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
















October 31, 2012


Not Exactly Comics: Two Giant Media Mega-Deals In One Half-Week

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So Penguin and Random House are merging; Disney bought LucasFilm. I'm not sure there's a bunch to say in a comics context that isn't either "remains to be seen" or fairly tangential. There is some stuff, though.

Books first. Penguin and Random House both offer comics publishing initiatives in various stages of development: Pantheon at Random House is probably the highest profile grouping of such books at Random House, although they are also a significant distributor whose clients include DC Comics. Penguin has announced plans for a couple of stand-alone lines (here, here) in recent weeks. With such a giant chunk of market share being held by the new, combined publisher, it's more likely that the bigger effect will be on the general shape of the book business in which graphic novels have a significant role: a diminished ability for agents to use competition to push up advances, for instance, or more institutional support available for the next Persepolis- or Wimpy Kid-sized hit.

The Star Wars to Disney thing has a bigger, fizzier effect on the general entertainment end of things. It certainly solves the rest of their "boy appeal" problem that acquiring Marvel helped them negotiate -- it gives them a bunch of different content for things like filling up cable TV service options in other countries, not just movies. In terms of comics, there's an obvious story: Dark Horse has had the Star Wars license for years and years. They have made both a lot of money (in comics terms) and significant contributions to that creative milieu during that span. They apparently have the contract for the short term, not the long term, which given the general desire a company may evince to lock outside partners up in advance of a deal may be telling all by itself. May be. Who knows? They've been a good partner for them, and it's hard for me to think someone would just abandon that. You never know.

One thing that strikes me when a deal like this is made is how less interested than ever I am in entertainment product, even when made with skill and care. I felt that way with Marvel, and I feel even more like that with the Lucasfilm, as my connection to that material is a lot less whole-cloth and ingrained into my DNA. Do I really want to experience more stories about Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian, or do I sort of want to experience what I felt when I encountered those characters played by those actors in those original films? I realize there are some characters that seem to provide value through the skill-set of a lot of different creators -- Batman, Sherlock Holmes -- but I truly doubt that all the characters work this way. And seriously, I'd be fine never reading another Batman or Sherlock Holmes story, particularly if that option were off the table for talented creators. Then again, I'm so far removed from being the natural audience for this stuff at this point that it could be a total misread on my part.

One fine development is that J. Chris Campbell sent me that funny cartoon up top. You should go visit his site to help thank him for me.
 
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Go, Look: Hank Ketcham In Collier's

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Another Nice Thing Expiring Today: Oily Comics Subscriptions

Here. If you love print, are fond of mini-comics and you like to get things in the mail, this is the deal for you. The books I've read from them have been of a high quality -- no obvious stinkers in any bunch. I'm going to shoot them some money as soon as I post this.
 
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Go, Look: Jimmy Thompson's Captain America

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Kudos To Monkeybrain For Their Support Of The Hero Initiative

imageNew on-line initiative Monkeybrain Comics has announced will give all of the publisher's cut of money made in November to the Hero Initiative, a safety-net organization designed to help comics creators in need. It's worth noting that as a move in isolation -- one publisher giving up one month of revenue -- this will likely not have any significant, industry-altering impact. But however much money is raised ends up going to someone that really needs it and money provided in those circumstances is almost always extremely well spent by the people receiving the disbursement. $50 is groceries; $150 can be a couple of months of insulin; a few grand can pay for a funeral. Besides, it's just a nice thing to do, and if everyone does something similar and kind of internalizes the value of pitching in here or there, then things can change more significantly than they likely would with a few isolated actions launched into the context of a bunch of people standing around with their arms crossed, frowning. I liked Bandette best of their current offerings.
 
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Go, Look: Steve Wilson

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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.

*****

SEP121090 CARTOON UTOPIA HC $24.99
APR121090 EC KURTZMAN CORPSE O/T IMJIN AND OTHER STORIES HC $28.99
APR121089 EC WALLY WOOD CAME THE DAWN AND OTHER STORIES HC $28.99
AUG121144 HEADS OR TAILS TP $22.99
SEP121093 LAST VISPO ANTHOLOGY SC $39.99
This is a super-strong week for the Seattle-based alt-comics mainstay publishing house. In fact, that would be a strong season for a lot of publishers. Ron Regé Jr. is one of those special cartoonists where I buy everything he does without asking questions first. On the strength of this latest collection, with which I'm only about halfway done, Lilli Carré may join that group of cartoonists much sooner than I thought possible, and I really liked her previous work. There's nothing about Heads Or Tails that has to be processed through the "promising cartoonist" filter, if that makes any sense. The EC books I'm looking forward to devouring on some rainy afternoon in the next three or four weeks. I find that work pleasurable, and I look forward to seeing if reading these comics arranged by author (mostly) changes my opinion about any of the artists in question. I'm not even sure what Last Vispo Anthology is, but I'd look at it -- I assume it's the visual poetry thing that's been a big part of the lives of several people that have worked the last 20 years.

imageAUG120772 HEREVILLE HOW MIRKA MET A METEORITE HC $16.95
I didn't even know this was coming out, which is on me because certainly Amulet Books has shown no great dependency on the more traditional comics press organs in order to move tens of thousands of copies of their all-ages comics. I thought the first Hereville book was charming, enough that I'll want to take a look at this one.

JUL120073 ARCHIE ARCHIVES HC VOL 07 $49.99
I always try to catch up with whatever Archie is out when I get to the comics shop, although I have no ability at this point to track what's being offered by whom and how. I would imagine that if you're a customer for a full-price archival edition of this material, you know exactly what you're getting.

MAY120288 ABSOLUTE FINAL CRISIS HC (RES) $99.99
I guess this has new pages...? I have no idea why you'd do that except in an "extras" way at this point. I don't want to bag on the people involved, because those Absolute books are pretty nice and the Final Crisis series was weird and violent and even sexual in a way those kinds of series usually don't do very well, but just the fact that I found out by accident of reading an earlier collection that there were certain satellite series that really acted as parts of the main plot in a way that totally changed the story struck me as odd. This strikes me as even odder. Also, I'd have to check, but I'm not sure this one has remained all that well-reviewed by casual DC fans, and must seem even more bizarre than usual in the context of the New 52.

AUG120468 CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL 2012 #5 CVR A BA (MR) [DIG] $4.99
AUG120469 CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL 2012 #5 CVR B DODSON (MR) $4.99
AUG128005 CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL 2012 #5 CVR C GIARRUSSO (MR) $4.99
I have one of these, haven't read it yet, sure there's something in here I'll at least sort of like, always support the CBLDF.

JUL121147 ABELARD HC $22.99
This is Renaud Dillies, and a follow up at least in terms of North American releases of his work to NBM's Bubbles & Gondola. Definitely worth pulling out and looking at it.

AUG121253 CHARLES BURNS HIVE BOOKPLATE ED $21.95
I'm not sure which edition this is, but you want all the Charles Burns books in some form.

AUG120609 WINTER SOLDIER #12 $2.99
JUL120499 FATALE #9 (MR) [DIG] $3.50
AUG120062 BPRD HELL ON EARTH #100 RETURN O/T MASTER #3 $3.50
SEP120739 POPE HATS #3 (MR) $6.95
Finally, here's the serial comic-book comics that kind of leap out at me: Ed Brubaker on his way out from Marvel, Ed Brubaker (with his most reliable artistic partner, Sean Phillips) settling in at Image, and two serial-comic biggies: the 100th issue of the wonderfully reliable a-mainstream-unto-itself Mignola-verse titles and Ethan Rilly's honest-to-god one-man anthology alt-comic, the latter sporting the most handsome cover colors of the week. If I had a comics shop in my town instead of three hours away, and I had been blowing it off recently, those are two books together that would probably get me to head in.

*****

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 Near Prague, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Edition Biografiktion

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* if you're thinking about exhibiting at TCAF in 2013, today is the last day of the extended application period. That's a fine, fine show and a great city. I'm hoping to attend.

image* Sean Kleefeld on Death Note. Vik Gill on Gary: Book Two. Greg Burgas on The Judas Coin.

* Los Angeles' Meltdown Comics is in the midst of a 19th anniversary sale, with corresponding discount.

* it's Adrian Tomine's world...

* I must have stolen this from Gary Tyrrell: Meredith Gran on writing her long-running webcomic Octopus Pie then and now.

* Josh Kopin is apparently going to write about the period of Marvel between Brian Bendis' rise to their point-man writer through the start of this Marvel Now initiative.

* not comics: Karl Stevens draws President Barack Obama.

* Mark Siegel visited CCS and here's proof.

* not comics: Chris Butcher's posts about going to Japan are the best kinds of not-comics posts.

* finally, the great thing about Marc Arsenault wondering after a wall of comics in Zabriskie Point is that these aren't comics Marc was old enough to read. For folks in the pre-trades era, it's the comics that were just out of buying range that were the most alluring.
 
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October 30, 2012


Bill White, RIP

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Go, Look: No Color

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Jack Ohman Leaves Portland Oregonian

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The cartoonist Jack Ohman and his home for several years, the Portland Oregonian, have announced the award-winner's imminent departure in several places. Ohman has been on staff there since 1983. An announcement as to future plans is expected tomorrow. A Minnesota native and briefly at the Columbus Dispatch and the Detroit Free Press, he's syndicated by Tribune Media Services. He was this year's Scripps Howard Journalism Award winner and was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

It's hard for me to imagine a working cartoonist right in that sweet spot of his career -- Ohman's in his early 50s -- that is both really good and really ensconced at a paper and community like Ohman, so I look on this story with wide eyes and a slight bit of concern in terms of how it affects the changing vocational profile for editorial cartoonists. I do think he's one of those guys that could go it purely based on syndication -- his work consistently appears in top publications not his own. I'd hate to lose his local cartooning element, though, as I'm particularly fond of that as a function of editorial cartooning. It's also worth noting that Ohman's a fairly versatile cartoonist in terms of different kinds of cartoons, which I think suggests he'd have a lot of options in terms of foundational gigs if a change there is in the cards.
 
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Go, Look: My Monster, My Self Gallery At NYT

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CCI Extends SD Deal Through 2016; Convention Center To Expand

Milton Griepp over at the hobby business news and analysis site has the most succinct write-up on Comic-Con International extending their deal for a year with the convention center in longtime home San Diego. This comes as news that a round of expansions/improvements are going to go into effect at about that same time. I don't know of any major infrastructure programs that actually hit their deadline -- they're at least really rare -- so this seems to me more a vote of confidence as to the general direction of things than CCI sliding in to get in on that first year of improvements.

It's interesting for me to watch that show negotiate the expansion issues because I never get the impression that making the show as big as possible is even a major goal of CCI, not in the driving-motivation sense, anyway. At the same time, rattling around at the limits of capacity has to be frustrating. I also think that if you have more room and the show remains comics-interested it actually opens up opportunities and room to lock other parts of the show into place, not just the movies/TV stuff.
 
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Go, Look: Patrick Kyle

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Secret Acres announced that Eamon Espey's Songs Of The Abyss will make its debut at BCGF along with a live performance following the show of an adaptation of his story "Ishi's Brain" in collaboration with Lisa Krause of the Black Cherry Puppet Theater the night before. That sounds incredibly elaborate and intense, plus even if you're not there you can eventually buy the comic when it comes out in November.

image* John Porcellino has a new batch of material up at Spit And A Half. I can't imagine anything more exciting than getting back into mail-order at this later date. Print 4-ever.

* I will probably do an OTBP on this one at some point as well, but Salgood Sam is re-releasing the first issue of his Revolver one-man anthology, and is offering incentives regarding its order both for attendees of Expozine and people that order it from him via his site.

* Dark Horse will publish a print version of Cameron Stewart's fine webcomic, Sin Titulo. I've enjoyed that comic when I've read it on-line and I'm curious as to both how it reads all at once and how it reads on paper.

* more Steve Ditko.

* Ian MacEwan wrote in to note that Connor Willumsen apparently won't be doing any work on a Wolverine MAX title beyond six pages in the first issue, an assignment from which he asked his name be removed. I had no idea Willumsen was attempting such a gig; he's an interesting artist. I'll certainly try to spot those pages if I see that book in a comic book shop.

* DC is apparently going to spin off some of that Owl-oriented stuff from recent Scott Snyder-written comics starring Batman into their own series. Speaking of DC, I clicked on a link for a "get started" type thing from their main web site, and got this page, which doesn't seem to explain or unpack much of anything.

* it isn't comics, but this single work of art from cartoonist Jesse Reklaw sure looks like something.

* look at these lovely Ed Piskor table of contents pages.

* new books at the Domino store.

* here are photos of a French edition of Alec Longstreth's Basewood, which will be more widely available come mid-November.

* here's a bunch of new licenses announced by SuBLime.

* finally, I guess there's a paperback edition of the Complete Calvin And Hobbes slipcover edition now. I can't imagine that being anything other than a great thing, and I wonder what impact having that work out there in complete form is having on cartoonists now entering their early 20s.

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

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

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actually, if I were in Brooklyn, I'd stay home. This store was closed yesterday, and hasn't announced being reopened. I would assume that it's not going to open today for this. In fact, I can't even imagine it. But I want to keep this here as a note.
 
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Go, Look: Oskars Pavlovskis

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here is one lengthy history of Wonder Woman, with a focus on the cultural forces that shaped how she's been presented in the comics.

image* so The Beguiling turned 25 this year. Time to get him off dad's health insurance. I gave them the gift of a super-obscure joke; I get that gift for a lot of people.

* Peter Terzian talks to Adrian Tomine. Matt O'Keefe talks to Jim Zubkavich. Rob Clough profiles Alex Kim.

* my birthday rollouts got screwed up yesterday and I missed early mentions of Barry Deutsch and Batton Lash. I got them back in by about 2 PM ET. I hope both men had really happy birthdays; they're both awfully nice.

* the Stumptown Comics Fest is now open for exhibitor applications. That Portland show is in late April, 2013.

* I like this photo of the Last Gasp warehouse, but I'm not sure why I had it bookmarked.

* Joelle Jones makes with the sketches. Speaking of sketches, Marc Arsenault found a nice Josh Bayer attempt at ROM.

* I'm seeing links to this post from Paolo Rivera about painting a Captain America story out there in various places around the comics Internet.

* AdHouse is first in with their plans for BCGF.

* not comics: Colleen Doran would like you to know how to get fresh produce via one of the programs designed to get you some.

* RM Rhodes on Heavy Metal. John Kane on a bunch of different comics. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Multiple Warheads #1. Sean Gaffney on The Disappearance Of Nagato Yuki-Chan Vol. 2. Philip Skurski on Wild Children. Glen Walker on Tomb Of Dracula. Greg Burgas on Pedestrian. Dean Mullaney on Annie Vol. 1.

* finally, Anne Elizabeth Moore and Lauren Weinstein collaborate.
 
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October 29, 2012


Go, Read: Some Comics Stuff Related To Hurricane Sandy

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Daryl Cagle is rounding up editorial cartoons here and has a gallery of Jeff Parker cartoons from past hurricanes here. It's sort of an interesting quandary for editorial cartoonists. It's what everyone is talking about, and there's no real way to irritate half of your readers because weather is usually non-political. On the other hand, you risk being amusing or humorous about something that ends up being a massive national tragedy.

I was trying to think of which cartoonists were in the hurricane's path, but the one I checked, Drew Sheneman, hasn't switched over to hurricane commentary of any kind yet.

I would imagine that twitter is the place to follow a wide-ranging array of comics people's reaction to being caught in the storm, as best as they're able to update. There will probably be a lot of jokes made, and eating, and occasional distressing-to-bad news. I hope everyone stays safe and dry, in that order.
 
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Go, Read: RO Blechman On Edward Sorel

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Jacob Zuma Drops Rape Cartoons Case Against Zapiro

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An expected trial over one of the most famous cartoons of the last quarter-century will not come off as expected, as over the weekend towering South African political figure Jacob Zuma dropped charges against the cartoonist Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro over his famous "rape of lady justice" cartoon. The suit had previously been diminished to a smaller dollar amount and a full apology being sought. Zuma also agreed to pay half of his opponent's legal charges. While Zuma's office cited not wishing to intrude on free speech consideration, the article points out that Zuma still has any number of lawsuits going that deal in this same general area. A bigger concern might have been the legal fees that Zuma incurred while going after some of the more sizable targets.

I can't see any way this isn't a considerable victory for Zapiro and his publishers, both specifically and in general. It's also a welcome development in a recent, distressing and absolutely worldwide trend of sitting politicians using the court system to discourage free speech in cartoon and in prose form. It's also been an object lesson in how pushing back against a specific cartoon or cartoonist can result in the item of offense having much greater traction over time than if these things were ignored.
 
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Richard Sala Is In A Very Good Art Place Right Now

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Brett Ewins Released From Jail, Charges Reduced

A bunch of social-media and Internet postings seem to lead back to this blog post reporting that the artist Brett Ewins was released from prison and is out on bail awaiting sentencing on a lesser charge than one for which he was originally placed into the system. All of this stems from a deeply unfortunate episode at the beginning of the year during which the diagnosed schizophrenic stabbed a policeman -- an officer I remember being more deeply concerned about Ewins' safety and well-being due to concurrent head injuries than he was his own. Ewins served about nine months total, between a hospital and prison.

Ewins was a prominent artist of the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, both in the UK and in North America. He is known as a co-founder of Deadline in addition to the art work he did for 2000AD. The post linked-to above says he is back under proper psychiatric care.
 
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Go, Look: Nicolas Zouliamis

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Comics By Request -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* the CBLDF is still in the midst of its latest membership drive. Executive Director Charles Brownstein writes about where the money goes. I hope that you'll consider joining, or otherwise giving; I'll consider giving a few more bucks today, too. That's an organization that has done more than enough to earn every comics fan's trust.

* the cartoonist Michael Jantze is raising money for a legal fight, with an impassioned plea.

* here's a crowd-funder for Bezango, WA, a film featuring several Pacific Northwest cartoonists. Insert natural habitat joke here. I think I've seen David Lasky advocate for that on Facebook, maybe, as he's featured in it.

* I went through the active Kickstarter comics projects to look for names I recognized. I probably missed a few, but I noticed Josh Elder and Ken Eppstein.

* updates on a couple of completed crowd-funder: Lea Hernandez thanks those that donated to her Garlicks project here; Salgood Sam is posting Dream Life-related layouts here.

* finally, the Matt Bors book fundraiser looks like it's well on its way to meeting its goal, with a pretty wide base of support. Doesn't mean you wouldn't want in, though. Bors has had a really great year.
 
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If I Were Near Prague, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Abandoned Michael Comeau Blog

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I totally missed Amazon.com suspended sales on the Saga book, which usually happens when there's something wrong with the books Amazon.com is shipping.

image* I am saving this article on editing and composition in The Dark Knight Returns for my first extended coffee break.

* that is one awesome-looking hat.

* John Kane on a bunch of different comics. Sean Gaffney on School Rumble Vol. 1. Grant Goggans on another group of older Legion Of Super-Heroes comics. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Barack Hussein Obama. Sarah Morean on Awesome Future: Stories Of Victorious Action. Dan Nadel on Gasoline Alley. Josh Kopin on Uncanny Avengers #1.

* it's Comica Festival fever time.

* it seemed silly to run that many names of new-to-them comics-makers in yesterday's "Five For Friday" results post and not link all of them up, so I went ahead and did that. Find your next favorite comics-maker there today.

* this person hates those logos.

* Bob Temuka would like to see more dispassionate observation of the comics industry. Jacob Canfield would like to see changes in the way we engage with cartoonists like Johnny Ryan and Benjamin Marra.

* please do not handle.

* Alex Dueben talks to P. Craig Russell.

* finally, what a beautiful Mickey Mouse cover.
 
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October 28, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: Theo Ellsworth

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*****

imageTheo Ellsworth and his family recently returned to the state of his childhood years, Montana, after several years of the artist living in Portland, Oregon. He leaves the city of the cultural moment for the Last Best Place having co-founded the Pony Gallery in addition to supporting himself primarily through his instantly recognizable art. This includes comics, such as Sleeper Car and Capacity. Ellsworth's work encompasses many of the most intriguing elements of modern comics, from the personal iconography to the willingness to knead at the far boundaries of formal considerations to the deeply bizarre whimsy that emanates from his pages. His latest book is The Understanding Monster -- Book One, the first of a promised three. It's a book that strikes me in a way that I almost don't want to talk about it for fear of letting something escape. Theo Ellsworth answered my questions in a good-natured way across several weeks of my asking, and I'm grateful he made the time. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Theo, am I right in that you recently moved back to Montana after being in Portland? Why that move now? Because when I read interviews with you from 2008 or so, it seems like it was very important for you to be in a place like Portland both professionally and in terms of your creative development.

THEO ELLSWORTH: I just moved back to Montana in late July. Leaving Portland wasn't an easy decision to make, but it was time. The move was a family decision. My wife I have an eight month old son --Griffin -- and coming back to Montana to raise him feels right. My wife and I both grew up here and we love the landscape, plus both of Griffin's grandmothers live nearby now and we have a number of friends with kids the same age, so we feel like we have a stronger support system now.

Living in Portland was an important time for me and it's going to be a place I return to a lot. It's actually only an eight- or nine-hour drive from here, and I'm hoping to eventually bring some Portland artists out to Montana for some collaborative projects. Before living in Portland, I didn't know anyone who was seriously engaging in the craft of comics. It was valuable for me to meet people who were actually thinking about comics history and actively involved in the publishing world. I'll definitely have to travel a lot more to stay in touch in that world, but Montana's the perfect place to focus on the work and hopefully be more prolific than ever.

SPURGEON: How much Montana is in your work? Do you feel a kinship with any of the image-makers that settle in out there? I can see elements of western art and crafts in your stuff, but I'm not sure how significantly that can be pushed.

ELLSWORTH: I'm definitely someone who's work is effected by my location. It's on a pretty subconscious level though, I think. I don't usually draw directly from life, but it's proven impossible for me to separate my everyday life from the imaginary worlds I draw. Growing up in Montana, being surrounded by mountains, and being able to disappear into the wilderness for days at a time were all important influences early on. I was further influenced by my travels: camping in caves in Arizona, living out of my car along the California coast, and a crazy stint traveling through Europe by train. I didn't really show my work to anyone for a long time. It was more of a personal thinking tool.

I didn't get to see a lot of weirder, subconscious driven art when I was a kid. There was a local artist here named Jay Rummel who I thought was great. He still did a lot of western themed imagery, but it was mostly ink and brush or woodblock prints. There was something strange and different about his style. I think he would have made a great cartoonist if he would have taken his work in that direction. I'm actually looking in to getting a studio in the same building he worked from when he was alive. There was also James Castle, who actually lived in Idaho, but really close to here. He was more of an outsider artist. He never spoke or learned to read or write, but he made all these incredible hand bound artist books that had a real comic book feel to them, with scribbles in place of writing. My friend Courtney Blazon also lives here. Her work's incredible. When I was helping run an art gallery in Portland, I gave her a solo show and she came out for it. There's not a huge art scene here, but it's a good place to make art.

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SPURGEON: Another thing that strikes me reading some of what's been said recently about you that may have not been as true five years ago is that it seems like you may be at a different point in your career just in terms of what you're making, what's making you money and how. Is that a fair assessment? Are you able to support yourself from your art right now? I get the impression that that has been important to you, or at least was at one time.

ELLSWORTH: I've been getting by on just my art for six years or so now, with the exception of a two-day-a-week cleaning job I started doing in Portland six months before I moved. It feels important to be able to make as much art as possible. I've joked that having a normal job would be like getting paid to not make art. I really believe that dedicating myself to what feels like my real work and putting everything I've got into it should be enough. I feel like my art is a living thing that I have a constantly evolving relationship with. I actually start feeling terrible if I don't make art for a few days. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but it's true. I think I'm kind of a hyperactive thinker. Drawing helps me slow everything down to a speed where I can navigate my own thoughts and put them in front of me where I can see them. It's such a personal part of me, that in some respects, it feels like a weird thing to try to make a living doing, but I don't feel like I have a choice.

SPURGEON: Where does comics fit in in terms of the entire body of work you'd like to leave behind? How much of your work is comics? Where does it stand in terms of your other endeavors, in terms of what's important to you?

ELLSWORTH: I would love to make comics full time. Right now I feel pretty far from that as far as how much of my rent is paid for by my comics work. All of my art is storytelling to me. With my individual pieces, the narrative is usually something that stays hidden in the drawing. Making comics has always been the thing that I aspire to, but it was the hardest thing in the world at first. I was always haunted by the feeling that every drawing I made was part of a story, but it felt frozen in time, just beyond my reach. It took a lot of mental work to be able to think in comics. I'm finally at a point now where my comics are starting to take on a life of their own and it can actually feel a little frightening at times, but that's exactly what I want. I'm trying to use comics as a way to clearly comprehend my own subconscious. With my new book, I'm actively trying to pull off a strategic maneuver inside of my own thoughts by working it out directly on the page. It's the weirdest and most surprising process I've ever experienced.

SPURGEON: Given that you've just come off of this extended stint in Portland being around other comics-makers, and given that you feel passionately about comics, where do you see yourself existing in terms of comics-making more generally? Do you feel you have a peer group? Are there specific cartoonists or a specific type of comics-maker that you look up to, from whom you're learned?

ELLSWORTH: Recently, I've been totally in love with Olivier Schrauwen's book, The Man Who Grew His Beard. There's something about his work that I feel a strong kinship with. I also love the book that collects John Broadley's handmade books that came out. Matthew Thurber's 1-800-MICE made me ridiculously happy when I read it. I also love those new volumes that Jim Woodring's been putting out. I don't know if I'm the same type of comics-maker as any of them, but there's something about the feeling in their work that makes me feel charged up about making comics.

There's a lot of people in Portland I'd consider peers. Sean Christensen is probably the cartoonist I've hung out with and collaborated with the most. His work isn't as known as it should be yet, but he's been working on a beautifully crafted, long-form comic called 2005 that should change that. He's also been co-hosting a monthly comics reading and performance event called Grid Lords, which is one of the most exciting things going on in Portland right now. I got to be in the first one and read an excerpt from my new book alongside Jesse Moynihan and Malachi Ward, both of whom are making work I'm excited about. They also proved to be interesting to talk to. I was also spending a lot of time with Daria Tessler and Andrice Arp before I moved. They don't focus as much on comics, but they're work is always incredibly narrative and inspiring to me.

imageFor a couple of years, Craig Thompson shared his home studio with me and I'd walk over to his house once a week to work. Craig's own process is very different from mine, which is one of the things I loved about working with him. I learned a lot just getting to be around someone who's really honed his craft and dedicated himself to making the best work possible. He's also a great conversationalist, so he's always fun to hang out with. Right before I moved, we got together and did a six-panel collaborative comic and it was a lot of fun. David Youngblood is another cartoonist I've spent a lot of time with. He moved to Hawaii awhile back, but when he was in Portland, we started the Pony Club gallery together, which focused on narrative and illustrative art. Neither of us are part of the gallery anymore, obviously, but it's still going strong. David's been working on a big secret comic that I'm crazy excited to see, but he won't show it to anyone yet, damn it. I also got to meet a number of cartoonists who's work I'd been reading and enjoying for years, like Chris Cilla, Jesse Reklaw, and Farel Dalrymple. It's always interesting to suddenly be hanging out with someone whose drawings are already so familiar to me. I was also thrilled to be living down the street from the Sparkplug Comics headquarters. I'm really thankful that I got to know Dylan Williams before he passed away. Talking to him always made me feel like I was really part of the bigger world of comics.

SPURGEON: Talk to me a bit about the creative process employed in making a book like this one. Where does the basic germ of the process come from, and at what point are you able to start producing pages?

ELLSWORTH: I don't do thumbnails and I don't really do preliminary sketches. Trying to write out the action and dialogue usually turns into a mess. I have to do everything right on the page. With past work, like "Norman Eight's Left Arm" from Sleeper Car, I just pictured the story in my head as clearly as I could, then sat down and drew it. With The Understanding Monster, I was trying to do something much more layered and complex and the process kept taking unexpected turns. I would picture a page and draw it only to realize that something more needed to happen between the panels, so I would cut them out, re-glue them to a new piece of paper, and draw more panels in between. Suddenly two panels that were right next to each other would be several pages apart. I tried to let the story grow in a completely organic fashion, trusting that it would all come together if I faithfully followed the characters. For awhile, it looked like it might not turn into anything readable, but the end result ended up being something I couldn't have just sat down and thought of. The story was found in the work.

SPURGEON: How much rewriting are you able to do, given how elaborately executed a lot of your pages are? Do you work with an editor at all, do you let people see your work in progress?

ELLSWORTH: With previous work, I don't feel like I ever did much rewriting, but with this new book, I tended to leave the lettering in pencil for as long as possible so I could change the wording at the last minute if I needed to. On some pages, I erased the words so many times that you can see the pencil smudges beneath the inked lettering. In some parts, getting the new wording to fit into the already drawn word balloons was a challenge. Writing this book felt more like solving a puzzle on each page. My writing always feels awkward to me, no matter how much rewriting I do. I've never worked with an editor. I know it'd probably be slicker storytelling if I did, but I feel like my work just needs come out how it wants. It needs to be an honest representation of how I actually think. My publisher has corrected spelling mistakes, but besides that, they've let the work be what it is. I feel lucky that I'm able to just do my thing. The fact that a publisher like Secret Acres exists and wants to put out my books is such an amazing thing to me.

When pressed, I'll usually show someone what I'm working on, but I rarely volunteer to. I feel a weird natural urge to hide my work while I'm working on it. I have to stop myself from covering it up if someone walks into the room. The Understanding Monster feels like a very private and personal work to me, so there's definitely a certain amount of discomfort involved in having it read by people. I'm going to try to be less secretive with book two.

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SPURGEON: Theo, the book itself... I'm not exactly sure how to engage the story you're telling in this book, and maybe even more so than that because this is the first of three. Let me just jump in, with some of the things that struck me. First of all, the presentation of The Understanding Monster reminds me of children's books maybe more than most comics. Is that a conscious choice on your part, or is that just an outcome of how you approach comics generally, or maybe even this story?

ELLSWORTH: I didn't know what the format of the book was going to be when I started out. I needed to just get lost in the work for awhile and not think of it as something that would be published and read by people. When I finally reached a point where I could start thinking about it as a publication, the format just seemed to make sense, and Secret Acres was completely on board with it. I like that the format has a storybook feel to it. It wasn't necessarily a conscious choice, but it makes sense that it turned out that way. It's not written for children but the terrain I'm trying to explore definitely goes back deep into my own childhood fears and fascinations.

SPURGEON: One of the striking things about the narrative is how it's told in an ongoing, kind of forceful dialogue between two characters, one instructing the other on things to do next. It's very compelling, and I think it kind of bleeds over into the book's relationship with the reader. How did you come up with that instructional dialogue as a binding factor of the story being told?

ELLSWORTH: Writing that dialogue might be one of the trickiest things I've ever done in a comic. With this book, I felt like I was delving into an incredibly elusive headspace where the slightest distraction or random thought could throw everything wildly off course. Izadore's predicament felt very real and important to me while I was working on the book. It was like a slow motion emergency that I could only attend to through the act of drawing. I felt like I had a mythological puzzle in my head and I needed to find the correct sequence of events to untangle it. In some ways, I was just as dependent on Inspector Gimbal's instructions as Izadore. The story looked like a complete mess until I figured out the dynamic between those two characters, then everything suddenly snapped into place.

SPURGEON: You mentioned the very organic process by which you created the work, adding pages between pages. How much are you concerned with a rhythm and flow page to page? Because I think that's a strength of the work, how you move from these very standard comics-panel type pages, to more complicated pages in terms of a number of competing visual elements, and then to single-images.

ELLSWORTH: Rhythm and movement feel vital to me. I've been more and more fascinated by the way a comics page functions. I had to explode my sense of page layout in order to express certain things in this book, but it was also important to me that there always be a narrative pathway to lead the reader through. Comics are all about making these static pictures somehow flow, so I tried to approach every page as a kind of maze for the eyes to follow. I love working with this larger format because it allowed me to play around with drawing really tiny scenes contrasted with giant fill page images. I wanted the reader to have to get really close to the page in some parts, then have to pull back their gaze to see the next larger scene. I'm also fascinated by the physical act of turing a page on the reader's part and I like that the hardcover makes it so the book can lie open.

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SPURGEON: For that matter, how conscious are you of color in terms of mood and with narrative? The alarm page, for instance, I thought was really compelling for its use of red, but you also appear to be using spot color in a way that tells the eye to stop or at least change how you're reading a specific moment. Are those conscious choices? How much do you have to play around with color to get the effect you want?

ELLSWORTH: I feel like I was pretty conscious about my color choices. I tried to use very limited color through a lot of it. Almost everything inside of the house is just a few shades of blue and each of the characters have their own set of colors that represent them. I definitely feel like the colors were an extension of the writing. I like to think the colors are conveying information that can't be put into words. I probably would've never delved into the insanity of making hand-colored comics if it didn't feel necessary to the story.

SPURGEON: What do you find compelling about the body images that drive Understanding Monster, the move from houses to bodies to other bodies, to the head moving away from its body and so on? It seems like if there's any compelling single element, it's the distrust of the body, or at least the fluid state between bodies.

ELLSWORTH: I'm definitely interested in exploring the idea of consciousness and identity being something that isn't limited to a physical vantage point. The toys in the house are all potentially inhabitable bodies for spirits. The house itself is a kind of living body. Inspector Gimbal's body is different every single time you see him, but it's always recognizably him. It's as if he has to recreate his own image over and over again in order to stay visible. There's a space traveler on a distant snow planet who projects a piece of his consciousness into a fly body so he can lend help to the situation. There's a girl who enters the house as a green cloud. The characters all have alternate forms and different aspects of themselves.

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SPURGEON: Maybe my favorite visual flourish is how you use space between panels or outside of images as a kind of super-space that connects what we're seeing. How did you see those moments where there are elements or characters in those spaces that we usually see as being "between" moments?

ELLSWORTH: Exploring the boarders of the page and the spaces between panels was my way of trying to depict something multidimensional. I like the idea that there are many unseen layers to any series of events, and to fully understand the cause and effect of the events, you would have to be able to view it from many different points of view until a bigger picture is understood. It's thrilling to try to depict something with my comics that's difficult for me to comprehend with my thoughts alone.

SPURGEON: Have you been happy with the initial wave of reactions? Has any reaction surprised you? Has any disappointed?

ELLSWORTH: My friend David texted me a couple of weeks ago saying, "Congratulations on the good and bewildered press you're getting." [Spurgeon laughs] For the most part, people really seem to be engaging with the story, which feels great. I like that there are readers who are willing to spend time with it and think about the details. I was a little worried that people would see it a weirdness for weirdness' sake, because it's not. It's a personal mythology, and everything in there has meaning to me. It's also a mystery, so I suppose it's right for people to be a little bewildered by Book One.

*****

* The Understanding Monster -- Book One, Theo Ellsworth, Secret Acres, hardcover, 72 pages, 9780983166245, 2012, $21.95.
* Thought Cloud Factory
* Thought Cloud Factory Blog

*****

* cover to latest book
* photo of Ellsworth from SPX 2012
* a piece of art created by Ellsworth
* Ellsworth jamming with Craig Thompson
* three different images lifted from The Understanding Monster -- Book One, hopefully explained contextually
* video from a recent reading of the material (below)

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Go, Look: Mrs. Weber's Omnibus Previewed

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Go, Make: Halloween Crafts With Daniel Clowes

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Go, Look: The Muddledups

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OTBP: Linework Comics And Graphics Anthology #3

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Go, Look: Streak The Wonder Dog

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Go, Look: A Hole In His Head

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If I Were In Detroit, 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 Near Prague, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Saint-Malo, 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 Nova Scotia, I'd Go To This

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

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

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Go, Look: The House Of Mystery Paperbacks

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FFF Results Post #313 -- New Best Friends

On Friday CR readers were asked to "Name Five Comics-Makers Whose Work You Enjoy You Hadn't Read Before 2010." This is how they responded.

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Sean T. Collins

* Julia Gfrörer
* Jonny Negron
* Andrew White
* Uno Moralez
* Heather Benjamin

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Emily Carroll
2. Toru Fujisawa
3. Will Davis
4. James Stokoe
5. Paul Peart-Smith

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. James Stokoe
2. Faith Erin Hicks
3. Nick Spencer
4. Jonathan Case
5. Ed Piskor

*****

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Mike Pfefferkorn

1. Winston Rowntree
2. Chris Roberson
3. George O'Connor
4. Paul Cornell
5. Roger Langridge

*****

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Marc Arsenault

1. Josh Bayer
2. Trudy Cooper
3. Mickey Z
4. Steve Wolfhard
5. Ryan Cecil Smith

*****

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Kiel Phegley

1. Sam Humphries
2. Blaise Larmee
3. Benjamin Marra
4. Chris Roberson
5. Nick Spencer

*****

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Michael May

1. Cullen Bunn
2. Doug TenNapel
3. Joe Hill
4. Carla Jablonski
5. Daisuke Igarashi

*****

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Rodrigo Baeza

1. Edmund Bagwell
2. Michael DeForge
3. Chris Burnham
4. Brandon Graham
5. Al Ewing

*****

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RJ Casey

1. Faith Erin Hicks
2. Kevin Budnik
3. Kat Leyh
4. Elijah Brubaker
5. Joseph Lambert

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Kate Beaton
2. Joseph Remnant
3. Nate Bulmer
4. Hal Foster
5. Kim Aamodt

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. Faith Erin Hicks
2. Adam Huber
3. John Allison
4. Marlo Meekins
5. Erika Moen

*****

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Art Baxter

1. Luke Pearson
2. Brandon Graham
3. Brecht Evens
4. Michael Deforge
5. Hideo Azuma

*****

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Chris Arrant

1. Sam Humprhies
2. Kate Beaton
3. Riley Rossmo
4. Kelly Sue Deconnick
5. Scott Snyder

*****

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Michael Dooley

1. C.S. Pego
2. Eliza Frye
3. Camilla d'Errico
4. Susie Cagle
5. Megan Rose Gedris

*****

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Michael DeForge

1) Andy Burkholder
2) Dane Martin
3) Leslie Stein
4) A Degen
5) Jane Mai

*****

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Trevor Ashfield

1. Kate Beaton
2. Brandon Graham
3. Jeff Lemire
4. David Aja
5. Lisa Hanawalt

*****

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Greg McElhatton

1. Sarah Becan
2. Eric Feurstein
3. Mitsuru Adachi
4. Nathan Edmondson
5. Shimura Takako

*****

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Charles Brownstein

1) Brandon Graham
2) Ursula Murray Husted
3) Theo Ellsworth
4) Ed Luce
5) Fiona Staples

*****

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Oliver Ristau

1.) Sara Colaone
2.) Ales Kot
3.) Kajo Baldisimo
4.) Sarah Glidden
5.) Maciej Sienczyk

*****

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Richard Pachter

* Chris Burnham
* Glyn Dillon
* Kenneth Rocafort
* Scott Snyder
* Frazier Irving

*****

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Justin J. Major

1. Yoshihiro Tatsumi
2. Ed Piskor
3. Paul Grist
4. Shigeru Mizuki
5. Machiko Hasegawa

*****

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John Platt

1. Jamie Smith
2. Chuck Forsman
3. Melissa Mendes
4. Dakota McFadzean
5. Simon Tofield

*****

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M. Emery

1. James Davidson
2. Warwick Johnson Cadwell
3. Bruce Ozella
4. Nate Simpson
5. Tony Millionaire

*****

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Mike Baehr

1. Leslie Stein
2. Chris Wright
3. Jesse Moynihan
4. Chuck Forsman
5. Melissa Mendes

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Dana Simpson (Heavenly Nostrils)
2. Faith Erin Hicks (The Adventures Of Superhero Girl)
3. Alison Acton (Bear Nuts)
4. "Radio Free Babylon" (Coffee With Jesus)
5. Tomas Oleas (Gor Dominical)

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. Melissa Mendes
2. Charles Forsman
3. Max de Radigués
4. Nathan Bulmer
5. Martin Cendreda

*****

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Derik A. Badman

1. Vincent Fortemps
2. Simon Moreton
3. Julie Delporte
4. Jimmy Beaulieu
5. Dominique Goblet

*****

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Brian Gardes

1: Brandon Graham
2: Faith Erin Hicks
3: James Stokoe
4: DnA (Abnett and Lanning)
5: Adrian Tomine

*****

topic altered slightly from a suggestion by Sean T. Collins

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October 27, 2012


The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Video From San Diego Comic Fest 2012


Gene Kannenberg Jr.'s Comics New York Panel


Five Lines At NYCC 2012


Matt Wuerker And A Challenge By Cartoon


Warren Bernard Interviewed By Those Guys Sitting Outside The SPX Hall


The Bezango, WA Kickstarter Video
 
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CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from October 20 to October 26, 2012:

1. Jacob Zuma reduces his claims against the cartoonist Zapiro, although how much this is driven by PR concerns and how much of it is legal strategy is unknown. The trial is imminent.

2. The widow of Prageeth Ekneligoda notes 1000 days since the cartoonist and journalist went missing right before a Sri Lankan election of which he was publicly critical.

3. The Projects in Portland concludes its first show. This is a small-press oriented show based on a model much more common in Europe, with a number of exhibits rather than a central area defined by commerce.

Winners Of The Week
Fans of small-press and arts comics in New York City, as 1) BCGF rolls out an impressive exhibitor list, programming track and satellite event list; 2) MoCCA releases dates and exhibitors for 2013.

Loser Of The Week
A Missouri man that pleaded guilty on a comics case without consulting the CBLDF. Everyone should use the Fund if they can.

Quote Of The Week
R"ight after, Emily Nilsson & I met up with Andrice who introduced me to Gabrielle Bell & Tom K who had a reading at Powell's, sadly parallel to our event." -- Sean Christensen.

*****

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

*****
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A Few Last-Minute Halloween Party Costume Ideas

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The Beagle Boys are a really easy group costume to throw together reasonably last minute. Dye some cheap long underwear tops if you don't have the orange shirts. The mask, nose and especially the hats make the costume. Painter's hats work best for the hats. You can do a money-bag prop or two, too.

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I'm always a fan of the Harvey Obsessives as Halloween costumes. Anything with a clear, grasp-able concept works. I love the idea of doing Hot Stuff one of these years.

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Another strategy is blowing right past the idea of impressing your friends and going straight to the
photos on-line. I like the idea of running around all night in that ridiculous wig.
 
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Go, Look: James Dean And His Cousin Markie

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

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If I Were In Chapel Hill, I'd Go To This

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

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posted 12:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In London, I'd Go To This

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

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posted 12:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Saint-Malo, I'd Go To This

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posted 12:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

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If I Were In Nova Scotia, I'd Go To This

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posted 12:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Dundee, I'd Go To This

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

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

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

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October 26, 2012


Go, Look: A Vintage Stan Lee Photo Gallery

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Go, Look: An Evening At The Larches

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Collective Memory: The Projects

imageLinks to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning the 2012 edition of The Projects, held October 19-21 at various locations around Portland, Oregon -- primarily the Independent Publishing Resource Center.

This entry will continue to be updated for as long as people

*****

Institutional
* Convention Site
* Physical Location
* Host City

* Contact Information
* Goals
* Guests
* On Portland
* Press Resources
* Program

Audio

Blog Entries
* Kelly Froh
* Lori-D
* Sean Christensen
* The Beat
* Theo Ellsworth

Facebook
* Community Page

Miscellaneous
* Floating World Comics
* Grid Lords Interview Series Page
* The Successful Kickstarter Campaign

News Stories and Columns
* Portland Mercury
* Willamette Week 01
* Willamette Week 02

Photos
* champoyhate
* Friday Facebook Community Page
* Lovely Photo At IPRC Facebook Page
* Saturday Facebook Community Page
* JR Williams 01
* JR Williams 02
* Kevin Marks
* Studio JFish
* Tom Neely 01
* Tom Neely 02
* Tom Neely 03
* Tom Neely 04
* Tom Neely 05
* Tom Neely 06
* Tom Neely 07
* Tom Neely 08
* Tom Neely 09
* Tom Neely 10
* Tom Neely 11
* Tom Neely 12
* Tom Neely 13
* Tom Neely 14
* Tom Neely 15
* Tom Neely 16
* Tom Neely 17
* Tom Neely 18
* Tom Neely 19
* Tom Neely 20
* Tom Neely 21
* Tom Neely 22
* Tom Neely 23
* Tom Neely 24
* Tom Neely 25

Twitter
* @iwilldestroyyou (Tom Neely)
* @floatingworldcomics (Jason Leivian)

Video

*****



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Go, Look: Melissa Mendes

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A Few Things I Mulled Over While On East Chapparal Drive

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I spent parts of the last two weeks in Scottsdale, Arizona. During that time, I went to several comic book stores in the greater Phoenix area. Here are a few things I observed.

*****

1. Most people I spoke to thought the transition to a post-Atomic Comics era for the Phoenix market went well.

imageAtomic Comics was a prominent four-establishment store that closed its doors in Summer 2011. The suggested reasons for its closure are as different as you can imagine one might hear from comics people in a variety of positions and from a number of vantage points. I heard everything from the chain simply being caught cash-short due to the kind of stores it was running to a cascading series of setbacks that became much worse when a significant swathe of stock in one store was lost to a car-to-store accident.

There was much greater agreement on how the rest of the Phoenix retail community has benefited from those stores' sudden departure. This is never a guaranteed thing when a bunch of stores close. Comics fans become attached to specific buying habits and patterns, and anything that causes a break in those habits risks losing a certain kind of customer. Reasons cited in my direction for Phoenix doing what other markets haven't included key employees finding positions at other stores and a great deal of general attention to providing continuity, everything from keeping subscribers from going on too long of a break to one store actually moving into an old Atomic Comics location. What happened in Phoenix is something to think about and perhaps learn from if another chain or prominent store goes under, or, if you prefer, when that happens.

2. More than ever, comic shops are finding ways to function as spaces in addition to being retail stops.

imageSomething that came up a number of times without my ever asking after it was the benefit derived from having enough space so that a store can host events. This included card-games (it seems like the Phoenix area is big with the card games), straight-up signings and special promotions like 24-Hour Comics Day. Not only does having space serve existing customers in a value-added way, a couple of the managers to whom I spoke thought that having this option extended their service footprint. If someone out there is able count on a store to have a certain kind of event, they might include that store in how they perceive of places to access comics. You have your local comics shop, and then you have that other shop you go to for tournaments or signings. I certainly thought of stores in Indianapolis like this when I was a kid, drawing my distinctions from the kind and amount of stock they had on hand when compared to the stores in my hometown. So this actually makes a lot of sense to me.

It also seems logical that stores would want to become event hubs simply because that's a significant advantage that can be put into play by physical retail, and comics shops are -- amazingly, given some of their fragilities -- a bastion for that kind of commercial enterprise as it exists today. You can also kind of see a precursor/parallel track with this valuation in how Fantagraphics, SLG and D+Q have turned retail spaces into event spaces very explicitly in making the choice to open such shops.

3. We've maybe undersold the era winding down at Marvel Comics right now, but it's not like we aren't being helped along a bit there.

I buy mainstream comics in comic book stores, because I don't see them otherwise. In case you haven't heard, Marvel is at this moment releasing the initial issues of what will soon be a sprawling, line-wide reconfiguration. With that kind of move and certainly this one comes any number of creative-team changes and new titles. I have the luxury of not having to be 100 percent cynical about a move while maintaining my basic skepticism about big-company moves and PR-driven hype. To be honest with you, as much criticism as has been tossed Marvel's way over the last year, the rolling out of re-launched books without breaking continuity was probably the most workable solution for the energy boost their line desperately needs. It's something that also plays off the strength of their deep talent bench, particularly on the writing side of things.

imageThe flip side of all the new creative assignments -- and Ed Brubaker making a strong move into film and television, with Image being his primary comics output now -- is that this Fall sees the wrapping up of a lot of long-time assignments. This includes Jonathan Hickman on the various Fantastic Four books, Brubaker on the various Captain America efforts and Matt Fraction on Iron Man. While there is some material out there celebrating the end of these writerly runs, even those articles feel more like Marvel hoping to God that they don't experience a bottoming-out of sales before the new titles spring into existence. Marvel is beholden to its bottom line in a way that a cataclysmic quarter before a re-launch would be a very bad thing.

At any rate, I think a lot of those writers -- Jeff Parker, Brian Bendis and Rick Remender are others -- did solid work on a lot of those books, the kind that if I were 14 now instead of in my early 40s, or had more focused tastes generally, would have been consistent, compelling highlights of my week, I'm sure. In fact, my hunch that at least five of the last decade's runs -- the Bendis-written Daredevil and Alias/Pulse, the Captain America, the initial Iron Fist comics and the Iron Man -- might make it onto a top 100 of all time in that genre, which is a considerable accomplishment if only for all of the attention and focus afforded superhero comics. (There are likely others, and your list may not contain all of the books I've selected. A future list of my own might not, either.)

There are a few things I think work against a proper estimation of these runs, or at least forgive our attention drifting elsewhere. One is that eyes are mostly forward no matter how many "end of an era" ads get run. That's just how these commercial enterprises work now, by creating an aura of anticipation and then either delivering on it or failing to. This is doubly true of serial-comics focused Marvel. Another cultural construct keeping us from discussing these series the way we've talked about them in the past is that we talk about these runs in terms of the writers now. That's how Marvel operates in this day and age, and I think that focus has an effect on the legacy of these books. There are primary artists involved in most of the significant runs, of course. And their achievements are considerable. If you look at Ed Brubaker's first Captain America, for example, there's a moment involving Captain America making his way onto a runaway elevated train whose visual execution seems to me just as crucial as the Brubaker-penned plot twist at comic's end in terms of getting the new approach over with fans.

What's different now is the emphasis of these companies and the fact that so many comics are done under a specific title's umbrella, meaning readers tend to attach to whatever talent provides general continuity and point-and-cite authorship. Steve Epting isn't quite linked to Captain America the way John Byrne is still linked to that run of Uncanny X-Men. You could say "John Byrne's era" in addition to "Claremont/Byrne" regarding those X-Men comics in a manner I'm not sure you can about an artist's run on a recent book, except maybe Bryan Hitch's work with the Ultimates material. The end result is a group of perceived creative accomplishments with only half of the usual attachments readers like to bring to such things. In addition, to many the work itself may seem slightly uneven for the number of artists who have their hand in it. Recall that Marvel has a sort of trade collection Tourette's going on, books spinning out of the publishing house in what seems like random and even unserious fashion. Even though some of the trade collections put the spotlight directly on certain creators, the book collections aren't consistently reflective of how that work might be better organized to flatter the authors let alone build a list of go-and-look perennials.

Still, I enjoyed a lot of the recent Marvel comics whenever I saw them. A lot of people did. I hope that all of the creators involved have that blessed sense of a major part of their professional lives drawing to a close, with all of the satisfaction that allows, even as new opportunities arrive. It's one important way we all mark time.

4. 24-Hour Comics Day exists in an entirely different context than it used to, but that doesn't mean it's any less necessary.

imageI looked at four different 24-Hour Comics Day submissions for a contest I judged at a Tempe comics shop called Pop Culture Paradise. Marc Mason of Comics Waiting Room invited me to help him out. It was fun. I always enjoy talking to Marc about comics. It struck me while looking at the submissions, though, that the reason that 24-Hour Comics were exciting to a lot of people back in the mid-1990s is that doing a comic so quickly actually seemed like a radical idea in the context of professional comics production as it was widely understood. Scott McCloud and the initial converts were calling on their fellow creators to loosen up a bit, to change their expectations as to what made for an effort worth pursuing. The closest thing anyone knew to a 24-hour comic before there were 24-hour comics usually involved a story of some poor mainstream guy taking a book home over a weekend under threat of being fired and doing page after page like End Credits Stephen J. Cannell tossing typewritten material from his magic typewriter. They were horror stories.

I'm pretty certain that this isn't what doing a 24-Hour comic means these days. My guess is that the idea of comics taking a major effort is no longer the pair of shackles worn by entire generations of comics-makers the way it once was. I think everyone working now, if not everyone working and everyone reading now, knows of or can conceive of ways in which comics, good comics, can be made quickly.

Where the 24-Hour comic helps now is a bit more basic than that. I figure its primary virtue is as a process useful to beginning cartoonists. Making a 24-Hour comic has become something everyone should do once for the practical benefits. It's less a movement than a mechanism. Making a comic very quickly can help the individual comics-maker learn to make strong decisions on the paper. It may force someone to get a first comic done. It may even inspire someone to explore different areas of their skill set than they engage in what may be an on-again, off-again relationship to the medium. All of that is just as valuable as helping a generation of dedicated craftsman to separate ways of working from the work itself.

*****

Arizona is beautiful. The lives I see being lived here feel isolated to me, so much so I imagine I might disintegrate were I to move here full time. The lifestyles I've encountered make sense, though, despite all the driving involved. Phoenix is the other side of the hole into which the entire country has nearly fallen, and what comes out isn't as bad as you'd think. There are compensating virtues as well. The desert offers a way of life that facilitates comics shops, that's for sure. They were places to go when cities had few, and that may never change. My thanks to all of the comics people with whom I spent a few moments while there; you helped make a difficult few days go by more quickly.

*****

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Go, Look: Real Housewives Of The Middle East

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Assembled, Zipped, Transferred, and Downloaded: News From Digital

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By Tom Spurgeon

*****

* Oni Press has announced a transition from its current marketing-oriented site to a content-driven one, with fairly detailed plans as to what gets released and when.

image* I don't have any feel yet for whether or not books moving into digital are a big deal or not. I'm guessing that except for the biggest hits this isn't the deal one would hope for moves like that, but that's only a guess. At any rate, Human Diastrophism by Gilbert Hernandez is one of those works that when collected presaged the last ten years of comics output more than it settled easily into the time it was released. All hail Los Bros.

* speaking of cartoonists known primarily for print who have major work now available digitally, don't forget The Certified Hunt Emerson for iPad. Emerson is one of the most fun of all the comics-makers.

* this was the 100,000,000th download at comiXology.

* in case it wasn't obvious, this column is this site's attempt to better cover various digital comics initiatives as their own publishing area. I understand that some will see difficulties in covering those books that way. Please bear with me. In fact, please bear with me more generally: there will be a vast learning curve on display as I get up to speed with what's going on in that world. The idea isn't so much to make a grand declaration as to what such comics are and aren't as it is to get this site in the better habit of covering comics like these more thoroughly and effectively. The way I was doing it wasn't getting the job done; hopefully this will work better.

* Grubby Little Smudges Of Filth is SLG's latest, multiple-platform, digital release.

* Emanata is billing itself as the first indie-comics platform for the iPad; I have no idea how accurate a claim that is given how much classic indie-comics work is out there, but I hear what they're saying.

* this isn't actually news in any sense of the word, but Whit Taylor is one of those cartoonists that occasionally sends e-mail asking me to look at their comics, so I thought maybe you'd like to be included in that offer.

* finally, here's some good news: Meredith Gran announced that Octopus Pie will be returning to regular updates starting Monday, November 26. I read a bunch of that comic recently and enjoyed it.

*****

our thanks to Mark Hansel for the title of the column, and for allowing us to purchase it at such a ridiculously low price. our hope is that it will be accepted in the tongue-in-cheek spirit that the "Bundled" title is taken; we know that all digital comics aren't readied this way, just as vary few print comics are tossed from the back of a truck

*****

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If I Were In Detroit, 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 Saint-Malo, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Nova Scotia, I'd Go To This

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

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If I Were In St. Louis, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Martin Zutis

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Charles Brownstein throws some love in the direction of micro-comics publisher Oily Comics. It's fun when Brownstein writes about comics.

image* I have no worries that the initial issues of the Marvel Now relaunch will do very well sales-wise: they're not exactly leaving that to chance. What seems more at risk is how the initiative will do five, six months down the road, so I'll be paying close attention to J. Caleb Mozzocco posts like this one.

* Steve Bennett on The Limit Vol. 1. Nathan Wilson on The Nao Of Brown. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Multiple Warheads #1. Rob Clough on a bunch of mini-comics back in 2006. Todd Klein on Aquaman #12. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Mudman Vol. 1.

* a bad review for a classic Jack Chick tract.

* Michael DeForge tries improvising a page panel to panel.

* Steve Sunu talks to Gerry Duggan and Tony Moore. Chris Mautner talks to Glyn Dillon. Laura Taalman talks to Randall Munroe. Brian Truitt talks to Lea Hernandez.

* I don't read these numbers columns that they do over at The Beat, as I prefer to just stare at the numbers myself. I also don't follow mainstream comics closely enough to follow the comments thread complains that always follow these things, which I'm guessing is half the fun of reading them. I do think that the numbers indicate that the market is still generally sick in terms of keeping series selling in a standard, broad way. What's weird is that if you can organize your store around the stuff that does sell and that does sell for you, it might not matter.

* not comics: a Spiegelman mural.

* finally, Heidi MacDonald checks in on this year's Desert Island Halloween window display by Gary Leib.
 
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October 25, 2012


Go, Look: Jason T. Miles' "Books I've Edited" Set

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BCGF Throws Down Programming, Satellite Event Gauntlets

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Here and here. Sounds like an excellent few days. Also nice to hear what my panel on Saturday will cover. (I'm kidding, sheesh; I'd do anything for this show.)

This is the best conventions/festivals year in comics history, I'd suggest by a wide margin. It's also clear that conventions and festivals are going to settle in as a hugely important part of the comics scene for the next decade and maybe permanently. It behooves us to pay attention to everything that the better shows do, and not get tied up in, say, dopey tribal judgments or criticism based on what one kind of show is over another kind of show. It's big tent... full of big tents, actually.

The above linked-to pieces strike me as a really useful and workable pair of models for day-of programming (note how everyone isn't shoehorned into some panel or another, for instance, and how generally well-balanced they are in terms of gender and generation) and for satellite events (all types, all kinds, different venues, about a week out moving in on the show itself).

I hope everyone is taking notes on everybody else, because it is my desire to attend as many great shows as possible.
 
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Go, Look: Andy Burkholder

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Go, Read: ICv2.com Follow-Up With Comic Shop Programs

Good for Milton Griepp over at ICv2.com for a much-needed update on the status of a slew of retailer-focused program announced by Diamond in recent months. This was an under-reported story. I punted on it, horrifically. What's even better about Griepp engaging it now is that the announcement of programs like these seems to me to pale in comparison to how they're put into practice -- or not, as the case may be. New retailer support remains one of those stories in general where people will fiercely advocate on all aspects, including the ways we should process how such programs are doing. I'm intrigued by the notion that at least one of the programs is open to and appealing for established stores. That would seem to me a hugely practical thing, as one of the longtime issues about programs targeted to new retail is that older retail feels left out and even resentful of the resulting attention paid new accounts.
 
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OTBP: Here At The End Of All Things

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Jacob Zuma Contingent Reduces Claims Against Zapiro

There's a mini-explosion of international wire stories this morning pointing out that the Jacob Zuma side of a forthcoming legal battle featuring the Zuma-focused cartoons of Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro has reduced claims -- dropping one entirely, moving one from millions to a six-figure number along with an unconditional apology. Whether or not this is legal strategy or something more like public relations depends on whether you see this case as more important for its legal ramifications or as en event in the political life of that country. I would have to imagine that, as is the case with the linked-to article, the Zuma forces doing a rollback will only embolden them in terms of the solidity of their case. I'm less certain how a more reasonable claim will play politically.

In the court of "how I decide the rightness of things on the Internet," the Zuma claims are sort of ridiculous, so I'm glad to seem reduced in the hopes they'll eventually be eliminated/obliterated.
 
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OTBP: Ripper And Friends #1

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Go, Look: Baby Blues Blog

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"Blunt The Textures Of Experiences" Is A Really Fun Phrase

This Chris Ware interview with the LA Review Of Books is full of little, argumentative, rhetorical gems. My favorite is the brutal, almost sprightly dismantling of the appeal of spending time on-line in terms of it being reassuring rather than meaningful. I don't know, maybe I'm overstating the case here, but I enjoyed Ware in that piece more than I usually enjoy Ware, and I usually enjoy him a great deal.
 
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Go, Look: Luke Ramsey

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* for no particular reason, I thought I'd go look how one of the city of Luzern's more general tourism sites had Fumetto listed.

* there's an article over at The Beat on what NYCC does next. Some of the operational complaints sound sensible, but they also sound like something a show with Reed's imprimatur should know about six years in. Maybe that's just me. I don't want to be ungenerous: there's a reason there hasn't been a constant, big New York show for a while now. But counterfeit badge problems when you don't even put names on the badges sounds to me like a year one or year two issue. Enough people clearly like that show and get value from it they should have no problem moving ahead. A "rivalry" with SDCC seems silly to me, as those are two very different shows, but I assume that's where a lot of people will go with their articles for the next half-decade.

* Detroit FanFare this weekend. I love the fact that there's a show in Prague I can go to every year after I win the lottery. Halifax seems nice, too. There's a not-exactly-comics event in Chicago worth attending.

* I'm hearing nice things back on The Projects. I wish I could have attended that one, because the age of the participants is such that you're not getting a lot of blogging about it. Also I get the sense that a lot of people are fiercely protective of the show. It sounds like it went really well, incredibly so for a first-time out. Short Run in Seattle is the next small-press show of renown.
 
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If I Were In White River Junction, I'd Go To This

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

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this is probably a repeat, but what the hell? I like Mark
 
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If I Were In Chicago, 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 Portland, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Leo Quievreux

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Sean T. Collins read 67 monthly comics and writes about them. For one thing, that's the first negative review of the Hawkeye series I've seen so far.

image* I just realized I only posted a link to the second of Grant Goggans' ongoing re-appraisal of the Levitz/Giffen-era Legion Of Super-Heroes comics. Here's the first one. Here's a tag that should let you see all of them as they arrive.

* Lisa Hanawalt draws Mitt Romney. Wait, this is part of a bigger post.

* J. Caleb Mozzocco compares two recent iterations of the DC character Hawkman.

* Zainab on Flocks. Rob Clough on mini-comics from John Porcellino and Jason Martin. I can't remember if I've already linked to this Mark Mayerson piece on Marvel Comics: The Untold Story or not. Todd Klein on Dark Horse Presents #12 and Night Force #7. Bill Sherman on One Model Nation. Don MacPherson on The Walking Dead Magazine #1.

* so I guess Jason is doing Nancy mash-ups? Bookmark, bookmark, bookmark.

* Dave Richards talks to Matt Fraction.

* they surely love their interns up north.

* finally: there's a Cynicalman movie?
 
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October 24, 2012


Go, Look: J. Chris Campbell's Halloween Wallpapers

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Go, Look: 500 Dessins

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Fantagraphics Announces Dash Shaw GN, Comic

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Fantagraphics announced plans earlier today to publish a new graphic novel (New School) and a comic book (3 New Stories) earlier today. Both will be published in April 2013. New School should clock in at 340 pages, and comes from Shaw's experiences as a foreign student. 3 New Stories is to feature interreatled short stories, and work out to be about 32 pages. You can read all about it and stare at more art here.

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Go, Look: Test Pilot

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Missed It: Prageeth Ekneligoda Now Missing 1000 Days

The cartoonist and journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda has been missing for 1000 days, according to a renewed press for answers by the family that has made a few international wire reports. Ekneligoda went missing in early 2010 on the eve of a hotly-contested election into which he had inserted some strong political commentary; the weeks following the disappearance were riddled with lost opportunities to better pursue the incident as an actual, active investigation. Wife Sandiya Ekneligoda again called for the UN to intervene. A story that authorities shared that they believe the missing man left the country emerges in that linked-to story; first I'd heard that one, it was later retracted.
 
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OTBP: Sad Girls #1

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Go, Read: Ali Ferzat In The Independent

This profile from Monday on the Syrian cartoonist and gallery owner Ali Ferzat isn't by itself one of the better pieces about the now-celebrated symbol of resistance to political suppression, but it contains an intriguing contextual shift. It looks like Ferzat himself is portraying his 2011 beating at the hands of pro-government thugs less as a flash of circumstance brought about by the Arab Spring but as an inevitable action brought about by years of political grinding following the Damascus Spring of the early '00s. He also says the conflict is over as soon as people begin to resist, which I hope turns out to be true in as many was as is possible.
 
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OTBP: Elizabeth Of Canada #1

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Collective Memory: The Projects

imageLinks to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning the 2012 edition of The Projects, held October 19-21 at various locations around Portland, Oregon -- primarily the Independent Publishing Resource Center.

This entry will continue to be updated for as long as people

*****

Institutional
* Convention Site
* Physical Location
* Host City

* Contact Information
* Goals
* Guests
* On Portland
* Press Resources
* Program

Audio

Blog Entries
* Kelly Froh
* Lori-D
* Sean Christensen
* The Beat
* Theo Ellsworth

Facebook
* Community Page

Miscellaneous
* Floating World Comics
* Grid Lords Interview Series Page
* The Successful Kickstarter Campaign

News Stories and Columns
* Portland Mercury
* Willamette Week 01
* Willamette Week 02

Photos
* Friday Facebook Community Page
* Lovely Photo At IPRC Facebook Page
* Saturday Facebook Community Page
* JR Williams 01
* JR Williams 02
* Kevin Marks
* Studio JFish
* Tom Neely 01
* Tom Neely 02
* Tom Neely 03
* Tom Neely 04
* Tom Neely 05
* Tom Neely 06
* Tom Neely 07
* Tom Neely 08
* Tom Neely 09
* Tom Neely 10
* Tom Neely 11
* Tom Neely 12
* Tom Neely 13
* Tom Neely 14
* Tom Neely 15
* Tom Neely 16
* Tom Neely 17
* Tom Neely 18
* Tom Neely 19
* Tom Neely 20
* Tom Neely 21
* Tom Neely 22
* Tom Neely 23
* Tom Neely 24
* Tom Neely 25

Twitter
* @iwilldestroyyou (Tom Neely)
* @floatingworldcomics (Jason Leivian)

Video

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Go, Look: Jon Boam

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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.

*****

MAY121128 LOST ART OF AH POOK HERE HC IMAGES FROM THE GN (MR) $39.99
JUL121075 YOULL NEVER KNOW HC VOL 03 SOLDIERS HEART $24.99
As much grief as my former employers sometimes get for things that it's perceived they don't do as well as publisher A, B or C, this week throws a spotlight on two of their great virtues through two top-of-post worthy works: providing a home for archival work of great interest, facilitating later-in-career work from masterful cartoonists of the underground and early-alternative generations. Good on them. Buy both books.

imageAUG120463 MULTIPLE WARHEADS ALPHABET TO INFINITY #1 (MR) [DIG] $3.99
AUG128081 MULTIPLE WARHEADS ALPHABET TO INFINITY #1 SHARED EXC $3.99
AUG120525 PROPHET #30 [DIG] $3.99
Comic-book comics is all about Brandon Graham this week. Note how Graham has benefited to a certain extent from something that happens with serial comics that doesn't really happy with giant book releases: the repeated exposure to his work has not only kept his name out in front of a certain kind of comics fan it's allowed people to try him out and to maybe better understand how to read his comics.

AUG120046 DARK HORSE PRESENTS #17 $7.99
At some point, you publish enough comics that it suddenly seems like it's 6-12 issues ahead of where folks think it might be and those readers go, "Wow, that's a lot of comics with that title." Wow, that's a lot of comics with that title.

JUL120024 SHAOLIN COWBOY ADVENTURE MAGAZINE TP $15.99
This is the kind of thing I can tell you without looking Jog wrote something about that will shame whatever I might say about it. This is illustrated prose, not comics, but the illustrator was Geof Darrow, so I'd be staring at it were I in a comics shop today. Actually, I may be in a comics shop today.

AUG120224 ALL STAR WESTERN #13 $3.99
I would have lost a bet here. Good for DC.

AUG120390 ALAN ROBERT KILLOGY #1 [DIG/D+] $3.99
I might have made some bet money back here, as back in the 1990s I was convinced that comics using the likenesses of celebrities would start coming out. I probably would have lost on the timing of such a bet, but this comic is cast with actors I've barely heard of but sort of recognize, which is exactly what I thought would happen.

AUG120573 AVX CONSEQUENCES #3 $3.99
Comics with words in the title that would have baffled me at six years old, words that don't really sound like the kinds of words that might sell a comic book to comic book fans, make me laugh. Although granted, I'm sure this sells just fine.

AUG120938 ADVENTURE TIME #9 [DIG] $3.99
Hey, it's another one of these comics, separated from the other serial comics this week because of the lack of an easy joke. I have yet to catch up with these books as comics, but it's clear from the attention they received and the editions they generate that there are at least some sales being made here.

AUG120707 MARVEL TALES BY ALAN DAVIS TP $16.99
This should be pretty. There aren't a lot of comic-book illustrators that drive interest to books all by themselves right now, but Alan Davis would qualify into whatever remains of that class.

JUL120722 DILBERT I CANT REMEMBER IF WERE CHEAP OR SMART TP $16.99
JUL120715 MUTTS BONK SC $19.99
Two solid efforts of the comics-collection variety, lest we forget what was keeping comics alive in bookstores all of those years before Marjane Satrapi and everyone else started showing up.

AUG121145 RALPH AZHAM HC VOL 01 WHY LIE SOMEONE LOVE $14.99
Lewis Trondheim is a wonderful, prolific and very mainstream-oriented cartoonist -- by the last I mean he has books in print that I can give to just about anybody on my Christmas shopping list, with everyone getting a different book. I liked this one quite a bit on the first read; the writing seemed way more measured than a lot of fantasies in comics form usually seem to me.

SEP121264 WILL EISNERS COMICS & SEQUENTIAL ART SC REVISED ED $22.95
I can't tell you how impressed I am that Will Eisner has a revised edition out this week. That guy outworks everyone.

JUL121367 MAD GREATEST ARTISTS MORT DRUCKER HC $30.00
JUL121202 ART OF JUDGE DREDD 35 YEARS ZARJAZ CVRS HC $68.00
Two art books of potential interest, both of which would have to be seen in a comics shop before ordering. At least I think they'd have to be. Unless you're totally rich or obsessive or obsessive-rich.

*****

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

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If I Were In Santa Cruz, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Irkus M. Zeberio

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* he let me know about it approximately two hours after this week's "crowd-funding" column went up, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get on Matt Bors' kickstarter project. No one's had a better year than Bors, he's reliable enough to make something good with the money, and we need to get him as much attention as possible so he settles into one of the half-dozen remaining good editorial cartooning gigs as soon as someone wises up and hires him.

image* Mike Greear is thinking about love.

* Allan Holtz profiles Foster M. Follett. Adrian Hedden profiles T. Casey Brennan. Cynthia Clark Harvey talks to Carol Tyler.

* Shannon Smith will be re-reviewing The Invisibles right up to the apocalypse date named in that series. I always think of The Invisibles as a precursor to a lot of modern mainstream series in that it used multiple artists unpacking Morrison's vision, to I think mixed results.

* Mark Mayerson on Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Dominic Umile on Think Tank. Ryan Anderson on The Last Romantic Anti-Hero.

* there hasn't been the usual rush of Halloween-related comics posting that usually happens this time of year, but here's a nice one from the Billy Ireland people.

* the Swann Foundation has announced mid-February 2013 as the next deadline for their academics-on-comics money award. I'm sure that specific information is somewhere on here. It was certainly in the 1978-style press release they sent out. If you're a comics academic, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

* finally, buildings based on lower-body wear are always funny.
 
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October 23, 2012


Go, Look: Baby Bjornstrand Part Two

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Go, Look: Ginette Lapalme

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* everyone's favorite Latvian twin-anthology enterprise will soon feature an effort with special co-editor Anne Koyama, so of course there's a fine-looking cover from Michael DeForge.

image* Smoo Comics #6 is available for pre-order.

* I hope I remembered to mention somewhere that the Grantbridge Street blog was shutting down. That blog had some great random scan posts, drawing from all sorts of odd material. I'm intrigued moving forward how much of what goes on with the Internet will be anchored by modes of communication slightly out of favor -- like I think there will still be a place for content-driven blogs, but most people won't be doing them. That could just be wishful thinking, I admit.

* kaBOOM! will expand its well-received Adventure Time line with Adventure Time: Fiona And Cake.

* I don't usually talk about prints and the like on here, because they're prints and the like, but Dustin Harbin is re-issuing some of his more popular prints and I wanted to note the next time he did that because I got some work of that kind from him recently and liked it enough to frame it.

* I had been saving this for this Friday's launch of a digital comics publishing news clearinghouse column, but the publisher was afraid that maybe North America had never heard of Hunt Emerson. Let me assure him we have: a new iPad-oriented collection of that very fun and accomplished artist's work now exists.

* fun with the Amazon.com advanced search function, mid-summer 2013 edition: Map Of Days, Eye Of The Majestic Creature Vol. 2, Sibyl-Anne And The Honeybees, a Paul Levitz book about the Silver Age Of Comics and one that made smile: a big Virgil Partch book from Fantagraphics.

* finally, I don't know that I'd seen the cover for the D+Q reprint of The Freddie Stories before it was e-mailed to me. Nice.

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

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Go, Look: Chris Kuzma

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I kind of blew past a story last week about a student cartoonist being fired for a joke about a father telling his son about his violent end if he ever came out to him as gay. The Beat picks up on it, and I probably should have spent some time with it, too. Humor's a bitch. I guess you could see the cartoon in question as obsidian-dark commentary lampooning a bigoted dad's excesses, but it's hard to get away with the ugly part of the humor no matter how you want to present that one. I guess I would go along with the "the cartoonist has the right to say that/the newspaper has a right to fire him" line of thinking. I'm not sure how it works that if if you think this is a firing offense the editors don't go, too. There are no really good answers here, though, only swift, decisive ones.

image* Rob Clough on Ralph Azham Vol. 1. Richard Pachter on various comics. Jenna Sten on The Infinite Wait.

* this pulled quote is very interesting. I get the sentiment, and the branding of "nerd" is indeed one of the most horrible and depressing things to ooze from pop culture in the last 20 years. I'm the original critic of the modern comics community's Team Comics excesses, but I don't think that means an arts community isn't valuable or even necessary in a lot of ways. Or at least useful. I hope to write about this at some point, but I think the failures come less from the idea of an arts community as applied to comics, but what that means, particularly when it tries to encompass the omelet-style folding-in of commercial goals.

* I'm not saying anything that isn't obvious, but wouldn't it be cool if Kate Beaton become linked to history and the study of history in a wider sense the way that, say, the PvP guys are linked to gaming culture? And by cool, I mean cool for those of us that love history. That probably wouldn't be cool for Kate at all.

* Matt Maxwell tweeted over a link to this collection of Vietnam-era helicopter nose art, a gallery that includes a few comics characters.

* I admire the decision explained here to no longer accept comp. copies for the reason you're unable to put them to effective use. The only way comics ever stops being soaked in exploitation is a million such decisions, starting with your own circle of influence.

* finally, Drew Friedman shares his personal collection of MAD-artist inscriptions.
 
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October 22, 2012


Go, Look: Susie Ghahremani

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Missed It: Frankfurt Book Fair Comics Awards

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The Beat has a nice report up from Torsten Adair on comics-related awards given out at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair. If I can track that report's provenance in a way that gets me to a release of some sort I'll write my own and slot it in here. For now, it seems only sporting to send you over to Adair's. Craig Thompson's Habibi was among the winners.
 
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Go, Look: Dace Sietina

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Missed It: CBLDF's Friday Updates On Two Cases

imageTwo reports of note spun out from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's increasingly active on-line presence, specifically its update on Friday. The first is that a Missouri man named Christjan Bee entered a guilty plea for charges related to pornographic comics found on his computer. Bee did not contact the Fund for assistance, so Executive Director Charles Brownstein has to speak carefully, but I think he does well noting that he's not convinced the "incest comics" involved were actionable, and that there are comics that can be described that way with obvious artistic merit.

The second report I wanted to spotlight is this one on a letter in support of the Seattle Area Library's defense of material for which they recently were attacked, including Hero Heel 2. Keeping a hand in on such matters is a significant outgrowth of their proactive philosophy under Brownstein.
 
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Go, Look: George Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons

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Go, Look: Filipe Abranches

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Comics By Request -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is in the middle of a membership drive to raise needed funds for its increasingly proactive mission. There is no better, more respected organization in comics, nor is there a better way to becoming a more actively involved member of the comics community than joining. It's a good thing to do.

* various Kickstarter projects ongoing: Don Hudson, Rafer Roberts, Brian John Mitchell and one related to Deep Girl.

* the Cartoon Art Museum is selling tickets for its Pixar Animation Studios fundraiser.

* the True Patriot fundraiser looks to proceeding at a decent pace, but not so fantastically well it doesn't need your consideration.

* Robert Kirby just wrote in to suggest this one from Matt Runkle.

* I have no idea how they're doing because I think it's been a while since this update, but giving to OSU Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum strikes me as a good thing no matter how they're doing. They'll spend it well.

* finally, we're winding down with Lea Hernandez and her The Garlicks Book One effort.
 
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Go, Look: Turok Vs. Kong

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Not Comics: Virgil Finlay Illustrates HP Lovecraft

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* so as was being openly discussed at the Small Press Expo last month, the MoCCA Festival is indeed back on for a post-Society Of Illustrators acquisition stab at it. The show has an exhibitor list and dates here. I don't know if that's a final list for exhibitors, but other than Top Shelf -- who through Leigh Walton is local -- that seems to me a very sparse list in terms of anchor publishers from past events. That doesn't mean a show without those exhibitors couldn't work. I'd like some small-press show in the Spring in New York, because I like visiting New York.

image* not comics: Holland Cotter writes on the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective, which I guess is a traveling exhibit now at the National Gallery Of Art.

* one week left to apply for a CUNE comics residency.

* not comics: Anne Ishii on emoji.

* it was a Stoner Alien weekend, apparently.

* Douglas Wolk on Building Stories. Todd Klein on Green Lantern: New Guardians #11 and Worlds' Finest #4. Katherine Dacey on Mail.

* Johanna Draper Carlson notes that DC seems to be employing one of the quirks of old-timey superhero fandom, the fact that the leader of the Legion Of Super-Heroes team is picked by a vote of the fans. This was never anything in which I ever participated, but I remember being fascinated by the results one year because the numbers of people involved weren't all that impressive. It's hard to remember now, but most of us older than 35 had to specifically convinced that comics weren't everywhere and sold to everyone.

* J. Caleb Mozzocco notes something weird about a V For Vendetta ad as it relates to the Guy Fawkes mask. I'm not sure it ever gets any weirder than a multinational corporation selling that mask to people in the first place.

* finally, tickets for the Pixar/CAM fundraiser are on sale now.
 
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October 21, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: Julia Wertz

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*****

Julia Wertz turns 30 later this year, which seems to me an excellent time for any cartoonist to release their best work to date. Koyama Press' new The Infinite Wait And Other Stories offers up three stories about the young cartoonist's life: one about her being diagnosed with lupus, one about her hometown library and one about her vocational history. Wertz's comics have always been funny, but in these stories we see a bit more of a formally restless comics-maker: plopping her jokes wherever she likes on the page, taking what might seem like long digressions into side-issues and stand-alone anecdotes, structuring entire sequences around a visual memory to match her facility with remembered dialogue. I liked it quite a bit, and I've been intrigued by some of the things which she's written and said through her comics about working with smaller publishers after her time working with bigger ones. I'm happy Julia took some time away from doing things in support of the new book to talk to me. At least two of those things are forthcoming: she's appearing with Nate Bulmer at Desert Island on November 15 and will be in conversation with Ellen Forney at the Strand on Nov 19th. You should go. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

imageTOM SPURGEON: I know that you attended SPX, and that you said on your site that you were doing some work on packages for the book that are going out to people that buy Infinite Wait from you directly. I wondered how much of that stuff overall you have to do for a release like this one?

JULIA WERTZ: You mean like all the packaging and stuff?

SPURGEON: Yeah, that. I also wondered how many shows you end up doing, how many signings. For that matter, how much do you feel comfortable doing?

WERTZ: The way that [Koyama Press Publisher] Annie [Koyama] and I did this book is that instead of getting royalties she just gave me a set amount of free books that I then sell. So it's a whole lot of... I'm actually packaging stuff right now. It's very tedious: a lot of sitting around and making keychains and signing books. It takes a couple of weeks to get those orders out.

All I did was SPX for this book; I'm not going to APE or anything. I don't know, I feel like I could be doing more shows. I'll be doing a book release thing, and then I have this conversation with -- you know Ellen Forney?

SPURGEON: Sure.

WERTZ: I'll be doing a conversation with her at The Strand.

SPURGEON: What was appealing to you about doing the free books vs. royalties deal with Anne? Was it that you have a sense of your personal audience, an audience that you could reach independent of a publisher, that it was more profitable to pursue that audience this way?

WERTZ: Doing this kind of deal, I was able to get more money because I put together package deals: keychains, hand-drawn panels, mixed tapes, sales that wouldn't exist if I just received royalties. There isn't much, if any, money in small press so you have to find other ways to make it work.

SPURGEON: You've talked about moving to a small publisher in various places... in a very positive way, that you're very happy to be working with people at a smaller press. The book is dedicated to Dylan Williams, and you're working with Anne. Dylan was and Anne is a very positive force in that world of small-press books.

WERTZ: They're into their artists. They're into their artists making money and getting the recognition and the benefits of their work, as opposed to a big publisher where they're all about, "How can we make money off of this?"

SPURGEON: Now is that something you personally react to, something where you think this makes them better people and you'd rather work with them? Or is it more about how you prefer to work? Because I have a hard time imagining you as someone who might get bruised rubbing up against the crassness of big publishing. Is that you just have distaste for that kind of profit motive?

WERTZ: Yeah. I wrote about this in the book. With the big publishers I said I wanted to do a book about having lupus and they said, "That's not mass-marketable." And they wanted to see a proposal by me. So that didn't sit well. They also don't table or anything, so they just sort of put the book out and that's it. I would end up spending my advance money on travel and tabling and it did not work out. It feels cold, because they don't care about it at all. They don't have any investment in the book once it's published other than whether it sells or not.

imageI decided to take it to Annie because I really like what she's doing with Koyama. She's very artist-positive, and she shows up for them and she tables. It was more of a personal decision. Also she liked the idea of doing a story about lupus as opposed to being, "That's not going to sell." She never thinks about what sells or what's going to sell. That's really not something that's on her agenda. You know how it was, that there was a bubble where all the cartoonists were getting big publishing deals and that bubble sort of burst. I think it was good. We all went back to where we belong, which is small press. These indy comics aren't mass-marketable. I just feel it's sort of good to be with my people again. These are people that are going to care about the work.

SPURGEON: This is an aside, but it strikes me as weird that anyone would think lupus isn't mass-marketable. So many people have systemic, connective-tissue diseases. Who doesn't know someone that has lupus or scleroderma or something along those lines? That's bizarre to me.

WERTZ: It makes no sense. They estimate that there's two million people in America with it. Auto-immune diseases in general... I mean, you can even group AIDS into that if you have to.

SPURGEON: Now will you get any attention on this book for the subject matter, do you think? Are you interested in receiving attention from people that have those issues themselves?

WERTZ: I would like that, but it's not as much of a thing I want. When I talk about my drinking problem, I really want the people that have the same problem to read that. This one is not so much where I want people to connect with it -- I do get e-mails that say, "Yeah, I went through the same experience and it's really nice to see someone joke about it on paper. It's so horrible when it's happening."

SPURGEON: One more thing about working with publishers of different size. You've written about this in the book, and in some of your pieces outside of the book; I think you wrote something after a Minneapolis show that was very positive. When you joke in your introduction along the lines of this kind of working relationship satisfying your "not the boss of me" impulses, it made me wonder: do you think working with the book publishers was having an effect on your art? Will your work be different moving forward in part because of how you're publishing?

WERTZ: Yeah. Yeah, definitely I think it was affecting my work. As soon as there's a lot of money and a lot of prestige involved I caught myself leaving certain things out. With comics you kind of veer into a very weird avenue or just things that don't read well to them. They don't like books that don't have a conclusion, that aren't really about anything. Short stories are very hard to sell.

I caught myself... there was one story where I wanted to get a little bit meta with it: put a diary comic in it, so it would be a different style. The editor said, "This is going to confuse people; just stick to your style." I definitely caught myself tailoring it to a larger audience. I don't want to work that way. Even though I could do what I wanted, it's a mental block that I have to work differently to sort of please them.

Also during the time I decided to do this book with Annie was when I was dealing with a Hollywood deal that I ended up killing because of this reason. I just came to the conclusion that even thought it's not financially beneficial for me to work this way, so independently, it's not worth the money for me to be miserable for it to affect my creativity. That's the one thing I want to have control over at all times. If having money in it is affecting it, I don't want to do that. Even if it might be a smart career move, I just don't give a shit. [Spurgeon laughs]

SPURGEON: Do you worry about the other side of it, though? Maybe you have a low opinion of the kind of support you got, but do you worry about not being able to work with an editor, not being able to get that kind of feedback, not having your art develop through the kinds of resources that you may not have access to working with a small-press publisher?

WERTZ: Yeah.

SPURGEON: Do you pull in your friends to get feedback that way?

WERTZ: I should more than I do. Especially because there are some errors in The Infinite Wait that we did not catch. I guess it would be nice to have more professional people on top of it, I guess? [laughs] I will get help from friends to get that feedback. I feel that one of the big-publisher editors I had didn't give me the kind of feedback that was even helpful. Once she took a page and actually circled a punchline and wrote in the margins, "Can you make this funnier?"

SPURGEON: Oh my god. [laughs]

WERTZ: That made me so angry. I called her and I was like, "Don't ever tell me how to write a punchline for a comic." This person didn't know comics. Their editing doesn't help me with the comics; their editing is more like does it make sense to an average Barnes & Noble reader who wants a story that has a beginning and a middle and some sort of satisfying, wrapped-up end.

I don't really work with people who give me feedback on it, because I just want to do what I want to do. Working with a small press means that it won't reach a larger audience. I won't break through that ceiling -- I don't know if that makes any sense. You can only go so far in comics, and if I stick with small publishers it will be harder to break through to a large audience unless I did some kind of TV deal.

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SPURGEON: One thing I liked about this work is that it does seem like you're pushing at some things. The way that you structure some of your jokes seems different than the way you've done things in the past. There's an assuredness to it: you seem confident in the writing of it, and where the humor is.

WERTZ: Well, thank you.

SPURGEON: My point is I wouldn't dare tell you how to tell a joke at this point. You know how to tell a joke. I wondered, though, how precise you are with the writing. Humor can very difficult; it can rely on a degree of precision. How much is it just natural for you to make something funny on the page, and how much is what we see something you really worked over?

WERTZ: With this one... you've read my earlier work, so you know how it was set up in four panels to be 1, 2, 3, punchline. That was very easy to do. With Infinite Wait I kind of throw the punchline in the middle of the page. It's actually easier that way because that's the way natural dialogue happens. It's not at the end and then the conversation's over. That's how I'm going to work from now on. I'm not going to do any of that punchline stuff.

It's not really that complicated. When I'm going through times in my life that I know I'm going to turn into a comic, I write down all conversations I have that I think are worth remembering. In this case I had drawn this comic out many years ago in stick figure form. So I was basically recording dialogue how it is, how it is in real life. It's actually pretty easy.

SPURGEON: How did you land on that process? I know with playwrights, sometimes in an early class they make you record conversations and write them out. Your way of doing it sounds like it may have developed more naturally. Was it just your desire to want to be able to capture elements of dialogue, or are you a compulsive recorder of what's going on around you?

WERTZ: Half of it is compulsive recording. Actually, I have a very good memory for dialogue. It's a little bit creepy. I can recall conversations I had years ago, like verbatim. I think that that's just a natural skill, I guess. Maybe it's helped by recording and knowing I should remember something. But I don't know, I can remember conversations I had as a teenager word for word, so I think that's just sort of a natural thing.

SPURGEON: So what ends up on the page? How refined is that? There's a big difference between recorded dialogue and dialogue for the stage, to continue with that example. For the comics, do you play with the dialogue? Or is it pretty much naturally as you remember it?

WERTZ: I'll work on it a little bit. Sometimes I'll have said a joke way later. And I'll be like, "Oh, I should have said that." A lot of conversations with my brother we would have over text messaging, and then in the comic I turned them into face to face because reading three pages of text messages does not make any sense. [laughter] I'll take conversations that happened over a week and put them into one afternoon. In that way, I sort of manipulate time and conversations. I'll take snippets of conversations and act as if they happened in an hour. There's a little bit of poetic license, I guess.

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SPURGEON: You're my new favorite interview subject, because you're anticipating all my transitions. [Wertz laughs] The stuff with your brother: I think those scenes are pretty great. There's an intimacy to your conversations, an easiness to your conversations, to the point I wonder how important it was for you to nail down a distinctive voice for your brother, to make it his own? My impression is that what you did was very subtle but I thought you nailed that, that you got the shared intimacy, the shared language, while at the same time his voice was different than yours. He's a very appealing character in the book, too, as a result, I think.

WERTZ: I'm totally happy to hear that. It's a little bit tricky, too, though, because my brother and I, I've had friends say that if you transcribed your brother's and your conversations you would not know who said what because we have exactly the same sense of humor and have the same things we joke about. I tried to make him a little bit more dry, which is absolutely how he is. He's very good at insulting me. It was a little bit tricky because we talk the exact same way. I didn't want it to appear as if I was putting punchlines in his mouth. All his punchlines, they're all things he said in real life. Sometimes I do think it sounds a little bit too much like my character, but that's what happens, so that's what I went with.

SPURGEON: I got the sense that he was a distinct character; I just wasn't sure how you got there. It sounds like you work on it. You applied your writing skills and it came out that way. [laughs]

There's a basic question I wanted to ask, that comes out of writing for yourself, writing autobio, writing about things that happened to you. Your comedic character is very different than a lot of cartoonists' stand-ins. There's not a lot of working out of your neuroses. It's a very strong character. You're more Groucho Marx than Woody Allen. There's something heroic to the character that you're being funny all the time, and constantly killing it with humor. It's not just a funny character, it's a strong character, and I wondered how aware you were of that.

WERTZ: That's something I've really not considered too much. I would assume it's a reflection of myself. There are definitely things I don't work on because I'm just talking about myself. I tend to handle things in real life maybe with more humor. I'm a little bit more blase about things in real life because that's my defense. I think that comes out in the work. I will try to make my character not look too much like she's using it as a defense. I want to have the moments of humanity in there. I wonder if there's a little bit more mopey scenes. In the one I'm working on about trying to get sober, there's a few more of those. It's a little bit less jokey; I don't want that to be my gimmick: "this person clearly has a problem where they can't deal with anything without making a joke about it." So I'll probably veer away a little bit. But because that's a natural response, that's how my work comes out.

SPURGEON: In one memorable scene in this book, you talk about your discovery of comics. One thing I think interesting about how you describe it is that you had a reaction to the experience of comics themselves, the impression of the words and pictures together and how you were able to read it. That strikes me as an intriguing reaction, and maybe not one I'd guess for you. I could see you responding to the personal expression aspects of it, but it seems you also had a reaction to the medium itself.

WERTZ: It was a very instant and positive reaction. I also don't think that's too common in comics because most people grow up with comics. It never hits them over the head like that. I had never seen that kind of graphic novel before. So it was so instant. I loved it immediately, and I'm not really into things. It takes a lot for me to be into something, but I don't know, right away I knew -- I didn't know I wanted to do it, but I knew this was a thing I was going to be obsessed with for a while.

SPURGEON: Can you describe what it was about the experience, the visual impression you were getting? Was it getting that kind of information visually? Was it the range of expression that the artists were able to get for mixing the prose and art?

WERTZ: A lot of it had to do with just the way that they drew. Julie Doucet's and Will Eisner's artwork. I didn't know that comics could be that kind of artwork; I was only familiar with The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. Then they had these really detailed drawings of the city… or of their bedrooms. You know how Julie draws her bedrooms? I had no idea that the art could be that pleasing. I could spend all this time looking at it.

I didn't understand before that there's a connection to the writing with that kind of artwork -- it fills in the blanks. The kinds of comics I was reading before, they don't fill in the blanks: they complement the text. That's how newspaper funnies work. I had no idea they could be so interconnected, that looking at the artwork could be like reading between the lines of a story. I just didn't know you could tell stories like that. Where a lot of it is silent. I think that's what really connected with me, because I had never seen that before.

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SPURGEON: You have a very direct art style. How do you feel about the visual side of what you do in terms of communicating the same things that Eisner or Julie were able to? Do you think it has something of the same effect?

WERTZ: I hope it does. I definitely try to make the artwork tell parts of the story as opposed to just being complementary. I also know that I have a lot of limitations as an artist. I'm not as good as the average person working in comics. They did their art first and then came into comics storytelling, where I did it in reverse.

I may have talked about this in the first interview we did, where I choose to do it simple because that's the way people connect to it, they can project themselves into it more than a very detailed image, which separates the artists and the reader feels that they're looking at an artist's interpretation of something as opposed to putting themselves to it. I think that my lack of artistic skill can be of benefit to the work itself in terms of progressing the story.

SPURGEON: I wonder how you feel about it now, though. When my friends and I talk about your work -- because we're nerds, and we talk about people's work [Wertz laughs] -- one thing that seems to come up with people that are mostly complimentary of your work as well as those that are critical of what you do is that the direct style you use works very well with the humor that you do: that you can get right to the joke, and it allows people to project themselves into a situation. Now you're engaging these subjects with a lot of nuance, stories that even refer to other stories and past work you've done. People wonder if your art can communicate those elements as effectively as it allows us to see Julia slaughtering people verbally. As you engage more themes, do you think about developing your work to better encompass those things you wish to engage in your comics?

WERTZ: Yeah. I hadn't really thought about it. But I guess the more complicated the work gets, the more complicated the art style gets... I don't think that was a conscious decision. I think that was me developing as an artist and wanting to put more time into the artwork. I've been debating working for my next on maybe not putting the more detailed backgrounds from The Infinite Wait, more detailed than previous work. I wonder if I should not do that, not only to save time, but also I feel it gets a little repetitive and distracting. That just might be more of a personal decision, though, not so much a conscious one.

SPURGEON: What element of the visuals do you think best reflects where you are as an artist?

WERTZ: I think it's in those backgrounds where it comes through. I'm terrible at drawing people, but I think I've become good at drawing simplified versions of the backgrounds. Not so much the artwork but I like what I did with the artwork in the short story about the library. There are a lot of books; it helped create the environment.

imageSPURGEON: The library story shows off another strength of yours, something we've talked about maybe a bit in terms of dialogue, that you have this very specific string of memories -- the alcove where you can fit under, for instance. I think that's a strength of your work overall, that your memories of moments and places are very pointed, very exact. Do you have a similar gift for place-memory?

WERTZ: Yeah. It's not as strong or persistent as the dialogue memories, but when I have something from my childhood that had a visual sensation, I can very easily recall it in my memory. I have memories from early childhood when you're really not supposed to have memories. Those memories are very visual: the pattern of a couch or the pattern of a dress that I sort of took a picture of and then remember it for forever. If it was something I was obsessed with, like a secret hole I could hide in -- which I have a lot of -- that just stuck with me and I would try to draw it verbatim as I remember it.

SPURGEON: Was the library story always supposed to go last in the collection? The introductory material makes me think it might have been intended for second.

WERTZ: Actually, now that you've said that I feel like it was an accident to go last. I should have put the short story in the middle to break up the two long ones.

SPURGEON: I hate to talk about "next," but you mention in there that there's work that you haven't published yet that seems like it was important to your development.

WERTZ: The book that's coming out next I actually drew the whole thing, I drew 220 pages of it. I did that before I did this book. I'm going to trash it and re-do it. If I do this book; I haven't made up my mind whether or not I'm going to do it. The stuff I reference as unpublished in that book is childhood stories that I haven't had time to really work on. I've maybe drawn six pages of it. I have a lot of that stuff, where it's just random pages I want to work on. I've got that whole beast of a book that's just sitting there.

SPURGEON: I wondered in general how much work you do that doesn't get used. I've wondered that about people that post stuff on-line generally, but you specifically.

WERTZ: Well, there you go. I have a whole book. The year and a half I worked on that I'm going to flush down the toilet.

SPURGEON: The work or the personal experiences as well?

WERTZ: Just the work. It's good that I did it, because I have something to work with as opposed to just starting the book blindly. It does mean that I just spent a year and a half on artwork I'm not using.

SPURGEON: Something I wanted to build on when we talked about your character being different. There are a bunch of stories in here that touch on class. Some of it is overt: the material about the jobs you have, and waiting on rich kids in the diner. But also seems like class informs your work more generally. When most autobio cartoonists talk about being broke or not having a ton of resources, it seems like it's coming from a different place than where you're coming from. Do you feel there's a difference?

WERTZ: I think what you're getting at -- tell me if I'm wrong -- is that when cartoonists talk about being broke, it's a self-inflicted thing. You don't have to be a struggling cartoonist. You can just get a fucking job. [Spurgeon laughs] It kind of irritates me. That whole aspect of, "I'm so poor; I just want to do my artwork." Not everyone can make money from their artwork. That's a very privileged thing to be able to do, that even if you're a great artist you can't always achieve. So sometimes you just have to nut up and get a job. The stuff that I was talking about in Infinite Wait, that came from a childhood of not having money, and growing up poor in a very rich town. I had no control over that financial situation.

SPURGEON: Do you think that has an effect on your decision-making now? You talked about not pursuing things that might be better for your career; do you think your unique perspective allows you to make stronger decisions?

WERTZ: Yeah. When you don't grow up with money, it's never of great importance. It's never a goal. I've always just wanted enough money that I could live the life I'm living now. I live alone, which is great. I don't need a whole lot of money to do what I do and be happy with it. Making money was never really a goal. When you grow up without money, you never assume you'll have it. I feel like I have it in the sense that I live the life I want to live. I don't need any more. That's why I'm able to turn down opportunities that might be more lucrative because I'm happy with where I'm at.

imageSPURGEON: Is it weird to take that kind of stand in public? I remember when you posted the strip about turning down the screenwriting/television work, people were hectoring you about this specific personal choice you'd made. I couldn't believe that people thought they had a vote. Have you become accustomed to that aspect of it, that people think they get to weigh in on what you're up to?

WERTZ: Yeah, I mean [laughs] that's the problem with the Internet, that people think they do get a say in your life and the way you live it. When I turned down that deal, a lot of people, they were like, "You're an idiot." [Spurgeon laughs] When you're not a creative person, if you're just someone that views the creative world as a spectator, you sort of assume that everyone's ultimate goal is to go to Hollywood and make that kind of money. That was never, ever my goal. It wasn't something I even thought of until it was right in front of my face. It wasn't something I was striving for, so it was very logical for me to turn it down when it wasn't what I wanted. People from an outside point of view don't understand that's not everyone's goal. Even people in the TV world were totally baffled why that wasn't my goal. "Isn't this what all artists want? Look at all this money we're going to give you. This is what you wanted since forever." The fact that I didn't want that, it's just confusing to a lot of people, I think.

SPURGEON: How typical are you in your peer group, maybe not this specific decision but more generally? You talk in Infinite Wait about the Pizza Island experience. Are you guys all going through these kinds experiences? Are you typical in terms of how you and your friends are processing these issues?

WERTZ: Yeah, definitely. I think so. When I was in Pizza Island, three of us were working with big publishers, and we all got dropped at the same time. Lisa [Hanawalt] is doing a book with Drawn and Quarterly. We're all in the same boat of getting back to working with our people and being really happy with us. There's a lot of discussion. I spent time in Minneapolis talking about Koyama and Tom K's Uncivilized Books, and Spit and a Half Distro. It's very exciting. I think we're happy to be in the same boat, working with less, I guess.

SPURGEON: And does that make that decision easier, having other people around making those decisions? You talked in Infinite Wait about suddenly discovering you had fellow travelers, an artistic peer group.

WERTZ: Yeah. We can definitely talk about it. Oh, we shit-talked so hard and that's always delightful to be able to do that with people at the same sort of level. I don't feel like I'm flying blind here at all. It's definitely a comfort.

*****

* The Infinite Wait And Other Stories through Julia Wertz
* The Infinite Wait And Other Stories through Secret Acres
* The Infinite Wait And Other Stories at Koyama Press
* Museum Of Mistakes

*****

* photo of Wertz taken at SPX 2012
* cover to the new book
* images from the new work hopefully used so well that there's no question as to why they're being used
* end image from the work (below)

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Not Sure I've Ever Linked To Dash Shaw's Tumblr

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Totally Missed This Patrick Farley Comic From Several Months Back

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Go, Look: Super Awesome Comics

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

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

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

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

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FFF Results Post #312 -- Their Best Men

On Friday, CR asked its readers to "Name Five Female Comics Makers And Their Best Male Character." This is how they responded.

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Sean T. Collins

* Phoebe Gloeckner -- Monroe Rutherford
* Jillian Tamaki -- Everlasting Boy
* Ai Yazawa -- George Koizumi
* Alison Bechdel -- Bruce Bechdel
* Emily Carroll -- "This man is not my brother."

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Dame Darcy -- Wax Wolf
2. Lynn Johnston -- Lawrence Poirer
3. Lynda Barry -- Freddie Mullen
4. Wendy Pini -- Skywise
5. Shaenon Garrity -- Dave Davenport

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Mary Skrenes -- Ethan Harrow
2. Kate Beaton -- 15th Century Peasant Youth
3. Gale Simone -- Catman
4. Faith Erin Hicks -- Alistair from Friends with Boys
5. Ramona Fradon -- Metamorpho

*****

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Michael May

1. Kelly Sue DeConnick -- Norman Osborn
2. Gail Simone -- Catman
3. Kate Beaton -- Sexy Batman
4. Ramona Fradon -- Aquaman
5. Pia Guerra -- Yorick Brown

*****

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Sean Rogers

* Lynda Barry -- Fred Milton
* Shary Flenniken -- Trots
* Renee French -- Edison Steelhead
* Tove Jansson -- Moomin
* Mary Skrenes -- James-Michael Starling

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Marjorie Henderson Buell -- Tubby
2. Marty Links -- Alvin
3. Shary Flenniken -- Trots
4. Dale Messick -- Basil St. John
5. Julie Larson -- Burl Penny

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

1. Elaine Lee -- Randall Factor
2. Ann Nocenti -- Longshot
3. Wendy Pini -- Cutter
4. Rachel Pollack -- Niles Caulder
5. Jill Thompson -- Skully Pettibone

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. Louise Simonson -- Steel
2. Gail Simone -- Ragdoll
3. Devin Grayson -- Arsenal
4. Kim Yale -- Deadshot
5. Kate Beaton -- Heathcliff

*****

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William Burns

* Alison Bechdel -- Raffi
* Paige Braddock -- Ethan
* Marjane Satrapi -- Nasser Ali Khan
* Lynn Johnston -- Farley
* G. Willow Wilson -- Ashraf

*****

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Oliver Ristau

1.) Kiriko Nananan - The unnamed male protagonist from 'Heavy & Pop' (Itaitashii LOVE)
2.) Chantal Montellier - Jean from 'Shelter'
3.) Sarah Burrini - Ngumbe Tembo
4.) Ann Nocenti - Blackheart
5.) Tove Jansson - Moominpappa

*****

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Chris Arrant

* Rumiko Takahashi, InuYasha from InuYasha
* Louise Simonson, Apocalypse from Marvel’s X-Men titles
* Pia Guerra, Yorick from Y: The Last Man
* Becky Cloonan, Archer from East Coast Rising
* Wendy Pini, Cutter from Elfquest

*****

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Peggy Burns

* marjorie henderson tubby
* lynda barry freddie
* kate beaton napolean
* gabrielle bell tom
* tove jannson moominpapa

*****

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Jen Vaughn

* Shimura Takoko - Nitori (but likes to dress as a girl)
* Melissa Mendes - Eddie (from Lou)
* Colleen AF Venable - the befuddled Mr. Venezi (Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye)
* Faith Erin Hicks - Alistair (Friends with Boys)
* Emily Carroll - the Brother (narrating His Face All Red)

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Tracy J. Butler -- Rocky Rickaby
2. Spike Trotman -- Scipio Spencer
3. Blue Delliquanti -- Alastair Sterling
4. Samantha Mathis -- Nicholas Grey (created with Caytlin Vilbrandt)
5. Lora Innes -- Alan Warren

*****

image

Jamie S. Rich

1. Rumiko Takahashi, Yusaku Godai
2. Chynna Clugston Flores, Ashton Archer
3. Ann Nocenti, Longshot
4. Debbie Huey, Bumperboy
5. Ai Yazawa, George

*****

topic suggested by Sean T. Collins; thanks, Sean

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


Sammy Harkham Panel At SPX 2012


Not Sure I Even Want To Know


Nick Abadzis On Inked TV


Daryl Cagle Interviews Eric Allie


Some Sort Of Video Of The James Thurber Wiki Article
 
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October 20, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from October 13 to October 19, 2012:

1. Warner Bros/DC Comics wins a key victory against the Shuster Family in the ongoing legal struggles over elements of the Superman copyright.

2. Richard Thompson has surgery as treatment; draws the whole while.

3. NYCC ends the mainstream-oriented comics convention calendar year with a bunch of mainstream-oriented publishing news.

Winners Of The Week
Your 2012 Prism Queer Grant award recipients.

Loser Of The Week
The Myanmar military official who basically issued a scary warning to one of his country's newspapers.

Quote Of The Week
"I might just be in a bubble, but here's the trouble I see with the independent comics: We're the only guys -- maybe there's a couple of others -- that put out comics out on a regular basis. Everyone else puts them out five to 10 years [apart] now. It's just gotten really bad. So that's why there's no beachhead, no swell of indie comics that people are making a big deal about. But at the same time, the mainstream seems to be surviving on the fact that there's great, big Hollywood movies based on the products, and the actual comics aren't a big deal anymore. That's what I see." -- Gilbert Hernandez, who along with his brothers Jaime and Mario spent the last weekend at APE on the final stop on a three-con 30 Years Of Love And Rockets mini-tour.


*****

today's cover is from the small-press and independent comics scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and is by Dylan Williams; it was a great honor this week to donate a few comics to his collection at OSU, and I hope you'll consider joining me

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

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

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

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

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If I Were In West Chester, I'd Go To This

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

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

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October 19, 2012


Hey, Check Out Dave Kellett's Stand-Up Drafting Table

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Go, Read: Los Bros Hernandez At The AV Club

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for extra credit, try to figure out which line or lines in the interview are most likely to enrage some young cartoonists
 
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Not Comics: Sweet Dreams Press

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A Couple Of Additional Notes On Superman's Copyright Fate

If you're interested in matters regarding the Superman copyright and all of the creators rights issues on which those things, you should always read what Jeff Trexler has to say. The comments are sort of interesting in that they're not all one-sided defenses of the status quo, which in comics is a rare enough thing to deserve our praise. The one person that does embody that point of view isn't using their full name (naturally) and manages to employ a bigoted phrase in a summary appraisal of the situation. So good job there.

imageWhere do things stand right now? In terms of the cases themselves, Wednesday's ruling places a feverish amount of interest on the next court hearing regarding the Siegel Family's side of things. I believe that's November 5. While there will certainly be appeals no matter what happens, another win for Warner Brothers will certainly change the tone of the entire fight in a way a win for the Siegel Family likely wouldn't. We're already seeing changes in movie plans, which for some folks is all that matters.

I hope that cartoonists and comics readers pay attention to this story. It's not always pleasant, but it's instructive I think in terms of how companies like this tend to be operated and how people orient themselves towards such companies in response. This kind of thing isn't all the way in the past: the key factor in Wednesday's decision was a deal hacked out in the early 1990s, which isn't all that long ago for most people in comics. For all that things have improved, for all that there are better options now, comics continues to be an industry and art form soaked in exploitation, casual to grand, and that hasn't changed as much as anyone would like to think it has.

I find the story of the original iconic superhero creators and their families to be a tragic one. I will always think it was avoidable, and think a better outcome here is still possible if someone were to choose it. Mostly, though, I'm exhausted from negotiating a mindset where the pursuit of profit at all costs is held up as some sort of moral virtue, or at least an idea removed from other considerations, as something not a choice. There are choices you can make on such matters, there are ways to arrange your life that don't make you feel horrible, and it just may be that all the energy spent trying to talk people out of their defensive crouches may be better spent making sure any and all alternatives work as effectively as possible. A lot of what comes next is on us, a lot about what this all means is to be decided.
 
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Go, Look: Abandoned Faz Choudhury Blog

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Go, Read: Michel Fiffe On His Early Career Struggles

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Michel Fiffe has been doing a series of posts on his attempts about a dozen years ago to launch a comics career, illustrated copiously. The latest is here. Just about anyone that's tried to start a career in the arts where self-direction is the norm will find something here that reminds them of their own journey. I'd say this is a typical one to comics, but the context for these kinds of sagas changes so much that it's hard to say how exact a comparison can be made. At any rate, it's the details that make a post like this one.
 
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Go, Look: A Late-1950s Jesse Marsh Western

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Collective Memory: Alternative Press Expo (APE) 2012

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this article has now been archived
 
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Go, Look: Mort Meskin's Dr. Grote

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posted 2:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Collective Memory: NYCC 2012

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this article has now been archived
 
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Go, Look: Mark Todd

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Comics By Request: People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* right now, the main focus probably should be on this membership drive by the CBLDF; they could use an influx of cash and members to support their more aggressive activity in general free-speech advocacy as it relates to comics. If you're not a member, please consider becoming a member.

* Don Hudson has an ambitious Kickstarter going for his Gunpowder Girl And The Outlaw Squaw project.

* this Rafer Roberts project has recently moved past the all-important 50 percent mark, with plenty of time left to raise funds.

* Brian John Mitchell is trying to raise a couple of hundred bucks to offset costs of a residency.

* this Deep Girl project is already funded, but I thought a few of you might want to get in on that one.

* as has been the case for a while now we end with Lea Hernandez, about a third of the way home with eight days remaining on her The Garlicks Book One effort.
 
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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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

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

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

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Not Comics: Night Images

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I suppose it's worth noting that Newsweek is moving from print to all-digital. I seriously haven't touched that magazine since high school, and I read a lot of magazines.

image* missed it: where the comics of Fabrice Neaud and John Byrne intersect.

* never sure what can be seen and by whom, but here's an extremely nice Facebook post from Art Chantry on the design work of Fantagraphics stalwart Jacob Covey.

* someone at Illustration Friday talks to Susie Ghahremani. Brandon Soderberg talks to Josh Simmons.

* Jed Alexander has dinner with Jim Woodring.

* Justin Giampaoli on So Buttons #5. Rob Clough on The Goddess Of War. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comics-shop comics. Kelly Thompson on Hawkeye #3.

* Todd Klein presents a new Gaspar Saladino logo.

* I love Mark Siegel like an annoyingly perfect cousin, but this is not helping those nightmares I have about comics events taking place on boats so I can't get away.

* finally, I mentioned this on Twitter a while back, but when people ask me what I do for a living I point to this cartoon and say, "I'm the cop."
 
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October 18, 2012


Go, Look: Akvile Miseviciute

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Warner Bros Wins Victory Against Shusters In Superman Battle

imageThere are a bunch of news stories about a decision yesterday favoring DC Comics owner Warner Bros over the Shuster Family, represented by lawyer Marc Toberoff. Here's one. It looks to me on a first pass that the judgment says that the Shuster Family negotiated away the right they were re-claiming under copyright law in order to secure, basically, a $25,000 pension for Shuster's sister -- a pension that was occasionally supplemented by additional payments from the owners of the billion-dollar character. That seems a logical legal principle as far as my Fake Internet Law Degree goes. It's darkly, stab-both-your-eyes out ironic that Warner/DC's parsimony in forcing an elderly woman to haggle for a 23-year-old's income with everything she had at her disposal is actually benefiting the company down the line.

This puts an even bigger target on November 5th's hearing where Warner Bros lawyers seek to deny the late-1990s restoration of claim from the family of Jerry Siegel. The Laura Siegel Larson letter from last week and news yesterday that the Shuster Family plans to appeal would seem to indicate this isn't ending any time soon no matter what the outcome is on November 5. However, yesterday's seems to me a major decision -- and the November 5 decision could be even more major -- and in the same way the still-continuing Kirby Family action against Marvel suffered an outright gut punch for the ages in that legal tussle's summary decision, this is a severe blow.

I never really thought the law was on the families' side, in that I was actually more surprised that the Siegels ever won a legal victory more than I am the Shusters and potentially the Siegels are seeing less favorable outcomes now. I mean, I know what I want the law to say, but it always seemed to me sort of stacked in the companies' direction. The whole thing fills me with sadness that so much money has been made over the years, all over a character that's presented as a paragon of moral virtue, and what little reward the families have received has been almost all fought for rather than just granted. It ruins the character for me, to be honest, which is difficult only in that I have a hard time caring about certain childhood characters as an adult at all. I know not everyone agrees with me on that, but it's hard for me to see this as a best outcome. I think it's okay to want best outcomes.
 
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Go, Look: Anja Wicki

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Missed It: An Interview With Archaia's Jack Cummins

imageI received a couple of e-mails asking me to reconsider Kiel Phegley's recent interview with Archaia's Jack Cummins -- I'm not exactly sure why, although my guess is that someone else made a slightly bigger deal of this piece earlier this week than a simple link, which got some folks thinking. It's worth a look if you're interested in that segment of the marketplace, although a lot of what's reported -- Archaia had a difficult time during a recent distribution-deal switch -- doesn't really surprise me. Making that kind of transition does cost a publisher, and probably should as it's a major thing. The digital sections are intriguing, too, if only for their matter-of-fact discussion of that being an overall benefit to the company.
 
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Missed It: Simon Gane Sketches France

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Your 2012 Prism Comics Queer Press Grant Recipients

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Prism Comics announced the recipients of the 2012 Queer Press Grant on Saturday during Just Hall's Queer Cartoonists Panel at the Alternative Press Expo. The winners were Blue Delliquanti for the graphic novel O Human Star, and Christine Smith for The Princess.

The grant was established in 2005. With the Xeric Foundation gone, it is to my knowledge the only independent grant of its sort right now within comics publishing. Submissions are reviewed by the Prism Board, past recipients of the Grant, and Prism's Advisory Board. The award is funded entirely by donations.

thanks, Robert Kirby
 
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Not Comics: A Set Of Killoffer Images

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Go, Look: Jessica Campbell's Secret Missive

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Go, Look: Mike Norton

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* this programming from The Projects looks like fun.

* I can't remember if I linked to this report on Mix 2012 or not. It's not like it's a bad thing to link to it again.

* there are Collective Memory entries for both NYCC and APE rolling out this week on the site. It's been fascinating to do those for the last 18 months or so because of a severe drop-off in blog-content being generated, one would guess in favor of noting such events on Facebook or via Twitter. There was a ton of media at NYCC; almost no comics-reportage being done at APE, not really. I'm not casting aspersions, because if I wanted to see more APE coverage I could have certainly gone up and there and done some. But I do find it worth noting that NYCC has pressed that obvious media advantage.

* there was more publishing-news type stuff out of the NY show than I thought there might be reading the ramp-up, which is good, and is also another obvious advantage in terms of where that show takes place and when in the calendar.

* I'm anticipating how The Projects might go this weekend. I'm all for alternatives to the flea-market model finding purchase, even as much as I've come to accept and even love the flea-market model. I wish them luck.
 
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Go, Look: All The Kevin Huizenga Posted On-Line

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via Sean T. Collins
 
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Arthur Suydam Puts Word Out On Stolen Artwork

And you can help. Stolen artwork is a horrible thing for an artist to suffer -- for anyone to suffer -- but because of the special nature of a lot of comics-related work it's possible in some cases to find the art and have it returned.
 
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If I Were In Rhinebeck, I'd Go To This

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

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Not Comics: Stephen Fabian's REH-Related Gallery

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* okay, this is pretty fascinating: a lengthy post about the lost art of Heinrich Kley.

image* Simon Gane drew Aya. Jason sketches. John Kenn gives me nightmares. Renee French gives me more nightmares. Roman Muradov makes with the magazine covers. Mattias Adolfsson draws Breakfast In Bed. Paul Hornschemeier goes blue-line crazy.

* this is great: a Cleveland public library card honoring Harvey Pekar.

* that's a different style than I'm used to seeing from Steve Leiber, and I like it. I always thought an easy anthology idea would be second styles. I like suggest anthology ideas because they tend to sell so horribly you can't really screw it up.

* the EC books officially launched -- or locally launched, or just launched, or something -- at the Fantagraphics store. Looks like a good time was had by all.

* here are six creators selected by Chris Arrant as having comeback potential. That's an odd list, and I think what he means is that if the creators decided to do work in the North American mainstream. He probably says as much, but I didn't see it during my buzz through the post. I like all of those creators. I'd be surprised if any of them ever does a prominent mainstream series ever again.

* Sandra Barrera profiles Terri Libenson.

* hey, it's an all-Rookie oriented D+Q travelogue. You know, I could find a copy of Rookie in Muncie, Indiana the other week. I was crushed.

* finally, I guess Max has a blog up related to Vapor.
 
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October 17, 2012


Go, Look: Livan Hernandez

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posted 5:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
More Richard Thompson-Related Posts Worth Noting

imageSince you've probably already read the jaw-dropping post from cartoonist Richard Thompson where he describes drawing while they operate on his brain, I'll steer you to a couple of others. The first is the full text from the recent Rob Tornoe interview, now posted at Editor & Publisher. The second is a nice-looking Nick Galifiniakis tribute cartoon.

It's probably also worth a reminder that the Cul De Sac strips recently started over from the beginning on the syndicate's web site. Because Richard was older than a lot of just-syndicated cartoonists (having had a successful career as an illustrator and a caricaturist) and because Richard had been drawing the characters for several years in his weekly, he started out gangbusters.
 
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Go, Look: One More Ladies + Comics Post At Grantbridge

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Angouleme Ramp-Up Season = Backstage Crisis Season

The two signs that Angouleme is approaching are 1) the arrival of a flurry of various awards, some with the giant festival and some not; and 2) backstage stories where the existence of the festival if not life on earth is called into question. Here's the first big-crisis story I've seen: the withdrawal of the chain store FNAC as an official, or at least a sponsor along a specific track. There are usually about three or four of these, and then the festival comes off anyway.
 
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Go, Look: Anders Nilsen in Colombia

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Cartoon Criticizing Myanmar Military Draws Slightly Scary Criticism

imageThere a wire story here about a widely-discussed -- at least in that region -- editorial cartoon criticizing the military. It's worth reading if you're interested in international opinion cartooning at all, particularly the struggle that certain institutions have in accepting a certain kind of criticism coming from the press. The notion that there's a mistake here not to be repeated should send a chill up anyone's spine. If you stop and think about it, the structure of the military's umbrage isn't that far off from aggrieved parties in the US that feel a negative counter-argument somehow violates their right to an unobstructed public promotional campaign: the idea that by not agreeing to the same conclusion that the criticized agent has come to, the person or persons making the criticism has/have somehow automatically messed up in the process somewhere.
 
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Go, Look: Kate Brown

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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.

*****

AUG120394 ZAUCER OF ZILK #1 [DIG/D+] $3.99
I like the look of Brendan McCarthy's comics. I have no idea why the solicitation is for #1 and he sent people (including me) the cover to #2, but I'd buy either were it in my comics shop.

imageAUG121252 CHARLES BURNS HIVE GN $21.95
The book of the week, maybe by a wide margin, in a week lacking a lot of books of interest -- at least for me. This is the second volume in a planned trilogy that began with X'ed Out and I think Burns is a must-buy sight-unseen until he really lets us all down for four or five projects in a row. I don't see that happening.

AUG120060 BPRD 1948 #1 JOHNSON CVR $3.50
AUG120511 GLORY #29 [DIG] $3.99
AUG120472 WALKING DEAD #103 (MR) [DIG] $2.99
AUG128051 HAWKEYE #2 2ND PTG AJA VAR $2.99
AUG120592 HAWKEYE #3 $2.99
AUG121237 SIXTH GUN #26 $3.99
Your pile of genre-driven, stand-sized comic books of the week, including the inevitable Mignola-verse title. I finally caught up to the Hawkeye material, which I thought snappy and pretty, like some sort of better-than-you're-used-to BBC series showing up on your TV that works in a fun genre rather than a dreary one. I almost think Hawkeye will get the backlash caused by some folks having a negative reaction to the laudatory reaction received by Daredevil, which makes almost no sense at all.

FEB121063 GRAY MORROWS ORION TP (MR) $39.99
This is an attractive Gray Morrow serial from Heavy Metal made doubly attractive in that I really enjoy Gray Morrow but have almost nothing library-worthy/ready to represent him.

JUL121401 ANDREW LOOMIS CREATIVE ILLUSTRATION HC $39.95
JUN120803 ART OF BETTY AND VERONICA HC (RES) $29.99
JUN121415 TOTALLY MAD 60 YEARS OF HUMOR SATIRE & STUPIDITY HC $34.95
Three books I'd have to look at before I'd buy them, but the appeal is right there in the title on each one for sure. I'm pretty certain that the person that can figure out which Archie-related books to buy and when ascends directly into heaven.

MAY120569 MUDMAN TP VOL 01 $9.99
This is Paul Grist's surprisingly successful (to me, anyway; sorry, Paul) series follow-up to all the Jack Staff material he's been doing in recent years. For some folks I imagine this represents a step back in that Grist's approach is much more straight-forward, but I'm not sure Grist ever found a rhythm with the previous material that didn't feel gimmicky and over-anxious. These are nice-looking comics, of course.

*****

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: Rawhide Bill

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Go, Look: A Dave Gerard Gallery

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

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Go, Look: The Skull Of Silence

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* NYCC claims attendance of 116,000; that sounds about right to me. You can read an interview with Lance Fensterman here.

image* Dean Haspiel talks to Frank Quitely. Jonah Weiland talks to Dan Slott. Tim O'Shea talks to Gregg Hurwitz.

* Graeme McMillan on the digital possibilities for older independent comics. I think there's something of a moment-in-time element here that won't last -- major independent comics can hit right now with a combination of not a lot of similar content, a certain kind of fan eager to maybe re-buy some comics and another kind of fan eager to buy something they've heard about. I think when this stuff becomes more widespread we'll see if there's any significant audience for material like this. Graeme also pulls a depressing factoid out of a recent market report. I don't believe in poisonous practices as much as I worry after the distressing allocation of resources and the short-term thinking it represents. That that market is given new life just over a year ago and it's already being cannibalized... that's such a wasted opportunity.

* Rob Clough on Girl Stories and Pinkerton. Todd Klein on The Flash #11, Green Lantern/New Guardians #11 and Space Race. Kate Dacey on Cross Manage. Greg McElhatton on Sumo. Grant Goggans on Legion Of Super-Heroes #290-296. Jennifer Cheng on Punk Rock Jesus #4. Tim Callahan on the new comics from Chris Ware and the new book from Sean Howe.

* there are so many jokes possible from a business article suggesting one "think like a cartoonist" I actually blacked out for 17 minutes.

* that's a nice quote from Robert Kirkman. Might as well embrace the life you have. Also, I always think Robert's attitude is shaped by the alternative example of a zombie apocalypse.

* finally, some nice-looking art from Tomer Hanuka.
 
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October 16, 2012


Please Consider Working With The Dylan Williams Collection

As announced here, it was recently my great honor to donate a portion of my comics collection to the Dylan Williams Collection at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

imageI knew and liked Dylan Williams. I've thought about him a lot since he passed away. The way I see it, his great contribution to how we think about comics is threefold: 1) His devotion to comics as a medium of personal expression. 2) How he put into personal practice that the power of comics as a medium of personal expression calls us to value the people behind that personal expression. 3) How he roped in the idea that seeing people profit is a significant part of how we might express that act of valuation. I think that string of ideas has a chance of being a dominant way of approaching comics as we move forward, not because of the novelty of any individual idea, but because of the seamless way in which they work together. Dylan Williams was important to comics, and something bearing his name should be important to comics, too.

I also have a selfish motivation in that Dylan was one of the first in my generation of comics-makers and industry people to pass away, and I'd like to see the collection in his name be the best possible collection it can be.

I have every confidence that Caitlin McGurk and the Billy Ireland people are going to do a fine job by Dylan and his memory. My understanding is that they have some minor procurement funds, because they're a serious institution and serious institutions make that kind of money available. It's not a lot of money, though, and the task before them is immense and is going to require judicious application of whatever modest amount of money exists to fill in blanks and shore up missing parts of the collection as it develops. The kinds of comics that Dylan Williams made and that he published do not feature beloved childhood icons for which an industry of nostalgia has sprung up as a barrier between initial publication and oblivion. Finding a lot of these comics is going to be chasing shadows across an expansive cultural landscape. It is a formidable task, which leaves a lot of the work up to people like you and me.

I therefore hope that as many of you as possible with something to offer this collection -- handmade comics; small-press comics of the '80s, '90s and '00s; your own works -- will at least consider making a donation. I urge my friends and fellow peers of Dylan's to doubly-consider doing so.

I don't speak for the library, but I have to imagine making an assessment of what you might have for them and then communicating that to them in a direct, friendly way with a willingness to follow up ("Hey, I have this kind of thing if it's something you want...") would be super-helpful. I hope that you'll do so. I'm also happy to answer any questions about my own experience, or provide any insight I can. If you've thought about donating, or maybe mentioned it, or even made initial contact, I hope you'll take the next step.

I'm grateful to have had this opportunity, and would love to share it with you. Please, please consider a move in this direction. Let's make this part of Dylan's legacy one for the ages.
 
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Go, Look: Simon Roy

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Marc Swayze, 1913-2012

imageMarc Swayze, potentially until the time of his passing the oldest-surviving noteworthy Golden Age Of Comic Books comics artist and best known for being the first artist at Fawcett to work with the Mary Marvel character, died on October 14 in Monroe, Louisiana. He was 99 years old.

Marcus Desha Swayze was born in Monroe, Louisiana and made his way to New York City for a career in art after a brief period playing semi-pro baseball. Swayze sent sketches to the Fawcett offices and was asked to come in for an interview, which may have been a formality based on the strength of his submission. He later said he was working for the publisher at the time of America's entry into World War 2, although is work wasn't published until mid-1942. He began with work on Captain Marvel Adventures and Whiz Comics, but later settled in at Wow. His straight-forward, unadorned style was perfectly suited to the adventures of the Marvel Family; Swayze was also an effective cover artist and wrote several stories.

Swayze was the artist on the initial appearances of Mary Marvel, perhaps the best distaff-version of a character ever in large part because of her appealing design. He worked with Otto Binder on those stories.

The artists served in the US Army during World War 2. After leaving the service, Swayze decided to return to Louisiana and rare for the time continued his work with the New York comics publisher. This included work for Sweethearts and Life Story in the publisher's romance comics line. When Fawcett folded in the early 1950s, Swayze switched for a time to Charlton before leaving comics altogether.

A profile in the Monroe newspaper later in life mentioned that Swayze was one of those comic book artists that was constantly pursuing a syndicated strip deal, creating dozens of characters along the way. He was from 1943 to 1946 the artist on Flyin' Jenny; creator Russell Keaton was Swayze's mentor. He would later take up oil painting.

Swayze contributed the "We Didn't Know It Was The Golden Age" column to Alter Ego from 1996 until his passing.
 
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Go, Look: Entrecomics' Prison Pit Contest Art

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Go, Look: Tom Kaczynski Profiled

I don't usually pull profiles out of the Random News section, but I thought it might be worth doing so in a kind of "Local Publisher Profile" for Tom Kaczynski of Uncivilized Books. I think his initial books are really strong, he seems to be going about his business in a deliberate fashion, and an astonishing wide array of cartoonists told me at the recent Small Press Expo that Kaczynski seemed perfectly suited to offer up a strong line of books for the next several years. So let's all pay attention.
 
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Go, Look: Lenny's Summer Job

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Why Some Not-Comics Deals May Be Worth Noting For Comics

I was personally happy to see that the writer Ed Brubaker had scored a couple of television series pilots as was reported the other day. I like Ed, I have an idea stretching back to the Seattle years how hard he's worked at becoming the writer he is today and having the success he's enjoyed, I think this is something he very much wants to do, and this site has personally benefited from his willingness to speak on the record about issues that other mainstream-oriented professionals avoid altogether. I had a hard time seeing it as comics news, though, although I think that barring a site having a TV area or devoted companion site most comics-related news clearinghouses reported it that way.

It struck me early this morning that there probably is a comics-aspect to stories like this and it's not exactly "comics person or former comics person scores sweet gig." In cases like this, I think the person enjoying some measure of not-comics success -- particularly those that keep a hand in comics, like Brubaker -- ends up, like it or not, as an aspirational model for a lot of creators just starting it. In other words, the still-shadowy world of what people make and how people make a living is shaped by public figures as much as any understanding that comes from talking to one's peers or paying close attention on details of page rates or royalties being reported. I don't think, for instance, comics has even enjoyed the rough language prose publishing uses to describe the size of an advance. So if Ed Brubaker -- or Mark Millar, or Robert Kirkman -- ends up with a deal big enough to make the Hollywood trades, that's going to offer a model of something that can happen to creators just starting out or early in their career development. It's hard to deny that success of recent vintage like that hasn't benefited Image Comics, for instance. So these kinds of not-comics deals can shape the comics market, albeit in slightly more abstract fashion.
 
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Not Comics: Canadian Artist

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Go, Look: Gil Kane And Tom Palmer Covers Array

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Go, Look: MW Kaluta Conan-Related Comics Covers

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* let's start out this week with a re-run: the Koyama Press titles I talked about last time. Here is actual information, given to me by someone I should have just asked before I ran my shrugged-shoulder mention in the previous column. Both books will be $10 CDN, feature black and white insides and a color cover. Eat More Bikes will be 36 pages and be order-able with this ISBN: 9780987863948. Sunday in the Park with Boys is set for 52 pages and will sport 9780987863055 as an ISBN. You can read about them more directly -- for now -- on the publisher's news page.

image* one appeared-in-advance-on-Amazon.com item worth noting this time out is the latest in Kim Thompson's admirable line of personally curated European comics translations -- this one an early work from Hergé: Peppy And Virginny In Lapino-Land.

* this announcement that I missed for last week's column feels important to me. IDW's strength as a publishing company is in its follow-ups to publishing initiatives even more than the different things it tries, and if they're seeing an audience for a lot of specialty items and targeted material, it's worth taking note of that.

* NYCC was stuffed with publishing announcements, which was nice. A few stood out from a content perspective, at least for me. A Scott Snyder/Jim Lee Superman comic will likely sell a lot of copies, so that raised an eyebrow. The huge wave of Image Comics-related announcements piqued my interest because I'm intrigued as to whether or not they can continue their current momentum on several titles with a lot more, or even just more basically what sales will look like with that many writers and artists pursuing what are ostensibly more personal projects there. I'm not convinced there aren't some slightly cynical comics in that mix, by which I mean comics where they exist to facilitate a movie project other than come from some place of personal expression -- I realize how loaded that statement is as an act of valuing some comics over others. Kodansha doing Vinland Saga seems like a straight-up "hey, we're doing this" announcement worth noting.

* as for mainstream stuff that didn't make it into the NYCC round-up, DC made a few personnel announcements in a release sent out before the big NYCC show, including Andy Diggle on Action Comics. Here's another one, about a writing change on one of the lesser-known titles. At least I assume that's a lesser-known title. DC also cancelled some titles right after the show, including a lauded series with their version of the Frankenstein character. That bears watching, because how DC will approach its non-hits, and there are going to be a lot of non-hits, will determine the shape of the superhero market to significant effect.

* not comics: Mike Baron has an e-book for sale here called Helmet Head.

* good news: Sergio Aragones has apparently turned in another issue of his fine, current comic book to the folks at Bongo.

* finally, I never cover what Conundrum is up to to the extent I should, so let's place its Spring covers above and below this content. All of these are books that will debut at the 2013 iteration of TCAF, which is sort of interesting in and of itself -- I don't think of TCAF as a title-launcher to that extent, and there's no reason I shouldn't think of it that way, particularly for a Canadian publisher. The books are Paul Joins The Scouts, by Michel Rabagliati; Obituary Man by Philippe Girard; The Grey Museum by Lorenz Peter; and The Library by Chihoi. I want to see all of them, although the last of those is probably the one I'm most curious about.

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

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Not Comics: Miscellaneous REH-Related Illustration

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has really stepped up the amount and quality of content they've been placing on their blog; here's a nice piece on a local permutation to the 1950's nation-wide fascination with banning comics content.

image* Michael Dooley talks to CS Pego. Sean T. Collins talks to Robert Kirkman.

* so I guess they're making Asterix jokes in random DC comics now. Unless that's just a history joke, in which case it's sort of equally awesome that history jokes are making it into random DC comics now.

* I can't imagine anything more fun than to read a post from Richard Thompson talking about how he drew cartoons in the middle of his brain surgery. He includes both of the cartoons he attempted, including one he tried to make while they shot electricity through his cranium, and a great picture of what he looked like post-surgery. I like that man, and I hope that the surgery accomplishes everything hoped for it. I'm appreciative that he's fighting so hard for his health.

* Sean Kleefeld made a surprise find at his local Books-A-Million.

* Bob Temuka writes about George Lucas and soon moves into a discussion of nerd culture and comics more specifically. I agree with him that the proportion of how we argue with comics is often derived from a warped perspective of how important the not-real is. But I'm not sure that I don't see the not-real as more generally important than Temuka might. Sometimes a story can mean everything in the world. There's also a concern that some people dismiss a nerd-level investment in certain kinds of art but then also extend that to disdain for the art-makers, which I find distressing. That all sounds like I have greater objections to the post than I do.

* never sure what people can see and can't see when it's on Facebook, but these Short Run badges featuring David Lasky's face may have a shot at being the greatest festival badges of all time.

* not comics: Grant Goggans writes about Loose Balls, maybe my favorite sports book.

* here are ten things you didn't know about Marvel Comics.

* Rob Clough on various mini-comics. Don MacPherson on Uncanny Avengers #1. John Kane on a bunch of different comics. Johanna Draper Carlson on Bakuman Vol. 13. Paul O'Brien on various comics. Henry Chamberlain on A Wrinkle In Time. Anthony Rosen on some different comics.

* finally, Drew Friedman is selling an astounding-looking limited edition print of Al Jaffee right now.
 
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October 15, 2012


Marc Swayze, RIP

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Go, Read: An Open Letter From Laura Siegel Larson

If you get a chance and you haven't yet, you should read this open letter from Laura Siegel Larson about her family's continuing effort to press for copyright reversion and the profits thus owed them on the Superman character. This followed on the heel of charges brought against the Siegel and Shuster family's lawyer, Marc Toberoff, that he willfully blocked access to correspondence regarding deals offered related to deals offered the families. That alleged act of blocking gets at the heart of a legal attempt by Superman's longtime corporate ownership to show that the lawyer has been acting in something other than the best interests of the family through the long, drawn-out process, and that he has done things that should be censured more generally. There's something touching about the letter's crack and barely-constrained fury when it comes to defending the attorney, and the general resolve on display is formidable to encounter. Writing runs in that family.

imageI'm not sure how anyone can look at this and not feel sympathy for the families' position, or at least it's difficult for me to wrap my mind around a set of beliefs that facilitates a callous attitude towards what they're going though. I know it exists; it's been articulated throughout. In contrast, I'm not sure how widespread the knowledge is that a construction of "It's Toberoff's fault" has wound its way through a lot of professional camps in comics -- or at least that's how it seems to me. My sample is super-limited, but it seems like I've encountered that line of thinking a lot. With that in mind, I'm actually glad that DC and Warner Bros has decided to pursue such charges directly and in court. If it's true and there has been misconduct it's important to know that, and legal filings may lead us to a better understanding of these things. Also, having these things out in the open beats the kind of churning nastiness that is a mostly off the record, talk-about-someone campaign, even if it's one of limited potency.

The whole matter also underlines, I think, how far we have to go in terms of our sub-culture's approach and general take on some of these basic issues. One of the reasons why blaming the lawyer involved is effective rhetoric in the courtroom of backstage industry opinion is that it changes the ballgame from seeing the families as getting nothing, and maybe even suffering, and the families turning down a substantial amount of money (although Larson expresses doubts about this) for either more money or money and a different array of concerns being satisfied by a switch in ownership. While it's abominable that some companies have been so predatory and ungenerous that people have actually suffered in the ways they've suffered, I wish there were greater room for sympathy based on something other than our own summary, economic appraisals of what someone else should do with a matter they are in a unique position to care about. I'm not sure we should feel at all comfortable making that call. As a sub-culture we're really quick to advise someone else on how best to negotiate decades of perceived, life-altering malfeasance as if any sort of anger or righteousness were somehow unseemly. It's not a standard we're rigorous in applying to ourselves; it's not a standard we should have at all.

I'm also as always reminded that these legal outcomes do not necessarily match what's right. Granted, the two overlays of concern may coincide at times, depending, I guess, on your point of view. But it's a different set of concerns being adjudicated. That disconnect is one more reason to see this whole thing as tragic, and avoidable, and unnecessary. By opening up the idea that a lawyer has stepped into the natural progression of things, DC and its ownership also calls into question their own role in this not seeing its way to a fair, equitable, and very much achievable outcome. That's not something that can be adjudicated, but I hope it's something we all keep in mind. Comics need not be trapped into a diminished expectations game where terrible behavior is excused or even encouraged as some sort of divine right and then mitigated against, but only to an extent and for a duration we feel comfortable assigning to one another. I still maintain that positive choices can be made throughout. I still believe that best outcomes can be attempted from the start. A successful creative journey doesn't need to end with a wounded family, hundreds of people made to negotiate the dishonorable heart of so many honorable creative and business actions, and everyone scrambling to find a way to interpret reality that doesn't make them look as awful as they might otherwise feel. We should aspire to something better.
 
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Go, Look: Incinerator

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Missed It: Raymond Leblanc Foundation 2011 Contest Winners Kick Off Crowded Euro-Awards Season

imageWhereas the various North American comics awards are spread throughout the calendar year, usually tied into a specific festival or convention, it seems like -- seems like -- that most of the awards in French-language comics come at the end of the year in a late Fall build-up to the next January's Angouleme. While there are awards at festivals and conventions, they seem tied to that show in a different way than the English-language programs. What this means is around mid-Fall one starts to hear about various awards being named, and eventually one will pique your interest because of a familiar name from previous years. For me, the one this year that made me think it was awards time was this announcement of the awards given out by la Fondation Raymond Leblanc. That's a themed contest (this year's was "Du réel au virtuel: Internet, mon amour") for short story makers with a shared 10,000-euro prize for the top three finishers, the top six published in an album -- a nice, straightforward award, it seems to me. Kim Gerard Roselier won first prize with "Pas très Net." Other winners were Fabrice Noel, Charlotte Meert, Matthieu Chouteau, Boris Pramatarov and Emeline Chan Kam-shu.
 
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Go, Look: Cartoon- And Comics-Related LPs At Billy Ireland

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Your 2012 Shel Dorf Awards Nominees

imageUnless I'm being led down the wrong path by errant e-mailers, the Shel Dorf Awards have named their nominees slate and have their voting site up. Winners will be named at the Detroit Fanfare show on October 27th. The nominees are:

*****

Writer of the Year

* Ed Brubaker
* Geoff Johns
* Mark Waid
* Robert Kirkman
* Scott Snyder

*****

Penciler of the Year

* Greg Capullo
* Ivan Reis
* J.H. Williams III
* Paolo Rivera
* Ryan Ottley
* Ryan Stegman

*****

Inker of the Year

* Bill Nichols
* Jonathan Glapion
* Scott Williams

*****

Colorist of the Year

* Brian Miller / Hi Fi Color
* Dave Stewart
* Jeff Balke
* Laura Allred
* Nei Ruffino

*****

Editor of the Year

* Axel Alonzo
* Chad Lambert
* Raven Gregory
* Shannon Eric Denton
* Sina Grace

*****

Cover Artist of the Year

* Alex Ross
* Bernie Wrightson
* David Aja
* Eric Basaldua
* Nei Ruffino

*****

Letterer of the Year

* Chris Eliopoulos
* Jaymes Reed
* Stan Sakai
* Tom Orzechowski

*****

Mini Series of the Year

* Avengers Vs. X-Men
* Deadworld War Of The Dead
* Star Trek TNG / Doctor Who: Assimilation
* Legend of Oz: The Wicked West

*****

Original Graphic Novel of the Year

* Batman Earth One
* Chillers
* Harvey Pekar's Cleveland
* Jim Henson's Tale of Sand
* Underwater Welder

*****

Web Comic of the Year

* Axe Cop by Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle
* Battlepug by Mike Norton
* Disappointing Monsters by Daniel Bradford & Owen Mackinder
* Gronk by Katie Cook
* Retail Sunshine by Phil Machi

*****

Syndicated Print Strip of the Year

* Beardo by Dan Dougherty
* Garfield
* Foxtrot
* Funky Winkerbean

*****

Comic To Multi-Media Adaption of the Year

* The Avengers
* The Dark Knight Rises
* The Walking Dead, Season Two
* The Amazing Spider-Man

*****

Comic Blogger of the Year

* Rich Johnston Bleeding Cool News
* Heidi MacDonald The Beat
* Henry Barajas
* L. Vincent Poupard Yahoo
* Decapitated Dan
* Michael Hamersky Michael Hamersky On Comics

*****

Continuing Series of the Year

* Amazing Spider-Man
* Batman
* Daredevil
* Saga
* The Walking Dead

*****

Self Published Comic of the Year

* Arsenic Lullaby by Douglas Paszkiewicz
* Bob Howard, Plumber of the Unknown by Rafael Nieves and Dan Doughterty
* Rachel Rising by Terry Moore
* Rainbow In The Dark by Comfort Love & Adam Withers
* Red Angel by Erin Pyne & Russ Leach

*****

Kids' Comic of the Year

* Adventure Time
* Amelia Rules
* Owly
* Superman Family Adventures
* Tiny Titans

*****

A specific congratulations goes out to my blogging peers for their nominations in that category, but general good wishes all around for those receiving nods.

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: A Deeply Unpleasant Bob Powell Comic

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Go, Look: MW Kaluta Does Robert E Howard

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Comics By Request -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* the CBLDF is in the middle of a membership drive, targeted towards funding their various non-crisis response programs. Becoming more of a full-fledged advocacy organization in addition to being a last line of defense for embattled comics institutions and individuals has been the biggest change with the Fund over the last several years.

* there are a lot of organizations and institutions in comics to which you can give, if you stop and think about it for a second; they could all use your help. It would be nice for those organizations if more of us got into the habit of casual giving.

* just a few hours left to get on the Dream Life rewards list.

* in contrast, it seems like you have all the time in the world (well, three weeks, anyway) to contribute to a project designed to reprint Ariel Bordeaux's Deep Girl comics.

* Hogswallop has less time than Deep Girl and a lot more distances to travel.
 
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Not Comics: The Frazetta Conan Paintings

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Let's Try A NYCC 2012 Publishing News Link Clearinghouse

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I've never found a way to do one of these things effectively, but it occurs to me it might be nice if I could manage to keep a running tally on publishing news stories coming out of the four or five major conventions every year. One thing that's difficult is that I'm usually attending the shows, which makes it difficult to see the reporting of my peers concerning areas of comics in which I have less of a direct interest. Another hassle is that with a mainstream-focused show the bigger publishers prioritize creator moves and the like that doesn't really cross the threshold I have into being actual news. I understand why they do that -- there's a grinding element to publicity-through-news-reportage right now where every mention is a positive, and there are small-p political considerations in terms of how creators can be flattered by the kind of coverage. But it does muddy the water a bit.

An entire paragraph of grousing and excuse-making behind us now, here are some of the stories-in-brief emanating from the ongoing New York Comic Con. That show continues through Sunday in beautiful New York City. I will attempt to re-run this article on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, adding to it as I go.

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image* the writer Joe Casey will be doing an anthology series featuring characters from the Dark Horse superhero comics line of a generation ago. Well, all the characters not big enough to find gainful employment in their own series, that is. Casey's superhero work the last few years has been extremely idiosyncratic, so that should be one to watch. Dark Horse also announced a partnership with a musician that has a large fan following, something that's worked for them in the past.

* DC will pair its hottest emerging writer, Scott Snyder, with its reliable A-list artist Jim Lee on a Superman title that will likely take advantage of the stand-alone nature of that creative pairing to promise something that movie fans can read without having to wade through continuity, even though continuity-heavy comics are supposedly on the outs post-New 52. At any rate, that should sell extremely well. If I'm reading this correctly, there will be a new Vertigo anthology called Ghosts, a Scott Snyder/Sean Murphy series called The Wake and a stand-alone graphic novel form Jeff Lemire called Trillium: The Last Love Story Ever Told. American Vampire will go on hiatus, which seems to make Fables and its related series even more of the think-of-imprint-think-of-this-series title, at least until the new Sandman effort drops.

image* Cullen Bunn -- he of the latest high-profile TV development deal for a comics property on which he's co-creator news -- is working with Joelle Jones on Helheim for Oni. There will be a Sixth Gun spinoff as well. The fact that the Walking Dead material has done well for most comics shops bodes well for similar treatment of Sixth Gun if that material's planned television adaptation comes off. Like Walking Dead that's concept-driven and there's a lot of consistently executed material there. Oni also announced a graphic novel from underrated industry Joe Joe Harris with Adam Pollina called Wars In Toyland and a major digital initiative.

* Marvel is doing more stand-alone graphic novels featuring re-told origin stories for their big characters. This is one of those things that strikes me as necessary given how people want their entertainment in a "tell me what to consume so that what I'm reading makes sense and I will consume it" way, although I don't know how good the actual efforts are beyond the fact I have no desire to read them. They talked up their Infinite Comics efforts (that's their digital grouping), and announced a pre-order feature with comiXology. It was only on Twitter that I noticed Marvel is pulling a classic "what have they done to my favorite character/I must punish them by reading this comic and complaining about it" move with a new Spider-Man series; it's sort of endearing to see that still works, at least in the generating of random Internet buzz. At a Joe Quesada-driven panel, the company announced new series for the Marv Wolfman/John Buscema Nova concept, the re-imagined Guardians Of The Galaxy concept whose provenance is therefore a bit more difficult to shoot out there and the Gerry Conway and Ross Andru (by way of John Romita Sr.) Punisher.

* movie development company turned movie development company through comics publishing offshoot company Legendary announced projects with Guillermo Del Toro (related to Pacific Rim) and Grant Morrison (Annihilator).

* Fred Van Lente is writing a zombie-related series for Dynamite. That company has the license for a television show called Grimm, and they're doing a revival of a character called The Black Bat. According to their PR, that's a pulp character by a writer named Norman Daniels.

image* Image Comics announced an army of new books, as has been their tendency lately, including a lot of genre material from established writers and artists. They also discussed some that had been previously announced. Name-checked in that linked-to article are are: Three (Kieron Gillen, Ryan Kelly); Sex Criminals (Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky); Zero (Ales Kot, a bunch of artists including Nick Dragotta and Michael Gaydos), The Surface (Ales Kot, Langdon Foss); The Life of Times of Bram and Ben (James Asmus, Jim Festante); East of West (Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta); Feel Better Now (another from Hickman); Lost Vegas (Jim McCann, Janet K. Lee); Midnight of the Soul (Howard Chaykin) and One Trick Rip-Off (Paul Pope; that would be a new version). That could be potentially fascinating because it's not clear if Image is going to be able to maintain recent sales successes as more and more cartooning talent wants to work there, and if the Image with this many books doesn't have the success garnered by Image's recent heavy-hitters, it's not clear what that company will look like with this many books up and down the line from this kind of talent just more generally. The company to watch, really, in that realm.

* Galaga comics. Okay. In fact, there were a couple of random video-game announcements, like this one for a Splinter Cell comic. This one is notable for the involvement of Faith Erin Hicks.

* IDW may have made a bigger splash with its pre-show Cerebus announcements, but don't disrespect Bill Shakespeare. Come to think of it, don't be mean to the Thunder Agents and GI Joe, either. Why do you have to be mean? Why do you have to go there?

* busy writer Andy Diggle will script the third major arc of the looks-like-a-TV-show, run-like-a-TV-show series Thief Of Thieves. I guess that's probably worth noting as a trend that I imagine can be traced to how the Buffy Dark Horse "official" series were arranged, although that's the kind of thing that has a hundred precedents. This should probably go back in the Image section, but I like pulling it out to remind me how much Diggle seems to be all over this show.

* no doubt enough comics are being conceived of in late-night drinking sessions to fuel 30 complete, Grant Morrison-style fantasy comics lines, full of madness and despair. Such is NYCC.

* oh, hey, I received what seems like a useful e-mail from Kodansha. They've apparently announced a Sailor Moon-related art book, an accelerated release schedule starting with March 2013's Vol. 24 on Hiro Mashima's Fairy Tail and a bunch of different titles, some new-sounding and some awfully familiar: Sankarea: Undying Love (Mitsuru Hattori, June 2013); No. 6 (Atsuko Asano and Hinoki Kino, June 2013); Vinland Saga (Makoto Yukimura; October 2013); Tokyo Mew Mew A la Mode (Mia Ikumi; November 2013); Air Gear Omnibus (Ito Ogure, May 2013).

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Go, Look: Wonderful-Looking 1957 Joe Maneely Art

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Harvey Pekar Statue Unveiled In Cleveland

Here's the local newspaper report. I'm happy for the family members that wanted this done, and any way to remember that particularly Cleveland institution and crucial comics creator is great by me.
 
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If I Were In Brookline, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Cimmeria

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here's more from Sean Howe's Marvel book.

image* Mark Athitakis on Building Stories. Brian Truitt on Sailor Twain. Rob Clough On Are You My Mother? Greg McElhatton on Uncle Scrooge: Only A Poor Old Man. Christopher Allen on Daredevil: End Of Days #1. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comic-book comics.

* hey, here's a contest I'm not going to vet so be careful.

* here's a list of good pieces of comics criticism, all linked up by Ng Suat Tong. I agree with Suat that I found that site's recent focus on "hate" a little peculiar -- it seems that negative reviews, even extreme ones, should be part of every critic's regular production and shouldn't be noteworthy at all. But I get the context we work in now, and I bet it worked in terms of driving attention to those pieces.

* Danielle Hatch profiles Jp Pollard.

* Sean Kleefeld notes an original Eisner is for sale. I don't all the way know how many Eisners are out there in circulation. My memory is that some are, but they're generally moved from the estate into the hands of private collectors as opposed to kind of working their way through the standard marketplaces for such things.

* not comics: Lucy Knisley ponders grown-up jobs.

* here's a funny post about a few of Gus Mager's less credible claims.

* finally, here's high praise for Tim Kreider's illustrated book of essays, We Learn Nothing. I think that's a good book, and you should buy it.
 
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October 14, 2012


CR Sunday Interview: David Lasky and Frank M. Young

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*****

I've known David Lasky since right after I moved to Seattle in September 1994. He is one of my favorite comics people. He's also one of the most talented cartoonists of the very specific "post-alternative" generation that started putting out first works between 1992 and 1998. Lasky has under-published since his one-man anthology Boom Boom, or at least to my mind hasn't put out work at a rate that matches his considerable skill as a comics-maker. I was therefore thrilled to hear he was working on a biography of the Carter Family, which recently saw formal release as The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song.

Carter Family co-creator Frank M. Young, in contrast, I barely know at all beyond enjoying his writing about comics. Young's lively but short run as Managing Editor of The Comics Journal was my model when I came on board a few years later. One thing I didn't know about Young is that he's an artist as well as a writer, and handled both occasional breakdowns and all of the coloring in this new book.

I was happy to speak to David and Frank about the new work. Because I thought the book would be well-covered in the comics press and mainstream media and would be likely to generate a few broader interviews of the pair, or at least Lasky, I suggested we use the five-page selection format that was used on this site with Brandon Graham. They agreed. I appreciate their time and patience. -- Tom Spurgeon

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First Selection: Page 23

TOM SPURGEON: I'm very fond of the initial sequences of the book, how you portray the AP/Sara romance and eventual wedding. How did you decide what the initial part of the book would encompass, how much of that story to tell?

FRANK YOUNG: With this book, we faced the challenge of squeezing a big story -- one that could have gone on for 600 pages -- into a container that would only take 190. The story, from real life, already has a great classical three-act structure. The trick was to include all of the significant moments in the overall story arc, and those of AP and Sara Carter, the main focus figures of the book

DAVID LASKY: It was a lot of trial and error, figuring out what would fit, and also verifying what was accurate and what wasn't. The Carters' history is largely an oral history, and facts were hard to nail down. We had a sequence in which AP travels to Detroit to work as a carpenter, but then later learned that it was not considered accurate by the family.

YOUNG: We had to be selective about what was shown, and when. Some nice little details and anecdotes had to be left out. In the first act of the book, it was important to get a strong sense of the world in which these people lived. It moved at a different pace from the one we know and live in. The atmosphere has to sink in for the reader; he/she needs some time to relax into it.

I was impressed at how Ang Lee did this in his Civil War movie, Ride With The Devil. He drops the viewer into a bygone culture, and lets them get acclimated to its differences in speech, dress and behavior. We didn't have the luxury of space and time of a movie-maker. We did have comics' unique way to conflate time and space. We chose moments that set a mood and embraced our cast of characters -- people who have absolutely no idea what is about to happen to them.

SPURGEON: Why this bigger splash page here, with a bunch of characters, after so many more Sunday-Strip like sequences?

YOUNG: The wedding of AP and Sara is a big moment, in both their lives and in the lives of their community. We wanted to show how close-knit and supportive this rural community was, and that no event, big or small, went unheeded.

LASKY: Many of the people in the scene are actual family members and neighbors of the Carters. Some will reappear in the book, and some won't, but we wanted to give a sense of the community that is always around them.

YOUNG: This sequence is faithful to the conventions of classic newspaper comics. Many strips had special large panels to denote unusual or important events -- from Barney Google to Prince Valiant. In a sense, this scene is more like a panel cartoon, with the chain of comments from the attendees of the wedding party. It was a great way to show the reader how AP and Sara are regarded by their neighbors. It's a spectrum of reactions, from scornful to admiring.

SPURGEON: So I guess it's not off base to suggest that the basic style employed is reminiscent of old newspaper strips. Did you formally work on the style of the book, how it was to be portrayed?

LASKY: It's not off base at all.

YOUNG: That was imbedded in the project from day one.

LASKY: We were going for the look of old newspaper comics from the 1920s and '30s. Frank and I are both huge fans of old comic strips, and for this book we were thinking especially of Frank King's Gasoline Alley, Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, and Roy Crane's Wash Tubbs. The idea was to evoke the times when the Carters lived by telling their story in the style of the comics of the era.

YOUNG: The Kramers Ergot piece, from 2002, was done in a conscious affect of the Harold Gray Little Orphan Annie style. David's own personality as an artist is much more visible in the finished book, and the affect is more of a general embrace of the overall classic newspaper cartooning style.

LASKY: Originally, our plan had been to imitate a different comic strip every few chapters, and follow the history of American newspaper comics. You can still see that on the opening page which is kind of reminiscent of a Hogan's Alley page. Our editor wondered why we wanted to change styles throughout the book, and it occurred to me that I had enough on my plate without having to worry about adapting a new style every few chapters. So I settled on a single style that was my own way of drawing kind of pushed in the direction of Frank King and Harold Gray.

YOUNG: Comic strips and country music are uniquely American products, and it just seemed to work well to tell the story this way. The more deliberate pacing and framing of the early comic strips suited the atmosphere and characters.

It was a tough discipline to meet. In our thumbnail roughs, I kept drawing close-ups of the characters, when most comics of the early 1920s favored long shots and full figures. I think that the artists of the time understood they had these giant sheets of newsprint to themselves, and they wanted to take advantage of the largesse in that way.

You don't see close-ups in newspaper comics 'til the later 1920s. I think Roy Crane may have been the first comic strip artist to use the close-up as a dramatic device. George Storm did it, too. By the 1930s, long shots are less common. After WWII, when strips began their slow slide to oblivion, smaller print sizes made the close-up more of a storytelling necessity.

SPURGEON: How did you two meet? How is that you started working together? Can you talk about the decision to do this project, and how the whole thing came about?

YOUNG: I moved to Seattle in 1991, to work for Fantagraphics. I believe David came to Seattle in '92. The comics scene here is very close-knit, so it was inevitable that we would meet.

LASKY: I was introduced to Frank by our mutual friend, Kathleen Bennett, back when he was editing The Comics Journal. We had a lot of mutual friends in the Seattle comics scene, and would meet up at parties and such.

YOUNG: I liked David's work from the moment I first saw it. He had seen some of my cartooning and responded to it. We kept in touch, hung out occasionally, talked about comics, and when he asked me to join him on this project, I immediately said yes. I was quite honored, in fact. It was a long succession of brief meetings, prior to the inception of the project, but I instinctually felt that it would be rewarding to work with David.

LASKY: One mutual friend, Ilse Thompson-Driggs, was pregnant in 2002, and was playing CDs of all different kinds of music for her baby in utero. She played an album of hillbilly music, and mentioned to me that I should consider making a comic about hillbilly musicians, that there were probably some good stories there. I immediately thought of the Carter Family. I loved their music, but knew very little about them. Ilse and I both thought that asking Frank would be a good way to learn more, because he knew a lot about old American music. I got in touch with him, and it turned out he knew a lot about the Carters, and had even written an essay about AP Carter for a literary magazine. He told me a lot of great anecdotes, and I immediately asked him if he wanted to collaborate on a comic.

We made a 10-page comic for Kramers Ergot #4. Frank and I wanted to story to be in color, to evoke old comic strips, and by serendipity, Sammy Harkham had offered me a place in his new anthology, and said color was not a problem. Most publishers shied away from color, because of the expense, so this was very exciting for us.

While we were working on that comic, a full-scale biography of the Carter Family was released -- Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? by Mark Zwonitzer and Charles Hirshberg. That book collected well-known stories and also revealed some new information about the trouble in AP and Sara's marriage. Frank and I realized that there was a lot more story to tell.

*****

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Second Selection: Pages 46-47

SPURGEON: Dave, this is a couple of pages that you chose, and I wondered what intrigued you about them that you wanted to discuss them. They're not exactly showy pages, and in fact, they're kind of dense with little sequences.

LASKY: I wanted to look at some incidental moments and talk about how they add up to tell the larger story. The facial features and body language tell the story as much as anything else. I like the fact that there are panels in this spread where we stop using words and let the picture tell the story. Page 46 begins with AP asking Sara to come record at Bristol, and her reaction shows that she is not crazy about the idea, but she still loves him and will do this thing because it means a lot to him.

SPURGEON: There's a lot of humor here -- maybe most noticeably a joke that is held as funny by the character and then kind of an extended sequence where we see Maybelle needing to pee a great deal. How important was it for the two of you to work in humorous sequences? Did you have any problem understanding the sense of humor on display from the various characters?

YOUNG: The story of the Carter Family's life and career is, essentially, tragic for AP and Sara. Maybelle seems so stable and well-balanced, in contrast. She had a good relationship with her husband, Eck (AP's brother), good money coming in regularly, and creature comforts.

AP and Sara's marriage, in contrast, seems a constant struggle. A lot of depressing things happen to them, especially in the middle section of the book. The impending failure of their marriage hangs heavily in the air.

However, life offers us a constant buffet of comedy and tragedy. I particularly love the mixture of these elements. A movie like Terence Malick's Badlands has a beautiful blend of these two flavors of life. It's a great storytelling tool, because any reader can relate to the chaos of existence.

There was no room for broad comedy in the book. Many times, I suggested something broader, and David would laugh, but say that it was "too over the top."

Still, there were a wealth of quirky incidents and character traits to choose from. There's an incident on p. 105, in which Sara entrusts her two youngest children to the care of local eccentric Brown Thomas. She returns from an errand to find Thomas asleep on the job, while her kids race around the yard, coated in mud, playing at Indians. Joe Carter, the original streaker, is buck naked. Seven pages later, there's a call-back to that moment that I find quite funny. Even amidst the bleakest of circumstances, there is still humor in our lives. I wanted our book to reflect this.

LASKY: We knew there would be plenty of sad and depressing moments in the book, and we wanted to inject humor wherever we could. We were told by a granddaughter of Sara and AP, after she'd read our rough draft, that we were making the book too serious, that the Carters were people who, aside from singing sad songs, could laugh and have fun at times. So I felt an obligation to show different sides of their characters.

Maybelle was pregnant when she went to Bristol, so what comes across as humorous in the scene, stopping to pee (or get sick), was probably not so amusing at the time. Filtering the story through the lens of Frank King made some of these moments more "gentle" than they would have been if Frank and I had drawn them in our own style. King almost always drew his characters at a distance, as if they were being seen on stage -- all the old comic strips did this -- and that does something to the tone of the story.

SPURGEON: Dave, can you talk about the storytelling flourish you use on page 46, second tier, with the continuation of a background over two panels? Why that effect there?

LASKY: It was a way of showing that Maybelle enters the room in the middle of the conversation, and misses out on the context of it. It also shows, maybe a little subtly, that Maybelle and Ezra live in a larger, more well-furnished house than Sara and AP. Their living room occupies two panels instead of one.

SPURGEON: There's a lot of travel in the book, a lot made of the distances that separated people in this time period -- something that we might not think about now. Is it fair to say that it was a bigger country then? As some of the first broadcast celebrities, was how that celebrity status kind of move across these distances of interest to you?

LASKY: The drive to Bristol takes around 20 minutes today, on the paved roads in the area. Back then, they were on muddy dirt roads with deep wagon ruts, they were fording the Holston River. It was an all-day trip for them, and much of America was just as unpaved at the time. One of the things that really appeals to me about the Carters' music and their story is that they are coming out of the 19th Century (or in some ways the 18th) and transitioning into the 20th Century. The journey to Bristol, and the fact that its details were remembered by them and their daughter, expresses a lot about the world they were coming from when they started making records.

Sara Carter really didn't like to go on tour, and AP was not always such a great driver. Being broadcast celebrities on border radio completely circumvented the need to play from city to city. They were suddenly being heard across the country, from Texas to Canada. It plays a part in their real-life story, when Sara sends a message, on their show, to her estranged lover in California. And it also expresses the jump into a new age, where songs once played for family members in the parlor are now being heard live by millions of people.

SPURGEON: How much technical research did the two of you have to do to get buildings and cars right? How exacting was your research in that area of things? Was there anything particularly difficult in terms of the research you did for the visual aspect of the book?

LASKY: We had a shelf of reference books we would refer to, plus many web searches, and visits to the Seattle Public Library. I don't come from their time or place (though I am from the other end of Virginia, the D.C. suburbs), so I was self-conscious about making log cabins look accurate, getting the cars and the landscape looking somewhat correct, etc. I still made mistakes, but at a certain point, you know, just had to let go.

Back in 2002, I traveled with my father to the Carter Family Fold, a concert venue built on land once owned by AP Carter, where his kin still reside. It was important for me to really be there and see the mountains and the fields of the area. I got to listen to the way people talked and made jokes. I wasn't what you'd call "immersed" or anything. It was only a two-day visit to Bristol and Hiltons. But I think it did make a difference when I sat down to draw the book.

I had the hardest time drawing horses. I almost never draw horses in my comics usually. I asked Roberta Gregory for help, and she very kindly gave me a tutorial in horse drawing. And when the book was under way, gave me feedback on the panels with horses in them. Old cars were much easier. There are tons of photos of vintage autos on the Internet.

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Third Selection: Pages 90-91

SPURGEON: This is a quietly I think powerful sequence where we see AP out researching songs, hearing songs from different people. Can either of you talk about this practice. Was he actually wholesale taking songs from people that were out there? Was he using the songs to inspire his own work? What exactly was going on here?

YOUNG: AP felt it was important to save the old songs he heard around him from extinction. He had no idea where these songs came from. He just assumed they were old, as he often heard older people sing them.

There was no practical way to save them, except to write them down and remember them. Many of these songs were derived from Anglo-Saxon ballads going back hundreds of years. But many of them were Tin Pan Alley popular songs of the 19th century. AP had no way of knowing who first wrote them. He just documented them, and later arranged them so that they'd fit on one side of a 78 RPM record.

Unquestionably, AP added something important to any song he adapted. I don't think it was ever his intent to claim he'd written any of them. Only through the insistence of his manager, producer and music publisher, Ralph Peer, was AP's name attached to these songs as composer. A more fair credit for his work might have been "Public Domain -- arranged by AP Carter." But Peer knew there was money to be made from copyrighting these works.

AP did compose some original songs, which we show him doing in the book. He was wholly sincere in his musical efforts.

LASKY: This was still the early days of the music industry. So to the average person, songs were "in the air" and not really owned by anyone. AP found songs, found lyrics, and then he worked with them. Sometimes making changes, sometimes not. It's not so different from Led Zeppelin doing their own thing with "When the Levee Breaks," which was originally a blues song by Memphis Minnie. I think it comes natural to musicians to "find" songs and adapt them. What becomes controversial, for the Carters -- and for Led Zeppelin -- is that songs are copyrighted, and music copyrights would evolve into a big business by the middle of the 20th century. In AP's defense, he and Sara and Maybelle made timeless classics out of songs that would most likely have been forgotten otherwise.

SPURGEON: This is pretty tight grid. Who was primarily responsible between the two of you in deciding pacing on the page? How much back and forth did you have in terms of how a page might be structured -- how detailed were your script in this area, Frank, and did you have to go back and script differently than how you intended in this scene or others like it.

YOUNG: The grid was largely dictated by our limited space, and by wanting to cram as much into these pages as we could.

LASKY: We divided up the labor on drawing thumbnails for the book. Frank thumbnailed this chapter, deciding what would happen in each panel. I then drew a detailed rough, at the size the page would be printed. There was a lot of back and forth in developing the rough. One major change was that a whole page was removed, in which AP asks a banjo player for directions to the house of a blues musician. Because we had a limited page count, and needed to boil things down to just the essential story, this was a page that was deemed expendable. So the chapter begins with AP and the banjo player approaching the house.

In making the rough, I kept most of the actions the same, but changed a few of the shots to keep the staging consistent. Where Frank has a close-up, I pulled the "camera" back to a two-shot, to preserve the feel of 1930's comics, where close-ups are actually quite rare.

YOUNG: Our working method was to first write up a general description of what would happen -- like a treatment for a movie project. Then, David and I would divvy up chapters and draw rough thumbnails. These confirmed that our narrative would work in comics form, and help us determine if a sequence was too long -- or not long enough.

At that point, David did a series of pencil versions, getting closer to the final tight pencils for the finished art. From these more detailed sketches, I would write basic dialogue. I knew it wasn't the final iteration, but it needed to convey what the characters saw, felt, said and heard.

Once the line art was inked, it was scanned and assembled into page form. David usually worked one tier at a time. After I colored the page, I wrote the final dialogue, which I kept revising until I couldn't anymore. David would sometimes have to re-draw speech balloons to admit more words. For the most part, I challenged myself to make the dialogue fit the balloons.

I loathe expositional dialogue, and I strove to keep it out of the book.

Moments from the book were cut, shuffled, re-inserted -- late into the book's creation, pages were revamped.

SPURGEON: There's a lovely visual flourish here where you communicate a song's meaning through a picture rather than the lyrics? Whose idea was that? What do you think you achieve there?

YOUNG: Credit for the creation of these memes must go to David. It was his inspired solution to the sad fact that we couldn't quote from the song lyrics, due to legal complications. I think these visual representations of music work really well -- better than it would have been to quote the words. They are symbols of the beauty and expressiveness of this rich music.

LASKY: When we were starting out with this book, we were told by an expert in the music biz that the Carter Family's songs are no longer copyrighted. This expert, it turned out, was wrong, and I think the problem was that he had worked on the Carter Family's music in Germany, where, thanks to German copyright law, the Carter Family's catalogue is in the public domain. So Frank and I had written all kind of lyrics into the book, and we found out that we were not able to legally use them. We fell back on using song titles where we could, but in certain spots, the song title wouldn't suffice. My idea in this chapter was to illustrate scenes from the songs inside the word balloons. I liked that it communicates something about the song, and the reader doesn't have to know the melody or lyrics to get a feel for what is being sung. I was inspired by Megan Kelso, who wrote, I think in Queen of the Black Black, a little about how she challenged herself to find ways of depicting music in her comics. She went well beyond just drawing a few musical notes in the air and really got inventive.

SPURGEON: Can either of you talk about the middle panel on page 91 -- I'm fascinated by the fact that you go to a monochromatic look with the figures. What does that do to the page, to the sequence, do you think?

YOUNG: It's the center panel of a nine-panel page, and it shows the moment in which AP Carter and Lesley Riddle connect as kindred spirits, friends and collaborators. Those colors suggest, I hope, that in that moment, nothing else matters but the music, and the powerful effect it has on both these gifted men. I saw it as the focal panel of the page, and wanted that to be keenly felt. The intent was to draw the reader's eye to that crucial panel, and it had to stand out from the crowd.

SPURGEON: This might be more Frank than Dave, but I'd love to hear from either of you. Can you talk about Lesley Riddle a bit more, who he was and how important he was to the Carter Family story. How did you determine how he was going to be treated in this work? How much time did you want to spend with his story?

LASKY: Lesley was an aspect of the Carters' story that makes it kind of universal to all American music. He was a bluesman who had his material appropriated and made commercially palatable for a white audience by white performers. Recording African American songs for a white audience is what Elvis did, it's what the Beatles and the Rolling Stones did early on, and it still goes on today. Frank told me about Lesley Riddle early in our conversations about the Carters, and I was immediately fascinated. It's no accident that Lesley is a major character in our Kramers Ergot "pilot episode."

I was relieved to learn that although the Carters appropriated songs he had taught them, sometimes songs he had written himself, they were kind to him and provided him with a prosthetic leg and a kind of surrogate family life for a while. While I wouldn't call the Carters "activists," they were definitely not racists either. They were progressive, considering the times they lived in. We invented a sequence in which AP tries to give Lesley a songwriting credit and when Ralph Peer refuses, they buy him the artificial limb. We know that they bought him a leg, and that he felt they were "just like family," but the rest we invented. We wanted to resolve the fact that they had used his songs but at the same time had paid him "in kind." So that's why we invented the confrontation between AP and Ralph Peer. In reality, we just don't know what happened, and there's no one around to ask.

YOUNG: Lesley is a major player in the Carter Family story. AP's relationship with Lesley was fascinating for me. It showed that there were pockets of cultural tolerance and acceptance in the South of the 1920s and '30s.

AP did exploit Lesley's talents to an extent -- the Carters recorded many of his songs, but Riddle couldn't be credited, according to Ralph Peer's business practices. We try to show that AP and Lesley were both aware this was a flawed situation. But some of the Carters' finest recordings came from material Lesley brought to them. His influence really adds soul to their singing and song choices. Some of their late-Depression recordings are remarkably blues-gospel flavored. That's Lesley's touch showing through their Caucasian/Protestant structure.

I got the sense that AP and Lesley truly liked and respected each other. It was rare for the times, and the general area, but it contrasts with our vision that the South was an entirely segregated, racist place.

*****

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Fourth Selection: Page 129

SPURGEON: Why this several-page sequence of four-panel, black and white cartoons? Why this very specific, formal break?

LASKY: This is, dramatically, the end of Act Two -- the point where things are looking the bleakest for our characters. It's also a very bleak point in The Great Depression. So it made sense to drain the color from the pages. As you might guess, we're attempting to give the reader a sense that they have been reading Sunday comics page reprints and are now being shown a selection of daily strip reprints. Originally there were to be five strips per page, but that felt too claustrophobic. So we went with the four-panel grids instead.

YOUNG: It was as much a necessity as an experiment. The period of time this sequence covers -- 1934 to 1937 -- wasn't the most eventful of their career. Many little things happened. The sum total was something significant, but it wasn't something we could devote 30 or 40 pages to depict.

The idea of doing daily newspaper-type sequences with the Carters was something David and I had played with before. This seemed the best way to get these little bursts of information into the fabric of the book.

SPURGEON: There's a lot of story stuffed into these kind of arch sequences. You touch on Sara's major romance with Coy here; that seems like a remarkable turn of events in terms of the family saga. What did you want to communicate about that development in general? Were there other elements of drama that you avoided at all, that you left out?

YOUNG: The romance of Coy and Sara is already established in the previous color section of the book. These "daily strips" spell out some of the grimmer details -- AP's refusal to forgive Sara, and the divorce that follows. The vignette quality of these four panel strips gives each of these moments a certain power. That edge might have been dulled if these were part of an episodic, connected chapter. It was also fun to come up with those arch, punny headline titles for each strip -- as daily strips of the period had.

LASKY: There was just too much story to cover and a limited number of pages, so we jettisoned a lot of the incidental things we'd written and focused on what needed to be told. We had wanted to show a little more of side characters like Doc Brinkley and Jimmie Rodgers. I wish we had been able to say a lot more about Maybelle and her family, but AP and Sara are really at the heart of this book.

*****

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Fifth Selection: Page 185

SPURGEON: You end this book on a very mournful sequence of pages, where we see the group kind of transform from one generation to the next, and from a recording sensation to a kind of primarily -- and maybe I'm wrong here -- touring/live performance phenomenon. How hard was it to find an ending?

LASKY: At first it was hard to determine where in their history to end our book, but realizing that AP is our main character, it seemed clear that his loss of Sara and loss of the original Carter Family trio is where the story ought to end. He did many interesting things in the last 20 years of his life, but his fame and the realization of his ambitions never came back. He never remarried either.

YOUNG: The break-up of the original Carter Family, and the separation of AP and Sara, by divorce, re-marriage, and relocation, seemed to us both to be the place to bring down the curtain. There's more to the story of AP, Sara and Maybelle, but their original working relationship was never the same.

SPURGEON: What would you have people take away from the story? I know that's a terribly blunt question, but I wonder in general how you view the overarching narrative. Is it a family story for you? A study in American entertainment? A personal story? I'm struck by the tree metaphor, which seem very simple but very strong.

YOUNG: It celebrates the American Dream, but it also exposes its dark side -- that you can pursue your ideals, but that pursuit can screw up other, equally important, things in your life.

It also shows how self-reflexive our culture is, and always has been. Intellectual property has become a sort of renewable resource. Things go in and out of fashion, of importance, but they always weave their way back into the fabric of the world.

Just as AP Carter rescued 19th century Tin Pan Alley pop songs, old hymns and ancient ballads, and made them commercially viable to a mainstream audience, old songs, novels, movies, comics and ideas keep coming back into relevance and acceptance. America moves forward and backward constantly. This tension of past, present and future is the vital energy of our culture. It's what made the Carter Family significant in the 1920s and '30s, and what keeps them compelling to us in the 21st century.

LASKY: I see this as a story about America, told through its music -- the blending of races and cultures, the potential for wealth, the triumphs and tragedies. But it's really up to the reader to decide.

Trees were already in the real-life story, but the apple tree metaphor was something we invented. It's artistic license. We borrowed from the Book of Genesis, sure, but when I was growing up in the D.C. suburbs, my parents would drive my brother and me out to the moutains in the fall and we'd take home a big sack of apples from a roadside stand. So for me, apples and Appalachia go hand in hand.

SPURGEON: You might decline to answer this question, but can you talk about the journey of this book? This has been in the works for years and years, and there are all sorts of rumors out there that you had a difficult rights battle. What can you tell us about how that resolved itself? How glad were you to finally see the book printed?

LASKY: I'll just say that it was a bigger and more difficult job than I'd ever anticipated. But when I saw the first advance copy of the book, I immediately felt it had all been worthwhile.

YOUNG: Ultimately, we ended up not really needing the song lyrics. Our attempt to acquire them slowed down our work on the book. I'm glad we found a creative solution to the whole rights issue.

One song that was important to quote was "One Little Word," an 1899 popular song written by Gussie Davis. I found the original sheet music to the song, and we thus established provenance that AP didn't write it. His performance of the song, on Texas border radio, is one of the most moving recordings I can think of. His singing says so much about what was going on inside at the time. I'm glad we were able to include that performance on the book's CD.

You've seen the video in which David and I see the book for the first time. I think that says more about how we felt than I could in words. It's still such a kick to see the book in stores, and to hold it in my hands as a real three-dimensional object, a part of the world. It's a beautifully produced book; it has real heft.

SPURGEON: This is a very comics sequence, with a lot of the subtleties of transition that comics provides. Other than the fact that it's how you guys work, your chosen form of expression, what do you think the strength of comics has been in telling this particular story? What about comics lends itself to biography, to a recollection of music?

YOUNG: The blend of images and words is ideal for biographies. The comics form can engage a reader and help immerse them in the world of the story's subject. Unlike a movie, which whizzes by at 24 frames per second, a comic is controlled by the reader's focus. If they want to turn back and reference an earlier event, it's just a riffle of pages. This rapport with the reader is something they can also get in prose, but I think the images add something significant. It's almost like being able to look at old photographs that pertain to the narrative as you read the story and take it in.

Music is a tough thing to evoke without music itself. Going beyond floating quarter notes, and showing the images that music touches in our heads, is tailor-made for comics, I think.

I think that, as Americans become more comics-literate, we'll see a lot more historical/biographical material in graphic novels. The more comics can embrace aspects of the world, and show people that they can relate to them in a real way, the more willing the average person will be to read them.

LASKY: We knew the book would end with AP walking and talking to himself. We added the scene where he is at a concert and "disappears", based on something I think June Carter remembered. Looking at it now, I realize we were symbolically making him disappear from performing and from the book itself. But at the time it was all done intuitively.

The definitive prose biography of the Carter Family is Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?. It collects a lot of the oral histories that existed previously, and adds new oral histories from sources previously overlooked. With our book, I think we wanted to use comics to basically "show, don't tell" -- to transform the detached and sometimes conflicting oral histories into something more visceral. To put the reader into the landscape, into the country that is called forth by the music.

*****

* The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song, David Lasky and Frank M. Young, Abrams, hardcover, 192 pages, 9780810988361, 2012, $24.95.

*****

* the images are pretty clearly contextualized because of the format of the interview; the top image is of course the cover, and the bottom I believe appeared on the Kickstarter campaign via which Lasky and Young completed the book when it hit a snag.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Let Me Recommend This Interview I Did With Gil Roth One More Time Because I Was So Flattered

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it's not like I'll ever listen to it myself, because, you know, dude, and it had to be the least consequential interview recorded in Bethesda that weekend, but I was super-flattered to be asked and I'm pretty certain it offers the chance to hear what it sounds like when I say "actually" a bunch of times instead of just writing it. Also, if you're a comics person and Gil asks you to interview, I thought maybe you'd be more likely to say yes hearing that he got something post-able out of me
 
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And Then There Was The Time Jim Shooter And Scott Edelman Went Skydiving

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Go, Look: Some Hot Wheels Kids Comics

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

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

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Go, Look: Complex Episodes

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FFF Results Post #311 -- All About Formats

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Comics-Related Formats -- Has To Encompass More Than One Title/Creative Effort/Series -- That You Are Tempted To Or Already Collect Regardless Of Content, Or At Least Not Solely Because Of Content." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Marvel's Mid-1970s Giant-Size Comics
2. Magazine-Sized Indy/Alt Comics
3. The L'Association Pattes Des Mouche Series
4. Marvel Treasury Editions
5. Digest-Size Comics

*****

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Dave Knott

* Leporello comics
* Black and white humour comics magazines
* Boxed sets of minicomics
* Cinebook's two-in-one reduced-size bande dessinée translations
* Broadsheet comics

*****

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Charles Brownstein

1) Quarter-sized, Xeroxed mini-comics, a la current Oily Comics
2) Fantagraphics/Coconino Press Ignatz line
3) Fully-silkscreened comic books, a la Garret Izumi, Henriette Valium & Jen Tong
4) Oversized art comics, a la 90s Mazzucchelli, Pope, Ware
5) Digest sized Mexican exploitation comics

*****

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Trevor Ashfield

1. Marvel Comics' 25-cent, 48 page comics cover dated November 1971
2. "DC Explosion" titles at 50 cents, 40 pages from September 1978
3. British "Bumper" Books from the 1960s with U.S. comics reprints
4. "Ignatz" format comics published by Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Blank Slate etc.
5. Kitchen Sink hardcovers from the 1980s

*****

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Oliver Ristau

1.) DC Limited Collectors' Editions
2.) Oversized anthologies like "Finnish Comics Annual" 2011 and 2012 http://finnishcomics.info/category/publications/finnish-comics-annual/ or Carlsen's "Comics - Weltbekannte Zeichenserien" (published during the 1970s in Denmark, Sweden and Germany) featuring world famous comic strips
3.) Magic Strip's "Atomium 58," clothbound, two-colour hardback albums featuring artists like Clerc or Chaland
4.) Newspaper style format comics like Russ Cochran's "Sunday Funnies", DC's "Wednesday Comics" or the comics supplement in McSweeny's No. 33
5.) Very little and handy books like Marcel Van Eeden's "Witness For The Prosecution" or s! #10: "Sea Stories"

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Page-A-Day calendars of panel strips
2. Library of American Comics-styled daily strip collections
3. IDW Artists Editions
4. DC treasury-sized Famous First Editions
5. Marvel's Annuals circa 1960's

*****

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Don MacPherson

1) Digests (old school Archie/DC Blue Ribbon size)
2) Marvel magazines (such as Epic, Rampaging Hulk)
3) DC Comics Presents/Vertigo Resurrected
4) Black-and-white "phone books" (a la DC Showcase, Marvel Essential and others)
5) 1970s DC dollar comics

*****

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Mike Pfefferkorn

1. DC 100 Page Super-Spectaculars
2. Abril's monthly kid's comics (like Ze Carioca)
3. Japanese Tankōbon
4. Dell's "File Copy" Hardbacks
5. DC Dollar Comics

*****

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Chris Duffy

1. Big Little Book formats--including those little Lone Wolf and Cub books
2. DC's "Family" titles (Batman, Superman, Super-Team, etc)
3. Paperback gag collections
4. Marvel 1970s Calendars
5. Those Power Records that came with comic and LP (sometimes 45)

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Digest size comics
2. Tabloid-size hardcovers
3. Leather-bound, artist editions of newspaper comics
4. 1970s pocket paperbacks
5. Hardcover masterworks editions of reprints

*****

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Nat Gertler

1. Bubble Funnies-esque trading-cardish comics
2. Treasury Editions
3. Elson's Presents style (comics where existing guts to issues of various titles are simply bound together for a thicker mega-comic)
4. Poclet-sized hardcovers
5. Books where the outer signatures are printed with more color plates than the inner signatures.

*****

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Kenneth Graves

1) The "phonebook." Lots of pages cheap will always get my buying attention.
2) The mini-tankobon that Dark Horse used for Lone Wolf & Cub and a few other related titles.
3) The Treasury edition. (I'd pick Destroy!! as the one example that *must* be at this size.)
4) DC's 100 page specials of the early- and mid-70s. I don't know what age I was when I first twigged that these were mostly full of reprints. They were new to me.
5) DC's "family" comics of the late 70s. (Superman Family, Batman Family, etc.)

*****

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James Langdell

1. One-shot emulations of a Sunday newspaper comics section
2. Mass-market paperbacks reprinting comic book stories one or two panels per page (very different experience of pacing)
3. Wall posters with many little panels
4. Comics printed on the corner of each page on one side of a book that can function as an animated flipbook (I'm recalling most strongly an edition of The Whole Earth Catalog, but I've seen others)
5. The Kilban Cat book format

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


Matt Bors' First Foray Into Editorially-Driven Animation


Gilbert Hernandez Panel At SPX


Jaime Hernandez Panel At SPX


Daniel Clowes Panel At SPX


 
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October 13, 2012


CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from October 6 to October 12, 2012:

1. Sedition charges were dropped against Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi; political clubs masquerading as symbol-desecration laws remain pointed at Trivedi, who could go to jail for them.

2. Ali Ferzat was finally able to accept the Sakharov Prize after not being able to because of fears for his safety and the difficulties of travel.

3. NYCC gets underway in New York, and brings with it an explosion of mostly mainstream comics-related publishing announcements, a lot of the "we're moving this person onto this title" variety but still a lot of announcements.

Winner Of The Week
Lee Salem, putting the final touches on what will be one of the great comics careers in our lifetimes.

Loser Of The Week
Stan Lee Media. Just because. I guess all it takes is one judge, though.

Quote Of The Week
"We will get a decent scan of this soon, but here is the cartoon Richard Thompson drew in the middle of his brain surgery. The dialogue balloon says 'Whee!' and the words at the bottom say 'NOT TO SCALE.' His surgeon said they all got a big kick out of it." -- Amy Thompson

*****

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

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Hell

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

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

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

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October 12, 2012


Stop, Watch: Joe Sacco Interviewed At NYU Primary Sources


 
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CBLDF Launches Be Counted Membership Drive

Please consider joining. It's a meaningful, well-run, admirable institution with a successful record stretching back a generation now.
 
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Go, Download: Sergio Toppi Tribute Publication PDF

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Go, Bookmark: Series Of Chris Ware Essays At TCJ.com

The folks over at The Comics Journal have figured out a terrific way to honor the major release that is Chris Ware's Building Stories: they're running essays from a bunch of different writers asking them to reconsider things about which they've already gone on the record in light of the new work. I wish I'd thought of that, even though I have no place to put the results. We should try to focus on major releases in a more significant way. You can access the essays here.
 
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Go, Look: How Long Should I Wait?

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Bruno Le Floc'h, 1957-2012

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Bruno Le Floc'h, whose striking style formed from years working in animation won the artist the Prix Goscinny in 2004, has passed away. No cause of death has been reported.

Le Floc'h was born in 1957 in the northwestern French town of Pont L'Abbé. Interested in comics, with a range of influences that encompassed both Claire Brétécher and Hugo Pratt, Le Floc'h studied at the Ecole Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Paris but moved into storyboarding for animation rather than comics proper. He worked as an artistic director on both TV series and films. He would later describe his experience on the feature film L'ile de Blackmore as such as positive one that it spurred his desire to move into comics rather than take on an animation gig that would almost certainly disappoint following the 18 months he spent working on the movie. He found a publisher within three days, while attending a festival. He was 45 years old when he sold that first comic.

In 2003 he created the black and white work Au bord du monde for Delcourt, and in the year following released Trois éclast blancs. It was for the 2004 book that he won the Goscinny prize. Another book for Delcourt was released approximately two years later: Une après-midi d'été. Paysage au chien rouge (2007, Ouest-France) and St. German Puis Rouler Vers l'Ouest (2009, Dargaud) followed. Le Floc'h described himself in a 2010 interview as comics-cognizant but actually more directly influenced in his comics making by prose authors such as Joseph Conrad and Francisco Coloane.
 
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Go, Download: seed toss, nameroughquena

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Syndicate Icon Lee Salem's Retirement Date Announced For 2014

Universal Uclick sent out a press release in PDF form late yesterday -- here it is:

2012_Universal_Uclick_Andrews_McMeel_Publishing_Lee_Salem_Leave_of_Absence_-10.11.12_(1).pdf

that spells out the retirement timeline for one of the major figures in all the various comics industries over the last half-century, Lee Salem. Salem will take a three month leave of absence in early 2013, returning that Spring as "president emeritus" with a planned formal retirement date of March 31, 2014. John Glynn, who recently took over the primary editorial position at the company, will assume the presidency on February 15 while keeping his current gigs. As discussed when Glynn was announced as the editorial fulcrum over there, he's well-regarded and particularly so with the current generation of established comics pros.

A 2014 retirement would give Salem 40 years at the company, having joined as an assistant editor in 1974. The talent with which he's credited for nurturing is scary in its Mt. Rushmore-like authority as big-earners and well-regarded comics-makers: Trudeau, Johnston, Watterson, Thompson and a bunch more. I would imagine that a full reckoning of all that Salem's accomplished is best put off for about 20 months, but, then again, it might take a big chunk of that time to come to proper terms with his career. It seems like a natural and smart transition for the company, though, and a nice reminder that even with today's upheavals it's not like the last several decades haven't been filled with their own kinds of change.
 
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Go, Look: Cartoons From Cavalier

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Go, Like: The Cartoon Jumbles Site On Facebook

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Missed It: A New Creative Team For Asterix

I'm not exactly certain how to process news that a new creative team has now been assembled to do the Asterix albums. It looks like it will be Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, described as two solid and distinguished craftsmen of the French-language comics school variety. Ferri was apparently named about a year and a half ago as the writing successor, and I'm not sure I covered that back then, either (it's part of a period for which I have limited memory). Ferri is also an artist.

My limited understanding of the French-language market in recent times indicates that the big-name books are big business in that their name recognition and nostalgic value drive a lot of sales to people that don't buy a ton of comics or have only the barest of interest in whatever constitutes good comics right now. And of course, the comics themselves can be good in a lot ways even naturally divorced from the original creative impulse that comes from the people that created them. I don't know if this would weaken the sales impact, or how much, or if Albert Uderzo giving his approval in public fashion makes a difference on that or not. At any rate, I assume there's an appetite for this material, and that some quality comics will be made.
 
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OTBP: Chris Ware Historical Society Posters

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Comics By Request -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* I am personally fond of Ariel Bordeaux, so it made me happy to see a Kickstarter designed to re-publish some of her earlier work. It has met its goals, but you can still get on board.

* anyone with the awesome name of "Maxwell Mudd" deserves a moment of your time, I think.

* Salgood Sam's Dream Life kickstarter met its goal, but there are still a few days to join in if you'd like.

* we're about two weeks away from the conclusion of a crowd-funder for The Garlicks, with quite a bit of work left to do if you're so inclined. That's the Lea Hernandez project.
 
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If I Were In Berkeley, I'd Go To This

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

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

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Go, Look: Bob Kane And His Batman Paintings

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i'll remind that "his" can mean a lot of different things; via John Firehammer
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this long post from Jessica Abel about moving with her family to France would be my choice for settle-in/coffee break reading of the day.

image* Shannon Smith reviews a bunch of Batman comics from the 1990s. I sat next to a guy on the airplane San Diego to Vegas last summer reading a bunch of those; they're really bizarre-looking, just fundamentally weird to see on the page. Johanna Draper Carlson on 20th Century Boys Vols. 21-22. One of the Mindless Ones and a whole lot of commenters on Action Comics #9.

* here's some of that Jack Kirby art from the Argo movie story.

* not comics: did you know that longtime comics industry veteran turned more general arts writer (with a focus on Houston) plus whatever day job he has (I think he has a day job) is putting on his own arts fair? That will be pretty neat, I bet.

* here's a lengthy round-up style post about Irish comics.

* the Graphics Classics catalog contains a couple of free stories for your PDF-downloadable pleasure.

* Matt Wuerker on the role of cartoonists during the election season. I'm not sure I agree with a whole lot of that, but Wuerker would have a better perspective on it than I do.

* look at this fine Marvel Comics stationery.

* Louie Robinson on Morrie Turner (in 1973).

* someone named Jessi Reid is the new PR and Marketing Manger at some place called Studio 407; I don't have any links, because no links were sent.

* you can download a Jen Sorensen poster of a political nature here.

* finally, here's a small picture gallery of folks reading the Mighty Mouse 3D comic book.
 
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October 11, 2012


Announcing The David Wasting Paper Young Cartoonist Contest

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Ali Ferzat Picks Up The Sakharov Prize

The Syrian cartoonist and gallery owner Ali Ferzat's beating at the hands of pro-government thugs last year and his subsequent public elegance and resolve in the face of what happened to him is the biggest story in comics and cartooning since the Danish Muhammed cartoons. He was finally able to accept the Sakharov Prize in Brussels.
 
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Go, Look: Leather Space Men

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Sedition Charges Against Aseem Trivedi To Be Dropped

Various wire reports today have the state government headquartered in Mumbai deciding to drop sedition charges against the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. This will be communicated from advocate general to the high court in Bombay tomorrow; it's already been communicated to the police.

Charges for dishonoring various national symbols and institutions will remain in place, which is no small thing given that this could mean jail time and such laws are rife for abuse as a club employed against basic, international standards of free speech and for political reasons given the nature of criticism that employs those rhetorical tools.
 
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Go, Look: Even More Madness From Comics' Golden Age

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Pat Mallet, 1941-2012

imagePat Mallet, the humor cartoonist and successful advertising artist who was best known for a school of gag cartoons featuring alien characters, died on September 29 according to this report at the French-language comics news clearinghouse ActuaBD.com.

Mallet was born in 1941 in Marseilles. He was raised in Paris. Mallet attended Paris' Ecole des Arts Appliques school in the mid- to late-1950s, where he was apparently a peer of two of the great creators of the French-language comics scene in the latter half of the 20th Century: Moebius and Jean-Claude Mézières.

His was a more standard career path. Mallet became well known for his humor work, primarily those featuring iconic aliens of the cute "green man" variety. He did two features of that type: Xing and Xot for Spirou; Zoum for Pilote. This apparently also included a track of slightly erotic gag cartoons, discussed here. Other prominent comics gigs were Pegg Le Robot at Spirou and Nina for Germany's Bild der Frau.

Both major Spirou features debuted within months of each other in 1960; the characters share a fictional universe. A last adventure called Cosmos Fleuri was a story featuring both sets of characters. The two serials also share an element of publishing history in that each feature appeared in the magazine and in a comics mini-comics insert included with that magazine. In fact, Xing and Xot was created for the latter format.

The artist won the Montreal's Grand Prix Internationale de la Caricature in 1972 and again in 1978.

A career in advertising illustration included campaigns for European brands Renault and Fernet-Branca.

He was 71 years old.
 
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Go, Look: The Trap

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via a bunch of different places
 
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The Most Baffling Post I've Read This Morning

I received e-mail purportedly from the creator Don Lomax suggesting I look at an announcement from CO2 Comics about a release of Lomax's mostly unpublished -- maybe entirely unpublished -- Heavy Metal-intended material. One of the lines in the e-mail said, "It makes a compelling case that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles origin may be in suspect." I'm happy to see more of Lomax's work published, but I don't really understand the claim and I don't get the occasional "get ready to have your mind blown" tone of the post. It seems to suggest there was a Lomax story from which Eastman and Laird borrowed elements in making their eventual licensing smash. Has anyone ever claimed that the Turtles weren't borrowing from a ton of different existing comic book sources? I sort of thought that was the whole idea, plus that funny title. Maybe there's something I'm not getting.
 
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Go, Look: A Bunch Of Bing Bang Buster

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* big show weekend. One of them is NYCC, aka "The Great Boozening." Another is APE.

* NYCC is an intriguing show, although one I'm not particularly interested in attending right now. They won't miss me.

NYCC has a ton of strengths. It has the Fall season pretty much to itself in terms of shows that size, and the New York location offers an array of advantages. For instance, the local publishers all participate, and you get a big European contingent because flying to New York is easier (and perhaps more fun) than going to the West Coast. It feels to me that publishers are investing more in the show's natural ability to drive press, which I think is a huge advantage for how shows like that settle into the wider imagination of the reading and professional community. The running-around scene is pretty great, too, obviously. In fact, in some ways it feels like the old Chicago show's drinking and carousing values have settled on the New York con, only at NYCC you get to carry on in New York as opposed to Rosemont, Illinois. The lack of the alt-comics crowd and the boutique publishers that perhaps best serve that community are pretty damn noticeable 1) if you like those kinds of comics, 2) if you just prefer shows with that aspect to them even if it's not something you engage yourself. They pull in a lot of manga-related interest at NYCC. They're doing just fine. I still have very little interest in going, at least the way it's currently constituted, but not every show should be of interest to me.

* APE 2012 should do well for some of the same reasons that small-press shows have done generally well this year: basically, that that community wants good shows right now and is in a place to provide them. What it means to me more directly is that this is the final stop on the mini-convention tour for the Hernandez Brothers in their 30th Year celebration. That just kills me, the 30 years. They made some of the best comics 30, 25, 20, 15, 10 and five years ago. They make some of the best comics now. All hail.

* after these shows close down we get a quick run of compelling small-press shows: Short Run, The Projects and BCGF. Then we're reasonably on hold, at least from the North American standpoint, until late January and the whole damn thing starts over. That Angouleme will be noteworthy for spilling into February and for a colossal shift in Grand Prize winners in terms of North American interest. And so it goes.

* I think someone told me the Fabletown And Beyond convention made some announcements and advancements in the last several days. I haven't checked out that site to know if it's changed or been updated, but it seems like they're set to go for next year. I'm encouraged by people trying variations on standard convention models, and one revolving around a specific property is one such obvious variation.
 
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Go, Look: Richard Corben's Conan

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A Curious Coda: Opting Out Of Digital High Society

imageSo I tried to use an e-mail received about the digital versions of Dave Sim's Cerebus story High Society that I purchased through Kickstarter. A couple of the links didn't go anywhere, and I didn't understand why some of the links were generic and others specific, but I eventually figured out what was going on with the help of a nice Cerebus-project person. What I found, though, wasn't the digital copy of High Society I originally thought I was purchasing but a single issue of Cerebus (#27) with a bunch of added material. Further, it didn't really load. And it seemed way bigger than a single issue, both in terms of number of pages and the way it was being scanned.

I guess this was what the Kickstarter campaign offered, although I just re-read what was written and I'm still confused, just as I was confused yesterday about the Sim press release regarding the exact nature of his deal with IDW for Cerebus material. But yeah, I think that it's reasonably clear this is what purchasers were going to receive. That's my bad. Totally.

I have no regrets. I should read these things more thoroughly. I do regret anyone that might be similarly disappointed or frustrated right now that came to that project through me, though. I apologize if I mischaracterized something in talking about my own interest in that project.

What it comes down to from my end is that this iteration of the project just doesn't work for me as a consumer and because I didn't do my due diligence, I'm only figuring that out now. I have very little interest in a 25-week relationship with the potential for glitches every time out as opposed to a single downloading experience (even in parts), and I thought the technology and publishing passion were there to do that. I suppose I assumed in being offered a digital version of High Society with bells and whistles I could get High Society in a way I could ignore the bells and whistles. I had a similar disinterest in all of the kickstarter-generated project update e-mails, and it was probably a sign that I had to really work to stop receiving those.

An ironic thing for me is that one reason I bought Cerebus in serial form all those years is that it was a great, smart package and I didn't have to think about it too much or be bothered by it before or after reading the publication itself. It still seems logical to me that there are younger comics-people and other potential readers that would like to try the book out in digital form, but maybe just the book, and maybe at a size and heft directed at consumption rather than archiving and study. Similarly, in terms of the print stuff that's been discussed recently, I feel that there are enough fans and potential fans out there to make nicer versions of the trades viable. All this other stuff, and why it isn't all more simply, "we have these comics and let's give people these comics," I sort of fundamentally don't get.
 
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If I Were In White River Junction, 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 Norwich, I'd Go To This

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Not Comics: Illustrators #2 Previewed

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* there's a nice post up from Caitlin McGurk at the Billy Ireland Library about their recent hard-hat tour of the new facility as it rounds into shape. That's going to be a crown jewel for comics in terms of comics-related places, and I have to imagine it's a thrill for those involved to see it begin to take its final form.

image* Kieron Gillen talks to David Hine and Shaky Kane. Gil Dominguez-Letelier talks to Caleb Monroe. Kiel Phegley talks to Hope Larson.

* Brian Hibbs castigates the comics reporting community on not nailing down whatever it is that IDW is doing with Dave Sim's High Society -- which looks like the DVD version of the new digital copy. Yeah, we deserve that one.

* David Brothers on Newsarama failing to mention a project's co-creator and artist as it goes to film production. That's very unfortunate when that happens, and the site deserves criticism -- we should all know to do that at this point.

* on racial stereotypes in the Blacksad series.

* J. Caleb Mozzocco continues his comparison of DC's current treatment of its characters with a stand-alone treatment of same a couple of years ago.

* Sean Kleefeld is inspired by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's The Thing. The overachiever aspect of that character is a nice spin by some of the later writers that's helped extend that character's popularity. Great character, The Thing. I wasn't surprised the Fantastic Four movies were pretty bad, because it's hard to shoehorn what was good about those comics into a high-concept summer film framework, but they could have done a much better job presenting one of Marvel's five best and three most appealing characters.

* Doug Zawisza on Uncanny Avengers #1. Rob Clough on Tune Vol. 1. Greg McElhatton on A Fine And Private Place #1 and The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary.

* one of the treats of the comics blogosphere's first real decade is back after a hiatus: Sean T. Collins' "Carnival Of Souls."

* finally: why a dog can't be president.
 
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October 10, 2012


Go, Look: Vulture Heck

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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.

*****

JUL121170 CHRIS WARE BUILDING STORIES HC $50.00
By virtue of its size, scope, packaging and the creator involved, it's hard not to see Building Stories as the publishing event of the year in comics. Strangely, I think this book has benefited from something that has been detrimental to other alt-comics releases: that there are so many good comics in that general realm of comics right now has kept people from over-anticipating Chris' work to the point of being bored with it before it comes out.

imageAUG121080 PIPPI LONGSTOCKING HC VOL 01 PIPPI MOVES IN $14.95
JUL121025 NEW YORK DRAWINGS ADRIAN TOMINE HC $29.95
AUG121083 MOOMIN COMPLETE LARS JANSSON COMIC STRIP HC VOL 07 $19.95
AUG121082 MOOMIN TURNS JUNGLE TP $9.95
AUG121081 MOOMIN WINTER FOLLIES TP $9.95
JUN128172 ROOKIE YEARBOOK ONE SC $29.95
I don't usually break down these lists by publisher, but you could very nearly spend an entire winter holed up just with books out from Drawn And Quarterly this week. The Pippi Longstocking has a huge want-to-see factor among people I know, and that's what a comics shop does best in almost every circumstance. The Adrian book is fun, the Moomin books are always class and insist on finding their way into almost any serious collection, and while the Rookie Yearbook isn't comics the way we think about comics, there's some content in there of interest to comics fans and the publication itself should be on everyone's radar. with even a passing interest in publishing right now.

AUG121233 STUMPTOWN V2 #2 $3.99
AUG120290 PUNK ROCK JESUS #4 (MR) $2.99
AUG120337 POPEYE #6 [DIG/D+] $3.99
JUN120563 MORNING GLORIES #22 (MR) [DIG] $2.99
AUG120473 WALKING DEAD MICHONNE SPECIAL (MR) $2.99
I do tend to break these comics down into at least one chunk of classically-formatted comics and this week's selection is kind of odd. I think the clear belle of the ball is the latest in the Stumptown series; that's a solid book with fine art from Matthew Southworth. The other stuff I would just want to sort of see, with the exception of the Walking Dead thing, which gets a note here for the general hand-it-over-to-certain-folks savvy of its publication.

AUG120491 SAGA TP VOL 01 $9.99
That is one hell of a price point, and I'm curious to read how the science fiction adventure reads all in once place. As a serial it was surprisingly laconic, which is usually a good thing, although I also never got the sense of a wider, compelling world beyond that which I was seeing on the page. So I am very curious to see how that one goes.

JUN121131 BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA HC (MR) $22.99
This book advertises on this site, but there's no talent in comics exactly like Steve Weissman and this book is bound to hit at a key moment in history: Obama's win of a second term or his defeat at the polls.

JUL121226 BEETLE BAILEY HC DAILIES & SUNDAYS 1966 $19.95
Always worth a look. I very much enjoy how Walker's comics looked until about 1970 or so, which I assume has something to do with that special mix of advancing age, which assistants do what and the continuing shrinkage of the comics page.

AUG121178 BEST AMERICAN COMICS HC 2012 (MR) $25.00
I haven't looked at this one yet, and some of the grousing I heard about the series in general I honestly can't tell if it's a natural thing that was going to happen now that these are further along or if it's something that is unique to this volume.

MAY121275 GRAPHIC CANON TP VOL 02 $34.95
This will have a very prominent place in a lot of bookstores, I bet. I didn't think much of the first one beyond the contributions of a handful of first-rate talents, and I'm surprised the series has continued.

AUG121219 MONSTER CHRISTMAS HC $9.99
AUG121218 MONSTER TURKEY HC $9.99
These Monster books from Lewis Trondheim are lovely. I quite enjoyed that Christmas one, which bodes well for the one set in and around Thanksgiving.

JUL120903 ROGER LANGRIDGES SNARKED TP VOL 02 $14.99
I would almost recommend a Roger Langridge creator-owned work even if I knew it sucked balls, given Langridge's recent decision to focus on non-Big Two work because of his moral qualms regarding their longstanding and ingrained exploitation of artists. The great thing is that most Langridge books are really good, and I'm sure this one at the very least has its moments.

JAN121108 ROY CRANE BUZ SAWYER HC VOL 02 SULTRYS TIGER $35.00
Roy Crane never cheats. Killer cover, too.

JUL121334 ART OF DENIS MCLOUGHLIN LTD ED HC $79.99
I've come across some of this art on-line -- it's pulpy, accomplished and fun. I'm priced out of any desire to buy one of these, but your orientation may differ and it certainly looks handsome.

APR121097 NAKED CARTOONISTS SC (MR) $22.99
Not a big fan of novelty books, but seeing as it's from Fantagraphics means it would get a peek from me.

JUL121368 MARVEL COMICS THE UNTOLD STORY HC $26.99
The big book-about-comics release of this year, at least as far as I can remember (I have a hard time remembering stuff now, so bear with me if I'm punting on something obvious). Dan Nadel likes it a lot, and I'm greatly looking forward to it. Mr. Howe and I will talk for the Holiday Interview Series.

AUG121290 UNDERSTANDING MONSTER GN $21.95
This is the first in three volumes from Theo Ellsworth, one of the more inventive and skilled of the cartoonists to emerge over the last decade. This book is something to look at, and it's handsomely packaged. I'm not sure I undersand it, but I'm getting there.

*****

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: Some Jeffrey Jones Robert E. Howard Illustrations

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* hey, this is good news; new issue of Sugar Booger out in time for BCGF.

image* Dave Sim and IDW have signed a deal to do a hard copy version of the audio digital High Society project. That's good news; I'd like Sim to find a publishing arrangement that works for him. I never thought Sim was in any danger of being driven out of comics, and believed he was going to have very little problem finding a publishing partner. Having respected industry vets divert travel to see you and their willingness to have it announced on the web site you control really drives that home. In case you missed it, Sim announced a covers book with IDW over the weekend in much the same fashion. One thing that's interesting to me is whether or not Sim remains unwilling to more fully commit to an elaborate series of books. I think he'd be leaving a lot of sales on the table that way. I don't think of Cerebus as a creative achievement that encourages specific strip-mining.

* so there will apparently be a crime comics line at Dynamite, creators to include Garth Ennis and Andy Diggle. That sounds fun.

* I'm sure there's going to be a ton of news and even new book announced at NYCC. That show seems a natural for such announcements, and even though I'm not all the way sure the focus on comics and publishing is such that the show facilitates that kind of attention to the degree it could, I can't imagine not having a ton of stuff for this space next week. The debut that jumps out at me was the collector's edition of the second color Scott Pilgrim volume. That seems to put into one place like 50 different threads of recent comics history, including the new appetite for very expensive, exclusive editions.

* Tom Sniegoski will be doing more Vampirella comics for that same publisher.

* Michael Cavna profiles the Dustin strip as a publishing enterprise.

* finally, I'm going to assume that everyone but me knew that Tom Scioli was serializing his follow-up to American Barbarian on-line. It's called Final Frontier, and you have to scroll past a short comic to start into it, but the short is pretty good, too.

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Go, Follow: Brooklyn Comics And Graphics Festival Tumblr

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Missed It: Stan Lee Media Sues Disney For Marvel Characters

This is one of those things that is going to pop up until that semi-scary, namesake-no-longer-involved skeleton of a company aka Stan Lee Media finds a final resting place: they're suing Marvel for the characters that Stan Lee co-created while at the company in the 1960s, the characters that are the basis of the multiple-billion dollar presence Marvel has within the wider Disney umbrella. You can read the story here; the actual complaint here.

Basically, this is another stab by that company to find some sort of legal traction for one of the all-time "sounds great on the Internet" arguments. The basic argumentative ju-jitsu is that 1) Stan Lee assigned rights to all the characters he owned to SLM in his initial deal coming on board with the Internet 1.0 company, and that 2) when Marvel finally settled their completely different set of legal battles with Lee they basically paid him in a way that recognized that Stan at one point had a chunk of those popular characters. So SLM folks have long asserted that basically Stan Lee "sold" or "assigned" rights to Marvel in exchange for cash that basically weren't his to sell or assign. Marvel has long maintained -- and they haven't lost so far -- that there was nothing resembling an assignation in their deal with Stan Lee. I don't see anything new here except maybe a move to a different jurisdiction, maybe, or that they're going after the characters themselves rather than the money Stan Lee was paid for them, perhaps. It's hard to recall in the blizzard of slapped-down legal attempts that is that company's history.
 
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If I Were In Mystic, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Simonson/Janson Battlestar Galactica Splash Pages

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* nice get at TCJ to score a chunk of Sean Howe's just-dropped Marvel Comics history. Hard to imagine better time spent on a coffee break.

image* that person whose name I can't remember on The Art Of Denis McLoughlin. Jeet Heer on Building Stories.

* I tend to be a bit baffled by NYCC, but there are plenty of comics creators there that people like. If you're attending and you like comics and comics creators, I would assume you can track down individual comics-makers through their web presences and see what they're up to. Like here's Kieron Gillen. You could go see Kieron. That sounds like fun. One good resource is this one from the always-excellent Gary Tyrrell, where he spotlights the webcomics presence at a show like this one.

* not comics: semi-directionless media enterprises with giant staffs and blandly inoffensive brand identities appear to be doing relatively poorly in a market that values the exact opposite of these things. Go figure. As always, CR is on sale for about the price of three really good roast beef sandwiches.

* Alex Hern talks to Chris Ware. Yeugenia Kleiner profiles Seth. Xavier Guilbert talks to Anton Kannemeyer. Banci Wright talks to Dane Martin. Chris Mautner talks to Chris Ware.

* finally, Josh Kopin explores lettering.
 
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October 9, 2012


Go, Look: José Luis Ágreda

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thanks, Brian Moore
 
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They're Pretty Much All Comics-Related Trips Now

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By Tom Spurgeon

* so I spent last week in the Great American Midwest on a trip revolving around my 25th High School Reunion. There was enough comics-content involved to generate a post like this one, even if it ends up being on the higher end of the self-indulgence scale in order for me to get there. I hope you don't mind. I'm not kidding in that most of my travel seems comics-related now. It's not just that I tend to do comics-related things and that my life is more comfortably oriented in terms of the comics parts of it. I also tend to travel these days as if I'm going to comics shows even when I'm not. I don't sleep a lot, I orient my time so that I sit around gabbing about stuff for significant portions of every day, and I bargain shop. There are worse ways to be on the road. The not-sleeping is actually a big deal. The fact that you get a little rattled and giddy and immediate through exhaustion is a big part of the euphoric high of comics shows.

* one of the great things about going from the western United States anywhere east of the Mississippi is that everything out there is relatively close together. I have to drive three hours just to get to an airport where I live. When you land in Indianapolis, it's only a little more than three hours and sometimes less to get to St. Louis, Louisville, Chicago, Columbus or Detroit. I think this is a big deal for comics culture, particularly the small-press variety, because a lot of what the folks that make non-mainstream comics do right now relies on attending shows and festivals. It is a lot easier to get to a number of shows from a starting point in, say, St. Louis and working your way east. I think it was Nate Powell -- who has roots in music as well as comics -- who told me that's why he and a lot of his friends had settled into Bloomington, Indiana: living someplace like that facilitates an enormous number of one-day travel opportunities.

image* my flight landed in Indianapolis. I skipped my usual Comic Carnival-oriented first few hours in the state of my birth in favor of an immediate drive in the rental car to St. Louis. I stayed with my friends Evan Sult and Paige Brubeck of Sleepy Kitty, the music/screenprinting house that was designed I think to thwart any sort of reasonable google search. They have a giant, no-wall, two-floor studio and living space in a building in a neighborhood making that most delicate of all gentrification transitions: "stabby" to "hip."

* as more people take to making their own comics in a more serious, sustained, across-their-lifetimes fashion, I bet we see a lot more studio/homes like theirs.

* I met Evan Sult when we both worked for Fantagraphics back in the 1990s. He was an art director -- a talented one. He left to tour with his band. He's since worked for Devil's Due. Evan is one of those friends with which you tend to be blessed when you hang around comics long enough. It's like you meet all of these people that if had they grown up down the street from you wherever that street may be, you would have been friends for years and years and done all the same stuff at the same time. You start conversations with these people the exact place you left them years earlier. They always have a couch or a guest room with your name on it. Life is better for friends like that.

* Evan and I used to hang out at Fantagraphics when Evan was between whatever odd tasks he'd been sort-of assigned in the company's madhouse of an art department. I'd say I was between stuff, too, but that would make it sound like I ever worked hard enough for there to be stuff for me to be in between. We used to go to lunch with a third Fanta guy of that period, Dave Lasky, so it felt appropriate to be eating sandwiches and drinking beer when Dave has a major new book out.

* I think I have the most fun talking to my friends that have a passionate interest in comics without being immersed in them. My friend Gil Roth is like that, too. It's good to be reminded of a perspective driven more by basic concerns of "I know the comics that I gravitate to because I super-like them" as opposed to hearing from someone with a more general interest in "comics." I think we need to better cultivate and serve fans like that, because that's where a lot of the growth lies -- $50 a quarter customers as opposed to $50 a week customers.

* Paige is more of a generally arts-oriented person with some knowledge of comics, which is also a group to which we should cater although that's by definition a hard reader to corral into an increased level of readership in any kind of significant way. What's fun with folks like that is they tend to have super-eclectic taste because their interactions with comics tend to be erratically and randomly formed. She's a big fan of Ed Brubaker's Lowlife, for instance, and it's always a pleasure to meet someone familiar with Ed before he became known primarily as a crime-books writer.

* I did walk by Star Clipper, but it was closed. Looks fantastic, though.

* of all the cities I visited, St. Louis seemed the most frontier-like in terms of it being a comics town. There's not enough of a foothold for me to predict what St. Louis might look like as a comics city 15 years from now, the way you can with a lot of places. They have at least one fine shop, they have more space than they know what to do with, and they have some talented pros, so I think there's a lot of potential there.

* Chicago was the next day. That was a fun trip, too. I had to head there early, so I missed having lunch with the great St. Louis-based comics-maker Kevin Huizenga, one of the smartest people in comics and cartooning. I regret that.

* it struck me when I eventually left the City Of Big Shoulders that this was the first time in maybe 35 years I ever went to Chicago and didn't go to a comics shop. Even on that trip I stopped by a newsstand out of the Mercantile exchange and bought a copy of Warlord. I love the Chicago comics stores -- I even love the ones that no longer exist, like Larry's on Devon. I just ended up with no time to comics shop. It happens.

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* I had lunch with that good man Ivan Brunetti, who graciously let me dominate his noontime hour away from Columbia College where Ivan teaches comics and teaches them well. I like the way we've settled into a matter-of-factness about comics education at so many institutions. He's not the only comics-maker teaching class in the Loop. It seems to me they're generally adding adjunct professors at places like Columbia; it's not like I'd have any chance of naming all the cartoonists working in comics education now, and I might have had a shot at that in 1996. The photo above is Ivan sitting in his office, about to kick me out and over to the computer lab so that he could begin four hours of student meetings. His office is pretty great. Ivan and I gossiped about people we know, groused over the fact that neither of us was doing a lot of creative work, and laughed about how many years in a row Ivan attended the Wizard-owned Chicago convention.

* I met Ivan giving him a ride from the then-new Southside Fantagraphics warehouse to Jim Woodring's house back in the Seattle now. He was always around at shows and stuff back then, and is wrapped up in some of my fondest memories of those time. You are encouraged to ask me about the Ivan Brunetti-related Eisners memory -- my favorite Eisners memory -- if you ever see me in person.

* one slightly more serious thing Ivan and I talked about was his hopes for CAKE. I guess that was put together by some of his former students, thus his uncle-like interest. Chicago is a fantastic comics-town, and deserves a small-press, arts-focused, creator-centric show that sticks. Paul Karasik told me in Bethesda that if he could move anywhere right now, he'd choose Chicago. Ivan mentioned that CAKE is maybe going to move more in the direction of anchor guests with future edition, which I think is a big part of getting shows like that off of the ground -- it provides a spur to getting people to attend that otherwise might not, and it gives the PR some focus.

* Ivan also has a new book coming out from Yale University Press next year, which is awesome news. I'll have more on that in another post.

* visited the artist, actor and general positive life force Tony Fitzpatrick at his home in Little Ukraine. Tony is a painter that does narrative series with a verbal-visual blend, someone who loves cartoonists and cartooning even as he suffers a bit less attention from the comics world due to the fact that our definition of comics is a bit too tied up in cartooning elements, maybe. Tony employed me when I was a graduate student at seminary a thousand years ago. It was an important time in my life because I was learning to write and transitioning away from the thought that I would have to work according to pre-established precepts for what that meant. It's a bit different now, but the thought of working in a non-traditional job was super-scary to me back then. Seeing Tony -- who couldn't have been older than his early 30s -- work on his career in DIY fashion by throwing his own shows and parties in his own gallery was a life-changer and I'll always be grateful to him. I think it's been good for comics that this isn't the leap it used to be.

* Fitzpatrick is a fine artist and a wonderful talker, too, the living spirit of Chicago to my mind. We ate giant sandwiches and talked about politics and history and Dan Clowes and Laura Park and the history of the Labor Movement and Studs Terkel. What a great thrill for me, or for anyone that gets that opportunity. The experience will generate a feature for this year's Holiday Interview Series.

* Tony stopped casually in the middle of our conversation to take a phone call and offer studio space to an artist burned out of his by fire, which made me think of how the comics community is maybe doing a bit better about responding to similar life circumstances when they hit one of our own.

image* Fitzpatrick is working on a new series about the state of Ohio, looking at its move from America's frontier into a bastion of Northern Liberalism and birthplace of "all our lousiest presidents" to its long, tragic transition to festering cauldron of national resentments. That should eventually be a good book. All of Tony's books are really, really good.

* I had originally intended to take Kiel Phegley with me on that interview, but ended up visiting the CBR news guy briefly in his home instead. I got to meet his beautiful now-fiancee that way, so bonus for me. He gave me a phone so I could talk to Jonah Weiland, which is not the oddest place I've ever had a phone conversation with Jonah Weiland.

* Phegley and I quickly industry-gossiped, which for those of us who cover comics rather than spend the majority of our time making them usually settles into recounting hilariously over-the-top complaints about our coverage and who sent them, followed by general industry-health projects which never tend to conform to reality -- which is good, because they tend to be apocalyptic. I don't know Kiel very well, and while the CBR approach would not be my approach to them all of the time, I think he does a generally nice job over there. I always enjoy talking to him.

* I ended my Chicago run by having dinner with Jessica Campbell, a graduate-studies level art student and painter and until recently a much-beloved Drawn and Quarterly staff stalwart. She's making really funny comics now, if you haven't gone and looked. I had a very nice time.

* the Muncie part of my trip was reunion-fixated, but I did have a tiny bit more time to shop. I went to two comics stores -- it's astounding to me that Muncie has multiple shops -- during my time there: Bob's Comic Castle and Alter Ego Comics. I ended up buying a combination of mainstream material and $1 small-press stuff. I buy mainstream material at comics shops because I don't have any other way to get to that material. When I lived in Seattle, this used to lead to hilarious encounters with clerks only too happy to throw all of alternative comics off of a cliff in conversation with me, an obvious fan of "real comic books." Mostly now I just look like a traditional middle-aged man in a funnybook shop. I'm not that good at talking anymore, either. The guy at Bob's that's been there for twenty years saw my Winter Soldier and Hawkeye selections and said, "Like the non-powered guys, huh?" I thought, "Well, that's a really weird way to describe Matt and Ed." I didn't know that clerk -- and I never learned his name -- was a big fan of Peter Bagge, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns and Gilbert Hernandez, so that was nice to find out. Not sure how we got started talking about that stuff.

* I only talked a few times about comics while in Muncie and in a funnybook shop; one was in discussion about the Marvel v. Kirby Family stuff around the table at my friend Dan Wright's house; one was a subsequent discussion about Jeff Smith and Lewis Trondheim one room over in the same building; one was a high school classmate asking about the comic-book renaissance (his phrase) out of the blue at the reunion. Dan Wright, of course, is a super-talented cartoonist in his own right.

* I did find some comics at the local arts walk, which I talked about here. No comics at the farmers market, at the local you-should-visit bakery or eating Pizza King. I had abandoned an earlier idea I might try and visit Jim Davis' studio out in the county. Davis has a totally awesome studio building, that I think gets visited by people with no interest in comics or licensed material just for its architectural flourishes. You should go if you get the chance.

* I spent a very comics-focused day in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday. It was a great day. I was driving someone to the airport, plus I wanted to visit Jeff Smith. Jeff was the first comics professional I befriended in that industry-pal manner that happens, back when I started working at Fantagraphics. I didn't have any friends in Seattle at the time and I was only too happy to talk to Jeff for a long time when we were putting together his issue of the magazine, which was only my second of what turned out to be about 40 or so. He was nice enough to talk to me back then, and I still feel like I'm feeling the benefit of his kind nature today. When I was in the hospital last year, Jeff somehow figured out (very few did) that something was wrong and called me when I was still in intensive care, which I thought I might have hallucinated except for my brother thinking this was totally hilarious and asking if Dave Sim or Steve Rude were going to call next. Jeff also sent me a care package, which because since it was from comics in Smith's studio consisted of things like a 1947 Captain Marvel Adventures funnybook. It was a very nice thing for him to do.

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* I got to see Jeff's studio, which was a model "building behind the home place" set-up all settled into a cool-ass, adjacent-to-downtown neighborhood marked by fascinating structures and streets with stones rather than paving. I got to see some color pages of the forthcoming RASL collection -- another sustained, quality effort from Steve Hamaker that changes entirely the way the work reads -- and two issues worth of RASL original art pages. Jeff doesn't sell his original art. I think I'm going to only look at comics this way from now on, showing up in people's homes and studios and demanding to see original pages.

* one thing that was interesting to me about the RASL boards is how much digital work gets done with a book like that now, including previous images dropped in during production. I would not have been able to tell. Smith's approach to comics-making is intensive and old-fashioned, and he admitted to feeling odd about working that way at times.

* we went to lunch with the perpetually, criminally under-appreciated industry fixture Vijaya Iyer and talked about Columbus and Paul Pope and where everyone went to high school and when. It could not have been more pleasant.

* okay, this is turning into the most self-indulgent thing to ever appear on this site, which is saying something. This means I'm probably going to stick it into the commentary section after its initial appearance today. I don't mind being self-indulgent -- this is a blog with a cartoon version of me in its masthead -- and I think there's a decent amount of comics content here, so I hope on balance it's okay. Here's the thing. I think about comics all the freaking time right now. I bet that's particularly true of anyone who went to that recent SPX. Two people I've seen in the last couple of weeks started out our conversations with, "Whoa, that SPX." A big part about comics for me post-surgery is to stop acting like I don't work here, to no longer conduct myself as if I'm here on my way to somewhere else. This isn't an uncommon thing with comics people. So self-indulgent this site may be, every so often at least, until I can figure out a better way to present my now comics-obsessive self through CR. I think a lot of us may be making that kind of personal reckoning right now, too, from readers to industry people to the cartoonists themselves.

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* so anyway, Smith and I went from lunch to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum where Caitlin McGurk and Jenny Robb met us to show us around -- on a Sunday, which was so, so, freaking nice of them -- and let us paw through comics art like the super-nerds we are. I hadn't met Robb before. I'm a fan.

* my special requests were to see an Oliver Harrington and an Edwina Dumm or two, work from two of the most undervalued cartoonists of the last century. The Harrington was fascinating. I think he was a wholly admirable cartoonist despite and maybe because of the fact that I have strong disagreements with his politics, at least as expressed through his work. He was lucid, and mean, and uncompromising and I wish there were a dozen like Oliver Harrington working today. Harrington didn't work that big, which I would not have expected given the visual power he generated. The Dumm strips were beautiful. She had this great, casual elegance with figure drawing and faces that I greatly admire, a really confident way of nailing a look or a movement in three lines or less that is rare in comics. Jeff wasn't familiar with Dumm, which was great to see, actually: we all have comics left to read and cartoonists to discover.

* the usual dollop of industry talk, of course, including positive reports from that week's Chris Ware presentation at the CCAD show. Someone said that the audience questions were even great, which is always good to hear.

* the greatest-hits material Jeff and I saw was incredible, too -- Caniff and Davis and Kelly and Foster (oh my God, the Foster) and a quilting project made from a Kerry Drake Sunday and a Herriman and a painted Calvin and Hobbes and those wonderful early McCay strips... why the hell I'd never visited before now stuns me. What was I thinking not going there? There are maybe a half-dozen places in comics I think one should visit, and this is one of them. The plan for the new building in which Billy Ireland be housed, opening next year, are stunning. That's going to be one of the Crown Jewels Of All Of Comics moving forward, and we're lucky to have institutions like that one and the smart, talented people that work there. Hooray for Billy Ireland.

* said goodbye to Jeff and spent some time hanging out with McGurk, the Patient Zero of what I'm expecting to be a viral outbreak of small-press folks and younger comics people moving to Columbus in the next five years. Columbus feels like it was created in a laboratory to have comics people live there; mark my words, it could be the Next Big Thing.

* one of a couple of things we did was go to a birthday party for Roy Doty. Ninety! He's a veteran comics-maker and artist well known to a lot of cartoonists and especially cartoonists in that region. On a table in Doty's studio I saw a gift of art from Bill Griffith that Bill had signed as "a longtime fan." Doty has a freakishly tight line for someone his age -- it's a controlled stroke for someone any age, really, but for 90 the look of his work is astonishing. He still works, actively and in a commercial context. He showed us some posters that are being put out and some comics for a European publisher. Doty has a small library housing some of his 100-plus children's books and I enjoyed a close-up look at works like this one, which I've admired when I've seen it on-line.

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* there are two Sunday Herrimans on one of Doty's studio walls, which is the kind of thing you encounter and hear a movie-style music cue in your head when you realize what you're looking at. I mean, come on. Holy shit, right? Doty said he bought them in 1946 from a former assistant of Herriman's who was down on his luck in New York City. He paid I think $125 for the pair. It was delightful to stand there with the cartoonist and hear him enthuse over the work as if it were the first time he'd read them. Sometimes with older, much-valued historical comics work you forget that it was made to be read and enjoyed. At any rate, that guy was a total delight and it was an honor to hang out with him briefly.

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* Mr. Doty, by the way, also owns this item, which is a martini dispenser made by a man who later used the all-glass faucet part of this invention to make a fortune by helping people that want to store acid find a way to do so. I guess there are only three of these in the world, and one of them is in a collection at MOMA. So wow. I was doubly impressed by the fact Mr. Doty took two full pulls into his glass from the device while we were talking.

* one of the great things about hanging out with some of the newer people that work in and around comics like McGurk -- and like Phegley, whom I had seen the previous week, or even the cartoonist I met briefly in Muncie, Malik Head -- is that their orientation towards comics is different than one's own. Usually that means a lot of "those kids today"-type fist-shaking and complaining from the olds like me, but I think there's something to be learned from the people that have arrived in the wider comics community closer to the time of comics being its own fully-realized phenomenon, people that don't remember an era where your interaction with comics over a three-month period outside of the books themselves might be spotting some on Radar O'Reilly's desk during an episode of MASH. To come along and start working now, or in the last few years, brings with it a different attitude than existed for those of us that showed up in the arguably more creatively fallow and less hopeful 1990s. It's community-based, or at least community-reinforced and very DIY, and sort of both more casual and more matter-of-fact hardcore. It's good to see people focused and all in. It's inspiring and so are many of these people individually, for reasons specific to their own stories.

* I returned to my desert-mountain home yesterday, refreshed and ready to plough ahead until my next trip: BCGF.

* this may be the subject of its own essay at some point, but I feel tremendously privileged to have any sort of professional interaction with comics these days. There's an enormous amount of work to do, but for whatever reason -- and it may be a complete misapprehension on my part, fueled by exhaustion and by staring at dazzling original art and by hanging out with cool people and by general nostalgia -- I think it's work that can be done, that can be accomplished. I still don't believe in empty-headed boosterism, and I believe more than ever in a rich and full life for comics people that doesn't involve growing stale via cloistered obsession over the art form and the people in them. But even if we're not all on the same team many of us are on similar paths, and it's a lovely, invigorating thing when those paths cross. My thanks to everyone that spent time with me in the last several days.
 
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If I Were In Cambridge, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Sloane

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Sean T. Collins reminds that video of programming from this year's super-fine SPX is beginning to pop up on-line.

image* Rob Clough on Journalism and Squirrel Mother. Gavin Jasper on JLA Vs. Predators. Dan Morrill on James Bond Omnibus Vol. 004. Greg McElhatton on Secret Of The Stone Frog, A Fine And Private Place #1 and Polterguys Vol. 1. Noah Berlatsky on NANA Vol. 22. Christopher Allen on Avengers Vs. X-Men #12. Sean Gaffney on Skip Beat! Vol. 29. Grant Goggans on Al Jaffee's MAD Life. J. Caleb Mozzocco on four comics that don't really generate full-review responses on his part.

* "Movie profits go to movies. Comic profits go to comics." That's interesting, because you'd think that while of course the money is accounted for differently there would be more of a general impact in terms of seeing the movie profits as somehow based on what the comics do. But maybe not; things certainly haven't operated as if that's a factor in any way.

* which super-villain lives here again?

* Sean Kleefeld asks out loud if it's really that hard to understand webcomics, springboarding from a Stephan Pastis interview. I'm not sure that Pastis' qualms are really "I don't really know how this works" based as much as they're "I'm really distrustful of what people say" based, and I have some sympathy for that particular position. Kleefeld's right in that a useful way to look at it if you're a working pro in print is to just recognize that there are different models for revenue now, as there is in the case of all forms of media.

* Mark Kardwell talks to Glyn Dillon.

* not comics: Jen Vaughn and Alex Kim win citations in a children's book illustration category at a book awards.

* Bob Temuka writes on the recent end of the Nikolai Dante serial.

* finally, I'm not sure how the wikipedia entry for comics that were never published ended up in my bookmarks folder, but it's always a fun read.
 
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October 8, 2012


Go, Look: Ben Hatke

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This Site Is A Sucking Black Hole Of Need

There are a pair of things in a site maintenance way with which I'd love to have some help.

* I could use an appropriate name for a column devoted to digital comics publishing, everything from downloadable comics to webcomics. I think I need to better focus on that aspect of comics, and having to fill something once a week will help me get there. If someone sends me a title I can use, I'll send them a check.

* this site recently switched to being updated on a Mac, and I'm experiencing my first flurry of fatal shutdowns -- the gray/black screen that goes from top to bottom and requires the site being turned off and back on. Is there any Mac user that would be willing to take my e-mails on how to basically deal with that? I find the on-line advice kind of confusing.
 
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Go, Look: Alberto Breccia El Dorado Pages

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Not Comics: Final Avengers Movie Domestic Tally

$623.3 million. Let this Fall's career-jewel related firings at the publishing company commence.
 
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Go, Look: Moontoon.com

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Comics By Request -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

* BK Munn profiles a crowd-funding campaign for a Canadian anthology.

* in terms of ongoing campaigns, there's still kaBOOMbox; that one looks well on its way, but it's not funded until it's funded.

* this Dream Life project from Salgood Sam made its goal sometime late Friday/early Saturday. It's still going, of course.

* we end as we always end these days, with Lea Hernandez and her The Garlicks.
 
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If I Were In Seattle, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: I've Somehow Never Linked To Battle Zoo

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* so here's the deal on those Pogo slipcases.

image* Bob Temuka on Love And Rockets: New Stories #5. Tucker Stone on a lot of different comics. Rob Clough on The Nao Of Brown and a bunch of different of comics. Richard Gehr on The Carter Family. J. Caleb Mozzocco on a bunch of different comics. Todd Klein on Justice League #11. Don MacPherson on Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Robyn Hood #1. Kate Dacey on Give My Regards To Black Jack Vols. 1-2. Greg McElhatton on Polterguys Vol. 1.

* here's another summary report from the recent MorrisonCon, an exercise on comics shows revolving around both one-creator branding and elite access.

* Chris Ware needs to put out a major, giant book every year so that he can do all the festivals and do all of their posters.

* here's a profile of Boody Rogers -- or a couple of profiles, I can't tell on a first glance. But still: Boody Rogers.

* Ronald Searle art is apparently part of a newly-christened POW memorial.

* Clay Fernald talks to Adrian Tomine. Steve Sunu talks to Axel Alonso, Tom Brevoort and Jonathan Hickman. Jim Beard talks to Kathryn Immonen.

* finally, Mark Siegel did last week's TCJ diary.
 
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October 7, 2012


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

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Ten Rarely-Discussed Superman Comics

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By Dr. Martin Stetter

1. "Demontown," Action Comics #15, Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy, August 1939.
An alarming 20-page story where Superman, in the most pointed realization of the character's populist roots, eviscerates much of Detroit's commercial infrastructure Dresden-style and punch-decapitates multiple captains of industry in front of a bloodthirsty, pro-union crowd. Frank Miller's favorite Golden Age comic.

2. "Homefront Reds And Blues," Superman #39, Dan Cameron and Jack Burnley, March/April 1946.
A feature-length story where Superman is confronted by multiple veterans asking him why on God's earth he didn't fly over to Germany and then Tokyo and end the war as quickly as possible, with the Man Of Steel muttering various unconvincing answers until finally admitting that he was worried about a decline in sales on Superman comics if they were to lose the GI market. Superman's sheepish grin and shrug in the last panel later became the subject of a 1958 Jules Feiffer essay in Holiday called "Stop Smiling, Superman," which itself was appropriated by Quentin Tarantino for an elevator speech given by priest/hitman Lawrence Hilton Jacobs in the director's little-seen 2009 Norm MacDonald-starring remake of Charley Varrick.

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3. "And Don't You Forget It," World's Finest #108, Bill Finger and Curt Swan, July 1959.
A typical space-menace story save for a harrowing two-page scene of Superman yelling at Batman in an out-of-the-way roadside diner that he can do Batman's job and his job without any problem and insinuating that only Robin's presence is keeping their argument from "getting physical," by which he means "pulling your legs off." DC's campaign to have kids mail those pages back to the company in exchange for a Kryptonian decoder ring largely successful save for the ring-reluctant Southwest, where pristine copies dot the region's lot-by-lot antique malls.

4. "Aiee! Bad Dog!" Superboy #107, Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino, September 1963.
Codeless comic about Krypto's neutering.

image5. "I Am Bi-Curious, Hello!" Lois Lane #109, Robert Kanigher and Werner Roth, November 1970.
Using strangely specific Kryptonian technology, Superman turns Lois Lane into a gay person for 24 hours so that she can perform the research necessary to write the latest installment of her Daily Planet column, "Lois Lane's Extremely Patronizing Stories."

6. "Ocean's Home By Eleven," Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #146, Jack Kirby and Mike Royer, April 1972
Little-read coda to Kirby's Fourth World Saga where Jimmy Olsen teams up with a pack of sentient animal-men resembling the Rat Pack to fight the awesome, random-machine-generating menace of the Spirit Of Entropy, as represented by the visual of a kid with a big scarf and knit hat playing marbles. According to a 1990 Les Daniel book, Superman's head was redrawn more than 47 times by members of a tourist group that happened to be visiting the DC offices that week. Guest appearance by comedian Dick Gregory.

7. The Day Metropolis Was Saved By Superior Film Quality Despite Unfair Market Advantages, Paul Kupperburg and Dick Giordano, DC Comics/Sony, Summer 1981.
This was the third and best in a series of giveaways featuring Superman in partnership with Bob and Bobbi, the Betamax Twins. Destruction of planet Krypton blamed squarely on the adoption of VHS as the standard videotape format. Grant Morrison later ret-conned the videotape-focused Krypton narrative into Earth 350x480, "one of the particularly boring Earths."

8. Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali 2, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, DC Comics, 1989.
This not-as-successful sequel to the 1970s classic consisted of a long, genial, and at-time barely audible conversation between the Man Of Steel and the Greatest Of All Time on the porch of Ali's house.

9. "Superman's Funeral, Part Two," Superman #78, Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding, March 1993.
Various exhausted, grief-stricken super-friends seek late-night sustenance at Smallville's Applebee's franchise before, as Aquaman puts it, "The world's mightiest mortals waste an entire weekend sorting through 20 boxes of crap." Horrifying nature of intergalactic porn stash discovery sends Martian Manhunter on meditative road trip. Dramatic subplot involving Pete Ross picking up a very drunk Jayna of the Wonder Twins is the original source of 2008 presidential campaign catchphrase "Shape of kicks your ass."

10. All-Star Superman: The Decision, Gran Morrison and Frank Quitely, April 2011.
In this webcomic sequel to the popular mini-series, we find the Man Of Steel, distraught by the growing popularity of Batman and Green Lantern, declaring in worldwide broadcast with Morgan Edge, "I'm taking my talents to Opal City," where he joins Starman and an also-relocating Tarantula as the city's newest defenders. Lex Luthor writes unfortunate letter posted to Daily Planet web site vowing that Metropolis will be the site of multiple narrowly-averted, potential universe-ending disasters before Opal City even has one. Nike's attempt to resuscitate Superman's image in commercial that takes oblique shots at Hour Man and Captain Atom confuses remaining fans.

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originally appeared in Rocket From Krypton, 2011; reprinted with permission

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Bio: Dr. Martin Stetter is popular life coach and radio guest on pop-culture matters from "twizzlers to Murder, She Wrote." He is twice-divorced and headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His libretto for Wertham! will debut in Branson, Missouri next summer.

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Not Comics: Landland

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Go, Look: Galerie Voyageur

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Not Comics: Sean Dietrich

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Go, Look: Cecily

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Go, Look: A Gallery Of Jam Drawings

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

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If I Were In Westhampton Beach, 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 Tacoma, I'd Go To This

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The Comics Reporter Video Parade


James Kochalka Is Grotus


Stan Lee Talks To Harvey Kurtzman And Jack Davis


Josh Neufeld Introduces His AD To Incoming Freshman At SUNY-Brockport


Interview With Charb


Interview With Rayma Suprani


Interview With Ali Dilem


Joe Palooka Radio Show Recording


A Mike Luckovich Interview


A Liza Donnelly Interview


A Jeff Danziger Interview



Two Videos Of Ivan Brunetti From 13 Years Apart
 
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October 6, 2012


Dave Sim, IDW Announce Cerebus Covers Project

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CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from September 29 to October 5, 2012:

1. Frank Cammuso's announced layoff from his editorial cartoonist gig at the Syracuse Post-Standard throws yet another spotlight on the continuing tenuousness of the cartoonist/newspaper relations more generally.

2. Comics' institutional growth continues with a new conference in Ohio and a new MFA program in California.

3. Todd McFarlane sues Al Simmons.

Winners Of The Week
CCS and Slate Book Review for inaugurating a classy-sounding book prize, with a cash reward of the kind all comics-related awards should have.

Loser Of The Week
Marvel, once again putting strain on a potentially close-to-exhausted system of retail sales for short-term goals regarding market share and launch publicity.

Quote Of The Week
"In an effort to be more like my fellow Avenger, Tony Stark, I have had an electronic pace-maker placed near my heart to insure that I’ll be able to lead thee for another 90 years." -- Stan Lee

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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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Go, Look: Pinkerton Park

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

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If I Were In Seattle, I'd Consider Taking This

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If I Were In Saint Paul, 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 Providence, 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 Lodz, I'd Go To This

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

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

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October 5, 2012


Go, Look: In Our Eden

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Slate Book Review And CCS Initiate The Cartoonist Studio Prize

Announcement here. The winners will include a graphic novel and a web comic, there will be a cash-prize element and Francoise Mouly is on board to be the first in a series of rotating judges. More info at the CCS site, including how to present yourself for candidacy. As always, CR supports mechanisms that put money into the pockets of cartoonists.
 
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Go, Look: Kerascoet

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Accidentally Unearthing Comics In Middletown, USA

imageSo I'm in Muncie, Indiana this week on a personal trip. The city of my youth has a first Thursday arts walk downtown, which is an astounding thing given that I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s at the nadir of Midwestern small-city downtown areas as any kind of home for bustling activity (it was basically, lawyers, jewelry stores and pawn shops when I was a kid). While I liked the walking more than the art, I did see a couple of comics related things. The first was a collective for Ball State University students, with a tumblr here. They were set up in the local park next to the YMCA. The second and potentially more interesting find was a comic given me by a 19-year-old kid at the tattoo parlor. The artist's name is Malik Head, the comic would fit in pretty well at just about any small press comics festival, and it's hard for me to fathom finding one's way in a city like Indianapolis (or his hometown, Warsaw) doing work like that even in the context of a lot of different kinds of arts-making. So I hope Head's Internet profile grows while he continues to make art as it comes to him to want to make art.

When we talk about the growth of comics art, we tend to focus on the highly-commercial end of things -- both the limits and successes seen there. There are, however, a lot of cartoonists operating out there a long way away from showing at an SPX or placing work at one of the mainstream publishers. There may be more people making comics and related work than ever before, in ways that we can only barely grasp.
 
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Go, Look: Sara Varon

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Go, Read: Frank Cammuso On His Recent Layoff

The talented cartoonist Frank Cammuso talked briefly to Alan Gardner at Daily Cartoonist about word he was part of layoffs at the Syracuse Post-Standard after more than two decades in his editorial cartoonist role there. The hard news elements to what's reported are that Cammuso will work through the new year, that he won't be doing freelance for the publication that decided to go in a different direction, and that he'll be concentrating on his kids book work. I thought that story interesting because Cammuso has a skill-set that would seem to lend itself to anything a newspaper might want to do with their cartoon elements, so that a layoff would seem to indicate a desire not to move away from cartooning more generally.
 
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Go, Look: Leanne Shapton

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Go, Look: Selection Of Post-Presidential Debate Cartoons

There is the usual Cagle.com category of cartoons up for those related to the first, recent presidential debate here. You can also see the article generated from the Cagle site -- I think that's how that works -- for one of the NBC sites here. Reading such posts is almost always instructive in terms of learning how that group of people process a single story in different ways. It looks like something about Big Bird was super-helpful to the cartoonists there, although there's also a lot of generic prizefighting imagery -- itself interesting in terms of prizefighting being an antiquated notion as compared to mixed martial arts contests. Then again, politics is an endeavor that relies on horse racing imagery as well.
 
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Go, Look: David Sandlin

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Two Quick Links For Those Of You Following That Dave Sim/Cerebus Publishing Hash-Out Semi-Fiasco

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There's a summary of things to date over at Heidi MacDonald's The Beat concerning Dave Sim's higher public profiles of late, particularly vis-a-vis an odd public hashing out of a potential relationship with Fantagraphics. MacDonald has been following Sim and his work for years and years and years; she's likely to have a generous point of view regarding some of the extreme personalities involved.

Sim's most on-the-point response to elements of the Fantagraphics offer -- or the general idea of such an offer -- can be found here.

I had what was probably my last word here. As I said there, I'd be surprised if we didn't at least see a couple of publishing projects eventually announced out of this latest round of activity from the cartoonist.

I actually have no idea if that's Sim or a fan drawing
 
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If I Were In Columbus, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Lodz, 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: Christoph Niemann

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here's an excerpt from Sean Howe's much-anticipated Marvel Comics history.

image* missed it: so I guess Pat Mills has a blog.

* Sean Gaffney on Barbara. Boys talking comics. Johanna Draper Carlson on The Drops Of God: New World and Science Tales.

* comparing recent iterations of Sgt. Rock.

* not comics: hey, it's Segazine.

* Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda do a background-commentary feature for the FPI site.

* Tim O'Shea talks to Jay Faerber. Kiel Phegley talks to Robert Kirkman. Emmet O'Brien talks to Stephen Mooney. Someone at ActuaBD.com talks to Albert Uderzo. Josie Campbell talks to Frank Quitely. Michael Cavna profiles Stephen Pastis.

* finally, Sean Kleefeld designs his library.
 
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October 4, 2012


Go, Look: Nora Krug

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CR Newsmaker Interview: Matt Silady

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*****

Matthew Silady is a comics creator best known for his graphic novel The Homeless Channel, published by AiT-Planet Lar in 2007. He is also the chair of the college program at the California College Of The Arts, which after a thumbs-up last Spring is moving ahead full-bore, with events and orientation symposia and all the bells and whistles you might expect with an MFA program. I was intrigued by how quickly the program is springing into existence, and why exactly the school is offering such a program at this specific point in time. With a public lecture in support of the program by artist Phil Jimenez to come off this evening, Silady was nice enough to take my questions. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Matt, can you talk a little bit about comics and your personal vocational history? I take it from what I've read that you've always liked comics -- and I'd like to hear about some of the comics that were personally meaningful to you -- but that you yourself came to comics late, maybe even after a couple of other careers. Is that a fair statement?

MATT SILADY: It sure is. I spent most of my twenties avoiding the one thing really I wanted to do: make comics.

A good friend of mine snapped his fingers at me once and said, "what do you really want to be when you grow up?" I said, "a teacher." And that was that. I switched majors and found myself teaching 8th grade for six years. Don't get me wrong. I loved it. I miss it. But during the summers, I would peck away at comic book scripts.

imageI feel like I've always been on a trajectory to do both. The first comic I read cover to cover, [Chris] Claremont and [Alan] Davis' Excalibur #1, switched a light on in my brain. There was something special there. Not the soap opera storyline or the guys running around in long-johns shooting laser beams out of their eyes. But something fundamental in the way that comics worked that I couldn't shake.

Fast forward to college. I picked up the zero issue of Starman and a different switch was flipped. I went from just consuming as many comics as I could to feeling like I needed to make them. I wanted to make someone else feel the same way that Robinson and Harris made me feel when I read their comics. Unfortunately, fear of failure definitely kept me from diving right in.

My other big lightbulb books were Jinx (which convinced me that a writer could draw) and Jimmy Corrigan (which showed me what a real master of the craft could do). Before I knew it, I was moving west and working on a masters degree in fiction. Shortly after meeting Josh Cotter (Skyscrapers of the Midwest) at a party, I started work on The Homeless Channel. He pointed a finger at me when I said I was still just thinking about making comics and told me to stop making excuses and get to work. So I did.

SPURGEON: Matt, is there a reason we haven't seen a longer work from you since Homeless Channel? Forgive me if I'm forgetting something -- and in fact, fill me in. I know that I've seen snippets of what's advertised as forthcoming work, but I'm not sure I've seen the work. Are we going to get more comics from you?

SILADY: Yes. Yes, there are definitely more comics in my future.

I got the call from CCA just after The Homeless Channel was released. I'd taken some time off from teaching to complete the book and I was really ready to get back in the classroom. It's where I'm most comfortable and often, where I'm most happy. So I jumped at the chance. I've put my heart and soul into expanding the comics curriculum at the college. It has taken time away from the two long-form projects I'm working on, but it's been totally worth it.

imageMore than anything, it's made my comics better. If I picked up right where The Homeless Channel left off, I don't think I'd be happy with my progress. In the last four years, I've learned so much more about my craft through teaching. In that time, books like Bottomless Belly Button, Asterios Polyp, What It Is, and stunners like Brecht Evens new The Making Of have all made it into my syllabus. By prioritizing teaching again, comics have opened up to me in a whole new way.

I do need to be more careful with carving out time for myself to work now. Sometimes it means going to some extremes. This past summer I took on a jail cell residency at Alter Space in San Francisco. Nothing like moving your studio into a basement dungeon to clear away distractions for a bit.

SPURGEON: Okay, so you go in last Spring to pitch an MFA program related to comics. How did that opportunity come to you? What intrigued about the idea? Did you already have a relationship with the school?

SILADY: For the last several years, I've been slowly and carefully building the undergraduate and graduate comics curriculum at CCA. There was a pent up demand for comics when I got there. CCA has a rich history of comics in the classroom. Barron Storey's illustration courses have seen to that. But from the moment I was asked to lead their first dedicated comics workshop all the way up to the launch of the MFA, the school never asked me to defend the legitimacy of comics in any way. We've expanded the curriculum to include everything from genre-specific courses, such as this past summer's memoir studio, to graduate-level workshops and seminars.

By bringing in top notch faculty, we've been able to put together some very special projects too. Justin Hall (True Travel Tales) and I were able to co-teach a project-based seminar in which students helped compile an oral history of San Francisco's GLBTQ comics scene and contributed to the editing of Fantagraphics' No Straight Lines anthology. We've also had a tremendous line-up of guest speakers including Julia Wertz, Dash Shaw, Vanessa Davis, MariNaomi, and Christophe Blaine just to name a few. By the time the administration approached me about a potential MFA in Comics, we had all the pieces in place. It was just a matter of putting it all together in a cohesive way.

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SPURGEON: Why do you think they agreed to try a program like this right now? There's a line of thinking that while comics are ingrained as a part of publishing culture, and our arts culture, that they're maybe not on the upswing in the way they were three, four, five years ago. Why did you perceive of a need for this kind of program right now?

SILADY: Interest in comics certainly isn't waning. I think we've just moved past the "comics aren't for kids" portion of the mainstream media's narrative. The program isn't an attempt to cash in on a trend. Comics are here for good. And thankfully, we can now spend most of our energy just getting to work.

There are two reasons the time is right for this program. First, we've got a really diverse generation of young comics creators that are more literate than ever before. They've managed to avoid a high sugar diet of made up of only superhero comics. They've grown up on manga and graphic novels as well. They're hungry to tell their stories, experiment with the page, and perfect their craft. I want to provide a structured community with top tier mentorship to help them follow their dreams.

The second reason, and one that's dear to my heart, is to empower cartoonists to make a living teaching comics. We're at a bit of a chicken and egg moment here in terms of comics education. More and more comics courses are coming on-line in higher education, yet many cartoonists who would love to teach those courses haven't had the chance to earn an advanced degree in their field. I want to help those comics creators not only land those jobs, but to really excel in the classroom as well. Just being a great artist isn't enough. That's why I'm making sure that teacher training and the study of comics education are important components of our program.

SPURGEON: The last question had the phrase "right now" and it really is "right now" -- you guys are moving extraordinarily quickly, it seems to me. Why the charge to get the degree program fully launched? What have the last few months been like from your end of things?

SILADY: The last few months have been the best of my life. Seriously. As I mentioned before, we've been building the foundation for this program for several years now. Once the President gave our team the green light, we've had the full support of the entire college. Everyone's been so very supportive. It really feels like the entire school is excited about this.

The administration really saw what we were doing in each of our individual comics courses from the quality of work coming out of the classroom to the enthusiasm of our students. Now, we're just in the process of tying it all together. Personally, I couldn't be more excited. The two roads that I've followed for a long time now have finally merged.

imageSPURGEON: What kind of student do you hope to attract? In fact, how far along are you in terms of putting together your initial class?

SILADY: We start accepting applications on November 15th. But we've already been receiving a steady stream of inquiries about the program. We're definitely looking for students coming right out of undergraduate illustration and writing programs. But the program has also been turning heads among working professional cartoonists. This is where the low-residency format of the program is really appealing. We're here to provide a supportive creative community for up-and-coming creators as well as provide graduate level training for industry veterans looking to expand their mastery of their craft.

More than anything, I'm trying to fashion the kind of graduate program that I wished had been around ten years ago when I was considering an MFA. One that honors the craft of making comics and celebrates the limitless potential of the medium.

SPURGEON: Talk me to the about the program, its parameters and functional aspects. If I were a student, what would I be in for -- how much time on campus, or project-work, or class-time would I have gotten into? Who are you drawing on for instructors and other positions?

SILADY: First of all, you get to spend a month of your summer in San Francisco. If you're looking for a place to hang out and make comics for awhile, this city is hard to beat. Students will stay in the Bay Area starting in July of 2013 for a month of intensive comics seminars, workshops, and studio courses. After establishing the basic trajectory of their creative thesis projects, they return home and take the following fall and spring semesters to work on their comics with the guidance of a long-distance faculty mentor. The following July, it's back to San Francisco for another round of course work with their peers and refining their thesis projects. Student then have one more year of one-on-one mentoring before returning for a final July focusing on comics publication, pedagogy, and professional practice.

Our faculty is really shaping up. One of the incredible advantages of putting this program together at CCA is that we get to draw on the best of the best in terms of illustration instructors, design experts, and award-winning writers from our graduate creative writing program. We're also featuring a special guest workshop instructor each summer (which I get to announce very, very soon!)

SPURGEON: What kind of goals do you have for five years down the line? If this program works out to the maximum extent you'd like, what does the program look like?

SILADY: Five years from now, it will all be about community. We'll have two graduated classes, three cohorts of students working their way through the program, an expanded and energized faculty, professional connections within the industry and academia, and a very tall stack of completed books. Personally, it would make me very happy to see our students teaching comics at all academic levels while continuing to explore their own gifts as artists and writers. CCA's MFA in Comics is designed to be a hub where faculty, alumni, current students, and comics professionals can regularly interact through the coursework, mentorship, and public events. I can't wait to see it all come together. I'm really proud of the work we've done so far and it's only the beginning.

*****

* program page
* Matthew Silady's page in relation to the program
* program's facebook page

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* logo from program
* Excalibur #1, a powerful comic in Silady's personal orbit
* page from Homeless Channel
* from program supporter MariNaomi
* headshot provided by Silady
* another image from Silady's Homeless Channel (bottom)

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Jesse Jacobs

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Go, Listen: It's Still Los Bros Hernandez' Big Year

imageThe podcast Comic Books Are Burning In Hell has an appreciative episode up on all things Love & Rockets and Los Bros Hernandez. As comics culture can be weak when it comes to sustained coverage of news and events, positive or negative, it's worth noting whenever possible that the 30-Year Anniversary trio of major con appearances by the Hernandez Brothers continues at next week's APE. I hope that readers and their peers in the professional ranks take the time to pay tribute to them at that show, and more generally. It was nice to see so many people at SPX walk away with black and white pin-up art, for instance.
 
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Go, Look: Sammy Harkham On Flickr

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* as noted yesterday, the CCAD Mix event in Columbus is ongoing. There are events this weekend in Houston and Saint Paul.

* I sort of fell in love with every scrap I read about Morrisoncon when it was ongoing. Sounds like an odd, oddly casual, nothing-like-it happening.

* here's a report on the Asbury Park Comic Con.

* I would like more shows with off-kilter set-ups like MorrisonCon and APCC. I really would. Shows revolving around elite access and around specific personalities make total sense to me, as do shows that are based on a single day in a unique location. I just sort of want more good shows, period, no matter how they're set up. I think the convention calendar is really rounding into something special right now; for whatever reasons, the physical show set-up in general has some strength to it. I'd like to see more good shows, by which I also mean I'd like to see more of the shoddily-run ones fade quickly from view. I don't even cover a lot of the three-day events masquerading as comics shows, but it seems like in the long term all those shows are going to do is damage that market for a better-run effort.

* a real area of potential growth seems to me one-day shows with a creator-driven model. Those seem like they can be more modestly achieved, when they work they're really nice, and if you want to expand you can -- and you don't even have to expand your floor days, you can just do some special programming night/before or day after.

* I'm super-curious about how Reed's New York show develops now that it seems to have garnered a pretty firm foothold in that market and in the Fall convention calendar more generally. The two times I went -- and the organizers were nice to me -- the whole thing kind of gave me the hives. It was like going to a comics show with nearly everything I enjoy about comics boiled off. Except for a few scattered announcements and debuts here and there, I can't remember a whole lot about NYCC as a publishing event, either. That just seems weird with a show in the heart of North American publishing that has that sort of proximity to the Christmas shopping season. I love going to New York, and I love Milton Griepp's conferences beforehand, but the show itself kind of beats the desire out of me to go. I have enough friends that aren't involved with comics living in New York that simply enjoying the city with my comics pals is kind of off the table, too. I know that a lot of folks love that show, but I don't get it.

* anyway, I imagine most people are APE and NYCC focused right now. I would be.
 
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If I Were In Cambridge, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Huntington, 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 San Francisco, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In San Francisco, 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: Marian Runk

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I had no idea there was a Tumblr devoted to the forthcoming Matt Fraction/Howard Chaykin collaboration set in the early days of television. That should be pretty interesting.

image* I keep forgetting to do a "go, look" link to the Andi Watson drawing tumblr "Gallimaufry Of Girls," so I'm just going to go ahead and take care of it here.

* totally missed this Caitlin Hu review of one of the books in the Aya series. I disagree with it, but I like how it comes at the work knives out.

* I also totally missed this good news from Whitney Matheson.

* Andrew Kunka on Grant Morrison. Rob Clough on various comics from Records Records Records. Andrew Shuping on Scott Pilgrim Color Edition. Greg McElhatton on Talon #0. Don MacPherson on Happy! #1. John Kane on various comics. Consuela Francis on Watchmen.

* it's not so much that a comics fan wished cancer on somebody that made a comic book they didn't like, it's the casual admission of such that amuses. "Oh, yeah. That was totally me at one point. Stupid Batman plot twist for us? Cancer for you. Harsh? Maybe. But that's how I do things."

* I always wanted someone to open up a comics shop based on the co-op model. I don't even know what that would mean, I just sort of liked the idea.

* Sara Zarr talks to Gene Yang.

* I don't know if everybody can see this, but what a great profile-picture from Gabrielle Bell.

* finally, that superior link-blogger Kevin Melrose notes that DC's bad-guys promotional program linked to Halloween is kind of weird, in part because the villains are portrayed in the comics in ways wildly inappropriate for a lot of children to process.
 
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October 3, 2012


Go, Look: Aaron Costain

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CR Newsmaker Interview: Robert Loss

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*****

I wanted to talk to Robert Loss of this week's Mix Symposium in Columbus, Ohio at the Columbus College Of Art And Design for a few reasons. One is that 2012 seems to have become the year of intriguing comics events, and this blend of academia and small-press focus qualifies. Another is that he landed Chris Ware to speak, which I think is a notable thing and I hope that the people on-hand enjoy Ware for something he does very well: speak in public about comics. Yet another is that I'm enamored of Columbus as a potential sleeping giant among comics towns. Just the fact that from Columbus you can road-trip it to festivals and conventions and events from Boston to Minneapolis to New Orleans to Gainesville should put the Arch City in the running for Next Big Thing, at least the way comics is structured these days. At any rate, this is a weekend when all the Columbus cartoonists can stay home and folks from elsewhere can visit, and Mr. Loss is primarily responsible. I'm grateful for his time during a busy ramp-up period and wish him luck with pulling off the show, which gets underway today. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

imageTOM SPURGEON: Robert, I'm afraid I don't know anything about you. One of the things that's usually helpful for people when thinking of someone putting together a comics event is to learn about someone's comics history. Have you always been a comics reader? What comics have been important to you at what times in your life?

ROBERT LOSS: Like a lot of people my age, I grew up reading mainstream superhero comics in the early 1980s but I was sort of aware of an underground/indie scene. I remember the drugstore in our small town just south of Cleveland had comics on the spinner rack, but the comics shop in the next town over had books like Cerebus on the back shelf. Memory is untrustworthy, though; I may not have been as aware of those kinds of titles as I remember. I wasn't reading them, anyway, not yet. The first comic I read was probably Archie, but within four or five years I was reading Watchmen as it came out. I was really into the Uncanny X-Men during [Chris] Claremont's run with [John] Byrne and then [John] Romita Jr. And The 'Nam, too, which I'd like to write about someday. That's a strange journey, you know? It was that sweet spot in 1986, 1987 when the mainstream companies were taking some serious risks. And yet somehow I missed The Sandman. I eventually tried to read Cerebus but I couldn't get it. Wasn't smart enough. (I was 12!)

So I drifted away in my late teens to go write Raymond Carver rip-offs because I love prose fiction and, look!, here was someone writing about a world I recognized. I couldn't find that in comics at the time. Eventually I did find those worlds in the early work of folks like Dan Clowes and Chris Ware. (Which says something about my world, I guess.) More recently, in the past five years or so, I guess I've come back around on the 'genre' books, by which I mean I stopped feeling guilty about reading them. I read for different reasons, in different modes, and I can bounce between a Batman title and American Splendor comics and not feel a decibel of dissonance. Or maybe I just enjoy the dissonance. Lately I've been catching up on some of Pekar's work like The Quitter and Cleveland. His work clears away all of the b.s., you know? I read him, watch a DVD of Homicide, listen to some Bob Dylan and read Flannery O'Connor and suddenly the world looks sharper.

imageSPURGEON: What put it into your head to do a conference like this one? What was the point you realized that this was gaining in momentum in a way that would make it a real thing?

LOSS: I've always enjoyed trespassing across disciplines and looking for connections rather than divisions, maybe because I've never really felt at home in any single discipline. So I've never felt like a comics insider or outsider, or rather, I've always felt like both at the same time. There's a lot of benefit to that. This supposed division between academia and creativity is a perfect example of the dangers of insider/outsider thinking, and it doesn't hold much value -- well, any value -- for me. Ultimately it's a distraction from more compelling questions and more significant ideas. So I guess that approach, or desire, was already in my head, and probably had a lot to do with proposing Mix 2012.

The rest of the inspiration grew out of teaching comics at an art school as an English prof. I started incorporating the graphic novel into my courses at CCAD, and eventually we created a course called The Literature of Comics and Graphic Novels. I realized there was a need for, and room for, a serious discussion about comics from the perspective of an art college, where the students are so deeply invested in artistic thought and practice. I did teach Watchmen once or twice at OSU, but the students there just saw it as a novel. Art college students tend to immediately and intuitively understand the visual communication in comics, even if they don't know why or yet possess the vocabulary for it.

The momentum picked up when our administration got behind the event. CCAD has less than two thousand students, so nothing on this scale really happens autonomously. Kevin Conlon, our Vice-President of Academic Affairs, came on board in summer 2011 and really lit a fire under the project. He'd been at Savannah and Ringling, so I think he took to the idea of an art school perspective on comics.

SPURGEON: Can you talk about the events conceptually, what it is you hope to accomplish, why you've planned the events you have?

LOSS: Just what it says on the tin: a Mix. There's nothing guileful about that title, except that it plays on "comix." From the beginning I've wanted the mix of perspectives that can only result from putting academics and artists at the same tables where they can talk in this egalitarian environment of mutual exchange. I do think of it as a democratic initiative; each panel and roundtable is set up to encourage audience questions, too, from what we hope are other contributors and students and interested community members. And you know, that willfully pluralist approach seems to reflect not only the perspective an art college, but also the qualities of this hybrid art form that draws from literature and visual art, even from film, and from politics and science and myth, and has always had this volatile, tenuous place in American culture. I wouldn't mind if Mix is a bit volatile, so long as it's civil.

I know that sounds like it's driven by a manifesto, and I guess there's no escaping that to some degree it is -- but it's a very inclusive, porous manifesto! We're not saying this is the right way to do things, or the only way. Conferences for professional academics are fine, and so are symposiums like the one in Chicago this past May, where it was mainly cartoonists -- great cartoonists -- talking to each other or being interviewed by an academic or two. Really interesting conversations emerge from those formats. But is there a possibility for some other kind of conversation? Can I get Douglas Wolk on a panel with an artist-academic and three other artists, one of whom has produced animated television shows, and get them to talk about collaboration and authorship? We needed to find a format that could allow us to do that.

So the first thing was to invite diverse participants, and to encourage proposals that were flexible and welcoming but also substantial. The next thing was to represent a variety of topics, which wasn't difficult. And then we wanted to offer different formats. Some of the panels feature shorter presentations and more roundtable-ish discussion, some are closer to the academic format, and others, like the Indie Comix Spotlight, are just going to be controlled chaos. Then you've got Charles Hatfield doing a presentation on Jack Kirby.

imageSome panels feature mainly academics, and some feature mainly artists, but most of them are pretty balanced. For instance, on the "Extraordinary Epics" panel, you have Craig Fischer and Charles Hatfield talking about their research on Eddie Campbell's Bacchus, Jeremy Stoll, a folklorist talking about the Mahabharata being adapted into a manga, Lora Innes who creates The Dreamer webcomic, and Robert Algeo who runs in absentia press, but also teaches at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. That's a mix. To some it might seem a little messy. Oh well. Usually the most interesting people I've known have messy houses.

The final components developed after the symposium was originally pitched: the exhibits and the 24-hour comics-making marathon for students. The exhibit of original artwork from Jimmy Corrigan is already up and it's illuminating. I might be wrong about this, but I don't think it's been seen anywhere else but Chicago and New York. Then there's Beyond Words, which has original artwork from Will Eisner and Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware, but also Jae Lee, Dave McKean and Bill Sienkiewicz. That came about serendipitously thanks to a gallery in southeast Ohio. We're just putting the final touches on that one. The final exhibit features the winners of the marathon; our exhibits staff is putting it up in two days so that it's ready for the reception following Chris Ware's keynote.

Oh yeah, then there's Chris' keynote, which will be an onstage conversation with him and Craig Fischer. (And I want to say here how incredibly supportive Craig has been ever since I told him about this. I wrote a piece for his late and much-lamented blog with Charles and also Jared Gardner, called The Panelists. He was on board way before we knew Chris would agree.) Chris will also be on a panel called "The Epic Ordinary" -- the theme of the symposium is "epic narratives", but that's pretty loose -- where each of the papers is about his work in some ways. One of those is mine, and frankly, I'm quivering in my boots.

SPURGEON: How much and what kind of support have you received from local institutions or even the Columbus comics community. For that matter, given Columbus is so large and so important to comics specifically, can you talk a little bit about what kind of community exists there, at least from your perspective on it?

LOSS: Those are great questions because I'm not sure people realize what's going on here. Columbus is a very affordable city to live in, which means it's a little easier to make art, so there's also a thriving arts scene. Of course there's the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum up the road from us, and Jenny Robb and Caitlin McGurk -- who I think you interviewed here awhile back -- have been very supportive. BICLM is hosting an open house the night before the symposium begins, and Caitlin is moderating the Indie Comix Spotlight panel. Jared Gardner from OSU was set to be involved, too, but had a personal conflict arise. And this past spring, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Thurber House hosted their first Graphic Novelist-in-Residency, Paul Hornschemeier. Paul came to my class and was just outta sight. So this sense of collaboration is really building.

From the beginning I wanted to deeply involve the Columbus comics community so that students could see how independent artists balance their ambitions with the realities of making a living. I also just thought it seemed right, again, from an art college perspective. The scene here isn't huge, but it's got teeth. Jeff Smith is here, Chris Sprouse is here, and there's a ton of crossover between the great music scene in Columbus and the comics scene. So I started emailing people, and one afternoon, I traipsed around a very crowded Mid-Ohio Con looking for locals. And everyone jumped right in. It was so encouraging. You come up to someone you've never met and say, "Hey, we're doing something totally out of your comfort zone, but would you want to try -- " and they've already said yes. We've got four great hands-on workshops all run by local creators: Ken Eppstein from Nix Comics, Max Ink who creates Blink, and James Moore and Joel Jackson from 2 Headed Monster Comics. All of those guys are on panels, too. Same goes for Lora Innes (The Dreamer), Rafael Rosado (Giants Beware!) and Katie Valeska (Next Year's Girl) and a bunch of others. I'll run out of room if I try to name them all. I'd say a third of the contributors to Mix are local comics folks, and they've been with it from the beginning.

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SPURGEON: Talk to me a bit more about Chris Ware. Chris is doing some events this Fall in relation to Building Stories, but scoring him for this event seems like a really nice get on your part. How has it been working with him in the weeks leading up to the show? And for those conferences out there that may want to get Ware to do one of their events, or a cartoonist of that stature, how did that come to happen?

LOSS: Well, I wouldn't want to suggest there's a magic ingredient beyond the basic advice for any endeavor: be kind, communicate as clearly as you can, and listen. We had a few people in mind, gathered some information, approached Chris, and he said, "Okay." I like to think this idea of mixed perspectives appealed to him, but you'd have to ask him. And I'll go on record saying he's been so damn easy to work with. I mean, getting the exhibit together, talking about his keynote and the panel, arranging his itinerary -- it's all complicated and nowhere near as interesting as making Building Stories, I'm sure, but he's been friendly and quick to respond throughout the entire process.

SPURGEON: Do you have a short-term goal with this event, something you'd like to see happen -- an attendance figure, say, or a certain kind of attendee at the various events?

LOSS: I hate to get too specific about attendance goals. I can tell you that, as of today, we have well over 100 people registered, including many of our students and faculty, and we've got thirty-five contributors as well. And I'm pleased with that. I think your question about the kind of attendee is more interesting. That gets to the core of this Mix idea. We don't care what background they're coming from -- comic store clerk, high school teacher, 'zine publisher, State Representative playing hooky from work -- as long as they're open to smart and entertaining conversation about comics, and want to be part of that and hang around other people who are into the same.

SPURGEON: For that matter, is this something you'd like to see become a recurring thing?

LOSS: Absolutely. We already have the funding secured for next year, so we'll learn from the inaugural event, run our reports in the lab, and come back even better so it can continue. I'm already thinking about next year and some events and panels we couldn't quite together for Mix 2012.

SPURGEON: Is there advice you'd give anyone out there that wants to do an event like this at their school, or in their community? Is there something you wish you had known going in that you only learned later on?

LOSS: It takes time. Lots of time. I knew that going into this, but I still wasn't prepared for just how much detail needs to be covered if you want the event to be good, and how much time it takes to address those details. I first pitched this idea in March 2011, and the serious planning and discussion with our administration and faculty really kicked in about a year ago. All of that planning, even at a relatively small college, means working with people, learning what they do, listening to their perspectives and eventually letting them do the work they excel at. Have a sense of humor and a sense of humility.

I'd also suggest taking a long look at what's unique about your school or community. Not in a "let's stand out" kind of way, but simply what runs in its veins. Mix 2012 has evolved naturally from not trying to do what other people do, but from doing what we can do best.

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* CCAD Presents Mix 2012
* Robert Loss at Pop Matters

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* logo for show
* the Claremont/Byrne-era Uncanny X-Men
* photo provided by Loss
* Lora Innes' The Dreamer
* from Chris Ware
* from Columbus cartooning icon Billy Ireland (below)

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Go, Look: Keitaro Takahashi Blog

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Frank Cammuso Let Go By Syracuse Post-Standard

So tweets Phil McAndrew. I'm on the road, but hopefully I've seen some sort of confirmation based perhaps on my re-tweeting McAndrew's note to my peers, at which point I can delete this sentence. Here's a piece about the layoffs more generally.

Cammuso may better known for his kids' comics work than he is for his editorial cartoons, but he had been at the Post-Standard at least a couple of decades, and went there straight form the university. I can't imagine a newspaper work scenario dreamed up involving a cartoonist that Cammuso's skill-set couldn't match, so my guess is this one may be as much if not more about doing without that part of the paper, as opposed to something specific to the veteran comics-maker. I wish him the best; I'm sure he has a lot of different projects in the planning stages.
 
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Not Comics: More From Dominique Corbasson

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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.

*****

JUL120698 CARTER FAMILY DONT FORGET THIS SONG HC $24.95
Book of the week. Frank Young and Dave Lasky bring their long-awaited, slightly snakebitten project to the market. Congratulations, guys.

AUG120164 ACTION COMICS #13 $3.99
I take it by the appearances of this comic and a bunch more like it that we're onto the next dozen or so issues of in-continuity New 52 comics from DC. I'm not reading any of them, but I have to imagine you could do a lot worse than anything with Grant Morrison's involvement.

imageJUN120417 SKIPPY HC VOL 01 COMPLETE DAILIES 1925-1927 $49.99
The archival work of the week, from the good folks at the Library Of American Comics. Skippy is such a iconic strip that it's hard to even fathom a time when a kid strip like this was a novelty instead of a dominant thing. It's also a fascinating document of American culture, if you use this as a baseline and then look at Peanuts for our view of children changed in a generation. At any rate, there's some lovely cartooning in that strip, and I assume some of it is in here.

AUG120502 BLACK KISS II #3 (MR) [DIG] $2.99
JUN120552 FATALE #8 (MR) [DIG] $3.50
I didn't see a whole lot that I'd buy in terms of comic-book comics, my favorite reason to go to the comics shop. The Howard Chaykin I haven't read yet, although I'll admit to taking a look at all the nudity in an earlier issue. I think Howard Chaykin is almost always interesting, so I look forward to catching up. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are super-solid mainstream creators of the first order; maybe the most reliable team of the last decade. I read and enjoy all of their comics, and this is the latest of them.

MAY120734 MAN-THING OMNIBUS HC $125.00
This has got to be a huge chunk of the Marvel swamp creature's comics, at least up through the late '70s, I'm guessing. I'm not exactly a Man-Thing scholar, but I remember I really liked the Steve Gerber stuff when I was a kid, and I'm sort of fascinated by the '70s at Marvel more generally.

MAY128139 COMP FLASH GORDON LIBRARY HC VOL 01 ON PLANET MONGO $39.95
Flash Gordon is always, always, always worth a look.

JUL121171 EVERYTHING TOGETHER GN (MR) $19.95
I was super-pleasantly surprised by just about everything in this book: how tight the material is, how it all interrelates, even reading "The Poor Sailor" one more time. It makes me wish that comics were so flush that one of these was available from every talented cartoonist once a year.

JUL121172 NEGRON SC (MR) $19.95
Another surprise that it's actually out this week: Negron is one of those comics-makers, and maybe even more of a visual-maker than comics-maker proper, that I don't quite all the way get yet. But I'm trying, and the work is obviously unsettling in a good way.

JUL120720 HEREVILLE HOW MIRKA GOT HER SWORD GN $9.95
I'm not sure where we are on editions with this one, but that's a nice price on a genuinely well-liked book.

JUN121268 NAO OF BROWN GN $24.95
One of the few actual buzz books of SPX -- at least the whispers that drifted over in my direction that were about new comics rather than disgusting stuff.

AUG121227 NOBROW TP VOL 07 BRAVE NEW WORLD (MR) $24.00
I'm a full issue behind on Nobrow but they've been quietly getting stronger and strong.

AUG121136 SAILOR TWAIN GN $24.99
The only comic that will invite you to go on a boat ride with the author. It's really big. I haven't read it yet, but I think there's a lot of verve to Siegel's visuals and everything he does seems to come out classy and put-together -- look at his morning commute over at TCJ.com! It's ridiculous!

JUL121085 WRINKLE IN TIME GN $19.99
Finally, I'm always happy when a new Hope Larson comes out -- to have a Hope Larson and a Raina Telgemeier in the same book-selling season is a huge boon to everyone with younger fans on their shopping list. I've never read the prose work on which it's based, despite an almost humiliating appetite for fantasy literature as a youngster.

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

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

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock. Ordering through a direct market shop can be a frustrating experience, so if you have a direct line to something -- you know another shop has it, you know a bookstore has it -- I'd urge you to consider all of your options.

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

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

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

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Go, Look: James Gillray Gallery

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I never did do anything about that legal brief filed in comics form. I guess that's pretty neat. I once turned in a term paper in the form of a play. I got a C+.

image* Phoebe Chambre profiles Austin English. Kiel Phegley talks to Tom Brennan -- that one's pretty interesting in that Brennan spearheads the current Marvel Comics all-ages efforts. Julie Davis talks to Gabrielle Gamboa; it's nice to see her profiled. Rusty and Joe talk to Beth Scorzato. Laura Pearson talks to John Porcellino. Kieron Gillen talks to Si Spurrier at the increasingly intriguing Decompressed series.

* go, look: Stuart Immonen, hanging around Paris.

* most of Ryan Holmberg's work at TCJ.com has been pretty great; here's one covering some of the same material from his well-received SPX presentation on a seminal Tezuka work.

* composition for dummies.

* Warren Ellis looks at writer/artist Jonathan Hickman's use of infographics in the series Pax Romana. One nice thing about Ellis' piece is that he's just as delighted -- maybe more so -- by flourishes from Hickman that do very little to advance or enhance narrative.

* I hadn't thought to go look for her work before -- at least not with serious intent -- but a random Facebook posting by Michael Dowers about Triangle-Slash led me to her massive web site under her current working artist name, Madame Talbot.

* hooray for Marie Severin!

* finally, this made me laugh.
 
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October 2, 2012


Go, Look: Sam Alden

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Dave Sim/Fantagraphics "Negotiation" Devolves Into Backbiting

imageIf you want to catch up with what's been going on in that comments thread about Dave Sim and Fantagraphics negotiating a potential working relationship, you can start here. I don't really understand much of that. Dave didn't have a problem working with the magazine on a two-part interview including giving us the rights to make a cover just a couple of years after the offending Nazi cartoon. He worked directly with me, who was that issue's managing editor (I either wrote, helped write or contributed heavily to the editing of the main article; I'm on the road, I can't look it up), and it never came up. We've spoken maybe a half-dozen times cordially since then, and it's never come up. I believe my number's on the web site somewhere if he'd like to talk about now.

I thought the Nazi cartoon in the offending issue was unnecessary, but Gary outranked me. Don't get me wrong: I was fine with it running. I still am. If I wasn't fine with it, I would have quit. If I was no longer fine with it, I'd say so. I don't think anyone on planet earth thought that TCJ was claiming that Dave Sim was seriously a Nazi death camp commandant, or had the equivalent moral standing of one. If anyone would like to present someone who came around to hating Dave with Nazi-appropriate passion because of that cartoon, I imagine most people -- by which I mean people that didn't have a personal or rooting interest in Sim Vs. Fantagraphics as its own thing and could therefore apply "that's a dick move" standards -- saw it as as a hyperbolic comment on the issues raised/rhetoric involved, or perhaps as a forceful response to the ugliness of Sim's view as explicated in a then-recent editorial that women were inhuman monsters with a proclivity for sucking the life force out of men's heads. (If I'm remembering that wrong, someone please tell me.) I wasn't a fan of the cartoon because I thought it was silly, sort of tasteless and it distracted from the far more fascinating issue which for me was that people were touring with Dave Sim despite objecting to the material presented in Cerebus #186. This struck me as odd and, according to my view of things at the time, very, very comics. I'd probably think something different now. It's been years.

I really enjoy a lot of Cerebus and I think Dave Sim is a first-rate cartoonist. He's been extremely kind to me on several occasions. I very much respect his accomplishments. I'm sorry to have contributed to any pain he's felt. His comic was one of several that meant the world to me at one time in my life. Still, I suspect this latest "negotiation" was entered into in somewhat bad faith by Sim, perhaps unintentionally, and as a result it quickly become a launching pad for longstanding grievances -- grievances I further suspect are more "exclusion from Top 100" oriented than "you compared me to a Nazi" oriented. (I edited the Top 100 issue, too! I am Dave Sim's greatest enemy!) I think Kim Thompson has been patient and generous with his time on this. My main takeaway is that Dave has other options than going to work on a fishing boat or whatever he was saying he'd do in the course of abandoning comics altogether. I'm happy for this. (I expect we'll see some sort of publishing deal come out of this, just not with Fantagraphics.) Comics is better for having Cerebus in it. According to the "I quit and will never publish anything again" standard, just about any reasonable publishing option is going to be a better outcome, unless there are conditions one can argue have to be met or there are grievances to be aired that one can assign trumping moral force. So, okay.
 
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Go, Look: A Quiet Process

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* the hits keep coming from Koyama Press, with new works from Jane Mai and Nate Bulmer announced this week -- or, if previously announced, locked in for November. I should probably now, right? Anyway, these both look like they could be good comics. I'm not certain of the size or format here, but I want them both, anyway.

image* it makes total sense that we're getting more Grandville.

* here's PR for a new graphic novel line.

* Will Dinski has a couple of new books out, apparently. Here's one of them.

* I completely missed that Robert Goodin's Covered blog was winding down. That was a fun site, one of the top 25 comics sites of the last decade for sure. Here's a tribute to its shuffle off the virtual coil at Robot 6.

* the hobby business news and analysis site has pulled a story out of the weekend's MorrisonCon that gives some details on Grant Morrison's Multiversity project at DC Comics. Morrison is a superior maker of those kinds of comics, so that has a chance of being at least very interesting -- whether or not the material with which Morrison works when he does comics like that is as compelling to you as it is to Morrison is something that comes out in the reading.

* the next Phonogram series has been delayed. I guess that's too bad, as that feels like a series that can add to Image's creator-driven friendly bottom line. Having your comic delayed because of the other work you're getting isn't a bad thing to happen to any creator.

* it looks like they'll be collecting some of those Rick Geary murder books into larger volumes. I'm happy for that work to find its audience in any way possible, although I'm very fond of the individual volumes.

* I think I may have passed along a faulty assertion the other day, that the Globe & Mail had dropped comics entirely. I'm told now that they run six: Cornered, Bliss, Speed Bump, Bizarro, Pooch Cafe and Betty. That's almost more distressing in a way, because you can't point to the paper and say that result X is the cause of their having totally dropped comics.

* whenever there's a new English-language Lewis Trondheim series I always keep an eye out for information as to how much material has been released thus far in a French-language edition. With Ralph Azham, it looks like we're due book number four.

* finally: this completely escaped my attention until now, but it looks like Fantagraphics will be publishing at least one additional Schulz project from non-strip sources: a couple of Christmas-related magazine pieces. That should be pretty cool.

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Go, Look: Douglas Noble

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Go, Read: Todd McFarlane Sues Al Simmons

Kiel Phegley does an extremely thorough job dissecting a legal filing by Todd McFarlane against Al Simmons, a former employee best known for making public appearances based on his name being employed for McFarlane's character. The claims, detailed by Phegley, seem to relate directly to a book called The Art Of Being Spawn, a biography of Simmons published early this year.

This is one of those matters where you first kind of go, "Eee-yikes," and then you read it and you go, "well, if that's true, then maybe..." and then you get sad for about a half minute, just generally sad, and then you think about something else. I hope for the best possible outcome.
 
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If I Were In Manhattan, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Kelly Froh

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* if you have something better to do than to spend time with a Gary Panter drawing tutorial, I want what surely must be your exciting and extravagantly-lived life. Seeing as you're reading this, though, I'm thinking you have at least enough time to bookmark that one until later. Gary Panter is a national treasure.

image* David Lloyd writes in "Director's Commentary" style about his most recent work here. It's great to have David Lloyd out there trying new things and making comics.

* not comics: here is an exploration of Kickstarter and similar crowd funding mechanism from the vantage point of independent film. (via Gil Roth)

* Rob Clough on comics from David Ziggy Greene. Bob Temuka on RASL. Greg McElhatton on The Hive. Don MacPherson on various comics. Brian Hibbs on a bunch of different comics. Christopher Allen on The Invisibles Vol. 1 #7. Seth Peagler on Building Stories. Henry Chamberlain on Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Nine #14. Patrick Smith on the comics of Benjamin Marra.

* comparing recent iterations of Wonder Woman. Speaking of Wonder Woman, she's playing Eustace Tilly over at Ms. Magazine again.

* Bart Croonenborghs pulls together a variety of different comics and ideas about same for your reading pleasure.

* Patrick Smith talks to C. Spike Trotman.

* finally, Sean Kleefeld draws comparisons between various published versions of Fantastic Four #5.
 
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October 1, 2012


Go, Look: B&W Scans Of Alex Toth, Archie Goodwin Story

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i'm hoping that the fact these are in black and white is enough of a contextual shift this isn't just me linking to someone else posting what I assume is copyrighted material
 
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Not Comics: Times-Picayune, Birmingham News Publish Final Daily Editions

Jim Romenesko has his usual smart, short round-up of links that go right to the heart of a major newspaper story, the closing of the Birmingham News and Times-Picayune publications as dailies, moving to a few-times-a-week publication. I think these developments are distressing for anyone that values the newspaper as its own form or as a proud industry, particularly what happened in New Orleans. That's a town that had a really old-school community connection to its primary newspaper, one that will not be replicated by a publication from upstate doing a New Orleans edition or by anything on-line. I'm not intimately familiar with the details of what happened, but there seems to be a widespread, withering contempt to the profit-mining that's gone on there. I have an inkling just how difficult it's been for a lot of these publications to adjust to new economic realities after years and years of reliable profits and everything that comes with that position comfort, all happening at a time of seismological shifts in media. Still, it feels like there could have been a better way.

This is of course a major background story development for those that value the newspaper model as a home for editorial cartooning and strip syndication.
 
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Missed It: Talkin' Bout Star Wars

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As Of This Morning's Writing, Nothing Majorly New On Stan Lee

That there's nothing new on a public announcement last Friday that the 89-year-old major mainstream industry figure had a pacemaker installed is a good thing, I'd imagine. You're still getting news stories like this one at ICv2.com, but they're basically all going from that initial burst of information. Milton Griepp is correct to note both that no surgery is minor when you get to a certain age, but that having a pacemaker installed usually has a quick turnaround and speedy recovery period. Continued best wishes to Mr. Lee, his family and whoever else might be in his inner circle. While there's always a chance the news can change in a situation like this one, even suddenly, let's hope for a while that it doesn't.

While looking for an update, I ran across this NYT post about a Stan Lee appearance on that AMC show Comic Book Men, which if nothing else is a window into the life Mr. Lee has been living the last several years.
 
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Go, Look: The Public Life Of Bees

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Go, Read: Todd Allen On Variant Covers

imageThere's an impassioned post here from Todd Allen at The Beat on the phenomenon of variant covers as it's being applied by the mainstream comics makers -- primarily Marvel -- in the present marketplace. I appreciate anyone being critical of a standard industry practice as it's abused, and I always like when past market strategies and their unfortunate results are brought to bear on a current situation. We have a very limited memory in comics at times, which can be extra-dangerous when combined with a belief system that would have you believe businesses are absolved of criticism for anything they do in pursuit of maximum profit.

I think I'd go a different way with my own criticism of the practice. Part of that is that I'm more likely to see fault in the abuse of a practice rather than a practice. I actually don't mind companies doing different covers for certain books, at least not on theory, and I think it's worth noting that in more recent times a lot of the covers being done seem like they might have a desirable component above and beyond simply being a variant and therefore having collectible or completist value. I know that there are variants I've seen, even in this recent Marvel avalanche of same, where I've gone, "Yeah, I would want that one if I were buying that comic for sure." I'm also not certain I buy a weakening-of-the-market argument here; the retailer base strikes me as pretty savvy as compared to the last time over-aggressive publishing practices poisoned a lot of the market. It's always hard to judge how susceptible that arena of retail is to deleterious practices, so there's always a risk something could end up being crucially harmful, but I don't see a repeat of the buying in to certain strategies that led to a lot of the problems 20 years ago.

Where I think this practice is most distressing is that these companies, Marvel in particular, are choosing to pursue a market-share boosting strategy rather than, well, any other kind of strategy. It feels like resources are being thrown after some sort of abstract, publicity-fueling "win" when that time and energy and money could be spent elsewhere. Good for Marvel, good for the freelancers that score those gigs, maybe even good for everyone for a few months this Fall; bad for the market matching its potential. Part of that is the culture of comics: while most of the sites that cover the industry know of the practice of variant covers to boost circulation numbers, other media sources may not, and nearly everyone will report on the sales if they're good without any kind of second-guessing as to how Marvel got there. I think over the last 20 years that segment of the comics market has left a lot of money and a lot of potential readers on the table for short-sighted pursuit of immediate profit and ancillary goals such as how many books and which companies occupy which positions vis-a-vis their perceived competitors. While there seems to be a huge appetite for consumers being told which comics are important and therefore which ones to purchase, and this can play into that, and while it's true that the market has creepily begun to form itself around these tactics in a positive way, for the most part having for sale multiple versions of comics seems like yet another avenue to frustrate people so that they run the risk of drifting away from comics. This is the kind of thing that may happen quietly and without much fuss at all. It's rare that we wake up and an entire segment of a marketplace has abandoned the field; it's common for people to tire of comics and simply leave.
 
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Go, Look: The Diary Of Stephanie

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Comics By Request -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

image* it looks like this crowd-funder for a David Boswell documentary is going to run pretty tight as far as making its goal -- it's one of those projects where those raising the money benefit from a partial amount, though, so you can donate without fear of having done so uselessly. I have no real idea if that's going to be any good beyond liking David Boswell and thinking he'd be an interesting subject for a little documentary, but I imagine that's enough.

* a bunch of stuff recently ended. In terms of ongoing campaigns, there's still kaBOOMbox.

* Lucy Knisley met her goals for a crowd-funder related to Oscar Wilde; you can still get in on whatever she's offering that way.

* it looks like this Dream Life project from Salgood Sam is rounding towards making its goal.

* we end with Lea Hernandez and her The Garlicks. Lea Hernandez strikes me a nice person, and the market is such she could probably use the traction of a crowd-funder to get a book of this size out there in front of readers.
 
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Go, Look: Our Lady Of Filth

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Go, Look: Giant-Size Marvel Comics Splash Pages

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Betsy Gomez takes a look at frequently challenged and disputed comics as part of CBLDF's Banned Books focus.

image* Robin McConnell talks to Joseph Lambert. Michael Dooley continues to talk to Roger Langridge; they always do a good job with art. Patrick Smith talks to Ed Piskor.

* congratulations to the Sidebar folks on their 200th episode. And congratulations to Nate Powell on his 20th year publishing comics.

* here are some photos of Los Bros Hernandez taping a show with the Alt-Latino program at NPR. Long live Los Bros.

* Scott Allie would like to talk to you about storytelling.

* not comics: the writer Mark Millar will consult on the Marvel Comics-related properties whose film (and I'm guessing some television) rights are owned by Fox. We live in a weird enough world right now that this is the kind of story that gets processed just as much as a PR/branding "get" for Millar as it does for any possible impact it might have on the popular art with which it's concerned.

* noting the passing of James Kochalka's father.

* Patrick Smith on The End Of The Fucking World #1-11.

* not comics: a rare, not-terrible list of films adapted from comics that aren't superhero comics. One reason it's pretty good is that it remembers there are comics done outside of North America.

* finally, D+Q in NYC.
 
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