2013 Preview: The Standard

Hello everyone!  It seems that, amidst all the reviews I’ve been writing, I haven’t been using this blog much to talk about my own writing projects lately.  Of course, I keep this blog’s sister site, thestandardcomic.com, fairly regularly updated with that project’s latest developments, but I thought it might be good to spend a week on an overview of my various comics projects, and where I’m at with them.  So, check into the blog daily this week, and I’ll be sharing news, and some exclusive debuts of artwork.

The first project I have to discuss is, of course, The Standard.  I’ve been working on this comic for several years now, but 2013 is the year where everything comes to fruition.  The Standard #1 made its worldwide debut, distributed through Diamond and published by ComixTribe, last week, February 13th.  I’d say it has been a success.  I’m hearing frequent accounts, both here in the UK and abroad in the US, of store sell-outs, in some cases day one sell-outs.  It seems retailers significantly underordered the book, and it has performed above expectations, with consumer demand outstripping store supply.  It’s not ideal, but I’d say it’s a good problem to have!

But the launch of issue #1 is just the beginning.  Next up is the worldwide relaunch of The Standard #2 in April, with the book already complete and off to the printers in preparation for this.  The plan is to operate on a bi-monthly schedule, and have the whole 6-issue miniseries released by the end of 2013.  That is a crazy thought to me.  Something that’s been part of my life since 2008, and 2013 is the year it finally comes to an end.  Well, in 2014 we’ll hopefully be seeing a graphic novel collected edition of the series with plenty of juicy backmatter, so I’ll be spending some time compiling that, but as far as the comic itself goes, if all proceeds as planned 2013 will be my last year working on it.  Kinda scary, but exhilerating too!

But it’s not just the worldwide release schedule I have to think about.  The first 3 issues were already released locally here in Glasgow, Scotland, and I always wish to continue paying attention to the comic’s roots as a cult Glasgow indie hit.  And so work continues on The Standard #4, which should hopefully be finished in the next month or so.  I’m hoping to make a small preview run available locally in Glasgow, my thank you to the readers who supported me first.  At the very least the comic is going to have a big presence at Glasgow Comic Con in July.

In the meantime, I’m going to share, for the first time, a few preview pages for the long-awaited fourth issue of The Standard, magnificently drawn by Jonathan Rector and vividly coloured by Mike Gagnon.  You’ll see the aftermath of issue #3’s dramatic conclusion, as well as a glimpse at another fiendish foe from The Standard’s past, TV Man.  Enjoy, bold reader!

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REVIEW: The Almighties #1

There’s a lot of hype around The Avengers right now.  The movie has made over 1 billion and counting at the box office, and is also a hit with critics.  The Avengers is a hotter property than ever.  So The Almighties, this new comic series by the writing team of Sam Johnson and Mike Gagnon (colorist of The Standard!), seems like a particularly well-timed parody piece.

It should be pointed out that the humor is pretty juvenile.  There’s a group of bad guys called F.U.C.A.S. at odds with an organisation called A.N.U.S., for example.  But this had me chuckling like a fiend, so if your sense of humor is like mine, you’re in for a treat!  Not every joke hits the mark – there’s an extended sequence involving some stereotypical gangstas having a chat that did nothing for me aside from reminding me of the pimp powwow in Black Dynamite – but there was definitely more good than bad.  Perhaps my favourite recurring gag involves the character of Stefanos, an overweight kebab chef with no apparent powers whose presence on this elite group of superheroes is a mystery.  It’s a pretty funny bit in itself, but the extreme lengths to which Johnson and Gagnon push this concept are a hoot.  I won’t spoil it!

Though this first issue is mainly played for broad laughs, it should be pointed out that you actually get a whole lot of plot and superhero action for your first issue.  Many comics would decompress the storyline featured here over a whole arc, but not The Almighties.  We get several action setpieces, and indeed a whole story with a three-act structure, including an accessible opening and a satisying resolution to make this a complete, rewarding reading experience in itself.  And in amidst it all, Johnson and Gagnon have time to flesh out most of the cast.  A couple of the team are neglected a bit (I’ll wait for future instalments to flesh out Maxi-Tron and Mason), but Nite-Fang works as a suitably smarmy reader surrogate commenting on the ridiculousness of the whole scenario, while Ms. F is a bit of a scene-stealer as the divorcee who is using her superhero career to work through some man issues, it would seem.

Though I found the writing to be a treat, the visuals are a tad problematic.  Because the art duties are split across multiple artists – Elonara Kortsarz in the first half, and Pablo Zambrano with a little help from D.C. White in the second half – The Almighties #1 struggles to establish a clear visual identity.  The coloring does go some way towards providing a sense of consistency, however.  Gulliver Vianei (another alumni of The Standard!) gives bold, bright colors for the majority of the issue, while Jennifer Scott fits in with the established style pretty seamlessly on her pages.

It may not be the deepest or most profound comic you’ll read this month, but I had a lot of fun with The Almighties. I’d recommend giving it a try.

The Almighties #1 is published by Actuality Press, Rated Teen+, priced $3.99, and is available now at www.thealmighties.com in regular and Limited Edition Avengers Movie poster-parody versions.

The Standard #2: On Sale Now!

The Standard #2 is now on sale!

Once, Gilbert Graham was The Standard, the world’s first and greatest superhero. Now an old man and long retired from crime-fighting, he lives a quiet life as a high school chemistry teacher. But when Alex Thomas – his former sidekick and successor to the Standard mantle – is murdered, Gilbert is haunted by old memories… and faced with a serious decision.

The Standard is a 6-issue comic book miniseries, each chapter 28 pages long.  This second issue is written by me, John Lees, is pencilled and inked by Jonathan Rector, colored by Gulliver Vianei and Mike Gagnon, lettered by Kel Nuttall, and edited by Steven Forbes.  The comic is debuting digitally, published by ComixTribe, and is now available from these platforms, priced at $1.99:

Wowio

DriveThruComics

MyDigitalComics

In the coming days, The Standard #2 will also be available digitally from Graphicly.  Be sure to check thestandardcomic.com for the latest updates.

If you would rather have a print edition of The Standard #2 you can hold in your hands, we’ve got you covered.  Within the next few weeks, you’ll be able to order a copy from IndyPlanet, priced at $3.99.

And remember, readers in the Glasgow area should also be able to pick up the second issue for £3 at local comic shops from mid August.  You’ll be able to buy the comic in Forbidden Planet, A1 Comics and Plan B Books.  The first issue has sold well from these shops, and the local support has been much appreciated.  I hope that carries forward with the second issue.

Don’t forget, The Standard #1 is also still available from Indyplanet, Graphicly, Wowio, DriveThruComics and MyDigitalComics.  The series debut was nominated in two categories at the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards: Best Comic/Graphic Novel and Best Writer.  Here’s what the critics have been saying about it:

A solid debut for Lees and Rector onto the comic book scene as well as for a new superhero story that may offer something a bit different than what Marvel or DC are doing right now… If you are someone who wants to support “indie” comics but isn’t into the supernatural or angst ridden gothic things, this is the title for you.

– Alex Widen, Brooklyn Comic Books Examiner

The art is fantastic bringing crisp, clean, and beautiful work on every panel. Just like the art, the writing is excellent and panel by panel I found myself feeling as if I was familiar with the characters and developing a bond with them.

– Stephen Jondrew, Project Fanboy

The Standard leaps the hurdle that many independent comics cannot. Some indie comics suffer from low-quality art and writing, and clichés both visually and in the narrative. The Standard carries itself quite well, providing an intriguing story and characters that are both engaging and easy on the eyes. I have to say that as far as creator-owned, independently-published superhero comics go, you’d be hard pressed to find something better.

– Dan Cole, Broken Frontier

In the age of reality television and absolute sensationalism, The Standard is deeply relevant.

– James Miller, Comics Bulletin

Comix Tribe is really publishing a slew or interesting titles these days and The Standard easily lives up to what I am quickly coming to expect from their titles.

– Tom Feazell, Omnicomic

This book reeks of professionalism, looking and acting like a Marvel or DC Comic. The Standard creative team have no fear in showing the world that they are just as smart and clever as the big boys.

– Luke Halsall, Geek Syndicate

If you’ve not read The Standard #1 yet, it’s not too late to catch up.  If you have read it, I hope you’ll also pick up The Standard #2, and let me know what you think!