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

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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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

American Appearances and Bad Weekend Bookplates!

It's been quite an eventful last few weeks, despite the fact that May is a planned "skip month" for Criminal

We have more to say on other subjects, hopefully later this week, but the biggest news is that the team -- writer Ed Brubaker, artist Sean Phillips, and colorist Jacob Phillips -- have just spent this past weekend in Huntington Beach, California, at the inaugural NCSFest, promoted as "America's Biggest Comic Arts Festival."

We believe this is Ed and Sean's first joint appearance in North America since Toronto in 2014, and Sean Phillips has announced a few more appearances.  He'll be signing books tonight at 6 pm (presumably local time), at Huntington Beach's Strange Cereal -- both père et fil, Sean and Jacob -- and Brubaker will join the Phillips boys tomorrow night at 5:30 pm, at Burbank's House of Secrets.

We haven't seen any news items on the team's appearance, but we'll be sure to update readers if that changes.

In the meantime, the most interesting item for those of us who couldn't attend is the work which the team did signing "thousands" of bookplates, shown above. 

It's quite a rare bookplate, signed by all three creators, and Sean Phillips relays that the bookplate editions of Bad Weekend will be available to stores that order at least 20 copies.

It should go without saying that fans should reserve a copy with their local retailer...

UPDATE, 5/22: ...and on Twitter, we got confirmation that the Final Cutoff (FOC) date for Bad Weekend is June 3rd.  We greatly appreciate the feedback from Boulder, Colorado's Time Warp Comics & Games, and we'd remind readers that time is running out to have your shop reserve your copy.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Criminal #4 Out Now: A Podcast, A Preview, and A Close Look at Coloring.

The next issue of Brubaker and Phillips' new ongoing Criminal comic is out today, and we have a few interesting links for the occasion.

It feels like we can't truly close the book on the previous issue without The Undertow Podcast, and, over the weekend, Episode 31 was released, featuring a review *Criminal* #3, the conclusion to "Bad Weekend" in its original "theatrical cut."

We also had a few recommendations.  Mine were short stories, starting with Lawrence Block's "One Thousand Dollars a Word," about a crime writer weary of being paid the scant rate of five cents a word, incidentally the same rate that Block was paid when the story first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1978.  More substantially, I also recommended Kwik Krimes (note the spelling), a 2013 anthology edited by Otto Penzler, featuring 81 crime stories, each in a bite-size length of no more than 1,000 words.  Both recommendations are currently available in Kindle format; Block's story sells for $2.99, and the Kwik Krimes anthology is on sale for the astounding price of $1.49.

Robert recommended a brand new crime comic from Titan Comics, Tyler Cross Volume 2: Angola, a self-contained sequel to another "Tyler Cross" comic, Black Rock.  Both comics are from Fabien Nury, the French writer of The Death of Stalin, a graphic novel adapted in a 2017.  Titan Comics has published the English-language translations of these comics, and the two Tyler Cross books have been released under the label of Hard Case Crime, the must-read imprint specializing in classic and new hardboiled crime fiction.

(In the podcast, I noted that HCC editor Charles Ardai contributed to Kwik Krimes, along with a couple other familiar names, such as Ken Bruen and Christa Faust -- both published by Hard Case Crime -- but I just noticed that Ardai actually contributed a second story under a familiar *cough* alias.)

Next up is info straight from the source, a new email newsletter from Ed Brubaker, sent out Monday.  It begins with an extended, six-page preview, which we exercpt above.

This preview is longer than what we saw in the newsletter from last month (still worth a look for in-process art from other pages), and we learn that this self-contained story is ominously titled "Orphans."

(EDIT: Also on Monday, Kim Morgan gave Twitter followers a look at Sean Phillips' illustration, below, for the issue's bonus essay, on "William Wellman's depression-era pre-code [film], the tough and sensitive and beautiful, 'Wild Boys of the Road'," from 1933.)

Brubaker also relays that the following story has a new title, just as the previous story's title changed from "The Longest Weekend" to "Bad Weekend."  This upcoming arc was referred to as "The Summer of '88" in the solicitations for issues #5 and #6, but it's now titled "Cruel Summer."

(That's the title of a top-ten pop song by Bananarama, released in 1983 and peaking in the U.S. in 1984, after its inclusion in The Karate Kid.  Ace of Base covered the song in 1998, and the cover also reached the top ten in the UK and the US.  But the closest tie to this long Criminal arc might be a "new jack swing" makeover by Bananarama, which charted throughout Europe.  That song was released in -- you guessed it! -- 1989.) that we think about it, the newsletter didn't begin with "Orphans," it began with the artwork shown above, which we haven't seen before.  It appears to be an upcoming cover, and its monochrome coloring and black background fits with what we've seen for the first two covers to "Cruel Summer," repeated below.

We wonder if the image is of Ricky Lawless from that fateful summer of 1988, and I'm sure we'll find out soon enough; the August solicitations will likely be released in the second half of May.

Brubaker continues his newsletter with some inside info on the Bad Weekend hardcover.  The announcement seemed to come out of nowhere, and that's because the idea wasn't from the team, it was from Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson.  It sounds like the book is already complete -- finished very quickly during the production of issues #4 and #5 -- and Brubaker includes a few panels from the new content, which includes revised dialogue and narration.

Ed Brubaker is practically gushing over the upcoming hardcover, writing, "the book is gorgeous, and we're really proud of it, to the point we nearly killed ourselves getting it done in time."

He also discusses the other big project in the news, Too Old To Die Young, revealing that the Cannes screening will be of episodes 4 and 5 under the single subtitle of "North of Hollywood, West of Hell," and not as separate episode titles.

He also warns fans about the new series and has some recommended viewing in advance of the "hypnotic and surreal" Amazon series:
"Watch VALHALLA RISING, watch DRIVE, watch NEON DEMON, and ONLY GOD FORGIVES. Refn's movies are very divisive, and he's completely fine with that. They're more like insane European midnight movies from the 60s and 70s than anything you'd normally see on TV or a streaming platform, and this show is not in any way like a typical streaming show."
And, in addition to sharing a few random links -- some, very random -- Ed Brubaker strongly recommends that fans not take any chances in hunting down Criminal...
"[Criminal #4 is] out this week, and sadly, I've been getting a lot of emails from readers having trouble finding the issues. Lots of reports of first-day sellouts. So you may want to call your comic shop and make sure they hold one for you or place a standing order.
"I hate to be that 'pre-order your comics' guy, but the market is tightening its belt right now, and many retailers are ordering to sell out immediately. So if you want CRIMINAL every month, make sure your shop knows. Even comics' smartest retailers cannot read your mind."
...and he has a similar request regarding Bad Weekend, asking readers, "Please order it from your local comic shop or bookstore."

Finally, there's a great YouTube video from February that we had overlooked, and we can't recommend it enough:  Strip Panel Naked has a nine-minute video, embedded below, on the history of colorists in the collaborations of Brubaker and Phillips.

It's not comprehensive -- Dave Stewart isn't mentioned, nor is every work analyzed, including Incognito and Fatale -- but the video is surprisingly wide-ranging, from Tony Avina and Sleeper to Val Staples and early Criminal, to Elizabeth Breitweiser with The Fade Out and Kill or Be Killed, and now Jacob Phillips with Junkies and the newest incarnation of Criminal.

Strip Panel Naked takes a very different approach from The Undertow Podcast. While we tend to focus on individual works, Hassan compares and contrasts more than fifteen years of content, and while we're limited to audio discussions, he can show as well as tell, with eight example pages.

In short, the inks and the colors have slowly become less realistic and more impressionistic, but they continue to complement each other. 

(I would add that these different approaches have never been at the expense of clarity in storytelling and characterization, and the work of these talented colorists argues against any future black-and-white reprints.)

It's a helluva video, and we hope that we can get a few more eyes to this channel, which we're just beginning to explore for ourselves.

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Bullets: Catching Up on the Last Two Months

Someday I'll actually have enough of a routine in my life that I'll be able to blog consistently, without these long pauses.

(Someday, yeah, I'll get it right...)

In the meantime, here's a brief look back at the last ten weeks or so, put together while we were prepping for the next episode of The Undertow Podcast and gearing up for the next issue of Criminal.

• February 21st, Image's May solicitations were released, with nothing listed for Brubaker and Phillips.  We were surprised to see a "skip month" this soon, as the team's five-week schedule had us expecting a new issue on May 29th, and we wonder if the timing had anything to do with the  previously announced appearances at NCSFest in California, over the weekend of May 17th.

(The May solicits weren't a complete wash for us.  As big fans of the sci-fi book Planetoid, we're thrilled to see that creator Ken Garing is back with Gogor, described as a high-fantasy series for teens and announced with its own press release and, earlier, an interview with Garing.)

• March 7th, Sean Phillips announced the single-volume deluxe hardcover for Kill Or Be Killed, with a simple tweet pointing to an Amazon listing and posting the cover art, shown below, reusing the artwork from issue #5 and the second trade collection ("Volume 2").

The Amazon listing describes the book as "'Catcher in the Rye' meets 'Death Wish' in a dark take on the vigilante genre that became a cracked reflection of the world around us."

The description confirms that the single-volume hardcover "contains the entire KILL OR BE KILLED story, as well as the behind the scenes extras and artwork."   The page notes a total of 584 pages, a retail price of $59.99, and a scheduled release date of November 19th.

The 24 issues of Fatale were ultimately collected in two deluxe-edition hardcovers, and the 12 issues of The Fade Out are found in a single hardcover, so we were wondering how many deluxe editions would comprise the single story of Kill Or Be Killed, originally told in 20 monthly issues.

• Also on March 7th, the Word Ballon Podcast posted a wide-ranging two-hour conversation with Ed Brubaker. The interview is the writer's first appearance on the podcast in about six years -- the last appearance we noted was in October, 2012, and host John Siuntres mentioned Velvet, which was announced in July, 2013, the same year in which the podcast ceased being published at iFanboy.

Brubaker discusses his work both in comics and in television.  Comic fans will be interested in the history behind My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies; Sean and Jacob Phillips were supposed to be co-colorists, but an unexpected time crunch arose for printing the original graphic novel, so Jacob Phillips became the sole colorist after just a few pages.  And, Brubaker reveals upcoming plans for Criminal, which we've already begun to see in recent announcements.

He also reveals an incredible bit of personal history, which a Bleeding Cool article recounts from the podcast.  DC asked Brubaker to follow-up on Alan Moore's famous comic The Killing Joke, he directly quoted a couple pages in flashback, and he tried to have Moore credited for his writing.  Failing that, he sent Moore a check for his page-rate, Moore then called Wildstorm editor Scott Dunbier and recommended Brubaker for work, and that led quite directly to *Sleeper*.

And the rest is history.

(That follow-up story was part of the mini-series Batman:Turning Points, which I personally remember reading back in 2001. It served as a kind of prologue to Officer Down, which established what would be an interesting status quo for Gotham Central, with Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock both absent from the GCPD's Major Crimes Unit.  Ed Brubaker and Gotham Central co-creator Greg Rucka were writers for the entire span of stories -- including the Turning Points mini-series and the Officer Down crossover, and for the "big two" main titles of Batman and Detective Comics generally  -- and it was Gotham Central that first made me pay serious attention to Brubaker.)

("Turning points," indeed.)

The writer also hints at another upcoming comic-book project, "an R-rated version of a young adult book," a first-time large-scale collaboration with a favorite artist of his.

Brubaker compares writing for comics and for film -- the script for the latter remains a "living, breathing thing" that is always only "good enough" -- and he observes that all writing is calling B.S., where you have to keep moving forward, "sitting down and facing yourself."

In addition to talking about his work on Westworld and Too Old to Die Young, Brubaker mentions progress on the film adaptation for Kill Or Be Killed; he thinks the film might go into production later this year, and it's the first such project that closely hews to the source material.

• March 11th, Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips both attended an Image Comics panel in London, at a Waterstones bookshop on Tottenham Court Road. The panel also featured Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Jock, Alison Sampson, and Lee Garbett, and a few days afterwards Tripwire Magazine posted 80 minutes of audio and a half dozen photos.

On Twitter, Jacob Phillips shared his own "family photo," shown below.

We plan to listen in to the conversation, so as to report on anything of interest to our readers, but unfortunately that remains on our to-do list.

(Hat tip to Joel Meadows, retweeted by Sean Phillips.)

• March 15th, our good friend Robert posted episode 30 of The Undertow Podcast, focusing on a brief review  of Criminal #2, the start of the two-part story centered on the comics industry, "Bad Weekend."

• March 20th, Criminal #3 was released, completing the two-part story "Bad Weekend" (or so we thought; see below). 

The story had a low-key ending -- but quite tragic despite that -- and the back matter includes letters from readers and Kim Morgan's essay on The Color of Money.  That film is quite unique, a 1986 sequel to The Hustler from 1961, and the essay features two illustrations from Sean Phillips.

• Also on March 20th, Ed Brubaker sent out a pair of email newsletters, the first of which featured process work on a single page of issue #3 -- from script to inks to colors -- and preview pages and unfinished panels for issue #4, a story set in 1993, starring Ricky Lawless, and evidently featuring old friends such as "Genuine Jen" Waters and the "coward" Leo Patterson.

We're particularly intrigued by this upcoming issue, as this would be the first "period piece" set after the consequential death of Teeg Lawless.

(Brubaker also mentioned The Undertow Podcast, and we appreciate the shout-out!)

In the second newsletter, Brubaker elaborated on a comment he had just made that had prompted quite a few questions:  in short, for two of these first four issues of the new ongoing Criminal arc, it may be a while before we see the stories republished in a trade collection.

He also says they have a Criminal book coming out in July, but he didn't reveal the details.  From what we now know, it seems that issues #1 and #4 -- the Teeg and Ricky stories -- might be the ones that won't soon be collected for those who "wait for the trades."

• March 21st, Image released its June solicitations, including the next issue of Criminal.  What Brubaker seemed to describe as a connected series of one-shot stories, the June solicits describe as "the long and winding tale of THE SUMMER OF '88... the story of the last days of Teek Lawless."

The cover to issue #5, shown below, apparently features a new character, Dan Farraday, a PI and bounty hunter on the trail of a "dangerous woman" who is evidently central to issue #6.

The usual five-week schedule was evidently extended by only a single week, as this next issue is scheduled for a June 5th release.

• April 3rd, the trailer for Too Old to Die Young dropped along with a release date, both sent out through social media, including the Twitter accounts for the television series, director Nicolas Winding Refn, and star Miles Teller.  /Film was one of the first sites to report on the trailer, citing an earlier article quoting writer and co-creator Ed Brubaker, as "the most Nicolas Winding Refn thing that ever existed, honestly."

Going by the trailer, it seems the newer /Film article describes the series well -- as "a pulpy, stylish nightmare featuring amoral weirdos inhabiting a dreamy, deadly Los Angeles landscape" -- and the article notes the release date for the Amazon Prime series, to air on June 14th.

• April 15th, Deadline released an exclusive story, announcing that Too Old to Die Young would screen at the Cannes Film Festival in mid-May, ahead of its June 14th premiere on Amazon Prime. 

This is evidently only the third episodic television series to screen at the famous festival, at the time it wasn't clear how many episodes would be featured, and the writer thought that a "special screening slot" was most likely.

In the subsequent lineup, announced on April 18th, two episodes were listed for the series:  "North of Hollywood" and "West of Hell."

• April 16th, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of an expanded Bad Weekend hardcover, due in July.  The book is described as an "expanded and remastered" version of the "comic convention crime thriller" that appeared in Criminal #2 and #3, evidently in the same format as last year's original graphic novel, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies.

The cover art, shown below alongside the Junkies cover, is certainly in the same vein, with a pastel color scheme and a portrait of the protagonist, complete with a dangling cigarette. 

The font is different, but -- as before -- the book's cover omits the Criminal branding.  That is  perhaps because, despite the criminal element at the center of each story, the premise (romance and addiction, comic conventions and mentors) has a wider appeal beyond the duo's usual readership.

On Twitter, Sean Phillips explains that it "took a while" to decide on the cover's color scheme, and he treated fans to a photo of several candidate covers, very reminiscent of Andy Warhol's pop art.  He relays that he preferred the third cover on the top row, but it too closely resembled the last hardcover.

• On April 18th, Image Comics released its July solicitations, including the expanded hardcover edition of Bad Weekend and the next issue of the monthly series, Criminal #6.

The solicits on the official site list a page count of 72 pages for Bad Weekend, which may imply as many as 18 new pages, enough for a short third issue.  Since the span between issues exceeds the usual five-week gap only once, and for a single week -- six weeks between the scheduled release dates for issue #4 and issue #5 -- that's not a lot of extra time to create this additional content. 

(We've noticed that Jacob Phillips' Twitter feed has included ink work, evidently of his own projects.  Perhaps he could help ink Sean's pencils.)

On the Newsarama page listing Image's July solicitations, the description for the Bad Weekend hardcover mentions a special trim size of 6.625 by 10.1875 inches, but that's practically the size of a standard U.S. comic book.  On Twitter, Sean Phillips relays that the book will be a "standard" size, "same as the Junkies book," and with the same type of paper.

The next issue of Criminal will be continue Teeg Lawless' last story, "The Summer of '88," and the story's description repeats what we learned from issue #1, that Teeg "falls in love for the first time."  That's a very intriguing development for the widower, implying that he didn't really love his wife, Tracy and Ricky's mother.

Both books are scheduled for the same day, July 10th.

• And just today, April 22nd, Image Comics issued a press release for the Bad Weekend hardcover.   The news item quotes Ed Brubaker that the story is both an "exposé of the industry" and a "love letter to the medium," and along with praise for the comic, the press release summarizes the book's contents:
Bad Weekend features an expanded and remastered version of the story recently serialized in issues #2 and 3 of Criminal, with several completely new scenes, and presented in the same gorgeous hardcover format as Brubaker and Phillip's bestselling graphic novel My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies. And like every Criminal graphic novel, Bad Weekend is a stand-alone story that works as a singular reading experience.

As before, the book is being described as released ahead of the San Diego Comic-Con, but Sean Phillips has already confirmed that the hardcover will be "available everywhere" and not exclusive to the SDCC or any other convention.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Criminal #2 Out Today: New Undertow Podcast and Podcaster Interview, Newsletters and Original Art, and a Rare Stateside Appearance!

Just in time for Valentine's Day, the next issue of the new monthly version of Criminal hits stores today, along with the second printing of the first issue, covers of which are shown below. We have a few quite noteworthy items to accompany issue #2.

Just last week, WMQ Comics published a print interview with our good friend Robert Watson, host and creator of the Undertow Podcast.  The interview is part of a running feature called Pod People, "where WMQ’s Matthew Lazorwitz talks to fellow comics podcasters about their shows and the comics they love."

Robert discusses the show's origins, and, perhaps for the first time, he articulates the unique appeal of our show's subject matter -- namely, the high-quality output of a long-term partnership between writer and artist, a real rarity in the comic-book medium. 

That output can hardly be overstated:  in a typical year, readers get some 200 to 300 pages of noir comics from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, ranging from period pieces and borderline romance comics to vigilante stories and even Lovecraftian horror.  We're in the thirteenth year of the team's nearly non-stop work on creator-owned titles, there seems to be no signs of slowing, and -- most incredibly -- each new story still thrills and amazes a readership that continues to grow.

The whole thing is worth a read, as Robert discusses the genre of crime stories, the "ideal Brubaker/Phillips playlist," and other great books he's reading.

Robert is also very kind in putting the best possible spin on my neuroses and idiosyncrasies, saying I'm "just an encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to this comics team," and I greatly appreciate the kind words!

Shortly after WMQ Comics posted their interview, Robert published the latest episode of The Undertow Podcast -- podcast episode #29, discussing the brand-new Criminal #1.  

Robert and I closed the episode with some recommended reading.
  • We mention that, in his January newsletter, Ed Brubaker recommended Die by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans and Cemetery Beach by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard.  Both books are published by Image, and the latest issues came out on the same day as Criminal #1.
  • That same day, January 9th, saw the debut of the series I eagerly recommend on the strength of a single issue:  Gunning For Hits, a "music business crime thriller" written by music producer and first-time comics writer Jeff Rougvie and drawn by Moritat. 
  • And, Robert recommends the 2011 hardcover Crime, from the "Simon and Kirby Library," collecting "fully restored" crime comics by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.  These stories evidently date from the pre-code, EC era of the 1950's, and the 320-page hardcover includes an introduction by Max Allan Collins.

Another book published by Image, Gunning For Hits appears to be produced by Rougvie's label Supermegabot, and the book is accompanied by a Spotify playlist and a Twitter feed of excerpts from the protagonist Martin Mills' fictional journal (and coordinates to a small island on the Massachusetts coast). 

As with Criminal, the second issue is out today; the cover art for the first two issues are shown above -- the first with a very Bowie-like rocker while the second is an homage to Station to Station, the 1976 Bowie album which the CD(!) enthusiast Rougvie recommended to me, since I only have 2002's Heathen in my collection.

As our most recent podcast went online, Ed Brubaker was sending out his February newsletter, which features a five-page preview for issue #2.  He also gives us a preview of a single panel of issue #3, with Ricky Lawless, all grown up.

Brubaker explains:
"Ricky is one of the main recurring characters in this new monthly version of CRIMINAL, and actually stars in issue 4, which is a standalone issue, much like #1 was. Issue 5 begins the first longer arc."
We wonder, then, is Ricky the connective tissue between these first four issues?  And since issue #1 was longer than normal and a longer arc begins after this, will these four issues comprise the next trade paperback collection?

The writer mentioned another big project -- the Amazon series Too Old to Die Young -- with recent news that I had missed, which Robert had caught during the podcast.  While at the Rotterdam Film Festival, composer Cliff Martinez spoke about the series and his work with Nicolas Winding Refn, and Brubaker linked to a few stories on his "Masterclass" conversation -- and video, concluding with a clip from the series "not for the faint of heart."

Robert pointed us to Birth.Movies.Death and a different summary of a Screen Daily interview with Martinez, revealing the series' runtime of about 16 hours.  The composer relays, "It’s ten episodes that are around 90 minutes a piece," and we wonder if this length -- equivalent to a short feature -- suggests that each episode tells a complete story within a larger, serialized framework.

(I would think an extra-long premiere and finale might skew the average, but even with bookends of 2 hours or more, the middle episodes would still be 80 minutes or so, almost twice the length of an episode of Stranger Things and toward the extreme end of True Detective episodes.)

In addition to some other crime-related recommendations, Brubaker also recommends the new hardcover collection, Conan the Barbarian: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus, Volume 1.  The newsletter includes the standard cover art by John Cassaday -- striking, and obviously Cassaday at a single glance, but hardly true to the era -- but there is also evidently a direct-market edition with a cover based on the original cover art for Conan the Barbarian #1, from 1970.

Brubaker says that this collection is particularly worthwhile for the bonus features -- a rarity in omnibus editions from Marvel -- but if the $125 retail price is a bit out of one's budget, Marvel also released ten one-dollar "True Believer" reprints in January, including that first issue to Conan the Barbarian. 

Just as Brubaker recommended the omnibus, I mentioned these inexpensive reprints in the podcast, along with a minor recommendation for Marvel's new ongoing series, Conan the Barbarian.  The colors in these reprints aren't bad at all -- "The Secret of Skull River" is left in black and white, in all its glory -- and most of these issues have dense, self-contained stories.

Finally, since Sean Phillips returned to using paper for My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and has evidently kept up the practice for Criminal -- albeit with apparent digital pencils, in traditional blue -- the resulting artwork is being made available to collectors, through Phillips' longtime associates at Splash Page Comic Art.

On that quite eventful February 7th, Splash Page Art announced new artwork for sale -- artwork from Junkies, Criminal, and Hellblazer, more specifically Phillips' six variant covers from 2018.  On Twitter, owner Mark Hay announced that artwork from issue 2 will be on sale this week, as the issue reaches stores.

Back in the press release, Hay also encourages haste:  while recording the podcast, I noticed that the first issue's striking last page was on sale -- a single splash page, of Teeg Lawless in portraiture, smoking in his car, bloodied and scheming.  The image is somehow beautiful and ugly all at once.  Despite a price of $575, the page's listing is already missing, indicating that the work has already been sold, but not before we (thankfully) saved a local copy of the artwork, shown below.

The press release also notes Phillips' attendance at the inaugural NCSFest, hosted by the National Cartoonists Society in Huntington Beach, California, over the weekend of May 17-19.  Mark Hay will also be there, and we were right to guess that a certain writer in California would be there alongside Phillips.

The event is described as Phillips' first US appearance since 2010, and it's apparently the pair's first North American appearance together since Toronto in 2014.

It bears repeating: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are scheduled to attend California's NCSFest in May.  This should be just a few weeks after the release of Criminal #4, due on April 24th.

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