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
















February 29, 2012


Go, Look: In Appreciation Of J. Bradley Johnson

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The End Of The Month Means Attention-To-Awards-Program Time

* so Eisner Awards submissions are due early next week, which means they should probably go in the mail today or tomorrow just to be sure.

* the Eisner Hall Of Fame voting is open for about another month. As has been the case last two years, I hope you'll consider voting for Bill Blackbeard. The great archivist, whose fingerprints -- maybe literally -- are on more of a standard racking of comics-related books enjoying a spine than anyone not Jack Kirby -- is up again for the honor and it would be great to see him honored. With Katsuhiro Otomo nominated, I think we're about to see a flood of 1970s-emergent cartoonists (Otomo's first work came out in I believe 1979), which means if Blackbeard doesn't get in soon he's probably not going to get in at all.

* the Harvey Awards ballot is currently open as well, for about another six weeks. It won't take you quite that long to get a ballot ready, but it's not something you can blow off until the last second, either.
 
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This Would Be A Fun Page Of Comics In Any Age

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That Nice Young Man Kevin Keller Draws Ire Of Conservative Moms

A conservative watchdog group given to high-profile publicity campaigns against elements of gay culture functioning within larger American culture has decided they don't like the public display of the comic book featuring Archie's Kevin Keller getting married, and is encouraging the offending retailer to stop it right now. I always wonder if groups like these are started by PR companies or maybe even groups on the other side of the political spectrum, but I suppose there's always a chance a big company will at some point do something silly in response to someone decrying an expression of culture -- well, one that isn't Arab-American, anyway. I can't imagine a campaign to make something out to be an evil is in any way supported by shouting "Behold the Monster!" and letting people see a pretty innocuous-seeming comic book. Then again, I suspect the goal of such groups in these cases is as much about flattering the people that already believe them so that financial support will continue to be funneled their way as it is about getting whatever done.
 
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Go, Look: Woodrow Phoenix Makes Rice Pudding

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Examples Why The Ali Ferzat Story Was Really, Really Important

A couple of passing mentions of Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat in the last week of news story about the horrendous, Miyazaki-giant-creature-in-decay heave and collapse of that country's basic civilities underline how important that story was in terms of the world understanding that particular tragedy through a clearly-defined point of reference. This Guardian article places the assault on the editorial cartoonist and gallery owner in the context of the country's vicious treatment of journalists more generally, which I think is a fine way of understanding what happened there. An article in Arab News employs the story to stronger effect: as a slam-dunk example of Syria's internal decay and inability to even have a conversation about matters that put some of its citizens in opposition to the current regime.

This supportive Facebook page remains mostly active; the official Ferzat site mostly not.
 
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That Sound You Heard Was Something New Snapping Into Place

There's now a devoted comics and graphic novels section at Apple's iTunes bookstore. A bunch of Marvel stuff is either driving that effort, or at least is enjoying the most concurrent publicity -- I kind of lack the context where I can tell. The $7 price point for certain collections strikes me as worthy of note there. I think it's good when there are major infrastructure-type announcements as far as the availability of this material, although I'm always a bit worried about the deals in place in terms of how this eventually rewards the creators. But we'll see as these things become the status quo. I'm also a little bit suspicious that comics have the widespread, deep-bench appeal to make for a strong category of sales as opposed to a few additional sales here and there, but that's probably just me.
 
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Not Comics: Lynd Ward Illustration Gallery

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

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt 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. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

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NOV111075 SEX PISTOLS GN $15.95
This week seems as light in the funnybook shops as the last couple of weeks seemed ambitiously overstuffed, so if I were making my way towards one of these fine retail establishments I'd probably fall into old habits of buying serial comic book comics and staring at some material with which I'm largely unfamiliar. Sometimes both at once. I'd start with this book about the Sex Pistols featuring work by Steve Parkhouse.

imageDEC110902 RALPH WIGGUM COMICS #1 $2.99
DEC110078 USAGI YOJIMBO #144 $3.50
DEC110235 BATMAN ODYSSEY VOL 2 #5 (OF 7) $3.99
DEC110317 SPACEMAN #4 (OF 9) (MR) $2.99
NOV110457 INVINCIBLE #89 $2.99
DEC110575 WALKING DEAD #94 (MR) $2.99
DEC100487 ORC STAIN #7 (RES) (MR) $2.99
DEC110653 FF #15 $2.99
DEC110664 TWELVE #10 (OF 12) $2.99
It looks like there's a bunch of genre comics of note to check out this week. Fairly adored Simpsons supporting cast member Ralph Wiggum gets a one-shot. Veteran Stan Sakai continues his march down the reliability highway. Neal Adams' new Batman series is as loopy as you'd suspect, and pretty fun as a result. I have no idea how Spaceman is turning out, but it got a lot of play during the recent Before Watchmen argumentation as exhibit A in a "DC does so still do original work" line of argumentation. Both of writer Robert Kirkman's major series have new issues out; I'm not sure if it's a boon or not to have those both out on the same day, and I imagine that depends on the retailer. Orc Stain is one of those new mainstream titles you've been hearing so much about. Finally, there's Marvel's latest shot at extending the Fantastic Four brand into a second comic and the return of one of those major "with superheroes"/"about superheroes" maxi-series that was abandoned for a while.

JUL110059 DRINKY CROW PARTY LIGHTS $14.99
I thought this might be some book I hadn't heard about, but instead it's actually some party lights with Drinky Crow iconography. On the one hand, there goes a potential top-of-post image. On the other hand, finally there's something to go with my Hellboy Christmas ornament.

OCT110051 EMPOWERED DELUXE ED HC VOL 01 $59.99
DEC110734 UNCANNY X-FORCE DARK ANGEL SAGA PREM HC BOOK 02 $24.99
Two big genre-soaked books from interesting artists: Adam Warren in a major collection of the sex-and-superheroes Empowered; Jerome Opena on a book featuring his work on the well-liked, violence-is-not-a-solution meditation in superhero form Uncanny X-Force.

NOV111195 COMICS & US SOUTH HC $55.00
The price point on an academic book kind of shuffles this to the side of most people's purchase piles, I'm guessing, but this looks like a good one to take notice of now, assign for summer school in a few months if you're in a position to do so, and maybe get back to at a later time. There's a blog.

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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 failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

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Fantomah: Always At Least A Little Bit Weird

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Not Comics: Tales Of The Greeks And Trojans

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Frank Santoro describes all the formats.

image* Bill Kartalopoulos on Kramers Ergot Vol. 8. Noah Berlatsky on Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol. 1. Johanna Draper Carlson on Silent Partner. Sean Gaffney on Higurashi, When They Cry Vol. 17. Sean Kleefeld on Hardware. Grant Goggans on Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 17. Jog on Kramers Ergot Vols. 1-3. Rob Wells on Death Note: Black Edition Vols. 1-2. David Brothers on Empowered and sex in superhero comics more generally. Andy Oliver on Supergod. Todd Klein on Green Lantern #6.

* you gotta love the comics Internet; I can't even imagine getting to see something like this change of address flyer from years and years ago without it.

* Brigid Alverson talks to Tomo Maeda. George Tramountanas talks to Brian Wood. Albert Ching talks to Nick Bradshaw. Lauren Davis talks to Spike Trotman. It takes an entire library to talk to Rob Jackson.

* the Sergio Argones site has been updated.

* happy birthday, Superman.

* finally, I'm not all that interested in the argumentation that led to this post from retailer Brian Hibbs, but the reminder that it's sort of scary when Marvel is only selling comics up to a 63K level is worth seeing if you haven't, particularly in terms of Hibbs' claim that there are more than enough readers in the market right now to support a better performance from Marvel's books than that. I think he's right, even though I think there aren't enough readers in that market.
 
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Happy 80th Birthday, Jaguar!

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February 28, 2012


Group Think: What Is The Future Of Back-Issue Sales?

I've been thinking recently about the back-issues component of the comics market and comics culture. We sometimes forget how back-issues sales have been a core component of the way the market functions. Putting aside how much work is sold that way, and how great a percentage those kinds of sales are for certain comics retailers, there's the historical notion that the Direct Market of hobby and comics shops was made possible because the promise of back-issue sales cushioned prospective participants from the specter of over-ordering on a title or two. In other words, it was the safety valve for non-returnable product, at least in conception if not in eventual execution. Most comics fans have probably bought an older comic book at one point or another, and have likely done so in a traditional bag-and-board sense.

imageWill that be an option in a quarter century? And if so, what will that look like? It's clear that the back-issues market has changed in several ways over the last 20 years. There are stores that eschew that option entirely for more of a bookstore feel. There are on-line retailers now, which suggests the possibility of consolidation. Back-issues retailers no longer dominate the convention experience the way they once did. The on-line auction sites have chopped away at some of the ridiculous pricing levels asserted by what could be argued to be self-interested parties. We have collections now. That seems a fundamental change. It used to be fans might buy older comic books to read a story they'd heard about but couldn't experience otherwise -- that's how 12-year-old me bought his first back issues -- and I can't imagine that's the case to the same extent right now for their being so much material in print. Digital availability may prove to be the collections-phenomenon on steroids. There are libraries that hold comics material now.

I also wonder about basic desirability. North American comic books is just now beginning to move out of a period where you could have real-life conversations with professionals that have worked for the duration of the industry's existence. That means there are going to be fewer and fewer fans with a connection to certain historical periods -- fewer all the time, as readership has also declined. It seems reasonable to expect a diminished interest in, say, the comic books of the 1980s as there are more and more fans that by virtue of being born too late to experience them the first time around have less of an interest in certain titles than people my age might. It's only in the last few years I've seen retailers dump 1960s Marvel books into the dollar bins. We're also an art form that publishes at near-capacity if not over-capacity in terms of supply fulfilling demand. Some comics are already hard to find -- I have a hard time completing runs of 1980s independent and small press work when I've tried -- which may indicate a future market but probably comes closer to suggesting that no one may want those comics at all.

So what do you think? Is this even a market 10, 15, 25 years from now? Is it all digital? Does it shift to newer comics as more of those children try to recapture their past? Will people buy from the original run of DC New 52 comics in 2028? Will Jack Kirby comic books still appeal? What happens?

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Chris Cummins: Even with the proliferation of digital comic options (Archie Comics are doing an especially great job making vintage issues available cheap digitally) and e-readers, I think that there will always be a huge demand for the actual books. Last week I was at a thrift store here in Philly and I stumbled upon cheap reading copies of Marvel's Logan's Run and Charlton's Creepy Things titles. This was a thrilling experience, because to me there is nothing like physically handling the old comics. The ads, the feel and even smell of these books can never be fully replicated no matter what. It's really that simple. I'm sure there are lots of others who feel like I do, even if our numbers are clearly dwindling. Like Seymour in Ghost World, appreciators of physical media will be increasingly marginalized as back issues are scanned and posted online even more than they already are. I'm not opposed to this, as it will make the genius of everyone from Kirby to Bolling available to new generations. That's a great thing for sure. As for me though, my first choice will always be to sit down and spend some time reading the real thing. Holding each issue is a tangible reminder of why I fell in love with comics in the first place.

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Art Cohen: I think there has been a major shift away from ordering extra copies for back issues. I used to go to a local comic book store whose business model essentially consisted of ordering customers' subs, taking them out of the box, and putting them in the customers' subscription boxes. They ordered virtually nothing extra except for a few copies of JLA, Spider-Man, whatever.

I'd say that, especially in the age of trade paperbacks, the (absolute) value of back issues has plummeted, since huge amounts of material are now available more easily and cheaply in collected editions. Even stuff from the 70s that I once hunted down issue-by-issue is now being collected, against all rational predictions (e.g. The Super-Sons, the Twelve Labors of Wonder Woman, The Champions, etc., etc., etc.).

The only exception to this I've noted are the rare instances where something was collected years ago (or decades ago) and has been out-of-print almost as long, in which case, it can often be cheaper and easier to find the original back issues (e.g. the three-issue Captain America run that wrapped up the original Deathlok storyline in the 80s... and yes, that's pretty obscure).

Just my two cents'.

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Jonathan La Mantia: I'm looking forward to you thoughts and other answers from folks who are more involved in the market, here's my 'less informed' opinion:

"What does a back-issues market for comics look like in 25 years?" In 25 years I would imagine that there will have already been several years of mostly digital-only titles. Subscription services where you spend a set amount every month/year and you get access to most of the entire library of a major publisher will probably be the norm by this point. I think there's still probably going to be a small amount of print back-issues kicking around -- I'd say major publishers will have mostly digital-only releases but with limited batch runs of select titles to ship to the remaining brick & mortar shops to keep the collectors market going. I see the real bulk of print back issues being kept alive by independent/self publishers. There's still going to be a large amount of them producing digitally as well, but I don't see print dying out entirely (but it will be just around the corner). Moreover I think as the bulk of the back issue catalogs will be digital there will be a large demand from collectors for print editions, you're going to see them sell out very quickly and re-sell at very high prices.

P.S. On a side note, I didn't check your site before I finished this so I don't cover theses specific bits you asked at the end: "Does it shift to newer comics as more of those children try to recapture their past? Will people buy from the original run of DC New 52 comics in 2028? Will Jack Kirby comic books still appeal?" My answer is pretty long-winded to begin with so I'll just let those slide -- except the Kirby one -- I think there's always going to be a market for Kirby books.

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Patrick Ford: It's a simple supply and demand issue. There have been things in the past connected to comics which have fallen by the way. Big Little Books must be near dead I would think.

The demand for anything Western related has got to be way down from what it was twenty years ago. As old time collectors move on there are in many cases very few people who come in and replace them. Outside comics you can see this with things like Hummel figurines.

Truly rare things like pre-'60s comics, and comics in high grade will maintain their value, but there really isn't any doubt in my mind there are more copies of the average '60s era comic book still around than there are people who want a copy. I don't think it could be calculated, but I'd wager there are at least 100,000 surviving copies of every issue of Superman published during the '60s.

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Robin McConnell: One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to go hunting for back issues. When I went to New York a year ago, I was pretty surprised at just how dismal the selection of material is. There were a couple of stores with some goodies, but over all, stores are veering hard away from long white boxes to the more visually appealing site of bookshelves full of the exact same TPB selection as all the stores. Back issues are quickly become a niche collector market that has little value except for obvious rarities and key items.

The pricey variants of today, will be worth nothing in a year. I remember selling Gen 13 variants for lots of money while working in a comic store back in the '90s. Those same comics can be easily found in random dollar bin.

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Robert Boyd: The world of back issues sales seems fairly contrived and corrupt. I have never really understood it, so I am probably the wrong person to comment. But like many people who started reading comics before the age of cheap reprints, I was stuck buying back issues if I wanted to see the work of earlier artists. That said, Marvel was reprinting the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and other older comics in their own comics series. They were just as cheap as new comics at the time, and back issues of those series were (illogically) far less expensive. That's how I saw classic Kirby and Ditko without paying a mint on the back issue market. And when I was forced to buy back issues to see old art and stories, I didn't care too much about the condition. I take that back -- I actually preferred to get comics in poor condition because they were cheaper.

I am slightly shocked that there is such a vigorous market for old comics today. We live in the golden age or reprints; why would you want to buy a old issue of a comic, printed on such acidic paper that it basically has to be stored in an airless environment forever, when you can buy a reprint book for a fraction of the cost? What freaks me out is that sometimes, the old comics of a particular artist cost more than his original art.

For me, original art is the ideal comic collectible. Each piece is a unique example of an artist's work. It is genuinely rare.

As more reprints come along, and as more old comics and comic strips are scanned and placed in internet accessible sites, the value of collecting old comics will diminish. Not that it will ever go completely away, but for those whose main purpose in buying old comics is to read them, there will be ever-cheaper options to buying the old comics where the stories originally appeared. The only thing you'll have left is the aura of antiquity -- which will probably continue to appeal to a certain number of collectors indefinitely.

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Mark Coale: I think digital comics (of the legal or illegal variety) could be the end of the back issue market.

1. Space. Over the last year, I liquidated almost all of my comics, likely 50+ long boxes that would have taken up two rooms in my house. I could now put all of those books on my ipad with no problem.

2. The easy availability of books digitally takes away the great joy of the back issue hunt. I remember the great joy in the 1990s of finding new stores when I moved or took a vacation, hoping that I could maybe finally found that 1970s DC Sherlock Holmes comic or the one issue of Defenders I could never find locally.

3. There's also the economics of digital (especially if you're someone that engages in piracy). The average comics reader would likely have to save a lifetime for a decent copy of a classic Golden or Silver age book. Now, you can go to a download site and get the complete run of Detective Comics for free in less time than it would take you to drive to your LCS.

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John Platt: There absolutely will be a back-issue market -- for rare, iconic issues; comics that where the rights have been permanently tied up (1963); titles by people who did not provide for their literary estates before their deaths; books in pristine, super-duper mint condition; books that might have physical qualities that digital comics can not replicate (hologram covers?); and for physically unusual books (Treasuries, oh my lovelies).

But for everything else -- recycle 'em. (And hey, the more comics we recycle today, the more the few we keep will be worth in 20 years.)

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Bob Temuka: There will always be people buying and selling back issues until the objects themselves all crumble into dust. The methods of these transactions -- and the places they occur in -- have changed dramatically in the past couple of decades, and will continue to change, but as long as there are people who crave the physical object in a way digital will never, ever satisfy, there will be some kind of back issue market.

I don't really know what that market will look like, but it'll be there.

Personally, I greatly encourage people who enjoy the digital format to go fully electronic, if that means I can get my hands on all the lovely comics they don't want any more. Everybody wins!

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Mike Thompson: I would be interested to hear what is happening with other collectible hobbies, such as sports cards, coins and stamps. I would guess they are all seeing a graying demographic, with no new blood coming in.

I am the father of a 7 year old boy (the age at which I began my comic and hockey card collecting), and I see no interest in collecting anything. Not just by Sam, but his friends as well. They still play with Hot Wheels (they’re still awesome and, remarkably, the same price!), they’re still outside playing road hockey and don’t spend ALL their time with video games (due to my dictatorial limitations: one hour per day Sat-Tues), but the “collector gene” seems to be disappearing with each generation.

(Pokemon seems to be making a minor comeback, however).

10 years from now, I doubt there will be a collectors market large enough to support the network of shops devoted to it, perhaps we’ll see them in major markets and large conventions only.

I have no interest in digital, but I understand why people do. I don’t know; maybe we’ll see a return to physical comic books as we’ve recently seen with vinyl records.

The joy of finally completing that run of, say, Daredevil by finding that last issue at a yard sale or random convention long box as been dampened somewhat by the ease of searching eBay. That site has been the game changer, more so than any other factor.

Thanks for bringing up the topic -- I very much look forward to seeing more feedback on your site.

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Jason Green: I think that the physical back issue market will always exist in some capacity, but in the near term it will continue to diminish. There's a lot of competition for those dollars... not only from digital, but from the robust reprinting programs available out there. I still buy back issues myself, primarily at conventions, and primarily of only a handful of titles. (Just last summer, for example, I finally finished my collection of Spider-Girl.) As a buyer of back issues, I've found my own habits shifting as I grow older. I have little patience to spend an entire weekend sifting through unsorted boxes of 25 cent comics when other vendors offer their stock alphabetized, bagged, and boarded for $1... the time savings are worth the added cost to me.

25 years from now? If there are still physical comics being published, there will still be vendors clearing out their overstock at conventions, and there will still be guys like me happily filling in the holes in their collections. But I have to agree with Art Cohen: stores are definitely moving away from stocking enough copies of comics to have back issues, and 25 years from now, will that limited availability kill the market entirely, or will that rarity lead to higher prices? Man, that's hard to judge...you see so little interest in back issues of most recent comics, but then huge demand for books that that future generation is excited about now like The Walking Dead and Chew. The latter would seem to imply that the collector element is still out there, which bodes well for the back issue business as a whole.

Will this future generation buy New 52 back issues? Yeah, probably, but in much the same way as people buying back issues now would buy post-Crisis books: a few series (Byrne's Man of Steel and Perez's Wonder Woman for the latter, probably Snyder's Batman and Johns and Reis' Aquaman for the former) sustain interest, and the rest haunt the quarter bins for eternity.

Will Kirby still appeal? I certainly think so. I came of age well after Kirby's biggest years and I've grown to appreciate his work. I imagine much like the masters of cinema, the early masters of comics will continue to find new readers interested in digging into the full history of the medium.

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Jesse Post: Loved reading through the responses you've already received for this. I'm surprised that the conversation isn't already happening full force right now -- I remember when back-issues were 75% of the reason I would ever go to a comic store. Anyway, my two cents:

Design and content is a bigger deciding factor for me than availability when it comes to format choice. For instance, DC's pre-reboot Jonah Hex series was a perfect single-issue run that reminded me of the one-offs I would read as a kid, haphazardly, whenever I could find them. I never had any interest in the book collections for that reason, but this also makes them perfect for my iPad, where they're cheaper and always available. Hex was one of my few remaining back-issue hunts and the iPad did away with it. Most modern superhero stories are meant to be read as books, not in serialized chunks, so I buy those instead of back-issues.

But then there are things like Steve Gerber's Omega. Reading the original comics adds something to its pulpy, bizarre, meta-fiction-ish cool '70s idea-comic vibe, complete with the ads and the falling-apart pages. It sounds floofy, but reading the originals feels closer to Gerber, like the distance between his brain and me was shortest via the comic books, plus it's ephemeral and that adds poignancy. Digital would take all the fun away from it, and the book collection from a few years ago seemed to miss the point in its execution: single shot of the character on a plain background, house ads, glossy paper, basically devoid of magic (plus, it's just as out of print as the originals anyway). Tracking down Omega was a fun, easy, and rewarding search.

I imagine that if I got into something equally pulp-serial and artistic (like maybe Elfquest) then I would absolutely want to track down the back-issues. I hope at least a few nostalgia shops stay open this century so everyone can still enjoy them.

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Martin Wisse responded here on this subject. It's a good piece.

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Group Think is designed to solicit opinions on various industry matters from anyone out there reading that would like to have a say. Those opinons will be added to this post.

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Go, Look: Two Eyes Of The Beautiful

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Go, Read: Gary Tyrrell On The Percentage Of Recent Comics Kickstarter Projects That Prove Successful

Comics blogger of the year thus far Gary Tyrrell has a nice post up here that includes a breakdown of a couple of months of Kickstarter activity on behalf of comics-related projects. It's not exactly a sure thing, even from the bare-minimum standard of noting those projects that meet their stated fundraising goal (as to those that actually work in a way that has them function to the creators' benefit in the marketplace, which I would maintain can be a different thing). It's good for people to read that from someone like Tyrrell, too, because he clearly isn't trying to throw cold water on the idea of comics-related Kickstarter projects just for the sake of seeing other folks get wet.

The degree and extent to which Kickstarter proves to be a routine publishing option as opposed to an obviously viable option in certain cases, that's clearly going to be a fascinating story for the next several months. It exposes an intriguing truth about comics publishing in recent years: that the standard model of capital investment from a third party sometimes serves a specific, limited, and can-be-counted upon audience of fans of the exact same nature as the audience reached by a pre-release funding initiative. In other words, you can argue that in a lot of ways Kickstarter is simply a more efficient way of reaching a core audience, that actually raising money from that audience instead of counting on a shop or publisher ballparking what that support will be is just a smarter way of getting that audience its books. This brings with it a sobering possibility that the hope these works might pick up readers just by being displayed or making it into stores or being generally available may not be realistic, as one might hope.
 
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Go, Look: The 1943 McClure Promotional Packet For Batman

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Go, Look: A Dave Gerard Gallery

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Zunar's Civil Lawsuit Resumes In Kuala Lumpur Today

Bob Dietz reminds us that testimony resumes today in the civil lawsuit filed by the cartoonist Zunar against authorities in Malaysia for what he alleges is deeply unjustified and unfair treatment under the country's pernicious legal protections against free speech. The piece spells out the basic issues and incidents involved, although it's my understanding that Zunar is also suffering a bit career-wise because of the infliction of the government's non-official powers in his direction, including a chilling effect on potential printing partners. No matter the extent of the problems facing the cartoonist, and the difficulties in seeking legal redress, I hope that things go his way. That offering up a satirical opinion can be painted as a seditious activity in such a matter-of-fact way in the year 2012 should concern all of us.
 
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Go, Look: Some Fun Dan Spiegle Pages From 51 Years Ago

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Alan Gardner has the cover jacket up for the forthcoming Team Cul De Sac charity book.

image* so I guess Ted May is writing Simpsons-related titles now? That would be a potentially effective pairing, especially if May has a passion for that material.

* your most efficient one-stop shopping hook for publishing news this week was the Image Expo held over the last weekend in Oakland. Here's a round-up article an enterprising person put together. (I'm never quite certain why publishers don't release that kind of information as a single PR announcement after shows like that one, although maybe Image did and I missed it.) I think the writer of that round-up is correct in that a new Grant Morrison book at Image is the biggest deal. It's not so much that Grant Morrison doing any book is worth noting -- although I think it is -- but that Morrison following Ed Brubaker to Image with a new project makes a mini-trend of established mainstream comics writers eschewing the creator-ownership options at the Big Two publishers for the deal they're getting with Eric Stephenson and all those Image founders.

* this publishing announcement for the Alan Grant/Jon Haward effort Tales Of The Buddha (Before He Got Enlightened) talks about its digital release being first, which I guess is a way to do it we'll see more and more of as print becomes this kind of specialty market for a lot of product.

* hey, it's a Thom Zahler art book Kickstarter campaign. * the FPI blog profiles a Kickstarter campaign for something called Parecomic. One of the creators behind the project The Art Of Carpe Chaos wrote in asking if CR might drive some attention to his kickstarter campaign. I'm happy to do what I can, which ain't much.

* no surprise that a couple of pages of previews from Gipi are pretty great-looking. No surprise that a few pages of Neal Adams' Batman: Odyssey from a forthcoming issue are attractive and slightly daffy. I just read a couple issue of that comic book -- I'm not alone in my circle of friends in terms of tracking that one -- and there's really nothing like it out there.

* the writing team of Leah Moore and John Reppion has placed work into a forthcoming issue of Judge Dredd Megazine.

* Kevin Melrose notes the end of two popular webcomics serials.

* Vertical has apparently announced two license pick-ups: Heroman and The Limit. The former is a new project co-written by Stan Lee, for whatever that's worth.

* a New York Times profile of George O'Connor reveals that he plans 12 books in that Olympians series he's been doing. He's hard at work on book #6, with a bit of work on a later volume or two already having been done.

* March Modok Madness is gearing up again. I'd applaud, but out of respect for those whose hands don't really reach across their massive, head-dominated body, I'll just do a thumbs-up instead.

* finally, Secret Headquarters is publishing a comic book of work from the prolific young talent Michael DeForge. I don't see how that isn't a wonderful thing.

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Go, Look: Blown Covers

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Go, Look: A Nice Lynd Ward Mini-Gallery

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* BK Munn writes about library labor difficulties in Toronto and the wholly unlikely possibility that this could have any effect on the forthcoming TCAF.

image* someone whose name I can't figure out writes about superhero horror using a recent issue of Daredevil as a springboard. Speaking of horror, Bob Temuka writes on the potentially fascinating subject about how a category of monster -- in this case, vampires -- takes root at a company that's devoted almost solely to servicing superheroes. It's like the horror material at companies like that, the 1970s stuff, was the last hiccup of the era when popular genres truly drove what those companies would publish.

* all best wishes for the health of Frank Miller, if that's a concern right now. I guess he missed a recent appearance citing an injury.

* I'm not sure where this comic came from or what it's doing in my bookmarks, but it's pretty cute.

* there'll be no hugging Earth-2 Batman.

* Richard Bruton on Things To Do In A Retirement Home Trailer Park... When You're 29 And Unemployed. Greg McElhatton on Adventure Time With Finn And Jake #1. Johanna Draper Carlson on Batman: The Brave And The Bold #16 and Friends With Boys. KC Carlson on Marvel: Two-In-One #51. Sean T. Collins on Olympic Games. Douglas Wolk on Birdland. Brandon Soderberg on Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #1.

* then... Korea.

* Chad Nevett is apparently leaving CBR.

image* Ben Katchor is one of those cartoonists that could probably support an entire blog, or even a major portion of one's critical life were one to choose to go that direction.

* Brian Hibbs plays Murray to David Brothers' Carvelli on Marvel's recent practice of using artists not the artists driving the general publicity thrust for a title in order to facilitate more issues of a title. I think it's worth noting that Hibbs uses a last-three-issues racking policy that making more than 12 issues a year doesn't necessarily benefit, and it's also worth engaging his point that there's been a shocking general decline in terms of Marvel sales from the last bad old days to this potential new era of things sucking. I also think there's something to be said about his observation that Marvel has winnowed some of its fans' buying habits by focusing on brands and imprints within the overall Marvel umbrella. That said, a friend of mine pointed out that there's a big difference between correlation and causation, particularly in the comics industry, so maybe take Hibbs' readiness to cite definitive causes for trends he's seeing with some significant hesitation.

* you could do far worse than to spend some time taking in various articles out there about Osamu Tezuka.

* every time I start reading Sean Kleefeld's post on independent comics and food, I leave the computer before I finish in order to make myself a sandwich.

* Tom Gauld makes with the window display.

* Evan Derrick talks to Mark Millar. Todd Allen talks to Rich Burlew. Tim O'Shea talks to Stephanie Buscema. Eric Buckler talks to Wilfred Santiago. Erin Williams talks to Nate Powell, Mark Long and Jim Demonakos.

* Jillian Tamaki answers questions from her students.

* finally, that is one terribly weird one-page comic.
 
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February 27, 2012


Jan Berenstain, RIP

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Go, Look: Rescue Pet, Part Four

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ye gods
 
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Go, Read: The Art Of Brett Ewins

The nice folks at the FPI Blog are using the occasion of a big anniversary for 2000AD to focus a bit of attention on the work made, friendships accrued and current plight endured by longtime contributor Brett Ewins. It is a post fairly bursting with affection and high regard, and it's a nice informal history lesson in an avenue of comics-making that's not necessarily something people outside of Great Britain spend a lot of time thinking about.
 
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Not Comics: Jack Davis Draws The Beverly Hillbillies

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Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty To Criminal Contempt Charge

The visuals maker Shepard Fairey, best known for his work on iconic imagery from the 2008 Barack Obama campaign, entered a plea guilty last week on a criminal contempt charge based on trying to manipulate evidence in a civil lawsuit. Authorities are expected to pursue some measure of incarceration. Sentencing is in July.
 
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Go, Look: Glorious-Looking Robinson And Meskin Pages

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Missed It: Michael George Denied Acquittal And New Trial

I whiffed on noticing this story, but apparently last week an effort to see Michael George acquitted and have a new trial ordered on his behalf crashed and burned via a judge's denial of the motion. A former prominent comics retailer and convention organizer, George was convicted of crimes related to the murder of his then-wife Barbara in a Michigan comics store. George was famously brought back to trial on cold case work (as opposed to new physical evidence being found), was convicted, had that conviction overturned due to malfeasance from the prosecutor's side of things, was tried again, was convicted again, and is now in the process of trying to find a way to strike that decision down. Last week's decision was a big blow to those efforts, and suggests that a repeat of pointing out some sort of misconduct in the legal actions taken against George might not be enough to secure the desired results.
 
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Go, Look: A 1965 NCS Newsletter

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Go, Read: David Brothers On Marvel's Increased Production

The writer-about-comics David Brothers has a nice post up here about an implication to a publishing practice that I hadn't ever considered. Marvel has apparently been utilizing the dependable sales that come through the direct market to benefit by putting out more issues of various comics. This gives them an extra sales boost in the months when two issues appear and makes for a higher cumulative figure over time. Imagine a network having a popular television production film a half-dozen extra episodes. I would imagine without looking that someone at Marvel has described this in terms of giving the fans more of what they want. The thing is, according to Brothers' piece, this practice has exacerbated the company's publication of issues by artists other than those primarily affiliated with the series in question. So imagine a network having a different set of actors, writers and directors film a half-dozen extra episodes of a popular television production. Is that still a boon?

This is a really interesting example of a mainstream comics publisher favoring short-term gain over long-term benefit. Ostensibly the practice of using other talents, particularly those that might not mesh smoothly with the more closely-affiliated comics-makers, would drain readers from the regular reading experience over time. I say "ostensibly" because like many practices in comics it's not just there's an aberrant, anti-conventional wisdom policy in play as much as there's an odd practice in play and a market that's been conditioned not to punish such practices. It may even reward them. This makes it difficult to criticize such practices as harmful. You can also argue that if a company is clever enough -- say they announce a strategy of "these four books by artist A are the primary plotline, interspersed by individual issues focusing on supporting characters" or something similar -- this is the kind of practice that can be encompassed in a project's overall creative direction. Sometimes in comics if you can just argue the potential of something being true, that's the same as actually executing that something. If you're only worried about today's profits, you may be right in thinking this.

I believe it's dangerous to do this kind of thing now, though, and that this traditional market for comics needs exemplary behavior from its primary movers rather than just arguably acceptable behavior. That market not only needs its major suppliers to do no harm, it needs them to do right with enough consistency those behaviors become the rewarded status quo. Otherwise you just have to wait until things get bad enough that bottoming-out enforces some semblance of this kind of discipline. Even at that point, with all the heartbreak that comes with a wounded delivery system, there's no guarantee there will be enough tension left to facilitate a return to sanity. It's a dangerous game.
 
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Go, Look: Infomaniacs

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Go, Read: Street Art And The World's Protest Movements

There's only a little of direct comics content in this article about the rise of valuation for street art in the wake of the world's various ongoing protest movements -- a nod in the direction of Ali Ferzat -- but I think the relationship between art and the political movements it can be seen supporting is always worth noting. We've been told in other articles that the graphic novel has been boosted in Egypt for its adverse relationship with those previously holding power.
 
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Go, Look: More Esquire Cartoons From 1957

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There Was An Honest-To-Goodness Comics Moment At The Oscars

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Arcade contributor and experimental filmmaker George Kuchar apparently made the In Memoriam section. So that's nice. I watched re-runs of The Wire.
 
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Go, Look: Tempus Fugit

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Go, Look: Revenant

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the John Locher Memorial Award has added a $1000 cash prize. I'm all for cartooning awards having cash-prize elements.

image* Greg McElhatton on Benjamin Bear In Fuzzy Thinking. some nice-sounding person named Matt on Mark Twain's Autobiography: 1910-2010. Rob Clough on Black Eye Vol. 1. John Kane on a bunch of different comics. Faith Erin Hicks -- in comics form -- on Finder. Johanna Draper Carlson on Aquaman #6. Sean Kleefeld on Better Man. Nina Stone on Glory #23. Paul Rainey on Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth By Jack Kirby Vol. 1. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comics. Kristian Williams on The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks. Todd Klein on Green Lantern #4-5.

* the artist Jesse Hamm talks about popular culture and art, and even gives us an experiment to prove his point. If there's ever to be a cable TV show about this stuff, that show should hire Jesse Hamm.

* Neal Adams writes about the impact of Spider-Man and the early '60s Marvel approach more generally.

* Kate Beaton facilitates a massive link list to a bunch of webcomics being done by her readers, with an emphasis on new work. It's an amazing thing to take in if you have 20 minutes and a computer that can handle opening 75 tabs. I didn't find a bunch of stuff that spoke to me as a reader, but I did find a few comics to bookmark that I'll link to from CR at some point. There's a lot of work out there.

* not comics: well, this sucks. I'm beginning to suspect our corporate overlords are kind of jerks.

* not comics: Joann Sfar won another Cesar, this one for the adaptation of The Rabbi's Cat.

* I find Larry Hagman generally terrifying, so this page of bizarrely-employed photostats of Hagman's head on cartoon bodies made me shriek and hide under my desk.

* articles like this one from Tom McLean, where someone who's been buying comics in serial comic-book form for 26 years wakes up and goes, "Wait a minute; that's sort of stupid" should worry everyone in comics for how much the system by which thousands of people make a living is tied into that specific act of commerce. So many factors cropping up in the last 10-20 years have devalued that way of purchasing comics: the vigorous reduction of the kinds of comics available that way, to the lunacy of raising the prices for them in a recession while in some cases dropping the page count, to the shift in content from the comics as whole objects to the comics as delivery systems for incremental plot development, to a culture that's focused on providing more content for the folks willing to pay for it, to the existence of multiple, cheaper options that bypass the existing system entirely. That way of doing things isn't dancing with its own heat death quite yet, but they're definitely looking at each other from across the room.

* when I say I can't believe the border authorities made Frank Santoro pay something like $11 for running his cartooning course up in Canada, what I mean is I can totally believe the border authorities made Frank Santoro pay something like $11 for running his cartooning course up in Canada.

* aww. Siblings, yeah.

* Ryan Willard profiles Julia Wertz. Robin McConnell talks to Austin English. Milton Griepp (probably) talks to Howard Chaykin.

* Avengers Vs. X-Men may be the next big thing, after all.

* finally, Richard Bruton talks about Zenith as the comic that allowed him to walk through the door marked 2000AD.
 
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A Few, Brief Notes On A Lazy Sunday Afternoon

* I apologize for not having a feature up today. I have six interviews out with folks, which is usually enough to generate a steady flow of content, but the stars didn't align in a way that gave me one for today. I thought I might write a short feature but I came up empty. I hope for this not to happen again.

image* At left is an image of the greatest prose work for the back of your toilet of all time: Clive James' Cultural Amnesia. I'm not kidding about that; it beats that giant Bill Moyers interview paperback and the original Book Of Lists (the book after which they modeled the Internet) by a significant margin. I recommend it. I know this site doesn't talk about prose works all that frequently -- a) it shouldn't, really, and b) I'm barely qualified to talk about comics -- but I figure as long as I'm writing a post of whatever comes into my head someone might get some value out of that particular recommendation.

* I'm introducing a new reader-participation feature on Tuesday. If anyone out there wants to get an advance jump on it,

* Speaking of participation, reader and otherwise, I'm trying to learn how best to use the bigger social media tools available to me. I'm not sure I've figured it out yet. We have a Facebook page and I have a CR-related twitter account. I think they're both good for letting people know about content on CR, for being more widely available to people, for asking questions of knowledge and comics-interested folk, for first-reactions to breaking news and for making wisecracks about the news of the day. Facebook also has a comments feature this site lacks because I'm not a fan of comments that aren't letters. My recent use of Twitter as a way to get around my New Year's Resolution about not using message boards and comment threads by entering into tedious arguments with people 140 characters at a time is, I think, a bad thing.

The reason I bring this up is two-fold. First, if there's something you think CR should do differently on Twitter, or start doing that it doesn't do know, Second, if you know some blogger or person out there that uses their social media tools extremely effectively, and want to point them out to me,

* I've been thinking about conventions recently. I like conventions in sort of the same way I like comics shops: unreservedly, but with a clear head as to the limitations of certain members of the species. I'm going to Emerald City Comicon and Comic-Con International for sure this year; I hope to add SPX and The Brooklyn Comics And Graphics Festival (depending on when they're holding one) this Fall, and I can usually muster a last-minute sneak attack on one more. The thing is, I'd do a ton of those things if that were available to me. Just off the top of my head, I'd add Angouleme, Image Expo, WonderCon, C2E2, TCAF, Heroes Con, MoCCA Festival, Stumptown Comics Fest, Lucca, Fumetto and APE if I could. I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two.

One thing that's changed for me as I've become older is that it's not solely about the convention anymore. Cost is an issue, as is the bang-for-buck notion of how much work I can get done at a single site, but so is the proximity of the event to some sort of family member or friend that I can visit while I'm in the area. If there's no loved one in close proximity, then I tend to look for some other added inducement to make it more than just a trip to the comics show. That's not a make or break thing, but it's a factor. I'm quite grateful for the array of options. The convention scene is pretty terrific right now. That wasn't always the case.
 
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February 26, 2012


Go, Look: Some Blast Blair Cartoons

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Go, Look: Furniture Porn

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Go, Look: The Collier's Cartoon Panel Butch

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If I Were Near Baguio City, I'd Go To This

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

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

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

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FFF Results Post #284 -- Somebody's Babies

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Characters From The Comics That Right This Second And Without The Benefit Of Looking It Up You're Not 100 Percent Sure Who Created Them." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. 3-D Man
2. Hot Stuff
3. The Black Terror
4. Mary Worth
5. Patsy Walker

*****

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Dave Knott

* Spirou
* Night Nurse
* Hourman
* Battle Angel Alita
* The Whizzer

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. Congorilla
2. Black Goliath
3. Jack of Hearts
4. Ursa Major
5. Li'l Jinx

*****

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Alexa Dickman

* The Flash (Jay Garrick)
* Banshee
* Gambit
* Catwoman
* Donna Troy

*****

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Chris Duffy

1. Tiger Shark
2. Brainiac
3. Black Widow
4. Little Monsters
5. Darkhawk

*****

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Trevor Ashfield

1. Guardians of the Galaxy
2. Golden Age Green Lantern
3. Richie Rich
4. Iron Man
5. Deadpool

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. Aquaman
2. Mandrake the Magician
3. Andy Capp
4. Jughead
5. The Crypt Keeper

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Alfred E. Neuman
2. Alfred Pennyworth
3. Casper, The Friendly Ghost
4. The Crypt Keeper, the Vault Keeper, & the Old Witch
5. Radioactive Man

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1 - Wonder Man
2 - Turok, Son Of Stone
3 - Space Family Robinson
4 - "Split" Captain Marvel
5 - Space Cabby

*****

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Mike Pfefferkorn

1. Stumbo
2. Moby Duck
3. Lana Lang
4. Captain Triumph
5. Redeye

*****

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M. Emery

1. Roy of the Rovers
2. Casper
3. Buster
4. Dennis the Menace (UK version)
5. B'wana Beast

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. Dr. Mid-Nite
2. Silver Sable
3. Steve Lombard
4. Bat-Mite
5. Wonder Girl

*****

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Paul Stock

1 Clint Curtis
2 Brain Boy
3 Gunner & Sarge
4 Little Dot
5 Warrior Nun Areala (Dunn? Nomura?)

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

* Marmaduke
* Jack of Hearts (Bob Layton, maybe?)
* Doctor Spektor (did I even spell that right?)
* Shining Knight
* Human Target
* Valkyrie (Marvel, in case it's unclear)

*****

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Joe Schwind

* Little Sad Sack
* Hungry Chuck Biscuits
* The Tick
* Crankshaft
* Wolverine

*****

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Jamie Coville

1. Wendy, the Good Little Witch
2. Deathlok
3. The Phantom Lady
4. Tigra
5. The Ray

*****

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Marc Sobel

1. The Wonder Twins
2. Jonah Hex
3. Blue Beetle
4. Silver Sable
5. Dan Dare

*****

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William Burns

* Mark Trail
* Jack of Hearts
* Winthrop
* Margo (Apt. 3-G)
* The Riddler

*****

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Sean T. Collins

* Dakota North
* Amanda Waller
* The Purple Man
* Kevin Keller
* Black Mask

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Elongated Man
2. Doll Man
3. Air Boy
4. Miss America (Quality or Timely versions)
5. Black Terror

*****

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John Platt

1. Flash Gordon
2. Captain Atom
3. Green Arrow
4. Solar, Man of the Atom
5. Wonder Girl

*****

thanks to everyone that participated; please remember that providing more than five answers usually just makes me delete the entry without even looking at who sent it along and that if you don't send it on Friday, there's a good chance that by the time you sent it I'll have already made the results post

*****
*****
 
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The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Trailer For Forthcoming Short Film Done In Memory Of Dwayne McDuffie


I Think These Are Ali Ferzat Cartoons Set To Music


Trailer For A Comics Culture-Related Film


Angela Melick's Writing Comics Presentation


A Preview Of The Forthcoming Womanthology Book


Writer Scott Snyder Talks Batman
via


Trailer For Wonder Women!
via


Eddie Campbell Q&A At Angouleme
via


Artist Lars Vilks Attacked
 
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February 25, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from February 18 to February 24, 2012:

1. Rich Burlew's Kickstarter campaign ended up raising more than $1M, signaling any number of things: the connection that Burlew has with his readers and that many webcomics cartoonists have with their readers more generally; the option of bypassing all middle-men for major publishing projects, particularly for a field that prints for a limited number of counted-upon fans; the idea that you really have to work at Kickstarter campaign with clever and worthwhile premiums to make it go. There are many others.

2. A motion for acquittal and a new trial by convicted former retailer and convention organizer Michael George was denied.

3. The Sean Gordon Murphy Wolverine ABCs story underlines the fact that creators working with copyrighted characters are doing so only because -- and only when -- the copyright owners allow it. Recent battles over broad creators rights issues more generally have artists considering different approaches to such things as what to draw at convention, and, maybe, how much time and energy to pour into comics according to how much it's able to return.

Winner Of The Week
I'm tempted to say Jim Woodring for his second nomination in the LA Times Book Prize graphic novels category, because I like Jim Woodring a lot and those last two books of his are pretty great. The NCS Outstanding Cartoonist finalists were named this week, too. But really, you have to go with Rich Burlew here, right?

Loser Of The Week
Michael George

Quote Of The Week
"Well, I think that cartoons have a lot more power than they're given credit for. I have a personal definition of cartooning, which is, simply, "imaginative drawing." Anything you're drawing that is not in front of you but is a mental construct that you want to express in a drawing is, to me, a cartoon. To my way of thinking, the concept drawings that Rembrandt did, the drawings he made that he used to model his artists, to work out the compositions of his paintings: those are cartoons. They're drawn with cartoon shorthand vocabulary. Look at his sketch for the return of the prodigal son. The expression on the angry younger brother's face -- it's a classic cartoon expression. The head is down; the eyebrow is just one curved line over the eyes. It communicates in a very shorthand way. It's beautiful, expressive, and, in a peculiar way, it's more powerful than the kind of stilted, formalized expression in the final painting. Or look at the engravings of Blake, or The Scream, by Munch, or the faces of Christ's tormentors in that Bosch painting of Jesus carrying the cross. Those are cartoons, in my book." -- Jim Woodring.

*****

today's cover is from the thriving, small-press independent comics scene of the 1980s and 1990s

*****
*****
 
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If I Were In Oakland, I'd Go To This

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

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

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

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If I Were Near Torrance, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Baguio City, I'd Go To This

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

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February 24, 2012


Go, Look: Pinocchio

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Not Comics: Luana

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Go, Look: The American Adventure

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Go, Look: My Son, The Medicine Man

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Go, Look: Spot Savage

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Your 2012 Bram Stoker Awards Graphic Novel Nominees

imageBrigid Alverson at Robot 6 has gathered together the nominees in the graphic novel category for this year's Bram Stoker Awards. That's the Horror Writer's Association's awards program. They are:

* Anya's Ghost, Vera Brosgol (First Second)
* Baltimore: The Plague Ships, Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden and Ben Stenbeck and Dave Stewart (Dark Horse)
* Green River Killer Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case (Dark Horse)
* Locke & Key Vol. 4, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
* Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine, Jonathan Maberry and Laurence Campbell (Marvel)
* Neonomicon, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows (Avatar Press)

Alverson caught that the original award listings don't have the artists, which seems to be today's mini-trend. That's always too bad.
 
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If I Were In Oakland, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Read: A Rebecca Clements Interview In Four Parts

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1, 2, 3, 4
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* why wouldn't you want to learn things from Frank Santoro?

image* Ross Simonini talks to the great Jim Woodring. J. Caleb Mozzocco talks to Kathryn and Stuart Immonen.

* here's a couple of arts-culture articles worth reading. Heidi MacDonald puts together a bunch of links that together survey the troubled waters underneath the only slightly-troubled surface that is North American comic books and its attendant culture right now. Roger Kimball writes on The Great American Novel. There are always anxieties about comics, but it's started to churn a bit -- I knew something was up when I posted a short piece on various things one could worry about that aren't comics piracy and some folks took it as some sort of summary indictment of comics. My guess is that this mood has been coming on a while, and what we're seeing is a fuller realization from a ton of folks that they simply aren't going to get to participate in the surge in comics popularity of which we're in the late afternoon right now. This has combined with some really excessive, can't-turn-away public examples of how baseline exploitative the funnybook part of the field can be. There are parts of the comic book landscape where you know folks aren't going to make a lot of money, and there are neighborhoods in Comics City where clearly somebody is making money, it's just not the comics-makers so much. Or at least it doesn't feel that way. Kimball's article may hold an additional clue as to what's going on, in that he talks about the novel losing cultural traction. I think you could make a strong case that comics has started to lose the specific traction it's had with its devoted readership.

image* here's a new "this many years ago this was published" feature at Funnybook Babylon. We're at DK2 + 10. That was a fascinating-looking comic, for sure.

* it may just be my imagination or something about the selections Daryl Cagle has posted here, but it seems like Rick Santorum brings out the best from the current editorial cartooning crop. Something about the bland (and thus versatile) presentation, the visual cues (the sweater vest) and the loopy extremism. It's weird in that you'd think New Gingrich and Mitt Romney would be pretty easy to grab onto because of the outsized aspect of those guys' personalities, but I haven't liked a lot of the cartoons I've seen about either one of them.

* here's the Dark Horse Presents presentation of the new Brian Wood/Kristian Donaldson comic The Massive. Whatever the opposite of kudos is to the site hosting that material for not mentioning Donaldson at all.

* the writer Mark Waid talks about digital comics. He shows up in the comments to talk about them some more.

* that's an intriguing title, I guess.

* Richard Sala talks cover design. Ben Morse picks his favorite mainstream comic book covers of the month. I always like looking at articles like Morse's, because I'm trying to figure out just how good the material from mainstream comics publishers is in general right now. It's hard to tell: you have to be pretty close to those kinds of comic books to pick up on some of the stuff they do well, but that may put you too close to the material to have a rigorous critical perspective.

* Todd Klein on Legion: Secret Origin #3-4. Shaenon Garrity on Dicebox Vol. 1.

* finally, there's something to be said for just calling in sick.
 
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February 23, 2012


A Modest Proposal: Put Creators In Proximity To Creations

I want to try something here at CR for the month of March, and I hope that some of the other writers-about-comics will think about joining me. I'm going to try and make a point of emphasis out of linking all of the creations we talk about in comics on a regular basis with their creators. Therefore, if there's an Aquaman movie announced next month, I'm hoping to say "Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger's Aquaman character" as opposed to automatically writing "DC Comics' Aquaman character."

I know that there are way to club this notion to death with Internet lawyering. For all I know where Aquaman came from is in serious dispute on the sea-related superhero message boards. There are also instances where it could be said that referencing an original creator isn't all that appropriate when it's a subsequent creator or creators whose efforts are the reason the creation is being discussed. I also don't imagine this changes much of anything; it's not even the kind of thing where I can see people making blog posts along the lines of how awesome it is to stick it to The Man this way. It's also not like CR needs any additional prodding in the direction of publishing convoluted, qualifier-laden sentences.

Still, I've grown maybe too comfortable about the way I routinely grant these works of creation autonomy from those that made them by never bringing those people up, or by emphasizing corporate ownership over creative provenance given a choice between the two. Maybe this will work a bit better, and is something that can be continued beyond next month.
 
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Go, Look: Cody, Part Three

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Go, Read: Gary Tyrrell On $$$ Per Donor In Kickstarter Campaigns

The webcomics-focused blogger Gary Tyrrell makes a couple of interesting points here about how much some of the contributors to recent high-profile Kickstarter campaigns are giving and why. I hope that in a surge of general webcomics triumphalism that all of this is sure to ignite that some attention is paid to the specific of how the most successful campaigns were executed.
 
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Go, Look: Under The Bridge

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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* protesters tossed eggs at the artist Lars Vilks, who half-assed a few cartoon-like drawings of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog in the wake of the original Danish Cartoons Controversy, during a lecture at a university in Sweden. Vilks should be left alone and should receive nothing in the way of censure or threats of physical harm for making a drawing; still, I find the easy conflation of what he did with the actual Danish Muhammad caricaturists sort of insulting, and I'm not all the way certain why. It's like hearing about a little kid who ran into the foreground of a photo of something genuinely upsetting to give the camera the finger.

* a politician in Bahrain has asked his fellow members of government to reconsider a recent deal made with Denmark because of the original cartoons controversy.

* what is the proper socialist response to incidents such as these? This article tries to suss that out.
 
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Go, Look: A Plug For Action! Mystery! Thrills!

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Jim McCloskey Makes Move From Staunton, VA To Biloxi, MS

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Jim McCloskey, the longtime cartoonist and ad sales guy at Staunton, Virginia's News-Leader has taken a similar position at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi. The ability to get someone experienced at two newspaper gigs seems like it would enough of an attraction it's a wonder we don't hear about more hyphenates at papers like these. According to the article, McCloskey is in his late 40s with two of three kids out of the house, so a late-period career move seems a natural, too. The Sun Herald reports a bit more than twice the number of daily and Sunday copies sold than the Virginia paper, at least according to a cursory look of what's available information-wise on wikipedia.
 
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Go, Look: Take It Easy

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The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

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By Tom Spurgeon

* this week it's all about Image Expo, the first North American show of considerable, potential size to go off this calendar year. That one should be intriguing for a few, largely obvious reasons. First, it's a new show. Second, it's filling a regional void left by Wonder Con's temporary move to Anaheim because of repairs/improvements to the Moscone Center -- and is in that con's original home area of Oakland to boot. Third, branding a publisher through a comic-con makes so much sense given the popularity of conventions right now it's sort of amazing no other publisher has tried something on this one publisher/one convention scale. I imagine it should do pretty well, but you never know. It's definitely the convention event to watch this month. Eric Stephenson talks about the show here.

* Heidi MacDonald at The Beat caught something I sure didn't: they're offering SDCC/CCI hotel rooms away from the center of San Diego in advance of their yearly room lottery day. I've stayed far enough away from the convention center to need a car a bunch of the Comic-Cons I've attended, and I had a very good time. I've stayed at this one from the list three times, and enjoyed the heck out of it. It's on the list. You feel a bit more removed from the con out there, obviously, but that can actually make for a nice, oasis-type experience. I think I slept better and had a more relaxing breakfast every time I stayed slightly away from downtown than when I stayed as close as possible to the convention center -- this is doubly good if you're attending with someone and want a way to focus on them a bit during a few hours a day during the trip. It looks like these are all pre-paid rooms, plus they're slightly cheaper than what people are paying in town (which should at least balance out the parking costs), so proceed at your own risk and according to your own desires for that weekend.

* Sarah McIntyre reports in from the IMAGINE Children's Festival, and then writes a similar report for one at the Kempston Library. Busy, busy.

* Gerry Alanguilan reminds that this week is the second Baguio City Comics Convention. I want to go to a convention in that part of the world someday.

* the Fantagraphics blog has a post up with links to several feature articles about the Indian Comic Con just past.

* Johanna Draper Carlson seizes on an interesting idea finding some purchase at related-to-comics shows: panelists at conventions refusing to be seated unless there's equitable representation of female creators. I assume this doesn't extend to solo spotlight panels, which would be sort of funny. But that seems like a good idea if you want to prod these organizations into using more of the female creators on hand on these panels. It's also a crying shame that this isn't automatic; it sort of never occurred to me that anyone out there might not think about this just in the course of setting these things up.

* finally, Rodrigo Baeza digs up some feature articles about Robert Crumb's trip to the Indian Comic Con.
 
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If I Were In San Francisco, I'd Go To This

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

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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: A Bunch Of Comics Parodies

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Barney Rosset of Grove Press has passed away.

image* J. Caleb Mozzocco talks to Ross Campbell. Dave Richards talks to Matt Fraction. JK Parkin talks to David Gaider.

* start here for a walk through scans of the original art for X-Men #1.

* not comics: ten frequently asked questions about children's book publishing. (thanks, Michele)

* Wimbledon Green alert.

* advance copies of the English-language version of Jerusalem have slipped into D+Q headquarters. That should be a big book for them.

* buying slightly damaged copies of various Fantagraphics books straight out of the warehouse was one of the best things about working for the company. I highly recommend these Love & Rockets books; it makes no sense that those comics would work in yet another format after single-issue comics, magazine-proportional trades and giant omnibus hardcovers, but there you go.

* how to create finished comics pages with a magic box.

* Janelle Asselin is writing about her experiences as a female negotiating the world of comics. The first two parts are here and here. Cringeworthy douchebaggery abounds.

* hey, it's Comic Swap Shop.

* the Page 45 team on various comics. Richard Bruton on Bluespear and The Bluecoats Vol. 5. Jeremy Briggs on XIII: El Cascador. Esther Inglis-Arkell on The Invisibles: Entropy In The UK. Greg McElhatton on The Lives Of Sacco And Vanzetti. Sean Gaffney on Toriko Vol. 8. Grant Goggans on The Great Northern Brotherhood Of Canadian Cartoonists. Lauren Davis on Small Favors.

* the DC Comics site is apparently due a major overhaul in the next fortnight or so.

* finally, that is a fun illustration by Mawil.
 
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February 22, 2012


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

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt 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. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

AUG110352 WALLY WOOD EC STORIES ARTIST ED HC PI
There are so many books of quality out this week that it may seem slightly absurd to some of you to lead with a Wally Wood reprint, but this book with its massively over-sized reprinting (I'm told it's slightly bigger than Kramers Ergot Vol. 7, a book so big it makes adults reading it in photos look like infants) of Wood's work from the original art should be completely awesome looking.

imageNOV110994 IS THAT ALL THERE IS HC (MR) $35.00
NOV110967 GOLIATH HC $19.95
NOV110676 MY FRIEND DAHMER HC $24.95
NOV110675 MY FRIEND DAHMER SC $17.95
Here's a trio of books (one has two editions) that in a week lacking Giant Wally Wood would easily find a place at the top of this post. The first one listed is the long-anticipated collection of Joost Swarte's comics work, and is one of those things you're grateful to see finally come out even if you can't afford to buy it right away. I liked Tom Gauld's new, longer work enough to interview him about it and it's a handsome book now that I have it in my hands. I worry about the re-release -- and apparently massive re-working -- of My Friend Dahmer coming in such a stuffed publishing period because the whole idea of a new edition is to give that work a better position in the marketplace. There's a lot to admire about that work specifically and cartoonist Derf's recent career output more generally.

NOV110050 AFRIKA HC $15.99
DEC111083 KOLOR KLIMAX NORDIC COMICS NOW GN (MR) $29.99
NOV110701 EXPLORER THE MYSTERY BOXES HC $19.95
NOV110700 EXPLORER THE MYSTERY BOXES SC $10.95
DEC110882 HECTOR UMBRA HC $26.99
Here's the stand-alone material with more than a $10 investment that as a result might take some faith from the potential buyer. The first is an in-one-volume work from Hermann, of all people -- painted, too. I'm just grateful books like that come out. The second is one of those anthologies with tons of cartoonists you've never heard of but probably wish you had. The third and fourth -- two editions of the same book -- is one of those fancy-production, high-end art anthologies of the kind that I think Scott McCloud once thought would take over comics publishing. The second is this handsome beast. Having them all out on the same Wednesday, what with their being the kind of books one might usually buy one of when there's nothing headlining that week's comic releases, just seems sort of cruel.

DEC110075 DARK HORSE PRESENTS #9 MIGNOLA CVR $7.99
DEC110076 DARK HORSE PRESENTS #9 YEATES VAR CVR $7.99
NOV110366 MONDO #1 (OF 3) (MR) $4.99
OCT110561 MORNING GLORIES #16 (MR) $2.99
DEC110566 PROPHET #22 $2.99
Here's a few more standard comic-book comics that are either popular, well-regarded or both. I didn't even dip into Marvel and DC this time. I like how Dark Horse Presents is just really aimed at a perceived Dark Horse customer of traditional standing, without any apology for not trying to constantly break in new cartoonists or comics. I think there's a definite place for a book like that in the comics marketplace. It's sort of a mini-version of Dylan Horrocks' one-time dream for manga-volume anthologies of core comics work by North American company.

DEC110307 MAD MAGAZINE #514 $5.99
I sometimes forget that DC still publishes the greatest comic series of all time.

NOV111001 BUDDY DOES SEATTLE GN (NEW PTG) $19.99
I think we all forget that the Buddy Bradley material is one of the great comics efforts, period.

DEC110681 MAGNETO NOT A HERO #4 (OF 4) $2.99
That title still cracks me up. Not enough has been made about the near-total collapse of available titles for superhero comics. I think all comics starring a superhero or supervillain should just have the name of that character on the book along with a number that's one more than the last one, but nobody asked me.

SEP111101 AMAZING MYSTERIES BILL EVERETT ARCHIVES HC VOL 01 (RES) $39.99
I'm a huge fiend for Bill Everett, one of the romantic figures of 20th Century comic book making for the fact that when his comics hit on a certain popular notion they contributed to the general development of that form as much as anyone's comics ever did, but when they didn't quite conform to the most popular efforts they super stuck out.

DEC111205 CHICK AND CHICKIE IN PLAY ALL DAY HC $12.95
DEC111206 ZIG AND WIKKI IN THE COW $12.95
Two from the Toon folks. I liked that Chick and Chickie book; it was very cute.

NOV111123 NAOKI URASAWA 20TH CENTURY BOYS GN VOL 19 $12.99
Your mainstream-oriented manga series of high quality of the week.

OCT110963 RASL #13 (MR) $3.50
I'm a fiend for Jeff Smith's science fiction series, and this issue is one of those where you get a shift in the action and just a few pages later you're way further along towards the climax than you thought you would be going in. Smith's ability to shift from one tone to another is vastly underrated, I think because his style carries such a consistent flavor to whatever he does.

DEC110934 TOO MUCH COFFEE MAN CUTIE ISLAND TP (MR) $17.99
Shannon Wheeler's latest, and I think it's been a while since he's released new work with his most popular character.

AUG111045 GLITZ 2 GO TP (MR) $19.99
It's wonderful that Diane Noomin has a new collection out. I'm reading it right now as the book I keep in the back seat of the car as I wait for people to leave buildings where I'm picking them up. The more openly autobiographical material is much more interesting to me than the Didi Glitz character, even when that character works in the context of those autobiographical stories. I hope this one doesn't get lost in the flood of new material out. We desperately need to come to grips with more of the underground comix work, if only because so much of it was deeply compelling. I liked the support material in here, too, particularly Noomin's walking us through her career.

*****

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 failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Approaching Centauri

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Corey Pandolph To End Five-Year Run On The Elderberries

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The cartoonist Corey Pandolph has put up a fascinating note here about his decision to pull the plug on his five-year run on The Elderberries. That strip was created by the writer Joe Troise and the cartoonist Phil Frank in 2004; Pandolph took over in 2007 after Frank's passing and Troise's retirement.

You can take your pick as to the most compelling part of Pandolph's decision and the note explaining it. That this can be said to end the comic strip page contributions -- even at the remove of someone taking over the work -- of the talented and underrated Frank is one. Pandolph is pursuing other creative opportunities that have come up for him that aren't really comics related, which isn't always the case when a cartoonist walks away. Pandolph is refreshingly honest about the financial return that a comic like The Elderberries offers a creator and that comics in general right now afford their makers, particularly if the creators don't fit a certain kind of model in terms of how they're inclined to self-promote. Pandolph also seems defensive about more traditional leaving-comics criticisms such as being perceived as a quitter or that he's a dope that doesn't realize that big success may be just around the corner.

I believe five years is enough for Pandolph to know if this is a gig he wants to keep on pursuing, and wish him the best of luck in future endeavors.
 
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Go, Read: John Severin Talks To Clark Dimond

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Go Read: On Whether Everyone Objectified = No Objectification

Kelly Thompson has a piece up here on the routine objectification of women in superhero comics, using as a springboard the argument that seems to crop up whenever an article like this is written that men and women are both objectified by that genre's attention to the human form. Thompson points out clear and common differences that speak against this claim.

These articles tend to attract a full outing for the pathologies of mainstream North American comics fans and the vocal Internet sub-group of that crowd specifically, which makes it a target-rich environment for commentary. You could easily do several graphs on any number of tangential notions that spring up, for instance the construction that seems inherent to such articles where the peccadilloes of the One True Genre as exhibited by The Only Companies That Matter is conflated with all of comics or even all of a sub-section of comics.

Don't get me wrong: these are all fun arguments to have. Still, I think every once in a while it's good to be reminded -- no matter the swirl of opportunities to riff in multiple directions -- that some of these comics are indeed screwed up and depressing because no matter how you'd prefer to contextualize them they really do display these troubling qualities. Further, that there are clearly limits to any kind of sales repercussion for these kinds of common creative choices says something that's maybe not so nice about a specific portion of the North American comics market.
 
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All Hail Wally Wood, Patron Saint Of 20th Century Cartooning

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Rich Burlew's Kickstarter Campaign Ends at $1,254,120

The final tally for Rich Burlew's Kickstarter campaign aimed at publishing his The Order Of The Stick comic in reprint form has ended at a staggering 1.2 million-plus. This is something like 20X the original amount sought, by itself an impressive amount of dough. It's in the pantheon of Kickstarter projects generally, and is its own Mt. Rushmore in terms of comics projects that have received this kind of campaign.

Our industry's dialogue about Kickstarter has been ruthlessly simple-minded in that anyone that voices objections to any element of such campaigns or even individual efforts that use Kickstarter or basically anything that could be summed in a written paragraph that includes the word "Kickstarter" is somehow anti-Kickstarter and is therefore suspicious of every aspect of every project in a way that displays irrational hatred for any benefits that might be accrued to the site or the idea of crowdsourced funding or any individual projects involved. For some folks you're either all in on all projects without reservation or you're an opponent. This seems crazy to me, but that's sort of where we are right now. It works the other way around as well; this drive and other positive signs of a similar nature regarding the wide support popular webcomics enjoy has triggered recently-dormant webcomics triumphalism in a significant way.

So I know I'm probably inviting some sort of scolding e-mail or three from one if not multiple directions when I say the following: it's hard for me to figure out any downside to this much enthusiasm over a comics effort and this kind of execution of a funding mechanism on a comic's behalf. I couldn't tell you what the wider effect might be, or if there will be one, not because I harbor doubts borne of hatred for these kinds of projects but because the degree of support involved here seems to me to make this an unprecedented thing. Right now the only word that comes to mind is "congratulations." And maybe "wow," if that one wasn't worn out several hundred thousand dollars ago.
 
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Go, Look: Exams

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"That Thing We Have No Plans To Do? We Sort Of Already Do That."

The blogger Graeme McMillan caught that the artist Sean Gordon Murphy had a recent tussle with Marvel over a small run of art books he made featuring the Marvel character Wolverine. Murphy had made a bunch of sketchbooks to give to friends and industry folk featuring a kind of alphabet primer with their character Wolverine; when he sold the remainder, he was pursued by Marvel lawyers not to merely stop doing this but to turn over the work to the company without recompense. As McMillan points out, this seems dangerously close to the idea that the Disney-owned subsidiary will now pursue artists doing sketches and personal drawings of Marvel characters in various Artists Alley set-ups at convention -- a big worry after the veteran writer Gary Friedrich was presented with a bill for his efforts making con sales based on the Ghost Rider character, and something the company's executives denied would happen, at least as far as there being no planned change in policy in terms of an active pursuit of this material.

As Murphy's experience underlines, there already seem to be policies in place for what ICv2.com calls "short run collectibles" in an article about the matter here. And while a small run of a book isn't the same thing as a personalized sketch, that is going to seem to many a difference of degree rather than kind. The veteran artist Tony Harris has declared he's out of the licensed character sketching business as of now.

I don't think anyone would claim that artists have some sort of right to make these sketches or to make short run collectible items, and I'm sure that for many in comics pointing that out in as blunt a fashion as possible will be the extent of any debate on the issue. The practice has gone on for quite some time and is an ingrained part of the money-making array available to a lot of artists in a field that can't really boast of full, satisfying employment for its talent pool. There's also the chance for some perceived PR damage to enforcing such a policy -- and to what degree -- and in reaction to the kind of hair-splitting that comes with announcements that the company really doesn't go after this kind of thing when from an artist's perspective it seems they do. It may also change the convention experience for a lot of fans. While the Image Expo is the next convention on deck, it's Charlotte's Heroes Con that will be the place to see if this has a wide-ranging effect or just a limited one; Heroes is a convention with a huge tradition of sketch-making of just that kind.
 
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Go, Look: Air Fighters Cover Gallery

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Go, Look: More New Zealand History In Pictures

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it's hard to imagine any time spent on the comics Internet today more enjoyable than taking in a Chris Oliveros-penned report stuffed with photos from that comics convention in New Delhi last weekend.

image* there's a nice new Kate Beaton comic about her family here. It's difficult to envision a ceiling for Beaton.

* introducing the beta for Crowded Comics.

* Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer always have the best eBay offerings. Speaking of things you can buy from artists, I wasn't aware until yesterday that Matt Bors sells originals through his on-line presence. I bet his originals would work quite well as wall art. David Lapham has some stuff up for sale as well.

* so apparently DC no longer owns Scene Of The Crime, the Ed Brubaker/Michael Lark crime series. I always thought that one had basic cable series possibilities.

* JasonClyma on Winter Soldier #2. Sean T. Collins on Demon God Goblin Heaven. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Incredible Change-Bots Two. Todd Klein on Superman #4-5.

* not comics: I think they need to start having more terrifying comics-related toys again.

* Grant McLaughlin talks to Robert Venditti. Brian Truitt talks to Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. Who cares who's asking the questions or in what language when the answers are provided by Eddie Campbell? David Harper talks to Natalie Nourigat. Tim O'Shea talks to Kagan McLeod. Sean Kleefeld talks to Michael Doll. Steve Sunu talks to Victor Gischler. Albert Ching talks to Matt Fraction. Vaneta Rogers talks to Mike Mignola.

* not comics: still in love with 1970s gaming culture art.

* Eddie Campbell, comics detective.

* finally, I've had this Zac Gorman site bookmarked for several days, and I'm not sure why. It's a fun-looking site, though, that's for sure.
 
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February 21, 2012


Go, Look: Melting

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Your 2012 LAT Book Prize Graphic Novels Category Finalists

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Works from Joseph Lambert, Dave McKean, Carla Speed McNeil, Jim Woodring and Yuichi Yokoyama made up the graphic novels category of the just-announced latest iteration of the LA Times Book Prizes. The category looks like this:

* I Will Bite You! And Other Stories, Joseph Lambert (Secret Acres)
* Celluloid, Dave McKean (Fantagraphics)
* Finder: Voice, Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)
* Congress of the Animals, Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)
* Garden, Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)

This is the third year for the category. Woodring is a two-time nominee, the first to garner that distinction.
 
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Go, Look: High Seas

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It's A Fine Day For Some Long-Form Reading About Comics

There's a bunch of reasonably meaty comics-related articles and postings out there that are worth your time -- or at least a bookmark -- and doubly so if they run up against your specific area of interest.

* here's the appeal brief in the Kirby Family Vs. Marvel legal tussle. I like that it's presented without any glossing over how devastating the defeat was in the case proper, because too often we look at appeals -- because anything can happen -- as just another round of legalities as opposed to the long shots they usually are.

* there's a terrific daily post up here from Gary Tyrrell at Fleen about various things happening in digital and on-line comics. He's essential reading generally and even more so right now. I don't think there's a single negative thing to be said about people raising staggering amounts of money for various webcomics-related efforts, and I hope that there's also a lesson for all of comics about the general value of creator-driven work and executing with aplomb the tools put in front of you.

* to my mind, this editorial about Bob Englehart's suspension from the Hartford Courant surges into political Fruit Loop territory pretty convincingly by article's end -- your mileage may vary considerably -- but I thought it was worth reading for a couple of reasons. One is that it's a reminder that a lot of people agreed with the sentiment that Englehart expressed, to the point where I can imagine that a subset of those folks have no problem at all with how it was expressed. Another is that I agree there was a lack of desirable clarity as to exactly why Englehart was suspended -- I mean, I couldn't tell you what a cartoonist facing a similar situation would have to do not to face suspension other than maybe avoid this kind of situation entirely, which seems sort of sad to me given how editorial cartoonists should be in the thick of things on various issues. That's not to say I don't have my own thoughts on what Englehart did and what I would have done in response; I'm just not certain where exactly the paper stands.

* finally, there's a fascinating editorial at Sequential about where various union-organizing activities in comics have ended up and why it's important to talk about those things. The best section ropes in Julie Taymor's dispute with the producers of the Spider-Man musical and shows how what her union has done in terms of establishing how credit should be assigned puts her way ahead of people with what seems like more fundamental issues to bring up with comics publishers. I actually think there's a chance some sort of guild could happen in the next five years or so -- basically because I think people want to be involved with comics and a lot of other opportunities for people to achieve this are saturated with participants; I also think if there's a fallow period coming for comics more generally this might be a natural, collective response -- but I think it will take someone with a pretty clever approach to see that it works for a lot of people as opposed to some of the other potential outcomes for an organization like that.
 
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Go, Bookmark: Cameron Stewart's Tumblr

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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* here's good news that I didn't catch until after Chris Arrant at Robot 6 picked up on it: James Turner has a webcomic up and running called Hell Lost. Turner's a distinctive, intriguing cartoonist, one of those that seems ill-served by some of the current options available for publication but might have been flattered by the way things used to be.

image* the FPI Blog notes that Larry Marder has sketched out plans for the next installment of Beanworld. I think he's been moving in this direction since at least the ramp-up to last year's Stumptown festival, so it's good to hear that there are firmer plans for this material's release.

* I'm as happy to hear there is going to be a Ralph Wiggum comic book as I'm crushed to learn that he's somehow not a major character on The Simpsons.

* the artist Chris Samnee will be doing the Daredevil book for as long as they'll have him.

* not comics: some very classy shelf-porn (thanks to Gil Roth). That was probably intended for a Random News post, but I like to keep you folks guessing. Plus: lazy.

* the John Romita Artist's Edition was big; the Wally Wood book will be bigger.

* unless I'm missing something, it looks like the Savage Critics site has updated its right-hand column to reflect active and less-active critics participating there. I haven't done a whole lot of updates on various web sites in a while, which makes me wonder if we're in a pretty settled place as far as who's working where, at least for a while. Or maybe a bunch of stuff has escaped my attention.

* the writer Cullen Bunn and the artist Joelle Jones are teaming up for a horror book at Oni Press.

* Tom Neely will be working with Roger Langridge of some of that new Popeye stuff Langridge is writing.

* Brandon Graham has up the art he'll be using for the cover of Prophet #26, which is apparently his first solo outing with that relaunched title.

* Darryl Cunningham is holding in his hands a copy of his new book, which you will soon want to hold in your hands.

* Barry Blitt has illustrated a new children's book about young George Washington. That should be extremely attractive.

* the roll-out on the new edition of My Friend Dahmer seems to have begun.

* finally, Brigid Alverson suggests that plans for the digital release of Kimagure Orange Road to various places one can do that indicates that digital licensing of niche manga properties is something to which we should all pay attention. It makes sense to me that the availability of niche material should be an appeal of finding comics to read through digital means, but it seems like we're still pretty far away from that right now.

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Go, Read: Kate Beaton Answers Your Questions

Kate Beaton has the first of two posts up on various questions posed to her about making comics and the specific path she's taken to doing so. I can't imagine this not being of use to someone thinking about working in comics, or someone interested in the choices made by Beaton and other cartoonists working in that same general area of comics creation.
 
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Go, Look: Richard Sala's Evil Eye Color Proofs

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Missed It: John Jackson Miller Takes Stab At Overall Market Size

Numbers cruncher John Jackson Miller took a stab at the overall size of the comics market here; the walking through of the various estimates is as interesting as the final result. It also goes to show you just how much of this stuff is shrouded in mystery both by choice and by a lack of reliable tools.

In a slightly less ambitious article, but the kind of thing the writer does routinely and with skill, Miller takes a gander at Ghost Rider sales, poking a stick at the question why that particular character -- not a big hit right out of the gate -- has seen two big-budget movies while other characters with more storied pedigrees have yet to get that treatment. It was the '90s, apparently.
 
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Go, Look: Free

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Go, Look: The Phantom Commando #16

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the Harvey Awards ballot is available for your downloading and filling-out pleasure. That used to be one of the iron man tasks of professional comics obligations, and is less so now that you can fill the stuff out on your computer via the magic of attachments.

image* I enjoyed these Kevin Cannon sketches of the musician Craig Finn even though I stumbled across them a couple of weeks late. I guess that wouldn't have an effect on whether I like them or not, but I still feel bad for not noticing them until now.

* Aaron Ragan-Fore takes a look at how Eugene, Oregon is portrayed in the comic book series iZombie.

* good to see Lisa Hanawalt has a Tumblr up, so I can steal all the links. Also: someone please tell me how to refer to Tumblr-based web sites.

* the Page 45 review team on various comics. Richard Bruton on The Stool Pigeon #36. Trigonis (Trigonis?) on Batman #6. Dan Morrill on Stargazer Vol. 2. Erica Friedman on A Certain Scientific Railgun Manga Vol. 2. Johanna Draper Carlson on a year's worth of Toon offerings. KC Carlson on Amazing Spider-Man. Sean T. Collins on Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. Grant Goggans on 2000 AD Prog 2012. Greg Burgas on Chew #24. Todd Klein on Wonder Woman #4-5.

* what a great cover.

* a post at the hobby business news and analysis site ICv2.com suggests that graphic novel sales for work related to DC Comics continuity from before the New 52 has suffered in the wake of the recent initiative. Makes sense, although I wonder at the exposure there -- there doesn't seem to have been a lot of older material collected in recent months, although I could be wrong about that.

* Lauren Davis talks about the way sex is portrayed in a handful of selected webcomics.

* Vaneta Rogers talks to Todd McFarlane.

* not comics: there's a documentary planned about cartoonist and environmentalist J.N. "Ding" Darling.

* egad.

* Dan Berry notes a graphic novel course.

* an effort to save the house of the cartoonist WEG finds a bit of traction. It'd be nice if they saved all the houses where multiple cartoonists lived in Seattle in the 1990s and Portland in the 2000s; you could get six to eight historical figure's worth for each house.

* finally, you win some, you lose some.
 
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February 20, 2012


Go, Look: Simon Gane Illustrates Jonathan Vankin

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Your 2011 NCS Cartoonist Of The Year Nominees

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The National Cartoonists Society has announced this year's nominees for their big award: this is the one known as The Reuben to all but some under-informed obituary writers that mistake the divisional awards given out during the same evening as the Real Deal. Along with the Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning, I believe the Reuben to be the biggest honor in North American comics -- it's right up there with the Angouleme Grand Prix in terms of worldwide honors available.

This year's nominees are Stephan Pastis, Tom Richmond and Brian Crane. Congratulations to all three. This makes a really big couple of weeks for Crane, as his syndicate just announced that Pickles reached the 800-client mark.
 
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Go, Look: Rescue Pet, Part Three

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All-Star Line-Up Of Creators To Substitute On Cul De Sac

Michael Cavna at Comic Riffs reported late last week that Richard Thompson will be taking a bit more time off from his Cul De Sac feature, and that the feature will offer fill-in weeks from a bunch of respected cartoonists and admirers of Thompson's work. They are: Mo Willems, Stephan Pastis, Lincoln Peirce, Michael Jantze, Corey Pandolph and Ken Fisher. Jantze's first effort is up today.

The hiatus on Thompson's part is related to treatments for his Parkinson's Disease, and we join all of cartooning in wishing him a continued best outcome in that regard.
 
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Go, Look: Cody, Part Two

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Cagle: New York Times Re-Considering New Cartoon Policy

Daryl Cagle has a short note up on his site that indicates the New York Times is reconsidering elements of its recently-announced new comics initiative. Cartoonists including Cagle objected to elements of the announced policy, which included soliciting several cartoons from editorial cartoonists before picking a winner, which would then be paid the standard illustration fee as opposed to what cartoonists working for that big a market would be due for a) any cartoon, b) the work of soliciting through a winner-takes-the-slot contest. Let's hope for the best outcome in terms of what they'll offer cartoonists; the initial policy as described was painfully disrespectful, although the nature of the market and the nature of the Times' name recognition is such that they could mostly get away with it, certainly picking up several contributors although losing any possibility at a lot of top-tier talent.
 
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Missed It: Reservoir Love

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Missed It: Hard News At The ComicsPRO Meeting A Weekend Ago

I missed a couple of hard news items from the ComicsPro annual meeting held in Texas not the weekend just past but the weekend before that. My apologies. Anaheim-area retailer Thomas Gaul was named to the group's board of directors, replacing one of the founders, Brian Hibbs. This is good news because I'm not familiar with Mr. Gaul or his store at all, and as much new blood can circulate through that group's board means not just new blood with that retailing group but another potential national spokesperson for comics retail more generally. Also, as I pretty much expected Bob Wayne (living) and Phil Seuling (deceased) were the winners of the group's appreciation awards this year. That was a pretty good list of nominees in both categories generally, but Wayne's been a huge friend to comics retail in his post at DC Comics and there's no bigger figure in the history of funnybook sales than Seuling.

Alex Cox has a piece up about the show here; he attended on behalf of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
 
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Go, Read: Bozo And Boggs Take A Drive

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Go, Look: Splash Pages From The Micronauts #1-12

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Frank Santoro visits Seattle and Vancouver.

image* happy real birthday to 2000 AD. That's one of those publications you can sort of love without ever having read one.

* Alan Bisbort talks to Bill Griffith. Some nameless, charming Latvian profiles Maré Odomo. A small army of folks interviews Dave Morris. Albert Ching talks to Matt Fraction. Paul Gravett profiles Luke Pearson.

* Osamu Tezuka 101.

* it'd be nice if these were collected, I guess, but I thought Mitchum was a nicely-conceived book just the way it was -- so I guess I'd prefer a re-release. I swear, I'm just going to get crankier and crankier about the move away from slim volumes the more years we go down that road.

* here's the must-read recent CJR article on the future of cartooning, and here's Eddie Campbell reminding us that it exists.

* Sean Kleefeld asserts that because Marvel's history always begins 10 years ago, that means everything in the Marvel Comics overarching storyline happened after 9/11. That's totally worth it if it means the leader of the Secret Empire whose suicide depressed the crap out of Captain America was Dick Cheney.

* I'm not certain if I put up a link to the English translation of this last installment of Guy Delisle's Angouleme diary or if I blew it off, but it's worth visiting again.

* so apparently Portland has good comics shops I haven't even heard of yet.

* not comics: Ulises Farina draws Mos Eisley or whatever form of that word applies to the town, I forget. I would have flipped out over that when I was eight years old, although I'm never certain I would have followed Stars Wars into today's comic books or not -- wasn't a fan of the Marvel books when I was a kid.

* Judy Drood is indeed pretty awesome.

* not comics: I never thought about there being comic strip puzzles, but of course there are.

* Rip Jagger on Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse. Katherine Dacey on Soulless: The Manga Vol. 1. John Kane on various comics. Johanna Draper Carlson on World Of Will. Bob Temuka on 2000 AD Prog 2012. Bart Croonenborghs on Is That All There Is? Brandon Soderberg on Streakers. Rob Clough picks his top 30 mini-comics of 2011. Lauren Davis on a bunch of sexy webcomics.

* finally, let a sneer be your parasol. I get the best e-mail.
 
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February 19, 2012


Go, Read: The Assignment

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Five Reasons To Worry About Comics That Aren't Piracy

The focused attention the last few weeks on the economics of the comics industry as it may or may feel the impact of comics piracy suggests a question: if piracy isn't as big of a concern as some people would have us believe it is, what current industry developments are more worthy of our time and attention? Let me suggest five.

1. The ownership of the biggest two comics publishers by gigantic entertainment corporations comes with the constant possibility for sweeping changes based on factors that have little to do with the comics themselves.
While there are reasons to believe that the owners of Marvel and DC value what their companies do and how they do it enough to keep them active as sustainable endeavors with rich intellectual property dividends, the corporate landscape is weird right now. When Marvel Comics cut staff in the same year that they had three $150 million movies in cineplexes and a "we've been pointing to this one for a while" franchise ready to launch within nine months or so of the announced moves, you could sense folks shifting uncomfortably in their Herman Miller Aerons from New York to Nappanee.

It's hard to imagine either of the biggest companies going so far as to pull the plug on new comics production, but all sorts of moves are on the table for as long as we're in an era where even arbitrary decisions made by human beings are treated as if they're inevitable choices made by unstoppable, infallible profit machines. The end result is just as real for the businesses and individuals that feel the impact of drastic change if something is done because of a perceived bottom line agreed upon by dozens of knowledgeable corporate officers or if there's one person with power that has ambitions for a bigger vacation house and a different title on her business card. No one would be that surprised to wake up one morning to find either big company announcing some drastic, new approach to how they're doing business -- No more freelancers! We're shutting down New York! We're ending page rates! -- and in fact, those companies would have vocal defenders no matter what they chose to do. That can't be a comfortable situation for people that want to plan at least a part of their lives negotiating the opportunities these companies provide. It's not a comfortable situation for anyone.

2. The Direct Market of hobby and comics shops continues to gray while suffering from infrastructure difficulties and general neglect.
The success of the New 52 initiative was overwhelmingly celebrated as a victory for DC Comics and its general players, primarily two of their big editorial three: Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. Curiously, relatively little was made outside of retail circles about how the successful re-launch -- short-term gains or not -- provided a showcase for the potency of a motivated Direct Market given the kinds of comics it wants to sell. What the DM does efffectively and what it doesn't is a vastly complicated set of issues, of course. For instance, I would argue that the comics shops moved past any real, collective desire to even try to sell alternative and independent comics long before the publishers of those comics by necessity switched some of their focus to the book trade. Others disagree.

Some broad strokes seem more clear to me than others, though. It seems stores continue to close at least as much as I personally hear about them opening. I stopped by a shop a couple of weekends ago that had closed since I'd last visited. The person with me remarked that this was the third time this had happened when they were in the car with me. I remain unconvinced there's a generation of younger retailers springing up to replace that first generation of owners whose stores remain the backbone of that market. A few of the bigger names I can think of in terms of young retailers emerging the last decade have already moved on to other jobs. There seem to be more great shops with anniversaries in the 15-year-plus range than emerging ones of quality with birthdays in the single digits. Additionally, despite a major starving of entire geographical regions that was hurried along by Marvel's insane Perelman-era sales strategies, there seems to be very little in the way of major, focused initiatives to get more stores opened in the places that don't have them. Functionality remains an issue as well. Despite their market dominance, Diamond still doesn't seem able to provide basic "we'll get these comics in the stores by this agreed-upon date" service unless driven furiously in that direction Iditarod style by one of its major partners. Rational release schedules isn't even a priority for most publishers now, and if it became one I don't think the system is there on the distribution end to carry it out.

As much as I love comics shops, I don't think traditional comics retail is everything. I'll continue to support publishers and creators making work available through every platform available to them without protecting that content for any on market segment. Still, I think the Direct Market has proven value that's under-appreciated and under-utilized even -- especially! -- by those folks that see the greatest benefit from what they do. This is a constant, consistent wound, and the patient has more gray hairs in its beard than it used to. We may not notice right away when things finally turn septic.

3. The editorial cartooning field has yet to reach its bottom in terms of sustainable staff positions.
Editorial cartooning doesn't have a lot of crossover with the comic book market on which many comics people exclusively focus. The field has a rich artistic tradition and, moreover, it's a place where those with comics-making skills used to find comfortable employment for years and years. That's gone now. Whereas ten years ago people predicted the then astonishingly low three-figure number of staffed editorial cartoonists might be cut in half -- and were usually deemed alarmists for suggesting something so severe -- it's possible now to suggest with a straight face that the field could contract to about a dozen full-timers as soon as ten years from now. In addition, outside of a few devoted service sites that spotlight individual cartoonists, no one's really found that key to exploit and use a cartoonist in an on-line interface that seems to work for the artist and for the publication, something that you think someone on a standard newspaper would have figured out by now if it can be figured out.

In a way, the decline in editorial cartooning positions reflects the broader decline of the newspapers that publish them. It's not the skill of the individual practitioner or the appeal of cartooning generally that's been diminished, or at least that isn't the telling factor; what we've seen instead is a deterioration of the relationship between what one is perceived to get in terms of bottom-line gain from the amount of investment involved. Following a year when a reigning major award-winner takes retirement in Jim Brown fashion and no one blinks twice, shuffling staff-position editorial cartoonists right out of the deck is a trend that might even ramp up in frequency. The way it stands now, this field isn't coming back -- not as a field, anyway. Even if you have no investment in editorial cartooning at all, you should notice how a once-mighty cartooning industry can shrink in drastic fashion in very little time, without a recognizable bad guy onto which one may easily lay blame.

4. Whatever on-line market emerges will likely work in drastically different ways from the high-profit-per-piece paper market on which the current industry players depend.
All of the comics industries have played a remarkably effective delaying game in terms of not settling on a model or three for digital comics and letting those new businesses develop into a status quo. In fact, you can almost name as many models that have yet to be tried than as have been put into play. For instance, it seems like some sort of subscription access model on a grander scale might work; it also seems like many companies are sitting on -- or have natural access to -- a wealth of older material that would by their nature circumvent concerns about directly competing with new product in more lucrative forms.

I imagine they've avoided some traps this way. Do comics companies really want to commit to a 99-cent price point and lock themselves out of a $1.99 price point if the latter becomes an attractive enough alternative to be the status quo moving forward? Do those companies want to commit to any kind of low price point if the nature of comics buying is slack enough generally it's going to rely on the ability of companies to discount in order to goose sales in certain segments? Comics has also largely avoided the trap of hastening the decline of more profitable business models in order simply to be out ahead on all the things they're told they have to be ahead on -- in terms of the TV networks, comics is more CBS and its old-people shows and syndicated-to-cable series and less NBC and its on-line initiatives and wholly owned cable networks. I'm not saying one way or the other is the right way in either that comparison or for comics, just that there are probably arguments to be made about certain positives that result from a conservative position.

What we may be seeing, though, isn't some wise old card player declining to show his hand but a slightly worried Vegas newbie holding a bunch of random, single-digit cards all of the same suit. Like the newspaper and media-information industries before it, comics has come to depend on a consistently, reasonably high profit margin by item and a monopoly on a certain entertainment experience that's guaranteed a core level of interest even in the most fallow times. That monopoly has been hit hard by video games and movies, but comics is unique enough in terms of the nature of its entertainment experience both in the reading and collecting, as well as wholly branded in terms of certain characters, that at least some semblance of an audience has been maintained throughout. Yet with the biggest shift in comics sales over the last 15 years being there is no longer a real bottom for any publisher, and that comics may now routinely perform under sales points that were scoffed at as a structural impossibility as recently the mid-1990s, and with a widespread denial in place that price points really do seem to matter, a guaranteed core may no longer be there for comics -- both in terms of people supporting each and every title and in terms of folks following a specific property across a variety of expensive formatting choices.

The delay in a fuller commitment to digital publishing doesn't just allow a vacuum into which illegally scanned comics may expand as much as they're able. It also means the development of certain expectations regarding that market and what value means in same. That may run at cross purposes with the amount of profit necessary to keep the current infrastructure in place. While the proper reaction to that development may be "Good," that kind of change, its degree and drastic nature, doesn't come without cost.

I'm additionally curious whether or not comics has cut itself out of a bigger piece of the overall digital experience by this delaying tactic, that reading comics through digital means could have been a bigger, more ingrained part of everyone's time on-line by now and will always lag behind as a result. You can see with traditional webcomics how much good will from their readerships has been developed over the years by virtue of those comics getting in there and becoming a part of those readers' experiences, relationships that are now paying off with direct funding initiatives. I'm worried that's a club with a limited membership list in the same way that Cerebus-style Direct Market self-publishing only worked for a certain kind of cartoonist. But hey, at least those cartoonists were working that room. The rest of comics continues to fall behind, raising the ante in the hopes that they won't be asked to show their hand. The least-discussed possibility of a future for digital comics is that it doesn't develop the way it could, the way that many assume it has to. That may make certain pundits happy, but I think it would make for a much poorer art form 10, 20, 30 years from now.

5. We sort of expect people to be broke now, and this is a relatively flush period. What happens when it's not?
I'm one of those people that believes comics' switch from a largely middle class- and lower middle class-dominated profession to a feast and famine rodeo in terms of who makes what money and how is going to have long-term implications of the mostly distressing variety. When we see a creator fail to participate in the windfall of profits that comes with the cross-media exploitation of something they created or co-created long ago, we're rightly concerned about the system that got that creator from point A to point B. The bigger issue may be that we have more creators now -- more people involved in comics generally in a variety of ways -- that simply don't have that profitable creation putting their personal plight into bold relief.

We have young people out there that are devoting years of their lives and some a massive investment into educational opportunities with a potential end result being their making the kind of mini-comics and self-published work that will never sell more than few dozen copies. We don't hear as much about older cartoonists and comics-makers that drew series for publishers that no one talks about anymore, but they're out there, and I can't imagine the course of their professional lives was always improved by pursuing what turned out to be severely limited opportunities. We also have people that have followed certain comics initiatives in an editorial or development capacity that never quite came off, web cartoonists that need a white knight in making a $4000 Kickstarter as opposed to putting together a $40,000 one in a few days, strip cartoonists that struggle for years on what used to be seen as a young twenty-something's salary for the exact same amount of work turned out by a Garry Trudeau while having to explain to family members that are familiar with The Jim Davis Story that syndication does not equal winning the lottery, and collectors that are somehow still banking on someone buying all of their stuff and putting it in a museum somewhere.

I don't think this is anyone's fault; in fact, I think casting about looking for a bad guy can be a waste of time. I just think there's something to a generational shift from an industry to a not-industry with which there needs to be a fuller reckoning. The delay in readjusting our expectations to realize the potential costs of spending this much time on something that may not lead to reasonable financial return has real-world, direct implications on a lot of folks' lives. If the only thing keeping us from a more rational, clear-headed look at things is our potential hurt feelings and the fact that roping people in to work for not much in the way of pay benefits folks at various points further up the economic ladder, maybe we should work on that. I'm not sure any of us are prepared for the widespread human cost of what the Dream Of Comics Partway Fulfilled will mean to generations of comics people now moving into their 40s, 50s and 60s. Many of us may be forced to learn from our own example. I hope that's not you. I hope that's not me.
 
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Go, Look: Crom The Barbarian

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Go, Look: Mister Breger

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Go, Look: A Peek At Swedish MAD

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

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If I Were IN New Delhi, I'd Go To This

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FFF Results Post #283 -- Gone But Not Forgotten

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Comics You Like That Came Out From Five Different Now-Defunct Publishers." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Tantalizing Stories (Tundra)
2. Elvis Road (Buenaventura Press)
3. Alien Fire (Kitchen Sink)
4. Land Of Nod (Black Eye)
5. Maggots (Highwater Books)

*****

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Alexa Dickman

* Sisterhood of Steel (Epic-- if imprints count)
* Herbie the Fat Fury (ACG)
* Doc Frankenstein (Burlyman)
* Fool's Gold (Tokyopop)
* Ruse (Crossgen)

*****

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Marc Mason

1. The Trouble With Girls (Malibu)
2. Dinosaurs for Hire (Malibu)
3. Hilly Rose, Space Reporter (Marlowe &Co.)
4. Very Vicki (Meet Danny Ocean)
5. Strange Attractors (RetroGraphix)

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. American Flagg! (First Comics)
2. Miracleman (Eclipse Comics)
3. The Maze Agency (Comico)
4. Brat Pack (King Hell)
5. Nexus (Capital Comics)

*****

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John Vest

1. Night Music (Eclipse)
2. Robin Snyder's Revolver (Renegade)
3. Time2 (First)
4. Gates Of Eden (FantaCo)
5. Pathways To Fantasy (Pacific)

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. Two-Fisted Tales (EC)
2. Little Lulu (Dell)
3. Yummy Fur (Vortex)
4. Creepy (Warren)
5. King City (Tokypop)

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Shatter (Eclipse Editor's Note: I think this Was First)
2. American Flagg! (First)
3. Rogue Trooper (Fleetway-Quality)
4. Piracy (EC)
5. El Cazador (CrossGen)

*****

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Marc Sobel

1. Miracleman (Eclipse)
2. Ditko's World (Renegade Press)
3. Doghead (Tundra)
4. Jar of Fools (Black Eye)
5. Rubber Necker (Alternative)

*****

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Chris Duffy

1. Tantalizing Stories (Tundra)
2. Zot! (Eclipse)
3. Hey Look! collection (Kitchen Sink)
4. Dynamo Joe (First Comics)
5. Flaming Carrot (Renegade)

*****

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Chad Nevett

1. Dreadstar (First Comics)
2. 'Breed (Malibu Comics)
3. Star Reach (Star Reach)
4. Unity 2000 (Acclaim)
5. Eerie (Warren Publishing)

*****

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Eric Newsom

1. Detectives, Inc. (Eclipse)
2. Sarge Steel / Secret Agent (Charlton)
3. E-Man (Charlton/First/Comico/Alpha)
4. Max Friedman stories (Catalan)
5. Xenozoic Tales / Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (Kitchen Sink/Topps)

*****

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Mark Mayerson

1. The Spirit (Warren)
2. Zot (Eclipse)
3. Omaha, the Cat Dancer (Kitchen Sink)
4. Two-Fisted Tales (EC)
5. Spencer Spook (Ace)

*****

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Don MacPherson

1) Quantum & Woody (Acclaim)
2) Firearm (Malibu)
3) Empire (Gorilla Comics)
4) Abazadad (CrossGen Comics)
5) Rex Mantooth (AiT/PlanetLar)

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

1. Aztec Ace (Eclipse Comics)
2. Strikeback! (Malibu Comics)
3. Cap'n Quick and a Foozle (Eclipse)
4. Bunny Ball (Harvey Comics)
5. Magnus, Robot Fighter (Gold Key Comics)

*****

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J.E. Cole

1 The Wintermen (Wildstorm)
2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Studios)
3 Bloodshot (Acclaim Comics)
4 Doc Frankenstein (Burlyman entertainment)
5 Robotech II: The Sentinels (Eternity Comics)

*****

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Sean T. Collins

* Kramers Ergot 7 (Buenaventura)
* Teratoid Heights (Highwater)
* Rubber Necker (Alternative)
* NON #5 (Red Ink)
* Planetes (Tokyopop)

*****

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Michael May

1. Baker Street (Caliber)
2. Sojourn (CrossGen)
3. Casper the Friendly Ghost (Harvey)
4. Xenozoic Tales (Kitchen Sink Press)
5. Planet Comics (Fiction House)

*****

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M. Emery

1. Scary Tales (Charlton Comics)
2. Sorcery (Red Circle)
3. The Comic Book Holocaust (Buenaventura Press)
4. Dan Dare (Hawk Books)
5. Torpedo 1936 (Catalan Communications)

*****

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Lloyd Smith

1. Wally Wood's Thunder Agents (Deluxe)
2. E-Man (Charlton)
3. Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger (Tekno)
4. Megaton Man (Kitchen Sink)
5. Fantastic Worlds (Flashback)

*****

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Jason Michelitch

1. The Rocketeer (Pacific/Eclipse)
2. Neil Gaiman's Teknophage (Tekno Comix)
3. Mage: The Hero Discovered (Comico)
4. Big Numbers (Mad Love)
5. Thirteen Going on Eighteen (Dell)

*****

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Chris Arrant

1. Xenozoic Tales (Kitchen Sink)
2. East Coast Rising (TOKYOPOP)
3. Scion (CrossGen)
4. Ex Mutants (Malibu)
5. Ninjak (Valiant)

*****

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Fred Hembeck

1. Mars (First)
2. Zot! (Eclipse)
3. Kings In Disguise (Kitchen Sink)
4. The Scorpion (Atlas)
5. Around The Block With Dunc and Loo (Dell)

*****

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Mark Coale

1. American Flagg! (First)
2. Space Usagi (Mirage)
3. Why I Hate Saturn (Paradox Press)
4. Stig's Inferno (Vortex)
5. Firearm (Malibu)

*****

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Dan Boyd

1. Stray Bullets (El Capitan)
2. Kane (Dancing Elephant Press)
3. Jar of Fools (Black Eye)
4. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (Kitchen Sink)
5. Madman (Tundra)

*****
*****
 
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The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Mark Crilley Draws


A Video Trailer For Something Called Harbor Moon


Peter Bagge Interviewed
via


Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes


Cartoonist Al Ross Celebrates His 100th Birthday


Norm Feuti Talks To Mr. Media
 
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February 18, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from February 11 to February 17, 2012:

1. As expected, a Belgian court has rejected a legal claim from a Congolese man that Tintin Au Congo was racist; the decision focused on the intent of the author in making the book.

2. Dynamite sued by Edgar Rice Burroughs' long-standing family trust ERB, Inc. on claims that they violated their trademark on various John Carter and Tarzan-related properties by doing comics based on those properties.

3. Cartoonist Bob Englehart was suspended from the Hartford Courant for a week related to comments he made about the role of home and family life in educating young people. He has since apologized. The comments were taken by many to have an implied racial component, although a lot of people agreed with the general sentiment. In a side-issue, some folks complained that the offending blog post was removed, preferring to have it as a more significant part of the public record.

Winners Of The Week
Readers of the Baltimore Sun, who get a weekly dose of KAL -- he returns to the paper with a weekly offering after having left a staff position that he held for years. A newspaper is a better reading experience with a passionate, local cartoonist making commentary.

Loser Of The Week
Anyone that bet on L'Association never having a proper web site. I would have put money on "no," if there were some Vegas comics book out there. I might never leave such a place, actually.

Quote Of The Week
"It's not enough to simply offer the same titles month after month in the same narrow superhero niche. Has anyone noticed sales are falling? If we want to grow the industry, we need to take some chances, with both publishers and retailers supporting new projects that have the potential to appeal to the very customers we seek. We need to offer the same variety of content present in other entertainment forms. Superheroes may pay the bills for now, but they aren't bringing in new customers. In January, only three comics passed the 100,000 mark. That kind of news makes it all the more important for publishers to create new titles that will stand the test of time. Rather than flooding the market with titles that come and go, we publishers need to commit to the titles we believe in, while searching for the next Sin City, Hellboy, The Goon, or Bone." -- Mike Richardson

*****

today's cover is from the thriving, small-press independent comics scene of the 1980s and 1990s

*****
*****
 
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If I Were In Florida, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Telford, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In New Delhi, I'd Go To This

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February 17, 2012


Go, Bookmark: New Yoga City

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posted 5:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Clear Sign Of The Forthcoming Apocalypse

The L'Association site is up. It could have been up for a while, and I guess technically it was up before this re-do, but something like this seems to have been a long time coming. The history section is fun; I don't think I knew anything about the details of the company's history as it sees it.
 
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Go, Look: More From That 1982 New Woman Calendar

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posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Baltimore Sun Confirms Return Of KAL To Its Pages

I had heard the news that Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher would be returning to the Baltimore Sun from a pair of sources of significant and trustworthy nature, and figured official word from the paper was imminent, but it took someone e-mailing me this link to make me realize this had already happened. I think this is good news barring some sort of subsequent, surprising revelation -- one I don't expect. Kallaugher is one of the few cartoonists to leave a paper like the Sun and actually enhance his profile away from that kind of regular, high-profile platform, so I have confidence the deal worked out here is a good one for the cartoonist. It's also difficult for me to conceive of a major cartoonist working at your paper not being a positive in today's weary, challenging marketplace.
 
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Go, Look: Frank Thomas' The Owl

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WSJ Blog Says That ERB Inc. Is Suing Dynamite For Trademark Infringement And Unfair Competition

imageThe famously aggressive family holding company Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. has apparently sued the comics-maker Dynamite for the Tarzan- and John Carter-related efforts in its pulp-driven famous character line rollout. Those characters are trademarked even though the stories in the series have slipped into the public domain. It looks from the filing itself they're also staking out a claim in case the comics are distributed in any country where the family-owned business still has a copyright claim, which may or may not include Celebration, Florida. The Dynamite titles had been named "Lord Of The Jungle" and "Warlord Of Mars" one would guess in great part to avoid this sort of thing. You can see a listing of ERB's trademark holdings related to Tarzan here.

The suit notes recent licensed comic book efforts involving ERB Inc. and Dark Horse (John Carter-related reprints) and Marvel (John Carter-related new comics).

I have no idea what the law actually says or which way a judge might make a decision if it comes to that, but I'm guessing reaction may be split in The Court Of People Arguing About Things On The Internet. On the one hand, since there are companies that have secured agreements it doesn't sound like there was any significant barrier for a company to do so, plus not having to secure an agreement might seem an unfair advantage. On the other hand, given the age of the Tarzan and John Carter properties and the generally accepted notion in a lot of geek circles that someone can work with a trademarked property if they don't exploit the trademark, one might form the opinion that ERB, Inc. should no longer have this kind of side-door control of material and that this stuff should have returned to the public in whole and complete fashion some years ago.

ICv2.com notes that the imminent movie version of A Princess Of Mars has many entertainment industry observers going "Holy freaking crap, that movie could bomb." I have no idea if that means anything, either, other than that the suit is likely to get a PR bump before the movie opens and might not have after.
 
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Go, Look: I Think About Whitney

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Collective Memory: John Severin, RIP

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this article has been archived
 
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If I Were In Florida, I'd Go To This

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

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posted 1:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In New Delhi, I'd Go To This

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posted 1:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Los Angeles, I'd Go To This

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posted 1:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Lisa Hanawalt Watches The Vow

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posted 12:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here's the transcript of Mike Richardson's well-received keynote address to last weekend's ComicsPRO annual meeting.

image* Leif Peng has a really nice-looking bunch of cartoons up here from the late Blaine MacDonald.

* Box Brown draws an Internet date for the OC Weekly.

* holy crap, the Alley Award was the greatest-looking physical object ever!

* David Brothers has a very long post up here about the scans of Marvel comic books available out there and what various clues about the nature of those scans tell the amateur comics sleuth about where they may be coming from. I've never thought about it before, but where the ones in question came from makes total sense.

* these Tom Scioli diary entries at TCJ about his time at Angouleme have been pretty great. Really, those diaries were the best addition to the comics commentary Internet last year. They've been consistently strong throughout.

* Alan Gardner over at Daily Cartoonist caught wind of two NCS award honors going out in May: the Silver T-Square to Steve McGarry; the Golden Key to Stan Goldberg. Gardner notes that Goldberg goes into the organization's Hall Of Fame with that honor.

* not comics: we live in an age of wonders.

* wow, that is a great photo of Jack Kirby.

* Nina Stone on Winter Soldier #1 and Conan The Barbarian: Queen Of The Black Coast #1. Dan Morrill on The Army Of God. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comic-shop comics. Paul Rainey on CLiNT #14. Todd Klein on Justice League #4-5, Aquaman #4-5, The Flash #4-5 and BPRD: War On Frogs. Sean T. Collins on Optic Nerve #12. Richard Bruton on Toasty Cats #6. Kelly Thompson on Glory #23.

* finally, I missed the birthdays of Prince Valiant and Cul De Sac this week. Happy birthday, Otterloops.
 
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February 16, 2012


Go, Read: Army Of God

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posted 3:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Bunch Of Updates Regarding The Gary Friedrich Situation

I'm not really a post-other-people's-material-in-full-and-riff-on-it kind of blogger, so I'm going to suggest some linked-to reading for a reasonably full update on the situation regarding writer Gary Friedrich and the Ghost Rider character he co-created. Then I'll riff on it a bit. I hope you'll pursue some of these posts.

* Heidi MacDonald does a good job here of walking her readers through the various permutations of the Gary Friedrich situation, whereby a legal development in his legal quest to be recognized as sole creator of Marvel's Ghost Rider character has put a price tag on the amount of money Friedrich has made at various conventions by selling items related to that character.

* Daniel Best has a fine article here on the case itself and some misperceptions regarding the legal side of things.

* Steve Bissette has an excellent post here about how one may certainly argue the judge could have made a completely different decision giving Friedrich consideration for the multi-media rights sales on the character and how the conception of putting a price tag on someone making money on a character outside of Marvel's licensing program is something to which creators should pay close attention above and beyond any assurance this won't be used as a lever against creators.

* Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada talk to Comic Book Resources about Marvel's basic stances on various issues raised in what is pretty much a classic spin-and-soothe interview.

A lot of things come to mind in response. Here are three.

A first is that my personal, primary area of concern right now isn't nailing down what's just or not, or what's legally allowable or not, and I certainly don't give a rat's ass about the shape of Marvel's general PR profile. I'm worried that Gary Friedrich for whatever reason has ended up on the far end of a long career in comics without a lot of resources and is apparently sick, besides. That was enough for me to make a small donation to the account Steve Niles set up on the writer's behalf, and I hope it's enough for you to consider one. I know that there's a possibility that this will be read as a specific endorsement of Friedrich's case, maybe even by Friedrich and his lawyers themselves; I'm willing to take that risk, even as I continue to sort out what I think about the merits of the case and the specific situation that's developed since.

A second is that I think it's very important for most people to see this as an incident of specific injustice, an injustice to a specific degree that is suitable to their having a response, and that as a result there probably are some misconceptions driving what people are saying and what people are thinking here. There's all the stuff Daniel Best writes, there's a point or two in the Quesada/Buckley thing worth their making (only a couple, I'm afraid; for instance, the idea that this is a necessary step clearing the way for more litigation is more compelling, say, than the assertion that policy changes are impossible while litigation remains active) and there are broader issues that no one's really discussed in thorough fashion yet. For instance, part of the passion formulated on Friedrich's behalf seems to come from a place that sees Marvel sitting on immense, "solid-gold-shoes"-level profits from these Nic Cage movies that is probably not truly representative of what the company is making on one of these apparently not-great, non-Marvel Studios movie deals.

Don't get me wrong: I think there's more than enough money to go around and for a fair adjudication in all of these matters. But I think that also means we can be more stringently honest about what's actually at stake and we don't need to finesse reality to add a moral compulsion aspect based on something that's not quite true. If nothing else, it opens the argument to being explained away or mitigated, weakening what I feel should be a slam dunk position out of rhetorical greediness. Pointing out, say, that the caterer on the Ghost Rider set profited more explicitly from the movie than one of its creators has is a tool through which we understand the need for a better, more just system; it's not a crucial argument one way or the other to be picked at or pored over.

In this case the pursuit for some sort of magic formula by which the issue can be cast into black and white has benefited things I like: aid for a creator's plight, skepticism regarding a corporation's motives, criticism of a system by which so much profit is generated but seemingly little for creators. If I'm being honest, though, I'm going to have be really wary of these kinds of constructions when they go the way I like them just as I am when they go the way I don't. So for me the system is broken because many creators come out on the other end not having been rewarded in reasonable fashion. I'd like to work on that systemic problem case by case and more generally, no matter if the specific constructions make Marvel look as bad as the timing and elements of the latest decision as this one does, or if another specific set of constructions doesn't.

A third is that I agree with Steve Bissette that the raised hand that is Marvel's implied threat to take into account these kinds of non-licensed activities is more important than however it's explained as necessary in this case or not really leading into a new policy (Rodney Dangerfield-style collar adjustment optional). You can't really walk that threat back, and I would urge a thorough re-thinking of that entire element of the comics business in terms of what's fair and fruitful for everyone involved, including creators protecting themselves and industry advocates chasing the best outcome.

There will likely be more to come, and I'm thrilled the general issues involved are on everyone's mind.
 
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Go, Look: Meet Rube Goldberg

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"The Moment They Start To Open Their Mouths, I Open My Sketch Book"

That's a great line from the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar about the politicians in his country, made in response to a "where do you get your ideas" query at the opening of a bunch of his satirical cartoons in Great Britain. Zunar's travails -- which have included arrest but more importantly a chilling effect on potential printing and publishing partners for the cartoonist -- are a reminder about the necessity of political satire and how efforts to repress it may only underline its potency.
 
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Go, Bookmark: You Are Talking With The Wrong Person

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thanks, Till Thomas
 
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Missed It: ICv2.com Estimates 2011 Digital Comics Market Size

I whiffed on a link to or discussion of this article, which provides the estimate worked up by hobby business news and analysis site ICv2.com for digital comics sales in 2011. They have it at $25M, up from an $8M estimate in 2010. That's either a lot of income (a 3X increase!) or a paltry amount (still a small percentage of overall sales!) depending on your perspective -- that's the way it was with Internet sales vis-a-vis brick and mortar and even catalog for a very long time (and may still be; I don't pay attention to those kinds of figures anymore), and that's how it will be with comics.

My hope with the rise of digital comics is that this is treated as a new and exciting comic for market that needs to be cultivated in an honorable fashion that drives rewards to creators and those that work on their behalf, as opposed to a terrifying threat that needs to be discouraged or a panacea with inevitabilities involved that call for some sort of dismantling of a system that rewards anyone but the bottom-line owners. There should be a lot of shuddering and heaving to come.
 
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OTBP: Sarah Mirk's Oregon History Comics

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The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

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By Tom Spurgeon

* the exhibitor list for this year's SPX is rounding into shape. They're full up, I believe.

* here are the ticket designs for the forthcoming Image Expo. They look attractive. Detail work is underrated as a part of the overall convention experience.

* this is the first I've seen of what I assume will be a bunch of general, regional media articles on the Image show appearing in the next ten days. I've written this before, but I think that one will be interesting for the San Francisco area angle and the fact that a convention could be a powerful single-company branding tool in the same way that many publishers have opened tourism-guide accessible stores.

* the Florida Supercon sent out a press release about 20 minutes before I'm writing this that Neal Adams and Carmine Infantino are Guests Of Honor this year. I've never seen Infantino on a proper panel; I think I'd like that if he does them.

* speaking of Florida shows, MegaCon is locked in for this weekend. A lot of working professionals are very fond of that show.

* the Chicago Zine Fest has sent out their "hey, we're here and we're going to happen"-type press release that a lot of these shows do a few weeks out. That looks like something worth attending, although it's not exactly comics-oriented.

* it's been a while since I checked out the exhibitors list for Stumptown. It's also probably time that Emerald City's site started being part of my regular rotation.

* finally, best of luck to the second iteration of the Indian Comic Con, being held this weekend in New Delhi. This really needs to last until I can find a way to get there. I maintain that all developing festivals and conventions be judged by the desire of professionals to visit the place where the convention is being held, and I know a lot of people that would like to go to India at least once in their lives.
 
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Go, Look: Ward Sutton's Newt Gingrich Comic

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

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posted 1:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* hey, it's Puke Force.

image* Kristy Valenti on Ronin. Paul Di Filippo on Bill Griffith: Lost And Found. David Brother on King City. Don MacPherson on DC Universe Presents #6. Johanna Draper Carlson on Uglies: Shay's Story. Sean Gaffney on Hayate The Combat Butler Vol. 19.

* look at all the pretty P. Craig Russell pages!

* here's something about DC's "New 52" initiative from last Fall that I hadn't thought of -- it makes crossover event-type stuff a little easier to figure out because many of the titles feeling the impact of said crossover will have the same issue number. Not all of them, though, as they add titles. Maybe they should take over for older titles '60s Marvel style.

* art directors: Fantagraphics is hiring.

* love for Blankets on Oprah.com.

* it's neat that there's a Diane Noomin collection out.

* Mike Dawson talks to Dylan Horrocks. Charles Brownstein profiles Ben McCool. George RR Martin profiles Gary Gianni. Someone at Novi Magazine profiles Moto Hagio. David Harper talks to Joelle Jones.

* Graeme McMillan reminds that the Diamond day-and-date digital comics offering will be at $1.99 a pop.

* not comics: this can't be legal, can it?

* I can't believe I missed Prince Valiant's 75th birthday. Imagine I said something that made me look really old and nostalgic.

* the worst Justice League members of all time.

* James Romberger talks about Before Watchmen and Watchmen. I never thought what Romberger discusses was a big flaw of the book; I always thought it was Moore criticizing the ability to engage the entirety of massively complicated and screwed up human relationships in a work of tightly-wound fiction. That could be a way over-generous reading, though.

* finally, I totally missed this beautiful Valentine's Day-related PDF from J. Chris Campbell.
 
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February 15, 2012


Go, Look: A Well-Scanned John Severin Western

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Go, Look: The Art Of Denis McLoughlin Previewed

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

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt 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. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

SEP111102 ATHOS IN AMERICA HC $24.99
I'm in the midst of reading this new short-story collection from Jason. It's good, but Jason is so reliable you can basically the new works sight unseen at this point. I'm warming up to the hardcover presentations of this material.

imageNOV111022 MADWOMAN O/T SACRED HEART GN (MR) $24.95
Jodorowsky and Moebius, together or by themselves: always worth a look if not an outright blind purchase. This is a softcover release of a hardcover version I believe also recommended in one of these column installments.

NOV111130 SLAM DUNK GN VOL 20 $9.99
NOV111131 BAKUMAN TP VOL 09 $9.99
Two solid performers in the mainstream manga translation realm. I like both series, and I like buying manga volumes as long as I can keep myself from multiplying the volume number by the price.

OCT111262 SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY FILM COMIC VOL 01 $16.99
OCT111263 SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY FILM COMIC VOL 02 $16.99
The Studio Ghibli-related crossover material tends to be of a pretty high quality, enough that I'd give this a look.

OCT111194 COMICS ON TRIAL SC VOL 03 KIRBY VS DISNEY MARVEL $25.00
This is a deposition and court document compilation of latest legal wrangling between the various names in the title. I'm not sure who the heck buys this -- I suppose I'm in the top one percent of the potential audience for this one -- but I'm sort of glad someone is putting this kind of thing together.

DEC110055 BPRD HELL ON EARTH LONG DEATH #1 FEGREDO CVR $3.50
DEC110607 INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #513 $3.99
DEC110592 WINTER SOLDIER #2 $2.99
DEC110944 ROGER LANGRIDGES SNARKED #5 $3.99
DEC110469 GLORY #23 CAMPBELL CVR $2.99
DEC118139 MUDMAN #1 VAR CVR 2ND PTG $3.50
DEC118140 MUDMAN #2 VAR CVR 2ND PTG $3.50
NOV118136 PROPHET #21 VAR CVR 2ND PTG $2.99
NOV110672 GLAMOURPUSS #23 $3.00
Finally, this is is a pretty varied and sturdy week for comic-book purchases, particularly if you throw in the second printings on the latest Paul Grist superhero effort and the Prophet revamp. There's a little Mignola-verse material, as those books steam on. The writers Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker have latest chapters of serial comics out from Marvel. Roger Langridge is a treasure of comics no matter what he's doing, and a creator-owned and creator-directed project like Snarked! has the additional virtue of not being someone else's property. The Glory is the latest revamp of an Image-era superhero character, featuring potent art by Ross Campbell. And there's no greater participant in the weekly comics buying experience for many of us in the over 30 bracket than Dave Sim, whose Glamourpuss pops up on stands this week. It's certainly a different way to spend $30 on comics than taking a flyer on a new collected edition of some sort.

*****

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 failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 2:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: A Tom Neely Comic At Study Group Comic Books

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posted 2:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Belgian Court Rejects Racist Claim Against Tintin Au Congo

The long-running court case against the Tintin book Tintin Au Congo for its depiction of the Congolese moved onto its next phase late Friday when the Belgian court of first instance ruled that the book did not violate racism laws. The key seemed to be the issue of intent, that the frequently maligned book was not created as a way to incite racial hatred. The book was serialized in the early 1930s, collected in the mid-'40s but not released in English until the early 1990s. Complainant Mbutu Mondondo Bienvenu plans to appeal.

One thing I didn't know about until I read the CBLDF brief on the matter is that the book is apparently also criticized at times for its treatment of animals, and in fact was altered at one point in terms of excising a scene where an animal is killed in spectacular fashion. I think one fascinating aspect of the entire case isn't so much the debate over whether or not laws should keep works off of shelves or attach certain requirements as to how they're presented, or even the issue of intent and how it might be argued that a lot of racist work isn't intended to incite racial hatred but profit from same, but the strength with which some advocates of the comics have denied the charges in a way that could be said to suggest it's some sort of made-up, spiteful act to claim there's anything racist about the work at all. It would be interesting to track how the two areas of criticism are treated, and by whom.

You can read a bunch of comments from Guardian readers here.
 
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Go, Look: An Early And Fairly Gorgeous Joe Kubert Effort

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posted 2:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
International Manga Award Goes To I Kill Giants

A story slipping out on international wires several hours ago indicates that this year's International Manga Award top winner was the 2008 Joe Kelly/JM Ken Niimura effort I Kill Giants. One hundred and forty-five entries were received. This is the prize created by manga enthusiast Taro Aso in 2007. The winners apparently get a trip to Japan where they "will meet with Japanese cartoonists, visit publishing companies and other places including the Tohoku region, hit hard by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami," according to the linked-to article. That sounds pretty great.

Previous winners were from China, Thailand and Belgium.
 
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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: A Henry Boltinoff Mini-Gallery

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posted 12:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Chris Butcher has posted a Fall 2011 piece about comics retailers and the current/future market for digital comics.

image* Michel Fiffe reminds us that there's a lot of crying in comics, and some of it is funny.

* Greg Burgas on Elephantmen #34-37. Don MacPherson on the first episode of Comic Book Men. Grant Goggans on Angel Zero. Kailyn Kent on Duncan The Wonder Dog.

* solving the Black Bag Mystery.

* not comics: people keep sending me this link to a piece of Enki Bilal furniture.

* Paul Gravett taps into all the comics experts he knows in different parts of the world for a round-up of notable 2011 comics done in these different places.

* Tim Caron talks about teaching Incognegro.

* Bob Temuka shows love for the digest format.

* so apparently the Punisher dies a lot.

* the writer Ed Brubaker provides some good news regarding orders for the third issue of his Fatale, with artist Sean Phillips.

* Grace Bello profiles Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. Chris Arrant talks to Cullen Bunn.

* somewhere someone is upset about this because they actually like the idea of Johnny Depp playing Captain Crunch, and they're not sure why Alan Moore has to be so snooty about it.

* here's a longish, summary article on DC's recently-announced comics initiative, including more from Alan Moore on some aspects of same. One thing I didn't write about in Sunday's summary article is how much contempt I have for the spin that this making a bunch of new comics from a successful graphic novel whose rights they own is somehow a brave move on DC's part, that they and the creators involved are really risking something by putting these comics out there. Let's leave aside the general notion that doing business as usual -- brand expansion and enhancement -- by definition isn't enough of a break with anything to qualify as brave. I think with the way PR works now, and the way most comics readers think now, and the way DC is funded, and the way they're coming off of a perceived major publishing initiative success, and the way that the exposure on a project like this is limited, and that the work itself has been weakened enough to shoulder some of the blame, I think all of that suggests this move isn't a risk at all and that it's kind of laughable to suggest otherwise. That's the most attractive art for the project I've seen yet, though.

* Graeme McMillan notes how much more interesting Wikipedia is going to make writing future comics histories.

* not comics: a bunch of comics-related opinion-offerers are suggesting that the villains in this summer's Avengers movie are basically the classic Lee-Kirby bad guy aliens the Skrulls but can't be called that because of the way some of the earlier licensing-out deals were done to various movie studios not the one (Marvel's own) making the new movie. A positive for Marvel could be that they can claim that the entire casts for their Daredevil and Fantastic Four movies were shape-shifting aliens.

* congratulations to Brian Crane for clearing the 800 client mark on Pickles.

* not comics: the second graph of this article about a Space 1999 sequel show is a pretty awesome example of old-school fanboy contempt.

* not comics: Salon claims to have found a less-is-more formula that works.

* finally, Ben Morse extols the virtues of Darkhawk.
 
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February 14, 2012


John Severin, RIP

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Go, Look: Jeffrey Lewis On His Viral Song Success

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Not Comics: "We Were A Fun Couple Last Wednesday"

The great writer-about-comics Bob Levin has written a piece about his second heart attack for Broad Street Review; you can find links to some of his earlier writing about the same general subject matter at the bottom of the post.
 
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Go, Look: The Doctor Will See You

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Bob Englehart Suspended From The Hartford Courant

Daryl Cagle has a lengthy, I'd say sympathetic but not overly so post up here about the Hartford Courant suspending the cartoonist (and Cagle client) Bob Englehart for one week without pay for a cartoon and accompanying on-line commentary about a school tax issue that appeared on the newspaper's web site February 8. Englehart staked out territory in a frequently-made criticism that education reform isn't possible with more money if parents and families aren't on board with educational goals generally. In doing so, Englehart used the phrase "For the most part, losers raise losers." That line, more than anything else about the cartoon or blog post, seems to have opened up Englehart to charges of racism and a related lack of sympathy regarding perceived beneficiaries of the discussed initiative -- that line was singled out by New Haven's mayor, for example. Cagle also identifies a secondary issue in that Englehart's commentary was subsequently removed from the Courant site, which a writer cited by Cagle believes is a failure of the newspaper to fulfill its role in keeping the public record.

The original post is cached here. Englehart has apparently since apologized, although links provided to that apology seem to come up on Englehart's more general page at the Courant.

As mentioned above, targeting the families of those being educated is hardly an uncommon practice in discussion of those issues, and one for which a number of people find sympathy; Englehart's employment has not only resulted in some discussion of what the boundaries are for such commentary, but seems to have driven at least a bit of that conversation to the general issues involved -- or at least not capsized any hope for same. Englehart has made other recent cartoons/blog posts strongly critical of educational issues, like this broadside against teachers' unions and the notion of tenure.

The 66-year-old cartoonist has been with the paper since 1980, one year after being a Pulitzer finalist. He is also a widely-published magazine cartoonist.
 
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Go, Look: Three Stories From A Little Lulu One-Shot

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Go, Read: Chris Mautner On Strips Canceled Before Their Time

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Go, Read: Kim Deitch's Ode To Joel Fabrikant

Via Dan Nadel comes word of this essay by Kim Deitch about figures and interactions from the days of the East Village Other, in particular Joel Fabrikant. Deitch is pretty much the most valuable player of comics history right now.
 
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Go, Bookmark: Kochalkaland

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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* from the Canadian comics news clearinghouse Sequential comes word of a new Jesse Jacobs book debuting from Koyama at TCAF. Not to be outdone, Conundrum announced its four TCAF debuts mid-week last week, and they all look handsome.

image* another one from Sequential: I don't know that I'm all that familiar with the work of Daniel Ha, but I like the idea of the cartoonist hand-delivering this latest book to buyers in the Montreal area.

* Alan Gardner put the names on the Team Cul De Sac book in proper order first name first so I didn't have to. That's the fundraising book for Parkinson's Disease revolving around the characters of cartoonist Richard Thompson.

* here's a little bit from Dan Clowes about Nancy.

* BOOM! is doing a Garfield comic book.

* Don MacPherson expresses some doubt that the new Avengers Vs. X-Men thing at Marvel will feature the required, compelling story in order to keep readers' interest throughout. I don't think Marvel has a lot of wiggle room execution-wise in any aspect of any big book right now.

* of the half-dozen or so things that I think needed to happen with DC's New 52 initiative to keep some of its initial momentum, one of them is they had to nurture some of the younger writers -- both the super-newbies and the emerging ones. In the emerging category, they seem to have pleased a lot of fans with the Batman-related work being done by Scott Snyder. Greg Capullo is nobody's wingman, of course. Speaking of those books, I totally missed the return of Howard Mackie. That's a very visually appealing name.

* a sale on books isn't really publishing news, but this post reminds me how much I've enjoyed the new Prince Valiant collections. That's been a fun reading experience this time around.

* hmm.

* here's something I didn't know: Rebecca Rosen has started a small company, and just made book plates for Matthew Forsythe.

* hey, this is nice: Dave Kiersh met his Kickstarter goal, after not being all that close the day before. This was interesting to me because Kiersh is the kind of talent that seems like could benefit from a direct appeal to his fans, and this particular effort was really focused on pre-order style fundraising as opposed to a ton of incentives. Update: It's not as nice as I thought. Tom "Nat" Devlin just wrote in to point out that really what happened is that Anne Koyama stepped up and pushed the offer over the threshold in her very supportive, very admirable way -- so this isn't a thumbs-up in the direction of incentive-light kickstarter projects in support of work from hard-to-categorize cartoonists. That effort had it remained such an effort would have failed.

* writer Jim McCann has released a few visuals from his forthcoming Image comic with Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback.

* Todd Allen at The Beat has a list of the new artists on the Ashes project. I wasn't all that interested in that publishing story when it was a messy creative team dissolution story, but it's nice to see that it will come out and I like a lot of those artists.

* I am also looking forward to new Tatsumi.

* some good news from the ComicsPRO meeting: IDW is apparently doing one of those giant, from-original-art books featuring the "Born Again" storyline from years ago in Daredevil. I really, really like that series.

* finally, this preview of a couple of pages from Clara Bessijelle's Face Man sure is something. That one is from Domino Books.

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Go, Look: Corey Lewis' Hatchetmen

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Happy Valentine's Day

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this is very sweet
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* McConnell Art is facilitating the sale of Brandon Graham and James Stokoe art to benefit the writer Gary Friedrich. Neal Adams writes about the situation here. And here's an open letter to Nic Cage. Jeff Parker uses the Gary Friedrich situation as one of the springboards for a lengthy discussion on collaboration in comics. Parker's like a blogging madman right now. Ty Templeton provides an alternate view. I haven't sorted out exactly what the hell is going on there, but it's clear that Friedrich is suffering through some financial distress, so I was happy to send him a few dollars.

image* Marc Arsenault sings the praises of Andy Ristaino. Lee Henderson talks to Neal Farber and Michael Dumontier. At some point today, Michael Kupperman will be interviewed by somebody about something. Kupperman is an emerging alt-talent a-lister. Josh West talks to Becky Cloonan. Dan Nadel talks to Jim Shaw. Chris Arrant talks to Nate Simpson. Alex Dueben talks to Mark Siegel and Calista Brill.

* the writers-about-comics David Brothers and Johanna Draper Carlson serve and volley a bit on the nature of piracy and when it's understandable... or not.

* Bob Temuka wonders if you're reading the same comics he is. I'm not reading the comics he's talking about at all, but it's more like he means that even if you're reading it he wonders if you're really reading it and understanding what all the words say.

* Aaron Renier on process.

* it's good to see this SAW workshop with the great John Porcellino sell out.

* Carla Hoffman on Punisher/MAX. Sean Gaffney on A Devil And Her Love Song Vol. 1. Michael May on Howard Lovecraft And The Undersea Kingdom.

* there's a new Drew Friedman print and stop the presses: it's extremely attractive.

* the translations of Guy Delisle's strips from the recent Angouleme Festival continue at Drawn and Quarterly's blog, here and here.

* finally, here's a nice piece of blogging from JK Parkin that wraps up news emanating from last weekend's ComicsPRO meeting.
 
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February 13, 2012


Go, Look: A Sam Henderson-Compiled Gag Cartoon Mini-Gallery

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Go, Look: High-Quality Scans Of Mort Meskin's Golden Lad

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Go, Look: Wally Wood Cannon Cover Gallery

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Go, Look: A Few Looie Lazybones Stories

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Go, Look: Bob Powell's Sir Galant

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Go, Look: A John Norment Sampler

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* John Jackson Miller spotlights the best-selling comic book of the 1960: Uncle Scrooge.

image* Matthew Thurber contributes to "The Culture Diaries" at Paris Review.

* Brian Hibbs with a few, initial impressions from the ComicsPro meeting this past weekend.

* Andy Burns talks to Cole Haddon. Marc Mason talks to Sina Grace and Joshua Hale Fialkov.

* Eddie Campbell on Young Romance. James Abbott on Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails. Charles Yoakum on Genius, Isolated. Johanna Draper Carlson on The Bed Of My Dear King and Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Nine #6. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Moon Knight (apparently not its full title). Grant Goggans on My Doomed Affair #2. Don MacPherson on Thief Of Thieves #1.

* not comics: so I took my Mom to the Gem and Minerals show over at the Tucson convention center yesterday. I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to every person I've ever dragged to a comic book convention.

* Rob Clough picks a best of 2011, comic books edition. I didn't even know a Hate Annual came out in 2011.

* more from Frank Santoro on his tour up the West Coast.

* not comics: staring at fictional fantasy maps was a big part of the almost-like-comics portion of my youth. That Tolkien map in particular -- you know the one.

* Dave Kiersh is heading into the final hours of his recent Kickstarter campaign; as I'm writing this, it's still underfunded.

* not comics: here's a short series of Noel Sickles-created advertisements.

* Scott Edelman pulls out an obscurity from his files of Marvel original documentation ephemera.

* does anyone out there have an update on Rick Trembles' situation? I hope someone was able to employ him.

* finally, this bookmark has been sitting in my folder for at least a few days: a bunch of script work from the writer (and occasional cartoonist) Jeff Parker.
 
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February 12, 2012


Go, Read: Eric Stephenson's Speech To The ComicsPRO Meeting

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So Are These All The Mignola-Verse Comic Books?

imageI needed to make a list of comics centered around the Hellboy and BPRD characters of Mike Mignola. I needed it to be a checklist-style list of the comic books as opposed to stories or trades, and I needed to list them by title as opposed to by publication date. This is what I came up with. Did I get close?

* Abe Sapien: Drums Of The Dead
* Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1-2
* Abe Sapien: The Drowning #1-5
* Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest 1-2
* Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy

* BPRD: 1946 #1-5
* BPRD: 1947 #1-5
* BPRD: Dark Waters
* BPRD: Garden of Souls #1-5
* BPRD: Hell On Earth: Gods #1-3
* BPRD: Hell On Earth: Monsters #1-2
* BPRD: Hell On Earth: New World #1-5
* BPRD: Hell On Earth: Russia #1-5
* BPRD: Hollow Earth #1-3
* BPRD: Killing Ground #1-5
* BPRD: King Of Fear #1-5
* BPRD: Night Train
* BPRD: Plague Of Frogs #1-5
* BPRD: The Black Flame #1-6
* BPRD: The Black Goddess #1-5
* BPRD: The Dead #1-5
* BPRD: The Dead Remembered #1-3
* BPRD: The Ectoplasmic Man
* BPRD: There's Something Under My Bed
* BPRD: The Soul Of Venice
* BPRD: The Universal Machine #1-5
* BPRD: The Warning #1-5
* BPRD: War On Frogs #1-5

* Hellboy: Almost Colossus #1-2
* Hellboy: Beasts Of Burden Sacrifice
* Hellboy: Being Human
* Hellboy: Box Full Of Evil #1-2
* Hellboy: Bride of Hell
* Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish
* Hellboy: Christmas Special
* Hellboy: Conqueror Worm #1-4
* Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1-6
* Hellboy: Double Feature Of Evil
* Hellboy: House Of The Living Dead
* Hellboy In Mexico
* Hellboy In The Chapel Of Moloch
* Hellboy: Makoma #1-2
* Hellboy: Seed Of Destruction #1-4
* Hellboy: The Bride Of Hell
* Hellboy: The Corpse And The Iron Shoes
* Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1-3
* Hellboy: The Fury #1-3
* Hellboy: The Island #1-2
* Hellboy: The Mole
* Hellboy: The Nature Of The Beast
* Hellboy: The Right Hand Of Doom
* Hellboy: The Sleeping And The Dead #1-2
* Hellboy: The Storm #1-3
* Hellboy: The Third Wish
* Hellboy: The Troll Witch And Others
* Hellboy: The Vampire Of Prague
* Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #1-8
* Hellboy: The Wolves of St August
* Hellboy: Wake The Devil #1-5
* Hellboy: Weird Tales #1-8

* Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1-2
* Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #1-5

* Witchfinder: In The Service Of Angels #1-5
* Witchfinder: Lost And Gone Forever #1-5

* Batman Hellboy Starman #1-2
* B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: Seattle
* Ghost/Hellboy
* Hellboy Jr #1-2
* Hellboy Jr Halloween Special
* Hellboy/Painkiller Jane
* Hellboy: Premier Edition
* Hellboy: The Golden Army
* Hellboy: They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships
* NextMen #21
* Savage Dragon #34-35
* The Monstermen



You know, that's a lot of comic books. When people say this is the most fruitful corner of mainstream comic books, they aren't talking in terms of a stunt to suggest that it's at the very least a significant chunk of work.
 
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Twenty-One Not Exactly Original Notes On More Watchmen, Written At A Slight Remove

1. In and of itself, More Watchmen is an interesting story, but it's not that interesting a story. The More Watchmen story reminds us of how enthralled even the most enlightened comics fans are by an orientation towards North American comic books, specifically superhero comics, and even more crucially the superhero comic books of one's youth. Because that's what Watchmen is now for a huge chunk of comics fans: a formative experience a tiny bit further in the past than Fantastic Four #1 was when the Moore/Gibbons series hit the stands.

2. The More Watchmen firestorm became more intriguing for of the heap of pathologies on display in the response to the story, and for the snapshot it provided as to where the industry and its culture stands right now on various, perceived issues.

3. It's hard to draw a bead on comics that don't exist yet, but I'm guessing some of the More Watchmen books will be okay, some of them will be awful, and a few could be fine or better. I'd seek out new, original comics from exactly two of those creators based on reputation alone. I'll still buy work from Alan Moore or Dave Gibbons every chance I get, and would have pushed past the entire Muncie Northside High School cheerleading team to get a new comic of Moore's in the mid-1980s. As a whole, it's very unlikely they will have much to do with the original project or, by virtue of being derivative works, come close to matching it in terms of quality or ambition.

4. More Watchmen is something of a perfect Internet-era story, and as such serves as a reminder of how much we're driven by and limited to the nature and form of the way news stories develop now. You couldn't build a story like this in a laboratory. The More Watchmen story is about a product; people like products. It's about the hype for a product, which in many ways and for many fans has become the best part of any arts-product experience. Because the work itself doesn't exist yet, arguments can be made on its behalf positing an ideal outcome or a disastrous one -- your choice. More Watchmen isn't just about a superhero comic, it revolves around the superhero comic. This makes it a story about all superhero comics. Watchmen is a superhero comic that became a movie and so therefore has some currency in non-comics media that are routinely interested in that particular intersection of art forms. Watchmen was a project that many people hold dear for when it came out and what it said about the potential for the medium and the genre, so More Watchmen is a story about comics fans -- comics fans' favorite subject matter. Alan Moore is a compelling personality, and has made no secret of his wishes and desires about the project. The story has been simmering as a depressing eventuality for months now. More Watchmen brings to the fore a bunch of issues about which people have virtually no agreement, and it plugs right into culture-wide developments in terms of our attitudes towards money, the role of corporations versus individuals and the value of art.

5. One of the reasons I've been hesitant to write anything at all about it here on CR is that getting people worked up about these things is part of the point for a big corporation like DC. Every single piece of commentary, positive or negative, is part of DC's PR campaign. That's where we are now. Further, you can argue that a wave of PR is in some ways more important to a company like DC. It's easy to make the argument that having the most buzz possible is more important to a company like DC than whether or not the books or good. It may be even easier to argue that, barring a noticeable collapse of the kind that also seizes PR attention, that making a big splash right is more important to DC than how the books end up operating on the retail level. I'm not sure DC has any stake in the various industry issues and attitudes that are brought to the fore. Part of why the buzz is so important now is that reducing art to brands and product makes the state of the brand as something moves through the publication process way more important than it used to be. Part of why the PR has achieved primacy is that projects like More Watchmen exist on a parallel track to their real-world status: they're strategies employed by people at corporations, collectively and individually, to further their status within the corporation or in the wider corporate world as much as they're ever comics in stores.

6. More Watchmen is another project DC is pushing right down a middle road. A potential option with another Watchmen project would haven been to announce a twelve-issue Before Watchmen maxi-series with Grant Morrison and Darwyn Cooke (or their equivalents) for 2012 and then a twelve-issue After Watchmen maxi-series with Mark Millar and Frank Quitely (or their equivalents) for 2013, perhaps with all the covers on both series by Dave Gibbons. Another option would have been to have a major crossover with Batman and the rest of the Justice League. Still another, a series of six on-going series folded into the New 52. The strategy DC's employing here -- a bunch of mini-series of varying size, with a concluding one-shot and a threaded-through back-up story -- seems to me to replicate their halfway, hesitant, political thinking on the New 52 (where these books right here are full reboots, these over here are pocketed away to protect from reboot considerations, and these few here aren't really reboots at all). That project also split the difference between possible extremes. I think we now have something of a clue as to how the current DC regime makes decisions. On the one hand, it worked in many ways for what they wanted to do with New 52. On the other hand, this doesn't speak well to our ever seeing a project from this group that in 26 years will have grown to the point it can be exploited the way Watchmen can now be exploited. When we talk about companies managing brands instead of making things, we focus on the brand-part and not enough on the managing-part. That has long-term implications, too.

7. The number of books involved indicates a definite eye on multiple, eventual collections while at the same time serving the periodical market with which they had success on the New 52. More Watchmen is giving the Direct Market lot of #1 issues, and should also yield several volumes for the book folks to push into that market. It should even provide one or two big volumes for the archival volumes division. This touch-every-base aspect of the announcement further exposes what DC was slinging last summer -- that stuff about not being interested in measurables other than long-term, bottom-line sales -- as the obvious horseshit it was. They're clearly interested in all the markets, all the standards of success, all the reasons one may send out a press release and update the resume. It's those considerations and not bottom-line sales that are driving how More Watchmen will look and operate in the marketplace.

8. I think Dave Gibbons not writing or providing cover work is significant. For one thing, it's the project's loss: Gibbons is a fine writer and a cracking designer. A more significant appreciation of Gibbons' contributions to the original work was the best thing about the ramp-up to the creatively misguided movie adaptation. Editor Len Wein's involvement notwithstanding, Gibbons' direct involvement would also have led to a more significant imprimatur in terms of providing continuity between this project and the past work. I don't think that matters to DC, not really, but it might have mattered to a few folks out there.

9. I also thought Gibbons' quote endorsing the project was pretty grim for that kind of thing, to the point of being darkly hilarious. He sounded like a grumpy uncle five cocktails into his evening wishing a beloved niece the best at a shotgun wedding reception. If there were a video equivalent, it would have involved a chair in front of a brick wall and a single light bulb.

10. I don't buy the line some are peddling that the shape of rhetoric after the announcement is partly due to our giving corporations the benefits of personhood. Frankly, we wouldn't stomach DC's actions over the last 26 years towards Alan Moore from a person. We don't give corporations the same rights we give people; we privilege them over people.

11. Somehow lost in the discussion -- either ignored or waved away -- is DC's conduct over the lifetime of the original work. Say what you will about Moore and Gibbons' faith in having the work returned to them when it slipped out of print. Call it naive, call it clueless, wrap yourself in hard-man certainty that you would have done things differently had you been around at the time. That the project was going to return to the creators is indeed what everyone believed was going to happen, to the point it was bragged about in comics circles. This means that when that turned out not to be the case DC was violating the spirit of the agreement. They then turned around and messed with the actual agreement through the "licensed items as promotional items" stunt. When this and other actions lost them the services of Alan Moore, they eventually reclaimed those services by buying a company for which Moore was working at exactly the time during that work when he was least likely to leave. They promised him a specific working arrangement that when it suited them they violated, for what seems like in hindsight stupid-ass, arbitrary reasons. Their stewardship of the comic in question as a movie property led to a slightly clueless misfire of a Watchmen film, turning the greatest work of its genre into another movie that comes on opposite The Hangover and 27 Dresses on a random Saturday night. There were a thousand minor cuts, too. More recently, I believed DC has played a role in allowing Moore to become an object of derision. Heck, one of the authors they had doing publicity work for the More Watchmen project even mocked the author's pretension and perceived lack of reason in the course of that publicity campaign.

12. That yields a depressing irony, of course. Because of the movie, because of the open derision of Moore, and because many of the surface elements have been redone to death by lesser creators, doing More Watchmen has become less of a creative risk than it would have been at an earlier time. Seeing that ridiculous Comedian cover would have seemed much more absurd before we saw spinning, kung-fu Rorschach. The idea that the creator that gave us Walkabout Superman would really be hired to write more of this work would have seemed absurd when he was following in the footsteps of Creative Genius Alan Moore, and seems much less so now that he's following Crazy, Snake-Worshipping, Dismissive Alan Moore that can't get a decent movie made and is a hypocrite besides. Looking at ten years of comics Internet activity even with a much more useless brain isn't that far off from what Ozymandias was doing with all of western culture via that bank of TVs. That experience tells me that the reputation of Watchmen has declined just enough that the original work and its creators -- even and maybe especially Moore, who wants nothing to do with them -- will shoulder a significant part of any blame to go around if these new books don't hit.

13. I'm sort of at a loss when it comes to explaining what Alan Moore has done that makes so many fans quick to mock and criticize him. If you feel like you've been poorly treated, how is it a bad thing to say so in forthright fashion? As far as I can figure out, the only real thing Moore's done during the entire process that would make me want to say something to him were he to do it at a dinner party is be quick to criticize creators with whose work he's not entirely familiar, and to too easily conflate a certain kind of superhero comic book making with all of comics. I think those using Moore's statements as a way to drive attention to what they're doing share the blame in these incredibly minor acts of ingratitude finding expression, but mostly I'm not certain it's a big deal. The fact that we wave off the open exploitation of corporations and their actors as "well, that's what they do" and we somehow can't process when a human being acts, well, human -- that makes me sad.

14. One gets the feeling that Moore's biggest crime in the eyes of many is his failure to be properly appreciative of the money made on his behalf. Note this places the moneymaking itself squarely on the business partner facilitating the product rather than the creative person making it, which is already dubious to my mind. The absolute and frequently expressed inability of people from comics fans to fellow comics creators who should know better to realize that a creator might not hold making as much money as is possible the ultimate goal of art is astonishing to me, and distressing. There are other values, arguably more noble ones, and even if you don't think so you shouldn't get to decide what someone else's should be.

15. I'm not sure which line of argumentation in comics circles was dimmer: the way the notion of "hypocrisy" is processed, or making an equivalent between what Moore does with characters based on other characters and DC doing what they're doing with More Watchmen. If you really want to and are willing to work the examples with as much fury as you can muster, you can find hypocrisy in the actions of everyone from Gandhi to Abraham Lincoln to King David on key issues in relation to which we properly credit their achievements. In some cases, the move from one way of thinking to another is even the point. It also used to be that underlining someone's hypocritical statements was a way of indicting their statements because it was based on what they're doing right at the time, not some expectation that a person 100 percent endorse the most absolute view of something their entire lives in every aspect you can discern or as a result risk being shouted down. As for comparing Moore's use of James Bond or Voldemoort or Dorothy Gale or even The Peacemaker with the More Watchmen effort, that just seems so clearly to me not the same thing by a thousand degrees I can only look on at anyone making that argument with bafflement. I don't even know how to articulate a counter-argument. From my perspective, it's not saying "the sky isn't blue; it's green" it's saying "the sky isn't blue; it's refrigerator."

16. That More Watchmen represents the triumph of brand over literary content, I think is more true than overly facile. Watchmen the work doesn't require a sequel and never did. Watchmen the collection of cool characters and isolated story moments and licensing opportunities demands one. It may really be that simple.

17. I'm also not certain how you can see this as anything but a step away from the wider cultural message of Watchmen back in the 1980s: that authors matter, that original work can be rewarded on the same level as reworking someone else's ideas, that comics have literary and culture value for their ideas and expressive force above and beyond their value as entertainment product. I might call DC foolish if they were touting these sequel books as a match for Watchmen's artistic achievement, but that this idea isn't even on the table may be scarier. This is a toy line. This is a happy meal. This is "based on." This is product.

18. I'm dubious of the notion of applying bottom-line considerations to actions that have aspects that don't involve said bottom-line. Still, I think it's fair to point out that DC's treatment of Moore may have cost DC in the long run. DC has built its current empire on a great book program, the clever revamping of characters it owns, and the creation of some original content with enduring value. Moore is really good at all of those things. DC's significant role in the marketplace -- I think sometimes earned in underhanded ways, like negotiating a deal with a distributor and not telling anyone about that deal's salient details the way they did more recently than published Watchmen -- guarantees them some access to the work of creators working in all of these key areas. And yet I have to imagine their general policies and even this specific action may cost them a few. I know I'd rather work with Eric Stephenson than Dan DiDio right now. Wouldn't you?

19. This may sound strange, and I don't know that I should be bringing it up here. I don't really believe in boycotts. I very much believe in making moral and ethical choices about what you consume. I applaud anyone that does so. But I'm very much dubious of boycott mechanisms as perceived tools for changing policy. I don't think they have real value except in some cases where a company is vulnerable to the wider perception issue and makes a utilitarian choice to cave rather than negotiate the "controversy" as another PR get. In cases like More Watchmen, I think the companies involved are very much insulated from even an unlikely significant drop in profits and bad publicity. If profits are five percent less than what they should be at a comics company, everything we know about the last two decades indicates it's much more likely more people will be fired and page rates reduced than policy changed. I think if you're going to promote a response in terms of its bottom-line efficacy, you need to really grapple with what that is and why that is. Otherwise, if you don't pull it off, your failure to do so becomes a tacit endorsement of the virtues of that you're trying to foil. That doesn't mean I don't think you should do them; I just think you need to be careful how they're presented. A boycott isn't really a boycott if all it does is make you feel better about where you're directing your anger, if the expression of it in a blog post is a bigger deal than its eventual economic impact. I'm at fault for taking a lot of cheap shots at people the last couple of weeks for the joy of seeing my anger reflected back to me in a lot of right-on, right-back-atcha statements from my peers. For all the fun writing that's been put out there, I'm not sure we're any closer to seeing this doesn't happen again. Alan Moore's statement that he just didn't want to see this happen remains for me the most painful moment in this whole matter, and I'm not sure we've found a way yet for it not to happen to the next guy.

20. So what should we do? I think it behooves us to talk about these matters, even if part of maintaining the status quo is that extended discussion about serious issues be characterized as boring and lame if it goes on for more than a day and isn't expressed in language that makes us feel good in fuck-yeah ways about our own positions. There are discussions worth having that don't end in a high-five. I think it's good to be honest about the fact that these are specific decisions that distinguish some actors from other actors -- that it's as possible for DC not to have done this than for them to have done this, and that maybe you really are much better off in the long run not taking certain kinds of money and opportunities when it can come back to bite you on the ass.

21. Ten days or so past the official announcement, I'm thinking More Watchmen may be best understood as a blow to comics' dignity. It's product, not art. It's a limited, small series of ideas derived from a bigger, grander one. It's sad. One thing that Watchmen did a quarter century ago was to underline certain values of craft and intent and creative freedom that have helped to yield enough equivalent expressions -- to my mind even grander expressions -- that we may now see this follow-up project for what it is: nothing special. Not Moore. More.
 
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Missed It: Giant Robot's Year Of The Dragon Show

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Go, Look: Several Pages From D+Q's Forthcoming NonNonBa

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Not Comics: Former TCJ Contributor Jeff Winbush Has A Blog

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Go, Read: Mother's Day

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FFF Results Post #282 -- Name Your Ending

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Four Endings In Comics That Weren't Really Endings But You Thought Would Have Worked; Explain One Of Your Choices." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Pages 13-14 in Amazing Spider-Man #143.
2. Cerebus #150
3. The last Milton Caniff Terry And The Pirates
4. Nexus #50
5. These two pages from a post-Ditko, post-Romita Amazing Spider-Man issue always struck me as an appropriate ending for the character's story because after years of suffering through the character of Peter Parker making every effort to become an adult and to embrace what he perceived as the greater responsibilities of that state, this showed him finally making one of the most adult choices of all: to be happy.

*****

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Andrew Mansell

1. Master of Kung Fu #118
2. Marvel Two in One Annual #2
3. Superman #423/Action #583
4. Uncanny X-Men #200
5. The perfect ending to a very smart and groundbreaking series with Shang Chi telling Sir Denis he loves him (as a father) A beautiful, perfect ending--instead we get a limpid comic coda, a defecting writer, the passing of a terrific artist all casualties of the Shooter regime.

*****

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Marty Yohn

1. Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #64
2. Jonah Hex (vol. 1) #53
3. Claw the Unconquered #12
4. Fantastic Four #200 (Dr. Doom's s character)
5. I thought Alan Moore's swan song on the title after some 40+ issues was the perfect ending for Abby and Alec's love story. As they slipped into the swamp at issue's end, Moore had tied up a number of loose ends perfectly, and considering the weirdness that was to follow under other creators, I've always felt this was where my interest in the character ended.

*****

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Dave Knott

* The Castafiore Emerald
* The Immortal Iron Fist #16
* The Robotman/Monty strip where Robotman leaves Earth (and his own comic) forever
* Grendel #40
* After many globe-trotting exploits culminating in possibly his greatest adventure in Tibet, Tintin takes a break and engages in some at-home comedic drama. This would have been a fine place to finish things off, Tintin & co. finally settling down and living thge life of Riley, with only the occasional domestic mystery to solve.

*****

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Kumar Sivasubramanian

1. Swamp Thing #64, Alan Moore's last story
2. Miracleman #16, Alan Moore's last story
3. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, Alan Moore's last Superman story
4. DR & Quinch, Alan Moore's last story
5. I can kind of understand how the first three carried on, and I realize the end of DR & Quinch was not necessarily an ending at all, but really bringing it back with Jamie Delano writing it was just some kind of exercise.

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

1. Dark Knight Returns
2. Secret Wars
3. The last Jerry Scott Nancy strips
4. Every Valiant book after Jim Shooter was fired/Bob Layton took over/Unity
5. I know having someone follow a beloved creator on a legacy strip reeks of creative and corporate grave robbing, but I thought what Jerry Scott did was interesting: he took one of the most iconic strips of the century and made it his own, so Nancy wasn't the exercise in reminding everyone how far short of Bushmiller the artist falls (like it seems to be today), but instead had a liveliness and humor that stood outside of Bushmiller's long shadow.

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. The Adventures Of Barry Ween: Gorilla Warfare
2. Cerebus #231 (end of Rick's Story gn)
3. Ming last seen faking a coma in Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon
4. Goofyfoot Gurl #4
5. Micahel Jantze's comic strip The Norm used the conceit of Norm being able to summon up and interact with himself at previous stages of his life: A child, a teenager, a college student, etc., seeking feedback and advice from them on current situations in his life. Jantze ended the print version of the strip with Norm discovering he was about to become a father. Norm stumbled from his house, overwhelmed by the news, not knowing if he was capable of such a responsibility. His younger selves appeared, but then so did a slightly older version of himself: Dad Norm. Dad Norm thanked Norm for doing a good job up to that point, but it was now his turn to take over. He went into a house to assume the responsibilities of being a father, freeing Norm to hang out with his younger selves, always the happy newlywed.

*****

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Marc Mason

1. Daredevil #233
2. Walking Dead #6
3. Secret Wars #12
4. Hellboy: The Conqueror Worm
5. The "Born Again" storyline allowed Frank Miller to finish Matt Murdock's story completely. By the time it was over, he had found true love, discovered his mother, and delivered a crushing defeat to his greatest foe. The character was now a man in full, and he didn't really need to be a costumed adventurer anymore. While some fine work has been done with the character in the intervening years, had we never seen him again, that would have been okay. The tale had reached its end.

*****

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Bryan Munn

1. Tintin in Tibet
2. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
3. Ed the Happy Clown, first ending/first collection
4. L&R 50 (conclusion of Bob Richardson, Maggie-Hopey reunion)
5. While the next book in the series, The Castafiore Emerald, is a masterpiece, Tintin in Tibet, with its bare-bones reunion plot and simple beauty, and that capper image of the Yeti silently watching Tintin, Haddock and Chang head back down the mountain, is a perfect ending for the series. Herge was at the peak of his powers here and seems to have essentially lost interest in the series in its classic form after Tibet.

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. New Teen Titans vol. 2 #31
2. Barry Allen's death (in Crisis On Infinite Earths #8)
3. The Hunger Dogs graphic novel
4. Doom Patrol vol. 2 #63 (Grant Morrison's last issue)
5. NTT #31 was the end of a big-blowout storyline which tied together subplots for just about every character -- some going back six years -- and also literally put out to pasture Brother Blood, one of the series' most persistent villains. It also returned Raven to active duty (she'd been lost after being purged of her dark side) and sent Wally West off to his new solo Flash series. For such a plot-intensive series, this was quite an achievement, and the Titans could thereafter have retired in peace.

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. 10/28 & 10/29 1988 panels for The Far Side
2. Cerebus #265
3. Bob Richardson (conclusion), Love & Rockets Vol. 1 #50
4. "Chelo's Burden," Love & Rockets Vol. 1 #50
5. By the time Gary Larson took that year+ hiatus, I think he had played out all the running themes he applied. When he returned, the panels seemed to offer only more of the same which is to say less than one might have hoped. (Compare to the growth in Doonesbury and Calvin & Hobbes following their creators' respective initial hiati.) I don't think any of the 1990-1995 panels, while still frequently entertaining, sustain the same sort of glorious surprise that Larson's earlier years provided with remarkable consistency. The panels above were his last two before the pause, and they do a nice job of self-reflection and acknowledgement of his art's themes and limitations.

*****

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Marc Sobel

1. Love & Rockets #50
2. Swamp Thing #64
3. Animal Man #26
4. Fables #75
5. Fables spent a full 75 issues building the drama toward a climactic battle which culminated in issue #75. It was a very satisfying ending to a story more than six years in the making, but afterward, everything felt like denouement.

*****

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Rodrigo Baeza

1. Prince Valiant marries Aleta (Spoiler alert!)
2. Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2
3. El Eternauta (1957-1959)
4. Asterix in Belgium
5. The original version of El Eternauta, by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano López, was serialized in weekly installments between 1957 and 1959. It didn't take long for sequels to appear, first by Oesterheld (in prose stories in the early 1960's, plus an official second part in the mid-1970's that was drawn by López), and later by other hands. But even taking into account that the original writer was responsible for the initial sequels, the original comic is to me the definitive version, the one that stands as a supreme achievement in Spanish-language comics, and that has an ending more satisfying than any of the stories that followed.

*****

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Chad Nevett

1. Dreadstar #31
2. The Authority #22
3. Transmetropolitan #24
4. Adventures of Superman #623
5. The Authority, having become bloated and corrupt in their own way are killed by the governments they pissed off and replaced with a group that will cater to the Powers that Be. That always seemed like an appropriate and fitting ending for the book that pushed the boundaries a little and had its share of controversies and would, eventually, die a death of slow mediocrity.

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #12
2. Persepolis vol. 1
3. The penultimate full-color Little Nemo in Slumberland strip
4. The Sentry vol. 1 #5
5. For as fascinating and engaging as Persepolis volume 1 was, I thought volume 2 was terribly self-absorbed and off-putting. Having the story end with Marjane leaving on a plane to a better life in Austria at the end of volume 1 would have resulted in a similar tonal ending, but without all the trivial, ego-centric teen angst that fills volume 2. I know people like to hold the two books up as a great work, but the second volume paints Marjane as an annoying, whiney teenager, who ultimately destroyed any empathy that I developed for her in volume 1.

*****

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Adrian Kinnaird

1. The Ultimates 2
2. Daredevil #233
3. New X-Men
4. Green Arrow #75
5. This was near the end of Grell's 'mature readers' run on the book; pretty much all of Ollie's 'chickens come home to roost' in the series. He has to deal with ex-ward Roy Harper (brainwashed into almost killing him), Shado and their illegitimate son, and finally Diana, who catches Ollie fooling around with Marianne (a maid marian stand-in) at a New Year's Eve party. She comes to the realization that after everything they've been through together (post traumatic stress, Ollie's refusal to marry her or have a child with her) he's shared more of himself with everyone else in his life but her. At the end of the issue she leaves him for good, sitting alone in the snow. It would have been a perfectly devastating (and inevitable) conclusion to Grell's series.

*****

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Matt Emery

1. Charley's War at the point Pat Mills stopped writing it.
2. Fables #75
3. The Uncanny X-Men #200
4. Asterix in Belgium
5. Sam Slades Last Case in Robo-Hunter -- 2000AD prog 331-334. Perfect point to end Robo-Hunter. He's old and forced back into the game after his robots have spent all his money, bringing him back to where he was when the serial started in 1978.

*****

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Mark Coale

1. Animal Man 26
2. FF 50
3. Captain America 175
4. Brave and Bold 200
5. One of the things I love most about Morrison's Animal Man run is that after all the trauma he put Buddy Baker through for two years, he put all the pieces back in the toy box for the next creator. But it also makes it feel like a finite, self-contained story.

*****

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Bart Beaty

* Maggie and Hopey sitting in the police cruiser at the end of L&R v1
* Asterix in Belgium
* Shade the Changing Man #50
* Miracleman #16
* Zot #35. For some reason, I never saw Zot #36 when it was being published. I just thought that the series ended (beautifully) when they disappeared into the box. When I first met Scott McCloud he said something about Zot #36 and I thought he was joking. In fact, I think I even argued with him about how many issues there were! When I finally read the last issue I thought it was good, but I still liked my own ending better.

*****

okay, the art on this one was hard; I did my best

*****
*****
 
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February 11, 2012


Please Considering Lending A Hand To Gary Friedrich

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There's an article here on the situation facing Gary Friedrich. There's a page here through which to donate a few bucks to the writer if that's what you would like to do. I donated the amount of an adult movie ticket because I feel that's fair, and because I don't have a lot of money to make a bigger donation.

It doesn't really matter to me at this stage to come to some sort of merit-based appraisal of Gary Friedrich's recent lawsuit against Marvel, let alone his entire professional life. I frankly never quite understood the former and I think engaging the latter invites madness and an appreciation of the trees when it's the forest that's maybe more important. Right now it just sounds to me like the guy could use a hand, and for whatever reason -- justice, the timing of history, God's will, stupidity, a lack of grace, boiling-cauldron evil, gremlins -- the way that he was able to do his work in the comics industry was not rewarding to him in a way that would forestall such trouble. I'm willing to risk a few bucks in that I may be eventually proven wrong somehow in extending that very modest hand.

In the end, I see a guy who could probably use a tiny bit of a cash cushion, and for me it's worth the small amount of money to be part of maybe helping him out. Thank your for at least maybe considering it.
 
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If I Were In Berkeley, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Los Angeles, I'd Go To This

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

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

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

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If I Were Near Torrance, I'd Go To This

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Please Consider Donating A Few Bucks To Writer Gary Friedrich

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One thing I didn't consider when I wrote a short piece about it this morning is that by demanding $17,000 from writer Gary Friedrich, Marvel not only is making a demand of someone that doesn't have $17,000, they not only fired a shot across the bow of everyone that works in this gray area, and they not only discouraged anyone with a legitimate beef against the company from capitalizing on what they feel their status is until it's been worn out by Marvel's lawyers, they've effectively cut off one of the few means Friedrich has of supporting himself.

Please go here to read a bit more, if you can stomach it. Please go here to donate. I'll be hitting that second button myself as I hit the submit button on this post. I don't have a lot of money right now, but I have to assume every bit can help the writer through this transitional period. (According to the New York Times, the average ticket price for a movie in 2011 was $7.86; that seems like it would work.)

Look, I know that Marvel isn't doing anything illegal, and there's a decent chance someone in PR will perk up and either forgive the debt or arrange for someone from the movie to pay it for him. But we're also under no legal compulsion to like the policy, either, or support the general message it sends as to the value of creators at the surprisingly swollen end of a very long tail.
 
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February 10, 2012


Go, Look: Rescue Pet, Part Two

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Go, Look: A Sampling Of Primetime Crime Does Not Pay

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The 17000 Dollar, Industry-Wide Shudder

There are several wire stories out there on Marvel claiming $17,000 from writer Gary Friedrich based on his selling stuff related to Ghost Rider, the character to which he claimed authorship rights to the character, rights that have yet to be held up and supported by any court. The lawyers plan to appeal this matter, but more in that they continue to claim that the transfer of ownership that has been supported thus far is illegitimate.

The disturbing element, which has certainly not been lost on dozens of initial commentators and tweeters, is that this could represent a broader move from companies like Marvel in terms of pursuing creators making material related to characters they do not own. This could conceivably include the convention sketches through which many artists supplement their incomes and which drives a huge segment of the convention-going economy. A secondary consideration could be that Marvel seeking this kind of payment is a shot across the bow of any creator that might presume to sell material or even make appearances based on a claim to ownership over material when that claim has yet to be adjudicated -- or when it already has.

I'm not sure that a whole lot of folks expect Friedrich to have to pay the amount, given his apparent lack of resources and the horrific PR toll this could exact. Not that these companies care much for PR tolls. Plus you may recall that Marvel is apparently hurting for cash right now despite its multi-billion dollar movies and licensing revenues. Even though I'm skeptical, I'll admit that Friedrich seeing a on this pass based on the positive that this would be for the person that does it seems somewhat possible to me given his apparent, basic inability to pay and the fact that the message has been sent.
 
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Go, Look: February...

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Canadian Mother Complains About Sex And Violence In Dungeon

For some reason, this story eludes my being able to write a decent headline for it. Basically, a mother in Salisbury, New Brunswick complained to school officials about a copy of one of the Dungeon books finding its way into the hands of her 12-year-old and it cued the standard, "Well, will you just look at the stuff they put in a funnybook that they gave to one of our kids" tut-tutting news report and, subsequently, a standard pull-and-review response from officials. I don't know that I have the volume in question, but the vast majority of the Dungeon volumes I own carry a "mature readers" label. I don't know why something like that would be lent out to a 12-year-old, and this seems to me an unfortunate choice or oversight by a librarian rather than anything about which to get furious or to make sweeping declarations about the nature of comics and how they're perceived.
 
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Go, Look: When George Tuska Drew Buck Rogers

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Go, Read: Brian Hibbs Pores Over The 2011 Bookscan Numbers

The retailer and industry advocate Brian Hibbs has his annual article up on the Bookscan numbers from the year just past. This used to be much more of a headache-inducing experience because of Hibbs' predilection for in-article advocacy on behalf of the Direct Market. He thankfully dropped most of this aspect a couple of years ago, and the articles have been improved for that decision. The most fun part to read this time out, at least on an initial power-through, is Hibbs making fun of Marvel Comics for its miserable bookstore performance given their broad name recognition and the kind of movie-as-sales-hooks opportunities any publisher would kill to have.

The takeaway is probably pretty early on in the piece: as much as Bookscan numbers are an accurate representation of such a wider trend, bookstore numbers continue to bleed from previous heights.
 
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Go, Look: Quality Scans Of Prize Comics #3

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Go, Look: Pierce Rice Was An Interesting Man

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seriously
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* in an extremely unpleasant week or so of comics news, one bright spot is this well-researched and intriguing interview with Matthew Thurber.

image* Jason Sacks on Amazing Mysteries Vol. 1. Ben Schwartz on Nancy. Andrew Wheeler on The Complete Peanuts: 1981-1982. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various kids comics and various comic-book type comics he got at the store. Don MacPherson on Thief Of Thieves #1. Sean Gaffney on GTO: 14 Days In Shonan Vol. 1.

* DC presents in publicity-release fashion some of the findings from the surveys it paid for when their New 52 launched. This is sort of like trusting a middle-aged man to tell you everything the doctor told him at a yearly check-up, so I can't make a big deal of it, but it's worth reading.

* Kim Thompson reminds that you can get a Joost Swarte mini-comic if you order that Joost Swarte book directly from Fantagraphics.

* Johanna Draper Carlson picks up on two creator advice columns.

* Domino Books has your Latvian comics hook-up. Desert Island is where you need to go for the latest signed Adrian Tomine print. I still think this Gabrielle Bell poster sale represents a ridiculous bargain.

* not comics: more 1970s gaming 'zine covers posted by Mike Sterling. This PDF magazine has a cover by an interview with the great Earl Otus.

* Chris Arrant talks to Jim McCann.

* Graeme McMillan noodles around with suggestions that Marvel might bring its Captain Marvel back from the dead. Maybe Marvel can re-name him after the sound effect of smacking the nega-bands together.

* if you don't have the context to understand that attempt at a joke, I envy you.

* I'm grateful that David Brothers gives us some contextual analysis that I'm unqualified to provide over one of Dan Buckley's claims in his recent interview, that Marvel doesn't really encourage/require its readers to read comics outside of its core event series in order to get "the whole story." He thinks they very much do this.

* because it's in slideshow format I'll never read it -- all that clicking tuckers me out -- but go here for a run of superhero comics projects for which fans are still waiting. Speaking of superhero comics projects, Albert Ching talks to David Gabriel about Marvel's "Point One" program of jumping-on-point comic books.

* finally, Nate Powell drew a questionnaire.
 
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THR: Tony Moore Sues Robert Kirkman Over Copyright Assignment Of The Walking Dead

Here.
 
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February 9, 2012


Go, Look: Cody, Part One

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Missed It: Ali Ferzat Joins Coalition Of Artists On Syrian Statement

Ethan Heitner caught this English translation of a letter that was published in Le Monde from a coalition of Syrian artists, including the cartoonist Ali Ferzat. The fact that a picture of Ferzat after his beating at the hands of pro-government thugs adorns the top of that letter in its reprinting gives an idea as to how prominently the Sakharov Prize winner is featured in the promulgation of that statement. His is one of the primary signatures. It's a powerful statement, even translated.
 
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Go, Look: Puddle Complex

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Go, Read: Kiel Phegley at CBR Talks To Marvel's Dan Buckley

Today's mainstream comics executive taking the major interview plunge is Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, who talks to Kiel Phegley in this first of a planned two-parter over at CBR. I think it's a much better showing from Buckley than similar pieces I can recall from 2009 and 2010. I've been joking elsewhere about that site's employment of the word "exclusive" with italics as a sales point in presenting the interview, but I think it's sort of worth noting in serious fashion, too. That the leading comics news site is using the occasion of this kind of interview to draw distinctions between itself and its competitors -- that it's splitting the interview into two parts even -- underlines the fact that such interviews aren't only important for their content and the exchange of ideas but as items through which Marvel and the people that score such interviews do business.

imagePhegley does a nice job of beating on Marvel with the DC stick; you could make a joke that the interviewer sounds like he's dating Marvel's competitor its recent successes come up so frequently. Buckley does his best work trying to convince that Marvel cutting its line and emphasizing top titles by doing more than 12 issues a year with certain comics is a strategic move designed to best serve the nature of today's market; this not only justifies those strategies but helps explain away recent perceived Marvel slippage as a failure by the company to enact such strategies as effectively as they should. Buckley also has a nice line about Marvel's output vs. DC's output, although I wasn't aware that anyone was really suggesting Marvel was out-publishing DC on an eight to five ratio. The publisher's display of patience with Marvel's strategy of simply telling the stories it wants to tell as best as it can tell them, in trusting the content to bear Marvel through whatever relatively tough times exist, will likely buttress the spirits of some and deflate hopes a few others may have had that Marvel has a strategic or infrastructure-related ace or two up its sleeve.

Buckley is much less persuasive when it comes to articulating some of the details and implications of general Marvel strategy. I imagine there's a fine line to walk between extolling the virtues of a company's willingness to try a variety of digital strategies and looking like a company is just flinging stuff at the wall to see what sticks; Buckley does not make it any easier to see that line. If character death isn't a specific plot/sales point with grim implications and a limited shelf life but just another storytelling-driven outcome among many, what are the other storytelling points that worked the same way as Marvel killing off two of its prominent characters in 2011? Because I don't remember that media coverage or those sales bumps. At what point is focusing on major titles and giving the market what it will bear smart strategy, and at what point is it an admission that Marvel no longer has the ability it once had to shape the market in a way that serves a broader range of publishing goals, long-term plans, and character development aims? Gabriel also doesn't have a convincing answer for the price-point issue beyond the usual "hey, those comics we do that with sell, man" take, which I suggest doesn't take into account all the ways pricing your material at a higher point can have long-term effects on the marketplace and a specific company's place within it.
 
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Go, Look: Some Primetime Whiz Comics Art

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That Upcoming Heritage Comics Auction Does Look Pretty Amazing

It's hard for me to imagine that I'll be running every breathless update sent along by the PR people in charge of hyping the forthcoming comics art auction at Heritage, but a look at the event page does reveal it to be a pretty amazing collection of offerings from a broad range of comics-makers. I lack the context as to whether or not I can describe it as the greatest such auction ever -- I like to imagine there was some sort of super art auction in 1974 attended solely by Wimbledon Green types and lost to cultural memory -- but it's certainly considerable and worth a poke around if you haven't yet. Some of the art even seems affordable according to current bids, if you can picture yourself as the kind of person with lots of money to spend on original comics art. I don't think I've seen this bit of Kirby art before, and this piece is certainly a show-stopper.
 
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Go, Look: More Jacky's Diary

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The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

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By Tom Spurgeon

* it's mostly about guest lists this week.

* love this special guest list for the forthcoming convention in New Delhi.

* that is a stellar initial special guest list for the Alternative Press Expo in October. That could be all the special guests -- it could be all the guests, period -- and it would be a show worth attending. I believe APE is opposite the New York Comic-Con this year, which is interesting in that while the NYCC has enjoyed a lot of success with the number of attendees they attract, elements like British comics-makers taking the relatively short hop across the Atlantic and generally with New York-area publishing companies and pros, it's never found significant traction with alt-comics. They would likely disagree with this, and New York is going to attract some work and cartoonists of this type just by virtue of being in New York, but the two NYCC shows I've attended I could have been in and out in 10 minutes if seeing alt-comics were my only reason for attending. So I think there's room for both shows that weekend.

* Small Press Expo announced Dan Clowes and Chris Ware for their September show.

* Comic-Con International released its Annual last week, which means their special guests are solidified.

* there's not a lot out there that isn't guest lists, at least not that I'm seeing: here's a piece about the recent show in New Orleans that seems to suggest there's a natural relationship between comics being great and people wanting to dress up like comics characters, which I don't think is automatically true, but would endorse were it to become a general principle applied to all things. Also, something terrible happened to an English-style phone booth at Angouleme.

* finally, the hotel lottery for Comic-Con International goes live on March 29. Most people seemed to like how things worked out last year. I slept through it. Happiness is having a room in advance. Also: warm puppy.
 
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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: The Art Of Dan Clowes: Modern Cartoonist Preview

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Gabrielle Bell is selling posters at quite the bargain price.

image* here's a bunch of information on what John Carter-related comics have been collected, giving me another chance to run this awesome John Carter image from Jesse Marsh.

* Johanna Draper Carlson on Princess #4. Greg McElhatton on Blabber Blabber Blabber. Todd Klein on BPRD: 1946 and BPRD: The Warning. Rob Clough on Pornhounds 2.

* not comics: I don't play role-playing games but me wanty.

* Michael Cavna talks to Stan Lee. Frederik Hautain talks to Robert Venditti. Vaneta Rogers talks to JH Williams III and Amy Reeder. Alex Dueben talks to Nate Powell.

* not comics: a very high-profile gig for Seth.

* Daryl Cagle editorializes about the "New York Times Wants Cartoons But Only If They Get Them Cheap" story.

* I don't know, Jessica, I can dream a lot of Birdseye Bristoe.

* whoa, Simon Gane.

* this discussion between Jog and Douglas Wolk is lengthy, indulgent and kind of awesome. There's even a mini-discussion of DC's recently-announced publishing initiative that's as good as anything that's been put out there about it.

* finally, a tiny bit of shelf porn. More like a Shelf Showtime Original Series, really.
 
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February 8, 2012


Go, Read: Bob Levin Reviews Yiddishkeit

Bob Levin is my favorite writer about comics, wrote the best book ever published about a cartoonist, and is a top three contender for the greatest-writer-about-comics-ever overall crown. Any time he has new work up it's must-reading for me, and I hope it becomes that way for you. He reviews Yiddishkeit today at TCJ, and I'm headed over right now.
 
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This Isn't A Library: Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt 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. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

OCT111062 BERLIN #18 (MR) $4.95
The latest issue of Jason Lutes' long-running series all by itself would get me into a comics shop today, were one within two hours of where I'm sitting. I really like this as a comic book, even, more than the collections that have been release so far.

imageNOV111115 GTO 14 DAYS IN SHONAN GN VOL 01 $10.95
This is a manga property with which I'm largely unfamiliar -- besides always getting a chuckle out of the "guy becomes teacher to have an in with young girls" initial concept -- that I will give a shot because of the publisher involved now (Vertical). That's not a statistically significant sample, I know, but it happens. This is the sequel to the popular late 1990s series.

OCT110026 STRANGE CASE OF MR HYDE TP $14.99
I wanted to pull this one out because this was a classic mini-series of comics to trade publication comic, starring what is to me unknown talent. I think it's worth noting when a publisher like Dark Horse does that, because it doesn't happen as much as it used to. The thought of Jekyll/Hyde as half of a Victorian buddy cop duo -- I'm guessing -- makes me pine for a comic where Jekyll and Hyde are the entirety of a Victorian buddy cop duo, but I'll withhold judgment until I get to a funnybook shop and take a peek at the work.

DEC110058 LOBSTER JOHNSON THE BURNING HAND #2 (OF 5) $3.50
DEC110079 MURKY WORLD ONE SHOT $3.50
NOV110235 NORTHLANDERS #48 (MR) $2.99
DEC110623 NORTHANGER ABBEY #4 (OF 5) $3.99
DEC110939 ADVENTURE TIME #1 $3.99
Not a bad week for comic-book comics, even when you leave out the higher end stuff of interest from Marvel and DC. The Lobster Johnson is the latest comic from the unstoppable Mignola-verse. The Murky World title is Richard Corben, and everything Corben is at least worth a pick-up and look-over in a store. The Northlander comic I haven't read for a few years but my memory is that it was a solid funnybook in the Vertigo vein, and is now heading towards Valhalla. I dont' have any intention on buying Northanger Abbey, but seeing books like that on Marvel's list always makes me laugh. The Adventure Time property isn't something I've caught up to, yet, but I'd look at the funnybook if I could get to one before it sold out.

SEP110334 TORPEDO HC VOL 04 $24.99
If I had a normal person's job, I'd buy all these Torpedo volumes, and there will be a point down the road I'll probably have them all in my bookshelf and be grateful they were published.

DEC111170 AMERICAN SPLENDOR LIFE & TIMES OF HARVEY PEKAR GN NEW PTG $20.00
OCT111102 LIFE & DEATH OF FRITZ THE CAT HC $19.99
Work you probably have in one form or another. If you don't have them, you should probably want them. The Fritz book is handsome; I haven't cracked my copy yet.

DEC111048 JINCHALO GN $19.95
In a week without a new issue of Berlin, this stand-alone fantasy by Matthew Forsythe drawn from Korean myth would place an image right at the top of this post. I thought the last work of this type from the cartoonist was a total charmer, and it was one of those books where I ran imagery on the blog and people kept e-mailing me to ask what the hell it was.

NOV111113 WALLY WOOD STRANGE WORLDS OF SCIENCE FICTION DLX HC $69.95
OCT111099 YOUNG ROMANCE BEST SIMON & KIRBY COMICS HC $29.99
Two comics veterans on the Mount Rushmore Of Perpetual Interest, plus the late Joe Simon, who's no piker. I have a decided lack of reading experience with romance comics, so I'm hoping the Young Romance book is effectively curated.

*****

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 failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Rescue Pet

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Analysts Weigh In On January 2012 DM Numbers

The comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com has offered up their usual array of lists, estimates and analysis regarding the performance of comic books and graphic novels in the Direct Market of comic and hobby shops, this time for January 2012.

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

My favorite numbers cruncher John Jackson Miller at The Comics Chronicles has posted his analysis of the month here.

So things get curiouser and curiouser. Two things seemed to leap out at everyone in discussing these numbers as they were initially released: DC monopolized the entire top 10 in comic books with fifth issues of their New 52 initiative, and Marvel only had a couple of books above the 60K sales mark. In overall terms, DC led unit sales while Marvel won dollar sales. Over in graphic novels, a Batman collection from the pre-New 52 initiative showed there was a bit of life in trades from that period (some fans have worried that this period would glossed over in terms of trade availability). Compared to last January scary-ass, apocalyptic sales numbers, the month looked pretty darn healthy both on a month-to-month an January-to-January basis.

I think what I take from these articles is that people are still waiting for a major Marvel response to the New 52 that's likely not going to happen, at least not any time soon in the way people conceive of such a response. I suspect what we're seeing with Marvel is a whole bunch of factors working in relationship to one another: the fact that they're years into their current conception of how they approach their general storylines, the fact that they don't have the institutional and structural ways to support their books that DC does, the general perception of price point and value, and their difficulties in establishing second-line books in a dependable way. If this were TV, Marvel would have a lot of decent-performing shows in their eighth to tenth seasons but not a lot of time-slot winner past those reliable brands. I think it's more of a challenge given specific things about Marvel more than an insurmountable challenge facing Marvel right now, so the next year could be quite compelling. They don't have a lot of margin for error in terms of execution, I don't think, and could be immensely helped by coming out with comics that exceed fan expectation in terms of how they nail their story points -- that hasn't been a recent strength, at least not in a way where a plot development has become a positive talking point in the way that drives sales. I know people will disagree with that.

There's a related way to worry about the market more generally in that we don't know how much Marvel's scramble in terms of finding sales and dollars and DC's more general all-in approach to its New 52 stunt are masking egregious weaknesses in the broader marketplace. In other words, how much are these comics selling because they're solid performers delighting their readers and just happen to have early-issue numbers, and how many readers do they have that are just sort-of committed for a while to get to a certain issue a few months away? That seems fraught with a lot of dangers, not all of them immediately apparent. For instance, it makes sense for Marvel to reduce their line, and they have, but does having multiples of big-brand comics increase the overall reading pool or just squeeze more money out of a devoted fandom at the expense of other comics? DC's latest Watchmen-related publishing initiative, at least right now, sounds more like something a certain kind of existing comics fan will want to buy and less like something that will add anything to the overall comics-buying populace. All of the ways to do that may not come with PR blasts and coverage in mainstream media.
 
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Go, Look: Shut Up About Cats

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Go, Read: ICv2.com's Interview With Marvel's David Gabriel

The hobby business news and analysis site ICv2.com has a three-part interview up with Marvel Senior Vice President -- Sales David Gabriel on various issues facing the comics company in 2012 and on various holdover issues and news items from 2011. It's fascinating for anyone with an interest in that part of the overall comics market.

Gabriel gives direct, spirited answers. I'm not certain all of them hold up to a lot of scrutiny, though, and I don't mean the initial, selective reading of 2011 generally, which is the kind of thing where one can expect qualifiers and spin. For instance, Gabriel's statement about Marvel letting some of their collections going out of print that retailers feel they could sell seems to crucially depend on his own definition of what constitutes evergreen, archival books. The fact that Marvel doesn't let best-selling recent collections go out of print really isn't a bragging point. Despite Gabriel's challenge that no retailer has ever been unable to order a book he defines as being a book they should be able to order, it took me approximately four seconds to find a retailer saying they weren't able to find a graphic novel that if it were a similar-status book from Marvel's main competitor would stay in print with greater consistency. Gabriel's right, I think, in suggesting that their trade program is pretty complicated and has a lot of different facets, but I really think when that argument is made against Marvel it isn't that they're flat-out crazy and letting their biggest books go out of print, it's that they're less devoted to keeping all of what many perceive as key books in print, thus leaving some sales on the table and generally frustrating some of their retail partners.

I also think Gabriel finesses the question about price points, by suggesting that their books with higher price points sell more than their books with lower price points. The key there is that overall sales of those higher price point books seem to be down. Price points are notoriously difficult to measure in comics because of the nature of hardcore fandom. Heck, not even hardcore, just regular fandom: that an Avengers book sells more than a book called, say, Stingray and Paladin even if the former costs a dollar more isn't really an argument for higher price points; it's an argument against teaming up d-list goofballs Stingray and Paladin. I've always maintained that there's rarely a one-to-one relationship to be measured when it comes to the effects of price points, and that what happens a lot of the time is that a comics reader will abandon the buying of serial comics altogether when the group of comics they tend to buy goes from $17 to, say, $24. But even leaving that notion off the table, and giving up on the suggestion that maybe some primary-Marvel readers have been nudged from the overall serial comics buying experience, noting how much anecdotal evidence is out there for fans moving off of Marvel titles to sample DC titles and the corresponding numbers on overall sales levels per property seems to me as close to that kind of one-to-one analysis as this market will ever yield. It's a dangerous game Marvel has been playing there, reducing pages and raising prices at this point in their current creative cycle, during a recession, at a time when DC is at a much fresher point in their own creative cycle. I think it doesn't all the way conform to reality to suggest this has had no impact on Marvel's recent results.
 
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Even The Airboy Comics Were Enough To Give Me Nightmares

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NYT Wants To Run Weekend Cartoons But Only At A Certain Price

Michael Cavna has the best write-up thus far on an issue surging through the editorial cartooning world right now: the New York Times plans to start running weekend cartoons again, but wants to do so at a drastically reduced price -- what one of the folks in Cavna's piece calls more of a reprint fee than what a publication like the Times should be offering for a first-run cartoon.

This is a delicate issue, because the nature of the market and the opportunity represented by the Times suggests that they can charge a low amount and still get what they want from the initiative: people are going to want that low fee and that showcase. You also have leaders in that field that want to move the Times towards that higher price point without scaring them away from providing this new market, basically by appealing to their better nature. I hope it works out on all ends.

Update: A tweet here indicates the pricing may have come from what they pay for illustrations, which opens up an entirely different avenue of discussion.
 
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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Some Vintage Howie Post

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* congratulations to Chris Butcher on his new gig. He's keeping the old one.

image* I like how Bully's mind works, and I like that my mind doesn't work that way.

* John Kane on various kids' comics. Grant Goggans on Low Life: Paranoia. Sean Gaffney on Cross Game Vol. 6. David Brothers on Godland. Andrew Wheeler on Fantastic Four: Season One. Katherine Dacey on GTO: 14 Days In Shonan Vol. 1. Todd Klein on BPRD: The Warning and BPRD: Killing Ground.

* I like this little drawing by Knut Larsson.

* I was happy to be asked to write about the Romitas for the Comic-Con annual that's out this week, and was pleased to see that I'm paired with Blake Bell in the Spider-Man comics section of the magazine. Blake has his article up here.

* Zac Bertschy and Justin Sevakis talk to Carl Horn.

* just a reminder from yesterday that Rick Trembles might be able to use your help.

* not comics: egad.

* Brigid Alverson has a follow-up on Jamie Gambell's digital experiment from several days back.

* finally, I've been tracking the status of that Rich Burlew Kickstarter campaign through Gary Tyrrell's Fleen, I think because confronting that news directly would freak me out a little bit more than it already does.
 
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Go, Read: Loss

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my apologies if that's not the name of it
 
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February 7, 2012


Garry Trudeau On The Chicago Tribune's Bouncing Of A Recent Daily

Michael Cavna has Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau's comments on the Chicago Tribune bouncing one of his dailies because it had a code through which people could donate to schools in need. The Tribune claimed they have a policy against people doing something with their strip directly in their self-interest. It should come as a surprise to no one that this policy looks to be, at best, inconsistently and poorly applied.
 
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Go, Read: Michael Chabon On His Fictionalized Stan Lee + Jack Kirby

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Please Consider Lending A Helping Hand To Rick Trembles

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The Montreal-based cartoonist Rick Trembles details via a Facebook post a lengthy ordeal by which he was evicted from his rent-controlled apartment under severely dubious circumstances. He's looking for a job and is willing to send folks information for paypal donations if they ask. If you've ever enjoyed his comics, his Internet presence or simply hate to see people screwed over for the sake of profit, please take some time to read Trembles' post and considering extending a helping hand. That goes double for anyone that might be able to hire the guy.

thanks, Brad Mackay
 
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Go, Look: Early, Slightly Naughty Gag Cartoons Of Dave Berg

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Gilles Roussel -- the prolific cartoonist working under the pen name "Pierre Boulet" -- talks about forthcoming projects and provides an informal history of French webcomics -- in this interview with Ao Meng.

image* Brigid Alverson has a nice piece up at PW about Jimmy Gownley coming to the end of his book contract with his Amelia Rules concept, and his future plans that include work that's not Amelia-related.

* this interview with Laura Park reveals two projects I didn't know about: a picture-book and a young adult's work. Any comics or illustration we get from Laura Park is a wonderful thing, I don't care what it is. She mentions her MOME work and short stories in general, which makes me wonder if an enterprising editor couldn't get into her publicly posted art and comics and combine it with the MOME material and whatever else is out there and we could have a Laura Park collection. Update: I've since been told she might have one in the works with Atomic Books, which would be great news, indeed.

* everyone but me -- and maybe you, so I'll mention it here -- already knew that Bleach is heading towards its conclusion. Sadly, I probably mentioned it on the blog at some point.

* DC apparently has some new kind of publishing initiative planned for this summer.

* Ken Eppstein wrote in to point out that Nix Comics has a new Kickstarter effort going.

* finally, I'm just now catching up to the fact that Bernie Mireault has a new, full-length graphic novel out: To Get Her. It's discussed here, and available in webcomics form here. I hope to have more on this in upcoming weeks.

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Go, Bookmark: The Screwball Comics Blog

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Go, Read: James Sturm On Why He's Boycotting The Avengers

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James Sturm has written a longish piece for Slate on why he's boycotting Marvel's forthcoming Avengers movie, how Marvel wouldn't exist without the contributions of Jack Kirby, and even why a boycott probably won't take hold in a way that causes the company damage. Sturm is writing for a general audience but chooses to employ specifics and various well-known, related cultural signifiers, which is the major reason why the piece is as long as it is.

One thing that's interesting about this is that Sturm won an award for his Fantastic Four work not ten years ago. To my mind this makes him a Marvel author who's reoriented his position on this matter. At the time of the release of Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, Sturm didn't have a lot of moral qualms about doing that work. Here's an exchange from our 2004 interview:
TOM SPURGEON: Is there any queasiness working with characters that were part of a dispute? Maybe Stan's recent lawsuit is a contractual dispute rather than a work-for-hire dispute, but it's driven by rhetoric that claims these characters have been exploited unfairly and he's been exploited unfairly. Is it the fact that these specific characters don't hold any extra queasiness for you at all?

JAMES STURM: Like in what sense?

SPURGEON: You have $10,000 in the bank, but Marvel doesn't send Jack Kirby's children trade paperbacks of their father's work when it's re-released.

STURM: Boy. But if you extend that argument to your day-to-day existence, on how you shop and how you spend money and how you interface with the world, you couldn't touch anything. You know what I mean? It's like, we live in a tainted fucking universe. Every pair of shoes you buy was probably stitched together by someone being paid ten cents an hour under ungodly conditions. And that's not to excuse myself, but are you getting at that maybe I shouldn't do this out of concern for...?

SPURGEON: It's one thing to get work-for-hire from an artist who is ceding control of his characters to you, but you're signing a work-for-hire agreement with a corporation that may have, or may not have, unfairly taken these characters from the artist to begin with.

STURM: What the fuck have I done, Tom? What the fuck have I done? Holy shit. Black mark on my soul.

I don't know. Obviously everyone's ethical standards vary, but I just don't feel I've made an egregious ethical breach. I think the question is valid and I'm glad you raised it. But for me, a few things play into it. First, Kirby himself returned to work for Marvel. Second, Marvel has changed owners several times since Kirby's stints there. Finally, I have never heard of any boycott by Kirby's heirs -- or anyone else for that matter -- calling for writers or artists to refrain from using characters he created.

Kirby created something 40 years ago that has so influenced and shaped comics history and I look to honor it. I hope that comes across in the book. Kirby's imprint is all over Unstable Molecules, his art adorns each cover (and several interior pages). My position at Marvel is no different than Kirby's was: work-for-hire.

I'm sure every character that was created some writer feels propriety for. I shouldn't do that Stingray graphic novel because somebody who developed him feels cheated? Remember that stupid character called Stingray from Marvel?

SPURGEON: Red and white costume and a fencing mask.

STURM: The Fantastic Four are characters, due to the role they played in my childhood, I feel connected to. When I'm reading this stuff as a kid, I don't know any of this stuff. These characters don't have owners. They exist. They're like cultural icons. Same with Peanuts. They belong to the public in a sense. This could just be me trying to rationalize my actions... Money wise, when you look at all the time I put into this project, it's obvious that it wasn't done for the money. If anything, I'm trying to restore a certain dignity to the character. The Fantastic Four was about this family who were superheroes. But they were a family first, right? That's what made the book tick. That's what I was trying to get at, this dysfunctional family that love/hate relationship they all have with each other. I think that's what Lee and Kirby were trying to do, right?"
I think this is stuff always worth talking about. None of the positions worth having are easy, and it's always possible to string together some series of details that shift the argument one way or the other until we feel better about what we've done or chosen not to do. That's what we do now. The Internet has turned us all into moral Perry Masons, worrying testimony from ourselves on a series of imaginary witness stands, never quite getting that slam-dunk, tear-filled confession that makes everything click into place.

In the end, I think the broader principles and meanings should guide us. Marvel should have treated Kirby better when he was alive, and making up for it by treating his legacy better now would be a wonderful, just thing to do. Any executive that makes this happen would be doing a great and honorable and potentially rewarding thing. Restoring Kirby's legacy in a way that matches what outside actors have done on that artist's behalf should include some sort of financial arrangement with the family. Jack Kirby isn't a comics sob story; in the context of all the popular arts his story stands out as one with a particularly ungenerous ending to match the contributions made. He was shoved to the side of the official narrative until he pushed back a bit, something for which a certain kind of angry fan has never forgiven him. Kirby had to fight to get some small amount of original art back, even.

Comics should be better than that. Comics can be better than that. The number of people that have received more money and more credit for less inspired, sometimes flatly derivative, sometimes just caretaker-style and paper-shuffling work with what Kirby made, up to and including people with the power to do something, is significant and slightly heartbreaking. With great power comes great responsibility, and I'm not sure how you define great power in our culture better than four billion dollars.
 
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Go, Read: Ward Sutton Reviews Quiet

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Go, Read: An Andrew Schick Interview

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Diamond has apparently instituted some kind of awards for comics stores doing comics store things. I'm not sure I'd know if these were actually awards that had been around for several years. I'm not sure what to think of t-shirt displays having awards-level status. Hooray?

image* Craig Fischer writes about one of the Skywald magazines over at The Comics Journal. That's sort of a lousy description of the article, to be honest with you, but there is such a discussion in there.

* Juan Fernandez talks to Ed Piskor. Mark Hensel talks to Ryan Cecil Smith. Ao Meng talks to Ryan Cecil Smith. Misty Lee and Paul Dini talk to Mark Evanier. Vaneta Rogers talks to Gregg Hurwitz. Chris Arrant talks to Cliff Chiang. Dave Richards talks to Jeff Parker. Tim O'Shea talks to Matt Gagnon.

* Daryl Cagle has a post up of cartoons about the current crisis in Syria. Speaking of which, I guess Ali Ferzat's plight was discussed during a meeting of the UN Security Council.

* the CBLDF will be hitting the ComicsPro annual meeting in a big way.

* Dan Nadel caught a really fine article from Jessica Abel about moving her family to France for a year. I like matter-of-fact articles about cartoonists and their lives because I think it clears up some of the mystery for young people that might want to pursue cartooning as a vocation.

* most of the articles still being done on DC's new publishing initiative are going deeper and longer, at least in terms of the discussion of creators' rights. Here's one by Matthew Surridge.

* not comics someone really needs to make that list of comics-related illustration in various gaming rules booklets and 'zines of that period.

* I'm not sure there's any real overlap between comics and the Annie Awards, beyond the obvious connection through cartooning. I guess animators compete in the NCS awards including being up for the Reuben.

* not comics: it's the rare art critic that color-coordinates his wardrobe to match the art.

* Drew Sheneman on five graphic novels. Johanna Draper Carlson on Bakuman Vol. 9 and various other manga. Greg McElhatton on Friends With Boys. Sean Gaffney on Negima! Magister Negi Magi Vol. 33.

* finally, some sort of tempest in a teapot about some cartoon or something.
 
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February 6, 2012


Go, Look: Sarah And The Seed

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British Cartoonist Mike White Passes Away

imageMike White, a veteran British industry comics artist best known for a run on Roy Of The Rovers in the late '80s and early '90s, his collaboration with young 2000 AD writers, and a general high level of craft including a knack for adapting to the basic art styles of his fellow illustrators, has passed away. Steve Holland's lengthy appreciation of White's career posted here indicates he was likely in his mid-sixties.

White began as an illustrator in the early 1960s with the publisher GM Smith/Micron in their publications aimed at girls. He moved to the Jackaroo Joe in IPC's Valiant publication in 1965 and then took on a number of assignments closely adhering to other artists' chosen styles. He split time in the late '60s and early '70s between Fleetway and DC Thomson, doing mostly stand-alone strips for the latter.

Holland notes that White became a regular at the controversial magazine Action -- a primary and direct antecedent for 2000 AD that ran from 1976 to 1977 -- contributing to the features Hell's Highway, Death Game 1990 and The Running Man. He naturally slipped into a similar role at 2000 AD, including some work on some of the best-remembered early-'80s short features by Alan Moore. This included the Abelard Snazz feature (the episodes "The Return Of The Two-Storey Brain," "The Double-Decker Dome Strikes Back" and "Genius Is Pain"), Future Shocks ("The Regrettable Ruse of Rocket Redglare," "Bad Timing, " "Eureka" and "Look Before You Leap") and Time Twisters ("The Reversible Man" and "Going Native"). Of these works, "The Reversible Man" is probably the best known; while the notion of a man living his life in backwards fashion wasn't exactly a new idea for science fiction readers of the day, the story is cleverly executed and White's pages exude strength and clarity.

White sidled into sports strips in the mid-1980s, initially with a feature in Champ and eventually working his way into a lengthy gig on the prominent feature Roy Of The Rovers. He is cited with giving Roy an aggressive look more in tune with the times and being the artist in charge when Roy Race and the Rovers went through a number of their late-career milestones and major story moments. In the 1990s White began to take on more illustration work; White's most high-profile comics gigs in recent years were for Commando.

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Go, Read: Cartoon Fact-Checking

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Publishing Notes: One Piece, DC DM Sales Spin, Les Librairies

* the latest volume of One Piece looks to have matched the initial print run of the last, record-setting installment.

* DC Comics major players John Rood and Bob Wayne have done two interviews worth reading if you track direct market sales and/or DC Vs. Marvel as sales entities more generally: ICv2.com; Newsarama. I never believed DC's pre-New 52 spin that they didn't really care about something like market share because of their focus on bottom-line numbers, but the general giddiness over DC sweeping January's Top 10 in the periodicals Direct Market plus John Rood deciding not to engage a question about bottom-line numbers by citing that top 10 sweep pretty much puts a stake in the heart of that canard. Some people have written me saying that these interviews that the pair do are disasters PR-wise, but I think there are some clearly effective things in there: I think describing DC publishing initiatives in terms of being beneficial for their retail partners really works for them, for example.

* this article from the Guardian showed up in my morning searches for a random of a bunch of postcards, and I'm not sure how VAT issues have an impact on that country's comics sellers, but the idea that a string of retailers might be valued for their cultural contributions and that this notion should shape policy is pretty powerfully appealing.
 
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OTBP: The End Of The Fucking World #4

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Go, Read: ComicsAlliance On Pizza Island Closure

Laura Hudson over at ComicsAlliance covers the recently-announced closure of the Pizza Island studio space by talking to the members of the studio about their immediate plans. This includes Kate Beaton, who also made recent news for announcing some adjustments in her cartoon-making work schedule. Beaton gets off a funny line about the level of interest in what is essentially just a place where a bunch of cartoonists went to work. There is some of that, for sure: the temptation to type "Pizza Island diaspora" is significant and of course inherently ridiculous. In the end I think the attention comes because it's useful to look at the intersection of a bunch of careers as a way to get a snapshot on the state of the art form. It's a fine approach to that kind of story, and a good piece by Hudson.
 
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Go, Look: A Dylan Horrocks PSA

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Daily Cartoonist: Chicago Tribune Pulls Doonesbury Strip

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It hasn't made the news yet -- at least it hasn't made the wire stories searchable by Google -- but Alan Gardner and the readers of his Daily Cartoonist blog caught that a recent Doonesbury was pulled by the Chicago Tribune via an announcement on the GoComics blog. Here's the thing, though: they can't figure out why and I really can't, either. The strip in question contained a scannable code through which a reader could be directed to the DonorsChoose.org site. This might have conceivably triggered something at the Tribune in terms of a broad policy aimed against solicitation or outside coding, although a couple of Gardner's cartoonist readers note that other cartoonists have put codes in their strips before without reprisal. An additional oddity is that this may be the most benign strip that Trudeau's run in a while, as he's been focused on the Republican nominees for President for a bit now.
 
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Go, Bookmark: The Secret Voice

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Go, Look: Simon Gane Previews Art From Lot No. 249 Adaptation

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Paul Gravett provides a short essay on British Comics.

image* Tucker Stone on BPRD: Hell On Earth: Russia. Erica Friedman on Green. Richard Bruton on Paper Science #7 and The Undisputed King Of Nothing #1. Chris Neseman on The Arctic Marauder. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Batman: Gates Of Gotham and various graphic novels. Greg McElhatton on Winter Soldier #1. Sean Gaffney on Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Vol. 11. Bill Kartalopoulos on Is That All There Is?. Miles Fielder on Is That All There Is?. Nick Gazin on some recent comics. Katherine Dacey on The Art Of The Secret World Of Arrietty. Jason Thompson on Harlem Beat.

* James Naughtie talks to Art Spiegelman (thanks, Dean Abbey).Matthew Sheret talks to The King Of Things. Alex Fitch talks to Dave Collier. Meghan McGrath talks to Laura Park.

* did First Second finally suspend its blog? Or did it go somewhere I'm not seeing?

* not comics: I couldn't watch this Death Of Superman-related video all the way through, but I imagine for comics fans of a certain age and those that like staring at young starlets doing stuff with nerdy guys, this will be a gift.

* Jessica Campbell continues to do all of us monoglot and functional monoglots the favor of translating Guy Delisle's Angouleme 2012 comics.

* Austin English shows us around the Domino Books headquarters.

* that's a fine concept for an anthology. And this was a fine Super Bowl cartoon. Speaking of the Super Bowl, I noticed very little nerd-culture hand-wringing about the supposed inescapability of the sporting event, and a little uptick in the amount of disturbing attention spent salivating over ad teasers. So you win some, you lose some. I'm sure there will be some sort of ad-related comics news to talk about today (an advertisement for a comics-related movie or two; perhaps advertisements featuring comics characters), which I'm sure you can access pretty easily by poking around.

* Frank Santoro reports from the road. It's good to hear that he got 2.5 the number of people he expected to show at a recent outing. Santoro's fun to listen to on comics in any setting. Also fun: watching Colleen Coover make a cover.

* Johanna Draper Carlson picks some of her favorites from Hourly Comics Day.

* some days deep down we all feel like a lump of protean matter.

* the writer and comics historian Mark Evanier reminds that Morris Weiss may be the oldest living comics-maker.

* in case you were wondering, the perfect length for a manga serial seems to be thirty. I think the perfect length for a manga serial would be for somebody to publish the remaining volumes of Cromartie High School, that's what I think.

* here's a process post starring Simon H.

* finally, that's a nice-looking cover. Tim Lane's Riverfront Times cover through the week, I mean. The BPRD one above is nice, too.
 
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February 5, 2012


Mike Catron And Preston White Return To Fantagraphics

imageIn an interview last summer on the EC repackaging-by-author project announced at the 2011 Comic-Con International, Gary Groth of art-comics mainstay Fantagraphics hinted that the company would be hiring a new editor and a new designer either in Fall of that year or Winter of this one. That's come to pass, with Fantagraphics co-founder Michael Catron returning to the fold along with longtime, off-and-on art director Preston White. Both are now working in the Seattle offices of the publisher. White has been on hand for about three weeks; Catron just concluded his first.

Catron's hire is intriguing on several levels. One is historical. Catron was there at the company's start and well into its establishment and initial publishing years, leaving in 1985. (If you don't think of Fantagraphics as a company of historical interest, consider that they're coming up on having been around for half of the comic book industry's existence.) It's worth noting that someone returning to the endeavor in which he participated for such a long, vital and crucial time is not a thing that happens a lot in comics, particularly as personal relationships frequently deteriorate when professional partnerships move into new chapters. So I think it's a nice story that way. Another thing I find compelling is that what I understand of Catron's skill set seems perfect for the editorial role he's taking on. Catron knows comics history and has a passion for it; Fantagraphics is working with a lot of historically-driven books these day. He's well-connected with the generation of comics people represented by Groth and Thompson generally, which might lead to opportunities to work on books with some of those cartoonists due collection, historical and archival treatment in the next several years. Catron's reputation when I worked there -- long after he had departed -- was that he was meticulous and disciplined, things that are always welcome at a small publishing house. Catron's also worked at comics companies outside of Fantagraphics (primarily Apple Comics; I think his work with Mike Gold counts on this score, and I apologize if that's not the case), and should be self-reliant in terms of being able to handle complicated projects. I think it's a great hire, and I'm thrilled for everyone involved.

Preston White's hire represents a lot of those same elements. His is a personality that obviously works very well in the Fantagraphics context, and he was there during a lot of the early years and even a great number of the later ones. White worked at the company well before, during and after my late 1990s stint in Seattle. White left the company after his last term to live with his father in Virginia (my recollection is that White and Groth were originally acquainted as Northern Virginia comics fans when White was young enough to be driven to Groth's place by one of his parents), and suffered the 1-2 punch of losing both parents in a short amount of time. As an art director without Internet experience, White then experienced the vagaries of the recession marketplace, for instance finding employment at a San Diego publication that folded six months after he was hired. White's return to Fantagraphics represents a fresh start and a return to the company to which he contributed art direction work on hundreds of publications over the years.

Mostly, though, I find it encouraging that Fantagraphics had a need and ended up being able to fill it with familiar faces.

imageGary Groth told CR that it hadn't been planned that way. "The simultaneous return of Mike Catron and Preston White to Fantagraphics was pure coincidence," he said. "They were both engaged in shady, scrofulous, semi-criminal activities and were looking to get out while the getting was good and were therefore casting around for a stable, legitimate, high-paying position in a respectable profession. This was clearly beyond their grasp, so they broached the subject with me. It just so happened that we've expanded our line sufficiently so that we could use one additional person in our editorial and art departments. In short, they were at the right place at the right time, or the wrong place in the wrong time, depending on how you look at it."

Groth noted the personal connection in each case. "I met both of them when I was publishing a comics fanzine in my teens. Mike co-founded Fantagraphics with me in 1976 when we began publishing The Comics Journal (nee The Nostalgia Journal) and even before that we embarked on a string of entrepreneurial endeavors together and just generally palled around."

Groth was also enthusiastic about what each man brings to the company. "Mike truly loves comics, knows the history, and has sharp editorial skills, which means I'll be handing off a lot of text editing to him. Mike is far better organized than I am -- which isn't saying much -- so we'll be expecting him to help refine our internal structure and streamline the book-making process from conception to printing. Preston has seamlessly re-entered the art department, expanding upon the skills he's developed over the last 30 years to the higher level of production that we've developed over the last decade or so." He added one more advantage. "There wasn't much of a learning curve for either Mike or Preston, they just dove in and have been working continually since they got here."

"It's not unlike living in a combined remake of Cocoon and His Girl Friday," Groth concluded. "We can all stand around the water cooler and talk fondly of the glory days when we weren't ancient." As Catron put it in his Newsmaker interview this morning at CR -- "... all of a sudden, the original four of us are together again, like the fabled Musketeers."
 
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CR Newsmaker Interview: Mike Catron

imageMichael Catron was nice enough to answer a few of my questions about his return to Fantagraphics after several years' absence. I've encountered Catron off and on for years, mostly at conventions where I've seen him taping various panels, something I ask about below. I'm greatly appreciative of his time -- he sounds busy! -- and hope that some of you out there can help with the L.B. Cole request he makes in our final exchange. I hope to have a similar talk with Preston White for a feature in early April. -- Tom Spurgeon

TOM SPURGEON: Can you talk about what led to your decision to come on board again with Fantagraphics? When did you guys start talking about your return?

MIKE CATRON: Fantagraphics has lots of projects in the pipeline and needed additional hands in different areas -- editorial, marketing, etc. Those are some of the areas I'd worked in before at Fantagraphics, at WaRP Graphics, and at my own company, Apple Comics. But, even so, I had to go through a hiring process, just like anywhere else. Nothing very unusual or exciting there. Of course, being a founder of the company helped. I think.

SPURGEON: What had you been doing immediately previously in a professional sense? Is there anything from your non-comics work that you think will come to bear on what you're doing at the company?

CATRON: Immediately prior to working for Fantagraphics, I was working as a computer software instructor. Aside from keeping me up-to-date on the latest software tools from Adobe and Microsoft, there's not a whole lot of direct benefit to Fantagraphics from that. I had previously worked in the printing industry in pre-press and as a production manager and some of the skills and procedures I developed there might come in very handy for Fantagraphics.

SPURGEON: Can you talk about what your duties are going to be? I understand that you're editing, but I don't know how many books, or if there's a specific kind of book on which you'll be focusing or anything like that.

CATRON: In my first few days here, I've done a lot of copyediting of text that will appear in various books currently in production, including the next Carl Barks volume. I'm working closely with Gary Groth on a long list of things Fantagraphics wants me to do. I will be shortly taking over the editorial responsibilities for a handful of books, but I'm also doing all kinds of bits and pieces for anything that's on the schedule. At the moment, it all seems to be reprint or historical material. I'm not currently working with any cartoonists on developing new material. That may or may not change.

One of the big assignments I've been given is actually a twofer. I'll be copy editing Malcolm McNeill's memoir about his collaboration with William S. Burroughs. It's titled Observed While Falling: Bill Burroughs, Ah Pook, And Me. McNeill's memoir is accompanied by his art book, The Lost Art Of Ah Pook Is Here: Images From The Graphic Novel. I'm editing Sara Van Ness's introductory essay to this latter volume.

SPURGEON: You worked in a different era for Fantagraphics and for comics publishing in general. How would you describe your knowledge of what's being done right now? How closely have you paid attention to what the company you co-founded has been doing in recent years? Do you expect there to be a learning curve at all in terms of anything on which you might have to catch up -- a kind of comics, or a process for making them, maybe?

CATRON: For what I'm doing right now, no. My knowledge of comics history is more useful to the company right now than knowing what the latest bells and whistles in Photoshop are. (In fact, I probably won't go near Photoshop.) But there's always a learning curve to everything. As far as the process for making comics goes, we are even now documenting that current process at Fantagraphics and looking for ways to streamline it. I always paid attention to what Fantagraphics was doing. How could I not? It's my baby that has grown up and gone off and done great things in the world without my help. I'm very proud of that, to the extent that I helped get the ball rolling in the crucial early days.

But do you know what's almost surreal about all this? By an amazing coincidence and completely unrelated to my return, Fantagraphics has also just re-hired Preston White, who was one of the company's very first hires shortly after we moved to Connecticut. So all of a sudden, the original four of us are together again, like the fabled Musketeers. (Everyone does know there were four, right?) The stars, after all these years, finally aligned once more. Call it the new Age of Aquarius for Fantagraphics.

But seriously, it's really great to be back with these guys -- and all the other very capable and talented professionals in the Fantagraphics offices, most of whom I'm just getting to know.

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SPURGEON: What do you think your strengths are as an editor?

CATRON: Are you trying to make me go through the job interview process again? [Spurgeon laughs] Well, for one thing, I know the industry and its history. I know a lot of artists, writers, and other comics folk, including fans and collectors who might be helpful with one project or another. I understand the whole publishing process from start to finish, having done it for most of life. Also, I can diagram a sentence. At least simple ones.

Also, Gary Groth and Kim Thompson and Eric Reynolds are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human beings I've ever known in my life.

SPURGEON: Forgive me for not knowing this 100 percent for sure, but you're in Seattle, right? Was there any trepidation about making that move? What do you think of Seattle?

CATRON: Yes, I'm now in Seattle. And yes, there was quite a bit of trepidation on that score. But I ultimately decided comics is where I need to work. It just feels right to me and I missed it terribly when I was doing other things. I like Seattle so far. It does seem to rain a lot. But, strangely, I like rain.

SPURGEON: I and others have seen you in recent years making tapes of some of the panels at conventions, I believe particularly those focused on older cartoonists. What led you to do that? Do you have plans for that material? Are there one or two panels or even moments that you've caught with which you're particularly happy?

CATRON: What led me to start videotaping panels at comics conventions was that I didn't see anyone else doing it. Here were all these important figures from the history of comics answering all sorts of questions and providing a wealth of detail about our comics heritage and it was all just being written on the wind. I started taping as a way of preserving as much as I could of that for myself and future generations. As for plans for that material, I have nothing currently in the works. Ultimately, I would like to find a useful way to share it. There are lots of moments that I'm very glad I caught on tape, including some quite emotional ones. Lots of funny stuff, too. Someday.

SPURGEON: What's the first major project on your plate?

CATRON: I've just been assigned to a book on L.B. Cole. We're trying to gather as much L.B. Cole art as we can for a deluxe volume showcasing his best work. If anyone reading this can help us track down great L.B. Cole art treasures -- comics or otherwise -- please contact me via email at

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Paul Karasik's Angouleme 2012 Report

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Go, Look: HBK Hislop Publications

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FFF Results Post #281 -- Industry News

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Your Five Favorite Comics Industry News Stories Of The Last 30 Years." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. The People Vs. Mike Diana
2. DC Signs A Secret Deal With Diamond
3. Disney Buys Marvel
4. Jack Kirby Wants His Art Back
5. Michael George Found Guilty

*****

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Joe Vince

1. The formation of Image Comics
2. Marvel's bankruptcy
3. Distributor wars
4. Manga boom of the early '00s
5. Neil Gaiman sues Todd McFarlane

*****

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Marc Arsenault

1. The Tundra/Kitchen Sink/Comics Journal/Carole Sobocinski Saga
2. The Pope of Pot -- who sold marijuana out of a New York comic shop
3. Jack Kirby's Lord's of Light film/theme park project which later was repurposed into a cover to free American hostages from Iran
4. LPC Group bankruptcy and its consequences
5. Kodansha commissions massive amounts of work by Paul Pope, Tom Hart, David Mazzucchelli and many others and releases very little of it.

*****

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Shannon Smith

1) Top Shelf comics "saved by comics community" emergency sell after the collapse of LPC.
2) Valarie D'Orazio (now Gallaher) "Goodbye to Comics".
3) "Rallsballs". Ted Rall vs. Danny Hellman.
4) Dave Sim's internet message board tour in promotion of glamourpuss.
5) The Bill Mantlo story.

*****

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Matt Emery

1. Closure of Buenaventura Press
2. Sale of 33,000 pages of original art from IPC archives to a private dealer.
3. Diamond increasing pre-order minimums
4. Bill Blackbeard's passing and the delay in anyone noticing
5. The current golden age of reprints

*****

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Buzz Dixon

5. Stan Lee Media (full disclosure: I was involved in this)
4. Collapse of the collectible market
3. Wizard implosion
2. Penis taunting at Archie Comics!
1. Sailor Moon premieres on US TV; millions of American girls ask "How long has this been going on?" & discover manga

*****

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John Vest

1. Kitchen Sink's pact with Tundra
2. Friendly Frank's Michael Correa arrested
3. Steve Gerber's lawsuit against Marvel settled out of court
4. Jim Shooter dismissed at Marvel
5. Comics Code Authority defunct

*****

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Michael Dooley

1. The Comic Art Show (1983)
2. Comic Iconoclasm (1988)
3. High & Low (1990)
4. Masters of American Comics (2005)
5. Lyonel Feininger at the Edge of the World (2011)

*****

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Rodrigo Baeza

* Newsarama reveals that the Siegel heirs are trying to claim the copyright to Superman.
* Fantagraphics announces The Complete Peanuts.
* The story of Alan Moore/Bill Sienkiewicz/Al Columbia's Big Numbers (which summarizes, in a way, the whole story of Tundra).
* The end of the Michael Fleisher vs. The Comics Journal & Harlan Ellison trial, transcripts published by TCJ.
* Alan Moore is announced as the writer of Image's Spawn #8, to be followed by a series called 1963 in which he is reunited with Rick Veitch and Steve Bissette.

*****

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Mark Coale

1. Heroes World Closes
2. WB Animation / Creation of Dini/Timm 'Verse
3. Creation of Absolute format
4. Newspaper Strip Archive Collections
5. Saga of Miracleman/Marvelman

*****

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John Platt

1. Marvel Comics' acquisition of Heroes World Distribution.
2. The Eclipse flood.
3. The creation of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
4. The collapse of the original New York City comic book convention in 1996, which gave birth to Big Apple Comic Con.
5. The formation of Image Comics.

*****

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Tony Collett

1. DC Comics to release a direct market exclusive maxi-series Camelot 3000 by Mike Barr and Brian Bolland.
2. Eclipse to bring Marvelman to the US as Miracleman in a 75-cent color comic book.
3. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund formed in the wake of the Friendly Frank's Comics case.
4. Movie rights cleared, Spider-Man movie coming in 2002.
5. Frank Miller to do Batman deluxe comic book The Dark Knight Returns.

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Fan Favorite Marvel Creators Bolt, Form Image Comics
2. Dave Sim Self-distributes High Society, Riling Retailers & Distributors
3. Sony, Marvel, & Stan Lee Sue Each Other Over Profits & Ownership of Spider-Man Properties
4. Eastman & Laird Self-publish TMNT, Get Filthy Rich On Their Own Terms, Subsidize Tundra Publishing & Xeric Grants
5. Comics Code Authority Withers Away

*****

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Jamie Coville

1. TokyoPop publishes Authentic Manga
2. A.C.T.O.R. (now HERO Initiative) forms
3. Siegel Heirs get 50 Percent of Superman copyright back
4. Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman self publish Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
5. 7 artists break from Marvel to form Image Comics.

*****
*****
 
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The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Needed: More Singing Teenage Cartoonists


Photos From An Exhibition Featuring The Cartoonist Klier; This Is My New Theme Song


Mr. Media Interviews Bill Griffith


A Don Martin Cartoon; The Music On Most Of These Videos Is Hilariously Great This Week


A Couple Of Young Fans Walk Around Angouleme Festival; That Really Doesn't Look Like 215,000 People


Two EC Archives Editions Compared At CCL
 
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February 4, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from January 28 to February 3, 2012:

1. Three men were convicted in Oslo for their roles in a plot against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Two were convicted under Norway's new terrorism laws; one was convicted for assisting those two men in their procurement of explosives. Jyllands-Posten published the Danish Muhammed cartoons more than a half-decade ago now.

2. Recent moves against cartoonists in India come to a head with Mumbai police serving a warrant on charges against a young cartoonist based on the flimsy ideas that 1) the state should never be criticized; 2) criticizing the actions of those operating within the government is somehow akin to sedition.

3. Jean-Claude Denis wins Grand Prix at Angouleme; other prize winners prove formidable in what is described as a really fine show despite somewhat reduced crowds.

Winner Of The Week
Seems weird to go anywhere but Angouleme this week, but come on: David Choe.

Loser Of The Week
Comics, generally, for this piece of grossness. It's like being at a dinner party that ends super-ugly; it just feels a little more rotten to be in the room.

Quote Of The Week
"Chances are, Facebook started out as a minuscule part of Choe's investment portfolio." -- Deborah L. Jacobs at Forbes, showing off her rigorous knowledge of the meticulous investment portfolio strategies of artists and cartoonists. (via Joe Gross)

*****

today's cover is from the thriving, small-press independent comics scene of the 1980s and 1990s

*****
*****
 
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If I Were In East Lansing, I'd Go To This

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

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

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February 3, 2012


You Know, That Whole Boulet Site From Yesterday Is Pretty Fun

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there's a ton of content, too; poke around
 
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Go, Look: Disney Duck Comics From Vicar

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this site strikes me as a too perfect combination of out-in-the-open obviousness and general lack of sophistication to not be approved by someone; I apologize if it isn't
 
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Go, Look: The 1986 New Woman Calendar Gag Cartoons

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Go, Read: Seth On The Moment He Knew She Was The One

There's probably something to be said in a mainstreaming of comics culture way about a cartoonist being asked to participate in a feature like this one, but mostly I just thought it was sweet and comics could use some undeniably nice stories this week. (The "she" is Seth's wife of ten years, Tania Van Spyk.)
 
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Go, Look: Sam Henderson On Sick Magazine #40

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1, 2
 
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Collective Memory: FIBD 2012

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this article has been archived
 
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If I Were In East Lansing, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Early Jim Mooney

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Gary Tyrrell continues to track Rich Burlew's Kickstarter dominance.

image* Nicolas Labarre writes about the style employed by Steve Dillon in Preacher.

* not comics: there will apparently be a Footnotes In Gaza movie. I always thought an animated version of what Joe Sacco does could be really compelling.

* Peggy Burns and Guy Delisle report on Angouleme.

* Todd Klein on Dark Horse Presents #5, Dark Horse Presents #6 and Swamp Thing #4. Andrew Shuping on Any Empire. Ed Sizemore (and Christopher) on Howard Lovecraft And The Undersea Kingdom. Kristy Valenti on Habibi and Paying For It. Sean Gaffney on Wandering Son Vol. 2. David Brothers on Wolverine: The Best There Is. John Parker on Spawn.

* I missed Diamond's 30th. Also this year's Hourly Comics Day.

* Bob reads comics.

* Martin Wisse, J. Caleb Mozzocco, Abhay Khosla and Eric Stephenson on DC's new publishing initiative.

* someone at DC Women Kicking Ass talks to Janelle Asselin. Dave Richards talks to Ed Brubaker.

* Alan Gardner reviews the new Stephan Pastis app -- and there's a lot there to review.

* if I were to read only one article today, and that one article ended up being Seth's excerpted piece at TCJ on design, that would be a fine day.

* ooh, that's nice-looking.

* finally, Jen Vaughn writes about Jeff Kinney's visit to the Center For Cartoon Studies campus.
 
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February 2, 2012


Guess Which Cartoonist/Artist Is About To Be Worth $200 Million?

Interesting artist; interesting life.
 
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Go, Read: Darkness

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via Kate Beaton
 
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Indian Cartoonist Charged By Mumbai Police; Hearing Today

It's always difficult for me to tell when there are actual developments in a slowly spiraling case like we're seeing in Indian right now with government officials and police officers making claims against the work of various cartoonists, but this looks like a real, unfortunate step forward. The young cartoonist Aseem Trivedi has apparently been booked on recent charges made against him regarding work that appears on his web site. He will face a hearing today. If I'm reading the article correctly and understanding its context, charges had been formed but not acted upon before now. Perhaps there will be some particulars of this case that emerge that could potentially change my initial, cursory view of it, but pursuing actions against a cartoonist engaged in some sort of truth-telling and opinion-making through their art on the basis that this has some sort of treasonous element merely by being criticism, that seems to me a hugely alarming thing for any democracy of any kind. The fact that it's the same police department that seems to be facilitating these recent moves seems very much worth noting as well.
 
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Go, Look: More Alex Schubert At What Things Do

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

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt 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. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

OCT111193 KRAMERS ERGOT HC VOL 08 (MR) $32.95
The alt-comics release of the week; the release of the week generally. I imagine that some people will see this latest issue as a sign of the publication's maturity and lament the time when it felt more cutting edge. I just think it's a lot of really compelling cartoonists doing work in one place. I liked this issue a lot.

imageOCT110341 JOHN ROMITA AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ARTIST ED HC PI
This doesn't have a price, but I assume it's pretty expensive. I really like this series of oversized books featuring original art, and John Romita is super-flattered by the treatment of his work in this volume. It's also just a solid, primetime, Lee/Romita-era Spider-Man collection, drawing deep from the heart of that period when Peter Parker interacted with campus radicals and outsized local crime figures and generally looked handsome between moments of trying to convince his super-pretty girlfriend he wasn't a scaredy-cat (when we know full well he isn't; he's Spider-Man!). I'm not sure if he wears an arm sling in any of these particular issues, but it feels like he should have.

NOV118137 FATALE #1 VAR CVR 2ND PTG (MR) $3.50
DEC110551 FATALE #2 (MR) $3.50
NOV110047 DARK HORSE PRESENTS #8 DONALDSON VAR CVR $7.99
NOV110046 DARK HORSE PRESENTS #8 FEGREDO CVR $7.99
NOV110798 SERGIO ARAGONES FUNNIES #7 $3.50
These were the individual comic books that made an impression on me from this week's list of releases. The Fatale is the Brubaker/Phillips comics mixing noir and horror elements. The Brubaker/Phillips comics are pretty thoughtful conceived; they included text pieces and Brubaker's comics are pretty meaty in the first place; they always feel like a good off-the-stands bargain, if you know what I mean. The Dark Horse Presents title has been intriguing in that it seems to skew older in a less apologetic way than publications of that type tend to skew. I think there's a place for a publication like that on the stands, and I think if I were less involved in terms of staring at comics I'd be super-grateful for DHP's ability to gather a lot of a specific kind of comics-making into one place.

OCT110062 ARCHIE ARCHIVES HC VOL 04 $49.99
OCT110429 MADMAN 20TH ANNIVERSARY MONSTER HC $100.00
What the super-rich folks are buying this week, along with the Romita. As always, I'm not exactly sure what distinguishes this particular collection of Archie material from other program out there, but I would certainly look at it were I in a store. I think the Madman book collects a lot of the fellow-professional art that's appeared in the various comics over the years, both comics and pin-ups. My interest in Madman is pretty limited, but I have friends for whom the series is a comics touchstone, so an expensive edition sounds about right to me in terms of matching fan to book.

NOV110209 XOMBI TP $14.99
I lost track of this one after a first issue that was mailed to what I'm guessing is DC's biggest press list (meaning I got one). Frazer Irving is always worth a look, and having a trade show up in your shop is a time-honored way of reacquainting yourself with a series, even if it's just to make a mental note to buy the individual issues when they hit the dollar box.

*****

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 failed to list your comic, that's on me. I apologize.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Three Later Jack Kirby Original Art Pages

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The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

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By Tom Spurgeon

* for some reason, I keep avoiding this article about the basic payment plan for San Diego convention center improvement falling into place. The two things that flash at me from that story is the recognition that there's a time limit before Comic-Con International starts looking at other serious suitors again, and a feeling I can't shake that some of the resistance on San Diego's part could fuel some grumpiness and resentment towards the con over the next couple of years. I don't think that gets displayed in a serious way, and isn't something that will touch you and me and the other attendees, but is more of an undercurrent that will stand in slight relief to the strong reconsideration of the economic benefits of the show that took place during the last round of negotiations.

* Naoki Urasawa will be the manga guest of honor at this summer's Japan Expo in Paris.

* Stumptown Comics Fest named a few more guests in a press release dated January 31: Ted Naifeh, Brian Hurtt, Nate Powell, Steve Lieber and Brian Churilla. Thirty-one minutes earlier, Image Expo announced another special guest: Ed Brubaker.

* missed it: Johanna Draper Carlson went to one of the Charlotte mini-cons from a couple of weeks back.
 
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Go, Look: A Few Choice Gags From The Circus Of PT Bimbo

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

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

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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: A Magnificent, Crude-Looking Golden Age Story

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Colleen Doran posts a link to a resource concerning health insurance possibilities for freelancers. "Freelancers without steady income or employee benefits packages need to be scrupulous about their health care plans." Yes, we do.

image* Dylan Horrocks is making prints now. Or he has been for a while and I just noticed.

* sometimes it's nice to read about Kickstarter campaigns where you don't know the creators involved, and you're just hearing about work that's going to get out there from someone who really want to see it done.

* Mike Kelley, RIP.

* Philip Shropshire on The Nightly News #1. Tucker Stone on a lot of comic books. Greg McElhatton on Prince Valiant Vol. 4. Grant Goggans on Superman: Panic In The Sky. Rob Clough on a bunch of mini-comics. Bart Croonenborghs on When David Lost His Voice.

* that is one bad joke. Still got a smile out of me, though. This made me chuckle.

* Brigid Alverson pulls out a major, still-active dilemma for a lot of comics publishers that depend on the Direct Market system -- agents within the system not only may choose not to carry a comic in which a fan might be interested, they are sometimes reluctant, ignorant of the work, or generally unable to get it to that potential customer. I've been in stores the last few years where I couldn't get certain Marvel comics and there was no desire from the store clerk to try and get them for me. The non-comics retailers in my small town seem infinitely more willing to work with me when there's something I want that they don't have.

image* happy birthday to Image Comics, which turned twenty yesterday. You can argue whether or not they've always been a beneficial entity, both in terms of the work they've facilitated and the way they've conducted their business within the industry. Still, after yesterday's big comic book publishing news story, they look like a model of sanity and self-actualization, and I certainly think they've been an overwhelmingly positive force for a number of creators.

* Albert Ching talks to Mark Waid.

* hey, here's some Dean Mullaney shelf porn.

* Ben Morse picks a bunch of forthcoming mainstream comic book covers that he likes. I like a pair of those quite a bit -- the more stylized ones.

* someone out there -- I think probably Robot 6 -- caught this massive, general update post from Kate Beaton post-release of her Hark! A Vagrant book. It includes word that she's using a Tumblr account now for some material not directly related to new cartoon work.

* Eric Stephenson talks about Image's latest series of comics advertisements.

* I'm all for creators expressing political opinions through their work, but talking about that work in the same, boring, reduced way that all politics get talked about right now seems incredibly dull and limited to me.

* Archie Andrews' recent career as an imaginary groom is kind of weird, if you stop and think about it.

* a second issue of the Justice League series will ship late. The thing that's distressing about this isn't that it will enrage fans or sell poorly (enraged fans aren't a worry for companies like DC; the comic will sell like gangbusters). What bothers is that there won't be consequences, and the benefits for publishing on time are the kind of thing that are subtle and develop over time. So it seems like a step back from the total commitment mostly likely needed to see any real benefit.

* finally, J. Caleb Mozzocco caught news of a name change that I totally missed. Holy moly.
 
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February 1, 2012


Go, Look: More From Joel Orff's Jubilee One

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Additional Round Of Heavenly Blessings To Faith Erin Hicks

I've recently been spotlighting creators that have been forthright about their financial situations, a little-discussed topic that because it's not talked about in an honest and forthright fashion leads to a lot of people making uniformed decisions about their careers and lives. I nearly missed calling attention to Faith Erin Hicks doing the same thing as Dorothy Gambrell and Ryan Estrada in terms of such an on-line missive, mostly because I was held in rapt horror by the negative reaction in a few places to what seemed to be Hicks' pretty straight-forward presentation of her situation and how she feels about it. Just because it's obvious that none of us are ever going to have the exact same views over what constitutes "a lot of," "enough" or "not nearly enough" money doesn't mean these discussions aren't worth having. They are, and hopefully they will continue. Thank you, Faith.
 
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OTBP: Peter Kuper's E-Book Drawn To New York

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Go, Read: Gary Arlington Profiled In San Francisco Chronicle

According to this profile in the San Francisco Chronicle, Gary Arlington had a book from Last Gasp this previous Spring. Wow, I totally missed that. That is a book with no reason to exist and I'm in love with it already. Arlington is like the Yuri Gagarin of direct market retail, and a key figure in comics history.
 
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Not Comics: Marge's King Kojo

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Charles Vess Donates Book Of Ballads Material To LOC

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Charles Vess sent out a press release yesterday that he's received an official letter of acknowledgment from Allene Hayes at the Library Of Congress for his donation of 132 original pages of art from his The Book Of Ballads project to the library. Vess also included notated scripts and early layouts for each story with his donation. Hayes is the USAN Acting Chief at the library.

The material is from Vess' adaptation project of works from songs with a basis in the oral tradition of England and Scotland. The release lists participating writers as Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Sharyn McCrumb, Charles de Lint, Jeff Smith, Midori Snyder, Emma Bull, Graham Pratt, Elaine Lee, Delia Sherman, Lee Smith and Vess. The Eisner award-winning project was begun in 1995 and finished with a hardcover collection in 2004.

The material will be kept with another comics and related work in the library's Prints and Photographs Division.

image of work by Jeff Smith and Charles Vess provided by Vess
 
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Go, Look: Some Collier's Gag Cartoons From 1945

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

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Go, Look: Maurice Bramley

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* congratulations to Tom Hart on opening the SAW space last Friday.

image* Paul Conrad's "chain reaction" sculpture, likely the most compelling and controversial piece of public art ever done by a cartoonist, is in the midst of another round of remove it/save it scrutiny.

* here's a well-traveled link about the creation of a Brilliant Mind Of Edison Lee book and how not fitting in with corporate publishing plans for any such book freed up the creators to more extensively curate the final result.

* Tim O'Shea talks to Woodrow Phoenix.

* Alan Gardner catches Jim Borgman musing over the international publishing program for Zits.

* not comics: I don't have full access to the story, but it's worth noting that someone out there is still buying newspapers. One of the unfortunate things about the rhetoric surrounding the troubles that newspapers have had over the last half-decade is how absolute it's been. While it's true that newspapers may eventually go all the way away, that's not a given: if the overriding logic employed was an automatic thing, we wouldn't have radio now and newspapers would have died about 1924. Just because the Internet and general reader apathy are huge concerns and there's no longer a monopoly held by these companies in terms of display advertising doesn't necessarily mean there's no value in locally branded news organization or even a certain kind of display advertising outlet. I think it's unclear as of yet how much of what we've seen is a decline of newspaper issues and how much is that newspapers were uniquely vulnerable via such issues as overstaffing and underproduction.

* Hayley Campbell on The Eyes Of The Cat.

* so Tom Brevoort has apparently unearthed multiple unused Jack Kirby Hulk pages. That's pretty astonishing. Also: shouldn't any 1960s art found at Marvel go right from Mr. Brevoort's scanner into a Fed Ex envelope to the families? Maybe that's been announced, I don't know. UPDATE: Kurt Busiek writes in to cuff me up side my head and remind me that Brevoort is showing scans and Xeroxes from his personal collection, not original art. My bad; my apologies.

* not comics: the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com caught that Barnes and Noble has applied the "you go exclusive with Amazon/you go right ahead and go all the way exclusive with Amazon" hammer on someone other than DC Comics. I think this means that the shot across the bow represented by that move against DC didn't work. I'm not certain that this will have the desired effect specifically; I'm even less certain whether this is a sign that Amazon is totally going to win in this particular tug-of-war or if it's simply that book publishers -- like DC, as I pointed out at that time -- have certain goals they can meet in the short term that don't really feel the impact of a Barnes and Noble move like this one more than they'll reap the benefits from said short-term strategy.

* we're still doing the Collective Memory for Angouleme, but the wrap-up by Matthias Wivel at TCJ is good enough you might want to go ahead and read it from this link or the one I'll put in the conventions column tomorrow. The festival's treatment of manga really intrigues me.

* DC announces a new series of books with Darwyn Cooke, Lee Bermejo, others.

* finally, the comics historian RC Harvey takes a long look at the surprisingly convoluted origins of Mary Worth.
 
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