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Vertigo Gets Kinged

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Marvel made a big deal about adapting Stephen King’s works into comics. But Vertigo has just one-upped them by have King actually write one of their books. American Vampire hits stores tomorrow.

Way back in 2005, Marvel made a big deal about bringing Stephen King on board to work with their company. A big tease during the Cup O’Joe panel at that year’s San Diego Comic Con and a lot of press releases announced that Marvel and King were in bed together.

The early press releases, which I wrote about way back in 2007, hinted that King would take an active role in writing the Dark Tower adaptations. But he only took the role of editorial overseer, as the books were written by Peter David and Robin Furth.

But this didn’t stop the books from being hits. Each of the seven issues of Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born made its way into the Top 300 comics of the 2000s. Yes, each issue was one of the bestselling books for the entire decade and they were released just in 2007.

Marvel also had success with the sequels to The Gunslinger BornThe Long Road Home, Treachery, The Sorcerer, The Fall of Gilead, and The Battle of Jericho Hill. Granted, sales declined with each successive series, but even the last of the line were firmly ensconced in the Diamond Top 100.

The success of Dark Tower led marvel to adapt King’s The Stand novel starting 2008. Marvel also provided a stop-motion animation promotional video for King’s Just After Sunset. The video is currently seen in Marvel’s latest King series, Stephen King’s “N.” which started earlier this month.

For a while there, it looked like Marvel had cornered the market on Stephen King adaptations. But then, King’s collaboration with Peter Straub, The Talisman, was adapted by Del Rey Publishing. But the breaking of Marvel’s King monopoly didn’t end there.

In October of 2009, DC imprint announced a new ongoing series called American Vampire. It feature art by Rafael Albuquerque and stories by short story author Scott Snyder and, for the first time, in a comic book, on characters he created himself and not on pre-existing characters, Stephen King.

This time it was legit. Unlike the hints that Marvel gave us way back in 2005, Stephen King was actually sitting behind the keyboard and banging out a comic book story. The comic book press went wild, as well it should.

But before we get too excited, there are a couple things we should know. First, this is Scott Snyder’s book. He is creating the titular first American vampire, a man named Skinner Sweet who is an outlaw who gets turned in the old west.

King is writing the backup, which takes place in the 1920s, presumably set in the same continuity as Snyder’s story. And King has only signed on for five issues. From then on, it is Snyder’s book and Snyder’s alone.

But having King write a comic, even for as short a time as he will be writing here, is an accomplishment. This series should do pretty well—for as long as King’s story is running in it. What happens when he leaves? We’ll see in about five months.

Also out this week:

X-Factor Forever #1:

I have to admit, I am a big fan of Louise Simonson. I was one of the kids that grew up reading Power Pack, and if that were her only credit, she’d be legend in my eyes. But she also had great tours of duty on New Mutants, Superman: Man of Steel, and X-Factor.

Simonson returns to the latter this week, and she picks up right where she left off. Marvel’s “Forever” series’ allows creators to return to characters they left behind and continue stories they left unfinished. Simonson left X-Factor with issue #64 to write Superman for DC, but she was building a major arc for the series that she never got to use. Well, she’s going to use it now.

Louise Simonson (W), Dan Panosian (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Fade to Black #1:
 
What is it about cannibals and the desert? Both the film The Hills Have Eyes and this series feature people who like to eat people and live in the desert. You’d think that if human beings were your main food source, you’d live closer to where they lived and not in a desolate stretch of land that few people visit or travel on.

Anyway, I don’t know if this miniseries is inspired by the similarly themed movie mentioned above, but it does deal with a group of young people who come across a cannibalistic cult on their travels through the desert. Getting lost in the desert is tough, but fighting off crazies that want to eat you is worse.

Jeff Mariotte (W), Daniele Serra (A),Image Comics, $3.50. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Superman 80-Page Giant #1:

If you are a recently-returned-to-the-fold Superman fan who is a bit put off by the current Superman titles, well, not starring Superman, what can you do? Hit the back issue bin? Wait until the latest “World Without Superman” event is over and things return to normal? Buy Superman/Batman?

All are workable options. But there is another for you to consider. You can pick up this 80-page giant. It features the classic Superman you know and love in tales that are not set to any crossover or event. And the stories are done by an intriguing mix of big name creators, many whom have never work at DC before, let alone on Superman. This could be just what the doctor ordered.

Various (W), Various (A), DC Comics, $5.99. Special.

Jughead #200:

It’s not often that supporting characters gain popularity that rivals the characters they support. Jughead might not be as popular as Archie Andrews, but he comes really close. He has been around for almost 70 years and has been starring in a solo series for over 60. The series celebrates a special anniversary this week as it hits its 200th issue.

Actually, I should say, his second solo series celebrates that anniversary. His solo title was rebooted back in 1987 with a new number one. Techically, this is the 552nd issue of a Jughead solo series. But regardless, the character’s longevity deserves to be celebrated and any title lasting that long deserves a celebration as well. Join Archie Comics in the celebration this week.

Tom Root (W), Rex Lindsey (A), Archie Comic Publications, $2.50. Ongoing Series.

Dead @ 17: The Witch Queen #1:
 
Usually, when you kill your best friends, you go to Hell. But Nara Kilday has been there and back already. A skilled demon-slayer, Hell holds no horrors for her. So when she kills her best friend Hazy Foss, she is sent to one place that will be a challenge for her—Purgatory.  Now she must fight her way through a hostile land controlled by an evil queen to find redemption, or eternal damnation.

The penultimate miniseries in the Dead @ 17 saga appears to be taking on a sword & sorcery tact. But some of the best horror franchises have travelled down a path of chainmail and broadswords (Army of Darkness, anyone). The saga’s loyal fanbase will eat this edition up, no matter what genre it will be in.

Josh Howard (W/A), Image Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1:

Incredible Hercules was a great book. It was filled with wit and intelligence, humor and great characterization. It was also a book that consistently ranked in the lower half of the Diamond 100. Many titles would wish for that kind of sales but Marvel decided to shake things up.

Hercules supposedly died in the end of Incredible Hercules through some dirty double dealing of his sister Athena. Athena is set to make Herc’s companion, Amadeus Cho, the new Prince of Power. But before the series that sets up that new status quo begins, we will be getting a two-issue wake for the character.

Yeah, I don’t really think he’s dead either, but if this subterfuge brings more readers to a great concept, I suppose that I can forgive it.

Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (W), Ariel Olivetti (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Two-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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Comments

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Mar 16, 2010 at 7:47pm

    Agreed on Hercules. Van Lente and Pak were doing some *great* work on that book. I'll pick up X-FACTOR FOREVER on the strength of Louise Simonson although POWER PACK FOREVER would be far more welcome! There has never been a more realistic characterisation of children in the Marvel U than Simonson gave us in her POWER PACK run. Fantastiic stuff.

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