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.
* 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
* 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.
* 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.
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.