Report Card | From Image Expo to ‘Batman ’66’ to ‘Red She-Hulk’

by  in Comic News Comment
Report Card | From Image Expo to ‘Batman ’66’ to ‘Red She-Hulk’

Welcome to “Report Card,” our new week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read. And what a busy week it was, as, despite there being a major U.S. holiday, we saw a lot of publishing news coming out of Image Comics and Vertigo, and quite a few great comics.

So read on to find out what we thought of the first issues of Batman ’66, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Deadpool Kills Deadpool and more.

Image Comics has added a web store to their website, where they are selling DRM-free comic downloads. The announcement was made at the second Image Expo, held Tuesday in San Francisco. Image’s digital comics will still be offered in all the usual places, like comiXology, Amazon and iVerse, with the difference being that folks can now buy, download and own a file of the comic without any digital rights management technologies associated to the file. “This is for the person concerned with ownership who wants to go direct to the source,” said Ron Richards, Image’s director of business development.

As a part of the launch, Image released a collection of the Warren Ellis/Jason Howard webcomic Scatterlands, and the first issue of Mark Millar and Frank Quiteley’s Jupiter’s Legacy, which was previously only available in print.

Although some headlines would have you believe this is an industry first, it isn’t — as Corey pointed out this week,, Artist Alley Comics and Panel Syndicate have been selling DRM-free downloads directly to their customers for awhile, and let’s not forget SLG Publishing, who were selling DRM-free downloads of their comics back before it was cool on their Eyemelt site.

In any event, it is a fairly significant step for the publisher, which expects that their digital sales will account for 15 percent of their sales this year — up from 12 percent last year.

Image Comics also shared some of their recent print sales success and announced a whole Comic-Con’s worth of new comics at their Expo on Tuesday.

“2012 was Image Comics’ 20th anniversary, instead of staging a series of big, nostalgia based events, we let our talent do the talking,” Image Publisher Eric Stephenson said. “We saw our dollars increase over 40 percent over 2011 numbers. Six months in 2013, already up 38 percent in dollars and units over 2013.” Stephenson said book market sales are currently 51 percent and 40 percent in the direct market. “We’re not just beating ourselves, we’re making significant gains on Disney and Warner Bros.,” he said.

Those new comic announcements included:

  • Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet
  • Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s Southern Bastards
  • Two titles written by Rick Remender: Deadly Class with artist Matteo Scalera and Black Science with artists Wesley Craig and Lee Loughridge
  • Ody-C by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
  • Alone by J. Michael Straczynski and Bill Sienkiewicz
  • The return of two comics from J. Michael Straczynski: The Book of Lost Souls with artist Colleen Doran and Dream Police with artist Sid Kotian
  • MPH by Mark Millar and Duncan Fegredo, the first of an entire new line of books from Millar
  • Rocket Queen by Brandon Montclaire and Amy Reeder, which recently completed a successful Kickstarter project
  • Noah, a graphic novel by Niko Henrickson and Darren Arronovsky

Image Comics wasn’t the only publisher who shared their upcoming publishing plans this week — on Monday, Vertigo revealed details on Neil Gaiman’s return to Sandman this fall, which is part of a wave of new titles from the DC Entertainment imprint.

Titled Sandman: Overture, the six-issue miniseries will be published bi-monthly, with a special edition of each issue published during the off-months. The special edition “will include more of the artwork (because of translucent word balloons developed by the letterer Todd Klein), as well as behind-the-scenes commentary and character sketches,” the New York Times reports.

Joining the prequel miniseries by Gaiman and J.H. Williams III will be new titles by Ian Edginton, Peter Milligan and more:

  • Hinterkind by Ian Edginton and Francesco Trifogli
  • The Discipline by Peter Milligan and Leo Fernandez
  • Dead Boy Detectives by British novelist Toby Litt with layouts and painted covers by Mark Buckingham
  • Suiciders by Lee Bermejo
  • Coffin Hill by dark fantasy author Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda
  • The Witching Hour, an anthology of stories by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Cliff Chiang, Lauren Beukes, Emily Carroll, Matthew Sturges, Shawn McManus, Tula Lotay and more.

With all this publishing news being revealed two weeks before Comic-Con International, you might be wondering what’s left for the con. Have no fear, San Diego has plenty to offer its attendees, as this week CCI rolled out its programming slate for Comic-Con and it’s pretty packed.

You can check out the schedules for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then watch for Sunday’s later today. Usually there’s one WTF? panel at the show, and this year it seems to be one featuring Metallica. Although maybe its kismet, what with Sandman returning this year.

Batman ’66 #1

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Jonathan Case
Letters by Wes Abbott
Cover by Mike and Laura Allred
Published by DC Comics

One of the things I always loved about the 1966-69 “Batman” TV series was its practicality. Someone actually had to build a Batcave and Batmobile, trick out Wayne Manor with hidden switches and secret doors, and make costumes that looked halfway convincing. (Hey, two out of three ain’t bad.) In a time long before big-budget live-action adaptations, the art direction of “Batman” was pretty stunning. Of course, I discovered Adam West and Burt Ward’s Dynamic Duo in afternoon syndication, when Neal Adams’ Darknight Detective was still the dominant style. Indeed, for decades the show seemed just about as toxic to the Caped Crusader’s image as Stephanie Brown.

Not anymore. Thanks to Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case, millionaire Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward Dick Grayson swing into action — and I do mean “swing” — once more. Part 1 of “The Riddler’s Ruse” is an extended action sequence featuring the Prince of Puzzles using a biplane to steal a priceless statue, while Batman and Robin race after him in the Batmobile. Parker and Case clearly want to evoke the feel of the old show, from expository dialogue (including an incredulous narrator) to those signature superimposed sound effects, and so far they’re on the right track. The tone isn’t quite as campy as the old show, and the action simply moves too fluidly to feel like ’60s TV, but I presume the creative team wants to improve on the show while still maintaining the proper level of respect. Nobody makes a “sea-as-in-C-as-in-Catwoman”-type deduction, for example. Still, it would’ve been fun to see how Bruce and Dick changed into their costumes, and summoned the Batmobile, while in the middle of a crowded park. Just a button labeled “Batmobile Camouflage On/Off,” and a reference to specially-treated quick-expanding Bat-costumes — or maybe that’s just me. The show threw in all manner of outlandish elements and played everything straight. The new comic isn’t quite as daring, but I’m willing to give it time. I’ll definitely be reading next week — same Bat-site, same Bat-download! —Tom Bondurant

Red She-Hulk #67

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Carlo Pagulayan, Patrick Olliffe, and Wellinton Alves
Colors by Guy Major
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Francesco Francavilla
Published by Marvel Comics

As much as I’ve enjoyed Red She-Hulk – or rather, because I’ve so enjoyed it – I was dreading #67, the final issue in the series. Not because I didn’t trust Jeff Parker to wrap it up nicely without rushing or leaving things unresolved, but just because I didn’t want it to be over. (True Confession: I’ve never read the end of Bone for exactly that reason.) Miraculously, Parker even figured out how to end the series without making it be over. I won’t spoil anything except to say that the story ends, but Parker figures out a way to keep the series going in readers’ imaginations if not in another series at some point in the future. I’m okay with both of those options, but for the record, Marvel: I vote for another series. The way Parker sets it up, it could be the best thing since Agents of Atlas. —Michael May

Green Eggs and Maakies

By Tony Millionaire
Published by Fantagraphics Books

What fascinates me about Tony Millionaire, other than his considerable artistic talents, is his ability to shift from the poetic, wistful, downright melancholy tone of his Sock Monkey work, to the no-holds barred, grotesque, vulgarities of Maakies. Which is not to say that Maakies isn’t funny — the sad sack stories of Drinky Crow and Uncle Gabby frequently are, though Millionaire is often just as content to delve into the purely absurd, nonsensical or just plain disgusting (this book is not for the easily offended or those with weak stomachs) just for the sheer fun of it. The Maakies universe is a incredibly violent one, with the characters subjected to (or inflict) all sorts of horrible tortures and deaths, only to spring back ready for more in the next strip a la your average Looney Tunes or Tom & Jerry cartoon. What ties it all together, however, is Millionaire’s gorgeous renderings. Even when drawing the most vile vivisection or making the most outlandish poop joke, his facile way with a pen and ink makes them seem elegant. —Chris Mautner

Deadpool Kills Deadpool #1

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Salva Espin
Colors by Veronica Gandini
Letters by Joe Sabino
Cover by Mike Del Mundo
Published by Marvel Comics

Deadpool Kills Deadpool #1 is a comic I never expected to own, let alone look forward to, but here we are. Cullen Bunn has taken something as shallow and cash grabby as the NAME HERE Kills the Marvel Universe series and made it into one of the most amazingly metatexual and complex ideas I’m surprised ever saw print. When the first arc (Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe) ends on a 4th wall-breaking twist, we’re content with the clever twist. When the story continues in Deadpool Killustrated, we’re given an even further look that goes into the idea of fiction itself. Now? This is it; the moment Deadpool might finally die at his own crazy hands with only Deadpool to save himself from… oh man, my head hurts, but in the best of ways. If you’ve enjoyed the ‘metacide’ from the last two series, Deadpool Kills Deadpool is sure to bring this concept on home. —Carla Hoffman

Big Plans

By Aron Nels Steinke
Published by Bridge City Comics

The subtitle of this chunky little graphic novel is “The Collected Mini-Comics and More,” and it does have a bit of an anthology feel to it. It’s an assortment of slice-of-life stories about Steinke’s life, which is a bit more interesting than mine—he gets to go to the Oscars, for instance, and he was in a shooting. Many of the comics are more mundane, and in some Steinke draws himself in a reasonably realistic (in an indie-comics way) fashion while in others he depicts himself as a wolf.

The comics seem to be in roughly chronological order judging from the stylistic evolution from the beginning to the end of the book (as well as the changes that take place in Steinke’s life). The early comics are drawn with small panels that are simple to the point of being iconic, floating in a vast white space. As the book goes on the panels get larger (or more numerous) and the story spreads out to fill the page; what remains constant is Steinke’s steady line that knits each scene together and keeps the pictorial plane flat. The panels can be read as pictures but also as abstract arrangements of patterns. At the same time, the action within them is fascinating, as Steinke takes an unsparing look at his own foibles and awkward moments. By the end of the book, he seems to be a different person, and he is certainly a different cartoonist.

On a side note, this book was published by the Portland, Oregon, comics retailer Bridge City Comics. This is their first book, and they have done a nice job—the book is well designed and fits solidly in the hand. It’s also very appropriate, as much of Steinke’s work draws on his life as a Portland resident and the peculiarities of living in that particular city. —Brigid Alverson

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Steve Lieber
Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Marcos Martin
Published by Marvel Comics

I don’t know if it’s right to say that a book featuring “liars, cheaters and thieves” can be charming, but that’s the word that comes to mind after reading Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1. What I do know is right to say is that SFoSM delivers a very solid character piece on, of all characters, Boomerang, the C-list villain who regularly gets finds himself behind bars after spending some time hanging upside-down in one of Spider-Man’s web nets. We get his back story, as well as his impressions of the rest of the Sinister Six, a group that feels like that group of high school acquaintances that you really didn’t want to hang around with, but circumstances (like band or choir or Sunday school or what have you) brought you together. In this case, Boomerang and his “pals” hate Spider-Man and want to get rich, so they tolerate each other despite the headaches and betrayals that’s intrinsic with a group of villains. This book has a great, yet dark, sense of humor, not only in the script but in the artwork, as Steve Lieber brings to life situations like Speed Demon and Shocker stealing a puppy from a little girl and Beetle robbing a comic book store. I didn’t really know what to expect from this title, but I’m really looking forward to issue #2 now. —JK Parkin