Will Brandon Routh Get His Own Superhero TV Series as the Atom?

That story is really in the headline. As part of the CW upfront television presentations, there was brief mention from Flash and Arrow show runners Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Marc Guggenheim that “they’re in ‘very early talks’ on the ‘very general idea’ of an Atom series”. I hope it happens!

Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer

Brandon Routh has been playing Ray Palmer, super-smart corporate head, on the third season of Arrow. Comic fans are expecting him to soon become the Atom, superhero able to shrink.

Previously, Routh came to attention playing Superman in the 2006 Superman Returns. He has also appeared in comic book films Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.

The CW was promoting its superhero shoes to the TV critics and reporters, with a display of costumes, as shown in these tweets from Alan Sepinwall:

iZombie First Look, Show Background

Rose McIver in iZombie

Apparently, I can no longer say “I don’t like zombies”, because I’m looking forward to the upcoming iZombie TV series, launching March 17 on the CW. Here’s the first look teaser:

The show is very loosely based on the Vertigo comic by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, but restructured into more of a procedural, with a case of the week that Liv (Rose McIver) helps solve after eating brains to give herself a victim’s memories and skills. It’s adapted by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright of Veronica Mars, so they clearly know “young women solving crime”.

Alan Sepinwall has more detail, including that “Mike Allred draws the show’s opening credits, as well as the comic book-style panels that appear at the beginning of each act”, which sounds like something to look forward to. Lots more on the show’s goals and influences at that link, including this exchange:

iZombie exists in a universe where all those other zombie movies and TV shows exist, and Liv frequently rents zombie movies to get a better handle on her condition. “It was something we really enjoyed about the show,” said Ruggiero-Wright. “It’s so prevalent in pop culture that we’re having fun that she’s doing that for research. If I became a zombie, that’s what I would do. I would watch The Walking Dead.”

iZombie will run after The Flash, which should make for an enjoyable comic-themed night of TV.

Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers

As laid out in editor Jon B. Cooke’s introduction, Swampmen: Muck-Monsters and Their Makers was originally supposed to come out over 12 years ago. Now, it’s here, labeled as Comic Book Creator #6, but it’s similar in length and content to other TwoMorrows volumes.

Either way, it’s a specialized subject. The book focuses on the swamp monsters of the 1970s comics and in detail on the Alan Moore era of Swamp Thing. Two pages of justification lay out other characters to be covered: Marvel’s Man-Thing, The Heap (first seen in 1942, but reinvented in 1971), and the much-lesser-known Bog Beast (from Atlas/Seaboard), the Lurker in the Swamp (Gold Key), and Marvin, the Dead-Thing (Warren).

In his introductory editorial material, Cooke takes on a small-time huckster voice I suspect is inspired by Stan Lee’s 70s Marvel Soapbox columns. It’s an acquired taste, and not one worth spending time with unless you’re also nostalgic for that comic era. Better to push through to letting the creators and history speak.

Certainly, if you’re interested in the topic, this is exactly the book you want, since it goes into ridiculous detail on the subject. An early piece briefly covers the connection with Theodore Sturgeon’s “It”, a classic short story from 1940 with the core premise of a monster raised from a man’s skeleton in the swamp. The story itself is also reprinted. The character profiles cover origins, not fictionally, but from the creators who came up with or worked on these monsters and comics.

The book is only in color for the first third. The lengthy interviews don’t matter, but the later art reproductions are only in black-and-white. The book starts with comic history, overviews of various appearances and titles, before entering into conversations with key creators known for their work in the genre.

Those interview subjects include Swamp Thing‘s Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson, Rick Veitch, John Totleben, Man-Thing‘s Steve Gerber, Val Mayerik, Mike Ploog, Jim Mooney, and the reason this book probably came out: Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, in a conversation originally conducted in 2002. Given how much is known about him and his work, the more informative piece is a long retrospective with Steven R. Bissette, also from 10 years ago. Between his comments and those of Veitch, the reader will also get some insight into the struggles for creative control and how the corporate publishing companies treated freelancers in that era.

I found it all overwhelming, but I’ve never cared for any of this work. Swampmen won’t make new fans, but existing ones may find new insight into how the comics came together. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

Diamond Releases List of Best-Selling Comics of 2014

Marvel is far and away the most popular publisher in comic shops, both through sales and unit market share quantities. (Those are different because someone could sell a lot of, say, $2.50 comics (if those still existed) and not make as much money as someone who sold fewer $5.99 comics.) While DC sells in the same range of quantity, they’re making less money, perhaps because they offered more $2.99 comics. I expect to see prices continue to rise based on this, as DC seeks to close the gap (which is going to be difficult until they get their now-West-Coast-located house in order).

Diamond Comic Distribution logo

Top Comic Publishers
PUBLISHER DOLLAR SHARE UNIT SHARE
MARVEL COMICS 34.38% 36.78%
DC COMICS 28.86% 32.47%
IMAGE COMICS 9.23% 10.41%
IDW PUBLISHING 5.69% 4.34%
DARK HORSE COMICS 5.07% 4.25%
DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT 2.57% 2.41%
BOOM! STUDIOS 2.23% 2.16%
EAGLEMOSS PUBLICATIONS 1.30% 0.29%
AVATAR PRESS 0.97% 0.83%
RANDOM HOUSE 0.95% 0.30%
OTHER NON-TOP 10 8.75% 5.75%

Otherwise, this list is not particularly surprising. The top five publishers are those that get front-of-Diamond-catalog placement. Eaglemoss puts out Fact Files and character guides that come with pretty nifty figures and/or chess pieces — I wouldn’t consider them a proper comic publisher, but they’re popular in comic shops since they have cool toys. Random House is also Kodansha, with the popular Attack on Titan manga, as well as Vertical.

Top Comic Books
RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE
1 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 $5.99
2 WALKING DEAD #132 $2.99
3 ROCKET RACCOON #1 $3.99
4 DEATH OF WOLVERINE #1 $4.99
5 DEATH OF WOLVERINE #4 $4.99
6 THOR #1 $3.99
7 ORIGINAL SIN #1 $4.99
8 DEATH OF WOLVERINE #2 $4.99
9 DEATH OF WOLVERINE #3 $4.99
10 SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #31 $5.99

Marvel had nine of the ten top comics in 2014. (The tenth was an issue of The Walking Dead. Bad year for DC, with no top titles.) Death of Wolverine was very popular, with everything else a #1 or, in place #10, the last issue of a series which returned Peter Parker as Spider-Man. (Dr. Octopus had previously taken over as the superhero personality in an “only in comics” storyline.) It continued into Amazing Spider-Man, the top-selling comic, written by Dan Slott and illustrated by Ramon K. Perez.

I am stunned to see how many of these comics are $4.99. I hadn’t realized how much Marvel was depending on that price point for event books, and that helps explain the bigger gap between them and DC on dollar share. For the longer list, Marvel had 53 of the top 100 best-selling comics of 2014.

DC’s top comic was Batman #32 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, which came in at #14; overall, DC had 43 of the top 100 comics for the year. That’s 96 total out of 100, demonstrating a continuing duopoly in comic shop comics.

In good news for comic shop, annual sales rose 4.39% over the previous year. Comic book sales were up 4.03%, while graphic novel sales rose by 5.18%. It would be helpful to have some idea of the actual numbers, but that’s not done in the industry, so we can’t tell for sure whether the top-selling book was 100,000, 500,000, or in the millions.

The graphic novel chart looks very different from the periodical listing, with clear dominance by Image Comics, and more, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga.

Top Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks
RANK DESCRIPTION PRICE
1 SAGA VOL 03 $14.99
2 SAGA VOL 01 $9.99
3 WALKING DEAD VOL 20 ALL OUT WAR PT 1 $14.99
4 SAGA VOL 02 $14.99
5 WALKING DEAD VOL 01 DAYS GONE BYE $14.99
6 WALKING DEAD VOL 21 ALL OUT WAR PT 2 $14.99
7 SEX CRIMINALS VOL 01 $9.99
8 WALKING DEAD VOL 22 A NEW BEGINNING $14.99
9 BATMAN VOL 01 THE COURT OF OWLS $16.99
10 SAGA VOL 04 $14.99

All of these are marked for Mature Readers except for Walking Dead Volume 1 (probably an oversight, given how the series progresses) and the Batman book, demonstrating a division in the comic market as adults buy books. It’s also interesting to note that Walking Dead placed both the newest volumes and the starting point.

Note that they’re all also collections of continuing series, not original works or stand-alone stories — the serialization builds up audience awareness, and that it’s continuing gives people something to want to be part of.

*Brick by Brick — Recommended

What a perfect book for a new year! Stephen McCranie has collected various illustrated essays into an inspiring collection of “principles for achieving artistic mastery”.

Brick by Brick cover

This isn’t a how to draw book or a getting hired or publishing comics instruction manual — instead, it’s a collection of thoughts on how to become a good artist, one who is true to oneself, one who learns from the world around them without getting bogged down or discouraged, one who can find the fun in work. He says early on it’s not about how to do, but how to be.

McCranie writes about how to be inspired, where to gain motivation, the importance of knowing what you really want to achieve, how to make it possible to get there, avoiding procrastination, the value of immersion, and staying focused on what you can control. The section on changing goals from something like “getting published” (which depends on other people’s decisions) to “making work that makes it hard not to get published” (which is totally individual) is must reading for any aspiring creative person, but then, I could say that about the whole book.

His title comes from the idea that great art comes from the daily small actions and choices, diligently working towards big goals over time with achievable steps. I loved that simple principle, which seems obvious, but his breakdown and discussion is newly inspiring to take it truly to heart. I also enjoyed his emphasis on life beyond art, on not making work your entire being.

His essays can be read straight through, but the images give the words wings. They demonstrate the emotional affect or exaggerated response that make the text powerful and easy to relate to. His palette of peach and teal is both comforting and energizing.

This is an amazing book, one that has helped me reinforce a couple of my resolutions for this year in prioritizing choices appropriately. More importantly, it’s helped me recover a sense of joy about creation, about the importance of enjoying what you do.

I had borrowed this book from a friend, but now that I’ve read it, I’m buying my own copy immediately, because I want to be able to come back to it. It’s that kind of work, one that you’ll learn from in different ways at different times in your life. You can get it direct from the author at his website. There you can also sample a lot of his material and read beyond the book.

Bruce Campbell to Host Last Fan Standing

Earlier this week, I wrote about Wizard’s upcoming digital streaming network CONtv. Now comes news that the project will launch next month, and one of the original programs will feature Bruce Campbell hosting a game show.

Last Fan Standing with Bruce Campbell

Last Fan Standing will also be produced by Campbell. It will film live at comic conventions, beginning today at New Orleans Comic Con. The audience will play along, competing for cash and prizes, until the top four players battle for the title. More shows will be shot at various Wizard World events, and the series will premiere on CONtv later this year. It’s a neat idea, well suited to the audience, cheap to make but with the potential to be a lot of fun.

Wonder how much Thor’s hammer weighs? Or how much damage the Vorpal Blade would inflict on a 5th-Level Cleric? Fans finally find vindication in their hours studying comics, films, movies, and more with host and horror icon Campbell in this outrageous new quiz show. A collaboration between his own production entity and Pop Quiz Entertainment, this will be Campbell’s first digital series.

“At a live preview during Wizard World’s Chicago Comic Con last August, six hundred screaming fans could barely hold their seats! It was obvious to us that this would be a hit,” said Chris McGurk, CEO of Cinedigm Entertainment. “With a host as beloved in the fan community as Bruce, there’s no better fit for CONtv than Last Fan Standing. We think of this series as a celebration of the pop culture obsession and fan engagement that makes the CONtv audience so special.”

“The audience went crazy for Last Fan Standing when we debuted the game at Chicago Comic Con this summer! CONtv is the perfect place to reach true fans, and we can’t wait to challenge our audiences to find out who is the ultimate pop culture guru,” said Campbell.

“We love that CONtv will be bringing the excitement and action of our conventions to fans across the country,” says John Macaluso, CEO of Wizard World. “By shooting Last Fan Standing on location, CONtv viewers will be able to join in on the fan experience even when they aren’t able to be at the convention in person.”

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis Clips Show It’s Not All Punching

Two clips have been released from the upcoming Justice League: Throne of Atlantis original animated movie, due out January 27.

The first one is the expected action scene, with Cyborg (Shemar Moore) interrogating a computer underwater. Since this movie is all about Aquaman (Matt Lanter, 90210), I expect lots of water scenes.

But the second one is of more interest to me, since it’s focused more on the characters, with Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) trying to pick up a receptionist when he’s interrupted by the Flash (Christopher Gorham). The animation isn’t anything special, with the motions abbreviated to reduce work needed, but the interaction between the two heroes gives me hope for more to this movie than just the battle sequences.

Retailers Select Diamond Gem Awards to Recognize Publisher Sales

Diamond Comic Distributors has announced the winners of the 2014 Gem Awards, prizes “selected by comic book specialty retailers” to recognize “sales achievement”. That last helps explain some of the award divisions. I think it’s interesting to look at what comic book retailers think helped them most last year — these decisions might explain some of what you see stocked in their stores.

Diamond Gem Awards logo

“We established the Gem Awards to give retailers an opportunity to recognize the suppliers, titles, and products that have been instrumental in helping their businesses grow over the past year,” said Diamond President & CEO Steve Geppi. Nominees are chosen “by a panel of Diamond product specialists based on their overall impact on the industry, while comics and related merchandise were chosen on the merits of their sales performance and quality from 2014.” Retailers then vote for the winners.

Publishers of the Year were Image (Over 4% Market Share) and BOOM! Studios (Under 4% Market Share), both good choices. DC Entertainment got the most awards, with seven, including Backlist Publisher of the Year and Best Original Graphic Novel of the Year for Batman: Earth One (presumably the softcover version, since the hardcover came out in 2012). Best Indie Graphic Novel of the Year was Andre the Giant: Life & Legend from First Second.

Other DC awards were

Manga Publisher of the Year was Viz Media, although the “Manga TP of the Year” came from Kodansha, Attack on Titan: Before the Fall Volume 1.

Marvel Comics was declared the Top Dollar Comic Book Publisher of the Year (which is an award I suspect may exist just so all the big pubs get some kind of Pub of the Year recognition) and got both the Comic Book of the Year Under $3.00 for Ms. Marvel #1 and Comic Book of the Year Over $3.00 for Thor #1. (What a weird division! But a good way to recognize more product.) Their other two awards were for Amazing Spider-Man #1 as Top Dollar Comic of the Year, and their Guardians of the Galaxy reprint was Best Free Comic Book Day Book.

The remaining comic awards went to

  • IDW for Best All-Ages Comics: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
  • Dark Horse for Best Anthology (Dark Horse Presents); Licensed Comic of the Year (Serenity: Leaves on the Wind); and Licensed TP/HC of the Year (Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search Library Edition hardcover)
  • Image for Best New Comic Book Series: Outcast

The Trade Book of the Year was The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide Volume 44 from Gemstone Publishing, recognizing a way to value comics for ways other than content.




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