Mail Call | ‘X-O Manowar’ returns, ‘Death Metal’ one-shots and more

A round-up of news from DC, Marvel, Image Comics, Valiant and more.

Mail Call is a roundup of the announcements we’ve received from comics publishers in our mailboxes recently. Hit the links for more information.

The Dark Nights: Death Metal event grew again this week, as DC announced two new anthology one-shots for November prior to releasing their full November solicitations.

The first one is focused on Lobo and is titled Dark Nights: Death Metal Infinite Hours Exxxtreme! #1. It will feature “Uncle Lobo” telling “familiar yet freaky stories of the DC Universe, exactly as he remembers them: with blood and guts and exxxtreme gratuitous violence.” The creators involved include Frank Tieri, Becky Cloonan, Dale Eaglesham and more, with a cover by Kyle Hotz.

If that one isn’t ridiculous-sounding enough, the second one, Dark Nights: Death Metal The Multiverse Who Laughs “offers the curious—and the brave—a glimpse into the nightmare realities that the Batman Who Laughs has created in tales by creators who know what it means to have a truly twisted sense of misfit humor.” As you can tell by the cover, one of those worlds features evil super pets. It includes stories by Amanda Conner, Patton Oswalt, Jimmy Palmiotti, Scott Snyder, Brandon Thomas, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Chad Hardin and more.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jimmy Palmiotti and Dave Johnson

The two-award-winning creators discuss their latest project together, the second issue of ‘Pop Kill’ from Paperfilms.

Dave Johnson is the award-winning cover artist of 100 Bullets, Punisher, Deadpool, Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, The Butcher of Paris and many other comics. Jimmy Palmiotti began his career as an inker, but quickly became a writer and editor, co-creating comics like Ash, 21 Down and The Monolith. In recent years, Palmiotti has continued to work with his wife, the great Amanda Conner, on a variety of projects, but much of his work has been writing and co-writing creator-owned graphic novels including Killing Time in America, Retrovirus and Random Acts of Violence, which was adapted into a film just released on video-on-demand, in addition to continuing the story of his characters Painkiller Jane and The Monolith.

Many of those projects, like Pop Kill, which is currently being kickstarted, are collaborations with artist Juan Santacruz. This time they’re joined by co-writer Dave Johnson on a series that’s violent, sexy, very absurd, and they were kind enough to take a few minutes out to talk about the second issue of the series, and continuing the absurd tale of violence, sex, and corporate espionage.

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Palmiotti, Conner working on a Black Label Harley Quinn miniseries

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner put a mature readers spin on Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, the husband and wife team who chronicled the adventures of Harley Quinn for several years, will reunite on the character for a new four-issue ‘Black Label’ miniseries titled Harley Quinn and The Birds of Prey.

As the title would suggest, it will feature Quinn teaming up with Black Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain and Renee Montoya after the Joker puts a bounty on her head. And since it falls under their Black Label imprint, expect it to be aimed at more mature audiences than their last work on the character.

“Jimmy and I are so looking forward to this project,” said Conner. “I’m excited to be co-writing it, but it’s been some time since I’ve been able to draw interiors, so I’m doubly excited. Harley is a blast to write and draw; throw the Birds of Prey into the mix and it’s even more fun. And since this will be a mature readers title, we’ll do our best to get away with as many shenanigans as possible!”

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DC’s Walmart-exclusive stories headed to comic shops

DC Comics announced at WonderCon that stories by Brian Michael Bendis, Tom King and others will be released in the direct market.

DC Comics answered a question at WonderCon that’s been in the minds of readers and retailers — will the stories they’ve released exclusively to Walmart ever be collected and available in comic shops?

The answer is yes, as DC announced at their publisher’s panel today that stories like Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Derington’s Batman: Universe will be collected and released in the direct market.

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Donny Cates + friends bring back ‘Marvel Knights’ for its 20th anniversary

Daredevil, Black Panther, Punisher and more will be featured in ‘MK20’ #1 this fall.

It was 20 years ago that two creators at a small publishing house called Event Comics got the green light to take over several Marvel titles. Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti helped usher Marvel out of the dark ages of the 1990s and into the future, bringing in creators like Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis, Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Christopher Priest and many others to tackle Daredevil, Black Panther, Punisher, Inhumans and several other Marvel characters.

Overall it is was very successful, especially from a storytelling perspective; Quesada eventually took over as Marvel editor-in-chief, and the tone of the stories set the course for much of Marvel’s success over the past two decades. The Marvel Knights imprint eventually evolved into something else, featuring high-profile miniseries, and went dormant about five years ago.

Until now.

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Walmart to offer exclusive ‘giant’ anthologies from DC — with new content

New material by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Dan Jurgens, Tim Seeley, Tom King, Brian Michael Bendis and Andy Kubert joins past stories in new monthly line.

DC Comics and Walmart have teamed up to offer an exclusive line of 100-page “giant” anthologies at the big-box retailer. The anthologies will feature a mix of previously published and new materiel, including new material by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Patrick “Patch” Zircher, Brian Michael Bendis, Dan Jurgens, Tim Seeley, Rick Leonardi, Steve Buccellato, Andy Kubert, Scott Eaton and Tom King.

“We are extraordinarily excited about working with Walmart to expand the reach of our books,” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio in a statement. “These new monthly books combine new and accessible stories with reprints of classic comic series. It’s a great way for new readers to get into comics and follow the characters they’ve grown to love in TV and film.”

Each of the four titles – Superman Giant, Justice League Of America Giant, Batman Giant and Teen Titans Giant – will arrive in stores by July 1. Beginning in August, the Superman and Justice League titles will arrive in week one of each month, with Batman and Teen Titans arriving approximately two weeks later. They’ll cost $4.99.

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Comics Lowdown: ‘One Punch Man’ tops GN chart

Plus: Another view of Marvel’s Northrop Grumman Comic, Palmiotti and Conner say goodbye to Harley Quinn, and was New York Comic Con too big?

Top Graphic Novels: Viz takes half the slots in the September BookScan top 20 chart, which measures sales of graphic novels in the book channel: Vol. 12 of One Punch Man was the top seller, followed by the all-in-one edition of Death Note (a 12-volume omnibus—yes, it’s a brick). Perennial best-sellers Fun Home, March, and Watchmen all make the chart, as does Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race, vol. 3 of Tom King’s Batman: Rebirth, and Avatar’s limited edition of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’s Providence: Act 3. Interestingly, there is not a single Image title on the list.

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Palmiotti, Cooke’s ‘The Adventures of Dutch Courage’ arrives in Chicago beer stores

Palmiotti and Cooke’s story appears across six labels of “an incredibly complex Session Ale brewed with Juniper Berries and Lemon Peel.”

Jimmy Palmiotti and Darwyn Cooke have brewed up a new six-panel story that draws inspiration from the old Charles Atlas ads that appeared in comics starting in the 1940s. But you won’t find it at your local comic shop today — you’ll only find it in Chicago-area liquor stores.

As a part of Chicago-based Arcade Brewery’s “6 Pack Stories” line of beer, Palmiotti and Cooke’s comic appears on labels of The Adventures of Dutch Courage, “an incredibly complex Session Ale brewed with Juniper Berries and Lemon Peel,” according to the brewery’s website. Each panel of the story appears on one of the six-pack’s bottles, so you’ll want to drink them in the right order. Volume one of Arcade’s 6 Pack Stories” featured a comic by Jason Aaron and Tony Moore, and was released in 2014.

According to a post on their Facebook page, the beer will be available at three locations today, followed by distribution around Chicago by the end of the week.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jimmy Palmiotti on AfterShock’s ‘Superzero’

SuperZero01_17_PreviewIt is impossible not to root for a new comic when it is pitched by Jimmy Palmiotti. Latest example is the AfterShock Comics creator-owned Superzero: “There is a lot of joy and craziness in Superzero and I think right away you will be rooting for the main character Dru, a teenage girl with a love of comics and everything superheroes.”

To mark the upcoming release, Palmiotti was kind enough to let me interview him.

Tim O’Shea: How important is it to foster a strong relationship with retailers in the run-up to the release of the first issue?

Jimmy Palmiotti: If people do not see the book on their store shelves, then in their mind it doesn’t exist, because a lot of comic fans do not read the internet as much as we think they and rely on their stores to keep them up to date and stock books for them. With any new company, it’s a lot to ask retailers to order heavy on something that is brand new, so its super important for them when ordering to see some familiar names to get a feeling for their initial order. For us, with Harley Quinn and Starfire coming out monthly, they might already have a bit of an idea what to expect with Superzero, but I’m making sure I’m available to them via social media to answer any questions they may have. For my whole career I’ve always been communicating with retailers about the work, and with these trusted relationships have been helping them set their orders as best as I can. With Superzero, we feel this book will appeal to the Harley and Starfire audience as well as the Kick-Ass audience. Look at the other books they have coming and you will see this is a creator-driven launch. So to directly address the question it is key to the success of the company to always work with the retailers. They are our partners in this at all times. Our success is dependent on them.

How enjoyable is there to be known as a part of the creative team with Amanda Conner that is known for creating fun lighthearted stories?

It’s a fantastic time to be working in comics where female leads are becoming normal and working with Amanda, we really are having a blast. This idea for Superzero is something we have had cooking for over six years and its really exciting for us to think we will finally get to entertain and tell the story we wanted to with this project in the initial launch of After Shock comics. There is a lot of joy and craziness in Superzero and I think right away you will be rooting for the main character Dru, a teenage girl with a love of comics and everything superheroes,  and hopefully get hooked at the idea we are presenting. The theme is how can a normal person become a superhero and we take it to places that are borderline insane…and at the same time ground the book is in a realistic world that everyone can relate to. I think this book is easily one of our best we have done and we hope everyone else thinks the same. The first issue will surely bring a smile to a lot of faces.

What makes this an attractive property for AfterShock Comics as opposed to some other creator-owned focused company?

Superzero#02_03_Preview-1
We could have gone to many different places with Superzero and each company offers a different deal as far as pay, royalties and ownership. We looked at what was out there and we wanted to partner with another company, rather than just own all of the property, because we just don’t have the time that we would need to self publish, promote, and push it properly. With a lot of companies, you have to do a lot of your own flag waving and with After Shock, they have a team onboard that is going out and doing the things we can’t do, leaving us to tell our story and do what is important to us on our end. As well, outside of the book, After Shock has a crew that can go out and take the property to other media, which is great, but for us, we don’t have any time but to focus on the book. Its great if they do get other media interested, but all we care about is that Superzero is the best comic book we can deliver. The decision to partner with After Shock was made easy because we already had existing relationships with Joe Pruett, Mike Marts and when we met the rest of the gang, we all got along great. This part of the business, the relationships, is key. A lot of time I have worked with publishers that once they get the book from you, you don’t exist anymore unless it’s a big seller. This is not the case with this crew. We are in it together all the way.

Care to elaborate on this gem “What comic creators really need is a brilliant experienced person to go out and sell licenses for creators and their work.”

What I was making note of was there are a lot of license conventions and designer cons and so on where the bigger companies like DC and Marvel license out their characters and art to companies to use for toys, games, statues, t-shirts, posters and a million other things and I wish there was someone that would look , as an example, at my creator owned work at Paperfilms.com and dig in and go out there and sell licenses of the characters to other types of media. For me to do it, which I do most of the time, it takes a lot of effort, connections and time that I just don’t have because of the work I put into the books. I could really use someone that knew what they were doing is all. I feel a lot of the properties are ripe for other media.

You liken Superzero to Harley or Starfire. In what ways do they share common traits?

Aside from the same creators writing them, Superzero is a good person wanting to help the world around her and has a good heart that even though things may go wrong, people can see where she is coming from. I also thing that Dru is also someone that wants better for those around her and is driven to make it happen, so they have that in common.

What can you tell me about the art team for Superzero?

Superzero#02_10_Preview-1We won the lottery as far as getting the perfect team on the book. On pencils and inks we have Rafael De Latorre who is one of the very few artists that can draw characters in their teens and they actually look their age, not something that is easy to do in comics. His storytelling skills are cinematic, and very telling of someone who has a great sense of set up and delivery and can convey body language. These were the key things we were looking for in the art and his facial expressions are so dead on we hate to cover a single line with dialogue at times. We also scored big time getting colorist Maiolo working with Rafael on this book. He sets a mood and a palette that captures the sun-drenched world that the story is set in, that being Tampa, Florida. He understands story and scene shifts and gives the book a painted feel that is just beautiful to look at. Rounding off the team is designer and letterer John J Hill, our letterer on Harley Quinn and now working with us on Superzero. John has some serious skills and the patience of the Gods working with us again. He simply is the best and we demand him for just about everything we do.

Is it too early to discuss supporting cast?

We meet most of the supporting cast in the first issue. We meet Dru’s mom and dad, sister, best friend and a couple of classmates. These are the important people in her life and a very colorful bunch at that. Her world is a small one that is about to get much bigger as she experiments and throws herself into some pretty insane situations. This book we keep the camera and focus always on Dru as we follow her and I think it works out just great. We get to see the people around her through her critical eyes.