The Future is Now.

The Fantastic Four always, always, rubbed me the wrong way. I'm not sure what it was about the First Family that pissed me off so much, but my guess is that it was Reed Richards. I couldn't stand the smug genius, the arrogance, the graying hair. Sue, Ben and Johnny-- those are great characters but the Richards kids, man, those kids are even worse.

About a year ago, though, I bought twenty relatively recent FF comics, mostly from the McDuffie and Millar runs on the title, for seven bucks. I was converted. In the hands of one workmanlike genius and one of comic's biggest bombasts, the family who I couldn't stand became the characters at the heart of some of my favorite comics.

And then, last summer, it was announced that Steve Epting, who drew all those Captain America comics that I love, would be the new regular artist on the title, and I figured that was it. I was sold. There was going to be another book I was going to have to buy every month. Somehow, though, it just didn't happen. Somehow, it never ended up in my stack or my pullbox. But then Jonathan Hickman (a writer who is gaining my increasing respect which each new thing of his I read) killed off Johnny Storm and things seemed... different. So I picked up FF#1.

For this comic, there is only one word: Fantastic.

Marvel's First Family seem humbler now, more down to earth. It's not just that they're more somber; they seem genuinely different, genuinely changed. This is the first character death that I can remember that drastically changed not only the appearance of a book but also its tone this much. The Future Foundation are the Fantastic Four, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. The small moments are what's brilliant here, the one-panels and the slight things. It's a brave thing to do to write a team with such big ideas so small, but here it is, done well and done right.

The change is apparent in everyone, but it's most obvious in Ben Grimm; this Thing is a new Thing, no clobbering time, no wisecracks. Just wry sadness and the will to hit a few A.I.M agents. Hickman's Peter Parker, too, is surprisingly dead on. Spider-Man, I'm increasingly discovering, is hard to write well but here we get the wonder and the wisecracks and I wouldn't be disappointed if we see this Peter elsewhere.

In fact, I wouldn't be disappointed if we saw Epting's Spider-Man elsewhere either. He's one of my favorite artists, but sometimes the draftmanship is slightly off-- not here, though. He catches some characters in funny poses, certainly, and sometimes his faces feel a little wooden but he captures those little tender moments so well. More importantly, the characters carry their emotions in their faces and in their bodies. A lesser artist would draw these heroes as stiff and heroic but here they sag a little bit. In FF#1, it's clear that nothing is ever going to be the same. If anything, the last page makes that clear.

This new book... it's the future. And for us, at this moment, the future looks bright. The Fantastic Four is dead. Long live the Future Foundation.

Weekly Process Roundup: April Fools!

The weekly process roundup is a collection of sketches, pencils, inks, thumbnails, everything other than finished product, from The Long and Shortbox of It's favorite artists and illustrators, hitting every Friday.

Quote For the Week 3/31/11

"I hear that there are too many superheroes, that they're choking the racks and shelves of the comic book stores, that they're the reason comics are so poorly regarded by the majority of Americans and more. And while I could quibble with some of the above -- I'd certainly like to see more diversity of the comics racks, for instance, but when I see superheroes ... in movies, on TV, in cartoons, in books or blowing off the toy-store shelves, I wonder whether superheroes are really what non-comics-readers are turning up their noses at when they pass up comic books -- it's one specific complaint against the superhero that I want to bring up here.

The complaint which never fails to charm me is that superheroes are limited. They're inherently juvenile, I'm told. They're simplistic. They're just an adolescent male power fantasy, a crypto-facist presentation of status quo values ... what charms me about that objection to superheroes is the way it points out in the guise of criticism, what to me is the greatest strength of the superhero genre -- the ease with which superheroes can be used as metaphor, as symbol, whether for the psychological transformation of adolescence, the self-image of a nation, or something else. A genre that can do something like that -- is that really a limitation?

I don't think so."
- Kurt Busiek (@KurtBusiek) in the introduction to "Astro City: Life in the Big City", the first "Astro City" paperback collection

~ @JonGorga

Let Me Check My Case

After reading Jon's interview with Ben Katchor from a couple of weeks ago, I decided I should pick up his new book The Cardboard Valise. It arrived this morning from Amazon and, although I haven't read a single word of it, I'm already giving it a thumbs up. Why? See for yourself:

Yup. It has handles. So you can carry it around like a suitcase.

Pixar Comics License Transferred from BOOM! to Marvel

In the first move this writer had seen to incorporate Disney directly with Marvel's comics publishing arm, it was announced in January that the license to publish Pixar Studios (@DisneyPixar) properties such as "Toy Story", "Cars", and "The Incredibles" has been taken from BOOM! Studios (@boomstudios) and given to now-Disney-owned Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel). BOOM! will continue to publish non-Pixar Disney (@Disney) properties comics such as "The Muppets" and "Darkwing Duck". Oddly, all that has been announced concretely from Marvel is the creation of "Disney Pixar Magazine", a reprint anthology of the material BOOM! produced for Disney/Pixar in recent years, to begin releasing in May.

Graeme McMillan(@graemem) had this to say in an editorial on last month commenting on the news:
"At least reprinting the BOOM! material shows that Disney apparently loved what Boom! were doing – it’s a weird backhanded compliment, after taking the license back for Marvel (“We loved what you guys were doing – It’s just that it has your logo attached. I’m sure you understand”), but a deserved recognition of the great work that BOOM! was doing with the characters and the material. I wonder whether BOOM!’s creators will produce new material for the Marvel books, or whether that’ll fall to more familiar Marvel hands (if there’s any new material at all, of course)"
Interestingly, artist Dean Trippe (@deantrippe) was the first to post a comment under the editorial and rebutted some of McMillan's comments with this statement:
"Boom! was licensing publication of those properties, and it looks from the sales figures like they just decided to stop because they weren’t doing that well for them. Stopping publication would then revert the rights to Disney under any normal licensing deal, which I figure this was. Disney can then put out that same material under Marvel, which they own, and that works out to greater exposure for the creators who worked on those Pixar books. Since the creators, I’m sure, knew they were doing work for hire on properties they didn’t own on comics they didn’t receive royalties from, and Boom! no longer felt like it made sense for them to keep putting the books out, and Marvel/Disney thinks it might make sense for them to, this all seems relatively uncontroversial to me"
Meanwhile, last month BOOM! announced reconfiguring its kids comics line as an imprint called Kaboom! (Cute! Brilliant!) Whether this is in reaction to the loss of the Pixar license is unclear.

[via CBR-Robot6]

I tend to agree with Trippe. This isn't so bad for anyone other than corporate BOOM! Although reprinting old comics INSTEAD of making new ones is a loss for the medium as a whole.


P.S. ~ Dear L&S readers, if you were curious about the history behind this development, we here at The Long and Shortbox Of It have been following the Marvel/Disney merger/buy-out since the beginning:

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There Are No More Innocent

You know what's great news? This:

CRIMINAL: The Last of the Innocent #1

By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips with Val Staples on colors

The best-selling crime comic finally returns, and with their most ambitious story yet. Obsession, sex, money, murder, and nostalgia for days long past all collide in THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT.

Riley Richards got it all… The hottest girl in school and a ticket to the big time… so why isn’t he happy now? Why is he getting involved in gambling and drugs and shady characters in the city? Why can’t he forget the life he left behind in small town Brookview? And why is he suddenly plotting murder?

And as always, each issue of Criminal contains unique back-up features, articles and artwork, which are only available in the single issues.

32 PGS/Mature Content… $3.50
I love comics, and I love comics a lot, but recently I've been feeling a little burned out. I think it was the news that, come this summer, Marvel is going to give Captain America a new #1 that did it but, for all I know, its possible that I have to go so far out of my way to go to my store these days that's making me so tired of the whole thing. Comics like this, though, are what make me still buy monthlies. Comics like this are why I believe in the medium and, more importantly, in the power of the medium.

I've attempted to write about Criminal before, but each time I fail spectacularly: it is, quite simply put, the best series in comics. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are so damn good and they work so well together that they're practically one unit at this point, and there is nothing, nothing, about their work together that I do not adore.

With this on the horizon, my burnout is salved.