Tuesday, 4 April 2023

Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy The Ultimate Guide New Edition by Nick Jones (i.e., me) Is Out Now!

Or rather, Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy The Ultimate Guide New Edition by Nick Jones (i.e., me) is out now in the United States and on Thursday 6 April in the UK. So actually it's out twice! Except 'Out Twice!' looked a bit weird in the blog post title, hence why I went with 'Out Now!' 

I like to think that one day I'll manage to write a snappy opening to one of my posts, but clearly that day isn't today.

Anyway, the gist of all this is I have a new book out – an updated edition of my 2017 book Guardians of the Galaxy: The Ultimate Guide, revised throughout (by me) and with an additional 16 pages (also by me). On first inspection it might not appear to be radically different to the original edition – its splendid new cover aside – but every page has been revised or tweaked in some fashion and/or shuffled around in the running order so that the whole thing is now a tighter, better read. I always intended the book to be read narratively from front to back as well as in a dip-in-and-out manner, and the updates and changes mean that it now does so even more effectively. Plus, the additional pages allowed me to bring the story of the Guardians in comics up to a more natural – and obviously more up-to-date – stopping point, rather than being curtailed two-thirds of the way through the Brian Michael Bendis run.

As well as James Gunn's much-anticipated third Guardians of the Galaxy film, there's also a new Guardians of the Galaxy comic series imminent, so the timing of The Ultimate Guide New Edition is perfect. Basically, if you want to know pretty much everything there is to know about the Guardians ahead of either the movie or the new comic, grab yourself a copy of Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy The Ultimate Guide New Edition (or borrow it from your local library – either works for me).

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Batman, Detective Comics, the DC Heroes & Villains Collection, and the Rise of Killer Croc

The earliest DC comics I remember reading as a kid were reprints in various British publications, chiefly 'Superman, You're Dead... Dead... Dead!' from Action Comics #399 (April 1971), a shocking story – to an impressionable lad who was unaware that Superman almost certainly wasn't dead – by Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson which I either read in a secondhand copy of the 1973 Superman Annual No. 1 or in the 1981 Hamlyn edition of Superman: From the 30's to the 70's (or both); and 'The Secret of the Waiting Graves' from Detective Comics #395 (January 1970), Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano's groundbreaking first Batman collaboration, which I probably read in black-and-white in the October 1980 first issue of The Super Heroes Monthly. But the earliest DC comics I remember reading in their original American comic book format are the ones collected in the latest volume of the DC Heroes & Villains Collection

Batman: The Rise of Killer Croc, namely Detective Comics #523–526 and Batman #357–359 (February–May 1983). I bought most of these comics in a long-since-vanished newsagent opposite Beckenham Rec, most memorably the double-sized Detective Comics #526 (May 1983), an extra-length all-star villain extravaganza by regular writer Gerry Conway and artists Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala. It's still my favourite Batman comic all these years later, but the whole storyline is great, weaving between Detective and Batman – the two titles tied together so closely by this point that they effectively became one fortnightly series, a Conway innovation – featuring fine work by Don Newton's fellow regular Bat-artist Gene Colan, plus guest artists Curt Swan and Dan Jurgens, and introducing not just the new villain of the DC Heroes & Villains Collection edition title – actually my title; this storyline has never had a proper title, so I gave it one – but a Robin-to-be in the shape of Jason Todd.

When I was first putting together notes and ideas for what would eventually become the DC Heroes & Villains Collection, one of the first storylines – if not the first storyline – I put on the list of potentials was this one (titled simply the 'Killer Croc saga' at that point). It remained on every iteration of the list right through to the finished collection itself; I made damn sure of that. I loved these comics as a kid, and forty years later I got to collect them in a discrete volume for the first time (the storyline has been collected once before in full, as part of Tales of the Batman: Gerry Conway Vol. 3, but not as its own edition) under a title I came up with. Even better – from my perspective if not necessarily the poor readers' – I got to write a 500-word introduction and 6000-word feature on the Conway/Colan/Newton era of Batman.

I would rest on my laurels here, but the DC Heroes & Villains Collection rolls ever onwards, plus I've got a book to write, so there's no rest for the wicked just yet. But now I have a copy of it in my hands – a freshly printed hardback, with its spot-varnish cover and that inky new-book smell – I will take a moment to leaf through and linger over Batman: The Rise of Killer Croc, a book I reckon 12-year-old-me would have been well impressed by.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

DC Heroes & Villains Collection Festive 50!

It's almost two years since we launched the DC Heroes & Villains Collection, the fortnightly graphic novel collection of which I'm editor and chief feature writer (and over three years since I started putting the whole thing together); which means that, this week, we've reached the 50th volume! And just in time for Christmas too, hence the 'Festive 50' in the title of this post – also an allusion, for those of a certain age and indie disposition, to John Peel's annual rundown of his listeners' favourite tracks of the year (the apogee of which, surely – and I invite no argument here – was when House of Love's blistering 'Destroy the Heart' topped the 1988 chart).

But anyway, as ever the continuing demands of the collection (I'm currently working on the 59th and 60th volumes, with an eye on the 61st and 62nd) plus other work (I'm also writing a book) mean that I don't have much time to blog, but I wanted to mark the occasion at least, and hail the hard work that's gone into the thing thus far – by myself, obviously, but also everyone at Hachette (plus Steve White, late of that parish, since gone on to more artistic endeavours) and designer Martin at Amazing15. As I've mentioned before, for me the DC Heroes & Villains Collection is a labour of love – a love letter, in a way, to the DC comics of the past 40 years or so... albeit a meandering and prolix one. 

The 50th release (volume 90 in the correct numbering), Justice Society of America: The Next Age, may well be in some subscribers' hands already, but is officially published tomorrow, and as is now traditional with the DC Heroes & Villains Collection, it goes above and beyond the previously published DC edition of the same title, collecting not just the first four issues of the 2007 Justice Society of America series, but issues #7 and 8 as well (issues #5 and 6 will be in the Justice League of America crossover The Lightning Saga), plus the usual bonus material.

Merry Christmas, and here's to the next 50 volumes!

Thursday, 24 November 2022

Guardians of the Galaxy The Ultimate Guide New Edition Coming April 2023

I posted this on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but it deserves a post here as well, if only to raise the consciousness of Existential Ennui from the freezing reefersleep it's slipped into. What can I say: these days I'm back to spending most of my time writing professionally – as opposed to editing, though I also do a fair amount of that – so I don't really have the time to blog here too. But anyway, up for pre-order now – on Amazon, obviously, but it's also available through the likes of WHSmith – is the new edition of my 2017 book Guardians of the Galaxy The Ultimate Guide!

Pleased as I was with the first edition, this new edition is even better, fully updated with new info, images, and even more pages, bringing the story of the Guardians in comics bang up to date – and not a moment too soon either: published on 6 April 2023, it'll be out just ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, so if you want to know who Adam Warlock is ahead of the film, Guardians of the Galaxy The Ultimate Guide will explain all. You can read more about the book here, and no doubt I'll be banging on about it at greater length ahead of publication – and about the other book I'll have out later next year, and the other other book I've contributed an essay to.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Meanwhile... in the DC Heroes & Villains Collection: Joker's Dozen and The Untold Legend of the Batman

The next release going out to DC Heroes & Villains Collection subscribers is significant, because not only does it boast one of the volumes I was keenest to include in the collection when I put the whole shebang together, but it comes accompanied by a subscriber-exclusive special edition. 

That special edition is Joker's Dozen, a 432-page bumper collection of some of the best Joker stories of the 1980s – 13 Clown Prince of Crime Classics, as I put it in the subtitle. There was a bit of back-and-forth with DC on the contents, but I think we've arrived at something unique: 13 Joker stories – 20 comics in total – which delineate a decade of change at DC, as the Bronze Age of Comics gave way to the Modern Age. The murderers' row of creative talent on the front cover – Len Wein, Walt Simonson, Gerry Conway, Don Newton, Jim Aparo, José Luis García-López, Doug Moench, Gene Colan and Marv Wolfman – isn't even the half of it, because there are also stories from Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, Martin Pasko, Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, Paul Kupperberg, Alex Saviuk, Max Allan Collins, Chris Warner, Ross Andru, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, many of which have rarely been reprinted since original publication.

On top of that, the book includes October 1986's Batman #400, a 60-page multi-villain extravaganza written by Doug Moench and with art by – among others – John Byrne, Steve Lightle, George Pérez, Bill Sienkiewicz, Arthur Adams, Joe Kubert and Brian Bolland which has only been collected by DC once since its original publication 36 years ago. Plus, it's preceded by September 1986's Detective Comics #566, a Doug Moench and Gene Colan lead-in story to Batman #400 that's never been reprinted – though its cover may be familiar from posters, prints, T-shirts and the like:

As for the volume I was keen to include in the DC Heroes & Villains Collection, that would be our 32nd release, The Untold Legend of the Batman, which features the eponymous 1980 three-issue Len Wein, John Byrne and Jim Aparo miniseries. Only ever collected under its own title as a book once before – by Tor Books in 1982 as a pocket-size black-and-white paperback, long out of print – it's a terrific mystery thriller that expertly weaves together decades of piecemeal Batman continuity, an approach reflected by the four other stories in the volume, each of which I selected for the brilliant way they too embellish the legend of the Batman. (Incidentally, the Untold Legend miniseries was reissued in 1989 as a three-part 'audio theater' edition, each issue comprising a mini-version of the original comic and an audio cassette; you can hear the audio, and its accompanying funky theme tune, on YouTube.)

Speaking of those other stories, one of them is mentioned in a 'Meanwhile...' column I was reading just this morning. For those who don't know, back in the 1980s, DC's Executive Editor, Dick Giordano, wrote an editorial column, 'Meanwhile...', which appeared in most DC titles on a monthly, then later weekly, basis. The 'Meanwhile...' that appeared in comics which went on sale on 3 July, 1986 was an especially notable one, because it announced some epochal changes to come in the Batman corner of the DC Universe over the remainder of that momentous year. It's also pertinent not just to the aforementioned bonus story that appears in the The Untold Legend of the Batman, but to a pair of stories that appear in the DC Heroes & Villains Collection's edition of 1986–87 crossover event Legends, and a sequence of stories that will appear in the DC Heroes & Villains Collection down the line. Click on the column below and see if you can work out which comics I'm referring to.

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

The Existential Ennui Review of the Year 2021

Time was I would mark the end of the year with a post, or even a series of posts (ha! those were the days...), rounding up everything I'd read or watched or listened to or, sometimes, worked on over the previous 12 months – a record of certain aspects of my life, preserved for my own posterity (after all, it was pretty unlikely anyone else would be interested in years to come – or even right then for that matter). The last time I managed anything along those lines was the end of 2019; the pandemic, the death of my dad, and my complete inability to read a book – three things which were not unrelated – put paid to any notion of a round-up last year. This year has been better both personally and work-wise, and in recent months I've even managed to start reading novels again (albeit at a much slower pace than previously), so although the pandemic is still very much a going concern, and life continues to throw shit at us all with alarming abandon, I thought I'd post something about what I've been up to.

First and foremost, there's the DC Heroes & Villains Collection. I've written about this graphic novel partwork a few times already, so I shan't dwell on it here, except to say that editing it has allowed me to do more professional writing (as in, writing for money; I can't speak to the professionalism or otherwise of the actual writing) than I probably have since the start of what I laughingly call my career (back when I was a music journalist in the 1990s). By the time the collection reaches 100 volumes in about three years' time, I'll hopefully have written a fairly thorough history of the DC Universe since 1980, bit by bit, in the introductions and bonus features in each volume (alongside the occasional creator interview by my good friend Tim Pilcher). That's the plan anyway. 

The DC Heroes & Villains Collection launched in January (during lockdown no less), and is now up to 25 volumes, which is no mean feat considering everything that's been going on. Meanwhile, in November, the book pictured at the top of this post was published: Marvel Universe: Map by Map, co-written by James Hill and me, and illustrated by Adam Simpson, Matt Taylor and Andrew DeGraff (and, of course, a legion of Marvel Comics artistic legends). It's a lovely great big beast of a book – you can get a good look at it here – and it was an honour to be asked to play a part in its existence (by DK's estimable Senior Editor, and British comics vet, Cefn Ridout, to whom go my thanks). Four months before that, another DK book I contributed to was published: the updated edition of the DC Comics Encyclopedia, which I wrote even more of this time, and which in this new version sports a spectacular Mikel Janín cover. And somewhere in amongst all of that, Titan and I relaunched Star Trek Magazine as Star Trek Explorer, with all sorts of new-fangled features and regulars in it, including brand new fiction.

So that's what I've been up to this year. As to what I've read, I haven't actually kept a record of whatever comics I've consumed, but I have been making note of the books I've read since I managed to pick one up again, which in order have been:

The Moat Around Murcheson's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
Dune by Frank Herbert (which I read shortly before seeing Denis Villeneuve's excellent and powerful film adaptation)
The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds
Jack Kirby by Tom Scioli
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine

I might also manage to finish Alastair Reynolds' most recent novel Inhibitor Phase – a first edition of which he kindly inscribed to me (he's featured in the forthcoming second issue of Star Trek Explorer) – before the end of the year. We shall see.