The 10 Most Interesting Comics of June

Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics
Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics

Each month, we round up the most interesting comics, graphic novels, web and digital comics that we recommend you check out.

1. PETER PARKER SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1


Adam Kubert/Marvel Comics

By Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert
Marvel Comics

This new series revives the title of the longtime second string Spider-man title which hasn’t been used with the “Peter Parker” prefix since 1998. While the flagship Amazing Spider-man comic has taken Peter Parker to some interesting new places in recent years, most recently as the CEO of his own technology company, some fans feel this globe-trotting Spidey lacks the “old Parker luck” (or lack thereof) that everyone likes to remember. This new companion series aims for a “back to the basics” appeal with stories set in NYC but still within the current continuity. Chip Zdarsky is a brilliant if slightly idiosyncratic choice of writer for one of Marvel’s most visible heroes. As one half of the team behind Image Comics’ raunchy hit series Sex Criminals, he tends toward absurd comedy and will assuredly tap into the sense of humor that Spidey needs, but he’s also shown a great knack for sincerity and sheer likability in comics like Jughead that make it seem like he’ll get Peter Parker pretty well. He’s joined by veteran artist Adam Kubert, who’s by no means a newcomer to drawing Spider-man.

2. THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN BLAKE: MYSTERY OF THE GHOST SHIP


Fred Fordham/Scholastic

By Phillip Pullman and Fred Fordham
Scholastic Graphix

Phillip Pullman, the famed author of the His Dark Materials trilogy of all ages fantasy novels, is making a big comeback this year with a highly anticipated new novel, The Book of Dust, out this October. For those that can’t wait that long, there is also his first graphic novel which is the opening of a proposed series called The Adventures of John Blake. The titular hero is an enigmatic teenage boy on a time-traveling 18th century galleon manned by a crew plucked from various points in history. They rescue a young girl in modern day Australia who has fallen overboard her parents’ yacht and they risk a run-in with the evil Dahlberg Corporation to get her home. Pullman owes much to the classic boys adventures of Treasure Island and classic Eurocomics like Tin Tin, but Fordham’s realistic, modern artwork calls to mind the sophisticated European adventure comics of today.

3. SUNBURNING


Keiler Roberts/Koyama Press

By Keiler Roberts
Koyama Press

The trick with creating good memoir comics is being willing to shed the natural inclination toward self-preservation that prevents true honesty about your own life. Keiler Roberts seems to have no problem with this. Sunburning is a collection of comic vignettes about her home life and her personal struggles with motherhood, being an artist, and dealing with mental and physical illness. Her depictions of her struggles with bipolar disorder as well as her brutally and hilariously honest exchanges with her daughter, her husband, and her parents are just about the most direct and real scenes you’ll read in comics this year. She is not afraid to show herself as being crass or even mean at times, but just as often she is refreshing, down-to-earth and funny.

4. DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1


Andy Kubert/DC Comics

By Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Andy Kubert, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair
DC Comics

Today’s DC is all about reconnecting its characters to the great multiversal tapestry of their pasts, which had been mostly rewritten in the 2011 “New 52” reboot. In some ways, this one-shot sets up the latest multi-comic summer event—leading toward August’s Dark Nights: Metal—but it is also a continuation of much of what has come before including clues planted in last year’s DC: Rebirth one-shot and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s recent run on Batman. That means this is primarily designed for DC fans that have been paying acute attention over the years and not so much for the casual comic reader. If you’re any sort of DC fan, though, this is a gripping introduction to a big story involving Batman being ultra-secretive about some universe-shattering mystery, which is always fun. Some familiar faces who haven’t been around much in recent years like Hawkman and Mister Miracle make some enticing cameos here.

5. GARBAGE NIGHT


Jen Lee/Nobrow Press

By Jen Lee
Nobrow Press

Jen Lee is best known for her groundbreaking semi-animated webcomic Thunderpaw but has managed to translate that appeal into non-animated print. Her 2015 one-issue Vacancy, released through Nobrow’s 17x23 imprint, was set in the same post-apocalyptic world of Thunderpaw, populated by teenage, talking animals, and now Garbage Night, her first graphic novel, expands that story into a 72-page hardcover. It follows the same trio—Simon, a dog, Cliff, a raccoon, and Reynard, a deer—and this time they’re befriended by another dog named Barnaby as they scavenge for food in this world suddenly devoid of humans. Lee’s strong sense of design and color makes her a great choice for Nobrow who publish many of the industry’s best looking graphic novels.

6. UNCOMFORTABLY HAPPILY


Yeon-sik Hong/Drawn & Quarterly

By Yeon-sik Hong
Drawn & Quarterly

Anyone who has worked from home for an extensive length of time will see themselves in Hong’s depiction of his own struggle to create a better working environment so that he can meet his deadlines. This hefty, nearly 600-page memoir of the time he and his wife moved out of the noisy hubbub of Seoul to the quiet isolation of the South Korean countryside is unassuming, funny, heartwarming—and, at times, stressful. Hong and his wife, also an artist, escaped the city to find a quiet place to live and work but also find that rural life invites many distractions of its own. This is the first time this Korean “manhwa” will be released in the States and is translated by American cartoonist Hellen Jo.

7. VALERIAN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL. 1


Jean-Claude Méziéres/Cinebook

By Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Méziéres
Cinebook

Next month will see the release of Luc Besson’s new film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a sci-fi adventure that looks stylistically similar to his classic 1997 film The Fifth Element. That’s because Valerian is based on a French comic series (typically called Valerian & Laureline) that many American readers may not be aware of but that is a noted influence on many science fiction films like The Fifth Element and even Star Wars. It’s a space opera drawn in a humorous, cartoony style about two Earth teens serving in the Spatio-Temporal Service in the 28th century. Valerian is the square-jawed but occasionally clueless hero while Laureline starts out as simply the sidekick but over time grows to be the smarter, more capable member of the duo. These adventures began being serialized in 1967 in the French comics magazine Pilote and ran until 2010 with stories collected into various graphic albums over time. Cinebook will be publishing multiple volumes that will include some material that has never been translated before as well as a long joint interview with the creators and Besson.

8. SOUND OF SNOW FALLING


Maggie Umber/2D Cloud

By Maggie Umber
2D Cloud

Umber’s wordless, painted comic is part nature documentary, part hand-painted poetry, showing a family of great horned owls living in their natural habitat. We see the entire birth cycle of a nest of babies and a mother fiercely and lovingly protecting and nurturing them. Their nocturnal activity is depicted in scenes of murky and minimal color that force you to squint at times to make out the action. Umber, a co-founder of the boutique art-comic publisher 2D Cloud, blends her love of educational science and artistic expression with this quiet, beautiful and captivating little comic.

9. KNIFE'S EDGE (FOUR POINTS BOOK 2)


Rebecca Mock/First Second

By Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux/First Second

Book 2 of Larson and Mock’s high seas adventure picks up where the first volume left off, after twins Alex and Cleo were reunited with their long lost father. Now, after learning some startling truths about their parents, they’re off again to find a family treasure before their nemesis, the infamous pirate Felix Worley, beats them to it. Knife’s Edge is just as much of a rollicking page-turner as its predecessor, Compass South. Mock’s artwork is colorful and fluid and even reminiscent of the work of her co-creator Larson, an award-winning artist in her own right.

10. SHORTBOX #5


Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

By various
Comics & Cola

If you want to read comics from fresh, diverse, up and coming comic creators, you could do worse than follow writer Zainab Akhtar, who is not only one of the most thoughtful writers about comics but she also has great taste in comic art and an eye for new talent. Every three months, Akhtar curates a “box” of comics that she commissions from interesting new creators and sells a limited edition set of them on her website for only a 10-day period. You can pre-order her fifth set until June 30; it contains comics from a diverse array of cartoonists such as Freddy Carrasco, Nicole Miles, Rosemary, Valero-O’Connell, Jeremy Sorese, Areeba Siddique, and Afu Chan.

You Can Get Paid $1000 to Watch All 20 Marvel Movies Before Avengers: Endgame Hits Theaters

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Marvel fans in need of a little cash, listen up: CableTV.com, an online resource for finding the best TV, internet, and phone services, has posted a listing for what they've deemed "The Marvel Movie Marathon Dream Job." Just ahead of Avengers: Endgame's arrival in theaters on April 26, the company is looking for an individual to watch all 20 released Marvel Cinematic Universe movies back to back.

“Do you have the endurance of Iron Man?," the listing reads. "The tenacity of Captain America? The leisure time of Ant-Man? Then CableTV.com has a mission for you." The best part? The chosen individual will get paid $1000 for their time and will receive a bundle of MCU merchandise as well.

You may be asking: Why would a company want to pay someone to binge-watch a handful of movies they're probably already planning to watch on their own? Well, they’re also requesting that the selected viewer live-tweet their experience in collaboration with CableTV.com, then meet up after the MCU marathon and “share your takeaways from the movies so we can make some beautiful, badass rankings together.”

The competition is bound to be fierce for this job, and the application period will end on April 15, 2019—so don't delay in submitting yours here.

Batmania: When Batman Ruled the Summer of 1989

JD Hancock, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
JD Hancock, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

“Flop” is how marketing research group Marketing Evaluation Inc. assessed the box office potential of the 1989 Warner Bros. film Batman. The big-budget production, directed by Tim Burton and co-starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, was expected to be one of the rare times a major Hollywood studio took a comic book adaptation seriously. But according to the marketing data, the character of Batman was not as popular as the Incredible Hulk, who was then appearing in a slate of made-for-television movies. And he was only a quarter as appealing as the California Raisins, the claymation stars of advertising.

That prediction was made in 1988. The film was released on June 23, 1989, and went on to gross $253.4 million, making it the fifth most successful motion picture up to that point.

While Marketing Evaluation may have miscalculated the movie’s potential, they did hedge their bet. By the time profits from the movie’s merchandising—hats, shirts, posters, toys, bed sheets, etc.—were tallied, the company said, Warner Bros. could be looking at a sizable haul.

When the cash registers stopped ringing, the studio had sold $500 million in tie-in products, which was double the gross of the film itself.

In 1989, people didn’t merely want to see Batman—they wanted to wear the shirts, eat the cereal, and contemplate, if only for a moment, putting down $499.95 for a black denim jacket studded with rhinestones.

Batmania was in full swing. Which made it even more unusual when the studio later claimed the film had failed to turn a profit.

 

The merchandising blitz of Star Wars in 1977 gave studios hope that ambitious science-fiction and adventure movies would forever be intertwined with elaborate licensing strategies. George Lucas's space opera had driven audiences into a frenzy, leading retailers to stock up on everything from R2-D2 coffee mugs to plastic lightsabers. It was expected that other “toyetic” properties would follow suit.

They didn’t. Aside from 1982’s E.T., there was no direct correlation between a film’s success and demand for ancillary product. In 1984 alone, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were smash hits. None of them motivated people to flock to stores and buy Gizmo plush animals or toy proton packs. (Ghostbusters toys eventually caught on, but only after an animated series helped nudge kids in their direction.)

Warner Bros. saw Batman differently. When the script was being developed, producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber were urging writers to make sure scenes were aligned with planned merchandising. They scribbled notes insisting that no onscreen harm come to the Batmobile: It should remain pristine so that kids would want to grab the toy version. As Batman, millionaire Bruce Wayne had a collection of vehicles and gadgets at his disposal—all props that could be replicated in plastic. Batman's comic book origins gave him a unique iconography that lent itself to flashy graphic apparel.

In March 1989, just three months before the film's release, Warner Bros. announced that it was merging with Time Inc. to create the mega-conglomerate Time-Warner, which would allow the film studio to capitalize on a deep bench of talent to help drive the “event” feel of the film.

Prince was signed to Warner's record label and agreed to compose an album of concept music that was tied to the characters; “Batdance" was among the songs and became a #1 hit. Their licensing arm, Licensing Corporation of America, contracted with 300 licensees to create more than 100 products, some of which were featured in an expansive brochure that resembled a bat-eared Neiman Marcus catalog. The sheer glut of product became a story, as evidenced by this Entertainment Tonight segment on the film's licensing push:

In addition to the rhinestone jacket, fans could opt for the Batman watch ($34.95), a baseball cap ($7.95), bicycle shorts ($26.95), a matching top ($24.95), a model Batwing ($29.95), action figures ($5.95), and a satin jacket modeled by Batman co-creator Bob Kane ($49.95).

The Batman logo became a way of communicating anticipation for the film. The virtually textless teaser poster, which had only the June 23 opening date printed on it, was snapped up and taped to walls. (Roughly 1200 of the posters sized for bus stops and subways were stolen, a crude but effective form of market research.) In barber shops, people began asking to have the logo sheared into the sides of their heads. The Batman symbol was omnipresent. If you had forgotten about the movie for even five minutes, someone would eventually walk by sporting a pair of Batman earrings to remind you.

At Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles, 7000 packs of Batman trading cards flew out the door. Management hired additional staff and a security guard to handle the crowds. The store carried 36 different kinds of Batman T-shirts. Observers compared the hysteria to the hula hoop craze of the 1950s.

One retailer made a more contemporary comparison. “There’s no question Batman is the hottest thing this year,” Marie Strong, manager of It’s a Small World at a mall in La Crosse, Wisconsin, told the La Crosse Tribune. “[It’s] the hottest [thing] since Spuds McKenzie toward the end of last year.”

 

By the time Batman was in theaters and breaking records—it became the first film to make $100 million in just 10 days, alerting studios to the idea of short-term profits—the merchandising had become an avalanche. Stores that didn’t normally carry licensed goods, like Macy’s, set up displays.

Not everyone opted for officially-licensed apparel: U.S. marshals conducted raids across the country, seizing more than 40,000 counterfeit Batman shirts and other bogus items.

Collectively, Warner raked in $500 million from legitimate products. In 1991, the Los Angeles Times reported that the studio claimed only $2.9 million in profit had been realized from merchandising and that the movie itself was in a $35.8 million financial hole owing to excessive promotional and production costs. It was a tale typical of creative studio accounting, long a method for avoiding payouts to net profit participants. (Nicholson, whose contract stipulated a cut of all profits, earned $50 million.)

Whatever financial sleight-of-hand was implemented, Warner clearly counted on Batman to be a money-printing operation. Merchandising plans for the sequel, 1992’s Batman Returns, were even more strategic, including a tie-in agreement with McDonald’s for Happy Meals. In a meta moment, one deleted script passage even had Batman’s enemies attacking a toy store in Gotham full of Batman merchandise. The set was built but the scene never made it onscreen.

The studio was willing to give Burton more control over the film, which was decidedly darker and more sexualized than the original. Batman Returns was hardly a failure, but merchandising was no longer as hot as it was in the summer of 1989. Instead of selling out of shirts, stores ended up marking down excess inventory. McDonald’s, unhappy with the content of the film, enacted a policy of screening movies they planned to partner with before making any agreements. By the time Warner released 1995’s Batman Forever, the franchise was essentially a feature-length toy commercial.

It paid off. Licensing for the film topped $1 billion. Today, given the choice between a film with Oscar-level prestige or one with the potential to have its logo emblazoned on a rhinestone jacket that people would actually want to buy, studios would probably choose the latter. In that sense, the Batmania of 1989 endures.

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