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















December 31, 2017


Missed It: Christopher Sebela On Process Party

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posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Thunder Brother Special

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posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Nothing Left To Learn

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posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Ezra Claytan Daniels

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posted 1:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Eggman Comics

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posted 1:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
This Site Is In Silent Running Mode Until January 8

There was a time when I covered comics in the 1990s through the mid-oughts that finding any news (barring a holiday purge at Marvel) to report or to amplify in December through January 15 or so was a nightmare. That's no longer the case. We'll keep the Random Comics feature going through the next couple of weeks on weekdays, we will break in with any major news, and we will continue to recommend artists and projects for you to discover.

imageI'm also going to re-run a few old interviews from December 25 through January 1, after which we'll make a decision about featured content January 2 to January 8.

I like pauses, I like changes in tone, and this should be a brief spell of both. If I do this right, you won't notice that for a fortnight or so I'm getting a couple of hours back. I hope that gained time shows in the New Year.

Thank you so much for another year of support, patronage and readership. I feel like there will be good things in store for CR in 2018, but talking about them doesn't matter if they don't happen so I will stay quiet until they do. I talk a big game; it's time to play one.

Comics had an extraordinary year of continued great work, a ton of very good work, a lot of work that is personally meaningful to their creators, and some small but vital progress by some very brave people in making comics less of a horrible place in which to make and engage with art. I am hopeful that work continues. There have also been some terrible stories, starting with a nasty streak of censorship overseas, the continuing exploitation of artists here and abroad, and the hammering away at elements of infrastructures in several countries that had helped many make the attempt to live more fully within their art.

I am encouraged, though, by the art itself, and the increasing realization in a number of circles that meaningful expression and ethical business conduct are mountains on which someone can take a stand to positive results.

A little business: if you would like to see your birthday mentioned on the site in the new year, I'm afraid it has to be birthdate. That's not an option for everyone, I know, but I like the reminder of time and humanity and good people defined by both that those wishes bring every day in accumulation.

Also: I made a birthday beg on behalf of my other job here.

Ever upward, and I hope you have as great a holiday experience as is available to you.

Tom

art from Jason's On The Camino, one of the high-quality comics inviting you into someone else's world that we get all the time now, because comics is awesome

this article will repeat until January 8, skipping Christmas and New Year's
 
posted 12:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #490 -- 2017 In Review

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Stories Of Importance To Comics In 2017." This how they responded.

*****

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Michael Borelli

1. Jiro Taniguchi dies at 69
2. Jay Lynch dies at 72
3. Skip Williamson dies at 72
4. Bernie Wrightson dies at 68
5. Len Wein dies at 69

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. DC Fires Eddie Berganza.
2. CB Cebulski Confesses To Akira Yoshida Identity.
3. Musa Kart's Undergoes Legal Odyssey In Turkey.
4. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Becomes Hit.
5. Linework NW Suspends Indefinitely.

*****

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Oliver Ristau

1. Comics critic Zainab Akhtar joining Peow in an editorial position
2. German artist Anna Haifisch releasing her best work to date at a publishing house located in the USA
3. The creator of Rurouni Kenshin, Nobuhiro Watsuki, getting charged with possession of child pornography
4. Tucker Stone joins The Comics Journal because Dan Nadel is leaving
5. Bernie Wrightson dies at 68

*****

thanks to our pair of participants!

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*****
 
posted 12:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
December 30, 2017


Go, Look: Refugees

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posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Fran Krause

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posted 1:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: David Alvarado

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posted 1:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
This Site Is In Silent Running Mode Until January 8

There was a time when I covered comics in the 1990s through the mid-oughts that finding any news (barring a holiday purge at Marvel) to report or to amplify in December through January 15 or so was a nightmare. That's no longer the case. We'll keep the Random Comics feature going through the next couple of weeks on weekdays, we will break in with any major news, and we will continue to recommend artists and projects for you to discover.

imageI'm also going to re-run a few old interviews from December 25 through January 1, after which we'll make a decision about featured content January 2 to January 8.

I like pauses, I like changes in tone, and this should be a brief spell of both. If I do this right, you won't notice that for a fortnight or so I'm getting a couple of hours back. I hope that gained time shows in the New Year.

Thank you so much for another year of support, patronage and readership. I feel like there will be good things in store for CR in 2018, but talking about them doesn't matter if they don't happen so I will stay quiet until they do. I talk a big game; it's time to play one.

Comics had an extraordinary year of continued great work, a ton of very good work, a lot of work that is personally meaningful to their creators, and some small but vital progress by some very brave people in making comics less of a horrible place in which to make and engage with art. I am hopeful that work continues. There have also been some terrible stories, starting with a nasty streak of censorship overseas, the continuing exploitation of artists here and abroad, and the hammering away at elements of infrastructures in several countries that had helped many make the attempt to live more fully within their art.

I am encouraged, though, by the art itself, and the increasing realization in a number of circles that meaningful expression and ethical business conduct are mountains on which someone can take a stand to positive results.

A little business: if you would like to see your birthday mentioned on the site in the new year, I'm afraid it has to be birthdate. That's not an option for everyone, I know, but I like the reminder of time and humanity and good people defined by both that those wishes bring every day in accumulation.

Also: I made a birthday beg on behalf of my other job here.

Ever upward, and I hope you have as great a holiday experience as is available to you.

Tom

art from Jason's On The Camino, one of the high-quality comics inviting you into someone else's world that we get all the time now, because comics is awesome

this article will repeat until January 8, skipping Christmas and New Year's
 
posted 12:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
December 29, 2017


Go, Look: Protein Press

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posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Holiday Interview Re-Run #4 -- Carol Tyler In 2012 On What Would Become Soldier's Heart

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*****

Editor's Note, 2017 It was my great honor in 2016 to help present Carol Tyler with a Master Cartoonist award during that year's Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. I don't vote on that award, and was proud that our committee saw fit to honor Tyler in a way that very few female cartoonists get honored: for the overwhelming quality and dramatic effect of her comics chops on display. Tyler can bring it.

A Soldier's Heart is a heartbreaking, emotional, evocative piece of comics art for sure -- but it's also a virtuoso display of comics' formal possibilities. As collected, Tyler's masterwork is one of the two-three great books of the decade thus far and one of the great comics from the underground generation. I was happy to be reminded I interviewed the cartoonist at the end of the work's serialization -- something done in part so the book's subjects, Tyler's elderly WW2 veteran father and the artist's mother, would be more likely to see at least part of it in print.

All apologies for any links where the Internet has since moved on. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

imageCarol Tyler is one of our great cartoonists. This year saw the publication of the third and final book in her You'll Never Know series, about her relationship to her father and the lingering effect his time in World War 2 had on his life and that of his family. Tyler has a wonderful eye for color, a penchant for off-beat narrative structures and an underrated way with a tossed-off line. Her books would be compelling solely for the snapshot they provide into the life of a working artist, or for just getting down on paper that specific way that nature presents itself in the American midwest. I love talking to her. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: You've lived with these books for a very long time. How did it feel to get some closure on this work?

CAROL TYLER: It was obviously a relief. But... during the last year of getting the book done, it was impossible circumstances. I had to finish the book by May. I wanted to get it done sooner, but the soonest I could get it done was May. I'm sure you've heard, as I was finishing up the last half of the book in the summer: it started with having to put the dog down, our 16-year-old dog. Then my mom had to go to the doctor. She ended up in a hospital, ended up in a nursing home, ended up in a coma -- this is all over a period of months -- and my sister who was helping me keep it together, we're the ones that are close to our parents physically here, she started to feel sick in October. It turned out she had stage three and a half, four cancer, ovarian cancer. So I literally... and my dad fell, and all of this stuff.

I literally had to take the artwork -- they live four hours from me -- I had to take the artwork with me and there were days when the artwork would appear at the bedside of my Mom, at the nursing home, my sister at her hospital in recovery, the VA where dad was and then back to staying at my parents' house. I brought pencils, ink, everything. I couldn't not work, because I had to get the book done! It was madness.

I was able to show my Mom the pages penciled. Before she passed away she saw the work. It made her cry. She said, "This is very good." And it was just so hard to do. There were times when I had to rush over there and came back, and I didn't take the work with me. It was so intense what happened, and I would come back to my drawing board here and I would sit here and feel so calm and comfortable to be at the drawing table, away from the intensity of running around. I put that intensity into the back part of the book.

SPURGEON: As I recall, you've always been one to carve out time for your work. I think "The Hannah Story" was done when you were between jobs, and had specific time to do that story then. This sounds like a completely different working experience, with the work forced upon you in a way that maybe it wasn't in the past.

TYLER: It's been like, "Gotta do the book." "Back to the book." My world was centered around sitting down, doing some more pages, "I'll be inking tonight," for so many years. I made a sign and put it above the table. You know how the dollar bill has the eyeball icon on the pyramid? I made something goofy like that with ink and it said, "I worship the God of being done." [laughter] My work style is such that I just don't write a script, and then sit down -- "Oh, I'm on page 36 now." Although I did have a system, a systematic approach. I did have a lot of order in doing the book. But yes, it was different than how I had had to do it in the past, with raising a child and kind of doing the household thing.

I set out to do this task. I jumped in. I had to find the story. I knew intuitively what it was I wanted to do. As it became... at first I just threw a bunch of stuff out there to help me find, then it became clear how the story needed to be shaped. I knew what the ending was going to be. Pretty close to the ending, although not exactly. I knew the feeling of the climax, the ending. For example, I knew I wanted to talk about Dad's fortitude in having cancer and how that was something I've admired about him. Even though he was impossible. I did write that story a couple of years ago, but it didn't fit into the took until later. There were little pieces and parts like that. I didn't do it in sequence, but I did it thematically. Then I had to, you know, sit there and try to... before book one came out, I knew the general overview. But from 2004 to 2009, when the first book was published, I did do chunks and bits, chapters -- almost like back in the day, with Weirdo, when I would do like one-pagers, three-pagers, five-pagers, ten-pagers. It was a matter of organizing the clusters, because I had an intuitive sense of the basic theme.

The storyline hit me real strong in 2007. Then I built the pieces and parts and chunks along that. That was surprising because book three... I started book two immediately, I didn't even stop. I went from one on the drawing table to two. I flowed right through. I had difficulty in the illness in my family between books two and three, so I had... a not-complete devotion of attention to three immediately. It was still there. The drawing table was always waiting and I knew the story. I had some devices. I had part of the wall that I gridded out; I used post-it notes to help me manage the pages. Even though in book one I forgot to number the pages. [laughter] But I knew what every page that I scanned was called -- page 36 or something like that. I had a way of organizing all of the pages. I did do them according to, "Okay, I have to work on 37. What does 37 need?" And I kept on the grid a sickbay list -- page 36 needs corrections! Page 53 is awkward; there's no flow to page 54.

It was a lot to juggle.

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SPURGEON: Were you getting feedback from people as you were doing it?

TYLER: No. And it's funny, because everyone knows I'm married to Justin. We do not have a buddy system for feedback for the work. So I would have to mull it over. I would go out and do some yard work, come in and just live with it. Crazily walking around the house, talking out dialogue to myself. "'That son of a bitch!' Well, no, he wouldn't say that. He would say, 'That cocksucker!' Yeah! That's what dad would say! [Spurgeon laughs] Not 'That son of a bitch!'"

So I was on my own in my own world, my own thoughts. I'd walk the dog and I'd be, "No, that's not how it goes; it goes like this." It was constantly here, constantly in my consciousness, feeling around for it, feeling around for that right vibe. Towards the end, with my parents and the illness and stuff. In the Olympics, I love this thought, Oksana Baiul was down, didn't know she was going to win the gold, so at the end of her program she throws in a quadruple toe lutz and another triple toe loop! [laughs] There were a couple of pages I did throw in off of my grid, off of the narrative. Things that had to be in there. I needed them because of what happened with my parents. I added about 20 pages to book three.

imageSPURGEON: Are you willing to identify some of the pages?

TYLER: Yeah. My mom at the beginning. I'm looking for her in the landscape. I'm reintroducing the characters. I had her years ago draw that drawing -- I said, "Mom, make a picture for the book." She kept saying, "I don't know why you have to reveal about us in public." She had the drawing, and I knew I wanted her to say that. I had to draw her leaving the panel, but she had passed away already. So where I have the lady manatee, the metaphor that came up for her, originally I was just going to talk about mothers and daughters, but I have her exit that scene on her wheelie cart. She says, "You should ever know that I love you." That's one of the things she told me before she died. "Ever know." She was riffing off of the book title. I had her in her little scooter leaving that sequence. That's not what I had planned originally.

There's another part where... my dad was not a good guy. I don't want to say that. [pause] He took her illness very hard and awkwardly. He got crankier and more off-putting. I put in that section where we go to the motel because the asbestos is all over the house. That's all true. [laughs] We go to the motel. I added the part where I had to go back and get her meds because she couldn't breathe. He's asking for his pipe. That was the way he was. She was over there in her hospice bed just wheezing away and he was trying to light up his pipe. I said, "Dad, you can't do that in here." "Hell, a man should be able..." I said, "Mom is struggling; can't you see?" So I give a touché on that.

I think the crabbiness at the end... I had him crabby, but I really pointed with those sawblades, I went to the level of his crankiness. I was so upset with his behavior. I kind of turned the dial on that one.

SPURGEON: One of the distinguishing characteristics of this work overall is the sheer number of unique narrative solutions. In this volume alone you have a text-heavy section, and these panoramic scenes, and you have the grid as well and you have these pages with a lot of white space where you drop details. It's an almost dizzying array of choices.

TYLER: Did it feel like too much to you?

SPURGEON: No. No, no. I thought that element was wonderful. There's no criticism implied in my pointing this out. My question, though, is at what point while structuring a work like this one do you land on the way you're going to approach it on the page? The fact that you're doing chunks here and chunks there suggests that maybe you're finding your way through how you're going to tell it. Maybe that's why there are so many different approaches?

TYLER: I did know that it could be jumbled, very jumbled, if I didn't have some order. Order in the court. That's why I do have the grid structure. Six panels on a page. I tried to keep some saneness that reappears except for these episodes. When we go to St. Louis, it's pages from the journal over, basically, strips of paper that I'd taken white paint to to make them try and look like roads. Paper that I tore, and like a collage, stuck it on there. I feel like... that saying in architecture? form follows function? -- there were times that I felt like I had to get the mood. There's conveying the content, the information -- communicating that. And then there's the artistic part of communication. There were times when I just had to get it across in a better way.

My mom used to say in an argument, "I'm not going to draw you a picture!" or something like that. Well, I do. That's my business. I have to convey a mood as well give you some information. So there are the words, there's the pictures, and there's the intangible element within that. That's the play part. That's what I like.

Fantagraphics gives me full range to do whatever I want. They may say, "There needs to be a hyphen or a comma" or something like that. Or this word is spelled wrong. Although very little. I pride myself on my great spelling. I don't get called out on that too much. I try to improve my word skills, try to write better because I feel like writing is my weak point. But then I'm so afraid to draw. I'm really not much of a cartoonist, I guess. [laughs] There are people that can just have at it, but it's very hard for me to draw. And writing, I was a troubled reader growing up. So I work on these things, try to improve constantly. I forgot the question! Where was I going with this?

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SPURGEON: Let me make it more specific. There's this climactic section where you and your father visit the National World War II Memorial.

TYLER: Yes.

SPURGEON: The work opens up there, and you tell that part of your story in spreads. You get a sense of the scope of the place. You also use a muted color scheme, less lively than some of the earlier scenes. I was wondering how you made those choices. Maybe that will help focus my impossibly broad question! Why did you go with these vistas? I think that's really effective.

TYLER: When we went there, oh my God, it was so grand and spectacular, the space itself. When you walk into the memorial, you literally kind of walk down into it, and it opens up in its grandeur. It's wide. There's the Atlantic side over here, the Pacific side over there. It has this wide-open feeling.

I kept... here comes "intuitive" again. As I was drawing, I kept having this feeling of a circular motion, swirling air and big sky. It was all there. When I started to draw those pages, I was literally drawing gigantic ovals on the paper. I was looking for it, because I don't trace. I do reference a photo, but at some point I let it go and try to get the feel, get the vibe. I have everything up to it in the world of the comic panel -- panel to panel sequence. And then we're in the hotel room there are close-ups on my anxiety over not being able to sleep. All of that. And then, yes, as we go, get closer to it, I wanted to get the reader to the point how we fell when we were in there. Good God. It was magnificent and open and spectacular. I felt the way to do that was to open the space up. I don't know if you've ever been there, but the sky does not have birds in it with wreaths. That is confined to the towers that say Atlantic and Pacific. In order to reinforce that feeling, I didn't want to show that and then walk over there and look up and show that, I kind of combined sensations of being there and walking around that.

imageIf you turn the page it had the columns. He wanted a picture with every state he lived in over the years. I had to make the columns as a separate thing. I wanted the gravelly effect. It's a technical thing. I made this big circular thing. I needed to have the reader look at the thing and then almost like a spiral come out, look at the four things, and then spin over to dad walking over to his side, the Atlantic. It's another circular motif. Then you turn the page again. It was, again, inspired by the space itself being near the water. They have these water features there.

He literally did have a meltdown. He's a little, bitty guy. He's shrunk with age, and he's frail. Within this gigantic space I needed to show him coming apart. What tipped him off was the sound of the water, and the names they have carved in stone of the places. His story was that he didn't know where he was, and all this kind of stuff. There would be "Ardennes" and all of these names, and he didn't know. It made him feel that confusion again. And that water, and the bigness of it. He got lost in that moment. He fell apart.

I knew that the minute I started the comic. "Comic." [laughs] I doesn't seem like the right word. I knew the minute I started the work, I knew I had to bring the reader to the moment when we were at the memorial and he fell apart. When I first started the work -- Kim [Thompson]'s going to hate me for this -- but I did show it to some people at bigger, New York publisher companies. They said, "We don't think your dad is very interesting." One place said that. I didn't have it in the shape I have it now, I just said, "I want to tell a story about my dad. He was brave and he had cancer and he was in the war." "We don't think your dad is very interesting," was one of the answers. I remember thinking, "They don't know him." Then I thought that's my job as a cartoonist: I need to get people with me in that moment. I need to bring people there. I have to describe and define him. That set up the book.

I took it to another place a couple of years later and they said it was great, but it was too random. I didn't have my real story. They were the ones that said, "We can't work with people who are intuitive. You have to have your script written out." And I said, "I don't work like that! Sorry!" And I thought, "The hell with it. Who do I think I am? I am a weirdo artist from Weirdo magazine. I need to approach it like that, the way that I know best. That's what works." I said, "Goodbye, New York." I can't work with an editor on this big thing. Leave me alone. That was 2007.

I had high hopes. I think it was because of... [sigh] the money, the time, the commitment! I did this on a shoestring. I did this along with... I'm going to say it. Food stamps. I did it with practically no resources. I work as an adjunct. I teach a class. That's what keeps me together. I'm poor folks, baby.

SPURGEON: I wanted to ask about another page, a little bit later than that, the conversation with you and your father in the truck after the memorial. It's almost very plain in a way. I liked the cats and dogs and the buckets, the cartoon jokes, but it's a very unadorned page. If you were flipping through the book, you would not think that this is an important scene. I wanted to know why you did this one in such a straight-forward way. Because the content... I actually gasped, took in air at one moment reading it. It was affecting. But the presentation is... was that on purpose?

TYLER: Oh, yeah. We had gone through the moments of his remembering picking up the dead and being called out as a wuss, which is why he volunteered for that job. And not remembering... the whole confusion element, his being so alone with all of that. There was this grandeur and spectacular element to the memorial, but for the most part, what we know for sure is that soldiers pretty much don't have that experience. It's little things that tip them over. Stuff they can't forget. The accumulation. What Ernie Pyle described as layer upon layer of awfulness encountered. War isn't about Audie Murphys. It's about regular guys like my dad, and the damage. We got to the truck, and this is the truth. It was pouring when we left the thing. Epic rainstorm. It was true, I said these are soldier's tears, stories never told. How many... I just felt how many people carried around stories. I get in the truck and I'm with one of those guys. Whose story I know. It was a flash flood; it was awful. He didn't drive because his truck wasn't available.

We pulled over. He said, "They say love is the answer." He started talking about Anne, my sister. It was shocking, because I thought we had had our moment. It was really sweet... in the little cab of the truck there, it was private and personal, like a whisper. Real plain. That's why I did that. I just wanted that to feel that way. This little... private reveal of that, how war sent him to the gates of hell but Anne pushed him in. I wanted to have that be the focus, not any of the environment. The environment is that we were in the truck, the outside world, everything had pushed us into this little spot. It was not like... it wasn't like, "I was happy and he was happy because we resolved something." It was a very quiet realization. That's what I had. I had to get the reader to that place at the memorial, and I also knew that there was something about our time in the truck -- I couldn't have them compete, but it had to be a great other side of that moment. I just kept us in the cab of the truck. Eventually we got home.

SPURGEON: You disparaged your skill as a writer, earlier, and it made me think of a panel -- not a dramatic one, almost a throwaway one -- from the wedding sequence. Right near the end. That whole scene is snappily presented and the writing seems to me to the point, and would seem to speak against your self-portrayal of a quarter-hour ago. At one point you write, "A wedding is a mash-up between loved ones and strangers who politely spend the hours attempting to sort out complex, familial alignments while slowly getting plastered." [Tyler laughs] That's a great line. How much do you worry over your writing. Do you go after every word, do you pick apart the text when you're creating your comics?

TYLER: I do write over and over trying to find the right... "mash-up." [laughs]

I've always been self-conscious about writing because I was in the bluebirds reading group. You know what that means. Sister put me in with the slow readers, the bad readers. Something like that. I was four years old when I started school, because my birthday was in November. Nowadays they would have kept me until the next year. What I learned from teaching first grade and second grade is the child's brain is ready for language, there's a window that opens up at a certain point, and you're ready to read. I was a working class girl, my mom did not read books to us at night. We had to get to bed, so that we could get up in the morning. So pleasure reading was not something that was around. I did not have any prep.

Then when I was in kindergarten I was too short, too small, and the kids would laugh at me because I would stumble on my words. I didn't know what this stuff was. I got put in the challenged group for reading. I had to play catch up throughout school. I think that's why I developed this kind of thing. I had to read the world based on visual clues and sound.

I did learn one thing about myself throughout this book: sound is everything to me. When I hear somebody say something to me, I remember how it sounds as much as what they said. More. It's the sound that becomes the shaper of the form. I know with the wedding I have to go [Tyler sings a series of musical "doots"]. You know? [Spurgeon laughs] Then I figure out the words on that. I walk and talk around the house. I'll go for a walk. I'll get in the shower. I'll order and frame up the words, in the shower, talking through the words. It's something I need to nail down. You gotta have in comics, I feel, you have to build a great house. That's the architecture. That's the panels and the order of the writing, all that stuff. Then the plumbing, that's the words and the composition of the art. I said it was troublesome to draw. I get the panels drawn, the words written. I often have to go back and re-do it because it has to ring true. Then I start to work on the drawing. That's when I get to nail-biting. I have no confidence in my ability to draw. Every panel I draw I have to struggle with, "Can I do this? Uh-oh. I don't know if I can draw. I don't know if I can do that." Then when it's done it's like, "Oh my God." So I try another one. Every single panel I have to get all my confidence together and move forward. It's not easy. When you go to book signings and people pull out their sketchbooks and say, "Can you draw me a picture?" I can't! I have pencil it and work it over a couple of times... I have no confidence. It's a struggle for me.

I'm glad you brought that up about the words. I'm very concerned with the writing and the language and how it reads. I do obsess more over that. I'm equally obsessed about how the picture looks within the panel and how the panel works within the page, so that the whole thing has a sense of being something that works, that leads to the next page and come from the page before.

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SPURGEON: You mentioned in an interview once that you would talk to people to get dialogue closer to what they might actually say. Do you do that with the visuals, too? Do you tweak, or check with people, about the visual aspects of your comics?

TYLER: You have to make sure you got the right lamp in the room. Otherwise it's somewhere else. What somebody is wearing. Mom's wardrobe, her JCPenney's wardrobe is throughout the book. Dad, he was pretty simple because he always wear the same clothes: the blotchy, stained pants. The suspenders.

Through the book I wanted to make sure I captured my own transformation. When Justin leaves at the beginning I'm wearing a 49ers jersey. Could you get any more unsexy or girly attractive than that? Right? At the time, when he left, the 49ers were the team in northern California. I didn't have a jersey but I had... Julie had one or something. That was the mode o' day. I was right in the middle of the raising the kid thing. Women do not feel sexy and all that stuff... you just can't. You have the kid, you have the homework packet. So many things. Another thing: I have to look like a sex object all the time! That takes a low priority. You want to look nice. And aging is starting a hit. So in that panel, I wanted to draw a 49ers jersey because that was as far away from romantic awesomeness as I could get. As I transform through the book, I transform my look. I get back into my being. Everything from my hair to the way I travel around in the panels. It's clothing. It's telephones! At first I'm on a land line. At the end I've got a cordless. There's a cell phone. Cars. Everything. All of these details. I knew I had to show across the time... a phone can really anchor an ear. A well-placed black telephone. We still have a black telephone with a coil. We still use it.

SPURGEON: We talked in 2009 when the first book came out. You expressed some anticipation that the book might garner reactions from other children of veterans. Your generation, and feeling the burnt of this undiagnosed trauma they went through. I wonder how that developed. Did you hear from other people? Do you think your work has been reflected in work that others are doing? Or has that not developed the way you wanted it to?

TYLER: I'm kind of disappointed that it hasn't had that audience. I know that is a great audience. I'll tell you why. This last Fall I was at the Military Writers Society Of America -- there's actually a group like that. I was asked to do a presentation. Twenty very devoted people came. They were blown away by my presentation. Not only because these are people that write, and I showed them: "And now you gotta draw it." I have a powerpoint about what the studio looks like, and the effort. They were amazed by that. There were also people there who had written on the topic. There's a woman, Leila Levinson, she had written about the very same topic. We didn't meet until that conference. We became fast friends. She believes the same thing, that this is the big shaper of our generation. And we have it in our minds to put together a conference. We wish we could roll it back 20 years because the baby boomers are retiring and moving to Costa Rica. What do they care about issues? When people of my generation, and they find it and they read it, it really resonates with them.

I'm sorry about the way the bookstores... you go to the graphic novel sections and there's Hellboy! [Spurgeon laughs] There's Chris Ware's beautiful, giant thing. There are all these other great titles. But someone that is interested in history or World War 2, or the things that this would strike with them, they're not going to go to that section. I've said that before at the library. I've asked, "Why you can't put it with the military writers?" Put it next to Leila's book, Gated Grief -- it's about post-traumatic stress. Put it out there for the veterans to find. Amazon, come on! Categorize it. It's under graphic novels, and then women's graphic novels. Those are the categories. If you like Fantagraphics and you want women cartoonists, you're going to find my book. But if you're a military person, you're not going to get to the book. Why are there these screwed-up categories?

SPURGEON: I think that's coming. Slowly.

TYLER: We were saying that 20 years ago.

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SPURGEON: When I told a bunch of people I was going to interview you, announced it on Facebook or via Twitter or something, I heard back from about a half-dozen folks -- about par for the course -- but this time they were all fellow women cartoonists. I remember when you went to San Diego a couple of years ago a lot of the female cartoonists I knew there attended your panel. Do you feel a connection to the younger women cartoonists working right now?

TYLER: Wait a minute. Did you say you heard back from younger women cartoonists about my work?

SPURGEON: It was actually all women cartoonists. That's what I'm saying. Usually I hear back from a range of people. This time it was only women cartoonists that wrote me. I wondered if you felt a connection, because it seems like they may feel a connection to you. I think your work is admired, generally.

TYLER: I find that funny. Not funny ha-ha. I find that interesting because as a cartoonist -- and you know this is true -- you work in your bubble, your isolation unit, and I don't get to go to these conferences. I went to San Diego by the grace of being asked to come. I don't have the resources to travel around and promote my book. I'd love to do that. I haven't had time, and then last year with my family in such a difficult state I didn't have time to go to any of these things. I probably should go and meet people. Get out more. I've got a lot of Facebook friends and I know people through Facebook and maybe having met them at a couple of conferences. I feel so inadequate because I can't meet the need. If someone comes out with a great book and I see it and I love it, I don't know what to do about that other than say, "Oh, your work is great. I really like it." It sounds so fake.

I try to be supportive. I try to like. I hit the "like" button on as many people as possible. But I don't have fast friendships with the women that are working, probably just because of the physical... I remember hanging out with Aline [Crumb], for example. And Diane [Noomin]. Phoebe [Gloeckner]. We physically hung out together. We'd go to Ron Turner's burrito party. There'd be some function at Aline and Robert's. I don't know how close you can be as a friend just by hitting a like button. I'm kind of embarrassed and sad about that. We don't get to show up physically for each other. I can't show up physically. I'm honored and pleased to know that women showed up in terms of this interview. I feel honored.

SPURGEON: You're always honest about the costs of being a cartoonist. Do you worry after younger people that want to make comics or that wanted to try something like you just completed? Is the cost of doing this kind of work something you worry about for others?

TYLER: Do you think people would be surprised to know that I did food stamps to get the book done?

SPURGEON: I don't think surprised as maybe gratified that you would talk about it so openly.

TYLER: About poverty?

SPURGEON: About how tough it can be to make art, or orient yourself towards making art, unless you're very lucky. A lot of the very youngest artists have come up in this age where there really were some book contracts out there at one point [Tyler laughs], and it seemed like that was a thing that might continue. Some of the cartoonists I've talked to this year, those under 35, a lot of them are readjusting their expectations.

TYLER: Because of the economy.

SPURGEON: That, and because suddenly fewer people want a book from them -- maybe not a second book, maybe not a first.

TYLER: How do you get one of those? That would be fun. [laughter]

Fantagraphics and I have a hippie handshake deal. Which is fine because we're from a different generation. I trust Kim and Eric [Reynolds] and Gary [Groth]. They've done okay by me. It's not been New York prices, but it's been what they can do. I'm okay. I'm not in foreclosure.

All right... here's the deal. I'm an art nun. [laughter] You take a vow of poverty when you enter this business. It's not about the lifestyle, it's about how can I get this work done. So the first thing I learned as an artist when I went off to art school back in the '70s was you get a job that won't drain you emotionally and will allow you to have the time to do your work. I've been working under that same paradigm. And if you work hard, you'll get a bigger gig. You have to stay the course. I have had times in my life where I've taken -- this is the absolute, god-awful truth -- go through the pantry, take a couple of cans and return them so I can buy a tube of red, a tube of yellow and a tube of blue. Maybe a tube of white. Get some cardboard, and do a little bit of art. I still have returns I do because I need a bottle of yellow ink. At the same time, I can't put forward poverty as my opening shot. People can't see my hobbling reality. They need to see the triumphant result. My art will outlive me. Not my poverty. That's not going to matter. What matters is on the page.

I gave up a long time ago on a fancy wardrobe. I'm a thrift store girl. I gave up a long time ago on vacations. When I'm asked to come to San Diego, I make sure I do a little sight-seeing and have a little fun when I'm there because that's my vacation. I can't afford to go the Cayman Islands. I just came back from Europe. Someone graciously, the Amadora Festival... Portugal... that was wonderful. Otherwise I would not have been able to go to Europe.

I could not have done this book as a young person. Not just because of the obvious chronology, but because I wasn't ready. I didn't have the emotional connection with some of these broader themes. When you're young you want to draw about young people things: the rent, the landlord, the boyfriend. Which is what I did when I first started out. Cursing them out in print.

I don't know if it's right to air my reality here. "Whoo! This girl's poor!" [laughter] For the younger people, if they're going into it thinking they're going to have contracts, or a certain lifestyle? No, no, no, no, no. You go into this to say something. To communicate.

*****

* Carol Tyler
* Carol Tyler at Fantagraphics
* You'll Never Know Book One: A Good And Decent Man
* You'll Never Know Book Two: Collateral Damage
* You'll Never Know Book Three: Soldier's Heart

*****

* cover to the latest book
* self-portrait by the cartoonist, the one used for the Chicago conference earlier this year
* one of the dizzying variety of narrative solutions employed in the book
* an added scene
* the big memorial spread, photographed because I couldn't manage to scan it even though I thought I could
* Carol's dad getting his picture taken in front of those various state columns
* one of the lovely dropped-border panels that Tyler occasionally uses
* the sturdy grid
* compelling, dream-like image from early in the third volume (below)

*****

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*****
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Go, Look: The Glass Scientists

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Go, Look: Dandelion Wine Collective

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Go, Look: Danielle Chenette

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Sean Gaffney on UQ Holder! Vol. 12.

* not comics: saw the latest Star Wars movie over the between-holidays break. It was a Star Wars movie. My only comics note is that they seem to be setting up a generational-shift theme, and it might behoove writers and critics to look at what Jack Kirby did with the Fourth World material in terms of that same kind of thing.

* assembled extra: congratulations to Dr. Michael Vassallo on his 50th column, this one featuring a Christmas story by the great Joe Maneely.

* a near-perfect John Byrne tweet for quickly touching all the John Byrne bases.

* not comics: Gil Roth sent along this piece on a teacher's experience with students forced to learn to read things they might not ideally want to read, and I think there's a lot here that informs the value that difficult comics may have.

* finally: Esther Inglis-Arkelly makes a list of comics that she felt were good but under the radar.
 
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This Site Is In Silent Running Mode Until January 8

There was a time when I covered comics in the 1990s through the mid-oughts that finding any news (barring a holiday purge at Marvel) to report or to amplify in December through January 15 or so was a nightmare. That's no longer the case. We'll keep the Random Comics feature going through the next couple of weeks on weekdays, we will break in with any major news, and we will continue to recommend artists and projects for you to discover.

imageI'm also going to re-run a few old interviews from December 25 through January 1, after which we'll make a decision about featured content January 2 to January 8.

I like pauses, I like changes in tone, and this should be a brief spell of both. If I do this right, you won't notice that for a fortnight or so I'm getting a couple of hours back. I hope that gained time shows in the New Year.

Thank you so much for another year of support, patronage and readership. I feel like there will be good things in store for CR in 2018, but talking about them doesn't matter if they don't happen so I will stay quiet until they do. I talk a big game; it's time to play one.

Comics had an extraordinary year of continued great work, a ton of very good work, a lot of work that is personally meaningful to their creators, and some small but vital progress by some very brave people in making comics less of a horrible place in which to make and engage with art. I am hopeful that work continues. There have also been some terrible stories, starting with a nasty streak of censorship overseas, the continuing exploitation of artists here and abroad, and the hammering away at elements of infrastructures in several countries that had helped many make the attempt to live more fully within their art.

I am encouraged, though, by the art itself, and the increasing realization in a number of circles that meaningful expression and ethical business conduct are mountains on which someone can take a stand to positive results.

A little business: if you would like to see your birthday mentioned on the site in the new year, I'm afraid it has to be birthdate. That's not an option for everyone, I know, but I like the reminder of time and humanity and good people defined by both that those wishes bring every day in accumulation.

Also: I made a birthday beg on behalf of my other job here.

Ever upward, and I hope you have as great a holiday experience as is available to you.

Tom

art from Jason's On The Camino, one of the high-quality comics inviting you into someone else's world that we get all the time now, because comics is awesome

this article will repeat until January 8, skipping Christmas and New Year's
 
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December 28, 2017


Go, Look: Ramin Nazer

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CR Holiday Interview Re-Run #3 -- Sammy Harkham In 2016 On The Return Of Kramers Ergot

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*****

Editor's Note 2017: I interviewed Sammy Harkham around this time just last year on the occasion of his then-latest curated anthology Kramers Ergot issue; he followed up with a 2017 that included a top ten-worthy issue of his personal one-man anthology Crickets. We get a new issue of Kramers in 2018, so he'll be discussed next year as well. The span of my career looking at comics has encompassed Harkham's career making comics in its entirety: I've been around as long as he has. I think he's one of the intriguing working cartoonists by which I mean someone on whom we can count for a constant parade of material. He's also a blunt, direct thinker as to comics' value and how to function in the industry presented to him. I wish him continued success.

As always, please forgive me any time the Internet has evolved past a specific link since the interview was first posted. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

imageI've known Sammy Harkham for what seems like a thousand years, since I first took notice of his set-up selling early issues of his anthology-for-the-ages Kramer's Ergot at a San Diego Con back when they still didn't use the full exhibition floor. That anthology shot to the front of the line with the thunderclap of its powder-blue Mat Brinkman-covered issue that looked like the bundles of comics 1970s FOOM readers used to store on their shelves. It's one of the few comics that certain readers aged 35-50 can remember encountering as an adult right down to the position of the table on the MoCCA Festival floor.

For the latest issue of the anthology, Harkham has partnered with alt-comics pioneer Fantagraphics. I thought this issue of Kramers was a strong one, but I hope Sammy will understand that I was interested in the reaction some had that the anthology had lost something from its glory issues. The effort when people stop projecting onto a creative project are usually the most creatively insightful, and I felt that way about this year's KE issue. Harkham is devoted to good comics, to mixing them together, to drawing delicate effect out of their presentation.

He's also a compelling cartoonist, and a significant advocate for creators within the art-comics realm. I love talking to him.

Please note that this year's CR Holiday Interview them is "publishing as many interviews as possible that I tried to do in the calendar year 2016 and screwed up getting them out there." I sent Harkham the initial bunch of questions here mid-summer. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Can you place me in terms of where you are with Vol. 9 right now -- are you still in that active sales period? Are you appearing places on its behalf?

SAMMY HARKHAM: I am six months late with responding to these questions. So you better hope I am done promoting it! [Spurgeon laughs]

I did a handful of events in the Spring-Summer, and most went well. I did whatever interviews people proposed, except one that was comically impossible to schedule. I don't think authors -- or editors in this case -- decide when they stop promoting a book; the world decides that for you.

There was less press attention on this Kramers, I think. I may be quantifiably wrong on that, but to quote many a Trump supporter: "It's how I feel."

To answer your question of where am I now with it, I am not embarrassed of it, I am proud of it and the time I spent on it. I have one copy on the shelf I need to send to a friend, and I am wondering what my contributor discount is so I can get some to send to some other deserving friends. Doing the issue wasn't a disaster on my time.

I think we discussed this in our last conversation, that my worry with doing Kramers is that it takes energy and time away from Crickets, and my strip, Blood Of The Virgin. And it did, but not as much as usual. So there is still personal growth to be had there-to release an issue, give it whatever attention it needs for promotion, and still not lose a minute that would have gone into Crickets.

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SPURGEON: How long in general do you feel like you spend with an issue after it comes out -- both just making sure it gets out there, and the mental space it might still occupy? Were there issues harder to shake than others, that lingered on in the front of your mind?

HARKHAM: Most times that I get back a printed copy of something I have done, there are varying degrees of disappointment, followed by slowly getting over those disappointments, promising myself to learn from the mistakes, and then sliding a copy on the shelf and not looking at it closely for a few years. Once something is done, and I can measure in the final product the process I used versus the execution yielding the final result, I try to just lock in something of worth, of learning, and move on to the next thing. If I dwell on mistakes after knowing what I did wrong, its not beneficial to whatever comes next. A few years go by, I see an old issue and I look at it fresh and see fresh mistakes I made and learn even more from the book.

Concurrently with dealing with the final product, I fight the urge to badger the publisher about everything I would genuinely like to know where every single copy has been sold. That would make me very happy. 

I will do any and all events that make sense. That usually is a period of three months (maybe a month before it comes out, and two months after).

I like Kramers 9 a lot. There are a lot of great comics in there. I am so grateful for the cartoonists who gave me work to put in it. I like the final product a lot. It is very close to the book I imagined from the start.

imageSPURGEON: How do you see the role that Kramers plays for the artists that contribute? I remember when Eric Reynolds was doing MOME, and he said one of this goals was to keep the artists he was publishing working on at least one top-of-their-game comic for print publication. How do you view Kramers for the artists? A showcase? A way to remind people they're out there? A graduation to a bigger, more prestigious audience?

HARKHAM: No no no, that last idea is especially delusional. I don't think that. "Bigger" in this instance is questionable. There is nothing quantifiable there. Same with "prestigious." I suppose "remind people they're out there" and "showcase" kind of work in the sense that those are goals or byproducts of everything that's made to some degree, and sometimes yes I get excited about publishing someone like Kim Deitch who is making the best work of his life right now and placing him next to Abraham Diaz a young cartoonist from Mexico City who few have seen before. Or starting the book with a Steve Weissman story that goes beyond what people may know of his work.

It's always exciting if you can mess with expectations or surprise the reader. But those are not guiding principals or a shot in the arm to the contributors. I'm lucky they trust me, or I'm lucky the industry is so small there are so few options to work with people outside whatever immediate project they have in front of them that contributing to an anthology they like for little money is their idea of a good time. [Spurgeon laughs]

As a cartoonist myself, I know I want to be involved with good people on good projects if it's not Crickets. and most cartoonists are like that. Even if they are busy, they want to do something for a series they like because the end result-a good, nice-looking book they can be proud of. If they get new readers from that or remind readers they are still kicking the can, great. That's a nice byproduct.

SPURGEON: Do you feel like Kramers and the ability to run short stories acts as a corrective at all for cartoonists who aren't particularly suited to the age of the lengthy graphic novel?

HARKHAM: I used to, and then I realized I am an idiot. [Spurgeon laughs]

The age of the serious graphic novel is maybe a myth in many ways -- and always has been, if we look at it from the creative perspective. From Gary Groth's perspective, the last 16 years have been a whole new world of shifting appreciation for comics outside of comic book stores, but the work itself is pretty much as we know it, despite being packaged and sold as graphic novels.



I'm looking over my piles of 2016. Amongst the graphic novels like Clowes' Patience, DeForge's Big Kids and Shaw's Cosplayers, I see many more strip collections and short story collections like Katchor's Cheap Novelties, Chippendale's Puke Force, Davidson's Band for Life, Brown's Mary Wept…, Nick Drnaso's Beverly, Hensley's Sir Alfred, the NYRBC Abner Dean book, Hanawalt's Hot Dog Taste Test. So I think if you are doing comics, regardless of length, once you hit enough pages a publisher can stick a spine to it, it will be called a graphic novel and sold in stores.

But: to clarify, graphic novels are not a myth outside of alternative comics -- the young adult stuff, the comics that come out from the giant prose publishing houses -- the comics memoirs, the comics biography of a famous person, etc. Those are all novels with one-sentence pitches attached to them and they almost all read like the cynical hastily assembled cash grabs that they are. No one I would want in Kramers is in that world. They are sentimental, shallow hacks. I have children so I read all this shit they get from the library. So much so that when a good book comes out of that scene, like Cece Bell's El Deafo, it feels like a weird, precious miracle.

To answer what I think you are really trying to get at, what Kramers hopefully does is give cartoonists a context where cartooning, the inked line as a language, has value. That to me is the core of comics and what I love about the medium. It's not drawing as a means to something else. The goal with Kramers is to unify all these different artists, aesthetics, sensibilities, who all treat drawing as a personal language. And thats probably what I look for the most as an editor and a reader.

SPURGEON: Can you talk to me about John Pham, who did both the cover and the second-straight memorable comic of his in this issue? Pham always struck me as a major league talent who was never able to find a vehicle that might deliver the audience he deserves. I can't imagine wanting to change him in any way. Why this cover? Do you have insight as to John's career you can share?

HARKHAM: I think John has done things exactly as he wanted to do them, as confusing as that may look from the outside. He is very patient, detail orientated. So while he could have built a larger audience by sticking to a series or set of characters and putting himself on a set schedule, he was always focused more on where his own process and interests took him -- he never has been overtly focused on the career aspects of being an artist. I think maybe possibly getting a day job and a Risograph printer have been especially good influences on his life.

I asked John to do the cover because I wanted a cover that was really cartoony, took advantage of spot color offset printing, and had a visual connection to the roots of comics without being ironic. It was important to make the book feel sophisticated in all the right ways without losing a certain classic cartooning irreverence, if that makes sense. Especially nice is that John is a good friend who was open to some heavy art directing. So he showed me sketches, and I picked from those, and then we tweaked and tweaked the details till it felt perfect.

With his strip, he sent me the pencils and I gave him edits and he implemented them as need be -- concrete things having to do with readability and murkier things like treading that fine line of earnestness that his J&K strips have without it feeling maudlin or overtly cute. We work well together, I think. I didn't drive him too nuts.

That's not something I solely did with John. Most of the comics in the issue were edited to varying degrees, either dialogue adjustments, suggesting redrawing of panels, or in some cases, dropping and adding pages to different stories.

imageSPURGEON: The artist that caught my attention after John was Al Columbia, who has this enormous kind of larger than life reputation but I know was really important to you at a certain time in your artistic development. What do you feel about his work right now that made you want to include it? We've seen some Columbia pages between you and Gabe Fowler this year; do you think we'll ever see sustained creative output from him?

HARKHAM: Al Columbia was one of most important cartoonists to me when I was a teenager and his work sustained me for years. Each new story was read and reread and cherished. I would even buy and study comics that he colored for other people, like Catherine Doherty's Can of Worms. I love his work very much.

Above all the things he does masterfully, I think what I come back to again and again with his work, is how deeply felt it is. He called me on the phone, and I thought I was being pranked since my friends know how large he looms in my brain. We have become friends and share with each other work we are doing. Everything he is doing is great. As I was putting together the issue, I asked if I could include a couple things that I thought would fit well in the issue, and he said yes.

As to your last question, I think Al is more interested in making work than sustaining output, but he is also someone you can't pin down or ever be surprised by, so you never know.

SPURGEON: This issue breaks with previous ones in that it was assembled in more of an open submission style as opposed to your finding comics that it a theme an approach. Are there comics in here you might not have run in a past Kramers? Where do you see the direct effect of this new policy? What are one or two of the connections you found developed on their own accord?

HARKHAM: Well, any cartoonist who I had only a small understanding of, I felt like I could ask to submit instead of taking a "wait and see" approach with. Off the top of my head I am thinking of Adam Buttrick, Abraham Diaz, Antony Hutchette. I had read only one work from each of these people before asking them to send stuff in. In the past, since I tried to avoid rejecting stuff, I would have kept them on my radar awhile longer before getting in touch.

I started noticing certain thematic threads developing naturally in the issue. death, war, destruction, survival. overtly this is in [Dash] Shaw's Civil War comic, Diaz's World War I strip, Pham's J&K Vietnam veterans strip, and some others, and less overtly in Moriarty's series of cat paintings, Weissman's horse comic, [Gabrielle] Bell's autobio strip, and others.

SPURGEON: There are really only two pieces that are series of images in a way that some people might not see them as comics, but that when arranged in a certain way function as comics: the Amandine Meyer and the Jerry Moriarty contributions. Can you talk about what attracted you about those two pieces as they ran? Did you work with Moriarty in assembling his, or was that his direction?

HARKHAM: Meyer's series of watercolors were edited from a large series she had done and I just focused on on what would work best in the anthology context. Moriarty's series was one he had done years ago and I jumped at when I realized it had never been put in print before. he had created the order already, so we just discussed the introductory text and title page and how to best lay the series out.

SPURGEON: Most of the comics presented are very narrative heavy; much of their effect relies on the outcome of a plot and how we're made to feel about that progression of events. I'm interested if you have any insight why most of the comics were set up that way -- as opposed to more "tone poem" type pieces, or bewildering drawing -- and if that says anything about where comics is right now.

HARKHAM: It probably says more about where I am. I love comics that can imbed their poetic and tonal elements within a narrative framework so it feels inevitable within the story. I often reject stuff that doesn't feel grounded enough or have enough tension in its telling.

SPURGEON: Even with so many narrative comics of different kinds, a few stand out as wholly tradition: the ones that spring to mind are that fine excerpt you ran from Gabrielle Bell and the Manuele Fior. Do you see those works playing a different function within the overall anthology than something more raggedly told or something that's more a pin-up than an actual, propulsively read, comic?

HARKHAM: Everything hopefully contributes to the book's whole. Each contribution a building block to the overall "thing," each serving a particular function. So ideally if for nothing else than for rhythm, you want dense straightforward material to be elbow to elbow with stuff work that is the opposite. what makes it hopefully work is they all share an almost unconscious understanding of how an artist's line is the content.

SPURGEON: Can I ask you how you ended up with a lengthy comic by T. Alixopulos? I'm very fond of his cartooning but don't see it much, and thought that was a highlight of the issue.

HARKHAM: I have always been a fan of his, and Kevin Huizenga pointed the strip out to me, which was on Alixopulos' website, and I loved it so I sought it out to include in the book.

SPURGEON: [laughs] Is there any reason you avoided editing the issue in a way an older comic or comic might have made an appearance? That's certainly something RAW did when they operated in this mode, which is a model for you, and it's certainly you did last time out with the Wicked Wanda comic. Was that a conscious choice? Is publishing people like Moriarty and Kim Deitch how you get at the connection between old and new?

HARKHAM: On the "wish list" when putting together any given issue are lots of reprints. The industry being what it is, I have no problem running a strip that was published elsewhere in the "distant" past. Gerald Jablonski, Julie Doucet, Ed Leffingwell, Crumb, Alan Saint-Ogan, [Shary] Flenniken spring to mind, but there are many others.

I justify it by thinking a new printing of something already published can be pleasurably revisited in a new format for people who have read it -- different size, new translation, better production, and for other readers, most readers possibly, it's brand new to them.

Of course, I also get a little bit nervous that Kramers might slowly be becoming our generation's Hogan's Alley. This issue accidentally was all "new" material. And yes, one nice element when running a great strip from Moriarty or Deitch is creating a connection between a wide span of cartoonists.

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SPURGEON: You did a tour with Kevin Huizenga... what was that like? Kevin may be the major alt-comics cartoonist about which we know the least. What does going on tour do for you in terms of understanding the audience that's reading or selling your work? Do you remember any insight picked up this time?

HARKHAM: I agree with you about Huizenga. if we don't know much about him, the blame can't be put on him, as he has a very open and inviting online presence, with multiple blogs and a website. I think the soon-to-be-collected Ganges series is the masterpiece of the last ten years. When it's collected and released as a stand alone book, it can and should be on everyone's reading list of truly great comics.

Half of the tour included Pham as well, and it was great. they are both so smart that when its all over I am left with a lot to think about. By and large, cartoonists are fascinating people, with unique perspectives, so I like spending time with other cartoonists. It's inspiring for sure. 



As for learning about the audience and the retailers, it is all fascinating to me. Comic book retailers who excel at selling art comics are a distinct breed; these are people I am convinced would be hugely successful in any other field if they applied the same creativity and passion to something potentially lucrative. Bill Boichel, Peter Birkemoe, Gabe Fowler are like outliers in that they have bent the world to make selling comics a viable career choice. I love spending time with retailers.

Readers are trickier. I realized on this tour that I don't really enjoy meeting readers because I feel like my mere existence gets in the way of their evolving relationship to the work. it adds an unnecessary concrete dimension to something that is otherwise wholly of their own creation and keeps the focus on the work. I want my comics to be enough for someone to invest in, to fill in the gaps around the work themselves. This is a larger problem with social media and why I try to limit my tweets and Instagram posts to work stuff these days.

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SPURGEON: If as you said that you're doing this more as a RAW-style publication, you must be seeing new submissions, right? Are we still on track for a next issue? How do you begin that process?

HARKHAM: Yep. I've been asking people all year and I still need to email others. I am always forgetting people, and it's an endless thing. I will keep receiving submissions, building the issue, and contacting cartoonists to submit either for this issue or the one after that. The issue will be completed and sent to the printer when the working document feels well rounded and solid. Hopefully that's sooner than later. In many ways, it's not up to me.

SPURGEON: You spoke in 2015 about not know what your then newly-announced publisher Fantagraphics would be without the late Kim Thompson. Do you have some insight into that now you'd be able to share?

HARKHAM: They are pretty great. They pay on time, they answer all my emails and calls, contributors seem to be attended to as need be. They will go as far down into whatever hole I feel is necessary at any given moment and they give me creative space. I hope they are happy with me. It would have been nice to have Kim around when doing the book, as I like to think it would have given us an excuse to talk about Franquin and Tillieux.

*****

* Kramers Ergot 9, Edited By Sammy Harkham, Fantagraphics, softcover, April 2016, $45.

*****

* the cover to KE9, by John Pham
* seven- or eight-year-old photo of Harkham by Whit Spurgeon (we'll get new ones soon, sorry)
* Lale Westvind
* Stevie Weissman
* Al Columbia
* Michael Deforge page
* more John Pham (below)

*****

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*****
 
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Go, Look: Gloria Rivera

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Go, Look: Cold Cube Press

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image * Alex Hoffman on Spinning. Tony Isabella on a bunch of current comics. Tom Kuser on Cartoon County. Tegan O'Neil on Morton: A Cross-Country Rail Journey. Craig Fischer on Providence #12. Joe McCulloch on Shiver: Junji Ito Selected Stories. Geoff Lapid on Rumble #1.

* Maria Russo profiles Loren Long. Jennifer Brookland profiles Dwane Powell.

* this collection of back-and-forth conversation on-line about recent Marvel publishing decisions intrigues upon reading. Marvel seems too weak a publisher right now within the expectations of its own milieu to make anything a success -- comics companies of a certain type used to have the luxury of letting ideas and approaches ferment because the sales bottom was relatively high. Those days are gone. The idea that you want to reap the benefits of a diverse publishing slate without taking on the obvious challenges of what that strategy brings to a corporate-entertainment publisher seems uniquely comics to me.

* big-time cartoon collection up for sale. Hard to believe the claim that no museum would take them.

* Oliver Sava introduces an X-Men: Grand Design preview.

* finally: Mark Evanier writes not once but twice on the passing of Vic Lockman.
 
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This Site Is In Silent Running Mode Until January 8

There was a time when I covered comics in the 1990s through the mid-oughts that finding any news (barring a holiday purge at Marvel) to report or to amplify in December through January 15 or so was a nightmare. That's no longer the case. We'll keep the Random Comics feature going through the next couple of weeks on weekdays, we will break in with any major news, and we will continue to recommend artists and projects for you to discover.

imageI'm also going to re-run a few old interviews from December 25 through January 1, after which we'll make a decision about featured content January 2 to January 8.

I like pauses, I like changes in tone, and this should be a brief spell of both. If I do this right, you won't notice that for a fortnight or so I'm getting a couple of hours back. I hope that gained time shows in the New Year.

Thank you so much for another year of support, patronage and readership. I feel like there will be good things in store for CR in 2018, but talking about them doesn't matter if they don't happen so I will stay quiet until they do. I talk a big game; it's time to play one.

Comics had an extraordinary year of continued great work, a ton of very good work, a lot of work that is personally meaningful to their creators, and some small but vital progress by some very brave people in making comics less of a horrible place in which to make and engage with art. I am hopeful that work continues. There have also been some terrible stories, starting with a nasty streak of censorship overseas, the continuing exploitation of artists here and abroad, and the hammering away at elements of infrastructures in several countries that had helped many make the attempt to live more fully within their art.

I am encouraged, though, by the art itself, and the increasing realization in a number of circles that meaningful expression and ethical business conduct are mountains on which someone can take a stand to positive results.

A little business: if you would like to see your birthday mentioned on the site in the new year, I'm afraid it has to be birthdate. That's not an option for everyone, I know, but I like the reminder of time and humanity and good people defined by both that those wishes bring every day in accumulation.

Also: I made a birthday beg on behalf of my other job here.

Ever upward, and I hope you have as great a holiday experience as is available to you.

Tom

art from Jason's On The Camino, one of the high-quality comics inviting you into someone else's world that we get all the time now, because comics is awesome

this article will repeat until January 8, skipping Christmas and New Year's
 
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December 27, 2017


Go, Look: Rory Frances

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CR Holiday Interview Re-Run #2 -- Eddie Campbell In 2008 On The Alec Omnibus And More

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*****

I love Eddie Campbell's work and the Alec comics are in my top five all-time favorites. I think they are underrated for a number of reasons which I'll save for late-night nerdy conversations in bars and my friends' living rooms, before I'm asked to go home. Campbell will have two books out in March 2018: Bizarre Romance, with Audrey Niffenegger (Abrams) and The Goat-Getters (IDW). With so much work imminent, I thought I'd go to this 2008 interview where Campbell also had two books out: the Alec Omnibus and the First Second effort Monsieur Leotard.

I can't wait until Spring. As always with a rerun, the Internet itself may have moved on from many of the following links. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

imageI love talking to Eddie Campbell, one of the great cartoonists. I was particularly glad to talk to him in this brief space between 2008 and 2009. In 2008, First Second published the last of three Eddie Campbell books that anchored the first few seasons of their line. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard is a sweetly and gracefully told meditation on life as story, loaded with some of the most exquisite imagery of Campbell's long and distinguished career. In 2009, Top Shelf plans to release the massive Alec omnibus depicted above, placing in chronological order all of the cartoonist's wonderful autobiographical and autobiographically informed work into one place with several pages of new comics and another, smaller selection of never-printed ones. It will surely become one of the most borrowed works in many a considerable comics library. If you weren't aware, Campbell is also one of comics most interesting thinkers, and I'm happy to nudge him into some talk of formal aspects and publishing tends in the conversation that unfolds below. I enjoyed this back and forth very much, and I'm appreciative of how quickly Campbell turned the whole thing around. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: I don't think it fully registered with me before, but you have a massive collection of your autobiographical work coming out in 2009. I always thought that this was a natural for a book at some point and I look forward to it with a not insignificant smile on my face. Is there a reason this seemed attractive to you right now?

EDDIE CAMPBELL: The evolution of our medium has made this the right time. If you think back, at first we'd publish serial comics because that was what the economics permitted (all those "mini" and "maxi" series). Then we would gather the material into a book. The medium developed to the stage where a publisher could pay an author an advance to take himself away and make the whole book before showing any of it. We now find ourselves at an even more advanced stage, where several of a veteran author's books are gathered into a huge compendium. Thus Will Eisner's Life in Pictures, which collected his various books that had an autobiographical element, Gaiman's Absolute Sandman, Gilbert Hernandez' Palomar, etc.

SPURGEON: How did plans for this particular format come together?

CAMPBELL: Chris Staros at Top Shelf has been wanting to do the book for several years, since those others I just mentioned started appearing. In the meantime I've been gradually making digital scans of the pages for the French editions, knowing that all the time I was building toward using these in my own big collection. It is a lot of work after all, scanning 640 pages, especially with all the zip-a-tones, trying to avoid and eliminate moiré patterns. I'm probably now the expert on doing that stuff.

imageSPURGEON: When did new comics become a part of those plans?

CAMPBELL: The funny thing is that the way I started putting it all together isn't quite the way it's ended up. I had the six books (the King Canute Crowd, Graffiti Kitchen, How to Be an Artist, Little Italy, The Dance of Lifey Death, and After the Snooter,) arranged in a chronology that follows actual time rather than the order in which the books were drawn, and then I had a large 80-page section at the end which rounded up a lot of short pieces and some unfinished works which are still worth reading as they stand. But the more I looked at the pages I started seeing an epic sweep in which characters grow older, with a real sense of time passing. It's ironic that in the comic book medium terminality has come to be seen as a holy grail, the notion of a thing being complete in itself (as in a "novel"), when the true essence of the comic strip is the very opposite, the concept of the eternal present. The greatest daily comic strips had no end. Conceptually, allowing for no interference by extramural forces, a strip may run forever (Like Gasoline Alley). Of course nowadays that quality has been usurped by the television soap opera. Given the dumbassed nature of comic books, the highest measure of commitment to quality, or terminality, that a writer can have is the determination to show characters being killed.

But I've wandered off the point. I saw this shape within the book and I shifted a few of the essential short things into their chronological positions and threw the rest out, then I saw the chance to complete the implied sequence by adding another book that brings things up to date. So we now have an all-new 35-page book at the end titled "The Years Have Pants", which has also become the title for the whole compendium, since it fits so well. But the new book is in no way a conclusion, for it introduces a bunch of new developments that point to resolution outside of the text. I'll also mention that there are half a dozen other unpublished pages included in the compendium.

imageSPURGEON: When we talked in 2006, you compared standard comics pages to a straitjacket, which I think as a value is an undercurrent to a lot of your formally audacious work of the last few years. What was it like, then, preparing new work for the Alec omnibus using a more standard grid?

CAMPBELL: I certainly wasn't thinking of the "nine-panel grid" as a straitjacket, because an artist worth his salt can compose with infinite variety in a given space. Rather I was referring almost to the opposite result, to the way the American comic book idiom creates its own limitations while appearing to be freewheeling. I was looking at a portfolio piece recently by a young artist, and fastened upon an oddly shaped picture. It was rectangular, but the dimensions of the frame had no meaningful relation to the content, with misshapen blank areas around the figures. I asked why it was thus shaped and the reason was that this was the space left on the page after the other panels had been decided, which of course I had already judged to be the case before I started in, and I probably had to put the words in the head of this poor artist. 'Why should this image receive less consideration than the ones before it?' I demanded relentlessly. In fact, every stage of comic book composition is hampered by that same absence of thinking. Characters stand in limited ways in relation to the frame around them and in relation to other characters. There is a complicated pictorial syntax that seals everything in a rigid holding pattern, including the ways that balloons must be placed and the way pages end and begin. The box of space that each panel represents is governed by gravitational laws that only exist in comic books, and in no other idiom of art let alone real life. I'm referring specifically to the American idiom here, which is why I have no hesitation in regarding comic books as a genre of popular fiction. If you look at the old newspaper adventure strips you can see they are governed by a different set of laws.

Returning to your question, the inventive elements in my new pages have got more to do with leitmotifs and narrative patterns spread over three dozen pages. The construction is quite intricate.

SPURGEON: Was it pleasurable making those comics? Was it different than it used to be?

CAMPBELL: It was a great pleasure to draw in that style again after a layoff for a few years. I'm sure you can tell from looking at the pages that I was enjoying spending a lot of time on them. I even got the old zip-a-tones out of the mothballs and went to town with them like in the old days.

imageSPURGEON: In one of the new comics -- and I swear I won't ask too many questions about them -- you end on a hysterically funny down note about how you're glad that you got a certain kind of going out and carousing out of your system as a young man. Another one consists of a verbal beat down your wife provides you one morning about things she finds aggravating about you. These seem to me significant departures in terms of tone, the way you approach similar one-pagers in the past. Was that on purpose? Was there anything different about the way you approached these comics knowing they'd be published not alone, but with all of that early work?

CAMPBELL: The first page you mention was certainly designed to act as a balance to the activities at the beginning of the compendium, all that sleeping-bag and sofa-surfing that I once found so exciting a way to live. And the wife of my bosom has a moment that, while we're not permitted to blame all angry outbursts on "the black and white menstrual show" (as Hayley Campbell's boyfriend calls it), sometimes such outbursts are too absurd to be explained any other way. And in case it all sounds a bit middle aged, there is a grand five-page adventure with my son Callum, then nine ('Their father-son day out'), which ends with us getting arrested and then judiciously deciding to keep it a secret from his beloved mother. Every phase of life reveals its engaging peculiarities. But It is probably true that a note of frustration has crept into the work that wasn't there at the end of After the Snooter, when I was traveling the world at the time the From Hell movie came out. That was a hell of a year. I turned down invites to Portugal and Berlin and canceled one to Brazil at a very late hour. I'll probably never be invited anywhere again.

SPURGEON: When I saw you this summer when you were a guest of Comic-Con International, you seemed to be enjoying yourself -- you smiled a lot -- but you also seemed to be working through some serious questions on vocational issues. Is it fair to suggest that you were in a reflective mood earlier this year? How did that period resolve itself?

CAMPBELL: Reflective? I think it would be more correct to say that I waver between frustration and despair, with an occasional daytrip into elation. You must have caught me on a good day. It hasn't resolved itself yet. I'm hoping the possibility of our TV show getting actually produced will refresh my brain.

SPURGEON: You mention the TV project... I think the last time you wrote about it on your site was about a month ago from the time we're having this exchange of e-mails. Am I to take you're now at a wait and see point? When should we know one way or the other if the project is going to progress further?

CAMPBELL: Waiting is what I have been doing since June 2007, with a promising event happening every couple of months. In fact I only started blogging about the subject once we had made an advance significant enough that even if the whole adventure should come to nothing, I would still have something to show for it. That is a little two and a half minute demonstration movie in which I play myself, with a computer animated Snooter bug and a guy in a specially made costume for the humanoid version. It's even got its own music. It's a well-made little piece of film, which I needed at that stage because the producers have seen what I do but up till then I had not really seen what it is that they do. We had videotaped an earlier rough version back in March which is probably the first time I had acted in front of a camera, at least since I was about ten with my dad's super-8. In fact it was a completely different set-up from the finished short movie as we rejected it and wrote a new one except for a short dream segment in the middle in which I stand in a big blank white space and briefly talk to God, represented by a big child's crayon drawing, a scene which you may recall from The Fate of the Artist. So the show as you can tell from that is going to be a mix of live action and different sorts of animation. I'm hoping we should know something within the next couple of months.

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SPURGEON: On your blog, you've labeled your posts on the project "Our TV Adventure" and you're written about the experience in an admirably open and engaging way, it seems to me. Has it been a creative boon as well? Does going over some of this material for a new medium make you reconsider your work on any level?

CAMPBELL: It's adding a new level to the work rather than simply being an adaptation of what already exists. I was getting into that anyway with Fate as you may recall, in which I was missing from my own story and my part was played by a fictitious actor named Richard Siegrist. It's almost like I was already striving to re-imagine my core work into film, going so far as to set up a whole seven page sequence in Fate in photographs ("fumetti" style as we call it in English, or "fotonovelas" as they call them where "fumetti" just means comics) which is the interview scene in which Hayley Campbell plays herself. So if our most ambitious version of the TV show gets to be made, there would be some of that complexity. Campbell would be played by an actor, but real Campbell would also be in it. I've written synopses for several episodes and I'm happy with them. So let's see how far it gets before we have to change it all. You have to deal with so many other people in the TV game.

SPURGEON: You're not someone whose work of this type might spring to mind as a natural for adaptation into another medium. How much of your work has developed out of an understanding of film techniques or approaches?

CAMPBELL: Probably none at all. I have always consciously rejected filmic analogues in comics. Indeed, I would say that composing comics in the same way as film often results in faulty technique. There's an interview with Krigstein from way back (in Squa Tront or somewhere like that) where he explained how he felt that there had been a development in comic books, and I think he blamed it on Eisner, that resulted in a corruption of the integrity of the picture. By this he meant that breaking up of images into fragments, as film editors routinely do, does not have the same legibility on a printed page. In a blog post I used the finale to Krigstein's "Master Race" as an example of his solution to the problem of creating a kinetic effect without fragmenting images. All 12 or 13 of the panels of the sequence contain both the pursuer and the pursued and the relationship between them is readable in all panels. In contrast to this I remember reading the old Batman Adventures comic books to my very young son, and those books were supposed to be aimed at the youngsters. The lad had difficulty in making sense of some of the images because of the ways in which people and objects were truncated by panel borders. The artists in there really needed some lessons in clarity, and the problem most of the time was that they were thinking in filmic terms. The best comics draw their magic from other wells.

SPURGEON: I love the double-page spreads and bigger, splashier, single-page images in Monsieur Leotard. I thought they were some of the most beautiful instances of art you've ever made. What was it about that story that led to these more transcendent moments within the wider narrative, as opposed to merely streamlining those plot points into a panel or a single page?

CAMPBELL: I wanted to recreate the nineteenth century through its particular typography. In a good cartoon strip the optical perception of the real is supplanted by an array of graphic devices (as opposed to the regular comic book style, whose currency is visceral simulation.) If you just glance at the thing you may fail to connect with it; you have to give yourself up to it. I experienced this when I came to first revise the Alec material. At first I thought, aw this all looks like just a bunch of old ink lines and half-there drawings, but once I entered into an exchange in the graphic currency, or started reading the work in other words, I found myself receiving the communicated experience afresh, without really thinking that it was my own experience. With Leotard there was a huge swathe of time and event to be covered and the big circus posters and old news banners were made to carry a lot of that responsibility. I don't think a panel or page could have performed the function. There's a lot of condensation in one of those poster-spreads.

SPURGEON: I was intrigued by the chapter where Etienne sleeps, pushing him through much of his own life story and between that and things like the way that he's a diarist and the episodes are described as such I wonder if you intended a criticism of using one's life as the fodder for art? I apologize if that sounds overly facile; I mostly wondered if you could talk about the diary-making element to the narrative and that remarkable sleeping chapter.

CAMPBELL: I've been thinking more and more about the idea of seeing your life as a story. Once you accept the challenge you must then ask whether you are writing a good story or a bad one, or whether it started well and then you lost interest and let it ramble, or whether you gave up on it altogether. It's a matter of giving your life a shape, a journey toward a goal, and adhering to that and not wasting time. Etienne did in fact lose track of the plot of his story. Some ten years passed before he regained it. I may have been influenced a little in this sequence by Bernard Malamud's The Natural. Nineteen-year-old Roy Hobbs is just about to arrive in the baseball world and take it by storm, or so the narrative style suggests, when he is suddenly shot by a lunatic. The story then jumps ahead 15 years. It was made into a great movie starring Robert Redford and directed by Barry Levinson.

imageSPURGEON: It's hard not to see the circus and traveling show as precursors to modern show business or even artistic endeavor generally, the way that Arthur Kopit used the Buffalo Bill show in Indians and Robert Altman did again when filming that play. You also seem attracted in your work to first things, antecedents to things that exist in modern culture. Why the circus this time out? What is it that you saw there, that you wanted to make use of as a storyteller?

CAMPBELL: I wasn't interested in the circus for itself, which is probably obvious. The book is short on the kind of details that would suggest I'm in love with the milieu. So certainly it was all metaphorical, though there are some daffy aspects of it that appealed to me, like the wording of circus posters and some of the characters in the freak shows. Not the icky weirdness of it, mind you, more the comical aspects of it all. I saw a poster of "Pallenberg's Wonder Bears: Bruins that dance, skate, walk tight ropes and ride bicycles like humans" so naturally I had to have one of those in the book, and I called him Pallenberg. I also picked up the way that a kind of noble class in the circus realm attracts strings of adjectives to their names, so all the significant players have bi-adjectival pre-names just like the Amazing Remarkable Leotard, and in this way they are marked as superior individuals.

SPURGEON: I'm always fascinated in how you approach your different projects visually, Eddie. Monsieur Leotard is very complex that way: there's a grid on some pages, but the margins are frequently filled, and there are sometimes up to four competing visual throughlines on a single page. What interested you about all of the marginalia and shifts in storytelling strategies on this project? Are you cognizant of these choices going in, or do they just grow organically out of doing the work?

CAMPBELL: There was a chapter in my History of Humour in my defunct Egomania magazine (a selection from this will be in the Alec Omnibus by the way) in which I examined the old marginalia in gothic illuminated manuscripts and talked about the late Michael Camille's theories about them. I came away with the idea that there are potent regions on "the page," that things tend to happen in specific quadrants of it. Camille's main idea, with regard to the old fourteenth century psalters and bibles was that God lived at the center and evil and folly was pushed to the outer edges, which is why the modern browser may be astonished to see obscenities in holy books. The page is symbolic of the universe, with everything in its place. It struck me that a page in our own time is lacking in any kind of magic or meaning as a thing in itself. So for a couple of years there I was on the lookout for a project where I could put some of my thoughts into play. Leotard came up in my discussions with my co-author Dan Best (we've done two or three other things together) and I saw that book as the one. So right from the start it has a big generous margin in which a life outside of the physical everyday one is taking place. Characters have a life-after-death there. The authors can turn up there, as well as the more prosaic kind of footnotes that normally appear in such an environment. Once I got going it became deliciously complicated.

imageSPURGEON: A lot of your recent work seems to be done in collaboration -- you worked with Hayley's photography in Fate of the Artist, you worked with an existing script to make The Black Diamond Detective Agency and you worked with Dan Best on this latest. Even the work you showed me that's forthcoming it's almost like you're working in collaboration with your older work. You have such an obviously strong voice and so much of your early work was done without anyone else contributing I wondered if you could talk to what you've gotten out of those recent collaborations, and why, if you seek them out, you seek them out.

CAMPBELL: I may have mislead you in Fate, in that my daughter posed for the seven page "fumetti" sequence but she only took the one author photo at the end. Any other photos in there are mine, though I can only think of the letter initials off the bat, and some of those were done on the scanner, including the edible cracker (what do you call them in the US?). With Black Diamond I was offered enough cash to make the job an attractive proposition, and the fact that I was given a free hand in the adaptation sweetened it. In some ways my book was a story about the story since I didn't think it was an entirely credible one. All of these projects are ones that I'm happy about and I think I was able to express my view of the world through them even if they weren't completely my own invention. Now and then I do spend time on stuff that I really shouldn't have done, but you have to get through your life as best you can and pay all the bills. On the whole though, I don't go seeking work. It all falls in my lap, but I have been saying no more often than I used to.

SPURGEON: One reason I wanted to talk to you so badly this year, Eddie, is that I think you have a very interesting take on the New York publishing world, and how they may be slowly revamping the comics industry into an adjunct of the children's book publishing business. Can you talk a bit about what's led you to think this? What can be done?

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CAMPBELL: This is something that has been bugging me for some time. The latest news to come down is that First Second Books, the publisher of my last three books, are now under the umbrella of Macmillan's Children's Group. I'm not surprised, because the book world, by which I mean the mainstream book publishers as well as the libraries and the Library Association, has been viewing "the graphic novel" as a young reader's genre for quite some time. In part I think it's because the part of a publishing house that is likely to be interested in bright illustrated narratives is the children's books department, and in part also because those publishers, and America's libraries, see the "graphic novel" as a way of grabbing a part of the literate populace that has hitherto proved elusive. Now, I have no objection to young folks having their own literature specially designed for them, though when I was a young 'un myself I would have been highly suspicious of anything that the adult world thought I should read because it was supposed to be good for me. Let's not forget that this is one of the things that drew us to comics in the first place, the very fact that they were not approved by our adults; they were our visual rock'n'roll, the things we knew that they didn't. However, let's not get bogged down on that point. The problem with this development is that comics were supposed to have grown up and become the "graphic novel," but now we are apt to find articles telling us that the "graphic novel has grown up." In other words we're back where we started. Furthermore, as an author of work that is likely to be classified as "mature" I have been finding it more and more difficult to find a publisher for a couple of projects I have been offering recently. I might have taken the hint that I have gone out of fashion except that the same publishers who rejected these proposed books were eager to secure me as the illustrator of texts by "one of our young reader's authors" (this has happened twice, which tends to suggest a pattern… and I declined both.) The upshot of it all is that I am back in an earlier position, working with Top Shelf on the Alec Omnibus and both Top Shelf and Knockabout on a book that is now finished and should be out at the end of 2009 titled The Playwright. As to what can be done about the larger shift in the business of comics, I really wouldn't care to guess. The reorientation to a younger audience is probably apt. I find that I can read fewer and fewer comics these days. They're like celery in that the effort it takes me to read them is way out of proportion to the information they can give. In my pessimistic moments I think the idea of complicated and challenging comics will recede and become commercially problematic. The market seems to want the "young readers" stuff. Was the idea of mature comics nothing but folly all along?

[Updated a couple of days later:] Tom, when I wrote the above I hadn't noticed that you'd already commented insightfully on the MacMillan news. A relevant blog post has also just come up:
Two highly compelling book-length comics that I found in the Young Adult Graphic Novels section of my local library, though I'm still not convinced they belong anywhere near there. Clyde Fans, by Seth, because there's nothing teenagers like to read more than delicately paced studies of two brothers who tried to sell electric fans to Canadian retailers midway through the last century. From Hell, because...
The post is followed by a revealing comment from a youth services librarian.

The whole issue is particularly frustrating because we had always hoped that success in the wider universe of books (i.e. outside of the comics specialty shops) would level out the playing field and give mature comics a bigger audience. This is not happening.

SPURGEON: Finally, we were on a panel this summer where you spoke eloquently about learning to write characters in a way that they may demand to be written differently once you've been around them a while. Knowing the characters helps inform you as to how they should be written. Is that true in autobiography or autobiographically-informed comics as well?

CAMPBELL: Yes, my ability to draw a character appreciates the further I get into a project. This means that the version away back at the beginning is always annoyingly unrealized and I always have to do some reworking on the early pages when I come to gather it together. With a real life representation it would be because I recall more details from the original model as I get further along. The same thing happens in movies, except the early work is never at the start of the movie. I watched Fellini's Casanova recently after first seeing it way back in the '70s. There's a point about twenty minutes to half an hour in when Donald Sutherland suddenly seems to be playing a different version of the character and it always looked odd to me (it's on the foggy bridge in what is supposed to be London, just before he meets the circus giantess). It was revealing in Sutherland's commentary that this was the first scene they shot and they hadn't quite figured out all the aspects of the character.

In conclusion, it's no big revelation to say that Ben Grimm looked much different in Fantastic Four #20 than he did in #1. Nobody gave a thought to the possibility that many of the kids would have the whole pile on view at the same time. It's a different kind of problem when you put out a 250-page book designed to weave a singular spell upon the reader. You probably want them to see contrasts between one character and another, not between one character and himself on an earlier page.

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* various images from Alec and Monsieur Leotard, with a panel from Campbell's comics about his television project and a photo by me at a San Diego Con thrown in for good measure

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If I Were In Des Moines, I'd Go To This

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Go, Look: Chu Nap

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Andy Oliver on Dali.

* totally missed this finalists listing for the Grand Prix De La Critique, an award given out at Angouleme. Those are all nice-looking books, although I'm not familiar with a one.

* John Siuntres talks to Tim Seeley.

* there are some nice-looking cover images in these galleries from 1979 and 1980-on.

* by request extra: this crowd-funder that's been asking for my attention for a couple of weeks now should be over the goal for its first ask by the time you read this, with plenty of time to join in.

* finally: Mike Dawson and Zack Soto discuss the year that was and still is 2017.
 
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This Site Is In Silent Running Mode Until January 8

There was a time when I covered comics in the 1990s through the mid-oughts that finding any news (barring a holiday purge at Marvel) to report or to amplify in December through January 15 or so was a nightmare. That's no longer the case. We'll keep the Random Comics feature going through the next couple of weeks on weekdays, we will break in with any major news, and we will continue to recommend artists and projects for you to discover.

imageI'm also going to re-run a few old interviews from December 25 through January 1, after which we'll make a decision about featured content January 2 to January 8.

I like pauses, I like changes in tone, and this should be a brief spell of both. If I do this right, you won't notice that for a fortnight or so I'm getting a couple of hours back. I hope that gained time shows in the New Year.

Thank you so much for another year of support, patronage and readership. I feel like there will be good things in store for CR in 2018, but talking about them doesn't matter if they don't happen so I will stay quiet until they do. I talk a big game; it's time to play one.

Comics had an extraordinary year of continued great work, a ton of very good work, a lot of work that is personally meaningful to their creators, and some small but vital progress by some very brave people in making comics less of a horrible place in which to make and engage with art. I am hopeful that work continues. There have also been some terrible stories, starting with a nasty streak of censorship overseas, the continuing exploitation of artists here and abroad, and the hammering away at elements of infrastructures in several countries that had helped many make the attempt to live more fully within their art.

I am encouraged, though, by the art itself, and the increasing realization in a number of circles that meaningful expression and ethical business conduct are mountains on which someone can take a stand to positive results.

A little business: if you would like to see your birthday mentioned on the site in the new year, I'm afraid it has to be birthdate. That's not an option for everyone, I know, but I like the reminder of time and humanity and good people defined by both that those wishes bring every day in accumulation.

Also: I made a birthday beg on behalf of my other job here.

Ever upward, and I hope you have as great a holiday experience as is available to you.

Tom

art from Jason's On The Camino, one of the high-quality comics inviting you into someone else's world that we get all the time now, because comics is awesome

this article will repeat until January 8, skipping Christmas and New Year's
 
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December 26, 2017


Go, Look: Sasha Schotzko-Harris

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CR Holiday Interview Re-Run #1 -- J. Caleb Mozzocco In 2012 On Mainstream Comics

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Editor's Note, 2017: -- I really enjoyed talked to J. Caleb Mozzoco back in 2012 about the state of (mostly) mainstream comics, and re-reading it for inclusion in these re-runs I was struck in equal fashion by how much some things have changed and how much others are exactly the same. There are a few titles and initiatives discussed that I wouldn't have told you existed back then. I miss the kind of easy-going, rambling conversations that we had about comics that were spurred on when we paid more attention to long-read columnists than social media accounts. The original introduction and interview follow. -- Tom Spurgeon

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imageJ. Caleb Mozzocco is someone I know not at all, but I've been reading his work on comics for years and years. Mozzocco is one of those reviewers that offers up an extremely wide range of material for discussion. This includes mainstream comic books and graphic novel collections of same, the 2012 versions of which will be the primary subject of this interview.

I thought it was an odd year for what most people, myself included, call "mainstream comics." Then again, I think most of the years are odd anymore when it comes to genre comics work. As I'm writing this, we're about 15-16 issues into DC's relaunching of their line and right in the middle of Marvel's curated revamp and staggered roll-out of theirs. We also saw a resurgent Image Comics as people like the writer Robert Kirkman became career models of choice. Throw in a half-dozen factors up and down the charts, and 2012 felt like both the beginning and ending of something important. At least that's my view; let's ask Caleb for his. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: How did you end up carving out the writing-about-comics portion of what you do? I assume you were a comics fan growing up, but I honestly don't know.

J. CALEB MOZZOCCO: I actually didn't start reading comics until about the time I started high school, and I therefore quite vividly remember my gateway comics: The DC/TSR Advanced Dungeons & Dragons series -- I was really into role playing games in junior high; a rare trait among comics readers I'm sure -- the Eastman and Laird Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series that they were still publishing through Mirage at the time -- a combination of familiarity with the cartoon and a pretty weird role-playing game a friend had interested me in those -- and Neil Gaiman and company's Sandman Special #1, which had a neat glow-in-the dark cover. Mike Sangiacomo of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote about how that comic retold the Orpheus myth, and it sounded awesome to teenage-me.

At the time, there was still a comic book shop in my hometown of Ashtabula, Ohio, and before I ventured into it comics were just something I would see on creaky spinner racks in drugstores and sketchy magazine stores. Archie seemed to publish half of them. [Spurgeon laughs]

Then I entered the comic shop, and smelled all that fresh ink and paper, saw all those colors on the superhero costumes on shelves, saw my first graphic novels... it was like walking into Narnia.

By the time I graduated college and had a real job with a steady paycheck, I was bringing stacks of comics and a volume of manga or two home on a Wednes-daily basis.

I should probably also note that my hometown, which has a population of about 25,000 and is an hour east of Cleveland, has had four comic shops open and close between 1991 and 2000 or so, and I'm not sure how one gets really in to comics if they don't have that experience of going into a comic shop to see the place where all the comics live.

To answer your original question though, I've been writing as long as I've been reading comics -- actually, longer, but I started semi-professionally writing around the time I was 17, and much of that was reviews. Movie reviews and local theater reviews for my local newspapers, at first.

I spent about six-years of my grown-up life on staff at a pair of newspapers, and the latter one was a rather quickly-dying Columbus alt-weekly, where I could slip in coverage of local comics creators as features and graphic novels as book reviews.

As the paper got even closer to death, the editor-in-chief was pretty much encouraging all of us to write almost anything we wanted, to fill up space and save on the freelance budget, so I had a weekly comics review column there for awhile.

By the time Columbus' big, evil, daily newspaper finally bought us out and laid me off, I had already been doing some freelancing for Wizard -- I was young and needed the money! [Spurgeon laughs] -- and "interning" at Newsarama, that is, providing reviews in return for no money at all. At that point in my life, I suddenly found myself with something like 24 hours a day of free time and I was already in the habit of writing hundreds, occasionally thousands of words a day, so I started Every Day Is Like Wednesday.

I also briefly tried to put together a comics review column I could syndicate to the remaining alt-weeklies at the time -- this would have been around 2006 or so, I guess -- but the only one that actually bit was Las Vegas Weekly, so I had to find a day job, and ended up working in libraries rather than newspapers.

Since then I've written for Blog@Newsarama -- on a paid basis -- Robot 6 at Comic Book Resources, ComicsAlliance and I'm just starting to contribute to the Good Comics For Kids blog, as well. And I still contribute to Las Vegas Weekly, usually about once a month or so.

That's the too-long, too-detailed version. Short version? I liked comics and worked as a writer and editor in print in my early 20s, and when I lost that gig and print was seemingly evaporating, I decided to limit the writing I was doing to something I was really interested in and passionate about.

SPURGEON: One thing that interests me about your writing on your own platform is that there are recurring features. Is that kind of structure helpful to you in terms of continuing to produce work?

MOZZOCCO: I think so. I imagine I started doing that because it was what I was used to from the paper I worked at and the various papers and magazine I read at the time, and because a lot of the comics bloggers I was most interested when I first started blogging -- Kevin Church, Chris Sims, Mike Sterling, Bully -- all had recurring features of some kind or other on their blogs.

Some people I know in the real world are kind of shocked that I do a daily -- well, daily-ish -- blog simply because writing a lot every day seems pretty daunting to a lot of folks that don't write regularly themselves. And if I just sat down at the computer every night and told myself "Well, time to write 500-2,000 words about something having something to do with comic books!" it probably would be rather daunting to me too. But I know that on, say, Thursday, Las Vegas Weekly publishes and my contributions to Robot 6 go up, so I can just link to one or both of those, or that on Wednesday nights I can do "Comic Shop Comics," where I babble about whatever I bought at the shop that week, and once a month I can do posts on DC and Marvel's solicitations, and so on.

When I first started EDILW and wasn't quite sure what I was doing, I had a lot more regular features, many of which I've abandoned.

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SPURGEON: Tell me about your consumption of comics: how much you read, where you get them, what's more important in terms of your overall relationship to comics? It seems to me that you must read a ton of books.

MOZZOCCO: This sounds like a question a therapist might ask me while trying to gauge the extent of my problem.

Well, when I was in Columbus, Ohio and working as an editor -- that is, when I had a lot of money -- I had access to a great comic shop called The Laughing Ogre, with really friendly, really nice people like Gib Bickel and Jeff Stang working there, and they seemed to stock everything you could possibly want to read. That store I mentioned going into as a youth a few questions ago? The Ogre was like ten of those in one. I used to budget $40 for new comics every Wednesday, and if the publishers didn't publish $40 of stuff I wanted read, I'd spend it on trades.

Right now, I spend somewhere between $3 and $15 a week on floppy, pamphlet, serially-published comic book-comics every Wednesday. I moved back to my hometown of Ashtabula for about a year in 2010, and was suddenly in a city with no comic shop, so I was forced to break the weekly habit. That was about the time $3.99 comics were becoming more ubiquitous, and I just refuse to read those things and it seemed like Big Two comics were getting much, much, much worse than at any time since I'd been reading them. Although maybe it's not them, maybe it's me; I suppose there comes a time in one's life where one has simply read all the Batman or Justice League comics anyone ever needs to read.

So I've transitioned to trades, and read only a handful of comics as they're serially published now, even though I live within a 15-minute drive of two different comics shops -- in Mentor, Ohio, if any of your readers are stalking me. And I've gotta say, some of the publishers make it really hard to read their comics at all -- I tried the "Marvel NOW!" relaunch of Fantastic Four, and between the house ads, the space-wasting splash pages and Marvel's weird new "Altered Reality" smart phone app prompt in certain panels, it was a real unpleasant slog, despite the fact that the creators did an okay job on it.

I get a ton of comics from the library. Since the layoff from the paper I mentioned above, I've been working in libraries, and if the library I work at doesn't own them, some library in Ohio almost invariably does, and I can get just about anything I want to read through inter-library loan... as long as I wait until they're available in trade.

For Marvel and DC comics, that mainly just means I'm one big crossover event comic/branding initiative behind whatever's in the stores at the time. Which is fine with me; a lot of that stuff I read as much to keep up with for writing-about-comics purposes as for pleasure; like, I want to know what Marvel's doing with Captain America now, rather than how Cap's going to get out of his latest scrape, you know?

Beyond the Big Two or Big Five direct market publishers, it seems a lot of comics publishers just go straight to trade now, so a library is a great place to get manga and the sorts of books Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly and the big, book publishers-dabbling-in-graphic novels put out -- pretty much anything published straight to trade you can find at your local library. Or your local library can find for you. And if they can't, maybe you should relocate to somewhere with a better library...?

I do get comp copies from some publishers and creators now and then too, for the purposes of reviewing them -- in fact, there's a stack of them looking accusingly at me from the corner of the room right now.

So I don't know. I'd say I get maybe 10% of my comics from a brick-and-mortar shop in the traditional, stapled format, 10% as trades I order online at a steep discount even though I know that is a terrible thing to do to the small business people who own brick-and-mortar shops and is slowly wounding the sorts of magical shops that introduced me to this wonderful medium in the first place and 80% from libraries? And also some from publishers, which is more than 100% if we add up all those numbers. I majored in English; math isn't my strong suit.

I do read a lot of comics. I try to read everything, which is a terrible, impossible goal to have. Well, everything of a high-enough quality that I can stand to read it. But even then, there are just so many comics, and I know there are huge swathes of comics I'm almost completely ignorant of, including webcomics and mini-comics.

SPURGEON: Do you read with writing in mind? Has writing about comics changed your relationship to the reading of them? How is your opinion of certain comics different than what it is before you started writing about them?

MOZZOCCO: I do read comics with writing about them in mind now, and I sometimes wish that wasn't so, because I feel like I'm missing the sort of pure, undiluted audience experience that many others might be having.

That said, I've always read comics -- and read books, and watched movies and television, and looked at art -- with writing in mind, so I'm not sure how much my relationship with them has really changed.

imageLike I've said, I've been writing, and writing about things, as long or longer than I've been reading comics, and even before I was reading, say, the latest issue of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern knowing I was going to write a few paragraphs about it on my blog that night, I used to read Robin or Hitman or JLA and then sit down at my word-processor and write a letter to the editor to see if I could make it into the letters pages or not. The old, pre-Internet comics letters pages were, I realize, essentially practice-blogging for some of us; my blog is basically like an endless comics letters page where I can write about whatever I want, and also post pictures.

It's not just comics though; I read books and watch movies that way after years of reviewing those, too. And even before I was reviewing or writing about anything at all, I had this weird habit of trying to deconstruct the media I was consuming while I was consuming it.

For about as far back as I remember, if I saw something, I would want to make it. So I used to want to be an animator, a novelist, an illustrator, a screenwriter, a poet, a film director, a comic book writer and so on.

As I get older, a lot of those ambitions have -- thankfully -- disappeared, but when I watch movies or read fiction, things I don't write about the way I write about comics, I still do so with part of my mind constantly evaluating or thinking how something might have been done differently, and sometimes half-day dreaming on tangents about the making of the things.

One thing that is always a good indicator of how good something really is, I've found, is that it makes me stop evaluating it while I'm reading it or watching it. That it is somehow able to turn off those parts of my mind without my even noticing it.

I should note that I only do this with writing and the visual-writing of comics art or film. There are certain media that I can enjoy purely as an audience member, without thinking about how it should be done, or how it could have been differently, or how I would have done it. Music, for example, is so strange and mysterious to me, so far removed from anything I know anything about that I feel I can experience in the pure way people are supposed to experience media.

The fight choreography in kung-fu movies, and the fine paintings of dinosaurs in "paleoart," ballroom dancing on Dancing With The Stars -- things I know I could never do, things I barely even understand how they're done at all, those sorts of things don't really mess with my head at all.

But I think and care about comics too much that it's only very rarely I completely give myself over to them as finished products, devoid of the people making them or the method they were made in. Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain is maybe the last thing I've read which really shut down my critic's brain for a majority of the time I spent with it. Kiyohiko Azuma's charming Yotsuba almost always does that.

SPURGEON: Do you have a sense of who reads you, and how that might differ where you work appears? How much writing do you do with the audience in mind?

MOZZOCCO: That's a really good question, and I wonder if it's one I think about as much as I should.

One of the nice things about writing online is the amount of reader response and feedback you get. A lot of it is negative, of course, but compared to print-writing, where the only feedback would come in the form of letters days after something appeared -- unless you really pissed someone off and they decided to call the office to yell at you -- I suppose it's helpful to have all that data there if you need it.

For example, Google tells me how many people "follow" EDILW, how many page-views each post gets, what countries those people live in, what search terms brought them there -- "Batman + Catwoman + Sex," mostly.

In general, my philosophy on writing has been to write the sort of writing I would like to read, about the sorts of things I would like to read, to the best of my ability to produce such writing. If talent and ability weren't a limitation, I'd just write exactly like Abhay Khosla or Joe McCulloch or Tucker Stone or Chris Sims and crack myself up, instead of waiting for them to do it for me.

For EDILW, I basically just write like I talk, which I think means that writing tends to have the most personality to it, but usually isn't my best writing. I don't concern myself with introductions, conclusions or transitions there as much as I should, and, without a word-count limit, I have a tendency to babble at excruciating length, which you are probably becoming quite aware of during the course of this interview -- for which I would like to extend an sincere apology to all of Comics Reporter's readers.

For Robot 6 and, before that, Blog@, the audience was very superhero minutiae-focused, and I was always quite aware that I was talking about super-comics to people who knew at least as much about them as me, and, in many cases, knew a lot more about continuity and history and so forth than I did.

For those venues especially, I've read enough comment threads and seen enough stats on page-views to know exactly what the readers care most about and most want to read -- for some weird reason, everyone loves commenting about anything having to do with Wonder Woman, but no one actually reads her comics -- but I don't really try to assign myself stories to meet that demand.

There are weeks where I'll be writing a piece for Robot 6 about, like, The Carter Family, and I'll be wondering if I'll get zero comments or two comments. I ended up with two.

I've had a slightly harder time getting to know the ComicsAlliance audience, because it is a lot more diverse in terms of where the commenters/readers come from, and a lot of the stories bring fresh eyes from different parts of the Internet, people who might have come to the site specifically to read a particular movie review or something about ponies or Power Rangers or Legos, because they saw a link at PoniesPowerRangersAndLegos.blogspot.com or something, but they don't all necessarily read every post every day.

Las Vegas Weekly is a mainstream outlet in that they cover everything, not just comics and comics-related or geek culture stuff, so it's an audience I don't assume knows every thing there is to know about comics. Also, those pieces are very short -- about 150 words -- and the end result of such a strict word limit is I have to concentrate the hardest on those, and make sure every word is the right word in a way the limitless space of online writing doesn't force one to do. I'm not always ecstatic about the results, but that's the sort of venue that I think is probably most conducive to producing better writing.

So basically I try to write for an audience of imaginary Calebs out there first and foremost, and I try not to get too hung up on who exactly is reading and what they will think of a particular piece, or what comments they will leave.

The main calibration I do from venue to venue is in terms of how hardcore versus how casual the audience is on certain aspects of comics, and I try to write less poorly if it's for a venue that's paying me, whereas on my blog there is no joke too dumb for me to attempt, and if I want to write 4,000 words about Infinite Crisis or spend a week talking about how terrible Ultimates 3 is, well no one's going to stop me -- not even that little voice in the back of my head asking me if that is really how I want to spend a Sunday afternoon.

SPURGEON: I have you here to talk about mainstream comics, mostly from a critical point of view, mostly about what you read in 2012.

imageWe're pretty far along into DC's New 52 effort now. I want to ask you about a specific title or two -- which will be easy, as I've only read 15 issues of two series -- but first I thought I'd get your thoughts on the whole bunch of them. Is there anything significant going in those titles, anything that works maybe in terms of an editorial directive or how those works are hitting with readers?

MOZZOCCO: Yes, we're about 14 months into "The New 52" now and DC has canceled about a dozen of them and launched three new "waves" of books to replace those they've canceled. In fact, some of the new wave books that were launched to fill a space created by a canceled title have also been canceled. Even saying "New 52" is starting to feel a little weird, isn't it?

What's strange about DC Comics to me right now is that I'm not enjoying reading their actual comics all that much -- there's only two "New 52" titles I'm still subscribed to at my local comic shop -- but good God is it fun watching DC Comics itself these days.

This is how I've come to think of the publisher. Imagine standing across the street from moderately sized office building. You can't see what exactly is going on in there, and you can't really hear what's going on in any great detail, but there are all these signs that something really dramatic and probably terribly wrong is happening in the building. Flashes of light, strange noises, screaming, smoke, vibrations -- whatever.

Every once in a while, someone will jump out a window or get thrown through a window. Or come running screaming out of the door. They will have horror stories on their lips, and as they're relating them, someone still in the building will open up a second story window and shout, "Don't worry, everything's fine. Don't listen to them. They're crazy!"

Gail Simone has been the latest person to leave the building; "dumped" via email from her gig on Batgirl. This past year, we've seen John Rozum leave the since-canceled Static Shock, and got conflicting accounts from both he and collaborator Scott McDaniel on how broken their process was. We've seen George Perez complain about his difficulty on Superman. [We've seen] Grant Morrison sort of laughing about how he got the job to reinvent Action Comics and the Superman character and mythos a few months before his first issue shipped. There was Rob Liefeld's spectacular Twitter meltdown. Chris Roberson leaving the company and "Big Two" freelancing altogether in protest of their treatment of creators.

I don't know what's going on with DC Comics, but there's something going on, right?

SPURGEON: [laughs] Right.

MOZZOCCO: As for the books themselves, I think at this point it's clear what they were trying to accomplish with the new costumes, new #1s, new creative teams and new attitude.

I know I was initially extremely perplexed by the entire endeavor, and then pretty quickly disappointed to see that they were doing this dramatic once-in-a-lifetime move, this unique opportunity to refurbish their whole line and orient it towards appealing to new readers and, rather than seeking out kids, or female readers, or casual readers, or the manga or YA audiences or even just people who grew out of the sorts of '90s-era Marvel/Image comics DC ended up publishing, they had instead set their sites on people who played the Batman: Arkham Ayslum videogames.

And that's a big, lucrative market; maybe big enough to make the pursuit of it ultimately worthwhile. But it still perplexes me that rather than trying for a transmedia approach, trying to align their comics line with the many successful cartoons they've had on Cartoon Network and, before that, Fox in the last, God, 20 years or so now, from Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League and Teen Titans to Young Justice and The Brave and The Bold and those cute little shorts they're doing now, they instead leaned hard towards the sort of aesthetic and storytelling of those Arkham videogames, the upcoming Justice League-by-way-of Mortal Kombat game Injustice, and, to a certain, lesser, extent, Smallville.

The "New 52" basically just makes me sad and exhausted at this point. I just don't see the wisdom in trying to make these fantastic characters seem easier to adapt into movies by making their costumes look more like something from a Hollywood costuming department or by trying to infuse them with gritty realism or telling stories that read like adapted spec scripts.

Comics writers and artists and editors only have so much control over what's going to get made into a movie anyway; ultimately, someone higher up is going to make whatever decision they want, and whether Wonder Woman is wearing pants or shorts, or whether Action Comics is on issue #19 or #901 isn't going to matter terribly much.

A few years ago, Warner Brothers was considering having Joss Whedon make a Wonder Woman movie set in World War II, but the studio ultimately decided to green light Green Lantern instead. Meanwhile, Marvel makes a Captain America movie set in World War II that does pretty well -- much better than Green Lantern did, anyway -- and they hire Joss Whedon to make The Avengers. The billions are lost and/or made by the folks at that level, so micromanaging the source material in hopes of predicting or influencing the whims of a studio executive doesn't make any sense at all to me.

Among specific changes brought about by the New 52, I think it's clear that Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have emerged as the MVPs. Before the launch, they were writing Vertigo books and dabbling in the DCU, and now they're at the level that Wizard magazine would be writing fawningly about them each month, if there was still a Wizard magazine.

Is there still a Wizard magazine...? I thought it was supposed to come back at some point.

We've seen an increase in artist/writers at DC during that time, something I've found extremely interesting: Tony Daniel, George Perez, Keith Giffen, David Finch, Rob Liefeld, J.H. Williams III, Francis Manapul...

Although now that I say all those names, I realize some of them are no longer making comics at DC at all, or have surrendered one of their hats, so perhaps that was a brief, passing trend.

It brings us to another thing we've seen, though, and that is the devaluing of creators. There are a lot of books -- Superman, Green Arrow, Firestorm come to mind most immediately -- where the interchangeability of creators is most thoroughly demonstrated, and the publisher seems far more interested in, say, having an issue of Green Arrow on the stands than worrying that they have an issue of Green Arrow by a particular writer or artist.

The publisher also seems a little bit more mercenary when it comes to cutting certain books and launching new books, having apparently decided not to tolerate low sales for as long as they did pre-New 52, and while they seem more interested in different genres like war and Westerns and horror, it's all essentially superheroes, just hybrid superheroes. Superhero/war books, superhero/Westerns, superhero/horror and so on.

But despite the huge sales and all the attention DC got at the launch of the New 52, it's rather remarkable how little their line has changed, isn't it? Batman is still the most popular franchise in the number of books and the place on the charts, with Green Lantern right behind him -- a historical anomaly, sure, but thanks to Geoff Johns' years on Green Lantern, not that unusual in this century. No one wants to read anthologies, books that stray too far from straight superheroics pay for it in sales, books with heroes of color don't sell as the books with white heroes, et cetera.

The fact that the Justice League franchise is extremely popular again is different, but I imagine that has as much to do with putting super-comics' most popular artist and one of the genre's most popular writers on the main book than it had anything to do with marketing or rebooting. Similarly, Aquaman is selling really well now, but I imagine that has more to do with Johns' presence than whether he's wearing a turtleneck collar on his orange shirt or if he's supposed to be a 25-year-old man instead of a 35-year-old man or whatever.

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SPURGEON: The two titles from DC I have read are the Scott Snyder-written Swamp Thing and Batman. The Batman comics were interesting to me because it seems -- and disagree away -- that Snyder's strengths are a talent for off-key psychological profiling and placing importance on hitting measured beats in his narratives. Going with "Batman's comfortable relationship to Gotham City" strikes me as an odd and funny hook for an initial run of books, and the way that those issues read it seems like there is always at least one major story point per issue, which to me reads differently than the kind of simmering multi-threads that we've had since, I don't know, Claremont. How do you look at Snyder's work, and why do you think he's hitting with that audience?

MOZZOCCO: I don't really have an answer as to why Snyder's been so successful beyond some sort of glib observation along the lines of "He's really good at writing comics people want to read." [Spurgeon laughs]

His American Vampire was, along with Mike Carey's The Unwritten, one of Vertigo's only post-Fables hits and, even before The New 52 relaunch he was writing a popular Batman comic in Detective Comics, which, at that point, still featured Dick Grayson as Batman. I recall The Beat's Marc-Oliver Frisch noting with some astonishment that sales on TEC were going up month by month during Snyder's run, which is something that pretty much never happens without an easily discernible, gimmick-y reason -- that is, it's not like Batman met President Obama in one issue, married North Star in the next issue and killed Superman in the issue after that.

imageI think Snyder did benefit a bit from "The New 52" in that he was coming on as the main Batman writer after Grant Morrison had occupied that role for the previous few years. And while Morrison's run -- which is still petering out as we speak -- was tremendously ambitious and exciting and full of radical changes, it was different enough that there was probably a steadily growing hunger for the "real" Batman to come back. It probably didn't hurt that the Batman franchise was somewhat exempt from rebooted continuity, provided you not think too closely about how old all the Robins are supposed to be or how long Batman's been Batmanning and also if you ignore Batgirl completely; compared to Superman or the Justice League franchises, Batman was basically untouched by the reboot.

And there was probably an element of right place and right time to it as well; here was a popular, talented writer taking over the publisher's most popular character just as DC was launching this incredible sustained marketing effort.

Man, it probably sounds like I'm dismissing Snyder's responsibility for his own popularity here, doesn't it? I'm not, I swear; I'm just trying to account for all the factors.

I think you're right in saying part of it comes down to pacing as well. Snyder is good at writing serial comics as serials, rather than as graphic novels chopped up into chapters. I certainly felt that reading the early issues of American Vampire, and feeling propelled through the trades.

That would be my guess, anyway. I'm definitely interested in where Snyder goes from here. He's apparently leaving Swamp Thing, having written one really, really long arc that redefined the often-redefined character in certain ways, and I believe he's off to do Superman on a yet-to-be-named book pretty soon. And once Morrison concludes his run on Batman Inc, I think Snyder's vision of Batman is going to become the unrivaled, definitive one for a while, as Snyder will officially be the king of Batman mountain then.

If other super-comics writers are sitting around scratching their heads trying to figure out why Snyder has connected with the audience the way he has, I do hope they decide it has something to do with the way he approaches each issue, and giving it a significant story beat of its own, and that they decide to implement that approach in their own writing. Super-comics could use some de-decompression.

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SPURGEON: Have you followed the Before Watchmen books at all? Do you have an opinion to share on them as comics? The few I've read it seems like Amanda Conner and Jae Lee have done really nice work, Darwyn Cooke is at his usual level, and the rest is... I don't know how to put it, pretty standard comics-making. That's a terrible snap judgment given how little of this stuff I've read, so I'm interested if you have a broader opinion.

MOZZOCCO: Oh I've got lots of opinions to share on Before Watchmen -- on their very existence, on the folks who are making them and publishing them -- but not as comics, no. [Spurgeon laughs]

To answer your first question first, I haven't been following them at all. I haven't read a single one of them and, much to my own surprise, I haven't even picked a single one of them to flip-through in my local comic shop.

Early on I assumed that, at the very least, I'd want to see what a Darwyn Cooke drawing of Moth Man or Dollar Bill or whoever might look like, or to see Joe Kubert's inks on one of his sons' pencils -- Cooke drawings and Kubert linework are things I'm pretty much always interested in looking at.

But the first time I saw those books on the rack at my shop, I just felt sort of sad and disgusted and didn't even want to look at them there on the shelf, let alone touch one.

Aside from ranting for a few thousand words in a few blog posts around the time of the initial announcement -- and any time I read something in the comics press in which J. Michael Straczynski or Darwyn Cooke said something particularly ignorant or offensive about Alan Moore, Watchmen or how being screwed over by comics publishers is a natural part of working in the industry -- I haven't thought too terribly much about Before Watchmen this year.

I have been somewhat upset about the way the World Of Comics has -- well, I don't want to say "embraced," because that's not quite the right word, but neither, I suppose, is "tolerated" -- engaged, I guess. I've been deeply disappointed in the way Comics-with-a-capital-C has engaged DC and JMS and Cooke and company's work on these things.

The sites that cover comics have been extremely generous in their coverage, running previews and creator interviews and reviews in a way that seems particularly unsavory, the comic shop I patronized devoted a whole special rack to them, I've read far too many people defending the creators of the books, saying they shouldn't be blamed or called sell-outs for working them and so on.

Before Watchmen isn't just another baffling business decision by DC Comics, it's not just another batch of comics, and to see so many people in so many different parts of Comics treat it as such just... I don't know, defeats me...?

I was particularly bummed out when I saw the numbers for the sales estimates of the first issues, as it seemed like a lot of people were buying them -- or, at least, a lot of shops were ordering them in order to hopefully sell them to people who might buy them -- but those same sales estimates seem to have dropped quite quickly.

At this point -- what are they, halfway through publishing the 30-odd books they were planning? -- it's pretty weird how little we hear about it at all. The few reviews I've read early on were basically "These are fine comics, but nowhere near as good as the original, and kind of bland given how dramatic the decision to make them at all was."

So I think your snap judgment based on those you've sampled falls fairly well within the range of conventional wisdom on those books. That is: They're okay, probably better comics than DC is used to publishing these days, but nothing special. I think there were probably ways to make these comics that could have capitalized creatively on the controversy of making more Watchmen comics -- Kia Asamiya's Watchmen, Rob Liefeld's Watchmen Reborn, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Watchmen Vs. Justice League, "Hey Johnny Ryan, can we pay you a bunch of money to make fun of Watchmen for 100 pages?" et cetera.

DC seems to have gone the route of polite, half-embarrassed fan-fiction style comics-making, which is another disappointment to pile on top of the cairn of disappointments that is More Watchmen.

And, um, I guess that was me going on for about 20 minutes or so instead of just saying "No, not really, I haven't read them." Can you tell I'm not used to being interviewed...?

SPURGEON: [laughs] Does the Marvel NOW! strategy, with Ed Brubaker leaving and with a new bunch of writers coming to the forefront, does that strike you as an end in a way of that initial Brian Bendis-driven era at Marvel? What books have you thought distinguished themselves over the last several years?

MOZZOCCO: You know, a few months ago, maybe right before they announced all the "NOW!" titles, I probably would have said yes, as it seemed for a moment that Bendis Age of Marvel was maybe coming to a close.

imageThey had Matt Fracton write their big crossover event Fear Itself instead of Bendis, then for their next one, Avengers Vs. X-Men, they gave Bendis a bunch of co-writers, with their "Architects" divvying up issues like a television writing staff. His Avengers comics all seemed to be wrapping up, and had gone through this period of not selling as well or being as talked-about anymore. That Avengers Assemble book, which featured the Marvel Universe version of the movie team line-up, and was, I think, Bendis' third ongoing, simultaneously published Avengers book, started strong and then just nose-dived on the sales charts.

Marvel published some big, expensive omnibus with a title like "Ten Years of Brian Michael Bendis Writing All Our Comics" or something to celebrate his mutually beneficial relationship with the company, we had some news stories about his teaching a college class on comics writing, and the guy who hired him, Joe Quesada, was leaving the editor-in-chief's chair for a different role at the company.

So yeah, it seemed there was something in the air, and that maybe Bendis would be dialing-back his Marvel work.

But now he's writing the two main X-Men titles, and he's writing a new Guardians of the Galaxy book, to sort of pre-capitalize on the upcoming movie. I guess he is just totally and completely burnt out on writing the Avengers characters, which is understandable, given the fact that he's written the franchise for eight years now. And since most months of most of those years he was writing multiple Avengers titles and Avengers-centric crossover stories, he's probably produced somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 years worth of Avengers comics. He's probably lucky he's not in a sanitarium.

imageRegarding Ed Brubaker leaving Marvel, I think what's most significant about that particular move is what it might say about how his stature has grown during that time and what the opportunity environment is at Marvel and DC vs. other comics publishers and, in Brubaker's case, other media. It doesn't seem like Brubaker needs Marvel right now, and, after 38 years of writing Captain America -- or something in the neighborhood -- I'm sure he feels he said what he wanted to say and got to do everything he wanted to do with the character.

I don't think his departure is going to mean all that much to the publisher or their comics line, at least, not in the way that Bendis leaving, or even Bendis just moving laterally to the next franchise over, would have, or does.

Brubaker had an official Marvel Architect security badge I'm sure, but he's mainly been their Captain America guy, and while he was incredibly successful as such, both creatively and financially, it's still just one character, one corner of the Marvel Universe.

I do think the "NOW!" thing is a potentially exciting thing at Marvel, much more so than DC's "New 52," which it seems to be a response to, precisely because you have so many up-and-coming writers arriving. Like DC's "New 52," "Marvel NOW!" involves essentially the same pool of creators as the pre-initiative line, but Marvel's got a much deeper pool of talent, and the editors at Marvel seem to have really tried to mix it up a lot more than those at DC did. At DC they moved Scott Snyder from Detective Comics to Batman, and Tony Daniel from Batman to Detective Comics; at Marvel, they moved Matt Fraction from Iron Man to two Fantastic Four titles, and Jonathan Hickman from the FF titles to The Avengers).

There also seems to be an aspect of promotions for many of the creators at Marvel, too. Hickman moving up to the publisher's number one franchise, Kelly Sue DeConnick getting an Avengers book of her own, Rick Remender moving from an X-Men B-title to Uncanny Avengers and Captain America, and so on.

The only thing really raining on Marvel's "Marvel NOW!" parade, at least from where I sit, is the fact that their crazy-ass pricing discourages title sampling and impulse buying -- like, I like the $3 Mark Waid-written Daredevil and might try a $3 Mark Waid-written Hulk, but they're charging an extra buck for that one -- and their crazy-ass scheduling virtually guarantees erratic and inconsistent art.

The Bendis era you referred to has been one of primacy among writers at Marvel, which, I think, is fairly unusual in the company's history, as it has generally been the artists who were the rock stars and book-sellers at Marvel in decades past, and Marvel's accelerated publishing schedule, with two to three issues of popular books shipping every month, is only going to cement that. If you're publishing something like 15-24 issues of a monthly a year, there's no artist alive who is going to be able to own a book visually the way its writer can own it verbally.

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SPURGEON: Can you share your highly amusing take on AvX again?

MOZZOCCO: Did I have a highly amusing take on AvX? I don't remember having a highly, or even mildly, amusing take on AvX.

SPURGEON: [laughs] I thought you did.

MOZZOCCO: Are you sure you aren't thinking of Tim O'Neil? He had a highly amusing take on Avengers Vs. X-Men, which I know I linked to on my blog at some point.

He tried to make sense of the plot by looking at the X-Men through the prism of an analogy for various historically oppressed minority groups in America, as they have so often been portrayed in the comics, and ended up with an analogy of The Phoenix Force being the equivalent of the alien planet-destroying ghost of Martin Luther King.

Or are you maybe thinking of Andrew Wheeler? He wrote that highly amusing series ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX.

imageOr are you thinking of a take that had anything to do with the fact that Marvel has already published comics about The Avengers fighting the X-Men, or the shrieking insanity of publishing a companion title called Avengers Vs. X-Men: Versus, or the fact that Marvel event comics are so boring now that they had to publish a sister title to put all the fights in order to make room for all the talking in the main series, or the fact that in one issue Wolverine killed and skinned a polar bear in Antarctica, despite the fact that there are no polar bears in Antarctica, not even the Savage Land?

Because none of that was me. That was, let's see, every single person who read any of those comics.

Seriously though, I don't know. I haven't sat down and read it in a serious fashion yet. I was so badly burned by Secret Invasion that I now only read Marvel's big crossover events in trade collections I get from the library, so I'm usually about a crossover and a half behind all the rich people who can afford $4 comic books.

imageSPURGEON: Marvel's Hawkeye seems like an entertaining comic, mostly for the reason that many superhero comics end up being fun: they take place far enough out of the spotlight that some creator or creators is/are left alone and allowed to stretch their legs a bit. What do you think of that comic? What about the recent run of Daredevil books? That was the last book to receive similar buzz.

MOZZOCCO: Oh I love Hawkeye. I'd say it's probably the best superhero comic either of the Big Two are publishing right now -- as in late December, 2012 -- it's only real competition being Daredevil. A few months back, I would have considered Wonder Woman too, but it's not as wildly inventive as either of those Marvel books, and, while good, just repeats the same good things over and over rather than discovering new good things.

I think you're right about why Hawkeye's good, too -- it is far enough away from the "important" stuff that writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja -- and all the fill-in artists they will have to hire if they insist on publishing it bi-weekly -- can put as much as themselves and their own talents and personalities into the book to make it their own thing, rather than conforming to some idea of what a successful Marvel comics in 2012 should be.

I think it's particularly clever that Fraction seemed to build-in distance from the center of the Marvel Universe right into the book. Each issue includes some line about how this is a book about what Hawkeye does when he's not being an Avenger.

It stresses me out a little, because I worry about Marvel's ability to not mess with the book at all, the way Daredevil has been messed with pretty extensively: too many guest artists of too many different styles, crossovers, accelerated schedules, et cetera.

I tried to express that feeling in a column for Robot 6 a few weeks ago, and, based on the comments, I wasn't the least bit successful in expressing it. I went with the hothouse flower metaphor. Let's try another one here: I feel like Hawkeye is this rare, dazzlingly beautiful butterfly that's just alighted on a nearby flower, and I'm afraid that someone's going to make a sudden move and it's going to fly away forever.

Mark Waid and company's Daredevil comics have been phenomenal. There was a rough patch, as I alluded to before, but now that Waid's working with Chris Samnee, I think the book's recovered nicely, and is just as good as it was in those early issues, where Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera were taking turns drawing it.

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SPURGEON: Walking Dead #100 may be bleakest piece of art in any medium to ever hit #1 in its market. How do you think that Image has done in terms of re-establishing themselves as a place for potent genre comics? It feels to me like their core line-up, their top five or six, are solidly appealing on a lot of levels.

MOZZOCCO: I sort of wish I was paying a little closer attention, because it really seems like all of a sudden that Image Comics became this place for genre comics that aren't just really popular, but also really good as well.

And they've managed to make a lot of comics that aren't really superhero comics like Marvel and DC makes, or good licensed comics like IDW specializes in, or the precise sort of horror hybrid that Dark Horse's Mignolaverse books do.

I get a sense that there's an emerging flavor of Image Comics, or, at least, the more Image Comics-iest of the Image Comics.

I know it wasn't actually all that sudden -- Walking Dead, as you've mentioned, has been publishing there for over 100 months now -- but between that, Robert Kirkman's less-successful efforts, those Liefeld-inspired sci-fi books like Prophet and Glory and Saga, Image Comics has a lot of tremendously exciting comics from a lot of extremely talented writers, artists and cartoonists, and they seem to be able to make them without screwing people over constantly or making me feel like an asshole for buying them, so hats off to them.

imageI think this year has been a really important one for Image, as they've managed to introduce talents like Brandon Graham and Ross Campbell to new audiences. They've successfully managed to translate the television popularity of Walking Dead to sales of trades and comics -- something The Big Two never seem to be able to do with their blockbuster movie-inspiring comic.

And given how horrible DC and Marvel have looked at various points throughout 2012 in terms of the way they treat their creators -- Before Watchmen, Jack Kirby's non-existent Avengers movie credit, Chris Roberson and Roger Langridge making principled stands, the apparent behind-the-scenes chaos at DC, Greg Rucka's loudly expressed dissatisfaction with both companies -- I imagine they seem very welcoming to creators right now.

I know when I was a teenager, I wanted to write for DC Comics when I grew up. Now that sounds about as appealing as working on the kill floor of a slaughterhouse -- Ha ha just kidding, DC Comics! I've got writing samples ready and waiting whenever you are! Call me, maybe! I imagine there are a lot of teenagers and twenty-somethings who want to work at Image Comics now, and I think these next few years should be very interesting, in terms of what Image publishes from new creators, and which established, perhaps former Big Two creators start debuting new work at Image Comics.

The fact that Image published Grant Morrison's Happy rather than DC's Vertigo imprint is kind of a big deal, isn't it? It seemed like a big deal to me.

SPURGEON: How healthy do you think the culture that supports those kinds of comics is right now? It seems like you have an affection for comic-book comics, but you mentioned an aversion to their higher costs these days. I wonder sometimes if the need for certain price points, and re-launches, and the shorter page rate, if all of these things aren't the real driving creative force behind that whole world of comics?

MOZZOCCO: Yes I really love the whole ritual aspects of comics -- the importance of a special day of the week devoted to new comic books coming out, the trip to the shop, sitting in my comics-reading chair, all of that stuff. Those pleasures wax and wane, but I really like reading comic books as comics -- I like cliffhangers and letters pages and organizing them and all the slightly OCD things one can do with comic books that are harder to do with graphic novels or electronic downloads of scans or whatever "digital" refers to.

And yes, I do have an aversion to $3.99/22-page comics, although "aversion" is probably putting it lightly. I flat out won't buy a $4, 22-page comic, and rarely ever cave. I bought a Ross Campbell Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, because Ross Campbell is my favorite, and there was a point where Ninja Turtles were, too.

I can understand IDW or Boom publishing $4/22-page comics, as they're smaller companies in the Direct Market, and little of what they publish is stuff I really feel strongly that I need to read serially, but I still have a hard time accepting the audacity of Marvel charging $4 a pop for a 20 or 22-page comic book.

For one thing, it was an overnight 33% increase over their old price; if we got to $4 comics after first stopping at $3.25, $3.50 and $3.75, it would probably be another matter entirely. For another thing, DC seems to be able to publish $3 comics still, and so does Marvel -- it's only they're really popular books they charge that extra buck for, which makes it very obvious that they don't have to sell them at that price, they just know they can sell them at that price, and f their audience is willing to pay them more, they'll take that extra money.

It would probably be a lot less galling if it felt like we were getting something for that extra $1, but Marvel Comics are still full of house ads clumsily interspersed throughout the story. It's extra mind-boggling if you read a $3 Marvel comic the same week you read a $3 Image comic. Saga and Mutliple Warheads are cover-to-cover, ad-free comics -- the former has a multi-page letter column, and that's the only not-comics in the comics. I read a few issues of Image's It Girl and The Atomics, and the only ads it had were for works by the same creators, and they were in the back of the book.

I don't know, it just seems insane to me that Marvel will ask me for $4 for 20-22 pages of a superhero comic that may or may not be any good and force me to wade through ads for Spider-Man fishing poles and bedding, whereas for the price of, say, two and half issues of Avengers I can get 200-pages of ad-free manga, with a spine and everything.

God, I hope that Marvel and DC's ability to keep their weird game of periodically goosing declining sales and profits up on the same 30 intellectual properties by rebooting them, renumbering them, raising prices, lowering page counts and fooling around with variant schemes isn't the real creative force driving comics.

But I wonder what DC and Marvel comics might be like if they spent all the time, energy and company resources they spend on, say, convincing a reader who likes Scott Snyder's Batman comics to make sure they buy 30-odd Batman books over the course of three months in order to get the whole story of a bunch of people dressed like bats fighting a bunch of people dressed like owls, spent instead on making better comics instead.

But then, I'm a reader, and my investment in these things is that they entertain me, so I suppose I have a very different perspective than, say, a Disney or Warner Brothers executive. I understand that from a certain perspective, the Big Two need to make as much money as possible by spending as little money as possible, and maybe the best way to do that is to squeeze the shrinking audience harder and more often than trying to expand the audience.

SPURGEON: Frank Santoro mentioned to me the last time I saw him that he felt a sea change in terms of what younger comics-makers are interested in when it comes to the mainstream comics they're reading, that a lot of what I value, for instance, these comics of the 1960s and 1970s, are going to diminish in influence in a significant way. The Sean Howe book about Marvel strikes me as something that could only have been written by someone with a deeper connection to Marvel in the '80s and '90s than I'm able to have. Do you feel that comics are less tethered from their roots than before?

MOZZOCCO: Yes, I think it's fair to say that comics are less tethered to their roots than they were a generation ago, or a decade ago.

I think the rise of global culture and the way the Internet fractures everything -- that is, all of comics history and all comics from all over the world is happening right now, on your computer, and you can access any point of it whenever and however you want -- inevitably scrambles the linear nature of comics history and the influence that one generation of creators, works or publishers will or can have on the next.

I imagine it's the same for all media, not just comics.

In certain ways, I think it's a good thing.

It allows the art form to evolve faster and in different ways and in different directions. I think comics readers and comics makers, and future comics makers are coming into the medium from manga and webcomics, from blogging and cosplaying, from videogames and design and animation and toys. I think for a lot of the younger generation of comics-makers, and the next generation, the 1960s and 1970s might as well have never happened. I don't even know how significant the 1980s and '90s are anymore, given how fast media and pop culture moves.


In other ways, I think that tether-severing is a terrible thing, as certain lessons of previous generations don't seem to get processed the way they should be -- or perhaps the way I would like them to be.

imageLike, I don't think it's at all a bad thing that Marvel Comics aren't produced using "The Marvel Method" any more, that everyone isn't trying to draw like Jack Kirby or John Romita or whoever their equivalent might have last been. But I wish everyone making comics, working in comics, covering comics, writing about comics, even just mouthing off about comics in the comment threads at the comics news sites and blogs, I wish everyone knew everything Jack Kirby went through in his dealings with Marvel Comics.

There's been a lot to be depressed about in comics this year, particularly when you're focusing on the direct market version of the mainstream, and of superheroes. The thing that depresses, disgusts and infuriates me more than anything else, though? Probably Grant Morrison's cavalier attitude about Siegel, Shuster and National/DC, as expressed in his Supergods book and all the interviews he's given regarding it.

My brain can't even process a guy that has made so much money off of Superman and Batman, a guy who claims Superman is the single greatest cultural achievement of humankind so completely devaluing the actual human who actually created Superman, that achieved that achievement.

Those are the roots I wish comics as a community could remain tethered to: Shared experiences, the suffering of others, the pioneers of various types of suffering who sort of scouted ahead, endured all the different kinds of hardship a writer or artist toiling in comics can endure, so the next 100 guys need not have the same bad experiences.

It would be nice if we could all come to agreement on things like the way Siegel and Shuster were treated by National Comics, the way Kirby was treated by Marvel, the way Alan Moore is being treated by his peers, those things are wrong, and we should probably not do those sorts of things anymore.

SPURGEON: Is there a point at which digital starts shaping content in terms of what the bigger companies do, do you think?

MOZZOCCO: I…don't know anything about digital. Sorry. It frightens and confuses me. I suppose there will come a day when I'll be forced to read comics on a device of some sort, either because my house will collapse from all of the paper comics I have in it, or because we will run out of trees to make paper to publish comics on in my lifetime, but, for now, I try to stay as blissfully ignorant of all aspects of digital comics as I can.

Now that I've established that I have no idea what I'm talking about, allow me to talk about it.

imageOne thing that I find interesting is that DC has been publishing a suite of comics as digital-first comics -- Ame-Comi Girls, Legends of The Dark Knight, Smallville Season 11, Arkham Unhinged -- and then re-publishing them as old-fashioned paper comics a few months down the road. And they show up on those sales estimate charts that the guys at The Beat parse, they still seem to be doing okay.

Like the Batman and Superman ones don't do as well as the "New 52" Batman and Superman comics, but they sell just about as well as, say, the pre-New 52 Robin or Nightwing or Superboy comics.

I don't know that DC or Marvel will move to that model for their whole lines, but, at DC at least, I wouldn't be surprised to see them expanding such offerings.

I can imagine a point where maybe all Big Two super-comics are published digitally serially -- like, hardcore fans would download and read their regular 20 or 22 page installment of Justice League or Avengers on your iPad or Mother Box or whatever on a monthly basis, and be able to blog about it and argue about it in message boards and then two or three times a year they would buy a trade paperback version.

That is, I can see digital replacing serially published comic book-comics at some point, and the basic publishing strategy becoming digital comics and trade collections, rather than serially-published comic books, digital comics and trade collections.

But I honestly don't have any idea what I'm talking about.

SPURGEON: [laughs] How healthy do you think genre comics are as a creative endeavor? Is it something you and I will be able to read in this form five, ten, 15 years from now? Will you miss it if it goes away? Will you turn out the lights before they do?

MOZZOCCO: I think genre comics are, creatively, extremely healthy.

I think the superhero genre part is looking a bit more sickly than other genres like horror or science fiction or whatnot due to overproduction and the fact that comics are no longer the only place you get superheroes, even the most obscure superheroes. Did you know B'wana Beast was a fairly major character in the Batman: The Brave and The Bold cartoon? Or that Beta Ray Bill was on that Superhero Squad cartoon? But I think that's a perception thing. If Marvel's going to publish 20 X-Men titles and DC 15 Batman-related titles on a monthly basis, and you try to read them all, they're going to seem derivative and creatively bankrupt.

imageBut if you check in with Mike Mignola every couple of months, or see what Brandon Graham or James Stokoe or Ross Campbell or Richard Sala or Corey S. Lewis are up to, or look at the remarkably high quality of what should be phoned-in cartoon adaptations like SpongeBob Comics or Adventure Time or My Little Pony or Fraggle Rock or Langridge's Muppets or whatever. When I was growing up, licensed comics based on cartoons were the worst, now most of those comics are just incredible. There are a lot of really great, really inspirationally great comics out there -- comics that you read that make you want to read more comics like them, that make you want to make comics.

It's sometimes hard to remember just how creatively healthy comics, even genre comics, even superhero comics are, because of how warped perception of the that part of the industry is by the industry actors, and by those of us who cover that part of the industry -- well, not you and I, of course, I'm talking about everyone else.

The big players in the direct market seem to focus their energies on promoting what is already popular, rather than whatever is good, and industry media tends to focus their energies on covering either whatever the big players tell them to, or whatever seems like the most interesting story, which is generally a negative story. Same as in any other kind of news, really; bad news is of interest, good news not so much.

I think the industry in its current form will be around for quite a while yet, and we'll still be able to buy serially-published paper comic books from comic book shops for another decade at least. The way I see it, the superhero and the comic book/graphic novel will have to lose its appeal in Hollywood first, in a sustained way. Like, we'll have to go years with nothing but Batman and Robins and Green Lanterns, without a single Avengers or even Iron Man; TV will have to be all The Cape, all the time.

And when the Hollywood comic book IP gold rush is over, when all those movie and TV show pitches disguised as comic books go away, when those publishers who specialize in that kind of comic fade away, then we'll probably still have another decade or so of the folks who were already here making, buying and selling genre comics to keep it going for a while longer.

But sure, I'll turn off the light if I'm the last one here. Lights attract moths. And I wouldn't want moths to get into my comics collection and chew the corners off that issue where Superman died. It might be worth money some day.


*****

* J. Caleb Mozzocco
* J. Caleb Mozzocco at ComicsAlliance
* J. Caleb Mozzocco at Robot 6
* J. Caleb Mozzocco on Twitter

*****

* from Hawkeye, a mainstream superhero comic enjoyed by Mr. Mozzocco
* self-portrait from one of his occasional cartoons
* the Laughing Ogre logo
* DC's Hitman character
* from the New 52 version of the Justice League Of America
* from Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing revamp
* from Scott Snyder's recent run of Batman comics
* Amanda Conner art on one of the Before Watchmen books
* one of the later-period Brian Bendis-written Avengers titles
* art from Ed Brubaker's writing run on Captain America
* it was the Avengers Vs. the X-Men in 2012
* it was the Avengers Vs. the X-Men in 2012 in a way that led to a separate comic focusing on fight scenes
* from Hawkeye
* a couple of panels from Walking Dead
* Ross Campbell at Image
* we should all know about Jack Kirby
* from one of DC's digital-first efforts
* an Adventure Time comic book
* from Daredevil, a mainstream superhero comic enjoyed by Mr. Mozzocco

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Grace Danico

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Go, Look: Calabitches

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Alex Hoffman on I'm Not Here.

* not comics: these are near-final numbers for the Justice League movies, and those domestic figures are rough. These don't have an effect on the comics as much as you'd think, although it does seem that DC didn't come through with a single film to single book strategy as they have with some of their past movies. I don't know why they'd ever abandon that strategy. Maybe I just couldn't figure out the book.

* I enjoyed this positive summation of alt-weeklies, once one of the great collective comics delivery systems. I'm not sure I'd agree with much if it were broken down point by point, but it's very sweet.

* finally, this kind of thing is so dumb. There is so much money to be made mythologizing Stan and Jack together, exponentially more than Stan by himself. All the moral and ethical issues aside -- and they shouldn't be put aside -- Marvel is leaving money and priceless branding on the table. At some point they're going to move to a lot more non Stan/Jack characters in the other-media efforts, at which point not only will this moment will have been lost, you lose being able to do a round two based on the lack of a Stan/Jack foundation with like a "class of 1980" equivalent to the Nine Old Men and whatever they're calling the foundational guys of the Quesada era.
 
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This Site Is In Silent Running Mode Until January 8

There was a time when I covered comics in the 1990s through the mid-oughts that finding any news (barring a holiday purge at Marvel) to report or to amplify in December through January 15 or so was a nightmare. That's no longer the case. We'll keep the Random Comics feature going through the next couple of weeks on weekdays, we will break in with any major news, and we will continue to recommend artists and projects for you to discover.

imageI'm also going to re-run a few old interviews from December 25 through January 1, after which we'll make a decision about featured content January 2 to January 8.

I like pauses, I like changes in tone, and this should be a brief spell of both. If I do this right, you won't notice that for a fortnight or so I'm getting a couple of hours back. I hope that gained time shows in the New Year.

Thank you so much for another year of support, patronage and readership. I feel like there will be good things in store for CR in 2018, but talking about them doesn't matter if they don't happen so I will stay quiet until they do. I talk a big game; it's time to play one.

Comics had an extraordinary year of continued great work, a ton of very good work, a lot of work that is personally meaningful to their creators, and some small but vital progress by some very brave people in making comics less of a horrible place in which to make and engage with art. I am hopeful that work continues. There have also been some terrible stories, starting with a nasty streak of censorship overseas, the continuing exploitation of artists here and abroad, and the hammering away at elements of infrastructures in several countries that had helped many make the attempt to live more fully within their art.

I am encouraged, though, by the art itself, and the increasing realization in a number of circles that meaningful expression and ethical business conduct are mountains on which someone can take a stand to positive results.

A little business: if you would like to see your birthday mentioned on the site in the new year, I'm afraid it has to be birthdate. That's not an option for everyone, I know, but I like the reminder of time and humanity and good people defined by both that those wishes bring every day in accumulation.

Also: I made a birthday beg on behalf of my other job here.

Ever upward, and I hope you have as great a holiday experience as is available to you.

Tom

art from Jason's On The Camino, one of the high-quality comics inviting you into someone else's world that we get all the time now, because comics is awesome

this article will repeat until January 8, skipping Christmas and New Year's
 
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December 25, 2017


May God Bless Us Every One

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December 24, 2017


Go, Watch: This Year's James Kochalka Christmas Song


 
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Go, Look: Cartoon- And Comics-Heavy Christmas Gallery

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This Site Is In Silent Running Mode Until January 8

There was a time when I covered comics in the 1990s through the mid-oughts that finding any news (barring a holiday purge at Marvel) to report or to amplify in December through January 15 or so was a nightmare. That's no longer the case. We'll keep the Random Comics feature going through the next couple of weeks on weekdays, we will break in with any major news, and we will continue to recommend artists and projects for you to discover.

imageI'm also going to re-run a few old interviews from December 25 through January 1, after which we'll make a decision about featured content January 2 to January 8.

I like pauses, I like changes in tone, and this should be a brief spell of both. If I do this right, you won't notice that for a fortnight or so I'm getting a couple of hours back. I hope that gained time shows in the New Year.

Thank you so much for another year of support, patronage and readership. I feel like there will be good things in store for CR in 2018, but talking about them doesn't matter if they don't happen so I will stay quiet until they do. I talk a big game; it's time to play one.

Comics had an extraordinary year of continued great work, a ton of very good work, a lot of work that is personally meaningful to their creators, and some small but vital progress by some very brave people in making comics less of a horrible place in which to make and engage with art. I am hopeful that work continues. There have also been some terrible stories, starting with a nasty streak of censorship overseas, the continuing exploitation of artists here and abroad, and the hammering away at elements of infrastructures in several countries that had helped many make the attempt to live more fully within their art.

I am encouraged, though, by the art itself, and the increasing realization in a number of circles that meaningful expression and ethical business conduct are mountains on which someone can take a stand to positive results.

A little business: if you would like to see your birthday mentioned on the site in the new year, I'm afraid it has to be birthdate. That's not an option for everyone, I know, but I like the reminder of time and humanity and good people defined by both that those wishes bring every day in accumulation.

Also: I made a birthday beg on behalf of my other job here.

Ever upward, and I hope you have as great a holiday experience as is available to you.

Tom

art from Jason's On The Camino, one of the high-quality comics inviting you into someone else's world that we get all the time now, because comics is awesome
 
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Go, Look: Harmony Becker

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Go, Look: Beyond Press

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FFF Results Post #489 -- Dream Projects Redux

On Friday, CR asked its readers to "Name Five Comics Dream Projects In The Areas Of Reprint, Translation Or Collection." This is how they responded.

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. The Complete Mister Oswald, Russ Johnson
2. The Complete Harvey Comics' Black Cat, Various
3. Bonus Manga: Selected Short Stories, 4-Koma and Filler Comics, Various
4. The Complete and Annotated Show Business Cartooning of Al Hirschfeld, Al Hirschfeld
5. The Complete Scribbly/Scribbly and The Red Tornado, Sheldon Mayer

*****

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Mário Filipe

1. Matt Marriott Omnibus, Jim Edgar and Tony Weare
2. Ganges Collected Edition, Kevin Huizenga
3. Keko: Short Stories Collection, Keko (José Antonio Godoy Cazorla).
4. The Guido Buzzelli Library, Guido Buzelli
5. Tyrant: Hungry for More Edition, Steve Bissette

*****

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Andrew Neal

1. Fast Willie Jackson (including the unpublished issue #8), Bertram Fitzgerald & Gus Lemoine.
2. 2001, Jack Kirby
3. A collection of Do Not Disturb my Waking Dream, Laura Park
4. A collection Of Kate Beaton’s comics about her family, Kate Beaton
5. An Artist’s Edition of that Brian Ralph mini about a monkey astronaut that I lost sometime around 1997, Brian Ralph.

*****

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Roger Langridge

1. Billy DeBeck’s Complete Barney Google 1919-1942
2. The Chronological Kim Deitch
3. Ken Reid’s Frankie Stein
4. Jack Kirby’s Dingbats of Danger Street (including the two unpublished issues)
5. Serge Clerc collection

*****

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Oliver Ristau

1. The Collected Haywire by Michael Fleisher, Vince Giarrano and other contributors
2. Scarab Tomé by John Smith, Scot Eaton, Mike Barreiro and others
3. Full Thriller by Robert Loren Fleming, Trevor Von Eeden, Bill DuBay & Alex Nino
4. The Complete Wasteland by John Ostrander, Del Close and various artists
5. Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger Collection by Max Allan Collins, Keith Giffen and various contributors

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. The Complete Trots And Bonnie, Shary Flenniken.
2. The Addams Family: Complete Comics, Charles Addams
3. Animations Of Mortality: New Edition, Terry Gilliam
4. A Collection Of Jeff Smith's Brief Run Of Bush-Era Political Cartoons, Jeff Smith
5. The Complete Cromartie High School, Eiji Nonaka.

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. The Comics Journal Library: The Complete Gary Groth Interviews, Gary Groth & subjects
2. The Love & Rockets Library: Me For The Unknown, Mario Hernandez & Gilbert Hernandez
3. The Collected MAD Magazines of Harvey Kurtzman, Harvey Kurtzman & co.
4. Roberta Gregory's non-Bitchy Bitch comics from Naughty Bits & elsewhere, Roberta Gregory
5. The Complete 2001: A Space Odyssey Comics of Jack Kirby, Jack Kirby

*****

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RJ Casey

1. A collection of Karl Hubenthal sports illustrations, Karl Hubenthal
2. Southern Fried Fugitives, Kim and Simon Deitch
3. A collection of Edward Steed comics and gag strips, Edward Steed
4. The Complete Tits & Clits, originally edited by Lyn Chevli and Joyce Farmer
5. The Complete Rubber Blanket, David Mazzucchelli

*****

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Danny Ceballos

1. The Complete BOOK OF, Gabrielle Bell
2. The Complete Jingle Jangle Comics, George Carlson, et al
3. Steve Ditko: Every CHARLTON Story and Cover
4. The Complete Jennifer Daydreamer
5. That Kramers Ergot 7 as mini comic bootleg, but blown up back to original proportions of the Buenaventura Press edition and hand colored by Lynda Barry's students

*****

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John Vest

1. Beyond The Pale Volume 2: Kim Deitch Short Comics From 1990 To The 2000s, Kim Deitch
2. The Complete Tawky Tawny Comics By Otto Binder and CC Beck, Otto Binder and CC Beck
3. A Collection Of Dwaine Tinsley Cartoons, Dwaine Tinsley
4. The Complete Jack T Chick Tracts, Jack T Chick
5. The Complete Crumb Comics Volume 18, R Crumb

*****

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Michael Borelli

1. Frank Frazetta Atifact Edition
2. Alex Toth Collection of '40s and '50s DC Comics
3. Neal Adams X-Men/Avengers Artist Edition
4. Alex Raymond Flash Gordon Studio Edition
5. Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg! Artist Edition

*****

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Andrew Mansell

1. The Complete Cullen Murphy, John Cullen Murphy Prince Valiant run: Cullen Murphy, John Cullen Murphy
2. VIP: Complete Single Panel cartoons, Virgil Partch
3. HELP! The Complete Run: Harvey Kurtzman
4. A Collection of Yoshiharu Tsuge gekika translated into English: Yoshiharu Tsuge
5. The Complete Quality Comics and Covers of Lou Fine, Lou Fine

*****

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Nick Prolix

1. The Complete Gordo, Gus Arriola
2. A Collection of Spirou albums, Yann and Olivier Schwartz
3. The Complete Black Cat, Lee Elias
4. Trencher: Artists Edition, Keith Giffen
5. Blackhawk, Martin Pasko and Rick Burchett

*****



*****
*****
 
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December 23, 2017


Go, Look: Urbano Mata

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Go, Look: Hertz Alegrio

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Go, Look: Ben Nadler

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December 22, 2017


Go, Look: Michelle Kwon

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Assembled, Zipped, Transferred And Downloaded: News From Digital

By Tom Spurgeon

* happy anniversary to Mark Evanier and to Gary Tyrrell for their seminal on-line efforts.

* speaking of Tyrrell, here's his piece on Patreon's recent reversal on announced policy that might have wreaked havoc on small-amount donations and thus webcomics.

* this project instigated by a gaming enterprise and launched in support of an another-media release date or several feels like the future to me. Well, one part of the future. Not the entire future, that would be odd.

* finally, I missed this potential cover from Amber Huff upon return to the webcomic The Cavity.
 
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Go, Look: Hollow Press

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Go, Look: Asterisk Press

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* John Seven on Run For It. Todd Klein on The Flash #23.

* John Siuntres talks to Ron Marz. Gil Roth talks to Cullen Murphy.

* Ken Parille covers Ghost World at 20. RC Harvey on Andy Capp at 60.

* here's a longish piece on Cerebus, on the occasion of its 40th birthday. I hadn't thought about it before now, but the headline's claim that few of their readers have even heard of the comic is probably true. Cerebus has a difficult legacy in a lot of ways that diminishes its currency.

* finally, I enjoyed this comic by Evan Dorkin. I also enjoyed this rant, which you basically have to scroll down and read upwards.
 
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December 21, 2017


Annie Goetzinger, RIP

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Turkish President Erdogan Demands Oppenheimer's Twitter-Fucking Cartoon Removed From Site

Here. Erdogan's imperious hostility towards cartoon criticsm has been documented for about two decades now, and there seems to be no end to what will be pursued.

The anti free speech efforts that grind my teeth the most is the legal banning of any satire against those in power, and it's not difficult to envision a future where more countries do this rather than fewer. When this started, there was hope that Turkey could be walked back from this naked hostility as an inducement to better relationships with countries in the west. That's not even on the table. It's more likely in my mind that western countries devise similar strategies, by a different name.
 
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Go, Look: Stephanie Rodriguez

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* as seems eminently reasonable given their development of the FanX name, Salt Lake City's comics convention will likely move in that direction for a re-name on forthcoming shows. I don't think that will have any significant effect on the show.

* the Horton Plaza may be in the latter stages of a long decline: no anchor store, paid parking, a decrease in patrons, robberies. I've bought camera equipment, several meals and at least two pair of shoes there during SDCCs, and I'm likely not the only one who's found the place useful while attending the big show. It's interesting to go to enough comic book shows you see the hosting city move in cycles.

* this is a truth. Plus I already know I missed Baltimore and Fumetto.

* I know at least Stan Lee and Neal Adams will make the early-January Wizard show in New Orleans. Hell I'm tempted to pay my own way to the early-January Wizard show in New Orleans. Someone please put together a comic arts festival down there.

* finally: see Thi Bui at UVA in 2018.
 
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Go, Look: Laura Lewis

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Go, Look: ARTROAN

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Sean Gaffney on Durarara!! Vol. 8.

* here's a profile of Laura Park and her excellent exhibit at Columbus Museum Of Art, running until mid-February. It'd be a worthy centerpiece for a Sunday day trip (when the museum offers free admission). You'll either go right home and make art of your own or never make art again.

* here's a piece that I've seen flash in front of my eyes a bunch on a perceived limitation in comics criticism. (I mention that because you could probably find discussion of it if you like the piece.) I'm probably one of the people being criticized, but I enjoyed reading that perspective and I greatly appreciate the high standard brought to bear.

* finally, here's some Last Jedi fan fiction.
 
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December 20, 2017


Go, Look: Barry Windsor-Smith Has Uploaded Dozens of Unpublished Fantastic Four Pages To Facebook

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scroll down; have fun
 
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Go, Read: Brian Hibbs' Open Letter To CB Cebulski And Marvel Comics

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The retailer and advocate has written an open letter to Marvel Comics on the occasion of a change at the editor-in-chief slot about what is a quiet crisis in today's comic-book landscape: a big chunk of retail seems to be doing miserably right now, and one big reason is because of the vast underperformance of Marvel Comics.

Hibbs offers a bunch of concrete steps regarding variants and publishing frequency. I think I'd agree with all of them, or at least defer to Hibbs, although my suspicion is that Marvel works best when there's enough fat in their line to allow them to develop comics for the future -- something that's worked well for them since the late 1970s, and found a second function in the 2000s as a way to keep promising talent in-house. I also think that editorial fiat only goes so far: you need to find creators to make this kind of work, and then get that work out of them. This is always difficult, and Marvel's a tougher sell right now for established A-listers that might prefer the Kirkman/Millar model that allows the creator to keep media rights. Some of Marvel's recent work has a "The Room" quality to it, though, and I just can't figure out how that's happened when there are so few jobs in North American comics that can put you into a house.

Where Hibbs is absolutely right, I think, is that publishing bunches of mediocre comics at an inflated price point is death, and the anecdotal news from individual retailers seems to me as brutal as it's been at any time since the '90s. The publishing several comics in a "family" when one becomes semi-successful seems uniquely of this time, and uniquely counter-productive. It's jumping the gun, and Marvel used to be pretty good about seeing that kind of progression from electric single title to franchise play out at its own speed. That said, long-term is a luxury in that market when retailers hurt this much. It should be very interesting to take another look at this market and its moods if there isn't positive news of reform and new initiatives by April or so.

Updated: Marvel has begun its title cull.
 
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Go, Look: Pyrite Press

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This Isn't A Library: New, Notable Releases Into 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.

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OCT170956 X-MEN GRAND DESIGN #1 (OF 2) $5.99
OCT170958 X-MEN GRAND DESIGN #1 (OF 2) PISKOR CHARACTER VAR $5.99
OCT170957 X-MEN GRAND DESIGN #1 (OF 2) PISKOR CORNER BOX VAR $5.99
Ed Piskor's much-discussed shot an X-Men comic telling their convoluted publishing history as if it were one giant saga -- and of course it is -- arrives just in time for the Christmas Holiday. I liked the pages I saw, and I certainly spent a lot of time when I was a kid reading X-Men comic books. It should be interesting to see how much crossover there is from Piskor's more recent work: I suspect a decent amount.

imageOCT170405 ASSASSINISTAS #1 CVR A HERNANDEZ (MR) $3.99
OCT170406 ASSASSINISTAS #1 CVR B GREENE (MR) $3.99
OCT170021 HELLBOY KRAMPUSNACHT #1 $3.99
OCT170023 HELLBOY KRAMPUSNACHT #1 HUGHES SKETCH VAR $3.99
OCT170022 HELLBOY KRAMPUSNACHT #1 MIGNOLA VAR $3.99
OCT170548 COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMICS COMICS FOR ALL #1 CVR A $3.99
OCT170549 COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMICS COMICS FOR ALL #1 CVR B $3.99
OCT170683 HEAD LOPPER #8 CVR A MACLEAN & BELLAIRE $5.99
OCT170684 HEAD LOPPER #8 CVR B KINNER & ZIRITT $5.99
OCT170686 INVINCIBLE #143 (MR) $3.99
These are all variant covers except the Robert Kirkman-involved superhero book at the end, there, that likely doesn't need that kind of offering as it winds down its long run. That's too many goddamn variants. Every variant puts a strain on the market and too many puts too much strain. Time to walk this way back -- although I don't suppose there's any reasoning with this kind of short-term profit, so maybe we should enjoy the extra work given artists and hope for the best. The Assassinistas book is one of the new Shelly Bonds and offers for olds like me Gilbert Hernandez. I always list the Hellboys, and am rarely disappointed. I would assume the comic book history of comics title is a continuation of IDW's treatment of the original work in serialized form. I once wrote an introduction for one of those books, so I must have liked it (long week, sorry). I really like Head Lopper, a kind of Hellboy for the Adventure Time generation. And I'm always fond of endings.

OCT171594 NIGHT BUSINESS HC (MR) $24.99
I thought this was out already but it's a big bunch of Ben Marra, and I hope to do something with it on the site soon.

AUG171345 STARDUST KID HC $24.99
Mike Ploog!

SEP172175 JAMIE HEWLETT INSIDE THE MIND OF JAMIE HEWLETT HC (MR) (RES) $59.99
There are a whole bunch of art books out this week for your last-minute Christmas shopping pleasure. This is the one on the list I'd look at in a story. Should be pretty in there.

SEP171658 CICIS JOURNAL HC GN $17.99
Finally, this is a stand-alone First Second book that I hadn't been tracking -- First Second published a lot of books this year. Like most of the First Second offerings of recent vintage, this looks like a potential series in the making. I always like investigative kids protagonist and the art from Aurélie Neyret looks super-cute.

*****

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: Arlin Ortiz

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Go, Look: An Nguyen

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Alex Hoffman on Shiner.

* I don't remember this Christmas story at all, but that Jose Garcia-Lopez art is pretty incredible employed in the direction of those Cockrum-era costumes.

* otbp: Organic Dada #1.

* not comics: here's some advice on how to host people in your home, which is something that might be useful for those in comics-destination and festival towns.

* finally: here's an article ranking all of the newer Star Wars comics they've been doing like mad the last half-decade or so. I like the art in a lot of the Star Wars comics over the years, and think the design work is generally sturdy. I still don't have any sense that that universe is big enough or interesting enough to call for so many stories to be told in it. I'm also curious if this is where the Tolkien might go someday.
 
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December 19, 2017


Go, Listen: Chris Ware Talks To Caitlin McGurk At CXC 2017's Keynote Presentation

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Go, Read: Asher Elbein And Charles Pulliam-Moore On The CB Cebulski False Identity Fiasco

Asher Elbein wrote a high-quality sourced piece for The Atlantic on new Marvel EiC CB Cebulski's period of writing under a different name and identity that's about as solid as I can imagine for Marvel's lack of participation. The piece does run a more complete statement from Cebulski himself. That statement from the Marvel man-on-point is the subject of Charles Pulliam-Moore's essay here.

imageI agree in broad terms with both pieces, and think they work together pretty well. A statement in Elbein's piece with which I think I'd disagree is that I see Cebulski's hiring more about the ability to recruit, keep and foster talent than as an outreach to fans. It will serve as outreach to fans anyway, as there are many hardcore fans who are invested in comics hires at the high-editorial level more than I think, say, the movie fans I know track and imprint upon hirings at studios and movie development companies. As I've mentioned before, part of Marvel's messaging makes historical sense: an affable personality up top goes a long way in a relatively low-reward industry like comics. If there's access to more international talent, so much the better. Let the pitches fall from the sky. One of them may provide the course-correction desired.

I think there's still more to discuss with the story, particularly in the context of Cebulski's first several months on the job. One thing I hope is that everyone puts their foot down about this being a pseudonym issue. Even suggesting that this was an objection to pseudonym use is cynical modern media-style spin. Almost no one gives a shit about that. That's part of comics. Where concern has been expressed is that this is a false identity issue with deeply unpleasant industry and cultural ramifications, that this is an issue of who in comics gets to defraud their company without being disqualified from a top position and that this is an issue of what kind of culture exists at a company where neither of the first two things seems to matter enough to publicly address them. There's another aspect that interests me that I'll keep to myself for now. I'm sure there are more.

I suspect another thing that needs to be resisted now is the idea that this story, like the Eddie Berganza firing, has concluded because the company at its center has decided that what's been announced and said will have to suffice. Marvel and DC's general absence from their two major stories of the Fall is something I hope will be discouraged by folks continuing to poke them about the very real contextual issues involved. A good start is the kind of writing with clarity that Elbein and Pulliam-Moore provided with the linked-to posts.

akira yoshida credited splash page
 
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Go, Look: Perfectly Acceptable

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked: Publishing News

By Tom Spurgeon

image* Jean-Pierre Gibrat's The Reprieve will arrive from IDW's EuroComics imprint this spring.

* this is the time of the year that all the young nerds hit the "advanced search" button on the "books" section of Amazon.com, and find out not when comics will come out exactly -- that rarely matches up -- but which projects are generally planned. The one I noticed this time is Lorenzo Mattotti with Jerry Kramsky, a team-up supreme-up.

* adjustments with the Young Animal line-up at Vertigo.

* Mark Evanier mentions that Neil Gaiman will be doing a foreword for the Pogo series. I would like to read that essay.

* finally: a new Dale Martin collection!
 
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Go, Look: Kris Mukai

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Go, Look: Ann Xu

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Sean Gaffney on One Piece Vol. 84.

* here's the Boom! part of the Disney acquisition of Fox assets unpacked a bit.

* Chris Butcher is right about this. There was even a dry run of this in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when some of Kirby's later-period work was mocked by younger working professionals.

* speaking of frequently mocked creators, Steve Lieber makes an interesting point about DC Comics and the fact that Alan Moore-written work three decades in the rearview mirror is still a significant contributor to their bottom line.

* finally a by request extra: seems like Simon Roy could use a gig.
 
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December 18, 2017


Go, Look: Chris Samnee B&W Commissions

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Go, Read: On Laura Park And Her CMA Exhibit

imageThat the Columbus Museum of Art co-sponsors a residency and does an exhibit with the residency winner at the museum is the kind of wonderful thing we sometimes pass over too easily. This year's exhibit featuring work from Laura Park is as good as any they've had thus far. Seeing ten years of work from a cartoonist who in many ways is just slipping into comics culture consciousness now makes me optimistic for all the great work that may be in development in other corners of the comics world. Plus: she can flat-out draw.

If you can, I hope you'll consider going before it closes in February. Sundays at the museum are pay-what-you-will. Give me a ring, I'll come down and buy you a soda.
 
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Go, Look: Paige Mehrer

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Comics By Request: People, Places In Need Of Funding

By Tom Spurgeon

image* this is the last one of these until early January. A quick reminder people that I don't tend to run crowd-funding links in this column in December, favoring notes about charities, non-profits and general donations appropriate to the extended holiday season. Hero Initiative, The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, CBLDF and CRNI are examples of these. I hope you'll make part of your end-of-year about giving as you're able, however you'd like to do it, in comics and out.

* that said, there are some crowd-funders that might need to run in December.

* any other crowd-funders that want that tiny boost a link here will provide, Good luck to all the potential publishers, project-completers out there.

* your favorite small-press cartoonist could probably use help with their Patreon, too, given the shift-arounds and all that that happened when that particular middle-man instituted a really bad policy earlier this month. That is a good thing you're doing for so many people.

* Michael DeForge has pointed out a few times how weird it is that they are so many middlemen that once uses in order to become an "independent" artist. It'd be great if by the end of the year someone -- and I'm going to try to do some of this with CXC -- could find some zero cost alternative for some of these programs, the way that Comic Art Collective is a free alternative to finding an arts dealer, at least in terms of having an on-line listing and being able to sell through the Internet.

* see you in 2018!
 
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Go, Look: Harvey Kurtzman Covers A 1940s Marvel Sales Giveaway Comic Book

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Brian Bendis Has Supplementary Surgery On Saturday

imageThe writer Brian Michael Bendis, recently hospitalized with infection, underwent surgery Saturday to remove infectious material near his eye. The prognosis according to Bendis' twitter feed, seems good on that particular procedure.

In addition to the very real lethal possible outcomes for serious infection, I can speak from some experience that it can be emotionally exhausting because of the high likelihood for multiple outbreaks within one greater window. I went into the hospital in 2011 with a very low percentage chance of surviving. I went home after two weeks of stupendous care with three times that chance of surviving not yet fifty percent.

I wish Brian and his community of friends, family and peers all the best in taking the days ahead as they come, and to keep their spirits focused on short-term combat and long-term health as much as they possibly can. Brian Bendis is one of our A-list talents in one of our richest cartooning fields, and one of the great all-time comics stories for what he's accomplished in his career. There will be a lot more accomplishment.
 
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Go, Look: Kate Sheridan

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Go, Look: Alyssa Surmillon

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Todd Klein on Faith Vol. 1. Manohla Dargis on two books about comics.

* Bob Eckstein in Warwick.

* the writer Paul Cornell surveys his friends' 2017 comics work in a lengthy largely ebullient post.

* Abraham Riesman talks to Charles Burns. Lauria Galbraith talks to John Porcellino.

* Roy Thomas pays tribute to Stan Lee on the occasion of his approaching 95th birthday.

* finally: "2 countries and 1 suburb" is a great line.
 
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December 17, 2017


Nick Francis Potter & Erin Potter

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Go, Look: Jesse Fillingham

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Go, Look: Alison Dubois

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December 16, 2017


Go, Look: Miché Perez

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Go, Look: Jon Marchione

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Go, Look: Alabaster Pizzo

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What It Feels Like Turning 49

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My Birthday Letter That Went Out Today, This Year On Behalf Of My Other Job -- You Know How It Is

December 16, 2017

To My Friends And Peers:

All apologies for this note. This is a note asking for money. Just $5, even, but still. I'm writing this on my birthday, and I'm being reflective and sentimental, but I'm definitely also asking for money. Be warned!

imageThe big change in my life over the last five years and my survival of two death scares is I've moved to Columbus, Ohio where I work on Cartoon Crossroads Festival (CXC), a non-profit arts festival devoted to all forms of cartooning. It's been a challenge and it's been fun.

I think we now have the shape of the CXC we want in a guests and programming sense. We'll get better at executing into the model, and there will be significant flourishes to keep things lively. We want a show that's a must-attend for fans of the art form at all levels of interest, and a show that gives back to the professional community it hopes to serve. We're getting there.

This year we get to pay more attention to professional development. The goal is that this isn't just a value of our programming, which it is, but that we respond to the needs of working makers with a combination of practical advice, directives and resources to make their lives better. I'm not sure we can ever get to a place where cartooning isn't heartbreaking and difficult on some level, but that doesn't absolve us from trying to lighten your load.

So in a way this letter is really just the standard December "ask" you get from me hoping to catch you in an end-of-year, holiday mood, reminding you that CXC is a non-profit that accepts tax-deductible donations. We can accept them straight up at the paypal account cxcfestival@gmail.com. We can accept them in check and money order form at 51 Jefferson Ave #204 Columbus OH 43215. We can accept them just about any way you're prepared to give them and I hope you'll e-mail me if you have something in mind. People have been generous so far in supporting what they feel is a good show, a Midwestern show, an arts-first and creators-first show, a valuable Columbus show, a show that specifically works for them or that they enjoy.

This year, though, just to say it out loud, anything $5 or more between now and the end of the year gets you on the list with past donors, exhibitors and special guests to make the pool of creators and industry folk that we target with our development program. So if you have an extra five or more in a holiday season where there's so much need, give that to Puerto Rican relief, or a standard comics charity, or the fund for Kate Beaton's sister. If you have another five after that, I hope you consider us. We will do our best to make sure you receive our attention in return, hopefully for years to come.

If it helps to think of it like sending me a small birthday present, that works, too.

Thank you for all that you've given and all that you've contributed to this art form and to my life. I hope you are enjoying all of the holidays and I have every best wish for your new year.

Your pal that gets all your comics jokes,

Tom

PS -- click here or through mascot Archie's image. Thanks!

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December 15, 2017


OTBP: Burned But Not Consumed

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Assembled Extra: Noah Van Sciver Serializing Fante Bukowski 3 On A Dedicated Twitter Account

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Here's the account.

I'm reasonably certain something like this has been done a few times, although nothing specific springs to mind. As a more traditional print cartoonist, Van Sciver's employment is worthy of note as cartoonists try to fill the vacuum where serialized print comics used to be. Anyway you look at it: more Fante Bukowski!
 
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Go, Look: Jed McGowan

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Go, Look: Akvile Magicdust

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Alex Hoffman has a few thoughts about Tom Gauld.

* Disney acquired a major portion of Fox in a $52 to $66 billion deal. It should be interesting from a media story perspective how that deal falls into place -- I would assume that most of what's left off is stuff where the companies duplicate themselves or some media endeavors that just don't fit Disney culture. This does mean that the X-Men and Fantastic Four properties will be available to the Marvel movie machine, which should extend the possibility of their long run at the box office. How much effect that has on the comic book side of things, I don't know. Despite claims to the contrary, both of those elements of the Marvel publishing line have been de-emphasized in significant ways over the last several years.

* finally: I am enjoying the "doofus" line of drawings at Jason's place.
 
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December 14, 2017


Go, Look: Maia Kobabe

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Festivals Extra: Rob Salkowitz On The Comic-Con Trademark Decision

Here and here.

Salkowitz does some nice work in pointing out that licensing agreements between SDCC and other entities have already happened, that appeals are restrictive in what they can change and that Reed has significantly more resources at their disposal if SDCC goes after them for their use of the trademarked term.

I'm not done going over this stuff, but one thing that pops into my head is that I wouldn't read too much into the $20K award vs. the $12M asked. I suspect that damages were asked for not because the SDCC team thought they'd happen but to make the trial a jury trial. Now that we've seen what a jury might accept as an act of appropriation, I think most of these shows have vulnerabilities to a similar claim even if they didn't drive a car around San Diego, like the Salt Lake City folks did. I also imagine that SDCC might have a protective interest in guiding what that term means -- they've taken a path that's still comic-centric, that structurally won't allow for 200K in attendance -- and this would afford them some primacy in that market. I would also imagine it would give them a step up in creating one or two more shows if that's what they want to do.

I've said this a ton of times about the possibility of a SDCC win, but I'm still sort of surprised there's a legal path here -- or at least any outcome wouldn't have surprised me; this is maybe the only thing I've learned about legal outcomes covering them the last 25 years. I don't know of another instance of an even doing something so well they took at least their model from generic to specific, but I recognize significant chunks of SDCC in all of these new shows. The model just isn't very different. I wish them luck in stewardship, since it seems that's what they've been granted. I guess I'm glad CXC isn't CCC, although as said other shows have come to agreements.

SDCC was a longtime advertiser here, so what you just read could certainly be compromised nonsense. Trust no one!
 
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Go, Look: Jeffrey Hsueh

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Go, Look: Adam Syzm

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Alex Hoffman on Now #1. Ben Towle on Tristan And Yseult. Todd Klein on Green Lanterns #20.

* bundled extra: prolific writer and cartoonist Jeff Lemire writes about about his 2018.

* the veteran writer Tony Isabella lists a bunch of DC Comics projects he'd like to make. This reminds me of the days when I used to host TCJ contributors when they made their way through Seattle and they all had lists of projects they wanted to do. I don't know if young artists do their current world of comics' equivalent to that kind of hopeful chatter, but I hope they do. Also, they should give Isabella a crack at Metamorpho.

* Evan Dorkin draws George Steele.

* finally: Mark Evanier discusses the westward journey being made by MAD. It's my understanding the first Burbank issue is underway.
 
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December 13, 2017


Go, Look: Madeline McGrane

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This Isn't A Library: New, Notable Releases Into 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.

*****

OCT171588 LOVE & ROCKETS LIBRARY JAIME GN VOL 06 ANGELS MAGPIES $19.99
This is a staggering collection of Jaime's astounding run a few years back. The award-winning Browntown/Love Bunglers pairing is here accompanied by the vastly underrated Ti-Girls work and supplemented by the cartoonist's New York Times serial and, running underneath it, that story about pottry-training age Maggie roaming her neighborhood, done in this elegant style that Jaime rarely uses. Hard to imagine a lot of collections with multiple works in them from the entire history of comics packing that much good work

imageOCT171805 CATBOY GN $20.00
This is a collection of material from the serial at VICE, represented in the direct market by Marc Arsenault and Wow Cool. Cute cover. It's the season to check out newer material.

AUG170036 LOBSTER JOHNSON TP VOL 05 PIRATES GHOST $19.99
SEP170439 ASTRO CITY ORDINARY HEROES HC $24.99
SEP170438 ASTRO CITY REFLECTIONS TP $16.99
These are two sturdy series that I'm mentioning here because there's a dearth of comic-book size comics this week, even by my relatively loose standard for such offerings. One advantage of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson doing this stage of their career at DC is that they'll certainly do a good job keeping those trades on the stands. My hunch is that a lot of Astro City's natural audience at this point is primarily a trade buyer.

OCT170343 BUG THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #6 (OF 6) (RES) (MR) $3.99
OCT170608 WICKED & DIVINE CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #1 CVR A MCKELVIE & WILSON $3.99
OCT170609 WICKED & DIVINE CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #1 CVR B ANKA (ONE SHOT) (M) $3.99
Here's that short list of comic-book format comics that jumped out at me. I'm sure I'm missing two or three series that I cover here. That Bug comic is the Mike Allred take on the Fourth World character, and attention might perk up there at the end of the serialization. The W&D material is one of the way that popular series bridges the time between volumes of the main narrative.

SEP171618 A ZOO IN WINTER HC NEW PTG $23.00
This is Jiro Taniguchi and as this stuff seems pretty timeless to me in its appeal, I'm glad to see attention to having that work in print.

APR171907 DENNIS THE MENACE HC VOL 03 HAWAII $24.99
This is I think the best-regarded of the comic-book Dennis team's travelogues; I read the crap out of my version when I was kid. This comic was pretty ubiquitous and I think sold millions of millions of copies over several printings in that initial burst of five to ten years after its initial appearance on the stands.

AUG171662 DF DARK KNIGHT III MASTER RACE #1 DF EXC MILLER HOMAGE $299.99
It's weird as popular as the previous DK iterations were that I don't have any sense of this volume's story, or outcome or publishing status.

SEP171572 MOOMIN AND THE BRIGANDS GN $9.95
An automatic purchase for me and others out there that know who they are.

OCT171705 PORTUGAL HC (MR) $39.99
I despaired of finding a comics for the bottom slot that wouldn't be overwhelmed by that Jaime, but a big Cyril Pedrosa book is certainly worth noting and yes, as one would expect it's glorious looking. I liked the subject matter, too, second-stage adult anxiety mixed in with later-20th Century regional European displacement. I'll write a review at some point, because it's very interesting in terms of its narrative choices as well.

*****

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 NYC, I'd Go To This

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Go, Read: Eighty Days

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Caleb Orecchio would like to have a few words with you about the 1970s Marvel Comics coloring work done by Francoise Mouly.

* Frank Santoro on Wet Earth. Tegan O'Neil on Shirtless Bear-Fighter. Tessa Strain on I Am Not Okay With This.

* Martyn Pedler talks to Tim Lane. Greg Hunter talks to Emil Ferris.

* finally: here's an excerpt from Hillary Chute's new book, about punk comics.
 
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December 12, 2017


Go, Listen: Gil Roth Talks To Cullen Murphy

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Go, Read: A Brief Reconsideration Of Local Arts Connections

This profile of Guelph art dealer Renann Isaacs makes a big deal -- and should -- of her gallery's recurring partnership with the great cartoonist and illustrator Seth. I'm putting a spotlight on it with its own post because I think it encapsulate an underutilized strength available to comics-makers.

In the past, some local art scenes have been reluctant to include comics-makers in their efforts to spotlight what's being made around a specific city or in a particular region. That's less and less of the case now. You also have found cartoonists that have been reluctant to partner with local institutions because they want to avoid being strait-jacketed with a "local artist" reputation. In the era of social, local is international in a lot of ways, and there are changing attitudes about where good work can be found. I encourage all comics-makers settled into a community or region to make these contacts and enjoy these working relationships as part of what they do.
 
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Go, Look: Comics Available Over Christmas Break 1971

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Your 2018 Eisner Award Judges

Comic-Con has posted this year's slate of Eisner Awards judges and program administrator has sent out a piece of publicity in support of the announcement.

They are:

* Candice Mack, manager of system-wide Young Adult Services at the LA Public Library.
* Greame McMillan, international cat thief and longtime writer about comics.
* Tate Ottatti, Florida retailer of 25 years standing.
* Nhora Serrano, a visiting assistant professor of comparative literatures at Hamilton College.
* Alexander Simmons, a freelance writer and educator.
* Bill Wilson, longtime fixture in the southern California fan community.

Fuller biographies are available at the link.

Submission will be accepted until the deadline March 16. The Eisners are juried at the nominations level and then opened up to working professionals and past winners. The ceremony is held the Friday evening of Comic-Con International.
 
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Go, Look: Martian Press

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked: Publishing News

imageBy Tom Spurgeon

* with Spy Seal having finished up its first volume, fans of Rich Tommaso -- of which I'm one -- might hope for a higher profile for collections of his recent work like Dry County.

* this PW preview of the Spring comics and graphic novels category has some great tidbits about a number of what look like quality works. I had not known that Michael Kupperman's book on his quiz-kid father has gained the title All The Answers. That Kupperman book is probably one of the two or three curiosity pieces next year, as his obvious smarts and skills are being put to use for what I assume is an entirely different kind of book. Although, then again, if the sex blimps show up, I'm not going to complain. It's also the first time I've seen public recognition that the cartoonist known as Ethan Rilly will collect Pope Hats' major storyline Young Frances under his real name, Hartley Lin!

* finally: Bleeding Cool notes that Fantagraphics is reprinting Cannon in the new year. The success of Wally Wood publishing projects the last quarter-century is an intriguing story: I would imagine it's one winding down as the generation most taken with Wood is slowly shuffling off this mortal coil. Nothing like a really crackling Wood comics effort, though, still.
 
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Go, Look: Jean Wei

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Go, Look: 5 Worlds

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Alex Hoffman on Bloom Into You Vols. 1-2. Garry Trudeau writes an article for the Times about Cullen Murphy's remembrance of the 20th Century southern Connecticut cartooning scene, Cartoon County. That's a nice get for that fine book. Rachel Cooke on Spinning.

* not comics: I know nothing about the context here, but it seems pretty self-explanatory and important enough to share. Our deepest sympathies go out to family and loved ones, as well as hope for the best possible outcome with every remaining, unresolved issue.

* Brandon Reynolds talks about his life in cartooning.

* this best of travel books list includes the new Roz Chast, a book I think has been under-discussed in the comics world.

* finally: Caroline Donahue talks to Fran Krause.
 
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December 11, 2017


Go, Look: An Equal Opportunity Lie

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Comic-Con International Wins Suit Against Salt Lake Comic Con Over Comic Con Trademark

Late Friday afternoon brought news that Comic-Con International won its trademark infringement case against Salt Lake Comic Con over use of the phrase Comic Con. CCI claimed that use of the term by the Salt Lake group violated their trademark; the Salt Lake group held that the term was generic.

CCI was awarded only $20,000 -- far shy of its $12 million ask -- because the court determined the violation wasn't a "willful infringement."

I've long been of two minds about the case. I actually doubted that CCI could find legal standing for their claim because of the ubiquity and historical nature of the phrase but I have always been 100 percent certain that newer shows like the one in Salt Lake use "comic-con" or a near-derivative to indicate the exact experience created by CCI if not the actual show itself, at least way more than they use the term to mean a generic comics show of some sort.

Where this continues is if Salt Lake appeals, which might itself depend on whether or not CCI uses the decision to seek an injunction against Salt Lake and other shows that use the term. It is also unknown if Salt Lake will continue to seek formal cancellation of CCI's claim at the trademark office level.
 
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Go, Look: Will 2018 Be The Year Of The Woman?

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Brian Bendis Recovering From Infection Episode

On Friday, mainstream North American comics icon the writer Brian Bendis revealed that a infection flare-up on Monday, December 4, had put him in the hospital for care and endangered his life. Apparently a recent attempt to become more generally healthy helped in response, and Bendis was home by week's end. CR wishes Bendis the best in his continued recovery and return to work.

Bendis' appreciation for friends in the Portland creative community and their support for him during the alarming period of this recent bout of infection are nice to read after a long and sometimes distressing industry year.

Best known for his revival of Marvel's "street-level" characters in the early '00s and his co-creation of Jessica Jones, Bendis recently made news by signing an exclusive contract with DC Comics believed to round into full effect schedule-wise in 2018.
 
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Go, Look: Comic Cavalcade #10

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Comics By Request: People, Places In Need Of Funding

imageBy Tom Spurgeon

* I hope that in the spirit of giving which remains one of the best parts of this hopelessly over-commercialized season that people will pay attention to charitable efforts like the campaign for cartoonist Kate Beaton's sister Becky, an effort to expand the family's ability to find appropriate clinical trials worldwide.

* this is a good time to put some money into traditional comics charities, most of whom have a specific holiday-related campaign going if you look around a bit, or ask. Those non-profits include the traditional comics charities CBLDF and Hero Initiative, many of our educational institutions and related enterprises like Center For Cartoon Studies and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Look around. Comics has a culture of maximizing consumption. Taking a step back and aiming your money in a different direction, in a considered, thoughtful way, there is really no more enlightening way to participate in comics, to be a part of things. I recommend it to everyone.

* if you're one of the wonderful people that donates to your favorite cartoonists and makers on Patreon and can afford to do so, you might wish to temporarily boost one or two of those recipients that's particularly important to you. Until alternatives are found and/or the policy change in question that has added a fee to small donations as well as large is reconsidered, some of your favorites, particularly younger artists, may be taking a hit in terms of money that's very important to their ability to continue making work. This was not up to the donors to correct, nor is it up to you to fix, but it's a definite structural shift that some of you may have missed and I figure worth mentioning here.

* finally, I'm so happy that there will be a round two of Creators For Creators, and the sizable grant they supply a working cartoonist towards completion and support of a project. I'm encouraged every day by comics' moves towards a more generous assistance and aid landscape, and this is about as high-profile and substantial a development as we've seen in the last 36 months. You have until the end of March.
 
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Go, Look: A Few EC Segar Charlie Chaplin Strips

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Go, Look: Sal Buscema Drawing The Avengers

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Glenn Walker, RIP. Walker was a talented and well-liked writer about comics and pop culture more widely. Our condolences to family, friends, fans and peers.

image* Alex Hoffman on Stages Of Rot.

* here's an analysis on where the Matt Furie Vs Alt-Right over Pepe the Frog stuff stands. I don't think Pepe is known enough and the changes radical enough for a satirical defense to make a lot of sense. The alt-right's use is overwhelmingly transformative when it comes to that kind of use of the character. Even Pissing Calvin exists in a way where Watterson's use of the character isn't transformed and harmed to this extent.

* the writer Hannah Means-Shannon digs into what makes Elfquest a creation important to comics. I agree with not a lot of this mostly in that excessive declaration makes puffy some matter-of-fact points. For instance, a lot of comics properties of that era ended up moving from publisher to publisher over the years. Still, I like Elfquest as an historical effort, and believe its creators told stories in a way that entertained many and shaped the comics readership. It was the Saga of its day and Wendy Pini doesn't get enough credit as a storyteller breaking with several traditions of her era, particularly in the emotive character work.

* finally: best incidental band name in a while.
 
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December 10, 2017


Go, Look: Fun Silver-Age Spectre Cover Images

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

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

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December 9, 2017


Go, Look: One Dollar

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

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

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

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

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

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December 8, 2017


Go, Look: Roundvision

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Assembled, Zipped, Transferred And Downloaded: News From Digital

There's no story going on right now in all of comics that matches the Patreon fee-adjustment story, summarized and explained pretty well here. Basically, the subscription service is taking a bigger chunk of what they're charging by shifting the fee for processing payments onto users and raising the price accordingly. The end result is a lot of supporters dumping accounts that suddenly cost them a bunch more -- or, what is more likely, adjust the number of projects/etc. they support at a flat amount to fit that flat amount.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a lot of people in comics -- where a lot of projects depend on low per-patronage amount of money -- are already feeling the effect. I'm against any switch in policy that costs artists money and will note that Michael DeForge has long pointed out the weakness of strategies dependent on so many middlemen and their desire to maximize profit.
 
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If I Were In LA, I'd Go To This

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Go, Listen: Process Party On Comics Journalism

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Go, Look: Paul Rivoche Draws Star Trek-Related Stuff

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Gabriele Di Fazio talks to Conor Stechschulte.

* even with a goofy purpose fueling the art, watching a Jack Kirby piece come together is a lot of fun.

* buy some comics on eBay.

* finally, Mike Mignola draws Wolverine and Cable.
 
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December 7, 2017


Go, Look: Young And Dumb Inside

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Your 2017 SPACE Prize Finalists

imageThe awards program aligned with the longtime indie show SPACE, in Columbus, Ohio, has released its finalists lists. These are books submitted in 2017, meaning the 2017 winners will be named and honored at the 2018 show next spring.

They break it down into three categories: Graphic Novel Finalists, General Finalists and Mini-Comics/Short Story Finalists.

Your finalists are:

SPACE Prize Graphic Novel Finalists
* Black of Heart (Narrier), Chris Charleton And David Hollenbach, $34.
* Disposable Fiction Vol. II (Disposable Fiction Comics), Edited By Jack Wallace And Chris Allen, $15.
* The Dog Head: Book One (Project Sleeve LLC), Isaac Keppler, $20.
* Vagabond Comics Issue 5: The Ick (Vagabond Comics), Edited By Sequoia Bostick And Amalia DeGirolamo, $12.

SPACE Prize General Finalists
* Cosmo-Simian #2-3 (Mystery City Comics), Craig Bogart, $9 for both.
* The Electric Team #4 (Zimberwack Comics), Abi Connor And Leighton Connor And Sam Albert, $6.50.
* Fat Girl Love Club Vol. 1, Gabby Metzler, $9.
* Glimpses of Life #1-2 (Drunken Cat Comics), Brian Canini, $2.99.
* Landslide Cursed Ground (Head Shrinkers Press), Nichi Hawkins And AC Rillo, 1271 Brookstone Dr. Walton KY 41094, $8.
* Little Girl in Blue, Mandie Brasington, $8.
* MeSseD Chapters 1-5 (Creative Mussal), Jay B. Kalagayan And Dylan Speeg.
* Miserable Americans #4, Eva Derian, $5.
* The Not So Golden Age (Ugli Studios), Joseph Freistuhler And Phil Buck, $7.
* Radio Ga Ga (Old School Comics), Chad Lambert And Apri Kusbiantoro, 2982 Calusa Dr Hamilton OH 45011, $8.
* Ramble, Patrick Lay, 23 E Perry St Apt 3 Tiffin OH 44883, $6.
* Refugee Road (Prince Delight), Stu Rase And Tara Rase And Will Jones, $5.
* Right on Time (Head Shrinker Press), Landon Faulkner And Paul Spenser, 2191 East Ohio Pike #213 Amelia OH 45102, $8.
* Staunch Ambition #1 (BlauArts), Brian E. Lau And John McNichol And Tyler Thull And Edwin J Arroza And Neal Anderson, 4418 Ravinewood Commerce MI 48382, $7.
* Turning #1, Carl Antonowicz, 1506 Beechwood Blvd Pittsburgh PA 15217, $6.
* William Purrburger -- Bad Cat Burglar!, Michael Fehskens, 1728 E Long St Apt C Columbus OH 43203. $15.
* Woodstalk #7, Bruce Worden, $5.

SPACE Prize Minicomics/Short Story Finalists
* Brain Weather (Anxious Ink LLC), Alexis Cooke, 2108 24th Ave S Minneapolis MN 55406, $12.
* Charge of the Light Ladybug Brigade (Mullet Turtle Comics), Steve Steiner, 221 Walnut St Groveport OH 43125, $4.
* Conjuring Day, Michael Fehskens, 1728 E Long St Apt C, Columbus OH 43203, $12.
* Dance, Patrick Lay, 23 E Perry St Apt 3 Tiffin OH 44883, $4.
* Daughter of Brothers & Daughters (Silber), Brian John Mitchell And JM Hunter And Aubrey Hunter, 403 Edgewood Ct Washington IL 61571, $2.
* Dutchy Digest, Steven Hagar And Bruce Rosenberger, $2.
* The Electric Team Food Adventure, Abigail Connor, $3.
* Emancipation Day in ReDistricted, Chad Lambert And Mark McMurray, 2982 Calusa Dr Hamilton OH 45011.
* Far Tune #3-4, Terry Eisele and Brent Bowman, 906 Copeland Rd Columbus OH 43212, $3.
* The Mule Man Collection, Max Wolf And Amelia Sealy.
* My Saturday Night (Old School Comics), Chad Lambert And Jeremy Massie, 2982 Calusa Dr Hamilton OH 45011, $3.
* Origins / Remix aka the Flip Book, Pam Bliss, PO Box 304 Valparaiso IN 46384, $5.
* Parables of Gilgamoid, Corey Bechelli, $4.
* REH -- Me & Bob (Silber), Brian John Mitchell, PO Box 883 Sanford NC 27331, $2.
* Satan Cat #3 (Mullet Turtle Comics), Steve Steiner, 221 Walnut St Groveport OH 43125, $4.
* The Seeker (Two Tone Comix), Scott Bufis And Matthew Salazar, $8.
* The Seminal Importance Of Sperm (Ruminera Comix), Canada Keck, $4.25.
* Traitor Chapter 2, Sean Dempsey, $10.
* Trina & Aphra's Amazing Adventure (Element of Art), Dan Luster, 96 N Main St Mansfield OH 44902, $3.50.
* Yesterday’s Muse in Dark Horse Presents #35 (Dark Horse Comics), Chad Lambert And Kevin Czap, 2982 Calusa Dr Hamilton OH 45011, $8.

As with most things small press related, the above information is the best I have and I encourage anyone trying to track down individual works to keep at it if it first you don't succeed.

Congratulations to all the finalists, and to all of those participating.
 
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Go, Look: Hide And Sick

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By Request Extra: NCS Hurricane Relief Effort Raises $53K+

The press release has all the information I think one would need: this year's effort by NCS cartoonists on behalf of a selected cause -- this year, hurricane relief -- raised over $53K through the auction of 130 art-related lots.

I'm grateful for that community's commitment to charity and also note that some of these prices ain't bad and I should pay more attention to future auctions.
 
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Go, Look: Trump's Tax Bill To Crush Puerto Rico

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

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By Tom Spurgeon

* I missed telling you about the opening, but who wouldn't want to go to a new Seth exhibit during this holiday month.

* barring fire, a fire-sympathetic change in their schedule or, well, fire, Comic Arts LA will take place this weekend and I'll be there. That's a really interesting room so while I probably won't do the whole weekend I will do one of the days and work the exhibitors. Great stuff on that floor.

* there's a pop culture-driven show in New York this weekend as well, the kind where I bet reading this blog might be the first several New York cartoonists hear about said show.

* The Beat always finds crazy-ass stories from the periphery of festival-dom. Those stories taken together indicate a limit to the market, for sure; that always seems an element.

* finally: because I haven't done a stand-alone post on it, here's a reminder of this year's official selection at Angouleme. My first glance indicated a lot of English-language cartoonists but maybe no female English-language cartoonists, which is weird given that most of the good books over the last decade in English have been by women. As weird as FIBD can get, though, about some things, maybe it's not such an odd outcome. I'd love to see a chart of who is getting translated by French publishers from the English-language markets for the French-language markets.
 
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Go, Look: Spotlight Comics #2

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Don MacPherson on Void Trip #1.

* I'll never be able to afford pages from Los Bros or complete stories from Julie Doucet, but I know Todd Hignite is an honorable businessman and these new sales are being down with care and respect.

* Brian Heater talks to Simon Hanselmann.

* the comic in question in this article made its way to me yesterday. I have zero familiarity with Zootopia, so it was just sort of a weird intense comic; that it like many fan comics gains some power and needed clarity from its reference points makes total sense to me. I have no opinion about this particular comic, and what usually gets brought up is all the regular point-and-look reactions: like in addition to the regular worries expressed in relation to abortion, the child brought to term being a two-species mega-monster comes up, which is a concern one didn't see expressed in the equivalent episode of Family. People should do art about whatever they want, and as there are some logical barriers to profiting from other folks' work, I don't worry where that takes them. At the same time, I was disgusted by the recent highjacking of Matt Furie's work for political reasons, so I still have some thinking to do here.

* finally, in case we don't get to a stand-alone article, our hearts remain with those feeling the impact of various Southern California fires.
 
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December 6, 2017


Go, Look: Keep Christ In Christmas

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This Isn't A Library: New, Notable Releases Into The Direct Market

*****

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.

*****


*****

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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Go, Look: Sunday Gordos Are The Best

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OTBP: Fight Fascism!

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Megan Fabbri on Mis(h)adra.

* Adrian Tomine draws a cityscape. Russ Manning draws a fanzine cover. Charles Burns draws ET. Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott draw an intergalactic bar scene.

* it's hard to find a Crumb article that doesn't activate the ongoing discussion about the cartoonist's work and legacy, but here's a piece from 2012 that is very, very focused on quotidian detail of an artist's life and productivity issues.

* finally, John Siuntres talks to Ed Piskor. Marcin Waincetel talks to Jeff Smith.
 
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December 5, 2017


Go, Look: Where College Is Free

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Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked: Publishing News

imageBy Tom Spurgeon

* this import from France looks promising.

* this seems like a story from another time, but it's still possible for a strip cartoonist to make up a newspaper client on the basis of a fan ask. Dana Simpson has some passionate young fans, that's for sure.

* here's Katie Skelly making it look -- well, not easy, because that's an insane production schedule for anyone keeping a full-time non-comics job like Skelly does.

* finally: new Graham Annable -- in comics, not animation -- on the way!
 
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Go, Look: Sergio Toppi's Samurai Images

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Go, Look: Bruce Zeines

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Alex Hoffman on Sukibito Diary.

* Austin Kleon discusses an article on the artistic recluse, pointing out that the two things that Virginia Woolf said were needed were a room on one's own (frequently cited) and money (almost never cited) and how the inability for folks to disappear and make art is becoming more and more of a pandemic. This was discussed almost 30 years ago in comics in Gary Groth's interview with Jules Feiffer, and has been a subject of discussion. I think if you value a lot of art being made, then the idea that certain desirable communities are slowly taking themselves off the table as places to get work done will be important to you. My thoughts flit all over the place on this kind of thing, so don't look at me for any guidance.

* I will say that the whole idea of cultural and political realities creating the infrastructure for art to be made is a bigger issue than we realize -- that, for instance, Obamacare allowed a lot of people to try art as a major time concern that wouldn't have otherwise. The latest tax bill may put a big strain on conferences and festivals if as believe a major change on paying for things to support one's work -- travel, supplies -- will end up taking a significant hit. Let's keep fighting for better law and hope for the best in the meantime.

* finally: a slow walk through Frank Miller's Sin City work blown up from the original art. I like looking at elements of that work, even though I find most of what it does unbearable.
 
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December 4, 2017


OTBP: Small Stories

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Comics By Request: People, Places In Need Of Funding

image* One of traditional fundraisers for cartoonists this part of the year involves the newspaper strip industry raising money through a combination of new and old works, strips and preparatory material, being offered. I believe this year's agreed-upon target for donation is relief for Puerto Rico. There are some fun names in there; the image at left is part of the Mo Willems donation.

* there have been updates and a more ambitious goal provided for the campaign enabling Kate Beaton's sister to explore clinical trials in and out of Canada.

* just a heads-up I focus on charitable giving and giving-towards-need in December rather than project crowdfunding. I love hearing from all of you, but it's a really crowded month and even a standard non-profit has pressures in the end of the year that project-to-project asks generally don't.

* finally, it doesn't seem tied into any particular need, but all cartoonists can use some extra support: Darryl Cunningham has put together a store.

 
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Go, Read: Steven Brower On Magazine Covers By Famous Artists

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Go, Look: Early Keith Giffen Comic Book Splash Pages

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Kyle Pinion on a pair of recent DC superhero comics. Frank Santoro on How Comics Work.

* go, read: what it's like being a blue activist in a red state.

* Kevin Huizenga takes notes.

* Scott Edelman talks to Marv Wolfman. Camilo Garzon talks to Liniers. Team Comics Alternative talks to Tim Lane.

* go, look: here's a lovely Moebius-drawn picture of the Superman character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, from the odd but occasionally affecting Superman #400.

* finally: Barry Blitt at home.
 
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December 3, 2017


Go, Look: Melania's Demonic Holiday Decorations Explained

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Go, Read: Dominic Umile On Street Fighting Men Vol. 1

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Go, Watch: James Kochalka's 2016 Christmas Song I Forgot To Post Last Year


 
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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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

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December 2, 2017


OTBP: Kreegah.net

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

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

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

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

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December 1, 2017


Go, Look: An Education In Fear

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Go, Listen: Gil Roth Talks To Martin Rowson

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posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Assembled, Zipped, Transferred And Downloaded: News From Digital


 
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If I Were In NYC, I'd Go To This

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

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* by request extra: you have until later today to get in on the ground floor with Ronald Wimber's LAAB project.

image* Alex Hoffman on Sound Of Snow Falling. Jerry Beck on various books, including How To Read Nancy.

* Sam Thielman looks at the CB Cebulski/Akira Yoshida controversy from the perspective of one of comics pulp hangovers: pervasive orientalism.

* here's Jim Fischer on the new immigration-related exhibit at the Billy Ireland.

* Hillary Brown talks to Leslie Stein. Sean Edgar talks to Gary Frank. Edgar also talks to Rick Remender and Matthew Rosenberg.

* the news is so weird now that no one really noticed the UK cartoonist that set a hotel on fire after problems with the escort he paid for.

* finally, this article on "fixing" the DC superhero movies has a specific focus that kind of moves past my ability to care about such things. I have little patience for superhero film or fixing movies. It might be right up your alley, though: crime alley, that is.
 
posted 1:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
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