe something a bit new for me, in terms of exploring our relationship with technology. And again, I think that goes back to my son. He’s six now and I look at his relationship with technology compared to how it was for me when I was six. I’m 40 now, so you know, when I was a kid we didn’t even have computers in our houses or anything and here he is swiping an iPad when he’s five. It’s such a bizarre leap in technology and just the way he relates to technology. So that’s something that was on my mind as well. You look at Tim, and he epitomizes that, because he IS technology. He’s the ultimate interface between mankind and technology – he’s a robot so advanced that, in a lot of ways, he’s the most human character in the book.

So that was all swimming around in my head when I was developing the story, for sure.

CB: It’s funny you should say that, because when I was reading the first issue, I actually forgot for awhile that Tim was a robot.

JL: Yeah, I kind of wanted that. When I was first writing, I almost wrote it so that the first half of the book you think he’s just a normal boy, until he kind of reveals himself. And the way Dustin watercolors the book – the humanity he puts into the faces of the children and in general – I knew, hopefully, that Tim would be a very relatable character.

CB: Well Dustin is doing an amazing job, those pages are breath-taking.

JL: Yeah, it’s crazy he can do that on a monthly schedule. He’s a machine. Dustin was exclusive at DC for I think 14 years, and I think he was underused there. They sort of took him for granted just because he was so reliable. He’s one of those rare guys that can do the monthly deadline without much of a problem. So when they had something they needed to get done, they went to him, and as a result he didn’t get much opportunity to spread his wings. I’d see his sketchbooks and stuff at conventions, and I saw the drawings and paintings he’d do, and I knew that if he had a chance to do creator-owned, he’d really catch some people by surprise. He’s really embraced the opportunity on this book for sure. I’m pretty lucky to be working with him.

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A Nguyen sketch for Tim-21

CB: So how did you two end up on this project together?

JL: Well I was at DC as well for what, five years? So Dustin and I just got to know each other through circumstance of being at events together or whatever. I think we both really admired each others work and always talked about wanting to do something together. And then I knew his exclusive was finally coming up and mine was as well, and I was looking to do more creator-owned stuff so it just seemed like a great time for us to try something, and he was really into the idea. So it was just a combination of good timing, and us both being at a point in our careers where we were both anxious to do more creator-owned stuff.

It’s a very effortless collaboration to be sure, and he’s an easy-going guy, so it’s very easy. I’m very hands-off with him, and he’s the same with me, because we really like each others work and just let each other do our thing. It’s very relaxed – there’s very little communication outside of “Oh, this looks cool, thanks!”

CB: Well that was actually my next question, because it seems like you maybe don’t give him too much direction, and just let him go nuts. All that freedom could be a little overwhelming to some, but you both seem to be taking it in incredible stride.

JL: Yeah, I know his work, so I knew that we both come at visual story-telling from a similar place. I knew just inherently that he would tell a story just as good or better than I could if I was doing layouts or whatever, so I didn’t feel the need to control that element. I just let him do his thing and it’s been awesome working with him.

Comics Beat exclusive look at the Ray Fawkes variant cover.

Exclusive look at the Ray Fawkes #1 variant cover.

CB: Did you have the watercolor medium in mind already when crafting the story?

JL: No, I think I had a one-page sort of pitch of Descender that I showed him, and it was pretty undeveloped at that time, just the basic idea. The idea of him doing it in watercolor wasn’t part of it then, but as soon as he said he wanted to do that I got really excited about the possibilities.

Another thing Dustin does really well is he has a background in design. So when you’re building these cultures, worlds, technologies, architectures, and everything else, he can actually design that stuff. He has the robots figured out on a 3-dimensional level where he can actually take them apart and put them back together. So when you have that degree of design sensibility in the pages, but then executed it in watercolor, which is a very organic looking medium, it creates a very interesting visual tension on the page.

Sci-fi can be very cold and sterile, depending on the artist, so the use of watercolor gives it a certain sense of life, an organic look that I really like.

CB: So how long was the first issue in the making? It’s almost flawless, so a lot of careful work must have gone into creating this introduction.

JL: Just by the nature of the story there was a lot of ground work to be done before I could start writing scripts. The story itself revolves around a central mystery involving Tim, and these giant robots that appear in issue one – what they could be and what they might mean. So there was a lot of things I had to make sure I had figured out, and I had to know where I was going.

On top of that, just the world building. There’s I think 12 or 13 different planets at this point that we’ll be visiting throughout the story, and I wanted each one to feel like a real place. So you have to put a lot of work into designing and figuring out the technologies and cultures of these worlds, just to give them a different look and feel from one another. There was a few months of hardcore world-building and plotting before I wrote scripts. It’s been awhile – at least 8 months before I wrote any scripts.

CB: The first issue of Descender is already incredible cinematic. Was that on your mind while creating this universe?

JL: Oh, for sure. When Dustin and I started talking about Descender and conceiving it, our influences were a lot more cinematic than comic. Just by its nature the sci-fi we really loved tended to be films or television shows, and not so much comics. 2001: A Space Odyssey is my favorite movie, so a lot of Kubrick’s pacing and the way he frames shots were really in my mind, and Dustin’s as well. Dustin brings his own set of influences, but I really feel like the pacing on this is a lot more cinematic than other work that I’ve done.

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CB: So Sony Pictures recently acquired the film rights to Descender. And super quickly!

JL: Haha, yeah it all happened very quick. I’ve had other properties or stuff I’ve created… there’s always talk of stuff happening, options and stuff, but it takes forever for anything to actually get done, or it falls through. But this one, for whatever reason, as soon as we announced the book at San Diego last year with Dustin’s promo image, there was just a ton of interest from Hollywood right away. I guess it just sparked something, and basically as soon as we had the first issue ready we started getting offers. It was a bit of a whirlwind.

At the end of the day it’s very exciting and everything, but Dustin and I mostly just care about telling the comic. I kind of write for him. I write stuff that hopefully he’ll think is really gonna be fun to draw, and when he reads the scripts and reacts, that’s sort of the satisfaction I have. That and seeing the art come in. If the movie stuff keeps happening and turns out to be good, that’s awesome, but again, I’m really focused on the comic. That’s what I control and that’s what I can get excited about.

CB: Is there anything else you can tell us about what we have to look forward to in the wake of Descender #1?

JL: Yeah, well every issue is going to be painted, which is fun. The cast is a little bigger than the first issue would have you believe. Tim-21, it’s his story, but there are a lot of other characters that bring different points of view to this universe that I’m excited to explore. Issue #2 kind of focuses a bit more on Tim’s past. We see how he came to the colony, and his first interactions with humanity and how they made him who he is. We learn that he’s very adaptable. You know, he’s a machine created in a laboratory, and he was sent to this colony and you kind of see how his first interactions with humankind evolved him into this character that you see in #1.

The final call for pre-orders is Monday, 2/9/15, so be sure to use Diamond Order Code JAN150567 to reserve your copy!

Descender #1 hits the shelves 3/4/15 from Image Comics.

Sales Charts: The Best selling graphic novels on Amazon in 2014

hyperbole_and_a_half

By David Carter

[David Carter is the author of our monthly DC sales charts but he also hosts his own site, Yet Another Comics Blog, where he catalogs Amazon’s graphic novel sales each week. Although these are a rolling average, They do provide some clues to what were the best selling books of the year. Take it away, David!]

Here are the top 50 comics from the YACB weekly Amazon Top 50 posts of 2014:

  1. Hyperbole and a Half (paperback)
  2. The Walking Dead Compendium Volume 1
  3. The Walking Dead Compendium Volume 2
  4. Saga Volume 1
  5. Saga Volume 3
  6. Darth Vader and Son
  7. Batman: The Killing Joke, Deluxe Edition
  8. Vader’s Little Princess
  9. The Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War, Part 1
  10. The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War, Part 2
  11. Can’t We Walk About Something More Pleasant?
  12. Saga Volume 2
  13. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
  14. Hyperbole and a Half (Kindle)
  15. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  16. How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You
  17. Watchmen
  18. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History
  19. Star Wars: Jedi Academy vol. 2: Return of the Padawan
  20. The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel
  21. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances
  22. The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War
  23. The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (paperback)
  24. Goodnight Darth Vader
  25. Marvel Encyclopedia
  26. Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls (The New 52)
  27. The Sword Sword: The Graphic Novel
  28. Batman: Year One
  29. Attack on Titan 1
  30. Star Wars: Jedi Academy
  31. The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning
  32. Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)
  33. Seconds: A Graphic Novel
  34. Saga Volume 4
  35. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
  36. Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family (The New 52)
  37. The Walking Dead Book 10
  38. The Complete Persepolis
  39. Sex Criminals Volume 1
  40. The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After
  41. Attack on Titan 2
  42. V for Vendetta
  43. Understanding Comics
  44. Batman: Death of the Family Book and Joker Mask Set
  45. Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year – Secret City (The New 52)
  46. Dilbert 2015 Day-to-Day Calendar
  47. American Born Chinese
  48. The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye (Kindle)
  49. The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye
  50. The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear

Methodology: I took my weekly (compiled on Fridays over at Yet Another Comics Blog) lists of Amazon Top 50 Comics & Graphic Novels, and for each week assigned a comic a numerical score equal to 51 minus its ranking; e.g. the #1 book got 50 points, the #2 book got 49 points, the #3 book got 48 points, etc., all the way down to the #50 book getting 1 point. I poured everything into a spreadsheet, and voila. You can download a spreadsheet with all of the data here.

Commentary:

  • As has happened for every year but one since I’ve started tracking these Amazon charts, the book that was #1 during the first week of the year ends up being the #1 item for the entire year. In this case it is Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half. (Note that’s just for the paperback edition; the Kindle edition came in at #14 for the year.) And that’s after having placed #9 in 2013. Hyperbole and a Half is a massive mainstream hit.
  • The Walking Dead places four collections in the Top Ten. The two Compendia, placing #2 & #3 in 2014, were #1 & #2 back in 2013. Again, a massive sales success, which is something that can be achieved when the TV show based on the comic is a top drama on television.
  • Without the benefit of any media tie-ins, two Saga collections take up the #4 & #5 spots for the year. Another collection comes in at #12, and Volume 4, not released until near the end of the year, charts at #34. Another mainstream sales success, all the more remarkable for there not being a movie or television show, just comics that people want to read because they’ve heard they’re good comics.
  • In all, 357 different items made the Amazon Top 50 chart for one or more weeks. Of those, six were on the chart for all 52 weeks in 2014: Hyperbole and a Half, The Walking Dead Compendia 1 & 2, Saga vols. 1 & 3, and Batman: The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition. Another five were on the chart for all but one of those weeks.
  • A whopping 227 items only showed up on the chart for just one week, including four items who spent their only week in the #1 position (all four were sale-priced Kindle editions).
  • DC’s presence on the 2014 top 50 is basically Batman titles, plus two Alan Moore works: Watchmen & V for Vendetta. Their top seller, Batman: The Killing Joke, is the perfect storm of a Batman comic written by Alan Moore.
  • Marvel doesn’t place any items in the 2014 Top 50 (note that the Marvel Encyclopedia is put out by DK, not Marvel). Their top book is the Kindle edition of Marvel 1602 (on sale price for several weeks in April & May) at #54, followed closely by the first Ms. Marvel collection at #56. Ms. Marvel didn’t come out until late in the year, and early indications in 2015 are that it will be a strong seller, perhaps finally giving Marvel a strong mainstream success in the book market.
  • The best-selling Manga title for 2014 was Attack on Titan, with two volumes ending the year in the top 50.

Publisher Count for the Top 50:

Image Comics: 16
DC Comics: 10
Andrews McMeel: 4
Touchstone Books: 2
Chronicle Books: 3
Pantheon: 3
Jet City Comics: 2
Kodansha: 2
Scholastic: 2
Ballantine: 1
Bloomsbury: 1
DK: 1
Mariner Books: 1
Square Fish: 1
William Morrow: 1

A few notes on the validity of all this: There’s very little. Amazon doesn’t release actual sales data, so we’re stuck with their relative sales rankings. I’ve written a somewhat lengthy missive on the gathering of the data and its meaning (or lack thereof) over at my regular blog here. But in short, this annual compilation is an abstraction of an abstraction of a surrogate for sales and should be taken with a sizable grain of salt.

Bonus to The Beat! Here are the next 50 items in the 2014 annual accounting:

  1. The Harlem Hellfighters
  2. The Walking Dead Book 1
  3. Attack on Titan 3
  4. Marvel 1602 (Kindle)
  5. NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette
  6. Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal
  7. Civil War
  8. Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Trouble Began
  9. How About Never–Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons
  10. Big Nate: I Smell a Pop Quiz (Kindle)
  11. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  12. Dilbert 2014 Day-to-Day Calendar
  13. Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 1: Legacy (Kindle)
  14. Locke & Key: Alpha and Omega
  15. Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 1
  16. xkcd: volume 0
  17. Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Col. Vol 1
  18. The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel (Kindle)
  19. The Walking Dead Book 9
  20. Serenity: Leaves on the Wind
  21. Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year – Dark City (The New 52)
  22. Infinity Gauntlet
  23. Attack on Titan 12
  24. Stephen King’s N. (Kindle)
  25. Godzilla: Awakening
  26. The Walking Dead Vol. 20: All Out War, Part 1 (Kindle)
  27. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers
  28. The Essential Calvin and Hobbes
  29. The Ultimate Minecraft Comic Book Vol. 1: The Curse of Herobrine
  30. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Kindle)
  31. Forever Evil (The New 52)
  32. Amazing Spider-Man: Spider-Verse
  33. X-Men: Days of Future Past (Kindle)
  34. Snoopy: Cowabunga! (Kindle)
  35. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift Part 1
  36. The Forgotten Man Graphic Edition
  37. The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
  38. Maxine Boxed Calendar (2015)
  39. Injustice Year Two #3 (Kindle)
  40. Attack on Titan 13
  41. Snowpiercer Vol. 1: The Escape
  42. Attack on Titan 14
  43. The Complete Far Side (paperback)
  44. Attack on Titan 11
  45. My Dog, the Paradox
  46. Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery
  47. The Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us (Kindle)
  48. Injustice Year Two #2 (Kindle)
  49. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift Part 3
  50. Injustice Year Two #4 (Kindle)

(A version of this article previously appeared on Yet Another Comics Blog.)

Review: Cluster #1 War is Hell on Celebrities

By Davey Nieves

CLUSTER #1

BOOM_Cluster_001_A_Main

 

Story: Ed Brisson

Art: Damian Couceiro

Color: Michael Garland

Publisher: Boom! Studios

 

 

 

Given the rash of criminal activity celebrities get away with dominating headlines today, Cluster feels like a timely commentary on current events. Ed Brisson’s story follows the semi-celebrity daughter of a politician, Samara Simmons. We pick up Samara’s story in the middle of her hitting rock bottom as she’s arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence after the accident she causes kills someone close to her. While someone like her in the real world might get away with simple community service; in Brisson’s dystopian future any crime that involves weapons or the death of another person is an automatic life sentence in prison. In a world where laws are absolute, appeals take the form of a 15 year military service suicide mission.

Prisoners who sign up for the program are taken to Midlothian, a habitable planet the government has gone to war over against an alien race known as the Pagurani. Just when the circumstances couldn’t get any bleaker, prisoners are equipped with a “punch” in their chest. When sent on missions, the device must be checked into the prison within 24hrs or the prisoner will excruciatingly die from internal organ liquification. By the end of the first issue all hell breaks loos on Samara’s first mission and she along with a group of prisoners find themselves in a race against time to keep their insides from turning to strawberry Quik.

The opening chapter of Cluster is a bit predictable but solid all around. Brisson lays a lot of exposition down in these pages but manages to keep it from crossing into boredom. We still don’t see the reasons to root for Samara, but the premise is interesting enough to warrant a return for issue two. Hopefully as the series goes on and the supporting cast become more fleshed out Samara’s redemption story will add more layers to the character.

Damian Couceiro’s art continues to evolve from his previous work on Full Moon Fever and Murder Book. His sequentials are on point and the hard boiled action scenes are superb. Where his work could be ramped up is in the character designs themselves. A story like Cluster is a world that’s being designed and an artist should take big chances when illustrating on that type of scale, which is an issue for the creative marriage of writer and artist to tackle.

Cluster is an intriguing premise that strives to combine the hopelessness of a prison movie with the action drama of survival story. Issue one doesn’t execute to it’s full potential but succeeds enough to see if they can work out the kinks in the next chapter.