Wednesday, July 18, 2012

San Diego Comicon News Wrap-Up 2012

Drawn & Quarterly Announce New "Building Stories" Deluxe Edition

Drawn & Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros announced today that the company would be releasing a deluxe edition of Chris Ware's newest graphic novel, Building Stories. While the collection's first edition, slated to hit stores this October from Pantheon, is still months from release, Oliveros is confident that the announcement of the new super-deluxe edition will not effect sales. "We've seen this model for years in the movie business: new movies are first released on DVD in bare-bones format, with no commentary tracks or extra footage. Then six months down the road, the studio releases the two-disc deluxe set that has all the bonus goodies that fans wanted all along. People have no problem double-dipping on the newest Batman movie, so it doesn't seem unusual to expect that people are going to be willing to pay a similar premium to get the complete Building Stories experience."

The first edition of Building Stories is already a marvel of interactive packaging and state-of-the-art book design. When pressed for specifics as to how the updated Building Stories would surpass the original, Oliveros said that the deluxe edition would "dwarf" the original. "The version of Building Stories that goes on sale in October is the best version of Building Stories that Pantheon could produce. It's a little box with a bunch of posters and fold-outs in it. It's a perfectly reasonable approximation of the Building Stories experience, good for the types of people who are going to read the New Yorker's inevitable laudatory review and buy a copy of the book to put under the holiday tree. Dilettantes, basically. But the real Building Stories is something much larger and more ambitious. Pantheon balked at the idea of creating a 3' x 6' x 6" wooden plank hand-carved and lacquered to look like a scale model of a real building. The book is basically going to be a kind of advent calendar. The reader will open up the thirty "windows" on the face of the building and pull out thirty tiny mini-books with the story content. But - here's the best part - each succeeding window can only be opened once the reader answers a riddle and inputs the answer into the digital master-lock controlled by the book's security system, the answer to which has been cleverly hidden in the previous book. These are hard riddles, too - I don't want to give anything away, but there's a lot in the book on the life of Robert Moses, and it might help to have a copy of The Power Broker on hand, as well as - obviously - Boethius."

When asked about the content of the books themselves, Oliveros said that the finished, deluxe Building Stories would be substantially larger than the Pantheon edition. "Our version has at least 75% percent more material than the Pantheon edition, maybe more. The first book in the sequence is what we in the trade call 'normal size' - the customary 6 ⅝" × 10 ¼" comic book size that you might recall from the most recent, nostalgia issue of Optic Nerve. As the narrative continues, the books get smaller and smaller, reflecting the crushing spiritual ennui and claustrophobic depression these characters experience. The final book in the sequence is only 1" x 2" inches and printed in tiny micrographic detail - with the naked eye the pages look almost completely black, covered with tiny lines. We're including one of those magnifying glasses you get with the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, and even then you might be unable to read the conclusion without pulling the pages out of the book and reading them under a microfiche reader, the type you probably have to go to a major university library to find because most public libraries threw out their microfilm years ago."     

When asked how much the deluxe edition would cost, Oliveros was unwilling to speculate what the final retail price would be. "We aren't sure yet - we're still talking to contractors and lumber yards. I'm pretty sure that no one in this room is going to be able to afford this one, though - we've already accepted an order for 5,000 copies for the gift shop at the Met. It's going to be a great conversation starter for anyone who can get it up through the freight elevator to their SoHo loft." Although Ware himself was not present in San Diego, he made an appearance by phone during the D&Q showcase panel. After Oliveros placed the telephone speaker against the microphone, the crowd heard a muffled, wet sound that Oliveros assured the audience was weeping. "That's usually what Chris is like, there's a lot of uncontrollable weeping and gnashing of teeth. I know it sounds like he's laughing hysterically, but he's not, I promise."

DC Announces New "Kid-Friendly" Batman Book

Responding to longstanding fan and retailer complaints that the mainline Batman titles offered by DC Comics are far too explicit to be sold or given to children, the company announced during their spotlight panel earlier today that they would be publishing a new all-ages Batman book specifically aimed at winning over lapsed kid readers and the parents who buy them comics.

DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio introduced the book with a tacit apology. "I recognize that we've painted ourselves into something of a corner in the last few years, with increasingly explicit content in both our books and some of the ancillary product, like [the popular video game] Arkham City. But we've taken a look back at some of our publishing decisions and realized that we need to reaffirm our commitment to once again making Batman friendly for kids and families."

The new book will start, Didio said, with sanitized retellings of some of the more controversial highlights of the last few years of Batman stories. "The first issue of the new Detective Comics started with the Joker getting his face ripped off - we realized after the issue hit stands we may have crossed a line. In our new version, the Joker draws on his face with permanent marker - I think any parents in the audience should recognize which is more horrifying! In Night of the Owls, Batman and his friends faced the undead corpses of Gotham city's most powerful citizens - in our new version, the Court of Owls' foot-soldiers will have really bad ice-cream headaches."

Didio alluded to the imminent arrival of the latest Batman film as the impetus for this new initiative. "In just over a week, people are going to be lining up across the world to see The Dark Knight Rises. And that movie is going to be promoting a vision of Batman that we need to be able to follow-through with on the publishing level. The cinematic Batman lives in a gaudy fictional city filled with colorful villains and pulse-pounding adventure. Christopher Nolan's films have done a great job exposing Batman to a new generation of kids and parents alike. Families walk out of the theater with huge smiles after watching Nolan's films. They're used to seeing a Batman who isn't afraid to crack jokes with Robin, fighting villains with colorful costumes and dastardly yet absurdly elaborate robbery and extortion schemes. They want the basics: death-defying acrobatics and sharp detective skills, Batman overcoming impossible odds to escape preposterous death-traps and sock the villains on the jaw, that kind of thing. That's the 'new' old Batman we need to be promoting in our books."

The first issue of the new all-ages Batman book is being solicited for a November release. The creative team will be Tony Daniel and Philip Tan.

Marvel Studios Pleased to Announce New Slate of Creator-Screwing

Fresh off the success of Marvel's Avengers, Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige appeared in front of a packed standing-room-only crowd to discuss Marvel's upcoming slate of big-budget creator-screwings.

"So, who here saw Marvel's Avengers?" Feige began by asking the crowd. The question elicited a thunderous reply from the assembled fanboys, many of whom had waited in line for two days for the opportunity to maybe see a test reel from Ant-Man. "We couldn't be more pleased by the reception Marvel's Avengers has received not just from you guys, but from the whole world. But I'm here to say that we're not going to be happy with just the third-biggest movie of all time, our creator-screwings are only going to be getting bigger from here on out."

During the panel, Feige announced the titles for the next Avengers-family sequels - Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. "We're thrilled to embark on the next round of creator-screwing. One of the problems with our creator-screwing so far is that - although there have been some exceptions - our most potent screwings have been going to creators who are either dead or on death's door. It's just not as much fun to screw estates as it is to screw the old guys themselves - you can really see the hate in their eyes when you tell them you just bought a third house in Florida with the proceeds you got from signing off on last-minute script revisions for a property they unambiguously created but over which they have no legal control. Or rather, scratch that, you can't see it in their eyes, because who would want to go near old people?"

Fans met this announcement with surprising enthusiasm, marked by an occasional, confused yell of "pull the plug!" Feige continued: "in hindsight, the real model for us going forward is going to be Elektra. That film may have underperformed at the box office, but we learned some valuable lessons about screwing over living creators with that one. Sure, Marv Wolfman sued us over Blade, but the circumstances surrounding that lawsuit were regrettable - Wolfman actually had half a case, and we had to go to court, and it just got drawn out. Where's the fun in going to court and listening to some boring judge take half a day to say what you already know, which is that old people stink? But with Elektra, we actually had a living, breathing creator - the incomparable Frank Miller - who was not merely alive to see his creation turned into a big-budget bomb that even in failure still made the Second Unit Best Boy more money than Miller has probably ever seen in royalties - but also had the common decency not to sue since we were so unambiguously within our legal rights to attach his good name as a creator to any half-assed piece of shit we felt like crapping out."

At this point, Feige pointed to a slide on the screen behind him featuring concept art for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film. "We're all really excited about this one, because we can finally start sticking it to some younger creators here. Half of these characters were created by Jim Starlin, the others by Steve Englehart and Bill Mantlo. The name 'Guardians of the Galaxy' was, of course, created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan,  both of whom are dead and who are therefore no fun to taunt. But Starlin and Englehart are both alive and kicking, and all signs point to them being extremely displeased with the liberties we're taking with 'their' creations. But we're especially pleased to be able to finally screw over Bill Mantlo, co-creator of Rocket Raccoon: not only is Mantlo a destitute older creator, but he's also been confined to institutions for twenty years following a tragic accident that left him permanently mentally impaired. This is pretty much a dream come true in regards to being able to screw over the most helpless and pitiful creators possible."

As for the future of Marvel Studios past the next wave of Marvel's Avengers spin-offs, Feige was optimistic. "Basically, the sky is the limit in terms of our ability to piss off creators of every generation. We're just now getting around to screwing over creators in their fifties and sixties, so just imagine the kinds of opportunities that are still available for even younger creators. We've got a Deadpool video game coming out that you'll be pleased to hear Rob Liefeld has no input in whatsoever. We're still working on a Runaways movie - Brian K. Vaughan isn't even forty yet, so he could potentially enjoy another forty or fifty years of prime quality screwing if we turn his property into a massive hit. And one of these days you know we're going to make a fucking Sleepwalker movie, because I ran into Bob Budiansky once and he stole my soft pretzel. It was a fucking bomb-ass pretzel, too."

In conclusion, Feige alluded to the more complicated status of characters created since the institution of participation contracts in the mid-80s. "Since the 1980s, creators are entitled to participation in any profits from their creations. What this amounts to, in practice, is that they get to sit in on a conference call while we count the money. You know how modern business is, we don't actually need to physically count money, but for the benefit of our creators - for whom no effort is too great in terms of giving them the screwing they so richly deserve - we actually go to the bank and get these big sacks of dollar coins, and crisp bank notes, and take turns stacking and restacking and folding them as loudly as possible so they can hear over the phone, the actual sound of money. The best part is that after a while you can hear this soft moaning over the line, like the sound of an old, bruised heart finally breaking after a lifetime of undeserved mistreatment, like the end of Homer's Odyssey when Argus raises his head off the garbage heap and sees his old master Odysseus one more time before dying, only instead of his old, kind master all he sees is the Devil himself rising up out of the ground to drag his soul down to Hell as just rewards for being such a God-damned sucker. I tell you, at the end of the day, that's what makes it all worthwhile."

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