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

















June 30, 2013


CR Sunday Interview: Matt Bors

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imageMatt Bors is one of the best editorial cartoonists working and maybe the most important. The 2012 Herblock Prize winner and same-year Pulitzer finalist has frequently displayed the traditional, crucial skill of boiling down a moment in time to a smart, summary statement that challenges our initial conceptions. Bors also works in a lively style that makes use of strip-comics progressions, is capable of working outside of the editorial cartooning arena if that's where the work takes him, fearlessly criticizes his fellow cartoonists when they rely on tired visual cliches and empty-headed tropes, and seems extremely comfortable on-line. The 29-year-old Portland resident is just over 1000 cartoons into what could be a remarkable career.

Bors' new book, Life Begins At Incorporation, was crowd-funded into existence. It is a fairly major undertaking, as it includes not only a number of his best cartoons but also a massive run of commentary on individual comics and the issues they engage more generally. I had as much fun reading it as I've had reading any editorial cartoonist collection from the last quarter-century. I urge you to consider buying it, perhaps from Bors himself at one of the many small-press shows he attends -- or at least has been attending. If I had a newspaper to run, Matt Bors would be in my first five hires. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: Matt, you wrote an interesting Facebook post right after the bombing at the Boston Marathon that I can't seem to find now where you talked about being criticized for jumping on a story's political elements in a way that some folks feel is exploiting that tragedy. It seems like there are like 18 ways an exploitation argument could be an inauthentic one, but can you unpack a bit what about that specific criticism honked you off enough to make public your objection to it?

MATT BORS: I had seen a few people snarkily inform me on Twitter (as one does) that it was craven of me to jump into the political fallout of the bombings 48 hours after the event. One threw something out there like, "Let them mop up the blood first."

imageI think people 100% removed from the event, sitting at their computers and trying to dictate the appropriate mourning levels of everyone else is just rancid. There was an urge to strip this attack of its political character and you saw that in the cartoons that came out directly after: images telling us evil is bad and that people are sad. I try to do more substantive work, and I was happy with the cartoon I did. The attack was motivated by politics. The police shut down a city to hunt down the Tsarnev brothers. Senators called for military tribunals. Politics entered into it before the bombs went off.

Whenever national tragedy strikes we want to pretend there's a period were politics doesn't come into play. (9/11 being the best example.) I's how a lot of terrible laws get passed and it's why some good ones don't. I don't buy into it. If I'm ever hurt in a terrorist attack or tagged in a mass shooting, I'll be filing political cartoons about it from my hospital bed.

SPURGEON: The publication of your book seems to me to put a potential capper on an interesting phase in your career, one that began several months with the Herblock Prize, and a Pulitzer finalist nod, and some really good, viral cartoons. Is that a fair assessment, do you think, of your recent professional history? Do you feel like this is an important stage of your career?

BORS: That sounds about right. The book was a long-time coming. I have been at this on some level for a decade now and never collected my work before. The events you mentioned were a big chain for me. I can't say the Pulitzer nod or snagging the Herblock led to a rush of clients, but the prize money freed me. I could afford a moment to pause and decide what it was I wanted to do. I wanted to do a book through Kickstarter it turned out. If I can keep this whole thing going I know I'll look back at 2012 as the year that made set it up.

SPURGEON: I failed to talk to anyone at the end of 2012 about the political season that year... I think partly because I don't remember a lot of memorable cartooning. You're not shy about being critical in terms of your field, generally. Was it a distinguished election season? Were there highlights I missed? Who had the best campaign in terms of the comics they made? Was there a memorable cartoon? Is there one of your you liked more than most?

BORS: Honestly? I can't remember, which may mean there was nothing too memorable, but I tend to hate our year-long campaign cycle and dread its approach every four years. The comics, as with the candidates themselves, tend to be concerned with minute-to-minute horserace coverage and the cataloging every insane utterance and supposed gaffe. I do this myself. It's fun to a point. But rarely are issues discussed, which is what I'm ultimately trying to get at in my work.

I can't think of anything I did during the last campaign that stands out or that I'd recommend. That stuff loses relevancy so quickly. I jettisoned all campaign material from my book, save for a single Mitt cartoon talking about his pooping habits. (He hires someone to poop for him.)

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SPURGEON: In general, how self-critical are you? Do you assess your work at a remove? Are there cartoons you thought worked very well at the time that you might not have liked as much when you re-examined them later? Is there a cartoon you thought would hit but didn't?

BORS: A self-critical cartoonist? Never! [Spurgeon laughs] I think I obsess over my shortcomings and second guess my work as much as the next person, but having multiple deadlines a week teaches you to let go a bit. I'm happy with my work. You put things out there that aren't up to par, that you think will hit and then flop, and you just move on to the next cartoon. Not because you aren't a self-loathing artist loaded with insecurities, but because you have a cartoon due in twelve hours and it's time to tackle that one now. And sometimes they take off in big ways and you feel validated. And then you have another cartoon due in 12 hours.

SPURGEON: Matt, what is your marketplace like? I think we all know that it's miserable generally for cartoonists right now, but is it specifically tough for you? Is there anything about the comics work that you do that may make it easier for you than some of these guys in their forties and fifties being fired from staff positions? Do you even think of your career in those terms anymore?

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BORS: The market has been terrible, especially since the crash in '08 when altweeklies started dumping comics. A number of websites have now incorporated political cartoons into the mix. Things seem on the rise a bit. I'm also branching out, doing some comics journalism here and there, and have a longer column-like comics coming out soon on CNN.com.

Part of the reason I'm doing alright, I think, is that at this point I'm one of the only younger people doing this. I survived an attrition that was pretty thorough. A lot of people who became my friends were doing this in the mid-2000s and they slowly dropped off because they got discouraged or got a good job offer or had a kid. I really miss their work and think things would have been different if the economy was hadn't tanked. Cartooning is brutal. If people tap out I don't blame them.

SPURGEON: With a profession in decline in many ways, why hasn't this had an effect on burning off superfluous, clichéd comics? What is it about the editorial cartooning field that supports bad cartooning?

BORS: I think there has been an effect. Guys who get laid off and only know how to work in that one stilted old style are having a rough go of it. You look at Jack Ohman; one of the reasons I think he got the job at the Bee is he's doing comics journalism, writing columns, doing local cartoons. He's proving his worth. If all you can provide is a cookie cutter editorial cartoon on the national debt, go home, you're done. That kind of cartooning that I go after might still have some purchase in daily papers, but check back in ten years when most of these guys are retired (or laid off) and see if that still holds.

I asked my editor at nsfwcorp, Paul Carr, what he thinks of when I say "editorial cartoons" and here's what he told me:

"When I hear editorial cartoon I used to immediately transported to those god awful and awfully unfunny cartoons like the ones parodied by "Stan Kelly" in The Onion. Lots of carefully labeled metaphors etc. Somehow managing to neither be good cartoons or good editorial. Clearly, though, there were very funny editorial cartoonists out there: Garry Trudeau, Steve Bell etc., etc. -- but few and far between."

SPURGEON: Was being labeled a new editorial cartoonist or an alt-editorial cartoonist useful to you in any way? Who do you consider your direct peers? What is that market like vis-à-vis the more general market for editorial cartooning?

BORS: I'm not really sure if most people consider me an editorial cartoonist or an altweekly cartoonist or what. Some people consider me a webcartoonist, and I'm that as well. I think my closest peers are those in the world of altweekly cartoons: Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall and that whole school. They were what I was going for at first. But I don't really like the word "altweekly" since it's limiting and I only run in a small handful of them anyway. Most of my readers are online.

I don't have a problem with "editorial cartoonist" at all, but I think it's closely associated with a certain type of cartooning that isn't really ascendent right now. (To put it nicely.) I'm drawing cartoons for some newer outlets, like NSFWCorp and Medium.com, and I don't know that they really think of me as an editorial cartoonist in the traditional sense. [stoner voice] "I'm just Matt Bors, man, and they like what I'm putting out there."

SPURGEON: [laughs] Have any of the ways tossed out there to improve editorial cartooning had any real effect at all on the cartoons being done? Like is there some hidden treasure trove of hyper-local cartooning we're going to discover 15 years from now? Are people experimenting with format? Is there anyone whose skill set you admire in terms of finding new places to settle in?

BORS: You don't really see many people experimenting with format, I'm not hearing much on local cartoons, and I can't think of anyone new getting into this field in the last five years. Zero people. I think that will change but we're looking at a real sharp fall off soon. I'm on my way to the AAEC convention in Salt Lake as I write this. We've got maybe five members in their thirties?

I'm excited by the developments that have taken place in comics journalism over the last few years. It's gone from a novelty to something of an actual field. Susie Cagle was hired at Grist and has been doing illustrated reporting, infograpgics, writing. That might not be "editorial cartooning" but it's more in line with what I want to do more of myself. I think we might see more of these gigs for people with skill sets broader than simply illustrating the news.

imageSPURGEON: Can you talk about the provenance of the book as a publishing project, what made you self-publish, how you feel looking back on the kickstarter aspects of it. Why a book right now for you? Why this kind of book?

BORS: I had shown this book in its early stage to an agent and my syndicate and they passed on it. Anthologies don't sell, they told me. To me this is a book to be sold to the same people buying Daily Show and Onion books for their coffee table. That's a large demographic. I don't have the same name recognition, but I knew at least some people wanted this book. There are probably plenty of other people who would like it but have no clue who I am or that it exists.

After Order Of The Stick made a million dollars on Kickstarter, I devoted a few minutes every morning to combing through site and following projects, trying to figure out how to approach it, and talking to cartoonists who had run successful ones and trying to glean the magic formula. (There isn't one.) A million bucks I probably couldn't get, but 20k seemed within reach.

The self-publishing aspect and all the work that goes into fulfilling all these orders eats up a shit ton of time. But I think the crowdfunding thing works for books on my scale. You'll be lucky to get much of an advance from a comics publisher for a book run of 2500 copies. But with the Kickstarter backers covering the printing, I'm now selling a book through my site for $20 profit with no one taking money off the top. Top Shelf is distributing them into stores that I can't get it into. The numbers start to work.

SPURGEON: More specifically, I'm interested in how text-heavy, how you arranged the book by theme and put a lot of thought into the writing of bridge material between cartoons. Did you have a model there? How long did it take you to complete all of that writing?

BORS: I wrote about 20,000 words in six weeks. That was a deadline I imposed on myself for con season so there was a few thousand dollars worth of sales to incentivize me not sleeping much for a few weeks.

I was putting things into the book right up to the last possible second before it went to the printer. No way I could have done it without hiring an editor, layout person, and someone to deal with the printer.

A lot of people before me have worked in a similar format. Herblock used to release a book every few years with a substantial writing component to it. You can blast through a cartoon collection but organizing it this way felt like I was offering something a little more valuable to readers. Plus I like writing. It doesn't come to me as easily as drawing, but it wasn't something I was forcing either. I think of comics as primarily a writing job anyway.

SPURGEON: How are you going to come out on the other side, ideally, in terms of having funded your book this way? What is the ideal end result -- a certain amount of money made, just having a book out there, putting your work in certain places...?

BORS: These things aren't huge money makers, at least at the level I'm working at, but what it enabled me to do was focus entirely on my comics and not take on any freelance work I didn't want to. The importance of that to me can't be overstated. I might have to cave to economic reality and take on more commercial work someday, but I don't want to. Right now I'm doing everything I want to do and just going full bore -- MORE LIKE FULL BORS.

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SPURGEON: [laughs] I apologize for the length of this next question and the potential all-encompassing nature of what I'm about to ask. Re-reading all of your work in one place, I'm interested in your political education. I'm not the most politically astute person, so some nuances are lost on me but it seems like you're pretty stridently left-leaning on every single position you take, to the point that you chastise people for their hypocrisy and muddled thinking. Is there a position that you have that might surprise me if I took a second look at it? Are there issues you feel you still struggle with, that you can say are different for you now that they were five years ago? Do you worry at all about embracing an orthodoxy in a way that makes you a rigid thinker?

BORS: Let's see if I can unpack this in less than 5,000 words.

I try not to be a rigid in my thinking but at some point you decide on certain things that are unlikely to shift again; gays are human, healthcare is a right, god isn't real. I probably have more nuanced views on gun control than you'd think from reading my "Dear Gun Nuts" chapter, but our intellectually dishonest gun culture needs to be brought down a peg and I don't really feel like the minutiae of some of the arguments make for good comics.

You're right that I chastise hypocrisy but, hey, I embody some of it as well. We all do. How I feel about the Supreme Court being "activist" in overturning laws has more to do with whether I agree with the laws than anything else. Five years ago I was a vegetarian and now I'm not. Why? No thinking went into it that I can justify. I admit it. We all contain contradictory beliefs and do our best to pretend it isn't the case.

I don't know if there are any positions I fall out of line with the left about that would surprise you, but once we start talking about "the left" we're in an realm where ideologies are tactics are splintered into a thousand self-righteous factions. I'm always too radical or not radical enough for random strangers on the internet.

The main thing I find myself not being aligned with is this sort of prevailing thing going on in our political and online culture where, on a weekly basis, the hive-mind demands the head of someone who has offended their sensibilities. Usually it's some turd who spouts some racist/homophobic/sexist garbage and ends with televised apologies and them losing their job.

I'm entirely great with calling people out on their shit and trying to rout out these nasty elements from our culture, but this sort of censorious mob mentality starts to form online. I think if Rush Limbaugh is calling a woman advocating for birth control a "slut" on the air, let's push back against the pig and publicly rebuke and mock him. But I'm not going to call SleepMattress and act like I'm never going to buy their product again if they don't pull their ads off a show I never listen to in the first plave. Is the mattress I sleep on now from SleepMattres? I don't even know. People need mattresses, though. Even dummies.

The Onion's infamous "cunt" tweet is a good example of what I'm talking about. It was trying to do something and obviously wasn't successful, and I'm not going to tell someone not to be offended by it. I got the arguments against it. But that level of backlash, years of goodwill and good politics completely thrown out the window by people demanding apologies and a lifetime ban on ever reading The Onion again. When the CEO apologized I didn't get the feeling he genuinely understood the issue at all -- he just wanted the outrage to stop and the full apology is the method to do that now. He sort of threw his writer under the bus by ascribing a nasty motive to them. Again, a misfire of a joke, but it wasn't done maliciously.

Whatever people say about the effect of speech and comedy, intent matters. Intent matters in crime. If you back over a child with your car, whether or not you did so intentionally is going to change how society and the law view you. And if you did it intentionally, wow. Man. What is your deal. But mobs generally don't look at those distinctions.

This is the type of thing that bothers me, and yes, it's partly because I can see it happening to me someday. I don't want to give people a pass for their crap or hide behind a wall of "free speech." I want to give them a hard time for their crap. But the glee we now take in destroying people we don't like or who offend us is troubling to me. It's not the way to win. I've always felt good arguments could be won on their merits.

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SPURGEON: You're critical of President Obama from a perspective on the left, which isn't an uncommon view but maybe one that still gets treated as some sort of novelty. You say at one point you think he's the best we can hope for from the current political system, which sounds a little bit like a strategic talking point rather than a summation of all your individual criticisms. Can you talk about that broader point a bit? Is calling someone a product of a system letting them off for individual choices and mistakes? If you really feel strongly that this is a systemic problem, do you feel anything can be done about it and are there politicians in history that you feel were not the products of the system in a positive way?

BORS: I don't say he's the best they system can produce as a compliment or anything, but, uh, there isn't going to be a revolution tomorrow or the next day. Part of me thinks the only decent thing for politicians to do is all resign tomorrow. There's a lot of things I'd like to see happen but I try to live in reality.

I'm not a great fan of this system we have, but incremental change happens. We're seeing it with gay rights now--that might be more than incremental now that I think of it. Warp speed. But on the economic and foreign policy front I don't see things shifting for the better very soon. We aren't rolling back this pervasive surveillance state. Our election system that produces all these monsters by handing them bags of cash is irretrievably corrupts. It won't change tomorrow, or maybe ever.

I don't admire politicians. I admire outside agitators who were able to push politics and culture in certain directions. In the most high-minded view of my own work, that what I'm trying to do with my tiny cartoons making fun of stuff. Push things in the right direction, or at least offer some resistance to the way they are being pushed.

imageSPURGEON: Do you have any thoughts on the nature of the American decline right now, the thing you talk about in so many component parts? Do you see any throughlines just as represented in the various sections of your book? Do you have a sense of what's going on more generally, or is that even a danger in your line of work?

BORS: I say in the book that the effects of the recession haven't really been fully accounted for yet. An entire generation -- mine -- has been permanently hobbled, I feel. We have this boundless optimism in America, but I don't think there's any reason to believe the good times will return. There's just nowhere to go for us but down. You just can't consume a quarter of the world's resources as a country and build make believe financial instruments and expect to dip out before the bill arrives.

We're staring down a few probable calamities in my lifetime with climate change and resource depletion. That will most likely not be much fun. I'm not like a peak oil guy with my gold bars and beef jerky in the safe, but I don't know. People didn't think the Soviet Union would collapse and then the next day it didn't exist anymore. Very few people see these things coming. Cartoonists will have even les value in the post-apocalyptic future so you can count on me being some mutant's lunch pretty early on.

So yeah, I'm an optimist.

SPURGEON: I wanted to ask an art question to conclude. I was surprised by how consistent your art was considering how young you are. It seems like you've settled into how you're drawing in a way that I don't tend to see from cartoonists that are as young as you are. How deliberate are your style choices, what you do in terms of coloring? How much thought do you give to the look of a piece, and how important do you think it is in terms of how your work has been received?

BORS: I guess my art style is deliberate in that I started out more realistic and had to work to parse it down the first few years I was doing strips. But then, maybe five years ago, it sort of clicked into a pretty consistent thing that you're seeing now. Seems like the older generation of altweekly cartoonists had much more abrasive and experimental styles. I've heard people say that my work is more cartoony and pleasing and that's how I slip the politics in and honestly it's just how I draw and I don't know there was a theory behind it when I started. I'd say my writing has changed more than my art, gotten a bit looser, and I've been (slightly) experimenting with a few things to keep myself from getting bored with churning these out week after week. I can't scoop up that six figure job at a daily paper I have to at least amuse myself.

In terms of coloring I really try to keep the same palette going to have a consistent look. I need to have my work be as recognizable as some editorial cartoons are indistinguishable. To not have your work stand out is death.

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* Life Begins At Incorporation, Matt Bors, Self-Published, Paperback, Full-Color, 240 pages, 2013, $20.

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* cover to new book
* photo of Bors from Stumptown 2013
* the Boston Marathon cartoon to which people objected
* the Mitt Romney pooping cartoon referenced
* image from one of Bors' recent comics-journalism projects, a collaboration with the writer Sarah Mirk
* three editorial cartoons of Bors I enjoyed when they appeared that seem to illustrate the issues being discussed, although maybe not that gun one, which I just find funny
* image from a 2006 editorial cartoon, I believe about voter apathy
* another a cartoon of Bors I always enjoyed (bottom)

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Missed It: little girls R better at designing heroes than you

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Eighteen Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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FFF Results Post #341 -- Translated Into English

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Specific Translated-Into-English Publications You Enjoy From At Least Two Different Original Languages." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Harum Scarum, Lewis Trondheim
2. West Coast Blues, Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette
3. Little Nothings Volume One: The Curse Of The Umbrella, Lewis Trondheim
4. Sinner #3, Jose Munoz and Carlos Sampayo
5. The Push Man And Other Stories, Yoshihiro Tatsumi

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Yotsuba&!, Kiyohiko Azuma
2. Barbarella, Jean-Claude Forrest
3. Rocco Vargas, Daniel Torres
4. A Drifting Life, Yoshihiro Tatsumi
5. Buddha, Osamu Tezuka

*****

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Michael Dooley

1. Clara, Jordi Bernet
2. Valentina, Guido Crepax
3. Mona Street, Leone Frollo
4. Racket Rumba, Loro
5. The Professor's Daughter, Joann Sfar & Emmanuel Guibert

*****

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Dan Morris

1. Domu; A Child's Dream by Katushiro Otomo
2. A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
3. Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka
4. Quest for the Missing Girl by Jiro Taniguchi
5. It Was a War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Asterix and Cleopatra, Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
2. Lone Wolf and Cub: Assassin's Road, Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
3. Iznogoud and the Magic Carpet, Rene Goscinny and Jean Tabary
4. Bakuman: Dreams and Reality, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
5. My Mommy is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, Jean Regnaud and Emile Bravo

*****

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Jamie Coville

1. Asterix the Legionary, Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo
2. Barefoot Gen Vol. 1, Keiji Nakazawa
3. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
4, Jack Black Vol. 1, Osamu Tezuka
5. Paul joins the scouts, Michel Rabagliati

*****

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Dave Carter

1. Yotsuba&!, Kiyohiko Azume
2. Maybe Later, Charles Berberian and Philippe Dupuy
3. Johnny Cash: A See a Light, Reinhard Kleist
4. Blacksad, Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido
5. The Walking Man, Jiro Taniguchi

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. French Ice (Carmen Cru), Jean-Marc Lelong
2. Get a Life! (Monsieur Jean), Philippe Dupuy & Charles Berberian
3. The Iron Wagon, Jason
4. Dungeon, Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim & company
5. Babel, David B.

*****

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David Oppenheim

1. Buddha, Osamu Tezuka
2. Gus & His Gang, Christophe Blain
3. They Found the Car, Gipi
4. You Can't Get There from Here, Jason
5. Cross Game, Mitsuru Adachi

*****

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Sean T. Collins

1. Red Riding Hood Redux, Nora Krug
2. Garden, Yuichi Yokoyama
3. Garage Band, Gipi
4. Planetes, Makoto Yukimura
5. The Troll King, Kolbein Karlsson

*****

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J.E.Cole

* The saga of the Metabarons - by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Juan Giménez.
* Gantz - by Hiroya Oku
* Partie de chasse (The hunting Party) by Pierre Christin and Enki Bilal
* Gon - by Masashi Tanaka
* Sanctuary by Sho Fumimura and Ryoichi Ikegami

*****

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Art Baxter

1. Interiorae, Gabriella Giandelli
2. 5 is the Perfect Number, Igort
3. Haunted, Philippe Dupuy
4. No Man's Land, Blexbolex
5. Disappearance Diary, Hideo Azuma

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Torpedo, 1936 by Enrique Sanchez Abuli and Jordi Bernet
2. Cromartie High School by Eiji Nonaka
3. Urusei Yatsura by Rumiko Takahashi
4. Pyongyang by Guy Delisle
5. Cowboy Henk by Herr Seele and Kamagurka

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June 29, 2013


The Comics Reporter Video Parade


From A 2001 Panel On The Origin Of Fantagraphics

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The Periscope Studios Self-Promotion Lecture Video

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Video About Art School With Young Charles Schulz
via Mike Lynch

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Steve Bell Discussing The Iraq War At The Ten-Year Mark; No Idea Why This One Has Popped Up Again, But There It Is

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Milton Caniff At Work

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Kim Thompson's Jacques Tardi Slideshow At Fantagraphics Bookstore

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CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from June 22 to June 28, 2013:

1. BOOM! acquires Archaia.

2. Thai cartoonist meets with police officials about defamation job concerning Thai prime minister.

3. The framework of the forthcoming Ghost Rider copyright trial is set. While the initial articles I saw said jury trial, I guess hearing from a couple of you lawyer-types this is still up in the air, with Marvel preferring a bench decision of some sort.

Winner Of The Week
Let's say Daniel Clowes. Having a big exhibit open up in your home region is a big deal, one of the big, positive life events.

Loser Of The Week
The idea of Superman as Jesus.

Quote Of The Week
It is with tremendous *~feeling~* that we inform you ALL COMMENTS from the previous version of ComicsAlliance... well, they didn't make it.-- the ComicsAlliance twitter account

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today's cover is from the all-time series Classics Illustrated

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If I Were In Salt Lake City, I'd Go To This

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

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

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Happy 62nd Birthday, Don Rosa!

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Happy 63rd Birthday, Mike Richardson!

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Happy 59th Birthday, Bo Hampton!

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Happy 63rd Birthday, Bobby London!

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Nineteen Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 28, 2013


Kim Thompson, 1956-2013

imageKim Thompson, the iconic co-publisher at and co-owner of Fantagraphics Books, a major figure in the development of North American literary, art and alternative comics, and a well-liked editor, translator and writer about comics, died June 19, 2013 of causes related to cancer. He was 56 years old.

"It would be difficult to overstate the influence that Kim Thompson had, along with Gary Groth, in the modern graphic novel industry," Drawn and Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros said in a statement presented to CR. "Along with Art Spiegelman's and Francoise Mouly's Raw Books, Kim and Gary were instrumental in building the foundation for what was then called 'alternative' comics." Writer and one-time co-worker Mark Waid: "No one can convince me that Kim Thompson wasn't one of the most important behind-the-scenes figures in American comics over the last 30 years, nor can they assure me he ever got his due." Longtime close friend and co-worker Eric Reynolds: "A lot of folks in comics thought of Kim as the more silent partner between he and Gary, because he kept a lower public profile than Gary. But he was a towering presence within Fantagraphics, as anyone who has ever worked here could tell you. He is one of the great influences in my life and I'm gonna miss his deep reservoir of knowledge and wisdom in more ways than I can even fathom. He made me better."

"It seems wrong to attempt to sum up his accomplishments so soon," the cartoonist Seth told CR. "It's almost too early to appreciate the importance of his influence on the world of comics. He should have lived to a grand old age where time would have clearly written out his legacy for us. At the end of a long life it's more blatantly evident just what one has done. Kim was still in mid-career. Not that I'm implying he didn't fully accomplish a life's work. If anything, he did more in 50 years than most people do with 90 or 100."

Kim Thompson was born on September 25, 1956 to John and Aase Thompson. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Thompson's father was a systems analyst, and worked for a variety of employers under contracts of up to a few years in length. The elder Thompson's most consistent employer was the US Army. The Thompson family lived in several different places according to where that work took them: France, Martinique, Thailand, West Germany and Holland. Thompson's mother was Danish, which brought that language into his home as a primary along with English. This was the baseline from which Thompson would eventually come to know and use several languages and employ them in comics translations and business dealings with European comics publishers, creators and printers.

As a small child, Thompson enjoyed a variety of European comics, primarily Tintin and various Disney funny animal comics. He would occasionally see a superhero comic book purchased at one of the Post Exchanges on the military bases where his father's employment was centered. Thompson became obsessed with Marvel comics as a young teen. This was at the tail end of the initial 1960s Marvel glory years, and the company had instituted a thorough reprints program in several titles. This and the occasional mail-order company allowed Thompson to purchase some version of most of what Marvel had published in its recent burst of Lee and Kirby-led creativity, and thus to grasp the entirety of that company's modern, superhero-driven output. As the company moved into the 1970s, they began to feature younger writing talent at about the same time Thompson was paying close attention to individual styles and approaches on the comics page.

imageThompson wrote letters to various Marvel comic books in the 1970s. A list provided by a contributor to Thompson's page on the public-sourced news site Wikipedia gives him credit for publishing commentary in Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Conan the Barbarian, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Marvel Spotlight and Marvel-Two-in-One titles. Thompson also traded letters with other devoted, engaged, and actively-commenting fans, and at one point belonged to a circle of fans that traded letters and writing, a collection of individuals that included several folks that would eventually become the movers and shakers of the emerging comics generation.

"Back in the 1970s, Dean Mullaney -- later co-publisher of Eclipse -- approached several of what were then called Marvel 'letterhacks' (i.e. frequent contributors to Marvel's various letters columns) to correspond privately with each other -- through snail mail, of course, because in those days that's all there was. Looking back, it was like a precursor to chat rooms," the writer Robert Rodi wrote to The Comics Reporter. Dean Mullaney added in a different correspondence, "Our pen pal group in the 1970s included Kim, Ralph Macchio, Rob Rodi, Mary Jo Duffy, Jack Frost, Jana Hollingsworth, and me, among others." He added, "Most of us aspired to become comics pros. What particularly fascinated us, in general, were the new group of writers at Marvel who were expanding comics in entirely new dimensions -- writers such as Steve Gerber, Don McGregor, Steve Englehart and Doug Moench."

"Love of that era's Marvel Comics was what united us, but our conversations ranged very far afield," Rodi reported. "We were geographically, socially, and culturally very diverse -- though as our group became more enmeshed, Dean realized that we were all male. He asked what we thought about asking Jo Duffy and Kim Thompson to join, and we all agreed. Kim accepted at once, and made up for the disappointment of actually turning out to be male by bringing great wit and élan to the circle, and a knowledge of European comics that put the rest of us in the shade."

Another member of that general, active fan community was the late prominent Marvel editor Mark Gruenwald, like Thompson's eventual business partner Gary Groth a devoted fanzine maker. Thompson seemed to have been only lightly involved in that specific comics culture relative to his letter-writing habits, contributing to a few publications here and there such as Omniverse and Woweekazowie. The Fantagraphics blog in 2011 threw a spotlight on one whimsical effort here.

Thompson's entry into the world of comics may have been slightly atypical for his fan peer group, many of whom took more established office-job and freelancing options with mainstream comics companies. Thompson used an acquaintance in that larger fan community to meet Gary Groth upon moving to the United States in 1977. He immediately began working for the fledgling company, called Fantagraphics, then based in the larger DC area from which company co-founders Mike Catron and Groth hailed. To be as specific as possible, the company was located in the spare bedroom of Groth's College Park apartment. Both Catron and Groth have described in subsequent interviews that Thompson basically just showed up and started working. Thompson contributed money to the struggling company that next year, a small amount of cash diverted from an educational fund given to him by his grandparents. Although there have been differences of opinions expressed as to whether or to what extent this constituted Thompson's actual, formal bid for part ownership, it was clear he was wholly invested with the company within months of beginning to work with them. He had found his life's work.

imageIn those days, the business of Fantagraphics was The Comics Journal. Thompson quickly became a presence within the magazine as a reviewer and interviewer. According to former TCJ managing editor Milo George, Thompson's first credited issue of the magazine was #37, the first "modern" issue of the magazine from its Nostalgia Journal and tabloid format beginnings. As a critic, Thompson took a rigorous look at some of the higher-end genre work that had attracted him to American mainstream comics in the first place, including a famously tough review of writer Don McGregor and artist Billy Graham's Detectives, Inc.:
Marshall Rogers's work on this book is a huge disappointment. Oddly enough it is not so much a case of McGregor dragging Rogers down to his level as it is of Rogers being out of his depth.

Rogers, who studied as an archi­tect before turning to comics, had produced some handsomely designed work for, coincidentally,
Detective Comics, as well as a handful of other mainstream projects before turning to this. Unfortunately, Rogers simply cannot draw very well anything that cannot be broken down into blueprints; in a story where the human element is not only the core, but virtually the totality of the story, McGregor has been saddled with an artist who is incapable of drawing the human face and figure. Rogers' work in this area is at times staggeringly bad: there is not one body in Detectives, Inc. that is not stiff, cold, and awkward-looking, and they all have heads that are too small, making them look nine feet tall. The facial renderings are horrendous: every character is afflicted with a blank, unfocused stare, a mouth that hangs limply open, and gestures that generally don't seem related to one another (in one, panel, Rainier's ex-wife is shown facing the 'camera,' but her nose is in profile). For some reason, every single character in the book has this incredibly long, thin nose -- even the blacks, who look like curly-haired Caucasians with zip-a-tone all over them. Worse, no one looks the same from panel to panel.
One memorable piece he contributed to the Journal in those early years was the magazine's first full-length interview with the cartoonist Dave Sim. Thompson championed Sim's comic book Cerebus almost from its conception, and would remain convinced of the cartoonist's skill -- if not various, specific beliefs Sim held -- for the remainder of his days, even offering to publish certain works of Sim in recent years (Sim debated and then declined the offer). The Sim interview ran over two issues, and featured a cut-in-half cover. It was likely not the first interview in the magazine anticipated as "The Comics Journal doing what they do with this specific cartoonist," given the publication's impressive run with a variety of mainstream comic book figures ranging from the fully-invested executive to the strictly iconoclastic creator, but the Sim piece was early as the magazine began to secure a reputation for longer, more serious talks with an emerging generation of cartoonists increasingly looking to the comics medium in terms of its opportunities for personal expression. The choices made by the publication were not automatic, even though they look inevitable in the rearview mirror. Thompson and the rest of Fantagraphics ran the risk of routinely alienating the professional community on which the magazine depended for advertising revenue, a significant chunk of its readership and access to interview subjects.

For critic Jeet Heer, Thompson's writing contributions were directly vital to the magazine's growing sense of mission. "When I started reading The Comics Journal circa 1980, Kim Thompson was among the most important 'voices' in the magazine, along with Carter Scholz, Gary Groth, R. Fiore, and Dale Luciano," the writer told CR. "What characterized Kim's criticism was clarity of expression, candidness, and an erudite familiarity with the cartooning traditions of many nations -- which was even more rare 30 years ago than it is today. He was equally good as a negative and positive critic. He could acutely debunk certain over-praised works and locate their problems -- say Don McGregor's Detectives Inc. or Frank Miller's Ronin. But he could also pinpoint the reasons why Harvey Kurtzman's war comics have stood the test of time, an analysis that went to the brass tacks of the storytelling including sharp observations about Kurtzman's sound effects."

Thompson's early work at The Comics Journal was the starting point for a significant, career-long sideline in writing about comics: for the magazine, for other Fantagraphics publications, and later on-line. While the majority of Thompson's time in comics was spent away from the writing-about-comics camp, particularly as Fantagraphics expanded, Thompson's writing has always been welcome and still has its fans. "Kim was a generous writer," current TCJ.com co-editor Dan Nadel wrote The Comics Reporter. "He seemed to want to educate the reader by explaining, in a very matter of fact way, not only what made a particular comic work but also the context -- historical and aesthetic -- in which it worked. And best of all he really knew and could describe that context." Nadel mentioned he was a particular fan a series of "Editor's Notes" for the Fantagraphics blog that Thompson wrote about various subjects tying into new releases, sometimes employing an interview format. Nadel was constantly on Thompson to contribute to the flagship publication itself.

It appears Thompson's last major piece of writing for the Comics Journal site was this obituary for Moebius, his last piece of critical writing for the Fantagraphics blog was likely this piece on New York Mon Amour, and in terms of The Comics Journal's print iteration a major interview by Kim Thompson with Jacques Tardi ran in the recent The Comics Journal #302.

Fantagraphics moved from College Park to Connecticut in 1979 in order to be closer to the industry that their lead publication covered. The company and its growing staff settled into a large house near Stamford where many on staff both lived and worked. This included Kim Thompson.

Asked how Kim fit into the young company's overall culture, particularly its three-headed brain trust of Groth, Catron and Thompson, Mike Catron told CR, "Kim was the noodge. Kim was always into everybody else's business. Whatever projects Gary was working on, or what I was working on, or whatever anybody was doing, if Kim suddenly took an interest in it he would find a way to insert himself into it in some capacity. He was vitally interested in everything that Fantagraphics did, even if it wasn't one of his books. He made no bones about it and he did that because he wanted to make sure that the project was as good as the vision he had for it, even if it wasn't his project." Catron laughed. "And it sometimes drove people crazy."

The publisher remained vastly under-capitalized. Its owner-employees and the incrementally-growing staff worked past many of the issues brought on via operating so close to insolvency by investing an enormous amount of personal time and effort. This had started in Maryland -- during which Groth, Catron and Thompson also held day jobs -- and continued in Connecticut. "No one worked harder than Kim, and he expected everyone to hold themselves to the standard he held himself to," explained Tom Heintjes in a statement to CR. "I remember when I joined Fantagraphics in May 1984. They were still in the house in Stamford, and several of us lived in the house because we couldn't afford rents elsewhere. So everyone pretty much slept or worked. Kim was a machine -- setting type, copy-editing, coordinating deadlines with creators, paginating books, working with printers, some of everything. Gary was a big-picture guy, establishing the overall vision, but Kim was the guy with his sleeves rolled up, working on the nuts and bolts. He would lie on the floor and make sure the books' signatures worked out correctly, all those production-related issues. Pretty much his 'work uniform' was a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt. It was many months before I saw him wear anything else... I think it might have been the party we threw when we were leaving Connecticut to move to California. He worked very intensely, which we all had to do because of the small staff and the large amount of work."

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One highlight of the Connecticut era for the company was starting the magazine Amazing Heroes, in order to take better advantage of the opportunities to serve superhero fans that had formed under the growing direct market of hobby and comics shops. The cartoonist Frank Santoro, a fan of the publication, described Amazing Heroes in succinct terms for CR: "It brought the same high-brow approach to comics that the Comics Journal had but did so without making fans feel silly for liking superheroes." Thompson would later in an interview for the unpublished Comics As Art... We Told You So company history admit to slightly less lofty goals: to cadge ad revenue that was going to other publications, a mission he says Amazing Heroes largely accomplished. The publication remains a curious bridge between straight-up fanzines and ad zines and the slicker, once hugely profitable, men's magazine-reminiscent Wizard.

The in-house instigator for the Amazing Heroes project was actually Mike Catron. He had difficulties from the magazine's founding in terms of keeping up with the necessarily strict deadlines. The magazine soon fell to Thompson, who with a series of co-editors kept the publication, which generally ran from 64 to 88 pages, on a startling, at-times bi-weekly schedule for almost a dozen years, including several over-sized specials and theme issues. To do this and remain as involved with other aspects of the company is one of the major feats in modern comics publishing production history and speaks to Thompson's terrifying facility as a writer/editor and to his general work ethic.

Calling it "the comics news magazine for unabashed hero-worshipping fans," the writer and academic Charles Hatfield remembered Amazing Heroes as a key part of the company's history and something for which Thompson should be better known. "The eventual death of Amazing Heroes in 1992 was an inevitable sign of Fantagraphics' growth, but for quite a few years the magazine provided, again, a smart alternative to the adzine and Buyer's Guide sort of journalism that had come before it. Amazing Heroes was the not-so-hardnosed cousin to The Comics Journal, good cop to the Journal's proverbial bad cop, and a brighter, friendlier mag. Maybe it was a compromise, but it worked: it helped Fantagraphics navigate the direct market, and positioned the company relative to what was going on in the weekly world of comic book retailing. That was vital. I'd say Amazing Heroes was the unacknowledged other part of the Journal's history, though officially and editorially the two magazines were just that, two separate magazines. The Amazing Heroes previews were mouth-watering coming attractions for months and months of promised comics, and I remember poring over some of them with pure, uncut enthusiasm. AH also ran smart interviews and nostalgic comic book history, tastily written, without condescension or bias. Kim's long, long editorial run on that magazine, an under-acknowledged part of his career, was a great, gracious balancing act."

Mark Waid worked on Amazing Heroes for a brief period starting in 1986, after Fantagraphics had moved to the greater Los Angeles area. He recalled the publication and its reflection of the broader tastes of Kim Thompson in an e-mail to CR. "AH was Kim's long-standing thorn in Gary Groth's side, a publication Gary loathed partly because he was very cynical and elitist about mainstream comics, partly because it was the company's main source of revenue. But Kim never let it rattle him and, on occasion, would confess a secret joy in being able to get under Gary's skin with it. A good-natured 'sin,' because -- as I admired -- Kim was almost wholly without malice. He was positive, he was a problem-solver, he didn't have much use or time for grudges, and his smiles and laughter were genuine. When I came to work at Fantagraphics for about seven minutes in 1986, Kim was my boss and became my friend in short order; in one another, we'd found a kindred spirit who could enjoy Greek literature and the TV show Moonlighting in equal measure, to Gary's eternal disparaging despair." (Amazing Heroes contributor Heidi MacDonald told CR the TV show she and Thompson discussed most was Hill Street Blues.)

Fantagraphics moved more fully into comics publishing in the early '80s, starting with the stand-alone Flames Of Gyro featuring neighboring Connecticut talent Jay Disbrow and quickly moving into a selection of high-end genre comics. This meant opportunities for Thompson to edit actual comics content, another significant, career-long contribution he would end up making to the industry in which he worked. While Kim's editorial duties would eventually include work with cartooning luminaries such as Peter Bagge, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, Stan Sakai on both solo titles and more than one iconic comics anthology, he started out in Fantagraphics editorial much more modestly and in some instances remained so: Thompson was credited as an associate editor or editorial coordinator on early Fantagraphics comics efforts such as Dalgoda and Journey, perhaps a reflection of the collective ethos of the company. He would later hold not-quite-full-editor titles on Fantagraphics anthologies to which he provided material and assistance without being the publication's main driving force, such as a contributing editor title on the humor-focused Honk!

imageThompson arguably became first known as an editor when he became the driving force behind the funny animal anthology Critters, which for its longevity and the general quality of its features during a sustained period of anthropomorphic comic books being published in the US remains one of his specific, lasting legacies. Thompson tapped artists comfortable working within that tradition such as Stan Sakai and Mike Kazaleh, accessed a few key works from other countries, and even at times encouraged contributions comics-makers known for other kinds of work entirely, such as the cartoonist Ty Templeton, as described here. Like much of what Fantagraphics published, Critters represented a specific idea that Thompson wanted to see made real. It's worth noting that any number of Fantagraphics projects over the years -- including many of those directed by Thompson -- came down to that kind of simple application of taste and desire to see made real via sweat equity. When outside observers spoke of "Kim books" and "Gary books" within the company, they often were making distinctions of aesthetic preferences -- but Gary and Kim's taste overlapped, and so this dichotomy occasionally shortchanged both men. What that easy split might be said to describe is that when Gary or Kim were invested in a project it was frequently left to the individual co-publisher to see that it was completed. Some Fantagraphics creators contacted by CR for this obituary felt they barely worked with Kim Thompson; others felt he was the only person with whom they worked. Fairly early on, Thompson operated in a sphere that allowed him s share of projects tailored to his individual tastes and concerns, supported by others in the company directly and tacitly but primarily indebted to his energy and persistence for their execution. Kazaleh told CR, "Regarding Critters, Kim liked funny animal comics and thought they were underrepresented in modern comics, and I thought so, too." Sometimes it was a simple as that, and as complex and unforgiving as executing dozens of issues of a comic book: the solicitation, the support, supervising the art direction, any advertising or promotion that could be secured on its behalf.

"The most prominent of the Critters regulars today is probably Stan Sakai," the writer Bob Heer, a fan of the anthology, told CR. "His Usagi Yojimbo series had appeared a few times before, but Critters was the home for its first extended story which quickly led to the launch to its own series which continues to this day, several publishers and re-numberings later, while Critters remained the home of the occasional short story by Sakai right up to the final issue." Citing that Sakai's work was among his favorites, Heer noted that the #1 slot probably went to Freddy Milton and Gnuff. "Milton is a Danish cartoonist heavily influenced by Carl Barks, and about half the issues of Critters feature his original series about a family of dragons. The Barks influence is obvious, but there are also a lot of unique touches in the detailed characterization and world building that make it more than just a Barks-inspired knock-off. There are about 300 pages of Gnuff published in Critters, which I think is the only time they've been published in English, and it's well worth seeking out just for that." Heer went on to cite Tom Stazer's Lionheart, JP Morgan's Fission Chicken and Steven Gallacci's Birthright as examples of the variety of work that the anthology published. "Basically no house style, but rather creator-driven work that represents a strong point of view and passion for the project."

imageCritters ended in 1990 having published 50 serial issues and a related one-shot. Its legacy is felt in a variety of ways beyond the work itself and those like Kazeleh and Templeton with their various comics projects and Sakai with Usagi that continue to work. Publisher and cartoonist Zack Soto read Critters as a young comics fan. He told CR "I really liked the tone and variety Kim Thompson brought to the table with Critters. There was a good mixture of different approaches to the material, and it was mostly pretty fun. Kim was already promoting European comics and cartoonists in the book, in addition to a stew of post-underground and 'indy'-leaning stuff. I was a big fan of Fission Chicken, the work of Steve Mellor, Gnuff & Usagi Yojimbo, all of which I doubt would have seen much of an audience in the US without Critters." Soto also pointed out that as the series' main editor, Kim was able to write about the process of making comics that fascinated him. "Kim also took chances and playfully experimented with the form of his anthology, and talked about it in the editorials, laying his decision-making process bare. Not just the final run of the series when it became a weird housing for a few different serials, but cool single theme issues and doing stuff like the Alan Moore/Ty Templeton collaboration with tip-in flexi-disk. I don't know. It was really a product of the times, and it had a playful attitude and a lot of good work between the first and last issues."

"Kim was smart, level-headed, had a very dry sense of humor, and did not suffer fools gladly," Kazaleh told CR. "I liked Kim, and we would usually hang out whenever I came to the Fantagraphics office in Agoura -- later Thousand Oaks. I mostly drew whatever I wanted and Kim would print it, except maybe for the time I wanted use a comic strip on the back of Har-Har #1 that would've ripped off George Herriman and Bob Dylan at the same time. Kim thought that might not be a good idea, and I guess he was right."

Like many staffers of the Connecticut and California periods, Waid remembers a friend both in and out of the office. "I have many memories of Kim, all of them good, even though he made it my first task on staff to fire my predecessor, who didn't know I'd been hired to replace him. Thanks, Kim. My favorite may well be the Friday afternoon he and I cut out early, just the two of us, to catch a first-day Thousand Oaks showing of Marvel's blockbuster feature film, Howard the Duck. The look on his face as the end credits rolled probably perfectly mirrored my own, and we both staggered silently back to Kim's car. Once the silence was broken, I don't know who laughed louder -- me at Kim's (prescient) description of how George Lucas must have been replaced by an LMD with no taste, or Kim at my contention that casting Harlan Ellison as the title character was a sketchy move. Either way, we milked more joy out of the ride back to the offices than that movie has given all the rest of the world in the 27 years since."

Heintjes: "Kim delighted in work pranks. He preferred to work into the wee hours and sleep late, and I was an early to bed, early to rise kind of guy. So he would run out yards and yards of galleys of Comics Journal copy (back when it was set on a Linotype machine) and festoon them around my desk and the entire office I shared with Gary. So that's the sight that would greet me upon rolling out of bed. In one of the issues of the Journal where we were keeping up the drumbeat about Marvel's mistreatment of Jack Kirby, we got Frank Miller to write an essay, and Frank wanted to proofread it before it went to press. So Kim added a headline that replaced Frank's original. It read something like 'GIVE JACK HIS ART BACK, YOU FUCKERS!' And that's what we sent to Frank. Frank called back and sounded very shaken, asking if we had already sent them magazine to the printer."

"Kim also enjoyed getting out of the office for diversions," Heintjes noted. "We bowled, saw movies, went out to eat, just regular coworker stuff. He played music loudly while he worked, usually punk and alternative rock. He was a lot of fun to be around, although if someone held an opinion that he found dumb, he didn't hesitate to tell you, often pointedly. But that was just Kim -- what he lacked in people skills, he more than made up for in wit. Kim was a unique guy, and I'm the better for having known him. It's still hard to believe he's gone."

Former comics industry regular and writer about comics and arts more generally Robert Boyd told CR that he considered Thompson a mentor, and that Thompson's style when it came to providing this example, "was Socratic method with a twist. You know the Socratic method involves the teacher questioning a thesis of the student, and in the asking and answering, wisdom is conveyed. In my case, Kim's excellent bullshit detector would go off whenever I asserted something pretentious or uninformed or overly broad or dogmatic. He called bullshit (usually in a very witty way). So even though I learned a lot of publishing stuff from Kim (and Gary), it was this no-bullshit skepticism that I really valued with Kim and sought to apply to my own assumptions. I was infinitely pretentious then; I'm slightly less so now in part because of Kim."

Thompson, Groth and Fantagraphics moved to Seattle just as the city was becoming a national destination point for young people and a youth culture into which the publishing house slipped extremely well. They employed movers for this trip, deciding not to replicate the cross-country, self-directed caravan from Connecticut to California which included several white-knuckle moments including Thompson's accidental destruction of Heintjes' car.

Seattle would be Thompson's final home.

imageKim Thompson's Fantagraphics office in Seattle was until very close to his passing right behind Gary Groth's, near the heart of the Lake City way three-story home into which the company settled upon arrival. It was on the building's second floor (the third floor was rented), in a smaller room with the company's old-fashioned news files placed along the far wall. Until he had regular use of a computer, Thompson worked most hours facing his typewriter, situated next to the legendary Fantagraphics rolodex. When computers became ubiquitous, Thompson could frequently be found sitting just to the left of his door, right outside the central stairway connecting, basically, the company's editorial and business aspects. He was never tethered to his office, and while respectful of other staffers' duties would frequently travel to them to deliver a note or ask a question. Thompson was a constant presence in the office, seven days a week, frequently for long stretches of time. Because of his sometimes-odd hours during the early Seattle years he took to leaving notes on his employees' desks or in their mail slots with comments, questions or criticisms -- the dreaded yellow sheets of paper, a kind of pre-email email. Although the complicated business of keeping the company afloat made hard definitions when it came to tasks impossible, and Thompson's duties always overlapped with Groth's, he was in many ways still the company's de facto production manager in addition to being wholly involved as a publisher and as an editor. Thompson became, for example, a primary mover behind the mail-order catalogs when the company very much depended on the income raised that way to survive. He was the kind of hard worker where entire positions could be spun off of tasks not everyone in the office was aware he did.

Thompson helped supervise the production department's transition from print-out based submissions to the company's different printers to computer-assisted and finally digital-only send-ins. This included a variety of different supervisory strategies, from slipping in certain jobs with art directors that had a spare couple of hours between primary assignments to enabling independently-minded workers with a kind of ongoing light-hand to grind through book after book on things like the Eros line, which were key to Fantagraphics' financial survival. Early 1990s Eros art director Jim Blanchard told CR that "the majority of comics and books I worked on with Kim were for the Eros and Monster Comics imprints, so the 'standards' for 'quality' were lower than for the rest of the Fantagraphics Books line. I sort of appreciated that -- made my job easier." He noted to CR that Kim's approach as a supervisor was different for different lines, and that was also true in that Kim was used as a translator for a significant chunk of the pornographic material. "Kim was definitely hands-off, because he knew I could handle art directing those books. It was more about getting the multiple titles out the door and to the printer, rather than polishing and fine-tuning them, like [the late Fantagraphics art director] Dale Yarger did on the stuff he worked on. I think Kim felt the same way about translating the European porn stuff: a little more leeway for having fun and adding in jokes to the captions/word balloons. Not to say we didn't want to do a good job on Liz & Beth or Talk Dirty; we were still conscientious and giving it our best shot."

Calling Thompson one of the smartest men he ever knew, Blanchard told CR that this was apparent in how he approached his job at Fantagraphics. "As far as his smarts, you could just sense it being around him. His kind of nervous laugh told you he already knew what you were thinking, and was one step ahead of you. I remember him constantly catching grammatical/spelling/punctuation errors -- consummate proof reader -- he had a very thorough knowledge of pop culture and music, too." Longtime Fantagraphics art director and Fantagraphics-published cartoonist Pat Moriarty also chimed in that he remembers Thompson's skill as a kind of floating office proofreader: "He could proofread like no other; it was practically inhuman how quickly he could spot subtle or obscure grammatical errors. Even when writing today, I still sometimes think of the feeling of having Kim Thompson looking over my shoulder as I'm at the keyboard. The thought makes me write a little more carefully." Joe Sacco underlined this point, telling CR that this was beneficial to the creators with whom Thompson worked. "Kim was my editor. I used to work as a proofreader, but he was ten times better, someone you could trust entirely to make sure your writing was error-free."

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Fantagraphics' presence in Seattle first galvanized and then Balkanized the cartooning community: a public tiff between Thompson and the now-solely writer, then-mostly cartoonist Ed Brubaker over Brubaker's work was one such noticeable instance in that art community's development (Brubaker wrote positively of Thompson on twitter following his passing). Like many people in comics, there was very little separation of work and private life for Thompson, even though the days of living in the same building were now gone. Thompson still became friends with many of those with whom he worked, and remained so after they left his employ and even the city. He shared musical enthusiasms with several Fantagraphics workers at a time when the city was awash in young people for whom music was everything. Thompson's extensive knowledge of and passion for movies was something he also shared with younger employees, at one point in the mid-1990s hosting irregular Film 101 viewings in his home. Thompson was a devotee of the city's Scarecrow Video retailing/rental institution, a mere five-minute drive from the Fantagraphics offices, and saw movies at the city's film festivals and multitude of art-movie houses and big-box theaters.

One major life change came to Thompson during the Seattle years: he fell in love and married. Thompson met Lynn Emmert through Peter and Joanne Bagge; the Bagges had known Lynn through her sister Patti. Emmert relocated from Chicago to Seattle at roughly the same time the company made the trip up the Pacific coast. Emmert was a comics fan. Thompson and Emmert lived together for a period as boyfriend and girlfriend; they married in 1996 in a ceremony attended by a small group of family and friends, followed by a larger reception in which the bulk of Seattle's thriving cartooning community came to pay tribute and celebrate that union. They were residents of a condominium about five minutes drive from Fantagraphics beginning in Fall 1994. The couple eventually settled into a small, idyllic house in the Northgate neighborhood, a place set slightly back from the road. Their pet dog Ludwig accompanied Thompson to work in recent years. In their Northgate home the couple hosted social events and had both employees and older friends in for things like movie nights and dinners.

"Meeting and marrying Lynn changed Kim quite a bit, in that it helped make him a more 'regular' person, particularly in a social sense," the longtime Seattle area resident Peter Bagge told CR. "He always was very much an 'Asperger' type, which was more pronounced in his bachelor days, when he wasn't the least bit self-conscious about his childlike eating and dress habits -- which simultaneously contradicted his huge intellectual capacity." The couple remained close for the duration of their days together; and it was Emmert that took on primary care responsibilities as Thompson succumbed to the cancer that took his life.

Other changes in the last two decades of Thompson's life may have been less overtly noticeable. Increased access to the Internet in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s gave Thompson more of a public profile than he had perhaps enjoyed in the past. His sharp and acerbic wit, his desire to correct and his fierce pride in his company and its accomplishments made him a brutal opponent in on-line discussions, and an entertaining figure to read. Milo George noted that the on-line Thompson was an extension of the man he knew at work. "Once you got to know Kim a bit, you would realize that his beatdowns of online opponents should be read with a goodly amount of the kind of good-humored spirit of correction you would expect from an editor's note on your manuscript." For Robert Boyd, the on-line Kim Thompson was a way to access the writer's voice he remembered from the earlier days at the Comics Journal and in the office. "I always thought Kim was a fantastic prose stylist and had a great way of arguing a point. (Gary was the Hogun the Grim of comics criticism; Kim was Fandral the Dashing.) Even his memos -- awesomely long in some cases, and usually typed right on your typewriter while you were at lunch or after you left work for the day -- were masterpieces. I'm sure no one has ever considered this, but I'd gladly pay cash for a collection of Kim's best writings. For many of us, the tragedy of Kim (aside from his way-too-soon death) was when he walked away from regular writing. His occasional blog posts in recent years were a breath of fresh air."

imageIt was earlier in the Seattle period that Kim solidified his place as an important editor of comics, working with a number of the company's formidable early-alternative talents and with the first generation of 1990s-emergent post-alternative cartoonists. He was well known, as testified to by many in the Comics As Art manuscript, for his ability to cajole and backhanded-flatter work from the various top-line alternative talents. Although some close watchers of art comics have criticized houses like Fantagraphics for their relative lack of editorial input on various comics projects, the approach used by Thompson and others at the publishing house hewed close to the tradition of newspaper syndication editing. There were suggestions and advice early on and subsequently whenever asked for. As the cartoonists developed an understanding of what making a comic was all about and what they wanted to do on the page, they were more or less left alone. By 2011, Thompson joked that his work with the Hernandez Brothers had become collating the pages when they arrived and getting them off to the printer. There were few, if any, content restrictions from a censorious standpoint, even in terms of what Thompson might prefer for a specific project. An early story in the anthology Zero Zero by the cartoonist Jeff Johnson (now Jess Jonsin) was named after what was apparently Thompson's sole request: "No Erect Penises."

In large part due to Thompson's flexibility as a multi-tasker, his commitment with Groth to their artists and their combined skill in facilitating several solutions for problems on the ground, the 1990s comics publications that Fantagraphics produced reflected a variety of idiosyncratic creative choices extending from content to the paper used to the format of the comics themselves. As the comics industry transitioned from a direct market-driven "carry everything" shop ethos to a more complicated overlapping network of targeted shops, direct order, convention sales and even bookstore distribution models in addition to the shops, and many publishers suffered -- including, at times, Fantagraphics -- for the complexity and pressures of this new sales landscape, the company's bottom-line output became more bold and more ambitious rather than more conservative and guarded. When Peter Bagge moved from black and white to color issues of Hate, the company accommodated the high-selling publication by helping with an in-house coloring process in a way that might not have been entirely bottom-line reasonable considering the equipment and resources on-hand but served the work, and the cartoonist, and made for a better comic. Thompson and the company became increasingly creative in working with cartoonists, and some worked in a variety of formats and even for different Fantagraphics lines from the moment they began publishing.

Nowhere was this bottom-line flexibility and willingness to facilitate the production desires of certain artists used to better effect than with Chris Ware. In 1993, Fantagraphics began a relationship with the emerging alt-weekly superstar, whose work had also appeared in RAW and in a forgettable-only-by-relative-quality one-shot with Eclipse Comics and Thompson's old friend Dean Mullaney. Ware's ACME Novelty Library appeared in what seemed like a different format every time out (there were several repeating formats), a remarkable thing in an industry when not only were things like this kind of production routinely off the table from a sheer capability standpoint but arrived in an era where publishers often valued making the maximum amount of money by working in standard templates approved of by their retailing partners. Ware's work quickly became an award-winning favorite, and ACME Novelty Library remains a defining comic book of that era.

imageIn 1995, Thompson began editing the art-comics anthology that bridged a relatively fallow and transitional mid-to-late 1990s period in alternative comics publishing: Zero Zero. "By then Fantagraphics' identity was definitely grounded in alt-comix, and Zero Zero was a glorious, freeing project, an anthology with underground, newave, and alternative roots (and international branches) that, until its last few issues, kept up a heroic schedule, coming out somewhere between bimonthly and eight times a year," the writer about alternative comics Charles Hatfield told CR. "Zero Zero boasted a wild, almost forbidding range of stuff, yet came close, I thought, to summing up Kim's taste in contemporary adult comix. It did what I like comics anthologies to do: it published often; it offered lots of bang for the buck, stressing range, variety, and sheer comics content over aesthetic ultra-refinement and coffee table values; it included serials as well as one-off comics; it adopted new artists while also championing veterans; and it had personality and standards -- Kim's -- despite its profligacy." Hatfield noted that Zero Zero, which he described as a magazine with a magazine's concerns, was also Fantagraphics' last major attempt at a traditional comic book format anthology. The company's next significant anthology, MOME, was a journal designed to be sold in bookstores as well as in comics shops.

Zero Zero's legacy is tied into the quality of the publication, the range of cartoonists represented. Hatfield: "Check out Zero Zero in the Grand Comics Database, or work your way through a stack of them if you can find them: the breadth and quality of the magazine are terrific. Ted Stearn, Richard Sala, Dave Cooper, Kim Deitch -- they all had substantial serial projects in the magazine. Stephane Blanquet, Dave Collier, Mack White too. Scary comics -- apocalyptic. Urgent. Great stories by Joe Sacco and David Mazzucchelli were in Zero Zero. Doug Allen, Penny Van Horn, Al Columbia. Cripes, it was a hell of a magazine." Noting that it was the place where he encountered European cartoonists like Aleksandar Zograf, critic Jeet Heer said of Zero Zero that "Editorially, like many of the best Fantagraphics anthologies, it was a half-way house between Weirdo and Raw, more committed to narrative accessibility than either of those two stellar magazines, perhaps lacking their radical zeal but solidly loyal to the tradition of comics storytelling."

Heer's comment about European cartooning in Zero Zero touches on another major through-line to Thompson's career: his longstanding attention to European comics, including his work as a translator for many of them. European comics expert Bart Beaty told CR that Thompson was a major figure in North American translation and European comics publishing in English. "Kim was one of a very small handful of people that were responsible for knocking down the barriers that existed between comics in Europe and in the United States. Today, when translations of European material are quite common, it is somewhat difficult to recall that in the 1990s there was virtually nothing appearing in English that had originally been published in Europe -- unless it was translated and published by Kim. His fluency in multiple languages, and his very broad tastes, made him a central figure in expanding the notion of what comics were and could do over the past decades."

Thompson began trying to publish various world cartoonists through Fantagraphics as early as the 1980s, bringing them into Critters and later anthologies (Tardi appeared in Pictopia, for example) and in 1982-1983 helping to facilitate the release of two volumes of the Survivors series. He also spearheaded coverage of those comics in both the Comics Journal and in Amazing Heroes. Art Spiegelman told CR that when he and Francoise Mouly presented several New York-area comics peers with the European comics work that they planned to publish in Raw, of Gary Groth and Kim Thompson it was Thompson seemed more immediately comfortable with and amenable to what they had planned. Fantagraphics was slower and more deliberate in publishing work of that type than Raw Books was. The release of five issues of the Jose Munoz/Carlos Sampayo masterwork Sinner (Thompson as editor, Spiegelman as consultant) are remembered with great fondness by more people than perhaps actually purchased them at the time. A few one-off graphic novels, such as Ana, failed to catch fire in the pre-bookstore market days. As Jim Blanchard mentioned, the Eros line was a home to work from creators such as Francisco Solano Lopez and Matthias Schultheiss as well as English-language cartoonists, and certainly an anthology such as Graphic Story Monthly (where Thompson was a consulting editor) was a place where that work could be introduced to North American readers.

imageIn the mid- to late-1990s, as the French-language comics market was beginning to see the fruits of its own art comics revolution, Thompson tried to bring one of that movement's leading lights to North American audiences in a more sustained way. Fantagraphics published some of the French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim's Lapinot books in album form as the McConey series, and later published a bunch of his black and white shorts in the more traditional alt-comic book series The Nimrod -- one of the great alternative comic books of that entire period. Neither effort caught on with the intended audience to the extent Thompson might have hoped, although both efforts had decided fans and it was clear by this point that Thompson wasn't going to stop trying bringing the fruits of this work to North American shores.

"Kim's publishing decisions could seem very idiosyncratic from the outside," Beaty explained. "It was clear that he published things that he loved and that he loved the things that he published. Every time I saw him I would rattle off a list of 20 things that I thought Fantagraphics absolutely should be translating, and he'd just laugh at me and tell me that my dream publishing line would be bankrupt in six months. He was probably right. Still, over the last few years he seemed to throw caution to the wind a little bit, bringing out books that needed to be in English even if their market opportunities seemed a bit slim." Starting with a book plan around the cartoonist Jason starting with Hey, Wait..., Thompson began to piece together a way to publish European cartoonists he thought were necessary for audiences to see without putting his company at significant risk by diverting its resources. When Fantagraphics survived a number of late 1990s and early '00s financial crises related to distribution and climbed to slightly higher ground with the Complete Peanuts project now in-house and a solid book distribution deal with WW Norton, Thompson intensified his European comics efforts, culminating in a series of beautiful collections of translated work by Jacques Tardi, one of the great living cartoonists and something of a non-factor for North American comics buyers until these recent works. The series has performed solidly, if not spectacularly. "His dedication to the Tardi translations is a good example of this," Beaty told CR of Thompson's dogged persistence. "For ten years Kim and I would talk about why Tardi didn't sell in America, often with a sense of bafflement. The recent run of Tardi translations seemed to be evidence of his determination to simply make it work, almost out of sheer force of will." Thompson was also heavily involved with the Ignatz line co-published with Coconino Press, which brought both North American cartoonists and many younger European stalwarts into a high-end line that might conceivably satisfy fans of smaller chunks of material while guaranteeing publishers a bigger per-unit sale. It is hard to imagine such a line being possible a decade earlier no matter how devoted Fantagraphics might have been to deluxe formatting, and that it processed through so many issues before winding down without any thought of danger or damage being done the publisher was a testament to Thompson's late-period skill and the relative health of the publishing enterprise he co-maintained.

imageBy the time of his passing, Fantagraphics was publishing through Thompson any number of European cartoonists: some high-profile, some much less so, some modern and some very much in the classic cartooning vein. Thompson described Fantagraphics' efforts in a comments thread on the site Hooded Utilitarian two years ago thusly: "... we've put out recently or have scheduled David B., Fior, Franquin, Hergé, Macherot, Mezzo/Pirus, Tillieux, and Trondheim, and, moving to the Franco-Belgian 'cousins' (some of whom are very much part of that tradition) Swarte from Holland, Martí and Max from Spain, Lust and Mahler from Austria, Ott from Switzerland, and Mattotti and Giandelli from Italy." Many of those projects were possible because Thompson's fluency with several languages allowed him to work with artists and their representatives directly and to reduce the costs of each work by setting up co-publishing agreements. Much more importantly, it gave Fantagraphics access to a world-class translator: Thompson himself.

The critic Joe McCulloch told CR that he came to primarily think of Thompson as a translator rather than as an editor or even a publisher. "Years ago Kim posted a series of articles documenting his translation process for the Martin Kellerman book Rocky... In those posts, Kim hemmed and hawed exquisitely over the trials of bringing Swedish comedy to the comics heartland: do you swap out a domestic band's name for an American equivalent? How far do you push the language, the fidelity, so as to retain some humor? Kim was basically in favor of humor in comedy, which could not be said of a few of the manga translations still thick in those days -- translator/fans would preserve every honorific, as if creating a reading experience analogous to visiting in human society as a robot with a dictionary loaded in its head, incapable of appreciating any human emotion or connotation, save for a private self-loathing at where your education had gotten you."

"Kim's ethos, however, was cased in a bottomless harrowing of the soul: how can this book communicate? Where is the line drawn between necessary violence to the text -- in the manner of a hedge trimming that alerts the unwary driver to incoming traffic -- and the substitution of translator for author? Always, Kim struck me as an invisible man, mindful of the prejudices of English monoglots and the ten thousand distractions that pull them away from a text, and dedicated to massaging those kinks just so a steady understanding of Tardi, of Trondheim, of B(eauchard), of Milo Goddamned Manara was possible. When I felt the urge to criticize Manara, I did not think of the glass of my ignorance separating me from him, I thought only of him; such was Kim's transparency."

As mentioned by McCulloch, Thompson was able to take on a rare outside major project and recently fulfill a longstanding desire to work with the editor Diana Schutz at Dark Horse by taking on work with volumes of their Manara Library and Manara Erotica series. As one of the few editors to work with Thompson that wasn't Thompson himself, Schutz provided to CR into their working relationship and a focused glimpse into what Thompson was like in that role. Unsurprisingly, there was a blurring of tasks. "He was such an incredibly clever guy. He and I worked almost entirely via email on Manara, but it wasn't as simple as Kim sending me a translation and then signing off on the job. Right from the start he'd requested being more involved than that, and I was happy to give him that involvement. So, I'd edit Kim's translation longhand, and send him a copy of those edits for his comments, which I would then incorporate into the final script for Tom Orzechowski to letter. And then, once a given story was lettered, it would go back to Kim yet again for a final pass."

"Because translation is far from an exact science, Kim and I could argue back and forth over the use of a single word, its meaning and connotations, better potential choices... but it was always about the work and how to make it better. Kim was a perfectionist, like me, and we were happy to butt heads until we were both satisfied. But Kim's contributions went beyond straight translation, too. For instance, Groucho Marx showed up at one point in one of Milo's Giuseppe Bergman stories, and I wanted Groucho's one or two word balloons to have the flavor of real Groucho lines -- something Manara couldn't exactly do in the original Italian, but that we could in English. Kim, of course, was able to write the line in Groucho-speak.

"Translation can also require a certain amount of arcane knowledge and research. Manara often makes literary and historical allusions in his writing, and Kim would spot all of those. He and I were especially happy with his translation of Manara's adaptation of The Golden Ass, originally written by Apuleius in the second century; this demanded a certain amount of classical language, which seemed almost second nature for Kim.

"I can't begin to tell you how much I learned working with him, and how proud I felt when he emailed me that we were 'a good team.'"

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Kim Thompson was enthusiastic about translation generally, and could talk about the strengths and weaknesses of his peers and classic assignments that fell to translators past. In 2010, he even organized a roundtable of comics translators that ran at a previous iteration of the on-line Comics Journal. That group was Helge Dascher, Camelia Nieh, Anjali Singh and Thompson, talking with moderator Kristy Valenti.

Asked to appraise Thompson's strengths as a translator, peer and panel participant Dascher told CR that Thompson, "really cared about creating a vivid reading experience." She cited a moment in the roundtable where Thompson described himself as an "unfaithful translator."
When I translated the first chapter of Trenches I did with Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, and Art Spiegelman said, 'What I try to do, is I try not so much to translate as to write it the way I think he would have written it in English to begin with if he had been writing it in English.' I think that sort of sums it up. You junk all the stuff you know is in the way, because it was in that language to begin with, and just go for, when necessary, the spirit, the meaning of it.
.Dascher noted Thompson had several strengths. "He was great at wordplay and finding inventive solutions to problems that could seem intractable. An English reader reading You Are Here can't begin to imagine what a trick it was to pull off that translation. Voices came easily to him. ... Above all, he was a fantastic reader. He could 'go with the spirit of it' because he had such a good sense of where that spirit lay. And something that was great about him was how much fun he got out of his own solutions. He knew when he got it right."

The extra attention was frequently noticed. The writer and critic Douglas Wolk wrote CR of his admiration for a specific translation effort, a text piece in the 2006 edition of the Spanish cartoonist Max's Bardin the Superrealist published by Fantagraphics, by calling it "a terrific piece of creative translation -- he managed to replace one set of puns, allusions, rhymes and high-and-low diction with another. Preserving both the sense and the tone of Max's writing has to have been tricky, but it's a very funny book in English, too. (Thompson's rendering of the colloquial 'cielo santo' in a bit about Bardín scaring off demons with prayer: 'Oh jeez!')"

Not everyone was always enamored of Thompson's approach. Beaty: "As a translator Kim had his critics. The most common charges against him were that he sometimes made all of his characters sound the same, and that he made minor changes to books to 'Americanize' them. In one of the Trondheim books, for example, the characters play Mille Bornes. Kim changed that to Monopoly. Both are annoying games that everyone knows how to play but no one really enjoys, so it's essentially the same joke, but the context of Parisian life is somewhat lost. To me this was no great sin. I would have preferred 'Mille Bornes' be left in so that American readers would wonder about it, but I also know that almost every great comics translator -- think Anthea Bell on Asterix -- changed things to make the jokes funnier for the audience who was actually reading the translation. The more translation I've done myself, the more I've come around to this way of thinking."

Determining Thompson's overall contribution to comics through almost 30 years of writing, translating and fevered editorial production may prove more elusive than identifying many of the individual achievements to which he could lay claim within comics.

As Fantagraphics' longtime co-owner, co-publisher and everyday office presence, Thompson certainly shares in the broad strokes of what the company has achieved as a team effort. This is true in general terms -- the company's amazing list of published artists and titles -- and in more specific projects with hard-to-measure contributing elements, say the office debates and back-and-forth arguing that preceded the company's groundbreaking Misfit Lit show. With more than three decades into its long run, some of Fantagraphics' achievements -- and thus, Thompson's -- are more difficult to see for how they established an indy-comics orthodoxy that few folks question today. As Ben Schwartz points out in this piece for LA Review Of Books, the simple, unlikely premise of Fantagraphics as a place to house and publish sophisticated comics for a discerning, adult audience becomes part of Thompson's legacy, as do many of the beneficial strategies employed to execute that company's mission, such as a rigorous preference for contracts where authors keep their copyrights. Its unlikely survival during crises both public and private should also be considered Thompson's legacy.

imageDrawn and Quarterly creative director Tom Devlin expressed admiration for a specific through-line he saw in Thompson's career: the ability to pick work according to his personal taste as opposed to some sophisticated sense of its sales possibilities. Devlin communicated to The Comics Reporter that the almost wholehearted rejection of conventional wisdom displayed by Thompson in a project's conception or execution stunned and delighted him. "I have two favourites: Duck Bill Platypus by Kyle Rothweiler, which ran first as a feature in Critters, and Unseen Peanuts by Charles Schulz, a Free Comic Book Day comic from a few years ago [May 2007]. I haven't read the Rothweiler comics in years but when I read those comics years ago they slayed me: Pogo-esque but even more obtuse -- and such an odd time for those comics to exist. Unseen Peanuts is another story. Since Fantagraphics was doing The Complete Peanuts these long lost strips were now being restored to print. Ostensibly a marketing tool, Kim used the format for an extended essay on why these strips that Schulz himself cut from his collections over the years really should have been cut. He goes strip by strip and examines why they didn't work or were redundant or why they just weren't funny. It's a completely odd choice and so Kim and it is absolutely one of my favorite comics in the past several years. It was always clear that what Kim published was something he loved and more importantly something that nobody else would have ever published."

The critic Rob Clough noted to CR that one connecting thread was that Thompson sometimes favored great cartooning with potential mainstream appeal, and that the way the art form has developed may reflect Kim's tastes and impulses more than most. Speaking of his attempts to bring Lewis Trondheim and Jacques Tardi to North American audiences, he wrote, "Thompson wanted to bring the works of these artists into English, not just because they were outstanding artists, but because they represented a kind of mainstream appeal that he thought should gather an audience if only they gave it a chance. Thompson wasn't so much advocating for the avant-garde, but rather for comics anyone could read and enjoy." The writer Sean T. Collins spoke more adamantly about the relationship that Thompson had as an editor exposing those artists to certain audiences, the persistence he showed in going to certain cartoonists time after time. "If all he ever did was be the guy responsible for getting Jason and Jacques Tardi across to North American audiences, Kim would be a hall-of-fame editor. Recognizing that those cartoonists could communicate to American readers, translating them, devising a release pattern that played to their immediate strengths while slowly, over the course of multiple books, revealing the breadth and depth of their abilities and interests -- masterful work. I can't decide which is the more impressive: Jason, an unknown quantity on these shores, or Tardi, legendarily un-breakable on this side of the Atlantic. But you'd be hard pressed to find two stronger concentrated runs of work than what Fanta has released by them, and Kim's responsible for it. A hero."

Thompson started as an admirably skilled editor and became more of one as the years passed. Peter Bagge recalled a working relationship with Thompson that improved in recent years. "I couldn't help noticing how on-top-of-it he was on the last project I worked on with him, my recent collection Other Stuff, Bagge told The Comics Reporter. "He was much more hands-on than in the past, though he may have simply been compensating for my relative indifference when it came to making the collection a cohesive whole. Either way, I was amazed at what a good job he did, and I was thrilled with the results. He also was more 'engaged' with working with me than ever before, and refreshingly easygoing, too -- we used to bicker and butt heads a lot during the Hate days, I regret to say." Taking several moments to think of the exact word to describe how Thompson had changed in the pair of decades since his departure from the company and recent return as an editor, Mike Catron settled on "polished," as if to indicate that in many ways he was still the same man, he had just become better at all that he did for the company even as there was more of it to do.

"When I returned and we were back working together, it was an amazingly seamless reconnection between the three of us... and with Peppy [Preston White] the four of us... we all fell back into familiar rhythms from years ago. Kim had by then taken on much more responsibility than when he and I worked a long time ago: Fantagraphics put out more books and had more employees, more responsibilities, those kinds of things. But the thing of it is that Kim was able to step up to that. I think that Kim having all of that on his shoulders made him a little less goofy, a little less spontaneous. We used to have time to do wild and crazy stuff... there was less time for that later on. But I think that was a trade off he was happy to make. We were doing the kinds of comics we always wanted to do. It was a dream come true. That was his dream. And he lived it."

As Thompson grew older and the newer employees became 20 to 30 years younger than he was, he perhaps found fewer direct friendships in the office and took on more of a friendly uncle persona. "His infectious giggle is one thing that will always resonate in the walls of this office," current Fantagraphics employee Jacq Cohen told CR. "As focused as he always was on work, he'd come by our desks almost every day to tell a funny anecdote." Thompson put on full display his array of personality quirks, employees citing his love of puns and his deadpan sarcasm. Cohen's co-worker Jen Vaughn mentioned that "Kim had a little dance he would do anytime he was supremely pleased with a review but mostly for Swedish fish and sugar cookies. It was mostly a shifting side-to-side on his toes while wide-steepled hands would bounce off the fingertips."

Asked after Thompson's personal development over the years, Gary Groth turned slightly philosophical. "I think he became more Kim. It was either Aristotle or Socrates who admonished become what you are, and by God, Kim became what he was." He added, "I think he loved European comics even more than I imagined and I think he fulfilled a dream by producing so many English translations in the last three or four years of his life. I don't know if he changed so much as he increasingly did what he most wanted to do, which is probably the most one can hope for at the end of one's life."

On March 6, Thompson announced through the company web site that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was taking a leave of absence in order to better pursue treatment. "Once he got that diagnosis, he never really came back," Catron told CR. "For Kim that was incredible, because he was never out." Thompson had been sick since just before this year's Emerald City Comic Con several days before the announcement, and there are various anecdotal reports among friends that he may have been more tired than usual for a small period of time before becoming sick. Thompson's illness before the diagnosis alarmed several longtime co-workers who could not remember Thompson sick at all, let alone so sick he could not come into work or answer e-mail. After a brief period of apparent recovery and slightly better health at the start of treatment, Thompson's energy continued to deteriorate and the cancer spread. By early June chemotherapy was ended, and energies were focused on how to make Thompson more comfortable for his remaining days.

Despite some rumors to the contrary, no environmental cause has been nailed down for Thompson's cancer, nor has its exact, initial location in his body been identified with 100 percent certainty. There were elements of cancer in his lungs. Thompson was not a smoker.

Between his leave of absence and the announcement of Thompson's passing, a wave of ex-employees, friends and admirers sent Thompson and Emmert letters, made phone calls and visited him both in the hospital and at home. Fantagraphics employees and Seattle cartooning community member supported Thompson and Emmert in various ways available to them, such as driving Thompson to doctor's appointment, or bringing to their home prepared meals. On the convention and festival circuit, Fantagraphics employees and freelancers reported being pressed for details about Thompson's health by a wide array of well-wishers, and those within the circle that received on-line updates from Emmert commiserated over the particulars.

Peter Bagge told CR that Kim remained devoted to work, and that it was his understanding that Thompson was even speaking about returning to work while very sick. He recalled traveling with Thompson a few years earlier. "During the drive I asked Kim what he contemplates doing if and when he ever got burned out on Fantagraphics. Seeing how I contemplate a change of careers every single day, this didn't strike me as an odd question to be asking him or anyone. Yet Kim reacted at first with stunned silence, and then said, 'Why would I want to do something else?' It was obvious that he never thought about doing something else for a single second."

The announcement of Thompson's death came from Fantagraphics approximately eight hours after his early-morning passing June 19. Spearheaded by Gary Groth, it was the kind of group effort to which Thompson at one point would have significantly contributed. An obituary, the formal publication of close-friend reminiscences, and a near industry-wide period of mourning and testimonials followed.

Charting the aftermath of Thompson's passing is still very much in its early stages, as friends struggle to process his absence in the midst of one of comics' busiest times of the years. In the immediate sense, Thompson will simply be missed when his friends and peers see each other on the convention circuit. "SDCC is going to be particularly difficult," Dean Mullaney told CR.

Fantagraphics had been operating without Thompson since his initial illness. Eric Reynolds told The Comics Reporter that a statement indicating a portion of Thompson's workload had passed to existing employees such as himself, Gary Groth and production manager Jason T. Miles was a fair one.

As Thompson was actively involved in the production of certain comics works with his company, his passing will have an impact on the company's production slate in the near future. "I believe there were 14 of Kim's foreign language books scheduled in the next season," Gary Groth told CR. "We intend to publish a couple of them, but there's no way we can handle the majority. Some will be postponed to publish at a later date and some, sadly, will be cancelled." Groth stressed positive news for one of Kim's most well-received recent projects. "We certainly hope to continue publishing Tardi, who was among Kim's favorite cartoonists."

Asked how Thompson's death changed the ownership profile of Fantagraphics either short- or long-term, whether or not Thompson's share of the company returned to Groth or passed onto Emmert, Groth declined to go into detail. "I think it's a little too early to go into the details of this."

Thompson's passing brings into bold relief not only his individual accomplishments but his extended partnership with Gary Groth. It was suggested to Groth by CR that a key to their longtime working relationship was that each one could function as his own man, but that they shared a commonality of cause and basic values. "I think that sums it up, broadly speaking," Groth said. "We both had a single-minded and unwavering allegiance to what Fantagraphics is and a near-total agreement of what that meant that any other differences [became] more trifling in comparison."

Peter Bagge observed, "Gary was more the public face of Fantagraphics, and more of a lightning rod, while Kim was the 'behind the scenes' guy: always at the office, in charge of production, giving employees their daily marching orders etc. Gary was the 'Dad' and Kim was the 'Mom' of Fanta, at least in the traditional Ozzie and Harriet sense of those words." One former Fantagraphics staffer speaking to this site as long as they were not attributed suggested that there was a strength just in having two people with equal authority at Fantagraphics, that some people might simply prefer working with Kim or with Gary and could choose to focus their efforts knowing the full weight of the company was behind either man.

Asked from the perspective of his own longstanding publishing partnership at Raw how Thompson might have functioned with Gary Groth over the decades, Art Spiegelman mostly demurred. "I'm too far away to be an authority on this, but my guess is that I've only found Kim to be supportive... I never found him cranky, let's say. He was supportive in terms of moving things where he wanted them to be moving, which was a high caliber of comics based on his tastes and what he drifted towards. We weren't always easy people to accommodate at Raw but whenever we needed something he was always front and center with no reward except for comics publishing being its own reward. It's hardly a brilliant insight, but Kim seemed adoptive of something he respected."

There was also something to be said for Thompson as an exemplar of a generation where one or two people might be involved in every aspect of a publishing house. Joe Sacco told CR of the comfort he felt taking a variety of questions to Thompson: "For any business-related matter I'd turn to Kim and he was always prompt and exact with his answers. For an artist, that sort of straight-talk behind the scenes of creation is very important and reassuring."

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Asked a follow-up question about their overlapping skill-sets, Groth admitted that he wasn't all the way certain where their strengths and weaknesses fit together. "Observers, some who have worked closely with us for years, have posited that Kim was the detail-oriented guy and I was looking at the big picture, and that these qualities complemented each other, but I suspect it's more complicated or nuanced than that," Groth told CR. "After all, we could hire an anal-retentive employee and we could hire a Big Picture Guy, so I think it must've been more than that. In terms of administration, I think we were both equally skilled -- or unskilled. It may have boiled down to the fact that we both had the same objectives but that we also each had our own aesthetic obsessions, which almost always overlapped, and that between the two, we covered the range of great cartooning better than any other publisher could. I don't think Kim would've gone after the complete reprinting of Humbug, for example, or Gahan Wilson or Bill Mauldin or the Disney books; and I wouldn't have sought out Jason or Tardi or the other Euro comics Kim championed."

Thompson remained bullish on Fantagraphics, and proud of the cartoonists they published. Bart Beaty: "The last time I saw Kim was at a Tony Millionaire signing at the Fantagraphics store. The Tardi books were just beginning to come out, or just on the verge. I remember saying to him that this was the final nail in the argument if anyone wanted to suggest Fantagraphics didn't have the deepest talent pool in the history of comics publishers: Crumb, Tardi, Barks, Schulz, Ware, Clowes, Los Bros, Sacco -- the list just went on and on. Kim told me that they had to do it. Tardi was a top two or three living cartoonist in the world, so Fantagraphics just had to have him in their stable. He was absolutely right."

Although Thompson did not do a public interview after becoming sick, he had been more active in generating publicity for certain works over the last decade and a half. It was clear from many of those discussions that Thompson had an idea how far he and comics and his company had come. In terms of comics generally, he told this site in 2011, "The industry has changed far more radically, and for the better, than I ever could have imagined, in terms of the respect accorded to comics, the level of work being produced, comics' place in the market, the whole ball of wax. You have to bear in mind that when we started cartoonists were literally wondering whether Americans would ever be willing to read comic books that ran beyond the length of an issue of Giant-Size Fantastic Four." And while the industry hadn't developed in a way he might have once posited best, his survey of the art form's remarkable transformation was generous and hopeful. "I think a solid core of high-selling mainstream-y genre comics would be nice, but it really hasn't happened -- except for arguably the manga phenomenon, and I don't get the impression that the success of manga has bled back into non-manga comics -- and 'art comics' have achieved enough big successes now, Persepolis in particular, that we may be stuck with the image of book-sized graphic novels as being serious literary work... or archival collections of initially mainstream work that have since acquired the patina of art... I don't think American comics will ever have a Stieg Larsson or Stephen King. I know even Art Spiegelman is now pining for more vulgar, populist fare to shake out some of the graphic novel stuffiness -- which he realizes he himself is to a large degree responsible for! -- but it may just not be in the cards. We may be stuck with comics as art."

What might his own company's place be in that world of comics moving forward? Asked about the array of talented cartoonists represented in his company's catalog during that same 2011 interview, Thompson let loose with a fiercely proud response. "... Since we've had the Pogo license for five years now, it was more the one-two combination of Barks's duck stories and the acquisition of the EC material that gave me a sort of 'holy shit' moment of realizing that if you take, say, the Comics Journal's Top 100 list of yore and go down it, Fantagraphics is now so dominant it becomes almost ridiculous. I think the current Fantagraphics list is unambiguously the greatest list of cartoonists ever to be assembled under one publishing roof, period. I'm open to rebuttal, but, y'know, c'mon." Thompson's was a confidence earned over an adult lifetime of seven-day work-weeks and fostered despite every real-world indication at various points along the way that it may never be justified. No one denied its authenticity.

"One small comfort I have is that I know how proud Kim was of his legacy, he knew he built something important and he did not lack modesty on that front," Eric Reynolds told CR. "And nor should he, because he was one of the most punk rock self-made men I'll ever know."

Joe Sacco: "I think we all know that without Kim and Gary we wouldn't have the flourishing comics industry there is today. More personally, Kim Thompson and Gary Groth believed in my work. I'll always be indebted to both of them for that. The sales of each issue of Palestine dropped from one to the next, but they stuck with it 'til its run was complete. I don't think anyone else at that time would have considered publishing the kind of work I do."

"The connection I had with Kim is that I always saw him as an abettor of good things," Art Spigelman told CR.

Kim Thompson was given an Inkpot Award by Comic-Con International in 2001, and in addition to sharing in the publication of numerous awards winners and nominees in the major comic book awards programs such as the Eisner and Harveys, he was himself a nominee by name in a Best Editor category in the former program's 1996 iteration.

"Kim was the brightest, smartest, most well-read man I'd ever met," Waid told CR "He was as familiar with Proust as he was with Englehart, he spoke many other languages fluently, and because of his upbringing and travels, he was truly a citizen of the world. That said, he loved living in America for many reasons, not the least of which was this one: 'It's the only country on Earth where you can order a pizza at three o'clock in the morning.'"

"I always wished Kim would write a book about Euro comics. His emails all felt like pages in that book," Helge Dascher told CR "He preferred to bring the comics into print -- the book could wait."

Seth: "Kim's work as fan, writer, editor, critic, translator and day-to-day publisher changed our medium in broad, deep and sweeping strokes. If you were alive and interested in the art and business of comic books from the 1970s until the present day then you already know how intimately Kim was involved in so many of the things that changed that medium. I don't need to make a case for his importance."

A memorial is still in the planning stages. Gary Groth told CR that, "We're working on our preferred destination for contributions, but I haven't firmed it up yet." That information will be announced at a later date. A panel at this year's Comic-Con International is in the early planning stages as of this filing. While at least one ex-Fantagraphics staffer had posted through social media of an event commemorating Thompson's life planned for either August or September, it looks like that day will come sooner rather than later. "There will definitely be a memorial in Seattle in August," Groth told CR.

Kim Thompson is survived by his parents, by a younger brother, Mark Thompson, by his wife, Lynn, and by the publishing company that will in some significant way reflect his taste and personality for the remainder of its days. Thompson touched hundreds of lives, and helped facilitate a reinvigorated avenue of expression for an entire art form that has had an impact on millions. He will be sorely missed. Years after his passing dozens of men and women who knew him will on some level fundamentally disbelieve that Thompson somehow isn't still in his office, at his desk, continuing to work, seeing to his life's passion.

*****

as always, all art used in context and (c) their respective rights holder; some of the background information employed here was derived from work done by this author that went into the unpublished book Comics As Art... We Told You So, which incidentally, I believe was a title supplied by Kim Thompson. Personal knowledge also played a small role here and there. All other information was I believe provided exclusively to this site, although I wouldn't be surprised if some writers have recycled or re-used material in the days since providing CR with a quote or two.

*****

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

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Go, Look: Rolling Stock

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this is the Oliver East serial that I couldn't figure out how to isolate because I'm internet-challenged
 
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Go, Read: Daniel Clowes, His Mural, Eightball Under Glass

imageThere are a couple of bigger-than-usual media treatments of the cartoonist Daniel Clowes today, as his Modern Cartoonist show opens up in his one-time stomping grounds of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune has an article that includes a guided tour of the Chicago-based mural he made for the show. For someone who visited that city several times in the 1970s, the imagery brings back a flood of memories. The Reader has a profile up from Noah Berlatsky, who defends himself in the comments.

Here's a page up for the show itself, which will run through mid-October. Here is how you can get prints related to that show.
 
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OTBP: Sunshine State: Fun In The Sun

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Festivals Extra: Three Weeks From Now... SDCC

One of the odder outcomes of the explosion in quality conventions and comics festivals is that the individual conventions don't seem to loom as large for as long. Just five years ago, posting this site's Comic-Con Guide on Memorial Day felt like it was six weeks later than everyone's attention warranted; now it seems like no one is mentally fixating on any of the shows, even the nation's largest, until a few weeks out at best.

Well, we're now a few weeks out from San Diego. The Comic-Con site is a reasonably humming one right now. Exhibitor information is up, including the standard map. I thought there might be an exodus of a certain kind of comics exhibitor, but there really wasn't. The Toucan site is something that I haven't been paying as much attention to as I probably should have; I plan on streamlining its coverage into my link-blogging start next week, but there's a ton of stuff up.

I think that should be an interesting show, in part because of that change of context. I plan on being there to track it.
 
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Go, Look: Lauren Jordan

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Ghost Rider Copyright Trial Date Set For Early November

imageThere are a couple of articles up indicating that the Ghost Rider trial date has been set for November 4; this one is pretty standard. A previous, pro-Marvel decision was vacated about 10 days ago. My understanding is that what's at issue is if the language of a later agreement signed by Gary Friedrich that the original decision pointed to as a key reassignment of rights was worded in a way that makes it clear that was what was happening given the presumption that these rights are important enough that they would have been engaged more directly by a legal course of action seeking to do this. And that last sentence is why I'm not a lawyer.

Anyway, I'm happy as a general rule to see creators get a larger piece of any pie that's served up. I don't really count on the courts being the sole dispensing agent of what's just in matters like this one, and from what I understand the character's provenance is actually reasonably complicated even in a 3-AM-in-the-dorm-hallway way. Still if the legal maneuvering facilitates a more rigorous standard when it comes to creators and their copyrights for characters they bring to companies, that seems like a undeniably good thing.
 
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Collective Memory: Kim Thompson, 1956-2013

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this article has been archived
 
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Go, Read: Joseph Hughes On New ComicsAlliance Design

It may be a bit wonky for some folks, but I obviously enjoyed reading this piece from Joseph Hughes at ComicsAlliance on their new design and functional aspects. I thought I'd say so now while I'm still early enough in processing it I'm not yet jealous and therefore less likely to say something mean or cutting. Mobile device amenability is big for a site like that, and having to dump the previous site's at-time scabrous, idiotic comments is big for humanity in general.
 
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Go, Read: Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantino 1971 Interview

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also nice that rights were apparently re-secured here
 
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Not Comics: Some Pastors Reject Superman As Christ Hard Sell

imageThere's an article here about certain local and regional religious figures rejecting an attempt at marketing the new Superman movie to pastors and religious groups. The campaign apparently plays up the Superman-As-Jesus parallel of which some folks are very fond, and which is hammered home in the movie (the character is 33; he takes a cross-like pose at one point, etc.). I think it's healthy that a lot of those folks are rejecting the idea more generally and as exemplified in this film. I think it's also a good thing that some are taking umbrage over being marketed to that way in the first place. It's not that I have anything against Superman, or salesmanship, or even broad metaphors with characters standing in for Jesus, I just want people to be suspicious of being sold to as a general rule, and believe spiritual leaders of all kinds should be really, really wary of it.

There was a time when religious people in North America had the same relationship to Jesus and God in pop culture that comic book fans used to have to representations of comics and comics reading in pop culture. Ernie Hudson ripping through a few Bible verses in Ghostbusters was a sit-up-and-notice moment for born-again Christians the way that Radar O'Reilly having some comics to read caught the eye of comics nerds. That time is now mostly in the past. I imagine this particular story is primarily about the busloads of churchgoers that went to see that Mel Gibson movie The Passion Of The Christ and the chance of replicating those audiences even on a minor, minor scale being worth several billable hours of some PR person's time. I also bet that being able to write a story about Superman brings more hits than most of what appears on this page of the newspaper.
 
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Go, Look: Tyranny Of The Muse

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Assembled, Zipped, Downloaded And Transferred: News From Digital

By Tom Spurgeon

* I don't read a lot of digital comics beyond occasionally downloading some mainstream series I can't find otherwise, but I sure liked the last couple of issues of Eye Of The Majestic Creature.

* Kotaku has a story up here about Chinese fans being upset popular-property scanlations are coming down because of a licensing deal with a Chinese gaming company. Again, the thing that sort of freaks me out is the assumption that fan desires for a specific consumption experience are this viable concern, which is just so freaking not in my DNA, perhaps because of my age. The only way I can wrap my mind around that is that this value is in part the creation of these companies that then suffer the results.
 
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If I Were In Salt Lake City, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Crime Does Not Pay #56

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Graeme McMillan asks why publishers spoil their own stories. I think it's odd that in many cases, those stories aren't really stories, they're a series of plot points and changes in the status quo. Since that's the case, I can almost see arguing that it hardly matters where that kind of thing is communicated. In other words, I doubt that anyone's overall enjoyment of that Ultron story would have surged had they not known of the plot point in question; they just would have enjoyed that specific plot reveal more.

image* Rob Jackson on Sky In Stereo #2. Greg McElhatton on Hawkeye #11.

* J. Caleb Mozzocco calls bullshit on this super-claim.

* John Hogan talks to Prudence Shen. Josie Campbell talks to Paul Levitz.

* this is interesting: Big Planet Comics will take over the back end of the Retrofit Comics project that Box Brown has been spearheading. I admire that project and I've liked some of the comics. I will say, though, that I think they've been super hit and miss content-wise, at least the ones I've read, including one of the worst comics I've ever encountered from an ostensibly talented cartoonist. So hopefully this will provide more time to better develop and curate the content end of things as well. Pamphlet comics can provide a significant opportunity to develop talent as well as an audience for that talent, so I'd love to see this project do well moving forward.

* at some point in the very near future there will be a dozen or more presentations at conventions with an on-line afterlife. Until then, enjoy this presentation from the recent show in Charlotte.

* D+Q brags on NPR bragging on D+Q.

* big Peanuts sale over at the Fantagraphics site. You want all the Peanuts.

* finally, I can't remember if I linked to this ELCAF report or not. Man, there are a lot of comics shows now.
 
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Happy 72nd Birthday, Mike Royer!

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Happy 69th Birthday, Philippe Druillet!

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Happy 30th Birthday, Ian Brill!

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Happy 79th Birthday, Georges Wolinski!

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Twenty Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 27, 2013


Go, Look: Tom Heintjes' Reubens Weekend Photo Array

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IDF Soldier Files Civil Suit Against Caricaturist For Demonization

imageThere are no proper names in this article as one assume exist in the suit being discussed, but apparently an ultra-Orthodox Jewish soldier has sued the maker of a leaflet for the accompanying image, which he claims demonizes soldiers like himself by showing them as monsters chasing children with guns and tied to the wider government apparatus (the thing on his arm there). I will admit to my usual confusion over how this isn't clear editorializing that seems totally fair to me just as an opinion to hold and express no matter where I might personally fall on the spectrum of belief about such soldiers, the wider situation and the people involved. Then again, this case will not be tried in a court based in my living room. It seems to me there are a good half-dozen major suits against cartoonists a year now in countries all over the world, and that this is a worrisome trend.
 
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Go, Look: Some Guy's Teenage 'Nam Comics

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Thai Cartoonist Meets With Police Over Defamation Charge

There are a few English-language wire reports out there about Thai cartoonist Somchai Katanyutanan -- who works as Chai Ratchawat -- meeting with a deputy police commissioner in response to charges of 1) defamation of a government official while carrying out her duty, 2) defamation via an advertisement, 3) violating the Computer Crime Act.

At question is a cartoon posted to the cartoonist's Facebook account that compared Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to a prostitute, as in "worse than a prostitute."

Supporters showed up at the police station. The charges were acknowledged, and the cartoonist will submit a statement in his defense at a later date. I'm not enmeshed in the way other country's work, but I'm generally super-suspicious of sitting officials using the civil courts or the criminal courts being used on their behalf in a way that curtails expression.
 
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Go, Look: Genus

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Go, Look: Talk Weird Press

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists is meeting this weekend. That group has done a pretty good job of mainstreaming into its body a lot of the younger cartoonists that are not necessarily going to have the same career paths as the previous generation. I'm not sure what there is to talk about, but whatever's on the mind of the membership will be revealed by Monday.

* SPX has added more guests, including Congressman John Lewis and Michael Kupperman, who are always getting confused for one another. I'm glad Kupperman is going; I enjoyed seeing him at TCAF and I think he's an undervalued creator. I believe Rutu Modan and Seth might be new, too, or at least sort of new. Both of them are smart, articulate festival guests whenever they're invited. I've heard rumors of Jeff Smith and Raina Telgemeier, but that announcement looks like it may come as exactly the worst timing for this weekly column -- I'll update when I know in one of the randoms, for sure.

* Grand Comics Festival has announced its show for 2014. I'll start building the 2014 part of this post ASAP.

* Baltimore has its hotel information up. I would love to go to a show in Baltimore, and I used to visit that city once or twice a year 20 years ago. I never seem to get out to that show, though. People are very fond of it.

* here's all of the comics-related ALA programming in one place. I gotta go to one of these, too.

* finally, I think this might be it for CAKE-related reports, but it's a good one. The Collective Memory for that show is here. Those were harder to find than most reports like this used to be, but there was a lot of writing from that show, and I'll need to take one more pass to look for random blog entries, video and photos so there's likely more. The upshot is that with some solid administration and whatever amount of luck might be necessary in a festival's early years, that show has a great chance to stick. Chicago is a great comics town, cartoonists want to visit Chicago, and the regional fan base should grow accustomed to the show being there in a way that has a fine chance of allowing the festival an audience year to year.
 
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If I Were In Salt Lake City, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: The Mark Of The Witch

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Titan Comics will launch their line at this year's Comic-Con International.

image* Rob Clough on Obituary Man. Todd Klein on Green Lantern Corps #20. Sean Gaffney on Geijutsuka Art Design Class Vol. 5. Justin Giampaoli on X-Men #2. Meagan Damore on Lazarus #1. Don MacPherson on Age Of Ultron. Kevin Cortez on a pair of small-press efforts.

* I believe I've linked to this video about "How To Read A Graphic Novel," but here it is in case I didn't.

* I sort of like these articles skipping back in time in various increments for individual superhero properties. What kind of stuff was happening when is an interesting question to ask of those kinds of works.

* it's difficult for me to tell how to follow these Oliver East comics specifically, but I like them when I see them.

* I'm not exactly how to track this story about changes at the Library Of Congress and their potential impact on the comics collection part of their holdings, but it's kind of intriguing. I would imagine that a lot of these libraries will be judged in the future in part on access issues, so as much information as we can learn is valuable.

* Jim Rugg, Jasen Lex and Ed Piskor talk to John Porcellino. Matt Emerey profiles John Kent. Steve Sunu talks to Sam Humphries. David Petersen talks to Ben Caldwell. Kindle Editors talk to Len Wein and Darwyn Cooke. Shawn Starr talks to Ales Kot.

* finally, Bob Temuka on superheroes being real.
 
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Happy 52nd Birthday, Bernie Mireault!

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Happy 52nd Birthday, Butch Guice!

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Happy 54th Birthday, Dan Jurgens!

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Happy 85th Birthday, Joe Giella!

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Happy 35th Birthday, Debbie Huey!

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Twenty-One Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 26, 2013


By Request Special: So Apparently There Exist New Denny Eichhorn Comics To Be Kickstarted Into Print

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Go, Look: Mine Field!

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Go, Read: Colleen Doran On Restoring B&W Comics

The cartoonist Colleen Doran has an interesting post up here that I nearly missed save for her calling it to my attention on the problems with restoring black and white comics that depend on certain effects of tone. She is pivoting from a post by Dave Sim here.

The ability of cartoonists and interested archivists to restore material to publishable form is often assumed, and can be way more difficult than initially realized due to all sorts of reasons including the state of the original art, the ability to get to copies of older art from which newer copies can be derived, and publishing effects that modern publishing techniques are ill-equipped to facilitate. All of these things can result in books that may be impossible to execute to one hundred percent satisfaction, or that merely price themselves beyond the resources of those seeking a new edition.

This isn't a a new thing. For instance, newspaper strip reprints have always had a lot of these problems, or similar ones. There aren't always copies available of every strip that people want to see reprinted, and features that ran in the post-War era were sometimes truncated and have material literally cut out of them on the right side or on the bottom to fit into shrinking places on the comics pages from which copies were clipped and saved. It's frequently a testament to the skill of people that help make these strips available, and the same goes for comic book work like Doran's, that we get a lot of the comics made available to us.

 
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OTBP: Auto Da Fé

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You can see more of this work here and here. And whoa.
 
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Go, Look: Bandwagon

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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.

*****

FEB131025 NEW SCHOOL HC $39.99
If you go to the comics shop hoping to read major works by artists growing into their prime and trying to knock the cover off the ball every time out, this is your choice for sure. Dash Shaw's book is fascinating-looking, and he's doing a lot of things with presentation and color that I think should drive you to at least check this one out at your comics shop.

imageMAR131349 UTSUBORA STORY OF A NOVELIST OMNIBUS TP $18.95
I know very little about comics-maker Asumiko Nakamura other than that she's relatively young and I think is best known for her yaoi manga. This isn't that material, but a recent two-volume work presented here under one cover and I am a sucker for devouring work from an unknown-to-me, younger artist in that way. I like the art I've seen, too.

MAR130264 BEFORE WATCHMEN MINUTEMEN SILK SPECTRE DLX HC (MR) $29.99
MAR130263 BEFORE WATCHMEN OZYMANDIAS CRIMSON CORSAIR DLX HC (MR) $29.99
This is likely the biggest story of the week from a pure-publishing standpoint, the release of the first two of four Before Watchmen into a bookstore-ready format of the kind that drove the original series to celebrated sales success. It looks like it breaks down by writer. I wasn't so hot on the project, but I think these volumes look handsome and some of the comics are by first-rate comics makers.

APR130409 ARCHIE COMPLETE DAILY NEWSPAPER COMICS HC VOL 02 $39.99
APR130408 COMPLETE CHESTER GOULD DICK TRACY HC VOL 15 $39.99
FEB130054 ORIGINAL DAREDEVIL ARCHIVES HC VOL 01 $49.99
I don't know that I'm personally familiar with anyone that's routinely snapping up the $40 to $50 collections that seem to hit the market three to five a week, but this is the week's list of such items as much as I was able to discern from the text. It's amazing that the Gould is up to Volume 15 already. My dad's favorite comic book as a little kid was the Daredevil material and that book certainly features a bunch of Golden Age stalwarts. I don't remember being all that impressed with the comics themselves, though.

APR130024 MASSIVE #13 $3.50
APR130025 MIND MGMT #12 $3.99
APR130117 BATMAN SUPERMAN #1 $3.99
APR130258 UNWRITTEN #50 (MR) (NOTE PRICE) $4.99
APR130530 BOUNCE #2 (MR) [DIG] $2.99
MAR138377 BOUNCE #2 CVR B PICHELLI (MR) $2.99
APR130570 SEX #4 (MR) [DIG] $2.99
APR130421 FATALE #15 (MR) [DIG] $3.50
APR130544 JUPITERS LEGACY #2 CVR A QUITELY (MR) [DIG] $2.99
APR130545 JUPITERS LEGACY #2 CVR B HITCH (MR) $2.99
APR130546 JUPITERS LEGACY #2 CVR C JOCK (MR) $2.99
APR130556 MORNING GLORIES #28 CVR A ESQUEJO (MR) [DIG] $3.99
FEB130458 PROPHET #36 [DIG] $3.99
APR130684 DAREDEVIL #27 $2.99
MAR130694 HAWKEYE #11 $2.99
APR130702 FURY MAX #13 (MR) $3.99
This seems like sort of a colossal week for high-end genre and superhero comic books in something close to the standard serial format. The first two listed above are works featuring the talents of Brian Wood and Matt Kindt as they head into double-digits serial-comics wise. The Batman/Superman comic book is another effort to capitalize as much as possible on the bigger DC Comics names and features the art of Jae Lee. I read that one; it's very pretty but the story is... well, it's a story starring Superman and Batman and seems to depend pretty heavily on an investment on particulars of those comic-book universes. The Unwritten comic is a crossover into the Fables comic book; both of those series are solid performers for Vertigo, but my guess is that the latter outperforms the former by a significant amount. The Bounce and Sex books are from writer Joe Casey and continue his recent run of odd, compelling genre series. The Jupiters Legacy book is the Mark Millar/Frank Quitely effort that combines Millar's penchant for focusing on the solid execution of pretty basic high concepts with Quitely's ability at depicting strange-looking, pulpy pictures and the authority a skilled mainstream artist brings to depicting everything in a world. Prophet is one of the solid performers in sort-of superhero comics of the last couple of years. Finally, there are three Marvel books -- the Mark Waid-written reliable performer Daredevil, another issue of the Matt Fraction/David Aja collaboration on the smart-fan favorite Hawkeye, and the last issue in the latest cycle of writer Garth Ennis' work with the Nick Fury character. Fifteen-year-old me would be very broke and very happy.

APR130765 ALTERNATIVE COMICS #4 (MR) $5.99
MAR130802 MOUSE GUARD LEGENDS O/T GUARD VOL 2 #1 $3.50
There are so many more standard genre comic books out this week, let me pull one each of the traditional alternative and indy kinds: I swear the Alternative Comics anthology return was already listed as coming out, but it's fine to do so again. That realm of comics could use as many platforms to see a mix of new and old artists as is possible. The David Petersen book looks like the beginning of a new cycle for that reliable performer; those books are so not my cup of tea just on a personal taste basis, but they're lovingly executed and there's not a whole lot of company for books like that these days. I don't begrudge Petersen a single reader, and I hope there are a lot of them.

imageAPR130447 CHANGE TP (MR) $14.99
APR130422 FATALE TP VOL 03 (MR) [DIG] $14.99
FEB130039 USAGI YOJIMBO TP VOL 27 TOWN CALLED HELL $16.99
I have this theory -- it's not exactly a startling, forward-thinking one -- that a lot of comics fans in their 30s through their 50s hit the comics shop and buy softcover trades with the same devotion they used to buy serial comic books. If I'm right, there are at least three pretty strong offerings in the high-end genre portion of the shop out there today: two of the latest from Image (one a talked-about comer; the other a reliable performer), and the latest from the great Stan Sakai. Those Stan Sakai trades have really become iconic comics in their own right, and it seems appropriate to spotlight one of Kim Thompson's favorite comics-makers on a list like this one.

MAR138319 FLIGHT GN VOL 01 NEW PTG $24.00
APR130767 TRUE SWAMP STONEGROUND & HILLBOUND (MR) $4.95
These are the two books that looks like they're being offered again -- although I guess the Flight is a new printing because it says so right there -- and that you might want to look at if you don't own them. The latter is the Jon Lewis material, and I believe more copies of work from about a decade ago that Alternative Comics released back then. Flight didn't revolutionize comics as we were once told it would, but a lot of people enjoy those comics, and they're certainly packaged in a high-end, flattering way.

JAN131163 ZIPPY DINGBURG DIARIES TP $29.99
If I had to bet on one comic being way better than a lot of comics fan realize and potentially due for a "the major work that walks among us" re-appreciation, it would be Bill Griffith's Zippy work. Reading the trades is a way to down a lot of the work in big gulps, although I think reading it every day in the newspaper may be the way to go.

JAN130368 JOHN BYRNE FANTASTIC FOUR ARTIST ED HC PI
Finally, John Byrne seems perfect for Scott Dunbier oversized AE format, if only because he fits right in with the other mainstream comics talents that have done extremely well with their own books. If you were reading Walt Simonson's Thor or David Mazzucchelli's Daredevil when they came out in comic books, you were likely reading the John Byrne-era Fantastic Four book as well. I remember the art on these being pretty lively and I think this format should flatter what Byrne was doing 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 because I hate you.

*****

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

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the writer and editor Joseph Pruett is apparently in the hospital, potentially for a stroke. Pruett is best known for work with the anthology Negative Burn and for some work at Marvel Comics as a writer. He turned 47 this year.

image* Todd Klein on Legion Of Super-Heroes #20. Colm Creamer on Scarlet Vol. 1. Richard Bruton on Alex The Abominable, Verity Fair #5 and Elemental Micah. Kelly Thompson on Demeter and Revival #11.

* you get an interview with David Chelsea an a lot of material about a capella music at this link. Quite a bargain there.

* Dylan Horrocks is very fond of this photo of Ivan Brunetti, and I am, too.

* I enjoyed this Rob Salkowitz story about Valiant participating in a program to allow people to do fan-fiction versions of their character without, I don't know, getting scowled at or something.

* not comics: Kyle Baker tweaks the new Superman movie. Shannon Smith reviews it.

* Matt Emery profiles John Kent. Alex Dueben talks to Gerard Way and Victor Gorelick, and then profiles John Lewis.

* not comics: I'm getting too old to sort this kind of thing out, by which I mean I can't tell if it's one I've already seen before, but I always like looking at this kind of thing.

* David B. is the best.

* finally, a little text-only "By Request Special." Add Jeremy Eaton's name to the spate of artists who in the past several days have decided to have an art sale. I enjoy Jeremy's work, and his original looks really great.
 
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Happy 63rd Birthday, Tom DeFalco!

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Happy 79th Birthday, Bob Weber Sr.!

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Happy 36th Birthday, Tite Kubo!

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Happy 28th Birthday, Frank Candiloro!

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Twenty-Two Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 25, 2013


Old Superman Comics Are Still The Best Superman Comics

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Anyone Who Had This Headline In The 1995 Betting Pool Of Future Comics-Related Headlines Is Lying

Here. Although it makes total sense now, if you've been paying attention to Ivan Brunetti's career.
 
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Go, Look: So Your Life Is Meaningless

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Your Amazon.com Best Comics Of 2013 So Far

imageAccording to this post at Robot 6, retail overlord Amazon.com has fashioned a list of the best comics of the year so far. They acknowledge Marble Season as the best one and publish the list in order of sales. I'll let you go look at that arrangement through them, the list itself is a fine snapshot for me so I'll just run it in alphabetical order. I liked the Gilbert quite a bit, and I enjoyed those Hawkeye and Solo comics in serial form; I'm not sure about the bulk of them making a similar list derived solely from my tastes. Then again, I haven't read half, and I also haven't figured out 2012 yet (although I'm pretty sure it starts with Ware/Sacco/Panter).

(I'm also not sure what's out that would make a list I did instead of these works, as, for one thing, I'm generally behind on my reading. Off the top of my head, I'm sure the David B., Hanawalt, Malkasian and Deforge works that I know are out will all be books about which I'll think if I make a list at the end of the year. If the Kupperman trade with the Quinception sequence came out this year, that one, too, will be considered. Plenty of others, including some obvious ones I'm sure.)

Amazon.com's list:

* Hawkeye, Volume One: My Life as a Weapon; Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido and various (Marvel)
* Iron: Or, the War After; Shane-Michael Vidaurri (Archaia)
* Marble Season; Gilbert Hernandez (Drawn and Quarterly)
* MIND MGMT Vol. 1; Matt Kindt and Brendan Wright (Dark Horse)
* Relish: My Life in the Kitchen; Lucy Knisley (First Second)
* Solo: The Deluxe Edition; various (DC Comics)
* The Comics Journal #302; edited by Gary Groth (Fantagraphics)
* The Creep; John Arcudi, Scott Allie and Jonathan Case (Dark Horse)
* The Property; Rutu Modan and Jessica Cohen (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Thor: God of Thunder, Volume One: The God Butcher; Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic (Marvel)
 
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Go, Prepare: Last Gasp Underground Comix Sale

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And In 1826 Came The First Fan Backlash...

There's a new candidate for "world's oldest comic book": 1825's satirical The Glasgow Looking Glass. "What Is The Oldest Comic Book?" is one of those ongoing tussles that consistently digs up really cool looking comics so you sort of overlook the migraine-inducing horrors of fighting the Mother Of All Definitional Fights.
 
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By Request Extra: Box Brown Has Added A Bunch Of Stuff To His Site And Is Having An Art Sale

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He explains things here.
 
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Go, Look: Catching Up With Boulet

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* newly-minted boutique publisher Youth In Decline has announced two books for 2014: RAV 1st Collection by Mickey Zacchilli, the first of two collections of that series; Snackies by Nick Sumida, which collects two minis and offers up 24 pages of new strips. Click through the link for more information on both books and the artists.

image* Bryan Lee O'Malley has announced the artists that he'll be using to help him finish up with his 2014 graphic novel project Seconds.

* I will take at least a look at everything D'Israeli illustrates.

* this profile of Tom Taylor made me remember he took over the Earth 2 book at DC, one of those books I've read a bunch of in the New 52 era and really had no idea what the hell was going on.

* not a cover from Michael DeForge.

* I swear I won't make a habit of just doing advanced-searches on Amazon.com, but it's nice to see that next March will include work from Crockett Johnson and Virgil Partch. I don't know that I've read a lot of the work that should find its way into that second Barnaby volume.

* finally, Zegas #2 is a complete sell-out. Congratulations to Michel Fiffe. I enjoyed that comic.

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Not Comics: Cartoonist Ryan Alexander-Tanner's Illustrated Review Of That New Superman Movie

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Go, Look: Boy Explorers

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* this is a bit of Marvel history with which I was either always unfamiliar or have forgotten. While you're over at Brevoort's pad, check out his re-publication of Jack Kirby's NYT obit.

* early-'70s Stan Lee would like a word.

* not comics: this petition on behalf of that one Paul Conrad statue doesn't seem to be going very well, although I guess I could be misreading things.

* the slow, painful Vinko Bogatajing of the American newspaper continues.

* some nice person at G3 talks to Christian Hoffer. Someone at A Moment Of Cerebus talks to the great Roger Langridge.

* solid advice from Brian Bendis. You can also take the reverse lesson and realize that when you're a writer you can wear whatever the hell you want.

* I love that word "docent."

* finally, this is a very nice letter the writer Kathryn Immonen received. I sometimes get confused when people find solace in comic book characters, but I do remember one particularly bad stretch of my life as a young man in the 1980s when I took comfort in certain television shows and football teams. Whatever gets you through the night.
 
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Twenty-Three Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 24, 2013


Go, Look: Massive Farel Dalrymple Preview At ComicsAlliance

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Deadline Hollywood: BOOM! Buys Archaia Entertainment

BOOM! announced its purchase of Archaia Entertainment through the entertainment news site Deadline Hollywood earlier today. Although that story is Hollywood-focused, with the companies identified according to their properties in development, that strikes me as pretty interesting, even positive news in terms of their comics efforts as well. Archaia makes nice-looking books that haven't seemed to all the way catch traction in the traditional comics markets; for its part, BOOM! seems pretty production-focused with its system of active and engaged and supported editors driving a wide-ranging group of freelancers.

Step back for a second and it's really sort of remarkable how many smaller comics companies pretty much seem to operate as imprints with an attached apparatus that makes them their own business. What I mean is that it really doesn't take much to imagine a lot of them as an imprint, and certainly something like Archaia might even function more effectively that way. I would also have to imagine there's something to be gained by BOOM! adding to its bottom-line in terms of potential other-media projects, although I have even less of an idea how that kind of thing operates and what advantages might be accrued via scale.

Update: Because I traffic in a kind of full-service ignorance, I also don't know what a major shake-up at Warner Brothers will do to the comics business through DC Entertainment. I think the general model that people use when analyzing that kind of thing is that a management that really gets and celebrates and values superhero franchises will have an impact on comics by sort of aiming their comics in that direction via pushing towards more superhero films and even team superhero movies as Marvel has done. In other words, they build the fun house mirror in which the comics publisher seeks its own identity at the publishing level -- with differences because of the medium involved, of course, but some general, shared aims. I have to imagine it's fun to write those kind of speculative stories, though, because most of those Hollywood people strike me as quite loopy.

Update: An Archaia creator tweeting in my direction mentioned being kept in a loop in a way that suggests the acquisition had been in the works for several months. The tweet was subsequently removed. The tweet delcared that it was off the record, but since it was a tweet as opposed to a direct message. I assumed they meant the conversation between himself and his publisher had been off the record. Apologies if it wasn't.
 
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Go, Listen: Michael Kupperman, Ivan Brunetti Interviewed

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Go, Read: ICv2.com Interviews IDW's Ted Adams

Start here. Adams is a really interesting bellwether interview for state-of-the-market things because IDW is big enough that it participates in all of the various industry mechanisms in a significant way, but small enough they're constantly figuring out their own solutions there. The thing that interested me most about this extremely positive piece is that bookstores is way up for them despite the fact that Borders is no more. According to the interview, the key for a publisher IDW's size is that the remaining bookstore buyers are more efficient than that market used to be.
 
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Go, Look: Encyclopedia Czapiewski

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Suddenly Everyone Is Celebrating Their Multi-Year Anniversaries At Various Publishing Houses

image* Peggy Burns, the associate publisher at Drawn and Quarterly and one of the more dynamic figures in all of comics publishing, has apparently celebrated her tenth year at the company. Congratulations to one of my favorite people. They are very lucky to have her.

* Kristy Valenti, a key player in the mighty Fantagraphics Books empire and another person I like very much, just celebrated her tenth year with that company. I remember meeting her like it was yesterday, sheesh.

There are other folks celebrating employment anniversaries but I am sworn to secrecy or at least decided circumspection. The great revolution of the next ten years in comics publishing is that we get people working throughout the industry end of things that are as devoted and as talented as the creative talent. With folks like those mentioned -- and not mentioned -- in this post, we're off to a fine start.
 
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Go, Look: The Ol' Treasure Map

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Good Gravy, Look At These Adventures Of Jodelle Pages

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

By Tom Spurgeon

* here is one of those Examiner articles, this time on the status of the Jeremy Kirby book project about his grandfather Jack Kirby. With the initial goal reached, there is a significant stretch goal in sight.

* there are a bunch of going-to-be-successful or recently successful projects of note, from creators like Clifford Meth, Ursula Murray Hasted, Brad Guigar, Shaenon Garrity, Antarctic Press and Team Galaxion.

* I remember when someone about a year ago attacked crowd-funders generally because they instituted a philosophy of artists checking whether or not there's an audience before they do something. At the time I remember people saying this didn't happen, but this interview suggests it may. Whether or not you think that's a bad thing probably depends on 18 different factors.

* this CBR story has something of an update on the writer Peter David's financial situation vis-a-vis a stroke he suffered at the end of 2012: the purchases and donations made by fans apparently helped take care of some of the costs not covered by insurance, and helped make up for at least one freelance gig lost during that period. The "how you can help" post is still at the top of his site. It's good to see the writer doing better health-wise.

* finally, DC Comics has another campaign going under the wider umbrella of its anti-hunger efforts in Africa.
 
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Not Comics: Children's Textbook Covers In 1920s Japan

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Go, Look: DC Explosion Covers

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* internet comics commentary godfather Steven Grant returns to CBR with a temporary column. I enjoy Steven's columns.

image* Marc Tyler Nobleman presents a three-part, 2006 Jerry Robinson interview that was work product for Nobleman's Bill Finger book: 1, 2, 3.

* Zak Sally continues his sprawling discussion with Peter Bagge. Rachel Piper talks to Pat Bagley. Casey Gilly talks to Team Templar.

* a couple of people sent me this article -- so my apologies if someone major had it first, which is usually the case when I get multiple send-ins -- about a conventional-wisdom style truth of the Hong Kong market for cartoonists and comics-makers: because there isn't enough work to go around, artists work wherever they can to get by.

* if you're into modern mainstream comics storytelling, Carla Hoffman makes a few good points here how the purpose of these event mini-series has a great deal to do with "shaking things up" in a way that means other creators have to come in and find space to "clean things up" with explanations and extrapolations. I know that probably sounds basic to a lot of you, but the idea of these comics as story generators as opposed to narrative wrap-ups hadn't really occurred to me in that way -- I saw the "find out what happens in Event: Aftermath" or whatever as a throw-in rather than as a potentially primary and certainly inevitable result.

* this piece by Brian Hibbs is pretty wonky from the sales end: how a line-wide promotion like the upcoming DC thing with its villain characters plays into the week-to-week and the growing-in-significance, less-frequently-visiting comics fans' purchasing habits. He uses as a jumping-off point that many of his customers aren't plugged into the comics news cycle and have as their primary/sole interaction with what's out there what they see when they go to the store, whenever that is.

* the writer Mark Waid unpacks a recent statement on mainstream publisher contracts, specifically DC Comics'.

* finally, I hope this turns into a successful publishing project because that is a lovely origin story.
 
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Happy 65th Birthday, Michael Dooley!

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Happy 59th Birthday, Russ Maheras!

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Twenty-Four Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 23, 2013


Recommended: A Quick And (Mostly) Easy Kim Thompson Primer

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Defining the legacy of an industry figure like Kim Thompson (1956-2013) has its share of difficulties. On the one hand, Thompson touched and worked on so much material, and a lot of it was primarily generated by or shared with other hands. His major legacy will be the one he shares with the company he co-owned: Fantagraphics Books, and the major success story that company has been in the history of comics and in the popular arts more generally. Thompson also had and will continue to have an influence on work that had nothing to do with him or his company directly. We would not have the remarkable recent books done by Joe Sacco if Thompson had not been on board at an earlier time in terms of seeing to the development of that great cartoonist's career. Even something as modest as this site wouldn't exist had it not been for Thompson's direct impact on my life. Kim Thompson also has a legacy as a man, for his kindnesses and personal relationships, that is significant and meaningful.

On the other hand, it would be a huge mistake to characterize Thompson as one of those figures whose major contribution to the sweep and flow of comics history seems to be close proximity to certain creations, characters and/or cartoonists. I think there are several projects where you can definitely see Kim Thompson's unique influence, even at the same time the nature of his bewildering work output is such I'm only ever 85 percent convinced as to what he worked on and when. But if you want to check out some of what Kim Thompson accomplished, and read some great material in doing so -- and why wouldn't you? -- the following might help you get started.

****

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1. Read Issues From One Of His Major Anthologies

Kim Thompson worked in some capacity on any number of anthologies that have come out from the company he co-owned, Fantagraphics, over the last several years. He was the driving force behind two major ones. Critters was a series featuring anthropomorphic comics, a realm of comics storytelling with which Thompson would have been familiar and comfortable coming from a European kids comics tradition although he was a fairly open, catholic comics reader generally. Critters is the book that provided a platform for Stan Sakai's wonderful all-ages series and life's work Usagi Yojimbo to grow its audience, and I also recommend all of Sakai's work with Fantagraphics if that's a realm of comics storytelling in which you have any interest whatsoever. Reading Critters now feels less like a study in the eventual long career of that samurai rabbit or more a parade of cartoonists now largely forgotten, although perhaps just for this kind of creator-driven work. I know Kim was enough of a fan of Mike Kazaleh he once scowled in the direction of the entire comics industry that we somehow didn't find a bigger and better place for his work.

imageZero Zero was Thompson's more straight-up alt-/art-comics anthology squatting in the second half of the 1990s. I think its mirror publication is Arcade, in that both were transitional anthologies stuck between two major eras and bigger, more celebrated series of this type. Zero Zero is like the Spiegelman/Griffith series compulsively readable, with stellar work from major talents like Kim Deitch, Richard Sala and Al Columbia. Buying and reading Zero Zero can be a little bit difficult. It's not in high demand as a collectible but it's not like there were issues of the publication saturating comics shops sea to shining sea in a way that has left a ton of copies in bargain bins, either. Still, it's not wholly difficult to find, and individual issues feel sturdy enough that you can buy them in random, haphazard fashion despite its employment of continuing serials.

*****

2. Read Work He Translated From Europe

Thompson was a big-time translator of European comics, in that he worked on several major projects and his work in this area was mostly well-regarded. I think the recent Milo Manara books he'd been doing with Diana Schutz at Dark Horse are about as fine and fun a presentation of that artist's work as we could hope for, although I have to admit that those comics aren't for everyone. The recent Franco-Belgian kids comics translations like Murder At High Tide are wonderful comics and very, very Kim Thompson -- literally dream projects for Thompson done without hope for hitting a big-time sales mark -- but I would also hazard that they are a kind of comic that you either appreciate or don't. The Jacques Tardi books Fantagraphics has been doing are important in addition to fun, very pretty volumes: if you don't like Tardi enough that something in that line fails to appeal to you, I not only find you to be a strange person but I urge you to buy one of those books anyway because Tardi should be in every serious comics library.

imageThe books Thompson has been doing with Jason have been a somewhat surprisingly successful and very creatively strong little line within a line for Fantagraphics. This is an artist Thompson tracked down and offered to publish because of a personal enjoyment of his work. I know that there are people for whom a new Jason book is a minor and very happy event, and they are among the comics they find most satisfying to read. If you haven't tried any of those comics, go to Hey, Wait.... You will likely see exactly what Kim Thompson saw in Jason to reach out and provide him with a key building block -- access to North American audiences -- to have a career in comics. Another tack for discovering Kim's translated work -- and there are so many, and all of them are legitimate and potentially rewarding -- would be to get into his work with Lewis Trondheim. I love the comic book series that Fantagraphics did with Trondheim called The Nimrod, featuring a lot of short work from a phase of that cartoonist's career where he was seemingly making a lot of those kinds of comics. That is a narratively dense, fun, funny comic book, as good as any that ever existed in the alt-comics sphere.

But seriously, though: take your pick. Thompson was a significant agent for the reading of world comics, and any jumping on point is more than likely to be an overall boon to your comics-reading life.

*****

3. Experience Something From The Ignatz Line

imageThis was a co-publishing project with Coconino Press that featured an over-sized, deluxe treatment of shorter comics in a way that allowed for creators to publish in a number of pages reflective of the strengths of serial comics making, to take advantage of some of the lovelier reproduction techniques available to comics in the last decade or so, and perhaps enable a price point at which stores, creators and publishers could see a greater return per copy sold. If that sounds like a beautiful but doomed proposition to you, it always did to me, too, and I swoon over those kind of lovely gestures in comics above all other art forms: lower lance, aim at windmill, charge. As a publisher, Kim Thompson dreamed of a lot of different people accessing and reading comics, not just people whose tastes closely matched his own. There's a real element of trying to reach certain readers here, trying to make certain publishing arrangements work, even when the project itself convinces you that it's published for an ideal readership rather than the existing one.

This is one of the few comics lines I think is beautiful enough and strong enough content-wise in general to collect in its entirety. I mean, it's just sort of cool, kind of like those little L'Association mini-comics from the mid-1990s where you sort of just like owning those comics no matter what was inside of them or on the cover. The Ignatz books are far grander, however. I think their desirability remains intact even now that we're seeing collections of specific series. I particularly enjoyed the Gilbert Hernandez, Gipi, Lorenzo Mattotti, Kevin Huizenga and Richard Sala books as they came out.

*****

4. Devour Some Of His Writing About Comics

imageKim Thompson was a vastly undervalued writer about comics, something that this site's obituary will discuss a bit in terms of his overall legacy. He had a very convincing prose style, a clear eye for what he felt worked and what he felt didn't, a general fearlessness that came from being settled into one's desired station in life and an understanding of various comics traditions. I suggest whatever you find whenever you find it -- even his message board posts are worth reading, for as much as they'll remain around. If you want a sampler of something more serious, there is his Editor's Notes writing for the Fantagraphics web site, which you can access through the tag here. One of the CR readers in this week's Thompson-related Five For Friday reminded me how very good his Amazing Heroes issue was that featured a then-current survey of European comics. I also thought Thompson wrote well in the TCJ Top 100 Of The Twentieth Century issue (#210), including some important distinctions regarding the Barks work and what was good and why we thought it was worth including. Finally, I always enjoy reading Thompson's interview with Dave and Deni Sim earlier, and his lengthy discussion with Steve Bissette later on, in the Journal.

*****

5. Track Down A Few Of The Comic Book Issues Of ACME Novelty Library

imageI think Chris Ware a major, major, all-time cartoonist and the last few issues of the Drawn And Quarterly issues of his ACME Novelty Library, featuring significant chunks of ongoing work that can also work in stand-alone fashion, have been great. However, I'm not sure if anything matches the sheer holy crap nature of the first few more comic-book sized issues of ACME that Ware released through Fantagraphics. It's a testament to Ware's skill that four of the half-dozen or so times I remember doing a low-whistle encountering a new comic were a) his first appearance in a Chicago alt-weekly newspaper, 2) the first few issues of ACME.

Certainly the major artistic accomplishment in ACME is Ware's, and even the Fantagraphics end of making this one of the signature comics series of all time was a team project, with Gary Groth and a bunch of staffers contributing in all sorts of ways. I think of this as a Kim Thompson project for the way in which Ware's vision was facilitated, and how at a time when comics were flailing generally and art comics in particular where experiencing a difficult transition that a publisher would work this closely with a cartoonist and kind of scramble around and find the resources and skill sets in-house and out of house to make this happen in as positive a fashion as possible. I always think that executing comics, just getting them out there, gets a bad rap from a fanbase and professionally community that very sweetly and rightly finds creative work laudable. Kim Thompson was at the heart of the Fantagraphics machine as it became a place where great comics became a reality, and I hope people come to appreciate that about his publishing legacy as well.

*****

6. Maybe Take A Chance On The Adventures Of Jodelle

I haven't read it yet except for once very quickly, but if there's one brand-new or very-late work from Thompson I'd recommend in addition to the other books on this list, I'd suggest you drop $45 on this massive, hardcover, full-color, beautiful-looking thing. The last time I visited Kim when he was in the office, this was the only book of his own that he pulled during production to make me look at some of the pages. That's an image from the work at the bottom of the page. Although it's certain there are more Thompson books to come -- although maybe not as many as one might think, given how furiously he worked -- I think Jodelle may be a fitting, later-career tribute to a lot of things that we think of when we think of Kim: his enthusiasm for comics, his love of certain traditions in comics, his devotion to high-end treatment of the comics that crossed his desk, his doggedness in seeing difficult projects completed and his skill as a translator. Of course, a lot of his work covers one or more of those elements so effectively it's hard to imagine a need for another testimonial, but Kim was a restless producer of comics.

*****

7. Finally, Get Your Hands On A Few Offerings From The Recent Line Of Fantagraphics Mini-Comics

imageAt the end of 2011, Kim Thompson sent me a bunch of these mini-comics efforts he curated on behalf of various cartoonists affiliated with the publisher. I honestly don't recall if they were meant as stand-alone items or as an inducement for participation in a certain publishing program -- I think the latter, and a quick look at the site indicates they're now being used as a minimum sales bonus. The mini-comics are very well-selected, with work that is fun to read but isn't crucial for a major understanding of any cartoonist represented. You hold one of these minis in your hands and you don't have a negative reaction in either direction: the little comics seem suited to exactly this kind of presentation. That's not an easy trick. I'm also told that Thompson did the Xeroxing, folding and stapling himself, which is the most endearing image I have of Kim that I did not witness directly. In a way, that a publisher with this many projects on his plate was working at the level of an eager 'zine-maker in order to see that these comics existed and people could enjoy them, I almost can't imagine a better testimony concerning a life spent in comics. Long live Kim Thompson.

*****

* Critters, Fantagraphics, comic book series, 1986-1990.
* Zero Zero, Fantagraphics, comic book series, 1995-2000.

* Milo Manara at Dark Horse
* Jacques Tardi at Fantagraphics
* Maurice Tillieux at Fantagraphics
* Raymond Macherot at Fantagraphics
* Jason at Fantagraphics
* Hey, Wait..., Fantagraphics, softcover, 2001, $12.95.
* Lewis Trondheim at Fantagraphics
* The Nimrod, Fantagraphics, comic book series, 1998-2003.

* The Ignatz Line
* Chimera #1, Lorenzo Mattotti, 2009.
* New Tales Of Old Palomar #1-3, Gilbert Hernandez, 2006-2007.
* Delphine #1-4, Richard Sala, 2006-2009.
* The Innocents, Gipi, 2005.

* Kim Thompson blog posts on Flog!
* Kim Thompson Posts At TCJ.com
* Selected Kim Thompson Editor's Notes Entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
* Amazing Heroes #160, 1989 (Euro-Comics Survey).
* The Comics Journal #82-83, 1983 (Dave And Deni Sim).
* The Comics Journal #185 (Steve Bissette Interview)
* The Comics Journal #210 (Top 100 Issue)

* ACME Novelty Library #1-15, Fantagraphics, comic book series in varying formats, 1993-2001/2002.

* The Adventures Of Jodelle, Guy Peelaert & Pierre Bartier, Fantagraphics, hardcover, 2013, $45.

* Fantagraphics Mini-Comics

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Catherine Hannah

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Go, Look: That Thing You Drew

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Go, Look: Cathy G. Johnson

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

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

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If I Were Near Ann Arbor, I'd Go To This

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

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Happy 50th Birthday, Zoran Janjetov!

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Happy 38th Birthday, Sacha Mardou!

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Happy 33rd Birthday, Becky Cloonan!

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Twenty-Five Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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FFF Results Post #340 -- Kim Books

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Of Your Favorite Books Or Series Or Whatever You Affiliate With The Late Kim Thompson."

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Tom Spurgeon

1. The Nimrod
2. Critters
3. Like A Sniper Lining Up His Shot
4. Murder By High Tide
5. Zero Zero

*****

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Michael Buntag

1. I.G.N.A.T.Z.
2. Palestine
3. Frank
4. I Killed Adolf Hitler
5. Love and Rockets - New Edition

*****

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Corey Blake

I completely fell head over heels for the late, lamented Ignatz over-sized comics co-published by Coconino Press so I'm going to fill up all five spots with them so they get good representation.

1. Delphine by Richard Sala
2. Wish You Were Here by Gipi
3. Ganges by Kevin Huizenga
4. Sammy the Mouse by Zak Sally
5. Baobab by Igort

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Approximate Continuum Comics
2. Late Bloomer
3. Hey, Wait
4. the Ignatz line
5. Zero Zero

*****

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Jacob Covey

* Usagi Yojimbo (imagine a comicsphere without Usagi... it's bleak. Gary is not a fan of anthropomorphism)
* The Complete Peanuts (the Index was his creation and is a perfect encapsulation of his reverence and irreverence comingling)
* Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy (he was one of the few people who understood the design decisions I made even as he dismissed the significance of design within our books-- aka The Kim Thompson Compliment as defined by Dan Clowes)
* FBI Minis (the man hunched over an office copier and put these together himself; who knows if they'll continue)
* Jodelle (there is no finer production in comics today-- his last book set the bar for all to come)

*****

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Mike Baehr

1. All the Jason books. If I have to pick one, make it the new one, Lost Cat.
2. Epileptic
3. Niger
4. Ralph Azham
5. Dungeon Quest

*****

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Chris Keels

* TCJ #67: Kim's column on Eurocomics actually encouraged readers to deal with the (then) lack of translated works to (gasp) actually learn other languages, rather than passively wait around for the translations. I always admired that (though I still haven't followed his advice...)
* Amazing Heroes #160: Kim's comprehensive survey of the available Eurocomics of the day. Very much out of date now .. yet it's so readable and accessible that I still refer to it from time to time today.
* Zero Zero: Still a great anthology.
* Epileptic: One of my favorite comics of all time; translated by our own Mr. Thompson.
* McConey: Harum Scarum: I ordered this (and other books) from Fanta about 10 years ago during their plea for orders when they needed that immediate infusion of cash flow. My order was apparently handled by Kim, himself, who included a brief note on the invoice thanking me, saying that he "always smiled whenever someone ordered McConey." I smiled myself.

*****

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Chris Gumprich

1. Sinner
2. West Coast Blues
3. Hate (especially the Hate Island backup from Hate #1)
4. Shamrock Squid
5. 120 rue de la Gare (which I know Thompson had nothing to do with, but I can;t disassociate Thompson and Tardi in my mind)

*****

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Sean T. Collins

* Hey, Wait...
* It Was the War of the Trenches
* The Acme Novelty Library
* Epileptic
* Interiorae

*****

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Art Baxter

1. Sinner
2. Stigmata
3. Hey, Wait...
4. The "Ignatz" Collection
5. His scathing review of "Detectives Inc." - TCJ #59

*****

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Michael Dooley

1. The Comics Journal
2. Chris Ware
3. Lorenzo Mattotti
4. Joost Swarte
5. Jacques Tardi

(also looking forward to Andre Franquin’s Last Laugh)

(off-topic but most meaningful to me: KT's warmth, gentleness, compassion, intelligence, and smile)

*****

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Jeet Heer

1. Sinner by Munoz & Sampayo (Also Billie Holiday by same team)
2. Acme Novelty Library by F.C. Ware
3. All the comics done by Jason.
4. Krazy and Ignatz series (the first time all of Herriman's Krazy Kat Sundays have been reprinted)
5. Kim's review of Frank Miller Ronin (Comics Journal #82)

*****

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Charles Hatfield

1. It Was the War of the Trenches, Tardi
2. Epileptic, David B.
3. Usagi Yojimbo, Stan Sakai
4. "Frida," by Gilbert Hernandez
5. Every book in English by Jason

*****

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Mike Everleth

1. Critters
2. Zero Zero
3. Hate
4. The Best Comics of the Decade
5. The Eye of Mongombo

*****

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Daniel Boyd

1. Jason comics (Could be the top 5 by themselves)
2. Jacques Tardi comics (Also could be the top 5 by themselves)
3. The Ignatz Collection
4. Sinner
5. Kim's posts on the old Comics Journal message boards

*****

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Robin McConnell

1. You Are There
2. Frida
3. Chimera
4. Toys in the Basement
5. Biologic Show

*****

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Trevor Ashfield

1. Hey, Wait. . .
2. Rocky Book 1
3. Comics Journal #302
4. The Fantagraphics 20/20 Program
5. Amazing Heroes magazine

Thanks, Tom, for this very thoughtful Five For Friday. It's a sad time, but it's also good to remember what Kim Thompson brought to us all to enjoy.

*****

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Sammy Harkham

* It Was The War of The Trenches
* The Nimrod
* Hey, Wait....
* Zero Zero
* Early '90s Comics Journal

*****

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Chris Duffy

1. Critters
2. Amazing Heroes
3. His encouragement of all that was good about the late TCJ message board.
4. Harum Scarum
5. books by Jason

*****

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Charles Brownstein

1) Tardi library
2) Usagi Yojimbo
3) Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life
4) Manara library translation work
5) Zero Zero

*****

thanks to all those that participated

*****
*****
 
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June 22, 2013


The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Somehow I Missed There Was A 1973 Movie Based On Valentina

*****


A Kim Deitch Video

*****


Bill Gallo On Living The American Dream
via

*****


Hayao Miyazaki Makes Ramen

*****


Trailer For Herblock Documentary

*****


Styx Cartoons

*****


Robert Crumb Night At Mondo Bizarro

*****
*****
 
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CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from June 15 to June 21, 2013:

1. Iconic alt-comics industry figure, legendary editor and translator Kim Thompson passes away from complications due to cancer at age 56.

2. CAKE in Chicago may have grown to the point in its second year where it has solved the longstanding question of putting a show with appeal to the arts- and alt-comics factions in one of the great cities for comics -- a place where that kind of comics-making hasn't had a significance presence since before Wizard bought the Rosemont show.

3. A bunch of people thinking out loud about Superman in an avalanche of feature articles on the occasion of a new, hit movie out puts on display just how much that traditional comic-book character exists as a character wholly outside of comics. The most interesting article to me was this one on how a "super-soldier" concept appealed to the National Guard as an advertiser.

Winner Of The Week
Kim Thompson. Thank you, Kim.

Loser Of The Week
North American newspapers, for a couple of reasons, but the comics one that springs to mind is that we have about a half-dozen cartoonists as able to drive thinking on major issues as Zapiro does here; they're just not as valued.

Quote Of The Week
"On the chore-to-fun scale it's definitely on the 'fun' side, on the profitable-to-indulgence scale 'indulgence.' If we were really hurting financially and/or I had to pick and choose projects based on the degree to which each could help the company's bottom line, most of the foreign work would have to go: Sibyl-Anne is utterly unjustifiable as a wise expenditure of my time or Fantagraphics' printing dollars from a corporate viewpoint. But Eric [Reynolds] and Gary [Groth] have a similar set of judgments to make on their projects, as I guess any publisher does. And of course it's great when 'fun' and 'profitable' sync up: It's hard to imagine a more fun project than doing the definitive repackaging of Peanuts or Barks, and it's definitely profitable." -- Kim Thompson in 2011, on publishing mid-20th Century Franco-Belgian Kids Comics

*****

cover by Franquin

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Cameron Hawkey

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If I Were In San Antonio, 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 Albuquerque, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near Ann Arbor, I'd Go To This

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Happy 53rd Birthday, Phil Elliott!

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Happy 76th Birthday, RC Harvey!

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Happy 57th Birthday, Kevin Fagan!

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Eric Reynolds!

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Happy 54th Birthday, Armando Gil!

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Twenty-Six Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 21, 2013


Collective Memory: CAKE 2013

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this article has been archived
 
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Go, Look: XOXO -- A Gossip Girl Tribute Comic

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Festivals Extra: North American Comic-Con Attendance Infographicized

Here. This is actually a hugely helpful thing Heidi MacDonald has done, as I don't know that I was really registering what the ones in the top five were as opposed to which ones aren't in the top five. I would assume that the basis for counting attendance on all of these is the same: individual goers, not tickets sold, but I'm not 100 percent certain. At any rate, fun list. Whoa, Denver.
 
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If I Were In San Antonio, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Hillman Comics' Sort-Of Horror

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* teaching haiku comics with Matt Madden.

* Lisa Bryn Rundle profiles Peter Birkemoe.

* not comics: maybe I'm just in a bad mood, but this announcement from the Oregonian about them transitioning into one of those few-newspaper, beefed-up on-line operations struck me as sort of sad. If you were given millions of dollars to start a newspaper or similar news-gathering institution from scratch, the only thing it would look less like than an old-timey paper is one of these heaving, crumbling hybrids.

* not sure if you can see this or not (I never am), but Ben Schwartz throws some love in Will Elder's direction.

* Brian Heater on various comics. Nick Gazin on a bunch of different comics. Todd Klein on Justice League #20 and The Unwritten #50. Grant Goggans on Star Wars Omnibus: Boba Fett. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Heroes!

* Johanna Draper Carlson asks if you'd pay for comics delivery, noting that if you get a bunch of comics every week it pays for itself. I would totally do that if I were working a job in the city. Totally.

* finally, good advice from Freddie.
 
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Happy 56th Birthday, Berke Breathed!

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Happy 48th Birthday, Steve Niles!

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Happy 57th Birthday, Daryl Cagle!

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Twenty-Seven Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 20, 2013


Go, Look: Franquin On Tumblr

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A Short Interview With Kim Thompson (2011)

imageKim Thompson is one of the smartest men I know and is certainly one of the most capable to ever work on the editorial side of the comics industry. He's a former employer of mine, and I consider him a friend. In 2011, Kim was one of the busiest editors working, continuing to spearhead Fantagraphics' vast array of European books and strip offerings as well as enough domestic comic book series and stand-alone to challenge any comics company employee. This is all in addition to his duties as co-publisher at the art comics institution.

I became fascinated this year by Thompson's work with those European comics. Not only does Fantagraphics have two successful series of such books going -- in the form of consistent author series with Jason and with Jacques Tardi -- they've added all sorts of interesting stand-alone books in the last 18 to 24 months, including potential book of the year candidates The Cabbie and The Armed Garden. In what follows, I try to touch on some general issues facing the art-comics publisher, but the bulk of it is more squarely focused on the translation work Thompson does both for his company and the occasional gig elsewhere. If at times I read like a fan that just wants to hear about what's coming out next, believe me, that's a big part of why I wanted to have this conversation. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Kim, I want to talk to you mostly about the translated work you've been doing, but I was hoping you'd let me ask some questions about Fantagraphics right up top. I don't know that we do publishing news very well, but it struck me thinking about the other day that you guys ended your 35th year by starting major series with Pogo and Carl Barks' duck comics, two all-time top ten works. Did that strike you at all, just the position you happen to be in right now? Is the company in general going as well as those two gets would seem to indicate?

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KIM THOMPSON: Yeah, although since we've had the Pogo license for five years now, it was more the one-two combination of Barks's duck stories and the acquisition of the EC material that gave me a sort of "holy shit" moment of realizing that if you take, say, the Comics Journal's Top 100 list of yore and go down it, Fantagraphics is now so dominant it becomes almost ridiculous. I think the current Fantagraphics list is unambiguously the greatest list of cartoonists ever to be assembled under one publishing roof, period. I'm open to rebuttal, but, y'know, c'mon.

Financially, of course these two will be helpful for our bottom line, but I do want to emphasize that there has not been one year since maybe the first flush of Eros 20 years ago that hasn't been a struggle for us, and every time we get a big windfall (like say Peanuts) the market or business has a way of readjusting itself so we're always racing to keep up, like your asshole college buddies pulling away from you just as you're getting ready to hop into the car... over and over again, for 35 years.

SPURGEON: I know that you and Gary Groth share the publishing responsibilities pretty thoroughly, but when I think of production at Fantagraphics I think of you mostly. It seems to me that you have a really good thing going on there the last few years in terms of the nuts and bolts of making your books -- a really fine crop of art directors, good people supporting those art directors. Could I nudge you into talking a bit about what it's like for a publisher on that end of things these days as opposed to ten, twenty years ago?

THOMPSON: Certainly the digital revolution has made editing and production ten times easier. I think it would be inconceivable to anyone under 40 working in the industry to imagine what it used to be like, when any piece of color art had to be photographed and four negatives individually stripped into a page that itself had been photographed from typesetting that had been manually pasted into shape, like a craft project. The increased sophistication of lettering fonts (and our designers' skill at wielding them) has made it far easier to do foreign comics, both in terms of cost and in terms of editorial flexibility -- and they look good. And so on. But I'm old enough that the idea that you can actually buy a copy of your favorite movie and play it on your TV still amazes me.

imageMore specifically, yes, I was just thinking about this... We do have a fantastic team. Three great full-time designers, the legendary Paul Baresh on production and digital cleaning of classical material for starters. Jason Miles has been a boon as a printer liaison and editorial assistant (and it's been great to have Eric Reynolds take a more active part in things on an editorial level), and we have an increasing galaxy of freelancers I know I can summon at will, like Gavin Lees, a former intern who turned out to be a fantastic calligrapher (he did all the special Tardi lettering we've needed); Jim Blanchard, who can do any logo you want (see the Cabbie "license plate" logo); Rich Tommaso, who's doing both coloring and re-lettering (his Peellaert relettering is even better than Peellaert's and he's now my go-to guy for any translation lettering that can't be font-ed out); and my Charlie's Angels-style trio of translators and co-translators: Helge Dascher, Katie LaBarbera, and Jenna Allen. (And Matt Thorn for the Japanese stuff.)

So yes, in terms of being able to produce the material and being able to produce it well, things have never been better.

SPURGEON: Usagi Yojimbo celebrated its 200th comic book issue this year. You were its original publisher back during a time when Fanta seemed more cleanly split between nurturing the post-underground alternatives and publishing high-end, idiosyncratically created genre comics. Given that history, and given your essay from a few years back about the need for more populist material in the marketplace, do you think comics still evinces a need for those kinds of books? Because what we used to call the "indy comic" seems like it's in a slight recess.

THOMPSON: I don't know. I think a solid core of high-selling mainstream-y genre comics would be nice, but it really hasn't happened (except for arguably the manga phenomenon, and I don't get the impression that the success of manga has bled back into non-manga comics) and "art comics" have achieved enough big successes now (Persepolis in particular) that we may be stuck with the image of book-sized graphic novels as being serious literary work... or archival collections of initially mainstream work that have since acquired the patina of art. (It's weird to see the Onion AV Club list reprints of comic strips like Peanuts and Popeye in their "art comics" review section given that these strips were originally read by an audience two or three orders of magnitude larger than whoever is reading the "mainstream" comics. But that's one of the paradoxes of culture for you.) I don't think American comics will ever have a Stieg Larsson or Stephen King. I know even Art Spiegelman is now pining for more vulgar, populist fare to shake out some of the graphic novel stuffiness (which he realizes he himself is to a large degree responsible for!) but it may just not be in the cards. We may be stuck with comics as art.

imageSPURGEON: The last general thing I was hoping to talk to you about, is I wondered if you had any reflection on what it's like to publish with so many rough if not exact publishing peers in the marketplace now. When I was younger you and Kitchen Sink had some overlap, but now it seems like there are a number of publishers that do some of the same things you do. Do you feel a rivalry with any of these publishers? Are you friendly with them? Does having so many folks interested in the cartoonists you're doing have any advantages?

THOMPSON: Well, it's been an interesting ten years, that's for sure. We're almost exactly a decade from when Pantheon swooped in and basically grabbed every major cartoonist they could think of, starting with the double whammy of Dan Clowes and Chris Ware. For a while there was, in the alternative press, a certain defeatist sense of "Well, shit, if someone the size of fuckin' Random House is going to come onto our turf there's not much we can do about that" (or W.W. Norton being able to throw a quarter million dollars at Crumb for Genesis) but I've got to admit that Drawn & Quarterly has managed to turn that tide around to a degree by signing Clowes, reminding all of us that size isn't everything. So I'm thinking the 'teens may see a return to a more even playing field in that regard, as alternative publishers (including us) re-discover how to beat the big boys at their own game by being cleverer and more committed, and willing to take bigger risks.

Obviously if I could wave a magic wand I would love to return to the halcyon days of cartoonists signing on with one publisher and sticking with him, but there's just too much money in the mix now. And as uncomfortable as that can make things for us on a case by case basis I think it's ultimately a net plus for cartoonists, and for the medium, for there to be this competition. Anyway, it would've been naive to think that commercial success for graphic novels wouldn't result in something along these lines eventually, and enough cartoonists who started elsewhere have ended up in Fantagraphics' basket that it would be a little whiny to complain too much when the tide runs the other way.

Now, this is in terms of new work by contemporary cartoonists. Classic comic strip reprints haven't really been much of an issue because it's only us and IDW for the most part, and fortuitously our tastes are divergent enough that we rarely intrude on one another's turf. Also, Dean Mullaney (who runs most of the IDW classic-strip stuff) and I are such ancient friends (going on 40 years) we do make an effort to stay in touch and not step on each other's toes. In any event, most of the truly, monumentally great strips have now been spoken for so I don't see any big potential wars out there. In fact, in some cases there are strips that I feel a sort of obligation to reprint because they're great but worry that a reprint would not be financially doable, so when Dean announces, say, an Otto Soglow collection, I'm pleased both because I'd love to read and own that, and because now I don't have to do it myself. And Dean really has been doing stellar work.

Foreign comics, same deal: Terry Nantier of NBM and I have fairly different tastes, so with one or two minor exceptions it's never been an issue. (We both like David B.; we also both like Lewis Trondheim, but Lewis produces more books than any three publishers can absorb.) I did kind of want the Smurfs, but NBM's done a genuinely superlative job on that project, and it does seem to fit into their program better than ours. But, look, there are so many great foreign books to do that if I told you my top 20 books to do next and you told me NBM and First Second had grabbed them all, I could pull out another 20 without blinking and still be happy.

There have been and I'm sure will be some bruised feelings and conflicts as part of this brave new world but I see it as ultimately part of a healthy, thriving field.

imageSPURGEON: Given the number of people relatively interested in the translated work right now, has there been a corresponding up tick in terms of the quality of production? How much of a struggle is it to do right by these books; do you consider them more difficult than some of the other things you supervise for Fantagraphics?

THOMPSON: More labor intensive, yes, but probably not more difficult. I don't know that I'd use the word "struggle." If you're good at it and work hard at it, they'll come out good, and my team and I have gotten better and better at it. NBM's production and translation have sometimes been on the iffy side in past decades but I think they're doing better now too, and Diana Schutz's Manara books are gorgeous. Last Gasp did a great job on that Winshluss Pinocchio book. So I think everyone is stepping up their game, yeah.

Part of it is, to return to what I said earlier, that the digital revolution has made it so much easier to do quality work. You can go back and look at the Catalan and Dark Horse/NBM releases of the 1980s and 1990s and feel smug, but working with negatives and hand lettering was a fucking bear. If we were still working under those technical constraints our current books wouldn't look half as nice.

SPURGEON: Let's talk about Tardi. Why was Jaques Tardi poisonous to the North American market for so long? Or was that even a fair description?

THOMPSON: Not really, I think. From 1990 to 1992 NBM released three Tardi books (collected from serialization in Cheval Noir) and they were, I gather, not successful. Around that time we'd serialized Tardi's Léo Malet adaptation Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge in Graphic Story Monthly and announced a book collection, whose advance sales were so feeble we cancelled it. Between that and the death of Catalan Communications, reprints of European material in general just didn't seem to be doing very well, so we all sort of stepped back for a while, except for Terry Nantier doggedly putting out more of the self-consciously "literary" books, and Lewis Trondheim. iBooks released a Tardi book in 2004, The Bloody Streets of Paris, but the publisher died in an accident shortly after that and his company fell apart, so who knows how it would have gone? So it's really hard to say whether the American market had any particular reluctance to embrace Tardi. I thought the time was ripe to try again, in any event. I'm a little surprised D+Q didn't follow up the partial serialization of War of the Trenches in their anthology with a full-on book edition, but no, they weren't interested. Trenches has since become one of our best sellers, so there you go.

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SPURGEON: How did this specific round of Tardi projects come about, and what is it you aimed to do differently with the books this time out? I believe that you didn't even start with one of the big-name projects.

THOMPSON: It came about because I thought it was silly that one of the two or three greatest cartoonists in the world wasn't available in English, so I went ahead and did it. I didn't so much decide to do anything differently as just really work hard to make them great -- I guess maybe the fact that we imposed a consistent visual format on the non-Adèle books. But I did decide not to back away from the European album format, which we all had been thinking was a problem, and instead embrace it unapologetically.

In terms of picking material, I had a couple of different agendas going in. I didn't want to start with It Was The War Of The Trenches because that one is such a monument I was afraid everything we did after it might be read as a bit of a disappointment. I wanted to do You Are Here first because that's a keystone of Tardi's career. I wanted to avoid treating Tardi as a "classic" by focusing on his decades-old work, which is why I also started with one of his recent Manchette books. And so on. But I always figured we'd be in it for the long haul, and since we're getting ready to solicit our tenth Tardi book now, I guess we are. We'll hit all the big ones!

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SPURGEON: We know his reputation as an artist, but the prose in the books he does, either his own or taken from somewhere else, does it pose any specific challenges to a translator? Does the oddness of some of the material, or its specificity, make some things a challenge?

THOMPSON: You Are Here (written by Jean-Claude Forest) was quite a challenge because it had a very discursive writing style and was full of wordplay. (Even the title, and the protagonist's name, comprise a pun which caused me endless headaches until I solved it.) The other books are actually easy for me in different, and radically opposite, ways. The Adèle books (and the Adèle spin-off The Arctic Marauder) are written in a purple, antiquated language that just rolls out of my (figurative) typewriter, doubtless because of a childhood spent reading P.G. Wodehouse; it's just a very natural style for me.

Conversely, the efficient, stripped-down, sardonic, hardboiled language of the Manchette books is also something I can do very easily: I instinctively understand it, on a mechanical level. Most of It Was the War of the Trenches was simple descriptive narration, which is easy; I just had to not screw up the period dialogue. And the next book we're doing is set in more or less contemporary New York, which should by definition be easy. I can see possible future projects that could pose problem, like the mammoth Voice of the People which is all written in this juicy mid-18th-century Parisian slang, but so far so good.

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SPURGEON: How has the Adèle material been received? It strikes me as one of those graphic novels where so much has been taken and re-used from them it might be hard to see those books in the same light as the first audiences for it did. What do you like about them, specifically?

THOMPSON: They're the only fictional graphic novels written by Tardi since his earliest beginnings, so I like the pure Tardi-ness of them. It's a really fun world to be immersed in; obviously as a Tintin fan, I like that aspect of it too. They've been received quite well, critically speaking; I was a little concerned that coming after War Of The Trenches the Adèle material, and in particular The Arctic Marauder, would be taken as too frivolous and silly, but that hasn't happened. People seem to dig them.

SPURGEON: Was there any bump for the movie? Because I remember the trailers and I don't remember the movie.

THOMPSON: No, the movie was never released in the U.S., not even so far as I know on Pay-Per-View. An all-regions DVD release snuck out but may have been on the margins of legality in terms of territories and doesn't seem available any more. So no bump. The funny thing is that I hurried out the first Adèle book expecting a U.S. release of the movie, which didn't happen, but then Adèle sold really well anyway.

imageSPURGEON: You've done at least two of Tardi's crime books and I know there's at least one more on the way. Is that because there's a context for crime work now for American comics audiences? How much of a passionate interest is there in that material in the French-language markets?

THOMPSON: Well, there is a huge interest for what Tardi does generally, and a huge appetite for crime fiction in comics, so the two together are definitely gold back in France. I honestly don't know much about Tardi's sales in terms of one book relative to the other but my guess is that the Manchette books are among his best-sellers (along with Adèle, especially after the movie).

As you indicate, between Sin City, 100 Bullets, Ed Brubaker, and the Parker graphic novels by Darwyn Cooke, there does seem to be a market/appetite there for that kind of material in the U.S. Note that several of the original Manchette prose novels have actually been translated to English, one of them quite recently, and Manchette's son tells me there's a consistent buzz of interest from Hollywood. If he was Scandinavian we'd really be cooking with gas, I suspect.

SPURGEON: To tie a couple of things together: First, when you say that the first Adèle book sold well, can you ballpark what that actually means, even if it's just in comparison to another type of book?

THOMPSON: Well, not huge. I honestly don't expect the vast majority of the foreign books to sell more than 2,000 or 2,500 copies, so having to go back to press on a 3,000-copy print run is a success by our standards but puny by most other standards.

SPURGEON: Second, do you have any sense of who's buying the Tardi books? Are there Tardi fans? Is there a difference between the crime books and the rest of them, for example, in terms of how they're moving?

THOMPSON: Honestly, I don't see any clear trends. I suspect there are Tardi fans who buy everything, and there are those who like the turn-of-the-century goofball Adèle stuff (there turned out to be more of those than I expected, in fact), and there are those who like crime, and War of the Trenches has sort of imposed itself as a "must-have" masterpiece that supersedes Tardi, so to speak, like Maus for Spiegelman. I expect the same breakdown occurs in France.

SPURGEON: Talk to me about The Armed Garden. Do you have a specific interest in that material besides the obvious quality of the visuals?

THOMPSON: No, not really. All that myth stuff isn't one of my interests. But I always like it when an artist whose work I love drags me into appreciating and enjoying something for which I have no intrinsic interest. I'm not a World War I buff either.

imageSPURGEON: Is there something about David B. working that mythological stuff that you think works really well?

THOMPSON: It seems to me, if you read Epileptic and in particular Babel, that David had a very real ability to use myth as a way of processing and dealing with his own life, which is what it was always there for. But it's also just something he digs, and it works great with his graphic style.

SPURGEON: That book has a very specific tone... does tone stand in the way of a translation ever, trying to capture a book's unique qualities in a different language?

THOMPSON: Not if the translator is any good, harrumpf. [Spurgeon laughs] Less glibly and smugly, there are times when it's tricky, but I don't find it to be the case at all with David's mythological stuff. Every culture in the world has some similar literary/mystical tradition, so it's not that hard to find an equivalent tone. And in most cases David, as a Frenchman, is already stretching to communicate Asian or African myths, so the stretch for an American is pretty equivalent. It's been some of the easiest translation I've done.

SPURGEON: A mutual friend of ours told me that he thought Stigmata was as close as Lorenzo Mattotti might come to that one big book that everyone points to for the remainder of his career. Were you as taken with the material?

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THOMPSON: Well, the fact that I chose it to kick off our Mattotti reprints should give you a hint. Yeah, it's my favorite of his books. I don't think the writing is on quite as extraordinary a level as the artwork (though that may be because I'm not religious), but the combination of the two is really something. It may in fact be that if the writing was as as rich and accomplished and evocative as the artwork, it wouldn't have needed to be illustrated: a script for a comic needs to be unfinished in some way.

In terms of how it compares to Mattotti's other work, I think Mattotti's more abstractly conceived and drawn stories like Fires are fantastic but they don't hit me on quite the same level, and I respond to Matttotti's black and white work as comics more easily than some of the color artwork, in terms of being drawn into it, in terms of reading it as comics. But Mattotti has been working on an enormous new graphic novel for a number of years now, so that may end up being The One.

SPURGEON: Is there a back story to how you started publishing Gil Jordan and Sibyl-Anne? Because of all the packages I received from any comics company this year, I think that was the biggest surprise. Were those projects related in some way to your own comics consumption as a young person? Is that a kind of material you'd like to see Fantagraphics pursue more explicitly?

THOMPSON: It was more or less pure indulgence. Stuff I love I wanted to share with everyone else, the global equivalent of walking around the office with a book in my hands saying, "Isn't this great?" That simple. Yes, we'll be doing more of it (I've just signed for the second Gil Jordan book, and I'm pursuing some other material) but probably not a huge amount, unless they start taking off sales-wise, which sure hasn't happened yet. Two or three a year, tops.

Look, as far as I'm concerned the 1950s/1960s Franco-Belgian comics are one of the supreme bursts of creativity the field has ever seen. That I grew up on them may be coloring my view of them but I don't necessarily think so; especially since some of my very favorites at this point are ones I didn't read at the time.

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SPURGEON: How long was The Cabbie in the works? That one also surprised me. I can't tell if that would be a completely accessible book or if that would be strangely unfamiliar to all but a few folks. How would you describe that one to someone who only reads a few comics a year?

THOMPSON: "Dick Tracy on crank" works for me. I actually think that to a reader who can deal with the grisly and gross subject matter, it's very accessible and doesn't need any real familiarity with comics to enjoy. (You might think the hyperstylized graphics could be a tripping point, but hey, tens of millions of regular middle-class Americans read and enjoyed Chester Gould on a daily basis, didn't they?)

It's been in the works at least since 2007, when the Ignatz Calvario Hills book appeared. But Martí has always been somewhere on my vast map of desired projects: I loved the Catalan edition and the two RAW stories, and we published a Martí story ourselves way back in Pictopia. By the way, if the first Cabbie is successful we'll have at least three more Martí books coming, none of which has been translated into Engish before and only one of which comprises further Cabbie material (the other stuff is even sicker than The Cabbie).

imageSPURGEON: How close are we to getting the Joost Swarte book?

THOMPSON: It's printed, we just got our advance copies, and it'll be in the U.S. in late January or early February. (First Pogo and then this! Chew on that, those of you who'd given up on both!)

SPURGEON: Can you talk about that project a bit? because he, like Tardi, seems to be someone with a recognizable visual imprimatur that could be argued hasn't ever really gotten over with an American reading audience. How are his comics different than his static images? How much material were you working with?

THOMPSON: We were working with pretty much the totality of Swarte's "adult" comics, of which there's barely about 120-130 pages' worth (the title of the book isn't entirely ironic): His famous two books Modern Art and Cultuur & Techniek, and various anthology short stories (RAW, et al.) in the 1990s and 2000s. I don't know that his comics are different than his static drawings insofar as his supreme narrative and visual intelligence carries over into the sophistication of the panel progressions, and his wicked sense of humor flowers even more fully.

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SPURGEON: What is Milo Manara like as a translation project? We see the images, but it seems like that might be playful prose with which to work.

THOMPSON: Well, as with Tardi, Manara isn't just Manara. I've more or less worked on translating at least five original writers on this so far: Hugo Pratt (who from what I understand provided full scripts, so I really am translating Pratt), Federico Fellini, Silverio Pisu (who did The Ape), the "satirical/serious" Manara of some of his shorts and the upcoming "Giuseppe Bergman" material, and the "porn" Manara... and some of his earliest journeyman material had other writers as well. So it's really like half a dozen different translation projects in a sense.

It's fun. I took this on in part because Diana Schutz asked me to and I've always wanted to work with Diana, in part because a little extra money never hurts, and in part because I like a lot of the material and I thought it would be nice for it to finally have a genuine first-class translation. (Dark Horse has also done a scrupulous job with the production and packaging. There's something nerdishly satisfying about having some of my words, even translated text, lettered by Tom Orzechowski.) I mean, it may be my only shot at translating Pratt, and I'm pretty sure my only shot at Fellini. I expect some of the porn may eventually become a slog, but so far it's been fun.

SPURGEON: Is it fair to say that your interests have helped drive Fantagraphics' new commitment to European work?

THOMPSON: To a degree. If I weren't around I'm sure Gary would be pursuing it regardless. We've always both been interested in European work, but the difficulty of producing it and limited popularity tended to circumscribe the degree to which we pursued it. The "new" commitment is mostly a matter of it being easier to do, and the market opening up, however slightly.

I end up doing almost all of it just because I have the knowledge and the language skills -- it's like being the six-foot-seven guy in the office who ends up changing all the ceiling lightbulbs -- but Eric drove the Man Who Grew His Beard project, Jason Miles is working on something, and Gary has pulled in a couple of projects.

SPURGEON: How do you see your work on those titles in terms of your overall responsibilities in your job?

THOMPSON: On the chore-to-fun scale it's definitely on the "fun" side, on the profitable-to-indulgence scale "indulgence." If we were really hurting financially and/or I had to pick and choose projects based on the degree to which each could help the company's bottom line, most of the foreign work would have to go: Sibyl-Anne is utterly unjustifiable as a wise expenditure of my time or Fantagraphics' printing dollars from a corporate viewpoint. But Eric and Gary have a similar set of judgments to make on their projects, as I guess any publisher does. And of course it's great when "fun" and "profitable" sync up: It's hard to imagine a more fun project than doing the definitive repackaging of Peanuts or Barks, and it's definitely profitable.

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SPURGEON: It's my understanding that you've picked up the rights to Lewis Trondheim's Ralph Azham, and that you'll start publishing it in 2013. I know that's a fantasy title, but I don't know much else about it. What can you tell me about that series -- how big a project is that?

THOMPSON: It's very much in the same vein as the Dungeon series, but focusing on a single character, and with Lewis working solo as opposed to with Joann Sfar and a raft of other artists. Solo except for the coloring, which is by his wife Brigitte [Findakly] and is stunningly lovely, her first work in watercolors on Lewis's work if I'm not mistaken. Lewis intends the series to run for at least six volumes, and has finished the fourth (the man is a machine). Standard 48-page European albums which on Lewis's recommendation we're breaking in half for 96-page landscape-format books. So by that standard we're talking a project that will run well over 500 pages. I'll send you a sneak at the first volume's cover (pre-color). Again, the final books will be landscape format so this isn't a wraparound, it's the full front cover image.

SPURGEON: Finally, one of the things you listed on your sheet of current responsibilities was Love And Rockets?

THOMPSON: Purely in the mechanical terms of getting it from the Bros. to the printer, but yeah.

SPURGEON: So did you know how good "Love Bunglers" was upon first reading it?

THOMPSON: I know how good everything the Bros. do is, but yes, both parts of "Love Bunglers" fall into the category of my emailing everyone in the office and saying, "Holy shit, you've got to read this, Jaime really knocked this one out of the fucking park." Never any doubt on "Bunglers," from the minute I finished reading the first part. Instant classic. Of course nobody expected the second part to be even better a year later.

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* Kim Thompson
* Fantagraphics

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* photo of Kim Thompson by I think me
* Fantagraphics is publishing Carl Barks
* that Cabbie license plate logo
* Otto Soglow
* Dark Horse is doing Milo Manara
* It Was The War Of The Trenches
* You Are There
* from one of Fantagraphics' Adèle collections
* Tardi draws crime
* David B. draws myth
* from The Cabbie
* cover image for impending Joost Swarte volume
* pictures by Manara; words by Pratt
* a Lewis Trondheim fantasy series to be published by Fantagraphics beginning in 2013
* Kim had no doubts about "Love Bunglers" (below)

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Go, Look: Critters Cover Gallery

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A Short Interview With Kim Thompson (2008)

imageI've known Kim Thompson since 1994, when I went to work for him at Fantagraphics Books. He's among the smartest people I've ever met, and is one of the kindest. Together with his longtime publishing partner Gary Groth, Thompson has worked the last several years transforming the longtime alternative comics company he co-owns into a small but potent comics, art book and graphic novel publishing house. Having spent much of his youth in Europe, he has been one of North America's most effective advocates for translated books from the rich French-language tradition. He is also a talented editor, a fine interviewer with whom I worked at The Comics Journal and generally informed and involved when it comes to all aspects of how that company functions. If Fantagraphics were a car, Kim would be the guy in the jumpsuit and dirty fingernails constantly poking around under its hood. He was nice enough to talk to me about his company's future and recent past. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: After 30-plus years in the comics industry, how do you keep motivated? What do you find exciting about your job right now?

KIM THOMPSON: There is always some new cartoonist, or some new work by an cartoonist, on the horizon to snap me out of my depressed torpor. And we've got such a great bunch of people working for us now here in the office... that's energizing. That said, I wish I didn't have to answer this on a goddamn Monday morning.

SPURGEON: As a long-time champion of European comics, how satisfying is it for you to see this second great wave of translated European works hitting the American market?

THOMPSON: It's pretty exciting, although of course we don't know yet whether this wave will prove more durable than the last one. We've got three major, major European cartoonists planned to launch in 2009-2010 ourselves. Even if the wave crashes, at least we'll have gotten out another batch of great books that will survive on Amazon.com as used books for a few years.

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SPURGEON: Does Fantagraphics have a specific strategy for approaching European cartoonists, or does a Jason, say, just kind of move into your orbit organically the same way that any other artists does? Are there any artists or kinds of work from Europe you're interested in publishing in the future?

THOMPSON: There is still a bewilderingly huge amount of great European work that hasn't been released in English (or was released in English back during the first Eurocomics boom and has since fallen out of print). I don't know if there is a "kind" per se, but I think we need to catch back up with the masters who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, your [Jacques] Tardis and [Lorenzo] Mattottis and Loustals and Munozes and so on. NBM, First Second and Drawn & Quarterly seem to be doing a good job with the 1990s/millennial generation.

imageI'd still love to publish my favorite European kids' comics guys like [Andre] Franquin and [Maurice] Tillieux, of course, but I've long since given up on this idea as being totally unworkable in the American market. If I win the lotto and can throw $100K down the toilet just for fun, look for an announcement.

SPURGEON: Comics seem poised to take an even bigger leap into various on-line formats over the next 24 months. Is Fantagraphics interested in further working with their artists to publish them on-line in a more significant way? What kind of discussions have you had in-house about this?

THOMPSON: Man, I'm not the one to ask about on-line comics. It's low on my list of priorities, possibly foolishly so.

SPURGEON: Have you had any talks internally about the possibility of a sustained economic downturn? Have you made any moves or do you plan any moves to meet the possible challenges of rough times? Are you worried about the months ahead?

THOMPSON: Of course we're worried, but it's such terra incognita, no one knows where this is going and no one knows how specifically this might affect the comic book field. Maybe comic books will be the only entertainment people can afford and sales will surge. (Although probably not.) We're probably going to be more conservative in terms of new projects and print runs. I just turned down a project that a year or two ago we might've said yes to.

SPURGEON: Considering that there are two of you as publisher, how do you Gary and decide what to publish? Is it true there are Gary books and there are Kim books? Do you ever publish books that one or the other of you isn't enthused about?

THOMPSON: Sure. We're two different people with different tastes, and we're also self-aware enough to know that there are cartoonists one of us doesn't like that are objectively speaking fine cartoonists worthy of being published. The percentage of books that both of us aren't totally enthusiastic about is pretty small, in any event, so in most cases we're on the same page. There has never been a project one of us hated so much he tried to talk the other one out of publishing, maybe a few cases of "Jeez, really? OK, whatever."

imageSPURGEON: Are there any publishing initiatives from the last 15 years that you wish could have succeeded that maybe didn't to the extent you felt they might? For instance, I thought Lewis Trondheim's The Nimrod was a near-perfect alternative comic.

THOMPSON: Yeah, although we were running out of Trondheim material that fit that format, so it likely would've ended after we finished the Approximativement serialization. In general, I'm really sorry that the alternative pamphlet format has crashed and burned, it's now basically impossible to launch a new cartoonist in that format, and a number of more established cartoonists aren't pulling in sufficient numbers to justify it. The Raisin Pie and Fuzz and Pluck numbers were unbelievably bad, for instance, and even "successes" like Uptight and Tales Designed To Thrizzle are at best marginal. And every time we think the numbers have bottomed out we find a new bottom.

The Ignatz books are barely break even but then I expected that, so I'm not exactly disappointed.

There are individual cartoonists whose books failed I'm bummed about, of course.

SPURGEON: I think your books have looked consistently great over the last five years. You've had some great designers in the past, but it seems like you now have a really solid, consistent art department in the way that Eric Reynolds had given you guys a an anchor in marketing/PR. How important is good design to what you guys have been able to achieve in recent years? What are your own tastes when it comes to design?

THOMPSON: Nothing more sophisticated than I know what I like, and I agree that Adam Grano and Jacob Covey are doing a bang-up job. Frankly -- and our designers hate it when I say this -- I think a lot of books are sort of design-proof in terms of sales, although some benefit significantly from superior design, and some are totally saved by design. Clearly Chris Ware's design of the Krazy and Ignatz books gave those a boost, and Jacob Covey's Popeye surely moved some extra units.

That said, the standard of design for graphic novels has really peaked in the last decade, and you sort of have to have at least decent design if you want to be taken seriously. We couldn't get away with the crappy Fantagraphics/Eclipse/NBM/Last Gasp designs of the 1980s any more, that's for sure. So I'd say decent design is a necessity and great design is a bonus.

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SPURGEON: I think you're an under-appreciated editor, particularly your anthologies. Titles like Critters and Zero Zero look better in retrospect with each passing year. Why so few? Do you have another magazine in you somewhere? Do you enjoy that kind of hands-on curating process? How do you look back on each of those anthologies now?

THOMPSON: Thank you for that. I thought Critters was great for its time, although that kind of "indy" material (with the exception of Usagi Yojimbo) seems to have fallen through the cracks and no longer has any audience at all -- and it's looked askance at by "alternative" loyalists. Are any of the Critters guys other than [Stan] Sakai still actively publishing comics? I mean, what kind of a stupid industry lets a guy like Mike Kazaleh slip away into self-publishing and, basically, retirement from comics?

imageAnthologies are a lot of fun to do, and I enjoyed doing both of those, and I agree that Zero Zero was undervalued at the time, but with so many cartoonists either wanting their own comics or being graphic novel oriented there is a real dearth of high-end anthology-worthy comics: Finding cartoonists of the caliber of Max Andersson, David Cooper, Richard Sala, or Kim Deitch, to name four main Zero Zero guys, able and willing to crank out comics for an anthology is increasingly difficult. Eric and Gary do a great job with Mome, but I know they're having trouble filling it up...

I think Glenn Head is doing a great job on Hotwire, but it's a tough, tough sell. The big, fun, Weirdo-style "comics-y" anthology seems like a dinosaur somehow.

I doubt I would ever edit another anthology: I don't see any niche that needs to be filled, and the energy I used to devote to the anthologies has been diverted to other pursuits (because we're doing more international books I'm doing a lot more translating, for instance).

imageSPURGEON: I seem to remember you guys published a couple of incendiary political books in 2004 that were fairly ahead of the curve about the Bush Administration, and unless I missed it you didn't have something like that on your calendar this year. Was there any reason for that? Was that just coincidence? Do you consider Fantagraphics to be a political publisher and do you want to publish more work like that in the future?

THOMPSON: Oh, I don't know that they were ahead of the curve, except within the comics industry. By 2004 you had rackfuls of anti-Bush and anti-Republican prose books, your Ivinses and Moores and Frankens, didn't you? The primary motivation of the Steve Brodner book Freedom Fries which I edited was actually more esthetic than political: when we started it was going to be a Brodner career retrospective that would also include his celebrity caricatures, but it morphed into a political book midway through.

I consider Fantagraphics to be a publisher of good comics and if the comics that are submitted to us are good political comics then great, but I'm not inclined to pursue them. To be frank, I find most of the World War 3 Illustrated type agenda comics tedious (although I thought The Bush Junta had real energy).

I think you may need nation-wide disgust with a government to see a lot of this kind of material, and we're in the Obama honeymoon stage anyway.

SPURGEON: I consider your generation of comics people comics' greatest generation in that the industry will likely have changed more from when you began to when you conclude your run than for any other group. In broad terms, is this the industry you imagined when you started out? Is there anything better about now than you imagined? What would you still like to see happen?

THOMPSON: The industry has changed far more radically, and for the better, than I ever could have imagined, in terms of the respect accorded to comics, the level of work being produced, comics' place in the market, the whole ball of wax. (You have to bear in mind that when we started cartoonists were literally wondering whether Americans would ever be willing to read comic books that ran beyond the length of an issue of Giant-Size Fantastic Four.)

The weird thing is that the idea of "graphic novels" and comics for adults has had so very little penetration into the general literate populace. Most regular people are, in my experience, still utterly stunned and confused at the very idea, New York Times Book Review reviews notwithstanding. There is a weird disconnect between the press's enthusiastic embrace and promotion of the medium and its effect on actual "mainstream" readers. You have millions of New York Times subscribers reading and presumably mostly enjoying the Jason serial, but how many of them would even think "Hey, I should go buy a book by this guy"? .001 percent?

It remains an uphill battle, and if I'd known how much of an uphill battle it would continue to be, even with all of these victories, I might have become an advertising copywriter circa 1979.

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* photo by Tom Spurgeon
* a Jason book with Fantagraphics
* Franquin
* The Nimrod, Lewis Trondheim's comic book
* a Critters cover
* a Zero Zero cover
* Freedom Fries, edited by Thompson
* The Bush Junta, another political book from Fantagraphics

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Go, Look: Joost Swarte

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OTBP: Cartoon Clouds

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* there's not a ton of convention/festival type stuff on the horizon, so the bulk of eyes and orientations are now refocusing and settling in on Comic-Con. That doesn't mean there isn't a ton of stuff between now and then, but that's what the majority of the comics "room" will be thinking on.

* if you're going to Comic-Con, and even if you're not, I would suggest following the Toucan blog that they run from now until show, and maybe just period. I know I'm going to mainstream its coverage into my linkblogging here. I'm way behind. I have a couple of pieces in there somewhere, although I'm too mortified by my own work to go look.

* like I said, there are a number of events, particularly this weekend: a show in San Antonio, a show in Albuquerque, a cool-sound little festival in East London and a fairly important one: the Kids Read/Teens Read event in Ann Arbor. I am a great fan of specialty shows in places like Ann Arbor.

* the Locust Moon Festival has announced its 2013 date: October 5.

* there's a bunch of comics-related stuff at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year. I will try to figure out individual listings. I am mostly baffled by that one and by the rolling Comica events -- I never know what the hell is going on with either. I'll try to do better.

* finally, here's a great, necessary list from Zack Soto on indy-friendly conventions and festivals for the calendar year 2013. I'm going to use it, and then I'm going to make one for CR.
 
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Not Comics: Maurice Sendak Illustrates Leo Tolstoy

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Go, Look: What Is A Teenager?

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Oily Comics subscriptions are back open. There is no more entertaining interaction with comics going than to receive all these mini-minis in the mail on a regular basis. I recommend the six-month plan.

image* in case anyone needs reminding, Jack Kirby was the best.

* Sean T. Collins on Pim & Francie. Here are some mini-comics reviews at Comics Bulletin.

* I don't want to run a By Request Extra today just for someone that's already met their goals, but this Tim Danko crowd-funder is in its last hours and some of you might want to hop on board.

* not comics: always fun to read a Tim Kreider piece, even though between you and me, and I can be pretty sure he's not reading this: total jerk.

* Jeff Strickler profiles the not-brothers tandem of Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon. Reed Tucker profiles Matt Hollingsworth. Tim O'Shea talks to Brandon Seifert.

* I always like these cool mainstream covers posts. I don't have the immersion in mainstream comics to make this distinction in a strong way, but my suspicion is that we're in a really good era for mainstream comics cover-making.

* finally, Philly Wintle writes about graphic novels.
 
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Happy 44th Birthday, Justin Norman!

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Happy 44th Birthday, Nix!

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Happy 63rd Birthday, John Workman, Jr.!

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Happy 79th Birthday, Rius!

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Happy 37th Birthday, Theo Ellsworth!

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Twenty-Eight Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 19, 2013


Kim Thompson, RIP

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Go, Look: Some Of Ronald Searle's Hamburg Illustrations

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Go, Read: Zapiro On Letting Go Of Nelson Mandela

There's a pretty nice little mini-survey of recent Zapiro cartoons about Nelson Mandela folded into this article. It's hard to imagine anyone in North America offering up a similar series of forthright opinions on a beloved political figure, particularly on such difficult issues as legacy and the roles a family and allies might play in seeking to control certain aspects of dialogue about the figure in question. It's also interesting to me that Zapiro hasn't done a cartoon for Mandela's passing ahead of time; I suspect it is less the assertion of simply taking a pass on the opportunity as it is the cartoonist hopes for specific inspiration after that newsworthy event occurs. I suspect that, anyway. I have no way of knowing. There are a couple of nice cartoons reprinted in that piece, too.
 
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Not Comics: George Carlson Illustrations

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Go, Look: Andy Gabrysiak

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This Isn't A Library: Notable Releases To The 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.

*****

SEP121087 BARNABY HC VOL 01 $35.00
This is a really solid week for comics, in that there are a lot of comics that could not only be considered but that could be featured via art in this post -- I feel like I'm screwing over at least some of these folks by not featuring their work more strongly, but I only run three books that way. But if you were only going to buy one book, I'd buy the first volume of Crockett Johnson's lovely, funny strip, one of the dream alternative-comics projects finally come to fruition. Congratulations to Mssrs. Nel, Clowes, Ware and Reynolds.

imageFEB131140 CRATER XV HC $19.95
FEB131141 HECK HC $19.95
These are the books collecting the recent on-line work by the Not-Brother Cannon, Zander and Kevin. Both of them were extensive serials, done in a loose, appealing style, with idiosyncratic storytelling moments. I think they're both fine cartoonists and I own just about everything they've done, even that Grinnell work from Kevin.

JAN130090 DOMOVI GN $19.99
I hope this is a book that won't be lost: a Peter Bergting modern fairy tale full of fun-looking designs and laugh-out-loud narrative/pacing choices. If you look this kind of thing, this is a superior version of that kind of thing -- and there's a lot of this kind of thing that isn't this good. Update: Brian Moore wrote in to say that the actual title of the books is "Domovoi." I just cut and pasted the above from Diamond's listing.

APR130041 BALTIMORE THE INQUISITOR ONE SHOT $3.50
APR130042 BPRD HELL ON EARTH #108 WASTELAND #2 $3.50
MAR130572 INVINCIBLE #103 [DIG] $2.99
APR130589 AGE OF ULTRON #10 $3.99
APR130246 100 BULLETS BROTHER LONO #1 (MR) $3.99
APR130926 SERGIO ARAGONES FUNNIES #8 (RES) $3.50
It's also a very wide-ranging week for comic-book format genre comics. This includes two from Team Mignola; one from Robert Kirkman; the concluding chapter in Marvel's latest "event" comic, this time featuring dickish and invulnerable robot Ultron; the first issue of a short burst of comics related to the 100 Bullets property; and Sergio Sergio Sergio. I'd buy at least one of those had a I comic book shop nearby.

APR130443 SAGA TP VOL 02 (MR) [DIG] $14.99
The first book of these sold staggering numbers and the second one even at a more normal, less-jumpin-on point should sell gangbusters. Comics fans are reacting very strongly to this work.

APR130988 BLAKE & MORTIMER GN VOL 13 CURSE OF 30 PIECES OF SILVER PT 1 $15.95
APR130992 XIII CINEBOOK ED GN VOL 17 IRISH VERSION $11.95
Two quality album-style European comics volumes. Always worth a look. I don't think I own but one or two Blake & Mortimer works, but they're sure handsome.

MAR131379 CHILDREN OF THE SEA TP VOL 05 $14.99
This strikes me as the best of the serial manga volume releases out this week. I think it's a concluding volume, too. Daisuke Igarashi's series was once an Internet cause back when manga was where a lot of Internet causes settled into place.

MAR131290 COMP FLASH GORDON LIBRARY HC VOL 03 FALL OF MING (RES) $39.95
You won't read prettier comics this week than some done by Alex Raymond, that's for sure. Some folks have told me they find the stories a slog, but I sort of like them once I get settled into their old-timey rhythms.

DEC120776 FAILURE GN (MR) $21.95
Here's another one that could certainly place a graphic top of page in a week less stuffed with potential buys: Karl Stevens new collection, and the first book (I think) from the new Alternative.

DEC121182 GABBA GABBA HEY RAMONES GRAPHIC GN $24.95
Title alone.

APR131147 PRIMATES FEARLESS SCIENCE OF GOODALL FOSSEY & GALDIKAS HC $19.99
This is Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks and I meant to do an interview with this book and still hope to and man I can totally forget about entire aspects of my job at times.

FEB138566 SAFE AREA GORAZDE HC SPECIAL ED (MR) (NOTE PRICE) $25.00
APR131375 BOYS OF STEEL THE CREATORS OF SUPERMAN YR SC $7.99
Two re-releases: one that needs to be in your library (the Sacco, in case you really wondered), and one you might want there. I know some people that have objected to Gorazde, too -- I had a long dinner talk around Christmastime with a cartoonist who didn't think as much of the book as I do -- but I imagine most people would agree it's a formidable work worth your attention.

MAR131309 DAN SPIEGLE LIFE IN COMIC ART SC $17.95
APR131364 DONT PIGEONHOLE ME 2 DECADES MO WILLEMS SKETCHBOOK HC $40.00
Two books I know nothing about except what's in the title, and that I'd really have to see how they were executed before I'd decide if I wanted to buy them. I sure like looking at the work of Spiegle and Willems, though. Willems has a super-appealing sketchbook style that might be fun to see on full display.

APR131253 BURNING BUILDING COMIX HC $19.95
Finally, this is a fun comic by Jeff Zwirek -- I think Top Shelf is handling the DM distribution but that it's a crowd-funded, self-published work -- where the burning building yields different stories by floor in a kind of giant, fold-out format. I have one and want to review it, but haven't finished that up yet. But I enjoyed it and encourage people to take a look if you're in one of those great stores that orders stuff like this.

*****

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 because I hate you.

*****

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

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Go, Look: More Classic Tom Sutton

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I've run a lot of these, but this is a pretty good done-in-one of Superman-related links.

image* smarties Chris Mautner and Joe McCulloch talk all things Taiyo Matsumoto.

* Molly Crabapple sketches the pre-trial hearins of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

* Bob Temuka on Fatale. Sean Gaffney on Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink. John Kane on a bunch of different comics. Shawn Starr on a bunch of different comics. Jeffrey O. Gustafson on Spider-Man: The Manga #27. Paul O'Brien on a bunch of different X-Men related comic books. Kelly Thompson on Ultimate Comics X-Men #27, Aphrodite IX #2 and American Vampire: The Long Road To Hell #1. Rob Clough on a bunch of the Ignatz books. Justin Giampaoli on Alternative Comics #4. Grant Goggans on A Wrinkle In Time. A bunch of the AV Club people on a bunch of different comics.

* finally, Tucker Stone re-runs a 2008 DC panel recap.
 
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Happy 40th Birthday, Dan Fraga!

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Happy 30th Birthday, Lisa Hanawalt!

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Twenty-Nine Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 18, 2013


Go, Look: Semi-Massive Al Columbia Art Gallery

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Go, Look: Every Right

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Publisher: Henry And Glenn Forever Sells 71,000 Copies

Here. Ninth graph. That is a remarkable number.
 
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Go, Look: Carter Arthur Lodwick

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Festivals Extra: Copacetic Comics Announces Santoro Con 4

Pittsburgh is a lovely town. The shocker isn't that a convention named after Frank Santoro gets its own post here, but that it took me four years to notice that Frank Santoro has a convention named after him. Sounds fun.
 
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Go, Look: Gabrielle Bell Concludes Oslo

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

By Tom Spurgeon

* whoa, look at the size of that Reggie-12 cover.

image* Jessica Johnson -- formerly Jeff Johnson, of Nurture The Devil and a bunch of anthology work in places like Buzzard, Zero Zero and Dirty Stories -- has a book of sketchbooks and 'zine work available. She certainly has one of the most interesting CVs of any cartoonist of her generation.

* Danica Novogrodoff previews her forthcoming book The Undertaking Of Lily Chen with Whitney Matheson at USA Today.

* I don't really understand this article about Marvel's new graphic novel line. What I don't understand is what they're talking about in terms of changing things so that this sort of thing is profitable. I'm not sure why a good book that lot of people wanted wouldn't have worked under a model that's existed for 20 years now, but they seem to be hinting at some sort of structural change. I think it's a good use of their creative resources, though, and it'd be nice if they got into the bookstore game in a more serious way.

* it looks like Dave Sim's Last Girlfriend has been moved back to April 2014. They should do a book about the publication history of Dave Sim's Last Girlfriend.

* great catch at The Beat that Marvel is canceling its Journey Into Mystery title. The only time I ever want to defend a system where big companies can guarantee a minimum sales level -- which is how the DM operated until, my memory serves, the late 1990s -- is when a company is doing what Marvel is doing with Journey Into Mystery: working more obscure portions of their character catalog and giving promising creative voices a platform.

* another week off for One Piece.

* I'm sure this piece of news that DC Comics is going to do a Superman/Wonder Woman book is going to lead to its fair share of Henry Cavill/Gina Carano jokes, but in comics terms it's more notable for DC's strategy of emphasizing the big licenses in various new comics. I don't have any sense of the New 52 Superman character, so it's hard for me to even conceive of what another comic book starring that guy would be like.

* finally, the Greg Rucka-written Queen & Country series will apparently return in 2014.
 
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Go, Look: Art Adams Drawing Monsters

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

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Go, Look: Four-Color One Shot #158

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* RC Harvey would like to talk to you about Bringing Up Father.

image* Johanna Draper Carlson on Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Color Sundays Vol. 1. Some person I couldn't tell who it was immediately so screw it on a Kurt Busiek/Ron Garney JLA run. Grant Goggans reads more Legion comics. Rob Clough on Transposes. Don MacPherson on Batman #21. Justin Giampaoli on Mara #5. Greg McElhatton on Relish.

* love for the Chris Weston Carry On X-Men poster.

* Anne Ishii profiles Taiyo Matsumoto. Phil Whelan (I think) talks to Anne Ishii.

* a few of you have recommended a series of Superman-related essays by Adam P. Knave. I like this Clark/Supes sketch by Frank Quitely. The Onion hits the Big Blue highlights.

* not comics: Hope Larson's short film Bitter Orange is now available.

* finally, I have to imagine a billion people are going to start reading this Justin Bieber comic created by Sean T. Collins and Michael Hawkins.
 
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Happy 59th Birthday, Dean Mullaney!

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Happy 35th Birthday, François Vigneault!

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Happy 27th Birthday, Caitlin McGurk!

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Happy 31st Birthday, Ryan Alexander-Tanner!

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Happy 50th Birthday, Wataru Yoshizumi!

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Thirty Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 17, 2013


Go, Look: Gingham Ghost

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Go, Look: 1921 Judge Magazine Cartoons, Illustrations

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One Article About Man Of Steel I Thought Interesting To Read

imageSo a new Superman movie opened on Friday and apparently a lot of people went to it and liked it. I'm glad for people to have entertaining movies to go watch; life is too short to suffer through dull, aggravating movies. I read a bunch of articles about the movie sitting around the house yesterday. I read about 50 reviews, but nothing I'd recommend as a cogent, insightful analysis of the film. I previously recommended the Mark Waid and Tom Scioli reaction pieces as entertaining articles, and I'll stand behind those links. I enjoyed reading my high school pals talk about it on Facebook.

One article I did find sort of fascinating was this piece at Mother Jones on the National Guard using Superman as a recruitment tool. I actually can't get to the piece now, so I'm not sure what the access rules are there. But the upshot is that Superman's owners brought in about 160 million dollars in pre-paid licensing arrangements for the film, and that one of those arrangements includes the National Guard using the idea of Superman to promote a super-soldier concept that will hopefully lead to recruitment.

My mother's half of the family has a significant military component, and I have a load of friends that either spent years in the military before moving onto other things or are still serving in the armed forces as career military. I don't have any special aversion to any career choice that involves National Guard service. I do find the use of Superman in that way kind of odd, though, even though I'm not sure I can articulate the specific nature of my feelings there. I am curious as to the dynamic between specific views of a character like Superman and the character's suitability for all kinds of marketing, though, including this kind.
 
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Go, Look: DC Romance Comics Advertisements

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King Features To Represent Betty And Veronica In Product Licensing

There's a brief article up here at the hobby business news and analysis site ICv2.com about Archie letting King Features represent its Betty and Veronica characters for licensing opportunities. It's not the kind of thing to which this site usually pays attention, but it caught my eye because we rarely talk about KFS' licensing arm -- a significant an powerful lever for that media company. I would have to imagine that Archie taking its characters there is a sign of just how effective King Feature can be in that role, because it's not like Betty and Veronica is a property without licensing opportunities going in.
 
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Go, Look: Superman Cover Mini-Gallery

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I Hope You're Keeping Up With Gabrielle Bell's Oslo

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1, 2, 3, 4, 5
 
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Comics By Request -- People, Projects In Need Of Funding

By Tom Spurgeon

image* David Lasky made his airfare goal for the Eisner Awards by selling art... if you wanted to buy some more stuff and make sure that guy eats while he's down there, go here. David Lasky is a nice man.

* I'm typing this in five hours short of one full week ahead of this post rolling out, so I have to imagine this Galaxion crowd-funder has hit its goal.

* it's not totally typical for conventions to crowdfund, but there have been a few. Here's one. Those tend to have high monetary goals and lots of people participating, which sort of makes sense.

* documentaries related to comics are a little more common, although not very.

* I was reminded in roundabout fashion of this very nice impulse from Jon Morris to donate to the Hero Initiative charity while spending money on these superhero movies. I can't even tell you who's getting what for individual characters and who isn't, let alone if this is fair, but staring at the comics industry for twenty years has taught me that a lot of creators seem to end up on the wrong side of history when it comes receiving a lot of money and being satisfied with their reward. Giving to a creator-focused charity like HI is one way to help some of those creators.

* Ryan Claytor is working towards meeting a stretch goal on an already successful crowd-funder.

* finally, the Stonewall Riots seems a fine subject for a comic book.
 
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OTBP: Pixar's Cars #1

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Go, Look: A Bunch Of G.I. Juniors

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* The Foxing Quarterly has announced fall prizes, including one in comics.

image* Jonathan Baylis on Cartoon College. Justin Giampaoli on Star Wars #6. Grant Goggans on Nikolai Dante: Sympathy For The Devil. Kaitlyn on Wayward Girls #1-2. Hannah Means-Shannon on Fashion Beast #1-10.

* Joe Gross reminds that Superman doesn't have to be boring. Speaking of Superman, Tom Scioli reviews the new movie in stream-of-consciousness fashion.

* I have no idea what the hell is going on here, but I have to admit I'm dopey enough to be enamored of the idea of pop-up shops. I will likely deny this in five years' time. Wait, Steve Morris found the graphic that explains everything. Hey, that's nice.

* there are a few nice photos of comics pros squirreled away in this flickr set.

* Brigid Alverson talks to Lucy Knisley. JK Parkin talks to Ryan Claytor.

* missed this piece on comics to read on Bloomsday.

* if I'm reading this article correctly -- I'm not reading it really closely -- then the comic in question has sold over two million copies?

* I quite enjoyed this more modest edition of the Robot 6 feature "Shelf Porn."

* whoa, Richard Sala.

* congratulations to the writer Mark Millar for the national honor he received, as described here.

* here are a bunch of court cases from the comics -- and I guess cartoons -- involving superhero characters.

* finally, I'm not certain I've seen "The Beckett/Bushmiller Letters" on-line before, although I guess I could be wrong.
 
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Happy 63rd Birthday, Bill Sherman!

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Happy 38th Birthday, Pauline Martin!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Hilary Barta!

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Happy 65th Birthday, Chance Browne!

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Happy 44th Birthday, Bart Beaty!

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Happy 32nd Birthday, James Andre!

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Thirty-One Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 16, 2013


CR Sunday Interview: James Vance

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*****

The writer James Vance is one of the forgotten forefathers of the modern graphic novel movement. He created Kings In Disguise with the artist Dan Burr at a moment in the comics industry's rapid development not yet a full decade removed from debates over whether longer, seriously-intended comics for adult were even possible. Unlike much of what was published at the time, that Kitchen Sink-published work's attention to Depression-era politics and its measured, serious narrative could appear on bookstore shelves today and feel right at home.

The sequel to Kings In Disguise, On The Ropes, hit store shelves this Spring a full quarter-century after the initial serialization of the first Vance/Burr work. Ropes continues the story of Kings protagonist Freddie Bloch, and extends some of that first book's major themes of displacement, isolation and the danger of making choices with limited information. Vance is also known within comics for a period scripting at the mid-'90s, you-had-to-be-there, idea-farm publisher Tekno Comix and for his work helping to wrap up another 1980s classic, Omaha The Cat Dancer, written by his late wife Kate Worley. I am really pleased to get a chance to talk to James for a CR interview. I enjoy his writing in comics and on-line. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: James, I wanted to ask a few general questions before I leap into several on the new book. I guess my first one is I wondered if you could talk a bit about where comics fits into your spectrum of professional interests. How much time do you concern yourself with comics, as a writer and maybe even as a reader? How much do you consider yourself a member of that artistic community?

JAMES VANCE: Well, for the last few years most of my working time has been devoted to writing On the Ropes and Omaha, with any freelance journalism or editing jobs squeezed in around them. So comics have increasingly moved to the forefront of my professional life for most of the last decade.

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Reading them has been something I've done on and off for most of my life. I moved on to other things throughout the '70s and early '80s, and started picking them up again when things like Alan Moore's work and American Flagg!, and later Love and Rockets and Omaha, caught my eye. I've never completely moved away from reading them ever since, taking a break for a year or two to take care of real life and then catching up on what I've missed -- I remember marathons of Promethea and Transmetropolitan after those series had been completed and collected... and, of course, checking out what my friends have done when possible.

Once I got heavily invested in writing Ropes and Omaha around 2006, my comics-reading time dwindled to practically nothing that I couldn't find online. For a while, I was buying new superhero stuff for my son and things like Owly and Amelia Rules! for my daughter, and I'd take a look at those. But when I got laid off during the big newspaper collapse a few years ago, finances made it impossible to keep that going. I still take the kids to the library so they can keep up on their comics, but I haven't had the time for reading a lot of the things I'd personally like to see. Now that I've finished those two big projects, I'm hoping to be able to check out some recent books that have intrigued me -- The Carter Family, My Friend Dahmer and Kevin Huizenga's stuff, for instance.

As to the artistic community, I guess you'd have to ask them. I feel like I'm doing the same kind of work they are, even if it's mostly been under the radar. If you'd asked me that 10 years ago, I would have said most members of the comics community probably didn't know I was still alive. But in the last few years I've caught up with people like Alan Moore, Kim Thompson and Gary Groth, and none of them seemed to be astonished that I was still breathing, and I've kept up with other people like Neil Gaiman and Howard Cruse all along, so maybe I'm not quite the cipher I thought I'd become. I'd like to be considered part of the community, but that's really up to them.

SPURGEON: Are there comics in Tulsa? Do they have a presence there? Are there any other comics-makers nearby?

VANCE: If you mean comics shops, sure, we're lousy with them. Some have been around for decades, and others spring up and then evaporate after a while.

As to a creative community -- at present, I just don't know. For the last few years, my life has been divided between dealing with my childrens' needs and pounding on a keyboard, with very little time for reaching out into the community. Back in the black-and-white boom days in the '80s, there were at least a dozen or so comics creators around here who were being published regularly, and I've been introduced to a few newcomers in the years since. And of course, some natives, like Sterling Gates, do their most famous work after they've moved on to some other city. In a town this size, it's inevitable that there are a few at any time, and I'm confident that's the case now. Maybe we'll be hearing from them in the near future.

imageSPURGEON: Kings In Disguise is a staggering 25 years in the rear-view mirror at this point. Re-reading it, that work struck me in some ways as both of its time -- for one thing, it's serialized -- and as one of those books that kind of presaged the current marketplace. Do you think that the context has changed for the way that book is received? Is it possible to read Kings In Disguise the way you originally intended it to be read, with so many longer works having been done between now and then?

VANCE: This ought to be a short answer, but I'm afraid it won't be.

Kings was serialized because that's the way most comics were being done back then -- Don McGregor's early graphic novels were still largely anomalies, and things like The Death of Captain Marvel were probably good ways to get readers accustomed to the longer format... but, right or wrong, those were really seen as little more than long-form superhero funnybooks with no more literary aspirations than a monthly Marvel comic. Will Eisner had only published a couple of his graphic novels at that point, and I'm not sure I'd seen either of them when I was working on Kings -- though I was certainly aware of his work at that time. So there wasn't much of a tradition to hook into at that point.

The truth is, I thought of it in terms of a collected work from day one, and that's the way we approached it. If you look at those individual comics, you'll see there's no concession to serialization in the story itself, no cliffhangers or any of the mechanics that you see in regular monthly comic books. Kitchen Sink created a pretty clever recap format for new readers, but that was the editor, Dave Schreiner's, addition to the individual issues, a publishing decision. It didn't affect the writing.

I imagine it still has that serialized feel because it's a picaresque, a style that almost has to be episodic since it requires constantly traveling to new locations and meeting new people. And, to me, it had to be that because it's about a 12-year-old kid who has no idea what the hell he's doing, trying to take a cross-country journey at a time when the world seems to be falling apart.

But really, the way I intended it to be read was just as a story. I'd never written comics before, not a single page, so I wasn't trying to do anything that was particularly game-changing. Sure, it was obviously a more serious attempt than, say, something with Wolverine in it. This was a time when people were doing a lot of talking about the infinite possibilities of the comics form, and I didn't see why I couldn't take a stab at exploring that.

In the early days of writing the story, I was probably more aware of moving into a new form than I needed to be. I was very conscious of the way Harvey Kurtzman had used historical minutiae and logistics in some of his war stories for EC, and [Will] Eisner's thoughts on the integrity of the individual page, and those general notions were in the back of my mind all through the writing. When I was writing the first installment, I remember asking Dave Schreiner about a character I'd called Joker in the original play. It was just one of those judgmental period nicknames like Gimpy or Squint, but now that he was going to be in a comic book, I wondered if maybe I should call him something else so the specter of Batman didn't intrude. Dave's response was something like, "Yeah, good idea. Let's call him Doctor Doom." And that's the point where I stopped worrying about where I stood in relation to anything else in the field. I just wrote the story in the way that made sense to me, and my only concession to the form was making sure there were things Dan Burr could draw that took advantage of his skills.

As to how it's perceived now versus then, I suppose knowing its background could affect how it strikes you. I've never really thought about it. Back when I was writing it, there wasn't any statement intended about my work versus anyone else's, and to my mind the only difference now is that if you want to read a graphic novel there are more choices than there used to be. I've spoken to people who read it recently without any awareness of comics history, and they didn't seem to find it particularly old-fashioned. I think it still holds up and that's all I can ask no matter how many other graphic novels have been done since then.

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SPURGEON: Do you feel any sense of attachment to the idea that your work helped shape or inspire the current market? What do you think of the current landscape for longer-form work?

VANCE: When Kings was reprinted in 2006, and recently when On the Ropes was released, a lot of writers started referring to Kings with words like "classic" and "ground-breaking" and I found myself thinking, Gee, I wish somebody had told me that at the time. For years, whenever that book came up in conversation, my standard little gag was "My footnote is secure" [Spurgeon laughs] and that's really the way I thought about it. I'd love to believe that we might have inspired somebody to do good work of their own, or shown some publisher that it's possible to take a chance on something that isn't just the same old basic genre tropes. If anyone can ever show me that was the case, I'd be thrilled.

The current landscape? In some ways, I think it's better than it's ever been. More people in general have at least some idea of what graphic novels are, and there's a real chance that a talented creator can publish something that will really speak to people both outside and within the regular comics readership. For that matter, most of the mainstream reviews of Ropes have treated it more as a story than specifically a comics story. Subject matter has gotten more and more varied, and it seems to me that the creative people are taking more chances and occasionally speaking more from the heart. It feels at times that there's more effort being put into the art and the production values than the writing, but I have to believe that'll come, too. The more important your subject matter is to you, the harder you'll work to realize it in both the art and the writing.

In some ways, of course, large portions of the graphic novel shelves just look like jumped-up comics racks. For every book that's actually about something meaningful, there are a dozen that are just collecting issues of superhero comics or retreading a Jason Statham movie plot. How many stories do we need about a hit man or a spy trying to get out of the business, but first he has to go on the lam and shoot a bunch of people? There's still a lot of lowest common denominator stuff out there. But given a world that pretty much gives Gilbert and Jaime [Hernandez] carte blanche and allows Eddie Campbell and Seth and so many of those pesky younger people to do their thing, plus somebody like me when I bother to resurface, I can't complain.

imageSPURGEON: Forgive me for asking, but what's the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Tekno? Do you think that company has a specific legacy at all?

VANCE: Yeah, I really need to do one more blog post about the Tekno experience one of these days, don't I?

Okay, the first word that comes to mind is "clusterfuck." [Spurgeon laughs]

The Tekno gig was a job that came along just when I really needed one. And it was a chance to do an ongoing series, which was something I'd never done. The money was good, I got to work with a talented artist -- Ted Slampyak -- and, except for a very simple premise provided by Neil Gaiman, I was able to invent the whole thing from the ground up.

But in the long run, yeah, it was a clusterfuck. It always seemed to me that the editorial staff's hands were tied, and they were just passing along some pretty stupid directives forced on them by clueless suits from on high. They'd bought some undeveloped vague notions from the estates of Gene Roddenberry and Isaac Asimov and then tried to turn them into superhero series. They were trying to create their own little Marvel universe without earning it, and the harder they tried to force it, the worse the books got. They used to send me copies of everything, and so much of that stuff was unreadable, I stopped bothering to open the envelopes.

Ted and I were interfered with just like everybody else, but I think we survived better than most because we developed real characters to work with instead of a bunch of empty tights, and because our book had a sense of humor -- our Mr. Hero wasn't really a superhero series at all, though we sometimes parodied stuff that was going on in the superhero books of the day. So there's no need to forgive you for asking. I'm not embarrassed by the work Ted and I did for them, and I'd work on those characters with him again. I just wish that Tekno hadn't made it so difficult to do good work at all.

But a legacy? I'd say it was more of a warning. You can't buy reflected glory just by pasting big names on the cover. And you can't create anything good if you don't trust the professionals to do their jobs. From what I read in the comics press, there are companies out there who still haven't figured that out.

SPURGEON: Talk to me about the provenance of this book. Kings In Disguise was famously a play first; was this one a comic first? What's the publishing history that got this work released?

VANCE: On the Ropes was a play, too, and it's actually several years older than Kings. In terms of Fred's story, the two plays were written in reverse order. I wrote the original one-act Kings in Disguise as a way of finding out how this kid started out on the road in the first place.

I started thinking about adapting Ropes to comics as a follow-up back in the '80s, but the time was never right to clear the decks and start on it. I knew it would take a hell of a lot of research to do it right, and life kept getting in the way. As the years went by, I'd take on little odd jobs for comics editors I knew -- mostly for Phil Amara at Dark Horse -- but it just wasn't possible to carve out the block of time I knew I'd need, and the impetus just drifted farther and farther away. After a while, I started thinking of myself as somebody who used to write comics.

I remember a couple of occasions when I'd make some snarky remark about my wonderful career in comics, and Kate would grab a copy of Kings off the shelf and shove it in my face and say, "You did this!" She always believed in that book, and trust me, you didn't talk Kate out of the things she believed in. And of course, if I hadn't written it we never would have met.

It was a few months after she died that I got the offer from WW Norton to reprint Kings, and part of the deal was for us to do a sequel. While she was fighting her cancer, maybe even earlier, I would have turned it down, but now there was no way. As far as I was concerned, On the Ropes was for Kate. So I signed the contract and gave it my best.

imageSPURGEON: I'm not sure that I've spoken to a lot of people that have worked directly with Norton as a publisher. How much support did you receive from them? Was there an editorial give-and-take? Is there anything they do with a comics work that other publishers might not be able to do, or are they are a pretty standard publishing outfit that way?

VANCE: Norton's a good house, one of the last really good independent mainstream publishers, and I think they treated me really well. Our editor, Tom Mayer, was always available and always supportive, even when it became obvious that the book was going to take a lot longer than we'd anticipated. In the early days, Tom asked me to send script pages to him, but he never made suggestions about the writing or tried to steer us in any way, and after a while, he apparently trusted us enough to just wait for the final product to be handed in. They're the ones who brought out the Will Eisner library, so I felt secure that I was working with people who had good taste and a respect for the medium, not just a publisher who'd jumped on the graphic novel bandwagon.

When they were bringing out their first wave of original graphic novels, they asked me to go over those books from the point of view of somebody who knew comics, and I thought that was encouraging, that they'd take that extra step to be sure they were turning out the best graphic novels they could. And when Ropes was finally in proof, I was impressed by how carefully their editorial and proofreading people worked on the book. They found a couple of little historical inaccuracies for me to fix before we went to press -- minor stuff, but I'd worked like hell to get that book right down to the molecular level, and the fact that they'd dug deeply enough to find anything impressed me.

I'd say one advantage they may have is access to the mainstream press. We've gotten some nice reviews on the comics blogs, but let's face it, the book's in black and white and there aren't any superheroes in it, so not everybody's going to cover it. But we've been reviewed in a surprising number of big city newspapers, Paul Buhle just gave us a fantastic write-up in In These Times, and I've done a couple of interviews on nationally syndicated radio shows. Norton can't get us good reviews, but I think by virtue of being Norton, they can at least get certain people to give us a look in the first place. So I have to believe that if nothing else, their reputation can help us get noticed by potential readers who might never have heard of us if we were with a traditional comics publisher.

SPURGEON: What works for you thematically about this book as a sequel? There are certainly elements of Kings in here, and I was wondering how you think this works as a second story and how this might stand alone.

VANCE: There were a couple of things going on with this one. Way back in the mid-'80s, when I was just starting to write the Kings comics version, I had the notion in the back of my mind that if I wasn't laughed out of town, we just might be able to continue on with On the Ropes... and I was intrigued with the idea of writing two books that comment on each other, that don't let you read completely between the lines, have access to the complete subtext, unless you read both of them. And yet you could read either one without the other and have a complete story. It wasn't the kind of thing you want to get too precious with, so I only salted a few bits of this into Kings, but they do exist, at critical junctures in Freddie's story. And to play fair, I tried to make it possible for people to pick up on those bits of subtext in Kings alone if they paid close attention.

Maybe I was asking too much of the reader, or maybe I didn't plant the pointers strongly enough -- I was trying to be a little subtle about it, but who knows? When the reprint came out, there were a couple of reviewers who'd obviously put the most simplistic, clichéd spin on some of those points -- and then took me to task for them -- and I remember thinking, Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys. But, then, they'd only read the one book, and maybe I was asking too much for them to do that much work when a simple solution seemed to be staring them in the face.

So I was glad to have the chance to finally follow through with Ropes. I think we made those connections without being too blatant about them, and now there's a legitimate chance for you to read the two books and make those discoveries for yourself.

On a less pointy-headed level, as the work went along I became aware of how much the whole thing is concerned with consequences. That's what every story should be about, of course, but every major character here is playing for high stakes in a volatile atmosphere, and some of the biggest obstacles they have to overcome are there because of their own past actions. And then they perform a new action and there's a whole new set of consequences added to the mix. These people are all juggling chainsaws, and in a way this whole series of incidents can be traced back to a bad snap decision that Fred made near the beginning of Kings in Disguise. If he hadn't gone on the road years before, some of these other lives would never have been affected in just this way.

You ask if On the Ropes stands alone, and I think it absolutely does. I think both of them do. But my hope is that reading both is a richer experience, the second one giving us a clearer sense of the mistakes Fred made in Kings and just what that book's ending meant, and Kings giving us a better sense of the innocence he's lost by the time we get to Ropes.

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SPURGEON: It's been a long time between books. Was there any effort necessary on your part to approximate a style or approach that might have put this book into continuity with the previous work? Was it a natural voice or approach to which you returned here? How conscious are you of style and tone when you work?

VANCE: Recapturing Fred's voice in the narration really gnawed at me at first. I remember talking to Neil Gaiman about it early on, and he told me not to tie myself up in knots about it, that nobody would expect me to write exactly like I had all those years ago. And he was right, but I still wanted to have some stylistic continuity between the two books, so I worried at it for a while before I was really satisfied with it.

The worst part of it was that I'd started to work on Omaha at almost exactly the same time I started Ropes, so for the entire writing period I was not only trying to recapture the way I'd written a character in the 1980s, but I was also trying to echo Kate's stuff. It was a pretty schizophrenic experience at times, shifting from one to the other, sometimes on the same day.

Yeah, I'm pretty aware of style and tone. I tried to give the characters distinctive voices and ways of expressing themselves -- older characters like Gordon and Barbara use slang a little differently, and have different points of reference than Fred or Eileen, that kind of thing. And Fred has two different voices -- the one he uses in dialogue with the other characters, and the one we read in the captions. The narration is obviously by an older Fred looking back and trying to recreate the way he felt in younger days. In Kings he's trying to recapture the unsophisticated dreams and general cluelessness of a 12-year-old boy, and in Ropes he's recalling the viewpoint of a teenager who hasn't so much matured as become more cynical and withdrawn until that old capacity to dream is awakened and pointed in a new direction. And, of course, the narrator Fred is self-educated and a slightly awkward writer -- but I tried not to make him so awkward that his captions are a chore to read.

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SPURGEON: The book hinges on a mechanism having to do with union organization and how different parts of the movement communicate to one another... did you base that on something you researched, or was that a creation of whole cloth?

VANCE: I always thought that angle was the weakest part of the original play. I lost count of how many times I rewrote that part of the story, but it wasn't until I did the graphic novel version that I finally licked it. The actual mechanism was my invention, but what helped me work it out was reading oral histories by people who'd taken part in the steel strikes in Chicago. They were utterly paranoid about management getting spies into their meetings, and were constantly worried about loose lips giving everything away. And the worry about local police undermining them and trying to frame them for crimes was very real. But they still had to stay in touch with the outside world, and this sort of Rube Goldberg system of mail drops was the way I came up with to deal with that and to get Fred involved.

SPURGEON: More generally, what interested you about the labor movement during that specific time period? Is there anything that surprised you, that you dove into after a broader survey revealed one or two things?

VANCE: It's been so long now that the memory's a little hazy, but I think it came from an initial curiosity about the Shakespeare plays directed by Orson Welles in the 1930s. Remember, this was back when I was writing plays, so I was curious about theater history. Reading about Welles' Macbeth and Caesar for the WPA Theater led me off in different directions -- the conservative backlash against the Federal Theater Project, the climate of unrest over labor strikes that led to the cancellation of The Cradle Will Rock, and from there to learning more and more about the labor movement itself. I think the biggest surprise while I was following those threads was learning that the government had sponsored a circus. I was charmed by the whole idea. And I was riveted by the drama of the labor struggle in those days, the absolute viciousness of some of the company owners and the way that people were literally putting their lives on the line for better working conditions. The more you learn about that period of history, the more fascinating it is.

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SPURGEON: One thing I find intriguing about what you do with On The Ropes is that you play your protagonist against a series of deeply troubled adults... it's almost an expansion of the contrast between the two road companions in Kings. That seems to me very stage-oriented... what appeals to you about the technique of putting sets of characters against one another like that, and why do that with more than one here?

VANCE: Part of that's by design and part of it's just inevitable. It's 1937, the economic recovery's stalled, and a lot of people are still hanging on by their fingertips. It's just a given that you're going to see some troubled adults here and there.

The simple answer is, it made sense to me. In the years between the two books, Fred's been wandering in the wilderness alone, and he's just gone further and further inside himself. So in this story he's re-emerging into the world and I wanted to see him having to step up and deal with a lot of people on different levels. He gets along with the roustabouts, but not on any intimate level, and of course there's Eileen, but... hello, hormones. She's his one attempt at anything like a normal relationship, and you can bet that he didn't make the first move. He's really too much of an outsider to be comfortable with people living normal lives.

And with Gordon we have another kind of outsider who looks like he's able to function in society but who's really more screwed up than Fred is. What makes their relationship work is that each of them believes, in a different way, that he doesn't need anybody... and a lot of the story is about the individual ways they learn how wrong they are, and how much it costs them to learn it. It's not all cut and dried, it's a messy process. There's nothing messier than the way people live their lives. Gordon works hard at being an asshole, but he has moments when his conscience gets the better of him, and of course he goes to some pains to keep Fred out of harm's way when he doesn't really have to. Fred's idealistic and often naive, but he's capable of throwing his political ideals under the bus -- not to mention absolutely betraying Gordon's trust -- when there's something in it for him.

If you look for it you'll find questions being raised about the individual versus the collective, the kind of thing that was getting a lot of lip service in those days... but the honest truth is that I wrote what I did because I really enjoy the byplay of interesting characters. As a reader and as a writer, I'm fascinated with eavesdropping on what they have to say to each other and watching how they try to coexist. To me, that's the heart of drama. Not just drama -- or comedy -- in terms of the stage, but any kind of storytelling. Contrasting people and ideas playing off each other, and the old "human heart in conflict with itself" thing.

SPURGEON: You frequently work in silent sequences, which I find a compelling choice given your natural tendency towards very strong, methodically text-driven scene work... is there a reason in general you go to such moments? Is there a specific kind of scene you think flattered by that approach, and are you simply just having contrasting approaches in order to break up the longer narrative?

VANCE: The short answer is, if you're working with Dan Burr, you'd be crazy not to take advantage of it. Whether it's theater or comics, silence is a powerful way to focus our attention, and Dan's talent is a precision instrument. I don't think he gets enough credit. A lot of this stuff just wouldn't work like it should without him.

Sometimes it's just a matter of rhythm, a moment of silence to counterpoint a particular narrative passage like a rest in a piece of music. Sometimes it's because we're involved in a particular type of action where, realistically, nobody would be talking. There are a handful of violent moments that are dead silent because my model for those were real life, not Marvel Comics. And sometimes it's time to just shut up and let Dan tell the story. With Dan, I have a collaborator who can draw people thinking and feeling in a way that evokes real life, in all the different shades of grey that we experience. There's a two-page sequence I wrote that's completely wordless, but it's one of my favorite moments in the book. Fred's at the lowest point of his life, and Dan takes us through all the changes he goes through at that moment. There's no need for dialogue, no need for the narrator to say "I was heartbroken" -- we can see that's he heartbroken, and by showing us, Dan breaks our hearts a little, too.

imageSPURGEON: Can you talk about the woman writer character, where she came from? I liked that a lot of her scenes came late in the story, and the saga kind of pivots on her, which you usually don't see? How much work do you do on characters before kind of bringing them into a story... how thoroughly do you know them before you use them?

VANCE: In this case, I guess there's a certain luxury in having done an earlier version of your characters. In the case of Barbara, I can't say I'd been worrying about her since 1979, but I'd always been vaguely dissatisfied with her in the original play -- I kept rewriting some of her scenes, and I was just lucky I had a good actress to pull that together for me in performance. So when it was time to revisit her for the graphic novel, I knew what some of the problems had been with her character before, and I was able to look at her with fresh eyes.

The play was kind of a rough outline for me that I kept at the back of my mind. I don't think I actually looked at it more than two or three times while I was doing this version, and I didn't crib much of the original dialogue at all. It helped, of course, to know where the characters were going in a general way, but within those rough guidelines there was still a lot of discovery during the actual writing. That's true for all of the characters, but Barbara's probably the one I learned the most about during the process.

She represents what Fred thinks he'd like to be, and that gives her the power to tell him when he has his head up his ass. And despite her hard shell, she can see a little something of her younger self in him, so she's willing to reach out beyond their business deal and try to show him where he may have pointlessly screwed up his life early on in Kings in Disguise. She's tough, but it's a kind of self-conscious toughness born from defensiveness and loneliness. There's a little bit of that brittle literary cocktail party air to some of her dialogue -- nobody else in the book would use a phrase like "when the juniper berries were in bloom," even though she's pretending to be ironic -- but at the same time she's a little embarrassed by her own wistfulness for a lost world.

I haven't had much feedback on her, but I suspect she's the most difficult character for some readers. She talks about ideas. The world's let her down, so she's convinced there's no hope for change. She made a writer I know very uncomfortable because she represents failed aspirations. She's the character who tells us to get over ourselves, and who wants to hear that? But just for a moment, she's allowed to understand what fuels Fred, and that lets her dare to hope again that she can make her mark. She's difficult, but I'm very fond of her, and I'm proud of the scenes I was able to give her.

SPURGEON: Is there a context for this book in terms of labor history, or fiction about labor that's not comics? How has the book been received -- or has it been -- by audiences that might be amenable to its politics?

VANCE: The best piece of fiction I've read on the subject is In Dubious Battle, which gets referred to in On the Ropes -- but I'm not going to put myself in the same class. I think you can read it as being in that tradition, but I'm more interested in the characters than their cause. It's just that some of them are utterly consumed by the labor struggle, and for good reason, so it may be hard to separate their personal stories from the huge events that are sweeping over them. Their stories take place during a vivid moment in time, and we went to a lot of trouble to make that setting as authentic as we could. I worked hard to keep the timeline straight, and I tried to make the characters' attitudes accurate for the times. I don't want to read a story with 21st century ideology transplanted onto a period setting just to make the reader more comfortable. I'm not going to play coy and say you can't call it labor fiction, but to me it's also fiction about characters who are working out their personal struggles against a background so infused with the labor struggle that they can't avoid it.

I'm not big on Googling myself, so I may have missed some of the coverage. I mentioned that In These Times gave us a review, and there was one from a homeless paper in Washington. I can't really say what else is out there. All the reviews I've seen have been positive, which is amazing, and none of them have called us out on our politics or particularly praised us for them. The overall response has been to judge us on artistic terms instead of centering on the labor material, so go figure.

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SPURGEON: The climactic final scene is messy and awful and really, really violent. How assiduously do you choreograph that scene, and how much of that is left to Dan?

VANCE: Knowing that I'd eventually have to write that scene haunted me from the moment I started writing the book. I'd go to sleep trying to work out all the pieces, and the next night I'd do it all over again. The original production of the play really nailed it -- the sheer brutality was just breathtaking -- but another production I saw a few years later completely ruined it, almost turned it into a shaggy dog moment. So I was hyper-aware of how easily you could screw it up.

Part of what made it gel in my mind was the realization that Fred would have to get actively involved in that action in a way that he hadn't in the play. That was when it started to make sense to me. I saw that we needed Fred to participate for logistical reasons, and that made the scripting come together. And now Fred would have to own some of this, and that was the final piece of his character arc that I'd been missing.

Dan and I corresponded about it for months. I had to plan it so it looked like spontaneous chaos, but all the pieces had to happen just right or it would fall apart. I think I was so obsessed with getting it right that I probably confused the hell out of Dan at one point with all my tinkering. For a while he was thinking about Krigstein-izing it into even smaller micro-moments, and we just worked ourselves into a lather over getting it right. In the end, of course, he did it simply and brilliantly. I think it's a model of collaboration. It's just what I wrote, but only Dan could have taken that script and made it so beautifully awkward and ugly and effective.

imageSPURGEON: I thought one of the more compelling through-lines in terms of theme was the power that memory has over us... is that something with which you personally struggle? I know that I think more in those terms the longer I live. Do you feel like you're haunted by specific memories, specific feelings of guilt?

VANCE: I don't know that I struggle with it more than anyone else... or maybe I'm so consumed with regrets that I can't tell the difference. Like anyone who's lost someone they loved, I can find myself wishing I'd done something better or differently for them while I could. I was expecting people to pick up on Gordon's pain and assume I was working out issues from Kate's death, but the truth is, that angle was in the original play that I wrote before I'd ever met her. Maybe I was able to bring more depth to it now, but if so it was subconsciously.

The book's told by Fred in the past tense, so of course, it's all a memory. And in this story, he's surrounded by people who have lost something so vital that they can't let go of the past. But I think the moments where they shine are the ones where they force themselves to move on -- not abandon their guilt and their memories because you can't do that, but to find a way to engage with life again in spite of it. That's why Gordon's a kind of hero at the end. He's manipulated everyone around him out of weakness and self-centeredness, but he finally changes his plans when he sees that the cost of wallowing in his own guilt is going to cost someone else too much. That guilt he refuses to accept.

SPURGEON: Are we going to get more comics from you? Where exactly does the Omaha work stand?

VANCE: Omaha's finished. Reed Waller turned in the final corrected pages a few weeks ago, and the book will be published around the end of summer. I can't tell you what a relief that is. Kate had asked me to finish it if she couldn't, and I hope I never put that much emotional pressure on myself with another project. I hope it would have been up to her standards, but I know it was the absolute best job I could do as her stand-in. Reed seems pleased with it, so now the question of how we did will be up to all those people who have been waiting for a conclusion all these years.

What I can tell you about doing more comics is this: At some point while I was writing On the Ropes, I rediscovered how much I like working in comics. There's really nothing like the sense of discovery I get from the pressures of working in this form. With the right collaborator, a sensitive artist who's in tune with you, you can be as subtle and as serious about the material as you like, because after all that hard work it's going to be an absolute joy when you see the final product.

So more comics are a definite possibility. I've already been asked if I might have more to say about Fred Bloch, and the answer is yes, I know what happens to him next. And Dan's told me that he's up for another one if it doesn't take another 25 years. Recently, I've had ideas for some other kinds of stories that could work as graphic novels, too. So it's possible that you haven't seen the end of me yet.

*****

* On The Ropes, James Vance And Dan Burr, WW Norton, hardcover, 9780393062205, 256 pages, March 2013, $24.95.

*****

* cover to the new work
* some of Vance's seminal comics-reading experiences
* a cover and a title page to Kings In Disguise
* work for Tekno Comix
* various images taken from On The Ropes, hopefully explained in context (include image below)

*****

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*****
*****
 
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FFF Results Post #339 -- Dads

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Of Your Favorite Dads In The Comics." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Daddy Warbucks
2. Walt Wallet
3. The Comedian
4. Jonathan Kent
5. Guy Delisle

*****

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Jamie Coville

1. Ogami Ittō (Lone Wolf and Cub)
2. Rick Grimes
3. Savage Dragon
4. Marko (Saga)
5. Mr. Plump (Little Lotta's Father)

*****

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Dave Knott

* Ogami Ittō
* Paw Perkins
* The Rabbi (from 'The Rabbi's Cat')
* Darkseid
* Bruce Bechdel

*****

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Matt Emery

1. Ted Knight
2. Usagi Yojimbo
3. Eddie Campbell
4. Abel Stack
5. Peter Parker

*****

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Oliver Ristau

1. Sugardaddy Bigbucks (Little Annie Fanny by Will Elder & Harvey Kurtzman)
2. Odin (Journey Into Mystery by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby)
3. Poopdeck Pappy (Thimble Theatre by E.C. Segar)
4. Vater (Vater und Sohn by Erich Ohser aka e.o. plauen)
5. David Tennant (Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier)

*****

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Jackie Estrada

1. Little Lulu's Pop
2. Poopdeck Pappy (Popeye)
3. Bug Daddy from Pogo ("Destroy a son's faith in his father, will you!")
4. Carol Tyler's dad
5. Clovis Watson--H. R. Watson's dad in THB

*****

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Don MacPherson

1. Jonathan Kent
2. Ben Parker (a father to Peter, no matter how you cut it)
3. Ted Knight
4. Odin
5. Vandal Savage

*****

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Mark Mayerson

1. Paw Perkins (Polly and Her Pals)
2. Henry Mitchell (Dennis the Menace)
3. Calvin's Dad (Calvin and Hobbes)
4. Gomez Addams (The Addams Family)
5. Poopdeck Pappy (Popeye)

*****

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Joe Gordon

1 Pa Kent
2 Guy Delisle
3 Ogami Ittō (Lone Wolf & Cub)
4 James Gordon (no relation!)
5 Professor Bruttenholm (Hellboy's adopted dad)

*****

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Matthew Craig

1. Ben Parker
2. Dennis's Dad (from Dennis The Menace and Gnasher)
3. Norman Osborn
4. Jim Gordon
5. Jonathan Kent

*****

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Jones

1. Mr Moppet (created by John Stanley or Marjorie Buell?)
2. Poopdeck Pappy (created by EC Segar)
3. Odin (created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee)
4. Pappy Yokum (created by Al Capp)
5. Raymond Briggs' dad ("created" by Raymond Briggs)

*****

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Mike Pfefferkorn

1. Jor-el
2. Travis Morgan
3. Bruce Wayne (of Earth-Two)
4. Zatara
5. George Moppet

*****

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John Platt

1. Trevor Bruttenholm
2. Joe Friday (Ms. Tree)
3. Henry Mitchell
4. "Dad" (Calvin and Hobbes)
5. Darryl MacPherson (Baby Blues)

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. Walt Wallet
2. Goom (Googam's father)
3. Capt. George Stacy
4. Tim Turner (Linda Turner, The Black Cat's father)
5. Mr. Koimai (Yotsuba's father)

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Mr. Koiwai (father of Yotsuba)
2. Heraclio
3. Silver Age Aquaman
4. Vladek Spiegelman
5. Hiram Lodge

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Jonathan Kent
2. Joe Martin's Bad Dad (Mr Boffo)
3. Jor-El
4. Frank DeGroot
5. Bizarro #1

*****

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Chris Mautner

* Jor-El
* Vladek Spiegelman
* Bruce Bechdel
* Magneto
* Darkseid

*****

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Marty Yohn

1. Darryl MacPherson (Baby Blues)
2. Arlo Day (Arlo and Janis)
3. Walt Duncan (Zits)
4. Jonathon Kent
5. Tom Strong

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Charlie Brown's dad--never seen or heard but his son described him as a sweet guy
2. Calvin's dad
3. Eddie Campbell
4. Ralph Azham's father
5. Commissioner Dolan

*****

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Nat Gertler

1. Mr. Reichardt (Peppermint Patty's dad)
2. Pa Kent
3. Odin
4. Calvin's Dad
5. Walt Duncan

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. Moominpapa
2. Daddy Warbucks
3. Charlie Brown's father, a barber
4. George Moppet
5. Bil Keane

*****

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Trevor Ashfield

1. Henry Mitchell
2. Hiram Lodge
3. Captain Stacy
4. Calvin's Dad
5. Hagar the Horrible

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Reed Richards
2. Ogami Ittō
3. Calvin's dad
4. Mike Doonesbury
5. Darkseid

*****

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Michael Buntag

1. Jimmy Corrigan Snr.
2. Bruce Bechdel
3. The Rabbi
4. Vladek Spiegelman
5. Calvin's Dad

*****
*****
 
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June 15, 2013


The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Blobby Boys Trailer


Wars In Toyland Trailer


Aesthetics: A Memoir Trailer


Zak Sally Profiled


Matt Diffee Speaks


Gene Luen Yang Profiled


 
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CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from June 8 to June 14, 2013:

1. Gary Friedrich's Ghost Rider case roars back and into new life as an appeals court vacates a 2011 decision that was strongly in Marvel's favor. At issue seems to be that era's contracts and whether or not a later agreement between Friedrich and Marvel explicitly represented Friedrich giving up the right to petition after return of copyright at a proper time.

2. Once back into battle for Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, whose appeal of thwarted legal action against his government for arresting him under Sedition Act charges related to a collection of his comics gets set for early next week.

3. HeroesCon in Charlotte comes and goes, with Shelton Drum, people that draw well and the servers at Mert's all clear winners. Heroes marks the beginning of the summer phase of the 2013 convention calendar, which basically goes from that show through Wizard's traditional Chicago event, with Comic-Con International square in the middle. That part of the season is extended this year with a late-summer arts-comics style festival in Minneapolis.

Winner Of The Week
Let's say Zunar, and hope he's the clear winner again next week. I do respect the drive he's had to keep his case alive despite some real fears he'll never see any satisfaction.

Loser Of The Week
Marvel -- I'm sure they're the winner in innumerable ways this week if only for Iron Man 3 revenues, but the Friedrich case being back alive is a definite negative, so they get it.

Quote Of The Week
"To top such apokoliptic sturm und drang, Superman had to fight God. This is the high point of the run. The issues after this are good and all, but the problem with constantly upping the stakes is that you eventually hit a point of no return. Superman does exactly that, in search of his lost cousin, he breaks the reality barrier and the unstoppable force meets the immovable object, DC Universe’s second banana, The Spectre. Warned to proceed no further, Superman surrenders to a higher power. He realizes the opponent he was fighting all along was the DC Universe’s God, incarnated as a ball of light with fancy writing in it." -- Tom Scioli

*****

today's cover is from the all-time series Classics Illustrated

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Sarah Morton Comics

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

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If I Were In Las Vegas, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near New Westminster, I'd Go To This

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posted 4:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 58th Birthday, Brent Anderson!

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Happy 46th Birthday, Brian Hibbs!

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posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 68th Birthday, Don McGregor!

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posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Thirty-Three Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 14, 2013


Five Superman Publications I Like Better Than The Movies 05: Tales Of The Bizarro World

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This is my favorite DC publication of the last 25 years, a Jaime Hernandez-covered collection of classic "Tales Of The Bizarro World" stories. I buy it every chance I get. I have given away around 30 copies. I like Tales Of The Bizarro World for every reason that I believe it's almost certainly different from the Superman movie opening today -- a film which I hope is good and entertains people. In stark contrast to Man Of Steel, Tales Of The Bizarro World is hopelessly, relentlessly goofy. Despite working within a form that explains everything, it makes little to no sense on a regular basis. One of the things that's great about the Bizarro concept is that there are no rules as to how they conceive of the world and operate within it, because the opposite of an opposite is a 360 degree revolution and therefore it's not too difficult to begin stacking the absurdities. It does not exist as a logic puzzle to satisfy nerds; it exists to be funny.

What I think I like best of all about Tales Of The Bizarro World is that it is magnificently accessible without giving a shit about all the tricks we use these days to make something accessible. Funny is its own on-ramp. It helps that it came out at a time when DC Comics' big gun was a cultural touchstone. The sole context here is other Superman comic books, for pity's sake. In the way that a pop culture phenomenon of today might know it has penetrated into the general consciousness when it is parodied or satirized on one of the topical comedy shows, Tales Of The Bizarro World proves how enduring Superman became: its most vital, necessary parody had to be built from the ground up from spare parts off of the original. The bottom line is that Tales is funny, deeply funny, and strikingly weird, and thus sort of beautiful and odd in all the ways that comics works best as a form of expression. I still laugh every time I see that stupid square earth hanging in space, and I likely always will.

*****

* Tales Of The Bizarro World, Jerry Siegel and John Forte and Curt Swan and Wayne Boring and others, DC Comics, softcover, 192 pages, 9781563896248, 2000, $11.99.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Alex Fukui

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So Basically I Know Nothing About Comics And Constantly Make Asinine Assumptions About Stuff

I'm going to try and get confirmation or a denial or a no-comment on this, but if true, yow: that was one of the truly civilized programs at one of these places, and I assumed it was not only still in place but that it was one reason that company still had people lined up to work for it despite stories of creators unhappy with editorial. If anyone can pipe up and add to my knowledge of this,
 
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Go, Look: Beautiful Jay Disbrow Images In TCJ Column

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Not Comics: Apparently, There's A New Superman Movie

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Mark Waid reviews it. He and Superman are tight.
 
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Go, Look: Eleanor Davis In Barista Magazine

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Collective Memory: HeroesCon 2013

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this article has been archived
 
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Go, Look: Another Dave Stevens Cover Gallery

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Assembled, Zipped, Transferred And Downloaded: News From Digital

By Tom Spurgeon

image* Oliver East will be serializing his new run of walking comics at Comics Workbook. Oliver East is a wonderful, vastly under-appreciated comics maker.

* in what is likely the biggest news of the week for any kind of comic, it looks like comiXology and Glenat have partnered up. I imagine it would be very difficult for anyone to enter into that market without Delcourt or Glenat, but I could be super-wrong and when it comes to Euro-comics, I usually am.

* the writer Tom DeHaven, well known for his work set in various comics industry worlds, has updated his web presence here.

* there's a new Roger Langridge mini available.

* Dark Horse will be doing a digital release exclusive to this year's San Diego Con. I'm not sure why that isn't done all the freaking time by now.

* there is a lot of Superman-related material available on the kindle.

* finally, there's a new Destructor serial starting up. I quite enjoy those.
 
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If I Were In Decatur, I'd Go To This

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If I Were In Bath, 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 Las Vegas, I'd Go To This

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If I Were Near New Westminster, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Feature Comics #38

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Todd Klein on Pogo Vol. 1. Doug Zawisza on Thor: God Of Thunder #9. Various critics on Superman: Unchained #1. Henry Barajas on Kinski #1-2.

* here are some nice installation photos from the Dan Clowes exhibit going up in Chicago.

* I read this comic. It was a weird comic.

* here are one site's picks for Superman comics done right. I'm always distrustful of that turn of phrase, because I don't know that there exists a right way to do a character that is divorced from its original creators like that. Assumed fan ownership of someone else's characters freaks me out a little bit.

* I am certain I would quite enjoy seeing a documentary about Herblock.

* Dick Locher isn't exactly taking it super-easy in retirement.

* Yohan Radomski profiles Feng Zikai.

* finally Mark Kardwell sings the praises of Ming Doyle.
 
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Happy 58th Birthday, Paul Kupperberg!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Jamie Cosley!

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Happy 31st Birthday, Ryan Sands!

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Happy 63rd Birthday, Cosey!

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Happy 69th Birthday, Jordi Bernet!

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Thirty-Five Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 13, 2013


Go, Read: Tom Scioli On The Best Superman Ever

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Five Superman Publications I Like Better Than The Movies 04: Superman Annual #11

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This selection is for the teenager in me, the guy that took superhero comic books very seriously in part as an aggressive defense of his enjoyment of them. There's a lot going on in Superman Annual #11 in terms of the development of the superhero model. We see flashes of the "moment-to-moment" aspects that came to define comic books ten years later, when Mark Waid made significant use of the technique in his Flash comics and later when Grant Morrison took his version of that storytelling strategy to JLA. The famous moment in Superman Annual #11 is Superman hissing "Burn" before ripping into villainous Mongul with his heat vision: it's a great little scene because it reminds you just how freaky that power is at the same time being a standard cool-guy phrase-making moment in a decade stuffed with them. There is nothing superhero fans love more than a new, exciting way of looking at old business. There are other stand-out panels and sequences, though, such as a Wonder Woman/Superman kiss, Batman cautioning the new Robin to keep his mind out of the gutter when meeting the Warrior Princess for the first time, Superman shouting "Mongul!" before heading off to kick his ass, Mongul's pathetic dreams of power...

The story itself is soaked with melancholy, a precursor to the also-really-good "Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?" Superman-sendoff by writer Moore in the way it recaptured the spirit of some of the better, science-fiction oriented stories of the 1950s and 1960s. Superman is shown here having come of age never having left the Silver Age conception of Krypton, a planet still hanging in the sky, where he is awash in the quotidian happiness of a life that doesn't depend on a Fortress of Solitude and super-strength but remains slightly unsettled because it just doesn't feel right. Like a lot of Moore's work this is commentary on the way we approach such stories in addition to being a method of getting at core themes, in this case the idea of doing good as a sacrifice, and whether that serves as a component of -- or in opposition to -- being happy. Mostly, though, "For The Man Who Has Everything..." is a fun little story, well-executed by Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, and deserves its reputation. I wish I could read a mainstream comic with its sturdiness and flair every time I stepped into a comics shop.

*****

* "For The Man Who Has Everything..." Superman Annual #11, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, DC Comics, comic book, 40 pages, 1985, $1.25.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Blane Throttle

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Go, Read: Two Articles About Superhero Profitability

There's a pair of articles up right now that speak to the issue of just how much money is generated by popular superhero properties. They go about it different ways, but I think both are enlightening and touch on wider points.

image* this Hollywood Reporter article breaks down Summer 2013 films according to their projected profitability after all expenses are accrued. They put Iron Man 3 at a whopping $400M returned to Marvel, even with the gigundus deal that Robert Downey Jr. apparently has.

* this infographic/article tracks the various monies made by permutations of the Superman property over the years. It was a little bit hard for me to read, but it looked wide-ranging.

I think it's fascinating to know about the kind of money in which these properties trade both for that information itself -- it certainly gives you a sense of some of the stakes involved -- and because I think the amount of money changes our conversation about whether or not more can be done for the original creators.
 
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Go, Look: Lauren Zukauskas

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Go, Look: Twisted Tales Cover Gallery

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* here's a report from a recent festival in Montargis.

image* okay, that's the first time that the Small Press Expo has added a sitting member of Congress as a special guest, the 1998 appearance of Senator Kochalka of Kochalka-ville notwithstanding. Also I'm pretty sure Frank Santoro may have been ambassador to Luxembourg once for about three weeks. The esteemed congressman will be there in support of March Book One from Top Shelf.

* missed this report over at The Beat on a comics-related event at the LA Zoo.

* the Lakes International Comic Art Festival continues to add events and details about those events, such as this latest posting on the family-oriented exhibitions during the festival. That's the one that's doing a continental spread-out style show in England.

* James Bacon went to the 2D festival and brought back a report and photos.

* the long-running magazine Juxtapoz will profile Comic-Con in its 150th issue. Update: I'm told it is already out, and also contains an interview with Jackie Estrada.

* the writer Alan David Doane asks after the Albany comics show.

* finally, it's all about CAKE this weekend. CAKE, CAKE, CAKE. That's going to be a good show if nobody shows up, and if they get the typical arts-festival second year crowd, it could be an amazing one. Plus it's summer and it's mostly young people. Remember to eat a fancy hot dog and to genuflect in the direction of the now-defunct Larry's on Devon. Travel safely, everyone.
 
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Go, Look: Mickey Starlight

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If I Were Near New Westminster, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Legend Of The Clock

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Michael Cavna talks to Geoff Johns. Jim Beard talks to Jimmy Palmiotti. Steve Morris talks to Will Morris. Josh Kopin talks to Stephan Franck. David Betancourt profiles Scott Snyder.

* not comics: this person thinks you're doing Twitter wrong.

* go, read: Ivan Brunetti's Aesthetics excerpted.

* this Oni Press giveaway sounds super-complicated, so of course I approve.

* Chris Thompson on The Mire. Andy Oliver on Naming Monsters. Jamb on 2000AD Prog 1836. El Santo on Trashed. Greg Burgas on The Property. Sean T. Collins on Danger Country.

* a recent court decision could have a significant impact on certain kinds of internships.

* I think I ran this when it originally appeared, but with a Superman-related movie out it's flashing back across the Internet.

* CCS alumni step in to tell CCS incoming freshman to never apologize for their work. Save those apologies for the reviewers, kids. Oh, I'm kidding.

* you can read Crumb's "Meatball" here.

* not comics: bowl with Jimmy and Amanda.

* there are some sweet-looking Milton Caniff rarities up over at the Library Of American Comics blog. As I understand it, one reason there's a bunch of Caniff material like this is that he had a secretary that kept everything. I'm really happy that person did that -- I should know her name, but I don't. Don't throw stuff away, comics pros. Update: Andrew Mansell wrote in to say I'm thinking of studio manager Willie Tuck.

* hey, here are some pages from Metallum Terra. And a Sam Henderson bookmark.

* finally, some Neal Adams Avengers thumbnails are for sale.
 
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Happy 57th Birthday, Frank Cirocco!

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Happy 44th Birthday, Damien Jay!

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Happy 46th Birthday, Kris Dresen!

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Reg Smythe, Gone 15 Years

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Thirty-Four Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 12, 2013


Five Superman Publications I Like Better Than The Movies 03: All Star Superman #10

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I have to admit I'm not the biggest fan of the All Star Superman series. I like it fine, but it ranks modestly in my overall superhero pantheon, such as it is. I thought All Star generally over-analytical and the drive through various major narrative themes a bit forced. Also, while Frank Quitely's flair for pneumatic figure drawing and ability to create weird landscapes is awesome to behold, I never got the sense that his Metropolis was much more than an empty backdrop against which these characters can pose. All Star strikes me as a series for fans of the Superman character as an idea more than it is for fans of the character as a narrative construct. In my reading it is more exercise than story. I'm not sure I can tell you how it ends without looking.

There are beautiful moments in All Star Superman, though. This issue, one of that series' three best, has a one-page scene in it where Superman engages with a depressed teenager and convinces her she's strong enough to deal with her problems. It's a lovely little scene, largely and widely praised, although I suppose it'd be easy to hate on it as a push-back against those plaudits. For me it's affecting, though, perhaps moreso in that when I step back and look at it, it's kind of a mess as component parts: the teenager looks like she's from some alternate universe where Tim Burton got to design bodies, and the backdrop doesn't look even half as real as that building from which Chris Ware's wonderful Superman bought the farm near the beginning of Jimmy Corrigan. And yet the moment remains. It's sort of like watching kids do Shakespeare: something about the truth of it always bleeds through, and ditto here the power of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's creation: the better part of us.

*****

* All Star Superman #10, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant, DC Comics, comic book, 36 pages, May 2008, $2.99

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Karl Stevens Draws Superheroes

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Go, Read: Potentially Old Article About Comics In Middle East

I honestly can't tell if this article isn't a year old and just recently updated, but I love hearing about different cities/regions vying to become the comics/cartooning capital of that part of the world. I'm also very fond of the idea of a comics festival that floats up and down the Nile. I would love to attend one of these shows someday.
 
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Go, Look: Chicken World

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Zunar's 2010 Sedition Act Appeal To Be Heard June 18

The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar sent out a press release earlier today about his appeal of a High Court decision regarding his detention in 2010 under that country's Sedition Act.
"Zunar vs the police and the Malaysian government (Unlawful Detention under The Sedition Act): An appeal at the Appellate Court on the 18th June 2013.

"The Appellate Court has set 18th of June to hear my appeal on the decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court's ruling regarding detention of me under the Sedition Act three years ago.

"In his ruling on July last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Justice Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera rules that the detention was lawful, even though in the other part of the judgment the court had instructed the police to return all my books and drawing and pay the damages.

"On the 24th September 2010, I was arrested and jailed for two days over the publishing of my then new comic book, Cartoon-O-Phobia. I was investigated under the Sedition Act, which carries the maximum of three-year jail if found guilty.

"The detention was made several hours prior to the launching of the comic book.

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

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

"I am represented by R Sivarasa, N Surendran, Latheefa Koya and Fadiah Nadwa Fikri."
Government officials arresting the cartoonist on the eve of his book release is one of the all-time dick moves by a government concerning one of its cartoonists. I remain impressed that Zunar has been so determined to exhaust every legal avenue in terms of getting something back on this one, and hope that the June 18 hearing goes his way.
 
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Go, Look: Zach Fischer

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

*****

JAN131166 WAKE UP PERCY GLOOM HC $28.99
Cathy Malkasian's third stand-alone book with Fantagraphics and a return to her Percy Gloom character and milieu from the first book. I hope people pay attention to this book because if you want accomplished stand-alone comics, talent coming in from other fields, super-talented female creators and new, not-franchised work -- it's all here.

imageDEC120502 COMPLETE LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE HC VOL 09 $49.99
I love Little Orphan Annie to an almost unreasonable degree, and these books are hitting the prime material right now -- granted, LOA had a huge run of prime material. Introduction by Jeet Heer, which I will skip because it's likely so good I will feel super-jealous. But seriously, like the Fantagraphics Popeye books, this is something of which I want every last volume.

FEB130031 BLACK BEETLE #4 NO WAY OUT $3.99
APR130012 TRUE LIVES O/T FABULOUS KILLJOYS #1 $3.99
APR130184 GREEN LANTERN CORPS #21 $2.99
APR130107 SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1 $4.99
APR130109 SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1 COMBO PACK $5.99
MAR130565 A DISTANT SOIL #40 [DIG] $3.50
APR138110 INVINCIBLE #101 2ND PTG $2.99
APR130577 WALKING DEAD #111 (MR) [DIG] $2.99
APR130933 SIX GUN GORILLA #1 [DIG] $3.99
A strange week for serial comic-book format of the adventure and superhero variety. No Mignola-verse I could see (I probably missed something) but that Black Beetle material is very handsome and the Killjoys material pairs Gerard Way with Becky Cloonan. The post-Johns era Green Lantern comics roll-out continues. The Superman Unchained book is the Scott Snyder/Jim Lee comic that's out in time to give comic shop owners something to which they might direct anyone that comes in off of the street. A Distant Soil is Colleen Doran's long-running independent comic book and getting to 40 issues in this run is quite the achievement. Finally, two Kirkmans and a gorilla.

APR130748 CAPTAIN MARVEL BY MANARA POSTER $8.99
APR130749 WASP BY MANARA POSTER $8.99
Milo Manara is a strange maker of images, which is something you very much see when he's doing work for Marvel. I wouldn't want to own either of these, but I sure want to see them.

JAN131240 ASTERIX OMNIBUS SC VOL 05 $19.95
I don't know anything about this particular collection of that material. I also have no idea where a volume five might stand in that context. I only know that every library should have at least a little bit of it.

MAR130780 GET FUZZY TP BIRTH OF CANIS $12.99
Darby Conley's strip strikes me as one of the few that could have some traction in comics shops. I read it chunks occasionally, and would run it in my newspaper if I had one.

DEC121235 SIMON & KIRBY HC LIBRARY SCIENCE FICTION (RES) $49.95
This is another hardcover collection of classic Jack Kirby/Joe Simon material by genre. Tons of interesting graphic flourishes in there, whether or not it's a necessary or vital book is likely up to you and your orientation towards comics.

FEB131028 THE END HC $19.99
What is perhaps Anders Nilsen's most affecting work -- and one that's completely impossible to find -- gets a gathering-up, slight-fleshing out and bookstore ready hardcover trade dress.

FEB130980 ATOMCAT GN $12.95
I want to own as much Osamu Tezuka as I can, and this work from the 1980s qualifies but probably at the "pick it up at some future date" level. It's a fun work at times, though, I'm told. It's great to have enough Tezuka out there to have a stratified buying strategy, that's for sure.

*****

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 because I hate you.

*****

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*****
 
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Go, Look: Alien Worlds Cover Gallery

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Not Comics: Margaret Brundage Covering Weird Tales

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Go, Bookmark: Bear Attack Month

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Ken Eppstein surveys up-and-coming talent in Columbus.

image* Steve Ringgenberg remembers Dan Adkins.

* Jeffrey Renaud talks to Matt Kindt.

* Michael Cavna surveys comics professionals about the enduring appeal of Superman. I just think that's a good character, and that 99.5 percent him was there pretty quickly.

* Justin Giampaoli on Blammo #8. Cory Doctorow on The Walking Dead Vol. 18.

* I don't really do sales stuff on here regularly -- it's more that I don't know where to put it than I have any moral objection to helping people consume, but I guess TOON Books offers summer reading packs...? That makes sense given their academic mission.

* this video of Lee Bermejo at the Munich Comics Festival apparently includes a discussion of working on the Before Watchmen project.

* Mark Mayerson sent in links to three articles about artists of Canadian Whites: 1, 2, 3.

* finally, Jan Eliot is back from South Africa.
 
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Happy 43rd Birthday, Chris Brayshaw!

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Happy 34th Birthday, Ian Harker!

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Happy 72nd Birthday, Neal Adams!

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Happy 57th Birthday, Scott Roberts!

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Happy 65th Birthday, Len Wein!

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Please Remember To Vote In The Eisner Awards

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If you're a qualifying professional, please consider voting in The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. The voting ends at 12 Midnight PT June 12. It is all on-line this year. Voting in industry awards when you qualify is a good thing to do: you can definitely influence the outcome, and taking part when and where you can makes you a better citizen of that sub-culture.
 
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Thirty-Six Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 11, 2013


Five Superman Publications I Like Better Than The Movies 02: Superman #162

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When I was a kid reading older, reprinted Superman stories and the occasional beat-up old issue, it seemed to me that the character in those comics existed more as a storytelling abstraction than as a character around whom dramatic situations developed. I might not have put it like that, but the comics I was reading were definitely more concerned with an idea given form than they were about a guy named Kal. Many of the stories from the 1950s and 1960s I was encountering hinged on some display of Superman being the best at everything, or at least very Superman about these things, while others used the character's standard plot set-up as a basis on which to riff: characters digging into his secret origin, for example, or some plot that revolved around the extent and scope of his powers. Superman #162 had a little bit of both: character-based drama and sci-fi abstraction. I discovered it in a wicker basket at my second cousin's house in 1973. I eventually picked it up as a reprint in an over-sized Superman publication and started reading and re-reading it all over again.

I love the stately pace with which the Superman Red/Superman Blue story unfolds, this measured walk through the implications of the initial, establishing incident. It's like the appendices that come after the climax of a movie, except here they constitute nearly the entire story. Superman #162 is pretty much all Happily Ever After. I also like that the Leo Dorfman-written story gives Superman this gigantic tip of the hat in terms of how awesome he is while at the exact same time underlining how he's limited, explained in a way that my eight-year-old brain got the character as it never had before. Two of Superman (and a pair of brain upgrades) overwhelms every problem known to man including his own; one Superman falls just short on making progress of any kind. That's a very powerful, specific fantasy, and too few of the Superman comics explore the notion of exactly how that fantasy might work. No one other than Curt Swan could have drawn it, and the story is festooned with moments of visual flair, my favorite being the halo of intellectual power that spin around the twin Superman heads at one point early on. Superman #162 was more imaginative than imaginary, and I still enjoy reading it.

*****

* "The Titanic Twins! [The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!]", Leo Dorfman and Curt Swan and George Klein, Superman #162, DC Comics, comic book, May 1963, $.12.

*****

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Go, Look: Patron Saint

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Ghost Rider Copyright Trial Roars Back To Life

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The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has apparently vacated a 2011 summary judgment ruling over the ownership of the Ghost Rider character and has breathed sudden and surprising new life into Gary Friedrich's case regarding the character. The initial wire stories cite the ambiguities of the 1978 contract signed by Friedrich and have targeted that contract for investigation at trial. That contract contained such phrasing as giving Marvel "forever all rights of any kind and nature in and to the Work." It looks like the judge Denny Chin is questioning whether to contract's non-explicit language speaks directly to renewal rights, and that this further buttressed by the displayed profitability of the characters and concepts in question by the time that contract was signed.

I think on first glance what surprises me is that you usually don't see summary judgments vacated because I've been told those are usually made from a position of extreme strength and confidence by the presiding judge. It always seems to me those are considered a bad loss when that's how a case is decided. A couple of other things pop into my head: 1) this could be an expression of why lawyers for creators want these things tried in California rather than in New York; 2) I've always felt this off-the-record resentment from some pros that while the language of the contracts wasn't clear people pretty much knew what they were getting into despite any protests to the contrary. Whether that is true or not, I couldn't tell you.
 
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Go, Look: Ryan Andrews

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OTBP: Look Straight Ahead

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Go, Look: Black Kiss Gallery

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* this kind of pushes the boundaries of comics publishing news, since the book is out in Chicago in like four days, but I was surprised to see Sky In Stereo #2 in my mailbox a mere three days after I wondered out loud, "What happened to Sky In Stereo #2. I liked the comic a lot; I hope people give it a chance.

image* so I guess if we ran one "this book is coming out this weekend" we can run two: Secret Acres is going to release Sar Shahar's Sequential Vacation #2 at the CAKE show aka "Summer Young Cartoonist Hot Weather Good Times Makeout-a-thon." That'll be 32 pages, $6 and you can track it down other places using the ISBN number of 9780988814905.

* it looks like Connie Sun's comics will apparently be carried in issues of Brooklyn Rail, or at least have a chance of appearing there after this initial publication.

* there will be another Avengers title called Mighty Avengers. This article suggests that makes six. I figure that fanbase probably knows the differences intimately. I know I sure don't. In fact, with a lot of these Marvel titles, that they all have similar names and can't keep the same creative teams makes me buy other stuff.

* speaking of Marvel, Graeme McMillan notes there was no bump in Iron Man book sales despite the billion-dollar-plus movie. I know that it's difficult for comics companies to line up a book with a movie like that, but it seems like Marvel could have pushed the five Matt Fraction-written Iron Man books with all of the movies together at once. I think there were five. But whatever that series of books was.

* here's a preview of the forthcoming Sean Phillips art book.

* here's a piece at Robot 6 on the positive case for Vertigo; I didn't exactly take the Karen Berger profile as a negative case for Vertigo moving forward, but I get the thesis. I guess the interesting thing to me isn't so much genre but if they see the line's historically dominant format as remaining viable: the lengthy but limited, ambitious creator-driven series.

* Michael Cavna reports that Fort Knox will run in the Washington Post in the slot Doonesbury will temporarily vacate so that Garry Trudeau can work on his television show. As olds may recall, the initial Doonesbury hiatus several decades back is what helped launch Bloom County -- unless I'm severely mistaken about that.

* finally, a traditional publishing news story (thank God): Conundrum has signed the intriguing-looking Photobooth: A Biography from Meags Fitzgerald, to be published in Spring 2014. Please click through on that link a) for more information b) for this being a straight-up publishing news story.

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Not Comics: Terror Tales Cover Art

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Not Comics: Ray Harryhausen Art

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Jessica Abel writes about her family's one-year stay in France.

image* Sean T. Collins talks to Simon Hanselmann. Noel Murray profiles Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon. Zak Sally begins an epic interview with Peter Bagge. Some nice person interviews Vanessa Davis.

* Bob Temuka discusses hating.

* the writer JM DeMatteis has a lengthy post up about the fluid boundaries between art and hackwork. I like DeMatteis, but this strikes me as arguing a bunch of points that no one other than some sort of made-up elitist bogeyman would hold.

* Roderick Ruth on Astro City #1. Bob Temuka on Watchmen read in the context of its own hype. Matt Derman on a bunch of 1987 comics. Sean Gaffney on Umineko: When They Cry Vol. 3. Jeffrey O. Gustafson on Trinity.

* I would suppose that this is the iconic portrait for the comics series Nexus. I'm a middle-aged guy now, and when you're middle-aged the world hilariously conspires to remind you of this fact. I don't think I've ever felt as old as I did a few years back when I realized that I'd pretty much seen the entire lifecycle of that particular series. I'm not sure I can articulate why that on struck me, but it did.

* Brian Hibbs notes that no crowd-funded comics has gained retail traction in his store.

* this looks awfully cool.

* finally, if you're in Chicago this month, you should make the special effort to meet John Porcellino.
 
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Happy 46th Birthday, Andrei Molotiu!

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Happy 33rd Birthday, Paul Cauuet!

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Happy 48th Birthday, Laurent Lolmède!

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Happy 31st Birthday, Joe Keatinge!

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Happy 51st Birthday, Jayr Pulga!

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posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Please Remember To Vote In The Eisner Awards

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If you're a qualifying professional, please consider voting in The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. The voting ends at 12 Midnight PT June 12. It is all on-line this year. Voting in industry awards when you qualify is a good thing to do: you can definitely influence the outcome, and taking part when and where you can makes you a better citizen of that sub-culture.
 
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Thirty-Seven Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 10, 2013


Five Superman Publications I Like Better Than The Movies 01: Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali

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Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali is on many levels exactly the ridiculous novelty comic it appears to be. It is contrived, it is shamefully crowd-pleasing, it works so hard to make sure its two characters flatter one another you can see the flop sweat involved. I like it anyway, and not just for nostalgic reasons. In fact, I like Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali more now than I did when it came out. It's a handsome comic: Neal Adams was at the tail end of his glorious initial run of applying those advertising-ready images to florid mini-ballets of abstracted action, or however the prose of the time might describe it. Dick Giordano was a good inker for Adams; he was a good inker for just about everybody (Terry Austin, equally solid, did the backgrounds). It's a satisfying story for a kid, too, with a not-too-difficult plot twist, plenty of good-guy moments, set pieces with clear stakes, a lot of chicken fat (that cover!), and some well-designed, jerky aliens. Everyone does something you want them to do, even Ali's final opponent.

As a Superman comic book, Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali may work best as a list of detailed instructions on how to ratchet up the dramatic stakes of a story starring Big Blue by cutting into his still-impressive aura of invincibility. I prefer this way of constructing stories around Superman. It seems to me infinitely better to have to find ways to make the stories work around an iconic character than it is to constantly assert that Superman is the greatest superhero going. The latter always feels to me like I'm being sold Superman. Some techniques employed in this late Silver Age comic to bring Superman into line with the childhood logic that he should be able to beat everything immediately are tried and true. For instance, we get a standard planet-held-hostage mechanism, with an alien army being just powerful enough to cause Superman to worry about their potential devastating impact on various cities and population centers, real or made-up. As the aliens are thus well-established by the time Superman has to face off against their armada more directly, it's believable he'd fall a bit short in slugging it out with them. Other tricks used are less out in the open. When the aliens initially propose a fight between their champion and earth's champion, Muhammad Ali dogs Superman out for not even being human. Not only is this is a solid, clever plot point perfect for a kid to ponder, jumping right on a potential opponent's weakest psychological hitch is exactly what Ali would have done. The whole thing moves along at enough of a clip that you don't question any of the umpteen obstacles thrown in Superman's way, either individually or all together: the sign of skillful craftsmen working in a much different era when it came to storytelling density. Also, Superman totally does the job to Ali, which he should have, yet despite losing still manages to maintain his top-dog status. If only Joe Frazier could have managed the same trick. And Joe won the first fight.

*****

* Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali, DC Comics, originally published in a treasury edition in 1978, now available in a hardcover edition released in 2010 (9781401228415).

*****

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Go, Look: Oslo

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So I Guess Comic-Con Is Having Some Kind Of Re-Sale Contest

Here is the text of the e-mail sent out by Comic-Con, informing folks who have not been able to secure badges that there will be a drawing for some returned paid entry passes to the show:
Comic-Con International is pleased to announce that because of returned/cancelled badges we will once again be able to offer those badges for resale. This year we have also reduced the allotment of reserved badges for certain departments. Comic-Con has decided to add these badges to the resale for our attendees. We currently have several thousand single day badges available for resale, only 3,100 of which are Saturday badges. 4-Day badges are sold out.

imageDue to the very limited number of badges available and our vendor EPIC Registration being focused on coordinating onsite registration, the Comic-Con 2013 badge resale will be conducted utilizing a random drawing.

To enter the Comic-Con 2013 Resale Drawing, login to your Member ID account now and click the blue notice that says "Click Here to Enter a Drawing to be Eligible for the Comic-Con 2013 Badge Resale!"

The drawing entry period will remain open for 48 hours only, and will close June 12, 2013 at 10:59:59 AM Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). Late entries will not be accepted.

You must have a valid and confirmed Comic-Con Member ID to enter the drawing.

Anyone who has already registered for or purchased a 4-Day badge (with or without Preview Night) or a single day Saturday badge will not be eligible to enter the drawing.

Those selected to participate in the Comic-Con 2013 badge resale may purchase their own badges, as well as badges for one additional guest. You may purchase for any guest who has a confirmed Member ID (as of June 7, 2013) and does not have a 4-Day badge (with or without Preview Night) or a single day Saturday badge. Your guest does not need to be selected from the drawing pool to be eligible to purchase.

Comic-Con will notify everyone who is selected to participate by email on or before June 17, 2013.
This makes a certain amount of sense to me... people are buying these things so freaking far ahead of time, and just with blind faith that they'll be interested in the show as it fills out, so there are bound to be returns.
 
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Go, Look: Art Spiegelman CO-MIX Mini-Gallery

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Go, Read: NYT Profile Of Cartoonist Khalid Albaih

There's a profile of the Qatar-based cartoonist Khalid Albaih here; the writer makes the claim for Albaih as the cartoonist of the recent political uprisings in that part of the world. It's hard to really nail down claims like that, and I'm not sure this article fully does so in a compelling, specific-fact oriented way. Still, that the cartoonist has made cartoons important to people in the throes of political upheaval seems hard to deny and it's a great story. You can follow that cartoonist on twitter here and see a kind of cv-oriented web site here.
 
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Go, Bookmark: It Will All Hurt Part Four

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Go, Look: Mark Schultz Cover Gallery

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Collective Memory: Grand Comics Festival 2013

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Links to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning the 2013 edition of the Grand Comics Festival, held June 8-9 in Brooklyn at the Bird River Studios.

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

*****

Institutional
* Convention Site
* Facility
* Host City

Audio

Blog Entries And Tumblr
* Grand Comics Festival Tumblr

Facebook
* GCF Community Page

Miscellaneous

News Stories and Columns
* New York Post

Photos And Stand-Alone Imagery
* The Beat

Twitter
* @grandcomicsfest

Video

*****



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Go, Look: My Lamb Sells Condos

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

By Tom Spurgeon

* here's a comics-related documentary project a few of you were nice to forward me.

* Clifford Meth has twenty-some days to go on this already-successful fundraiser for a comics-related work.

* this ambitiously priced comics-related campaign will likely make its goal over the next few days.

* finally, Steven Thompson is selling stuff. Steven Thompson has some of the best stuff.
 
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Go, Look: All True Romance #2

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Go, Look: Copenhagen Comics Festival Comics

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this has to be both a thrill and super-weird for Dan Clowes.

image* Marc Sobel talks to Rutu Modan. Hulk profiles Lisa Hanawalt. Sasa Rakezic talks to David Lasky.

* Heidi MacDonald does a big post of various gender-related stories in comics. That's always a tough area, and there's always work to be done, but it is noticeable to me just how noxiously these issues come up in certain realms of comics over others. That could be because certain arenas of comics-making are more sensitive than others, but I'm not convinced of that.

* Melissa Harrison on Deer Island. Lauren Davis on TRI/P

* who is this mystery cartoonist? I'm guessing Neal Adams or maybe Molly Kiely, but I'm not confident about either one.

* not comics: there are Tin Can Forest t-shirts.

* James Vance always writes such lovely posts about the late Kate Worley.

* this Tagame t-shirt would be an awesome Father's Day gift for somebody's dad, I'm sure.

* I don't think I'm going to just post links to every mainstream comics character Farel Dalrymple draws, but I did like this Comedian sketch.

* finally, Mike Lynch shares with us what he learned at this year's Reubens.
 
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Happy 62nd Birthday, Charles Vess!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Thomas Ott!

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Happy 53rd Birthday, Scott McCloud!

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Happy 44th Birthday, Alberto Ponticelli!

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posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Please Remember To Vote In The Eisner Awards

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If you're a qualifying professional, please consider voting in The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. The voting ends at 12 Midnight PT June 12. It is all on-line this year. Voting in industry awards when you qualify is a good thing to do: you can definitely influence the outcome, and taking part when and where you can makes you a better citizen of that sub-culture.
 
posted 12:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Thirty-Eight Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 9, 2013


CR Sunday Interview: Christopher Forgues (C.F.)

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*****

Christopher Forgues, better known to comics fans as CF, is one of the more intriguing talents working in comics. A musician and a widely-exhibited visual artist in addition to a comics-maker, CF's latest on the funnybook front is Mere, a sideways trip away from the popular Powr Mastrs books into a series of comics experiments that fold in elements of performance in addition to the cartoonist's usual wide-range of influences. Reading Mere is like watching a formidable cartoonist reboot himself. Forgues has a devoted fanbase, several of whom came out to see him during the recent Toronto Comic Arts Festival. This interview took place early Saturday evening at that show, in the hotel room he shared with PictureBox publisher Dan Nadel. CF is incredibly soft-spoken, and I liked very much talking to him. He is not a cartoonist whose work comes easily to me, and I think I like that best of all. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

imageTOM SPURGEON: I don't have a natural "in" to your work. Sometimes when I read something you've done, a way to analyze what I've just read fails me. I tend to like what you've done, but it may be that I don't always understand everything you bring to your work. So I hope you'll accept some really basic questions from me about Mere.

CHRISTOPHER FORGUES (CF): Sure.

SPURGEON: I know that this book collects a series of different projects; I believe they were either mostly or entirely mini-comics that you put out there via Twitter, and that these mini-comics were snapped up immediately. Now in doing this range of work, was there an end result in mind? Was there an overall conception of what you wanted to do with the series of works?

CF: I wanted to make a series of very short, kind of vaguely genre-defined series that were crippled or destabilized.

SPURGEON: So you conceived of this as a suite of different things. You broke it down.

CF: Yeah.

SPURGEON: You were analytical about how you wanted this project to present itself, how you wanted to craft the overall statement.

CF: Definitely. Yeah, that was the plan. Each 'zine was only twelve pages. There's a core that's all of that work, and there is extra work.

SPURGEON: Which would be example of an extra one?

CF: "Twitter Comics" and the New York Times thing. Some of the weird color photos.

SPURGEON: What was it about genre comics that made you want to use that as part of your starting point? Do you have a long relationship to genre comics, or did that merely facilitate the larger point?

CF: I think I was just trying to think of comics... [laughs] and my memory of them, my relationship to them. What the touchstones were for me when I was a kid. The really basic ideas... just trying to find what I could boil down the aspects to where you don't necessarily know [laughs] what's going on. Even with the design and things, I wanted to get the same feeling from a hologram cover or commercial comic, that feeling you would get. The way when you're a kid when you're looking at a comic or a movie and you get these impressions... that can be very rich. Almost better than the plot. It was something I really wanted to try.

SPURGEON: How old a man are you?

CF: I'm 33.

SPURGEON: The comics you encountered... were you just randomly encountering comics when you were a kid, or were you one of those consumers with a plan, that comics was these things you did on this day and to this extent.

CF: It's hard to explain. I liked the idea of having a subscription, the idea of it, you know? So I would get... I had a subscription to X-Men, because I thought, "That has the most characters." I would just get them... sometimes I didn't even read them, I just liked getting them. [Spurgeon laughs] That was some of the first comics experiences I had. After that, it was just searching for things that I thought were... I don't know. Different. [laughs]

imageSPURGEON: Where were you?

CF: I was in Massachusetts, rural Massachusetts.

SPURGEON: So when you wanted to reach out, were you able to find these comics?

CF: I was looking at the boxes under the bins, trying to find... I found Chester Brown, things like that.

SPURGEON: Chester was a big cartoonist for a lot of people, in part because his work was very direct.

CF: It's almost austere. The clarity... the kind of absolute... talking about what he was talking about but still having the cartoony elements. Everything about it felt so complete. It felt more to me like, "This is art," really. I don't even mean fine art necessarily but the art of comics, really. This guy is an unbelievable cartoonist, and these are like new cartoons. This is a person that understand comics and how to use them. I was like, "Oh. I can use comics to do anything."

SPURGEON: When I asked a few other people about your work, about your process, one of the things they all came back to was how you are still largely processing these primary influences: Gary Panter, Fort Thunder, maybe Chester would be included there. Are these artists that work in ways that give you permission to make the kind of work you want to make for yourself?

CF: Yeah, but also the other wing on the plane is Roy Crane, and Nancy; hardcore professional comics... all that kind of stuff.

SPURGEON: It seems like your interest in Roy Crane may come out in how you seem interested in movement. Although I also detect some similarities in how you occasionally round your figures and how you carve space within panels. How did you find Crane?

CF: That was from working in a comic shop.

SPURGEON: What is it about Crane that you're still interested in him, then? A lot of people dismiss Crane as simplistic, both in terms of the refinement of the drawings and the themes engaged in his narratives.

CF: Yeah, his forms, his proportions, and the way he uses blacks and black and white as color, it's very dynamic and simple. It's so many things that comics does well. Like [Yoshihiro] Tatsumi... there's an inter-dimensional queerness where there's a photorealistic plane where the proportions are very realistic and then you have these characters that are not. That weird in-between state, I'm really interested in that.

imageSPURGEON: What is the nature of your reaction to that? That's not an uncommon thing in comics... do you know the effect that specific element within certain comics has on you?

CF: It's a problem in comics that you always know that you're looking at a drawing. There's a struggle in how you represent the real in comics.

SPURGEON: There's something fundamental to the best comics of the 1930s and 1940s, with cartoonists like Crane and Harold Gray, where it's not just the intellectual idea of these shapes on the page and how you look at them, but that they're actually emotionally affecting in some way. That doesn't seem far off from what you're doing in Mere. Is that important to you at all, that you get to these base, cathartic reactions to comics art?

CF: Yeah... it's a language that's hard to define, but it's very real. All of the different languages sort of defy description, but they communicate in a way that may be partly subliminal.

SPURGEON: So would one way of looking at Mere be that you're limiting yourself, even tricking yourself, in a way that helps you get to those core elements of comics language?

CF: I feel like it was just really something I had to get off of my chest. I didn't quite understand what... I don't know... anger or something? [laughs] I don't know what it is. I felt it was something necessary for me to do. Something to do with facing comics, coming to term with comics, in the larger history of that. Everything that that means. Not just, 'Oh, you make these weird comics" and they place you in a certain cultural milieu. I think if you're an artist or a writer or whatever, you can look back on this entire history of criticism and work... cartoonists don't necessarily do this.

SPURGEON: What is the essence of their not trying to do this? What is the essence of the self-hatred there?

CF: It's pretty rough... just the whole... I don't know, man. It's very strange. These simple drawings... cartooning is very abstract. You're abstracting a person... I don't know, it's like a calling or something. This project was very selfish.

imageSPURGEON: So where did you end up on the other side?

CF: I think... you have to have so much commitment to make comics, you know? And sometimes I don't know why.

SPURGEON: Now, there's a performance aspect to Mere as well. There's a watching of you make the work.

CF: Yeah.

SPURGEON: That's interesting to me given that you're also a musician and perform that way. Is making a performance of something just the way it's easiest for you to make a work like this? Or was there an overt point being made here about performance? One thing that always intrigues me about people that value the process and love the doing of something is the fact that this work exists as an outcome rather than a process. Why even publish?

CF: Well, it holds you responsible, first of all. It's quite easy to draw ridiculous things all day and put them in a drawer. [laughs] It's easy to do a shameful thing all day. It's much harder to do a thing that' a big risk, even privately, and take it public. People weren't psyched about these 'zines. [laughter]

SPURGEON: What were you hearing back?

CF: A lot of people were like, "These are not good." Some said it doesn't make any sense.

SPURGEON: Do you think people have an expectation in terms of what kind of work they expect from you?

CF: I think that was part of it, too. "Powr Mastrs, Powr Mastrs, Powr Mastrs..." I have to become a better artist. This is hard to talk about. I don't know. I wanted to expand my knowledge of comics by going to the comics that were the hardest to draw.


imageSPURGEON: Why "shameful"? You used that word a few minutes ago. That's an interesting word.

CF: Not the comics themselves, but their tradition. I don't like a lot of comics, but I don't want to say that. That's how I feel.

SPURGEON: So is the project in part a reaction to Powr Mastrs...? Is part of your process about any given work figuring out how you feel about that work?

CF: Yeah, but it's also about making an object.

SPURGEON: There is something interesting about the way we process comics when we see them without context... do you think you got to the point where you made comics that maybe can't be immediately contextualized the way everything is right now? I mean, it seems to have that kind of mystery to it where you can't place the work immediately into a broader set of ideas.

CF: I was trying to escape everything. The idea of what my comics are, the idea of what comics are. I wanted an object that whether or not the people reading it know who I am or not, it's rife with questions. I have my own ideas of what I'm drawing, but I wanted to move things around for people.

SPURGEON: You heard back from people about this work, you said. Is this... readers?

CF: Friends and people in my peer group.

SPURGEON: Do any of your friends take a more significant role as a sounding board? Does Dan Nadel provide any feedback in helping you put together a book like this... do you count on an outside opinion like that, with your publisher? You've worked with him for a while now.

CF: It's very helpful when I'm doing things I'm not sure of, to see his response. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know who I answer to. I answer to myself. [laughs] The simplest-looking things are sometimes the hardest to do.

*****

* Mere, CF, PictureBox Inc., softcover, 180 pages, 978-0982632741, May 2013, $19.95.

*****

* every image from the book except the top photo, from TCAF 2013.

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Go, Look: A Place To Call Home

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Go, Look: Sullivant Hall Construction Photos, Report

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Go, Look: Fantagraphics In The 1990s

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

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

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

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Happy 65th Birthday, André Juillard!

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Happy 85th Birthday, Bob Bolling!

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Happy 59th Birthday, George Pérez!

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Please Remember To Vote In The Eisner Awards

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If you're a qualifying professional, please consider voting in The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. The voting ends at 12 Midnight PT June 12. It is all on-line this year. Voting in industry awards when you qualify is a good thing to do: you can definitely influence the outcome, and taking part when and where you can makes you a better citizen of that sub-culture.
 
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Thirty-Nine Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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FFF Results Post #338 -- Eric Holder's Request

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Your Five Favorite Comics-Related Terrorists Or Terrorist Organizations." This is how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. The Brotherhood Of Mutants
2. Alan Cavenaugh
3. Nasir Abas
4. Ahmed
5. Hydra

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. The Marinus Van Der Lubbe International Firebombing Society
2. The Monkey Wrench Gang (R. Crumb illustrated edition)
3. Advanced Idea Mechanics
4. S.W.I.N.E. (Students Wildly Indignant About Nearly Everything)
5. Cobra

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. Ra's al-Ghul
2. Kobra
3. AIM
4. Sons of the Serpent
5. The HIVE

*****

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Don MacPherson

1. Flag-Smasher and ULTIMATUM
2. Advanced Idea Mechanics
3. The Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination
4. Kobra
5. Homer Spalding (anti-Democrat terrorist from Ambush Bug #1 -- "I always wanted to hit a homer." "I usually get more life out of a Spalding.")

*****

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Dave Knott

* Advanced Idea Mechanics
* Ra's Al Ghul
* The Friend
* Madame Hydra
* V

*****

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Cole Moore Odell

1. Ra's al Ghul and the League of Assassins
2. Black Zero
3. A.I.M.
4. The Jihad (Suicide Squad)
5. The Serpent Society

*****

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Kenneth Graves

1) A.I.M.
2) The Brotherhood of Dada
3) H.A.T.E/Beyond Corporation
4) The Devoes (from Zot!)
5) Pluto

*****

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Douglas Wolk

1. Plastique
2. Total War
3. Bill Savage
4. Ra's Al Ghul
5. V

*****

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David Brothers

1. Moses Magnum
2. Magneto
3. Batman
4. Mutant Liberation Front
5. Newman Xeno

*****

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Des Devlin

1. The Joker (dumping chemicals into the water, in Detective #475)
2. The Red Basher (destroying, in Destroy! #1)
3. Ozymandius (catastrophic squid bombs, Watchmen #12)
4. Meatball (random attacks on citizens, Zap #0)
5. Alfred E. Neuman (suicide bombing, MAD #80)

*****

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Oliver Ristau

1. Baroness (Cobra)
2. Black Spectre
3. Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker (A.I.M., Hydra)
4. (Cult Of) Kobra
5. H.I.V.E.

*****

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Steve Murphy

1. The Serpent Society
2. Zodiac
3. Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime
4. A.I.M.
5. Hydra

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. The Commission for Superhuman Activities from Captain America
2. Control from Conspiracy
3. The U.S Government from The One
4. MI-5 from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
5. HATE from Nextwave

(I trust I don't need to spell out the social commentary in these choices, right?)

*****

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Jeffrey O. Gustafson

1. The Punisher
2. The Guild of Calamitous Intent
3. A.I.M.
4. God (from any number of comics)
5. Nexus

*****

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Chris Keels

* Junior Musto (Denny O'Neil's Question)
* War Head ("Make War Some More" guy from Mark Gruenwald's Captain America)
* Living Bombs (Steve Englehart's Avengers)
* Flag-Smasher & ULTIMATUM (also Mark Gruenwald's Cap)
* The ASLC (American Survivalist Labor Committee; American Flagg!)

*****

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Mark Waid

1. Hydra
2. The Serpent Society
3. A.I.M.
4. Kobra
5. DC Editorial

*****

topic suggested by Douglas Wolk, whose address I have on file if anyone out there is interested

*****
*****
 
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June 8, 2013


The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Gilbert Hernandez Interviewed About Marble Season


Dan Clowes Mini-Profile Related To Exhibition


Trailer For Film Based On Bosnian Flat Dog


Chris Britt TEDxTacoma Talk


Rick Kirkman Reuben Award Acceptance Speech


Lee Salem Silver T-Square Award Acceptance Speech


Jak Smyrl Profile
 
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CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from June 1 to June 7, 2013:

1. The international landscape for political cartooning becomes a bit more hazardous, as the Aseem Trivedi case looms, Turkish cartoonists begin to rally around recent protests and

2. Festivals continue to dominate North American comics news, with a traditional con in Denver turning people away and Book Expo America continuing to whisper compliments into comics' collective ear.

3. Comics news site ComicsAlliance returns.

Winner Of The Week
Justin Hall

Loser Of The Week
Timonium, Maryland's tax base.

Quote Of The Week
"Just as a broad, general statement, I think there's a lot of room to do better, more interesting, more engaging things with the programming at comics events." -- Ben Towle

*****

today's cover is from the all-time series Classics Illustrated

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Go, Look: White On Black

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy 46th Birthday, Ian Boothby!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Scott Adams!

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Forty Days Until Comic-Con International 2013!

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June 7, 2013


Go, Look: Pat Oliphant Mini-Gallery

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via Alan Gardner
 
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HeroesCon Underway In Charlotte, North Carolina

imageThe fine North American comics convention HeroesCon gets underway today in Charlotte, North Carolina. I've been twice, and am dying to get back. It's a really good show, and it rests comfortably in this kind of major regional convention space that is a fantastic group of shows right now: Heroes, Emerald City and Baltimore are the mainstays of that group. I think that tier of shows is fairly close to ideal.

HeroesCon meets all of my standards for a good comics show. It's in a place that's fun to visit (Charlotte has a compact downtown and a lot of good food; it is generally cheap and mostly laidback), it's well-executed (they're adding a bunch of space again this year), it has a unique culture (mostly centered around original art commissions), it has a fanbase that seems to adore it (perhaps the most important thing), there's good shopping to be had (the aforementioned original art + there's an Indie Island + there are a lot of discounted old comics), it's run by super-great people (the beloved Shelton Drum, Rico Renzi, Andrew Mansell), the programming can be ambitious (check out this year's mega-panel on music and comics) and it has its own special flourishes (the art auction on Saturday night + the bar con generally + the post-con party at the nearby Heroes store).

One thing I like about it is that it really isn't a comics art festival, even with a solid independent and art-comics crew on hand. It is more of a mainstream comics show, and that's an expression of comics that has some pretty horrible, crass shows to its name so I'm happy to see them have a good one.
 
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Go, Look: M.I.T.

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Go, Read: Cartoons In Iran During The Election Season

There's a nice wire article making the rounds here about the uncertainty that editors in Iran are facing concerning the publication of editorial cartoons during Iran's current election. A couple of things pop here for me. One is that that the bulk of people that are quoted in the article seem young to me, which is encouraging. Another is the general idea driving the article fascinates: the idea that certain political issues are too sensitive to engage right now, and that this is usually not the case. Iran's recent history regarding its cartoonists seems resolutely horrible to me, including the jailing of some cartoonists and others fleeing the country entirely.
 
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Go, Look: 2003 SPX Photos

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the two hilarious things here are 1) they're in black and white, like 2003 was 75 years ago; 2) Chris Pitzer hasn't aged in ten years
 
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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

There's a piece up at Commentary drawing a strong contrast between recent cartoons with anti-Semitic imagery and the Jyllands-Posten cartoonist. I guess it's come up, or if it hasn't the author thinks it should have. The article has a slightly more sophisticated view of the Muhammad cartoons than most pieces using it as a springboard to advocacy, although not by much. I'm not even sure the central point makes sense. For instance, it's silly to suggest that the Muhammad cartoons evoked a massive set of riots and protests and these new ones haven't. You're missing a step. The reason why there was a delayed reaction to the cartoons isn't that people needed to coordinate their rioting calendars but because the publication of those cartoons was transformed into a political issue by a massive, ongoing set of political campaigns devoted to fomenting troubles of exactly the kind that developed. At any rate, the story is a fun look at the way the Jyllands-Posten cartoons are used as a rhetorical hammer.
 
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Go, Look: June 1973 Marvel Comics Splash Pages

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Cartoonist Sean Delonas Takes Buyout From New York Post

Alan Gardner caught that the cartoonist Sean Delonas has apparently accepted a buyout from his employer of 23 years, the New York Post. Delonas will now focus on posting work through his own on-line presence.

Delonas may be best known for a 2009 cartoon where the shooting of a chimpanzee was used in a way that a number of readers thought that Delonas was equating the president with that animal: the cartoon bemoaned the death of the animal by suggesting that someone else would have to come up with a stimulus bill. As I recall, the argument at the time was that the cartoon was post-racial rather than racial, although I'm not still not sure I get that one.
 
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Go, Look: Keiichi Tanaami Tagged On Tumblr

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started here
 
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Assembled, Zipped, Transferred And Downloaded: News From Digital

By Tom Spurgeon

image* Robin McConnell has made the Inkstuds book available digitally, and buying one would be a nice way of slipping McConnell some cash if you enjoy the regular free posting of comics-related interviews that he does.

* I think this is the public announcement phase of some DC digital stuff that already had industry announcement or two. Or not. I had a hard time reading it, to be honest with you. It seems like this is more of an interactive-type endeavor than some of the more direct transfers of content to digital media.

* Gary Tyrrell looks upon the Shusters with approval. He also calls attention to the end of Shaenon Garrity's re-runs of Narbonic (with commentary) and reminds that the webcomics-related reality show contest thingamaroo is wrapping up.

* finally, Untold Tales Of Bigfoot and Ten Cats were the NCS divisional awards winners in webcomics categories. I'd not heard of either one before the nominations.
 
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If I Were In Charlotte, 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 Illinois, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Mysterious Island

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Heidi MacDonald explores recent high-profile expressions of dissatisfaction in the mainstream comics creative community. There's an interesting degree of pushback in the comments thread.

image* Brad Ricca looks at the proto-Lois Lanes.

* Johanna Draper Carlson on Blue Morning. Grant Goggans on even more Legion Of Super-Heroes comics. J. Caleb Mozzocco on various comic-shop comics. Kelly Thompson on Wolverine And The X-Men #30.

* this is a great quote from Jeff Smith. We sometimes forget how early we are in books doing well in the bookstore and library markets.

* Brett White muses on yet another character death in the pages of a superhero comic. I don't know, I just figure there are good stories and there are bad stories, and that a lot of the character-death stories are really bad stories.

* not comics: what a weird thing to emphasize. And fuck that: Superman is a comic book character, a great one, and that is his primary value. He was never more important to pop culture than when his comic book was the point man for everything Superman.

* the writer Rob Clough suggests some projects in which he had a hand.

* not comics: I enjoy comics t-shirts, and the ones they do for cons like these for HeroesCon are pretty great.

* Chris Marshall talks to Kirk Taylor. The TMSIDK crew talks to Robin Bougie, Katie Skelly and Jason Schell, Jeff Smith (it's where the quote linked-to above came from). Ed Piskor and Jasen Lex talk to Jim Rugg. Team Inkstuds talks to BlexBolex.

* finally, Farel Dalrymple draws The Punisher.
 
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Happy 39th Birthday, Tyler Crook!

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Happy 64th Birthday, Larry Hama!

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Happy 35th Birthday, Tucker Stone!

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Happy 89th Birthday, Frank Bolle!

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Happy 53rd Birthday, Hirohiko Araki!

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Happy 58th Birthday, Mark Schultz!

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June 6, 2013


CR Newsmakers Interview: Ben Towle, Craig Fischer

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*****

I was looking for ways to throw a spotlight on this weekend's HeroesCon in Charlotte -- an extremely well-liked, much-lauded show -- when Ben Towle contacted me to remind that he and Craig Fischer were doing an ambitious panel this weekend on comics and music. That's a good subject for a big panel at a comics show, particularly one where Ed Piskor and Peter Bagge are in attendance. I'm also sort of interested in comics programming right now as its own thing -- it has improved across the board in recent year due in no small part to people like Ben and Craig doing ambitious presentations like they will be this weekend.

You can glean what Ben and Craig do from what follows, but it basically breaks down to Ben being a cartoonist (Oyster War) and Craig being a well-regarded academic. If you're in Charlotte, I hope you'll consider joining them this Saturday at 3 PM. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

imageTOM SPURGEON: Ben and Craig, tell me about each of your relationship to Heroes in general; how long you've been going, where it fits into your general festival plans year-in and year-out and how that's developed over the years.

BEN TOWLE: Aside from a few years in Savannah, Georgia, I've been in the general vicinity of Charlotte since I moved to the area to go to college back in the late '80s. I didn't start going to Heroes regularly until I began getting back into comics after a prolonged post-high school absence, though--maybe the mid-'90s or so? I honestly can't remember what year I was first asked to be a guest. Since that time I've been a regular guest each year. This is the first year I've declined a table and will just be doing our Mega-Panel.

The Heroes retail store played an important part in my getting back into comics pretty heavily in the mid-'90s. Like a lot of folks my age, I'd gotten out of comics in the post-"Biff! Boom! Pow! Comics Aren't Just for Kids Any More" era and was focusing on other things, music in particular. I was playing in a band based outside of Charlotte in the mid-'90s. This was of course largely pre-Internet, and so access to and information about non-Marvel/DC comics wasn't a mouse click away, as it is now. One of the guys in the band, though, was really into Hate and Eightball and so there were issues of those floating around our house (we all lived together) and in our tour van. I think reading that stuff is largely what rekindled my interest in comics and really got me started drawing again.

The old Heroes shop on Central Avenue didn't carry a huge selection of indie stuff, but it did carry some, which is more than a lot of places at the time. I remember it had one shelf -- the very last one on the bottom -- that was reserved for non "mainstream" stuff and I regularly picked up comics from there that became pretty important to me as a developing artist -- things like ACME Novelty Library, Zander Cannon's The Replacement God, etc. Inspired by a lot of this stuff, I started working on a semi-autobiographical strip about life on the road playing music, The True Life Adventures of the Come On Thunderchild Rock and Roll Band -- the title a somewhat ham-handed homage to the Stanley Booth book about the Rolling Stones. The strip ran as series of one-pagers in a long-forgotten Charlotte weekly paper.

As far as my yearly festival plans go, Heroes -- because of its proximity and low cost to attend (and all around enjoyableness) -- is the one comics show I attend pretty much every year. I'll be making the trek to San Diego this year because of my webcomic's Eisner nomination, but other than Heroes, I'm generally laying low of late con-wise until I have a new book to sell/promote.

CRAIG FISCHER: Ben's much more of a veteran of Heroes than I am. I started going around 2007, when I realized that it was ridiculous of me not to go. Charlotte's only a two-hour drive from my home. One big draw for me was (and is) Indie Island, a space in the middle of Heroes' Artists Alley for alternative cartoonists and publishers like AdHouse, Top Shelf, etc. I think con organizer Shelton Drum came up with the Indie Island idea, and Dustin Harbin ran it for several years, until leaving Heroes to become a full-time artist. Since then, Rico Renzi's kept it going in high style.

I live in a small town with a very mainstream comics shop, so Heroes is a great opportunity for me to browse for books I might otherwise miss. I typically hit Indie Island first, for mini-comics and original art straight from the cartoonists, and then I spread out into Heroes as a whole, looking for bargains on graphic novels and goofy Silver Age comics like Treasure Chest.

I don't really have any "general festival plans" to speak of. It varies. I've been to SDCC and SPX, but not as often as I'd like, and I also travel to academic conferences (ICAF, the MLA division on Comics and Graphic Narratives) sometimes to present research. I went to the 2010 Festival of Cartoon Art in Columbus, and I really want to return in November 2013 to see the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library. Heroes, though, is the only convention I'm at every year.

SPURGEON: Where did the idea of doing a Mega-Panel come from? What was the first one like, and how was it different from what we're going to see this year?

FISCHER: Ben and I started our Mega-Panels six years ago, in 2008, when we realized that (a.) Al Feldstein was tabling at the con, and (b.) no one had yet asked him to be part of the programming. Ben and I quickly cobbled together a two-hour EC-themed panel. The first hour was about Harvey Kurtzman: Ben did an overview of Kurtzman's career, I did a close reading of the Kurtzman/Wood story "3-Dimensions!" (Mad #12), and Fantagraphics helped us prepare a preview of the yet-to-be-published Humbug collection. In the second hour we interviewed Feldstein. (Joining us for the interview were Roger Langridge and Richard Thompson.)

Since then, we've organized our Mega-Panels around various topics. In 2009, our topic was Ditko, in 2010, we took a screwy look at superheroes titled "Defective Comics: A Celebration of Superhero Oddness," and in 2011, our subject was Moebius. Last year, to commemorate Heroes' 30th anniversary, our topic was "Echoes of '82," a survey of events in comics culture from three decades ago that continue to reverberate today. "Echoes of '82" was maybe a little too Mega of a panel. Near the end, while I was interviewing Louise Simonson about the demise of Warren Publishing, her cell phone rang. It was husband Walt on the line, asking where she was, and worried that she'd been gone too long.

TOWLE: Craig's covered the genesis of the whole mega-panel pretty well there. As far as differences between earlier panels and this one goes, I think most of the differences are probably behind the scenes. I think we've gotten better at getting all the pieces in place efficiently after doing this for a few years.

imageMy semi-tongue in cheek answer, though: the main difference is that this is the first year we won't be serving food at the panel! For some reason during the planning of that very first MAD/E.C. panel, Craig became really determined that we should serve food. We wound up bringing in a sheet cake, as I recall. From that year forward, though, we tried to have food that matched the panel subject thematically. My wife, Katherine, made us a "Mr. A Cake" for the Ditko presentation that looked like Mr. A's half black/half white business card. In the spirit of Ditko, I insisted that the crowd take either a piece from the black-frosted side or from the white-frosted side, but not cut pieces that were part black and part white. You know, because "There is black and there is white. And there is NOTHING ELSE."

She made a blueberry cake for the Moebius talk. I'm spacing on the rest of the themed food items.

SPURGEON: What's the process like for settling in a subject and then planning the actual panels themselves? Can you talk me through this year's in terms of concept to execution?

FISCHER: It's a balancing act among our interests, the creators coming to Heroes, and those folks willing to participate in a long panel. (We're always grateful to those creators willing to give up income they could make on the floor in order to join us for our panels.) Our original idea for 2011 was a panel on science-fiction comics, but some would-be panelists declined, and so we decided to narrow our focus to Moebius. Which work out great: we showed the documentary Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures (2007) to an appreciative audience, and Geof Darrow told some hilarious and touching stories about "Jean." The panel comes together, year after year, in no small measure due to the incredible support we get from the Heroes staff, especially Rico, Seth Peagler and Andy Mansell. And this year, Ghost Trees (Brent Bagwell and Seth Nanaa) just stepped up and volunteered to provide our live music -- a really gracious gesture.

As far as this year goes, I'm amazed that we didn't do a panel on music and comics earlier.

imageTOWLE: I've always been pretty passionate about music, so this was definitely an appealing topic, particularly since my music interests sometimes bleed into my own comics work. I've done some one-pagers for a music magazine as well as occasional illustrations/caricatures of musicians as freelance work. I'd been thinking a lot about how to depict sound and music in comics last year when I had a back-and-forth with a friend of Mike Watt's about potentially trying to Kickstart a comic book about The Minutemen. This Aint' No Picnic: The True Adventures of The Minutemen was the working title, as I recall.

I'm a huge fan of Peter Bagge's work and when I saw he was going to be a guest this year, gears definitely started turning in my head about how to do something featuring him. I'd initially hoped that Derf might make an appearance this year, which would have been a great setup for a non-fiction/reportage topic, given Derf's My Friend Dahmer and Peter's series of strips for Reason. I'd been following Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree on BoingBoing, though, and his presence along with learning about the Fifth Beatle book really nailed down music as the topic.

Beyond settling on a topic, mostly there's just a lot of emailing of people, dividing up of tasks, etc. that Craig and I do. I put some real effort into the visuals. I'm always surprised by how often I go to panel discussions about comics/cartoonists where no actual comics are shown.

Just as a broad, general statement, I think there's a lot of room to do better, more interesting, more engaging things with the programming at comics events. One thing we really try to do with these mega-panels is to present something beyond the default, "four people and a moderator" thing that's the convention default. Years ago, Craig and I road-tripped down to Athens for an early FLUKE and one thing that had a big impact on our thinking about the first Mega-Panel was how well the ancillary stuff worked at that show. There was the actual "convention" portion of the show, of course, where people sold comics, but there was also a really great associated gallery show/opening focusing on autobiographical comics that evening. There were tons of minis at the gallery for people to read as well as beautiful originals on display from local (and a few non-local, like Johnny Ryan) cartoonists. There was even, now that I think about it, a FLUKE-sponsored live music evening at Tasty World (where FLUKE was then held) that evening.

FISCHER: At that gallery show, I remember issues of Not My Small Diary hung on clotheslines strung across the room. You could just reach up, grab a copy, and retreat to a chair to read. Very cool.

SPURGEON: You're facilitating the performance of a piece of music in conjunction with a Joseph Lambert comic... this is actually part of a trend overall towards comics performances -- whether presenting one's work in public as a reading, or the musical events that Angouleme has been hosting. How do you look on that kind of thing in terms of what it says about the comics? Is this something that really lets us get at the comics, or is this a capitulation towards the marketplace, the fact that cartoonists are always casting about for a way to present their work.

TOWLE: Hmmm… I don't know if I'm going to be able to give you as high-minded an answer here as you're probably looking for. I don't live in a big "comics town," so I've been witness to very few comics readings of the sort you're referencing. Off the cuff, though, I see music accompaniment and read dialog to be somewhat different animals. In the case of the former, there's something to the experience that isn't already on the page. With the latter, the reading is basically "doubling up" -- reading aloud information that's already on the page.

There's something about the intimacy of reading a comic that for me is a big part of what draws me to comics as an art form, though. I really like the fact that comics are not usually public acts that one experiences with other people the way one experiences a film or live music. I don't see really how a live reading of a comic is getting at the comic in some way that you can't get at by reading it yourself. And you're losing an element of the reading experience that I think is important: the reader's self-pacing. (And, in many I've seen, you're losing the page as a unit as well since the cartoonist often reads a panel at a time.)

Joe's comic seems a bit different though. The comic is about playing music and so it's a natural candidate for this treatment in a way that, say, Joe Sacco's comics aren't (to pick a logical extreme). There's music implied by Joe's strip. I'm curious to see what happens when musicians supply that music improvisationally. I don't know that we'll be getting at the comic in some way that we wouldn't otherwise, but it may be a situation in which two things combine to produce an experience that neither would by itself.

I think both with live readings and with musical accompaniment that the possibility for something really interesting happening is most likely to occur if/when cartoonists start designing particular comics specifically for this kind of presentation. That said, I think that there's plenty of room to experiment with what happens when you combine sound/music with comics, as with some of the Marc Weidenbaum projects Craig will be discussing.

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SPURGEON: Tell me a little about choosing Marc Weidenbaum as a subject, and what you feel is important people know about Marc. He was such a big figure for a while because of the high-profile PULSE! gig, but I'm not sure we're not exactly at that point in history where that's forgotten a bit but hasn't been pulled out and re-examined yet.

FISCHER: Yeah, Marc's legacy as a PULSE! editor is formidable: he got people like Jessica Abel, Carol Swain, Jon Lewis, Jason Lutes, Peter Kuper, John Porcellino, Keith Knight, Dave Cooper, Tony Millionaire and so many others to do those great back-page "Flipside" comics on musical topics. Justin Green's Musical Legends book (2004) is terrific, maybe my favorite Green work after Binky Brown.

Marc also gave a lot of younger alt-cartoonists their first opportunity in a national venue; Marc commissioned PULSE! work from Adrian Tomine after seeing the earliest self-published issues of Optic Nerve.

As much as I respect Marc's PULSE! tenure, though, I'm going to spend as much if not more time in my presentation talking about Marc's Disquiet website, and the ways his activities and commentaries on ambient, electronic and experimental music intersect with comics. One of Marc's "Disquiet Junto" projects, for example, encouraged musicians to "do a sonic version" of the first strip (the template strip) in Matt Madden's 99 Ways to Tell a Story. As part of our panel, we'll stage a "performance" that combines music that came out of the Junto with some of Matt's 99 Ways variations.

imageSPURGEON: Do you have a favorite music-related work by Peter Bagge, one of your guests? He's done a bunch of different comics in that general, I guess "space" is the term people use. What can looking at Pete's comics through a musical lens tell us about him?

TOWLE: Yeah, "space" is an appropriate word here, I think. Unlike Ed and the Fifth Beatle guys, Peter's work is more informed by music than explicitly about music. Maybe it's just because I recently re-read it, but HATE really got me thinking about Bagge's work though a musical lens, as you say. Buddy Bradley -- Bagge's most overly autobiographical character -- has intriguing views about music. He's genuinely passionate about it, but he also seems to be very determined to set himself in opposition to anything deemed mundane -- even if it's something he actually likes. I'm thinking for example of a panel in HATE where Buddy's lecturing someone about how The Ramones and The Stones are washed up old hacks and people should stop lining their pockets by going to see them play. There's an arrow pointing to Buddy with text that says something along the lines of "Just sold complete run of Ramones and Stones LPs to pay last month's rent."

"Eh, hipsters…," one might say, but I think there's more going on here than that. Buddy -- and maybe by extension Bagge at the time?--seems to be looking for something genuine, something authentic, something untainted. And that's a theme that's prevalent in some of his contemporaries' work as well. Clowes's Ghost World is the most obvious example.

Interestingly, years later Bagge did a Reason strip excoriating the modern art scene. He hilariously sends up modern art museums and their patrons, wondering why we don't just appreciate the "unique and imaginative works of art" around us... like the Plymouth PT Cruiser. It's not a direct inverse analog to Buddy's stance on music, but it's a pretty interesting endorsement of modern corporate output from a guy who had HATE's protagonist literally vomit and run screaming from a date who presented him with a pair of tickets to a U2 concert.

I honestly don't know how to unpack it all, but I'm interested and looking forward to asking Peter Bagge about some of this stuff.

My main motivation for asking Peter Bagge to be on the panel is my hope that it will encourage people to lighten up on bugging him about his libertarian politics and instead start giving him more grief about his unconscionable defense of Mike Love. I'm kidding of course. (Except about Mike Love; that guy's clearly a jerk.)

SPURGEON: Will this material be archived eventually, do you know?

FISCHER: There are audio recordings of several of our earlier Mega-Panels. Here's one for our Feldstein interview, courtesy of Mike Rhode. And Adam Daughhetee of the Dollar Bin podcast recorded material from our 2010 "Defective Comics" panel featuring Evan Dorkin, Jeff Parker, Colleen Coover and Chris Pitzer (here) and from our 2011 tribute to Moebius (here).

Adam plans to film the entire panel this year -- sound, image, the proverbial whole enchilada.

TOWLE: Nothing to add here other than to just recommend listening to that first audio link of the "Defective Comics" panel in particular. Evan Dorkin's extended rant about the comics industry is one of the most amazing and hilarious things I've ever been witness to. Maybe next year's Mega-Panel should be a focus on Evan Dorkin?

*****

art supplied by Mr. Towle, who is the person in the photo provided

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Women Saying Motherfucker

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Writer-About-Comics David Brothers Joins Image Comics

I'm a little late coming to this one, although I'd noticed that this story's subject had been tweeting cryptically in recent days about a major life change. Apparently the writer-about-comics David Brothers has accepted a yet-to-be-wholly-defined editorial/production position at Image Comics. Brothers is best known for his articles at on-line venues such as ComicsAlliance and the partly-his-own (by which I mean it's a group blog) 4thletter!; he's also been interviewed here twice and contributed a recent guest article on learning the value of being paid for and owning one's written work.

imageI asked Brothers about jumping into comics with both feet when he had written not that long ago about backing away from comics a bit. "I cut back, you're right, but it was something I did to find a balance in my life, as opposed to looking to bailing out of them entirely," he told CR. "... I tried to get off as many press lists as I could -- comps make me feel guilty and I only ask for them when I'm planning on writing about them -- and cutting way back so I could sort of rebuild my connection my own way.

"Image came to me at a point where I was burnt out and extremely unhappy with the way my prior gig (I spent ten years in games, eight of them with one company) was going, and what they wanted out of me made sense and seemed like the shot in the arm I needed. I expect my relationship with comics will evolve even more as I settle in here, but it's evolving into something new and I think that's really attractive. I'm also pretty good at keeping church and state separate. I worked in games forever, but I still played and enjoyed games at home without it feeling like homework. Sometimes more than I would if I wasn't in games, honestly. I expect comics will end up being pretty similar."

Brothers also answered my inquiries about the nature of his job, even as roughly defined, involving an editorial array of skills I'm not certain he had displayed in his previous professional background. "Not directly, but my last job was diverse enough that I'm comfortable. I did consulting, technical writing, strategy guides, video editing, text editing, copywriting, image processing, and half a dozen other things that were needed to keep the machine running. So this is new ground, but it's new ground like 'the next neighborhood over,' not 'is this a whole new continent?' As to whether learning on the job was part of the appeal, Brothers said, "I'm really looking forward to learning on the job. I don't think the learning curve will be that steep at all. I know a little bit about a little bit, but it'll be nice to apply the skills I've acquired through blogging and working in new contexts."

I wish Brothers luck, and hope this doesn't mean we'll never again hear from him here or in similar venues.
 
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Missed It: "Manga Park" Photos, Profile

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Go, Read: Multiple Articles On Turkish Cartoonists And Where They Stand In Terms Of Recent Protests

There's a short piece up from a feeder site for international news agencies here suggesting that cartoonists in Turkey are siding with the protesters in that country's recent series of political incidents and general turmoil. It makes sense to me, and not just for the usual reason that cartoonists tend to be anti-authoritarian: Turkey's record -- heck, Erdogan's record -- when it comes to suing cartoonists that dare to make work about high government officials is horrible.

A longer, more contextually-minded piece on cartooning's role in modern Turkey can be found here.
 
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Go, Look: On Hiatus

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

image* it's all about HeroesCon this weekend for the bulk of comic-book North America, as today the much-loved Shelton Drum and his crew have the vans fired up to move various comics pros from airport to hotel. By this evening one of the three best "bar cons" -- a hotel bar filled with cartoonists and comics-makers and industry folk and comics talk -- in North American festival and convention going will have launched. It's a great show, and artists like Todd Nauck (image at right) do very well at the drawing-focused show.

* the Superman celebration in Metropolis, Illinois, gets a more formal start today. There's apparently a movie this year.

* there's a significant Indie Island at HeroesCon -- I think this is Koyama Press' first year, and they have Peter Bagge, who is wonderful at cons -- but a lot of small press and alt-comics makers are focused on next week's CAKE show in Chicago. This weekend is the Printers Row Lit Fest in one of that great city's greatest neighborhoods. Drawn and Quarterly has down the Printers Row event for a few years now, I think, and will be there this year. That one and the one in Brooklyn seem to have a bit of a comics presence.

* there will be a modest-sized March show in Indianapolis next year. Perhaps more importantly, it appears there's a group out there targeting cities for smaller shows.

* here's a bunch of photos from a recent Lisa Hanawalt signing at Pegasus Books. It sounds like that particular book tour is going pretty well.

* finally, here's a First Second-generated photo array from BEA.
 
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If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Some Jim Mooney Batman Art

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Joe Gordon on The Wake #1. David Ulin on Science Fiction. Greg McElhatton on Astro City #1. Chris Eng on Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed? Shawn Starr on various comics. Sean Gaffney on The Sacred Blacksmith Vol. 1.

* Michael May takes a look at Vertigo's general sales performance according to the rough measures available, in response to inferred criticism of the imprint in recent media coverage.

* not comics: Alyssa Rosenberg writes about one way to break into professional writing: write a lot of material for free until (hopefully) your talent developments and you start getting paid gigs. I think that's a useful set of ideas -- CR went a full year before it sought advertisers, which if nothing else let potential ad-buyers know what they were in for content-wise -- although if it's presented as a prescriptive even by people just linking into the piece there are likely to be some objections, even super-snarky ones.

* RM Rhodes writes about where a comics fan might guy if they find themselves in Brussels.

* Matt Kubinski talks to Jim Terry. Some nice person named "Needles" profiles Tom Sutton.

* not comics: Chris Cilla has t-shirts.

* so I guess something horrible happened to Catwoman in one of the DC comic book, forcing fans to scramble in two directions: that it's awful if it happened, and it's awful if it's a fake-out. Grame McMillan takes a peek at some of the ideas being floated about when death is sold as a plot point.

* a recent post on the popular Very Short List was comics oriented.

* finally, Augie De Blieck, Jr. dissects a couple of Darwyn Cooke Catwoman pages.
 
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Happy 35th Birthday, Charles Brownstein!

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Happy 55th Birthday, Arlen Schumer!

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Happy 87th Birthday, TK Ryan!

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June 5, 2013


Go, Look: Square Comix

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No Straight Lines Wins Best Anthology At Lambda Literary Awards

It's pretty much all there in the headline, although it's worth noting for sure that this is the first time that a graphic novel has won in that category and that editor Justin Hall cast the win as a victory for literary comics. I have little to no opinion on whether or not comics should be up for awards that usually go to prose works -- I would imagine that depends on the foundation for that award -- but I'm happy for work to recognized once that decision is made. Congratulations to Hall, publisher Fantagraphics and the cartoonists represented in that volume.
 
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OTBP: Linen Ovens

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Your 2013 Joe Shuster Awards Nominees

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The Joe Shuster Awards, a program honoring Canadian participants in the comics art form, has announced its 2013 slate of nominees. This includes naming Vernon Miller, Murray Karn and Katherine Collins to that group's Hall of Fame.

The nominees are:

Artist/Dessinateur
* Isabelle Arsenault -- Jane, le renard & moi (La Pastèque)
* Patrick Boutin-Gagné -- Brogunn (Soleil)
* Stuart Immonen -- All-New X-Men #1-4, AvX: VS #1, #6, Avenging Spider-Man #7, Secret Avengers #21 (Marvel Comics)
* Yanick Paquette -- Swamp Thing #5, 7-9, 13-14 (DC Comics)
* Ramón K. Pérez -- John Carter and the Gods of Mars #1-5, AvX:VS #6 (Marvel Comics)
* Fiona Staples -- Saga #1-8 (Image Comics)
* Marcus To -- Batwing #9-15, 0, The Flash #10,15, Huntress #4-6 (DC Comics)

Cartoonist/Auteur
* Geneviève Castrée -- Susceptible (Apocalypse)
* Scott Chantler -- Three Thieves Book 3: The Captive Prince (Kids Can Press)
* Darwyn Cooke -- Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1-5 (DC Comics), Richard Stark's Parker: The Score (IDW)
* Michel Falardeau -- French Kiss 1986 (Glénat Québec)
* Brandon Graham -- Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1-3 (Image Comics)
* Jeff Lemire -- Sweet Tooth #29-40 (DC Comics), The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf)
* Francis Manapul -- The Flash #5-9,11-15, 0 , Annual #1 (DC Comics)

Cover Artist/Dessinateur Couvertures
* Geneviève Castrée -- Susceptible (Apocalypse)
* Darwyn Cooke -- Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1-5, The Shade #4B (DC Comics), The Shadow #7B (Dynamite Entertainment), Richard Stark's Parker -- The Score, Richard Stark's Parker -- The Hunter SC, Rocketeer Adventures #1-4 (IDW), Creator Owner Heroes #7C, It Girl and the Atomics #2B (Image Comics)
* Mike Del Mundo -- A+X #2B, Amazing Spider-Man #678-679, 683B, Incredible Hulk #4B, Ka by Cirque de Soleil #1, Marvel Zombies Destroy! #1-5, Max Payne 3 #3, New Avengers #24B, Scarlet Spider #1B, 4B, Uncanny X-Men #17, Untold Tales of Punisher Max #5, Venom #16-17, 20, 22B, Wolverine #314-317, X-Men Legacy #1-2 (Marvel Comics)
* Stuart Immonen -- All-New X-Men #1-4, Avengers #14, Avenging Spider-Man #7, AvX: VS #1B, #6B, Captain America and Namor 635.1, Uncanny X-Men #14, Wolverine and the X-Men #15 (Marvel Comics)
* Jacques Lamontagne -- Les Druides, Tome 7 : Les disparus de Cornouaille (Soleil)
* Yanick Paquette -- Swamp Thing #5-15,0, Annual #1 (DC Comics)
* Fiona Staples -- Life with Archie #24B (Archie), Dark Horse Presents #10 (Dark Horse), Action Comics #15B, National Comics Madame X #1 (DC Comics), Smoke and Mirrors #1B (IDW), Saga #1-8 (Image Comics)

Writer/Scénariste
* Ed Brisson -- Comeback #1-2 (Image Comics)
* Fanny Britt -- Jane, le renard & moi (La Pastèque)
* Alexandre Fontaine-Rousseau -- Pinkerton (Colosse)
* Kathryn Immonen -- Avenging Spider-Man #7, AvX:VS #1,#6, Journey into Mystery #646-647 (Marvel Comics)
* Jeff Lemire -- Animal Man #5-15, 0, Animal Man Annual 1, Frankenstein Agent of SHADE #5-9, Justice League Dark #9-15, 0, National Comics Eternity #1 (DC Comics)
* Ryan North -- Adventure Time #1-10 (KaBoom!)
* Jim Zubkavich -- Pathfinder #1-3 (Dynamite Entertainment), Skullkickers #13-17 (Image Comics)

Webcomics Creator/Créateur de Bandes Dessinées Web
* Attila Adorjany (Cartoonist /Auteur) -- Metaphysical Neuroma
* Jayd Ait-Kayci (Artist /Dessinateur) -- The Fox Sister
* Sophie Bédard (Cartoonist /Auteur) -- Glorieux Printemps 9-20
* Michael DeForge (Cartoonist /Auteur) -- Ant Comic
* Iris (Cartoonist /Auteur) -- Folk
* Salgood Sam (Cartoonist /Auteur) -- Dream Life
* Ty Templeton (Cartoonist /Auteur) -- Bun Toons

The Dragon Award (Comics for Kids)/Le Prix Dragon (Bandes Dessinées pour Enfants)
* L'Agent Jean! Tomes 2 et 3 (Presses Aventure) -- Alex A. (Cartoonist /Auteur)
* Cat's Cradle Volume 1: The Golden Twine (Kids Can Press) -- Jo Rioux (Cartoonist /Auteur)
* Couette Tome 1: Tombée du Ciel (éditions Dargaud) -- Minikim (Artist /Dessinateur) with/avec Sevérine Gauthier (France) (Writer /Scénariste)
* Fred et Putulik: L'Automne (Les éditions du soleil de minuit) -- Jean Lacombe (Cartoonist / Auteur)
* The Secret of the Stone Frog (Toon Books) -- David Nytra (Cartoonist / Auteur)
* Spera Volume 1 (Archaia Entertainment) -- Josh Tierney (Writer /Scénariste), Kyla Vanderklugt, Emily Carroll, Jordyn F. Bochon (Artists /Dessinateurs) with additional non-Canadian artists
* Three Thieves volume 3: The Captive Prince (Kids Can Press) -- Scott Chantler (Cartoonist /Auteur)
* A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse! (Toon Books) -- Frank Viva (Cartoonist /Auteur)

Gene Day Award (Self-Publishers)/Prix Gene Day (Auto-éditeurs)
* Sanya Anwar -- 1001
* Jordyn F. Bochon -- The Terrible Death of Finnegan Strappe: The Claw of the Earth #1 (of 3)
* Antonin Buisson -- Tranquillement pas vite
* James Edward Clark -- Evil
* Corey McCallum, Matthew Daley -- The Pig Sleep: A Mr. Monitor Case

Harry Kremer Award (Retailers)/Prix Harry Kremer (Détaillants)
* Another Dimension -- Calgary, AB
* Amazing Stories -- Saskatoon, SK
* Heroes -- London, ON
* L'Imaginaire -- Quebec City, QC
* Paradise Comics -- Toronto, ON

Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame/Temple de la renommée Créateur Canadien de Bandes Dessinées
* Vernon Miller (1912-1974)
* Murray Karn (1924-)
* Katherine Collins (formerly known as Arn Saba) (1947-)

Nominees were selected from a list created of works published and distributed in 2012. Winners are chosen by a jury. The award winners will be named in Toronto on August 25.
 
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Not Comics: Lovely Tony Cliff Comics-Related Illustration

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Go, Read: Calvin Reid And Heidi MacDonald At PW On Comics At BEA 2013

Respected publishing industry writer Calvin Reid and Heidi MacDonald from The Beat have an extensive piece up at PW on comics and graphic novels at last weekend's BEA 2013, and it's as quality as piece as you'd expect from Reid and MacDonald working together. Of particular interest to some may be a few rough sales figures dropped for the Adventure Time volumes. The piece also smartly covers the digital end of things, particularly in terms of manga. In addition, I hadn't read that Nobrow wants to open a New York office, although I'm not always sure what that means. Anyway, solid piece on a show that tends to confuse me.

Update: An earlier version of this article credited Reid as the sole author. My apologies; I smoke way too much pot.
 
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Go, Look: A Widow And Her Friends

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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.

*****

MAR130766 SUPERMAG GN $9.95
Jim Rugg's fun collection of short stories and art pieces done for various sources is enjoyable on its own, entertaining as a way to sift through various styles and art direction choices, and as a way to facilitate your hand to your forehead as you go, "Wow, he's done a lot of work in a lot of different places." I've been doing that a lot lately, starting with that Brunetti book.

imageAPR130239 ASTRO CITY #1 COVER A $3.99
APR130240 ASTRO CITY #1 COVER B $3.99
APR130040 ABE SAPIEN DARK & TERRIBLE #3 $3.50
APR130026 MISTER X EVICTION #2 $3.99
MAR138318 JUPITERS LEGACY #1 2ND PTG (MR) $2.99
APR130586 AGE OF ULTRON #9 $3.99
These are the standard-format genre comic books that leap out at me from the list. There was no comic book series in the late 1990s hotter in terms of solid sales + widespread admiration from devoted comic book fans than Astro City... it's nice to have it back. The Abe Sapien is another entry in the always solid -- well, rarely unsolid -- Mignolaverse line of serial comic books. I haven't caught up to the Mister X work yet, but that's a fun character. I like the way Frank Quitely draws superbeings, so the first issue of Jupiter's Legacy was fun on that level alone. Finally, Age Of Ultron continues to have what should be considered a final word on the indestructible, dickish robot portion of the creating artificial life debate. I think there's also some time travel in there.

FEB130049 EVERYBODY WRONG DAVID CHELSEAS 24 HR HC VOL 01 $19.99
A new David Chelsea collection is reason enough to go to the comics shop. This is his 24-hour comics of recent vintage. His 24-hour comics are good enough to be collected, so that should tell you something.

FEB130012 HELLBOY LIBRARY HC VOL 06 STORM FURY BRIDE HELL $49.99
I don't really know what the "Hellboy Library" is -- I assume it's a reprinting of the Hellboy material in super-deluxe hardcover, perhaps on that lighter-than-helium paper that Dark Horse has found for their Biro book, I'm not sure. I don't tend to buy these, but I guess people do, so here's a new one.

DEC120494 JOHN K PRESENTS SPUMCO COMIC BOOK HC $34.99
With new Astro City and Graham Chaffee, it makes perfect sense for IDW via Craig Yoe to repeat this John K. oversized work from roughly that same period. I'm going to watch some Larry Sanders Show and listen to Things Fall Apart today, too.

MAR130427 TARZAN RUSS MANNING NEWSPAPER STRIPS HC VOL 01 1967-1970 $49.99
Unlike hardcover collections of serial comic book works, I do tend to buy this format for strip collections. I would love to be in a comics shop to read a bunch of this and see the work... it might not be a huge priority compared to some other strip work -- say Barnaby -- that's out there right now. Still a formidable bunch of comics, though.

APR130482 WALKING DEAD TP VOL 18 WHAT COMES AFTER $14.99
Eighteen books!

APR131188 SMURFS ANTHOLOGY HC VOL 01 $19.99
I think this is a crack at collecting the famous Smurfs material at a slightly larger size than the for-kids-hands versions that NBM has been doing. I've enjoyed these comics enough seeing review copies that I might be tempted into buying another series just to have for my own. I like how relatively unhurried they are, how the scene work fully develops -- it's astonishing to read that kind of thing after being immersed in the narrative shorthand that drives most North American mainstream books.

MAR130411 HOLLOWS HC $21.99
Just to complete the 1990s theme of this particular week in comics, this is a collection of recent Sam Kieth work, and as such I would definitely check it out were I in a store today. You can see how pretty it is here. Strong week for IDW.

MAR131308 BEST OF ALTER EGO SC VOL 02 $19.95
APR131392 SUPER BOYS AMAZING ADV OF JERRY SIEGEL & JOE SHUSTER HC $27.99
Two very different books and even, I think, approaches to comics history in terms of how the individual projects are conceived: the first is a repackaging of material from Roy Thomas' magazine, which is sort of a front-lines approach in terms of interviews and fan reaction. The second is the latest in done-in-one mainstream press studies of early comics creators. I have the latter on my shelf, and plan to get to it soon.

FEB130218 SOLO DELUXE ED HC $49.99
I have all the individual issues of this comic book -- and like a lot of mainstream reprints I'm not sure it's a) cheaper to get that way, b) sort of better and more appropriate to what it was doing that way -- but I'm happy for this occasionally really good series to get this kind of treatment for the folks that love this kind of treatment. This was a comic book series focused that turned on individual creator showcase issues as opposed to organizing the work by theme or character. It was one of the better series DC has produced in the last quarter century, for sure.

APR131085 USERS GUIDE TO NEGLECTFUL PARENTING GN (MR) $12.95
Finally, Guy Delisle being funny -- and he's very funny, both in his famous travelogues and especially these comics. In an alternate universe where millions of people are into picking up sophisticated, no-explanation necessary comics works as a matter of course, this is the kind of book that people love above all others.

*****

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 because I hate you.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Rebecca Tobin

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Go, Look: Early Harvey Kurtzman

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I don't usually recommend comics in the random section, but this little one from John Martz is pretty nice.

image* Jeffrey O. Gustafson on The Incal. Bruce Canwell on Daredevil: Dark Nights. Craig Fischer on the Paul series.

* not comics: Today's Inspiration recommends a series of interviews with Stan Galli.

* it's been a while since we had a new post at the Schulz Library Blog, so I kind of fell asleep on this latest one.

* that superior link-blogger Kevin Melrose previews the latest of those Simon & Kirby books and recommends a David Petersen process post. Sometimes I think that Kevin Melrose is the most important comics blogger of them all, or at least the one I'd close five times to kind of prop up the whole enterprise.

* I don't always like the storytelling in the later issues of the initial Jack Kirby/Stan Lee run on Fantastic Four, but there are frequent, individual images as lovely as anything Kirby ever made. Those comics are completely collectible, by the way; I've assembled almost everything from Fantastic Four #60 to #100 for less than $5 a pop -- not in great condition, but not horrible, either. We live in amazing times.

* there's some sort of giveaway contest related to Paul Pope's forthcoming Battling Boy here.

* here's a nice Evan Dorkin strip put up by Sean Howe.

* as much as I think about such things at all I really dislike the Ultimate line of books that Marvel's done over the last several years, even though I know a lot of fans love them. I wouldn't be sad at all if they disappeared forever. I honestly think my actual real life would be better if I had never wrapped my mind around the idea of the Blob character eating the Wasp character. I doubt they will ever go all the way away, though. And if they do, they'll likely return.

* Brigid Alverson writes an article about comics at BEA because Brigid Alverson is a total freakin' pro who does things like that. To be clear, my take on BEA isn't that the show lacks comics content -- it has plenty -- but that it didn't coalesce into a vital cog in the comics calendar Like I thought it would. I'm also sort of routinely interested in that show as a reflection of the print industry, both consciously and subconsciously.

* Paul Gravett profiles Junko Mizuno.

* finally, Keith Knight pays tribute to the actor Jean Stapleton.
 
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Happy 57th Birthday, Mark Marek!

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Happy 38th Birthday, David Gallaher!

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Happy 37th Birthday, Gabriel Bá!

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Happy 37th Birthday, Fábio Moon!

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June 4, 2013


Go, Look: Peter Kuper Profiled

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Festivals Extra: A Couple Of BEA-Related Links

imageI haven't seen a whole lot of analysis of the recently-concluded Book Expo America as of yet. There were several things that were going on that were sort of interesting and might inform comics more than the usual clap on the back that show provides the funnybook side of things, that way of letting comics know the category is still doing well, and, you know, thank God. Other factors might include the book industry's wobbly nature more generally, the idea that digital media somehow isn't growing in leaps and bounds right now and that this may provide solace to the physical-print crowd, the show bringing in Comic-Con elements... I'm sure there are a few more. For instance, the idea that digital galleys and non-paper review copies may have at the very least isolated the mostly long-denied collectible elements tied into that part of the publishing process appeals to me on a lot of levels.

I thought this PW piece caught a few survey-style facts or at least anecdotes about the people attending the Readers Day elements of the show, while this Huffington post round-up was a halfway decent stab at a "what does it all mean?" summary of the Expo's various events. Both pieces mention one element I'd completely forgotten concerning the idea of having readers come in on weekends: the weekends at BEA have long been relatively perfunctory when compared to the Thursday/Friday parts of the show.
 
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Missed It: Unused Connor Willumsen Wolverine Art

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Go, Read: Al Nisbet Opinion Piece On Recent, Criticized Cartoons

The cartoonist Al Nisbet responds to recent criticism of a pair of cartoons trafficking in specific stereotypes here. It's basically every argument that usually gets trotted out when someone is accused of using racist imagery. It's weird how the conversations are shaped here: the racism is on the one hand such a giant bugaboo that its force and implications distort any sort of discussion, but at the same time we choose to define what racism means in such narrow terms that the conversation tends to be about matter-of-fact denial that whatever action being discussed clearly doesn't fit those terms. I wonder if there isn't a lost opportunity for wider discussion in these sorts of cases. Then again, folks can hardly discuss big-budget movie plot points without shrieking at each other, so I guess that a nuanced talk about an actual, real-world issue being beyond us shouldn't surprise.
 
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Go, Look: A Mike Mignola X-Men Mini-Gallery

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Diamond Comics Moving From Timonium Offices

The hobby business and analysis news site has a short piece up indicating that comics anchor business Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. will move from its longtime offices in Timonium up to Hunt Valley. That's only about five miles away, but the move will put the business all on the same floor -- I once learned a secret traveling on an elevator in Timonium between floors -- and you won't get to write out that cool-sounding name "Timonium" anymore. Not that you were likely doing a bunch of that to begin with.

The move takes place June 21 to June 24.
 
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Missed It: Stupendous Dudley Fisher Gallery

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Alternative Comics will be facilitating the publication and distribution of two additional, previously unannounced comics in 2013: The Magic Whistle #0 and The Outliers Chapter One.

image* I did not know there was a forthcoming The Art Of Sean Phillips book, but looking at Amazon listings October-December, there it is.

* I have never found a good way to do con releases on this site -- I have a hard time sorting out notable releases from other releases, and everyone has something. But a second issue of Black Eye will be out from Rotland Press, and that sounds pretty good. Its contributors include Max Clotfelter, Richard Cowdry, J.T. Dockery, Brecht Evens, Julia Gfrorer, Danny Hellman / Ian Huebert, Benjamin Marra, Onsmith, Helge Reumann and David Shrigley. Paul Krassner and Bob Levin are in there, too. There's even a JG Posada tribute section. You can stare at that one in advance here.

* DC has announced a crossover thingamaroo for this Fall. I am certain that things will change... forever.

* CNN profiled the launch of Marvel's X-Men #1 last week, focusing on the all-female line-up. I don't take any particular... I don't know, encouragement from coverage like that. It makes sense that media outlets would do that, or at least it makes sense to me.

* the writer Paul Jenkins has signed with BOOM! for the time being. I think there a few news-worthy threads present there: the tendency for writers that have made a name in mainstream comics to settle in at smaller publishers for certain projects, the desire of some artists and writers to not work for the biggest mainstream companies right now given their thrust and direction and what this means for Jenkins' career and the publisher with which he's signed up.

* did I know about Virgil Partch from Fantagraphics and early Gasoline Alley from Drawn and Quarterly? I do now. The Partch book has been a long time in coming, if that ends up being anywhere near a comprehensive or at least well-curated collection. I say "well-curated" because I have a sense without quite knowing for sure that Partch was super-prolific.

* finally, Ryan Andrews announced that This Was Our Pact will be coming from First Second in 2016, surely an era of jetpacks and pills for dinner.

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

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Go, Look: A Handsome George Herriman Cartoon

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Sean Kleefeld writes about the new Superman logo unveiled DC Entertainment or whatever gathering together of Warner Brothers assets did that.

* Cory Doctorow on the latest edition of Watchmen. Rob Clough on a bunch of different mini-comics. Todd Klein on Swamp Thing #20. Don MacPherson on various comics. Johanna Draper Carlson on the Tamara Drewe movie. Grant Goggans on Dandridge: The Copper Conspiracy. J. Caleb Mozzocco on Supermag and Gambit Vol. 1.

* Katie Skelly redraws a page of Mod Wheels.

* I thought this article on the Kindle Worlds effort fairly interesting but kind of fundamentally wrong-headed. You worry when a specific platforms is taken over by a new corporate owner because a new corporate owner can put that platform and what works about it at risk. I'm not sure you can worry about the world of fan fiction when someone tries to monetize it, because having an effect on the entirety of that enterprise is far out of the reach of the person trying out the new avenue for profiting from it. At least that's how I see it. I have to imagine that there are some people that will want to make money from their efforts writing about other people's characters, and other folks that will want nothing to do with it or simply won't have the skill set to appeal to the people providing that service.

* finally, Erica Friedman talks to Takemiya Jin.
 
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Happy 84th Birthday, Dick Locher!

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Happy 55th Birthday, Josef Rubinstein!

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Happy 45th Birthday, Steve Weissman!

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Happy 62nd Birthday, Wendy Pini!

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Happy 35th Birthday, Keiler Roberts!

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June 3, 2013


By Request Extra: Josh Simmons Art Sale

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Josh Simmons wrote in that he's in the midst of a ten-day original art and commissions sale. I'm not sure the exact reason, but it is a limited-time thing, and I'm sure a cartoonist that is as prolific and talented as Simmons is will put any money made to good use. Also, his originals are super-pretty.
 
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Festival Extra: Autoptic Announces Partnership With Comics Lab Experment Pierre Feuille Ciseaux

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The Minneapolis-based comics show Autoptic this morning announced its partnership with the French comics laboratory experiment Pierre Feuille Ciseaux (PFC) in conjunction with their debut show. That basically means a bunch of super-talented cartoonists -- named in the release -- are going to settle into MCAD and create like mad together for a week and then show that work the day before Autoptic proper.

There is a lot of energy in the festivals/show space of comics right now, and I think it's pretty exciting.
 
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Go, Listen: Talking About Carl Barks

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I recently talked with Tim and Kumar of Deconstructing Comics about Carl Barks. I remember it being pretty good, but I was up at 5 AM so all that basically means is I have no memory of shrieking or insisting that we talk about pudding.
 
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Go, Read: Broad Analysis Of Aseem Trivedi Case

Sameer Sharma has an article up here about the Aseem Trivedi case. I have to admit I sort of lost track as to what the hell was going on with that thing after Fall 2012... I assume there are charges pending or potentially pending. It looks like this case suggest the application of late 19th Century law wouldn't be an issue here because the incitement to violence consequences of someone making a cartoon about issues, no matter how disagreeable, doesn't seem like it hold water... except that there have been recent cases where you wouldn't think that element had any logical traction either.
 
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Go, Read: Bob Levin On Al Williamson

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Festivals Extra: Denver Convention Explosion In Growth Causes 5K+ Turnaway At One Point

ICv2.com has a short write-up here about the explosive growth experienced by Denver Comic Con this year, including the fact that at one point thousands of fans were turned away for basic fire marshal-type reasons. That's always super deeply unfortunate when it happens, to the point that I think the suckiness needs to be emphasized just to counter the "wow, we're doing awesome" spin that those kinds of incidents generate. Still, it looks like the Comic Con model is a very successful right now, with opportunities in a lot of markets. What opportunities this provides comics, and what kinds of comics stand to benefit, is much more difficult to grasp.
 
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Go, Look: More 1970s Jack Kirby Captain America

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So Here's What's Going On With My iMac

About a month ago my iMac began locking up in classic spinning-beachball-of-death fashion. As you know if you've had one of these machines, this forced either a force-quit or a shutdown and restart. About a week after that, the computer more often than not would not force quit, and when it was restarted went to a blue screen and did not reboot at all except for once every few days.

imageThat's how it's been ever since. Only about one in ten times turning it on gets me fully booted, and then only for about a half-hour until the functionality starts to time out as if it simply can't handle what's being run anymore.

As far as I know I haven't run anything differently, or added a program... I think the last thing I added was dropbox months ago.

I've run some standard clean-up programs and monitored what is running when it's up on Activity Monitor -- nothing jumps out as a big user of resources. So I'm pretty flummoxed as to what's happened.

If anyone out there is good with MACs and would like to exchange e-mails with me of a slightly more advanced variety than "make sure your printer is unplugged from the main computer and try again" variety, I'd love to have that discussion. Because right now, that computer is unreliable and useless, and it's made my job about 75 percent more difficult than usual.

Again, I'm pretty good at reading a bunch of stuff on-line, but there comes a point at which I'm simply not seeing anything close to what is actually happening in front of me. So... help?
 
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Go, Read: Kirk Taylor And The Wesley Morse Story

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Missed It: comiXpress Calls It A Day

This happened a while back, and it's rested in my bookmarks folder ever since because I can be a rotten blogger: the service comiXpress, where a lot of small press and self-published work found its way to a print iteration, has said goodbye. I don't know a ton about that side of the business, but it seems to me generally that it's easier to find ways to get material packaged and published -- even standard printers straight-up seem more amenable to taking on comics print jobs because of the nature of the economy vis-a-vis printed material of any kind.
 
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Go, Look: Night Of The Comics

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that's a Manuele Fior image
 
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Assembled Extra: News Site ComicsAlliance Back Up

Here. Humorous explanation here. Congratulations to Joseph Hughes and his crew; I would have lost money had some bookie been taking bets on that site's return and I were in a mood to make bets. Also this makes me slightly frightened of Hughes.

Here's the text of the PR, which basically says very little but does include proper nouns.
Townsquare Media Group announced today that it has entered into an agreement to acquire AOL Music assets The Boot (www.theboot.com), The BoomBox (www.theboombox.com) and NoiseCreep (www.noisecreep.com) as well as ComicsAlliance (www.comicsalliance.com) from AOL Inc. The new digital properties will join Townsquare Media Group's national digital business, a portfolio of premium music and entertainment websites which reach over 52 million US monthly unique visitors and include Taste of Country (tasteofcountry.com), PopCrush (popcrush.com), ScreenCrush (screencrush.com/) and Okayplayer (www.okayplayer.com). No purchase price was announced.

Townsquare Media Group Chairman and CEO, Steven Price said, "The acquisition of these assets from AOL represents the continued rapid growth of Townsquare Media's portfolio of owned and operated music and entertainment websites. Adding these premium brands to Townsquare Media's comprehensive offering propels our scale beyond today's 52 million US monthly unique visitors, allowing advertisers and agencies even greater access to this highly engaged and demographically desirable audience."

As part of the transaction, members of the AOL Music and ComicsAlliance teams will be working with Townsquare Media's team going forward. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
I like a lot of the CA writers, and I'm glad to see this place for them to write return, as it seems to be something of which they're in full support. The site had been shut down by AOL for some sort of vague branding/resource-emphasis reasons, as far as I could tell, and had recently been hinting at a return via a roll-out of rebirth-theme Batman panels.
 
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Go, Look: Some Cowboy Henk Comics

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

By Tom Spurgeon

image* the publisher Antarctic Press is holding a modest fundraiser to help ease the burden caused by a recent business setback. They have certainly been around long enough for anything they ask to be taken seriously.

* Matt Rebholz would like your help with another chapter of his ongoing comics project. I guess that's sort of interesting, the idea of running crowd-funders for individual stages. I'm not sure how most people would react to that, but Rebholz has two successes in hand and is well on his way with this one.

* this Ryan Claytor crowd-funder looks like it might even be met by the time this rolls off the site; looks like an interesting project, too.

* this nice person sent along a request that you look at their screenplay to comics crowd-funder.

* finally, this Mark Rudolph crowd-funder looks like it's in the do-or-die stages heading into its last few days. I'm confident it will make it.
 
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If I Were In Los Angeles, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Air Fighters #3

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I thought this a pretty good example of follow-up writing on the Al Nesbit cartoons from last weekend, where some unfortunate stereotypes were employed to make a point that some accused of racism. I had about a half dozen readers suggest different articles as follow-ups, but I thought all of them, on both sides, pretty standard political grinds without a lot of value.

image* Chris Randle profiles Gengoroh Tagame.

* not comics: it's scary for newspapers that a place like the Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photography division. I'm not sure if there's any easy comparison to the newspapers of a previous generation losing their illustration and cartooning elements, but the whole thing makes you wonder exactly what it is papers expect to offer their readership and if they can offer something that matters to them.

* I find a lot of superhero comic book plots distasteful, but the idea of murdering iconic superheroes as a plot mechanism is almost more weird than gross.

* Michael Netzer comments on and summarizes a story about Don McGregor being hurt concerning an announcement of a Lady Rawhide book and how those complaints were processed by the wider comics community. That's yet another story with which I have yet to fully catch up. I do think that one problem comics has in processing such stories is that they frequently get pushed to extremes of allowable behavior rather than remain in the realm of preferred outcomes. That may be a consequence of all of us remaining on such high horses, but it could also be a trap of the "not calling something what it really is" variety. It can be a mine field. Update: The publisher and the creator have since made up.

* Batman and Grotus, World's Finest.

* I am always delighted when people send me links to oddball fan art featuring comics characters, but I am also always a bit confused as to what their expectations are concerning what I'll do with it.

* finally, I'm greatly enjoying this comic over at Gabrielle Bell's site; I just don't tend to recommend a tightly-serialized work with a "go look" until it's finished. That shouldn't stop any of you from jumping on it right now.
 
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Happy 44th Birthday, Rodd Perry!

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Happy 38th Birthday, Sam Hiti!

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Happy 31st Birthday, Paul Maybury!

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Happy 48th Birthday, Gavin Wilson!

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June 2, 2013


Superman Is A Comic Book Character

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We're already being inundated with a lot of Superman-related hype for the forthcoming new movie starring the actors Henry Cavill and Amy Adams. I like Superman movies. I have fond memories of seeing that first big-budget effort back when I was a young man, and I still enjoy the barrel-chested, gun-dodging performance of George Reeves on the television show whenever I see that one on cable. I'm sure there are a lot of others that are pretty good, too.

I like Superman comics a lot more.

I think Superman's primary value isn't as a global icon or some sort of universal licensing mechanism but as a comic book character in really good comic books. They're not my favorite comic books in the world, but I think a lot of the comic books with Superman in them are good, fun and affecting: the early Siegel-Shuster material; the increasingly obtuse and arch material of the 1950s; the wonderful Bizarro, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen stories; Jack Kirby's affecting use of the characters as a sideways element in his Fourth World stories; the well-meaning retrenching of the character and concept in the 1970s; some of what writers like Alan Moore and then later guys like Joe Casey have done in short bursts since.

I hope that my peers and friends out there in the writing-about-comics field will use the attention focused on Superman in the next several days to not just carve themselves out some hits via a comic-book perspective on the movie. I'm sure the movie could be swell, and that some of the articles on that movie will be fun to read. Still, I like the Big Blue Boy Scout best where I first encountered him: in the comic books. In addition to the new series from Scott Snyder and Jim Lee there is a big body of work already in print or available to a devoted searcher. I hope that we'll learn about some writers' favorites. Scroll down the page for some choices from CR readers on favorites of theirs.
 
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Go, Read: Through The Wringer

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this is sort of amazing
 
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Here Are Some TCAF Photos Where I'm Not 100 Percent Sure Who They Are Even Though I Should Be

I am likely 1) missing someone's name right on their badge, because I always do that; 2) missing I've known for 10 years and/or stayed in their home, because I do that, too. Sorry, everyone. I'm old.



*****

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Eric Lambé

*****

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Matt Wiegle and Shawn Cheng

*****

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Vanessa Satone and Scott Hume

*****

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456

*****

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Kate Lavut

*****

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Chris Kuzma

*****

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Noel Freibert And Zach Hazard Vaupen

*****

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Lala Albert And Ines Estrada

*****

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Adam Buttrick And Lale Westvind

*****

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Leah Wishnia And Tim Beckhardt

*****

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Emily Howey (far left) and Jeff Fenwick (far right)

*****

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Peter Kalyniuk

*****

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Adrian Forrow and Jim Mezei

*****

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Joe Theriaelt and Zach Tuinamn

*****

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Thomas Ragon, Roman Muradov and Sam Hiti

*****

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480

*****

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Carlos Santos and Michel Rabagliati

*****

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484

*****

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Tracy Hurren, Jade Menni

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Stories From The Wonderfully-Named Fight Comics

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Go, Look: Ward Sutton In Entertainment Weekly

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Go, Look: Love For Ever Meulen

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If I Were In Copenhagen, 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 Munich, 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 Denver, I'd Go To This

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Happy 27th Birthday, Lane Milburn!

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Happy 45th Birthday, Brian Doherty!

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Happy 46th Birthday, Mark Siegel!

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Happy 32nd Birthday, Loris Z!

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FFF Results Post #337 -- Superguy

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On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Superman Comics You Like By Specific, Single Publication." This is how they responded.

Tom Spurgeon

1. Superman #162 (1963)
2. Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali (1978)
3. Superman Annual #11 (1985)
4. Tales Of Bizarro World (2000)
5. Absolute All Star Superman (2011)

*****

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Patrick Ford

* Action #1 (1938)
* Action #2 (1938)
* Action #3 (1938) '
* Action #4 (1938)
* Action #5 (1938)

*****

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Michael Buntag

1. Superman #247 (1972)
2. Superman #276 (1974)
3. Superman #281 (1974)
4. Superman: "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (1997)
5. Bizarro Comics (2002)

*****

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Steven Grant

1) Superman 156 (1962)
2) Superman 162 (1963)
3) Giant Superman Annual Annual 3 (1961)
4) Superman 423 (1986)
5) Superman: Blood Of My Ancestors (2003)

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow paperback (2010)
2. Superman #2 (1987)
3. Superman Adventures #41 (2000)
4. Action Comics #554 (1984)
5. Superman Adventures, Volume 3: Last Son of Krypton (2006)

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. Superman: Secret Identity #1 (2004)
2. Superman: Birthright #1 (2003)
3. Superman #233 (1971)
4. DC Comics Presents #28 (1980)
5. Action Comics #484 (1978)

*****

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Trevor Ashfield

1. Superman #280 (1974)
2. World's Finest Comics #118 (1961)
3. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? (1997)
4. Superman #400 (1984)
5. The Man of Steel #1 (1986)

*****

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Chad Nevett

1. Action Comics #257 (1959)
2. Superman annual #3 (1991)
3. Superman #79 (1993)
4. Adventures of Superman #616 (2003)
5. Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 (2009)

*****

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Scott Cederlund

1. Superman #400 (1984)
2. Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-Man Treasury Edition (1976)
3. Red Son #3 (2003)
4. Action Comics #466 (1976)
5. Superman #129 (1959)

*****

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Art Baxter

1. Action #339 (1966)
2. Superman #201 (1967)
3. DC Comics Presents #85 (1985)
4. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow (1997)
5. All Star Superman #6 (2007)

*****

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Chris Keels

* Superman #164 (1963)
* Superman #297 (1976)
* Phantom Zone #4 (1982)
* Superman #400 (1984)
* Superman #416 (1986)

*****

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Douglas Wolk

1. JLA/Hitman #2 (2007)
2. DC Comics Presents #34 (1981)
3. 52 #10 (2006)
4. Superman Adventures #41 (2000)
5. Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #133 (1970)

*****

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Rodrigo Baeza

* Superman #141 (1960)
* Superman #164 (1963)
* Forever People #1 (1971)
* Action Comics #465 (1976)
* DC Comics Presents #97 (1986)

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

1. Action Comics #432 (1974)
2. All Star Superman #6 (2007)
3. DC Comics Presents #52 (1983)
4. Superman #252 (1972)
5. Superman #272 (1974)

*****

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Michael G. Pfefferkorn

1. DC Comics Presents #29 (1981)
2. Action #862 (2008)
3. Superman/Batman: Absolute Power (2005, single volume hardback)
4. World's Finest #214 (1972)
5. Action #563 (1985)

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Action Comics #495 (1979)
2. Superman #274 (1974)
3. Superman In "Victory By Computer" (1981)
4. Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #159 (1973)
5. Action Comics #421 (1973)

*****

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Dave Knott

1. Superman #333 (1979) -- This was the first Superman comic I ever purchased. A Bizarro issue, drawn by Curt Swan. I still have it.
2. DC Comics Presents #85 (1985)
3. Superman Meets the Quik Bunny (1987)
4. It's A Bird (2004)
5. All-Star Superman #5 (2006)

*****

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Scott Dunbier

* Superman #162 Came close to deleting this one since it will be on so many lists. But, damn, this might be the perfect Superman story. It's like asking what are the five greatest Westerns and leaving The Searchers off.
* Superman #168 I loved this story about Luthor being a superhero on a far off planet with a red sun.
* Superman #296 The first part of a really good, touching three-part story.
* Superman #400 Steranko doing Superman? Al Williamson? more? Sold.
* Superman Annual #11 "Clean thoughts, Chum."

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #53 (1961)
2. Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali (1978)
3. Superman and Batman: World's Funnest (2000)
4. Tales Of Bizarro World (2000)
5. Penthouse Comix #5 ["Man Of Steel, Woman Of Tissue"] (1995)

*****

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Marc Arsenault

1. Action Comics #255 (1959)
2. Superman #202 (1967)
3. Action Comics #454 (1975)
4. All Star Comics #65 (1977)
5. Superman Annual #9 (1983)

*****

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John Platt

1. DC Comics Presents #85 (1985)
2. DC Comics Presents #81 (1985)
3. Superman #411 (1985)
4. Superman #400 (1984)
5. Action Comics #300 (1963)

*****
*****
 
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June 1, 2013


The Comics Reporter Video Parade


Carol Lay Kickstarter Video


Gengoroh Tagame Drawing, Talking


How Iron Man 3 Should Have Ended


Subtitled Scene From Blue Is The Warmest Color (Clicking Through Will Take You To More)


One Of Tom Gammill's Reuben Awards Weekend Videos


Paul Pope At BEA
 
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CR Week In Review

imageThe top comics-related news stories from May 25 to May 31, 2013:

1. Brian Crane and Rick Kirkman share this year's Reuben Award.

2. Controversy in New Zealand editorial cartoon making circles -- that's a part of the world where political cartoons are taken very seriously -- about an Al Nisbet cartoon that depends on deeply unfortunate cultural stereotypes to make its point.

3. BEA 2013 starts with things in the prose work generally stabilizing, those with fears that digital was going to kill everything in physical goods immediately somewhat less terrified, and assurances that comics remains a growth category for lots and lots of people. It's also not the comics super-convention some of us thought it might be on the floor of the 2003 show.

Winners Of The Week
Rob Rogers, which is a heck of a thing during Reuben Awards weeks, but I thought this was really nice of him.

Losers Of The Week
Modern Doonesbury fans, facing a summer of reruns from the venerable strip. There's even a guest-host on The Daily Show this summer, working under a similar plan to Trudeau's famous work-sabbaticals.

Quote Of The Week
"I don't think I was not-smart when I first started getting paid to write about comics, but I am definitely smarter now. I didn't have the experience then that I do now, but there still aren't many -- any? -- resources for new writers-about-comics to check out to see what their peers in other fields are being paid. There's also the rookie conundrum. Can I get away with asking to change a contract or will that sour the deal?" -- David Brothers

*****

today's cover is from the all-time series Classics Illustrated

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Ethan Rilly Covers Philip K. Dick

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

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

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

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posted 4:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 33rd Birthday, Mikhaela Reid!

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Happy 77th Birthday, Gerald Scarfe!

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Happy 43rd Birthday, Graham Annable!

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Happy 30th Birthday, Frederik Hautain!

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