True North believers, it’s Captain Canuck!

Captain Canuck is back! Here’s the first episode.

Read our Q&A with the Creative Director, Dean Henry.

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Filed under Aritsts and writers, comic art

The Finish Line: Jerry Prosser on the ‘revolutionary concept’ of creator-owned comics

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Here’s one from the long box.

darkhorseccomics_7_coverThe following editorial first appeared more than 20 years ago — in the pages Dark Horse books dated February 1993, which would have appeared on comic shop shelves around December 1992. So Prosser’s words are closing out a year and looking ahead to the new one. In this particular instance,  I plucked this from Dark Horse Comics issue #7, the licensed character counterpoint to Dark Horse Presents, a showcase for original creator-owned and DH-owned characters and material, which was clocking in at 71 issues by this time. This issue of DH Comics happened to feature stories of three big movie franchises – Star Wars (“Tales of the Jedi”), RoboCop and Predator. Jerry Prosser was one of the editors who worked on this title when this editorial appeared.

I’ve always subscribed to the old aphorism that it’s better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. But, sometimes certain circumstances arise that prevent me from abiding by my conservative predilections. That’s what you get for working in an office. Compromise, compromise, compromise. In this instance, it was being asked to write a Finish Line about creators and creative control. So … wait for it … I’m going to have to open my mouth …

Long before the publication of Aliens, Predators, RoboCop, Indiana Jones, or any of the other licensed books that are identified with Dark Horse, Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley founded a company committed to the rights of comics creators to own and control their own work and be paid a fair amount for it. In effect, a partnership. This was, to a large extent, a reaction to the corporate-owned nature of the business at that time. Creators often found it difficult to place a new idea with the corporate giants and, if they were lucky enough to get a contract, these creators often were forced to relinquish copyright and ancillary rights. Ouch.

I believe that the concept of creator-ownership and publisher/creator partnership is revolutionary. It’s also incredibly infectious. Once one person gets it, it grows and develops until it’s passed to another. Some exposed by the “virus” show almost no signs of infection (maybe they have antibodies) and others become rabid dogs, compelled to bite at any passersby (until they’re taken behind the barn and shot, anyway). This “new” concept of creator control (really the old Underground Comics raison d’être cleaned up for a new generation) ran like a virus (or a “meme,” if anyone is familiar with the work of Richard Dawkins in The Unselfish Gene) through the comics world. Some, I’m sure, would liken this process to a plague; others to a revolution.

darkhorse_concrete_coverFrom this situation, Dark Horse and a number of other “independent” publishers arose to infect the whole of the comics marketplace with the revolutionary/infectious concept of creator-ownership. This was a glorious and heady time like any “new wave” or “independent” movement of experimentation and freedom of expression. But, like most “independent” movements, creator ownership shifted back toward the commercial mainstream (as would be expected). But, little did anyone know that this new concept of creator-ownership would, in effect, infect the whole body politic of the comics world. This change in the structure of the marketplace has not been without symptoms (as is the case in all viral infections) but the after-effects have been remarkable, e.g. Image Comics. (Anyone out there familiar with the work of Thomas Kuhn ought to recognize this “paradigm shift,” in which the old way of doing and thinking about things is “overthrown” in a revolutionary way.)

Through this process, Dark Horse has found itself poised on the fence between the old paradigm (our licensed and company-owned properties) and the new one of creator-owned books. It is this balance, I believe, that positions Dark Horse as one of the most dynamic publishers in the business. It is also this balance that gives Dark Horse its distinctive “personality” and reputation. And, it is from this position that Dark Horse will be branching out into very exciting territory during 1993. We will continue to produce licensed and company-owned material, but we will also publish new work in partnership with some of the most talented creators in the industry.

We also want to take this dangerous new concept of creator-ownershhip into other markets. We’ll see what happens. It may mean that the dominant  way of doing thins in another market is infected by this “virus.” If so, the control that comics creators enjoy in this marketplace will expand to other creators in other markets. What will this mean for these other markets? The same thing it does to the comics market. I’ll leave with another aphorism (because I can never think of anything new), this one by Nietzsche: “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

I’m out of space and time. I’ll close my mouth now.

– Jerry Prosser

Now that was refreshing. Prosser: the comics intellectual rebel arguing a paradigm shift is bearing down on traditional publishers.

Fast forward to 2013.

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Image Comics is still going strong — arguably stronger in terms of the diversity the publisher offers and as a home for emerging and independent talent.

The same holds true for Dark Horse. The company is thriving in part due to the quality licensed properties they publish and their collectibles business. And they continually impress with the lineup of top notch creator-owned books they support, such as  MIND MGMT and The Massive to name a few. And Prosser’s statement that DH has always had a distinctive personality is more true today than ever.

If he were writing this today, I wonder what Prosser might add considering the arrival of Kickstarter to fundraise your comic launch and Etsy and other online shopping sites to sell and distribute your work?

Exciting times.

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It’s Wednesday! (July 31, 2013)

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COLLIDER #1

Written by: Simon Oliver; Art by: Robbi Rodriguez; Cover by:  Nathan Fox
Published by Vertigo

 
It started small: temporary gravity failures, time reversal loops, entropy reversals. With much fanfare a new government agency was formed with a mandate “to prevent and protect.” Its official title: The Federal Bureau of Physics. Humans, if nothing else, adapt to the changing parameters of their existence. What was extraordinary soon became ordinary, a part of people’s daily lives. They move on and do what people have always done: survive. But even that new status quo is now under threat. Things are getting worse, and it falls to Special Agent Adam Hardy and his FBP team to figure out what’s going on, before it’s too late… 
 
I consider this the first new Vertigo original series under the guidance of new executive editor Shelly Bond. The other titles – The Wake, Astro City, Tom Strong, Brother Lono, and Trillium – are either established franchises/characters or were announced when Karen Berger was still running the imprint.
 
I only know Simon Oliver from The Exterminators, which I’ve only read the first 5 or 6 issues. But it was fresh and the sort of thing I turn to Vertigo for.
 
So for these two reasons I’m giving this one a chance.
  
FIVE GHOSTS HAUNTING OF FABIAN GRAY #5
 image_fiveghosts_issue5Story: Frank J. Barbiere; Art: Chris Mooneyham
Published by Image Comics
 
…THE END?
 
So we already know this isn’t the end because it was announced that Five Ghosts will be returning in October as an ongoing after a two-month break. One the one hand, I’m glad for Barbiere and Mooneyham. This is one of the two pulp genre books out now that is getting it right, with the other being Francesco Francavilla’s excellent The Black Beetle, which is also coming back in October for a second 4-issue mini. On the other hand, I was counting on this mini-series coming to a close so I could try out other books once this one ended its run.
  

ADVENTURE TIME SUMMER SPECIAL 2013
AdventureTimeSummerSpecial_2013Writer(s): Becky Dreistadt, Frank Gibson, Noelle Stevenson, Ryan Pequin

Artist(s): Becky Dreistadt, Noelle Stevenson, Ryan Pequin
Published by Kaboom
 
Put on that sunscreen and grab your beach-towel, because it’s an ADVENTURE TIME summer special! Featuring all-new sun-kissed stories from acclaimed creators, starring Finn, Jake and all of your favorites and showcasing a fully-painted cover by Becky Dreistadt!

It’s the dog days of summer, and kicking back on the front porch with an extra-sized special brings back so many memories. I remember picking up a few Marvel annuals, taking them home and diving into them during the hot summer afternoons.
 
Kaboom certainly is milking the interest in the Adventure Time franchise with lots of extra issues and mini-series to accompany the regular monthly. This isn’t the first Adventure Time annual-size book in 2013. And there is still a graphic novel and an extra-sized Halloween issue to come. That said, the quality of the story and art (not to mention zaniness!) in these books is pretty good compared to what else is on the store shelves these days.
  
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT #1
darkhorse_captainmidnight_1Writer: Joshua Williamson; Artist: Fernando Dagnino; Colorist: Ego; Cover Artist: Felipe Massafera
Published by Dark Horse Comics
 
On the run from the US government after fleeing custody, Captain Midnight has been labeled a security risk. In the forties, he was an American hero, a daredevil fighter pilot, a technological genius . . . a superhero. But since he rifled out of the Bermuda Triangle into the present day, Captain Midnight doesn’t know what or who to trust!

* Written by Joshua Williamson (Masks and MobstersVoodooUncharted) with art by Fernando Dagnino (Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad)!

 
Part of the relaunch of the Dark Horse superhero line.  This just sounded interesting, so I’m picking it up more out of curiosity than something I’d planned on picking up regularly, but I have this feeling that I’ll be looking for issue #2 in a month’s time.
  

image_sex-5_coverSEX #5
Story:
 Joe Casey; Art: Piotr Kowalski
Published by Image Comics
 
Simon Cooke’s night out has disastrous consequences! And not just socially. But, hey, at least he’s trying! Meanwhile, life in Saturn City’s criminal underworld rolls on… just not as smoothly as expected. Never forget: SEX is real! SEX is now! But, most importantly, SEX has infected your local comic book store!
 
I’m finally starting to warm up to this one.

  

And since I’ve missed a few of these, I’ll drop the occasional notable mentions from recent weeks. This time around, it’s GAMMA

 
darkhorse_gamma_OS-2013Writer: Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas; Artist: Ulises Farinas; Cover Artist: Ulises Farinas
Published by Dark Horse Comics
 

Dusty Keztchemal is a pathetic coward. He failed the entire planet, and now, the only way he can make a living is by getting punched in the face for money. But when a beautiful stranger wanders into his saloon looking for help, Dusty thinks he can conjure up the man he once was—the greatest monster trainer in the world!

* The first original story from Catalyst artist and rising star Ulises Farinas (Transformers: Heart of DarknessGlory)!

“Hilarious, awesome and hilariously awesome.”—ComicsAlliance.com

People are saying some pretty nice things about this book. I believe it reprints the 3-part story that ran in Dark Horse Presents about 6 months ago, in which case you should seek this out. Ulises’ style is great (Comics Beat described it as neo-Moebius) and the story is fun.

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Comics delivery – Michel Fiffe’s Copra!

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I got turned onto Michel Fiffe‘s creation Copra recently. I read about it in the editorial page of one of Joe Casey’s recent books. Issue #7  is the latest by Fiffe.

The series is pretty cool. I like the tone. It’s limited to a run of a few hundred copies, but the first 6 issues are compiled into 2 books you can buy here.

These creator-owned books feel powerful and free. The letters page is always fun to read:

“…I love how raw this book is. Most comics from the big 2 are so polished and seemingly edited to the point where there is nothing to get excited about. As a comics lover for over 40 years, I somteimes get jaded & bored with what’s being produced at present. I tend to go back & read the stuff I loved as a kid. COPRA gives me that feeling, a mixture of old & new at the same time.” – Phil Parkerson

So what is Copra? In Fiffe’s own words:

“Let’s see, how to best describe what COPRA actually is… Well, for starters, it’s the unholy marriage between my Zegas style and my Suicide Squad love letter Deathzone!

It’s probably better if you just take a look at the first few pages from issue #1.

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Screaming Pym vs Screaming Gamora – #CoverVsCover

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These hit comic shop shelves on the same Wednesday (I think) a couple of weeks ago.

There is a wall at Marvel where they pin up all the week’s covers to see how they display on store shelves. I’m sure more than a few comments were made about the similarity.

The cover to Age of Ultron #10 A.I. is by  Brandon Peterson.

And Guardians of the Galaxy #4 is courtesy of Sara Pichelli.

Okay, it’s the moment of truth. Vote now!

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