Go, Read: Essays Of Note From Chris Butcher, Michael Hill
I have two essays saved to read again this week after intriguing first-reads.
* Chris Butcher writes about the relationship between the sales of manga and the sales of all-ages material. I disagree with most of what I read that first time through. Claiming the success of Raina Telgemeier as manga's, even in oblique fashion, feels to me like a last cry for manga triumphalism. That was a way of looking at comics in the '90s into the '00s that insisted manga was going to be the absolute dominant and defining market force in the US for decades to come, imagined a lot of enemies where they didn't really exist and made suggestions like complete and radical format change for North American publishers or the withdrawal of all money from direct market store support. It seems to me there was a lot of "othering" manga from pro-manga advocates, too, and while imagining it was subconscious resistance to female audiences that kept people from a full and mighty embrace is appealing rhetoric, that's a really specific construction to connect so many people with vastly different backgrounds and approaches to the medium. To me and a lot of writers I know, a lot of industry people I know, manga has always been and continues to be one of the great traditions of comics, and worthy individual efforts have been celebrated as such when encountered. Has that process of acceptance and publication and adoption been slower across the board than a super-enthusiastic fan of manga as its own thing might want? Sure. It's been slow for European comics, too. It's been slow genre to genre within English-language comics. And yes, there are one-true-religion superhero and American comics fans, always have been and always will be, but they're mostly dopes.
* Michael Hill argues Jack Kirby's consistency in terms of claiming credit for the achievements of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and dissects the idea of the Marvel Method to an extent rarely seen. There's also some fun stuff in there about Kirby re-using past material in a way that makes it look that much more like Kirby was driving the car. I happen to believe Jack Kirby was the primary authorial voice of the 1960s Marvel Comics as a line and the dominant voice on the titles on which he worked. I also think Stan Lee's contributions were considerable in both of those ways and in a few others. I don't feel like arguing either every single time one of them comes up, and I've written about it plenty, so please spare me any contentious e-mails this time around. I just don't have the time this week. I love articles like Hill's. So much injustice has been done I welcome corrective. I am confident that most roads lead to the King, and with 2017 right around the corner I think we as an industry and culture can work to claim, in positive and forthright fashion, a space for Kirby in the firmament of 20th Century imagination.
* this Oliver Sava article on artists receiving credit is quite interesting, and I'd say necessary in terms of correcting general oversight and sloppy crediting. He has most of the reasons down why writers are favored, although I might additionally emphasize that 1) writers might look to other writers, 2) comics are increasingly seen as default narrative vehicles which is a way of looking at comics where people might favor their conception of what a writer does, 3) there's the Stan Lee thing where value of comics in a mainstream context is how they can be transposed into other media which in many cases might favor the writer's contributions.
I think in most cases it's pretty shameful not to credit contributing artists of all types. I also think there are exceptions where one might wish to look at single voices within a team framework. That can be done for a writer or for an artist or for a colorist or for an editor, even. I strongly feel the main genius of most prestige TV shows is what they've done for acting, and the performances drive the best of these shows, but I don't think it's a shot at James Gandolfini -- or even the other writers involved! -- to refer to The Sopranos as David Chase's show for a certain kind of piece. I think if you have respect for artists in general, of all types, positive and respectful ways suggest themselves in nearly every case.
Rounding Into A New Way Of Working: CR Patreon Update
So this was a crazy week for me and this site, as we begin to develop a new way of approaching my work in comics. I have a breakdown of desired featured interviews through the end of the year and a big list of interviews for the site I'd like to see done as well. The issue #0 material is imminent. I'm thinking of concentrating on feature material for that one. The #0 issue will help us settle into font and basic design choices.
My job right now is to diminish the learning curve as quickly as possible, hopefully to a non-noticeable standard. Judging by past efforts at TCJ, with the Wildwood strip and with this site, I've never been one to come out and just kill it Groucho-style from the opening number. I think #0 will be good, and give you and idea of what's to come, and be a bit quirky because of its "0" status, but I'm more fully confident #1 will be better in addition to being more complete and future issues will reine that until I get my sea legs underneath me.
This site solicited some opinions as to coverage areas. I was surprised by how smart they were across the board; I thought we'd get more goofballs. Because I hope The Comics Report will be a practical magazine, I want to make sure that lines of communication are open at all times in terms of things folks would like to see engaged, approached and examined. I'm thinking we might even get an old-fashioned letters column going.
Thank you so much for your patience as we've worked through this week's campaign. Starting next Saturday, really the only thing that matters is the result, both in that developing publication and right here at the traditional CR. If you've joined us, thank you twice. Comics in 2015 should be joyful and exciting and eager to stand up to the challenges that it faces. I look forward to covering the next thrilling few years, as best I'm able.
myself and my brother Whit on Thanksgiving 1987, during that three weeks in the late 1980s we were allowed to wear penny loafers without socks. Please forgive me. Columbus friends will note in the corner of the image my current sofa.
FFF Results Special: Suggestions For The Comics Report
On Friday, CR readers were aked to "Name Five Things You'd Like To See Covered Or Engaged In This Site's Concurrent Magazine-Style Companion Project, The Comics Report." This is how they responded.
1. Daily comic strips in the 21st century
2. Adaptations of comics in other mediums (film, stage, clothing, toys, food)
3. Specific collections at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
4. Comics and higher education (how the two are intertwined, pedagogy of comics, cartoonists working in academia)
5. Marie Severin
1 - A character's history of publication, Groo for example. When he began, where he's been published, whether those have been collected, what difference you can see between publishers/eras etc.? Use it as a way to discuss both the works and look at the context for publication, including print runs.
2 - Creator histories, a great example (for me) would be Howard Chaykin. This would follow not just their career in comics, but also all their time outside of comics. Early engagement with comics. Main influences. Companies they worked with, styles they've written, best works and what's available with summaries of what's available. Where they worked when not in comics.
3 - This is a harder one to segment, but would be something along the lines of trends/ themes or genres in comics. This would be something that headlined ideas, the first published romance comic, influential creators on the genre, creators outside the genre heavily that show its influence (for example, early Marvel comics and their romance angle that made them different to DC). This could also open up to be about publishers - I'd love a history of Vortex comics for example, or Aircel, or Blackthorne.
4 - last one would be to have an individual creator provide their own 'Comic family tree' (although influences may be outside of comics) -- what did they begin reading, who did they begin copying, who made them want to create comics, who helped them to create comics, where can their early work be found, who are their contemporaries and who are their heroes. Finish with their top 5 things to see to understand where they are coming from.
I think these would both be fascinating and have long legs. They'd also help open up comics to new customers. Imagine someone searching for Raina Telgemeier and finding an article that dissects her history with comics and lists all of her early inspirations. Or someone who has found a bunch of art comics from Fort Thunder that has blown their mind being led back through the history of that group and what influenced their work.
I also love in-depth interviews with people like Mark Evanier who have been comics lifers who have worked across multiple mediums, with varying amounts of immersion in the industry and for a wide range of publishers.
Final suggestion -- scene reports, whether international scenes -- Comics in Tibet 'A History' or 80's mini comics "The Highlights."
1. TV Animation, how it finances (and brain drains) indie comics
2. Studio Proteus / Eclipse (Early History of English Manga Publication)
3. Mickey Zacchilli
4. Regional comics shows & expo culture in Europe
5. Twine and cartoonists working in video games
1. Important Comics Works Without An Immediate Commercial Context
2. Early-Generation Comics Shops
3. Rowland Emett
4. Comics Art Education
5. Micro-Trends In Publishing
1. CBR, Ask Alonso, the responsibilities of comics journalism, and how Marvel responds to critique/controversy
2. Sana Amanat -- what does her new position entail? What is it like to be a comics editor at Marvel today?
3. Rich Johnston, Bleeding Cool, and when leaks are responsible journalism or not (riffing off of the Marvel October leaks)
4. G. Willow Wilson
5. Matt Fraction/David Aja/Annie Wu's Hawkeye -- its impact, why it took so long to come out, and a deep read
1. The Working Life of Cartoonists - their financial successes and struggles. Insurance, pensions, crowdfunding, grants received, etc.
2. Micropublisher Profiles - personnel, books published, a typical business day
3. Claire Bretécher
4. Cartoonist's Bookshelf - Cartoonist X, what books are you currently reading and how do they relate to your writing / drawing?
5. International Comics in English - what's in print now? (E.g. IDW's Corto Maltese books, classics available digitally via Izneo, the new http://www.europecomics.com/, etc.)
1. Important Comics Works Without An Immediate Commercial Context -- Leaving this present to emphasize its importance. I would love to see inclusion of Web material (Connor Willumsen, et al) as a solid component.
2. Interviews? No one person, really, though maybe some people from the Pinis' era, of declining health. The dynamics of those still active at that age are interesting.
3. This might be a longer-term project: a survey of the fragmentation of comics reporting and how/how well these groups of outlets are serving the industry/artform... You/Heidi, ComicsNCola/ComixCube, Nrama/CBR, ICV2/Sktchd, etc... very interested in watching as surveys and data transparency begin to really impact the comics news landscape.
4. If anything, I'd love to see you facilitate long-form discussion and soft interview with more than one creative at a time.
5. Some form of "Go, Look" roundup, with more than one image posted...This may become cost-prohibitive if you ever move to print, though.
* Maybe a quarterly "Mainstream Weather Report," in the vein of that Nu52 roundup you did as DC was sunsetting that initiative? Something encompassing what's slowly becoming a Big 6 environment, but focused on how the Editor-Artist-Writer balance of power is fluxing...
* Part of me would love to see some reportage discussing the moves on the Executive made as part of these players keeping their jobs, but that may be too activist for your tastes.
I don't like ranking or listings, really, but here's stuff I'd love to see covered in longer form:
* Early DM pioneers and stores. Probably anything before Marvel/HWD, really.
* NEW retailers. Love to see a Q&A with each store that opens (ha!)
* What's the success/failure rate for Image books -- how many people lose their shirts, how many do better than they could from "big two" page rate type deals?
* Anything and everything relating to the economics of comics and starting and succeeding in a career in comics. Like, how many students do the various schools graduate each year. What happens to these kids? How many get careers? How many just end up with debt and nothing to show from it? Or... how about following up with Xeric winners?
* Who is the person (people?) who engaged in fractional patreon donations (yours is currently ending in 26 cents) -- what are they thinking? Is it just a joke to them? Are the service fees killing any value that person brings?
* What about early distribution? How about an interview with Bud Plant, or someone like that? What does Ivan Snyder (of HWD) think about the current distribution landscape (if he's still alive?) Etc.
1. Crowdfunding and Comics
2. Digital comics piracy -- ethics, mechanics, solutions (or not)
3. Social media and comic creators' relationships with it
4. Mick/Mike McMahon -- his art, his influence
5. Newspaper strip archives -- who's doing what, what's out there, what's absent, the nuts and bolts of restoring old strips for print
1. Efforts to archive files of writers, artists, and publishers
2. The evolution of the "average" comic consumer, what that meant for the past, and what it means for the future
3. Winston Rowntree
4. Why some comics are universal, and others are not, and why that changes
5. How your affection for a medium is tied to what you were exposed to in your formative years
1. The Art of Comics as Reflections of the Arts, Society, Politics, and Technologies of their Times
2. Transformative Moments, Movements, and Theories in the Development of Comics
3. Relationships Between the Visual Form and the Narrative Substance of Comics
4. In-Depth Interviews with Artists about their Influences (Beyond Mere Name-Checking)
5. Honoré Daumier
1) Comic shop fallout from the distributor wars of the mid-90's.
2) Creators that started in the 80's from Pacific, Comico, First, Eclipse.
3) Gil Kane.
4) African-American creators at Marvel and DC in the 70's-80's.
5) a profile of the SAW group.
1. Outsider Comics (comics by people not plugged into fandom, much less mainstream publishing)
2. The History Of Comic Arts Instruction (from Kubert to Stan Lee's How To Write Comics pamphlet)
3. The Losing Side (comics from the Soviet Union, Axis powers in WWII, etc.)
4. The Threads Of Overlap (i.e., how did specific creators such as Otto Binder, Mickey Spillane, Alfred Bester, etc. influence other media / genres they worked in & what were thematic links in their work)
5. DIY Comics Related Media (amateur films, filk songs, etc; set 1980 as cutoff point re contemporary efforts)
1. Developments in international comics, particularly in unexpected places
2. Deep-dive critical reviews of selected comics from time to time
3. Grant Morrison
4. Hybridization of traditional comic styles and genres
5. 1st generation original graphic novels from 1960s-80s
1. Regional comics hubs (Portland, etc.)
2. Archival struggles to reprint older comics (Cerebus, A Distant Soil, etc.)
3. Comics from the Eighties or Nineties that deserve a fresh look in the context of today's state of the art
4. Whatever happened to...?
5. Steve Bissette
1. Realities of making a real world income producing comics for the existing market.
2. Successful revenue models for webcomics publishers.
3. Educational comics.
4. Joey Cavalieri
5. State of comics publishing in foreign markets.
1. Garry Trudeau... Now that it is pretty much over, a career long critical evaluation is needed.
2. The GLUT of Reprints --
3. How art movements (Fort Thunder...) are now shaped in the modern connected world.
4. An update of Bart Beaty's Old column. ( What's been translated and what's still missing)
5. Critics Forum: A re-evaluation of the top 100 Of the past decade (especially with the reprints of once-ignored creators like Whitney, Gottfredsson, Price, Gruelle, Rogers, Hanks)
I missed FFF, but didn't sleep last night and had a lot of ideas. Some of these are solid, others not so much, but I wanted to get them out there:
* Translators -- I'd like to learn about translators of manga and other foreign comics. How do they translate, but keep the complexity and nuances of the original work?
* Agents -- Illustrators and comic creators that have agents and what purposes, responsibilities do they have.
* Current state of humor in comics
* Comic programs in schools like CCS and Kubert -- What are some of their benefits and hindrances?
* Nickelodeon Magazine -- Chris Duffy bringing people like Deitch, Ryan, Henderson, and Sala to work on kids comics and the publication's huge influence with comic creators in their 20s.
* Children's Book Illustrators -- Which comic creators have found work in that field and which ones have left comics to pursue children's books?
* Guido Crepax, Adam Buttrick, M.K. Brown, Ricardo Delgado
* Why do critics go at Marvel/DC/Image with a muckraking angle instead of leaving "mainstream" comics totally? Why do people who seem disgusted with corporate companies continue to buy them?
1. Business practices of comics retailers
2. Library collections
3. Ongoing industry comparisons among American, European, & Japanese markets
4. How to improve/enhance comics journalism across the board
5. Ryan Estrada
The top comics-related news stories from July 18 to July 24, 2015:
1. Recent money tussles at Charlie Hebdodevelop into a potential compromise point: the company won't be restructured to employee-owned, but by-laws will drive profits back into the company rather than immediately being processed by the shareholders.
3. SPACE, one of the veteran shows out there (like SPX it developed out of a stop on the 1990s Spirits Of Independence tour), pulls off a very challenging 2015 show. This includes an original host hotel that closed after the convention had been booked there.
Winner Of The Week
Organizer Bob Corby, of SPACE.
Losers Of The Week
Those of us that loved the absurdity of Stan Sakai being played across the Eisners stage to the tune of "Sexual Healing." It's apparently not true, and structurally not possible given the song choices.
Quote Of The Week
"It's true that in France sales are kind of plateauing, and the number of releases also. It's a stable situation, but as a businessman you're always looking for extra sales, extra profit. So that may have played a part. The main thing is that I've been trying to supply an international dimension to my company for years. Again, print is very difficult for that. It's too risky, too complicated. Digital may open a big door for us. I wanted to be the first to open that door." -- Guy Delcourt
the comic image selected is from the brief but notable 1970s run of Seaboard/Atlas
Heidi MacDonald wrote about the campaign here; I interviewed about it here.
I'm beginning to work on both the more loosely constructed bonus #0 issue and the first issue #1 and am taking requests here. Continuing thanks to those that have supported and endorsed, and those that are considering it.