First off, I want to thank comixpedia.com and addblog.com for covering the creation of this news column. The previous week included a bit of older information because it was the first installment. Expect more timeliness as we continue, friends.We also have a permanent URL now for convenient linking. And please do.
This column is not here to promote. This column is not here to fellate the powers-that-be, nor to trash anyone. This column is here to record the comics-related events of our time for sophisticated comics readers. It is a duty sorely needed.
Post-Azzarello Batman Announced
Rumors that David Lapham and Bill Sienkiewicz were to follow Azzarello and Risso on Batman were so rife that this site even received corrections to last column’s news story. In fact, these rumors began due to Bill Sienkiewicz stating them as true. Last week, DC announced that the Lapham-Sienkiewicz project was not going to run following Azzarello in Batman — but that DC was holding off on announcing who was.
And now we have our answer. Judd Winick, Dustin Nguyen, five issues. Winick is, as the back of every one of his trade paperbacks attest, the Pulitzer-winning author of Pedro and Me. His work on Green Lantern and then on Green Arrow have garnered him some attention within the comics world. Dustin Nguyen is known for his illustrations for Wildcats 3.0 and — before that — for illustrating Tom Peyer’s four-issue fill-in arc on The Authority. The pair will follow the conclusion of the six-issue “Broken City” arc with a five-issue arc of their own.
Worth noting is that Winick has stated that he plans to tie his arc to the previous two — “Hush” and “Broken City” — though not in an overly obvious manner. Apparently, DC has noted the concerns that Batman is turning into a title with arcs that read like unconnected mini-series. And there’s some truth to that feeling on the part of Batman readers: “Broken City” was originally a graphic novel that morphed into a six-issue arc so as to follow Loeb and Lee’s “Hush.” Winick reports that the mini-series-esque approach will continue, with various creative teams taking the reigns in a pattern not unlike Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight was originally designed to be, although that series was conveniently originally set in Batman’s earliest years whereas Batman occurs in the present. Added to this approach, given the present setting, will reportedly be a bit more attention to continuity between the arcs — probably needed in order to avoid distancing readers.
Batman #620, the first issue of Azzarello and Risso’s “Broken City” arc, has sold out through DC. You might recall that #619 also sold out and that a second printing (with a new cover, adding to the three original ones) was rushed to stores between the two issues. You may also recall that this is only part of a wave of sold out comics at DC, including several issues of Birds of Prey in a row, as well as big hits like Superman / Batman and Teen Titans. Superman / Batman #1 recently received its fourth printing (with a new cover) and Teen Titans#1 recently received its third.
While news of sold-out comics has been read as a sign of a recovering comics industry, and even of renewed interest in the DC Universe, it is important to remember what a sellout actually signifies. Sellouts are measured on the supply side, not on the demand side. In other words, the publisher has no more copies sitting with the distributor waiting to go and no copies in reserve. Often, however, titles that are “sold out” can still be seen on the racks at your neighborhood comics shops — sometimes by the dozens. This is not to suggest subterfuge on the part of DC, but rather to remind you the reader what such news really means.
Moreover, the disproportionate amount of sellouts at DC as compared to Marvel represents a difference in their practices rather than sales. Marvel does not reprint, a policy designed to drive up original orders by retailers. DC and Image, in contrast, routinely overprint comics. DC seems to overprint more aggressively as it tries to promote new launches. A sold-out comic means that one has failed to accurately predict the number of orders one will receive; after all, reprinting costs more per unit than upping the original print run. And the status of selling out is not comparable across the board: a low-selling title that sells out of a large overprinting might still have sold far less than a title at another company with no overprinting. It’s all apples and oranges.
The sellouts do seem to indicate added interest in the given title, though so does a rise in the number ordered — which actually deters a title selling out. Sellouts mean, more than anything, a failure on the part of the company to predict reorder numbers. This fact suggests at best a particular kind of demand: last-minute and protracted, thus Superman / Batman #1’s fourth printing.
It’s also worth noting that this can be seen as DC using Marvel’s policy of not permitting reorders to DC’s benefit: the Marvel policy might pressure stores to up their initial orders, or to up their orders prior to publication, but this means a Marvel sellout is meaningless since there is no reserve available for reorders — and thus for selling out. DC’s more retailer-friendly policy of allowing reorders is thus winning them headlines as well. This would be clever if DC were underprinting, but is more likely just a lucky benefit of its policy over the more immediately beneficial Marvel shipping policy.
The Future of Crimson Dynamo and Epic
With the future of Epic Comics in question following Bill Jemas’s exit as Publisher, and with the much-celebrated open submission policy of Epic now closed, the line’s only ongoing, Crimson Dynamo, will cease publication following issue #6.
This may, however unlikely, turn out to be only a hiatus. Crimson Dynamo looks like it’s selling around 27 thousand copies, which would be fine at Vertigo but usually means instant cancellation at Marvel. Reportedly, the cause for the “hiatus” is not low sales but the fact that writer John Jackson Miller has been offered scripting chores on Iron Man and is putting together plans. The two series are thematically related and Iron Man will make an appearance in the Epic series before #6. John Jackson Miller has stated that even if Crymson Dynamo is not brought back, its characters from will appear in his forthcoming run on Iron Man.
Crimson Dynamo has been the victim of an artistic change as well. Joe Corroney replaced artist Steve Ellis halfway through #3 (out tomorrow), and inker Mark McKenna was brought in to ink over both artists to smooth the transition. The official reason for Steve Ellis’s departure is “family commitments” — which, one has to point out in this cynical age, may be true.
Reportedly, Epic’s already approved projects are still slated for publication in 2004. The line first stopped accepting submissions for creator owned material, then stopped accepting submissions altogether. Epic’s future remains in doubt.
The CrossGen Collapse Continues
MV Creations — which published comics through CrossGen’s CGE (CrossGen Entertainment) division, which publishes books not owned by CrossGen — has disassociated itself from CrossGen. MV’s titles most prominently included Masters of the Universe and will continue to be published directly by MV. Ironically, MV had left Image Comics to move to CrossGen — a move that reportedly burned some bridges at Image, preventing a move back.
According to MV head Val Staples, CrossGen still owes MV a “large sum” — adding another voice to the chorus of similar complaints.
Snake Plissken Chronicles (yeah…), produced by Hurricane Entertainment, is the only book remaining in the publisher’s CGE division. But even Snake Plissken Chronicles is running considerably late, leaving Hurricane Entertainment to fend off rumors of the title’s cancellation, pleading artistic illness as the cause. #3 is presently scheduled to ship in mid-November, a month and a half after its scheduled 1 October release date.
For their part, MV Creations has big plans, particularly for the Masters of the Universe license. While MV’s books will continue, future mini-series and specials are being pared back — especially those not concerning the Masters of the Universe. This is crunch time at MV, and it’s entering its third go at things — post-Image, post-CrossGen — without a financial net.
Marvel Vs. Tribune: First Edition Grudge Match with Holofoil Cover
Tribune Entertainment makes Mutant X, a syndicated television series few of us have ever seen based on the Marvel property. In the last week of October, Tribune filed a lawsuit against Marvel asking for punitive damages of at least $100 million. Marvel has announced that it “looks forward to vigorously defending” itself in the case.
There’s a bit of history here.
A couple years ago, 20th Century Fox sued Mutant X’s producer, alleging that the television series infringed on Fox’s X-Men films. The case drug on, ending earlier in October with a settlement. Tribune’s suit against Marvel, filed almost concurrently, comes as a direct response to the settlement.
Tribune now alleges that Marvel misrepresented what rights it was granting to Tribune with the Mutant X series. According to the suit, this misrepresentation led to the lawsuit by Fox, in turn leading to millions of dollars in legal fees for the television production company. Tribune alleges that, during the lawsuit with Fox, Marvel stated that it had sold no rights to a television show to Fox. However, Tribune alleges, Marvel refused to provide Tribune with a copy of Marvel’s contract with Fox for verification.
Tribune claims that Mutant X had to be altered, with plotlines and characters changed to distance the series from the X-Men film series. These alterations were hardly good for viewership, and Tribune claims that its series has lost millions of dollars in the whole fiasco.
I should restate that Marvel denies the charges that it misrepresented the rights granted Tribune.
Carlos Pacheco Exclusive to DC
In the most recent of the ongoing wave of exclusive contracts, artist Carlos Pacheco has signed an exclusive deal with DC Comics. Pacheco won praise for his work on Avengers Forever at Marvel before illustrating the JLA / JSA: Virtue and Vice graphic novel at DC. He is presently illustrating Kurt Busiek’s Arrowsmith, published by an imprint of Wildstorm, itself owned by DC.
New This Week
Notable publications this Wednesday include the original graphic novel Union Station, offered by Oni Press. A true crime story occurring in 1933, Union Station features J. Edgar Hoover and criminal Frank Nash. Written by Andre Parks, better known as an artist, Union Station features art by Eduardo Baretto.
DC’s collection of the fifth week event entitled Justice Society Returns should come out this Wednesday. The series of one-shots, bookended by two specials, occurs in the 1940s but was a forerunner to the successful JSA series.
The softcover of The Sandman Presents: The Furies should also be released.
At Marvel, Wolverine: The End, (presently) a six-issue mini-series, debuts. It purports to tell the end of Wolverine’s life sometime in the future and is written by Paul Jenkins, who also worked on the Origin mini-series.
Alias #28 concludes the “Purple” storyline and also the Marvel MAX series, which has won a decent amount of critical praise. The series will morph into a regular, non-mature Marvel title with a larger cast and a new name.