Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bullets: Brubaker on Marvels Project, Criminal Deluxe Page Count, Liberty Comics.

A few more things I forgot to mention earlier this week or have seen since.
  • Marvels Project Interview. Ed Brubaker continues to be involved with high-profile work at Marvel, and yesterday Newsarama published an interview with Brubaker about the Marvels Project, a "Year One" sort of mini-series that debuts in just a couple weeks.

  • Update on Eisner Nod for Staples. As we reported in April, our own Val Staples was nominated for an Eisner Award for his coloring work on Criminal and Incognito. As the blog The Beat reminded me, the winners were announced this weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con, and the award went to Dave Stewart for his work on eight different titles, including Hellboy, The Umbrella Academy, and Captain America: White.

  • Criminal Deluxe Page Count. Earlier I relayed that Sean Phillips had announced his finishing the art design for Criminal: The Deluxe Edition. What I failed to mention was that the page count appears to be more than the 400 pages that was originally solicited.

    At his blog, Phillips implied that the hardcover has 432 pages. The first three trade paperbacks contained only the story arcs with no extra content, and from online retailers I gather that they have a combined page count of about 360 pages.

    That now leaves about 72 pages of extra content, more than enough to include the approximately forty pages of essays that were in the original monthly issues. With that much extra space, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Criminal "emission" from last year's Liberty Comics #1.

  • Liberty Comics #2. Finally, while I'm on the subject, Comic Book Resources has an article on this year's second issue of Liberty Comics. The issue is once again published by Image Comics to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and it includes contributions from Gail Simone, Paul Pope, Mike Allred, Dave Gibbons, and Jimmy Palmiotti. The book promises to have a noteworthy collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Jim Lee, and it will feature two covers, one by John Romita, Jr., and one by Tim Sale (with coloring by Dave Stewart).

    I don't believe any of the Criminal creators are contributing to this issue. The next "emission" is the black-and-white "21st Century Noir" for Dark Horse Noir, scheduled for September 30th.

    Still, this second issue promises to follow in the footsteps of the first issue, as a good comic for a good cause. Liberty Comics #2 is scheduled to be released on October 14th.
Brubaker's interview above focused solely on the Marvel Project, but I imagine we might hear more from him about the Icon titles as Incognito draws to a close and Criminal makes its triumphant return.


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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bullets: October Solicitation, Incognito Trade Cover, and More.

It continues to be good times for fans of crime comics, and of Brubaker and Phillips' work in particular.
  • Solicitation for "The Sinners," Part Two. Marvel's October solicitations were released last week, and among the titles listed is the second installment of "The Sinners," the new story arc for Criminal.

    Made men are turning up dead in what appear to be mob-style hits, and since criminals don’t go to the cops for justice, TRACY LAWLESS has been appointed the defacto “sheriff” of the criminal underworld by his boss, Crimelord Sebastian Hyde. But Tracy is the ultimate outsider, and the cons, murderers, and thieves don’t like or trust him any more than the police do.

    Sounds like there could be shades of a modern-day Western, mixed with a murder mystery, all with the brutal noir that we've come to expect from Criminal. The 40-page issue is scheduled to be released the Wednesday before Halloween.

  • Cover Art for the Incognito Trade. I half expected a solicitation for the trade paperback for Incognito, but it looks like we'll be waiting for that until November at the earliest. In the meantime, Sean Phillips has shown us what is apparently the cover art for the trade collection. The orientation is more traditional than the preliminary image we noted in April, but the art direction is still quite unconventional for a comic book trade collection.

  • Incognito Review. We're now beginning to discuss the trade collection, but the monthly installments of Incognito still haven't wrapped up. The penultimate issue was released almost two weeks ago now, and last week Comic Book Resources posted a glowing review of the issue.

    The review, which awarded the issue a full five stars, praised in particular the deliberate pace in which the story's larger universe unfolds, which is -- come to think of it -- perhaps the biggest difference between this series and Sleeper. The earlier WildStorm title was set in an established universe, so while there were plenty of surprises for the main characters, the setting itself wasn't a mystery. Here, Brubaker and Phillips have their first real opportunity to create a new super-powered fictional universe, and they take their time unveiling the story's setting. The pulp origins of the Incognito universe are becoming more clear only in hindsight, and only now do we really see the relevance of the issues' additional material, essays by Jess Nevins about classic pulp characters like the Shadow and Fu Manchu.

  • Crime Comics: Vertigo Crime. The latest issue of Incognito isn't the only new release worth mentioning for fans of crime comics. Following the one-dollar "After Watchmen" previews that DC Comics continues to offer, DC's Vertigo imprint has begun selling inexpensive previews of its high-profile titles, such as Bill Willingham's Fables. Last week, Vertigo released a one-dollar preview of 100 Bullets. The preview not only features the first full issue of Azzarello and Risso's recently completed series, it also features previews of the first two graphic novels for Vertigo Crime, about which we first reported in February. The first two entries of this upcoming series of smaller, black-and-white hardcovers will apparently be released simultaneously, this August.

  • Crime Comics: Parker. From previews of new crime stories, we turn to an adaptation of a classic: as I reported last time, Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter has just been released. My copy of the hardcover arrived last week, and, having finished the book, I cannot recommend the comic more highly.

    Even at a glance, the book is obviously a work of craft. Its smaller size would make it a better fit alongside novels rather than graphic novels, and beneath its dust jacket -- which features a blurb from our own Ed Brubaker -- is a traditional hardcover binding that makes it look like it was published from the novel's setting of New York City, 1962.

    Within its perfect presentation is a damn near perfect story, a brutal and hard-boiled tale -- conveyed in a sparse fashion that rewards careful reading -- that should appeal to any fan of Criminal or the Hard Case Crime paperback imprint. The Violent World of Parker fansite pointed out a very good review and analysis at Comixology. The review conveys that the comic stands as its own work while remaining quite faithful to the original novel -- which is still in my daunting stack of books to-read. The review nails the comic's monochrome blue as "handpainted steel," and it highlights the story's tension between romantic love and an almost mechanical professionalism, a tension that's echoed in one of my favorite films, Michael Mann's Heat.

    This is apparently the first and only time that the late Donald Westlake (under the pseudonym Richard Stark) allowed the name "Parker" to be used in any adaptation of his work, and it's an adaptation that honors the character, who Brubaker describes in his blurb as "the most iconic criminal ever created."

  • Donald Westlake in Hard Case Crime. While I'm on the subject, Parker fans should take note that Donald E. Westlake's final, never-before-published novel Memory will be published next April by the acclaimed paperback imprint Hard Case Crime. Ed Brubaker strongly recommended the imprint, which publishes a new or classic crime novel about once a month. I've already read about two dozen of the fifty-plus books, and I recommend them as very taut and enjoyable weekend reads.

    In the meantime, the early Parker books are being released by the University of Chicago Press, which is why The Hunter is waiting for me on my shelf. The third group of three books should be out in August.

  • Flashback: Brubaker Essay on Critics. I hadn't seen this before, and I don't know where else to document this, but it appears that, around August of 2001, Ed Brubaker wrote an online essay for the launch of a comic site called The Fourth Rail, whose doors closed in 2006. It's an interesting essay about how otherwise useless critics can become a "necessary evil" in the marketplace, by pointing the audience toward good work and away from garbage.

    I wonder if Brubaker's opinion of online comic critics has changed over the last eight years. It's certainly true that good work is getting noticed in terms of sales, but the best-sellers continue to be precisely what you would expect them to be.

  • Angel of Death on DVD. Finally Angel of Death, Ed Brubaker's online live-action mini-series starring Zoe Bell, has been repackaged as a full-length movie. It was screened at the San Diego Comic Con this past weekend and was broadcast on Spike TV, but if anybody else missed it like I did, it is now on-sale as a DVD, complete with bonus features.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bullets: Incognito in Stores This Week, Criminal Art, Crime Comics.

What may be appropriate for this site, a drive-by blogging.
  • Release of Incognito #5. Marvel's website hasn't had complete and up-to-date information about Incognito for some time, and I've been altogether unable to find its listing for issue #5, but the Savage Critic reports that issue #5 should be in stores tomorrow, July 15th.

    Also in stores this week is Cooke's Hunter, covered below.

  • Criminal artwork. While Incognito continues to rumble toward its inevitably brutal conclusion, Sean Phillips continues to highlight artwork for the Criminal releases that are soon to follow. Alongside preview art of Incognito -- and of his cat Florence -- Phillips' blog has been showcasing the inks and completed cover art for the second chapter of "The Sinners," and interior designs and behind-the-scenes extras in the deluxe hardcover volume that we first reported in June.

    Just today, Phillips reports that he has finished the art design for the hardcover, and he posted a large image of the completed cover art, a striking cover about which I have more to say, in another post.

  • Captain America: Reborn. The first issue of Ed Brubaker's Reborn mini-series is now in stores, and in case anyone missed it, Newsarama reports that Marvel.com is featuring an online "prelude" to the mini-series, and the news site also features an interview with Brubaker, following the release of the first issue.

  • Other Crime Comics. Finally, as we mentioned above, the Savage Critic relays that this week also sees the release of The Hunter. The book is Darwyn Cooke's first adaptation of Richard Stark's character Parker, and we pointed out a preview of the hardcover last May.

    And, from Twitter, Ed Brubaker highly recommended Chew, an eccentric crime comic which debuted last month, and whose second issue came out two weeks ago. It appears that both the first issue and the second issue have sold incredibly well, so it might already be hard to find. I recommend the dark comedy very highly: there are previews online for the first two issues here and here at Comic Book Resources, and Newsarama reports that the first issue will be reprinted in the back of Walking Dead #63, which ALSO appears to be reaching stores this week.
Between Incognito, Hunter, and the Chew reprint in Walking Dead, it's a good week for crime comics. Chew's appearance in Walking Dead reminds me of another comic which was helped early on by Robert Kirkman's zombie comic... a comic whose return I couldn't anticipate more highly.


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