Dark Horse Graphic Novels Now Available on Sequential

The Sequential iPad app has some of the best-known graphic novel publishers in their catalog, and now they’ve added another: Dark Horse.

Sequential app icon

Not all of the publisher’s titles will be available, but the first round of additions include The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Will Eisner’s Fagin the Jew, Bryan Talbot’s Grandville Noël, and Canales and Guarnido’s Blacksad with “many more titles” to follow.

Dark Horse also publishes Usagi Yojimbo and Sin City, which would be good candidates for inclusion, as well as a number of licensed comics, which probably wouldn’t fit with Sequential’s mission to provide “a beautifully presented, carefully curated selection of material that focuses on the richness of the medium outside of the typical superhero offering.”

Dark Horse was best known, digitally, for running its own app and delivery platform for digital comics. As the press release says, “The move makes Sequential the first third-party digital comics app to distribute a full range of titles from Dark Horse.” (At The Beat, Heidi, Todd, and commenters point out that there are lots of caveats attached to that “first” statement, but I read it mostly as a jab at comiXology, which carries most everyone else.)

The quote from Mark Bernardi, Dark Horse’s Director of Digital Publishing, gives an indication as to what Sequential brings, “The app is terrific and their commitment to presenting the best in graphic storytelling mirrors our own. Given their editorial focus and large user base outside the US, this new relationship will help us reach thousands of comics readers who may not already be familiar with Dark Horse, or might know us only for our many successful titles based on licensed entertainment properties.” In other words, Sequential has a significant European presence, both in reach and content, which is an audience that Dark Horse might find promising.

Dark Horse on Sequential iPad app

Wizard World Madison Starts Today, More Local Coverage, Panel Schedule

Following from Tuesday’s post, here’s more information on how the local media are covering the show.

Wednesday’s paper has the Capital Times tabloid-format insert. The CapTimes used to be a separate publication, but now it’s a political/entertainment-focused addition. The back page looked like this:

Wizard World Madison ad

As you’ll notice, there are no women here. Although since the most-promoted female guests are the wrestling-associated Bella Twins, maybe that’s a good thing. There was also a full-page William Shatner interview in this section.

Elsewhere in the paper, everyone got a copy of the Wizard World Madison program guide, which does NOT include the panel schedule. Of those, the most interesting to me are the ones actually talking about comics history, without being an obvious promotional attempt. Here are three with local connections that stood out.

Today, Friday, at 4 PM — “Everything & the Kitchen Sink: Wisconsin’s Underground Comix Scene”
Underground comix, the offshoot of the implementation of the Comics Code Authority in 1954, marked itself as rebellious, as the “X” denotes mature content not allowed by the code. This panel explores Wisconsin as a major epicenter of underground comix and women’s discourse in the 1960s-1970s, with particular focus on the creative outgrowth that spawned the talents of Kitchen, Mitchell, Robbins, and Crumb. [Note: I would have liked to know who’s on the panel, and I think the “Comix with an X means adult” is a myth.]

Saturday at 3 PM — “The Incredible Story of Wisconsin and Comics”
From the Undergrounds to the mainstream, Wisconsin and comics have an intimately interwoven history. Here to talk about that history are people who made it, including George Hagenauer (Kenosha Festival of Cartooning), Milton Griepp (ICv2.com), Maggie Thompson (Comic Buyers Guide), Paul Buhle (Studs Terkel’s Working), and Michael Schumacher (Will Eisner: A Dreamer’s Life in Comics). Danny Fingeroth (The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels) moderates. [Fingeroth also helped put the programming schedule together, I’m told.]

Saturday at 5 PM — “1940: World War II and Comics: The Joker, Robin, the Flash, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and the Spirit!”
75 years ago, in 1940, as the Nazi conquest of Europe continued and the Battle of Britain raged, the United States watched from the sidelines while instituting the first peacetime draft. At the same time, the world of comics was experiencing an incredible sustained period of invention, as The Joker, Robin, Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman, the Spirit, Catwoman, and Captains America and Marvel all debuted! Showing and discussing historical and cultural factors that made that year so important is a panel including Michael Schumacher (Will Eisner: A Dreamer’s Life in Comics), Paul Buhle (Studs Terkel’s Working), Maggie Thompson (Comic Buyers Guide), George Hagenauer (Men’s Adventure Magazines), and Danny Fingeroth (Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics and the Creation of the Superhero). [Fans of Agent Carter — and if you aren’t, you should be — check it out!]

The local morning TV show reported yesterday that three-day passes are sold out, although single-day tickets are still available, and they’re expecting “tens of thousands” of people over the weekend. Lou Ferrigno was on-air today, although I missed seeing it. (It aired at 6:10 AM or something like that.)

The weather for the weekend will have highs in the low 30s, with a slight chance of snow/freezing drizzle Saturday night into Sunday, so I hope attendees bundle up. And that the show has a coat check.

Wizard World Madison Gets Local Press

The Wizard World Madison convention launches its first show this coming weekend. It’s already getting a good amount of local press, like this two-page spread in the local free weekly, Isthmus, emphasizing how geek-friendly our city is.

Wizard World Madison coverage in Isthmus

The numbers cited are a little out of date, since I believe the New York Comic-Con has surpassed Wizard Chicago as the second largest after San Diego, but I hope this prediction is true:

Wizard World Madison is expected to bring in more than $1 million in economic benefit to the city. Even though Wizard World events are scheduled later this year in Midwestern cities like Chicago, Des Moines, and Minneapolis, fans from those areas are expected to trek here, too.

It remains to be seen whether there will be a second Wizard World Madison, since the company hasn’t committed, sensibly waiting to see how this weekend’s show goes. Isthmus is also running a contest for the next two days to win VIP tickets to the show.

Another article was on the front page in last Sunday’s local paper, the State Journal. The comic store photo with it is my local store, Westfield Comics. And I’m glad to see that article go beyond the usual superhero/zombie mentions.

Wizard World in Wisconsin State Journal

Digital Manga Starts Overlapping Kickstarters

Digital Manga continues to ride the Kickstarter wagon. Although their effort to reprint the Finder series is currently struggling, they announced a new Kickstarter, making two they currently have in progress with more to come.

Finder yaoi promo

Finder (not the excellent SF graphic novel series) is a title by Ayano Yamane that Digital Manga calls “undeniably one of the best yaoi manga series in BL existence!” I’ve never heard of or read it, so I can’t speak to that. What I can say is that

  • they want $45,000;
  • they’re effectively charging $15 a book (when many of them are $12 or so on Amazon;
  • they titled the effort “Finder Vol. 1-6 Restock” when they list seven books as offerings, confusing the casual reader;
  • with 13 days to go, they’re less than 60% funded, with over $25,000 pledged

Kicktraq has them expected to only get 85% of goal, based on current patterns, but they also predicted that the Tezuka Ludwig B wouldn’t succeed, and that managed to pull together success at the last minute. The Finder books are due out in April.

Digital Manga promises that if their Finder effort succeeds, “we’ll immediately start working on the next yaoi kickstarter.”

Alabaster Kickstarter

The new Kickstarter is for another Tezuka project, Alabaster. It’s a two-volume series about a vengeful guy with invisible skin described as “darker than Tezuka’s usual fare… a thriller suspense revenge story that touches on the dark side of humanity and the extent one would go to get even.” This one will ship in September, if they get the $29,200 they’re looking for by the end of the month. (Phrased that way, it starts looking like publishing as extortion. “You want this series, hunh? Better pay up!”)

They’re a good 40% of the way there in the first week, so the forecast for this one looks much more promising. That’s in spite of them asking $36 for the two books in print, $6 more than the expected cover retail price. It’s another $4 if you also want the digital companion “filled with data on Japanese culture, history, and Tezuka-style references.” That’s a new twist, paying extra for the endnotes.

They’re also launching “Kickstarter collectibles” to encourage fans to pledge for all their campaigns going forward. It’s a “collector’s edition” laser-printed wooden coin. That’s deviously smart, and it’s available at pledges of $72 and up. If this makes it to $39,000, they’ll also reprint Swallowing the Earth with better paper.

Digital Manga, on the Alabaster Kickstarter page, acknowledge that they’re running multiple efforts at once:

As you may know, we at DMI have another Kickstarter campaign running along with Alabaster. We’re aware that it may seem like a lot of work to fulfill everyone’s expectations and publish the series out in time. There are separate teams in the office working on different campaigns but we are in close communication with each other to monitor each other’s progress. Since this is a publishing house, the production team is used to working on various projects at once while maintaining quality control, checking and rechecking each other’s work.

I’m glad that they remember they’re a publisher. Sometimes it seems like they aren’t sure.

Young Justice: Invasion

OK, everyone who told me, when I said I didn’t like Young Justice, that it got better, was right. Young Justice: Invasion, the renamed second and final season of the animated series, is much more watchable. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to watch the whole thing in one long day.

At the start of this season, we’ve jumped ahead in time five years, which means the characters aren’t so whiny and juvenile, a plus. The overarching theme is battling alien invaders. First, there are little, lizard-like aliens hiding in human-looking bodies (as in Men in Black). The Justice League and Young Justice split up to send a group to Rann to investigate the plot while other groups break up the encroachers’ secret headquarters on Earth.

As the season progresses, there are different attackers, from Mongul to various friends revealed to be enemies in disguise and vice versa. Soon enough this turns into a super-villain group vs the superhero group, with a revelation of a surprise twist related to what happened over the five-year gap (a phrase I can’t help typing, given my long-running time in Legion of Super-Heroes fandom).

Finally, there’s a group of aliens called the Reach that kidnaps humans to experiment on them. They also are attempting to infiltrate society from the inside, presenting themselves as allies. A particularly entertaining subplot to me was G. Godron Godfrey (Tim Curry, excellent casting) riling up anti-alien paranoia from his TV show with a greasy, insinuating, all-too-realistic tone. Using aliens allows for battle without ramifications to the kids, unlike fighting humans.

The Young Justice team, managed by Nightwing (voiced by Jesse McCartney), often splits up into Alpha, Beta, and Delta Squads, so we get different combinations of heroes. Key players (and their actors) are:

  • Blue Beetle (Eric Lopez)
  • Robin (Cameron Bowen)
  • Superboy (Nolan North)
  • Miss Martian (Danica McKellar)
  • Beast Boy (Logan Grove)
  • Bumblebee (Masasa Moyo)
  • La’gaan (aka Lagoon Boy, who has the Hulk-like ability to inflate himself into an imposing muscle-bound appearance) (Yuri Lowenthal)
  • Wonder Girl (Mae Whitman)
  • Batgirl (Alyson Stoner)
  • Wolf, a giant white dog who apparently joined in S1

It’s great to see more characters in the regular cast. I also liked seeing mention of the bigger Justice League as well, since that means glimpses of lots of favorites (including Rocket!). They’re led by Captain Atom, oddly. (I’ve never liked him.) Later on, there’s a spin-off group featuring Static and three reworked Super Friends (Tye/Apache Chief, Ed/El Dorado, and Asami/Samurai), which I found both amusing and surprisingly effective in a modern story.

But first, there’s an intriguing episode not really suited for a “children’s cartoon” in which former teammates try to help a burned-out Red Arrow (now a clone?) (Crispin Freeman) obsessed with finding the original Speedy. He fulfills the “really angry” character part that Superboy has since grown out of.

The show, because of more complex motivations like that, kept my interest much more than recent animated DC movies or the previous season did. I can see why it didn’t go over well, though, since it’s a fairly major change in direction to expand beyond the “boys 7-11″ target category. More significantly, it’s a pretty big challenge trying to do more substantial work for a company who probably looked at the expanded cast and thought “oooh, more toy options”.

A continuing focus on Blue Beetle allows for further exploration of the theme of aliens among us, since his powers and supersuit come from a scarab possessing him. Various revelations play out in future episodes, such as when Artemis (Stephanie Lemelin) returns. Young Justice: Invasion seems to have been conceived as a real series, with continuing ramifications, even as the episodes have their own stories. The alliances and motivations are much more pleasingly complex than I expected.

I loved the bit in episode 2 where Adam Strange (Michael Trucco) needs to distract some guards and does so by quoting Jabberwocky and other Lewis Carroll at them. As you might suspect, I also enjoyed the Impulse (Jason Marsden) episode (written by Peter David) because of how much the wisecracking speedster shakes things up.

The animation here looks very good, building a compelling world. Since the series was cancelled abruptly, there are a few minor loose ends left (and room for me to hope one particular revelation of the finale could be reversed), but nothing substantial or atypical of the genre.

The Blu-ray set has two discs for 20 episodes, 10 on each disc. The only options on the first disc are subtitles and an episode listing. Watching the subtitles shows that they weren’t done with the quality one might hope for, since Zatanna’s name isn’t spelled consistently or correctly the first two times it’s used. The second disc has commentaries for the series finale episodes “Summit” and “Endgame” by show creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti and voice actors Jason Spisak (Kid Flash) and Stephanie Lemelin (Artemis). They’re ok to listen to, if a bit self-congratulatory and lacking any new information.

There’s also a 16-minute “Behind the Scenes” featurette filmed halfway through season 1 teasing what’s coming up with the show joining the “DC Nation” programming block. It’s mostly Weisman talking, and I didn’t learn anything new from this either. (The studio provided a review copy.)

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

The latest original animated DC Universe direct-to-video movie is much like the others: mediocre animation, lots of fighting, and little to interest anyone looking for more than yet another superhero battle. I found it so tedious I couldn’t get all the way through it. But then, I’ve never been much of an Aquaman fan, due to the flavor of fantasy ruler he carries.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis tells the origin of Aquaman (voiced by Matt Lanter). Before he realizes he’s heir to the undersea kingdom, he’s a roughneck-looking dude who lives in a lighthouse, gets in a fight rescuing a lobster from being dinner, and doesn’t understand why knives break on his skin but doesn’t seem to care much about it either. Here’s a clip where Mera, Atlantean warrior (Sumalee Montano), saves him from an attack:

The Atlantean queen Atlanna (Sirena Irwin) wants to reclaim her son Arthur because “the only hope for peaceful existence with the surface dwellers is the one of both worlds”. Her other son Orm (Sam Witwer), who becomes Ocean Master, is too warlike. Much battle ensues when the Atlanteans attack the non-water world.

Aquaman battles Ocean Master in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

But before that, Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), on a date with Superman (Jerry O’Connell), has to have the concept of a secret identity explained to her, and Lois Lane (Juliet Landau) shows up and gets all possessive of “Smallville”, as she calls him. (That love triangle is the movie *I* want to watch!) Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) is an adolescent, wise-cracking, idiot skirt-chaser who can’t figure out why Batman (Jason O’Mara) might not want help (he’s got a longer-range secret plan). All these characterizations are two-dimensional shortcuts to things you’ve seen before. So are the plot events.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

The art design is rough, generic, static, and low-cost-looking. Simple designs are easier to farm out to countries where cartoons are cheaper to make, but they don’t make for attractive viewing. The voices are less distinctive than they used to be in these films, particularly Batman (who sounds like he’s trying too hard), except for the fun of hearing Nathan Filion as Green Lantern. You can hear Batman here, along with the Flash and the character they’ve renamed Shazam:

I can’t figure out why Warner Bros. keeps putting these films out. I guess they sell enough to make it worthwhile. I suspect these projects have found their audience and it’s not much different from the folks buying the comic books. That may be why the movies are coming to resemble their print inspirations more and more.

The extras are not particularly interesting. “Scoring Atlantis: The Sounds of the Deep” is a half-hour on the sound portrait. It’s an unusual choice for a superhero cartoon movie featurette, but not one I found particularly interesting. It ties into the option to run the entire film with only the background music, though. That replaces the usual commentary; this edition has none.

“Villains of the Deep” (11 minutes) is about Black Manta and Ocean Master, in which a professor talks about how Shakespearean it is to battle one’s brother for control of the throne. Excerpts from the Throne of Atlantis panel from the 2014 NY Comic-Con run about 27 minutes. I miss the in-depth explorations of the comic sources they used to do as extras, but filming writers and artists costs extra money. (And it might give them the idea that they’re valuable as creators!)

“Robin and Nightwing Bonus Sequence” is a four-minute short introduced by James Tucker, executive producer of DC DTV line of DVDs, about a 45-second cut sequence that helps connect the Batman and Justice League animated movie lines. Speaking of which, a ten-minute Batman vs. Robin sneak peek points out how it follows up from Son of Batman. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

Loopy de Loop: The Complete Collection

Review by KC Carlson

An extremely rare piece of Hanna-Barbera history was recently released from the Warner Archive. Loopy de Loop is frequently described as Hanna-Barbera’s “lost” character. He was a relatively long-running character (debuting in 1959 and ending in 1965), but unlike popular HB characters Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and The Flintstones — whose prime-time series ran approximately during the same time as Loopy’s run — you couldn’t see Loopy’s adventures on your television screen. Loopy de Loop cartoons were only shown in movie theaters, most likely only in front of Columbia Studios releases.

By then, most of the major studios had already halted their theatrically released cartoons — or, like Disney, were rapidly winding down their production of shorts. Warner Bros. was still making Looney Tunes in the early 1960s, and DePatie-Freling (spinning off from Warner Bros.) would have a hit series with the Pink Panther cartoons starting in 1964, but except for an odd release here and there, the once thriving studio-driven theatrical cartoons had all left the theater and moved to television by the end of the 1960s. Loopy de Loop largely got left behind… and forgotten.

“Fe Fi Fo Foop, I smell the blood of Loopy de Loop!”

Barely mentioned in most animation histories (and, oddly, almost not mentioned at all in most books specifically about Hanna-Barbera), Loopy de Loop is animation’s lost… er… wolf. Sure, the cartoons were supposedly syndicated in 1969 (a bare-bones, detail-free IMDb page exists as a placeholder), but I’ve never seen them on TV. In fact, I’ve seen more Wally Gator, Touché Turtle, and Lippy the Lion and Hardy-Har-Har (other “famous” HB obscurities) cartoons on TV than I have of Loopy.

The Loopy de Loop series was Hanna-Barbera’s only theatrical series release of a regular character in the company’s history. Of course, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were no strangers to theatrical cartoons, having being the creators and directors of the popular and long-running (and multi-Academy Award-winning) MGM Tom & Jerry series. And HB did further animated theatrical feature releases — most notably Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear in 1964 and A Man Called Flintstone in 1966.

“My name is Loopy de Loop. I am honest, friendly, and charming!”

His trademark self-introduction, “I am Loopy de Loop, the good wolf,” tells us a lot. Unlike most stereotypical fictional wolves, known to be bad, evil, sneaky, ferocious… (there’s even a really annoying song about big and bad wolves, produced by another animation company), Loopy is kind, friendly, helpful, and a self-appointed good Samaritan. Or, as it’s frequently quoted in the cartoons themselves, he’s “kind, considerate, and charming.” For that, he is rewarded by the very people he helps by being run out of town or beaten up — just because he’s a wolf. (Kinda like a lot of Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons, frankly.) His most prominent trait is his mangling of the English language in a very bad French-Canadian accent. Like most other Hanna-Barbera characters, he is naked (he’s a wolf after all…), except for a hat (a classic toque style, in this case), and something around his neck (here, an ascot).

There are a total of 48 Loopy de Loop cartoons on this two-disc DVD-R collection. That’s over five hours of Loopy de Loop cartoons. They are fun to watch in small doses, but I don’t recommend watching the entire set in one sitting!

Loopy mangling English: “You are making too much of the mischief!” “I le-goofed!”

Some of the things you will witness watching these cartoons include Red Riding Hood with a shotgun; Loopy thinking he is a dog after a visit to a psychiatrist; various ne’er-do-well wolves who do not like Loopy because he is nice; a walking egg with a shotgun; Loopy frequently being shot into space; Loopy attending a people party, where all the partygoers are apparently Peter Lorre, Ed Sullivan, Jimmy Durante, and Maurice Chevalier imitators; hipster wolves; elderly Musketeers; a horse that talks like Jimmy Durante; a huge tough-guy mouse; and a lot of John and Marsha references (a very popular Stan Freberg novelty single of the era). “Bear Hug” is a cartoon that I can’t even begin to describe. All my notes say are “weird-ass cartoon.” Perhaps I had been watching too long by then…

Quotes used as subheads in this article are actual quotes from the cartoons.

“With a mouse on my head, I guess there’s nothing to do but faint!”

Notable creators on the series include voice actors Daws Butler (who voices Loopy), Don Messick, Paul Frees, and Hal Smith. June Foray (Rocket J. Squirrel) and Jean Vander Pyl (Wilma Flintstone) provide practically all the female characters. Later in the series, both Janet Waldo (Judy Jetson) and Mel Blanc (do I have to tell you?) make cameo voice appearances, for all you completists out there.

The bulk of the cartoons are written by HB mainstays Warren Foster and Michael Maltese. The latter is best known for collaborating with Chuck Jones on some of Warner Brothers’ best (and favorite) cartoons, including Duck Dodgers, the Bugs/Daffy/Elmer hunting trilogy, “What’s Opera Doc?”, “Duck Amuck”, “Feed the Kitty”, “Bully for Bugs”, Robin Hood Daffy, and, of course, “One Froggy Evening”. His Loopy cartoons are the ones to watch for, as he does the most breaking of (or subverting) a lot of the series clichés. The overuse of fairy tale characters and too many “Loopy is a bad guy because he’s a wolf” misunderstandings are two major ones.

After Warner Brothers stopped producing new animation shorts, Maltese also had a very productive career at HB writing many of their classic early series, including The Quick Draw McGraw Show (featuring Snooper and Blabber and Augie Doggie and Doggy Daddy); Wacky Races; episodes of The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Top Cat; and one of my personal favorites, The Impossibles (rock stars who were also superheroes fought completely wacked-out villains). Sadly, The Quick Draw McGraw Show is still not available on home video. Hint, hint, Warner Archive!

One of the more interesting things about the Loopy de Loop series is that since it was produced as a handful of individual cartoons over a number of years (as opposed to the usual series method of getting an order for a season of 13 half-hour episodes, and having them produced by the same creative team all in a short period of time), is that the animation and design of the series fluctuates quite a bit from cartoon to cartoon — further making it a unique Hanna-Barbera series.

“Congratulations, Loopy! You’ve got what it takes to be shot to the moon by amateurs!”

Since this is presented by Warner Archive (under the “Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection” banner), it has not been restored to the extent that the more popular (and first released) HB series were, but the occasional cartoon with some scratches or uncorrected color is a small distraction when opposed to not having these officially available. I’m happy to see Warner Archive dipping more into the early 60s HB material, and I encourage them to do more and for you to purchase them. My personal wish list: Ruff and Ready, the aforementioned Quick Draw McGraw Show, Wally Gator, Touché Turtle, Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har-Har, Atom Ant, and Secret Squirrel. (The studio provided a review copy.)

It’s Con Season Already! Enter Now for SPX Table Lottery

SPX 2015

I’m not ready, but then, I rarely am. My convention season starts next weekend with Wizard World Madison, and with more great shows coming up in the spring (TCAF, MoCCA Fest), I’m already checking vacation schedules and travel plans.

If you want to table at a show, you have to plan even further in advance. SPX, for example, has just opened their lottery registration for the roughly 110 tables available this way (half the total). If you want to exhibit there (and you haven’t already been invited), then you have until February 15 to enter. Winners will be announced in mid-March, with payment due April 15. SPX 2015 will be held September 19-20 in Bethesda, Maryland.

Which shows are you looking forward to this year?

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