Friday, January 21, 2011

Archie Comics drops code too

As reported yesterday, DC Comics has followed Marvel's lead of several years ago in dropping the Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval from its covers. Now kid-friendly Archie Comics is following suit.

The code was created nearly 60 years ago as a way for the comics industry to self-police itself in light of pressure from those who felt funny books were a menace that led to juvenile delinquency. It's no doubt that the code has outlived its relevance. But, as I've mentioned before, I'm hopeful that comic book publishers will make an effort to clearly identify the intended audience for their titles. In can spare a lot of parental confusion and annoyance, and will help ensure titles that aren't kid-friendly don't fall into tiny hands.

Marvel has been pretty unsuccessful in developing and following its own clear ratings system. I hope DC does better. In the case of Archie, they've done a pretty good job over the years in staying true to the original intent of their characters. Ratings probably aren't necessary for them. As Archie President Mike Pellerito puts it:

"The code never affected us editorially the way I think it did other companies," he said. "You know, we aren't about to start stuffing bodies into refrigerators or anything. We have to answer to Archie fans."

Currently, everything Archie Comics publishes is "all ages." And Pellerito said that, if Archie comic ever skews to an older audience, the publisher will let the readers know.

Fantagraphics announces Prince Valiant Vol. 3 1941-42

I need to catch up on these annual collections of Hal Foster's legendary comic strip. They look glorious. Here are details on the latest volume, out next month:

With this volume, Foster reaches (by common critical consensus) the peak of his drawing and storytelling prowess – a peak at which he will remain for most of the run of this glorious strip.

Almost the entirety of 1941’s strips feature a single ten-month epic entitled “Fights for the Singing Sword,” a globetrotting adventure fueled by Valiant’s obsessive search for his bride-to-be Aleta throughout Northern Africa, with stops in Jerusalem, the Arabic deserts, and, inevitably, a harem which Val must infiltrate. Then finally, in “The Misty Isles” Valiant meets Aleta face to face but upon learning that she has had his crew killed (deservedly so, actually, but still), he flees in anger, vowing never to see her again.

“Homeward Bound,” Valiant continues his travels, with stops in Athens (where he meets the boisterous Viking Boltar, who will become his friend for life), North Africa, and Gaul (where Valiant liberates Gawain), before finally returning to Camelot. But his joyous return is short-lived as an alliance of Picts and Vikings threatens Britain’s security, and thus Valiant must journey forth with, as his ultimate destination, “The Roman Wall.”

The final pages of this volume boast a special feature: a gallery of images that were censored for being too sexy or violent (or subject to other editorial interference) prior to publication, plus another gruesome example of Foster's art being altered for publication, all with commentary by series editor Kim Thompson.

DC Comics solicitations April 2011

Some highlights from DC's April offerings:

Deadman Vol. 1
DEADMAN VOL. 1 TP
Written by ARNOLD DRAKE, JACK MILLER and NEAL ADAMS
Art by CARMINE INFANTINO, NEAL ADAMS and GEORGE ROUSSOS
Cover by NEAL ADAMS

Master comics artist Neal Adams illustrates the original adventures of deceased, revenge-driven hero Deadman, one of the heroes of BRIGHTEST DAY, from STRANGE ADVENTURES #205-213.
These are the stories that introduced costumed high-wire performer Boston Brand, who is assassinated by an unknown marksman in his first adventure, only to return when mysterious deity called Rama Kushna gives him a mission: find his murderer!

First Wave
FIRST WAVE HC
Written by BRIAN AZZARELLO
Art by RAGS MORALES and PHIL NOTO
Cover by J.G. JONES

Doc Savage, struggling with the loss of his father, has been blind to the advances of an evil cabal bent on world domination – until now. Central City’s mysterious Spirit has caught wind of their plans as well. But whose side have the Blackhawks chosen? What is the Red Right Hand? And where is The Batman?
This can’t-miss pulp fiction hardcover features FIRST WAVE #1-6 and BATMAN/DOC SAVAGE #1.

Infinity Inc.: The Generations Saga Vol. 1
INFINITY INC.: THE GENERATIONS SAGA VOL. 1 HC
Written by ROY THOMAS and DANN THOMAS
Art by JERRY ORDWAY, MIKE MACHLAN, TONY DEZUNIGA, DON NEWTON, TODD MCFARLANE and others
Cover by JERRY ORDWAY

Shunned by their parents and mentors in the Justice Society of America, Infinity, Inc. is a team made up of the best and brightest new heroes from the next generation of DC Comics.
Collected at last from INFINITY INC. #1-4, ALL-STAR SQUADRON #25-26 and ALL-STAR SQUADRON ANNUAL #2, INFINITY INC. follows the adventures of the Justice Society of America’s sons and daughters as they pick up the role of crime-fighters from their parents. Denied membership by the JSA, the young cast of Infinity Inc. decides to train themselves – including heroes Power Girl, Huntress, Jade, Obsidian, Nuklon and more!

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Early Years
SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: THE EARLY YEARS TP
Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Art by KEVIN SHARPE and MARLO ALQUIZA
Cover by SCOTT CLARK and DAVE BEATY

Witness new retellings of Superboy’s first meeting with Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad as they bring him into the future in these tales from ADVENTURE COMICS #515-520. How will The Boy of Steel handle it when he learns of his destiny as the World’s Greatest Super Hero? Plus, don’t miss the funeral of Legion benefactor R.J. Brande, who has a few surprises in his will.

Legion Lost
LEGION LOST HCWritten by DAN ABNETT and ANDY LANNING
Art by OLIVIER COIPEL, PASCAL ALIXE and ANDY LANNING
Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL

The Legion of Super-Heroes finds itself stranded in a distant galaxy, on the home planet of the vicious alien race known as the Progeny, in this new hardcover collecting the cult favorite 12-issue epic. While some of our heroes struggle to repair their damaged spaceship, the rest attempt to forge an alliance with the peaceful Kwai. But can the Legion help the Kwai defeat their oppressors and still make their way back home to Earth?

Justice League International Vol. 6
JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL VOL. 6 TP
Written by KEITH GIFFEN, J.M. DEMATTEIS and BILL LOEBS
Art by ADAM HUGHES, BILL WILLINGHAM and others
Cover by ADAM HUGHES

Collecting JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #31-35 and JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE #7-11! The two teams team up to face the threat of - vampires in the Balkans?


Yossel
YOSSEL TP
Written by JOE KUBERT
Art and cover by JOE KUBERT
In this harrowing yet inspiring “alternate reality” story, legendary artist Joe Kubert explores what would have happened if he and his family never emigrated from Poland to the US in 1926.
Yossel is a fifteen-year-old boy who could have grown up to be a great artist. But in Nazi-occupied Poland, he and his family are deprived of their rights, homes and possessions, and forced to live in the devastating conditions of the Warsaw Ghetto. YOSSEL, April 19th, 1943 is his story, told through Kubert’s raw and evocative pencilled art. Yossel’s sketches of super heroes ingratiates him to the Nazi guards, but it is through his journal drawn on scraps of paper that he depicts the full horror of his existence.
With great emotional power, YOSSEL draws a dark and brutal reality of ghetto life, of the stories he hears of the concentration camp atrocities, and ultimately portrays the final act of defiance and courage that drives the fatal uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto.


Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 
DONG XOAI, VIETNAM 1965 TP
Written by JOE KUBERT
Art and cover by JOE KUBERT

Joe Kubert, one of the most influential storytellers in comics history, tells the harrowing, true story of a detachment of Special Forces soldiers on a simple recon mission into the village of Dong Xoai, Vietnam, that turned suddenly deadly.
DONG XOAI, VIETNAM 1965 has a unique perspective, since Kubert based the story on extensive information gathered from the surviving members of the unit. It covers not only the action of the event but the details of deployment and build-up that led to the deadly encounter for these young American G.I.s.
For decades, Joe Kubert has shown readers the true face of war – all the suffering, horror, loss and heroism of our fighting forces. With DONG XAOI, he goes a step beyond to tell a gut-wrenching tale of sacrifice that will linger long after you are done reading.

 
Jew Gangster
JEW GANGSTER TP
Written by JOE KUBERT
Art and cover by JOE KUBERT
From famed comics creator Joe Kubert comes this moving coming-of-age story set within Depression-era New York City. Ruby is a handsome young man growing up in a poor Brooklyn Jewish family. When Ruby falls in with a local mobster called Monk, his initial eagerness to make a few dollars to support his hardworking parents ends up getting him in way over his head in the organized crime world. Now he’s caught up in both a war between the Jewish and Italian mobs over unionizing factories and an affair with his dangerous mentor’s gorgeous moll.


Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 5 
SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING BOOK FIVE HC 
Written by ALAN MOORE
Art by RICK VEITCH, JOHN TOTLEBEN and ALFREDO ALCALA
Cover by RICK VEITCH & JOHN TOTLEBEN
Continuing the hardcover collection of master comics writer Alan Moore’s award-winning run on SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING with issues #51-56, this volume begins as Swamp Thing returns from his journey to hell, only to learn that his girlfriend Abby is being persecuted for their “unnatural relations.” When she skips town for Gotham City, he follows and runs afoul of Batman, Lex Luthor and the Gotham City Police Department.

Big Audio Dynamite - more pioneering than the Clash?

The Guardian reassesses Mick Jones' post Clash hip hop/techno/reggae/pop/punk band. I certainly like the Clash more, but recently was listening to some BAD and have to say, the group was way ahead of the curve. Some of the music hold up well today and you certainly can hear strains of it in Gorillaz and other groups of today.

This modernist approach to recycling or reintroducing samples was completely new in the rock/pop format of the mid-80s, and pre-dated key sampling releases from De La Soul, 2 Live Crew, Beastie Boys and MARRS' Pump Up the Volume, the first sample-based 1987 hit single to top the chart. In fact, BAD's 1985 debut album, This Is Big Audio Dynamite, and the Nicholas Roeg-sampling homage and hit single E=MC2, are now widely acknowledged as pioneering works in the emerging format.



Thursday, January 20, 2011

John Lennon collected letters set for publication

A book collecting letters written by the late Beatle is set for publication in October 2012.

Yoko Ono has sold the publishing rights to a collection of Lennon's letters, which give an unrivalled insight into his daily life, character, concerns and hopes and run to hundreds of pages. Ono owns the intellectual property rights to the letters, but was persuaded to sell them by the Beatles' biographer, Hunter Davies.

...It was a singular collection with more than 150 letters including notes Lennon wrote to newspapers and record companies and a missive he wrote to an eight-year-old boy

DC dumps Comics Code

Following a move made by Marvel Comics several years ago, DC is dumping the 56-year-old Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval. Like Marvel, DC will replace the seal with its own on-cover ratings.

Nearly six decades after the industry was pressured into using the CCA seal by the juvenile delinquency scare of the 1950s, I can understand that it may have outlived its usefulness.

But I also feel like today's comics publishing industry may not suitably have its act together enough to operate its own ratings systems. I'm not saying that the publishers shouldn't try doing so, only that they should try harder.

Here's how I see it:

In this age of a zillion different comics titles, parents who want to buy a child a comic featuring Spider-Man, Batman or some other superhero because a kid has seen that character on TV or in his/her Happy Meal, should have some sort of direction as to which of the half-dozen or so Batman or Spidey comics out there is appropriate.

Ratings can help parents navigate through this confusion. But, to do so, the ratings must be clear. I don't think Marvel's really are. For example, Marvel uses an "A" for "all ages." To my mind, "A" could mean "adult." The other letters used also are potentially confusing. Not only that, but parents may not even realize that these letters are intended as ratings. Not that most folks ever knew, past 1954 or so, what the heck the comics seal was, either -- especially as the publishers started running it at a smaller and smaller size.

I think publishers should offer clear guidance on comic book covers as to what age the title is appropriate for. There shouldn't be any wondering necessary by the parent.

Better yet, I wish DC and Marvel would just ensure that all their mainstream superhero titles -- those featuring Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, the Hulk, Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America and the like -- are rated for the same audience. Right now, there are "all ages" Spider-Man, etc., titles and "teen-plus" or even "mature" Spider-Man, etc. titles. This makes no sense to me and likely just turns parents off comics entirely.

In movie terms, I think these titles should be in the "PG" category
: edgy enough to interest teens and adults, but appropriate enough for kids around age 12. There's no sane, or for that matter, commercial,reason that comics featuring such characters should be essentially rated "R" -- at least not if you're going to continue marketing toys featuring that character to young children.

Anyway, that's my view. And here's a look at DC's new rating system:

E – EVERYONE

Appropriate for readers of all ages. May contain cartoon violence and/or some comic mischief.

T – TEEN

Appropriate for readers age 12 and older. May contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.

T+ - TEEN PLUS

Appropriate for readers age 16 and older. May contain moderate violence, mild profanity, graphic imagery and/or suggestive themes.

M – MATURE

Appropriate for readers age 18 and older. May contain intense violence, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual themes and other content suitable only for older readers.

Kate Bush plans reissues, possibly new music in 2011

Kate Bush is a fascinating but far from prolific recording artist, so any news about releases, old or new, is pretty rare. In this case, there's confirmation that four of her albums -- The Dreaming, Hounds Of Love, The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, all originally released between 1982 and 1993 -- will be out later this year. No specific details on bonus tracks (if any) or release dates. There's also been talk lately about Kate releasing some new music this year, but:

“There are other plans but I’m not able to talk about them right now,” is all Munns would say, adding, “There’s nothing ready until Kate says it’s ready. That’s always been the way.”

Three paperbacks on the way in DC Comics' Joe Kubert Library

Three of the great cartoonist's works will be available in paperback "Joe Kubert Library" editions in May. The titles include: "Yossel," "Jew Gangster" and "Dong Xoai."

Britain's Royal Mail unveils Gerry Anderson-themed stamps

A series of stamps paying tribute to Gerry Anderson's various marionation series is out now. From the press release:

Royal Mail is celebrating the iconic work of Gerry Anderson on a new set of stamps.

Gerry Anderson is the creator of the puppet characters from cult TV programmes such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray, that have thrilled millions of people since the 1960s.

FAB: The Genius of Gerry Anderson kicks off the 2011 Royal Mail Special Stamps programme in style as the issue contains the UK’s first ever ‘motion stamps’. A miniature sheet of four stamps has been specially printed so that when they are tilted back and forth the iconic opening sequence of Thunderbirds is played with each of the crafts launching: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

The latest stamps celebrate the 50th anniversary of these ground-breaking programmes which began with Supercar in 1961. The programmes celebrated on the main issue of stamps are Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, Fireball XL5, Supercar and Stingray. Whilst the miniature sheet of ‘motion stamps’ features stamps showing Thunderbirds 4, Thunderbirds 3, Thunderbirds 2 and Thunderbirds 1.

Gerry Anderson said: “I feel incredibly proud that my work has been chosen to appear on a set of Royal Mail stamps and to see actual animation of the opening scenes of Thunderbirds appear on the motion stamps is really wonderful.”

Philip Parker, Royal Mail Stamps spokesperson, said: “Gerry Anderson’s ingenuity and inventiveness caused a sensation in the 1960s. We‘re delighted that 50 years on we are able to recognise and celebrate his work on our first stamp issue of 2011.

“It’s particularly fitting that his characters will once again be visiting millions of homes across the UK as they arrive through the nation’s letterboxes on letters and cards. And also that the dramatic 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, opening sequence is now a UK first through its appearance on our new motion stamps.”

Yet more pictures from X-Men: First Class

Here's Michael Fassbinder as Magneto and James McAvoy as a young Professor X.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

X-Men: First Class teaser poster

Three new photos from X-Men: First Class

The Los Angeles Times offers up three fresh photos and quite a bit of detail about the new film.

Here are pics of cast members James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Kevin Bacon as Sabastian Shaw and January Jones as Emma Frost and others:




Anne Hathaway to play Catwoman in next Batman film

From the press release:

Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” She will be starring alongside Christian Bale, who returns in the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Christopher Nolan stated, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Anne Hathaway, who will be a fantastic addition to our ensemble as we complete our story.”

In addition, Tom Hardy has been set to play Bane. Nolan said, “I am delighted to be working with Tom again and excited to watch him bring to life our new interpretation of one of Batman’s most formidable enemies.” Nolan will direct the film from a screenplay he wrote with Jonathan Nolan, from a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. Nolan will also produce the film with his longtime producing partner, Emma Thomas, and Charles Roven. “The Dark Knight Rises” is slated for release on July 20, 2012. The film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Bob Dylan signs six-book deal

Dylan will write two more installments of his "Chronicles" series of memoirs along with four additional books in a deal with Simon & Schuster. One book is reported to be a collection of Dylan's musings from his "Theme Time Radio Hour" show. No details on the others.

New comics Jan. 19, 2011

Age of Reptiles Omnibus
Age of Reptiles Omnibus

MySpace Dark Horse Presents Volume 6
MySpace Dark Horse Presents Volume 6

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago... Volume 3
Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago... Volume 3

House of Mystery Vol. 5: Under New Management
House of Mystery Vol. 5: Under New Management

Justice League International Vol 5
Justice League International Vol 5

The Starman Omnibus Vol. 6
The Starman Omnibus Vol. 6

Captain America: Man & Wolf
Captain America: Man & Wolf

Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: Mission to Mars
Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: Mission to Mars

Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic - Book 5 (Spider-Man (Graphic Novels))
Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic - Book 5 (Spider-Man (Graphic Novels))

Thor: Ragnarok (Thor (Graphic Novels))
Thor: Ragnarok (Thor (Graphic Novels))