KC’s Previews for December 2014

As happens monthly, KC has run down his picks for notable items in the latest Previews catalog for Westfield Comics. Part One explains why IDW’s Corto Maltese reprint program is so significant. KC also covers significant releases of comic book reprints.

Part Two tackles the super-sized books (omnibus editions and such) as well as classic comic strips.

*Finder: Third World — Recommended

The newest Finder volume is the tenth (following Finder: Voice), although that doesn’t matter, since the series is more like a set of novels with the same setting and some of the characters than a typical serialized comic series. It’s also the first in color (done by Jenn Manley Lee and Bill Mudron), which takes a little getting used to but makes the full world more substantial.

Surprisingly, it’s also a great starting point. Third World follows Jaeger as he takes a new job delivering packages for a courier service. His ability to go almost anywhere suits the position well, and the setup brings him in contact with a wide variety of character types. Carla Speed McNeil is exploring a huge diversity of her world’s settings here, as well as using the contacts to show us a lot more about who Jaeger is and what he’s afraid of. This is the most we’ve learned about the character since his introduction in Sin-Eater, the first two books of the series.

The introductory stories are short, demonstrating Jaeger’s creativity and determination, setting up the concept, reminding us of his personality, and exposing us to this civilization. I could have read several more chapters of this type, because they’re fascinating. Dark humor, creative extrapolations on a future culture, clever twists, touching or disturbing interactions, even a ghost story populate this section, before Jaeger is abandoned outside the big cities. McNeil describes her series as “anthropological science fiction”, a wonderful summation, and one that allows her to explore a huge variety of story types and characters.

That leads into the meat of the volume, where Jaeger’s background and some of the strange creatures of this world become more prominent. The final section postulates a disturbing medical world that puts him into a life-threatening cliffhanger.

McNeil’s art is astounding, full of character and action. Even when a character is sitting silent, there’s a tension and a dynamism that keeps us focused on them. She’s clearly thought through her fully realized world, as demonstrated in the extensive annotations, my favorite part of the book. Beyond the stories, beyond the fiction, there are the author’s observations on references, homages, artists I’m not familiar with (but should be), notes that add depth to the scenes, and comments on the larger world. They make every volume something to read multiple times.

I’m a tad disappointed that I’m left wondering how Jaeger’s going to survive — although I have no doubts that he will — and that’s only because I don’t know how long it will be until the next book. I’ll be eagerly awaiting it.

How Manga Pricing Works

Over at the Diagonal, the Vertical Tumblr, Ed Chavez, the Marketing Director for the notable manga publisher, has put out some insight into how manga volumes are priced. (I’m assuming that Ed handles the Tumblr. It’s not credited.)

Vertical logo

First, in relation to an announcement of two upcoming titles, a fan complains that the seinen titles (those manga aimed at adult males) are priced at $13 instead of $10. The response includes some key facts about Vertical’s pricing:

  • All seinen releases are at least $12.95. This is due to the inclusion of color pages and the bigger format size.
  • Hardcovers are priced at $20 or above.
  • The price points for the company have stayed the same for six years.
  • Shonen and shojo titles are priced at $10.95
  • In Japan, seinen titles are also usually more expensive that shonen and shojo.
  • This is due to seinen generally selling less than the younger-focused genres.

A later post lists all of Vertical’s titles, with prices, since 2009. There’s a good discussion of pricing decisions there, based on the success of the market. I’m impressed to see a publisher being so open.

Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics

As a followup to last year’s Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics, Mike Madrid now has a companion volume out. Vixens, Vamps & Vipers: Lost Villainesses of Golden Age Comics focuses on some of the bad girls and evil women published from 1940-1950.

Below you’ll find an image of the 22 villains featured in the book. Each gets a short text profile and a reprinted story (in black and white, which is an unfortunate limitation of the book; I can only imagine how vivid some of this energetic art was in color). They’re grouped into four sections, each with an introduction by Madrid.

  • Vicious Viragos — the masterminds and murderers
  • Beauties & Beasts — women motivated by their beauty or alternately, their scars
  • A Rainbow of Evil — the Dragon Ladies and jungle queens, the only way women of color could have prominent roles in early comics
  • Crime Queens — reprints from Crimes by Women, a series dedicated to the supposed true stories of female criminals

There’s a good amount of “wow, how crazy was that?!” reaction to some of these characters, such as the Nazi Amazon Fraulein Halunke; the half-man, half-woman He-She (who fights the teenaged Crimebuster and his monkey Squeeks); the Two-Face-like, half-scarred, former model Nadya Burnett; the pirate queen Skull Lady; and the snake-like Indian Veda and her poison lipstick.

Most interesting to me was Madrid’s opening essay, where he makes the case that only by being evil could female characters demonstrate freedom and self-identity. While the heroines often had to operate under secret identities to camouflage their activities, by becoming villains, women could be their full self and aim for power and control, even if that meant killing people.

(The publisher provided an advance review copy.)

A Valuable Reminder for Comic Women

The following sketch was done for me by Rob Walton (Ragmop). I thought it was from the one and only Philadelphia Comicfest in 1993, but googling suggests it was more likely 1996. Release dates confirm that, since the Ragmop comic started in 1995.

Rob Walton sketch

As you can see, it says “We women have to stick together.” That’s his character Alice on the left, and well, me on the right. I’d stopped by his table to tell him how I liked his series, which had a handful of issues out at that time. Later, he presented this to me as a surprise, which touched me, to say thank you for talking up his work (which happened on Usenet, back then). I’ve hung it in my office at work, as a reminder.

Comic Publishers Aren’t Looking for Writers

At least, that’s the message I took from Steve Morris’ useful round-up of submission guidelines for comic writers.

Stack of mail

The best-known flat-out don’t accept unsolicited submissions. Others only want to see completed comics or, at least, pitches from creative teams with several pages of sample art, which means an aspiring writer has to find an artist to team up with. You want to write comics? You’re going to have to do a lot of work, including talent review and networking.

This makes sense — there are so many aspiring comic writers that they’re a drag on the market. Everyone thinks they have a story for their favorite character, but a career as a writer takes a lot more than just generating ideas. Better to work with someone who knows the value of an artist and how hard it can be to get a comic published and sold.

Saturday Night Live Makes Fun of Marvel Movie Success

From Saturday Night Live this past weekend, guest-starring Chris Pratt.

Two key points: They’re already making fun of the idea of Ant-Man as a movie. And the line “We don’t even need comic books any more” I hope is not prophetic.

Happy Non-Existent National Comic Book Day! Have Some Free Comics

Apparently, today is National Comic Book Day, although no one knows why. But at least ComiXology is giving away 25 free comics, today only, to celebrate. They’re from Boom!, IDW, Oni, and Valiant, for the most part.

National Comic Book Day  2015

I really liked their feature where you could add them all to your cart, apply the discount code, and then remove the ones you didn’t want. I ended up only with a handful — some of these have been given away before, and some I knew I wasn’t interested in — but they’re ones I look forward to reading. Here are my picks for the ones worth the effort:




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