Marvel and DC have long been considered the “Big Two” of comic book publishers, but they had a small presence at this weekend’s Chicago Comics and Entertainment Exhibition (C2E2) compared to companies like Dark Horse, IDW, Thrillbent, and Valiant. Marvel showed up with some interesting announcements, but they were primarily creative team changes and crossover tie-ins, including a new X-Men event celebrating the team’s 50th anniversary. “X-Men: Battle Of The Atom” will cross over into Brian Wood’s X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis’ All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, and Jason Aaron’s Wolverine And The X-Men, following a group of future X-Men who come to the present. (Marvel sure is big on time travel these days.) New ongoing creative team Charles Soule and Jefte Palo are coming to Thunderbolts just in time to tie in to August’s Infinity event, and the husband-and-wife duo of artist Declan Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire will be taking over Deadpool in August.
DC didn’t have much of anything new to say, although it did hint at potential new series for the Crime Syndicate of America and Shazam. It was a similarly light convention for Image Comics, which announced Image Comics Expo 2013 at the Diamond Retailer Summit on Thursday. Regarding new books, Peter Panzerfaust writer Kurtis J. Wiebe will be penning the sci-fi fantasy series Rat Queens with artist Roc Upchurch, described by Wiebe as “Tank Girl meets Bridesmaids by way of a Lord Of The Rings fantasy world on crack.”
Dark Horse dominated the convention with a steady stream of announcements, beginning with the return of Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy for a three-issue monthly story. Dark Horse is also resurrecting Richard and Wendy Pini’s fantasy epic Elfquest, which will see new issues this fall with Elfquest: The Final Quest. Halo joins the publisher’s stable of video game properties including Mass Effect, Rage, and Prototype with the miniseries Halo: Initiation, coming in August from Brian Reed and Marco Castiello. Other new series announced by Dark Horse include the fantasy noir Witch Hunt by Victor Gischler and Juan Ferreyra, Buzzkill by Donny Cates and Mark Reznicek, starring a superhero whose derives his powers from drinking massive amounts of alcohol, and Alex De Campi’s Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight, which De Campi says is “the comic your mother warned you about.”
It was a great weekend for Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, which had two big announcements for projects spotlighting younger versions of the demonic hero. Mignola reteams with frequent Hellboy collaborator Duncan Fegredo for Hellboy: The Midnight Circus, a new original graphic novel taking inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes for a story about young Hellboy encountering a strange circus when he wanders from the B.P.R.D. It would be the year’s cutest Hellboy project if not for Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani’s Itty Bitty Hellboy, which gives the little red guy and his friends an adorable Tiny Titans makeover this August. Baltazar and Aureliani were the breakout stars of C2E2, between Itty Bitty Hellboy and the announcement that their Aw Yeah Comics! would be headlining a new all-ages publishing venture for Mark Waid’s Thrillbent Comics. Thrillbent’s website has already had a massive overhaul this year, and expanding into the all-ages market is the next step for getting comics to a wider audience.
IDW has built a strong foundation on licensed comic books, and now it’s added Jay Ward properties Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Rocky & Bullwinkle to the line-up. Both will see new all-ages series debuting in early 2014, coinciding with the March release of Dreamworks’ Mr. Peabody & Sherman film. In other licensed news, IDW also announced the crossover series Mars Attacks Judge Dredd by Al Ewing and John McCrea. In a pleasing development for Locke & Key fans, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s horror series will conclude with the giant-sized Locke & Key: Alpha, a miniseries of two 48-page issues. And riding the zombie train as long as it’s still running, IDW will release The Other Dead in September, a new series by Joshua Ortega and Digger T. Mesch about a town overrun by zombie animals.
Valiant Entertainment has only been publishing books for the last year, but its titles have proven to be entertaining alternatives to the superhero offerings at DC and Marvel. Following this summer’s Harbinger Wars crossover, Bloodshot will get a new title and creative team with Christos Gage writing Bloodshot H.A.R.D. Corps, which looks to be Valiant’s answer to a Justice League/Avengers-style team book. Greg Pak and Trevor Hairsine will be working on a future Eternal Warrior title, and all these new titles are building to winter’s Unity crossover. But the most exciting news to come out of Valiant is the release date Harbingers Wars: Battle For Las Vegas 8-bit videogame for iOs and Android devices, which arrives on May 1 to coincide with the second issue of the miniseries. The game will have downloadable levels with each new issue of the crossover, and will even have a surprise for players that input the Konami code.