Category Archives: Books

Preview: Alien Invasions: The History of Aliens in Pop Culture

Alien Invasions: The History of Aliens in Pop Culture

(W) Michael Stein
In Shops: Nov 25, 2020
SRP: $34.99

For the first time ever, read how aliens have invaded pop culture in all its guises and forms in this definitive history spanning over 100 years. See how depictions of aliens have evolved over the years in popular and pulp magazines, comics, on TV, and in movies!

These depictions of aliens are visualized through the prism of pop culture in this thoroughly engaging 176-page book, featuring more than 200 full-color illustrations accompanied by extensive captions.

Alien Invasions: The History of Aliens in Pop Culture

Preview: Smithsonian Dinosaurs Coloring Book

Smithsonian Dinosaurs Coloring Book

(W) Rachel Curtis
In Shops: Nov 25, 2020
SRP: $16.99

Dinosaurs come to life-with your help! The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and IDW Publishing present a fascinating new coloring book that provides a beautiful and informative tour through the prehistoric world of dinosaurs.

With this exquisitely designed coloring book, dinosaur lovers of all ages can explore millions of years of animal wonders, guided by experts from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the artistic wizardry of Rachel Curtis (The Princess Bride: A Storybook to Color). These lush pen and ink illustrations invite you to step into captivating scenes featuring the herbivorous Stegosaurus, the sea-dwelling Hesperornis, the giant sauropod Camarasaurus, the mighty Tyrannosaurus, and many more. Fans of dinosaurs, coloring books, and natural history will find an enchanting world to unlock with their own creativity.

Each page of Dinosaurs: A Smithsonian Coloring Book not only stands alone as a work of art, but is also accompanied by brief and fascinating insights from the museum’s Paleontology experts about each dinosaur and its world, ensuring that time spent coloring is also time spent learning.

This book’s deluxe ivory paper allows for a variety of artistic media like pen, pencil, or even watercolor, to ensure your creative vision comes to life just the way you want lasts for years to come.

Officially licensed by the Smithsonian and developed in collaboration with experts from the National Museum of Natural History.

Smithsonian Dinosaurs Coloring Book

Viacom CBS sells Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House

Simon & Schuster

There’s potentially a new mega-publisher as ViacomCBS has struck a deal to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House. The deal is for more than $2 billion. Penguin Random House is owned by the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann. The deal is not a given as Simon & Schuster is the third largest publisher and the purchase raises antitrust concerns.

If the deal fales, ViacomCBS has a termination fee that Bertelsmann would need to pay. The deal will go before the Biden administration which may be tougher than the current Trump administration but we’ll see.

Simon & Schuster is actually doing well as revenue grew to $649 million through September, an 8% increase, and profit before tax increased by 6% to $115 million. The deal allows ViacomCBS to pay down its $21 billion dept and keep up dividend payments to shareholders. The move is one that’s being seen across the media landscape as megacorporations make cuts or sell divisions to cut costs and pay down debts after large acquisitions.

The deal has a ripple effect in the comic industry as well. Simon & Schuster is the exclusive distributor of BOOM! Studios, Oni Press, and Rebellion to bookstores. Penguin Random House is the exclusive distributor of DC Comics, Dark Horse, and IDW Publishing graphic novels to bookstores. The merger consolidates a distribution channel which has a potentially negative impact on negotiations between publishers and distributors but creates a more favorable position between the distributor and retailers.

Ironically, the comic industry has had concerns over distribution monopolies for years with Diamond Comic Distributors cornering the direct market to comic shops for years until 2020. DC Comics ended their exclusive deal with Diamond splitting distribution between UCS Comic Distributors and Lunar Distribution. DC ended its distribution through UCS creating a new “monopoly” through Lunar and creating a $500 minimum monthly order. Now, if this merger goes through, the bookstore distribution options will shrink narrowing choices though we’ll see if similar concerns are raised by the industry as have been raised in the past.

Cullen Bunn Announces RAZE, a New Dark Fantasy Universe

RAZE: Mother, Maiden, Crone

Cullen Bunn is bringing a new dark fantasy world to life in RAZE: Mother, Maiden, Crone. This is the first prose novella in a series, introducing Siris and Kast, a pair of cold-blooded adventurers seeking to profit from the impending apocalypse. The world of RAZE was created by Bunn and Shawn Lee, with Bunn writing the novellas.

Blood soaks the earth. The ground is carpeted in corpses. Carrion birds feast as power-crazed warlords indulge their bloodlust in never-ending battle.

An ancient convent watches over the ceaseless struggle. A sanctuary from war, the Convent of Sacred Visitation offers care, medicine, and healing to any who seek their aid. Within these walls, no creed nor code nor fealty is recognized.

Through the haze of battle, two strangers arrive at the convent’s gates. One is a healer. The other is a warrior. They have treachery, thievery, and murder on their minds.

But lies and betrayal and corruption are not unknown to the Sisterhood of Sacred Visitation. The secrets hidden in the depths of the convent have brought death to many who have sought to bring them into the light.

And an antediluvian evil is stirring in the realm—an ancient hunger roused by the ever-growing miasma of warfare, strife, and slaughter.

The time of the Razing has dawned.

RAZE is a dark story. While it’s a fantasy world, this isn’t one of dragons, dwarves, or elves. Instead, it’s an even dark version of the Dark Ages, a heavy metal “pre-apocalypse”. This is a world driven by hatred and war where heroes aren’t present. The series focuses on Siris and Kast, a pair of “self-destructive, pitiless, malicious monsters” who aren’t “seeking redemption… They serve their own lusts and desires and all else be damned.”

RAZE: Mother, Maiden, Crone is the first in a series of prose novellas set in the world of RAZE. It is also the first publication in the Pulp Monster line.

The novella will be available on November 27 for Kindle through Amazon.

Seven Seas Entertainment Signs a Distribution Agreement with Penguin Random House Publisher Services

Seven Seas

Seven Seas Entertainment has announced a multi-year sales and distribution agreement with Penguin Random House Publisher Services (PRHPS). PRHPS will sell and distribute Seven Seas’ “entire frontlist and backlist across all sales channels worldwide.”

Seven Seas Entertainment publishes hundreds of manga, light novels, original comics and more annually across the company’s four distinct imprints—Seven Seas, Ghost Ship, Waves of Color, and Airship.

Seven Seas publishes both manga and light novels and some of its notable releases include Afro Samurai, Devilman, and Space Battleship Yamato.

The deal begins on July 1, 2021.

Underrated: A Once Crowded Sky

This week we’re revisiting a previous entry in the series with Tom King’s A Once Crowded Sky.

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: A Once Crowded Sky

It’s no secret how much I love comics. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

While most pretty much all of the comics I read can, to varying degrees, be placed on the superhero side of things, sometimes I’ll pick up the odd non-superhero comic.  I’m a big fan of the modern comic book re-imaginings of the early pulp heroes such as The Black Bat, The Spider, and The Phantom, although one could argue their closeness to the superhero genre renders the example moot, so let me be blunt; the point I am poorly trying to make is that I love superhero stories (of all varieties) in my comics more than any other type of story. 

Amazingly enough, I also read books.

If you look at my book shelf you’ll see a lot of fantasy, sword and sorcery, and historical fiction. There isn’t much set within the last one hundred years or so that I tend to pick up and read. I can think of, maybe, twenty books (or series) that I’ve read in the last fifteen years or so that are set within the last century, and only a handful of them were based around superheroes. One was an average Wolverine tale I read on Kindle, one is the hugely enjoyable Dresden Files series and another was A Once Crowded Sky by some dude named Tom King, which  is the subject of today’s column.

Although the story wasn’t quite mind blowing, it was remarkably well told, and had some incredible ideas within its pages. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is actually the way it is told. In a book with multiple point of view characters, each character’s point of view is laid out like a comic book; the book is set up like a text version of a collected comic book tie-in event across multiple issues. It’s a brilliant way to tie in the obvious influence and homage to the four colour medium, as is the occasional comic book page within the book itself.

A Once Crowded Sky is a relative anomaly for me; it’s a superhero story that I read, and enjoyed, that wasn’t in a comic book. Now, my sample size of superhero books is obviously incredibly small compared with that of superhero comics, but the thing I must stress here is it isn’t that I’ve had no access to superhero books, it’s that I simply have no desire to read about superheroes in any other medium that isn’t a comic book, and I have no idea why.

Maybe it’s because up until A Once Crowded Sky every superhero book I’ve looked as has been hard to justify the price tag. I found A Once Crowded Sky for $3 on a table of reduced hardcover books at a chain book store – it’s easily worth four times that amount, but would I have looked at it for more than $3? Seeing as how it took me two days to decide to pick the book up even for about the price of a comic, well, then probably not. Maybe I don’t like superhero books because they lack the visual nature of comics, which probably does have something to do with it, but I’m more then happy reading the Dresden Files novels and graphic novels, but then the Dresden Files and superheroes occupy two different genres. Maybe, and most likely, it’s because there simply hasn’t been much buzz about any superhero books.

So what’s A Once Crowded Sky about, and why should you read it?

“The superheroes of Arcadia City fight a wonderful war and play a wonderful game, forever saving yet another day. However, after sacrificing both their powers and Ultimate, the greatest hero of them all, to defeat the latest apocalypse, these comic book characters are transformed from the marvelous into the mundane.

After too many battles won and too many friends lost, The Soldier of Freedom was fine letting all that glory go. But when a new threat blasts through his city, Soldier, as ever, accepts his duty and reenlists in this next war. Without his once amazing abilities, he’s forced to seek the help of the one man who walked away, the sole hero who refused to make the sacrifice–PenUltimate, the sidekick of Ultimate, who through his own rejection of the game has become the most powerful man in the world, the only one left who might still, once again, save the day.”

Tom King’s debut novel has some lofty ideas, and some great presentation ideas that more than out weigh the at times overly wordy moments as King at times loses himself in backstory and internal monologues. There are flashes of his later brilliance in this 2012 novel, and it’s fascinating to see how he’s grown as a writer since this book. Despite having some rather interesting names for his characters (no, that’s not food – that’s my tongue in my cheek), it’s not hard to identify where their inspiration came from. Soldier of Fortune and Captain America do bear more than a slight similarity, after all.

But by using his own versions of these characters we’re all so familiar with, King is able to tell the story he wants without worrying about the guiding hand of either of the big two publishers impacting his story.

What we’re left with at the end of the day is a solid, and very enjoyable superhero novel written by a man who would go on to write some utterly fantastic comics. This book isn’t on that level, but it’s still well worth checking out should you come across it.

Someday, hopefully soon, superhero books will have their own section in the book store and when they do, that’s where you’ll find me.

Join us next week when we explore another Underrated aspect that may be at best tangentially related to comics!

Alan Dean Foster Goes Public with his Dispute with Disney Over Royalties

Alien the Novel

Earlier today, Alan Dean Foster and the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) held a press conference concerning Disney‘s refusal to pay royalties to Foster for work he has done. Foster was originally contracted to write the Alien novelizations through Warner Books which were eventually licensed to Titan Books, and the Star Wars novelizations by Lucasfilms. Both Warner Books and Lucasfilms regularly paid his royalties.

When The Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to these novelizations in or around 2015, the payments stopped although the books continue to be sold. Disney continues to get money for the books. Alan Dean Foster, and possibly other authors with similar contracts, have not been paid.

Disney’s defense is they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. They are claiming they have the right to publish the work but not pay the writer based on the original contract.

If this stands, it stands to set a precedent with chilling effects within publishing, and creative industries as a whole.

SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal has laid out three solutions to the dispute:

  1. Pay Alan Dean Foster all back royalties as well as any future royalties.
  2. Publication ceases until new contract(s) are signed, and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster as well as any future royalties.
  3. Publication ceases and pay all back royalties to Alan Dean Foster.

In his public letter to the company Foster says Disney wanted him to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before even talking and negotiating. The publisher has since ingnored requests from his agents and the SFWA.

Foster also included his need that there’s a medical need for the money. He’s not looking for charity, he just wants what he’s owed.

The SFWA is also looking to see if this is a systemic issue with Disney and is asking for other creators to report if they’ve experienced similar experiences. You can do so here. Disney purchased Marvel Comics in 2009 and one would assume contracts with royalties in that deal. Unless there’s something specific about Foster’s original contract, Disney’s stance would be inconsistent by their own actions assuming they’re abiding by those Marvel contracts.

You can watch the full press conference below.

Expand your Kingdom Hearts knowledge with Kingdom Hearts Ultimania: The Story Before Kingdom Hearts III

Dark Horse Books, Square Enix, and Disney present Kingdom Hearts Ultimania: The Story Before Kingdom Hearts III. Originally published in Japanese, this English translation of the fan-favorite reference guide is sure to capture the imaginations of Disney fans and gamers everywhere, arriving June 2021.

A gorgeous oversized hardcover collecting Kingdom Hearts art and trivia, leading up to the events of the most current entry in the beloved saga!

Enter the magical worlds of Disney as featured in the hit Kingdom Hearts video game series! This meticulously crafted tome showcases each of Kingdom Hearts’ unique worlds, characters, and equipment, encompassing all the games predating Kingdom Hearts III. Explore character profiles from icons like King Mickey and Goofy to modern favorites like Tron or Captain Jack Sparrow. Study detailed summaries of story arcs, along with rare concept designs and storyboards! No stone is left unturned in this grand overview, which includes content from Kingdom Hearts Final Mix through Kingdom Hearts Unchained X.

Kingdom Hearts Ultimania: The Story Before Kingdom Hearts III arrives in comic shops and bookstores June 15, 2021, and is available for pre-order now for $44.99.

Kingdom Hearts Ultimania: The Story Before Kingdom Hearts III

Get a Behind the Scenes Look at the Beyond Kuiper: The Galactic Star Alliance Audio Experience. Out Now in Book and Audio!

Beyond Kuiper: The Galactic Star Alliance

While on loan to CERN, a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions leaves astrophysicist Bernard Hubert as the sole survivor. While the scientific community and world looks to him for answers, he states the unthinkable: “It has to be aliens.” Unacceptable to the world, the Hubert family is under investigation and their name tarnished. Disgraced and shunned, Bernard claws his way back into society with his new company C.O.R.E. where he works tirelessly to design an engine capable of interstellar travel. Follow Bernard on his road to redemption and discovery in this ensemble cast of futurism, space travel, and the fate of our species.

A thoughtful meditation on the human race’s place in the universe as well as an entertaining sci-fi adventure, Beyond Kuiper: The Galactic Star Alliance asks some important questions. Why hasn’t sentient life been discovered in our galaxy? If that life exists, why has no other life communicated with us? The answer is simple, no one wants to. Enter the Galactic Star Alliance, a union of species and planets that span the galaxy earth calls home. But while our galaxy has yet to speak to Earth there are some humans who believe it is out there. Not as science-fantasy but as science.

Beyond Kuiper: The Galactic Star Alliance is the first in a planned series of 10 epic sci-fi prose novels from authors Matthew Medney, Heavy Metal CEO, and Lockheed Martin Aerospace Engineer John Connelly.

The audio experience features the talent of actor and entrepreneur Dylan Sprouse (All-Wise Meadery & Sun Eater) voices Odian Spek and film/television director and producer George C. Romero (Romero Pictures) voices Tordok, as well as Kyle Perrin (Another Kingdom: Season 3 and The Cold War: What We Saw) who also sound designed, narrated the majority of the voices and book and scored the audiobook alongside Matt Medney.

Purchase: Audible [Audiobook] – AmazonKindleHeavy Metal

Yen Press Announces Eleven New Titles

Yen Press has announced a slate of upcoming titles that include light novels (The King of Death at the Dark Palace, Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below + 5 Centimeters per Second), manga (Hazure Skill: The Guild Member with a Worthless Skill Is Actually a Legendary Assassin, I’m the Catlords’ Manservant, Hard-boiled Stories from the Cat Bar, I’m the Hero, But the Demon Lord’s Also Me, Uncle from Another World, Your Turn to Die and Afterschool Hanako-kun) and both the light novel and manga adaptation of If the RPG World Had Social Media.

Hazure Skill: The Guild Member with a Worthless Skill Is Actually a Legendary Assassin (manga)

Story by Kennoji
Art by Fuu Araki
Character Design by KWKM

With a worthless skill, Roland managed to kill the most powerful demon lord that’s ever lived. While he could have all the riches in the world, all Roland really wants now is a normal life. Such an unremarkable existence may not come easy to someone so exceptional, however…

Hazure Skill: The Guild Member with a Worthless Skill Is Actually a Legendary Assassin is a stylish manga adaptation of the highly-anticipated light novel series by the same name. The previously announced light novel series is scheduled for a March 2021 release under the Yen On imprint.

Hazure Skill: The Guild Member with a Worthless Skill Is Actually a Legendary Assassin (manga)

I’m the Catlords’ Manservant

Story and Art by Rato Kitaguni

Izumi Yukihara, high school second year. His life is completely average—until a series of misfortunate events turn his life upside down. As if losing his parents weren’t enough, he’s saddled with their massive debt and forced to relocate to a new residence. On the bright side, the owners of his new residence offer him a chance to repay his debt…by serving cats?!

A quirky manga series that is as hilarious as it is adorable! This series appeals to the ever popular genre of cat manga such as Nyankees and Chi’s Sweet Home.

I’m the Catlords’ Manservant

Hard-boiled Stories from the Cat Bar

Story and Art by Ono Yourei

An assassin unable to get over the loss of his cat, a man with a scar on his cheek, and a feline named Dandy that is waiting for its master to return are at the center of this gritty tale of men and tears.

A cute twist on hard-boiled crime manga, this charming yet gritty standalone title appeals to those who are fond of noir fiction and beautiful illustration. Additionally, Hard-boiled Stories from the Cat Bar appeals to fans of manga featuring beautiful men, such as Monster and the Beast and Penguin Gentleman., and, of course, fans of cat manga!

Hard-boiled Stories from the Cat Bar

I’m the Hero, But the Demon Lord’s Also Me

Story by Akiyoshi Ota
Art by Tatsuya Endo

Yuuma Tsugari is an ordinary high school student whose family runs a public bath house. He leads a peaceful, uneventful life, but all that changes when a beautiful woman from another world appears before him, certain that he’s the hero she’s been searching for! Sure, he’s no hero, but how can he refuse such a beauty…!?

This romantic comedy manga involving traveling between worlds filled with beautiful women is a welcome treat to fans of fantasy manga that are heavy on the fanservice! With a mature take on the ecchi fantasy genre, this series appeals greatly to fans of To Save the World, Can You Wake Up the Morning After with a Demi-Human?

I'm the Hero, But the Demon Lord's Also Me

If the RPG World Had Social Media (light novel)

Story by Yuusuke Nitta
Illustration by Yukinatu Amekaze and LOL

When a fantasy world has fully functioning internet and smartphones (for some reason), it’s only natural for its sixteen year-old Hero to declare war on the Demon Lord via text message. But is it natural for that Demon Lord to be an innocent snowflake who hates conflict…!? Take a peek into this unfortunate Hero’s chatlog with a…unique group of RPG characters, like an overly pure Demon Lord, her cheerful Generals (who all adore her), and the kidnapped princess who seems to be developing a major crush on her captor!

While there have been plenty manga and light novels that have placed fun twists on fantasy storytelling, If the RPG World Had Social Media goes deep into the concept of social media and text communication in a fantasy world coupled with a fun adventure! This light novel series is perfect for fans of In Another World with My Smartphone.

If the RPG World Had Social Media (light novel)

If the RPG World Had Social Media (manga)

Story by Yuusuke Nitta
Art by Sato Kamegoya

When a fantasy world has fully functioning internet and smartphones (for some reason), it’s only natural for its sixteen year-old shut-in of a Hero to declare war on the Demon Lord who has kidnapped the kingdom’s princess via text message. But is it natural for that Demon Lord to be an innocent snowflake who hates conflict!!? And somehow, this hopelessly weak Level One Hero ends up texting this overly pure Demon Lord, her cheerful Generals (who all adore her), and the princess who also seems to be developing a major crush on her captor as he goes about his adventures!

This two volume manga adaptation of If the RPG World Had Social Media captures all of the fun and silliness of the light novel series with a cute art style portraying the events of our hero’s adventure as well as all of the quirky texting and social media interaction in between!

If the RPG World Had Social Media (manga)

Uncle from Another World

Story by Akiyoshi Oota
Art by Tatsuya Endou

When a middle-aged man wakes up from a seventeen-year coma, he tells his nephew Takafumi that he’s been adventuring in another world. It’s a generation gap comedy starring an uncle who bridges two universes!

Uncle from Another World goes back and forth between the real world and the fantasy world as a comatose uncle who spent the past 17 years living in another world recounts his adventures! This isekai manga playfully puts twists on well known tropes that are sure to please fans of the ever popular genre.

Uncle from Another World

The King of Death at the Dark Palace (novel)

Story by Tsukikage
Illustrations by meron tomari

When a sickly boy succumbs to illness only to reawaken as a weakly undead, his first thought is not of horror, but joy. Sadly, his delight is cut short by the realization that he is still not in control of his own body. The excruciating pain that plagued him in his previous life has simply been replaced by the necromancer that brought him into this one. Now, to win true freedom, he must put his unlife on the line and fight for his dark master…!

An intense fantasy light novel series involving a resurrected protagonist seeking freedom and solace. A story that goes into darker places than many other light novels, this series is a long-awaited release for fans of horror light novels such as Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen.

The King of Death at the Dark Palace (novel)

Your Turn to Die: Majority Vote Death Game

Story and Art by Tatsuya Ikegami

Sara Chidouin has been getting harassed by a mysterious stalker lately, so her concerned friend Joe Tazuna decides to walk her home. But once they arrive, the two of are attacked by someone and black out. When they come to, they find that they’ve been restrained to some tables in a strange room…

Your Turn to Die: Majority Vote Death Game is a manga adaptation of the popular virtual novel by the same name, one that tells the tale of an assortment of people trapped in a death game. This manga is naturally a must read for fans of the prolific series as well as for fans of similar visual novels such as the Danganronpa series. 

Your Turn to Die: Majority Vote Death Game

Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below + 5 Centimeters per Second

Story by Makoto Shinkai

Experience in a new way the worlds of acclaimed animation director Makoto Shinkai’s award-winning romantic drama 5 Centimeters per Second, along with the adventure of Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below, in this two-in-one novelization!

The newest addition to Yen On’s beautiful collection of hardcover novel adaptations of Makoto Shinkai’s finest works, Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below + 5 Centimeters per Second is a bind up collection that retells the stories from two of Shinkai’s earlier works. With 5 Centimeters per Second standing out as one of the films that introduced Makoto Shinkai to the West, this collection is a highly-anticipated release for fans of one of today’s most beloved creators.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below + 5 Centimeters per Second

Afterschool Hanako-kun

Story and Art by AidaIro

The ghostly Hanako-kun and his mortal assistant Nene Yashiro usually have their hands full resolving various supernatural incidents in Kamome Academy, but how do they spend their time when they get a break from all that? Come and see what the characters of Toilet-bound Hanako-kun do on their laid-back afterschool days!

Afterschool Hanako-kun is a fun manga spin-off of Toilet-bound Hanako-kun that showcases what fan favorite characters are up to in between events of the main story. With Toilet-bound Hanako-kun enjoying success as the best-selling new manga series of 2020, Afterschool Hanako-kun is sure to please many fans eager for more Hanako-kun!

Afterschool Hanako-kun
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