Stewart R: The turn of the year threw up a great many things to slightly derail the train that is Incoming... including a touch here and there of actual throwing up... *Ahem* An-y-way, 2012 is now in full swing and with a big year ahead for the comic book industry in its many forms I thought I’d take this opportunity to look at some of the things that I’m particularly looking forward to in the months to come.
COMIC BOOKS: Following year after year of disappointing Summer ‘tent-pole’ events from the big two publishers I’m not particularly looking forward to Avengers Vs X-Men that’s for sure. There doesn’t seem to be anything fresh in the way that this event is being promoted and at present it does just come across as an opportunity to wheel out those age old ‘who would win in a fight between...’ arguments. We’re also starting to reach the point where the DC 52 begins to stretch a touch thin in places and I’m not that convinced that we won’t see them struggle to replace those titles that haven’t made the grade. Admittedly some of DC’s writers and artists are producing work at exceptional levels of quality so I will say that I am looking forward to seeing them continue to work in that vein.
Okay, so I’ve started out a little negatively, but I am looking forward to a fair few comic books this year. Fresh on the shelves this week will sit Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice’s Winter Soldier #1 and I for one couldn’t be happier to see this title out. When Marvel seemed to cast Bucky Barnes’ current story to the wind a little in favour of promoting Captain America titles that would fly a little closer to the live action movie at the end of last Summer, I was worried that we wouldn’t be seeing the continuation of the awesome plot threads left hanging following Brubaker’s terrific Gulag arc. Now it seems we’re going to get a whole darn ongoing series to soak up as Bucky hunts down secret Soviet weapons of destruction that he trained. It’s an exciting premise and since I’ve dropped the other Cap titles over recent months it’s also well timed!
I would deem last year to have certainly been a creative, if not financial success for Image comics as they really did well in pushing brand new properties and titles from Spring all the way to the end of 2011. Titles such as Samurai’s Blood, Undying Love, Joe Casey’s exceptional Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker and Vescell really did impress me and showed the depth of talent flush with new ideas hoping to work with the publisher. Following a bit of a breather over the festive period it seems that 2012 will involve more of the same as Previews over the past few months has promoted a myriad of new #1s to tempt, tantalise and titillate the comic reading public in the very near future. Some might say that it’s a brave move for Image to be gambling on so many new projects considering the financial climate, but if they end up with just 2-3 additional, popular ongoing comic books at year’s end then it will surely have been worth it. The one title that I’d like to think will be a sure-fire hit is Bryan K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga which certainly seems to ooze promise and I’ll go out on a limb here and now and say that I reckon I’ll be singing the series’ praises this time next year.
CONVENTIONS: Having eased myself into the convention scene over the past three years with annual trips to Bristol I’m really excited to be presented with more opportunities to indulge in the comics scene away from my home town. We’re now only weeks away from the London Super Comic Convention in the fair capital and over the past few months some names I’d really been looking forward to possibly shaking the hand of have had to withdraw due to other commitments; Rick Remender, Rob Guillory and John Layman won’t now be in attendance (sad face) but that’s nothing new for this type of event taking place thousands of miles away from where such creators live and work.
The monumental news since that point though has been that mighty Stan Lee himself is going to attend the show over both the Saturday and Sunday and that is certainly a true coup for a debutant convention. Members of the Paradox Comics Group were definitely excited by the announcement and I dare say that we’ll all be making efforts to at least catch a glimpse of the legendary writer in the flesh while we’re up there. A recent interview with the organisers of the London Super Comic Convention highlighted how their persistence and dedication to their endeavour had born such magnificent fruit and I’m really looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere that’ll be circulating through the halls of the Excel Centre with the crowd all knowing that such a legend is only a short distance away. That said I’m also expecting to hear the word ‘Excelsior’ mentioned more times over the course of a single weekend than I’ve ever heard it said in the course of my life to date and I’m just hoping that I don’t grow tired of that before Sunday rolls around!
My personal aims for the weekend - aside from maintaining an ‘elbows out’ approach to my long box rummaging - are to possibly get one of my old Transformers UK comics signed by Simon Furman and Andrew Wildman - I might also take my favourite issue of Dragons’ Claws along for a Furman signature while I’m at it - and get an issue of Illuminati signed by the supremely talented Jim Cheung. At the very least I’d like to shake the hands of Fred Van Lente and Simon Spurrier and congratulate them for their respective Taskmaster and X-Club mini-series which have amused me greatly over the past couple of years. I’ve never really been one for gushing praise at those writers and artists that I respect and admire in person, but as my knowledge of, and appreciation for the medium increases year after year I realise just how much effort these people put in to their art and these occasions are a great opportunity to give thanks to those great minds that provide us with such gripping and entertaining stories.
It’s also been announced quite recently that Hellblazer penciller and prominent source of random entertainment/bemusement Simon Bisley will be at the show and I’ve managed to bump into him at all of the previous Bristol Comic Expos that I’ve been to so I’m looking forward to hopefully adding yet another amusing story to the collection should I cross paths with him once more...
CINEMATICS: The presence of comic book adaptations and superhero movies on the cinematic calendar is now pretty much the norm as the Hollywood studios continue to cash in on the spectacle that such movies offer to the eager film-going public. While 2011 was still about introducing new faces (Thor, Captain America:The First Avenger, Green Lantern) and taking tentative yet successful steps into reboot territory (X-Men: First Class), 2012’s roster is likely to prove that familiarity will certainly bring you the big bucks!
The Dark Knight Rises is arguably the most anticipated of all the superhero movies coming out this year following The Dark Knight’s devastatingly strong performance globally just a couple of years ago. It’s been noted several (thousand) times that Heath Ledger’s involvement and sad subsequent end probably helped to elevate attendances at the time, however there’s certainly no doubting that Christopher Nolan made a damn fine film that deserved every plaudit that it received. TDKR will bring the trilogy to a close and from the trailers promises more of what we’ve loved from the series so far but on a larger scale. It’s a really tough call this year but I’d have to say that I’m looking forward to the DC effort just a tiny bit more than the big Marvel player in town this Summer...
...which of course is The Avengers! Everything on paper suggests that this should be a sure-fire hit and blow my socks off; tried and tested characters, returning actors from various franchises, Samuel L. Jackson doing his no-nonsense Nick Fury thing, Scarlett Johannson doing her Black Widow tight leather uniform thing and Joss Whedon helming the whole kit and caboodle! With roughly 100 days until release here in the UK and around the globe I’ve been impressed with the amount of restraint the studio has had when it’s come to trailers and promotion. This time last year we were being bombarded with visuals from Transformers: Dark of the Moon which gave us a pretty darn good idea of what we were going to experience in the movie theatre some 6 months away and that was a film with a near-guaranteed bumper pay day ahead of it. With The Avengers I really do have the feeling that we haven’t seen anything of the awesomeness that will wash across our senses over the course of some 120 minutes and I like the fact that such a big movie is managing to maintain an air of exciting mystery about it as the release edges ever closer.
While the big screen obviously has some treats in store, the animated original movie market should also not be underestimated! I for one am really itching to get my hands on a copy of Justice League: Doom which is due out at the end of this month. Loosely based upon Mark Waid’s JLA: Tower of Babel story and adapted by the late Dwayne McDuffie just before his passing, Doom will look at what happens when some of the most evil and powerful villains gain access to Batman’s contingency plans that offers strategies to stop his friends and colleauges in their very tracks. It sounds like a terrific idea - I’ve never read the source material - and to be honest I was sold on this project the moment Lauren Montgomery was attached to direct as I’ve loved all of the animated movies that she has been in charge of so far.
I’ve only grazed the surface of the potential this year appears to have but I have to say that it’s looking likely to be one exciting 12 months for the comics industry in any case!!