Archive | Beyond the Bay

Rebirth: Rachel Rising

Rachel Rising Issue 1

Rachel Rising Issue 1

In August of 2011, DC comics was preparing to take a massive gamble by relaunching the publication’s superhero universe with the New 52 initiative. The plan was a new continuity for all of the heroes and a hard reset of titles to number one. The first title released was Justice League #1 on August 31. The month of September would see the rollout of the remaining 51 titles. It was difficult to escape all of the DC lining the shelves, endcaps, and promotional tables.

Most of the media focus was on how the stories of this “New 52 Universe” were going to unfold but they weren’t the only stories starting that month. Tucked away between O.M.A.C. and Red Hood & the Outlaws the astute comic reader would find a striking green cover with the silhouette of a woman exhaling a plume of red (assuming your LCS displays alphabetically and not by the company). The simple three-color cover was a stark contrast to the bright multi-colored covers of the DC universe. The title, Rachel Rising, suggested zombie comic. The name above the title, Terry Moore, suggested it wouldn’t be that simple.

Even before all of the new 52 titles had hit the shelves DC was quick to declare in a press release “It’s official! All 52 first issues of DC Entertainment’s historic publishing initiative DC COMICS – THE NEW 52 have sold out from Diamond Comic Distributors in advance of publication.” That’s right, at the distributor level, all of the New 52 titles sold out. The New 52 titles received second printings with several receiving third printings. Even with all of the incentives dealers received, including the option to return any unpurchased stock, such a sellout is definitely worth trumpeting. If the objective of the brand-wide relaunch was to bring new and lapsed readers into stores DC certainly deserves a mighty pat on the back.

The untold sales story of August 2011 was that of Rachel Rising. The new series from Terry Moore sold out and received second and third printings. Is it possible Rachel Rising benefited from being launched during the same month as the New 52? Sure, but a self-published title selling out at the store level versus the distributor level without a multi-million dollar promotional machine or a familiar character is a Samsonian accomplishment no matter the tide on which it rises.

On May 25 of this year, DC and Moore will once again jointly mark historic occasions. The Warner Bros. Entertainment company is bringing the New 52 to a close and relaunching it with “Rebirth.” Once again dealers will receive a long list of incentives so they’ll order as many copies as they can muster. Around June 17, comic news sites can likely expect to receive a press release declaring all Rebirth titles were sellouts at the distributor level. Meanwhile, Moore will be releasing the final chapter in the story of Rachel Beck. Rachel Rising #42 only has one incentive: The issue sees the conclusion of one of the most finely crafted on-going graphic serials published this decade.
with ZoeAll a reader should know going into Rachel Rising is it’s the story of Rachel who digs herself out of a shallow grave with rope marks around her neck. She has no memories of the last two days or how she died and, in the first handful of issues, has no idea that she’s only the first omen of terrible things to come for the town of Manson. Within the first two arcs, Rachel learns she’s a reincarnated witch of Manson. Rachel and her best friend, Jet, who’s the reincarnation of that witch’s best friend, are being stalked by Lilith and the demon Malus. Malus occupies the body of a 10-year-old girl named Zoe. Zoe has a close relationship with a knife named Jack. This only scratches the surface of the plot but writing anything else would disrupt the experience for new readers (and I do feel like everything I wrote above is telling too much). On the surface, the story is a tightly woven mystery with exclamation points of supernatural horror. At the core, it’s a nuanced existential narrative that explores whether or not we’re defined by our relationship with our past or by the company we keep.

Moore made a name for himself by writing strong female characters in the pages of Strangers in Paradise and that talent continues to shine throughout Rachel Rising. You want to care about these characters; even the ones with a dark and twisted past. The series is a slow burn, so go into it with the expectation of unanswered questions as each arch comes to a close. That can be frustrating for some, but the long-term payoff of sticking with the series is worth the investment.

quietMoore uses surgical precision when writing and illustrating the comic’s pacing and beats. He understands when a picture can articulate an emotion louder than words. As a result, Rachel Rising often makes a reader hold their breath when they turn the page. It manages the rare accomplishment in the comic book medium of generating audible gasps.

Do yourself a favor when you go to that Rebirth midnight release event at your local comic shop and pick up a copy Rachel Rising Vol. 1: The Shadow of Death. If issue 42 is on the shelf consider picking that up as well. If you see Rachel Rising through to the end you’re going to be happy you own it. And maybe, just maybe, we can repeat history and help make Rachel Rising selling out the untold story during DC’s most recent relaunch.

 

 

 

PW: Kickstarter comic projects have success rate above 50 percent

Publisher’s Weekly has a new article looking at the success rate of crowdfunding publishing projects. It’s a worthwhile read for anyone who might be taking into consideration the use of a platform like Kickstarter to jumpstart their book. According to the article Kickstarter has a success rate of a little more than 50 percent when it comes to funding comics. However, don’t let that go to your head too much as there’s much more that goes into a successful crowdfunding campaign than simply wanting to do a crowdfunding campaign. Check out the article, but don’t forget to weigh all of the different crowdfunding platforms before taking the plunge.

Image’s Eric Stephenson says only two things matter “good comics and bad comics”

This morning Image Publisher Eric Stephenson gave a speech at ComicsPro, the annual comic retailer meeting, that should be required reading for anyone interested in strengthen the foundation of the industry.

ComicsPRO Logo

ComicsPRO Logo

The Beat has text of the entire speech, but I wanted to dig in and pull out some interesting bits.

Stephenson told the retailers they should see a growing graphic novel section at Barnes & Nobles and increasing sales on Amazon as an opportunity.

And it’s our job – yours, mine, all of ours – to figure out how to reach that growing audience and drive them to the Direct Market, because as bookstores continue to close and chains continue to disappear, the best place to get comics in the future will continue to be the best place to get comics now:

Your stores.

He encouraged the retailers to not see the industry as being about the “big two” or “big three” and instead to focus on the only thing that really matters: “good comics and bad comics.”

Are $4.99 and $7.99 comics going to help our industry in the long run?

No, but they sure help the bottom line at the end of the year.

Same with gimmick covers and insane incentives to qualify for variants that will only have a limited appeal for a limited amount of time.

Of course, Image publishes variant covers, but Stephenson said that’s only because retailers keep ordering them. He said variants and other gimmicks are detrimental to the long-term health of the industry.

Constantly re-launching, re-numbering, and re-booting series after series, staging contrived events designed to appeal to a demographic destined only to a slow march toward attrition, and pretending that endless waves of nostalgia for old movies, old toys, old cartoons, and old video games somehow equals ideas or innovation will not make us stronger.

One of the most important parts of his speech was pushing the retailers to look beyond superheroes and to accept that there are new demographics coming into comics. He notes that one of the most important demographics is women.

There is a vast and growing readership out there that is excited about discovering comic books, but as long as we continue to present comics to the world in the Biff Bang Pow! context of Marvel and DC, with shop windows full of pictures of Spider-Man and Superman, we will fail to reach it.

The biggest problem with comic books is that even now, even after all the amazing progress we’ve made as an industry over the last 20 years, the vast majority of people have no idea whatsoever about how much the comics medium has to offer.

While he’s kind to give a nod to other publishers by mentioning non-Image titles like Love & Rockets and Rachel Rising he comes down hard on publishers of licensed properties that come from film, television, or toys.

TRANSFORMERS comics will never be the real thing.

GI JOE comics will never be the real thing.

STAR WARS comics will never be the real thing.

Those comics are for fans that love the real thing so much, they want more – but there’s the important thing to understand:

They don’t want more comics – they just want more of the thing they love.

I personally don’t agree with this assessment as it’s disingenuous to the writers and illustrators who invested ink and sleepless nights into expanding those Universes. Larry Hama’s GI Joe comics, not superheroes, were my gateway drug. There is a place for such content if you’re truly trying to build a strong foundation. I do understand the greater point he’s trying to make that the comic book industry should strive to be a new idea factory and not build it’s foundation solely on what Hollywood and toy companies churn out.

There’s much more to the speech than the quotes I pulled out. If your LCS wasn’t at ComicsPRO it might not hurt to print a copy out and leave it on their counter.

Safe Spaces for Comics Fans

There’s a new Tumblr worth checking out called “Safe Spaces for Comics Fans.” The Tumblr is an effort to document shops that are committed to being a positive and inclusive environment for every type of comics fan.

Comic shops are notoriously hit and miss when it comes to being inclusive of women, lgbt, PoC, and other minority comics fans. This tumblr is for you to share your positive or negative comic shop experiences, so that fellow comics fans can find friendly local comic shops, and be warned of which shops to avoid.

So far there’s only one Bay Area shop on the list (Dr. Comics and Mr. Games), but I can’t think of any shops in the coverage area of this website that aren’t inclusive (FWIW, I haven’t visited all of them yet).

Amusingly, there are very few shops on the master list with a strike-through which indicates an “unsafe space.” One of those few shops happens to be Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. I can’t say this is a surprise. I’ve watched two episodes of Comic Book Men and had to stop, because the employees are poor ambassadors of our fandom perpetuating and reinforcing an increasingly outdated stereotype.

Searching for “The Immaterial Girl”

I was scrolling through my tumblr last night and arrived on a teaser I had very excitedly posted for the next story in Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen’s Phonogram Universe called “The Immaterial Girl.” The teaser was from February of 2012 and 19 months later it still hasn’t hit shelves. Out of curiosity, I did some very simple googling and the last official mention of the book was in September of last year on the Phonogram website:

“The bad news is that PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL won’t be happening this year. We were holding back from mentioning it, in hope we’d be able to make a better prediction of when the story will drop. But, due to a variety of other things, we still don’t know. We’re pretty sure it’ll be 2013. I’ll be highly surprised if it’s in the first half. What happened? Basically, life happened. ‘Scheduling issues’ and all that. Sorry we can’t be more specific. And we’re sorry we announced it as early as we did.”

I adore Phonogram, but also know that McKelvie and Gillen are both very busy these days with multiple projects. Notably, the brilliantly executed effort to tackle the frustrations and confusions of modern adolescence through the filter of superheroes in Young Avengers. The point of this post and mentioning “The Immaterial Girl” is to simply keep it in the ether until the stars align. I have plenty to read for the moment, but when “The Immaterial Girl” does materialize I’m hoping for a big Phonogram dance party in the Bay.

 

phonogramimmaterial

Saga wins a Hugo

saga_umbilicalThe 2013 Hugo Award winners were announced over Labor Day weekend and ongoing comic series Saga from Image Comics took the prize for Best Graphic Story.

The Best Graphic Story category was introduced in 2009, when Girl Genius by Kaja and Phil Foglio won out over contenders like Fables, Y: The Last Man, and Joss Whedon’s Serenity— and kept winning in 2010 and 2011. 2012’s Hugo went to Digger by Ursula Vernon on Sofawolf Press. Saga‘s win may indicate a sea change in a category that has previously recognized independent and smaller press works.

Of note is that the Hugos– unlike, say, the Nebulas or Tiptrees, which also honor speculative fiction– are voted on by about a thousand Worldcon members as opposed to the typical small committee model. You could therefore interpret Saga‘s Hugo Award as both a critical and a popular accolade.

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