Bob’s Blog: Getting Ready for Comic-Con 2014

SDCC Con Center
CREDIT: Bob Bretall

It’s that magical time of year for a comics fan: San Diego Comic Con (or, as it’s officially named “Comic Con International: San Diego”).  The photo above is from my room at the Bayfront Hilton a couple of years ago and gives some sense of the scale of the convention center which runs from the Bayfront to the Marriott and has events in both these hotels, as well as most of Downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp District which can be seen off on the right side of the photo across Harbor Blvd.

I often hear that people knock SDCC for being “taken over by Hollywood” or not devoted to comics any more.  I cannot disagree that there is a tremendous amount of TV, Movie, video game and other pop culture content at San Diego Comic Con.  In fact the internet & TV, not surprisingly, concentrate coverage on things the general population is likely to be more interested in.  That means TV, movies, video games, and people dressed up in costumes.  It gives a skewed view of how much actual content is available devoted to the printed comics.

There are literally hundreds of panels devoted to printed comics.  More than any other convention out there.  You can certainly go to comic con and not see or do a single thing related to printed comics, but that would be your choice.

People who know me know I’m in love with printed comics.  The writers, the artists, the publishers, the entire art form.  That’s why SDCC is the highlight of my convention going year.  Going over the schedule of panels is like being a kid in a candy store.  I see so many panels I’d like to attend and ultimately I cannot hope to pick and attend every panel I’d like to attend.  My tentative schedule is below, and I have not even selected every panel I’d like to go to because there are FAR too many!!  As it is, I have several selected that overlap with one another and I’ll end up making some choices “on the fly” when I’m at the con based on how crowded any given panel is, what I happen to be able to get to easier, and where groups of friends seem to be congregating.

There are so many panels from favorite publisher  (Image) and their creators that I won’t be able to see them all, but I will see several of them, and also panels hosted by Action Lab, Archie, Boom!, Dark Horse, IDW, Oni Press,  Top Shelf, Valiant, and Vertigo.

And creators?  I should be seeing panels featuring these comics creators:
Amanda Conner, Anthony Tollin, Batton Lash, Brian K. Vaughan, Chip Zdarsky, Dan Parent, Dave Elliott, David Dwonch, David Petersen, Dennis O’Neil, Drew Friedman, Fiona Staples, Francesco Francavilla, Frank Cho, Gabo, Gabriel Rodriguez, Gregg Hurwitz, Howard Chaykin, Jae Lee, Jamal Igle, Jason Latour, Jason Martin, Jeff Smith, Jeremy Dale, Jim Rugg, Jim Steranko, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Quesada, John Layman, Jonathan Maberry, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kevin O’Neill, Lee Bermejo, Len Wein, Louise Simonson, Mark Brooks, Mark Buckingham, Mark Evanier, Mark Schultz, Mark Waid, Matt Fraction, Michael Uslan, Mike Carlin, Neal Adams, Nick Dragotta, Paul Levitz, Paul Tobin, R. A. Height, Richard Starkings, Rick Remender, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Ryan Burton, Scott Shaw!, Scott Snyder, Sergio Aragonés, Simon Oliver, Stan Sakai, Steve Leialoha, Steve Seagle, Stuart Moore, Terry Dodson, Terry Moore, Tula Lotay, Walter Simonson, and William Stout…

And this doesn’t count the comics creators I’ll talk to down on the show floor at publisher booths and in Artist’s Alley.

SDCC has moved away from comics?  Don’t make me laugh.  There is so much focus on comics here that if you don’t find it, you’re not looking.
NOTE: In schedule below ** means I’m likely to skip that panel to try to fit in other activities (either a conflicting panel or something on the show floor)

July 23 • Wednesday
2:00pm – 4:00pm Image Expo at San Diego Comic Con (Hilton San Diego Bayfront)

July 24 • Thursday
**11:00am – 12:00pm Flesk Publications Exposed! Artists Spill Their Guts! (Rm 28DE)
11:30am – 12:30pm Spotlight on Bill Finger, the Co-Creator of Batman (Rm 4)
1:00pm – 2:00pm Batman in the ’70s (Room 5AB)
2:00pm – 3:00pm Image Comics: I Is For…Infinity (Rm 23ABC)
**2:30pm – 3:30pm Spotlight on Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti (Rm 4)
**3:30pm – 4:30pm IDW Artist’s Editions (Rm 4)
3:30pm – 4:30pm The Sergio & Mark Show (Rm 8)
4:30pm – 5:30pm Q&A: Gregg Hurwitz, Interviewed by Howard Chaykin (Rm 4)
6:00pm – 7:00pm Vertigo: Defy Conventions (Rm 5AB)
7:30pm – 8:30pm The Lost 1978 Comic Book Documentary (Rm 26AB)
9:00pm – 11:00pm CBLDF Party (Westgate Hotel – 1055 Second Av)

July 25 • Friday
10:00am – 11:00am Will Eisner: Teacher and Mentor (Rm 29A)
11:00am – 12:00pm Image Comics: I Is for…Inception (Rm 23ABC)
12:00pm – 1:00pm Top Shelf Productions Featuring Kevin O’Neill and More! (Rm 32AB)
1:00pm – 2:00pm Archie Forever: Life, Afterlife, and Beyond (Rm 4)
**2:00pm – 3:00pm Spotlight on Brian K. Vaughan Room (Rm 25ABC)
**3:00pm – 4:00pm Spotlight on Fiona Staples Room (Rm 25ABC)
3:00pm – 4:00pm Terry Moore (Rm 4)
3:30pm – 4:30pm A Celebration of Walt Kelly’s 101st Birthday (Rm 8)
4:00pm – 5:00pm IDW: Rock This Town! (Rm 4)
5:00pm – 6:00pm The World of Mouse Guard (Rm 32ABC)
8:00pm – 10:30pm The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront) – VIP tickets so will be at a table up front!

July 26 • Saturday
10:00am – 11:00am Art & Comic Book Art (Rm 29A)
11:45am – 1:00pm Quick Draw (Rm 6BCF)
**1:00pm – 2:00pm Focus on Dennis O’Neil (Rm 26AB)
1:00pm – 2:00pm Saga (Rm 7AB)
2:00pm – 3:00pm The Oni Press Comicstravaganza: All Cats Go to Purgatory! (Rm 9)
3:00pm – 4:00pm 30 Years of Usagi Yojimbo! (Rm 28DE)
**4:00pm – 5:30pm Oddball Comics with Scott Shaw! (Rm 7AB)
**4:30pm – 5:30pm Image Comics: I Is for…Ideas (Rm 6DE)
4:30pm – 6:00pm That ’70s Panel (Rm 5AB)
**5:00pm – 6:00pm Rai, Armor Hunters & Beyond (Rm 29A)
6:00pm – 7:00pm What’s New at Action Lab Entertainment (Rm 28DE)
** OFF-SITE Dinner **

July 27 • Sunday
10:00am – 11:15am The Annual Jack Kirby Tribute Panel (Rm 5AB)
11:00am – 12:00pm Spotlight on Jim Rugg (Rm 4)
12:15pm – 1:45pm CBLDF: You Can’t Draw That! Live Art Jam (Rm 5AB)
2:00pm – 3:00pm Cover Story: The Art of the Cover (Rm 25ABC)

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Guest Blog: Warner Brothers VIP Studio Tour: The Batman Exhibit

All Photos CREDIT: Andrew Sanford

What is old is new again. Comic book characters have moved from the pages of the funny books, to the silver screen to bedsheets, toothpaste, video games and every other use in between. Warner Brothers is marking the 75th Anniversary of Batman by featuring him in their studio tour in Burbank, California.

I had the pleasure of taking the tour on July 18, 2014, as an aperitif to the 2014 San Diego Comic Convention. I had only taken the Warner Brothers Studio Tour once before and that was a few years back well before the Batman focused exhibit. I must warn you, this tour is essentially the Warner Brothers studio tour with some Batman elements thrown in so please don’t anticipate that the majority of the tour will be Batman centric. The tour runs over 2 hours but can very from tour to tour. As with any working studio tour, your experience will vary based on your particular tour guide, when you take your tour, and the people that are on your tour. While there is a rough outline to the tour, each one is different. The tours work around shooting schedules, questions from the tour and the style of the tour guide. You can generally expect to see a variety of sets, the interior of a sound stage, and any set displays specifically designed for the tours.


About 45 minutes into the tour, we were taken to the display area, where they had props from the Batman films on the first floor and items from the Harry Potter movies on the second floor. We were given about 20 minutes to walk around, take pictures and enjoy. I had scene the Harry Potter display from my previous visit so I focused mostly on the Batman items. It featured items from not only the most recent trilogy but from his earlier foray into cinema from a few decades back. Much of the recent props were the same as were shown in the late 2012 L.A. Live event to celebrate the release of the Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray. That event was free and also featured more artwork. However, if you missed that event, this one will probably be running for quite awhile (if the continued use of the Harry Potter display is any guide). There is also items from those earlier movies which were not at the 2012 event. My only complaint was that 20 minutes was not long enough.

20140719_131420[1] 20140719_133323[1]

We also got to visit a hangar which had vehicles from all of the movies. This includes two versions of the Tumbler, various bat-cycles and planes and an opportunity to have a green screen photo in the bat cave (digitally added of course). We passed on that opportunity but the photo taking was free. Taking home a copy did cost money. They also had a working bat-signal which was fun.

Back at the gift shop they had a small section devoted to Batman merchandise, and also sections for Game of Thrones, Friends, WB cartoon characters, etc.   The largest amounts of merchandise seemed to be for the Big Bang Theory and Harry Potter. We enjoyed the tour and I would take it again, but will probably wait some time to see what other properties they feature.

Andrew Sanford for
Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Sex Sells! (…and so do #1 Issues, Zombies and Variant Covers)


So what happens when you combine sex, a relaunch to a new #1, zombies, and a boatload of variant & chase covers?  Apparently a perfect storm that nets you 16,000+ in pre-sales to comic shops.

From the Action Lab Press Release:

PITTSBURGH, PA- Dan Mendoza’s critically acclaimed, genre bending series Zombie Tramp is relaunching with a new #1. The Action Lab: Danger Zone title is a hit, as preorders top 16,000 copies. The new Zombie Trap, co-written by Mendoza, Jason Martin (Night of the 80’s Undead) and artist TM Chu, will launch on July 23, with 12 alternate covers drawn by industry talents Jerry Gaylord (Fanboys vs. Zombies), Josh Howard ( Dead @17) and Jamal Igle (The Terminator: Enemy of my enemy).

Zombie Tramp is the story of Janey Bell, once Hollywood’s most popular high-priced call girl until she was bitten by a zombie and imbued with strange new powers. The new series picks up from where the Free Comic Book Day preview ends as Janey arrives in Las Vegas to start her undead life over again.

Action Lab has cracked the code (that frankly was not very secret) on how to pump up their sales.  I’m a big fan of the guys at Action Lab and more power to them in getting so many pre-orders for their new ongoing Zombie Tramp series.  Like many other smaller publishers who are doing whatever they can to make a buck, Action Lab is following in the footsteps of the big guys Marvel & DC, who have discovered that you can pump up the volume on sales by doing a lot of variant covers.  Comic publishers manipulate sales on a REGULAR basis by churning out variant covers that collectors “must have”.

What I find fascinating in this case is the combination of factors:

  • Sexy Girl: check
  • #1 on the cover: check
  • ZOMBIES!!! check
  • Tons of variant & chase covers (including store exclusives): dodeca-check


If comic shops & comic buyers can be so easily manipulated it’s kind of foolish not to jump on the band wagon and play them like a finely tuned instrument.  In a day when there are so many indie books from small publishers selling less than 5,000 copies (which happens before we get out of the top 300) being able to juice up your sales to 16,000 is no mean feat.  16,000 is sales would place this book at position 143 on the May 2014 comic sales chart, beating titles like Birds of Prey #31 (DC), American Vampire Second Cycle #3 (DC/Vertigo), and All-New Doop #2 (Marvel).  Please note that I’m comparing this to books on the May sales chart for convenience, since they’re the latest sales numbers available at the time of this posting.  We’ll have to wait and see where this book ranks on the official July sales charts.

Bravo, Action Lab! You’ve successfully cracked the code on how to get into the Top 150. But what does that say about the comics retailing business?

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Flying Below the Radar: July 2014


This is a Blog I do once a month as I read through the advance solicits for comics shipping in two months.  Every month your local comic shop (LCS) places orders with Diamond Comics for what comics will be on their rack two months down the road.  That means in July they’re ordering the things that they’ll be selling in September, 2014.

This month we have the return of characters we’ve not seen in years, famous authors, new Artist Editions showcasing original art, successful kickstarter campaigns continued in new comics series, a new series from Grant Morrison that could have easily flown below your radar, and lots of other cool stuff that you may miss if you’re not reading though all the solicits like I do…  I scour the solicits so you don’t have to!

Comic shop owners are typically aware of the books from the big publishers particularly superhero stuff and “hot” indie books (usually AFTER they become hot) - beyond that there are no guarantees.  Even if they know about a particular comic they may not order it to put out on their racks.  I keep track of advance solicits that get posted on-line on the ComicSpectrum website each month, if there is something you really want that’s not guaranteed to be on the rack (like Batman or Avengers), you should consider letting your comic shop know you’re interested so they’ll know to order it.

I’ll point out stuff here each month that catches my eye and I typically do not see on the racks in every comic shop.  If it looks cool to you, make sure you ask your LCS to order it.  Heck, start a pull list at your shop and add the books you’re interested in so your shop will save them for you and you don’t have to worry about them selling out.

CREDIT: Dark Horse                                   CREDIT: Dark Horse

Dark Ages #2 (of 4) [Dark Horse]
Dan Abnett (Writer) • I. N. J. Culbard (Artist)
I missed issue #1 last month, so this flew below MY radar!  I’m a big fan of both Abnett and Culbard so this is a “must buy” for me!
As hell comes forth from the skies above, the heathen war band seeks refuge and redemption in a fortified monastery. But inside lies a dark secret that could ensure their salvation — or seal their fate!
FC / 40 pages / $3.99

Grendel vs. The Shadow #1 (of 3) [Dark Horse]
Matt Wagner (Writer/Artist)
Grendel Returns!!
Sparks fly and bullets blaze when the original Grendel, Hunter Rose, is transported to 1930s New York and faces off with the original dark-night avenger, the Shadow! Two pulp-noir icons go head to head in this three-issue prestige-format series written and drawn by legendary Grendel creator Matt Wagner, who has also been doing great work with the Shadow for Dynamite!
FC / 48 pages / $5.99

silver-surfer-cover-eaa80 RotNRuin01-cvr-4f9d0
CREDIT: IDW Publishing                            CREDIT: IDW Publishing

John Buscema’s Silver Surfer: Artist’s Edition HC [IDW]
Stan Lee (writer) • John Buscema (artist)
John Buscema was one of the most important artists at Marvel Comics for decades. He produced gorgeous pencils for some of the most iconic characters at the House of Ideas, including The Avengers, Thor, The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man, Conan the Barbarian and many more. Buscema is perhaps most acclaimed for his stunning rendition of the noble Silver Surfer. This Artist’s Edition will include Silver Surfer classics #5 and #6, both double-sized issues, as well as other stories, a cover and classic page gallery, plus more! All done with the full endorsement and cooperation of the Buscema family.
HC / B&W / 144 pages / 12” x 17” / $75.00 cost to your store, retail price will be higher

Rot & Ruin #1 [IDW]
Jonathan Maberry (writer) • Tony Vargas (artist)
Brand new adventures set in the world of Rot & Ruin! Written by NY Times best-selling author and multiple Bram Stoker award-winner, Jonathan Maberry, this all-new storyline continues events from the award-winning series of novels. We meet Benny, Nix, Lilah and Chong as they travel through the Sierra Nevada mountains just one faltering step ahead of zombie hordes and one giant leap behind the plane flying through the sky that set them on their journey of discovery.
FC / 32 pages / $3.99

Gallery01 NAMES-Cv1-0b58e
CREDIT: DC Comics                               CREDIT: DC Comics/Vertigo

Doug Moench (writer) • Kelley Jones, John Beatty and others (artists)
Graphitti Designs borrows the Artist’s Edition format from IDW publishing with this inaugural book featuring Batman! For the first time ever, Dark Knight fans and collectors will have the opportunity to see and own museum-quality reproductions of memorable Batman art…as it was originally conceived by the artist. Printed in color from high-resolution scans of the actual original art, every page is reproduced at original size on heavy paper stock, capturing the artwork – stray pencil marks, whiteout, coffee stains and all! The pages are alive with all of the subtleties and nuances one would expect from investment-quality original comic art.
BATMAN: KELLEY JONES GALLERY EDITION is the first in a series of deluxe, hardcover books from Graphitti Designs that faithfully reproduces the original art from select, key DC Comics series. This volume contains the covers and interior pages from BATMAN #515 through #525, minus the interior of issue #520, which Kelley did not draw. These stories are written by Doug Moench, with most pages inked by John Beatty.
B&W / 248 pg / 12” x 17” / $125.00 US

THE NAMES #1 (of 8) [DC/Vertigo]
Peter Milligan (writer) • Leandro Fernandez (artist)
New York City. Forty-year-old Kevin Walker is a successful trader. He’s incredibly rich. He has a young, sexy wife and a son he adores. He has everything. Until…
The mysterious man known as the Surgeon walks into Kevin’s office. He takes a seat and tells Kevin to write a suicide note. Trembling but obedient, Kevin does what the Surgeon says. Then, at a word from this well-dressed figure, Kevin jumps out his window and falls fifty stories to his death.
Thus begins THE NAMES, an 8-issue miniseries by writer Peter Milligan (HELLBLAZER, SKREEMER) and artist Leandro Fernandez (Wolverine, Punisher: Max). THE NAMES is a dark, contemporary thriller set in the world of Big Money: hedge funds, leveraged buyouts, market raids, flash crashes. High-end finance that can ruin entire economies, run by a cabal of the world’s richest (and sickest) people.
Now, it’s up to Katya Walker – the beautiful and deadly wife of the late Kevin – to take on this hidden power structure and find out who killed her husband, and why. No matter what it takes. No matter who she has to kill.
FC / 32 pages / $2.99

CREDIT: Valiant Entertainment           CREDIT: BOOM! Studios

THE DEATH-DEFYING DR. MIRAGE #1 (of 5) [Valiant]
Jen Van Meter (writer) • Roberto De La Torre (artist)
Death was just the beginning…
Doctor Mirage talks to the dead…but the only spirit Shan Fong can’t find is that of her late husband, Hwen. Instead, America’s favorite semi-retired paranormal investigator is haunted, using her gift to solve homicides and bring peace to the recently bereaved. But when a big-time occultist with a classified military past hires her for a special job, Shan discovers a lead that might close the greatest mystery she’s ever tackled – how to get Hwen back. Now, Doctor Mirage must enter the undiscovered country and cross all the realms of the underworld, if she has any hope of rescuing the man she loves…or be forever lost beyond the earthly plain.
FC / 32 pages / $3.99

WILD’S END #1 (of 6) [BOOM! Studios]
Dan Abnett (writer) • I.N.J. Culbard (artist)
When a rural English community of the 1930s is the victim of an alien invasion, the residents’ lives are upended by the harsh realities of life-and-death violence. Led by the town’s outsider and retired war veteran, they will have to rally together to uncover the secret of their invaders and ultimately fight back.
Inspired by the sci-fi aesthetic of War of the Worlds and the anthropomorphic characters of Blacksad and Mouse Guard, readers will be blown away by Culbard’s art while fans of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Cornetto Trilogy (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, WORLD’S END) will fall in love with Clive, Peter, and Gilbert as they try to survive an alien invasion.
FC / 32 Pages / $3.99


GEORGE PÉREZ’S SIRENS #1 (of 6) [BOOM! Studios]
George Pérez (writer/artist)
A sci-fi adventure story that spans time and space, featuring a team of female heroes that kick butt across the universe. If you like strong female sci-fi characters like Battlestar Galactica’s Starbuck, Star Wars’ Princess Leia, and Alien’s Ripley, you’ll find nine reasons to love this series.  As an intergalactic force enslaves planets across the galaxy, the legendary team known only as the Sirens must reunite to save it—but is that even possible when the Sirens themselves don’t even remember who they are? And the rest of the universe only remembers them as…villains?
FC / 32 Pages / $3.99

Copperhead-01-26748 GodHatesAstronauts-01-B-e390e
CREDIT: Image Comics                           CREDIT: Image Comics

Jay Faerber (writer) • Scott Godlewski & Ron Riley (artists)
Welcome to Copperhead, a grimy mining town on the edge of a backwater planet. Single mom Clara Bronson is the new sheriff, and on her first day she’ll have to contend with a resentful deputy, a shady mining tycoon, and a family of alien hillbillies. And did we mention the massacre? This gritty 24th Century Western debuts with an extra-long first issue.
FC / 32 Pages / $3.50

Ryan Browne (writer/artist)
The farcical cult-sensation and Kickstarter success story returns with a new story that’s a perfect jump-on point for new readers! And look at the GREAT variant cover by Geoff Darrow!
A NASA funded group of arrogant “super people” must stop a rash of farmers that have been using rocket-powered silos to launch themselves into outer space! As these Astro-Farmers fire themselves all over the galaxy, NASA must utilize their every resource (a guy with a ghost-cow head, a bunch of magic bears, and a Chicago cop with robot arms) to avoid an intergalactic incident!
FC / 32 Pages / $3.50

CREDIT: Image Comics                          CREDIT: Oni Press

ROCHE LIMIT #1 [Image]
Michael Moreci (writer) • Vic Malhotra (artist)
Twenty years after this promise, billionaire Langford Skaargard’s dream of cosmic exploration is no more. Roche Limit, a colony situated on the cusp of a mysterious energy anomaly, is a melting pot of crime and terrible secrets. When Bekkah Hudson goes missing, the search to find her will plunge her sister and a cadre of the colony’s underworld figures into an odyssey that reveals a grim future for mankind. Blending 2001: A Space Odyssey with Blade Runner, ROCHE LIMIT is the first part of a bold sci-fi/noir trilogy.
FC / 32 Pages / $3.50

STUMPTOWN v3 #1 [Oni Press]
Greg Rucka (writer) • Justin Greenwood (artist)
The fan favorite private eye is back in a new ONGOING series illustrated by Justin Greenwood (Image Comics’ THE FUSE)! Things never go according to plan for Dex Parios — it doesn’t matter whether it’s work or play. When a weekend of soccer fun (both playing and watching!) turns ugly, it’s up to Dex to get to the bottom of the violence before a heated rivalry transforms into an all out war!
FC / 32 pages / $3.99

CREDIT: Amigo Comics                              CREDIT: Archie Comics

El Torres (writer) • Juan Jose Ryp (artist)
At last! The long-lost story where the Rogues were born, now remastered and with new-brand-extra pages. The first work of Juan Jose Ryp and El Torres with their creation, the Rogues! Follow the first adventure of Bram and Weasel: A robbery to a nobleman went really well. Now they are the owners of an unique bright jewel that everybody in Gerada wants– thieves, soldiers, and even mages!
FC / 32 pages / $3.99

Sabrina #1 [Archie]
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (writer) • Robert Hack, Jack Morelli (artists)
New ongoing series! Terror is born anew in this dark reimagining of Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s origin. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda.
FC / 32 pages / $3.99

CREDIT: Dynamite Comics                     CREDIT: Dynamite Comics

EX-CON #1 [Dynamite]
Duane Swierczynski (writer) • Keith Burns (artist)
Ex-Con is the newest book in a series of creator driven comics from Dynamite designated as “The Creators Unleashed”, featuring all new concepts and characters from the industry’s best and brightest!
1985: L.A. con artist Cody Pomeray had a gift for looking inside a mark’s soul with just a glance. But one fateful night, he targeted the wrong man — and was sentenced to the most savage prison in California. Pomeray would have been beaten to death on his first day if not for the intervention of Barnaby Creed, the most powerful crime lord in the Southland…
1989: Now Pomeray’s out on parole, robbed of his special ability and tasked with doing Creed “a little favor.” He has no idea he’s just stepped into a long con, and this time, he’s the mark…
FC / 32 pages / $3.99

ALICE COOPER #1 [Dynamite]
Joe Harris (writer) • Eman Casallos (artist)
The X-Files’ Joe Harris takes on The Prince of Darkness – Alice Cooper in his FIRST ongoing comic series! Rock n’ roll legend Alice Cooper was never a stranger to the mystic and the macabre. His stage shows were the stuff of legend, featuring snakes and pyrotechnics and the invocation of dark themes and darker forces. But while he was a legend in the waking world, few knew his role as “The Lord of Nightmares” beyond it, where he watched over us while we dreamed, and delivered horrors unto the deserving. Only someone took it all away from him, cast him out of his realm and locked him away… until now. And if he’s going to reclaim his dark throne, he’s going to need all the help he can get!
FC / 32 pages / $3.99

CREDIT: :01 First Second Books            CREDIT: Bongo Comics

Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West [:01 First Second]
Paul Pope, JT Petty (writers) • David Rubin (artist)
The extraordinary world introduced in Paul Pope’s Battling Boy is rife with monsters and short on heroes… but in this action-driven extension of the Battling Boy universe, we see it through a new pair of eyes: Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis’s last great hero, Haggard West.  A prequel to Battling Boy, The Rise of Aurora West follows the young hero as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her mother’s death, and to find her place in a world overrun with supernatural monsters and all-too-human corruption.
160 pages / $9.99

by various writers & artists!
If you like zombies, we got Zombies! It’s an all-out Zombiefest at Bongo in this Simpsons annual horror tradition! First, Homer leads an ever-diminishing group of survivors in their quest to stay alive against a marauding horde of cannibalistic zombies! And Bart and his friends must fend off the shopping dead while trapped at the Springfield Mall. Then, Homer and Bart must protect the nuclear power plant from a zombie invasion. Finally, a Zombienado strikes Springfield! It’s a lighthearted, night of the living dead, laugh riot!
FC / 48 pages / $4.99

CREDIT: Asylum Press                              CREDIT: Black Mask

Steve Mannion (writer/artist)
Originally funded as a Kickstarter campaign & now available to everyone!
Meet “One-Eyed Hans”, the roughest, toughest, meanest old hombre ever to bust up the FEARLESS DAWN camp! And he’s got one eye. Well, he’s actually got 2 eyes but one is made of glass. So, yeah. He’s got one eye. And he has been sent to aid in the BREAKOUT of Fearless Dawn’s arch Nemesis, Helga Von Krauss. Can Fearless Dawn stop ol’ One-Eye? I don’t know man. But one thing’s for certain, we got a pretty cool comic for you this time out. I mean, we don’t want to spoil it too much but all sorts of crazy stuff happens. Action! Intrigue! Giant Monster Transformations and Psychotherapy! Whew, it’s a doozie!
B&W / 32 pages / $3.99

PIROUETTE #1 [Black Mask]
Mark L Miller (writer) • Carlos Granda (artist)
The circus is the Greatest Show On Earth, unless you’re the attraction. Raised from infancy by duplicitous clowns who entertain by day and menace by night, Pirouette dreams of washing the paint from her face and escaping to a better life far away from her cruel adoptive circus family… because when the spotlights dim and the crowd disperses, the clown princess’ big-top dreams give way to a nightmarish world of monsters with painted smiles.
FC / 32 pages / $3.99

annihilator1 towncalleddragon

ANNIHILATOR #1 [Legendary Comics]
Grant Morrison (writer) • Frazer Irving (artist)
This six-issue series from the extraordinary mind of Grant Morrison is a subversive sci-fi adventure like no other, brought to life with stunning artwork from Frazer Irving (Judge Dredd, Necronauts).  Washed-up Hollywood screenwriter Ray Spass is caught in a downward spiral of broken relationships, wild parties, and self-destruction. Out of luck and out of chances, he’s one failed script away from fading into obscurity. Little does he know he’s about to write the story of his life. As his imagination runs rampant, Ray must join forces with his own fictional character Max Nomax on a reality-bending race to stop the entire universe from imploding… without blowing his own mind in the process.
FC / $3.99

A TOWN CALLED DRAGON #1 [Legendary Comics]
Judd Winick (writer) • Geoff Shaw (artist)
On the surface it seems like your average all-American tourist trap, but this snow-covered town hides a burning secret. After centuries of lying buried within the depths of an icy mountain, the world’s last dragon egg finally hatches – endangering modern life as we know it. Now an unlikely group of dangerously unqualified, ordinary citizens must band together, battling the elements – and each other – to slay this menacing creature. This five-issue series is an original story.
FC / 56 pages / $3.99

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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How Much is TOO Much? Overmining Comics Franchises…


There was an article on ComicBookResources Robot 6 the other day lamenting the fact that there are too many comics out there to read and that the “Completist Age” is over.  Perhaps drawing on the same inspiration, I had come to the same conclusions myself over the last few years.  All the renumbered series, deaths and resurrections, and endless events had soured me on even trying to buy all the comics from Marvel & DC any more.

For my own part, I found solace in Indie comics.  Since I love comics as a storytelling form, my pulling away from feeling the need to buy all the Marvel/DC books opened up VAST tracts of unexplored territory where I can read something really new & different every time I pull a sampling of comics off my “to read” stack.  Interested people can always see what I’m buying over on the ComicSpectrum web-site, I document the full list of what I’m buying every month.  In May (for stuff shipping in July) I had order 36 Marvel comics.  My June order was 21, and it looks like it’s going to be 19 in July.  What’s going on??

Let’s talk about over-mining comics franchises and how they specifically have affected my recent comics buying from Marvel as a case study in “unintended consequences”.  Marketing philosophy seems to dictate that if fans like 4 of somethings they’ll REALLY love 12 of that same thing!  Increasing output works to a certain point.  Personally I think that the breaking point is a combination of any particular fan noticing (a) they are not enjoying all the items being pushed at them equally and (b) realizing they are actually being ‘mined’ for cash by the marketing department of said publisher.  These are exaggerated by any particular fan’s comics buying budget when they realize they cannot afford (in money and/or time) to get ALL of the comics being blasted out at them.

Everyone will have their own unique breaking points and their own specific set of factors that cause them to snap, let’s look at a few of mine related to Marvel’s Avenger’s franchise:

The Marvel solicits for September went up earlier this week.  As always, I looked at them and jotted down what I was planning to get.  This is generally a combination of “what do I normally get” with “what is new and looks cool to me”.  I’ve been getting and enjoying a lot of Marvel’s Avengers books (not all of them, but most of them).  Here is what I would have been getting in September:
AVENGERS #34.1 ($4.99)
AVENGERS #35 ($4.99)
AVENGERS WORLD #12 & 13 ($7.98)
NEW AVENGERS #24 ($4.99)

That’s 7 comics for a total retail cost of $30.93 for the 5 series I was currently reading.  Note that I had not been getting Avengers Undercover and Uncanny Avengers, so I was getting 5 of 7 series with “Avengers” in the title.  Look at that total again, for FIVE series — $30.93.  Sure, some of those are “extra sized” issues, but ~$31 for 5 comic series?  Too much.  This put me into “straw that broke the camel’s back” mode and I started looking at this closer, which is NEVER a good thing for a comics Publisher.

Bottom line  is that I realized I am enjoying Avengers and New Avengers (written by Jonathan Hickman) significantly more than I am enjoying World, Mighty, and Secret (Your Mileage May Vary).  So I’m dropping those books, and guess what?  My DCBS order was still editable for my June order, so I went in and dropped the titles  effective with the issues coming out in August.  I ALSO decided I don’t need Avengers #34.1 which is by a different writer and seems like total fill-in material to me, something I can easily skip.  So I have dropped the following:
AVENGERS #34.1 ($4.99)
AVENGERS WORLD #11, 12 & 13 ($11.97)
MIGHTY AVENGERS #13 & 14 ($7.98)
SECRET AVENGERS #7 & 8 ($7.98)

That’s $32.92 (at retail) that I’ll no longer be spending on Avengers franchised books.  IN return, Marvel is getting an extra buck a piece from me for Avengers #25, and New Avengers #24, plus the double ship on New Avengers in August (an extra $5.99), that’s a net loss of $26.93.  Sounds like a failed marketing action where I’m concerned, but as long as these double ships and bumped prices earn them those lost $$ from other fans (on a month after month basis) it can still be a “win” in the long run.

This same logic caused me to drop the relaunched Superior Spider-Man and the Amazing Spider-Man “point” issues over in that franchise.

How about you?  How much is TOO much?

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Face Front, True Believers! Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo Returns to LA Oct 31- Nov 2nd

Comikaze 2013All Photos CREDIT: ComicSpectrum

I had a BLAST at Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo last year and was really excited when they finally made the announcement of the show dates for this year a few weeks ago.  This year’s event is going to be Oct. 31st thru Nov. 2nd at the Los Angeles Convention Center and tickets went on sale June 6th, so you can get yours now!

Cosplay was in full swing last year, I’m seeing it more and more at every convention I attend.  If you like seeing people dressed up I can only imagine how HUGE it will be this year given that the 1st day of the show is a Friday and it’s actually Halloween, Oct. 31st!

Comikaze - Day 1 line

Seeing the huge line waiting to be unleashed on the dealer floor on day one of Comikaze 2013 was a wonder to behold.  The enthusiasm of the fans was contagious.  A great feature of Comikaze is the large “main stage” in the middle/rear of the main show floor.  It was kind of loud but it kept a great buzz going and a high level of energy on the show floor as most of the big guests appeared right there on that stage.

The biggest thing about Comikaze is, of course, Stan Lee himself.  He has such name recognition that I talked to a bunch of people at the con who were there solely because of Stan’s name being associated with the show.  Some were getting into comics for the first time, some were getting back into comics after a long absence.  The common thread was that Stan’s name drew them into attending the show.

Comikaze in 2013 was reflective of the way many conventions have been going: Very heavy on pop culture and less so on actual comic books, though comics that have tie-ins to TV/Movies still get a lot of attention.  Don’t take that to mean that there are no comics.  Comics were definitely there; you have to look around for them a bit, but when you do, you’re definitely rewarded with some good stuff.  And there were some great artists and writers there too.  I was able to meet and talk to current favorites as wekk as classic creators from my early days of comic collecting.

Stan & Herb Stan_Herb2
“What a GREAT artist!”                                         “…and Stan was a GREAT writer!”

I was standing talking to classic artist Herb Trimpe (and getting a sketch of The Hulk) when Stan Lee himself wandered by to say “Hi!” to one of his favorite Marvel artists.  It was quite a thrill to be standing about 3 feet away as they reminisced about the “old days” for a couple of minutes as cameras recorded gigabytes of photos.

HerbTrimpe - Hulk

As a huge fan of comics & pop culture and an unabashed fan of Stan Lee, he’s the reason I’m reading comics today, I got my start on Stan Lee written comics over 40 years ago.  I can’t think of a better way to spend Halloween weekend than attending Comikaze Expo.  They attracted 45,000 fans last year and if the current trend of almost all conventions growing in attendance 2014 over 2013, there should be a very healthy crowd attending.  I’m very anticipatory of the panel schedule for this year’s show.  Hopefully we’ll get some great panels this year.

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Long Beach Comic Expo – A Great Local Show


There is a calm at a convention center if you arrive a few hours early before the show opens to the public.  Some amount of bustling as dealers and artists are rushing to setup, but outside the show floor it’s generally pretty quiet.  I like to roll into shows early and get good parking (when I can) so I can easily stow my purchases in my car during the day so I’ve experienced the “calm” at shows like Long Beach, WonderCon, Phoenix, Comikaze, and even San Diego.  Of ALL the cons I’ve been to, Long Beach is in what to me personally is the most pleasant setting.  Right on Long Beach Harbor, a clear blue sky, wonderful early morning temperature not too cold, a slight breeze.  Quiet.  Wonderful.  But it’s the calm before the storm as this same promenade will be bustling with humanity (many in colorful costumes) in just a few hours time as people arrive in anticipation of enjoying the event.

And what will they all enjoy?  It’s different for everyone. Any good comic con is schizophrenic.  A show will will have many personalities and different fans will be able to have completely different experiences all at the same event.  The Long Beach Comic Expo is the smaller Spring-time version of the Long Beach Comic Con.  There is the comics “face” of the con, with comics to buy; New comics, old comics, creator-owned/small press comics direct from the creators in Artists’ Alley.  There is comic art in the form of prints, posters, sketches and original art, mostly direct from the creators (I didn’t see any of the big OA dealers at this show).  There were panels for fans to listen to and ask questions of  favorite creators.  Panels for people interested in learning to make their own comics.  There were panels focusing on comics creators.  There was a LOT of Cosplay.  And, like all cons, a line to get in (though the line for this con was not that bad and fairly manageable).


I appreciate people who cosplay, they add a lot of color and life to a convention.  That said, any time I tell someone I’m going to a convention the 1st (or sometimes 2nd) thing they ask me is “What are you dressing up as?”.  That’s because the media FOCUSES on cosplay when covering a convention.  Why not?  It’s visually dynamic, colorful, and the cosplayers are generally enthusiastic fans.  It’s great!  But at the same time, it gives the general public a skewed view of the attendees at a convention.  They may think 90% of the people are in costumes, while it’s probably more like 10%.

People can customize their convention experience to their own personal tastes and we can all go away enjoying the show.  People who know me know that I’m a hard-core comics fan, so it should come as no surprise that I was on a “comic book path”.   I scoped out the program while waiting in line and had a game plan all set for what to do upon entering the show floor.

DocSavage Turok Green LanternFlash

The 1st thing I did on Saturday was scope out the Artists in attendance and get on their commission lists for some sketch cover comics and other sketches.  I ended up with a Doc Savage Sketch cover from Tone Rodriguez, Turok from Ray-Anthony Height, and Green Lantern by Norm Rapmund.  I also got a Flash watercolor sketch from Brian Buccellato.

So, once I was on the sketch commission lists, it was off to panels!  Saturday for me was:
Career Spotlight: Gerry Conway
Career Spotlight: Marv Wolfman
Aspen Comics
…and then Sunday
Career Spotlight: Len Wein
Coloring for Comics

Gerry Conway

Gerry Conway was fabulous.  Lots of stories about his early career, time at Marvel Comics, the Death of Gwen Stacy, the creation of the Punisher and more!   Right on the heels of that we got Marv Wolfman talking Tomb of Dracula, Blade, Teen Titans…..    Add to that Len Wein from today and reminiscences about the creation of Wolverine, stories about Stan Lee, the creation of “new” X-Men (Thunderbird was “created to die” & 2 characters originally created for the X-Men reboot; Black Cat, black woman with luck powers, different from the character who would later be created in Spider-Man & Tempest a character with weather powers – were not working and we’re combined to create Storm!)!  It was 70s Marvel heaven!   Panels like these are one of my favorite things at a convention!

Tone-Batman Family

When I was done with panels I picked up my commissions and bought an extra piece of art from Tone, an excellent rendering of the Batman family!  And outside the convention center drawing a lot of attention in the beautiful California sunshine were a lot of vehicles from TV & movies (the Mach 5 was only approximate but still very cool):

Mach5 Batmobile B2tF KITT

I waited until Sunday for the bulk of my comics shopping and got some great deals.  There was a healthy crowd at the show Sunday and a lot of back issues were 50% off the marked price, some great deals to be had!

BatmanWW Comics1



…and there was more I did and saw than I have detailed here.

It’s not the biggest show in Southern California but it has a lot of heart, fun programming, great variety, and an outstanding location with a lot of great restaurants in close walking distance.   If you’re in Southern California and love comics, pop culture, cosplay or a combination of these, check out the Long Beach Con coming up September 27-28, it’s an even bigger event and will be just as much fun!!

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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