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

August 4, 2015

Go, Look: Simon Gane Sketches Syros

posted 1:40 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: A Lengthy Interview With Zapiro


This is the best interview I've read with the South African political cartoonist Zapiro, and I've read about two dozen. If you get a chance, fire it up. This goes pretty deep into his past, including his time at SVA and his decision to become a cartoonist when that was a choice that not a lot of people knew how to make in a forceful, real way. It also gets into some of the politics of his cartoons, such as the pressure to spare a public figure if they were perceived as finding some weight as a serious political candidate.
posted 1:39 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Big Daddy Roth #2

posted 1:38 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Why I'm Boycotting Marvel Comics

There's an intriguing article here by a J.A. Micheline about the writer's personal boycott of Marvel Comics based on a combination of creative line-ups, character directions and social response to criticism of those first two things. I'm never quite sure if these kinds of actions are actually boycotts: the problem seems to be at the Marvel Comics level, so boycotting Marvel's comics doesn't seem like the kind of broader action that a boycott usually entails. The protest part of it is wholly real, though, and that's where our attention should be. Some of the elements of such a dispute may eventally get worked out. For instance, whether someone is in a group representing a small number of readers or a large number of readers no one really knows until sales figures start hitting, and maybe not even then. It's a time-honored tradition to disrespect any protest made in just that way, and also part of what we've come to expect to respond with umbrage and an argument that the disrespect is part of the problem.

Mostly, disputes raised like this continue to get worked on. I think most people I know that read these kinds of comics on a regular basis are surprised that there hasn't been greater diversity in some of these newer Marvel books in one way or the other or that Marvel's pushback against criticism has seemed unsympathetic to the point of being foolhardy. I get that's what comics people do, but still: everyone saw it coming. Comics are counted in such small numbers that one has a hard time imagining a boycott becoming a viral thing without a big triggering incident. In fact, this is the kind of protest that can be all over one person's social media consumption and not at all in another's. Still, you never know what's going to build momentum and how. It's also because of those relatively small numbers that any group of unhappy fans would seem worth a conciliatory gesture or several steps in their direction. Why would Marvel want DC to win any battle, even one of perception, if you want to define it that way? The wider point is I'm not sure there's a numbers threshold for doing good, and it's hard to find Marvel's positive formulation here. I'm not sure why some of these moves aren't made solely because many of these characters seem like they could use a new approach, and there's a readership for such approaches. There's immense cultural good that can be done here, and some narrative good, too. As I wrote earlier today about Hercules, making him sweep-of-dictator's-hand hetero just seems like stamping one's foot down for the most boring option on a character, a character that is in no way a guaranteed sales success in a way you wouldn't want to leaving one's options open. I'd be upset if I were Hercules' agent.

To take a couple of steps back, I continue to be amazed by folks treating these characters with such ownership, right down to professional assignments. I think it comes from a different place than just wanting a company one supports to act ethically. Remember, though, it's this kind of participation right down to character details that companies like Marvel have always wanted. They should want 400,000 more boycotting fans like this one. Me, it's hard for me to get my mind wrapped around anything being done by a giant corporation to a bunch of properties with legacies that are often very spotty creatively when they exist at all. That's my biggest break; I wasn't even one of those kids that ever thought characters acted "wrong." It's hard for me to boycott something I lost interest in in 1979 that's still not interesting to me for the same reasons. It's a lot more fun run to writer letters about anger than it is ennui, though. I wish them luck in shaping the companies after their more generous, inclusive spirit.
posted 1:37 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Leonard Kirk Superheroes Mini-Gallery

posted 1:36 am PST | Permalink

Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked: Publishing News

By Tom Spurgeon

image* Marvel's going to try again with their Hercules character. There's some speculation as to whether or not the character will have same-sex relationships. As I think he's depicted having relationships with men and women, it would be weird if he were suddenly fully hetero again.

* speaking of Marvel, they'll still have their policy of making more than 12 issues of their series in a year. They run a multi-million dollar publishing company and I don't, and I'm not even a prime consumer of that kind of material, but this strategy makes it difficult for me to read any issues at all. Almost no artist or art team can keep up, which means breaks in continuity. While an attentive can deal with different creative teams, given the fluidity of title it totally throws me off and I give up trying to buy the title I was previously buying. I also found that the cost of keeping up with one or series when I was expected to buy, say, 31 issues in a year as opposed to 24, made a difference in whether or not I desired to continue with series that made enough of an impression that the art teams hadn't confused me. That really seems like one of those slow beed for series of short-term gain kind strategies. Then again, if the numbers weren't working out in some way, they wouldn't be doing it. At that point moving away from that strategy becomes a "greater good" deal, and Marvel's publishing division is judged, many professionals tell me, by short-term numbers.

* congratulations to Yeti Press on four years of publication.

* listings can be fool's gold so much changes for most of the publisher, particularly those Fantagraphics-sized and smaller, between when a listing might be submitted and when it might actually find its way onto shelves. But it's a fine place to go for general reminders and some additional information if you don't take it as gospel. For instance, a May release for the Lucy Knisley wedding planning book makes perfect sense, and 304 pages sounds like a lot for Knisley and not so many for the general subject matter. Also, every March or so for the last several I've had a friend ask me what Dave Sim's Last Girlfriend is, and then when I tell them almost all make the same comment of "summer reading for me for sure. Looks like we'll get at least one more round of comments there.

* finally, Tom Hart alerted us through e-mail a couple of weeks ago that his Rosalie Lightning is going to be released by St. Martin's in January. It always seems like there's one book that comes out at that point of the year that dominates discussion through May or so, or at least contributes heavily to what we talk about when we talk about comics. I think there's an impulse from a very now-looking hardcore readership base that wants to jump into the new year. That could be the one for 2016, although every month is loaded now.
posted 1:35 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Beautiful Big Little Book Cover Gallery

posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Rare Jack Kirby Comedy Gig In Mid-1950s

warning: festooned with racist imagery
posted 1:10 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Sean Kleefeld writes about missing out on Mike Parobeck. Comics is a lot bigger than we think it is. I thought I knew everything in 1994. I realize in 2015 that I know very little. It's one of the things that's most exciting about making room in your life for comics.

* Bob Temuka remembers the era of handbooks and guides.

* Todd Klein on Superman #41. John Kane on a bunch of comics and a bunch of other comics. Henry Chamberlain on Steve McQueen: Full Throttle Cool. Johanna Draper Carlson on The Baby-Sitters Club: The Truth About Stacey. Michael Buntag on Archie Vs. Predator #3-4. J. Caleb Mozzocco on a bunch of different comics. James Baon on A Sailor's Story. Misti Cooper on Knight. Andy Oliver on Like A Shark In A Swimming Pool.

* Sean T. Collins talks to Matt Furie. RJ Casey profiles Dan Zettwoch.

* finally, Katie Skelly draws Valentina.
posted 1:05 am PST | Permalink

Happy 39th Birthday, K. Thor Jensen!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 65th Birthday, Mike Gold!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 63rd Birthday, Franco Saudelli!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 73rd Birthday, Rick Norwood!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 49th Birthday, Charlie Adlard!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 48th Birthday, Robert Pope!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

August 3, 2015

Go, Look: Beautiful Jack Davis Splash Pages

posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Festivals Extra: APE Puts Call Out For Panel Proposals

Here. APE is going through a big transitional year, so if you're attending or thinking about attending, they would likely love to work with you. I think that show will be very well-attended back out in San Jose.
posted 8:55 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Strength Of Man Portfolio Images

posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink

Ted Rall Has Police Tape Enhanced, Makes Counter-Charges Against LAPD And LA Times

Ted Rall and the media site aNewDomain have continued to press Rall's case against justifications used by the LA Times in deciding to no longer use him as a freelancer. The latest is an enhanced version of a tape provided by the LAPD to the Times, which reveals some dialogue between the cop and an on-looker. I want to make sure that this gets linked to, considering I wrote an article about the back and forth up to the moment at a previous moment, here.

I am going to assume that a lot of articles of similar length and focus will appear at aNewDomain, the majority by Rall. If you want to keep up on the back and forth as it happens, that's probably the place where the most content is going to be generated. I will continue to track and look in on how the story gets reported both there and outside of these very specific channels.

This has already reached a staggering level of directed language and loaded description. A significant chunk of what we have to think thorugh is in the form of an Internet Argument. It might be a full time job for someone to pull everything out and examine it. Did this person really say that, can we trace this claim back to an actual statement, and so on.

When you apply vastly different concepts to the same things, it's hard to have an argument at all, let alone suss out the truth from one side or the other. I don't think losing a freelance gig is the same as losing a position, I think vastly different standards apply. so it would be nice if one set of descriptives were used. I'm not sure why the LA Times didn't punish, criticize or suspend Rall's editors (the primary Times front line here) if they feel a disservice to the truth was done. If the Times is to be damned for seeming to back a version of events that can be picked at, Rall can be held to that same standard. I'm not sure who comes off better were that the case. I'm also not certain why the Times' perceived potential conflict of interest due to its relationship with the LAPD is a more effectively dismissive accusation of bias than a guy arguing directly on his own behalf. The Times may feel the influence of the LAPD, but not more than Ted Rall is pro Ted Rall.

In the end I think the Times looks like less than a major player for using a guy until they're criticized and then showing him the door. They look like boobs if they didn't enhance the tape. It could be they decided it didn't matter. I also think that some of Rall's claims look more like a chat room jeremiad than a rational refutation of the broader facts in question. Freelance relationships are tough, they count on the editor trusting the freelancer, and I don't think that was happening here and thus both sides are better off walking away from one another. Ironically, the furious way in which Rall has gone after his former client may say more about his desirability as a freelancer than anything the police department has claimed.
posted 7:55 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Terror House

posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Another Comeback For National Lampoon

Hollywood Reporter has a piece up on the latest comeback for National Lampoon, which looks in theory like the last few times I've read feature articles on the company: leveraging their brand names and finding some sort of approximation of the process that got them properties in the first place, only favoring 21st century delivery systems. A magazine is way, way, off the table. I always thought they could do well with a magazine, just because it'd take almost no money to run one and I'm not sure that on-line content and YouTube videos provide the same kind of fully realized ideas that gave the Lampoon concepts like Animal House.
posted 1:25 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Mary Blair's Peter Pan Concept Art

posted 1:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Cave-Man Curly

posted 1:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 49th Birthday, Marc Weidenbaum!

this is my fault, but it made me laugh; happy birthday, Marc
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 61st Birthday, Gianfranco Goria!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

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