Thursday, December 22, 2016

New UNDERTOW PODCAST, March Solicitations, and a Reader Wishlist.

We're happy to announce that the latest episode of the Undertow Podcast was released earlier this week, with a focus on Kill Or Be Killed #4.  The issue, released last month, concludes the first arc, which will be collected on January 18th, on the same day that stores see the publication of issue #5.

As with all previous installments, Episode 7 of the Undertow Podcast is available on iTunes and at Podbean.

While another busy year for Brubaker and Phillips is wrapping up, we continue to find news for the new year.  Image Comics has released its March 2017 solicitations, and  KOBK #7 is included, with a cover that features Kira with a new, blue hairdo.

Kill or Be Killed #7 
Story: Ed BrubakerArt: Elizabeth Breitweiser, Sean PhillipsCover: Sean Phillips 
March 15 / 40 pages / Full Color / M / $3.99 
As Dylan hides from the NYPD, Kira begins to get suspicious of some of his mysterious behavior. BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS’ newest hit book keeps hitting! And remember that every issue has all the extra back page articles and art their fans have come to expect.
Moving from the creator-owned comics at Image to one of the many licensed titles at IDW -- and from the blog's raison d'etre to this blogger's more personal tastes -- we see a March solicitation for that brilliant and bonkers book, Tom Scioli's Transformers vs GI Joe.

Transformers vs G.I. JOE: The Movie Adaptation
Tom Scioli (w & a & c)FC • 40 pages • $4.99
Imagine a world where the greatest comic book crossover of all time inspires a movie adaptation… and that movie adaptation inspires its own comic book! Visionary writer-artist Tom Scioli returns to the weird world of Transformers vs. G.I. Joe and brings an even weirder twist to this new story: what would the comic book adaptation of the movie version of the comic book look like? It’s time to find out in the most epic, scintillating, off-the-wall, exciting comic of 2017!
(A trade-paperback collecting Scioli's earlier work, American Barbarian is also advance solicited for April.)

So readers are clear, we want to explain that this is apparent one-shot is a comic-book adaptation of a movie THAT DOES NOT (YET) EXIST.  This imaginary movie is an adaptation of the original comic book maxi-series, which was an amalgam of the cartoons, movies, comic books, and toys from two different franchises.

I've mentioned the book before, including it as a recommendation in our podcast's first episode and posting a montage of the cover art for the series' 14 issues.  It's not the most obvious book to recommend to readers of the grounded, often realistic noir books of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, but it's become one of my all-time faves in part because it pushes the medium of comics to such an outrageous degree.

I've seen that a deluxe hardcover of the series is on its way, and since Christmas is almost upon us, I'm taking a few moments here to sketch out my "wish list" for this definitive edition.



In October, IDW released its January solicitations, which included Transformers vs G.I. Joe: The Quintessential Collection, advance solicited for a March release.

This deluxe edition should include, at a very minimum, every page of the actual story.  It's solicited to include "all 13 issues," but that doesn't quite cover it, and these are the additional parts of the story, in decreasing order of importance:
  • Issue #0, which was IDW's release for Free Comic Book Day 2014
  • "FBCD Funnies," a two-page story included in the 2015 FCBD release
  • "Black Cybertron," a four-page illustrated prose story that replaced the standard commentary notes in the back pages of issue #10
  • The sketch of Megatron in the inside-front cover of issue #11; points out that, more so than any other such sketch, this drawing ties into the story, as Megatron issues a fateful command
A "quintessential" collection of the entire story would ideally include all of this content.


I think it's important, not only to include every page of story content, but also to ensure that every important element on the page is visible.  This has been less of a problem with Brubaker and Phillips' books, where the artwork has frequently been contained within white-bordered pages, but there are a few pages in TFvsJoe where this will be difficult, at least for the large, hardcover collection.

Most notably, "FBCD Funnies" is essentially a two-page spread that mimics a page of newspaper comic strips, and two of the strips span both pages.  The entire work was easy to read in Free Comic Book Day release, but the center of the story was difficult to make out in the trade paperback collection.  Without careful foresight, these center strips will be even tougher to read in the massive hardcover.

Extra care would need to be taken to account for the "FBCD Funnies" story and other two-page spreads, and if all cover art will be included, I would also pay special attention to the wraparound cover for issue #13, where the middle of the scene has the enigmatic Snake Eyes swinging, Spider-Man-style, between the two armies and toward the reader.


If all the story's content is going to be included in the release, it would be preferable to print it in the order of its publication, helpfully summarized at the top of TFWiki's main page for the series, an excellent resource for catching every reference and allusion.

I would recommend the following order:
  • issue #0, ending with the "Battlefield Report" and possibly the wanted poster of Optimus Prime
  • issues #1-6
  • "FBCD Funnies"
  • issues #7-10
  • "Black Cybertron"
  • inside-cover sketch of Megatron's command, from issue #11
  • issues #11-12
  • issue #13 wraparound cover (as POSSIBLY part of the actual story)
  • issue #13
I think this sequence would provide the best possible reading experience.


The deluxe edition should include all the bonus content from the monthly issues and the trade paperback collections, and preferably more behind-the-scenes content, if it's available.  At a minimum, the book should not have LESS than the trade collections.

By my count, there were some 40 different covers for the entire series, and it would be nice for all of them to be included, such as my favorite subscription cover, created by Ulises Farinas for issue #10 and shown below.

(It would also be nice to include the original cover art for issue #11, with Duke smoking a cigar.)

Nearly every issue included a page-by-page commentary by the creators, and that too should be preserved in this collection.  Ideally, all of this bonus content would be included at the end, so that the entire, crazy story can be enjoyed without interruption.

(If I were designing a kind of "Absolute" edition, I would actually print this bonus content in a separate book.  The main story and the bonus features would be in two books held within a single slipcase, and that bonus book's cover would resemble the "Decepticobranomicon" and have the series' more obscure iconography, including a certain legendary tomahawk.  It would make it far easier for the reader to read the commentary and the referenced page simultaneously.)


Finally, the deluxe edition should account for this new psuedo-adaptation of the movie that doesn't quite exist.  It has been clear from Tom Scioli's Twitter feed that he has been working on new material, but it has not been clear whether it will be included in the Quintessential Edition.

In finally catching up with Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier earlier this year, I chose the Deluxe Edition released in 2015 over the larger Absolute Edition, in part because the former included all the "Absolute" content plus the Justice League: New Frontier Special that was released alongside the direct-to-DVD animated adaptation.  It still seems odd that the Absolute Edition didn't turn out to be comprehensive.

I have the same head-scratching reaction to this TFvsJoe hardcover, as it seems that it will omit this last entry in Tom Scioli's work on the series.

There is, however, a way to work around this, an idea I'd like to highlight for Scioli and cowriter John Barber:


Some of the series' best issues drew their focus onto a single character -- Destro, Scarlett, Falcon -- and maybe Scioli could return to the series each year with an extra-length annual, presenting a self-contained story much like the Spotlight books in the main Transformers comic-book continuity.

There's plenty of fertile ground for new stories:
  • The histories of Earth, Cybertron, and their warring factions haven't yet been laid out in their entirety.
  • Parts of the main story have yet to be told in any great detail, especially the fate of Koh-Buru-Lah.
  • And, the status quo at the story's end provides an obvious starting point for other stories.
I'd actually compare TFvsJoe to New Frontier in this respect, in that -- unlike a remarkable but dour book like Watchmen -- both books make me want to spend more time in the worlds that they build, to see what happens next.

And if TFvsJoe had one drawback, it was that, in focusing on the humans and presenting the Cybertronians as alien invaders, we didn't get enough from the Autobots and Decepticons' pespectives.  That could be addressed in what is essentially an anthology series.

This movie-adaptation one-shot is solicited as 40 pages in length, and the series' concluding issue #13 -- "Armageddon" -- was 64 pages.  If Tom Scioli were to produce an annual one-shot in this sort of page range, there would be enough for a second hardcover collection in no time, in a decade or less.

This hypothetical second volume would be a separate beast from the first volume, and it would begin with a kind of recap of that first story, with "the official comic book adaptation" to the first story's "movie."


I had the pleasure of seeing a copy of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare, on this year's state-by-state tour on this 400th anniversary of his death.  As a result, I've become even more aware of the benefits of a permanent, high-quality hardcopy publication of an otherwise transitory work of art.

Not to make too grand a comparison, but we've had the fortune to see Brubaker and Phillips' collaborations largely preserved in deluxe, hardcover editions -- Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito, Fatale, and most recently The Fade Out --  and I hope to see a similarly high-quality collection for the surprising masterpiece Transformers vs GI Joe.

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