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These photos from the set of Thor 2 may show the faces of the Dark Elves!

These photos from the set of Thor 2 may show the faces of the Dark Elves! | Comic Books |

We already know that the Thor sequel, Thor: The Dark World, will follow the warriors of Asgard as they fight the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. And now we've seen — what we believe — is the land of the Dark Elves, but we've yet to spy one. Until now, that is — a recent crop of battle-heavy set pictures featuring the mighty Sif may have just revealed our first Elf!
The Daily Mail has a collection of exploding images from the Thor 2 set shot in Bourne Woods, Surrey. Could this be a Dark Elf? According to Bleeding Cool these characters are only being referred to as "marauders," but it's not like they would leak the face of the elves this early in the filming process. So we can't be certain, but we can't think of anything else this wrinkly face could possibly be.

Also check out the wildly different feel on set — looks like Thor 2 will be bringing the fantasy hard, and we're excited to see what the other Marvel movies will do with this kind of aesthetic. For more on set images, including more shots of Sif played by the lovely Jaimie Alexander, head over to The Daily Mail.


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Remembering 'All Star Superman' On World Suicide Prevention Day

Remembering 'All Star Superman' On World Suicide Prevention Day | Comic Books |

The World Health Organization reports that suicide is one of the three leading causes of death for people aged 15-44, and estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide. Statistics show a 60% increase in suicides over the last 45 years, with 90% of suicides associated with mental health disorders including depression. To combat the growing problem of suicide and attempted suicide, the WHO collaborates with World Federation for Mental Health and the International Association for Suicide Prevention on World Suicide Prevention Day. Observed in the United States as part of National Suicide Prevention Week, today is meant to raise awareness and transmit educational materials to persons or the loved ones of those affected by depression, addiction, self-injury and other topics concerning suicide.

It's on this day that many comics readers remember what is arguably the most affecting moment of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's graphic novel All Star Superman, where the Man of Steel interrupts a young girl's suicide attempt and reassures her that although things may seem painful and hopeless, she has the power to endure and that things will get better.

Originally published by DC Comics in 2006's All Star Superman #10 (and available now in the collected All Star Superman graphic novel), the one-page scene became one of the most heavily proliferated Superman images on the Web and passed into Internet legend last year when a Reddit user credited it with dissuading them from committing suicide. In a post called "You Don't Really Need To Exist To Inspire People. This Is Why Superman Is My Hero," the Redditor called iamjackslackofhope wrote:

"I have struggled with depression ever since I was ten years old. It had crippled me emotionally. I was 27 years old, no college degree, no job, and no will to live. I decided to kill myself after Christmas.

And then my sister's boyfriend loaned me these comics. Superman is dying of radiation poisoning and is trying to complete all of his tasks before he dies, but he still takes the time to save a young girl who is about to jump off a building.

I cried for hours after reading this. I identified with that girl so much, ans I could almost hear Superman telling me that I'm stronger than I think.

Now, every time my depression starts to rear its ugly head, I just repeat his words and imagine him hugging me when I'm standing on the edge. It works better than any medication or therapy I've ever had.

Now I'm in college and at the top of my class. I have friends. I have a life. And I don't care that he's a fictional comic book character. He still saved me."

Depression and trauma can be overcome, but not without help. If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can find many more recovery resources, personal stories and community at To Write Love On Her Arms.


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DC Changes Catwoman Zero Cover – And Admits Rafa Isn’t Drawing The Comic

DC Changes Catwoman Zero Cover – And Admits Rafa Isn’t Drawing The Comic | Comic Books |

On the left, the actual cover to Catwoman Zero, on the right the solicited cover, both by Guillem March. We rather expected a change. It’s still a tricky pose, but it’s not as twistedly sexual as the original. Note, even her cleavage has been zipped up. And it no longer looks as if her neck was attached to the torson in a new and exciting fashion.

Note the new cover also credits Adriana Melo as the penciller, rather than the solicited artist Rafa Sandoval. At the time, Bleeding Cool pointed out that he was still on contract at Marvel that would impede him coming on to such a book quite so soon… and it seems that someone else worked that out.

Here are a look at the other, relatively minor changes for comics coming out next week… Team 7 gets the biggest change with a brand new logo and a brand new cover, that puts the only woman in the team up front. Other creative changes include Ramon Bachs joining the art team on Resurrection Man #0.

Mind you, those cover credits aren’t always reliable… they had Ann Nocenti writing Green Arrow #0 on the cover, with Judd Winick credited on the inside.


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DC Execs Refuse To Deny Jim Lee / Scott Snyder Man Of Steel Rumours – And No More Before Watchmen Plans “Right Now”

DC Execs Refuse To Deny Jim Lee / Scott Snyder Man Of Steel Rumours – And No More Before Watchmen Plans “Right Now” | Comic Books |

ICV2 interviewed Bob Wayne and John Cunningham of DC Comics, and asked them the question I was unable to get a response from DC over, regarding the rumoured Man Of Steel series Bleeding Cool first made mention of…

'Let me put on my fanboy hat and ask if you can confirm the rumors that Scott Snyder will be working on a Superman: Man of Steel comic in 2013 to take advantage of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel movie?

Wayne: I certainly won’t confirm that, but I will say that it is reasonable to assume that given the release of Man of Steel next summer, we will come up with a publishing program that will both augment and take advantage of that opportunity.

Cunningham: I think that (a Scott Snyder Superman series) would be great. I’d read that."

As for Before Watchmen, Wayne stated;

Do you have any plans for publishing any more new Watchmen


"Wayne: There is no plan to do so right now. We are looking forward to the conclusion of all these series and seeing how they all weave together and see what everybody’s opinion is of the whole thing when they see it all together as a whole organic story."

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Weird Secrets of The Avengers That You'd Never Have Guessed

Weird Secrets of The Avengers That You'd Never Have Guessed | Comic Books |

You probably think you already know everything about The Avengers. After all, the Marvel superhero team-up movie had years of anticipation and build-up — which actually paid off, with a movie you probably saw more than once. But there are still secrets you'd never have guessed about Joss Whedon's massive aliens-vs-heroes spectacle.

With The Avengers coming to DVD and Blu-ray on Sept. 25, we sat down with three of the movie's VFX creators at Industrial Light and Magic, and learned some totally insane secrets of the film. We also got a sneak peek at the creation of some CG sequences, like the above behind-the-scenes video about the making of the Hulk.

Here are 24 strange, thrilling secrets about The Avengers.
Last month, we journeyed to ILM's headquarters at the Lucasfilm campus, and watched some behind-the-scenes videos from The Avengers (which we're now able to share here.) We spoke to Visual Effects Supervisor Jeff White, Associate Visual Effects Supervisor Jason Smith, and Animation Director Marc Chu. (We spoke to all of them in both group interviews and exclusive one-on-one interviews.)

Here's everything they told us about the Hulk, Iron Man, and the streets of New York:

The Hulk

1. The Hulk started out a bodybuilder wearing green body paint.
Well, sort of. "We actually had a muscley guy on set, shirtless and painted green," says Jeff White. This was so that they could see how the green skin worked with the actual physical sets, and look realistic in context. "The guy they had on set really got into being referenced. He was flexing constantly as he went around," says White — and it sounds like he was pretty popular with many of the crew.

2. There was also a professional athlete in Mark Ruffalo's mo-cap suit.
It wasn't just Mark Ruffalo in the motion-capture suit for the Hulk. At various points, "everybody" wore the Hulk's mo-cap suit, says Marc Chu — even Chu himself wore it. For the scene where Bruce turns into the Hulk and chases Black Widow on the Helicarrier, they did some mo-cap footage with an athlete in the mo-cap suit, and it looked too human for Joss Whedon. The end result looked too much like a real sprinter running, so they had to scrap it. Whedon wanted something more flexible and also more "out of control." For some action, they tried different actors in the mo-cap suit. And some cases, it's keyframe animation.

3. The Hulk has no penis.
They modeled every part of the Hulk, except for one. "When the maquette came in, it's just a Barbie doll," said Jason Smith.

4. They studied the corners of Mark Ruffalo's eyeballs
They captured Ruffalo "right down to the pore level," says White. "We did a cast of his teeth." They shot the corners of his eyeballs, so they could spread his eyes. They took a ton of images of the inside of his gums, and the space between his fingers. They studied his fingerprints. They captured every aspect of Ruffalo's stubble, and even every little ingrown hair. And every mole. They recorded the inside of Ruffalo's armpits. "The Hulk has a couple of scars that are straight from the source," says Jason Smith.

They also did a ton of photoreference. According to Smith, they had days when they were just focusing on the Hulk's eyebrows, and a week where "everybody was just doing Google image searches on teeth — and don't do that." They were wondering, "What color would Hulk's tongue be: red or green?" And what are the Hulk's fingernails like?

5. A makeup artist added cheek and brow attachments to Mark Ruffalo
Before they captured Ruffalo's performance as the Hulk, they had a makeup artist put attachments onto Ruffalo's cheeks and brow to make them more Hulk-shaped. And then they added what they called a "digital prosthetic" to enhance those features.

6. They chose not to make the Hulk look super buff, on purpose.
Previous movie versions of the Hulk looked really cut, with really sharply defined muscles. Like, the Edward Norton Hulk was "always kind of flexed" whenever he appeared, says Chu. But for this version of the Hulk, Whedon wanted more of a "wrestler physique," says Smith. So when they were modeling his body, they made him softer around the shoulders and stomach — so when the Hulk really goes berserk, he's got someplace to go, physically. His veins can pop out and his muscles can flex more when he's jumping around smashing aliens, than the rest of the time.

7. Hulk's motions were partly based on apes.
According to Chu, they studied simian motions for the Hulk — and when Mark Ruffalo came to the studio to experiment with different motions in the mo-cap suit, he "started to tend to go towards more apish motions, giving him that animalistic quality that gives you a feeling that he's not quite in control."

8. They debated how high the Hulk can jump
In the comics, the Hulk can jump for miles — but the makers of The Avengers wanted to keep him realistic and create a feeling that he had real mass, says Chu. So they decided he can jump to the tops of buildings, but "miles and miles away, probably not."

9. The shot where he turns into the Hulk and punches the Leviathan had to be redone.
The first time Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk, on the Helicarrier, he's being attacked and it's sort of involuntary. But the second time, he decides to become the Hulk, and walks up and punches the Leviathan, and it's a huge hero shot. When they first did that sequence, the transformation was really fast — it was basically over in a second or two. Whedon decided to go back and redo it so the change happened slower, and you could watch Mark Ruffalo turn into the Hulk, and see his clothes explode off him. They couldn't use the real Mark Ruffalo for that sequence at all — so the hardest part was the first frame, trying to get the digital Mark to look like the real Mark.

Iron Man

1. They totally changed how Iron Man flies
Joss Whedon "wanted to take off the training wheels" that Iron Man had in his first two movies, says Marc Chu, who had worked on both Iron Man films. In other words, Iron Man needed to be able to fly without using the thrusters in his hands and feet this time around. They added a "backpack thruster," and that enabled Iron Man "to make some comic book poses" instead of using his limbs to hover.

2. Robert Downey Jr. basically never wears the full Iron Man suit any more.
That suit is really, really uncomfortable and pinchy, says Chu. And whenever you see Iron Man in his armor, that's a CG rendering of Iron Man, or a stunt man named Clay. After the first Iron Man movie, says Chu, Downey Jr. saw what they could do with CG versions of the suit. "He knew he did not have to wear as much of the suit, and that would make him a lot more comfortable." There's a partial version called the "football suit" that he wears in a couple scenes, like at the end when he's laying on the ground.

3. They worked really hard to keep the Mark 7 armor from feeling like a "magical tortoise shell."
When all the pieces fly onto him, "the volume of pieces" had to feel real and not like they were coming from nowhere, says Chu.

The Other Avengers

1. When Hulk punches Thor, that was one of the hardest shots to get right.
That sequence took from the first day of the process until the very end, says White. It's one long continuous shot of the two of them working together, ending with Hulk punching Thor. For the actual punch, they put Chris Hemsworth in front of a bluescreen standing on top of a real section of a downed Leviathan that they built. And they attached Hemsworth to a cable pull that they retimed, so he could look like he was knocked sidewise. They cut a few frames out of the footage, so it looks like Hulk's punch has "instant impact," says White.

2. Every single Avenger had a digital copy.
Check out the Hulk video up top — they were able to substitute a CG version of Black Widow in some scenes where she's involved in a mostly CG action scene. Black Widow was the hardest to do, because a beautiful person is harder to model than an ugly person — her eyelashes had to be perfect, or it wouldn't look like the real Scarlett Johansson. Typically, you only get a limited amount of time to capture images of each actor, but in this movie, they got tons of high-quality scans of every actor, so they could create really high-quality digital versions. They captured every possible facial expression from these actors, using the Nova camera system.

3. Cap is digital in that big "hero shot".
The big scene where all the Avengers are fighting and the camera pans through, showing each of them in turn fighting different aliens, required some last-minute tweaks. Whedon decided that instead of fighting alone, Captain America should be helping Iron Man — so they cut Captain America out of his original location and put a digital Cap next to Tony. (They could also make Cap jump higher and spin-kick better than the real stunt guy.) Likewise, in the shot at left from the trailer, where they're all in a circle facing outwards, they cut Hawkeye and put him someplace else. (It was tough to get the Hulk in a shot with everyone else, because he's a big guy.)

4. When Thor uses Mjolnir to create a storm cloud, that's stock footage.
They were going to create a huge simulation of a storm over Thor's head, but in the end they just wound up buying a stock clip of storm clouds forming in a circle. It's a super-brief shot, so it wasn't worth creating CG clouds for.

Virtual New York

1. They only had three days to film in the real New York.
They originally thought they'd have a few weeks or a month of filming in Manhattan. But in the end, they only had three days, says Jason Smith. They got a few shots of all the Avengers standing on the real Park Avenue viaduct, that they intercut with the shots of the 300-foot viaduct replica that they built in New Mexico. It's really difficult to film in New York — you can't get clearance for a helicopter below 500 feet, you can't close the viaduct for days, and so on. New Yorkers keep saying that it's amazing that they were able to film so much in New York, not realizing it's mostly digital shots. (Plus Cleveland.)

2. They basically made their own Google street view of Manhattan, so they could model it.
The VFX crew had a team of still photographers, who went around taking "a massive collection of images," says Jeff White. In the video at left, the little chrome spheres raining down "represent all the photography we shot in New York City." Each sphere represents 72 high-res images that they shot, in all direction, so they could be sure of capturing every surface. They projected those images onto the buildings they created virtually, so they could render their camera moving through there.

But when you have a moving image, things like the reflections in windows need to move too — so they added their own actual office windows, in San Francisco, to the office buildings. If you look carefully, you might be able to see inside the ILM offices during the big battle scene. Some buildings, they rendered from scratch, like the Chrysler Building. They also drove around in a car with an Ultima arm rig, filming the streets for reference. So they could see what a particular building looks like at any particular time of day.

3. They spent a lot of time trying to keep New York's geography consistent.
So when someone is running or flying through the city, they tried to make this person's path logical — if they turned onto sixth avenue, they couldn't suddenly be in Alphabet City. After a jumbo jet crashes into a building, they made sure that building had damage when we saw it later.

4. They added some in-jokes to the storefronts in the city.
Like, of course, there's a shawarma restaurant in the background during the battle. There's also a store that sells something wacky like "books and sandwiches." And there's a law firm called Kirby & Lee, Attorneys at Law. (Note that it's Kirby and Lee, not the other way around.)

The Aliens and Loki

1. The Chitauri were originally way too glam. Like, Vegas glam.
Their armor was original a lot more golden. In the early designs, they looked really cool, with the gold armor looking menacing against their pale skin. But once you see it rendered in CG, it looked way, way too Las Vegas. "It started to look decorative," says Smith. So they pushed it more in the direction of looking bronze rather than gold. Ditto with the Leviathan, which the designers called "Jumbo" internally— he was originally a lot more blinged-out, and this made him look a lot more fake. So they ended up dirtying up the aliens a lot more, to take the super-bright gold look off them.

2. They were fishy.
The Marvel art department did some concept art where the Chitauri invaders have translucent skin that looks "almost fishy," says Jason Smith. So the ILM crew looked at lots of fish, especially "those angler fish that live at the bottom of the ocean," and manta rays. Also, the Chitauri's armor looked mechanical and "bolted into them" in the concept art, so they went with armor that looked kind of uncomfortable, and also weathered.

3. When the Hulk is smashing Loki up and down, they inserted Tom Hiddleston's real agonized face.
This took a lot of shooting of Hiddleston looking pained, so they could paste it into the digital Loki. "We're not inventing how he looks when he's in pain," says Chu. "I had to get behind [Tom Hiddleston] and shake him violently," so they could capture his real expressions. (He mimes violent shaking.) "I did it so long, he started laughing. So we didn't use that portion." And for one brief shot where Loki is just hanging upside down, they still had to cut Loki's face from somewhere else and stick it in, flipped the opposite direction.

"When we first heard about the thing where Hulk slams Loki up and down," says Smith, "it's like that's a bold thing to do. It's very cartoony. It's almost Hanna-Barbera." But when you watch it in the theater, it totally works, and it's the way we've always wanted to see the Hulk. And that's all down to Joss Whedon getting why these characters work, says Smith. In that shot, Whedon really wanted the Hulk's face to be totally deadpan, rather than making a lot of grimaces or weird facial expressions — and that's a huge part of why it works. "Because Hulk is just like, 'Yeah, I'm going to smash you into the ground, and it's not a big deal to me.'"

The Helicarrier

1. We learned how the Helicarrier turns invisible.
Maybe you already got this from watching the movie, but they decided basically the Helicarrier has a ton of cameras on top, photographing the actual sky, and then projecting that image onto LED panels on the bottom. Marvel wanted the Helicarrier to feel like something that could actually exist — but at the same time, it's a levitating aircraft carrier that comes out of the water and turns invisible, says Smith. And has ports that water come out of.


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Simon Bisley Returns To '2000 AD' After 22 Years

Simon Bisley Returns To '2000 AD' After 22 Years | Comic Books |

Most American comics readers know the work of artist Simon Bisley because of his long association with Lobo, the hilariously ultra-violent alien bounty hunter who appeared in several unforgettably gruesome and wildly popular parodical 1990s titles written by Keith Giffen and Alan Grant. Among them, of course, Lobo: The Paramilitary Christmas Special. But before Biz (as he's known) was depicting the Naughtiest One's brutal decapitation of Santa Claus, he made a name for himself in his native United Kingdom in 2000 AD, the seminal British sci-fi anthology, creating definitive work with the apocalyptic robot adventure series ABC Warriors and fantasy epic Sláine: The Horned God.

Although he'd contribute to 2000 AD spinoff Judge Dredd: The Megazine and of course Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgement on Gotham, it's been 22 years since Bisley's last work in the publication with which fans still associate him to this day. That changes next week, when 2000 AD Prog 1800 goes on sale internationally with a brand new Bisley cover featuring the title's signature character, Judge Dredd.

Beneath Bisley's cover is a Judge Dredd story written and drawn by Chris Weston, an ABC Warriors piece by Pat Mills and Clint Langley, Grey Area: This Island Earth by Dan Abnett and Lee Carter, and the first installment of a brand new feature called Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard. Here's the blurb on that last one:
The Orrery is a fully functional, life-size clockwork solar system. A clutch of planets, moons and asteroids orbit a vast, life-giving BRASS SUN via immense metal spars, its origin and purpose long since forgotten. The once unified collection of worlds have regressed into eccentric fiefdoms and petty baronies. One such planet, Hind Leg, is ruled by religious dogma – its leaders believe the Cog is Creation, and any suggestion that the sun is slowing is treated as heresy. But for many, there's no escaping the truth that worlds are dying and something needs to be done...
Publisher Rebellion describes Prog 1800 as a "massive" jumping on point for new 2000 AD readers, and is timed to release around the new Dredd live-action film starring Karl Urban. American readers can pick up the issue via 2000 AD's extremely useful app in the Apple Newsstand at the same time it goes on sale in the UK.

There have been a number of great collected editions from 2000 AD released in the last year, causing a couple of us at ComicsAlliance to become quite enamored with this most influential of sci-fi anthologies. You can expect to hear more about 2000 AD comics from us in the near future.


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Mark Millar And Jeff Wadlow Want You To Know Jim Carrey Is Doing Their Movie

Mark Millar And Jeff Wadlow Want You To Know Jim Carrey Is Doing Their Movie | Comic Books |
Kick-Ass 2 creator Mark Millar and writer-director Jeff Wadlow both took to Twitter to announce that Jim Carrey has agreed to appear in the movie as The Colonel, known in the comic as Colonel Stars. The idea was touted before, then dismissed as “unlikely.”

Jeff Wadlow@JeffWadlow:
6 days till we start shooting... and we officially have our Colonel. Alrighty f'n then! @ChloeGMoretz @MintzPlasse @donald_faison #kickass2

1 Sep 12 
Chris Mintz-Plasse@MintzPlasse: 
@JeffWadlow who do we got?!

Mark Millar@mrmarkmillar:

@JeffWadlow clue- he lives with 200 raccoons and parrots, owns the mask of Loki and named by spielberg as a genius.

The film starts shooting in… 5 days now.

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New Walking Dead clips tease a much scarier season

New Walking Dead clips tease a much scarier season | Comic Books |

Last year on The Walking Dead, we spent a lot of time pulling bloated walkers out of tainted wells and talking about our feelings. But this year promises to be much different, what with the addition of The Governor, the prison, and Merle! And these super short clips also seem to be promising more blood, guts, and scares. Fingers crossed for more survivalist showdowns, and less time honking Shane's crotch.


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More Marvel Ongoings To Be Announced Soon – Bachalo, Larroca, Stegman?

More Marvel Ongoings To Be Announced Soon – Bachalo, Larroca, Stegman? | Comic Books |

Bleeding Cool is being told from a semi-reliable source of previous stories about Marvel projects, to look out for new ongoing series being announced very shortly, probably this coming week.

Hernandez Walta is replacing Salvador Larroca on the Point One book, but that may not affect his next project. Bleeding Cool has previously linked him to Brian Bendis for a Guardians Of The Galaxy series.

Chris Bachalo I have also been told is linked to a Cable book.

Ryan Stegman… no idea.

Looks like we may be finding out soon.

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Joss Whedon Co-Writes Marvel’s SHIELD TV Pilot At ABC

Joss Whedon Co-Writes Marvel’s SHIELD TV Pilot At ABC | Comic Books |

We’ve all been waiting for this shoe to drop since word came that part of Joss Whedon‘s long-term Marvel Studios / Avengers 2 deal also included involvement in a TV show, and here it is. The Wrap has the scoop:

"The network has entered an agreement for a pilot revolving around the peace-keeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D, which is featured in both Marvel comics and the superhero films which they spawned, including this year’s “The Avengers.”

Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the big-screen version of “The Avengers,” is also writing the pilot, along with brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen (“Dollhouse”), and is attached to direct, schedule permitting.

Whedon will also executive produce if the project if it goes into production, with Jed, Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell and Jeph Loeb of Marvel Television."

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Jim Lee And Scott Snyder To Launch Man Of Steel Comic For 2013?

Jim Lee And Scott Snyder To Launch Man Of Steel Comic For 2013? | Comic Books |

Spinning out of the Toronto bar scene comes one rumour that has suddenly picked up a little Canadian steam. Indeed some expected this to have been announced yesterday, rather than the Justice League Of America news.

Of late, Scott Snyder has been pointing out that one day he would like to write a Superman book, but not at the expense of writing Batman. And also that he wasn’t going to be writing Action Comics (we know this, it’s Andy Diggle.) But what is going on?

Well, in light of the Bleeding Cool story about Jim Lee leaving Justice League around about issue 16, it was tempted to line that up with rumours of WildCATS relaunching under his helm.

But instead, I’ve heard that there may be a brand new Superman monthly comic to come in 2013, called Man Of Steel, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Jim Lee.

It’s planned for the middle of next year I understand, probably part of the DC Fifth Wave, and to give Jim Lee enough of a head start to give the book a successful constant artistic run as Justice League had in the beginning.

Whichever month it does launch in, expect it to be the bestseller of that month by a considerable degree. And having the same name as the movie can’t exactly

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First Look: Mike Allred's Variant Cover For 'FF' #5 Spotlights She-Hulk

First Look: Mike Allred's Variant Cover For 'FF' #5 Spotlights She-Hulk | Comic Books |

Earlier in the week, ComicsAlliance announced that Marvel has provided us with an early look at the variant covers for issues 2-5 of the new 'FF' series from Matt Fraction and Mike Allred, launching in November as part of the publisher's Marvel NOW initiative. Each cover, drawn by Allred, showcases one of the new members of the FF. When put together, they form one image of the entire team. Monday we showed you the Ant-Man cover, Tuesday the spotlight was on Medusa, and yesterday we gave you a glimpse of Miss Thing. The final variant, for issue #5, puts the spotlight on She-Hulk.

Check out the full image, and what all the covers look like when put together, after the cut!

Having once taken The Thing's place on the Fantastic Four during John Byrne's legendary run on the series, She-Hulk has a long history with the team. Ben chooses her to take his spot on this new version of the Future Foundation because she's "the one person he knew he could never lick," according to series writer Fraction.

That's it for the variants, but take a look below to see the entire team together!


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Superhero Body Diversity: Female Artists Offer Their Take

Superhero Body Diversity: Female Artists Offer Their Take | Comic Books |

Two weeks ago we ran an article on ComicsAlliance looking at body diversity and superheroes. We asked four artists to rank male and female superheroes by size and describe which athletic types they resembled. The aim was to see if an unspoken consensus exists about what superheroes should look like or if they all belonged to the same generic model.

All four of the artists we spoke to were men. If you're looking to represent the demographic diversity of the superhero industry that's sadly a pretty accurate sample. But it didn't allow us to see if there was a difference in the way male and female artists perceive superhero body shapes, and we thought that was an interesting question. So we reached out to some of the best female artists working in superhero comics today to see how they ranked the heroes.

The artists we spoke to were Amazing Spider-Man and Cloak & Dagger artist Emma Rios; Earth 2 and Secret Six artist Nicola Scott; and Conan the Barbarian artist Becky Cloonan, who is believed to be the first female penciller to work on DC's flagship Batman title in its near seventy year history.

As with the male artsts, we asked them to rank Batman, Captain America, Flash, Namor, Nightwing, Spider-Man, Superman and Thor by size. The artists could see the previous article with the male artists' responses, but they could not see each other's responses. This is what they said:

You can read the guys' responses in more detail in the original article, but we've included them above for reference. The male artists are Kalman Andrasofszky, Ramón Pérez, Jamie McKelvie and Marcus To.

The male artists achieved a broad consensus in this exercise, placing Thor above Superman, Superman above Captain America, and Cap above Batman. Everyone placed Nightwing and Flash side-by-side, and three of the four artists placed Spider-Man last. In total they only had three deviations; Andrasofszky boosted Namor and Spider-Man, and To switched Flash and Nightwing.

The female artists had three deviations between them. Arguably the most significant was Cloonan's decision to declare Superman bigger than Thor - the only one of all seven artists to do so. "I always imagine him really big," said Cloonan, "like how Frank Quitely drew him in All Star Superman." Cloonan also ranked Namor higher than her peers - though not as high as Andrasofszky. Finally, Nicola Scott deviated from Cloonan and Rios by placing Nightwing above Flash, but that actually places her in a majority with three of the four guys.

For body type, the artists still classify Thor as the body builder type. "Not ridiculously chunky but pretty beefy," said Scott. Rios placed Superman in the same category, and agreed with Cloonan that Frank Quitely had the best depiction in All Star Superman. Scott had Superman down as a rugby player, and thought Captain America would be a similar size, while Rios paired Cap with Batman, noting that Cap "is stronger and a bit bigger, but both are in the line of heavyweight boxers mixed with artistic gymnastics athletes."

"To me Batman was always a normal guy without super powers," said Cloonan, "so of course he'd be smaller than Cap or Thor or Namor, who all have crazy enhanced mutant god genes." Added Scott; "He's got to be more of an all rounder. Stamina and strength. Bulkier than a triathlete."

The consensus on Namor is still that he should have a swimmer's physique, though Cloonan agreed with Andraszofsky that he would be bigger than Batman. As for the Flash; "Francis Manapul really draws the character how I imagine him," said Cloonan. "Really tall, lanky, muscular! This guy must have suuuper long legs."

Scott noted that Nightwing would be leaner and taller than the average gymnast; "Maybe like Jean Claude V[an] D[amme] back in the day." Cloonan suggested a college football build. Rios paired Nightwing with Spider-Man; "I find them closer to acrobatic performers. Like slender gymnasts." Scott noted that Amazing Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield was "spot on" for the role.

For the second half of the exercise we asked the artists to order Catwoman, Invisible Woman, Power Girl, Psylocke, Shadowcat, She-Hulk, Supergirl and Wonder Woman. The guys had several deviations here, with the artists unable to reach a clear consensus on Catwoman, Psylocke, Supergirl, Shadowcat or the Invisible Woman. Here are the female artists' results:

On first glance the female artists's lists look a little mixed up, but there are actually only two deviations here. Nicola Scott placed Power Girl above Wonder Woman; and Emma Rios placed Supergirl in fourth rather than seventh. Everyone else is in the same order. The female artists' lists effectively establish a consensus that the male artists weren't able to achieve, with Psylocke always above Catwoman, Catwoman always above Invisible Woman, and Invisible Woman always above Shadowcat. Supergirl is the biggest sticking point; the seven artists place her in four different positions on the list.

She-Hulk is the only character that all seven artists agreed on. No-one thought that Wonder Woman or Power Girl should be bigger than the jade giantess, though Emma Rios said Wonder Woman belongs in the same body builder category, describing her as "more balanced" than She-Hulk; "slender but also huge."

Nicola Scott didn't think that Wonder Woman needed a body builder's frame, preferring to classify her as a mixed martial artist. "Diana is [a] perfect, god designed specimen, no huge muscle needed," she said. She described her as "taller than [Power Girl], but I see her as leaner and longer."

Becky Cloonan zeroed in on the feature most of us associate with Power Girl; "Maybe because of her boobs I always imagine her being short, but really stocky. Broad shoulders!" Scott noted, "She's quite solidly built. Weightlifter or boxer maybe?" Rios agreed that Power Girl wouldn't be tall, but also noted that, like Superman, her physique wasn't related to her powers, so she preferred a more sensual, less sinewy depiction of the character. That explains why Rios was the only artist to put Power Girl and Supergirl together, though she also preferred a curvier Supergirl than most, citing weightlifter and new Tumblr sex symbol Samantha Wright as a possible model for the character.

The artists agreed that Catwoman and Psylocke would be about the same size, "but I think Catwoman has more of an hourglass shape, and I'd give Psylocke more muscles," said Cloonan. "Psylocke should be definitively a bit bigger, in strength and muscle, she hits while Catwoman dodges," said Rios. "I see Psylocke as a martial artist and Selina as an acrobat." Scott echoed this assessment, noting that Psylocke would be "lean but just a little beefy", while Catwoman "still has all her curves."

Scott suggested a runner's body for the Invisible Woman and a diver's physique for Supergirl, while Cloonan said Supergirl should look like the captain of the cheerleading team. "I think maybe it's the skirt?" Rios noted that neither the Invisible Woman nor Shadwocat are the physical type and said they would both just generally be in shape. (Shadowcat does have martial arts training, but given her powers it's safe to see her as an evasive tactical striker rather than as another Psylocke.) "I always imagine [Shadowcat] being really small because her mutant ability is mostly defense or support," said Cloonan. "Also when she was dating Colossus it made her seem even that much tinier!" Scott suggested that Kitty could be a rhythmic gymnast, which was also Ramon Pérez's suggestion.

Though it's difficult to draw any broad conclusions from such a small sample, it appears that these seven artists had broadly similar ideas about these heroes, but the female artists had a slightly stronger idea about how to rank the women. They were also more confident in talking about the women's curves, butts and boobs, but maybe the guys were being gentlemen?

So do female artists bring a greater sensitivity to female body diversity in superhero comics? It seems very likely, but we can't say we've established the case. It would be interesting to extend this survey further, but we already asked a sizeable percentage of the total number of women working in superhero comics.

Yes, three people is a sizeable percentage of the total number of women working in superhero comics. So when DC and Marvel have hired some more women to draw their books, maybe we'll have a clearer idea about how that might improve the range of depictions of women in comics.


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'It Has To Feel Right': Jason Pearson Draws Mental Health, Quantum Physics And T&A

'It Has To Feel Right': Jason Pearson Draws Mental Health, Quantum Physics And T&A | Comic Books |

Best known to comics readers for his many covers for Marvel's Deadpool and for his creator-owned series Body Bags (first published by Dark Horse and reissued by 12-Gauge), Jason Pearson has long been a favorite of artwork aficionados. Once a part of Atlanta's storied Gajin Studios along with other practitioners of the gorgeous high-contrast black-and-white style like Brian Stelfreeze, Tony Harris, Karl Story and Cully Hamner, Pearson has always created exceptional work on the comics page, but scheduling necessities have kept his work most visible on covers. Sadly, Pearson came to a crossroads last year that saw him doubt his place in the industry. With the help of colleagues and fans, Pearson is back at the drafting table and has returned to drawing commissions. Very interestingly, Pearson has infused the uncommonly beautiful new work -- which is largely titillating in nature, as is often the case with private commissions -- with layers of personal meaning and themes that make each piece, in Pearson's words, feel right.

In a long posting to Facebook, Pearson framed his life and career as a conflict between two opposing philosophies, "Just do it" and "It has to feel right." In light of a personal crisis last year, the artist concluded that the latter is the best path for him -- despite the financial consequences of no longer working with Marvel and DC. Pearson's been accepting cheesecake commissions from art collectors and preparing new installments of his relatively underground creator-owned work, but while the economic rewards are and will be few, for Pearson it's more about getting by on another level.

"Why resort to efforts that have offered me nothing but an incredible surplus of agitation, disappointment and financial instability. Gainful livelihood abhors complication but my very existence is a motherf***ing complication. So f*** it.

Are we stardust as Joni Mitchell declares or are we just clusters of molecules slamming into each other as Schrodinger's Equation suggests. Either way, reality is merely perception. These pieces of art should appear as nothing more then images of tits and ass, but within these requested preameters I had to 'feel right' about doing them. A reason for their existence had to be achieved.

To you, Domino sits naked with Deadpool reflected in a mirror. To me, it's a theory about the fear and hate of true love.

To you, Elektra looks cool as a pin cushion for arrows and ninja stars, to me, she's about acceptance.

So is the Panda/Baby Doll piece.

Scarlet Witch is about the death of family and the happiness that blossoms from it.

Those are my conclusions. Maybe I'm stupid for using cheesecake to answer questions about psychiatry and quantum physics but it gets me through the f***ing day. If I'm wrong, then at least you can be amused by the titillation."

While your mileage may vary on the subject matter, I don't think it can be denied that the reenergized Pearson's work has never looked better. The artist indicated he may be looking to Kickstarter in the future to help finance his next comics work, but in the meantime fans can contact Mike Alexandropoulous at to purchase artwork from Pearson's publishing jobs, including Deadpool, X-Men, Robin and more, or to commission an original piece. As you can see in this process graphic below, you know he's going to put a hell of a lot of thought and work into it.


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'Daredevil,' 'Hark! A Vagrant' And More Win Big At The 2012 Harvey Awards

'Daredevil,' 'Hark! A Vagrant' And More Win Big At The 2012 Harvey Awards | Comic Books |

The Harvey Awards were given out this weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con, and just like at the Eisners, it was a good night for Marvel's Daredevil series, with the title winning Best New Series, Best Continuing Series, Best Writer and Best Inker. Other big winners included Kate Beaton and JH Williams. Click through for a full list of who took home awards this year.

From the official list of winners:

BEST WRITER - Mark Waid for "DAREDEVIL", published by Marvel Comics

BEST ARTIST - J. H. Williams for "BATWOMAN", published by DC Comics

BEST CARTOONIST - Kate Beaton for "HARK! A VAGRANT",; printed edition published by Drawn and Quarterly

BEST INKER - Joe Rivera for "DAREDEVIL", published by Marvel Comics

BEST COVER ARTIST - J. H. WILLIAMS for "BATWOMAN", published by DC Comics

BEST LETTERER - Chris Eliopoulos for "FEAR ITSELF", published by Marvel Comics

BEST COLORIST - Dave Stewart for "HELLBOY: THE FURY", published by Dark Horse Comics

BEST NEW SERIES - "DAREDEVIL", published by Marvel Comics


BEST ONLINE COMICS WORK - "HARK! A VAGRANT", by Kate Beaton,; print edition published by Drawn and Quarterly

BEST SYNDICATED STRIP - "CUL DE SAC", by Richard Thompson, syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate


MOST PROMISING NEW TALENT - Sara Pichelli, for "ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN", published by Marvel Comics

SPECIAL AWARD FOR HUMOR IN COMICS - Kate Beaton for "HARK! A VAGRANT",; printed edition published by Drawn and Quarterly


BEST ANTHOLOGY - "DARK HORSE PRESENTS", published by Dark Horse Comics


BEST SINGLE ISSUE OR STORY - "JIM HENSON'S TALE OF SAND", published by Archaia Entertainment


BEST ORIGINAL GRAPHIC ALBUM - "JIM HENSON'S TALE OF SAND", published by Archaia Entertainment



Congratulations to all those who won.

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A Few Things We Learned At Baltimore Comic Con

A Few Things We Learned At Baltimore Comic Con | Comic Books |

There are no more Anti Monitors.

X-23 will appear in a new Marvel NOW! series to be announced soon.

Tim Drake called himself Red Robin from the beginning, following Jason Todd he didn’t want to use the exact name. But expect to see lots of Tim Drake in the Joker crossover.

Valiant are relaunching Eternal Warrior.

There will be new and possibly multiple X-Force titles.

Jamal Igle and Ron Marz are launching a new comics project together.

Bob Wayne evaded questions on new Man Of Steel or WildCATS projects.

Mark Waid will stay away from established villains for the first few months in The Indestructible Hulk

Audience members trying to nominate Scott Snyder to write Wally West are batted back by Bob Wayne who tells the crowd that it’s not a political convention.

We’ll find out whether Cyclops is being lobotomized in Uncanny Avengers, in Avengers Vs X-Men next week.

Plenty more to come I’m sure…

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Matt Murdock Gets Punched... A Lot... In 'Daredevil: End Of Days'

Matt Murdock Gets Punched... A Lot... In 'Daredevil: End Of Days' | Comic Books |

If you didn't get enough of Brian Bendis writing about Marvel's Man Without Fear in his 55-issue run on Daredevil, then you are in luck: Next month, Bendis, along with co-writer David Mack and artists Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Alex Maleev return to Daredevil for End of Days.

Despite my initial assumptions that this was an adaptation of the poorly received Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name from 1999, it turns out this End of Days will be the story of Matt Murdock's death in a future that may or may not definitely, totally will happen some day, for realsies. And as the preview pages below will attest, that will apparently involve Daredevil taking a lot of punches right to the face.

Daredevil: End of Days #1 kicks off its first face-crushing issue on October 10.


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A sneak preview of next week's issue of Suicide Squad

A sneak preview of next week's issue of Suicide Squad | Comic Books |

Courtesy of DC Comics, here's an exclusive first look at next week's issue of Suicide Squad. This #0 issue is a prequel to the comic's current run, and it showcases the early days of Suicide Squad handler Amanda Waller. This issue hits stores next Wednesday, September 12 — here's the synopsis:

What happened to Amanda Waller after the shocking destruction of Team 7? And how did it lead to the creation of the Suicide Squad?

Written by: Adam Glass
Art by: Fernando Dagnino
Cover by: Ken Lashley


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Daniel Way And Steve Dillon Teaming For Teased 'Lightning' Marvel NOW Title In December

Daniel Way And Steve Dillon Teaming For Teased 'Lightning' Marvel NOW Title In December | Comic Books |

It's been a few weeks since Marvel rolled out its initial batch of reshuffled creative team/character combinations, but it seems the publisher has plenty more Marvel NOW combos waiting in the wings. Coming in December Daniel Way and Steve Dillon will join forces for a title that's being teased with a graphic bearing a yellow "Lightning" tagline, ominously positioned in the red cross hairs of an unknown assailant.

The teaser's lightning tag points to a possible Thunderbolts book given the team's longstanding "Justice Like Lightning" catchphrase. If the book is indeed T-Bolts related, it should be interesting to see how it works in tandem with the upcoming Dark Avengers title, which is effectively a retitled continuation of the current Thunderbolts book by Jeff Parker. However the new book relates to the transitioned series, it's doubtful that Marvel will re-explore the "Fight Club" direction Thunderbolts took under John Arcudi and Francisco Ruiz Velasco's run from issue #76-81 in 1997.

So what's the deal with the teaser's red target scope imagery? Could it signify Deadpool's presence in the book given Way's history with the Merc With A Mouth? Newsarama speculated that the Punisher and/or Cable could also be involved considering each of their penchants for firearm use and the presence of similar gun sights on the The Amazing Spider-Man #129 and The New Mutants #87 covers bearing their first appearances. Dillon's famed Punisher runs will have fans of Frank Castle hoping to see the creator put his stamp on the antihero once again, meaning the odds are probably in his favor over the already busy DP and presumably occupied Cable, however.

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So Who Is In The New Avengers Comic Anyway?

So Who Is In The New Avengers Comic Anyway? | Comic Books |

We gave you a glimpse at the weekend, courtesy of J Scott Campbell‘s pencils for his Avengers #1 Midtown variant, who might be in the new Avengers comic.

Well, now courtesy of Marvel, comes the proper, official, actual issue one cover. And issue two cover. And issue three cover.

So, that’s Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, Cannonball, Wolverine, Hulk, Captain Marvel, Falcon, Black Widow, Sunspot, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye and… um… who is that bloke at the back?


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Spider-Man Musical Producers Turn Off The Lawyers As Lawsuit With Show's Creator Is Settled

Spider-Man Musical Producers Turn Off The Lawyers As Lawsuit With Show's Creator Is Settled | Comic Books |

It's been almost two years since the troubled Spider-Man musical, Turn Off The Dark, opened for previews for the first time, giving audiences a glimpse at a show at once ambitious and (dangerously) ill-considered. It's been just shy of eighteen months since original director Julie Taymor was ousted from the production amid last-minute revisions and rewrites. Only now, though, can Taymor say goodbye to the wall-crawler, as the lawsuits surrounding her removal have finally been settled.

Taymor launched her legal action against the show's producers, 8-Legged Productions, in November of last year after months of arbitration over what she claimed were unpaid royalties over her contribution to the final version of the show (having written and directed the original version of the show, she was bumped to being listed as a co-writer with Glen Berger and sometime comic writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa when the show opened). Taymor asserted that she was not only owed financial compensation for her efforts, but that she also had a claim to copyright of the underlying material in the show.

That lawsuit led to two subsequent lawsuits. Firstly, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Union filed a similar suit against the show's producers, that was settled in February of this year, with Taymor being offered additional royalties and given a compensation plan for any subsequent productions of the show outside of its original run. However, not everything seemed to be going in Taymor's favor, as 8-Legged filed a countersuit against the director claiming that her lack of professionalism had created the troubles for the show in the first place, leading to "superhuman efforts" being needed to bring the show to its current state (That suit was reportedly settled in March of this year).

Terms of the settlement between Taymor and 8-Legged are unknown as yet, but considering that the production remains the most expensive show in Broadway history, it's almost certain that peace between these two factions didn't come cheap. We can only hope that Taymor decides to make a song and dance about all the details after the fact.

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Joss Whedon Talks 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' TV Show, Promises Something That Will Please Fans Old and New

Joss Whedon Talks 'S.H.I.E.L.D.' TV Show, Promises Something That Will Please Fans Old and New | Comic Books |

What should we expect from Marvel's just-announced S.H.I.E.L.D. television series? According to show creator Joss Whedon, something that'll work as well for non-Marvel fans as it does for the hardcore fanbase - and that, whatever it is, it's something that everyone involved so far loves, even though it's not guaranteed to actually happen just yet. So who at ABC do we need to bribe to get that guarantee, exactly...?

Talking to Entertainment Weekly, Whedon said that "the S.H.I.E.L.D. show kind of dropped in my lap, and I love working in TV." He continued, "I get to really build a show with people I really trust and love," referring to his brother Jed and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen, who'll be co-writing the show's pilot episode with him and serving as show runners should the series be picked up by ABC (They've previously worked with Whedon on Dollhouse and as co-writers of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, so you should trust them too). "What we're building is entirely autonomous from The Avengers. It's gotta be a show that works for people who haven't seen the Marvel movies. It will please Marvel fans, I think," he said.

That he wasn't the only one in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. was something he touched on again when interviewed by New York Magazine's Vulture blog. "It was part of what made [the Marvel Studios deal] attractive to me," he said. "I loved the idea of being a consigliere. Every writer loves the idea of being able to go in and fix a problem and then leave without obligation. It's fun!"

Saying that working with the Marvel characters had made him revisit comics he read as a kid and realize that "they shaped my storytelling way more than I give them credit for," he went on to say that "Now I'm starting up a TV show, which is something I really wanted to do, but I thought it wasn't going to be a part of my life for the next several years. It's like a tapas menus of projects that excite me, in addition to the Avengers sequel, which I'm excited for because I'm incredibly excited about the next story that I'm going to tell. For me, it's a huge win."

Before we all get carried away with excitement over the show, though, Whedon sounded a note of realism. "You know, I can't guarantee that any of that will happen," he said, referring to the fact that ABC ordering a pilot isn't a guarantee that the show will ever make it to air, never mind become a full series. "Good support is wonderful, but it's not a hill of beans, because they may give us all this support and then decide, 'Eh. Yeah, it's Friday.' They might give us all the support and then not do that, but then audiences might go, 'Yeahhh ... no.' You just can't be sure. What I do know is that it's the show it should be, and we've got some really dope notions."

"So far, it feels just fine." he summed up. "The important thing to me is that we know what the show is. We love what it is. It came together very organically, so when we went in to pitch [to Marvel], it wasn't like, We're trying to find this because you want a TV show, it was, Check this out."

For those wanting a hint of Whedon's take on Marvel's Supreme Spy Organization, it's worth pointing out that The Avengers starts a limited-run re-release in theaters today, and is released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 25.

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First Clip From The Dark Knight Returns Gets Iconic

First Clip From The Dark Knight Returns Gets Iconic | Comic Books |

As well as showing off the CG-fuelled car animation, this first clip from the animated version of The Dark Knight Returns takes us to what I’d imagine is the most widely seen image of Frank Miller’s original.

Doesn’t look too bad, does it?


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Avengers Vs X-Men To Be The Model For Future Marvel Events

Avengers Vs X-Men To Be The Model For Future Marvel Events | Comic Books |

It’s true I’ve been a little down on the Avengers Vs X-Men event, only really liking a couple of the issues so far, but enjoying more of the spinoff bits – the opposite of the way I usually experience these things.

But I can’t deny that it’s been far more effective than previous crossovers, dominating the charts and actually lifting the sales of crossover books rather than depressing them. Which, you know, is kind of the point. And it seems that Marvel are keen to repeat the experience.

At the Avengers Vs X-Men panel today at the Fan Expo in Toronto, Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso stated that “hopefully we’ll be doing more things like this in the future” and that it’s “a model for future events at this point.”

As for the crossovers, Axel stated “We have people complaining that there wasn’t enough, which is a good sign”. And as to the five-weekly mini-series AVX: Consequences coming out in October, Arune Singh told the crowd “This will change the fabric of the Marvel Universe in an important way…”

But then again, don’t they all?

UPDATE: USAgent will be joining Dark Avengers and taking it in a new direction. Presumably out of the wheelchair. And it looks like Bleeding Cool’s rumour about a new Cable book may be on the money.. but first we have a Captain America and Cable story in A+X #1. And Alpha Flight characters will join Wolverine And The X-Men from issue 19.

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'The Invisibles' Omnibus Collects The Essence Of Grant Morrison In 1500 Pages

'The Invisibles' Omnibus Collects The Essence Of Grant Morrison In 1500 Pages | Comic Books |

Thirteen years after its completion, The Invisibles has finally been collected in one massive volume. Weighing in at nearly ten pounds, over 1500 pages, and costing $150 US Dollars, The Invisibles Omnibus is one of the purest and most unique experiences in comics. Using the language of superheroes, writer/genius/counter-cultural icon Grant Morrison introduced readers to an entirely new world of pulse-quickening ideas, and stamped his unique brand of other-dimensional thinking to a whole generation of writers and artists, whose voices are now among the most influential in the field. What was it about The Invisibles that resonated so deeply with so many?

Though it's very difficult to boil down a book as wild and complex as The Invisibles, the basic plot is actually very simple: No one is free. The Archons of the Outer Church, a group of inter-dimensional aliens/gods, have secretly worked to enslave mankind for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Through their machinations and representatives in government, media, royalty, law enforcement, organized religion, and other vehicles of oppression, The Archons have prevented human beings from achieving their full potential and ascending to a higher plane of existence.

Opposing the Outer Church is The Invisible College, a worldwide network of terrorists who combat the conspiracy through consciousness-expansion, sexual expression, high fashion, and healthy amounts of ultra-violence. The cell that the story follows is made up of characters who defy every traditional type comics had produced. There's Ragged Robin, who is either a time-travelling psychic or just insane; Dane MacGowan, a juvenile delinquent from Manchester who might be the reincarnation of The Buddha; Lord Fanny, a transsexual Brazilian witch with the best one-liners in comicbook history; and the undeniable star of the book, science fiction writer and superspy King Mob, who wears fetish gear, racks up a kill count in the triple digits while quoting George Orwell, and acts as Grant Morrison's "fiction suit," his 2-dimensional stand-in sent to directly interact with the story's reality. Yep.

If you can't already tell, the book gets into some pretty weird territory. As he says in his comics theory/autobiography Supergods, "I decided to do a book where I could contain and address all my interests," and that's a very long, very weird list. As such, reading all three volumes collected in the omnibus in one sitting may just entirely rewrite your personal cosmology. Proceed with caution. Chaos magic, LSD, tantric sex, the sunspot cycle, neuro-linguistic programming, memes, William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Terrence McKenna, Robert Anton Wilson, Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius stories, the Mayan calendar, alien abduction, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Situationism, Discordianism, Dadaism, shamanism, transcendentalism, and several other -isms all find their way into the book, providing numerous pathways of discovery for the adventurous reader willing to stop and write down every eclectic reference and thought-provoking idea contained in every issue.

Which was essentially what Morrison wanted: to provoke thought, to encourage consciousness-expansion, and to disseminate the types of ideas that he believed might go on to infect and motivate readers. Repeatedly referring to The Invisibles as a "hypersigil," a long-form magical act meant to alter reality in accordance with intent, Morrison was actively trying to make a better world through fiction. (In fact, he started the project with a sigil he charged while bungee-jumping from a bridge in New Zealand; when it looked like the series might be cancelled early, Morrison used the letters column to teach readers the art of sigil magic and asked them to participate in a "wank-a-thon" to imbue the book with lasting power. The book never got cancelled, and you can't argue with results.) While that may seem like absolute crap to many, it's hard to argue with the fact that some of the ideas he was trying to spread between 1993 and 1999 ended up in The Matrix, several other comicbooks, and at least a small portion of the popular consciousness.

Prior to The Invisibles, Morrison was a respected weirdo, but he wasn't exactly widely known. Arkham Asylum was the best-selling original graphic novel of all time, but it was the art of Dave McKean that stole the show. On Animal Man and Doom Patrol, he wrote himself into the story and pushed the boundaries of conventional narrative, and though he gained quite a few fans and copious amounts of professional respect, he still wasn't really considered a star on the level of Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore. The Invisibles changed that - it's the book where Grant Morrison the writer became Grant Morrison the icon. As Morrison wrote his life into King Mob and vice versa, his personality grew, eventually eclipsing the work. Morrison fans were not just fans of the writing, they were fans of the man: the shaven-headed nutball who wore skintight leather, spoke of an experience in Kathmandu akin to an alien abduction, and regularly extolled the virtues of psychedelic drugs.

Though it's been discussed to death in numerous other blogs, tons of interviews, Morrison's own book, and the Talking With Gods documentary, without a doubt the most fascinating aspect of The Invisibles is the autobiographical one, and the uncanny give-and-take that seemed to exist in a weird conjunction between fiction and reality. Just as the ichthys symbol (or Jesus fish) in Gnosticism represents a higher reality and lower reality intersecting, Morrison appeared to have discovered a meeting place between reality and un-reality, where the two planes came together in a living Venn diagram. It ended up being a blade that is sharp on both sides. (If only there was a euphemism for that.) Morrison took a lot of risks with the comic. By making it very personal, by intertwining his own life with fiction, he opened a lot of doors that couldn't be closed. Shortly after King Mob was brainwashed to believe he had necrotizing fasciitis that chewed its way through his cheek, Morrison got a staph infection that nearly chewed its way through his cheek, eventually sending him to the hospital, where he hallucinated Jesus, a scene that appears in volume 1 issue 24. He openly discussed, through his characters and then in interviews, breakups, letdowns, and his own experiences with cross-dressing, which certainly turned a lot of people off.

Lots of people don't understand Morrison, think he's just drugged-out and writing nonsense, and they love to make their opinions known. There will probably be a few comments on this story proclaiming that Morrison can't write, doesn't make sense, needs an editor, and drops too much acid. Those people are seriously, intensely wrong. Here's a serious proclamation for you: if you can't recognize the craft and invention that he puts into everything he writes - particularly the sprawling occult conspiracy thrill-ride that is The Invisibles - then you're either not paying attention or you simply don't get it. The amount of writers and artists who count Morrison - and his work on The Invisibles in particular - among their biggest influences is a list of the most important and impressive creators of the current ruling generation. The best writers in comics think Morrison is the best writer in comics. Matt Fraction's highly-praised super-spy autobiography Casanova probably wouldn't exist if not for Morrison's example on how it could be done. In fact, Morrison is considered such an influential creator, he's even getting his own convention, with luminaries Robert Kirkman, Johnathan Hickman, Gerard Way, and Jason Aaron - who almost named his first son Grant - attending as special guests at MorrisonCon in Las Vegas September 28-29. And The Invisibles is arguably the writer/icon's most influential, most important work. Even thirteen years after its completion, it's still forward-thinking and prescient, a claim that very, very few comics could make.

Now, with Morrison proclaiming (again) that he'll be leaving superhero comics shortly, with this gargantuan collection now on the shelves, with MorrisonCon creeping around the horizon, with December 21 2012 lurking not far behind it, the synchronicities are too blatant to ignore. If you've never read The Invisibles, if you were too young or naive to have understood it the first time around, now is the time to get going. It may send you on a strange trip into areas of your own psyche you never imagined exploring - it may contain the answers you were already looking for, as it did for hallucinatory, mid-mental collapse 18-year-old me. At the very least it will be one of the most interesting, unconventional, and memorable comicbooks you've ever read. Charge the sigil, make the jump, pull the pin, and remember to smile.


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