Category Archives: Features

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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The Not-So Secret Origin of a Cover Design

As I did some web surfing this week to look at what new releases were to lie in wait for me at the comics shop this week, I found the adjacent cover image. It’s the cover for Justice Society of America #13, illustrated by super-hero genre superstar Alex Ross, who also just happens to be the co-writer of the current story arc, “Thy Kingdom Come.” Ross has been the cover artist for this series from the start, and his further creative participation in this storyline stems from the fact that it flows from Kingdom Come, a 1996 Elseworlds limited series that explored an unfortunate vision of the future of the DC Universe.

The JSA cover immediately caught my eye, but it wasn’t due to the richly detailed and shining painting Ross provided. Nor was I stopped in my digital tracks by Ross’s shift in his approach to cover design… not really, anyway. What made my synapses start firing rapidly was the sense of nostalgia that was ignited at the same time.

While longtime DC readers might recognize the approach Ross has adopted for the cover design, newer readers and those unfamiliar with what passed for super-hero events in the early 1980s might not.

Consider this your education.

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More 2007 Glass Eye Awards – Creators

And we’re back, as the Glass Eye Awards for 2007 continue. Earlier in the week, I shared my thoughts about the best comics and graphic novels of the year, but it’s also important to remember that there are creative voices behind the genesis of those comics. In this second part of the best of 2007 feature, we honor the efforts of the people — writers and artists — who were involved in making the best examples of sequential art of the year. I must reiterate — this list should not be considered all-encompassing. There’s no way for anyone — even those whose full-time jobs revolve around comics — to read most, let alone all, the industry has to offer in the course of a year. These are just the names that came to mind when I did up my notes. Omissions are not only likely but unavoidable. Now, onto the Glass Eyes…

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The 2007 Glass Eye Awards – Comics

The floppies and the books have made their way down the red carpet and have taken their seats for the second annual Glass Eye Awards, in which Eye on Comics names the best comics and graphic novels of the year… at least, the best that I’ve read and that I can recall. I’ll be following up this first list of the best comics and graphic novels with lists of the strongest creators in the industry in 2007. But these lists are hardly exhaustive. My comments are limited by various factors, such as access to materials, memory capacity and the lack of hours in each day. These comments are my personal reflections on the comics I read in 2007; I encourage readers to respond with their own picks.

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More Dollars and Sense

With the Canadian dollar (affectionately known as the loonie north of the 49th parallel) slightly surpassing the U.S. buck in value this week, U.S. comics publishers that list separate U.S. and Canadian prices on their publications plan say they plan to address the inaccurate divide between those prices.

U.S. comics publishers such as Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics and Image Comics list different prices in U.S. and Canadian dollars on the covers of their comics, and DC and Marvel list separate U.S. and Canadian prices on their hardcover and softcover graphic novels and collected editions. The Canadian price on their products range about 12 to 25 per cent higher than the U.S. price. The Canadian dollar actually surpassed its American counterpart by a minute margin in trading Monday, and it held steady at that level Tuesday.

Eye on Comics inquired with major U.S. publishers about the discrepancy.

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Dollars and Sense

Something historic happened Thursday, something the world hasn’t seen in more than 30 years. During trading Thursday, the Canadian dollar actually achieved parity with its U.S counterpart. For a brief time, $1 Cdn was equal to $1 US. It’s bad news for Canadian exporters and businesses that count on U.S. tourist revenue, but it’s a boon for businesses that import U.S. goods and other aspects of the Canadian economy.

But there’s a specific impact on those in the publishing business and those who sell books and periodicals. Unlike most goods, books, magazines and, yes, comics have retail prices printed right on the product, often with separate prices for U.S. sellers and Canadian ones, to account for the difference in the currencies. But that difference has faded as of late.

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Flea Market Finds: X-Men #121

Last week, the leaders of the three North American nations gathered in Montebello, Quebec to negotiate, prevaricate and masticate some fine food. It wasn’t big news in the United States, judging from the 24-hour news networks, but in these parts, it was a significant event (if only for the security scandal that arose, with undercover officers acting as protesters). As luck would have it, I happened upon a comic book from the late 1970s that featured an American-Canadian summit of a different sort: an X-Men/Alpha Flight free-for-all.

It wasn’t a flea-market find, per se. My local comic shop had a big sale a few days ago, unloading all of the comics in its back-issue bins for a buck. As I usually do when I luck upon such a bargain blowout, I seek out 1970s and ’80s comics. I selected a few interesting items, such as a Marvel Two-in-One Annual, an alcoholism-era Iron Man and a Two-Face spotlight in Batman. As I got toward the end of the line of boxes, I reached the Xs. X-Men comics usually don’t hold a lot of interest for me, but I noticed there were some Chris Claremont/John Byrne issues of X-Men among the back issues.

“Cal, the high-end back issues are exempt from the sale, right?” “Anything in those boxes — one dollar.” I have so few of these classic X-Men comics in my collection; I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. I don’t care about the resale value; I’m not looking for eBay fodder. This was just a great opportunity to absorb some of the most fondly remembered super-hero storytelling of the era.

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Flea Market Finds: Green Lantern #124

Though I wasn’t out sleuthing at all, I recently solved a mystery. While at a local flea market, I spotted a stack of old comics, super-hero and horror titles from the 1970s, and one of the comics in that stack promised to reveal a secret that touches upon the root of a big super-hero event currently unfolding in the today’s comic-book market.

In short, I know why the Sinestro Corps War is raging through current issues of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Though he claims a goal of bringing order to all worlds and has a longtime grudge against the Guardians of the Universe, I do not believe they are the true causes of his corruption. The reason can be summed up with a single word…

Drugs.    

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