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















January 31, 2009


Go, Look: Dan Clowes Comics Art And Stories Set To Music

image

thanks, David Pouchard
 
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bart Beaty In Angouleme 2009 -- 05

imageBy Bart Beaty, Via Phone

In the end, we were saved by the sun. A beautiful day today drew some people from the tents. But the crowds were still ridiculous. The para-BD tent (toys, etc) had a wait to enter time of maybe half an hour. Also, the crowds were far worse in the small press tent than the main ones. The line to meet Zep was the longest of the weekend.

What else to say? Everyone is liking this year, but no one puts it in a "best ever" category. Personally, I am exhausted and the evening hasn't even begun. Seventeen hours until my train, then I can get some rest.
 
posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Next Week In Comics-Related Events

February 3
image
image

February 7
image
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Week In Review

image

The top comics-related news stories from January 24 to January 30, 2009:

1. Two well-regarded alternative comics series from two of the best cartoonists in the post-alternative generation announced as canceled by their creators. The culprit, or at least one of them: new minimum order expectations from Diamond.

2. The Angouleme Festival kicks off in France, with plenty to do and plenty to talk about.

3. Those still holding onto Stan Lee Media file a new suit against Stan Lee, Lee's family, Marvel and certain Marvel principals over their long-running public claim that Lee assigned rights to SLM upon its creation and never got them back, rendering his eventual deal with Marvel over movie profits moot and allowing SLM to press that claim for a more significant result.

Winners Of The Week
Fans of great comics in Toronto.

Losers Of The Week
Those that enjoyed comics in various VVM publications, and the cartoonists who liked and depended on having them in there.

Quote Of The Week
"The Alternative Comics Apocalypse Has Begun" -- Max Cannon

this week's imagery comes from one of the great underground comix
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Ohio, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 42nd Birthday, Laurent Colonnier!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, Jonathan Baylis!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 45th Birthday, Martina Bigert!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 42nd Birthday, Laurent Bidot!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 49th Birthday, Grant Morrison!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* John Vest On Bill Everett And Early '70s Marvel (1/26/09)
* Bryan Munn On The 1968 Sub-Mariner Series (1/26/09)
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bart Beaty In Angouleme 2009 -- 04

imageBy Bart Beaty, Via Phone

Dateline Mercure. Calmer than normal. You can reach the bar in less than 10 minutes. Where is everyone?

I caught the final exhibition and liked it a lot. The Flemmish showcased a ton of new artists in innovative ways. I went to buy some of their books, but many were already sold out. One great thing about Angou is the way entire scenes can come into focus, as this one did. Their party got lukewarm reviews though. No rival to the Finnish blowout of years past.

No clear consensus for book of the year yet. Maybe Winshluss' Pinocchio, which would also get most desired derivative toy.

I talked with Ruppert and Mulot, and it's true -- their show has come under criticism from the crew at Artemisia.

The good mood persists. Everyone is thinking that this is another really good festival. We drink until dawn and await the arrival of the crowds...

*****

Bonus: Photo by Charles Orr of our man Bart at Ruppert and Mulot's controversial "maison close."

image
 
posted 2:48 am PST | Permalink
 

 
January 30, 2009


Friday Distraction: Domitille Collardey

image
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bart Beaty In Angouleme 2009 -- 03

imageBy Bart Beaty, Via Phone

It's sunny and warm in Angouleme today, so the streets are more crowded than the tents. Which is crazy, because the tents are packed. I saw more than 50 people in line to meet Regis Loisel five minutes after the tent opened. How do they move so fast?

I've been to all but one of the exhibitions. The manga (Mizuki, Hirata, Nananan) underwhelmed. Dupuy-Berberian and Margerin are well worth the time. Winshluss went all out again. The Bitterkomix has stirred debate about the portrayal of sexually explicit material. I am told that the Ruppert and Mulot was criticized by a feminist arts organization, but I don't know if it is true.

Hard to get a sense of the Festival as a whole since everyone talks about how nice it is outside. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson appeared (on video) to announce that the Tintin movie starts filming on Monday. No one seemed to much care, least of all the kids with their manga.
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Download: A Day In Vancouver Towne By John Porcellino

image
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Kiel Phegley's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The writer and former Honorable Soldier of Wizard Kiel Phegley has posted a top ten list. That list includes:

10. Final Crisis, Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones and Carlos Pacheco and Various (DC)
9. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
8. Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson (Top Shelf)
7. Love & Rockets: New Stories Vol. 1, Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
6. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell and Dan Best (First Second)
5. Chiggers, Hope Larson (Simon & Schuster)
4. Kramers Ergot 7, Sammy Harkham and Various (Buenaventura Press)
3. RASL, Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)
2. Batman, Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel and Various (DC)
1. Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Joe Infurnari's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Joe Infurnari gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa
2. The Alcoholic, Johathan Ames and Dean Haspiel
3. Army@Love: Generation Pwned, Rick Veitch and Gary Erskine
4. Jessica Farm, Josh Simmons
5. Petey and Pussy, John Kerschbaum
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Full Barney Google Page

image
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Aieeeeee! The Teeth!

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Bully Presents The Fantastic Photo World Of Jack Kirby

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Strange Worlds #1

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Arts

image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* for some reason, the Chicago Tribune material doesn't show up on standard web searches as much as it should. It's better now that they're with the LA Times, but even then you tend to catch the reprint in the Times as opposed to the original publication. Anyway, there's a sort-of lengthy profile of Nicole Hollander in a recent issue, including I think the brave admission that Sylvia maxed out at 80 papers years ago and is now only in 17.

image* there is as far I know almost no Jeff Smith original artwork out there, and I've spent the time rifling around his studio at 2 AM when he's out of the country to tell you that it's not for lack of people trying to get this stuff from the cartoonist. Kidding aside, Smith has a rare and nice-looking piece up to benefit the CBLDF, this one featuring RASL rather than Bone.

* speaking of Jeff Smith, there's a deservedly much linked-to and long post here about Smith's various craft chops on display in an early issue of Bone, involving things like how he uses framing and makes distinct tiers on the page. It's a good choice for analysis because looking back, I'm not sure any sequence sold the early Bone series more than that one.

* this is the first review of the newest, soon-to-be-released volume of the popular Scott Pilgrim series I can recall seeing.

* the writer and reviewer Sean T. Collins has a round-up of discussions surrounding Final Crisis #7, the last issue of DC's latest and delayed (by about three, three and half months) cosmic event mini-series. This includes an admission by Morrison that Wonder Woman doesn't get to do as much as Batman and Superman because he doesn't think as much of the character, or at least didn't at the time. A fine line of analysis from Collins himself comes in an earlier post where Collins discusses how reading something with an effect sinilar Grant Morrison's comics hit him when his life was most like a Grant Morrison comic. I've felt the same way, although maybe not about Morrison. I think most people relate to art in this way at some point.

* as pertains to my criticism of the YALSA lists for only noting writers as authors, I nearly forgot that Robin Brenner was nice enough to write in the same day as that post:
"I am the Chair this year, for this list, and I too noticed the lack of credit for artists. Originally we were restricted by the format YALSA requested we abide by, but I had contacted them to ask if we could include the artists in the credits for each title. They decided there was no reason not to (it's not like the Caldecott, where the award is only for art, for example).

"So, they are in the process of updating the list -- I know they were working on it this evening, but rna into some trouble with their web interface. They assured be it should be corrected by tomorrow morning."
That's good to hear.

* finally, there's a really solid post here from Garry Tyrrell on the subject of making a living through one's web site. Tyrrell reminds that publishing on-line is as much about a set of skill applied to the task and finding a successful way to present one's work as it is for any print publisher.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 52nd Birthday, Guy Gilchrist!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 82nd Birthday, Jef Nys!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Alberto Lavoradori!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 42nd Birthday, JM Ponzio!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 56th Birthday, Fred Hembeck!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 48th Birthday, Denys Cowan!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 49th Birthday, Holger Aue!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 35th Birthday, Lucio Parrillo!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 63rd Birthday, Armando Salas!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, Robert Goodin!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, Michael Oeming!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Nice Chimps
Chubby Ballerina

Exhibits/Events
Jeff Parker At NYCC
Art of Stan Sakai At CAM
Art Spiegelman Speech Report

History
On Jackie Ormes

Industry
Hey! Where's Three Shadows?
Hayate Reaches Lofty Sales Plateau
Web-Only Magazines Pulitzer-Eligible
Comicbook Artists Guild Awards Expand
Editorial Cartoon Awards-Winners Round-Up

Interviews/Profiles
Newsarama: Jeff Lemire
Bay Area Reporter: Alison Bechdel
CBC Radio: Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki
Graphic Novel Reporter: Felix Tannenbaum

Not Comics
Johnny Bacardi On Avatar and Race
I Saw Him Live When I Was A Kid And He Was Funny

Publishing
He Hates Digital Comics
Isn't It Always Up To Captain Carrot?
Comics You Love That Aren't Talked About

Reviews
Douglas Wolk: Final Crisis
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Shannon Smith: Three Minis
Tom Devlin: Dan Zettwoch's Blog
Steven Duin: Miss Don't Touch Me
Leroy Douresseaux: Tricky Prince
Greg McElhatton: Oishinbo: A La Carte
Sean T. Collins: Best American Comics 2006
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Superman/Batman: The Search For Kryptonite
 

 
January 29, 2009


Bart Beaty In Angouleme 2009 -- 02

imageBy Bart Beaty, Via Phone

If crowds are down due to the strike, you'd never know it. Readers are out in force and we're waiting to see if readers will turn into buyers. Consensus from publishers and retailers in many countries is that the downturn isn't being felt "at the moment."

Best booth -- hands down -- is the Flemmish booth, set up as a full-scale faux bar with wood paneling and beer taps.

I've seen 40 books I want and it's only part way through Day One. Overproduction and a weak dollar may be the death of me. Best book (so far) is the Nicholas Mahler superhero book from Pasteque. Close second is the Jens Harder from Actes Sud. But it's still early.
 
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bart Beaty In Angouleme 2009 -- 01

imageBy Bart Beaty, Via Phone

Angouleme opens this morning looking to dodge its second bullet. Earlier this week a major storm did a lot of damage in Bordeaux, but left Angouleme largely untroubled. Today, France has a train strike that may curtail the arrival of visitors, but, hopefully, only for today. Weather forecasts are promising and the general mood is good.

The Dupuy-Berberian exhibition opened yesterday to the press and is a real stunner with almost 300 pieces, sculptures, artifacts and an enormous sculptural machine that has to be seen to be believed.

So far everything seems to be going great.
 
posted 4:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Man, Watterson Drew Great Little Kids

image

His designs were odd in that his characters had almost muppet-simple faces. He did a lot with body language. Use your scrolling to take in the interaction between Susie Derkins and Calvin without reading the word balloons. What fun.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Angouleme Festival 2009 Kicks Off With Publicity, Controversy and Dogged Hope

Today marks the first day of the Festival International de la Bande Dessinee, known to you and me and most folks, I think, by the French town in which it's held: "Angouleme," or "The Angouleme Festival." A number of North American cartoonists will be making appearances over there during the weekend, including James Kochalka, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine. We should have a full preview up by Bart Beaty in a few minutes, as well as anything he sends me from the Festival on his cellphone that I'm around to receive.

imageI'm going to be speaking off the top of my head for a second in deference to Bart's more knowledgeable piece, but I think there are a few festival-type news stories to track. The health of the festival given a worldwide economic crisis should be an issue -- my guess is that the crowds will exceed the pessimists and everyone will appreciate the experience a bit more, but let's see. There was a general strike in France that may have an effect on first-day attendance and some of the pros getting from Paris to Angouleme. If I'm reading this correctly, there were a bit of controversy over what to show at the South African comics exhibit. I think there are also high expectations for the show given that Dupuy and Berberian are co-presidents and therefore had a hand in planning most of the exhibits. Their own exhibit should be awesome, too. The panels sound kind of awesome, with a lot of one-on-one interviews between cartoonists that I'd kill to see and I wish more people would emulate here.

To supplement our coverage, the main festival site is here. Here's a first report from ActuaBD.com. Best of all, perhaps is a YouTube Channel from FNAC devoted to the festival that's already stuffed with 17 videos.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Greg Burgas' Best Comics Of 2008

image

CBR columnists Greg Burgas provides a number of lists and ways to approach the year 2008 in comics. Seriously, there's a ton of lists there. They include but are certainly not limited to:

Best Ongoing Series
1. The Incredible Hercules (issues #113-123)
2. Northlanders (issues #2-12)
3. Wasteland (issues #14-22)
4. Scalped (issues #13-23)
5. Young Liars (issues #1-10)

Best Mini-Series
1. The Boy Who Made Silence #1-6
2. I Kill Giants #1-7
3. Elephantmen: War Toys #1-3
4. Helen Killer #1-4
5. Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #1-5

Best Original Graphic Novel
1. Jeff Lemire's Essex County trilogy, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)
2. Aetheric Mechanics, Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani (Avatar)
3. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
4. Fishtown, Kevin Colden (IDW)
5. Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa (First Second)
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Laura Hudson's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Laura Hudson, a frequent contributor to PWCW and a driving forced behind the winding-down Comic Foundry, gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Too Cool to Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson
2. Capacity, Theo Ellsworth
3. Skim, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
4. Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert
5. What It Is, Lynda Barry
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Carmine Infantino Sends Criticism-Filled Letter To DC Comics

image
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Hideout!

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Don Orehek In Cracked

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: On Matt Baker's Covers

image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the Superman trials have been delayed until April and June.

image* the great Jim Blanchard recreates his cover to Blatch #14, and it's really good-looking.

* the broadcaster Robin McConnell at Inkstuds wants your feedback.

* it looks like Deb Aoki is running the results of her reader-solicited best of the year lists. I'll probably forget to post about them when they're all done, so consider this your only notice and anything else a bonus.

* the cartoonist Kazuo Umezo won that lawsuit about painting his house. That was a big running story for a little while, there. Video available through here.

* I know Brian Fies didn't intend for this post about editing to be seen this way, and the general impulse goes against everything I believe as an editor myself, but my first reaction upon reading the piece was that book publishers are going to have a hard time ever making comics that aren't by Ware, Spiegelman and Satrapi profitable if that many people work on them for that period of time.

* finally, one of the reasons I've found it so depressing when I read about political cartoonists complaining that it's hard to do cartoons about President Obama is that these two well-publicized posts show that it's certainly possible to be funny with the President as a punchline. This makes me wonder after if the middle of political cartooning isn't a bit rigid in what they mean when they make these complaints, and that might contribute to them being vulnerable to obsolescence. I mean, not every cartoonist's relationship to a president has to be Oliphant's to Nixon, does it?
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 37th Birthday, Brian Wood!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 33rd Birthday, Ryan Kelly!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 47th Birthday, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 62nd Birthday, Juan Padron Blanco!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 51st Birthday, Jeph Loeb!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Nora Schnitzler Probably Isn't Alive...

image

... but if she is, she's 108 today.
 
posted 3:14 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
History
Lucky Luke... un Americain?
Back When They Did Handwritten Ads

Industry
John Updike Remembered

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Ben Templesmith
Newsarma: Jeff Lemire
Newsarama: Dan Didio
CBR: Marc Guggenheim
Comixtalk: Grant Thomas

Not Comics
Criticas Bites The Dust
Realms Of Fantasy Bites The Dust
What Richard Thompson Is Reading
The First Sentence Of This Made Me Laugh
His Grandmother Gets Him Bollywood Connections

Publishing
Scott Pilgrim's Foil Cover

Reviews
Jog: Final Crisis #7
Don MacPherson: Various
Sean T. Collins: Final Crisis #7
Brian Hibbs: Dark Avengers #1
Charles Yoakum: Swamp Thing #27
Leroy Douresseaux: Slam Dunk Vol. 2
Paul O'Brien: Wolverine: Origins #31-32
Brian Heater: Tales From Outer Suburbia
Paul O'Brien: X-Men: Manifest Destiny #5
Nick Mullins: Solanin, Nocturnal Conspiracies
Greg McElhatton: Never As Bad As You Think
Charles Yoakum: Jews and American Comics
Ed Sizemore: Pluto: Urasawa X Tezuka Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: Tail Of The Moon Vol. 15
Patrick Berube: BPRD: The Black Goddess #1
Koppy McFad: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2
Chris Roberson: Mysterius The Unfathomable #1
Rev. Syung Myung Me: Punk Rock and Trailer Parks
Richard Bruton: The Most Natural Thing In The World
 

 
January 28, 2009


Crickets Also Cut Due To New Minimums

image

Sammy Harkham says his one-man anthology comics title will join D&Q stablemate Or Else on the scrapheap of history, although in his case he's more explicit in citing the raised minimums instituted by mega-distributor Diamond earlier this month. A third issue will come out in DIY form and then the future of the title is uncertain.
 
posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

image

By Tom Spurgeon

This is our clearinghouse for publishing news, particularly that which kind of randomly sifts to the surface without the oomph of a major press release. I'm always interested in although I can't always guarantee they'll get a mention in here.

* Matt Maxwell has moved his Strangeways work over to Comic Book Resources.

* keeping with people named Matt, Matt Kindt previews pages from a forthcoming Giant Man book. (via) That's a panel from the work up top.

* Rodrigo Baeza calls attention to this portion of a recent Diana Schutz profile:
"The next art book on my plate, by the way, is The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen, which is hugely exciting. Denis is primarily known, I think, as the publisher of Kitchen Sink Press, but people forget that he's an amazing cartoonist, one of the major figures of the underground comics movement -- well, I haven't forgotten, and 'Oddly' will collect most of Denis's comics art, including some really obscure pieces that you'd just never be able to find nowadays."
I like Denis' comics, and that should be a fun book.

image* speaking of publishing news that came to my attention in an interview, Dean Mullaney announced a little more than two weeks ago that Rip Kirby will join the Library of American Comics series from IDW. Here's Mullaney on the general studios goings-on:
"Bruce Canwell and I are finishing up the final two Terry books, and working on the next few volumes of Little Orphan Annie. Then, I'm taking over as editor and designer of IDW's Dick Tracy with volume 7 -- just in time to play in the sandbox with BB Eyes, Pruneface, Flattop, Mrs. Pruneface, The Mole, and the heyday of Chester Gould's gallery of grotesque rogues. After that, I have The Complete Rip Kirby by Alex Raymond which we're shooting from syndicate proofs (!) and the official Bringing Up Father with the Sunday pages in color."
I'm guessing from it being posted in several places there has since been a formal press release, but that compact graph should give you a better overall idea of that group's plans -- for instance, I wasn't fully aware they were doing Bringing Up Father. Does everyone hate Cliff Sterrett now?

* I hadn't quite all the way, quiz me in public known there were new print books out for the Gunnerkrigg Court and Devil's Panties webcomics series, although it make total sense that they would have print iterations.

* I'm told they've started to get copies of that Humbug collection in the Fantagraphics offices. In fact, I put that here about seven days ago, so this thing should be imminent. Hooray!

* the cartoonist Nick Mullins wrote in to remind us that Dover has published Lynd Ward's Vertigo, which I totally missed.

* I suppose this is the place I should make note of the Uderzo family dispute arising from the sale to Hachette, which I suppose could have an effect on the future of the Asterix property.

* finally, some happy news: Darryl Cunningham is bringing back CR favorites Super-Sam and John of the Night in a new adventure, previewed here. That's a panel from the preview at the bottom of this post.

image
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Sine/Licra Trial Begins

I totally missed this yesterday, but the trial of cartoonist Maurice Sinet on charges of inciting racial hatred for a non-comics piece he put in Charlie Hebdo has begun in Lyon. After the publication and initial criticism, Sinet was subsequently dismissed by the magazine, started a satirical magazine of his own, was brought up on these charges, sued the journalist who originally reported on the matter for another, undisclosed reason. The charges were brought by the France-based LICRA group, an acronym roughly translated into the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism. The piece in question featured the son of the French president, whom I believe -- I'm not up on my French political social news -- is dating the daughter of a prominent Jewish family. To say Sine has aggressively fought both the general, public charge of anti-Semitism and apologizing in any way for the original article may be understating things.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
ALA Names Great Graphic Novels For Teens -- And A Top Ten -- For 2009

image

The American Library Association has named 53 titles to its Great Graphic Novels for teens list. The article at the link contains names of the people making the list and gives the outline of their process. They also made a top ten list.

I know this list is a great thing, but I find it hugely disappointing that where it applies both authors or all the authors aren't named in favor of the "writer" being listed as if they were sole author of the work. These aren't illustrated books: the drawing is authorship just as the scripting is authorship. In addition, I know on a least two of these works the creators made a point of talking about their organic creative process. I'm sure there's some library-listing reason for it, or something similar, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I think it gets reflected in the way so many books are marketed, too -- I'm not sure how many people out there aware of Cairo could tell you the name of its artist. Anyway, I'll try to restore the co-authors below, and I apologize if I missed anyone. Works on the top ten list were:

* Life Sucks, Jessica Abel and Gabriel Soria and Warren Pleece (First Second)
* Sand Chronicles Vols. 1-3, Hinako Ashihara (Viz)
* Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener and Ronda Pattison (Red Five Comics)
* Real Vols. 1-2, Takehiko Inoue (Viz)
* Uzumaki, Junji Ito (Viz)
* Pitch Black, Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton (Cinco Puntos Press)
* Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures In Japan, Aimee Major Steinberger (Go Comi)
* Skim, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood)
* Umbrella Academy, Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)
* Cairo, G. Willow Wilson, MK Perker (Vertigo)
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
It's Like He Made It Just For Me

image
 
posted 4:17 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #15

* the cartoonist Kevin Huizenga wrote in this morning to say that Amazing Facts and Beyond With Leon Beyond, which I have called by many, mostly made-up name here on the site, has been suspended from the Riverfront Times through at least the first quarter of 2009. Huizenga, Ted May and Dan Zettwoch plan to continue doing the feature and putting them on-line. Since the strip wasn't a Village Voice Media network carry, that decision had to come from the paper itself -- although Kevin pointed out in a subsequent e-mail that it's almost impossible to tell where the budget imperatives might have come from, the paper on its own or in a directive from the home office, and he suspects the latter.

* speaking of the VVM purge of all cartoons from their publications network, Tom Tomorrow has a nice follow-up with reactions from cartoonists that were hit by the move.

* the manga- and anime-focused site Anime News Network has a concise Diamond minimums wrap up that notes both the re-emergence of Haven on a lot of people's horizons and the fact that Diamond will let some publishers secure a listing with a $1000 deposit. I would imagine we'll also hear more about some publishers buying/ordering their own comics through a store in order to get them into the marketplace. That's one of those things that happens that no one really brags about at the convention bar.

* the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com notes Diamond's recently announced layoffs were 1) solely at the Timonium offices rather than at the Memphis warehouse or a combination of the two, 2) came with pay cuts for other staffers, and 3) were only a small percentage of the people working in Timonium. I think that's worth noting because is smaller and more fragile than a lot of business, it also has yet to experience the kind of madcap firings that some other businesses have.

* a bunch of you e-mailed this post from self-publisher Rick Veitch on his backing away from immediately doing an expensive hardcover of his Brat Pack due to the general economic precariousness in which we all find ourselves right now. Softcover still a go. That's worth noting as it's the first time I've seen someone put something on hold for precisely that reason.

* I would think more of Steve Greenberg's analysis of why MAD is suffering if the publication already hadn't survived across a few generation. There's either something different about this generational -- which is certainly true, but I would have liked to have had that explicitly included -- or there are more factors involved.

* one of you e-mailed me this link to a story that indicates one newspaper company that has a not-horrifying debt situation: the Washington Post's corporation. Keeping things in a positive vein, E&P has a list of papers that have bucked recent, depressing trends.

* finally, via Dirk Deppey comes a twitter feed for your bookmarking pleasure that will likely not get the vote for "most hopeful place of 2009."
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Mike Baehr's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Although Fantagraphics' Mike Baehr says he wouldn't dare call this post a "Best Of" list, I have no such problem labeling it that way. My obsessive compulsive list-making wins over Baehr's modesty and, let's face it, everything. Here's what is on Baehr's list:

* Against Pain, Ron Rege Jr. (D&Q)
* Capacity, Theo Ellsworth (Secret Acres)
* Dead Ringer, Jason T. Miles (La Mano)
* Fight or Run: Shadow of the Chopper, Kevin Huizenga (Buenaventura)
* The Man Who Loved Breasts, Robert Goodin (Top Shelf)
* Trubble Club, Various (Self-Published)
* Welcome to the Dahl House, Ken Dahl (Microcosm)
* Renee French's blog, Renee French (Self-Published)
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your '09 GLAAD Media Award Nominees

image

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has announced nominees for its 20th Annual Media Awards. As has been the case for a few years now, there is a category of comics. As has been the case for just about as long, it's dominated by mainstream or near-mainstream US comic book offerings to the exclusion of a lot of work that would seem to fit the bill not backed by a giant publisher. Their list below, to which try I'll restore all the creators because I'm having that kind of day:

* The Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel (Vertigo/DC Comics)
* Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Drew Goddard and Jeph Loeb and Joss Whedon and George Jeanty and Jo Chen and Karl Moline and Eric Wight and Ethan Beavers and Adam Van Wyk and Farel Dalrymple and Andy Owens (Dark Horse Comics)
* Final Crisis: Revelations Greg Rucka and Philip Tan and Jeff de los Santos and Jonathan Glapion (DC Comics)
* Secret Six Gail Simone and Cliff Chiang and Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood and Andrew Robisnon and Carlos Rodriguez and Bitt (DC Comics)
* Young Avengers Presents, Ed Brubaker and Brian Reed and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Paul Cornell and Kevin Grevioux and Matt Fraction and Paco Medina and Harvey Tolibao and Alina Urusov and Mark Brooks and Mitch Breitweiser and Alan Davis (Marvel Comics)
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Brian Heater's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Brian Heater of The Daily Cross Hatch gave his own site a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Joshua Cotter
2. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell
3. Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story, Frederik Peeters
4. Capacity, Theo Ellsworth
5. Ochre Ellipse #2, Jonas Madden-Conner
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: French Girl

image

thanks, John
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Batman, RIP 1967

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Stories Without Words

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: He Loves His Entrances

image

Frank Robbins rules
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* please note the following important deadlines: NCS Division Award submissions, and the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship. Also, if you're a librarian, retailer or educator, there's a survey out there that's just for you.

image* occasional CR correspondent Sean Collins points to this post where Curt Purcell reviews the crap out of Josh Simmons' House. His take on the subtle progressions in the relationship sub-plot put my own, entirely-too-facile reading to shame.

* in holy crap news, check out this list of comics folk scheduled to appear at Angouelme. Also, this article suggests that if you haven't already scheduled your train passage to the town, you should start thinking about taking a car. That's a story to watch, I think.

* this comics page survey results list reprinted by Alan Gardner really underlines the fact that a lot of the comics pages out there skew very, very old. At least I can't imagine a lot of twenty-somethings getting behind Hi and Lois; maybe I'm wrong. It's interesting to see another incident of a chilly reception afforded the once super-popular Cathy, although that feature could shed papers for the next ten years and have enough to make a more-than-decent living for its creator.

* not comics: "... 50 monkeys fucking a football..."

* there's a great historical post about Herbert Crowley over at the Comics Comics blog. Any biography that has two sentences like this next to one another
"Though he studied singing in Paris, he could never bring himself to face an audience. Then, while working in a mine, he discovered that he could draw."
is clearly a keeper.

* the writer J. Caleb Mozzocco has a long post up about pornographic comics in general and books by Colleen Coover and Brandon Graham specifically. I wasn't even aware the Graham book existed.

image* here are a couple of great posts from Richard Thompson. In one of them, he spotlights an error that made it onto the comics page. I remember back when I was doing a strip we were really excited when this happened because it meant they trusted us not to watch us like hawks anymore. Of course, our strip didn't make it. The second post is one about pen nibs, the mere existence which will excite a small percentage of you way too much.

* finally, a last bit of not comics: the late comedian Bill Hicks has an enormous number of fans among comics people, or at least did in a specific period after his death when his work enjoyed a surge in popularity. Those people will know what I'm talking about when I point to Mark Evanier's post that says the excised David Letterman appearance will be played in full on the Late Show this Friday. That struck me as kind of interesting; I remember reading the Lahr article on the affair in a doctor's office in central Pennsylvania the summer before I moved to Seattle.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Herwolt van Doornen!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 58th Birthday, Todd Klein!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, Jason Aaron!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 68th Birthday, Noboru Kawasaki!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 81st Birthday, Renato Calligaro!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Marc Vedrines!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Marc Cuadrado!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 46th Birthday, Kia Asamiya!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 57th Birthday, Hunt Emerson!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 68th Birthday, Horacio Lalia!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Spider-Moon
Batman As Jazz
Incognito #5 Cover
How To Draw Obama
Dave Lasky Sketches

Exhibits/Events
Go See Evan Dorkin At NYCC

History
Best Marvel Story Titles
Swamp Thing Vs. Arcane
Even Napoleon Hated Hitler

Industry
Gary Groth's Awesome Stationery

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Peter David
Newsarama: Jamie S. Rich
Talking With Tim: Mike Dawson

Not Comics
Obama Not Jesus
I Don't Quite Understand This, But I Like It
A Frightening Amount Of Fantastic Four Crap

Publishing
Mijeong Previewed
This Made Me Laugh
Mark Waid Doing New Superhero Series

Reviews
Mike Jozic: Various
Nick Budd: Various
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Lou Anders: Batman Year 100
Johanna Draper Carlson: Various
Paul Nolan: Mysterius The Unfathomable #1
Miles Baker: Mysterius The Unfathomable #1
Paul O'Brien: Mysterius The Unfathomable #1
Daniel Crown: Mysterius The Unfathomable #1
Tonya Crawford: Mysterius The Unfathomable #1
 

 
January 27, 2009


John Updike, 1932-2009

image

Updike was an advocate for cartooning and had work published in the Harvard Lampoon and then occasionally when he wrote about cartooning.
 
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image

*****

Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's largely 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 tomorrow I would more than likely pick up the following and look them over. And oh, oh, oh, my retailer might not like that.

*****

DEC084227 CAPACITY GN $15.00
I didn't see this on my first pass through the listings. It's a new book by Theo Ellsworth collecting a bunch of minis and it's very good. Definitely the pick of the week.

NOV084026 KASPAR GN (MR) $12.95
This sounds cool as crap and I don't know anything about it. Jog describes it better than I could here. I hate that Jog.

NOV080073 UMBRELLA ACADEMY DALLAS #3 (OF 6) $2.99
NOV080074 USAGI YOJIMBO #117 $3.50
NOV082383 MARVELS EYE OF CAMERA #3 (OF 6) $3.99
NOV082252 ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #12 (RES) $2.99
A few random comics in the "I would probably look at them" grouping. I think I'm only regularly buying Usagi, though.

NOV080064 MISTER X CONDEMNED #2 (OF 4) $3.50
Has anyone out there read this?

NOV082446 MARVEL 1985 PREM HC $24.99
NOV082447 MARVEL 1985 PREM HC DM ED $24.99

How about this?

NOV088149 FINAL CRISIS #6 (OF 7) 2ND PTG $3.99
NOV080123 FINAL CRISIS #7 (OF 7) $3.99
Like many summer romances, it ends in January at a point where I'm not sure I remember what I liked about it in the first place..

OCT082331 DRAGON PRINCE #4 JOHNSON CVR A $2.99
OCT082332 DRAGON PRINCE #4 SOOK CVR B $2.99
Why does this comic have two covers? I've read this comic, it's not the next Walking Dead.

NOV082366 CAPTAIN AMERICA #46 $2.99
NOV082430 CRIMINAL TP VOL 04 BAD NIGHT (MR) $14.99
NOV082370 DAREDEVIL #115 $2.99
Everything's coming up Brubaker! I like how all his books cluster together on the shipping list. Knowing Ed, there's a ten percent chance that's on purpose. Okay, not really. Still, his comics are generally fun. I can imagine much worse ways to spend a cold winter day than turning in early with a bunch of Ed Brubaker comic books to read.

*****

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 so your shop may not carry a specific publication. There are a lot of comics out there.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, albeit a while back, 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. Ordering through a direct market shop can be a frustrating experience, so if you have a direct line to something -- you know another shop has it, you know a bookstore has it -- I'd urge you to consider all of your options.

If I didn't list your comic... what? What? Yeah, I thought so.

*****
*****
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
So I'm Watching This Stan Lee Media Press Conference As I Type This...

The current Stan Lee Media people are having a video press conference as I type this featuring super-lawyer Martin Garbus giving a kind of basic facts presentation on their long-running dispute with Stan Lee. The fundamental argument Garbus presents seems to me to remain the same: that Stan Lee signed over all of his rights to all of his creative works to SLM upon that Internet company's creation. A specific legal construction regarding how Lee co-created his Marvel Comics they believe buttressed by facts relating to subsequent Stan Lee lawsuit-generated deals with Marvel gives them an interest in all the Marvel characters Lee co-created because Lee assigned that stuff to them. In other words, they feel Marvel agreed that Lee had profit participation in 2005 when wrapping up their dispute with Lee. They feel this is supported by the nature of the PR regarding that settlement and the construction of the settlement itself. Since they believe Stan had assigned those rights to SLM, he had no business making his deal with Marvel. SLM seeks a deal a lot better than what Stan got for himself.

imageThe problem is, I'm not sure there's anything new here. It makes sense as an argument when they're talking to you and me. It always has. Well, it always made sense to me, anyway. As I've written several times on this site, their argument seems to make sense as an argument. If Martin Garbus were sitting across the table from me at dinner and told me this story, I would say, "Well, you certainly have quite an argument there, Mr. Garbus. It should be interesting to see how things turn out in court. Can you pass the butter?" While this stuff is fun to talk about, I'm not sure anything in the court of public opinion matters at this point. What matters is how it turns out in court. It's like someone making a case that the Arizona Cardinals are going to win the Super Bowl. Maybe so, but of infinitely greater importance is the game on Sunday. Right?

I guess there are some new tidbits. Garbus talks a lot about a November 1998 document between Lee and Marvel that they feel establishes a relationship between Lee and Marvel following the October 1998 assignation to SLM. They seem to be saying that that document is of interest 1) because it establishes some parameters on the Lee/Marvel relationship and 2) it may be evidence that Lee and Marvel were trying to subvert the October 1998 assignation in some way. I don't quite recall something that specific. As we get further on, Garbus drops the acronym "RICO" into the conversation -- abstractly, of course, but I guess that means they're really going to pursue that line of argument.

A much less compelling line of argumentation by Garbus is that SLM didn't assert its apparent ownership or control over these characters until this recent sea of suits because back in 1998 they didn't think they were worth very much, and Marvel was indeed bankrupt during the late 1990s so no one knew these characters' value. I find that not very compelling at all, and would advise anyone speaking on SLM's behalf to avoid that line of thinking entirely.

Apparently there's also a decision forthcoming from a special master on I think whether or not the company as it exists right now can continue to function in a way that would allow them to better pursue the current lawsuit. That might explain the timing of this press conference. Wait, duh, google: they've reinvigorated their fight with a new lawsuit recently filed. Marvel and its major agents are invited along for the ride as well. Mystery solved.

Something else that occurred to me -- as an historical issue, not a legal one -- is that part of the outside-in legal argument for Stan Lee as having an ownership interest depends on his having created the various Marvel characters as an outside agent away from his job at Marvel. I don't even know if that's historically accurate. All the talk about Lee working at home all the time mostly focuses on the pre-Marvel stuff, when he was really cranking stuff out for the monster books and such. I don't specifically know where and when Stan wrote during the Marvel superhero heyday -- I assume he was still writing at home, but I'm not going to court, either. It would be the greatest day of my life to win 50 percent control of Googam, Son Of Goom, but I can't imagine that's what SLM is in it for.

In the Q&A phase from which I was mostly bounced by the technology, someone asked what SLM would do with their interest in the characters, and Garbus spoke of making the characters more 21st Century by better exploiting them on the Internet, as was the general direction of the SLM in the first place. I have to say, I didn't find that to be very compelling, either. For one thing, SLM would be a partner in these characters, not a sole owner. This is also the first I've heard of anyone's dream to get that particular band back together, but only if they can use Spider-Man rather than the characters about which there's no dispute.
 
posted 4:35 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Prix BD des lecteurs du Parisien et d'Aujourd'hui Winner For 2008

image

Glenat's Vinci, l'ange brise, by Didier Convard and Gilles Chaillethas, has won this year's best album given out by the French daily newspaper Le Parisien to run in their national edition Aujourd'hui en France. Readers were apparently asked to pick among ten nominees, and that page also indicates there had been monthly winners named since March. Past winners of the yearly title include Zep, Joann Sfar and Nicolas de Crecy.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Magazine Death Pool

image
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Here's Some Good News For A Change

image

A lot of happy kids this month:

* not comics, but still: Neil Gaiman's prose work The Graveyard Book, featuring illustrations by Dave McKean, has won this year's Newbery Medal given out by the American Library Association. It goes to the "most distinguished American children's book published the previous year" and along with the Caldecott is probably the award in that arena of publishing that gets the most media play (it's been on the front page of NYTimes.com for the last 14 hours, initially on the initial, top part of the screen). It should make the book a library perennial, boost over the counter sales for several months, and add to Gaiman's growing reputation as a skilled practitioner in a variety of written forms. Past winners of the Newbery include works by Susan Cooper and Madeleine L'Engle. A bunch of the major awards in children's book publishing were announced, and you can read about them at any one of the news stories that resulted, like this one.

image

* one of the winners of one of those awards -- a Geisel honor book, the Geisels going to books for beginners -- was actually a comic: Eleanor Davis' Stinky, from the nascent Toon Book line. Davis is quite young, too, so the win is noteworthy for publisher and creator. As I recall, Francoise Mouly took the Toon project back into her own RAW set-up when she couldn't find a willing publishing partner for the line, so I can imagine honors like that being very important in terms of establishing the line.

image

* finally, a few of the news sites and your better class of blog noted that Jeff Smith has a book coming out from Toon this September, called Little Mouse Gets Ready. Smith is killing it right now. His first RASL collection is out, the serial comic version of that series continues this Spring, and perhaps most remarkably the last Scholastic color volume for Bone came out earlier this month, concluding that iteration of the series. That was a huge publishing project and one of historical importance both within comics and children's book publishing, and I hope that uneasy times won't keep it from being celebrated throughout comics as the model publishing journey it was. Also, considering that the work was not only originally intended for black and white publication, but actually appeared that way and was well-received as such, Steve Hamaker's coloring on the volumes has to be one of odder and effectively executed achievements in comics craft this decade.

image
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Updates On Kevin Huizenga Ending His Or Else Series, VVM Killing Its Cartoons

* the cartoonist Kevin Huizenga told CR that as far as canceling his series Or Else with its fifth issue, a variety of factors came into play, including but not limited to Diamond's recent decision to raise minimums. "Obviously the Diamond thing plays into it, but it wasn't central... yet it kind of is. We could probably meet the minimum if we tried? But Love and Rockets becoming a book felt like, this is it, if there ever was any doubt. The comic book is a weird holdover, like a coelacanth. I guess if I do this right now I can always feel like it was my decision." He added, "I've been thinking about it for a while and now seems like a good time." He also suggested that maybe the traditional alt-comic, one-man-anthology format wasn't a particularly good one for him, either, "and probably not for comics in general, going forward."

imageFor Huizenga, ending the series allows him to work towards the books more effectively. "I'm working on a lot of different things that don't all fit together. So let's just go book-by-book starting now. I'm in the middle of the Ganges series, and another Glenn Ganges story named Rumbling, the first part of which appeared in Or Else #5. So Ganges will still be coming out for a while and Rumbling will get serialized in some mini-comics (because I feel like that will help me get it done) until that's finished and ready to be a book." He also mentions that he'll be doing other 'zines in 2009, mentioning two by name: New Construction and Sermons. Gloriana may also be republished.

The first Rumbling mini-comic, cover pictured above, is currently planned to be released in a few weeks' time.

* this Minnesota Independent article confirms that the cartoons being dropped by Village Voice Media will be network-wide cartoons. This suggests that cartoons contracted by individual papers will be subject to individual scrutiny, which could also simply mean business continues as usual. Both Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch of Leon Beyond that runs in the VVM's River Front Times, did not receive any letter as to an interruption in sales, and Zettwoch in fact sent off a new installment Monday.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Dean Haspiel's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Cartoonist Dean Haspiel gave Daily Cross Hatch two lists of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

Print
1. All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
2. Scalped, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
3. The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard
4. Jonah Hex, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
5. OMAC, Jack Kirby

On-Line
1. Loviathan, Mike Cavallaro
2. The Transmigration of Ultra-Lad, Joe Infurnari
3. Lilly MacKenzie, Simon Fraser
4. AD: New Orleans After the Deluge, Josh Neufeld
5. Panorama, Michel Fiffe
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Captain Fortune

image
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Anne Martel

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Pal-Ul-Don Map

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Skulls Of Doom

image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* not comics: this was an encouraging article if you're an old-time newspaper fan, and I'm a great supporter in general of small-town newspapers (my father once owned a couple). I would imagine that if that model will continue to work they'll work from a combination of providing news as mentioned in the piece and the fact that they offer a stripped-down cost model that makes a lot more sense than the loaded-up newspapers you get further up the population chain. That's the major reason I would agree with this guy that a big magazine employing an on-line pay model using outdated technology is really doomed to fail: its costs too much for a big company like that to make something that will support itself, let alone support a magazine. It's not always about the impossibility of pay. (I'd also disagree with his assertion that no one holds onto material; my hunch is that a lot of specialty on-line sites and providers do this because they're wary of overwhelming their limited-time readerships -- it doesn't help to put a ton of content up if no one's willing to stay on your site -- and I'm certain other sites do this because they want to build an arrival expectation for a certain column or feature, like Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column at CNNSI.com.)

* not comics: count me among the many that enjoyed this walk through the last eight years in presidential pool photos, as presented by Errol Morris and three picture editors.

* finally, a reader whose name I can't make out writes in with a good question: "What is that weird, floating shape in Prickly City cartoons? I first noticed it when there was a skateboard that impacted against a stone wall. I thought it was a helmet or tennis shoe floating to earth. Then, today, I saw it in the sky where one would see the moon, with wolves howling at it. Trouble is... it doesn't look anything like a moon. It's weird. Take a look for yourself."
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 34th Birthday, Darrin Bell!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 52nd Birthday, Frank Miller!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 57th Birthday, Steve Leialoha!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 55th Birthday, Peter Laird!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Sean Phillips!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Stefan Petrucha!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 47th Birthday, Richard Starkings!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 59th Birthday, Giovanni Freghieri!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
I Agree With This
Reflections On Reviewing
Chris Ware's Red Leitmotif

History
Yuck
Understanding Batman
I'm Not Sure Why I Tabbed This Link

Industry
On Haven
Great Post Title
Scott Licina On Order Minimums
His Five Favorite Single Marvel/DC Issues

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Ken Kristensen
Mlive.com: Mark Crilley
Newsarama: Mark Waid
CBR: Brian Michael Bendis
Newsarama: Francis Manapul

Not Comics
Jog Goes To The Movies
Please Love Us, Academy

Reviews
Jog: The Caterer #3
Tucker Stone: Various
Greg McElhatton: Solanin
David Mathews: The Arrival
Sandy Bilus: Tamara Drewe
Domingos Isabelinho: So mi sueno
Nathan Madison: Booster Gold #16
Shannon Smith: Comics On Fire #1
James Donnelly: Dark Avengers #1
Paul O'Brien: Uncanny X-Men Annual #2
Don MacPherson: The End League Vol. 1
Sean T. Collins: Top 10: The Forty-Niners
Paul O'Brien: Mysterius The Unfathomable
Jamison Sacks: Uncanny X-Men Annual #2
Hervé St-Louis: Amazing Spider-Man #584
Philip Schweier: Lone Ranger and Tonto #2
Marc-Oliver Frisch: Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 2
Koppy McFad: Superman/Batman Annual #3
Scott Cederlund: Never As Bad As You Think
 

 
We Could All Really Use This

image

A Michael Kupperman blog? (via)
 
posted 8:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
January 26, 2009


Village Voice Media Suspends Cartoons

image

According to alt-weekly regular Tom Tomorrow, Village Voice Media is suspending the publication of all cartoons in their newspapers. If I'm reading their site correctly, this involves 15 papers total:
Westword (Denver), New Times (Phoenix), New Times Broward), The Pitch (Kansas City), SF Weekly (San Francisco), HoustonPress, Dallas Observer) New Times (Miami), Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Village Voice (New York), LA Weekly, City Pages (Minneapolis), Scene (Nashville), OC Weekly and Seattle Weekly.
I have no idea what this means in terms of individual strips. It could be that some of the papers have individual contracts that would not apply under what Tomorrow's saying, and I'm not sure how many of these publications actually carry comics. Apparently, the decision was communicated to cartoonists late last week.

Minnesota Independent has reaction from one of the publication editors, including word that they may try to bring the comics back if the economy improves.

The move comes on the heels of the same company buying the social media site LikeMe.net, so this sounds more like strategy than a straight-up move made from necessity -- then again, firings and departures from the company's papers have been legion.

Tom Tomorrow; the news went out on a Daily Kos feed that Sean T. Collins saw. Thanks, Sean
 
posted 9:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
It's Going To Be One Of Those Years

"Call me gullible or impressionable, but I'm actually feeling kind of hopeful this week." -- Sara Nelson, Editor-In-Chief, Publishers Weekly, posted this morning.

"Sara Nelson, the editor in chief of Publishers Weekly, the main trade magazine to the book industry, has been laid off in a restructuring by the publication's parent company, Reed Business Information." -- NYT Arts Beat, posted noonish.

Brian Kenney from School Library Journal will assume Nelson's duties. Nelson was an enthusiastic supporter of the book industry and a public editor, by which I mean she was active on panels and accessible in her role as industry advocate. She is the author of So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading (2004) and had been in her current position four years, during which the magazine greatly expanded its coverage of comics and graphic novels. The cuts come as part of a seven percent reduction at the company. Heidi MacDonald of PW's The Beat says that three other staffers were let go, but their names haven't been released yet.

David Ulin poops on the move here.
 
posted 8:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Our Congratulations To David Rees

image

David Rees concluded his successful run on Get Your War On about a week ago, something noted here as a thing about to happen but never a thing that happened. Thankfully, Richard Bruton provided this reminder. Get Your War On was one of the signature comics of the decade, notable for its focused subject matter, the manner in which it was presented, and the way it thundered onto the scene from what seemed out of nowhere. It was also one of the more consistent and significant expressions of an important aspect of post-9/11 culture. Click through the image for the last strip.
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Download: Elmer #1

image

Go here for a free download of the first issue of Gerry Alanguilan's four-issue comic book series about chickens gaining sentience and speech. Even if you don't like it as much as I did there's a you may fall at least a little bit in love with how odd and deeply-felt a project Elmer is.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #14

Last week was a bad one for comics and the current downturn in the economy, in a way that underlines the unique problems facing comics: peripheral weaknesses, a rapidly transforming business model and outside pressures that inflict more pressure than many traditional, internal ones.

* a letter to freelancers then leaked brought word from several locations that MAD was being moved from monthly to quarterly publication and that the side-project magazines Mad Kids and Mad Classics would be cancelled. That news is alarming in terms of its general historical import: MAD is arguably the most popular comics publication of the last half-century. A move to quarterly publication sends a scary message, one that my gut tells me will be felt by the readership more in terms of its implications than in terms of a felt absence from the stands. For the professionals contributing to the well-liked recent iteration of the magazine, the blow is much more severe. This means less work in the immediate future for a lot of talented writers and artists. More from Mark Evanier, Tom Richmond and Evan Dorkin. Richmond's post indicates that MAD may go on-line in more significant fashion in the near future. Evanier echoes the likelihood for the continuation of the strong MAD brand in his post, which depending on your personal reaction to past attempts to do this kind of thing with MAD and others, might either encourage or depress the crap out of you. The switchover begins immediately.

* the PW comics and pop culture blogger Heidi MacDonald unearthed word last Friday that layoffs directed by Time Warner hit the DC Comics division after all -- there had been speculation they might pass by that division entirely. Included were several MAD staffers, subscription manager Christine Sawicki and editor Bob Schreck. That it was Schreck made the news additionally surprising, in the same way it was stunning when Jim Borgman took the Enquirer buyout. It's not like you can't see the future there, you just never entertained the possibility that things would go in this direction. Schreck seems generally well-liked, has a pedigree that stretches back to the early days of independent comics from which many of today's top creators sprung, and was a big factor in stabilizing DC's lackluster Batman books and acting a general conduit for that company to talent outside the general superhero mainstream. He was also the DC point person in working with Frank Miller, I believe. Schreck is the one recent departure with the track record and contacts that one can imagine landing any variety of places, even in economically chaotic times.

* MacDonald's excellent Friday continued when she brought word of staff cuts at Diamond. I would expect reaction to that news to break down along the same lines as the much more severe and passionate reaction to their raising sales miniums. On the one hand, staff cuts make sense for Diamond in a "they're changing things around fashion." On the other hand, the small drop in overall sales from last year's record-setting levels doesn't by itself sound like direct justification for the necessity of a round of cutbacks unless other factors are somehow involved. In other words, it's hard for me to believe a company that's been as successful for as long as Diamond would be that fragile. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part, though.

* the Diamond news from about ten days ago now, that they were raising expectations of minimum wholesale amounts from $1500 to $2500, continues to be a hot topic of conversation. Here are two good ones from the UK: interested observer Richard Bruton and small press publisher Kenny Penman.

* things suck in magazine distribution, too. A few of you have mailed me a link to this article on Source Interlink joining Anderson News in demanding a new fee for magazines to be delivered to the newsstand regardless of number of copies that end up being sold. In a world where the magazine is spiraling downward as a reasonable way to deliver information content and where the economy is generally down, this is potential extinction-event news for a lot of companies and big names already teetering towards unprofitability. I don't know what comics companies would feel the impact and to what extent that impact would be felt if this becomes the norm and a new arrangement that avoids the additional fees isn't worked out, although it strikes me that this can't be welcome news at the magazine publisher Wizard, who don't look ready in any way to make a switch to an on-line identity and have done things like fire huge swaths of staff people and explore selling their building in a way that hints at their being a bit wobbly overall.

* and on to newspaper. Recently fired Ventura County Star cartoonist Steve Greenberg has landed on his feet at alt-weekly Ventura County Reporter. I can't tell if that's a staff position or an elaborate freelance deal, but it sounds firmer than a promise they'll look at his stuff if he submits. He details the spiraling decline of editorial cartooning, particularly staffed positions.

* did the announcement of a big sale of the Chicago Cubs for a shade under $1,000,000,000 have any effect with how financial folks perceive the Tribune Company's dire financial outlook? Not really. What about the New York Times? Was there a change in the general outlook for that company after they received more money from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu? Sort of, but in the wrong direction.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Kevin Huizenga Ends Or Else Series

image

The cartoonist Kevin Huizenga has announced he'll no longer be doing his serial comic book, Or Else, five issues of which were published through Drawn and Quarterly. The above cover was to have been to issue #6; that project will not come out. Huizenga had high praise for publisher Drawn and Quarterly and says he will continue with his book and 'zine efforts. Huizenga initially came to the attention of publishers through a long-running handmade 'zine comic, Supermonster.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
TCAF 2009 Made Official By Release

image

Late last week sponsor/Organizer The Beguiling made their official first announcement of this year's Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It will be held May 9-10 at the Toronto Reference Library and will be free to attend. This will be the fourth iteration of the bi-yearly festival, which was founded in 2003. It is one of the favorites of many creators, particularly for those in Canada.

Their guests of honor will be: Ivan Brunetti, Anke Feuchtenberger, Emmanuel Guibert, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Paul Pope, Seth, Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Adrian Tomine. There will, of course be a ton of other attendees, both simply there and those exhibiting. Press interested in attending or otherwise covering the show should check in at
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Paul Gravett's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The legendary Paul Gravett gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Skim, Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
2. Rumble Strip, Woodrow Phoenix
3. Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert
4. Britten & Brulightly, Hannah Berry
5. Travel, Yuichi Yokoyama

He expanded on that list with a list on his own site, which was:

* Skim
* Rumble Strip
* Alan's War
* Ordinary Victories: What Is Precious
* Britten & Brülightly
* Aldebaran: Volume One The Catastrophe and Volume Two The Group
* Travel
* Freedom Comics
* Complete Little Orphan Annie Vol. 1
* Rick Random: Space Detective
* What It Is
* Monster
* Breakdowns
* Love & Rockets: New Stories Vol. 1
* Kramer's Ergot 7
* Acme Novelty Library #19
* Red Colored Elegy
* Criminal
* The DFC
* Swallow Me Whole
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Devil Will Get You If You Don't Watch Out

image
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Francois Avril

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: La Chair Nue S'Articule

image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Case Of The Vanished Year

image
 
posted 3:43 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist Scott Adams is non-apologetic about promoting his business through his comic strip. Thirty years ago, my newspaperman father would have immediately canceled any strip that did this, even Peanuts, but we live in very different times now and I imagine there will be little fallout except for grousing. Needless to say, however, suggesting that comics have a commercial role within the newspaper to justify temporarily exploiting that platform on behalf of one's own business seems bizarre and almost hateful to me, but I have never made significant amounts of money so it's hard for me to criticize the strategies employed by someone that successful.

image* at ActuaBD.com, David Taugis has a report on the comics at the Louvre show and a schedule for where the exhibit should appear over the next few years: Lausanne, Belo Horizonte, Montreal, Angouleme (for the 2010 festival), Brussels, and Tokyo.

* not comics: I take it back, please let the New York Times die. Note to editor: if you can imagine the article being introduced by Mary Hart, it's probably not worth publishing. I know this makes me sound a cranky old person, but that article made me feel horrible after reading it, like I'd just had my time wasted by someone's unpaid commercial in the guise of arts coverage.

* the New York Times might disappoint, but at least we can take comfort in the fact that the practitioners of the dying art of editorial cartooning are focused on the important things. You know, like Gordon Brown thinking they draw him too fat and the collective wail that President Obama isn't as easy to make fun of than the last guy who was president. Okay, never mind.

* not comics: re-considering New Jersey

* hey, let's run a press release! I caught this in Buenaventura Press' news section:
Buenaventura Press with Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, and Daniel Clowes at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, January 29 - February 1, 2009.

Next week we will be in France, exhibiting for our fourth consecutive year at the Angouleme International Comics Festival. We'll be traveling with the festival's special guests Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, and Daniel Clowes, who have not appeared in Europe for over five years. Along with our own Buenaventura Press titles we'll have the latest by these celebrated cartoonists including: ACME Novelty Library #19 by Ware, Shortcomings by Tomine, and Ghost World: Special Edition and 20th Century Eightball by Clowes.

This also marks the final stop of the international tour for Kramers Ergot 7, the most acclaimed art comics anthology of the last two decades, and the following contributors will be signing copies throughout the festival:

Conrad Botes
Daniel Clowes
Joe Daly
Jerome Mulot
Florent Ruppert
Souther Salazar
Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware

Check back soon for our signing schedule, and look for us in the "Place New York."
That's as good a reminder as any that it's Angouleme time, and this year features what seems to me a more impressive American presence than usual, as well as a precarious economic backdrop. We'll have a preview of the festival on Thursday, and will comment on the bigger news throughout the weekend. Bart Beaty will be in attendance, which we hope will mean columns. If anyone else is going over there to set up for business,

* finally, Chris Sims draws attention to a portion of a fondly-remembered Despero plot-line from an issue of Justice League International. It's fun to see Adam Hughes' art at that early stage in his career. What I remember about re-reading a bunch of those comics a few years ago is that it was a fairly effective monster heel rampage plotline of the kind that superhero comics overuse now, or at least don't seem to be able to set up properly. The fact that JLI was kind of a jokey book gave this sudden appearance by a significant, scary bad-ass and the sight of him beating on things until they died a lot more oomph. You don't see those shifts in tone anymore, mostly because there's so much pressure to maximize sales on every single comic book. (thanks, Sean)
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 73rd Birthday, Sal Buscema!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, Mayu Shinjo!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 80th Birthday, Jules Feiffer!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Jacob Pander!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 30th Birthday, Damon Hurd!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 49th Birthday, Dan Reed!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Not Sure What's Going On Here

History
Mike Sterling On The '90s Crash 01
Mike Sterling On The '90s Crash 02
Mike Sterling On The '90s Crash 03
Mike Sterling On The '90s Crash 04
Mike Sterling On The '90s Crash 05
Mike Sterling On The '90s Crash 06
Mike Sterling On The '90s Crash 07
Mike Sterling On The '90s Crash 08

Interviews/Profiles
Comics Career: Ande Parks
ComicsCareer.com: Troy Little
Gear Live: Marc Tyler Nobleman

Not Comics
Answer To Which Young Actor Will Brando Out Question

Reviews
Bill Randall: KE7
Noah Berlatsky: AA'
Noah Berlatsky: Lab Brat
Noah Berlatsky: Potential
Tom Crippen: The Eternals
Noah Berlatsky: Halo Jones
Noah Berlatsky: Nana #7-#8
Noah Berlatsky: Nana #11-12
Josh Minka: Disappearance Diary
Noah Berlatsky: My Sexual History
Noah Berlatsky: Forest of Gray City
 

 
January 25, 2009


CR Sunday Interview: Lance Fensterman

image

Lance Fensterman assumed responsibility for the New York Comic-Con (and, I believe, the New York Anime Festival) after being brought aboard at Reed Exhibitions to run BookExpo America, itself one of the most important shows for comics publishers in this day of bookstore distribution.

New York Comic-Con has a short but interesting history: seeing general success and support almost from the start, rallying from a first year of turning away people at the door that already paid, lurching back and forth between winter and spring, arguably settling into an identity that's a bit more traditional con and a bit less "focused BEA for comics people" than some hoped, and in terms of the convention scene overall providing what many saw as a pop in the nose to a Wizard Entertainment group that seemed for years to be heading towards a New York show themselves. I went to NYCC last year, and while I had a great time in New York and enjoyed the ICv2.com-sponsored conference the day before, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the show itself.

Still, and I think Fensterman is aware of this, it's a big comics show in New York City. The possibility of a self-sustaining convention of any non-horrible kind taking root in the publishing and media capital of the world is enticing enough you're going to let it sleep drunk on your couch and leave wet towels on your unvarnished coffee table for a lot more years than you'd allow a show anywhere else to do the same. And again, most people in attendance and many exhibitors seem to be moving towards the positive experience camp, if they're not already firmly there.

This year's edition of the show, once again at the Javitz Center, is February 6-8. The publication of the following represents a frighteningly quick turnaround, but I wanted to get it up today for few reasons. First, I wanted to give Fensterman a platform to talk about his show while people are still making attendance and coverage plans. Second, it looks like the show will be making announcements about its future between now and the convention's opening that could make this interview a bit less vital in terms of being up to date, which means I can take care of them in a news story rather than updating this more structurally complex piece. Third, I really dreaded writing another essay about the economy this morning, and I suspect you dreaded reading one.

I appreciate Fensterman's attention to what turned out to be a lot of questions. Beyond the economic impact points, there seems to me to be at least a couple of potential news stories germinating here. One is that Reed seems to be making plans to continue the show and is about to secure a settled date for the convention rather than wherever it fits on the Javits calendar. Another is that Fensterman refuses to deny or, really, the way I see it, speak in direct fashion to questions about Reed planning a proper comics show of this type for Chicago. I'm also relieved that someone at the show finally admits flitting around the calendar is weird. Thanks, Lance. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Lance, as I recall you came over to the show last year. Just to give me a sense of how you initially came to the show, can you talk about why you took it over, maybe what set of skills you hoped to bring to bear on the show, why you got that gig?

LANCE FENSTERMAN: You are correct sir, I was brought on in October of 07 to take the helm at NYCC. I was an independent bookseller before joining Reed to run BookExpo America, the big publishing show and apparently I didn't screw that up too much as they promoted me and asked me to run all of our publishing and pop culture events. I have experience in this space and a passion for it but I also bring some "non traditional" sensibilities to the table. I'm not a "trade show" guy like a lot of people in this building, so I think I was seen as being a fan, a guy who loves his customers and can relate to them and someone that would bring a different type of thinking to the event. I also have a pretty deep entrepreneurial background in my life and Reed really values that, especially on an event like NYCC and NYAF, we get to be inventors...

SPURGEON: A lot of what I read about last year's show was pretty immediate reaction, which is common for shows like these -- you interview the organizer in the glow of the con's success. I know that you guys have longer evaluative periods than that. Is there anything that came out of the show once you really examined it that was different or maybe had a greater emphasis than your initial take on 2008?

FENSTERMAN: Even in a longer view, I really feel like the '08 event was an arrival for the con as a true national event, which is extremely exciting. I tagged that event as the one that would really establish us as a "go to" and I think it did. Now, having said that, I also think we saw a lot of challenges come out of it like the constant shifting of dates that we've suffered through at the hands of Javits' lack of availability. Constantly shifting around on the calendar is a huge impediment to being a real anchor on the con calendar. The '08 event also reminded us that even though we have improved every year, we have to keep working on the fan experience in terms of logistics. I can't understate how much we have improved, but we have a long way to go -- but that's customer service in any arena, you can never rest on your laurels or take your customers for granted.

imageSPURGEON: To what degree and in what ways do you think you're still in a learning curve on this show. Like last year I know you had a concert -- it went well, reportedly, but I was thinking that might have been something slightly out of your comfort range in terms of organizing. Are there aspects of the show that are still kind of an adventure for you? Which ones?

FENSTERMAN: Like I said, we need to constantly be in learning curve mode to some degree. Once you think you know it all, you will start to take you customers and fans for granted. We did a series of "con fabs" this year which were really feedback sessions for fans to share with us what we did well and did not do well and we've employed all of those learning's into this years show. I'm really proud of that. This is the fans show, we just build it. You brought up the concert and I thought the T.M. Revolution concert was amazing. I was proud of it and I think it proved to ourselves and customers that we can pull of anything even an arena quality rock show complete with massive lighting rigs and fog machines. The rub with that one came when the bills arrived! I cannot tell you how much we spent to outfit that theatre for the screenings and concerts but it was an insane amount of money to assure the fan experience.

SPURGEON: I greatly liked the New York in Spring aspect of the show last year. This year it's in February. Is it common for your group's shows and/or shows at the Javits to move back and forth on dates like this one has? Why is that? I'd love to know if you think you'll one day be able to settle on a time for the show and what that time will be.

FENSTERMAN: It is not common at all. Almost all events that Reed runs have consistent dates, frankly its part of running a professional event. Unfortunately, we have had extreme difficulty in securing consistent dates from the Javits Center. This comes from the fact that the building is insanely busy (and we look three to four years out trying to find a consistent home), we need a lot of space for growth and for all of our fans and that the Javits did not know what to think of us for the first few years -- they were skeptical. The good news is that we've won the Javits over, they now see that NYCC is becoming a city wide cultural and media event -- Crane's Business named us the fourth largest event that takes place in NYC -- and we have been working with them to secure a consistent set of dates for the next four years. We'll be ready to announce that shortly, but Javits has really stepped up and even moved other shows to accommodate us. This is all another sign of NYCC's maturity in becoming a serious city wide and national event.

imageSPURGEON: I wanted to ask you a few questions about the economy in the hopes that you'll feel free to be expansive and specific in your answers. First, has there been, or do you foresee, any changes in plans regarding this year's show from any of your vendors or exhibitors? Has anyone canceled, changed the level of their presence, decided to bring fewer creators along…?

FENSTERMAN: I am knocking on wood as I type my answer here, but the answer, broadly speaking, is no. We've had a few exhibitors not come this year that have in the past due to the economy, but very few. We are poised for growth on the show floor and to date ticket sales are up 10-15% over this time last year. I have always maintained that if we create a kick ass con our fans will reward us by spending there stretched dollars with us. And if we offer value to our exhibitors they will see us as a help to there business and an event they can't afford not to come to. So far, we seem to be accomplishing those goals. The biggest challenge has been with toy companies as the Toy Fair event is immediately after us which has lead to attrition from toy companies. I was crunching some numbers last night and if had kept the same number of toy companies from last year we would have been on path for massive growth on the show floor once again.

SPURGEON: Second, how does your show planning take into account a less aggressively successful economy. Do you focus on local guests? Do you focus on more local advertising, say? Is your message different when you ask people to spend money right now? Do you emphasize different aspects of the show given that overall outlook for a lot of people out there?

FENSTERMAN: We focus on the same things we always do with perhaps a bit more urgency: Build an amazing event that will wow our fans and provide value and return on investment for our exhibitors. Really, that is it, it's a simple mantra, but it bears out. If we build something worthy of a fans price of admission, we believe they will reward us by choosing to come. Logistically we are working on some things to make exhibiting less expensive for our customers for next year's show. NYC is an expensive place to do business, that's a fact, so we are developing some plans and making some investments to try and ease that burden.

SPURGEON: What's different about your programming this year?

FENSTERMAN: There is slightly less of it. We felt that last year was a bit more than the facilities could handle and that resulted in some crowding issues that I was not pleased with. So we pulled back our number of panels about five to eight percent and staggered start times to assure that we did not have the same congestion problems in the panel area that we had last year. We also took out more space at the Javits to accommodate for the crowds. I'm also seeing a bigger push from TV this year than last and while I'm not certain, I think some of this is attributable to our position on the calendar before sweeps.

SPURGEON: Comics convention are odd beasts -- part industry get-together, part socializing hub, part public showcase. I think NYCC more than any other show kind of wears those various aspects out in the open. Do you think you have an identity now? I know for example it's a show that a lot of the book publishers seemed excited about, not just because it's in New York but because it's a format and approach that's more familiar to them than some of the other shows. What would you ideally like the show to be? Do you see that beginning to take shape?

FENSTERMAN: I think first and foremost NYCC is a New York show. Maybe that seems obvious, but so much of our identity is this city. It's the base of publishing -- both comics and traditional. Beyond that, I would like us to be viewed as an event where business gets done. We are strict about our professional/trade hours, we have strong trade programming, we have a business center on the show floor for meetings to be conducted all those factors are contributing to the business of rights, licensing and other pieces of the business of this business being done at the con. This is an aspect I would expect to see increase in future years -- not at the expense of the fans, but in addition to all that we do for the fans.

SPURGEON: How important is booth placement to you? I know that some exhibitors from 2008 feel they were stuffed into some odd locations, although at the same time it seems there's some thought given to spreading the bigger exhibitors around the main hall. Do you feel this is an area of improvement for 2009?

FENSTERMAN: I was overall pretty happy with the floor plan in '08, I felt that it had good flow and accommodated the 67,000 people that poured through the aisles. Now having said that, booth placement is a no win on any event of this size. We recognize that we will not please everyone, but we do our best. We try to spread the big booths out across the floor while accommodating everyone else as well, but with 500 or so exhibitors it gets tricky -- like a game a Tetris! Overall, I feel we succeed more than we fail in this area.

SPURGEON: I'd love to hear you talk as specifically as possible about any city or civic support the show receives. Is New York invested in the show to the extent you'd like to see that relationship developed?

FENSTERMAN: Simply put -- no. It's hard to make an impact on a city of this size and to date we have had no support of any kind from the city (with the exception of the Javits Center really working with us this year to find consistent dates). If we were in a smaller city or a smaller media city, we would own the city already, but NYC is hard city to own. Having said that, I did mention that after 3 years in existence, we are the 4th largest even in the entire city – that's no small impact to have made this quickly in a city of this size. We continue to work with the city on how we might better partner but they have a lot of big issues in front of them, like directing air traffic along the Hudson.

SPURGEON: I once heard a con person asked if the weekend of the con that you organize is like being the mayor of a small town and they suggested it was more like being that town's garbage man. What is the weekend of the show like for you? Is it constant troubleshooting, is it big picture stuff, is it doing following-through on media...? How do you feel those days?

FENSTERMAN: Hmmmmm, I don't know that I feel like a mayor or a garbage man. I think I feel like a kid whose parents are away for the weekend and I threw a party that is rapidly getting bigger and bigger! My job on site is to assure that everyone is having a good time and all is going smoothly. I do a lot of media, but I also spend a lot of time with fans. I'm typically the first person to the building every morning to meet the fans that are waiting and let them in. I meet with Public Safety to assure we have no crowding issues, I spend time in registration talking to fans, I have business meetings with my customers and make sure they are doing well, I check out the popular panels to assure they are well attended and running smoothly and I get to be a fan just a little and go see a few minutes of the stuff I am interested in. Really though, I run for four days straight doing my best to be a good host and assure everyone is having fun. It's tiring and that beer that arrives in our offices around 10 PM is about the best tasting beer I have all year.

SPURGEON: About once a month I hear a rumor that Reed is planning a Chicago show, sometimes with sub-rumors that it's to be held in downtown Chicago and that it's going to be scheduled during the second half of the calendar year. Can you confirm or deny that general rumor and/or the sub-rumors? Have there been discussions about Chicago? Beyond that specific pair of questions, is there a general desire to expand into another comics show? And has the economy changed any of these conversations?

image
FENSTERMAN: I would like to do a show in February in Florida. I could catch Twins spring training game, get away from the cold Northeast, now that would be nice! We are always looking at our options and where our customers tell us they feel there is a need. We are not in the business of expanding for our own desires to expand, that is not good business and we would not do it. Any moves we would make would be because our customers have told us they want what we have to offer in a given market. So this is to say that I don't have a driving desire to expand into more comics shows, but I do have a desire to meet customer and market needs where they might exist and if I feel what we do well can be applied and we can serve our fans and our customers. We are lucky at Reed in that we are allowed to run our businesses like small business with the resources behind us of a big business, so we have the ability to be nimble and react when the market conditions are right. Looking back in '06 we launched NYCC, in '07 the NY Anime Fest in '08 we entered into a relationship with Penny Arcade Expo, I think that pattern illustrates our ability to meet our customers needs, take risks, commit the dollars to creating great events and a pattern of being aggressive when the opportunities are there.

SPURGEON: So to be clear: Are there plans for a Chicago show? Have there been internal discussions about a Chicago show?

FENSTERMAN: No immediate plans are in place for any kind of event in a new market this year, but any time our customers tell us there is an opportunity in a market, no matter where that is (including internationally) we will conduct our due diligence to explore those opportunities.

SPURGEON: Something I found very interesting about NYCC is how large the single vendor table section is, those tables where you have one or two artists seated at chairs facing forward -- I don't know if you guys call it Artist Alley. Now with some shows, that section just as much about tradition and a certain way comics has always done things -- since you don't necessarily fall into either of those categories, I was wondering if you could talk about that part of the floor, in a business sense and in the sense of providing a certain kind of experience to attendees.

FENSTERMAN: The show is about artists and fans connecting and Artist Alley (yes we call it that) is the most focused expression of that connection. We feel as though it's an incredibly important aspect of NYCC. We have consultants who help us "curate" artist alley as we always have twice as many requests for space as we have space and we felt it important to have an independent voice guiding us on how the tables are distributed. I'll be frank, it is an immense amount of work, with virtually no financial gain for the con, but it is a critical part of the show for both the artists and the fans. I'm proud of what we've done with Artist Alley.

SPURGEON: According to what you might know from having heard back from vendors or surrounding business, or we comics people really as cheap as we're sometimes told?

FENSTERMAN: Ha! Let's see, how can I approach this one! In all genuineness, most people associated with the world of comics are small business owners and free lancers, if you are not creative in how you market and conduct your business, you will not have a business, I know this first hand from my own background, and I respect it. It was a learning curve for Reed in the first few years though. As a company Reed often deals with big companies that pay to have all of there materials sent to the convention center. On NYCC a huge percentage of our customers cart in there own materials. This created havoc with the unions at Javits as there are strict rules around such matters. Last year, we created a program and spent a large amount of many to hire union labor to help our exhibitors haul everything in. The meant the unions were happy (I have no interest in waking up under the new Jets stadium one day) and our customers got free labor and didn't have to break a sweat. So that's my way of saying that I don't think comic folks are cheap, but rather resourceful! And I'm proud of how we've tried to help them be resourceful out of respect to there business.

imageSPURGEON: How do you, personally, know if a show is successful? Is there a sign you look for, a certain level of buzz or a certain ferocity to the crowds? At what point do you take that first breath of air in knowing that things have gone well? Is that something you know at the show, going in, long afterwards...? What's your measure of success?

FENSTERMAN: I take a breath on Sunday night when the con is over and not until then. Seriously. We measure success a few different ways; ticket sales and crowds, we want the place jammed. Is it cool? The con has to be cool, fun, exciting, new and engaging. Media coverage as we want this event to raise the awareness and stature of the popular arts in culture at large. Did everything go relatively smoothly on site? The president of Reed joked with me that this is the only event Reed runs that one measure of success is if every customer actually got in and got in safely! Lastly we do in depth and intense satisfaction surveys after the event to all of our constituents (pros, fans, exhibitors) that give us pages and pages of data on which the event is rated. This is a process we take seriously as if the show was not well received and the fans and customers were not happy our compensation reflects that. I only point that out as it underscores a lot of my answers here -- our driving goal in all that we do is to promote a healthy growing industry, create an event that makes our fans happy and helps our customers business. This is at the core of all of our decisions and it's a blast every day to come to work and find ways to wow our fans and customers.

SPURGEON: Hey, before you go: Is there anything to be said about BEA 2009 and comics' place in it? Has comics settled into a groove at that show, or is there anything you'd like to see done that hasn't been done yet?

FENSTERMAN: BEA '09 is going to be an interesting event. The publishing world has been a tumultuous one this year and you are going to see a number of changes in how we do things at BEA this year. Does graphic literature have a larger place in those plans? I certainly think it does as graphic literature is one of the bright spots on publishing's sales lists right now. In an even broader sense though, I think the NYCC has a few things it can learn from BEA and BEA certainly has a some learning it can take from NYCC, that's what makes my role fun -- and maddening -- but mostly fun!

*****

* photos from my own trip last year; that's 2008 GOH Mo Willems (on the left) and Vito "I Am Comics In New York City" Delsante (on the right). I have no idea who those ladies at the booth might be, or who's in that signing.
* logos from the NYCC site

*****

image

*****
*****
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: Hourly Journal Comic Exhibit

* go, look: I have no idea what the hell is going on here, but it's very cute

* go, look: Jon Vermilyea music video

* go, look: Sandy Bilus reviews Tamara Drewe

* go, look: 08 previewed
 
posted 3:40 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #148 -- Scattered

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Your Five Favorite Marvel or DC Comics Single Issues, Nothing From The Same Series Twice." This is how they responded.

*****

image

Frank Santoro

* Dark Knight #3
* Watchmen #11
* New Gods #7
* 2001 #5
* Tales to Astonish #82

*****

image

Tom Spurgeon

1. Mister Miracle #16
2. Kamandi #10
3. Hulk #182
4. X-Men #128
5. Thor #130

*****

image

Jason Michelitch

* Ambush Bug Nothing Special #1
* Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21
* The Batman Adventures: Mad Love
* Marvel Tales #1 (I promise this isn't just a cop-out reprint of multiple issues...this was one of the first comics I ever had, and I read it literally to pieces)
* Captain America #250

*****

image

Uriel A. Duran

1) Justice League -- The New Frontier Special #1
2) Hitman #21
3) What If? #114
4) The Avengers #1 1/2
5) Legends Of The DC Universe #14

*****

image

Johnny Bacardi

1. Amazing Spider-Man #16
2. Strange Tales #131
3. Bat Lash #2
4. Amazing Adventures feat. War of the Worlds #28
5. The Shadow #2

*****

image

Michael Grabowski

* Amazing Adventures "featuring War of the Worlds" #39
* The Avengers #93
* Captain America #208
* Daredevil #177
* Saga of the Swamp Thing #21

*****

image

Leif Jones

* Batman #404
* Uncanny X-Men Annual #10
* All Star Superman #5
* Hellblazer #27
* Watchmen #1

*****

image

Tom Bondurant

1. Justice League of America Vol. 1 #144
2. New Teen Titans Vol. 1 #39
3. Detective Comics #500
4. 'Mazing Man #1
5. Green Lantern Vol. 2 #79

*****

image

Michael Aushenker

* Marvel Double Feature #11 -- First comic book I ever read: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby on "Captain America"; Lee and Gene Colan on "Iron Man." 'Nuff said!
* Amazing Fantasy #15 -- May not technically be one of the best Spider-Man stories, but it's definitely the most memorable.
* Ghost Rider #35 -- Creepy, chilling, haunting like a "Twilight Zone." Ghost Rider vs. The Grim Reaper! Had writer/artist Jim Starlin and inker Steve Leialoha stayed on the book, this may have been one of the greatest series from the 1970s, not just a B-level trashy pleasure.
* The Human Fly #8 - In which artist Frank Robbins goes to town, pitting the Fly against Copperhead at the Metropolitan Museum, and rendering the White Tiger in his inimitable style. Hey, how do you save a bunch of elementary kids in rising sewer water? You get them all into a rare giant vase and you surf it to safety, you idiot!
* Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen #9 -- What a finale! I've never, ever seen a series go out like this. Totally bad-ass. And one of the most brutal, twisted, sadistic issues ever to bear the Comics Code stamp of approval. Boy, were they asleep at the wheel on this one! Even though much of it was implied or off panel, I still can't believe what they got away with. Forget Combat Kelly: writer Gary Freidrich should've got a medal!

*****

image

Matthew Wave

1) DC Comic Presents #66*
2) Marvel Premiere #28**
3) Marvel Team-Up #74***
4) Wonder Woman Annual #2****
5) All Star Superman #3*****

* The only comic book to ever make me cry, totally divorced from its content (storyline/subject matter/theme), but instead merely from the sheer beauty of the art
**The Legion of Monsters!
***Spider-Man and The-Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players!
****Not many comic books feature both of my second-favorite cartoonists -- Ramona Fradon and Trina Robbins
*****Maayyybeee? Because it's my favorite issue of this great series?

*****

image

Christopher Duffy

* Mister Miracle #9
* Spider-Man #19
* Secret Origins #10
* Lobo #21
* Strange Tales #179

*****

image

John Vest

1. Fantastic Four #27 -- Some of the funniest dialogue from the Thing. The Sub-Mariner always worked great as a guest star in the early Fantastic Four issues.
2. Avengers #56 -- Cap finally comes to terms with Bucky's death.
3. Daredevil #92 -- I liked the Daredevil issues with the Black Widow as co-star, illustrated by Gene Colan.
4. The Amazing Spider-Man #25
5. Savage Tales #2 -- Beautiful artwork by Barry Windsor-Smith

*****

image

Douglas Wolk

* Watchmen #5
* Warlock (1975) #11
* Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #1
* All Star Superman #10
* Thriller #4

*****

image

Sean Kleefeld

1. Fantastic Four #254
2. Batman #237
3. The New Mutants #45
4. The Flash #211
5. Action Comics #421

*****

image

Mike Lynch

* Daredevil Special #1 (1967) "Electro and His Emissaries of Evil"
* Justice League of America #100 -- JLA/JSA team up
* Shazam #1
* DC Special #15 -- Jack Cole's Plastic Man reprints!
* 100-Page Super Spectacular DC #18 (1973) which reprinted "The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue"

A great topic and makes me want to pull all these out of their boxes and go back down memory lane.

*****

image

Russell Lissau

1. Uncanny X-Men #173
2. Astonishing X-Men #1
3. Batman #404
4. Vigilante #1 (1980s series)
5. Batman: The Long Halloween #1

*****

image

Sean T. Collins

* The Dark Knight Returns #4
* Seven Soldiers of Victory #1
* New Gods #6
* Legends of the Dark Knight #29
* New X-Men #114

*****

image

Mark Coale

1. Animal Man #5
2. Justice League of America #195
3. Avengers #224
4. Flash #179
5. Legion of Substitute Heroes Special #1

*****

image

Scott Cederlund

1) Avengers #200
2) Legion of Super-Heroes #297
3) Fantastic Four #236
4) Watchmen #5
5) Sandman #21

*****

image

Gil Roth

* Fantastic Four #176
* Daredevil #181
* X-Men #141
* Watchmen #6
* All-Star Superman #6

*****

image

Keith Feltis

* Batman #393
* Daredevil #282
* Blade #2 (Guggenheim and Chaykin series)
* Wolverine #2 (Claremont and Miller series)
* Star Wars #38

*****

image

Will Pfeifer

1. Heckler #4 -- the Wile E. Coyote issue, as I like to call it
2. Flex Mentallo #4 -- Morrison and Quitely
3. All-Star Superman #10 -- More Morrison and Quitely
4. Daredevil #230 -- Matt Murdock gets up off the mat in the "Born Again" storyline
5. Superman Annual #11 -- "For the Man Who Has Everything" by Moore and Gibbons

*****

image

Andrew J. Mansell

1. Fantastic Four #77
2. Tales of Asgard #1
3. New Gods #7
4. Justice League of America #83 -- Best JLA/JSA team-up!
5. Batman #217 -- Frank Robbins sends Robin to college and ushers in a new era and freaks me out!!!

*****

image

Michael Ryan

* Metal Men # 3 -- the robots battle a mutant egg from space.
* Adventure #340 -- One of Triplicate Girl’s bodies is disintegrated by Computo.
* X-Men #10 -- Ka-Zar reappears in the Silver Age along with the coolest sabre-toothed tiger ever, ever: Zabu!
* Stalker #1 -- Steve Ditko & Wally Wood do Sword & Sorcery.
* Not Brand Echh! #6 -- if only for Marie Severin's drawing of "The Wisp" at the end of the Spider-man parody.

*****

image

James Langdell

1. Ambush Bug #2
2. Daredevil #227
3. Detective #559
4. Squadron Supreme #12 of 12
5. Strange Adventures #215

*****

image

Fred Hembeck

1. Amazing Spider-Man #25
2. Fantastic Four #34
3. Superman #149
4. Detective Comics #327
5. Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #3

*****

image

Marc Mason

* Avengers #223
* Justice League International #8
* Hitman #37
* Fantastic Four #244
* Amazing Spider-Man #248

*****
*****
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Matteo Resinanti!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 41st Birthday, Usamaru Furuya

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Ilah!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 71st Birthday, Leiji Matsumoto!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 57th Birthday, Turtel Onli!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 31st Birthday, Juan Navarro!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 43rd Birthday, Didier Pagot!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 67th Birthday, Kees Kousemaker!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 43rd Birthday, Alan David Doane!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, Geoff Johns!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

"There was something I saw in a porn video that reminded me of you" is apparently not acceptable dinner conversation.
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
January 24, 2009


Next Week In Comics-Related Events

January 25
image

January 31
image
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Week In Review

image

The top comics-related news stories from January 17 to January 23, 2009:

1. News that Diamond is raising minimums on books sweeps through comics like a scary flood that might only come back to drown you later on.

2. Newspapers and prose book publishing continues to contract.

3. Christopher Handley trial date set.

Winners Of The Week
Vincent Perriot and Arnaud Malherbe

Losers Of The Week
Fans of AdHouse's comic book-style comics efforts. They'll keep going with their trades and art books, though.

Quote Of The Week
"It's my hometown wherever I go." -- Irwin Hasen, on New York City

this week's imagery comes from one of the great underground comix
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In SF, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 79th Birthday, John Romita!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 47th Birthday, Roberto Santillo!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 62nd Birthday, Machiko Satonaka!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 55th Birthday, Lorenzo Mattotti!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Luigi Siniscalchi!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 56th Birthday, Steve McGarry!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Jason Gott On Borders' Post-Xmas Returns (1/23/09)
* Stefan Dinter On 25 Great Things About Being A Comics Fan (1/23/09)
* Michael Nicolai On The Best Thing About Shonen Jump (1/23/09)
* Some Anonymous Person On A January 24th Benefit For S. Clay Wilson (1/23/09)
* Michael Tisserand On His George Herriman Book (1/23/09)
* John Vest On Having Received Nature Comic #3 From PBS (1/23/09)
* Dick Hyacinth On Blue Lips On President Obama (1/23/09)
* Christian Maiwald On The Size Of KE7 (1/18/09)
* Brian Hibbs On Where He Disagrees With My Disagreements About His Most Recent Column (1/18/09)
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
January 23, 2009


Friday Distraction: Niko Henrichon

image
 
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
ICv2.com: Handley Trial Start Date Set

The comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com notes that the jury trial for Christopher Handley, accused of possessing child pornography in the form of comics books, is scheduled to begin February 2. A favorable ruling was won last summer on parts of the indictment, but Handley still faces significant jail time if convicted.

This is shitty law applied in horrifying fashion in a way that has nothing to do with whether or not you support child pornography, in the same way that possessing Identity Crisis #1 doesn't make you a supporter of snuff films. I've worked with families destroyed by abuse, I don't own any of the kinds of manga supposedly involved and I'd probably punch you in the face if you tried to bring it into my house, but I sure as hell own a copy of R. Crumb's "Joe Blow" and I'd rather not go to jail for it, thanks.

While I was running interviews on this site and off helping Santa at the North Pole, this interview ran with CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein and a Child Protection Advocate about some of the issues involved. I don't remember seeing it linked up, although I'm sure it was.
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Drawing Obama And Using Blue Lips

imageI'm grateful to Daryl Cagle for talking about a cartoon from Patrick Corrigan at the Toronto Star being killed because the editor felt that drawing the president with blue lips is a racial stereotype. Unfortunately, this just leaves me more baffled than intellectually sated because I can't find 1) anything that indicates blue lips has ever been a racial stereotype, 2) any reason why you'd draw the president with blue lips. Two explanations asserted, that cartoonists in Canada draw everyone with blue lips and that blue lips are a sign the President has been sneaking smokes, aren't very compelling and compete in a way that makes the whole thing seem weird. I think everyone should just stop drawing President Obama this way and we should pretend it never happened.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Is Any Internet Perennial More Fun Than The Alex Toth Character Model Sheet?



answer = no
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Quick Note On Sean Kleefeld's Long List Of "Lost" Editorial Cartoonists

image

Sean Kleefeld's list of editorial cartoonists being fired/being bought out/leaving is depressing all on its own, because it's so long and every single line represents someone whose life has changed and whose market is now worse for their absence. I'd argue there are factors that make it worse upon reconsideration.

One, this is a surprisingly lengthy list given these are cartoonists being asked to leave a specific type of professional ranks that was already lean from a couple of decades of slowly bleeding to death. It's not like you could point at editorial cartoonists back in January 2008 and think "Wow, they're everywhere! I bet they could lose a dozen or more of their best practitioners and no one would notice." Two, as Kleefeld notes, there are at least three cartoonists that could join this group in the next 60 days. Three, the list itself doesn't quite communicate the power from considering some of the individual names involved. In general, this isn't an NBA team cutting a back-up guard from Auburn you've never heard of. It's the Lakers, Spurs and Rockets parting ways with Kobe, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming. If David Horsey joins this group, Sean's list would have three of the five cartoonists (Horsey, Bok, Borgman, Toles, Oliphant) that I would have bet $10,000 two years ago would never be fired or let go or bought out or allowed to walk. That's astonishing.

Bok
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Rich Tommaso's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The cartoonist Rich Tommaso sent CR a Best of 2008 list. It consists of the following:

* Gus, Christophe Blain (First Second)
* Haunted, Philippe Dupuy (Drawn And Quarterly)
* Blackjack, Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
* Or Else #5, Kevin Huizenga (Drawn And Quarterly)
* Acme Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Drawn And Quarterly)
* Love And Rockets New Stories, Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
* Ordinary Victories Vol. 2, Manu Larcenet (NBM)
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bill Ayers: Friend of The President, Domestic Terrorist, Comic Book Critic

It's as good a single paragraph on the self-evident value of comics as you're likely to read, too.

thanks, Paul
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Joe Gordon's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Joe Gordon of the must-visit Forbidden Planet International blog gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

* Stickleback, Ian Edgington and D'Israeli
* That Salty Air, Tim Sievert
* Too Cool to be Forgotten, Alex Robinson
* Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell
* Absolute Sandman Volume 3, Neil Gaiman
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: More Humbug Pages

image

from Joey Anuff's latest auction as opposed to the imminent drop of the new collection, but reading one will make you excited for the other
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Three Political Cartoons

image
Dustin Harbin

image
Ruben Bolling

image
Richard Thompson
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Tall Timber

image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* one reason why Scott Adams is such a success is that he sees business opportunities in something as everyday-use based as the program by which he was uploading his files to the syndicate's service bureau.

image* this piece of PR made the rounds yesterday evening: IDW is back with a fourth printing of their Barack Obama biography, which you may remember was paired with a John McCain biography during its initial launch. I liked the IDW project. Although I wouldn't be able to make the case that the comic is anything approaching a significant achievement in art, there was an effort to provide information not readily available in the campaign's controlled dialogue and there was a definite application of craft throughout in terms of how it was presented. I can't say the same for the other recent Obama comics, which seem to me more like commemorative plates clumsily folded into some clunky narrative, engineered in a cynical fashion that at least in the case of Marvel's case helped make a lot of well-meaning retailers look like douchebags.

* this sounds pretty reasonable except for the pay-for on-line stuff. Nobody's paying for stuff on-line.

* the blogger Dick Hyacinth has posted another round-up of Best Of Comics 2008 lists. A couple of you have asked after a CR list. I think I'm done reading comics from 2008, but I have yet to find the time to sit down and puzzle things through for a list that should still definitely arrive by Valentine's Day. It's not working in a foundry and it's not brain surgery, but making critical distinctions between comics is definitely more difficult now than it used to be. That's one of the reasons I always laugh at those ponytailed guys that used to write about comics in the 1980s when they assert that writers about comics were better 10, 15, 20, 25 years ago. It's one thing to make distinctions between Love & Rockets and the "Pegasus Project" storyline in Marvel Two-In-One, and quite another to make distinctions between Ordinary Victories and Haunted.

* not comics: this is cute. But that's all, really. Cute. I mean, it's a commercial.

* this note mentions how the Angouleme founders came to easy agreement on the culture-changing naming of Joann Sfar to a special festival prize in 2004. I like that comics is still an industry where three people sitting down for a meal can change the direction and perception of the entire art form.

image* so I went to the comic book shop yesterday and the shop owner rubbed his hands with glee when talking of his sell-out on Final Crisis #6, some apparently at prices not the cover price. I just wanted to read the damn thing, as I've been following the series. Does anyone out there have an extra that they'd send me? We'll work something out. Update: Done. Thanks, everyone.

* also, when you're at the comic shop and across the store you hear one excited guy verbally walk another just-as-fired-up guy through the entire plot of the movie Bubba Ho-Tep, there's something charming and old-school about it. It's the kind of ridiculous, obsessive and harmless clubhouse chatter most of us have been hearing in comic book shops since the early '80s (when the movie would have been Buckaroo Banzai). However, when you hit the cash register and as you walk by them you see that the two guys having this largely inarticulate, giggly conversation are well into their 50s, and might have been the exact same guys you once heard enthuse about Perfect Tommy, it all becomes much less charming.

* I think the person that wrote this post knows the answer to why e-books are priced so high is likely that the industry that has traditionally dealt with such properties has a baseline, survival interest in keeping the prices high enough that they can stick around. What's interesting is that it seems to me both ends of the price spectrum can screw the talent, with low-price or free books providing greater benefit to the publisher that offers them (by drawing their income from a large number of books or through self-promotion of an individual or business model) than the authors.

* finally, one more not comics note: I loved National Football League history when I was a little kid, far before I had any comprehension exactly what I was reading and how to process it. I found other ways in. Sometimes I just fixated on a name: Bronco Nagurski, Whizzer White, Roman Gabriel... In that sense, there was never any better pair of appellations to fire the thoughts of a seven-year-old with comic books and the Mitchell Elementary playground as his main reference points than the wide receivers for the great Cleveland Browns teams of the 1940s-1950s: Mac Speedie and Dante Lavelli. Lavelli has just passed away.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Pet!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 83rd Birthday, Bal Thackeray!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 37th Birthday, Nicolas Lannoy!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 32nd Birthday, Conz!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, Francesco Ciampi!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 30th Birthday, Frederik Salsedo!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, Sven van der Hart!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 57th Birthday, Klaus Janson!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 75th Birthday, Don Wright!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Doc Savage!
Most Adorable Cartoon Of The Day

Exhibits/Events
I Would Go To This

History
Marvel's 4X4 Ads

Industry
Draft Lists For Webcomics 100

Interviews/Profiles
Pulse: Jon Kroll
Wizard: Jan Van Meter
Comixtalk: Donna Barr
Manga Life: Chynna Clugston

Not Comics
Free Desk Calendar
Related Trade Publications Dying

Publishing
Geoff Vasile Guest Strip
Jeff Smith Doing Book For Toon?

Reviews
Paul O'Brien: Various
ADD: JLA Deluxe Vol. 1
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Greg McElhatton: Punisher #1
Kevin Church: Universal War #1
Richard Bruton: The Wolfmen Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Magic Trixie
Sean T. Collins: Tokyo Tribes Vols. 1-2
Ed Sizemore: 20th Century Boys Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: D.Gray-Man Vol. 12
Johanna Draper Carlson: American Flagg!
ADD: The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For
 

 
How God Says, "Go To Bed Right Now"

image

via
 
posted 5:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
January 22, 2009


Go, Read: Bill Schanes Interview On New Diamond Minimum Order Levels

I'm not prepared to comment as of yet, but if you're a follower of North American comics industry news you'll want to go read the interview Newsarama scored with Bill Schanes about the new minimum order numbers. I believe the only specific new news is when the new standards will go into effect: soon.

You should read Steven Grant and his historically-informed analysis, too.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Claude Moliterni, 1932-2009

Claude Moliterni, a massively prolific writer, editor and critic who was one of the founders of the Angouleme Festival and a key player in the 20th Century's re-consideration of comics as a vital cultural and artistic force through his writing and exhibition organizing, died on Tuesday evening from a heart attack. He was 76 years old.

A writer of spy and crime prose books, Moliterni became an editor at Hachette in the mid-1950s. Most of his early work on behalf of comics came in the next decade. He became involved in France's influential comics-advocacy groups by becoming president of the Societe civile d'etudes et de recherches des litteratures dessinees (SOCERLID) in 1964, and founding the magazine Phenix in 1966, remaining its editor until it ended in 1977. In 1966 he joined the organizers of the Lucca Festival and in 1969 he founded la Convention de la bande dessinee a Paris. In 1967, Moliterni and Pierre Couperie organized the exhibition "Bande dessinee et figuration narrative" for the Musee des arts decoratifs de Paris, during a time his brief biography that comics were looked on with great suspicion in terms of their artistic value.

The 1970s saw Moliterni reach a position of influence that he utilized on comics behalf. Starting in 1973, Moliterni was editorial director at Editions Dargaud, serving in an supervisory capacity over a wide range of the most popular comics magazine such as Pilote and Luky Luke Magazine. He would love that position in 1989. Moliterni would move from there into a major position with Langereau Gautier, where he spent two years, and then Langereau Gautier, where he remained most of the 1990s. He had an extensive career as a comics scriptwriter, starting in 1965 with Scarlett Dream and encompassing a number of genres and collaborators.

imageMoliterni followed up on the success of the Musee des arts decoratifs show in two ways. The first is that he became one of the world's most active comics art show organizers. One source suggesting he may have helped put together more than 200 shows between 1968 and 2005. Among those receiving his attention through such an exhibition were giants like Will Eisner, Charles Schulz and, Hugo Pratt and Moebius. The second is as a writer. A book related to that art show (or the great coincidence of a book titled Bande dessinee et Figuration narrative) was the first of a long run of books of criticism and history including L'Histoire de la bande dessinee d'expression francaise (1972), two volumes of L'Encyclopedie de la bande dessinee (1974-1975), L'Histoire mondiale de la bande dessinee (1980) and a number of collaborations over the last two decades in print, on computer-ready formats and on-line.

Perhaps his great contribution during that full, flush period -- or at least the one for which he's best known -- is his role acting as one of the co-founders of the Festival International de la Bande Dessinee d'Angouleme, along with Jean Mardikian and Francis Groux. That show has become one of the world's two or three largest comics festivals and is arguably its most important, some believe by a wide, wide margin. It's a big enough show to be known by the name of its host city, and Angouleme the festival is certainly a giant presence to all European comics professionals and fans.

Claude Moliterni will be honored at the Festival's awards ceremony on February 1.
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Shaenon Garrity's Best Of 2008

image

Cartoonist and compelling writer about comics Shaenon Garrity gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. The Great Outdoor Fight,, Chris Onstad
2. Cat Eyed Boy,, Kazuo Umezu.
3. Willie and Joe: The WWII Years,, Bill Mauldin
4. Girl Genius,, Phil and Kaja Foglio
5. Family Man,, Dylan Meconis
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were Near Deer Park, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: TS Sullivant Archive

image
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Two On The Aisle

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Brad Anderson, Stan Stamaty

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Sizeable On-Line Webcomics Exhibit/Interview Set At Greylock Arts

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the former syndicated strip cartoonist Aaron McGruder issues a response to claims he said Barack Obama wasn't black because he wasn't a descendant of slaves.

image* I did not know that in addition to doing his law-related comics, Stu Rees does legal work on behalf of cartoonists. Hopefully not this kind.

* not comics: the read of the day is probably this passionate beatdown from Derek Kirk Kim directed at the producers of a movie version of a cartoon Airbender, The Last Avatar for casting as Caucasian a cast the cartoon would have you believe is Asian. I only know this movie as director M. Night Shyamalan's attempt to re-establish his career as an A-list hitmaker after punishing audiences with awful movies like that recent Marky Mark Vs. The Ents fiasco. So clearly this film should be destroyed. Seriously, though, the thoroughness of the casting decisions really makes it seem like some sort of conscious decision was made. If you're list-averse, like I am, Kim provides information through which you can object to this thing in more personal fashion.

* the writer Mark Evanier has an essay up about the 2005 passing of fan and artist Bernie Zuber. There's a link in Evanier's piece to a mental health-related site where Zuber opines about the similarities between the mentally ill and members of fandom.

* finally, I totally missed this depressing article that officials in the UK are moving to better establish drawn images of horrible, horrible things as against the law. I find this kind of thing to always be a bad idea, no matter how much people fume at me with all of the immense cultural and emotional power of tragic child abuse at their exposure when it comes to fueling their scowls.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 33rd Birthday, David Nouhaud!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 62nd Birthday, Eric!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 51st Birthday, Howard Mackie!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, Alex Ross!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 54th Birthday, Dennis Mallonee!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 46th Birthday, Jerry Craft!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Athos!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Awww...
Evan Dorkin Pencil Art
Sean Phillips Sketches Doc Savage

Exhibits/Events
Richard McGuire Exhibit Report
ICv2.com Announces Their NYCC Panels

History
On Wanting More Women Superheroes

Industry
That's A Nice Premium
What Wizard Wants For 2009
Project Wonderful Expands Scope?

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Paul Cornell
CBR: Jon Rosenberg
Newsarama: David B.
Newsarama: Ivan Brandon
Words and Pictures: Brian Fies

Not Comics
Craig Thompson On Vacation

Publishing
MarkWaid.com Launches
Boilerplate Book A-Comin'
Carol Swain Book Previewed

Reviews
Mike Gold: Man Of Rock
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Koppy McFad: Nightwing #152
Karin Kukkonen: Fables Vol. 11
Jard Gardner: House of Mystery
Jared Gardner: Captain America
Ed Sizemore: Sundome Vols. 3-4
Matt Dube: Jamilti And Other Stories
Alex Boney: Various Superman Titles
Beth Hewitt: The Stuff Of Life, Logicomix
Alex Boney: My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down
Richard Bruton: The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For
 

 
January 21, 2009


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

image

*****

Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's largely 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 tomorrow I would more than likely pick up the following and look them over. This might start a long dialogue between that person and myself that would likely end in tears.

*****

OCT080038 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER OMNIBUS TP VOL 06 $24.95
NOV080052 CONAN THE CIMMERIAN #7 $2.99

A vicious brute with an unfortunate haircut laying waste to dozens of families' lives in service of a dubious-sounding destiny, and Conan.

NOV080122 FINAL CRISIS SUPERMAN BEYOND #2 (OF 2) $4.50
I would so buy this if I could still remember anything about the first one.

NOV080203 MYSTERIUS THE UNFATHOMABLE #1 (OF 6) $2.99
The latest probably pretty good, maybe not, sure to be totally doomed either way mini-series from Publishing List The Unfathomable. I like Jeff Parker.

NOV082395 RUINS #1 $4.99
The 1990s were so weird that we spent an entire day in the Journal offices debating whether this over the top superhero was a humor book or not (it was).

OCT080225 TOKYO DAYS BANGKOK NIGHTS TP (MR) $19.99
I'm all for the late Seth Fisher's lovely art (some of which the Tokyo half of this reprints). I'm also all for books that sound like softcore porn.

OCT084471 REAL GN VOL 03 $12.99
OCT080232 GON VOL 07 $5.99
NOV084305 TEZUKAS BLACK JACK TP VOL 03 $16.95
UG080080 GANTZ TP VOL 03 (MR) $12.95
SEP080074 PATH OF THE ASSASSIN TP VOL 14 BAD BLOOD (MR) $9.95

Ongoing manga series of interest;not exactly the most sophisticated, gentle and literary bunch of books.

OCT083918 FLAMING CARROT COLLECTED LTD HC VOL 01 $49.95
OCT082308 TED MCKEEVER LIBRARY HC VOL 02 EDDY CURRENT $34.99

Two giants of 1980s independent comics in big, fancy editions.

OCT084470 OISHINBO GN VOL 01 JAPANESE CUISINE $12.99
Celebrated food manga brought over to US shores for cherry picking and reassembly. I think.

*****

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 so your shop may not carry a specific publication. There are a lot of comics out there.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, albeit a while back, 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. Ordering through a direct market shop can be a frustrating experience, so if you have a direct line to something -- you know another shop has it, you know a bookstore has it -- I'd urge you to consider all of your options.

If I didn't list your comic, it's because I've vowed to stop you.

*****
*****
 
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Chris Pitzer Clarifies On The Issue Of New Diamond Policy And AdHouse's Comic Books

image

A lot of the blogs and news sites have picked up on word from Publisher Chris Pitzer at AdHouse Books that the decision of Diamond Comics Distributor, Inc. to raise minimums on solicited material has forced him to cancel vague plans for a fourth issue of his Superior Showcase anthology.

"The first casualty that I claim is Superior Showcase #4," wrote Pitzer yesterday afternoon. "I was working on bringing a new issue out this summer that would have been filled with new talents that I've met over the last year. People whose voice may or may not have been heard before. But, I'm going to kill that issue now. Why? Well, at $2.95 there's no way I'd get orders to put it anywhere near the new threshold. Numbers for #3 were not that great, and I can't imagine #4 would improve."

This is an interesting announcement for several reasons. Pitzer is an established publisher and although the sales on Superior Showcase have obviously been low, it's a reasonably well-known title as far as titles like that go. It's also not a #1 issue, and as asserted here in an earlier entry, it's the later issues of a title that are likely to feel the greater pressure from the new minimums. This is due in part to the fact that a series with a few issues under its belt will have a track record for discerning whether or not it's making the grade, while there's always hope for a series that hasn't published yet. Also contributing is what some feel is an extremely unfortunate market mechanism by which most titles' numbers fade as a series moves forward. AdHouse is also a typical small publisher in that the bulk of what they've been doing already is original trades, so while this may hurt a series or two it doesn't seem like a severe blow. This highlights something many e-mailers have been saying to me: Diamond's announcement doesn't kill a thriving alt-comics scene as much as it puts pillows over several of the faces in a room full of sick projects.

I asked Chris for a clarification, both in terms of this specific title and other titles under the AdHouse umbrella, like the award-nominated Johnny Hiro. He began with a re-iteration. "At present we have no plans for new 'regular' comics to be distributed through Diamond."

Pitzer confirmed there would be no more Johnny Hiro comic books in the immediate future, with some of the forthcoming material folded over into a planned trade. "People will be getting more Johnny Hiro, though. We have plans to release a collection in June, which collect issues #1-3, while adding 'issues' #4-5. When/if we get around to issue #6, Fred and I will have to make a decision, as well as my consulting my Diamond rep.

Pitzer also stressed that the lower price point which may be lost in future years hadn't really paid off for the company. "In previous years I stressed a lower price point of our comics to try and compete with the market. The numbers never really rose, though, which caused our comics to break even, or lose money." He pointed towards two potential outcomes. "So, in the future we'll either create higher priced comics for Diamond, or not really distribute, a la the THB comic we did."

The publisher reiterated that a confluence of factors that caused him to rule out a forth issue of the Superior anthology, not just this well-publicized one. "It was just the final nail that made me decide to pull the plug on that issue. As I stated, that series never really made money. It was just fun to do."
 
posted 4:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Sean T. Collins' Best Comics Of 2008

image

The writer and reviewer Sean Collins has posted his list of best comics for 2008. They are:

15. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories Vol. 2, Ivan Brunetti et al (Yale University Press)/Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)/Love & Rockets: New Stories #1, Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez (Fantagraphics)/ MOME Vols. 10-12, Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds and Various (Fantagraphics)/Nocturnal Conspiracies, David B. (NBM)/Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories, Jason (Fantagraphics)
14. Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4, Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics)
13. The Mage's Tower, Lane Milburn (Closed Caption Comics)/Powr Mastrs Vol. 2, C.F. (PictureBox Inc.)
12. All Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)/B.P.R.D. and related titles, Mike Mignola and John Arcudi et al (Dark Horse)/The Immortal Iron Fist, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction and David Aja et al (Marvel)
11. Look Out!! Monsters (Geoff Grogan, (self-published)
10. Water Baby, Ross Campbell (DC/Minx)
9. I Live Here, Mia Kirshner et al (Pantheon)
8. Boy's Club 2, Matt Furie (Buenaventura Press)
7. Big Questions #11, Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)
6. Kramers Ergot 7, Sammy Harkham et al (Buenaventura Press)
5. Capacity, Theo Ellsworth (Secret Acres)
4. Travel, Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox Inc.)
3. Final Crisis/Batman: R.I.P., Grant Morrison et al (DC)
2. Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Joshua W. Cotter (AdHouse)
1. ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library/Drawn & Quarterly)
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Suspect In April '08 Comic Book Store Shooting In Custody, Records Show

Jevon Marquis Sawyer, one of three men accused of shooting comic store owner David Pirkola in April 2008 has been found: he's in the system, showing up in a records search as being held in Will County's jail. One of the three men has already been sentenced to a minimum of seven years for his role in the crime, and he was the one that offered to give testimony against the other two.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Sandy Bilus' Best Comics Of 2008

image

The reviewer Sandy Bilus has posted a Best Comics of 2008 list. Comics making the list:

10. Astonishing X-Men, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (Marvel)
9. Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope, Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)
8. Ganges #2, Kevin Huizenga (Fantagraphics)
7. Black Jack, Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
6. Northlanders: Sven the Returned, Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice (DC/Vertigo)
5. Essex County Volume 3: The Country Nurse, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)
4. Scalped, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera (DC/Vertigo)
3. The Punisher, Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov (Marvel)
2. Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
1. All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC Comics)
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #13

* I nearly missed this: Google is phasing out PrintAds on March 31. That's its ad service targeted to newspapers, with about 70 percent of the market participating. What I'm taking away from this is 1) it wasn't all that successful, and 2) it may be that the combination of rapid technological change and general economic instability is going to be way too much for anything resembling older systems supporting paid information to survive. I know that sounds dire, but things are dire.

* Jonah Weiland says he was misquoted in a recent LA Times article on the comics industry's struggles, and generally poops on the article. I agree with the broader complaints: as many potential problems as comics might have in the months ahead, it's done okay so far, and any intellectually honest article that pays more than five minutes' attention to the state of the industry would reflect that. This week's Diamond decision to raise minimums is the first big move that anyone has made that you could even chalk up to economic worry -- and even that comes long after more dramatic moves in other industries, like NBC's decision to put Jay Leno in primetime five days a week.

* two executives may be out at one of the Image-related studios.

* the best linkblogger going, Dirk Deppey, linked to this article this morning. I agree with the general message: you can't half-ass a commitment to an on-line effort, not at this stage in that arena's development. However, the substance of the article seemed to me made up of little more than a string of strong assertions and rhetorical buzz phrases and vague remedies (one graph seems to be saying "do something awesome like Apple did" -- yeah, I'll get on that) more than anything else. It also doesn't address some of the core difficulties about advocating for this kind of sea change in publishing strategies. For example it's all well and good to suggest that what people want is more options when it comes to choosing ways to aggregate existing news content, but if you're advocating that the structures that generate this content abandon their old ways of doing things to pursue this, pretty soon you're aggregating nothing. I'm also uncertain as to whether or not degree of commitment has anything to do with the New York Times problems, and that construction strikes me as problematic, too -- using the writer's same logic, it seems to me you could point to any company's most successful divisions at any time in their existence and say the less successful ones need to look all like the successful one immediately. I'd argue that that kind of collapse toward the most profitable element of a business endeavor is frequently what causes harm in the long-term.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Simon Fraser's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Simon Fraser gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

* Burma Chronicles, Guy Delisle
* Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa
* Buddy Does Jersey, Peter Bagge
* All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
* Parade with Fireworks, Mike Cavallaro
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: 1000 Tentacles Comix

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Punching Polties

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Spacemen Against The Supernatural, By Whitney And Hughes

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Why Fantastic Four #51 Is Kevin Church's Favorite Comic

image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I just noticed this summary of the yearly BD market report. I'll wait for Bart Beaty to tell me what it all means, but for now it's enough to notice things like production in the French-language market seeming to be up (again) and translated works rebounding as a market presence.

image* the last time I went looking for archived episodes of Leisure Town, I swear there weren't any. Granted, that question might have been asked a long, long time ago. There are certainly archives up now. That's a good thing, of course: I think it has a lot more in common with the idiosyncratic and popular webcomics of the present day than many of the significant on-line efforts of its era have in common with their modern equivalents. So while it's definitely not news, there it is.

* I totally missed this very sad story, as well as the passing of Ray Yoshida. Since I may or may not take the time to do formal obituaries, I wanted to mention them here.

* the review part of this article on Emmanuel Guibert's Japonais is little more than a description and calling it beautiful a couple of times, but I'm grateful to learn of its existence.

* some students and other attendees were apparently upset by a few of Aaron McGruder's statements at a speech he made on campus.

* word's going around that Shel Dorf is still in the ICU and while he can't receive phone calls would love to receive a fax from anyone who knows him and/or wishes him well: that number is 858-939-3272.

* finally, you can usually count on Sean Kleefeld to collect a bunch of historical instance cartoons into one place, and he did not disappoint yesterday. I also found myself wondering after the reaction of exactly two editorial cartoonists: Tom Toles and Pat Oliphant. Neither of those cartoons will go in either cartoonist's hall of fame slideshow (Toles is better today), but it strikes me that curiosity over how they might approach a specific moment in history is perhaps the best measure for an editorial cartoonist's value.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Steve Cuzor!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 47th Birthday, Shin Il-sook!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Patriek Roelens!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 37th Birthday, Fabrice Druet!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 52nd Birthday, Bob Weber Jr.!

image

I think this is Jr. I always get my Bob Webers confused
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Tsubaki Nekoi!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 53rd Birthday, Mark Martin!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Eric Burns Speaks The Truth
He Just Doesn't Understand Manga

Exhibits/Events
Apparently, There Are No Jobs

Industry
Happy 40th, Glenat!
The Problems With Buying Publisher-Direct
NCS Division Nomination Deadline 10 Days

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Diana Schutz
CBR: Christos Gage
Newsarama: Ed Brubaker
Tom Gammill: Jerry Scott, Jim Borgman

Publishing
Gary Gianni Adapts Verne
Lea Hernandez Launches New Blog
Peek at Absolute Version of Promethea

Reviews
Brian Heater: Motro #1
Katherine Dacey: Go West!
Zak Edwards: Young Liars #11
Hervé St-Louis: Invincible #58
Richard Bruton: Walking Wounded
Paul O'Brien: Civil War: House Of M
Sean T. Collins: BPRD Volume Nine: 1946
Tom Flinn: Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vol. 1
Koppy McFad: Green Arrow/Black Canary #16
Johanna Draper Carlson: High School Debut Vol. 7
Graeme McMillan: Showcase Presents: Brave and Bold Vol. 3
Greg McElhatton: Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight #21
 

 
January 20, 2009


The Squirrel Machine Site Launches

image

I try not to do a ton of publicists' work for them, but this is pretty cool-looking

 
posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Boris Drucker, 1920-2009

image

Boris Drucker, a prolific cartoonist whose clients included The New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, Punch and Playboy, passed away last Thursday at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. He was 88.

imageDrucker attended and graduated high school and college in Philadelphia, where he lived for the vast majority of his life. He served in World War II in the Chinese/Indian theater. After a significant post-war stint in advertising -- he would later return to this field as an element of, but not the entirety of, his professional output, concentrating on directly providing business with cartoon art -- Drucker began freelance cartooning with a sale to the Saturday Evening Post. He would upon moving to New York City and opening his own studio sell his first cartoon to The New Yorker in 1966, a professional high point. He would continue to contribute to that magazine and a growing client list over the next three decades. He also pursued comics syndication, including a panel in the 1960s called Future Boy.

Drucker's work, including several drawings and illustration he made while a soldier, are part of the holdings at Syracuse University. A book drawing on those cartoons, Don't Pay Any Attention to Him, He's 90% Water was put together by the cartoonist's daughter Johanna Drucker and published by Syracuse University Press in 2006. His work was shown at least once, in 2005. He contributed to at least one book, Henrietta in 1965.

Boris Drucker is survived by a wife, a son, a daughter, a sister, two stepchildren and a dozen grandchildren. A Memorial donations may be made to Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Renee French's Wolverine

image
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Help Dave Lasky Sketch For Charity

image
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Ryan Sands' Best Comics Of 2008

image

Ryan Sands of Same Hat! Same Hat! picked 12 books for a best-of-year list, and included a smattering of quality runners-up. The core list:

12. Red Colored Elegy, Seiichi Hayashi
11. Suppli Vol. 2, Okazaki Mari
10. Monster Vol. 14, Naoki Urasawa
9. Parasyte Vol. 3, Hitoshi Iwaki
8. Dororo Vol. 2, Osamu Tezuka
7. Travel, Yoichi Yokoyama
6. The Drifting Classroom Vol. 11, Kazuo Umezu
5. Nana Vol. 8, Ai Yazawa
4. Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby, Takashi Nemoto
3. Goodbye & Other Stories, Yoshihiro Tatsumi
2. Black Jack Vol. 1, Osamu Tezuka
1. Disappearance Diary, Hideo Azuma
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #12

One from the mainstream media on the declining fortune for American comic books and three from the last heaving gasps of newspapers department, an important carrier of comics and supporter of cartoonists since there have been comics as a commercial presence:

* I severely disliked this article in the LA Times on comics and the declining economy. There's too much in the way of anecdotal evidence standing in for national trends (a store closing in Virginia; a reader in an LA comics store standing if for all readers), too much straining to reinforce the article's main point (Barack Obama in Spider-Man), too much herding everything under the general economic malaise blanket whether it deserves to be there or not (Wizard World closing a show, which comes in a period of economic downturn and after about 24 months of Wizard Entertainment downturn). If you pair it with the recent article where it was made to look like a store had suffered massive sales declines when it really hadn't, it may be safe to say we're going to see a lot of articles talking about general economic downturns in comics whether or not they exist to the extent claimed.

* is it too early to identify this kind of thing, where the New York Times sells off percentages of itself to big-monied buyers, as a kind of parceling out of the newspaper's prestige? Not that their prestige goes away as they do this, but it always seems to me that investment like this is more for the name than for the opportunity.

* the prominent blogger Seth Godin's argument that what we really lose with newspapers is local, investigative news combines two of my favorite observations about the decline of newspapers: that wrapping itself in a package of features may not have been a good idea because those features can be assembled elsewhere, and some sort of doom was inevitable as it became more and more likely for readers to get what a newspaper gives you somewhere else. It's not quite the same argument, although it obviously overlaps. Comics are one of those things that Godin says are better to read on-line.

* Tucson will lose its long-running afternoon paper if no buyer is found; few expect a buyer to be found.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Bob Fingerman's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The cartoonist and author Bob Fingerman gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

* Le Chasseur Deprime, Moebius
* Petey & Pussy, John Kerschbaum
* The Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel
* The Zombies that Ate the World (Les Zombies Qui Ont Mange le Monde; Tome 4: La Guerre des Papes), Jerry Frissen and domestic art god Guy Davis
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Paris, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Turtle Guitar

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Venus #16

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: FM Howarth

image

one, two
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: All About Pisces

image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I totally missed this latest update from Steve Duin on the health of S. Clay Wilson. He's done a wonderful job tracking that.

image* There's a ton of inauguration-related stuff up today. The cartoonist Richard Thompson says goodbye to outgoing president George W. Bush in the drawing reproduced in tiny form next to this entry. (Thompson always provides a huge jpeg so you can take a closer look at illustrations like this one.) JP Trostle has a mini-Bush installation going. The Cagle site has its usual round-up. I quite liked Daryl Cagle's personal walk through the Bush Years. Dan Clowes is among Bay Area authors that were asked to reflect on the inauguration; it's a strong piece.

* today marks the seventh day out of the hospital for Carla and Lance Hoffman. Great news.

* I enjoyed reading Sean Kleefeld's piece on racism in comics, although I think there have been a few major, recent comics works that have engaged racism in a way that didn't involve fistfights and laser beams, including off the top of my head Love and Rockets X, King, Satchel Paige, My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down, Berlin Vol. 2 and especially The Boondocks. Maybe I'm not getting him, though.

* finally, I guess some members of the European comics-interested press aren't very happy about the Festival at Angouleme pushing back its award ceremonies to a time by which many of them have traditionally already skedaddled. As I recall, even our own Bart Beaty was on a train by the time the Grand Prix winners were announced on Sunday, and as someone that bails out of San Diego Con on Saturday night or early Sunday morning about 80 percent of the time, I can even sympathize that way. Of course, they're not complaining about that -- "let us leave early" isn't much of a rallying cry -- but the communication to the press of the move given that travel plans are made well in advance.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 33rd Birthday, Alexander Danner!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 63rd Birthday, David Lynch!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 42nd Birthday, Didier Tarquin!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Jim Keefe!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 59th Birthday, Keith Pollard!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Ugo Verdi!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, Jii!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 37th Birthday, Alejandro Aguado!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 41st Birthday, Gerry Alanguilan!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 81st Birthday, Malang Santos!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Sean Phillips Inks
Plane Crash Cartoons
Rick Veitch Draws J Jonah Jameson

History
Quit Being Unprofessional
Dan Nadel Misses Watterson
In Praise of Chandler: Red Tide
Ethnicity, Tolerance and Geek Culture

Industry
Poll on Yaoi/Shonen Ai
Poll On Manga Magazines
Poll On Books About Manga

Interviews/Profiles
Wizard: Kurt Busiek
Gear Live: Zach Weiner
Forces Of Geek: Tom Fowler
FPI Blog: Darryl Cunningham
Comics Waiting Room: Carol Lay
Comics Waiting Room: Paul Horn
Connecticut Post: Frank McLaughlin

Not Comics
I'm Not Even Sure How To Handle This One

Publishing
Leaving Marvel
Seaguy Returns
New Nick Mullins
AJC Restores Two Comics
Comics Writers What's Next
Dylan Meconis Re-Launches Site
Staying With Comics That Are Bad For You

Reviews
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Koppy McFad: Final Crisis #6
Greg McElhatton: Walking Man
Sean T. Collins: Captain America
Marc-Oliver Frisch: Final Crisis #6
Rob Jackson: Nocturnal Conspiracies
Don MacPherson: Never As Bad As You Think
Zak Edwards: Army@Love: The Art Of War #6
Leroy Douresseaux: Camera Camera Camera Vol. 2
Nina Stone: Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: The Laughing Corpse Book One #4
 

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

image
 
posted 12:57 am PST | Permalink
 

 
January 19, 2009


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

* new Frank later this year. Hooray!

* the cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran has re-launched her on-line efforts; they're substantive enough for that news to have a place here as opposed to a more simplistic promo post. Of particular interest is her attention to creators rights and resources.

image* I missed that artist Ben Templesmith was doing some Dr. Who comics, but Warren Ellis did not. I guess that's another reason why he's Internet Jesus and I'm Internet Casimir Jagiellon.

* I've heard from a couple of people that the author Michael Tisserand is doing or at least considering a biography of George Herriman, perhaps for Harper-Collins. Or I could just google it, and find it on the Herriman site.

* there's apparently a Charles Darwin comics biography in the works.

* although it sounds like a magazine about comics, a new free publication called Comic Strip will actually feature the work of emerging cartoonists.

* the ComicArts catalog is out, in anticipation of that line's debut/launch.

* the publication of the Immonens' Never As Bad As You Think is apparently either upon us or imminent.

* I hadn't know that David Rees was retiring his successful Get Your War On comic along with President Bush. That was a frequently hysterical effort, and I hope Rees will continue to do comics.

* the edition of I Love You, Beth Cooper that will come out with the movie of the same name won't feature Evan Dorkin's cover, but will feature several pages of his comics.

* finally, the family of the late Irving Phillips is putting his Mr. Mum panel on-line and selling merchandise related to the strip.
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Drew Friedman Covers The New Yorker

image
 
posted 6:13 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Holiday Distraction: Remember The Day

image
 
posted 4:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Initial Reaction: DCD Raising Minimums, Ending Adult Previews' Print Iteration

Reports yet to be totally confirmed seeped onto the Internet late last week that Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., the primary company used for distribution into the Direct Market of hobby and comics shops, has taken its first major policy steps in light of increasing worldwide economic stress. First, Diamond will either eliminate or all but eliminate the Adult Previews catalog in favor of the use of PDFs. Second, and more alarmingly to many in terms of its implications for small-press publishing, the minimum orders will be raised to $2500 from $1500. Unable to reach confirmation on what's coming and when, I nonetheless spoke to a few publishers and some other industry folk about what this could mean. Most spoke on the record, but one or two went OTR on certain matters.

imageMost of the people to whom I spoke suggest that Diamond eliminating the Adult Previews supplement from their catalog offerings isn't as big of a deal as it might appear, even given Diamond's long-ago hesitancy to embrace some dirty comics in its first few years in business. Two factors play a role in mitigating the potential harm. The first is that in the age of Internet and instantly accessible pornography from comics to prose to video the reliance of some publishers on erotic material -- and it's suggested the reliance of the comics industry in total -- isn't quite what it used to be. "Eros still exists although we do maybe one item a month, if that," says Eric Reynolds, the Director of Publicity and Promotions for Fantagraphics. "To be honest, I don't think this will affect us at all and I can't really fault Diamond for any of it in this economy." That doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of publishers producing and profiting from such material, but that such material doesn't run through the lifeblood of other endeavors the way it used to, and may be less of a factor overall. The second factor is that there's a precedent for Diamond in moving to PDFs catalogs with Adult Previews in that Diamond Books already make significant use of PDF catalogs, Reynolds describing that format as the primary DBD catalog. One source noted a particular but perhaps curious potential outcome: a PDF catalog may or may not be as available to whatever members of the comics-buying public made a habit of using that publication to scope out purchases. CR columnist David Welsh assembles the most cogent criticism here.

It's clear, then, that most of the commentary and general anxiety at least so far has swirled around minimum orders going up. In his disquisition on the issue published at CR on Sunday, SLG Publisher Dan Vado laid out the general implications in terms that are easy to understand:
What that means is that every book needs to generate $2500 of revenue (that would mean a little over $6000 in sales at retail based on the discount we give to Diamond) in order to be listed with Diamond. That does not mean that Diamond is going to cancel or not carry books which appear in the Previews but do not reach that benchmark, but it does mean that if you have a line of books which consistently do not meet that mark, you will not be getting your books listed in the Previews for long.
Note that the number of copies involved depends on the discount and the price point of the book. Also, as in the past with other minimums, this doesn't mean Diamond will purge its catalog of every single thing that fails to meet that threshold, but will use that price point as a tool to decide what will and what won't be carried, a pressing standard rather than an absolute measure.

imageStill, Diamond's decision could have severe consequences in a lot of ways with a number of publishers. It should conceivably raise greater barriers for sustained entry from new companies and sideline comics efforts. It should also have an impact on companies with which we're all familiar. Although prominent art comics publishers D&Q and Fantagraphics say they don't have a lot of products that would come out on the bad side of such a formula were it applied; basically that rigid enforcement would have no effect on of the books part of their publishing efforts but might potentially hit some of lower-selling, lower-price point comic books. A smaller publisher of that type, PictureBox, describes much more dire consequences for books up and down their line. Publisher Dan Nadel: "If true, I'm fucked. Most of my books fall below a $2500 purchase order, meaning I'd lose the Diamond market for books like Powr Mastrs, Travel, Goddess of War, Cold Heat, and, um, any other $20-range graphic novel. That would be, as a wise man once said, 'a bummer'."

A broader effect would likely be seen in some companies' ability to re-list items, running the same solicitation in multiple catalogs for the increased exposure it gives certain title, and the ability it affords retailers to ease their way into comfortable levels with certain individual products. Successful, long-time self-publisher Rick Veitch of King Hell Press told CR that this move and previous maneuvers by Diamond to increase the difficulty of such re-lists would "pretty much put the kibosh on my re-lists." Vado agreed that it would have consequences for his company's extensive re-listing practices, adding that the inability to use that method to generate sales for issues past #1 might curtail the publication of #1 issues that would by themselves have no problem meeting the new threshold.

In its report today, Newsarama notes that the last major change for threshold numbers took place in 2005.

The initial reports engendered among a measure of sympathy for Diamond in having to carry so many titles from so many publishers that fail to meet certain standards of business-like behavior. A few were intrigued by the fact that they hadn't been contacted yet -- whether the company hadn't gotten around to it yet or if they were being excluded -- while Vado was complimentary of Diamond representatives to step up and own the decision in their conversations with him. I heard from one or two people that hold out some measure hope that this might finally result in some form of third-party distribution, perhaps of the kind Vado discussed doing and potentially something with more investment. One commenter suggested that this could be a boon in terms of various publishers trying to figure out a more viable on-line distribution strategy, while another asked what this might mean in terms of the DM's overall ability to adapt and change and facilitate future growth from something other than already-established companies and titles. More should become clear as the vacation and inauguration days become regular work days later in the week. I'll keep an eye on things, and report back here.

*****

Eric Reynolds, Lauren Weinstein's Goddess of War

*****
*****
 
posted 4:40 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
We Live In An Age Of Miracles

image

you have your definition; I have mine
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2009 Prix Jeune Talent de la BD Winner: Taiga Rouge

image

The Prix Jeune Talent de la BD has been awarded to artist Vincent Perriot and writer Arnaud Malherbe for their collaboration Taiga Rouge, which is described as a traditional adventure story that features some of today's less traditional adventure story art (in the story, they describe that general group of artists in terms of being comparable to art from Blutch, Blain and Sfar). The album, set in 1920 following the Russian Revolution, was published by Dupuis' Aire Libre imprint in June, and is the first of a planned series. I'm not sure how the honor is processed; the award is sponsored by Virgin, Le Figaro and dDB.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Toon Horsten's Best Comics Of 2008

image

I almost missed this, but Toon Horsten of Stripgids provided the FPI blog with a list of top comics for 2008. They were:

* Drie schimmen (aka Three Shadows), Cyril Pedrosa
* Boerke #4, Pieter de Poortere
* C'est le Jeu des Hirondelles, Je me Souviens... Beyrouth; Zeina Abirached
* Jamilti And Other Stories, Rutu Modan
* Een tweede jeugd, Rabate
* De aankomst (aka The Arrival), Shaun Tan
* Hunker Bunker, Reinhart Croon
* Kiekeboe 116: Boek.bv, Merho
* Good-Bye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2009 Prix France Info de la BD d'actualite et de reportage Winner

image

A jury of reporters and journalists presided over by Patrick Roger has named Le Proces Colonna by Tignous and Dominique Paganelli the winner of the 15th Prix France Info de la Bande dessinee d'actualite et de reportage, a prize that goes to a comics work that represents some sort of reportage in comics form. Last year's winner was I believe Exit Wounds. Le Process Colonna was serialized in Charlie Hebdo and takes the reader through a murder trial process. It was collected last summer. You can see a bunch of the pages and get an idea of the authors' general approach here.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Aron Nels Steinke's Best Of 2008

image
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #11

* in declining newspaper fortunes, the Seattle P-I staffers are being asked to help visualize a possible on-line iteration of the publication. This would have to be the most fascinating reading ever, as on the one hand a staffer would have insights an outside consultant wouldn't and on the other hand there's such a huge chasm between what used to allow a newspaper to work and what allows an on-line publication to work that I can't imagine most newspaper employees fathom this deep down -- I can't imagine anyone constructing a future for a place of their employment without themselves in it somewhere. Also, I missed this blog posting that indicates that it may take longer for the P-I to shut the paper if as expected there's no buyer -- the paperwork isn't being filed.

* this is what I mean by the wide difference between the two models: the Star Tribune is a top 20 paper that's been cutting like mad and its value to buyers has still been cut in half over the last ten years with more to come. It also employs 1400 people. I found this story alarming, like reading that your super-healthy friend is experiencing cardiac failure when 95 percent of your social circle is 450 pounds and smokes too much.

* in declining book industry fortunes, Barnes & Noble laid off a bunch of people from corporate last week, while the rolling reorganization at Random House looks to have ended or at least reached a point of relative stability. The duties of former publisher Janice Goldklang at Pantheon looks like they will be split between Pat Johnson and Dan Frank. Upon Goldklang's dismissal, Frank was the person at the company cartoonists to whom I spoke cited as a recognizable, up-the-chain person with whom they could claim some sort of relationship. One admitted to having to go look to see who Goldklang even was.

* if I didn't link to this before, I should have, but retailer Chris Butcher offers his perspective on Deb Aoki's trends/questions article from a while back. It paints a fairly stark picture of the new manga market realities.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Michel Fiffe's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Michel Fiffe gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

* Love and Rockets, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez
* Scalped, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
* A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, Josh Neufeld
* The Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel
* The Goddess of War, Lauren Weinstein
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Rose O'Neill and Gray Latham and Their Unholy Union

image
 
posted 3:48 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Forming

image
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Dear David Lasky

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Erik de Graaf Comics

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Kioskerman Draws Richard Thompson's Alice Otterloop

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* although it's not the main point of the piece, this article makes the case that David Rees was first out of the gate when it came to anti-Bush art-making in the wake of 9/11. I'm not informed enough in a way I could suggest otherwise, although I seem to remember the post-9/11 issue of The Onion being really funny and smart and a tonic to the initial wave of political maneuvering that followed that horrible event. Still, Rees' work really hit when people first became aware of it, and I think it's generally under appreciated.

image* the arts-comics focused PictureBox Inc. is having another sale. I tend not to mention sales except at the publisher level like this one and then only rarely. But it's a good publisher, this is their second sale in as many months, and you can apparently get their astounding Gary Panter art book for a jaw-dropping $30. That's like seven Marvel comic books.

* I spent about a half-hour yesterday morning scanning through a German-based superhero blog, Tales From the Kryptonian. I couldn't tell you why, exactly.

* here's something you don't see as frequently as one might think you would: a project-specific blog, this one devoted to a series called Shadrach Stone.

* I was honored to be asked to interviewed for a Best of 2008 round-up at Inkstuds with Douglas Wolk and Paul Gravett. I'm completely inarticulate and insight-free, but you should listen to it for Paul and Douglas. Paul in particular goes after Chris Ware and Dash Shaw in an admirably focused, straight-forward way, however much I might disagree with the substance of what he says.

* I forget how I received this link, which eventually leads you to a site where a graduate student is assembling medical-related plots and elements in various comics.

* finally, two overheated comics Internet wars of words obliquely shine a light on a couple of interesting issues although maybe not the one of their primary intent. The feminism, definitional and even industry-critical portions of a back and forth between Johanna Draper Carlson and Valerie D'Orazio aren't as interesting as the notion of criticizing institutions while supporting them as a consumer. A battle between Erik Larsen and Steve Wacker, with Peter David commenting on the side, is a struggle over something that doesn't seem worth fighting over: how much Marvel's crass Obama commemoration resembles Larsen's crass Obama commemoration. The idea of what constitutes intellectual theft in industries that deal in multiple arenas of homage and frequent copying and which also traffic in some really rudimentary ideas may make it worth a glance for those of you who, like me, tend to think about these things way more than they deserve.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 86th Birthday, Landru!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 82nd Birthday, Lothar Drager!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 61st Birthday, Joe Staton!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 43rd Birthday, Guy Delisle!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Barbara Canepa!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Frank Cammuso!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Don MacPherson!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Interviews/Profiles
Details: Stan Lee
Pulse: Paul Tobin
Bugpowder: Rob Jackson
comiXology: James Sime
Bugpowder: Richard Bruton
Fanboy Radio: Ben Templesmith
Bugpowder: Francesca Cassavetti
Graphic Novel Reporter: Andrew Farago

Not Comics
Who I Had In The Final Cylon Pool

Reviews
Chris Sims: Various
Sarah Boslaugh: Gus
Richard Pachter: Big Skinny
Jason Sacks: The Caterer #3
Jonathan Woodward: Various
Richard Krauss: Papercutter #8
Various: The Hot Breath Of War
Rob Vollmar: Forever Nuts: Happy Hooligan
Johanna Draper Carlson: Love and Capes: Do You Want To Know A Secret?
 

 
January 18, 2009


CR Sunday Feature: Dan Vado's Informal Letter On Diamond's Edicts

After asking out loud after news that Diamond was raising its minimum orders and eliminating the print iteration of its adult catalog, I received the following letter from SLG head honcho Dan Vado. I thought it was a perspective worth sharing through publication in whole on this site. Happily, Dan agreed. -- Tom Spurgeon

imageBy Dan Vado

I saw your recent post about the new/old Diamond policies and I would like to confirm that these new policies are indeed true and confirm that they will have a chilling effect on the business as we know it.

Diamond has been busy contacting vendors all week to make them aware of the changes. None of this was good news, and I have to give Diamond credit for manning up and talking to everyone on the phone and not just issuing a press release and letting everyone fume and twist. Bad news is never easy to deliver and I have to say that the people at Diamond know and understand how badly this will effect people, especially the people who can least afford to be hurt right now. On a side note, I have never been one of those people to see Diamond as an evil empire, I never got the impression that the people who work there have ever wished that I would just go away and a lot of people have worked really hard to help us out. So, getting the bad news personally meant something to me. Others may (and probably do) feel differently, every one's mileage may vary.

So, to the brass tacks, the thing that slaps us up in the face most is the raising of the Purchase Order benchmark to $2500. What that means is that every book needs to generate $2500 of revenue (that would mean a little over $6000 in sales at retail based on the discount we give to Diamond) in order to be listed with Diamond. That does not mean that Diamond is going to cancel or not carry books which appear in the Previews but do not reach that benchmark, but it does mean that if you have a line of books which consistently do not meet that mark, you will not be getting your books listed in the Previews for long.

The average person reading this may not realize that most small press comics (and by that I mean floppies) do not meet that benchmark. I think if the average reader knew how lousy some of our sales were they would be stunned. I can't tell you how many times people have wandered into our booth at one convention or another and engaged me in conversation and walk out scratching their heads and reeling to find out that the comic or graphic novel they just love more than anything sold maybe 300 copies total.

The big short term effect of these benchmarks for SLG is in the area of offered again, or re-lists. Basically this is the practice of a publisher offering a previously published book for sale in the Previews a second, or third time in order to generate numbers for our backlists. It is a core part of our strategy as very few of the books SLG publishes sell at a break-even level on their initial orders. Historically our back list sales are stronger than the average company, or at least so I am told by Diamond, so losing the ability to offer titles again is going to hurt us in a very real and concrete way.

The other effect is that what few books we published as floppies will probably not ever see the light of day. While a first issue might sell well enough to meet the benchmark it is more than likely that everything from a second or third issue on will not. Again, I think your average reader might be shocked at how poorly some comics sell. So, if you're a small publisher or a self-publisher and your plan is to release a mini-series and then collect it as a trade, those plans might change.

It's a tough spot for everyone to be in. Diamond is in essence asking everyone to sell more in a recessionary environment or find themselves out of the catalog. Short term, a lot of publishers are going to find themselves with no distribution. While that might sound like I am angry with Diamond, I am not. I am unhappy, but the industry's current situation is one that has been coming for some time, recession or not. Some of the fundamental flaws in the industry and the way things sorted themselves out in the post Marvel/Heroes World debacle are coming to roost in a time when even the best run non-comic business is in danger of folding. The economic base for comics and the direct market is built on jelly. The number of people living hand-to-mouth in this business, from paycheck to paycheck, having to work two and three jobs is stunning and always has been.

imageBeyond the notion of benchmarks and new edicts from the industry's major, if not only, distributor is the fact that comics as an publishing industry perhaps has no economic basis for long-term survival beyond Marvel and DC. Almost everyone in this business started under capitalized and most smaller publishing houses are surviving based on one project or product that has been carrying them for years. Retailers start their businesses under-funded and oftentimes poorly prepared on how to run a business. I think almost every publisher fits that same bill. The next year or so are a critical time for the entire country and the comics business is not going to get out of this unscarred, lots of people, be they publishers, retailers or creators, who have been around for a long time are going to suddenly with no business left and no place to turn. People, and I mean everyone from fans to creators to publishers to retailers, need to use this as the last wake-up call after years of hitting the industrial snooze button and finally find a way to get together and address our common lifelong problems and find answers to them.

The situation is so dire that I almost don't want to risk trivializing it by using a sports metaphor, but in this case it applies. It's gut-check time and we all need to see if we can take something from this situation and build something new for the future of this business.

in the same note he acquiesced to having his e-mail published Vado wrote an addendum:

Yeah, sure. I might want to add, in that case, for emphasis that this is not a Diamond problem, it's an industry-wide crisis situation for which Diamond is not the cause.

People may not like Diamond, but I remember when distributors were melting down right and left that Diamond was the only company that paid its invoices not only on-time but early and helped a lot of people out just by being dependable. We used to call them The Bank of Diamond and they kept us going and helped us out a lot. I think Diamond is now doing what the rest of the world's business are doing, finding ways to get smaller, leaner and back to profitability. I may not like it, it may hurt us and even drive us out of the Previews, but that does not mean I don't get it.

On another side note, next month SLG was going to be rolling out a website for retailers only where they could reorder our books and get our vital info without sorting through all of the consumer crap on our regular site. I am going to be offering some publishers an opportunity to participate by listing their stuff on that site, in essence trying to become a distributor myself. There might be some opportunity to make money on that bottom half of the scale that Diamond cannot handle right now.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Things I've Found On My Computer

I have no idea who sent me a MPEG of Dan Clowes and Jonathan Lethem at MoCCA Festival 2005, and I have imagine that either this exact footage or footage like it is up somewhere on the Internet. However, since I'm really paranoid about deleting stuff, I slipped it onto my youtube account before I bounced it. If someone screams at me, I'll surely take it down.












 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: Jim Treacher re-writes Spider-Man Meets Obama

* go, look: James Owen draws the crap out of some background tapestries

* go, read: John Roberson in Seattle

* go, read: interview with Adam Cadwell

* go, read: a Walking Dead review
 
posted 3:40 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #147 -- Shut Up

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Comics-Related Conversations You Never Want To Have Again." Here are their responses, and thanks to all that participated.

*****

image

Ben Schwartz

1. Stan Lee, hero or villain?
2. Jaime or Gilbert? Why is it a choice -- you can read both!
3. What's Dave Sim's damage (always heard after he writes a new editorial).
4. Ditko rumors of any sort! He never does anything, says anything, or appears anywhere!
5. Will they ever make a Watchmen movie?

*****

image

Tom Spurgeon

1. Why is there no real comics journalism?
2. How can we make comic books mainstream entertainment again?
3. How can the CBLDF support that awful person?
4. Why does anyone have any time for alternative comics, since all of them are about a bunch of sad-sack losers talking about their lives and sniffing flowers and masturbating into socks and crying about how they can't get dates?
5. What is the real mainstream -- alternative comics or superhero comics?

*****

image

Jeet Heer

1. Complaints about Chip Kidd's design.
2. Is Kramer's Ergot 7 Too Expensive?
3. Is Crumb a racist/sexist/pervert?
4. Should legacy Strips be Banned?
5. Was Wertham a good guy after all?

*****

image

Eric Knisley

1. How can the Invisible Girl see if her retinas are transparent?
2. Is Luba a sex symbol or a sexist symbol?
3. Boy, I sure wish Jim Woodring/Art Spiegelman would write/draw a Superman/Batman story.
4. Pens are for pussies. No, brushes are for bastards. No, pens are for panty-waists. No, brushes are for Balrogs. Pens are for piss-whistlers. No, brushes...
5. Why can't we have great comics like when we were kids?

*****

image

1. Who will play [insert character] in [insert hypothetical movie and/or sequel]?
2. Who is the Red Hulk?
3. Debunking "Kirby sucks" claims.
4. Individual issues v.s. Paperbacks
5. Anything having to do with Diamond sales figures.

*****

image

Rick At Casablanca Comics

1) How much is this going to be worth?
2) Who would win in a fight between the Hulk and Superman?
3) Which Batman movie is best and why.
4) Why is (insert title) book late?
5) I do not want to hear how your mother threw away all of your comics.

*****

Sean T. Collins

1. There are aspects of superhero comics culture that are sexist and I am outraged/not outraged anew by the latest example of same
2. What's the big deal about Chris Ware anyway?
3. I think superhero comics are mostly stupid and spend most of my time talking about that in some way or other
4. Miscellaneous Man: The Movie made $500 million dollars on opening weekend but people still aren't buying Miscellaneous Man comics and here's what that proves
5. Hey, did you hear the controversial and stupid thing Creator X said? Let's talk about that for a week!

*****

image

Sean Kleefeld

1. Any "Who would win in a fight" question. The answer to every one of these is always: "Depends on who's writing it."
2. "What's your least favorite issue of [insert title]?" I'd rather focus on the issues I like.
3. "If you had complete control of comicdom and could assign any creative team to any book..." This is so far beyond theoretical as to be absurd. My stock answer is: I pull out my bring-em-back-from-the-dead machine and have Kirby and Eisner do everything.
4. "I have this old comic; how much is it worth?" Especially irritating when it's sent via email and doesn't include any indication of the book's condition.
5. Any "Who would win in a fight" question. Yes, I know that I already listed that first, but I really, really, really don't ever want to have that discussion again. Ever.

[editor's note: I'm nearly 100 percent certain I'm allowed to use something from one of the Light photos if it goes back to that site; someone correct me if I'm mistaken]

*****

image

Buzz Dixon

1. I do not want to discuss Mighty Mouse vs Superman
2. I do not care to know which superheroines should be tied up more often
3. I do not believe it's okay to enjoy kiddee porn just because it's drawings, not photos
4. I was there so don't try to tell me what I saw or heard
5. Say X-Men just one more time, mutha... I dare you -- I DOUBLE dare you!

*****

image

1. No, just because they paid to publish it doesn't automatically make it work for hire.
2. No, you're not doing the rights owner a favor by usurping copyright to put something on the web.
3. No, the claim that you're unwilling to pay for something does not make it okay for you to take it for free.
4. No, Diamond is not evil. They make decisions for reasons of business.
5. I have no friggin' idea where Jim Lee is, or if he's even supposed to be at this convention.

*****

image

* "What comics can I use to convince my significant other to share my hobby?"
* Defenses of certain comics that conflate not liking them with not "getting" them
* "Manga is a fad, like Smurfs and Pogs"
* "The North American manga market will never mature"
* "Maybe the current crop of manga fans will grow up to like real comics"

*****

image

Grant Goggans

1. "Howard the Duck? You mean that stupid movie?"
2. "Judge Dredd? You mean that stupid movie?"
3. The brief conversation I have every few months, confirming that Garth Ennis's final Hellblazer storyline is indeed still out of print for some insane reason.
4. The "I don't read comics, I just read manga" conversation, which admittedly I only ever had once, about four years ago, but it was enough to fill me.
5. Any conversation about how totally wicked awesome Mark Millar's comics are supposed to be. It usually invokes the "Do you think this A stands for France" line and eventually peters to an end with a feeble suggestion that I might want to try "Superman: Red Son," because I'm sure to like that one at least, if I gave it a try.

*****

image

Michael Grabowski

Webcomics rule/suck.
You should read these manga.
More superhero movies and who should direct or write or star in them.l
Spine vs. staple.
Dave Sim is/isn't a misogynist.

*****

image

Ben Towle

1) What books to give to people who don't read comics in order to "convert" them.
2) The conversation that starts like this: Q: "What do you do for a living?" A: "I'm a cartoonist," and ends with a discussion of the most recent Spider-man movie.
3) Whatever happened to Al Columbia?
4) The Old Funny Dan Clowes vs. the New Nabokov-esque Dan Clowes
5) How superheroes are "modern mythology."

*****

image

Jamie Coville

1. Comics should go back to the newsstands and be cheap just like they were 25 years ago!
2. I hate Manga, everything looks the same!
3. Dave Sim, Cerebus & Misogomy.
4. DC buying Superman is like me buying a house. Why should the builder get anything after I bought it once?
5. Support comic books, stop buying trades, you're killing the industry!

*****

image

1) "So, wait, you mean they make comics for adults?"
2) "OK, in the next X-Men movie, who should play Dazzler?"
3) "Why do you like manga? I just don't get it."
4) "How much is your collection worth"
5) "I have a bunch of old comics. Do you think they're worth anything?"

*****

image

1. How can you still read superhero books?
2. How can you read those black and white books?
3. What does Dan Didio have against Young Justice and the Teen Titans?
4. Is buying this comic a good investment?
5. Why are you writing about sports on a comic book website?

*****

image

Fred Hembeck

1. Betty or Veronica? (...or Midge?)
2. Lois or Lana? (...or Lori?)
3. Gwen or Mary Jane? (...or Betty?)
4. Lulu or Gloria? (...or Annie?)
5. Barbarella or Vampirella? (...or Stripperella?)

*****

image

Michael Aushenker

1) Stan vs. Jack vs. Steve (who cares who did what or whatever the percentage, it took all of them to create those Marvel superheroes)
2) Whether or not I'm going to go see the new "Punisher" movie coming out (Enough already! I hope Hollywood has learned its lesson...)
3) How the economy will affect the comics industry
4) How the comics industry will affect the economy
5) Who is stronger: Superman or Hulk? (that conversation bit the dust by the 7th grade)

*****

image

Frank Santoro

5. Fort Thunder artists can't draw.
4. Photoreferencing.
3. Eisner.
2. Miller.
1. Kramers Ergot.

*****
*****
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 37th Birthday, Scott Mills!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 43rd Birthday, Stephen DeStefano!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Yvan Alagbe!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, Alan Gardner!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 47th Birthday, Mike Lynch!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 57th Birthday, Patrick Lesueur!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Christian Durieux!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

If you find yourself watching a movie and trying to figure out if a certain shot was a tribute to something in Purple Rain, you either a) watch too many movies, or b) need to watch more movies of a higher quality.
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
January 17, 2009


Next Week In Comics-Related Events

January 22
image

January 23
image

January 24
image

 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Week In Review

image

The top comics-related news stories from January 10 to January 16, 2009

1. Rumors swirl that Diamond has begun to change policy to reflect the new economic landscape?

2. Various facets of comics- and comics-related industries feel the economic pressures of bad times and worse outlooks.

3. A new batch of Xeric award winners announced.

Winners Of The Week
New Xeric Winners

Loser Of The Week
The Wasp

Quote Of The Week
"Faltinians, as energy beings, would seem to reproduce asexually, Sinifer is presumably the sole parent of Umar and Dormammu." -- from a random printout on my desk that I was using as research.

this week's imagery depicts the cover to an underground comic book
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In NC, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In SF, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Brazil, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Jon B. Cooke!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 75th Birthday, Pierre Kosc!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 52nd Birthday, Ann Nocenti!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 42nd Birthday, Tom Brevoort!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 83rd Birthday, Oscar Gonzalez Guerrero!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 31st Birthday, Mason Mastroianni!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 76th Birthday, Roger Leloup!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 61st Birthday, Esteban!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 63rd Birthday, Francois Walthery!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 75th Birthday, Iwan Lemaire!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 82nd Birthday, Giuliano Giovett!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* ComicsPro On Their Forthcomng Memphis Meeting (PR) (1/15/09)
* ComicsPro On Marvel Making Stand Hardcover DM Exclusive (PR) (1/15/09)
* Frank Rizzo On The AJC Only Dropping A Half-Page Of Comics (1/14/09)
* John Vest On 25 Great Things About Being A Comics Fan (1/12/09)
* Daniel Vonegidy On 25 Great Things About Being A Comics Fan (1/12/09)
* Russel Lissau On A Bookstore Appearance, 1/22/09 (1/10/09)
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
January 16, 2009


Diamond Ends Adult Previews Print Supplement; Raises Minimum From $1500 to $2500?

I've heard now from a pair of sources that Diamond is planning to raise its minimums from $1500 to $2500 and is ending the print iteration of its adult comics supplement. My only worry is that I can't get someone from Diamond to confirm this, so God knows if it's true, and additionally I'm not certain if this is a) brand-new brand-new or b) the conclusion of a string of events/announcement of an old policy that was set in motion last summer or even earlier.

Now I see one publisher has published the exact same thing themselves.

If true and new, this could have a obvious negative effect on many small publishers, both the ones that make dirty comics and the ones that publish a variety of lower-selling titles that may have scraped by under the old system. A lot of the effects of the minimums being raised would be in how that policy would be executed, of course -- how much leeway might be afforded publishers to get orders to a certain point, or how much more quickly a lower-selling title might lose its exceptions given the higher hurdle to be cleared. It might also be a sign of a general tightening of belts to come.
 
posted 10:07 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Friday Distraction: Cartoonist George O'Connor's Online Sketchbook

image
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: Andrew Wyeth, RIP

image
image
 
posted 6:26 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Tucker Stone's Top 30 Comics Of 2008

image

one, two

30. Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa (First Second)
29. Wolverine: Origins #24, Daniel Way and Steve Dillon (Marvel Comics)
28. All Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder #9, Frank Miller and Jim Lee (DC Comics)
27. Lucky Volume 2, #2, Gabrielle Bell (Drawn and Quarterly)
26. Punisher: The Long Cold Dark, Garth Ennis, Goran Parlov and Howard Chaykin (Marvel Comics)
25. Nocturnal Conspiracies, David B (NBM/Comicslit)
24. Omega The Unknown #7, Jonathan Lethem, Gary Panter and Farel Dalyrmple (Marvel Comics)
23. RASL #2, Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books. (Which means published by Jeff Smith and his wife)
22. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell and Dan Best (First Second)
21. MOME #12, David B. and Al Columbia and Sophie Crumb and Sara Edward-Corbett and Ray Fenwick and Paul Hornschemeier and Tom Kaczynski and Killoffer and Nate Neal (Fantagraphics))
20. Paul Goes Fishing, Michel Rabagliati (First Second)
19. Injury #2, Ted May, M. Jason Robards and Jeff Wilson (Buenaventura Press)
18. B.P.R.D. 1946, Mike Mignola, Josh Dysart and Paul Azaceta (Dark Horse Comics)
17. Jessica Farm, Josh Simmons (Fantagraphics)
16. Drifting Classroom Vol. 10, Kazuo Umezu (Viz)
15. Angry Youth Comix #14, Johnny Ryan (Fantagraphics)
14. Core of Caligua, CF. Published Picturebox)
13. Nana Vol. 12, Ai Yazawa (Viz)
12. Travel, Yuichi Yokoyama (Picturebox)
11. Love and Rockets New Stories #1, Jamie, Gilbert and Mario Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
10. The Boys #19, Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (Dynamite Entertainment)
9. All Star Superman #10, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC Comics)
8. Tales Designed To Thrizzle #4, Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics)
7. Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby, Takashi Nemoto (PictureBox)
6. Criminal: A Wolf Among Wolves, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Icon/Marvel Comics)
5. Skyscrapers Of The Midwest, Joshua Cotter (Adhouse Books)
4. Acme Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Chris Ware)
3. Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
2. Good-Bye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn and Quarterly)
1. Ganges #2, Kevin Huizenga (Fantagraphics)
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Robin Enrico's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Robin Enrico gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

* Jin and Jan, Hellen Jo
* Empire Park, Jason Shiga
* Solanin, Asano Inio
* Octopus Pie Volume 1-2, Meredith Gran
* Hattie et Millie, Calvin Wong
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Early Cul-De-Sacs

image
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Two By Jack Bradbury

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Prisoner Of Second Avenue

image

plus I can use this again when Neil Simon kicks
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Sam and John Landscape

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: December's Copper

image
 
posted 3:43 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the deadline for the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship rapidly approaches.

image* I'm intrigued by the thought of Kyle Baker taking a crack at a biography of our soon-to-be president, and care not at all about whether or not the character makes an appearance in some superhero funnybook. I don't understand why stories like these always get put together: one is clearly more seriously-intended than the other. The former seems to me like conflating a well-funded documentary coming out from an established director with an Obama-like character being inserted into a pro-wrestling storyline.

* the prominent retailer Brian Hibbs provides commentary on recent mainstream comics publishing events; I agree with the majority of his sentiment and analysis. A couple of place I'd disagree with him. First, while it's clear that Marvel may feel emboldened in going to $3.99 comics because of the success $3.99 comics enjoyed at the top of the charts this year, that doesn't make it a better or more reasonable move and I think pointing out that part of it is more important than revealing Marvel's likely logic construction. Second, you can't argue that Marvel is making this kind of a move out of pure A leads to B logic and then suggest that Marvel or DC providing lousy solicitation is harming their overall brand when A has never, ever lead to B.

* finally, some not comics: the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com has a nice summary up of a recent magazine publishing news article, where the distribution company with about 1/5 of that market has announced a pair of attempts to pass certain costs back up to the suppliers. I don't think there's enough comics product pushed through that market for this to be a huge concern, but I can see it scuttling some arrangement should these things become industry-wide policy. Mostly, I see it as most people have seen it: a waved handkerchief from a guy standing on top of his car surrounded by water in the middle of a stream, another print industry in trouble.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 49th Birthday, Frederic Boilet!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 34th Birthday, Jamie Coville!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 49th Birthday, Al Davison!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 59th Birthday, Didier Convard!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 73rd Birthday, Oktemer Koksal!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 70th Birthday, Jean Van Hamme!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Painting With Panter
Sean Phillips Pencil Art
Designing Orange Lanterns

Interviews/Profiles
Cartoon Snap!: Dan Gordon
Panels and Pixels: Scott Adams
Modern Tales: Alexander Danner, Edward J. Grug III

Not Comics
Still Not As Gay As Batman

Publishing
New Mo Willems Is Out

Reviews
Dan Nadel: Herbie
Jog: Final Crisis #6
Sean T. Collins: KE7
Jog: Gus and His Gang
Shannon Smith: Various
Greg McElhatton: Big Skinny
Sarah Morean: Moulger Bag Digest
Matthias Wivel: Herge, Lignes de vie
Shaenon Garrity: Dykes To Watch Out For
Richard Bruton: Super-Sam and John-of-the-Night
 

 
January 15, 2009


So What's Up With The MoCCA Festival?

Over the last week I've received from several of you complaints/concerns about the 2009 edition of the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art Festival, scheduled for June 6-7, 2009. I may not have received all the complaints that are out there, but I heard enough of them I thought it worth tracking down what's going on through the site and also by speaking to the museum's director since September, Karl Erickson. Here's everything I know and what I found out.

image* The show is still on, was never for one second in doubt, and according to Erickson the museum is moving full speed ahead on it with a high measure of enthusiasm. They look forward to seeing everyone in June.

* The web site has been, according to their own admission, behind the times -- a reflection of some sluggishness in their preparation overall. The 2008 page was up even this morning, I think, but is down now -- that's the one you get to on a google search, so that may have been the source of some confusion. There is a general coming soon page that you get to through the front page of the site that mentions the show. Erickson says the site is in the process of being updated with all due haste.

* Some of the old e-mail indicators have resulted in people sending e-mail to an address or addresses that are defunct, I believe primarily former festival co-organizer Derrick Kennelty-Cohen's. This has definitely been confusing for some people. Erickson asks that anyone wishing to contact the museum about the festival use the general contact e-mail address for the foreseeable future. It's

* On the subject of applications. Erickson told CR the museum is currently getting applications into the hands of those with museum memberships. They will then move to those without museum memberships that have exhibited in the past. They will then make sure the applications get into the hands of the general public. They hope to have all of this done by the end of this month.

* Despite some discussion in-house about dropping the practice, the museum will continue to assist certain exhibitors with getting their boxes to the site by giving them the option of sending them to the museum and having the museum take them over for a fee. This is important because the show has a few exhibitor that bring in several cartoonists that offer too much material to walk it in themselves.

* The museum remains excited about the new space. A lot of what CR heard in terms of complaints about the new space was doubt regarding whether or not the neighborhood would be as amenable as the former one. I figured that way lies madness: there would obviously be boosters for both neighborhood, I'm not equipped to resolve any claims anyone might make on one location's behalf, and different people have different needs when it comes to where a show is located. I did ask Erickson about one complaint that I got from two people, the perception that this place might be more difficult to access for all of the cartoonists and fans coming over from Brooklyn; Erickson countered that this simply wasn't true.
 
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
We Really Need A Lot More Comic Books Starring The Delphan Brothers

image

these guys rule
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
New Round Of Xeric Winners Named

image

The Xeric Foundation has announced its latest round of grant winners, according to a release sent out yesterday. The Fund has released $25,031 to be spent on six comics projects. According to its press statement, this puts the Foundation at over $2 million in terms of total contribution to comics projects and various non-profit organizations in western Massachusetts.

* Box Brown, for Love is a Peculiar Type of Thing
* Ed Moorman, for Ghost Comics: A Benefit Anthology for RS Eden
* Annie Murphy, for I Still Live: Biography of a Spiritualist
* Ethan Rilly, for Pope Hats
* Sophia Wiedeman, for The Deformitory
* J.T. Yost, for Old Man Winter & Other Sordid Tales

Past winners include Donna Barr, Ben Catmull and Gerald Jablonski.

The Xeric Foundation was established by Peter Laird and gave out its first grants in 1992. The next deadline for submission is March 31.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Austin English's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The cartoonist, writer and artist Austin English gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Sammy the Mouse #2, Zak Sally
2. Lucky VOLUME 2 #2, Gabrielle Bell
3. World Best Cookie, Jonathan Petersen
4. Dorado Park, Lilli Carre
5. Jin and Jam #1, Hellen Jo
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Jeet Heer's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The writer, historian and critic Jeet Heer has posted a Best Of list for 2008. The comics he selects are:

* What It Is, Lynda Barry (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)
* Love and Rockets Vol. 3 #1, Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
* Deitch's Pictorama, Kimi and Seth and Simon Deitch (Fantagraphics)
* Gary Panter, Gary Panter (PictureBox)
* ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (self-published)
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Frank Santoro's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The first-rate cartoonist and world-class aesthetic agitator has posted a list of his favorite comics of the year 2008. They are:

Honorable Mention: Powr Mastrs Vol. 2, CF (PictureBox)
9. Kick Ass, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. (Image)
8. Criminal, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Icon)
7. Bodyworld, Dash Shaw (Self-Published)
6. Travel, Yokoyama Yuichi (PictureBox)
5. Speak of the Devil, Gilbert Hernandez (Dark Horse)
4. Omega the Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple (Marvel)
3. Love and Rockets New Stories #1, Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
2. Abandoned Cars, Tim Lane (Fantagraphics)
1. Acme Novelty Library #19, F.C. Ware (Self-Published)
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: 2008 In Canadian Comics

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: George Herriman

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Three Horror Comics

image
image
image
 
posted 3:43 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: I Hate W Deeply

image

I'm always surprised there isn't a metric ton of stuff like this
 
posted 3:43 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the increasingly valuable Jeff Trexler goes over recent filings in the Superman-Siegels case. The details in a creator/corporation dispute always make the company look bad, and in nearly every case deservedly so.

image* the publisher Dan Nadel either talks about what he's writing or writes what he's talking about, but I was happy to see this portion of a recent phone conversation turned into a meditative post over whether or not we pay enough attention to non-traditional manga.

* the issue of legacy comics has come up again. I don't mind legacy comics that play a specific; I just don't think there should be as many of them as there are. In fact, a lot of legacy comics barely making a living for their creators -- you could argue that the marketplaces was getting rid of a lot of them. Blondie is still the strip you have to figure out to figure out why Sunday comics are different. It's hugely popular, but it's not really popular in the way that greatly popular things tend to be. No one's giving up a four-figure strip. Ever. It's as if the #7 TV show were The Honeymooners starring Brad Garrett and Leah Remini: that, too, would have its adherents, I'm sure, but it wouldn't necessarily be a sign of health for that medium.

* retailer Joe Field sent along this link to his store's Obama/Spidey sales day posting; its clarity and good advice and general positive vibe almost made me not grumpy about the whole shoddy nature of turning what could have been a nice thing into some sort of small-picture sales tweak/pump/nudge.

* luckily, there are stories like this out there to renew one's contempt. This guy acts like an ass, but was also set up to fail.

* I really enjoyed the photos discussed here.

* yuck

* finally, Tim O'Neil writes a nice essay on The Wasp, of all things, proving he gets an invite to be on the masthead when they revive Amazing Heroes. I always liked the Wasp, but it's almost like you like these superhero characters because they've had less crap foisted on them than other characters, or crap that you avoided. I found it interesting to look at this piece in terms of the recent, broad discussion about the apparent dearth of female superhero characters. Maybe I just missed it, but it seemed like a lot of the discussion took place solely within the context of more recently published characters like She-Hulk: there was practically no discussion of characters like Wasp, Valkyrie, or Black Widow (perhaps being used in the next Iron Man movie).
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Animal Studies
Luckovich's Cartoon Crutch

Exhibits/Events
Report From Boys Of Steel Event

History
New Years
10 Things About Atlas
On Heroes And Heroism

Industry
NCS Division Awards Submissions Ongoing

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Greg Rucka
Cagle: Kirk Anderson
Wizard: Grant Morrison
Gear Live: Dan Thompson
Tennessean: Justin Murphy
Bugpowder: Adam Cadwell
Words & Pictures: Brian Fies
Bat Segundo: Alison Bechdel
Down The Tubes: Nick Abadzis
Down The Tubes: Christian Dunn

Not Comics
Pondering The Action Figure
I Like Writing In Hotels, Too
Paul Hornschemeier's Book Designer Gig
Evan Dorkin Remembers Patrick McGoohan

Publishing
He Did Not Read This Comic
Johnny Bacardi Looks Forward To These

Reviews
Tim O'Neil: Various
Richard Krauss: Weird Sea Creatures
David Pepose: Amazing Spider-Man #583
Zach Bowen: Buffy The Vampire Slayer #21
Richard Bruton: The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard
Robert Martin: Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?
 

 
January 14, 2009


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

By Tom Spurgeon

* Richmond Magazine has added Rob Ullman's Traffic & Weather to its web site. Editor & Publisher will be running work from Rob Tornoe.

* this probably doesn't mean anything to anyone but me due to its extreme arbitrariness and lateness, but I only just noticed that one of the Viz offerings this summer is Daisuke Igarashi's Children of the Sea, which I recall being popular in scanned form.

* Titan Books has apparently expanded its publishing arrangement with Joe Simon, with the result being a lot more books than originally planned.

* finally, Rodrigo Baeza writes in with news that the Argentinian newspaper Pagina/12 is currently reprinting four out-of-print graphic novels. They are El Suenero by Enrique Breccia, Rolo, el Marciano Adoptivo by Hector German Oesterheld and Solano Lopez, Ministerio by Ricardo Barreiro and Solaano Lopez (the Young Witches team!) and El Caballero del Pinion Fijio by Carlos Trillo and Domingo Mandrafina. Who doesn't love that line-up. Baeza says that cheap GN reprints alongside newspapers isn't an unheard-of thing, although other than some Spider-Man inserts and maybe the original serialization of Jar Of Fools you'd be hard pressed to find something similar in the U.S.
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Three Ways Things Could Get Worse

Here's a virtual triptych of links and story areas that indicate how economic troubles could specifically make things worse for aspects of the comics business in the weeks and months ahead:

* more newspapers will likely fold: Alan Gardner indicates a few that may have serious issues, including the home of one of the country's leading editorial cartoon staffers, Steve Sack. There will be plenty more as the year progresses.

* more newspapers will likely cut back on their expenditures for comics: Todd Leopold notes that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has cut back from two pages of comics to one page, as previously announced. (Frank Rizzo of the AJC objects to the characterization and writes in with details here.) These first two stories compound matters. In Seattle for instance, you could conceivably see the P-I close and then the Seattle Times cut back to a single page of comics. This would mean you'd lose two pages from the P-I, one page from the Times, and any strips that either paper was buying to find a place for it later on and keep it out of the other paper's hands -- with the result that the Seattle market could have 15-20 percent of the strips it had this time last year.

* bookstore returns habits bear watching: finally, I've received three e-mails from people over the last week or so noting that Borders either is or certainly might be heavily returning books right now -- including manga, and including copies of books that they had in the past kept around in order to get readers onto various series -- in order to clean up the balance sheets as much as possible as their fiscal year ends in early February or just generally as part of new management initiatives. Leaving aside the other dire consequences that could face booksellers in the year ahead: store closures, bankruptcies, severe changes in purchasing, I think a flood of returns right now could be its own story, its own concern. I couldn't get anyone to talk about this with me, so it's not confirmed, but it's something we should watch out for as a possibility along with the other two, I think.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
David Horsey Weighs In On P-I Troubles

image

I supposed I'd be within my rights to reprint the entirety of David Horsey's cartoon on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer being put up for sale in lack-of-miracle anticipation of it being shut down, but it seems like the wrong time to thwart that site its traffic. So please click through the image. It's a handsome, solid cartoon.

This blog posting by the award-winning cartoonist goes into his shock at the news, if I reading it correctly driven by the construction of logic where he thought it likely the paper's owner might buy the town's other paper rather than shut down the one it already had there. That's another thing that seems slightly scary about this closure: the paper's owners could have seemingly weathered the storm for quite some time due to profits elsewhere if they had wanted to, and the P-I was limping along like it always had, so it likely was a forecasting/future thing.

 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Colombia Coffee Growers Spare Peters

A federation of Colombian coffee growers has called off their threat of a lawsuit aimed towards cartoonist Mike Peters, and accepts his apology and explanation that a cartoon that conflated Colombia coffee and organized crime was meant in good humor. The group had released word last week that they were on the verge of doing this, which a few sources had taken to mean they already had. As far as I know, no suit was actually filed.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Oliver East's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The up-and-coming cartoonist Oliver East gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

* What It Is, Lynda Barry
* Jennfer's Story, Jenffer
* The Heroic Mosh Of Marys Son, Malcy Duff
* Travel, Yokiyama
* How To Be Everywhere, Warren Craghead
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Steve Duin's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The journalist and critic Steve Duin released a list of best comics of 2008 that I completely missed until it was pointed out to me. They are:

1. Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa (First Second)
2. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
3. Tamara Drewe, Posy Simmonds (Mariner)
4. Gus & His Gang, Chris Blain (First Second)
5. The Country Nurse, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)
6. Terry & the Pirates Vol. 4, Milton Caniff (IDW)
7. Good-Bye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly)
8. I Kill Giants, Joe Kelley and Jm Ken Niimura (Image)
9. Scalped: Casino Boogie, Jason Aaron/R.M. Guera (Vertigo)
10. Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Marc-Oliver Frisch's Best Of 2008

image

one, two, three
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Covered Blog

image

that's Jeffrey Brown covering an issue of Secret Wars
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: A Real Gentle Knife

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Three By Dustin Harbin

image
image
image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: The Last DJ On Earth

image
 
posted 3:42 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the writer and critic Douglas Wolk provides a massive list of forthcoming projects with a spine for 2009.

image* here's a better-than-usual feature on the music in Charles Schulz's Peanuts.

* some comics watchers talk about stuff they'd like to see collected. I don't think I'd be interested in a single volume here, which means the comics industry has conformed itself to meet my needs, which means the comics industry is doomed.

* this Chris Sims review of a terrible-sounding, depressing-it-exists comic book is very funny and well worth your time if you have an interest in comics' stranger corners.

* there's a short Jeffrey Brown strip in its entirety here.

* people keep sending me a link to this posting of a 1940s article on comics publishing as a boom business, and I am grateful for each and every person that e-mails it to me -- I'm looking forward to reading it.

* I think it's worth paying attention to this article on prominent comics retail establishment Earth-2's efforts to roll with the blows the general economic decline has dealt its business without coming to any definite conclusion that this means the exact same thing is happening elsewhere. I'm hearing stuff all over the place: sales declines twice this and record-setting Decembers. Still, the thought that a business can take a 20 percent blow and hang in there is also fairly awesome when you think about it, and I think speaks well to the overall, low-to-the-ground element of the comics business. Update: Okay, that would be awesome if it were true -- but it's not! The store is actually up over last year's figures, and the 20 percent was in specific title declines not the store's overall revenue. I did talk to one prominent retailer back in December who said they had suffered as much as a 25 percent decline and were certainly hanging in there by emphasizing trades and back issues, so the general point about the resilience of comic stores seems to me a valid one.

image* the third issue of Comics Comics is now available as a free download. I remember liking it. Plus, you know: free.

* Alan David Doane has surveyed several comics folk about their most anticipated books for 2009.

* it's great that Dary Cagle finally found a way to get permalinks into his widely-read blog, so that it's easier to link to articles like this long-ish essay on how to draw George W. Bush.

* finally, I don't agree with this Direct Market retailer's view of the current marketplace. I have some historical quibbles. For one, even though comics may have been on time when the retailer was a kid, they also had stock, reprint or substitute issues at times to keep them on that schedule and that would be a much more difficult strategy to implement now. I also don't think that saying alternative comics sell fewer comics in almost every store than mainstream comics sell is any great revelation, nor does it disqualify all of those stores that have made such books a legitimate part of their business. The anecdotal evidence is so strong that diversified stores have survived to a greater extent percentage-wise than focused stores that I have to imagine there's some truth there -- in other words, I've never heard of anyone closing after taking a big hit over-ordering on an issue of La Perdida. Still, I think a lot of retailers operate out of this general point of view, and I think there's a general truth involved that the way sales are done and focused shapes the market in ways that aren't always healthy in the long term.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 56th Birthday, Oliviero Gramaccioni!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 42nd Birthday, Leo Ortolani!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 59th Birthday, Paul Hulshof!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 93rd Birthday, Lex Metz!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 46th Birthday, Steffen Kverneland!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Nice Laura Park Cover Art

Exhibits/Events
Go See Marshall Ramsey

History
So Long, Piggy
On Early Otomo
On Milton Caniff

Industry
Fanta Scores First Wizard Nom

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Dan Slott
CBR: David Rees
Wizard: Geoff Johns
Robot 6: Josh Cotter
Wizard: Matt Fraction
Broken Frontier: Mawil
PWCW: Grant Morrison
Newsarama: Robert Kirkman
CBR: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning

Not Comics
This Made Me Laugh
I'm Pretty Sure I Already Do This

Publishing
On MMA Comics
Viking Project Teased
Comics He Quit Reading This Year
New Stuff At The Catastrophe Shop
Female Superheroes Being Published Elsewhere

Reviews
Noah Berlatsky: Achewood
Bill Kartalopoulos: Gary Panter
Leroy Douresseaux: Real Vol. 3
Chris Mautner: Into The Volcano
Johanna Draper Carlson: Various
Greg McElhatton: Robots & Donuts
Richard Bruton: Lost Colony Vol. 3
Sean T. Collins: Speak Of The Devil
Jillian Steinhauer: Forecast: Nozone X
Matthew Brady: Jamilti and Other Stories
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #1
 

 
January 13, 2009


The Best Thing About KE7 Is That It Makes Normal-Sized People Look Like They're Three Feet Tall

image

okay, maybe not the absolute best thing
 
posted 7:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
That Obama/Spider-Man Story Is Gross

The fact that Marvel wanted to do a story where their popular character Spider-Man meets soon-to-be-president and reported one-time comics fan Barack Obama is nice enough, I guess. It would just be a whole lot nicer if a company that has concentrated on story the last decade or so to astounding benefit made a solid comic out of the event rather than a kind of cruddy-looking, cynical one. It's not like there aren't a lot of stories you could tell there. What Marvel did instead seems to have more in common with a commemorative plate than the kind of gripping, pulpy narrative in which President-Elect Obama likely found solace years and years ago. By making it an oddity, the only value this comic has is as a collectible and as a press coverage totem. We have the sort of culture that loves this kind of light feature story, so good news there, I guess. Yet that also means it gets forced through the system designed to maximize the most crass, ugliest things about comics, not place a good comic into the hands of interested, involved children or other fans of the medium. Let alone fans of the man.
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Molly Crabapple's Best Of 2008

image

Molly Crabapple provided a short list from 2008 for inclusion in the Daily Cross Hatch year-end, best-of round-up. It was:

* A.D.: New Orleans After The Deluge, Josh Neufeld
* High Moon, Steve Ellis and Dave Gallagher
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Rob Ullman's Best Comics Of 2008

image

I almost missed this Best Of 2008 list from cartoonist and illustrator Rob Ullman:

* Brush with Passion: The Life and Art of Dave Stevens, Dave Stevens (Underwood)
* Sixteen Miles to Merricks, Barnaby Ward (Frogchildren)
* Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Josh Cotter (AdHouse)
* Burma Chronicles, Guy Delisle (D&Q)
* Too Cool to Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson (Top Shelf)
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Golden Globe Winner Waltz With Bashir Production, Background Art

image

by Asaf and Tomer Hanuka: one, two
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist Craig Thompson provides another glimpse of his forthcoming Habibi, already 405 pages long.

image* the cartoonist Darryl Cunningham's Super-Sam comes to an end. I very much enjoyed this humorous superhero story and generally enjoy Cunningham's visual take on things. As I can't see the current economic situation making for a color print version of this story anytime soon, I recommend you bookmark it and enjoy it onscreen some lazy afternoon.

* for that matter, another strip I've been reading on-line I enjoyed just as much but in a completely different way, Nick Abadzis' The Trial Of The Sober Dog, ended its long run at his site and one supposes in the newspaper that was supporting its serialization in print.

* you, too, can Ask Alan.

* not comics: a corporate officer at the New York Times pens a letter to rebut general rumors about there about an imminent decline and specifically the way thata analysis found play within an Atlantic Monthly article. Matt Welch points out that full disclosure can often change the meaning of something entirely and generally stands on top of a lunchroom table hitting critics of his recent article on the future of newspapers with a sock that has a bar of soap at its end. The Tribune goes all tabloid and whatnot, as if to up the ante now that the longstanding Seattle newspaper battle looks like it is winding down.

* finally, Alan Gardner has a funny and biting interview with Patrick O'Connor, recent editorial cartoonist at the LA Daily News, over the paper's decline and the details of his being let go. "Working at the Daily News has been like living with an incompetent, terminally ill relative."
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Anina Bennett!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 76th Birthday, Ron Goulart!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 34th Birthday, Lucas Nine!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 51st Birthday, Serge Carrere!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 71st Birthday, Cabu!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 33rd Birthday, Dante Ginerva!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Eric Juszezak!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Sean Phillips Draws

History
Goodbye, Fuckhead
I Might Have Asked For It

Industry
Daryl Cagle Bad News Round-Up, Permalinked
Publisher I've Never Heard Of Going Out Of Business

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Joe Hill
CBR: Jeff Parker
Wizard: Brian Bendis

Not Comics
Obama's First 100 Days

Publishing
Frazetta Comics Plans
What Mike's Not Writing About
Who Knows What The Future Holds?
Shitty-Looking Rip-Off Comics Plan Another Subject

Reviews
Richard Bruton: Stinky
Tucker Stone: Various
Paul O'Brien: Cable #7-10
Richard Bruton: Mo and Jo
Charles Yoakum: Thor #213
Johanna Draper Carlson: Various
Charles Hatfield: Black Jack Vol. 1
Nina Stone: Wolverine: Switchback
Greg McElhatton: Youngblood #1-6
Jog: The Winter Men Winter Special
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Chicken and Cat
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Why I Killed Peter
Johanna Draper Carlson: Monster Vol. 18
Sean T. Collins: Skyscrapers Of The Midwest
Leroy Douresseaux: Makoto Tateno's Blue Sheep Reverie Vol. 1
 

 
January 12, 2009


On The Other Hand, His Daily Work Process Would Have Involved Waiting For Stuff To Fly In The Window

image

John Gruber points out Bruce Wayne's road not taken.
 
posted 5:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: A Little Bit More On The Death Of The Daily Newspaper

If you're even halfway as interested as I am about the rapid decline and even shuttering of newspaper going on right now, I thought I'd give you a heads up on some work out there on the subject. My first suggestion is a pair of opinion articles in Reason by Tim Cavanaugh and Matt Welch (Welch's is newer, and references Cavanaugh's). Both are brutal, frank and succinct dissections of some of the excessive wailing going on right now about the death of the newspaper industry as we know it. Both writers are smart and have newspaper experience. They know what they're talking about. Best of all, both engage the one thing that nearly no one brings up: how newspapers have contributed to their own current, dire situation by being bloated in terms of resources and staffing beyond any reasonable, sane measure.

I don't have the big city newspaper experience these guys have enjoyed, but I come from a newspaper family and worked on three or four of the smaller, Midwestern variety. As much as I love nearly all the people with whom I worked and respect the hell out of the best of them, I also remember constant jokes about newsrooms as a culture of indolence among the news staff and a daily reality that bore this observation out. I know that many of my close friends and classmates currently working on newspapers still report the same great imbalance of work and effort among staffers that carry most of these places through daily publication. Many of those same people admit to having much the same basic workload now as we did back when, despite time-saving resources at their behest about which the previous generation could have only dreamed. Welch's point that a start-up would never resemble a classic one-market one-newspaper business of the kind that are in trouble right now I think hits it best. There are of course multiple reasons for the precarious situation in which many newspapers find themselves, and it may be that the most severe causes make all the others irrelevant. I'm still glad to see writers out there willing to explore all of the factors in play, with the hope that such analysis might inform whatever new models rises from the ashes of the old.

That doesn't mean there isn't a human cost, so I also urge you to read an in placed pretty good and I think overall revelatory piece of self-referential journalism, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's first major article on the announcement they were being put up for sale (with the likelihood of closure). I thought it captured the feel of a surprised and stunned newsroom extremely well. At the same time, I didn't believe some of its assertions -- I'd like to know who these onlookers are who supposedly thought the P-I was safe because of a recent lawsuit -- and I'm not sure why a few of the pertinent facts it discussed were left unpacked or glossed over, like Hearst's revenue figures.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Paul Buhle's Best In Comics 2008

image

The prolific writer/scholar Paul Buhle gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

* What it Is, Lynda Barry
* Tamara Drewe, Posy Simmonds
* Tales of Little Rebels, Julia L. Mickenberg and Philip Nel
* Breakdowns, Art Spiegelman
* Wordless Books and Edited, David Berona
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Zack Soto's Best Books Of 2008

image

The cartoonist Zack Soto has posted a list of his Best of 2008. They are:

* Kramers Ergot 7, Various (Buenaventura)
* BPRD, Various (Dark Horse)
* All Star Superman #10, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC Comics)
* Perla La Loca, Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
* Gus and His Gang, Christophe Blain (First Second)
* RASL, Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)
* Capacity, Theo Ellsworth (Secret Acres)
* BodyWorld & Bottomless Bellybutton, Dash Shaw (Self; Fantagraphics)
* Criminal: Bad Night, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Icon)
* Crickets #2, Sammy Harkham (D&Q)
* Dungeon Monstres Vol. 2, Various (NBM)
* Love & Rockets: New Stories Vol. 1, Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Vanessa Davis' Stranger In A Strange Land At Nextbook

image

via
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Take The High Road

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: 'S A Tragic Air Command

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Tom Hart's Big Kirbys

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Cool Gurewitch Envelope

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* another reason that the potential sale and probable closure of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer may seem disconcerting: Seattle is the location of this year's AAEC convention and the P-I's David Horsey is basically the host. Actually, it may make the convention that much more appropriate to the times, but still. Here's the latest hard-news story on the matter.

image* it's worth noting that Ed Brubaker's and Sean Phillips' Incognito #1 will go back to press with a new cover. I have no idea what that kind of news means anymore, because it can just as easily mean that stores under-ordered the book to the point that they're likely to miss out on most of the discrepancy in demand. I have to imagine that more people wanting something is better than more people taking a pass, all other factors being equal. That's the cover I'm likely to get, as I haven't seen the comic yet. In the meantime, Geoff Boucher liked it enough for the both of us, as well as writer Brubaker's new short film project.

* I suppose that a lot of people will make something of this new Bill Willingham piece where the talented writer swears off the excessive superhero stuff (he uses Dirk Deppey's term "superhero decadence"). I think it would have more weight coming from someone that sold a lot of comics this way or sold a lot of comics doing something else, but I guess it's worth pointing out.

* not comics: Thanks to Kevin Church, I can cross "watching a TV version of Jughead dance to a Replacements song" off of my list of "ways I get to start a work week." Also, there's some sort of short film series called Issues here that seems to be set at Comic Relief. You know, the one in New Jersey. I couldn't get it to play, but maybe you'll have better luck.

* not comics: I'm not exactly certain what compels me to bring this up, but one thing that's been weird to me in some of the discussion of Watchmen that's burbled up with a movie version imminent is a criticism that the Cold War milieu Moore depicts somehow didn't have the exact awful outcome he suggested it might. Does that strike anyone else as odd? Do you really need to accurately predict the future to use a fictional construct to criticize the present?

* not comics: a Christophe Blain music video for a Thomas Dutronc song.

* finally, there's still some of the latest discussion about women in comics lingering out there in various places, a sprawling conversation/declaration-fest that still seems to be freely conflating female characters with female creators and substituting North American mainstream superhero comics for all of comics in a way that together makes it difficult to figure out what's going on, who's arguing what, and the true value of any of the strongly-asserted points. It also goes off into wild tangents in nearly every place it's brought up including one about the quality of the movie Wall-E. If you go to here and here you can probably get a representative sample of points of view and/or links to the major arguments being made.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 42nd Birthday, Takehiko Inoue!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 47th Birthday, Joe Quesada!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 37th Birthday, Marat Mychaels!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 41st Birthday, John Jackson Miller!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 48th Birthday, Woon Soo-yeon!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 70th Birthday, Louis Cance!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 33rd Birthday, Jerome Simon!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, Jerome Lereculey!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 76th Birthday, Carlos Vogt!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 80th Birthday, Pierre Le Guen!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Gross
Nick Mullins Sketches

Exhibits/Events
FLUKE Scheduled
Closed Caption Show Photos
Gen Con Will Emerge From Bankruptcy

History
Who Cares?
On Hellblazer #27
Female Superhero Analogues

Industry
Watch That Geek
Two From Canada

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Joe Casey
Gear Live: Dean Mullaney

Not Comics
Must Have This
Shary Boyle 3-D
More People Reading For Pleasure
Students Discuss Leave Me Alone!
Hadn't Seen This Batman Poster Before

Publishing
New TCJ Previewed
Shrugged Still Being Published
New Weird Marvel Storyline Discussed

Reviews
Jeet Heer: Alan's War
Brian Heater: Jin & Jam
Shannon Smith: Various
Paul O'Brien: Punisher #1
Koppy McFad: Terror Titans #4
Xaviar Xerexes: Chicken and Cat
Richard Krauss: Good Minnesotan #3
Geoff Hoppe: BPRD: War On Frogs #2
Arthur Smid: Fuzz and Pluck in Splitsville #1
Leroy Douresseaux: Oishinbo a la Carte Vol. 1
 

 
January 11, 2009


25 Reasons It's Great To Be A Comics Fan

image

1. In a world that worships talent, values story and places a premium on new experiences, you'll have access to an industry's worth of the first, universes stuffed with the second, and an almost infinite number of windows onto the third.

2. You'll have a better vocabulary than the people you know that only read prose and you'll have a better eye for visual language than the people you know that only look at art.

3. You'll never again lack for a handy memory device for any two- or three-digit number.

4. Comic shops will feel less intimidating, baffling, or scary. They may even start feeling like home -- both the "that's where the slightly frustrating family members who drive me crazy live" kind of home and the "you feel welcome and strangely comfortable and safe there" kind of home.

image5. You'll know your Jack Kirby, and you'll know why that's important.

6. You'll have the best conversations at parties with the widest range of people while quickly learning how to duck the truly dreary conversations at parties with that one narrow range of people.

7. You'll discover comics creators give better interviews than any other art form's creators, and way more of them besides.

8. If you work really hard and find the right combination of execution, talent and inspiration, you can walk into one of the comics arts festivals having never shown anyone your comics before and walk out of it with everyone in attendance knowing your name. Try that at Cannes.

9. Unless your favorite creator is Bill Watterson or Steve Ditko, you'll probably get to meet them.

10. Somewhere out there is another fan that shares your most specific comics-related passion, no matter how obscure and ridiculous you think it may be, and there's a greater chance than you think your paths will one day cross.

11. From now on, every garage sale, flea market and library sale is hope.

12. You'll read your comics, then put them down, then read them again, then put them on a table or counter, then read them a third time, then have them around the house for a while, then sort them into some sort of storage or shelving and then one day take them out and start all over again. Endless entertainment.

13. If you want, they'll deliver them to your front door every morning, wrapped in several dozen pages of newsprint with a bunch of sports and financial crap on it to keep your comics dry.

14. You'll find out that starting work by catching up with your favorite web comics is like having a fellow employee walk up to you and tell you a joke that's actually funny, sharing a story that's actually exciting , or making an observation that's actually interesting -- every single day.

15. Sometimes when you write a fan letter to a comic, you get to be a part of that comic.

16. At first you'll like all the comics. Then you'll get a little bit older and like only a few of them. Then you'll get a little older than that, and you get to like all the comics again.

image17. Writers as talented as Bob Levin, Mark Evanier, Jules Feiffer, Jeet Heer, Donald Phelps, Bart Beaty, Douglas Wolk, Trina Robbins, RC Harvey, Gerard Jones, Paul Gravett and Bill Schelly have written books just for you.

18. Visiting any big city means visiting Big City Comic Book Shops, with their amazing arrays of new comics and small press obscurities and exclusives. Visiting any small town means visiting Small Town Comic Book Shops, with the one guy behind the counter laying out week-old comics industry gossip straight from a message board and tons and tons and tons of amazing bargain boxes. You can't lose.

19. The longer you read them, the more context you'll gain about them, the better you'll be at picking up their nuances, and the more total ways you'll have to understand and enjoy them. It always gets better.

20. You'll have a special reason to someday visit places like San Diego, Angouleme, Luzern, Lucca, Tokyo, Venice, Birmingham, New York, the greater DC area, the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Philadelphia, Columbus, Charlotte, Atlanta, Bergen, Barcelona, Manila, Rome, Erlangen, Frankfurt, Munich and Naples. And if you've been there once, you'll have a reason to go back where at least one thing you do there will be different than last time but just as fun.

21. New Comics Day comes in the middle of the week, just when it's most needed.

22. Old people to whom you're related will clip comics-related newspaper articles and send them to you.

23. The spinner rack, the long box, the Mylar bag, the acid-free board, the sleeve: even the places you keep the stuff have entertaining names.

24. It can be the last thing you see before turn off your bed lamp and be awesome that way, the thing you read while you eat breakfast and be awesome that way, and the first thing you see when you sit down at your work computer and be awesome that way.

25. You get to read the comics.

*****

image

*****
*****
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were Near This, I'd Go To It

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five Link A Go Go

image

instead of five links, just click on the above five times
 
posted 3:40 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #146 -- Abracadabra

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Of Your Favorite Magic Users From Comics." This was how they responded.

*****

image

Tom Spurgeon

1. Mandrake
2. Giovanni Zatara
3. Agatha Harkness
4. Jericho Drumm, Brother Voodoo
5. Dr. Anthony Ludgate Druid

*****

image

Vito Delsante

1. Kent Nelson/Dr. Fate
2. Dr. Occult
3. John Constantine
4. Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme (lot of doctors in magic, huh?)
5. The Dread Dormammu

*****

image

John Vest

1. Jennifer Kale
2. Clea
3. Frank Thorne's Wizard from "The Wizard and Red Sonja Show" in Savage Sword of Conan #29
4. Zephra, from Conan The Barbarian 5,14-15
5. Chondu the Mystic

*****

image

Andrew Ironwood

1) Zatanna (preferably the earlier fishnetted version)
2) Scarlet Witch (preferably the earlier not-crazy version)
3) Enchantress (DC's -- preferably the earlier heroic version)
4) Clea (as in the daughter of Umar and niece of Dormammu)
5) Alley-Kat-Abra (of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew fame) [...hey, DON'T JUDGE ME, MAN!!!...]


*****

image

Fred Hembeck

1. Jericho Drumm, Brother Voodoo
2. Dr. Stephen Strange
3. Kent Nelson, Dr. Fate
4. Tom Cargill, Magicman
5. Old Witch Hazel

*****

image

Tom Cherry

1. Zatanna Zatara
2. Morgan Le Fay (Camelot 3000)
3. Enchantress/June Moon
4. Clea Strange
5. Tim Hunter

*****

image

Sean Kleefeld

1. Blackstone, Master Magician
2. Kid Houdini
3. Ibis the Invincible
4. The Escapist
5. Balbo, the Boy Magician

*****

image

Chris Randle

1. John Constantine
2. Edith Manning
3. The Phantom Stranger
4. Zachary Zor
5. The Shade

*****

image

Uriel A. Duran

1) Dr. Doom
2) Alley-Kat-Abra
3) Thoth-Amon
4) Magica De Spell
5) Mysa Nal,The White Witch.

*****

image

John Jakala

Urd
Scary Godmother
Dr. Fate
Amanda Sefton
Sabrina

*****

image

Buzz Dixon

1: Jackeen J. O'Malley (BARNABY)
2: Cerebus
3: Mandrake
4: Dr. Strange
5: Wizard the Lizard a.k.a. Mr. Wizard (Tooter Turtle segment of TENNESSEE TUXEDO)

*****

image

Ed Brubaker

1 - Izzy from Love and Rockets
2- Al Flosso from Jar of Fools
3 - The Demon Etrigan/Jason Blood
4 - Zatanna
5 - John Constantine

*****

image

Sean T. Collins

1. Rasputin
2. Doctor Strange
3. The Hand, collectively
4. Mr. Gone
5. Light Yagami

*****

image

William Burns

Teflon Billy
Promethea
Dr. Strange
Alan Crowe
Vaarsuvius

*****

image

Adam Casey

1. Captain Marvel (Shazam)
2. Mandrake the Magician
3. Mr. Mxyzptlk
4. Sister Grimm
5. Scartlet Witch

*****

image

Diana Tamblyn

1. Zatanna
2. Zatara
3. John Constantine
4. Dr. Fate
5. Dr. Strange

*****

image

Paul Stock

Magica DeSpell
Mr. Mxyzpltk(gp?)
Dr. Strange, I guess...

*****

image

Richard Pachter

1. Mr. Mxyzptlk
2. Zatanna
3. Doctor Strange
4. Alan Moore
5. Grant Morrison

*****

image

Johnny Bacardi

1. Doctor Strange, of course!
2. Zatanna (reh tegrof t'nac)
3. Cusick the Tuscarora (Epic's Timespirits)
4. John Constantine
5. Promethea

*****

image

Jamie Coville

1. Dr. Doom (wish he used it more)
2. Courtney Crumrin
3. John Constantine
4. Getafix (Asterix Magic Potion maker)
5. Dr. Druid

*****

image

Douglas Wolk

1. Dr. Mystic
2. Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman
3. Amethyst
4. Dormammu
5. Devlin Waugh

*****

image

Chris Duffy

1. Doctor Stephen Strange (duh)
2. Doctor Fate
3. Dakimh the Enchanter
4. Jennifer Kale
5. Rintrah

*****

image

Rod DiManna

1. Fruit Pie The Magician
2. Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo
3. Ibis The Invincible
4. Merlin (Kirby's)
5. Victor Von Doom

*****

image

Don MacPherson

1) Zatanna Zatara
2) Dr. Fate
3) Dormammu
4) Sargon the Sorcerer
5) Penny B (Phonogram: The Singles Club)

*****

image

Michael Aushenker

1. Mysterio, baby!
2. The Wizard of Id
3. Felix the Cat (when toting his magic bag of tricks)
4. Sabrina the Teenage Witch
5. Mr. Mxyzptlk

*****
*****
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Gil Roth!

image
 
posted 3:16 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 32nd Birthday, Adi Granov!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 29th Birthday, Neil Cohn!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 46th Birthday, Curd Ridel!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 24th Birthday, Lucy Knisley!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 51st Birthday, Terry Beatty!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Bob Harras!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 46th Birthday, Sam Kieth!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 48th Birthday, Yoshinori Nakai!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 70th Birthday, Testuya Chiba!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

Has the new year started yet? When does the new year start?
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
January 10, 2009


Happy 80th Birthday, Tintin!

image
 
posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Next Week In Comics-Related Events

January 11
image

January 12
image

January 17
image
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Week In Review

image

The top comics-related news stories from December 21, 2008 to January 9, 2009

1. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer looks likely to close after being offered up for sale, taking with it David Horsey's long-time platform, two pages-plus of newspaper strips

2. Second round of book publishing firings begin with the dismissal of Pantheon Publisher Janice Goldklang.

3. Wizard Entertainment postpones one 2009 show, kills another.

Winners Of The Week
People looking for easy reasons to hate book publishing.

Losers Of The Week
All the cartoonists for whom a place in the P-I was one of the jewels of their strip placement lists.

Quote Of The Week
"Watchmen is about the tawdry life of superheroes who have been rejected by their society." -- Michael Cieply, New York Times. I can't believe I ever thought that was difficult. Thank you, potentially extinct soon paper of record! (thanks, Gil)

this week's imagery depicts the cover to an underground comic book
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 46th Birthday, Eric Puech!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 87th Birthday, Bob Lubbers!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 61st Birthday, Felicisimo Coria!

image

I'm having trouble verifying the art
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 32nd Birthday, Nicolas Delestret!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 64th Birthday, Arend van Dam!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* John Vest On DNAgents (1/7/09)
* John Vest On CR Holiday Interview #12: Matt Fraction (1/4/09)
* Nat Gertler On Yes, There Have Been Comics Preceding A Movie (12/20/08)
* Someone At Diamond On The Free Comic Book Day Line-Ups (PR) (12/18/08)
* Nat Gertler On Mo Willems As A Cartoonist (12/18/08)
* Nat Gertler On CR's Ten Unanswered Questions (12/17/08)
* Stephen Weiner On How Comics Will Survive The Economy's Downward Spiral (12/17/08)
* Kyle Garret On CR's Ten Unanswered Questions (12/17/08)
* Joe Field On CR's Ten Unanswered Questions (12/17/08)
* Todd Allen On CR's Ten Unanswered Questions (12/17/08)
* Kurt Busiek On George Booth's Ip Gissa Gul (12/17/08)
* Some Press Flunky On Tony Shenton Working With BOOM! (PR) (12/17/08)
* Kim Thompson On Bart Beaty's Review Of Emile Bravo's Spirou Book (12/12/08)
 
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
January 9, 2009


Janice Goldklang Out At Pantheon

image

The New York Observer has the most prompt and professional initial piece on Pantheon publisher Janice Goldklang having ended 25 years at Random House in a second round of layoffs and restructuring one guesses beginning today at RH after an initial burst of massive changes instigated early last month. I believe Pantheon operates under Knopf. Like the newspaper industry, book publishing has been wrestling with a variety of factors in maintaining position and profitability: the increased arts consumption choices out there, the changing nature of reading and readership, and the impact of new media via factors like on-line publishing and the possibilities seen in things like digital distribution. These very hot and pressing issues have become super-heated by the external pressures of the ongoing, general, worldwide financial trauma. Excising even successful publishing figures and perhaps moving away from the larger publishing houses as constellations of stand-alone fiefdoms seem to be parts of this ongoing industry transition period -- in the general sense, it's not surprising; in the specific, I'd say it is.

(I don't really know Goldklang's exact history with Pantheon; her tenure with Random House seems to put her at that company while Andre Schiffrin was still at Pantheon -- he ended his time there in 1990. I guess the assumption is that maybe she was in that publisher's role since then -- but I don't think that's true; I'm guess it was the late 1990s. I can find one generic reference of her in a leadership role with Pantheon dated 1997, but also other articles between then and now that refer to her as an editorial director and a publishing director as opposed to a publisher. I'm afraid I know more about the inner workings of the Avengers than I do how book publishers have organized themselves in the last two decades.)

Pantheon is important for its role in both the late 1980s book publishing flirtation with comics (best remembered with Maus) and the current, more severe and involved romance with the medium (best seen in Persepolis, but also involving authors like Chris Ware, Jessica Abel, David B. and Joann Sfar). Goldklang wasn't a part of the first, but was definitely a part of the second. If there's one imprint that can be aligned with the success of literary comics in book publishing, Pantheon's the one, so Goldklang's departure should make everyone with even the tiniest interest in the future of comics publishing sit up and take notice along with the book publishing world. No successor was named, although the functional editorial apparatus at the company still seems to be in place.
 
posted 9:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Seattle P-I Up For Sale With No Buyer Expected And Shuttering Imminent?

Editor & Publisher has a concise summary of a widely-traveled report that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been put up for sale in advance of it being closed down. A contractual obligation says that a shut-down precede in that manner -- the general expectation is that there's no buyer out there, or even the rumor of one. More news should be forthcoming.

I've been trying to figure out how exactly how to put the significance of this story if true. The P-I has been a good friend to comics, especially under the influence of editor Janet Grimley, one of those rare newspaper editors with a special interest into what goes on the comics page. They've run two pages of comics for years now, carried and paid for comics that they couldn't run in the way that two newspaper towns frequently will, and offered one of the five best and most dependable on-line newspaper site sections for quite some time. They've also employed David Horsey, one of the modern editorial cartooning stars. A move from a two-newspaper town to a one-newspaper town is bad enough, because you lose the editorial cartoonist or cartoonists, the comics the paper held, and all of the comics held but not run by both papers to keep them out of their rival's hands. When you're talking a two-newspaper town sharing a Sunday color section and both offering up two pages of material, it's worse.

If this moves forward, it wouldn't be unexpected -- when the Seattle Times pushed its size and resources into mornings from afternoon publication it became likely that the P-I would eventually fold. It's still sad, and a bad day for comics.
 
posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Friday Distraction: Great Uncle George's Will, By Andi Watson At Tor.com

image
 
posted 7:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Friday Distraction: The Lady's Murder

image

requires registration
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Friday Distraction: Caroline

image
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
The Winter Of Our Relative Content

imageI continue to be bullish on comics' ability to survive and even thrive in a period of relative economic dismay. I think the industry has experienced, invested people in most positions of power and influence. I think there are more people interested in making comics for people to read and then profiting from that material than there are people invested in using comics as the means to an unrelated and perhaps undeserving and exploitative end. I think the art form seen in a wider context -- one that gets away from the weekly exchange of money for serial comics -- has a lot to offer right in terms of overall value and artistic impact. I think there is hope for a significant role for comics in entities that may replace fading institutions that have supported comics in the past. In other words, I think comics can be okay in the years and months ahead as much as circumstances allow for any art form and the industries servicing them to be okay.

imageThat said, I think it's important to stress comics likely hasn't come close to seeing the first wave of blows struck by this current, deepening economic trauma. It's not until after that first period of economic adjustment that we'll begin to see comics' potential outcome under a sustained downturn. That doesn't mean people aren't already hurting, both within comics and certainly without. People have lost their jobs, lines have ended, comics have been canceled, book publishing contract offers have dried up, and so on. It's tough out there. Just this morning, Newsarama reported that Wizard Entertainment had canceled its Wizardworld shows in Dallas (November) and Los Angeles (March) -- later confirmed by Wizard via e-mail as a cancellation of its Texas show and a postponement (without set return date) of its California effort. I'd suggest, however, that in many cases these were uncertain entities to begin with, institutions that were going to have a problem continuing even if the general economy were going swimmingly, businesses reaching a crisis point in the comics economy rather than the general one. That was certainly the case with Wizard, which had been firing people in editorial and in administration like nobody's business back when auto industry executives were making use of private jets without anyone scolding them. The fact that the general forecast is no longer so super-fantastically sunny that some dubious enterprises are no longer as effectively buoyed, that just isn't the same as a series of actual economic blows.

imageMany folks have pointed to the fact that the comic book Direct Market in January has always performed poorly as a danger sign, I believe the logic there suggesting that we should be on the lookout for stores succumbing to external economic pressures common to this month. If January were bad in previous year, it could be really bad this year. I have some sympathy for that argument and it certainly could be true. I'll confess to the opposite gut reaction, however: that January is so bad that many people in comic books are now accustomed to slower Januaries and Februaries, or at least should be. The bigger issue therefore isn't whether this year we get another terrible January but if smaller publishing outputs and cautious buying habits from consumers continue in a way that makes for an awful May. We don't quite know yet what will be announced, to what extent if any the various comics lines will re-swell after the typical mid-winter decline. Nor we do we know the content of conversations that many retailers are having as they get past the 2008 holiday seasons and begin to order with 2009 more firmly in mind. I've been told in the past that the New Year is a period of reconsideration and tweaking orders-wise for a lot of stores. For example, one shop owner I talked to recently said his staff was likely going to start cutting a lot of moderate-selling DC books after the holidays based on what they had seen that Fall. Additionally, publishers should over the next three to five weeks get a handle on what Spring bookstore market initial interest is going to be like. This holds within it the possibility for significant changes from years past. Fold in increased external pressures with layoffs and job cuts worldwide, and the effect of those things on the disposable income of comics fans in several regions of North America. I think it's safe to say that June could be -- could be -- a tougher month than any January.

imageThere are also content questions that should come into play between now and then. Editorial cartoons lost a number of their folks during an historic election. Will those positions seem like an even bigger luxury without Obama, Clinton, McCain and Palin out there to focus our attention? One could easily make the argument that Marvel's Dark Reign and whatever DC has planned for after Final Crisis concludes don't exactly put the Big Mainstream Comic Book companies in a position of strength if it comes to fighting for their customers' dollars, even before the expected 33 percent price bump on serial comics. We don't know yet how many newspapers will shutter -- newspaper will shutter -- and how many may move from full-time print publication -- this will happen as well -- so we don't know how the syndicates might feel the effect of those actions. You can make a content argument with strips, too, that it's been a bad decade for the kind of mega-hit around which an industry can rally. There are as far as I know no major superhero movies this year after Watchmen, so no tie-in trade sales for certain companies, and in Watchmen's case there's that thing to watch where superhero movies arguably diminish the captive "audience in perpetuity" for certain books after they come out on the big screen. (I don't think that's going to happen to any great effect, but it's hard for me to imagine 2009 being better than 2008 there, and I wouldn't be surprised at this point in both big mainstream companies' trade program for there to be a lot of cutbacks generally.)

Just because I'm hopeful any problems can be conquered -- survived, really -- doesn't mean I'd ever suggest living in denial about their potential size or imminent arrival in bigger and badder forms. I don't think we've been hit yet. Not really. That's great because it means comics isn't the first one at the domed stadium with mismatched socks, no money and a need for a place to roll up and fall asleep for a while. That doesn't mean we've avoided the storm. I suspect we're not in the eye of anything, not yet, but as better writers than I have put it, we're in that all-too-quiet pause right before the first wave of storms hits for real. Good luck to us all.
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: Why Wasn't I Aware There Was A Bollywood Version Of Oldboy?

image

no dance numbers, though
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Another Cartoonist Loses His Position

image

According to statements made through Facebook that seem to be acknowledged if not confirmed by the cartoonist, a similarly cryptic note on his web site and a small report on the LA Observed blog, Patrick O'Connor was likely among a small group of LA Daily News staffers losing their jobs yesterday. These sound like small but extremely deep cuts of the kind that cause everyone in a regional media market to shudder even as they begin to think about no longer having that person's work to enjoy in that same context. O'Connor seemed to me particularly and admirably vicious on local, regional and state issues.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Jeffrey Brown's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The cartoonist Jeffrey Brown gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Acme Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware
2. Too Cool to Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson
3. KE7
4. Sublife #1, John Pham
5. Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream #1-2, Laura Park
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 3:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Witches Come At Midnight

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Two By Richard Thompson

image
image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go Re-Introduce Yourself: David Lasky

image

Dave put up his core links up again in one place in advance of a recent talk I missed bringing to your attention
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Fred Steffen

image
 
posted 3:44 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I like Spider-Man and I wish our next President every piece of good fortune in the world, and I still don't understand why anyone would care about this at all. I'd go on, but if you travel too far into old man's land, there's no coming back.

image* folks keep e-mailing me that Colleen Coover has a proper blog now, which means that someone out there noticed it first.

* there's an awesome Jim Rugg comic here I've either seen before and forgotten or hadn't seen yet.

* Tim Hodler recommends some Edward Gorey.

* not comics, or at least not that I know of at this time: Borders has been sued by a small prose publisher accusing it of churning.

* there's an interesting post a couple down in Darryl Cagle's largely non-linkable blog where cartoonist Larry Wright comments on the compression and move on-line experienced by Detroit-area newspapers.

* random newspaper section funnies round-up.

* Mike Lynch hosts Juana Medina's statement on what winning the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship has meant.

* finally, Sean Kleefeld muses on moving the bulk of his reading away from the purchase of comics and into free comics. I always suggest something similar to comics fans, although I don't draw as strong a distinction. What I suggest is to orient your comics-reading towards reading comics as opposed to purchasing them, although what I find -- and this may be different than Sean -- is that once you do that you still buy comics, you just get a higher rate of satisfaction from them because your focus isn't on the act of purchasing them.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 57th Birthday, Frank Margerin!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 51st Birthday, Gilles Mezzomo!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 80th Birthday, Veikko Savlainen!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, Gwen!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Incognito Prep
On The Influence Of Image
Eustace Tilley Competition Update
Jesse Hamm Draws The Living Crap Out Of Egg Fu

Exhibits/Events
David Lasky Speaks

History
I Agree This Guy Should Make A Comeback

Industry
Top 20 GNs For December
I Can't Tell If This Is News
B&N Holiday Drop At 5.2 Percent

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Ed Piskor
CBR: Tim Ervin
CBR: Richard Meyer
Newsarama: Dan DiDio
CBR: Andrew Kreisberg
Newsarama: Ed Brubaker
Montreal Mirror: Karl Kerschl
Marshall Independent: Jamie Haram

Not Comics
Richard John Neuhaus, RIP
Future of LiveJournal In Doubt
Book Publishing Dying Isn't All Bad

Publishing
Nice Post On Lots Of Stuff By Craig Fischer

Reviews
Jog: Various
Brian Heater: Jin & Jam #1
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Michael May: 24Seven Vol. 2
Graeme McMillan: Dark Reign
Richard Bruton: Benny and Penny
Zak Edwards: Fantastic Four #562
Ed Sizemore: The 14th Dalai Lama
Douglas Wolk: Judge Dredd: Origins
Philip Schweier: Wolverine: Switchback
Sean T. Collins: Nocturnal Conspiracies
Sean T. Collins: Invincible Iron Man #8
Greg McElhatton: X-Men: Kingbreaker #1
Koppy McFad: Black Lightning Year One #1
Hervé St-Louis: Amazing Spider-Man #582
Charles Yoakum: Bruce Timm: Modern Masters
Hervé St-Louis: Justice Society of America #22
Hervé St-Louis: Justice League of America #28
 

 
January 8, 2009


For An Obvious Article, It's Quite Long

image
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: On Newspapers And Books

Two longish articles, one each on the decline of the newspaper and book industries, caught my eye yesterday.

* I thought this article by Michael Hirschorn on the inevitable, soon-to-be end for the New York Times -- why that's likely and what might happen as a result -- was really, really good. The best part is that he's one of the few people out there to take a hatchet to recent newspaper history as a contributor to all of what's happening right now, in an astonishing couple of paragraphs that first notes that "the public at large has been trained to undervalue journalists and journalism" and then goes into how papers themselves have "undermined the perceived value of serious newspaper journalism as well" by pursuing a service function that is absolutely replaceable and doesn't provide anything of value that will be missed. Near the end, we even get a hopeful note. "But over the long run, a world in which journalism is no longer weighed down by the need to fold an omnibus news product into a larger lifestyle-tastic package might turn out to be one in which actual reportage could make the case for why it matters, and why it might even be worth paying for. The best journalists will survive, and eventually thrive." Right on.

* my friend Gil brought to my attention this piece from the New York Times on austerity programs at various publishing houses, which reads at times as if it were designed to make you hate the book publishers with the white-hot fury of 10,000 suns. There's some good stuff in there like learning that book publishers are now backing away from advances a lot of people thought were too high and too riskily assigned in the first place. This more measured material surrounds some stuff that's positively spit-take worthy, like measuring the hard times in terms of only having one of three sales meetings at a fancy hotel or shifting maybe a half-star down in terms of where you take an author for a reimbursable lunch. What's most astonishing is how seemingly right up to the moment of recent firings the article seems to suggest that lavish parties were planned and retreats scheduled. As some people with a lot more smarts and financial acumen than I have have put it, the problem isn't that there's no longer enough money to have an industry that runs this way; it's that there never was.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Box Brown's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Box Brown gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Bottomless Bellybutton, Dash Shaw
2. Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Josh Cotter
3. Ganges #2, Kevin Huizenga
4. Pictures for Sad Children 2008, John Campbell
5. This Modern World, Tom Tomorrow
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Eyes On Angouleme Festival In Terms Of Performance In Economic Hard Times

image

I totally missed this October article at ActuaBD.com, kind of a laundry list of economy-related fears as they might have an impact on the 2009 Festival BD in Angouleme which will start later this month. A lot of the stuff there and in follow-up articles like these seem to represent pretty standard coverage: a mix of announced events accompanied by a raised eyebrow, dire predictions (will the trains be running that weekend?), the thought that the festival may plan an economic-distressed version of the show alongside its regular plans for 2010 and then enact the plan that seems less crazy when it comes to it, and somewhere in there a laundry list of major sponsors in trouble, both state and private.

What might surprise some of you about that original, linked-to article is a line of thinking that you used to see in North American comics a lot: that the exhibitions and awards nominees reflect an elitist view of the art form that does not serve the industry when tough times are in the offing. While my gut reaction is that's a load of poo the same way it usually is when it's presented as an argument here, it's fascinating to see it pop up in a different comics culture. I wonder if we're in for its rebirth over here in 2009 or 2010.
 
posted 3:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Karl Stevens' Failure

image

This is the first installment of Karl Stevens' new strip we discussed in our recent interview.
 
posted 3:46 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Domingos Is Awesome

image

not certain exactly what's going on here, but I sure like staring at it
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: dongerybendik

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Swamp Thing, Man-Thing Art

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* new columnist at the Pakistan Daily Times. This would likely never happen in the US, and yet it's in the US that the newspaper industry is reeling and sick. Just sayin'.

image* it looks like yesterday's reports that Mike Peters was being sued by Fedecafe, the Colombian National Coffee Growers' Federation is a "is about to be sued" story rather than a "has been sued" story. The group objects to a cartoon in a series of cartoons that seemed to be stringing together bizarre food myths that indicated pieces of Juan Valdez might have been put into coffee by crime lords. Peters has released a statement through I believe the Associated Press that he meant no offense.

As I recall, the last time an American entertainment figure was sued by a food industry we ended up with Dr. Phil, so this story greatly worries me.

* I have no idea what this is, but it's awesome-looking.

* the New York Comic-Con has their programming schedule up. ICv2.com's pre-weekend business overview seminar is the must-attend event of these shows, but there seem to be a few items of interest sprinkled throughout as well. Someone should sit down and figure out just how the Internet has changed convention programming, because I think it has radically done so but I'm not sure how. I know that for me but also some of my less focused on comics every day of their lives friends, my interest in seeing yet another discussion of certain issues or the presentation certain companies might make on upcoming books seems less vital than it used to be because you have that information available to you on-line. So a lot about what draws me to any panel these days is access to certain and the event qualities (whether the speakers are funny, say) of the presentation. Just a thought.

* finally, the writers Leigh Walton and Laura Hudson debut a blog devoted to reading and commenting on all 300 issues of Dave Sim's Cerebus. I find this interesting for reasons removed from the male/female make-up of the contributors and what that might mean for future issues, or even what little I've read of either writer's past critical analysis. The first thing that's interesting to me is taking on Cerebus as a series of comic books, which might be odd to some people given how much Sim stresses its singular narrative identity and how most people who buy it now are doing so in trade form. I prefer to see it that way, too. The second is that Walton and Hudson are both relatively very young -- younger than Cerebus, in fact -- and that will likely shape how they see a lot of factors, especially those early on. For example, I'm pretty certain their discussion of the first issue lacks significant mention of dominant artistic influence Barry Windsor-Smith, which is the first place a lot of people my age would go.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 54th Birthday, Ken Steacy!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 34th Birthday, Alex Turk!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 62nd Birthday, Pat Moodian!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 68th Birthday, Boris Vallejo!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 43rd Birthday, James Pruett!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 43rd Birthday, Joe Pruett!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, Pasquale Frisenda!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
The Most Terrifying Thing Ever
The Second Most Terrifying Thing Ever

Exhibits/Events
Report From Warren Craghead Opening

Industry
The Beat Year-End Survey 01
The Beat Year-End Survey 02
The Beat Year-End Survey 03

Interviews/Profiles
Bookslut: Tim Fish
SLG: Tommy Kovac
Bookslut: John Mejias
Bookslut: Jason Lutes
The Crib Sheet: Edmond Baudoin
School Library Journal: David Petersen

Not Comics
Ron Asheton, RIP
I Miss Dave Astor

Publishing
Funny Shuster Book Endorsement

Reviews
Richard Bruton: Silly Lilly
Andy Shaw: Heavy Liquid
Richard: Otto's Orange Day
John Freeman: Aya Of Yop City
Brian Heater: Why I Killed Peter
Steve Duin: Britten and Brulightly
Don MacPherson: War Machine #1
Matthew Brady: Empowered Vol. 4
Greg McElhatton: Mister X: Condemned #1
Paul Gravett On Will Eisner's Instructional Works
 

 
January 7, 2009


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

image

*****

Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's largely 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 tomorrow I would more than likely pick up the following and look them over. My retailer might not like it, but he'll survive.

*****

SEP083845 RASL TP VOL 01 DRIFT (MR) $13.00
Along with Little Orphan Annie, this would be my pick of the week: Jeff Smith's compelling science fiction adventure story, 112 pages in an over-sized format maybe just a little bit more along the lines of how Smith originally intended the work to be seen until retailer feedback influenced the cartoonist into doing a much more standard-sized comic book for the serialized issues. Anyway, it looks fairly gorgeous, so anything even a little bit bigger is good. I think the pleasure one derives from the way Smith presents the story is going to be a big part of how people process the work. While I still suspect we're a couple of the standard issues away before the book reveals more of itself in a way that would make me feel safe suggesting what it's about, I'm definitely getting one of these.

OCT080036 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #21 $2.99
NOV080048 HELLBOY WILD HUNT #2 (OF 8) $2.99
NOV080053 KULL #3 (OF 6) $2.99
NOV083943 BOYS #26 (MR) $2.99
NOV082328 INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #9 DKR $2.99
OCT082300 SWORD #14 (MR) $2.99
NOV082270 WALKING DEAD #57 (RES) (MR) $2.99
NOV080222 SANDMAN DREAM HUNTERS #3 (OF 4) (MR) $2.99
These are the standard-sized comic books that jumped out at me as coming from a pedigree or creators that make them the most likely to be worth a look, even though I'm not reading most of them. I am reading the last three, and it seems to me a sign of real sickness and noise in the current serials marketplace that a Sandman comic isn't at least a bigger deal than this one is. If I were a lawyer or management cog at US Goodrich right now instead of someone that writes about comics, the appearance of a comic book like that would likely be enough to bring me into a comics shop.

SEP080073 KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE TP VOL 08 (MR) $10.95
OCT084075 ME & THE DEVIL BLUES GN VOL 02 $19.95
Similarly, these are the manga series of decided interest with new volumes out.

MAY080050 GROO HELL ON EARTH TP $17.95
OCT080214 AMERICAN SPLENDOR ANOTHER DOLLAR TP (MR) $14.99
NOV082242 WALKING DEAD TP VOL 09 HERE WE REMAIN (MR) $14.99
Finally, here are three trade paperback sized collections in successful series with solid creators behind them that might pique your interest.

NOV082466 AGENTS OF ATLAS TP $24.99
OCT084300 TREASURY 20TH CENTURY MURDER SC VOL 01 LINDBERGH CHILD $9.95
Here are a couple of price-point friendly reprints of books I own in hardcover. The Lindbergh Child book from Rick Geary just seems like a nice volume at that size. The Agents of Atlas softcover features a bunch of bonus material in addition to the reasonably fun Marvel comic book of the same name, starring its 1950s abortive hero re-launch characters, plus those placed into that time period at some point in Marvel's overall publication history, minus the Timely guys, in a modern adventure. Kind of a League Of Extraordinarily Owned Lock Stock and Barrel By Marvel Gentlemen and Ladies.

AUG084173 COMPLETE LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE HC VOL 02 $39.99
I am totally in the bag for Little Orphan Annie. I'd pay another $20 for these collections.

NOV084257 WORMDYE GN (MR) $13.00
NOV084256 FATAL FAUX PAS GN (MR) $10.00
A couple of Secret Acres books, although I can't tell if the first one is just now making it into the catalog or is making it there again in a way that doesn't get it tagged with something. Wormdye has already been well-reviewed, and made quite a few Best of 2008 lists. Fatal Faux Pas is work from CCS buzz boy Samuel Gaskin. I deeply apologize for calling anyone "buzz boy."

*****

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 so your shop may not carry a specific publication. There are a lot of comics out there.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, albeit a while back, 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. Ordering through a direct market shop can be a frustrating experience, so if you have a direct line to something -- you know another shop has it, you know a bookstore has it -- I'd urge you to consider all of your options.

If I didn't list your comic, it's because of an overabundance of corn-related products in my food.

*****
*****
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
When A Story Is A Non-Story But Still A Story: Smell Of Steve's Planet Of Beer

image

With January and February sales generally representing a down period for the comic industry and with the delayed decision-making process that involves moving books around in a schedule months ahead of time, many folks that cover comics have been keeping a keen eye out for news of books from later on this Spring. In other words, if DC and Marvel have fewer books out in January that's one thing, but if they're keeping a lean schedule in May, that's quite another.

Therefore, it was with some degree of interest that I read a note received in a mass mailing from Brian Sendelbach, a cartoonist I like a lot who creates the Smell of Steve strip that exists both on-line and in a few alt-weeklies and on whose behalf Dark Horse announced they'd be releasing a print collection: Planet of Beer: A Smell of Steve Treasury. Here are the graphs of interest:
As just about everyone in the world doesn't know, I have a book coming out in March. It's called Planet of Beer: A Smell of Steve Treasury, and it's the distillation of many years' worth my weekly comic strip, Smell of Steve.

I'm pretty excited about the book. It's big, it's in full color, and it's the first time all these comic strips will be appearing in one place.

Only one wrinkle: Because of the usual Crappy Economy factors everyone's so familiar with now, Planet of Beer might not get published at all. The publisher, Dark Horse, claims that unless orders go up somewhat, they're going to pull the book.

Beyond the economy thing, it's been a challenge to market Planet of Beer. How do you describe comic strips that feature celebrities such as Nick Nolte and Sammy Hagar (as well as pop culture figures like Fonzie) in starring roles? How do you describe characters like President Carter & Kenny, Black Aquaman, and Bougle Gluce in a way that doesn't sound wacky and contrived? And how do you explain that Smell of Steve started off as a kind of conceptual art project, and ended up as, well... a different kind of conceptual art project?

Anyway, I'm a crappy salesman, and it's a crappy time to be selling anything. So this is no Planet of Beer hard-sell. I'm just letting you know that the book is available for pre-order here...
The rest of the letter gives you a place to pre-order the work; I'll share some of that information below.

The concern, of course, when you read something like this is that DHC might 1) be experiencing notably low pre-orders on a book which while it doesn't fit into its overt webcomics initiative is close enough that you might think sales would be better, 2) be putting one of its authors in a position to help in raising the level of pre-orders or not have the book published, and 3) be doing something similar with books whose creators don't happen to have me on their e-mail mass mailing list.

I asked Dark Horse for comment on both 1) this particular case and 2) if they're making similar requests of other authors concerning other books. Here's what I was given in response, which I'm told to ascribe to "a Dark Horse representative":
"While we were discussing the possibility of postponing the book's release to allow more time for pre-order, and we were encouraging Brian to do what he could on his part to get the word out, we have not yet come to the point where we were discussing the cancellation of the book. We are excited about Planet of Beer and will continue to stand behind it and all of our projects and creators both current and future."
Fair enough. Smoke, but no fire. There was enough initial confusion for there to be some left over, as I sent this along to Brian and received in return a statement from "a Smell of Steve representative":
I like Dark Horse. I've been very happy with my editor, and everybody who I've dealt with at Dark Horse.

I sent the e-mail in order to save my book as a direct response to information I received from Dark Horse regarding the possibility of Planet Of Beer not going to print.

Incidentally, I've been really surprised at the positive response. I feel like Sting in that "Message in a Bottle" song.
So there you have it. No financial Armageddon or book purge, just a struggling volume in a bad economy. I still think Spring publishing plans very much bear watching for signs of wider economic downturn influence, and will do so at every opportunity.

This leads me to a more important point: I really like the Smell of Steve material, and if any of you join me in liking this material or sometimes liking the things I like in general, I'm going to suggest you pre-order it and/or otherwise show support for one of the odder, more idiosyncratic comics of the last 20 years. Brian suggested this Amazon link. There's a petition out there I signed without reading but it involves a boycott and I wish I hadn't. You can probably find that if you want to. I would also direct you to the general web site for more comics, although actually, that's not fully up right now so here's Sendelbach's myspace page. If any retailers or people in position to support the work through press want to be put into contact with Brian and can't find something on the site and don't feel like working with Jacq Cohen at Dark Horse for some strange reason, And if you don't accept my word on these things, it seems as if the writer Warren Ellis likes it, too.
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Rob Clough's Top 50 Comics For 2008

image

The reviewer and critic Rob Clough has posted an extensive list of 50 best-of comics for the year 2008. This includes commentary you should read if you find the following list intriguing on any level. His choices are:

1. ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (self-published, distributed by Drawn & Quarterly)
2. What It Is, Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)
3. Little Nothings, Lewis Trondheim (NBM)
4. Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
5. Inkweed, Chris Wright (Sparkplug Comic Books)
6. Wormdye, Eamon Espey (Secret Acres)
7. Petey and Pussy, John Kerschbaum (Fantagraphics)
8. An Anthology Of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons And True Stories, Vol 2 (Yale University Press), edited by Ivan Brunetti
9. Breakdowns: Portrait Of The Artist As A Young %@&*!, Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)
10. Willie and Joe, Bill Mauldin (Fantagraphics)
11. The Hot Breath Of War , Trevor Alixopolous (Sparkplug Comic Books)
12. Bourbon Island 1730, Lewis Trondheim & Appollo (First Second)
13. Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)
14. Paul Goes Fishing, Michel Rabagliati (Drawn & Quarterly)
15. The works of Kevin Huizenga
16. Perla La Loca, Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
17. Beyond Palomar, Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
18. Errand Service, Will Dinski (self-published)
19. Bodyworld, Dash Shaw (webcomic)
20. Against Pain, Ron Rege', Jr (Drawn & Quarterly)
21. Ordinary Victories, Manu Larcenet (NBM)
22. Goddes of War, Lauren Weinstein (Picturebox)
23. Gus & His Gang, Christophe Blain (First Second)
24. Tales Designed To Thrizzle #4, Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics)
25. Capacity, Theo Ellsworth (Secret Acres)
26. Eye Of The Majestic Creature #3, Leslie Stein (self-published)
27. Best American Comics 2008 (Houghton-Mifflin)
28. I Still Live, Annie Murphy (self-published)
29. MOME #12
30. Nocturnal Conspiracies, David B (NBM)
31. Little Things, Jeffrey Brown (Touchstone)
32. The Rabbi's Cat 2, Joann Sfar (Pantheon)
33. Swell, Juliacks (self-published)
34. Spaniel Rage 2008, Vanessa Davis (self-published)
35. Pocket Full Of Rain, Jason (Fantagraphics)
36. The Complete Peanuts 1967-68, Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics)
37. Explainers, Jules Feiffer (Fantagraphics)
38. Where Demented Wented, Rory Hayes (Fantagraphics)
39. The Night Of Your Life, Jesse Reklaw (Dark Horse)
40. Snake Oil, Chuck Forsman (self-published)
41. Estrus Comics #6, Mari Naomi (self-published)
42. Love and Rockets New Stories #1, Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
43. Hotwire, Volume 2 (Fantagraphics), edited by Glenn Head
44. Injury Comics #2, Ted May, Jeff Wilson & Jason Robards (Buenaventura)
45. Drawn & Quarterly Showcase #5 (Drawn & Quarterly)
46. Hall Of Best Knowledge, Ray Fenwick (Fantagraphics)
47. Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream, Laura Park (self-published)
48. Grotesque #2, Sergio Ponchionne (Fantagraphics)
49. Windy Corner Magazine #2 (Sparkplug Comic Books)
50. Magic Whistle #11, Sam Henderson (Alternative)
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: The Gerber Curse

image

An anonymous author (I think) has posted a few chapters of a Steve Gerber biography on-line for your perusal. I hope this is completed because not only will I be able to read it, I won't have to write one. I was thinking out loud about Gerber the other day, and how far ahead of his time and generally good he was that you can find 1970s serial work he did that's as compelling and runs along the same lines as works out this year by Jonathan Lethem and Grant Morrison.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Ivan Brandon's Best Comics Of 2008

image

The writer Ivan Brandon gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

* Berlin 2, Jason Lutes
* 100 Bullets, Eduardo Risso
* Omega the Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple
* Casanova Volume 2, Matt Fraction and Fábio Moon and Gabriel Ba
* American Flagg, Howard Chaykin
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Power

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: The Day The Saucers Came

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: John Byrne's Sunday Funnies

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Ruby, The Totally Happy Dog

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the writer James Vance gives first-hand testimony as to what donations and giving of the kind that comes from the comics-related Hero Initiative can mean to a family in need and just generally reeling due to fatal illness.

image* the cartoonist Dan Goldman is previewing his book with Michael Crowley, '08: A Graphic Diary Of The Campaign Trail, here. Speaking of publicity efforts, Boom! has released two videos to basically promote their promotions for a comic book they're releasing concurrently through MySpace and with a couple of other deals designed to give it some juice in the marketplace. I thought the comic book was fairly ordinary, but there's no denying that whole company seems really fired up about it.

* here's a nice piece up at PWCW surveying the prospect of comics in the classroom through a special focus on the state of Maryland's program designed to do just that.

* finally, Mike Lynch notes that people can start submitting work for consideration in the NCS Division Awards, which are given out every year at their annual meeting. These are the various categorized awards that are sometimes casually talked about in terms of getting a Reuben to distinguish them from the Cartoonist of the Year honor which is getting the Reuben -- but really they're called the NCS Division Awards and it's more and more common just to stick with that appellation.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 56th Birthday, Kevin Dooley!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 64th Birthday, Jay Lynch!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 45th Birthday, Aaron Lopresti!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 56th Birthday, Bob Wiacek!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Karl Kesel!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Interviews/Profiles
Bookslut: Matt Furie
Joe Infurnari: Round Robin
comiXology: Gahan Wilson
Comix 411: Aaron Lopresti
Newsarama: Raina Telgemeier
Graphic Novel Reporter: Scott McCloud

Not Comics
Oh, Artie

Reviews
ADD: Nicolas
ADD: Solanin
Rob Clough: Various
ADD: The Black Glove
Kevin Church: Various
Wesley Mead: Dilbert 2.0
Johanna Draper Carlson: Paris
Richard Krauss: Extragalactic #2
Jog: Madman Atomic Comics #12
Don MacPherson: War Machine #1
Ed Sizemore: Genshiken Official Book
Robert Stanley Martin: The Killing Joke
Richard Krauss: Bad Breath Comics #1
Kristy Valenti: Various Edu-Manga Books
Johanna Draper Carlson: Zombies Calling
 

 
January 6, 2009


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

By Tom Spurgeon

* the anthology Lapin is making another comeback (its third?), with a cover by Florent Ruppert and Jerome Mulot. The focus will be on young cartoonists, as it was in 1992 when the magazine -- through which many of the major alt-comics talents of Europe were introduced to audiences far and wide -- began.

* the best North American news of recent vintage has to be the approximate street date of April given for D&Q's publication of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life, which looks astounding. Please go read about it.

* while you're over there, look at previews for George Sprott and Melvin Monster. What other preview treasures lie waiting for us in the D&Q catalog section?!? Here's another one!

image* the former Blog@Newsarama team has reformed under the name Robot 6, hosted by Newsarama rival Comic Book Resources and sponsored by IDW. I imagine this is old news by now (I'm writing this entry back on January 1), but I see this more as a publishing news story than a strong, top-the-blog news story at this point. The official line-up is, according to John Parkin, "myself, Chris Mautner, Kevin Melrose, Melissa Krause, Lisa Fortuner, Tom Bondurant, Tim O'Shea, Michael May, Jennifer de Guzman and our newest addition, Larry Young." I wish them the best of luck.

* the cartoonist Geoff Grogan has rolled his Look Out! Monsters comic into a small press publishing outfit, L.o.M.

* apparently, Richard Thompson will do the cover for Stay Tooned! #3.

* a web site called ComicsCareer.com has announced its intention to run 365 interviews with 365 creators over the next calendar year, and they've invited you to join them by filling out an interview survey. That may indicate something a bit more Byron Allen than David Frost, but a platform is a platform.

* what if they serialized a Chris Ware story in a major literary magazine and nobody ever talked about it?

* here's some more great news: NBM is continuing their sampling run into some of the older comic strips with Bringing Up Father, coming in May.

* finally, the artist Joao Ruas has taken over for James Jean as the cover artist on DC/Vertigo's Fables. That's worth noting, I think, because of how many awards and how much attention Jean won for his cover work on the series. Ruas' first issue is #83. I think there was a bit of a splash when Jean announced his departure last Fall.
 
posted 7:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Visiting Euro Comics Shops

image

Matt Shane of D&Q's Librarie thought what he saw in Paris and Berlin looked not dissimilar to his place of work in Montreal. I've heard that D&Q's store was among those doing bang-up business over the holidays. While most of the comics shops to whom I've reached out (about two dozen total) seemed to be seeing the effects of the recession, about a quarter of them said they had surprisingly strong Decembers. I have no idea what this means, but that's good news, right?
 
posted 4:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: Kyle Baker Reviews The Spirit Movie With Lots Of Will Eisner Art

image
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Ben Ostrander's Top Books Of 2008

image

Ben Ostrander is the former owner/publisher of Mojo Press and sent his list in to me with a note that he didn't feel enough people were naming the books he thought superior in the last calendar year:

* Scorchy Smith and the art of Noel Sickles, Noel Sickles
* Gus and His Gang, Chris Blain
* Willie and Joe, Bill Mauldin
* Journey, William Messner-Loebs
* Burma Chronicles, Guy Delisle
* Brush with Passion: The Art & Life of Dave Stevens, Dave Stevens
* Glamourpuss, Dave Simms
* Dororo, Osamu Tezuka
* Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa (#1 choice)
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Marc Sobel's Best Ten Books Of 2008

image

Marc Sobel has posted a top ten (and beyond) for the calendar year 2008 at his blog, Unattended Baggage. They are:

1. Acme Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Fantagraphics)
2. Abandoned Cars, Tim Lane (Fantagraphics)
3. Most Outrageous, Bob Levin (Fantagraphics)
4. The comics by Dash Shaw in Mome, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
5. Bitterkomix #15, Various (Jacana Media Ltd)
6. Tonoharu Vol. 1, Lars Martinson (Top Shelf)
7. Capacity, Theo Ellsworth (Secret Acres)
8. Silverfish, David Lapham (DC/Vertigo)
9. The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn (Image Comics)
10. Why I Killed Peter, Alfred and Olivier Ka (NBM)
 
posted 4:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Confession: I Don't Wish You A Happy Birthday Just Because I Love You

One of the weird things about the previous two weeks where I posted a plea to get birthday information from creators and other comics industry folk making explicit I needed a birth date is that nine out of 10 people responding sent me the birthday without the date of birth. As far as I know, I've never posted anyone's birthday without knowing the year they were born. Noting how old people are in various facets of the industry is something I think is useful in an historical and a news context -- I like to know which creators are in which generation, which are astonishingly young, and which ones are reaching or nearing milestones. If they're an executive or other decision-maker, knowing someone's age helps me figure out the extent of her practical experience within comics history: what they remember, what was once normal to them, and so on.

I swear I'm not a grumpus: if someone gets some personal birthday wishes out of it, some joy of recognition, then I'm happy for that, too! It's Dave Kellett's birthday, today, for example. Happy birthday, Dave. Everyone likes Dave Kellett. I have no idea what Dave's date of birth, is, though, so he doesn't get an entry.

To be clear: I love wishing you a happy birthday, but if it were just about wishing you a happy birthday, I'd send you an e-mail or write on your Facebook wall.
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Thomas Baehr's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Cartoonist Thomas Baehr gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Fishtown, Kevin Colden
2. Echo Moonlake, Terry Moore
3. Bourbon Island 1730, Apollo and Lewis Trondheim
4. The Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames & Dean Haspiel
5. Die Sache mit Sorge, Isabel Kreitz
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: John Broadley

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Tips On How To Enjoy The Upcoming Depression

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: giannisgiannis

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Ambushed

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Tim O'Shea talks to the longtime Editor & Publisher mainstay David Astor about some of the general issues surrounding the cartooning profession as newspapers suffer the twin assaults of a general economic downturn and a seismic shift in terms of the effect of on-line media. I miss Astor's voice almost every day in blogging on these issues.

* missed it: Mike Lynch introduces video featuring the South African cartoonist Zapiro about his being sued by ANC powerhouse Jacob Zuma. Zapiro was criticized for another cartoon recently, this one holidays-related. And here's a profile of a recent show.

* go, look: cartoonists take on the issues related to this latest round of violence in Gaza.

* not comics, but pretty amazing and good news, besides: an update on the recovery of Carla and Lance Hoffman and the story of their harrowing escape from last year's Tea Fire.

* finally, between this list of manga stories/mysteries for 2009 and the recent Chris Butcher essay, I think we're all better equipped to cover that aspect of the comics industry in the months ahead.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Gross
Craig Fischer On Two Great Panels

Exhibits/Events
On Comiket 75
Ownership of GenCon Progressing Through Courts

History
On Boody Rogers
On The Year 2008
Evan Dorkin Found Funny Stuff Lying Around His Office

Industry
Secret Stash LA Location To Close
Borders Holiday Sales Down, New Mgmt Team

Interviews/Profiles
L'Asso 101
Pulse: Dave Gibbons
Nextbook: Will Eisner
FPI Blog: Neil Gaiman
Hero Complex: Neil Gaiman
Prism Comics: Dale Lazarov
ICv2.com: Lance Fensterman
Newsarama: Matthew Forsythe
Talking With Tim: Ivan Brunetti

Not Comics
Get Well, Mark Millar
Will Any Kids Play With These?
Miyazaki Film Hitting US This Summer

Publishing
The Doozies Launches
The Tough Road Facing Monthlies
Humano Online Debuts January 14
Fewer Manga Titles To Be Published In '09

Reviews
Tim O'Neil: Various
Douglas Wolk: Various
Jog: Why I Killed Peter
Chris Mautner: Various
Nina Stone: Incognito #1
Andrew Wheeler: French Milk
Richard Bruton: Jack In The Box
Matthew Brady: Red Colored Elegy
Jeff VanderMeer: Venice Chronicles
How Manga Ruined Immortal Iron Fist
Johanna Draper Carlson: Freddie and Me
Johanna Draper Carlson: You'll All Be Sorry
Paul O'Brien: Time Management For Anarchists
Katherine Farmar: My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down
 

 
January 5, 2009


Go, Read: Chris Butcher's Big-Picture Look At Manga's Present and Future

image

I don't have anything to say about longtime manga advocate and comics retail veteran Chris Butcher's take on that part of the industry other than that I enjoyed reading it and it provides a number of interesting avenues for discussion. Not yet, anyway. You shouldn't deprive yourself while waiting on me.
 
posted 4:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Mark Siegel On Assertions That First Second Is Becoming More Of A Kids Line

image

First Second Books' Mark Siegel wrote me a nice note about my act of wondering out loud, and Eddie Campbell doing approximately the same thing in an interview that ran soon after, about the future of imprints like First Second Books and related efforts at various traditional book publishers as a significant boost to literary comics of the kind literary-minded adults might get to read. Mr. Siegel:
There is no change with respect to First Second's editorial aims. Technically :01 remains an imprint of Roaring Brook Press; and I can promise you we're not veering from our mission of publishing across the comics spectrum, for children, teens, and adults; and First Second has not in any way been "designated as a children's publisher." Of course, it is part of my job to push back against the industry's historic inclination to pigeonhole anything out of the ordinary, but where it matters, First Second is very much its own creature. There's so much in the pipeline for many coming seasons, and part of that is the flowering of our adult titles. 2009 has a number of them, including Guibert's The Photographer and Adam Rapp's script Ballpeen Hammer with art by George O'Connor (as just two that couldn't be construed as young or teen or all-ages by any stretch of the imagination.)
I greatly appreciate Mark writing in and am glad to hear that he and his line remain devoted to books like Guibert's. As for the more general idea that book publishing is going to make a huge impact on that kind of comic book, I can't speak for Eddie Campbell, but I think this is one of those discussions the Internet fairly warps. In the end, I think we're best served by remembering the issues asserted and moving into a wait and see period, occasionally taking broad measurements and then discussing them without slipping into a framework of proof or guilt/innocence in individual cases. We have to get to the point where we can have more discussions of "did they" and fewer arguments about "should they," and that's going to take some time. Hopefully, I'll be better able to participate in such discussions in the months and years ahead in a manner that doesn't make one of the publishing figures involved feel I'm being unfair! Eddie Campbell, to my mind, shouldn't change a thing and should continue to inquire and agitate in precisely the directions he feels it's necessary to inquire and agitate. I'm personally going to wonder after the overall impact of traditional publishing on art comics until I see more work developed by US publishers as opposed to the publication of translated works or works cherry-picked from a smaller press, but I hope to do that -- and more, besides -- while being careful of turning that into easy indictments of the offhand variety.
 
posted 4:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: CR Holiday Interview Series

image

I wanted to thank the creators and industry folk that were kind enough to participate in the 2008 CR Holiday Interview series, and encourage you to read and/or bookmark any and all you haven't read.

* Interview One: Kim Thompson
* Interview Two: Jeet Heer
* Interview Three: Tucker Stone
* Interview Four: Sean T. Collins
* Interview Five: Dan Nadel
* Interview Six: Eddie Campbell
* Interview Seven: Kurt Busiek
* Interview Eight: Matt Forsythe
* Interview Nine: Batton Lash
* Interview Ten: Abhay Khosla
* Interview Eleven: Karl Stevens
* Interview Twelve: Matt Fraction

The interviews were run in the order completed, with two exceptions. Kim Thompson was used as the kick-off and Matt Fraction the conclusion on purpose. I find it encouraging that our industry offers a place of prominence and value for two talented individuals who sport such different skill-sets, that hail from divergent backgrounds and who happen to be several years apart in age. Everyone benefits because Kim and Matt each have something exciting or interesting to do at work every day. It's the sense that comics can accommodate so many of the talents brought to it that makes me positive about the months and years ahead.
 
posted 4:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Jog's Best Comics Picks Of 2008

image

Jog of the vital comics blog Jog -- The Blog, has posted a list of 20 comics that make up his best of 2008. They are:

20. Slam Dunk Vol. 1, Takehiko Inoue (Viz)
19. All Star Superman #10, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant (DC Comics)
18. MOME Vol. 12, Various (Fantagraphics)
17. Speak of the Devil #5, Gilbert Hernandez (Dark Horse)
16. Kramers Ergot 7, Various (Buenaventura Press)
15. The Drifting Classroom Vol. 11, Kazuo Umezu (Viz)
14. Fight or Run, Kevin Huizenga (Buenaventura Press)
13. Powr Mastrs Vol. 2, C.F. (PictureBox)
12. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
11. Gus and His Gang Vol. 1, Christophe Blain (First Second)
10. Omega: The Unknown #10, Jonathan Lethem and Karl Rusnak and Farel Dalrymple and Paul Honrsehemeier and Gary Panter (Marvel)
9. Angry Youth Comix #14, Johnny Ryan (Fantagraphics)
8. Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa (First Second)
7. Ganges #2, Kevin Huizenga (Fantagraphics)
6. Cryptic Wit #2, Gerald Jabalonski (Self-Published)
5. BodyWorld, Dash Shaw (Self-Published)
4. ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Self-Published)
3. Travel, Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)
2. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell (First Second)
1. What It Is, Lynda Barry (D&Q)
 
posted 4:40 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Kevin Melrose's Best Covers For 2008

image

Kevin Melrose, who contributes to Robot 6 and is a longtime commentator on comics art design, has posted his choices for the best 25 covers from 2008.
 
posted 4:35 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Jimmy Aquino's Best Comics Of 2008

image

Jimmy Aquino of Comic News Insider gave Daily Cross Hatch a list of five best works from 2008 for inclusion in their year-end, best-of round-up. They were:

1. Joker, Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo
2. Local, Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
3. Chumble Spuzz Vol. 1: Kill the Devil & Vol. 2: Pigeon Man & Death Sings the Blues, Ethan Nicolle/Isaiah Nicolle
4. Freddie & Me, Mike Dawson
5. Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm, Percy Carey/Ronald Wimberly
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Robot 6 Group Blog

image
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Chloe Cruchaudet Wins 2009 Goscinny

image

Chloe Cruchaudet has won this year's Prix Goscinny, as announced last December 8, for what I'm taking from the article to be her first comics work, Groenland Manhattan. The prize is designed to recognize an up and coming writing talent with three albums or less on their resume, and I believe is one of the awards given out during the Angouleme Festival.
 
posted 4:25 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
J. Caleb Mozzocco's Best Of 2008

image

The writer-about-comics J. Caleb Mozzocco has posted a top ten list at Blog@Newsarama. The books selected are:

1. The Amazing, Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell and Dan Best (First Second)
2. Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
3. The Burma Chronicles, Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly)
4. Get Your War On, David Rees (Soft Skull Press)
5. The Goddess of War, Lauren R. Weinstein (PictureBox, Inc.)
6. Gumby: The Collected Edition, Bob Burden and Rick Geary (Wildcard Ink)
7. The Last Musketeer, Jason (Fantagraphics)
8. Omega The Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Karl Rusnak and Farel Dalrymple (Marvel Comics)
9. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
10. Venice Chronicles, Enrico Casarosa (AdHouse Books)
 
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2009 Prix Tournesol Nominees

image

The nominee list for the Prix Tournesol were released right before Christmas. That's the prize that's not a part of Angouleme although given out roughly near the end of that festival (this year's goes out January 30). It honors a work with something to say about environmental or related social justice issues. The nominees include:

* Assis Debout, Stephane Plottes and Vincent De Raeve (Des ronds dans l’O)
* Auto Bio, Cyril Pedrosa (Fluide Glacial)
* Ecolo Attitude Waltch, Shuky (Maka)
* Gingko Various (Cafe Creed)
* No Comment, Ivan Brun (Glenat)
* Papa & Sophie Volume One: La Jeune Fille et le Negre, Judith Vanistendael (Actes Sud-L'An 2)
* Terre de son nom Volume One: La Cite Enceinte, Mathieu Trabut (Tartamudo)
* Terre Rouge, Julie Blanchin and Laurent Sick (Quae)

The nominees were selected by a panel of what looks like a mix of arts organization officials and creators. It's been given out since 1997.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Eric Reynolds' Best Books Of 2008

image

Eric Reynolds, the longtime promotions and publicity anchor at Fantagraphics Books, posted a Best of 2008 list right before Christmas. Items listed include at least one prose book about comics.

* ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware
* Bottomless Belly Button, Short Stories in MOME, Bodyworld; Dash Shaw
* Fuzz & Pluck: Splitsville, Ted Stearn
* Ganges #2, Kevin Huizenga
* Gary Panter, Gary Panter
* Hall of Best Knowledge, Ray Fenwick
* Kramer's Ergot #7, Variouis
* Little Orphan Annie Vol. 1, Harold Gray
* Love & Rockets New Stories #1, Hernandez Brothers
* "Mister Wonderful," Daniel Clowes
* Most Outrageous, Bob Levin
* Night Business, Benjamin Marra
* Omega the Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple and Gary Panter and Paul Hornschemeier
* Popeye Vol. 3, E.C. Segar
* Powr Mastrs Vol. 2 CF
* RASL, Jeff Smith
* Speak of the Devil, Gilbert Hernandez
* Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4, Michael Kupperman
* The Complete Peanuts 1969-1970, Charles Schulz
* Wacky Packages, Various
* Where Demented Wented, Rory Hayes
* Willie & Joe: The WWII Years, Bill Mauldin
 
posted 4:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Slate's Best Editorial Cartoons 2008

image
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Reminder: Check Your Comics-Related Subscription And Hold Arrangements

I heard from some of you right around the New Year that were dismayed -- or at least surprised -- that you had been charged with another year of an automatic subscription option related to on-line comics content. Checking one of my own bank accounts, I noticed that I had been charged on one even though I could have sworn I'd opted out of automatic renewal early last Spring. In fact, that it was so long ago was a reason I hadn't thought to check on it more recently.

I urge all of you to check up on such accounts, to make sure you're squared away. It seems to me that if you don't think you were supposed to be renewed, or if things like staggering financial losses including a change in your employment status have made you forget about a few bucks you had pledged here and a few bucks you had pledged there, you are probably better off objecting right away rather than after the new subscription has settled in for a while. In my case, I filed a standard billing account complaint with customer service, and if it doesn't work out, it's not a big deal.

I would also extend this sort of general check-up to any and all formal or understood arrangements with your local comic book retailer on the matter of held material. If, for example, you're certain you're no longer on the hook for a book that was due, say, last summer, and your retailer thinks you are, that could be bad. The pain of that eventual conversation or others like them seems to me avoidable in a lot of cases without either side becoming at fault.
 
posted 3:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Max de Radigues

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
The Oddest Thing I've Ever Received

image

This is apparently some sort of shortwave radio calling card, utilizing the art of Tumbleweeds' TK Ryan. Sent to me by Devlin Thompson. (I'm obscuring the address with a black bar.)
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Things I've Found In A Desk Drawer

image

I mean, I know who they are, but I have no idea why I own a pen and ink illustration of them...
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Darryl Cunningham

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: David Hajdu Essay On Will Elder In Year-End New York Times

image
 
posted 3:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it took a New York Times article on the decline of the comic strip's print model revenues to get some insight as to what United Media was thinking making all of comics.com free, but I'm glad for it. I'm still not totally convinced that this was the best move right now, but I think seeing it as a move to get the content ready for the next big move isn't a totally ridiculous idea. My problem tends to be that the next step seems to suggest a revenue model that protects the syndicate but maybe doesn't protect the individual cartoonist. "Let's give all your stuff away for free, and if I give your stuff and everyone else's stuff away for free, there's a slight boost across the board for the company bottom line." I mean, yow. I would have liked more on what the print model's actual decline has meant, but maybe that's because I'm super paranoid about an undefined Big Bad Wolf being used to set policy. And does the hit boost described for Comics.com sound really low, or is that just me as well?

image* there's a nice photo gallery of Fantagraphics employees here that was sweet in such a way it made me want to dye my remaining hair blond, forge some documents and try to intern there. I have no idea what's accessible in Facebook and what isn't, so this may only apply to about 17 of you, but there it is. That's Eric Reynolds on his way outside the fort to check his beaver traps.

* I missed this article before the holidays about how much entertainment value a comic brings per minute spent in its consumption. I think this kind of analysis might have a place with those people that are trying to make broad entertainment, or where that's the first foot forward. The rest of the people, not so much. While my desire for superhero product is roughly the same whether it's in comic book or movie form and doesn't seem to mind all that much in terms of which hero I get to read about, when it comes to art I'd pay more money for a photocopy of "Here" than the entire run of Jon Sable, Freelance, let alone a complete DVD of the Jon Sable TV show. Besides, I think these measures of time always underestimate how much fun you can have with a comic. I read all of my comics at least three times when I initially get them. If we're talking ones I buy they'll likely be ones I keep so I get to enjoy the whole process of bagging and boarding and storing or whatever its equivalent for the kind of comic we're talking about might be. They also serve as fodder for me to discuss comic books on the Internet or with my friends in the real world that care about those things. I'm not overly weird or fetishy when it comes to comic books, either, I don't think, so I doubt I'm getting more than that 15 minutes of enjoyment out of a comic book simply because I'm nuts.

* there's a nice post by Tim O'Neil here on the love/hate relationship that a lot of comics readers have with comics. I'm not altogether certain some of my own essays are always the best support for exactly what he's writing. I was a fairly involved reader as a kid and I think the only need that was being satisfied was putting one more activity between myself and the all-encompassing, soul-destroying abyss of boredom that was a big part of growing up in 1980s suburbia. I think the afternoons daydreaming about attending the Xavier School had more in common with the evenings in corn fields drinking beer from a plastic tube and funnel than we'd care to admit looking back. That said, I'm probably wrong because I usually am about my own work. And life. I'm additionally grateful Tim found the line about "I think I've read my lifetime's allotment of Green Lantern; I think I'm done with Green Lantern" useful, because that's an idea that's been on my mind a lot recently.

* I hope that everyone reads this story and that no one makes a big PR-related deal out of it.

* not comics: Nina Paley's latest animated work picks up an influential fan.

image* here's an update on repairs being done to the childhood home of Jerry Siegel. I've heard from a number of industry people that have close to the same mixed feelings that I do. It's great to see Jerry Siegel honored in any way, but there are a lot of related factors that are more difficult to understand. I don't know if it's out there, but I don't remember hearing or seeing how this repair work will be supported by the homeowners, if at all. By that I mean I don't know if this stuff being done in a way that someone a few years from now can have the home destroyed if it suits them, anyway. I still haven't been able to find what the general costs are perceived to be in terms of what houses are worth in that part of the country -- the prices I see on-line seem really low to me. I also don't suppose I'll ever figure out beyond throwing my hands up in the air and saying something mean why saving this old building seems to have enjoyed much more support in the comics community than the living members of the Siegel family have enjoyed in getting a meaningful settlement on their claims to their family member's creation.

* finally, you might want to go here to read a smart letter from D&Q's Peggy Burns that showed up in the middle of a rambling, confused and occasionally outright stupid discussion of the current state of sexism in the comics industry. As much as watching issues of vibrancy and alarm get boiled down into 3 AM in the dorm hallway pseudo-legal discussions makes my head hurt, and as much as hearing people so confidently fold their personal struggles into such sensitive issues whether it seem to belong there or not makes me wince, I am grateful for each and every time these issues are discussed. I'm doubly grateful when someone like Burns writes something that's smart and considered. Great swaths of the comics industry and certain elements of the comics art form struggle mightily with sexism and a variety of other isms, including those affiliated with race and age. I struggle with them, too. Discussing these issues in forthright fashion can be a first step in making things better and may, if repeated enough times and by enough people and with enough insight and clarity, begin to provide a foundation of accountability. As for the way this particular conversation seems focused, I tend to see the blandness of institutional and freelance hiring practices at big mainstream companies as more of a lost opportunity than a chance to "prove" according to some Internet dude's proclaimed standard of satisfaction that "X Company is bad." I repeat my suggestion that a version of the NFL's Rooney Rule be embraced to help change longstanding habits and bring a greater variety of voices to bear within those processes.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 68th Birthday, Hayao Miyazaki!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 34th Birthday, Jerome Reneaume!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 60th Birthday, Andrzej Mleczko!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 38th Birthday, Ambre!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Roger Klaassen!

image
 
posted 3:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Cute
Gil and Amy
Art and Francoise

Craft
Lovely
On Panels
The Role Of Taste
Daredevil Is Very Well-Designed
Erik Larsen Clearly Loves His Job
That Second One Is Just Terrifying
Like Your Postal Carrier, Craig Thompson Keeps Working

Exhibits/Events
Lynda Barry Is Brilliant
CCI Favorite Re-Opens, I Think
Frank Santoro KE7 Tour Diary 02

History
Us and Them
Vintage Alan Moore
All About Corto Maltese
How To Fall In Love With Pogo
Johnny Bacardi Remembers 2008

Industry
Quimby's Window Display
Sometimes Cartoonists Blow Deadlines
Frank Santoro Wants You To Read These Comics

Interviews/Profiles
Draw!: Chris Onstad
The Star: Dave Lapp
FPI Blog: Neil Gaiman
Newsarama: Frank Tieri
Newsarama: Gail Simone
Newsarama: Jeffrey Brown
Daily Cross Hatch: Needles and Pens

Not Comics
This Is Fairly Awesome-Looking
Black People Look Different In The UK
I Like How Warhol Went Right To Robin
J. Jonah Jameson Bats .500 As Newsman
The Rules You Need To Follow, Then Break
So That's What A Young Donnelly Rhodes Looks Like

Publishing
Shapechange You Can Believe In
Matt Fraction Explains Emma Frost
Don't Know What This Is, But I Like It

Reviews
Jarret Duncan: KE7
Jog: Hellblazer #250
Matthew Brady: Skim
Chris Butcher: Monster
Rob Clough: The Lagoon
Sean T. Collins: Breakdown
Duncan Cumming: Palestine
Jog: Beanworld Holiday Special
Jonathan Woodward: Various
Matthew Brady: Fables Vol. 11
Sean T. Collins: The Other Side
Richard Pachter: Tamara Drewe
Sean T. Collins: Planetary Vol. 3
Jillian Steinhauer: Essex County Vol. 3
 

 
January 4, 2009


CR Holiday Interview #12: Matt Fraction

image

*****

imageIt amuses me that CR doesn't have a better 2008 photo of comics writer Matt Fraction on file; we have multiples for the three years leading up to this one. Something blurry like this picture, taken during a panel at June's HeroesCon, actually might be more appropriate than a standard head shot given how quickly Fraction's career has progressed since our last talk in 2005. Coming off one of those all-time small-run gems with Ed Brubaker on Immortal Iron Fist, Fraction is now a solid player at a dominant Marvel Comics, providing scripts for Invincible Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men and what seems like whatever peripheral project into which they can shuttle The Mighty Thor. He just got off a run of Punisher War Journal with which I'm dying to catch up, and it just goes to show you how productive a writer Fraction's become that I couldn't figure out a question to ask about an interesting project like that one without feeling I would have crossed the threshold into overstaying my welcome.

Fraction's best writing work remains his own creation, Casanova, a super-spy story published through Image as much about the high-strung tenuousness of interpersonal relationships and the harm we do them as we stride though adulthood as it is about technology, double-crosses and the politics of will. He's at that beautiful place in a comics career where longtime readers rediscover the thrill of seeing these worlds through his fresh set of eyes, and newer readers have begun to see his emerging voice as specifically representative of an art form that's beginning to take a hold of them. Anchor dropped in Kansas City with his talented writer wife Kelly Sue DeConnick and their young son, Fraction wears all of the good things happening to him extremely well. I am grateful that he found time for this interview during the holiday season, and I appreciate his honesty in engaging the content of each question no matter where that led him. Thanks, Matt. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Matt, are you at the point where you have to consciously or at least subconsciously manage your career? Not everyone does, of course, but I wondered if there's a point at which a writer in your position crosses the line from taking everything that comes or working totally from impulse control and starts to think about the projects as they come and what's manageable or desirable. What might that entail?

MATT FRACTION: It's all very gut-level/instinctual decision making. Is there a story here? Is there a story I want to tell? Do I like/am I intrigued/do I have anything to say with, or about, the characters? Will things explode/will people be kicked? Is this a fun way to spend my time? Is there -- forgive the metaphor -- the shock of attraction to a project? That's about as deep as it gets. Quite honestly, I'm not smart enough to be calculating, I'm not bold enough to play hypemeister, and I'm not patient enough to build a personality cult -- so whatever strategies in career management I have are pretty devoid of ulterior motive. I leap from one shock-of-the-new to the next; I try to obey whatever string there is inside me that certain ideas pluck, and dig in until I'm -- well, if not done, then at least satisfied. I've turned down very big things and very small things. Most times I'll claim time issues but the truth of the matter tends to be that I feel a degree of creative disconnect. I can pretty much find the time to do anything if I want to -- we had a baby and for the first few months of his life my output exploded. It's not work when you love it.

I have no impulse control. I am convinced, too, that this will all go away very soon. Touch everything you can.

SPURGEON: A kind of related question: at HeroesCon this year you were nice enough to be on a panel I was moderating about collaboration, which at the end turned into this surprisingly touchy roundtable on taking the comics plunge. When you were speaking about how you made the decision to pursue comics full time, I thought I detected a self-reflective curiosity on your part, an "Oh yeah, I did that." Could you repeat that story in broad strokes and how you feel about having made that decision now that you've had a chance to look back on it?

FRACTION: Uhm -- well, I had a very nice career set up for myself elsewhere, in a company I co-owned and co-built with some very good friends. It was a very creatively fulfilling gig but getting there was an exercise in abject terror. I was miserable in a lot of ways, but was (at least one of) the captain(s) of the ship. So anyway. In a fit of pique, and at a time of great personal revelation, I quit. I was, at that point, working on one book at Marvel and had just gotten half of another, and had Casanova going but that doesn't bring in any revenue, and had a pregnant wife and mortgage that I'd assumed while living the aforementioned lucrative life of ship captain. And then we lost the baby and... and, and, and, and what now? So -- so, yeah, I dove into dark waters head first with the vague suspicion I'd be okay, that we'd -- my wife and I -- would be okay. I gave myself no other option but to make it work.

A thing about HeroesCon is -- I used to attend, as a fan; I used to work the show, as Shelton's employee; now, attending as a guest on the other side of the table is... what, humbling, I guess? It's something. My head spins a little bit. So to be asked there, at the show, as a panelist, about my career, I suppose it just kind of knocked me for a momentary loop.

I don't know if I have it in me again -- it burned years off my life, Tom. Years. Both times. The anxiety was unreal, unbearable. I think that's what you heard, on that panel... that's two careers, two safe paths, obliterated by choice in the last ten years. That was the sound of me looking back over the past couple years and realizing what I was able to pull off after the fact. And shuddering a little bit.

SPURGEON: You finished a second volume of your Casanova this year. I once heard Eddie Campbell and Rutu Modan talk about writing characters differently as they progressed with them than they might have at the beginning -- once you get to know the characters, you tend to write them differently. Is that true at all of your lead and the other characters in Casanova? Is there anything about that books that's revealed itself to you as you've finished up enough issues for a second book that you never would have suspected was there going in?

FRACTION: Oh, sure. And Casanova's arc, or Casanova's arc, as the case may be, is about grown-up you having to cover the checks that young-you wrote. It was the first monthly I ever got to do, the first ongoing concern, and of the two arcs finished to date I think there's something of a document-of-growth happening both to the character and to me as I write it. At least that's what I see when I look at it. I assume this will continue as Casanova continues whether I want it to or not. I'm the book; the book is me. That said I always had a roadmap for where I want to take Casanova, but sometimes things change in spite of that. Characters come up with their own ideas, or I just get smarter, or think otherwise of my guesstimated roadmap. So as I grow it grows, is what it's taken me all this time to say.

I never expected the thing to be so raw a document of my life and what I'm going through as I write it; for all the genre trappings and ridiculous stuff, the book is a kind of diary-in-aggregate, from the ridiculous to the sublime, surface to core, blippity blap, blah blah blah. I can't help it.

imageSPURGEON: One thing that I think that connects Casanova to your past works is this kind of meditation on family that comes out of this book and some of your others: the fluidity of those bonds, and the way that being a good person frequently means functioning well within those relationships. I apologize for this overly facile question, but as a husband and therefore a participant in a new family and now especially as a father, is there any way to speak in some way about how your perspective on family may have changed during the course of your career? Do you think the same sorts of relationships will be as interesting to you five years from now, say?

FRACTION: There's not a lot I understand about my process on Casanova. I'm not sure I understand or even recognize all the ways being a father is changing me, other than the general sleeplessness and attendant lack of mental acuity (my friends have suffered through me telling and retelling the same stories and generally repeating myself for fifteen months now.). I'm saying I'm too in it to know, but I can't imagine things not being changed and affected. And as you pointed out, Casanova, being about family, surely will document wherever it is I find myself. I can't imagine those relationships not being as interesting; never say never, I suppose, but if I've got the makings of any sort of leitmotifs I'd bet that's one...

SPURGEON: I wanted to ask a couple of questions about how you process pop culture, Matt. I think of you as a writer aware of popular culture and various antecedents to where things stand now -- for example, I remember having a discussion with you about Joseph Mitchell, and you basically re-launched your site the other week by posting a link to a Google video version of Story of Ricky. I also think of you as someone who's cognizant of those elements in the work that you do: Casanova seems very much a certain kind of '60s spy literature even when it's not; ditto Iron Fist and martial arts stories. I guess my first question is this: how conscious are you of processing those pop culture influences or reference points, either working them in if they have an element you desire or working them out, say, if something you see in the work is too reminiscent of a specific past work by someone else? How do you find the balance between being influenced and not letting that influence dominate, and is it different as you do more work?

FRACTION: This is a big question; I'm going to try to answer as simply as possible because otherwise I'd talk about it until the end of the internet. I am extraordinarily conscious of processing those influences and reference points; I have tried very hard to dial back the conscious references, but I'm very unconscious of how I process them (a lot of times I don't see it until it's pointed out to me); I am constantly on the lookout for the subconscious rip-off and realize I don't catch 'em all.

I struggle to find the balance and think I fail more than I succeed. It's something I'm working on. I think it's what processing means, though. The generation I'm a part of -- look, I hear the guitar riff from "The Ocean" and I don't think "The Ocean," I think "She's Crafty." Sampling, right? I came up with sampling being a tool in the creation of pop culture, whether it's Paul's Boutique or Pulp Fiction. That metatextual layer, repurposing, scavenging and salvaging and paying homage and acknowledgment to the stuff that you love, to the stuff that's come before, and using that to comment on what you're doing... I've never really known a time when pop art didn't have that tool in its toolbox. Hell, even Andy Warhol dripped for a while, right? You can reflect and honor and reject and homage everything and anything. I guess that... I have a hunch that maybe, as you're a young man or woman and you're building your body of work, in the early going, what else do you have to talk about but yourself and the work you've consumed? Never progressing from being the guy that's seen every Shaw Brothers movie is a bummer; being the guy that's seen every Shaw Brothers movie, lived a life and made real work and thought real thoughts and then makes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is pretty amazing.

Have you read Grant Morrison's Batman run? It's a pretty spectacular example of this -- using Batman as frame of reference for Batman. The gag is that everything that's happened in the Batman comic actually happened to Batman, right? And what would that do to a human mind? From the bleak noir stuff to the bam-sock-pow stuff and everything in between. He's using the whole history of the character to comment on the character as the character endures it. And to comment on the comics mainstream, and on heroes, and all that great stuff. I mean, the first fight scene takes place in an art gallery during a Pop Art retrospective where these faux-Lichtenstein paintings of comics are commenting on the comic we're reading as we're reading it, for god's sake. And as the run went on, Morrison really used the entirety of the character's history as a frame of reference and context to comment on the character. Batman-as-Batman-as-Pop-Culture-in-toto. It's a mess, and a glorious one at that, and his reach might have exceeded his grasp for a couple reasons not exactly germane to this discussion, but it's been a pretty amazing piece, all the same. It's the Cremaster of superhero comics.

What was the question? I liked Cremaster. I like Batman. I like Grant Morrison.

SPURGEON: My second question is if you still pursue outside work and experiencing other kinds of art, comics or otherwise, and if that process has changed since the time in your early 20s when for a lot of people that kind of thing comes more naturally?

FRACTION: Do I still pursue outside work actively, meaning, do I still create things that aren't comic book scripts, or do I still pursue art as a consumer, passive or otherwise? I'm not sure which you mean. And do people really think that making art or, even weirder, that consuming art is somehow easier in their 20s?

It's been a couple years since I shot anything; short films and animation was my primary not-comics work venue. Part of that is due to the deadlines of monthly comics; part of that is the baby; part of that is, dude, movies are hard. I've started keeping a visual journal again, shot ideas, images from dreams, things I see, all that. I still try to consume as much as I can, but again, deadlines and a baby will cut down on movie watching and gallery crawling, as it were.

I don't find it any easier to make work now as I did then; I would surely never describe the process as one that comes naturally.

imageSPURGEON: What did you learn doing The Order that maybe you would not have learned if the title were still going?

FRACTION: Wow -- how Rumsfeldian? I'm not sure how to prove a predictive negative. I learned what it felt like to have to make difficult creative decisions in the wake of its financial failure, for lack of a better explanation. Which is embarrassing, I suppose, to not be able to singlehandedly (or co-singlehandedly ((ha!)), as it were, as that book was as much Barry as me) launch a new superhero team book into the direct market and buck the last twenty years of sales tradition and create a new and lasting property. Is that what you mean? What did it feel like to not launch a successful book from Marvel Comics? It was a bummer. People might claim the market wants mid-level unique spins on the genre but, if that's true, they didn't want it from me, or at least, they didn't want THAT one. We worked hard and our seed found no purchase. I learned what that felt like. We tried to do a thing and it didn't work. Slowly zoom in on lone tear running down cheek; pan down to pile of un-bought, unread, and unloved issues of The Order in a bonfire. Dissolve to the widows Fraction and Kitson, weeping over the pauper's grave their husbands share.

image

SPURGEON: Your Iron Man gig strikes me as a particularly interesting assignment because from a comics standpoint, despite Marvel's objections to saying so, the character was kind of damaged goods in a sense, and yet the movie was either out -- or forthcoming, actually, I think -- and provided at least a vote of confidence for one way the character might work. In addition, it's one of the older Marvel characters, it's about 25 years removed from its point of greatest connection with fans, and it had had at least two, maybe three major revamps in the last decade. How does one turn that cacophony of elements informing a character like that into something with which you can work? Do you pick and choose, do you ignore the past altogether, do you follow a gut feeling, do you focus more on the way your own story is constructed…? How did your Iron Man come together?

FRACTION: Clearly I'm in the tank for the character, so go ahead and disregard all that follows as the neurotic and self-important protestations of someone in the throws of denial, but --

-- I don't think any character is "damaged goods." I reject the premise. Creators can be damaged goods, sure. But characters? No character is damaged goods in the hands of a writer with vision. It's fiction. You can do anything. Some people on the internet didn't like the way the character behaved in a story. That's not "damaged goods."

imageI got the book a year ago; literally, almost to the day. Marvel wanted a new Iron Man book, a new ongoing #1, on the stands when the movie was released. I pitched for it in the room, at last year's winter Editorial Retreat, and got it right before the holiday. I had no special access to any information about the film; I had no idea what they were going to do; I just made a lot of lucky guesses based on what I read in Variety. I wrote the book I wanted to read and hoped the movie would be one I'd want to see. So in terms of a "vote of confidence for one way the character might work"... I got lucky. I ignored the cacophony, basically. Continuity is the devil; consistency is the watchword. Accessibility balanced with respect for history, with the understanding that readability trumps all. It's all kind of gut-check stuff tempered by common sense. I don't think it's impossible to satisfy lifelong Iron Man readers with people like my folks who had no idea who Iron Man was before the book and the movie.

The Iron Man book I write came together by doing a lot of reading. I wanted it to be a science fiction book that took place tomorrow, or next week, rather than, y'know, innnnnnn ttthhhhheeeee ffffffffffuuuuuuuturrrrrrrrrrrrrre. I mean, even William Gibson is writing SF that takes place in the past, right? Also I'm not that smart, so I needed as little real science as possible. I read about cell phone penetration vs. land line penetration in the third world. I read about emergent terrorist states. I went to AA meetings and read the Big Book. I read about the evolution of 4G warfare. I read about biotech breakthroughs and cybernetic enhancements. I read old Iron Man comics. I woolgathered and magpied notes together.

Then I ignored everything and wrote the Iron Man book I wanted to read.

(I lost my mind reading about the siege of Mumbai.)

SPURGEON: One of the more interesting about the art in your Iron Man is Salvador Larocca's visual references to celebrities… in fact, you've worked with a number of strong stylists. Is there any way that you as a writer will respond to or make choices based on stylistic strategies undertaken by an artist with whom you're working?

FRACTION: I can't stand that stuff, personally -- yanks me out of the story immediately. Not photo referencing, that's not what bugs me, but using celebrities just... it's as intrusive as someone standing over your shoulder reading the word balloons with funny voices. Bums me out.

I don't write to that stuff, specifically, but I try very hard to write specifically for each of my collaborators, yes. Each book, each collaborator is different. I hate writing blind and, with very very few exceptions, I haven't had to very often. Again, it's a collaborative medium; it seems the least I can do is try to write as best I can for my partners, play to their strengths, write the comic I'd want to see them draw.

SPURGEON: There are humorous elements to all of your books, and one of your earliest was an outright comedy... Has it been difficult at all to find a way to blend adventure comics, especially those books you do squarely in the US comics mainstream, with humor? Do you find that there's an element of certain comics readers wanting their chocolate over here and their peanut butter way over there, or do you feel they're more open to humor or varying approaches in general than conventional wisdom might hold? Will you ever do a flat-out humor book again?

FRACTION: Unfortunately, sometimes, no -- the jokes just happen, in spite of my best intentions. But then, life is funny. Mine is, anyway. Even at its most grim, someone makes a joke. The darker the better. Maybe I've just surrounded myself with funny unlucky people. I'm sure it annoys people; god forbid we find something amusing about Batman's hidden bottle of Anti-Crime Spray. The laughs just come, as much as tears or teeth-clenching or anything else. I don't ever set out to, like, write funny. Because that is completely unfunny every time.

I dunno if I'll ever do a flat-out humor book again. Probably not. I liked my old, funny stuff better.

SPURGEON: I've read some of your X-Men work... what if anything interests you about those characters in terms of thematic possibilities? That's supposedly the great metaphor comic and I wonder if you saw something specific in them that interested you, or where your enthusiasm in working on those comics lies, period.

FRACTION: Of course I saw something specific in them that interests me, but those're the wrong questions. All comics are great metaphor comics. All comics are absolutely drunk with thematic possibilities. You might as well ask me, what interests me about comics, period.

imageSPURGEON: Casanova was serialized in a format that stressed small page counts and cheaper prices in order to facilitate an easier entry point for both creators and potential readers. Do you plan on return to that characters, and if so, in that format? Comics looks like it could be entertain into an era of format upheaval -- no one would be surprised if you were working on a the same kinds of things five years from now and no one would be surprised if you were working on 90 percent on-line serials, say. Where do you think we're heading, and how concerned are you about the potential vocational impact?

FRACTION: Yes; Casanova will be back in the new year. No, not in that format. Nobody cared about that format -- or rather, the format didn't work as the value-add I was hoping. Lots of people that read the book liked the format, but the format itself didn't incentivize the book.

Let me talk about the practical side of it, then the creative side, if I may. Retailers largely didn't care; some even wrote me to tell me they resented I was occupying shelf space with a $2 book that they could have filled with a $5 IDW book. Retailers have referred to it as being "black and white," to my face, in spite of the fact that it's not; in spite of the fact that the second volume was shot through with pure Cyan to insure it never happen again, and yet happen again it did. All the... all the stuff I thought we could do, all the stuff that Ba and Moon and I came up with to stand out, to be unique, to up our numbers, or our visibility, to make the book more accessible to retailers and readers alike, anything we did to be at least something a little different... it didn't help and in numerous cases, however anecdotal, actually hurt the book.

It's a safe bet we could sell at least as many copies at regular length, in color, for a buck and a half more, and actually not just break even but Ba and/or Moon could make something approaching a wage. Maybe it's the format; maybe the book's just never going to find an audience. I'm not ready to concede the second point so I'm focusing on the first.

I believe it's working just fine for Warren and Ben on Fell. We're not them.

Creatively... I regret the backmatter. Profoundly. I wish I'd... I wish I realized that just because Warren and Ben were doing something like that for Fell that I didn't have to do it for Casanova. "Have to." Christ, what a good boy. Like there was an editorial mandate or something. Anyway I wish it was more comics instead of me bloviating endlessly. I come from art school and film school; that's the culture I cut my creative teeth in so I'm no stranger to talking about my work and where it came from and why but... y'know, me going on in front of a class for five minutes is a transitory thing in a room designed for that kind of thing, in front of an audience that's doing the exact same thing. Putting that garbage in print means its there forever. Anyway I'm done with that. When the book comes back it will be in a much more standard format.

I don't know where we're headed. I don't believe the market will tolerate too many deviations of form at the moment, in this economy. Maybe the very toppermost of the poppermost of creators can play around, from the toppermost of the poppermost of publishers. Maybe.

SPURGEON: Is comics a nice place to work?

FRACTION: Yeah, I like it a lot. I get to make up ridiculous stuff until all hours of the night and play with my baby and be with my wife whenever I like.

SPURGEON: What could it do to be a better place?

FRACTION: A union, standardized health care, and retirement programs to take care of the giants from whose shoulders we launch ourselves into flight after they've fallen from popular favor would all be a good start.

*****

* one of the beautiful Fabio Moon covers to the recently ended second-volume run on Casanova
* hilariously blurry photo by Whit Spurgeon, I think
* Fabio Moon portrait of Casanova Quinn
* cover to one of the issues of the Matt Fraction/Barry Kitson collaboration, The Order
* panel from Invincible Iron Man
* Invincible Iron Man cover
* panel from Casanova
* [below] panel from Casanova

*****

image

*****
*****
 
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it.

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List.

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen.

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
January 3, 2009


CR Holiday Interview #11: Karl Stevens

image

*****

imageIn some ways I think comics is less prepared these days to focus attention on cartoonists like Karl Stevens. I can certainly imagine him 15-20 years ago having his own name-above-the-title comic book effort through which to serialize his various works on young people and their interactions in and about Boston. That's not to say that such avenues were financially rewarding in any significant way, only that I can imagine a time when more people in more places interested in comics would have heard of Stevens than have at this point, on the strength of his Xeric-winning periodical from a couple of years ago (Guilty) and a new, little-discussed work from earlier this year supported by Alternative Comics (Whatever).

There are compensating virtues. His work seems to be well-received locally. He just finished a serial with writer Gustavo Turner, and is on the verge of starting a new newspaper comic for 2009. Whatever collects a run of strips bearing the same name done for area alt-weekly consumption before the Turner collaboration. The feature's haphazard qualities -- a joke this week, a character study next week, a meta-fictional portrayal of an artist on deadline the next -- seems to me to provide Stevens a much more appropriate vehicle to explore a certain quality of living common to those from about 23-32 than sustained soap opera narrative might allow. I think the thing I like best about Stevens is I have no idea what he'll be doing five years from now. I can't tell you why that's so appealing, but there it is. Stevens was very nice to do this interview in a way that facilitated its almost instantaneous publication. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Can I ask what you're working on right now? Because if I remember right, while Whatever is a collection of your newspaper strip, you were also at one time working on a color graphic novel. Are we still going to see that? Were the color pages in Whatever from that project? Is there a new project?

KARL STEVENS: I was working on a larger color book for a while but have since abandoned it for the time being (Indeed some of the color work in the Whatever collection are from the story). I kept being distracted by problems both personal and professional -- partying too much, too many all-nighters trying to meet deadlines and what not. Recently, I feel like I've settled into a steadier professional routine.

imageAt the moment I've been working on a new weekly comic for the Boston Phoenix. To give you some background I quit working on Whatever last April. I felt I needed to do something different for a while so I asked my writer friend Gustavo Turner if he would be interested in collaborating on something new that was the exact opposite of what I'd been doing. We came up with Succe$$, which was an ongoing melodrama concerning four young businessmen and their start up eco-financing company. There were a lot of topical and obscure popular culture references -- Gustavo being what I would call a "natural critic" has a particular knack for that kind of writing -- and I drew it in a very traditional black line and flat color style common to comics. We set out to do something surreal and over the top with Steranko undertones.

After a while I started to miss writing alone and in the more personal Whatever style so we decided to end the strip. The last one runs the week of January 1st. The new comic starting the week after will be called Failure and be similar to Whatever in drawing style. The set up is a broken down young painter who moves into a room at his former painting teacher and family's house in Jamaica Plain -- a neighborhood in Boston that's known for it's high level of cultural diversity. There will be jokes and have a kind of Curb Your Enthusiam/Peter Bagge tone to it.

I've also been working on other strips that relate to Failure that I'm hoping to turn into a larger cohesive book. I would like to do a quarterly 32-page floppy comic or something to serialize it in the meantime. That is if I convince a publisher my work will fit into their line.

image

SPURGEON: Can you give me the core information on how Whatever was started, if it's still running, how long it ran, where...? My sense is that it was ongoing by the time you had released the Xeric-winning Guilty, so that there was some overlap there.

STEVENS: Guilty came out before I started working on Whatever. Actually Guilty is the reason Whatever exists. The Phoenix had written an article on the book when it came out which was around the time they were redesigning the paper. The Design Director Kristen Goodfriend -- whom I previously worked with doing freelance illustration work for -- approached me about doing something that was similar to Guilty but in a weekly format.

SPURGEON: You said in your Comic Book Galaxy interview that you had greatly reduced the amount of time between what you spent on pages for Guilty and what you were doing for the Whatever installments. How were you able to do that? You have what looks like a time-intensive style, how are you able to improve your speed given the demands of that style?

STEVENS: I was able to improve my speed by working smaller. The pages from Guilty were drawn on 10"X15" boards where as the Whatever pages were drawn 7"X10" -- less space to get kinky with the crosshatching.

image

SPURGEON: How long does it take you to write? How do you write? Is it full script, an idea, breakdowns...?

STEVENS: It's a combination of all of those. I, like most people in this game, keep a sketchbook. Usually I sketch out the dialogue first and then do some rough visual breakdowns to give myself and idea of the pace. Then I'll use that as reference to pose the models -- lately though I've been forgoing this detail and have been improvising with the camera using the dialogue to see what the situation gives me and choose the best references from there. When I start the final page I write the original dialogue from the notebook outside the frame -- sketch in the location and size of the word balloon-and meditate over the wording while penciling in the visuals. More often than not I've made up my mind on the final script by the time that's finished and then proceed to break out the Hunt 102. Only to change my mind with the white out the next day and then poor Kristen needs to photoshop over my dumb spelling/grammar mistakes.

SPURGEON: It's my understanding having gotten it wrong before -- and I'm counting on you to correct me if I'm wrong again -- that you do take photos for reference but that's as far as the use of photos goes. Has that approach pretty much remained the same for you on this project as opposed to the last one?

STEVENS: Yes. I take photos of my models for reference to get that naturalistic look that I get. Let me just say for the record -- no matter how absurd it really is -- that I don't trace over the photos on a light table or something. To me that approach makes the realism look stiff and you can always tell when it's done. I find that if you "eyeball" the thing and draw from observing your line tends to look more fluid and natural. The little mistakes are what give it personality and all that.

image

SPURGEON: The other question I have about your art is that I remember you saying that when you take photos you're not picky about the lighting -- that this helped make your shots go really quickly. What is it you're primarily getting from the photos, then, if not things like the way the light strikes the figure you're shooting?

STEVENS: What I meant by that is I'm aiming to achieve is a natural sense of place. I prefer to caption the natural lighting of a particular environment as opposed to some more controlled. Another effort the make the work look less artificial and thus add to the naturalism. That said I've been more interested in starker depictions of light and shade these days.

SPURGEON: There's an appealing restlessness to Whatever, a move back and forth between presentational modes: telling a story, telling a gag, making an autobiographical point, strips that exist it seems to primarily depict a single scene... was that just a byproduct of how you were working, do strips week in and week out.

STEVENS: I would like to say no that I planned it that way but yes it's a total byproduct of the deadline. I started out thinking that I wanted to make Whatever a fluid continuity but soon realized that I didn't know how to do that in a weekly serial correctly. It takes a certain amount of early basic character establishment and simple thematic scores. I feel with the new strip Failure I'm able to do this.

SPURGEON: Did you design the book? It looks like a little book one might find on their parents' bookshelves that haven't been touched since 1974... what was your inspiration and idea there?

STEVENS: Ha ha -- that's great! No, my friend Garrett Kramer designed the cover for me. He was fresh out of art school and he emailed me offering his services for any future projects. I liked his approach and asked him to help me with it.

imageSPURGEON: I think your work can be quite funny. As someone that's a MAD Magazine fan, and is familiar with how a lot of those artists approached humor, and also with how most humorous artists approach humor comics today, do you think working your fairly detailed, handsome style afford you different opportunities, or make for different obstacles when it comes to telling a joke? I apologize for the clumsiness of that question. Basically: when most people think of a humor cartoonist they don't think of someone with your style. I wondered if you thought what you do with style was different in any way than the kind of thing a Peter Bagge or a Johnny Ryan is able to do with their respective styles.

STEVENS: Yeah, obviously it's different -- I don't think the exaggerated facial expressions that Bagge and Ryan excel at would translate well in my style. There's the problem of what I call 'over-acting' in realistically drawn comic strips -- I feel like I see it at lot in the Marvel/DC product -- the "Alex Ross" effect. Unfortunately that's a real roadblock for me when writing humor -- but at the same time I welcome the challenge. Mad Magazine is interesting -- I probably wouldn't be drawing comics if I hadn't been exposed [to it] at an early age. I was always drawn -- believe or not -- to the Mort Drucker and Angelo Torres TV/Movie parodies the most because of exactly what you're describing. I found it really fascinating that they were able to pull off those subtle yet realistic looking expressions that worked so well with the dialogue -- typed and cold looking as it was. When I compose a funny strip I tend to err on the side of what's going to be drawn and then try to tune the dialogue and pacing around that. The lighting, facial expression and or environment play the major role in how the dialogue is presented. I guess what I'm trying to get at is there are a million ways to tell a funny joke but you just need to find the right way in the right situation.

SPURGEON: A hometown strip in a well-read publication brings with it a lot of instant feedback -- and a level of local notoriety, I'm told. Is there any frustration moving from that world and into this kind of unforgiving national scene with so much work out and odd distribution trying to get noticed in that framework. Because I imagine that you know your work appeals from what you've heard back on its serial publication.

STEVENS: I have gotten quite a lot of flattering and excitable feedback from fans of the strip over the years -- from all kinds of sane people who read the paper. I remember a friend who works at the Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square telling me about someone coming into the store and asking if they had that book by that guy in the Phoenix saying it's "a graphic novel but drawn" -- probably their first time in a comic shop. This is frustrating to me in the larger international graphic novel market because of my status of doing work that I don't see anyone else doing at the moment. It seems to make marketing the product difficult for publishers. How can you sell it as comics if it don't look like comics? I should ask Matt Madden and Jessica Abel about this.

SPURGEON: Something I thought was interesting about your first work is that it set out to explore a specific kind of relationship, whereas Whatever seems to set out to depict a general way of conducting one's life, a milieu. Is that fair? Have you learned about your relationships and lifestyle choices by making them a part of your comics? Have you been to able to garner another perspective by making art out of things close to your life?

STEVENS: That is fair and correct. Guilty was conceived as a single idea and with Whatever I was and -- in its current form of Failure -- am intending as a long fake-diary of sorts. Unfortunately my ability to learn from the real life mistakes I've drawn that happened is slow moving-like the art style

image

SPURGEON: There seems to be a conflict in Whatever between regretful memories and the desire to live right there in the moment, which seems to me something really appropriate to explore in comics. Is that a clash that you experience in your own life?

STEVENS: Yes, especially with the forthcoming project of Failure. I'm getting as close as I've ever come to exploring the more personal elements of my life in comics memoir.

SPURGEON: How do you think you'll feel about the life and times depicted or filtered through Whatever ten years from now? What kind of art do you think you'll be making then?

STEVENS: I'll probably think I was an idiot that fucked off too much but did the best I could in the situation I was in. I imagine I'll still be making comics about man's relation to the world in some way. Ultimately though I just hope I get to be better as a draftsman.

*****

* cover to Whatever
* crappy photo by Tom Spurgeon, 2008; this is the only time I saw Stevens at his Stumptown table all day. I had to make it black and white because the photo was so bad his skin was bright pink.
* doesn't everyone get advice from the floating head of Don Draper? Panel from Succe$$
* a random page of Whatever I happen to like a lot
* random panel from Whatever
* faces and light sources
* a comedic interlude
* I just sort of like this moment
* [below] half of all artists in the world have some version of this dream at some point

*****
image
*****
*****
 
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
It's Going To Be A Really Weird Year

image
 
posted 8:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it.

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List.

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen.

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
January 2, 2009


CR Holiday Interview #10: Abhay Khosla

image

*****

I enjoy Abhay Khosla's take on comic books so much that for a time I was popping onto message boards he frequents just for the chance to to read what was on his mind. I imagine his writing is aggravating to some, as it utilizes a self-absorbed, stream-of-consciousness style that makes frequent leaps between pop culture references and focuses on text and reviewer in equal measure. I very much like it. His essays for Brian Hibbs' The Savage Critic(s) are some of the best in comics, print or on-line, and are the best thing going on a site that includes comic book review heavy-hitters Graeme McMillan, Jog and Douglas Wolk. What distinguishes Khosla's essays beyond their idiosyncratic voice is the quality of his insight, the attentive reading of the work at the foundation of each review, and a sort of non-fussy fearlessness that his writing evinces I think as a result of being so powerfully its own thing. I was sort of stunned Khosla agreed to do a short interview, as I believe he mistrusts a lot of the typical comics community interactions. I'm glad he did, though, and after reading the following I think you will be, too. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: I swear I won't ask you too many personal questions, but am I right in thinking that you started to review comics as a student? What led you to start reviewing comics?

ABHAY KHOSLA: Poor social skills? Emotional retardation? Syphilitic dementia? I don't... Is this really the kind of depressing note you want to start this interview on? What kind of sick game are you playing at, Comics Reporter? "I got a heathen to cry during the holidays. You're welcome, Baby Jesus."

imageWhen I was a senior in high school, my school opened a time capsule of letters my class had written to ourselves when we were freshmen, that they'd saved for us. And my letter, 3/4ths of it was the usual stuff about friends, family, girls, but the last paragraph was a lengthy, handwritten, carefully worded, dead-serious prediction of what would happen next in the Chris Claremont-Jim Lee Uncanny X-Men. Of course, by senior year, Jim Lee had moved onto the WildC.A.T.S (Covert Action Teams), so really, it was heartbreaking in more than one way.

So, I don't know how to answer this one honestly. Sure, I'm a guy on the internet with an unhealthy relationship with comic books -- how original! But who cares? I always skip these parts of interviews. I don't care who Sal Buscema took to the prom. Heck, I question the necessity of this entire interview. People don't tune into this blog to hear me blather on. They tune into this blog to read about the brutal repression of Iranian cartoonists, or to hear what Bart Beaty thinks about L'Association, whatever that is. I wouldn't know what a L'Association was if the Iranians brutally repressed one onto my face. This interview is going to be a disaster.

SPURGEON: You employ a very sprawling, reference-laden, confessional and frequently humorous style in your reviews. I know this may sound stupid but why that style? Is that just the way you write, the way to write you find most pleasurable, maybe? Is it a useful style? I remember a transition you make in your review of Air #1 to talk about color and it occurred to me that your style really facilitates that kind of serial association.

KHOSLA: I went back and looked at your interview with Tim Hodler last year, the intro to it: "He doesn't rant, or even vent. What he does is carefully analyze each book in a way where it seems as if he's come to every comic he talks about with wide-open eyes and a complete lack of agenda or obvious bias." That made me laugh because Holy Crap, am I the opposite of that. I'm all axes-to-grind, irrational biases, unexplained neuroses, hair-triggers, bizarre hissy-fits. I know that makes some blog-o-readers (?) want to avert their eyes, but I find unpacking those dysfunctions, I don't know, just kind of funny, so... Wallah: clown show.

It would be dishonest to pretend that I have a rational relationship with comics. I've been reading them since the third grade. My relationship with them isn't mathematically sound.

I just start writing and hope I have fun, hope I make myself laugh, hope I make connections. Alan Moore said something in a Salon review once: "intelligence does not depend on the amount of neurons we have in our brains, it depends on the amount of connections they can make between them." Chuck Klosterman had a line: "In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever 'in and of itself.'" Or of course, best of all, there's the late David Foster Wallace's commencement speech at Kenyon College, how "the freedom" of an education" is that "you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't." So, I try to stay mindful of how with any comic book, however insignificant it might be "aesthetically," there's still so much to discuss; if nothing else, every single comic book is an artifact of the culture that created it.

Comic creators -- sure, there are a few hacks, but most of them are trying their best. Which is really tragic, considering the results, but -- but look: they put their thoughts, feelings, biographies, into those books; they try to be original. That's not a reason to go easy on them, but it's at least a reason to try to put some elbow-grease into it, to try to look beyond the surface details of plot. Or I was walking by a lingerie store earlier this week, and I noticed a "female" mannequin with unusually large breasts. Like, Anita Ekberg breasts. What was it like for the sculptor of that mannequin? Was that a good day at work where he gave it his all -- "Oh good, today I get to watch Andy Sidaris movies for inspiration" -- or was that a bad day at work where he half-assed it -- "Oh god, today I have to watch Andy Sidaris movies for inspiration"? The answer is I'll never know because I haven't walked in his shoes, and I don't know what his job is like, and it really, really depends which Andy Sidaris movie you watch because they're not all the same, they're not all Savage Beach. So, I think there's a metaphor there, and that metaphor explains why I spent a half-hour staring obsessively at a mannequin's fiberglass tits, my breath fogging the window.

I fail. All the time. But I guess I have my own personal set of goals.

I guess an argument could be made that as a member of a "model minority" group that places an emphasis on conformity and achievement, my interest in comics (where the "professionals" so often aren't) and my over-emphasis on vulgar humor is all dimestore rebellion. But I just don't think about that sort of thing when I sit down to write about the Mighty Thor. When I write about the Mighty Thor, I think "If I were engaged in foreplay with the Mighty Thor, would I pull his hair and then tease his nipples with one of his helmet-feathers, or the other way around?" But that argument could be made, I suppose. By some kind of asshole.

SPURGEON: I was surprised that you committed to writing for Savage Critic(s) at a point at which I thought you weren't going to take on something like that again. What attracted you to writing for Brian's site? Are you particularly fond of or sympathetic towards any of the other writers? How closely do you pay attention to the feedback you receive there?

KHOSLA: I guess I was flattered to have my name associated with Jog and Douglas Wolk. Wolk can be entertaining writing about 52, and then turn around and write about Chris Ware just as sharply; great eye for talent, too. I really enjoyed the Tomb of Dracula chapter of his book; I loved that there was a Tomb of Dracula chapter, you know? Jog always makes the things he finds in books seem like they were obvious, like they were sitting there waiting for him. His Jademan Wong piece in particular was tremendous; his review of Josh Simmons's House was a favorite. He almost persuaded me to like the new issue of Final Crisis, even. Both guys can just -- they just can explain shit, you know? I don't think I can do that much at all.

Plus, I liked the site before I started writing for it. I always liked how the site was direct, concise, to-the-point. I guess I ended that. I'd never really written proper "reviews" before so... I guess I wanted to see if I could add something unique to that game. I don't know how it's gone so far. Some lousy pieces, some okay pieces. So-so.

But sure, I had zero interest in writing anything before that e-mail. You think it might be unhealthy, writing criticism? There's been study after study lately how the happiest people are the ones who don't over-think things, the ones who can "get out of their heads." There was an article in The New Yorker entitled "The Very Bad Review" about the meanest review ever written in history, John Churton Collins's 1886 review of an Edmond Gosse book. The socially popular Gosse ended up living a happy life supported by his celebrity friends in the literary world, none of whom cared that he was a hack; the socially unpopular Collins ended up socially ostracized, ultimately killing himself. What's often called for is surrender, but perhaps the critical impulse can often be antithetical to surrender...? I'm not sure. But I guess I'm a little ambivalent about the whole enterprise, to be honest. So far, it's been okay.

I read all of the feedback. I usually try not to interfere. People got angry at me when I first started, just... for even existing, but that's died down, those people figured out how to avoid me. That part was so much fun, though. That might have been the best part so far.

SPURGEON: You float a notion in one of your Secret Invasion reviews that you wanted to write about that series in part because of its event status and maybe the enthusiasm that fans seem to feel for that kind of thing would rub off on you in some way. I don't know how serious you were, but is that true? Do you read things differently now?

image
KHOSLA: I didn't want to write about Secret Invasion because I thought I could create a "ha, ha, look how terrible this is" series of essays. That it became that is regrettable. I saw a lot of "critics" and fans online complain about Civil War, which I thought was a crackerjack series. I didn't feel like the specific virtues I saw in Civil War were being articulated while that series was running. There's so many reasons to hate multi-title crossovers, that it's difficult to look beyond that and ask why they work, why the audience responds to them favorably. So, I was hoping to get to present a "defense" of the mainstream with Secret Invasion. While still being realistic that Secret Invasion wasn't, you know, "important to comics" or whatever, without being one of those Newsarama reviews that make you wonder if the reviewer has ever read, like, an actual book, one without pictures.

None of that worked out. Maybe it wasn't a realistic goal to begin with, given my nature.

There's a critique of mainstream comic fans that can be made, but the word I don't see get thrown around a lot is "envy." Superhero fans always seem like they're having a great time. With art comics, the conversations that I tend to see, it's not as much about actually caring about what happens to the characters who live in the four-corners of the page. It's more about whether "so-and-so is a genius" or not, aesthetic questions I have no interest in, the cult of creators. I've never seen anyone go nuts on the internet over what happened to Crying Asian Man from some Adrian Tomine comic. "I'm going to predict what happens to Crying Asian Man in the next issue of Optic Nerve." Never seen that. I've never seen a Crying Asian Man fan-site, or anyone dressed as Crying Asian Man at a comic convention, or Crying Asian Man slash-fic.

A review can't effect the sales of something like Secret Invasion, so I know some people question the point of those reviews. But to me, it's so much fun writing about something people care about so passionately. Part of the fun of those books is that people want to argue about them, that they invite a certain kind of arguing.

imageI find myself increasingly confused by the contempt people have for mainstream comic fans. There are a few occasions when it's been justified -- the fan reaction to decisions in the Siegel copyright case, say -- but there are also times where it seems as though those fans just get taken for granted. DC published a series called Countdown, where DC sold their fans 52 issues of a series under the completely false pretenses that reading that series would somehow increase their appreciation of the Final Crisis crossover. And the Countdown series didn't do that apparently -- DC failed to keep that promise, which to my mind is unmistakably indefensible. It's an act of naked contempt. But I kept seeing people online turn that around and make the argument that it was the fan's fault for... even caring, that fans were being too continuity-minded, that fans had been foolish for even having wanted Countdown to begin with. That they'd somehow gotten something they deserved...? I don't understand it.

imageMarvel sold a $4 X-Men comic this year that supposedly contained only 16 pages of comics. To me, that's ghastly. Of course fans can say no, and they don't. But that, it's not enough of an excuse. A fandom is what it is, and it behaves how it behaves. Sure, I don't understand why anyone would tolerate being treated that way, being treated like a sub-human. Especially when there are worthwhile alternatives. But I'm not a part of that fandom -- I like the characters, but I'm not invested like a fan is invested. To say that fans being fans, doing things that fans naturally do, that somehow that justifies anything that's perpetrated on them... I don't know. I'm tired of that argument.

I don't think I read things differently. I just know that I'm increasingly apathetic, which is horrible, which is no way to be. But The Man always encourages us to be apathetic in order to control us (also: so that The Man can get away with inventing herpes).

SPURGEON: Speaking of Secret Invasion, you wrote a review where you talk in detail about how the book failed on certain fundamental levels for you. In fact, you compared it to the last major Marvel mega-series Civil War in directly unflattering terms. What do you think happened that caused that particular series to be so different coming on the heels of the more successful outing? I'm willing to agree with you that it's not enough Phoebe Cates, but I was wondering if you had an alternate explanation.

KHOSLA: Every great series changes at some point in its run. You think you're reading A, and then it turns out you're reading B. And that's a magic trick I think series writer Brian Michael Bendis knows as well as anyone; when he's on his game, he's constantly questioning the status quos of his series. But Secret Invasion, for some reason, didn't do that. From issues #2 to #7 -- nothing happened. They spent, what, eight to nine months telling the story of a single day's events, with nothing happening.

The stakes never got raised. Nothing happened over nine months, nothing at all. Nothing. Nothing at all. At all. Nothing. At all, nothing, at all. Slowly. And the whole time they're telling fans, "Just wait nine months and then the next crossover will be good. This one is just The Phantom Menace; the next one is the Attack of the Clones." So, you have to wait for nine months just to get to the "good" crossover, to get to the good stuff. Except Attack of the Clones stunk, too, so what kind of promise is that? And who has the patience to wait nine months for the "good stuff?"

Nothing came after Civil War. That was how fans knew how momentous Civil War was. By following it with nothing, it was like Marvel was saying, "We can't keep pulling crazy shit out of our ass! We have pulled every single tiny bit of shit out of our ass with Civil War. We are plum out of pullable shit-in-ass. Civil War broke our minds, too." The big fan complaint about Civil War was that they broke the Marvel Universe; but that's exactly what I want to see. Because those fractures ultimately revealed the parts of those characters and that "universe" that hadn't broken, that weren't easily breakable. Civil War felt like a mile marker, like a moment of geography and shared history for their characters; Secret Invasion just feels like one of Oceania's wars with Eurasia. You're not left with a feeling that you've witnessed a moment of history for the characters, so much as you're watching Marvel decay into a state of permanent hysteria. (Well: that's a little melodramatic, but...)

Arguably, the series played against Bendis's strengths. I've loved his work since forever, I continue to be a fan of his, and I root for his continued success. But part of why I've enjoyed his work in the past is that I've always gotten the sense that he's the type of writer who starts with character first, and interrogating character. With Secret Invasion, it was all plot, and no character. You know, good for him for trying to stretch as a writer, but... Look, if sales numbers are to be believed, it succeeded with its intended audience, and that does matter. I don't want to discount that.

I don't know, though. The biggest comic company in the country's highest profile series of the year was about religious fanatics blowing themselves up because their religion tells them they're entitled to a specific parcel of occupied property, where the heroes tell the religious people that the heroes' white-skinned God will lead them to victory, where the happy ending was that the Marvel heroes kill all of the religious people and that a religious woman has her head blown off mid-prayer. What were they even trying to do?? What did I even read, Comics Reporter? How was that the ending? It's such a weird comic book. And comic fans make it stranger because most of them seem to think a one-panel Obama cameo is the only politically charged material in the book. People don't think mainstream comics might mean things! People think mainstream comic creators are brainless fanboys just because mainstream comic fans are brainless fanboys. It's a bizarre culture.

But look: does anyone want to hear the opinion of Marvel comic book fans on the Middle East peace process? Me neither times infinity.

SPURGEON: You mention in a couple of your 2008 pieces that you re-read comics in bunches: you read a selection of Silver Age DC books, you read some Steranko-era SHIELD comics and you re-read Jaime Hernandez's earlier work. How much of your comics reading is comprised of older comics? What is the nature of the curiosity that leads you to re-read books like that?

image
KHOSLA: The majority of my consumption is old comics. Some are "The Classics." But other things... So many comics have been forgotten. Sure, most with good reason. Wally Wood's Total War, say -- it's not going to be part of a Masters of Comic Art gallery show anytime soon. Art Spiegelman didn't pull out his copies of Total War after 9/11 to feel better about life. Total War isn't Art with a capital-a.

But I spend most of my time just looking, not reading. Usually, I just want to look at comics, just appreciate their "formal qualities", for lack of a better term. For that, older comics are a different experience -- not necessarily better or worse, but different. Fashions in comics have changed so much, and comics right now are very self-conscious. With older comics, there's less anxiety. There's more movement on the page, more panels, less of a cinematic influence, more of a comic strip influence. Total War isn't art, but it's fun to look at. Sometimes that's enough.

imageI just like seeing where the trail leads. I enjoyed an essay the Mindless Ones blog wrote about Nemesis the Warlock. That essay lead me to looking at old British comics, finding out about things like Hook Jaw, a '70s British Jaws rip-off. Which made me curious to see how other people handled short form comics, which lead me to, say, Creepy back-issues. Where I found Dave Sim and Russ Heath's "Shadow of the Axe", a six-page ax-murder horror comic. Gorgeous comic -- okay script from Sim, lovely work by Heath. And that lead to...

SPURGEON: In your review for The Alcoholic you criticize DC/Vertigo for the shoddy way they treat Dean Haspiel's credit; you also generally mock some of the serious-literary-comic pretension of the project. That said, you were also complimentary of many of the book's creative aspects. Do you feel your criticisms of The Alcoholic apply to those kind of prestige books in general? How do you feel about the entrance of New York publishing houses into comics publishing?

image
KHOSLA: Well, Dean Haspiel is probably not minding being part of such a well-received project. But when I was growing up, comic book artists got to be stars. That kind of stopped, outside of art-comics. I'm curious about what changed. I don't know that it's isolated to prestige books, though certainly all of the prestige books I've seen have been focused on hyping the writers rather than the artists. I couldn't tell you who drew Sentences but I know MF Grimm was the writer; I only know the name of Pride of Baghdad's Niko Henrichson because he did a terrific Machine Man comic with my friend Ivan Brandon this year. You know: DC hired Jim Rugg, one of the most energetic and exciting cartoonists around, to draw a book called Plain Janes, about plain-ness and boring-ness. Do I understand that decision? Hell, I'm just a civilian.

But it's other books, too. I can't say to a certainty, but it sure seem as though new ongoing mainstream series are predominantly built around writers and their visions, instead of being built around the artists. That premise doesn't seem to be questioned very often. Comics, animation, both seems to dis-empower the artists even though they're art-driven media. Does that make sense? Maybe it does. Maybe artists are too crazy. Maybe the real talents are the comic book writers. I don't know -- maybe, it's something to wonder about, though.

imageThe entrance of publishing houses -- I know a few people who are benefiting from that, so perhaps I'm biased. But so far it seems to have lead to new voices, different voices having an outlet in comics? A cartoonist like Lucy Knisley publishing books? Who else would pay for Kazu Kibuishi to create all-ages books? I'm certainly a beneficiary of First Second's efforts. Is there a controversy on that point I've been ignoring? There's a particular expertise that Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly seem to have that those houses haven't caught up with yet. But that's to be expected, no? Setting aside the issues of content, I would at least guess that we all benefit with more publishers, in so far as the total amount of money spent promoting comics and opening up marketing channels, getting magazines to write about comics, etc., is more. It's a little troubling when you see cartoonists abandon their former publishers for those houses, but it's not really my place to really opine on that.

I'm suspicious of memoirs but we live in the decade of the fake memoir, let alone blogs, reality television, twitter-ing. I think a certain healthy suspicion is called for by that particular genre.

Do you think those publishers will have much of an impact going forward, though? With the other news in the economy, with the state of the big chain bookstores, with the state of any New York City business at this point, I'm not eager to find out what happens next in that arena -- I doubt it will be good news. I don't know how familiar you were with the track record of the people let go in that last wave of lay-offs, but comics have already been negatively impacted, have already lost people it couldn't afford to lose. There are certainly times when it's fortunate to be talking about comics from the sidelines.

image

SPURGEON: What made you want to do an interview with Ed Laroche as opposed to simply writing about the book? One thing that struck me about that piece is that it had been a decade to two decades since I'd thought of small press, independent comics as a kind of creative correction to mainstream fare. Is there something missing in comics do you think that there are no longer these strong distinctions, that Ed Brubaker is writing Captain America now? Do you feel there's still an alternative or independent element to art comics and small press books?

KHOSLA: I don't see self-published comics often anymore, let alone self-published action comics, let alone self-published action comics executed at that level of competence. With Laroche, in particular, I had a greater curiosity that the book existed in the state it existed, than questions invoked by the content itself. Plus: small-press people are the only people who say yes to my interview requests. A couple Big Two creators have said yes this last year, but it's not surprising when they think on it and withdraw. That's just good common sense.

As for alternative elements... This is a difficult question to answer because -- because I don't see an "alternative" element to much of the culture right now, even beyond comics. Despite all of the travesties of the last eight years, aside from some interesting bits of culture, here and there, have you seen anything resembling a "bohemia"? Well, I suppose I probably wouldn't know if a "bohemia" existed; I'm the very definition of a square for any bohemia that's ever existed.

But the art comics I hear talked about the most right now aren't alternative in the sense that they're "questioning the dominant culture." They're noise rock things like Powr Mastrs. Or if they're addressed at the culture, it's through the prism of identity politics, which... I have a certain, perhaps undeserved disdain for comics that trade on the creator's minority status.

This isn't something I'm angry about, though. Editorial cartoons aside, I tend to hate "political" comics -- those dopey Vertigo comics, say.

But I still think that "independent comics" (and God only knows what that terms means) serve a function that a mainstream comic can't, even if the mainstream companies hire people that come from independent comics. Perhaps that belief is delusional. The output of several comic publishers certainly suggests that belief is delusional.

You're right that the Brubaker-America paradigm presents tougher competition for independent comics. It's a reason for independent comics to come correct, to be more formally daring, to take advantages of the freedom of independent comics more. But: that's not the direction things have been going in, is it? I knee-jerk blame the influence of Hollywood, but probably the real reason is something stranger and sadder than that. Who knows?

But... But: yes, Marvel employs more creators from the small press. Mainstream comics used to not be able to go to a certain level of violence or thematic material, on account of the Comics Code, and independent comics used to be where you turned to for those things. Now mainstream comics routinely have heavy-duty violence, dark themes, etc. Mainstream comics are more vulgar now, and independent comics are not only tamer than they used to be, but tamer than mainstream comics.

But I just suspect there's a difference between vulgarity and provocation. Captain America might be vulgar, but it's not provocative. It's not built to be. It's safe; it's genetically safe, regardless of the resume of whoever they hire. There are inherent rules to those books. I know when I'm reading American Flagg, and I know when I'm reading Captain America, regardless of who they hire to make Captain America.

And, look: there are still creators out there that do material that -- that you can tell the difference. Joe Sacco, say, or Kyle Baker. Kyle Baker's Iraq War comic Special Forces is political, current, angry, funny, action-packed. It's not "literary" or "mature" which... What did Kurt Vonnegut say? "Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything."

SPURGEON: I liked your comparison of the comics of Manu Larcenet and the Dupuy/Berberian books from a couple years back. I share your high regard for the Dupuy/Berberian material. Why do you think the Monsieur Jean books didn't hit harder with American audiences. Is it the humor? The tone? Just not enough intersection between comics readers and fans of this kind of material?

KHOSLA: Was that an apt comparison?! I don't know enough about European comics. I didn't even know about the Marcinelle school and Brussels school of cartooning until October. Why don't people mention that more? There used to be rival schools of Belgian cartooning. I love that. I haven't found out yet if they ever fought to find out whose cartooning was deadlier, but surely that must have happened, right? Is there some way we can ask Bart Beaty if the Marcinelle School and the Brussels School ever battled in a First-to-Bleed Tournament of Belgian Cartooning?

imageIt's not surprising that the Monsieur Jean books weren't embraced more. They're just really, really French. The dominant emotional tone is, what, "grouchy resignation"? The US audience might be a little too adolescent to appreciate that, even fans of art-comics. Or to phrase it another way, maybe US fans demand "bigger" emotions or issues be at stake. Gentle French situational comedies that find humor in the messiness of life? That's a very specific type of comedy. Character-driven comedies are rare in comics, at least outside of web-based comic-strips. Comic book fans/creators seem to prefer gag comedy.

I simply like how those guys draw, though. You know, guys who can draw funny have a rough road in America, sometimes. Consider how many comic artists are only really embraced when they move on to animation. Jay Stephens, say. Or have you ever read an interview with Jhonen Vasquez? From his Suicide Girls interview: "But even now, with the thing that I have done sort of well for myself in, comics, I'm not exactly held in the highest regard. It's not a conscious effort on my part either, it's just the way it is... [The Comics Journal] would never come near me. They'd come near me if I was unknown, doing terribly and writing a very matter of fact series about my true life experiences making a sandwich."

Jhonen Vasquez was a success in comics. But, you know, he's not going to be in photos riding-dirty on a rooftop with Art Spiegelman anytime soon. People don't respect funny.

SPURGEON: What is it that you found interesting in the video game description in Ganges #2? I thought that was a very good comic that was little discussed. I also feel that Kevin Huizenga is the most important cartoonist to come along since Ware. I don't expect you to agree with me, but what do you think of his work?

KHOSLA: I found the second half's description of the first-person shooter more interesting than the formal exercises of the first half (which Kevin Huzienga later reprised in Fight or Run). Video games, especially those from the era of gaming he's discussing, they work because the viewer projects their imagination onto the textures and simulations of reality presented by the game. Game designers often talk about how the viewer's imagination fills in the details that they don't have the rendering power to generate.

imageWell, shit: that's sort-of how comics work too. Comics work because your mind fills in the details. So, what Huzienga's done is to use the suggestive power of comics to describe the suggestive power of video games. And you don't really need to have played games to understand that quality of video games, because you read comics, because you're experiencing the exact same sensation in a different way at that very moment. He's using the limits of what comics can do to capture the limits of what video games can do. So, I think that's something, maybe.

Visually, with that sequence, I like how he has the game characters cast shadows. I wonder if it was an intentional choice. Because if I play a videogame, and maybe this is something the current generation of gamers can't appreciate, but I know it's never -- it's never the giant spaceship that makes me catch my breath. It's the way headlights look in the rain in a Grand Theft Auto game. It's the precise, oddly beautiful rendering of something totally mundane. Is there a word for that? I hope there's a word for that.

Plus: I just liked the prose of his descriptions of the game. Have you ever read any of Kelly Link's short stories? She's a magical realist / fantasy author, and what Huzienga does in Ganges #2 reminds me of how her story "Magic for Beginners" made me feel. By making the game description so fantastic, he makes the reader want to play the game, he makes us want to be in the room with those people -- and once readers are vulnerable like that, he has us where he wants us to tell the real story he's telling in that comic, which is not a fantasy story at all, which is about a specific experience, specific emotions, a specific time & place.

But do I think Huzienga is important? I don't know how to answer that. I'm not sure what that word means in this context. I don't think that sort of thinking leads anywhere interesting. I know I've been -- I know my experience with Huzienga's work, from Kramers Ergot 5 on, has been the same: I start out just sort of weirdly suspicious of his intentions, and then I grow more and more excited until by the end of the story, I'm wildly enthused. Well, not true of Fight Or Run, but... I don't know: I always start out suspicious. His primary character's name is Glenn Ganges, you know...? Glenn Ganges?! It always looks like it'll be one of those comic where nothing happens, but for me, it's never that. So much happens in his comics. And it's hardly a novel observation, but: I'm caught off-guard by the decency of his comics. It's so easy for someone use their intellect to rip things apart, but with Huzienga, there's a sense of, ahm... synthesis instead? Is that the right word?

But do I think he's important? That's just a weird question. What did you even mean by that? Is it important to you that the cartoonists you read aren't just pleasurable, but that they're also important? Huh? How do you like that? The tables have turned, Comics Reporter! Now, the interview-ee has become the interviewer!

SPURGEON: I think it's different. Most of what I read is for pleasure, I read Kevin's comics for pleasure. I just happen to think his work is also of a surpassing quality and comes from such a unique place in terms of how it uses the form and to what purposes and its potential to influence other cartoonists that I think he should be paid attention to above and beyond the ability his comics have to give me pleasure.

I agree with much that's in your recent essays on the cancellation of
Blue Beetle, particularly your close reading of the material in terms of the near-inscrutability of some of its plot elements. I know that people read a variety of things into that essay; what would you have them take away if you could narrow it down to one or two ideas? I think I know the answer but I'm not sure. Also, are you sympathetic at all to the notion that was floated by some of those responding that superhero comics being obtuse and weird and completely difficult to understand is something that's appealing about them?

KHOSLA: I should dodge this question. If people are getting more out of something I wrote than I intended, that's not something I'm eager to interfere with. I'm pretty darn okay with seeming smarter than I actually am. I wouldn't be gainfully employed if I wasn't okay with that.

Let me try this: A common reaction to what I was saying was for fans to defend how much they liked the Blue Beetle character. Which: that's wonderful. But the series frequently diverged from the book's core narrative, and there are consequences to that decision. The thinking seems to remain short-term. Temporarily spiking sales with a one-issue crossover with a multi-title crossover is great in the short-term, but how does that play in the long-term? How does it play after a series is canceled, but the character is in a new cartoon and you want to sell trades to the cartoon's audience? Given DC's track record with launching new titles, should they be thinking short-term or long-term? And the creators often seem to be as much victims of DC's "conventional wisdom" as anyone else.

But there are counter-arguments to all of what I just said. For example: DC has attempted stand-alone superhero pieces in the past and had similar failures. That's the thing, and one reason I tend to ramble on is because I can see those counter-arguments. I hate anything that pretends a situation isn't nuanced. Politics, relationships, even comics, there are always nuances. One way I've disappointed myself this year is I've over-emphasized writing about mainstream comics; I haven't kept a good balance. But mainstream comics to me are fun to write about because... Because even a book like Blue Beetle, there are so many competing desires and goals, so many different masters that book had to serve. It's tangled.

As for the sympathy question, I'm sympathetic, but I think people making that argument are down-playing the difference in fashions between the comics that we grew up with and comics now. There are profound differences in pacing, in terms of the number of panels on the page, in terms of how pages are laid out, in terms of how flashbacks are presented or expository information is conveyed. Again, not better or worse, but different. I think the absence of editorial footnotes is especially significant. I'm sympathetic but I don't think they're comparing apples to apples. "Weird is okay, though. "Weird" will always be in short supply.

SPURGEON: Do you ever hear back from authors like you did from Blue Beetle writer -- and generally successful Hollywood TV show maker and scriptwriter -- John Rogers after your reviews and essays? Has anyone ever made contact with you in a way that's memorable? For that matter, how much do you write with an audience in mind?

KHOSLA: I've heard back, sure, but there's no way to answer this question that isn't either self-aggrandizing or deeply, deeply pathetic. "I made some no-name notice my meager existence, using only my rapier-like crapulence. I'm like the D'artagnan of shitheads."

imageLook: the idea of me debating John Rogers about narrative is, on its face, fucking ludicrous. I laugh to think about it. He's as ridiculously successful as writers get, pretty much. I'm some dope on a blog. On the other hand: you know what? I still kind of stubbornly think I was right about certain things. So any answer to this one will just be even more ridiculous.

Like, in person -- creators who recognize my name? I've never handled that well once, even (or especially) when it's a creators whose work I love. You know: I have a certain amount of... embarrassment? About the whole internet thing...? Plus the whole comics thing...? You know, I spend most of my day having to be serious about serious things, so... So: embarrassment.

As for the audience: I put in Easter eggs once into a review, where in the empty space between every word in one particular sentence of this particular review, there were invisible links to a YouTube video of Smokey & The Bandit 2 outtakes. I thought I could go three to four reviews doing that before someone noticed, but it got caught right away. Another review, there was just a photo of Fred Williamson randomly inserted into one of the reviews. Handsome blaxploitation actor Fred Williamson. No one mentioned that, I guess because maybe they thought I was making a point about Fred Williamson...? I wasn't. I just like Black Caesar. But I think about the audience, sure. Except I think a lot about the audience who watched Andy Kaufman wrestle women.

SPURGEON:A few times this year you pulled out some old comics I think to deflate the notion that some sort of conventional wisdom that comics people have just isn't supported by the material. Like you pointed to a Mighty Samson story as an example of nonsensical idiocy written for folks with short attention spans, and a Combat Kelly story as an example of eye-opening post-Code cruelty. Do you feel that comics readers have a bizarre take on the way comics used to be that warps the way they read the ones made now?

KHOSLA: Online? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But do you think the vast majority of comic fans have any sense of the way comics used to be, at all, whatsoever? I don't know that's true. For a lot of fans, Marvel Comics's heyday was the "Age of Apocalypse." Do you even know what that is?

What's that saying? "The Golden Age of science fiction is 12 years old."

SPURGEON: One of the best pieces you wrote last year was on Octopus Pie and Conan. You specifically mention some of the more subtle points of comedic execution. What do you find funny? Who? What do you find funny in Johnny Ryan's comics, for example, that you think other people might not appreciate or might not value?

KHOSLA: Do you really think there's something subtle and delicate going on with Johnny Ryan's comics that the hoi polloi isn't picking up on? Boss Twat doesn't really call for a dissertation. But... okay, fine, here is my dissertation on Boss Twat: I tend to love the chain of airtight logic that leads to the absurd conclusion. So, Boss Twat begins with the Duke boys from Dukes Of Hazzard having tied a giant dick to the front of the General Lee, and it ends with the Dukes throwing their own severed penises at a taint on a sassafras tree. But for me, what makes it funny is that there's a sort of weirdly logical progression between point A and point B. If the Duke Boys tied a giant penis to the hood of their car, then it does obey a sort of mathematics that at some point, sure, they would invariably drive their car penis-first into Boss Twat's ass. And it is extremely logical that the impact of that would kill Boss Twat, thereby send his severed taint flying onto the limb of a nearby sassafras tree. The premise is bizarre but it's the intellectual rigor that is applied to that bizarre premise, to me, that makes it funny.

With respect to comedy, what's been interesting for me these last couple years was realizing how much the comedy I loved owed a debt to comics. For me, the three guys I think the most highly of, of recent times at least, are Albert Brooks, Larry David, and Garry Shandling. Albert Brooks is the godfather of alternative comedy; Larry David arguably perfected the traditional sitcom between Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm; and to me, Shandling is just a giant, one of the all-time best TV comedy creators, a pivotal figure in the history of HBO and thus television, a direct influence on the very best people making comedy right now, a solid stand-up, just a giant.

The first time I saw the Jules Feiffer movie Little Murders, I was immediately convinced that all three of those people had been inspired by Feiffer, owed a debt to Feiffer, to what Feiffer did with that movie and otherwise in a very long and storied career.

image
Which began with comics. Little Murders is especially reminiscent of the Sick Sick Sick work that was reprinted this year in The Explainers in that its showcase moments are these inspired monologues. People hone in on Donald Sutherland's monologue, especially, and with good reason, but Vincent Gardenia and Elizabeth Wilson were, for me, jaw-dropping.

Jules Feiffer got his start in comics, found his voice in comics, made a name for himself in comics. Comics can do that. Comics can do that, they can be that place, and that's worth celebrating.

I think you're seeing that happening again with Chris Onstad and Achewood. He's doing some of the best comedy anyone's doing anywhere, and how else could he have done it but as a webcomic? Who else would have created a stage for a voice as singular as his? Where else could he have done it on his own? His success, to me, is tremendously exciting. See also, Mike Le's Don't Forget To Validate Your Parking or John Campbell's comics, most of all Stevie Might Be A Bear, Maybe.

As for comedy, generally... I pretty much like all of it. You know, I think very, very highly of Kyle Baker's early comedies, The Cowboy Wally Show and Why I Hate Saturn. Will Pfeifer and Jill Thompson's Finals. Michael Kupperman, of course, and Evan Dorkin's Dork #11. I live in the best city in the world for live comedy; I like The Tomorrow Show, especially. The Thick Of It and Nathan Barley. East Bound And Down, and Flight of the Conchords. 30 Rock and The Daily Show. Judd Apatow and Adam McKay. Borat and Steve Coogan. Conan O'Brien and Craig Ferguson. Charlyne Yi and Jen Kirkman. David Letterman and Andy Kindler. Uptown Saturday Night and Dave Chappelle. Doug Stanhope and Andy Kindler. Role Models and Clark & Michael. Remastering The Sting and The Big Lebowski. Take The Money And Run and Sleeper and Annie Hall and "The Whore of Mensa." Melvin Goes To Dinner and A Fish Called Wanda. Strange Brew and My Blue Heaven. Idiocracy and Wonder Boys. Pythons and Young Ones. Bill Murray and Groucho Marx. Dr. Strangelove and Burn After Reading. I love "smart" comedies like Broadcast News, and I love "dumb" comedy like Chris Farley dancing in SNL's Chippendales sketch. Slap Shot and, more than anything else, Caddyshack.

I like comedies more than dramas, more than any genre, more than anything, so the fact there are so few good comedies in comics diminishes my interest in them single-handedly more than anything else has ever managed to do.

image

SPURGEON: One of the odder milestones this year is the 250th issue of Hellblazer, which brings into relief the way that Vertigo-style books have since their inception both become their own thing and dominated the publishing ground between art books and superhero books. How do you look at the state of the current non-super mainstream? I know that you read Scalped, are there other books in that general neighborhood that you find edifying, worth reading?

KHOSLA: The more important milestone for me personally is the approaching end of 100 Bullets. As a fan, I'll be in mourning, obviously. But also: the loss of 100 Bullets isn't coming at the best time for Vertigo. They lost one of their key titles in January with Y The Last Man; the finale of 100 Bullets doesn't leave a line I have much interest in, otherwise, past Scalped.

Basically, I look at the state of the "current non-super mainstream" with my hands over my eyes, peeking through my fingers. With comics reaching $4 a comic -- I don't know how much space is in the average fans' budget to take a chance on new Vertigo books. To the extent people even stick around in the face of $4 comics, and evaluate $4 comics in a cold, analytical way; assuming they don't see it as a deal-breaker psychologically, emotionally, assuming they don't consider it a betrayal. Then again, I don't know how much Vertigo ever relied on the "average fan." It sure seems like Vertigo's trying to reposition themselves as a graphic novel company, especially with their upcoming crime-comic sub-imprint. But I can't guess how lucrative that business is going to be for comic companies if unemployment goes into double-digits. And there's more competition now, with Image, Oni, Boom, IDW, whoever, all of whom are unquestionably more daring visually while reaching for the same readers. And-And-And --

There's just a lot of crazy shit going on at once. Can you keep your head around it all? I sure can't.

I'm encouraged, too. I'm encouraged by the creators themselves. Comics are really brimming with a lot of interesting, dedicated young people. Do you watch Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba's movies off YouTube? They had a two-part, three-minute "documentary" called Why Comics this year, asking creators "Why comics?" Most of the answers were shallow (again, the movie only lasted three minutes), but... regardless of comics' faults, people still seem dedicated to finding a way to navigate through all this craziness. That's something, at least. Probably every single last one of them will get ground up completely by life, end up a bunch of bitter wrecks, waving knives around, exposing themselves to children -- the good Lord knows that's where I'm headed. But win, lose or draw, shit, it'll be fun to watch. It's about the journey, you know? It's like Kurt Vonnegut said, "Life is a highway which can be ridden all night long."

It'd be nice if more people were dedicated to making the "Great American Comic" than a "good gangster comic." I think a lot of dudes out there have underestimated their talent, if anything. Despite all the new publishers, despite the movie deals, some of the most exciting comics in that world are online comics like Sin Titulo, Anders Loves Maria, or what have you. The impact of Hollywood in particular... It's hard to know what to say about the effect Hollywood's had, what's polite to say.

image

As for other books in the general vicinity of Scalped? A favorite book of the last few years was Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon's Winter Men. The book makes references to superheros and science fiction elements on its fringes, but it's as much a crime-comic / action-thriller set predominantly in modern Russia. Amazing dialogue; dense pacing; John Paul Leon's best work; right-on colors from Dave Stewart. It's always an easy recommend for me because DC/Wildstorm didn't really seem to understand it, and as a result, I don't know if it found the audience it deserved.

SPURGEON: Are you familiar at all with the whole post-Fort Thunder school of cartooning, the kind of stuff that PictureBox, Buenaventura and some other alt-comics publishers release? How do you regard that group of comics; do you have favorite works or cartoonists that work in those areas of cartooning?

KHOSLA: I like PictureBox, though my favorite art comic this year was Drawn & Quarterly's publication of the art-manga Red Colored Elegy. Which is unfair because I was partially excited by how that comic fit its time period, historically. Specifically, how it seemed similar to French New Wave cinema, particularly in the latter half of the book. I liked how the story it told was incredibly specific, even as the style of presentation so purposefully avoided the specific detail.

From PictureBox, I enjoyed the first volume of Powr Mastrs, and the last two issues of Cold Heat. I didn't have much of an experience with Chimera, though -- I enjoyed Derik Badman's piece about it, more than I had my own honest experience of anything when I looked at it. Similarly, I didn't get the same experience from C.F.'s Core of Caligula as with Powr Mastrs, though I've never been too much a mini-comic fan. I think with Powr Mastrs, it wasn't so much specific moments, characters, drawings, so much as the amount of material allowed me to enjoy the, what, the metamorphoses...? The panel-to-panel transitions. Which Core of Caligula had less of, just by virtue of being shorter. Does that make any sense whatsoever? Probably not.

image

Everyone told me to avoid the Michel Gondry comic, though. But I really liked the heck out of that last issue of Comics Comics -- though that's more comics criticism than comics. Or wait: did you see the Cold Heat Special that Frank Santoro did with Jim Rugg? I liked everything about that, just... First off, getting to see Jim Rugg draw something that felt really new. Rugg's short pieces often refer to the iconographies of prior eras, but with the Cold Heat Special, he was without those filters. I found that exciting. Then, just the tactile presentation (?) of the material was a pleasure. It's presented in that newspaper format of theirs, so the art is bigger than a traditional comic without being some "how much do you have in your bank account?" situation like with that fancy-boy Kramers Ergot book.

I don't really know the taxonomy of that world, though. Is Jordan Crane pre-Fort-Thunder or post-Fort-Thunder? Beats me -- he's one of my favorite all-around guys; a major talent; he's doing this terrific old-school alternative comic called Uptight. He had a gallery show at Los Angeles's Giant Robot art gallery a few years back that really blew me away. His all-ages comic a couple years back was great. Obviously, this is Dash Shaw's year. I'm curious how many people will agree with me that Bodyworld is better than Bottomless Belly Button in the year-end Top 10 lists. I'm guessing not many due to the prejudices people have with webcomics. Or I tried Cryptic Wit from your and Jog's recommendations. I still haven't finished either -- those books are exhausting because of that suffocating structure that it employs. Fascinating, but tiring to read. But I don't know how the creator is "classified" vis-a-vis Fort Thunder.

I enjoyed that back-and-forth about Dave Heatley, at their website. I'd read Heatley's fuck-comic in Kramers Ergot back when. I thought it was a cute novelty comic, but a whole book in that style, with that art? That volume of Kramers had Jordan Crane, Kevin Huizenga, Chris Ware -- I know some people, their favorite piece was that Heatley piece, but... And I thought it was okay, but it wasn't an artistic journey I particularly wanted to continue with, say.

I really enjoy seeing how fans react to PictureBox's comics on the Internet more than anything, though. You know, all of these people on the Internet, talking about comics -- who do we remind you of exactly? You know, growing up, I'd hear fans talk about Dark Horse and Concrete. Then, Vertigo books and Sandman. Then, Top Shelf books, and From Hell. Then, Fantagraphics and Chris Ware. Then, Drawn & Quarterly and Chester Brown. Now, PictureBox.

What does that remind you of? Is it just me, or does it remind you of people who are really, really into eating food? Does it remind you of foodies? "I started out eating hot dogs. Now, I eat raw oysters directly out of a porcupine's ass." One of my favorite things this year was Jog's con-report for this year's MoCCA? I loved that piece; it was like some Anthony Bourdain outtake:

"Skuldengaat was fed to pigs along with a diet of potatos and leeks, then the pig was disembowled and the partially-digested Skuldengaat was enjoyed directly from the pig's large intestines."

"Holy shit, is that a Swedish recipe or is he reviewing the new book by Paper Rad??"

SPURGEON: Steven Grant mentioned in one of his columns that he could only think of two comics from 2008 to recommend, both reprints. Conventional wisdom says this is an astounding era for comics, but as Steven's column makes clear, not everyone agrees. Do you feel that comics is in a publishing Golden Age? If not, why do so many think it is?

KHOSLA: I don't think that's a conversation I want to be a part of. Grant's essay seemed odd to me, but a great many of the other responses -- not yours, but those of other people -- seemed engaged in an even greater amount of reductio ad absurdum arguments. I didn't pay much attention to any of it, frankly, thanks to my day job, but it seemed like a lot of people judging whether it was a good year or not for comics just by counting how many "objectively great" comics they read. "2008: 2 or 10" isn't my kind of debate. Did I misread what was being argued?

To me, this has seemed like a severely good decade for comics. Certainly the ready availability of reprint material, of classic comic strips in particular, is kind-of staggering. But a Golden Age? I certainly hope not. I hope these are the Dark Ages, and what's coming next is even better. I hope the next decade of comics makes this one look paltry by comparison. The talent's out there. The audience seems game. Because there's a lot of work left to be done. There's a lot of room for improvement. If this is where progress stops, that would be enormously disappointing.

SPURGEON: Abhay, I ask this of most the writers about comics. What was the last great comic you read? What was the last very good one?

image
KHOSLA: The last good comic I read ... I'm not sure: it was either the "Flower" arc of Jack Kirby's Kamandi or the last issue of Fear Agent. Kamandi is post-Fourth World Kirby, of course. Kirby created the type of series I always have the hardest time reading: the "Cursed Man" series, where the series concerns a man cursed to be unbearably miserable the entire time you read about them by virtue of the premise of the series. The most effective plots in those series (like the Flower arc) are those that dangle happiness in front of the main character before whisking it away. That sort of thing really bothers me. It's silly, but I get really worked up, even though none of the people are real. I get worked up by fake unfairness...? What is that? See also, Charlie Brown trying to kick the goddamn football, the Saturday morning cartoon Dungeons and Dragons, Naoki Urasawa's Happy, the Incredible Hulk television show, the 1927 comic strip Bobby Thatcher (available at the Thrillmer website), and so forth.

imageFear Agent is a series by Rick Remender, Tony Moore and Jerome Opena, published by Image and Dark Horse. (Remender, Moore and Kieron Dwyer also put out a fantastic, completely my-kind-of-thing R-rated zombie comedy called XXXombies this year). Fear Agent is in (I think it's called) the Raygun Gothic Genre of bubble-helmet spacesuits, rayguns, rocketships. I think the Swedes call it Atompunk possibly, but: Swedes. When Ikea can sell a proper bed, I'll listen to the Swedes with their Atompunk. I didn't care for Fear Agent at first, but the last few arcs have really landed with me. I like how the series has unfolded as it progressed. The aesthetic of the book draws a lot of inspiration from other artists I enjoy, like Wally Wood, John Severin, Harvey Kurtzman, artists of an earlier period. It's a nice enough book.

Great book? Huhm. Well: my favorite comic this year was probably The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard. Not "Best" of the year -- I don't want to get in trouble with the "Steven Grant Hurt My Feelings" crowd, the people who take the Best of the Year denotation way too seriously. But my favorite, sure. The book was a fictional biography of an almost-real French adventurer and his friends, lovers, acquaintances, etc. It was formally playful, but I suppose what I responded to was... With Monsieur, I liked how the adventures arose from a guy trying to be someone cooler than himself, and the big failures and small triumphs of that. Or maybe not even trying to be someone cooler than himself, maybe trying to be the idea of a guy cooler than himself. I just know that. I know that story. I understand that. Plus: many comics have a very inhumane definition of adventure, a definition that focuses more on action than adventure, on good guys, bad guys, conflict, violence. Monsieur's sense of adventure seemed more like the real definition of adventure to me. Or comics can go the other way to a place of misery. Sad comics by famous cartoonists just seem increasingly dishonest to me. Look: I'm no great or successful artist or "personality" -- I'm absolutely not someone you should be interviewing. I'm a quiet guy with an office job. But I've traveled, lived in different cities, met interesting people. My life in its own small, pathetic way has been an adventure so far, and so I guess Monsieur Leotard seemed closer to me to the real truth of things.

*****

* Jack Kirby's Kamandi, in a panel recently posted by Khosla to a message board
* Jim Lee draws the X-Men
* a Secret Invasion cover
* Countdown to Final Crisis
* Marvel's $4, 16-page comic book
* Wally Wood's Total War
* from Hook Jaw
* Jim Rugg draws Plain Janes
* from Lucy Knisley
* from Ed Laroche
* M. Jean
* Ganges #2
* Bottomless Belly Button page
* a Blue Beetle page
* prime Jules Feiffer
* 100 Bullets
* a John Paul Leon Winter Men cover image
* the Santoro/Rugg Cold Heat Special
* from Jack Kirby's "Flower" saga
* a Fear Agent cover
* [below] from The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard

*****

image

*****
*****
 
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In VA, I'd Go To This

image
 
posted 8:50 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Xaviar Xerexes!

image
 
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it.

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List.

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen.

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Daily Blog Archives
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
 
Full Archives