Category Archives: Features

Return of the King

King City Vol. 1 was a major buzz book of 2007 in the comics industry. The graphic novel, published by Tokyopop, wasn’t all that widely seen, but those who read it raved about it. It definitely boosted writer/artist Brandon Graham’s profile in the industry, earning him kudos aplenty and drawing attention to other projects, such as the first issue of his Multiple Warheads, published by Oni Press. Perhaps one of the most widely heard and respected of those voices singing his praises was the late Mike Wieringo, who paid tribute to King City and recommended it on his sketch blog (that’s what got me to take notice of the book).

Unfortunately, King City was one of several original, English-language works that Tokyopop put on the backburner permanently, and creators couldn’t take the properties to other publishers because Tokyopop still held the rights despite the fact it didn’t plan on publishing subsequent volumes or even keeping the existing ones in print. Among other affected books and creators were East Coast Rising and Becky Cloonan, The Abandoned and Ross Campbell, and My Dead Girlfriend and Eric Wight. These are significant creators in the comics industry in the 21st century who all have built-in audiences eager to snap up new works from these artists.

Of course, Tokyopop has changed its tune somewhat, at least when it comes to King City, as a deal was struck to publish Graham’s work through Image Comics. Eye on Comics spoke with Graham, a Tokyopop executive and some of the affected artists to delve into the King City deal and what it might mean for other cancelled Tokyopop books.

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The Cost of Crime-Fighting in San Diego

Earlier this month, Eye on Comics posted an article on how smoothly Comic-Con International San Diego 2009 ran, strictly from a security/safety/crime perspective. As was noted, the San Diego Police Department only recorded two arrests it connected to the premier comics and pop-culture event, and it also reported four lost children were quickly reunited with their families at the convention.

Monica Munoz, media services manager with the San Diego Police Department, had commented that Comic-Con had a contract with the city for policing and traffic-control services, but she was unable at the time to provide information on the value of that contract. She’s since contacted Eye on Comics with the relevant figures.

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War Story

A frequent topic of discussion at the local comic shop and online among comics fans has been whether or not DC Comics plans to collect the strips from Wednesday Comics and what possible shape such a collection or collections might take, given the oversized, broadsheet format of the episodic incarnation of the title. That led Eye on Comics to snoop around the Internet for a possible clue. A good source for future collected editions of DC products is Amazon.com, which lists expected trade-paperback and hardcover releases from DC and other comics publishers months ahead of their appearances in the industry catalog, Previews.

I didn’t find any information about Wednesday Comics collections, but something else involving one of the Wednesday contributors caught my eye.

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Law & Order: SDU (San Diego Unit)

By most accounts, Comic-Con International San Diego 2009 was a successful show. The con itself posted a record sellout, and reports from some dealers at the con indicates sales were decent to strong on some days (though perhaps not as strong as past shows) despite the recession. In the face of ridiculously long lines and crowded aisles on the floor, Comic-Con organizers, by all accounts, ran a smooth show. One can’t imagine anyone was surprised by the lines, especially for the Hollywood panels and big-name guests.

Still, attendance is reported to have been in the range of 120,000. When you get that many people together in a limited space at the same time, something’s bound to go wrong and people are bound to misbehave… or not. Eye on Comics contacted the San Diego Police Department about the impact Comic-Con has on the city and any associated police activity.

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If I Did It…

Comic-Con International San Diego 2009 gets underway Wednesday, and comicdom’s little corner of the Internet has been abuzz for a couple of weeks with excitement on the part of professionals and fans alike. I wish I could share that kind of energy, but I’m left feeling a little disappointed. I’m unable to attend this year’s festivities/insanities yet again. Travelling to the show all the way from the East Coast of Canada to the Left Coast of the United States is financially daunting enough as it is, but when one factors in efforts to pay off bills amassed after a wedding and Irish honeymoon last fall and to save up for a home sometime in the coming months, committing to the Pilgrimage of the Comic-Book Enthusiast just isn’t feasible.

I have attended the convention on two occasions in the past: once courtesy an employer in 2000 (anyone remember the Fandom.com incarnation of Comics Newsarama?) and once on my own dime in 2003. Both were rewarding (and exhausting) experiences, and while the hectic pace, physical demands and Hollywood incursions temper one’s enthusiasm for Comic-Con, I always find myself feeling some regret in those years when I’m unable to attend or decide against it.

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Look Ahead, But Look Out

Marvel Comics’ decision to cancel its advance-preview copy program and to scale back online previews could impact sales of Marvel titles on a grassroots, word-of-mouth level, says one comics retailer.

News broke Monday that Marvel is discontinuing its First Look program, through which retailers could pay a small fee to get a handful of comics in their hands the week before their release. The retailer who announced the First Look cancellation expressed his dismay, as it was a perk that drew him to comics retailing in the first place. He said the First Look cancellation stems from a majority of participants declining the opportunity of maintaining it by agreeing to an increase in the weekly fee associated with the program.

Eye on Comics asked comics retailer (and friend) Randy Lander about the report, and he confirmed Marvel cancelled the program and the circumstances leading to its demise. He also confirmed that DC Comics cancelled its counterpart preview-package program, dubbed Sneak Peek, some time ago. DC had promised to replace Sneak Peek with something else, he said, but that alternative never materialized.

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Mix’d Emotions

The comic-book news/commentary portal website — can it work as a viable business? The recent news that ComicMix.com is scaling back its operations — eliminating all of its columns and rethinking its print-on-demand experiment with its online comics. Speaking as someone who’s worked for two similar failed ventures in the past, I can’t say I’m surprised. The thing is, though, that ComicMix has a strong creative team behind made up of experienced and respected industry insiders. The question arises: if Mike Gold and Robert Greenberger can’t dominate the digital landscape of comics-related media, armed with an array of established industry talent, who can? Is the comics web portal as a viable business model a realistic possibility?

I don’t know what’s next for ComicMix or what plans are in place to invigorate the operation. ComicMix isn’t after an easy venture-capital investment, I assume. That business model had already been proven to be a dead end when the dot-com bubble burst. Believe me, I know.

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O Canada, or No Canada – Part Deux

A Marvel Comics spokesman reiterated Thursday the comics publisher will drop the Canadian price on its comics, but he corrected a statement indicating the same would happen for collected editions.

Arune Singh, manager of sales communications with Marvel Entertainment Inc., corrected a statement he provided Eye on Comics earlier this week, noting that Canadian pricing won’t be dropped from its books, only from its periodical publications.

“For the time being, Canadian prices will remain on Marvel collections,” he said in an e-mail Thursday.

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O Canada, or No Canada

Conflicting reports indicate two major American comics publishers are moving to eliminate Canadian pricing on its products or are planning to maintain it despite requests from many comics retailers north of the 49th parallel.

One prominent retailer — Calum Johnston, owner of two Strange Adventures comic shops in Atlantic Canada and one-time winner of the Eisner Spirit of Retailing award — said he’s been told Canadian pricing on “Big Two” comics may be a thing of the past.

“Both Marvel and DC are thinking of removing the Canadian cover price to comic-book periodicals,” he said this week.

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Getting the Colbert Dump

I’m a big fan of the faux right-wing pundit persona of Stephen Colbert and his show, The Colbert Report. One could argue that he’s bound to appeal to the comic-book reader demographic, as he’s shown he’s not afraid to get his geek on. Both The Colbert Report and its parent program, The Daily Show, have frequently incorporated comics and animation references in their political and social satire. Colbert has also had Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada on the program twice, once even “bequeathing” the late Captain America’s shield to the comedian (granting the comic icon surprisingly high visibility in every subsequent episode of the show).

Colbert’s over-the-top persona is no stranger to the world of comics either. Oni Press launched Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen last year, featuring the show’s animated sci-fi spoof, and Marvel Comics has been incorporating Colbert’s pseudo-presidential candidacy into the background of its super-hero comics for months. Last week, Amazing Spider-Man #573 featured a backup feature teaming the would-be political figure with Marvel’s best-known, webslinging super-hero.

Those comic-book connections beg the question: why aren’t Colbert’s viewers hearing about them right from the horse’s mouth?

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Jonah Hex’s Good Luck

Jonah Hex #33I recently had the pleasure of reading a great short story in DC’s Jonah Hex. What drew me to the story — an intense tale of survival in the Canadian wilderness, penned by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray — was the art by Darwyn Cooke. Cooke is, of course, a superstar in the industry these days, and I always keep an eye out for new work from him.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered that J.H. Williams III, the stalwart artistic talent from such books as Promethea and Batman: The Black Glove, has contributed art to be featured in the 35th issue of Hex, on sale Sept. 3. Those familiar with the series are also well aware of the frequent contributions from legendary Spanish comics artist Jordi Bernet. Seeing his work in North American comics has been a rare occurrence in recent years, and he’s provided some amazing visuals for the DC western title.

It occurred to me… what’s attracting these high-profile artists to this little series? Jonah Hex is far from one of DC’s top performers; it doesn’t even make it into the Diamond Comic Distributors Top 100 on any given month. So why is talent of this caliber — artists who would pick and choose whatever project they choose, including any Top 10-selling title — contributing to what seems like the runt of the DC Universe litter? Eye on Comics talked to a couple of the creators to find out what’s going on.

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The Amazing Racer Men

I’m a huge fan of The Amazing Race. The Emmy award-winning reality show has always struck me as the most interesting, most entertaining and most genuine source of human emotion in a game-show setting. Aside from its disastrous “family edition” season of the show, The Amazing Race has always enthralled me with its adventure, humor and fast-paced drama.

And now, it’s going to feature not just one of us, but two.

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Flea Market Finds: Iron Man #134

Tony Stark has it all… good looks, billions of dollars, beautiful women fawning all over him, but hey, every guy’s got to grow up sometime and begin his search for a classy partner. Thanks to my recent acquisition of a small collection of tattered, yellowed comics from the 1970s and ’80s, I discovered one of Tony’s efforts to woo an elegant and intelligent woman.

Now one as to bear in that this particular courtship came at a difficult time in Tony’s life. He was just beginning to realize that booze might be something of an issue for him (blackouts, you see… time to ease off on the hooch, though not to cut it out entirely). His erratic behavior as Iron Man has also caught the attention of some longtime friends. Why, the Lions Club even cancelled Shellhead’s regular appearance at their New York conference! And you know when you lose the Lions, there’s just no way to save face.

In any case, a nice night on the town with a beautiful, engaging woman such as Bethany Cabe ought to address any bruised ego, right? So let’s see… where to take her? It’s New York, so the possibilities are endless. The Rainbow Room? Nah, too predictable. Famous Original Ray’s Pizza? Not fancy enough. Where to go, where to go…?

Oh, I know…

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Stonewalled on Subscriptions

1987 Marvel subscription adRemember those old ads in Marvel and DC titles, right up into the 1990s, in which the publishers offered home-delivery subscriptions of their wares? Some promised bigger discounts the more titles you purchased, and while stock art was often used in designing the ads, sometimes new art was commissioned specifically to promote the subscription services.

I thought it would be interesting to revisit comics subscriptions in a feature examining how it used to work and how it works today. After all, DC Comics and Marvel Comics both still offer subscriptions (at least, that’s what it says in indicia in their periodicals).

Yes, it would have made for an interesting feature, tapping not only into nostalgia but examining how the business of comics publishing has changed in recent years.

Alas, such a story won’t be found on this site.

Jenna Pagliuca, who’s in charge of subscriptions at Marvel, declined to answer questions after a company PR official referred to me to her, and repeated requests for information from or an interview with a subscriptions manager at DC seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

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The Grinch Who Stole Free Comic Book Day

After seeing an Iron Man matinee at the cinemas Saturday, my fiancee and I headed downtown. She planned to pop back into the housewares store that’s one of three commercial venues at which we’ve registered for the wedding, and I was headed to my local comic-book shop. It was Saturday, May 3rd, the seventh annual Free Comic Book Day. I’ve always felt a bit guilty about attending the event, to be honest. It’s designed to reach new customers (or at least I feel it should be), and I kind of feel like I’m in the way. On the other hand, I support the business every week, so why shouldn’t I avail myself of a handful of free comics?

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