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

July 25, 2014

Fantagraphics Announces Major Vaughn Bodé Publishing Initiative


Early this morning Fantagraphics and publisher Gary Groth announced a major new publishing initiative featuring the life, art and comics of iconic comics figure Vaugh Bodé. In April 2015, Fantagraphics will reintroduce the underground legend into the modern comics conversation via a freshly designed, over-sized omnibus called The Big Book Of Me.

Cheech Wizard was one of the well-traveled characters of the underground and overground comics eras. The character dates back to 1956 and Bode's college newspaper gig. Described as "a lascivious con man" in Fantagraphics' accompanying publicity write-up, Cheech Wizard would stay with the cartoonist past his student days. He eventually appeared in various underground comix and National Lampoon, becoming an iconic image across several US subcultures including graffiti and tattoos.

The publisher will work with Bodé's son, Mark Bodé, who has served as a caretaker of the elder Bodé's work and is himself a well-regarded cartoonist working in style similar to that employed by his father.

The Bodé project represents the first major effort by longtime company mainstay Mike Baehr on the editorial side of making comics after years in various support and administrative positions at the company.

"Much in comics is cyclical, so that right now there’s a lot of people taking fantasy devices and genre stuff in whichever direction they choose, without very many constraints -- it's enough that we might be fooled into thinking this generation invented it," critic Joe McCulloch told CR. "Cycling back to Bode will show how wild things could get on a different frontier."

Vaughn Bodé (1941-1975) was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall Of Fame in 2006.

The Big Book Of Me by Vaughn Bodé is due from Fantagraphics in April of 2015. It will be a softcover and will retail at $19.99. These are frequently beautiful and wholly idiosyncratic comics; I'm glad for them to be getting special treatment at a high-end arts-comics publisher and look forward to this first volume.

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I Added Several Updates To The comiXology Story

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Go, Look: 1000 Jokes

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

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

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

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

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Go, Look: The Greatest Experiment

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Paul Gravett discusses top items from that British Library show.

image* Kelly Thompson on Rocket Raccoon #1. Rob Clough on new releases from Yeti Press. Erica Friedman on Pure Yuri Anthology Hirari Vol. 13.

* if you were to make a list of fundamental effects in comics -- not that this is specific or unique to comics -- showing the difference in size between two objects and mustering an effect from that fact would be right up there.

* Bryan Lee O'Malley on what he learned from Osamu Tezuka.

* for some reason, the usual humorous approach concerning these border kids strikes me as uniquely unsuited to the issue involved. I mean, I know that's not true; you can do humor about everything. It could be that I'm not up on the nuances on the issue.

* finally, Wonder Woman fights a bear.
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Happy 57th Birthday, Ray Billingsley!

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Happy 44th Birthday, Jon Lewis!

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Happy 73rd Birthday, S. Clay Wilson!

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Happy 65th Birthday, Alex Wald!

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Happy 62nd Birthday, Chip Bok!

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Happy 67th Birthday, Ted Benoit!

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Happy 39th Birthday, Dan Shahin!

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July 24, 2014

ComiXology Announces DRM-Free Backup Feature At Their Thursday Comic-Con International Panel

During their panel today at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the digital comics platform comiXology announced a DRM-free backup feature that in their words "allows customers to download and store copies of their books." They have also announced their first run of participating publishers, which as soon I can get my fat ass over to the panel from my one-thirty meeting will safely slide into the place this sentence goes.

imageThis isn't an area about which I know a ton, but my reading of this issue in the past was that the use of DRM by comiXology was key to their getting certain publishers to climb on board, but came at the price of open criticism and some customer loss from those that believe that having a copy of the work they wanted to view was infinitely preferable -- or at least preferable to the point of their deciding to participate -- than DRM protected media, which is often compared to buying a right to see something rather than the actual something. This leads to difficulties when a newer service shuts down, perhaps, and also can interfere with certain kind of transfer of material between devices.

I would also imagine that there might have been a slight hiccup in that for some people in the company, some folks using it and/or a few professionals assessing it, the Guided View reading technology could be characterized as the company's unique contribution. That will still be available, of course, but different formats might encourage different viewing options and at least strategically it's understandable you might check the direction of all oars, particularly early on.

Backups for existing copies are available through the "My Books" section starting today. The backups will be high-definition PDF and CBZ. I will be downloading a bunch for my comiXology books myself. I will also be consider some bigger purchases there -- I think I had been basically buying, if only subconsciously, books I wouldn't mind losing.

I think this is significant news for one of comics' major players.

Update One: Initial participating publishers announced at the panel were Image, Zenescope, Thrillbent, Dynamite and Monkeybrain.

Update Two: I talked to a top five publisher and a top ten publisher who will participate and are behind the move, but could not do what was necessary administration-wise to be part of the initial announcement because of Comic-Con ramp up. That does make me think the final stages of this may have come pretty quickly.

Update Three: Others I've talked to since penning the above piece disagree with my last statement, thinking that it's a publicity-driven statement more than one that will have any real effect. I would it's hard to measure something like that -- certainly if your reluctance in using that service was the DRM-free aspect, this diminishes the potential for that effect, and that's indeed more of a PR effect rather than one that moves needles. But you know, comiXology exists in that space, too, now, and could use a positive story of a certain kind post-Amazon. I would also imagine that any practical improvements -- such as the improved ability to move comics device to device -- also might play out differently as consumption habits develop.

Update Four: The panel included a strong emphasis on the Submit self-publishing program, including their ongoing sale of material using that program and stories of publisher picking up specific properties after they were published there.

Update Five: According to Chip Mosher after the panel, comiXology didn't lose anyone after the move to Amazon. I had heard a rumor of a 1-2 publishers maybe bailing, a rumor Mosher shot down pretty quickly.
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AdHouse Books Announces UR By Eric Haven As Its Sole Fall 2014 Season Offering


The publisher AdHouse Books announced through its owner Chris Pitzer early today that it would be publishing a single book for the Fall 2014 season: UR by Eric Haven.

Pitzer told CR that he and the cartoonist started talking about doing a project together when the Richmond, Virginia-based publisher won the piece of art that Haven had donated to Rina Ayuyang's art auctions for Typhone Haiyan relief.

The book will run 48 pages in full color, will by a 6 X 9 inche softcover book, and will cost $14.95 USD.

UR is planned for a December release.

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Retrofit Comics Announces 2015 Creator Line-Up; Will Have James Kochalka's Fungus Ready For SPX 2014

Box Brown of Retrofit Comics announced this morning a slew of creators with whom the publisher -- specializing mostly but not entirely in old-fashioned alt-comics of a serial nature -- will work in 2015. That list is:

* Matt Madden
* Yumi Sakugawa
* Sophie Franz
* Laura Lannes
* Kate Leth
* Andrew Lorenzi
* Laura Knetzger
* Maré Odomo

Brown also announced three projects with a bit more detail:

* an art book by the cartoonist and illustrator Steven Weissman
* a special edition of Future Shock, edited by Josh Berggraff
* two books by Brown

This is in addition to other projects as the schedule allows.

At SPX 2014, the publisher plans to have James Kochalka's Fungus: The Unbearable Rot Of Being on hand. Brown promises the work is a "surreal and funny outsider look at the elements of our own reality. That one will be 108 pages, perfect bound, and cost $12.
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Image Comics Makes A Dozen Publishing Announcements At Pre-SDCC Image Expo Event

imageImage Comics held one of their Image Expo events on the Wednesday preceding Comic-Con International, at the Hilton Bayfront. While there have been some small hints of controversy in so many events being held in proximity to the convention without being at the actual convention, having an Expo is certainly a way for the comics publisher to capitalize on a captive audience of press and fans waiting for the big show to start. They'll also win the initial 24 hours of press barring some sort of PR bomb being dropped.

They made 12 announcements:

* Descender, Jeff Lemire And Dustin Nguyen
* Drifter, Ivan Brandon And Nic Klein
* From Under Mountains, Marian Churchland And Claire Gibson And Sloane Leong
* Injection, Warren Ellis And Declan Shalvey
* Intersect, Ray Fawkes
* Invisible Republic, Gabriel Hardman And Corinna Bechko
* Kinski, Gabriel Hardman
* Rumble, John Arcudi And James Harren
* Southern Cross, Becky Cloonan And Andy Belanger
* The Humans, Tom Neely And Keenan Marshall Keller
* Tokyo Ghost, Rick Remender And Sean Gordon Murphy
* Tooth And Claw, Kurt Busiek And Ben Dewey
* Valhalla Mad, Joe Casey And Paul Maybury

A slightly cynical way to look at an Image announcement -- probably not the best way -- is to see them as positives project to project but also less time -- for the artists in particular -- to do work for mainstream comics companies. Gabriel Hardman, as an example, is a highly-skilled and highly-prolific artist of the kind on which mainstream companies have come to depend in recent years; if he finds the Image work more appealing in a way that limits his work for such companies, that's a big blow to them. Exponentially so if others that fit his general profile join him.

I've seen word of some of these projects before -- at least a couple of them here and there -- and I believe Kinski had a previous, digital life.

That looks like a solid line-up: a mix of versatile pros and people that cause their peers to freak out on tumblr. Image is at a place right now where even if none of these break out as a group they could be very vital to them as solid players throughout the line.

More information on individual projects can be found here.
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Bundled Extra: Publishing News Newsbriefs, Stories, Commentary & Links From Comic-Con International


By Tom Spurgeon

What follows is a list in brief of comics publishing news stories that have come to light during and just preceding Comic-Con International weekend. If you've seen one that we haven't,


Andrews McMeel
* Geoff Grogan's Plastic Babyheads series launches as digital-download books.

* the writer Justin Jordan will be doing three projects with the publisher, starting in November. (July 3)
* Roger Langridge will be doing an original all-ages project starting in December. (July 18)
* the writer Grant Morrison will be doing a project with the publisher. (July 22)
* Filip Sablik was named the President Of Publishing And Marketing. (July 16)

Koyama Press
* A. Degen's Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater announced for Spring 2015

* leading up to Comic-Con, Marvel announces several storyline changes to top characters related to Avengers brand: Thor will be a woman, Captain American will be Sam Wilson and therefore African-American, Tony Stark will have a "superior" storyline that explores negative elements of his character, and so on. (through July 22)

Monkey Brain Comics
* Neil Kleid and Dan Gasl announce Kings And Canvas. Partial Image Below. (July 22)

* 64-page free digital magazine National Cartoonist launches at NCS site and at ISSUU.

* Katie Skelly launches My Pretty Vampire on Tumblr in full-color with limited animation effects. Mini-comic version planned for SPX. Partial image above. (July 21)



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Go, Look: This Time

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


By Tom Spurgeon

* the Seattle True Independent Film Festival is now accepting digital comics submissions. I have no idea how that works, but visiting Seattle is fun.

image* Zainab Akhtar notes the creation of a new small-press show, this one hosted by Breakdown Press.

* Johanna Draper Carlson notes that Wizard is trying out a social media convention in conjunction with its sort-of comics I guess Chicago show. It's not the weirdest idea ever -- I know people that really admire the way certain people use social media tools -- but as it's one with absolutely no interest for me on any level it's hard for me to figure out if it will work.

* Brian Fies on the Baltimore Comics & Medicine conference. I miss self-directed posts like this one, it seems like most of that energy goes into social media.

* Chris Pitzer provided this set of photos from his trip to Chapel Hill in support of the visiting cartoonists Tom Scioli, Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor.

* Roman Muradov made a very nice-looking advertisement for the Small Press Expo.

* finally, I'm not sure I'd seen the Latino Comics Expo poster for this year. That's an October event in San Jose.

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

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Go, Look: This Is Legend #1

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