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Seven Days | The week in comics

by  in Comic News Comment
Seven Days | The week in comics

A look at the biggest, and most interesting, stories from the past week.

1. Surprising virtually no one, Marvel announces the return of Steve Rogers: Months of speculation about Marvel’s secretive July event ended Monday with an article in the New York Daily News and the unprecedented early release of Captain America #600.

The publisher had kept details about Reborn #1 “classified,” telling retailers only that it would receive nationwide publicity on June 15 “possibly on par with the media coverage we received during Civil War.” Monday’s announcement did receive national attention — Marvel issued a press release the following day trumpeting stories in “over 50 news outlets” — but the publicity didn’t approach that of Civil War (which included the unmasking of Spider-Man), the 2007 assassination of Steve Rogers, or the introduction in 2006 of the new Batwoman.

Those stories had legs, with media attention spanning days and, in the case of Batwoman, even weeks. There were “second-day angles,” to use journalism parlance, as writers strained to find deeper meaning in the death of a national symbol or pin down a cultural shift that led to a lesbian donning the iconic Bat-emblem. But coverage of Steve Rogers’ resurrection, if that’s what we can call it, peaked as early as 8 p.m. Monday, and then dropped dramatically (see the Google News timeline at right).

Captain America’s death triggered sometimes-outlandish analysis, framing the plot development as commentary on the Bush administration or on U.S. foreign policy. If any of that was the case, then what does his return say? The pundits, so far, remain quiet on that front.

However, critics of Marvel’s handling of the announcement are a little more vocal: Todd Allen and Brian Hibbs both offer interesting postmortems, with the former focusing on marketing and the latter concentrating on retailers.

2. USA Today will serialize the Superman strip from Wednesday Comics: Although more attention was given to the imminent return of Steve Rogers, this was actually the bigger story. DC Comics announced on Monday that the Superman strip from its Wednesday Comics experiment will debut July 8 in USA Today, with subsequent installments appearing weekly on the newspaper’s website. The news was met with grumbling from some segments who had hoped all 12 installments would appear in the print edition. However, an estimated online audience of 3.6 million leaves little room for complaint.

3. Direct-market sales plummet in May: Periodical sales dropped 19 percent from May 2008, while graphic novels fell 13 percent for a combined 18-percent decline. And while no monthly comics cracked the 100,000 mark, Top Shelf Productions must be pleased with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century — 1910 #1, which led the graphic-novels chart with with an estimated 36,546 copies.

4. MySpace Comic Books is set to close amid major cutbacks: As MySpace announced the layoff of about 400 employees, word leaked out that the social-media giant is pulling the plug on MySpace Comic Books. Launched in 2007, the section had played host to comics interviews and previews, Joe Quesada’s “MyCup o’ Joe” feature and the Eisner-winning MySpace Dark Horse Presents. “MyCup o’ Joe” left the site on May 1. A Dark Horse spokesman told Heidi MacDonald the publisher is “working on ideas on what will now be the appropriate venue” for the online anthology.

5. Countdown to Comic-Con: With just more than a month to go until Comic-Con International, eyes turn to San Diego, where it was revealed this week that a proposed 400,000-square-foot addition to the convention center would cost a whopping $783.4 million. It also was announced that John Broome and Frank Jacobs will receive the 2009 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, which will be presented July 24 at the Eisner Awards ceremony — held at its new venue in the Hilton Bayfront.

6. Satrapi weighs in on the Iranian election: Cartoonist Marjane Satrapi on Tuesday presented evidence to Green Party members of the European parliament that reportedly documents fraud in the Iranian national election.

7. Conventions, conventions, conventions: Just as weekend conventions kicked off in Charlotte and Philadelphia, the well-regarded Toronto Comic Arts Festival announced it will depart from its biennial schedule to hold the event on May 8-9, 2010.

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