Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Free Stuff! The DC Heroes & Villains Collection Subscription Gifts

A little remarked-upon aspect of the graphic novel partwork I'm editing, the DC Heroes & Villains Collection – well, little remarked-upon by me, anyway – is that if you subscribe to the collection you get free stuff! I've had absolutely no input into the free gifts that have been arranged for subscribers – my purview is the graphic novels themselves – so I'm not really beholden to anyone when I say that the two I've received thus far (you get four altogether – plus a free volume – spaced out across a few deliveries) have been bloody great.

The first one, a metal Batman bottle opener keyring, turned out to be surprisingly sizeable and hefty, with the potential to be used as an actual shuriken-style Batarang once your beverage of choice has been de-lidded (perhaps to fend off anyone foolish enough to try and steal your beer). 

Just as surprising was the second gift, a heat-changing mug sporting the Andy Kubert image from the cover of our debut release Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? I did dimly recall it was heat sensitive as I dropped in a teabag and filled the mug up with hot water, but it was still a delight to behold the villains behind Batman – Penguin, Joker, Two-Face and Catwoman – being slowly revealed. 
The next free gift I'll be getting should be a metal version of Brian Bolland's Batman: The Killing Joke cover art (look out for the inside story of that cover's creation in the bonus feature in our tenth release, Joker: Last Laugh), followed by potentially the best of the lot, a pair of metal Batman and Joker bookends to keep the gradually growing collection upright and together. 
The DC Heroes & Villains Collection is a genuine labour of love for me – something I plan on expanding upon in a future post – and it's been a pleasure seeing the reactions of readers in the Facebook subscribers' group to the books we've been putting together; but these free gifts have been an unexpected added joy – something I get to to share in common with everyone else who's along for the ride on this collection.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Testing, Testing... Coming Soon in the DC Heroes & Villains Collection

Further to this post on the graphic novel partwork I'm editing, the DC Heroes & Villains Collection: I've noticed in the Facebook member's group (there's also a public Facebook page) that some subscribers are receiving the sixth volume now, The Flash: Rebirth, which means we're reaching the end of the 'test' volumes. What the dickens are the test volumes, I hear you cry? Allow me to elucidate – and to offer a preview of upcoming volumes into the bargain.

Partworks go through a pretty long process before they go on sale. In the case of the DC Heroes & Villains Collection, I started putting ideas together for it – possible approaches and potential contents – at the tail end of 2019, followed by some firmer ideas for direction and an initial list of titles (which, looking back now, I realise wasn't a million miles from the final list) at the start of 2020. After some back and forth between myself, Hachette and DC and some further refining of the list and contents, we moved on to the test stage. 

This is the stage of a partwork's development where the initial instalments of the proposed collection are released in a particular part of the country to see what the response is. In our case, this entailed myself and the collection's ace designers, Amazing15, putting together the first four volumes, and then Hachette publishing those volumes... somewhere; don't ask me where because I still don't know (and even if I did I wouldn't be able to tell you; the world of partworks is shrouded in mystery and subterfuge). Complicating this – well, besides the pandemic, that is, which has introduced an extra element of complexity throughout – was the fact that alongside the UK test there was a Spanish test, which comprised some different volumes to the UK one.

I don't think I'm revealing anything terribly sensitive here by saying that the tests went well: the evidence for that is that the collection proper has now launched. But with The Flash: Rebirth arriving in some folks' hands, we've essentially reached the end of the volumes we assembled for either the UK or Spanish tests. From this point on, nobody (other than myself, Amazing15, Hachette and DC, obviously) will know for sure what lies ahead. So let me give you a flavour of what's coming up in the next few volumes:

Infinite Crisis: The OMAC Project: As part of the DC Heroes & Villains Collection we'll be collecting the entire 2005–2006 Infinite Crisis saga, including miniseries, specials and key tie-in issues – some of which have never been included in previous collected editions – with commentary and behind-the-scenes insights setting it all in context. This is the start of that.

Aquaman: The Trench: A story that was a big inspiration for the 2018 Aquaman movie, and one of the big successes of the 2011 New 52 relaunch – not to mention a taster for what was to come in the 2016 Rebirth initiative...

World's Finest: Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude's splendid 1990 Superman/Batman team-up tale, which comes accompanied by an exclusive new interview with Mr Gibbons, plus his original outline, and lots of sketches and designs by Mr Rude.

Joker: Last Laugh: Out of print for over a decade, this 2001 miniseries event is finally reissued as part of the DC Heroes & Villains Collection, complete with its essential first chapter, which has never been reprinted since originally appearing in the 2001 Joker: Last Laugh Secret Files and Origins one-shot. In addition, there's a bonus feature exploring Brian Bolland's iconic Joker covers.
Beyond those, you can expect more Rebirth volumes (following on from our fifth release, Batman: I Am Gotham), more brand new creator interviews... and a story which has never before been collected in graphic novel form.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Introducing the DC Heroes & Villains Collection: the Ultimate DC Comics Graphic Novel Collection

Here's something I've been working on for well over a year now. The DC Heroes & Villains Collection is a fortnightly partwork comprising 100 hardback graphic novels, collecting comics stories from across the DC Universe. I've been shaping the rationale and approach, putting together the content – including writing many of the editorials and bonus features that will appear in each volume – and generally reworking and refining it all since October 2019, and now the first issue, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, is finally on sale in the UK, from WHSmith, newsagents, comic shops, and direct from publishers Hachete Partworks. I'll try and write some more about the collection – the idea behind it, the process of making it (in the midst of a pandemic no less), what's in it – soon, but for now, I'll just say that everyone involved is dead chuffed with how it's turned out so far, and that if you happen to buy it, and like the first few volumes... the best is yet to come.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

DC Comics Cover Art by Nick Jones – Out Now!

I'm breaking my blogging silence (blame the pandemic for the lack of blog posts this year – it's as good an excuse as any... and it actually has been a tough year in some respects, as it has for many of us) to note that my new book, DC Comics Cover Art, is available now from all the usual places, published by DK. As the title suggests, it's a showcase of some of the best DC Comics covers of the past 80 or so years, selected by me (largely; a few other folk had input), with commentary also by me. Naturally I stuffed it full of as many of my favourite DC covers as I could, but that's not to say I wasn't also employing my critical faculties. Criteria for selection included bold, striking, or unusual designs; notable issues (i.e. first appearances, deaths and the like); unusual layouts and logo treatments, and of course just knockout art – all arranged under the recognised eras (Golden Age, Silver Age, and so on).

I think it's come together really nicely. I haven't seen a final printed copy yet*, but I did see layouts all the way through, and the juxtaposition of covers on spreads is very pleasing. As for the text, I worked hard to make it as informative and insightful as I could – a lot of research went into how and why covers were created – but how successful I was will, in the end, be determined by the reader. Obviously there are bigger things to worry about at the moment than a book about comic book covers, but maybe this book about comic book covers will bring some pleasure into someone's life. 

Incidentally, I'm working on a couple of other DC-related projects at the moment; still a little early to say anything more about them, but I should be able to share some info soon.

* Update 5/10/20: my author copies arrived today, and I'm delighted to report that the final printed book looks lovely.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

A Ripley's Game Reprise: 1974 US Knopf First Edition of Patricia Highsmith's Third Tom Ripley Novel

What scant posts there have been on here of late have been to do with comics – those are, after all, what have been preoccupying me both personally and professionally over the past year or so – but I have been picking up the odd book here and there too, and among those have been a number by another perennial preoccupation of mine, Patricia Highsmith. Just the other day I came into possession of this:

An American first edition of Ripley's Game, published by Knopf in 1974, dust jacket design by Janet Halverson (whose other jackets include the 1970 and 1978 US firsts of Graham Greene's Travels with My Aunt and The Human Factor, and the 1981 US first of Ross Thomas's The Mordida Man). You may recall... actually at this point I doubt anyone recalls anything I've written on Existential Ennui, but anyway: Ripley's Game, the third book in the Ripliad (soon to become a TV show, with Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley – intriguing and encouraging casting there), is not only my favourite Highsmith novel, but my favourite novel full stop, and it was the acquisition a 1974 Heinemann first a dozen years ago (in a long-since-vanished Cecil Court bookshop) that first got me into book collecting. As such, it's a totemic book for me.

I had my eye on a Knopf first six years ago, but it slipped through my fingers (as compensation I settled instead for a 1989 Heinemann Uniform Edition). The notion of getting my filthy mitts on a Knopf (ooer) has floated in and out of my head ever since then, but just the other day it seemed the fates had finally aligned when I was in Lewes's Bow Windows Bookshop and co-proprietor (and friend of mine) Ric mentioned he'd come into possession of one as part of a box of books – mostly crime fiction and spy fiction – he'd bought from a local. Or at least he thought he had: when we looked in said box, there was no sign of Ripley's Game. Bugger.

I'd pretty much resigned myself to the fact that once again the Knopf first had eluded my grasp when two days later Ric sent me a message saying he'd found it. And it turned out that not only was it a first edition (not a later printing – the Knopf edition went through a few), but it was once owned by local author John Pearson, he of James Bond: The Authorized Biography and The Life of Ian Fleming fame.

So I'm very happy with my copy (even though the dust jacket is a little battered: the sign of a well-read book, whether by Mr. Pearson or whoever it was Ric bought it off – and quite right too), not least because it affords me the opportunity to compare the US and UK first editions. The text in the Knopf edition, which was published in May of '74, a few months after the Heinemann edition, has been Americanised, or I suppose – depending on whether Highsmith, who was American, wrote the manuscript in American English – re-Americanised: within the first few sentences, there's a "parlor game" as opposed to "parlour game" in the Heinemann edition.

The Knopf has deckled edges, as is often the case with American editions, and a red-stained top block. I also rather like the jacket flap description of Tom Ripley as "energetic, amoral, overcivilized" and "undersensitized".

Now I suppose I'll have to write something abut the other Highsmith books I've picked up – especially as they're all signed.

Friday, 20 December 2019

A Big Long List of the Comics, Graphic Novels and Books I Read in 2019

I've barely had time to think over the past few months, let alone blog. Besides editing Star Trek Magazine – the next one, #74, is out in January – and related specials – a Star Trek: Voyager 25th anniversary one is out in February, followed by a Star Trek: Picard one in March – I've also written my fourth book (mostly; still a few bits to do in the new year). That will be out May 2020, and is about comic book covers. Doubtless I'll be banging on about that nearer the time, but the net result of all that is that I've been working flat out – hence the absence of posts here.

I have, however, been keeping track of what I've been reading – comics for the most part, plus a couple of science fiction novels. Next year I'd like to get back into prose fiction, but I've still got a fair way to go on Doug Moench, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al's Batman and Detective run (and have just unexpectedly secured the one issue I was missing, the elusive Batman #386, featuring the first apperance of Black Mask), plus sundry other back issues/rereads (Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman; Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans; Gerry Conway and George Perez's Justice League of America; Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen's Legion of Super-Heroes; Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler and Jerry Ordway's All-Star Squadron; J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck's Captain America, and too many others to mention) – and that's without factoring in new comics. So we'll see if I manage to read any novels in the new year.

Anyway, here's what I read this year. Merry Christmas.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl (Del Rey, 1977)
Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2005)
Watching the Watchmen by Dave Gibbons, Chip Kidd and Mike Essl (Titan, 2008)
The Art of Matt Wagner's Grendel by Matt Wagner et al (Dark Horse, 2007)
Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier (Abrams, 2008)

Six from Sirius by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy (Epic, 1984)
Six from Sirius 2 by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy (Epic, 1985)
Rick Mason: The Agent by James D. Hudnall and John Ridgeway (Marvel, 1989)
Batman: Earth One Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC, 2012) (reread)
Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC, 2015)
Detective Comics #497–526 by Gerry Conway, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al (DC, 1980–83)
Batman #337–359 by Gerry Conway, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al (DC, 1980–83)
Detective Comics #527–539 by Doug Moench, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al (DC, 1983–84)
Batman #360–372 by Doug Moench, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al (DC, 1983–84)
Batman Annual #8 by Mike W. Barr and Trevor von Eeden (DC, 1982)
Batman: Son of the Demon by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham (DC, 1987) (reread)
Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday (WildStorm, 2003) (reread)
Star Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men: Second Contact by Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton and Cary Nord (Marvel, 1998)
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time by Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway (DC, 1994) (reread)
Batman: Brotherhood of the Bat by Doug Moench, Jim Aparo et al (DC Elseworlds, 1995)
Batman #300 by David V. Reed, Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano (DC, 1978)
Superman: Distant Fires by Howard Chaikin, Gil Kane and Kevin Nowlan (DC Elseworlds, 1998)
Batman: League of Batmen by Doug Moench, Mark Bright and Romeo Tanghal (DC Elseworlds, 2001)
Justice League: The Nail by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer (DC Elseworlds, 1998) (reread)
JLA: Destiny by John Arcudi and Tom Mandrake (DC Elseworlds, 2002)
Batman: Prelude to Knightfall by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan et al (DC, 1993)
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 1 by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan et al (DC, 1993)
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 2 by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan et al (DC, 1994)
Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell (DC, 1989) (reread)
Batman: Master of the Future by Brian Augustyn and Eduardo Barreto (DC Elsworlds, 1991)
Robin 3000 by Byron Preiss and P. Craig Russell (DC Elseworlds, 1992)
Batman/Houdini: The Devil's Workshop by Howard Chaykin, John Francis Moore and Mark Chiarello (DC Elseworlds, 1993)
Batman: In Darkest Knight by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham (DC Elseworlds, 1994)
Wild Dog #1–4 by Max Collins and Terry Beatty (DC, 1987)
Underworld Unleashed by Mark Waid and Howard Porter (DC, 1995) (reread)
Justice League: Trinity War by Geoff Jones, Jeff Lemire, Ivan Reis et al (DC, 2013)
Forever Evil by Geoff Johns and David Finch (DC, 2013–14)
Batman (Vol. 2) #1–27 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC, 2011–13)
The Hunter by Joe Sparrow (Nobrow, 2015)
Lost Property by Andy Poyiadgi (Nobrow, 2015)

Action Comics by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason, Ryan Sook, Steve Epting et al (DC)
Batman by Tom King, Mikel Janin et al (DC)
Batman: Damned by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo (DC)
Batman: Last Knight on Earth by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC)
Batman's Grave by Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch and Kevin Nowlan (DC)
Batman/Superman by Joshua Williamson and David Marquez (DC)
Batman Who Laughs by Scott Snyder and Jock (DC)
Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leinil Francis Yu et al (Marvel)
Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)
Curse Words by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne (Image)
DCeased by Tom Taylor and Trevor Hairsine (DC)
Detective Comics by Peter J. Tomasi, Brad Walker et al (DC)
Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC)
Event Leviathan by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev (DC)
Green Lantern by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp (DC)
Green Lantern: Blackstars by Grant Morrison and Xermanico (DC)
Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw (Marvel)
Heroes in Crisis by Tom King and Clay Mann (DC)
House of X by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larz (Marvel)
Invaders by Chip Zdarsky, Carlos Magno and Butch Guice (Marvel)
Justice League by Scott Snyder et al (DC)
Lazarus Risen by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Image)
Legion of Super-Heroes by Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook (DC)
Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium by Brian Michael Bendis et al (DC)
Lois Lane by Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins (DC)
Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman and R. B. Silva (Marvel)
Man and Superman by Marv Wolfman and Claudio Castellini (DC)
Mysteries of Love in Space by various (DC)
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaghan and Cliff Chiang
Punisher: Soviet by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows (Marvel)
Shazam! by Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham (DC)
Silver Surfer: Black by Donny Cates and Tradd Moore (Marvel)
Spider-Man: Full Circle by various (Marvel)
Superman by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis et al (DC)
Superman: Leviathan Rising by various (DC)
Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen by Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber (DC)
Superman: Year One by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. (DC)
Trees: Three Fates by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard (Image)
Undiscovered Country by Scott Snyder, Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli (Image)
Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Image)
War of the Realms by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman (Marvel)
X-Men by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu (Marvel)
Year of the Villain #1 by various (DC)
Black Adam: Year of the Villain by Paul Jenkins and Inaki Miranda (DC)
Black Mask: Year of the Villain by Tom Taylor and Cully Hamner (DC)
Joker: Year of the Villain by John Carpener, Anthony Burch and Philip Tan (DC)
Lex Luthor: Year of the Villain by Jason Latour and Bryan Hitch (DC)
Ocean Master: Year of the Villain by Dan Watters and Miguel Mendonca (DC)
Riddler: Year of the Villain by Mark Russell and Scott Godlewski (DC)
Sinestro: Year of the Villain by Mark Russell and Brandon Peterson (DC)
Young Justice by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason et al (DC)