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
















July 7, 2015


Go, Look: Salt Soap

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Sedition Case Hearing Against Zunar Moved To September

The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who has spent years fighting for a reasonable expectation of free political expression for his cartoon, sent along this update on his next court hearing. This time he's being tried under a half-century old Sedition Act, with a jail sentence possible.
Court Update - New date is 9th September 2015

The Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court today had adjourned my case to another date -- on 9th September 2015, pending a decision by the Federal Court in a separate case which challenged the constitutionally of the Sedition Act 1948.

I was charged with nine charges under the Sedition Act over tweet postings that criticized the verdict of Anwar Ibrahim. The total maximum penalty is 43 years jail term.
As always, I'll state that I just see this as an ongoing, rolling travesty more to do with political resentment than any sort of principled application of law, even stupid law. I hope for the best outcome possible.
 
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Go, Look: Last Week's New Yorker/DnQ Comic By Diana Obomsawin

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Maryse Wolinski Files Complaint Over Charlie Hebdo Security Issues

One of the elements of the Charlie Hebdo murders on which I've seen little reporting is that on the practical matters involved with the assault and aftermath: how decisions were made on both sides to pursue certain strategies, and how they were carried out. I'm sure that material exists in the crush of coverage, I just haven't run across it in the normal course of things.

I note, then, with some interest that Georges Wolinksi's widow Maryse has filed a civil suit regarding what she called the "Security Failures" of January 7, including why there was only one officer assigned to Charb of the four on his detail and why bicycle officers were sent in response. The prime minister's calm approval of the case and the explanations that will follow interests me, too; he states he hopes the investigation will run its course and that the widow deserves to know the truth that her plaintiff status may help her ascertain.
 
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Go, Look: Grzegorz Przybys

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Bundled Extra: Notes On Last Week's Image Expo

imageBy Tom Spurgeon

* so Image Expo was last week and I sort of missed it because I'm not very good at my job right now. That will change, but we're on the tail end of that period. So let's talk about it for most of the column.

* Image Expos are that publishing house's mini-cons that kind of serve as a PR hub for each round of publishing announcements. It's smart because they can move it around to a date where they can then kind of own the PR cycle, and then supplement it at a big show like SDCC and NYCC or have those announcements serve as talking points on the floor.

* I haven't seen anything in the reporting that suggests there's a lot that went on last week in terms of the scene of it. That's worth noting because at one point that was almost the entirety of the news coming out of the show: a photo taken one year where people used the symbolism of a specific photo to criticize the company. I saw nothing like that this time. It seemed like a well-rounded group in terms of diverse backgrounds and different places in their careers.

* I like Eric Stephenson, and think he's done a very good to excellent job at Image (I'm hedging because I haven't done a deep study of it). I enjoy his keynote addresses, and I think they're wonderful polemics. This is the 2015 version. I would quibble with his history because I'm a quibbler, but I'm happy that he does provide historical context for Image's creator-owned aspect; sometimes it's assumed Image invented that, and as Stephenson notes, that's wrong. What's Stephenson's speech is really good at is in showing how advantageous that deal can be for creators that a) can sell over a certain amount and/or b) are set up in a way to pursue deals in other media. I think that's the way Image is set up AND historical circumstance. Image worked astoundingly well during the early 1990s industry swell because the high end numbers were crazy and the opportunity for those to go independent projects given the right hype was well established. Image works well right now because you can generate significant profit relative to mainstream rates for modest to good sales and you're free to make your own media deals. For people that can't sell to a certain number of copies or who aren't interested in deals with other media, that a whole different conversation. I bet someone with a book to book knowledge of the company might be able to piece together whether or not Image has a consistent, through-line history of developing hits that don't come with some sort of creative imprimatur from the mainstream comics companies.

* for a summary, of all the things I've read I prefer this gallery of straight up PR over reports from the Image Expo floor.

* I think the most important two stories in a publishing news sense are the last two listed. Bryan Lee O'Malley writing for Leslie Hung's art, Mickey Quinn's color and Maré Odomo's lettering and design on a project called Snotgirl set in the world of fashion blogging. Every known in that last sentence breaks sharply with the typical genre comic company press release. Also, O'Malley is a considerable talent and built up a lot of goodwill with comics fans that hasn't begun to dissipate. In other words, I think an O'Malley project would be welcome with a significant amount of anticipation and happiness no matter what that project might be, and this one sounds promising -- mostly by not sounding like anything else. I also think this is an area to explore for Image. Like if they don't have something brewing with Raina Telgemeier, say, I hope that such a phone call was at least considered. The Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin news announced catches my eye in similar fashion because that's a high profile webcomics project that Private Eye thing they did and Image has never quite cracked that, despite that seeming to be a generally good area for both themselves and Dark Horse. Having them do a Walking Dead story is also stand up and notice just because it's a rare thing now, but kind of reminds me of the inducement quality that working on early Image books had for a few independent creators.

* I'm sure there are fans of all of the projects. Some of them sound clever to me; some don't. I'm not sure if Ringside (Joe Keatinge, Nick Barber, Simon Gough, Ariana Maher) is the first smart mark wrestling comic, but one seems overdue. It's hard for me to say which television-pitch sounding series sounds better than the other one with a lot of their line, and I have that reaction when I read their comics. Image seems to me a company without a lot of critical darling performers or exquisite fan favorite middle listers; the books that sell the best seem to me mostly the best-selling books, perhaps more than any genre-focused company in the medium's history.

* a few projects announced caught my eye for specific reasons beyond "hey that might do well." Getting Kaare Andrews on board to do a book is a nice get for them, and they should very much make a big deal out of someone's first time the way they seem to in the PR. It seems to me that Image has been the majority causal factor for a definite talent drain at both companies because of the financial opportunities the Image model provides, and, I'm sure, the creative issues involved. It would be nice to see the writer Gail Simone back in front of a strong-selling title that didn't have a giant corporation attached lamprey-like to its jugular. The book announced with Cat Staggs, a houswife/hitman Freaky Friday switcheroo, isn't really up my alley, but all that means is that the execution has to be there and comics is a medium of execution over conception. Jason Aaron working with artist R.M. Guerra and colorist Giulia Brusco on a savage bible stories book called The Goddamned has the benefit of falling more in line with a more sharply conceived public branding element Aaron can offer that maybe Simone can't right now. I've enjoyed the work of the artist Tula Lotay in collaboration with Warren Ellis, so it's nice they're working together again on a book called Heartless. This phase of Ellis' writing career where he kind of moves in and out of various projects like the actor Jon Hamm taking on supporting roles all over the place intrigues me. It makes sense for the long term to sometimes have periods that aren't tear-down-the-sun major projects, and the resulting books are much more amenable companions for me than the latest book Mark Millar is shouting at me is the greatest work in all of mankind. The last book that I took note of on the list is the Steven T. Seagle collaboration with Jason Adam Katzenstein on Camp Midnight. Seagle keeping his hand in in comics by writing projects of varying size and vastly different genres is another career path that makes sense to me. He's quietly became a very versatile comics-maker.

* that's about it, really. It seemed lacking to me in terms of the big names of this particular Image era, but it's nice to see what sifts to the surface when you explore that kind of list. I think that company's in a pretty good place right now. I'd love to see them break out of their reliance on genre-with-a-twist book on their lower end, but what moves they've made in areas other than that haven't always worked out. They're going to be in the catbird seat for a while because of their deal in the context of this specific era, and the ideal career that many in mainstream comics feel is out there for them and which company many feel gets them closer to it. I hope Image remains ambitious.

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

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Forthcoming Comics-Related Events, Through August 2015

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*****

July 8
* If I Were In San Diego, I'd Go To This (Comic-Con International Preview Night)
* If I Were In Minneapolis, I'd Go To This

July 9
* If I Were In San Diego, I'd Go To This (Comic-Con International)
* If I Were In Los Angeles, I'd Go To This

July 10
* If I Were In San Diego, I'd Go To This (Comic-Con International)

July 11
* If I Were In San Diego, I'd Go To This (Comic-Con International)
* If I Were Near Clallam Bay, I'd Go To This (Clallam Bay Comicon)

July 12
* If I Were In San Diego, I'd Go To This (Comic-Con International)
* If I Were Near Clallam Bay, I'd Go To This (Clallam Bay Comicon)

July 13
* If I Were In San Francisco, I'd Go To This
* If I Were In Ruskin, I'd Go To This

July 14
* If I Were In Portland, I'd Go To This

July 15
* If I Were In Seattle, I'd Go To This

July 16
* If I Were In Vancouver, I'd Go To This

July 17
* If I Were In San Francisco, I'd Go To This

July 18
* If I Were In Columbus, I'd Go To This (SPACE)
* If I were In Portland, I'd Go To This (Portland Zine Symposium)
* If I Were In Pinellas Park, I'd Go To This

July 19
* If I Were In Columbus, I'd Go To This (SPACE)
* If I were In Portland, I'd Go To This (Portland Zine Symposium)

July 22
* If I Were In Tampa, I'd Go To This

July 24
* If I Were Near Martha's Vineyard, I'd Go To This

July 25
* If I Were In Morristown, I'd Go To This
* If I Were In Clearwater, I'd Go To This

July 26
* If I Were In Morristown, I'd Go To This

July 28
* If I Were In Riverview, I'd Go To This

July 31
* If I Were In Tampa Bay, I'd Go To This

*****

August 1
* If I Were In Tampa, I'd Go To This (Tampa Bay Comic Con)

August 2
* If I Were In Bristol, I'd Go To This (Rob-Con)
* If I Were In Tampa, I'd Go To This (Tampa Bay Comic Con)

August 6
* If I Were In Tampa, I'd Go To This

August 7
* If I Were In San Antonio, I'd Go To This (Texas Comicon)

August 8
* If I Were In Minneapolis, I'd Go To This (Autoptic)
* If I Were In San Antonio, I'd Go To This (Texas Comicon)
* If I Were In Dover, I'd Go To This (Dover Comic Con)

August 9
* If I Were In Minneapolis, I'd Go To This (Autoptic)
* If I Were In San Antonio, I'd Go To This (Texas Comicon)

August 14
* If I Were In Connecticut, I'd Go To This (Connecticut ComicCONN)

August 15
* If I Were In Connecticut, I'd Go To This (Connecticut ComicCONN)

August 16
* If I Were In Connecticut, I'd Go To This (Connecticut ComicCONN)

August 28
* If I Were In Helsinki, I'd Go To This (Helsinki Comics Festival)

August 29
* If I Were In Auckland, I'd Go To This (Auckland Zine Fest)
* If I Were In Helsinki, I'd Go To This (Helsinki Comics Festival)

August 30
* If I Were In Helsinki, I'd Go To This (Helsinki Comics Festival)

*****

Events For September 2015 Onward Listed Here

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Go, Look: DC Comics Splash Pages From July 1975

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* over at The Beat, here's a report on Comics In The Turkic World.

image* Alex Hoffman on Sleepwalking. Rob Bricken on All Star Batman And Robin. Scott Cederlund on Blubber #1. Rob McMonigal on Fantasy Sports #1 and Ei8ht #1-5. James Kaplan on Material #1-2. Andrew Weiss on Atomic War. Tom Murphy on The Weight #1-2.

* Frederik Hautain talks to Robert Sammelin.

* James Whitbrook notes that retailers have received a massive at least basic information dump on its titles going forward. My first impression is that Marvel may be starting to feel the Image talent bleed a bit; that's not the loaded line-up front to back, particularly in terms of writers, that the company enjoyed three years ago. Other than that, you could tell me this was a list of books from the last time they changed everything and I wouldn't argue with you. It's all in the execution, though.

* the CBLDF is offering a new t-shirt designed by Brian Wood.

* Tom Murphy previews Jennifer Hayden's new book.

* finally, Michael Cavna canvasses some political cartoonists as to who in the primaries -- with an immense number of semi-serious to serious candidates in the mix -- they might like to draw over the long haul.
 
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Happy 63rd Birthday, Rick Hoberg!

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Happy 31st Birthday, Noah Van Sciver!

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July 6, 2015


Go, Look: Trevor Alixopulos Draws After Bob Lubbers

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one of my favorite Internet things in a while
 
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Atena Farghadani's Lawyer Details Handshake Experience

It's hard not to let your jaw drop right to the ground reading about the experience the lawyer of artist Atena Farghadani had after being arrested for shaking his client's hand: two prisons, multiple interrogations, a total of four days swept out of his world and into that of the prisoner. One hopes that this builds both regional and international pressure in terms of the unreasonableness of the court in this case, and that that would somehow benefit Farghadani. Every day this continues is a real punch in the gut for civilization that any victor at this point would be tempered.
 
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Missed It: Emily Carroll Interprets Neko Case

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Missed It: Kenyan Cartoonist Terry Hirst, RIP

imageDoing a deep google search on an unrelated topic, I discovered that I had totally missed the recent passing of the dean of Kenyan cartoonists, Terry Hirst. The British-born Hirst transitioned from secondary school education to university-level education and then into cartooning in the tumultuous 1960s into 1970s period for the country. He helped establish Joe, likely the leading satirical magazine for East Africa during its publishing heyday. Its reach was far enough that there's a story out there that Ghana-born cartoonist Frank Odoi one day simply showed up at the Joe offices, ready to join them in their work.

Hirst helped establish a line of kids comics in the 1980s, based on Kenyan folk tales, and later was a pioneer in educational comics-making. The entire time he served as a mentor for multiple generations that have followed, a return in many ways to his educational roots. What little I know about African cartooning and comics making suggests he will be greatly missed by many whose lives he directly touched.

Hirst was 82 years old.
 
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Go, Look: Last Week's New Yorker/DnQ Comic By Michael DeForge

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Go, Read: Brigid Alverson On Tokyopop's Not Really A Comeback

There's a good article up on Comic Book Resources by Brigid Alverson about the recent announcement of grander publishing plans by Stu Levy for his Tokyopop company. As Alverson notes, Tokyopop suspended its publishing operations in 2011 after a few years of being dragged behind the manga stampeded they helped instigate, and since then has slowly worked its way to the point where titles can be announced and a request for portfolios can be made.

As Heidi MacDonald sums up here survey-style, there is still a lot of resentment over the shape and nature of Tokyopop's one-time contracts for original comics content, so bad that they're the stuff of which legends are made in an industry that routinely exploits free labor. Alverson wonders if there are signs in Tokyopop's slow build back to full publishing that might indicate a different direction, but she seems more optimistic than most. The proof will be the contracts themselves.

Certainly there are still plenty of talented young people dying to sign over rights for a chance at a comics career, whatever "comics career" means. A parade of successful talents complaining about their treatment may signal "they're successful talents now" more than it will "that was a miserable experience that should not be repeated." In today's industry it may be enough to find a level of exploitation that works rather than forego it all together. Levy may have been away from the big publishers table for more than four years now, but a lot of factors have played a part in holding a seat for him.
 
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Not Comics: Laura Callaghan's Dante's Inferno Series

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Comics By Request: People, Projects In Need Of Funding

By Tom Spurgeon

image* Dame Darcy joins the legion of artists and comics-makers deriving part of their living from Patreon. I'm sure I'll join them someday myself.

* the Sunday Comics project continues its crowd-funder; it does seem it's lagging behind a bit but there's a ton of time left. In fact, most big projects I've followed seem to have surged late rather than early, at least the recent ones I've been following. I note that the artists are donating work for a first issue, so a model where the artists are paid after this first issue seems like it will take a ton of money. Here's the PR on that one. SundayComicsPR.pdf

* the crowdfunder for the last volume of Gunshow seems to be moving along at a solid clip.

* if you're headed out to San Diego, keep two of the traditional comics charities in mind: The Hero Initiative and the CBLDF.

* here's that Nexus-related crowdfunder that caught my eye in the heads-up stage.

* Chris Sims profiles the crowdfunder being attempted by skilled veterans John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake.

* finally, Box Brown is having a moving sale. Help out Box!
 
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Go, Look: Adi Granov Images Gallery

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Go, Look: An Al Jaffee-Illustrated Kids Gag Book

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Howard Chaykin remembers Leonard Starr.

image* Richard Bruton on SAM Volume Two: Robot Hunters. John Kane on a bunch of different comics. Johanna Draper Carlson on Saved By The Bell.

* Michael Cavna and Sara Duke talk about Benjamin Franklin as a media-savvy, cartoon-conscious cultural maestro, including but not limited to the might "Join, Or Die" segemented snake cartoon that kind of brought at lot of political issues to a blunt point. Duke, from the Library Of Congress, spoke about a similar Franklin effort last week.

* praise for the new DC Comics-published portrayal of their Midnighter as single, sexually active and comfortably so.

* Mike Luckovich breaks the law.

* over in the CBR family of blogs, Greg Hatcher writes about the role of comfort-food reading, and how Nexus is one of those comics that does that job for him. I think the thrill of the familiar is a positive impulse. Getting to know a work intimately reveals secrets that a one-night stand will not.

* astute observer of mainstream comics in particular Carla Hoffman examines the newness and differentness of Marvel's line. I find these reconfigurations kind of off-putting as an older fan and not in a way that I'm turning up my nose but in that I don't pay enough attention so that all of these changes confuse me. With the necessity of revolving art teams on most title due to publishing more than 12 times a year, I can't even really follow artist/writer teams the way I used to. I'm so not the audience, though.

* finally, a not-comics item: Roman Muradov provides an illustration for the Criterion edition of Day For Night.
 
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Happy 68th Birthday, Katherine Collins!

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Happy 64th Birthday, Christy Marx!

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