Welcome to Best of 7, our new weekly wrap-up post here at Robot 6. Each Sunday we’ll talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. I should also note that we skipped last Sunday after being exhausted from all our anniversary content, so you may see an item or two slip in from last week.
So without further ado, let’s get to it ...
Exposing Image Expo in context of the comics industry at large
On Thursday, Image Comics' held its third Image Expo. Part comic convention, part pep rally, this one-day event has become a way for the California-based publisher to cut through the noise and publicity of other comic publishers and distinguish itself from the pack, not unlike their Bay Area neighbor Apple's press events.
Image Comics' publisher Eric Stephenson is a well-documented fan of Apple and its co-founder Steve Jobs, and the Image Expo is a public face to a strategy Stephenson and the company has been employing to set itself apart. The location of the Image Expo, coincidentally, is where Apple has held numerous product launches themselves. Although this is the third iteration of the Image Expo, I expect Stephenson and colleague Ron Richards to further expand the scope of the Expo -- possibly into simulcasting the announcements and doing more surprise book launches like Tech Jacket Digital.
Although Image Expo is open to the public, the publisher is very upfront in their marketing materials, saying the event is focused on retailer and press outreach -- both have complimentary admittance. In the current age of a steady stream of coordinated, embargoed news announcements pushed out to news sites in a steady stream by DC, Marvel and other publishers, Image Expo pushes them together into a big, one-day punch to the proverbial gut for comics fans -- wrapped in the larger message of their creator-owned, creator-first message. (Chris Arrant)
Bitch Magazine to comics industry: Don't Be a Dick
Five years ago, if you said that a non-comics outlet would ever care to talk about something as "inside baseball" as gender diversity in comics, I would have given a mighty guffaw in disbelief. Feminist magazine Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture is taking on the gender equality problem in comics with a monthly webcomic written by Janelle Asselin, drawn by The Ladydrawers, and edited by Anne Elizabeth Moore. My favorite sentence from the announcement: "The best way to talk about comics is through comics." Yes, and yes.
The fantastic title "Don't Be a Dick" sounds like it's going to be a scathing series of aggressive take-downs, which I would've enjoyed, but the first installment reveals a skilled and nuanced approach that subverts expectations and reveals just how smart the creators are at taking on this project. Realizing Bitch Magazine's audience probably knows very little about comics*, they start by breaking down comics based on its often weird terminology - highlighting the different types of comics, the different publishers, how they're distributed and more. It's a very entry-level dive into the world of comics, probably the type of conversation many of us have had to normal citizens when trying to explain the oddities of comics. The first comic may be text-heavy, but it feels not only necessary to give context to the gender issues that will be tackled in later installments, it also feels like a smart move for a readership that's likely accustomed to reading long articles of text. In that way, it makes for a gentle transition that doubles as a clever advertisement for comics. Katie Cook's wonderfully adorable art is also done in a familiar and comfortable style. It's another shining example that simple and clear is usually more powerful and effective at communicating. I'm really looking forward to future installments, and am thrilled to have comics so well-represented by Asselin and her team in a non-comics setting. Next month will continue the introduction by diving more into comics history with an eye toward female readership throughout the years. Future installments will probably get a bit more pointed while they give marketing tips for publishers and retailing advice for comic shops. And for those that expect angry man-hating tirades when they see the word "feminist," this will surely subvert that stereotype, just as the strip opens up revealing that comics fans come in all shapes and sizes.
*Bitch Magazine's readers probably have some familiarity with comics through the site, with Erika Moen's webcomic Oh Joy, Sex Toy and some relevant comics news coverage by Sarah Mirk and Arielle Yarwood. Again, five years ago I never would've thought... (Corey Blake)
Parker crowns, er, belts the King of the Seas
The challenge to writing a successful King of the Sea title (be it DC's Aquaman or Marvel's Sub-Mariner) is being able to strike a perfect balance of action and political intrigue. The recently released Aquaman #26 marks the first issue where veteran scribe Jeff Parker assumes the writing reins from DC's Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. Judging by the first issue, Parker does not seem the least bit nervous in trying to fill Johns' shoes on the series.
A strength that has carried through most of Parker's writing over the years is his ability to inject an element of levity or humor that bolsters rather than derailing the narrative. When one of his royal subjects informs him that people wish their king would wear his crown, he counters: "I wear the belt! The belt counts!" It's also nice to see the banter/rapport that Parker quickly establishes between Arthur and his Queen Mera.
As shown in my recent interview with series artist Paul Pelletier, I was curious to see how the collaborative effort between Pelletier and Parker would work. Judging by this first issue, they work together quite nicely. In terms of action, the writer and artist quickly establish a new means for Aquaman to get around quickly, using Mera's powers to fashion a "pressure launch" for the hero. In essence, Mera jettisons Arthur from the water into the air (via a low pressure path to the surface matching coordinates he gave her). As concepts go, it's fun to see executed and Pelletier lays it out in an engaging and convincing manner.
With some of the new status quo (under Parker) in place, I'm eager to read the next issue. (Tim O'Shea)
Kaare Andrews punches an Iron Fist directly into my heart
This week Marvel announced that cartoonist/director Kaare Andrews will return to comics to launch an all-new Iron Fist ongoing series. Like some lightning-quick one-two punch from Bruce Lee, this news hit me with fast repetition due to my appreciation for Andrews' work and the Iron Fist character. As a comics journalist I was privy to this news before it was announced for an embargoed story to run on another site, and I could barely rein in my excitement for this. But hey, let's try.
My fandom aside, a new Iron Fist series holds a multitude of potential. Falling into the pseudo-line of "Hawkeyzation" titles (tip of the hat to Andrew Wheeler for noticing this), relaunching the Living Weapon Danny Rand with a well-known and visually striking artist such as Andrews would do much to separate it from the pack, and giving it a continuity-lite vibe not dissimilar from the early Marvel Knights books. Factor that in with the forthcoming Iron Fist live-action series at Netflix, and this could be some great synergy that also happens to deliver great comics. (Chris Arrant)
Comics all over The Nib
Speaking of loving how far comics have come, Matt Bors brings more comics than ever to The Nib, the comics hub at the blogging platform Medium. The page has political cartoons by Ted Rall and Jen Sorensen, comics journalism by Susan Cagle, non-fiction comics by Sarah Glidden, humor comics by Emily Flake and Zach Weinersmith, new installments of the aforementioned Oh Joy, Sex Toy by Erika Moen, and much, much more. Tom Tomorrow, Rich Stevens, Keith Knight, Julia Wertz - it's such an all-star line-up landing on the site Monday through Friday. And in Bors' announcement, he calls this "a good start," suggesting more is to come! Perhaps best of all, the roster reveals fantastic diversity both in content and creators. Comics may be on the decline in newspapers, but Matt Bors proves comics will always find a new home. I think I've found my new daily funny pages. (Corey Blake)
The Ultimate Ultimate Universe relaunch
Not every reboot is unwelcome; sometimes, comic landscapes can become so tied up with past plots that a entire universe can become unmaneuverable. So that's why I am frankly relieved to hear that Marvel's major Ultimate comics storyline, Cataclysm, will result in a large upheaval that will bring us fresh, new looks and new titles.
Miles Morales is pretty much the best thing to come out of the last time they attempted an Ultimate reboot, so ensuring his place with the new Miles Morales, Ultimate Spider-Man book from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Dave Marquez seems like a no-brainer. The fact that he'll be working with a team of young heroes developed in his current title also makes a ton of sense; Cloak and Dagger, Bombshell and Jessica Drew (renaming herself Black Widow) will be the All-New Ultimates, written by indie superstar Michael Fiffe, a huge get for Marvel. We'll also be getting an Ultimate FF book that will give the Ultimate universe a think-tank of heroes to run their version of the Future Foundation. Based on recent Cataclysm pages, I'm guessing Reed Richards will be a part of this as well, which is pretty cool considering he's just too interesting a character in the Ultimate-verse to languish in cheap villainy.
No mutants this time around, but I think the diversity and youth demographic is covered well by the new Ultimates; perhaps the mutant book will be coming later on, since it's a far better idea to start out with a few solid titles then flood us with more books than even they know what to do with. Unlike Ultimatum (yuck), this seems to be a really well-thought-out directive moving our favorite characters to great, new places. All in all, fantastic news for readers and fans of the Ultimate comics. (Carla Hoffman)