It seems that at every major comic convention, IDW is afresh with announcements of new comic releases, media growth, and more. This year is no different, as the publisher and media company is eager to share all manner of information regarding a number of upcoming titles, as well as their mysterious collaborative imprint with Shelly Bond, known only so far as Black Crown.
Collected at this Year’s IDW panel are: Sarah Gaydos, group editor; David Hedgecock, Editor-in-Chief; Chris Ryall, Chief Creative Officer; And Scott Tipton, writer of comics such as Star Trek; Aubrey Sitterson, writer of comcis such as G.I. Joe. Chris Ryall began by discussing some of the companies exciting new releases. “Have anyone read Locke and Key by Gabriel Rodriguez?” he asked. The series in question is, in my opinion, fantastic and visually mesmerizing. “He has a story of his own that he is very excited for, and so are we. It’s called Sword of Ages.” The story of Sword of Ages follows that of Excalibur, “the sword of legend.” Before King Arthur, and before the sword is ever placed in stone, the sword belongs to a faraway planet, years and years before it makes it’s way to Earth. Ryall added “It’s unlike anything he’s done before.” IDW is hoping for an October release.
Following digital comic trends, it appears IDW will be soon getting an app on Microsoft’s XBOX One consoles. Sarah Gaydos said that this will be more of a “soft-release,” as more additions and changes will be rolling out for it after its eventual release. No other information about the app is currently available, but more will be made known in the days leading up to its sometime release this year.
Utilizing its vast access to the Hasbro franchise universe, David Hedgecock discussed how IDW will be launching this July Rom VS. Transformers: Shining Armor. The older franchise character will finally cross paths with other metallic beings unlike himself. Hedgecock also said that, “There will be an introduction of a new, important character in the Hasbro mythos.”
For the world of G.I. Joe, Aubrey Sitterson had much to say on his comic. “G.I. Joe is the oldest Hasbro franchise… wait, no. I was once CORRECTED by someone, who told me it is actually Mr. Potato Head who is the oldest franchise.” After some bantering and kidding about an impeding Mr. Potato Head comic, Sitterson went on. “Let’s just say G.I. Joe is ONE of the oldest franchises… When I got this project, I just saw how [it] didn’t quite fit anymore with the other Hasbro universes.” To rectify this, it was decided on that big changes would be made to the comic, both in story and visuals. “We are working on re-workings of many of the character’s looks, the comic’s colors, the artwork in general… we even have a Transformer on the G.I. Joe team now.” So far, three issues are out for the comic, with of course plans of more to soon follow.
The biggest and most anticipated news of the panel however was that regarding the mysterious Black Crown, a branding collaboration with IDW and the industry fixture Shelly Bond. Ms. Bond was mysteriously missing from the table, until she popped out from the front row of the crowd and plopped herself at the main table. Also called to the table was a woman by the name of Tess Fowlerand, who’s importance was soon to be made known.
Of the imprint news, Sarah Gaydos said we have to wait until June. However, for Black Crown’s first comic, that’s where Bond and Fowlerand came into the picture. “I’m very, very happy to announce that Black Crown’s first monthly comic is called Kid Lobotomy!” The project itself was described by Shelly Bond as, “If King Lear meets Kafka by way of Frankenstein.” The preliminary art gives the impression of gothic-horror with a dash of Lovecraft. The story is being written by British writer Peter Milligan, while the artwork is done by Tess Fowlerand.
Kid Lobotomy is to represent the aim of Shelly Bond’s Black Crown, an imprint meant for dark and gothic stories. Taking it a step further, Bond also shared that all her stories will exist in the same universe, with a pub aptly named “The Black Crown” as a sort of joining point for all of them. Here, we will even see the various characters of the eventual later comics talking and interacting with each other. “I’m very proud of what IDW has allowed me to do, will allow me to do with this,” she said brimming with pride.
Indeed a great many things are instore for IDW, as is always the case. The “crown” for IDW this year I feel will be this new imprint. More news is supposedly slated for June, while Black Crown itself and Kid Lobotomy will have to wait until October to be fully realized.
When comic creators decide on doing a crossover, it’s pretty much guaranteed that shenanigans will ensue. When Marvel deemed that Deadpool and Howard the Duck should “join forces,” they might have taken that a little too literally.
Writer Stewart Moore and artist Jacopo Camagni have done a wonderful job in steering us down this Alice in Wonderlandish rabbit hole called a comic, where in which they filled the hole with anthropomorphic characters, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and nanobot filled barf. The idea of both Deadpool and Howard the Duck inhabiting the same body seems like a pure strike of comedic-genius, but Moore and Camagni took the zaniness a step further with the inclusion of characters like Doctor Bong (who’s been chasing the likes of Howard since 1977) and the familiar ball of “furry-fury” that is Rocket Raccoon.
The writing was a well-done marriage with the two worlds of Howard the Duck and Deadpool; The anti-hero talking waterfowl who is constantly drowning in all the crap the universe throws at him, and the anti-hero/mercenary for hire who takes all the crap that gets thrown at him and shoves it down said universe’s throat. The banter between the two characters alone, who find themselves inhabiting the same body, would have undoubtedly gotten tired and stale if it weren’t for the supporting characters that breathed fresh conflict and confusion into the over-the-top story. The fourth-wall breaks that are utterly Deadpool are all present, as well as perpetual disappointments that are purely Howard. As a fan of both characters (I was THAT kid who loved the 1986 flop that was the Howard the Duck movie FYI), I felt that every box was ticked.
Camagni’s artistry really pulls through, doing justice to nearly every Marvel character. I say “nearly” because I thought that Rocket Raccoon looked a little too “bottom-heavy” for my taste. His take on Doctor Bong is quite good as well, lending to the fact that Camagni is very use to drawing the male form. Bong should be truly flattered, as it appears that the artist gave him a little extra “padding” down there (he REALLY seems to like making men bottom-heavy). Even the coloring of Israel Silva was a proper balance of gritty mutes and shades of red. It could have been easy to mistakenly gone with the terrible color palettes that have plagued certain Howard the Duck issues in the past, but thankfully the colorist avoided that.
True, the ending was a bit anti-climatic, but I think that it’s ultimately befitting as nothing goes completely as the two anti-heroes would like. Violent, gross, and overtop are all words that describe the five-issue mini-series that is Deadpool the Duck, which means it’s creators truly nailed it. The biggest issue with this series is that it’s already over. Do I smell sequel, perhaps? Or is that just that nanobot-filled-barf again?
Coming out March 15th, find Marvel’s Deadpool the Duck at your local comic shop. Holding out for the collection? Issues 1-5 is slated to release on June 13th 2017.
Arcade fighter fans won’t have a hard time recognizing Capcom’s respective Street Fighter and Darkstalkers franchises. Any and all storylines have been separate at best, surrounding their various video game iterations, cartoons, comics, and mangas. Last week however, the combat driven Street Fighter series and the spookier Darkstalkers series finally crossed paths in UDON’s new mini-series Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers.
The comic by Matt Moylan and Hanzo Steinbech opens in the Darkstalker Dimension, where we are first see the likes of Jedah staging a coup. The art style is a cross between a cartoon and a manga, using a great deal of colors while maintaining a level of relative realism (as much as fighting demons and living mummy-kings can be real). The detail and shading work is well done, but perhaps a little more contrast with lighting and shadows and a little more texture would make it resemble an edgier comic of which the likes of the Darkstalkers franchise deserves. Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers #0 boasts 3 extra variant covers, the main story cover featuring Lilith sitting on a pile of Street Fighters, made by Edwin Huang, where the different variants are entitled “Homage Cover” by Panzer, “Poster Homage Cover” by Joe Vriens, and “Friend Pie Exclusive” also by Panzer.
The writing is standard, but it’s not really the writing that fans come for with these respective franchises. The action feels just like one of their fighting games. The interest for this comic series will be how the two groups interact, and what plans Lord Jedah has instore for the Street Fighter characters.
Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers #0 is definitely worth a read for all Capcom and fighting game fans alike. Be sure to check it out and then watch for issue #1 which releases on April 5th of this year.
2017 will bring us yet another new year of comic conventions. When one thinks of San Diego and comics, it’s not difficult to summon images of San Diego Comic-Con, one of the largest celebrations of comics and popular media in the entire world. But there’s more to San Diego than just Comic-Con.
This year signifies the fifth year of San Diego Comic Fest. Just what is Comic Fest? As their website states, Comic Fest is:
…the friendly comic convention with a casual atmosphere and an intimate scale that allows fans to mingle directly with professionals and exhibitors. It’s the place where you can indulge your love of comics, science fiction, and films, and meet an outstanding array of professional creators without high-priced tickets, crowding, or long lines.
Not only is this “casual, comic-convention” celebrating its fifth year, but also the appointing of their new chairman, Matt Dunford. I had a chance to sit down with the Comic Fest chairman in San Diego’s Lestat’s Café on University avenue, which I might add is appropriately decorated with posters depicting iconic superhero franchises if they were played by legendary Hollywood stars and starlets. We spoke of himself, sharing his background in comics which legitimizes his appointment of chairman, and as well as Comic-Fest itself.
How long would you say you’ve had comics in your life?
I would say all my life. My recollections are that I started off with picture books; mainly the likes of Doctor Seuss type stuff, Little Critter, and a lot of Disney picture books, even before I could read. I remember I was always into the visual aspect of comics. There was this drive in me saying, “I need to see what they are saying… I need to be able to do this on my own… I don’t want my parents to keep reading this for me.”
The thing that really motivated me to read was back when I was about four or five years-old, I was a hardcore “Lego-pirate” fan. There was this comic book that came with a Lego set, called “Captain Redbeard and the Lost Golden Coin.” It was a Lego-pirate story adapted in comic form. I was so excited for it that I literally learned to read just so I could read this comic. Sometime after that, I was in Toys-R-Us with my dad. I think it was 1992. He wanted to find something for my “newly acquired reading abilities.” Then I saw it; This beautiful, shiny-holographic image of “Spider-Man” on this comic set. It was thirty comics that you could buy because it was the thirtieth-anniversary of Spider-Man. I just fell in love with it. It was my first time reading Spider-Man. I just read those issues until they were practically shredded. That’s when you could really say that my true comic book fandom started. All because of Spider-Man.
Over the years, how many comics would you say you’ve acquired?
At my peak, I would say maybe between fifteen and twenty-thousand issues that I’ve had over the years from just buying and buying; From garage sales, to comic stores, just buying on a weekly basis. Though I don’t really have that many in my collection anymore. I’m in the process of donating a lot of them to public facilities like Little Fish Comic Studios and of course to the pop-culture library at “San Diego State University” which is curated by Pamela Jackson. I’ve realized that they’re not doing me much good in storage. I’ve had my fun with them, so I rather that someone else can have their fun with them now.
But I understand your omnibus and absolute collection is still one to be rivaled.
Oh yeah. I’ve been told that I have one of the most impressive hardcover, graphic novel collections out there. The single-issue stuff I just read casually, but I just like the convenience of being able to pull a book off of the shelf and showing it off. I collect all the big-hardcover ones, the hundred-dollar ones, the absolute editions from DC Comics, the omnibuses from Marvel, and all the Dark Horse library editions. For me, those are the books that I want to line my walls. I would say that there’s between seven-hundred and eight-hundred giant, oversized-hardcovers that fill my room and my apartment. They just flood the place. I just can’t tear myself away from these stories.
You spoke earlier of Little Fish Comics. You’re very active with not only them, but you were also involved very much with Club Cosplay, and now of course Comic-Fest. What has motivated you to get so involved?
Little Fish is definitely one of the biggest moments that I had in terms of breakthroughs. It’s really where my activism in comics started. But it really began earlier. It was when I was at UC Santa Barbara and finishing up my degree when I decided to swing down to Meltdown Comics for the day for a talk that they were doing when the “Watchmen” movie was coming out. They had notable writer Len Wein, co-creator of “Wolverine” and “Swamp Thing,” and editor of Watchmen [comic]. He was talking about the editing of Watchmen as a process, and it was the first time I remember hearing what an editor does. I thought, “This is awesome. This is so cool. An editor just has to be a ‘know-it-all’ about comics and just sits there telling the writers and artists how to improve the story?’ It really fascinated me. So I just kind of made that my goal of fixation.
As I researched more about editors, I discovered the career of “comic book historian.” Again, I was like, “Wow. This is really good, too.” This then sparked my interest in comic history; Not just the stories themselves, but what goes into the stories, the people behind them. This was around 2009. At that year’s [San Diego] Comic-Con, at the Jack Kirby tribute panel, there was a professor there named Roger Freedman who was a professor of physics at, oddly enough, UC Santa Barbara. He was talking about how he was one of the founding-fathers of Comic-Con back in 69’ and he spoke of this great history.
After that, I would go up to his office during office hours at UCSB and just talk his head off all day. He would tell me these great stories from the sixties and the Comic-Cons of the seventies and about hanging out with these great icons and gods of the comic book industry. Eventually when it was my finals week, as I’m scrambling to get all my projects done he emails me and CC’s comic-historian Mark Evanier and cartoonist Scott Shaw, two of these gigantic figures in the realm of comic books. He was asking if we could come up with questions for a student at UC Santa Barbara who was actually getting his PHD in “Superhero-ology.” This thing was unheard of to me. So I took time off of my schedule to come up with some questions. When I sent my questions out in the email correspondence, Mark says, “These are actually spot on. I really wouldn’t change too much about it.” And Mr. Shaw said, “Who the hell is this Matt Dunford guy and why have I never heard of him?” And that’s when Roger first gave me my title of “Matt Dunford: The World’s Youngest, Comic Book Historian.”
Steering towards the topic of Comic-Fest which of you are now the chairman, this is its fifth year, correct?
Yes, this is the fifth year for San Diego Comic-Fest.
How long have you been involved with Comic-Fest?
When they first made the announcement of it five-years ago, it was put together by Mike Towry and Richard Alf, who were in essence the founding-fathers of the San Diego Comic-Con. They wanted to bring a feel of the original Comic-Con way-back from the 1970’s when it was small and intimate. They tell a story often about when they invited Jack Kirby as their first guest of honor back in 1969. The first Comic-Con had about two-hundred and fifty attendees back when it was “San Diego’s Golden-State Comic Convention.” The second year, it attracted about five-hundred people. Jack being “the Da-Vinci” of the comic world said, “Look at how big it got! Look at this, it’s huge now. Soon it will be the place where Hollywood comes to show off the movies that they made last year and find the films that they’re going to make next year.” Everyone just laughed at Jack, saying that it would never get that big.
So, the mission of San Diego Comic-Fest was to bring the small environment of comics and comic-fandom into a place where you could interact with its creators and where it’s just not the hustle and bustle of two-hundred thousand people at a convention, but that small-intimate setting where you can meet the people and interact with them; Just hang out with them. It provides a different dynamic. Of course I do love San Diego Comic-Con in all its huge-glory, but I also think it’s a good change of pace. Where we can have this one-on-one with these creators.
What should we expect for this year’s Comic-Fest?
Oddly enough I’m already planning for the 2018 show. I like to think big. I like to bring in guests that have an established past in the history of comics, but are still working on new contemporary projects, so we may have something for the older-crowds who may not be reading contemporary comics, but can still embrace the old stuff.
What we are going to be mainly doing this year, since 2017 is the centennial birthday of Jack Kirby if he were still alive, is a strong focus with a lot of programming towards him, the “King of Comics.” If you don’t know him, he is the co-creator of “Captain America, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four,” basically the majority of silver-age Marvel; We will be celebrating his history. There are certain other figures in the comic realm who get a little more credit for creating these characters, and I think we should be embracing Jack’s side of it, because he is a real unsung hero.
We also have a lot of other special guests. Since we are not just so focused on comics in general, we also have a science-fiction room. We will be bringing in science-fiction special guest of honor David Brin, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards. We will also be bringing in special guest authors Greg Bear and Gregory Benford.
On the comic side of things, we have Vivek Tiwary, author of the graphic novel “The Fifth Beatle,” which tells about the life of Brian Epstein, the Beatles then manager. Epstein took them from an underground band to the biggest pop-culture sensation on Earth. It’s his tragic story of being a gay, Jewish man in the 1960’s and his struggles with drug addiction and trying to stay in the closet. On the animation spectrum, we will be bringing in John Semper, JR., who is of course the writer of my all-time favorite cartoon, the 1990’s “Spider-Man: The Animated Series,” which pretty much skyrocketed my Spider-Man fandom to levels unknown. We also will have Liam Sharp, a UK comics creator, currently the highlighted artist on the widely-acclaimed “Wonder Woman.” He’s just been doing the best work of his career right now with that comic. With every issue, my jaw basically drops. There will also be Mike Royer, Jack Kirby’s inker for most of his artwork throughout the 1970’s. He’ll talk about those years and then his years as an animator with Disney on the “Winnie the Pooh” cartoon.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the “X-Men” cartoon, we will have some of show’s creators, including Eric and Julia Lewald and Larry Houston. An finally to top things off, we will be celebrating our guest of honor Jim Valentino of Image Comics, highlighting Image’s 25th year anniversary.
Thank you, Comic Fest’s chairman Matt Dunford, in taking the time away from your busy comic-laden schedule. San Diego Comic Fest will be next month, February 17th to the 20th. Everyone interested in attending, check out their website: www.sdcomicfest.org
It seems like the same routine every year: I resolve to write more, namely on this blog, resolve to work out more, resolve to live more. And I do so, strongly for perhaps a couple good months until I eventually fall off the edge like Wile E Coyote on that same old cliff that is life’s complications.
Don’t let me lead you to believe 2016 ended entirely poorly for me. There was a lot of positive things that went my way. In the face of fear that I would lose my primary, full-time job, I actually was able to keep it and see a slight raise. I had to leave the martial arts teaching job that I loved because my physical and mental health were at jeopardy, but now both of those are getting back in line again. The cherry on top is that I participated in November’s National Novel Writing Month with my “beastie-besty” Victoria and we both beat the 50,000 word deadline in 30 days!
Now just a couple weeks into 2017, I’m left with a feeling of accomplishment; Things are well at work, I just had a wonderful visit to the kung-fu school that I left, I’m so far doing well in my Spring semester at school, I’m well into editing the rough-draft from NaNoWriMo… things just seem to be getting back on track.
What should that mean then for the rest of 2017? Normally the new year is supposed to signify new beginnings. I don’t see that for myself. Instead, I see getting back to basics. Sure, I’m resolved to travel more. I want to see the sequoias. Since this is the 10-year anniversary of when I went to Japan, I want to go back. But I also see more than that. I see continuing the trend that I finally got a hold of at the end of 2016. I see avoiding all the mistakes and pitfalls that I dealt with in the year prior. There is indeed new growth, but they are from seeds that have been well planted before, and they are also from the cuttings made to dead limbs that were choking everything else around them.
I am hopeful. Ultimately, that’s the best start one could ask to have.
I’m sitting inside a local coffee shop with big picture-windows that look out onto the main-street. The morning light struggles against the fog, succeeding in a diffused illumination against the black-tarred street and the red bricks of the surrounding downtown buildings, as if everything was under the glow of a giant soft-light box. The trees that line the sidewalks sway back and forth, their green leaves invaded by the quickening march of oranges and reds. As I sit here plopped in front of my computer screen, I can’t help but stare out the window and watch the people walking by. “People-watching” has always been a hobby for my family. Today, there appears to be more cars than actual people.
The same can be said about the inside of this coffee shop. Okay, maybe there aren’t any cars lounging about in here, enjoying a nice cup of warmed motor-oil as they gossip about the Henderson car 2 miles down the road which rather recently received a very disrespectable pink paint-job. Instead of a multitude of people crowding in about this time for their morning cups of coffee, dispelling the weight of the weekend placed on their sobering heads on this now Monday morning, there are perhaps a collected dozen strangers milling about. Strangers to me that is, for they all seem to know one another. Greeting the barista or each other with friendly “hallos” and “how ya doins?” Things amble here. There is no impatience, no “fast-paced.” This isn’t the San Diego I know. This is Virginia. Salem to be exact.
Salem, Virginia is a small, independent-city situated in the Shenandoah valley, but was originally founded in 1802 as a town. Like much of the surrounding Roanoke county, Salem is steeped in rich natural beauty, while still celebrating its “ever-living” history. Nature, history, and people, none in conflict but all in co-existence. Local businesses line the streets. Roanoke college thrives here. It’s a city that lives in every respect.
How did I get here? Flatly, I needed to get away. I needed to get away from the monotony of San Diego living, as crazy of a statement as that sounds like. I felt stuck there. I needed to see how somewhere so far removed from my hometown functioned. Someplace with a different mindset and a drastically different past. And no, a “Disneyland getaway” wasn’t going to cut it. Nothing fabricated as to be a “safe-little-bubble” for tourists to be blissfully removed from reality where they can wonder if the $40 stuffed-animal that was made in Taiwan for $1 is a good value. I didn’t want an escape from reality, just the reality I had known all my life.
Virginia is so much different, but all in the best ways. I’ve done the touristy things; I’ve seen the small “roadside attractions.” I’ve taken just enough pictures to make my local tour guide cringe every time I lift my camera. No, I didn’t move. I’ll be back in San Diego soon, hopefully much recharged and with a different perspective of things. I’ll talk in length about some of the sights I’ve seen in another entry. For now, I’m just sitting here in this small coffee shop, watching the people and cars amble by. A customer somewhere behind me is saying, “Well it’s my birthday. I’m forty-five.” The barista at the counter squeals. “It is?! Happy, happy biiiiirthday! Happy, happy biiiiiiiiiirthday……”
Typically, around this time each year downtown San Diego is well underway in a temporary face lift for our very own Comic-Con International. As one of the largest comic and popular media conventions in the world, Comic-Con International has long outgrown the confines of the Downtown Convention Center and has been steadily extending its reach like the tentacles of Hydra (Hail Hydra!). True, most of the parties and events have no affiliation with CCI, but that hasn’t stopped the many vendors who want to participate in the festivities from finding a way to capitalize.
This last Saturday I decided to venture out and see all the early changes for myself. I was quite surprised with what I found.
Though the convention is less than two weeks out, a number of large displays are normally already installed or nearly completed. This year I could hardly find anything in reference to CCI.
There’s actually a lot of other events happening in San Diego this month. Tuesday was the Baseball All Star Game, held at Petco Park, and two days before that was the All Color 5K Run being held for the baseball game. San Diego, aside from being a military town, is also a sporty town. We love our Padres, our Chargers, and even Gulls hockey team. The area around Petco Park in downtown had many signs and advertisements for the All Star Game. You can bet most of the bars also had something in the way of an All Star tie in.
Not only that, but at the end of the week will be San Diego Pride. Though the parade and festival will be centered in the Hillcrest and Balboa Park areas, there will be a lot of focus placed on it. Also, hotels and bars will also see an impact throughout this weekend as Pride parties abound. It’s no wonder why I couldn’t find much in the way of Comic-Con International displays, since the city doesn’t want to take the focus away from this other money making events.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any changes to downtown in regards to the convention. The MTS trolley system is in full Comic-Con mode with much of their train cars wrapped up in Conan O’Brien advertising (since he’ll be live at the Comic-Con again) and a few odd ones featuring shows like as “Son of Zorn.” Reason for this though is that the skin covers for those trains take a long time to put adhere, so we locals have seen them already for the better part of a month (and most likely will for another month after CCI). On my travels through the city, I even came across a building adorned with the “Funko” name on its exterior. Looking through the windows of the historic “Cracker Factory Building,” I saw human sized Captain America vinyls and a sign toting the 75th anniversary of the hero.
There is most likely more installations like this throughout downtown; exhibits that need more than a week to be put together, and so are completed early. I hear that the San Diego Airport just placed mannequins throughout its terminals that feature all styles of Steampunk Cosplay.
Once the last of our other events are out of way, I don’t doubt there will be PR teams and companies frantically putting together their themed displays. I’ll revisit downtown in a few days and see how the changes have progressed.