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The comics of Comic-Con, Day 1: Image Expo, Marvel's AXIS, and Vertigo

Sure, all the screenings, TV panels, and movie announcements are great, but isn’t Comic-Con about comics? What’s going on with them?

Lots. Throughout the convention, every major publisher in the comics biz will have at least one panel announcing exciting new books and bold new directions, and teasing what may be coming in the near future. Who knows—the basis of your next favorite TV series could be here. Want a quick recap? Here’s what happened on Day 1:

Image

Image Comics got off to an early start, holding their own Image Expo event Wednesday night, the day before the official start of San Diego Comic-Con. After a keynote speech by Publisher Eric Stephenson, the news came hard and fast. Twelve new series were announced as their respective creators were brought on stage to introduce them. The new titles announced:

• Valhalla Mad, by Joe Casey and Paul Maybury, about Norse Gods partying in Manhattan. Begins spring 2015.

• Tooth and Claw by Kurt Busiek, Ben Dewey, and Jordie Bellaire. Described as “Conan meets Game of Thrones meets Kamandi,” the high-fantasy epic begins November 2014.

• Tokyo Ghost by Rick Remender, Sean Murphy, and Matt Hollingsworth. In 2189, the world is a wasteland, and entertainment is the drug that everyone needs—and the mob has. Coming summer 2015.

• The Humans by Keenan Marshall Kellar, Tom Neely, and Kristina Collantes. An ape biker gang, ’70s exploitation-style. No typos there. Starts November 2014.

• Southern Cross by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger. On a space tanker to Titan, a woman is haunted by ominous threats. Coming winter 2014.

• Rumble by John Arcudi and James Harren. Described as “like a scarecrow-Conan fighting in a Louis C.K. show directed by David Fincher,” the creators promise a genre bender with heaps of strange. Begins this December.

• Invisible Republic by Gabriel Hardman and Corrina Bechko. A sci-fi action-adventure about the rise of an empire, coming in 2015. Also announced: Hardman’s digital-only series KINSKI will be coming to print in November.

• Intersect by Ray Fawkes. A horror story about a city gone mad. Launching in November.

• Injection by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire. A science fiction series about “the dark future we’ve built for ourselves.” Begins in 2015.

• From Under Mountains  by Marion Churchland, Claire Gibson, and Sloane Leong. A magical fantasy in which rival houses struggle for power in the isolated country of Akhara. Begins in 2015.

• Drifter by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klien. A space transport crashes on a lawless frontier world. Begins this November.

• Descender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen. A robot boy struggles to stay alive as the universe hunts him down. Read EW’s first look here. Launches March 2015.

Marvel: AXIS and more

Marvel’s first comic-centric panel was all about October’s big AXIS story, which spins out of the story unfolding in Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers. In Uncanny, the Red Skull has obtained the nigh-unlimited telepathic powers of the late Charles Xavier—and in AXIS, he’s finally mastered them to become The Red Onslaught.

Like any big event comic, the story will have a number of tie-in books, notably featuring Spider-Man villians Hobgoblin and Carnage. Hinted at but not discussed: what the events in AXIS have to do with Iron Man’s new look.

Also announced was All-New Captain America: Fear Him, a six-part digital comic beginning in October which features Sam Wilson, the new Captain America. Written by Dennis Hopeless and illustrated by Szymon Kudranski, the miniseries will have Wilson deciding what sort of Captain America he wants to be while battling The Scarecrow (The Marvel Scarecrow. They have one, too).

Finally, coinciding with the premiere of the next Avengers film will be the new Original Graphic Novel Avengers: Rage of Ultron. Although the title is only one letter removed from the blockbuster film’s title, Rage of Ultron is a standalone story completely unrelated to the plot of the film. The story will focus on redefining the relationship between Ultron and creator Hank Pym for readers new and old (in the film, Ultron is created by Iron Man Tony Stark). The book goes on sale in April 2015.

For a detailed recap of the panel, check out Comics Beat.

Vertigo

No new announcements were made at Vertigo’s panel Thursday night, but creators were on hand to discuss the future of a few of the publisher’s popular titles. Readers can expect Scott Snyder’s American Vampire to feature space chimp vampires (really), along with Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham’s soon-to-be concluded Fables ending with “body bags.”

Also discussed were previously announced upcoming titles Suiciders, The Names, Bodies, and The Kitchen.

For more details, head on over to The Los Angeles Times.

Comic-book icon Archie Andrews will die saving gay friend

In April, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO Jon Goldwater told CNN that Archie Andrews would die in issue #36 of “Life with Archie,” a comic-book series set in an alternate universe that presented possible futures for the characters of the classic Archie Comics series. Issue #36 will arrive on stands on Wednesday—and while we don’t know yet who kills Archie, we do now know how he dies.

Today, Goldwater revealed to the Associated Press that Archie would die trying to stop an assassination attempt on Archie Comics’ first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, a military veteran and newly elected senator who’s in favor of increased gun control.

“We wanted to do something that was impactful that would really resonate with the world and bring home just how important Archie is to everyone,” Goldwater told the AP. “That’s how we came up with the storyline of saving Kevin. He could have saved Betty. He could have saved Veronica. We get that, but metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born.”

Issue #36 is the penultimate issue of “Life with Archie.” The following issue, #37, will jump ahead one year to depict how Betty, Veronica and the rest of the Riverdale gang are handling Archie’s death and honoring his legacy. Goldwater said that the way in which Archie dies is meant to “epitomize not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us,” and that he hopes that it works as “a lesson about gun violence and a declaration of diversity in the new age of Archie Comics.”

Read an excerpt from 'WYTCHES,' a new series by 'Batman' writer Scott Snyder

This October, Scott Snyder—the New York Times bestselling author of American Vampire—returns to Image Comics to reinvent another classic horror figure: witches.

After an acclaimed run on several DC Comics titles, including Batman, Detective Comics, Superman Unchained, Swamp Thing, and Vertigo titles American Vampire and The Wake, Snyder wanted to shake things up a bit. So he brought his new supernatural comic, WYTCHES, to Image Comics, where he had published the creator-owned Severed a few years prior. After working with artist Jock (The Losers, Green Arrow: Year One) on the Batman story “The Black Mirror,” Snyder knew he had the perfect collaborator for this new horror series. The artist’s distinct style—a mix of solid storytelling and terrifyingly scratchy visuals—will no doubt scare readers silly. READ FULL STORY

DC Comics gives Batgirl a hip new costume and a Brooklyn-esque life

Batgirl, meet Girls.

On Thursday, DC Comics announced that a new creative team will be taking over Batgirl this October with a story that has protagonist Barbara Gordon losing everything in a fire and starting over from scratch. The new creative team consists of co-writers Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart, along with artist Babs Tarr.

The team broke the news over at MTV, dishing on what readers can expect from their run: after losing it all, Barbara Gordon moves to Burnside, Gotham’s hip, Brooklyn-esque neighborhood, for grad school and good times.

“That’s where we kick off our run,” Fletcher told MTV. “Introducing this part of the city known for expensive coffee, fixie bikes, vintage shops and breakout bands.” READ FULL STORY

'Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.' delves into Hellboy's -- and his creator's -- past

In March, comics fans reveled in Hellboy Day, a celebration of 20 years of the Beast of the Apocalypse in a trenchcoat. This anniversary year has brought fans a new Hellboy in Hell storyline with creator Mike Mignola himself back on the artwork, the publication of The New York Times‘ best-selling Hellboy: The First 20 Years, and this December, Dark Horse Comics is publishing a brand new series titled Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., detailing the “lost” years as Hellboy first sets out on adventures with the agents of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.

Since his first miniseries, Seed of Destruction, the character has been a hit among fans and creators alike. He combines aspects of stories that Mignola himself enjoys, ranging from pulp, to folklore, to gothic horror, all in the short-story arcs that Dark Horse Comics has been publishing for the past two decades. In 2002, Hellboy’s universe expanded to include a separate B.P.R.D. comic, overseen by Mignola and, for the past several years, writer John Arcudi. There are now stories of Hellboy’s supporting characters, including Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman—both of whom were featured in the two Hollywood blockbuster films brought to life by visionary director Guillermo del Toro, and the first of which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year as well. READ FULL STORY

Wonder Woman returns in digital-first 'Sensation Comics' issue -- EXCLUSIVE COVER

Ever since her cover debut on Sensation Comics back in 1942, Wonder Woman proved that superheroics weren’t just a boy’s club, joining Superman and Batman as the top-selling comics of the day. Now, more than 70 years later, Princess Diana reclaims her top spot with DC Comics’ new weekly, digital-first anthology series Sensation Comics, alongside the popular Adventures of Superman and Legends of the Dark Knight.

DC’s digital-first series are a way to put out non-continuity-driven stories by a rotating cast of creators who, unbound by the New52 Universe, can feel free to tell stories about the characters from any point in their vast history and deliver their unique takes. For both casual and die-hard fans, it provides accessible, well-crafted tales about the greatest superheroes of the DC Universe on a weekly basis, readable on all digital formats via DC’s ComiXology app and then collected in print afterward.

Below is the exclusive cover of Sensation Comics issue 2, by artist Gene Ha: READ FULL STORY

Batman Day: DC Comics celebrates hero's 75th anniversary with free issue, Dark Knight timeline

DC Comics is celebrating 75 years of the Dark Knight with a free comic book. On July 23, a.k.a. Batman Day, DC Comics will give away copies of Detective Comics issue 27. No, not the actual 1939 comic book that introduced readers to Batman, but a retelling of that original story by best-selling author Brad Meltzer and artwork by the always amazing Bryan Hitch in an all-new, special edition of the mega-size New52 issue, designed by Chip Kidd (Bat-Manga!), and I have to say it’s nice to see one of the original creators, artist Bill Finger, credited on the cover of a Batman comic. READ FULL STORY

'C.O.W.L.': Meet your next comic obsession -- EXCLUSIVE IMAGES

As we gear up for a Fall TV season filled with superheroes and shows based on comic books, a lot of people (myself included) have been waiting for the next big TV series to explode from the comic book publisher Image Comics — publisher of The Walking Dead, which first made the transition to the small screen in 2010. In C.O.W.L., I believe we have the next best contender.

The buzz behind C.O.W.L. has been building since the series was announced at the Image Expo earlier this year. Co-written by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, it reads as a down and dirty Mad Men meets Heroes in ’60s Chicago. Labor unions and corrupt politicians lay the groundwork that super-powered agents fly over. On the artwork is Rod Reis, an artist whose coloring you may have seen in several DC Comics — but C.O.W.L. makes his first major published sequential work. Somewhere between Bill Sienkevich and Phil Noto, Rod’s work is dynamic and graphic, with a timeless atmosphere.

Based on a short film Higgins made called The League, C.O.W.L. takes that story one step further while also keeping it grounded in a film noir-inspired aesthetic. The characters feel real — not like pastiches of existing superheroes, but rather actual people who happen to have superpowers. The series features an ensemble cast, and through solid pacing, we get a feel for each of them. The action carries weight from the start, and I suspect it’ll get even more intense as the series moves forward. You can pick up the first issue in comic shops today — and most likely will be watching it on TV before too long. See five exclusive images from C.O.W.L. after the jump. READ FULL STORY

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