The first examples of Marvel's recoloring of the Miracleman pages is out now. Marvel's in something of a No Win position here. If they reprint the books as is, modern comics readers won't like them. The hand lettering and the limited color palette make for comics that look like something someone might photocopy, staple, and sell at a hotel ballroom type show. But if they recolor it in the modern style, they risk alienating what few original fans are left, or those who prefer that they're "older" comics feel "older."
I think Marvel did a great job splitting the different with these samples, though. This coloring is a clear upgrade. It maintains the feel of the original pages while adding in enough variations to make the art clearer. It's not about adding random gradients and calling it a day. It feels more like they kept with the original coloring scheme, but upgraded it past the limitations that color comics had in the 1980s. It's crisper and easier on the eyes, like a fine remastered high def version of a favorite classic film. Flat purple backgrounds should remain a thing of the distant past with today's technologies.
Color is one of the biggest hurdles with reprinting "vintage" works and it inevitably leads to compromise. These pages don't look compromised at all. They look cleaner and clearer, without looking glitzy and bleeding edge.
The computerized lettering is even more impressive. It follows the original style very closely, mirroring the height changes and spacing issues, but with a more regular look thanks to modern computer lettering techniques. They could have just relettered the whole book and made it look like a Marvel 2013 overlay on an 80s comic. This is more respectful of the original material. I like it a lot.
I still think that decades of build-up will lead to a release that many people will find anti-climactic, though, but that's a topic for another time... These first examples of remastering look perfect for the book.
MAKING COMICS BIGGER
BOOM! Studios is jumping on the Artist's Edition bandwagon with a new line of books they're calling "Pen & Ink." The first release sounds like a pretty good one: "Day Men" #1, with art by Brian Stelfreeze. There are differences between this and IDW's ground-breaking line, though. From the press release:
Each PEN & INK edition will be an oversized 11" x 17", saddle-stitched, prestige presentation featuring the original line art from two issues of a series at near-actual size. Every page will be accompanied by annotations from the creative team, giving fans and aspiring creators unique insight into the behind-the-scenes creative process.
The final price will be $9.99. That's not a bad deal for two issues at this size. I wonder if the pages are shot from the original artwork, or if this is just a black and white edition of the book? Will the lettering be included or omitted to show more of the art?
Physically, it'll be much thinner than an AE book, and much cheaper, as well. The annotations they plan to include make it sound like they're marketing the book more at Process Junkies than original art collectors. We'll see what kind of market they capture. The softcover format sounds a bit like the DC Treasuries we got a decade or more ago, like the Paul Dini/Alex Ross oversized books.
The date in the original press release was changed in a later press release, going from the first week of January to "early 2014."
I'm interested in seeing how this take on the format works out. I also look forward to which books they go with next for this line. The best suggestion I've heard so far is for Gabriel Hardman's "Planet of the Apes" work.
DEBUNKING CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
I'm a month late on this one, but I can't let it sit in the queue forever. Conventional Wisdom breaks down twice in this comment by Tom Mason over at ComicsBeat.com. The first bit is that Marvel bought Malibu for its coloring department. The second is that Marvel is sitting on the Ultraverse characters because of contractual issues with the creators.
To point one:
Marvel never bought Malibu for its coloring department. That was never true. Marvel bought Malibu for only one reason: to keep it away from DC which had been negotiating to buy the company since April/May 1994.
To point two, most interestingly:
Brevoort has stated in the past that the reason Marvel can't discuss the Ultraverse properties is because there's an NDA in place with certain parties.
If you read the original press release where Scott Rosenberg left Marvel and announced the formation of Platinum Studios back in 1997, you'll find this nugget: "Rosenberg also has an ongoing producer deal for all Malibu Comics properties."
So that NDA just might relate to that and probably has more to do with the reason why the Ultraverse properties have languished.
Fascinating. Who could blame Marvel for wanting to stay far, far away from the fiasco that is Platinum Studios and its founder?
FIVE COMICS I ENJOY
Tom Spurgeon's weekly "Five For Friday" list last week was "Name Five Comics You Enjoyed In 2013 -- From Five Different Publishers, At Least Four Of Which Were Published This Year." I thought it would be fun to play this game, too:
- Marvel: "Secret Avengers, Vol. 3: Run the Mission, Don't Get Seen, Save the World" is the short Warren Ellis run on the title. Yes, it was published in 2012, but I just got around to it this year. It was a fun anthology of comics there, featuring more of Ellis' wit and wisdom distilled into Marvel superhero tomfoolery. Great art from a variety of artists like Stuart Immonen, Alex Maleev, Michael Lark, and more.
- Humanoids: "Bluesy Lucy" is the story of a single woman in France coming to grips with her assumed failings in the world of work and romance. It's more a story of a woman finding herself than it is about the search for That Perfect Man, complete with the obvious happy ending. It's a satisfying and unexpected conclusion.
- NBM/Papercutz: "Smurfs Anthology" Volume 2 turned out to be just as good as the first volume. My initial qualms with the format were quickly put to rest, and so I got to enjoy the original Smurfs comics in a format as close to their original publication as humanly possible. Peyo's art looks good shrunk down. It tightens things up and makes it all the more impressive. But for studying his brush line and taking in the larger scenes of Smurf mayhem, you can't beat the "Anthology" series. The extra essays preceding certain stories and the addition of the original Johan and Peewit stories are great bonuses
- Dynamite: "Red Team" is the soon-to-be-finished miniseries from Garth Ennis and Craig Cermak that's like "The Shield" in comic book form. Wonderful suspense and cop drama.
- Image: This one was the toughest, because they're my favorite publisher by far right now. I could easily list a dozen books here without thinking twice -- half of which would likely be coming from Skybound, the best publishing imprint in comics today -- but I had to narrow it down to just one. So let me go with "The Manhattan Projects." Jonathan Hickman and company continue to surprise and delight with each issue, getting crazier with each issue. It's obvious, in retrospect, that Hickman knows what he's doing with the series, but reading it from issue to issue feels like a crazy improv class slowly falling off the rails, mixing wacky sci-fi with alternate history comedy. There's nobody else in comics doing a book like this today. Nick Pitarra's art with Jordie Bellaire's bright and well-defined colors give the book a distinctive look. And as much as I complained about mixed-case fonts in comics lettering when they first started showing up, I can't imagine this book any other way. Good job, Rus Wooton.
RANDOM OTHER BITS AND PIECES
- In light of recent snowstorms in this area and many others, this Boulet comic ("The First Snowflake") couldn't be better timed. OK, it's from November, so perhaps it could be. I just happened to see it this week for the first time. It's a wonderfully bittersweet look at the reactions kids and adults have to snowfall.
- Best way to break into comics? Option your comic first, then publish it. Of course, you usually need representation in Hollywood of some kind for that trick to work. And previously adapted work. And maybe a reputation for doing work in the first place. And top tier artist friends to promise to draw it for you. OK, so you can't all be Mark Millar.
- Those of you who follow the tech world have no doubt read about the Department of Justice's continued pressure on Apple for anti-trust violations with Apple's ebook sales. One person filed a brief with the court on the case in the form of a comic book. So now, if you want to read someone's explanation for why the government's case again Apple is painfully weak, you can do so in sequential art style.
- TwoMorrows Publishing did a nice thing last week. "AlterEgo" #122 dedicated itself to putting a period on the life of "The Comics Buyer's Guide," which died nearly a year ago now before it could have a proper final issue. (I wrote about CBG then.) The magazine brings together Peter David, Mark Evanier, Tony Isabella, and more to put a capper on the venerable newspaper. I'm glad in some strange fannish way that we were able to have this send-off.
- Random thought: Was Patrick Stewart's casting as Professor X the only superhero movie casting ever in which the #1 fan pick actually came true? I can't think of any other character ever where everyone knew who had to play the part in advance and the movie studio agreed to it. We did get Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury, but that comic character was created to look like the actor, so it feels like cheating. Aside from Nathan Fillion being the dream casting for every superhero movie in the last decade, are there are similar casting wishes like Stewart for the Professor?
- Welcome back Alan David Doane to the world of comic news blogging. We need more strong voices like his in the comics discussion world. You won't always agree with it and you'll occasionally question his hang-ups, but we're all like that to one degree or another. I'm sure you're all sick of hearing me talking about Euro-comics the way you worry about Alan's obsession with DC's mistreatment of Alan Moore, for example. I'm just slightly less vitriolic about it.
- Tweet of the Week comes to us from Sam Humphries:
if banksy was a dog he would be called carl barksy and do definitive duck comics on some highway overpass
— Sam Humphries (@samhumphries) December 5, 2013