Comics Experience launches digital comics line

Four new titles hit comiXology on Jan. 13.

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Comics Experience, the online school/community aimed at future comics creators that’s run by former Marvel and IDW editor Andy Schmidt, will begin publishing digital comics by its members and alumni later this month.

The comics will be sold through comiXology starting Jan. 13 and will include:

  • Past the Last Mountain by Paul Allor, Louie Joyce, and Gannon Beck, which “brings together an unlikely trio of fantasy creatures in a story of unity and survival.”
  • Karma Police by Chris Lewis, Tony Gregori, Jasen Smith, and Nic J. Shaw, “a bizarre generation-spanning mystery full of murder, intrigue, reincarnation and even luchador demons.” LUCHADOR DEMONS!
  • Wretched Things by Devon Wong, Ken Perry, and John Hunt, which features “a world where The Vermin reign supreme.”
  • Deluge by JD Oliva and Richard P. Clark, a crime drama set against the backdrop of a post-Katrina Gulf Coast.

“ComiXology offers us a unique way to get even more fantastic content to more fans around the world. And the more truly great creator-owned and controlled projects getting published, and that’s just good for everyone,” said Comics Experience founder and CEO Andy Schmidt in the press release. “The Comics Experience Digital Publishing program is the latest way for us to help bring new, talented creators to audiences around the world and put them in front of the industry’s largest publishers.”

This initiative follows the one announced last year where Comics Experience teamed with IDW Publishing to publish comics by members of their online community. That one brought titles like Tet and Gutter Magic to the publisher.

Check out covers from the new titles below.

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Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 3

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.

Corrina Bechko

Writer of Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen, Invisible Republic, Heathentown, Star Wars Legacy

HIGH CRIMES – Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa
A comic this good deserves a beautiful presentation, and this lovely hardcover looks amazing on a shelf. The real treat is found inside though, as the story remains engrossing until the very end. Just beautifully done all the way around.

TREES Vol. 1 – Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
I’m so glad I read this in trade, as the story is rich and tragic and bore a lot of flipping back through after I had finished so that I could revisit certain plot threads. Comics don’t get much better than this.

Copperhead
Copperhead

COPPERHEAD Vol. 1 – Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski
This book is just so much fun. A lot of people try to do scifi westerns, but hardly any get them right. At last, here’s one that does.

SHUTTER Vol 2 – Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca
Things here are just as crazy and inspired as in the first volume, but now that we know the characters better their plight is much more poignant. Big reveals happen, but it’s the relationships between the characters that carry the book.

MURDER BOOK – Ed Brisson (various artists, it’s an anthology)
I became a fan of Ed’s work when I first read a couple of his Murder Book stories several years back. I’m so happy they’re finally all collected here in such a nice package. There are some very brutal tales here, each one brought to vivid life by a wonderful artist.

Lorraine Cink

Host & Writer of Marvel’s The Watcher.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix
Star Wars Force Awakens
Squirrel Girl
CritJuice Podcast
Star Wars Shattered Empire

Rico Renzi

Colorist of Spider-Gwen and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, director of creative endeavors at http://heroesonline.com

Russian Olive to Red King
Russian Olive to Red King

Russian Olive To Red King is a BEAUTIFUL object and story.

Southern Bastards is amazing every month.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the superhero action comedy I’ve always dreamed of. (full disclosure, I help make this comic)

The Divine/The Realist, anything made by Hanuka twins forever!

Cheating here, 2 collection that I read in the past but got collected beautifully for print in 2015: The Private Eye and The Complete Eightball

Marcelo Maiolo

Colorist of Batman Beyond, Old Man Logan, Pacific Rim, KING!

On Movies: Mad Max: Fury Road
On TV series: Justified Season Finale
On Brazilian comic book: A Vida de Jonas (The Life Of Jonas)
On comics: Saga
On My work: Old Man Logan #01 – With Lemire and Sorrentino

Patrick Zircher

Artist of Green Arrow

Island
Island

The Rise of the Woman Character: I didn’t add it all up but I think titles with female leads sold more copies this year than ever. And that’s fantastic.

Diversity: I don’t think we’ve reached a point that reflects the demographics of the lives we live but real improvements are being made.

DC You: The creativity embraced by DC You made for interesting new stories.

Island: This anthology showcasing a variety of cartoonists styles in a short story format is an essential venue for comics.

The Indies & Vertigo: Once again comic-makers offered a rich variety of well-craftedCchristianberanek

Christian Beranek

5. The Walking Dead has reached its peak. Have people finally had their fill of post apocalyptic zombie soap operas?

4. DC’s mad push for relevance has actually created some great television. They aren’t able to tie the movies into that continuity, however, and it might end up hurting their overall brand.

3. Marvel’s continued dominance. I imagine we’ll hear about Phase 4, 5 & 6 plans soon. Don’t see them slowing down for decades.

2. Webcomics continue to grow and have the most readership (some upwards of 500k) yet mainstream comics continues to discount their importance.

1. Star Wars. I was an active part of the 1999 excitement leading up to the prequels but more of an observer this time. There will be no one to stop Disney this time. They finally rule the audience they’ve always coveted and they’ve only just begun to exploit the property.

Mike Perkins

Star Wars in the Marvel Universe
Netflix and Marvel
BEST COMIC: Goddamned – Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
BEST COMIC: Josephine (published by Delcourt) – Penelope Bagieu
PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT – Rowans Ruin with Mike Carey ( published by BOOM!)

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 2

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here.

Tom Spurgeon

Screenshot 2016-01-04 at 2.48.39 AM

  1. Mowgli’s Mirror — I enjoyed this Retrofit comic book follow-up to Arsene Schrauwen quite a bit. Olivier Schrauwen is a major talent and one of those cartoonists whose every work demands attention. It’s always exciting to get to know a cartoonist’s work when they fall into that category.
  2. Money — I’m encouraged by things like Short Run in Seattle getting $20K from the NEA, and Jeff Smith/Vijaya Iyer of Cartoon Books facilitating a $7K gift to the cartoonist Katie Skelly at the show on which I work, Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. Comics-makers and comics institutions need to be supported in a rational, realistic way.
  3. Sprawl — I found it really interesting that nearly every top comics list had different comics on it, and that I’m guessing somewhere around 200 comics made best-of lists this year. My hunch is that this indicates a really interesting conversation going forward. Comics criticism used to be about hammering away at some really tightly-held but ultimately untenable ideas: that humane works, delicately crafted and strongly idiosyncratic, were more significant works of art than the latest, forgettable twists in genre work adhering to a rigidly commercial tradition. Heck, some people still argue this. Now we have to do the hard work of separating the great from the good, and everyone’s armed for bear. There are some fun discussions to have over the next 10 years.
  4. Mainstream Comics Exhaustion — I thought the listlessness of the Marvel and DC lines fascinating. I will never understand why Convergence was a good idea — that seemed an experiment in a laboratory designed to shed readers. Marvel’s shift from a powerful line-up to an average one is really telling, and it’s heartening to see a readership that’s simply baffled by things like two Howard The Duck issue #2s less than a year apart and wants no part of that particular madness. I can’t recall a more listless period creatively in those books since the late 1990s. Some of the more beloved mainstream comics of the moment seem to benefit from simply tweaking ol formulas rather than generating new ones
  5. Tim O’Shea — I’m glad to get this note from Tim O’Shea, and happy he’s working

Zander Cannon

Favorite Comics of 2015

First of all, I have a bunch of series that I always love, but so does everyone else, so I don’t really have anything new to add, just that they’re great. God Hates Astronauts, Saga, Southern Bastards, Gene Ha’s Mae (which I letter), Prez, Bitch Planet, Godzilla in Hell, Groot, Daredevil.

Nimona by Noelle Stephenson I randomly happened upon the web version of Nimona long ago when it was about half-done, and it was this incredible sensation of experiencing a cool new art style, a female anti-hero, and a completely engrossing story. I just got the hardcover recently, and it’s just such a beautiful polished story that still roots as a sort-of gag-a-day webcomic.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson I’ve always loved Ryan North’s comics, and I am perpetually impressed that he always seems to manage to carve out a fun, interesting story that has just the right amount of weight and consequence within whatever continuity he’s given (Marvel, Adventure Time, etc.). More than that, reading the issues of Squirrel Girl is just such a enjoyable experience. The fact that there are little marginal notes — kind of like the mouseover text in webcomics — and the social media feed used as a recap just makes it that much more fun. Erica Henderson’s cartoony, fun art and all the subplots about Squirrel Girl’s roommate are just the best.
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Deep Dark Fears by Fran Krause These are great. Again, I found these online, then just got the book for Xmas — I could barely get a chance to read it because all my family members were cracking up and saying “That’s just like you!”. I also love that since so much work is available online for free, that publishers are putting a lot of slick publication design into their print work.

Luther Strode by Tradd Moore This book is bananas. The story is progressing slowly enough that I don’t have any idea if it’s going to tie itself together, but the art and storytelling that Tradd Moore puts into it is unreal. I like that you can tell that he really gets lost in the art and that he solves visual problems in fascinating ways, some of which are really efficient and elegant, some of which clearly just involve drawing every last goddamn soldier or tree or shard of glass or whatever.

CyberRealm by Wren McDonald No Brow put out this beautiful, short little self-contained comic and it’s just the sort of thing I like. Written like a straight genre story, drawn like an indie comic, and then soaked in a heavy dose of cynicism. 

Van Jensen

1 – RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING

My favorite book of the year, a small, soulful story from the Immonens. There’s nothing quite like seeing extremely talented creators telling a story unshackled by convention.

2 – HEAD LOPPER

Andrew MacLean’s fantasy epic is a visual treat, the most fun I’ve had reading comics in longer than I can remember. Each issue has at least one action sequence that’s something I’ve never seen before.

3 – WYTCHES

I was a bit slow getting to this, but the first collection is exactly the kind of horror I love. Creepy, atmospheric and intense, focused always on the characters and never on the gore. I read it on the beach, since I knew anywhere less serene and I’d end up with nightmares

4 – MULTIVERSITY

What a wild, woolly assemblage of crazy concepts, characters and locales. Not all of it worked, but the best of it was so damn good I kept going back to study it more, hoping to gain some understanding of how on Earth it was made.

5 – MARCH BOOK TWO

Another strong entry in the autobiography of Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis (who actually represents my district). It’s a reminder that there’s still much to learn from one of the most important movements in our history, and it’s all the more fitting that it comes out in an era when we clearly see that much more progress needs to be made.

Shawn Martinbrough

SMartinbrough-Top Five-MPHMPH-A realistic approach to the question of, “If you gained the ability of superspeed, what’s the first thing you would do?” The honest answer: Steal EVERYTHING. Fun writing by Mark Millar with gorgeous art by Duncan Fegrado. Fegrado’s attention to detail and action create really great moments here.
SMartinbrough-Top Five-Outcast
Outcast- I’ll probably get accused of shilling for the home team with this selection but the writing is trademark Kirkman slow burn creepy with exquisite storytelling and design by artist Paul Azaceta. I really love the economy of Paul’s lines, page design and SMartinbrough-Top Five-SICARIOhis amazing ability to convey character emotions. The colo
by Elizabeth Breitweiser are perfect.

SICARIO- The storytelling in this film by director Denis Villeneuve blew me away from the first shot. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is way overdue for sainthood and the score by composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is haunting in the best way. Buy the bluray NOW.

SMartinbrough-Top Five-TheWIRE

The WIRE-My choice for best television series ever created (Breaking Bad and The Sopranos are close seconds) was finally released on Bluray in 2015. I was late to the game but after so many folks whose opinions I respect heaped such praise on this show, I jumped on with Season 4 when it first aired on HBO. I was immediately hooked by the first scene with Snoop in the faux Home Depot. I’m about to start another marathon while drawing at the art table.

Between the World and Me- An honest and sincere window into the African America experience in America by author Ta-Nehisi Coates. My fiancee “borrowed” this book from me the day it arrived via Amazon. Required reading for EVERYONESMartinbrough-Top Five-BetweentheWorldandMe

Laura Martin

going to make an exception for this Top 5 list. I’m going to do a very overdue shout-out to five people who have been there through my entire career: my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my brother. This is for you, Nolie & Joan DePuy, Peg & Jerry Theirheimer, and Tom DePuy.

1995 was a banner year for the DePuys. My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary, Peg and Jerry celebrated their tenth anniversary, and I graduated college and started working in comics.

When I first broke the news to my parents that I’d accepted a colorist position at WildStorm, they didn’t take the news well. I was their youngest child, and the one living closest to them; I was fresh out of college, and I could have easily pursued a design job at any of the Orlando theme parks. Mom’s reaction to the news was something I’ll never forget. When I said I’d be moving from Orlando to San Diego, she replied, “Hahahano you’re not.”

The conversation did improve from that point, thank goodness. Within a few weeks and some nudging from my brother, my folks came around, and with a lot of trepidation, they decided to help me get my things in order and send me off to my new life in San Diego.

The family watched closely as I went from scrappy newbie to seasoned colorist, from staffer to freelancer (and back to staffer and then back to freelancer), from renting a rat-hole studio to buying a split-level ranch, from a nobody to a multiple award winner. They celebrated my successes and worried over my low points. My parents visited my various offices and even attended MegaCon one year. They welcomed Randy into the family, and celebrated his successes and worried over his low points as well. They gamely read the comics I brought home, even when they had no interest in the subject matter (although Dad liked Ministry of Space and Mom liked The Rocketeer). Hardcovers of my books became coffee-table books, always on display in their den. Mom and Peg, both longtime tax preparers, waded through our abysmal recordkeeping every year, and kept us safely out of the jaws of the IRS.

The biggest thing that my family did, and continue to do, for me is to be my sounding boards. They always ask really good questions: How am I being treated in the industry? Are my bosses fair? Does the portrayal of female characters bother me? Why are the deadlines always so crazy for colorists? What did the DC purchase of WildStorm mean, and, much later, what did the Disney purchase of Marvel mean? What did it mean when I went exclusive for Marvel? How are my studiomates? Am I hitting my deadlines and taking care of myself? Have I met Stan Lee? Is Jim Lee related to Stan Lee? (I cleared that one up really early.)

The one question they never asked me, however, was the question that too many comics artists get from their families: “When are you going to get a real job?” Whenever I hear of a fellow professional whose family isn’t supportive, I’m so very thankful for my own family. They might not always understand the crazy industry I work in, but they’re all glad that I found my niche early on, and that this niche has been very, very good to me over the years.

Now we’re all getting older; they’re all either retired or semi-retired, and we compare MRIs and worry over our octogenarian parents’ health more often than we exchange career advice. But I know if I were to suddenly decide to quit my job and become a cat whisperer and live off the grid, they might ask me a bunch of questions, but ultimately they know that I don’t make decisions lightly, and they’d support whatever I choose to do.

So thank you, Mom, Dad, Peg, Jerry and Tom (don’t say Tom and Jerry, they hate that). Thank you for being supportive when I chose this path, thank you for embracing Randy and his similar path, and thank you for walking the path with Randy and me — slightly behind us so we could forge our own way, but close enough to catch us when we stumble.

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 1

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year.

Jimmie Robinson

Image creator

Star Wars:

Screenshot 2016-01-01 at 3.50.18 PMA global phenomenon on all levels, even the comic spin-offs have done well in comic & book stores. This film/event has bridged generations together.

Noelle Stevenson:
My pick for comic industry person of the year.  Stevenson is in the right time and place and with the right talent to spur a new era of comic readers.  We love superheroes, but Stevenson has jumped into the arena of a cross audience with Nimona and Lumberjanes.  We need more creators like her, and Kelly Sue, for the next generation of readers.

Comics Journalism:
This might be something not noticed on a lot of people’s radar, but in this information era we should take note that comics journalism has grown and changed a lot in 2015. Sites, blogs, videos, periscopes, live streams and more have brought people together with news & information ranging from blockbuster films to the latest Internet rage, changes in publishing and even in the news sites themselves.

Comic conventions:
I include this because to be honest this has been a great year for comic conventions on all levels.  Sure we’ve had a few hiccups with the growing pains.  Sexual conduct, professional ethics, and such. BUT, the good news is that none of those incidents brought about a knock-on effect on attendance or the attendees.  Tackling such problems and moving on is the sign of a healthy industry.  We should all celebrate not just another good year, but a solid year.

The rise of comic awareness:
This spins off my inclusion of comic conventions for 2015, but *awareness* takes it a step further.  I’m an old fart and I remember the days of the comic industry as something done in backrooms, secret clubs and comic stores.  At that time I advocated that fans and readers bring our hobby into the light and share it with friends and family. It used to be a hidden secret among many of us, but  now, thanks to the popularity of several blockbuster superhero films, we’ve seen a surge of awareness and acceptance in pop culture.  TV, film, books, magazines, conventions, advertising, college classes, online sales and other ancillary spin-off merchandise.  It’s a great time for comics right now.  A lot of kids today don’t realize how good they’ve got it.

Paige Braddock

EVP / Creative Director
Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates

Giant Days  by John Allison (Author), Whitney Cogar (Author), Lissa Treiman (Illustrator)

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson

Doomboy by Tony Sandoval (an import that was originally published in 2014, but I didn’t discover it in the states until this past year)

 dddrAnd a VERY funny illustrated children’s graphic novel titled “Apocalypse Bow Wow” by James Proimos III, illustrated by James Proimos Jr.

I also really liked “This One Summer” by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki (but I think that may also have come out in 2014, sometimes I’m behind in my reading!)

“Fun Home” on Broadway. Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel

Stuart Moore

Editor/writer

Screenshot 2016-01-01 at 10.14.58 PMPAPER GIRLS by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang. The perfect melding of these two amazing talents—a seamless tale of adolescent trouble, time travel, and just plain fluid storytelling. The comic of the year (creator-owned division).

THE VISION by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. An eerie tale of a family of robots living in suburbia, with a deeply existential undercurrent. Reminiscent of an early Alan Moore super hero book, which is high praise around here. Best company-owned book of the year.

GET IN TROUBLE by Kelly Link. A collection of stunning, character-oriented short stories, each and every one of which carries an emotional punch. Several of them have comics connections; “Secret Identity” takes place at a hotel hosting conventions for dentists and super heroes; while “Two Houses” concerns a pair of spaceships called House of Secrets and House of Mystery.

MAD MEN THE FINAL SEASON, created by Matthew Weiner. The last episodes were absolutely on fire; this series stands as a writer’s model for multilayered dialogue, unexpected twists, and the delicate balance between symbolic meaning and character logic. Comics connection (and MINOR SPOILER): Lou Avery’s fuck-you to the advertising business when his monkey-themed strip “Scout’s Honor” becomes a Japanese animated series.

YOU’RE THE WORST, created by Stephen Falk. The best sitcom that no one’s watching, focusing on the frequently dysfunctional relationship between a British writer and an unstable L.A. publicist. Bonus points for Falk’s hilariously honest interviews, and for not being afraid to take things to a pretty dark place in Season Two. Hilariously weak comics connection: Chris Geere plays Jimmy like John Constantine if, instead of being driven to fight demons, JC decided to just write a book and buy a house he couldn’t afford.

Honorable Mentions:

JESSICA JONES

DOCTOR WHO – season finale and Christmas special

SHOW ME A HERO (which is not what it sounds like)

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

TRANSPARENT

Carmine Di Giandomenico

freelance artist

DK III  

Miller-Azzarello- Kubert

Screenshot 2016-01-03 at 5.43.50 AMHuck

Millar- Albuquerque

Catwoman

Valentine- Messina

Star Wars

Rucka – Checchetto

Tokyo Ghost

Remender- Murphy

Ethan Young

Young Illustration

1.) nnnnnnnHow incredibly entertaining the Marvel Netflix series have been. Although Daredevil is intensely drab in parts, it is 90% how I imagined a live-action Daredevil would play out. And Jessica Jones has given us a great mix of dark humor, crime intrigue, and action

2.) Steve Skroce’s return to comics storytelling with We Stand On Guard. Man, I’d buy almost anything that dude draws. Kinda sad that Burlyman never released the collection of his storyboards for the Matrix sequels. Woulda loved to have owned that.

3.) Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops made me laugh out loud more than a few times. I’d be really interested to see what she’d do with a superhero sandbox (and more than just a Strange Tales short), but that’s just me projecting what I want to see.

4.) NYCC reaching over 160K attendees was both incredible and frighteningly claustrophobic. I had to take several stress shits over that weekend.

5.) On a personal note, having finally released a book through Dark Horse, I’ve discovered that people feel more forthcoming with blunt critiques of your work, as opposed to the practiced constraint when reviewing small press creators.

Tim Seeley

http://timseeleyart.blogspot.com/

Okay, I have to admit that once again this year, I didn’t really read many comics, and even fewer that I really enjoyed. That’s not to say that their weren’t a whole hell of a lot of great comics out this year…there definitely were. But it turns out that when you spend so much time writing comics, you can’t really read ‘eHey, I gott

MAD Max Fury ROAD– A great sci-fi action movie that was also just a damn great film. It’s impressive just how wide the appeal of this movie became, considering the relative “cult status” of the previous films. And, it’s got friggin’ AWARDS BUZZ. Sure, it’s not a comic book, but I think anytime a “genre” product gets this kind of acclaim, it’s good for the comic industry.

Screenshot 2016-01-03 at 6.14.44 AMBLACK MASK STUDIOS– The rise of this small publisher was heartening to me for a couple of reasons. One, it’s run by two old buddies of mine, Matt Pizzolo and Steve Niles. Two, they make quality content with a very distinct voice and vision. And three, a healthy alternative comics publisher does wonders for the industry. Though “We Can Never Go Home” seemed to get most of the hype, I actually totally preferred the excellent and provocative “Young Terrorists” and the weird retro futurism of “Space Riders.”

THE DIVERSITY CONVERSATION– Sure, much of what actually got published was lip service, and a fare percentage of those shouting loudly on the internets didn’t seem to put their money where their mouth was…BUT, many who were unaware of the problem were made aware, and some outreach was made to expand the creative voices and audience for comics. Comics (especially superhero comics from the Big 2) should do a better job of reflecting the world outside our doors, and hopefully the conversations of 2015 are the beginnings of a better industry in 2016.

DCYou– Yeah, everyone will tell you the launch of DC’s “new audience friendly” line wasn’t met with big sales, but fuck everyone. There were some great comic books in that launch (Prez, Omega Men, Black Canary, etc) and in five years we’ll look back and remember it fondly for being ahead of its time.

DIGITAL DIDN’T KILL THE PRINT STAR– Some people buy their comics in print. Some buy them digitally. And apparently a whole hell of a lot of people do both. Sure, digital comic sales leveled off somewhat in 2015, but they’re still goddamn good, and they haven’t come at the expense of print comic sales. The comics industry is primed to accept new and varied means of distribution, and that can only be a good thing in a world that’s rushing right up that Curve of Accelerating

The Grumpy Color | Carla and Tom retire 2015, Part 2

Today, on The Grumpy Color!  Movies, TV shows and how hardcore can you make Aquaman before he just starts looking like Rob Zombie?  Let’s join our discussion, already in progress…

Then, Now, Forever...
Then, Now, Forever…

Tom Bondurant: So since we’re talking movies and TV, how much has the comics’ Marvel U changed to resemble the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Carla Hoffman: Not enough? I mean, it’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong. We have a female Thor kicking butt and a Sam Wilson Captain America three separate Avengers teams that are nothing like the movie’s roster, all with their own agendas and purposes. Comics are brilliant in that it costs so much less to take chances with and do big radical shifts of character, tone and setting that the current ANAD Marvel shouldn’t look like the MCU. On the other hand, the Inhumans are now more prominent than ever in the books, more even than mutants were. There is, in fact, an Ant-Man solo series that has adjusted somewhat for the movie. Brian Michael Bendis is trying his best to write dialogue for Robert Downey Jr. It’s different enough, but not jarring. That being said, an Agent Carter series would be a no-brainer, don’t you think?

TB: Do you think the Marvel U books are helped by those sweet, sweet Star Wars sales?

CH: ARE WE EVER! I wasn’t going to mention that either, because I feel kind of bad that a good chunk of Marvel’s sales success is thanks to some really awesome Star Wars titles. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I could slap a sticker of Darth Vader’s helmet on a phone book and send it out the door, but Marvel is not treating these books lightly as a lot of really good creative teams are coming together  for some pretty cool stories. The Force Awakens has blown the lids off of fanboy’s brains and we’re going to move a lot of Star Wars merch, that’s for sure. Let’s here it for our corporate Disney overlords!

TB: For that matter, how’s small-screen Marvel been treating you? Have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fall episodes turned into a warm-up for the second season of Agent Carter? I’m only two episodes into Jessica Jones, so no spoilers; but did it meet your expectations?

I watch a lot of Sesame Street, folks.
I watch a lot of Sesame Street, folks.

CH: This is kind of what I was getting at in an earlier question; I’m… not very good at keeping up with the small screen. I haven’t even finished Daredevil yet! But I have seen Aveggies: Age of Bon-Bon a dozen or so times, let me tell you…

Marvel has always captured a college aged audience, a groovier crowd if you will, and the new Netflix series are drawing that same set of eyeballs in a new and fresh way. Personally, I wanted to like Jessica Jones but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I felt that Alias had time for a much more likable and approachable character and didn’t get to that Purple Man punch until the end of the series. But at time same time, I don’t have to watch Jessica Jones to enjoy the MCU. Or even the M, err… NU? When Luke Cage gets his series, Jessica Jones can be there but under a completely different script and director, so maybe I’ll enjoy her more. It’s even a good thing that the show wasn’t a straight adaptation because fans can now (hopefully) go into a comic shop and get a book that has a familiar story, but more detail and rich artwork that enhances their Netflix experience. Something new, couched in the familiar….

TB: And — you knew this one was coming — their 55th anniversary is in 2016, so whither the Fantastic Four?

CH: Hoo boy. Dead? Reed and Sue and the kids, I think, are ‘gone’, leaving Ben in the Guardians and Johnny Storm kissing another man’s wife over in Uncanny Inhumans. It’s weird, but I’m kind of interested on seeing where they take Marvel’s first family without the actual family and how Human Torch and the Thing survive without the essentials that brought them together. Not that this is their first time at the solo rodeo, but there’s an expectation that these four characters are going to orbit each other. Maybe this time next year, we’ll be doing the think pieces and tributes that always follow a big change in the FF for an anniversary lap, then sale decline, then back on the shelf. Sigh. I’d say maybe a summer event is in order on getting the band back together, but you know. Civil War II.

a.k.a. Everyone Hates Iron Man
a.k.a. Everyone Hates Iron Man

Side note: Oh man, why I am this excited for a Civil War II? Just six months ago, typing those words out would have made me nauseous, but maybe it’s the power of the upcoming Captain America movie (I’ll get into that later) or the incredible job that Charles Soule did with the Battleworld book set in Civil War, but coming back to that idea or heroes conflicted over ideology based around current events, but this time not from Mark Millar or as clumsily done now that event books have more of a framework in modern comics, this is actually kind of exciting!

Maybe there is more synergy at work between comics and movies than I thought. Speaking of the big screen, are you ready for the grimace fest of the century? Superman vs. Batman! Wonder Woman is also here! And Aquaman… for some reason! Why not just call it Justice League and be done with it?

TB: It makes me very nervous that Warner Brothers is depending so heavily on a movie which they’re promoting (at least in part) with grim, serious photos of Aquaman.

slowly working towards a Momoa makeover...
slowly working towards a Momoa makeover…

CH: And a weird looking Aquaman at that! DC really can’t have their cake and eat it too with that design, you know. Either he’s the blonde guy in an orange shirt that everyone knows and loves or go whole hog and bring back the Old Man and Sea look from Peter David’s run and ..  they’re doing the latter, aren’t they?  I just took a look at a recent comic cover for Aquaman and yeah, orange shirt is in the trashcan. They have to balance the look of what’s on comic stands and what’s on the silver screen; there’s been a lot of that balance with Marvel so that when you look at the covers of the comics, you can right away know who is in what book…

TB: I did like the most recent trailer — the one that ends with Wonder Woman saving Batman — and I’m maybe looking forward even more to the Wonder Woman movie.

CH: Note how you didn’t say saving Superman as well. Those two make such a weird couple….

But yeah, I think it’s a bad idea to stuff Wonder Woman in a movie that has two huge personalities that should sort themselves out first, but that’s me. Over here. With a franchise that made sure to introduce all the big heroes in individual movies first before combining them all together. Because that sells more books and develops characters better.

TB: As for the title … well, the actual title is clunky and pretentious, and it only really works if you know it’s basically a “zero issue” for the Justice League series. It’s like The First Avenger subtitle, in that everybody just called that movie Captain America.

CH: They added in that First Avenger tag line to make sure a movie entirely focusing around a nationalistic hero played well in other countries, but point taken.

TB: I suspect the general public is about as aware of the Justice League in 2015 as they were of the Avengers in, say, 2007. Man Of Steel 2: Batman vs. Superman probably would have been better (if about as clunky), because this movie won’t be the Justice League. I don’t think you can call it a League until there are at least five members and a headquarters.

CH: But here’s the thing and I’m going to try to tie it back into comics as best I can without going full Hollywood on you here: I agree that it’s not the Justice League; it’s not even the Super Friends as no one in this movie seems very friendly. I think DC stepped into the role of Very Serious Movie makers with Batman Begins and held to it all through the Nolan trilogy. Stepping outside the ranks with Superman Returns didn’t fare very well, nor could it make a cohesive Cinematic Universe. When you go super serious, you’re kind of in all the way. So it brings about the problem you mentioned before, where when a comic is good and the characterization is what you want to see, it feels weird when you read another book with them in it and they’re practically a different person.

The faces change, the costumes are different, they might even be different people in some respects, but Marvel has this consistency that follows through comics to movies through tones of storytelling that is making this cinematic universe work. Mind you, we’re lucky that there hasn’t been any new actors replacing older ones yet (wait, Ruffalo replaced Norton; but I won’t count it), but you should know who that hero or villain is no matter where you see them.

Yeah, no one knows what a Justice League is right now, but if you do it right, you will know its component parts well enough to handle a contrived title like the Avengers. And to be honest, Joe and Joan Q. Public know about a Justice League movie because there was an Avengers movie already released. We know the song and dance.

TB: I do notice (thanks to this handy chart) that Justice League 2 — where I presume they finish fighting Darkseid — is supposed to come out a month before Avengers: Infinity War 2, where I presume they finish fighting Darkseid knock-off Thanos. Something for the Grumpy Color 2019’s agenda!

CH: 2019!?!? Good grief.

TB: Getting back to comics — I know this will sound like the ultimate DC conspiracy theory, but bear with me. It almost seems like Marvel is using its commanding market presence to sustain an air of invincibility which can absorb whatever missteps it might make. Put another way, the combination of dominating top-sellers (including Star Wars) and sheer volume practically guarantees that Marvel will have a market-share advantage. Since that’s how we tend to keep score, Marvel keeps winning, and whatever it does either adds to its winning ways or at least doesn’t get in their way. It has much more room for error than DC does, so it can take more risks, and I would argue that those risks are minimized because of all the successes. Conversely, DC’s risks (Doctor Fate, say) are magnified because they’re seen in the light of overall market strategy, and each DC book has a greater responsibility to perform because there are fewer of them.

So my questions are 1) am I way off-base? and 2) will we ever hit Peak Marvel, where there’s just too much product coming from the House of Ideas?

Unleash the horde of new titles!
Unleash the horde of new titles!

CH: For the first part, I totally agree, but I don’t think this makes Marvel as bullet proof as that. Mistakes are made that can tarnish story lines and creative teams and books can tank hard (I’m giving ANAD about three months to sort itself out to what the stands are going to look like for realsies). Yeah, Star Wars is helping to keep the lights on, but I can’t really name a sure fire hit for my store off the top of my head. There was a time when Ultimate Spider-Man was just going to sell like gangbusters no matter what and now… well, Ultimate Spider-Man doesn’t really exist anymore and every title gets a new make-over every September, making longevity a thing of the past.

For the second part, no? Product I don’t think is the problem as series come and go rather regularly at this point. We keep sampling dishes and Marvel keeps taking the plates away, even the dishes we like and want more of (Mark Waid’s Daredevil could run for a thousand years, you guys). I think comics readers could get dizzy after awhile with the turn over rates and might yearn for a more regular ongoing series with less creative change-ups, but then boom! A new series will debut or suddenly NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME, etc. Comics are more malleable than ever and I think that’s going to change the way we read and consume them in some respects.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a perfect business model and everybody should try it but let’s face it, folks: it works at Image. Yeah. Think on that.

TB: Sounds like a good note to go out on! 2015 was wild and wacky, but at least it gave us plenty to discuss. Here’s hoping 2016 is at least equally eventful!

2016: Year of the (Black) Beetle?

Francesco Francavilla takes to Twitter to tease the return of ‘The Black Beetle,’ his well-regarded pulp comic from Dark Horse.

Our long, national nightmare may soon be over, as creator Francesco Francavilla teased on Twitter the return of The Black Beetle. Francavilla posted an image of the pulp hero with the hashtags #TheYearOfTheBeetle and #BlackBeetleReturns.

The Black Beetle originally appeared on Francavilla’s website back in 2009, then Dark Horse brought him to comic shops in 2013. Their first miniseries, Black Beetle: No Way Out, received many accolades (including an Eisner nomination for best miniseries) and appeared on several “best of the year” lists. But a second miniseries, “Necrologue,” was scheduled but never made it out of the gate. But it looks like that might be changing this year:

No word yet on when the excellent series will return, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for it.

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Lemire’s ‘Roughneck’ skates into stores in 2017

Lemire returns to small-town Canada for a new graphic novel from Simon & Schuster.

The prolific Jeff Lemire, who has left his stamp on monthly comics from DC, Marvel, Image and Valiant in recent years, returns to his graphic novel roots in October with Roughneck.

Update: According to Lemire’s blog, Roughnecks will now arrive in April 2017.

Originally announced in 2013, the graphic novel is written and drawn by Lemire. Like his Essex County series, this one is also set in small town Canada. Here’s how Simon & Schuster described the project back in 2013:

“Derek is a former hockey tough guy whose quick rise to the NHL was cut short when a brutal on-ice incident left him banned from professional hockey for life. Now, four years later, Derek has returned to Black River, his hometown in Northern Ontario, not far from the Moose Cree First Nation, where his mother grew up. Derek’s slide into alcoholism and depression is interrupted when his long-lost sister, Annie, returns home trailing a violent ex-boyfriend. Together, the two escape to the woods, where they struggle to reconnect with the traditions of their Cree ancestors in order to escape their past and gain redemption.”

This is definitely something to add to the “Comics I’m looking forward to” list for 2016.

RN PROMO

The Grumpy Color | Tom and Carla retire 2015, Part 1

Smash Pages contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman continue their end-of-year tradition, looking back at the year in Big Two superhero comics and looking forward to 2016.

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World’s Smashiest

[Smash Pages contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman continue their end-of-year tradition, looking back at the year in Big Two superhero comics and looking forward to 2016.]

Carla Hoffman: Time to get off the couch, put down the Ben and Jerry’s and stop listening to Moonlight Sonata on repeat, it’s the end of the year! Marvel and DC have cast their nets wide through event books, new titles, TV shows and movies to reel in new readers, viewers and mass market appeal and somebody’s has to sort through it all, sir! For somebody, read: us.

Continue reading “The Grumpy Color | Tom and Carla retire 2015, Part 1”

Valiant teases 2016 slate: Bloodshot Island, new Archer & Armstrong, more

Get a glimpse of what the future holds for Ninjak, Divinity and more.

With 2015 winding down, Valiant Entertainment has released several teasers for upcoming storylines and returning titles from the publisher. Of note: Jeff Lemire, Mico Suayan and David Baron journey to “Bloodshot Island,” while Matt Kindt and Diego Bernard plan a siege for Ninjak. And oh yeah, Archer and Armstrong return! I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rafer Roberts does on the title.

Check out all the teasers below …

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archer-armstrong

bloodshot

divinity2

ninjak