It’s Back To The ’90s With NYCC Publishing Announcements – Forbes
New York Comic Con, which just announced that it sold a record 200,000 tickets to its 2017 show last week, may not have San Diego’s proximity to Hollywood, but it is fandom’s premier event for publishers of comics, graphic novels and genre fiction. Controversies around Marvel inadvertently dominated coverage out of New York Comic Con this year, stealing the spotlight from a series of interesting announcements from publishers that were meant to be the real highlights.
The Moore the Merrier for DC
DC Entertainment has been building up to a major event called Doomsday Clock, which will introduce the cast of the perennially best-selling graphic novel Watchmen into the company’s main superhero universe after nearly 30 years. DC’s continued revival of the Watchmen property over the vociferous objections of the series’ co-creator Alan Moore has been controversial within fandom, but that did not dim the palpable excitement that the story is generating among many DC fans. DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer Geoff Johns debuted the first few pages of the story, drawn by Gary Frank, at a packed panel on Friday night.
To further add to the intrigue, the company hinted it was throwing another Alan Moore creation into the mix, a character called Tom Strong, from Moore’s “America’s Best Comics” (ABC) imprint, acquired by DC around the turn of the century when the company bought Jim Lee’s Wildstorm Studios. ABC featured generally light-hearted pastiches of comic and pulp fiction tropes. Tom Strong was an amalgam of the 1930s character Doc Savage and the family dynamics of 1960s-era Fantastic Four. Other titles in the line included a mystical woman warrior Promethea, a cop drama featuring anthropomorphic animals called Top 10, and a suit-and-tie adventurer the Grayshirt, affectionately patterned on Will Eisner’s The Spirit. This lineup of characters was created by Moore as work-for-hire and has always been available to DC, but it has taken them 15 years to get around to bringing at least one of them into the company’s main story universe.
A Distinct Sense of Vertigo
Another DC imprint from the 1990s also cast a long shadow over the publishing announcements at the show. DC announced the relaunch of Vertigo, the edgy adult-oriented line of comics that introduced Sandman, Preacher, John Constantine and many other memorable titles. In its heyday, under editor Karen Berger, it was a force to be reckoned with, but it petered out in the 00s. Now it’s back, part of a new effort by DC to expand its audience and make room for creator-owned titles to compete with challengers like Image.
Vertigo may be back under the DC umbrella, but its guiding spirit, Karen Berger, is heading up a similar project at a different publisher, Portland’s Dark Horse Comics. The project was announced earlier in the year and Dark Horse used NYCC as an opportunity to stage events with the line’s notable creators, including Watchman’s Dave Gibbons and sharp-elbowed bon vivant Anthony Bourdain.
Another Vertigo alumna, Berger’s close associate Shelly Bond, who edited and developed many of the line’s top books in its heyday, also re-emerged to head up IDW Publishing’s new creator-owned imprint Black Crown. At NYCC, Bond took the wraps off a few of the launch titles, including Kid Lobotomy and Assassinistas, which take place in a shared universe, and typically pair established creators with up-and-coming talent. IDW also announced another new imprint out of their Portland office, Wood Works. Editor Dirk Wood introduced the company’s flagship publication, a deluxe hardcover quarterly called Full Bleed (disclosure: I have a story in the first issue).
Marvel Legacy Entices Old-Time Fans
Though Marvel has struggled with the balance between updating its characters to reflect modern demographics, and the demands of a traditional fanbase that sees sinister “politically correct” agendas behind every change, its recent initiative, Legacy, has drawn cautiously optimistic feedback from readers and retailers. According to the company, “MARVEL LEGACY will usher in the dramatic return of dozens of its most beloved heroes, villains, teams and artifacts in bold stories that will begin the next chapter of the Marvel Universe. A return to original series numbering will serve as a rallying cry for old fans, and a dynamic new trade dress will signal a clean jumping-on point for new readers.”
The strategy aims to fend off critics confused and frustrated by the constant relaunch and renumbering of series. It is moving on from some of Marvel’s recent unpopular storylines such as the controversial “Nazi Captain America” who shocked fans in the just-concluded Secret Empire, and bringing back the familiar versions of many of the company’s iconic characters.
Whatever they are doing seems to be working. Legacy #1 was the most-ordered comic of 2017 so far, despite issues with lenticular covers and other communication issues between Marvel and its retailers.
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