Graphic Novelties

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This blog has been superseded by my Culture Shock blog.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Oh, She's a Lady

DC Comics' latest iteration of Phantom Lady seems to have all of the, um, essential attributes of her predecessors. The new Phantom Lady is either the third or fourth incarnation of the character, depending on whether you regard Fox's take on the original Sandra Knight version of the Golden Age as a distinct character.

(Artwork via Newsarama.)

Darren McGavin, R.I.P.

Darren McGavin, star of Kolchak: The Night Stalker and A Christmas Story, has died, according to Ain't it Cool News and McGavin's authorized web site. He was 83.

He also starred in two films with Don Knotts, who died late Friday at 81. The films are Hot Lead and Cold Feet and Disney's No Deposit, No Return.

While an ABC television revival of The Night Stalker (starring Stuart Townsend) flopped, McGavin's original Carl Kolchak has found new life in a comics series published by Moonstone Books.

Gaiman is "Eternal"

Neil Gaiman's Eternals miniseries is set to debut in June, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada announced at New York Comic-Con. John Romita Jr. will pencil the miniseries.

Dripping with Venom

Yes, I've seen the Spider-Man 3 publicity photo of the black Spider-Man suit. Yes, it has the fanboys buzzing about a possible Venom appearance. No, I'm not happy about this. But I still have confidence in Sam Raimi not to screw things up.

Taking the Big Apple

The New York Times visits New York Comic-Con. I love how the Times tries to sum up Marvel and DC's latest high-profile projects:
In "Civil War," the heroes are engaging in a debate over whether to register as government operatives; "Infinite Crisis" involves galactic warfare.

Of course, this is the same newspaper that gave us Jayson Blair, so what do you expect?

On the other hand, this is what Marvel and DC get for returning to continuity-heavy crossover "events."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Making Mine Marvel

Lots of interesting tidbits came out of Marvel's panel at New York Comic-Con, according to Newsarama's account. The best news is that there will be a new Doctor Strange miniseries, this time written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Marcos Martin. You can bet Neilalien will be all over this. Also, issue No. 8 of The Thing, written by Dan Slott, promises to be lots of fun, with the newly wealthy Thing hosting a high-stakes poker tournament.

Lastly, we can expect three to five MAX books later this year, none dealing with superheroes. So, Marvel hasn't given up on mature-readers titles yet.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The two Koreas

The Hartford Advocate reviews two graphic novels that offer glimpses into North and South Korea, Pyongyang by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly) and Buja's Diary by Seyeong O (NBM).

100 Years of Batman

The Portland Mercury reviews Paul Pope's excellent Batman: Year 100 No. 1.

Cylons for a quarter

Dynamite Entertainment's Battlestar Galactica comic will debut with a 25¢ No. 0 issue in May, according to the publisher's press release:
WRITTEN BY GREG (X-MEN, HULK) PAK, ART BY NIGEL RAYNOR, COVER ART BY STEVE (CIVIL WAR) MCNIVEN (50%) AND SIX PHOTO COVER (50%). The wait is over, the new adventures of the crew of the Battlestar Galactica begin here with DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT, writer GREG PAK, and artist NIGEL RAYNOR! Dynamite Entertainment proudly presents their all-new Galactica series with a special #0 issue featuring an original story with a "dynamite cliffhanger" ending that leads into the ongoing series! PAK is an exclusive writer for Marvel Comics, but has carved out this series for DYNAMITE and he's turning out a comic that fans both new and old are going to love. And we're so sure they're going to love it, that this introductory issue is available for just one thin quarter! And what would this issue be without a RED-HOT Photo cover featuring the beautiful Cylon - Number Six! PLUS: A Special preview of Brett Matthews and John Cassaday's Lone Range comic book series from Dynamite will also be included! Future covers by Billy Tan, Michael Turner and more to be announced!


Wonder Woman the sexy subversive

The cryptic teasing of DC's "One Year Later" books continues at Newsarama with writer Allan Heinberg discussing his plans for Wonder Woman. Of course, one comment stands out:
"The Golden Age Wonder Woman's story was originally set in motion by her attraction to Steve Trevor," explained Heinberg. "Her uniform and her sexuality were revolutionary in the 1940's and a huge source of her subversive power at the time. So, inspired by that version of the Wonder Woman, (artist) Terry (Dodson) and I are hoping to bring some of her subversive sexiness to the modern age character and to the book, as well."

Somehow, however, I don't think that means a return to bondage and spankings.


The big geek news out of Hollywood this morning is that Warner Bros. is moving forward on sequels to Batman Begins and Superman Returns, even though the latter has yet to hit theaters and reportedly is one of the most expensive films in Hollywood history. Of course, I'm not sure what the "news" is; didn't we already know sequels were in the works? I sure thought we did.

Marvel beats expectations, but profits down

Marvel Entertainment reported today that fourth-quarter profits fell 14 percent due to a one-time charge (early termination of the licensing agreement with its toy licensee, Toy Biz Worldwide Ltd.), but the company still beat analysts' expectations, as Marvel's fourth-quarter revenue grew 17 percent to $117.1 million from $100.5 million last year. According to the Associated Press, analysts had expected earnings per share of 31 cents on revenue of $112.1 million.

For all of 2005, Marvel posted net income of $102.8 million, or 97 cents per share, down from $124.9 million, or $1.10 per share, in 2004. Revenue fell 24 percent to $390.5 million from $513.5 million. However, Marvel raised expectations for 2006, raising its revenue forecast to $320 million to $350 million, from the previous $270 million to $300 million, and lifted its earnings-per-share projection to 44 cents to 55 cents per share from 37 to 52 cents.

Final "Justice"

The Knoxville News Sentinel's Terry Morrow praises Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited, recently reported to be in it's final season.

Good for me, bad for you

Bookslut founder Jessa Crispin defends the double standard of self-publishing. For books, it's a sign of desperation, but for comics, it means heightened credibility.

ABC orders sci-fi anthology series

ABC has ordered four episodes of Masters of Science Fiction, a TV anthology series from the producers of Showtime's Masters of Horror. IDT Entertainment will produce at least six episodes and as many as 13, Sci-Fi Wire reports. IDW Publishing, meanwhile, is publishing the comic-book adaptation of Masters of Horror.

"Ultimate" Toonami

If you're not prepared to plunk down for the DVD, Ultimate Avengers will air during Cartoon Network's Toonami block March 11, reports ICv2.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Marz vs. the Internet

Quoted in the new Wizard magazine, Ron Marz sounds off on the Internet:
Well, there are certain creators who shall remain nameless who spend more time cultivating their Internet personas than they do actually turning in their work. But fans buy into it, so I guess if that floats your boat ... all right.

He also refuses to start his own blog:
[F]rankly, if I'm going to be writing something I'd rather get paid for it.

News in brief

According to Newsarama, brothers Andy and Adam Kubert will be drawing Batman and Action Comics, respectively, beginning with each comic's July issue.

Wizard magazine reports that Allan Heinberg (The O.C., Young Avengers) will write the first four to five issues of DC's relaunched Wonder Woman series.

Darkest before the dawn?

CNN Money senior writer Paul R. La Monica is bullish on Marvel Entertainment in 2007, but the company must get through a slow 2006 first:
Investors are worried about how lousy of a year 2006 is shaping up to be. Revenues are expected to drop 24 percent and earnings are expected to plunge 51 percent.

However, as the company continues to generate more and more of its revenue from lucrative licensing deals and less from its low margin publishing and toy businesses, the company seems primed to bounce back sharply in 2007.

But what about 2008? At present, Spider-Man and maybe Fantastic Four are Marvel's only reliable movie franchises, especially now that X-Men 3 is being billed as the last of that series. Will shareholders be content with the profits generated by direct-to-DVD animated films? Will the live-action hits outnumber the misses? Will Peter Parker get the cash to pay Aunt May's mortgage on time?

Passing up free publicity

This post contains spoilers for the most recent issue of Nightwing...





Given the amount of press that the Black Panther/Storm wedding has generated for Marvel, was DC Comics stupid to keep Nightwing's marriage proposal to Barbara Gordon a secret? I mean, the average man or woman on the street is going to relate to a Robin/Batgirl union a lot more than to the merger of any two Marvel characters.

New network, new Aquaman

Confirming a rumor that's been floating around (pun No. 1), The CW, successor network to the floundering (No. 2) UPN and WB, has thrown back (No. 3) underwear model Will Toale and reeled in (No. 4) soap opera actor Justin Hartley (Passions) for the title role in the Aquaman TV series. Only time and tide (No. 5) will tell if Hartley will sink or swim (No. 6).

A marriage of convenience?

The pending Storm/Black Panther nuptials get play in today's Houston Chronicle: "On the groom's side will be producer/director Reginald Hudlin, who resurrected the Black Panther series in 2005, to describe the action. Giving away the bride will be best-selling novelist Eric Jerome Dickey, who is penning his first comic book."
Maggie Thompson, editor of the monthly Comic Buyer's Guide, says bringing in Hudlin and Dickey to write the series was a smart move.

"They grew up reading these characters and obviously enjoyed these characters, and it's kind of a natural to put them together," Thompson said.

Thompson expects more excitement after the happy couple exchanges vows.

"Hudlin has said, 'My goal is to make people (say) I can't believe you did that,' " Thompson said. "Obviously, that's more than they just get married. In terms of surprise you already know that, so that's not going to be the big pow moment."

Mind you, not everyone is buying the idea that Storm and the Black Panther are a perfect couple. As Paul O'Brien writes:
Indeed, the whole thing seems to be premised on the idea that a marriage between Storm and the Black Panther is inherently plausible simply because... well, they're both African, aren't they? And they must have so much in common, what with Africa being a continent of 840 million people spread across almost twelve million square miles. It's an attitude that suggests a very American way of looking at Africa - not a real place, so much as a source of ethnic identity for Americans. To an extent that sort of attitude isn't a commercial problem, because it's shared by many of the readers they're targeting. But when the characters are slung together as suddenly as this, it can't help but feel like an arbitrary exercise in pairing up the black people.

Eye of the fanboy "Storm"

The Philadelphia Daily News chats with novelist Eric Jerome Dickey, the latest author to make the jump to comics with his upcoming six-issue Storm miniseries for Marvel Comics:
The series follows African Prince T'Challa (the future Black Panther) meeting with Ororo (the future Storm), their unfolding romance and their joining together to fight a mutual enemy.

"I'm like - What issue can I raise? What can I tell about Storm that we don't already know?" Dickey said. "You want something that's different, but you don't want it to ring false.

"Because if I hit a false note all the readers will be like, 'Oh, hell no! Oh, hell no! Go back to writing books! Go back to writing books!' "

But the Daily News doesn't stop there, going on to interview BET head honcho Reggie Hudlin:
But Hudlin isn't just BET's programming chief, he also finds time to write the "Black Panther" comic book for Marvel, and he's brought the Gulf Coast tragedy into that series' storyline (see issue No. 12).

"That's the only comic book story that I know of that's set in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina," he said.

While Hudlin could have settled for making points metaphorically in the story - New Orleans has become a "city of vampires" in Katrina's aftermath - he instead tackles the subject in a very direct way.

"People are really quite shocked... because we just go there," he said.

There are pointed jabs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, racists and wealthy New Orleans residents who believe "the flood has washed away many of our city's undesirables."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Where are you comin' from, Spider-Man?"

The Best of the Electric Company, a four-disc DVD set containing episodes of the classic PBS children's show, is hitting the shelves. Of note to Graphic Novelties readers, The Electric Company featured the first (I'm 99 percent sure) live-action appearances of Spider-Man, who spoke only via word balloons. Of course, in the Mighty Marvel MannerTM, Marvel Comics released its own Spidey Super Stories comic to tie into the media crossover.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Nerd culture: A boy and his toys

What has Japan's manga culture wrought? The Associated Press reports on 30-something male manga/anime fans who have taken to collecting near-life-size dolls of their favorite cartoon females:
A grown man living in his apartment with two nearly 5-foot-tall dolls--and dozens of smaller figurines--would seem bizarre anywhere. And indeed, Masa keeps his full identity hidden and his curtains drawn to avoid ridicule by outsiders.

But he also is on the cutting edge of a billion-dollar "nerd culture" that has grown so enormous it has taken over an entire neighborhood in Tokyo and is making inroads into the mainstream.

The culture is firmly rooted in Japan's enduring fascination with manga comic books and animation that have won fans and critical acclaim worldwide.

But Masa and others like him--known as otaku--have taken that trend to another level by collecting dolls like Konoha or flocking to cafes staffed by waitresses dressed as comic book maids. They stock Web pages with photos of their dolls posing along country roads or taking a dip in hot-spring baths.

There but for the grace of God....

Superman: "Kind of goofy"

Maisonneuve magazine's Francis Joseph Smith ponders grim-and-gritty superheroes vs. Grant Morrison's Silver Age-style "All-Star" Superman: "Ultimately, he's the kind of guy who decides to call himself 'Superman,' which is to say -- he's kind of goofy."

War Between the Superheroes

Marvel's Civil War miniseries/event makes today's New York Times (free registration required):
"Civil War" provides problems in spades. The story opens with a reckless fight between a novice group of heroes (filming a reality television show) and a cadre of villains. The battle becomes quite literally explosive, killing some of the superheroes and many innocent bystanders. That crystallizes a government movement to register all super-powered beings as living weapons of mass destruction. The subsequent Registration Act will divide the heroes into two camps, one led by Captain America, the other by Iron Man. Along the way, Marvel will unveil its version of Guantanamo Bay, enemy combatants, embedded reporters and more. The question at the heart of the series is a fundamental one: "Would you give up your civil liberties to feel safer in the world?"

Also, the Times reports on Tuesday's release of Ultimate Avengers on DVD.

January by the numbers

ICv2 has released its direct-market sales figures for January. The good news, year-to-date sales of comics and graphic novels are up for January 2005. The bad news, sales for 16 of the top 25 comics fell in January vs. the previous month. Only four titles, all from Marvel Comics, had month-to-month gains. See also: the top 300 comics in sales and the top 100 graphic novels.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

It's all Godzilla's fault

Blame Godzilla. If not for Godzilla, I might never have started reading comic books. Sure, I had already read some Star Wars comic books, and possibly one or two DC Comics treasury editions, but I didn't really get into comics until the late 1970s, and it was all Godzilla's fault.

By the late '70s, I had been exposed to a steady diet of Godzilla movies on Saturday-afternoon television, so I was the target audience for Marvel Comics' licensed Godzilla: King of the Monsters series.

Godzilla was an oddity. While Marvel's other licensed titles were set in worlds all their own, separate from the Marvel Universe, Godzilla was firmly grounded in the MU. Godzilla tangled with SHIELD, the Fantastic Four, the Champions, and the Avengers.

For a newcomer to Marvel's roster of superheroes (apart from Spider-Man and the Hulk, of course), Godzilla was a crash course. Thanks to Godzilla, I quickly became a fan of the Avengers, and Iron Man in particular. From there, things spiraled out of control.

But now you know whom to blame.

Hail to the King, baby!

Bruce Campbell signs my copy of Dark Horse Comics' Man With the Screaming Brain No. 1 in Nashville on Aug. 23, 2005. This terrible photo was taken by a member of the staff at the Barnes & Noble where the signing took place. I am not responsible. For the record, I have lost a lot of weight since then, too.

"Governments should be afraid of their people."

The Toronto Star interviews former Toronto resident Paul Pope about his new DC Comics miniseries, Batman: Year 100, and finds that Pope's libertarian sympathies are at the forefront of this tale of the Dark Knight taking on an oppressive government in the year 2039:

It's Pope's way of commenting on the homeland security policies the US government have put in place in the wake of 9/11.

"The Patriot Act is less fearsome than the media would have you believe, but there are a lot slippery slopes in this burgeoning third world," says Pope. "What I find most alarming is how passively people have (accepted) this encroaching large government."