Category Archives: Comics

Elsewhere: Danica Talks Secret Empire

Hey, were you wondering if Variant Edition was going to get dressed up in Nazi collaborator paraphernalia?

We aren’t. But you can hear Danica talk about it a bit more over at The Daily Dotwhere she summarizes things quite succinctly with this line:

“People shouldn’t be cosplaying as Nazis. Period.”

You think that wouldn’t have to be something that should be said, but 2017 has been one hell of a year. Can the bullshit stop now? That would be great.

You Read These With Your Eyes // January 18th, 2017

On some weeks (here’s hoping most weeks) Brandon goes through everything that came in at Variant Edition and pulls out his picks for great introductory reads. Your milage may vary.

This week, there are dystopian futures, wizards, and grime-covered bible stories mixed in with some more straight forward superhero fare. Enjoy!

Continue reading You Read These With Your Eyes // January 18th, 2017

You Read These With Your Eyes // January 11th, 2017

On some weeks (here’s hoping most weeks) Brandon goes through everything that came in at Variant Edition and pulls out his picks for great introductory reads. Your milage may vary.

01. OCTAVIA BUTLER’S KINDRED GN (Abrams Comicarts)
by Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy & John Jennings

This classic sci-fi novel is adapted into a beautiful graphic novel. A couple of notes: I have yet to read the original novel, and I’m only halfway through this book, but if you do a quick search, you’ll be able to find unending articles about this book’s importance to the world of pop culture. From my experience so far (as though that particularly matters) there’s good reason for this. Whether you’re a fan of the original novel, or want to experience a particularly powerful and poignant piece of fiction, give this book a read.

(I’ll be sure to give my full thoughts on the book later. Stay tuned.)

02. GRAVE LILIES #1 (Z2 Comics)
by Cullen Bunn & George Kambadais

Cullen Bunn is one of the most prolific writers in the industry today, and for good reason. He’s one of the best, especially when it comes to creator owned content, which brings us to Grave Lilies. Along with co-creator George Kambadais, Bunn tells the story for four young women who are awoken to discover they don’t know where they are, what powers they have, and why they are being hunted. The first issue sets up an intriguing plot that will be very interesting to see play out. Keep in mind: this series comes out from Z2 Comics, a great small publisher – but as it comes from a small publisher, many stores will not stock this book, or if they do, will need to know if you’re interested in continuing with the series, as orders from smaller companies are difficult to adjust orders for.

03. DETECTIVE COMICS #948 (DC Comics)
By James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett, Ben Oliver & Marilyn Patrizio w/ Dave Wielgosz, Chris Conroy & Mark Doyle

Batwoman Begins here in the highly anticipated prologue to her own ongoing series. This story welcomes Batwoman writer Marguerite Bennett to the creative team to help set up the new series, and introduce a great new character to Gotham. As is typical with Batwoman stories, the art is gorgeous, with Ben Oliver turning in some of the best work of his career as the story pulls on some threads from previous Detective stories to kick off something exciting and new.

04. UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #16 (Marvel Comics)
By Ryan North, Will Murray, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi & Travis Lanham w/ Charles Beecham and Wil Moss

It’s Squirrel Girl’s 15th Anniversary, and Marvel has put together an amazing issue to celebrate the occasion. Not only do you get an amazing new story from the usual creative team, but Squirrel Girl co-creator Will Murray swings by for a sequence, with a cameo from Steve Ditko. Also, the story itself is a great one-off story that runs through various eras of Doreen’s life. Heartfelt and kind, like all issues of Squirrel Girl, this is a book to check out if you’re looking for a pick me up, or if you’ve always wanted a good spot to check the book out.

05. JUSTICE LEAGUE / POWER RANGERS #1 (DC Comics / Boom! Studios)
By Tom Taylor, Stephen Byrne & Deron Bennett w/ Kristy Quinn and Dafna Pleban

In full on insane news, this series exists, and it’s a ton of fun. The story begins in the Power Rangers’ world as things suddenly and swiftly go awry, bringing in… Batman? Wait, what? Yeah. So this is bonkers, but in the best ways possible. If the team-up intrigues you in any way, I highly suggest you try the book.

For a complete list of what’s out this week, you can check out our shop’s weekly Incoming post where we list everything that we’re getting.

Hopeful and Empowering Comics (Or) Take That, Patriarchy!

I’m making this list because… last year was really, really hard. I think it was hard for most people – and I wanted to share the comics that helped me push through all of the muck in 2016.

These are some books that allowed me find some power within myself.

MOCKINGBIRD (Marvel)

by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk & Various

Elevator Pitch: Bobbi Morse is living her own life, and men try to ruin it. Something something corgis something something Bobbi saves the queen.

Recommended Because: It’s a book that emphatically states that women can and should be the stars of their own story. Bobbi is in charge of her life and makes her own story, and the comic’s reality often reflects that. Also there are so many corgis.


FAITH (Valiant)

by Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage & More

Elevator Pitch: Nerdy blogger who can fly, saves puppies and fights for the greater good.

Recommended Because: Faith is a superhero that’s like me and a lot of my friends – and while she’s not all powerful, she still tries her very best – an important lesson to remember.


PRINCELESS: RAVEN – THE PIRATE PRINCESS (Action Lab)

by Jeremy Whitley, Rosy Higgins & Ted Brandt

Elevator Pitch: Group of women create their own pirate crew and seek vengeance, while learning about each other a long the way.

Recommended Because: It features a group of women who fight for what they believe in within a world that tells them they shouldn’t. Very empowering.


GIANT DAYS (Boom!Box)

by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin & More

Elevator Pitch: Four women in university, living through school and boy drama, and having silly adventures together.

Recommended Because: This series provides a comforting place to live. When you’re with the characters, it feels like you’re visiting friends. Not only  is it the only comic that still makes me laugh out loud during every issue, it provides a good reminder to appreciate the friendships that we build into our lives.


GROOT (Marvel)

by Jeff Loveness and Brian Kesinger

Elevator Pitch: Groot goes on a journey to find Rocket; finds a group of misfits along the way.

Recommended Because: It’s relentlessly positive. The main character might not be able to talk, but he more than makes up for it through his ability to empathize. It’s a story that’s pure and innocent, providing a reminder of just how good we can all be.

These comics are full of hope and resilience – and they provide bravery when you think you don’t have any. They helped me get through the year, and if you’re looking to be uplifted, they might help you too.

Danica LeBlanc // Twitter

Submetropolitan is powered by Variant Edition Comics + Culture – Edmonton’s best source for comics, used books + mindful pop culture.
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You Read These With Your Eyes // January 4th, 2017

On some weeks (here’s hoping most weeks) Brandon goes through everything that came in at Variant Edition and pulls out his picks for great introductory reads. Your milage may vary.

01. THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Jeremy Whitley, Elsa Charretier, Megan Wilson & VC’s Joe Caramagna w/ Alanna Smith & Tom Brevoort

If you’re going to try one comic book this week, let it be this. The Unstoppable Wasp is explosively good. Jeremy Whitley does a fantastic job putting all the introductory elements you want into play as Nadia flies through her first solo adventure. Giant robots and brilliant imagery fill this book, which promises science adventures for all… and includes back matter that promises to regularly feature amazing women in various fields of science talking about their passions.

02. GREEN ARROW VOL 01: THE LIFE & DEATH OF OLIVER QUEEN (DC Comics)
by Ben Percy, Otto Schmidt, & Juan Ferreyra

One of the biggest surprises (for me) from DC’s big Rebirth relaunch was this Green Arrow series. Normally I’m not one for the emerald archer, but the creative team put together an extremely compelling read. While I personally had a bit of trouble getting in with the first issue that’s collected here, once the story gets moving, it tells a high octane story that doesn’t forget to have fun. It also takes Ollie and asks what happens when a white dude who is used to throwing money at problems to make them go away is forced to find ways to do those good deeds without access to all of that green. A very compelling hook for the hero, IMO.

03. U.S.AVENGERS #1 (Marvel Comics)
By Al Ewing, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, Jesus Aburtov & VC’s Chris Eliopoulos w/ Alanna Smith & Tom Brevoort

Pure insanity in 20 pages. Al Ewing is the king of hilarious over-the-top action comics, and this is no exception. Combined with the powers of an amazing art team, Ewing builds something wonderful that not only takes a winking, satirical jab at the frankly insane state of America right now, but does so in a very heartfelt manner… while things continue to explode. Also, there’s a volcano.

04. A IS FOR AWFUL – A GRUMPY CAT ABC LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK
By Christy Webster & Steph Laberis

Exactly as it reads on the tin. Teach ABC’s to your precious youths with Grumpy Cat.

05. JLA REBIRTH – THE ATOM #1
By Steve Orlando, Andy MacDonald, John Raush & Clayton Cowles w/ Brian Cunningham, Amedeo Turturro & Jessica Chen

You wouldn’t think that a prelude comic to an ongoing titles spinning out of an event series would be a great first read… but then, you might not know of the considerable scripting powers of Steve Orlando. Orlando is on the cusp of being one of the next big names in the comic book industry, and his work on this title is an example of why. In the small amount of space he’s given, he and Andy MacDonald introduce The Atom to the DC Rebirth Universe, and present a heartfelt story about science and thinking small in order to do big things.

For a complete list of what’s out this week, you can check out our shop’s weekly Incoming post where we list everything that we’re getting.

Brandon Schatz // Twitter // Facebook

Submetropolitan is powered by Variant Edition Comics + Culture – Edmonton’s best source for comics, used books + mindful pop culture.
Variant Edition // Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

On Frank Cho

When you’re running a comic shop that is trying to be mindful about the product being brought in and the creators being promoted, there will be times when your ideals will be tested. This week is one of those times.

A few days ago, Frank Cho announced that he would be prematurely terminating his gig as an artist on the Wonder Woman variant covers currently being offered by DC Comics. Originally scheduled to produce 24 covers (covering the first full year of the title’s run on a twice-monthly schedule), Cho’s covers will end at issue 6. The creator has cited interference from editorial and series writer Greg Rucka as being a large reason why, claiming undue censorship.

On the surface of it, this is a very simple situation: DC hired someone on a work-for-hire basis and provided that artist with guidelines that the artist found to be unpalatable. That artist quit. End of story, right? Well, it gets sticky when said artist comes out swinging and claiming censorship. Is it censorship for DC to require guidelines for how their characters are depicted to artists on their payroll? No, that’s brand management. More to the point: is it censorship if you quit, rather than being fired? Again, I would say “no”, that’s more of a principled stand than anything else.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a principled stand. There is something wrong with mischaracterizing the situation. Cho was not hired under the provision that he could draw whatever he wanted, however he wanted. Even if he were given quite a bit of artistic freedom, DC definitely has the right to demand changes to a product before said product reaches the stands. That’s a large part of why the editorial and business structure of their company exists.

Now, Frank Cho has come out and said he was promised complete artistic freedom with his covers – only to discover that Rucka had been granted a large amount of sway over the editorial direction of the series. If this is the case (and who knows, it could very well be, but I doubt DC or Rucka will be willing to come forward with details regarding contract negotiations) then you can definitely see where Cho is coming from. Had the roles been reversed, knowing Rucka, a similar stance would have been taken, and Rucka would have walked off the book. The issue here isn’t with a principled stand – it’s with the accusations attached to this particular stand. Rucka has walked out of both Marvel and DC for his own principled reasons in the past, and if you listen to any interview he’s given about these decisions, he always concedes the fact that he signed a work-for-hire contract, and that at the end of the day, his goals didn’t match the company’s, and so he left. No finger pointing, just stark realities: sometimes the stars just don’t line up.

So. How does this all apply to Variant Edition? Well, we’re known for making principled stands of our own. We are attempting to cultivate a positive culture in our store and as part of that we attempt to be very mindful about the products we’re bringing in, and the creators we promote. When we’ve come across stories about creators who have ideas counter to building an inclusive culture (I’m looking at you, Dave Sim), we often don’t shelve their works – or, at the very least, we don’t hand sell their products to customers. Now that doesn’t mean we won’t sell their books – we are not the gatekeepers of your preferred aesthetic, and we will always provide people with the means of access to products that they want, as required and requested. It just means that we will generally be putting our efforts into promoting the works of those who tend to be additive to an inclusive environment, rather than reductive. In this case it means… well, it doesn’t mean much. Our subscription orders and shelf copy sales of this new Wonder Woman title are remarkably healthy, and quite honestly, were built from Rucka’s reputation as a writer (as well as the reputations of Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott, the two main artists on the series). Frank Cho’s existence as the variant artist has been additive to the book’s sales, but at the end of the day, he’s not why most of our customers were getting the book. Will we lose some sales as a result of this? Almost definitely – but I can’t help but side with Rucka in this situation – if he is indeed a part of the situation at all.

Editorially, having Frank Cho provide these covers was an artistic and aesthetic choice that does not really match the drive and the contents of the series itself. In the situation as presented, if DC had to make the decision of keeping Cho, or Rucka, their choice had to benefit the company’s long term goals for the book and the character. In siding with Rucka, that choice is clear. In the short term, it might hurt sales (although it looks like the extremely talented Jenny Frison has been brought on for future variants, so maybe not?) but in the long term, it promotes the overall health and cohesiveness of the storyline as the character is being reestablished. The decision by DC to stick to their guns, resulting in Cho walking off, is a sound one, given that both creators were supposedly promised a certain level of control.

I respect DC’s decision to back Rucka, if that is indeed what happened here. I also respect Cho’s principled stand of walking away from a situation that didn’t suit his goals. That’s all this situation should be, and that’s essentially our stance on it going forward.

As always, we encourage everyone who comes into the store and makes regular purchases with us to share their opinions on the matter and vote with their words, and their money. If our opinions of the situation (or any situation) differ, that’s more than okay, so long as the conversation is frank, honest, and not insulting. It’s another cornerstone of the store: we treat others with the respect they offer towards us, and others. If confronted with a message of intolerance, we generally push back against it, meeting exclusionary remarks with our right to exclude those ideas from our store. We’ve found that it’s made for a great environment, one that we hope to foster and grow for a long time to come.

Thank you for your time.

Recommendation: Blackbird

Blackbird GN

BLACKBIRD GN (Conundrum Press)
By Pierre Maurel

Synopsis: When self-publishing becomes outlawed, a comics zine group attempts to be heard when the entire world is closing in on them.

01. Semantics to kick things off: what follows is a recommendation and not a review. There’s no critique involved here, only emotion. Honestly, I think there would be a lot less drama within the comics industry right now if folks didn’t blanket term opinion pieces with the word “review”. This has nothing to do with the book I’ll be talking with you about shortly.

Or well… almost nothing.

02. Right now I live many of my days with a weight in my gut. A bit of it is a longing for when things were a bit simpler. Most of it is the knowledge that things were never “better” so much as I was sheltered from a lot of the bad, or just didn’t care.

While I was reading Blackbird, I felt as though I was reading a manifestation of what lives in my gut. The story itself if pretty straight forward. A small group of creators puts together a comic zine called “Blackbird” and distributes it around town. Over the course of the story, a law is passed banning self-publication in all forms but advertisement, so that certain assurances can be made about content. Understandably, this doesn’t go well.

03. Over the course of the story, the zine creators are alternatively courageous and fearful. They have something they want to say, in a format that speaks to them, and they are being told that they can no longer do so without bigger consequences. The act of creation has become a risk, and speaking up, even worse. But they don’t stop. They never stop.

When I feel around for the weight that lives in my stomach, I linger on the things that placed it there – my own courage and fear. My own push for creativity and voice and the forces against it. I feel… I feel my privilege, and the fact that – much like one of the characters in the story – I am readily afforded a voice and a platform. I feel the weight of all who don’t, and I see that in a lot of ways, this story is about them. All the means to produce, with a world telling you that your voice isn’t worth as much as the person next to you who just happens to be a cis-het white male.

04. I don’t want to deal with the weight that I feel. But then again, nobody really does. Am I the person to really sit here and say that the world isn’t fair, and that things need to change? Am I the person to read Blackbird and say to you “this world of artistic and aesthetic oppression speaks to me”? Probably not. But regardless, this is a book that I found something recognizable in – something that I want to push desperately against. I can only imagine how it would read for others.

05. As it turns out, the contents of this graphic novel were originally serialized by Pierre Maurel in the zine format. There’s definitely quite a few layers of meta-commentary that could be pealed back within the contents and the difference between the original means of production and this finished product. We should all be so lucky to build with our hands, and have our voiced be heard.

Deconstructing the Clubhouse

++ THE RETAILER’S VIEW
Here’s a thing I absolutely forgot to tell everyone: my latest retailer column for Comics Beat is up, and features a guest co-author – my lovely wife, Danica LeBlanc.

The article itself is slightly modified from a talk that we gave at an event quite a few week’s back. We called it Deconstructing the Clubhouse, and talked about how exclusionary walls were built around the comic book industry and how important it is to be mindful towards breaking those walls down. I’m really proud of what we put together, and I hope that you enjoy it to.

You can read it here.

Howard the Duck #1

++ COMICS RECOMMENDATION
HOWARD THE DUCK #1 // Out on Wednesday. We live in a world where there isn’t just a Howard the Duck ongoing book, but it is one of the funniest, most heartfelt books on the stands. While this issue picks up on the some of the threads and relationships formed in the previous volume of the title, the story functions beautifully on its own, taking you on a fun adventure while it builds in bits of mystery and tension. Then, there’s the Gwenpool back up story that… that really defies explanation. Just accept that the character exists (for reasons?) and strap in, because it’s a fun ride.

++ AFTERMATH
Yesterday I talked a bit about a some recent problems within comics journalism. Well, Heidi MacDonald has a great wrap up of the weekend’s events that goes a long way towards saying what really needs to be said.

++ STAY TUNED
Tomorrow is new comic book day, so I’m spending the night getting Yegs & Bacon ready, as well as reading some more number ones before the doors open at Variant Edition tomorrow. I can’t stress how important it is for a retailer to have a solid grasp on the stock that they carry. It’s infinitely more easy to connect products to people when you know the flavour of the contents.

Until next time…

Ethically Questionable

In which there will be much bellowing about the things that are happening.

++ EPHEMERA
I’m shamelessly pulling the style sheet of Warren Ellis’ great Orbital Operations newsletter for updates, because as always, Ellis knows how best to send out communications from dark hovels where no one can actually see or touch him.

Ellis’ life is a life goal – the ability to do projects and growl at humanity from hovels while generally being beloved. I am not doing the man justice in this description, but digging into the man would be a considerable post in and of itself.

burning-bridge

++ COMICS
This weekend had me thinking a lot about comics journalism and my place in the grist mill. As it stands, I do work for Comics Beat, and gladly so. It doesn’t pay, but that’s pretty much what I signed up for: a platform and the ability to retain the rights to all work produced, which suits my current purposes. For many people, that would not be ideal of feasible, and so the delicate dance of being a journalist in this industry, and finding sources of revenue begins. The biggest problem? Most of the money you’ll see comes either directly, or indirectly from publishers of comics. You can see where this might get a bit sticky ethically?

I feel a little sick about this phrasing, but ethics in comics journalism came up again this weekend when Hannah Means Shannon was announced as a new editor at Dark Horse Comics. Means Shannon used to be the editor-in-chief at a comics “journalism” site that I’m not naming here, lest the head honcho appear like a shitty vanity searching horror goblin, and through that outlet, may have participated in some slightly shady reporting. The Outhouse (the charmingly named site taking point on a lot of the back and forth) has a solid timeline of events listed at the end of this article, complete with a look at some leaked correspondence  that was released by the same party I refuse to name.

A lot of the side-discussion of this issue has many in the industry rolling their eyes as they talk in circles about the ways that comics journalism bathes in this kind of ethically questionable substance as though its occurrence makes it okay. I’m not exactly sure where I fall on this spectrum, but I do know that I’m bothered by the whole thing. I mean, is it really okay for comic companies to hold access and exclusives over various sites in exchange for puff? The site views and ad revenue will say yes, but my heart will always say no. Where does one draw the lines in this industry between love, integrity and money? At the end of the day, that’s something each of us has to come to terms with on our own. Honestly, I doubt the industry will ever change, but at the very least, the people inside of it can, and hopefully find what works best for them, whatever that means to any given person.

For my part, I’m considering a few different reactions to this. One of them might be a writing project. We’ll see if the time produces itself.

Seen & Heard in Edmonton

++ PODCASTS
This weekend, both Danica and I were featured on Karen Unland’s wonderful Seen and Heard in Edmonton podcast. The audio was recorded at the very first Edmonton Podcast Meet-Up that was held at Variant Edition, and despite having quite a few podcasts under our belts, we were still really nervous. You can almost definitely hear that in the audio. But hey, if you want to hear us talk about content creation and what that might mean for a business or community, definitely check it out.

++ SOMETHING DIFFERENT
The wonderful and effervescent Devin R. Bruce has another instalment of his regular This Column Has Seven Days column up at Variant Edition’s Something Different blog – this time talking about two different forms of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, amoung other things. 7 Days is always one of the pop culture highlights of my week as Devin routinely introduces me to amazing new things. I highly recommend you check it out.

++ STAY TUNED 

  • My plan to create 50,000 words worth of content will continue to run through the first… third? Of November before collapsing completely, so keep an eye out for that.
  • On Wednesday, I hope to be starting something quite exciting that will become even bigger in the new year. Hopefully. I’m going to need a lot of help to pull this off, but that’s kind of baked into the design. So let’s see if I can’t start that up sooner rather than later. More to come.