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
















April 30, 2012


Go, Look: Guardian On Rejected New Yorker Covers

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Cartoonist Wins Judgment In Anti-Semitism Case

According to wire stories appearing this morning, there's been movement in the Vauro Senesim anti-Semitism case, with a judge ruling that Senesim's humanitarian work means that he can't be called anti-Semitic.

Senesim had been accused of being anti-Semitic for a cartoon featuring the Italian politician Fiamma Nirenstein. Senesim had depicted the Jewish Nirenstin as wearing a Star Of David mixed with other, various fascist imagery. This led to an opinion piece about Senesim from the journalist Giuseppe Caldarola critical of that cartoon. That article led to a lawsuit cartoonist to journalist.

Caldarola was fined $33K in January in a related decision, a decision that was criticized by various Jewish organizations.
 
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Go, Look: This Nonsense

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Hints Of A Movement To Donate After Seeing Avengers Movie

imageI've been seeing hints here and there of people asking others to donate the cost of a ticket to this week's anticipated-by-many-funnybook-fans Avengers movie (from the comic created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) to one of comics' established charities: the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund or the Hero Initiative. You may or may not come across such a request this week; I thought it was worth giving you a heads-up and alerting you to the possibility.

I am in broad terms pro-people doing whatever they believe is moral, just pro that general mindset. I also don't have much in the way of critical acumen when it comes to deciding which strategy of any kind, boycott or bonus-payment or wholehearted watching without guilt, really gets at the heart of any one matter, particularly employing a "this is the one that will affect the change desired" criterion. I think it's great anytime anyone wants to send money to organizations that do admirable work, though, and if those two organizations benefit this week because of the opening of a movie I think that's a good thing: those organizations can put any money to good use, matinee or full-admission amounts.
 
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Go, Look: Dustin Nguyen

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* here are a couple of successful Kickstarter projects: the Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray effort; one for The Smut Peddler. You can still get on those if you desire.
 
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Go, Look: Mikkel Sommer

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If I Were In Iowa City, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Stupid Monsters

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Charles Brownstein remembers Cory Marder.

image* For some reason I have bookmarked this article on 10 "harmful" novels for aspiring writers to copy. My apologies to whomever provided the link initially, because I don't remember who that was. The stuff I read through aspiring writers tends to be Harper Lee and/or one of those mystery-writer ladies of the kind that pen barely-concealed Mary Sue characters that are constantly being awesome all the time, although I suppose I read my fair share of Kerouac pastiches among my friends' work 15-20 years ago. The two works I wanted to write for myself when I was much younger were Tristessa and a prose version of "Bullnecks and Bracelets." The obvious place to go with this would be the cartoonists that are bad for young cartoonists on which to get hung up, although I would assume this would also be a list of awesome cartoonists, like Robert Crumb and Jack Kirby.

* some nice person on Psychiatric Tales. Kim Deitch on Harvey Pekar's Cleveland. The team of Tucker Stone, Jog and Abhay Khosla Three Stooges an entire bar of costumed people. Rob Clough on Hilda And The Costumed Giant.

* the secret heart of comics, Frank Santoro, moves from home to home across America.

* Alex Dueben talks to Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir and Emma Vieceli. Steve Jansen profiles Ted Closson. Gavin Lees talks to James Stokoe.

* not comics: Paul Di Filippo sent along this link to some nice old bicycle posters.

* not comics: Joel Meadows gave me a heads-up on his review of the Avengers movie. I haven't read it yet, and I'm not going to run a bunch of these, but Joel was at one point my go-to guy for learning about things in high-end genre comics. I note that Bob Temuka among the writers I regularly read has also done an advance review. It seems silly to me that one of the assistants to one of the actors that plays one of the characters in the film may in the next couple of weeks be treated with greater solicitousness at a string of these movie events than certain creators of massive chunks of what is delighting people onscreen were treated in their lifetimes. Are treated. I know that probably sounds moral and judgmental and deeply tragic and wounded, but I really am just mostly struck these days by the goofy, willful churlishness of it. We should be nicer.

* finally, Mark Smylie writes about going to a film-oriented convention in Dubai.
 
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April 29, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: Nick Abadzis

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*****

This Spring sees a new edition of Nick Abadzis' alt-classic Deadline serial Hugo Tate, this time out from super-solid boutique publisher Blank Slate Books. It's a good home for an intriguing comic. A slice of life story perhaps best known for the formal play embodied in the drawing style employed for its character designs, Hugo Tate proves a fascinating window to the rapid growth in alt-comics' ambition and execution now almost a quarter century in the rear view mirror. One hopes this latest edition is the seminal one, or at least one that will stay in print for a while.

I spoke to Abadzis several years ago for his kids book Laika, and I've long admired how he seems to get the most out of each project on his plate. I think he's a very, very good talker about comics in addition to being a fine cartoonist, so I jumped at a chance to discuss with him this first major work. This was conducted via e-mail; I tweaked a tiny bit for flow and clarity. -- Tom Spurgeon

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imageTOM SPURGEON: I want to ask a Laika question to start things out. That book came out in 2007, but it has more of a presence in my mind than a lot of books that have come out since. It strikes me that you got pretty thoroughly involved with that one, that you were present through a pretty laborious research project right on through doing speech for publicity support. Is that a fair characterization? Do you think you maximize these experiences while you're going through them? What will you take away from Laika?

NICK ABADZIS: Yes, that's a fair characterization. Laika started out as an idea for something fairly short that just grew the more I researched it. My ideas grew, the depth that went into the research grew as one piece of information led to another and I realized that to do it justice I'd really have to throw myself into it. It became a labor of love -- I always try to give my best to any story or creative project I take on, but Laika was a giant sponge that just soaked up everything I could give, and still does, to a certain extent.

I still get asked a lot about that book -- it's one of First Second's bestsellers, so I guess it's what I'm most known for here in the US. The making of it was completely immersive and although it was exhausting it was without doubt one of the best creative experiences of my life. It taught me a hell of a lot, stretched me and allowed me to put into effect many storytelling ideas that I'd had for years but never really had the canvas upon which to try them. I like that it's out there still finding readers. It feels like I did the job properly. I'm sure I won't be the last person to tell Laika's story -- even since the book's publication, so much new information has come to light. But, as a graphic novel, as a piece of thoroughly researched storytelling with its own sense of drama, I'm proud of it.

SPURGEON: When we talked five years or so ago, you mentioned a Hugo Tate collection as a possible next project. How did that develop, then, from you deciding you wanted to maybe do it to having the book come out? Did you shop it around... ?

ABADZIS: I did shop it around -- originally Dark Horse were going to do it. I met Diana Schutz in 2008 and she was enthusiastic but for one reason or another it got put to one side. I was grateful to Diana for being very honest and straightforward about the fact that, after the worldwide economic crisis, lots of potential projects were put to one side that they might have taken a punt on previously -- she didn't think she'd be able to get it off the ground in the current climate. After that, I offered it to several other publishers, all of whom were more interested in me doing new material for them, which is fair enough. I think Darryl Cunningham suggested I ask Kenny Penman of Blank Slate Books if he'd like to do it, or at least Darryl put the idea in my mind. I asked Kenny sometime in 2010 and he just understood what it was immediately and said yes straight away.

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To give you a wider context -- after finishing Laika, I got involved in doing a newspaper strip The Times (UK) called The Trial of the Sober Dog, which I'd envisaged as a more lightweight project, something I could do before my next book for First Second (originally Skin Trouble and which I'm now calling Foreigners as a working title). Sober Dog nearly killed me -- The Times asked for a "graphic novel," something with lots of text to not "frighten" their readers, then gave me two weeks' prep time! I flogged my guts out on it. That finished in 2009, then I got involved as a consultant in helping set up a children's weekly comic for David Fickling, which eventually became The DFC. It was funded by Random House, who pulled the plug when the worldwide economic crisis hit, but it's since found private funding and been reincarnated as The Phoenix, which is a nice turn of events. After the first version went down, everybody in publishing was broke including me so I took whatever editorial work I could and did that while I worked on Foreigners.

Foreigners is very loosely based on my dad's life and my wife's dad's life. My dad was an Alexandrian Greek who came to London in the mid-'50s to learn English. My wife's dad was a Jamaican whose first language was English, albeit spoken with an accent, so the book's broadly about migration, immigration and the hurdles people encounter when trying to integrate into a new society. I did a lot of research, interviewing family members and messing around with various ways of telling the story. I put it down and picked it up several times that year, and realized it was going to be something else I had to take time to do properly. It wasn't just several anecdotal stories I could string together, it was something I had to really nail the narrative structure for to make it accessible and involving for a reader.

All the while, there was the idea of moving to the USA, an idea my wife had mooted while I'd been over promoting Laika, which had done really well internationally. It won an Eisner here and a bunch of other awards and nominations elsewhere, so if ever we were going make this move, now was the time. The idea of living somewhere else for a while, especially a creative hub like New York City, was incredibly appealing, so we put in for green card -- this would've been late 2007. Right after that international economic crisis, we discovered that we'd been given an open status -- basically an invitation to come and live in the USA as "an alien of extraordinary ability," but we had to do it within this time frame that US Immigration gives you. So much of 2009 was spent frantically making arrangements to move to New York, finding an apartment, finding a school for our young daughter, that sort of thing.

Hugo Tate was there in the background all along, and I thought it might be a good project to do to bridge the gap between Laika, Foreigners and whatever else I took on, because I didn't want to let the momentum I'd generated on Laika to fall away. Foreigners was proving to be trickier to tackle than I'd first thought, and I felt I needed to do it right, but I needed to be settled to do it. We officially moved to the USA at the beginning of 2010. Looking back, I don't know how we did it -- most people do it under the umbrella of a business or educational institution. We did it off our own back with far fewer resources. We were completely crazy.

One of the first things I did when I got here was fly to San Francisco and do a lecture at Stanford University -- I was invited by Adam Johnson who runs a graphic novel course for the English Department there. Adam had also been kind enough to arrange for me to do a second gig at Cal Poly for a colleague of his. We drove down the Californian coast and during the trip, stopped off at an amazing beach looking out over the Pacific Ocean. It reminded me of that scene near the end of Hugo Tate and I thought, "It really is time to do that book."

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SPURGEON: I thought we might see a third Hugo Tate book from you before we saw another collection, but a text piece in the new edition indicates we may never see that book. Is that where you're leaning now? You make the point that life is full of abrupt endings and people checking out, so it's not like the narrative thus far needs more chapters, but it also feels like you left a lot of material on the table, as it were. Is there an aspect you'd most regret not being able to explore?

ABADZIS: I'd never say never. It's not a conclusive, "That'll never happen!" It's more a question of where it is in the queue -- I'm getting more and more aware that there is limited time in life to tackle all the ideas one has and turn them into books. That, and actually get paid enough for it to manage to scrape a living.

However, over the years I've often thought about those characters and I actually drew a little bit of new material for the book and revisited a couple of them. It was always my intention to give each of Hugo's three sidekicks in Book 1 (A London Sequence) some stories of their own. Thanks to contractual disagreements at the time with Deadline, I managed one each for Stan and Dorinda but not Jason so I added a few pages between Books 1 and 2 to address that.

Looking back over all my old notes for Hugo III I don't think I had the same clarity of purpose that I did for Book 2 (O, America). I was ambitious but I'd fulfilled a certain amount of what I'd wanted to do and I think I was afraid that I might not be doing Hugo III for the right reasons. Plus I was going through a divorce -- I'd got married very young and extricating myself from that took up a lot of my emotional energy.

I do remember being amazed that publishers couldn't see the potential in it, though (I'm talking British publishers in the early '90s here), in comics generally. Everyone was talking about the "coming of the graphic novel" but what they were really talking about was Batman reprints or new spins on the superhero. No one could see the talent that was right in front of them, being published regularly in Deadline and elsewhere or doing their own mini-comics across the country. In that sense I was disappointed that it didn't go anywhere.

I do find myself wondering sometimes what would've happened if I'd continued to just build a whole world around those characters, post-Deadline. My career's been jury-rigged around lots of different aspects of publishing, both behind and in front of the editorial desk and I don't regret anything as such. But sometimes I do find myself wishing that I'd found a publisher, early on, who'd believed in me and allowed me the sort of creative freedom that I saw other cartoonists abroad getting. But it didn't happen that way, and I'm a practical sort of bloke, so I just worked bloody hard and hoped that eventually something would occur, which it did.

imageSPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about how the feature developed in Deadline? Some of your writing on this is pretty coy. My hunch is that you were looking for work generally and that when this work was pulled out by the editors, what that means is this is the work they were most interested in publishing. Is that fair to say? What were your intentions going in?

ABADZIS: Coy? As in reluctant to talk about it? Not really.

SPURGEON: Coy as in less than fully forthcoming. It's more that I'm perplexed by the tone with which some of the details of its initial publication have been communicated; I can't quite get at the reality of it.

ABADZIS: The story of me sticking my head over the partition between my studio and Steve [Dillon] and Brett [Ewins]' is true. I had no idea that they were next door until the friends I shared my studio space with told me. Both studio mates knew Steve and Brett, so there was a sort of ready-made introduction there. It was incredible luck, but it wasn't as if we didn't have some kind of nominal connection, although up until that point I'd never met them.

I was looking for work, definitely, and I'd worked at Marvel UK as an editor -- at that time, the youngest they'd ever had -- but I wanted to explore what comics could do. I was a member of this organization called The London Cartoon Centre which was a charity overseen by Dave Lloyd, who'd always been very encouraging. I contributed to anthologies created there by a group of budding cartoonists (Sean Azzopardi and Steve Marchant amongst them) and I'd had a few humor strips published by Marvel UK -- I did the back-up feature in Thundercats. I'd also self-published my own minis but I didn't really know how to get my work out there. I'd gone freelance from Marvel UK and was surviving on inking, coloring and lettering work for them and Fleetway who published 2000AD, where much of Steve and Brett's prior work was published.

Steve and Brett were the comics generation before mine, but still very young themselves, still wanting to make a noise and do something different and that's why they created Deadline. I suppose when they saw this grimy child purporting to be a cartoonist looking down at them from the gap in the ceiling asking for an interview they took pity on me. I'd been searching for a direction and Deadline came along at exactly the right time -- it really was amazingly fortuitous.

They looked at everything I had in my portfolio, most of which was not very run of the mill. I might've had some giant robots in there, some humor stuff but I didn't draw superheroes -- I didn't know how to. There was probably also a lot of horror in there, stuff with tube trains mutating into giant skulls -- that was one I remember. There were a few Hugo Tates (at that time the character was unnamed) but only one actual, finished strip, which is the one Brett and Steve chose. I can actually remember Brett peering at it closely and saying, "Yeah, we'll have this. Can you do us two or three pages like that every month?"

imageWithin Deadline, Hugo quickly became pretty successful -- to everyone's surprise I think, mine most of all. I think Brett conceived of it as an angry, punky/skin'ead kid back-up strip, something primarily pretty jokey whose style would both offset and complement the more obvious leads like Tank Girl, Johnny Nemo and Wired World. I got a lot of encouragement from Steve Dillon to really stretch it though, especially after I delivered the fourth strip, "Bread and Liver." Steve really loved that one and wanted more in that vein, and that seemed to be where I was heading anyway so that's what I did.

After about the first year or so, Steve left Deadline to retreat to Dublin because he was having problems with the taxman, and Brett took sole editorship. I missed Steve and shortly afterwards, Brett became ill and left too. I didn't know it at the time but I suppose he was suffering from the first signs of what would become his schizophrenia. I can remember us all going to Angouleme in January 1991, which was a pretty insane trip -- lots of laughs, and the whole world of BD before us, but also Brett getting a bit intense. When Brett left it did feel a bit like the end of an era, because the whole thing up until then had been powered by his and Steve's manic energy. I missed their enthusiasm and belief that we could change the face of British comics.

Tom Astor (Deadline's funder) then asked Dave Elliott to take over as caretaker editor. I remember Dave being supportive but I don't think he'd dispute that he was, generally speaking, a mainstream guy, more interested in superheroes and SF than breaking new ground specifically. We'd been friends before he took over anyway and he liked Hugo Tate and indeed all the other characters I did for the mag so things continued as normal.

After Dave left to set up Atomeka, the UK's arm of Tundra*, Tom Astor asked me to be editor. This was when we were coming to some sort of agreement over a contract dispute (more on that later). I didn't believe I could be editor and do a decent job on Hugo Tate at the same time and so I suggested Si Spencer, a writer with whom I'd worked on a zine from out of Sheffield published by an old Forbidden Planet cohort of mine, Adrian Dungworth. Si took the job, spending two or three weeks every month down in London from Sheffield where he was based and I duly launched into what became O, America, the second series of Hugo Tate.

At that point, I was very determined to develop the strip. It seemed to have a real following so I wanted to do something that I felt to be worthy of the attention. I decided to focus on Hugo's misadventures in America -- I thought I'd save tying up the stuff with his London friends for later. I had a loose plan for an overall story arc, but otherwise it pretty much developed organically, from month to month. I think I took an issue's break here and there to do shorter, one-off strips because writing, drawing and lettering ten pages of fairly intense stuff every issue was quite exhausting.

SPURGEON: How much did Hugo exist on a continuum with other comics? I know it's been compared to Eddie Campbell's work and to Jaime Hernandez's work, but were you actively looking at other cartoonist's material? Did you feel of a part with any other cartoonists?

ABADZIS: Both Eddie Campbell and the Hernandez Brothers were huge inspirations. I'd discovered Eddie Campbell when I was working at Forbidden Planet in the late '80s, before I'd started working for Marvel UK. These were the Alec/King Canute Crowd pamphlets, these sort of A4 booklets with glossy one-color covers. Bacchus came out not long after those -- devoured all that stuff.

Love and Rockets I'd found a year or two earlier, on a trip to the USA. I was already reading them by the time I was working in FP anyway, so must've discovered them in '84 or '85. They made a massive impression on me. I still think that Jaime Hernandez portrays emotion better than almost anyone else in comics, and it's a cumulative effect, not something that's contained within a single drawing. It's as much contained in the gutters between panels and pages, in the areas and instances he chooses not to show as well as those he does. Gilbert [Hernandez] did that too in a lot of his earlier work, especially Human Diastrophism, which I think is still one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It is an incredibly skilled, supremely nuanced ability, an understanding of pacing and timing coupled with a deep honesty and sense of observation. So it wasn't just the drawing skills I aspired to, but the unseen work, the choices made in what moments of time to show.

There was RAW, too. One time when I was working in Forbidden Planet, Gary Panter visited and I was the only person who knew who he was! I was blown away -- we got him to sign the two copies of Invasion of the Elvis Zombies that we had in stock, one of which I took. He also did a drawing for me on the back of a Forbidden Planet flyer -- I still have that sketch. Mustn't forget the occasional publication of Weirdo also, which you weren't supposed to like in the '80s if you had vaguely post-punk feminist politics. But I couldn't help liking it -- a bit of Crumb or Dori Seda now and then was a shot in the arm, hilariously off-color in the face of received wisdom. I loved that. When Peter Bagge took over editorship of Weirdo it became, to my mind, one of the best anthology comics ever published. There was also stuff around like Moebius, Richard Corben, Angus McKie doing work for Metal Hurlant or Heavy Metal; 2000AD was at its zenith with artists like Mike McMahon, Brendan McCarthy, Carlos Ezquerra and Ian Gibson. And of course, Steve Dillon and Brett Ewins, who I didn't know yet -- all with scripts written by the likes of Pat Mills, Pete Milligan, Alan Moore and [John] Wagner and [Alan] Grant.

Those were my inspirations. But these guys seemed a world away from where I was at that point -- they were the generation above me and many of them were glamorous foreigners in countries that had much more developed comic industries than the UK. It was a dream to ever be as good as any of them were. I didn't think I'd ever be able to touch that world or that sort of ability. When I began working on Deadline, there was this sort of incredible energy welling up, a desire to be as good as the dream. That I suppose, is what I was aiming at and is part of the reason why the look of Hugo Tate changed as much as it did.

I think I still have a bit of that -- disbelief that I might actually be a decent cartoonist. It provokes me, even now. I think that's the British part of me, not the Greek. There's always a sneaking suspicion that you might actually be a bit shit. I'm experienced enough now to know that in fact, this small bit of dead fly in the ointment is sometimes what makes good drawing, what actually makes it fluid and alive. There needs to be a rough edge, a connection to something larger than itself to give it some soul.

On Deadline, I met Glenn Dakin, who is good friends with Eddie Campbell so it's weird maybe that I never met him then -- when did he leave for Australia? I've since met him, spent a couple of hilarious evenings with him in San Diego in 2008 and he did not disappoint. He should be recognized as a national treasure in the UK.

I'm not sure I answered your question precisely -- I suppose I didn't feel "part" of comics -- although there were people I knew, people I was meeting like Garth Ennis, Dave Hine, Warren Pleece, Paul Peart-Smith who would become peers, friends and fellow travelers from the UK scene.

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SPURGEON: I read in an interview somewhere that you had art you had traded with a couple of the other Deadline guys. Was there a culture surrounding that publication? Do you have fond memories of what they were trying to accomplish there? What happened to that kind of British comics publishing in the early-/mid-1990s? I get the sense the whole thing kind of crumbled a bit, but I'm not sure why and I'm not sure what it was like from a cartoonist's perspective.

ABADZIS: I've got some Tank Girl art from Jamie Hewlett, a piece from Timulo by Matt Brooker alias D'Israeli, and several pieces by Ed Perryman, who has since changed his name back to Bagwell. I'm not sure if anyone knew what they were trying to accomplish exactly, at least not initially. At the outset it was pretty shambolic -- just a common desire to make good comics, comics different to the ones already out there.

I remember weekends spent down in Worthing at Jamie Hewlett's house with Philip Bond, Alan Martin and Glyn Dillon in attendance. They seemed to live in this suspended, endless summertime down there, while I was a London kid, somewhere between middle and working class. My mother is a real old Londoner and my Dad was a foreigner and I had a funny surname so I was never someone who "belonged" exactly. Worthing seemed to be in an alternative world to London, a very fertile one. I liked all those guys and was enormously impressed by their creative energy. In the greater sphere of early Deadline, there was a sense of being the kids with Steve and Brett as your "comics dads." (I told Steve that recently and he laughed and protested that he's only a few years older than me, which is true. But back then a few years was a lot of experience and Steve had started early -- his output has always been prodigious, so he seemed to be a bit of a guru.)

In the first couple of years it was pretty chaotic -- you used to deliver your artwork and if you timed it for the right time of day, you'd get taken for a pint or three down the pub. Brett introduced me to Brendan McCarthy whose work I greatly admired and who it turned out lived up the road from me. He was very kind to me -- he used to give me weird little jobs on the side, mostly stuff he was doing for 2000AD but also helping him do strange advertising jobs, like lettering strips about talking hamburgers for fast-food chains. I got my first-ever professional inking job from Brendan, who was very patient with me messing up the beautiful pencils he'd done for a text story for a 2000AD annual. If you paid attention, those early days of Deadline were a supremely fertile, anarchic university of comics.

Deadline hosted a few parties and you used to see Shaky Kane, Yoann Chivard (now tremendously successful in his native France), John McCrea, Warren and Gary Pleece, Garth Ennis and anyone who was anyone who happened to be around. But Deadline itself was a bit like a pop group -- a lot of young, highly creative egos getting along at first and then slowly starting to develop in their own directions, chafing at anything they saw as a constraint. There was always a bit of friction between Jamie and Matt Brooker, which grated a bit because I liked Matt and admired his work. Jamie was the undisputed star early on because of Tank Girl but there was a hell of a lot of other good work happening. I loved Phil Bond's stuff -- I'm not sure he's ever been recognized for how good and ahead-of-its-time Wired World was. It was tremendously whimsical and strange and anchored by the friendship between the two main characters, Pippa and Liz. He was as good at capturing the small nuances of interpersonal relationships as he was at portraying the fantastical situations they found themselves in. Glenn Dakin's Herriman-esque Temptation remains one of my favorite strips ever. Shaky Kane used to channel the spirit of some parallel universe Kirby.

There were a lot of contributors who came along after the first wave who were also supremely talented: Rachael Ball, Ed 'Ilya' Hillyer, Glyn Dillon, Evan Dorkin, Jonathan Edwards, Chris Webster, Jon Beeston to name just a few. They even reprinted a lot of Jaime Hernandez' work from Love and Rockets. I adored Rachael Ball's work. I think she's been unjustly forgotten. And why isn't Ed Hillyer an international star? Ed never made things easy for himself but what a talent. All these hugely inventive creators were left to languish when the bottom fell out of the British comics industry in the mid-'90s. It all seemed to dry up fairly suddenly and be replaced by licensed properties. That was partially due to the fluctuations of the American market, but partly due to publishers not really wanting to touch comics. Remember the CD-ROM revolution? We were all told the future of publishing was the CD-ROM. They pumped money into that.

I know that Deadline certainly influenced the rest of comics publishing in the UK -- you wouldn't have had titles like Crisis or Revolver otherwise. But looking back I'm not sure it was ever sustainable for anyone who was doing the kind of thing that would be called "alternative" or "indie" these days. It only really kept going because Tom Astor put money into it. Mainstream British publishing itself simply wasn't ready to recognize what we now call the graphic novel as a form -- that would take another 15 to 20 years. Even now, you have to carve out your own niche.

SPURGEON: How self-aware was the Hugo Tate work as you were doing it? I don't mean strictly in the "how much of that is you" sense, but more generally were you attempting to figure things out from your life on paper, trying to reflect experiences you had, or were you coming at more analytically, as a genre to be explored?

ABADZIS: I wanted to make both the characters and the background detail seem authentic but I was also conscious that I was working in a medium that offered a lot of potential to tell stories in a way that hadn't necessarily been done before. I was trying to truthfully reflect the world as I knew it, get it down on paper, but there was the artifice of the main character with his Tintin features or his "Charlie Brown head" as Steve Whitaker once put it.

It's really difficult to backtrack your way through a creative project after the fact, even moreso with Hugo Tate, which is nearly 20 years distant now. I think I was aware that I was reaching for something, I was trying my best to be reasonably original. The initial strips weren't penciled, they were just inked straight onto the page after I wrote them -- I'm not sure I even did thumbnails in those days; I just wrote out the dialog then put it straight down on the page in an effort to keep it fresh. After the third strip, I began writing them more carefully, structuring them. I started to pencil them, albeit loosely. I was learning, experimenting right there on the page.

I suppose by this point, there was an analytical elements to my thinking, yes, because any wilder ideas I got went into different, more fantastical strips, like Night of the Living Fish or the Pleebus strips. I kept Hugo set in a recognizable world, even though he was still a stick-man. That seemed to be its strength, so I stuck with it.

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SPURGEON: I'm guessing this is a question you probably answered a lot back then, but I bet a lot of people are coming at this work new. The stylistic choices. First, the fact that it was essentially stick-figure humor comics at first -- how much of that was a conscious choice on your part to do that kind of comics, and how much was that you were limited in terms of what you could portray on the page?

ABADZIS: The original drawing style came about because I had very little confidence in my own abilities as an artist, even though I loved drawing. I didn't think I was any good, but I wanted to do comics. I invented Hugo to free me from having to do intensely detailed art, which I thought was the norm for British comics. I look back at some of the other stuff I did at the time, and I don't know why I thought that, because I was nowhere near as bad as I thought I was, but there you are. You're seldom the best judge of your own work, especially at that age.

What I found by adopting that approach was that my drawing was fine and it didn't matter if it didn't look super-slick. It gave rise to this sort of free-form, dynamic expressionism which allowed me to gain confidence by concentrating on the storytelling. It allowed me to concentrate on what I was really interested in, the way of capturing a sense of time, the balance of the overall look of a page. And as the storytelling came together, the art became more detailed, although I don't think I ever lost the desire for an expressive line. In turn the tone of the strip changed -- it still had funny moments but I suppose the humor was darker and arose from situations the characters found themselves in rather than being specifically generated by the characters themselves.

SPURGEON: Second, the decision to keep Hugo featureless through most of the book may be the work's defining feature. It seems like you're going for a central metaphor of the unformed human being, but is there anything else in that conscious decision to keep him so roughly drawn?

ABADZIS: I happened upon the metaphor. It wasn't deliberate at the outset, it was luck -- and I'm sure, a good degree of subconscious influence. I'd read a hell of a lot of Tintin and Peanuts as a child, so that was all in my cartooning DNA. I was aware that the look of Hugo, his blankness, was something that was appealing. I was also aware of how Tintin worked, that his tabula rasa qualities play a big part in drawing the reader in, so there was a conscious element of messing around with those ideas.

Once I realized I could make something of it, once I'd taken the decision that everything around Hugo would slowly become more figurative, I ran with it and tried to tie things together as well as I could. You get a passing acknowledgement of how he "sees" his flatmate Rufus towards the end of A London Sequence, which I hope sells why Rufus is drawn similarly to Hugo for almost all of his appearances; why Edie and Hugo's dad appear that way in the early strips. Later, as Edie assumes a more parental role, her appearance changes, but this seemed natural because by that point in the story Hugo was evolving, too.

I do remember conversations with Steve Dillon about this, especially when I began developing the supporting cast of characters. He noticed I was keeping Hugo "blank-faced" and encouraged it; he felt it was important. It seemed a way of channeling emotion, of conveying it in sincere terms. It was also Steve who helped me solve the problem of how Rufus appeared, of how to explain it when the rest of the drawing style around that character was becoming more sophisticated. Steve was a great mentor and we used to shoot these ideas around; I can recall being privy to a lot of his absolutely innate understanding of the mechanics of comic book storytelling.

Both Steve and Brett also really liked Mr. Pleebus, which is the blank-faced comic character taken to an extreme -- he didn't even have language, only the word "Pleebus" or variations thereof. He first appeared as a doodle in one of Hugo's dreams and then spun off into his own strips, but for all that character's silliness, it was still me playing with the idea of the neutral personality, the invitation to the reader to play the part of the character.

SPURGEON: Third, you play around quite a bit with the more general look -- how much is stylized and how much is more rendered in a representational sense, for example. When are you most satisfied with the way Hugo looked? What worked best for the feature from your standpoint just in terms of basic visual approach?

ABADZIS: I don't know if I was ever satisfied with it per se. I rarely am satisfied with anything I do -- I get a bit restless and move on quickly after I finish a book. The evolution of the character's look, of the whole strip, is partially down to that restlessness. Back then, I can remember looking at a page I'd recently finished and just seeing mistakes, or things I'd do differently. I'm a lot more forgiving of myself these days, and have a lot more fun with it.

At the time, I definitely was on a trip to make Hugo's world convincing. I became a much more confident artist and storyteller during the run of the strip. If you'd have asked me that question back then, I'd have replied unequivocally that it would be the later pages of O, America. I do still like those pages, although I wonder what the hell I was thinking with all the zip-a-tone. Zip-a-tone was sort of a Deadline tradition -- Jamie, Philip and Matt used it to great effect and I remember someone giving me a huge wad of the stuff; all sorts of dot resolutions and patterns. I went overboard on using it for that second book, and it makes the art very much of its time.

Looking at it now, I feel the earlier work has a greater charm -- I can forgive my younger self for trying so hard, for attempting to overcome the limitations he thought he had. I like the looser lines.

SPURGEON: One thing that pops up in the story that I noticed this time around is how effectively you portray family relationships. There's a generosity there, an ease of being around siblings that you nail pretty hard. You don't always sees brothers and sister and mothers and fathers in these things, and in this one, the sisters are key people and the father is a huge driving force. Why show Hugo's family?

ABADZIS: Seemed to be the natural thing to do. My own family is quite close-knit, on both English and Greek sides, so perhaps that's just how I perceive family. Bar one dream sequence, Hugo's mother is noticeably absent but she was due to turn up in Book 3. My family are my friends, so it seems natural enough to put something similar into the stories I tell. I mean, they drive me crazy sometimes, but aren't all families like that? You have a shorthand with them whereby you don't need to explain things, you can just sound off, which is the same as it is with friends who have known you for a very long time. These are important bonds -- your kinship with siblings are the longest relationships you'll have in your life, so they know parts of you no-one else does. I suppose I was just trying to convey that. Also, there are -- or were -- a lot of women in my family -- a lot of very strong Greek women, a lot of very strong English women. I suppose the sisters represent that presence in my own mind to a degree. My own father had to be a strong, very dynamic individual to stand out amongst all the womanhood.

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SPURGEON: Another thing that struck me on this reading is the stuff right around Hugo's decision to go to America, where you switch off of Hugo and onto other characters. I'm not sure the soap opera elements are your most effective work, but I'm intrigued that you would kind of broaden things out a bit in terms of focus. Was that a conscious decision, to kind of look at Hugo through the eyes of some of the other characters or maybe simply expand the cast?

ABADZIS: At the time, the plan was to broaden things generally so I could switch back and forth between the characters in the UK and Hugo in the USA. I ran into contract disagreements with Tom Astor (Deadline's funder). He'd shackled all of the early Deadline cartoonists to these draconian agreements that, as it was explained to me at the time, effectively meant he owned anything published by Deadline and could exploit the characters as he saw fit. I spent a lot of time and most of the money I'd earned -- which was very little -- trying to extricate us all from those. At first, he refused to do anything about them, so I downed tools. That got a response as, happily for me, Tom wanted the character in the magazine so we began talking. It took a bit of time and a lot of negotiation to come to terms, so there was a break in publication. By that point, I'd abandoned the idea to showcase the characters left in the UK; as I mentioned earlier I thought I'd come back to them later. There never was a later.

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SPURGEON: Two things that Garth Ennis wrote in his introduction intrigued me. The first is that he says the book was interesting to him despite it being about day-to-day existence; he cites your attention to story. Why do you think this work appeals to some folks that have no time for autobiographical or slice of life comics. Do you see your own work in that tradition, or also breaking from it?

ABADZIS: It's not autobio, in the sense that it's not drawn directly from intimate events in my own life -- there's no diary aspect to it. But it is autobio in the sense that I believe all stories are about themes that deeply interest their authors. That's a cliché, sure, but it's about what level you turn the dial to, and if something comes across as truthful somehow, then you've succeeded in engaging your reader. I don't know how to classify Hugo Tate, though. It's fiction. Fiction that I wove a lot of my personal world into, so in that sense, I lived it. I don't think I'm really interested in classifying it -- rites-of-passage tale? Stick-man road trip? Roger Sabin called it "a road movie from Hell," which is a description I always liked.

I'm never sure where to place myself and am always a bit loath to do so. It feels presumptuous. Comes back to that sense of restlessness, of never belonging anywhere probably, something I don't mind at all now. I'm in a city of people made up mostly of immigrants now and that feels kind of familiar. I'm the one with a funny accent these days.

As for cartoonists I feel solidarity with, there are plenty whose work I like. There's a contingent of New York and UK comics people who I see a lot of on a social basis and I'm friendly with some west coast people I've seen at various shows over the years. I was and am an admirer of the late Dylan Williams and his philosophy of comics, the way he sought out the oblique, the obscure, the personal.

There's another, higher tier of comics creators that I don't know personally or have met only briefly, cartoonists whose new work I'll just automatically look at because they're almost always up to something interesting: [Daniel] Clowes, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Crumb, [Art] Spiegelman, [Edmond] Baudoin, [Jose] Munoz, Nicolas de Crecy, Joann Sfar, Christophe Blain, Posy Simmonds, Chester Brown, Manu Larcenet, Gipi, [Jean-Philippe] Stassen, [Lewis] Trondheim, Gary Panter, people like that.

I'm mostly amazed by anyone who picks up a pencil and draws for a living and keeps going, because for most of them, it isn't easy. There are a lot of bad comics though and these days I struggle on both sides of the divide between art and mainstream to find things that I find really deeply engaging. I hate to sound simplistic, but what it really comes down to is that there are good and bad comics, whatever philosophy their authors happen to choose to justify the existence of their work with. Generally, I find the indie/art end of things throws up more interesting work for my tastes, but I'm not going to look askance at something from the Euro or American mainstream just because it's mainstream. If you like it, you like it. There shouldn't be any guilty pleasures.

Is it different? Is it uniquely the voice of its author(s)? Does it engage me? I'll take a look. If I struggle with it yet there's something there that makes me want to struggle, I'll continue to bother. If it has pretty pictures but isn't interesting beyond that, if there isn't a further tier of something interesting below the surface, something inquisitive and curious-minded, I'll abandon it. Equally, if it gives the remotest whiff of tedium or assails me with some abrasive, supposedly intellectual content without the remotest hint of humor, it gets closed, never to be opened again. I'm a curmudgeon when it comes to reading comics these days. There's too much crappy work out there to bother wasting time with, and a lot of good stuff that I do want to read, so it becomes a sort of exercise of the instincts, sniffing out the superior work or the stuff with a higher likelihood to engage.

There is a lot of incredible talent working today and I do believe we are in a golden age of comics in some ways. It's such a pleasure to come across the work of a cartoonist I haven't encountered before and see with new eyes, their eyes. I get excited about that. Equally, seeing someone like Kevin Huizenga evolve, or Nick Bertozzi or Gabrielle Bell -- exciting times. There's also the archaeology of comics, seeing stuff come to light that is little-known. At the moment I'm really looking forward to a collection called The Great Unwashed by Warren and Gary Pleece, of all the strips they self-published in the late '80s and early '90s. Work from that "lost generation" of British '90s cartoonists is beginning to emerge in reprint form, and that's a trend that I hope continues.

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SPURGEON: Ennis also praises the book's depiction of coming to America. It strikes me that you have this youthful protagonist and set him against two of the more ego-destroying place in the U.S. -- New York City and the desert. Was that intentional, to kind of put this character through his paces, or was it maybe more just looking for an interesting backdrop for what you wanted to have going on?

ABADZIS: Yes, it was intentional. Back then I wanted to travel across America myself -- I wanted to make the trip Hugo makes in the book, but I couldn't afford to do it, or thought I couldn't, so I sent the character. I should've just got on a Greyhound bus and done it. I'd traveled to a few American cities back then and knew New York reasonably well -- I'd been coming here since the age of fifteen. My oldest friend is from here so I spent many summers here as a teen. I'd also been to New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Francisco, LA, San Diego and it was in visiting those places that I first conceived of a great American road trip in comic form.

I think the grand sweep of the west of the USA is much a part of European film and comics iconography as it is American. Westerns were a huge part of the Franco-Belgian comics output in the '60s and '70s. I'd read Lt. Blueberry by Charlier and Jean (Moebius) Giraud and I was a big fan of road movies and road literature -- just the idea of getting lost, of being so anonymous in such a place was interesting to me. A lot of those French comics make something of the landscape -- Moebius in particular understood that landscape could be a presence in a book as much if not moreso than the characters themselves, which was the thinking behind the chapter in Hugo Tate called "Sacred Ground."

New York was the obvious place to start if you were looking westwards from Europe, besides which I knew the city a bit. It's an amazing environment to draw, as are the mountains and the desert -- to a certain extent the story built itself. He's an unreliable narrator from the beginning and then that narration literally goes out of the window. You've got the unformed kid and the psychotic belly-acher driving across all of this -- who knew what would happen? Who would you meet -- who would you be? Who would you find there, even if you were looking to lose yourself? A faceless character could probably have found a multitude of new masks.

imageSPURGEON: Would you describe the ocean scene as an epiphany? I remember when I first read it I thought of it as just a moment of relief, but I wondered if you intended it as a major lifetime moment for Hugo, particularly in that you talked about maybe returning to that basic scene were you to do another book.

ABADZIS: It's designed to be as open as possible. I don't remember devising it to be a moment of epiphany per se, although I did describe it s that in the afterword. But a moment of relief, yes definitely. A moment of realization, possibly -- he realizes he's escaped, he's free. In that sense, I suppose he could realize he's liberated from a lot of things, untethered, free to go where he wants, be whoever he wants to be without anyone else's expectations placed upon him. I suppose in that sense, yeah, it could be an epiphany. But I do remember thinking that I should leave it as open to interpretation as possible, so the reader could take it however they liked.

The idea of going back to that scene for Hugo III was because he would find he wasn't free; he'd been deeply affected and traumatized by his journey and it would take a while for him to get over it. He'd still be traveling but find himself metaphorically back on the beach, sometimes beyond, sometimes within Spoonhead's grasp. That would have been the major hurdle of the third book, one that he eventually leaves the USA to try to leave behind, first by going as far north as he could get, then traveling back to the UK. At that point, I was going to tie up the stuff with some of the characters back in London -- at which point Hugo would find that he was dreaming about America again, about being free. And this time, off he'd go, not to return to a beach, but to settle somewhere and pursue his creative dreams.

But I think I'd really just have been reiterating themes that I'd already dealt with fairly comprehensively in O, America. It'd just be further variations on those first two stories, probably full of worthwhile character stuff and probably some unknowable happy accidents of storytelling that might've taken it off in a whole new direction. So maybe my worry of repeating myself is completely unfounded.

SPURGEON: One other element I think this book captures well is the spirit of the time, particularly the really queasy partying and indulgence that took place as we bounced out of the shadow of what seemed like imminent nuclear annihilation. Are there ways you think the book works as a document of its times? Is there anything in there that surprised you when you read it, maybe even some self-revelatory?

ABADZIS: As regards the overall atmosphere of the times, I just reflected what I saw around me. As regards the central character, I tried to reflect how he might honestly respond to things; same for all the supporting players. With a large cast of characters, you feel like it's almost an acting job -- you're making your characters perform and sometimes you need a nuanced, subtle performance, sometimes something larger. Something about the performance of this book is very "early nineties" -- the hopes of the characters in there which were drawn very much from my social circle of the time.

Hugo Tate looks to my eyes almost like it was done by another person, but at the same time it's difficult to achieve a distance from it. It's a weird feeling. I can't remember doing a lot of it, although I certainly recall the effort that went into it. It looks and feels like it was done by some other version of me, someone very different from who I am now. But if I met this kid, I think I'd be encouraging him to draw more comics.

SPURGEON: How do you feel about the book's artistic legacy? Do you think it has one? Do you hope it has one? How would you have people receive this latest volume?

ABADZIS: Well, since it was first serialized in Deadline, and half of it came out in 1993 as O, America, I've had more requests for a complete collection of Hugo Tate than anything else I've ever done. So, now it's happening, that's an achievement. I'm really glad it's available again so that people who've read Laika and liked that book can try this. It's very different from Laika, but like that story, this book will also take them somewhere they might not otherwise go. I hope they get something out of it. Ultimately, it's all me.

*****

* Woodrow Phoenix wrote in to correct something. "Atomeka Press was a joint venture between Elliott and Garry Leach. It wasn't anything to do with Tundra UK. It Dave Elliott did become Managing Editor of Tundra UK but that was a separate thing."

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* Hugo Tate, Nick Abadzis, Blank Slate Books, hardcover, 192 pages, 9781906653262, 2012, £14.99.

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* black and white cover image for Hugo Tate
* Laika drawing done well after the book, I think
* a bit of The Trial Of The Sober Dog
* various pieces of art from Hugo Tate, hopefully individually explained in context
* one final piece mini-sequence from Hugo Tate that I just liked (below)

*****

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Not Comics: Various Posts Related To Alfonse Mucha

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1, 2, 3, 4
 
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Go, Bookmark: The "Recently Added" Page At What If Kirby

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

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

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

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

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FFF Results Post #292 -- Price Points

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On Friday, CR readers were asked to:

1. Name The Price You'd Be Willing To Regularly Pay For A Standard Printed Comic Book. This is how they responded.

* $.99; $1.99; $1.99, $2.00; $2.00; $2.99; $2.99; $2.99, $2.99; $2.99; $2.99; $ 2.99; $2.99; $3.00; $3.00; $3.00; $3.50; $5.00

2. Name The Price You'd Be Willing To Regularly Pay For A Standard Comic Book Or Its Equivalent In Digital Form. This is how they responded.

* $.25; $.50; $.99; $.99; $.99; $.99; $.99; $.99; $.99; $.99; $0.99; $.99; $1.00; $1.00; $1.49; $1.50; $1.50; $2.00

3. Name The Price You'd Be Willing To Regularly Pay For A Printed Comics Work Of 128 Pages Or More By Size/Price. This is how they responded.

* 128 pages at $9.99; 128 pages at $9.99; 128 pages at $10.00; 128 pages at $10; 128 pages at $11.99; 128 pages at $12.95; 128 pages at $12.99; 128 pages at $13.00; 128 pages at $14.99; 128 pages at $14.99; 128 pages at $19.99; 128 pages at $20.
* 128 pages at $9.99 (b&w);
* 128 pages at $12.99 (color); 128 pages at $14.99 (color)
* 150 pages at $15
* 180 pgs at $9.99 (b&w)
* 200 pages at $10.99
* 240 pages at $19.99

4. Name The Price You'd Be Willing To Regularly Pay For A Digital Comics Work Of 128 Pages Or More -- Or Its Equivalent -- By Size/Price. This is how they responded.

* 128 pages at $1.99; 128 pages at $3.99; 128 pages at $4.00; 128 pages at $4.99; 128 pages at $4.99; 128 pages at $4.99; 128 pages at $5; 128 pages at $5.99; 128 pages at $6.50; 128 pages at $6.99; 128 pages at $6.99; 128 pages at $7.99; 128 pages at $7.99; 128 pages at $8.00
* 128 pages of color at $8.99
* 150 pages at $8
* 180 pages at $5.99
* 200 pages at $5.99
* 240 pages at $9.99

5. Name A Specific Comics Project Whose Price Point Struck You As Attractive Or Specifically Fair And What Its Price Was. This is how they responded.

* 12 Month Subscription to Jose-Luis Olivares' Monthly Mail-out Comic Club, $44.00
* A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tasumi (856 pages), $34.95
* Atomic Robo Vol.2 on Comixology; 114 pages for $3.99
* Bakuman, $9.99 per volume
* Casanova (Image) #1, $1.99
* Crogan's Vengeance, $14.95
* Cruisin' With The Hound, $ 19.99
* Dungeon Parade Vol. 1, $9.95
* Hellboy: House of the Living Dead, $14.99
* High Society, $25
* Infinite Kung Fu for Kindle, $9.99
* King City, $19.99
* King City, $19.99
* Polly and the Pirates, Volume Two: Mystery of the Dragonfish, $11.99
* Scud, the Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang, $29.99
* The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec Vol. 2 (with Fantagraphics' 20/20 club discount), $13.99
* The introduction of Essential/Showcase volumes at a $20.00 price point
* Twin Spica Vol. 12, $13.95

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Thanks To The Participants: Tom Spurgeon, Michael May, Justin Colussy-Estes, Mark Coale, Michael Grabowski, Buzz Cheap Bastard Dixon, Danny Ceballos, Dustin Harbin, Trevor Ashfield, John Platt, Sean Kleefeld, Jason Green, Brian Moore, Derik A. Badman, Matt Maxwell, Niel Jacoby, Stergios Botzakis, Ryan Sands -- a crack, scientific sample of comics consumers based on the all-important criterion of "Dudes That Read CR On A Friday Night."

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this feature will return in two weeks

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The Comics Reporter Video Parade



Spain Rodriguez Promotional Video From A Few Years Back


Spain Rodriguez At A Comic Store Signing


Not Comics: Animation And Puppetry Demo Reel For My Former Comics Collaborator Dan Wright


Mark Waid Talks Challengers Of The Unknown


Not Comics: Movie Trailer For Plastic Babyheads From Outer Space


Not Comics: Behind The Scenes of Plastic Babyheads From Outer Space


A Review Of Friends With Boys I Stumbled Across While Doing Research
 
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April 28, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from April 21 to April 27, 2012:

1. Ghanian-born Kenyan cartoonist Frank Odoi dies a victim of something he did an entire feature making fun of: reckless public buses.

2. Call goes out for help on behalf of two important creators now in trouble: S. Clay Wilson and Tony DeZuniga; with both of them doing the bulk of their work after 1970s, the call for aid should prove particularly compelling in terms of how many creators out there are now at risk for this kind thing.

3. Josep Maria Berenguer died. Berenguer was a crucial publishing figure for North American alt-comics in Spain.

Winner Of The Week
Joe Sacco.

Loser Of The Week
Civilization.

Quote Of The Week
"The music is competent but unnervingly, relentlessly, idiotically straight-ahead; they're like a fictional rock band invented by Daniel Clowes, deliberately designed to represent the polar opposite of alt-cool." -- Chuck Klosterman, in his article at Grantland about Creed and Nickleback

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

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

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

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If I Were In Houston, 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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If I Were In Calgary, I'd Go To This

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

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April 27, 2012


Doug Wright Awards Unveils 2012 Michael DeForge-Designed Poster

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awards program here; blog of artist, who has likely completed three new comics by the time you get to the end of this post, here
 
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Go, Read: The Advertising Power Of Comic Book Artists

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Thomas Nast Award Goes To Swiss Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte

The Overseas Press Club gave its Thomas Nast Award Wednesday to Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte of the International Herald-Tribune for work of his that appears on the New York Times site. This continues a recent spate of major awards going to cartoonists widely recognized as accomplished practitioners of the form (as opposed to well-liked veterans or inexplicably chosen representatives of the field -- no one admits this out loud when it happens, but it does). I believe Chappatte is the first non-US cartoonist to win the award, focused on work about stories of international import -- so the fact that he's done so by virtue of the Times showcase is a basic times-changed-by-the-Internet story, too. Chappatte has a significant web presence of his own at a devoted site, one well worth an extended visit.

The award has been given out since 1968, making it among the first ten areas honored by the organization; that awards program has been one of the more comprehensively evolving one over the years, adding program after program.
 
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Go, Look: Another Before Watchmen Alternative Program

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Go, Read: Alex Cox Of The CBLDF Visits Los Angeles

imageThere's a short report up on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund site from Deputy Director Alex Cox about the Fund's successful work in Los Angeles at the LA Times Festival Of Book buttressing that affair's comics presence and raising money for their work. I'm alway up to hear how the CBLDF is doing at any particular show, but what struck me was the third and fourth graph when he talks about visiting the great LA neighborhood shop Secret Headquarters and their new related store Vacation Vinyl. I just visited Floating World in Portland, and one of the features of that store is a chunk of their space is given over to an art gallery, and another to vinyl record sales (it's that section of the Portland-based store you see in the photo at right).

This isn't an uncommon set-up. Comics shops have carried a variety of other material for years, probably most famously other expressions of fantasy culture -- role-playing games, prose books, t-shirts, movies. The music partnership is something you saw in the 1990s with one of the most important retailers of that decade: Fallout Records (and its various "and" designations) in Seattle. Lest we forget, the move of comics into bookstores had a "move of comics into music stores" component as well. Record stores and music stores have seen some tough times recently as a big chunk of the way that art form is consumed has moved to the Internet with startling speed and completeness; but there are other ways of value to buy music, and one of them is a retail experience. To see two very good comics retailers with significant partnerships with vinyl-selling set-up makes me wonder if that isn't a significant model moving forward. I don't mean significant in that I think you're going to see people getting wealthy by putting under the comics shop banner all the retailing groups that are struggling to have that kind of presence in the general, post-Internet market, but that maybe you'll see people surviving that way, especially in certain markets. Just a thought. There's a certain kind of comics reader that always seemed to feel cheated by the fact that comics might be sold in the context of other items, but I'm not sure the state of retail allows that luxury anymore.
 
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Go, Look: El Topo

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Diamond Comics Shipment Involved In Fatal Car Accident

I don't spend a lot of time checking out Rich Johnston's Bleeding Cool site, but he picked up on a recent statement issued from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. that I missed entirely: one of their trucks was involved in an accident that engendered a fatality to the driver of the car that hit the truck; both of their drivers were injured in a non-life threatening. I'm a little bit confused as to why May 2 material was on the road April 21 in a way that delays that material until May 9 -- as opposed to material from a previous week. There's also something to be said about the reminder how gossamer thin the delivery system for comics is in this country, and how much it depends on a kind of low-cost system of physical shipping that one wonders after in terms of it always being there. For now, though, the real story here is obviously the tragic loss of life and the injuries to the Diamond employees. Best wishes to their recovery, and condolences to the family of the deceased.
 
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Go, Look: Declan Shalvey

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Go, Read: No Sympathy For The Creative Class

A bunch of you have sent in links to this article by Scott Timberg about the way that creative professionals are viewed. I think it's a good piece and has something to say to comics within the context of a lot of troubles across entertainment and the arts in terms of finding ways to financially support its practitioners. I think Timberg's writing is strongest when he talks about a mercantile fundamentalism involved with the way a lot of people see making a living in the arts: if you can't make money at it, there's something a bit wrong with you, or at least the path you've chosen for yourself. That can be tough. One of the places where comics is instructive on this subject is found within the current debate of creator rights issues and the economic part of that general critique of comics. It's something to suffer the disparaging eye of your peers when what you do simply doesn't make enough money to support your full-time pursuit of that aim as a vocation; it's another when it does, only it's not you that gets to make the money you're generating.

I would love "seeing creators rewarded" become the primary value of the industries that support comics, and any innovation we see on the business side of things serve that value, as opposed to a general boosterism that rewards whoever is canny enough to exploit whatever hits and when. I'd also love to see greater value placed on the act of making art aside from the economic return. I'm not waiting up for either, but I think those are things worth fighting for and celebrating when we achieve them.
 
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If I Were In Brooklyn, I'd Go To This

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

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

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

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Go, Look: Toyland Comics

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* when I stop to think about it, I don't know why more cartoonists don't openly advocate for health care reform. I imagine that many do, that some genuinely feel the US system is superior and that many others feel that it could be improved but openly advocating for that change isn't going to do a damn bit of good. I think we could place a greater priority as an arts subculture on seeing comics-makers insured. I know I'm frequently baffled when cartoonists and comics-makers not only have no insurance but don't know anything about any of the programs that might be available to them to help them get insurance or to have some costs defrayed, or really don't seem invested in it at all except as something they don't want to think about. So I guess I'm not confused that health care reform isn't a greater priority for comics-makers when health care itself isn't more of a driving priority. (I say all of this as someone who went about 15 months without insurance in my early thirties and may be looking again this summer.)

image* just a reminder that the Cul De Sac charity book will also feature a significant arts auction, including this beauty of the great Petey Otterloop by obscure cartoonist Bill Watterson. Is it my imagination, or might that kid grow up to become Tim Blake Nelson?

* I enjoyed reading Harvey Pekar's Cleveland this week, and I noticed it's part of Top Shelf's latest digital works sale.

* Todd Klein on Wonder Woman #7 and Dark Horse Presents #7. Johanna Draper Carlson on Freeloader.

* Chris Sims profiles Jack Kirby's excellent teasers. I tend to think of those as a company flourish when I think about them at all, but they were specific to Kirby in this case. I do miss the attention paid to little touches like that, though, across the board. There are some thoughtful serial comics packages out there, like Fatale and Casanova. There aren't enough of them.

* Alex Fitch and various guests take on the work of Warren Ellis, and young cartoonists.

* Jim Rugg talks to Jason Lex. Patrick Rosenkranz profiles Spain Rodriguez. Michael Rhode talks to Guy Delisle. Daryl Cagle talks to Zapiro. Geoff Boucher talks to Brian Wood. Bill Williams talks to Jeff Parker.

* Dave Richards talks to Steve Wacker about Spider-Man's 50th birthday. Shouldn't Spider-Man's 50th birthday be a big deal? I knew there was a Spider-Man movie coming out this year and I'm not sure I knew it was Spider-Man's 50th. He's a good character, that Spider-Man.

* wait, that means it was Marvel's 50th last year, right? Did they do anything? I was sick, and I have memory problems now. That should have been a big deal, right?

* if you only have time to read one post today, you couldn't do much better than Caitlin McGurk's salute to the late, great comics archivist and historian Bill Blackbeard. Blackbeard would have been 86 tomorrow, and wasn't appreciated enough when he was still with us.

* interesting storytelling from Jack Kirby -- the narrative jumps here are pretty damn huge. A lot of people get obsessed over comics as storyboards, but I'm not sure this works at all with film-style pacing or flow.

* finally, what's not to love about chubby hipster Batgirl?
 
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April 26, 2012


Go, Look: Cartography Club

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posted 2:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Kenyan Cartoonist Frank Odoi Dies In Weekend Road Accident

imageInternational wires have come to life in the last 24 hours with English-language stories about a road accident that killed Kenyan cartoonist Frank Odoi on Saturday. The Ghanian-born cartoonist was 64 years old (although one report has him a decade younger). His family discovered his body yesterday morning after a long search from hospital to hospital, mortuary to mortuary.

The accident came when one of that country's notorious mini-bus taxis -- called a matatu -- veered off the road killing the cartoonist and another passenger. Ironically, the cartoonist had a comic strip called Driving Me Crazy that regularly featured the drivers of such vehicles.

He was based in Nairobi.

Odoi was born in Tarkwa, a mining town located in the western part of Ghana. He was the third of eight children, and the only son. He later claimed to have read a number of superhero books as a child, and cited Frank Frazetta, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner and John Buscema among influences that included a healthy dose of fine art. Odoi was educated in the Ghanian capital city of Accra, including time spent learning medical art, and moved to Kenya in the late 1970s. He quickly found work at the Daily Nation, a leading newspaper which afforded him a daily showcase. He would go on to a variety of illustration and comics gigs, both for newspapers and for publishers. He worked in educational comics and books, and even spent three years as an illustration at the International Centre For Insect Physiology and Ecology, which he later called his most challenging job.

In terms of his comics, the cartoonist was perhaps best known for the series Golgoti, about a white man in Africa, and the adventure series Akokhan, about a superhero based on Ghanian folklore. A lengthy description of the superhero series can be read here. He was widely distributed and exhibited throughout the continent and also placed work in European publications and through the BBC.
 
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Go, Look: Hextron One Meets Da Yellow Kid

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Go, Read: Scott Kurtz On Mark Waid's Digital Efforts

It looks like the longtime cartoonist and webcomics advocate Scott Kurtz and I agree about writer Mark Waid's digital efforts: the fact that a name comic book guy is making an attempt to reach digital audiences in a way that doesn't privilege existing financial set-ups is a potential big deal. I think Kurtz also has a point that there's a big premium on quality right now with those efforts, that there's enough material from which to choose that people are going to gravitate to whatever effort speaks to them artistically. I know that sounds super-obvious, but there was a time when the orientation might have trumped the concept and I suspect we may be past that cultural moment.
 
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OTBP: The Line; She Died In Terrebonne

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* as far as I know, the Tony De Zuniga and S. Clay Wilson situations remain deeply concerning. These are accomplished artists and important figures in the last 50 years in terms of how the comic book has developed. Information on how to help at De Zuniga is part of various feature stories, including this one. The living trust set up for Wilson's care is here.

* one slightly frustrating aspect of both of those sublimely laudable efforts is that unless I've missed something their primary expression has been through Facebook and those subscribing to the individual pages of the concerned family and friends providing news. Facebook should be part of every campaign on behalf of a cartoonist, comics-maker or industry person, but I hope as many people as possible take note for the future that this is not the same as reaching people via a site -- like the general Wilson site, for instance -- that can be easily accessible without signing on someplace and reaching out to a specific page or individual. This is not meant as a criticism of anyone involved in either situation here; I'm certain they're doing the best they can with the tools available to them and word is getting out, whether it's through the e-mail updates about Wilson or on sites like Comic Art Community. (It also may be I'm not seeing the wider effort, or discounting the ones that exist.) I merely offer that up to anyone that might be in a caretaker or on-line outreach position in the future. Please consider every tool.

* it is greatly encouraging to see Sparkplug surpass its publishing fundraising goals. You can still sign up for the premiums, and I encourage you to consider it.

* it seems to me we're only about three to four months away from a publisher that's up-and-running doing one of these. Just a thought. I bet the majority of publishers not primarily bankrolled by a giant corporation has already had one discussion or a session of serious thought about it.

* this Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray-driven effort is very near its stated goal.

* finally, here's a model Kickstarter campaign of the "I want to get this funded by basically taking advance orders via Kickstarter, only with a lot of extra incentives, too" variety: Lucy Bellwood's True Believer. It was fully funded when I got the e-mail three days ago.
 
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Go, Look: Another Dose Of Virgil Partch

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Henry Eudy reports on last weekend's FLUKE. Short version: thinner crowds; great show.

* Robert Boyd writes about a tiny convention being put on in Houston this weekend as part of student Ted Closson's MFA work. You can go to a direct explanation here. That looks terribly fascinating, and I'd be sure to go if I were anywhere near Space City. This isn't the first time Boyd has written about Closson.

* you're already well-acquainted with the CCS summer workshops page, right?

* and this star-studded, Chicago-based conference on comics site, right?

* that's good, because you can spend the time you've saved being familiar with those two sites doubling your focus on this weekend's MoCCA Festival and Stumptown Comics Fest. That's a traditional big event on the North American small press calendar taking place in the most important comics city historically and the small press-oriented show in the current most comics-happy city in North America, respectively. Fascinating shows, too. There's always a bit of tension in the air at MoCCA, it seems, and Stumptown seems to be going through the kind of mini-identity crisis one might expect by last year's shift in venue and the rise of other regional shows and all the ideas such shows bring to the table. I'm looking forward to sorting out news from both, and if I'd been the happy recipient of a lottery win and a Spurgeon-Red/Spurgeon-Blue type laboratory accident, I would be going to both.

* I liked this Stumptown preview from David Chelsea.

* finally, here are some thoughts by one attendee of last weekend's first Comiket about comics shows in general.
 
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Not Comics: Love For Bob Peak

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Every Avengers Q&A Should Feature A Jack Kirby Question

imageThis one did, and although it's unclear whether Avengers co-creator Jack Kirby is named in the closing credits or not at all (I have to imagine he's named in the closing credits, and would bet a big chunk of money on that) I think it's good that a question about the co-creator of that specific property and many of its characters is part of what gets asked those that are participating in the film's PR cycle. There is an active lawsuit, after all, and the issue of creator treatment in comics has an easy-to-tick-off-one's-fingers array of stories to its credit right now (Kirby, Siegels/Shusters, Moore). This makes a Kirby question a matter-of-fact, legitimate line of inquiry. In general, these are things that should be discussed at every opportunity, even when it's inconvenient. That someone merely asking the question can garner its own coverage suggests that these kinds of questions have not been asked and answered. I hope all of you writing an Avengers story over the next several days engage this part of the story.
 
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If I Were In DC, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Portland, 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: New Funnies #88

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* there are two more lengthy posts on Before Watchmen out there worth reading: one by David Brothers; one by Heidi MacDonald. Or you can go stare at this really cool-looking Mean Bitch Thrills cover by Spain Rodriguez.

image* Steven Heller talks to Daniel Clowes. Domingos Isabelinho profiles John Porcellino. Christopher Irving talks to Larry Hama.

* customs screwed us.

* not comics: hey, it's Comic Strip Tees, one of those sites that sells shirts in a seemingly bunch of weird and arbitrary ways that are probably pretty much a part of every t-shirt site now.

* John Kane on various comics. Andrew Shuping on Abe Sapien Vol. 2. Greg McElhatton on Popeye #1. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comics. Bart Croonenborghs on The Making Of. Kim Deitch on Harvey Pekar's Cleveland.

* fun with costumes. I kid, but it's actually a good sign if people are drawing a new-ish costume like that.

* an adaptation of Duel? Okay. They should do that one with William Shatner riding motorcycles in Mexico next.

* Daryl Cagle notes that a cartoon is leading a well-received front-page feature at the Sioux City Journal. I have no idea why front-page illustrations and cartoons aren't more of a thing.

* finally, Mike Sterling tells a harrowing tale of slabbed comics and recently hot series no longer that way.
 
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April 25, 2012


Before "Before Watchmen" There Was Spain Rodriguez

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One of the notions driving some of the Before Watchmen writing out there is that the more distressing creators-rights implications will serve to embolden a strong and sustained reaction to them. While it's true that there will always be corporate-values comics of dubious and even depressing provenance, there will also be a response to those comics, a desire to do something freed from the contractual and creative constraints represented by that kind of project. In fact, I would extend this notion of a response as something that takes place within mainstream comics itself, at least in terms of many of the real, beneficial things that have occurred in that realm over the years.

The greatest example we have in comics of a negative being turned into a long-term positive is the work of underground comix makers like Spain as a response to the self-inflicted kneecapping of a certain kind of comics-making by publishers in the 1950s. I thought the above a funny comic about the mindset that many of those creators brought to the table -- it's hard to remember at that time what a dangerous thing it was to be doing something out of lockstep with mainstream culture, even though a lot of folks still affect that pose. The effects of comics like this one from people like Spain on the legacy of comics as a place to express oneself is difficult to argue away. I can't say anything similar for an editorially-crafted superhero event, as much as people derive pleasure and material reward from them; I bet I'll be able to for the books that people do in reaction to this latest. At least I hope so.

Spain Rodgriguez 5, Before Watchmen 0; comic supplied by Patrick Rosenkranz
 
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Go, Look: Michel Fiffe On Super Panels

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Chris Roberson At TCJ; A Real Cost Of Before Watchmen

If you read only one article today, and likely this week, make it Tim Hodler's thorough and sensitive interview with writer Chris Roberson over at The Comics Journal. Roberson was the writer that announced he wouldn't be working with DC after his current, main title ended and a forthcoming arc to which he committed was done. DC decided subsequently that they weren't interested in that forthcoming arc given what he'd written publicly about the company. Roberson cited ethical concerns with the general treatment of freelancers and specifically the treatment of the Siegel Family and the writer Alan Moore with the Before Watchmen project.

It's a fine interview, and Roberson sounds like a rational guy who was just fed up. I'm glad that he doesn't sound conflicted or mournful about his public stance or what it cost him in terms of burning some bridges. I appreciate his no-bullshit stance on the horrible idea that the shitty treatment of Jack Kirby and other creators can be used to justify terrible treatment now. I like that part of the interview is given to one of the things that could be a solution to some of these issues: a retroactive establishment of current creator standards when it comes to profiting from work done for those companies. I just generally like the piece, and I like that Roberson did what he did.

A real cost of Before Watchmen to companies like DC is that it puts into modern terms the age-old exploitation of creative people by business people, something that's soaked into comics' DNA so thoroughly one can forget it's there. This is a magnificent reminder of what these creators are facing in very real terms, the mindsets and the ambitions and the bottom lines that form scary, shadowy shapes behind the everyday grind and humiliations and dissatisfactions. As much as you and I might shake our heads and do the Little Rascals surprise face when we hear someone say some of the things that have been said in support of and defense of Before Watchmen or the Superman lawsuit, imagine how distressing it would be if these were your creative partners, the people on which you hoped to build a foundation for a fulfilling life. The humor in the title is that Watchmen was seen as a creator-rights forward title with ambition; this new thing is certainly reflective of a time before that.

I don't think we'll see a whole lot of people being as public about it as Roberson has been, but I bet the vast, vast majority of creative people out there have looked at what's going on with some of these issues facing Moore and the Kirbys and the Siegels and now Roberson, and on some level thought to themselves anew that they'd like to be as successful as they can independent of these companies. They may have had these thoughts all along, but I bet this makes those plans more real for more people. The gains may be incremental and the losses may be hard to fathom when you can point to a shiny new Batman movie or one super-team aimed at another super-team and all the money being made, but the move towards more instances of unfettered expression, better comics across the board and rewards that go in greater percentage to creators without being diverted elsewhere, it does continue.
 
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Go, Bookmark: Hell Yeah Horror Manga

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not safe for life
 
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Go, Read: New York Times On Sports Cartooning

imageThere's what seems to me a solid feature on the state of sports cartooning up at the New York Times. It hits the major players right now (such as Rob Tornoe and Drew Litton), puts it into a limited but necessary context (basically Willard Mullin and Bill Gallo) and suggests a couple of areas rich for subsequent analysis. It also doesn't pretend that this is a new story, noting that the sports cartoon has been assaulted as anachronistic since at least the mid-1970s.

I think the most intriguing takeaway from the piece comes out of something Litton mentions, which is not getting a Monday Night Football-related gig renewed because of a lack of direct funding support. Sports cartoons seem like a logical beneficiary of today's overwhelming attention to sporting endeavors, but we've also seen a shift away from media that exists as an overall, pleasing package and more into media that has to justify itself directly, piece by piece. That makes outmoded or even simply off-key ways of doing things really difficult to bring back into play, even if they have perceived value.
 
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Go, Look: Kevin Mutch

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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.

*****

FEB121003 JERUSALEM CHRONICLES FROM THE HOLY CITY HC (MR) $24.95
And Comics 2012 officially begins with its first waiting-for-it trade, a book I've now read three times. It's good, and it's forced me to reconsider everything I've read by Delisle so far.

JAN120075 ABE SAPIEN TP VOL 02 DEVIL DOES NOT JEST $17.99
FEB120039 BPRD HELL ON EARTH PICKENS COUNTY HORROR #2 (OF 2) $3.50
The latest trade and latest comic book in the Mignola-Verse, comics' most reliable source of genre entertainment right now. It also has the advantage of not making you hate yourself when you buy them.

imageDEC111079 FOLLY CONSEQUENCES OF INDISCRETION GN (MR) $18.99
If you go to the comics shop to buy work from voices with which you're not entirely familiar -- and you are a fine person if this is your primary reason for heading into comics shops -- I can't imagine a better buy for more people than a Hans Rickheit book.

FEB121159 PTERODACTYL HUNTERS IN THE GILDED CITY (ONE SHOT) $9.95
If you just read my last description and thought, "Everyone knows Hans Rickheit, sheesh" than you are a refined person and maybe you can cast your eyes on this book instead.

FEB120040 GOON #39 $3.50
I'm not a buyer of the Goon comics and look forward to catching up to them someday; I thought I'd mention it here because this is the first time I've encountered the latest issue of an established indy-comic series and the number of issues met almost exactly with my expectation for the same. Usually I go, "Holy crap, there are that many issues out?" But 39 issues of The Goon feels right.

MAR110472 ART OF AMANDA CONNER HC $29.99
I bet this is pretty.

JAN120479 FRAZETTA FUNNY STUFF HC $49.99
I bet there are already complaints on the comics Internet about the art direction, and I haven't even seen the book yet.

FEB120338 POPEYE #1 (OF 4) $3.99
FEB120874 ROGER LANGRIDGES SNARKED #7 $3.99
A double-dose of Roger Langridge, whose comics I will look at in a comics shop every time I'm in a comics shop until the day I die. I'm not sure how to feel about that Popeye. It feels kind of unnecessary coming out the same week Fantagraphics has a volume of the real sauce available for consumption. At the same time, I bet it's classy and respectable.

FEB120619 ASTONISHING X-MEN #49 $3.99
See, this is something I'll never understand: how does yet another title for a franchise not in the greatest shape sales-wise, a title based around the very specific presence of Joss Whedon, survive for this many issues beyond Whedon's departure? I'd like to say that pure Darwinism is at work here, and this book just found the level of support it needed for the creators doing work there -- and god bless them -- but I also suspect that there's an element of how the DM orders stuff in play here.

FEB120594 FF #17 $2.99
I bought a bunch of these for a dollar apiece recently on a trip to read on the train and enjoyed them; it was like coming across reruns of a TV show you wouldn't watch otherwise but happens to be on when you're eating breakfast for a couple of weeks and having a pleasurable experience doing so. I plan on eventually picking them all up if I can, at least through the end of writer Hickman's run, but I'm going to give myself every chance to buy them for a buck a pop.

FEB128179 WINTER SOLDIER #1 2ND PTG BERMEJO VAR (PP #1016) $2.99
FEB128180 WINTER SOLDIER #2 2ND PTG BERMEJO VAR (PP #1016) $2.99
FEB128181 WINTER SOLDIER #3 2ND PTG BERMEJO VAR (PP #1016) $2.99
I would imagine these are pretty good, too, all of Ed Brubaker's superhero work and what he likes about doing them getting a dedicated showcase.

JAN121109 ANY SIMILARITIES TO PERSONS LIVING OR DEAD HC (MR) $19.99
One of the foundational books of any arts/alt comics library, and a fine printing endorsed as such by the creator. If there's a funny five minutes to be had than reading that Andy Griffith story, please tell me about it.

NOV110990 POPEYE HC VOL 06 ME LIL SWEE PEA $29.99
One of the great strips, and an archival project that's kind of been forgotten a bit. These are magnificent comics, and I read them in a semi-swoon.

SEP110751 SECRET HISTORY BOOK 18 (MR) $5.95
OCT110804 SECRET HISTORY BOOK 19 (MR) $5.95
I think these comics are batshit crazy, slightly squirelly and generally well-executed in precisely the way I want my mainstream comics entertainment to be, and if I were in a comics shop my retailer would point them out to me because I'd be the customer with the reputation for buying them.

JAN121205 SMURFS BOX SET VOL 4-6 $17.99
I think these books have been solid no matter how you want to buy them; the kids I know seem to like them, too.

Let me end this weekly walk through the new comics not with another DM recommendation, but by noting that retailers like Brian Hibbs will likely have the new Alison Bechdel book in stock from their relationship with a book distributor or two. I don't think I can remember the last time a thematic sequel to a major book has been released without a whole lot known about it, so seeing it in a comics shop today would be delightful.

*****

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

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If I Were In Cambridge, 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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If I Were In Austin, I'd Go To This

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Another Golden Age Story Filled With Odd, Stand-Alone Images

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Reed is claiming 41,000 for this year's third C2E2, another 7000-attendee gain but one that sounds about right according to photos taken and word from the floor.

image* Shaenon Garrity profiles Tatsuya Ishida. Anne Elizabeth Moore talks to Lynda Barry. George Tramountanas talks to Rick Remender. Jeffrey Renaud talks to Scott Snyder. Josh West talks to Nate Simpson.

* Graeme McMillan extols the virtues of his local comics show, the Stumptown Comics Fest. Would that we could all become invested in a local comics show like that; it'd be like Tom Devlin's dreams of 100 SPXs finally come true.

* Rebecca Silverman on Higurashi: When They Cry Vol. 17, Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll Vol. 1 and Kamisama Kiss Vols. 7-8. Philip Shropshire on Fatale #2. Sean Gaffney on Dorohedoro Vol. 6. Grant Goggans on Cynicalman. Chris Mautner on Jerusalem and Best Of Enemies. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Solomon Kane: Castle Of The Devil. Bart Croonenborghs on Leviathan.

* Paul Tobin talks about the appeal of writing genre fiction.

* Viz Media announces a new division to spearhead digital efforts. I'm assuming that isn't just a post from 2004 that surfaced recently.

* it doesn't look all that dreamy to me.

* Timothy Callahan looks at the Captain America comics that were done right before the writer Ed Brubaker came on board. It's sort of fun to look at the way that mainstream comics companies have oriented themselves towards certain properties at certain times. I actually sort of see articles like these as modern shopping guides, as I only buy comics like that in dollar bins a few times a year when I get to a comic book shop or two.

* Brigid Alverson unpacks a recent announcement by iVerse about adding a lending capacity to the services it offers libraries.

* finally, Alan Gardner at Daily Cartoonist points out Matt Wuerker's response to a criticism that infographics are a more vital visual component in today's journalism than editorial cartoons and thus deserve their pulitzer prize. Wuerker's response is solid, but I thought the initial criticism so lame and so obviously designed to attract attention because of the timing of the criticism that I almost wish there had been no response except shrugs and general derision.
 
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April 24, 2012


Josep Maria Berenguer, RIP

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posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Secret Acres Re-Launches Their Web Site

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One of my favorites: main site here, blog here, latest blog post here.
 
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Go, Look: The Prestigious Banquet To Be Held In My Honor

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All Prayers To S. Clay Wilson, Tony DeZuniga And Their Loved Ones

Two of comics' elder statesman, each working from a unique tradition of expression within the art form, are experiencing extremely tough times due to adverse medical conditions. At the moment of this posting both S. Clay Wilson and Tony DeZuniga are in the midst of dire health crises that have caused each man significant financial distress as well.

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* According to the latest e-mail update I've read from Last Gasp's Ron Turner, underground comix great S. Clay Wilson experienced a setback during physical therapy that involved him having to have his heartbeat and breathing restored by his therapist. Wilson's companion Lorraine Chamberlain told Turner that the cartoonist is back in the ICU via that facility's emergency room.

There is a living trust set up for Wilson here that can always use attention. One of the Zap Comics crew and perhaps best known for his Checkered Demon character, Wilson was in many ways the straw that stirred the drink that was the culturally potent underground comix movement. His comics are a mass of shifting absurdities and lungest into madness, some of the most life-affirming and tremendously disrespectful -- in every single good way -- works done in any medium during that vital time. His is one of comics' grand personalities as well†.

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* Terry Allen at Comic Art Community reports that Tony DeZuniga's recent health scares have intensified to the point that the mainstream artist great is in the hospital in critical condition. That stay in the hospital has caused significant damage to the family's financial state of being; the linked-to post has both direct paypal information and word of forthcoming art auctions and the like. The Manila-born cartoonist is perhaps best known for his mainstream U.S. work, particularly his co-creation Jonah Hex.

We wish for the most beneficial outcome for both men and their families, and hope that you'll consider a donation if possible.
 
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Go, Look: Colin Tedford

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Footnotes In Gaza Wins GN Category Of Oregon Book Prize

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Joe Sacco and his mammoth, heartbreaking Footnotes In Gaza has won the Graphic Literature Award at this year's Oregon Book Awards.

The other nominees were Graham Annable for The Book of Grickle (Dark Horse Comics), Aidan Koch for The Whale (Gaze Books), Sarah Oleksyk for Ivy (Oni Press) and Greg Rucka for Stumptown (Oni Press). This is the first year for the award.
 
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OTBP: Samandal

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* more proof that they're basically making comics specifically for me now: Library Of American Comics is going to publish a series of key storyline reprints from comics series that might not be able to handle gigantic archival volumes encompassing the entirety of their runs.

image* Floating World and Traditional Comics have announced their team-up to publish a limited, 1500-copy edition of Benjamin Marra's Drawings Inspired By The Motion Picture "American Psycho". The new publication will have three additional illustrations and a brand-new cover.

* if you take away one link from this post, let it be that a new, British-based small press publisher of promise has announced itself: Great Beast.

* manga, in summary form: 1)we have an ending point on Bakuman now; 2) Viz announces two new shojo licenses; Kodansha announces three.

* although it's already been covered here and in a ton of other places in "this is going happen" fashion, it's always nice to see a straight-up publishing story about a forthcoming work featuring creators and creations with the pedigree of Mike Baron and Steve Rude and their Nexus.

* Mike Dawson has pulled the plug on his TCJ Talkies feature over at The Comics Journal. It also looks like Matt Seneca has ended his column on sequences at Robot 6.

* Katherine Roy announced a second book deal with Macmillan. That's impressive.

* here's another DC trade that won't see publication, despite at one point that being the plan.

* I have to imagine that at some point or another most of us wondered if that previously-announced First Comics revival was still a thing. Based on a panel at C2E2 a few days back, it looks like they will be publishing. They won't be going through Diamond, which is interesting in a couple of ways. Frankly, it opens them up to accusations that without a strong alternative plan to get their books in front of readers this isn't really a big-time venture (they would likely disagree on both points); there's also something to be said for their general argument that Diamond simply doesn't serve certain kinds of publishers right now.

* you can't keep Rob Hanes down, either in the comics or as a comics venture.

* Hugh Hefner is moving the Playboy offices to Los Angeles. The magazine was an important entity in the world of 20th Century cartooning.

* finally, congratulations to emerging small-press publisher Domino Books on the publication of their third book, Difficult Loves.

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Go, Look: Frank Frazetta Does Romance

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Before "Before Watchmen" There Was Spain Rodgriguez

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You can go look at some more Before Watchmen art in second-hand, photo-taken fashion and then Rob Bricken's righteous beatdown of the same; or you can look at some Spain Rodriguez originals in their full glory here. The above is a typical Spain stand-alone image: blunt in one's initial appraisal, yet full of odd detail (the inexplicable cane that ends in a very sharp point) and a surprising artistic touch (the background buildings done differently than the foregrounded visual, more a suggestion of buildings, an impressions of buildings, than actual buildings). I'm sure the Before Watchmen books will be very pretty, but I'll be surprised if any single image has the personality that throbs in just about every Spain drawing.

Spain Rodriguez 4, Rob Bricken 1, Before Watchmen 0
 
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If I Were In London, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Odd, Beautiful Bob Powell Art

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I'm not the biggest fan of receiving random pieces of PR, but without it I don't think I would have known that Heritage is currently auctioning off the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles drawing. Most creative people have a drawing like that one somewhere in their past (mine was from 1979 and titled "Arafast Weird and the Quadrophonic Mutants"); few people build an entertainment empire from theirs. Hell of a story, that. Still.

image* what artists do other artists purchase on eBay? Looks like Sean Phillips and Declan Shalvey both recently bought Jorge Zaffino pages.

* Glenn Fleishman profiles the great Richard Thompson. Jerzy Drozd talks to Nick Abadzis. Marc Mason talks to Paul Tobin. Albert Ching talks to David Aja. Alex Dueben talks to Caitlin R. Kiernan.

* via a bunch of you (and thanks): sounding the doom of the comics.

* the second part of that comics effort on behalf of the labor dispute at The Strand is up on the new dedicated web site for those comics.

* it's a page of that Cromartie High School/X-Men crossover we've all been waiting for. Okay, not really. Still: Colleen Coover drawing one of the great non-sequitur pages in comics culture history, that's gotta be worth a click-through for many of you fine folks.

* Bryan and Mary Talbot have some comics recommendations for you.

* not comics: my friend Gil Roth sent me a link to this article about the fast-reboot nature of this year's Spider-Man film. A few things they leave out: one is that the strength of superhero movies is usually the origin story, so telling that story as frequently as possible makes sense; another is that last year's X-Men film is essentially a second shot at an origin story if you want to look at this Spider-Man movie that way; yet another is that comics fans have shown they will support multiple reboots, and the general audience is more like comics fans than we sometimes think.

* Andy Oliver on Science Tales. Dominic Umile on a specific aspect of DMZ. David Brothers on BPRD: Hell On Earth: The Long Death #3. Rob Clough on various CCS-related comics. Sean Gaffney on Higurashi: When They Cry Vol. 18. Johanna Draper Carlson on A Devil And Her Love Song Vols. 1-2 and a few books from Oni. Todd Klein on Aquaman #7, Night Force #2 and Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes.

* a couple of fun drawings: Bill and Ted and Milk and Cheese (don't worry: they're not lying next to each other in bed); Batman on a dinosaur.

* not comics: I would so very much watch a Warren Ellis cooking show.

* finally, Coast City Comicon wins the race to rope actor and comics-maker Shia LaBeouf into an odd and very, very comics-culture scheme. It sounds like a nice cause though.
 
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April 23, 2012


Go, Look: Secret Agent Searle

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Daily Cartoonist: IU's Ben Wade Wins John Locher Memorial Award

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Alan Gardner over at Daily Cartoonist picked up word that Indiana University illustrator/cartoonist Ben Wade will receive this year's AAEC/John Locher Memorial Award. That's an award that's been around for about a quarter-century that goes to college editorial cartoonists. The winner receives $1000 and a trip to the year's AAEC convention (this time out in Washington, D.C.). I'm not familiar with Wade's editorial cartooning work, although samples of his illustrations in Bloomington student-focused publication show up here and there on the Internet. There's also a profile of Wade as a kind of "typical freshman" feature here.

Gardner reports the other finalists in a year of close voting were Phillip Henry and Sam Reveley. Past winners of the John Locher Memorial Award include Marshall Ramsey, Steve Breen and Nate Beeler.
 
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Go, Look: Gallery Of Spider-Man Informational Features

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Go, Look: Poppa Bears

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Go, Read: Jessica Campbell Describes The L'Association Book

D+Q's Jessica Campbell participates in this week's reading feature at the blog Robot 6, and spends a big chunk of her time describing scenes from L'Association's dramatic crack-up as written about in Quoi!.
"At one point, Joann Sfar illustrates an argument/meeting between the group (its funeral, they call it) that ends with Menu, alone on the sidewalk, begging everyone to come with him for a last glass of wine, and they all refuse and then go for a drink together, without him. Then the scene is then repeated by other cartoonists three times! It’s impossible in this moment not to feel sorry for him, empathize with him."
I don't have any real commentary here; I just found Campbell's contributions entertaining. Plus I don't think I knew that book was out.
 
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Go, Look: Eat More Bikes

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So Let's All Be Super-Clear About One Thing

The writer Chris Roberson was fired from an arc on the Fairest title because he made statements about DC Comics' ethics. I appreciate ComicsAlliance firming that up, because initial tweets and commentary kind of put those two ideas proximate to one another rather than stating them in plain English.

That is... well, that's distressing and sort of sad. It's hard not to get it, of course; I can't imagine it's awesome to be working with a creator that's just made public statements about your general lack of ethics in dealing with other creators. At the same time, it's not like you're publishing his manifesto of why you suck; you're making comics in a relationship you found valuable before the statements were made. I'm not sure what you get by hastening someone out the door in this situation other than looking like the kind of company that doesn't want people making public statements about their business practices, additionally looking like the criticism really strikes home in some way and even projecting an air of superiority that the company will not suffer any significant blowback for petty reprisal. When Jim Lee asks, as he apparently did over the weekend, what keeping someone that critical as a freelancer would do for internal morale, let me suggest that what it would say is that you're a company whose internal morale isn't dependent on individuals toeing some perceived company line. And before anyone suggests that this happens without exception, my memory is that I've pulled a check with at least three comics companies I've publicly criticized, and worked with several more in non-paying capacities. (I was also fired from a really, really minor gig for statements about a comics company, so I know it happens.)

I think what's shaping up as a takeaway from a lot of this stuff is how much direct intent plays a role in these big company policies, how this isn't a locked-in set of behaviors. Simply having a rule or the legal okay to do something isn't the same as actively pursuing that thing. It's looking more and more like DC actively kept Watchmen in print to keep it from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I think it's fair to look at actions taken and state that Marvel has actively decided that, say, random members of their board deserve more in the way of windfall than the creators and their families from another time on which their success was built. This is true of any and all positive policies as well, from the way creators receive credit now to royalty programs for copies sold to those companies that pay creators for the use of their characters in other media when maybe this wasn't explicitly hammered out years and years ago. There are people making choices here, and we need to bear witness to those choices.
 
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Go, Look: All Over Coffee

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* Ted Rall's auction of 12 pieces of comics art to benefit the educational fund started for the son of the late editorial cartoonist Rex Babin will end today.

* lots of ongoing Kickstarter out there. Brian Buccellato would like to tell you about the project he hopes to get done by this year's Comic-Con International. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti look well on their way here. Reading With Pictures is a long way off from a very ambitious goal. Ditto Paul Jenkins. There are a ton more: Rachel Deering, Michael Moreci, Ray Sumser, Grant Thomas, Cynthia Shelton, Dean Haglund and Alverne Ball.

* there are also a bunch of successful fundraising projects on Kickstarter that are still accepting money in return for their various premiums, like this one from the great Carlton Hargro.
 
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Missed It: Some Dan Flagg Color Sundays

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Go, Look: More Intellectual Amos

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Sean Kleefeld reminds us that yesterday was Earth Day.

image* Mike Dawson talks to Tim Kreider. Frank Santoro profiles a bunch of younger cartoonists.

* Mark Frauenfelder writes about the great Jim Woodring's next project, Fran.

* Ryan Wickland was nice enough to march through this site's core "Comics Links" page and point out all the malware bombs sitting there waiting for bored people that might trust such an old resource more than maybe they should. As thanks, I direct you to his comics collectible e-bay alternative site. I lack the knowledge to tell you if that's the best site ever or the worst, but I figure it can't hurt to let you know about it, especially considering the favor Wickland just did this site.

* Pappy on Frazetta Funny Stuff. Prajna Desai on Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability. Tucker Stone on various comics. Rob Clough on new comics from Caitlin Cass. Henry Covert on Sorrow #2. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Princess Knight Vol. 1. Dean Kmiecik on 5 Is The Perfect Number.

* not comics: I was whining the other day about a lack of underground/alternative t-shirts so someone sent me this link to a bunch of new Jim Woodring t-shirts.

* Todd Allen on buying comics by browsing. Alan David Doane on Todd Allen on buying comics by browsing.

* I'm sort of impressed that Charlie Biro managed to work up this spring's most alarming cover image... 70 years ago. Yikes.

* finally, this strip is totally not butthole (thanks, Paul)
 
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Go, Bookmark: The Five-Dimensional Adventures Of Dirk Davies

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April 22, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: Michael Cho

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*****

imageEven though he's been working in comics for years now, I knew of Michael Cho's work primarily as an illustrator, designer and maker of stand-alone superhero images. During a welcome, chance encounter at Emerald City Comicon, I learned Cho was making inroads into name-on-the-cover comics publishing. Back Alleys And Urban Landscapes isn't exactly the major graphic novel we'll eventually get from the Toronto-based artist; it's more of an art book with a bit of commentary, a series of portraits of spaces the vast majority of which are used by Toronto citizens to get from one place to another. The art is lushly realized, and if we've learned one thing as comics readers in the last 20 years it's to accept works like the imminent Drawn and Quarterly effort as an experience in comics reading organized around something other than a narrative.

In other words, I liked Back Alleys quite a bit, both for the staring at it and the learning from it; I think it stands with the kinds of regional histories one used to see a lot of in the 1930s and 1940s, works driven from a particular point of view and frequently steeped in nostalgia. I greatly enjoyed talking to Cho as well, and can't wait to see more comics from him, no matter how they're constituted. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: So how did this project become a book? These are drawings that you were doing, and I'm guessing that's not how this project started, with a book in mind.

MICHAEL CHO: Kind of, sort of. It became an intention of mine pretty quickly. The impetus for these drawings is different, I had completely different reasons for them. But within about doing five or six drawings... I always think in terms of series, right? If I have five of anything or more [laughs] I'm always thinking, "I could do something with this." Right? So immediately I thought, "This would be a great collection for a book."

One of the inspirations for the drawings in the first place was a set of books. So I always had in the back of my mind that if I did enough of these drawing I would collect them and take them to a publisher and hopefully they would agree to put them out as a book. I never actually know what the enough-drawings amount was supposed to be, so I kept plugging away at it. [Drawn and Quarterly Publisher] Chris Oliveros and I were talking about another project we might do. He suggested along the way, "Hey, why don't we put out those drawings of yours in a book?" I said, "That's a great idea; I've been thinking the same type of thing."

He was really gracious, because he basically said, "Fine. You know what you're doing. Just put it together." [laughs] That's always great. I asked, "Can I design the cover? Can I design the whole thing? I'll lay out the whole book." All he wanted to know is how many pages. He was very gracious about suggesting the format we could work in. He basically said take as long as I needed. [laughs] It's the ideal scenario, and I can't thank him enough for having the patience with me to allow this to happen.

SPURGEON: What was the book that helped inspire the series?

CHO: My wife has a family friend, and he used to collect books from the '50s. He was a very big comic strip fan. It was one of those things we had in common. He had an amazing collection of Walt Kelly Pogo books. The entire set, right from the beginning. He even had the record. Have you ever seen that?

SPURGEON: Sure.

CHO: He had that. He gave them to us for safekeeping, and he also gave us along the way a couple of other interesting books that were part of his collection. Among those interesting books were these two little books that were hardcover, little landscape books that were put out I think it was the '30 and the '20s. They were two volumes of drawings of downtown Toronto, done in pen and ink, by this one artist. It was just a survey of his time in the city. He would draw the intersection of Yonge and Dundas, which is a very popular intersections here. Which now has concrete towers and movie theaters and crazy sidewalks. Back then, his drawing just had a corner with two buildings and the horse carriages. A few years later he did a drawing of a similar location and it had streetcar tracks. He documented the evolution of these things.

I was interested in who this guy was. In the book you realize that what he was was an insurance salesman who did these drawings on the side for the calendar he gave to clients. He did them over the course of 20 years or something like that. [laughs] It was great to see. The first volume of drawings you'd go, "Those were nice amateur sketches and pen and ink drawings." They're great documents of what the waterfront looked like with that one pavilion that remains today but the rest is unrecognizable. By the time you get to the middle of the second book, you realize, "Wow, this guy has become a pen and ink master." [laughs] This is the evolution of ten years of drawing that's coming out here; these are great books.

I always thought that at some point they were so inspirational I always wanted to document the environment I grew up in with the city, and what the city looks like to me today. You know? So I always had that idea in the back of my mind when I was drawing these books. Certainly when I came up with subjects for things, I was thinking what is it about Toronto do I want to capture? So that was in my mind.

imageSPURGEON: One thing you mention in the text that accompanies the pictures in this book is that there was an element of a drawing exercise in this project for you, that you wanted to become better at drawing landscapes. That's something you weren't comfortable with at one point in your career.

CHO: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. It's not so much a drawing exercise as a lack of focus in that department. I've always been attracted to the human figure, since I was a kid. A lot of kids start drawing, they draw cars. Some kids draw people. That's how things broke down when I was a kid. I had a best friend who was awesome at drawing cars, guns and buildings. And I just did people. People and monsters. [laughs]

The reason was that I was a city kid. When I would see landscape paintings I could relate to them somewhat, but I wouldn't be able to find similar locations in the city to draw. I didn't think of backgrounds or landscapes or drawing the city as something fun because I always equated it to drawing straight lines with a ruler. Like most kids who grew up visually attuned to comic books, I always saw skyscrapers drawn in a John Romita style with Joe Sinnott inks or something. [laughter] They're very clean. I hated doing that. The figures to me had rhythm and organic qualities; I never thought the buildings did.

When I became a professional illustrator, one of the things I had to do was shore up my skills and become well-rounded. It's a personal exercise. I would devote time to trying to improve in that department. I realized that to start with what I wanted to do is draw confidently the surroundings I live in and which I was comfortable with. Because I don't have an affinity for drawing a pastoral landscape. [laughs] You know what I mean? I've never lived in that environment, so I can't draw that thing with confidence. When I close my eyes I don't visualize that with any confidence. But a city is something I'm surrounded with constantly. With alleyways and lane ways and how light poles connect up to transformer towers which have extra leads leading down to the basement apartment. I can see that when I close my eyes, you know?

So that's the kind of stuff I started drawing, and the more I started drawing that stuff the more I discovered a real love for it the way I love figures. Back then I considered them backgrounds. [laughs] Now when I draw buildings or landscape-type pictures, I often consider the buildings to be the figures in the drawing.

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SPURGEON: Is there a progressive quality to these drawings? Do you see a difference between the drawings you made in 2006 and the drawings you made last year?

CHO: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Definitely.

SPURGEON: What would be the nature of something you see that's different now?

CHO: If we get technical... 2006, I'd say I'm still getting comfortable with the subject matter and an approach to them. Right? Which at some point I get very comfortable with, and then once I get comfortable with anything I just want to move past it and see if there's something else different. You don't want to be bored. With any kind of personal work I ever do I have a different agenda than say the work I do for clients, which is to their specifications a lot of the time. When it comes to personal work my own interest is to keep absolute fidelity to whatever emotional quality I'm trying to express. If my style or a way of drawing is a hindrance to that, I have to evolve it or change it, find a different way to express myself that will express that emotion.

SPURGEON: Two things that strike me about your experiences growing up as I've read about them in interviews. One is that your early childhood -- including your initial experiences drawing -- was spent in Korea, if I'm right. And also that you assimilated yourself to English by reading graphic literature of all kinds when you got to Canada.

CHO: Somewhat. I didn't learn to read reading comic books. But they were the thing that I gravitated to immediately.

SPURGEON: Do you think your visual imagination or the way you approach the page is different for having those two formative experiences? That's a very different culture you were in, and a very different thing to be taking from the comics and art you were seeing later on.

CHO: It's too young. I was what, six? At the age of six, you don't even know artists' names, let alone styles. You know what I mean? [Spurgeon laughs] So I wasn't thinking in that way. I don't think there was an eastern meets western influence from my moving to Canada. I think if anything, my time in Korea was spent developing a love of drawing, as opposed to an approach to drawing.

When I came to Canada, I fell in love with what art I was exposed to, which was comic books and cartoons, newspaper comic strips and occasional trips to the art gallery. So my approach was western, because that's what I was indoctrinated with. [laughs] I didn't grow up with like a manga-style pacing in my head for comics pacing, or tropes in my head for how people should be drawn in an anime-style. Or even an affinity for things like Chinese brush painting. Which I do have now. [laughs] This is interesting, because I always go back and rediscover that stuff because it's stuff my Mom likes.

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SPURGEON: If this project represents a kind of sitting down and working through something, focusing on a certain kind of illustration, a certain way of looking of things, how much do you study still?

CHO: You mean art?

SPURGEON: Yeah. Do you have that studious approach to art, still? Do you still seek something out and see how someone else does it and then apply that to your work, or is it mostly working through your own interests at this point?

CHO: I still absolutely have a hunger to see how the other guy did it. If it comes down to artists. If it comes to expressing anything artistically, I'm always looking for a way to get closer to the page, you know what I mean? What I see in my head, or what I'm feeling, try to put more of that down on paper. That desire doesn't change, but I have a daughter now. [laughter] There's only so many hours in the day. When I was younger I would devote more time to working through my influences.

When I started cartooning I remember fastidiously being entranced by Noel Sickles and Frank Robbins and just how they did it. I would look at their stuff and trying to work through their mental process to the point where I could think like them. Similar things happened with Wally Wood. I would do studies and stuff like that. It's the same with painters and other artists in other fields. I went through a big phase where I wanted to paint like Gerhard Richter or James Rosenquist or Alice Katz, even. I think if you're visually attuned at all, when you look at anything visual that you like you're always trying to figure out how they did it or what qualities make that work. I think you're always evolving and growing unless you treat art purely as a vocation that makes you money.

SPURGEON: I've read you on Noel Sickles. We used to have the rumor of Sickles unless you really worked to track it down; now we have a grander idea of what Sickles did and when. What is it that you took from Sickles?

CHO: First of all, I'm lucky that I grew up in an age where I didn't get that stuff as fourth-generation photocopies from a friend in an animation department. [Spurgeon laughs] I didn't come in during the golden era now where every comic strip drawn by everybody ever is being reprinted in deluxe editions, these catalogs of these guys' lives. I went around and tracked down little pamphlets with bad printing... but at least they were around! [laughs]

When I started cartooning... I became an illustrator kind of by accident, just to pay the bills. Then I discovered I really loved it and wanted to do it as a profession. One of the things I loved working in is this cartoony style. I don't draw like other illustrators. My natural style is developed from my love of comic book and cartooning. Sickles was to me the bedrock of how to understand certain aspects of cartooning. Inking... he's the bedrock to me. You can learn how to spot blocks, for example, by looking at Wally Wood. You can learn how to spot blacks by looking at Joe Kubert. You can learn to spot blacks by looking at Kevin Nowlan. Right? But they learned from another guy before them and then they stylized on top of it. You're not going to learn as much if you just study how Kevin Nowlan double-lights something; you might as well look at Wally Wood, then. If you're looking at Wally Wood, you might as well look at Hal Foster. [laughs] You know what I mean? I always find that the closer you get to the bedrock, the more you find information that's in its rawest form, before the stylization. That information you can process on your own, and assimilate it, turn it into yours. You can add your own flair to it without feeling you copied this guy's hatching style of something.

Sickles was just the best at that. He was natural. He drew stuff that was completely impressionistic but completely convincing because he understood construction. He understood how an object comes together and how it works in 3-D so you can light it. He knew how to get across spontaneous effects, and knew what was important. He didn't even cartoon for that long. It was like three years. And the period he's really known for, that black and white stuff, it's like six months. The other times he's trying to quill stuff and crazy duotone board stuff. That guy was relentlessly intelligent. He's not as good a storyteller as some of the other guys. The guy I always looked at for storytelling is Roy Crane, personally, but Frank Robbins and Milton Caniff were amazing as well. That guy... I don't know. When I was trying to figure out, I was a line art guy. I was interested in a very clean, inked line. When I saw Sickles the light went off in my head that there's another way.

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SPURGEON: I think a lot of people I know, when they think of your stuff, they think of this really striking superhero pin-up work that you've done over the last few years. These very attractive, single-color, sometimes in gouache -- it's pronounced "gwash," right? I don't think I've ever said that word out loud before.

CHO: It's "gwash." Poster paints.

SPURGEON: I think of those single images when I think of you, too. Am I right in thinking that was a big sideline for your illustration work for a while?

CHO: No, actually it's not. [Spurgeon laughs] You know what it is? Since I work mostly as an illustrator, with occasional comics assignments here and there, I also like mainstream superheroes. There are so many comic book artists in Toronto, and I'm friends with a lot of them, we'll occasionally doodle superheroes or I'll see some of their work and go home and think, "Gee, I'd love to see if I could draw some superheroes." And again me drawing superheroes was me also working it out how to draw superheroes. [laughs]

I worked in children's comics for years, and it was very safe and tame. When I quit that kind of stuff, I remember talking to some friends of mine that wrote and drew superhero comics and such. "Hey, I'm just going to show you some samples of action stuff, and you can tell me whether or not it's up to snuff." Then they would take a look at it and go, "Oh my God, this is the safest jump I've ever seen. There's no immediacy or danger here. He looks like he's jumping one inch and he's smiling." [laughter] So I was like, "Okay, I have to take a second pass at this." I'd come back and they'd go, "Okay, this is really charming, but he's 15 and he has a scrawny neck and he could never deliver that punch." [Spurgeon laughs] Eventually they were, "Okay, you got something here. That's convincing; that looks like a decent Iron Man." So part of it was that.

Part of it was that I would work through assignments that were, let's say, less than enjoyable, because they were driven by large committees and involved multiple revisions on a topic that was dull in the first place. At the end of the night I would be like, "Okay, I think I'm going to paint something for myself." And it would be the Hulk or something. I would take them to shows, and sell the original paintings. People wanted them, so I decided to make them prints.

SPURGEON: Other than the fact that people have great affection for those characters -- you do, too -- is there anything to them visually that you enjoy? Is there something that makes a picture like this work other than the narrative authenticity you just described?

CHO: In my work?

SPURGEON: When you doing those kinds of characters, is what appeals to people the affection they have for the characters, or are they uniquely visually appealing in certain ways as well?

CHO: I think it's all of what you're saying. I have a childhood affection for certain characters and certain stories. My favorite superhero as a kid was Spider-Man, because of Steve Ditko. That run is in my opinion the greatest superhero comics ever. So when I draw Spider-Man as an adult, I draw it with a lot of joy, because I can remember when I couldn't draw Spider-Man as a kid. [laughter] I was frustrated when I couldn't draw him. When I draw him I try to draw the best Spider-Man I can possibly draw. When I get it, I fulfill the goal of the eight-year-old me that wanted to draw like Ditko. I have a lot of that, I'm not jaded to that in any way.

The other part of the thing is I have an affection for the stories and the characters of the past in terms of the creators that created them. A lot of the characters I draw are Jack Kirby types of characters. I have a real affinity for the work and I learn from the guy. All that stuff I was telling you earlier about my friend telling me that punch doesn't work or that jump is so tame, it's all solved by me going more Kirby on it. [laughter] You know? You put a bit more Kirby into it, it works. The rest of it is just window-dressing on top of the Kirby.

SPURGEON: You switch media a bit in the alley portraits. Was that just wanting to learn the tools in question, or is it something you're seeing form a scene that makes you, say, want to work in markers?

CHO: The gouache is the go-to one. It's the one that has the most flexibility for my approach. I'm most comfortable working in gouache. I work in markers when I want to be fast. Gouache takes time to draw in; markers never do. If it's a sketching thing, it's markers, but the look is never as good. The watercolor stuff that I did, I have absolutely no skill at watercolors, zero, so I only used them begrudgingly because I knew that certain effects require watercolor. I had to do like a soft sky, which is hard for me to do in gouache. Most of the immediate choices were just as a result of the demands of the drawing.

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SPURGEON: The pull-out drawing is pretty spectacular: the curved street, College Street.

CHO: The, big wide one.

SPURGEON: This was something that wasn't part of the series, but was part of a different exhibition.

CHO: That was done for an exhibition in Toronto at the Harbourfront, which is our waterfront. There's a nice public gallery there. They were putting on a small show of cartoonists drawing pictures of their neighborhoods. They could interpret that any way they wanted, so it wasn't literal. They invited myself, Jeff Lemire, Zack Worton, Willow Dawson and Hyein Lee, who is another cartoonist in Toronto. They asked us all to submit one piece.

Before I did it -- they wanted it custom-done for the show rather than something that existed already -- I went to the space to figure out the dimensions of the space and draw something to fit. It ended up being three-and-a-half feet wide. Impossible to paint on the drafting table. It's like an easel-painting size, but it was on paper, so there wasn't any real way to do it. I had to work on a light box because I always work on light boxes when I paint. It took four days. I was really happy with it. I did it in April, so it was either the day before the day right after my birthday when I finished it. I remember thinking this was a good summation of where I was at my age. That's something I'm always looking for in my art, where I am and how much more I have to do.

SPURGEON: You mentioned a light box. Were there photos taken or studies done...?

CHO: That one is definitely photo-based. There's no way I could sketch that much, and it wouldn't work anyway. I'd get bogged down on the little details. The nighttime ones for example, I went around in the summer time with a friend of mine, Alex Hoffman. I lugged a tripod; he carried a flask. We went around all through the city at 4 AM and took photos. I can't sketch at night. The same with the winter ones. Some of the spring ones were done on the spot in terms of sketches and detail sketches of certain things like how a satellite dish connects. Things like that. It's all observations and learning for me, too. Then they were finished in the studio. All of them were finished in the studio, but some of them were based on photos.

SPURGEON: Why is that view of College a favorite?

CHO: That view of College? It bends! It's got a beautiful bend in it.

SPURGEON: That's visually appealing to you?

CHO: That bend is really nice. Also I've loved that view from the first time I rode that streetcar and saw that view. It's in Little Italy, so it's a neighborhood. Every storefront there, they're all neighborhood shops. There's not a Club Monaco or a Gap among them. There's a movie theatre there, the Royal Movie Theatre, which is a great movie theatre that's been there for years. When it was going under, it was bought out by a film company that decided to just keep it and play movies downstairs, the same kind of programming from the previous owners. It has that indie feeling I really love about Toronto.

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SPURGEON: Another drawing I thought attractive is late in the book when you talked about how a particular view provided nearly unbroken access to the horizon.

CHO: Oh, yeah.

SPURGEON: What struck me about it is that you depict a lot of that particular horizon before breaking it with other visual elements. All of your vertical elements are placed on one side of the drawing. It made me realize how many of your compositions depend on hard verticals. Are you attracted to start and stops with the eye? Where does your eye go when you look at these pictures?

CHO: I'm always thinking about composition. Composition and light are the two elements that are the most important. All of the drawings in that book are very deliberately composed. I would crop certain things out. Even in the photos I would edit out certain things. Like say there was a car there. Not only was a car symbolically wrong because it would date the area, just also compositionally it would suck against the chimney. [laughter]

When my wife laid it out -- she was the designer on the book -- she cropped some of the photos and thought it would get past me. And I would say, "Did you crop a quarter inch off of the edge of this thing? Because this drawing doesn't work any more." [laughs] She would say, "I thought you wouldn't catch that." It's what I could control in that scene. I'm not going to rebuild that fence or tell them to tear down that house. The composition I often think about in terms of tilted verticals and horizontals, without diagonals. There's an art-school adage that diagonals create energy whereas horizontals create stability and verticals project power. Little, crooked amounts of those things make an organic urban scene.

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SPURGEON: There is a lot of strength and stability in these pieces of art.

CHO: When I look at that book, it's funny, because I look at those paintings and I often think that the telephone poles are the people. They're the figures in a lot of ways. They're ever-present, and they're all different in their slanting and the way they've been hacked out and so forth.

SPURGEON: You mentioned another book you might do with Chris, and we talked in Seattle about other work you might have planned. Can we talk about that stuff in general terms?

CHO: Sure.

SPURGEON: Are we going to see a big, long graphic novel from you at some point?

CHO: I'm working on it. I actually have stories written and drawn for it. It has to be completed and then we're going to try and find an American publisher. The problem is that when I started this project and started gathering resources to pitch it, it was the absolute worst time in publishing. It was a couple of years ago, during that big crash. The web site I visited the most that year was Magazine Death Pool. [laughter] It tracked everything that was going under in publishing. It was like watching a casualty list. It was horrible! And seeing what happened with book publishers the same way, it was the absolutely worst time to pitch a graphic novel from a first-time graphic novelist. So I thought the best thing would be to take it back and finish up a large chunk of it and hopefully it will be easier to sell, give people a better idea of what it is I'm trying to do with this project.

In the meantime, I constantly work on small comics projects here and there. Last year I had a story in the Best American Comics anthology, and I did a webcomic for a while that had a monthly short story. Unfortunately, my comics output this year has been down to two advertising-type projects. I did a book report-type piece on a Jean Genet book that was a favorite of mine for literary web site for Open Book: Toronto, which is a month celebrating reading festivals in Toronto.

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SPURGEON: That was a striking piece. Is that where the ambition is? All things being equal, is that where you'd like to be in the next few years, doing these bigger comics projects with the small ones in-between?

CHO: What I want to do is the plan I've had for the last three or four years, only I'm really slow. [laughter] My first love is comics. When I was in my twenties, I set out trying to make a career in comics, and found out I couldn't draw a lick. [laughs] I realized that what I had to do. In order to draw the stories I wanted to draw, I had to learn to draw much better and figure out how to express the things I wanted to express on paper. Like I couldn't do lighting, for example. So I couldn't generate atmosphere in a drawing. The only way I could do that is distorted figures, and I wasn't that kind of artist. So I held off on that for a long while. But these days, I really do want to do more comics work, and ideally it would be work I could write and draw myself.

imageI have no leanings to be, I don't know, Proust or something like that. My thing is I like all kinds of comics. I like superhero stuff. I love indie comics. I'm not afraid to work in either. It's kind of weird, because when I was growing up there was a very big schism between the two groups, right? Like there was the indie sort of Fantagraphics crowd and there was a superhero audience and the closest they might meet is Alan Moore. Even though I remember that era, I'm from a generation that draws from all of it. But I don't have a desire to make a mash-up, where everything is all blended in together.

I like drawing superheroes... two days out of the week. When I draw superheroes, I draw them without irony. I'm not trying to draw fey, little, indie superheroes, poking fun of things. [Spurgeon laughs] I'm drawing full-out superheroes with a love of superheroes. But if I did that seven days a week, I'd be withering away another part of me that wants to express itself, which wants to express other topics rather than more all-ages adventure stories. I want to do something that's a little intimate, and tells a different type of story. If I only did that kind of storytelling, graphic novels about people that work in offices, I would be killing off a side of me that just said, "Don't you want to draw some superheroes fighting some bad guys, a cool story involving robots?" Because sometimes you need that. I love action movies, but I can't watch Michael Bay movies every day. I can watch one of those a month, maybe.

SPURGEON: The perceived audience for this new work, the alleyways book: do you think it can work on that audience the way the older books you once saw and were inspired by worked on you? Does it have that snapshot quality?

CHO: Oh, I have no idea. I find that things like the perceived view of a book, the perception of the book, it's not decided by the people that created the book. It's often decided by marketing.

I know what my intent was. I know that the pictures for me, the ones that I put in the book, were successful to me because they contained whatever I could pull out of my head and put down on paper accurately. There's a painter I really liked in college, Agnes Martin, who would talk about how 99 percent of her painting was a failure... but there was that one percent that came to life -- one percent that she managed to pull out of the ether and put down on canvas. And that's what made the painting a success. I often think that way of my own work. If I can transfer the attachment I have, or the particular fascination I have, for this place and convey just a bit of that properly on paper, and it works for me, then hopefully it works for somebody else.

*****

* Back Alleys And Urban Landscapes, Michael Cho, Drawn And Quarterly, softcover, 80 pages, 9781770460805, May 2012, $19.95.
* Michael Cho's Sketchbook

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* cover to the new book
* art from the new book
* superhero art, this one featuring the X-Men
* that Jean Genet comic
* superhero art, this one featuring the Hulk and Rick Jones
* one last portrait from the new book (below)

*****

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Go, Look: StudioNJ.com

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Not Comics: NC Wyeth Illustrates Western Material

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Go, Look: Potato Farm Girl

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Not Comics: Illustration By Walter Appleton Clark

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Go, Look: Dan Cooney

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

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

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If I Were Near Bristol VA, I'd Go To This

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

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If I Were In Columbus, 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 Dublin, I'd Go To This

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FFF Results Post #291 -- Bring On The Bad Guys

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Villains/Villainous Entities You Think Are Under-Appreciated; Only One Per Publisher." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Circus Of Crime (Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; Marvel)
2. Superman Revenge Squad (Unknown writer with George Papp; DC)
3. Iron Jaw (Charles Biro; Gleason)
4. The Condor (Unknown; Harvey)
5. Jason Blossom (Frank Doyle and Dan DeCarlo; Archie)

*****

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Michael Dooley

1. The Sea Hag (EC Segar; King Features Syndicate)
2. Poppy Joe (Milton Caniff; News Syndicate Co., Inc.)
3. Haf-And-Haf (Chester Gould; Chicago Tribune Syndicate)
4. Silken Floss (Will Eisner; Everett M. Arnold)
5. The Red Baron (Charles Schulz, based on real-life figure; United Features Syndicate)

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. 176-167 (Carl Barks; Disney)
2. The Space Turnip (Steve Gerber and Frank Brunner; Marvel)
3. Pounce (Unknown; Dille Family Trust/Hermes)
4. She-Who-Must-Be-Okay (Jim Stenstrum, Abel Laxamana; Warren)
5. Dr. Doom (Unknown; Archie)

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. The Royal Flush Gang (Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky; DC)
2. The Serpent Society (Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary; Marvel)
3. The Devoes (Scott McCloud; Eclipse)
4. Demona (Jaime Hernandez; Fantagraphics)
5. Captain Cadaver (Bill Willingham and perhaps Jack Herman; Comico)

*****

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Mark Coale

1. Paste Pot Pete (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; Marvel)
2. Psycho Pirate (Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson; DC)
3. Lord Hikiji (Stan Sakai; Dark Horse)
4. Newman Xeno (Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba; Image/Icon)
5. Doctor Dinosaur (Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener; Red 5 Comics)

*****

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M. Emery

1. Colonel Olrik (Edgar P. Jacobs; Cinebook Ltd)
2. The Spider (Ted Cowan, Reg Bunn; IPC)
3. Arno Stark, Iron Man 2020 (Tom DeFalco; Marvel)
4. Sov Judge Orlok (John Wagner, Alan Grant, Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon; Rebellion)
5. Knuckles the Malevolent Nun (Roger Langridge, Cornelius Stone; Antipodes Publishing)

*****

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Shannon Smith

1. Batroc the Leaper (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; Marvel)
2. The Ultra-Humanite (Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster; DC)
3. Powerhouse (Erik Larsen; Image)
4. The Smiling Skull (Frank McLaughlin; Charlton)
5. Shredder (Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman; Mirage)

*****

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Douglas Wolk

1. The Rainbow Raider (Cary Bates, Don Heck; DC)
2. The Prime Mover (Jim Steranko; Marvel)
3. Nine-Crocodile (Doug Moench, Dan Day; Eclipse)
4. Sir Gerrik (Dave Sim; Aardvark-Vanaheim)
5. Total War (John Wagner, Colin Macneil; Rebellion)

*****

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Sean T. Collins

1. Dung (Erik Larsen; Image)
2. Crossbones (Mark Gruenwald, Kieron Dwyer; Marvel)
3. Fritz's dad (Gilbert Hernandez; Fantagraphics)
4. The guy who won't shut up in Louis Riel (Chester Brown; Drawn & Quarterly)
5. The Black Flame (Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis; Dark Horse)

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. The Frightful Four (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby; Marvel)
2. The Gentleman Ghost (Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert; DC)
3. Mr. Mind (Otto Binder, CC Beck; Fawcett)
4. Dr. N-R-Gee (Unknown; Harvey)
5. Judy Jr. (John Stanley; Dell)

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


Los Bros Hernandez On The Meltcast


Video Promotion For A Forthcoming Book (The Authors Were Nice Enough To Write In)


Peter Kuper Interviewed
via


The X-Men Come To New York
via


That Video For Paul Karasik's Bitchin' Comics Exhibition In Dekalb


Jeremy Bastian And David Petersen On World-Building
 
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April 21, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from April 14 to April 20, 2012:

1. Matt Wuerker wins this year's Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

2. WB/DC wins key legal victory against Siegel Family attorney Marc Toberoff, creating a potential way that the decision in which Toberoff played a part that returned Superman rights to the Siegels can now be re-examined and even reversed.

3. Time names Ali Ferzat to its list of 100 most influential people. Even the general goofiness of the list entire fails to detract from the way Ferzat's inclusion places a spotlight on his extraordinary story from 2011, where the Syrian cartoonist had his hands assaulted by pro-government thugs and became a worldwide symbol for the unfair treatment of people in his country.

Winner Of The Week
I'd love to say Chris Roberson, because what he did was a complete surprise, but it's got to be Wuerker and his career-defining Pulitzer win.

Losers Of The Week
Anyone in India that contributed to this series of absurdities.

Quote Of The Week
"Aside from the Fairest arc I already committed to doing, iZombie will be the last time I'll ever write for DC." -- Chris Roberson. (DC almost immediately decided it didn't want the Fairest arc.)

*****

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

*****
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If I Were Near Launceston, I'd Go To This

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

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If I Were In Boston, 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 Athens, I'd Go To This

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

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If I Were In Columbus, 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 Near This, I'd Sure Go To It

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LAT Book Prize In Graphic Novels Goes To Finder: Voice

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The nominees were: Joseph Lambert, I Will Bite You! And Other Stories (Secret Acres); Dave McKean, Celluloid (Fantagraphics); Jim Woodring, Congress of the Animals (Fantagraphics); Yuichi Yokoyama, Garden (Picturebox)

Past winners are Asterios Polyp (2010) and Duncan The Wonder Dog (2011).
 
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April 20, 2012


Go, Look: Jerome Bihan Goes To Angouleme

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Report: Palestinian Authority Arrests Cartoonist For Creating Disunity

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The human rights organization Al-Haq has a piece up saying that the Palestinian Authority has arrested 23-year-old cartoonist Hasan Wa'el 'Abbadi as part of a series of arrests focused on young people and college students. He was presented with a summons on April 8, and presented himself to security forces offices on April 10. I am not familiar with his work at all, although the cartoon at the top of this post is supposedly from the cartoonist, and looks accomplished.
 
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Go, Look: Ryan Cecil Smith's Diary Entries At TCJ

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Best Wishes To David Hyde, Soon Formerly Of DC Comics

David Hyde, whose current title I believe is VP Of Publicity at DC Entertainment (I could be extremely wrong about that) is having his last day today. I wish him the best and thank him for his specific kindnesses and general patience in those few times we were able to work together. Heidi MacDonald has a brief, recent history of Hyde's position and the posted job opening his departure creates here.
 
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Go, Look: Gabrielle Bell's Drawings From Fumetto

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Go, Read: Mark Waid On Launch Of His Digital Initiative

The site Comic Book Resources has a lengthy interview up with writer Mark Waid on the launch of his Thrillbent platform, to include on-line comics accessible through a variety of platforms. I lack the context to vigorously appraise the substance of these announcements. My guess is that we're in enough of a Wild West period still with on-line material that there's no reason to privilege projects results and possibilities over whatever actually happens. In other words, we'll start to know what works (or at least Waid will have an idea) soon enough, and that's more important than the potential these projects may or may not have.

That doesn't mean I'm all about the numbers here. As I've stated before, I suspect that Waid's strong move into these kinds of comics has definite symbolic significance, particularly for those with an orientation to the mainstream, genre-driven comics where Waid has made a name for himself. Waid's desire to do comics for this audience and his ability to put together something with his own creations in a way that sites like this one and CBR are covering "Mark Waid's digital efforts" rather than a company or a character or an initiative, I think this could prove to be important for other creators wishing to do the same and for fans of print comics that orient themselves around the works of creators like Waid. We'll see, potentially very soon.
 
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Go, Look: What Seth Tobocman Saw

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Before "Before Watchmen" There Was Spain Rodriguez

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Robert Crumb on Spain Rodriguez: "Spain's my buddy, my old pal, one of my best friends. I've learned a lot from Spain. I greatly admire his artwork. He is such a strong, committed, communist, left-wing guy. I know I can always count on him to give me a clear, concise Marxist theory or reaction or viewpoint on whatever's going on in the world, which I appreciate very much actually. I've learned a lot from him in that way."

Robert Crumb on superheroes: "I hate superheroes."

Spain Rodriguez 3, Before Watchmen 0; image supplied by Patrick Rosenkranz
 
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Go, Look: Love For Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!

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Chris Roberson Ends Relationship With DC Alluding To Creator Rights Issues Including Before Watchmen

Writer Chris Roberson's announcement he'd soon be ending his relationship with DC Comics and that their general treatment of creators as evinced through the Before Watchmen and Siegel Family counter-suit stories was a factor in his decision whipped around the superhero-focused parts of the comics Internet yesterday. JK Parkin has a nice summary post here. Roberson's well-received title iZombie was recently announced for cancellation. He has an arc on Fairest remaining.

Update: Roberson was apparently paid for his work turned in thus far on Fairest, but will not be writing that arc. Draw your own conclusions there, but seriously, remember that this happened.

The idea that a writer would choose not to work for a publisher because of their displayed stance on the general treatment of their creators -- despite an apparently copacetic relationship with the various editors with whom he worked directly -- runs counter to conventional wisdom that while creators may have some sympathy for the plight of other creators that most of them will continue to take whatever jobs are available in a tough, restrictive market. This is an additional blow to DC in that they're competing right now at something of a perceived talent deficit despite well-received editorial moves over the last year; developing talent would seem to be a high priority for them, and Roberson is a well-regarded writer with room to become a breakout star. Roberson doing this and stating it for the record are laudable acts.
 
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Go, Look: Squishface Studio

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Collective Memory: C2E2 2012

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this article has now been archived

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

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

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

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

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Go, Look: Al Williamson For Dell/Gold Key

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* nominations are now open for the Manning Award. I like the Manning Award.

image* the great John Porcellino talks about the Post Office. I can't really speak to the political elements he brings up in the post, and I've long wondered why there wasn't an aggressive program to reduce the number of days we receive home delivery if things are really that cocked up, but I know that he's right in how important the post office is to a certain kind of comics distribution. It's probably the least talked about extinction event out there for an entire aspect of comics.

* Henry Covert on Lord Of The Jungle #3. Sean Gaffney on Durarara!! Vol. 2. Sean T. Collins on the comics of Shia LaBeouf. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comics. Michael Buntag on Habibi.

* David Brothers finds a Frank Miller essay on Jack Kirby and Creators Rights from 18 years ago. Ken MacLeod profiles Kate Beaton.

* Tucker Stone talks to Seamus Heffernan. Paul Gravett profiles Tom Gauld. Caitlin McGurk profiles Richard D. Taylor. Leslie Lake profiles Mort Walker.

* it's low content week over at foundational blog Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun. That means a lot more content than just about everyone else, I bet.

* I have no idea why there can't be an editorial cartoon category and a category on deft employment of other visual elements, except maybe that no one would pay attention to an article asking for the latter without dissing the former.

* has anyone out there read an actual copy of Action Comics #1, and does that matter?

* if you have a Pogo original, Fantagraphics would like to do business with you. And I would like to hate you.

* I very much liked this convention report from Heidi MacDonald on last weekend's C2E2 and its accompanying retailing summit. MacDonald uses her position to provide perspective the "my table went great" testimonials can't match, which is a huge part of the point of hearing from outside observers on shows like these. She also takes on both directly (broaching the subject) and indirectly (telling a story about a lo-o-o-ong walk) the thing about the show that as a former Chicago resident I've wondered about since before the first one (this is the third): the fundamental hesitancy of Chicago residents and particularly Windy City area suburbanites to move all the way through downtown in order to visit the place where they hold conventions like this: McCormick Place. I think Reed can make this one work, and I think that doing the pop-culture stuff makes sense because of its position on the calendar. That said, it's not a slam dunk, and the participation by publishers in what can be an expensive show bears watching.

* how does Mike Sterling know what's on my business cards?

* finally, when the American Empire's collapse finally turns ugly enough we all have to admit it's happening/it happened, I'll look back on this post and think, "Yeah, we deserved it." I don't envy editorial cartoonists their job, but I can't imagine there isn't a ton of more compelling material about which to be making cartoons.
 
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April 19, 2012


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

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Go, Look: Finalist Jack Ohman's 2012 Pulitzer Prize Submissions

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Before "Before Watchmen" There Was Spain Rodriguez

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I think Rorschach from Watchmen is a really good character. I've never had any desire to see more of the guy, but the character is used well in the story that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons decided to tell back in the mid-1980s. His jittery, unpleasant nature made the way he served as a contrast with the work's more typical gateway characters a lot of fun, and gave the superhero series a great deal of energy perhaps under-appreciated now that a lot of similar characters have been shunted to the front of the stage in other, lesser works. To some readers, he dominated, and not always to positive effect. One could argue that one of the major seeds of Before Watchmen lies in the fact that many of the foundational work's initial readers latched onto Rorschach not for the critical eye he cast on the rigid morality that would almost certainly come with someone that decided to pursue dress-up vigilanteism but out of a desperate desire to be at some point in their lives the scariest guy in the room.

I think Trashman is a great character, and I appreciate that he seems to be taken largely as he's intended -- an expression of Spain Rodriguez's unique take on working-class politics and leftist ideology. It's worth noting that while many of Rorschach's biggest fans seem to have been comics fans taken with the cultural benefits of unflinching moral codes and the vigor to impose one's will on a desperate situation, Trashman was appreciated and adopted by actual scary people like the Weathermen. It's also refreshing when any character is about something other than commentary on the genre in which he appears. While one may see Trashman as a kind of Punisher-like solitary vigilante with his own set of things to say about what that means, it's worth reminding that one of the character's powers was changing into the previous week's issue of the East Village Other -- a kind of built-in "Before Trashman." Let's see Walter Kovacs do that.

Spain Rodriguez 2, Before Watchmen 0
 
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Go, Look: Tintin Removed

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Go, Read: Massive Before Watchmen Post At Comics Alliance

I know there have been a lot of these lately, and that most of the most recent have come from the keyboard of the same writer, David Brothers, but this is one of those occasions where not only is the article itself interesting but its appearance on a superhero-intensive site and the explosion of all-over-the-place commentary intrigues as well. What I think is most valuable about articles like this one in the long run is that they can inculcate a set of values that run counter to those that allow this kind of thing to happen, so that when it happens again -- and it will -- there are at least other things active in the culture that would seem to affirm something other than the crass, cynical commercial values of the thing itself.

One thing that seems unlikely is that these new comics will enhance the original work at all. The uglier elements of how this project rankles in terms of the creators rights issues involved occlude some of the relatively more minor elements of its arrival, like how these new stories may transform the reputation of the original. Doing more Watchmen reminds me of DC's less scrutinized decision from years ago to make the Dark Knight material Frank Miller created an "Elseworlds" book. That decision with the Batman story robbed Dark Knight of some of its initial juice that readers experiencing it were looking at how the Batman was going to end up. That's a very uncool concept, and kind of runs counter to how stories work in a contained, literary-values sense, and Grant Morrison might not even talk to someone who admitted that this worked on them, but I think it was there with Dark Knight Returns for sure. My hunch is that Watchmen gets some of its power by being a singular story in ways that are disconnected from that story's effectiveness on the page. This suggests that in the same way Dark Knight is reduced by untethering it from the a more monolithic idea of "these are the Batman stories and this is the last one" Watchmen will be diminished simply by there suddenly being more of it -- an idea which, for example, brings with it the possibility of there being more and more and more. I guess we'll see.
 
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Go, Look: Hand Of Fire Support Site

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* the cartoonist and writer Ted Rall is auctioning off a dozen pieces of original art to benefit the Rex Babin Trust. That's a nice thing for Ted to do.

* the Sparkplug fundraising project has settled in at a good distance short of its goal. I hadn't noticed that it's one of the sites that gives you the money you've raise even if you don't make it to the finish line, which is nice.

* Jim Woodring's fundraiser for Fran has met its goal, which is great: he's one of the best cartoonists.

* Rob Clough pushed me in the direction of this fundraiser by Grant Thomas. Other campaigns pushed themselves or had what seemed like close friends do it: one for Ace Kilroy, a completed one for The Antler Boy And Other Stories.

* Alan Gardner caught that the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning would like to raise $10K for doing what it is they do.

* finally, here's Keith Knight talking to Michael Cavna concerning tips to run a successful money-raising campaign.
 
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Go, Look: Paul Sloboda's Web Site, Including Blog

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it's new since I last looked at Paul's stuff, anyway
 
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The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Cons, Shows, Events

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By Tom Spurgeon

* SPACE in Columbus this weekend. When many of the newer small-press shows were a inkling in their founders' eyes, there was SPACE.

* FLUKE! is on Saturday as well. That's another model show, the model being "small press show in a cool place in a region maybe underserved by similar shows." I've long wanted to go.

* Comica's Comiket is this weekend, too. Big weekend. Sheesh.

* with C2E2 in the rear-view mirror, Chicago comics fans can start thinking about CAKE and their guest list. I can't tell you how happy I'd be for there to be two established shows actually in the city of my early twenties (as opposed to just outside of it).

* good gravy, make that two shows and the occasional super-conference. What a line-up.

* press registration at CCI has got to be imminent.

* finally, MoCCA isn't this weekend, but next. I'm starting to get the publisher-specific PR for that one. For instance, Leigh Walton will be manning a Top Shelf effort featuring appearances by Pat Grant, Joseph Remnant, Jeff Newelt, Joyce Brabner, Brendan Leach, Kagan McLeod, Alex Robinson, Jess Fink, Eric Skillman and Jennifer Hayden. It'd be nice if people paid a lot of attention to Brabner and Remnant behind Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, one of the debuts along with Blue and The Pterodactyl Hunters.
 
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Go, Look: Man The Beast And The Wild, Wild Women

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Go, Look: Some 1941 Mac Raboy Interior Pages

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Go, Look: Al Williamson In Alarming Adventures #1

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* egad, what a conference line-up.

image* there's nothing quite like 1960s-era interviews with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

* call me nuts, but those Shia LaBeouf comics look kind of unaffected, ridiculous and potentially cool. Comics culture can't even process a newcomer with $15K in the bank and a history of dating that goes back more than 18 months, so there's going to be a bunch of weird rhetoric out there about the film actor's recent efforts in the words and pictures arena -- on both sides -- but I say god bless him.

* this is barely comics and barely human.

* vintage Richard Sala.

* not comics: here's some comics people hanging out with Will Smith.

* Doug Dorr talks to Aaron Duran. Sean T. Collins talks to Shia LaBeouf. Somebody named Jon talks to Steve Purcell. Laura Akers talks to Erika Moen.

* I don't usually focus on deals here, but hey: cheaper-than-expected Stan Sakai.

* Dave Kellett has a free book for you.

* aw, look at this nice Edward Gorey cover.

* Chris Eckert looks at an old Frank Miller speech and its statements about the comic-book hearings of the 1950s.

* Philip Shropshire on Prophet #22. Brian Hibbs on various comics. Kristy Valenti on Astro City. Sean Gaffney on Cross Game Vol. 7. Grant Goggans on Vworp Vworp #2. Rob Clough on The Wolf. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Green Lantern #7. Johanna Draper Carlson on Archie Archives Vol. 5. Mickhael Salim on Hey Skinny!. Todd Klein on Green Lantern Corps #6, Memorial #1-2, Memorial #3-4 and Chase. Sarah Jaffe on Gonzo.

* finally, Mort Weisinger remembered. With a shovel.
 
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April 18, 2012


Go, Look: Kirby And Collage

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Time Names Ali Ferzat To Their Most Influential People List

Matt Weurker has the write-up for Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat's inclusion on the Time Top 100, a yearly feature they do to spotlight influential political and cultural figures. I thought Ferzat was clearly comics' man of the year last year, and the story of his beating at the hands of pro-government thugs the art form's top story by a wide mile. I mean, I like high collars on my superheroes as much as anyone, and I'm grateful for the 52 cans of Mountain Dew shoved down the throat of the near-catatonic Direct Market because I like comics shops and the people who depend on that avenue for a living and a lot of the art that they make, but let's get serious: they tried to break his hands.

Ferzat strikes me as an interesting man. My understanding is that he was always pretty regionally influential, due to the regularity with which he published, his art gallery, and his efforts supporting cartoonists in other countries like Egypt. That was one reason why his decision to speak out on the treatment being dealt the Syrian people was a significant one: he was transferring his authority as a truth-teller to a kind of truth that few wanted told. I also greatly admire how he's conducted himself since that vicious attack. That Ferzat and his family released photos of the reality of what happened to him that day is an astonishing thing that should be appreciated just as much as the raised-figure cartoon that ended up not being his work was. Ferzat's support for his country during this horrible time and his expressed desire to return have been wonderful to hear when he's had that opportunity. He's a really good cartoonist, too, and I hope that everyone with an interest in cartooning as a vehicle for communicable truths has his web site in their bookmarks.
 
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Go, Look: Zviane

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WB/DC Wins Potentially Key Legal Victory; Still Gross

imageThe entertainment wires fairly crackle right now with various hard-driving articles about a big Warner Brothers/DC Comics win in their ongoing series of litigation with the families of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel. That it's portrayed as a huge victory in many of these pieces without any explanation as to why shows how a company can spin its own press release: the victorious side disseminated the news wanting the analysis to go a certain way, and largely got what they wanted headline to headline to headline.

What's at stake seems a couple of things. The first is the ongoing formation of a legal strategy basically challenging attorney Marc Toberoff's representation of the families and thus calling into question the wins enjoyed on their behalf. This specific decision allows documents, some of which came to Warner Brothers' attention after they were taken from Toberoff's office, to be used in building that case against him. (As a TCJ staffer in 1995 I can't really make any wisecracks about DC and acquired documents, but it does increase the icky factor here, like a felon cheering for a fire in the evidence room.) The second is the wider cultural argument whereby DC/WB might be able to claim some moral high ground against the family members making a challenge for Superman, or at least mitigate blowback against their fighting against it, by painting Toberoff as a villainous opportunist driving the family to this legal confrontation in order to muscle in on the character himself. It's not dissimilar to what Marvel has done with their PR spin on Toberoff's representation of the Jack Kirby family, indicating that these companies sort of follow what the other is doing in all areas, not just publishing.

I think the legal issues will eventually sort themselves out -- neither side is lacking in expertise or skill when it comes to seeing to as fair a process as is available -- and, as always, I caution anyone in casting the moral issues involved as keyed to the legal matters at stake. That Toberoff has been seeing setbacks taking on the Big Two Comics Media Companies after years of success with similar suits in other entertainment industries kind of underlines how uniquely tough and nasty comics can be on these matters. Mostly, though, I refuse to get worked up in a lather even if DC and Warner Brothers -- as it looks like they might -- have found a pathway to eventually win this case. I think that given the shower of riches the industry has seen, the fact that the families of the primary creators have been reduced to seeking legal redress or making threats of same for four decades now is a total embarrassment for comics, and any company seeking a press high-five on their latest win in an ugly, pathetic spectacle like this one should be stared at as if they're crazy rather than given one back.
 
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Go, Look: Caitlin Cass

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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.

*****

FEB120044 RESET #1 (OF 4) BAGGE CVR $3.50
FEB120336 ROCKETEER ADVENTURES 2 #2 (OF 4) $3.99
JAN128231 PROPHET #23 VAR CVR 2ND PTG $2.99
FEB120516 PROPHET #24 $2.99
FEB120872 PEANUTS #4 (OF 4) $3.99
FEB120048 3 STORY SECRET FILES O/T GIANT MAN ONE SHOT $3.50
FEB121039 CASTLE WAITING VOL II #16 (RES) $3.95
If Peter Bagge has a new comic book-style comic book out this week, than that's where our attention will be at the comics shop -- Bagge is one of the great cartoonists behind the last quarter-century of that format. I have no idea what the science fiction story Reset is like, but it has a tremendous want-to-see hold over me right now. That's where I'd head first in the comics shop. The rest of the comic books this week are an odd bunch: another issue of the Rocketeer anthology, which I would at least check out, a reprint and new issue of the popular (with the writers I follow on superhero comics, anyway) Prophet revamp, the last issue in that odd decision to do some Peanuts-related comic book stories, something new (I think) from Matt Kindt and a new issue of Castle Waiting. That Castle Waiting comic is usually a pretty satisfying package in terms of how it looks and the amount of story it provides.

imageFEB121157 SHARK KING GN $12.95
It's also great to have R. Kikuo Johnson back on the stands this week as another cartoonist from whom we don't see a lot of comics-shop ready comics. This is a Toon project, and is fairly straightforward in the way it's executed. It's incredibly handsome, though.

JAN120108 ARCHIE ARCHIVES HC VOL 05 $49.99
FEB121131 ASTERIX OMNIBUS SC VOL 03 $19.95
My Archie rule applies to both of these comics, despite one not being Archie-related at all: I don't know that I understand how this work is being published or on how many different tracks, but I'll look at all of it.

FEB120239 BATMAN ODYSSEY VOL 2 #7 (OF 7) $3.99
I'm pulling this one out distinct from the other comic-book comics because Neal Adams' series was vastly entertaining in both a completely bugnuts way and as an odd but affecting yet unsubtle meditation on the difference between comic books in the 1970s and the comic books that are published now that owe a debt to those comics. I swear this was going to be 13 issues at one point, too. [Update: I've been informed that second set of seven issues has been made into its own series to fold into the new 52 initiative; this makes no sense except in the context that very little about this series makes sense.] Anyway, I look forward to eventually owning all of these via our nation's vast repository of dollar bins.

FEB120809 SURVIVALIST ONE SHOT $7.99
I know very little about this Box Brown effort, but I'd sure pick it up and look at it.

FEB120676 EMMA GN TP $14.99
Whenever I see these non-traditional Marvel comics, I think of Tucker Stone's line from the last Holiday Interview Series about how Marvel is more in tune with publishing whatever will make them some money. I don't think that fully explains it, but it mostly explains it.

JAN121286 NAOKI URASAWA 20TH CENTURY BOYS GN VOL 20 $12.99
The best of the mainstream-ish manga series with a volume out this week.

SEP111099 KRAZY & IGNATZ TP 1922-1924 DRIM OF LOVE $24.99
SEP111100 KRAZY IGNATZ LTD HC FIRST SUNDAYS (1916-1924) $95.00
Still may be the best comic. That's a long time to stay on any pedestal constructed by pedestal knocking-over comics fans.

DEC111207 HARVEY PEKAR CLEVELAND HC $21.99
I have to admit that while going through my comics collection last year after being sick that I didn't like a lot of the post-first magazine run American Splendor work as well as I hoped I would. Exceptions could be found in a few pieces, particularly in Pekar's collaborations with Joseph Remnant, who falls under the "brings his own bit of visual verve to Pekar's comics" label along with folks like Joe Sacco and, of course, Crumb. I'm hoping this is the graceful end note it wasn't intended to be but that people will be looking for.

*****

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: Grigsgaggleby

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

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Go, Look: A 1946 Charles Voight Short Story

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I guess I could be coming to this super-late, but it looks like du9 underwent a major redesign.

image* Robert Stanley Martin takes a look at Robert Crumb by era.

* Alice Quinn talks to Chester Brown. Someone at ActuaBD.com talks to Jackie Estrada. Brigid Alverson talks to Makoto Tateno.

* the Pikitia Press blog spotlights a 1930s cartooning annual sort of book.

* there is a reasonably massive comments thread underneath this David Brothers article about comics-focused media coverage of Before Watchmen that's sort of like any ten-minute snippet of a vintage Hong Kong actioner for the seriousness and slightly outsized quality of the rhetorical violence involved. I think it's great to have these issues out, although I have to admit the role of press and professionals as enablers/moral agents are the two least interesting aspects to me of the village of issues that have spring up around this icky project.

* your time may be better spent staring at this really cool Spain Rodriguez piece of art, which I believe is also a print you can find for purchase. One of the pleasures of looking at Spain's art is the way he filtered classic adventure comics strips in a way that's both more ludicrous in the depiction and more serious in the consequences. That's a tricky balance that defines a lot of what I like in the underground comix. S. Clay Wilson gets deserved praise for the way he treated sex and violence in his work and how that gave other underground artists permission to follow their muses into whatever awful place they might wish to go, but Spain's comics that use these elements seem more potent to me in terms of seeing them now. I also enjoy this particular image for the way it lacks a central, organizing focus -- except for maybe the young woman at bottom center, who resists being seen and then can't be unseen.

* Ng Suat Tong on Ikkyu. Rob Clough on some more mini-comics. Andrew Shuping on Saga #2. Richard Bruton on Chick & Chickie, The Wolf Man and Halcyon And Tenderfoot #1. Katherine Dacey on The Apartments Of Calle Feliz.

* the problem with publishing from scratch is publishing from scratch.

* well, that's awfully cool-looking.

* I don't know that I ever linked to Brigid Alverson's report on being one of this year's Eisner judges.

* finally, the cartoonist Michael Kupperman is one of the funniest New Yorkers, but you probably already knew that. That guy could have retired after "Black Godfather Of The Ants" and still make my list.
 
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April 17, 2012


Go, Look: The Time To Be Happy Is Now

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Go, Read: Checking In With Richard Thompson

Here's an old-fashioned profile of the cartoonist Richard Thompson. Our reigning Reuben winner has a lot going on: the full-time job of making a strip, managing his Parkinson's, the growth of his Cul De Sac generally, a fundraising book featuring his characters and any number of fine fellow cartoonists, bringing on an inker. I consider Thompson's work a gift, and it's amazing to me how prolific he was in illustration and cartooning work before the strip, work on which I got to catch up once Cul De Sac made me reconsider its existence.
 
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Go, Look: Rare Words

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The Day After The Pulitzers Is Day After Pulitzers Day

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The day after the Pulitzer Prizes are announced is a wonderful day if you're a fan of the news and news people because folks are genuine happy for the winners (and for the finalists) and you get to watch the people involved adjust to a first-sentence-of-obituary moment. This year's announcement in the editorial cartooning category of Matt Wuerker of Politico for the win, with Jack Ohman and Matt Bors as finalists, is fun on a lot of levels. Here's a sampling of the coverage:
* Comic Riffs
* Coshocton Tribune
* Daily Kos
* Dylan Byers On Media
* Media Bistro 01
* Media Bistro 02
* Politico 01
* Politico 02
* Slate
* The Beat
* Weigel
* WTOP
Why was this fun? For one thing, the winner and the finalists all good cartoonists, and widely thought-of that way. Sometimes you get an older cartoonist or two for whom a significant number of editorial cartooning fans must feign enthusiasm or bear respect as a substitute for enthusiasm. I don't think that's the case this year. The fact that Politico's cartoonist won spotlights the changing face of editorial cartooning in a positive way, and put the category into the mix on some broader analysis pieces. Bors and Ohman are a fine mix of new-wave cartoonist and old-school practitioner, which contrasts nicely with Wuerker's man-of-the-cartooning-moment status. So good on the Pulitzers and good on that tradition of cartooning for what was a nice day.
 
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Missed It: Seth Tobocman On The Occupy Movement

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1, 2, 3
 
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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* it's always good news when everyone's favorite Latvian comic book anthology has a new issue out.

image* this isn't going up top only because I don't have an image to put up there with it: Jules Feiffer has signed for a new, original graphic novel. That's good news. I want as much cartooning as I can get from Mr. Feiffer. (That image isn't from the graphic novel, but it looked self-portraity to me.)

* Archaia has announced a digital-first exclusivity agreement with comiXology.

* Meredith Gran will apparently be working on Adventure Time.

* Jason Thompson was nice enough to write in with a reminder that his kickstarted The Dream-Quest Of The Unknown Sadath And Other Stories is available through here.

* Heidi MacDonald picked up on an announcement that the Monolith series, long uncollected, will get that treatment from Image.

* here's what I'm guessing is a look at covers from the forthcoming Hawkeye effort from David Aja and Matt Fraction. Mr. Barton is a Stan Lee/Don Heck creation.

* finally, a bunch of folks in the comics publishing news business received a preview book from First Second for their Fall 2012 season. The comics spotlighted are Legends Of Zita The Spacegirl, Adventures in Cartooning Christmas Special, Broxo, Sailor Twain, Tune, Sumo, The Clockwork Sky. That's a colored, non-lettered page image for Broxo below.

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Go, Look: Matt Smith

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

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If I Were In Palm Beach, 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: The Protector

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* David Brothers once again takes the lead on the Before Watchmen issue, laying into Newsarama for one of its interviewers basically declaring that we're all past whatever controversy existed. I don't think that's true, of course, I think this is potentially something on which people will reflect for years and years. I'm not surprised by that rhetorical tactic seeing the light of day, though.

* it's fine to talk about Before Watchmen and everything, but let me suggest that equal attention should be paid to buying this cool-looking Conan poster from Spain Rodriguez.

image* Andy Burns talks to Caitlin R. Kiernan, Team Hoax Hunters and the great Peter Bagge. Tim O'Shea talks to Kevin Huizenga. Paul Gravett takes a look at Tom Gauld. Doug Dorr talks to Aaron Duran.

* Mr. Dustin Harbin of Charlotte, North Carolina has written a letter to this site about my objections to his suggestions for the Eisner Awards. You should read it out of fairness, and also to encourage more people to send me long letters.

* Dean Mullaney profiles Bob Montana.

* my favorite Bowie song.

* have you read the new collected Pogo? Because the writer Chris Mautner has notes. Pogo is one of the strips with which I struggle a bit in some odd ways so I'm always happy to see someone engaged with that work so I can look over their shoulder.

* I'm not sure what the hell this is or how it ended up sitting there in one of my extra browser tabs, but I'll look at anything with the fun art right up front.

* that is one damn handsome wall display.

* our pal Chris Pitzer has TCAF fever, and he doesn't want to know about a cure.

* Douglas Wolk on a bunch of stuff. Sean T. Collins on q v i e t. Bob Temuka on 2000AD. Andrew Shuping on Cats Are Weird. Greg McElhatton on Liar's Kiss. Don MacPherson on Secret #1. John Kane on Terra Obscura. Sean Gaffney on A Devil And Her Love Song Vol. 2 and Excel Saga Vol. 23. Sean Kleefeld on Marrowbones. Nina Stone on Secret Service #1. Johanna Draper Carlson on Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest and a bunch of kids' books. Samantha Tadros on Habibi. Rick Klaw on various comics.

* finally, on superheroes as celebrities and/or consultants.
 
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April 16, 2012


Matt Wuerker Wins This Year's Pulitzer In Editorial Cartooning

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groundbreaking; Bors and Ohman take Finalist slots
 
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Before "Before Watchmen" There Was Spain Rodriguez

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While there are many photos of Before Watchmen art and even of the panel held at last weekend's C2E2 about the new DC project out there on-line today, the Internet also yields the above photo: the cartoonist Spain Rodriguez rides with the Road Vultures in 1967 at the funeral of club president Tommy Bell. If nothing else, that may be the best hair moment for any cartoonist ever.

Spain 1, Before Watchmen 0.
 
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The New York Times Focuses On Major Feud At Archie

The New York Times had a major piece up this weekend on the dispute at Archie between co-CEOs John L. Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit. The tussle is apparently heading to mediation. It's not a story I've been able to follow very well except to note its more entertaining aspects, many of which get some play in the Robin Finn-written piece at the Times -- including the now-infamous story of Silberkleit pointing one-by-one at a room of male Archie editors and saying "penis, penis, penis" as she did so.

While I think the article would like to nudge the dispute into the "what is the heart of Archie?" territory, my hunch is that this is a massive workplace-culture failure with various causes and that mediation represents a way for both sides to extract themselves from a death grip that would cause further damage to both. My initial sympathies are always with women in large workplaces because that can be extremely tough, demonstrably so in the history of comics publishing. Still, it's hard for me to find a lot of traction in the details beyond the broad accusations of shitty workplace behavior. As the article elaborates -- and granted, Silberkleit apparently can't participate in such a piece because of court orders (although how that only has come to work on one side of things is a bit beyond me) -- one thing that may skew our view of this CEO vs. CEO battle is that at this point we have some successes to which we can point emanating from the Goldwater-run side of things at the company (the PR buzz surrounding various storyline efforts; modest gains in sales and exposure for some of those efforts) and we really don't have those from the parts of the business seemingly intended for Silberkleit to run (an initiative for co-sponsoring comics-intensive reading fairs; a stage musical). I'm confused as to how a sour workplace or even some overtly shitty office behavior can be said to seriously stand in the way of forward progress in what seemed liked areas that reflect a pretty clear separation of responsibilities. I'm also a bit perplexed as to why Silberkleit had any say in digital comics that makes her participation in their development important enough to note, or why her vote on various Goldwater-driven storyline initiatives mattered other than to score some cheap points against her, or why she'd have a big ex-jock with her on a trip to an office (a trip for which she was fined) to facilitate an anti-bullying comic when she didn't seem to have such editorial duties. Also, and I don't mean to be glib, I'm unclear as to how anyone can generate $100 million of reputation to be defamed in the short period of time we're discussing here.

I doubt we'll ever know the full details, and I doubt that anyone involved has a fully virtuous tale to tell. I expect mediation to work because of what's at stake, and that a lot of this is as resistant to sorting out as what happened at anyone's place of work is when there's one of those crash and burn periods involving people not getting along with other people. Who did what exactly behind the scenes, and for what reasons, is an Archie tradition going back to who created which of their successful characters and why; that, at least, seems to continue here.
 
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Go, Read: Army Of God (Part Three)

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Professor In India Arrested For Forwarding Political Cartoon

A ridiculous headline gets worse with what seems like every word detailing the actual incident: a professor in western India named Ambikesh Mahapatra was put behind bars on charges related to forwarding a cartoon critical of an elected official. I'm not sure what there is to say about such a thing other than that it's obviously awful, and that it's exponentially more noteworthy for taking place in a country of that size and import on the world stage. India has a rich tradition of political cartooning as well. One hopes the push back against the arrest continues and proves ultimately successful, if not in this case than in crystallizing a resistance to this sort of repression of speech more generally. There's been a bunch of distressing news out of India the last few months about police harassment of cartoonists according to what seem, by how various laws are fashioned, to be legitimate complaints -- at least legitimate in the sense they reflect what's on the books. This incident seems by far the most alarming, but it doesn't seem like it will be the last.
 
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Go, Look: Jennifer Parks

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All Eyes On Pulitzer Prize Announcement Today

As always, Michael Cavna has the best preview of what's at stake in the editorial cartooning category for this year's Pulitzer Prize. It does feel like a year for some sort of breakthrough; hell, it feels like Matt Bors should win, at least when I stand in the driveway, wet a finger, and hold it up to the breeze. That would be awesome. Feeling something like that usually means it won't happen with something like the Pulitzers, but you never know.

I don't know that I'll be at my desk when the announcement comes down (I have a sick dog that needs to see a vet), so you should bookmark this page if you're interested. They'll go up at 3 PM ET.
 
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OTBP: Future Is Now

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Did You Know There's A Zunar Fan Club On Facebook?

I didn't until last night. The nice thing about seeing this is that I had no idea how the news of the Malaysian cartoonist's harassment was being treated within that country, so hearing about at least a few thousand people willing to support the cartoonist provides some hope as to an eventual, positive outcome. I wish I could like that page a million times.
 
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Go, Look: Walt Kelly's 1967 Illustrations For The NCS

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Go, Read: David Brothers, Chris Eckert On DC's C2E2 Weekend

There's a nice, short essay here written by David Brothers on the Before Watchmen promotional efforts over the weekend.

He gets at two eye-popping elements, surprising even by the slightly depraved and shameless standards of this project. One is that for the sake of hyping a project that already sort of hypes itself, a DC representative felt free to casually lie about its provenance. That no one will really care about that is part of the story. Like the project itself, lying about it seems unnecessary and weird; as Brothers suggests, it speaks to the general mindset that settles in at a company like that with projects like these.

The other aspect Brothers pulls out (and pummels) is this strange way DC folks involved with the project, most notably writer J. Michael Straczynski, are attempting to make a moral argument out of Moore's complaints and their resistance to hearing or acting on or even recognizing them, fashioning a noxious and largely ridiculous, self-flattering image of uncomplaining artists and writers not Alan Moore soldiering on in a fallen world, doing the best they can to provide the fans with more funnybook awesomeness. If there's anything more absurd than mainstream comics' long-time denial of their exploitative practices, it's some of that world's most pampered citizens using those incidents to justify more of the same as a kind of hard-man status quo.

Chris Eckert makes a nice point here that the company is trying to force viral marketing in a way that's kind of the opposite of what viral marketing is supposed to be, the kind of absurdity that would really stand out with just about any other project. With this one, it's kind of a footnote.

The rest of the coverage I saw was of the "Yes, please" variety.

I apologize for continuing to write about this stupid thing. I know that it feeds into the promotional machine. This is going to be a hit, and any shortcomings in how big a hit will be placed at the feet of the reputation of the original project and/or be used to bolster some sort of ludicrous degree-of-difficulty argument in doing something as basic and unimaginative as a mega-hyped sequel to the biggest graphic novel in superhero comics history. What I hope is that we all bear witness to the mindsets on display and the actions being performed in all of their furtive, ugly splendor. How all of us decide to act differently will define much of the best of what's to come out of comics for the next quarter century, just as companies and individuals deciding not to be Jack Kirby or the art-withholding Marvel forged a lot of what I think is valuable in the 25 years just past. I also hope that some of the criticism here and to which this site links provides a counter-narrative that will at least chip away at the more distressing claims that will be emboldened by this project's success.
 
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Go, Look: Drew Friedman Book Covers

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Comics' Giving Heart -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* Ted Rall has reached the 10 percent point on his latest kickstarter project. The Paul Jenkins/Humberto Ramos project is nearly 20 percent there.

* Jim Woodring's fundraiser for his next book, Fran, is headed into its final stages in what looks to be pretty good shape. That's always nice to see: Woodring is a pantheon-level cartoonist.

* there is a little more than two weeks left to go on the Sparkplug fundraiser; that one could probably use some extra attention, although I think anything over half with more than a week remaining usually does pretty well.

* finally, a bit of the not comics: here's a documentary about Image Comics that's heading into its last week or so of consideration at Kickstarter.
 
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Go, Look: David Hagen

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Go, Look: More Esquire 25th Anniversary Cartoons

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Go, Look: More Al Williamson/Angelo Torres Western Art

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* friends of the late Kristiina Kolehmainen are being asked to consider drawing a portrait.

image* bad guys like Yoyo Martin work according to the shaving-on-film principle. We may not know what it's like to be disemboweled by a demon, but it's pretty easy to imagine being cracked on the head by a yo-yo.

* Dustin Harbin has reprinted his Doug Wright Awards cartoons and has paired them with a long essay on how to fix the Eisners. I like Harbin and I like that he's suggesting how to fix something -- that should never be discouraged -- but I have to say I didn't agree with a lot of what he said, and I say this as someone who has written about how the Eisners might improved in many of the same areas. Harbin loses me a bit when he changes some of the foundational aspects of the award, like the open voting. I think that at a certain point if you monkey with an award's DNA you end up with a completely different awards program bearing the same name. I say that even though I'd likely benefit from Harbin's version going double on judges panels. I also have to say that Harbin loses me pretty much entirely by criticizing a political stance Jackie Estrada took and openly suggesting this might disqualify her from the awards. Don't get me wrong: I thought Frank Miller's anti-OWS screed was insanely stupid. But barring the support of the absolutely inhumane or downright aberrant, the idea of making the administration of a comics awards program in any way dependent on a political litmus test, of even the casual "this stance makes me question this person's role" variety, makes me ill.

* Alan Moore: Greatest Living Englishman.

* not comics: I never know what to do with PR e-mail of the "this is our thing and it's awesome and you should go consume it and write about it" variety, mostly because I live in craven fear of new things, but apparently this link will take you to some sort of free download thing from iTunes featuring Ezra Claytan Daniels art. It may instead suck out your entire hard drive through a tiny hole and shoot it out onto the street, I couldn't tell you.

* missed it: IDW's Dirk Wood receives a promotion.

* comics are being employed in Malaysia to potential sway elections.

* Nick Gazin reviews a bunch of stuff. Rob Clough on some mini-comics. Greg McElhatton on Fracture Of The Universal Boy and Alabaster: Wolves #1. Don MacPherson on America's Got Powers #1. Sean Gaffney on A Devil And Her Love Song Vol. 2. Grant Goggans on Nuts. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Cleveland and The Sigh. Johanna Draper Carlson on Courtney Crumrin #1 and Resident Alien #0. Tilah Parker on Other Lives. Samantha Tadros on Habibi. Nathan Puchalski on V For Vendetta. Kristen Menapace on Ghost Of Hoppers. Richard Bruton on Big Questions.

* not comics: hey, that sounds pretty good.

* Bob Temuka looks at the re-coloring in the new, collected edition of Flex Mentallo.

* not comics: Michael Vassallo visits a pulp art exhibit.

* finally: go, bookmark: new Wally Wood estate site.
 
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Reminder: Comics Awards With Their Voting Process Open

As luck would have it, for the next few days both the Harvey Awards and the Eisner Awards have elements of their voting process open to the voters at the same time. That means you can be a good comics citizen and fold the two activities together for maybe an extended coffee break's worth of work.

* The Harvey Awards are in their nominations process through April 16.

* The Eisner Awards are in their final voting process stage through June 4.

I'll run this specific reminder for a few more days, and will try to run Harveys final voting and Eisners final voting reminder after that. I urge everyone eligible to vote. If you can't quite tell if you're eligible but feel you might be in a way that shows good enough faith on your part so as not to waste anyone's time, just remember to be up front about what your standing is and they can disqualify you if they have to.
 
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April 15, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: Brandon Graham

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*****

I wasn't sure how best to interview the cartoonist Brandon Graham on the occasion of the collection of his King City series. I hope what we came up with worked out okay: a series of short bursts of questions formulated around five pages from that new volume, three of my selection and two of his. The best thing about that arrangement for me is this means I may get to do a more standard, comprehensive interview down the road. I'm confident that Graham will be around for a while. Everything about him says "lifer" to me, at least if his talent doesn't pull him into some unforeseen direction.

I was lucky enough to spend some time in Graham's company as we were going back and forth on what follows. I was told by someone when Graham left the table that the King City trade had been doing very well at the show (Emerald City). I hope so; I like the book quite a bit, although I wonder from hearing it described if I'm reading the same book everyone else is. Heck, at times I've wondered if I've been reading the same book from one look into it to the next. What I like most about King City, I think, is how consistently Graham works to thwart standard storytelling expectations: it's a mini-symphony of minor-key narrative choices. Forming questions about King City forced me to deal with the book as it is rather than how I imagine it to be. Even then, it'll probably be something else the next time I read it. What's not to like about that?

I tweaked what follows a tiny bit for flow. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

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"I Want A Man Who's As Irresistible As A Pack Of Cigarettes"

TOM SPURGEON: I suppose some general questions are in order. King City isn't your first work, but it's one of those massive, early works that some cartoonists have on their resumes -- I would be greatly surprised if it weren't a touchstone for you, no matter where you go from here. Were you a different cartoonist after you finished than when you started? Are you happy with the work as a cohesive creative effort?

BRANDON GRAHAM: When I started it I had such a feeling of excitement and freedom about what I was doing. Those early pages look a little awkward to me now but I still remember the feeling of just doing what I wanted with no publisher or audience in mind. These days I'm much more fueled off of the idea of who might be reading it.

At the beginning I was just doing what I do and by the time I was half way through I felt like I knew what tricks were expected in the story and now that I've done those I'm at a new place trying to move away from some of them.

I'm really pleased with how the book as a whole came out. I do a lot of stuff with really high hopes for what it'll become. I have a blind faith that in the process of making a story that something will click. A lot of times the stuff I do falls short of the goal, I feel this way about most of my porn comics. With King City, it started out as a mess that I think worked out better than I hoped.

SPURGEON: The format changes involved when the project stopped and started between Tokyopop and Image -- is there any hangover in terms of visual strategies or techniques that you employed that you might not have if you had gone, say, straight to this end result?

GRAHAM: Yeah, I think it worked out for the best. Because of the format changes I was thinking of pages differently at different parts of the book. It helped me switch up my approach.

I wasn't thinking about the format at all for the first 40 pages; I was hand-lettering everything and drawing it without and idea that I'd later add graytones. Then, after that, when I thought it was going to be in a tiny paperback manga format, I would do bigger panels with less going on per page and then I got more dense at the end when I knew it was coming out as issues and I had a limited amount of pages.

SPURGEON: I should also probably ask -- the price point for King City is pretty great considering the number of pages involved and that there's a bit of color in there. Did you want to keep the price low for a specific reason? Is there a model for the kind of presence you want this to have in the marketplace, books that you feel would fit comfortably next to it on the bookshelf?

GRAHAM: The guys at Image had a big hand in pricing it so low and allowing even more options for cool stuff to throw in it -- like the French flaps and the color pages in the back. They've really had my back on all things. It's a long game plan of making something that is giant and cheap and denser than a lot of other comics. Hopefully enough to woo new readers into trying it out and keep them around for my future books.

For the format of it, I was thinking of this one-shot [Katuhiro] Otomo book I have that's the same size as his Akira books. I think a lot about the work Paul Pope was doing in the '90s, there was such an air of excitement to everything he was putting out then. I don't know if the books I'm doing really reflect that. Sometimes putting out comics feels to me like I'm balancing a broom on my hand and running around just to keep it up. That's some of the fun of it, too, just trying to make fun work out of what's thrown at me.

SPURGEON: I really like the way this page employs blacks, and that it's a bit offbeat in terms of structure from a lot of the rest of the book. How deliberate are you with page design, how important is that distinct visual impression to you?

GRAHAM: Thanks; page design and some of the jokes are what takes up the most time for me. Or at least it's the hardest stuff for me to do. Something I really like in drawing is that thing when the black of one shape bleeds into the black of another shape but your eye still makes out what is what. That's like magic to me.

SPURGEON: There's a great mini-sequence here where you isolate an image within a previous image -- the way the feet are placed to show a kind of forward intimacy. For someone that comes across to me as a pretty natural cartoonist you use a lot of what I'd call underlining, calling attention to specific moments in the narrative through repetition or labeling. Do you think that's a fair assessment, and what do you achieve through moments like this one, above, really emphasizing that specific part of the previous picture?

GRAHAM: I like how well comics works for that sort of thing, you can just draw an arrow pointing at something and write "look!" next to it and it doesn't really throw anything off. I don't think of a panel like that as just a close up of another panel, as much as it looks like it. I still think of time progressing on the page. It's a beat of time.

*****

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"It's Too Nice Of A Day To Be Acting Like That"

SPURGEON: That top tier, with the slap, how that's timed... it's funny. Do you feel like you always get the sense of timing you want out of sequences? Is that ever difficult for you?

GRAHAM: I think something like that helps if it's not that preplanned and just drawn in the moment or it helps me if I allow myself to change it dramatically If it's not working.

SPURGEON: The way your work is structured puts a lot of attention on the physical staging of certain scenes. In the above, those last two panels, there's a thousand different ways you could portray that, but you choose a way, for instance, that show the two figures in relation to one another. That seems to be something that's concerned people from the mainstream comics tradition maybe more than those in art comics, a reliance on storytelling through the placement of bodies. How much do you key on staging as a part of your storytelling?

GRAHAM: It's really important to me to make it clear to the reader the characters' relationships with each other and where they are. When I was learning the mechanics of comics growing up I was obsessed with establishing shots and keeping everything constant. yeahs later I noticed that a lot of my favorite books were much more casual about that sort of thing, I've tried to ease off a little.

SPURGEON: With a black and white work like this one, where there's a lot of shading, was there a learning curve in terms of how the eye moves according to the different hues involved? Like Mudd on this page, the eye just seizes on him because of the dark clothing, darker skin, dark hair. Is there any danger at all in a figure or object that kind of draws attention on the page? Is Joe foregrounded, for example, in order to give him more visual strength?

GRAHAM: I got a lot more daring with how I was toning the book as I got used to it. For most of the pages It's not something I thought about until I was already toning it.

SPURGEON: I love the cat house... how much time did you spend with the architecture on this book? Because I honestly can't tell if the buildings are fanciful with maybe a few exceptions, or if they're more rigorously designed.

GRAHAM: There wasn't much preplanning on the looks of any buildings. Sometimes I'd use photo reference. I have a couple photography books full of buildings that I would go through when drawing city scenes.

I remember when I was drawing this page I had it just labeled "the cat house" and my pal James Stokoe looked at it and said "man, you're slipping. at least call it something like El Cat-cienda" so I included both names.

*****

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"It's Got A High End Mercy Lock With An Eight Dragon Seal"

SPURGEON: So is there really such a thing in your mind as a mercy lock and a dragon seal, or are you just being fanciful there? How much attention do you pay to naming things, and the more writerly aspects of fashioning a story like this one? How did you write?

GRAHAM: The biometric satin stone hand print lock from earlier in the book was based off of a real thing. Whenever I say mercy I'm always think of the French for thank you -- merci. For the dragon seal I was thinking of the six demon bag from the movie Big Trouble In Little China. It's nice when the names I come up with can relate to something else in my life.

SPURGEON: The main reason I fixated on this page is I thought it was a good example of how you occasionally stop the flow of your narrative with a kind of diagram or map or game board or other visual element that's distinctly narrative cartooning. Is that just you having fun? Is something like this diagram and all of the materials named within it a way to stop the narrative for a second? Because I think the flow issue get really interesting when there's suddenly a map, or a game board, or connect-the-dots.

GRAHAM: It's mostly just me having fun when I do this kind of thing. Although, it takes the most time. I think of this kind of stuff as something that a reader might not spend that much time on the first time but hopefully makes a book more fun to read again later. I've noticed that when I'm going through something I've done, I just skip over most pages like this.

SPURGEON: This may be the only page we selected that features Earthling. Where did that design come from? I don't recall ever seeing a cat stylized in that way, but maybe I'm just forgetting something.

GRAHAM: He looked more like a normal cat in some early drawings. I'm not sure where the football head came from. It always felt a little like Sanrio's Helly kitty to me.

SPURGEON: Joe's relationship with the cat, this kind of martial artistry... a really facile way to look at fighting like that in comics is as some sort of reflection of the cartoonist's attitudes towards his art, the skill set he has. Is there anything we get out of the fact that a lot of what Joe does is facilitating this thing outside of himself? I know it's a stretch, but do you feel distinct, separate from your art?

GRAHAM: I'm always trying to relate what I'm talking about in stories to how I feel about something in my life, so that seems pretty accurate. I do think of my work and my ability to work as a separate animal from me.

It feels like a relationship that requires some maintenance. I always feel like I have to keep it going -- working to stay in love with making comics.

Sometimes it's revisiting work that first got me excited to make comics or finding new comics I'm excited about.

It can be trying to find things in other mediums that get me thinking about things I haven't seen done in comics or something as simple as just remembering that I like making lines on paper.

*****

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"I'm Here To Rescue You"

SPURGEON: What appealed to you about this page that this is one of the ones that you suggested we talk about? I know how lame that question is, but I'm genuinely curious.

GRAHAM: I know it's not a particularly exciting visual page but it's the page that I was on when Tokyopop canceled the book.

SPURGEON: Oh. Okay. Huh.

GRAHAM: At the time it made me feel almost like they were trying to stop her from being rescued.

There was a big gap between when I drew this page and the next one. The scene after this -- with the fight where Joe loses his syringes and the other catmasters show up was done with the book in limbo and then the last page of that scene with Mudd's hair eating a bird was when I started it up again knowing it would be issues through Image.

SPURGEON: This page shows off your tendency to work in three horizontal tiers across the page. In fact, I think three tiers is the default structure of the book and that across the page panels is probably used more than any other kind of time measurement. What works for you about that structure?

GRAHAM: I assume it's just a refection of a lot of the comics I was reading when I was learning to draw. Even though I don't do many 6 panel grids I think of that as the basic bones of a page.

SPURGEON: More generally, how naturally does structure come to you when you're breaking a page down? Do you struggle with those kinds of decisions? How do they make themselves apparent to you -- through drawing, through scripting... ?

GRAHAM: It comes pretty quickly, but what slows me up is trying to do something more interesting with a page than whatever my first take is. I often do rough layouts with a lot more panels than I end up using and then try to combine the actions and hopefully boil it down to what needs to be shown. Recently I've been doing the more complicated page layouts on really big butcher paper just so I have lots of room to think.

SPURGEON: There's a really nice moment in the bottom, left-hand panel where the two hands touch and the word "nothing" appears over them. First, of all, I'm not entirely sure what that means. Am I missing something obvious? Because I assumed at first it meant an absence of feeling, but I'm not really seeing that played out as the story progresses. Second, how frequently do you try to employ that kind of lettering effect, where there's a visual element involved?

GRAHAM: There's a scene earlier in the book where Pete and the alien girl first hold hands and the word "trust" is there.

SPURGEON: Okay. I did miss that.

GRAHAM: I really like this sort of thing, being able to tack notes onto picture to add to them. It reminds me of a great page that Tom Herpich did in his Cusp book where he shows a fist with the words "your guts are like this" and then an open hand "do this" and then he goes onto show the text without the hands but the words and the pictures have become married. "your guts are like this"/"do this"

SPURGEON: I'm not sure I have any questions regarding what's shown on this page in a narrative sense, but is there anything to be said about the nature of what he's risking here? Because I guess there's an element of danger involved, but mostly what we get on this page is the scariness of making this commitment to someone else. Is that fair? I'm curious, because you've slowed this moment down so I'm guessing it means something.

GRAHAM: I think it's mostly about this rescue that's meant to make everything better just being awkward and nothing like Pete was expecting.

*****

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[Silent Page]

SPURGEON: I wanted to talk about a silent page, because there aren't a lot of them. That was a bit surprising to me because your style seems like it would facilitate several stand-alone images like this one. To be honest, there's so much typography on display it's debatable whether this is "silent" in any way. But let's pretend it is. Are you conscious of using dialogue-light or even dialogue-less pages, how powerful that can be in the course of reading a comic?

GRAHAM: I remember when I drew this page I meant it to be two pages earlier but had to move it for the spread before it to work. Also this was a page that I based off of a photo I found. When I'm thinking about it I avoid doing many silent scenes just because I think of text as the best way to slow down the reader.

SPURGEON: I was actually surprised when I re-read King City that there weren't a lot of cityscape depictions, or there were at least fewer than I remembered. One thing about living in a city is that there's frequently a disconnect between the people living there and where they live. Was it important to you to depict the city itself, or in this case was it really more about the characters and what it's like to live in a city as opposed to the characteristics of this specific place?

GRAHAM: I like being able to show something from far away to convey that other things are going on at the same time as the main focus of the story. It was important for me to show the city but I wasn't ever trying to make it a specific city as much as show how it feels to live in big metropolis. Aside from Anna and Max's apartment I didn't really even have any landmarks that I went back to.

I remember reading that when they drew Spider-Man 2099 the artists had planned out how the city was laid out and redrew the same skyline. It's impressive, but I could see it making things less fun.

SPURGEON: You seem to a real knack for proportion and scale, what smaller and larger figures and the disparities between them can communicate on the page. Is that something that just appeals to you in a visual sense, or are you trying to communicate through story moments that count on there being this contrast between figures and some building or monster or event?

GRAHAM: Thanks, I love showing the characters in a story relating to their environment and the props around them. I feel like it helps to ground things and make everything more believable as real. There's something so fun about believing your own lie that there's any depth or large scale on a flat piece of paper.

*****

* King City, Brandon Graham, Image Comics, Softcover, 424 pages, 9781607065104, 2012, $19.99.

*****

* images provided by Graham; most images are hopefully contextual in that we talk about them directly; the top and bottom images were sent along by Graham with the others

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Elliot Scribblings

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Missed It: International Criminal Court Comic At Cartoon Movement

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OTBP: Me Likes You Very Much

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

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

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FFF Results Post #290 -- Accentuate The Positive

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Make Five, Matter-Of-Fact Statements About Comics Right Now." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Cul-De-Sac has settled in after arriving out of left field and will survive as long as its creator has the ability to make it: a great newspaper strip at a point in history a lot of folks thought we were done with great, new newspaper strips.
2. We have a surprisingly high number of healthy comics conventions and festivals in North America.
3. Despite several indicators in the mid-1990s that this might not be so, Joe Sacco makes comics as his primary vocational pursuit.
4. The memory and legacy of Jack Kirby has grown since his death.
5. Fantagraphics has major book publishing deals featuring Charles Schulz, the EC creators and Carl Barks.

*****

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Michael Dooley

1. Seymour Chwast published his first graphic novel in 2010, when he was 79 years old, and is currently working on his third.
2. Siglio is scheduled to publish O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica in November.
3. If texts and images, unified interdependently and arranged consecutively to form sequential narratives, can be considered comics then Caroline Preston's new book, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt can be considered a graphic novel.
4. The radical PM Press is scheduled to publish Anarchy Comics: the Complete Collection and Paths Toward Utopia: Graphic Explorations of Everyday Anarchism this year.
5. Chip Kidd's Dark Knight fetish continues unabated.

*****

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Mike Baehr

1: Crowdfunding such as Kickstarter is providing a conduit between artists and their supporters, enabling artists to pursue their creativity and engage in potentially risky projects that wouldn't otherwise be possible (e.g. Zak Sally's self-printed Sammy the Mouse)
2: The galaxy of small-press publishers continues to expand, and the legacy of Dylan Williams seems to be a catalyzing factor in this
3: Fantagraphics has expanded its publishing slate and increased its full-time staff with significant new additions
4: Comics continues to be recognized for its contribution to the culture at large via plaudits such as Alison Bechdel winning a Guggenheim Fellowship, Jim Woodring winning a Stranger Genius award in Literature, a Graphic Novels category in the L.A. Times Book Prizes, etc.
5: It's the Golden Age of Archival Reprints, yo -- significant bodies of work are being and have been restored and preserved and are readily available, and best of all they are finding new audiences

*****

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Eric Newsom

1. Cinebook does a nice job reprinting decent European genre books that I otherwise might not have seen in English, and seem to get little recognition for doing it.
2. Maybe it's just me, but publishers seem to be working effectively toward the "More Crap Is What We Need" model in recent years.
3. The internet, for better or worse, shortens distance between creators and consumers, and it's interesting to watch both sides accept, test, exploit and make use of the thinner barriers.
4. Social media allow for public grievances that reveal some of the realities of comic creation as a job, but also serve as a great way to experience the artistic process and the joy of creation.
5. Solid comic criticism is happening on blogs and websites, but even more is at conferences and in journals that, sadly, have short reach or influence outside of academia (in some frustrating ways, academia is as behind on going digital as comics).

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. It's a great time to want to learn from professionals how to make comics: besides CCS and SAW, you could also study with Lynda Barry and Frank Santoro.
2. At 84 years of age, Steve Ditko continues making eye-popping and thought-provoking work that is entirely creator owned.
3. John Porcellino's King-Cat Comics & Stories is three issues shy of its 75th issue.
4. Female cartoonists are making some of the best work you can read today: Gabrielle Bell, Kelly Froh, Melissa Mendes, Lilli Carre, Vanessa Davis, Lisa Hanawalt, etc.
5. Comics is still one of the few art forms in which you can readily communicate in a meaningful way with most of its major artists (just try getting a commissioned artwork, let alone an email reply, from Martin Scorsese, Lady Gaga or Jeff Koons).

*****

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Art Baxter

1. The Hernandez Brothers are still producing stunningly great comics after 30 years at the drawing board.
2. New guys like Luke Pearson, Michael Deforge and Brecht Evens can still knock me out.
3. Translations of beautiful work by Italian artists like, Lorenzo Mattotti, Igort and Gabriella Giandelli and outrageous Japanese manga by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Kazuo Umezu and Kazuchi Hanawa, that I never dreamed I'd ever read in English.
4. Right on, Alan Moore!
5. The Philadelphia comics scene has exploded over the past four years largely due to the Philly Comix Jam with the Jam serving as a meeting place for the seasoned pro and the neophyte to mingle and where collective projects are conceived.

*****

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Kiel Phegley

1. Issues of creator's rights are openly discussed and promoted across the industry, and a wide range of talents who currently or have previously made their living in work for hire launch new creator-owned comics every month.
2. After years calling most of their plays from the same, photocopied-17-times book, Marvel and DC actually seem to be taking different approaches to their publishing lines and are competing for readers as a result.
3. For the first time maybe ever, the major art comix publishers have a variety of marketplaces through which to ply their wares and don't have to rely on the Direct Market/public pleas for last minute sales support/pornography projects to stay solvent.
4. There's a huge variety of outlets featuring writing about comics, many of which support full time staff, and nearly all of which hold a unique editorial point of view and style of their own.
5. Not only has a straight up murderer's row of the great cartoonists and comic makers of the last three decades released major works within the past twelve months (Los Bros, Clowes, Moore, Woodring, Seth, Brown, Burns, etc) and not only does that same group have another wave of projects right around the corner, but there's also a very large community of young creators making scads of interesting comics left and right, many of whom have been working in the field less than five years and are making most of us look really shitty at our jobs in comparison.

*****

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Niel Jacoby

* Sergio Aragones has an ongoing title where he is allowed to just do whatever he wants.
* The DC reboot has included an effort, even if it is a somewhat shallow effort, to expand their selection of genres.
* The recent archival boom has increased awareness of a good amount of creators who were underappreciated in their day.
* Image has become a sort of haven for creator-owned projects, and is actively trying to increase the awareness of the importance of creators.
* The internet has allowed us to find and curate information on even the most obscure of comics, and even allows perusal in the modern day of the kind of thing that will likely never see reprint (ROM, Micronauts, etc.) without the vagaries of print mediums complicating the aquisition thereof.

*****

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Justin J. Major

1. More people have are familiar with Jack Kirby's creations than at any time in human history.
2. Web comics have lowered the cost of creators finding readers for their comics.
3. The internet has made comics relatively easy for kids out in the sticks to acquire.
4. I didn't encounter even a single unshowered attendee at C2E2 (but it's only Friday).
5. We'll always have "The Great Outdoor Fight."

*****

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Sean T. Collins

1. At this point I feel comfortable saying that the internet has provided at least as durable and viable a forum for getting new work by growing alternative cartoonists in front of a wide audience on a regular basis as did the late, lamented Alternative Comic Book format. A couple weeks ago I realized that this is now how I consume the bulk of my comics, and this is quite aside from "webcomics" as traditionally identified.
2. Comics' culture of complaint may not get us very far, but lately we've at least been complaining about the right things: representation of women and non-white people both on the pages and behind them at the big two companies; the rights of comics journalists to be afforded freedom of the press even when covering things local authorities oppose or in ways those authorities dislike; acknowledgement that popular titles and characters were the creations of individuals and objecting when the companies benefiting from those creations dismiss or abuse those creators; calling on organizations that purport to honor the best in comics to explain why they've failed to do so by broad consensus standards; et cetera. I've seen way more complaining about these worthy targets of complaint than "Wolverine would never say that!" or "Chris Ware is boring" lately, and while I'd be happier if we didn't have to complain about these worthy targets at all, at least we've got our heads on straight.
3. There are more excellent colorists working for the companies whose comics appear at the front of the Previews catalog now than I can ever remember before, and people are discussing their contributions to the comics they work on as vital. Dean White and Bettie Breitweiser, for example, are now talked about the same way Dave Stewart's been talked about (justifiably) for years.
4. I like sex and horror in my alternative comics, and there's a bumper crop of both right now, often at the same time.
5. I could name three or four or maybe even more conventions held up as an ideal interaction with the art form and its participants by people I personally respect: BCGF, TCAF, SPX, ECCC... Just one would be a fantastic boon.

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Newspaper comic strip editors & syndicates no longer give a flyin' @#%& -- you can get anything past 'em nowadays!
2. The crappiest comic book based movie will be seen by more people than read the top ten best selling comics. A lot more people.
3. Like the stegosaur in the original King Kong, comics print publishing is dead but the tail doesn't know it yet.
4. Nothing is so obscure it won't have at least one fan who can't live without it.
5. If every fan of Jack Kirby's Marvel comics would just put off seeing The Avengers for 72 hours -- opening weekend -- it would make the Mouse crap in his bright red shorts.

*****

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Chris Duffy

1. There's a somewhat healthy mix of genres in comics shops, despite predictions that it would all be superheroes by now.
2. Graphic novels for kids are a growing category.
3. You can buy a full run of Marvel's non-Marvel Universe 80s series The Nth Man, featuring stories by Larry Hama, art by John Wagner and Fred Fredericks, and coloring by Mark Chiarello on ebay for $15
4. My regional library system has 8,992 graphic novels in circulation.
5. I believe this Free Comic Book Day thing successfully attracts customers.

*****

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Jamie Coville

1. Comics have what appears to be a permanent foothold in bookstores, Libraries and online.
2. New creator(s) owned Image books are consistently selling better than expected.
3. There a significant number of publishers that are successfully selling kids or YA oriented graphic novels, which means kids are reading comics again.
4. Via Kickstarter, creators has a chance to publish books that might not be published otherwise.
5. A new crop of better researchers of comic history has greatly expand our knowledge or demolish old assumed truths.

*****

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M. Emery

1. Australasia has more conventions than ever with over a dozen large events and several smaller ones annually.
2. Publishing english translations of European, Japanese and other non-english comics is at an unprecedented high. If we could just get someone to publish translations of the really nasty mexican and italian stuff...
3. The IDW Artist's Editions have allowed budget minded art collectors and comics fans in general to experience some amazing works up close.
4. Crowd funding has become a viable source for artists to earn income.
5. Several australian comics publishers have established themselves in the last several years, expanding the previous scant options available to local creators.

*****

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David Brothers

1. I have easy access to thousands of pages of translated and untranslated Japanese comics by simply walking four blocks from my house.
2. Writers like Jeff Parker and Zeb Wells have carved out their own idiosyncratic niche at Marvel and continue to produce new works that are geared more or less exactly to my tastes.
3. My iPad can hold hundreds of comics, giving me access to an absurd amount of entertainment when I'm on the go.
4. I've just finally discovered George Herriman in the past year, and can buy and devour a large subsection of his work with ease, despite it being nearly 100 years old.
5. BPRD and Hellboy prove that you can do ongoing adventure comics that hit like thunder and lightning with every new arc.

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Quite a number of creators are earning a living making webcomics
2. We're able to read long-form socio-political comics like Zahra's Paradise and The Revolution Will Be Televised in about as real-time as one can get with the medium
3. There's an industry award named after Bill Finger
4. Avenues like print-on-demand and Kickstarter make self-publishing not only viable but able to reach a geographically diverse audience
5. With each new set of mainstream media articles, there are fewer and fewer that include "Pow! Zap! Smash!" in the headline

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Publishers like First Second and Scholastic are emphasizing quality graphic novels (like Bone, George O'Connor's Olympian series, or Ghostopolis) that children can readily find in schools
2. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook allow for more immediate personal interactions with comics creators
3. New publications from people like Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, or Art Spiegelman are routinely and unironically reviewed by major book review venues like The New York Times
4. The internet provides a space where creators like Chris Onstad or Kate Beaton can not only find audiences but profit from their webcomics
5. We have a relatively strong, stable group of publishers such as Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, and Drawn & Quarterly actively endeavoring to introduce new creators as well as provide us with quality comics archives

*****

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Mark Coale

1. Digital comics allow collections of books to reside on a hard drive, not slogging up a spare room or basement.
2. Social media allows for interaction with creators and fans, for better or worse.
3. Growth of local conventions around country being able to avoid claustrophobic mega cons.
4. Ability of small publishers to stay alive in trending downward market.
5. New Dr. Who comics

*****
*****
 
posted 8:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Reminder: Comics Awards With Their Voting Process Open

As luck would have it, for the next few days both the Harvey Awards and the Eisner Awards have elements of their voting process open to the voters at the same time. That means you can be a good comics citizen and fold the two activities together for maybe an extended coffee break's worth of work.

* The Harvey Awards are in their nominations process through April 16.

* The Eisner Awards are in their final voting process stage through June 4.

I'll run this specific reminder for a few more days, and will try to run Harveys final voting and Eisners final voting reminder after that. I urge everyone eligible to vote. If you can't quite tell if you're eligible but feel you might be in a way that shows good enough faith on your part so as not to waste anyone's time, just remember to be up front about what your standing is and they can disqualify you if they have to.
 
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Book Trailer For Darth Vader And Son
via


Trailer For That Cartoon College Movie
via


Frank Santoro Workshop Footage


The Meltcast With Alvin Buenaventura


awyeahcomics


James Swinnerton (!) Interview


The Meltcast With Daniel Clowes

 
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April 14, 2012


Every Time There's A "News Story" About Before Watchmen, I'm Going To Post About Spain Rodriguez

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Here's a home visit with the great underground comix cartoonist Spain Rodriguez at a site I've never heard of called Babylon Falling.

(you keep your sanity your way, I'll keep it mine)
 
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CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from April 7 to April 13, 2012:

1. Trial begins in Denmark for four Swedish citizens accused of plotting a terrorist incident in reaction to the Danish Cartoons Controversy.

2. Analysts weigh in on March 2012 numbers for the Direct Market of comics shops and hobby stores: a step back from March 2011 by certain measurables, which is slightly terrifying given the generally sucko March 2011 numbers, although the quarter is way up. It looks like Marvel won't have to replace its single bathroom because of a failure on Avengers Vs. X-Men, either.

3. Alison Bechdel wins a Guggenheim fellowship.

Winner Of The Week
Bechdel

Losers Of The Week
The Big Two

Quote Of The Week
"I didn't do much on the plane, just watched a movie about Carl Jung and his pygmalion-style relationship with his sexy, insane, kinky patient/mistress and some other bullshit." -- Gabrielle Bell (well, I read it this week)
*****

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

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

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

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If I Were In Oakland, 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 Philadelphia, 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 Palm Beach, I'd Go To This

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

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posted 12:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Reminder: Comics Awards With Their Voting Process Open

As luck would have it, for the next few days both the Harvey Awards and the Eisner Awards have elements of their voting process open to the voters at the same time. That means you can be a good comics citizen and fold the two activities together for maybe an extended coffee break's worth of work.

* The Harvey Awards are in their nominations process through April 16.

* The Eisner Awards are in their final voting process stage through June 4.

I'll run this specific reminder for a few more days, and will try to run Harveys final voting and Eisners final voting reminder after that. I urge everyone eligible to vote. If you can't quite tell if you're eligible but feel you might be in a way that shows good enough faith on your part so as not to waste anyone's time, just remember to be up front about what your standing is and they can disqualify you if they have to.
 
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
April 13, 2012


Anders Nilsen Wins 2012 Lynd Ward Prize For Big Questions

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Drawn and Quarterly has the announcement up. Books named honorees by the program at The Pennsylvania Center For The Book were Freeway, Habibi, Life with Mr. Dangerous and Zahra's Paradise.
 
posted 4:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Alex Niño-Related Posts On Tumblr

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posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Sometimes They Make It Hard To Ignore Creators Issues

imageSo Marvel put its name in front of their Avengers movie and DC is heading into the C2E2 weekend promoting its Before Watchmen initiative. The former is likely what someone sees as smart branding, and only just happens to underline how these corporations treat what came from living people (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others) as something that spontaneously generated from a business entity. The latter is a sprawling, shameful, and icky display borne of crass inevitabilities which one creator described to me recently as the first time today's professional community has watched someone get screwed in front of them while they were objecting to this treatment as loudly as possible, all to almost no effect.

I'm not sure I have much of a point here, except maybe please look at this. Look at this. There are people at these companies and people that apologize for them that very much believe that maximizing the revenue on product has a moral component that is on equal if not greater footing than policies that favor the baseline, dignified treatment of other human beings. It's sad enough that in the midst of a full flowering for the art form the best response these two massive players have is work that reflects a faded glory that's either a quarter-century or a half-century old; it's worse that the system is completely gamed to the point that there's a forceful reality to this supposition; it's downright demoralizing that we're mostly unable to formulate a human response and have better discussions as a result. I think there's a huge quality of life issue for everyone in the way these issues play out, and I urge everyone to look at it without blinking, today and in the days to come.
 
posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Cartoonists With Guns Set Continues To Grow

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yes, that's S. Clay Wilson wearing a "Wilson" hat
 
posted 2:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* prosecutors in Denmark earlier today put forward their basic case against four men (three citizens, one a resident) of Sweden accused of planning terrorist activities related to the Danish Cartoons Controversy. According to the much-employed wire report from AP, it was to be an attack at the Politiken newspaper during a ceremony attended by Denmark's crown prince. There are also intimations of an international element to the four mens' action. News also came out that one of the men was going to plead guilty to a weapons charges component while the other three were going to plead not guilty to everything. The men face up to sixteen years in prison followed by deportation.

* the idea that this was to be a "Mumbai-style" shooting as opposed to a bomb being set off will likely increase speculation of some sort of coordination to the event, or at least the input from people like David Coleman Headley, if not Headley himself.

* this article suggests just how unwelcome revisiting the cartoons controversy via such a trial must be for many citizens in that country.
 
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Go, Look: The Purple Pagoda

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Daily Cartoonist: Charles Schulz Award Was Suspended

Alan Gardner over at Daily Cartoonist noticed that this year's Scripps-Howard awards did not include an announcement for the Charles M. Schulz Award, which for several years has gone to the best college cartoonist. He was told by the foundation that the award was discontinued due to lack of entries.

Nate Creekmore, Nate Beeler, Barry Deutsch, Brian Farrington, Drew Sheneman, Frank Cho, Steve Breen and Nick Anderson were among the award's winners, which are listed by Gardner at the above, linked-to post. I know of a couple of other working cartoonists for whom applying to win that award was a major part of their college cartooning experience.

I'm not sure if there could be anything similar taking its place, and my hunch is that like a lot of other elements of newspaper and news culture more generally this is one of those things where the structural aspects have slipped away a bit in a way that's it's more representative of the current state of things not to have an award than to have one that suggets a stable industry and a farm system of bright lights ready to take their place within it.
 
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Go, Look: Melinda Boyce

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posted 1:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Tom Hart On Criticizing New Yorker Cartoons

The cartoonist and educator Tom Hart writes about New Yorker cartoons generally and outs himself as the creator of a tumblr-based on-line effort to criticize various aspects of those cartoons. It's not a blog that I've followed past heading to it a few times when people have linked to it in that "whoa, what's going on here" way that doing something on the Internet sometimes generates. I may have linked to the site in "go, look" fashion once from CR.

I'll be looking at it again, for sure. I take Tom Hart seriously, always; I think he's a fine cartoonist and interesting thinker about cartoons. I look forward to engaging his ideas on the New Yorker cartoons as currently constituted.

I have to admit I'm a little puzzled by his assertion that this is something being talked about -- I believe he's telling the truth, it just hasn't been my experience. I talk to a lot of people on-line every day on various comics subjects, and I can't recall any serious, sustained (or unserious, unsustained) discussion of the New Yorker cartoons in years, maybe, beyond people very occasionally talking about placing work there. I just spent a big chunk of four days in Seattle having a lot of intense face-to-face discussions about all aspects of comics. Hell, I spent 20 minutes talking about Oni Press with someone that hasn't read a comic book since they were 11 years old. I had two conversations about Tom Hart's work. Outside of a brief discussion with Shannon Wheeler, the New Yorker never came up; it didn't come up at all during a similar trip to the Brooklyn Comics Fest in December. The only time the magazine has come up at all recently in my circle of pals was Eric Reynolds recommending a text article on LBJ in the April 2 issue, although I think someone may have asked me a couple of weeks ago about a Barry Blitt kids book.

I'm a subscriber to the magazine, so I do see the cartoons. I get the vague sense that they're in the middle of a transitional phase in terms of the kinds of cartoonists they're using and who's out there working and submitting, but that's about it. I know that my father and his friends complained about the cartoons they were seeing in the 1970s and 1980s, so I suspect there may be an element of that at work here, too. Institutions frequently compete with their own legacy, and it's usually the most recent stuff that gets bloodied in such exchanges. I welcome the chance to dig in, and perhaps this is a chance to.
 
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Go, Look: Aaron Whitaker

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Missed It: Tony De Zuniga Recovering From Mild Stroke

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Word went out mostly via twitter a couple of days ago that the artist Tony De Zuniga went to the hospital and was in intensive care following a mild stroke. As of this posting, it's my understanding that his recovery has gone well. The artist turned 70 in November.
 
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If I Were In New York City, I'd Go To This

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

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

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

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

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Go, Look: Al Williamson And Angelo Torres

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posted 9:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Kevin Boyd wrote in to inform me that I missed one of the Prix Bédélys: one for work aimed at younger readers, which was won by one of the David Petersen books. My apologies. The original post has since been updated.

image* Alex Dueben talks to Brian Wood. Amy and Tyler talk to Matt Kindt. Ashley Neuhaus talks to Molly Crabapple.

* hey, Bud Plant isn't going away after all. I saw them set up at ECCC and never asked them the questions you'll find through that link, and then I forgot to mention them in my report. More Bud Plant is a good thing.

* advice for C2E2. Plus the writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is apparently trying to kill me with waves of nostalgia by sending along photos like this one. Both C2E2 and CAKE stand a chance long-term in part because Chicago is such a fun city to visit. One potential hitch with C2E2 is that it's set up like a classic one-hotel-con, and invites people to the show that are classic one-hotel-con people. But if people start going for a day on either side, to see a Cubs game and to shop at all the cool shops? That could help the show become a big, big hit with professionals.

* okay, this made me laugh. Plus I'd totally buy one of those shirts.

* I'm not sure why I ended up looking at the comics that Laura Park has posted to a flickr account, but I always liked this one guest-starring the Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick. You can lose half a morning poking around those comics.

* here is a "Dear Geoff Johns" letter about the introduction -- and near-immediate killing -- of an Iranian superhero.

* Marvel has opened up the latest iteration of a digital storefront. I lack easy access to the perspective necessary to draw any sort of contextual conclusion from what they're doing, but I'm glad they're moving forward and at some point The Way They'll Do It will settle into place.

* not comics: this never fails to crack me up.

* Christoph Niemann loves him some Don Martin.

* some of these CCS summer workshops look great.

* not comics: according to a long-neglected e-mail just sitting in my inbox like some sort of broken promise, that movie about CCS was completed and is about to enter the festivals and premieres stage of its existence. There's a Facebook page and everything. Good luck to them, and I look forward to seeing the movie.

* Paul Karasik wrote a report about his Northern Illinois comics exhibition here; all Paul Karasik show reports are worth reading. I couldn't get the video to work on my MAC or my PC, but maybe you'll have better luck than I did.

* I'm sure the parents will be thrilled and the kids should be.

* finally, that's some Evan Dorkin commission.
 
posted 9:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Reminder: Comics Awards With Their Voting Process Open

As luck would have it, for the next few days both the Harvey Awards and the Eisner Awards have elements of their voting process open to the voters at the same time. That means you can be a good comics citizen and fold the two activities together for maybe an extended coffee break's worth of work.

* The Harvey Awards are in their nominations process through April 16.

* The Eisner Awards are in their final voting process stage through June 4.

I'll run this specific reminder for a few more days, and will try to run Harveys final voting and Eisners final voting reminder after that. I urge everyone eligible to vote. If you can't quite tell if you're eligible but feel you might be in a way that shows good enough faith on your part so as not to waste anyone's time, just remember to be up front about what your standing is and they can disqualify you if they have to.
 
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
April 12, 2012


Alison Bechdel Wins Guggenheim For Third Family-Related Book

It says so right here. Congratulations to the cartoonist, and I look forward to the book.
 
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Go, Look: Mining The Moon

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posted 1:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

There's really only one story today, but it's an important one: the wires are full of previews for tomorrow's trial commencement in Denmark of four men accused of plotting terrorist action against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper offices because of their publishing the Danish Muhammed caricatures. The men accused were all residents of Sweden at the time of their planned attack: Mounir Ben Mohamed Dhahri, a Tunisian citizen; Munir Awad, a Swedish citizen originally from Lebanon; Omar Abdalla Aboelazm, a Swedish citizen with an Egyptian father, and Sahbi Ben Mohamed Zalouti, a Swedish citizen originally from Tunisia. The trial is expected to wrap up around mid-June, and it looks like this is a plot that famed state's witness and terrorism plotter David Coleman Headley apparently helped plan.
 
posted 12:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Superman For The Causes

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Zunar Confirms That Civil Court Case Decision Comes On May 23

The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar has confirmed with a press release information he released via a tweet earlier in the week: that his civil case against government officials for harassment based on the political content of his cartoons has ended, and that a decision will come on May 23.

"My case proceeding has completed on the 6th of April with three more police officers testified for the government; ASP Zaihairul Idrus, ASP Arikrishnan and ASP Marina Hashim.

And they systematically said: 'Every page of Zunar's book contains cartoons that depict political leaders, the police and the judiciary, and can incite hatred and misunderstandings among the public.'

'It can also cause the public to be confused and lost confidence of the parties referred to (in my cartoons), and have bad faith in creating racial and religious unrest.'

In the previous sessions, I have also testified together with publisher and other witnesses, and maintained that the arrest was politically motivated.

On 24th September 2012, I was arrested and jailed for two days over the publishing of my then new book, Cartoon-O-Phobia. On top of that, I was investigated under the Sedition Act, which carries the maximum three-year jail if found guilty.

I challenge the Malaysian government on the ground that the arrest was made in bad faith, mala fide, and not according to the law. This is based on the fact that when the arrest was made, the books were not available in the market yet.

In my suit, I claimed general, aggravated and exemplary damages, losses from art collage and 66 books confiscated during the raid; and loss of earnings from inability to sell books.

The table could turn other way if I lose, in which I would have to pay up to RM40,000.00 (Euro 8,000.00) to the government."
I did not know that last part, that there may be significant financial cost to the cartoonist if the case does not end well. There is a definite economic element to this case that is fascinating to me, from this permutation of the court decision to the way that the cartoonist has found it difficult to find printers in his home country.
 
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Go, Look: Massive Danish Moebius Tribute Site

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via Thomas Thorhauge; thanks, Thomas
 
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Go, Read: Two Interviews With Two Of Comics' Finest Talkers

image* "I sat down yesterday and realized that I'm working on ten projects at once. Which is not something I would recommend." -- Dan Clowes at PWCW.

* "I don't want to pretend to be a philosopher about money, because it really isn't something that interests me. It was the subject for a book. I have no real theory or program on the subject. When I say it was a means to an end, I should point to the fact that it gave me these great seafaring stories to illustrate. Now who could have predicted that? I'll do a book about money and it will lead me to stories about Southsea tricksters calling down typhoons to shipwreck each other. That's not something I foresaw when I started out. In the end it felt like a very real adventure that took me to an odd little corner of the world." -- Eddie Campbell at The Outhouse.
 
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Go, Look: A Gallery Of Richard Sala Spot Illustrations

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Missed It: Gary Varvel Wins 2012 National Headliners Award

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Gary Varvel of the Indianapolis Star has won this year's National Headliners Award in the editorial cartooning category. This is a traditional newspaper awards program (coming up on 80 years of existence) coming out of Atlantic City. Varvel's win is noteworthy for a few reasons: the win itself, the win in the context of Varvel's recent run of recognition, and a little bit the fact that Varvel is one of a pretty established breed of right-leaning editorial cartoonists.
 
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Go, Look: Tyler Crook

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Tat Bestand sent along this story, astounding if I'm understanding it correctly: the artist David Finch was due to appear at a show, had his gall bladder removed (?!) and then went back to the show as soon as he was able. No one is allowed to bitch about being two blocks further away from the San Diego convention center than they'd prefer to be ever again.

* it makes sense that Stan Lee would want his own comics convention; that seems a natural extension of the kind of general superhero branding exercise in which his people have been working for years and years now.

* C2E2 this weekend. That's Reed's Chicago show. There's some intriguing rhetoric kind of bubbling around that show, now in its third year. On the one hand, Reed wants that show to kind of lock into place on the convention calendar, and has all of the advantages that come from having a Spring show in a great city for comics, Chicago, and their solid comics and media relationships in place in order to make that happen. On the other hand, it's not a show with a lot of natural buzz. I think the institutional and situational strengths will win out, and the show should have a solid to strong year.

* it might be worth noting that like the New York show they run, Reed's Chicago show seems to have no guests from the alt-/arts- side of things. At least none I can see this morning. The just-finished Emerald City, for example, is a very mainstream-oriented show, but Jim Woodring and Ellen Forney were there in addition to any number of pros that work that part of comics as a portion of their overall comics output. That's not necessarily a strike against Reed doing what it is they seem to want to do, and we're about 15 years past the date when people could seriously complain with righteous anger about comics shops and conventions not serving any kind of comics fan other than the kind they want to, but it does establish a certain expectation-level regarding that show for a certain kind of comics reader. If I were still in the city and not covering comics? I might not go.

* I hope you're reading Gabrielle Bell's site right now for her reports from Fumetto. Best Diarist + Most Intriguing Comics Festival = Compelling Comics.

* Brooklyn Zine Fest this weekend.

* here's a lengthy report from Hi-Ex that Joe Gordon brought to my attention. Is it my imagination, or do the non-North American comics shows feature much more flattering lighting?

* one thing I keep forgetting to mention is the hard news from ECCC. The show apparently attracted over 53,000 people -- a gain of about 10,000 -- and plans next year are for the show to take over the entire convention center and expand its Friday offerings.

* another thing that's failed to materialize on the site itself is a link to this report from Todd Klein about using Comic-Con's hotel reservation system.

* finally, Mark Evanier begins what will soon be a regular stream of posts about this summer's Comic-Con International. I always look forward to hearing from Mark about that show.
 
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Comics Needs More Adaptation Of Obscure Jodie Foster Films

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we can disagree on everything else, but I think we can agree on that; via Mike Everleth
 
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Comics' Giving Heart -- Projects, People In Need Of Funding

* please consider a donation to the Sebastian Babin education fund, particularly if you feel you benefited from the late Rex Babin's fine editorial cartooning work over the years.

image* as is our wont, we look at fundraising projects for pantheon-level cartoonist Jim Woodring and for iconic small press publisher Sparkplug. It seems to me that there's been a bit of movement in the Woodring and only a slight boost for the Sparkplug this week. Justin Colussy-Estes writes into CR with some of his thought about giving to those two projects specifically. I really appreciate that letter. This is a new era in terms of how some comics art will be capitalized, and we're all going to figure out how we want to do it, if we want to do it, and how we'd prefer to do it.

* not comics: here's a superhero-related video project that also seeks your support. I haven't looked at it yet, but they were nice enough to ask me, so if that's you're kind of thing, you might check it out. That's how I used to dress every casual day when I temped.

* also not exactly comics: good to see Jess Nevins' kickstarter go well; Nevins has put in a lot of work over the years in his part of the coverage-of-comics field, and I think this reflects how people have received his past work. I look forward to a new Crap Hound, too.

* more good news: the Injury kickstarter was successful.

* put Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos on the list of established comics-makers taking a project to crowd funding.

* as always, please keep CR apprised as to what's going on out there While we love hearing about projects, we're doubly interested in any charitable efforts on behalf of a comics-maker or those related to comics-makers.
 
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If I Were In Chicago, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Early Al Williamson

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Eric Stephenson argues for the power of creator-owned work in the best way possible: naming names. I think in comics we settle for arguments about possibilities and theoretical outcomes rather than just make lists.

image* I enjoyed this enthusiastic appreciation of Stan Sakai's skill as a letterer from the writer David Brothers.

* Steve Lieber draws The Spirit.

* Michael Buntag on School Run #2-4 and Dekada. Gabe Bridwell on those recent Rian Hughes-designed Iron Man comics.

* Joshua Hale Fialkov writers about the writer's life.

* not comics: JJ Sedelmaier talks about EG Lutz' Animated Cartoons, basically a how-to bible for the early Disney folks, including Disney.

* some nice person at King Features talks to Jonathan Mahood. Tom Racine talks to Stacy Curtis. Some guy in a suit talks to Alan Moore. D'arcy Doran profiles D+Q.

* finally, I'm not exactly sure how this Etsy listing ended up in my bookmarks folder, but I bet there's someone out there that might want the item being sold.
 
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Reminder: Comics Awards With Their Voting Process Open

As luck would have it, for the next few days both the Harvey Awards and the Eisner Awards have elements of their voting process open to the voters at the same time. That means you can be a good comics citizen and fold the two activities together for maybe an extended coffee break's worth of work.

* The Harvey Awards are in their nominations process through April 16.

* The Eisner Awards are in their final voting process stage through June 4.

I'll run this specific reminder for a few more days, and will try to run Harveys final voting and Eisners final voting reminder after that. I urge everyone eligible to vote. If you can't quite tell if you're eligible but feel you might be in a way that shows good enough faith on your part so as not to waste anyone's time, just remember to be up front about what your standing is and they can disqualify you if they have to.
 
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April 11, 2012


Go, Look: A Ruined Little Gambit

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Matt Bors, Marty Two Bulls Win Sigma Delta Chi Prizes

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The Society Of Professional Journalists has announced the winners of its Sigma Delta Chi awards program for work done in 2011. There are two cartooning categories, separated by a 100,000-person circulation figure. Emerging star Matt Bors won the 100K+; Marty Two Bulls Of The Indian Country Today Media Network took home the prize in the 100K and less category. You can see PDFs of each cartoonist's work at their entry through that initial link.
 
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Go, Look: Even More Cartoonist Photos

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First Second's Kim Dong Hwa Books On Challenged List

imageBrigid Alverson caught that First Second's English-language translation of Kim Dong Hwa Color Of Earth series, which they released as The Color Of Earth, The Color Of Water and The Color Of Heaven, has ended up the only graphic novel on this year's most challenged list released by the ALA. (They are also known collectively as The Color Trilogy.)

These are coming of age stories set in rural Korea during the 19th Century. They certainly contain an element of sexuality in their depiction of the young protagonist's relationship with her changing body, various people her own age experiencing same and, via observation and I believe very occasional conversation, her mother. I can actually imagine it being disconcerting for some folks to encounter that element of these books for their frequency, potency and the relative, slightly ridiculous absence of similar material in a lot of books aimed at depicting an adolescent's experiences. That said, there's nothing salacious to them the way that most rational folks think of that term and it's hard for me to imagine a young person with an interest in reading these rather stately books that couldn't handle a discussion of the ideas presented within them, and how they're presented. That there's an expectation people bring to encountering books that might lead them to challenge something, just to use that framework for engaging material, seems sad to me.
 
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Go, Look: Bp Bp Beep

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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.

*****

JAN120970 PETE AND MIRIAM GN (MR) $14.99
Hey, a new Rich Tommaso release. As I recall, this is work that was started here (as one of the last-wave Alternative Comics offerings) but then continued in collected form from a European publisher.

imageJAN121289 SLAM DUNK GN VOL 21 $9.99
This is the broadly-appealing manga selection of the week; I'm glad that Slam Dunk looks to have the momentum to finish this time out, as sports comics are a dicey proposition no matter their provenance.

FEB120036 LOBSTER JOHNSON THE BURNING HAND #4 (OF 5) JOHNSON CVR $3.50
FEB120291 NORTHLANDERS #50 (MR) $2.99
JAN128160 GLORY #24 VAR CVR 2ND PTG $2.99
FEB120503 GLORY #25 $2.99
FEB120519 SAGA #2 (MR) $2.99
FEB120640 SECRET SERVICE #1 (OF 7) (MR) $2.99
FEB120869 ADVENTURE TIME #3 $3.99
It's a strange week for stand-alone comic books in that there's a lot of stuff out, from Mignola to the latest in the high fantasy/science fiction Image revival, but not a lot tat leaps out at me as something I'd travel to the comics shop to buy. I do have some curiosity about the Adventure Time comics, which I haven't seen yet; this one features a back-up from the sublimely prolific Michael Deforge.

FEB120642 GOLDFISH GN HC (MR) $24.99
Early Brian Michael Bendis, which along with the new Mark Millar series debut make this a pretty big week for Marvel's creator-owned efforts.

FEB120399 OZ TREASURY ED $9.99
JAN120482 ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS ASHLEY WOOD PORTFOLIO SET $20.00
Two from IDW featuring formidable mostly indy-comics/sometimes mainstream comics artists. This is the kind of thing for which comics shops and the ability to browse were made.

JAN120969 KITCHEN SINK PRESS FIRST 25 YEARS $15.00
I think I'm more interested that this corporate history is coming out at all than I am in reading it again, although my memory is that it was perfectly fine. I saw someone describe Kitchen Sink as a failed company because they closed down not in an ideal way, but anything that lasts 25 years and more seems a success to me.

JAN121253 UNTERZAKHN GN $24.95
Begin strong, end strong; you have a week. This is the new Leela Corman and is as big a bunch of stand-alone, you-haven't-seen-them-yet comics as you're likely to see all year.

*****

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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Not Comics: NC Wyeth In Scribner's Magazine

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Go, Read: Profile Of Mana Neyestani

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There's a lengthy profile here of Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani, famously jailed in 2006 for a cartoon that enraged members of that country's Azeri minority and currently living in France. Neyestani will always be of interest because of that horrifying series of incidents, and as a member of Iran's exiles community, but there's also a book published in France -- and possibly elsewhere -- about the experience. He's also apparently doing a politically-aware domestic strip that has an Iranian readership despite being published outside of the country, which is something I didn't know.
 
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If I Were In Hamburg, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: New Funnies #84

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Neal Kirby on Jack Kirby. Yeah.

image* I was delighted to see Mike Dawson and Julia Wertz ask Eric Reynolds to be put in his cartoonists with guns flickr set, potentially the greatest of all comics-related flickr sets. This Julia Wertz photo is a great photo.

* Sean Kleefeld wonders after the end of syndication. It happens a lot, actually.

* Team Page 45 on various comics. Brian Hibbs on various comics. Richard Bruton on Thank Goodness For Herald Owlett Vols. 1-3 and Paris. Sean Gaffney on The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 12. Grant Goggans on Nuts. Johanna Draper Carlson on 20th Century Boys Vol. 20. Katurah Grays on Artichoke Tales.

* not comics: I'm far too old to get away with wearing a Cannibal Fuckface t-shirt, but a man can dream.

* Katherine Dacey asks which manga should win that category at the Eisner Awards.

* this post on a Katsuhiro Otomo exhibition is pretty amazing. Someone please bring that to the US in one of the town I'm visiting next year. Thank you.

* you can ask Rob Davis a question here.

* that Dan Zettwoch book is going to be super-pretty.

* the French-language news clearinghouse ActuaBD.com has a short piece up on what they call the first major publication of HM Bateman for a continental audience.

* finally, sales at Domino Books and AdHouse; also from Oliver East. That's two fine companies and one stand-up individual.
 
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April 10, 2012


Go, Follow: Gabrielle Bell Goes To Fumetto

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comics' strongest diarist goes to the most fascinating of all the comics festivals: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
 
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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* two men in Tunisian were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for posting cartoons of Muhammed on Facebook, wires roared with the news late last week. An appeal is underway. The drawings in question apparently show Muhammed naked.

* there's nothing much to this article in terms of commentary on the Danish Cartoons Controversy, but I thought interesting the casual certainty of the insult lobbed at Denmark's way.

* Denmark will apparently use secret judges in its forthcoming trial against terrorism suspects that authorities believe hold the Danish Cartoons Controversy as an instigating cause. That's one of those things where you sort of automatically go, "Well, that can't be good."

* this widely-circulated article from various Canadian publications tries to put the Danish Cartoons into a context that engages the general state of political cartooning over the last decades or so. I'm not sure it's entirely successful, but I appreciate the attempt.
 
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Go, Look: A Walt Kelly Easter Weekend Comics Gallery

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Analysts Weigh In On March 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 March 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.

I guess Marvel's return to the top 10 is the story this time out, as is their pushing the first couple of issues of their Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover effort into the six-figure range that's been hard for them to reach for quite some time now. It's difficult to say that if this placement says much of anything about the health of this particular comics market, Marvel, or this specific effort. Marvel went all in on this one, and how much these figures represent genuine desire for the product in the marketplace and how much they represent Marvel's ability to manufacture bigger numbers is going to be unclear. Two things, though. First, the appearance of a big hit and a big hit can be pretty close to the same thing in Direct Market circles because those sales rely on an on-board group of retailers and an enthusiastic fan base, both of whom are traditionally attracted to whatever is doing well, no matter how it gets there. Second, an outcome whereby retailers rejected this series before it got started despite any and all sales offers and promotional ploys, that might have been a fairly big disaster for the publisher. So simply avoiding that outcome is a good thing.

I think there are a couple of worrisome signs, too. The analysis at ICv2.com engages directly with the dollar slippage 2011 to 2012, the key point being that March 2011 was hardly a vigorous month. And just generally I look at things like how quickly the sales on comic book have settled back into recently traditional levels rank-to-rank -- how the #20 comic from this month in 2009 is selling at just about the same level as the #20 comic from 2012. I'm not a numbers cruncher, and there's a lot more going on here in terms of the entirety of certain lines being published and how things are performing further down the tail, and of course book sales and digital make up two other components of a bigger picture, but it seems to me that less than a year removed from a supposed industry-saving surge in sales we're not seeing it in terms of a renewed comic-book middle class. I'm still worried that what happened last year is that things got so sluggish, the overall blood-sugar of the traditional comic book industry so low, that we may have mistaken the temporary alertness that comes from chugging a can of cola with long-term maintenance and health. Then again, if the industry settles into a place allows for these companies to make "hits" and to move units in a generally reliable way, I'm not sure maximizing health over the long-term is as compelling a goal.

 
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Go, Look: Vaughn Bode Science Fiction Illustration Gallery

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Chris Butcher Makes Plea For More Cordial Industry Dialogue

The retailer and industry blogger Chris Butcher has issued a lengthy post here about a recent article and transcript concerning a roundtable in which he participated with one of the more public faces of Marvel Comics (CB Cebulski) and the corresponding Internet brouhaha which apparently took place and which I pretty much missed in its entirety. Beyond agreeing with Butcher on the general principle that comics Internet sites don't really understand the difference between excerpting and re-publishing, I'm not sure that I can comment on the article itself -- or its transcript -- and/or any reaction to it. I look forward to catching up to it.

I wanted to post a link to it before I got to reading the pieces, though, because the sentiment plugs into yesterday's plea on this site for a willingness to engage industry issues in a direct, forthright, and hopefully fruitful way. I'm not sure how much I share in the degree of Butcher's sympathy for a lot of the folks that work for mainstream companies. I think most of them are honorable, good people, for sure, and that many of them operate under horrible circumstances dictated to them by outside forces -- an executive with dehumanizing goals, or the pressure to make profits that seems to animate most big business like that. At the same time, I think that if you work for a place like that the blowback you get for its policies and practices doesn't seem an unreasonable cost for all the things that serve as benefits from that kind of gig. I'm also uncertain whether someone should be able to wholly sidestep the moral culpability in which they share by lending their talents to an endeavor like that. Additionally, I suspect companies like that and many of the employees that work for them are very much participants in a cycle of casual abuse and strident dysfunction, company to supportive community and back again. For me, when you encounter some of the oily nastiness that takes place in certain comics circles it's like eavesdropping on a couple of people in a familial relationship dropping bombs and hissing horrible things that make you super-uncomfortable. You might wish a better dialogue for them, but at the same time, there's probably some longstanding, deep, screwedupness about that relationship to which you have no easy access to make an outside, summary judgment.

But yeah, more dialogue, better dialogue: that'd be good.
 
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Go, Look: Weekend Warriors

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* I like the idea of new Steve Ditko comics on a semi-regular basis, and I like the comics themselves.

image* Andrew Wales has posted the cover to his forthcoming book of art history comics.

* I think I forgot to mention that Brian Bendis has signed a book deal for a volume about the writing of comic books. That sounds about right to me: Bendis has had a pretty amazing career, and he's been teaching so I bet he's thought some of this stuff out.

* Matt Fraction and David Aja will re-team for a forthcoming series from Marvel. They worked together on the first chunk of the Iron Fist re-do from a few years back, the one where Iron Fist punched shit out of a train.

* DC is going to fold an anthology-type series into its line-up. That seems a good place to fold in characters that are fruitful licenses -- Looker, Kid Eternity -- but maybe not an easy sell to the comic book audience they've fashioned for themselves. I like Jeff Lemire's work and wish him luck with Kid Eternity, but that sounds like a really, really generic take on what is a fun character (a dead child that can raise other people from the dead). At this point, however, just about everything DC does is for someone other than me.

* Brad Guigar is trying out a downloads plan with his Evil, Inc..

* Sean Gaffney writes about new manga licenses announced at recent show.

* here's a big, long list of forthcoming work from over at Plastic Farm.

* Sean Gordon Murphy will do a six-issue series on a clone of Jesus turned child star for the Vertigo imprint.

* Johanna Draper Carlson has notes on the collection of The Line, a return to print for a classic manga publishing project, and those announced color Scott Pilgrim books.

* here's a facebook page for Geoff Grogan's Plastic Babyheads From Outer Space.

* finally, I am late to this cover image from this summer's League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen book, but I thought it attractive enough to post anyway.

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Go, Look: A Deathlok Splash Page Mini-Gallery

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Missed It: Your 2012 Best Graphic Story Hugo Nominees

imageSuperior link-blogger Kevin Melrose has the most succinct write-up on this year's "Best Graphic Story" nominees for the longstanding science-fiction awards program the Hugos. They are:

* Digger, Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
* Fables, Volume Fifteen: Rose Red, Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (DC/Vertigo)
* Locke & Key, Volume Four: Keys to the Kingdom, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)
* Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication, Howard Tayler and Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
* The Unwritten, Volume Four: Leviathan, Mike Carey and Peter Gross, (DC/Vertigo)

Melrose notes that it's the category's fourth year and that Phil and Kaja Foglio asked their Girl Genius not be included on the ballot. That work won the first three times the category was offered. The winner will be named in a ceremony in September. Melrose also reminds that a smattering of other comics folk can be found in other categories -- full list here.
 
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If I Were In Hamburg, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: A Wally Wood Jungle Jim Story

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Jen Vaughn has the CCS summer workshop line-up for your perusal.

image* Nicole Rudick on Kramers Ergot Vol. 8. Sean T. Collins on A Game Of Thrones: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1. Matthew Thurber and Rebecca Bird on Lost And Found. David Brothers on Thief Of Thieves. Henry Covert on Sorrow #1. Greg McElhatton on Farm 54. Don MacPherson on various comics. John Kane on various comics. Sean Gaffney on Skip Beat! Vol. 27. Nina Stone on BPRD Hell On Earth: The Pickens County Horror #1. James Hunt on Lenore #5. Seth Robison on that Morgan Spurlock Comic-Con documentary.

* here's a new installment of that "this many months/years ago in comics history" feature I liked the first time it showed up.

* this is a heartwarming story.

* not comics: via longtime, much-appreciated CR reader Danny Ceballos comes a link to this story about the ultimate Rube Goldberg machine. I'm more of a Rowland Emett guy, but the Rube Goldberg contests are probably my favorite under-the-rader comics infiltration of North American culture not Sadie Hawkins-related.

* Frank Santoro profiles a variety of new talents. Karl Kelly talks to Matt Smith. Shaun Manning talks to Bobby Curnow. Tim O'Shea talks to Matt Kindt. JK Parkin talks to Jim McCann.

* two really nice posts from Caitlin McGurk: one is about the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library's acquisition of a bunch of the Mexican satirical publication Multicolor, to which I can only respond, "Well, all right." The other is an Edwina Dumm-related post: I'm a fiend for Dumm.

* Dave Press drives our attention to a comics-related talk show.

* the sites that pay close attention to the mainstream comics companies seem to believe there are hiring shifts at DC, centered around Bobbie Chase.

* the alternate title for this post is "take that, oldsters!"

* two response-driven posts: 1) Chris Sims reblogging Abhay Khosla on Darwyn Cooke on Before Watchmen. 2) Brian Hibbs on Mark Waid on the rising costs of print comics.

* Evan Dorkin draws (and writes about) the Mole Man. Luke Pearson covers Lucky Jim.

* finally, Sean Kleefeld talks about self-image.
 
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April 9, 2012


Go, Look: Take Back The Strand

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Missed It: Your 2012 Prix Bédélys Winners

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The Canadian comics news clearinghouse site Sequential posted winners last week for the 2012 Prix Bédélys, which were awarded at a ceremony on April 4. That's a program held at Montreal's Grande Bibliothèque and sponsored by Promo 9e art; it's in its 13th year. The winners were:

Prix Bédélys Monde (Best French-Language Comic Published Internationally)
* Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa (Editions Dupuis)

Prix Bédélys Québec (Best French-Language Comic Published In Quebec)
* Chroniques Sauvages, Volume One: Teshkan by Francois Lapierre (Glénat Québec)

Prix Bédélys Indépendant (Best Independent Comic)
* Le bestiaire des fruits by Zviane (Self-Published)

Prix Bédélys Jeunesse
* Légendes de la garde Vol. 2 by David Petersen (Editions Gallimard Jeunesse)

The second award comes with a $1000 cash prize; the third award brings with it a prize for $500.
 
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Go, Bookmark: BDVille

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Evan Dorkin Notes Shared Harvey Awards Rule

The cartoonist Evan Dorkin picks up on something that he as a past host and recent winner at the Harvey Awards didn't know about: the physical Harvey Award given out by that program must be shared. That is, when Dorkin and Jill Thompson won one recently for their Beasts Of Burden work, they had to designate who would get the physical award that was made (Dorkin says it's going to Thompson), and then had to decide whether to pay for a second trophy so that Dorkin could have one, too.

This is a deeply uncool thing to be discussing, so I appreciate Dorkin putting it out there. We're all adults. We know that no one should really care all that deeply about awards, and that goes double for the actual physical representation of the award. Moreover, the Harveys are one of those organizations that represent at least as part if their mission something everyone in comics can get behind: the promotion of the legacy of the great Harvey Kurtzman. Certainly Dorkin appreciates that legacy as a cartoonist who's worked in humor for the vast majority of his career. Further, to make any complaint at all raises hackles from people who think that mission is being disrespected or, more generally, that they're being put on the defensive. (I get these letters a lot, and might get one here, I don't know.) As Dorkin himself acknowledges, it is highly unlikely to the point of absurdity to suggest that anyone is making money off of the Harvey Awards or any sub-rule that group might have. It's also true that there's a paid component with a lot of awards in a lot of fields.

So why bring it up at all? Because I also appreciate this post from Dorkin. It is very comics. I think comics in all facets offers up a potent combination of really low thresholds for participation (this very homemade site's recent inclusion in another major comics awards program is proof of that), an inordinate weight placed on the rewards of self-agency through comics at the expense of many other benefits, and a history of self-deprecation that hints at issues of major, subculture-wide, self-loathing. We need to have discussion on things like what an awards program should offer, what a publisher should provide the publication process or even whether or not a site where the host just gives up on original content on a weekend (like I did yesterday) is of a professional standard that deserves approbation. To not have these discussions is to accept that comics deserves what it's told it deserves, and while some of the people that do that telling are good people with lofty goals in mind, others aren't.
 
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Go, Bookmark: Muster List

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Missed It: Boumeries And Pope Hats Take Expozine Awards

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Boumeries and Pope Hats #2 took home French- and English-language comics category prizes, respectively, at this year's Expozine Awards. This strikes me as something of an odd awards program in that the actual Montreal expo is held in November of every year, which is the occasion for the nominees to be assembled. I can't think of another awards program that works like this -- so much so that I hope I have that right.

The nominees by category were:

Bande Dessinée Francophone

* Le bestiaire des fruits by Zviane (Sylvie-Anne Ménard)
* The Best of Iris Vol. 2 by Iris (Iris Boudreau)
* Boni, volume one: Le bout de la carotte by Ian Fortin (Premières Lignes)
* Boumeries Vol. 1 by Boum (Samantha Leriche-Gionet) (self-published)
* Les cornichons éltrangers by Dimo Garcia (self-published)
* Pinkerton by François Samson-Dunlop and Alexandre Fontaine-Rousseau (Colosse)

English Comic

* Maidenheadlock by Rebecca Rosen (Le Dernier Cri)
* Pope Hats #2 by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse Books)
* "Untitled" by Mum Pittsburg by Connor Willumsen
* The Man Who Built Beirut by Andy Warner
* Melody On Stage by Sylvie Rancourt and Jacques Boivin (Éditions Melody)
* Collier’s Popular Press by David Collier, (Conundrum Press)

There are 'zine categories as well; you can read Sequential's description of the winners here.
 
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Not Comics: NC Wyeth Illustrates King Arthur

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Go, Read: An Update With The Widow Of Prageeth Ekneligoda

Sandhya Ekneligoda, the wife and presumed widow of Sri Lankan journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda, spoke to the World Socialist Web Site about her family's continuing efforts to find out what happened to the family patriarch during presidential elections in 2010. That story pretty much broke as it happened, so tracing the delaying tactics employed by police and other authority figures reached a certain level of clarity right away: there was an initial delay in pursuing Ekneligoda's disappearance just from offering up alternative explanations, then by stressing that post-election priorities diverted manpower and finally a claim that there was nothing out there to be found. According to this latest piece, the harassment the presumed widow and family have received just in trying to find out what happened has become part of the overall story about corruption in that government.
 
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Go, Look: Ward Sutton On Rachel Maddow's Drift

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Comics' Giving Heart -- Projects, People In Need Of Funding

image* lot of good news out there. It's great to see this Carlton Hargro-spearheaded effort hit its funding goals. I like that guy, and his last one failed to catch on with a sizable audience. That good man Batton Lash hit his target and then some. So did Keith Knight (that's him pictured). Shaenon Garrity crushed it, which is always good to see.

* this nice person wrote in seeking attention for their Kickstarter project. Attention doesn't cost anything but about ten seconds of your time, which is indeed more valuable than some would have you believe.

* I don't have the time to do the due diligence necessary to recommend this charitable effort, but I thought I'd bring it to your attention.

* as always, we check in on Jim Woodring's fundraiser on behalf of his Fran. Woodring is one of the great cartoonists, and it's slightly disheartening to see this one stall out at a little over halfway finished. I'm confident that any project with over half funded and several days remaining will make it to the finish line, but it'd be nice if it happened really quickly.

* also stalling out a bit with many, many days to go is the Sparkplug fundraising effort. Of all the projects spotlighted in this column's brief life thus far, it's the Woodring and the Sparkplug I'd personally most like to see get over.

* finally, Ted Rall has joined the ranks of established cartoonists seeking to fund a project via Kickstarter.
 
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Go, Read: Lisa Hanawalt At The Toy Fair

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Go, Bookmark: Joe Infurnari's Time Fucker

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Foreign Policy is running a chunk of Guy Delisle's Jerusalem here. Let the Jerusalem publicity avalanche commence.

image* Chris Mautner talks to Zak Sally. Tim Webber talks to Eric Hoffman. Seth Kushner talks to Kim Deitch. Paul Gravett talks to R. Crumb.

* Jamie Coville has links up to some of the recordings he made at a recent Toronto show.

* Brian Hibbs is asking for your prediction on the death of the DM. I thought it was summer 1995? Actually, I'm just kidding; that sounds like a fun discussion.

* not comics: Ben Towle wrote in to recommend this piece on social media and book sales. I have yet to catch up to it, but I agree with the sentiment of the title. In fact, I'd go so far as to say even an awesomely well-funded kickstarter project isn't a career, at least not yet, but that's the kind of thing that gets me punched in the kidneys when I'm standing around conventions.

* J. Caleb Mozzocco shows fine taste in his appreciation of gun-toting Mickey Mouse.

* Shaenon Garrity presents the 50 greatest pop songs about comics.

* Rob Kirby on various mini-comics. Frank Santoro on work from relatively young cartoonists. Rob Clough on the comics of Luis Echavarria. Bob Temuka on Kick Ass 2. Greg McElhatton on Art Of The Secret World Of Arietty. Don MacPherson on The Waking Dreams End #1. Johanna Draper Carlson on The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Vol. 12.

* I recently suggested that the Eisner Hall Of Fame start to seriously consider Los Bros Hernandez beginning next year, mostly as a potentially positive outcome to the recent brouhaha over no nomination for this year's "Love Bunglers." I want to walk that back. Larry Marder informs that the basic consideration line is 35 years after first professional publication. I was going by when that person hit -- so Katsuhiro Otomo's consideration this year is based on his early 1970s publications rather than the late 1970s/early 1980s when he started doing the run of work for which he's best known. My bad. I hope Los Bros get in the second they're eligible, though, and together.

* I like the way Bully's mind works: a superior mostly-mainstream focused comics culture blogger.

* not comics: I'm sure most of these are entertaining, but I'm also more than certain my apartment in hell (roommate: Al Capp) is going to be decorated with fake movie posters.

* not comics: Robert Boyd goes to Austin. I'm fond of his section on Tony Fitzpatrick because Fitzpatrick is indeed a fantastic writer about his art.

* finally, here's a special plea on behalf of the Eisner-nominated Nelson from its publishers, at least in terms of getting out the vote. Gary Tyrrell writes about the nominees in his area of expertise. Michael Cavna drives his readers to some coverage of Eisner nominees. The Library Of American Comics thanks the judges.
 
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April 8, 2012


All Wishes For A Safe And Happy Easter

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A Few Quick Notes On An Early Easter Morning

image* I've decided to shelve this week's interview because of the dearth of finished interviews at my disposal and because traffic drops a bit for us on non-Christmas holidays like Easter, Fourth of July and Labor Day. If I had a bunch of interviews complete and in-house it might seem okay to have one up on a day like today. Since I don't, it would seem like I was punishing the person who got theirs done. My apologies for those that come to the site on Sundays for original content. I will endeavor to move through the rest of the year without a similar interruption.

* one thing you might read instead is a two-part interview I did with the writer Matt Fraction more than a year ago, for the Marvel site. It's about his very good Casanova work. The third of four comic books in this particular cycle of Casanova was just released. I wish there were more comics like it.

* I also cleaned up Monday's Notes From ECCC article a bit and added links. It seems less the effort of an addled inebriate now. I did enjoy that show, and had a blast seeing old friends that weekend.

* one person I saw that I didn't mention because the report ends before last Sunday evening is Peter Bagge. He has a new science fiction series coming out from Dark Horse, which has a big want-to-see factor for me because I haven't seen a page of the work. I think Bagge's a great cartoonist and a vital figure in American comedy.

* I read a couple of very decent comics-related tomes this weekend. That The Art Of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist is would-not-talk-to-you-in-a-bar good-looking, but also classy enough you don't object. That just seems to me a super-solid effort on a first read, and my lingering impression the next day is all the faces, which isn't necessarily something I take away from Clowes' comics. I even liked the photo of his dad. The other book I read was a hardcover of Final Crisis that irritated me from the get-go by folding in the related Superman series. If you have to blend two series for the best re-telling of a single story, it probably shouldn't have been two series in the first place. I still think that series was only okay, and rattled apart as it went along in pretty severe fashion. I think it's purposefully told in an elliptical manner that suggests more to the comic than is actually there. I also prefer the anti-lie = war explanation, because it spins superheroes in an interesting thematic direction.
 
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Go, Read: Terry Gilliam On Film, Humor And Comics

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via Gil Roth
 
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Go, Look: Warren Ellis' Three Panels Open

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Go, Look: Immigration And Comics, 1880-1910

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Go, Look: Salesman Sam

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OTBP: An Alphabet Of London

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Go, Look: Fran Matera Art

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Go, Bookmark: Redrawn Comics

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FFF Results Post #289 -- Comic And City

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Four Periodical Format Comics And Then Name The Real-World City That Connects Them All In Your Memory And Why That Is." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Boom Boom #2 (David Lasky)
2. Twitch (Justin Hampton)
3. Ink Blot (Ward Sutton)
4. Love Looks Left (Tom Hart)
5. Seattle. These are all comics by younger cartoonists I encountered during my early days in Seattle in the 1990s and feel to me emblematic of that time and place.

*****

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Michael Dooley

1. Not Brand Echh #1
2. Squa Tront #1
3. Witzend #2
4. Zap #1
5. Brooklyn. These publications kept me company in 1967, the first year I lived completely on my own.

*****

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Eric Reynolds

1. Hate (Peter Bagge)
2. Black Hole (Charles Burns)
3. Jar of Fools (Jason Lutes)
4. Real Stuff (Dennis Eichhorn)
5. Seattle. These are simply four comics I greatly associate with my formative years in early-to-mid 1990s Seattle.

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Yogi Bear Visits The U.N. ("Hanna and Barbera")
2. The Lost World 1960 movie tie-in (Gil Kane)
3. Walt Disney's Family Fun Giant #38 (Carl Fallberg / Tony Strobl /Steve Steere)
4. King Kong (Alberto Giolitti)
5. Manhattan. My grandmother & aunt took me to NYC in 1960 where we saw (among other things) the Irwin Allen version of The Lost World (even at age 6 I was grossly disappointed at the use of lizards for dinosaurs!). When we came back home I bought the Yogi Bear book b/c it was about a place I had actually visited. My grandmother brought Family Fun #38 when she came to visit; it had "The Prehistoric Duck" which I recognized instantly as a riff on The Lost World (only with much better dinosaurs!!!). I encountered the 1968 Gold Key version of
King Kong much, much later but by then dinosaurs & the Big Apple were intertwined in my mind (hey, you could also throw Wally Wood's Big Apple Comix in there as well!).

*****

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Joe McCulloch

* Deathmate: Black (Jim Lee, etc.)
* Splitting Image #1 (Don Simpson)
* Shadowhawk III (Valentino, Wolf)
* Trencher #1 (Keith Giffen)
* Wyoming, Pennsylvania. All bought off a spinner rack in a waxy corner in an almond & orange peel-colored Mccrory's in the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming, PA; unexpected Image Revolution outpost, but there were many surprises in 1993. I came back whenever I was around, looking for Deathmate: Red, but it never came, and they put the rack away, and then I was grown up.

*****

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Mark McMurray

* Swamp Thing, Vol. 2 #1 (DC Comics)
* Bizarre Adventures #33 (Marvel Comics)
* Third Rail (fanzine)
* Vanguard #3 (Pacific Comics)
* Lake Hopatcong, NJ. Back in the early '80s Tom Yeates lived in Lake Hopatcong. My Dad struck a friendship with him, so, on many visits to his place, I was fortunate to be around and see some cool comic related stuff including: watching John Totleben inking portions of some of the early Yeates Swamp Thing (vol 2) issues which segued into his doing samples with Steve Bissette to try to land the gig (at Tom's recommendation)! When I saw those sample pages, they nearly blew my mind! Around this time, I also got to hear a firsthand account about the creation of the Varnae vampire story for Bizarre Adventures (where they glued an actual dead fly into a panel). I love(d) the art for this and enjoyed getting insight into the creation of such an awesome piece of work. I first saw and acquired Ken Feduniewicz's awesome fanzine Third Rail at Tom's place. He would frequently try to persuade and encourage the completion of #2, to no avail! Lastly, my Dad and I modeled for the father and son in the Yeates-illustrated story "Be It What It Will, I'll Go To It Laughing" for Vanguard #3! All reference pictures were taken out and around his place on a snowy winter day! Good times!

*****

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RM Rhodes

1. De Toren by Schuiten and Peeters
2. Brusel by Schuiten and Peeters
3. De Onzichtbare Grens by Schuiten and Peeters
4. De Pooten naar het Mogelijke by Schuiten and Peeters
5. The last time I was in Amsterdam, I went to the Lambiek comic store and bought a pile of Schuiten and Peeters books. I didn't realize until later that they were in Flemish, not French. I now have a small pile of very beautiful, very alien comics that I always associate with the city of Amsterdam.

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. Fear #2 (Jack Kirby, various)
2. Zap #1 (R. Crumb)
3. I Go Pogo (Walt Kelly)
4. Haunted #1 (Steve Ditko)
5. Appleton. These are all comics I found over the last year in Appleton thrift stores.

*****

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Mark Coale

1. Animal Man #24
2. Swamp Thing #150
3. Batman/Grendel #1
4. Batman: Legends of Dark Knight Halloween Special
5. San Diego -- all feature characters that I got a sketch of at my first SD Comic-Con

*****

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M. Emery

1. Strumming Teeth #13 (Andy Conlan)
2. Jesus on a Stick #4 (Various, edited by Chris Knox)
3. Pickle #2 (Dylan Horrocks)
4. Anal Atrocities #1 (Karl Wills, E. McWilliams)
5. Auckland. I only got to visit New Zealand's largest City a few times in my teens and usually only for a day. Each time it involved a mad dash around the City to find any New Zealand comics. These were some of the first ones I found.

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

1. Big Deal Comics & Stories (Patrick Dean)
2. Journal of MODOK Studies (Robert Newsome)
3. I've Lost My Spots (Eleanor Davis)
4. Firefly Waltz (T Edward Bak)
5. Athens, Georgia. In the wake of 9/11 forcing the cancellation of SPX, lots of local shows cropped up. The Southeast's answer was FLUKE, and it's always a blast. I got these minis at those early FLUKEs, and made many a friend.

*****

editor's note: you people suck at following format

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










Series Of Videos From The Recent India Comic-Con
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The Longest Comic In The World?
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Dan Clowes Interviewed At Meltdown
 
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April 7, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from March 31 to April 6, 2012:

1. The civil case brought by Zunar against police and government official in Malaysia for their actions regarding the publication of his books has closed after reopening again this week. A decision is due in May.

2. The Eisner Award nominations are announced, with a lot of attention as to who didn't get a nomination. This includes Jaime Hernandez and his much-lauded story from 2011, "The Love Bunglers."

3. Graphicly shuts down its storefront to focus on a different aspect of their business, basically leaving comiXology in sole possession of a meaningful comics-related digital storefront.

Winners Of The Week
Those involved with Emerald City Comicon, an organization that announced 53K in attendance for the three-day show and an expanded slate of Friday activities for next year's version. That's how you celebrate a 10th anniversary.

Loser Of The Week
This guy.

Quote Of The Week
"It was a busy week, with not enough comics-making." -- Dylan Horrocks

*****

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

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

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April 6, 2012


Go, Look: Art From FMZ #1

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Some Students Rally To Fired University Of Texas Cartoonist

Here's an editorial typical of those surfacing here and there in support of University of Texas cartoonist Stephanie Eisner. Eisner was fired for a cartoon about the media coverage surrounding Trayvon Martin's death. There's also a petition on that campus to reinstate the cartoonist.

In general, I'm against cartoonists losing their gigs for making lousy cartoons, however that might be defined. It's hard for me to see how this one crossed the line from being a bad cartoon into an unacceptable engagement of issues and ideas, but I don't get to decide that for other people. At the same time, it's my hope that editorial cartoons and cartoonists are engaged on the merits of their entirety -- or lack thereof -- rather than whether or not they trigger a disqualifying mechanism. I'm not exactly certain how this one is being engaged. One danger sign for me is that it seems like some of the critics are latching onto a racial signifier (the use of the phrase "colored boy") rather than engaging the broader issues such as the wisdom in recasting such tragic news into a facile media critique in the first place, or what that depiction of the media actually implies. I'm open to the idea that some phrases are clearly verboten, but I think there's a danger when you can point to one thing and say, "game over" in seeing this breach of decorum as the only thing that is problematic about the art.
 
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Go, Look: Cartoonists With Guns

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Not Comics: More Wally Wood In Galaxy

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Go, Read: Comics As The Moon In The Gutter

There's a fascinating article from the Bangkok Post posted here that has multiple entry points for comics readers. A first is a discussion of a national book fair that has successfully made the transition from literary discussion-driven industry festival to a more consumer- and reader-oriented experience. A second is the folding in of comics concerns into such an event. A third is a description of Thai comics as a kind of common man's literature, which isn't something you see a whole lot of anymore. A fourth is the poetic description in the title, which comes from the writer placing value on comics reading experiences. I have my doubts about efforts to improve the literary quality of an experience that resonates because of, in part, the less lofty aspects, but I enjoyed the article.
 
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Go, Look: Early Political Caricature In America

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Collective Memory: Emerald City Comicon, 2012

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this article has been archived
 
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Go, Look: Frank Godwin Draws King Arthur

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Laura Hudson over at ComicsAlliance pulls at the Eisner Awards' decision this year not to do a Best New Series category. I'm all for the Eisner judges dropping categories they don't believe work -- I'd be all for their dropping categories randomly just to make the show shorter -- but I'm not sure I see how that's a deficient list of submissions.

image* Steve Scher talks to Larry Reid and Jim Woodring.

* Steve Bissette drew this for a young Joe Hill.

* the cartoonist Joe Ollmann is apparently getting extra work as a second story man.

* Chris Sims puts out for display a few made-up Batman manga pages used in one of the animated cartoons for only a few seconds of time.

* not comics: Mr. Hibbs goes to Washington.

* Richard Bruton on No More Heroes #1. Sean Gaffney on The Drops Of God Vol. 3. Johanna Draper Carlson on Between Gears. Jeet Heer on The Complete Crumb Comics Vol. 1. Josh Kopin on King City.

* Ten bad days for Doctor Doom.

* finally, one source suggests that two of the 100 top journalists of the last 100 years are cartoonists.
 
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April 5, 2012


Go, Look: New (Old) John Porcellino At What Things Do

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Your 2012 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominees

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Nominees for this year's Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were announced yesterday via Internet post and e-mail. Marvel's Daredevil title was the top nominations nexus, with six. Marvel and longtime dominant Eisners player DC had 11 nominations each with a pair shared; IDW was right there with its own 11 nominations, while Dark Horse scored ten and Fantagraphics took nine.
h
An interesting undercurrent to this year's awards is the amount of attention given to those not honored, at least in the flurry of initial responses and tweeting where a lot of that commentary takes place now. Those works and creators passed over this year include the vast majority of books related to DC's New 52 Initiative, longtime lettering nominee and awards juggernaut Todd Klein, two major releases from Drawn and Quarterly (Chester Brown's Paying For It; Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant), maybe the mainstream colorist of the moment (Dean White) and the great Jaime Hernandez for his much-lauded work in Love And Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4.

While there's always a bit of healthy debate regarding various works and creators excluded or included, this is a year with a lot of shake-ups in various categories. There were enough to drive the conversation rather than serve as an addendum to one. In the category in which this site is available, for example, a frequent recent nominee (ComicsAlliance) and last year's winner (Comic Book Resources) failed to gain nods. What's interesting about people going there is that there's no indication that this panel of Eisner judges lurched one way or the other -- say only granting nods to mainstream-oriented books, or focusing on newer talent. It's just different nominees. Jim Woodring is a longstanding alt-comics talent with nominations, for example. 20th Century Boys makes this year's list and is about as reliable a presence on Eisner Awards lists in recent years.

This year's judges were Brigid Alverson, Calum Johnston, Jesse Karp, Larry Marder, Benjamin Saunders and Mary Sturhann. The awards ceremony is held on the Friday evening of Comic-Con International weekend. You can get to the voting through the initial link.

Best Short Story
* A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture, by Adrian Tomine, in Optic Nerve #12 (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Harvest of Fear, by Jim Woodring, in The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror #17 (Bongo)
* The Seventh, by Darwyn Cooke, in Richard Stark's Parker: The Martini Edition (IDW)
* The Speaker, by Brandon Graham, in Dark Horse Presents #7 (Dark Horse)

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
* Daredevil #7, by Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and Joe Rivera (Marvel)
* Ganges #4, by Kevin Huizenga (Fantagraphics)
* Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
* Princeless #3, by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin (Action Lab)
* The Unwritten #24: "Stairway to Heaven" by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Al Davison (Vertigo/DC)

Best Continuing Series
* Daredevil, by Mark Waid, Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera, and Joe Rivera (Marvel)
* Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
* Rachel Rising, by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio)
* Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli (Marvel)
* Usagi Yojimbo, by Stan Sakai (Dark Horse)

Best Limited Series
* Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X, by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener (Red 5)
* Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel Icon)
* Flashpoint: Batman -- Knight of Vengeance, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (Vertigo/DC)
* The New York Five, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly (Vertigo/DC)
* Who Is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmondson & Tonci Zonjic (Image)

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
* Beauty and the Squat Bears, by Emile Bravo (Yen Press)
* Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, by Philippe Coudray (Candlewick/Toon Books)
* Dragon Puncher Island, by James Kochalka (Top Shelf)
* Nursery Rhyme Comics, edited by Chris Duffy (First Second)
* Patrick in a Teddy Bear's Picnic, by Geoffrey Hayes (Candlewick/Toon Books)

Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
* The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold, by Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett, and Dan Davis (DC)
* Amelia Rules: The Meaning of Life . . . And Other Stuff, by Jimmy Gownley (Atheneum)
* The Ferret's a Foot, by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue (Graphic Universe/Lerner)
* Princeless, by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin (Action Lab)
* Snarked, by Roger Langridge (kaboom!)
* Zita the Space Girl, by Ben Hatke (First Second)

Best Publication for Young Adults (Ages 12-17)
* Anya's Ghost, by Vera Brosgol (First Second)
* Around the World, by Matt Phelan (Candlewick)
* Level Up, by Gene Yang and Thien Pham (First Second)
* Life with Archie, by Paul Kupperberg, Fernando Ruiz, Pat & Tim Kennedy, Norm Breyfogle et al. (Archie)
* Mystic, by G. Willow Wilson and David Lopez (Marvel)

Best Anthology
* Dark Horse Presents, edited by Mike Richardson (Dark Horse)
* Nelson, edited by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix (Blank Slate)
* Nursery Rhyme Comics, edited by Chris Duffy (First Second)
* The Someday Funnies, edited by Michel Choquette (Abrams ComicArts)
* Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land, edited by Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle (Abrams ComicArts)

Best Humor Publication
* The Art of Doug Sneyd: A Collection of Playboy Cartoons (Dark Horse Books)
* Chimichanga, by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)
* Coffee: It's What's for Dinner, by Dave Kellett (Small Fish)
* Kinky & Cosy, by Nix (NBM)
* Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad, by Evan Dorkin (Dark Horse Books)

Best Digital Comic
* Bahrain, by Josh Neufeld
* Battlepug, by Mike Norton
* Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, by Tony Cliff
* Outfoxed, by Dylan Meconis
* Sarah and the Seed, by Ryan Andrews

Best Reality-Based Work
* Around the World, by Matt Phelan (Candlewick)
* Green River Killer: A True Detective Story, by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case (Dark Horse Books)
* Marzi: A Memoir, by Marzena Sowa and Sylvain Savoia (Vertigo/DC)
* Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Vietnamerica, by GB Tran (Villard)

Best Graphic Album -- New
* Bubbles & Gondola, by Renaud Dillies (NBM)
* Freeway, by Mark Kalesniko (Fantagraphics)
* Habibi, by Craig Thompson (Pantheon)
* Ivy, by Sarah Olekysk (Oni)
* Jim Henson's Tale of Sand, adapted by Ramón K. Pérez (Archaia)
* One Soul, by Ray Fawkes (Oni)

Best Graphic Album -- Reprint
* Big Questions, by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)
* The Death Ray, by Dan Clowes (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Richard Stark's Parker: The Martini Edition, by Darwyn Cooke (IDW)
* WE3: The Deluxe Edition, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (Vertigo/DC)
* Zahra's Paradise, by Amir and Khalil (First Second)

Best Archival Collection/Project -- Strips
* Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim, by Alex Raymond and Don Moore, edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW/Library of American Comics)
* Forgotten Fantasy: Sunday Comics 1900-1915, edited by Peter Maresca (Sunday Press)
* Prince Valiant vols. 3-4, by Hal Foster, edited by Kim Thompson (Fantagraphics)
* Tarpé Mills's Miss Fury Sensational Sundays, 1944-1949, edited by Trina Robbins (IDW/Library of American Comics)
* Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse vols. 1-2, by Floyd Gottfredson, edited by David Gerstein and Gary Groth (Fantagraphics)

Best Archival Collection/Project -- Comic Books
* Government Issue: Comics for the People: 1940s-2000s, edited by Richard L. Graham (Abrams ComicArts)
* The MAD Fold-In Collection, by Al Jaffee (Chronicle)
* PS Magazine: The Best of Preventive Maintenance Monthly, by Will Eisner (Abrams ComicArts)
* The Sugar and Spike Archives, vol. 1, by Sheldon Mayer (DC)
* Walt Simonson's The Mighty Thor Artist's Edition (IDW)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
* Bubbles & Gondola, by Renaud Dillies (NBM)
* Isle of 100,000 Graves, by Fabien Vehlmann and Jason (Fantagraphics)
* Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette (Fantagraphics)
* The Manara Library, vol. 1: Indian Summer and Other Stories, by Milo Manara with Hugo Pratt (Dark Horse Books)
* Night Animals: A Diptych About What Rushes Through the Bushes, by Brecht Evens (Top Shelf)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material -- Asia
* A Bride's Story, by Kaoru Mori (Yen Press)
* Drops of God, by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto (Vertical)
* Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Saturn Apartments, vols. 3-4, by Hisae Iwaoka (VIZ Media)
* Stargazing Dog, by Takashi Murakami (NBM)
* Wandering Son, vol. 1, by Shimura Takako (Fantagraphics)

Best Writer
* Cullen Bunn, The Sixth Gun (Oni)
* Mike Carey, The Unwritten (Vertigo/DC)
* Jeff Jensen, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story (Dark Horse Books)
* Jeff Lemire, Animal Man, Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (DC); Sweet Tooth (Vertigo/DC)
* Mark Waid, Irredeemable, Incorruptible (BOOM!); Daredevil (Marvel)

Best Writer/Artist
* Rick Geary, The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti (NBM)
* Terry Moore, Rachel Rising (Abstract Studio)
* Sarah Oleksyk, Ivy (Oni)
* Craig Thompson, Habibi (Pantheon)
* Jim Woodring, Congress of the Animals (Fantagraphics), Harvest of Fear in The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror #17 (Bongo)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
* Michael Allred, iZombie (Vertigo/DC); Madman All-New Giant-Size Super-Ginchy Special (Image)
* Ramón K. Pérez, Jim Henson's Tale of Sand (Archaia)
* Chris Samnee, Captain America and Bucky, Ultimate Spider-Man #155 (Marvel)
* Marcos Martin, Daredevil (Marvel)
* Paolo Rivera/Joe Rivera, Daredevil (Marvel)

Best Cover Artist
* Michael Allred, iZombie (Vertigo/DC)
* Francesco Francavilla, Black Panther (Marvel); Lone Ranger, Lone Ranger/Zorro, Dark Shadows, Warlord of Mars (Dynamite); Archie Meets Kiss (Archie)
* Victor Kalvachev, Blue Estate (Image)
* Marcos Martin, Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel)
* Sean Phillips, Criminal: The Last of the Innocent (Marvel Icon)
* Yuko Shimizu, The Unwritten (Vertigo/DC)

Best Coloring
* Laura Allred, iZombie (Vertigo/DC); Madman All-New Giant-Size Super-Ginchy Special (Image)
* Bill Crabtree, The Sixth Gun (Oni)
* Ian Herring and Ramón K. Pérez, Jim Henson's Tale of Sand (Archaia)
* Victor Kalvachev, Blue Estate (Image)
* Cris Peter, Casanova: Avaritia, Casanova: Gula (Marvel Icon)

Best Lettering
* Deron Bennett, Billy Fog, Jim Henson's Dark Crystal, Jim Henson's Tale of Sand, Mr. Murder Is Dead (Archaia); Helldorado, Puss N Boots, Richie Rich (APE Entertainment)
* Jimmy Gownley, Amelia Rules! The Meaning of Life... And Other Stuff (Atheneum)
* Laura Lee Gulledge, Page by Paige (Amulet Books/Abrams)
* Tom Orzechowski, Manara Library, with L. Lois Buholis (Dark Horse); Manga Man (Houghton Mifflin); Savage Dragon (Image)
* Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo (Dark Horse)

Best Comics-Related Journalism
* The AV Club Comics Panel, by Noel Murray, Oliver Sava et al.
* The Beat, produced by Heidi MacDonald et al.
* The Comics Journal, edited by Gary Groth, and The Comics Journal website, edited by Timothy Hodler and Dan Nadel (Fantagraphics)
* The Comics Reporter, produced by Tom Spurgeon
* TwoMorrows Publications: Alter Ego edited by Roy Thomas, Back Issue edited by Michael Eury, Draw edited by Mike Manley, and Jack Kirby Collector edited by John Morrow

Best Educational/Academic Work
* Alan Moore: Conversations, ed. by Eric Berlatsky (University Press of Mississippi)
* Cartooning: Philosophy & Practice, by Ivan Brunetti (Yale University Press)
* Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods, edited by Matthew J. Smith and Randy Duncan (Routledge)
* Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby, by Charles Hatfield (University Press of Mississippi)
* Projections: Comics and the History of 21st Century Storytelling, by Jared Gardner (Stanford University Press)

Best Comics-Related Book
* Archie: A Celebration of America's Favorite Teenagers, edited by Craig Yoe (IDW/Yoe Books)
* Caniff: A Visual Biography, edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW/Library of American Comics)
* Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard (Fantagraphics/Marschall Books)
* Genius Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, designed by Dean Mullaney (IDW/Library of American Comics)
* MetaMaus, by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)

Best Publication Design
* Genius Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, designed by Dean Mullaney (IDW/Library of American Comics)
* Jim Henson's Tale of Sand, designed by Eric Skillman (Archaia)
* Kinky & Cosy, designed by Nix (NBM)
* The MAD Fold-In Collection, designed by Michael Morris (Chronicle)
* Richard Stark's Parker: The Martini Edition, designed by Darwyn Cooke (IDW)

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Ken Barr Mini-Gallery

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* we're in the thick of convention season phase one right now, with Emerald City Comicon last weekend, C2E2 rounding into view a week or so from now and the MoCCA/Stumptown 1-2 punch at the end of the month. It's too big a run of shows to do on one's lonesome unless this is a significant part of the way you approach comics professionally, but there tends to be a little something for everyone -- and in a lot of different places.

* I liked this David Brothers piece on his meaningful con weekend enough to spotlight it a second time here.

* MoCCA, even more silent than usual during the lengthy ramp-up period to its traditional spring, fundraising show, announced P. Craig Russell and Gary Panter as kind of co-headliners for this year's event. That's certainly as grand a range of comics expression as you're likely to find in two guests. There's a poster and everything. I'd kill to meet Tom Gauld and Olivier Schrauwen.

* I'm not sure how many people noticed, but it looks like Emerald City moved its dates back about a month for next year. I like the Seattle weather as con weather -- better to be a little bit chilly than burning up, but not everyone agrees with me and that super-cold rain from early in this week's show is even more likely in 2013. I wonder if the move will also clear up what seems to be an impressive six-week or so logjam of events.

* one sign how conventions have changed the last ten years: a couple of folks have told me that despite receiving pleasantly surprising Eisner nominations that going to San Diego is out of the question because of the late date of early April. I think it was in 2001 that I decided to attend four days before the show started: airplane reservations, my own hotel room and everything.

* finally, I let a story get away from me, and I apologize. It seemed to me that the anonymity afforded people in various message-board and comments-thread related platforms had churned up a lot of accusations of bad faith leveled at the Comic-Con people about the future of WonderCon. Basically, they were being accused of always wanting to move the show to Anaheim, and that their actual efforts to keep the show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco -- the show started in Oakland, and is the traditional big Bay Area show -- were minimal to non-existant.

Here's what's going on, as far as I can tell. Comic-Con is only offered dates six months out from the event by Moscone because Comic-Con can't put enough people into the hotel room blocks they receive. WonderCon is a relatively modest show in terms of industry participation, an even more modest one in terms of the hotels such industry participants choose to use, and an even more modest show than that in terms of people not in the area going to the event as attendees. In other words, it's a regional show in terms of attendance -- people come from the surrounding area and return to their own beds at night. Comic-Con would like dates ahead of six months because of the difficulties in putting together a massive comics convention and because Moscone already bailed on them once. That doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

From what Comic-Con's David Glanzer is able to tell me, and this sounds truthful to me, Anaheim isn't even currently the option if they can't get a satisfactory set of dates at a satisfactory lead-in time from the Moscone Center, because Anaheim simply doesn't have dates available the way they did in 2012. Is Anaheim an option for a fourth show? It looks to me like this is still on the table, although you're talking about a 33 percent increase in the organization's workload so that's not something they'd plan as a lark, and a show two hours from the office falls into a long commute/expensive decampment quandary.

So it seems to me like they really, really want to get back to San Francisco, and are hoping for an exception in the way the Moscone Center works with clients because of their relative stability and the unique nature of the event. I hope they get it; we should know within a few weeks what's going on with next year's show specifically.
 
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Go, Look: Noir Preview PDF

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no idea if that image is in there, but I like it
 
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Go, Look: Love For Tom Palmer

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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.

*****

FEB121132 FREEDOM #1 $7.00
JAN120775 GLAMOURPUSS #24 $3.00
Why do we go to comics shops? Is it to buy idiosyncratic work in some semblance of the periodical format by which comics is best known? Here's $10 of that: first an American Revolution-set drama from a brand-new talent (and Xeric winner). The second the latest -- making 24 issues! -- from a master of Direct Market Appeal. A couple of the younger writers have written me pretty hot and bothered (in a good way) about the Freedom comic, and it's the one I'd most want to see if I were in a comics shop today.

imageDEC110771 AMERICAN BARBARIAN HC (MR) $19.95
OCT110285 FLEX MENTALLO MAN OF MUSCLE MYSTERY DLX HC (MR) $22.99
JAN120310 JACK KIRBYS FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS TP VOL 02 $29.99
It could be that we go to the shops to buy the latest, best efforts in the longstanding tradition of heroic fantasy by which the comic book may be best suited. Tom Scioli's American Barbarian is a handsome book at a sterling price point (particularly for color), discussed here. Flex Mentallo is a pantheon-level superhero work finally collected, and maybe one of two or three key book in the treatment of such stories over the last 25 years. I know comics readers with a collection winnowed down to a single box that have kept their issues of Flex Mentallo. It all springs from Jack Kirby, and while I still think the comics are eminently achievable, DC's latest round of reprints is apparently not half bad.

FEB120050 JEREMIAH OMNIBUS HC VOL 01 $24.99
DEC111111 CELESTIAL BIBENDUM DLX HC (MR) $69.95
Here are two sort-of limited edition looking (by aim or by result) prestige projects of the kind that comics shops used to host all the time. The Hermann I'm not familiar with at all beyond knowing the property. I know even less about the Nicolas de Crécy, but that's an artist always worth looking at.

FEB120410 SUPREME #63 HAMSCHER VAR CVR $2.99
FEB120409 SUPREME #63 LARSEN CVR $2.99
FEB120411 SUPREME #63 LIEFELD VAR CVR $2.99
JAN128124 FATALE #3 VAR CVR 2ND PTG (MR) $3.50
FEB120502 FATALE #4 (MR) $3.50
DEC110557 INVINCIBLE #90 $2.99
NOV110463 MUDMAN #3 $3.50
FEB120608 DAREDEVIL #10.1 $2.99
JAN128240 ADVENTURE TIME #2 2ND PTG (PP #1014) $3.99
SEP110630 CASANOVA AVARITIA #3 (OF 4) (MR) $4.99
Maybe the main point of comic book shops is still the big bag of assorted culture, the purchase of a small stack of comic books? You'd have a reasonably good week there. The Supreme is from an not-yet-executed strip from Alan Moore. Fatale is the effort from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, about as reliable a team as there is in mainstream comics. Invincible starts its final countdown to an issue #100 that because of its general self-awareness surely has to be a special issue of some sort for the Robert Kirkman-written superhero series. Mudman is Paul Grist, and it really does look like that one will be a bigger hit than some of the more complex superhero offerings he's done over the last decade -- books like that are a modest hit when they hit, but still. The Daredevil and Adventure Time efforts are apparently popular with regular comics reader if you go by awards nominations (the blind guy) and/or multiple printings (the crossover property). Finally, I like the Casanova series generally and will seek that one out even if I don't get to the funnybook shop. I'm not sure I knew this latest round was a four-issue mini-series until now.

JAN121307 DROPS OF GOD GN VOL 03 $14.95
You can still buy manga in comics shops -- some comics shops, anyway. This is the installment of a broadly-appealing series that made the biggest impression on me while scanning the initial lists. That's that series about wine that seemed to exist in multiple feature articles long before actually taking form as comics.

FEB121007 SHENZHEN A TRAVELOGUE FROM CHINA SC (MR) $14.95
No pithy commentary here; this is a Guy Delisle book back in print. I think this was the earlier effort that Pyongyang's success made of interest. I remember liking its more straight-up travelogue nature, which might be even more intriguing given how Jerusalem unfolds.

DEC111112 ANNIE SULLIVAN & THE TRIALS OF HELEN KELLER $17.99
Finally, there should always be one comic you never saw coming. For me this week, it's this book from a series I didn't know was still an ongoing concern (the CCS/Hyperion partnership) and a cartoonist of promise that I didn't know had a new book imminent (Joseph Lambert). That's a story that could lend itself to some very interesting visual work, too. I'm dying to see it.

*****

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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If I Were In Dekalb, 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 Leeds, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Primetime Weird Bill Everett Comics

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Frank Santoro is selling pages from Kramers Ergot Vol. 8.

image* via a bunch of you comes word that Hans Rickheit's blog has re-launched.

* I would imagine it would be fairly intimidating to get your portfolio reviewed by Gary Groth.

* not comics: I'm in on anything Dave Cooper is doing.

* Graeme McMillan talks about Mark Waid talking about one basic appeal of digital comics: that print comics has priced itself/worried away any expectation of profits from any reasonable expectation of doing one without taking a severe financial hit. Waid's contributions to discussions of the growing reality of digital comics has been invaluable thus far, even if some of the rhetoric -- like the insistence Waid somehow has it in for print comics -- has been distressing.

* I'm always interested in reading descriptions of comics shop positives that depend on things in which I have no interest. I find them interesting shopping experience rather than avatars of community. I never went to a comics shop looking for pals and fellow travelers; I went looking for comics.

image* Carol Kino profiles Dan Clowes. Albert Ching talks to Ed Brubaker.

* this may be the last time Moebius drew.

* what are we going to do with all of these comics?

* Martyn Pedler on Interiorae. Phil Guie on Athos In America. James Bacon on Soulless. Richard Bruton on D'Accord, 14 Nights and The Adventures Of Leeroy And Popo. Rob Clough on Mineshaft #27 and comics by Tom Galambos. Greg McElhatton on Shark King. Sean T. Collins on Esperanza. Tucker Stone on My Friend Dahmer. J. Caleb Mozzocco on American Barbarian. Kelly Thompson on Avengers Vs. X-Men #1. Todd Klein on Gone To Amerikay.

* go, look: a Simon Gane Godzilla spread.

* Eltingville manga?

* Brigid Alverson has a new dream job.

* finally, new books in the Domino Books store.
 
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April 4, 2012


Go, Look: Your 2012 Eisner Nominations

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Go, Look: Photos Of Cartoonists

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1, 2

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

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Go, Look: Early Bob Powell

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Michael Cavna talks to Darrin Bell about his Candorville strips on Trayvon Martin.

image* the StudyGroup 12 folks have a Facebook page up for your liking or for your secret detesting while clicking "liking."

* I haven't confirmed this, but yuck if it's true and yuck if it's almost true.

* David Brothers on Sharknife. Rob Clough on various mini-comics anthologies. Greg McElhatton on Ragemoor #1. Sean Gaffney on Is This A Zombie? Vol. 1. Sean Kleefeld on Accidental Ambassador Gordo and Shuteye. Nina Stone on Supurbia #1. Rob Wells on Viz: Cleveland Steamer. Johanna Draper Carlson on Bunny Drop Vol. 5. Someone whose name I can't tell on Special Exits.

* yikes.

* not comics: via Devlin Thompson, here's a piece of Gray Morrow film art.

* Shaenon Garrity solves the American comics industry with cats.

* not comics: Tatsumi reviewed by the New York Times.

* the writer and Kirby advocate Rob Steibel takes a look at theories that afford Stan Lee either the majority or the entirety of the creation of Marvel's 1960s superhero characters. I always like theories about Stan Lee because I think he's actually an underrated force in comics culture when it comes to how we view what comics-makers do and what's valuable about comics.

* David Brothers writes about a promise by Mark Millar to make a top-selling black character in comics.

* finally, you can buy David Hahn's house.
 
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April 3, 2012


Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* PictureBox Inc. is doing a collection of Sammy Harkham's work this Fall; cover is above. According to Dan Nadel, it will contain "all his anthology pieces, shorts from Crickets 1 & 2, as well as longer pieces like Poor Sailor and Somersaulting. It's set to debut in September at SPX.

image* Hope Larson talks details on her forthcoming adaptation of beloved children's prose classic A Wrinkle In Time.

* did I ever link to Seconds? I feel like I did, but maybe I didn't. Similarly, I'm pretty sure I've never done anything related to The Adventures Of Wally Fresh, but there it is.

* according to links on those sites that post every possible book that's about to be for sale alongside books that are for sale, and also according to the cartoonist herself at last weekend's Emerald City Comicon, Ellen Forney has a giant comics memoir coming out this Fall. Forney is a really emblematic Seattle cartoonist of the last twenty years -- one young cartoonist from Seattle identified her to me as "that artist who was all over The Stranger when I was a kid" -- but she's never done a long work before. It's going to be from a Penguin imprint, Gotham.

* Robot 6 has a nice round-up of various publishing news offerings from the rest of ECCC. It's interesting to note that with Simon Gane and James Stokoe doing Godzilla comics, that's a character with one solid crew of visual interpreters. Sheesh.

* Duncan The Wonder Dog went back for a third printing.

* you've likely already seen this bit of non-comics business from Seth. Pretty.

* Heidi MacDonald runs PR from the nice 2000 AD folks about forthcoming digital plans. MacDonald's right to feature that company's moves in that direction -- they could potentially bring a variety of new approaches to the table, as they have a different orientation than many publishers and are one of those folks with a ton of material they could employ in such initiatives.

* here's Sarah McIntyre's new gig.

* finally, I'm very excited about D+Q working with Dan Zettwoch, as I think that guy is right freaking there with his comics and has been for a few years now. The cover is awfully pretty.

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Go, Read: Love For Movie Love

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Go, Look: Gideon Kendall Artworks

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* all sympathies to my peer Don MacPherson for the not-surprisingly awful actions of someone lashing out at legitimate coverage that made them look like what they look like, and the shabby treatment he received from an Internet-related business for which he was a good customer. I think he's right in that there are some scary implications for this kind of thing moving ahead, mostly deriving from the ease with which certain switches can be thrown on and off compared to the havoc they can cause in someone doing what they want to do, even professionally. The outcome in the case in question is also absolutely deplorable.

image* the great Dylan Horrocks slips into the diarist slot at TCJ and I couldn't be happier.

* I hope I never get so jaded that the words, "hey, there's a new Achewood up" never fail to generate at least a "woo-hoo!"

* Noel Murray on various comics.

* I'm very, very glad Mike Baehr survived this ugly-looking incident unhurt (or at least not dramatically so). There's a selfish aspect to it, too: people like Baehr are absolute anchors for the world of comics.

* not comics: Box Brown shares a playlist, while Monte Schulz blogs. Also: baby talk.

* D+Q notes that recent newsmaker Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was a subject of attention in Guy Delisle's Burma Chronicles book from a few years ago. There's a good chance that if you've read that book and encountered that news you either made the connection or wondered after it, but it's nice to have it stated openly.

* the cartoonist Dan Clowes isn't going anywhere, but if he did, here's one writer's Legion Of Substitute Dan Clowes.

* Fred Klein talks to Monte Schulz. Corey Creekmur profiles Jaime Hernandez. Jason Michelitch profiles Jaime Hernandez.

* finally, Marc Arsenault shares a recent post about his comics-shopping habits and how the way the industry is oriented right now makes it difficult for him to pursue comics the way he likes to pursue comics. I think this is one of those fundamental issues of comics that gets discussed very little, the way the entire orientation of the industry can leave people that are dying to buying comics out in the cold.
 
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April 2, 2012


Rex Babin, RIP

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Go, Look: Attila Futaki

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A Few Notes On Emerald City Comicon 2012

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*****

What follows are a few notes and observations from my time spent attending the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle over this past weekend. I apologize for the obvious super self-indulgent nature of this, but it's been a while since I've been out of the house and I've convinced myself that some people like to mine stories like this for individual moments.

Short form: I really enjoyed the show. It's not really a show for me, but there's stuff in there for me. I think it's a strong mid-major/regional show, growing stronger, and that it should be around for several years. While it takes place in that city's version of Times Square, the city of Seattle remains an overall strength for -- and attraction regarding -- a show like that. I hope it keeps going, because I'd like to go back.

And now the longer version:

* one thing that kept occurring to me in the weeks leading up Emerald City is that despite having lived there for almost a decade I know next to nothing about the nerd culture in Seattle. I have a sense of the comics culture, but only from the perspective of having worked at Fantagraphics. I actually saw more of the Wizards Of The Coast-driven tabletop gaming culture in Seattle than I did mainstream comics, movies, manga, TV shows and prose during my time there. And I didn't seem much in the way of the tabletop gaming folks.

* Seattle's also an odd city in that while it offers a pretty common split culture-wise between its suburbs and its downtown, a lot of the Seattle suburbs have a big body of water between them and the neighborhoods within the city. So there's a bigger divide than usual between those contributing populations. I point this out because I have to imagine that, say, a comics shop in Renton is different than Fallout Records or the Fantagraphics store.

* I went to Portland first.

* while in Portland, I visited The Bad Apple, a book, comics, film and art store that shares space with Sparkplug on Portland's southeast side. I met up with former Fantagraphics and current Studygroup Magazine co-editor Milo George there.

* Bad Apple is a fun store, and you should go if you're ever in Portland. The place reflects the wider cultural tastes of the late publisher and cartoonist Dylan Williams, and he enjoyed a lot of fascinating material not just limited to comics. I bought something from the well=curated used books section (a John P. Marquand). There's a lot of nice art for sale there, too, including several pieces by Chris Cilla and a few super-attractive $100-$300 paintings from Andrice Arp.

* seriously, you should go.

* Emily Nilsson told me that the distribution side of Sparkplug is starting to move forward now, after being put on an acquisition-hiatus following Williams' sickness and passing last year. That's great news. I think it's tough out there right now for anyone that wants to facilitate the sale of objects, even beautiful ones. As many anchors as that part of the comics market can have, the better.

* you should also try to see Sparkplug on the road. As I recall, they're going to TCAF, and they'll be at the local Stumptown Comics Fest.

* the fundraising for Sparkplug's first three books in this new phase of their publishing life continues apace. I think one worry with raising capital this way is that you're basically compensating for a lack of structure that a publisher or an artist wishing to publish might have if they simply made different choices. That's not the case here; I think Sparkplug has a nice set of resources in place and this is just going to be something they try in terms of raising capital. I know that's a fine distinction that a lot of folks might not see, but it's important to me.

* I saw a pair of Portland comics shops. The first was Cosmic Monkey Comics, which is the kind of store that would have caused me to sit down and weep even just 20 years ago but somehow manages to serve its customers week after without getting a lot of attention as a super-elite store.

* Zack Soto was closing.

* Cosmic Monkey even has an old-school back-issues room, although it featured more appropriately-priced comics of an admirable, you-nod-knowingly-at-them quality than "holy crap, look what I found for 10 cents" comics. In general, it struck me as being about the size of Chicago Comics' space, a bit bigger with that extra room. I could shop in a place like that every Wednesday for the rest of my life. I was tempted to buy back issues of King-Cat from a rich minis section, if only on principle.

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* I also saw Floating World. That seems like an ideal modern comics shop in terms of its space (a quirky downtown on-the-corner location with high ceilings and enough room to host parties) and stock (things like issues of Jack Katz's The First Kingdom out for sale next to the mainstream comics).

* Soto was also working at Floating World when I visited. He swore he worked at only those two shops. It was nice to see Soto, although I'm sure he got sick of me by weekend's end. This is what happens when you take extra time turning in a CR interview: there's a small chance I come out to where you live and have periodic conversations with you for four days in a row.

* one such conversation: Soto's excited for CAKE, Chicago's forthcoming show, for the simple but very logical reasons that Chicago should have such a show and that Chicago's reputation as a city with an art scene and an arts audience (a rarer distinction than you'd think) means there's potential there for a lot of sales in the BCGF way if the show develops this audience over time.

* it's fun to talk shows with comics people, because they've become such an important component of doing business and, obviously, it's a way that comics people tend to see other comics people. The latter is doubly true as personal lives take stronger hold as they tend to do as we all get older.

* I also ran into the cartoonist T. Edward Bak while in Portland. He mentioned that he's still working on the naturalist comics he started with MOME. That was very interesting work and I look forward to seeing more of it however he wants to publish it.

* there was general agreement among the cartoonists and comics people to whom I spoke in Portland and later in Seattle that the Stumptown Comics Fest has a few key years ahead. More than a few mentioned that developing a stronger tie-in to Portland's specific civic personality might be crucial in making that already mostly popular show a better one. This suggests to me a potential split between potential models, with something like TCAF and maybe a show like Emerald City representing competing ideals. I say go hardcore TCAF, but that's just me.

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* I enjoyed a visit to Periscope Studio. I always like talking to Steve Lieber. He's one of those talents-with-broad-creative-shoulders on which the North American comic book industry was built. He told me great stories about Tex Blaisdell (a former teacher) and Don Simpson (the subject of his student-era assignment to talk to a working comics-maker), showed me the tons of original art on the studio walls (his Al Williamson, Jeff Parker's Roy Crane, Paul Tobin's panoply of great-looking art, a to-die-for early Jaime Hernandez page) and was a genial host in general.

* I also sat down at Parker's desk for a half hour and finished three Red Hulk scripts and made 85 stupid tweets. You're welcome, comics.

* Seattle was fun. Same city I remember, right down to the rain that felt like being peed on by frost giants.

* I saw my old friend Mrs. Kincade, who revealed to me she's a high school buddy of the artist Brian Hurtt. Small world. I assured her that Sixth Gun is well-liked. Seattle still has that cupcake thing going on. A friend of mine tried to describe the appeal of a coffee shop revolving around cupcakes rather than solely coffee, but pretty quickly fell into, "Well, cupcakes are pretty damn great, right?" Yes.

* after a visit to Fantagraphics, I'm more convinced than ever that hiring co-founder Mike Catron as an editor was a significant move for them. I wouldn't be surprised to even see a bump-up in production from them in a couple of seasons because of it. If you're a Fanta-geek, it's fun to see how Catron's skill-set works alongside those employed by Kim Thompson and Gary Groth. Catron told a great story about wanting an exacto knife the other day and not being able to find one in the production department.

* I'm also pretty sure the hiring policy at Fantagraphics right now favors freakishly outsized giants. It's one thing to show up and not recognize two-thirds of the staff, and to feel they're all 20 years younger than you are; it's another to seriously fear for one's life via death by thrown boulder or being picked up and dropped. I saw Kristy Valenti catch a ride upstairs by jumping on some guy's pant leg.

* I'd mention that people from Fantagraphics seem to dress better than they did in my day, but extras from Les Miserables dress better than people at Fantagraphics did in the 1990s.

* I saw some future efforts up at the publisher, including an out-of-nowhere book from one of the 1990s well-regarded, since disappeared, alt-comics talents. The forthcoming Spain Rodriguez book looks great on the inside and very 1980s-era collection on the outside, which made me laugh. Those stories are a blast. No cartoonist was ever cooler than Spain.

* I was lucky enough to score Xeroxes of legendary unpublished comic book Albuquerque Ben on the trip. This was a comic done by a guy named Richard P. Butler that contained some of the oddest narrative connections and progressions I've ever seen. I look forward to re-experiencing it.

* the cartoonist David Lasky was described to me late one night as "the Steve Willis of Seattle." I really liked that, and look forward to his just-completed Carter Family biography. I missed seing David, and I regret that.

* the cartoonist and comics educator Greg Stump has a completed book called Disillusioned Illusions he'd like to place at a literary publisher,

* I enjoyed the show.

* press registration was easy. I stopped by before lunch and got directions from a security guard -- not people on whom you depend for that sort of thing at many shows. The ECCC folks were certainly hardcore about not letting anyone register on site. I don't know the woman's name that was manning that set of booths, but the way she went from fierce protector of the badges to sweet-smiling "hey, welcome to the show!" hostess killed me.

* it was nice to see the writer Matt Fraction before he got absorbed in panels and his always lengthy line. I like that Casanova book that he does, and I hope we get to see the entire cycle of series. We spent the majority of those brief seconds talking about Jaime Hernandez, of course.

* the James Stokoe and Matthew Southworth pages I saw were super, super handsome, each in their own way. I didn't stop to look at a lot of original pages, but those stood out among those I saw. The Stokoe pages are freakishly meticulous and show almost no evidence of mid-course correction. They are kind of amazing things distinct from any story they're telling.

* the writer Joe Casey told me that he was now anti-story. Also: rhinoceros, umbrella, puddle.

* it was great to see folks waiting in line to talk to Seattle-area artist Justin Norman, aka "Moritat." That guy's one of my favorite people in comics and started getting mainstream work relatively super-late in his career, so it's good to see him appreciated. It was also good to have brief conversations with other, I-see-them-only-at-cons folk, like Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Brothers, and Gary Sassaman.

* I talked to John Siuntres of Word Balloon for a few moments on the show floor, aand not for my usual reason of just wanting to listen to his radio-ready voice. I actually wanted to ask him about his having worked for Bert Sugar, the late boxing writer. I always liked Sugar: he was sort of this outsized version of what one thought all sports reporters were like -- one-third cigar, one-third hat, one-third wisecracks -- which was something you didn't always get to experience in the days before multiple sports cable networks. He told me Sugar was a very nice man.

* the Robin McConnell panel on creators talking about their influences looks like it could end up right there with the CBLDF "watch people draw" panels and the San Diego "Quick Draw" tradition as panels that could become dependable mini-franchises. I could have watched something like that all day long.

* a pair of comics-makers talking about influences on panels stuck in my head: Ellen Forney acknowledging Michael Dougan (particularly his great books East Texas and I Can't Tell You Anything); Nate Powell talking about the devastating effect Chester Brown's I Never Liked You had on him, including a heartfelt, nearly breathtaking description of that sequence up front where young Chester shows his mom a broken egg. (Mike Allred also spoke in praise of Brown's original comics run on that same panel as Powell.)

* Larry Reid's panel/lecture on the Northwest's primary contributions to alternative comics was quite entertaining, particularly if one has an appreciation for Reid -- a Seattle cultural icon and current manager of Fantagraphics' retail efforts in the Georgetown neighborhood.

* Jim Woodring told a funny anecdote about a Misfit Lit panel back that included Woodring, Robert Crumb, Burne Hogarth and Paul Mavrides. That's an astonishing line-up of funny, talented talkers. Mavrides apparently broke the creation of comics down into a choice between giving the character he's drawing a bag of money or dropping that character off a cliff. Even 20+ years removed, one can imagine the steam shooting out of Hogarth's ears.

* it was great seeing Woodring, by the way, and a pleasure watching him be engaged with his fans. Woodring along with Peter Bagge was one of the twin father figures of Seattle cartooning life when I lived there in the 1990s. He's a very present person, and obviously super-smart with the kind of talent that indicates he's touched by God. I'm told his signings went well.

* I know I always say this, but I will never in my entire life understand the costuming impulse. I don't mean that I can't process the logic when it's presented to me: it's not hard to figure out the ways it's fun for people, in ways both innocent and salacious. I just don't fundamentally connect to those specific pleasures. God bless you people for finding something you enjoy and in which other people take significant delight. I only pretend to hate you because, let's face it: you're in the way.

* the costumes people talked to me about were a Silver Surfer/Galactus combo, a Doctor Octopus with injury-to-others potential in his arms, and a lady dressed up as a character from Orc Stain.

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* I was happy to stop by the Tugboat Press booth, pick up their Paper Runner freebie and thank them for their Papercutter anthology. Given millions, I'd try to facilitate a dozen or so comics on the market with those comics' basic look. The 2010 edition with Matt Wiegle's cover is a particularly good one if you ever get the chance. Wiegle's story is genuinely funny and original in a way that will make me look at everything he does from now on.

* speaking of Tugboat Press, I guess they're taking much of 2012 off and will consider a range of publishing options upon their return.

* Saturday seemed to me about 30 percent more crowded than Friday inside the main hall, and about 50 percent more at other points in the venue. Sunday seemed like a 20 percent scaleback from Saturday. I don't know official attendance figures, but I'd be shocked if it wasn't a record-breaker for the event. I was told by Dennis Culver that they reached capacity at some point on Saturday, that people were stopped from coming in.

* Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka were very good on their panel about crime comics, by which I basically mean they were funny and informative, two things that for me are pretty much the point of listening to comics-makers talk about their work. There was an inordinate amount of time spent of Gotham Central, although that made plenty of sense given it was a Brubaker/Rucka collaborative effort and it spoke to a couple of the questions where the concerns of superhero comics were used as a contrasting element against similar factors concerning crime books.

* a gentleman named Randy Engle had one of the best retailing set-ups I've ever seen at a show, at least as far as it hitting what I personally like to buy at comic book shows. The key is he had a ton of attractive books at lower grades and then priced those books under $3. I picked up a load of Marvel-era Jack Kirby all for a total of less than $40.

* although he's not a retailer and has no physical location other than what he sets up at shows, Engle mentioned that he will go to someone's home in the general Seattle area as long as they guarantee they'll spend $200. I have seen the future of comics retailing, and it involves me and my buddies throwing parties whereby we end up buying at least $200 in low-grade Silver Age comic books.

* I know that Ed Brubaker has cool readers because at one point he said something about comics fans generally that might be taken as a negative by those people over-sensitive to such things, but when he looked at the line in front of him and said "not you guys," everyone standing there laughed.

* a number of artists were oohing and aahing over Kevin Nowlan's presence at the show.

* I'm not sure how to characterize the show more generally, the overall mood. There were a lot of media-type fans there, but more than enough comics fans to keep most creators and most tables happy. In fact, the show seemed to do a singularly good job of shielding the comics folk from the media guests and the gaming stuff. The alternative comics fan ratio seemed pretty small given that there's a reasonably-sized audience for such books up there. There didn't seem to be a big nostalgia audience in terms of the comic book element involved, if that makes any sense -- the pair of panels where I went to watch comics-makers in their late fifties and into their sixties weren't all that well attended. The bigger mainstream panels routinely filled up to overflowing.

* I liked the physical set-up of the Washington State Convention Center building in terms of the ways programming and the gaming areas were handled: it wasn't difficult to make one's way anywhere (with the possible exception getting to some escalators near the voice-talent autograph lines), there were a number of rooms of various sizes, and each panel had multiple show volunteers in attendance.

* in terms of organizational strategy, I'm still generally down on the policy of letting people in for the next panel hold seats during a current one. It makes the current panel harder to hear even if folks are on their best behavior, and seems like an overall distraction.

* mostly, though, I thought the convention was well-organized and I was particularly impressed by the sheer number of volunteers I saw. No manpower issues, it seems.

* I saw convention organizer Jim Demonakos for five seconds about three hours before the show on Friday. He was nice enough to stop as if he would talk to me if I wanted him to, but I waved that very, very busy man onto his next crisis.

* folks spoke highly of Demonakos all weekend, and not just for his work on the show. Someone mentioned his contributions to a recent comics-category charting effort. I was also told -- I'm not somewhere I can confirm -- that Demonakos apparently bought the old University District Zanadu Comics location, and is quite the Puget Sound retailing force in general. The reason I mention this is that if people believe in the convention organizer it goes a long way towards having a positive overall experience.

* I had a nice breakfast with Robin McConnell, David Brothers and Brandon Graham at one point during the weekend. We talked about a range of artists from Richard Corben to Tom Hart, and I probably overcompensated for my age by gossiping too much. I like that people are becoming bolder about building meaning from comics as a range of artistic expressions that makes personal and private sense as opposed to conforming and/or shoring up an orthodoxy.

* That breakfast was also the first meal I ever had purchased for me by a comics-coverage enterprise not my own. Thank you, Robin.

* one of the things David Brothers mentioned at the breakfast is that he may be writing more frequently on ComicsAlliance soon, which would be good news for them and for us.

* I'm told King City moved a lot of copies over the weekend, which is a good thing. There's a nice price point on the book ($20 for what must be 400 pages), and it's thrillingly drawn. Graham presented me with a drawing at breakfast, which killed me considering the amount of drawing he had on his plate that weekend. Thanks, Brandon.

* there's something sort of awesome about watching so many people you've known for a very long time being moms and dads.

* Eric Reynolds made a great point during that panel that as much as something like Emerald City is a good thing for a city like Seattle, it may be even better news that there's a new, emerging generation of alt-cartoonists in town. Some members of that group had an art show the night before the convention began, and released a tabloid comic.

* I did end up sneaking out of the convention to a movie (The Raid) by late Saturday afternoon. It's nice to have your con in a downtown location precisely for such distractions. Also, I've left conventions two hours in before, so transitioning to my comics-related Saturday evening via a bloody action movie I'm not going to be able to see back home isn't a slight on ECCC in any way.

* only in Seattle can someone ask you to meet them "at the Starbucks on 6th and Pine" and you have to look into two different establishments. I am seriously not kidding about this. In general, I hope people accessed the Victrola establishment right up Pike rather than hit too many of the chains. Seattle's a great city with a variety of individually-directed food and drink businesses, but the area of the convention center is that metropolis' Times Square.

* at least one person indicated to me that the show was much, much busier than the year before. If there were days when people used to visit each other behind their tables and catch a hang while meeting fans and readers, those days seem to be over.

* something I didn't know about the CBLDF set-up that makes a lot of sense: in a busy time like the one we're in now convention-wise, the material they sell and distribute to raise money for the Fund gets sent from show to show to show.

* Don Rosa's shocking white hair is a vastly undervalued convention visual signifier.

* a sentiment that made me laugh: "never let the guy that made over $1000 at the table that day choose the restaurant."

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* it was good to see Shannon Wheeler, and I mean that literally: Shannon had a James Gandolfini-style mega-beard the last few times I saw him. Shannon just sold another cartoon to The New Yorker, and it was fun to see him light up when talking about the post-pitch cartoonist lunches.

* most of the publishers and creators to whom I spoke did well at the convention, no one reporting deep penetration on any one item in favor of a broader interest in material generally. The audience received major kudos for their general knowledge about comics. The CBLDF told me that they had people joining the Fund having never heard of it before seeing it five seconds earlier.

* so I liked Emerald City Comicon just fine. I think it's a strong mainstream-comics focused comic book show, with enough for the rest of us to spend a half-day to a day wandering around its aisles and sitting in on its panels. I like that the media guests don't seem to dominate, and I like that many of those attending seem to want to buy stuff. I think the show could use a stronger programming track for non-mainstream material and a greater variety of satellite and social efforts in the show's support. But for now: congratulations on their success. I plan on attending future iterations.

* when my group left the show on Sunday, we walked by a few people in rugged-looking clothing having their photos taken. We honestly couldn't decide whether they were Hunger Games cosplayers or just homeless people.

* I miss you, Seattle.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: A Bill Peet Site

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A Weekend Update On The Status of S. Clay Wilson

One of the underground generation's most vital and crucial artists, S. Clay Wilson, recently underwent an operation to relieve pressure to the brain that had built up after a dramatic, largely debilitating episode of a still slightly uncertain nature several years back. Lorraine Chamberlain, who supervises Wilson's care, was nice enough to write in late Friday.
"Thank you for the mention in your blog about Wilson. I appreciate all the help from his friends & fans. Yesterday he was better again, after the surgeon finally came and adjusted the shunt. (I'd been nagging for three days and was about to call the Administrator, the patient advocate, the POLICE, the news media... someone!) The adjustment made him wake up again, and he was able to eat, as well.

"Today they're moving him to long term rehab. I'm hoping this will help him to regain his strength, and get him walking again so I can bring him home.
Again, thank you. I'll keep posting updates on my Facebook page. His web page is at www.sclaywilson.com. I'll make sure to write another update about him on there as well, this weekend."
Our best wishes for the continued health of the cartooning icon.
 
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Go, Look: Eric Canete

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Go, Look: Let Me Be Frank

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it looks like there's a new round of William Messner-Loebs related art auctions up.

image* I keep forgetting to link to Michael Vassallo's re-posting of his fine Allen Bellman interview.

* Sean T. Collins on qviet. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Mangaman. Johanna Draper Carlson on The Summit Of The Gods Vol. 3. Greg McElhatton on Take What You Can Carry. Rob Clough on various comics. Don MacPherson on Hope For The Future #13. Katherine Dacey on various comics. Sean Gaffney on Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Vol. 4. Greg McElhatton on Moon Moth. Grant Goggans on Mazeworld. Doug Zawisza on Avengers #24.1.

* Brigid Alverson tells the story about Jonathan Rosenberg's Goats, an effort reinvigorated by a recent fundraising campaign.

* when I saw that Chris Mautner was doing Scott McCloud in the Comics College feature, I thought, "you can pretty much do all that stuff except maybe New Adventures Of Abraham Lincoln." As far as I can tell, that's what Mautner thought, too.

* the selection of Mike Peters as commencement address speaker has disappointed some college students.

* Ken Sasaki is the new CEO at Viz.

* I suppose this will also get a mention in tomorrow's publishing news column, but there's full-color Scott Pilgrim books a-comin'.

* finally, Michael Cavna collects his favorite Trayvon Martin cartoons.
 
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April 1, 2012


Please Consider Following And Liking The Comics Reporter

It occurs to me that on a convention weekend where I'm doing a single blog-based report (for Monday, hopefully), the fact that I'm writing a few updates and observations via social media might be of interest to some of you. I haven't quite figured out even the basics of those options, let alone employ a wide range of them, but CR does have a twitter feed and a Facebook page. Each is also a halfway decent option to contact me, although the best way to do that remains
 
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Go, Look: Beautiful Ditko Spider-Man Page

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Go, Look: Dave Shelton

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Go, Look: An On-Line Jack Davis Art Gallery

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Go, Look: An Edd Cartier Illustration Gallery

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If I Were In Athens, 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 Inverness, I'd Go To This

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

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The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Dan Clowes Profile At NYT


Guy Delisle On TV
via


Trailer For Film About Todd Loren And Rock 'N' Roll Comics


Richard Thompson At The 2011 National Book Festival


MariNaomi Reads "Sleep Deprived"


A Gabrielle Bell Re-Mix I Missed
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Slightly Terrifying Marsupilami Movie Trailer
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Not Comics: Lucy Knisley Sings
via like 80 dudes


Tom De Haven Lectures
via
 
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