Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Out This Week: PULP, That Texas Blood #2, a Brubaker Newsletter, and an Undertow Podcast!


It's been a while, but we're back, and I'll be brief. (Yeah, right.)

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips return today with their first new comics work in literally six months, the hardcover, original graphic novel, Pulp!

Announced last December and originally planned for a May 20th release, Pulp is the third slightly oversized "graphic novella" for the team, following 2018's My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies the expanded edition of Bad Weekend released last July.  


Image Comics prominently features the book on its website, and there are a number of signed bookplates for the book.  Shown below (L-R), there's one for the North American market and exclusive bookplates for two different British retailers, Page 45 and OK Comics.


Pulp is coming out the same day as That Texas Blood #2, by Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips, the Criminal colorist who is proving to be an artistic force in his own right.  

The first issue was released on June 24th and went into an immediate second printing, which hit stores last week.  Shown below, we have Sean Phillips' first-printing variant cover and the second-printing cover for issue #1, followed by the two first-printing covers for issue #2.

On the listing for the second issue, we find that the variant cover is by Hellboy artist Duncan Fegredo, the issue is the first chapter of a five-part story entitled "A Brother's Conscience," and a three-page preview is available to whet our appetite.


With so much arriving this week, Robert and I made an extra effort to meet online and record an episode of our podcast: Brubaker hadn't released an email newsletter since mid-May, and I believe I half-jokingly predicted that would change between the episode's recording and release.

I was right.  The latest newsletter "From the desk of Ed Brubaker" hit my inbox yesterday afternoon, a little more than three hours before Robert texted me that the podcast was up!

Brubaker's new email newsletter is a must-read, giving readers a little more insight into Pulp (including some preview pages) and some very exciting details about what comes next.
We got a few preview images indicating a setting of LA in 1981; it's only a setting, one of potentially many. The title, the release date -- "sooner than you think" (!!!) -- and some more preview pages are promised for the next newsletter, but what Brubaker just revealed is thrilling enough:
  • The next project is a series of original graphic novels.
  • Each OGN will feature the same protagonist but tell its own complete story.
  • The books will be longer than the 72-page "novellas" that preceded them -- Junkies, Bad Weekend, and Pulp -- and the first book is about 125 pages.
  • The team plans to release three volumes over the course of a year.
Brubaker believes this is a first -- "three full-length OGNs in one year by the same team." 
So if you're a longtime reader of ours, you'll actually be getting more "content" than usual soon.
We've been going through withdrawal, so we're positively giddy!

Brubaker also writes about a classic TV shows -- his dad's favorite, and one of mine, alongside Perry Mason and Magnum, P.I.  The show is The Rockford Files, previously aired on the delightful MeTV and now streaming on NBCUniversal's new streaming service, Peacock.  It's been (more than) a few years since the writer dropped the often toxic environment of Twitter, but we remember that his account's profile photo used to be of the man himself, Jim Rockford, in an iconic shot from the opening sequence.


(We wonder if Jim Rockford is anything like the protagonist for this upcoming series of OGNs...)

But before you check out Rockford, we heartily recommend Episode 38 of The Undertow PodcastThis new episode was recorded Monday night and released just yesterday, and it features reviews of four recent releases!

During what our inestimable host Robert Watson has accurately described as a "cruel summer," we have still had a few books to read outside of the usual Brubaker-Phillips collaborations -- short stories and full-length comic books, in print and online, in separate projects from Ed Brubaker and Jacob Phillips -- and we briefly covered each one.
  • Friday #1, from Brubaker and artist Marcos Martin, 24 pages released digitally on 4/15 through Martin's Panel Syndicate
  • "The Art of Picking a Lock," a 12-page story from Brubaker and artist Cameron Stewart, released on 6/2 in the prestige-format Catwoman anthology, the 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular
  • That Texas Blood #1, from writer Chris Condon and artist Jacob Phillips, a 22-page comic released on 6/24 through Image Comics
  • Brutal Dark #1 & #2, from Condon & J. Phillips, two 8-page issues released digitally on 5/6 and 6/18 respectively, for fans who support the team through their Patreon page
Each book was a helluva read, and Robert and I also had a few recommendations for our listeners, including a pair of very different movies from the 1990's -- the stylish adaptation of the comics detective Dick Tracy and the cult sci-fi/horror film Event Horizon.

I also gave a brief, unplanned recommendation for Scooby-Doo! Team-Up.  The 50-issue series ran from 2013 to 2019, and I think it was the best kids comic on the stands: our kids love it, and it's a great introduction to crime comics, somewhat spooky but very funny!

(Like all great works for kids, there's plenty for parents to appreciate, too.)


To promote the new animated movie, Scoob!, more than 250 issues of Scooby-Doo comics have been made available through Comixology and other digital retailers, completely free if purchased now through September 7th.

Featuring famous and obscure characters from DC Comics and Hanna-Barbara, the Team-Up book is the best of the bunch, and the entire series is being given away in eight volumes of digital trade paperbacks -- and if you have an Amazon account, you already have a Comixology account whether you realize it or not.

Summing up, there's lots to enjoy for Brubaker and Phillips fans -- a new podcast, a new newsletter, a couple old movies and quite a few books to read -- but the highest priority is visiting your local comic shop for Pulp and the sophomore issue of That Texas Blood.

Giddy-up!

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Monday, April 20, 2020

FRIDAY and the Rest of 2020: New Podcast, Newsletter, Deluxe Editions, AND a Digital Book from Brubaker!


Early April saw the release of the latest Undertow Podcast, featuring our review of Criminal #12, the explosive finale of the sprawling "Cruel Summer" arc.  We hope our listeners enjoy the discussion even half as much as Robert and I did.

During the podcast, we raised some questions we had about Amazon listings for upcoming releases, and we happened to get some answers last week from an email newsletter sent out by Ed Brubaker.

That newsletter opened with bigger, MUCH more immediately pressing news, and we'll follow suit here, with the Criminal news at the end of the post.


Ed Brubaker's Brand New Comic FRIDAY

In the last few years, a handful of high-profile creators have released works suddenly, without any prior press or announcement.  Beyonce famously did this in December, 2013, with her self-titled "visual album," and U2 infamously did something similar the following September, "gifting" their album Songs of Innocence to a half billion iTunes customers.

With hardcopy comic books generally requiring solicitations and retailer pre-orders, such surprise releases are quite rare: the only example that comes to mind is Robert Kirkman's July, 2018, release of Die! Die! Die!

(Kirkman avoided the usual process by giving copies of the debut issue to retailers, matching the number of copies ordered for March's Oblivion Song #1. The writer followed up the surprise debut the very next July with the sudden end of The Walking Dead at issue #193).

Digital comics are an entirely different animal, and on April 15th, Ed Brubaker announced the immediate release of the first "chapter" (or issue) of FRIDAY, a new series with Spanish artist Marcos Martin.

Marcos Martin has spent more than twenty years in the industry, primarily for the Big Two publishers.  Martin and writer Brian K. Vaughan created Panel Syndicate to distribute "digital comics directly from creators to readers."  In 2013, the pair debuted the first title for the site,The Private Eye, with coloring by Muntsa Vicente.  The series won both an Eisner and a Harvey, and the site has since expanded to feature other series, other creators, and a one-shot for The Walking Dead.

Now, Martin and Vincente are joining writer Ed Brubaker to create FRIDAY.

In his newsletter, Brubaker relays that he's been working on this project for nearly a year: "Close readers will have noticed me mentioning a secret project with one of my favorite artists here and there, and this is it."

(We're not sure what's become of the "top secret" project with Steve Epting, post-Velvet, mentioned almost five years ago this month.)

Along with Ed's email newsletter, a few news sites announced the book Wednesday morning. The AV Club includes the same four-page preview found in the newsletter and at Panel Syndicate.  Meanwhile The Hollywood Reporter quotes Brubaker on how the series originated in a request from Martin to work on "his next big thing for Panel Syndicate," followed by Brubaker's immediate and enthusiastic response.

That same Wednesday, CBR published the official press release, the source of those quotes from the creators.  Martin elaborates that the pair previously collaborated for a Captain America annual (evidently the 65th Anniversary Special), a brief but satisfying experience.

The press release also gives us the title of this first chapter: "The Girl in the Trees."

CBR has since posted a few more articles on the new series.
  • Thursday, Aaron Fentress provides a spoilery look at the first chapter, suggesting that the series aims to deconstruct YA fiction much the way Watchmen deconstructed costumed superheroes, causing the characters to age and leave their comfort zone in a manner similar to the humorous Adult Swim cartoon The Venture Bros.
  • Friday, Sam Stone previewed an "upcoming exclusive interview" with Marcos Martin, explaining that the recent health crisis briefly delayed the series' release and simultaneously motivated its immediate publication: the quarantine "was a determining factor to put it out now instead of waiting around until later because we felt it would be good for the industry and most definitely, our mental health."
  • Saturday, Collier Jennings previewed an upcoming interview with Ed Brubaker, discussing the Young Adult genre and its strange but comforting trope of "kids just living this endless youth as the decades around them change."  In what the writer has coined "post-YA," Brubaker is "just taking those same types of teen heroes, and allowing them to grow up and exist in the real world around them, to allow the strange occult mysteries they investigate to become actual horror stories."
  • Sunday, Fentress drops even more spoilers to compare the series to True Detective, with both evidently having roots in the same kind of horror stories.
(Also, on Friday, CBR published Ed Brubaker's response to the rumor that Shang-Chi's parentage has been changed for the upcoming MCU release.)

Just today, CBR published the complete interview they previously teased, an exclusive, joint interview with Brubaker and Martin.  Brubaker traces the lineage of horror and occult stories in YA fiction and children's stories, and he elaborates that the pair's earlier collaboration was very brief indeed:  "He and Javier [Pulido? Rodriguez?] jumped in at the last minute when an artist blew a deadline on a Cap annual, and they saved us by alternating chapters."

The process for the new book has been much more deliberately paced, and Martin says that he especially enjoyed "the mixture of the Lovecraftian New Englandish town and the early 70s," the latter caused Muntsa Vicente to change her approach to coloring "with no use of gradients at all and limiting her palette to just 128 colors like the old comics of the late 70s."

The interview closes with Martin's hopes for Panel Syndicate, and we can't help but think Friday will help the site expand its readership.  Yesterday, Brubaker sent out a "quick note of thanks" for the overwhelming response to the book -- and he linked to two additional stories.
  • Calling the book a "gripping read" with special praise for the artwork, Volume 1 Brooklyn apparently conducted their own interview with the creators: Brubaker notes the freedom in page length which the digital format affords him, and Martin relayed the positive response to Panel Syndicate, even from retailers and publishers who can "make more sensible and informed decisions in regards to the product they wanted to print and put out physically.
  • Giving a rating of 10 out of 10, Comics Bookcase calls Friday "damn good," and "the best debut issue of any comic I’ve read this year."


The Bottom Line on FRIDAY

There's a lot to read about Brubaker's new series, but it may be useful to highlight the main points.

The Panel Syndicate page for the series provides an excellent summary of its premise (emphasis mine).
Friday Fitzhugh spent her childhood solving crimes and digging up occult secrets with her best friend Lancelot Jones, the smartest boy in the world. But that was the past, now she's in college, starting a new life on her own. Except when Friday comes home for the holidays, she's immediately pulled back into Lance's orbit and finds that something very strange and dangerous is happening in their little New England town...
This is literally the Christmas vacation from Hell and neither of them may survive to see the New Year.
What do we know about the comic's format and availability?
  • Chapter One, "The Girl in the Trees," is out now, in multiple formats -- "No DRM, no encryption, just plain files optimised for on-screen viewing" -- and is available in English and in Spanish.
  • In line with Panel Syndicate's publishing model, you PAY WHAT YOU WANT for the book, including the option of not paying at all: PayPal used for payment, and you do NOT need a PayPal account to complete the purchase.
  • This first issue is listed at 30 pages, with 26 pages of story and concluding with a two-page note from the writer.
  • Per Ed Brubaker, "The plan is to release the chapters digitally as we finish them, and then put out the whole graphic novel from IMAGE in a beautiful hardback edition (with lots of extras) for comic shops and bookstores."
We suspect that the title alludes to the 1995 comedy starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker the 1940 screwball comedy His Girl Friday.  Citing a book of essays on the director Howard Hawks, Wikipedia helpfully explains that the title is ironic "because a girl 'Friday' represents a servant of a master, but [ace reporter] Hildy [Johnson] is not a servant in the film, but rather the equal to Walter [Jones, editor and ex-husband]."

And this isn't the first time that Ed Brubaker has riffed on Encyclopedia Brown -- or YA fiction for that matter, if you count Archie Comics.  "The Last of the Innocent" introduced Britt Black, but since Lancelot Jones is different prodigy P.I., all grown up (or growing up), we might not be in the same world as Criminal, and we certainly can't be sure who might or might not make it to the story's conclusion.



CRIMINAL Collections, Coming Soonish

In that newsletter from last week, Ed Brubaker relays that the upcoming hardcopy books are "sitting in limbo" at the printer, both Pulp and the "oversized hardback of CRUEL SUMMER."

While we're waiting for Pulp, Brubaker has treated newsletter readers with a new but brief, three-panel preview of the story, but it's the "Cruel Summer" collection that intrigues us most.

So far as we know, that book has not yet been officially announced.

As we mentioned in the Undertow Podcast, James Joshua Hall reached out to us through Twitter to direct our attention to a few new listings on Amazon.

For posterity's sake, and in case the listings change, here's what we currently have:


Cruel Summer hardcover
expected July 21, 2020
list price $34.99
BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS' CRIMINAL epic, collected in a gorgeous hardback edition.
In the summer of '88, Teeg Lawless comes home to plan the biggest heist of his career. But Teeg's son Ricky and his friends are starting down the same dark path their fathers are on, and this is about to become the worst summer of their lives.
An epic tale of tragedy handed down from generation-to-generation, CRUEL SUMMER is a crime comic masterpiece from the most-celebrated noir masters in the industry, creators of CRIMINAL, FATALE, KILL OR BE KILLED and THE FADE OUT.
Collects CRIMINAL issues 1 and 5 - 12 in a beautiful new hardback edition, with additional behind the scenes material.


Criminal Volume 8: Three Sharp Knocks paperback
expected December 29, 2020
list price $16.99
The debut appearance of one of the most important characters in CRIMINAL history, RICKY LAWLESS, in three heartbreaking tales of crime and family.
Collects CRIMINAL (Image Comics) #1-4.
The June solicitations were (and still are) the most recent solicits for Image Comics, and the list of upcoming books did not include any advance solicitations for Criminal books, for July or later.

We found these two Amazon listings quite odd.

We're not sure why the "Cruel Summer" collection would include the untitled issue #1 but not "Orphans" from issue #4: both served as a kind of prologue to the "Cruel Summer" arc, explicitly looking forward (or backwards) to the violent death of Teeg Lawless.

We also can't quite understand why the next numbered TPB for Criminal would overlap with this "Cruel Summer" collection (with issue #1) and the "Bad Weekend" expanded hardcover (issues #2-3).

While we pondered those questions, JJH reached out again last Monday, pointing us to yet another new listing on Amazon, albeit one with "no image available":
Criminal Deluxe Edition, Volume 3 Hardcover
expected October 27, 2020
list price $49.99
BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS' hard-to-find CRIMINAL hardbacks are finally back in print, and joining them is the long-awaited CRIMINAL: DELUXE EDITION, VOL. 3.
This oversized deluxe hardback collects several short stories and novellas from the most award-winning team in the history of comics in a fantastically-designed book full of extras -- illustrations, selected articles, interviews, behind the scenes looks, painted covers... and much much more! Collects the SAVAGE SWORD OF CRIMINAL and DEADLY HANDS OF CRIMINAL magazines, the novellas MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES and BAD WEEKEND, and issues 1 and 4 of the newest run of the CRIMINAL monthly series, two full length short stories about the LAWLESS family.
A true collector's edition must-have for any fan of the best in crime comics.
Effectively, the book would appear to collect Volume 7 ("Wrong Time, Wrong Place"), Junkies, the forthcoming Volume 8, and presumably the ten new pages in the Bad Weekend hardcover.

(Would the book also include the extra material from the two magazine-sized variants for the "Savage Sword" and "Deadly Hands" one-shots?)

If we were compiling the next deluxe edition, we're not sure we would separate the stories in issues #1 and #4 from the "Cruel Summer" arc since, again, we find that they serve as excellent prologues to the sprawling death-of-Teeg story.

Presumably the "Cruel Summer" arc is too long for inclusion in the third deluxe volume, and since a return to the world of Criminal has already been promised, perhaps the story would kick off an eventual fourth deluxe edition.

In the meantime, Brubaker's newsletter has shed more light on the upcoming releases, even if there's still some uncertainty.

Ed writes about (quote) "our oversized hardback of CRUEL SUMMER" and we wonder if this larger size matches the deluxe editions rather than the slightly smaller hardcovers for Junkies and Bad Weekend.  If so, and if the Amazon listing is right that the book includes "additional behind the scenes material," this hardcover is EFFECTIVELY a thinner Deluxe Edition, Volume 4 -- or perhaps a Volume 3 1/2, a placeholder for the next few years.

(It may be a while. The oldest story expected in Volume 3, the Special Edition "Savage Sword" one-shot, was originally released in early 2015. It's taking more than five years for the story to find its way into a deluxe edition.)

And, Ed treats fans to Sean Phillps' brand-new wraparound cover art for Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume 2, shown above.  It's gorgeous, a montage combining elements from the volume's three story arcs.

He confirms that these new editions are scheduled for the fall, and he confirms Volume 3: "We've got new designs [emphasis mine] and covers for the first two books (out of print for nearly a decade now) and a new third volume to join them, finally."

So, two out of the three Amazon listings have been partially confirmed by Ed Brubaker to one degree or another, with the 8th TPB "Three Sharp Knocks" not yet addressed.

We can't wait to open up the new deluxe editions and see what's changed.

In the meantime, we'll keep an eye out for any new information on these collected editions, and we'll pass them along as quickly as our hectic lives allow.



UPDATE, 4/23:   On Twitter, Sean Phillips kindly answered the lingering questions we raised here.

First, he tackled the mysterious Amazon listings:
That paperback listing is incorrect, we don’t have another Criminal trade planned. Cruel Summer is out first followed by the three Deluxe Editions, all over-sized hardcovers.
Then, he answered my follow-up question about the relative sizes of the upcoming hardcovers:
Cruel Summer is the same size as the Deluxe Editions
That does make the "Cruel Summer" hardcover a kind of Volume 3 1/2.

So, in summary, Brubaker and Phillips will release four oversized hardcovers in the remainder of 2020.
  • Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume 1, 2nd edition
    • Includes a new design AND a new cover
    • Collects Criminal (2006) #1-10 & Criminal (2008) #1-3
      • "Coward" 
      • "Lawless" 
      • "The Dead and the Dying"
    • Likely still includes the short story "No One Rides for Free"
  • Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume 2, 2nd edition
    • Includes a new design AND a new cover
    • Collects Criminal (2008) #4-7 and two mini-series 
      • "Bad Night" 
      • "The Sinners" 
      • "The Last of the Innocent"
    • Likely still includes the short story "21st Century Noir"
  • Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Volume 3
    • Brand new collection 
    • Likely collects two one-shot issues, one OGN, and Criminal (2018) #1-4
      • "Wrong Time, Wrong Place" (Special Edition & 10th Anniversary Special)
      • "My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies"
      • Untitled Teeg & Ricky story, set in 1987
      • "Bad Weekend"
      • "Orphans"
    • Not clear how much will be included from the one-shot magazine variants and the expanded OGN HC edition of "Bad Weekend," which included ten extra pages
  • Criminal: Cruel Summer
    • Brand new collection
    • Collects Criminal (2018) #5-12
    • Might also collect at least one of the related prologue issues, #1 & #4
All four hardcovers will be the same size, comprising a complete library of the first 18+ years of the Criminal comic book.  The "Cruel Summer" hardcover will come first (possibly late July), followed by the three deluxe collections perhaps around October.

And all this is in addition to the brand-new collaboration Pulp, a hardcover, original graphic novel originally scheduled for May 20th.


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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New Undertow Podcast and Brubaker Email, in Advance of Criminal #12, Out Tomorrow!

...and, we're back!


We have more to cover, hopefully later this week, but we would be remiss if we didn't post today.

We're greatly anticipating tomorrow's arrival of Criminal #12 -- the grand finale to the ambitious "Cruel Summer" arc, which also serves as the final issue of this particular volume of the long-running series and covers the momentous death of that infamous, fan-favorite anti-hero Teeg Lawless.

First, before fans pick up their copy of the book, they could do worse with their time than checking out the latest episode of The Undertow Podcast.  Back after a brief, unanticipated hiatus, Robert and I take a broad look at the entire "Cruel Summer" arc, where we are at the cliffhanger ending to the penultimate chapter, and where we think we need to end up to fit with the previous story arcs.

We also have a couple recommendations, with Robert pointing listeners to the 2011 film Take Shelter...



...and I've been obsessing over a recent dance album by the producer Rollo Armstrong and his friends, including his more famous sister Dido.  Appropriately enough for what we've been reading, the album is titled The Last Summer, released under the enigmatic name of R+ as the first in a series of projects.

Even the vaguely curious can quickly determine whether the nostalgia-heavy album is up their alley: they should check out the videos for My Boy and Summer Dress.

Second, we noticed that, about the same time Robert was releasing the new podcast episode, Ed Brubaker was sending out a new email newsletter, the first of the new year.  He shares more info about the upcoming original graphic novel Pulp, due in late May -- relaying that the story is not set in the Criminal universe, and it involves two narratives apparently running in parallel -- and Brubaker  reassures readers who may have had questions when this new project being announced.
  • As I had previously hoped and assumed, and as Sean Phillips recently confirmed on Twitter, this is hardly the end for Criminal"we'll always come back to that series."
  • In recording the podcast, we wondered aloud about a transition to focus entirely on hardcover OGN's, but Pulp isn't the end for monthly comics, either: "I still love single issues comics, and even though our next book is an OGN, the thing we'll be launching in the summer is another monthly (a new thing that I can't talk about yet)."
We can't wait to hear more about the next monthly book, but in the meantime Ed Brubaker shared two preview pages of tomorrow's new issue -- from the middle of the story to avoid the biggest spoilers, a preview that has also made its way to Image Comics' webpage for the issue, albeit in lower resolution.


It's probably unintended, but the narration about Farraday reminds of one of the most famous lines from C.S. Lewis.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
We know we can't be alone, eagerly waiting to see exactly how things go to hell in Criminal (Vol 3) #12.

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Friday, November 22, 2019

KOBK Deluxe and Criminal Reprints.

I've been AWOL for far too long, having missed both the recording and the release of the latest episode of The Undertow Podcast, reviewing Criminal #7 back in September.  Life is hectic even at its best, but we're hopeful that we're getting back in the swing of things.

Dipping our toes in the water, we find that the big news this week is the release of the oversized, deluxe hardcover of Brubaker and Phillips' vigilante thriller, Kill Or Be Killed.  The book arrives a week past its original solicitation date, and it's the largest deluxe edition released by the team, with more than 600 pages collecting all twenty issues along with Sean Phillips' artwork for the covers, the bonus essays, and more.


In a newsletter sent out this week, Ed Brubaker writes that the book has a sewn spine and doesn't feel too big despite its page length -- and he has nothing but praise for the final product.

Honestly, I can't express how well this book came together. From cover-to-cover, just a gorgeous package. Sean really outdid himself on the design.

As my wife has already been gently reminded, the book will make a great Christmas gift for the hardcore fan of Brubaker and Phillips, but we also have a few other Criminal-related reprints on our radar.


Earlier this month, Image Comics released its third Image Firsts Compendium, a trade paperback collecting a handful of its $1 reprints -- evidently as just a bundle of the individual dollar printings.  As with the first volume and its inclusion of The Fade Out, this collection features Brubaker and Phillips, this time with August's reprint of the debut issue of Criminal from 2006, whose now iconic cover art graces the top half of the trade collection's cover. Collecting eight first issues and retailing for only $5.99, the collection is an even better bargain than the individual Image Firsts reprints, and so it makes a great introduction to some of the publisher's high-profile creator-owned comics.

In his newsletter, Brubaker relays that the original hardcover release is now out of print(!), so the softcover edition of My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is on its way.  This Criminal novella is currently scheduled for a December 4th release, moved from the original solicited date of November 13th.  Brubaker says this new printing is still special despite its soft cover, with the same "raw paper stock" and French flaps on the covers -- and the newsletter's small image of the cover suggests that branding will emphasize the book's Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Album.

And, one thing I haven't seen Brubaker mention is a very interesting, exclusive news item from The Beat: on October 22nd, the site posted a press release from Dark Horse Books, announcing a new hardcover printing of its Noir anthology.  Originally published as a trade paperback in 2009, Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics featured 120 pages of original black-and-white crime stories, including a six-page Criminal "emission," the first and (so far) only such story without a colorist.  "21st Century Noir" was included in the second deluxe hardcover collection for Criminal, but it has otherwise been hard to track down, and this printing -- in hardcover, and scheduled for a July 22nd release -- will introduce new readers to this rather brutal story, along with quite a few gems from other great creators.

And those looking for new material from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips won't have long to wait.   Criminal #10 is scheduled to reach stores this Wednesday, and Brubaker has already shared four preview pages; after that, issue #11 is scheduled for a Christmas release, and the almost certainly bloody conclusion to "Cruel Summer" is scheduled for the middle of winter, specifically the last week of January.

We're quite looking forward to it.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Criminal #7 Out Today, An Undertow Review of Criminal #1-6, and More!

We've been expecting another email newsletter from Ed Brubaker -- so far, nothing yet -- but we have plenty to cover as the latest issue of Criminal reaches stores today.

Yesterday, Newsarama posted an extensive preview of Criminal #7, a six-page preview supplementing the three pages already seen at Image's website. The preview focuses on four very familiar faces, and we believe this is the first time we've seen the entire group of friends together -- Leo Patterson, Ricky Lawless, Jacob Kurtz, and Jenny (Jen) Waters.

(L-R) Jenny, Leo, Jacob, Ricky
(Tracy continues to be MIA; he's been mentioned in narration, but I don't believe we've seen him at all in this new ongoing series.  I wonder what the surly but capable older brother has been up to.  Since it seems their father's murder led directly to Tracy's less-than-voluntary military enlistment -- and another stay in juvie for Ricky -- we strongly suspect that we see Tracy's return before Teeg's tragic end.)

Much like characters in Stranger Things, also set in the mid-1980's, our quartet has a now-strained Sunday routine playing Dungeons & Dragons; naturally, Jacob is the DM. The title for this chapter of "Cruel Summer" -- "Must Be This Tall to Ride" -- may hint at the transition from childhood to adulthood, from relative innocence to a life of crime.

(It's the same transition Jacob noticed in "Bad Weekend," in a long narration that was entirely reworked for the expanded hardcover release.  In both versions, Jacob took two very different paths to note how Ricky had changed over the years, following in his father's violent footsteps.)

The title also reminds us of the amusement-park sign which was prominently featured in The John Larroquette Show, in the office of the sardonic main character, a recovering alcoholic:

"This is a Dark Ride."


That pretty much sums up Criminal, for that matter, and Robert and I recently reviewed the entire first half of 2019 in an extensive, two-part episode of The Undertow Podcast
  • Episode 33 came out at the beginning of the month, covering the latest news, looking back at the first four issues -- two of which serve as a kind of prologue to "Cruel Summer"; the other two having been collected and expanded in the "Bad Weekend" -- and looking closely at Criminal #5, "Night of the Hunter."
  • Out just last week, Episode 34 provides a similarly in-depth review of Criminal #6, "Song to the Siren," and concludes with recommendations for a couple recent films, both featuring Liam Neeson.
In the news, we covered Deadline's July 17th article announcing Ed Brubaker's deal with Legendary TV Studios adapting his creator-owned comics, and we mentioned the most recent award for those comics, the Best (New) Graphic Album Eisner for My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, announced at the San Diego Comic-Con.

We also took a look ahead, first at Image's October solicitations and then at some very exciting news for 2020.   The former includes a 10/23 release for Criminal #9 as well as advance solicitations for TWO collections, both due on November 13th: the softcover for Junkies, retailing at $13, and the deluxe single-volume hardcover for Kill Or Be Killed, retailing at $50. 

Separately, Bleeding Cool's San Diego Comic-Con coverage made note of a few special projects from IDW, and the most eye-catching announcement was for the four Parker adaptations from the late, great Darwyn Cooke:  the first two books had already been collected in the deluxe Martini Edition, and it's going back to print next year alongside a new "Last Call" Martini Edition for the final two books, with design and additional writing coming from Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker!


 We couldn't conceive of a better way to conclude the "Martini" editions of these instant-classic comics, brilliantly adapting the best novels from the late Donald Westlake, aka Richard Stark.

Since then, we have seen that Junkies has been nominated for a 2019 Harvey Award, announced just  last week.  Comprising just six categories, the awards will be announced on October 4th during the New York Comic Con, and My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is one of ten nominees for "Book of the Year."

We also saw the August 7th release of the "Image Firsts" edition of Criminal #1, and we confirmed that the issue -- explicitly designed by Sean Phillips -- is a bare-bones reproduction of the very first issue of the creator owned series, chapter one of "Coward" from late 2006.  The issue omits the bonus essay, a marvelous journal entry written from Gnarly's point of view, and instead the issue includes ad pages for the entire, sprawling Criminal saga.

(We wonder if "Coward" ties into "Cruel Summer" more than we expect:  the current story is leading up quite explicitly to Teeg's murder, and we wonder if we'll see a few more familiar faces on the way.)

Finally, we've also seen a few recent interviews from Ed Brubaker, resulting from his San Diego appearance.  On July 30th, Newsarama posted a text interview, discussing screenwriting and his exclusive deal with Image, how the Lawless family is an effed-up "funhouse mirror reflection" of his own family(!) and how Criminal #8, still due on September 25th, is the approximate midpoint for "Cruel Summer." 

On August 7th, SyFyWire published a three-minute video interview with Brubaker at Comic-Con, about the origins behind "Bad Weekend," namely the great comic-book artists and their tragic histories, including the fatal car accident that is fictionalized in his recent Criminal tale -- a 1956 accident, in which 46-year-old Alex Raymond died while driving Stan Drake's Corvette. 

We see that Cerebus creator Dave Sim began telling the story of "The Strange Death of Alex Raymond" in his self-published book Glamourpuss, from 2008 to 2012.  By 2014, Sim was seeking support through Patreon for the work-in-progress, with plans to publish through IDW, but the latest update I could find is from 2014:  with about 90 pages complete, enough for two volumes, the book may be legally unpublishable because of copyright concerns, but Sim continues working on it, "a strictly creative, non-commercial thing to noodle away at for the rest of my life."

Apparently Sim isn't the only person fascinated by the tragic tale, an extreme example of what Brubaker calls the "tragic limbo" in which great artists have hardly prospered from their much beloved work.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Bad Weekend Exclusives at England's OK Comics and San Diego's Comic Con!

Last week we mentioned how had real trouble tracking down the signed bookplate included with Bad Weekend for retailers ordering a particular number of copies.  There are four stores on our own internal "radar" for the Atlanta metro area, and none had ordered enough.

(I have no doubt that more than enough had been ordered between them, and this would have been a perfect opportunity for the stores to have pooled their resources.)

But we noticed that a few exclusives have been offered through OK Comics out of Leeds, England:  their copies of Bad Weekend have included the bookplate we've already noted, a second bookplate -- a store-exclusive, also signed by the three creators -- and a store-exclusive postcard advertising Jacob Phillips' Past is Prologue, expected from Image Comics next year.


As of last week, they also still had signed copies of Criminal #1.

That second bookplate is apparently limited to 100 prints, and it bears a close resemblance to the candidate cover which Sean Phillips preferred but was rejected for a color scheme too closely matching the previous hardcover novella, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies.

OK Comics has been advertising the book on its A-frame sidewalk sign, shown below.  Apparently they originally ordered sixty(!) copies, and more than three-fourths of the store's initial stock sold that Wednesday. Even with putting a hold on mail orders that Friday, the store quickly sold out of its initial stock by Sunday.


The store now has more copies in stock and they're once again taking new orders by mail. We can confirm that they accept PayPal and they DO ship internationally.

If you're interested in ordering Bad Weekend from Leeds' OK Comics, email Jared at shop@okcomics.co.uk.

On the other side of the pond -- and a couple mountain ranges past that -- there's another Bad Weekend exclusive being offered at San Diego's Comic-Con International, which has a preview tonight prior to its official opening tomorrow.

Image Comics announced their con-exclusive merchandise, panels, and signing schedule just last Friday.  Among the exclusive items available at booth #1915 is a "jacketed hardcover" edition of Bad Weekend, with jacket art by Sean Phillips, for the usual retail price of $16.99.


Shown above, the jacket art simulates a "special collector's edition" collection of Danny Dagger stories from Hal Crane, the subject of Bad Weekend.  The jacket wraps around the covers, with the fake book's description and its author's bio folded inside, and the jacket features the same worn look -- and, we suspect, the exact same digital weathering effect -- found on previous magazine-sized variants for Criminal and The Fade Out.

Ed Brubaker is attending the convention this year, on its 50th anniversary, and he sent out a newsletter late yesterday with the schedule for his appearances at the Image booth.

It's mostly the same schedule as last week's press release -- with one additional 10:00 am signing on Saturday, July 20th -- and the Image story notes that the signings are 45-60 minutes, and are "ticketed" events requiring wristbands given out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Brubaker also notes that the jacketed copies of Bad Weekend will be available to people who buy the book "while they last."
Please note: there are only a few hundred of these printed for the convention, I believe, so they will go fast - I don't even have one yet. I hope to escape with a copy or two when no one at the booth is looking.
By our watch, the first signing is just about to begin.

It's worth mentioning that Friday night, July 19th, is awards night at Comic-Con, with the 31st annual Eisner Awards.  Image Comics made history sweeping the "Best New Series" category, and a couple other nominations caught our particular attention.
  • My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies was nominated for Best New Graphic Album.
  • Sean Phillips was nominated for Best Penciller/Inker for his work on Kill Or Be Killed as well as Junkies.
We're sure we'll have more later about the Eisners and a few other items from Brubaker's newsletter, which includes a three-page in-progress preview of Criminal #7, details on a couple August appearances, and a link to a his recent commentary-track podcast for Bad Weekend.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Criminal #6 and Expanded Bad Weekend Hardcover, In Stores Now!

Following Criminal's planned skip month in May, we had our own unplanned skip month in June, but we think we're back in the swing of things.

--and just in time, too, because it's an exceptionally noteworthy day, as today sees the release of both Criminal #6 AND the expanded hardcover for Bad Weekend.


Ed Brubaker has just sent out an email newsletter, featuring a preview of the first five pages of issue #6. There are a few panels of appropriately neon coloring, and it perfectly fits the setting of what Jacob Phillips probably considers ancient history, the Eighties.

(Brubaker also announced a few upcoming appearances -- first in the front half of next week's San Diego Comic-Con and then at LA's Skylight Books on the evening of August 1st.)

It sounds like we'll switch perspectives for each chapter of this sprawling arc "Cruel Summer," and the preview reveals that this second chapter is titled "Song to the Siren." That's the name of a 1970 Tim Buckley song that became a UK indie hit in 1983, when it was covered by music collective This Mortal Coil and released through 4AD, the British label that would become the home for The Breeders, the lo-fi rockers hailing from Dayton, Ohio.

Funny enough, our favorite songwriter David Gray opens his live covers album with his own haunting version of the song.



Turning to the other release, we find Brubaker confirming that Bad Weekend -- originally serialized in issues #3 and #4 -- now includes ten pages of new material, essentially "deleted scenes" that wouldn't fit in the monthly issues.

We're finding it a little tough to track down, but some copies of the book include a signed bookplate.  More specifically, the bookplate is found with retailers who had big enough orders for the book, and we believe this is the first bookplate signed by Brubaker, Phillips the Elder, and Phillips the Younger.



Looking back over the last few weeks, we see a few other items we don't want to overlook entirely.

First, The Undertow Podcast continues to release new episodes even when I been out of pocket. 
(More episodes are on their way, with our review of Criminal #5 already in pre-production.)

In that magazine's May edition (#23), fully half of the issue -- consisting of more than 100 ad-free pages -- focuses on Criminal, including "a big, in-depth interview."

A few other interesting reads have been released lately, many of which have been highlighted in Brubaker's latest newsletter, but one that already caught our attention is Paste Magazine's June 27th interview with both Ed Brubaker and crime writer Megan Abbott.  The most noteworthy revelation is that Brubaker is "about to start adapting one of [his] books for TV," an adaptation that hasn't yet been officially announced.

For collectors -- and fans looking to buy copies of Criminal for friends -- the last few months have seen a few second printings for the new ongoing series.  We previously noted a second printing for this year's debut issue, and we've seen similar reprints for issues #2 and #3, with a somewhat pink logos for the two parts of the original "Bad Weekend" arc.


Much more interesting is what we've found alongside the new issues which have already been solicited; the "Cruel Summer" arc continues with issue #7 in August, focusing on young Ricky Lawless and Leo Patterson, and then with issue #8 in September.  But over the last few weeks, including today's extended forecast for Image Comics, ComicList notes that one-dollar "Image Firsts" edition of Criminal #1 is due on August 8th, alongside seven other first-issue reprints due on the same day.

According to the linked product description at Things From Another World, the issue reprints the January debut of Criminal (2019), the third ongoing volume of the creator-owned crime series -- and this is exactly what we would expect among a series of other recent reprints.  But in that same description, we see cover art based on the #1 issue to the original volume, Criminal (2006).


We've already requested ten copies from our local retailer, to hand out to friends and relations, and we're very interested to see what we actually get next month.

[UPDATE, JULY 11:  We reached out to Sean on Twitter, and he quickly provided a somewhat surprising confirmation that the cover is correct while the text description is wrong:   the $1 comic book contains the very first issue of Criminal, from October, 2006.  It's a helluva book, immediately making me a quite devoted fan, and it should serve as a great introduction for new readers -- and I believe this is the first time Criminal Volume 1, Issue 1 has ever been reprinted in single-issue format.]

And we're even more interested to see what arrives next year, since two weeks back Jacob Phillips finally shed a little light on another project which he's been teasing on social media.



Past is Prologue is scheduled to arrive sometime in 2020, published by Image Comics and credited to New Jersey filmmaker Christopher Condon and English artist Jacob Phillips. It appears that the book will adapt Condon's script for "an unproduced short film" by the same name; Condon's site features the first six pages of that script and the concept art Jacob has already created for the project.

I'm sure we'll have more on the project in the coming months.

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