New Marvel S.H.I.E.L.D. Series TV Tie-In Sounds Great

Sometimes, fans worry about media versions of their favorite comics, because they’re concerned that changes they don’t like will be made to draw more interest. However, a new series coming from Marvel tied into the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show sounds like it’s making all the right moves to draw a wide audience.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 cover by Mike Deodato

Cover by Mike Deodato

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 launches in December. It’s written by Mark Waid, who does classic superheroes in fresh fashion, with new and unique ideas. Of course, it’s going to tie into the TV show, which pleases those who want more (or different) with these characters they’ve been watching, as well as making for a familiar starting point, since we already like Melinda May, Leo Fitz, and Jemma Simmons.

It’s going to feature done-in-one missions that are still in continuity with the Marvel universe, which means you can pick up any issue and get a satisfying story (I’m assuming) while still gaining entry into the bigger comic picture, if you want. That structure allows for great artists (who may not want to commit to long runs) to participate. The first issue will be drawn by Carlos Pacheco, with others promised including the great Alan Davis and Chris Sprouse. Said Waid in an online interview,

[S.H.I.E.L.D. has] the best toys. Also, the best allies — anyone and everyone in the Marvel Universe is a potential guest-star in this book, from Doctor Strange to the Thing to Spider-Man to Cloak and Dagger to Groot — if they’ve got the specific skills needed for the task at hand, they’re on the front lines — like it or not.

Executive Editor Tom Brevoort hammers home the advantage the comic has, saying, “We’ve got what amounts to an unlimited budget and the ability to bring in any character at any time. So that’s an advantage that we’re going to press, with the most spectacular set-pieces we can dream up, and involvement from characters from every corner of the Marvel Universe.” I can hardly wait!

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Young Justice on Blu-ray From Warner Archive

The first season of Young Justice, 26 episodes on two Blu-ray discs, will be available from Warner Archive next week, on August 12. (Or you can get it from Amazon at a slightly higher cost.)

Young Justice Season 1

No extras, it appears, but fans of the show (which only ran two seasons) might appreciate having the full season instead of on four separate DVD volumes. (I’ve talked about the first three: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3.) I wasn’t a fan because I wanted to see more female heroes sooner, and I wasn’t thrilled with co-creator/writer Greg Weisman’s response on the subject.

The show wasn’t given a chance to return to finish up its last storyline, but at the San Diego Comic-Con, it was announced that Young Justice will be appearing in an upcoming Teen Titans Go! episode. Here’s the show description:

In Young Justice, being a teenager means proving yourself over and over — to peers, parents, teachers, mentors, and ultimately, to yourself. But what if you’re not just a normal teenager? What if you’re a teenage super hero? How much harder will it be to prove yourself in a world of super powers, super villains, and super secrets? Are you ready to come of age in such a world? Are you ready for life or death rites of passage? Are you ready to join the ranks of the great heroes and prove you’re worthy of the Justice League? That’s exactly what the members of Young Justice — Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis — will find out … whether they have what it takes to be a proven hero.

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Manga in Real Life: Sake Campaign Reminds of Oishinbo

While reading this New York Times article about the drive to raise sake sales by suggesting pairings with Western food, I was reminded of reading Oishinbo a la Carte: Sake. That volume talks about how well sake pairs with seafood; so does this article.


“Sake is surprisingly versatile,” [said Kensuke Shichida, the head of a centuries-old sake brewery in southern Japan]. “I’ve discovered it goes well with many Western recipes, perhaps even better than wine or beer.”

Fresh oysters, for example, usually go well with Champagne or Chablis, which have a crisp acidity. But Mr. Shichida, who runs the 140-year-old Tenzan brewery, says sake works better. The drink is mellower and less acidic, and its cleansing properties help remove the oysters’ briny taste, he said. And sake’s umami — a savory sensation considered to be the “fifth taste” — helps improve their fleshiness….

Sake consumption has fallen sharply in Japan since the 1970s because of a decreasing birthrate and a switch by many drinkers to wine, much of it imported, or other domestic drinks like beer, whiskey, or shochu, a Japanese spirit. Japan exported 5,000 tons of sake in 2012, but mostly to Japanese restaurants, limiting its audience….

For all the gambling on foreign sales, brewers say they have one ultimate aim: bringing sake back in Japan as well.

“If we’re able to tell the Japanese, ‘Look how much foreigners are enjoying sake,’ that would give them an opportunity to rediscover sake and revive demand,” Mr. Shichida said. “We don’t want our culture to disappear. We really don’t.”

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Almost Human Available Through Warner Archive

Almost Human: The Complete First Season

Without much fanfare, Warner Archive has made Almost Human: The Complete First Season available on DVD. There are even special features included: a gag reel, unaired scenes, and footage from the 2013 Comic-Con panel.

The show only ran 13 episodes, starting last year, and it was one of those Fox science fiction projects that had a lot of promise that will never be fulfilled. But it was fun watching Karl Urban play a cop in the future teamed up with an artificial person (Michael Ealy) he didn’t want as a partner.

Fox aired the episodes out of order, so I don’t know which sequence (filming or air) they’re following with this three-disc set. If you order early, you’ll get one of the traditionally replicated (pressed) versions, instead of a made-to-order burned set, since the initial quantities were pressed “in anticipation of high consumer demand.” It’s $30 for the first (and only) season, although if you want to wait a few months, Warner Archive runs regular sales and discount offers. Here’s the official show descripion:

In the cyber-dystopian future we’ve all been promised (2048 to be precise), a worse-for-wear cop (genre superstar Karl Urban) teams up with a soon-to-be-decommissioned second-hand synthetic to fight a strain of urban crime that’s evolved faster than the forces of law-and-order. Detective John Kennex (Urban) survives a catastrophic attack on the city’s police, leaving him with an artificial limb and a hole in his memory. The transition back to active police work is made doubly difficult thanks to a new department policy that requires every cop be paired with a ‘bot. Due to his rather radical partner evaluation methods, Kennex ends up teamed with an outdated “Dorian” android — outfitted with a dysfunctional ‘Synthetic Soul’ program that allows it to have emotional responses. It’s this flawed humanity, however, that connects Dorian and John. And together, they set out to keep the city safe, uncover the criminal conspiracy that threatens to destroy their world and find their common humanity. Also stars Minka Kelly, Mackenzie Crook, and Lili Taylor. From creator J.H. Wyman (Fringe) and J. J. Abrams’ Bad Robot.

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IDW Wants to Make a Dirk Gently TV Show… And Oh, Yeah, a Comic

IDW, which I think of as a comic publisher, has a film and TV development arm called IDW Entertainment that launched in November 2013. Today, they announced an option in connection with Ideate Media (established in April 2013 by the strategic investment arm of the Government of Malaysia which “develops and seeks out stories, talent and properties suitable to engage global audiences, especially, though not exclusively, stories with Asian elements, settings, and themes”) to turn Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency novels into a TV show. They have “the intent of securing a direct-to-series commitment.”

(Nowhere in this press release does anyone mention that there’s already been a Dirk Gently TV series starring Stephen Mangan from the BBC in 2012. It only ran three episodes, and you can buy it on DVD, as shown here.)

The pilot will be written by Max Landis, son of director John Landis, who has previously written the superpowered Chronicle and an upcoming remake of Frankenstein with Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy. He gets the following lengthy quote about his goals:

“Alongside the obvious yada yada I’m a lifelong fan, Long Dark Teatime of the Soul (the second Dirk Gently novel) is one of the best books ever. Douglas Adams is a visionary who forever changed the way science fiction is written and talked about and even thought about and even the way real actual science is thought about and without whom our culture would be noticeably different for the worse, I’d also just like to say holy crap, it’s Dirk Gently. This is any writer’s ultimate project, and in the current TV space, it fits ridiculously well. Imagine a playground where you could come with any mystery, no matter how improbable, convoluted, or totally insane and then, simply by finding the right connections, you could tie it all down to one man, one private eye. If you’re familiar with the property, you know: there’s no freaking rules. Ancient gods? Sure. Larceny and petty crimes? Of course. Extra-dimensional aliens? I mean, probably; as long as you can make it funny, Dirk’s on the case. This is a dream project of mine, no joke, and I absolutely positively couldn’t be happier.”

Near the bottom of the press release, as an afterthought, comes the line, “In addition to the television series, IDW Publishing & Ideate Media will develop a series of Dirk Gently comic books for release next spring.” Those could be fun, depending on who writes and draws them.

As always, an option means we may or may not ever see this project, depending on whether anyone else wants to pump money into it.

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How Not to Approach Someone at a Convention

Earlier this year at a convention, I had an odd encounter that seemed like it could be a learning experience for some.

After appearing on a panel, during that time when people are filing out and in of the room, I was approached by someone who rudely demanded, “You were on the panel — who are you?” I repeated my name and website, and he said he had a website and what its URL was. When silence indicated that no more information would be forthcoming from him, I asked him what it was about. He said he reviewed comics.

This started giving me an odd feeling, particularly when, after the conversation ended, he followed me to another room. He clearly wanted something, but I don’t know exactly what it was. My best guess was either advice or a link, but I still don’t know, exactly, since he did everything wrong and seemed uncomfortable communicating, as though he was expecting me to draw him out.

Here’s what he could have done right:

  1. The most important thing: Have business cards with your name and URL (and any other information you care to share, such as a mailing address if you’re interested in review copies). His URL was one that could be spelled several different ways, and it’s only because I’m doggedly curious that I found it afterwards.
  2. Be polite, not creepy or rude. If he’d introduced himself and said he enjoyed the panel, I wouldn’t have been so weirded out when he asked who I was. An apology for not catching my name the first time would have gone even further.
  3. If you are seeking help and/or advice, be clear about what you’re looking for.
  4. But first, ask if the person has a moment to talk.
  5. Be prepared to briefly describe the project you’re looking for help with or attention for. They call this an elevator pitch, in some circles, but at least have one or two sentences that say what it is and what sets it apart.
  6. If you’re reviewing comics, you need more of a hook than “I talk about what I’ve read lately.” What makes your perspective interesting, or are you selecting books in a particular genre or format? Are you studying a particular subject?
  7. A comic site with no pictures is lame. This is a visual medium, put some images on your site, even if they’re just covers.

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PR: What Not to Do: Omit Key Info From Review Copies

I’ve really come to appreciate PDF review copies. They’re easy to access from multiple locations and devices, they don’t take up shelf space, and they don’t have delays between the query and the receipt of the actual comic. They’re easy for publishers to send out without cost, too. However, they’re so easy to send that it seems some people might not be paying enough attention when mailing.

I recently got an email that included the cover of the comic offered for review (good), a link to download the copy (great), a list of creators (essential), and a couple of paragraphs about the premise (yes!). However, it didn’t include what I consider additional basic information:

  • Release date. Key because I didn’t know whether this book had already been released or was coming up. If the latter, I needed to schedule it instead of talking about it right away — unless the publisher wanted coverage of the book as part of the ordering schedule, in which case I needed that data.
  • Price. Yeah, that’s easy enough to look up online, but I think it should be part of the original mailing, to help assess value to the reader.
  • Future plans. When I looked at the comic, it turned out that it didn’t actually have a conclusion. But I didn’t know when/if we’d see another installment, since none of that detail was included.

I wound up not reviewing the book, in large part because of that last bullet. I don’t want to tell readers about something that may never have a satisfying conclusion. (I know, if this issue doesn’t do well, there likely won’t be another — it’s a frustrating circle, isn’t it?) Basically, this all falls under “when and how can I get this comic?”, information I think is crucial to share with my readers.

Certainly, I don’t expect publishers doing mass mailings to their press lists to customize an email in keeping with my review submission guidelines, but if more of them included more of this information, it would be a help to everyone they’re emailing.

Also, I can’t tell you how many emails I get from publishers that still say “Use this area to offer a short teaser of your email’s content. Text here will show in the preview area of some email clients.” You’re supposed to replace that! But that’s another rant.

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Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty

Archie Comics is tackling the popular “illustrated diary” format (think Dork Diaries or Diary of a Wimpy Kid) with this hardcover starring the Riverdale girl next door, Betty.

It’s aimed for kids 9-12 years old, which is obvious. Although the stories are supposedly about Betty’s fears and struggles entering high school, she seems much younger. It’s a well-known saying that kids like to read up from their age, so that aspect doesn’t bother me; what does is how goofy Betty seems. She was always competent at so many things, from reporting to car repair, but that character is nowhere to be seen in these pages. Instead, this little girl is panicky and goofy, whether she’s starting a dog training service or dreaming of competing on a BMX bike or lying about having a little brother to give the school counselor a problem to help her with.

Another element that seemed out of character to me was how boy-crazy Betty was about Archie. She’s constantly writing about how cute he is or coming up with some scheme to spend time with him. It felt overdone. We do get to see other familiar characters like Jughead, Reggie, and Veronica, who is portrayed as a stereotypical mean girl desperate to be accepted by the older high schoolers. As a result, Betty hangs out with Jughead more than she does anyone else.

As a cartoon, interspersed with the text, Betty looks extremely generic, one step up from a stick figure with a ponytail. Typical of trend-chasing, this book feels a couple years too late to really hit the market. The stories are cute, but they could have applied to any kid character, so there’s nothing uniquely Archie about any of this. It feels like a graft, as though the Archie gang was pasted into a preexisting book just to get something out in this format. New readers might wonder why these particular characters hang out together; Archie fans will find Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty unsatisfying and out of character.

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