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
















October 2, 2014


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

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By Tom Spurgeon

image* there's a much bigger and fancier version of the ICAF 2014 schedule here. Justin Green! See you there. Between that prominent academic event, what the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum has been up to on its own and a few stand-alone events on the campus of CCAD, Columbus is having a powerful comics Fall.

* we're about two weeks out from the close of exhibitor registration for TCAF. That's a high-demand show, but it's a good one to do.

* this is a busy weekend: Bristol, APE, MICE. APE is the one that's interesting to me because it's the oldest.

* man, there are a lot of shows now.

* one thing I like a lot about APE is that it's still a show where you can find some of the alt-comics gen-1 crowd, like Jim Blanchard and JR Williams. Please don't buy all of Blanchard's refrigerator magnets; I want to buy some through the mail.

* finally, the big news this week was CAB announcing its initial grouping of guests and the fact they're splitting off their popular programming track into its own day, at a nearby boutique hotel. I've heard a variety of opinions from people like this. It all comes down to execution. If they can put together great programming, they'll get people there. They won't really lose all that many folks just by having a second day; I suspect I could count the number of people who day trip into that show on one hand.
 
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If I Were In Denver, I'd Go To This

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

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Go, Look: A Comic On Death Bear Brown

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Nicole Rudick on School Spirits. Sarah Horrocks on Phosphorous.

* this photo of Hellen Jo is so great.

* congratulations to Jacq Cohen for passing her five-year anniversary at Fantagraphics yesterday. That's a long time to work at any one company in comics.

* hooray for business cards.

* there was apparently a final resolution in the Illinois-based challenge to Persepolis, the graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi. That reports suggests a more significant political motivation than I've heard before, hewing reasonably closely to a pair of standard right-wing grass-roots talking points (the idea that anything assigned with a Muslim element requires extra scrutiny; the idea that such expressions are favored) as I've encountered them during my own time back home. I think that's deeply unfortunate.

* here's MariNaomi on writing people of color when you're not a person of color.

* here's a well-traveled Eric Canete cover-making process post.

* I like the idea of anything special featuring Dennis The Menace as a sort-of mascot, as I remember fondly the themed comic books that were done a generation ago. I have to admit, National Preparedness Day sounds like too important thing to be a random day, with or without cartoon spokespeople.

* Blake Hennon profiles Mike Mignola.

* finally, check out Tony Fitzpatrick's reading table.
 
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Happy 54th Birthday, Barbara Kesel!

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Happy 63rd Birthday, Bill Schelly!

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Happy 44th Birthday, Jess Johnson!

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Happy 75th Birthday, Ron Turner!

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October 1, 2014


CR Review: Amazing Spider-Man 2

Creators: Marc Webb, Robert Orci, Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, A Number Of Comic Book Creators From Whom The Original Ideas Came
Publishing Information: Film, Sony Pictures, 2014
Ordering Information: Available Through Various Hard-Media And Streaming Options

I'm an easy mark for superhero movies. I've yet to see a great one, but I think a few of them are good. I find myself entertained for long stretches at a time by most of the post-2008 Marvel movies. I like spectacle and wisecracks and the employment of standard action-adventure templates, and most of the modern superhero movies seem to provide that. I'm in love with the art of acting for film right now, and some of the roles make for a set of very interesting choices from a lot of charismatic performers. They're fun, mostly.

imageThat said, I found The Amazing Spider-Man 2 deplorable: excruciatingly boring, dumb, emotionally manipulative, disjointed and lacking in any kind of dramatic stakes that weren't cheaply purchased. I even thought that it suffered from sloppy ensemble acting (good lord, Paul Giamatti). My understanding is that even with the hundreds of millions it made in theatres that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a disappointment in terms of it being a continued likely foundational source from which to launch multiple franchises. The only part of that that surprises me is that it made hundreds of millions of dollars. I thought the film felt stretched to cover its own running time; the thought that it would somehow spawn hundreds of minutes of like entertainment boggles the mind.

I didn't see the first Spider-Man movie in the Marc Webb reboot series. I saw most of the Sam Raimi cycle: the first two films in their entirety, parts of the third. I like Spider-Man just fine. I like him a lot, actually. Spider-Man is one of the five great superhero characters, and the original run of his comic book is one of only three works in that genre I'd put on just about any Top 100 list of comics works from the 20th century. The great thing that Spider-Man has going for him as a character is that he could be anyone at all: what happens to him is an accident, unforeseen and mostly unwelcome. That puts great dramatic emphasis on the choices he makes in response. The element that makes his comic book compelling in those early issues is that Steve Ditko was able to rationalize a non perfectly moral hero by making his story one of character development. Peter Parker lacks a father figure; his villains are brilliantly a long line of terrible adult role models, ways not to be. His greatest nemeses are universally recognizable young-person obstacles: the class bully (Flash Thompson), the horrible boss (J. Jonah Jameson) and a close friend's asshole dad (Norman Osborn). My personal ending for the original Spider-Man series comes after the creators leave -- the character is that compelling -- in the first few pages of issue #143. Peter Parker, off to do his not-superhero job, kisses Mary Jane Watson in an airport in a way that indicates he's serious about pursuing happiness with an emotional equal. Robbie Robertson, an actual father figure, stands as witness. I haven't read anything since that's changed my mind.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 makes different choices. The movie uses an approximation of a later-Marvel storyline where Peter Parker's long-departed parents are involved in some sort of high-stakes corporate-political intrigue. This makes Peter Parker a chosen one rather than a random one, both by simply having such parents and by their directly setting him up to become Spider-Man. It's the kind of thing long-running franchises do when they're bone-tired, and while it injects some juice into the proceedings for a brief moment right after it's done -- I can imagine the first Webb film got a boost simply by telling a different origin than most folks were used to -- it's a wobbly, hackneyed leg on which to stand. There's certainly nothing interesting going on with it here. The second decision that I found confusing and once again stabbing right at the heart of what I find compelling about this character and his stories was to have our hero encounter seemingly random, vaguely doppelgänger-ish villains (best friend, a less socialized smart guy) rather than rotten adults. All the urgency leaves the room with those older antagonists. I went mentally scrambling to find a connecting thread, and came up dissatisfied there, too. The closest thing to a figure behind both major costumed villains is a corporate functionary played by Colm Feore, whose character's name I can't even remember. What should be dramatic high points hit with all the force of issued white papers. None of the fighting seems to arise organically from theme or plot; they feel like required matches on a wrestling card. I never cared who won.

Emma Stone (the forthcoming Birdman) and Andrew Garfield (Red Riding) are talented actors given very little to do. I never bought Garfield as a late teen -- he looks and acts 30 (I don't know how old the actor is, and I'm going to skip looking it up). I never even got a feel for the parameters of his powers; they always seemed up to whatever the task was at hand, at least until story demands dictated otherwise. The final outcome for Stone's character seemed called-for by index cards pinned up on a bulletin board somewhere rather than anything that connects to anything else going on, plot-point wise or thematically. It felt inevitable and out of left field, in itself an accomplishment in a movie that generally lacks them. I could not have been more bored.
 
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Go, Read: Kayla E. Cartoon Diary At TCJ.com

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Totally Missed That Liza Donnelly Was A Thurber Prize Finalist; Prize Won Last Night By John Kenney

imageJohn Kenney beat out cartoonist and writer Liza Donnelly (for Women On Men and the writing team of Bruce McCall and David Letterman (for This Land Was Made For You And Me (But Mostly Me)) for this year's Thurber Prize for American Humor. Kenney won for his debut novel, the well-reviewed Truth In Advertising.

That is an an incredible honor for which to be nominated, and I wish I had caught it earlier to make a bigger deal out of it on Donnelly's behalf. Women On Men contained both cartoons and writing; it came out in late 2013 -- the year covered by this year's honor. Donnelly is one of only a handful of female prize nominees over the honor's history, and I believe is the only one whose nominated work contained cartoons, noteworthy because of the award's namesake.

The Thurber Prize brings with it a cash award of $5000. The sponsor of the award is the Thurber House non-profit in Columbus, Ohio; it is of course named after the essayist/humorist/cartoonist James Thurber.

Michael Cavna interviewed Donnelly day-of.
 
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Go, Look: Series Of Superhero/Horror Covers From Kevin Nowlan

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Totally Missed It: Mike Sterling Opening Up His Own Shop

The foundational comics blogger and long-time retail employee Mike Sterling announced more than two weeks ago that he's opening up his own comics shop, to be called Sterling Silver Comics. He's apparently found a location he enjoys in Ventura County and feels like it's time to do his own thing. I'm happy to hear this, and wish him all the best. I hope to visit if the opportunity presents himself and I hope you'll consider the same.
 
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Go, Look: Two More Galleries Of Cartoonists

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one, two
 
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This Isn't A Library: New And Notable Releases Into Comics' Direct Market

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Here are the books that make an impression on me staring at this week's no-doubt largely accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the works listed here. I might not buy any. You never know. I'd sure look at the following, though.

*****

JUL140430 PUCK WHAT FOOLS THESE MORTALS BE HC $59.99
This is perhaps IDW's big stand-alone book of the Fall, if not the year -- a lengthy, lavish look at the proto-satirical publication and home to so, so many fine cartoonists. I have one on my bed stand and the only trick is to keep from blowing off work to go look at the thing.

imageJUL141183 HOSPITAL SUITE GN (MR) $22.95
This latest original graphic memoir from John Porcellino is a potential book of the year candidate. If you know Porcellino and his work, this is an amazing trip down all the paths he didn't quit pursue in the last 20 years of making King-Cat. If you've never read him before, it more than works on the level of an affecting meditation on finding peace in life when medical circumstance pound on you until you're a different person. Highly recommended.

JUN140262 BATMAN 75TH ANNIVERSARY TP COLLECTION $49.99
AUG141470 HIP HOP FAMILY TREE GN BOX SET 1975-1983 $59.99
JUN141170 MOOMIN ON THE RIVIERA GN $9.95
JUL141641 BATMAN YEAR BY YEAR VISUAL CHRONICLE HC $50.00
This is the first time I can recall seeing multiple books on one of these lists that seem to me -- and maybe only to me -- like holiday books. This usually takes the form of high-end, expensive but reasonably superflous studies of big characters or the repackaging of recently successful work, and does so here. I have very much enjoyed seeing those Ed Piskor books do well, and imagine there's some significant gift potential with a box set.

AUG140086 USAGI YOJIMBO SENSO #3 $3.99
AUG140272 GRAYSON #3 $2.99
AUG140207 LOBO #1 $2.99
AUG140566 WALKING DEAD #132 (MR) $2.99
AUG140755 BUCKY BARNES WINTER SOLDIER #1 $3.99
AUG140771 GUARDIANS 3000 #1 $3.99
AUG140777 THOR #1 $3.99
AUG140890 MEN OF WRATH BY JASON AARON #1 (MR) $3.50
AUG140201 GOTHAM ACADEMY #1 $2.99
The individual comic-book format books are more interesting than gotta-haves this week. I love and always buy Stan Sakai's work. Grayson is an Internet pundit favorite title from DC Comics that seems to me may benefit from comparison to some of the less-inspired books in that line. I like the pacing, though, which is a really hard thing to pull off in today's serial comics. The Lobo comic is a refashioning of a mostly-1990s success for the publisher. I didn't like that character, but this one seem eminently punchable in the face. Writer Cullen Bunn has done well with Marvel's Magneto though. I'm not sure that I read Walking Dead for enjoyment or just to kind of keep track of what such a significant player in the market is up to, but I think it's earned its success and does several very comic-book things extremely well. Three launches at $4 seems a lot to me, but I am a million miles removed from any chance to run a big mainstream comic-book company. The Thor book's character gender-switch drove some mainstream entertainment news coverage when it took place. I just sort of like Jason Aaron and sample everything he does, even when I'm not familiar with it. Finally, that Gotham Adventure debut is the on-line darling of the moment; I though the first issue was cute.

JUN140459 COMPLETE CHESTER GOULD DICK TRACY HC VOL 17 $39.99
MAR140458 FLESH & STEEL ART OF RUSS HEATH HC $49.99
JUL140393 STAR TREK GOLD KEY ARCHIVES HC VOL 02 $29.99
What a strong week for IDW's reprints department, particularly in that it comes the same time the Puck book is out. Dick Tracy is of course part of their classic newspaper reprints run, the Russ Heath certainly makes sense placed next to the book on Noel Sickles that instigated that reprint format, while the Star Trek seems a natural given their relationship to the franchise at this moment in time. I don't know that I've ever seen those Gold Key Star Trek comics out there for sale, either, which means it might be one of those collection where there's really a scarcity addressed.

JUL140517 SOUTHERN BASTARDS TP VOL 01 HERE WAS A MAN (MR) $9.99
More Jason Aaron, here working with Jason Latour. I like the idea of this comic and its small-town setting, although the issues collected here seem more on their way to something than already arrived. I'm still reading it, though, in serial form.

JUL140728 MOON KNIGHT TP VOL 01 FROM DEAD $17.99
This is the recent Warren Ellis/Declan Shalvey run, with the kind of quick and decisive re-imagining of characters with which Ellis has always excelled combine with a very tightly paced, pared-down narrative approach. I liked them, and thought they were fun, although I think given the chance to compare I would prefer the individual comic books.

MAY141548 HARVEY HORRORS BLACK CAT MYSTERY SOFTIE TP VOL 04 $24.99
I would want to look at this for any and all Manny Stallman that might be offered. I think historians position this series as kind of the only EC competition worth reading now and then, but I have to say I'm not sure how accurate that is.

JUL141422 LAIKA SC $10.99
This is Nick Abadzis' well-received, mostly-for-younger-readers book given a new price point and new entry into the marketplace. I hope it does well.

APR140993 SECRET HISTORY OMNIBUS HC VOL 03 (MR) $34.99
Secret History has been my favorite trashy entertainment mainstream comic book for a while, and I mean that as sincerely as is possible. It's like a Jack Chick comic in its earnestness, but more like an early 1990s Vertigo Comic in its messy worldview and basic narrative approach. Were it a TV show, I would watch 20 hours in a row, but only on a TV served by an antenna.

JUN140925 BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE #12 (MR) $4.99
I've never seen one of these, let alone read one, but I admire their commitment to print. That's not an easy publishing trick to pull off these days.

JUL141700 ALL THE WRONG QUESTIONS HC VOL 03 SHOULDNT YOU BE IN SCHOOL $16.00
This isn't comics, but you can always admire that Seth cover.

JUL141218 DOCTORS GN $16.99
One of the great things about comics the last 10 years and the next 30 years together is getting a full adult lifetime's output from Dash Shaw. This is his latest, and if you go to comics store to buy new and little-seen work from talented cartoonists, this book is that much more for you.

*****

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: Amelia Makes Comics

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Go, Read: Kurt Busiek On Marvel/Kirby Family Settlement

Here, across two message board posts. I don't think I disagree with anything he says, although maybe I'm not quite as interested as he seems to be in combatting anti-Kirby Family spin in terms of the undisclosed parts of the settlement. That's personal preference, though, and I can certainly understand why that's something he wants to argue. I even agree with his take.
 
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Go, Look: Vintage Richard Thompson

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Go, Read: DC Entertainment Gives A Statement To CBR Concerning Recently Criticized Licensed Material

Albert Ching at CBR scores a reaction from DC Entertainment on recent, licensed products that read like a parody of old-school sexist sloganeering and set off a wave of Internet scolding, myself included. The Superman half of that, at least, was originally unearthed by the site DC Women Kicking Ass here. I caught it on a second wave of commentary; my apologies to those who think I should have dug back to the original unearthing of the shirts and my thanks to those that did that unearthing like DCWKA.

To my mind the DC statement scores highly in terms of their admitting the shirts are dumb, less so on targeting exactly why this might have happened and somewhere in between on promising to explore changes in the process.

I don't really buy that most corporations have core values that simply need to be applied in situations like this one, like someone forgot to throw a switch. You can argue the idea of it, and you can do so with some amount of crossed-arm fury due to the fact that individuals there certainly have these values, but I think the record over the longterm favors a lean towards profit and advantage over principle. That's why something like this happens in the first place. That's also a reason why moral stands are important: there's a cost involved. I do think businesses like DC can do a better job of not making it totally discouraging for parents who want their kids to enjoy those ubiquitous characters, either on their own or through one of the parents, and good for them if that's the course correction here. I think that's a form of civil decency and I think that's good business. Ditto engaging the criticism, as they've done here. They can also make very specific changes on a case to case basis according to values people working there might hold dear. If that can have a systemic benefit for a while, well, that's a bonus.
 
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Go, Look: Emma Rios Images Mini-Gallery

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Collective Memory: Marvel/Kirby Family Settlement

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Links to stories related to the settlement announced by Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby encompassing various legal concerns, primarily a window of ownership for various comics characters created or co-created by Kirby and published by Marvel in the late 1950s through the early 1960s.

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

*****

imageInstitutional
* Jack Kirby Lambiek Page
* Jack Kirby Wikipedia Page
* Marvel Comics

Miscellaneous
* Case Page On SCOTUS Blog
* Hollywood Reporter Article On Briefs In Support Of SCOTUS Pick-Up, Summer 2014
* Marvel Vs. Kirby In Hand Of Fire

Stories And Commentary
* Acts Of Geek
* AV Club

* Bam Smack Pow
* Billboard

* CBS News
* Comics Alliance
* Complex

* Deadline

* Escapist
* EW

* Geek Exchange
* Geeky Universe

* Hero Complex

* International Business Times
* io9

* KJRH

* Mercury News
* MStars

* Neilalien
* Newsarama
* Newsmax
* New York Times 01
* New York Times 02
* NY Daily News

image* Polygon

* Reuters 01
* Reuters 02

* Tech Times
* The Beat
* The Comics Reporter
* The Globe And Mail
* The Hollywood Reporter
* The Wrap
* Topless Robot
* TV Week

* UInterview

* Variety

* Washington Post
* WXYZ.com

*****



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

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

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

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