2000AD Announce ‘US Format’ Edition of The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael

2000AD have been playing around with the idea of ‘US editions’ of their comics recently – with that meaning, basically, the 22-page floppy format which dominates the industry. They’ve taken several recent works and put them out in this extended edition, rather than the five-page anthology style which they’re known for – and their next will be Rob Williams, Dom Reardon, Michael Dowling, Peter Doherty, and Antonio Fuso’s run on ‘The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael.’

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In the press release, Williams says:

We’re thrilled to bring the west’s greatest DEAD killer to the US market, that’s where he’s from, after all. Movies like The Assassination of Jesse James and the songs of Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt were the strip’s inspiration. So it’s great he’s heading to his homeland, revolver in hand.

A long-running Western series of sorts, the story will be put together as a six-part miniseries starting in February, with the undying gunslinger’s story collected I believe in full. 2000AD have been playing with new stories in the US format for a little while now, but seeing them also take completed stories and reissuing them seems the perfect next step.

The Valkyries Recruit Their 300th Member

Earlier today, before the world exploded into a frenzy of DC superhero movies and left us all unable to move for fear of tripping over a B-Reel of Aquaman footage, a quieter but even better bit of news came to light: The Valkyries have now expanded to 300 members.

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Who are the Valkyries? They’re a group of female retailers who have spent the last few years building up and building up, forming small communities which interlock into a grand, America-sweeping chain of women in comic shops. Started by Strange Adventures’ Kate Leth a few years back, the group was resigned to let female retailers know each other, and build a sense of community within a retailing environment which can be rather cruel to women. They’ve been supported by the industry, too, with people like Kelly Sue DeConnick in particular offering regular support and appreciation for their work. You can see her in the image above, along with Leth and several others.

Having crossed America and back, the group now includes members from all around the World. It is, I think, something worth noting. I’ve taken some female friends to one of my local comic shops, and they’ve always been surprised to see female workers, female customers – the image is of a culture where women are barred, for whatever stupid reason men have conceived. That couldn’t be less true, and it’s ace to see such a strong, developed community for female retailers to talk shop.

Leth took to her Tumblr earlier today to share her thoughts on the news.

There’s no shortage of negativity and sexism in geek culture, but this group gives me strength. They empower each other. It’s a sisterhood, it really is. In our little way, even if just for each other, I think we’re making some change. At the very least, I know I’ve been changed for the better.

If you want to find out more – or join, yourself – here’s where to go.

Solicits Say Batman will rise to $5 an Issue, Unless Snyder and Capullo Stop DC in Time

Solicitations for the next arc of Batman, called ‘Endgame’, caught readers by surprise earlier this week with the news that the book would be rising in price to $4.99 an issue. Although the book does have an added number of pages, boosted up to around 30 an issue, this would mark the first regular ongoing series to have such a price.

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What makes the news interesting, however, is that it caught the creative team of the book by surprise as well. Writer Scott Snyder posted on twitter that he only learned the news as fans did – through solicitations – and that both he and artist Greg Capullo would be speaking to DC to see if there was anything could be done to change things.

He does then go on to mention that Endgame is an expanded storyline, with each issue featuring a backup storyline alongside the main one – although this was the case for several previous arcs of the series, including Night of the Owls and Death of the Family, so. It’s a little throwaway piece of news, but something that’s very interesting for the way in which the creators feel free to go ahead and question the decisions being made by their publisher. Many creators would sit back and let this happen – in fact I believe several Marvel ‘event’ books are already at the $4.99 level – so it’s quite nice really, to see the Batman duo directly addressing the price rise.

I would probably do whatever Greg Capullo says. He could comfortably lift up the entire DC office on his shoulder and physically throw it over to LA if he wanted to.

Valiant Head DRM-Free – But Not at ComiXology

Digital comics come in two forms – DRM-laden, and DRM-free. The latter is the better of the two options, as it means that when you buy the comic online, you get an actual copy of it stored on your inbox, for you to read at any time. DRM means you essentially rent the comic, so you can’t access it unless you log into the site you got it from. For years now, 2000AD have been one of the only companies who offered the option of DRM-free comics, with most other publishers reliant on ComiXology to put their books out.

But now Image have gone DRM-free, and ComiXology this last SDCC finally relented and announced that publishers like Monkeybrain and IDW would now be able to sell DRM-free comics to people via their store. And now! This week sees a further step towards all comics becoming DRM-free, as Valiant Comics have announced that they too will be making their comics DRM-free… only, not at ComiXology.

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Instead, they’ll be putting out DRM-free comics over at DriveThruComics, a smaller digital seller who are more associated with RPGs than with comic book series. As Multiversity suggest, this looks like it may be a deliberate attempt to steer readers away from a digital monopoly – ensuring that ComiXology don’t come to single-handedly own digital publishing over the next few years. If ComiXology were to become the only option people used, they’d effectively control and shape the digital marketplace however they wanted – and when that happens, bad things tend to follow.

Image have been emphasising their own shopfront recently, and Dark Horse Comics have completely shunned ComiXology over the years. Marvel Unlimited has been getting a facelift (not as practical a one as fans have wanted, but the skeleton of a good site is there) and now Valiant have started offering DRM-free comics on a different site.

It certainly feels a bit like a line being drawn in the ground, and Valiant are also offering all their first issues for free right now. Now, I haven’t used DriveThruComics myself, but! Anything which breaks up a monopoly seems like a wise move, right now.

If this proves a successful move for Valiant? Comics will be better off for it.

IDW To Bring Lion Forge Comics to Print

Lion Forge Comics have been one of these quietly growing publishers who, over the last year or so, have started to reach out and start hitting headlines and grabbing attention. With a series of licensed comics, the company have books starring real-world figures, like ‘Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier’ which is based on an MMA wrestler. They also have 80s-tastic licenses for stuff like Knight Rider, Miami Vice and Saved By The Bell.

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Alongside that, however, they have a universe of new stories and characters, which they call ‘The Catalyst Universe’. And what I notice – what I possibly shouldn’t notice, but have – is the diversity of the creative teams and the characters in those comics. What I think you see with Lion Forge are a company who are going to really help provide a platform for African-American comic creators to tell stories about racially diverse characters. There aren’t many companies which can offer one or the other of those strands, but Lion Forge seem pretty committed to achieving BOTH.

And that seems very interesting, to me, especially after recent twitter discussions revealed that not a single publisher has approached Brandon Easton to write for them even though he was just NOMINATED FOR AN EISNER! It seems that we’re going to want companies like Lion Forge to come along and provide stronger infrastructure for African-American writers to come through and really get some attention.

It’s not all about that, but it’s just something which seems to be part of the ethos of the company, and I hope it continues. I have actually read one of their comics before – Quincredible, which was a really fun story from David Gorden, artists Gerardo Sandoval and Carl Reed, and Sal Studios providing colours. The concept is the one which roots all the Catalyst Universe comics together – meteors land on Earth, giving people superpowers. But in this case, the lead character of Quincredible finds that he is now invulnerable – but still isn’t a very good fighter. He doesn’t gain a six pack overnight. So how do you stop villains if your only power is ‘not dying’ when they shoot you?

It’s a really fun book, that one, and one which looks like it may now be coming to print.

Because whilst up till now the company’s plan has been for digital-only projects, this week has seen them announce a partnership with IDW, who will take their various comics to print for them. The first two projects will be Knight Rider and Airwolf – but following that, the new properties seem set to come to print also. That includes comics put out by ‘Roar’, which is Lion Forge’s all-ages imprint – which is where Quincredible would land.

So! Things are looking promising for Lion Forge. Let’s see how the next year treats them.

The Death-Defying Dr Mirage to be Offered in ‘Plus Edition’

Valiant’s September-launching series ‘The Death Defying Dr Mirage’, by Jen Van Meter and Roberto De La Torre, will be released in two editions by the company. The first will be the regular edition – the second is an edition only available for those who pre-order the book. The latter will feature extra pages as a ‘reward’ for those pre-orderers, in what I believe is one of the first moves from a publisher to specifically court pre-ordering.

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Valiant first rolled out the promotion earlier this year for issue #1 of ‘Rai’, which gave 15 extra pages to those who pre-ordered the issue that won’t be available in any other format – the extra pages won’t appear in the trade collection, even. And Dr Mirage will be the same. The Plus Edition of Dr Mirage – announced this week as part of the Valiant solicitations – will come with a Travel Foreman cover, as well as 15 extra pages of maps, short stories, pin-ups and the likes.

It’s something other publishers haven’t tried yet, but it does offer Valiant a number of benefits – anything which increases pre-ordering is of benefit to both retailers and publishers. It guarantees both that more sales will be made, ‘locking in’ a certain amount of guaranteed revenue, so to speak. If, say, they could guarantee 1000 sales a month, Valiant would be on a stronger footing than if they had no idea how well the first issue will sell.

This all comes back to something which has been in focus recently: sales figures. As mentioned by Brandon Montclare and discussed by several websites recently, 1000 sales can be the difference between an affordable ongoing series and an affordable miniseries. If a book gets enough pre-orders, the creators and publishers have a sense of security – they know they’re shifting a certain amount of comics, making a certain amount of profit, and can funnel that into their future budgeting.

I think we’ll be seeing several more promotions like the Plus Edition over the next few months – heck, we’ll probably see some companies doing the exact same promotion but with a different name. At any rate, it’s a process you should expect to see more of, and one which seems positive for the industry.

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