A stroll down memory lane: Dan DiDio’s personal history of The Crisis Era

Say what you will about Dan DiDio: in his time as DC’s first executive editor then co-publisher, he’s remade a lot of what made the company tick, starting with Identity Crisis, the controversial but best selling mini series that kicked off what we at Stately beat Manor call The Crisis Era. (Infinite Crisis and the misleadingly named Final Crisis would follow). As DC’s spring move to the west coast closes the cover on more than 75 years of comics history, DiDio is revisiting his own 13 years at DC on his FB page, as so many do as the new year starts and the cold wind howls outside…so step inside with us for some cocoa and Dan DiDio’s fireside chat:

Part one:

LinkedIn (which I rarely use), has just informed me that I am celebrating my 13th anniversary at DC Comics, which, honestly, completely slipped my mind. And on a cold day like today, where I’m trapped in the house reorganizing and cleaning, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic over my time spent with this great company. But I also remember what a challenge the first year was and how I almost didn’t make it to year two. So, this weekend, I will ask your indulgence, as I come across things that have me reminiscing about the last 13 years, I will probably recant stories about them.

In that first year, my first official act as a DC employee was to cancel the Superboy series I was currently writing with my good friend, Jimmy Palmiotti. Sales were soft and felt the need to lead by example (a tact I unfortunately had to repeat with the New 52 and OMAC). Also had my first talent encounter (Keith Giffen jamming his head in my doorway and telling me to run as fast as I can), my first professional fanboy moment (standing in Bob Schreck’s office as Frank Miller was displaying Dark Knight Strikes Again pages), my first editorial meeting with the legendary Julie Schwartz (where he delivered my unofficial state of the Union, the “every ten years the DC Universe needs an enema” speech) and the first, of what would be many, “spirited” debates with, my soon to be good friend, Bob Wayne over how to sell DC Comics, where Bob delivered the our rally cry, “you give me something to sell, and I can sell the shit out of it.”

At that moment, it was “game on.”

Part Two

Still cold out, and have absolutely no desire to start putting away Christmas decorations (at least, right now),so back to reminiscing.

2002, was frustrating but informing. While I was well versed in business and comics, I had a lot to learn about the comics business, Paul Levitz gave me enough rope to hang myself (which I did on several occasions), and great editors like Karen Berger and Andy Helfer taught me there was more to comics than super heroes (Andy was an editor ahead of his time, Paradox Press was the forefather of progressive companies like Top Shelf, and his support of manga was just a few years too early). Bob Harras, who was freelance editing with Wildstorm at the time, also offered some welcome advice on the ins and outs of the comic biz and the different editing styles of the different companies. So armed with enough knowledge to dangerous, I decided to dive in.

My first attempt at editing ended in failure, with an inability to launch a Thunder Agents title, which was to be written by the talented Marc Andreyko (we later tried again to some short lived success), and I was having a hard time ingratiating myself into the existing system. Also, the price of a monthly comic ranged from 2.25-2.95, (pretty proud that we been able to hold as many books to the 2.99 price into 2015 as we have) but the priority was placed on prestige books (better paper stock, looser schedules and continuity)which came with a higher price. As a kid I struggled over what comics I had to drop when prices were raised from 20 to 25 cents, so I was always cautious over the cost of our hobby. The book store market wasn’t nearly as strong then and digital comics were about ten years away. I believed then, and still believe now, the long term success and health of this business was in the monthly books. We needed the comic shops to be the monthly and weekly destination for the fans, and our job (and still is), is to have something exciting for them to read every week. But with the emphasis shifting to the random release of prestiges, the monthlies, at least with DC, were taking a back seat. And since more people were reading monthlies, at the time, than prestige books or original graphic novels, and we needed someway to jump start interest in our monthlies again.

Enter Jim Lee.

Part Three:

Well, I caved. The decorations are put away and the furniture is back in place. But it’s still cold outside, so it’s time for soup, Dark Shadows complete series dvd disc 15 (Barnabas doesn’t show up till 20) and a few more musings.

Always tough to do these things from memory and get the exact order of things (a recurring problem of mine that’s led to some amusing exchanges on convention panels I attended), but will give it a try. First up is how Jim Lee and Batman covered for a series of rookie mistakes. After my first year at DC, things reached the point where I was ready to leave, I wasn’t making the impact I hoped, and I wasn’t sure I ever could. So before moving on, I presented Paul with a list of recommendations on how to approach the line, and imagine my surprise that, in return, Paul offered me the Executive Editor position. I was caught completely off guard but as a kid I always wanted to be Stan Lee, so this was as close as I would ever get. So, we started shaking things up, to no avail, and launched several new series that were greeted with resounding thuds. Not that anyone noticed. Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb’s Batman launched so strong, DC was the hot ticket. And it was Jim’s desire to be on the monthly book, and not in a mini or prestige that made working on DC monthlies vogue again.

Around the same time, Geoff Johns and I were bonding over Flash and working up ideas to strengthen the series (this led to Geoff’s Ignition storyline and the series never looked back), and it was during a convention in 2002 that Geoff laid out his ideas for Teen Titans and Green Lantern. I couldn’t be more excited and yet both were met with skepticism inside the company. At that time, it was common practice to rest a character for an extended period before returning with a new series (and with the weaker characters it made sense), but we didn’t want to wait. We convinced Paul to roll the dice and immediately follow the cancellations of Young Justice and Titans with two new series (Teen Titans and Outsiders followed the bi-weekly Graduation Day), it was an all in bet and it paid off, both books were big hits and went back for several printings. You could feel the confidence building, and it was time to take even bolder steps.

Also around the same time, we started offering contracts to our talent as a way to insure all their focus was solely on DC (sparking the great Exclusive Wars of 2004/5). This was slow going at first, with Judd Winick to be the first to sign on board (for which I will always be eternally grateful), and then, several other extraordinarily talented folks followed his lead.

Things were falling in place, but it wasn’t until Judd’s old roommate, Brad Meltzer, decided to pitch his Justice League story, that we began to raise the stakes.


Part Four:

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, got a fire going and watching a little football (is there any way both the Packers and Cowboys can lose?), no better time to try another post…

2004 was all about transition and momentum. Experimentation continued with the Focus line of books (short lived but something I am still very proud of) and if the only thing that came from setting up those those titles was working with Steve Gerber, then it was more than worth it. Steve, was and still is one of my favorite writers, he had a voice and point of view that comics needed (and still needs).

We showed our commitment to diversify with the introduction of The new Manhunter and Firestorm (still a commitment to this day), and while Geoff and Ethan Van Sciver reignited a franchise with Hal Jordan’s return as Green Lantern (another battle against the status quo), Stephanie Brown began her short lived run as Robin as the Bat team ramped up to War Games (Stephanie as Robin was designed to elevate interest in the character given the role she was about to play in the story. I think we can all agree it worked.). Jim Lee moved off Batman and over to Superman with Brian Azzarello, and together they gave him a brooding intensity that would challenge the Dark Knight.

Jeph Loeb, who correctly lectured me on the importance of paper stock and promotion, was joined on Superman/ Batman with immensely talented, and greatly missed, Michael Turner,and it was the strength of this team that allowed me to convince Paul we should break down one of the longstanding walls of the original Crisis and bring back the original Supergirl (this was the first of four Crisis immutables to fall).

We had an expression, if printing a story didn’t make you a little nervous, you weren’t trying hard enough, and with Identity Crisis, we were more than a little nervous. We had a story that fit very nicely into DC continuity, but in doing so, it ripped the readers out of their comfort zone with the characters. A lot has been said about this series, but there is no denying its impact. The quality of the material carried the subject matter, and more importantly, became a springboard for a number of storylines to follow. Brad Meltzer wrote the entire series in advance, so those concerned could see the full scope of the story and Rags Morales art captured the emotional beats of the story perfectly. Story threads from Identity Crisis played out in so many ways, you could feel them weaving the universe together. All the while we were signing up more talent, building an army dedicated to defining our universe.

Next up: let the countdown begin.

More to come!

The Retailer’s View: This Time, It’s Personal

I was pacing the store shovelling mouthfuls of poutine into my mouth. The store’s owner and my replacement were going over initial order numbers for February, talking about comics I wouldn’t be around to sell. I wanted to interrupt on almost every line order to chime in with advice, but I know that wouldn’t be helpful. I know what to order if I’m around to sell comics. I don’t know what to order when I’m gone. This was why the poutine was important. It was the only thing keeping me from burbling over and offering opinions I had no reason to give.

Because: Canada.

Because: Canada.

It was a few days before Christmas, and I was having trouble letting go. I’d been at the store for over eight years, and had taken quite a bit of ownership over the culture of it, from the general atmosphere, right down to the ordering process. I wanted it to stay the same… but it can’t. It won’t. It shouldn’t.

Comic shops are like thumbprints, their make-up determined largely by parentage and circumstance. It starts at the root with the owner or manager of the shop, and the kind of experience that they want to build. While an owner should always endeavour to be inclusive when marketing to their customers, even the most delicate hand and even-tempered sales tactics give way to taste. People find it easier to market to those with similar tastes, and will sometimes do so without thought. For instance, when you hear the words “I’ve never read a comic before, what do you recommend?” – what is your first thought? What is your go-to book? I used to respond by asking what genres they were looking for, or what movies, tv shows or books they liked to read before moving onto the next step, but even then, personal bias would bubble up in my recommendations and would inevitably affect my sales and clientele.

Beyond that, there is a myriad of other things that affect the shape and feel of the store. Some of it comes down to what you’ll tolerate in the walls of your shop. What kind of jokes do you allow to pass? Is judgement passed on what is purchased, either positively or negatively? How active is the sales staff when you walk into the shop? Do they leave customers to their own devices? Do they say hello or offer a helping hand unprompted? When a customer offers up a fact, is it contested when it’s wrong? If so, how and when? Are female customers noted? Are they treated similarly to a male customer, or does the atmosphere change? The answers to all of these questions and hundreds more affect who walks through the doors of a shop, and with what frequency. It will affect everything – what is purchased, how it’s purchased, when, why and by whom.

Going further out from there, a store’s location will often affect what is sold almost as much as who is selling and how. At my old digs, we had three locations at one point, and each couldn’t have been more different from each other in terms of demographic. They were owned by the same three guys, but each sold product in vastly different ways. The stores located in more residential areas did far more in items like Pokemon cards and superhero comics than the one located close to one of the local universities, where Magic the Gathering and indie fare was more appreciated. By and large, the people who worked at any location for any long stretch of time fit in with the vision the owners had for the stores and what the location demanded almost naturally. Going against the grain didn’t mean you were a poor worker, but it did mean that you didn’t quite connect with the product and the customers, and that you eventually found your way to other opportunities.

Having an identity crisis can be hazardous to your shop's health. (flips a table, yelling) METAPHORS!

Having an identity crisis can be hazardous to your shop’s health. (flips a table, yelling) METAPHORS!

A word of gentle advice to all those working at comic shops: it might be a pretty great gig, and you might enjoy what you’re selling, but always ask yourself if you fit. Are you constantly railing against the customer flow or the direction of the store? Is it causing audible distress or cognitive dissonance in the shop? If so… well, don’t quit, but at the very least, attempt to examine what you’re looking for. While shops can be changed, they have to be willing to change, and you have to be willing to put in the hard work to make it so. Almost everyone has a breaking point – even owners – and sometimes the best thing to do for the store and the industry in that situation is to recalibrate and reassess. That’s what I did.

At the end of 2014, I tendered my resignation as manager at my old shop. Since people have and will ask me, I didn’t leave because I don’t like the owners or the business or the people who frequent the store – I left because I felt as though I didn’t fit what the store wanted to be. Originally, the intent was to take some time away from the front lines and to just be a fan of the medium for a while – which probably begs the question, why am I still writing Retailer’s View columns. Whelp, the answer is simple: I took a look at stepping out from behind the counter, and decided that it felt too uncomfortable at this point in my life. I like standing behind a counter and slinging recommendations. I like shaping my corner of the comic book industry, and matching people with books they’re going to enjoy.

So I’m starting a new comic shop.

As you might have already guessed, the next few Retailer’s View articles will be about some of the hoops you have to jump through to get a store started. It’s not going to be a soup to nuts thing, as a lot of what I would have to say is specific to the time and place we’re setting things up. That said, you’re going to get a look at the retail experience from a place not often explored: right from the ground floor. Already, it’s a little strange and pretty scary, but armed with the knowledge I’ve amassed over the past eight plus years of working behind the counter and a whole lot of product, I think things will work out. Regardless, even during this state of gestation, I can see the importance of personality and location, and what it will mean for the new venture moving forward. It starts right at the beginning, in the very foundations, and it will inevitably grow from there. Hopefully in time, I’ll get to show you all what it becomes.

Until next time.

[Brandon Schatz has spent the last eight years working behind the comic book counter, and he will soon be starting a store of his own. In his spare time, he writes about the comics and culture. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson and at his website, Submetropolitan. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

Review: When Marvel Comics went Underground by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

The Best of Comix Book: When Marvel Went Underground, published by Dark Horse under the imprint of the Kitchen Sink Press from Denis Kitchen and John Lind is now available. It’s a who’s who of some of the top names in comics. The Introduction is written by none other than Stan Lee himself with a foreword by Denis Kitchen.

The Best of Comix

The Best of Comix

I had the opportunity to sit down with Denis Kitchen and John Lind in October at New York Comic Con to discuss the latest publishing efforts from Kitchen Sink Press. Denis Kitchen is considered to be the founding publisher of independent and underground comics. He was instrumental in publishing people like R. Crumb, Harvey Pekar, Howard Cruse and Trina Robbins to name a few.It’s especially prescient to look at the work that Denis and John are currently publishing in light of recent world events. The Best of Comix Book showcases some of the best of the underground comics that Denis published with Marvel under Stan Lee’s direction. This momentous occasion occurred during the period when Stan agreed to help Denis continue publishing while Denis was going through difficult financial times.

What were the underlying causes of those difficult financial times? Here’s a bit of comic book history to add to your understanding of what it’s all about Alfie?–During 1969-1974 underground comics were mostly distributed through head shops. As obscenity laws enacted by local authorities forced many of the shops to close it caused distribution of underground comics to fall rapidly. Stan Lee offered Denis Kitchen an opportunity to come to Marvel and the amusing letter from Stan to Denis is revealed to us as part of the fun graphics included in the book. The arrangement that developed was for Denis to publish under Marvel as a survival strategy. The word Comix with an x was used to distinguish these comic books from the regular run of Marvel Comics.

Letter from Stan to Denis.

Letter from Stan to Denis.

One of the sticking points for Denis was that his artists receive their art back and as soon as the regular Marvel artists discovered this—well—viva la revolution! They demanded to have theirs back as well. Thus the collaboration did not last long. Comix was discontinued after the 3rd issue but there were two additional issues ready and Denis was able to publish those as well.

John Lind, the editor of The Best of Comix felt that these comics should be available once again to a whole new generation of readers. He edited down to about 80 choices and some of your favorite comics artists are included like Kim Deitch, Trina Robbins, Art Spiegelman (with the first appearance of Maus), Howard Cruse and more.

Kim Deitch comic from The Best of Comics

Kim Deitch comic from The Best of Comics

The Best of Comix is the first of several titles available this fall and I was lucky enough to get a preview during New York Comic Con. A couple of additional titles to keep on your list are Bob Powell’s Complete Cave Girl published in early November. For all you lovers of the genre and for those of you new to these terrific comics of Thun’Da and Cave Girl stories it’s presented in a gorgeous deluxe hardcover collection. Extra goodies include essays by James Vance (Kings in Disguise, one of the most gorgeous graphic novels ever!) and John Wooley (of Fangoria and a super pulpster).

Cave Girl Cover

Cave Girl Cover

Cave Girl was followed in mid-November by Popular Skullture: The Skull Motif in Pulps, Paperbacks and Comics. Edited and designed by Monte Beauchamp it’s a pop culture valentine to the creepiest and oddest of skull designs and the answer to why it’s fun to be scared to death.

To top it off Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book is in print once again. It’s considered a lost classic as it hasn’t been in print for 25 years. So many artists like R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman were inspired by this comic telling and filmmaker Terry Gilliam counts it as one of his favorites as well. It’s a beautiful book and includes an essay by Denis Kitchen with an afterword by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski.

Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book.

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book.

You won’t be surprised to learn that The Best of Comix won two Harvey awards in 2014 for best design and best essay. Denis and John always provide essays in the books they produce of comic art. The believe it is important to place comic art within the context of the history and cultural phenomenon of comics. Their collections are for the serious fan who appreciates graphic literature but the books are also easily available for the non-scholar because they are beautifully designed, edited and presented with some of the most fun and interesting comics from the period. From knowing their work for many years and seeing what they have recently produced I think that’s the best way to describe everything that Denis and John accomplish.

[Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson is writing a biography of her grandfather, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, military intelligence officer, prolific pulp writer, inventor and founder of DC Comics, with Gerard Jones (Men of Tomorrow) entitled Lost Hero. Her most recent publication is co-editing and writing an Introduction to a reprint of some of the Major’s adventure tales from the pulps entitled The Texas-Siberia Trail published by Off-Trail Publications. Nicky is a writer, editor and audio publisher and holds a Master’s in Classical Greek Mythology. She was featured in Women’s Enews with an article on Wonder Woman and San Diego Comic Con and appears frequently at Comics Conventions throughout the US speaking about early comic book history.]

Graphic Novel Videos from the National Book Festival!

Back during Labor Day weekend, the Library of Congress hosted the 14th annual National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center.  We posted the notice here, showcasing all of the amazing graphic novel programming, but now the Library of Congress has posted videos from most of the sessions!

Click on the red titles to go to the event page, where one can read a synopsis, transcript, and watch the video if the embedded images do not work.

 

Full list of all author videos

 

Author’s Gala: Book Fest 14

Gene Luen Yang’s speech is at 19:30, but I recommend watching the entire video!

Liza Donnelly: Book Fest 14

Bryan Lee O’Malley: Book Fest 14

Bob Staake: Book Fest 14

Jeffrey Brown : Book Fest 14

Gene Luen Yang: Book Fest 14 (Graphic Novels)

Gene Luen Yang: Book Fest 14 (Teens)

Vivek Tiwary: Book Fest 14

Raina Telgemeier: Book Fest 14

Jeff Smith: Book Fest 14

Brian Biggs: Book Fest 14

Lewis & Aydin: Book Fest 14

“Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin appear at the 2014 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.”

The cartooning world—and the rest of the world—reacts to the Charlie Hebdo attack

January 7th, 2015 will always be a grim date in for free speech, tolerance and French cartooning. As we all know, 12 people, including 10 staffers and four cartoonists were killed in a terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo yesterday morning. The attack—which some called the 9/11 for France—left grieving and reeling for those lost and for a world in which such a senseless act could occur. The four cartoonists killed—Georges Wolinski, Charb, Tignous, and Cabu—included one Angouleme Grand Prize winner, Wolinski, who won in 2005. It was a grievous toll.

Some developments: The two gunmen were quickly identified when they left their ID in a vehicle they abandoned. As I write this there are conflicting reports about whether they have been apprehended, but nothing definite enough to link to.

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• Rallies were held around the world last night, with thousands showing up at various vigils in France. (BelowAPTOPIX France Newspaper Attack is from Lyon.) A rally was also held at Union Square in NYC, with Art Spiegelman photographed there.

 

• The world of editorial cartoonists quickly reacted with many drawing showing their solidarity with those slain in the name of free speech. The Washington Post has a fine round up.

• This cartoon by James Walmesley found a lot of support.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.37.21 PM

• Craig Yoe sent me this one.

• Comics scholar, and French comics expert Bart Beaty wrote an excellent piece explaining the role that the editorial cartoonist has in France:

Unlike in the United States, where comic strips, comic books, and editorial cartoons are generally regarded as only distantly related wings of the same art form, in France the integration of the three is much closer. Each of the four cartoonists killed today worked not only for Charlie Hebdo, but for other newspapers, and for French comic book publishers. The publishing industry in France is both smaller and more central than it is in the United States. With so many cartoonists living in and around Paris, the overlap between different media are quickly eroded in a context where it can sometimes seem that every working cartoonist knows every other one and works across publishing platforms.

• Controversial editorial cartoonist Ted Rall wrote a fine piece for the LA Times where he recalled meeting the Hebdo staff on a trip to Angouleme, and reiterating the power of editorial cartoons to inflame passions…and even thought:

Not to denigrate writing (especially since I do a lot of it myself), but cartoons elicit far more response from readers, both positive and negative, than prose. Websites that run cartoons, especially political cartoons, are consistently amazed at how much more traffic they generate than words. I have twice been fired by newspapers because my cartoons were too widely read — editors worried that they were overshadowing their other content.

Scholars and analysts of the form have tried to articulate exactly what it is about comics that make them so effective at drawing an emotional response, but I think it’s the fact that such a deceptively simple art form can pack such a wallop. Particularly in the political cartoon format, nothing more than workaday artistic chops and a few snide sentences can be enough to cause a reader to question his long-held political beliefs, national loyalties, even his faith in God.

That drives some people nuts.

• Showing caution, many news outlets did not show the controversial Hebdo covers which led to threats against the magazine.

• For something of an alternative take, Jacob Canfield at The Hooded Utilitarian suggests that Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism and that Hebdo’s cartoons were deliberately provocative, Islamophobic and racist.

• Although Canfield certainly doesn’t suggest this, I did see a bunch of places suggesting that the “Je suis Charlie” show of solidarity around the world should not be used because it supports racist cartoons. I would gently suggest that racism is a horrible and bad thing, but it is not punishable by death, and showing solidarity for people who were murdered for expressing their views in a non violent way is probably not a terrible thing. Just because you supported “Boston Strong” after the Marathon bombing doesn’t make you a Red Sox fan.

• I doubt anything I just wrote will settle this issue.

• Probably the smartest thing I read all day yesterday was by Middle East analyst Juan Cole. (Yes I know he is controversial himself.) Cole writes that the killings were not really about the cartoons at all but rather a recruiting tool for extremism: by ginning up anti-Muslim sentiment in France and around the world, currently non-secular Muslims will be more receptive to recruitment.

The operatives who carried out this attack exhibit signs of professional training. They spoke unaccented French, and so certainly know that they are playing into the hands of Marine LePen and the Islamophobic French Right wing. They may have been French, but they appear to have been battle hardened. This horrific murder was not a pious protest against the defamation of a religious icon. It was an attempt to provoke European society into pogroms against French Muslims, at which point al-Qaeda recruitment would suddenly exhibit some successes instead of faltering in the face of lively Beur youth culture (French Arabs playfully call themselves by this anagram). Ironically, there are reports that one of the two policemen they killed was a Muslim.

Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, then led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, deployed this sort of polarization strategy successfully in Iraq, constantly attacking Shiites and their holy symbols, and provoking the ethnic cleansing of a million Sunnis from Baghdad. The polarization proceeded, with the help of various incarnations of Daesh (Arabic for ISIL or ISIS, which descends from al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia). And in the end, the brutal and genocidal strategy worked, such that Daesh was able to encompass all of Sunni Arab Iraq, which had suffered so many Shiite reprisals that they sought the umbrella of the very group that had deliberately and systematically provoked the Shiites.

The goal of 9/11 was not to knock down the World Trade Center, or even to shut down state fairs because of terrorist fears. Its well documented goal was to throw the West into such a foment that the entire world economy and established political alliances were destabilized. The plan worked perfectly and bin Laden won. It would be horrible if the Hebdo murder were another triumph for extremist propaganda.

• All that said, cartoonists around the world showed solidarity for their slain colleagues with this “Weapon of Choice” meme. I’ve culled a few from my FB and Instagram feeds…there are dozens more. Here’s a small gallery. Ultimately, art outlives death.

 

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Mark Chiarello

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Janice Chiang

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Lauren Panepinto

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Dave Dorman

Dan Panosian

Dan Panosian

Cully Hamner

Cully Hamner

J. Scott Campbell

J. Scott Campbell

Denys Cowan

Denys Cowan

Laura Martin

Laura Martin

Derf Backderf

Derf

Bill Sienkiewicz

Bill Sienkiewicz

Dean Haspiel

Dean Haspiel

WWE asks Papercutz to remove CM Punk from WWE Superstars reprints

HoGPre3This press release from Papercutz, the kid-oriented graphic novel publisher, came out in November, but no one actually paid attention to it until now for some reason:

In the just-released WWE SUPERSTARS #2 “Haze of Glory” trade paperback, co-created by Mick Foley and Shane Riches, and illustrated by Puste, a major character bids the WWE Universe a fond farewell, as he moves on to write comics for a major publisher. While this particular superstar appeared in the first eight issues of the WWE SUPERSTARS comicbook series in a major role, he unfortunately will not be appearing again in the ongoing WWE SUPERSTARS series. In fact, once the first eight issues and first two trade paperbacks go out of print, they will never again go back into print with that superstar in it—the stories will be rewritten and redrawn to feature other WWE Superstars still with the WWE. Whether or not that makes the first printings of these comics collectors’ items is something the fans will decide.

But while one superstar exits, many more will be appearing in “Legends.” WWESUPERSTARS #9, still available, launched the new 4-part storyline entitled “Legends,” which features such dream matches as Hulk Hogan vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Daniel Bryan vs. the Iron Sheik, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. “Bad News” Barret, Undertaker vs. Sgt. Slaughter, and more! Not only are all these dream matches taking place outside of the ring, they’re taking place on such wild places as an ancient Roman gladiators’ arena, a pirate ship, on Easter Island, and on Mars. Over 60 superstars will ultimately appear in this 4-part epic, co-created by Mick Foley and Shane Riches, and drawn by Paris Cullins.

If you follow wrestling and comics at all, you know that the major character is CM Punk, who quit the WWE for reals last year and is doing other stuff now, like joining the UFC (good luck with that) and writing comics. Mr. McMahon is known for draconian tactics and redrawing a comic book to remove references to a departed worker certainly qualifies.

When the first run of WWE Superstars came out last year I had the chance to interview Mick Foley about it, and Punk was a featured player. The book tself was totally weird and crazy, and I guess this just adds to the legend.

In the spirit of collector’s items, here are some never to be seen again images of the days when CM Punk appeared in WWE Seperstars…never to be seen again.

WWE02-00001

The Beat Podcasts! More To Come: 2014 in Comics

More to come 2014 Brought to you by Publishers Weekly, it’s More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald!

In this week’s podcast the More to Come Crew discuss the big stories of 2014 month by month, including gains and growing pains in the booming convention economy, rising industry awareness of reader diversity, wage stagnation at Marvel and DC and the talent flight to Image and much more.

Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

Updated Facebook demographics show male/female comics likers approaching parity

population-trend-line-2013-2014.png
Brett Schenker, whose research into Facebook comics demographics created a benchmkar fo what turned out to be The Year of the Women, has taken a look at age and sex breakdowns for comics from 2013-2015. In January, Schenker reported a record 32 million Facebook fans for comics, a 4 million rise like due to “the massive jump in Marvel’s page due to their consolidating various pages into one.”

The trendline in the above graphic also shows male/female readers approaching a 50% split. Women now account for 48.13% and men account for 50.63%.

Setting aside how many of those 32 million people have ever brought a comic, if you’re wondering why comics underwent such a seismic shift in audience in the last 12 months, this is part of the reason.

Check out all of Schenker’s ongoing analysis here.

Happy New Year 2015!

leyendecker_baby_2015

Better late than never!

Webcomic Alert: End 2014 with a little “Optimisim” by Anders Nilsen


Anders Nilsen sees the year out at Medium with a beautiful full color comic called On Optimisim: Why 2015 Won’t Suck. It’s a very direct and straightforward work from the often oblique (and marvelously so) Nilsen, but it has a few good words that we should all tam into account for 2015. Even though 2014 was a pretty great year for comics, for a lot of folks (The Beat included) it was kind of sucky on a personal level, and a lot of the creative personnel of the industry seem to be sinking into a “happy peasant” mind set, as living in a hovel on the outskirts of the giant corporate castle seems like a lifestyle choice worth making.


All that said, optimism is the fundamental human state and despite the setbacks 2014 had a lot of great, amazing stuff. And 2015 will be even better. As I mentioned many times this year, I’m finally living in the world that I envisioned wham I was 13 years old, a world of limitless storytelling and a return to the diversity that comics always had. A world where people don’t think comics are dumb or stupid,

So thank you for your support throughout the year, both in the form of encouragement, written and verbal, and monetary (Advertising, Paypal and Patreon) and to all my wonderful contributors—Kyle, Hannah, Zach, Todd, Torsten, Jeff, David, Kate, Kate, Jason, David, Alex, Matt and Lindsey and anyone I’m forgetting. Thanks to Steve, Zainab and Joshua who quickly moved on to bigger and better things. And thanks to everyone at Stately Beat Manor who fed the cats and made us laugh.

And here’s to a 2015 filled with ninjas, dinosaurs, kittens, iPads, shooting stars, pirates, emeralds and chocolate hazelnut Vietnamese instant coffee.

We’ll leave you with this reminder: Always don business wear before sitting down to the drawing board or keyboard. IF JAck Kirby did it, it’s good enough for the rest of us.

Play-Doh’s frosting shooting penis and other dubious toys

So Play Doh made a thing called the Sweet Shoppe Cake Mountain Playset that allowed you to mold inedible Play-Doh into the shape of luscious cakes. It all seemed like innocent fun.

Once you’ve made your pretend cakes, it’s time to decorate. You can start by squeezing out some Play-Doh Plus frosting with the extruder. Try adding 2 colors for fun swirls! Add Play-Doh candies and other fun shapes with over 20 half-molds on the playset. You can even use them to decorate the playset itself. Top off your Play-Doh birthday cake extravaganza with the 6 included candles, then serve your pretend treats to your friends on the 2 plates!


But it turns out the “Plus” comes with extra lovin’. It is often best to “pretend” around this treat.

Did no one notice that this looked like a penis? Especially as it extruded pale frosting all over your pretend cake? Our guess is that designing Play-Doh accessories is lonely work, the smell of the factory gets you high and people just get carried away.

Of course this is not the only dubious, genitally-questionable toy. There was the Dora The Explorer Aquarium that looked like a micro-penis with Dora the Explorer floating inside:

We had a whole gallery of toys and comics with exploding junk here, but this Batman water pistol remains a favorite:

And of course, toys that pee and poo have a long, honored tradition, like Barbie’s dog that pooped brown stuff and then ate it so it could poop again:

And Barbie also had a kitten that wee’d. And our all time favorite, Potty Training Kelly.

But while researching this post, we found the motherlode, as it were, a whole site called that is just too good to be true:

Huge selection of pooping dog at great prices. Shop pooping dog now!


To which we can only add:

Broken Frontier Awards 2014 winners: women, Image dominate

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The comics news website Broken Frontier has announced the winners of its annual awards, as chosen by readers and industry professionals. Image Comics was a winner, as you might expect, but female creators won in 5 of the 13 categories, suggesting that the arrival of talented and noteworthy women in comics is a thing that is here and now and not some hoped for future event. The winners are as follows:

1. Best Writer – Mainstream: G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel)
2. Best Writer – Independent/Creator-owned: Darryl Cunningham (Supercrash: How To Hijack The Global Economy, Uncle Bob Adventures Vol. 2)
3. Best Artist – Mainstream: Declan Shalvey (Moon Knight)
4. Best Artist – Independent/Creator-owned: Farel Dalrymple (The Wrenchies)
5. Best Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser (Fatale, The Fade Out, Outcast, Velvet)
6. Breakout Talent: Tula Lotay (Bodies, Supreme: Blue Rose)
7. Best New Series: Southern Bastards (Jason Aaron & Jason Latour, Image)
8. Best Ongoing Series: Lazarus (Greg Rucka & Michael Lark, Image)
9. Best Limited Series: Bodies (Si Spencer, Tula Lotay, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick & Dean Ormston, DC/Vertigo)
10. Best One-Shot: Over Under Sideways Down (Karrie Fransman, Red Cross)
11. Best Original Graphic Novel: This One Summer (Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki, First Second)
12. Best Book on Comics: Comics Unmasked (Paul Gravett & John Harris Dunning, British Library)
13. Best Publisher: Image Comics

 

 

 

BEST BOOK ON COMICS

* American Comics, Literary Theory, and Religion: The Superhero Afterlife (A. David Lewis, Palgrave Macmillan)
* Comics Unmasked (Paul Gravett & John Harris Dunning, British Library)
* Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews (edited by Sarah Lightman, McFarland)
* Hellboy: The First 20 Years (Mike Mignola, Dark Horse)
* Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World (Monte Beauchamp et al, Simon & Schuster)

*****

BEST PUBLISHER

* Avery Hill Publishing
* BOOM! Studios/Archaia
* First Second
* Image Comics
* SelfMadeHero

Christmas Comics: Street Angel Christmas Special

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Another neo classic comic for the hols as Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s  homeless crimefighting skateboarder, Street Angel, teams with Santa on a brief adventure to find some missing reindeer in a bad neighborhood.

It’s all courtesy of Boing Boing, which is running new Street Angel comics regularly. And if you don’t have it already, give yourself a present by picking up the recent AdHouse edition of the original Street Angel mini series.

 

 

Merry Christmas from the Beat

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Whatever holiday you celebrate, from all of us at Stately Beat Manor, wishing you a happy and safe one.

 

Christmas Comics: Kate Beaton’s yearly Christmas comics

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Every year cartoonist Kate Beaton returns to her parents house in the maritimes for the holidays, and the series of hilarious and touching comics that result are getting to be a holiday tradition, as the intersection of parental concern and parental eccentricities combine to form HUMOR. IT’s an experience that many of us are going through right now, and Beaton’s gentle, loving humor—while rooted firmly in her own family’s character—can also stand in for the universal experience.

She’s been posting her comics on twitter, but they’re also up on Tumblr, where they are easier to find. And should anyone be searching in the far flung future for them, here’s the direct link for the one shown above.

The Retailer’s View // Top Sellers and Bottom Dwellers

A couple of news bits and a personal announcement to tackle this week, so let’s get right to it.

MILLION AIRS

About a week ago, Marvel started to make a big deal over Star Wars #1 eclipsing 1,000,000 pre-orders from various retail outlets. While the company hinted at some of this quantity coming from less traditional sources, the number is still quite impressive, boasting the best direct market numbers for a single printing of a single issue in over twenty years. Despite all of the headache inducing rabble that I’m about to detail, that’s a number everyone involved with the creation, sales and marketing of the series should be proud of.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pound my head against my keyboard while I detail the variant structure of this particular release.

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Check it out, it’s Bucky O’Hare you guys. Shut up, it is too.

As you’ve probably heard by now, there are an impressive amount of variant covers being produced for this comic. To start, Marvel tossed a grand total of 13 wide-market variants on top of the regular comic for all retailers to order and obtain. These 13 books had qualifiers that ranged from “1 for every 15 copies ordered” to “1 for every 500 copies ordered”. Four of them required retailers to exceed 200% of their Original Sin #8 numbers in order to get any books in – which is probably the clearest indication of where Marvel wanted the book to be in terms of sales. Original Sin #8 clocked in at an estimated 90,478 copies sold, which means they were probably aiming at the 200,000 as a “worst case scenario”.

These alone wouldn’t have brought Star Wars #1 even close to the 1,000,000 mark – so where does all that extra push come from? Many are pointing in the vague direction of alternative distribution and awaiting news on what nerd box corporation sprung for a few hundred thousand copies – and while that’s probably part of the answer, a good chunk is also coming from the retailer exclusive variants Marvel offered retailers.

In one of their missives to the retail community, Marvel let it be known that any retailer or retail group could have their own variants produced. These variants would be completely unique and would potentially utilize some big name talent to create a unique image that would appear on a cover exclusive to that retailer. The catch? You had to order at least 3,000 copies and order 200% more of the regular cover than you did for Original Sin #8. It appears quite a few retailers have taken them up on this offer, as the total of variants floating out are currently sitting at 57. Now, some of these are black and white “sketch” variants of the retail exclusive variants, which you could seemingly produce as little as 1,500 copies of, but the point remains: Marvel went full variant crazy when pushing this book. Will it work for them? In the short term, of course. They’re going to have one of their biggest January’s in a long time thanks to Star Wars alone, probably, and there will almost assuredly be enough product on the shelves to meet whatever demand might arise. In the long term? When a company digs this deep into variants and qualifiers, I always worry about the long lingering after effects. The practice of asking retailers to potentially overextend themselves to chase rare items almost always ends with product chocking out storage space and back issue bins. It manipulates the regulatory curve of supply and demand, and takes cash on hand and turns it into dead weight that’s harder to turn over, both of which can and will result in various levels of hardships. Too much of this and a store, a company, or an industry breaks. And wouldn’t that be fun.

FAILURE TO LAUNCH

Last week, the DC solicitations for March revealed a culling for the company, and the internet had some words about it. Because of course it did. The company is heading into their big move across the country with quite a few stagnant books and a line-wide crossover eating up their publishing schedule. In short, it was the right call to dust a large portion of their books in order to arrive back in June with a refocused creative direction. That said, the sheer volume of titles on the chopping block still makes this feel like a defeat of some kind.

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What DC needs here is for their PR department to pick up the copious amount of slack that’s roped on the floor. I know they’re already having a hard time convincing people that Convergence is going to be a big, important thing with the structure they chose, but they really shouldn’t be spending too much time and effort on that. Convergence is a crossover series, and it’s been designed as a two-month respite from The New 52 universe. Each and every one of their 40 two part minis seem to nudge the reader in the ribs and say, “Hey, remember when this was happening?” – and it’s going to do very little in the way of drawing a wide audience. June, on the other hand, stands a chance to be spectacular, and the company should be teasing it now. As it stands, DC looks like it’s flailing as a large chunk of their newly launched books limp to an end, and others that were a bit long in the tooth drop along side them. They need to come out and say this is all in service of something, or else people are going to run with a less positive narrative. It’s all about perception, and right now, DC is losing the battle. Here’s hoping they win the war.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

As of December 31st, I will no longer be the manager of a comic shop. After spending a little over 8 years at Wizard’s Comics, I’m moving on to a different role within this great industry. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what that is yet – but I thought it would be pertinent to let you all know of this change, as it will clearly effect what I write for this site. A hint regarding the future: while I won’t be a store manager, I will still be writing similar articles about the industry for Comics Beat, and they will start on January 12th. You might be surprised. You probably won’t be.

Until then, you’ll probably see me contribute the odd news post or opinion piece here or there, but otherwise, I will be busy putting together the next phase of my life – so if we don’t talk until then, have a fantastic holiday season!