Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Heroes in Stores Today, More Criminal in January, a Mini Book Tour and More Podcasts!

It's a big day -- big enough to eclipse the very busy schedule that's been keeping me offline recently.  It's been more than three months since the conclusion of Kill Or Be Killed, and the killer team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips is back with their first original graphic novel, the hardcover My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies.

Image Comics is promoting the book on its front page, and while the book's webpage still has the three-page trailer, Ed Brubaker's recent email newsletter includes three new preview pages.

An additional, exclusive four-page preview is available at The Hollywood Reporter, along with a brief interview with Brubaker, touching on how the story connects to his personal life and updating fans on Too Old To Die Young.

(The Amazon-exclusive series is in post-production, probably to be released in the spring: "it's the most Nicolas Winding Refn thing that ever existed, honestly. It's stylish and shocking," and the cinematography is especially good considering its being made for television.)

The book hits stores today.  At certain stores, readers can purchase the book with one of apparently THREE signed bookplates.  The most common one, based on the cover art, is signed by Ed Brubaker.  It's apparently available at stores such as London's Orbital Comics, where we found the photo below; at Pittsburgh's Phantom of the Attic, which I used to frequent in grad-school days, when it was located on Craig Street; and at the stores hosting Brubaker's upcoming book tour.

Two other bookplates are exclusively available at two stores in the British Isles.  They feature the front or back of the book's main character Ellie, and they're signed by all three creators -- writer Ed Brubaker, artist Sean Phillips, and colorist Jacob Phillips.  Sean posted images of the bookplates through Twitter, announcing that the former is available through OK Comics and the latter is at Page 45.  OK Comics evidently also has the original artwork on which these bookplates are based, along with the Brubaker-signed bookplate, signed copies of Jack & Lucy by Rachael Smith and Jacob Phillips, and a giveaway for signed promo posters.

Looking at the copy we just picked up from our local shop, we can confirm that it's the standard comic-book dimensions, and its matte paper is quite nice, making the physical copy really stand out.
We can also confirm that, on the title page, the book is described as "a Criminal novella."

(We think Sean ought to use his Big Cartel store to sell dust jackets for the book, to match the design for Image's new printings of the Criminal trade paperbacks.)

Much to our delight, more Criminal is coming, much sooner than expected.

Rich Johnston broke the news on September 23rd, after talking with Sean Phillips at Thought Bubble in Leeds, and the news was confirmed by Brubaker's October 4th newsletter and Phillips' October 5th tweet, with a look at the cover art for issue #1 in this third ongoing monthly series to bear the name.

As with this new hardcover, the ongoing series will be colored by Jacob Phillips, "our new regular colorist," and it sounds like the series will include long arcs, done-in-one stories, and everything in-between. 

Brubaker shared some interior artwork from this first issue, confirming that the cover above features Teeg Lawless from the 1980's and setting at least part of the story in March of 1988.  With one young, as-yet unidentified character breaking into a house, we wonder if we'll see Leo Patterson, Tracy Lawless, and Jacob Kurtz as teenage friends and lawbreakers.

Brubaker teases that this debut issue is "an extra-length single issue story that is different than anything we've ever done before with CRIMINAL."  Especially considering the turns the series has already taken, we're more than intrigued.

(In the interview given to THR mentioned above, Brubaker adds, "We'll definitely be seeing more of Ellie in the new Criminal monthly series that launches in January.")

And, Brubaker explains that his work on the Junkies may have inspired him to return to the world of Criminal more quickly than he had planned, setting aside (for now) the planned follow-up to The Fade Out.

Fans probably have questions for the writer, and he used his newsletter (with a subsequent addendum) to announce a miniature book tour -- a "signing tour" which Image Comics publicized in its own press release yesterday.

So far only four stops have been announced, three in California and a fourth in the "other" LA -- Louisiana, the first time the writer will be a guest at an event in this area and his first time in the Big Easy.

The tour STARTS TONIGHT, and the event links below should be up-to-date.
Finally, if you still can't get enough of Brubaker and Phillips, The Undertow Podcast has released a few new episodes since we last posted here at the blog.
  • In Episode 25, Robert and I review the 20th and final issue of Kill Or Be Killed, with some broader thoughts on the overall series.
  • In Episode 26, Robert opens our second "cold case" to take a look at some of the earliest collaborations between Brubaker and Phillips, the prestige-format comic Batman: Gotham Noir from DC's Elseworlds line and Batman #603 from the Bruce Wayne: Fugitive crossover event.
We'll be back with another podcast very soon, and it's clear we'll have lots to talk about.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

In Stores Now, KILL OR BE KILLED 20 Featuring The JUNKIES Teaser!

For fans of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, it's the biggest week in quite some time.  The conclusion to their twisted vigilante comic, Kill Or Be Killed #20, arrives in retailers today, including in a virgin variant cover.

Image Comics features the issue in one of its front-page banner images, shown below, and the publisher has just posted a three-page preview -- the same preview we found in last week's CBR interview, with a few profanities blacked out.

Brubaker and Phillips tend to announce and promote their major projects with a short teaser comic, evoking the cinematic feel of a movie trailer, and their next project is no exception.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is an original hardcover graphic due in October, and we previously reported on Phillips' tweet that the KOBK finale would include that teaser, a hint of which we see in the embedded image.
Phillips has since posted the full teaser to Twitter, and Image has done the same with a press release.

We'll be sure to discuss the teaser at length in The Undertow Podcast, but for now we'll simply point out the striking combination of the familiar and the new:  there's the three-row layout that has been a staple since the first Criminal arc in 2006 and the first-person narration that's an even older hallmark, but the mixed-case lettering, the more minimal lines that verge to cartooning, and ESPECIALLY the muted pastel colors evoke an indie romance comic.

But, as the teaser begins with a robber and ends with the threat of violence, all drawn to evoke empathy more than outrage, there's no mistaking the story for anything but a noir comic from the best team in the business.

We're sure we're not the only ones eager to get KOBK #20 in our hands today, for the main story and to see that teaser in print -- and we can hardly wait for the book's October release.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018


We've just released the latest episode of The Undertow Podcast:  we're approaching our 25th episode as Kill Or Be Killed is hurtling toward its grand finale.

In episode 24, we review KOBK's penultimate issue #19, an action-packed chapter with the series' most shocking cliffhanger ending.

We also cover the latest news from the world of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' crime comics.  An interviewer asks about that ending, and we talk about the upcoming graphic novella, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.

And we end the issue with my strong and unequivocal recommendation for another graphic-novel crime comic, John K. Snyder III's hardcover adaptation of Eight Million Ways to Die, published by IDW.  The 1982 novel by Lawrence Block is the fifth in his detective series starring the alcoholic ex-cop Matthew Scudder, but this adaptation stands very well on its own, perfectly capturing the story's melancholy mood and the seedy setting of New York City in the early Eighties.

The book was released just last week, and late last month, CBR posted a very unusual preview, featuring work in-progress with fascinating commentary from the artist. 

In the crime writer's own newsletter, Lawrence Block writes, "I flat-out love what JKS3 has done," something he hasn't been able to say for most of his work's big-screen adaptations.  And, he links to a comics review by J.C. Vaughn saying that the book "may well be Snyder’s magnum opus, and it is unquestionably the best work of his career."

In their main characters and art styles, the two adaptations are very different indeed, but we find ourselves shocked to say that we think the book is as astounding as Darwyn Cooke's four books adapting Richard Stark's master thief Parker.

As always, you can find the podcast on iTunes and at Podbean:  we greatly appreciate listeners' feedback, and if you like our work, tell someone else who you think should give it a listen.

We'll be back very soon indeed to review the final issue of Kill Or Be Killed:  issue 20 reaches stores tomorrow, with two different covers.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bullets: a Virgin Variant, an Eisner Nod, and The Next Project Announced!

It's been one very busy week, not even counting a news item that we previously overlooked.

Virgin Variant for KILLED OR BE KILLED 20.  Looking at ComicList's advance forecast for Image Comics, we saw an intriguing second entry for the upcoming final issue to Kill Or Be Killed, for "Cover B Sean Phillips Virgin Variant", linking to a TFAW product page with the second image shown below.

We reached out to the artist himself, and Sean Phillips confirms the listing:  the final issue of Kill Or Be Killed reaches stores with a second, "virgin variant" cover with all the trade dress removed, allowing readers to enjoy the homage to Romita's Spider-Man in all its undiluted glory.

Phillips has since posted a pic of what appears to be his comp copies of both versions, telling readers that the issue "includes a teaser for our new book," which we'll cover further down.

Both versions of the issue -- standard cover and virgin variant, both shown above -- are due next week, on June 27th.

• Brubaker & Phillips Interview for KOBK Finale.  As we were investigating the variant cover this past week, CBR was doing its own work of journalism, posting an extensive interview with the primary creators of Kill Or Be Killed as the vigilante series wraps up.  We think this is the first interview with Phillips since January, and we can't remember the last time Brubaker talked with the press.

Ed Brubaker doesn't want to spoil the final issue -- or even confirm Dylan's fate and "reveal whether he actually did die" -- but he describes it as "the weirdest comic I’ve ever written, probably."  Still being wary of spoiling the issue, he also says it deals "in some ways" with the question of whether the antagonistic Demon is real.

Sean Phillips, meanwhile, describes his characters' evolution, his use of Fairburn's popular reference book series from the 1970's, and Bettie Breitweiser's contributions in adding color to New York through all four seasons.

As coy as the pair is about how the series wraps, the interview includes pages from the upcoming issue, presumably from the opening act, constituting a three-page preview that we're including below.

Brubaker mentioned that he's learned, "never say never," regarding a return to any fictional world, and he's "keeping his fingers crossed" on the film adaptation involving members of the creative team behind John Wick: "I’m helping to produce the movie, but not on a day-to-day level like I am with my current TV show at Amazon [Too Old to Die Young]."

Sean Phillips, meanwhile, is working on covers for home video, film soundtracks, and a Glasgow band, and his eight-page WWI comic with Ian Rankin is still due in October.

And what about the pair's next collaboration?  It's evidently a pair of projects, first an original, hardcover graphic novel, due in October, and then another serialized book which we believe to be the anticipated return to the world of The Fade Out.

Phillips is returning to drawing on paper for the former -- this graphic novella -- and Brubaker said that this project "will be announced soon."

He wasn't kidding.

• Due In October, MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES. The CBR interview was posted on Monday, June 18th.  The very same day, Image Comics released its September solicitations, which included an advance solicit for the pair's upcoming graphic novella.

OCTOBER 10 / 72 PAGES / FC / M / $16.99 
The first original graphic novel from the bestselling creators of CRIMINAL, KILL OR BE KILLED, THE FADE OUT and FATALE. Teenage Ellie has always had romantic ideas about drug addicts, those tragic artistic souls drawn to needles and pills have been an obsession since the death of her junkie mother ten years ago. But when Ellie lands in an upscale rehab clinic where nothing is what it appears to be... she’ll find another more dangerous romance, and find out how easily drugs and murder go hand-in-hand. MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES is a seductive coming-of-age story, a pop and drug culture-fueled tale of a young girl seeking darkness... and what she finds there. A gorgeous must-have hardback from the award-winning team of ED BRUBAKER and SEAN PHILLIPS, with acclaimed color artist ELIZABETH BREITWEISER.
The title may be a riff on the melancholic country song popularized by Willie Nelson. I wonder how often I'll conflate the titles here and on the podcast -- or combine them and reference the Cowboy Junkies.

The next day, Image posted a press release for the book, which Sean Phillips reposted at his blog.

In the release, Brubaker describes the book as their version of a romance comic, confirming that it's also a crime story: "But it's one that allows me to mine some of my own pop culture obsessions and delve back into my teen years and the kind of trouble you can only get into when you're young."
This is evidently the "romance comic" that Phillips reference in an earlier interview, and we do wonder if this started out as that Criminal novella.

On Twitter, Phillips adds that, along with returning to paper for this project, he'll be providing the colors along with his son Jacob Phillips.  I believe this will be only the second time Sean Phillips has been a colorist, the first being the pair's contribution to The Spirit Newspaper.

• Eisner Nod for The Spirit Anthology.  On the subject, we had earlier overlooked the late-April announcement -- covered by the LA Times among others -- of the 2018 Eisner Award nominations.

We found the following among the nominees for Best Anthology:
  • The Spirit Anthology, edited by Sean Phillips (Lakes International Comic Art Festival)
By our reckoning, this is the first year since 2014 that a Brubaker and Phillips collaboration hasn't been explicitly nominated for any Eisners, but they did have a one-page contribution to The Spirit newspaper-sized comic.

The Eisner Awards will be announced Friday night, July 20th, at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Between the Spirit comic's subject matter and rationale (the centenary of its creator Eisner's birth) and the murderer's row of creators, we're expecting good things.

On Twitter, Sean Phillips has a pinned tweet to remind readers that this anthology he edited is exclusively available through worldwide mail order from Page 45 Comics -- and here is the direct link.

• New Prints for Upcoming Works from Brubaker & Phillips.  Finally, Sean Phillips very recently announced new prints at his Big Cartel store, for artwork from this fall's big releases:  the cover for the single-volume trade collection for The Fade Out and the cover for the new novella, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies.  In the case of the latter, two options are available, with and without the creators listed.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New Undertow Podcast, New Kill Or Be Killed, and More.

We've been swamped in real life, but we would be remiss not to note a few things today, however briefly.
  1. Episode 23 of The Undertow Podcast was just released last week, with Robert reviewing Kill Or Be Killed #18.
  2. Kill Or Be Killed #19 is out today, and Image Comics has a five-page preview.
  3. Also out today is Where We Live, an anthology raising money for victims of last year's mass murder in Las Vegas.  Sean Phillips contributes to the book, and on Twitter he shared a few pages of his artwork.
  4. Finally, one of my favorite crime writers, Lawrence Block, is coming to comics:  his 1982 novel Eight Million Ways to Die is being adapted by John K. Snyder III, to be published by IDW on June 20th. 
The novel features Block's ex-cop Matthew Scudder, portrayed by Liam Neeson in 2014's movie adaptation of 1992's A Walk Among the Tombstones (reprinted by Hard Case Crime), and CBR has an extensive preview of Eight Million Ways to Die, with in-process art and commentary by Snyder.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

The Fade Out Single-Volume Softcover -- and More Kill Or Be Killed?

With the new issue of Kill Or Be Killed, we got some news on what comes next.  We still have other news we'd like to cover, but they'll have to wait -- hopefully not too long.

The Fade Out returns to stores this fall, perhaps October or November, this time in a single-volume trade paperback.

We guess that, around the same time of this new collection, we'll see the sequel to The Fade Out, as the team's next monthly title.


While we were finishing our most recent blog post, Ed Brubaker was sending out his latest email newsletter, the first in just over four months.  There's a ton worth reading there, in addition to an extended, five-page preview of the new issue, KOBK #18.

Revealing nothing else about the upcoming project, Brubaker writes, "today I will finally be reading the script for the KILL OR BE KILLED movie adaptation."

He also briefly mentions Too Old To Die Young -- now at the midpoint of its ten-month shoot, "which is I believe the longest shoot ever for a ten episode show with a single director" -- and he directs readers to the show's Instagram feed, which is now quite active. 

And he addresses a reader's question on the changing (and possibly declining) retail market of local comic stores, in a slightly longer answer than what he gave in the back pages of the new issue.

(In the email and in print, he concludes the mini-essay in almost exactly the same way, assuring readers, "Sean and I will keep doing our books as long as people keep buying them... And I hope that’s at least another decade or two.")

The biggest reveal is about this new single-volume softcover for The Fade Out.
I've been researching and planning for a new book, a follow-up to THE FADE OUT for the past six months or so, and I'm happy to announce that in the fall (in time for Christmas shopping even) we'll be releasing a complete edition of THE FADE OUT in paperback. This will collect all 12 chapters under one cover, and a lot of extra stuff, as well... 
This should be out in October or November this year, and I just love this cover Sean did. So keep your eyes peeled and tell your retailers if you want it.  
We previously reported, from his December newsletter, research into the 1950's and television's early golden age for the unconventional sequel to The Fade Out, and, in a subsequent interview, Sean Phillips revealed that this would be the first of two follow-up stories set in the same fictional universe.

If the team's next monthly title starts no earlier than October, it will presumably carry over into the new year.  We seriously doubt Ed Brubaker would commence lengthy research, at the end of 2017, for a book to be created in 2019 or later, so we think it's very reasonable to conclude that their next monthly title is this first follow-up to The Fade Out.

Since this new single-volume trade paperback would be a great way to promote the new series, we'd further speculate that the new title's first issue will come out no more than a month afterward -- and perhaps as early as the very same day.

But even apart from that, we're thrilled to see the story collected as the single graphic novel which it comprises, in an softcover edition presumably priced for a wider readership.

And while the choice of characters and their position is a bit surprising, Ed Brubaker is quite right that the new cover is gorgeous, as is the new design for the title.


In the newsletter, Ed Brubaker also writes about the project preceding this next monthly title.
As I mentioned in the recent issue's text pages, KILL OR BE KILLED is ending with issue 20 and we'll be announcing our next thing very soon (you'll in fact probably hear of it in issue 20 or this newsletter first). I already have said before one of the things Sean and I have started working on is an OGN - which will be an original hardback, novella length. But I don't want to reveal anything more about it yet.
We're looking forward to the announcement.


And, in the back pages of KOBK 18, Ed Brubaker drops one more bit of interesting news.
...I think it's been announced already, but some of you may have missed that issue 20 is our final issue (for now, at least).  This arc is actually where a lot of the threads come together, as you'll see the next three [sic] issues.  We may return to KILL OR BE KILLED at some point down the line, but it's time to move on to other stuff.  We have two new things coming out later this year -- first an OGN hardback and then the launch of our next monthly serialized thing.  I'll have more information about this stuff in issue 20.
The planned film adaptation would presumably be limited to this first volume of twenty issues, and we're quite intrigued about the possibility of returning to this world. 

Dylan's story might not end in June -- and even if it does, we may not have seen the last of that demon.

Either way, we do look forward to "another decade or two" from Brubaker and Phillips, reading whatever stories they'd like to tell.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bullets: New Kill Or Be Killed, New Undertow Podcast, New Edition of Sleeper, and News on Maniac Cop!

Regular readers know the drill:  a new podcast, a new issue from Brubaker and Phillips, and an online preview.

Details are below.

• Undertow Podcast 22 on Kill Or Be Killed 17.  A new episode of The Undertow Podcast was recently released, with a focus on the most recent issue of Kill Or Be Killed.  We covered a few recent news items, specifically the June solicitation for the KOBK finale (which we blogged about last month) and confirmation of the Maniac Cop reboot (covered below).

Robert and I also had some very unconventional recommendations.  We'll come back to those at the end of this post.

As always, The Undertow Podcast is available on iTunes and at Podbean.  We GREATLY appreciate our listeners' giving us feedback and letting others know about the show. 

• Kill Or Be Killed 18 In Stores Today.  Just yesterday, Image Comics updated its page for KOBK 18 by adding a three-page preview.  As shown above, the issue's apparent first page provides a more naturalistic reiteration of the striking cover art, which we now know features the slain body of the copycat vigilante.

This new issue is in stores today, and it seems to feature the return of Detective Lily Sharpe.  We wonder if her investigation of the copycat leads her back to Dylan -- that person of interest she saw at Rex's funeral -- and to his current predicament in a mental institution outside of the city.

One thing we do know, from a tweet from Kim Morgan ten days back, is that the bonus essay is on the 1949 film Too Late For Fears, "one of Lizabeth Scott's greatest roles."  The essay includes a moody illustration from Jacob Phillips, shown below.

• Sleeper Book  In Stores Today.  Serendipitously, KOBK isn't the only new book from Brubaker and Phillips.  From DC Comics, there's the softcover Sleeper Book One, which features what I would classify as the team's first major collaboration -- and it's their only series that has been work-for-hire rather than creator-owned.

Advanced solicited back in December, the book now features a "WildStorm Classic" trade dress, and while the book certainly qualifies as a classic for that larger superhero universe, we also found it to be a remarkably self-contained story. 

The series has been reprinted a few times, along with the prelude story Point Blank, with art by Colin Wilson (though using Sean Phillips' design for the protagonist Holden Carver).
  • Originally, the 2003-2005 series was collected in four 6-issue trade paperbacks, with the Point Blank TPB being treated as a separate work. 
  • In 2009, the series was collected in two 12-issue TPB's -- Season One and Season Two (for volume two, issues 1-12, with a newly collected Coup D'Etat prologue) -- and Point Blank was officially repackaged as a separate prelude story.
  • In 2013, everything was collected in a single, 720-page hardcover omnibus.
Book One collects Point Blank and Season One, and we're sure that there will be a Book Two to complete the series.

I would have guessed that this new trade collection was a bare-bones combination of the two 2009 trade paperbacks, but I've confirmed that includes a few additional features, including an old essay by Brubaker and the complete set of issue-one layouts from Phillips.

Though at some point even we are loathe to collect every new printing of a Brubaker/Phillips work, we're happy to see that the series remains popular enough to justify a new printing every half-decade.

Its super-powered trappings perhaps make it the most accessible Brubaker-Phillips story for fans of the "Big Two" publishers, and fans of the pair's more recent, creator-owned crime comics should definitely check out Sleeper.  I think it's still one of their best works, and I know readers won't be disappointed.

• Exclusive Sleeper print -- and Auctioned Original Artwork! -- at OK Comics.  It'w worth a separate bullet to note that Leeds' OK Comics announced an exclusive print by Sean Phillips, to accompany their copies of the Sleeper Book One softcover.  The print is evidently limited to 50 copies and is signed by the artist.

The online pre-order page hasn't yet been updated, so it's possible the book and print can still be ordered online.

Even better, the page mentions that every order comes with an opportunity to place a blind bid for the print's original artwork from Sean Phillips, signed and framed.

• Maniac Cop Reboot Still Underway.  As we mentioned on the podcast, Birth.Movies.Death. published part of a conversation with director John Hyams on the subject of the Maniac Cop remake, in response to last year's comments from Larry Cohen, the writer of the original cult classic.  Along with some _very_ critical comments about the new screenplay by Ed Brubaker, Cohen made clear his belief that the remake was dead, but Hyams flatly contradicted the assertion.

In short, "it is going to happen."

More specifically, the remake is going to happen after Hyams' eight-episode series in development for Netflix and Too Old To Die Young, the Amazon series now in production from the remake's writer Brubaker and its producer Nicolas Winding Refn.

• Online Curiosities.  Podcast listeners will find that Robert and I had a few, somewhat unusual recommendations this month -- online gems that deserve wider recognition -- and I'd like to close this post with the relevant links.
  • Cocaine and Rhinestones is what Robert recommended, "the podcast about the History of Country Music."  It's about the truth "that country music is wild and it is amazing because the people who made it were wild and they were amazing."
  • The Auralnauts and their heavily remixed Star Wars Saga was my long-form recommendation.  Not officially part of the three-hour playlist is a Youth Biology PSA featuring their alternate-dimension take on the droids as "mentally unstable sociopaths."
  • A mash-up music video from the mysterious YouTube user Isosine is my short-form recommendation:  its brilliance can hardly be described.  It's a perfect earworm, and it's almost impossible to shake it off.

We actually have much, much more to cover here on the blog, but perhaps we'll get to the other items later this week.

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