Monday, September 28, 2009

Scheduling Update.

Very briefly, last week was the original scheduled release date for both the final Sleeper trade and the return of Criminal. Obviously, neither came out, but they're due very soon.

Alongside upcoming arrival lists from Great Escape Comics (Marietta, GA) and Comix Experience (San Francisco), DC's official site confirms that Sleeper: Season Two is in stores this week, Wednesday, September 30th.

And, in a comment for a blog entry announcing a NEW POSTER of the upcoming issue's cover art, Sean Phillips corroborates the listing at the first issue of Criminal: The Sinners will reach stores next week, October 7th.

The second issue is still currently scheduled for October 28th, but since the third issue has been solicited for December 23rd, I wouldn't be surprised if this second issue gets pushed just a few weeks, to mid-to-late November.

The return of Criminal is just around the corner.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cover Art, Solicitations, and Interviews.

Sean Phillips has already posted the cover art for the fourth issue of the upcoming Criminal arc, "The Sinners:" the preliminary rough, the in-progress pencils, and the final cover, above.

Marvel's December solicitations have been released, and the third issue of "The Sinners" is initially scheduled for a December 23rd release.

And, at his Twitter page, Ed Brubaker highlights a couple recent interviews. First is a text interview at IGN, where he discusses how his past informs the ideas in Criminal. What I find most interesting is a vague allusion to what may be the series' final arc:
"There will eventually be a story in which we see almost the entire cast in one big story. I'm hoping to get to more stories before then, but I do have this story in mind that's sort of a mid-eighties period piece where our main characters are all teenagers and their parents are the main characters. That's the duel-tiered story I've been sketching out in my notebook. But that's at least a few Criminal stories away, because that'll be the biggest thing page count wise that we're going to tackle. I need to keep building up the fan base before we do that."
This sounds like more information about a story that Brubaker already mentioned, for instance, in a CBR interview we mentioned last year.

On the release of the trade paperback for "The Dead and The Dying," Brubaker was asked about subsequent flashback stories. He relayed that we'd probably see more such stories, but that they were not currently in the planning stages. The interview's final paragraph documents one notable exception.
"Although there is one big story that will probably end up being the longest story we do in the book. It will be about Leo and Tracy and Ricky's parents' gang and about them as teenagers. It's basically the story of how Leo's screw up ended up fucking up everyone's life. If we ever decide to end the book that will probably be the last story we tell." [emphasis mine]
It's entirely possible that I'm reading too much into these two interviews. Though it seems clear that both interviews allude to the same lengthy flashback story, that story may no longer be -- and may never have really been -- the planned finale.

The line, "I'm hoping to get to more stories before then," doesn't help things: one can very easily read into these statements the possibility, at least, that while the conclusion to Criminal remains on the definite but far horizon, it may be approaching sooner rather than later.

And, second, is the first segment of a two-part Word Balloon podcast interview with John Siuntres at Newsarama. The 100-plus-minute mp3 file includes talk about Criminal and Incognito, along with Captain America Reborn, The Marvels Project, and Brubaker's take on the Marvel/Disney deal.

In the long chat about Criminal [2:00-36:30], Brubaker reveals that the next arc was going to be "Coward's Way Out," about Leo's prison break, but that's been pushed back in favor of "The Sinners."

This new arc is planned to cover five issues -- then again, so was Incognito -- and, like all the previous arcs, it will push out the boundaries of what the creators and the series can do, this time by having a much larger scope in terms of characters and locations in the nameless city.

Those who are purchasing Criminal: The Deluxe Edition should take note that, although there appears to be enough room, Brubaker confirms that the hardcover will not contain all of the essays published for the periodical "crime magazine" version of Criminal. The hardcover will only include essays that Brubaker himself wrote, including -- presumably -- the prose story written from Gnarly's perspective, found in the debut issue. Other essays, such as Patton Oswalt's essay on Blast of Silence, will remain exclusive to the monthly issues, at least for the moment.

(He did mention that, in the far future, he may end up publishing all of the essays in an art book, something like "The Criminal Guide to Noir.")

Brubaker also discusses the pleasure of serialized crime fiction and the sources of inspiration for some of the comic book's heists.

About Incognito [36:30-42:30, briefly at 19:30], he discusses the thematic overlap between his Icon mini-series, the Marvels Project, and Alan Moore's Tom Strong -- and the unique approach Incognito takes, in combining elements of both Doc Savage and of Black Mask to create a modern, apocalyptic pulp noir. He confirms that he owns the characters in the series and that they are not in the public domain.

About the Icon imprint [46:30 - 51:00], Brubaker relays his hope that the Disney-Marvel deal will increase the visibility of the "creator-driven" line which helps Marvel by giving creators room to take a break from mainstream titles to work on their own projects.

And, in both interviews, he highlights the most recent Criminal arc -- the intricately plotted "Bad Night" -- as one of the best things he's ever written.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bullets: Auction, Interview, Preview, & Gotham Central.

Busy week.
  • Update on Criminal Auction for Ostrander. The auction we mentioned Monday wrapped up the next day, selling three opportunities to have a Criminal corpse named after you, to benefit comics writer John Ostrander as he struggles with very serious medical bills.

    I wonder if the auction's short span over the Labor Day weekend kept it from raising even more, but the three eBay listings -- here, here, and here -- raised $2,240. It appears the auction was quite successful, and Ed Brubaker has relayed his thanks to everyone who bid.

  • Criminal Interview and Preview. We've begun to see some promotional work for the return of Criminal, as late last week Comic Book Resources published an interview with Ed Brubaker on "The Sinners."

    The interview seems to confirm a suspicion I had in May, that the title will no longer be numbered as an ongoing monthly.
    "Criminal: The Sinners" marks the beginning of a new publishing model for the series. Instead of an ongoing series with continuous numbering, the book will now operate similar to "Hellboy" in that it will become an ongoing series of miniseries. "The idea is we’ll do 'Criminal' and then another project, the next one being a follow up to 'Incognito.' Then we'll do another 'Criminal' story and after that something else," Brubaker explained. "That way we can keep changing things up. Doing different projects helps revitalize us, and keep us excited about bring good stories to our readers. I always joke that our books are like public radio, in that we’re reader-supported, but it really is true. So we always want to make sure we’re giving our all to the people who are making our collaborations possible."
    This quote also suggests that Criminal will alternate with other projects rather than be interrupted only occasionally. This approach heightens risks that I outlined in December, that creator interest and reader interest might wane if the title shares too much of the spotlight with other works, with the end result being that fewer Criminal stories are told. I continue to hope that these risks are worth the reward.

    On a more immediate subject, Brubaker relays that "The Sinners" will provide a wider view of the comic's universe, including reappearances of Sebastian Hyde, his muscle Chester, and even Gnarly and the Undertow. As with previous arcs, the story is self-contained, but it rewards faithful readers: "You can grab 'The Sinners' and just start from there and hopefully it will be the kind of thing where if you’ve read all the 'Criminal' stories you’ll find Easters [sic] eggs here and there."

    The interview includes a five-page preview of the new issue -- a preview that's also available at Sean Phillips' blog -- that may already show some of the subtle ties to earlier stories.

    Tracy Lawless has proven to be an inconsistent hitman for Hyde, deciding to kill only those he deems deserving of death. We're told, "Tracy wouldn't just erase a guy who stood in the way of some real estate deal," which may be an allusion to the same shady deal that drove "No One Rides for Free," the Criminal short story in Liberty Comics #1.

    But the narrator also notes that Tracy has no qualms about killing "a scumbag, a degenerate gambler who wouldn't pay." That's a potentially revealing detail into Tracy's inner psychology, considering the gambling debt that motivated the brutal actions of his father Teeg Lawless, in the trio of stories under "The Dead and the Dying".

    And, I believe the interview gives us the first look at the full cover art for issue #3, complete with the title branding. Earlier Sean showed us a preview sketch and the completed artwork, and the new image -- posted above -- confirms that issue #3 has its title in a more traditional location.

  • Second Gotham Central hardcover, in stores now. I had first noticed this in April but failed to add it to the extensive fall schedule, which I'll update shortly: the second hardcover collection of Gotham Central is hitting comic stores this week.

    The forty-issue series was written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, illustrated primarily by Michael Lark, and eventual had cover art by Sean Phillips. It focused on Gotham's Major Crimes Unit and its difficult cases dealing with the city's infamous psychopaths and caped vigilantes. My first extensive encounter with noir comics, Gotham Central served as a "gateway drug" of sorts, leading me from traditional superhero fare to work like Criminal, Sleeper, and Greg Rucka's Queen & Country.

    Gotham Central is probably the main reason I was so eager for Criminal. (For what it's worth, subsequent stories involving some of its originally down-to-earth main characters is a big reason I've largely soured on the "DC Universe.")

    This volume -- Book Two: Jokers and Madmen (no relation to the lackluster Batman Confidential arc, "Lovers and Madmen") -- collects issues #11-22, complete with cover art and an introduction by Duane Swierczynski. In addition to "Soft Targets," a Joker story that may well have informed The Dark Knight, the book includes four issues that haven't been previously collected, including a personal favorite, Ed Brubaker's quiet stand-alone story, "Daydreams and Believers."

    I got my copy last night, and I confirmed that it corrected a problem with the trade paperback collection, "Unresolved Targets," where there was a page where almost all the dialogue is missing. In a thread at the Comic Bloc forums, Greg Rucka explained that the problem affected the entire run, and another forum member provided a .jpg file of the original issue's dialogue.

    With that issue resolved, I could not recommend this book more highly. Hopefully the rest of the series will be collected in another volume or two over the next couple years.

Buy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips comics from

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Monday, September 07, 2009

NEWS FLASH! Criminal Auction for John Ostrander.

As Newsarama reported this weekend, Ed Brubaker is auctioning off three opportunities to be "killed off" in an upcoming issue of Criminal, to benefit the extensive medical costs for legendary writer John Ostrander.

Here are the details, from one of the eBay listings.

"The eagerly anticipated upcoming story in CRIMINAL features three dead mobsters. Each of the three winning bidders will not only be donating to this great cause, but will have their name (or the name of their choice) given to one of the dead mobsters in the comic itself! Ed will also create a 'mobster nickname' for each winning bidder, making this one of the most fun and rare comic-related items ever auctioned!

"Finally, winning bidders will receive a copy of the issue that their dead mobster appears in, autographed and personalized by Ed Brubaker himself!

As of the writing of this blog entry, there's just over 15 hours left to bid.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blog and Twitter Updates: Black Sails?

I spoke too soon. Since my post yesterday, both Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have reminded readers that the extra-long finale to Incognito is in stores now.

(Just read it this afternoon, and the overall story now strikes me as an unfolding, epic riff on the "origin stories" from Sleeper, and I mean that as quite high praise.)

Brubaker appears to be focusing on his Twitter page rather than his Myspace blog, and today he has several noteworthy tweets. He asked readers to spread the word that the new issue is out, and he announced that Bill Hader is writing the introduction to the trade collection of the series. He explained to a curious fan that Marvel doesn't actually get any revenue from his Icon work, and he answered a fan who (like me) was wondering if the late release of this last issue will cause a delay for Criminal, relaying that the first issue of the new arc "goes to print soon."

Most interestingly, Brubaker highlighted an "expanded version" of Jess Nevins' essay on "The Zeppelin Pulps," which graces the few pages of this week's Incognito #6. Nevins writes, "this may be the single thing I’m most proud of having written, if only because doing research on the zeppelin pulps and the background to Complete Zeppelin Stories was such a challenge."

(N.B. This isn't the first time an official source has published a version of an essay found in the back of Brubaker and Phillips' Icon work. We reported last year that Patton Oswalt's essay on Blast of Silence was also available online, but the link now appears to be broken.)

Also this week, our own Alan David Doane has published his third eBook, a free book in PDF format that features nearly 50 comics-related interviews. Ed Brubaker was interviewed in 2004 and again in 2006, and both interviews are published here. Also included is a 2004 interview with Sean Phillips, where Phillips mentions a Brubaker collaboration that's completely new to me: a project called Black Sails.

A quick search revealed that, in September 2004 -- before I really kept up with comic news sites -- Newsarama published a press release about the project, along with a brief interview with Brubaker. The project was a three-issue horror mini-series about vampire pirates manning the ship on which Dracula sailed.

From the interview and subsequent forum comments from Brubaker and Phillips, we can see some ideas that have almost certainly stuck around in some form.

Ed Brubaker: "As for why horror, it's probably because I've been working out a longer project that Sean and I are going to do with IDW after this, that has elements of all kinds of pulp -- horror, crime, adventure, mystery, even some sci-fi -- and because of that, I'd been reading more old pulp horror, and this idea just hit me. So I thought, okay, before we jump into an epic, lets do something shorter, for a break, and to establish ourselves as a team outside of Sleeper."

Sean Phillips: "The format is going to be 32 pages of STORY per issue. I'll be painting the pages and taking care of the lettering and design as well. One of the only things I asked of IDW was total artistic control."

Arguably, we're seeing "all kinds of pulp" with the Icon work, where the two work to provide cover-to-cover content in every issue, and where Sean Phillips is really responsible for the entire art design.

But where is Black Sails?

Obviously the project never saw completion. The press release explains that the horror comic was to be published by IDW in the spring of 2005, but that February Marvel announced its exclusive contract with Brubaker, beginning with Captain America. Criminal debuted the following year.

When the exclusive contract was announced, Brubaker mentioned having "unprecedented freedom to finish all [his] prior commitments and to do creator-owned work, either at Marvel or elsewhere."

That apparently didn't include Black Sails, but that raises the question of the project's current status and ultimate fate. Has the comic been started or even completed? Must the comic be published by IDW, and is that company waiting for the exclusive contract with Marvel to run its course?

Or could we see the mini-series published by Icon, as an interlude between their crime and pulp titles?

(For that matter, was Phillips really "painting" the comic?)

If I can get any answers to these questions, I'll report them here.

UPDATE, Sept 3rd: I had a little more time to do some digging this morning, and over at Brian Michael Bendis' JinxWorld forum, I found a June, 2007, thread where people were asking what happened to Black Sails.

Ed Brubaker briefly replied:

"Here's the deal. It came down to a few things, partly contract stuff with the publisher we were talking to, and partly that suddenly there were two other pirate vampire ideas announced right at the same time. Then Sean and I just decided we wanted to do a crime book, instead.

"Maybe someday I'll do it somehow. I have the whole outline.

Some preliminary work has already been completed, and we might see the comic eventually, but it's probably not part of the foreseeable future. If I ever come across more information about this unfinished collaboration -- particularly any rumblings that the vampire comic might actually see the light the day -- I'll be sure to let everyone know.

Buy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips comics from

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Incognito #6 In Stores Wednesday.

The fantastic fall begins, as the final, extra-length issue of Incognito hits stores this week.

I haven't seen much online about it -- either at the personal sites for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips [UPDATE: never mind], or in the major comics news sites -- but still lists tomorrow as the issue's on-sale date.

Over at Savage Critic, Brian Hibbs lists the issue among the products arriving tomorrow at his store, San Francisco's Comix Experience.

(Hibbs also lists the fourth issue of Chew, the breakout comic of the summer. Ed Brubaker has already praised the darkly comic police procedural, and I'm finding it to be the perfect, off-kilter complement to the Brubaker and Phillips' work. A preview of Chew #4 is available at CBR, and in an IGN interview with writer and creator John Layman, Dan Phillips brilliantly describes the book as "Chuck Palahniuk by way of Chuck Jones.")

Most importantly, this afternoon, I called the good folks at my local comic shop -- Great Escape Comics in Marietta, Georgia -- and confirmed that today's shipment for tomorrow's new books includes the latest issue of Incognito (and the latest issue of Chew).

It looks like Incognito #6 should be in stores nationwide this week. I know what I'll be reading tomorrow night.


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