Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary
















July 31, 2008


Was 2008 IDW's Last Comic-Con?

Was the 2008 show just past publisher IDW's last Comic-Con International? President Ted Adams is leaning that way, and although he's continuing to hear from the other side of the argument in case he changes his mind, he's convinced to the point where he's comfortable saying about IDW's hometown show and North American comics' biggest showcase: "I think we're likely not to be at San Diego next year."

imageAdams allowed us access to some of his Comic-Con time to talk about the decision. This interview took place Friday morning of the show in IDW's reserved meeting room on the convention center's second level, about 20 feet away from their table of sodas and bagels, as other IDW staffers and I think creative personnel milled about. I mention all that to underline this isn't a company with a minor presence simply deciding whether or not they'll go next year, but a sizable company fully invested in the show thinking about a change in strategy.

Adams says a major reason he decided to talk to CR was to facilitate conversation and solicit opinions from the comics industry in general. I'm going to contact some folks directly but if anyone out there reading would like to venture an opinion on the following discussion, or IDW's decision whether or not to exhibit or, really, anything discussed here, and I'll do my best to incorporate your response into a follow-up story as we recently did with the New Yorker/Obama flap.

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TOM SPURGEON: Am I to understand you've come to a conclusion about your role here at Comic-Con?

TED ADAMS: I think so. I'm sort of waffling every day, but I feel like there's an opportunity cost associated with the San Diego Comic-Con. By that I mean we're a company that publishes books. We're in business to publish books. Frankly, we publish a lot of books. I think that people sometimes don't realize it, but we're doing about 35 to 40 books a month. We have a staff of about 20 people. We're very much a production-focused office.

SPURGEON: I would have guessed about half of that.

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ADAMS: I think the reason for that is that there's almost no question that we're the most diverse comics publisher. I think people forget comics we publish because for fans of Transformers we're the Transformers publisher. For fans of Steve Niles we're Steve Niles' publisher. For people that like comics reprints we do Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie. So we do a lot of different things and people look at us for the thing they like the most. A lot of people think we're Ash Wood's publisher. And we are, and we're happy to be. People that like Ash Wood aren't necessarily buying Transformers. I think that it's easy to not see how much we produce on a regular basis.

We're doing out the door 35 to 40 books a month, which means on a weekly basis we're trying to ship eight to 10 books. That's just a lot of books. The opportunity cost of the comic-con, to put together an appearance at this show, even at the level we do it, requires a huge amount of time. The human resources associated with putting together our appearance here are pretty extraordinary. We plan six months out and start having weekly meetings, and start the planning process. By the time the Con actually rolls around, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say there are many hundreds if not thousands of man resource hours in the show.

All that time is time that's taken away from doing books. I have these mixed feelings about it. We want to be here for the people that like our books. The people who like IDW, we want to be here to let them know they're important to us. At the same time, I think there's something to be said about it being better for them if we focused on making the books they like instead of the convention.

SPURGEON: Do you do other shows? I'm trying to get a sense of whether or not your costs are spread across several conventions or just this one.

ADAMS: We don't. No, this is pretty much it. We've dabbled in other shows. We've done WonderCon. That's a much smaller show. We have a couple of pop-up booths, a couple of guys out of the office for a weekend. Those aren't immense. This is just a major undertaking for us.

imageThere are some specific Hasbro-specific conventions. They have a thing called BotCon for Transformers fans. We set up there. We certainly do trade shows in a big way. We're very prevalent at BEA and all the ALA shows. Those kinds of things we do in a big way. The nice thing about those shows, and I think something that works for us nicely, is that we're part of Diamond's booth at those book-specific trade shows. They have a pavilion they essentially divvy up between their publishers. So Diamond is handling all the things that are taking me so much time, all the labor. All we have to really do is have a salesperson there.

SPURGEON: How much has the way the show's transformed itself the last half-decade had an impact on your decision?

ADAMS: It's part of it.

I should make a point of saying that the people that put on San Diego Comic-Con are pretty extraordinary. This show, what they do every year is I think is flat-out unbelievable. You couldn't pay me enough money to take on any of their jobs. They've done nothing but treat us with respect. The decisions I'm weighing have nothing to do with the way we've been treated by San Diego or really this sort of perceived -- I see these things on-line about the perception that Comic-Con is getting away from comics and becoming an entertainment show, and there's no question that's true. But I don't have the angst over those things. I think we're just seeing the free market at work here with San Diego Comic-Con. The market is saying "We want to see Hugh Jackman." [laughter] I don't know how Comic-Con could make that not be. What are you going to do, go to Fox and say, "You can't have Hugh Jackman here"? [Spurgeon laughs] You're going to disappoint the tens of thousands of people that want to see that.

SPURGEON: I would imagine with the diversity of your line you might even be better suited than some to take advantage of having a lot of those people here.

ADAMS: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

SPURGEON: Do you have an idea of how you're going to make the final decision? Is there a time frame?

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ADAMS: I think we're likely not to be at San Diego next year. There are people that work for me that think that's not the right decision. I'm trying to weigh what they're telling me, think hard about what they're telling me. Certainly for the freelance community that works for us, it's important to them that they have a place at this show. I'm trying to think about how can I accomplish those goals with drastically reduced cost to us. Not so much the financial cost, but the opportunity cost. How can I have a place where Ash Wood can meet his fans at San Diego Comic-Con without it requiring all this time?

SPURGEON: Have you looked at any past models for partial involvement? Marvel for years didn't formally exhibit and although I could be wrong about this I think that for at least one or two of those years they supported their creators that were here in some fashion.

ADAMS: I think that's what we're kind of circling around now. It's likely we won't have a big booth presence and we won't have a retail presence, and we may end up doing something more like Marvel did. I look at that, and I'm good friends with Nick Barrucci at Dynamic Forces -- they don't exhibit here -- and there are certainly examples out there of how to do this in a way that can work for everybody. We can make our fans happy and make our freelancers happy but we can still also publish and get the books out the door and ultimately make ourselves happy.

SPURGEON: Has Comic-Con had a measurable impact on the line that you might lose?

ADAMS: I don't see a big business impact from the show. I just don't. I can't say, at least for us, that we launched this particular book or made this announcement and that it resulted in long-term business ramifications for us. I wish that were the case. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. Maybe I need to evaluate that more. But we've never seen that happen. That said, our business is growing pretty dramatically the last couple of years. We've doubled our gross sales over the last couple of years -- we've reached a number where it's not going to be possible to double gross sales again, but we've had pretty extraordinary growth over the last two or three years.

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SPURGEON: You Darwyn Cooke on his Parker books">announced on the Wednesday night of Comic-Con that you're working Darwyn Cooke on his Parker books. This was a very well-received announcement and there was definite publicity-type interest. Are you suspicious about the long-term impact of something like that as well?

ADAMS: Yeah, I wonder. I mean, it's awesome. I think that worked out really well. That was Scott Dunbier who came up with that idea. He and Darwyn worked closely on that for quite some time. I think that was great. That was something that did give me pause, is there a way to make this work? Because that worked, and there's no question that people are paying attention to that project. It's Darwyn Cooke, so no matter how he announced that people would pay attention it, us or somebody else, but Scott put together a good plan that got that message out there in an interesting way. It was really well-covered.

That said, is that going to affect sales when the book comes out next year? Probably not. We're going to have to keep doing those kinds of things up until the release of the book. But it definitely gets people thinking about it, and it gets us excited, and Darwyn excited. Our plan is to continue that promotion while Darwyn continues to create the book and ultimately when the books comes out.

It did give me pause. I look at that and say, "Here, this worked. Clearly." But I think we could have done that at Darwyn's booth. That could have happened there. It could potentially even happen -- say we have an IDW party, or we have some sort of event like that, and we pick a single message or two to communicate. We could do that at an event like that.

SPURGEON: Now, as you just said: you're here. Your company is in San Diego. Does that give you opportunities for doing something outside the show but maybe during the show, the kind of thing that wouldn't be there for Nick and Dynamic Forces, say?

ADAMS: I think there is that opportunity. Clearly we're San Diego based. We know the city, and it would be much easier for us to prepare something like that. I've thought about those kinds of things. We don't want to do anything that's going to be disruptive to the comic-con. We'd be very careful about that, and would want to be respectful towards them. There might be an opportunity for that. We typically have a party here at the show every year. Our party was last night. It was well-attended as usual. At the party we had a trailer running with all of our announcements and those kinds of things. We're sort of having our message there. We could have done the Darwyn Cooke announcement at our party. And it probably would have been just as well-received, and so there is that chance. But: the fans can't meet Darwyn at our party. That's our challenge.

SPURGEON: Is there anything to be said about the value of the face to face meetings and in-the-flesh announcements in the social networking era? Publicity is different now... one thing that struck me about the Cooke announcement was that it was really old-fashioned. It was a guy and a book and an announcement and a deal and there he is.

ADAMS: There were reporters with microphones in front of his face!

SPURGEON: I expected to see a guy with hat with the word "press" in it. Which would have perfect for Darwyn, come to think of it.

ADAMS: I thought the same thing.

SPURGEON: We're in a 24-hour hype cycle now, and I wonder if there's something about the value of connectivity efforts over the value of a big splash from an announcement or an appearance and if this shift in the way publicity works changes your outlook.

ADAMS: No question. Absolutely. The Internet has changed the way messages are communicated. As a result of that, what happens with a company like us is that we start holding announcements for Comic-Con. Everybody wants to have you announce their project at Comic-Con. Everyone we're doing business with from six months out from Comic-Con wants to have their announcement happen at Comic-Con. Even a company our size, we end up with too many announcements.

My fear is that none of them become special. That's why we went out of our way with the Darwyn announcement, to try and make that special. But we have six to ten additional announcements we're making at our panel tomorrow, to get our message out in a big way. I keep trying to encourage people that I really don't think that Comic-Con is the place to make these kinds of announcements. You just get lost in the shuffle. There are so many announcements being made, so many publishers coming out with things. So it's better to do it in a different way. Save an announcement for two weeks after Comic-Con. Or do it two weeks before.

SPURGEON: That's also something where movies might have an impact. It's Friday and there have really been only about five or six major publishing announcements that have made an impression thus far.

ADAMS: It's all studio-based. Yeah. We've had some luck this year. The thing with Darwyn was well-received. The Tuesday before Comic-Con the New York Times announced these presidential biographies that we're doing. So we got that pick-up there. That's kind of avalanched into additional media. That was intentional. We have a very good PR person that was setting up that story to happen the week of Comic-Con for this to happen.

That being said, we have a bunch more announcements that we need to figure out how to get attention to all of those. The way I look at it now is that we're going to make the announcements here and follow up later with full-bore press and do the kinds of things we typically do.

SPURGEON: Let me ask you about the retail aspect of your presence here, so I don't forget to do that. I didn't know until you told me that you guys did a full retail set-up. I know in general that seems to have really changed at these shows. There was a time not too long ago where folks went to conventions to buy stuff they routinely couldn't get, just buy books, and that this was a way publishers really connected with their fans from places not a New York or Chicago or Los Angeles.

ADAMS: I go back to Eclipse. I started at Eclipse, and 1990 was my first Comic-Con. The show was substantially different back then. The retail was important to Eclipse in those days. The goal was to make money from the show. As we fast-forward to 2008, that's just not possible for IDW. There's no way we can recoup the costs of the show -- I'm talking the pure financial costs of the show -- from the sales of our books at the show. It's just not going to happen.

imageThis year we've done a better job with exclusives, which is really what drives these sales. To your point, if you can get a book on Amazon and at Comic-Con you're probably going to buy it at Amazon. That's why everybody does these exclusives. If there's only one version of the book and only one place to buy it, then there's an incentive. Those kinds of things work well for us. We've gotten a little smarter about that. But this isn't a profit center for us by any stretch. We're trying to recoup a little bit of cost.

The show has never been a profit center for us. It's a marketing cost. I think it's reasonable to expect that a comics publisher has to have a marketing cost associated with attending Comic-Con. I don't expect it's reasonable to expect that the show is going to be a break-even or a profit center.

I think it's reasonable to question whether or not it makes sense from an opportunity cost standpoint. Can the marketing money be spent in better places? Can the human resources be spent in better places? Those are questions you can have.

Looking at Comic-Con as anything other than marketing cost is kind of a bad way to look at it. Certainly some of our peers have a different approach. And I know that I've spoken to some of our peer publishers, and this is a retail opportunity for them. I think in some cases that may be because their products are maybe not as well distributed. So it's not as easy to get. Although with Amazon, you can get anything.

SPURGEON: Who have you floated this decision by thus far?

ADAMS: I've floated it internally. We've been having these discussions the last couple of months. As we've seen what the show's cost us, we've been having the discussion internally for some time. I've started floating it externally. I've had discussions with some of our freelancers, and getting some different perspectives there.

Before the show I was really set at "We're not going to be here next year." Now I'm saying I have to figure out what that means. How can we make everybody happy. Because we publish so many different books, and we have so many different initiatives, we want to try and make everybody happy and we only have a booth that's so big and we have such a diverse line and so many different things we're doing, so many people want to communicate their marketing messages through us, and that's difficult. If we're not here, I don't have to have those conversations. Since I haven't seen any long-term benefit from the marketing that happens here, I have this giant question mark in my life of whether or not we can do this without alienating everybody. The booth can't be everybody's booth. We have to communicate all these different messages. And maybe we can figure out a better way to do that. I think as I go more external with the decision, maybe somebody's going to slap me up the side of my head and tell me I'm out of my mind.

SPURGEON: If that happens, can you take it back?

ADAMS: I think so. It's not like the San Diego Con lives and dies by IDW. They've always worked with us, and I think those opportunities will be there. One of the challenges is that you lose your line in the queue when you stop exhibiting. That's a very fair thing for the Con to do. They have way more people who want space than they have space. So it's reasonable for them to say, "If you didn't exhibit last year, you move to the bottom of the line." It would be something, that if it were a bad decision, if I realized it was a bad decision, it would be difficult. We'd have to work our way back up the queue as far as getting space. The con has done nothing but work with us on giving us more space every year, and giving us a good location.

imageSPURGEON: Do you have an ideal outcome in terms of re-allocating your resources?

ADAMS: It's being able to do more books and better books. It's as simple as that. It's just increasing the volume of books and putting more energy into those books. To give you an example for this week. Our discipline is to approve to print eight to 10 books a week. Just looking purely at this week, I have most of my staff here in one way or another working on Comic-Con. Those eight to ten books didn't get done this week. I've either got to stack up the week before -- which wasn't practical because of the preparation for the con -- or, what's going to happen, those books are going to trickle into next week's production schedule. For the next couple of weeks we have to do 12 to 14 books a week. That's difficult. It puts a real burden on the people that work for me, and everybody's life is more difficult. And that doesn't even account for all the hours before that.

SPURGEON: It almost sounds like you're wanting to deal from a position of resource strength more than you have specific plans -- in other words, this isn't a move preceding a planned expansion.

ADAMS: No, no, no. It's not that. There's no grand expansion other than our natural expansion. It's just allocation of resources, and the economic cost of putting those resources towards something that doesn't directly generate revenue.

*****

IDW logo and various IDW publications

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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the Washington Post asked for a substitute strip last Friday from the distributor of Darrin Bell's Candorville, which looks like it was originally reported as their making a physical change on the first strip. Unless I'm completely misremembering, the Post has a recent, poor reputation for running certain strips.

image* the cartoonist Wiley Miller will take a five-week break from his Non Sequitur offering; if nothing else, it's a sign of just how well Wiley Miller's work does for him to get to do this. (strip used for illustration from 1999; clients will be offered 2004 strips to run during the hiatus)

* we live in a mighty strange world, and I for one am glad.

* I'm all for reviews of horror films that start out with a reference to Polly and Her Pals.

* the cartoonist, columnist and syndicate editor Ted Rall will cure the ails facing modern journalism in three steps. I don't agree with Ted, actually, because I think alternatives would develop whether or not the newspaper played ball and that the advertising revenue would migrate at least in part to the alternatives no matter how newspapers were positioned. Still, it's good to read someone challenging conventional wisdom, and I think a lot more is necessary for the newspaper to find its landing point without too much damage caused by the severity of the fall.

(Though this is way not comics, I also think that newspapers are paying big-time right now from a bloat that resulted when productivity did not increase along with technological changes. At one paper I visited about three years ago having worked there two decades before that, their writers were producing the same amount of inches we were in the '80s despite not having to lay out their pages by hand and being able to file remotely more effectively and having a better processing program that didn't require hand-coding.)

* these are Danny Fingeroth's Top 10 graphic novels:

1. Maus
2. Persepolis
3. The Quitter
4. A Contract with God
5. It's a Good Life, if You Don't Weaken
6. Stop Forgetting to Remember
7. Kings in Disguise
8. Brooklyn Dreams
9. Alice in Sunderland
10. Why I Hate Saturn
* I think I totally missed this, but I'm not equipped to tell if it's a big deal that I whiffed on it or not.

* not comics: you know, I thought this guy was kidding when he said he was driving a Weinermobile.

* finally, this may be the finest cause I've ever been invited to join.
 
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Happy 51st Birthday, Gary Barker!

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Happy 33rd Birthday, Alex Holden!

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Quick hits
History
On Mary Jane Watson

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Matt Furie
Sequart: Dave Kiersh
San Diego Union-Tribune: Ariel Schrag
Massive Video Interview With Alan Moore

Reviews
Jog: Various
Brigid Alverson: Yen+
Sean T. Collins: Pixu I
Matthew J. Brady: Cowa!
Jog: Little Nothings Vol. 1
Greg McElhatton: X-Factor #33
Akiyo Horiguchi: The X-Files #0
Dave Ferraro: Demons of Sherwood
Andrew Wheeler: Essex County Vol. 3
Bart Crooneborghs: The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics
 

 
July 30, 2008


Holy Crap: How Far One Guy Walked At San Diego's Comic-Con International

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

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Special Comic-Con Edition By Tom Spurgeon

Welcome to BTUS: all the straight-up publishing news -- what's coming out, who's doing it, when you'll see it, what it will look like -- into one place. This installment has been posted a few times during the recent Comic-Con International because of the rush of such news coming out of the show and the fact that this seemed an effective way to organize it. This would be my final version.

* the cartoonist Darwyn Cooke will team with the writer Donald Westlake and IDW to do four full-length graphic novels adapting the Parker series Westlake has penned under the pen name Richard Stark.

* Abrams announced the initial titles that will be appearing under the ComicArts imprint to be headed by Charles Kochman: The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics, Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle; The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death, Todd Hignite (with Jordan Crane and Alison Bechdel); Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster, Craig Yoe; Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, Brian Fies. The books debut in Spring 2009.

image* Bryan Lee O'Malley released a cover image for the next Scott Pilgrim book and announced its debut for this winter's New York Comic-Con.

* the Los Angeles-based comics company Boom! Studios has announced a deal with Pixar/Disney for comics based on their popular titles such as The Incredibles and Wall-E.

* DC's Vertigo will launch a crime comics imprint to be spearheaded by Will Dennis. Launch books will be by Brian Azzarello and Ian Rankin.

* DC's latest reprinting of the Watchmen trade is either 200K or 250K.

* there were a ton of mainstream creator-to-title and new-title announcements. Here are few that made an impression with me.
* Neil Gaiman will be doing a Batman story.
* Marvel's Agents of Atlas will relaunch as an ongoing.
* Prolific writer Rick Remender will take over scripting chores on Booster Gold on a two-issue arc, which jumped out at me because I hadn't noticed Remender getting mainstream work like that before now, even though he probably had.
* Geoff Johns will try to bring the recent success he had with the Green Lantern franchise to DC's re-launch of its Flash character.
* prominent blogger Valerie D'Orazio will be writing a Cloak and Dagger series for Marvel.
* the veteran writer Peter David will be doing a series of comics with IDW based on his Sir Apropos character.
* Mark Millar will be doing another series in Marvel's Ultimate line.
* Andy Diggle, a writer that made his name on various DC titles, will be doing Thunderbolts at Marvel.
* the IDW Noel Sickles' collection is on the boat making its way to North American shores. Dean Mullaney was showing a copy around the convention, and what I saw looks terrific.

* there were a bunch of cross-media announcements, but they didn't really interest me. God bless everyone that got work or placed work in a different medium. One that sounded potentially cool, though, and seems worth a mention is that Eddie Campbell is working with a production team on doing a television series from his autobiographical work. He will be directly involved, even appearing on camera in some capacity.

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* Paul Karasik announced at the show that he's found what he believes to be the entirety of Fletcher Hanks' output in the Golden Age, and will be doing a companion volume to his I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets with the cover image seen above to be called You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!. It will debut in 2009. The second volume will work as a set with the first volume and will comprise The Complete Fletcher Hanks.

* Devil's Due will bring some of the Humanoids books to the North American market. They will also partner with a Kevin Spacey-owned on-line venture to do comics for the Internet.

* near the end of the show, IDW announced its full 2008-2009 slate of titles. Among those not announced in its bulleted point are Locke & Key II, Joe Hill (December); Angel: Blood and Trenches, John Byrne (2009); Terminator Salvation, Dara Naraghi and Alan Robinson (summer 2009); The Life And Times of Savior 28, JM DeMatteis and Mike Cavallaro (no date set); Epilogue, Steve Niles and Kyle Hotz (no date set); Dark Delicacies, Steve Niles editing (no date set); various titles in their Ghostbusters, Underworld, Transformers, Star Trek licenses; new collections of Violent Messiahs, Love and Capes and The Dreamer; a Zombies Vs. Robots sequel, Chris Ryalll and Ashley Wood (no date set); and, finally, another re-do of the Torpedo series.

* finally, Chris Mautner has a preview of various forthcoming FSG-distributed books, including the Mark Schultz/Zander Cannon/Kevin Cannon effort The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA.

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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* here finally is an update on the hearing last week to consider the holding of two Tunisian nationals held since February 12 on suspicion of plotting the murder of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his wife for the artist's role in creating Muhammed caricatures for the newspaper Jyllands-Posten: they lost, but they're continuing to appeal.

* here's a summary article that talks about the various cartooning/Islam ram-like headbutting from the last few years.

* here's a report from a participant in a journalism conference preceded by a special session on the Danish cartoons. Various ironies are noted.
 
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Hearing Ordered On Irfan Hussein Case

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The father of the late Indian cartoonist Irfan Hussein has won the right to a hearing on his petition that the facts of his son's death nine years ago be investigated. If I understand the article correctly, the petition asserts that the young men gathered and then later absolved in the carjacking and murder of the political cartoonist were stand-ins obscuring the real events of the murder, which the petition further asserts was based on politically motivated youth seeking to punish Hussein for some of his work on the subject of Bal Thackeray (maybe or maybe not including the above).

Hussein died in 1999.
 
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Convicted Former Retailer Ron Castree Loses Lesley Molseed Murder Appeal

The one-time comics retailer and back-issues dealer Ronald Castree has lost leave to appeal a 30-year sentence he received for the 1975 murder of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed. He was convicted in November 2007 for the long-ago case, famous in Great Britain for its one-time conviction and subsequent DNA-based evidence that absolved Stefan Kiszko, who died soon after release.
 
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Go, Look: Superman/McCay Visuals

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Go, Read: Woody Woodpecker In Dell's "Evil Genius," By John Stanley

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* a freelance cartoonist named Jim Hope has lost his gig due to claims of plagiarism over a similar cartoon by Nate Peeler. I'm sure there's a ton of material out there about this if you want to go look, but I'm not certain there's a lot to discuss. I'm probably as sympathetic as anyone out there to the concept of two people telling the same joke, and I think it happens a lot more frequently than people want to say it does, but the structure of the picture and the phrasing here is close enough that I don't think I'd want to work with the second cartoonist again, either.

* here's a summary article in English on the Sine situation at Charlie Hebdo: "I would rather cut off my balls" is going to be my way to refuse anything and everything from now on, down to and including passing the salt at dinner.

image* this well-traveled link of unflattering moments from autobiographical comics is worth your time, well-selected and well-presented. I think there needs to be a re-appreciation of Jim Woodring's Jim comics, pronto.

* Mo Willems, Radio Cartoonist

* this post by Heidi MacDonald at her The Beat allowed some things to click in place for me: the reason I may be so disinterested in the Hollywood portion of Comic-Con International is that it's almost all about trailers and marketing; the comics side has some anticipatory news, but it also has the art itself. If the entire comics part of that show were nothing but those weird Marvel and DC panels where editors and marketing people and certain creators being glared at by them talk in vague terms about their future plans for the Paladin and Blue Devil or whatever, I wouldn't enjoy the comics side of things very much, either.

* "... cartoonist Ralph Steadman singing about cannibalism..."

* I found this story about Parkinson's disease making it so a cartoonist can no longer draw very sad.

* I'm not sure if this was covered earlier and I just forgot, but Jamie Quail, the studio and publicity coordinator at Drawn and Quarterly, sent out a brief note on Friday saying she was leaving the company. Her last day is today: "I'm writing to let you all know that my last day at Drawn & Quarterly will be this Wednesday, July 30th. After some very inspirational four years here, I am moving away from Montreal to work on an MFA in visual arts.

"I couldn't have been more lucky than to have had the opportunity to work with you all -- artists, distributors, journalists, organizers at various cultural institutions, translators, book-sellers, and everyone in between -- and I'd like to thank you for all of your work, which has made this such a rewarding experience."

I don't know as of this writing (it's the middle of the night) if the company is going to bring someone else on board or move folks around or both, and as I recall the late summer is their typical vacations period so maybe we won't know until Fall. Jamie was a very nice person with whom to work, and this site wishes her all the best.

* I felt bad about having no links in my post yesterday about Comic-Con International 2008, so I went back and added a bunch. I also added about 8-10 new comments.

* finally, is this the greatest San Diego Con photo ever?
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Chris Sprouse!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
On Inking
Cliff Chiang's SDCC Sketches
Jim Lee Draws The Watchmen

History
On Reg Carter

Industry
And Could It Kill It Faster, Please?
She Doesn't Care About The Eisner Awards

Interviews/Profiles
Wired: R. Stevens
AV Club: Jules Feiffer
Newsday: Eddie Campbell

Reviews
Tucker Stone: Various
Rob Clough: Neverland
Don MacPherson: Various
Paul O'Brien: X-Men #500
Derik A Badman: Metronome
Craig Fischer: After The Snooter
Sean Kleefeld: Dead Man Holiday
Richard Bruton: Anna Mercury #2
Johanna Draper Carlson: Yotsuba&!
Sean T. Collins: Cold Heat Special #5
Richard Bruton: Astonishing X-Men #25
Cory Doctorow: Too Cool To Be Forgotten
 

 
Go, Look: Drew Friedman Draws President Bush as Joker For Vanity Fair

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posted 2:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
July 29, 2008


BWS: Work For Hire is "A Legal But Unethical Instrument Designed to Rape and Plunder Young Talents"

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posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In SF, I'd Go To This

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posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Chicago, I'd Go To This

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posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
The First Great American Pop Culture Con -- 50-Plus Thoughts on CCI 2008!

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By Tom Spurgeon

This is the first in a series of articles driven by coverage of Comic-Con International 2008, held over the July 24 to July 27 weekend in San Diego, California. It should be joined by week's end by an ongoing "collective memory" of links, a stand-alone news article or two, and some photos. I hope to eventually do an interview with someone at CCI once they find their sea legs and get some official attendance figures.

"You know, if they had put Fae Desmond in charge of post-Katrina New Orleans, that whole region would be back on its feet by now."

* my primary memory of the just-completed Comic-Con International 2008 is the sense of admiration most expressed for how relatively easily the convention unfolds. CCI is a massive undertaking, and while I'm certain several people encountered major obstacles and others severe disappointments, for most people -- including every single person I spoke to -- the convention ran smoothly. The detail work was good, too. The aisles were noticeably clearer; bringing security out into major traffic flow points helped; even the temperature of the hall was generally amenable to most people. Even the people with whom I spoke that complained about specific things tended to absolve the Comic-Con staff of any significant role in their personal misfortune.

* the other general feeling I got from the show was a sense of comics mentally circling an event that after several years of explosive growth has now settled into its post-Hollywood Invasion form. For the first time in a while, people spoke to me in terms of recent continuity, asserting that this year's show was more like last year's show than last year's show was like the show from the year before that. In short: people know what CCI is at this moment in time; they now have to figure out how to use it.

* one thing it is is not theirs, not all of it, and not anymore. You could almost hear the older attendees coming to this conclusion during the weekend.

* and this may just be my age, but I also heard a lot about coping mechanisms. There seemed to be two general strategies in terms of how to deal with the show's full-court press of events and coverage: people coming in and staying only 36 to 48 hours, and people building some time on each end of the show to reduce the severity of its impact. Going for the length of the show, and working full-bore Wednesday noon until Sunday night and then leaving, that seemed to be the thing to avoid.

* it's also worth noting that what's changed about the show has a lot to do with shape of the culture that surrounds it. For instance, my own trip began in Tucson on Thursday morning, where that afternoon I saw Hellboy 2 at a mall, bought some comic books and drove past an In-And-Out. The point: it was a lot like an afternoon in San Diego. For those of us that grew up in the 1980s, conventions were a place you went to find all the comics that your store might not carry, as well as to live in a world where these things were the primary order of business for everyone on hand. Now you can get almost everything from your shop or on-line, and you can spend as much time as you want on-line in the same kind of atmosphere of fellow-traveling you used to only get in a convention hall. This has changed the emphasis. From a business standpoint, for instance, I have to figure that for most publishers this is a marketing event and not a retail event. Even those exhibitors with a significant retail operation seem to offer exclusives or con-only or handmade material as much as the stuff that can be obtained anywhere.

* I suspect that the next few years for many publishers will be about maximizing the marketing aspects -- figuring out why Darwyn Cooke's Wednesday night announcement he was working on adaptations of Donald Westlake's Parker novels hit with people while other announcements by other publishers didn't and what if anything is replicable from the positive ones -- and also reinforcing the talent relations aspect, as in being on hand to support the talent that wants to go and have these experiences at such a show. I think supporting and interacting with talent is a more important function of such shows than anyone realizes. In other words, it will be more about carving out space than co-existing with other aspects of the show. People won't hit as many parties; they'll escape to do something with friends or fellow travelers. When this initial Hollywood period ends next year or the year after that and becomes an ingrained fact of the show, comics people won't want to go to those parties nor will they be invited; attending one will be a lark like it used to be for an alt-comics person to crash the DC or Marvel shindig.

* this may not go in this section as well as I want it to, but I have to ask: did anyone notice that the security seemed younger and better groomed than previous years? Maybe I'm just getting older, but the security folks as a group used to look like a crowd shot from Matewan; this year they looked like a mix of working class folk, college kids, and young people with first jobs.

"People at my hotel are asking me if we're moving; they really, really don't want the show to move."

* on the way into the show from the airport, the local radio station in the cab had a long feature on the possibility that Comic-Con might move somewhere else when its next lease is up 2012. That's a theme that continued to manifest itself all weekend.

* the basic hook of the radio piece was "Comic-Con Sold Out: Good Thing... or a Bad Thing?" I hadn't realized it when this idea developed, but that is a pretty terrific hook, so it's no surprise that a lot of the press coverage picked up on it.

* I personally hope the show doesn't move, and I say that as one with significant love for frequently-cited potential future destination Las Vegas and with nothing against Anaheim. I just think both cities are bad matches for the show, and even if they became good matches neither place is as nice as San Diego as a destination to spend four days looking at comic books and related pop culture stuff. I have to imagine that energy utilized arguing on behalf of Las Vegas could be better spent elsewhere. San Diego is awesome, and as the con changes in the next dozen years, its setting will be just as important as its location.

* then again, it's not about what I personally like. I'm also certain the decision will be made based on factors that have nothing to do with the convention making sure Mr. Guy From A Messageboard has the best shot at an $89 hotel room, even though that's how it's almost always discussed.

* I don't think they're moving.

* or let me put it like this: any factors by which they would decide to move haven't nudged themselves into existence yet and anybody who suggests otherwise is projecting and/or guessing. 2010 is a long way off, and 2012 even longer.

* speaking of cheap hotel rooms, I stayed at the Bristol, a sturdy establishment of the kind no one talks about. It's just across the street from Broadway and its Westin-Westin-Sofia-Westgate-US Grant core group of hotels. What used to be a publisher and professional hub is more of an attendee repository at this point, but I always liked that whole group of hotels: close enough for walking, far enough away people on the floor don't ask to use your restroom.

* except for its boutique-style lobby, $10-$25 entree restaurant and its frequently wide-open computer, the Bristol reminded me of the kind of mid-20th century big-city hotel where a dad in the 1970s might take a child on the way to some sort of business or event, the kind of place where you'd have steak and eggs for breakfast while wearing a tie, pour water down the mail slot when your pop was sleeping and accidentally break the thermostat without telling anyone. I liked it just fine, and would be happy to stay there again.

* as equally ridiculous and even more myopic as the thought that the convention will make their decisions based on what best suits the needs of hardcore internet-posting fans has been the outcry from some fans that feel that San Diego doesn't love the convention enough.

* this may be more hopeful than perceptive, but I'd maintain that the city will show love (or not) for the convention in ways that don't have anything to do with whether or not you feel like the hotel staff thinks you're cool. I'm not certain why conventioneers need love and admiration with their pleasantly delivered and affordable services, and everyone I've dealt with in San Diego the last five years has been kind and solicitous and, best of all, pretty competent in what they do. I think they desire our business a lot, which is better than being loved because I want to do business there, not be loved. I don't care if the hotel clerk thinks I'm a fat dork as long as they get my wake-up call right, I really don't.

"Are you telling me this is the first day you've been here?"

* downtown San Diego has the surprised look on its face of an urban neighborhood slapped across the jaw by this new downturn in economic fortune. The visible trickle of blood only mars in a slight way the general health and beauty of the place. It is full of female joggers, aged 25-30, sporting sleek ponytails and a confused expression on their faces over the number of people crowding their sidewalks.

* the rule is that you see one comics professional the first time you head to the convention center, before you get to Ralphs. This year I saw Steve Rude seated in that deli area at the edge of Horton Plaza, the one that does a nice job doing sidewalk advertising to bring in Comic-Con guests.

* the other rule is that you see one person you know before you register. For the last few years I've seen Marc Mason of Comics Waiting Room the first thing at the convention, and I have no idea why that is. He was sporting a lot of hair. Because it's the convention it is now as opposed to the one from five or ten years ago, I never saw Marc again. I didn't see a lot of my fellow on-line writers-about-comics, mostly I think because I wasn't on a journalism-related panel.

* yet another rule of mine is you see one guy in a man-skirt between Ralphs and convention center proper, but this seems to only apply to me. Seriously: like five years in a row now. I would totally take on another rule if it meant fewer kilts.

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* if there's anything more comforting and pleasing and edifying to the spinner rack part of your soul than seeing Mario, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez at a signing together -- with Natalia Hernandez! -- I don't know what it is. My friends and I make jokes that everything always comes back to the Hernandez Brothers, but it does.

* in general, there seemed to be a lot of booths where it was just a group of artists sharing a booth, as opposed to a formal publishing effort as the organizing principle. I think this may be an even more important set-up concept in the future as publishers try to figure out how best to use the show.

* there were also booths (and I guess panels) that were not comics and not related to the kind of fantasy genres that people tend to associate with comics. A presence for the show The Office was probably the most notable of these. I have no idea what this means, but it was sort of interesting.

* other than the exact mix of publishers, the loss of the curtained-off Eros Comix booth (it hasn't been around for about a half-decade) and the presence of the National Cartoonists Society, the alt-comics area of the show looked much the same as it did a dozen years ago. It was anchored by folks like Tom Devlin, Dan Nadel, Alvin Buenaventura and Jason T. Miles; not exactly a changing of the guard but a mix of older and newer industry folk.

* no Eric Reynolds made a lot of folks sad, but he has the best reason for not attending -- a new kid -- and who isn't happy for someone with a reason like that?

* among the many comics people at the show I'd never seen before I got to meet Lynda Barry, whom I found to be intense and extremely excited to be there and look at all the sights; Rick Marshall, late of Wizard and now of ComicMix, for about 2.3 seconds; Nick Abadzis, extremely charming and likable in person with an even more likable and charming spouse (they managed to find good Dominican in the Gaslamp); Tim Sievert of Top Shelf's next generation; the Australian publisher Daren White; Andy Kuhn, who was selling drawings onto airplane barf bags of various characters vomiting; Gary Spencer Millidge, who looked serene; the writers Jai Nitz and Michael Sangiacomo; the discovery of 2007's show Jon Vermilyea; Ted Adams and Dean Mullaney at IDW; the writer/artist Dan Hipp; Lelands Purvis and Myrick; Faith Erin Hicks, whom I think works at First Second and publishes through SLG; JK Parkin of Blog@Newsarama and Lea Hernandez, the only person into whom I've ever physically bumped at the show and actually wanted to meet. There were tons more.

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* among the many comics people at the show I enjoyed seeing once again were Joel Meadows, the British journalist I've seen at just about every show since the mid-1990s; the writer Ian Boothby and artist Pia Guerra; the writers Ed Brubaker, Joe Casey, Steven T. Seagle, Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick; the artist Justin Norman, one of my favorite people in comics; the retailer/prominent blogger Chris Butcher; artist Rutu Modan and the artist Yirmi Pinkus; Top Shelf gurus Brett Warnock and Chris Staros, the editor, publisher and writer Jim Ottaviani, Kim Thompson and Lynn Emmert; Jackie Estrada and Batton Lash (to wave at a dozen times); cartoonists like Eddie Campbell, Alex Robinson, Adrian Tomine, Ted Stearn, Zak Sally, Dash Shaw, John Pham, Jordan Crane, Johnny Ryan, James Kochalka, Kim Deitch, Lauren Weinstein, and Paul Karasik; fellow bloggers like Heidi MacDonald (plus one), Kevin Church and Laura Hudson. It's still a great show at which to shmooze, with a high concentration of left coasties.

* the cartoonist Gary Spencer Millidge mentioned that as soon as he clears room in his schedule and saves up the money required to make it happen, there's one more trade paperback's worth of Strangehaven to be done, which will give the self-published titles a shot at one of those 600-page jaw-dropping collections.

* the editor and artist's representative Denis Kitchen reports that he just turned in the manuscript for the forthcoming Harvey Kurtzman book.

"That's more people than I've ever had at a panel. Seriously, dude. Ever."


* a lot of people spoke well about the general attendance at and enthusiasm for the better comics-related panels. The signings were well-attended, too, particularly for older cartoonists with a built-in fan base. I mean, duh, but it's worth noting that people were going to have specific things signed or to meet specific cartoonists. I always get the sense at some shows and at conventions where stuff is free, that people are lined up just to line up.

* people were especially effusive in their praise of Lynda Barry's spotlight.

* the great Jim Woodring did a signing on Thursday that was so well attended that convention security approached Fantagraphics to help them with the line. Jim noted he hadn't been to CCI in about five or even ten years, and it was noted by several people on his behalf -- frequently sighing while doing so -- that he's no longer really doing comics anymore, and that a planned Ignatz book featuring Frank probably won't happen. His painting work is reportedly as impressive as one would think.

image* with fewer artists on hand, which makes sense given the size of their catalog, the Drawn & Quarterly signings were steady and well-attended throughout. The beatific look on people's faces as they got to meet and interact with Lynda Barry was a real treat to see.

* the comics panels I attended or walked by seemed totally freaking packed, or at least very well attended, with the possible exception of some of the spotlight panels without a big-name attractor or artist with a reputation for being articulate. One thing that seemed to do well with audiences is panels that combined some sort of attractive concept with an artist that then made sense speaking on that project -- I know that sounds ridiculous, but I mention it because I always got the sense in the past that people went or didn't go to panels based on name and publisher recognition rather than for its topic.

* one such panel was a panel on getting into the graphic novels business with Larry Young and, reportedly, half the people on his Rolodex. Larry has proselytized in the past on the attractiveness of the graphic novel as a publishing format, so it makes sense that people might want to hear what he has to say about that format right now. I spoke to Young; he showed me photos of his kid and noted that next Spring marks the tenth anniversary of his publishing company.

* for all you parents out there, here's a tip: Young says he and Mimi Rosenheim took their kid to a baseball game to judge how he'd handle the convention crowds.

* I moderated one panel about The World of Graphic Novels on Friday afternoon. Alex Robinson, Nick Abadzis, Eddie Campbell, Rutu Modan and Adrian Tomine. As I joked too many times for it to be funny, it was one of those panels where they put a bunch of smart guests together with a generic title and you have no idea what the audience may be looking for. It was a good panel with a lot of back and forth between the participants, which is rarer than you might think, and several smart questions.

* although in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have asked for the question from the guy dressed as Robin. Apparently, there's a great divide in the comics world between alternative comics and hero books.

* there was a question at the panel to Adrian Tomine that might have been the most adorable question I ever heard, something along the lines of "what advice do you have for a young artist that also wears glasses that's not sure high school will ever end?" Adrian's answer, that a lot of art directors are like the teacher that was bringing down this young artist, was really funny, too.

* back to the Boy Wonder: there was an army of people dressed as Robin at this show. I'm not kidding you. Either that, or I have some sort of connection to the character that make me see him everywhere. Either option is slightly depressing.

* costumes in general: an army of Jokers, a lot of super-professional looking costumes, a lot of skin, a lot of manga/anime I didn't know, and every single part ever played by Johnny Depp, including Sweeney Todd, Edward Scissorhands and Hunter S. Thompson. Seriously, there was a dude that had a cigarette holder and a fake bald head and everything. Ten years ago, people only dressed up like Hunter Thompson chemically.

* all that said, I'll never understand the costume impulse.

* the writer Pam Noles approached me on late Friday afternoon to tell me they were laughing with me instead of laughing at me. I guess this was intended as comfort, but since I didn't know anyone was laughing at all I was immediately concerned.

"I could have been at a party with Seth Rogen instead of going to this."


* no one believed me when I told them, but the Eisners were of a reasonable length for one of those evenings. According to my $5 Wal-Mart watch, they ran about 2:50 after starting late.

* the fact that so many people treated the ceremony as if it were a four and a half hour show is probably the most telling sign in terms of how it was received by a lot of people. Since I just sensed Jackie Estrada opening up a new browser window to e-mail me that a lot of people greatly enjoyed the show, I will say that I am certain many people did. Just nobody I spoke to.

* and that's too bad, because it was a not-bad show in some ways, one that primarily suffered by coming after last year's confluence of good fortune and funny presenters and guys smooching that will likely be the standard for years to come. There were several funny moments in 2008, the winners were a mix of old favorites (The Goon) and pleasant surprises (Laika), and I've never seen so many drink tickets. Samuel L. Jackson showed up, which is kind of astonishing if you think about it. You can't help but love an awards program where Shaft gives out some awards and Len Wein gives out others.

* by the way, Jackson both pronounced everything correctly (not that he's a mushmouth but comics people have strange names; they need to either rehearse or provide phonetic spellings. I laughed every time they said "Mo-May") and noticed how long it took for people to get to the stage, without anything to fill the time, by doing shtick about it.

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* one of the problems with the show's length may have been the frightening number of categories; my table expressed bafflement at a category called "Special Recognition," with one person concluding that was the award where they put the five books released last year that somehow didn't make it into any other category (I was later told it was the old "Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition" category with the name change so that the losers didn't seem less "deserving" -- which is, of course, insane).

* another problem were visual cues that made things seem longer even if they really didn't add much time to the overall length. For instance, they named all the nominees and all the finalists for the Spirit of Retailing award and probably could have mentioned the latter group only once.

* that collective stomach ache you sensed on Friday night was the reaction to Jane Wiedlin's bizarre presenter stint: at first it looked like she was pulling a George Jones, which actually would have been cool, but then she hit the stage with a groaner of a set piece way too indulgent of her level of celebrity and displayed ability to entertain and, worse, failed to bring the goods and generally set comedy back several decades. I'm not at the point where I'm nostalgic for Snakes on a Plane jokes, and I hope to god I never will be. It was amateurish and awful.

* although I have to say, when Wiedlin was on stage with all those Stormtroopers announcing the Journalism category, I immediately stopped rooting for myself and started rooting for Gary Groth and The Comics Journal. Gary standing in front of a line of Star Wars characters would have been my screen saver for the next 10 years.

* unfortunately, we both lost to Matt Brady and Newsarama. I mean unfortunate for my chance at this year's Christmas Card photo; I'm happy Matt won, to be honest with you. That guy -- and Jonah Weiland of CBR -- get way too much shit from people, most of whom are criticizing them from the vantage point of an imaginary perfect comics publication as opposed to one that exists in the real world. I don't like everything they do, but I like a lot of it, and respect the effort. So good for Matt.

image* by the way, as much grief as Gary Groth gets at times, he was the classiest dude at the Eisners. Gary accepted three awards for people and -- GASP! -- had actually solicited a written response from each of them to read to the audience as opposed to getting up there and mumbling and shrugging his shoulders the way so many people do when accepting for someone. Gary wore a coat -- I thought coat and tie, but photos I've seen since say coat-only. I'm still not sure why people that make six-figure salaries that aren't artists decide to forgo a suit like they're so many surly teenagers going to Sunday morning church service. Trust me, guys: you don't look cool, you look like a self-hating douchebag. Gary also always spoke in terms of the privilege of working with the artists in question. He was terrific, and made me feel good about working in comics.

* my point is, when a professional agitator like Gary is the classiest, most reverential guy in the room, you know comics has some issues.

* does anyone else think of John McEnroe when they see Gary operate in public?

* this year will be remembered in part as the year in which multiple Eisners went to Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, who responded with a passion and excitement that really raised everyone's estimation of the awards' potential meaning, and, to be honest, made some people a bit more cognizant of the fact that some people were getting awards for their life's work from a lady with a bunch of Stormtroopers and that others didn't have their names pronounced correctly. Moon and Ba even brandished their Eisner awards at their exhibition hall table the next day in intimidating fashion. They were great.

* a good thing was that everyone who was at the show and won was I believe on hand to accept, which hasn't always been the case in the past.

* I couldn't for the life of me tell you a single thing Frank Miller said in his keynote address. I was kind of hoping he'd come out with a computer linked to Wizard.com and cut it in half with a chainsaw.

* there were some bizarre acceptance speeches and a few noteworthy ones.
* Brad Meltzer's declaration that the San Diego Convention is about heroes seemed sincere but is just the kind of arrogant my-comics-only view of the medium that rightly aggravates the shit out of people.

* A lot of folks in my immediate circle commented about the anger simmering beneath the surface in some of the acceptance speeches along the lines of, "I really do have value and the world that hated on me can suck it."

* James Jean should have the job of calming crowds in crisis situations -- that's one placid dude.

* Archie Goodwin's widow Anne T. Murphy slammed unscrupulous publishers that produce material from dead artists and choose not to deal with the families of those artists, legally allowable or not. A lot of people felt that speech was brave.

* Paul Karasik's acceptance was dry as a bone and amusing, even slightly provocative in just the way an artist can be in accepting an award.

* Kim Thompson was funny.

* The best speech of the night a thank-you read by Gary Groth from new Hall of Famer Barry Windsor-Smith that slammed the work for hire contract and the general exploitation on which so much of the industry is built. BWS should be in the hall of fame of comics-event speeches, too.
I'm sure I'm forgetting a few.

* it may be worth noting Dan Clowes and Chris Ware won awards for their comics work (as opposed to a craft element), in the first time in the same year for I think many years.

* one win that made me happy was James Sturm and Rich Tommaso's Satchel Paige winning an award, because Rich deserves something like that. Ditto Nick Abadzis and Laika winning for teen book. Nick seemed to be the most surprised and delighted guy in the room.

* I mean surprised in a good way.

* one of the nice things about the after-awards cocktail hour was seeing both Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction -- current X-Men writers -- walk up to Paul Karasik on their own, separate volition and thank him for City of Glass.

* I like the Eisners, I really do, but its quirks feel more like liabilities with each passing year.

"I used to not mind the Hollywood people, but now I hate them. I hate them."


* I haven't seen an Inkpots list yet, but I know that they were given to at least Ed Brubaker and Ralph Bakshi. Those are the recognition awards from the con itself. Bakshi seemed delighted by his, and Brubaker noted that it was odd to receive one as he was once a local kid that attended the shows a lot earlier in his life than many of his peers.0

* the special prize for attending Whitney Matheson's Pop Candy meet-up was a small mini-comic of Twitter comments illustrated by some of her cartoonist readers. The reader who wrote into this site suggesting that Matheson might be giving away a "Pop Candy Assisted Suicide Machine" owes me $20 for the liquid I spit on my keyboard. I don't even know what that means, but it's funny. I met Matheson for the first time; she was very nice, and quite popular.

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* a few other folks I bumped into were Brendan Burford, who extolled the virtues of health-booster Airborne and spending time on the water after getting sick on last year's flight out and mentioned that the Random House iteration of his Syncopated anthology was announced; Ben Schwartz, who was off to seek history-of-comics information from Robert Beerbohm; and Conrad Groth, who is really tall now and made me feel quite old. I also saw Tom King and Jeanette Moreno. I'm forgetting a billion people.

* Dean Mullaney was walking around with a few air-shipped copies of the forthcoming Noel Sickles book. The amount of material they found from Sickles' non-comic strips career seems like it will make the book a lot of fun. Mullaney also included strips on either side of Sickles' involvement with Scorchy Smith, which I thought was a nice touch.

* the book of the show was really Watchmen, if you were being honest about it. Nothing else came close. Everyone I talked to that brought copies of Watchmen at the show sold out, and the Owl Ship prop was being talked about by people you never thought you'd hear talk about a movie prop.

* as for other books I heard people talk about, a lot of people were excited about the Tori Amos anthology, there was a cool limited edition Darwyn Cooke book that Brett Warnock showed me that was quite lovely. Fantagraphics sold out of the new Los Bros Hernandez Love and Rockets volume by Saturday afternoon and the Ditko book did well; Drawn and Quarterly debuted four books including this one, and they all seemed to do pretty well; Alvin Buenaventura mentioned in passing that Matt Furie's Boys Club #2 was selling really well, and Dan Nadel said that Lauren Weinstein's presence was helping move copies of the first issue of Goddess of War. About four people mentioned going over to track down a Last Gasp book called Tokyo Zombies. A release of Scott Pilgrim material -- I'm not exactly sure what or in what form or maybe this was a rumor or maybe they just meant the cover image [added later: no, there was a book of material] -- from Bryan Lee O'Malley had a lot of folks talking, too.

* according to the latest Tripwire, I am the 25th most powerful person in comics. My older brother had to pull over to finish laughing when I mentioned that to him this morning. I am using my comics powers to give him nothing but papercuts the next time he reads a funnybook.

* as far as back issues and the like, it seemed like less of one strategy being applied -- say, discounted comics -- and more like a panoply of approaches being trotted out. I bought discounted 1970s comics, naturally.

image* by the way, I hope someone out there in the Time Warner neighborhood of Hollywoodland realizes that DC's Blade -- a character that could make a good, hit movie with a few cosmetic and surface changes -- is Deadman. You don't have to use the costume; Blade didn't have a giant 'fro and pirate boots in his movie, either. But a dead guy possessing people in order to solve his own murder mystery? Gold. Plus you can get a bigger star because you can go older with that character than with a lot of superheroes.

* its Iron Man is Green Lantern, in case there was any question. Tell me "fighter pilot turns space cop with magic ring" isn't just as good as "billionaire playboy builds mechanized suit" when it comes to visually appealing, easy to understand, wish-fulfillment concepts.

* the con badges were better this year, but they could still use some work. That SDCC icon is effective enough to be read at much smaller size, and the names should be bigger. I'm still not a lanyard fan, either. All lanyards mean to me is that half the badges are going to be turned around.

* not comics: I woke up on Saturday at 6:15 (I have a bad habit of sleeping on top of hotel room covers and waking up freezing to death from the air conditioning) and went jogging and I was surprised to see a ton of con-goers up and about; I figured out pretty quickly why: they were getting in line for the big movie and TV panels in Hall H. One guy from a cell phone was mobilizing his entire family in their effort. It's a whole different show for some people. I watched a bit of a card-game tournament on Friday afternoon and counted about 160 people in attendance.

* I hung out a lot with Sean T. Collins, who was stringing for CBR. Apparently, when I wasn't around, he had encounters with The Nite Owl and Shirley Manson. My sole reason for hanging out with Sean is that I wanted to meet Jonah Weiland, but it didn't happen. Sean's coverage reflects a more of a working writer's snapshot of the show, so it's very different than my own.

* one element of thinking that was expressed a lot is that no one minded the Hollywood presence in terms of the booths and the fans and people living and dying according to their ability to get into their favorite TV and movie show panels, but that the number of empty suits on hands scouting for "talent" and "strong material with a unique voice" and in doing so managing to treat the whole affair as some sort of distasteful garage sale they were gracing with their awesome presence made a lot of people sick to their stomach. As one cartoonist put it, roughly: it used to be the only assholes you encountered the whole weekend were frat guys yelling something at you from a car; now you're having to stand there listening to some guy talk about the project his company just greenlit or whatever when all you want to do is walk right past this preening bozo and across the aisle to shake Al Jaffee's hand.

* I prefer to walk and I like to make jokes about the buses, but walking out of an event at 1:30 in the morning, with sore feet and a light head, and seeing a bus right there that will get you to your place in about two minutes, well, that's pretty awesome.

* one of the funniest things at the show was that on the back of the cards with the names of panelists was a warning to refrain from foul language because of the likelihood of those in the audience aged younger than 18. Good advice, but all I could think was "So who dropped multiple f-bombs at last yeaear's Nickelodeon panel?"

* one of my favorite con people, Charles Brownstein, said the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund had a fine weekend, and that their party was well-attended.

* not comics: I loved the Johnny Ryan vinyl toys I saw. Another thing I saw that was gorgeous were a group of Seth color studies for some illustration art he's done. Original art seemed to be doing okay at the show, as were art objects created just for the show, but it's been like that for a while.

image* I missed Rory Root, and a lot of people said the same thing. I didn't know Dave Stevens much at all, but a lot of people said they missed him, and a few people even mentioned to me that the convention made them think of the late Michael Turner or the late Mike Wieringo.

* the Hong Kong Nite Club was closed, making alt-comics nation two for two over the last two years. What bar will they close next?

* a lot of people I spoke to expressed something I was feeling: I wasn't always sure what I should be doing to best maximize my time. Should one treat the whole thing as a vacation? How about a vacation-with-benefits? Should one fill the day with meetings and work opportunities or focus on a few of them while leaving the rest of the day open? I think most comics people see the show pretty clearly now, and I expect the next few years will see some surprising decisions as folks answer that most basic of questions: "What am I doing here?"

* I'm told the Hyatt bars were super-packed; entreaty to maybe drink elsewhere due to the discomfort gay comics professionals had because of that establishment's owner publicly supporting legislation against gay marriage be damned. I was going to go down and check, but blew it off. No one seemed interested in talking about the effect of the economy on comics or the convention, either, even though I think whether or not there's a leveling off of growth in attendance desires due to travel costs is going to be a huge issue for what happens next with the show.

* if you're leaving San Diego on the train, it really helps to go early enough before your departure time to get in line before the line gets huge; the seating options are much greater that way. It's a great way to decompress, though, and it was $125 cheaper for me to train to LA and use LAX than to use San Diego's airport. Also, if you're lucky enough to pick up 75-100 drunk young women in party dresses heading back to Irvine from the Del Mar racetrack, the whole experience can feel like a reality TV show.

Del Mar Attendee: "If I went to Comic-Con I'd go as Mrs. Incredible."
Guy In Nightcrawler T-Shirt: "That would be... [gulps] awesome."
Del Mar Attendee: "Is that an airbrushed t-shirt? I bought an airbrushed t-shirt in Barcelona once."

* another thing I think you'll start to see more of, or at least considered, is off-site locations being used to supplement on-site goings-on. I know I've suggested this before, but people brought it up without my prompting at least a half-dozen times during the convention.

* it will take some re-thinking on the part of of people that seem to not want to miss anything for anything off-site to become popular, but I think it's inevitable that some folks try to get something like that going. Two probable areas: First, there are enough press that want to see certain events that closed circuit viewing of major TV and movie panels or something equivalent seems like it would be very popular. Second, the fact that many of the comics publishers appeal to people that don't plan to go to shows six months in advance makes me wonder if someone will try a satellite alt-comics room at the Marriott or the Hilton that both accepts con badges and from people that just want to come and buy t-shirts and get Robert Williams' autograph or whatever. CCI is locked into San Diego until 2012, which seems to me a perfect amount of time to see what can be done to make sure this iteration of the show works as well as possible. A large part of the decision as to where the show goes eventually is figuring out how best it works right now. If I were them I'd jack up the prices (at least a bit) and support my exhibitors with being as creative as possible for next year's show.

* as for me, I had a great time. Special thanks to those of you that read the site that were nice enough to come up and say so. I never know what to say in response other than "You read my site?" but it made me feel really good and I'm greatly appreciative of any time any of you spend here.

* my show ended early. I didn't see a single celebrity in an off-hand moment the entire time when I was in San Diego, for the first time since maybe 1997. On my way out of L.A.'s Union Station I looked to my right and noticed I was walking stride for stride with Adam Baldwin. For a half-second, I felt like Christopher Makepeace.

* that night I fell asleep during The Dark Knight.

*****

all photos by me, which is why they stink

Comic-Con International advertises on this site, and I'm a notoriously unethical bastard, so you may have just wasted your time


*****
*****
 
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Go, Buy: Jeremy Eaton Art Sale

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Go, Look: Richard Tommaso's Comics

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* if nothing else, this interview with Paul Pope has maybe the best Pope photo ever.

image* so a friend of mine gave me the final 12 issues of the Countdown to Final Crisis mini-series to take home with me, and I read them in the airport waiting (and waiting... and waiting...) for my plane. I hate to say this because there were several people involved in their making and this isn't a proper review, but they were really terrible. The whole thing read like some odd, cobbled-together story from the late 1990s, something that might have run in the back six pages of several annuals in a spin-off line. About the only thing that was interesting about the comics -- not good, but interesting -- is that they had a slight Rosencrantz and Guildenstern quality to them, like they were taking place in the margins of a much better story. I'm not sure if that's even fair; I had to reach for something to keep me distracted or I would have put the comics down. I sure didn't enjoy reading them. I mean, I know it's not for me, but when I imagine what I would have thought about them at the time in my life something like that was definitely for me, I think I would have just been mad. Maybe DC's serial comics sales difficulties are more easily understood than I first thought.
 
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Happy 61st Birthday, Baru!

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Happy 39th Birthday, Ted May!

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Happy 54th Birthday, Lovern Kindzierski!

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Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Eddie Campbell Appearance Report

History
1970 Comic Art Convention

Industry
NPR On The Local Comic Shop
Your Lousy Journalism Isn't Helping Me Sell Books

Interviews/Profiles
AV Club: Jeff Smith
FPI Blog: Martin Eden
AV Club: Jules Feiffer
New York: Neil Gaiman
Library Beat: Russell Lissau
North Adams Transcript: Joe Staton

Reviews
John Mitchell: Various
Don MacPherson: Zot!
Laurel Maury: Bluesman
Don MacPherson: Various
Matthew J. Brady: Glamourpuss #2
Andrew Wheeler: Swallow Me Whole
Richard Krauss: Covington Detour #1
Brian Doherty: Who Can Save Us Now?
Richard Krauss: Ten Foot Rule Jan. 2008
Brian Heater: My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down
 

 
July 28, 2008


If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Chicago, I'd Go To This

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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* the bomber that killed several Pakistani in an attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad was not a Saudi, this article says, clearing up a potential political sticking pint before rumors got worse.

* as of 7:00 AM Monday morning, I can't find a single newswire story on the supposed hearing about keeping the suspects accused of plotting the murder of Muhammed caricature-maker Kurt Westergaard in custody, which makes me think that they're still in custody, although I can't really know for sure.

* making the distinction between publishing a work to advance an argument and publishing a work simply to perpetuate the desecration of some sacred icon or object.

 
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New Abrams Comics Imprint Detailed

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Charles Kochman's new comics-related imprint at Harry N Abrams, Abrams ComicsArts, will launch in 2009 with four titles: The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle, The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite (with design by Jordan Crane and an introduction by Alison Bechdel), Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster by Craig Yoe, and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? by Brian Fies.

The standard PW announcement-style piece can be found here. As the article notes, this make formal the company's recent rich history with books of and about comics.

Kochman was recently made executive editor at Abrams, and 2009 will mark the publisher's 60th anniversary.
 
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Paul Karasik Announces Second Fletcher Hanks Collection Following Eisner Win

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The cartoonist Paul Karasik has announced a second volume collecting the works of Golden Age comic book artist Fletcher Hanks, to be titled You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation! Because of fortunate archival discoveries in the circle of collectors with whom Karasik has been working in terms of getting all the material on hand, the second volume will combine with the first to make up a "complete works" collection of the cartoonist's powerful and affecting comics. The first volume, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets, was a surprise hit for publisher Fantagraphics in 2007, leading the publisher's sales at Comic-Con International in San Diego. It won a best archival collection Eisner at this weekend's show. It is tentatively scheduled for a 2009 release.
 
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Scholastic and Jeff Smith to Extend Bone Relationship Past Volume Nine?

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Apparently, according to Scott Robins, some peripheral material will be adapted for young readers after Scholastic finishes its successful re-publication in color of Jeff Smith's fantasy comics epic. You should follow the link even though I can't from the hotel site I'm stuck using today.

cover imagery from volume six
 
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"I Like Pinching Little Babies."

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Go, Look: Barry Blitt Slideshow

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Go, Look: Felix Tannenbaum

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Neil Gaiman will write a two-part Batman story of some sort to be published in I guess 2009.

* not comics: thoughts on sword and sorcery as a literary subgenre.

* I want to go to the heaven that Gary Panter describes.

image* it's been a long, long time since I've seen a decent-sized interview with Robert Crumb, which would make this worth running through a translator at some point, I think.

* more on Muhammed Iqbal's 10-day cartooning seminar (which isn't news) in Pakistan (which makes it much more interesting news given the turmoil in the region concerning the effect of political cartoons.

* the new museum at Angouleme is now scheduled to open in June 2009 rather than a January date that one supposes was to coincide with this year's festival.

* the strip-oriented site Daily Cartoonist does another update on the status of various newspapers' comics pages, still somewhat in flux because of temporary changes made during the Doonesbury hiatus earlier this year.

* finally, here's a piece on Jerry Robinson in Editor & Publisher that gives a pretty fair summary of all his experiences with The Dark Knight.
 
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Happy 63rd Birthday, Jim Davis!

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Happy 48th Birthday, Jon J Muth!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Will Pfeifer!

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Quick hits
Nickelodeon-Owned Comics On-Line
* Mr. Meaty by Jesse Reklaw
* CatScratch by Doug Tennapel
* SpongeBob by Kaz and Sherm Cohen
* Jimmy Neutron by Stephen DeStefano
* SpongeBob and his pet snail, Gary, by James Kochalka
* Fairly OddParents by Sergio Aragones, Carl Greenblatt, and Dave Thomas
* SpongeBob's Boss Mr. Krabs and nemesis Plankton by Sam Henderson and Kazu Kibuishi
* SpongeBob Universe Superheroes by Ramona Fradon and Derek Drymon (Matt Madden coloring)
 

 
July 27, 2008


CR Sunday Interview: Blake Bell

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*****

I was happy when Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko made its way into bookshops and comic book stores this summer. It was a book I dearly wanted to read, and its author, Blake Bell, has been working on it for at least as long as this site has been in existence. The end result is an extremely tasteful art book capturing the idiosyncrasies of a surprisingly underrated craftsmen and the most insightful look to date at the motivations that fuel mainstream American comic books' grandest and most mysterious figure. I can't imagine it not being well received. It has already been the subject of a a great deal of first-rank press, so I was delighted that Bell agreed to take some time during his efforts on the book's behalf to interview with this site. He says he answered most of the questions on an airplane taking him into San Diego, and I'm grateful for this extra effort.

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Blake, my first memory of you is the book I Have To Live With This Guy! I assume you were a comics fan growing up. Can you talk in rough terms about your background and how that's intersected with comics?

BLAKE BELL: I grew up in Toronto, Canada, born in 1970, reading comics from a very early age. I felt like I had "graduated" into something bigger once I started reading the Ditko/Lee run of Spider-Man when those Pocket Books came out in the late 1970s. I dove into the "indie/alt" world of comics with Cerebus in 1987 and never looked back.

imageSPURGEON: How do you look at the I Have to Live With This Guy! experience now that you've had a few years and are in the midst of another comics-related book cycle. Is there anything you'd change about that book now?

BELL: It was the single greatest learning experience of my life -- besides raising my eight-year-old son, Luke, as a single parent -- in terms of the extraordinary discipline it took to get that book done in what was essentially November 2001 to August 2002. I contacted everyone, interviewed everyone, wrote and designed the book myself, all the while working a 9 to 5 job and being married with a child.

What would I change about the book? Almost everything. I have made a pledge that if March ever has 32 days, I'll re-write and re-design the book. I still stand by the concept as being wholly original and unique, in a field historically dominated by men, and I think I especially delivered on the content piece. We see a side of the artists in question from a perspective no one even bothered to look at. That foundation is what still pleases me about the book.

With my writing and designing skills having improved so dramatically in the past 6 years, it's now almost impossible for me to sit down and read the book. When Will Eisner passed away, I re-wrote the chapter with him and Ann and it was so much better. Far more economical, much more to the point and better organized. The good news is that this has paid off for the Ditko book.

SPURGEON: How cognizant were you of criticism that even with one reverse-gender example, that book propagated a view of defining these mostly formidable women in terms of the creative men in their lives?

BELL: There was a 300+ post thread on The Comics Journal Message Board where some alleged feminist freaked out about the concept... before ever reading the book. Apparently the person had just come from protesting The Last Temptation of Christ, but that's my only memory of an adverse reaction based on what you're mentioning. I would argue that the book is about "partnership," and not one party living in the other's shadow, especially since comic books don't cast a very long shadow. One could argue that it is the men that are defined by these women because they were mostly the ones holding everything together. And I would love to be in the company of Anne T. Murphy when someone tells her that she was wholly defined by Archie Goodwin. She was, in fact, the fulcrum of the book because it was really tracing and speaking to the social mores of the different eras. By the 1960s, women like Anne were certainly defining themselves career-wise, as did Deni Loubert and Melinda Gebbie, all the way through to Jackie Estrada. Her chapter goes quite a ways before Batton Lash even shows up. Plus Melinda and Eddie Sedarbaum make two "kinda" reverse gender examples, don't they?

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SPURGEON: At what point did you first personally encounter Steve Ditko? When did that issue begin to coalesce into the idea of a book?

BELL: His co-publisher, Robin Snyder, was on an internet Ditko discussion group that I joined -- which really started my entry into fandom back in 1997 -- and I kept hounding him to let me start up a web site for them. At the time I was delving into Objectivism through Ditko's work and Rand's novels, so certain behaviors exhibited by me had their camp believing I was someone they could trust not to undermine them with the site. They accepted the offer and it debuted on Independence Day, July 4th, 2001. Up until then and only in the month or two prior had I sent a letter to Ditko and received a reply. We exchanged a few letters during the time the web site was up, but working on the site was all done with Robin.

Unfortunately, there lay a ticking time bomb beneath us all, thanks to the Comic Book Artist #14 historical fiction piece on Steve and Wally Wood that I had done -- and had vetted through two of Wally's peers -- before the web site offer was accepted. Ditko read it and thought it took too many liberties and objected to being portrayed in such a fashion, so they asked the web site to be pulled down for good. I actually received a check from Robin Snyder dated September 11th, 2001, refunding me for the subscription to his The Comics fanzine, and they've refused to allow me to buy their product ever since.

Fast forward to November when I was in New York to interview Anne T. Murphy and I went to Ditko's studio to apologize for how the CBA #14 piece had landed with him. We actually had a great conversation and he said it was "all in the past." That gave me comfort until I was sitting in the Ed Sullivan Theatre later that night, watching the Letterman show live and thought to myself, "Wait a minute, this is the most literal person I've ever met. Maybe he wasn't forgiving me at all, and just pointing out that 'A is A' -- that it was indeed 'all is the past.'" Still, he had shaken my hand upon leaving and put up with me for a good 20 minutes, so I took comfort in that.

That same summer, TwoMorrows and I had had discussions about doing a Ditko book as part of what is now their "Modern Masters" series, but they recanted when Ditko said to them that he didn't want to participate in such a book. I then sold Gary Groth on the idea at the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con and off we went.

SPURGEON: Am I to understand you selected the art that was used in the book? Can you talk about the art direction process, and how you worked with Greg Sadowski? What were you attempting to do with the way the book was designed in terms of showcasing Ditko's art?

BELL: Yes, I selected each piece and scanned in all but five or six of the over 300 images. The book functions on three levels. First, it's a presentation of the work itself, and for this I made what was probably a daring move. I chose what I thought were the best images out there for each period of his career, and then pursued the best quality reproductions I could find. As much as I like to look at original art, I didn't want to just accept whatever slim pickings there were of Ditko's art on the market -- a lot had been stolen, shredded, lost or horded by Ditko himself -- and run with sub-standard images just to be able to say, "Wow, look at the blue pencil lines on that piece of original art!" And that doesn't even take into account that Ditko is the Mozart of comic-book art -- his pages are extremely clean.

Second, it functions as a critique of the work. True, the best of his work could hang in museums all by themselves, but I continually get frustrated by reading comic-book art books that barely spend a paragraph deconstructing the work. That's not easy to articulate, but I find it fascinating when someone does it with an artist who has something to deconstruct. Third, it functions as a critique of his career: the choices he made and the impact it had on his work -- and ability to get work.

With regards to working with Fantagraphics, I must say that working with Greg, who copy-edited the book, was fantastically easy. The draft I gave him was 64,000 words and Gary Groth stepped in and said, "We need to get this down to 45K or it ain't gonna be an artbook at all!" Of course, I was trying to con him into giving me 270 pages and a price point of $50, but the economy for that has probably collapsed for good, especially in 2008.

But bless their souls, but they all let me go away and knock it down to 48K and I really feel that I didn't lose a thing that I wanted to say. I was really able to tighten up the writing, knocked out some repetitiveness and some hyperbole, and move some of the art criticism to the captions to help get us to 48K. From there, Greg was very good about staying away from imposing his view of Ditko or the work with regards to any suggestions on editing the text. It was really a question at that point of "tidying things up" with the language or making a point clearer in instances where I couldn't see the forest through the trees, if you will.

Working with Adam Grano, the designer, was also a dream. I tried to be really proactive and gave him a 35-page document that listed each image by file name, size, caption, etc. and the order I wanted them in each chapter. He went away and laid out a great foundation for the book, and then I went back at them with three pages of changes I wanted to see -- Gary now keeps a defibrillator in the office -- and then Adam was wonderfully accommodating when I went back and forth with him over exactly how I wanted to see it, only stepping in when he thought it would really affect the technical aspects of the design of the book. It was especially gratifying to see Chapter Three come out as it did, because that's my favorite era, and I really had a picture in mind of what I wanted, or at least the limits that I could live with, and we nailed it.

Based on this experience, I really can't complement Gary, Adam and everyone at Fantagraphics enough. I had a vision for this book from 2002, regarding the visuals and the text, and they could have put the hammer down on me in many instances, but they were wonderfully accommodating. I think this is also due to the fact that we all understood what would make a great book and were open to ideas in the regard. Here are two "tit-for-tat" examples:

First, when I got the first design by Adam back, they had really bled a ton of the full pages. They were able to convince me of the value of this, and I was able to convince them to pull back on about 14 of the full bleeds, as I argued that it impacted what I was trying to show with regards to Ditko's ability to take into account all the elements of the page working in unison, rather than just within each panel. They could have told me to go to hell, and say what did I know about designing a book, but they listened, and I did too. Good communication produces a good book. Houda thunk it?

Second, all credit to Adam for coming across as someone who never let ego get in the way of producing a great book. That first design had the "Stretching Things" story at the start of the book sitting on white pages. I looked at it, thought it looked a little dead on the page, so I suggested to him that he should change the background to black and let the blacks on the comic pages blend into the black background, and then make the endnotes have the same black background to book-end that idea. Again, another big suggestion, but we worked together and I know can't even imagine the book without that black opening and closing.

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SPURGEON: You mention a favorite period... Is there any period of his work that you feel is under-appreciated? I'm a great fan of his wash work for the Warren magazines, for instance.

BELL: I love those five-page pre-hero stories that he did for Marvel, but specifically in 1960-61 where he seemed to be channeling John Severin's inking style. The work was so tight, so well executed, so brilliantly haunting and so uniquely Ditko in the sense that all the stories seem to focus on these loner characters trying to find their way in a world that doesn't quite understand them. These stood in stark contrast to the Kirby Monster stories that always had some guy trying to impress some girl or the rest of the "collective." And yes, the great thing about an artist like Ditko is everyone can have a favorite "era" like you mention with his Warren work. Between the pre-Code work in 1954, that fantastic Charlton work in 1957, the pre-hero Marvel work, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Warren, Mr. A... well, you can see why a book is so deserving.

I think Ditko's humor work, on books like Konga, is under-appreciated. I don't think enough credit is given to just how revolutionary those early Mr. A stories are. They were so far ahead of their time, and so against the grain of their time.

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SPURGEON: Blake, was Strange and Stranger always intended for Fantagraphics? I seem to remember it having a life before it ended up there.

BELL: Only for a few seconds was it considered for TwoMorrows and, ironically, had Brett Warnock had his way, Top Shelf would have snagged it because I came to the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con with the expressed interest in getting a publisher for the book, and Brett and I discussed it on the Wednesday night, but Gary really ran with it after he saw the response to my Art of Steve Ditko panel at the show, whereas Brett had trouble convincing his partner Chris Staros to venture off their beaten path and focus on the past rather than on the now. You couldn't lose working with either company.

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SPURGEON: Why did it take so long to get done?

BELL: 2004 and 2006 were a wipe out with family- and job-related concerns, plus we tried way too hard to push it out for June 2003 and were really going down the wrong conceptual path, so that didn't help. The book was really rolling in late 2003, the latter half of 2005, and then September 2007 to present.

Putting aside the two lost years mentioned above, I did learn a valuable lesson that all prospective authors should hear. Unless you're one of the guaranteed top sellers in this business, don't expect a publisher to drive the agenda of getting your book done. You have to drive that agenda, and that means not waiting around for responses (but also not badgering -- it's all about the balance) and setting benchmarks and then delivering on them, and finding win/win solutions, rather than just whining about not being paid enough attention. I believe that Gary still wants to do business with me because he knows he can trust that I "get it" and that I'm reasonable and work towards those win/wins, which are all about producing the best book, instead time being consumed by overwrought egos.

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SPURGEON: Your biographical information on Ditko's early life is brief, but contains a lot of interesting anecdotal material. What would you have a fan of Ditko's work take away from his early life in terms of a thing or two that might give them insight into the shape and form of his art? What is important to know about Ditko's early life if we're to understand Ditko?

BELL: His choices of influences from such an early age and his strict devotion to becoming what he set out to be: a comic-book artist that lets the work speak for itself. He clearly has never had an interest in "celebrity" and look at the amount of work that his ethic/belief system has produced. Alan Moore said it best once: that Ditko's DNA is so stamped on all his work that the work tells you more about the man than the man could tell you about his work.

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SPURGEON: You repeat the information from a fanzine interview where Stan Lee admits that Dr. Strange was Ditko's idea, which you reinforce with clues from the text that Lee was not as heavily involved -- his touch was missing. You talk some about how Ditko supported the work with research around the city, but what do you think the impetus was in creating that character? Of all the characters he could have contributed to that degree, what was it about Dr. Strange that you think drove Ditko to make that character his creation?

BELL: It's difficult to pin much specific down to Ditko's original impetus because the strip changed so much in scope once Ditko took him into different dimensions (besides the Nightmare world, which was more about going into dreams). What you do see over the course of the strip, as the most likely impetus if there was one, was another loner character, another devout hero, destined to live unacknowledged, saving the world time and time again, living in and between dimensions belonging to neither. Much like Peter Parker's transformation over the course of the strip resembles Ditko's own transformation, I think Dr. Strange really represents how Ditko viewed the world and the ultimate act of a hero: to go unacknowledged but still consistently make positive choices that a hero would without a second thought.

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SPURGEON: Can you talk a little bit about Ditko's relationship with Martin Goodman? You suggest that Goodman as well as Stan Lee objected to the growing influence of objectivist principle in Ditko's -- on what basis do you note that Goodman was opposed to this kind of thing seeping in? Did Ditko, like Jack Kirby, have any contact or understanding with Goodman the dissolution of which or failure of same had an effect on his leaving the company?

BELL: Ditko claims never to have met Goodman in person, but he and others were promised royalties once Marvel took off. When the TV and merchandizing money start to come about, Goodman tried to buy him off with a pay raise. One of the great moments for me in the course of putting the book together was talking to Stan Lee back in 2005. I laid out what others had said about Ditko telling them it was Goodman reneging on promised royalties that was the primary driver of forcing Ditko to leave. This sparked a memory in Stan -- you have to set Stan up for success to get that from him -- about a conversation with Ditko where Stan asked him to come back to do a final Spider-Man story. Ditko retorted, "Not til Goodman pays me the royalties he owns me!" Stan remembered this because he was perplexed as to why Goodman hadn't kept him in the loop on an issue like this, but Lee remembers Ditko's comment.

As to Goodman's concerns about Ditko's path for the book, we source it in the book so I'll put it another way: as everyone had said about Goodman, including Ditko, "whatever Goodman wanted Goodman got." Amazing Spider-Man #39 is one of the great "about faces" in all of comics history.

SPURGEON: On the one hand, you talk about Ditko using the fan press as an avenue for publication because of utilitarian reasons -- they were fast, they would accede to his demands for no interference, etc -- and suggest that he may have had nowhere else to go with some of that material, yet later you use a remarkable quote from Ditko where he seems to be suggesting that an appeal to that kind of publishing was that it put his work outside the standard avenues for discussion and examination. Which of those factors do you believe was most important in his working with that kind of publication?

BELL: I think Ditko's idea of "standard avenues" was that there were no avenues for this kind of discussion, and he -- as he always has -- not only harps on publishers for producing such irrational, anti-hero pap, but also goes after the fan for sanctioning it. I think he hoped that he'd find some kind of moral nobility amongst the fan publishers, and I'm sure there was a lot of that, but Ditko also got burned a lot by mainstream and fan publishers. Pretty sad legacy for an artist of his caliber who gave away his most personal work for free; sad that there was no mainstream publishers willing to go to the mat for it, but even sadder is how some fans took advantage of him because they truly were hypocrites and didn't live by the same rational moral code that they pretended to Ditko that they had.

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SPURGEON: I think Ditko's later material, even the flat, didactic material he did for fanzines, looks remarkable in a lot of ways, and is generally very boldly designed. Were there an artistic influence on Ditko later in life that pushed him that way? Did he continue to look at and process comics styles the way he might have as a younger man?

BELL: I don't see any indication of that. He's never mentioned any artists that he's admired since [Jerry] Robinson, [Will] Eisner, [Mort] Meskin and [Harvey] Kurtzman, and he's also derided the work of today's creators or sacrificing the hero on the altar of the "anti-hero." I think what pushed him that way later in his career was just a growing desire to push a message that was underpinned with disillusionment of the industry, the fans and the world at large around him.

SPURGEON: Given the way he improved as an artist through the prime of his career, and even accepted bold new ways of doing art later on in some of the not as well-received material, do you think he progressed as a writer at all. If so, how? If not, why?

BELL: I don't see much progression in terms of him writing dialogue. Read a piece from 1969 and another from 1999 and the diction still has the same characteristics. The longer form work, like the two graphic novels from the 1980s, Static and The Mocker, show him at his best, but nothing that showed a particular progression, as if he were to have tried a completely new way of presenting characters, or presenting his themes in a particularly new way.

SPURGEON: You argue that one of the reasons Ditko became dissatisfied with some of his publishers was that they failed to meet the standards he felt they should have in presenting his work as he intended it. Yet in the story you tell about his appearance at the convention, that element couldn't have been present, and yet he seemed completely turned off by it in a fashion similar to the way he would walk away from projects or publishers that he felt failed to meet his standards. What was it about that early convention experience that you think convinced Ditko to never go back?

BELL: Beyond just a shyness, I think it goes back to his disinterest in any notion of "celebrity." What was to be gained by going to conventions? He wanted to communicate through his work. Any extracurricular activities only delayed the next work. And then, post-Spider-Man, he would have been caged by people discussing age-old work, whereas he wanted to present his newer ideas. Let's never forget that he never wanted to be anything else but the best comic-book artist he could be. Everything else could be regard as superfluous.

imageSPURGEON: Is there any evidence out there that Randians every considered Ditko's work, or how he might be perceived in those circles?

BELL: Not a lot of writing about it, except for people citing him as being influenced by Rand. The one instance, though, was when the Rand Estate gave him carte blanche to do an adaptation of Atlas Shrugged that Mort Todd had proposed to Marvel. They knew him well enough to trust him with this heavy endeavor, but Ditko rejected it because he didn't want to be responsible for creating one likeness of the famous characters, figuring everyone had their own vision in their heads.

SPURGEON: What had a greater effect on Ditko's life, do you think, his Randian beliefs or this undercurrent that he's generally distant -- cordial, at time, but never married and not super-close to anyone of whom I'm aware -- from humanity? Certainly there are Randians with more of the public evidence of a social life than Ditko's evinced.

BELL: I don't think you can separate the two. Batton Lash once said to me that most people who discover Rand's works don't necessarily go through some heightened epiphany. They instead feel like someone's being able to put down on paper what they've been feeling their whole lives about these issues.

SPURGEON: How do you feel about the criticism leveled at your book from Geoff Boucher at the LA Times that it's too narrowly focused to be the great book about Steve Ditko that he feels the subject matter demands?

BELL: I may still be too close to this to comment objectively, but then again I did predict before MoCCA that there would be concerns about my book not having enough of "where the bodies are buried." I don't think it would be considered a surprise that some of the mainstream press has tempered their praise of the book with sentiments like "Gee, Ditko was such an oddball, and it's a shame that Blake didn't play this up enough" or "to get into the soul of a man you have to gather anecdotes from peoples' memories of 60 years ago" and "go deep" on whether Ditko is gay, married, did drugs, was left in his own poop by his mom when he was a baby, etc.

I think some people miss the one unique value that comics have over all other mediums, and that is that the creator can take an idea from their head and see it in the public's hands without any filters along the way if they choose. Ditko "the man" is Ditko "the work" and Ditko "the work" is Ditko "the man." It goes back to the "DNA" comment by Moore: everything about Ditko, his beliefs, his personality, his career choices, everything is right there in the work. Sometimes I think I could have just made up a bunch of stuff, or searched far and wide to tap some 80 year-old's memories about a man they barely knew, and people who come in believing, or wanting to believe, certain things about Ditko "the man" would walk away thinking they better understood "the man." It could all be clap-trap, but it wouldn't matter because "inquiring minds want to know," even if it has no basis in fact or reality or could even have anything remotely to do with his work.

If Ditko was/is gay, would that really "enhance" your understanding of his work? I might end up with a sense of pride that we didn't play up his "oddball nature" or wasted reams of paper speculating on the ins and outs of "his soul," as opposed to what we did, which was present and examine the work and how his career choices had an impact on him and his work. Most else strikes me as a little too Kitty Kelley for my tastes. Believe me when I say that I could have run with the zillions of rumors about his private life that have come across my doorstep, and warped that into a "tale of the man," but we worked really hard to "bulletproof" the book, sourcing everything, Gary especially challenging me on every assertion I made in the book, hence the very long and deliberate end notes.

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SPURGEON: How has your work been received by the hardcore Ditko fans out there? Have you heard back from any of the major professional fans he had, like Jim Shooter or Frank Miller?

BELL: I'll let you know after the San Diego Comic-Con! Lots of excellent initial feedback about the choice of images, the observations about the work and -- so far -- I haven't received the one reaction I thought I would. I figured there'd be that populist notion about not invading Ditko's private life enough -- "where the bodies are buried" -- but I was more interested/wary of that faction of comic-book fandom that "protects" their heroes at all costs, and would view anything other than a checklist with pictures as a violation of Ditko's privacy. Somebody actually warned, bordering on threatened, me of that if I "went too deep" into his private life. Perhaps the most pride I take from the early reaction is that A) large, mainstream publications consider the writing good enough to even bother reviewing it -- I'm always interested in progressing as a writer; B) that we achieved such a great balance of telling the story and showing the work to more than just the hard-core comic-book fan. Everyone's getting something new out of this and that's extremely satisfying.

SPURGEON: Do you think Ditko will read your book? Would he like it?

BELL: On the one hand, he implies at times that he divorces himself from all of what he views as irrational, whim-based "thinking," but on the other hand, he'll quote articles from the internet, so he definitely has some kind of feeder system going on. He once wrote a fan that he has "no interest in the history of Steve Ditko," but that didn't stop him from attacking Gary and I just based on the previous title and cover image, even though Gary tried to call him to explain the intent. Again, I suspect he'll fall into the camp of "anything other than a checklist with pictures..." He once told a fan that he'd rather read someone who hates his work than someone who presents untruths, so maybe he'll appreciate the critique of his work, but that's likely wishful thinking on my part. If I had ignored any of the choices he made that impacted his life and the work, and just presented a career timeline with images and a critique of the work, I don't know what he'd have to complain about, but that's not all we did, so...

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SPURGEON: How far are you on the Bill Everett book? How will it be different than your Ditko book? What's your basic take on his career and its significance?

BELL: Similarly with the Ditko book, I've been doing "research" on Everett since the late 1990s, so a good framework is in place. The family is on board, so that will present a unique opportunity to "get close to 'the man'" that the LA Times might crave, but I think the emphasis will be even more on the artwork of Everett. He had a less drama than Ditko in his career, and passed away at the age of 53 which, if that had happened to Ditko, would have knocked a few chapters off that book.

There's still a great story to tell, though, about the creator of the first anti-hero in comics, and Bill's participation in Marvel Comics #1 and that nascent period in comics. You'll likely see a lot of emphasis on his 1950s horror work. The basic take will be that if he had worked at EC Comics instead of Marvel, he'd likely have been considered the best artist going, and he likely would have had more than one book written about him by now. It's going to be a great book to look at, and it'll capture the zeitgeist of the earliest periods in comic-book history. And I'm donating 10% of my royalties from the book to The Hero Initiative in Bill's name, so hopefully much good will come out of it all.

*****

Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, Blake Bell, Fantagraphics, hardcover, 9781560979210, July 2008, $39.99

*****

all of the art here is Steve Ditko, with the exception of the cover for I Have To Live With This Guy. Only a few of the Ditko pieces of art are from Blake's book (the Electro image, the phone image below, the Captain Universe panels, the cover up top and the Mr. A image); my scanner's broke!

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posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
I Basically Don't Know Anybody: Last Round Of Photo IDs From HeroesCon 2008

My brother Whit took a lot of photos at this year's HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina. Unfortunately, I seem to not know many of the people in the photographs, including people I met at the show, because I'm dumb. Here's the ones I can't remember, or at least the ones I've convinced myself I can't remember, some in pre-manipulated, blurry glory. This is the final batch; the leftovers from earlier batches are at the bottom of this post! Thank you!


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BRAND NEW BATCH OF UNIDENTIFIED FOLKS
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STILL UNIDENTIFIED PHOTOS FROM EARLIER
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posted 3:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: Rutu Modan on NYT site (2007)

* go, read: politics and comic books

* go, look: The Plastic Box

* go, look: Teddy and Anna

* go, look: Brian Moore
 
posted 3:40 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 70th Birthday, Pierre Christin!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 68th Birthday, Ernie Chan!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

Even if the condo prices start to go down, the hotel prices are likely to stay up.
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
July 26, 2008


If I Were In San Diego, I'd Go To This

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posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2008 Eisner Award Winners

The winners at last night's Eisner Awards, held in conjunction with Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. Winners are indicated in bold.

BEST SHORT STORY
* Book, by Yuichi Yokoyama, in New Engineering (PictureBox)
* At Loose Ends, by Lewis Trondheim, in Mome #8 (Fantagraphics)
* Mr. Wonderful, by Dan Clowes, in New York Times Sunday Magazine
* Town of Evening Calm, by Fumiyo Kouno, in Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (Last Gasp)
* Whatever Happened to Fletcher Hanks? by Paul Karasik, in I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! (Fantagraphics)
* Young Americans, by Emile Bravo, in Mome #8 (Fantagraphics)

BEST SINGLE ISSUE (OR ONE-SHOT)
* Amelia Rules! #18: Things I Cannot Change, by Jimmy Gownley (Renaissance)
* Delilah Dirk and the Treasure of Constantinople, by Tony Cliff (self-published)
* Johnny Hiro #1, by Fred Chao (AdHouse)
* Justice League of America #11: Walls, by Brad Meltzer and Gene Ha (DC)
* Sensational Spider-Man Annual: To Have or to Hold, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca (Marvel)

BEST CONTINUING SERIES
* The Boys, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
* Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, by Joss Whedon, Brian K. Vaughan, Georges Jeanty, and Andy Owens (Dark Horse)
* Naoki Urasawa's Monster, by Naoki Urasawa (Viz)
* The Spirit, by Darwyn Cooke (DC)
* Y: The Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan, Jr. (Vertigo/DC)

BEST LIMITED SERIES
* Atomic Robo, by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegender (Red 5 Comics)
* Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, by Peter David, Robin Furth, and Jae Lee (Marvel)
* Nightly News, by Jonathan Hickman (Image)
* Parade (with Fireworks), by Michael Cavallaro (Shadowline/Image)
* The Umbrella Academy, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)

BEST NEW SERIES
* Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, by Joss Whedon, Brian K. Vaughan, Georges Jeanty, and Andy Owens (Dark Horse)
* Immortal Iron Fist, by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja, and others (Marvel)
* Johnny Hiro, by Fred Chao (AdHouse)
* The Infinite Horizon, by Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto (Image)
* Scalped, by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera (Vertigo/DC)

BEST PUBLICATION FOR KIDS
* Amelia Rules! and Amelia Rules! Funny Stories, by Jimmy Gownley (Renaissance)
* Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, edited by Jeremy Barlow (Dark Horse)
* Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, by David Petersen (Archaia)
* The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sis (Frank Foster Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
* Yotsuba&!, by Kiyohiko Azuma (ADV)

BEST PUBLICATION FOR TEENS
* Laika, by Nick Abadzis (First Second)
* The Mighty Skullboy Army, by Jacob Chabot (Dark Horse)
* The Annotated Northwest Passage, by Scott Chantler (Oni)
* PX! Book One: A Girl and Her Panda, by Manny Trembley and Eric A. Anderson (Shadowline/Image)
* Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, by James Sturm and Rich Tommaso (Center for Cartoon Studies/Hyperion)

BEST HUMOR PUBLICATION
* Dwight T. Albatross's The Goon Noir, edited by Matt Dryer (Dark Horse)
* Johnny Hiro, by Fred Chao (AdHouse)
* Lucha Libre, by Jerry Frissen, Bill, Gobi, Fabien M., Nikola Witko, Herve Tanquelle et al. (Image)
* Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, by Nicholas Gurewitch (Dark Horse)
* Wonton Soup, by James Stokoe (Oni)

BEST ANTHOLOGY
* Best American Comics 2007, edited by Anne Elizabeth Moore and Chris Ware (Houghton Mifflin)
* 5, by Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Fabio Moon, Vasilis Lolos, and Rafael Grampa (self-published)
* Mome, edited by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)
* Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened, edited by Jason Rodriguez (Villard)
* 24Seven, vol. 2, edited by Ivan Brandon (Image)

BEST DIGITAL COMIC
* The Abominable Charles Christopher, by Karl Kerschl
* Billy Dogma, Immortal, by Dean Haspiel
* The Process, by Joe Infurnari
* PX! By Manny Trembley and Eric A. Anderson
* Sugarshock!, by Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon

BEST REALITY-BASED WORK
* Laika, by Nick Abadzis (First Second)
* The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, by Ann Marie Fleming (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group)
* Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, by James Sturm and Rich Tommaso (Center for Cartoon Studies/Hyperion)
* Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm, by Percy Carey and Ronald Wimberly (Vertigo/DC)
* White Rapids, by Pascal Blanchet (Drawn & Quarterly)

BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM -- NEW
* The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
* Bookhunter, by Jason Shiga (Sparkplug Books)
* Essex County, vols. 1-2: Tales from the Farm/Ghost Stories, by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)
* Exit Wounds, by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Percy Gloom, by Cathy Malkasian (Fantagraphics)

BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM -- REPRINT
* Agents of Atlas Hardcover, by Jeff Parker, Leonard Kirk, and Kris Justice (Marvel)
* Godland Celestial Edition, by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli (Image)
* James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems, by James Sturm (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by David Petersen (Archaia)
* Super Spy, by Matt Kindt (Top Shelf)

BEST ARCHIVAL COLLECTION/PROJECT -- COMIC STRIPS
* (The Complete) Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, by Winsor McCay (Ulrich Merkl)
* Complete Terry and the Pirates, vol. 1, by Milton Caniff (IDW)
* Little Sammy Sneeze, by Winsor McCay (Sunday Press)
* Popeye, vol. 2: Well Blow Me Down, by E. C. Segar (Fantagraphics)
* Sundays with Walt and Skeezix, by Frank King (Sunday Press)

BEST ARCHIVAL COLLECTION/PROJECT -- COMIC BOOKS
* Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, vol. 1, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (Marvel)
* Apollo's Song, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
* The Completely MAD Don Martin, by Don Martin (Running Press)
* Daredevil Omnibus, by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson (Marvel)
* I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! by Fletcher Hanks (Fantagraphics)

BEST US EDITION OF INTERNATIONAL MATERIAL
* The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
* Aya, by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Obrerie (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Garage Band, by Gipi (First Second)
* I Killed Adolf Hitler, by Jason (Fantagraphics)
* The Killer, by Matz and Luc Jacamon (Archaia)

BEST US EDITION OF INTERNATIONAL MATERIAL -- JAPAN
* The Ice Wanderer and Other Stories, by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
* MW, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
* Naoki Urasawa's Monster, by Naoki Urasawa (Viz)
* New Engineering by Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)
* Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White, by Taiyo Matsumoto (Viz)
* Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, by Fumiyo Kouno (Last Gasp)

BEST WRITER
* Ed Brubaker, Captain America, Criminal, Daredevil, Immortal Iron Fist (Marvel)
* James Sturm, Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow (Center for Cartoon Studies/Hyperion)
* Brian K. Vaughan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dark Horse); Ex Machina (WildStorm/DC), Y: The Last Man (Vertigo/DC)
* Joss Whedon, Astonishing X-Men (Marvel); Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dark Horse)
* Brian Wood, DMZ, Northlanders (Vertigo/DC); Local (Oni)

BEST WRITER/ARTIST
* Jeff Lemire, Essex County: Tales from the Farm/Ghost Stories (Top Shelf)
* Rutu Modan, Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Shaun Tan, The Arrival (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
* Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #18 (Acme Novelty)
* Fumi Yoshinaga, Flower of Life; The Moon and Sandals (Digital Manga)

BEST WRITER/ARTIST -- HUMOR
* Kyle Baker, The Bakers: Babies and Kittens (Image)
* Fred Chao, Johnny Hiro (AdHouse)
* Brandon Graham, King City (Tokyopop); Multiple Warheads (Oni)
* Eric Powell, The Goon (Dark Horse)
* James Stokoe, Wonton Soup (Oni)

BEST PENCILLER/INKER OR PENCILLER/INKER TEAM
* Steve Epting/Butch Guice/Mike Perkins, Captain America (Marvel)
* Pia Guerra/Jose Marzan, Jr., Y: The Last Man (Vertigo/DC)
* Jae Lee, Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born (Marvel)
* Takeshi Obata, Death Note, Hikaru No Go (Viz)
* Ethan Van Sciver, Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps (DC)

BEST PAINTER OR MULTIMEDIA ARTIST (INTERIOR ART)
* Ann-Marie Fleming, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group)
* Eric Powell, The Goon: Chinatown (Dark Horse)
* Bryan Talbot, Alice in Sunderland (Dark Horse)
* Ben Templesmith, Fell (Image); 30 Days of Night: Red Snow; Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse (IDW)

BEST COVER ARTIST
* John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men (Marvel); Lone Ranger (Dynamite)
* James Jean, Fables (Vertigo/DC); The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse); Process Recess 2; Superior Showcase 2 (AdHouse)
* J. G. Jones, 52 (DC)
* Jae Lee, Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born (Marvel)
* Jim Lee, All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (DC); World of Warcraft (WildStorm/DC)

BEST COLORING
* Jimmy Gownley, Amelia Rules! (Renaissance)
* Steve Hamaker, Bone, vols. 5 and 6 (Scholastic); Shazam: Monster Society of Evil (DC)
* Richard Isanove, Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born (Marvel)
* Ronda Pattison, Atomic Robo (Red 5 Comics)
* Dave Stewart, BPRD, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cut, Hellboy, Lobster Johnson, The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse); The Spirit (DC)
* Alex Wald, Shaolin Cowboy (Burlyman)

BEST LETTERING
* Jared K. Fletcher, Catwoman, The Spirit (DC); Sentences: Life of MF Grimm (Vertigo/DC)
* Jimmy Gownley, Amelia Rules! (Renaissance)
* Todd Klein, Justice, Simon Dark (DC); Fables, Jack of Fables, Crossing Midnight (Vertigo/DC); League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier (WildStorm/DC); Nexus (Rude Dude)
* Lewis Trondheim, At Loose Ends, Mome 7 & 8 (Fantagraphics)
* Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #18 (Acme Novelty)

SPECIAL RECOGNITION
* Chuck BB, Black Metal (artist, Oni)
* Matt Silady, The Homeless Channel (writer/artist, AiT/PlanetLar)
* Jamie Tanner, The Aviary (writer/artist, AdHouse)
* James Vining, First in Space (writer/artist, Oni)

BEST COMICS-RELATED PERIODICAL/JOURNALISM
* Comic Art #9, edited by Todd Hignite (Buenaventura Press)
* Comic Foundry, edited by Tim Leong (Comic Foundry)
* The Comics Journal, edited by Gary Groth, Michael Dean, and Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)
* The Comics Reporter, produced by Tom Spurgeon and Jordan Raphael
* Newsarama, produced by Matt Brady and Michael Doran

BEST COMICS-RELATED BOOK
* The Art of P. Craig Russell, edited by Joe Pruett (Desperado)
* The Artist Within, by Greg Preston (Dark Horse)
* Manga: The Complete Guide, by Jason Thompson (Del Rey Manga)
* Meanwhile... A Biography of Milton Caniff, by R. C. Harvey (Fantagraphics)
* Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, by Douglas Wolk (Da Capo Press)
* Understanding Manga and Anime, by Robin Brenner (Libraries Unlimited/Greenwood Publishing)

BEST PUBLICATION DESIGN
* (The Complete) Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, designed by Ulrich Merkl (Ulrich Merkl)
* Complete Terry and the Pirates, designed by Dean Mullaney (IDW)
* Heroes, vol. 1, designed by John Roshell/Comicraft (WildStorm/DC)
* Little Sammy Sneeze, designed by Philippe Ghielmetti (Sunday Press)
* Process Recess 2, designed by James Jean and Chris Pitzer (AdHouse)
* Sundays with Walt and Skeezix, designed by Chris Ware (Sunday Press)

HALL OF FAME
JUDGES' CHOICES
* R. F. Outcault
* Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson

NOMINEES
* Matt Baker
* John Broome
* Reed Crandall
* Rudolph Dirks
* Arnold Drake
* George Evans
* Creig Flessel
* Graham Ingels
* Mort Meskin
* Tarpe Mills
* Gilbert Shelton
* George Tuska
* Mort Weisinger
* Len Wein
* Barry Windsor-Smith

*****

Frank Miller gave the Keynote address.

Brave New World in I think Newhall, CA, won the Spirit of Retailing Award.

Joe Field gave a memorial tribute to Rory Root.

Archie Goodwin and Larry Lieber won Bill Finger Awards.

Paul Levitz won teh Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award.

Cathy Malkasian won the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award.

Honored among those passing from the "Comic-Con Family" were Gus Arriola, Robert Asprin, Denton Burroughs, Creig Flessel, Richard Goldwater, Paul Grant, Ollie Johnston, Muriel Kubert, Phil Lasorda, Steve Masarsky, Jim Mooney, Paul Norris, John Simpson, Michael Turner, Mike Wieringo, Stan Winston, Will Elder, Steve Gerber and Dave Stevens. That was the order they were presented, which means that Elder, Gerber and Stevens were presented out of alphabetical order, I have no idea why.

Among the presenters were Jane Weidlin, Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba, and Samuel L. Jackson.

*****
*****
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from July 19 to July 25, 2008:

1. Al-Qaeda commander confirms in an interview that group's responsibility for bombing of Danish embassy in Pakistan on June 2 and that the reason for the bombing was related to the Danish Cartoons.

2. The legal issues regarding the February 12 arrest of three suspects accused of plotting the murder of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his wife for Westergaard's role in the Danish Cartoons controversy proceed at a glacial pace.

3. Comic-Con International gets underway in San Diego, bringing with it the usual questions about the state of the show and the state of the industry.

Winner Of The Week
Robert Kirkman

Loser Of The Week
Staffed Editorial Cartooning Positions

Quote Of The Week
"Perfect for zombiephiles, video game addicts, grindhouse nostalgists and horror movie fanatics, Zombie Haiku is the touching story of a zombie's gradual decay told through the intimate poetry of haiku." -- press release on top of my mail stack.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Have You Seen This Stolen Art?

Brian Doherty writes in about art that was stolen from him in San Diego.
...I'm not sure this is considered "big news" but someone on TCJ board suggested I notify the important comic blogs.

While I am no one million percent sure this is how it happened, it likely happened when I was bumped in a crowd around Park and 8th leaving the con last night and had my bags scatterd---when I collected them the one containing these five pieces was gone:

1) Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen #144, p. 23
2) Frank Thorne "Tomahawk" page, don't know issue or page---guys fighting with axes
3) Gene Colan Dracula #66, page with Drac meeting woman in single's bar.
4) J Buscema rough pencil sketch Conan page
5) Kirby pencil sketch character study says "Super Friend" "Black Cop on prowl" or somesuch--a few diff perspective shots on a black police officer.

So, I hoped to get the word out in case someone tried to unload 'em at the con that they are stolen, have been reported as such to SD PD, and I'm offering a $250 no questions asked finders fee upon the safe return of the batch to me.
If anyone knows anything,

 
posted 3:18 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Jon Lewis!

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July 25, 2008


Friday Distraction: British Cartoon Archive

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posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Political Cartoons Censored in Burma

The International Freedom of Expression eXchange is reporting that government officials removed cartoons from a fundraiser this week because they in some way violated government policies. Over 64 cartoonists were exhibiting 146 cartoons, and the official removed four from the cartoonists Win Aung, October Aung Gyi and Aung Kaung. The most depressing thing about the article is the person organizing the exhibit says that this basically happens every time.
 
posted 9:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Lickety-Whop: Capt Easy Vs. Everybody

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posted 9:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Download: Cartooning Symbolia

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Go, Look: Dane Martin's Blog

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posted 8:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Faux-Pas Industries

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posted 8:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Brooke McEldowney's Blog

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posted 8:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* just in case anyone wondered: superhero movies attract their fair share of continuity cops, too. To answer the gentleman's question: he was doing this.

* missed it: the retailer Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience has posted a 100-plus item list of his bestselling books. Here's his top 11 since getting the system up and running, in special distribution code language:
image1 LOEG BLACK DOSSIER HC 2ND PTG
2 WATCHMEN TP
3 BUFFY SEASON 8 TP VOL 01 LONG WAY HOME
4 Y THE LAST MAN TP VOL 01 UNMANNED
5 WALKING DEAD VOL 7 THE CALM BEFORE TP
6 SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 04 SCOTT PILGRIM GETS IT TOGETHER
7 Y THE LAST MAN TP VOL 09 MOTHERLAND (MR)
8 Y THE LAST MAN TP VOL 02 CYCLES (MR)
9 100 BULLETS TP VOL 11 ONCE UPON A CRIME (MR) (TIE)
9 DMZ TP VOL 03 PUBLIC WORKS (MR) (TIE)
9 FABLES TP VOL 01 LEGENDS IN EXILE (TIE)
* also missed it: last week's other political campaign cartoon.

* do we really have to be more like the book industry?

* finally, the cartoonist K. Thor Jensen almost never sends me links, but when he does, they usually make me want to cry.
 
posted 8:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 51st Birthday, Ray Billingsley!

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posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 67th Birthday, S. Clay Wilson!

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Happy 61st Birthday, Ted Benoit!

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Happy 59th Birthday, Alex Wald!

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posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 56th Birthday, Chip Bok!

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posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Crumbling Paper
* Blondie
* Joe Jinks
* Uncle Jasper
* Little Sammy Sneeze (strip #2)
* Say Pop! Pop makes a good traffic cop.
* Sallie Slick and Her Surprising Aunt Amelia (strip#1)
* Sallie Slick and Her Surprising Aunt Amelia (strip #2)
* Keeping Up With the Joneses -- Handsome Zephyr Pull-overs
* School Days - Half the World are Nuts and the Other Half are Squirrels
* Little Sammy Sneeze, The Wish Twins and Aladdin's Lamp, and Feminine Fancies
 

 
July 24, 2008


Comic-Con International 2008 Begins Today At San Diego's Convention Center

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The 2008 version of Comic-Con International, the largest gathering of comics industry professionals as well as thousands of folks from related media, gets underway this morning in downtown San Diego. The convention was sold out in advance, and has not even guaranteed late-arriving professional and media registration.

This site will run a full report on the show at its conclusion, and will supplement that piece with a running "BTUS" that will land on its usual Tuesday slot with the major publishing-news announcements, the occasional news brief including Eisner results on Saturday, as well as anything else that screams for stand-alone coverage between now and then. And, of course, we'll put together a collective memory with your links.

While I'm still able to resist doing so, I'm going to avoid wall-to-wall breathless coverage of my feelings about the show and endless, banal text-from-the-floor updates. It's a big, crazy, pop-culture show and my saying so 100 times doesn't make it any more true than my reporting once next week. (Although believe me, in all likelihood I'll be on board with that stuff by next year.) Oh, and I'm also hoping for a wrap-up interview about convention issues by the end of next week, and if not, we'll try to get something along those lines up as soon as possible. We may wait for attendance results before that happens.

For supplementary coverage, I recommend sites such as The Beat, Comic Book Resources and Newsarama. I wouldn't know where to send you to hear people's random thoughts via Twitter or any of those technologies. Sorry!

Among the stories to keep an eye on:

* How will the convention function under its first before-con sell-out conditions? What kind of flexibility will they have to accommodate last-minute attempts to goose the guest list by exhibitors, press or professionals showing up in person? Will there be any fire safety and capacity concerns?

image* Can Friday's Eisner Awards repeat last year's entertaining show? Does that red carpet in the link just now really exist? Why is it so short? Will anyone have the kind of breakout year that marks their arrival in the first rank of popular and well-regarded American comic book creators, as was the case last year with Ed Brubaker? Which one of the other magazines will win the award in the category with this site as a nominee?

* Will Marvel and DC announce future projects or major talent moves at this year's show? Was the dearth of such announcements at the Wizard show in Chicago related to that show specifically, or is the Big Convention Announcement a publicity ploy no longer in favor with those publishers in the social networking era?

* How well-attended will the Hyatt's bar scene be in light of its owner's public financial support for measures against same-sex marriage? Will it be packed or super-packed?

* IDW and Darwyn Cooke announced a series of graphic novel adaptations of Donald Westlake's Parker books on Wednesday night; Image pre-announced their making Robert Kirkman a partner. Will other publishers not Marvel or DC follow suit and use the publicity platform provided by CCI in that way? Is that even possible now?

* Will there be another breakout alt-comics book like last year's Fletcher Hanks collection from Fantagraphics? With their bookstore distribution commitments, can publishers like that even have breakout books at a convention anymore? How will the smaller art comics publishers do?
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
DJ Coffman On Platinum/Wowio Deal; Is Platinum Hurrying The Contracts Back?

Go here for a resoundingly negative assessment of the new Wowio deal being offered by its owners, Platinum Studios, from the artist DJ Coffman. This is not an unbiased source. Coffman recently had to agitate for monies owed him by the company and has been involved in a war -- well, a skirmish -- of words ever since. Still, it's the first person I've seen talking about the contract openly.

And that where it gets tricky. At least exposed in this way, this deal sounds it could have some weak points. For example, the only 50/50 deal I can think of in comics is one of the newspaper syndication contracts, which 1) makes way more sense because of the syndicates' unique access to the service they provide, 2) involves the backing of a company that can claim more than $5,000 in their bank account, and 3) has a 80-year record of making many cartoonists money, and some of them wealthy.

Granted, that's my reading of a reading, and there are other readings -- at least on some aspects -- that are more positive, like Rich Johnston's comment on this post seems to be, for example. Also, someone e-mailed me that most of the creators are happy with what they're seeing, so that's good, I think. Update: Two people wrote in to dispute this, but I can't tell if they're directly involved, and no one willing to go on the record. Oh, well. It was my fault for writing this in the first place.

I'm now told -- and I'm unable to confirm at this hour, so take this with a grain of salt -- Platinum may want the contracts back and signed before this weekend's done in order to relaunch right away. That last part seems to be true. Can anyone confirm on the getting the contracts back part? Can anyone deny? If you're one of the creators, please don't sign a contract until you're really, really, really confident it's the right thing for you -- based not on your hopes and dreams and your ability to see a positive outcome, but on your ability to live with the consequences no matter how things turn out, informed by the weight of all the histories involved.



Update: Okay, I've seen correspondence indicating that they'd like to re-launch sometime between now and the first week of August, which does put a rush on their wanting to get the contracts back. (Also, they want them faxed, which is sort of weird given the company's cutting-edge nature. I guess the pneumatic tube system is broken.) No firm deadline or pressure of same is evident, granted.
 
posted 4:24 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
ComicsPro Launches 24 Hour Comics Day 2008 Site; Announces Event Dates

imageThe retailer organization ComicsPro has announced the date for this year's 24 Hour Comics Day (October 18), opened registration to become an official host site for the event, and launched a brand-new web site related to the whole affair. The organization takes over this year from long-time administrator and founder Nat Gertler. Direct inquiries or questions not answered by the site can go to ComicsPro's . If you're not familiar with the event, it's the one where folks, many gathered into central locations, make an entire comic in a single 24 hour period in an exercise invented and made popular by Scott McCloud.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Sine Sues Charlie Hebdo For Wrongful Termination on Anti-Semitism Charge

I've had a difficult time getting a handle on this story, about the cartoonist Sine suing Charlie Hebdo for wrongful termination after an anti-Semitism charge springing from an article where he wrote in one has to imagine satirical fashion about a false news report that had the son of the French president converting to Judaism. This newsbrief update makes me feel better about my own confusion, as it sputters its way through a bunch of side and contributing issues, such as the impact of a cultural split at the magazine based on generational identity and the cartoonist's previous battles against other cartoonists. Heck, I'm only about 30 percent sure I've typed this far without making some egregious factual error. If someone wants to write me a letter explaining their take on things, I'd be more than happy to run it.
 
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Go, Look: JH Williams III

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Go, Look: Scott Radtke

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Watch: The Late Creig Flessel Receives The Sparky Award In 2007








 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist Dan Piraro lets us know that Parade has made their switch over to a larger stable of cartoonists, as was announced earlier as being in the works. Good cartoon, too.

image* the Forbidden Planet Blog directed me to this article by Phill Jupitus about meeting Steve Bell and Garry Trudeau. The insight into each man's respective studio set-ups is worth the teeth grinding that may be caused by the author's opinion on Peanuts. Also, I think you have to have a charming accent to be able to pull off taking stuff to an interview for an interview subject to sign.

* well, this is ridiculously entertaining. It's not comics, though, unless there's some strange Dylan Horrocks-type way of thinking about it I don't quite grasp yet.

* the blogger Sean Kleefeld suggests that the level playing ground represented by comics on the Internet is a key to our getting past several decades of the comics industry neglecting to develop and utilize female creators.

* the cartoonist Eddie Campbell agrees with David Malki.

* finally, the writer Tucker Stone talks about the effect of superhero movies on comic books and why this is a both a non-existent and a good thing.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 73rd Birthday, Pat Oliphant!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Cartoon Workshop In Pakistan
That's One Hell of a First Sentence
Frank Miller IS Comic-Con International

Industry
Motion Comics Effort Launches
All Politicians Fair Game For Satirists
Adults Not Really Reading Them, Either

Interviews/Profiles
Gerard Way's Shelf
Wicked Local: Chris Hemenway
NYT on Frank Miller and Will Eisner
Peninsula Clarion: Chad Carpenter
Free Press: Simon Grennan, Chris Sperandio

Not Comics
Viz Media Launches Studio
Articles Like This Make Me Queasy

Reviews
Greg Burgas: Various
Don MacPherson: Various
Koppy McFad: The Flash #242
Johanna Draper Carlson: Various
Leroy Douresseaux: Kaze Hikaru Vol. 10
Bill Sherman: Aces: Curse of the Red Baron
Henry Chamberlain: Omega The Unknown #10
 

 
July 23, 2008


This Isn't A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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*****

Here are the books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, potentially causing my retailer to engage me in a wicked gun fu battle.

*****

MAY080051 USAGI YOJIMBO #113 $2.99
There's something heroic about there being 113 issues of this book.

MAY080148 AMBUSH BUG YEAR NONE #1 (OF 6) $2.99
This might be worth a nostalgic look-see, but it's almost always a bad idea to revisit comedians you haven't seen in a while so I'm worried the same thing might be true in comics.

APR080270 ARMY @ LOVE TP VOL 02 GENERATION PWNED (MR) $12.99
You can buy it to see what will happen in the future!

MAY082178 AMERICAN FLAGG DEFINITIVE COLL HC 1 01 (RES) $49.99
I'll be interested in seeing this from a production-nerd standpoint, as one of the things I like about the comic books is how crappy they look.

DEC072092 INVINCIBLE #51 $2.99
I always imagining people dissecting Robert Kirkman's superhero series to figure out why it works when so many similar series don't and then sitting there with their scalpel surrounded by all these sliced pages and having to admit, "I have no idea."

APR083955 COMPLETE BADGER TP VOL 03 $19.99
This book kind of combines the "you may already have the comics" aspect of the American Flagg! collection and the "revisiting comedy" warning from the Ambush Bug.

MAY084180 DAN DARE #7 (OF 7) (NOTE PRICE) $5.99
It would be funny if the note was from the company rather than the distributor and it send "IGNORE PRICE."

MAY084175 FLIGHT GN VOL 05 $25.00
The dean of handsome, visually-driven, high-production anthologies, and at this point more interesting to me as a publishing story than as a book. Your mileage may vary... and probably does.

*****

The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, too damn bad.
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Al-Qaeda Commander Confirms Group's Responsibility For Embassy Bombing

In a story hitting international wires yesterday afternoon, Al-Qaeda commander Mustafa Abul Yazid told a Pakistani television program that the group was responsible for the June 2 bombing of the Danish embassy in Islamabad and that this was indeed because of the publication of caricatures of Muhammed in Danish newspapers. The group had already claimed responsibility, but not with a senior official commenting in the course of a television appearance. Six people were killed.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
June 2008 DM Sales Estimates

imageThe comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com offers their usual array of lists, estimates and analysis regarding the performance of comic books and graphic novels in the Direct Market of comic and hobby shops, this time for June 2008.

* Overview
* Analysis
* Top 300 Comic Books
* Top 100 Graphic Novels

Another source heard from is John Jackson Miller's Comics Chronicles:

* Comic Book Sales Estimates
* Comics Shop Sales Market Share

The first and most obvious story is a continued decline in this year's serial comic book sales, bolstered by a rise in graphic novel sales for the month. The second and almost as obvious story here is a continuation of last month's surprise in that Marvel's Secret Invasion strengthened its hold on the top event series of the summer slot, placing at #1 while DC's Final Crisis saw a pretty typical issue #1 to issue #2 drop and landed at the third position on the charts. A third story at least to my first impression eyes might be Marvel outstripping DC by placing eight comics to DC's two titles in the top 10 and 18 to six in top 25 titles. When the competition is such that I have completely different style choices for the types of numbers involved, that's probably a story. A fourth story might be that DC's new weekly title Trinity has dropped 12 thousand copies in its first four issues, and looks like it will settle in the 50K region (DC's not-all-that-liked Countdown was in the 70K region at this point last year, further along in its series progression).

There are even potential points of interest that don't have anything to do with Marvel pummeling DC Comics in serial comics sales. One might be found in the fact that there's a 13 thousand unit difference between respective comics in the 25th position and a five thousand unit difference in the 50th position comics between 2008 and 2007, which could indicate some weakness in serial comics' "middle class" of strong but not hit performers. A sixth story might be found in the general strength of multiple Dark Horse books as trades in the Direct Market, and the continuing stellar sales for Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead series in that same arena.

image taken from that month's solid-selling JSA series from DC, just because I felt bad; you know, that character design by Alex Ross is still really creepy-looking

*****
*****
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Court Gives COPA Another Setback

A federal appeals court struck down the latest iteration of the Child Online Protection Act by upholding a previous finding that saw it as unconstitutional, reports the New York Times. I think this makes it three times that some version of this decade-old law has been defeated in court. The bill was worrisome to many because of its loose to non-existent definition of adult content combined with required restrictions for allowing people access to sites with such material that could have been a needless economic hardship and even a legal minefield for a lot of sites, including those with comics.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
One Day Until Comic-Con International; CCI Preview Night Gets Underway

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
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Go, Look: Destructor In: Prison Break

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OTBP: Some Forgotten Part

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Go, Look: Early Walt Kelly

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Go, Look: Bird's Eye Views

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Go, Look: Creig Flessel Gallery

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posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the California-based publisher IDW will do comics biographies of each of the major party presidential candidates to be published in October. I think what may make that article worth taking a look at for many of you is to note that it will have a concurrent release in digital form.

image* this will be repeated in this site's new publishing news round-up, "Bound, Tossed, United and Stacked" next week, but it's good enough news not to share it with you right now: PWCW has details on the forthcoming 600-plus paged Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Omnibus from Knockabout.

* the cartoonist Matt Richtel talks at length about a recent plotline in Rudy Park and how it reflects the expanded opportunity to interact to and connect with an audience in today's on-line world.

* the Boom! staffer Ian Brill talks about his not being as enthusiastic a fan as those he sees enjoying themselves in San Diego. I would imagine most people working in the various entertainment industries aren't the biggest fans, but it's a nice little post.

* what would you do with this much store credit?

* finally, while a lot of bloggers reading this interview picked up on Alan Moore's hostility towards movies based on his work, and a few picked up on his love for The Wire, I haven't seen anyone comment on what I thought was the most interesting aspect: the notion that doing the next League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume for Top Shelf instead of DC has changed the way he and Kevin O'Neill are working on the book.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 61st Birthday, Mike Vosburg!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 46th Birthday, Kelley Jones!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Sean Phillips Headshot
Paul Pope's Apollo/Soyuz
Sean Phillips Conan Sketch
Well, That Is Just Crazy-Looking
The Function of a Comics Reviewer

History
Happy 70th Birthday, Beano

Industry
Hellboy's Hometown
I Hate Your Cartoon
Len Wein to Bloodfire
Mangaka-Editor Relationships

Interviews/Profiles
Christian News Wire: Robert James Luedke

Not Comics
The Mythic Resonance of Superheroes

Publishing
Super-Sam Gets Weird
Alan Moore, Peter Bagge Team-Up

Reviews
AV Club: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
Paul O'Brien: Batgirl #1
Paul O'Brien: X-Force #5
Tom Baker: Sakura Taisen
Paul O'Brien: The Helm #1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Resurrection #1
Christine Redfern: D&Q, Conundrum Press
Bill Sherman: The Drifting Classroom Vol. 5
Johanna Draper Carlson: AiT/Planet Lar Round-Up
 

 
July 22, 2008


Is Comics Crazy Or Is It Just Sandwich?

"Last summer, I traveled to London with Warner Premiere President Diane Nelson to show Dave Gibbons a first test of a new digital format." -- Paul Levitz

Is it weird to anyone else that DC Comics is physically flying people across the ocean to show someone stuff on the computer, all in the name of building a digital strategy?
 
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

By Tom Spurgeon

A recurring column assembling all the straight-up publishing news -- what's coming out, who's doing it, when you'll see it, what it will look like -- into one place:

* SLG will launch their new free webcomics program on Thursday.

* this escaped my attention the moment it happened, but the genre prose publisher Tor has launched their group blog. Someone told me that Jim Henley got the superhero comics gig there, with two more comics-related bloggers to be announced. I always like reading Bruce Baugh on role-playing games.

image* on the heels of the massive successful first collection The Trials of Colonel Sweeto, a complete collection of Perry Bible Fellowship strips to date called The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack will be released for the Christmas book-buying season. Apparently, Sweeto has been through three printings.

* you know what's crazy? I just ran a Five For Friday on books that people are anticipating for the second half of the 2008 publishing year, and no one mentioned this one. It could be that it's difficult for people to vote for something they've already seen in another form, but I have to imagine that book is going to do well both sales-wise and in terms of end-of-the-year critical attention. I blame the number of great books out.

* one of the classic, all-time, old-school, comics-related links is the Editor & Publisher note about a forthcoming strip book. Frazz has a new one coming out. So does Mutts.

* the long-delayed collection of Howard Chaykin's fondly-remembered satirical action-adventure series American Flagg!, maybe the most memorable title to come out of the core of the independent comics movement, should hit stores this month or next if it hasn't just dropped.

* the cartoonists Laura Howell and Karrie Fransman are both publishing work in the Guardian.

image* Jonathan Cape is publishing a new hardback edition of Bryan Talbot's The Tale of One Bad Rat, which should be available in August.

* the publisher WW Norton has purchased a graphic novel biography of Nelson Mandela.

* Joe Kubert will do a how-to book with Vanguard.

* finally, the Vancouver-based cartoonist Miriam Libicki should have the first copies of a graphic novel collection of the first six issues of her jobnik! back from the printers any second now. Sean Kleefeld will tell you what it's about.


 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Kurt Westergaard Murder Plot Custody Appeal Expects Ruling By Friday

The two Tunisian nationals still in custody on the charges of plotting the murder of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his wife for Westergaard's role in making caricatures of the prophet Muhammed that sparked worldwide attention had another appeal of their status that will be ruled on by Friday. They were arrested and have been held since February 12. Among the details brought up at trial were the purchase of a handgun, the pair keeping watch on Westergaard's home, and their watching of videos about suicide bombers. A case against a third suspect was dropped earlier this month.
 
posted 4:27 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Robert Kirkman Becomes Image Partner

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According to news released through the New York Times it will be formally announced at this weekend's Comic-Con International that the writer Robert Kirkman has become a Partner at Image Comics.

imageThis is an interesting move in a lot of ways. For one, Kirkman would be the first Image partner since the group originally formed in the early 1990s. That still holds some historical significance, like having a well-known musician join a successful rock band a decade into its existence. Barring similar announcements this weekend, he's the only Image partner that's a writer only, which certainly makes other moves possible. The move acknowledges the massive success that Kirkman's Invincible and Walking Dead series have had -- not just as serial comics but in a kind of two-tiered trade volume publishing plan as serial paperbacks (a way that many fans are primarily following each book) and in larger, fancier hardcover editions. Kirkman's success has been hugely important to the company in establishing an identity in the years since founder Jim Lee took his studios to DC Comics. Another compelling aspect is that it marks Eric Stephenson's first major move as a publisher, and may mark a more aggressive Image in terms of two things I'd be tickled to suggest I've heard about because I'm an industry insider but actually they've been openly talking about for a long while: a plan for Image to share in profits in some way (a move away -- or at least an option different from -- their traditional set-fee structure), and attempts to bring more creators on board.

As far as that last goes, one reason Image should do really well in terms of bringing creators on board right now because they don't go after media rights the way a lot of the companies do. With Hollywood studios and talent agencies much more skilled at finding amenable properties, there's much less of a compelling reason to have one of a growing crop of no-name or small-name or not-really-a-comic-book companies "rep" your work in that arena for a sizable percentage of the potential profits.
 
posted 4:26 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CCI Shopping Tip: Eight To Check Out

What gets lost at times concerning the forthcoming giant industry show in San Diego is what a great little place it can be to buy books -- or at least check them out if you pre-ordered them from your comics shop. While what makes that show really fun for finding books is the stuff you don't hear about until you're on the floor -- like last year's Jon Vermilyea effort Princes of Time -- here are eight I know about in advance I'll be checking out.

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From The Shadow Of The Northern Lights, Various, Top Shelf Productions, Booth 1721
I'm greatly enjoying this rough-and-tumble anthology of Swedish comics that Top Shelf's carrying -- I think they got it because Chris Staros forged a relationship with the publication's makers on the ground at a regional convention over there. If I'm totally wrong about this being out, you might direct your attention to the new Alex Robinson book, Too Cool To Be Forgotten, which a lot of people will enjoy.

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Permagel, Charles Burns, Buenaventura Press, Booth 1732
Get ready for this Fall's big release of the Giant-Sized new volume of Kramer's Ergot by getting a beautiful, over-sized Charles Burns import. Buenaventura Press always has one of the three or four must-see booths of the show because of the number of beautiful prints it offers. It's fun just looking at that stuff, and a lot of it has to be seen in person. So does this book.

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How To Draw Stupid, Kyle Baker, Watson-Guptill, Booth 1607/1706 (Vanguard)
I'm picking up one of these for an artist friend of mine that asked me to get one for his kid, or at least I'm on orders to do so; Kyle Baker's how-to book would I imagine the potential to be a lot of fun. He's signing this at the Vanguard booth a couple of times, which makes me think that's the best place to pick it up.

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Various Sketchbooks, Various Artists, Stuart Ng Books, Booth 5012/5014/5016/5018/5020
One of the secret shopping destinations on the exhibition floor for a lot of us is Stuart Ng Books, and one of their distinct offerings is a bunch of limited-edition sketchbooks. I'll take a look at all of them, including the one containing the image above from Ricardo Delgado.

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Jamilti, Rutu Modan, Drawn & Quarterly, Booth 1529/1628
Lynda Barry's What It Is is D&Q's big book for the year, and if you don't have one the opportunity to get one signed by Barry should be incentive enough to get in line over at their booth. Another guest of the show is Rutu Modan, whose Jamilti will also be out, and that's the one book I'm dying to see in final printed form. There's new Aya, too, if you haven't heard. Basically, go to this table.4

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Abandoned Cars, Tim Lane, Fantagraphics, Booth 1716/1718/1720/1722
Venerable alt-comics institution Fantagraphics will have a few dozen advance copies of this book for sale at the show, and it's a lovely package of some very evocative cartooning from someone arriving from out of left field. No one should have this many good comics under their belt without my knowing who they are. I know now.

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Goddess of War #1, Lauren Weinstein, PictureBox Inc., Booth 1630
PictureBox publisher Dan Nadel lied to my face at HeroesCon about this book's imminent arrival in my mailbox, but I've seen a friend's copy and Lauren Weinstein's latest looks like a lot of fun.

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The Quest For The Missing Girl, Jiro Taniguchi, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, C04
Finally, given its November release date I'd guess this is more of a look-at than an advance-buy deal, but I'm certainly going to tromp over to the Fanfare/Ponent Mon booth to check out this forthcoming release by Jiro Taniguchi -- even if I can't take it home with me.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Late In The Game CCI Socializing Tip

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Here's the last of my late in the game tips for finding something to do during Comic-Con International weekend outside of the convention center if, like me, you're not the kind of person that gets invited to the big mainstream comics company parties, the fancy agency dinners, or the rooftop bar soirees thrown by television networks. The above seems to be one of the other tried-and-true events that you see at the show: the related-subject art gallery opening, complete with alcohol. I don't know the artists, or the gallery, or the show, but I thought it might appeal to someone out there. Click through the image for details.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Dwayne Powell Resigns Rather Than Take Part-Time, Limited Position

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While it seems overly grim to note every single job status change of an editorial cartoonist in North American the moment they happen, it's worth noting that there are definitely more astronauts than fully employed editorial cartoonists at this point -- heck, there may be more NHL goalies than staff cartoonists by now -- so every loss is keenly felt. The latest news is that Dwayne Powell, a 33-year veteran of the Raleigh News & Observer, has resigned rather than take on a reduced role limited to local-issues cartooning. Apparently, that will take place mid-August. Editor & Publisher has noticed the general story, and notes that Pat Crowley was on a recently-published Palm Beach Post list of cuts that was noted here and elsewhere for its inclusion of Don Wright.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
2 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Joe Sinnott Tribute

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posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Three By Richard Thompson

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* for the life of me, I'll never understand the costume impulse.

image* the cartoonist and occasional critical lightning rod Frank Santoro takes a look at the conclusion of Gilbert Hernandez's Dark Horse series Speak of the Devil and bemoans the state of the serial comic in today's publishing world. I think we'll see a rebound in the serial comics situation in a few years, but it is pretty awful right now in terms of non-mainstream material released in this format.

* one thing that I think separates Jeff Smith from a lot of even just-as-successful cartoonists is that his endeavors often work themselves into positive and unique publicity opportunities when other folks' similar efforts tend to fade. Two cases in point: the exhibition of his work winding down in Columbus have recently spawned a public resolution on Smith's behalf and a segment on PBS Newshour. I can't recall even talking about another exhibit past its opening date since the Masters of American Comics show.

* the animator Nick Park will celebrity-edit the 70th anniversary issue of Beano. I'm surprised this isn't done a lot more frequently over here, but I would also imagine that it's hard to figure out which celebrities are worth the trouble they would bring putting together such an issue.

* finally, something from the world of not exactly comics: this article broaches the subject of Richard and Mandy Horne's murder/suicide and the way local officials processed the crime in terms of the sort of inquest involved. That may be its ultimate legal legacy, although I remember it hit some folks at first that e-mailed me in terms of the isolation and lack of support that cartoonists sometimes feel, and I think that's a legacy, too.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Awww
Craig Thompson Doodles
James Jean's Silk Spectre Via Vargas

History
Remembering X-Men #200
Unpublished Photo of Bill Finger

Industry
Mike Lester Wins Better Newspaper Division

Interviews/Profiles
CNN: Brett Rinehart
du9: Debbie Drechsler
mun2: Jaime Hernandez
Comics On Comics: Wendy Pini
Indie Spinner Rack: Mike Dawson

Publishing
New Leon
NPR On Non-US Comics in US
100 Graphic Novels In Seven Months

Reviews
Tucker Stone: Various
Sean T. Collins: Ganges #2
Johanna Draper Carlson: Various
Richard Bruton: Suburban Glamour
ADD: The Red Star: Sword of Lies #3
Greg McElhatton: Tim Sale: Black and White

 

 
July 21, 2008


CCI Attendees: Please Consider Buying Something From Comic Relief

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Like many people attending San Diego's Comic-Con International this week, I will miss seeing the late Rory Root at the show and in his element: dispensing advice near his Comic Relief booth, attending the various social functions or even just sitting outside smoking a cigarette and gabbing away.

I hope that if you're attending the show you'll join me in buying something -- anything -- from Comic Relief, for all the usual reasons but also in appreciation of Root's commitment to the comics medium and as a bit of thanks to that great shop's vital and always-welcome presence at the show. I can't imagine it will be easy for that staff to be there this time around, and we all know how much Root loved for people to find something they wanted to read.

I don't even have to recommend anything in particular, because I know they'll have something you want. Rory always had everything.

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posted 4:29 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Creig Flessel, 1912-2008

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Creig Flessel, a prolific illustrator active as a cartoonist and cover artist at the dawn of the American comic book, has passed away following a recent stroke.

Flessel was born on Long Island, New York in the town of Huntington at the tail end of a different period in American history than the one where comics would come to prominence exploiting quirks of printing technology and mass distribution networks. Flessel's father was a blacksmith, and Flessel recalled in later interviews that his family didn't add indoor plumbing until he was a teen. Flessel attended the Grand Central Art School in Manhattan, studied with the painter Harvey Dunn and then went to Alfred University, graduating alongside future wife Marie Marino in 1936. They would marry a year later. In those early years Flessel drew for the Street and Smith pulps, became an assistant on the Dixie Dugan strip, and created art for the Farina Wheat Vic and Sade advertisements produced by the John Striebel Studio. Flessel found work with advertising agency Johnstone and Cushing the next year and would draw material for them put to use to sell several major national brands.

imageAlthough his first comic book industry work was on More Fun Comics in May 1936 (he was working there as early as 1935, one source says), Flessel may be best known for a run of comic book covers he did for Detective Comics in 1937 and 1938, a stretch of books that preceded that comic's most popular tenant Batman. Each issue of Detective from #2 to #17 offered a Flessel cover featuring a boldly delineated and iconic-looking pulp figure, images that still hold power and look effective today. Flessel wrote and drew a number of features in that early boom period and created the DC character the Shining Knight in 1941. He also developed a close relationship with Gardner Fox and Bert Christman's Sandman, drawing many of that character's adventures including his first cover. He was briefly a member of the Harry Chesler shop, lasting less than a month.

Flessel followed Vin Sullivan from DC Comics to Columbia in 1940, providing work for Big Shot Comics, and followed Sullivan again to Magazine Enterprises, even serving as an associate editor. He would continue to draw comics through the 1950s, for DC, American Comics Group and Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay. His last published work in comics during that period is believed to have appeared in 1959's Superboy #72; he returned later as an artist on some of the books that Joe Simon put together for DC such as Prez. He also was one of several artists that worked with Al Capp on the hugely popular Li'l Abner series, producing work that ran in the late 1950s.

imageFlessel moved into syndicated comic strips of his own on Ed Dodd, Win Mortimer and Hart Spence's feature David Crane from 1960 until 1971, more than 2500 of which he later donated to the cartoon holdings at Ohio State University. That strip, a gentle, humorous feature about a small-town minister and his congregation, was syndicated by Hall.

Flessel described a flurry of failed strip efforts, many of which came at the tail end of David Crane, to Gary Groth in a 2002 interview. Among those were Cy Poppins, about the owner of a country store; Willie Wildwood, an environmentally aware strip; The Other Foot with Bill Seay; and an astrology strip for NEA to run in its Sunday packages. Flessel briefly taught illustration at the School of Visual Arts in the 1960s as well.

In more fruitful endeavors, Flessel became a contributor to Playboy during the '60s. By the time David Crane ended, the cartoonist had landed a recurring feature in its pages called "The Adventures of Baron Furstinbed." He spoke of going from "piety to pornograpy" with Groth.
I think the worst pornography is the killings and the bashing that goes on in movies. It's really bad. Holy smokes. You get the blood all over you and you hear it and see it. That's pornography. Somebody kissing somebody else or somebody in bed with somebody isn't. I don't think the stuff I did was pornography! I mean, the poor Baron running around the countryside trying to get in bed with the girls and he didn't make it most of the time! He rarely ever made it. He didn't know what a devil of a guy he was!"
Flessel pursued painting, and late in life took to making recreations of some of his earlier, evocative comic book covers and "Furstinbed" cartoons on commission from various fans. He also did a cartoon for the retirement community in which he lived. That community was in California, where Flessel lived during the final act of his long life.

The cartoonist Michael Jantze was one of those who knew Flessel during the California years. "Creig and his wife Marie moved from the East Coast to Marin County five years back to be closer to his son and family," he wrote to CR. "I had the pleasure of driving Creig to numerous NCS events over the past few years and having a series of private one-on-one conversations about comics with him. What struck me most was Creig was bridge back to the beginnings of comics in the US. He told me stories about being the new kid in the NCS and sitting next to comic strips greats Otto Soglow and Rube Goldberg. He was one of the founding artists in comic books working on some of the seminal titles. He worked in post-war advertising in the '50s, comic strips in the '60s and Playboy in the '70s. Creig literally worked in every discipline of cartoon art (except for greeting cards and editorial cartoons, but who's counting?)."

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Flessel won an Inkpot from Comic-Con International in 1991, a Silver T-Square Extraordinary Service award from the National Cartoonists Society in 1992 and a Sparky Award in 2007 from the Cartoon Art Museum. Flessel's work was exhibited by CAM in 2008 in a retrospective exhibition. Flessel's genial demeanor and role in the comics industry that existed before the arrival of icons Superman and Batman paved the way for his rediscovery by fans and industry observers in the last decade of his life. "He was a delightful man who acted like you were doing him a favor to ask for an autograph or to pose some question about his long, long career," wrote comics historian Mark Evanier of recent encounters with Flessel at News From Me.

In addition to the CAM retrospective and the lengthy interview with Gary Groth in The Comics Journal, Flessel appeared with CAM's Andrew Farago at WonderCon in 2008. A mention in Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) came, at least in first printings, with the artist's name spelled as "Craig," although he reportedly found this a rich source for a humorous anecdote as opposed to an occasion to hold a grudge.

"I was fortunate enough to interview Creig twice this past year," Farago told CR in describing the experience of working with one of comics' eldest statesmen. "The first time was at the Sparky Awards ceremony in October of '07, when I played straight man to Creig as he riffed on a variety of subjects for an appreciative audience consisting mostly of fellow residents of The Redwoods, Creig's retirement home."

"Not wanting to mess with a winning formula, we reprised our roles at a WonderCon panel this past February. Knowing full well that you taking nothing for granted at age 96, Creig greeted me by shaking my hand and saying, 'I bet you thought you'd seen the last of me!' Any doubts that I'd have difficulty passing another hour's worth of conversation with him disappeared immediately.

"We'd made plans to take our act on stage again in 2012, when Creig's 100th birthday rolled around. I thought for sure he'd make it, and everyone in the audience that day probably figured Creig had another 20 years left in him, easily."

Creig Flessel, artist of the comic book Golden Age, had a family that included his wife, a son and a daughter, and grandchildren.

*****

click through the names that follow to read the full remembrances from Andrew Farago and Michael Jantze.

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*****
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Don Wright Accepts Palm Beach Buyout

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The editorial cartoonist Don Wright is among those listed to have accepted a buyout option from his position at the Palm Beach Post, yet another example of a position (or person holding that position) being eliminated in a massive, nationwide shrinking of staff positions in light of newspaper advertising trends and developing manpower needs.

I think this is an important story, in that my gut tells me that a kind of apathetic winnowing of jobs over the last few years caused in part by newspapers not valuing the work done by their staff cartoonists had actually been countered a bit by industry activism and a reduction in numbers that got levels down to some really core newspapers. These new staff position eliminations, on the other hand, seem to be need-to-happen cuts that could go much deeper before all is said and done.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Late In The Game CCI Socializing Tip

imageOkay, here's one more advertised event if, like me, you're not the person who gets invited to all the hot mainstream comics soirees, movie-related happenings and agency parties. Click through the image for details. I've never been to one of these, so read carefully, because I don't know enough to personally endorse it or know to whom it applies/appeals beyond pointing at it and saying, "There it is!" A few nice things about this one that spring to mind on my limited information are 1) it looks like an honest to god alt-culture event, of which there haven't been a ton in recent years, 2) it's on Saturday evening -- a difficult evening for a lot of folks since the gentrification of San Diego really started to take hold and jacked up event room pricing, and 3) it's over by 10, which gets you out in plenty of time to go drink beers on the beach or hit your late-night bar of choice or whatever it is you'll be doing.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
I Just Figured This Out

If we get to the point where vast libraries of comics are available for purchase on-line, I can get rid of all my comics.
 
posted 4:07 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
3 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Platinum Buys Wowio

imageAs expected, Platinum Studios purchased the digital delivery service Wowio in an announcement that came to light last Friday. As rumored, this involved a swapping of stocks rather than an outright cash purchase. As feared, this brought a termination of certain contracts. As insiders were aware, the reports of cartoonists making significant five-figure sums from the service may shock some of those that didn't really follow the company. As hoped for, creators involved with Wowio seem temporarily satisfied they'll be left alone. As mentioned by a few pieces of analysis about the potential for such a sale, a way of publishing their licensed material without the brutal sales figures and sunk costs of paper comic book production makes a lot of sense for Platinum. As I'm not exactly aware of all sources for such news, I can't be certain or not whether anyone has provided cogent analysis as to why the sale was attractive to the Wowio folks or what exactly precipitated tremors in their model that preceded the sale.

Kidding aside, this is perhaps the epitome of a wait-and-see story. While the deal makes a certain amount of sense and there's nothing that specifically screams danger, Platinum's financially precarious position and the past record of at least one of its principals casts some doubt into the whole affair. While initial word back on the amended situation and the resulting contracts has been positive, or at least not negative, I've heard about multiple creators wanting to pull their strips when Platinum's interest was initially announced. (Also working in Platinum's behavior are positive reports about their handling of DrunkDuck creators.) In fact, the option to do so may be an important part of these new contracts. Since they plan to relaunch immediately, by the 10th of August at the far end of things, we should have a better idea of how much of their former business has survived into this iteration.
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Signals of a Misspent Youth

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Drawing Barack Obama

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Dustin Nguyen's Gotham

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this is freakishly adorable
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* although my memory is that most of the initial reports focused on the tragic aspects of the murder-suicide of cartoonist Richard Horne and MS-afflicted wife Mandy, and that it's that aspect of the story that was countered by recent evidence that the crime was much more brutal and over the top than originally believed, a family member points out that this also indicates it was not a mutual suicide pact. Also: is it ever justified to cover up evidence that a crime was more horrible than widely believed?

* the writer Cory Doctorow goes to Secret Headquarters.

* you know, Earl & Mooch is a great name for a strip, too.

image* the cartoonist Signe Wilkinson writes in to suggest that her CCI panel will be good, too, honest: "While I completely understand anyone wanting to see and hear Jim Woodring at 2PM on the 24th at the convention, may I put in a plug for myself since, as a dumpy, middle-aged white woman with zero super powers and inconsequential breasts, I will be one of the weirdest people there. Anyway, comics aficionados just don't get enough edgy matron humor. I can fix that. I do hope someone other than my children show up." This made me laugh, and I'm sure her spotlight panel will be great. If you like editorial cartooning and strip cartooning together, between Wilkinson and Mike Peters it's a great weekend for that.

* today's rousing pre-defense of CCI is from Fantagraphics' Jacob Covey.

* now there's an unexpected source for cultural criticism.

* the Cartoon Research Library at OSU has received an anonymous $1 million gift, which they'll likely put to good use.

* not comics: Mark Waid cracks me up.

* not comics: I don't take a computer to San Diego, let alone to the convention center, but a look at the top of the CCI site indicates that for the first time in probably forever there will be free wi-fi at the show in non-exhibition floor areas.

* not comics: I found the first part of this post about the relationship between the writers Thomas Disch and Samuel Delany to be fairly fascinating, and I have no idea why.

* not comics: I would imagine the super-strong box-office showing of The Dark Knight, and the positive reception greeting the Watchmen trailer, should at the very least have a positive effect on DC Comics morale heading into the CCI weekend. A summer watching Marvel make a successful transition into its own film studio and getting punched by them in the face in terms of dueling crossover comic book series projects had to have felt like a long one, and I say that as someone that openly distrusts any emphasis on emotional synergy between movies and comics. Anyway, even someone as cynical as I am will admit that ruling the box office and nerd buzz world at the same time is probably the first significantly good news for the company since they made their formal switch to their new book distribution partnership. Speaking of which, I suppose that new relationship should get a boost from both movie and trailer, too. I'd be surprised if there wasn't a mini-run on Watchmen at many retailers, including the on-line ones -- although now that I think about that, not being able to serve that kind of mini-demand wouldn't exactly be encouraging given the size of the company and the core value of those books. Okay, now I'm just writing as I'm talking out loud.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 60th Birthday, Garry Trudeau!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
History
Avengers Original Art Mystery 01
Avengers Original Art Mystery 02

Interviews/Profiles
Guardian: Jamie Hewlett

Not Comics
Charles Hatfield on Hellboy 2

Publishing
American Flagg! Project Profiled
Paul Levitz on DC Digital Strategy

Reviews
KC Carlson: Secret Invasion
Don MacPherson: Water Baby
Koppy McFad: Simon Dark #10
Don MacPherson: Iron Man #134
Avi Weinryb: Amazing Spider-Girl #21
Geoff Hoppe: Amazing Spider-Man #566
What Omega The Unknown Is Actually About
Koppy McFad: The Joker's Asylum: Poison Ivy
Koppy McFad: Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #1
Leroy Douresseaux: Elle Mamahara's Alley of First Love
Johanna Draper Carlson: Archie Americana: Best of the Sixties Vol. 2
Greg McElhatton: Knights of the Dinner Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles
 

 
July 20, 2008


CR Sunday Interview: David Malki

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*****

I wasn't aware of David Malki until several CR readers suggest I track his on-line comic Wondermark as part of my ongoing efforts to track down some of the best works in that realm of comics-making. I enjoyed the strip, and came away from the webcartoonists panel at HeroesCon in June impressed with the articulate and forthright way the cartoonist and film editor engaged with the issues of the day. A book of Malki's material from Dark Horse's on-line comics initiative called Wondermark: Beards Of Our Fathers hit bookshelves this month, making Malki part of the latest publication trend to hit webcomics. I suspect it and Malki will do very well in the months and years ahead.

*****

TOM SPURGEON: David, I'm not really familiar with your background at all. Is there a short standing-around-at-a-party-chatting biography you can give me as to where you came from and how you ended up in LA doing the comic? In particular, were you ever an avid comics reader? Can you outline in rough terms your experience with comics?

DAVID MALKI: I was born and raised here in Southern California, and went to college in Orange County (bachelor's in film production). After one gets a bachelor's in film production in Orange County, one usually moves to L.A. and tries to get an entry-level job in the film industry, which is what I did.

But I was a comics fan, too -- in fact, I applied for an internship at Image Central back when they were headquartered in Anaheim. (They offered me the position, but by the time they called I was already interning at New Line Cinema.) I'd read comic books since the boom of the early '90s, mainly godawful Image stuff, but enough gems that the habit sustained itself through most of college until I realized I had nowhere to put all these pamphlets. So that died until I got a job down the street from a comics shop and started getting into trades and indies.

Anymore, I read very very few comic books, and none regularly -- just don't have the shelf space or the disposable income. And if anyone wants to make me an offer on six longboxes of pamphlets from about '93-'01, I'll give 'em a killer deal.

But I'd always read comic strips in the newspaper. I read every single strip in the paper, even the dumb ones. I never skipped any. For my entire childhood, I never had any idea what in the world was happening in Rex Morgan, M.D., but I always read it whenever my parents bought a newspaper. My parents had old Pogo books (which I, again, didn't always understand, but devoured) and '60s-era Peanuts paperbacks, which I absolutely loved. My mom still gives Calvin & Hobbes collections to her grandkids as gifts -- she was an early influence. But I also recall she once wrote to our local newspaper complaining that The Far Side hadn't been funny lately. One of those people.

The point being that comic strips were far more formative than comic books. Looking at both industries today, from the perspective of an adult in their midst, I'm utterly baffled that the two media even share a common term -- "comics." I don't think they could be more different.

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SPURGEON: Can you talk about some of the major differences you see? Because that's a classic take on comics that's kind of swung in the other direction the last ten years or so, towards their being much the same.

MALKI: I think they used to be more closely related than they are today. Comic books began as collections of strips, didn't they? And in newspapers you'd have the old full-page strips like Little Nemo or Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend which were these gorgeous illustrative works, and later as the funny pages shrank you'd still see Dick Tracy and Steve Canyon which were serialized adventure stories told four panels at a time. These were comic strips that read like comic books, or comic-book-type stories told as comic strips. There used to be a lot of crossover between the formats, in terms of the types of stories you could tell and even the talents and properties involved. I just saw a thing on Journalista about a Beetle Bailey comic book from 1953, with full-on comic-book style Beetle Bailey stories.

You don't see that today. Bill Amend and Stephan Pastis aren't drawing comic books. And it's because of Peanuts -- Schulz took the tiny scrap of real estate on offer in a newspaper and started to tell tiny little funny stories with it. And, notwithstanding the continued existence of strips like the soap operas and the completely bizarre newspaper version of Spider-Man (none of which, I would argue, work as comic strips), that's pretty much what we have today. The comic strip format today is a joke delivery medium, or in some cases a story-made-of-bite-sized-jokes delivery medium.

Meanwhile, comic books decades ago spun that adventure-serial tradition into longer and more complex stories about superheroes, and later more literary works. Like Schulz taking advantage of his tiny scrap of newsprint, comic books took advantage of their full-sized multi-page format to tell bigger and more ambitious stories. Basically, we had sibling formats that grew up into very different adults -- sharing a family resemblance in their visual vernacular of panels and word balloons, but content-wise no more similar than poetry and novels, or pop songs and opera. They're two different types of storytelling that just happen to share a common language.

The reason any of that's important is because the audiences for the two formats are now completely different. People today, at least up until the current generation, have grown up reading funny comic strips in newspapers and are familiar with that form. Everyone likes to read a little bite-sized comic strip because it's quick and they expect a joke. A comic book has a lot more hurdles in front of it -- the length, the complexity (wander your local comics shop for ten minutes and tell me if you can find one pamphlet that a totally new reader could pick up and fully comprehend), and not least, the nerdy culture that's grown around it all. So few people even read for pleasure that asking people in general to read comic books is doubly difficult. But anyone'll read one comic strip, and if they laugh, maybe they'll read another, and so on. I think, in general, humor comic strips will always attract larger audiences than long-form comic books of any genre.

The differences between these formats (as well as new and hybrid formats) and how they appeal to different types of audiences are, I think, important components missing from all the talk about how to make money at webcomics. United Feature Syndicate and Marvel Entertainment don't share a business model, so why would anybody think that the many different types of webcomics do or should?

SPURGEON: How surprising is it to you and the people who know you that you're doing what you're doing now?

MALKI: It's not at all. I think one measure of doing something fun with your life is whether you're still doing the things you came up with on your own as a kid. I used to trace Charlie Brown and Garfield and Calvin and make my own versions. The influence of the aforementioned Image books led to oodles of ill-fated home-grown comic books, but strips are what stuck. I got two pages drawn of my elaborate fantasy epic, maybe nine of my sci-fi horror book, but I finished something like 125 episodes of my parody Batman strip Bic Man starring the ink-blob mascot from Bic pens.

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SPURGEON: Although I think that perhaps you just quit your formal day job, I noticed that you're a film editor in addition to doing Wondermark. Can you talk about how that work might have had an effect on your comics? For one thing, I have to imagine it provided you familiarity with some of the tools you use in assembling the work. Is there a way of looking at comics that you think might make you different than someone without your specific professional background?

MALKI: I spent about five years working full-time in motion-picture advertising (as it's known), working on trailers and TV commercials for movies, until I started turning down that work to focus more on comics. Editing TV commercials is a lot different from editing student films -- for one, there's such thing as a time limit. 30-second TV commercials can't be 35 seconds long. So that practice taught me a lot about how to get your message across quickly and within boundaries. But I also learned that cutting jokes way down and messing up their rhythm to fit three of them in a commercial is a good way to make them not funny -- sometimes you need to leave some breathing room.

The first people I showed Wondermark strips to were colleagues at the agency where I worked -- folks who weren't necessarily comics fans, and who prided themselves on being both creative and critical. It got me in the mode of writing for a varied, reasonably intelligent audience as early as possible.

As for the computer skills & such, I was familiar with Photoshop, etc. from fooling around with other projects long before I started the comic. But I certainly honed a lot of technical skills working in advertising.

SPURGEON: You told Shaenon Garrity that you started doing the work that became Wondermark in part out of a fondness for the older illustrations that you use. That's not exactly a common interest, David -- can you talk about your interest in that kind of illustration? Did you approach those old magazines directly, or did you enter them through their appropriation into other media? How did that interest develop?

MALKI: I was a kid that could stare at the engravings on a dollar bill for an hour, just marveling at the craftsmanship that went into it. My "formal" art training -- private lessons with a group of friends for about four years -- emphasized the fundamentals of craft above stylization. Our teacher, a wonderful illustrator named John Arthur, would pull out Wyeth and Frazetta and Rockwell and Wrightson and Michelangelo and hold them side-by-side with the Liefelds that we would bring in to show him. So a classical appreciation of craft was an important element of my artistic education. (And a solid foundation in figurative anatomy is why I can't really cartoon worth a damn.)

I think my first encounter with Victorian illustration was through a Dover clip-art collection, which I would just marvel at. That's what I first used for the comic, but when I began to see the same characters crop up in other media -- after all, anyone can use the same clip-art -- I started researching where the illustrations came from, with the idea to make my work more unique through the use of images that others didn't have the same access to or familiarity with.

image SPURGEON: One thing I think that's interesting in working with the illustration the way you do is that on the one hand the images are sometimes similar panel to panel, which indicates that people might process them visually very quickly, but at the same time the quality of the art is very involved. Do you find in writing for that kind of art that there are approaches or types of writing that work better than other kinds of writing? Do you write for the art?

MALKI: Sometimes I write to the art -- "what is this bear saying to this man?" -- and sometimes have to make the art fit a preconceptualized joke; it's about 50/50.

And there are some tricks of writing that I think are unique to the way my type of comic works. For example, if you look at a very streamlined cartoon strip, usually every element is in there for a reason. If the cartoonist goes to the trouble of drawing a vase in the background, then you know the vase is going to come into play somehow. But in my strip, a vase in the background might reasonably be there for absolutely no reason. It might just be part of the engraving -- the reader doesn't assign it any special importance. So in a case where the vase does come into play (Wondermark #342), it hopefully surprises the reader.

The same can be said for any of my strips that involve a change from panel to panel. What "any element I took the time to draw" is to the the streamlined cartoonist, "change from panel to panel" is for me. It draws attention to itself, and if it's not relevant, it distracts. Knowing that helps inform how I structure each comic, and it's definitely a different approach from how a traditional cartoonist might work.

SPURGEON: On the webcomics panel at Heroes Con, you were one of the cartoonists that mentioned that your impulse to do this work preceded your wider interest in webcomics and what was out there? At the same time, I believe the first time I heard your name was in conjunction with the cartoonist Steve Hogan, and I assume you have friends in that part of the comics field. How did becoming a member of that community and your relationships with other cartoonists have an effect your work, or your feelings towards that work? Has it been helpful? Hurtful? A non-factor? Are there any dangers to be found in the camaraderie of arts communities?

MALKI: I think there's definitely a danger of getting too insular. An advantage that comic strips have over comic books (if the artist takes advantage of it) is the work is not necessarily limited to comic-book fans. People young and old, male and female, rich and poor, read comic strips, and the same can't be said for comic books, at least in this country. So (with the occasional exception) I try not to write specifically for comics fans, a trap that I think is easy to fall into when you hang around comics fans and read comics messageboards and inundate yourself with comics stuff. As far as writing the comic goes, I want to insulate it from the world of "comics" as much as possible.

But being a part of the comics community personally has been hugely beneficial. Participating in fan messageboards helped me publicize Wondermark early on, and that grew into links from more popular webcomics, which helped me develop what's become a more self-sufficient audience. It's been great fun meeting and hanging out with other creative people whose work you respect and who're doing the same thing you're trying to do -- working and learning from each other, having nerdy conversations that nobody else cares about. The social component of conventions is absolutely my favorite part, and I really hope that rising travel costs don't ruin that part of the experience for me. And being involved socially has opened up a lot of business opportunities as well. It's the same as networking in any other field.

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SPURGEON: One of the macro-stories about on-line comics is the growing ability for people to make money with the on-line material at its center. As someone on the inside, and even a beneficiary of some of these opportunities, can you talk a bit about how things have changed since you started? I get the sense that there's some perhaps slight trepidation on the part of some of you that have been around a while when you see folks approaching webcomics as a business opportunity first.

MALKI: I definitely didn't start Wondermark as a business. I don't fill my site with tons of ads, and I'm very sensitive to how often I ask my readers to buy some new product. I think in the webcomics business model there should be a balance between how much free entertainment you provide and how much you can ask readers to invest in your success, and my teeth grate when I see comics that haven't figured out that balance yet (or who willfully weigh down the wrong side).

I'm glad I didn't know anything about webcomics back when I started. If I knew how people were making a living at webcomics back when I started a webcomic, I would have been impatient for my piece. That's just the truth.

Everyone who writes a novel wants to sell as many as J. K. Rowling; everyone who writes a screenplay wants to make a million dollars or win an Oscar. Now there's webcomics too. I'd rather it not be this way, but I think plenty of people look at Randy Munroe and wonder why isn't it happening to them.

SPURGEON: You've worked in a variety of different ways with this material -- for instance, I access your work at your Wondermark url, but I also believe you've worked with one of Joey Manley's sites. Is there anything different about right now in terms of the opportunities provided work like yours that might not have been there two or three years ago? What excites or interests you about the current publishing landscape?

MALKI: I syndicate the comic to Manley's Modern Tales as well as a few other websites, and that's just another way to reach new readers without any skin off my nose. I'm what you might call a "reluctant optimist" in terms of new platforms -- sort of a middle-adopter. I figure anything that I use myself is something that's reached a critical mass for a sufficient number of other people too. A few years ago that meant creating an RSS feed. Then it was Facebook, now Twitter. But I go through life perfectly contentedly without reading comics on my cell phone, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time working on some sort of alternate version of the comic for phones, for example.

People are so used to getting the content they want, how they want it, that I'm gonna make sure the comic is in places they can read it easily without barriers like a subscription wall or a clickthrough ad or putting only a link in the RSS. As long as I do that then I think I've done my job. If they really want the comic on their iPod they're probably the kind of nerd that can figure it out on their own.

And there are certainly more opportunities now for content than ever before, with the disadvantage that it's harder to stand out from the crowd. That's always the problem in any medium, and it's not going to get any easier in the future. The secret now, as it's always been, is to do good work. The better your work, the less hard you'll have to work to get people to read it. I work reasonably hard, but Nick Gurewitch has to beat people away with a stick.

I also think it's cool that we're at a place in time when cartoonists like Dave Kellett and Bill Barnes can print their own books, sell them to their fans, and make a living at it. The democratization of self-publishing may have made everyone with an ego think they're an author, but it's also made it possible for people like Dave who couldn't care less about publishing deals or getting into bookstores to provide his healthy-but-not-massive audience with a quality product that he makes an excellent profit from. Self-publishing lets you take all the risk and reap all the reward, so if you've got a website with a dedicated fanbase, hooray! The risk for you is much less than Aunt Elsie trying to sell her self-published romance novel out of her trunk. You've sidestepped what used to be the major pitfall for self-publishers, attracting an audience, because you built the audience before you made the book, and only made the book once they've told you they're hungry for it.

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SPURGEON: Can you talk about how the Dark Horse deal developed? Were you brought in after they had worked with Nicholas Gurewitch or at the same time? With whom did you work at Dark Horse and how closely were you involved in terms of how the final product came out?

MALKI: I was at SPX with Nick when he premiered his Dark Horse book last fall, and told him how I'd been ready to do a new collection for a while but, after the process of self-publishing, I wanted to try and see if I could interest a publisher -- as a way to potentially reach an audience bigger than I could just through my website. I think Nick talked to his editor, Dave Land, because Dave got in touch with me and we started that whole process of seeing if it'd be a good fit for them. Nick's book really opened a lot of eyes, I think, to the commercial potential of webcomics -- but I had to warn them, "This isn't going to sell quite as many copies. Let me just tell you that up front." Because Nick's comic is atypical as far as webcomics goes.

It was because I knew that the book would live or die on its content -- not my reputation or the popularity of the web strip, neither of which even approach PBF levels -- that I knew it had to be a book that would take your breath away in a bookstore even if you'd never heard of Wondermark. So I was very picky about how it looked. We went through a lot of proofs. Having designed a couple books already, it was easy to say "Here's exactly what I want." And to their credit, they said, "Fabulous."

SPURGEON: I know that you printed some of your own work before -- how was this experience different? Has there been anything that's surprised you about working through a publisher like Dark Horse and the relationship you've developed there?

MALKI: They've been great. Dave Land said to me, early in the budgeting process, "Tell me what you want." And I said. "Uh, geez, well, I know this is pie-in-the-sky, but I'd like a cloth-bound hardcover with gold foil and glossy color pages. But seriously, I'd be happy with a black & white paperback." And Dave came back a week later and said "Good news! We're gonna do a cloth-bound hardcover with gold foil and glossy color pages." Having them behind it that way was incredible. I could never have afforded to do a color hardcover if I'd self-published.

And they let me do whatever I wanted with it. They didn't ask what was going in the book, which was great because I didn't even really know what it would look like until I sat down to design it. I don't know if that's a typical role for a publisher to play, but it's exactly the way I like to work.

SPURGEON: Having done the strip for a while, and compiling the work into a book which might have given you a chance to look at a bunch of the material with fresh eyes, how would you describe the kind of humor you're exploring in Wondermark? What do you find funny, and is that the same thing as the humor you're writing?

MALKI: Personally I love very dry humor, which I hope is on display in the book's packaging and design. I think tackling absurdity with an absolutely straight face is one of my strengths. The strip itself is a little more traditionally jokey, but I hope it never talks down to its audience. If I had to nutshell it, I'd say it's "absurd things happening to ridiculous people."

I think it's important in writing to stay true to what one finds interesting, and not try to pander for the sake of an audience. The people who're in tune with your sensibilities will stick around, and the ones who aren't, won't. That's perhaps one advantage of a webcomic over a print comic strip in a newspaper -- the only people who go to the trouble of visiting your site are the ones who want to. Over time, ideally, you end up cultivating an audience who'll follow you through variations, experimentations, etc. because they find the same things funny that you do.

SPURGEON: Do you feel constrained at all by Wondermark?

MALKI: Sure, but I think constrictions are part of the fun. I think any form has its constrictions, or maybe should. It's nice to have a starting point for the days when you're staring an empty document. I think writing a gag strip has its own limitations and freedoms vs. a story strip, for example, and on balance isn't any easier or harder.

The moments when the constrictions are most frustrating are when I've written a joke that requires some particular element to work -- let's say, a teacher in a classroom -- and then I have to page through dozens of books looking for a picture of a teacher in a classroom. If I were to draw the strip, I could just draw whatever I want and wouldn't have that problem. Often I'll construct the necessary scene from component pieces, which involves a lot of hunting for an arm in some specific position, a face that looks like it could be the same person from the previous panel but looking another way, etc. Those moments are the most challenging, but if I do my job right, the end result looks perfectly authentic and the process isn't evident to the audience.

The advantage of working this way is the opportunity to create unexpected things in the milieu of Victorian engraving -- for example, a ninja on a unicycle (#238). Hopefully seeing that surprises the reader.

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SPURGEON: A huge difference between on-line comics in strip form and newspaper comics is the amount and ease of the feedback you can receive on-line. Having a forum, or having readers able to e-mail you, what has that experience been like? Do you think it has an effect on the way you create, or the choices you make in how to present something?

MALKI: Personally, I think it's great, but then in my experience, usually the people who bother to write are complimentary. I'm sure there are other artists who've had different experiences with audience feedback. I'm not really bothered by negative feedback, because as long as there's somebody out there who gets what I'm doing, then I know I'm not crazy. It's just not some folks' cup of tea, and that's fine, because it is some other folks'.

Going back to the idea of writing in a way that's true to you, I think a corollary is that you attract the audience that you attract. If you're a jerk and you write a comic that's jerky, then you attract an audience of like-minded jerks and you shouldn't be surprised when the feedback you get is rude. If you're gregarious and friendly, and your comic reflects that, so will your fans. In my case, Wondermark tends to be a bit sarcastic, a little silly, more literate than some comics, and those are the kinds of emails I get.

But this is an area where I think someone starting a new webcomic might get tripped up. Again, I'm glad I did the comic for a few years in total obscurity. I'd already figured out my game and gotten into my groove by the time anybody started paying attention. If I'd had people emailing me after two weeks saying "this suxxxx" I don't know if it would have been quite as much fun. I don't know if I should tell newcomers not to pay attention to criticism, but they should probably at least hold off posting their work until they've got thirty or forty episodes under their belt, so when they receive the inevitable "this suxxxx" emails about episode #1, they're in a place to look back and think, "I agree! The stuff I'm doing now is so much better."

SPURGEON: One thing that's interesting about Beards is the longer commentary pages, and the running commentary. Can you talk about those choices in deciding to present the work in that fashion?

MALKI: The running commentary with each strip is the mouse-over text from the website, sort of a bonus aside after the strip's punchline. That's one of the cool tools that the Web affords you, and I think we found a way to make it work in print. The longer commentary pages, and really a lot of the non-comic content in general, are a value-add for the folks who've already read all the comics online. I'm a firm believer in making sure my books have value unto themselves. I want them to be more than just printouts of stuff from the Web. I want to give the reader an extra experience -- in some cases, an experience they could only have in print.

And I think all that stuff helps put the book firmly on the "humor" shelf in the bookstore, rather than in "comics." That's the audience I'm trying to reach -- fans of humor, not necessarily just fans of comics.

SPURGEON: Have you ever received criticism in terms of using the art you do, from people that don't consider that an artistic endeavor on the same level as drawing the work yourself? I have to imagine that most people would recognize what you're doing as valid, but at the same time comics fans can be conservative and dismissive.

MALKI: Yeah, I've only ever heard that criticism from comics fans. I see comics fans arguing all the time about whether so-and-so is a product of laziness, or whether this-and-that deserves its success, or whether thus-and-such should even be called a comic at all.

On the one hand, I can understand the impulse -- our culture places a high premium on effort, and things that look difficult are always given more consideration than things that look easy. If there are two equally successful things, the one thats look hard will elicit a "Wow, that's amazing" response, and the one that look easy will elicit a derisive "People pay for that???" It's the root of our objection to plagiarism -- regardless of whether an article, say, reported the facts correctly, we don't want anyone to get away with claiming to do work they didn't do.

So having a comic strip that really obviously makes use of copy/paste might strike some people as being a shortcut, or a cheat for not being able to draw well. A lot of times those objections come from folks who've spent a lot of time learning how to draw, and they don't like someone seem to get away with not putting in the same effort.

I can't really speak to those objections, because those people and I are on totally different wavelengths. I used to feel like I had something to prove, like I had to make sure everyone knew how much work I put into the strip. I don't really feel that way anymore; I just try to make sure my work gets in front of as many people as possible, and hopefully some percentage of those folks will dig what I'm doing. The ones who don't, I don't need. Let them argue about it among themselves, if they want.

I don't know if it's endemic to comics, but people love trying to put things in boxes: this or that does or doesn't succeed as a comic for such-and-such reason. I really couldn't care less about that argument. I happen to call what I do a "comic strip" because it uses the vernacular of the form, and people are familiar with what that means. But under different circumstances I'd be just as happy to call it a "comedy website."

I don't care about making comics for the sake of comics. I'm trying to make funny things. They just happen to look like comics, most of the time.

SPURGEON: A couple of things you've said makes me think you're still looking for images, still looking for new characters. Is that true? What is the quality that presents itself that you think distinguishes that kind of art in a way that makes you want to work with it? Is it something that's inherent to the drawing? Do jokes suggest themselves right away?

MALKI: I've only ever repeated source illustrations grudgingly. (Or, in rare cases, when characters recur.) I'd rather each strip look totally new and unique. So I'm always trying to build my database of images, finding new characters, adding to the cast. Because the images are static, there's a real tendency (I think) for them to get old. Once you've seen a certain character, there's nothing novel about him or her the second or third time. So I definitely try to make each strip feature something new that I can present to the reader: "Hey, have you seen this image? Pretty cool, huh?" That's something that works on a different level from the storytelling: simply being able to share the old images that I unearth with the world.

In some cases, a joke (or the rough shape of a joke) can suggest itself from an image very quickly. The Bob character from comic #139 suggested his strip right away. That sort of fascinating character attracts me immediately -- when the image itself is just funny. Political cartoons from the era are a rich source of bizarre visuals, because they're full of symbolic imagery -- for example, the guy in the last panel of #156 is actually, I believe, Otto von Bismarck, and the thing in his hands used to be a zeppelin representing the pressing issues of contemporary Germany, before I stripped out the sneering face.

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SPURGEON: Have you come to notice a difference in the quality of the illustrative art from say, German satirical magazines as opposed to English humor magazines? For instance, are there schools of work where imagery tends to be repeated with more frequency, become recurring drawings? Is the drawing simply different?

MALKI: I've definitely learned which types of magazines are most likely to have the sorts of illustrations that are most useful for my purposes. It's gotta be before 1890, which was when they figured out how to reproduce paintings and photographs, and the woodcuts start to disappear around then. English humor magazines tend to have sketchier art, and the stuff before about 1870 has very loose linework that doesn't read well in a comic. The images in comic #402, for example, come from an old Punch, and in the first panel I had to add a halftone to pop the guy away from the background. By contrast, literary magazines such as Harper's and Frank Leslie's tend to feature much more intricate engravings -- comic #414 uses an image from Leslie's, I believe. Some of the full-page engravings in these magazines are beautiful, but all the linework is totally lost when reduced to comic size, so the effect isn't as cool. I've used a few of them to make greeting cards, which I think is a better way to showcase that level of intricacy.

Harper's also features serialized fiction, which can be handy because sometimes you'll see the same characters in different poses over the course of the story. Comic #304 was built that way. Harper's also features a lot of landscapes and buildings in their articles about travel or historical places ("the house where Joan of Arc lived at age 12," that sort of thing), which are great for backgrounds. And if you need a hat or a desk or a table or a vase, best to pop open the 1901 Sears-Roebuck catalog. You just get more familiar with it all over time, so depending on what sort of image you need, you know where to start looking.

SPURGEON: Do you a feel a kinship with people who have worked with this kind of material in the past, say Shane Simmons or Terry Gilliam's animated bumpers for the Monty Python show?

MALKI: I think it's cool that other people have appreciated this work in the same way that I do. People like to bring up Max Ernst to me a lot, whose work I finally looked up after having never seen it. He was doing almost exactly what I do! His stuff is awesome, and I've even seen a few images I recognize among his work. Seeing his stuff is really inspiring. I'm not familiar with Shane Simmons, but I'm a big fan of Gilliam. And there are other people who've used Victorian clip-art to make comics or other things. But I still feel my work is different enough from any of these others that I'm able to feel out my own way.

SPURGEON: Do you have a sense of who might buy the book, and how that group might be different than the readers on-line? Who are your readers?

MALKI: I really hope that the book is neat-looking enough that we'll have a lot of browsers picking it up at the bookstore. In fact, I addressed the preface of the book specifically to those people. My fondest, fondest wish is for someone that has absolutely no idea what Wondermark is to pick up the book and be enchanted by it.

When I'm at conventions, I hand out flyers containing a couple short comics to the people walking by. I do my best to hand them out indiscriminately, because I've learned that there's no way to tell -- the person you might think would be totally uninterested ends up walking away with one of everything you have for sale, and the ones you think are totally your kind of people just shrug and throw the flyer away. There is absolutely no pegging a demographic, and I love that. It means that the book's hopefully for anyone who goes to the trouble of browsing the humor aisle.

SPURGEON: What's next for you? Is Wondermark something you'd like to continue for as long as you have an audience? Do you have ambitions elsewhere?

MALKI: I've always had ambitions running in a dozen directions at once. I finished a short film earlier this year, and I've been taking that to festivals all around the country and am working on a feature screenplay. In addition to Wondermark comics and books, I have a Wondermark greeting card line and have just published the second of my "Dispatches from Wondermark Manor" parody Victorian novels. I'd love to keep making comics as long as folks want to read them, but as I said before, I'm most interested in making things that people enjoy. If they look like comics, great, or if they take the form of something totally new, I'm all for that too.

*****

* Wondermark: Beards of Our Forefather, David Malki, Dark Horse Comics, Hardcover, 96 page, 9781593079840, July 2008, $14.95.

*****

* all art from Wondermark site; book cover for new collection up top.

*****

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4 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
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If I Were In SF, I'd Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: the Bolton Brothers launch an on-line superhero comic.

* go, look: The Giant, His Shadow, and The Magical Cloud

* go, read: Paul Karasik in the London Times on Will Eisner

* go, look: Protest against Manchester Hyatt

* go, bookmark: Vertigo writers start group blog
 
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FFF Results Post #128 -- Contastic

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Build A Dream Convention Panel Of Four Folks Alive or Dead and For the Fifth Response Ask A Question." Here are the results.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Steve Ditko
2. Stan Lee
3. Jack Kirby
4. Martin Goodman
5. "Mr. Goodman, did you ever promise incentives or financial participation to any of the panelists on which your company later did not make good?"

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Mark D. Ashworth

1. Steven A. Gallacci
2. Joshua Quagmire
3. Dave Garcia (NOT the one involved with major league baseball)
4. Arn Saba (now Katherine Shannon Collins)
5. "It's been about twenty-five years since you self-published the direct-market comic you are best known for. If you were to start now instead of back then, would you create an entire graphic novel of new material with only the Internet for promotion, or just forget it?"

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Randall Ragsdale

1. Evan Dorkin
2. Paul Jenkins
3. Humberto Ramos
4. Kaare Andrews
5. Would you guys collaborate on a comic and then give it to me? Thanks.

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Don Sticksel

Harvey Kurtzman
Alex Toth
Jack Kirby
Wally Wood
"Yeah, um, we're just gonna listen and take notes."

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Michael Dooley

1. Thomas Nast
2. Herbert Block
3. Robert Crumb
4. Art Spiegelman
5. "What do you think about The New Yorker's 'When the Goddamn Obamas Take Over the White House' cover?"

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Martin Goodman
2. Paul Sampliner
3. Harry Donenfeld
4. Louis Silberkleit
5. "Gentlemen, could you explain how Eastern Distribution fell apart, emerged from bankruptcy as Independent News, and ultimately came to own Detective Comics?"

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Don MacPherson

1) Mark Alessi
2) Rick Olney
3) Pat Lee
4) The Dabel Bros.
5) "Are you gentlemen willing to give the contents of your wallets (just cash and change) right now to professionals here at the con to whom you still owe money from past ventures into comics publishing?"

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John McCorkle

1. Ted Rall
2. Danny Hellman
3. a lifesize mannequin
4. another lifesize mannequin
5. "Gentlemen, could you start from the beginning and give a run-through of the whole affair to date?"

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Booksteve

1-Joe Simon
2-Stan Lee
3-Jack Kirby
4-Steve Ditko
5- "Hi, I'm a big fan of all of yours but I've always been a little confused. Which one of you created Spider-Man?"

*****

Tucker Stone

1. Robert Crumb
2. Alex Ross
3. Greg Land
4. Joe Matt
5. How can we get the kids to buy more issues of Supergirl?

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James Langdell

1. John Romita, Sr.
2. Joe Kubert
3. Johnny Craig
4. Roy Lichtenstein
5. "Where Do You Get Your Ideas?"

*****

Thanks to all that participated. This feature will return August 1.

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Happy 76th Birthday, Dick Giordano!

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First Thought Of The Day

You know it's time to get rid of your TV when you're on deadline but you keep craning your neck back to catch more of Eddie Murphy's Haunted Mansion.
 
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July 19, 2008


Creig Flessel, RIP

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If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In SF, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In London, I'd Go To This

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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from July 12 to July 18, 2008:

1. New Yorker cover featuring radical versions of Senator and Mrs. Obama draws fire.

2. Popular CCI social location the Hyatt under fire for majority owner's public support of a measure that would threaten the status of gay marriages in California.

3. Frank Frazetta sues J. David Spurlock and Vanguard

Winner Of The Week
Marc Weidenbaum

Loser Of The Week
Doug Manchester

Quote Of The Week
Oh, and 'This transition from what basically was an R&D phase into a commercialization phase has required building out infrastructure and product development that has increased our operating expenses significantly over the last two years' is the language of a biopharmaceutical company that has a drug in late-stage trials but nothing on the market yet, not the language of a comic publisher." -- my friend Gil, on Platinum Studios

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
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Happy 58th Birthday, Richard Pini!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Bob Burden!

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Happy 49th Birthday, Luke McDonnell!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Terry LaBan!

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5 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
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Five For Friday #128 -- Contastic

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Five For Friday #128 -- Build A Dream Convention Panel Of Four Folks Alive or Dead and For the Fifth Response Ask A Question

1. Steve Ditko
2. Stan Lee
3. Jack Kirby
4. Martin Goodman
5. "Mr. Goodman, did you ever promise incentives or financial participation to any of the panelists on which your company later did not make good?"

*****

This Subject Is Now Closed. Thanks To Those That Participated.

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.

*****

Note: due to Comic-Con International, the next Five For Friday will be two weekends from now, not next weekend.

*****
*****
 
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July 18, 2008


CCI Reminder: You May Want To Check Your Credit Card If You Canceled A Room Through Travel Planners

Doing a routine look-over of my accounts I noticed I got socked with a deposit for a room rezzo I made and later canceled in full accordance with Travel Planners policy.

Travel Planners is being really nice about it, and I'm no longer 22 so this doesn't bankrupt me, but the principle of the thing is annoying. I had to ask to speak to a supervisor to get past the "it should cycle back to you in a month" assurances, because, you know, you cancel a room weeks before a faulty deposit is secured you want that money back without them borrowing it for a month first.

Update: I was able to take care of it. Basically, what happened is that the person at the hotel in question doing deposits did the deposits and only then went to work on the second sheet of paper, the cancellations, so she immediately refunded and by the time that comes through they'll have had my money extremely briefly. I guess the point is to be careful and double-check stuff like this.
 
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Go, Read: The 3000

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I was going to write a long introduction to this piece and turn it into a standard newsbrief posting, but to be honest I think it's totally self-explanatory.
 
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Platinum Sends Creator DJ Coffman Cease and Desist Letter Over URLs

Platinum Studio's treatment of DJ Coffman, a one-time creative partner and very public defender of the California-based licensed property farm, moved into a new and potentially more depressing chapter when the company sent the creator a cease and desist letter for his use of URLs related to the property that tied him to the company. Not only that, but Coffman questions the company's claim of spending $24K on marketing his creation by wondering how exactly this was accomplished, reveals he bought ads out of pocket when they declined to, and suggests that their discussion of his situation in a recent interview may be exactly the reveal of confidential details they accused him of at an earlier time. Where do I sign up?
 
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Another Editorial Cartoonist Losing Job?

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This article indicates that Dick Adair is among the employees targeted by the Honolulu Advertiser for its seven percent workforce contraction. What might be interesting about this specific instance -- beyond the fact that Adair seems to be the best-known of those targeted -- is that the paper doesn't seem to be in all that much trouble, and that these are cuts being made because of projections of revenue slowdowns investors see as a possibility in the near future.
 
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The American Comic Book Industry: Making The Easy Difficult Since 1938

The amount of needless agonizing and fussiness indulged in by members of the American comics industry and fan cultures when confronted with a potential ethical choice is always fun to watch, and this is doubly, perhaps triply true of the latest community brouhaha: the notion that comics industry scene-makers at the forthcoming San Diego Con might want to think about (gasp!) drinking someplace other than the bars owned by someone at this very moment openly supporting a specific political agenda with which they might strongly disagree.

Poke around places like here and here and you see the usual dissembling and "not the boss of me" proclamations: let's do something "creative" instead of having to make the choice that seems to be presented to us, you're denying this person's right to free speech, I'll go but I won't like it/cooperate/buy as much as I might otherwise, our actions don't matter in the long run, you're hurting the people that are employed by this person, comics is a bunch of mob-minded lefties, for all you know the owners of the Westin could maintain a dungeon filled with nine-year-old sex slaves, and so on.

As tends to be the case with comics folk post-1990 or so pressed to make some kind of simple decision that doesn't directly benefit them, the flailing about can be fairly awesome to behold. The issue as presented seems clear to me: whether or not to patronize a business when you learn the owner is supporting a stance on public policy that upsets people with whom you work and are thus asking you to consider another option. That seems like a clear decision to make with simple options in response: yes, no, I don't care. Even better, which bar to drink in is maybe the lowest set of stakes for a decision possible in this world. Easy, right?

Apparently not. I'm baffled why it should take anything more than prominent people in the comics industry declaring they're uncomfortable with a business this year to make folks consider with seriousness and respect the courtesy of a bare-minimum effort to patronize another place until the situation shakes out. Instead, the response from many people seems to be finding ways to justify continued patronage as if this were a very, very precious thing. In fact, most of the rationalizing being done on behalf of continued patronage not only invests it with importance, it seems to presume one's decision to hang out and drink in a certain location comes as the fulfillment of an expectation for received business that no entity on earth should get to claim or have claimed on its behalf. The end result: no one simply disagrees. Rather, there seems to be a compulsion that one agree with the spirit of the objection being made and explain why they can't do anything about it.

The problem is that the reasons floated to justify holding both positions don't make a lot of sense, or make much less sense than picking a side and seeing it through to conclusion. For instance, saying a decision to socialize elsewhere "only hurts the wait staff" is loopy. You're not withholding anything from those folks simply by walking past their place of business, not in the way you're asserting. You're simply patronizing another business with its own equally deserving-of-your-money wait staff whose majority-stakes owners have managed not to make a strident public stance that has your fellow industry members uncomfortable with going there.

This bears underlining. There are people who need the money on the other side of every single decision to patronize or not patronize a business for every reason possible, from one based in an ethical choice or sympathy for another's position like this one to one based on simply liking the carpets more in one business over another. Why should the wait staff at the Hyatt not get your tip money because their boss supports a certain policy? Well, why should the wait staff at not-Hyatt not get your tip money because you drank at the Hyatt last year and the year before that? What did those not-Hyatt people ever do to you? Where are their champions? It's a made-up argument covered in a shoddy coat of freshman dorm hallway class politics. The person that argued that the Marriott's bar is too small to host enough people to be a suitable substitute may have sounded crass in comparison to the comics industry's freshly minted crew of Emma Goldmans, but that argument is at least driven by a standard that holds up to basic scrutiny.

In the end it's not very surprising that people in comics make complicated a simple issue, because far too many people in comics faced with any issue at all shrug their shoulders, work like hell to come up with a wacky, left-field solution or to make cloudy the waters, and then end up doing what's most convenient for them or most flattering to their sense of self and place. Too many comics folk fight harder for the right to walk their own path than ever fight for anything that matters, if only to someone else.

I expect the Hyatt's bars to be packed.

Update: Since about a half-dozen have you have asked, the owner of the Hyatt does have a small ownership stake in the Marriott as well, a property he originally developed. The primary owners and operators, however, is the Host Hotels and Resorts group. As far as I know, nobody in the comics industry has expressed you extend your decision-making process to that property. Still, if you're looking to get at Doug Manchester in all his endeavors, his ownership stake may make a difference to you deciding to go there as well.
 
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6 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
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Go, Look: Ming Doyle

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this is ancient, and there are better looking pieces of art on the site, but it made me laugh
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* apparently, the real world is turning into a Rick Veitch Army@Love comic book.

* a documentary is looking for an artist or artists trying to get work as an artist at the San Diego Con. I would have to say showing up with a camera crew would be an advantage to getting your stuff looked at.

image* a written article and video supplement about Mort Walker's massive collection of comics original art finally finding a home at Ohio State both answers and may raise some questions. While I think there are certainly laudatory if not heroic aspects to Walker's passion in gathering all of this material into one place and keeping it safe, there are elements of the museum's journey from conception to its final destination that I hadn't heard before and makes me wonder about certain aspects of its history. For instance, if the museum had received $5 million in corporate sponsorship, could it really have made a go in the reportedly lightly-visited Boca Raton space? Was NYC ever a serious option and do we know everything about why that fell through? When they say the material donated has to be cataloged by OSU, does that mean re-cataloged or that the material hasn't been cataloged yet?

* not comics: did you know there was tabletop role-playing material based on the idea that HP Lovecraft went on to write superhero comics for Nedor? That has to be the nerdiest thing I've ever seen. Don't get me wrong, though: I swooned.

* yes, comics: did you know that the author Audrey Niffenegger was doing a comic for the Guardian?

* this seems quite reasonable: Dan Piraro talks about requests for use of his work, why he'll say yes to some and no to others and why you should always ask.

* the retailer Brian Hibbs goes into significant detail about a forthcoming purge of material from the shelves of his store based on information gathered by a POS system he installed last year.

* the writer and cartoonist Shaenon Garrity on Mother Jones' web site.

* the prominent blogger and longtime industry veteran Heidi MacDonald asserts that the economic impact of Comic-Con International has been vastly under-reported by civic officials.

imageI imagine that could be true, I don't know. On the hand I have no idea how this information is collected and it sounds like there could be oversights in what's counted. On the other hand, I know that my friends who go to CCI and to trade shows at the same facility drop a lot more money in the city when they're looking at medical equipment or marketing seminar DVDs instead of old issues of Marvel Two-In-One, and have even more money dropped on their behalf. CCI isn't a cheap experience but one of the major expenses (flying in) goes to an airline and one of the others (hotels) can be mitigated through roommates and staying only part of the show. I'll be there two of the four days this year and I doubt I'll spend $250 in San Diego itself, and that includes a room to myself and eating out twice in a restaurant because I'm old now. (No ballgame this time, though.)

As might be expected, people seem to be seeing this as an issue of the city not loving convention-goers properly, which is leading to the usual calls that the show consider a move to Las Vegas, I guess because of its reputation for loving people. If you've ever been in the taxi line at McCarron and the registration line at CCI, I know the thought of doing them both in the same day just made you shudder. I prefer to keep my Vegas and my CCI separate, thank you, like chocolate cheesecake and Hendrick's Gin. Although it would be hilarious to experience one year just to see how many people tried to do without a hotel room of any kind and how many of my friends never quite made it to the exhibition hall. Also I would totally kill to shoot craps with Captain America.

* I knew it.

* finally, with what seems like an unusually high level of complaining going on about the direction and tenor of Comic-Con International underway despite its sold-out status a week before the 2008 show, I went looking for a white knight that might be speaking more positively of the show than expected. Here's alt-comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly with a resoundingly positive note about the forthcoming show and the convention's devotion to comics in general.
 
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They Just Don't Draw Like This Now

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although to be fair, they don't say "dang my dingies" anymore, either. this is a throwaway Buz Sawyer panel
 
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Quick hits
Craft
Panel Lottery
On Flipping Manga
Alison Bechdel Makes Him Feel Stupid
How Dean Haspiel Made His Webcomic

Exhibits/Events
SLG: Twittering CCI
Fantagraphics at CCI
CCI's Island of Awesome
Vince Moore Will Miss CCI
Jess Blackshear's CCI Tips
David Welsh on Hyatt Mess
CBLDF Black T-Shirt Promotion
Pictures From Toronto Comicon
Troy Little as Artist In Residence
Marc Mason Remembers CCI 1991
Brandon Jerwa's Keys To CCI Success
Ryan Claytor Announces Cross-Country Tour

History
When Gary Met Philip
Why Comic Book Sales Suck

Industry
Big Three Vs. Big Two
Publishing Storylines in Comics

Interviews/Profiles
CWR: Jeff Parker
CWR: Marc Bernardin
Marjane Satrapi Watch
Heavy Ink: Jim Hardison
Newsarama: Mike Benson
Wizard: Josh Elder, Russell Lissau

Publishing
Duck Strip Re-Named
LA Times Launches Geek Blog
Kyle Baker How-To Previewed
Collected Nat Turner Previewed

Reviews
AJ: Freddie and Me
Kevin Church: Various
Johnny Bacardi: Various
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Kazu Kibuishi: Tekkonkinkreet
Ken Krimstein: Freddie and Me
Jog: Omega The Unknown #10
Marc Sobel: Love & Rockets Vol. 1 #34
Johanna Draper Carlson: Antique Bakery
Gene Phillips: Frederic Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture 01
Gene Phillips: Frederic Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture 02
 

 
July 17, 2008


Late In The Game CCI Socializing Tip

imageUSA Today pop culture blogger Whitney Matheson sent out e-mails to me and a lot of other folks to promote her Saturday afternoon CCI meet-up in San Diego. That's July 26, for those not calendar savvy.

I mention it here not because I'm a nice guy who wants to start posting everyone's get-togethers but because a) like the CBLDF party on Thursday night, it's an away-from-convention-center social event to which everyone is invited, so it might appeal to folks who, like me, might not know about or get invited to all the Thursday and Saturday night publishing, agency and Hollywood parties, and b) it takes place during the show but is being advertised and promoted in conjunction with the show. I think this will be a big part of future San Diego cons if the attendance remains high. For instance, I bet in the next few years we see off-site supplementary events from publishers, particularly those that don't necessarily attract the plan-six-months-in-advance crowd.

In fact, I'm sort of surprised no one's yet tried to put together a not-the-con but near-the-con alternative event, a Slamdance to CCI's (Super-)Sundance. I know I'd go to a cool event at the Marriott or Hilton that honored my CCI badge, and I could even get some local pals or LA friends to go that had no chance or desire to get a CCI badge proper.
 
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7 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
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Go, Look: Sergio Ponchione

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I never noticed until yesterday that Oliver Harrington and Will Eisner went to the same high school, seven years apart. A lot of people went to DeWitt Clinton, but I'd never seen Harrington mentioned as an alum before.

image* I still don't get why anyone would ever wonder why a charitable organization might decline to publicly display and sell a picture that suggests incest and features a superhero's asscrack, or, for that matter, why this still couldn't be sold on the charity's behalf at a future time with probably more money being earned for the group because of the publicity generated on the piece's behalf. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way, either. I'm truly baffled. It's like watching someone wondering out loud why their Dad got mad at them for doing the Aristocrats joke at one of those VFW steak dinners.

I guess there could be some irony if it were a free speech group declining to publicly show the illustration, but the Frank Cho drawing of Hulk disrespecting She-Hulk's boundaries pictured here was submitted to help aid the cause of older creators in need. The fact that the organization displayed a similar picture at one time only has import if you adopt the worldview that private groups and individuals are making some sort of public precedent every time they do something, which is the kind of assumption people only make when they spend too much time on the Internet. I don't get it.

* not comics: if you pay attention to the various movie and comics sites around the Internet today, expect bootlegged copies of the Watchmen movie trailer debuting with the new Batman film to pop up and then disappear as Time Warner plays whack-a-mole. I'm not bragging when I say I don't have an investment in comic book-related movies -- I never thought I did until I really didn't, at which point I realized I had -- but at this point I really don't care if comic book movies are awesome or horrible or, well, whatever. I prefer comics, you know? No one goes around burning the comics if its movie is terrible and the comics don't suddenly give off purple rays that make life better if its movie is good. With that said, the trailer out there seemed just fine to me as far as trailers go. It's not the Triplets of Belleville or the Casshern trailer, but it's a pretty good one.

(I didn't know Billy Crudup was in it, either. Did anyone out there see his Stoppard/Chekhov stage debut two-fer back in the '90s? There are a lot of people still waiting for that actor to start his movie career, and Crudup's had a respectable movie career.)
 
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Happy 70th Birthday, Hermann!

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Happy 32nd Birthday, Brian K. Vaughan!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
History
Frank Miller and Batman
On To Terra and the 49ers
Big Papers Are Doing Hero Histories Now
I Have No Idea What They're Talking About Here

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoon
One Paper's Tryout Results
Zippy Mocks Global Warming?
Strip Exploring Domestic Abuse
Wil Wheaton Done Writing Star Trek Manga

Interviews/Profiles
The Trades: Lora Innes
Geek Syndicate: Rob Williams
College Campus News: Kelley Hall

Not Comics
How To Read Up On Joker For Movie

Obama Cartoon Wrap-Up
The Irony Gap
Summary Article
Lighten Up, Dudes
Cartoonists Not Fond
Barry Blitt Defends Self
Long Islanders Appalled
Offensive Cartoon Has A Point
LA Times: It's a Good Cartoon

Publishing
Zot! Single Copy Previewed
Top 5 Current Garth Ennis Comics
Comic Book Tattoo Project Previewed
 

 
July 16, 2008


This Isn't A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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*****

Here are the books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, potentially honking off my retailer.

*****

MAY080047 CONAN THE CIMMERIAN #1 $2.99
This is the latest re-launch of DHC's successful run with the Conan license. Includes some work by Richard Corben, I think.

MAR080221 ASTRO CITY THE DARK AGE HC BOOK 01 $29.99
MAR082102 MICE TEMPLAR #5 $2.99
I've lost track of both Kurt Busiek's affectionate, genre-stretching take on superheroes and Michael Van Oeming's version of anthropomorphic fantasy adventure.

MAY082197 CHARLATAN BALL #2 $2.50
MAR082095 GODLAND #24 $2.99
joecaseymania!

JUN083785 JEFF SMITH BONE & BEYOND HC $24.95
This is super-handsome. Even if it were hastily-assembled crap, it's not like there's a ton of work out there about Smith, so you'd want to buy it anyway. Luckily, as it's really, really nice, you'll want to buy it right now.

APR083898 HOUDINI HANDCUFF KING SC $9.99
I liked this day-in-the-life of 20th Century icon Harry Houdini more than a lot of my friends seemed to; this edition is the first paperback one.

DEC072241 HOWARD THE DUCK OMNIBUS $99.99
I prefer the comics, but you may not. I think this is important enough work that most comic book readers would want some copy of the material.

APR084347 HOW TO DRAW STUPID SC $16.95
This is Kyle Baker's how-to book, and the best title of the week (intentionally funny division).

MAY082298 OMEGA UNKNOWN #10 (OF 10) $2.99
I've greatly enjoyed this series, re-imagining the Steve Gerber/Mary Skrenes/Jim Mooney series with a new storyline or two layered in. I really like having it as comic books, too.

APR083847 COMICS JOURNAL #291 $11.99
The Tim Sale interview could be interesting, and certainly the Josh Simmons chat will be.

APR084228 REAL GN VOL 01 $12.99
I'm all for quality sports manga, and will use this one to whet my appetite for the Slam Dunk re-release.

MAY083919 ZOT TP VOL 01 COMP BLACK & WHITE STORIES 1987 TO 1991 $24.95
Despite my High Crabbiness routine from earlier this week, this is a nice-looking volume and quality work of which I'm very fond.

*****

The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, that was in no way an accident. It was personal.
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Why Chris Butcher Won't Be At The Hyatt During CCI 2008, And Why You Might Not Want To Go, Either

Because hotel developer Doug Manchester (the Manchester in Manchester Grand Hyatt, one assumes) recently donated a six-figure sum in support of an amendment that may threaten California's lifting of a ban on same-sex marriage. The prominent blogger and retailer's one-man refusal to hit the popular CCI nightstop (he admits freely that no one is likely to be able to change a hotel reservation at this late date) will supplement a more concerted effort to draw attention to the move being made by local activists.

I know that it's almost impossible to think that another place will be found for comics' annual feel-slightly-less-miserable carnival of hand-shaking, drink-buying and overall basking in each others' assumed mutual awesomeness, but I wanted to mention it here because I thought it might make a difference to some of you.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Is Platinum Too Screwed Up For Us To Fully Comprehend Just How Much?

From 1990 to 1993, Kevin Eastman's Tundra Publishing bought dozens of high-profile works for dollar amounts temporarily inflated by a Jim Shooter-primed and then early Image-lubed comics market, opened offices with people and family members collecting comfortable salaries, paid five-figure sums for comics that never got turned in, initially offered contracts that gave creators 80 percent of the net profits, made pledges to buy original art in order to better support the creative people involved, published around 60 or so high-end color comics and a bunch of high-end graphic novels including some with all the market momentum of a Jon Jost movie at the Des Moines Cinemark14, opened up an office in the United Kingdom, bought a music studio, invested in a pre-press company, paid for its employees to travel (I also hear stories about a limo), and I think purchased Heavy Metal (although that may have been a separate acquisition).

Tundra apparently lost $14 million, and is considered in many circles the biggest disaster in comics history, the publishing equivalent of Vinko Bogataj's famous ski run or astronaut Steve Austin's return to earth or Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White on the Oscars. The biggest disaster in comics publishing history!

imageSomehow, somehow, Scott Rosenberg's Platinum Studios is on pace to lose the same amount of money in the same amount of time. This while managing to produce about half the number of comics -- all of them together not worth a single page of Tundra's Tantalizing Stories in terms of overall quality let alone the nobility of the publishing impulse involved -- in much cheaper fashion, with contracts I can't believe to be as generous, with what I'm told is a smaller support mechanism, and to my knowledge with none of the wider purchases or investments in sideline businesses involved.

This offensive enterprise is able to exist at all because of twin promises: the allure of potentially developing movies from these properties allowing for the hope of an eventual revenue stream to far outstrip these deficits, and the dream of a career in comics and perhaps sharing in some of those film and licensing profits convincing grown men and women to sign contracts that all reports suggest do not live up to current industry standard, no matter what signing those contracts might mean for anybody else and no matter what it likely means for them. This despite any number of options with better track records and a commitment to also publishing comics for comics sake, options that don't yoke you into the service of paying someone's seven figure office rent bill, options that allow you to keep what you created.

I know that comics is an industry dominated for now and forever by shrugged shoulders and resigned capitulation disguised as real politik, but can't we all agree -- just agree, not act in opposition to or speak out against or do anything -- that this kind of business is on balance, a balance that would swing towards unnecessary exploitation were it ragingly successful but on the single standard it's selected for itself could soon outstrip in red ink the Perfect Storm of Dysfunction that was Tundra with 1/100th to show for it, can't we all agree that this kind of business is a very, very bad thing?
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Frank Frazetta Sues J. David Spurlock

imageA press release making the rounds this morning states that Pennsylvania-based artist Frank Frazetta has sued New Jersey-based publisher J. David Spurlock and his Vanguard Productions in New York State for $2 million over a book called Frazetta: The Definitive Reference by James A. Bond and David Winiewicz. The book, a copiously illustrated reference book including an index and promising 800 reproductions of the painter's work is officially due next month although the press release is centered on advertising for the book that began in April. One item of contention is the endorsement claim made on places like the book's Barnes & Noble listing.
 
posted 4:12 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Pro-Palestinian Cartoons Censored?

Here's a potential news story that for the life of me I can't figure out how to track down, verify or contextualize in a way beyond pointing it out and saying "Uh, there it is. Maybe." A site called The People's Voice is accusing Google News of no longer posting art samples from a pair of cartoonists, I think they're asserting because of their pro-Palestinian content. Like I said, I'm not sure how to grapple with that one, so take that not just with a grain of salt but with a giant salt-lick.
 
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8 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
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Go, Look: Three By Richard Thompson

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Go, Look: Ten Things About The Hulk

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I don't link to a lot of these frequent Bully humor posts, but this is a fairly typical example if you were thinking about subscribing to his feed
 
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Go, Look: The Office Party

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OTBP: Stripburger #47

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the retailer Brian Hibbs wrote in to make fun of me for my being ignorant until recently of the PictureBox book on John Kricfalusi... as he first learned about the forthcoming volume from hearing publisher Dan Nadel talk about it on a HeroesCon panel I moderated. This will surprise no one that knows me.

image* this sounds too good to be true, but Editor & Publisher has a short piece up on RC Harvey unearthing a period of correspondence between Samuel Beckett and Ernie Bushmiller. 11:49 ET: James Sturm just wrote in to agree with me and suggests it may have something to do with a Bob Sikoryak fictional piece built along those lines. Anyone out there know more? NOON ET: Ben Towle writes: "This supposed correspondence between Beckett and Bushmiller -- if it's from an article supposedly written by 'A.S. Hamrah' and published in Hermenaut magazine #15 -- has been floating around for years, and was, I believe, concocted by Paul Karasik. It was ages ago, but I seem to remember meeting him maybe at SPX and his admitting to having written it (I'm not 100 percent on this, as this would have occured at the bar post-show, after many drinks, and many years ago). It's a pretty hilarious piece of writing, and done so well that it could easily be mistaken for legitimate... but I'm pretty stunned that R.C. Harvey and/or Editor and Publisher have taken it as legitimate, particularly since the illustrations are clearly credited to R. Sikoryak." 12:07 ET: Dan Nadel confirms. 12:34 ET: Both Bob and Paul just wrote in to clear up that AS Hamrah wrote the story, not Paul.

* this piece on "what Frank Miller did for Batman" is sort of fascinating as an example of how time gets compressed when you're building a myth in terms of someone's creative contributions. I have to imagine the actual publishing back story is a bit more complicated than that. Also: DC President and Publisher Paul Levitz apparently likes the new Batman movie. I wasn't going to see it, but if they managed to somehow win Levitz over, hey, count me in.

* the critic Tucker Stone makes a good point about predicting what's going to work in mainstream comics: what works best seems to be the stories that bubble up in someplace odd and unexpected. I know that the most entertaining work I read in that genre from those publishers tends be semi-forgotten material that's one or two years old that I buy for a $1 apiece at my semi-local comics and paintball equipment store.

image* the French-language manga publisher Editions Tonkam celebrates its 15th anniversary, which the article notes came reasonably close on the heels of what I take to be one of the seminal events in French-language manga translation history, the publication of a translated Akira.

* finally, Barack Obama responded to the Barry Blitt New Yorker cover on Larry King Live by basically saying, Allen Iverson-style, "It's a cartoon." That story should move out of the news cycle today if it hasn't already done so. I'll run some remaining links tomorrow, but for today here's the great Steve Bell on the matter, and although it's not directly related, Garry Trudeau on the state of satire generally and on the comics page.
 
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Happy 38th Birthday, Pierre Wazem!

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Quick hits
Craft
Everyone Loves The Lizardman
Adam Stephanides on D&Q's Partial Flipping

Exhibits/Events
Lea Hernandez Has CCI Sponsors
Charles Yoakum's 20th Year at CCI
Massive Comics Panel Report on Wordless Books

History
On Gillray
British Comics' Belgium Connection
I Blame Obscure Villain The Rumor-Mongerer

Industry
Comics Creator Survey
How Do You Read On-Line Comics?

Interviews/Profiles
Digital Strips: Meghan Murphy
Comics Waiting Room: Jeff Parker
Newsarama: Barbara Canepa, Alessandro Barbucc

Not Comics
Cartoonists Love Cars
Paul Pope, Toy Designer
Kevin Huizenga Suggests Using Diagrams

Publishing
I Like Greg Oden and I Like Slam Dunk

Reviews
Best of Hellboy
James Lileks: Achewood
Richard Pachter: Various
Sean T. Collins: Wormdye
Richard Bruton: Freakangels
ADD: Ralph Snart Adventures #1
Kevin Power: Captain America #0
Tim Janson: Strange and Stranger
Greg McElhatton: Jack Staff #14-17
Hervé St-Louis: Secret Invasion #4
Nick Smith: Too Cool To Be Forgotten
Laurel Maury: Willie & Joe: The WWII Years
Chris Barsanti: Willie and Joe: The WWII Years
Johanna Draper Carlson: Understanding Comics
Leroy Douresseaux: Nat Turner Encore Edition Vol. 1
Craig Fischer: the BP (banal pig) portrait prize anthology
Gary Tyrrell: Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection, 1987-1991
 

 
July 15, 2008


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

By Tom Spurgeon

A recurring column assembling all the straight-up publishing news -- what's coming out, who's doing it, when you'll see it, what it will look like -- into one place:

* manga giant Viz is seeking original comics work.

* new publisher Blank Slate has announced four forthcoming books, in order of their likely appearance: Trains Are… Mint Book Two: Proper go Well High, Oliver East; Sparky O’Hare -- Master Electrician, Mawil; Slaapkoppen, Randall C; Untitled Book on European Folk Tales and Fairy Stories, Stuart Kolakovic. Blank Slate made an auspicious debut this year with works by East and Mawil.

* in case you missed it, AdHouse Books announced their Fall/Winter here, while Boom! has launched an on-line comics initiative featuring older comics content.

image* the prominent 1990s self-publisher Martin Wagner is assembling a Hepcats mini-comic, and has posted two pages to his Flickr page. Hopefully, it will be out in time for it to be read during commercial breaks for the 90210 premiere. (thanks, Chris Rice)

* so we know that Paul Pope won't be in The Best American Comics 2008, guest-edited by Lynda Barry with the support and assistance of new series editors Matt Madden and Jessica Abel. Who will be in there? Here's a list of who you'll see in the release, due October 8: Graham Annable, David Axe and Steve Olexa, T. Edward Bak, Alison Bechdel, Nick Bertozzi, Lilli Carre, Martin Cendreda, Shawn Cheng and Sara Edward Corbett, Eleanor Davis, Derf, Rick Geary, Matt Groening, Eric Haven, Jaime Hernandez, Kaz, Michael Kupperman, Joseph Lambert, Evan Larson, Jason Lutes, Cathy Malkasian, John Mejias, Sarah Oleksyk, Kevin Pyle, Seth, Chris Ware and Gene Yang. If the advance reading copy is any indication, the works will be published in that same alphabetical order, although maybe that's the way it's always done with these books.

* speaking of line-ups, Jacob Covey has released the list of contributors to the art book Beasts 2.

* it may be that I'm the only one that didn't know this yet, but the (not just) comics publishing house PictureBox is doing a major retrospective/art book with John Kricfalusi, out in 2009. (information and picture somewhere on this non-specific link)

* this only matters to those subscribing to DailyInk.com, but their serialization of Roy Crane's Buz Sawyer returned last week after what may have been an almost half-year absence due to a lack of digitized strips.

* add Goats to the list of webcomics that will now see a print-book iteration with a respectable imprint, in this case Villard. Although a couple of the blog postings I read about the move made it seem like it was gathered news, Villard basically sent word out late last week in the form of a press release.


 
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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* the two Tunisian men charged with plotting to murder Muhammed caricaturist Kurt Westerberg will remain in custody until mid-August, a Danish court decided. They were arrested February 12.

* here's something I thought we'd see more of until now: the use of the Danish cartoons controversy as a measure for ridiculousness against what a writer thinks is a more legitimate news story. The "Why are we talking about this and not talking about this?" strategy.

* the Wall Street Journal ran a summary article about the Gregory Nekschot situation, including quotes from the artist and a slideshow attempting to place his work in some sort of context.
 
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That Obama Cartoon: What You Think

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I'd say the takeaway from the publication of the above New Yorker cover and the small whirlwind of controversy Sunday and Monday is that its depiction of Senator Barack and Mrs. Obama has more to do with new-era politics than it does old-school caricature. The cover itself and its meaning, and how that meaning will be used and reinterpreted by various political agencies, will almost certainly fade from public view before those things are clearly defined. It's probably gone already. Let's hash it out one more time.

Is it good art? I think it's OK. It's handsome. The contrast between Michelle Obama's lively visual impression and the Senator's more placid one is probably the most interesting thing about the cover. The general satirical point being made seems to me pretty clear unless you have an agenda or are too stupid to breathe or are willing to be stupid as far as politics go or are mad at the cartoon and want to see it in a certain light or are just really sensitive or fake-sensitive on these issues. Besides, no artist should have to take into account other people's stupidity or agendas when making whatever point they wish to make. However, that general, satirical point? Not much of one. Further, it's unclear whether the artist intended to make fun of the notion on display and/or the people that hold the notion. The cartoon doesn't really suggest anything insightful or new about the subject. It's an illustration of an unfortunate political and cultural reality more than it is a cartoon that engages the ideas fueling that reality. It tells us nothing we didn't know before, even if you allow the intent was to bring about objections from both sides of the political spectrum.

The potential political fall-out is a bit harder to figure out. As some of you may recall, perhaps the most promising and least promising election news items of the late primary season emerged from the great state of Indiana. The bad: there were numerous reports Hoosiers engaged in open racism in their treatment of Obama staffers and fervent supporters. The good: polls seemed to indicate voters appreciated Senator Obama not biting on facile gas tax relief rhetoric, an approval that may have bumped the Senator into close contention for the state. The closeness of that contest basically clinched the nomination for Obama over Senator Clinton. I believe we live in an age where people can process semi-sophisticated rhetoric when they want and wallow in base, horrible prejudice when they want, and it's likely the cartoon has been and will be absorbed in any number of ways along those lines. If someone that wanted to stir things up didn't have this cartoon, they'd find something else to use.

Where this cartoon is likely to find commonality with a number of incidents between now and November is the way it's been processed as a news story. In becoming news, the broader question of whether or not people will vote for Senator Obama based on their fears of his "otherness" (from their perspective) both gets a public workout as a cultural impulse to resist and gains in legitimacy as a political outcome. It becomes a possibility, a script to follow, and although in the end it won't be expressed that way, having it talked about may either help folks become numb to the outrage that might otherwise be a natural reaction to that viewpoint's expression. We'll see.

A more immediate impact, I'd argue, is that however many minutes and column inches and Internet time has been spent on this issue in the last 48 hours diverted attention away from, depending on your point of view, Obama's immediate, recent past of pandering to the middle of the electorate or the Senator's weekend of staking out foreign policy ground on things like Fareed Zakaria's show and in a major written op-ed piece. That's the new reality of political campaigning. Staying on message involves not just building a way of talking about things that connects with people and communicates policy, it's something that must be done while either avoiding or, perhaps, embracing the landmines of an inopportune speech introduction, a wife's tax return, the out-of-left-field acquaintance's sermon, a tendency to look goofy while giving a speech, a few words someone says thinking the microphone is off -- all the things we'd rather talk about than everything that's wrong and what we might possibly do about it.

As far as this distraction goes, the potential prejudice that can be read into the cartoon will likely mitigate its potential for long-term damage or, if you're still being cynical, quickly exhaust its extended effectiveness. In that way, we're better off now than we were four years ago. While it's shameful to think this election may feel the impact of people out there thinking Senator Obama is a secret Muslim, or masking their distaste for the candidate through something like a summary judgment as to his supposedly arrogant demeanor, it was also incredibly stupid that the 2004 Democrat primaries turned on one guy screaming funny at the end of a rousing campaign speech.

The good news, if there's any good news in basically acknowledging our collective inability to be serious about, well, anything, is that while Senator Obama's historical significance may be the avenue for a lot of base politics, it may also serve to dissuade some folks from going all the way down the path of inconsequential nonsense as blithely as they might indulge in otherwise. Senator McCain's experiences as a POW may engender a similar orientation -- albeit at a lower decibel level, race being the source of a greater national wound than the 1960s societal split, no matter what that generation insists. Laughing at Governor Dukakis riding that tank or Bob Dole pitching off the lecture platform doesn't say something potentially kind of rotten about you the way laughing at Senator Obama in a dishdasha might. They're equally unfair, though, distractions from the real decisions that need to be hammered out, and the kind of self-indulgences in our practice of civil responsibility we really can't afford anymore.

In the end, it's not surprising at all that a New Yorker cover cartoon has briefly intruded on the presidential campaign. There's no way in this day and age a substantive article inside the magazine could.

I'd recommend everyone go see what Ruben Bolling had to say on the matter. He comes at it from the perspective of having done a very similar cartoon.

Here's what some of your thoughts on the matter. Thanks to all that participated.

*****

Paul Pope:
The Obama thing is interesting. My 2 cents.

The New Yorker is a fabulous magazine in almost every respect, and it is essential reading for anyone living in New York and interested in what's going on. I love it and read it when I have time. They publish excellent fiction and reviews. Not to mention cartoons! Before anyone thinks the cover image somehow reflects a right-ward shift of editorial policy on the part of the editorial staff, it is worth noting that about a month ago, TNY ran a lengthy op-ed piece on the what it called death of Neo-Conservatism, tracing a well-researched and interesting history from Goldwater up through G Bush, tying in all of the problems resulting from applied Neo-Con policy and basically declaring the right wing of American politics dead. They write about figures such as Castro or Hugo Chavez in very moderated lights, entirely skipping the subjects of absolutism or dictatorship, which I find somewhat strange and disingenuous. They have also routinely been doing very good reporting on the important issues of detainee's rights, military prisons, etc, and have to my knowledge never said anything favorable about the Bush administration. So I would not call TNY a right-leaning magazine.

It seems to me the cover -- which I find very funny -- is intended to parody the right-wing view of Obama as the Conservative's Worst Nightmare, a hodgepodge of every Leftist-Radical Islamist cliche orbiting the heads of the conservatives. Or -- to take a more moderate-Left-leaning view -- that Obama, whatever he professes, is a wolf in sheep's clothing of some sort (I don't think there is a spoken majority opinion on the part of TNY's editorial staff regarding Obama, but he comes under critical scrutiny in certain articles -- which is a good thing) (They did absolute hatchet jobs on Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney in the fall, making them out to be the frighting evangelicals they may well be, for point of comparison). What is the problem, exactly? Is Obama somehow endowed with a special set of rules? There is a sense that "one of ours" attacked "one of our own." If anything, it seems a lot of the outrage can be traced to left-leaning people who see this as some sort of defection or heresy on the part of a magazine which ought to spill it's ink attacking Republicans. This claim that the magazine somehow delivered a low blow to Obama or that the image has somehow employed unapproachabe social-racial shibboleths seems to be a hollow and pretentious POV for anyone -- or one's handlers -- who intends to grab the Presidency. This seems a glaringly hypocritical stance in our current media climate, where such a principle would have to be applied across the board, not just in the case of one's favorite candidate (who in this case happens, among millions of other things, to be an African-American). For example, I don't hear much outcry from anyone when Ted Rall uses much cheaper and less sophisticated rhetoric in his Village Voice cartoons, aimed as his work usually is, in the direction of the Republican-conservatives.

I wonder if you are somehow sensing a connection to the Dutch cartoonist case. If anything, this again reconfirms the power of the pen, and how this ancient tool of protest and satire can be used to such controversial and potent ends. I applaud The New Yorker for this.

If anything, the best hope for the country now comes in the form of what I would call the Skeptical Left, particularly those in the media who are willing and able to speak out about the lies, hypocrisy, and corruption in current American (and world) politics. For that matter, I'd like to see more of it aimed at China's human rights record and it's history regarding Tibet, and more challenge presented to those who are not at all concerned about such things, looking only at the Olympics and more guiltless fun. I am wholly in favor of such gad-flying. It is the power and the freedom of the press and I feel only contempt for this notion that you shouldn't publish satire which make politicians feel bad. To hell with them, right and left.

*****

Wes Umstead:
It seems to me that good satire should tell me something I didn't already know about the target. This cover seems to be saying, "Many Americans are narrow-minded, gullible people who will believe even the most shamelessly baseless propaganda." Which leaves me thinking, "Yes. And...?" In other words, I feel like this point has already been made ad infinitum, and there's nothing particularly striking about the execution of it here. Perhaps it's supposed to be striking because it's topical? In any case, it doesn't work for me.

Alternatively, perhaps it's the context that's meant to be striking. Would the image raise as many eyebrows if it were on the cover of The Nation or The Progressive?

As for the cover's possible effects on the campaign, Don Hazen says:
The cover turns the magazine into a potential Molotov cocktail, to be gleefully tossed by Fox News and the conservative blogs, into the already combustible tinderbox of race and Muslim stereotypes just below the surface of America's public discourse.
This bit from the AV Club's interview with Matt Taibbi also seems relevant:
I'm out there on the campaign trail all the time talking to people who are going to vote in this election. I was talking to this woman in Louisiana last week, and she's standing at a McCain rally, she's actually there supporting the candidate in person, and I say, "What is it about Barack Obama that you don't like?" She turns to her friend and says, "What was that thing about his wife? That anti-American thing?" The other one says, "I don't know. Which thing do you mean?" And she's like, "That thing, where she's anti-American." And the other one is like, "Oh, I don't know. I don't know what you mean." And so she says to me, "Well, I heard this thing about her being anti-American." That was as specific as she could be about why she didn't like Barack Obama, because she heard a thing somewhere about his wife. People are voting on the basis of shit like that.
It seems to me that Hazen and others are arguing that the cover will be another "thing" that the right can use against Obama.

This calls to mind an appropriately comics-centric example: I remember reading that Spiegelman took Crumb to task for his "Goddamn Niggers" and "Goddamn Jews" strips. Specifically, he cited the fact that neo-Nazis had reprinted the cartoons in their newsletter, apparently unaware of Crumb's intended tone. Will the Obama cover be used in a similar way? Will it have any real effect on the campaign? Those are good questions... I'm not sure.

*****

Matt Bors:
I didn't find the cover offensive. The level of outrage generated by it almost seems to be a parody of our outrage culture. Unfortunately, it can't boast of being particularly inventive. Plenty of editorial cartoonists, including myself, have been using this kind of imagery to mock the Right's caricature of Obama since he declared his candidacy. Blitt did a great job with the cover but there's nothing particularly new here except the prominence that a New Yorker cover brings.

You asked if it will have a harmful effect on the Obama campaign. If we live in a nation where the election is decided by a New Yorker cover then it's not a country I want to be a part of anymore. A better question would be, if the cover could possibly be harmful to Obama, should a magazine refrain from printing it? Magazines, illustrators and cartoonists shouldn't hone their message to fit the electoral strategy of a particular candidate. The idea that ignorant racists will now be motivated to not vote for Obama is pretty laughable. Were they planning on voting for him until they saw that cover in the Borders magazine rack?

If there is a belief that everyone left of the KKK should abstain from clear and intelligent satire to avoid a misunderstanding from people who aren't smart enough to think, count me out.

Another week in American media where an issue that affects no one is written about on every blog and discussed with pundits on every TV station.

*****

Gabriel Roth:
Much of the commentary on Barry Blitt's cover has been along the lines of this, from Time's Michael Scherer. Scherer quotes 270 words from William Rehnquist to make the point that "Despite their sometimes caustic nature ... graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate."

Rehnquist was asserting that cartoons count as protected speech under the First Amendment. Scherer, on the other hand, is arguing with a straw man. Jack Shafer does something similar: "Has the public's taste for barbed drawings waned since the Paul Conrad, Herblock, Pat Oliphant, and Bill Mauldin heydays, or have the voices of the would-be bowdlerizers gotten stronger? Shall we don blinders and erect barriers so nobody is offended or misled? Only weak thinkers fear strong images."

The argument against Blitt's drawing is not that cartooning is worthless, or that there's no place for satirical illustration. The argument is that this specific cartoon is a failure of imagination, and that depicting a calumny is not the same thing as satirizing that calumny. Scherer's attempt to defend cartooning is in fact weirdly patronizing to cartoonists everywhere: if cartoons constitute a form of political expression, if they have any meaning at all, then they can legitimately inspire disdain. The First Amendment protects the right of the speaker to speak, but it also protects the right of the listener to boo.

I'll bet you Blitt's illustration appears, unmodified, on merchandise for sale at the Republican convention.

*****

Jason Michelitch
I think it's a solid entry into the long tradition of New Yorker covers trying to be funny and failing.

That said, I don't think the cover is offensive and I don't think it's going to hurt Obama (whom, I should note for disclosure, is my candidate of choice).

First off, anyone who is going to buy the ridiculous racist rhetoric about Barack Obama being a "secret Muslim" and Michelle Obama being a "militant" isn't going to be swayed one way or another by a New Yorker cover. And even if they were, the cover isn't pushing that viewpoint, it's satirizing it (badly). There are far more immediately accessible venues to receive and share that viewpoint available to those who are going to revel in it, such as the "Will it still be the White House?" buttons going around, or endless lying or idiotic pundits who repeat it all ad nauseam on the very same "news" programs that will be running stories about this cover.

Kevin Drum makes the initially interesting point that the New Yorker cover might have shown more guts and a better sense of satire if they had used the same image, but put it in a word balloon coming out of John McCain's mouth. I say initially interesting, because after my knee-jerk anti-McCain reaction wore off, I realized this wouldn't be a very funny cartoon either.

I am disappointed that the Obama campaign felt the need to make any kind of public condemnation of the cover. I'd prefer if they just let it slide off, showing a thicker skin or maybe even a sense of humor about it. On the other hand, you have supposedly legitimate TV "news" coverage that seriously questions whether a fist bump is a terrorist/radical signal, and so I can understand that it can get tough to keep your head about such things. Still, it would be nice if there wasn't always a new manufactured controversy waiting around every corner these days. If anything, it's going to be the attention paid to nonsense issues that will hurt Obama in the long run, since, regardless of whether you agree with his views or not, I think he's in a better position to appeal to a majority of voters in a straight issues debate. But I don't think that this cover is anything special in terms of nonsense issues. If it wasn't this, it would be something else. Welcome to America.

*****

Bryan Young:
After seeing the cover for the first time spread across the news, I thought that it was at best a test of freedom of speech and at worst a cartoon in poor taste. The image struck me enough to seek out the comments of the author who stated that his intention was to illustrate the absurdity of claims made by the vast right wing conspiracy against Obama are. That he's a secret America-hating Muslim with a terrorist black supremacist for a wife seems absurd enough as it is, but the artist is right, it's twice as absurd when you see it. It will certainly affect more than a few news cycles, so only time will tell if it's going to damage our freedom of the press in this country or provide a productive platform to discuss the issues the artist raises.

And, let's face it, whether I agree with the artist or not, it is providing a stimulating conversation.

*****

Tim Hodler:
This is what I think, but unfortunately it's not interesting enough to help you any:

Everyone will have forgotten about this by next Monday, if not sooner.

Oh, and by everyone, I mean everyone but the people who are responsible for picking the cover art at The New Yorker. But that's a pretty small group.

*****

Dustin Harbin:
Regardless of the satirical content, is there a need for the cartoon? Maybe it's just the Muslim connection that makes me think of it, but it reminds me of the whole Danish cartoon controversy. While it's hard to say that I disagree with the idea that cartoonists should talk about whatever they like, it seems like a lot of talk and energy devoted to a so-so idea. Maybe if it were a better cartoon I'd care more. But it seems like its value as satire is muddy at best, and there are more important things to be worried about than some issue of The New Yorker. I live in North Carolina.

*****

Tim Lowery:
Americans do get irony, but lets admit it this illustration failed in a Big way. Just to cry out this is just the PC police that is all hot and bothered is to deflect that this possibly was wrong-headed (in an art-directed sense) cover. Don't believe me? Go here and view the opinions of those outside the usual comic and New Yorker demographic.

here.
and here.

*****

David Jones:
For what it's worth, I think it's an amusing image and a clever jab at people's perception of Obama. But I also think the editors and artist probably overestimated the intelligence of their audience at large, so it can be said, at least in my opinion, that it shows misguided judgment, not to be confused with poor taste. It's no surprise that this has provoked such a reaction; and I suppose from The New Yorker's perspective that's a good thing -- better bad press than none at all!

*****

Nick Marino:
Thanks for mentioning the cover cartoon on the blog. I didn't even know about it until you said anything.

To me, the cover is a conglomeration of stereotypes clustered into one nonsensical image. As opposed to being a clever commentary on misinformation and ignorance, the image actually appears to celebrate the fear-mongering that is sure to take place as election draws near.

I doubt this will have any negative effect on the Obama campaign, however. Way I see it, the cover is a New Yorker PR disaster waiting to happen.

If the point of the cartoon is to confront the unfounded fears about Barack and Michelle Obama and show just how ridiculous they are, I think this cartoon misses the mark.

(And on a personal level, I imagine that the image is probably very hurtful to the two of them. It's not like running for President is something you just casually do whether you're patriotic or not.)

*****

Rod McKie:
We were talking about the cover on the Wisenheimer this morning.

One or two posters took the view that it was just stupid people with a satire-bypass that wouldn't 'get' the cover, but I don't think it's that simple.

Over on the TCJ forum in a post I didn't see until after I posted mine, Danny Hellman makes the point that people with their own agenda will use the cover in a way that the illustrator and the magazine didn't intend. That's a very good point and it ties into my own thoughts about how the drawing will be interpreted now that it is out there.

The New Yorker's target readership will get it because they can contextualize it in a second. The subscribers who have the thing delivered are not the problem though; the problem is that many, many, people won't get it because they are not hard-wired that way -- most cartoonists and satirists and John Stewart fans and arty types are, and the regular New Yorker readers are. But the problem is the thing has effectively moved from being Private Art -- for a select few -- to Public Art -- on display on newsstands and that means it is open to an infinite amount of interpretations. And the deliberate misinterpretations that Danny Hellman alluded to.

We should bear in mind that it's not just stupid people who can't read and understand visual language. A panel of literary critics on BBC radio were recently talking about how they don't know how to read, or interpret, graphic novels. They didn't know whether to read the words first and then look at the drawings or do it the other way round, or read them all together. I made light of what I saw as their stupidity at the time, because to comic book and comic strip fans like me, interpreting these things is second nature.

*****

Stephen Weiner:
I think it will hurt Obama and is in poor taste.

*****

Howard McGee:
I am not an Obama supporter, but even I found the Barry Blitt cover of the Obamas offensive and over the top. I have accepted that more than likely that man is going to be the next president of our country and the last thing we need is someone feeding the ignorance of many small minded Americans with that type of mental image, in this country at this time. I realize it's to late to recall the publication, but some sort of nationwide clarification and apology should be issued.

*****

Terry Dunham:
I have a point on the New Yorker cartoon. As it is, it is not satire. There is no mention of the "right wing" so it looks like this is the view of the New Yorker. In order for the gag to work, the characters have to have the impression that they are being viewed through the eyes of some other entity, other than the publication presenting the cartoon.

Why couldn't this image be presented:
-in a frame of a television?
-being drawn on an art pad by Rupert Murdoch?
-or at least have the fox news logo on it?

That would be obvious that the laugh is on Fox News, unfortunately, this cartoon is hard to laugh at.

*****

Justin Fox:
I've been trying to figure out what my problem with the cover is. I was trying to decide if it's simply my gut political reaction kicked into overdrive, an actual failure on The New Yorker and the artist's part, or if I really am a stupid person other people are tired of having to talk down to. I say this because the cartoon looks like a complete failure, unless the only goal (outside of generating sales) was the rather questionable one of generating debate, without putting an actual point forward.

The problem is, there's no satire to get or not get, process or not process. There's irony (that only exists so long as the masthead is in place), but there's no satire. The image is nothing more than a well-drawn illustration of the "things to consider" email. It barely exaggerates the points made in the seemingly never-ending feedback loop of slightly modified forwarded emails purporting to have more evidence of Obama's secret life. I fully expect to receive an email from a concerned relative using the cover as proof that even The New Yorker gets it.

Now, does this mean that The New Yorker should start talking down to people and simplifying it's approach to covers simply because it's an election year? This one in particular? No. Should The New Yorker even consider whether its covers help or hurt a campaign? No. But if The New Yorker and the cover's proponents are going to use satire as an explanation, there ought to be some satire in the piece. If I go to my blog and type up the common list of scurrilous rumors about the Obamas, it wouldn't look satirical. If I were to make a drawing illustrating those rumors, it still wouldn't appear to be particularly satirical.

And it's the same here. There's nothing in the image that demonstrates the absurdity of the rumors. There's nothing that points out that the people who report these rumors or takes them seriously are misinformed or deserving of ridicule. There's nothing the artist adds that suggests a satirical position on the subject at all.

Does it hurt the campaign? A little. It hurts when it comes out on a slow news day like today. It hurts because (as everyone at The New Yorker knows) it forces the campaign to respond to it. They have to respond because the target of the image is meant to be the very people Obama is trying to appeal to. It hurts because it engenders the sort of in-fighting I'm sure tomorrow's Comics Reporter will be full of, between the people who think the cover is clever, the people who think it isn't and the people who think it's a lot of sound and fury over nothing. Liberals, progressives, Democrats, and nerds love fighting amongst themselves, and this cover hits us right where we live: You're-so-stupid-you-don't-get-it-ylvania.

*****

Colin Panetta:
I'm not too interested in The New Yorker's side of things. I get the feeling that this was a miscalculation on the part of The New Yorker. I'm sure they realized that a good amount of people would get up in arms about it, but not to the extent they have, and not with the negativity that they have. Or, maybe they're -cough- just really good at selling papers.

The biggest part of the story for me is Obama's people's response. Obviously, this cover spotlights the very things that they're trying to make Obama not look like during this crucial time for his public image. I certainly understand it freaking them out. But I would think that they would want to come up with a response that would transcend both sides of the issue, rather than just siding themselves with the lowest common denominator. Super weak.

The only thing that worries me about this cover is the fact that I think that the conservative small town folk from the place I grew up, the very people it's lampooning, love it and are showing it to their friends and slapping it on the backs of their trucks. But you know what -- maybe that's just the nature of really great satire.

No matter what's going on here, I would just like to congratulate The New Yorker on publishing the best Mad Magazine cover in years. I love it so much, and if I were Obama I would wear it like a badge of honor. After November.

*****

Sean T. Collins:
I think the political blogger Matthew Yglesias has the best take I've seen so far: It's not a particularly great cartoon, nor a particularly outrageous one--the problem with it is that it's really no more outrageous than the actual rumors it purports to satirize. It's essentially just an illustrated version of that email forward your racist grandma sent you, or the "whitey" tape that some awful Hillary dead-ender invented, or that Fox News idiot rhetorically asking if the Obamas' celebratory fist bump was a "terrorist fist jab." In a context as outrageous as the anti-Obama smear factory has become, the satire is rendered ineffective and inert.

Now, do I give a shit? No. This kind of outrage-of-the-day is what has me sorely tempted to delete all the political blog syndication feeds from my RSS reader until after the election. However, I will add this to my ever-growing pile of evidence that with the exception of maybe like half a dozen guys from the whole of human history, political cartooning is a mug's game capable only of telling its intended audience exactly what it already wants to hear and irritating everyone else.

*****

Marc Sobel:
You know, my initial gut reaction was, oh that's terrible. That's tasteless and offensive. But then I stepped back and thought about it a little more and I think my reaction was based on my fear that Obama might lose the election because people, however ridiculous it sounds, believe these rumors that he is a Musilm. But then I figure if you're smart enough to be reading The New Yorker, you're probably not that ignorant, so the impact is minimized.

It does sadden me that we are such a racist society that being a Muslim is perceived as a negative in the eyes of the mainstream media. I know that most people understand the difference between radical Muslim groups who operate as terrorists and everyday Muslims, but still, stereotypes are reinforced by images like this in the media.

Then I thought about the whole Danish cartoons controversy and how unbelievable the over-reaction was (people actually lost their lives over cartoons!) and I thought, maybe this kind of thing is harmful in some way. I mean, I support the idea that cartoonists must always be free to express themselves, regardless of who they offend, but does that mean The New Yorker, which circulates to thousands of Americans, should put that kind of image on their cover?

I guess, in the end, it's really not that big a deal, and I doubt it will have any impact on the election, but I can certainly see why the cover generated so much discussion. I think it touched a nerve of fear for people who are sensitive to politics, and feel deeply passionate about Obama.

*****

Darryl Brathwaite:
With regards to the cover of The New Yorker depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as terrorists: The piece fails as satire for the same reason that Ward Sutton's pretend-conservative strip in The Onion used to fail when it first started out. The reason is that the strip is not over the top, and instead reads as the straight-faced opinions of the demographic that these works both sought to make fun of.

The New Yorker piece fails not because New Yorker readers know better than to believe that Barack Obama will burn flags and put a picture of Osama Bin Laden in the White House. No. It fails because there are people who actually believe that. So instead of being over the top and exposing the ridiculous of these right wing talking points, the artist here simply repeats the talking points. It looks, therefore, like an endorsement of these radical points of view.

In extreme political satire that has worked, such as The Colbert Report, you will see the artist raise points that are so entirely ludicrous that people just don't confuse it with reality.

I guess it's just not over the top enough and too close to real people's views to be "satire."

*****

Jamie Smith:
This New Yorker cover managed to score on two simultaneous fronts: one, mocking right-winger talking points by exposing their stupidity, and two, instigating a full-scale implosion of hypocrisy amongst the liberals -- that is an achievement of rare talent. I will be preordering my copy of Blitt's new book The Audacity of Satire immediately.

*****

Tim O'Shea:
Honestly, my first reaction was "Damn, savvy marketing move on The New Yorker's part." I honestly think this was the first time I've ever seen an editor of the magazine interviewed on a nightly news program (ABC News with Charlie Gibson).

As far as Obama's campaign reaction, I was surprised. By reacting to it at all, I think they are drawing more attention to the subject. Does anyone honestly thing a typically liberal (and I say this as a moderate liberal myself) publication like the New Yorker would ever be a mouthpiece for Obama's opponents?

While I realize that many anti-Obama factions are scooping the image up, I view it much in the same way that misguided Republicans wanted to use Springsteen's Born in the USA as a rallying tune back in that song's heyday.

That being said, if you have to explain the satire as much as David Remnick has had to in the past day or so, it may be that the satire was not as clear as he may have originally thought.

One last thought, it's interesting to watch the coverage of the controversy. This piece in the SF Chronicle gets some good quotes from Art Spiegelman, but neglects to mention that his wife is art editor Françoise Mouly--making him maybe not the best person to stick up for the publication.

*****

Matthew Springer:
My first reaction to the Obama cartoon on the New Yorker cover was anger. As an Obama supporter, the image inspired that knee-jerk reaction; a few seconds later, I grasped it was satire (or rather, I hoped it was intended as satire, or spoof, or humor, or whatever term is most appropriate).

Upon reflection, I think what bothers me most about it (as a Democrat) is an observation B. Clay Moore made yesterday via Twitter, and I'm paraphrasing: Satire is all well and good, but it runs the high risk of being embraced by those who do not grasp the satire as a true observation, or rather, a piece of art/comedy/commentary meant to support their ideology.

I don't think I'm explaining that well. Try this: I guarantee that the image has already been printed out by Republicans and right-wingers and is residing on their refrigerators and cubicle walls.

Also troubling: The comedy is not based on truths, but is based on mistruths that Republicans have quoted as truths -- Obama's "muslim" leanings, Michelle Obama's "hate Whitey" militant stance, etc. I think for a large chunk of the audience, it isn't satirizing mistruths, but rather caricaturing ideas they have already accepted as truth. So it's not, "Oh, ho ho, how funny that people are saying these silly things about the Obamas," but rather, "Oh, ho ho, these facts about the Obamas are true, and someone has gone through the trouble of providing a convenient single caricature that captures every lie I have swallowed about them."

But that's all politics. As art, to the extent that I can comment on that, without some kind of deep schooling on the New Yorker and editorial cartooning in general? It seems very "on the nose"; it almost doesn't go far enough to illustrate the comedy, but then, that might be more down to personal taste than anything.

I mean, at the end of the day, from our perspective as fans of cartooning, that's really what the conversation should lead to: Is it effective? Is it funny? I'd say personally I find it to be relatively effective, though probably not for the reasons the author intended, and not that funny, because it seems sorta tame and snooty, like someone trying to be edgy without being edgy because being edgy is distasteful to them.

Finally, it sorta brings up the question of satire's value, in the sense that it can be co-opted; does the fact that a satirical piece can be grossly misunderstood by many or most of the audience make the satire less valid? Probably not, or at least, I can probably think of examples of mockery/satire/spoof that I find funny but others totally misunderstand. Interesting to think about, to me, anyway.

*****

Tucker Stone:
1. I pretty much found the New Yorker's cover strange mostly because it was on the New Yorker -- I realize it might be blasphemy, but when it comes to gutsy satire, I haven't looked to the New Yorker to pull that off in years. (Years meaning Never.) What's most interesting to me is how full-guns-blazing satire this is, considering that they only openly endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in 2004, after 80 years of hemming and hawing. Is The New Yorker accepting its pretty much acknowledged role as a full-dyed-in-the-wool liberal publication? From this cover, I'm guessing that's it for them with fence-sitting. As satire goes, I think that, had this shown on up on a publication more famous for satirical covers (like Vanity Fair, Radar or The Economist), it still would've gotten play, but there wouldn't be such a "omigod how could they" reaction.

2. In a way -- and I don't really buy into much political conspiracy stuff -- there is a level of oddness to the timing. Barack is currently dealing with the backlash from his decision to vote in support of the immunity bill for the telecoms involved in the warrantless wiretapping "scandal" and he's completely reversed his stance where he gets his election funds from. The National Review (which is as much of a conservative publication as the New Yorker is a liberal one) just said "Has there ever in recent political memory been so much calculation and bad faith by a politician who has made so much of eschewing both?"

Like I said, I don't buy into the Wag the Dog-type mentality, that politicians are just so gosh darn savvy that they've got distractions prepared in the wings for when things look bad for them -- but right now, the discussion in the polit-circles isn't that 22,000 people (and counting) are turning against Obama for voting in support of the telecoms bill he promised to filibuster. They aren't talking about his changing stance on public financing. They're talking about a cover that's an obvious satire -- and Obama has The New Yorker to thank for changing the subject of the political conversation.

3. I live in New York, and work in an office where the political debate goes about as far as "Do you guys think it's okay for me to break the law and vote for Obama more than once?" So far, I haven't noticed anybody crying. But that might be because everybody I work with checks Gawker and Defamer all day, and this is what they said -- which is pretty much fucking genius, regardless of how you feel about Gawker and the Nick Denton empire.

In summation: I await the opinions of smarter men than I, so that I may adopt them as my own.

*****
*****
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: Totoro Forest Project

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The image above is a portion of Jillian Tamaki's contribution to something called Totoro Forest Project, which is one of those things that's so cool that I've of course never heard of it. I figure in providing a link you're either finding out about yourself and thus having fun that way or enjoying a laugh at my clueless expense. A lot of cartoonists and comics-folk contributed. I learned about it through Richard Thompson's post that includes his contribution.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Kingdom Comics To Be Closed Shop

A comics professional sent along the copy of a letter from the new Kingdom Comics imprint, which indicates the company will be creators invite-only according to Disney's long-established rules. I couldn't get it confirmed, though, so while I trust the source and believe the correspondence to be real you'll have to take it with a grain of salt. Here's the body of that letter, with key information blocked out:
The Walt Disney Company
XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Burbank, CA 91521

XXXX XX, 2008

XX. XXXXX XXXX
XXX@XXX.XX

Dear Mr. XXXXXXX:

This will acknowledge, with thanks, your recent email to XXX XXXXX regarding a potential project for Kingdom Comics. I have been asked to respond on XX. XXXXXs behalf.

Although we appreciate your interest, I must explain that our company's long-established policy does not allow us to accept for review or consideration any ideas, suggestions or creative materials not specifically solicited by us or our subsidiaries. Our intention is to avoid misunderstandings when projects are created internally which might be similar to submissions made to us from outside the company.

We recognize that this policy is sometimes a disappointing one as when someone like yourself, an professional writer with all the best intentions, would simply like us to consider his own creative work. Experience has taught us, though, that if we abandon our policy for one person, we will soon have no policy at all. Therefore, as required, we must decline to review the attachments, and will likewise not retain any copies of your correspondence.

I trust that you will understand our policy. Please be assured, however, of our thanks for your interest in writing to us.

Very truly yours,


XXXX XXXXXXX
Paralegal
I don't suppose this is surprising, but I think it's part of a trend you're seeing more and more of as these huge corporate entities enter the comics market -- policies that favor pre-existing ways of doing business that will run counter to comics' long-standing, and maybe not always deserved, reputation for market access.
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
9 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Boom! Webcomics

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I'm kind of hesitant to do this without a devoted site for the webcomics; that's their company front page, and the comics are near the top.
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Floyd Gottfredson Paintings

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I keep forgetting to say so, but Tribune Media Services shut down their on-line presence but says this has nothing to do with an impending sale and is instead a step towards coming up with a new company presence on the Internet. Shutting down a site to put up a new one seems like something a company with five employees does, not a group as big as TMS, but what do I know?

image* I liked this feature-y piece by Mike Gold on Steve Ditko, even though I'm pretty darn certain Ditko wasn't solely responsible for intellectual content in comic books.

* why Warren Ellis won't be at San Diego.

* this article about the basic feasibility of Batman was fun enough, I guess. At times it seemed to me a little bit loopy, like when the academic resource interviewed gives a couple of answers that sounds like a 14-year-old sussing his way through a role-playing game scenario.

* thank you, James.

* the writer Gus Mastrapa has a piece up about a new videogame-focused webcomic that makes an interesting point about such efforts playing traditional roles within that industry, in this case the editorial cartoon function.

* the writer-about-comics Michael Sangiacomo has stopped reading Spider-Man, which isn't really important but some of the reasons why he's kicked the 45-year-old habit might be.''

* you know, Spider-Man is Marvel's best character, but I personally can't imagine wanting to read anything after about #140 or so of the original comic book. I'm sure there are some well-done stories that came later, but while I'm also certain that David Gates and Haruki Murakami could write good Sherlock Holmes stories if they had to, I'm glad prose doesn't feel a need to do that in the same way comics does. In other words, isn't there enough Spider-Man now?

* finally, Jason Rodriguez is hitting the road to San Diego, and plans to tell you about the world of comics he experiences between the coasts.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 37th Birthday, Chris Cilla!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Kelly Sue DeConnick!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
How To Draw Stupid
Need-Based Criticism
Comics In The Sunday Comics

Exhibits/Events
Pete Millar Exhibition
Propaganda Turns 100
Signe Wilkinson at CCI
Foster Exhibit Now Open
Ko-Woo Young Retrospective

History
LOSH Voting Motif
Captain Marvel: Violent, Not Prejudiced

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon

Interviews/Profiles
Knoxville News: Charlie Daniel

Not Comics
Invincible Scores Digital Deal
Fab 5 Freddy And Howard The Duck

Publishing
Yen Plus Cover Debuts
Bluesman In Hardcover

Reviews
Van Jensen: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
ADD: Lucky Vol. 2 #2
Tucker Stone: Various
ADD: Thunderbolts Vol. 1
Jog: Cat-Eyed Boy Vols. 1-2
Jog: The Goddess of War #1
Paul O'Brien: I Kill Giants #1
Paul O'Brien: Young X-Men #4
Ken Haley: The Last Call Vol. 1
Paul O'Brien: The New York Four
Steve Duin: Madame Xanadu #1
Greg McElhatton: Conan the Cimmerian #0
 

 
July 14, 2008


Soliciting Your Opinions On Obama Cover

I want to wait a day and collect more opinions before venturing some thoughts on the big story of the July 21 New Yorker cover presenting in satirical fashion a radicalized, flag-burning President and Mrs. Obama.

If any of you have thoughts on the matter, would you please consider sending them in where they'll be reprinted in my post tomorrow? Did you think it was a good cartoon? Do you think this kind of thing has a harmful effect on the campaign?
 
posted 4:29 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
AdHouse Announces Four-Book Season, Including Two From Scott Morse

The boutique publisher AdHouse Book isn't really big enough to do seasons, the way a Drawn and Quarterly or a Fantagraphics might, but through a confluence of events they found they actually have four books coming this Fall/Winter. This is a relatively large number of books for the small publisher, and yet too small a number for me to pick favorites like I usually do and not look sort of goofy, so here they all are.

*****

image
Notes Over Yonder, Scott Morse, hardcover, 64 pages, 9780977571522, October 2008, $12.95.

*****

image
The Venice Chronicles, Enrico Casarosa, hardcover, 144 pages, 9780981845500, November 2008, $10.95.

*****
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Mesmo Delivery, Rafael Grampa, softcover, 56 pages, 9788560018031, November 2008, $12.50.

*****

image
Tiger!Tiger!Tiger!, Scott Morse, hardcover, 48 pages, 9780977471539, December 2008, $14.95.

*****
*****
 
posted 4:28 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Spring 2008 Xeric Grant Winners

I always get a little confused with the Xeric Award, but I think this is a brand new. The Xeric Foundation has announced its latest round of grant recipients. The foundations, created by Peter Laird, has been in existence in 1992. It provides financial assistance to cartoonists to self-publish early work, and also donates to charities in western Massachusetts. Among the past recipients are Jessica Abel, Nick Bertozzi, Warren Craghead, Ellen Forney and Farel Dalrymple. Marek Bennett and Dave Kiersh are among the better-known names on this list, which follows:

* Gary Scott Beatty, Jazz: Cool Birth
* Marek Bennett, Breakfast at Mimi's Doughnuts
* Eroyn Franklin, Another Glorious Day at the Nothing Factory
* Jason Hoffman, Mine
* Jack Hsu, 8-9-3
* Jenny Jaeckel, Spot 12
* Dave Kiersh, Dirtbags, Mall Chicks and Motorbikes
* Alex Kim, Wall City
* stef lenk, TeaTime
* Justin Murphy, Cleburne
* Felix Tannenbaum, The Chronicles of Some Made

This large group of grants puts the Foundation over $2 million in awards. The next deadline is September 30, winners to be announced November 1.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Telegraph: Richard Horne Murder Of Wife, Self Was "Frenzied Knife Attack"

The Telegraph has issued a horrifying sequences of events challenging the initial story on the murder/suicide of cartoonist and children's book illustrator Richard "Harry Horse" Horne and his wife, Mandy. Rather than the tragic tale of two marrieds, one with financial difficulties and the other with MS, dying arms after a perhaps mutually agreed-upon drug overdose, the family of Mandy Horne has released information that the artist stabbed his ailing wife so many times he broke a knife off in her body. He also killed their pets, and then turned the knife (now at least the second employed) on himself. It is believed that Horne had taken drugs, and mutilated his own genitals during the ordeal.
 
posted 4:24 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2008 International Horror Guild Illustrated Narrative Category Nominees

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I have no idea what this is, but the awards seem to have been around for a little more than a decade, at least in some form.
* Scalped: Indian Country. Jason Aaron (writer) R.M. Guera (artist) (Vertigo/DC Comics)
* The Nightmare Factory. Thomas Ligotti (creator/writer), Joe Harris & Stuart Moore (writers), Ben Templesmith, Michael Gaydos, Colleen Doran & Ted McKeever (illustrators) (Fox Atomic/Harper Paperbacks)
* The Blot. Tom Neely (I Will Destroy You)
* The Arrival. Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine Books)
* Wormwood Gentleman Corpse: Birds, Bees, Blood & Beer. Ben Templesmith (IDW)
The winners will be announced in early November.

 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
New Yorker Interviews Chris Onstad

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I totally missed this.
 
posted 4:12 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Site Publishes Joe Chiappetta Without Permission; Deletes Page When Asked

The cartoonist Joe Chiappetta sent in an e-mail describing an exchange between himself and a site called Weblo, Inc. Apparently, the site had used this cartoon on its own page. Chiappetta sent in a letter promising press attention, asking the cartoon be removed and declaring a bill would be sent for use of the cartoon, citing its original positing on his own site. The cartoonist received a letter at 12:52 AM this morning declaring "Hi, the website has been deleted. Sorry about the inconvenience."

While the events of the story have reached a satisfying conclusion, I wanted to mention it here because it seems to me that there's a lot more copying of content right now, and Chiappetta found an aggressive and effective solution.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
10 Days Until Comic-Con International

image

I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
2008 CCI Panel Recommendations

The massive programming schedule for Comic-Con International is now up: Wednesday/Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

You can click on the individual days and, once you're on that site, on themed tracks like "comic books" for more information.

What follows here is a list of those comics-related panels that in a perfect world, bearing the insta-cloning powers of Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man and the buttock powers of whatever superhero has a well-cushioned ass, I would attend.

My must-sees that match my limited con days (Friday, Saturday) are the Lynda Barry and Kim Deitch spotlight panels, as well as the Eisner Awards and Rutu Modan's spotlight, but I'll probably attend about five on each day depending how my schedule works out. I'll regret missing the Woodring slideshow, and a lot of others, too, actually. Good year.

Here are my notes, and I hope you'll find something you want to go experience either on this list or on the much more complete convention ones.

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THURSDAY, JULY 24
10:45-11:45 Reinventing the Page: Stan Lee and Grant Morrison Talk Virgin Comics Ballroom 20
This could be awfully fascinating, or it could be fascinatingly awful.

11:30-12:30 From the K Chronicles to The Knight Life: Keith Knight Room 4
I've never seen Keith speak at length before, but he's certainly a smart and engaging guy at an interesting point in his career.

12:30-1:30 Spotlight on Eddie Campbell Room 3
One of the best living cartoonists and a world-class talker.

1:00-2:00 Mark and Sergio Room 8
Evanier and Aragones: this is one of the best, old school Comic-Con panels.

1:00-2:00 The Future of the Comics Pamphlet Room 32AB
I like the idea of this panel, but I'm not familiar enough with its participants to recommend that anyone attend. I know that moderator Douglas Wolk reads traditional comic books, which is a good sign he'll have pointed questions.

2:00-3:00 Spotlight on Signe Wilkinson Room 4
2:00-3:00 Spotlight on Todd Klein Room 8
2:00-3:00 Spotlight on Jim Woodring: Please Stand By Room 10
I'd love to see all three, but Woodring is the clear winner here: one of the greats, and a very articulate and funny man besides.

2:00-3:00 Clickwheel: On-Demand Digital Comics for iPod and iPhone Room 32AB
4:30-5:30 UClick: Mobile Comics Room 30AB
I know almost nothing about comics delivery into digital form for access via carry-around devices, so these panels could be useful as a primer.

3:00-4:00 Spotlight on Bill Willingham Room 2
3:00-4:00 Spotlight on Ed Brubaker Room 7AB
Two fine, articulate mainstream comics creators with alt- and indy-comics roots. You could pick according to whose work you enjoy the most (for me, that would be Ed) and not go wrong.

3:00-4:00 Comic-Con Talkback 1 Room 4
I have to admit, I have a sick fascination with these panels where people walk into a room and complain at the convention organizers.

3:30-5:00 Golden and Silver Age of Comics Room 8
These broad, historical panels are great because you get to see a ton of creators at once, which can be helpful if you're generally interested in the subject matter but are unable to see all the spotlight panels.

3:30-4:30 Bat-Manga! Chip Kidd and the Secret History of Batman in Japan Room 30AB
Chip Kidd is a funny guy, and I'm looking forward to seeing this book. Win-win.

4:45-5:45 Marvel: Mondo Marvel Room 6A
6:00-7:00 DC Nation Room 6A
Along with creators vs. companies and art vs. entertainment, Marvel vs. DC is one of the three major, overarching stories of the last 30 years in comics. I find these panels pretty dreary, but there are always lessons to be learned in attending them.

5:00-6:00 The Third Annual Comics Podcasting Panel Room 32AB
6:00-7:00 The Comics Blogosphere Room 32AB
I'm going to add a podcast to the site before Halloween, so I would probably benefit from going to the first panel. I know I'll personally benefit from not being among the new wave of folks included in the second panel: for one thing, I probably won't want to kill myself for the next three days, as was the case in past years.

6:00-7:00 The Secret History of Manga in the U.S. Room 4
I like the subject matter, and I like Jason Thompson; I have no idea if this will follow through on that promise or not.

7:00-9:00 Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist Room 7AB
If I were a going to the movies at Comic-Con guy, I'd probably see this.

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FRIDAY, JULY 25
12:00-1:00 50 Years of Gay Legion of Super-Heroes Fandom Room 3
I'd be interested in hearing about gay fandom from 1958, but I suspect there's not going to be a lot about that.

12:00-2:00 Steve Rude Painting Workshop Room 30CDE
I like listening to Steve Rude talk about painting.

12:30-2:00 That '70s (Comics) Panel Room 8
1:30-2:30 Editorial Cartoons Room 5AB
3:00-4:00 An Introduction to Webcomics Room 3
Three more panels where you can see a bunch of different cartoonists at once as opposed to seeing 15 spotlight panels.

1:30-2:30 Scott McCloud Zot! Room 10
If I go to this, I can ask Scott crabby questions in person about why he didn't write the supplementary material in his new Zot! book to suit my specific, made-up requirements.

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels Room 3
Okay, I have to attend this one. I'm moderating. Please stop by and see me, and all the cool cartoonists talking about the graphic novel. My first question will be... to Adrian Tomine.

3:00-4:00 Spotlight on James Warren Room 4
This could be really good. Not good enough to make me want to miss the next panel listed:

3:00-4:00 Spotlight on Lynda Barry Room 7AB
This talk with the cartoonist Lynda Barry has a very good chance of being the panel of the show.

3:00-4:00 Spotlight on Al Jaffee Room 8
Warren, Barry and Jaffee at the same time: again, that's just mean.

3:30-4:30 Comic Book Heaven: LIVE! Room 30AB
Another old-school panel by a funny moderator.

4:00-5:00 Spotlight on Al Feldstein Room 8
I have no idea what Feldstein's like as a panelist, but certainly the potential is there for a really good interview and fielding of questions,.

4:30-5:30 Vertigo: View of the Future Room 5AB
Insert completely unreasonable but still funny "void and nothingness" joke here.

4:30-5:30 Resources for Creators Room 30CDE
4:30-6:00 So You Want to Be a Comics Retailer Room 32AB
5:00-6:00 Teaching Comics
There is a run of creator- or professional-help panels at the show, which join more established tracks such as comics-related law and the academic conference as major runs of smaller panels at the show that I'm sure someone will extremely interested in attending. These were the helpful ones that jumped out at me.

5:00-6:00 Spotlight on Bernie Wrightson Room 3
5:30-6:30 Penny Arcade Room 5AB
5:30-6:30 Spotlight on Kim Deitch Room 10
6:00-7:00 Larry Marder: The Beanworld Is Back! Room 2
Another bunch of overlapping, quality spotlight panels. I'll be at Kim Deitch, just because he's one of the five best cartoonists in the world and is supposedly a very entertaining talker.

5:00-6:00 Comic Artists Guild: An Open Call for Members Nationwide Room 24A
It's probably bad on a lot of levels that I don't know what the Comic Artists Guild is.

7:15-8:15 Klingon Lifestyles Presentation Room 6A
The title to this panel amuses me and makes me think of Klingons hanging out in barcaloungers watching sitcoms or shooting tupperware with phase pistols. I have a good Klingons at San Diego story I'll tell you if we ever meet and you ask for it.

8:30-11:30 The Spirit Presents the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Ballroom 20
I am so there to lose to Matt Brady.

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SATURDAY, JULY 26
10:15-11:15 Spotlight on Ralph Bakshi Room 6B
Not comics, but I'll be at this.

11:00-12:00 IDW Publishing: Ideas and Dreams 2008 Room 3
Worth it for the Darwyn Cooke announcement of one of his forthcoming GN projects he's talked about in past panel appearances (I assume it's one of those and not something else entirely).

11:15-12:30 Quick Draw! Room 6CDEF
One of the half-dozen or so classic comics panels, and always a good time. Mike Peters this year.

12:00-1:00 Spotlight on John Howe Room 3
This isn't comics, but I very much liked the tone and presentation of Howe's last art book.

12:00-1:00 Spotlight on Howard Chaykin Room 8
12:30-1:30 Spotlight on Rutu Modan Room 4
I'd go to both if I could, but since it's a rare US appearance (her first since a late '90s SPX, I think -- whoops, apparently not) for Modan, I'll be at hers.

1:00-2:00 Will Eisner Tribute
This is the first of the weekend's tributes, which include Sunday panels about Jack Kirby, Dave Stevens and Michael Turner you can look up on the full panels list. CCI does a pretty good job with this kind of thing, so if you're a fan of any of those artists, you might consider it.

1:15-2:00 Spotlight on Tite Kubo Room 7AB
Like when will you have the chance to do this again? I'll try to sneak in after Modan.

2:00-3:00 Lettering Roundtable Room 8
There's always one panel I go to that causes my friends to stomp away from me in disgust at the degree and severity of my nerdity. In 2008, this is that panel.

2:15-3:15 Grant Morrison and Gerard Way: Born Under a Black Sun Room 6B
I'm hoping Way murders Morrison and eats his heart. Ha ha, just kidding. I'll take anyone's heart being eaten.

2:30-3:30 Scott Shaw!: Oddball Comics Room 5AB
Again: severely old school, and solid.

3:00-4:00 The Launch of Abrams ComicArts Room 3
Did I miss this announcement? Drink through it? Huh?

3:00-4:30 MAD in the '60s Room 8
This looks like it could be entertaining, and certainly provides a nice way to see Feldstein, Aragones, and Jaffee all at once.

4:30-5:30 The Story of an Image Room 4
Killer guest list including Deitch and Woodring. Also, you can ask Jim Ottaviani, "Why are you up there with the rest of those giants, Jim?" And he'll totally agree with you.

4:30-5:30 Spotlight on Mike Peters Room 8
Is it time for the late career appreciation for Mike Peters yet?

5:30-6:30 The World of Steve Ditko Panel Discussion Room 4
Great guest list of Groth, Mullaney, Starlin, Deitch and Potts, in that they're all good talkers and most have known each other for years and years. Ditko is a subject of endless fascination.

5:30-6:30 Spotlight on Adrian Tomine Room 10
With Keith Knight, the only under-40 North American alt-comics spotlight of the show, I think.

8:30-11:30 Tru:Blood Presents: Comic-Con International Masquerade Ballroom 20
8:30-11:30 Comic-Con International Masquerade Party Sails Pavilion
I haven't been in years, and I'm not going in 2008, and it's a pain to attend, but you owe it to yourself to check it out once in your lifetime. If you don't feel like waiting in line for Ballroom seating, there's overspill seating and a broadcast in some of the other rooms, and you can always just join the party early in the Sails Pavilion. One year I saw Marge Simpson "serve" Captain America in a cartoon character dance-off.

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SUNDAY, JULY 27
10:30-11:30 Spotlight on Jim Ottaviani Room 3
Jim, why were you on that panel yesterday?

11:30-12:30 Spotlight on Kyle Baker Room 2
Baker is a talented cartoonist and an articulate panel presence. Plus you can probably get up in time for his panel.

2:30-4:00 Cover Story: The Art of the Cover Room 5AB
The final old-school panel of the weekend, and one of the better ones: artists discussing their choices in making various covers.

2:45-3:45 Virgin Comics: Grant Morrison and Deepak Chopra: The Spirit of the Superhero Ballroom 20
Kids love Deepak Chopra.

Knight, McCloud, Tomine, Ottaviani
 
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1) Look at the Picture, 2) Look at the Signature, 3) Do a Double-Take

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click through the picture for the backstory
 
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OTBP: Eye of the Majestic Creature #3

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Joey Weiser Wants To Send You Art

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well, some of you; click through the image for details
 
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Go, Vote: Science Idol Finalists

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cartoon chosen at random and does not indicate an endorsement
 
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Go, Look: Max! Get Out Of My Room!

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Go, Look: This Guy Has Cool Friends

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this is older, and I don't know how I stumbled across it, but I found it to be charming
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com talks to Marc Weidenbaum and Eric Searleman about Viz's new original comics initiative.

* I hadn't known that many of Dr. Frederic Wertham's papers are not available to the public, due to a request from the executor of the estate.

* this has to be the most terrifying picture of the Joker, ever.

image* the cartoonist Mark Ricketts previews his forthcoming webcomic.

* the prominent blogger J. Caleb Mozzocco notes that when it comes time to saving some space in a picture, it's not the straight white folks that get photoshopped out.

* the artist Youka Nitta cops to tracing photos. This is treated with seriousness in Japan that is rarely an issue in North America.

* someone sent this to me. Despite the date on the page, I think all of this stuff is older, if not the page itself. In fact, I think that stuff may be tied into that weird Superman movie from a few years back where Lois sort of looked like a junkie and the mopey lead character spent the entire movie lifting things. But hey, if people are posting those two-year-old immigrants as superhero photos as if they're new, I guess it's okay to mention this here.

* the resort city Myrtle Beach got its comic shop back.

* both Shaenon Garrity and Jennifer de Guzman note depressing trends in the kinds of discourse and art they're encountering right now.

* finally, Rick Marshall shares some of his e-mail from former Wizard staffers, some of whom were affected by the long, slow turnover of creative staff at the magazine. He also notes some of his difficulties in getting the magazine to cover webcomics.
 
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Happy 47th Birthday, John K Snyder III!

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Happy 81st Birthday, Mike Esposito!

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Happy 74th Birthday, Gotlib!

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Happy 4th Birthday, Jog The Blog!

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Happy 32nd Birthday, Alex Cox!

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Quick hits
Craft
The Dim Glow
This Made Me Laugh
Sean Phillips Try-Out Package

Exhibits/Events
Todd Klein at CCI
Nick Abadzis at CCI

History
Happy Birthdayx2 to Shonen Jump

Interviews/Profiles
Globo: Neil Gaiman
About Midnight Fiction: Steve Willis

Not Comics
Gerard Jones On His Return To Comedy

Publishing
James Owen Story On-Line
Second Stay Tooned! Imminent
Dean Haspiel's Street Code Previewed
First Second Stoked For Prince of Persia

Reviews
Richard Krauss: Flung #2
Sean T. Collins: MOME Vol. 11
Richard Krauss: Stay Tooned #1
Abhay Khosla: Secret Invasion #4
Geoff Hoppe: Captain America: White #0
Shannon O'Leary: Too Cool To Be Forgotten
Greg McElhatton: Captain America: White #0
 

 
Luckily, Americans Never Have Problems When It Comes To Processing Satire

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Barry Blitt's New Yorker cover, the cartoon/comics story of the moment. Hello, Monday!
 
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July 13, 2008


CR Sunday Interview: Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

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*****

imageWhat little I know about the writer and cartoonist Daniel Merlin Goodbrey intrigues in a way that it's surprising I didn't interview him a long time ago. He's a considerable presence within webcomics and is a generally prolific cartoonist in that realm, perhaps best known in the on-line world for developing the Tarquin Engine. Goodbrey's a "new media lecturer" -- which sounds fantastic -- and done a number of works in hypercomics, yet he's also written an old-school, print-bound Avengers short story, and has just completed another such assignment for Marvel.

A number of the writer's on-line efforts are reachable from his site, E-merl.com, including titles such as Doodleflak, Externality, The Formalist, the Mr. Nile comics, Sixgun, The Last Sane Cowboy and the work we talk about here: All Knowledge Is Strange, Brain Fist, Never Shoot The Chronopath, The Rule of Death and this chat's ostensible raison d'etre, the webcomic-intended-for-print-trade Necessary Monsters. I enjoyed our brief back and forth, and had a good time catching up with his work.

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TOM SPURGEON: What does a "new media lecturer" lecture about? Can you give us the shape and form of one of your lectures?

DANIEL MERLIN GOODBREY: My lecturing work has covered a broad area over the years, from web and multimedia design through design for mobile devices, comics, games and animation. I teach as part of the School of Film, Music & Media at the University of Hertfordshire and technically when they hired me my focus was on interactivity -- hence the "new" media bit. These days my main teaching focus is actually on the Digital Animation area, teaching narrative, storyboarding, interactivity and general preproduction and conceptual development skills. You can see some of the students' output from the degree at http://h3da.co.uk/.

Comics actually figure into my teaching quite a lot, with all our animators and games artists producing short print and web based comics in their first year as a way to get to grips with storytelling and narrative design skills. I've also tutored quite a few final year students doing interactive comic projects across a range of courses. Anyone with an interest in the area tends to get sent my way eventually.

SPURGEON: Daniel, I can remember when you showed up in comics, but I don't know that I remember hearing anything about you before that time. Where did you come from, and how did you become interested in comics?

GOODBREY: I come from a family of Antique dealers in deepest Suffolk, the only child to escape the dread call of the ancient lords of brick-a-brack. I was into comics from a young age -- my Dad used buy and read me Dan Dare in Eagle before I was even old enough to read them for myself. I read various comics growing up -- the awesome Transformers UK weekly comics were an early crush.

I got my hands on dribs and drabs of American comics in single issues every now and then which blossomed for a few years in the 90s into an obsessive X-men collecting phase which is now thankfully well behind me. I started actively trying to read a real range of different comics when I went to University, urged on by the friends I'd made at my main online hangout of the time, the old Comic Book Resources Never Ending Message Board.

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SPURGEON: More specifically, what led you to launching Sixgun? That was an extremely ambitious work.

GOODBREY: Sixgun was the final project during my Master's degree in the digital practices of Hyperfiction. I had about three months or so just to work solidly on it, so I really had the time to explore a lot of different approaches to how comics on the screen could work. At the time I'd been experimenting with webcomics for the last couple of years both in my own time and as part of my official studies. I had all these ideas for how comics might work online -- some influenced directly by Scott McCloud's writing, some based on trying to apply the workings of hyperfiction narrative to comics. So Sixgun became my test bed for a lot of these ideas while at the same time trying to explore this world of the Unfolded Earth that I was having fun inventing.

SPURGEON: Maybe unfairly, I think of you as one of the more experimental figures from that first wave of cartoonists who were doing work on-line, a strange and wooly group celebrated by McCloud. What was that time like? Am I right in thinking there was a much less assured way of thinking about webcomics and what they would become at that time? Is there anything or anyone that you miss from that time period?

GOODBREY: I can remember how exciting it was at the time having this medium to work with which hadn't actually been nailed down yet -- where all the rules hadn't been written and there were all these ideas circulating that no one had tried yet. Ideas that no one had tried! How crazy was that? You get raised on the gloom of all-been-done-before and then you have the luck to stumble on a medium where, actually, it hadn't.

So the sense of being a pioneer in something, even in something as weird and as niche as hypercomics, that was a really cool feeling at the time. I made a lot of new friends as result of the scene too, for which I really owe Scott a huge debt of gratitude. He was the one who talked me into making my first trip to the states for San Diego Comic-Con in 2002. Not only was it my first time in the US, it was my first ever comic convention so I kinda got blown away and instantly hooked by the whole madness of the thing.

imageSPURGEON: Do you feel that webcomics have become more calcified in the last half-decade in terms of format and commercial expectations?

GOODBREY: Pretty much. There are definitely several well developed paths you can move down now and a good chunk of established wisdom as to how to approach comics on the web. Which is not to say there isn't still a big gap for further experimentation -- there's still a bunch of ideas I never got to try and hope one day to return to. But it feels generally to me like the need for such experimentation is just less pressing than it was before.

That's from an independent creator's point of view anyway. I think the big established comic companies have got a lot to do now to figure out their place on the web. It's some interesting times they're living in.

SPURGEON: If I remember right, you recently wrote at least one Marvel superheroes story, which seems light years from the kind of work you've been doing on your own. What was rewarding about that experience? Was there anything that surprised you about doing that kind of writing?

GOODBREY: The Marvel gig was the first time I'd worked for any editor other than myself, so it was a big learning curve for me. But it helped a lot that the editor in question was John Barber, an old comrade from the experimental webcomic days. I've always been a big fan on John's writing so I had a huge amount of trust for the advice he was giving me. I went through something like eight versions of the script -- the whole process proved to be a great crash course on how to write for Marvel comics. In fact I think my script writing in general -- which I hadn't really done that much of at that point -- improved dramatically as a result.

The story itself was an Avengers short story. What surprised me the most was that out of the ideas I pitched, they let me run with the one staring Spider-Man and Wolverine. You kind of expect your first Marvel gig to be staring some unknown like Woodgod or Daddy Longlegs, not actual name players. I'm pretty happy with how the final story turned out -- I got to write two icons (and Luke Cage!) plus introduce a new villain to the Marvel Universe who might one day get to throw someone important off a bridge. You can't really ask for more on your first time out.

SPURGEON: In general, how has being more collaborative in your projects changed your writing or outlook on same?

GOODBREY: It's been immensely freeing creatively. I've never been wholly comfortable as an illustrator, doing the job more out of necessity than anything else. The basic problem is, I can't draw that well. I've got a solid enough design sense but just not the raw drawing talent to match the pictures I see in my head. The way I got round this problem when I was starting out was to explore all the options I could find for cheating at artwork. Working in deliberately simplified styles, photo manipulation, outright tracing or even going the elaborate route of using manipulated 3D rendered models as I did on my Unfolded Earth comics.

But even with all of the above, I was always very aware of the story ideas that were just beyond my ability as an illustrator. The scenes or settings or characters that I couldn't happily cheat my way around. And everything -- everything -- takes so damn long to draw. For me the speed of invention -- which is the bit I actively enjoy -- is so much faster than the speed of illustration that the lag between the two can sometimes be unbearable.

So yeah, now I'm in the position to move away a bit from illustration and focus chiefly on just being a writer, it's been a wonderful release. I've got a bunch of ideas just waiting for the right artist to come along and I'm good to go. Although finding that right artist is still a frustratingly slow process (hey, aspiring comic artist types! Want to illustrate a graphic novel? Genre, style and content negotiable but strangeness guaranteed! Get in touch!).

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SPURGEON: All Knowledge is Strange is distinguished by a) your drawing it, and b) being an obvious take on classic gag formats. What have you learned about each?

GOODBREY: Heh. Yeah, um, contrary to my rant in the last question I'm actually having fun drawing the art on AKiS. Maybe I'm just using a wacom tablet and doing some glorified tracing but it feels like the closest to what I'd consider "proper drawing" that I've done in a long while. And there are things I can't do when I'm writing -- like listen to music or watch TV -- which I can do when I'm drawing, so illustrating two AKiS strips a week makes for a nice change of pace from my other comics work.

In terms of structure it's trying to work the gag strip format, which is something new for me again. It gives me an outlet for quick ideas and little moments that I'd otherwise struggle to find a home for in my other scripts. I think one of the interesting things about the series is that it also lets me plug into a bit of a different audience. Because the majority of strips stand alone they tend to be great for bringing in new readers and lend themselves to being passed around between friends. I get a lot of traffic now from sites like stumbleupon.com and regularly see little spikes in readership as particular strips are discovered and championed by individual readers of those services.

SPURGEON: A visual signature of All Knowledge is Strange is that you use static imagery but then vary the framing of the image -- moving it up or down, perhaps. Why do that with your comic instead of the more common direct repetition?

GOODBREY: It just felt right at a design level. Partly there was a practical consideration -- the amount of words tended to vary a lot from panel to panel, so keeping characters static left me either crushed for room or with too much dead space a lot of the time. But I also found a variance of height gave the reader a kind of line to draw them through the strip. On some strips I think it reads kind of like camera drift during an interview, which is an effect I like. On others it feels in my mind like the character is drowning as they speak, which seems to resonate with the general tone of the series.

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SPURGEON: Talk a bit about the Brain Fist project, which I believe was your attempt to do something in comics for the iPod interface. How successful do you feel that project was now, looking back? What did you take away from that experience? Did working with that kind of limited visual access point, this basic square, change the way you look at certain comics at all?

GOODBREY: I think mobile devices potentially offer a more intimate connection between comic and reader than you get from even the printed page. I like to describe them as "looking into" devices -- you channel all your focus into one little square of light and that's potentially quite a different experience to reading across a whole page or computer screen.

With Brain Fist I was trying to tap into that, trying to make a direct connect between the characters and the reader by having them address the audience directly. On the whole I'm pleased with how the series turned out and I think it was a good fit for the mobile technology of the time. Although I suspect some of the ideas may need revising and revisiting a bit now that the iPhone has become dominant with that lovely screen and interface it has. Brain Fist itself is now sitting there done as a complete book which I'm currently trying to find the right publisher for. I'm hoping eventually the success on the small screen will carry over into print.

Recently I actually got to play a bit in the mobile comics arena again but I can't say more than that due to an NDA I'm under. But in general terms I think we can expect this to be a real growth area for comics in the next few years. There's huge amounts of potential here still waiting to be tapped into.

SPURGEON: Am I right in thinking that you sort of semi-ironically started working in more traditional forms as a way of challenging yourself as a writer? I have to say, that sounds like a line more than a statement of artistic intent. How has the experience so far met those goals?

GOODBREY: What it really came down to was wanting to tell longer, more complex stories. Experimental comics tend to work best with short stories. You tell a short, complete story and you try out the idea and then you move on. I did try doing a much longer experimental comic -- The Nile Journals (which are currently offline, unfortunately) were kind of a hybrid of experimental animated comics and longform weekly serialized narrative. They ran for over a year at Serializer and I had fun doing them but they were also a huge amount of work to invent and implement every week.

So I was at the point where I felt I wasn't going to get better as a writer by just telling short stories and I knew that being overly experimental in the long form was problematic for me. It seemed obvious to me that if I wanted to start telling graphic-novel-length stories then the best format to work towards was that of the graphic novel itself. Maybe the story would initially be serialised online or in print, but the ultimate goal and format had to be a large print collection.

So far I'm pleased with the change, if frustrated by the much slower speed everything tends to move at when you're aiming towards the long form. And I do still get to dabble with some of the weirder more experimental works, although these days I tend to do it more on a commission and consultancy basis. The advantage of having such a large body of experimental screen based work is that when someone outside of comics land has a crazy idea and wants to try something new, I tend to be one of the people they get directed towards.

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SPURGEON: Is Never Shoot The Chronopath your last strip of that kind for a while? How do you feel that kind of work is received not as an execution of formal principles but as a comic? Are you at the point where people can kind of get past this daring presentational style and process the work you way you hope?

GOODBREY: Hmm. I don't know, honestly. For a lot of readers the interface with the story is still so far outside the norm that it's going to be that which jumps out at them, I think. I hope I'll still have the chance to make hypercomics every now and then -- I think creatively they're a great palette cleanser -- they've always kind of been idea brain-dumps for me which let me turn lots of separate story fragments into an interesting whole. But the next one I do, I don't think it'll be a straight infinite canvas piece -- too much of been there and done that. It'll be something newer and weirder. At some point I'm sure the right opportunity or idea will suggest itself to me.

SPURGEON: Larry Young and AiT/Planet Lar haven't always had the smoothest go of things since those few promising first years, so I wondered what your experience has been like. Has that been a fruitful relationship for you thus far? Do you receive feedback and creative support from them, or is your relationship defined primarily by their facilitating the paper publication of your work as is? What makes them different to work for than other people with whom you've worked.

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GOODBREY: With AiT it really feels like "working with" as opposed to "working for." Larry and Mimi and the whole crew have been tremendously supportive of me and Last Sane Cowboy. Larry bent over backwards to make the book I wanted to make it -- it was always "you're the creator, we're going to do the book the way you want to do it." I think they took a chance with Cowboy -- it's quite a weird book all told and really at the edge of the kind of books they'd published to date, so I was very grateful for being given that opportunity.

When I then came to Larry with Necessary Monsters I thought I might have a bit of a hard sell to convince him it was a good idea to run it online for free under the AiT brand before collecting it, but again he offered complete support for the idea. I've got one other AiT project in the pipeline which is still in the script stage and that I kinda got distracted away from by the need to get NM up and running. But I'm back to writing that now and I'm looking forward to working more closely with Larry on it in terms of editorial input and trying to match the script up with the right artist.

SPURGEON: Ideally, what would be the outcome of your work in American mainstream comics?

GOODBREY: Ideally? I'd like to have written some good comics that get illustrated by a range of talented artists and which reach a large and diverse audience of readers. A steady, regular income from writing comics would be nice, too.

SPURGEON: I noticed that you re-published your last work through I think Thierry Groensteen's line -- how was that experience? Given the differences in the natural audience and the issues of overproduction facing that market, do you sense any real distinction in how your work has been received by those readers?

GOODBREY: Yeah, The Last Sane Cowboy came out from Thierry's L'an 2 label a couple of months ago as Le Dernier Cow-Boy Raisonnable. I was incredibly excited to have a book coming out in France as I always had this suspicion that my work might be well received there. Thierry did a wonderful job on the French edition and I'm really curious now to see what people make of it over there. I haven't seen any sales figures yet, but all the reviews I've managed to badly translate through Google seem to be pretty positive. One described the book as having "a poisonous charm" which I think is just the coolest thing ever, although I don't know if I have the original reviewer or Google to thank for the specific turn of phrase.

I've actually got this other gig lined up in France at the moment which is waiting on client approval to design a hypercomic for the walls of a children's mental hospital in Paris. It's one of those things that might or might not happen and has been in the pipeline for years but we suddenly got some forward movement again this summer. If it does end up going ahead it's going to be a whole new formalist challenge which I'm really looking forward to tackling.

SPURGEON: If there were a half dozen works, five from other cartoonists and one of your own, that you could recommend to someone on the fence about diving into on-line comics that wanted to know about "webcomics in summer 2008," what would those comics be and why?

GOODBREY: Oh God that's a tough one. You know, it's really hard to answer because webcomics are such a wide church now. I guarantee, whoever you are, there will be at least six webcomics out there that you'd love and would absolutely convince you to take the plunge. Unless of course you're someone who just doesn't like reading comics on a screen no matter what (a shrinking minority I think, but still representative of a chunk of the comic reading audience). So I think I'm just going to settle for plugging five webcomics I'm enjoying reading right now, if that's okay.

Dicebox -- Itinerant female factory workers in spaaaaaace! Beautifully written and illustrated by Jen Manley Lee. Kind of a travelogue, kind of a I-don't-know-what. I remain fascinated as to where Jen is taking this story and am very much enjoying the journey.

A Softer World -- I'm hoping this strip is already known to a lot of your readers. It really deserves to be. Sad and funny and cruel and strange all at once.

Girls With Slingshots -- a current favorite from amongst the serial comic strip crowd. Although I could have also have picked Octopus Pie for this slot which is equally as awesome.

Bee -- Jason Little's first Bee series Shutterbug Follies has already crossed over into the world of print, but he's been busy serializing her second adventure, Motel Art Improvement Service online for a while now. It's great! Sign up to the e-mail update service so you never miss a new installment.

Jesus and Mo -- I actually need to get caught up on my Jesus & Mo reading, as should you all. A smart, funny and uncompromising lancing of two of the world's major religions. The author's a lovely chap too, but sadly he has to remain anonymous due to the regular death threats he receives.

Oh, and I get to plug one of my own, don't I? Well, since we haven't mentioned it anywhere else, I think that should be The Rule Of Death, every Friday at Serializer. A collaboration with artist Douglas Noble, it's the story of a dead piano player in the old west who decides not to stay dead anymore. Think of it as essentially the least cliched zombie-western you could ever possibly read.

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SPURGEON: Can you talk a little bit about page structure in Necessary Monsters? Because you seem to be varying what you do design-wise wildly from page to page thus far. For one, is it difficult to structure more traditional pages so they work both on-line and remain eventually translatable to the printed page?

GOODBREY: What I've found with page structure when I'm not illustrating the work myself is that I'm much more comfortable leaving it for the artist to determine. When I first started writing scripts for other people to draw I tried giving all these complex directions as to how the page might be laid out, but they just ended up cluttering up the script. It felt like I was stepping on the artist's feet and taking too much freedom from them to do their job the best way they knew how.

So now in a script I tend to just limit myself to asking for a sane number of panels per page for whatever suits the rhythm of the story and trusting to the artist to do the rest. I'll often say something like "large panel" when I want a particular image to be the focus on a page, but that's about it. Very occasionally I do get a specific effect in mind and then I'll give details of how to lay a series of panels out, but I'm always careful to frame it as a suggestion rather than an absolute instruction.

So on Necessary Monsters layout, you really need to talk to my artist Sean Azzopardi. Sean's been a big part of the London small press scene for years now and I love that I'm getting the chance to bring his work to the attention of a wider audience. Although to answer another part of your question -- Necessary Monsters is definitely a comic written and designed for print, which we're first choosing to serialize online for promotional reasons. So there's no real tension in the page design there. A lot of my early work was designed only for the screen and remains essentially untranslatable to print in any kind of sane, economically or aesthetically viable way.

imageSPURGEON: What is it about comics that takes to these kind of arch, slightly surreal takes on the adventure genre with such ease? Do you have a pantheon of past work like the one you seem to be creating that informs this comic?

GOODBREY: Comics are a fast medium and the number of people you have to convince that a story is worth telling can be as few as one. Which I guess is true of prose too, but a well written comic story can feel complete at six pages or one hundred pages. People know they've had a complete experience when they've finished reading it -- they understand what it is when they've read it. In contrast a six page prose story... what is that? It doesn't quite fit anywhere. Or didn't -- I guess the web is the new home for flash fiction like this.

But still, there's more room I think in comics to tell these quick, weird pulp tales than in any other medium. And when you try and tell a story like that in a comic, no one looks at you like you're crazy. It's a place where stories like this fit and everyone can understand what it is they're experiencing. I've never done anything exactly like Necessary Monsters before but I do have a number of similar projects waiting in the wings across a few different genres that follow the same kind of pattern.

Necessary Monsters itself is essentially me riffing on the horror films I used to watch as a kid -- the Nightmare On Elm Streets, the Candymans, Hellraisers and the like. But then also trying to move things a little further and seeing if I can take these horror icons and make them fit inside the constraints of a spy thriller -- Mission Impossible and Alias territory. I also thought it'd be interesting to write a story where every character was full on irredeemably evil while still hopefully being likable enough for the audience to cheer on.

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SPURGEON: Necessary Monsters seems to deal in a kind of casual world-building -- there are multiple references to a wider context for the actions of the character. Is that something that interests you about the creative process? Is this material worked out against a detailed background yet to be revealed, or are you sharing in that revelatory creep at the same rate the reader does?

GOODBREY: I've always had a great love for world building and shared universes in comics. I think a lot of what first draws people into the larger Marvel and DC Universes is the fun of slowly uncovering more and more details of these fictional worlds that have built up over the years. But the actual result of this in my own work is that I've been really wary of world building, not wanting to fall into the trap of spending huge amounts of time on elaborate world detail at the expense of actually getting finished comics out there.

For a long time I focused exclusively on telling short stories, because that meant I could get something finished and out into the world quickly that would stand as its own little complete thing. I was definitely indulging in moments of world building with the Unfolded Earth stories but I tried to do it organically, letting the world assemble around each story as I went.

So most of the comics I've written so far have been all about sharing in that revelatory creep -- I make things up as I go along until usually about halfway through, by which time a larger plan and some notion of an ending has suggested itself. Necessary Monsters is a bit of a departure for me though, in that I decided to figure out a reasonably detailed breakdown of the whole story before I started writing it. One of the chief reasons for this was that I knew I'd be collaborating with Sean on the project and I wanted to be certain I wasn't going to lead him up the garden path on a story that didn't end up going anywhere.

The other main reason for taking this approach was that I wanted a bit more practice at writing in the work-for-hire mold -- basically I decided to create the whole thing as if I had an editor to appease on the project. I figured out full character biographies for the main players and organizations, did a proper pitch document and then sat down to write the detailed outline. There was quite a bit of world building necessary when it came to figuring out the main beats of the story, but I tried to let myself be led by the characters and the plot and then kind of build just enough of the world around them to keep things moving along.

The practice I got on planning Necessary Monsters has already turned out to be useful preparation for my next gig at Marvel which I finished writing last month but I guess won't start to show up until around the end of the year. There's actually a real big chunk of world building in this one and I had lots of geeky fun playing with a long untouched corner of the Marvel multiverse. I ended up with a whole bunch of world detail that just didn't fit in the story but that I hope I'll be able to come back too if the thing proves popular enough for any sequels.

SPURGEON: What do you see yourself not doing comics-wise in five years?

GOODBREY: Oh, Lord knows. By 2013? Well see, that's after the Mayan/Morrison/London Olympics singularity of 2012, so that means all bets are off. I could be overseeing the official Charlie Brown vs The Smurfs newspaper strip by 2013 and thinking it's the most normal thing in the world to finally write the long teased wedding between Marcie and Smurfette.

There's actually nothing I can think of currently that I'm not doing comic-wise that I couldn't see being turned on its head within five years. Absolutes have never really made sense to me -- I'm much more comfortable with high improbabilities.

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* from Necessary Monsters
* from The Rule of Death
* from Sixgun
* from Necessary Monsters
* from All Knowledge Is Strange
* from Brain Fist
* Never Shoot The Chronopath
* from Last Sane Cowboy
* from Necessary Monsters
* from Necessary Monsters
* from Necessary Monsters
* from Necessary Monsters

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If I Were In Montreal, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Seattle, I'd Go To This

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posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends today
* about the auction
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Minnesota, I'd Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, bookmark: the sometimes-comics writer Paul Di Filippo has launched a new, sometimes-comics focused blog.

* go, bookmark: the writer Charles Reece now has a similarly sometimes-comics focused blog presence.

* go, explore: The Concrete Jungle Book and its multi-modal scrapbooks.

* go, hire: Julia Wertz

* go, read: Harvey Pekar and Rick Veitch collaboration at the Vulture blog.
 
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FFF Results Post #127 -- Anticipation

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Five Comics or Comics-Related Publications You're Looking Forward to Seeing This Year." Here are the results.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Batmanga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan, Chip Kidd
2. ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware
3. Where Demented Wented, Dan Nadel and Glenn Bray
4. Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert
5. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell

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Tucker Stone

1) Acme Novelty Library # 19
2) Punisher Omnibus by Garth Ennis
3) The Demon Omnibus by Jack Kirby
4) Cold Heat by Frank Santoro
5) Doom Patrol Archives # 5 by Arnold Drake

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Grant Goggans

1. Titan's The Best of Battle by various creators
2. Herbie Archives Volume One by Richard Whitney and Shane O'Shea
3. The Complete Ace Trucking Company Volume One by John Wagner,
Alan Grant and Massimo Belardinelli
4. Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka
5. All-Star Superman # 12 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

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Douglas Wolk

1. Kramers Ergot 7, various artists
2. Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke
3. Love & Rockets: New Stories vol. 1, Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez
4. My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, David Heatley
5. Watching the Watchmen, Dave Gibbons

*****

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James C. Langdell

1. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell & Dan Best
2. Black Jack Vol. 1, Osamu Tezuka
3. Showcase Presents: Strange Adventures Vol. 1, Various
4. Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Joshua Cotter
5. Comics As Art: We Told You So, Tom Spurgeon and Jacob Covey

*****

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Jacob Covey

Absolutely #1: "The Art of Tony Millionaire" by Tony Millionaire
"Bat-Manga!" by Chip Kidd
"Monologues for Calculating the Destiny of Black Holes" by Anders Nilsen
"Moomin" Volume 3 by Tove Jansson
"The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror" with Gilbert Hernandez

*****

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Jason Michelitch

1. Jack Kirby's The Demon HC, Jack Kirby
2. Black Jack Vol. 1, Osamu Tezuka
3. Berlin Book Two: City of Smoke, Jason Lutes
4. Powr Mastrs vol. 2, CF
5. Herbie Archives vol. 1, Shane O'shea and Ogden Whitney

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. Popeye vol 3, Segar
2. Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, Sickles
3. The Marvel Masterworks volume reprinting the Goom and Googam, Son of Goom stuff, etc, various
4. Blackjack Vol 1, Tezuka
5. Little Nemo In Slumberland: Many More Splendid Sundays, McCay

*****

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Jim Wheelock

1. Gutsville #4, Simon Spurrier and Frazier Irving
2. Britten and Brulightly, Hannah Berry
3. Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, Noel Sickles
4. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell
5. Most Outrageous - The Trials and Trespasses of Dwaine Tinsley and Chester the Molester, Bob Levin

*****

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Eric Knisley

1. Gilgamesh 4, Kevin Dixon
2. Onion Head Monster, The Next One, Paul Friedrich
3. ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware
4. Mome 12, Various, Fantagraphics
5. Where Demented Wented, Rory Hayes et al

*****

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John Vest

1. Jack Magic, Greg Theakston
2. The Art Of Tony Millionaire, Tony Millionaire
3. Steranko (Vanguard hardcover), Jim Steranko
4. B. Krigstein Vol. II: A Life In Art From Comics To Canvas, B. Krigstein
5. Man Of Rock: A Biography Of Joe Kubert, Bill Schelly

*****

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Dan Steffan

1. Modern Swarte: Joost Comics, Joost Swarte
2. Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli
3. The Art of Harvey Kurtzman, Denis Kitchen
4. Cul De Sac, Richard Thompson
5. Sam's Strip, Mort Walker & Jerry Dumas

*****

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Scott Cederlund

* Yotsuba V6
* Scott Pilgrim V5
* Jeff Lemire's The Country Nurse
* Superman and the Legion of Three Worlds (what can I say? I'm an old Legion fan)
* Acme Novelty Library #19 (2 years without Rusty Brown?)

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Tony Collett

1. PvP Awesomology, Scott Kurtz
2. Freak Brothers Omnibus, Gilbert Shelton
3. American Flagg! Definite Collection HC vol. 1, Howard Chaykin
4. Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson
5. Terry And The Pirates HC vol. 4, Milton Caniff

*****

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Ryan Kirk

1. Walt & Skeezix Vol. 4, Frank King
2. Love and Rockets: New Stories #1, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez
3. The Art of Harvey Kurtzman, Denis Kitchen
4. Herbie Archives Vol. 1, Ogden Whitney
5. Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, Noel Sickles

*****

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Marc Sobel

1. Asterios Polyp, David Mazzuchelli
2. Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@*!, Art Spiegelman
3. Exit Graphic Novel, Nabiel Kanan
4. Sublife, John Pham
5. Capacity: The Art of Theo Ellsworth, Theo Ellsworth (not sure of the exact title or release date on this one, but the rumors were flying at MoCCA about a collection of all the Capacity mini-comics)

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John McCorkle

1. The Heart of Juliet Jones Dailies - Volume 1, Stan Drake
2. Leonard Starr's Mary Perkins On Stage - Volume 5, Leonard Starr
3. Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #14, Steve Niles, Glenn Fabry, Gilbert Hernandez
4. Secret Wars II Omnibus Hardcover, Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, Mark Gruenwald, Denny O'Neil, John Byrne, Steve Englehart, Danny Fingeroth, Tom DeFalco, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern, Archie Goodwin, Mike Carlin, Peter Gillis, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Al Milgrom, Mary Wilshire, Bill Sienkiewicz, Paul Neary, John Romita Jr., Rich Buckler, Ron Frenz, Bob Layton, John Buscema, David Mazzucchelli, Michael Mignola, Paul Chadwick, Jackson Guice, Mark Badger, Ron Wilson, Rick Leonardi, Mark D. Bright, Brent Eric Anderson, James Christopher Owsley, Don Perlin, Terry Austin
5. Yen Plus Magazine #1, Svetlana Chmakova and others

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Chris Randle

1. Popeye vol 3, E.C. Segar
2. Black Jack, Osamu Tezuka
3. Where Demented Wented, Dan Nadel & Glenn Bray
4. Bourbon Island 1730, Lewis Trondheim & Apollo
5. Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye, Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart (I'm an optimist)

*****

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Will Pfeifer

1. The HUMBUG Collection
2. Watching the Watchmen by Dave Gibbons, Chip Kidd and Mike Essl
3. The Art of Tony Millionaire
4. That Boody Rogers collection
5. Comics as Art: We Told You So

*****

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Russell Lissau

1. COMIC BOOK TATTOO, Image Comics
2. 100 BULLETS, Vol. 12, Vertigo
3. SUPERGIRL: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade, DC Comics
4. The next UMBRELLA ACADEMY arc, Dark Horse Comics
5. BATMAN STRIKES #48, DC Comics (selfish plug, it's my last issue of the series)

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Marc Arsenault

1. Comics As Art We Told You So, Tom Spurgeon and Jacob Covey
2. The Cream of Tank Girl, Alan C. Martin and Jamie Hewlett
3. Cul De Sac, Richard Thompson
4. Where Demented Wented: The Art and Comics of Rory Hayes, Geoffrey Hayes, Glen Bray & Dan Nadel
5. Humbug, Harvey Kurtzman & Co.

*****
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Happy 77th Birthday, Ernie Colon!

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Happy 68th Birthday, Mike Ploog!

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Happy 66th Birthday, Tom Palmer!

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First Thought Of The Day

I just figured out who Anne Hathaway looks like -- Hardy Boys-era Shaun Cassidy.
 
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July 12, 2008


If I Were In Minnesota, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Montreal, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Seattle, I'd Go To This

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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from July 5 to July 11, 2008:

1. Wal-Mart drops Memin Pinguin comic after complaints over use of racial caricature.

2. Anime Expo ends with various industry observers unclear about direction of market.

3. Bruce Mackinnon cartoon re-fashioned for use as political tool.

Winner Of The Week
Naoki Urasawa

Loser Of The Week
Fairly or unfairly, The New Yorker

Quote Of The Week
"Ross Campbell is the cartoonist laureate of skanks." -- Sean T. Collins

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
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Happy 38th Birthday, Phil Jimenez!

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Go, Listen: Dollar Bin Recordings Of CR-Related Panels at HeroesCon 2008

The crisply designed Dollar Bin web site recorded a number of panels I moderated at last month's HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina. I think some of the conversations turned out to be interesting through no cause of my own, and I appreciate the sharp job the Dollar Bin guys did in getting them recorded for posterity. Here they are for your downloading pleasure.

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The New Art Comics
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Covering Comics
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Religion and Philosophy in Comics
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Collaboration and Storytelling
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The Creative Household
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Webcomics Roundup
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posted 1:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends July 13
* about the auction
 
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five For Friday #127 -- Anticipation

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Five For Friday #127 -- Name Five Comics or Comics-Related Publications You're Looking Forward to Seeing This Year (Formatted Like Below)

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1. Batmanga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan, Chip Kidd
2. ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware
3. Where Demented Wented, Dan Nadel and Glenn Bray
4. Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert
5. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell

This Subject Is Now Closed. Thanks To All That Played.

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.
 
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
July 11, 2008


Friday Distraction: Mexican Covers

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thanks, Uriel Duran
 
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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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Your 2008 Bill Finger Award Winners

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Comic-Con International announced this morning that Archie Goodwin and Larry Lieber will receive the 2008 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. Since its inception in 2005, the awards tags one living person and one deceased person (Goodwin passed away in 1998) to honor them for their contributions as a writer. Its specific emphasis is on those writers whose work is largely unsung as was the case with Batman co-creator Finger. A longtime editor in addition to being a respected comics writer, Goodwin is best known for his work at Warren publications such as Blazing Combat and for his revisionist superhero work on titles such as Manhunter. Larry Lieber was a key creator in the comics company owned by Martin Goodman, including that company's 1960s superhero rise as Marvel Comics, frequently scripting plots supplied by brother Stan Lee.

The selection committee supervised by Mark Evanier was Charles Kochman, Paul Dini, Tony Isabella, and Marv Wolfman. The awards will be presented at the Eisner Awards ceremony on Friday, July 25.
 
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Late In The Game CCI Socializing Tip

The comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com has a little piece up on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's annual San Diego party and mini-fundraiser, to be held two weeks from last night at the Westgate.

I wanted to mention it because I know that the nighttime scene at CCI can be daunting for some comics-interested attendees, particularly in that there are industry parties talked about to which one might not be invited (there are a ton on Thursday night, the evening of this event) that can make the convention itself feel like the Friday before the Homecoming dance and you're the new, not exactly Kevin Bacon kid in school. A charitable event like this one can really fit the bill: it's for a good cause, you're invited because of your ability to contribute to that cause, tons of people that you might want to meet attend, everyone that's there for you to meet is probably interesting in at least some sense, comics professionals cluster in this kind of group setting but they're usually not actively anti-social, and it's nice to stand outside on that cool-looking rooftop and enjoy the night air and relax. If I were in San Diego that evening I'd be there for a good part of it, for sure.
 
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Scott McCloud Is Driving Me Nuts

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So I'm reading the above book, which showed up in my mailbox in fairly unexpected fashion. I was happy to see it. I like the Zot! comics, even though it's very much a young writer's first major work, covered in soft down and looking up at you with big eyes, wanting you to love it. The writing can be forced and cliched, and I tend to agree with the oft-repeated assessment that Scott McCloud's lack of craft chops hampers the work at critical times, although I'm not always certain McCloud has a grasp on how this manifested itself. For instance, I found a single panel in the Weaver family hallway where the passageway looks 28 feet wide more distracting than the sum total of the at-times almost rudimentary figure-drawing McCloud himself chooses to pick on. Still, I think McCloud makes up for this kind of thing with a generally thoughtful approach to the page that draws on his already-ongoing study of formal techniques and his growing, ahead-of-the-curve familiarity with manga. As is the case with many of the best comics, moments of poor execution are the price you pay for getting the specifics of emphasis that only the author can provide, in the way it's always fascinating and I think usually more rewarding to hear a songwriter sing his own catalog no matter how wobbly the voice.

I would argue that what makes Zot! a work worth considering can't be found in its big-foot aspects, nor is it in the way it serves as a symbol for so many revisionist superhero genre comics of its time, and surely won't be uncovered by placing it in the context of McCloud's later career as a theoretician or even asserting its status as a harbinger of Japanese-influenced western comics works to come. For me, Zot!'s primary strength can be found in McCloud's sometimes raw treatment of the emotional life of white, suburban teens. This is even more greatly emphasized in this volume because the first, color issues of the title and its fairly straight-forward children's fantasy has not been reprinted. By making that time unknowable to the reader, at least in a sense, McCloud allows for an even greater connection between protagonist Jenny Weaver and her brother Butch having this core experience and the kind of dewy nostalgia that can grip teenagers and convince them that retreating into some happier time a few conceptions of self ago is so wholly desirable.

My reading of Zot! sees the series as a progression of studies on how children and teens use fantasy to negotiate reality. In the case of Jenny Weaver, this moves from the total immersion and escape marked by the first several issues to a process where the best elements of that experience are brought into her more earthly existence in a way that enhances them, makes them more clearly understandable and more fulfilling to negotiate. This set of stories literally brings the Peter Pan science fantasy superhero Zot into Jenny's world so that his presence escalates the seriousness and raises the stakes; in the book's last moments the characters return to that fantasy in a healthier, more fulfilling and less dangerously consuming way. It's a nice message, and a hopeful one for a lot of fantasy-lovers, a message whose values McCloud himself has gone on to embody through his own career and in building a family and in becoming one of the most solicitous boosters of younger artists and their particular gifts in comics industry history. It's also one worth lingering on for its own sake and the specificity of its insights, not as a stepping stone to somewhere else. Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection does great with the latter, not as well with the former.

The comics in this new, comfortable-to-carry volume are supplemented by written material where McCloud holds forth in prose on his own growth as an artist, and what came into play from his own life at various times during the series creation, and what he was trying to get at in key moments within the narrative. What the volume lacks is much in the way of recognition of the work's dead-on evocation of teenage dissatisfaction bordering on hopelessness. This is what drives me a little bit crazy, because I think the work's greatest strength lies in its at-times brutal emotional core. All of McCloud's characters are battered in some way by childhood trauma. They suffer things like abandonment, divorced parents, dislocation, poverty, loneliness, alienation, body issues, disengagement, bullying, sexual identity issues and a special brand of suffocating boredom that sucks all by itself and makes all the previous things listed that much worse. Jenny Weaver doesn't get to go to another world; she desperately needs to go there. Despite McCloud suggesting otherwise, the issue where it's briefly suggested that the fantasy elements may be something Jenny made up from whole cloth and she's really messed up in a much sadder and more grounded-in-reality story to which we're not privy, that is a much better and more evocative work than the way-similar Buffy, The Vampire Slayer television show episode that aired years later. In the latter we have to accept the character's mental illness as an alternate explanation for actions such as setting fire to one's high school. In Zot!, the underlying melancholy of Jenny Weaver's life and the corrosive cynicism she holds at bay is almost always in evidence, metaphor-free. As such, it constantly calls into question the fragility of our own coping mechanisms -- including comics like McCloud's.

I've read this new book once and plan to again, and I still have no idea how McCloud feels about the thematic backbone of this work, how these comics relate to and evoke the cartoonist's own encounters with certain elements of growing up. Instead I learned a lot about how they "worked" for people years later or how there's an occasional, cute connection between the work on the page and the cartoonist's life in his late twenties. The closest thing in the book along the lines of what I hoped for is McCloud's backhanded admission that there's an element of nuclear dread that hovers over the whole book, the way that kids of a certain generation placed their personal struggles with mortality onto the specter of species-wide extinction falling from the sky. He notes how his own fears of the future can be seen in his villainous triptych (Dekko, Zybox, 9-Jack-9) and in the book's general celebration of the past, but even then he doesn't get into his own outlook at that age or how those feelings might specifically press on his individual characters. Let me put it like this: while McCloud notes what seems like three dozen times that he was a total nerd as a kid, we never learn if he was happy. You know? I'd rather have skipped the story about how his father's death drove McCloud to taking less overtime in DC production for the sake of just a little bit about how his relationship with his dad might have been reflected in a series of absentee parents he portrays in this, his longest fictional work.

It could be that I'm barking up the wrong tree. I have no right to expect that kind of insight, and even less than no right to expect it exactly where I want it. It could be something McCloud is saving for another time, or another place, or simply doesn't want to get into. It could very well be that I'm projecting an emotional core onto a work where the author simply saw another set of tools in an oft-discussed toolbox. Heck, it could be that there's no there there, and that this will always be the comic that McCloud did on his way to doing Understanding Comics and the part of his life with more meaning to be found in its pages was his early marriage rather than the only hinted-at and vaguely described childhood. Just because I react to a work in a specific way doesn't mean anyone else has to, including the author. That such a notion even gets floated probably indicates something seriously wrong with me. I still suspect there's a thing or two we're not hearing, but maybe it's better that way; I don't know. In the end, it shouldn't change how anyone looks at the comic book, and it certainly doesn't for me. Not in any way that matters. Still, when McCloud says that the entire work is encapsulated on the page from which the above image is drawn, the kiss between two worlds and two different ways of seeing them, I also see that old comic book's book-ended image: an opening page that asks a question the kiss on the last page answered, its sad-eyed young person sitting outside on a summer night hoping for something fantastic to happen, knowing that it will.
 
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Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends July 13
* about the auction
 
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Go, Bookmark: Channeldraw

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OTBP: Tranny

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the comic strip Pickles has an astounding 500 clients.

image* the writer Sean T. Collins speaks to Jordan Crane, who is almost always fun to read in interview format.

* Dustin Harbin and Andrew Mansell are interviewed here about The Heroes Discussion Group. I didn't know anyone had discussion groups.

* go here for a very cute picture of the X-Men. It's sort of interesting in that while X-Men was probably the lousiest of the Lee/Kirby creations in terms of its routine execution, it's surprisingly sturdy in a conceptual sense -- much more so than the stuff that came later, where I would argue in a similar scene only Wolverine and Kitty Pryde would register in the same way while the other characters would have to be shoehorned into whatever cute thing they would be doing and would likely still overwhelm the moment rather than connect to some sort of shared experience. I mean, you look at Marvel Girl and Cyclops on that couch and it's not like they're particularly iconic characters but you sense that, yeah, they'd totally stay in to have a date like that, and you probably know a couple that's like them in that way.

* my mutant power is run-on sentences.

* slavery = always funny.

* in my opinion, America needs a Colt 45 can designed by J. Chris Campbell, and we should all do whatever we can to help make this possible.

* I don't know about you, but there's nothing that gets me more fired up about this beautiful art form than the thought of a bunch of suits in a room trying to figure out how to better exploit the creative work they've acquired from a series of creators and plan to never let back into the public domain.

* this article about one man's endeavors to get Chicago to recognize Hal Foster as the city's son is fun to read even though it's a huge stretch to make Foster responsible for all of comics considering a billion things such as, say, how popular the medium was for decades before he was successful.

* finally, is it my imagination, or does this interview with new Image publisher Eric Stephenson hint that the company may at some point in the future go for a piece of the media rights pie? I'm asking that seriously; I can't tell.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Dirk Deppey!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Jason Lettering Outtakes

Exhibits/Events
Go See Phil Yeh
Go See Kim Deitch

History
Yikes
Claremont Hates Planes
Jughead Hat Legal Shenanigans

Industry
Comics Galore
Neil Gaiman and the Filipino Comics Scene

Interviews/Profiles
Introducing Tim Lane
Frank Santoro Infodump
France5: Georges Wolinsky
Optimum Wound: Jim Blanchard

Not Comics
Worst Poll Ever
Alan Moore Reads
Oh My God, They Are Adorable
Remembering the Birth of the Batman TV Show
Why Peter David Is Fond Of The Adventurer's Club

Publishing
Dark Tower Ends
Why Roz Is A Democrat
In His Likeness Hits #500
Johnny Ryan's 2009 Book
Where Demented Wented Previewed
Brian Bendis on Latest Marvel Comic
Whatever Happened to Boys of Summer?

Reviews
John Mitchell: Fluffy
John Mitchell: Omac
Greg McElhatton: Cowa!
David P. Welsh: Various
Sean Kleefeld: High Moon
Her Graphic Novel Shelf: H
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Sean T. Collins: Water Baby
Richard Bruton: Glamourpuss
John Mitchell: The New York Four
Johanna Draper Carlson: Life Sucks
Jillian Steinhauer: Blurred Vision Vol. 4
Sean Macdonald: Kirby: King of Comics
Don MacPherson: Final Crisis: Requiem #1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Kaput and Zosky
Simon Brew: The Best of Roy of the Rovers
Richard Bruton: 12 Reasons Why I Love Her
David Paggi: Harvest Is When I Need You The Most
 

 
July 10, 2008


This Isn't A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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*****

Here are the books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, potentially honking off my retailer.

*****

MAY080034 BPRD THE WARNING #1 (OF 5) $2.99
Is it my imagination, or are there a lot of these Hellboy Universe books? They all look not-horrible, too.

APR080221 BATMAN AND SON TP $14.99
Please, please, please let the son be named "Lamont."

MAY080237 CHUCK #2 (OF 6) $2.99
Really? Because I totally don't regret growing up without a Riptide comic book.

MAY080146 FINAL CRISIS REQUIEM #1 $3.99
The real crisis is these goofy names. Is DC trying to make all of their titles sound like role-playing game supplements from 1979? When I was a kid, we had titles like Thor, which was a comic book about a dude named Thor.

APR082191 AGE OF BRONZE #27 (MR) $3.50
I sometimes suspect I'm one of 28 people buying this in serial form over all other forms, and Eric Shanower has some sort of bet going that forces him to keep publishing it this way.

NOV072025 CAPTAIN STONEHEART & THE TRUTH FAIRY HC $19.99
Please don't name your comics when you're high.

MAY082171 I KILL GIANTS #1 (OF 7) $2.99
Or, for that matter, when you're drunk.

MAY082366 ANITA BLAKE VH GUILTY PLEASURES TP VOL 01 $14.99
I recommend this Anita Blake title over the non-guilty pleasure ones.

MAY082346 CRIMINAL TP VOL 03 DEAD AND DYING (MR) $11.99
Unless this is like 20 pages, that's a killer price point.

MAY083976 BADGER SAVES THE WORLD TP $19.99
I like those old Badger comics. Even the people writing into the letters page were from Big Ten school states. I always imagined it was the number one comic in places like Evansville or Akron and it wasn't even sold in New York or LA.

MAY083722 BONE COLOR ED HC VOL 08 TREASURE HUNTERS $19.99
MAY083723 BONE COLOR ED SC VOL 08 TREASURE HUNTERS $9.99

The latest in these beautiful books that have no right to look so good in color given that they were originally created in black and white. Jeff Smith is officially in the middle of the drop a dime/pick up a quarter moment of his career.

MAY083832 GENTLEMAN JIM HC $14.95
A fine character study from one of the medium's strangely unappreciated great modern talents, Raymond Briggs.

MAR083690 RED COLORED ELEGY HC (MR) $24.95
A beautiful comic elegantly told. Once you're into it you'll like it enough you'll stop worrying about who else is going to buy one.

MAY082268 CAPTAIN AMERICA WHITE #0 $2.99
APR088184 CAPTAIN AMERICA WHITE #0 TIM SALE VAR $2.99

Another Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale re-imagining of early Marvel comics icons. I tend to wait for these to show up at a discount, because I guess they're too classy to actually sell out, but I'm happy to have past efforts in my library and I imagine I'll be just as happy with this one.

APR083489 KYLE BAKER NAT TURNER HC $24.95
MAY083628 FART PARTY GN (MR) $13.95
APR084063 COLA MADNES TP (MR) $24.95
These are books that are making their supposed debuts despite seeming to have been out since Clinton was president. The Panter book Cola Madness is the best comic on this list. I believe it's celebrating its 25th year since it was originally published.

DEC073332 MAGIC WHISTLE TP VOL 11 BODY ARMOR FOR YOUR DIGNITY (MR) $11.95
I'm going to review this at some point, but unless you hate comedy you should always buy the new Sam Henderson.

DEC073840 GODDESS OF WAR #1 (OF 4) (RES) (MR) $12.95
A genuinely cool comics project.

MAY083983 SNAKED TP $17.99
I found this comic genuinely disturbing in comics form; in trade paperback form it may frighten me into not visiting the comics shop until October.

APR084254 COMIC FOUNDRY MAGAZINE SUMMER 2008 $5.98
It's the comics magazine that makes me feel fat, old, and not cool! Thanks, Comic Foundry!

*****

The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, that was on purpose. I am deeply prejudiced against whatever it is you are.
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Suspect Acquitted In Assassination Plot

According to early-morning wire reports, one of the three men arrested February 12 and charged with plotting the murder of 73-year-old Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his wife will not be prosecuted. According to a statement from that country's national prosecutor's office, there was not enough evidence to support charges that the Moroccan-born, 40-year-old Danish citizen was involved in the suggested plot. Two Tunisian men remain in custody. The acquitted man had been released on the day of his arrest.

The arrests led to many papers in Denmark and a few abroad re-publishing Westergaard's 2005 caricature of Muhammed in support of the cartoonist, which in turn led to a renewed period of political turmoil and protests about its nature and the idea of publishing such material.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Libyan Cartoonist Elzwawi

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I am extremely unfamiliar with the cartoonist's work, but a mention in this blog post about Libyan-based blogging alerted me to his existence.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Muriel Kubert, RIP

Mike Gold reports that Muriel Kubert, the wife to legendary American comic book artist Joe Kubert, mother to prominent mainstream cartoonists Adam and Andy Kubert, and long-time co-administrator of the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Art, has passed away after battling with breast cancer. Kubert's university degree in business administration was no doubt a tremendous boon in the opening and operation of the successful cartoon school.
 
posted 4:19 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2008 Swann Award Recipients

The Caroline and Erwin Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon has announced its academic grant winners for the 2008-2009 period.

image* Marie Stephanie Delamaire, in support of her research "on the influence of French academic painting traditions on the work of Thomas Nast" (cartoon from Nast picture at left).
* Mazie Harris, in support of her work on Henry Louis Stephens.
* Jared Richman, in support of his work on "political caricature as part of the visual culture that shaped popular attitudes toward America during the Romantic Era."
* Christina Smylitopoulos, for her research into the figure of the nabob.
* Veronica White, for her work on the artistic depiction of married women from 1745 to 1821.

The foundation was founded in 1967 and was bequeathed to current administrator the Library of Congress upon Swann's passing in 1973.
 
posted 4:17 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
How Irwin Hasen Lost His Virginity

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my job is weird
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CCI Travel Note: Hotel Deposits

This is the day when most -- it could be all, I don't know -- hotels in San Diego participating in Travel Planners' reservations through the convention offerings lock in the deposits or expectations of deposits for the forthcoming Comic-Con International. I made a small hotel switch yesterday to get a half-mile closer to the show for the one night I'm there, and I couldn't be happier. If you still need a room, you may be in luck. There remain plenty of slots available for individual days, although passes into the show are almost non-existent at this point. I expect Travel Planners to make a huge push next year to get rid of the double- and triple-booking that results in so many rooms being locked up for no reason until they're dropped late in the game, but you can certainly take advantage this year. (I would also guess this is a consequence of some plans being changed because of the economy, although it's impossible to say for sure.)
 
posted 4:12 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Filling In The Picture on Drawn and Quarterly's Late 2008 and Early 2009

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Unlike Fantagraphics, which does a more traditional Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer sales catalog, Montreal's alt-comics publishing empire Drawn & Quarterly does a catalog for the calendar year. Going from the back half of this catalog and a few on-line bookseller listings, one can see their next several months slowly start to take shape. Here are five books I particularly look forward to seeing.

*****

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ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #19, HARDCOVER, 97818972299562, DECEMBER, $17.95.
The great Chris Ware returns to his excellent-so-far Rusty Brown serial with what is becoming an annual holiday treat of major significance. The only way I can describe how I look forward to these new ACMEs is to recall the way I felt about those turn of century movie fantasy wallows that showed up for a few years in a row there. I can't believe I'm following a serial that last came out a year and a half ago with such focused interest.

*****

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AYA OF YOP CITY, MARGUERITE ABOUET AND CLEMENT OUBRERIE, HARDCOVER, 9781894937900, SEPTEMBER, $19.95.
The first book in this series by Abouet and Oubrerie was like nothing else that's come out in recent memory, and I want to be among the first to read its follow-up. On the one hand, it's this beautifully observed and funny soap opera; on the other, it's a melancholy love letter to an all-too-brief period of cultural vibrancy and possibility, since faded.

*****

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MELVIN MONSTER VOL. 1, JOHN STANLEY, HARDCOVER, FEBRUARY, $19.95.
Let the latest great reclamation project begin with this publication from the limited run of comic books that made up the great John Stanley's primary contribution to the mid-1960s monster craze. One of the two or three best Dell comics ever.

*****

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SKITZY: THE STORY OF FLOYD W. SKITZAFROID, DON FREEMAN, HARDCOVER, 9781897299586, OCTOBER, $19.95.
This one just looks like a lot of fun: the well-known children's book author (Corduroy) looks at the day in the life of a man split between artistic and business pursuits. What could be a tedious exercise in the hands of some artists should in the late Don Freeman's fall somewhere between light on its feet and outright elegant due to the artist's judiciously applied line.

*****

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THE BURMA CHRONICLES, GUY DELISLE, HARDCOVER, 9781897299500, SEPTEMBER, $19.95.
Because the English-language follow-up Shenzhen preceded Delisle's noteworthy Pyongyang in the original French, or at least that's what I've been led to understand, that would make this the true sequel to Delisle's internationally lauded hit. It's as interesting a subject as North Korea, that's for sure.

*****
*****
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Boom! Makes Gagnon Managing Editor

According to a press release picked up by several news outlets including the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com, Boom has added the now-former Meltdown Comics purchasing manager Matt Gagnon to its staff as Managing Editor. Gagnon will report to Editor-In-Chief Mark Waid. This is an interesting hire in that Gagnon was a well-respected purchasing manager, and you don't see a ton of people crossing over from comics retail into comics editorial. In the article linked to above, Waid compares Gagnon to the fictional film character Michael Clayton, by which he probably means an effective fix-it man with an ethical core instead of a burnt-out husk of a man struggling with various life and vocational decisions.
 
posted 4:07 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Wal-Mart Axes Memin Pinguin Comic

imageIn perhaps the most certain outcome to a previous news story in comics blogging history, retail giant Wal-Mart has removed a Spanish-language Memin Pinguin comic from its shelves. The comic character, a pop culture icon in Mexico and shown at right in one of the comics one can purchase there, appears with exaggerated facial and body features. Its availability at Texas Wal-Mart locations drew criticism from a slew of shoppers.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends July 13
* about the auction
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: John Stanley, Jack Cole

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Kevin Huizenga Draws a Bunch of the Powr Mastrs Characters

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Polly And Her Pals

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Harvey Hits #62

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posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the artist and writer Frank Santoro finishes up his Craft in Comics report; an earlier part of this same report was where the big Alex Ross throw-down occurred.

* David P. Welsh talks smart on expectations for the development of a manga audience.

image* from Bryan Lee O'Malley comes word on the status of Brandon Graham's King City Vol. 2: apparently, he's publishing some of the sequel to the Eisner-nominated first volume on-line because it won't be published by Tokyopop nor will they allow him to take it someplace it can be published.

* the editorial cartoonist Charlie Daniel celebrates 50 years on the job.

* here's a review of Ganges Vol. 1-2; I'm not sure there have been more important books published this decade in terms of a major cartoonist finding his creative voice.

* a few of you were nice enough to send me a link to this post indicating there will be a blog-style examination of Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics. I get a little lost once I get there, but I guess one should just bookmark that post and hope that it develops from there.

* the writer Laura Hudson takes a look at the codes in Bottomless Belly Button. (via The Beat)

* the writer JK Parkin is excited to learn about IDW's project with the cartoonist Darwyn Cooke, likely one of the two projects without a publisher he discussed at his San Diego Con spotlight panel in 2007.

* finally, the longtime editor Tom Brevoort suggests that the Wizard Awards Ceremony didn't happen this year because of hurt mainstream comics company feelings regarding an acceptance speech video, which has to be the saddest thing I've heard all day. Granted, it's early. I figured it was just the con's date switch.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 51st Birthday, Gerard Jones!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Sandra Chang!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
History
Bizarro!
Uncle Pigly
LOSH Is 50
Marvel Boobs
Who Can Replace The Martian Manhunter?

Industry
Help Artist Who Lost Hard Drive
Franklin Park Herald-Journal: George Munoz

Interviews/Profiles
Wizard: George Perez
Newsarama: Ande Parks
Newsarama: Jimmy Palmiotti
Stupid Article Exasperates Blogger

Not Comics
Yeah
No Word Yet On Fucknugget

Publishing
DHC Re-Designs Site
Cagle Adds Half-Dozen
Grant Morrison Re-Designs Site
Radical New Idea: Re-Booting LOSH
Then You're Still Dead To Me As Well, Brubaker

Reviews
Bully: Various
ADD: Silver Star
Mark Oakley: Mr. T
Kevin Church: Various
Paul O'Brien: Cable #5
Jeff Newelt: Gary Panter
Sean T. Collins: Neverland
Her Graphic Novel Shelf: G
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Blurred Vision
ADD: Happiness Is A Warm Puppy
Paul O'Brien: Astonishing X-Men #25
Greg McElhatton: Madame Xanadu #1
David P. Welsh: Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1
Nina Stone: Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1
Katherine Farmar: Tekkonkinkreet: Black and White
ADD: Stranger and Stranger: The World Of Steve Ditko
 

 
Go, Look: Fred Chao's Funny Peter Parker and J Jonah Jameson Cover

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posted 1:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
July 9, 2008


City Pages Celebrates 2nd Comix Issue With Suite on Forthcoming Convention

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The above, stuffed-with-detail image from Kevin Cannon is one of the many cartoons employed by the Twin Cities' City Pages in its second Comix Issue, which they've smartly tied into the Republican Party political convention hitting the region later this summer. I can't imagine this kind of thing can't be a big hit for the alt-papers that take the time to do it and that have a community worth showcasing, which in the case of the latter factor is about a dozen or so cities.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Memin Pinguin Comic Called Racist

imageI think I understand the story: apparently Spanish-language comic books featuring the Mexican comics icon Memin Pinguin are being sold at a Wal-Mart in Texas (I checked this morning; they're not being sold at this New Mexico location), someone picked up the book that doesn't have Mexico's years of exposure to the character and the attitudes which have developed around it that seem to make it immune in that country to most objections regarding the physical depiction of black people, and now they're objecting to that depiction to the press because Wal-Mart won't reply.

I don't really know what to do with a story like this other than say, "there it is," and to share what is probably the first thought on a lot of folks' mind, that above and beyond the question of its inappropriateness and offense it's an amazing thing that someone buying the book for display wouldn't look at it and decide that it's maybe a bad idea to put it on the stands in a place that reaches such a diverse, mass audience. Doubly so in this case, as I thought Wal-Mart stock buying was a pretty rigorous process. I could be wrong. As a sideline, this is the only comic I've heard about being sold at the retail giant since some manga-sized, movie-photo adaptations a couple of years back, although I never pay attention to that kind of thing so I'm likely missing Shonen Jump and a bunch of others.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Article of the Moment: PW's Kai-Ming Cha Says "The Future Looks Bleak"

This blog post by PWCW mainstay Kai-Ming Cha on the recent Anime Expo is one of those articles to note for the content of the piece but also who's saying it. Basically, the suggestion here is that most young manga readers are devoted to a couple of popular expressions within that part of comics rather than that part of comics entire or, more widely, comics. The reason why it's important who's saying this is because when manga started to sell in big-box bookstores a similar argument was made by several American comics boosters -- albeit in dismissive fashion after not observing or knowing about anything except that their tastes were being vaguely challenged or threatened.

As a result, any industry observer making any observation along these line opened them up to derision and charges of player-hating (sorry, but I think it's the closest term) from people whose advocacy for and support of manga seemed to depend on an emotional investment in the publishing success of that expression of comics to equal that of American comics fans and that group's joy in the superhero movies and TV shows and whatnot. So I think this blog post provides the notion of a potentially limited manga readership a bit of legitimacy it didn't have before, and it's good to have the idea on the table.

I think what surprises me is that there's any expectation remaining that there would be a roughly-as-sizable, life-long readership building out of the last decade's rise in manga consumption, and again I think it might be a reaction to another dismissive argument made by some that ignorantly labeled that initial swell of readers a fad. My hunch is that there's some middle ground to be explored there. Fads last a summer, not a decade. This is something different, even if it does come with a built-in expiration date. During the time when American comics could best claim mainstream appeal they were dealing with a limited-interest readership in certain portions of the form, and that didn't invalidate anything about the number of people reading the material or what was made possible in those years due to that massive readership or in the future with the devoted readers that caught the bug during that time of wider availability.

In an ideal world, Kai-Ming Cha's observational post and the general notions behind it will be considered along with all the other ideas out there when it comes to shaping a vital and worthwhile manga market for five, ten, twenty years from now. Because as gets pointed out in a subsequent post, things are definitely changing. Also: didn't know about the forthcoming book.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Lickety-Whop: Capt. Easy Vs. Everybody

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to be updated constantly
 
posted 4:04 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Sean Kleefeld on PMOG as Comics Finder

Is there any comics-interested blogger having a better 2008 than Sean Kleefeld? No, there is not. If most comics blogging reads like it was done in the same room from people talking back and forth amongst themselves, Kleefeld's reads like he walked in from a different room down the hall to which no one else seems to have access. A cool room. In other words, his topics are almost always his own, and as a result I think I've linked to his last twenty blog entries.

Tuesday's entry is a fine case in point, even though its comics propers are perhaps more loosely established than a lot of Kleefeld's entries: the use of The Passively Multiplayer Online Game to give a gaming-style veneer to finding new comics material on-line. I mean, come on: tell me that's not interesting.
 
posted 4:02 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends July 13
* about the auction
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Three By Richard Thompson

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posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the French-language comics site ActuaBD.com has a short piece up on the ten-year anniversary of Les Editions la Pasteque, an impressive effort from Quebec inspired by France's L'Association.

image* the San Diego Reader comes through with another copiously illustrated article on the comics industry's relationship with the city. Image Comics gets the treatment this time up, including a long comic on their origin that killed me several times. That's Rob Liefeld being portrayed in the inset.

* whoa, check out the fartbox on the role-model!

* PWCW has what looks like the first in what should probably be about a half-dozen to a dozen "has San Diego Con lost it?" articles to come out between now and Labor Day.

* the prominent manga-blogger Brigid Alverson has two pieces out there worth tracking down: this interview with Misako Takashima; this primer on tone work.

* is Blade not a superhero now?

* this came up on a standard google search and has nothing to do with comics, but the struggles of used bookstores to carve out a place in their cities and remain viable in the post-Amazon, post-Abebooks world likely has lessons to teach the comics industry.

* finally, after posting in this section yesterday on sporting events created by cartoonists, an alarming number of you wrote in to castigate me for neglecting to mention Steve Purcell's Fizzball: described here, pictured a bit here. I might object in that I never considered my 1991 creation "bowling in my rental house's kitchen into beer bottles set against a wall" a sport, nor the related activity of "getting screamed at by my roommate after he came back from his girlfriend's university Sunday night," but Fizzball does have rules and I was using the whole thing as a set-up for a cheap Reg Smythe joke, so I should probably just shut up.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 82nd Birthday, Murphy Anderson!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Go See David Hajdu
Questions Abound At Anime Expo

History
They Never Grew Up And Their Creator Died

Industry
PWCW Bestsellers List
Chronicle Seeking Opinion
More On Supposedly Copied Cartoon
Concord Monitor Makes Sunday Moves
More On Supposedly Copied Cartoon 02

Interviews/Profiles
BBC: Paul Trevillion
PWCW: Keith Knight
MetroMix: Mike Mignola
NewsOK.com: Sterling Gates
Derbyshire.co.uk: Brendan Keeley

Not Comics
10,634th Movie Deal For Elfquest

Publishing
Uncanny X-Men #500
Profile of Goulart Book
Ed Stein Starts Convention Blog

Reviews
Brian Hibbs: Various
Batman GN Rundown
Paul O'Brien: Various
Abhay Khosla: Various
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Paul O'Brien: Water Baby
Unknown: Ultimate Origins #2
Greg McElhatton: Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1
Richard Krauss: Last of the Chickenheads #1
Sean T. Collins: Batman: The Story Of The Dark Knight
 

 
July 8, 2008


Go, Look: Dustin Harbin's Twenty-Six Cartoonists He Recently Met And Liked

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posted 11:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Ages-Old Insta-Comic Mystery Solved

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John Vest wrote in to say that he tracked down the old and oft-repeated (I heard it during my first day at work in comics, in 1994) story of Herb Trimpe supposedly doing an Iron Man comic book in 24 hours to meet a deadline by engaging the shocking strategy of asking the creator involved:

"Here's a bit of trivia from that panel. I took my copy of Iron Man #39 to the event and asked Herb Trimpe if he really had illustrated that comic in 24 hours which was rumored. Roy Thomas recognized the cover and remembered the issue. Herb Trimpe described the comic as a 'rush job.' He said he drew the cover in two hours and completed the comic in a couple of days."

So there you have it. There are a handful of mainstream comics rumored to have been done really, really quickly, but in the case of Iron Man #39 the comic retains an air of personal expression as opposed to the group, pitch-in nature of most comics that fall under this category. I frequently throw people off the trail of this book by insisting that it's Johnny Craig.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* here's a cheat sheet I guess for those that believe Freedom of Speech to be a vital human issue of shattering importance but can't be bothered to spend more than five minutes researching the specific issue involved.

* this article makes a nice, succinct point that the Danish Cartoons Controversy was caused by outside agitation over completely different issues with the cartoons themselves as a smokescreen. They also call it "The Danish Cartoon War," which I support so I'll have cooler stories to tell my grandchildren someday.

* the Danish caricatures of Muhammed that started it all are still on the political table. "Befoul" is an awesome word.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Remaining Video From HeroesCon '08

If I did this right, this should be assorted video footage from the Friday of last month's HeroesCon in Charlotte. I apologize if the sound is funny or off; this is my first time with this little cheap-y camera, and I stored them in an odd way to bring them back home.

From the basic look of what follows, we get the State of the Industry panel snippets (1-5), followed by a brief piece of the Richard Thompson talk (6), followed by excerpts from the Comics Journalism panel (7-9), and concluding with a few minutes from the Creative Households panel (10-11).

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5


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10


11

 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Another Week, Another New Yorker Caption Contest Plagiarism Accusation

Venerable cartooning institution The New Yorker has once again been accused of running a way-too-similar cartoon in its Caption Contest, this time a Paul Noth cartoon that looks a lot like a Jeff Darcy cartoon from two years ago in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. It's weird in that the obvious "no foul" responses come from two completely different angles. From one viewpoint, we're not exactly talking a rare and out-of-left-field idea here, and if each of us were to write down 10 ideas of how to do a joke about increasing corporate influence over doctors, I bet you'd see this joke on a lot of lists. From another way of looking at it, the staging is so similar you'd have to think that would have been changed if it were a pure copy job. It's always possible to memorize a gag and then forget it's not your own later on, too. We'll likely never know.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends July 13
* about the auction
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
"Dots Talk To Me By Mental Telepathy"

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posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Thoreau At Walden

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not all that obscure, but I hadn't seen it talked about too many places
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Blurred Vision, Vol. 4

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Anne Marie Fleming Blog

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Chris And Pete Duffy Create A Handful Of Patriotic Superheroes

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* manga giant Viz has acquired four new licenses.

* not comics: the publisher and writer Nat Gertler makes a point or three worth reading about Marvel's freshman year as a movie-maker. I actually didn't mean to suggest that Marvel's had a bad year, but that it seems to me that the PR-driven narrative had already been established about their big, green follow-up to Iron Man and that it might need to be revisited by those writers.

* the cartoonist Chip Zdarsky visits a nude resort and makes a comic out of it.

image* folks are looking for the creator of the character at left, who has become quite popular since originally being posted and discussed on-line.

* not comics: I'm told that Peter Milligan co-created this on-line show.

* not comics: the Enki Bilal-created sport of chess-boxing crowns a champion. Someday they'll have an Olympics based on nothing but sports made up by cartoonists, like Calvinball, bird-bath hockey and, of course, competitive wife-beating. That last one might be the least funny comic ever if it weren't for the fact that Andy Capp apparently hangs framed photos of himself in soccer outfits around the house.

* Art Daily discusses the twin Jeff Smith shows being held in Columbus, Ohio right now.

* does Jacob Covey look like Shel Silverstein? I can totally see it.

* the prominent blogger Chris Butcher reprints an English-language interview with Taiyo Matsumoto and runs a bibliography to boot. You should click through if only to stare at the art he uses.

* IDW is going to reprint William Messner-Loebs' Journey in six-issue chunks starting this August, which is awesome, and I hope they get through all of the material. That was a pretty good comic book series, and is fascinating to look at right now because in terms of the creative choices the cartoonist made it seems like it came from a different planet than that which spawned most comics created now. I received this press release as well and can attest to the fact that the image used is the jpeg IDW sent out. This is that cover in non-blurry form. I always liked the Journey covers. Update: Whoa! These are sixteen-issue books, over 400 pages! Never mind about that six-issue thing above. That's a lot of comic, and I'm certain they'll get through all the material now.

* speaking of forthcoming comics, here's the Vertical on-line headquarters for its efforts to reprint all of Black Jack.

* this is more a personal note for me to go back and take a closer look than it is a recommendation you spend time there, but my initial peek at this comments thread indicates a knives-out discussion of the quality of work on Comics Sherpa. This was a good, short discussion of how to read new art comics.

* that is a fine bunch of try-out strips vying for a slot (and only maybe a slot) in the San Francisco Chronicle. Vote early, vote often, vote Cul De Sac.

* finally, Sean Kleefeld is baffled by the rhetorical strategy employed by NPR in presenting its comics reviews.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 90th Birthday, Irwin Hasen!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 45th Birthday, Whilce Portacio!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 49th Birthday, Stan Woch!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
On David Chelsea's Use of Autobiography

Exhibits/Events
Beano and Dandy Exhibit
A Visit With Peter Thompson
Festival In Blois Takes Shape

History
Frogs
Vinnie Colletta Redux
Jerry Robinson's Legacy
That Is One Pissed-Off Baby
The Most Horrible Thing Lucy Ever Did

Industry
Retailers Can Be Gross
ICv2.com's Manga Sales Analysis

Interviews/Profiles
Wizard: Garth Ennis
ComicMix: Brian Bendis
Sean T. Collins: Johnny Ryan

Not Comics
Bush = Douche
Lost-Moomin Continuum
Songs About Superheroes

Publishing
On Avatar
Flight Vol. 5 Previewed
Preview of New Loeb/Sale
Bottomless Belly Button Trailer
What's Not To Love About Lynda Barry?

Reviews
Tucker Stone: Various
Koppy McFad: Trinity #5
Geoff Hoppe: Batman #678
Koppy McFad: Supergirl #31
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Time to Pee
Greg McElhatton: Vagabond Vols. 26-27
Johanna Draper Carlson: Love for Dessert
Ed Sizemore: Haridama: Magic Cram School
Leroy Douresseaux: Jaryu Dokuro's Sugar Milk
Charles Yoakum: Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 1
Koppy McFad: Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #1
 

 
July 7, 2008


Bahaa Boukhari Wins CRN/IFEX Award

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The Palestinian cartoonist Bahaa Boukhari has won the 2008 Courage in Editorial Cartooning award from the International Freedom of Expression eXchange's Cartoonist Rights Network International. As the article explains, Boukhari saw his host newspaper Al-Ayam suspended from publication for using one of his cartoons believed to have an anti-Hamas bias (that may be it above; I can't be sure), leading to a court battle, suspended sentences and demonstrations in Ramallah on Boukhari's behalf. The award was presented to Boukhari in San Antonio on June 26.
 
posted 4:22 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Beer + Billy Dee > Citric Soda + GenX

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Jim Mahfood has his own Colt 45 cans, and there's a controversy about the ad campaign.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Earthworks 2008 Winners

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International cartoon competitions are to doing a comics site what "state karate championships" are to doing a local sports section; there are a lot of both, and after a time they all begin to blend together. This contest on climate change seems a bit different than most with a clear topic, quality cartoons, solid promotion and what looks like some compelling follow-up, including a tour.
 
posted 4:16 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bruce MacKinnon Obama Cartoon "Hijacked" For Politically Extreme Uses

imageSort of a self-explanatory story, but an interesting one that makes you wonder why this doesn't happen all the time. Apparently, some folks are using a translatable image from a Bruce MacKinnon cartoon and using it to slander presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama. One thing that's interesting about this is that it's a Canadian cartoon, and it's been suggest that American cartoonists might go out of their way not to make cartoons that can be interpreted in a certain way because of the historical significance of Obama's run. Another thing I find compelling is to note that, if I'm reading the article correctly, there are some uses where the text is changed or material added and some uses where they simply take the original text and suggest it be read in a context not flattering to the Senator.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2008 Japan Expo Prix Winners

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Given out in conjunction with the 9th Japan Expo, taking place over the weekend in Paris.

Grand Prix
20th Century Boys, Naoki Urasawa (Panini Comics)
Prix Public Virgin
Eye Shield 21, Yusuke Murata and Riichiro Inagaki (Glenat)
Prix Meilleur Shonen
One Piece, Eiichiro Oda (Glenat)
Prix Meilleur Shojo
Je ne suis pas un ange, Ai Yazawa (Delcourt)
Prix Meilleur Seinen
Ubel Blatt, Etorouji Shiono (Ki-Oon)
Prix Meilleur Moriawase
Le jeu du chat et de la souris, Setona Mizushiro (Asuka)
Prix speciaux du jury
Kazuo Koike
Go Nagai
Takeshi Obata

Please note that the "Prix Public Virgin" is in relation to the Virgin retailing enterprise as opposed to just being a mean award.
 
posted 4:12 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: New Hulk (Not A) Smash

I tend not to follow film business news, so I can only hope that folks working that side of the tracks have pointed out that the supposedly more crowd-pleasing, easier-to-take Incredible Hulk looks more and more like it will stall out just past or even just short of revenues earned by the maligned-by-some Ang Lee brood-fest Hulk, even though tickets cost a bit more now. (My hunch is that if you used 2008 ticket prices for Hulk instead of 2003 ticket prices you'd add another $40 million to the earlier movie's worldwide gross.)

imageFilm success seems to have a limited and debatable effect on Marvel's comics publishing, probably restricted to a slight change of emphasis on certain trade volumes tied into release dates and a generally positive or negative feeling regarding the character by the company's editors and creators. (The Blade character has had series opportunities based on his movie success.) However, becoming a major movie player is the company's overall thrust these days, and this can't help Marvel reach that goal. I would imagine this ends any possibility of making a franchise out of the character -- at least not until the CGI that doesn't involve hiring Andy Serkis progresses beyond Scooby Doo/Jar Jar Binks territory -- and unless Marvel can will the PR-driven entertainment news world to ignore the negative aspects of this outcome (and they might be able to), this puts pressure on a not-exactly-a-Pixar-flick Punisher sequel to perform ahead of expectations or Marvel is one for three in 2008.

That one -- Iron Man -- is a pretty spectacular one, mind you. And I know this is largely a perception game: Sin City made less than Garfield at the box office, but the former is considered a much bigger hit (for a number of reasons). Still, if Incredible Hulk had earned about $75-$125 million more it would compound the amount of crowing Marvel could do about their first year as a movie-maker. At the very least, I would imagine Jon Favreau's agent is pleased by this news, as a shift from an "unstoppable studio" to a "breakout hit" spin on 2008 would seemingly increase the amount of leverage the director has in returning for a Iron Man sequel.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
17 Days Until Comic-Con International

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I'll be there on Friday moderating this panel:

2:00-3:00 The World of Graphic Novels--International is part of Comic-Con's name for a reason! Here's an impressive roster of worldwide talent who create graphic novels: Alex Robinson (US, Too Cool to be Forgotten), Nick Abadzis (UK, Laika) and Comic-Con special guests Rutu Modan (Israel, Exit Wounds), Eddie Campbell (Australia by way of Scotland, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard), and Adrian Tomine (US, Shortcomings), along with our moderator, good ol' American Tom Spurgeon (comicsreporter.com) as they discuss graphic novels and why they make the world go 'round. Room 3
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends July 13
* about the auction
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Ulanaland

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seen at Brett Warnock's
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Beyond #11

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* manga at Dark Horse Comics turns 20.

* the prominent blogger Christopher Butcher has started a series detailing his take on the shape of the manga market right now, which is additionally important because of Butcher's POV as a strong advocate for manga in comic shop retailing. Here's the first one. Here's the second one.

image* on the occasion of Jesse Helms' passing, Rob Tornoe remembers his contentious relationship with the late Doug Marlette.

* I'm a little confused after reading this article just what Mike Mignola contributed to the visuals and monster designs in the forthcoming Hellboy 2. I had assumed everything I'd seen in a commercial was from Mignola.

* the long-time Fantagraphics cornerstone Eric Reynolds enjoys a huge perk of his position in comics and work on behalf of so many cartoonists.

* you can debate whether or not critics should be friendly with the cartoonists about which they write all you want; I'll be over here reading an excerpt of Gary Groth writing on Ralph Steadman.

* the cartoonist Richard Thompson notes the hopping-away of Spot the Frog.

* the cartoonist Evan Dorkin starts a contest where readers of his on-line journal list the five living comics-related folks they would invite to a dinner party and those they wouldn't, to frequently hilarious and mean results. I don't have much to say about anyone's list except that I'd break bread with Bil Keane any time -- that guy's hilarious.

* the writer and reviewer Katherine Farmar puts together a pair of lists for new comics publishers: things to do and things not to do.

* finally, here's something I'd heard about before discussed in more detail: one of the recruiting tools used by the Oregon Ducks football team is personalized comic book. I guess the idea is that seeing themselves as superheroes plays into the young man's ego as being larger than life.
 
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Go, Look: PBOW News Comics

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Manga Presidents Special

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Nancy and Sluggo #177

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
What Does An Editor Do?

Exhibits/Events
Manga at Japan Expo
Takehiko Exhibit Review
Photos From 6-28 Studio Space Signing

History
David Hajdu on GTA Censorship
Johnny Bacardi Looks For a Comic

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoon
Comics Are For Kids
Classic Peanuts Picks Up Paper
Suzy Becker Cartoon Editor of New Site

Interviews/Profiles
Telegraph: Jason Wilson
NY Times: Robert Grossman
Pop Culture Zoo: David Malki
Panels and Pixels: Gareth Hinds

Not Comics
Superheroes In Prose
The Crazy World Of Cosplay
A Comic Strip Can Change You
Rabbit and Bear Paws Vol. 2 Trailer

Publishing
Notes on Archie Digests
Undertown Comes to Concord
Glen Bledsoe Planning New Strip

Reviews
Shawn Conner: Various
Don MacPherson: Various
ADD: Strange and Stranger
Mel Odom: Criminal: Coward
The Bitter Guy: Starman Omnibus
Sean T. Collins: Pizzeria Kamikaze
Kumi Matsumaru: Nemurenu Shinju
Paul W. Smith: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Jonathan Woodward: All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1
 

 
July 6, 2008


Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends July 13
* about the auction
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five Link A Go Go -- Holiday Weekend All-Nickelodeon New Comics Resource Site Edition

* go, look: Nickelodeon Comics Main Menu

* go, look: Sam Henderson Comics

* go, look: Deitch Brothers Comics

* go, look: Jef Czekaj Comics

* go, look: Mark Martin Comics
 
posted 3:40 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #126 -- USA! USA!

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Five Cool, Patriotic Things About Comics." Here are the results.

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Captain America Loses Civil War To Drunk, Dies; Becomes More Popular
2. Art Form Obviously Not Created Here, Yet We Still Occasionally Claim This To Be True
3. Leading Export 1890s = Steel; Leading Export 1980s = Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
4. Sawdoff As Loaded Representation of mid-20th Century American Enemies
5. The Howling Commandos: Diversity in a Foxhole

*****



Douglas Wolk

1) The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: champions of the First Amendment
2) Stars-and-stripes motif almost always looks good on comic book covers
3) The U.S. Treasury actually hired Tom Hart to promote its redesigned currency
4) Megan Kelso's Federalist Papers slash fantasy
5) "Pettigrew for President" in Treasure Chest: a black President 44 years before Obama!

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Captain America is commercially viable at all anywhere else besides the U.S.
2. Uncle Sam is a superhero
3. World's most recognizable characters include Superman and Batman
4. Just about every superhero around before his death took on Adolf Hitler personally
5. The phrase "Truth, Justice and the American Way"

*****

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Jason Michelitch

1. "Captain America for President" by Roger Stern and John Byrne (Captain America #250)
2. Almost every super-villain's scheme for world domination, destruction, or ill-gotten gains includes a stop through New York City/Gotham/Metropolis. It's because they hate our freedom.
3. It's Justice League of AMERICA, man, except when communists like Giffen are in charge.
4. O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow - they were harsh because they cared.
5. Our fans are allowed to complain about people like Warren Ellis or Neil Gaiman "being too British."

*****

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Russell Lissau

1. I learned WWII history by reading All-Star Squadron in the 1980s. It paid off: I knew from that series who won the Battle of Midway and thus proved a middle-school history teacher made a mistake on a test.
2. Dead or alive, Captain America remains a symbol of everything that is good about the American Dream.
3. Superman's motto is Truth, Justice and the American Way. 'Nuff said.
4. Superhero comics are a true American Art Form. There aren't many; the Blues is one of the few others.
5. Uncle Sam is a superhero in the DCU.

*****

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James C. Langdell

Five For Friday #129 -- Name Five Cool, Patriotic Things About Comics

1. In the 1940's millions of comic books were sacrificed in paper drives, without which we wouldn't have kicked Hitler's ass.
2. In the 1950's, congressmen and senators are known to have talked about comic book in the heart of the United States capitol.
3. In the 1960's, Marvel comic book heroes saw beyond the obvious communist adversaries and bravely took on the more serious threats of Latveria, AIM, and Galactus.
4. In the 1970's, American youth read Dennis The Menace specials about their country's founding, history, and geography -- not that Howard Zinn crap.
5. In the 2000's DC Comics inspired Americans with an honest, smarter, kinder vision of their country in which Lex Luthor was elected president rather than George Bush.

*****

Don MacPherson

1) Marvel's most popular mutant character is Canadian.
2) Joe Shuster was Canadian.
3) Guardian's costume (Alpha Flight)
4) The vast majority of America's beloved comics are printed in Canada.
5) T.M. Maple


USA! USA! USA!

*****

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Michael Grabowski

5. Comics covers of the WWII era with German and Japanese caricatures getting bopped by superheroes are still culturally accepted.
4. Captain America isn't a name, it's his rank.
3. Some of our comics are still cheaper here than in Canada.
2. The 1st Amendment still works, most of the time. (Sorry, Mike Diana.) God bless the CBLDF.
1. Benjamin Franklin's "JOIN, or DIE." The definition of pretty freaking awesome is when one of your founding fathers was an editorial cartoonist whose imagery contributed in part to the founding of your country.

*****

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John McCorkle

1. Leah Dizon's bikini on the cover of a recent issue of Young Jump:
2-5. How could Custer lose in Little Big Horn after teaming up with the best Spaghetti Western Heroes?
TEX
MAC COY
KEN PARKER
MAGICO VENTO

*****

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Christopher Duffy

1. Steranko's catalog of imitator heroes in his History of Comics: "Cap turned around and discovered an army of stand-ins waiting to jump on the patriotic bandwagon: The Americanization of comics had begun. There was the American Avenger, American Crusader, The American Eagle, Commando Yank, Fighting Yank, Mr. Liberty, and U.S. Jones. Some copied his stars and stripes: Yank and Doodle, Yankee Boy, Yankee Eagle, Yankee Doodle Jones, The Pioneer, the Defender, the Liberator, the Sentinal, the Scarlet Sentry, Spirit of '76, Super-American, Citizen V, Johnny Rebel, the Flag, the Flagman, the Unknown Soldier, and Citizen Smith, son of the Unknown Soldier. Some even copies his name: Captain Flag Captain Freedom, Captain Courageous, Captain Glory, Captain Red Cross, Captain V, Captain Valiant, and Captain Victory..."
2. The idea of throwing a shield as a major offensive tactic.
3. The Marvel 1976 Bi-Centennial calendar: esp. Conan jumping over a stone wall with a bunch of Minute Men.
4. The All Night Party. Third parties are always more patriotic than the main two.
5. "Fuck Communism" lighters.

*****

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Alan David Doane

1. World War III Illustrated
2. The work of Ted Rall
3. The work of Tom Tomorrow
4. Steve Englehart's Nomad storyline
5. "A Short History of America" by R. Crumb

*****

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David Gallaher

1. Captain America & Falcon - with the sole exception of Power Man and Iron Fist, Marvel's best team-up
2. The USAgent - radial, arrogant, brainwashed, right-wing patriot, who failed as Steve Rogers' replacement
3. Superman - The epitome of Truth, Justice, and The American Way
4. The Shield - The first patriotic superhero
5. The Force of July - terrible, terrible team, but still kinda awesome

*****

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Sean T. Collins

All-Frank Miller Edition...

1. "We must not remind them that giants walk the earth": Superman tosses Soviet tanks around in Corto Maltese in The Dark Knight Returns
2. Only in America: the Roarks, a family chock-full of serial killers, reaches the top of Basin City's political, religious, and social spheres in Sin City
3. "Give me a red": Nuke does one last thing for his country by dying on Ben Urich's desk in Daredevil: Born Again
4. "I'm the President. So I've got the Box. Damn straight.": Ninja sex machine Elektra transports the mind of mustachioed CIA operative Garrett into the body of President/Antichrist Ken Wind in Elektra: Assassin
5. Batman beats the living shit out of Osama Bin Laden in Holy Terror, Batman!, god willing

*****

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Marc Arsenault

* The Air Pirates throwing it all on the line, fully aware that copyright and trademark law would not work as written in their case
* Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby demanding the right to authorship in a country that does not properly support moral rights
* Bill Gaines' defending a decapitation scene on a comic cover he published to congress
* Every single line and word in Bill Mauldin's Back Home
* Zapiro, Sasa Rakezic (Aleksandar Zograf), and all the other brave souls who have actually put their lives on the line for their views (sorry... they're from other countries... the spec just said patriotic, it didn't say where, even though the 4th connection was pretty obvious). Pray that you are never in their position.

*****
*****
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 58th Birthday, John Byrne!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 61st Birthday, Katherine Collins!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 55th Birthday, Joe Zabel!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 57th Birthday, Christy Marx!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

Don't you people walking around the public track the wrong way know the rules against which you're rebelling are the only thing keeping me from hitting you in the head with a pipe?
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
July 5, 2008


CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from June 29 to July 4, 2008:

1. Publishing giant Kodansha to open up a US manga-translating subsidiary; current licensing deal with Del Rey unchanged.

2. Superstar mainstream comic book artist Michael Turner passes away.

3. Two of the three men accused of plotting to killed Danish Muhammed caricature artist Kurt Westergaard to receive another detention hearing.

Winner Of The Week
D&Q

Loser Of The Week
Wizard World, with once-flagship show Chicago beginning to show some signs of exhaustion.

Quote Of The Week
"As [Alex] Ross could benefit from using a little more of his own imagination in his art, [Jack] Kirby could have benefited from the occasional photo of '67 Dodge Dart. -- Leif Jones

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Bill Watterson!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 32nd Birthday, Steven Goldman!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 31st Birthday, Chris Butcher!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bid: Ed Brubaker's Captain America Notebook Auctioned For The Colans

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* auction ends July 13
* about the auction
 
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five For Friday #126 -- USA! USA!

Five For Friday #126 -- Name Five Cool, Patriotic Things About Comics

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1. Captain America Loses Civil War To Drunk, Dies; Becomes More Popular
2. Art Form Obviously Not Created Here, Yet We Still Occasionally Claim This To Be True
3. Leading Export 1890s = Steel; Leading Export 1980s = Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
4. Sawdoff As Loaded Representation of mid-20th Century American Enemies
5. The Howling Commandos: Diversity in a Foxhole

*****

This Subject Is Now Closed. Thanks To All That Participated.

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.

CR would like to apologize to its international readership for the potentially limited nature of this topic and cites its home country's unavoidable awesomeness as the cause. Our hands are tied -- by freedom.
 
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
July 4, 2008


Universal Press Syndicate To Offer Array Of Animated Cartoons For Newspapers

imageAmong the offerings in Universal's new effort will be animated version of Lio, Ink Pen, Flying McCoys and The Argyle Sweater. There will be seven offerings in a week. This sounds potentially important to me, but I guess that depends on whether it catches on. Part of me wishes that more efforts were done with static cartoons to get them onto newspaper web sites in a variety of fashions before people go to animated work.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Sometimes I Don't Get Comics People

Frank Cho made a naughty cover that the Hero Initiative declined to include in their charity auction. I don't understand why anyone would object to someone declining to make such a cover a part of a public event where one could argue the overwhelming expectation of those in attendance would be not to see such material, and I don't understand why this keeps Cho or even HI from auctioning the thing separately.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Killer Jim Flora Image That Could Be Faked As A July 4th Illustration

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posted 4:12 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Few Quick Notes On Frank Santoro, Alex Ross, Jack Kirby and Doing Harm

I'm referring to this article, written by the cartoonist Frank Santoro, in which he claims the artist Alex Ross has done harm to the comics art form.

* Seriously, is there anything in comics more annoying than the self-proclaimed man of the funnybook-reading people, ripping into the high-falutin' tastes of the snotty and jealous art comics elitist whose favorite/own comics obviously don't sell as much as the person being criticized? No, there is not.

* I think Frank Santoro's criticism of photo-referenced comics is a bit more interesting than the extended drum-solo rhetoric that he uses in this latest essay allows him to communicate. What I find compelling about it is the effect he claims for photo-referenced comics when it comes to the quality of the image, how the flattened plane of the photo almost invariably seeps into the final drawn picture in a way that deadens the surface. Where I think his argument could use some work is in building an enlightening wave of examples featuring the more lively cartooning he values in 1980s-and-earlier mainstream and independent comic books.

* The other fascinating thing about Santoro's criticism is that it forces us to draw distinctions between the way comics are processed and the way comics art is processed. As comics, I would suggest Ross's reads differently than most mainstream genre work because it leads its fans to spend a more significant amount of time processing the image. In that way, it's more like the modern arts comics of the mark-making variety and even late-period Jack Kirby than it is the old mainstream house styles and their shared visual cues, the more simplified iconography of some alternative comics and certain manga-style stylized comics. In other words, Alex Ross' work is really odd.

image* In terms of its effects on comics, Alex Ross' work probably shouldn't be processed in a vacuum, as mainstream comics work is very different now than it was even 20 years ago. Ross is the most successful comic book illustrator in an era of comics -- an era of pop culture entertainment -- that values the limited, potent, single moment over more traditional modes of expression like cumulative narrative and recurring theme work. Marvels was about moments of transcendent action from superhero comics in years past being used as a stand-in for overwhelming moments of world history; Kingdom Come was mostly an argument about the values of a certain kind of superhero over another where the ability to seize center stage through compelling single instances was the medium in which its characters battled. Uncle Sam traded in very specific iconography and differences between images to make its points. The vast majority of Ross's work since Uncle Sam has been covers, which tend to trade in single moments no matter the dominant mode of storytelling inside. In other words, Ross' body of work may lack some of the traditional pleasures of comics from decades past because the comics he's illustrated and the covers he's created have interests divorced from traditional pleasures. It may be that Ross could be better viewed as the result of a wider, more pernicious trend than the driver of a specific one.

* The biggest difference between Ross and Norman Rockwell is in the subject matter, isn't it? The second biggest difference is in tone. I don't even know how you get past that stuff to make comparisons on down the line. Is it even worth it? It's like comparing Marlon Brando and Jack Black.

* Where the argument surrounding Frank's essay gets even weirder is in its general invocation of Jack Kirby as an artist of greater authority. What's ironic about this is that the rise of artistic values that drive the superhero audience's appreciation of Ross has also done wonders in helping certain readers re-claim Jack Kirby's later work. If Ross is the modern master of the single moment over the controlled narrative, he's standing on the shoulders of Kirby's odd, disjointed, spread- and single-page happy 1970s comics. In other words, you can argue that Ross's success has allowed a significant portion of the comics readership a greater ability to understand Kirby's last fertile creative period.

* Alex Ross and Jack Kirby may share something else in that the best-received work from each can be said to come as much from specific pathologies in the reading culture surrounding those comics as it came from a pure artistic reaction. Kirby's 1940's dynamism and his 1960's ability to shift between modes of presentation seemed tailor-made for what comics fans desired of works that they weren't getting in the bulk of material. Ross's painting flattered both the superhero icons their fans deep-down loved and the fans themselves by providing a surface sophistication to that work that could be communicated to non-fans.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Bottom Of My Middle Desk Drawer Paper Product Round-Up

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I don't remember the rules to Diamondback, Dave Sim's card game for his Cerebus comic book, but it looks like I still have the cards. I even had the paper ribbon slip holder until, well, five minutes ago.
*****
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I have a shockingly low number of a lifetime's worth of meaningful personal letters, but I still have my F.O.O.M. card. I'm told that if you present this at the Marvel offices, you're allowed to walk in and punch Joe Quesada in the stomach.
*****
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Back at the tail end of the time time when cards featuring comics art where a viable concern, Jeff Smith did a series of cards...
*****
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... as did Paul Pope...
*****
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... as did Jaime Hernandez (with Gilbert). Jaime's in particular are ridiculously simple and elegant and good-looking. That's underrated cartoon crush object Daphne Matsumoto.
*****
*****
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Collective Memory: Michael Turner, RIP

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Institutional
Aspen MLT, Inc.
Lambiek Page
Wikipedia Entry

Blog Entries and One-Offs
Big Shiny Robot
Blog@Newsarama
Brad Meltzer
Jeph Loeb
Jim Lee
Joe Quesada
Johnny Bacardi
Kevin Church
Peter David
Pop Candy
Sean T. Collins
The Amazing Adventures of Jake Black
The Beat
Topless Robot

Message Boards and Forums
Aspen Comics
TCJ.com

Miscellaneous
Comic Obsessions
Legacy.com Site
The Bastet

News Stories and Columns
ActuaBD.com
AP
AP 02
CBR
Comic Book Bin
Comicmix
Dread Central
Girls Entertainment Network
ICv2.com
LA Times
Newsarama
Wikio.com
Wizard

Photos and Illustration
Michael Turner Covers
Michael Turner Imagery

Videos and Podcasts
Ernie the Seahorse
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 01
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 02
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 03
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 04
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 05
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 06
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 07
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 08
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 09
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 10
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 11
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 12
Michael Turner Drawing Workshop 13

*****



*****
*****
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Rex Libris Site

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this additional site also made me laugh
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Beatville, USA

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Sensation Comics #86

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Thing #16

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Two From Jay Scott Pike

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the writer and critic Alan David Doane runs into the room and headbutts the comics coverage in Under the Radar's protest issue. You don't see people limiting themselves to a definition of comics that runs from the near end of the DC offices to the far end of the Marvel offices as much as you used to, but it may be more annoying now.

image* there's no better way to celebrate America's birth than to listen to Gary Panter on the Leonard Lopate show.

* admittedly, I have no interest in James Bond beyond being happy to see the better films and hoping that his role in the series allows Jeffrey Wright the financial freedom to do more work on stage, but I somehow missed that the character was going to move into an original graphic novel series.

* maybe the greatest mainstream comic evil headquarters cutaway ever.

* not comics: this was cute.

* Sean Phillips does something nice.

* I usually like "taking the piss" posts like this one, but has anyone halfway serious out there ever argued that the real reason why anyone paid attention to the recently reported crappy sales performance of Final Crisis #1 vis-a-vis Secret Invasion #2 was because of a sizable economic hit to the parent company?

* finally, here are a bevy of not-comics links that reminded me of comics issues. This post about a small-press gaming publisher at the traditionally big convention Origins notes the withdrawal of bigger publishers from that event and highlights the fact that they made more money through their on-line avenues than at the show, which is chilling. I wonder if we're seeing a similar shift at comics conventions, or if we will in the near future? Another publisher notes changes and a merger at one of the more successful on-line sales avenues for such products. The interesting notion in this article about the future of publishing suggests that certain categories may move on-line (or already have), something I hadn't considered in terms of comics, where I tend to think of all or nothing -- long-form comics' inability to find an on-line audience may play into what I'm thinking here. Lastly, fond memories of the university bookstore. (A couple of those links were seen here first.)
 
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Go, Look: Only The Dead Live Here!

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Go, Look: Sons of Satan!

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Go, Look: Green Grows The Grass

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Go, Look: Lynn Johnston Art Sketches

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Quick hits
Craft
A Visit With Peter Thompson

Exhibits/Events
SLG at CCI
Go Nagai at Japan Expo
O'Malley on CCI's MySpace Efforts

Industry
Dylan Squires Moves On

Interviews/Profiles
Mr. Media: Blake Bell
Velocity: Warren Ellis
Sean T. Collins: Paul Pope
Newsarama: Darwyn Cooke
Scifidimensions.com: Mark Buford

Not Comics
Jack Chick Movie Trailer
New Jesse Hamm Project
CNBC Adds Book Coverage
Two Decades of Batman Movies
Platitude Cookies Drive Me Nuts, Too
Austin Grossman Trailer Well Received

Publishing
Gantz Profiled
Scary Gary Profiled
Sparkplug/D&Q Love
GNs = Next Big Thing
Otaku USA Re-Design
Tim Sale TCJ Now Out

Reviews
Jog: Batman #678
Tucker Stone: Various
Sean Kleefeld: Jobnik!
Douglas Wolk: Various
Ed Sizemore: Toto! Vol. 1
Greg McElhatton: Color of Rage
Charles Yoakum: Fantastic Four
Leroy Douresseaux: Togari Vol. 7
Jog: Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1
Geoff Hoppe: Amazing Spider-Man #654
Richard Renteria: Squadron Supreme #1
Richard Bruton: The Professor's Daughter
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Avengers/Invaders #3
Brian Heater: Beautiful, Cool and Irreplaceable
 

 
July 3, 2008


Go, Look: Superhero Vs. Autobio

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thanks, Marc Arsenault
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* two of the three men accused of plotting to murder Kurt Westergaard and his wife will receive another detention hearing. The Tunisian duo have been held since their arrest in February. The notion that someone was plotting to kill the septuagenarian cartoonist sparked a wave of re-publications of the Muhammed caricature imagery in solidarity with Westergaard, which may have since led to more political turmoil.

* FrontPage Magazine has a longer article about the situation in Jordan, where multiple Europeans involved in some level on making materials that offended Muslims have been summoned to court.

* the Danish cartoons as an example of publicizing something that could lead to negative behavior.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
They Used To Send Us Postcards

All from 1995-1997:

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Fourth Annual Winter Art Festival
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Scott Musgrove show at Vox Pop
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postcard from Kitchen Sink staffer
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postcard from Alex Robinson about comic book debut of Box Office Poison
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postcard from Kaz about something in The Comics Journal
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postcard from Jay Stephens accompanying promotional materials
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Kristine Kryttre show at La Luz de Jesus Gallery
*****
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promotional postcard for Beanworld collection
*****
*****
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Late In The Game CCI Attendance Tip

As expected, single night hotel rooms are opening up on the Comic-Con International site for the convention later this month. With four-day passes and Saturday day passes already sold out, you could go Wednesday through Friday and as of yesterday at 2:45 PM (when I wrote this) easily score a single-person room at any of eight of the con's hotels, leaving before the big crush of attendees on Saturday and keeping your weekend.

Going to San Diego for a limited time is the new going to the convention five nights and four days.
 
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Go, Look: More Super Mouse

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Go, Look: Wild Spree of The Laughing Sadist

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Go, Look: Milt Gross NYC Tour

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Go, Look: Battling Boy Preview

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the manga industry observer Simon Jones notes that with the state of the USA manga market right now, Kodansha may have had no choice but to enter the market if it wanted to see its full catalog utilized.

image* if you have some extra time heading into the holiday weekend, and you're an industry wonk, you might want to reacquaint yourself with Steven Grant's long-running Permanent Damage column. I thought this new one was a strong outing, and his analysis that Brian Bendis has to be okay while Grant Morrison has to be sublime on their respective summer series seems dead on to me.

* the writer and long-time industry watcher Johanna Draper Carlson catches that a recording promised for a special edition of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier is not going to be included in the final package.

* speaking of Draper Carlson, I thought this was a nice post: will Kodansha's entrance into the USA market mean a new price point will be tried?

* finally, here are a couple of not-comics stories with comics implications worth noting: 1) a totally stupid and alarming store registration law has been struck down in Indiana, 2) cuts at the LA Times and various other newspapers precedes a more concerted effort by at least the first publication to move into all media.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 46th Birthday, Tom Heintjes!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Interviews/Profiles
Variety: Gerard Way
PWCW: Brian K. Vaughan
ADD Too Flat: Nick Bertozzi
Sean T. Collins: Nick Bertozzi
Norman Transcript: Gerard Way
Newsarama: Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg
The Groovy Age Of Horror: Sean T. Collins

Publishing
Next ACME Cover
Junko Mizuno at Marvel

Reviews
ADD: Obsession
Paul O'Brien: Various
Rob Clough: Wormdye
Chris Mautner: Various
Chris Mautner: Various
Don MacPherson: Station #1
Sean T. Collins: Bacter-Area
Leroy Douresseaux: Switch Vol. 3
Paul O'Brien: Madame Xanadu #1
Craig Fischer: How To Be An Artist
Nina Stone: Thor: Reign Of Blood #1
Charles Hatfield: How To Be An Artist
Shannon Smith: Candy or Medicine #3
Paul O'Brien: Wolverine: First Class #4
Timothy Callahan: Astonishing X-Men #25
Van Jensen: All Star Batman and Robin Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: James Kochalka's Johnny Boo
Rosa Williams: Benny and Penny, Otto's Orange Day
Sean T. Collins: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
 

 
July 2, 2008


Frank Santoro: "No One Has Done More Harm To The Form Than [Alex] Ross"

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posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
David P. Welsh's Kodansha Comes To The USA Publishing News Story Primer

By David P. Welsh

imageComics industry news site ICv2 picked up a report from Japanese business news website Nikkei announcing that manga publisher Kodansha "has set up a U.S. subsidiary 'to publish and sell translations of its Japanese manga' in the U.S. starting in September." Rumor of the move emerged via an anonymous commenter at the blog of Toronto comics retailer and writer Christopher Butcher.

The ensuing speculation centered largely on what Kodansha's direct entry into the U.S. would mean for Random House manga imprint Del Rey, which has served as Kodansha's principal U.S. licensor since its launch in 2003. Dallas Middaugh, Del Rey Manga Associate Publisher, quickly responded to the announcement at the imprint's weblog:
"Well, it's business as usual at Del Rey Manga. We're continuing to license manga from Kodansha, and as has been stated elsewhere, we've just about wrapped up our licenses for 2009 and are now starting to work on 2010. In a few weeks at the San Diego Comic-Con we'll be announcing some of those new licenses, and we've got some really exciting new manga series planned. Then we'll have a few more announcements at the New York Anime Festival in September... pretty much like we've always done. Also, we will continue to publish all of our manga. Kodansha has not pulled any licenses back from us."
Writer Gia Manry spoke to Kodansha's senior foreign rights manager Tomoko Suga, who confirmed "that there are going to be no immediate or direct changes to Kodansha's deal with Del Rey Manga."

In an e-mail interview, Del Rey publicist April Flores offered additional confirmation: "I can confirm that Del Rey's and Kodansha's agreement is still in place."

As for other sources of licenses, Flores noted, "[Del Rey has] licensed titles from other companies -- one example would be The Phoenix Wright Official Casebook manga coming out in October, which we licensed from Capcom."

At The Beat, Heidi MacDonald notes that "Kodansha has a huge number of properties to pick from, so there's lot of stuff to go round, at least at first." In fact, Kodansha publishes 21 manga magazines for boys and girls, men and women. In comments at MacDonald's blog, veteran manga adaptor, editor and author Jake Forbes offers the most interesting speculation thus far on Kodansha's possible direction as a stateside publishing entity.

imageAs others have noted, Del Rey is not the only licensing agent to work with Kodansha. Both Tokyopop and Dark Horse have licensed Kodansha properties since Del Rey's inception. Christopher Butcher notes that Dark Horse no longer has the license for Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, though MangaCast master of ceremonies and Otaku USA columnist Ed Chavez recently noticed that a new volume of another Kodansha property, Hiroki Endo's Eden: It's an Endless World, is due in February of 2009. Butcher also spotted the cancellation of Harold Sakuishi's Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, though whether that's due to a withdrawal of licensing rights by Kodansha, lackluster sales, or Tokyopop's recent cutbacks isn't known.

Since some people seem to think Kodansha's move is a groundbreaking development, it's worth noting again that it isn't the only Japanese publisher to have set up shop in the United States. The largest example is Viz Media, jointly owned by manga powerhouses Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd. Relative newcomer Aurora is affiliated with Ohzora Publishing Co. Manhwa publisher Netcomics is affiliated with Ecomix Media in Seoul, and ICE Kunion was launched by three Korean publishers, Sigonsa, Seoul Cultural, and Haksen, prior to its catalog being absorbed by Hachette's Yen Press.

From an entirely personal perspective, I'm glad this doesn't constitute any apparent crisis for Del Rey. From my vantage point, they've provided fine stewardship for Kodansha's properties in their almost-five-year history, from production to distribution to marketing. They've also demonstrated excellent taste, offering manga readers somewhat off-the-beaten-path choices like Minoru Toyoda's Love Roma, Yuki Urushibara's Mushishi, and Kio Shimoku's Genshiken, among others. While Kodansha's decision to maximize profits in foreign markets through its own subsidiary isn't surprising, it's gratifying to see that they aren't pulling the rug out from under their primary ambassadors.

*****

David P. Welsh has loved comics since his parents first used Archie and Casper to sedate him during long trips in the family station wagon.

He's worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers, and later sold out for the glamorous world of public relations. Prior to relocating to The Comics Reporter, he wrote his Flipped column for Comic World News for just over three years. He's written articles on comics for print outlets and a variety of other web sites.

He lives in West Virginia, which he says has gotten a lot easier since the Starbucks and Barnes & Noble opened up.

You may e-mail David with questions or commentary You can write to this site about David's columns

Please bookmark his site, Precocious Curmudgeon.

*****
*****
 
posted 7:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
This Isn't A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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Here are the books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, potentially ending up in a gun fu battle with my retailer.

*****

MAR080037 COMPLETE K CHRONICLES TP $24.95
A massive collection of Keith Knight's work; one of those miracle books of the new comics millennium in terms of my not quite believing something like this can be published. But there it is.

MAR080031 USAGI YOJIMBO TP VOL 22 TOMOES STORY $15.95
Someday soon there will be a massive, new round of appreciation for Stan Sakai. Maybe with volume 25?

MAR080039 WONDERMARK BEARDS OF OUR FOREFATHERS $14.95
I'm reading this right now in preparation for an interview; this is the latest in Dark Horse's forays into the webcomics world for print edition, something that turned out very well for their partnership with Nicholas Gurewitch. I liked author David Malki when I met him in Charlotte; he seems smart.

MAY080256 AMERICAN SPLENDOR SEASON TWO #4 (OF 4) (MR) $2.99
I missed the first three on this one. Reading Pekar's comics was as much a part of my comics education as Love and Rockets in a way, so I hope this latest series was good.

MAY080224 BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #1 $2.25
I swear DC is actively giving their comics titles that would make me recoil in horror when I was a kid reading these kinds of comics. But maybe this is a lighter approach than their recent turgid, slightly sexualized, continuity frottage-fest, so it could have that going for it.

APR082206 SWORD #9 (MR) $2.99
APR082188 SWORD TP VOL 01 $14.99

Any unabashed Luna Brothers fans out there? Come on!

FEB082109 WALKING DEAD #50 (MR) $2.99
One half of the Robert Kirkman Indy Hit Machine reaches its 50th issue. I suspect there will be zombies.

MAY082296 PATSY WALKER HELLCAT #1 (OF 5) $2.99
I saw pencils and inks for this and it may be tremendously pretty in color. Plus: Kathryn Immonen writes.

MAY084037 RALPH SNART ADVENTURES #1 $2.95
Wow. You know, this used to be the only alternative-type comic anyone could get on a spinner rack, so I bet if you asked around you'd find a lot of cartoonists in their 30s for whom this is a secret influence.

MAR083707 STRANGE & STRANGER WORLD OF STEVE DITKO HC $39.99
I have this. I'd read this, but I keep being mesmerized by the art. This is one handsome book. Handsome like the lead hunter character in a safari movie handsome.

APR083809 LUCKY VOL 2 #2 (MR) $3.95
We're not allowed to complain about the lack of alternative comic books if we don't support the ones that are out there, like this series from Gabrielle Bell.

APR084166 TEZUKA DORORO GN VOL 02 $13.95
Tezuka's samurai series; the first volume was crazy in a good way.

MAY082323 ASTONISHING X-MEN #25 MD $2.99
Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi get to write out-of-tight-continuity stories starring the former Marvel flagship characters, which means old people like me can understand and possibly enjoy reading them. Now, if only there was a comic book shop nearby...

*****

The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, that was on purpose. I am your enemy. Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Major and Semi-Major News Stories On Which I've Recently Completely Whiffed

Here are some thoughts on a number of not-insignificant news stories I simply haven't covered well -- if at all -- in the last two weeks.

* Eric Stephenson replaces Erik Larsen as the publisher of Image Comics. The long-time Image fixture Stephenson seems well-liked, particularly by the company's major talents for whom he labored on the initial marketing efforts for their books. He is not only the obvious choice but the best choice for the job.

Image is an odd company right now. While Jim Valentino's turn as publisher resulted in a significant influx of titles and talent and now seems the only obvious reaction to the departure of significant founding partners like Jim Lee and a reduced rate of production from other Image folks, Larsen seemed to reduce the number of second-rate comics in that surge and brought attention to growing hits like Walking Dead, partly through his name as a creator and more established fan identity as a core Image creator. Stephenson gets to refine the Larsen model, I'd think, and with the media rights landscape what it is -- a cross between scary minefield of abusive contracts and seedy old men waiting outside the Port Authority bus station to intercept the new arrivals from Oklahoma City -- their hands-off contract template is going to have a lot of appeal for a certain kind of creator for years to come.

image* Dynamite Comics is doing a North American Judge Dredd series in 2009, and may do series with other 2000 AD characters. Attempts to do anything stateside with the 2000 AD characters or their comics have always been doomed to failure because of the difficulties in translating the material. For one thing, Judge Dredd is generally more a satire about a lunatic bad guy as opposed to a heroic story about an extremely violent or flawed good guy. And yet this sounds like it might work 1) if the creators are smartly selected (having Garth Ennis and John Wagner in an advisory or creative oversight capacity sounds like a good start) and 2) if you reduce expectation in terms of what would make such an effort a success for Dynamite over the level as opposed to what a company like DC Comics would need the material to do.

* Rights Farm Platinum is apparently in negotiations to buy the Wowio service, which leads to an almost synaptic collapse when one considers the issues involved. It could mean that Platinum's recent move not to pay some people was their saving up money to facilitate this deal. It could mean that Platinum is going to wholly substitute the kind of digital service provided by Wowio for intermittent paper publishing, which makes total sense. It could mean a complete bolt from Wowio by its already-established partners wary of the part of Platinum's overall publishing philosophy that wants to seize the properties with which it works for sale to Hollywood. It could mean another round of financing for Scott Rosenberg's company is in place. It could mean that Wowio is strangely cash-poor despite the money made for its creative partners. It could mean a lot of things, and I'm not sure we can tell just what, not yet.

* Ted Rall has become president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, taking over for Nick Anderson. The group has an interesting way of phasing in officers through a long position-elect process. Rex Babin, the current vice-president, will be the next president, and votes on other positions will take place a bit later this year. The AAEC has shifted into more of a positive advocacy role over the last few years primarily through a surge in alt-cartoonist and younger members spearheaded by Rall. It should be interesting to see what happens here, particularly as newspapers face even more severe cuts the longer economic tough times last. It could be that the AAEC has a lot to offer in specific advocacy strategies, but it could also be a case where it's the shift in attitude that's the important one rather than any program or set of programs Rall will introduce.

* Jeff Trexler debunks the rumor that the Superboy settlement process is over, but points to several signs that indicate things may be moving in that direction.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* apparently, Jordan is going to charge everybody who's ever done a perceived-to-be-anti-Islam anything. Here's an article that mentions the previous round of summonses.

* good times for private Danish security firms.

* "yeah, that's totally bad, I agree, but now that you brought it up, why did they choose to deserve it?"

* the Danish Cartoons as a terrorist cell recruiting tool.

* is Denmark ideally suited to live with the problems caused by the Muhammed caricatures?
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Boys And The Subway

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Go, Look: Bryan Lee O'Malley's Sketch Photos From HeroesCon 2008

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Go, Look: Little Giant

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Go, Look: They'll Do It Every Time

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Go, Look: Saucer Man

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* according to a press release sent out yesterday afternoon, former DC executive Charles Kochman is now Executive Editor at Abrams. I think this may have already been announced informally; I honestly can't remember. His comics past and comics work at Abrams is touted as a big factor in his promotion, particularly his role in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

image* I believe I totally missed this story about Milt Priggee's Father's Day cartoon and the resulting mini-firestorm of controversy. It's an interesting story, but I can't get a handle on it in a wider, contextual sense beyond "Wow, that's... strong." You have to click through the above link for the full effect, but that is indeed a soldier with his head blown off.

* here's a fun one: Bully compiles a bunch of comics-page letters from future comics professionals. The funniest thing to me is how Don McGregor's letter is just a little bit wordier than the others.

* here's a not-fun one: a list of notable acts of cruelty against female characters in comics. (via Sean T. Collins)

* the writer Kazuo Koike is in France this week for Japan Expo, and as two of your e-mails point out, he's a cool-looking cat. We have no creators in America that can pull off the pocket square, and I think we're a poorer industry for it.

* the editor, writer and frequent comics columnist Jennifer de Guzman talks creators rights basics.

* finally, it's media-interest driven superhero feature month! This list of best black superheroes isn't going to make Black Panther fans very happy, but its #1 choice made me laugh. Maxim offers up Frank Miller's 10 Superhero Commandments.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
David Lasky [hearts] Roger Hane

Exhibits/Events
KAL on Trip to Azerbaijan
An Evening With Warren Ellis
Comics Podcast Panel From WW: Chicago
Warren Ellis Happy With WW: Chicago Experience

History
On Indian Comics
Everything Old Is New Again

Industry
On Original Artwork
Comic Changes In Indiana
Write Comics Comics A Letter
Government Urges Reading Calvin and Hobbes

Interviews/Profiles
ComixTalk: Jason Shiga
ComixTalk: Dylan Meconis
ComixTalk: Faith Erin Hicks
ComixTalk: Pendleton Ward
NPR: Jessica Abel, Matt Madden
Comics Worth Reading: Keith Knight

Not Comics
Drew Litton Animates
Peter David On Kicking Ass
Sean Needs A Brand New Bag

Publishing
Meetin' Steve Ditko
Cartoonist Remembers Dog
Jeff Smith Books Still Available
Moonstone Says Still Has Phantom
Happy Anniversary, DHC at MySpace

Reviews
ADD: Godland #19-23
Ken Haley: Real, Vol. 1
ADD: Swallow Me Whole
Shannon Smith: Love Stories
ADD: We Can Still Be Friends
David Welsh: Kamisama Kazoku
Charles Hatfield: Final Crisis #1-2
Sarah Morean: Disquietville Vol. 2
Shannon Smith: Moulgar Bag Digest
Greg McElhatton: Young X-Men #1-3
Brian Heater: Bottomless Belly Button
Charles Yoakum: Britten and Brulightly
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Cat Eyed Boy Vol. 1
Richard Bruton: The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Brian Heater: Harvest Is When I Need You The Most
Johanna Draper Carlson: Young Avengers Presents #6
 

 
July 1, 2008


Kodansha Coming to United States

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At least according to ICv2.com's reading of the Nikkei wire. This went from "you crazy" to "although you know, that sort of makes sense" to "Oh yeah, that's totally true" since the rumor was all the Internet rage a few weeks back, so it's mostly been a matter of it slipping in some official capacity. The friendly non-denials David Welsh got seemed to indicate something was up pretty early on, at least to me. All hail the Ancient Ones. I imagine David will have something in terms of analysis at some point.

Dallas Middaugh notes that Del Rey will indeed continue licensing manga and is now working on its 2010 slate. This fact was previously used as a denial of the rumor, although as I pointed out at the time, a company can certainly publish some stuff and license other stuff.
 
posted 7:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
HeroesCon 2008: Collaboration and Storytelling Panel: Fraction, Cooke, Chiang, Palmiotti and Kitson

What follows is some raw video footage taken at HeroesCon 2008, as I've been able to seize it from my cheap camera with the audio intact. I believe this is a significant portion -- maybe the last 25 minutes? -- of the Collaboration and Storytelling panel, from Saturday afternoon. The panelists are Matt Fraction, Darwyn Cooke, Cliff Chiang, Barry Kitson and Jimmy Palmiotti.

They're chopped in very rough, (hopefully) overlapping fashion; I apologize for that, but given the tools on hand it's all I'm able to do.







video collected by Whit Spurgeon
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
What It Is Is A Very Strong Seller

imageI didn't catch this until this morning because of an e-mail snafu, but Drawn and Quarterly has good news to report about their publication of Lynda Barry's What It Is. The legendary alt-cartoonist's work on the creative process has become the fastest selling book in that company's long history, says D&Q representative Peggy Burns. It shipped two printing in its first month, and a third printing of 10,000 took the total to 25,000 copies in print thus far. Burns also notes that each stop on Barry's tour has been attended by 100-400 people, which is pretty great for an author's tour right now of any kind, and comics maybe doubly so. You can see Barry at Comic-Con International 23 days from now or at this year's Small Press Expo, or in tour stops from now through November in places like St. Louis, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Portland.

What's worth noting about this first rush of success with What It Is is that until D&Q expressed an interest, Barry was without a publisher. I hope that other companies keep in mind D&Q's success with the massive color hardcover when considering whether to reach out to any other cartoonists out there that may be looking for this kind of publishing relationship.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Far Arden To Top Shelf For Spring '09

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Kevin Cannon's massive Far Arden, a graphic novel created through a series of 24-Hour Comics-making experiments, has found purchase in its final printed form at Top Shelf. It will be released in the first part of 2009. It's not only a fun book, the method of its creation was one of those showy debuts that frequently makes for the start of a compelling career.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Wizard World: Chicago '08 Round-Up

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* Rick Marshall provides on-the-ground analysis of Wizard World's flagship Chicago show -- one, two, three -- of the kind that's invaluable when it comes to drawing conclusions about a show that don't depend on pre-existing wisdom. Marshall notes that Avatar invested heavily in the show with significant reward, Marvel's booth operations were carried out with great enthusiasm, and that the show itself seemed desperate for a renewed sense of identity.

* Sean Kleefeld attended the show as a fan and industry observer, compiling a small list of publishing news items and providing a nice, short essay about the experience of going to the show on Saturday.

* Todd Allen looks at the show and some on-site rumors.

* Here's Newsarama's index of publishing news. Here's CBR's.

* ICv2.com's article looks at the show from the perspective of Wizard's recent personnel changes, but doesn't get too deeply in to the issue of whether this is a good thing or not. Gareb Shamus sounds enthusiastic, though.

* my general impression from those articles and what I've been seeing in my e-mail is probably closest to some of the stuff that Marshall suggests with his coverage. Wizard World: Chicago still sounds like a viable show, which may distinguish it from some of the other Wizard conventions that as a group have been listing to one side or the other the last few years. At the same time, it doesn't sound like a particularly strong show or solid flagship as currently constituted. Chicago is a great town for a convention like this -- Chicago has a ton of comics readers that aren't served by any other show, the convention can draw regional visitors from cities like Minneapolis, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Milwaukee, and there's a long history there of summer convention-going. Heck, there's even a more recent history of it being a place where certain groups of mainstream comics fans gather. As a Midwestern kid, I have fond memories of my trips to the show and how large it loomed in a year of comics buying.

* despite being what sounds like a pleasant, reasonably well-attended show, I think the takeaway here is the emergence of danger signs as to WW: Chicago's continued, long-term vitality. This includes administrative carelessness like moving the dates as to the 2009 show back to late summer and the way that news kind of seeped out, outright blunders like idiotic scheduling against popular local events like Taste of Chicago (maybe not direct competition for asses in seats, but definitely one for local press coverage), an unclear overall retailing strategy emerging (the ability to move high-ticket items to hardcore collectors was a stated strength of this show just five years ago), and a lack of major announcements from the big publishers in addition to those rumors about the extent of their future involvement. While this year's Chicago show might mitigate against rumors of an imminent Wizard Convention program collapse, it's not exactly strong in a way that should make anyone confident moving into a potential recession. No one would be surprised by a move in any direction at this point; while it's hard to believe Chicago would ever go for very long without a major comics show, the next few years should prove very interesting.

* my suggestion would be they dump the other shows, make their stand in Chicago, and lock in a traditional date starting as early as next year.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Regarding Yesterday's Wail of Despair

imageOkay, I'm better now. The reason I tend not to post things like yesterday's agonized diatribe about link-blogging -- I define link-blogging as those posts that require the content of another article to make sense -- is that I usually feel differently about such issues after I do something sane like eat a deviled ham sandwich, drink a glass of Diet 7-Up, watch 20 minutes of The Price Is Right and take a nap. Monday's mini-depression was compounded by it being my first formal day back at my home desk in several weeks.

Many of you seem to enjoy the links. Many of you wouldn't mind seeing them go if this made me feel better. Only one of you shook a fist at me and declared that this was just proof that Dirk Deppey ruled the link-blogging world and now that I had blinked I must quit blogging altogether. All of you are very nice, except maybe that Dirk fan. My decision is that the site will continue much as before, and I will be smarter about how I put it together so as not to even temporarily freak out like that again.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Fantagraphics Announces Its Fall 2008/Winter 2009 Books List

The venerable alt-comics institution Fantagraphics has sent to press people and booksellers its Fall 2008/Winter 2009 catalog, as Chris Mautner noted the other day. I've listed their new comics releases here. Here are ten projects from the publisher I'm particularly interested in seeing.

*****

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BEASTS! BOOK TWO, EDITED BY JACOB COVEY, HARDCOVER, 9781560979494, OCTOBER 2008, $34.99
The first volume of this book was one of the more fun art books of the century thus far, and I look forward to more of the same.

*****

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BLAZING COMBAT, ARCHIE GOODWIN AND VARIOUS, HARDCOVER, 9781560979654, 200 PAGES, DECEMBER 2008, $22.99
It's a pretty grand year that includes a huge Bill Mauldin Willie and Joe collection and a smart-looking compilation of Archie Goodwin's super-solid 1960s genre comics magazine. If I was limited to buying one comic in their new catalog, I'd regret not getting this book more than any other when I picked up the new Love and Rockets.

*****

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BOODY: THE BIZARRE COMICS OF BOODY ROGERS, EDITED BY CRAIG YOE, SOFTCOVER, 9781560979616, 124 PAGES, FEBRUARY 2009, $19.99
SUPERMEN! THE FIRST WAVE OF COMIC BOOK HEROES (1939-1941), EDITED BY GREG SADOWSKI, SOFTCOVER, 9781560979715, FEBRUARY 2009, $24.99
Two that seem to be working the same portion of the comics shop staked out by Paul Karasik's popular Fletcher Hanks book. This might be a danger sign for some publishers, but Craig Yoe and Greg Sadowski are super-solid designers and editors with fine track records when it comes to their book projects.

*****

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DEITCH'S PICTORAMA, KIM/SETH/SIMON/GENE DEITCH, PAPERBACK, 9781560979524, SEPTEMBER 2008, $18.99
You had me at "Deitch."

*****

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FUZZ AND PLUCK: SPLITSVILLE, TED STEARN, HARDCOVER, 9781560979760, 280 PAGES, NOVEMBER 2008, $24.99
I think Ted Stearn's works is idiosyncratic and charming and funny as crap, and it's hard for me to believe that someone who has created a neighborhood that you can imagine bus lines entering from the worlds of Gary Panter, Jim Woodring and Kaz isn't at least a little bit super-popular. Okay, maybe I do understand it, but it still sucks. (image is one of the comic book covers)

*****

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LOVE AND ROCKETS: NEW STORIES #1, LOS BROS HERNANDEZ, PAPERBACK, SEPTEMBER 2008, $14.99
I'll miss the comic books, but who doesn't want more Love and Rockets? The Jaime Hernandez superhero comic promised for this debut looks beautiful and odd, and Gilbert Hernandez has been crushing it every time out of the box for a half-decade now.

*****

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MODERN SWARTE, JOOST SWARTE, HARDCOVER, 9781560979531, OCTOBER 2008, $29.99
Swarte's wonderfully-designed comics and projects are so affecting that I know people that clip them out of any place they find that runs them, like it was the 1940s and Swarte did an elegant-looking comic strip. What a pleasure to have more of his work over here for bookstore consumption.

*****

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PETEY & PUSSY, JOHN KERSCHBAUM, HARDCOVER, 9781560979791, OCTOBER 2008, $19.99
Kerschbaum was the first talent where I felt the collapse of the alt-comics model really hindered his career, as he had the chops and the prolific nature to become a four-time-a-year popular cartoonist on the level of anyone out there in the early- to mid-1990s. His work is as potent as any humor cartoonist's since Will Elder.

*****

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SUBLIFE #1, JOHN PHAM, PAPERBACK, 9781650979463, SEPTEMBER 2008, $8.99
Pham's career path reminds me a bit of Dash Shaw's in that he's abandoned some of the surface glitz and potential breakout appeal of his earlier works in search of a more meaningful and significant way to tell comics stories. I can't imagine not rooting for him to succeed.

*****
*****

Note: I'd like to run more publishing news on the site, and will endeavor to do so. I'm happy to run an article like this with just about any major publisher that announces a bunch of books in a season, and
 
posted 4:02 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Rutu Modan's The Murder Of The Terminal Patient

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posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Three By Richard Thompson

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Posted Any Number Of Times But Always Good: Tove Jansson's Hobbit Art

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Alice In Terrorland

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Jeff Smith at BEA 2008

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posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Compulsory Reading

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posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here's a massive suite of articles by Jay Allen Sanford about Carnal Comics and other Southern California aspects of comics culture over the last 15 years. It looks familiar to me, so I'm not sure that stuff hasn't been posted before. Worth it for the photos alone.

* a panel at summer school in Angouleme looks at a big problem facing comics in the French-language market: a massive publication swell that drives smaller comics off of the stands and promotes conservatism because new or different books only have a brief chance to make an impression before they're buried under the next few weeks' new arrivals. It's worth a google translation if you're interested in macro-issues that face comics markets, plus if you ever wondered if French industry folk did the "what do you want us to do about it?" thing that Americans do so well on their panels (the answer is "oui").

image* Barron's provides an overview of the Stan Lee Media legal action against Stan Lee and Marvel, whereby the company argues that Lee assigning his work to the company upon its creation means that they're due the rights asserted in a subsequent settlement between Lee and Marvel regarding his role in creating the bulk of that company's characters. It's a decent enough summary of the basic and sometimes convoluted drama involved, but I'm not sure it provides any clarity as to the status of any lawsuit and where/when/how these matters will be decided.

* by the way, isn't that cover cool? I love the color.

* the cartoonist Frank Miller is apparently working on a sequel to 300, which will then be made into a movie. I suspect that the first 300 is this generation's Scarface, at least in terms of its being played over and over again by 14-year-old boys, and I would have loved a sequel to that celluloid marvel back in the day. This could be good news for Osama Bin Laden, as one supposes Batman may remain on the sidelines instead of being sent by Miller to capture/kill/sock the world's most wanted man (if that project's even still on). I'm not big on classical history, but while most of the 300 characters went the way of Ferro Lad in the first film, there's a lot of interesting naval history and maybe even a land battle or two worth covering in that same general run of events. Or maybe it will be a spiritual sequel, and we'll get to see Frank Miller's Alamo.

* this article on newspapers eliminating book review pages makes me wonder what comics people sound like when they make similar complaints about loss of coverage. Because to be honest, I didn't know anyone still had a book review page, and I'm baffled as to why this would be a priority for any newspaper right now. Could it be that this is one of those things that represents more of a natural shift in interests than something that's being done to newspapers?

* well, they're both big and green.

* did you know that Jay Darling created the federal duck stamp program? I sure didn't.

* finally, the writer Warren Ellis writes amusing convention posts, particularly when taken as a group so that you can track his descent into exhaustion and delerium. Ellis went to Wizard World: Chicago this last weekend. I actually got a phone call from someone in Chicago asking me if Ellis was really there. Here are those posts, in order: Bear My Mark, Tower of Shaky Glee, On Shaking Hands, Collecting Stray Thoughts 01, Collecting Stray Thoughts 02, Chicago Day 1, Chicago Day 2, Collecting Stray Thoughts 03, Collecting Stray Thoughts 04, Chicago Day 42, Collecting Stray Thoughts 05, and Collecting Stray Thoughts 06.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 59th Birthday, Mike Baron!

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posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Comics Vs. Sketchbook
More Character Jumbles
Props to Kelley Jones Batman

Exhibits/Events
Creating Comics
Feldstein Panel From HeroesCon

History
Weddings!
Costume Criticism
Meeting Neil Gaiman
Costume Appreciation
They Screwed Different Creators?

Industry
Golden Carrot Award?
Alison Naturale Leaves D&Q
Cartoon Books Opens Up Store
Naruto Only Entry on USA Today List

Interviews/Profiles
Comicmix: Neil Kleid
Indie Spinner Rack: Dan Nadel
The Horrors Of It All: Matt Maxwell
Sean T. Collins: Los Bros Hernandez
ComiXology: Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley

Not Comics
Jog: Wanted
On Buying Original Art
Comic Adapted For Movie Promotion
Congratulations, Eric and Wednesday!

Publishing
Dr. Who Previewed
Scholastic Up To Bone Vol. 8
Miller Working on 300 Sequel
I Have No Idea What This Means

Reviews
Tucker Stone: Various
Douglas Wolk: Various
ADD: Trains Are... Mint
Richard Krauss: Ack! #1
Hervé St-Louis: Eternals #1
Zak Edwards: Runaways #30
Shannon Smith: Pee Wee Schooner
Hervé St-Louis: Usagi Yojimbo #111
é St-Louis: Captain America #37
Richard Krauss: Candy or Medicine #3
Zak Edwards: Ultimate Spider-Man #123
Leroy Douresseaux: Time Stranger Kyoko Vol. 1
 

 
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