Wednesday, January 15, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Final Cover Art for Heart of the Beast.

Yesterday we noted that Sean Phillips had posted a digital sketch for the cover for the 20th anniversary edition of Heart of the Beast.  A very early original graphic novel (OGN) for DC's Vertigo imprint, Heart of the Beast was a gothic romance / horror story released in 1994 and described as "set against the backdrop of New York City's decadent art world of the nineties."

The book was written by Dean Motter (Mister X, Terminal City) and Judith Dupré, the bestselling author of several books on art and architecture.  About the cover sketch, reposted below, Phillips relays that Motter is handling the book design, including the final logo.

This morning, Sean has provided us with an exclusive look at the absolutely gorgeous final cover art.

The book will be released through Dynamite Entertainment, and Sean believes the book will be out in May.

It looks like it's right up our alley, especially for fans of the horror-noir series Fatale, which Brubaker and Phillips are concluding around the same time of this book's re-release.  We'll be sure to cover Heart of the Beast in detail as the release date approaches and more information becomes available.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bullets: Velvet in Stores, Fatale Cover Art, Criminal Movie Reference, and More.

A lot of updates, just in the span of a week.

• Velvet #3 in stores tomorrow. The latest issue of Ed Brubaker's Velvet arrives this week:  Brubaker already has his copies of Velvet #3, and a six-page preview has just been at Comicosity and Comic Book Resources.

We're honored to report that, in the letters column at the end of the last issue, Brubaker published my letter asking about whether a noir-tinged espionage story can still be optimistic in its outlook on the necessity of spying.  He noted that some spy stories are more police procedurals than noir, and while his work tends to noir, he thinks that some noir  -- like the Robert Mitchum film Out of the Past -- is optimistic about the consequences of a story that is usually very tragic for the main character.

I think that answers my question:  a spy story could affirm that the work is essential in protecting the interests of a relatively moral government while still being true to the personally destructive stories you find in noir.

I wonder if that's exactly the kind of contrast we'll see in the conclusion to Fatale: the cosmic evil's worst plans are thwarted or delayed, but only at a very steep personal cost.

Brubaker also encourages Velvet readers to check into this blog -- any newcomers here, welcome! -- as we've expanded our coverage from Criminal to quite a bit of work of Ed and Sean's.  We're not always able to cover every project as much as we should, particularly Sean's work that doesn't immediately reach the U.S. and Ed's projects for Marvel.  (I've always been more of a DC guy.)

That said, we're quite happy to cover as much work of theirs as we can, including partnerships with familiar faces like Lark, Rucka, and Cooke and especially all Brubaker-Phillips collaborations.

Whatever the work, there's a certain alchemy with the two of them that we find nowhere else.

• Heart of the Beast 20th Anniversary Edition. On the subject of other projects, last July, Dynamite Entertainment announced a 20th anniversary prestige edition of The Heart of the Beast written by Dean Motter and Judith Dupré, with painted watercolor artwork by Sean Phillips.  The gothic romance / horror story, released in 1994, was one of the earliest original graphic novels for Vertigo, about which Phillips said, "This was my first major project for an American publisher and it sank without trace twenty years ago."

We completely missed this announcement at the time, and I don't believe there have been many updates since, but, this past Saturday, Phillips posted a preliminary digital sketch of the new cover art.

He relays that this new edition will be "out in a few months."

Fatale #24 Cover Art.  In other big news, just today Phillips posted cover art to Fatale #24, the grand finale of Brubaker and Phillips' horror-noir comic.

With The Fade Out scheduled to debut this summer, I'd expect this concluding issue to be released around June.

• Brubaker and Criminal Reference on the Big Screen. And, finally, a conversation on Twitter documented an emphatic shout-out to our favorite comic book writer and title:  in the 2012 independent comedy Stuck in Love, a character mentions Ed Brubaker as the writer of "an incredible, hard-boiled comic called Criminal," and another character is shown reading what appears to be Criminal #3, the midpoint of the debut story "Coward."

The film stars Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly, it enjoyed a limited domestic release last July, and it's now available for watching at home.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Brubaker-Phillips Image Deal Featured in NY Times' ArtsBeat.

Yesterday, we mentioned the possibility that Ed Brubaker would appear at later panels during the 2014 Image Expo, and while it appears that he was present for the writers' conversation, we could find no further developments about yesterday's big announcement -- only the revelations that Brubaker exercises his empathy by creating a diverse cast of characters and, like other writers, he evidently does not write extensive backgrounds for his characters.

Late yesterday, Brubaker highlighted a short story covering the new five-year deal, posted in the New York Times' ArtsBeat blog.  There aren't any new details, but it's good that this news is getting more mainstream attention.

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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Official Press Releases on the Big News.

As an immediate follow-up to our previous post on the major news breaking at today's Image Expo, we see that Image Comics has a few press releases with a bit more information.

One news item summarizes the announcements given during the keynote address by publisher Eric Stephenson, who introduced nearly 20 creators with upcoming projects.

Ed Brubaker (Batman, Captain America, FATALE, CRIMINAL) and Sean Phillips (INCOGNITO and SLEEPER) and Image Comics have signed an unprecedented deal in comics publishing, a five year deal to do anything they want with total freedom, total control, and total ownership over their projects. The first project on this new deal for the award-winning creators is THE FADE OUT, debuting this summer, following the conclusion of FATALE with issue #24.

I find it odd to attribute their collaborative works to one creator or the other, but the most important thing is the amount of creative control and ownership that this deal provides.

The other press release focuses on Brubaker and Phillips, and it features the promo image seen at the keynote presentation, which we include above.

Ed Brubaker comments on the deal he and Phillips signed with Image...
"This is amazing. It's like having an overall deal with a studio, except we get to greenlight our own projects," said Brubaker. "Sean and I have been making comics together for fifteen years, and in the early days before we built the passionate readership we have now, we struggled to survive, so a deal like this is exactly what I was looking for. I've already got more than enough ideas to fill those five years, and both Sean and I are looking forward to experimenting and really pushing the boundaries." 
...and he gives us the first bit of information about the new noir series, which is described as "ongoing" but isn't presumably open-ended.
"The Fade Out is my ultimate noir story. It's a brutal crime story set in late '40s Hollywood, and all spinning around the mysterious death of an up-and-coming starlet," said Brubaker. "For people who've been waiting for us to return to Criminal, this will be exactly what they're looking for, but on a much more epic scale—going from studio backlots to the debauchery of the rich and famous, and even stretching back to the horrors of World War Two." 
The Fade Out is for readers who have been waiting for Criminal, but on "a much more epic scale"?  That's a helluva way to ratchet up our interest.

Both pieces confirm that The Fade Out will debut this summer.

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BREAKING from Image Expo: Fatale Ends, The Fade Out Begins, a Flexible Five-Year Deal, and a New Home for Criminal and Incognito.

As we reported late yesterday, Ed Brubaker used the column concluding the new issue of Fatale to tease some major news to come at today's Image Expo in San Francisco.  As we expected, the West Coast writer was on-hand, and he was the last creator brought on-stage during publisher Eric Stephenson's keynote address.

Highlights from Twitter as the news broke:

In the last picture above, Brubaker appears to be standing at the very end of the line of creators, at the far right (stage right).

Comic Book Resources had a great summary of the news coming from Stephenson's keynote address, in an article that was being updated in real time.  It repeats much of the same information, with something more that's definitely worth highlighting.

The last guest up: Ed Brubaker, another unannounced surprise. "Sean [Phillips] and I are doing a five-year deal with Image where basically we can do whatever we want, and they have to publish it," Brubaker says. "Fatale" is wrapping with issue #24, leading in to Brubaker and Phillips' next collaboration, "The Fade Out," which the writer says "Criminal" fans should enjoy. "It's loosely based on things that happened in Hollywood in the '40s," Brubaker says, whose uncle was a screenwriter.  
Speaking more of their new deal, Brubaker says that when he and Phillips were doing "Sleeper," the two always worried about whether they could keep doing projects together. "That's why this deal was so amazing to me, because they were willing to do it. Now all I have to do is worry about us doing great comics. I feel like this is a new stage of my career here, and I'm excited about." Brubaker says he probably won't do books like "The Walking Dead" or "Invincible" that get to the 100s, because he like shorter stories with a definite endpoint. Additionally, Brubaker's past creator-owned books like "Criminal" and "Incognito," originally published by Marvel's Icon line, will now be at Image.

 In brief:

The Five-Year Deal. Both Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have signed a five-year deal with Image, allowing them a great deal of latitude to create what they want, which will probably result in short series with definite end points, keeping with their usual m.o.

Fatale's Finale. Their first move is to bring Fatale to its conclusion with issue 24, which means their first "ongoing" series will have run as long as Sleeper their first major collaboration (if you ignore the short story connecting the WildStorm series' two "seasons").  Fatale #19 concluded the arc set in the 90's, and -- to us, at least -- its cliffhanger ending did seem to be building momentum toward a kind of conclusion. 

Yesterday we mentioned the first deluxe collection, due in March and collecting the first ten issues; I imagine that issues #11-24 will end up in a second and final hardcover collection, and I would wager that we would see that volume in time for the 2014 holiday shopping season.

(In hindsight, I wonder if it would have made more sense to end the first volume with issue #14, collecting the equivalent of three trade collections in each hardcover.)

(EDIT:  Never mind, I just realized that there will be a total of five trade collections, not six, with the middle trade spanning issues #11-14.  There's no real way to split the series evenly.)

The Fade Out Fades In. After Fatale, Brubaker and Phillips will bring us The Fade Out, set in Hollywood in the 1940's.  With five more issues of Fatale to go, I would guess that (barring vacations or unforeseen delays) we see this new series debut in the late summer or early fall, probably sometime between July and September.

From Icon to Image. The earlier works of Criminal and Incognito may still return, and if they do, they will now be published through Image Comics rather than Marvel's Icon imprint for high-profile creator-owned projects.  We suspected this move as far back as June, 2012, and we made this suspicion an outright prediction that September, and we're glad to see that we were ahead of the curve.


Speaking only for myself, Criminal remains my favorite book, and so I look forward to its eventual return and the long-awaited continuation of Leo's story, which had the so-called "coward" in prison when we saw him last.  (EDIT:  Could we see Leo's return in the run-up to the film adaptation for "Coward," which is in pre-production and is attached to a new director, as reported in October?)

In the meantime, I've been thoroughly enjoying every series they've put out, and we are fortunate to have deluxe, oversized hardcovers collecting all their major works, the mini-series Scene of the Crime with Michael Lark, and a perfect companion piece in the gorgeous Art of Sean Phillips.

(We also have the complete run of Gotham Central in attractive hardcovers.  Brubaker's early Vertigo series Deadenders was finally collected in 2012, and his complete run on Catwoman is being collected as well, to say nothing of the numerous collections of his work for Marvel.)

Sleeper.  CriminalIncognitoFatale.  And, soon, The Fade Out.

We're seeing the growth of a truly astounding body of work.


According to the Image Expo program, the surprise guests from Eric Stephenson's keynote address will soon discuss their upcoming projects, beginning at 6:15 pm ET / 3:15 PT.  (The presentation is titled "I is for Incognito," which led me to wonder if Brubaker's announcement was going to concern the "apocalyptic pulp noir" originally published by Icon.)

At 8:00 ET / 5:00 PT, the expo features "I is for Interrogation," where a panel of writers, including "some of our special surprise guests," will discuss their creative processes.

Brubaker may attend either panel, and we'll cover the highlights, probably sometime tomorrow.

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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Fatale #19 Out Today, Deluxe Volume 1 Out in March.

Though I don't believe an online preview has been made available, the latest issue of Brubaker and Phillips' Fatale is in stores today.  Fatale #19 continues concludes the twisted tale of rock music and murder in 1990's Seattle.

Now's a very good time to note that last month, Image Comics included the first deluxe collection of the horror-noir series in their March solicitations.  The oversized, 288-page hardcover collects the first ten issues, and it "contains all the extras that BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS fans have come to expect from their deluxe hardbacks, including behind-the-scenes art and stories, sketches and layouts, back page illustrations, and several of Jess Nevins' historical essays, as well."

At his blog, Sean Phillips provided a very nice preview of the design for the front cover and the spine, which we include below.

Fatale: The Deluxe Edition Volume One is scheduled to reach stores March 5th, with a retail price of $39.99.

UPDATE, 11:30 pm.  In the back pages, Brubaker mentions the plans for a big announcement for himself and Sean Phillips, at the Image Expo, tomorrow, January 9th.  We'll be sure to cover it here.

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