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

October 31, 2005

Ooooh… Spooky!

imageHere are some Halloween links to peruse after turning off the lights to eat all the candy yourself. Alan David Doane speaks to Richard Sala (work pictured left). Retailer Mike Sterling names his favorite scary moments in DC Comics' Swamp Thing (#2 creeps me out 20 years after I first read it). Don Markstein discusses the great Charles Addams. A fan pays tribute to Junji Ito. Something much too adorable to ever be creepy pops up in Slave Labor's store. Richard Corliss analyzes the EC horror comics. DC teases with an incomplete guide to Tom Fagan's Rutland, Vermont Halloween parade and its place in the DC Universe. Hot Stuff preens in our direction with a cover gallery. The Spirit shows off his Halloween pedigree. Jill Thompson reserves a page for her Scary Godmother. Hellboy rests comfortably at his newly refurbished on-line home. Finally, Lawrence Watt-Evans surveys the horror comic books of the 1940s and 1950s.
posted 12:00 pm PST | Permalink

Mobilix Case Dismissed by Court

imageI caught this announcement of a court decision about the term "Mobilix" from the great site The fact that Editions Albert Rene was apparently trying to corner the market on all words ending in "-ix" makes me cry and cracks me up at the same time; it reminds me of the advertising that Target runs in America that seems to include that fine retail establishment's claim on the idea of targets. The other thing that struck me as interesting is that deciding, rationally, that everyone knows the Asterix second lead as "Obelix" and not "Mobilix," because, you know, Obelix is really well known, seems to me the reverse of logic as it's generally applied in the US in such cases. In the US, widespread knowledge seems to presume confusion and an inability to make distinctions.
posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink

Thank You, Sister Rosa Parks

Sorry about the lack of diversity in summary portrayals of your life and legacy, though.
posted 7:13 am PST | Permalink

Dearth of Great Female Cartoonists?

This article accompanying the "Masters of American Comics" exhibit opening in Los Angeles notes the lack of female cartoonists in the pantheon of great cartoonists as assembled for the show. This subject, like the equally unfortunate lack of cartoonists of color in such groupings, tends to unleash the hounds of strident, declarative stupidity in hardcore comics fans, so it's important to tread carefully.

My gut feeling is that attempts to mine significant, ignored female artists out of the forgotten layers of the past has been tried and exhausted multiple times without finding anyone that really demands a place with the widely acknowledged top 15-20, even if you have a dim view of one or two of those artists. Ditto attempts to redefine the standards that should be applied, which I think frequently lack an understanding of what makes comics great. I would contend, however, that there are up to half-dozen magnificent modern cartoonists who are female that could easily crack a top 15-20 made up of living or active artists, particularly if you don't get swept up in the graphic novel as the end-all and be-all of comics expression.
posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: WebComic Launches

Wilfred Santiago
Henrik Rehr
posted 6:41 am PST | Permalink

Schulz, Seuss Remain Rich, Dead

I've only been putting together a web site for a little more than a year and I swear they do this article about the money earned by dead celebrites every 10 weeks or so. In case you hadn't guessed, the estates of Charles Schulz and Dr. Seuss still make a lot of money.
posted 6:38 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Go, Read: Guardian Profiles Chris Ware
Cartoonist Ali Dilem Joins RSF Protest
Salt Lake City Resident Wins Fast-Food Story Contest
Cartoonist One Number Short of Lotto Win
Go, Read: Village Voice on The Quitter
Go, Read: Ben Schwartz, Boston Globe on Black Hole
Not Comics: Boondocks Toon to Appear This Week
Chinese Cartoonists Confront Environment

October 30, 2005

CR Sunday Magazine

Missed It: Posy Simmonds' Tamara Drewe


I had no idea that Posy Simmonds was serializing her next work in the Guardian and on their web site, but I'm happy to find out about it 14 chapters or so along.

Go, Read: The New King of Comics

Newsarama has a really solid, long interview-style piece on the deal-making behind Stephen King's Dark Tower comics effort for Marvel. The story of the King-Marvel partnership was teased in July but heated up last week when seemingly leaked to two pretty solid news sources, what looks like (at least to me) a few days before more official announcements were planned for Wizard and Entertainment Weekly. This in turn led to -- or at least made more important -- an official Marvel announcement the second half of last week.

On the one hand, I'm going to remain kind of skeptical that Marvel can pull off making this a bigger-than-comics event as they seem to be promising, at least until it happens. They did reasonably well with 1602 in that regard and King's name still dwarfs Neil Gaiman's, but there's always that counter-argument that nothing's bigger than Star Wars, and while those comics enjoy a strong presence in the market and outside of it they are hardly earth-shattering publishing events, and haven't really been so since the late 1970s and an unlikely-to-repeat confluence of events (the movie's jaw-dropping success, the lack of high-quality licensed product, tired superhero product, and an extended dead-period until the next official sequel).

The bigger news at least for now and at least from my perspective is if Marvel tries to broker other big deals like this one, where a writer is allowed to bring a project into Marvel rather than being asked to serve a Marvel-owned property.

Go, Look: Eyebeam Strips


I'm not exactly sure how a strip celebrates its 25th anniversary by posting strips from 1978, but I received an e-mail noting Sam Hurt's Eyebeam site has some proto-work up along with some work from the strip's 1980s prime. Eyebeam was the NRBQ of 1980s alt-paper comic strips, reasonably well-known particularly at the level of college culture, but not widely enough known to break out.

As I recall, Eyebeam was one of the only comics-related books you could get in my college's bookstore, along with Life In Hell, Ernie Pook's Comeek and Read Yourself Raw.

Initial Thought of the Day
I'm fairly thick-skinned, but if Eddie Campbell ever cuffed me to the floor like he does Ted Rall in this Comics Journal messboard thread, I'd cry for a week.

Everybody Not Exactly My Age Confuses Me

Because I'm so on top of things I'm doing work that should have been done three months ago, I spent some time this morning sorting my remaining San Diego Con photo jpegs. And because I have the face to name recognition power of a drunk who calls everyone "Charlie," a few of these new people stump me. Anyway, I'm 98 percent certain I know all but one of these, but I thought I'd ask in the two percent cases anyway, just to be certain.

Update: Thanks to everyone who wrote in. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Photo One -- Aaron Renier


Photo Two -- Jesse Reklaw


Photo Three -- Josh Frankel


Photo Four -- Scott Robins


Photo Five -- Dexter Taylor! Although "Josh Simmons" made me laugh

posted 10:59 am PST | Permalink

Reminder: Five For Friday Changes

Since it seems like some of you missed the memo, it looks like I need to repost the announcement that the Five For Friday roundtable discussions will only accept submissions from the time one is posted on Friday until the time the results are posted Saturday. Additionally, all results will go up at once instead of throughout the day.

I felt I had to firm up the rules because of the increased volume of the submissions and some really aggressive, even angry posturing from a few site readers as to when and where they thought results should go up and how their submission should be treated -- this included phone calls to my house, which seems to go far beyond the good-natured intentions of the feature, part of which was aimed to reflect the thoughtful meanderings of a Friday afternoon at the office or in class.

If anyone feels the need to comment and couldn't make it to a computer on the Friday before the "poll" closes, you can always comment through a letter to the site. But anything that comes in marked "Five For Friday" after Saturday AM when results are posted will be deleted from my inbox. I apologize, but it seems necessary.

I greatly appreciate your interest and participation.
posted 6:00 am PST | Permalink

October 29, 2005

CR Week In Review


Top Stories

The week's most important comics-related news stories, October 22 to October 28, 2005:

1. Format wars: Batton Lash takes his Supernatural Law into an on-line interation, but keeps his comic books; Michael Jantze keeps the on-line format for The Norm but dumps the comics; Andrews McMeel makes the case that they serve booksellers extremely well with their super-gigantic deluxe format books.

2. Trick or Treat: Marvel payments to retailers from the Brian Hibbs-led class action lawsuit about trade terms announced to hit next week's invoices; Marvel's "Stephen King is writing something for us" rumor lingering since summer declaration pops up in a fairly respectable news source in a manner one supposes isn't just gossip then is officially announced by Marvel. Additional treat: a big licensing deal with Teshkeel Media announced late last week.

3. The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) and the Harvey Awards get a divorce: Children mostly relieved.

Winner of the Week
Garry Trudeau: His Doonesbury turns 35 and then he shows off his unique place in the comics world by canceling a week of Harriet Miers strips made irrelevant when she withdrew from a Supreme Court nomination.

Loser of the Week
I'm going to say the overall Direct Market, because I swear people thought it was due two more months of snappier growth than the now-typical "comic books slightly down, graphic novels high enough to drag the whole thing upward a tin bit" deal. In fact, I thought September was supposed to be the month.

Quote of the Week
"The $50 price tag (sorry -- $49.95, for the brainwashed among us) is too much. I wouldn't pay $50 for a book. Books like this should be around $35. and not a cent more. I don't know how they justify this, but it's too much." -- Steve Rude in his newsletter, reviewing the new Dark Horse Nexus hardcover of his own work in admirably honest fashion (he gave it 4 of 5 stars).
posted 6:10 am PST | Permalink

This Week’s Five For Friday

Reader responses have been added to this week's "Five For Friday" question: "Name Five Comics-Related Halloween Costumes You've Either Used or Would Consider Using Someday."

The next "Five for Friday" will go up early AM on the 4th.
posted 3:46 am PST | Permalink

October 28, 2005

Calvin and Hobbes By the Numbers

imageAlthough I saw this article as a positive in that it indicated a demand for the Complete Calvin and Hobbes book about which I think some small doubt lingered, Andrews McMeel's CEO Thomas Thornton seemed to think it called into question his company's ability to handle such a large, prestige project and wrote a strong letter to The Book Standard objecting to characterizations in the story.

The whole thing should be read by anyone interested in the strip-book publishing business, but the best thing about it is that Thornton lobs numbers at the article's writer.

Thus we learn:
* Andrews McMeel feels the book may be slightly underpriced at $150 because of the cost involved in its production.
* First three weeks on BookScan shows unit sales of 34,329.
* A 250,000-copy print run is confirmed.
* The print run had to be set in December 2004 because a commitment to the paper needs was required at that time.
* Many details about the physical materials that went into that initial print run.
* Total sales of The Complete Far Side: 326,000 copies.

Wanted: more angry CEOs.
posted 6:19 am PST | Permalink

Michael Killian, 1939-2005

Michael Killian, the longtime Chicago Tribune staffer and prolific novelist who had been writing the adventures of Dick Tracy, has passed away at age 66. Both a wire report and a sometimes accessible Tribune article note his passing. He had been sick for over a year. Despite his illness, the writer continued to work and prepared Tracy scripts for collaborator artist Dick Locher through January of '06. He wrote 24 novels on a variety of subjects, including mystery stories from different historical periods. As a journalist, he was best known for the breadth of his coverage areas, including humor and political writing. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
posted 5:48 am PST | Permalink

La Mano’s Zak Sally Quits Low


Pitchfork Media reports that Zak Sally has left the band Low to concentrate on his own work, including his comics-related efforts. This is good news twice over for comics fans, because not only is Sally a skilled cartoonist whose latest issue of Recidivist is one of the more compelling books of a crowded Fall season, but his La Mano imprint is one of comics' most promising boutique publishers, including the new, primary home for the great John Porcellino. At least one related article notes that Sally had also left the band in 2003, and Sally in his statement holds out hope for future musical collaborations with the members. Click-through the nicked picture for a solid interview with Sally about his work in comics.
posted 5:45 am PST | Permalink

Marvel Releases Stephen King Story

Marvel finally releases its Stephen King is writing a book for us story. Since I found Marvel's strange passive-aggressive strategy concerning news of this project more interesting than the project itself, I'm not really sure what to say. I still find the press release a bit coy. The word "adapted" will probably concern some readers despite other more straight-forward statements about King's contribution. Where and how this ties into the prose series could be the kind of difference that shows up in an extra zero on the end, so some hedging about that is expected. In a way, the only bigger news of this kind would by J.K. Rowling shifting one of her canonical books into graphic novel form, although it's the details in its execution that are going to make the difference in how well it goes over.
posted 5:40 am PST | Permalink

Lurie May Quit Cartooning Altogether


The cartoonist and painter Ranan Lurie tells Editor & Publisher that if he returns to making cartoons after his recent sabbatical it will be multi-media work, comparing the print cartoon to horse and buggy technology. To emphasize that stepping away for other opportunities like the recent UN painting project would come at a certain cost, the article reveals that Lurie enjoyed a four-figure international syndication profile for his cartoons.
posted 5:30 am PST | Permalink

Todd McFarlane GoH at NYCC

Todd McFarlane was named Guest of Honor for next Feburary's inaugural New York Comic-Con, to be run by Reed Exhibitions. McFarlane will also enjoy an art exhibit organized by the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. The guest list for this show promises a pretty interesting time, although it should be interesting to see how the Reed culture of industry-driven shows works in the context of comics' cultural tradition of flea-market shows, if that makes any sense.
posted 5:28 am PST | Permalink

Cartoonist Ashes Dispute Continues

A regional media source reports the ashes of cartoonist OV Vijayan still haven't been scattered because of a family dispute. I think there should be some sort of rule where if this can't be decided after six months, they go into the ink of one of your comics whether you wanted them to or not.
posted 5:24 am PST | Permalink

Doonesbury Pulls Week of Miers Strips

One of the things we failed to note the other day about Doonesbury is that the strip sometimes receives special dispensation to deal with breaking news on a tighter deadline than most strips, or at least as close to deadline as can be extended for a comic strip. This also cuts both ways, as Editor and Publisher reports Trudeau lost next week's strips as they were Harriet Miers-oriented, Miers having withdrawn her Supreme Court nomination this week.

Update: Bart Beaty has alerted me that these strips have been posted.
posted 5:21 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Hibbs on Marvel Suit Outcome

Comix Experience's Brian Hibbs speaks to about the long, convoluted path that led from the beginning of the class action suit he led against Marvel to the final outcome of credit on invoices due next week. It's a good snapshot of where Hibbs stands on the issues -- there's a great exchange where Hibbs basically says that companies should live up to their business obligations rather than be expected to provide paternalistic care for their retailers -- and the retailer makes a good point about the effectiveness of a class-action suit in this case in order to minimize overall legal costs.
posted 5:14 am PST | Permalink

Image Comics Re-Launches Web Site

I'm pulling this out of the quick links section to note this as part of Image Comics' ongoing attempt to re-establish themselves as a more significant force in the marketplace.
posted 5:07 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
TCJ Nominated for UTNE Award
Viz Names Barber SVP and General Counsel
Ault's Blondie Collection on Display at UF
The Stranger on Thompson Vs. Penny Arcade
Mandela Comic to Move 1.5 Million Copies
Exhibiting Cartoonist Profile: Matt Feazell
Local Comics-Friendly Librarian Profile: Robin Brenner
Spurgeon Admits: "I'm Fat"

October 27, 2005

Mike Luckovich’s “Why” Draws Attention


With the bulk of media flowing through TV now, and the cutting edge soldily working the on-line frontier, some feel the editorial cartoon's last remaining weapon is the Moment of Indelible Memory -- a summary statement on an issue that makes the issue and the cartoon memorable. Although I suspect the perpetual news cycle may help thwart the effectiveness of that strategy as well, Mike Luckovich's cartoon with 2000 dead soldiers' names certainly puts the principle on display. Here's an Editor & Publisher piece, the original discussion on the cartoonist's site, and a follow-up including the cartoonist's statement.
posted 8:04 am PST | Permalink

King’s Marvel Book Part of Series?

I hear Marvel has been somewhat coy about its one-word "King" announcement at last summer's San Diego Con. I'm not sure why this is a good idea beyond extending the number of speculative articles; if it ends up being something other than "Stephen King will write something for us," I can't see how the original teaser could be viewed as anything other than a display of contempt for the kind of fans who follow those things. Anyway, this article seems to say that the popular author writing for the company is exactly what Marvel meant. The more interesting part is the statement that the graphic novel would also serve as the next book in King's current Dark Tower fantasy series.

Update: E-mail tells me it's a prequel, which is slightly less interesting. And apparently, Publisher's Weekly confirms.
posted 7:52 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Manga’s Role in Europe


Bloomberg uses the strident satirical treatment of manga in the latest Asterix volume to provide a snapshot of manga's place in the overall European comics market.
posted 7:47 am PST | Permalink

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