Sunday, January 16, 2011

Top Cow's Artifacts- Worth Hunting For

This would be one of those instances where the digital comic led me to purchase the physical copies...

I read ARTIFACTS #0 on my droid through Comixology and it seemed like a great new-reader friendly storyline. I then purchased the digital edition of #1 and was hooked. However, #2 has still yet to appear on the app (even though it is available digitally over at DCBS' My Digital Comics site). This left me choosing to just move on...

But then I came across #3 when I went out of town a couple weeks ago and have since decided to buy the series in paper form, ordering the issues I've missed through My Comic Shop.

Basically, the premise of the storyline is that there's thirteen mystical artifacts floating around the Top Cow Universe and somebody is trying to collect them all. Once they are all brought together it will trigger the end of said universe. Simple as that.

The Witchblade and the Darkness are two of these artifacts and background for the rest have been set up over the last five years, with the exception of the thirteenth artifact. During the course of the series these items will change hands and the last artifact will be revealed.

The master architect of this grand thirteen-issue event which will also involve Cyberforce, Angelus and Magdalena is Ron Marz. Marz is no stranger to cosmic sweeping stories and has been the head writer of Top Cow's Universe related titles for quite some time.

He first garnered attention writing SILVER SURFER for Marvel and progressed from there to DC's GREEN LANTERN title. During his tenure on LANTERN he chronicled the turn of Hal Jordan into a villain and the introduction of Kyle Rayner to the Corps.

Marz also was one of the lead writers at Crossgen at the ill-fated company's launch, writing both MYSTIC and SCION. He was also the writer for the critically-acclaimed series SOJOURN that brought fame to the art of Greg Land.

ARTIFACTS shares a few similarities with the Crossgen Universe as each of the major characters are bearers of one (or more) of the artifacts. These artifacts give the owners powers (much like the sigils did) and the story centers around the thirteen artifacts being brought together (the main purpose of Arwyn's adventures in SOJOURN).
The key difference is that unlike in SOJOURN, the artifacts being brought together would be a bad thing.

I never really cared for WITCHBLADE before. I don't think I ever gave it much of a chance. Back when I first saw the character she appeared to be mostly marketed by t&a covers and art so I quickly wrote her off.

Recently, I purchased WITCHBLADE #139. A follow-up to ARTIFACTS #1, it features the incredible art of Michael Gaydos and gives us a pretty good idea of the character's standing in the world. Totally different from what I would have expected if you had asked my opinion years ago.
While the Top Cow Universe could still definitely use a few more male characters, what I've seen so far has changed my view of the line.

The promise of Cyberforce coming along soon in the story interests me as that may be what will balance it out. Plus, I'm really intrigued about how Marz is going to mix the mystical theme of the comic with these sci-fi characters. So far Aphrodite IV's involvement has been key and I'm sure he will work them in just fine.

I've always seemed to come in too late with comics. In the last few years the only family of books that I've kept up with on a regular basis have been the LEGION titles.

I tried a couple years ago to get into GREEN LANTERN, starting with REBIRTH... I got up to #11 and then issues started getting hard to find or too expensive. And when BLACKEST NIGHT hit, I was made aware of all the cross-overs that were in my future I just dropped it.

I had the same problem with Marvel's Cosmic books as I came into those much too late, also, and I prefer the original comics as opposed to the trade paperbacks. With NOVA and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY both well underway, I gave up on them before I made it past ANNIHLATION.

This time, however, I'm jumping on board right on time and going forward with Top Cow's ARTIFACTS. I've already picked out a starting point on both THE DARKNESS and WITHCBLADE, as well, so I'll be following those from here on out.

To read ARTIFACTS #1 and 2 online go to My Digital Comics. You can also view #0 there or over here.

To wet your appetite, here are previews of #1, 2 and 3.

And here's a bit of handy information regarding the artifacts, including a list of current owners. Warning: there are spoilers.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Young Justice First Episode Online

You can view the first episode of Young Justice online at Cartoon Network's official website.

Right now I give the series 3 out of 5 stars.
It doesn't have the flashy style of either Teen Titans or Batman: Brave and the Bold. However, the less cartoony art may bring in more of the anime crowd.

"Independence Day, Part 1" features Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Speedy on their first visit to the Hall of Justice (haven't seen THAT in years).
Batman, Green Arrow, Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Red Tornado appear for a while before leaving to handle an emergency. The younger heroes (sans Speedy, who left after throwing some attitude) decide to take on a mission that the League had to pass up for the more immediate threat and discovers a secret about Project Cadmus.

With appearances by Mr. Freeze, Captain Cold, Icicle Jr, Guardian, Superman and Zatara.

The original trailer:

Spoiler: It also features the introduction of Superboy, who from the ads will become a member. This Superboy appears to be of the Conner variety but no word yet if he has both Superman and Luthor's genes or just Supes. From what is shown so far, one would assume that Luthor is left out of the equation for simplicity of the story.

I find it interesting that while the Aqualad is the new Brightest Day one, they're using Dick Grayson as Robin (and appears younger than all the others- 13 according to the website) and Wally West as Kid-Flash (age 15). Aqualad's identity is revealed as Kaldur' Ahm and is listed to be 16. For more information, including details about Miss Martian and Superboy, go to the website.

DC Comics is also releasing a comic series based on the show. This title will be self contained and have no bearing on any other comics.

**Upcoming episodes (on Cartoon Network)**

"Independence Day, Part 2" -Jan 16th 8PM Central
"Welcome to Happy Harbor"" -Jan 21st 7PM Central, Jan. 23rd 8PM Central
"Drop Zone" -Jan 28th 7PM Central

The Digital Debate

If you've been following any of the comics news sources this last week you would've undoubtedly heard about Archie Comics' decision to go "same day digital" (previously referred to as "day-and-date"). This means their comics will be available on digital devices the same day as it comes out in paper. It has sparked a lot of controversy over whether or not it was a good move. And for who?

Before I begin with this let me say that I love paper comics and I've been reading them ever since I was a kid. I read countless comics before I understood the idea of "collecting" and it wasn't until Marvel's Contest of Champions back in 1982 that I actually started to keep up with them.

Back then you could walk into any convenience store or grocery store and spot a spinner rack of comics just waiting to grab your attention.

Things have changed a lot since then and comics have become more or less a "niche" medium after moving into stores that specialize in them. This happened around the late 1980s with the direct market.

The appeal of the direct market was that comic publishers didn't have to censor their stuff as much and they only had to cater to people who already knew what they were.

This also took them away from the general public.

I live in a small town where we have three grocery stores and a Walmart Supercenter. There are no book stores or record stores for at least fifty miles.

When I was a kid and I made my weekly (or even *daily*) trips to the convenience store I did so by either walking or riding my bike. No kid can walk or ride a bike that far. At least not safely.

I recall last year I had a lady in my store with her two daughters. I would guess they were around 14 to 16 years old. I asked if they read anything. They replied, "Yeah... text messages!"

The thing is... in areas like mine kids don't read. They haven't in years. Unless they're told to for school.

The books and magazines sold at Walmart are not geared towards them. There's the workout mags, the gun & ammo mags, the cooking mags, the celebrity tabloids... but nothing for them aside from the Harry Potter books. And if there hadn't been a movie, they wouldn't be there either.

The digital age of comics may be what will entice new readers to check them out. It's a format that the current generation understands. Almost everything today is either smartphone-friendly or making moves to jump on before they get left behind. Comics are no exception.

A lot of people worry that it will bring an end to the direct market and cause more problems than it's worth.

One major change will be availability. If you happen to walk into a comic shop, you may see twenty copies of the latest X-Men book and maybe even a random issue of John Doe's indie comic.

What happens when the indie comic has the same reach as X-Men? What happens when a reader who passes on X-Men #3 and 5 because #4 isn't there has all three available..?

One of the biggest complaints I've ever had with the direct market is that if you discover something... You're already behind because -even though you have the latest issue- the next available issue to pre-order is months away. This means if there's no local comic shop you have to wait and back-order them or hope that you come across them at a later time.

Another complaint is the whole "buying on faith". Anyone who's ordered from Previews knows this. A new book is coming out and you think you may be interested. But all that's available is a short blurb and a cover (done by someone other than the regular artist). You could go ahead and pre-order it but... you'll have to order the next two issues before the first one even arrives at the store. And then you get it... It sucks... but you've already ordered two more...

Granted, you can flip through a whole comic at the shop and not buy it at all. Or pick it up if you like it. The sampling before you buy aspect is one of the best features of comic shops.

However, a lot of publishers are releasing previews that you can get for free before buying digital.

Sometimes, I think it's funny how comics went from being something a select few were constantly advocating their relevance and shouting "Read these! They really are good!" to folks withdrawing and recoiling adding "But only if you get them from me!"

We shouldn't be fighting over who gets the privilege of bringing the art of comics to a new audience. We should be embracing the new audience and be excited about where the future can take us.

Self-publishers, especially should take note because the people who are coming to read digital comics are coming fresh with only DC and Marvel's movie-related characters holding any advantage. The average Joe doesn't know Booster Gold from Captain Universe.

Walking Dead is already a digital hit that was spurred by both the excellent AMC series and the move to same day digital.

The digital comics field is a more level playing field right now and it's really anyone's ballgame.

Here's what I think the end result will be:

1. Yes, shops will be closing. Not all, however. The ones that are smart will move online or focus more on trades and comics/video game related merchandise. If they do that they will actually thrive. A lot of comic shops already put less money into single issues and only do pre-orders for customers.

2. I see more comics being moved to "same day digital" and even more titles being released "digital only" to see if they have an audience before printing. Something like Top Cow's Pilot Season would be a great candidate for this kind of approach.

3. I expect "floppies" (single issue comics) to slowly fade out, with the digital editions replacing them and then being collected into trade paperback (to be sold by that direct market). And then, if someone really wanted single issues "print-on-demand" could be incorporated here.

4. You'll get more impulse buys. Hell, I bought several comics digitally (that I probably wouldn't have planned to) in the last month just because they were accessible.

5. Kids (and adults) that before were too afraid to be seen reading a comic can read something on their phone without being criticized... And then if it's good they may even talk about it.

6. It may actually lead to more sales of paper comics. For example, I tried out Artifacts #0 and 1 on Comixology and I've ordered the actual comics up to #4 because of it (including a physical copy of #1).

Honestly, if the comic publishers really wanted to hinder the move to digital, they'd put the comics back on the newsstands and stop limiting the viewership.

Further reading:
Archie Going Same Day Digital
Comixology - the current leader in digital distribution.
Marvel's own digital store.
2000 AD Digital

Find me on twitter.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Legion Primer

The new LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES series will be entering it's second year this Spring with the promise of a major storyline shaping up in LEGION OF SUPER-VILLAINS #1.

Paul Levitz has returned to the book that he put on the map back in the '80s with his large cast of characters and mastery of plot development. The subplot design that he established back then has been coined the "Levitz Paradigm" and was even mentioned in Dennis O'Neil's DC COMICS' GUIDE TO WRITING COMICS as an example of subplot/plot progression.
Anyone studying to write comics would do good to learn from his ability to juggle several story-lines running simultaneously.

ADVENTURE COMICS, which Levitz took over the month following the launch of the new series, started off featuring the earlier years of the team back when they first began to work alongside Superboy. Starting with #521, however, the title is now a continuation of the main book and is planned to focus on the Legion Academy in future issues.

The Legion is a complex beast, complete with its own history and mythology. There's the United Planets, the Science Police, various worlds, aliens and customs, interlac (an inter-planetary alphabet)... things that are unique to it.

Then there's the Legion Constitution, the whole -boy. -girl, -lad, -lass thing that some people have trouble getting past, the leader elections (which is traditionally done by the readers and was just recently ran) and more.

Some folks would think that something this complicated would be hard to get new readers interested. I would have to disagree.
Star Trek, with just about as much history and alien knowledge, is probably the closest comparison one can draw. And new Star Trek fans spring up all the time. Some even know how to speak Klingon.

One of the biggest draws to the series is also one of its weaknesses. LEGION and ADVENTURE are separated from the regular DC Universe by about a thousand years and all of the characters are completely vulnerable to whatever the Levitz wants to do.
This benefits the book in the fact that anything can happen. Such as the destruction of Titan or the murder of Chief Zendak.
However, its isolation from the other DC comics also leads to fewer readers checking it out due to a lack of any direct connection. This, undoubtedly, has been a reason behind the recent Green Lantern story and the future Flashpoint tie-in may help, too.

If you're new to the Legion, don't be afraid to dive right in. A universe like this one is perpetual and you will likely have difficulty finding a "jump-on point" as there's always something going on.

If you can pick up the SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and LEGION OF THREE WORLDS trade paperbacks those would be a good start. Otherwise, just begin with #1 of the current run.
I would also recommend the WHO'S WHO IN THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES series that covered the members of the team, its supporting cast, history and anything and everything that's come before. The new LEGION series is said to begin sometime after Levitz's last run that ended in 1989. The WHO'S WHO books covered everything up to 1988. Which, in a relative sense, would be like it came out a couple years ago.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Crossgen Promo

Crossgen promo art by Mitch Breitweiser.

Somehow I missed seeing this when it first appeared online...

Let's see what clues we have...
Ruse (obviously), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Route 666, Mystic, El Cazador...

Since Breitweiser is listed as a cover artist for RUSE #1, it's likely that this will be a variant cover for that issue.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Now on Twitter

I finally broke down and joined Twitter,
You can find me here. Or just search for nwcomics.

2010: The Year in Digital Comics

Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 took a look at what had to be the biggest year for the Digital Comics market.

Go here to read a month-by-month tracking of what all happened to get us to where we are now.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010 Top Ten Digital Comics

Comixology has released their lists for the top ten digital comics for 2010.

The top selling digital comic was WANTED #2

The top free comic download was THE WALKING DEAD #1

The top digital series was THE WALKING DEAD.

Go here to check out the rest of the top ten for each category.

Comixology Rings in the New Year with Batman

DC just released almost 50 issues of BATMAN on Comixology at the turn of the calendar, including #700.

As part of their "Batman 101 on 1/01" sale, issues 600 thru 700 of BATMAN will be on sale for .99 each until 11PM Eastern Time.

Go to Comixology's website or access it from your iPhone or Droid to check it out!