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§ Nice art: David Aja retweeted his retro cover for Astonishing X-Men #48 and it’s always great.

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§ In the before times, this would be what we call “Hell Week” — two weeks out from San Diego Comic-Con, when all the publicists in the world bomb your inbox at one moment and all of the panel scheduling details, coverage assignments, fashion choices and party invites get sorted. (The following week is known informally as “Haircut Week.”) But alas, we are mostly sitting at home fiddling with our webcam settings. For Publishers Weekly, I wrote a preview and survey of how various showrunners are coping with zoom fatigue and the rest, in a story we like to call: San Diego Comic-Con: The Show Must Go On(line). The question I most get asked is “What about that Thanksgiving show!” and this is what CCI’s David Glanzer said:

As venues began to open, Glanzer says, a fall slot originally looked realistic, but some open dates were unsuitable. Either the entire convention center was not available, or the event would have had to load in on a Friday and load out on a Sunday—a logistical impossibility for a show SDCC’s size.

“The only date that was really viable for us was this Thanksgiving weekend,” he adds. Glanzer is sympathetic to those who fear missing out but cautions that Special Edition will be a smaller show—though how much smaller is still to be determined. “If people can’t make it, we totally get that,” he notes. “But we wanted to offer an opportunity to have our community again.”

Will this be a quiet collector’s show, or will Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige take the stage in Hall H to talk about phase five of the MCU? “We’re still in the process of planning now,” Glanzer says. “California is opening up, and different exhibitors and different program participants are starting to weigh whether they can go out and meet the public. We’ll have a better idea as we get closer. But so far, people seem to be excited about it.”

In other words: still in the works. Gizmodo also spoke with Glanzer and they have more about this year’s [email protected] format:

“Comic-Con has relied on our in-person events to fund ourselves. And while we always had a buffer, a nest egg, should something happen that we couldn’t have a convention and thereby generating income, I don’t think we ever in a million years would have thought that we wouldn’t have had any events for close to two years,” Glanzer said. “Both our WonderCon shows we couldn’t have in person. Both of our Comic-Con shows we couldn’t have in person. And those are things that generate income. So while I think there are a ton of things we would love to do if we had unlimited resources and bandwidth—you might see it be a little more flashy— but I think the content is what matters. And we’ve tried to stay true to that.”

§ And as reported widely, to no one’s surprise, neither Marvel Films nor Warner Bros. will be making a presentation at [email protected], Deadline says:

For Warner Bros., it reps their third year in a row that the studio’s film division is skipping Comic-Con. The last time Warner Bros. feature studio was in San Diego  was July 2018 with Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins who offered up an early peek at Wonder Woman 1984. With Marvel soaking up all the lime light in 2019 with the enormous announcement of their phase 4 features and Disney+ series plans, with arguably every single top-notch cast member in tow from Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Black Widow, WandaVision and more, Warners opted to head to Brazil’s Comic-Con in December of that year to rally Wonder Woman 1984 and Birds of Prey. 

DC will have FanDome 2 in October however!

§ Mental Floss turned to DC Comics with 10 Fun Facts About DC Comics, most of which I knew but this was , shocker.

When Microsoft engineer Vincent Connare was instructed to make a lighthearted font for a new Microsoft interface, he took inspiration from the lettering in DC titles like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. Thus came Comic Sans, which bears its inspiration in its name and has since become one of the most despised fonts ever, with Watchmen artist and letterer Dave Gibbons calling it “a blight upon the Western world.”

§ The NY Times spotlighted 5 Y.A. Graphic Novels to Dive Into This Summer — how did they cut it down to just five!

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§ Speaking of YA, I remember a few years ago when I got the news that there would be a middle-grade graphic novel starring John Constantine — or as his younger version is known, Johnny Constantine. I made a lot of jokes then, but I guess it turned out all right. The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel by Ryan North, Derek Charm and Wes Abbott is out now.

Kid Constantine is the only person in his world who can do magic. Naturally, he uses that ability to dimension hop into a much better candy store than he has locally. Here he immediately steals and eats the most delicious chocolate in the multiverse, only to discover that this is the eternal chocolate that keeps a Lovecraftian horror at bay. This is, as one might say, just the cold open. As fans of author Ryan North might expect, The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher gets even more madcap from then on.

 

§ An angry comic shop owner in Texas has sued a neighboring hotel — using a comic book as the complaint. 

Third Planet Sci-Fi and Fantasy Superstore is a Houston comic book shop tucked in the shadow of a high-rise hotel. Its owner, T.J. Johnson, said the store has put up with a litany of debris falling from its neighbor’s balconies over the years, from ceramic mugs to luggage racks. And they all seem to land in one place — on top of his roof. Now Johnson is suing the hotel’s owners for damages with the only tool he’s got: comic books. More than half of his 23-page amended complaint filed last month is dedicated to a full-color visual representation — in classic comic style — of his grievances.

Johnson’s lawyer, Cris Feldman of Feldman & Feldman PC, worked with a local studio, Bad Cog, who made a 13-page comic about Third Planet’s history. Comics are a medium that can communicate with everyone!

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§ Over the holiday weekend, comics Twitter decided it was time for some -now-it-can-be-told stories about The New 52 — doubtless spurred by Greg Silber’s look back a few days before — but actually encouraged by Gail Simone. And man, there is a lot of now it can be tolds. In case you weren’t born yet, The New 52 cut DC’s line to exactly 52 titles, and rebooted the entire continuity with books by very eclectic (but startlingly AMAB) creative line-ups and even a few new genres thrown in. It caused an uproar back in 2011, and had an advertising budget that saw ads on cable TV and even billboards for mere comic books. Revolutionary stuff.

The New 52 absolutely set the standard for Big Two comics and their marketing in the last decade, but with Dan DiDio gone, and the movies/streaming calling the shots even more now, it’s a bygone era. The New 52 undoubtedly brought in news readers (see below) but it also led to older readers moaning and complaining, and a reboot of the reboot with Rebirth, and that’s kind of the cycle we’re in now. Complaints, complaints, complaints. Can you IMAGINE if Twitter had been the thing it is now when New 52 came out?

The marketing for The New 52 mostly worked though, but it was a hectic time internally, with entire creative teams scrapped at the drop of a hat. There’s a good round-up of the tweets for posterity here. But one exchange that stood out:

You can’t make chicken salad without cutting up a lot of chickens. I’ve often thought about all those interviews with old timers in Alter-Ego where they spill all the long ago tea of office politics. I hope we get to read about The New 52 Era someday, because even from my very peripheral connections with the story, it’s a doozy.

§ Here’s a look at the dog-centric art show currently on view at the Billy Ireland library.

“The Dog Show: Two Centuries of Canine Cartoons” at The Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is running through October. The genesis for the exhibit came when the late Brad Anderson, the creator of Marmaduke, donated his collection in 2018, including 16,000 original Marmaduke cartoons from 1954 to 2010, other original art, business correspondence, fan mail and books. That began a conversation about plumbing the depths of the museum’s extensive collection for dog-related images, according to museum coordinator Anne Drozd.

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§ With Black Widow in theaters (and on Disney Plus Premier) today, and The Suicide Squad coming soon, my news feed is jammed with stories about all of that. The big news is that Black Widow is expected to set a record for post- pandemic box office, and already has record-setting presales. According to Deadline an opening as big as $140 million is possible.

With advance ticket sales repping a record to date for 2021, and beating F9 on Fandango at the same period in time, Black Widow could weave between $80M-$90M in 4,100 theaters (to date in the Covid era, Universal’s F9 has been the widest domestic release with 4,179 theaters). Disney is conservatively eyeing $75M over 3-days stateside. Either gross will easily rep an opening record during the pandemic in the U.S./Canada, besting F9‘s $70M start.

Remember, the movie, which is set in the events post Captain America: Civil War and reps a prequel storyline for Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff (after her death in Avengers: Endgame) is also playing on Disney+ Premier for an extra $29.99 in those territories where the streaming service is available. That double exposure in theaters and on Disney+ isn’t expected to ding the pic’s opening weekend box office, however, the question is whether or not this experimental distribution strategy will impact the movie’s theatrical legs and future ancillary revenues.

§ As for the content, although Black Widow spotlights female friendship in a way no previous MCU film has, it’s definitely a much needed change, Jenna Anderson writes. 

Yes, it’s admirable that a franchise as big as the MCU has a pretty positive performance with something like the Bechdel Test — but at the same time, the test is supposed to be seen as the bare minimum a film can do in terms of positive female representation. When you look at the actual substance of female characters interacting in the MCU, there’s still a lot left to be desired. Even a lot of the films that pass the basic criteria with flying colors still leave a lot of their female relationships underbaked — Hope Van Dyne’s (Evangeline Lilly) quest to reunite with her long-lost mother, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), takes a backseat to the third act of Ant-Man and the Wasp, and the meaningful sister dynamic between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) across the Guardians of the Galaxy movies was flipped on its head by the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Even one of the newer (and heavily celebrated) female relationships in the MCU — the bond between Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) and Maria Rambeau (Lashanna Lynch) in Captain Marvel — arguably ultimately existed to serve Carol’s origin story, and was essentially put on the back burner once she flew off to space to help the Skrulls for a few decades.

§ In case you missed it, here’s my review of the film.  Did I fall asleep? No!

§ Meanwhile, The Suicide Squad will be the first superhero movie by an MCU mainstay that doesn’t have Marvel Studios massive previz/CGI/second unit putting together most of the action. I’m very curious to see what a James Gunn movie will look like with a different studio; for one thing, it will have a ton more practical effects, Gunn reports. 

Gunn explained the differences during a set visit attended by Screen Rant and other outlets, where he noted that The Suicide Squad, unlike most Marvel movies, uses so-called “practical” special effects instead of the more common Computer-generated imagery (CGI) of most Marvel movies. These are the sort of effects that Tom Cruise is famous for using on the Mission: Impossible movies, where Cruise literally falls from a helicopter or climbs a roof.

Gunn noted, “It’s a much, much, much rougher film than Guardians of the Galaxy. Everything is… it’s almost completely practical. The biggest sets ever on almost any film, ever… I was able to take all of the heads of departments that I’ve used on other films, and just do a ‘Best of.'” Gunn then made a specific comparison to Marvel films by adding, “Dan Sudick, who’s doing our special effects was just saying this morning, he’s doing more special effects, more live special effects in this film, than all of the Marvel movies he’s ever done combined. Which is every single Marvel movie that was shot in Atlanta.”

§ Stories from this Suicide Squad set visit from a few years ago are just now being released, and there are a few more now-it-can-be-told tales like How DC Jumped On Marvel Releasing James Gunn:

“He got fired on a Friday in July, and on Tuesday Toby came to me and said, ‘Tell James Gunn that whatever he wants to do at Warner Brothers, we want him for it. Just tell us what he wants to do,'” Safran explained. “So it was two days later. So internal discussions were incredibly easy. It just felt like James did not merit the treatment that he got, and ultimately, Disney felt the same way and reversed their decision. But it was immediate.” During the conversations, WB gave Gunn a blank slate to formulate any idea with DC Comics characters. They ranged from a Superman project to others which Gunn thought of, with The Suicide Squad not being his first idea. “Basically DC came and said, ‘Hey, what do you want to do? Anything?’ and at first I really honestly didn’t think it was going to be Suicide Squad,” Gunn explained. “I was playing with a few different ideas of a few different DC properties and this was the one that just took off. I just fell in love with this particular story that we’re telling right now. And I fell in love with some of the characters and the way we could do it. It’s not a super hero movie, obviously it’s a super villain film, but to be able to tell a movie like this in a completely different way. And in a lot of ways, when I came in to do Guardians and being able to do a space opera in a totally different way, this is my way to do a war film in a completely different way.”

§ And just to tie this all together, Gunn also revealed his love of…The New 52!!!

“New 52 is when I refell in love with The Suicide Squad – and when Harley Quinn joined,” Gunn wrote. “Because of that, Court of Owls, Animal Man, and much more I’ll always be fond of that era at DC Comics. Call me a sucker but I literally bought every single issue launched at that time and loved it.”

I told you — it worked.

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