Dark Horse Moves Selected Titles From Print to Digital Serialization

Dark Horse Comics has announced the launch of Dark Horse Digital Exclusives, a set of titles that will be serialized digitally followed by “expedited print collections”. The affected titles are The Ghost Fleet, Resurrectionists, and Sundowners. Said Dark Horse president and publisher Mike Richardson,

“We are confident in the quality of these stories and want to ensure that readers have the opportunity to fully experience them. Dark Horse is throwing its support behind these creators and their innovative titles, and we are choosing to continue them in a series of original graphic novels. These stories deserve to be told, and to continue in a reader-friendly and accessible format. In the meantime, for those who would like to continue reading the series, we will also offer new issues of each title on our Dark Horse Digital platform.”

Dark Horse Digital Exclusives

This is putting a positive spin on some bad news. Apparently, sales on these titles have dropped enough to make print issues unfeasible, but I’m glad that readers of the series will be able to finish them out, as Sundowners writer Tim Seeley points out: “I’m not sure why some books succeed while others don’t, especially when I know Dark Horse has been making some super-cool, all-new, creator-owned material that I was proud to be part of. But I’m glad they’ve got the dedication and respect to ensure readers and creators get to bring their stories to a logical conclusion.”

Unfortunately, some fans won’t like the format change, as seen in a comment thread at Robot 6. Resurrectionists readers who want print are grumbling about having to rebuy issues they already have in the collection, while others are dropping series because they don’t want to split formats. As someone points out, though, this is more likely to happen more in future, as so much competition makes it tricky for new, creator-owned comics to find shelf space and customers.

Resurrectionists: Near-Death Experienced, collecting the entire series, will now be available August 19 for $19.99. Sundowners Volume 2 will be available August 26 for $19.99, and The Ghost Fleet Volume 2: Hammer Down will be released October 7 for $14.99.

What will be interesting to note in future is whether Dark Horse moves other titles in this direction, or even launches new projects with this digital-to-print format.

KC Recommends the Deluxe DC: The New Frontier

DC: The New Frontier: The Deluxe Edition
DC: The New Frontier: The Deluxe Edition

In his latest Westfield Comics column, KC recommends the new release of DC: The New Frontier: The Deluxe Edition, with a rundown of its contents (particularly in comparison to the out-of-print Absolute Edition) and why it’s such a great read.

They Wrote a Press Release Just for Me! Retailers Order Giant Days Today

Giant Days #1 cover

Today’s the comic shop retailer deadline for orders for comics from the January Previews catalog. One of those items is a new miniseries from Boom! Box, Giant Days by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. I don’t know much about it, and I haven’t seen any sneak peeks, but I am in love with the way the publisher is describing it:

Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird. Combining the humor of Lumberjanes, the sharp wit of Scott Pilgrim, and the positive power of relationships present in Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends With Boys, Giant Days is a quirky coming-of-age adventure.

A good college-set comic series would be welcome, and I have enjoyed reading all three of those comparison books. Giant Days #1 will be available on March 18 for $3.99. The preorder code is JAN15 1155 for the cover shown above, by series artist Lissa Treiman. There’s also a “retailer incentive” by Meredith Gran, shown below:

Giant Days #1 variant cover by Meredith Gran

Possessions Volume 4: The Final Tantrum

It’s been three years since the previous book (author Ray Fawkes was putting out two graphic novels for adults as well as working on several titles for DC in the meantime), but we finally get to find out what the pit demon Gurgazon will do now that she’s broken free of zoo-like captivity. Don’t be misled by the title, though — the series doesn’t end here.

Gurgazon first appeared in Possessions: Unclean Getaway, where she became part of a collection of ghostly curiosities. In book two, The Ghost Table, and book three, The Better House Trap, Gurgazon plotted and schemed to escape her new, ensorcelled home while she (and we) got to know more about her fellow inhabitants.

Each book starts with an origin for one of those other ghosts — in book two, it’s the Ice Field Lights, a presence from the frozen north; in book three, the headless Pale Lady; here, my favorite, the Duke, a possessed jukebox who speaks in song lyrics. Each book also has a signature monochrome color; here, it’s a surprisingly effective orange.

Gurgazon has become gigantic, the better to destroy the houses of the women who collect and restrict the spirits. That’s only a preliminary to summoning the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to destroy the world, as she’s been promising to do for years. Only no one seems to have taken her seriously, the more fools they. We also get some darkly funny flashbacks to Gurgazon’s creation and purpose way back when.

As we learn more about the other cast members, the big mystery that remains is exactly what’s up with the butler, Mr. Thorne, and his near-omniscient abilities to foil the spirits’ escape plans, as well as his astounding survival skills. He tries to rally the other freed ghosts to work together against the massive threats they face, but the question I’m eagerly waiting to see answered is his origin. That’s only one of several open items left at the end of this book, as we see only part of what happens to Gurgazon’s plans and struggles.

Possessions is a fun, different action romp with a horror overlay. Kids, particularly, will revel in the Godzilla-like destruction Gurgazon
indulges in. The fifth volume is planned for 2016. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

Win a Copy of The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness cover

Thanks to the studio, I have two copies of The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, the documentary about Studio Ghibli, to give away in a new contest.

To enter to win, post a comment below telling me your favorite Studio Ghibli film and why. A winner will be picked randomly from all entries on Friday, February 27.

(U.S. addresses only, please. Winners will be emailed to confirm address. If email is not answered within 24 hours or a valid email address is not provided, a replacement winner will be selected. Your email won’t be used for any other purpose.)

She Makes Comics – A Documentary on Women in Comics

I got a chance to watch the Sequart documentary She Makes Comics, which covers “the history of women in comics as creators, fans, and everything in between.” The movie is available from that link as a DVD or digital download.

She Makes Comics cover

From the start, it’s a jolt, a shot in the arm full of passion and enthusiasm as women talk about why they love and make comics. Simply seeing so many women puts the lie to comics being a male-oriented medium, but the content goes on to point out key names and accomplishments in history, accompanied by archival footage and images.

As directed by Marisa Stotter, the film kept my attention with well-paced editing, well-identified commentators, and well-chosen visuals. Key contributors include all the expected names:

  • Trina Robbins
  • Ramona Fradon
  • Wendy Pini
  • Colleen Doran
  • Jackie Estrada
  • Jenette Kahn
  • Michelle Nolan
  • Karen Green
  • Ann Nocenti
  • Louise Simonson
  • Jill Thompson
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick
  • Gail Simone
  • G. Willow Wilson
  • Heidi MacDonald
  • Janelle Asselin
  • Karen Berger
  • Shelly Bond
  • Raina Telgemeier

and many others, including many young creators, as well as a few men, including Paul Levitz and Chris Claremont. Key moments explored are the original diversity of comic genres, the rise of underground comics, convention cosplay, the founding of Friends of Lulu, internet fan culture, the importance of key titles like Elfquest, X-Men, Sandman, and Captain Marvel, and the rise of indy and webcomics supporting diversity. Levitz makes the essential point that simply having Kahn in a leadership position brought in more women, since they saw that there was a space for them. That’s an idea DeConnick returns to, the importance of providing visibility of achievement to the next generation.

I would have liked to have seen more explicit exploration of the conflict between saying that women like more than just superheroes and yet that women aren’t considered successes until they work at DC or Marvel and that much female comic culture revolves around superhero cosplay and fandom. Other than that, She Makes Comics, at an hour and ten minutes, was everything I hoped for and more. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

Catching up With The Double Life of Miranda Turner

Last year, I told you about The Double Life of Miranda Turner, a digital comic by Jamie S. Rich and George Kambadais about a young superhero mentored by her dead sister who formerly had the role. Although the premise sounds angsty, it mostly ignores that in favor of a good amount of comedy and action, driven by creative ideas for villains for Miranda, as the Cat, to battle.

The Double Life of Miranda Turner #4 cover

Two issues, #4 and #5, came out this past winter, with #6 due out March 4. (It’s available to pre-order now.)

For those interested in more about the background of the two young women, issue #4 is for you. It’s a flashback to what happened to Lindy just before her death, as a way to further explore who might have been responsible.

The dialogue is packed with both information and entertainment, as we see the sisters depend on each other through revisiting a traumatic event. Kambadais’s art is capable of wide-ranging images, from hand-to-hand combat to celebrity fundraisers to fantastic superpowers. I was surprised at how mediocre Lindy’s death turned out to be, an ambush instead of taking place in a classic battle with a villain, but that’s a great example of the down-to-earth feel that makes the series appealing.

The Double Life of Miranda Turner #5 cover

Issue #5 continues exploring Lindy’s history, as we meet her friend and former co-worker, Portal, another member of the Alphabet Guild coterie of superheroes, as the creators expand their universe. That’s her on the cover, with an impressively visual (and powerful) ability.

The forthcoming issue #6, out next month, goes even further into history, as Portal shares news of her grandfather, also a hero, and how he fought in Vietnam, before they head out to battle the former Cat’s nemesis. This sets up for a grand showdown — but that’s coming in issue #7.

Since the series follows the Monkeybrain Comics model of 16 pages or so for 99 cents, it’s admirable how much Rich and Kambadais pack into each issue. The first arc is planned to be nine issues, so we’re in the last stretch, where everything starts coming together. (The creator provided review copies.)

From the Earth to Babylon: Gerald Bull and the Supergun

Now that convention season planning is upon us, it’s time for me to go through the stacks of items I picked up at previous shows and madly attempt to catch up. Exhibit A: This limited edition historical graphic novel by Diana Tamblyn she was kind enough to give me at last year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, I think it was.

I like non-fiction comics and graphic memoir. I find them, when done well, wonderful ways to learn about people I wouldn’t otherwise know about. However, this volume — perhaps because it’s labeled Part One — left me feeling confused most of the time.

Gerald Bull and the Supergun cover

I got the impression throughout that I was already supposed to know who Gerald Bell was, and what he was famous for. Perhaps that’s true if you’re a Canadian reader, since he was a scientist there, but I’d never heard of him before, and the book doesn’t lay sufficient groundwork to overcome this feeling of uncertainty. Apparently, based on the book’s web page, a large part of his significance relates to his mysterious death by assassination, but that segment of his life, although casually referred to, doesn’t appear here.

The “supergun” similarly isn’t explained to a novice reader. The most coherent part of the book in regards to that subject is an introductory chapter about the Nazis shelling Paris, an event that isn’t connected well to the rest of the content. It’s a neat read on its own, though. The other events don’t come together well in the bigger picture; perhaps if I was more aware coming in of what we were leading up to, of Bell’s life overall, their selection would have made more sense.

Visually, the content resembles illustrated text, with lots of narration and talking heads. I wish there were more panels that were graphically interesting in content or technique.

The key moments, as far as I can tell, of Bull’s life are included, but I never got a sense of him as a person. We’re told of his schooling (at a young age due to advanced intellect) and his accomplishments, but I never got any idea or suggestion of how he might have felt about all this. Many of the significant personal events in his life, such as his marriage, are glossed over in a narrated panel or two in favor of many sequences on what was being built and how much it cost. Perhaps that’s just a distinction between what the author wants to write and draw and what I would rather read about.

I’d also rather have seen more exploration of different perceptions of the man, particularly near the end, when he turns into an international arms dealer after converting university research into his own company. Tamblyn paints this in a “he had to go out on his own because the government didn’t see how important this research was” light, but I suspect her perspective may be shadowed by her relationship with her grandaunt, who was Bell’s personal secretary during the 1950s. She discusses this in her afterword, where she also talks about working with Bell’s family on this project. That will certainly give the storytelling a particular slant.

Tamblyn mentions that this take on his character differs from the “many books and documentaries made about Bell”, so as a reaction, of course this will read differently to someone who’s seen all those and one who hasn’t. Someone already familiar with him may find this a refreshing corrective; the many who aren’t, though, like me, may be confused by the approach or feel left out. This area may also be explored in more depth in the forthcoming Book Two. (The publisher provided a review copy.)




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