Monday, July 25, 2011

Comicon News Roundup

Fantagraphics to publish Complete Four Color

Fresh off recent convention-season announcements that venerable art comics publisher Fantagraphics had secured reprint rights to the classic EC Comics library as well as the groundbreaking underground anthology Zap, the publisher announced their further acquisition of the reprint rights to one of the most important series in the history of comics: Dell's long running Four Color series.

"This announcement is a long time coming," states Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth. "Over the years we've become adept at working with a wide range of rights holders in order to reprint a large variety of archival material running the gamut from Charles Schulz's Peanuts and E. C. Segar's Thimble Theater through to Floyd Gottfredson and Carl Barks' classic Disney comics. Licensing the Four Color series required working not only with Dell itself through Random House, but with the rights holders for every individual licensed feature published in the magazine's long run. Thankfully, our relationship with Disney meant a large chunk of the prime material was already squared away, but that still left Warner Brothers [Dell published the Looney Tunes characters side-by-side with their Disney counterparts for decades], in addition to other properties as diverse as Raggedy Ann & Andy, Felix the Cat and Zane Grey's Westerns.

"It's taken - no exaggeration - years of diligent work to bring together all the rights holders. But it'll all be worth it be able to present the highest-selling and most influential comic series in history in strict historical continuity. There's a lot of work here that contemporary readers are completely ignorant of - Jack Callahan's Tillie the Toiler, for instance, is really going to wow people. Just the other day I was poring over a stack of Harvey Eisenberg's amazing Charlie McCarthy books - these stories definitely deserve their chance to once more stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Barks' more famous Ducks."

"We haven't completely finalized the details of the books, but we're most likely looking at publishing the series five issues at a time, in oversized hardcovers that will probably come out to around $40. If we can keep to a strict quarterly schedule, we'll be on track to finish the Complete Four Color in only 67 years, give or take. I think any serious historian of the medium is going to want to find room on their shelf for these books."

R. Crumb takes the reigns of Iron Fist

In a surprise announcement on Saturday's Cup of Joe panel, Marvel CCO Joe Quesada stunned panel attendees by introducing perhaps the last creator anyone expected to see in residence at the House of Ideas: legendary underground comics pioneer R. Crumb. Crumb will be writing and drawing a relaunch of Marvel mainstay Iron Fist to be set in the immediate aftermath of the company's line-wide Fear Itself event.

"I'd been talking to Joe off and on for years about doing some work for Marvel, but the timing never seemed right before now. But since I wrapped work on my Book of Genesis adaptation, I'd been casting around for my next project. By happy coincidence I happened to run into Joe and he let it slip that Iron Fist was going to be left in a particularly interesting situation in the immediate wake of Fear Itself. After a little bit of prodding he explained exactly what Iron FIst's new status quo entailed, and the more I heard the more I realized that these were stories I wanted to be a part of telling."

When asked by audience members why the notoriously independent Crumb was making a move to Marvel after almost five decades of independent publishing, the underground pioneer demurred. "I don't think it's as much of a stretch as some people are likely to believe. In hindsight I think it's obvious that a lot of my career has been building towards working with Marvel. I'm finally ready, I think, to put my nose to the grindstone and built up a nice, long run. That I've been given the opportunity to work with such an iconic character as Iron Fist is just icing on the cake."

"There are probably some old underground fans who are going to be disappointed that I'm working at Marvel, but I'm confident that once people start seeing these pages any objections are going to be completely forgotten. This is some of the best work of my career. I really feel that this is the work I'm going to be remembered for."

When asked about the new series direction, Crumb was chary. "Basically, there's a lot I can't say because, well, we're going to be picking up almost immediately after the final pages of Fear Itself and Joe here would have to kill me if I gave away the ending! But rest assured, longtime Iron Fist fans are going to be pleasantly surprised - we're happy to be picking up on Matt [Fraction]'s work both in Fear Itself and The Immortal Iron Fist, sort-of dovetailing a number ideas that have been put out over the last few years about just where Danny Rand fits into the cosmology of the Marvel Universe. He's going to be a major player in the next year, he's still going to be in New Avengers and also in The Defenders. It's a good time to be an Iron FIst fan. This book is going to be ground zero for some very important developments that are going to be felt throughout the Marvel Universe. That's all I can say for now."

Finally, Crumb concluded with a few specifics to appease still-curious audience members. "Alright, I will say there's a lot we don't know about the Seven Cities of Heaven. That's something I really want to explore, so be on the lookout for that. And also - OK, I'll just say, sometime in the first six months we're going to be seeing a big fight with Darkhawk, simply because," Crumb concluded with a laugh, "I've always wanted to see who would win in a fight between Iron Fist and Darkhawk."

Harry Potter comes to DC

In a move many feel was years overdue, it was finally announced that DC Comics would be publishing a comics adaptation of the enormously successful Harry Potter series of novels.

"I'm thrilled to say that, after years of work, Harry Potter is finally coming to DC," co-publisher Dan Didio announced to thunderous applause on Friday. "You may have heard of this guy," Didio say, gesturing towards a large slide of the iconic boy wizard atop his trademark racing broom, "he had a movie out not too long ago, some low-budget independent thing. It made a few dollars." The audience laughed: the highly anticipated eighth and final film in the Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has broken worldwide box office records in recent weeks.

"Harry Potter is one of the biggest entertainment brands in the world, and his entrance into the world of comics is years - decades - past due," Didio continued. "This is one of those instances where our creative synergy with Warner Brothers [makers of the Harry Potter films] really paid off. After some initial discussion, we realized that not producing comics to tie-in with these phenomenal books and movies was really just leaving money on the table.

"Comics have a huge advantage over any other medium, in that our production budget is limited only by our imagination. We have as much space as we feel necessary to do these books justice, and we're working very hard to make these comics the most accurate and exhaustive adaptation possible. Harry Potter fans love every word, every supporting character and every scene, and we're going to take advantage of the medium to show you every detail of Harry's world, including all the stuff they just couldn't show in a two- or three-hour film. Whether you've been a fan since the first book or you've just recently jumped onboard the Hogwarts Express, we want readers to feel like they're coming home with these books.

"We know Harry Potter is immensely popular, and even with no new books or movies on the horizon he's likely to remain popular for a long time to come. We could probably make money by publishing 22-blank pages with Harry Potter's name on them every month" - the audience laughed again at this line - "but we've taken steps to secure the best talent we could, the most qualified creators in our stable and the ones we feel best suited to meeting the creative challenges presented by Harry and his world. We're pleased to announce that J. T. Krul will be spearheading the adaptation, with Philip Tan on art. I was happy to be able to work with Philip on Outsiders, and his skill has grown in leaps and bounds in the last year. When you see his Potter work, you're going to be blown away, he's really taken it to the next level."

Didio concluded his presentation with an admission of the unique opportunities presented by adapting such a popular and well-known franchise. "I think anyone coming to these books is going to be impressed, whether they've been reading comics their entire life or whether this is their first time. We know these books are going to be huge. We know that Harry Potter has the potential to be a lot of people's first comic. We want to do our best to put the medium's best foot forward."

Monday, July 18, 2011

And You May Find Yourself In Another Part Of The World

I moved to Massachusetts in late October 2003, and began The Hurting in January of 2004. A week and a half ago I moved out of Massachusetts and back home to California. It had been, all told, an exile of exactly eleven years: I moved away from the west coast in June of 2000 (to Oklahoma, where I lived for three years), and marked my official return in July of 2011.

Moving is terrible. I've certainly done it a few times over the years: I lived in five different houses in Massachusetts, which adds up to a lot of unpleasant lifting and carrying, to say nothing of dismantling and reconstructing cheap furniture. But hopefully this will be the last move for the considerable future.

In the beginning and for a few years thereafter this blog had a decidedly more personal bent - which was not so much an intentional focus as an unavoidable consequence of the unpleasant circumstances surrounding my life at the time. I was living in the middle of what could only in hindsight be described as a slow-motion nervous breakdown, unemployed, in a shack in the middle of the woods with a crumbling marriage. (Hindsight being 20/20, the writing had been on the wall regarding the marriage for a long time, but it took a while before either of us realized that fact.) The reason this blog was titled The Hurting wasn't just tongue-in-cheek - there was a thick layer of real bleakness caked underneath the orange Blogspot template.

If you have had a blog for any amount of time, you should be intimately familiar with the unpleasant sensation of rereading your earliest posts. For me, however, the sensation is doubly unpleasant on account of the fact that my circumstances have changed to such a significant degree that I can barely recognize the person who wrote the first few years of this blog. It's been a long time since we were so poor I had to beg readers for money to buy groceries (that grocery money actually appeared is one of the great miracles of my life). It's been a long time since the "we" in question was a going concern. Now the "we" in question is entirely different, and the person with whom I moved to California represents a definite and marked improvement over the one with whom I moved to Massachusetts. I've gone from working the night shift at a children's mental hospital to working in academia. A working scholar and a teacher, of all things. Jesus H. Christ!

After having lived there for almost eight years, I can say with some degree of confidence that New England sucks. I'm sure it works fine for Andrew Weiss and Kevin Church, but I'm simply ecstatic to once again be in the land of Mike Sterling and David Brothers. It's not the winters, as most people would maintain - I grew up in the cold parts of California, after all, so I'm hardly a stranger to the snow. But there's something indefinably uncomfortable about the region, a coldness that goes deeper than the weather if you get my drift. If you weren't born there, it's hard to really make yourself fit - which is in itself an odd thing to say about a region filled to the brim with immigrants - but there you have it. Whenever people found out that I had come from California, they're first question was always "what the hell are you doing in Massachusetts?" In all the years I lived there I never found a good answer, and I still don't have one. Thankfully, it's not a problem anymore. The whole place may be two minutes away from falling down around my shoulders at any moment, but I'm back in California, and be it ever so humble there's no place like home. (And, not for nothing, it's worth pointing out that even with a crumbling infrastructure, the roads out here are still better than the roads in good ol' Taxachusetts - and no tolls to ride the damn freeway, either.)

I'm not a superstitious person - or more precisely, I'm one of those people who always likes to say he's not superstitious, but is in fact just as superstitious as the next person. It is therefore submitted without comment that upon returning to California the very first song heard on the radio in the rental car on the way from the airport to town was "Once In A Lifetime" by the Talking Heads. Don't ask me how, but David Byrne knows these things.

Now might be the time you could reasonably expect me to say something along the lines that, given the change in circumstances over these past eight years, The Hurting has run its course and it's time to put the blog to bed. Well, fuck that shit, you should know me better by now. We're gonna rock it till the wheels fall off. Stay tuned for more half-assed content delivered on a completely inscrutable timetable from now until the end of the world.