The Comics Blotter now returns after a hiatus caused by the fact that I’m busy working on a Ph.D., working on the Continuity Pages and this site’s chronologies, and writing my own work, not to mention reading and socializing, etc. This column represents an attempt to create the online comics community’s only real news column, and I’d be glad to hand it over to a capable writer (yes, we’re taking applications). That said, it’s worth reviewing the other news sites out there.Newsarama.com is really the main comics news site, and certainly worth looking at, but much of its news consists of press releases from the publishers themselves, available on those publishers’ own websites, and of interviews and the like. They’re certainly worth checking, but this isn’t a much of a news source for an entire medium. Along fairly similar lines — less large but a bit more critical — is The Pulse at Comiccon.com. ComicBookResources.com has some news, but seems skewed towards comics movies: Rich Johnston’s indispensable Lying in the Gutters does more for news than the rest of the site combined. Journalista! at tcj.com gets snobby praise but is almost all but useless, filled as it is with The Comics Journal‘s biases towards almost utterly obscure work. The site icv2.com performs the indispensable task of tracking comics sales, but is really a cross-media site of little other import for comics.
I write all of this not to bash — far from bashing, I would love it if this site could somehow incorporate the timeliness of Newsarama.com and Comiccon.com with the independent coverage of tcj.com — and also host both Rich Johnston’s column and icv2.com‘s sales figures. It’s just to say that comics needs a serious news source, one that covers the mainstream and the independents, and one with some journalistic seriousness.
We endeavor to fill this niche and welcome comments and suggestions.
More Fake News
This introductory musing on online comics news leads nicely into this little story, bound to be forgotten but certainly a good barometer of industry culture. Remember how Joe Quesada and Wizard conspired to sell the story of how Stan Lee had created The Sentry prior to The Fantastic Four? The fact that the comics magazine Wizard, which runs comics news, complied in this admittedly amusing marketing ploy can only be thought scandalous to those serious about the medium. Well, it’s happened again, this time to online comics news.
Scott Kurtz explained that, sometime around the 8th or 9th of this month, in a response to online fans who wanted to see Frank Cho (the artist of Liberty Meadows famous for his T&A) do more Marvel work. Kurtz and Cho came up with what Kurtz called a “prank”: Cho mentioned online that Kurtz had a project in the works and hinted that the project was “dazzling.” Fans quickly read this as a reference to Dazzler, the Marvel character introduced in the pages of X-Men and later in the 1980s the star of her own series. She has been seen occasionally since, probably most recently in Deadpool, written by Gail Simone. The more Kurtz refused to comment, the more fans saw the signs of a confidentiality agreement about the upcoming Marvel project. Kurtz even teased that he did love disco. Incited by requests for art from the upcoming project, Kurtz placed a scan of a Dazzler image on his website, sitting silently in a folder without any links to it.
On Monday the 12th, the image appeared in Rich Johnston’s Lying in the Gutters column as part of a story on the upcoming Marvel project. Johnston, who has broken important stories in his career as a rumor-monger, often discovers secrets by noticing images sitting secretly on websites that assume no one will notice. He rates his related rumors with traffic lights: green means he believes it, yellow means cautious, and red means he doesn’t believe it. He directs readers to watch these lights carefully and has a good record of reliability. The Dazzler story got a green light.
Scott Kurtz and Frank Cho got a good laugh out of this, with Kurtz having to refute the story to a number of creators who called to congratulate him. There may be a self-interested element here, as Kurtz has expressed enthusiasm at actually doing a Dazzler project if. Rich Johnston has not yet commented.
Some have pointed out that this happened once before: John Byrne had, on his website, a penciled image of an upcoming project with strategic areas whited out. He had intentionally mislabeled it “GLC.jpg” but changed the filename to “sample.jpg” after someone pointed this out. Johnston speculated that the art was from an upcoming Green Lantern Corps project, though that story was not given a green light.
DC’s Humanoids Deal
DC announced on Tuesday the 13th that it has struck a deal with Humanoids, the French publisher of several seminal works, for the exclusive worldwide rights to publish English translations of some Humanoids material. The large Humanoids catalog prominently includes The Incal and its successor, The Metabarons. Incal, written by Jodorowsky and illustrated by Moebius, is considered a classic of comic book science fiction. The plan calls for — beginning in July 2004 — at least one year of steady stream of French graphic novels to be published by DC and thus widely available in the United States.
Humanoids has itself published English translations up until this point, including single issues serializing The Incal and The Metabarons as well as trade paperbacks. Presumably, Humanoids will cease such publication. Few, however, would complain: these Humanoids English editions have been hard to find in the states, limited only to the best comic shops.
Humanoids was founded in 1975 by Moebius and others. Its oeuvre focuses on science fiction, fantasy, and horror and has been credited with revolutionalizing these genres in the Franco-Belgian school of graphic literature. L’Incal by itself has led many fans to design their entire life around it. Humanoids is also the publisher of the magazine Metal Hurlant.
Although the details of DC’s publication remain unreleased at this point, plans call for 36 books over the course of a single year. DC plans to use these books to penetrate the long-sought bookstore market.
While the Humanoids catalog by no means comprises all or even the majority of the best of French comics, its works remain indispensable. While Japanese comics have permeated the U.S. market, increasing their market share by leaps and bounds for years, French comics have gone almost entirely ignored.
This is the biggest comics news story so far of 2004 and is almost certainly the biggest story in some time.
Marvel’s editorial policies have long differed from DC’s, focusing more on its corporate-owned super-heroes — even in its newer imprints like Marvel Knights and MAX — in contrast to DC’s sprawling industry-within-an-industry that includes everything from literate Vertigo comics through Wildstorm and Cliffhanger and America’s Best Comics to Scooby Doo. Now, as DC expands with a French line, adding to its publishing of Will Eisner’s historic work, Marvel is establishing a reputation for something else: cancellations.
Most recently, the MAX Ant-Man mini-series and the one-shot entitled Startling Stories: The Incorrigible Hulk. Perhaps most annoyingly, these two projects actually looked interesting. Startling Stories: The Incorrigible Hulk was a follow-up by independent comics staple Peter Bagge to his humorous and greatly critically acclaimed one-shot entitled Megalomaniacal Spider-Man. Ant-Man, solicited as a five-issue mini-series scripted by Daniel Way, was to be published through the mature readers MAX imprint. Officially, Ant-Man is merely indefinitely delayed and the series may see publication at some later point.
Marvel has given no explanation for these cancellations. Low advance sales have been suspected as has use of these characters that were seen as incommensurate with growing a franchise making big movie bucks and licenses that run all the way down to lollipops. In any case, why such decisions were made so late in the game remains a mystery.
These cancellations, while disturbing for the artistic importance of the material, follow on other cancellations Marvel has recently made. These include, in terms of work already solicited, Gun Theory, a four-issue mini-series published through the problem-laden Epic imprint, suddenly reduced to two issues. A 4-issue Deathlok mini-series, solicited for late last year, was similarly indefinitely postponed. Ironically, both of these two were scripted by Ant-Man‘s Daniel Way. Way recently slammed Marvel in an interview, though no connection has been proven.