The top comics-related news stories from June 27 to July 3, 2015:
1. Leonard Starr passed away. One of the last great creators of lavishly illustrated soap opera comic strips, Starr had a long career in various worlds of cartooning, including working on a classic strip (Little Orphan Annie, which he did successfully from 1979 until 2000) and applying his massive skill-set to kids' animation.
2. The city of San Diego and Comic-Con International announce that their summer show will return to the city for two more years, through 2018. It wasn't unexpected, and the extra years should allow both entities to better gauge the progress San Diego will make over the next decade in expanding their convention space.
Losers Of The Week
The entire comics community, for not better appreciating just how amazing the art form's regular output is right now. There may be just as many great comics as there were five to ten to twenty years ago, but there are far more high quality ones. I wonder sometimes if that gets lost in both the industry's adherence to a very specific kind of Internet discourse and the economic rewards system that still favors disposable higher-profit publications.
You Should Read James Robinson's Response To Strong Criticism Of A Transgender Plot Point In Airboy
It's here. I'd reprint it but that always seems unfair, even in a case like this.
Writer James Robinson, artist Greg Hinkle and Image Comics were all criticized late last week for a storyline in Airboy that is set within the transgender community. For those of you unfamiliar, the new series presents a Pirandello-style take on the material, where the old Hillman character comes to life and interacts with the writer and artist who are characters in the comic. Robinson is portrayed as an awful person bottoming out; Hinkle is portrayed as a slightly kinder soul passively marching along with the parade of excess. My understanding is that the scene in question involved putting the Airboy character in a social milieu where he interacts with transgender people and upon realizing this reacts strongly in conservative, denigrating and unappealing fashion. The criticism is that despite none of this being treated as an endorsement, both the portrayal and the idea that the community should be recruited to play such a role in such a story in the first place add to the already significant burden that community faces.
I think this kind of push and pull is so, so necessary, and I'm grateful for it. This is even though I'm one that argues -- partly because of my position of significant privilege making it easier for me to do so -- that there's a place in the world for portrayals and narratives and representations in art that are deeply hurtful and/or plugged into dire social consequences. That is never a roadblock to criticism, which I adore. A loud reaction to art and call for rejection and change, that's valuable speech that can be learned from just as the art in question may have something to say. I get a little uncomfortable when these stories boil down to our appraisal of someone's sincerity, perhaps because I'm completely unable to make that call, but getting that reaction out there? Getting to hear from a James Robinson on an issue of such delicacy? Letting people know that both disagree and, perhaps most importantly, that never thought about it, that portrayal even in satire is an issue of crucial urgency for many groups? That only adds to our ability to be human.
Assembled, Zipped, Transferred And Downloaded: News From Digital
By Tom Spurgeon
* the well-regarded illustration site Today's Inspiration has begun publishing again after a lengthy hiatus.
* Christine Marie talks to Steve Blatchford, the man behind ZCO.MX, a web site devoted to alt-comics that seems to be taking working cartoonists' projects that don't have another home, giving them a home, and allowing for the possibility that revenue can be generated on their behalf. It's a really interesting site, I haven't covered it enough, and I'm looking forward to reading Marie's itnterview.
* finally, Richard Bruton takes a long look at the comics of Mark Kalesniko, which are now available on-line. Kalesniko was published in print by Fantagraphics while I worked there and for quite some times afterwards -- he still might be -- and as I recall was a particular favorite of publisher Gary Groth.
* Sean Edgar talks to Cameron Stewart, who may be doing with Batgirl what Mark Waid did with Flash two decades: transform a significant areas of the mainstream landscape from a well regarded title solidly with reach beyond its pure sales performance. This close to an Image Expo where you subsequently read a lot of people define the range of comics as being mainstream to high-end genre work, I'm grateful for the qualifier mainstream here, and don't think there's an implied criticism at all in using that term in that way.
* I don't think in terms of OEL manga; I'm from the "it's all comics just different traditions" camp. Similarly, it would be weird for me to think OEF to denote work from an Italian or OEBD to denote comics that owe a lot to the way French-language comics have approached things. I might be wrong, but there it is. There sure are a lot of fun comics on this list, though; I can imagine this being a list of comics about which young me would be over the freaking moon if my life were time shifted thirty years into the future. I'm a fan of a majority of these titles as is.