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, Wowio.com, 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.

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