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

December 31, 2006

CR Sunday Magazine

Seven For 2007: Make Seven Wishes for Next Year


.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) in saying goodbye to 2006 by send in your few wishes for the New Year. No need to do as many as seven; I'd love to publish whatever you're thinking.

My Wishes For The Coming Year:

1. A return to printed comics for Al Columbia, building on the last few month's of creative activity at
2. That Paul Karasik's book about Fletcher Hanks is at least half as awesome as the book by Paul Karasik on Fletcher Hanks I can imagine in my head.
3. Nobody dies this year because of a stupid cartoon.
4. A return to print for the greatest comic that people have the hardest time believing is a great comic before they read it: Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie.
5. A book deal for Barnaby.
6. A just and happy ending to the Gordon Lee case.
7. A better distribution deal for Fanfare/Ponent Mon, who might as well be dropping their books from planes.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Go, Look: Insekt



Five Link A Go Go

* classic link: some Jack Davis monster art

* go, explore: Michael Kupperman cartoons on YouTube

* go look at Andrei Molotiu's blot comics

* which cartoonists have their papers and effects at Syracuse University?

* go, look: Gerry Alanguilan's latest blog


Go, Look: Khalil Abu Arafeh



Go, Look: Vera Brosgol



First Thought Of The Day
There aren't a lot of famous people named "Chad."
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December 30, 2006

Happy 50th Birthday, Steve Rude!

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Happy 45th Birthday, Fabian Nicieza!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Julie Doucet!

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CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from December 23 to December 29, 2006:

1. Advanced Marketing Services files Chapter 11 after Wells Fargo refused to extend funding past December 28. AMS bought Publishers Group West in 2003. They promise no interruptions in service; list of publishers here.

2. Fantagraphics makes available the latest motion in the legal action instigated by Harlan Ellison earlier this year.

3. Series of government censures or government-sponsored harassment that began with exploration of Danish Cartoons Controversy may end in paper's closure.

Winners Of The Week
The comics named as best of the year by various critics and reviewers.

Loser Of The Week
Marvel, perhaps. Although it's sort of a "you may not rule the universe as much as everyone thinks you're going to rule the universe and deep down if we haven't said so in a while we do still love you for what you are" critique, as it's coming from Motley Fool, Chester the Terrier to Marvel's Spike the Bulldog, people paid attention.

Quote Of The Week
"Comics are a medium, not a fad. Fads die. Mediums rarely do." -- Chicago Comics Manager Eric Thornton.

you know you're a serious masher when the local 80-year-olds recognize the back of your head
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December 29, 2006

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Collective Memory: Best of 2006

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Renee French Keeps Sending Me Art









The first three are to be split between two planned 2007 Renee French publications: a book called Micrographica, I believe to be published by Top Shelf, and a planned portraits book to be released through Sparkplug Comic Books. The fourth is just a photo of some celery.
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Latest Fantagraphics Reply To Ellison

At Journalista, Dirk Deppey points readers to the defense's response to the plaintiff's response to the defense's motion to strike in the Harlan Ellison vs. Fantagraphics legal action. It amounts to a somewhat testier restatement of the defense's initial motion with some specific counter-arguments to Ellison's response.

Discussion of the suit, complete with competing definitions of "dilettante," continues at The Comics Journal Message Board. Of particular interest are attorney Kevin Greenlee's thoughts on the suit, including this meditation on the nature of malice.

A hearing on the defense's motion to strike is scheduled for Feb. 18.

This entry was written and placed by David P. Welsh as a favor to this site, without editorial intrusion.
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December 28, 2006

Happy 46th Birthday, Jay Geldhof!

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CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

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Holiday Interviews #8—Jamie S. Rich

Jamie S. Rich is one of those people in comics who's been around the industry for just about the same length of time I've been around comics, but through accidents of parallel focus and divergent interests we've never ended up talking to one another. A prominent editor at first Dark Horse and then Oni Press, Rich left what looked like a career that could have lasted the span of his adult life to take on the more solitary path of a prose and comics writer, first finishing up a novel Cut My Hair. That first work is now the initial release in a planned, eventual trilogy.

Rich has also written comics. His latest works in that medium are the series Love the Way You Love, with Marc Ellerby, and the original graphic novel 12 Reasons Why I Love Her with Joelle Jones. The latter is an archly constructed breakdown of a relationship that if you've read it will make you think "Oh, of course" when Rich brings up the Albert Finney/Audrey Hepburn film Two For the Road as a kind of spiritual forefather. Rich also wrote the most formally sophisticated short story to appear in the anthology Four Letter Worlds earlier this year, "F For Fake."

As I admit below, I'm probably reading Rich's comics from a slightly different perspective than most of his intended audience, and I appreciate the up front manner in which he answered questions from someone who sees as many potential roadblocks as on-ramps in his chosen areas of creative exploration. I think it's likely there will be a lot more writers like Rich in the future, suspended between prose and comics, pursuing both fields without hiding one from the other, and I was happy to get to talk to him. He sure knows how to meet a deadline.


TOM SPURGEON: Jamie, can you give us an idea of how your professional time breaks down? I know about your comics work and your novels, but is there other writing that you do, or another profession you have?

JAMIE S. RICH: I've been a freelancer writer exclusively since August, having left a part-time retail job. In addition to my own stuff, I work on the English scripts for manga and manwha, polishing translations for Tokyopop and Ice Kunion. I've also been writing articles for Shojo Beat and DVD and movie reviews for

Right now, I've got a pretty good handle on balancing my time. I work five or six days a week, sometimes straight through, but I move around my work schedule as movie screenings and other things require. I tend to stay up until 3 or 4:00 in the morning, and I get up by 11:00, answer e-mails, exercise, and then get to work as the muse strikes. I tend to work on the foreign comics the first couple of days of the week, either Sunday and Monday or Monday and Tuesday. Then I use the end of the week to write my comics or my prose, squeezing in my other writing, including my blogging, as needed. The schedule for my own stuff is far less dictatorial than my money work. I coordinate the comics with James Lucas Jones at Oni and the artists, and my prose is usually up to me. I'm pretty dedicated, so I get a lot done.

SPURGEON: People talk about working in the comics industry as more of a final destination than as something you might do at one time and continue on from... are there skills and experiences you developed during your time at Dark Horse and Oni that you continue to draw on today?

RICH: Well, as an editor, the most important thing I picked up was a healthy respect for deadlines. Deadlines are my best friends. I like the pressure, and I like that there is a finish line. Otherwise, I can run around in circles on something forever.

I also have a very practical knowledge of what it takes to get a comic book out. This can be good or bad for my editors and publishers. In some ways, I know what is possible and so don't demand too much, and in others, I know what is possible and know when I am getting too little. James has it particularly bad because he used to be my assistant, and so I know how he works and he knows he can't slip anything by me.

Sometimes I wish I had left editing sooner, because I really wanted to get going on the writing a long time ago, but I think the editing experience ended up being invaluable just for what I sucked up in terms of storytelling. I spent ten years watching over stories as they were being put together, and you can't help but absorbing the process. I tend to work on my instincts, so I'd like to think I walked away with a knack for knowing what fits on a comic book page, and what you can squeeze in from the front cover to the back.

SPURGEON: Can you talk a little bit about how Portland has changed as a comics town in the last ten years? It seems incredible to me how many cartoonists have moved there. Are there changes that you have noticed? Or does the number of cartoonists you could lay your hands on in a 24-hour period more just the answer to a trivia question than something that has an impact on anything?

RICH: I'm not sure it's changed all that much, except it makes our parties bigger when we do end up hanging out as one big group. I arrived in 1994, and even then, comics people congregated in their little pockets. Like any society, it has its cliques, and we keep to ourselves. I'm actually one of the worst for socializing. There are people I only see at San Diego every year, and we live in the same city, work in the same profession. Even back at Dark Horse, I was that way. I had my life at the office, and then I had what I did when I left, and I often kept those things separate.

Probably the biggest changes have been the introduction of Top Shelf and Oni Press to the community; the creation of the small press workshop through Reading Frenzy, a sort of legendary 'zine store; and the formation of Mercury Studio. The first made it so that the entire community wasn't just some fluky thing that revolved around Dark Horse, and the workshop put comics into the broader-based DIY artistic community that kind of defines Portland. The guys at Mercury showed that Portland isn't just a place for the crazy indies, but that there are a lot of mainstream artists here, as well. Plus, with Colleen Coover, Steve Lieber, and Jeff Parker as members, they also bridge that gap between indies and the "Big Boys."

The funny thing is, it's far more noticeable to people who don't live here than Portland itself. It's still just as hard to get any attention in this 'burg for doing comics. We've always had one or two champions at the various press venues throughout the years, but most of the papers are still obsessed with all the rock bands that play in our dingy clubs. From my experience, the only thing harder than comics to get press for in Portland is prose literature, so there are times when I feel doubly screwed. We're almost like this secret minority, an underground society. When I tell people I work in comics, they get this weird look in their eye and say, "Oh, I hear there are a lot of you." It's really strange, and unless you're Brian Bendis or Greg Rucka and you happen to wander into a store where a fanboy works, it's an anonymous artistic lifestyle.

SPURGEON: Do you have role models in comics? Who? How about writing?

RICH: Matt Wagner and Mike Allred have always been my heroes, because they are both true mavericks. You never hear them talking about jobs they took because they had to, everything they do is because they want to. Matt I look at for the sensible approach. He has a clear sense of his career and maintains a forward momentum and is very smart about it. Mike is more of a wild card. You don't tell Mike he can't do something, because he'll make you eat your words. Both have been very successful doing their own things, and they both have a bibliography that shows a lot of variety. I was fortunate enough to become friends with both of them when I got to town -- and particularly Matt, who I was already a fan of and Grendel was directly responsible for me getting a job in the industry. Mike was a discovery after I arrived.

As far as writing, currently, I don't have any contemporary authors who I am following. I am woefully ignorant of what is popular now. I'm pretty out of step with what is going on, and for all the comparisons I get to Nick Hornby, I actually had completed my first book, Cut My Hair, before I'd ever read High Fidelity. I'd be much happier being mentioned in the same breath as F. Scott Fitzgerald and other classic authors, really. And over the past couple of years, film has been a much heavier influence on my work than anything. Perhaps it's the marrying of forms, somehow the middle between words and pictures, but it's mostly just time and what can be digested. If there is any contemporary auteur I wish I could be, it's Wong Kar-Wai. I'm fascinated by how he puts a narrative together. I feel he makes movies like a novelist, and I want to learn to write novels like he makes movies.

SPURGEON: Do you feel part of a Portland writing tradition or community? Is there a Portland writing tradition or community? Do you know of other people in roughly your age group pursuing similar goals?

RICH: Not at all, actually. I know there are a lot of writers in town, but I really know hardly any of them. My work on some of the alternative weeklies put me in contact with Kevin Sampsell, for instance, who published Sarah Grace McCandless back when she was in the marketing department at Dark Horse, and that was really the extent of it. Matt Wagner and I did the graphic novel panel at Wordstock this year, which is a new literary festival in town, and I think we were almost seen as this kind of oddity. The author who introduced us, Marc Acito, was really fascinated by what we were doing, and from there I ended up seeing Marc everywhere I went, and I thought maybe I had unlocked the door to this secret world of writers, but no such luck.

In all honesty, that's probably my fault. I'm just not social. I've been going to press screenings of movies for months now, and I've never talked to any of the other critics except David Walker, who I already knew. I quietly sneak in, and quietly sneak out, and there's a perverse part of me that has turned it into a kind of game. How long can I go with no one knowing who I am? So, there are probably people out there who are in line with what I do, but I've never actively sought them out. When it comes to career advice and similar goals, I actually turn to musician friends, as they tend to have a very realistic viewpoint of art vs. big business.

SPURGEON: You have a visible net presence, one that's recognizable as a writer with a certain amount of work on your plate and in your past. As a public author, is there any danger that effort put assuming that role can have in changing the act of writing, or even crowd out the time and devotion and distance one needs to write? How do you stay productive?

RICH: Well, I've scaled back my net presence since I left Oni, where I felt it was more required of me to be a public face for the company. Even then, though, when people thought I was spending a lot of time online, they weren't really aware of how fast I worked at such things. I don't linger on a message board post, I just go with it. To keep it from getting out of hand, I also have rules about my engagement with other people online. You can fall down deep dark holes of circular arguments, and I learned you had to be ready to get out rather than drown.

A lot of my online stuff, particularly blog posts, come as warm-ups. If you look at posting times, it's often in the morning or the late evening. Most of the artists I know sketch before they start working on a comic book page, and so if I write something for my blog, it's like sketching. It's getting the fingers warmed up, the mind working. If I go for days without posting, then you know I'm particularly busy, because I will avoid the computer. I'll even go work in coffee shops without wifi connections so I can meet a deadline. For the more social interaction of the Internet, it's just like socializing in real life. As a freelancer, you have to be prepared to police yourself and say, "No, I can't go do that, I can't hang out today, I've got to work." I've waited all my life to do what I'm doing, so I'm not going to screw it up.

As far as how it might affect the writing itself, again, I have to point at my talent for compartmentalizing. I'm very aware of what I am letting out online, of what I might be using. My work is seen as very personal, and I have a pretty hard time keeping myself on one side of the line and my fiction on the other. Part of it is I like to tweak perceptions and tease my reader with certain aspects of me vs. my characters; part of it is just the nature of my passions when it comes to storytelling. I don't write about most of my life on my blog because that way anything that happens to me is still mine, and thus still fodder for stories if I need it while still giving me plausible deniability.

SPURGEON: Are you still rewriting manga? What have you learned about comics through that particular assignment?

RICH: Again, a lot of it is osmosis. By going through a comic page by page, balloon by balloon, the mechanics of it start to seep through. I think it's changed how I approached a page, and I've definitely found inspiration in some of the stories I want to tell. The ongoing soap opera element was a big influence on Love the Way You Love, for instance.

Otherwise, I look at it like working out. Because I've done many different genres, from horror to romantic comedy to fantasy, I feel like I've gotten my exercise in a lot of different writing styles. Each manga or manwha is like a specific kind of aerobic activity, the writing zeros in on some particular muscle sets, and I walk away with a more facile understanding of how to work a line of dialog.

SPURGEON: Can you make a case for comics as a medium in which to do romance stories? I was thinking about romance as a comics genre and it was a real latecomer, with very blunt financial goals, and it's since built an aesthetic history that's not exactly up there with comics' history with humor work, say. What do you find that comics does well that suits romance? Or is a medium more of a blank slate with you?

RICH: It's kind of a blank slate. My knowledge of the history of romance comics is practically zilch, and for me, the first elements of the genre I would have seen would have been the ongoing affairs in [Chris] Claremont's X-Men and then Los Bros Hernandez. Claremont in particular had a lot in common with daytime television soap operas, in that both things take their sweet time getting where they are going. I was watching Days of Our Lives at a girlfriend's house in high school, and I took some time off from it when I went to college. When I'd go home on vacation and see new episodes, I'd be shocked that the characters and story lines were all in the same exact place. It was designed so that you could come and go and never be lost.

I stopped reading X-Men around the same time, and I only returned when Steven T. Seagle, a guy I hugely admire, and Chris Bachalo took over, and it was like, everything was exactly as I remembered it. My guess is that Claremont got that element from manga more than Days of Our Lives, as manga is really good at that, too. So, I would suppose that for ongoing series, you have a venue where people are ready to invest a lot of time into the story.

Or, on the flip, if you want to do something complete and quick, then original graphic novels allow you to work in a structure similar to classic romantic films. 12 Reasons Why I Love Her is very much like that. In prose, the story would be kind of light, but for a movie or a graphic novel, you can have a couple meet, fall in love, and go through the whole arc of their relationship in a very digestible time frame. There is actually a part in the 12 Reasons script where I lament how much luckier filmmakers are because they have the montage, and comics don't quite have the same tools for quickly glossing over a specific expanse of time. We went for it in 12 Reasons, in that first date at the restaurant in Reason 1, but it was a little tricky.

In truth, I think the comics community is still getting educated in romance. I remember back when I was editing Cheat by Christine Norrie, some people felt the story didn't bring anything new to the genre, and I felt like it did in that there isn't much to compare it to in comic books. I felt the same way about what Blankets did for coming of age stories in comics. We need to lay the groundwork for these genres that haven't traditionally been part of the sequential medium, and in that sense, we may have to tell some stories that might be considered conventional if done in a different format. Arguably, romance comics can work very well because comic books seduce through image and words, and most people are turned on by what they see and by what they hear. I think a beautifully executed drawing of the back of a man's hand brushing across a woman's cheek is a million times more effective than a drawing of a sock in the jaw. If you look at someone like Joelle Jones, she draws very sexy, and she can alter her line to make you feel a certain way. If you look at Reason 8 in our book, it's an extremely intimate sequence, composed entirely of tight shots and a sketchy, almost hazy look to how our lead female is drawn. It's very seductive, and I think for most readers, the point in the book where they know for sure they are in love with Gwen. That use of line, no other art form can compare.


SPURGEON: Can I ask how you and Andi Watson worked on your story "True" in Four Letter Worlds? Your short story is very wordy, but also formally ambitious, lurching back and forth between spoken presentation and dramatic scene work, an essay in comics form. Can you talk about any story models from which you were working?

RICH: I would say the only real influence was Bendis' Fortune & Glory, the conversational tone and the presentation of himself as a talking character. I suppose that has its roots in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, too. In a way, I am sure John Cusack's performance in High Fidelity also had an impact, and maybe a little bit of Amelie, but really, it was Bendis and the way he could use an abstract, cartoony world to get his anecdotes across.

I don't recall if Andi was already signed on to do the story before I wrote it. I would say probably, because if it hadn't been Andi, it would have been Chynna Clugston, and she was already in the anthology. It was a good choice either way, because I knew Andi's stuff intimately and knew he could handle wordy pages. I know the actual writing was just one of those things that happened and I stepped back from it utterly baffled by how I had pulled it off. I only had the germ of the idea, maybe the word "True" and that I would have to somehow tie it into fate, and the story about lying about my middle name. I was out for a walk, probably with headphones on, and it just started to run through my head. Before I knew it, I had written the whole thing and had to rush home before I lost it.

It's a frustrating thing, because usually the space between your brain and your hands dilutes everything, but in this case, it poured out exactly as I wanted, fully formed, and we tweaked very little of it. Andi was incredible because he was always able to take my descriptions a few extra steps forward and improve on them, and he made it all seem very manageable. He recently did that again for two pages we did for Usagi Yojimbo #100. I turned in a so-so script to Diana Schutz, kind of feeling too constrained in the short space, and Andi took a decent anecdote and made it sing.

I've really wanted to do more stories like that "True," but I've never really found the venue for it. I've done some other anthology work, but it's been more straightforward. I really owe Eric Stephenson at Image for inviting me into his whacky idea and just turning me loose. "True" is one of my favorite things I've done.


SPURGEON: How did you and Joelle stage the shorts that comprise 12 Reasons? I'm interested in how you keep a level of visual interest going in a story that's driven by dialog and body language.

RICH: I was very conscious of the fact that I could end up boring my artist by not keeping her challenged, and as a result, we'd bore our reader. The phrase "talking heads" is a pejorative in sequential art, and I know that's what I write. I often write scenes in my comics as just dialog and then break it down into panels and pages. So, here I had largely a two-person story and it takes place in a handful of places, because for my money, the important parts of relationships take place in confined spaces. Part of the original concept was that some of the reasons would be more abstract and less narrative-based, like Gwen describing the seasons. So, that helped there, because we had short chapters that would be visually different by their very design. Other times, as I wrote, I just thought about how I could keep them moving. Could there be action in the background, for instance, or could we bring some of the abstract elements into the more straightforward scenes. That was how we got Gwen walking across treacherous rocks when she has to make a delicate explanation in Reason 11. I also thought about times when I just needed to get information out, and that's when I borrowed from Bendis again. A full-page illustration with a bunch of balloons can work wonders for getting over a conversation hump.

There are times, too, when I had to be secure enough to say, "You're better than this than I am, so here are five panels where I have only dialogue and hardly any description." The fight in the taxi cab in Reason 1 was like that. I let Joelle move the camera. I think, too, Joelle wanted to keep herself interested, so she'd toss in little touches, like when Gwen plays with the pen in Reason 2, pulling its cap off and looking inside. The people were alive for us, so it was just a matter of letting them be themselves.

SPURGEON: For that matter, can you talk about how you work in general if it hasn't come up in your answers to the previous questions? Do you do full script? How much back and forth do you seek with artists at various stages? How much tweaking do you do in the process of getting the story onto paper in its final form?

RICH: I tend to work in full scripts, though I will take various routes to getting a page laid out. 12 Reasons was almost the easiest because I wrote one chunk at a time, solved its particular problems, and that was that. Like I said, sometimes I'll write the conversations before the action, just because that's what comes easiest for me, and conversation is the backbone of so much of what I do. If I'm having a hard time, I'll sketch out thumbnails and troubleshoot that way. They are ridiculous looking drawings, and I never show them to the artist, but I can type off of them and get what I need.

In the early stages of my relationships with both Joelle Jones and Marc Ellerby on Love the Way You Love, I was far more specific about what I wanted to see because I didn't really know yet where we'd fit. After working with both of them, I was able to loosen up and leave space for them to work. I know what they are capable of and what they can bring to the table, and when their skill outweighs mine, no sense in forcing them down to my level. Neither have challenged me very much when it has come to story points, but they know they can. Plus, I think Marc in particular knows that I have a bad memory for what I write and he can just go ahead and change it and I'll think I wrote it that way. With Marc, I also changed the pace of the story to bring in some elements I know he particularly wanted to draw in a time frame that would suit his commitment to the book.

imageJoelle's influence on me can't be overstated. We have formed a true collaboration. This summer, I should be publishing my novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, and when I do, I'll be at a point for the first time in nearly two decades where I don't know what comes next for me, particularly in prose. I'll have achieved all my goals I left Oni to do. All I know is that Joelle and I have several ideas we are working with, things that have largely come out of her telling me what she would want to do. Our next graphic novel, You Have Killed Me, came about like that. 12 Reasons was going so well, I think we had only been working on it a couple of months, but I didn't want to lose her to anyone else, so I asked her if she would work with me again and what she would want to do, I'd write her anything. She said she wanted to do hardboiled crime, and since I had the same passion for it she did, I jumped at it, even though it scared me because it was so different from what I'm known for. She's challenging me in incredible ways I would never challenge myelf.

I should note, I always feel bad for Marc Ellerby, because I answer something like this and it almost feels like I'm minimizing our relationship. I have great affection for Marc and think he's going on to great things... but I've always known he was going on. I'd love to work with him again, so much so that I've even expressed my willingness to help him on his own books. For those who know how little I want to do with editing anymore, you'll know that's not an offer I make lately. Marc also lives in England, as opposed to three blocks from me, so it's not like we can go drinking together! If he wanted me to write him him again, I would in a heartbeat.

SPURGEON: I was interested when reading some reviews of your work that people pointed to its realism, when my general reaction to 12 Reasons was that it was more of a really stylized fantasy, these very stage-like conversations, and idealized figures and even the whole practice of looking back and naming songs and all that. Do you feel your work is rigorously realistic or working out of stylized idealism or both or neither? Working in a romance, are you obligated to balance these features?

RICH: You know, I felt a lot of the negative reviews of 12 Reasons took it way too seriously, and maybe some of the positive ones, too. One review basically dismissed the book as autobio, and my only response was, "I wish! If only my life were that interesting!" I think you're very right in that there is a balance. I think the situations are realistic, but the characters talk with style and they move within the structure of the story. I am not scared of dialog that sounds like dialog, or in stories with events that bend in ways stories are supposed to bend. My goal is to wrap you up in what's happening so you just go with it and it works for you. Most storytelling that I see labeled as "real" is so very not real. Life is sloppy, people speak poorly, and if you were to capture it as it really is, no one would want to see it. Reality needs to be edited. 12 Reasons is very calculated to create an emotional response. All of my work is. Even the novels have surreal moments and flights of fancy. So, yeah, I think you're pretty much on the money.


SPURGEON: A theater director in Chicago once told me that every male playwright writes two plays they're better off not producing: one about his first love and one about the group of friends with whom he grew up. He said it's too difficult to have any perspective when it comes to those things, and the danger is finding yourself at the mercy of those emotions, or simply wanting to relive the experience, than being able to say something of value and interest about them. As you're getting older, how do you avoid the trap of writing a young man's work over and over again?

RICH: That's kind of the crossroads I'm at right now. I've tended to stay several years ahead of all of my characters. Cut My Hair was written in my 20s but is about a guy who is 18, and I started The Everlasting when I was 28 and it's a novel about being 25. The fantasy element is definitely a part of it. If I borrow something from my own life, then I get a chance to rewrite it, but more important than what happened to me, I listen to other people. I watch what friends go through in relationships and I draw from that. I look at how people behave toward one another, that's what fascinates me. If 12 Reasons were about a real love of my own, it couldn't be as sweet and tidy as it is. Some of it gets mean, but I've never been in a situation where we are that good to one another.

Perhaps why Joelle is helping me now is encouraging my branching out into other genres, giving me places to explore while I figure out what I have to say about being in my mid-30s and beyond. One of the graphic novels we may do after You Have Killed Me takes me back to relationships, but in a darker way. It's still got fantasy elements, but it's much more in shadow, and it will probably be more erotic. Most of my work I have seen in terms of pop songs, and this book would be in darker hues. It would actually be taking me closer to realizing my Wong Kar-Wai ambitions. Setting the stage for Joelle to do her thing is also releasing me from myself. I've had plenty of ideas I've had to reject because I think, "Well, I did that." When I write for her, I write as a fan who is coming up with the things I want to see her draw.

SPURGEON: Can you talk about the ending to 12 Reasons? Because on the one hand, I can recognize the time-honored tradition of ending with the beginning, a method that allows you to kind of reconsider and drink in the entirety of what's being depicted. On the other hand, did you feel like there was any danger in making that the exclamation point, kind of reducing the more complex aspects of the relationship as secondary to the thrill and rush of meeting someone new?

RICH: I think in retrospect, that has happened to a degree, that people have not lingered on some of the finer story points. I've joked that the end is like a new test of optimism vs. pessimism, and whether you think the couple is still together or not is the indicator of whether you're a glass half-empty or glass half-full kind of person. For the most part, though, it has worked because I really did want people to walk away with that initial blush, with the feeling of endless possibilities. Regardless of what came after, this is where you began and the feelings felt were important. It's my love for Stanley Donen's film Two for the Road coming through. For whatever downside, it also helps sidestep some pitfalls of cliche. Had I ended on Reason 11, the big fight, then the book would have been about a relationship dissolving, rather than just about a relationship in all of its facets. Had I ended on a big reconciliation or a wedding or something, then it would have run the risk of being treacle with a big orchestral flourish that no one really believed.

My hope is that people will finish 12 Reasons and like the two people they met and be glad they met them, and that some of what they witnessed as readers will stay with them so they'll go back and look at it all again, see how different pieces fit, and find more there. When reviewers focus on the realism in the book, it's that aspect that I appreciate them pointing out, the breadth of the narrative. It may be idealized, but that doesn't mean we chickened out when it came to the fact that there is a downside to love. If you really love someone, it's for all the things about them that strike you, good or bad. And I like that the point of view character, Evan, is not only honest about Gwen's faults, but he's even more honest about his own.

SPURGEON: Ideally, where would you like to be career-wise in ten years?

RICH: Getting by comfortably doing what I want to do. I like the swimming pool I've dug for myself, and I hope I'll be able to keep splashing around in it. If I can make enough scratch to get me a little cabin somewhere that I can just go and hide and be alone with the cat, that would be pretty swell, too.

SPURGEON: How are you enjoying the holidays?

RICH: It's pretty much over for me, thank God. This time of year really gets under my skin. People making asses of themselves and going into debt for the privilege, that's my idea of a good time! Christmas itself was pretty nice. I didn't do any work, just lay around and watched the complete UK The Office, and then wandered over to Joelle's for mimosas and omelets. In a gesture of holiday good will, her very mean cat even sat on my lap. The first time ever! It's enough to make even a Grinch like me restore happiness to Whoville.


* photo by Whit Spurgeon, 2003
* panel from 12 Reasons
* cover to Cut My Hair
* page from "F For Fake" that shows off the wordiness and switches in presentational tone, trimmed slightly to make the text pop a little when reprinted here
* page from 12 Reasons that gives you an idea of how you switch perspectives to keep up visual interest
* cover to prose book #2 of 3, The Everlasting
* Marc Ellerby art from Love the Way You Love, featuring that most youthful of settings, the club show


Jamie S. Rich's Personal Web Site
Oni Press

Cut My Hair
The Everlasting
12 Reasons Why I Love Her
Four Letter Worlds
Love the Way You Love

posted 2:21 am PST | Permalink

December 27, 2006

Happy 84th Birthday, Stan Lee!

posted 8:04 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 39th Birthday, Chris Ware!

posted 8:02 pm PST | Permalink

CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink

Holiday Interviews #7: Todd Hignite, Ivan Brunetti, Eric Kirsammer, Eric Thornton


A Night At Chicago Comics
Words By Tom Spurgeon
Photos By Whit Spurgeon

I live in a quiet, rural town of approximately 9000, nearly two hours away from the most rudimentary comic book shop. As chance would have it, a short trip to Chicago happened to coincide with a signing by Comic Art Editor Todd Hignite and cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, in support of In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists and An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, respectively, both from Yale University Press. This was cool because for my usual slip into another city's comic book shop I would get to go to one of my favorites, Chicago Comics. I would also get to see both Todd and Ivan, and perhaps see some people I hadn't run into in quite some time. I could even drag my brother along to take photos.

imageI had a great time. Ivan and Todd were there and both were in a good mood. I ran into a few people I knew in comics that were out to support the signing. Josh Cotter, of the AdHouse series Skyscrapers of the Midwest had just moved into town a couple of months ago. He reported he enjoyed Chicago very much when compared to the Missouri town in which he'd previously been living. Cotter plans one more issue of Skyscrapers before bringing that series to a close and doing a collection.

imageI got to meet the artist Gary Gianni, currently doing Prince Valiant for King Features. He was extremely affable, and I found out he was a Chicago native, I believe recently returned. I also got to see Eric Kirsammer, who took a break from domestic duties to make a rare appearance at one of his stores (he also owns Quimby's). I hadn't seen Eric in about five years. When I lived in Chicago, my main store was the late Halley's Comix, but I also shopped in Chicago Comics and certainly it's been my stop of choice -- along with the more recently passed away legendary hole-in-the-wall Larry's on Devon -- in all visits since leaving grad school.

Chicago's an odd city when it comes to comics. Devil's Due is there, but that's about it for semi-major comics companies since First closed down years and years ago. As for a scene, Dan Clowes and Jessica Abel no longer live anywhere near there and other equally well-known Chicago cartoonists are in the suburbs. Still, a younger generation is beginning to make their presence felt: people like Cotter, Anders Nilsen and Jeffrey Brown. Standing around Chicago Comics I felt what I felt whenever I go to something in Chicago -- it may be the most blessed arts city in America for having both artists and an audience for art, as opposed to artists and an audience of other artists. All hail the City of Big Shoulders, the Bruiser by the Lake.


A Brief Talk With Todd Hignite

TOM SPURGEON: Tell me about the re-launch of Comic Art this past summer. How was the reaction to your new issue; was there anything that surprised you?

TODD HIGNITE: What I hear -- mostly from Alvin [Buenaventura, the magazine's new publisher] -- is positive. I think people appreciate what it's become. Although I occasionally get nice emails from readers, for the most part I hear directly only from those people whose opinions I value since we're close on a personal and/or professional level. I don't read blogs very much or message boards at all... sometimes I read reviews if someone tells me that I should. I get confused if I listen to many other voices other than those of folks whose work I respect, if I begin paying too much attention to comics gabbing, which is rife with the most willfully superficial misinterpretations, ulterior motives, and wrongheaded dichotomies presented as cleverly articulated, eternal truths.

SPURGEON: How much PR have you been able to do in support of In the Studio?

HIGNITE: A number of email interviews, a few talk interviews, a couple of book signings, and a podcast.

SPURGEON: What can you tell us about how the cartoonists featured felt about the way In The Studio turned out? Is everyone happy?

HIGNITE: I got some very heartening, well thought out comments that honestly made life worth living. I hope I didn't let anyone down. They trusted me, obviously, and I gave it my all. I'm really proud of that book -- I came away with my eyes completely opened. I like the dense structure that ultimately formed, and that it rewards many different ways of reading. Connections and affinities appear in roundabout manners, and I really like the idiosyncratic story it tells. There are overlaps and detours and it strays in many directions. It's not at all a straight narrative. That was a goal of mine, as the history of comics is a lot more muddied and complex than it's been presented. I hope that while you get a richer sense of nine particular aesthetics, the past is complicated a bit as well. The artists across the board seemed very interested in the other eight chapters, and that pleased me, given the underlying conceit of the project as a whole.

SPURGEON: I know that you went to San Diego in addition to attending this signing, which is more than any of us have seen you around before. How has it been to get out in support of these projects? Do you have any interesting stories about meeting cartoonists or readers of your work? Do you plan on keeping a higher personal profile in comics from now on?

HIGNITE: It's been all right as the publicity I've taken part in has pretty much involved cartoonists I know fairly well, which makes it a lot better. It does make me feel really, really good to meet people who are genuinely given pleasure by something I've had anything to do with. I take pride in working hard on things that people value in some capacity. But I'll actually be keeping a much lower profile, if that's possible. I'll never go to San Diego again, I'm pretty sure. All I ever wanted to do was stay in my room and read comics, think about art, and do what I'm doing. I love working on books and exhibitions and putting together the magazine and seeing how it turns out each time. I'm not a distinguished conversationalist and for better or worse all I've got to offer are the finished products. Ultimately, everything comes down to the work itself and little else matters.

SPURGEON: What's it like to sit next to Ivan for two hours?

HIGNITE: Ivan's not only one of our great cartoonists -- I direct you to that last Schizo -- but, as obvious from his In the Studio chapter, he's absolutely the smartest guy in the room. I very much enjoy his gentle company.


Photos From The Signing

this is looking from right to the right of the front door and all the way back towards the end of the shop. The cash register area has people sitting behind it on the right, there.

classic signing shot for both Hignite and Brunetti. The pair were behind a glass counter. You can see Ivan's print hung up behind the pair, in front of the older back issue wall.

if I had to guess, it looked like Brunetti may have drawn more interest than Hignite, which makes sense in a lot of ways. For one thing, Brunetti had more items to purchase, some of which you can see spread out to the right of the picture.

this shot gives you a better sense of the width of the store -- Whit took it from near the opposite wall -- and it gives you a look at the size of the wall of old collector's comics. Between those comics and their sturdy back-issue island, I always thought Chicago Comcis did a pretty good job keeping some back issues on hand without the place becoming overwhelmed by them.

the thing that jumps out at me here is Chicago Comics' basic but highly functional light setup. It's weird that you don't think of the ceilings being so high, but you certainly feel the extra space.

these four seem to me pretty standard shots of two cartoonists working their audience. Ivan joked beforehand that no one there was there for the signing -- and he was right in that the place was completely packed, being the Saturday nine days before Christmas. Nonetheless, the pair had a steady stream of traffic throughout.

this is one of Ivan Brunetti's former students

it was a very polite crowd, a bit older than any remaining patronage in the store, but no one strange or otherworldly. In terms of the man/woman breakdown I'd say about a two to one ratio.


A Brief Talk With Ivan Brunetti

TOM SPURGEON: Ivan, I couldn't even remember it without your help, but you released a new issue of Schizo this year. It seemed in many ways radically different than the work that preceded it. What was the reaction like to this newer work?

IVAN BRUNETTI: Generally positive, if emails are an indicator. Sure, there was the occasional grousing I saw on various websites that shall remain nameless, but you can't please everybody. I only draw stuff to please myself, and I'm blessed with a publisher that allows me to do that. I suppose if enough people stop buying my comics, then I will not be so blessed. So be it. I would still draw the comics for my own edification, enjoyment, and/or therapy.

SPURGEON: Did anyone really in love with your older work come to you with that old "you used to be funny" line or anything like that?

BRUNETTI: Surprisingly, no. Not to my face anyway. But I'm sure people commented on it behind my back, in the world of comic-cons, message boards, blogs, and stuff like that. People that think this way probably didn't truly understand my older work, anyway, so I say GOOD RIDDANCE.

SPURGEON: Is it possible for you to briefly talk about how you went about selecting the works? Did you start with works or cartoonists, and if you started with cartoonists, how did you decide which one was the one that should be included? For instance, did you know you always wanted "Flies on the Ceiling," or did you know you wanted some Jaime Hernandez and "Flies on the Ceiling" just made sense once you thought about it?

BRUNETTI: I wrote up a proposal for Yale University Press that listed all the artists and the specific stories I wanted to include. This was back in August 2004. Of course, in the process of putting together the book, many things changed. But it's fairly close to my original vision. I probably needed 400 more pages to get it exactly perfect, but I did the best I could to include a good cross-section that felt cohesive and unified.

SPURGEON: Was there anyone excluded because you couldn't find the right work or because, say, the work you wanted> was committed elsewhere?

BRUNETTI: A couple of artists did not wish to reprint the specific stories I requested, even if I begged, so I respected their wishes. In those cases, we found an alternative that we were both happy with. In one case, the story needed to be printed with PMS colors, and we couldn't do that, so again, we found a compromise. And there was one story that had been committed to another anthology, so once again I suggested an alternative. The page count fluctuated a bit (I had gone way over what was alloted), so there were other compromises, such as my not including a lot of historical material I had originally wanted in the book. In some cases, the work was prohibitively expensive to reprint, or I couldn't get the rights in time, so that stuff ended up being cut as well. And as the book came more and more into focus, in some cases I ended up choosing stories from the artists that were different from my original proposal. I put a lot of effort into having the stories flow smoothly and interconnect. There are themes that run throughout the book. So, it was an organic process, but I had worked up a solid template to start with.

SPURGEON: Can you repeat the story about how the book got its title? You originally had another name in mind.

BRUNETTI: Yale always wanted to call the book "An Anthology of Graphic Fiction." I suggested "An Anthology of Comics," but that didn't fly. Some artists were unhappy with the term "Fiction," as they felt it mischaracterized their work (I tried apologizing for all this in the Introduction). So then I suggested "An Anthology of Fiction and Non-Fiction," which again didn't fly. (Apparently, having "Non-Fiction" in the title is not always a boost to sales.) My editor suggested the complete and exhaustive title "An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories," which pretty much covered everything. I liked it, because it had a bit of humor to it, and also because then we didn't need to have any blurbs, quotes, or other text descriptions on the dustjacket, and we could just have Seth's comics and art.

SPURGEON: What do you think separates your book from other anthologies out there right now. Is there a different sensibility at work? Just a different editorial point of view?

BRUNETTI: The book reflects my tastes, certainly, but I hope that, even if there are disagreements with my choices, the readers will find them to be at least interesting and well-informed. I am attracted to certain themes, of course, and those recur throughout the book. I was really inspired by the careful organization of McSweeney's 13 and RAW magazine. I think what distinguishes the book from many other anthologies, especially those from academic presses, is that it allows the readers to discern the structure of my vision of comics simply from the arrangement and flow of the stories, how each artist connects to all the others. And the implicit editorial views and theories are there without my having to explicitly state them and beat the readers over the head. The structure and "flow" are the aspects of the book on which I worked the hardest and of which I am the most proud.

I also want to add that the artists and stories in the book are all dear to me, and they've all inspired me. I hope that this translates to the readers as well. I was deeply humbled by the generosity of the artists, and it was an honor for me to include all of this work in the book.


Photos Taken In and Around Chicago Comics, Part One

this is a shot from about the middle of the store; I think that's a manga shelf in the immediate foreground

the store's big racking show-stopper is a large wall for new releases that runs along the left-hand side of the store as you walk in

here's a look at someone facing a section of that wall

a lot of additional racking comes in the center of the store, on a series of chest high shelves -- this includes the manga, and a section featuring local, prominent cartoonists

this is towards the front of the store, where at lot of top-end new releases are put. to the left of the photo is a kind of general audience and strips section, which is nice because it's near the front of the store and there's not a lot of walk-through traffic to that section

the section of the main wall that is closest to the door holds a lot of alt-lit books

like many comics shops, Chicago Comics tags new releases. Since the visual overload of a wall full of comics can burn the eyes from your head, this is handy

some examples of rough groupings to be found in this section


A Few Words With Chicago Comics Owner Eric Kirsammer

TOM SPURGEON: I know you celebrated a 15-year anniversary this year, but what exactly did that anniversary represent?

ERIC KIRSAMMER: Tom, the 15-year anniversary was to celebrate my owning the store for that long. I think it opened in 1986? Quimby's opened in the same year that I bought Chicago Comics. We used to be down the street and moved into our current location in 1993.

SPURGEON: How much of your success can be attributed to local factors, do you think? Did you benefit in any way from being able to outlast other prominent northside Chicago comics retailers like Halley's Comix and Moondog's?

KIRSAMMER: Thats a big question. Other stores closing has helped us at one time or another (due to people wanting books immediately after their store closed). But it also did not help us because a lot of people probably stopped reading after the store nearest them closed. I think we got customers from people shopping multiple stores so we were able to sell them something they could not find.

SPURGEON: Eric, does your current high-ceilinged, well-liked physical space provide your store with an advantage?

KIRSAMMER: I think the space and location has helped us. Regular people are comfortable coming into the store. We also made it have more of a professional feel with the brick walls and tin ceiling. It looks like it will be around for a while. It's a memorable store.

SPURGEON: What are some specific keys to being successful in Chicago as opposed to anywhere else?

KIRSAMMER: Keys to being successful are location, selection and in Chicago maybe authenticity? Customers can tell when you are locally owned or part of some big corporation with salespeople who do not know the product.

An interesting aspect to the location question is the changing nature of neighborhoods, especially in Chicago which has undergone a lot of gentrification. Our location now might not be the best because the neighborhood has gotten a lot more expensive to live in.

SPURGEON: How much do you feel your store has benefited or been hurt by the general upswing in popularity in comics the last couple of years, and what do you feel a store must do to catch the general, rising tide as opposed to, say, losing all of your business to Border's?

KIRSAMMER: The store has benefited from the upswing to some degree. Its hard to say. When there is an article about comics in the paper some people come to the store but a lot probably go to a regular bookstore.

To survive, I would say you have to out-superstore the superstores. You need a better selection, more knowledgeable staff and overall better service. The superstores cannot compete with a well-run comic book specialty store. Our staff will always know more than their staff and be more committed to the product.


Photos Taken In and Around Chicago Comics, Part II

I didn't even notice this thing the entire time I was in there, which is sort of sad

this action figure kept shoving the Tupac Shakur action figure off of the shelves

a shot over the back-issues bins at the back of the store

from the outside looking in

there seemed to me a whole lot of these high-end boutique-type toys and action figures

just in case you had any doubts Chicago Comics was in an urban neighborhood, here are the fliers to prove it. I didn't even know they did fliers anymore, actually

this is what a person that doesn't want to be at Chicago Comics will see as they gaze out into the street

Clark at this point is a busy, but not incredibly busy street foot traffic-wise. It's still a destination neighborhood, though, and the train is a block and a half away. We got a ticket


A Brief Talk With Chicago Comics Manager Eric Thornton

TOM SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about your decision to move the alt-comics to the back and have alt-lit and then superheroes on your big wall? I know that decision was made years ago, but 1) I know you've been around for several years, 2) it's something that people keep asking me about when your store's name comes up, and 3) I wondered in general how you decided what goes where.

ERIC THORNTON: This is simple, and not nearly as conspiratorial as some would like to believe. It was a space issue. There were just more and more collections being printing (and are still being printed) everyday, and it was getting to the point where we were not carrying stuff because it would mean kicking something else good out. It was a battle between two genres that wasn't going to have a clear cut winner. So, either Superhero was going into the back or Small Press was. And we pay a lot more bills with superhero comics, unfortunately.

Where the books are now, small press actually has its own "room": the old Manga/Foreign room. And now, we're able to keep the mini comics and zines in the same section, which is something I always wanted to do, but just was not able to pull off. The idea of minis being at the complete opposite end of the store from small press always bothered me. But, yeah, even though Small Press has actually more room and we're able to carry more Small Press stuff, a lot of people looked at it as if it was a snub to indy comics, when in fact it allowed us to carry even more indy press. But people see what they want to see, I guess...

SPURGEON: Do you buy anything directly from publishers? If so, how much and why?

THORNTON: Oh, yeah. All the time. In some cases, though, it's more headaches than it's worth. D&Q has absurd minimums, so we quit doing it through them,but they've got the whole Canada/US thing going on, so it's a different field. But Fanta stuff we get direct from them. On the flip side, you have guys like Chris Staros at Top Shelf, who doesn't want us to order direct, because he'd rather have the Diamond numbers. So, yeah, it really depends on a case by case basis.

SPURGEON: What about book distributors?

THORNTON: Again, yes, quite a bit. Ingram, Bookazine, VHPS are the big ones. The percentage and merchandise is pretty much our fiction/artbook section. I rarely get something comic related from those guys, which I know some retailers do, for the returnability aspect. But I love a bigger discount more than a safety net.

SPURGEON: You have a substantial but not complete manga section. Who buys your manga, and how do you decided what to sell and what not to sell. Is there any series that sells in your store that might surprise people?

THORNTON: A complete manga section would be, honestly, half the store. Manga is still something we are learning how to sell, even 10 years into carrying it. It's the most fickle comic genre I've ever seen. Something on fire one year will not sell a single copy the next year. it extremely frustrating. Basically, our rule with manga is, if it sells, get it back in. If it doesn't, bail out as quick as you can.

SPURGEON: Do you see a market downturn at any point in the future, near or far?

THORNTON: I've heard people saying a downturn is coming for 25 years now. And here we all still are. New readers, contrary to popular belief, are still coming in all the time. Literate young readers who want to catch up, and good lord, is there a lot of catching up to do at this point. Dan Clowes' stuff will always blow you away if you've never read it. There's a new 16-year-old every day who finally realizes what this art form can offer. Everyone I know who says comics are dying don't buy comics anymore, except for your occasional CC Beck retrospective or whatever. It's not the marketplace that's dying, it's their passion that's on the downturn. Comics are a medium, not a fad. Fads die. Mediums rarely do.


A Brief Encounter With a Bill Mauldin Original


It broke my heart that I didn't end up having time to go to the Bill Mauldin exhibit at the Jean Ablano Gallery. Mauldin's a 20th Century art hero, and I hadn't seen an original of his before.

The reason I had come to Chicago for the weekend was to see my older brother Whit act in Neil Giuntoli's play at the Prop Theatre, Hizzoner, about the last of the great "boss" mayors, Richard J. Daley. Going to the theater with one of the actors, I had some extra lobby time. There's some great comics related stuff on the theater's walls: a poster for a show done by poet and painter Tony Fitzpatrick, a Mitch O'Connell original depicting their latest physical space, and a giant poster of an R. Crumb exhibition in Haarlem signed by Crumb. But the best thing was in the lobby where audience members waited for the house to open.

In that lobby was an array of Daley-related materials, including the above cartoon. It was an original Bill Mauldin. I could no longer make out the sentence preceding the signature, but it had been signed to someone, my guess the same person that had lent it to the Theatre for the production. It was large, about 18 inches tall by 14 inches wide. The cartoon was attractive, done with very little in the way of visible changes, and the drawing itself was mean and funny. Although best known and rightfully so for his World War II Willie and Joe cartoons, Mauldin had a second career -- or somewhere between a third and seventh depending on how you count -- as one of America's most valuable and consistently excellent political cartoonists. And with the Daley Family in power in Chicago, Mauldin certainly had the kind of presumptuous lords of the city against which he could inveigh. Mauldin had famously gone toe to toe with General George Patton; I can't imagine he was that impressed with the former Bridgeport neighborhood alderman.

Mauldin's work is going to be the focal point of a major publishing effort by Fantagraphics, which hopefully will help restore his legacy not among the locals and soldiers who experienced his work first hand and came to love it, but among comics fans who have until now been slightly out of the loop.

Anyway, seeing the work was a very pleasant surprise.


Mug shots are all by Whit Spurgeon, and are Josh Cotter, Gary Gianni, Todd Hignite, and Ivan Brunetti. A picture of the Chicago Comics neon sign is the insert in Eric Kirsammer's chat; Eric Thornton's insert is a flip-over of a statue in the window.


* An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, Ivan Brunetti, Yale University Press, Hardcover, 400 pages, 0300111703 (ISBN), October 2006, $28.
* In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, Todd Hignite, Yale University Press, Hardcover, 320 pages, 0300110162 (ISBN), October 2006, $29.95.

posted 12:05 am PST | Permalink

December 26, 2006

Happy 51st Birthday, MD Bright!

posted 8:08 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 40th Birthday, Joan Hilty!

posted 8:04 pm PST | Permalink

CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink

December 25, 2006

Holiday Interviews #6: Chris Oliveros

A Short Interview With Publisher Chris Oliveros
By Tom Spurgeon

Drawn and Quarterly has in less than 20 years become an important comics publisher not just for the excellence of some of its books -- as a primary publisher for cartoonists like Chester Brown, Seth and Julie Doucet they have plenty of those in the catalog -- but because the company was the most successful of the second generation of alternative comics publishers that modeled themselves less like comic book companies and more like boutique book publishing outfits.

Drawn and Quarterly has also influenced the arts comics end of the funnybook market by having a general same-name anthology during several years of its existence, following the model of keeping a longterm, nurturing relationship with its talent, and by offering books with a certain feel that kind of sold the company to readers even before the individual talents began to demand our attention with each individual effort. With a growing staff, a locked-in business model and more books than ever, Chris Oliveros' comics company seems to be in a pretty good place, all things considering.

I called and spoke to Chris Oliveros on my second day working in comics, and found him polite and helpful. That hasn't changed. I appreciate him taking this time.


TOM SPURGEON: Chris, can you give us a kind of state of D+Q at this moment in time? It seems like you've had your current team and distribution situation in place long enough to maybe have an idea how things are going to operate for the conceivable future.

CHRIS OLIVEROS: We just put the last distribution mechanism in place this past summer with the addition of our new U.K. distributor, Publishers Group U.K. And for the first time in five years, I can say I'm very satisfied with all of our distributors from FSG in the U.S. down to Tony Shenton (our sales rep for the direct market). Our publishing output in the last couple of years has been the most ever in D+Q's history, and we will continue to gradually add more books. We'll do so carefully, however, as it is imperative that we stay small and focused in order to maintain the very high standards that readers and stores have come to expect from D+Q for the past 17 years.

SPURGEON: Can you talk about what having Peggy Burns there with the company has meant to D&Q and what led you to decide to re-up your contact with her? Does it make a difference in how you approach publishing generally?

OLIVEROS: When Peggy came on board, D+Q was in throes of having to decide whether to get its second new distributor in three years. She was an important factor in finding our new distributors and for the growth of D+Q the past few years with obviously publicity and behind the scenes day-to-day tasks. And of course, with Peggy comes Tom Devlin, who as an editor and designer at D+Q, and whose vision and design sense I respected before he came on board with everything he did at Highwater, is invaluable. We now have three other employees, Jamie Quail, our studio coordinator, Rebecca Rosen, our production coordinator, and Jamie Salomon, our esteemed number cruncher. I'm grateful for everything these five people have done for D+Q.

In addition to expanding our staff, we also started to outsource two time-consuming tasks that have also helped to improve our bottom line. We hired Tony Shenton as our sales reps to comic shops, and he has made a tremendous difference in getting new accounts. We also hired a foreign rights rep, Samantha Haywood, to not only negotiate the daily offers we receive from comic companies around the world, but to pitch our books to companies large and small. She has done an excellent job for us. I think we may be the only independent North American comic book company who actively seeks and signs deals with companies like Jonathan Cape, Seuil and Faber & Faber.

SPURGEON: The jacketless hardcovers you've been releasing are very attractive; can I ask how the decision to do most of the books released this year that way was made, and maybe how design decisions are made generally at D+Q?

OLIVEROS: Most of the design decisions are made by each respective cartoonist. If the cartoonist isn't a designer, Tom and I discuss the design issue with him or her to try to come up with something that will be both bold and unique as well as complimentary to the work in question. For example, Miriam Katin didn't design her book, but she had a strong sense of how she wanted it to look. Tom (the designer on her book) went back and forth with her and finally captured what she wanted.

Jacketless vs Jacket is never really a discussion, the process is much more organic, which is why some have it like Guy Delisle's books and some do not.

SPURGEON: Is there any reason why the Dupuy & Berberian books were not formatted this way? Those are fine books, but would seem to me to be working aesthetic terrain that's not actually been a rich one for North American comics. How have those books done for you?

OLIVEROS: Working with the European artists is interesting, as they are very used to the standard imprint format of most French companies. When you present them with possibilities of design, most are pretty delighted to have a hardcover. I believe originally, Dupuy & Berberian wanted a die-cut on a jacket; the jacket stayed but the die-cut was nixed somewhere in the process.

North Americans do tend to like their comics to be both serious and/or a memoir, which did make introducing Dupuy & Berberian unusual. But once you put their books in the hands of readers, people love their comic sensibility. Get a Life and Maybe Later received great press from Entertainment Weekly to the Onion, and they were even invited to be special guests at the prestigious IFOA in Toronto, where they landed in all three Toronto newspapers. Their sales are on target for first time authors whose books don't have the timeliness sales-hook of a Pyongyang or the anthology-driven recognition of a Kevin Huizenga.


SPURGEON: You're two books into Walt & Skeezix; is there anything that's surprised you about the reaction to that work? For instance, I've seen more people reacting to the emotional undercurrent in the work than I thought I would otherwise.

OLIVEROS: Part of what makes the Walt & Skeezix books so unique is that it's the first series of its kind to feature a comprehensive documentation of the creator's life, placing this within the context of his actual work. With Frank King in particular, the connection between his life and art is profound, and it places the work itself in a new light.

One aspect of the reaction that I was pleasantly surprised by, was that most reviewers were charmed and won over by the father/son relationship of Skeezix and Walt. The relationship still resonates, which of course is why the strip has run for as long as it has. There are so many things to say about King -- he was the first cartoonist to age his characters in real time, to have a realistic storyline, his design and color sense are impeccable -- but it was great to see readers just zero in on the heart of the strip.

SPURGEON: Are you selling a greater percentage of your books in the book market versus the direct market than you were last year?

OLIVEROS: I hear a lot about comic retailers ordering through the book market. I know that stores like DreamHaven and Quimby's order straight from our FSG rep, while there are probably countless comic shops that order from Baker & Taylor. So the lines are blurred. But yes, compared to ten years ago, most of our books go out through the book market. I would estimate that 1/4-1/3 of each title is sold through direct market venues, the rest being the book market. However, I still view the direct market as being essential and valuable to the continued growth of comics. There are still a number of stores like Jim Hanley's, Comic Relief, Chicago Comics, the Beguiling, Rocketship and so on who can be counted on to have the best and most informed selections of comics and graphic novels -- something that is still uneven in many book chains.

SPURGEON: Other than Adrian Tomine's and Joe Matt's very successful comic books, how much of an emphasis will there be on comic book in D+Q's future? Is Sammy's book going to continue? Are you looking for more comic book-type projects to do? What are the advantages as you see it to having a serialized work out there, or is it more about what the artist wishes to do?

OLIVEROS: We tend to explain to artists now about the pros and cons of doing a comic book series, which sadly are mostly cons. Ultimately, however, it is up to the cartoonist to create their story as they see fit. We do not want to dictate their creative process. So you can explain to them that comics do not sell, original graphic novels sell very well, and that with an advance, the payoff is better to wait, but if they want to see their story serialized, then what can you do. The input from peers and fans that some authors receive from a comic book series is invaluable to them. That said, we are still doing Crickets by Sammy Harkham, and we are going to begin a series by Gabrielle Bell. But we also have many authors working on books that won't be serialized, such as Chester Brown's next project and a new book from Vanessa Davis.


SPURGEON: Do you see yourself doing any more projects like the re-serialization of Ed the Happy Clown?

OLIVEROS: No, that was a one-time project.

SPURGEON: Is there an artist that has participated in your Showcase series that you think made specific use of that opportunity? I'm not asking you to punk on anyone else, but is there a model now for how you'd like to see that book work?

OLIVEROS: I think our latest volume with Dan Zettwoch, Gabrielle Bell and Martin Cendreda was a great example of the three artists using the 30-pages with color to the fullest potential. I think each volume featured some outstanding work; other stories that come to mind are Sammy Harkham's and Genevieve Elverum's (from volume 3), and of course Kevin Huizenga's from the first volume (which has just been collected in Curses).


SPURGEON: We talked about the design, but what was the experience like of working with Miriam Katin on her book overall? It seems like Katin's book kind of goes back to what I remember about an element of D+Q at its beginning, affording people with a sophisticated approach to visual work a chance to work in comics, to tell a story. Have the sales in general matched the critical reaction there?

OLIVEROS: I am proud that we published a viewpoint that is seldom if ever heard in the comic format, that of being a 63-year-old woman and her story of survival. I came across Miriam's work as a submission and was immediately entranced by the beauty of her drawing. She created a piece for our anthology and I asked if she wanted to do a book.

I heard a stat that general mid-list prose books by first time authors sell 3,000-5,000 copies, so we shipped 9,000 copies of Miriam's book, saw some returns and are more than pleased with her debut. I am confident that We Are On Our Own will be a perennial title as it will be adopted and included on best of lists, as it reaches an audience that may not normally read comics. It is a title that you can give a reader of any age, who may not normally read comics, and they immediately understand the enormous range of what stories comics can tell.

SPURGEON: Can I ask how much you guys worked with Chris Ware on the latest ACME? I can't remember off the top of my head if you'd be doing any work on the book or if you were just facilitating Chris's relationship with your distributor.

OLIVEROS: On the Acme series, we are Chris Ware's distributor. For the Acme Datebook series (his collected sketchbooks) we are the publisher.

SPURGEON: So you're continuing with the ACME Datebook series, then? When is the next book planned?

OLIVEROS: Yes, we are publishing the Acme Novelty Datebook in Fall 2007.

SPURGEON: There's been a wave of Canadian comics awareness lately, with awards, more prominent festivals, web sites and even a new book out. Where do you think D+Q stands in Canadian comics history?

OLIVEROS: D+Q has been an integral part of Canadian comics history not least because we publish some of the best Canadian cartoonists in
the world (among them Seth, Chester Brown, Julie Doucet, Guy Delisle, and Michel Rabagliati). We also will soon publish the work of some important Canadian artists of the past, including Laurence Hyde (a facsimile hardcover of his 1951 woodcut novel, Southern Cross), Doug Wright (a planned two-volume retrospective series designed and edited by Seth), and Albert Chartier (a new edition of his comics from the 1950s/60s).

SPURGEON: What's 2007 look like generally? Is there any offbeat or special project from D&Q due in 2007 that you'd like to mention, maybe something not so much from one of the big names?

OLIVEROS: 2007 will be another watershed year for D+Q. We have so many projects by new authors like Rutu Modan and Marguerite Abouet, but we also have huge titles coming from our core D+Q authors like Joe Matt, Julie Doucet, and Adrian Tomine (whose Fall 2007 book, Shortcomings, will have our largest first printing of a book, 25,000 copies). We will also be making an exciting announcement in January about a new multi-book contract with a legendary cartoonist. In January we'll also publish a new book by Charles Burns, One Eye, which will likely surprise some Burns' fans because it is a complete departure from anything he's done before (it's a photography book).

SPURGEON: Do you have anything planned for the holidays?

OLIVEROS: All of our 2006 books have shipped and have been in stores for the last month or so, which is a gift in itself! We will be having a small office party this week and next week the office will be closed and the staff will be with their families. No packing boxes, invoicing, etc., allowed. Happy holidays!


* photo of Oliveros by Whit Spurgeon
* cover images from various comics and books as discussed in the interview; sole interior image from Miriam Katin's We Are On Our Own


Drawn and Quarterly Web Site

posted 11:28 pm PST | Permalink

CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink

December 24, 2006

May God Bless Us Every One

posted 9:30 pm PST | Permalink

CR Sunday Magazine


Wallowing In Nostalgia Chapter 146: Five Christmas Comic Book Memories

1. Reading Christmas comics. As you can see, Justice League of America #110 features one of the best Christmas images ever. Also, if I remember correctly, in that adventure Hal Jordan spends the entire time likely bleeding into his brain after falling in the shower while substitute Green Lantern John Stewart uses the ring to fix rundown buildings in the poorer sections of whatever city they're in. This is way more interesting than a giant boxing glove, although more difficult to draw. Some of the best Peanuts revolve around a Christmas pageant, something we used to do at Mitchell Elementary with all the same, bizarre desires for a starring role and fears of blowing lines that the Schulz characters display. Linus helps me through it. Not the first time; not the last.

2. Getting superhero-related junk from New Jersey -- so my guess is this was the Snyder family selling this stuff -- as Christmas presents, including the awesome Spider-Man suction cup wrist shooter.

image3. Around 1978 or 1979, my desire to buy old Avengers and X-Men comic books -- to find out what happened in them -- interrupts my family's traditional Michigan Avenue Chicago shopping trip and we head across a river to a pawn shop that is the antithesis of Marshall Field's and still haunts my memories: poor lighting, comics under glass next to knives and ninja stars, bold John Buscema and Neal Adams covers peeking back for $2-$4 a pop. Making allowances for a Fall's worth of raking and bagging leaves minus Christmas gifts (soap on a rope for Dad) I probably bought four or five books, but I wanted them all. I read what I bought on the floor of a suite at the Drake Hotel, the far end of Marvel's 1960s burst of creative potency washing over my tiny brain.

4. Coming home from school in Virginia for some of the best Christmas seasons of all: reunited with family, tons of Christmas parties in a range from beers at a college house to Christmas eve at the family whose patriarch was a dentist who practiced in his home (drinking egg nog in the patient's chair, talking local politics), colliding with old friends as they rush through that particularly exciting time in life and the changes that come with it, an overwhelming sense of youth and sex and undeserved intimacy through shared experience and possibility, and always a trip to Bright's Book Exchange to make one big saved-up purchase of all the funnybooks I missed being off in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which I probably read in my Dad's over-sized green leather chair with the TV on.

5. In 2002, my older brother begins a new tradition of visiting for a week or so from Chicago over the holidays, and I begin pulling comics from the previous year for him to read -- I put them in a little basket and place them beside his bed. The baskets get heavier every year, and I realize exactly how much quality stuff is being published. My younger brother gets a supplementary gift of fair to good quality comics featuring the Badger, Black Bolt or Sub-Mariner, for his bathroom bookshelf. It's still good to be around family.

Stephen Weiner Shares His Own Memory

In 1965, one of my older brothers came home from college. Broke & looking for quick presents, he gave me 8 worn Marvel comics. I remember them pretty well and still own a couple: Daredevil # 11, 12, & 13, Thor # 124, a couple issues of Tales of Suspense as well as two issues of Tales to Astonish. Before I read them, my brother filled me in on some of the back story of each book. Looking back, that gift (and two years later, receiving a copy of The D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths) were the most lasting of my childhood Christmas presents. The fascination that began with those presents still holds me today 40 years later, and has informed in some way or another, most of the decisions of my life.

Thanks for asking.


Go, Look: 1935 King Features X-Mas Card



Five Link A Go Go

* a long list of Christmas comic books with which I'm largely unfamiliar

* listen to the Moomin song

* in through the back door: the Mr. Boffo animated videos archive

* the NYT on the soon-to-close Providence Wunderground exhibit

* editor Jennifer De Guzman writes on watching talent go elsewhere


Kevin Cannon's 288-Hour Comic Continues



Go, Look: British Comics Auctions


I lost an hour at the beginning of the month looking at the various art samples displayed here, but I'm like that.


First Thought Of The Day
I was probably way more excited than I should be when I found out I'm getting a subscription to Shonen Jump for Christmas.
posted 1:19 am PST | Permalink

December 23, 2006

Happy 59th Birthday, Joost Swarte!

posted 8:04 pm PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from December 16 to December 22, 2006:

1. Editor Kamal al-Olufi of Al-Ri al-Aam, I believe the first of the Yemeni editors convicted for republishing the Danish cartoons and subsequently sentenced to a year in jail, banned from writing, and seeing his newspaper closed for six months, is now in hiding in avoidance of a bench order for arrest, an order issued after he was released to help prepare his own appeal.

2. Harlan Ellison responds to Fantagraphics' argument for dismissal of his case against them. Next up: a Fantagraphics response to that response. Then: a hearing in February.

3. Alison Bechdel's Fun Home is Time's book of the year.

Winner Of The Week
Alison Bechdel, of course.

Loser Of The Week

Quote Of The Week
"It's hard to believe, but you raised another $125,000 this week." -- a report from the Penny Arcade-backed charity "Child's Play" that encourages Christmas giving by its gamer target audience. If my adding skills are working, that pushes 2006 totals to almost $900,000.

I swear no one appears on more Christmas-related comic book covers than Dennis, not even Santa
posted 12:32 am PST | Permalink

December 22, 2006

Holiday Interviews #5: Peter Bergting

A Short Interview With Cartoonist, Artist and Illustrator Peter Bergting
By Tom Spurgeon

imageI wanted to be the first interviewer not to ask Swedish illustrator Peter Bergting about Mike Mignola, an influence (although clearly not the only one) and a modern giant of the comic book horror fantasy genre in which Bergting has thus far worked, but the artist in good-natured fashion broached the subject on his own. Bergting's The Portent, a four-issue series recently collected through Image Comics, was one of the big mainstream comics surprises of 2006, a well-executed story that could be looked at and read. Bergting's brooding explorations of life and death, nature and other, spirit and identity, expectation and genre cohered into a first series to watch.

Bergting picked a fine avenue for his comic book debut; fantasy comics may be the last place in the medium's present moment where the visual still drives the car, counting on that ability art has to transport and fire the imagination, particularly along well-worn lines. Bergting also has a dry sense of humor, an ability to embrace the nastier and weirder elements of the established themes, a desire to say something of value about the issues with which he's dealing and most importantly a confidence in the evocative nature of his art to carry mood and communicate feeling that could eventually make him a cross-over star.

You know, like Mike Mignola.

Peter Bergting was polite to a fault during our brief interaction, and fairly assaulted the questions I gave him the moment they arrived. I wish him the best. Thanks to Mark Britt at Image for helping set this up.


TOM SPURGEON: Can you talk about your comics influences? Looking at your work I see a lot of classic French comics album art, particularly Moebius and Jean-Claude Mezieres; using Google I see you acknowledge both as influences. What was it about the work of each man that inspired you?

PETER BERGTING: Absolutely. In the beginning, my main influences were the great classical painters and artists like Albrecht Durer who had a profound influence on me. As I became older I discovered comics where my first influences must have been John Romita, Sr. and Neal Adams. Not so much any more though, but they got me interested in comics. I guess I was around 5-6 or something. Got hooked on Kamandi, Spidey, JLA and all that. Eventually I segued into eurocomics with Enki Bilal and Moebius being the main two artists that inspired me. Being Swedish I obviously grew up with a lot of European comics like Tintin and Linda and Valerian, Lucky Luke, Asterix and all that. Jack Davis was an early influence.

Later Mignola (obviusly) and I'm relieved that we've actually begun talking over the net lately. I was afraid he'd hate my stuff but Mike is a great guy. He actually contributed a wonderful quote for the trade which was more than I could have hoped for. Speaking of that, I've had tremendous help from my friends in the business critiquing my work from time to time and ultimately, Brom and Michael Kaluta have provided a foreword and introduction respectively. Going back to Mezieres, though. In his heyday I think he was the ultimate storyteller. A few of the Linda and Valerian albums are up there with the best comics of all time. In my opinion, at least.

SPURGEON: Where in your work do you see the influence of Will Eisner taking shape?

BERGTING: That's a question with multiple answers, actually. Early on I was very influenced by The Spirit and how Eisner constructed pages using architecture and other elements to frame the story. I loved his inking style and then many years later, I attended a book fair where he was a guest and held a wonderful lecture. I got to exchange a few words with him afterwards and he was just such a wonderful, great, great man. So humble and warm. I wanted to be like that. So much talent and zero attitude. If anything he inspired me to become a better person.


SPURGEON: How did The Portent develop as a creative project, and how did you end up at Image? That seems pretty incredible to me, and I'm generally not aware of their doing a whole lot with award-winning illustrators outside of North America. What about the Image set-up appealed to you with this project?

BERGTING: That was just me being totally ignorant of how this whole business works. I had no clue whatsoever. I just sent samples to them with an outline and a script and nothing happened. I thought that was it until almost a year later my agent walks in and mentions my name. It turns out they liked Portent from what they had seen but lost my contact info. I never submitted Portent to anyone else since I was sure I didn't stand a chance of getting it published. But it's been a long time in the running. I started to toy around with the elements of the story almost 10 years ago but it's evolved so much since then that there are nary a thread left from the early inklings.

SPURGEON: Why publish this in North America and not Europe? Is the European market still receptive to work like this? Was there a European version? Will there be?

BERGTING: Interestingly enough, it started out as a four pages, bimonthly comic in the pages of a gaming magazine. They were kind to take care of my book and I got a deadline to work from (I'm wasted without deadlines). When Image picked it up I redrew everything from scratch and even now before the trade I redrew about 7-8 pages. There will be European versions, though. Germany already has it in the catalogue for next year and there are several others but no new "when" exactly yet. Fantasy comics is still big in Europe but it's harder in Sweden where comics is a fledgling business with people buying The Phantom and Donald Duck, basically.

You know, the Europeans have reacted more favorably to it. I think anyone who comes from that background will be more susceptible to it. But as much as I'm influenced by euro-comics, I'm also very influenced by movies and the way that a big summer blockbuster can move you both with action and drama.

There have been some great US reviews, and I feel, when reading them, that they really "got it." Some less favorable reviews have focused on the writing in the first issue being haphazard and the language disjointed. This was my first book, ever, so I really listened to the critique no matter how wrong I felt it to be at that time. There is always something that can be improved and as long as the reviewer focused on the technical bits and flaws in storytelling I was more than happy to listen to it. If they didn't care for the story, it was a completely different matter. If you're reading only X-Men comics and then head straight into this, you're not going to like it. I hope you do, but my main focus was never to write anything that appealed to a mass audience. Alex Ness at Pop Thought was one of those reviewers who really understood the whole deal, that this was more lyrical, and almost poetical than just a straightforward story.

Sure, this is my first book and I'm perplexed to being reviewed and have people telling me it's not as good as [Neil] Gaiman or [Alan] Moore. Well, duh... I've only been doing this for a year. I certainly hope to improve. I have to find my own voice and if certain pages or sections feel rushed or disjointed, that's just me learning the trade. I went back and tried to fix some of the most jarring aspects that I didn't like and I think it came out the better for it. There's this whole idea of not going back and revisiting your old stuff. But there's a large audience out there who will be reading this for the first time, and I owe it to them to give it my best. And if that means going back and rewriting dialogue or redrawing panels, I will certainly do it.

SPURGEON: I'm interested in the mythological background you're dipping into, which seems to draw on a variety of cultures that have spirit/nature/ dead/undead elements to their folklore. Have you studied mythology? Is that a longstanding interest of yours or related to this project only? How did you combine elements for the backbone of The Portent?

BERGTING: Oh yes, for sure. I take what I like from both Asian and northern European mythology to construct something new. It's interesting that some reviews in the beginning pointed out stuff in the book that I didn't even think consciously about and was able to emphasize later on. The basic premise is that the world is dying. The sense of twilight permeating everything. That all living things have fled or died and that you are alone in this serene but terrifying world where spirits live and interact with the few humans that are left. So much in mythology is the same or similar across the globe that it was interesting to draw on those aspects that are unique for China for instance. There will be more of that later. Especially with Tama and Nigi, the two spirits from the first four issues.

SPURGEON: Before I forget, I'm asking everyone this month -- what are your plans for the holiday?

BERGTING: Oh, probably have one full day of rest before I start inking Strange Girl #16.


SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about your approach to page design? I find it fascinating that for someone coming from an illustration background that you seemed immediately comfortable with relatively complex page and panel construction. Is important to you that each page have a unique design in addition to conveying the story?

BERGTING: Somewhat yes, I'm definitely interested in the "pretty" aspects of it. I want it to look good and read good.

SPURGEON: To follow up, you make great use of panels that run the breadth of the page. I find that interesting in that looking at your illustration you use very strong figure work to draw the eye and anchor your art. How conscious are you of the effect that figure placement and panel construction have on the eye while reading comics? Or is your use of such element more intuitive?

BERGTING: Yeah, it's a different beast. But definitely intuitive. I have a background in film and know all the tricks of character placement and framing, but after a while that sort of drifts into the back of your mind and works on an intuitive level. Going back and analyzing and redrawing stuff I definitely think more about it. Small things as well


SPURGEON: A lot of The Portent functions as horror-fantasy, really, in several scarier moments right up to the end where a respite is one at the cost of someone's sacrifice -- not the return to Eden that most straightforward stories provide. What appeals to you about that darker look at how the world works?

BERGTING: I think it goes back to what makes horror films work. That you can really bring home a message if you manage to scare a little. Once you've breached that threshold you have gotten a bit more closer to your reader, they have opened up and it's easier to draw them into your story. It's about trying to make you care for the character, even dislike them. Horror and love are the two themes that lend themselves easiest to this. There's a love story in there between Milo and Lin, but they never arrive at the point where it's said out loud or explored. Which makes the parting at the end all the more poignant since he has to give up the very notion that they could ever share something -- before he can even tell her about it. She's psychic, she's seen him as the hero all along, and knows parts of the path he must take. But the magnitude of their quest has certainly made it impossible for her to see him as anything but the "hero figure." For her, the quest is all about saving the world, and whenever he strays from the path she becomes all the more frustrated. Up until the end when she learns of his sacrifice.

SPURGEON: I find the character path taken by Lin to be a bit more complex than that enjoyed by Milo. They share an exploration of identity and purpose, but hers is more about laying claim to what she knows about herself than discovery. Can you talk about the themes or the ideas that you wanted to communicate in her development from story's beginning to end?

BERGTING: I'm glad you picked up on that. That was one of my main caveats in writing this. That the story is actually really complex and at the core, it's about what it takes to be a hero. That selflessness is the key. If you're Superman, flying into a burning building, saving people, are you really a hero, when you're not really risking anything, except maybe ruffled hair? Milo gives up everything to save Lin, and in doing so, finally becomes a hero. But not the way he would have wanted it in the beginning. He certainly wants to be the gung-ho hero with clashing swords and bravura but has to give up all that.

For one hero to rise another must fall, and in the end, Lin has to become the hero. Well, she's not a hero yet, but that is the role that she must accept. Where that path will take her, we will find out later and it's certainly something she will have to explore further. Some readers picked up on Milo being a complete bastard in the beginning. That was basically Milo coming to terms with having no place in the world, embracing the idea that if he became a hero, he could find some sort of redemption. But he's doing it for all the wrong reasons. You can't just pick up a sword and decide to become a hero, it takes more than that.

SPURGEON: Why is "Fireball" the greatest rock song of all time? I'm not disagreeing with you, but I'd love to hear your reasons.

BERGTING: Well, it certainly was when I did that list. The whole top 10 is probably a tie anyway, but "Fireball" is just a great way to start the day. Jon Lord's energetic Hammond just hammering away. One of the greatest drum beats of all time. And even though I kinda prefer then Glenn Hughes era (yeah I know, *gasp*) I think Gillan nails this song. But speaking of music and that list, I think -- or I know that the one group to influence my career profoundly was Uriah Heep. Guilty.

SPURGEON: On your site you hint about a project with Dark Horse. Is that something that's upcoming? Can you talk about what's next?

BERGTING: There was talk of several things but it never got further than that since I was to occupied with drawing and redrawing Portent. There's more stuff going on but I can't talk about it now since there are multiple companies interested in the next project. Whoever signs it is gonna have a blast. It's a fantasy book, sort of like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly meets Lord of the Rings. Sebastian Jones is writing it and I'm going to do it fully painted which will be quite a treat since that's how I started out (as a painter I mean). He's currently writing a comic book with the Polish brothers who wrote, produced and directed The Astronaut Farmer that opens next year. Sebastian is going to be huge, I have such faith in this project.

Next up, though, is another Image book since I'm doing the art for Strange Girl #s 16-19. Pencils and inks only. That will be incredibly funny. I liked the book before I got to know Rick [Remender]. He's so funny, and he's probably one of the best writers in the business.


SPURGEON: A bonus question if you'll allow it -- you have a fascinating second style that you display on your web site, that's a little cleaner, cartoony, and maybe more classically stylized like a children's book illustrator's work. Can you talk about developing multiple styles that way?

BERGTING: That's just me being a working artist. One of the reasons I've been able to make a living here in Sweden is the ability to adopt a style that suits the client, hence the disparate selection of styles on my site. It's fun though since it never gets stale working but it also pollutes the other styles a bit.


* cover art to comic book issue #1, featuring Milo
* cover art to comic book issue #4; I like this one
* some character design work nicked from Bergting's site
* a typical page layout, with copious use of the page-wide panel
* cover art to comic book issue #2, featuring the Lin character
* a more typical horror image
* a piece of art from Bergting's site in his other style


The Portent, Peter Bergting, Image Comics, $12.99, December 2006, 1582407215 (ISBN)

posted 2:37 am PST | Permalink

December 21, 2006

Happy 55th Birthday, Tony Isabella!

posted 8:08 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Bill Willingham!

posted 8:04 pm PST | Permalink

CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink

Holiday Interviews #4: Jacob Covey

An Interview With Art Director Jacob Covey
By Tom Spurgeon


I happened to be doing a couple of weeks' work at the Fantagraphics office when Jacob Covey started working there; I figured he'd be a memorable employee, although whether he'd be a bedrock or a famous flame-out I couldn't tell. Turns out the former was true, as Covey has gone on to art direct some of the best work to come out of Fantagraphics during the company's current WW Norton era: books like Chewing Gum In Church, Dennis the Menace, and the Popeye volumes. The last of those three projects, with a first volume boasting a surprising die cut and an impressive hardcover, over-sized design in general, is a real show-stopper.

I was interested in talking to Jacob because 1) art directors are probably the least talked-to, most important people in modern comics, and 2) January sees the release of Covey's Beasts! book, a giant book of illustrations and captions about "real world" creatures and perhaps-monsters. It's a nice-looking volume, with an impressive line-up, plus it's a whole lot of fun. I enjoyed interviewing Jacob Covey, and I'm glad I was at least half-right about him.


TOM SPURGEON: So: where the heck did you come from?

JACOB COVEY: The Buckle of the Powerbelt of the Great Northwest: Wenatchee, Washington. I got my Associate's Degree in Photography, was sort of a rock photographer for a while, then studied Graphic Design for my B.A. My first year out of school I moved to LA to work for a skate company, disliked it, and moved to Seattle where I worked at a shoe company doing horrible ad work and the like. I originally interviewed for Fantagraphics but they took six months to decide to hire me. I'm not sure what it was they didn't like about me because they were looking for someone. Apparently they weren't looking for me. I kept calling Gary [Groth], interviewed with him, called him, called him. Eventually it worked out.

SPURGEON: Are you happy with the way Beasts! turned out? What was the experience like of doing that book?

COVEY: The entire process was incredibly rewarding and exhausting. The generosity of the artists has actually made me cry. I suppose I'm too cynical but the fact that this book is a wish list of busy artists that all made time for the subject is really moving. And, cosmetically, the book is very pretty because, well, nobody is getting paid. I'm on staff and did most of it on my own time and paying 90 artists for creating original art was unfeasible. All of us did it because the idea resonated with us and I think that says a lot. The subject is a collection of cultural stories, symbols that are deeply a part of us as people.

I'm very happy with the result, although it printed too dark. It's great to see all of the artists doing some of their best work because there was no editing. I took what they gave me and I think it's probably the strongest "concept" art collections I've ever come across.


SPURGEON: Beyond the current art exhibit, are you planning on doing anything else in support of the book? Touring?

COVEY: I would love for the whole entity to grow outside of my vision for it but I have no energy for coordinating a touring exhibit. I co-curated a couple of gallery shows for the Chronicle Books "bible of rock posters," The Art of Modern Rock, with the guys putting together the Beasts! show and I learned it's too difficult. 3-d is not my medium and organization is my greatest weakness. There will be signings in some of the big cities.

SPURGEON: Tell me about putting the book together. How was it originally conceived, and who did you decide to ask? Did you know most of the artists? Was there any thought of balancing known cartoonist with illustrator/painter types, or did you just approach who you asked in terms of broader visual appeal?

COVEY: First of all, Gary wasn't convinced the idea would work and I think he was really just doing me a favor when he approved it. With his history of pulling off unlikely ideas that made me pretty uncertain about the project. So I started with the few artists I was friends with or acquainted with. They turned around some art quickly and it was remarkable. The idea suddenly took a form and my confidence grew with each new submission. People were ridiculously excited by the idea and eventually I had the likes of Tim Biskup who can do anything he wants and here he is making a painting of some weird Egyptian chimera that I found an old reference to.

imageI think it was a conscious choice to have diverse artists for the book in that I am not steeped in any particular genre of illustration and art. I'm the least knowledgeable person in the office when it comes to comics and at the skate company it was the same story about that world of that kind of illustration. So I get bored with 'genre' art books. I hate lowbrow but I love some 'lowbrow' artists. Some comics can be just as insipid as some lowbrow. But good art is good art and deserves an audience. There are people in the book who have never been published. Corey Lunn was one of the last people I asked, for example, and there was no 'commercial appeal' to that decision making. I tripped over his work online and had to track him down through somebody just to ask him. I love his piece. Luckily people like Dave Cooper weren't concerned with "who are these other people?" and I could get away with that.

Come to think of it, Kaela Graham had never published (which is ridiculous) and that was the one piece Dave asked about early on. He liked it, so I guess that's a good thing.

I actually didn't know more than a handful of the artists on any personal or professional level. Funny thing is, only a dozen people or less said no and they were mostly Fantagraphics artists. Maybe they're a bit tired of charity work! Or, understandably, they're interested in reaching another audience and figured this wouldn't.

SPURGEON: How did you put together the supplementary material? How did you end up with Gilbert's strip?

COVEY: Well, all of the creatures are "real" in the sense that I culled the material from historical material -- bestiaries, encyclopedias, news articles, and such. So the writers wrote all the material up more legibly than I ever could. The rest of it is incidental blathering on my part. The writers also had the initiative to make that strange chart in the back of the book which classifies the 90 creatures. I hunted down Marvin K. in Wisconsin, the eyewitness to the Beast of Bray Road, and asked him to contribute a sketch of what he had seen driving home one day in the '80s. And, lastly, Felicia Gotthelf knew of Daniel Taylor-Ide who she interviewed for the book. He spent most of his life researching the possible existence of the yeti, which is fascinating.

As for Gilbert Hernandez he was made for this book. He is dealing constantly in the realm of Jungian symbolism, of cultural myth, and magical-realism which kind of explains these things. However, he was one of the people who I couldn't get to respond to my emails. At the last minute Eric Reynolds had him agree to me reprinting five panels of his six-panel "seahog" story. His is the only art not original to the book but it also gives a nice narrative to start off the book and give the reader some orientation as to what the hell these images are.

SPURGEON: Were there any books you had in mind when initially putting this together? Were you a fan of the fantasy art books that were popular in the 1970s? Are there books you consider of a type?

COVEY: You know, I'm not a fantasy fan. If anything I dislike the whole genre of D&D, SCA types. There are no dragons in Beasts! and I'm glad for that. I'm always interested in the encyclopedic quality of the D&D guides but the art is lame and I prefer the more pop stuff -- Famous Monsters, Jack Davis types of things. But that wasn't the intent of this book. The pop culture stuff is fantastic but I wasn't interested in presenting anything 'made-up' from the mind of one person. I wanted the stories born from our collective unconscious. I think what I had an idea for is so obvious that it doesn't even seem novel: Take the cool creatures back from the dregs of Heavy Metal magazine and Fantasy conventions. Much more of an influence were the classical bestiaries. Hence the predictable design, with gold gilding and stuffy type treatment.


SPURGEON: That Popeye art direction has been really well received. I saw some early concepts. Can you talk about how your idea for the book's design developed as you worked on it?

COVEY: The early concepts that you probably saw were me rushing to produce ten book covers in two weeks. That's what happens for solicitations catalogs at an understaffed publisher. If I'm lucky I get enough time to do better treatments later on. Popeye was frightening for the fact that Gary was giddy about it. It clearly meant a lot more to him than most books and everyone reveres Segar.

I mean, people have asked if I was disappointed that I came on staff after Peanuts was released and I tell them I'm grateful that I wasn't here. Thank God Seth took that on. He was savvy. He's a smart designer and it's so solid I would never have had the nerve to take it into that dramatic territory -- certainly I could do nothing better. In the case of Popeye what I knew for sure is that it had to be assertive and unapologetic in its presentation. At one point I almost settled for "good enough," but Adam Grano works here next to me and he gave me his usual disapproval of my half-assery and I pushed onward. I do crave making the package an extension of the content. I wait for that moment when it seems to.

You have no idea how grateful I am that some people think of that design as succeeding at reaching the rabid fans as well as little kids, while remaining unique looking.

SPURGEON: That die cut was a real masterstroke. Where did that come from? Was there any reluctance to do that kind of bold move considering the rough way books can be shipped in the direct market?

COVEY: I comped up four covers for the book. This one is kind of flat when you look at it onscreen and I think The Bosses preferred others. The only reason this layout worked was because Gary and Kim love the strip and would pay for the cost of production. The die cut works with that image, specifically. I'm not sure if the other five books in the series will work or if the concept will fall on its face. But Popeye has a temper and in that image he's so out of control that he's popped himself in the jaw along with his opponent. The cover ended up punched right through as well. It really did come down to that. One of those things where the image itself came up with the idea of the die cut. It definitely helps make a viewer reconsider their idea of the commercially predictable Popeye.

Questions were asked but the resilient thickness of that cardboard cover seems to put to rest fears about shipping damage. Or it's just another example of Kim and Gary putting integrity ahead of marketing. I'd say 50-50. There was much more debate about my suggestion to print the title of Locas only in spot varnish but if there's an artist who doesn't need words cluttering up his gorgeous line work it's Jaime. That book is so much better with the art speaking for itself across a crowded book store.

I think Kim (Thompson) has actually been great-- lately we seem to have the same idea on production issues and he makes really important suggestions.

SPURGEON: Working with the material, do you have anything to say about Popeye himself? Do you find yourself entering into a relationship with the material you work on?

COVEY: It's strange how much you get involved actually. Doing book design is the most rewarding work I've ever done. It's always best to work on in-house projects like Popeye because there are no editors or artists to wrestle with. I only have to convince the people here, people who know I'm very serious about what I do and trust me when I feel strongly about something. Because I don't do things willy-nilly. I'm quite uptight and I design as a response to the nuance of the work, however bullshit that may sound.

Anytime packaging involves another person it becomes muddied. If it's an artist I'm not confident enough or good enough with sales pitches to try to put too much of an imprint on their vision for their book. At times, like with Steven Weissman's Chewing Gum In Church, the artist clicks with me and vice versa. I love that book. It's really fucked up without being overbearing. I'd never have done all those color changes on the pages and type if he weren't so trusting (and it didn't echo his strips). Even in the way that every page has the page number on it twice. It totally compliments his off-kilter world but he trusted me with that even when both he and his wife were dubious.

Most outside editors are just a nightmare. I don't know how to talk to them. I think most people don't trust graphic designers and, frankly, in this day and age they generally shouldn't. "Oh! You're a designer? My neighbor's dog is a graphic designer!" On the other hand, I think editors can be too territorial and get a kind of vicarious identity from aligning with the work, which leads them to fear presenting it in some way other than the most inoffensive way. Afterall, some people hate the Peanuts design but damned if it isn't reaching a remarkable number of new readers who see so much more in it because of the effectiveness of Seth's treatment.


SPURGEON: Your Dennis the Menace series design is somewhat similar to the classic look that Seth's design for the Peanuts books, but without falling prey to the criticism facing IDW's Dick Tracy series in some circles. How did you approach that project and are you happy with the result?

COVEY: Certainly the Dennis design is complementary to the Peanuts design, which was sort of necessary in my mind at that time. I'm still coming into my own and I'm not shy about saying that: 1) Dennis is probably influenced by Seth's Peanuts designs, although of a distinctly separate aesthetic tone and 2) the Dick Tracy presentation is the epitome of a crass rip-off. It's a classic strip far from the world of Peanuts and deserved a far different treatment. I can't think of another design hijacking that is quite so clear cut or parasitic.

But anyway... Dennis was exciting. Gary and I went down to the famous California golf course, Pebble Beach, which he was unfamiliar with. I loved that he was way underdressed in his usual tucked-in t-shirt, belt-less and highwater jeans, and sneakers talking intellectually about Robert Crumb to a woman eating crab salad. We presented to Hank Ketcham's widow, walked around his house, toured and dug through files in his studio, and I urinated in his toilet. In fact I text messaged my friend Angela as I did that it. It was a milestone, as pissing sometimes is.

The former Ms. Ketcham was very kind and gave me much more creative freedom than I had expected, essentially accepting my designs carte blanche. I was thrilled to reinvent the look of this American icon who had such a garish Dairy Queen persona with primary colors that choked the life out of Ketcham's lively brushstrokes. And it's great, because Peanuts has had a lot of looks over the years, no specific identity tied to it, but Dennis has pretty much had that one look from the start so it's a very rare opportunity.

The book is fun but conservative, as it should be, as Ketcham was. But it also harkens to the nostalgic '50s-'60s with the uncoated, papery cover stock, the color schemes, the design in general. That ribbon bookmark fails to seem pretentious because of the sheer size of the book, which is nice. The dates aligning as a timeline on the spines makes me feel good about the set. And, actually, that cover stock is a good example of intercession on the part of the distributor. We had to coat the cover so it wouldn't be prone to ripping. My solution was to just flip it over -- the coating is on the inside, unseen part of the cover.

SPURGEON: Now that you've had a couple of years, what's it like to work for Fantagraphics? Are you going to be able to stay there for a while?

COVEY: I took a huge pay cut to be here. Huge. To the point that I can't seem to let that go and I don't know how my wife and I will pay the heating bills this winter, but I've never regretted it. Books are artifacts of culture on a level like nothing else and I feel lucky to be here when a project goes well. I admire the integrity of Fantagraphics, my work is fulfilling, and I don't grind my teeth at night anymore. So I'll be here in some way for years to come I should think, although I may need to find a way to do more outside work for money. I do freelance work and enjoy that but Fantagraphics has been supportive and as long as it's rewarding I want to be a part of it. If it gets to be rigmarole I'll probably flip out, take another pay cut and work for another poor company.

SPURGEON: What are your plans for the holidays?

COVEY: I have no exciting plans for the holidays. Or unexciting ones, really. We'll visit family and friends and I'll work too much.

SPURGEON: 2007 and beyond, then. Are you going to do more works like Beasts!?

COVEY: I don't know. It really was exhausting. I butchered the opening pages of Beasts! out of a complete inability to grasp the book by the end of it.

I'd like to do a book called Bears Versus Horses but I think it would be disappointing to everyone but me.

SPURGEON: What do you think of comics designs in general, in this great rush of everyone breaking into bookstores? Are there other designers out there you admire? What do you think makes good design in terms of a comics trade?

COVEY: Comics design is in a good place. It's now on par with other literary and arts fields, as it should be. There's really great work and then there's a herd of people aping another graphic novel's design whether it makes any sense for their book or not. That's an unfortunate truth in all genres so it's not something to scrutinize too much here. Design is inextricably linked to the perception the masses have of an object and it's only getting stronger in the field of comics.

As much as anything, good design says that somebody is taking this object very seriously. It is crafted. And popular culture is taking more notice as the 'face' of comics is elevated. It helps that without question the strongest graphic designer of our time also happens to be a comics artist, namely Chris Ware. But there's a danger in cartoonists/graphic novelists not delineating between the two fields. A lot of illustrators are horrible designers and they do themselves (and thereby the medium) a terrible disservice when they don't delineate between the two skill sets.

imageOn the other hand you have the most recognized and dexterous graphic designer in popular culture heading up the most commercial publisher of graphic novels, namely Chip Kidd at Pantheon. So popular culture at large is paying a lot of attention to comics culture and everyone is throwing out the most production-conscious book possible, often without regard to the tone of the work. I keep seeing these really classic typefaces sort of thrown on an uncoated paper stock cover with French folds and minimal artwork only to open it up to art that has nothing to do with the emotional mood that sets up. I'd love to see smarter design, not just "good" design. For god's sake please make a funny book look like a funny book!

In any case, I accept that I'm not the genius who will remake this industry and I'm just glad people are reading these things more. While everyone is looking to the galleries for the next great art movement, here it's been happening on Xerox machines and crept its way into the full-color corners of your book stores. It's great to be a part of it now.


* drawing of Jacob Covey by Adam Grano
* Beasts! cover
* Renee French's Bigfoot from Beasts!
* various Fantagraphics titles, identified on covers
* photo of Chip Kidd by Whit Spurgeon


Beasts!, Jacob Covey, Fantagraphics Books, Hardcover, 200 pages, 156097768X (ISBN), $28.95.


Jacob Covey's Personal Site
Jacob Covey's Present Employer

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December 20, 2006

Happy 85th Birthday, John Severin!

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CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

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Holiday Interviews #3: Anne Ishii

An Interview With Vertical, Inc. Director of Marketing and Publicity Anne Ishii
By Tom Spurgeon

imageI went into this interview to find out more about Vertical, Inc., the publisher behind the Buddha series and the one-book Ode to Kirihito, both by Osamu Tezuka, and to find out what someone like Director of Marketing and Publicity Anne Ishii does at such a company. I came out with two scoops; one's been made known since Anne and I spoke (Vertical's doing Tezuka's periodically saucy Song for Apollo in 2007), and the other was removed from the interview at her request.

What remains, however, is a portrait of a company whose manga projects have been an important facet of their overall classics strategy, but not the whole ball of wax, and some unique opinions by Ishii, who provides a fresh perspective on the struggles and travails of the small publisher. Plus, she's funny. I think I probably speak for everyone working in comics at least a little bit when I say it's hoped she'll be a presence in the field for as long as she wants to be one, and that there's enough in the way of classic manga to hope that Vertical, Inc. keeps adding to our libraries.


TOM SPURGEON: Can I ask how you ended up at Vertical?

ANNE ISHII: I was at Columbia grad school desperately trying to find meaning in my study of Japanese literature, when my advisor (VP of the grad school now) introduced me to Ioannis Mentzas (Editorial Director) and Hiroki Sakai (President) of Vertical, Inc. They were starting this hip publishing company and needed someone with actual social skills to help them move books. It was a dream come true for me -- working in a publishing company devoted to all things Japanese, straight out of grad school!

I have no experience or training in marketing per se, but we all built ourselves and our company from the ground up. I only ended up as the marketing and publicity person by default of my defining my work as such. I mean, publicity is almost the exact same as graduate school. You read books, and then write things about why they're important. Then you show that writing to people for a grade. Marketing for me essentially meant two things -- Excel and The Internet. I'm learning more about the elusive world of consumer manipulation, though. I imagine one day I'll just turn into a program, but as long as I look like Major from Ghost in the Shell I won't mind.

SPURGEON: If I'm remembering right, 2006 would be Vertical's fifth year. Are you where you wanted to be by the end of your first half-decade. How is the company different in year five than it was in its first months out of the gate? Where are you in terms of implementing the initial publishing plan?

ISHII: The short answer is no. When Vertical began, we hoped that by the end of our fifth year we'd all be gazillionaires, that we'd own our own building, that we'd be able to take vacations, and that Buddha was going to be the next Jesus, but of course, that did not, and is not going to happen for a while. This is what I call learning from experience.

imageThe slightly longer answer is that yes, we are where we want to be, which is to say we're not in a micro-publishing cemetery. There was a period in Vertical's life when the cold breath of chapter 11 was the only thing greeting us at the office. It was all doom and gloom. We weren't paying ourselves, we weren't paying rent, my boss almost got evicted from his own apt, some of us were eating cup-noodles for lunch and dinner everyday...I'm not making this up. It was shitballs covered in diarrhea, and we were forced to eat it. In fact, I even quit for a brief period of time because I needed to get paid, and I was depressed.

This leads me to how we've changed since birth. We're smarter. We're much smarter. We're also more efficient, and our notoriety in the US is finally catching up to our acclaim in Japan (where we're basically cultural heroes for putting Japanese things other than electronics and porn into the American consciousness).

In terms of implementing the initial publishing plan, we're finally (finally!) publishing as many books as we first intended. That took a while though. Putting together a book is hard work. Especially when you have a translation to deal with. But I tell ya, it took us five years to get done what we thought we would in two, which some would say is a sign that we dreamt too big and ended up at just-normal progress.

SPURGEON: While of course it's possible to think of Vertical in terms of it being a publisher of manga, I think the bigger distinction may be that you're publishing high-end material in high-end formats. Was that part of the company's strategy right from the gate? Do you feel that your books have a longer shelf-life because of the kinds of material with which you choose to work?

ISHII: It's funny. This persona you speak of kind of came by accident. And I'll give credit where it's due. Chip Kidd. His designs for us are so unequivocally brilliant but also expensive. Die-cuts and tiered jackets and obi-bands and acetate are not cheap. But we never once questioned his judgment on our design. This meant jacking up the price point, and hence creating a higher quality product.

That said, with something like Buddha or Ode to Kirihito, the content is so rich with narrative, and the sheer heft of the thing itself required extra special care. We thought about doing mass market paperbacks of Buddha or a shorter serialized version of Kirihito to make it more accessible to the manga market, but then we realized something really crucial to our marketing -- the people who buy $10 mass market manga are not the people who buy Tezuka. It's like trying to sell Cuban cigars to crack-heads. That's not to say there's anything better about cigar aficionados than crack-heads (I'd sooner go to The Bowery than Cipriani... but that might just be me). However we did recognize our Tezuka market relatively well, I think.

As for our other books, which are mostly genre fiction, we never intended for them to seem like luxury items. I think because some of them are hardcover and all of them look so precious, and because they're all originally from the exotic orient, people think they're higher-end than they really are. I know that Yani's wet dream is to sell our genre fiction by the crate to readers in middle America, for example.

imageSPURGEON: How have your books done in American comic book stores? Do you have a sense of the percentage of your sales bookstores vs. comic book stores, and are you willing to characterize one versus the other?

ISHII: Ah. The Direct Market v. Book Trade question. You know, this was something of a shock to me when I first started working with comics - that there was a schism between these two worlds of bookselling. The thing I find most interesting is that while many people begrudge comic book stores for not carrying more graphic albums, few people complain about the trade bookstores not carrying magazine-format serial comics. Like somehow bookstores can't be bothered to support such a format, even though they carry all kinds of other periodicals with circulation of like 200.

I love all bookstores, but each kind of them certainly has its problems. I realize the bottom line is the bottom line, but for example, we pretty much held Borders up at gunpoint in order to get the measly 130 unit buy-in of Kirihito. Did that seriously screw up our marketing outline for the book? Yes. Do I hate Borders for it? Absolutely not. They're business-people... OK, I'm lying. I hate them a little bit, but really, just a little. B&N isn't exempt of criticism either. They still have a really weird humor section that's something like an asylum. It's all frazzled and pointless, but you sometimes find what I consider to be amazing comic books. Because they won't look right in the graphic novels section, or because the audience is too young or old, it gets stuffed next to Best Redneck Jokes of the Year.

Diamond is our biggest account for Tezuka. They have been and continue to be big supporters of our work. I think that means comic book stores are buying in on our stuff. I can't do numbers because I am inumerate, but I'd say our book sales are about half and half between comics and not-comics bookstores.

SPURGEON: In your opinion, has Buddha found its way into the kind of library and perennial book sales positions you've hoped they would? How much of your sales on those were from institutions?

ISHII: Buddha is definitely the long-seller we'd hoped it'd be. It continues to sell well. Libraries love it, Buddhists love it, comics professionals love it, the Eisner and Harvey awards committees love it, we love it, you love it, everyone loves it. Library sales however aren't a huge share of our sales on the series. I mean, they've certainly supported it, but our largest market is still the individual consumer.

SPURGEON: Before I forget -- what are you doing for the holidays?

ISHII: Going home to California for a few days. Need to detox my brain of New York before the New Year. Being home means eating lots of ox tail soup and long drives... and I am very much looking forward to that, actually.


SPURGEON: Do you have a grasp on how Ode to Kirihito has done initially sales-wise?

ISHII: Kirihito has done pretty well despite itself. I mentioned earlier that Borders HDQ didn't buy in many copies of Kirihito, but I have gotten individual emails from Borders managers congratulating us on making such a great book, and that they're going to try to get more copies. However, our goals for Kirihito were seriously compromised without theirs and to a lesser extent, Amazon's support, so the first numbers are not so good. Amazon has ended up re-ordering books anyway, and the ranking's not bad either, because there is public demand for it.

A colleague at another manga publishing company once told me that the hardest part of his job was to make the distinction between what booksellers say and feel about your product, and what the reality of the sales figures is. Sometimes they are miles apart.

SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about how you promoted Ode to Kirihito? Because while I think that's a very compelling book, I'm not sure having read it a few times I could describe it to someone in a way that didn't sound insane. How did your approach to marketing Kirihito different than the earlier Tezuka series? Who did you target and why?

ISHII: Ha! I pitched this as Tezuka's The Elephant Man and purposely addressed all the hot button issues head-on. I was sometimes appalled with my own promotional talk. (In my best Gollum voice) "There's rape, and cannibalism, and murder, and did I mention rapesies? Hee hee hee hee." When people hear that Tezuka, beloved creator of the totally asexual, innocent, optimistic Astro-Boy created a story replete with social degenerates like the character Urabe, it didn't matter anymore that you had never read Astro-Boy. It's like if I told you Walt Disney did cartoons of she-male capers. You'd buy it, right?

SPURGEON: Ode to Kirihito made the spiritual books list released by the Detroit Free-Press. Has there been interest and feedback from Christian readers?

ISHII: Ooooo. Fair Christians, this is my formal invitation to you to write me with thoughts on Ode to Kirihito. Actually there was a review in The Contra Costa Times also, where the reviewer actually took Kirihito to the gym (not to lift, sadly), and the person in the cardio-machine next to him was reading the Bible. I guess the Bible-reader looked at him with disdain. If she only knew... the reviewer noted the irony, and I love it.

A propos -- Buddha is obviously about the Buddha, Kirihito is an implied pun on the name "Christ," which is pronounced kirisuto in Japanese, and our next Tezuka title is called Apollo's Song referring to a God of Greek myth. Spirituality is a hidden Tezuka-Vertical message for sure.

SPURGEON: So it's true you're doing Apollo's Song next?

ISHII: Yes. It's true. Wanna see the cover? It's genius and mind-blowing.


SPURGEON: That is very pretty. Can you give me a breakdown on the book as far as size and number of volumes?

ISHII: It's a one-volume omnibus, much like Kirihito (in that they were both originally three volume works). About 500 pages.

SPURGEON: How do you select which books to do?

ISHII: The Selector of Books is Yani, basically. As for how he makes the decisions -- a lot of it hinges on availability. There are a handful of works we've tried and failed to get. Content-wise, we have so far looked for "classics." Be it sci-fi, religious, horror, it's gotta be a classic.

SPURGEON: Do you have any initial ideas as to how you'll be selling that work, considering some of its adult content?

ISHII: Philip Roth meets Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dickroth. How's that sound? Or, Philipo Samu-K Dickrothuka? Sounds like an abstract painter. Seriously though, my Apollos' Song one-liner is just that for now -- sexual misanthropy and male (dis)illusion told through ambiguously dystopian futurism. In other words, Philip Roth meets Philip K. Dick. As for how we'll sell it -- bribes and blackmail.

SPURGEON: Are there companies you consider peer presses in terms of trying to do the same things, hit the same markets. Do you think you have more in common with the small prose imprints or the small comics imprints? Is there anything you've learned from other companies in comics?

ISHII: Hmmm. I think if I compared our company to anyone, firstly, they'd sue us for slander, and secondly, our investors would leave us for them. No, but seriously, I think what we're doing is on par with D&Q or NBM, except that their lists are much longer, of course. In the small prose imprints dept, I look to Archipelago as a great model, as well as Europa Editions (they have such gorgeous books I want them all!!!), Seven Stories, Small Beer, Ten Speed, Rugged Land, Black Cat (Grove) and on and on. All of this is just in principle, though. We all have very different business models.

Content-wise, our biggest corollary is definitely Viz fiction (not to be confused with the behemoth that is their manga division, of course. Though they do certain manga that we'd jump on in a heartbeat if given the opportunity). We love those guys. Although it doesn't help that our names both start with V.

Funny thing actually, whenever I introduce myself as coming from Vertical, people's first reaction is frequently, "oh! Wow! I love Vertigo!" When I correct them, I always get this slight look of disgust and embarrassment (for me). I always want to give those people a piece of candy and apologize.

Things to learn from other companies in comics -- 1. Don't be safe with content. Be very dangerous. It always works. 2. Don't try to take down Naruto. It cannot be done. 3. Airtight contracts and no hard feelings. And that goes for anything involving the marriage of commerce and art.

* Jesse Hamm's sketch of Anne Ishii at the 2005 Eisners; I hope he won't mind...

posted 4:07 am PST | Permalink

Ellison’s Response To FBI Anti-SLAPP Motion

A poster at The Comics Journal message board points to an on-line repository of legal documents filed by representatives for Harlan Ellison regarding his lawsuit against Fantagraphics, Gary Groth, and Kim Thompson. Included is the plaintiff's response to the motion to strike filed by defense counsel.

The plaintiff's response contends that Ellison's suit against Fantagraphics is not governed by the anti-SLAPP statute, as Ellison's action is not a "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation" but instead constitutes

"a defamation action based on misstatements or distortions of fact by Defendants with a long history of demonstrated antipathy and outright malice toward this particular Plaintiff, and an accompanying misappropriation claim for flagrant, taunting, unauthorized use of Plaintiff's name under California's 'right of publicity' statute."

The plaintiff goes on to claim that Ellison's claims against the defendants meet minimal standards of merit to exempt them from a SLAPP characterization.

Continuing with the defendants' anti-SLAPP claims, the plaintiff contends that the matters in question in the suit are not matters of public interest as defined by anti-SLAPP, that an anti-SLAPP-based dismissal cannot be issued in response to an entire claim in response to a portion of it, and that Ellison's claims of defamation (based on what Ellison contends are Groth's mischaracterization of events surrounding the Michael Fleisher lawsuit in the upcoming Comics as Art: We Told You So) constitute reasonable legal recourse and not an attempt to chill ongoing discourse about a matter of public interest.

The site also archives declarations from Ellison, Pat Lyons (Ellison's attorney of record in the Fleisher suit), and Charles Petit (Ellison's general counsel) that outline Ellison's perspective on his contentious relationship with the defendants and the events surrounding the Fleisher suit.

The defendants' response to Ellison's filing was due Monday, Dec. 18. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Feb. 18.

This entry was written and placed by David P. Welsh as a favor to this site, without editorial intrusion
posted 3:47 am PST | Permalink

December 19, 2006

Happy 57th Birthday, James Van Hise!

posted 8:04 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 54th Birthday, Mack White!

posted 8:02 pm PST | Permalink

CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink

December 18, 2006

Holiday Interviews #2: Joe McCulloch

"Spider-Man is a Dirty Tease With His Dirty Golden Spats"
An Interview With Comics Critic Joe "Jog" McCulloch
By Tom Spurgeon

Working out of the most basic of blog platforms, Joe McCulloch at Jog the Blog has fashioned for himself a small but loyal audience eager to read his daily review updates, where he engages a wide variety of comics by lightly stepping through them, pointing out the best parts as he goes, seemingly bemused by it all. He has also written for The Comics Journal, where he's currently a contributing writer and I believe is also their capes-and-cowls columnist. As you'll see, everything I know about Jog can be put into the first sentence of an interview, but I liked his work enough that I thought it would be fun to bounce some ideas about the year in comics off of him, and get an idea about what makes someone start the day by reviewing comic books. I could have asked him twice as many questions, and had twice as much fun. I thank him for his time.


TOM SPURGEON: Who are you and why on earth do you review comics on-line? I know that you're young, and my understanding is that you're in Central Pennsylvania, and I think I maybe heard you've graduated law school.

JOE MCCULLOCH, AKA JOG: Everything you know is right. I'm also handsome and glamorous. And I live in a jeweled palace.

imageI think the main reason I review comics on-line, actually, is that I really don't have any other outlet for yapping about it. Very, very few of my friends read any comics at all, and most of the ones that do only keep up on the very tip-top mainstream stuff, like Chris Ware or Dan Clowes. I did get my younger brother hooked on Jim Woodring, which I think was a valiant accomplishment, but I just don't have a lot of the whole 'comics evangelical' fire in me when I'm going through my daily life. It's just not my disposition. But I do really like to communicate in some form or another about comics, stick paintings and gestures maybe, and my site provides an outlet for that.

Why I'm doing a blog with just me writing things instead of going on a message board or something is a different matter. Like, really, what do I have in terms of attracting people to read what I have to say? Isn't that presumptuous, not having little things like qualifications?

What really ruined me was this job I had as a newspaper correspondent for a very short while. It was a local weekly paper, and I happened to know someone who was writing for them, and one day they just sort of said "Hey, you can probably do this. We need politics coverage for Lavish Springs Twp. (not real name), so come with me and I'll show you how to cover meetings." And so I went off, and learned how to cover meetings, and got a crash course in pertinent acronyms and found out which local citizens hated dogs and speeding, and I started to write. And by god -- the paper didn't fold the next week or collapse under a heap of libel suits, so I guess I did ok!

They started giving me a few extra assignments as they cropped up. The local historical society gathers to discuss history. You know. Someone's cellar vanishes into a lost mine (seriously). One time I got to cover a ribbon cutting ceremony at a local park, which was pretty awesome. Real Jimmy Olsen stuff, like any minute I'd turn around to get a quote from my congressman and he'd transform me into a turtle. I liked it a lot, but I quit when I went to law school. The experience, though, instilled in me this wacky American dream feeling that if I just put my all into something and got up in front of people then, by gadfry, I'd have myself a show and a barn and a climactic musical number so culturally insensitive that TCM would only show it at night.

That's the joy of the Internet, putting easy technology in the hands of people who want to get out and try something. I enjoy putting things out there for people to find. I try to write the things I'd have liked to find on-line, making the site the sort of thing I'd like to read. I like sorting out my thoughts into reasonably polished little rocks of stuff to post. Blogging's a weird combination of self-centeredness and outgoing contribution to a huge pool of material. I read a lot of these things before I started my own, so I guess I'm attracted to that.

SPURGEON: Are there instances you can point in your reading lifetime to that significantly helped shape your current outlook on comics?

JOG: Huh. Well, I just realized this the other month, but an awful lot of the "tone" of my reviews is pretty heavily influenced by a different popular fandom, horror/exploitation fandom, which casts a pretty wide net of genres once you get down to it. I really liked reading the deep, longish reviews of nasty gore and Euro exploitation stuff that some British writers were putting out for a while. I read lots of books from FAB Press. This guy named Stephen Thrower... he was in the band Coil for a bunch of years, which I suppose was a more visible thing, but I knew him entirely through these neat writings on the intersections of the accepted canonized 'art' cinema and material that'd generally be off-the-cuff dismissed as trash. He ran a fanzine called Eyeball that got collected into a book, and he also wrote this huge book on Lucio Fulci, who made all these movies that typically get stacked up with the "turkey" ratings in the fat books of capsule reviews you find in Borders, and he maintains a neatly irreverent, very much aware tone, but he acknowledges the potential for beauty and poetry in things like films that have gone unaccepted by the culture at large save for a few designated safe selections, you know?

Not that any of that was super fresh in the grand scheme of arts criticism, but it was the sort of writing on an attractive, catchy subject that managed a genuine mind-opening for me at the age of whateverteen, and I think the aesthetic and philosophy of it spilled over into my own writings on comics (or movies, really), even though the specifics of it aren't entirely applicable. Comics were already getting more and more visible by 2002, when I started reading them weekly again, and they're probably even bigger at the end of 2006. Just the expansion of Japanese comics was incredible over those four years. So it's not as much the messianic subtext that draws me in anymore, it's the person-to-person exchange of thinking and looking deeply into beautiful (or ugly!) things.

I experienced a real immersion therapy in getting back deep into comics (I'd just sort of drifted out around the age of 15, but I kept a toe or two in for much of the subsequent time -- Free Comic Book Day 2002 is what tipped me over, so there's a success story right there). I could recall reading some issues of The Comics Journal, and this must have been right when Milo [George] started editing or even slightly before, and it was like learning a new language. I could read that stuff, and come back to it years later and read it in a totally different way, like someone fluent in a tongue can catch nuances a less experienced student could barely hope to detect. And then everything seemed to expand around me. The availability expanded (look at them bookstore shelves go!), the internet expanded, and I'm sure some of it was the illusions inherent to being new in an unfamiliar place, but I wanted to stay submerged, like keep going deeper and let the stuff flow into me. Just drown me and let me sink, man!

So, in conclusion, my current outlook on comics can obviously be traced back to a horrible boating accident I've struck from my memory. Next question!

SPURGEON: What are the nuts and bolts of what you do? Do you get free comics in the mail? How much time do you spend on the reviews, and how do you choose what to review? Is there a certain time of day you do this kind of writing?

JOG: It's good that you're asking me this now; back when I was a student, I'd just update whenever I'd have some free time, so long as it was more-or-less once a day. I adhere to the Cerebus rule of regular output, in that the new issue doesn't have to strictly come out every month -- certainly not at the same time every month -- so long as I eventually get all caught up in time for post 3000 where I break my neck falling off my computer chair. I did try to get things out on a very regular basis, even back then, because I do think it's important for a site to have something of a reliably appearing output, even if one post a week winds up being nonsense or a 'no post today' notice. I'd always get antsy when my favorite sites wouldn't update for a few days.

But these days, through some strange quirk of fate, I seem to have obtained gainful employment, the downside of which means I'm out of the building 10+ hours a day, counting the commute. So I had to set up a schedule just to keep the site rolling. I sometimes fool around with a post the evening before it's due to go up, but much of the real work is done as soon as I wake up every weekday, which is about 5:00-5:30 AM, and I load up the material before I leave for work. It takes roughly two hours for a post, but it can go shorter or longer, depending on how it's going in my head, or how much stuff I have to research. My THIS WEEK IN COMICS ALL CAPS FOREVER!! feature usually winds up taking a while, because I have to look up creative teams, what they've been doing, whether the book is getting cancelled, if there's any previews to link to... it's a bunch of effort for what inevitably winds up being a short read. Reviews can take long too, but often if I don't at least kind of know what the structure's going to look like beforehand I'll just put things off until I've puzzled it out, which is why some books (like Fun Home for example) wound up taking months and months.

The exception is review copies, and I do get a fair amount of those. Maybe an average of 35% of the stuff I review in a given month is sent in to me. I try to get that stuff out at least a little faster, because I do hate having people waiting for me to get things done already. But I'm never going to just crank out something to get material ready for reading; I basically have to sit myself down and affirmatively think about where I'm going with a certain piece, and there's more of an impetus to do that with a review copy, I think, than with something I just happened to buy. And most of the stuff I review does get reviewed because I just happened to buy it, and I just happened to find it interesting. It's my site, and it's inevitably going to be steered by my personal interests, and my potential predilections, and my favorite creators, though obviously once you stick review copies into that equation it's no longer totally true.

This particular week my car's broken down, and I have to catch a bus into the city, so I'm actually waking up earlier, like 4:30ish in the morning. On the weekends I sleep a lot more because I'm out later at night, so I don't get reviews up until the afternoon, maybe 3:00 PM or 4:00 PM, EST. I'm keeping up with the writing as soon as I'm awake thing. I don't really feel it affects my thinking much. It's just convenient.

SPURGEON: Do you have ambitions to write comics or write more about comics? Do you think that has an effect on your reviews?

JOG: I do like having my writings about comics presented in different forums, though, so there's some ambition there. I don't think it really affects my reviewing style, though, since I find myself switching my style around a bit depending on what venue I'm in. I don't think my blog reviews are totally the same as my stuff in The Comics Journal, because I associate the former with speed and prolificacy and inserting parentheses and random bullet topics, while the latter always has me in thoughts of the page, and the heaviness of ink and all that. It's all me, but it's a different me, half-consciously. It's never as much my ambition for different venues that affects my writing, but my writing that morphs a little in the presence of different venues.

As for writing comics, well, let's just say you'll be surprised with who's writing Marvel's next big crossover, The War of 1812. That's the number of tie-ins at the end there.

SPURGEON: Which reviewers do you read? Is there anyone on comics whose writing you would recommend? Why?

JOG: I read a lot of reviews; really a whole lot. I'm kind of omnivorous when it comes to reading criticism, enough so that I feel anxious when I discover links to reviewing sites or articles I haven't discovered yet. LiveJournal always trips me up... there's so much stuff out there that you wouldn't have expected to find.

Specifically, Internet-wise, I've really been enjoying Derik Badman's recent posts. Lots of discussion on things like transitions and shapes; very visual-focused, well illustrated. Jim Roeg has this beautifully thorough and entirely enthusiastic engagement with superhero comics going on, and I only wish he'd post more often. I always enjoy the big batches of short reviews Brian Hibbs runs at Comix Experience, him and Jeff Lester and Graeme McMillan. It's a tricky art, writing a good capsule review. I think it's a lot harder than going on and on and on, or at least it is for me.

imageIn terms of print, I think everyone in the comics world should read everything Bob Levin has ever written; Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers and Pirates is one of my favorite collections of comics criticism and prose essays ever. Levin's gotten some fuzz over his writing style, and I understand how it probably won't appeal to everybody, what with its distinctly dramatic narrative tone and dialogues and things, but that's a lot of the appeal to me. I love how he reconfigures and interweaves interviews and histories and fake-named characters and nonsense into these densely packed nuggets of subject. It's great!

SPURGEON: You're a very catholic reviewer; can you talk about why you choose to review such a broad range of comic? Do you think there are any dangers in reviewing a wide array in comics like assuming, say, a greater significance for some really crass product -- or a crappily crafted mini-comic -- than they might otherwise have earned?

JOG: Well, that goes back to what I said about my reviewing things I just happen to buy. I don't often choose to review things for the sake of propagating a wide view of the art form, I'm just naturally interested in a wide range of comics, and so my site winds up reflecting that on its own.

There is a hazard to that; coming off as a dabbler and wandering into misunderstandings about a work's context due to lack of experience or familiarity. Or just praising the new for the sake of being fresh. I should temper that by saying that I sometimes find it valuable to read the impressions of someone coming in to a certain species of comic with inexperienced eyes, but there's a great element of trust to that. So I try my hardest to remain open about what I know about a certain genre or a certain property when I find myself reviewing a particular example of the type. All I can really offer is what I know and what I'm thinking about a work, and the temptation to put on airs will only spoil the connection with whoever's reading.

SPURGEON: To better understand your approach to American mainstream comics, can you rattle off a few works of that type from years past that you think have value? In other words, do you come at 52 with a love for Flex Mentallo or do you come at it as a longtime fan of Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers on Batman? Or both? Or neither?

JOG: I came to 52 out of my love for Donna Troy and weeping. I stayed for the remarkably large number of disembodied heads or pieces of headgear. It's really freaky.

Actually, 52 is extra strange, and manages to overcome a lot of the shared universe superhero problems I tend to have, because it's mostly closed-off and self-sufficient and the writers don't jump ship, and I think that helps me appreciate the sprawl and potentially lovely mess of a comics 'universe' as big as DC's without the turbulence that knocks me off those things. It's practically a victory of theory!

If we're talking mainstream Marvel/DC superheroes, it's always a bit odd with me. Superhero comics weren't the earliest comics I read -- those would be the great old Gladstone reprints of Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse and other assorted Disney things -- and I never developed any sort of attachment to any one set of characters, or even the notion of universal coherency. I mostly follow creators around on superhero comics, and I can be a completist when it comes to writers or artists; my loyalty to particular characters above particular talents is pretty much nil, and I usually don't find myself drawn toward the heavy continuity-driven shared-universe stuff, except when there's a particularly potent and singular creative force behind the wheel (Alan Moore's ABC line, for instance). I probably find the implications of a shared universe more interesting than actually diving around in one, since I just don't have the impulse to wade through very much sludge to experience certain character beats or important moments in superhero history. Frankly, I have Wikipedia for that. But a lot of readers find that to be part of the fun, or at least part of the process.

Random valuable mainstream superhero works to me:

image* Promethea (and pretty much all of the ABC line, especially when [Alan] Moore is writing, though his spirit hangs heavy over all)

* Challengers of the Unknown (Howard Chaykin version)

* Seven Soldiers (all of it), Seaguy (Seven Soldiers' evil opposite, and 27 issues shorter)

* that one issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four that Jae Lee drew mostly in silhouettes (#20)

* Automatic Kafka, The Intimates (almost as much for what they say about each other)

* the varied excursions into and out of the territory in Solo (Brendan McCarthy's #12 was the best)

* Garth Ennis' MAX issues of The Punisher (the current poster child for a corporate character being surrendered entirely to his own private, controlled world)

Off the top of my head, your mileage may vary.

SPURGEON: Halfway through, what's your appraisal of 52 as a comics series? How would you describe it as an achievement in art to an interested outsider?

JOG The first thing I'd point out is how 52 is a pretty odd duck in the current superhero industry, in terms of form. And then I'd point out how you probably have to be game for a big sprawl of stuff that's synced to appeal to those who're ready to get acclimated to the DC Universe as a big mess of a thing. But it's still entirely functional as its own story; that's absolutely vital to know.

It's not particularly interested in being collected into trade paperbacks. It's not all that big on the visual consistency one expects from reading something as a whole. It's very much a comic book type of comic book, something built for the pamphlet format and bound to hit the shelves every week, quick and rough. It's sort of disposable; there'd be no psychic backlash to rolling up an issue in your back pocket. Yet at the same time, it's uniquely positioned as a keystone for DC continuity, it's designated an Important! story even though you sometimes wonder what exactly the story is. It's a little bit like a weekly television series, but way more obsessive with cataloging, hyper-comprehensive in the way that only a sprawling shared-universe superhero comic can be.

I don't like every issue. Actually, I don't think there's been all that many issues where I didn't roll my eyes or grimace at something. It does have four writers transparently yanking the tone from place to place, often page-by-page, so forget about consistency there. But that's fitting. First, because there's always going to be clash in a shared universe of many architects and renovators.

And also, 52 is basically about mapping out DC's newly-revised digs, and it functions pretty well as a cook's tour of settings and characters through the eyes of a bunch of low-key protagonists, but it's just as much about DC wrestling with itself about where to go in 2006-07. Should we embrace the silliness of the company's catalog of properties? Go insane and shed lots of blood? Sit around and cry? It doesn't just embody things superhero comics can be written about, but it oscillates between the ways these things can be written, which makes all the more comprehensive, to my mind. That guarantees that some of it will be stupid and awful, yes, but it really does capture the attention as a very sincere effort to peel around the new universe and gather the company's collective thoughts with 100,000+ readers along. That's compelling to me, along with the fun parts that entertain me with talking animals.

imageIt helps that it shows up every week; those rough edges might seem a lot more ugly if the book acted like a normal comic in terms of release. Who knows how it'll read once it's over? More than anything else DC or Marvel is publishing, it's got an immediacy to it, like all this stuff just has to get out into the world right now. That's not going to go a long way toward answering criticisms of self-absorption; I've heard from a number of people this notion that 52 never tries to be about anything other than itself, while at least Marvel's Civil War is making an effort to address the world outside of the comics rack. But that argument never quite flies with me, since even many people who enjoy Civil War as a superhero comic tend to concede that the political allegory component is pretty shit. Yeah, 52 is never about much of anything more than DC superhero comics -- even when it's dealing in metaphors, they're metaphors for DC superhero comics -- but why not actually do something like that for your universe-sorting event series? Why not actually jump in and be reckless and ephemeral and everything DC superhero comics all at once? Body and soul, pamphlet and story? It's got the space! Big! Big!

But I'll warn the prospective reader again: not all of it is good or interesting in terms of plot, the art looks rushed half the time, if you really don't think you'll ever be interested in DC superhero comics it probably won't appeal much, and it's cumulative effect might turn out to be fused to its means of serialization. But if it sounds interesting to you, it might be worth it, even if you're on the fence. It certainly isn't difficult to get into; there's no high walls of continuity to scale before you're in, trust me.

SPURGEON: Marvel's Dan Buckley recently gave an interview where he talked about his company's comics in terms of business development, that the superhero areas were so much further developed for his company than other areas of pursuit. I wonder if there isn't a parallel you can draw to superhero comics' value as art, where for 45 years now you've had talent after talent working this odd sub-genre for everything it's worth. Do you feel that the focus on superhero comics by the American industry for almost five decades has had an effect on the art?

JOG: I think a lot of superhero comics today can't help but be hyper-aware of their own history, and how they can go about pursuing their immediate future as based on that history. Especially today, where the genre has been wrung through so thorough a series of deconstructions and evaluations and stories-about-stories-about-stories, and certain creative runs and defining moments have become essentially codified as THE best parts of certain titles -- you can't escape being keenly aware of how everything's been handled in the genre before, and what's struck the majority as most effective.

And right now, superhero comics are inclined toward focusing on the most faithful, because they have the financial leeway to do so, and an assurance that the money won't stop flowing in the short term if they cater to the most devout. Experimentation always exists in some small part -- I'm sure glad DC was willing to publish things like the final issues of Solo or Promethea -- but experimentation among the major properties is often the product of financial difficulty, of flailing around to find a new hook. There's enough money being thrown around right now that Marvel and DC can afford to reap the quick benefits of servicing their base, and that base has become highly sensitive to the most favored portions of the histories of continuing characters. So have the writers and artists. Canny manipulation is thus possible.

I mean, elements of this date way back; the [Stan] Lee and [Jack] Kirby and [Steve] Ditko books always drew a little bit of strength from their contrast with 'traditional' superhero books, but now we've spent years and years funneling Marvel/DC superhero comics through a distribution channel that's largely settled into servicing them as the big guns, and there's a very significant audience that's highly attuned to the history and canon (so to speak) of enduring properties, so there's a real sense of regality about all the universe-shattering events that'll knock my socks off and insure that Batman will never polish his pointy ears the same way again. The kings are being moved to speak. There's been enough work done with Marvel and DC superheroes (and when I say that, I mean a core group of A-list characters that have proven themselves enduringly popular) by now that it's really quite easy to settle into an epic complacency about what's big, what minor, what pushes the audience's buttons, what needs to be done to energize the base and how to go about that.

As a result, I think it's practically inevitable that the current Marvel/DC superhero scene is dominated by sprawling event series that strive to effect anything and everything, because there's a keen awareness of what expectations can be tweaked to garner enough attention, and how positioning those tweakings on a grand scale can hook readers into buying so much more than they normally would. This won't just affect one character; it'll affect most! It'll affect the very makeup of the universe! And that universe is appreciated an awful lot by the audience; it's given an identity, and it's enduring enough a thing that identities are capable of being affixed. A lot of the appeal of Marvel/DC superhero comics to many readers is the sustainability of their shared serial nature, something that not every genre can manage. They'll stick around. There's a very real sense of endurance to the most key properties. The Direct Market can be a harsh landscape, and many pamphlet-format books die rather quickly. For readers invested in properties, in shared universes, there's a genuine value to things that last, that have been around for twenty, thirty, sixty years.

You couple that with knowing that a lot of readers will be stunned-yet-intrigued by the atrocious death of some innocent character, or fixated on upheaval between superhero forces over at Marvel, you can quickly turn "buying five titles" to "buying fifteen," by keeping a sense of change in the air, change coming to a secure thing, a thing of age and story. Naturally, this makeup all but insures that change won't actually be permanent; you risk alienating readers if you actually stray too far from what's been set out as the bedrock characterizations of certain characters. The gravity's always gonna pull stuff back down. That's why I use the word "tweak."


Even if Mark Millar pisses people off with the Reed Richards he's writing, the very fact that Reed is acting so different has a way of catching enough attention, negative or otherwise, that keeps Civil War grounded as what's really worth talking about with Marvel. If everyone's talking about how much they hate it, it remains the center of attention, and its importance in its fictional universe is reinforced. Yet I think most readers are aware that Reed isn't going to be that way forever, that he'll be back to what's been defined over 40 years of hammering as his "true" nature. He was actually kind of an asshole in the early issues. Today's big time superhero comics have the bigness to create a gravitational pull on characters. But struggling against gravity is exciting, and it's proven right now to be what people are willing to buy on a large scale, as far as superheroes go. It's the tease of shooting into orbit.

So, in conclusion, Spider-Man is a dirty tease with his dirty golden spats. I would like that to be the title of this article, and also inscribed on my headstone.

SPURGEON: If I paid you $100,000 on the condition you make the case for Civil War as legitimate political commentary, how would you make that case?

JOG: Well, my reading of Civil War consisted entirely of flipping through issues on the rack, so I never got much deeper than giggling at the seeds that got all over the Punisher's leg when he shot Jack O'Lantern, but I'll try.

Actually, let's (fortuitously) forget the story.

Let's look at Civil War itself. As a big, slothful, gelatinous thing, its oozing green ichor plopping its way across however many dozens of books.

On that level alone it's like contemporary politics! Infesting every corner! You can't be apolitical anymore, you've got to fight the Civil War! The red state blue state war! The war for freedom! Frequently frustrating formidability frolicking for fastidious fraternity! They don't even need the Civil War banner anymore, just like political queasiness lurks everywhere in today's American life.

Thus Tom, THUS AND THEREFORE, the proliferation of Civil War tie-ins is ACTUALLY IN ALL CAPS representative of an awful focusing event slithering outward to unsuspecting environs of the nation, upsetting life and storyline alike, and forcing both Luke Cage and your grandma to take a position. You can't get away in the comics store. You can't get away in life!

Think about it. You're just sitting there, placidly reading Eternals, Neil Gaiman dishing out page after scrumptious page of backstory, and OH SHIT - it's Iron Man. It's 24 hour news. Face front to culture war invention and saturation, True Believers. Marvel comics is your office and Tony Stark is every discomforting aside about foreign affairs from the cubical across, Captain America each indelicate comment and nervous pause between polite colleagues. You can't escape it anymore, Tom. Whose side are you on? Stilt-Man W. Bush, Hillary Rodham Journey Into Mystery.

Now where's my money, honey?

SPURGEON: I just pay-palled you in Latverian currency. To follow up on an earlier point, one thing that's odd to me about comics right now is that audiences seem to be engaging comics for their stories -- both in terms of literary values or simple plot progression -- almost to the exclusion of, say, their pleasing qualities of decorative or representational art done well, or story moments or scenework, even. Do you agree?

JOG: I do think there's kind of a downplaying currently of the purely visual element of comics. Or at least an extra emphasis on the "literary" values of comics, that inevitably finds them grouped in with prose novels or short prose stories. Comics can now stand up in competition for major book prizes, but that invites a environment-attuned criticism that's naturally going to be inclined away from the visual element, often away from the interplay of text and image that's the core of the comics form, at least beyond a superficial level. There's trouble, I think, in reducing comics to a more speedy form of prose reading; I've heard comments from some very intelligent individuals about how they don't particularly care about the visuals of comics. How the differences in art styles are largely illusory to the overall reading experience and as long as the pictures are comprehensible and not outright amateurish. Who cares about how Artist X lays out the panels and how Artist Y draws the faces?

But comics are a visual medium, and art has its own pleasures. And its own power that affects storytelling, even if only in subtle ways. I really do think the pleasing quality of good visuals can, at the very least, color one's emotions about a story, and add to the overall effect, yet some of that is maybe getting lost under the influence of the prose comparison.

Even the most straightforward representational art has to be laid out in a manner that's intuitive for reading; I find I take a lot more pleasure from visuals that compliment the tone of a plot than I would otherwise with the same story. Especially in superhero comics, there also seems to be a disinclination in criticism toward focusing too much on the visuals. Maybe it's still fallout from the early-'90s, where rippling bad-ass art often took precedence over story, and there developed a kind of sense that the smart reader, the sensitive and sophisticated and canny reader, would naturally value story over visuals. But the problem with a lot of those books was that the art was pretty awful too.

SPURGEON: I want to ask you about a couple of the more prominent groupings of books. What have been your impressions of the First Second line in their first year?

JOG: I've read four of the First Second books. Uniformly they've all been nice objects to hold, crisply designed and all. I think Eddie Campbell's The Fate of the Artist is the best I've read by a longshot, because nobody has Campbell's willingness to hide in the panel gutters and force the reader into following him out of what a "graphic novel" ought to be. It's got prose and fumetti and mock newspaper strips and literary adaptation, and it's all very funny and bright but to a rather dark end, since it's often about the futility of art and its millions of variations in the face of a chaotic, unclassifiable universe, and the toll conveying it all takes on the artist that needs to exist in that world. It's probably best read by longtime Campbell fans, since they'll be able to catch the myriad references to other projects, but that doesn't mean it isn't still great for anyone interested in gleeful formal play and fiction-as-ecstatic-truth. All of life's good things.

The weakest... I'd say that's American Born Chinese. The other two [I've read] are Klezmer and Kampung Boy, and I've been told there's others that are a good deal weaker, but that's the least of the ones I've read. I'd agree that it's the sort of book First Second ought to be taking chances on, a big fat ambitious swing of a story about huge topics and all that, and it has its virtues in its use of racial iconography and its carefully detailed setting, but it's a flawed work. I think it trips over itself in the end trying to make a sweeping, all-inclusive statement, I think the symbols get jumbled and ultimately escape the author's grasp, I think the overarching theme is just too sprawling to support the message being delivered, to the point where there's thematic loose ends more nagging than intriguing. It's a noble thing, but I absolutely can't sign on to the frankly gushing praise it's been getting.

SPURGEON: There's also this year been something of a second flowering of the Fort Thunder aesthetic, with books out featuring Paper Rad and Brian Chippendale? How would you define what's valuable about that school of comics?

JOG: This reminds me of some comments Chippendale himself made with Dan Nadel at their SPX panel, basically referencing the lack of exposure a lot of the Fort Thunder (and related folk) got, and how some of the work is genuinely difficult to reproduce into easily replicable form, like books. You had to go up to Chippendale's bedroom to view a lot of his most prodigious output (insert joke here).

So I think for many people, the second flowering of Fort Thunder may well be the advancement of the first flowering into a new zone of exposure, through different means of conveyance that, while understandably mutating the work away from its first skin, brings maybe the soul of it to new readers like me. I just haven't experienced enough of it, but I like a lot of what I've seen. It really has mind-opening capabilities, the potential to blast away preconceptions of what comics ought to be, or how the art can flower apart from the established mores of storytelling. If it's not new to fine art, it can be new to an awful lot of comics, and maybe prompt a little savoring of movement on the page or searing color, or visual mind stew. Mmmmm.

SPURGEON: As far as individual books go, what did you end up thinking of Fun Home? It read like you had problems figuring it out to your satisfaction.

JOG: I liked Fun Home a lot. It wasn't as much my opinions on the book itself were conflicting -- I was certain I liked it right up front -- it was trying to find the right way to actually approach it in a review that was the tricky part. There's a lot of different ways of talking about a book like that; it can hold up to a lot of different angles of scrutiny.

I eventually settled on taking one chapter and breaking it apart to show how Alison Bechdel has this really impressive series of cross-references and interrelations going. I wasn't much surprised when I read in an interview that Bechdel had all sorts of bits and pieces of her childhood literally filed away, as if she was keeping records, and she used a lot of that miscellany for reference material, because to me the book is this grand organization of events and notions and items. Things don't proceed in chronological order; they're grouped around happenings and themes. It's like she's taking an inventory of her life with her father, trying to sort through how these disparate bits of history fit together (not as a perfectly coherent puzzle, but in the manner of recurring concerns and emotions), and publishing the results as a fast-reading, disarmingly well-paced comic. In that way, it's extremely well suited to the comics form, what with the easy use of icons and the particular visual beauty of structure. I wanted to convey how elegant a work it is.


SPURGEON: Other than elegance, what about Fun Home do you think has struck a chord with people?

JOG: I think it's worked for so many people because it can be read in a lot of different ways. It's part of what's still a popular subgenre of autobiography among mainstream prose books, the eccentric upbringing saga. It's mysterious when it needs to be. There's suspense to it. It works very well as a simple illustrated monologue-type read, kind of a one-woman show. That's maybe the best way to think of it no matter how you approach it; I do believe Bechdel "played" all the characters in her photo reference, and that's really interesting considering how rigorously individual a work it is.

SPURGEON: Lost Girls?

JOG: I haven't even finished reading it. I find myself moving pretty slowly through it; that uniform eight-pages-per-chapter thing really invites me to jump off whenever something else is happening, like I spot a dime on the dresser or a branch rustles across the street. That's not so much a weakness of the work, just a byproduct of the modular structure. I didn't buy it until recently.

SPURGON: The reaction to the book in some circles surprised me; a few people went straight after Alan Moore.

JOG: The reaction online, at least as far as I've seen of comics-heavy websites, has been pretty negative. I think the non comics-focused outlets are a bit kinder to the book on the whole. One of the problems with a big, expensive, here-I-am project like that is word of mouth weighs heavily on it. I'd have probably been more enthusiastic to drop $29.95 on it as a softcover right off the bat rather than a (heavily discounted) $48 for a slipcased set of books that I've been hearing negative things about. But I understand that part of the book's deal is that it's a hulking deluxe package of resplendent good taste and outgoing quality. It's never seemed as much to me from the outside as "comics porn as art" but "comics porn as respectable coffee table item from the graphic novel scene of today."

It's broken though quite nicely. I'm seeing copies all over Borders and Barnes & Noble locations, just in time for your holiday purchases. They didn't carry it at first (I think at least one of them may have outright declined it), but nothing succeeds like success. It looks most at home up there on the top shelves, all proper and purple. I'll finish reading it eventually. It's not bad so far.


SPURGEON: Did you read The Ticking?

JOG: Yes, I did.

SPURGEON: I thought it was Renee French's best work, largely because she sublimated her ability to do horror imagery into something more interesting than repeated attempts to startle or upset the reader.

JOG: I read it in pretty close proximity to French's Marbles in My Underpants collection, which was a trip because the latter book collects all these wild, truly disturbing flights of grotesquery, yet The Ticking is so sleek and elegant a thing. It doesn't take a long time to read, and it's a very simple story, but you're absolutely right with the sublimation thought. It's like French has taken all the overt visual horror of her prior works and internalized it into the subjective, kind of first-person world of the lead character. It's softly creepy... even less creepy than uncomfortable, which is how the lead character feels in his skin anyway. But he takes the potential nastiness of the world and turns it into art; he doesn't hide like his father did, he embraces the strangeness of living. Very subtle, visually integrated piece.

SPURGEON: Have you read Ode to Kirihito yet?

JOG: No, I haven't. Actually, speaking of manga and distribution, I've never actually physically seen a copy, which is really weird since Vertical's Osamu Tezuka works tend to have really nice bookstore distribution. I don't think I've ever missed seeing a volume of Buddha sitting around in Borders at some point in time, hardcover or softcover. So it's kind of disconcerting that out of the six or so comics stores and five chain bookstore locations I've been inside since the book's release date, I've never ever come into contact with the book. Central Pennsylvania comic-buying anecdotal evidence is worth its weight in sterling silver, I know, but it's still weird.

Now I think I'm getting it for Christmas, so that's good.

SPURGEON: In general, what manga do you read and recommend?

JOG: Narrowing it down, the very first thing I need to draw extra attention to is Kazuo Umezu's The Drifting Classroom, which VIZ is putting out under their VIZ Signature banner. Volume 3 just came very recently, and it's just the damnedest comic on the shelves right now. Like, Umezu has always had this buzz behind him among manga people who know their stuff. He's one of the big horror guys in manga. He's got an award named after him, a series of dvds that just came out in the US, his own haunted house in a theme park. But, up until now there's been almost nothing from among his major works released in English. VIZ put out something called Orochi: Blood a while ago, which was actually the last volume of a series of horror stories. Dark Horse has a few volumes of this omnibus thing called Scary Book that throws together all sorts of odds and ends from the guy's career with zero context or guidance, and it's just not very satisfying to an audience unequipped to appreciate the works' place in the man's career, I don't think. It doesn't provide a good introduction at all.

But The Drifting Classroom is one of the classics. And it reads like a classic, like "why the hell has it taken so long to get this over here?!" It ran in the early to mid '70s, so I guess the style might come across as old-fashioned to readers that are used to sleek anime-influenced character designs or lightning-quick action or whatnot, but for my dollar this thing has some of the most furious pure cartooning I've seen in a long time. I just love the way Umezu draws things, like kids running. Just floating in the air, hustling to and fro. His use of splash pages is top-notch. So are his letters and sound effects (and, by extension, VIZ's English lettering). Everyone screams every line of dialogue. All the time. Which is great, because the plot is nuts and cranked up as loud as possible as fast as possible, and I'm forced to conclude that Umezu is actually a very special genius simply for not having the shambling affair become numbing after 50 pages.

It's this archetypal "survival horror" plot about a schoolhouse of assorted classes warped away to a deadly hellscape, and everyone goes completely insane while they try to survive. In horror. The big theme of the first few volumes is pretty much "Kids, never trust adults because they're idiots and psychopaths and they'll get you killed." Somehow, Umezu manages a really good grasp of the total chaos and loss of individual power that occurs in immediate crisis situations. He's really great at conveying the panic that comes from realizing everything you depended on for security was just lousy cardboard. Little children are shot to death, run over by vehicles, they go savage, most of the adults die quick... there's this one double-page splash where the mad cafeteria guy sets a bunch of teachers on fire, and it's right up there in my double-page splash pantheon. It's going to double-page splash heaven. I have no clue where Umezu is going with it all. I don't know how he'll keep it up. The preview for Volume 3 has a bloodied little boy crucified on a burning cross with a gigantic "!?" over his left shoulder... that's comics, man! It's the kind of book that makes you instantly grasp the appeal of a certain artist. Umezu! Yeah!

imageI like all the new VIZ Signature books. Naoki Urasawa's Monster is fun pulp suspense thrills. Golgo 13 is truly unlike anything else being released in English today, these deeply studied, yet often deeply odd self-contained sagas of an unbeatable hitman who strolls through history and shoots his way through major cultural events and little melodramas alike. Dark Horse has this one-volume deal called Ohikkoshi, and its centerpiece is this really warm, lived-in romantic comedy among college students that actually romantic and comical and reminiscent of college, which is a fun trick. I'm enjoying TokyoPop's release of Welcome to the N.H.K., this acid satire of hardcore geeks and shut-ins that doesn't even attempt likable characters on its way to comedy. Thank god. Plenty more I'll be screaming to the plants about tomorrow morning after I realize I've forgotten them. Everything Tezuka. Lots of older used manga at blowout prices online, like Bakune Young (VIZ, 3 volumes, maybe the best action manga ever) and Hotel Harbour View (VIZ, 1 volume, rhapsodic assassin noir bliss) and Ashen Victor (VIZ, 1 volume, the guy who does Battle Angel Alita indulging in a book-length Sin City-era Frank Miller homage with an ultra-violent robot hero visually patterned after Morpheus from The Sandman, and it's just as great as it sounds). All of D&Q's Tatsumi books.

SPURGEON: Will there ever be a point where the majority of folks treat manga as comics without having to qualify or segregate them in discussion? For that matter, should there be a point when this happens?

JOG: Not any time soon. It's not just a question of comics. It's a question of format, of distribution, of price. Manga, for better or worse, is now joined at the hip with the digest format. It's a creature of bookstores. It's inexpensive. Western comics don't have to necessarily be pamphlets, nor do they only have to be sold in Direct Market stores, but Japanese comics have so dominated the conversation concerning bookstores and the digest format that they're sometimes treated as one and the same. It's the "manga" format. Oni puts out a digest, Marvel puts out a digest, the reaction is not "digest." It's "manga."

As such, I don't think there's much of a chance of any sweeping integration of the camps. There's arguments to be made for keeping them separate; I read an article somewhere (can't recall just where) suggesting that by grouping manga in under the broad heading of comics, we inevitably exercise a paternalistic domination of language over a vital culture's output, forcing a breathing alternate art to conform to the constrictions of a grammar designed for Western understanding, hence positing the Western way as the correct way. Same goes for seeing the aesthetic approach of manga as uniform 'comics,' as it's supposedly an inevitable prodding of the non-English art into the English mold of critique. I don't know if I sign on to that, but I can pick up whispers of it in online conversations among artcomics folk hoping that all these manga-lovin' kids one day mature into the type of adult that'll read [INSERT PERSONAL ENGLISH-ORIGINAL FAVORITE HERE].

But if I was prodded, I'd say I try to think of all the world of sequential art as one wide body. I doubt the realities of publication will make it easy any time soon.

SPURGEON: What did you think of the Dupuy/Berberian books?

JOG: Never got to obtaining them. I will sometime. I've enjoyed all the stuff they've had translated into English so far, and I'm always impressed with how the two of them maintain a balance of light comedy and authentic pathos. Good, sophisticated fun.

SPURGEON: Since Bob Levin doesn't have a book out this year, are there any 2006 books on comics you'd care to recommend? Do you even read books on comics?

JOG: Oh sure, when I have time. Most recently I enjoyed Todd Hignite's In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, which I'm presuming everyone who's read this far down the page has already heard of, but it's excellent. Nine artists are sat down, and each writes up a series of paragraphs and miniature essays, describing in their own words their approaches to art, their influences, their thinking, their procedures, all of it copiously illustrated. Very simple, very effective.

Does Dan Nadel's Art Out of Time count? It's a lot more of a classic comics anthology than a book 'about' comics, but it's an education regardless just seeing some of this rare material. God, I'm still thinking about The Wiggle Much today...

SPURGEON: Is there a book that impressed you this year that you think may have been little talked about or under-discussed?

JOG: Oh, definitely Japan As Viewed By 17 Creators. I don't think it's much of a surprise that it hasn't been talked about very much, because all anecdotal evidence I've come across indicates that people have had a pretty hard time even finding copies. I really like a lot of what Fanfare/Ponent Mon has released in English, but there's little denying that their distribution is very spotty and their advertising presence is dim; I've never once seen a copy of this book in any comics shop or bookstore, save for the single copy I personally bought the day of its release through Diamond, and it wasn't available at any of the big online booksellers for a good while after its release. You couldn't buy it direct, or at least I never figured out a way to pull it off. You were basically forced to special order it from somewhere for a couple months, though I notice Amazon has it now, so at least there's that. I know Fanfare/Ponent Mon secured some bookstore distribution deal a while ago, but from my first-hand experience it's only gotten their back catalog onto the shelves.

So, it's not really all that strange that there's little chat about the book, but it's absolutely one of the best things I've read all year. It's a themed anthology of Asian and European artists, edited by Frederic Boilet and Masanao Amano, in which all of the stories are somehow inspired by specific areas of Japan. Eight of the contributors live in Japan, and nine were invited to different areas of the country as visitors. Themed anthologies naturally run the risk of sameness among the contributions, or superficiality in the artists' engagement with what's presented to them, but this one avoids nearly every pitfall I can think of, and maybe that's because the book's premise is both really broad and super-specific at the same time. You wind up getting fantasy and historical fiction and autobiography, and surrealism and fable and all kinds of stuff, but it's all very connected to the land, a specific portion of the land, so there's also a real grounding in specificity that keeps everything from just floating away.

It's very cannily constructed, very much a singular work; apparently there was a typhoon while a bunch of the European artists were visiting, so that inescapably winds up serving as a specific connecting fiber for a number of the stories, but beyond that there's a tangible sense of frailty before the might of land and time and wind and shit that crisscrosses a lot of the contributions. Fits right in with the title itself. JAPAN in big words. Lots of tiny plot connections between some of the stories, contributors visiting other contributors, and a lot of focus on cross-cultural influence. The best thing in the book is probably Nicolas de Crecy's story, which is literally narrated by the manifestation of an abstract idea, which sounds so pretentious that you want to die, but it's a great, funny, lacerating combination of self-effacement and genuine appreciation for the hold a foreign atmosphere can have on even a bad-faith soul's capacity for creativity. Emmanuel Guibert has this illustrated prose story that's supposedly about artists in early '20s Kyoto, but is actually about the Atelier des Vosges workshop in the mid-'90s, and this fascinating sense of cross-cultural, cross-temporal human kinship emerges.

There's still a real difference in approach between the cultures. The European artists seem much more comfortable playing with the formal properties of the medium, mixing up narratives and switching storytelling styles around on the fly. There's lots of formalism at work; it's pretty self-conscious. The Japanese artists, manga-bred, on the whole seem much more interested in the surface aspects of direct storytelling, like the immediate impact of images and speed of information. There's a bunch of stories that delve into some pretty dense iconography, but it's generally presented to instantly strike the reader with information in the execution of sleek stories, rather than pull them into the depths of how icons and text coalesce on the page. I think a lot of it is differences in comics traditions between cultures, and it's a strong, largely wordless counterpoint to the kinship before influence and rain that runs through the rest of the book.

I really liked it. I haven't heard a lot about it, but wow I really enjoyed that book.

SPURGEON: Finally, what are you doing for the holidays?

JOG: Taking a week and a half off work. Heading up north to see my family. Sitting around yule log, burning the tree, and kissing reindeer under the mistletoe. Updating my site. The usual.


Jog The Blog

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Happy 54th Birthday, Peter Gillis!

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CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

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Holiday Interviews #1: Shaenon Garrity

A Short Interview With Shaenon Garrity
By Tom Spurgeon

imageShaenon Garrity is a cartoonist, a writer, an essayist, a reviewer and an editor, she's collaborated with several artists including alt-comics legends Roger Langridge and Tom Hart, she's written for Marvel Comics, she works at the most important comics company in the United States at this moment in industry history, she helms an important anthology, she's a smart and funny Internet presence, she's even married to someone in comics and most people I know in comics have never heard of her. While that's about as stark a case as I can make for the divisions that still exist between the various comics camps, all that really means is that comics is a big room. As you'll see, the majority of Garrity's output has come in the webcomics corner of that room, with her best-known work probably Narbonic, a webcomics community favorite for its five-year history, a run that will end a week from Monday (the announcement was made after this interview was conducted).

I've been dying to interview Shaenon Garrity since talking to her about comics briefly at the 2005 San Diego Con. I'm glad I finally got the chance.



TOM SPURGEON: Shaenon, by way of introduction, can you break down your various day and creative gigs and how much time you take to work on each one?

SHAENON GARRITY: My real job is that of freelance manga editor for Viz Media. I oversee the production of about a dozen manga series for Viz. I work at home and go into the office two or three afternoons a week. All things considered, it's a pretty sweet deal. I've been working at Viz since 2000, but I've only been an editor for about half that time. Before that, I was the front-desk receptionist. I got laid off as the receptionist and rehired as an editor.

My unreal jobs include writing and drawing the daily webcomic Narbonic, writing the weekly webcomics Li'l Mell (currently drawn by Neil Babra) and Smithson (drawn by Brian Moore and Roger Langridge), and editing I sometimes write for Marvel; I did a story for last year's Marvel Holiday Special, and another one this year (in collaboration with my husband, Andrew Farago). I also do some freelance writing on comics for magazines and so on. I recently became a regular contributor to Sequential Tart. I'm also supposed to be a contributor to the Web-only section of The Comics Journal, but I haven't actually written anything for it yet.

I think that's everything.

Until recently, my time has been divided roughly into thirds: Viz, Narbonic, and everything else. But Narbonic is ending on December 31, so there'll be a big hole in my schedule soon.

SPURGEON: Really? I had no idea.

GARRITY: You didn't know? I assumed that's why you wanted to interview me now.

SPURGEON: No, I'm completely clueless.

GARRITY: Yeah, Narbonic ends on December 31. I always planned for it to last five or six years. There's a main story arc, and it's coming to an end now.


SPURGEON: Endings are a big deal. Without giving anything away, can you talk about sitting down and grappling with the conclusion creatively? Are there any models in terms of long-running strips or TV series that appeal to you?

GARRITY: When I came up with Narbonic in college, I was really, really into Babylon 5, which had a set five-season schedule, and this definitely contributed to my decision to give the strip a planned ending. I'm a big old nerd. In the intervening years, of course, I've been paying attention to the way various comics end. There actually haven't been many comic strips with definite, considered endings. I've heard descriptions of the final Barnaby strips, but I haven't read them. I'm very curious to see how For Better or for Worse wraps up.

SPURGEON: Has anyone reacted strangely to the news?

GARRITY: Not yet. You'd think someone would have the grace to commit ritual suicide or something.

imageSPURGEON: Now how is it that you decided to take over the Modern Tales gig from Eric Burns? Where are you in terms of you various plans for developing that site?

GARRITY: Joey Manley had wanted me to take over the content end of Modern Tales for a long time, and I always turned him down. Eric accepted the job, but then he ran into personal and day-job problems that forced him to drop out. By that time, I'd taken Narbonic off Modern Tales, where it had been for most of its run. When Joey offered me the editorial job again, I decided to accept. I just can't stay away from Modern Tales. It's like a sickness.

I've now been the content editor for about six months, and I've accomplished what I consider to be the most desperately-needed goal: getting a lot of good new content on the site. When Joey ran the entire site himself, he spent most of his time on technical issues, letting the selection of comics on the site dwindle.

This problem became more acute as the MT sister sites Girlamatic and Graphic Smash continued to grow and develop strong new content. (Serializer, the other sister site, was AWOL for a long time, but has recently returned with an awesome lineup.) My first priority was getting good new comics on MT. Fortunately, Eric had already done a lot of the work for me in his brief tenure, and had a bunch of great comics lined up. I also got Joey to revive Longplay, the section of the site for long-form comics, which I've always thought was one of the most promising areas for MT to explore.

The next step is something Joey and I need to discuss together, but I'd like to work on the eternal problem of making money. Right now, MT is straddling the fence between offering subscription content and bringing in revenue through ads, and I think we need to improve both sides. To start, I want to get MT onto Project Wonderful, a promising new service that allows sites to auction ad space. Of course, Joey always says that he thinks of MT as the loss leader in his little backwoods empire, so he isn't as concerned about making it profitable.

SPURGEON: How much are you surprised you have the career and creative outlets you have, and how much does it make sense considering your aims and activities growing up? Am I right in thinking you were involved in comics at college?

GARRITY: I'm not sure if this is exactly what I thought I'd be doing, but I guess it was bound to be something nerdy. I wasn't particularly into comics as a kid, but I got heavily addicted in high school. I drew comic strips in high school and college. I went to Vassar, where I majored in English and took writing classes wherein it was assumed that we'd all end up sipping dry wine in the New York literary publishing world. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd ended up doing Real Writing Without Pictures.

Probably boring, although I imagine I'd find myself enmeshed in fewer solemn debates over whether women are mentally capable of reading books.

It could still happen, though. I might try writing prose fiction once Narbonic's out of the way. It's kind of refreshing just to write.


SPURGEON: People have criticized your art in the past, but do you feel you have a full vocabulary, that you can tell any story you want with the abilities you have?

GARRITY: No, those people, whoever they may be, are correct. I'm pretty terrible. After six years of daily drawing, I've reached the point where I can pull off a very simple illustration without totally embarrassing myself, but that's about the limit of my artistic ability.

I keep saying I'm going to enroll in the Academy of Art or something and actually learn to draw, but I haven't. I never took any art classes past high school. I'm very limited in the range of things I can draw, and, perhaps more damningly, my style doesn't have much beauty or flair. It gets the job done, provided the job is simple enough.

I get a lot of pleasure out of drawing, though. Doodling has always been my method of brainstorming, even for my prose writing. A lot of really gifted artists seem to hate drawing. Derek Kirk Kim, for instance. He bitches and moans about it all the time. Maybe if I learned all the technical skills and theory necessary to draw well, I'd find it too much of a chore.

SPURGEON: The reason I didn't want to say anything about your art is because I wanted to say something about your lettering. Is that something you've thought about giving to an outside source? Does it ever concern you that your line to line spacing is such that you give away huge amounts of strip space in constructing your word balloons? You strip is so verbal to begin with.

GARRITY: Yes, it's terrible, isn't it? The New York Times complained about it, so it must be a problem. It's a very wordy strip, and my lettering is awful. I don't know what you mean by giving it to an outside source, though. I can't afford to hire a letterer. The sensible thing to do would be to do my lettering on the computer, but computer lettering looks so harsh and artificial next to the crude artwork on Narbonic. If I ever draw another comic myself, I might do computer lettering. Fortunately, for the comics I don't draw, it's not an issue; the artists do everything, and it comes out much better.

These questions are kind of mean, aren't they? "I notice that everyone thinks you suck. Have you ever considered not sucking?"

SPURGEON: I have a reputation. Now, having done Narbonic for so long, I'm interested in how you write. There was a scene in a recent comic where you asked in a caption, "Who would win in a fight between a giant robot foot accompanied by a rifle-toting assassin and an army of hamster in mechanical suits?" And your full-panel answer was "The cartoonist." How much of your narratives are constructed out of the simple concerns of enjoying yourself? And due to the length of what you write, how do you avoid falling prey to writing pure soap opera -- or is that even a concern?

GARRITY: I try very hard to make each strip funny, or at least vaguely entertaining, on its own. Maybe if I went on for years it would end up like For Better or for Worse or something, more about the soap opera than the humor. I'm a big fan of For Better or for Worse, by the way, although I hate Anthony with the fire of a thousand suns.

My first intention is always to write something that I personally enjoy. If I enjoyed console video games or superhero rape, I'd probably do a lot better in the comics business.

SPURGEON: Who and what do you find funny?

GARRITY: Geez, what a question. That's like, "Where do you get your ideas?" Pain, mostly.

SPURGEON: Is it really that weird a question? It's just an influences question. I'm more interested in the who than the what. Do you have any creative influences when it comes to writing humor? What about generally?

GARRITY: Um, everything. I read a lot. That is, I used to read a lot, before Narbonic. One of the downsides of doing a daily strip is that I haven't had much time for reading. I can draw while watching TV or listening to music, but I can't draw while I'm reading.

Narbonic is mostly influenced by Shakespeare and Young Frankenstein. Even if that's not true, it seems like an entertaining thing to say right now.

SPURGEON: Smithson has a really nice flow to it when you read a bunch of it at once; it manages to catch the ebb and flow of college life as a I remember it. Where did that series come from, and what were your aims going in?

GARRITY: Thanks. I think the pacing hurts it as an online serial, since there isn't a punch or a hook to each weekly installment, but I'm pleased with the way it reads when you go through the archives. Smithson is a story I've had on the back burner since high school, which makes it older than any of my other comics in that sense. I did most of the work on it in college. For a long time, it was the place where I would throw all the ideas I couldn't find another home for, so it ended up with some weird elements, like Darryl O'Doyle, commissured Irish poet.

I started writing the comic for Graphic Smash, the action-oriented Modern Tales site, but it didn't pick up much of a readership there. I guess it never totally fit with the rest of the site. Then the first artist, Robert Stevenson, had to bow out, and I ended up revamping the whole thing: new artist, new title, new website. It seems to be getting an audience now, but I still have to find a way to make money from it, if only for Brian's sake. He does such a great job on the art every week. There's another development in the works that I may not be able to talk about yet, but I'm hoping it'll be an opportunity to introduce Smithson to a lot of new readers.

My aim is really just to tell the story. It's my superhero story.


SPURGEON: Before I forget, I wanted to give you a chance to talk about Lil' Mell a bit. I've seen very little of it, but what I've seen seems to indicate a degree of awareness of old, classic kids comic books right down to the page design -- as opposed to strips, where children seem to act as mouthpieces for adult concerns. What drove you to do that feature?

GARRITY: Originally, it was Lea Hernandez's idea, from back when she was launching She and Joey thought I should do a kid version of Mell, one of the characters in Narbonic, and then we got Vera Brosgol to agree to draw it. Vera eventually dropped out because she had school and stuff, so Li'l Mell became a comic with rotating artists. I've had a different artist for each storyline, including myself for "The Horror of Rukavina Caverns" (which was a story I initially wrote for Vera, because she got sick of drawing classrooms and wanted me to have her draw caves instead). Neil Babra is drawing it right now, and I'm very lucky to have him. He's amazing.

I don't think it's really a kiddie comic, not as long as I periodically have characters scream things like, "By the way, he's going to grow up to be a bisexual vegan atheist!" But it's not an adult comic, either; it's not one of those comics that has kid characters but is obviously written for adult sensibilities. Neil and I have tried selling it to publishers, who are mostly interested in it for Neil's art, and I've had some trouble explaining who it's supposed to appeal to. Of all my comics, it's the one that's probably written most purely for an audience of me. Which would explain why I write all my friends in as characters.

Incidentally, the kid comic I've read the most of is Little Lulu. I've got all the Dark Horse collections.


SPURGEON: What have you learned from your various collaborations over the years? I'm particularly in interested in your work from Tom Hart and Roger Langridge, because they're so strong writing-wise on their own.

GARRITY: I have no idea why those two put up with me. I probably learned the most from Tom, because we spent a lot of time brainstorming and trading ideas about comics before we started Trunktown. He's a great teacher and he loves talking theory. The first few weeks of Trunktown are terrible, incidentally, but then it gets good. That's probably true of everything I've written, but it was really hard to get into the rhythm of Trunktown at first.

Roger just takes my scripts and draws beautiful pages. His approach to his work seems to be very professional and matter-of-fact; he just hunkers down and draws. In England, he does spot illustrations for a Doctor Who magazine and the British equivalent of Soap Opera Digest, and he has no particular interest in either Doctor Who and soaps, but you wouldn't know it from the illustrations. Even though he's a great writer on his own, he does a lot of collaborations with various writers, and he's very good at making someone else's script look good.


I have a great time working with Brian Moore, the main artist on Smithson. He's very talented and he shares my nerdy passion for all areas of comic art, so we talk a lot over email. I hope he gets to be better known; I love the art he's been doing for Smithson.

imageSPURGEON: I think Tom Hart mentioned to me that you have a really broad range of interest in comics art. Is there any particularly obscure or surprising passion that you have when it comes to comics?

GARRITY: I don't think so. I try to have an appreciation for all comics that don't suck, although I do have some special preferences: I adore 1970s shojo manga, for instance, and of course I love comic strips. Alley Oop is one of my favorites. V.T. Hamlin was one of those guys who could draw anything. I also like a lot of weekly strip cartoonists, especially Lynda Barry and Alison Bechdel.

SPURGEON: You said in another interview that you had almost memorized Ghost World. Is there anything that revealed itself to you after multiple readings that you maybe didn't see the first few times through. If not, what do you get from the later readings?

GARRITY: I just like rereading books. And Ghost World is a really well-constructed graphic novel. I know David Boring and Ice Haven get more critical attention because they're all serious, but Ghost World is smart and nicely put together, in addition to having a little more human warmth than [Dan] Clowes' recent work. Clowes always blows me away, though. It's pretty amazing to trace his career from his early work to the present, and see how he keeps building on his past achievements in unexpected ways.

SPURGEON: Say you're like me and you've kind of aware of webcomics for years but it still seems to look like what it did six, seven years ago -- some promising work, an avalanche of junk, and according to a few rabid advocates the revolution just around the corner. What do we need to know about webcomics that might not come through via message boards and on-line articles and discussion of same?

GARRITY: I can't offer much advice, because I don't actually read that many webcomics outside the Modern Tales family, and the webcomics scene has exploded beyond what anyone can reasonably keep track of. It's certainly not remotely what it was six or seven years ago. I started doing webcomics then, and I can attest that it was a much, much smaller and much, much less interesting world. I'm floored by how many good-to-great webcomics there are now, and how the Web has become a standard, legitimate publishing venue for comics. It's amazing.

I guess it's possible that the shit-to-diamonds ratio is the same as it's always been, but I don't think even that's true. There weren't many good webcomics six years ago, and the decent ones, like Scott Kurtz's PvP, are way better now than they were then. The bar is much higher now.

I don't know if there's going to be a "revolution," in the sense of some huge turning point that everyone can point to and say, "There. That's when webcomics officially became worth paying attention to." Actually, I think we passed that point a year or two ago, by almost any measure you care to name. Or we can agree to place the revolution marker on the date when Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, which started as one of the first comics on Modern Tales, was nominated for a National Book Award.

SPURGEON: It may be years of malt liquor talking, but am I right in remembering that there's a Shaenon Garrity convention somewhere where you're flown in as guest of honor? I know it's either you or S. Clay Wilson. What is that experience like?

GARRITY: If there is an S. Clay Wilson convention, I want to go there more desperately than I can possibly convey in print.

ClayWorld Chicago notwithstanding, I assume you're thinking of Narbonicon, a mini-convention that's been held annually in Minnesota for the past four years. Um, yeah, it exists. Or existed. With Narbonic ending, unfortunately, there is no longer an impetus for Narbonicon, so this year's was probably the last such event. It was a very small affair, maybe two dozen people hanging out and going to the science museum and stuff. But, yes, it happened, and they flew me out to the Twin Cities every year to attend. Webcomics is a weird place.

SPURGEON: You recently popped into the rolling discussion on-line about DC's Minx imprint to point out that there was only one female creator among those announced. This has been an incredible year in terms of dialog about women in comics, from the Mid-Ohio Con incident, to exhibits, to not being in exhibits, to so much good work coming out from female cartoonists like Alison Bechdel and Renee French, and so on. Do you have a take on where the comics industry stands in terms of these sorts of issues right now. What could be done immediately to improve matters?

GARRITY: More Moto Hagio translations. I'm not sure if it'll do anything about the patriarchy, but it'll stop me from bitching for a few minutes.

To be perfectly frank, I find the institutionalized sexism that permeates the comics industry, from the upper echelons of management to the target audience of socially inept young men, mostly just baffling. It's not something I was raised to have any patience with. And for the last six years, I've worked for Viz. Half of our product line is manga specifically aimed at girls, and most of our popular "boys'" titles have an audience that's about half female, so the interests and tastes of female readers is always of great importance. About half the work we publish is by women. About half the editorial staff is female. All three of the supervising editors I report to are women. I'm not saying Viz doesn't have problems of its own, but the idea of having to indulge the petty power trips of aging male nerds with ingrained Girl Issues is totally alien to me.

Right now, the comics industry seems to be in the midst of a major upheaval, and the schizophrenic position of women in comics reflects this. On one hand, thanks to the whole manga explosion, there are now tons of female comics fans, and publishers are scrambling to provide them with comics. Also, female creators have generally done very well in the burgeoning bookstore market, a fact driven home when a recent Time profile on new graphic novels featured, by chance, only work by women.

On the other hand, the comics industry continues to be hidebound by the limitations of the direct market and the Diamond monopoly, which, among other things, means that the established boys' club isn't changing much. That goes for the small press and indie end of comics as well as the superhero publishers; everyone is having trouble getting out of this sort of 1990s model of what comics are all about. So it's the best of times and the worst of times for women in comics, both as creators and as readers. Probably the most promising development is that, between the graphic-novel market and the Web, there's less and less reason to get involved in the "mainstream" comics industry at all.

You may note that, in spite of everything I just wrote, I happily write superhero stories for Marvel whenever I get the chance. I'm a complicated woman.

SPURGEON: There's a story about a big comics company executive whose spouse will only allow one room in their house to have comics in it, so the rumor is that room has shelves that go give comics deep. I'm offering up that ridiculous image because I wondered how the comics collection is different when both members of a household are actively and aggressively involved with the art form. Are there comics all over your house or what?

GARRITY: I could tell you wonderful stories about some of the collectors involved with the Cartoon Art Museum and their rooms.

As you know, I'm married to Andrew Farago, curator and gallery manager of the Cartoon Art Museum, who also draws comics. Our accumulation of comics is limited by the fact that we live in a tiny apartment in San Francisco, and there's only so much physical room. Our living room is pretty much lined with shelves, although that includes Real Books as well as comics. I also have manga all over the place, and there are Andrew's bedside shelves of reference books and Marvel Essentials. Oh, and the spinner rack in the hall. Can't forget the spinner rack. Andrew's collection is much, much bigger than mine, but the bulk of it is in longboxes at his parents' house. He's been gradually selling it on eBay and buying trade-paperback collections of everything.

I've actually been trying to get away from comics collecting, partly because we only have room for so many comics, and partly because I've reached the point where the acquisitive, materialistic part of fandom -- any fandom -- turns me off. That said, more comics keep coming into the house. It's very hard to stop.

Oh, and we have tons of original art on the walls, including a page from the issue of Kamandi with the screaming man-bats. We are super classy.


SPURGEON: What are you doing for Christmas?

GARRITY: We'll go home to Ohio to see our families. As it happens, although Andrew and I met here in San Francisco, we grew up less than an hour apart; Andrew's family is near Cleveland, and mine is near Akron. We'll also go to Pittsburgh to see my extended family.

SPURGEON: Where would you like to be professionally five years from now?

GARRITY: I don't know. As much as the opportunities for cartoonists in general are opening up these days, my personal options seem limited. I don't draw well enough to be a professional cartoonist, which mostly limits me to writing scripts. This depresses me, because I enjoy drawing, and most great comics are the work of a single creator. Joey [Manley] says I should be the next Brian Michael Bendis, which strikes me as the most horrendous fate imaginable. Nothing against Bendis; I'd just be bored stiff writing the kind of gritty police-procedurals-in-leotards that sell well in the mainstream comics market. I like writing fun superhero comics, but the market for fun superhero comics is pretty small right now.

Also, most women who do comics are driven completely batty within ten years, with good reason, so if I'm still in the comics industry five years from now I'll probably be a basket case.

SPURGEON: To conclude, can you tell me one of those stories about the collectors involved with the Cartoon Art Museum?

GARRITY: No. To get that, you'll have to interview Andrew.


* from Narbonic
* from Smithson
* last two panels from a Narbonic
* panel from Narbonic
* Narbonic near the beginning and one from near the end of the run
* that's one cute-looking critter; from Narbonic
* from Smithson
* from Lil' Mell's opening sequence
* Roger Langridge on Smithson
* a Smithson from very far away to note the use of canvas
* from Garrity's Tom Hart collaboration, Trunktown
* illustration that ran on site about Narbonicon
* from Narbonic


Li'l Mell

posted 12:00 am PST | Permalink

December 17, 2006

CR’s Strikeforce: Morituri Giveaway

posted 8:06 pm PST | Permalink

December 16, 2006

CR Sunday Magazine

A Short Interview With Greg Sadowski and Gary Groth



Go, Look: Gary Esposito's Photos of the Geppi Museum


In a town loaded with curious museums, and with overhead that brings with it demands for a certain level of attendance, Steve Geppi's Geppi Entertainment Museum may have a shorter shelf life than many of the pop culture treasures it displays. Gary Esposito's photos give you an idea of its breadth and depth.


Five Link A Go Go: Harvey Kurtzman

* various on-line profiles

* audio interview from 1985

* killer rare Kurtzman art thread

* links to Kurtzman merchandise, including original art

* sure-to-be illegal scans of Corpse on the Imjin


Go, Look: Jaime Hernandez Covers Los Lobos


I totally missed this, but writer Paul Di Filippo didn't:
I just listened to the excellent new Los Lobos album and was surprised to see that it had wonderful cover and interior art by Jaime Hernandez. It's a wraparound drawing for the cover, and you only see half on Amazon, and of course none of the interiors. I always think of Los Lobos when I read Hernandez Bros, and always think of Love and Rockets when I listen to Los Lobos. So now the connection is finally explicit!


Go, Look: CCS' Houdini Dust Jacket


One for you design fans out there; the book is due April 1 from Hyperion. Click through the image for a bigger result.


First Thought Of The Day
Shouldn't catalog companies be able to get your name off of mailing lists more quickly now as opposed to the same rate of speed they were able to do this in 1978?
posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 52nd Birthday, Beau Smith!

posted 8:24 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 38th Birthday, Matt Hollingsworth!

posted 8:18 pm PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from December 9 to December 15, 2006:

1. Major Danish Cartoons Controvery fall-out continues 14 months after pubilcation of cartoons: a fatwa reissued, more Yemeni journalists sentenced, and Denmark's best-known business gets some of its business back.

2. The Angouleme festival overhauls its well-known awards.

3. Comics loses two of its most colorful characters: the kindly and solicitous Golden Age artist Martin Nodell; the maverick logger/cartoonist and unlkely modern graphic novel pioneer Bus Griffiths.

Winner Of The Week
Diesel Sweeties: the strip syndication version of the popular on-line webcomic launches with a small suite of big papers and several open or brand-new slots in play.

Loser Of The Week
Me, for not reading a story right the first time and then not changing the URL name after I change and post my updated story.

Quote Of The Week
"If someone chops your head off and your skin rots you look like this." -- Hayley Campbell, age 7.

I thought my friend Gil might get a kick out of this one
posted 12:05 am PST | Permalink

What It Feels Like Turning 38

posted 12:03 am PST | Permalink

December 15, 2006

Conversational Euro-Comics

posted 3:32 am PST | Permalink

Angouleme Overhauls Awards System

imageThe Festival International de la Bande Dessinee de Angouleme had its traditional December press conference yesterday. With the usual news of the forthcoming major festival, perhaps the most important in the world, which this year has a lot to do with who is showing and where everyone will be as renovations in the town begin to reshape the festival a bit, came word that the Festival Awards will be handled in dramatically different fashion.

Rather than categories there will be a pool of 50 eligible works. Six will compete for the Prix du patrimoine (the Heritage Prize), while the 44 others will compete for one "Best Of" prize, six Essentiels d’Angouleme designations, and one new or breakout work designation. This is to eliminate unnecessary divisions of labor being a bigger part of the awards than entire efforts, and to assist people in helping to build comics libraries. There's even a new mascot.

You should really download and look at's PDF of the nominees; a great model for the kind of clip and save service that such awards can provide. Dirk has the nominees listed at Journalista, if you want to check them out in list form.

Books from North American authors on the list include Black Hole (Charles Burns), Buddy Does Seattle (Peter Bagge), Frank (Jim Woodring, Fun Home (Alison Bechdel), Ganges (Kevin Huizenga), Ice Haven (Dan Clowes), La Perdida (Jessica Abel), New Frontier (Darwyn Cooke) and Wimbledon Green (Seth).

There's also a lot of European work and authors familiar to North American audiences (Jason, Gipi) and early front runners from other awards like recent prize-winner Lucille (Ludovic Debeurme).
posted 12:16 am PST | Permalink

December 14, 2006

Arla Foods Slowly Making Comeback

Arla Foods has released a figure of I believe around $90 million USD in losses related to Danish Cartoons boycotts, which I think matches a figure put out there about four weeks ago. What this article does offer up that's new is the fact that the dairy giant, Denmark's best-known business, is back to about 60 percent of its sales in certain markets, and a curious assertion that the company distancing itself from the controversy had a factor in its recovery. I don't remember Arla ever distancing itself or, for that matter, supporting the cartoons, and it's been a long enough since the boycotts that one might be led to think it's more the passage of time that's the main factor here. I can't say with certainty one way or the other.
posted 11:58 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 53rd Birthday, JM Dematteis!

posted 11:38 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Where The Spiral Begins

Alan Gardner at Daily Cartoonist links to and discusses a piece on the collapse of the daily newspaper business model. This should interest both those who see a future for comics on the Internet, and those who are invested in the traditional newspaper revenue model as it trickles down into syndicated cartooning.
posted 11:36 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 41st Birthday, Ted Slampyak

posted 11:34 pm PST | Permalink

Reuters CEO Glocer: The Danish Cartoons Were An Internet-Fueled Phenomenon

I was initially going to pair this E&P report on a blog posting of a speech by Reuters head honcho Tom Glocer that referenced the Danish Cartoons Controversy with an entry above on the spiraling downward of the newspaper business model in a meta-business two-fer. It works that way. There's definitely a lot in the speech that might make your average Internet-news user suddenly vomit on their keyboard. And there's a lot more that could lead to 10,000 "Ho, ho"-style commentaries, such as the fact that the report will probably find a greater audience because it's in the CEO's blog than it would if it were published through his media company's print arm.

But then I read his take on the Danish Cartoons Controversy:
This is an important point. Take the Prophet Mohammed cartoons controversy. There is no more local. In the past, if a small Danish newspaper published a set of provocative cartoons, the rest of the world would only see them if distinguished editors -- like those in the room today -- decided to republish them.

In this case, most professional news organizations decided to hold back. But it made no difference. Across the world people who wanted to incite the masses did just that -- via the internet.

The cartoons published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten brought about a violent demonstration in Pakistan, deaths in Afghanistan and Somalia, and attacks on embassies in Syria and Lebanon. A barrier had not just been overcome -- it has been smashed to pieces.

News and pictures also transcend national and other boundaries. And so, broadcasters and publishers who want to survive have to understand the new model.

Tom Glocer surely knows more about media than I know about anything, but this strikes me as self-serving and a huge reach, if not just flat-out wrong and a bit unsavory.

First, the Danish Cartoons controversy didn't break worldwide on the Internet. It was initially reported on in print when local political forces objected to the stunt -- a legitimate story given certain tensions in Europe -- and then mostly forgotten. It came back not because citizen journalists or, really, any specific instance of Internet-related agitation, but mostly because a group of Danish imams traveled and pressed on a series of specific political and cultural points relating to the cartoons, points which were adopted and built upon by other political players in a variety of ways in a variety of locations before they broke in January/February 2006. I never heard in the hundreds of press articles I read on the matter that there was a significant on-line component to the distribution of or objection to the publication of Muhammed caricatures, let alone that this was a component that can be casually asserted as a main cause. As the violence developed, even, it was the re-publication of the cartoons in other print media that added fuel to the political fire, not this site's re-publication of them back in October 2005 or that of The Brussels Journal, say, throughout.

At best you can say that the Internet was likely one of the tools used by those involved to pass information along, like some viciously antagonistic faked cartoons added to the real batch. But it's a real stretch to work that back into a comparative media critique, and should have no place there. At that point, you might as well blame the resulting violence on Photoshop.

Second, the actions of traditional media outlets when the story broke can be tracked, has been tracked, and was for the most part fearful, inarticulate and, in the end, deeply unfortunate. That anyone in Tom Glocer's position can propagate such a simplistic version of those events without a lot of people seriously objecting is in itself an indictment of how poorly that story's political aspects were reported by the mainstream press -- before, during and after. Even more obviously, the story wasn't fully reported by the bulk of those outlets in a significant, obvious way. While I think journalistic stunts to prove political points are terrible policy, and the original publication of the cartoons was asinine and ill-considered, once something becomes news of the type where interpretation is a key point in violence that kills people and you're a press person, you have to inform even if it risks insult. You do so with a heavy heart, but you do it. And traditional print media, by and large, abandoned the field and didn't inform their readers to the best of their ability. Many of those readers turned to on-line sources, but not all of them, and the mythic status granted those dumb cartoons by this lack of community knowledge will likely give the shameful, tragic violence from earlier this year a veneer of cultural legitimacy for years to come, something it doesn't deserve. That's not traditional journalism versus citizen journalism, or an issue of trust, or an issue of first hand access versus remove. That's just failing to show up.
posted 11:28 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Student Adaptation Comics Art Show

Harvey Kurtzman School Stuff Up On Ebay

Satrapi Makes NPR X-Mas List

CBR: Josh Dysart
Wizard: Tom Marvelli
Newsarama: Dan Didio
Newsarama: Frank Cho
Fort Wayne News-Sentinel: Darwyn Cooke

Xombie to Devil's Due
Ellis Take on Marvel's New Universe Sells Out

RJ Carter: Breaking Up
Sheena McNeil: Judas Vol. 1
Sheena McNeil: Queens Vol. 1
Patti Martinson: Vulcan & Vishu
Sheena McNeil: Train Man Vol. 2
Don MacPherson: Wonder Man #1
Jennifer Franklin Elrod: A Girl and Her Fed
Dorothea Cantero: Rurouni Kenshi Vol. 28
Sheena McNeil: Under the Full Moon Vol. 2
Sheena McNeil: Welcome to the NHK Vol. 1
Sheena McNeil: The Best of Pokemon Adventures


If I Were In Brooklyn, I’d Go To This

posted 7:51 am PST | Permalink

Si J’Etais A Paris, A Ceci J’Irais

posted 5:20 am PST | Permalink

Danish Cartoons Update: Fatwa, Yemen

* Pakastani Maulana Muhammad Yousuf Qureshi of the Mohabbat Khan Mosque in Peshawar has drawn an underline under a previous fatwa issued against the cartoonist responsible for drawing caricatures of Muhammed in a Danish newspaper some 15 months ago. A million dollars is still there as the reward, but I'm thinking the fact that it's multiple cartoonists gives the issuers a legal out.

* Editors Akram Subra and Yahya Al-Obeed from the Yemeni weekly newspaper Al-Hurriyah have been sentenced to jail for four months for reprinting the Danish cartoons. The paper will also be closed for a month. This is the third paper punished, and the first to come with jail sentences since I believe Yemen's executive branch promised to pardon journalists sent to prison. So that could be interesting. None of the papers involved endorsed the images.
posted 2:45 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: John Porcellino Strips


Drawn and Quarterly has been posting classic John Porcellino strips on its blog; if you've never experienced Porcellino's work, this is a fine opportunity. As it's the Christmas season, it's probably worth noting that D&Q has a sale going right now.

If Porcellino's exquisite minimalism isn't your cup of tea, there's a lot of entertaining stuff out there on a regular basis. Like everyone else, I've been greatly enjoying the honeymoon phase of blog posting from Paul Pope and Eddie Campbell. Lewis Trondheim's blog has been really strong for weeks and weeks and weeks now. Reading this blog feels a bit like enabling Douglas Wolk more than anything else, but I find it more entertaining than the coming in question. Although not really a blog, I also go here a great deal and read everything that's new. Jim Borgman's is probably still the class of the editorial cartoonist blogs I read, really targeted on a few subjects and well-conceived for it.
posted 2:40 am PST | Permalink

Byron Preiss Assets Acquired

Heidi MacDonald has a press release up detailing the purchase of assets from the Byron Preiss companies acquired in bankruptcy proceedings. The assets were purchased by J. Boylston and Company, which looks to be the company behind Brick Tower Press. According to the release, which has almost no mention of the various supposed graphic novel holdings and contracts, the acquired assets will form a sister company to Brick Tower and they will share a distributor.
posted 2:15 am PST | Permalink

Details of 1st Diesel Sweeties Clients


Editor & Publisher has the standard launch release story for R. Stevens' Diesel Sweeties. That January 8 launch is significant for a few reasons: first, because it's the first strip by an established luminary of the webcomics world to get the print syndication call; second, Stevens worked hard to reach a contract that allowed him the freedom to continue his on-line iteration in the manner he sees fit; and third, I'm pretty sure it's the first offering from Ted Rall's office at United Media, which he was given to find edgier content for the syndicate. Also, if Stevens crushes out of the gate, there are a lot of FoxTrot clients out there trying dailies in that comic's place.

The client list at the bottom of the article is fairly impressive in terms of number of big papers: newspapers that tend to buy new strips are aggressively represented.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

E&P: OSU Cartoon Holdings Described

There's an interesting note up at Editor & Publisher about the Cartoon Library at Ohio State University, describing the size of their various holdings. This is good news because the numbers are very impressive (you should go to the article for the specifics), and also because if they're offering up press releases I would bet this means they have a firmer grasp on their material in a catalog sense. It's my memory that material donations, including a huge one from Bill Blackbeard, meant for a huge sorting task at the institution.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Does In the Studio Count As OTBP?


It's appropriate that Comic Art Editor Todd Hignite and cartoonist Ivan Brunetti are sharing a signing this weekend at Chicago Comics: both have released books with really long titles -- In the Studio: Visits With Contemporary Cartoonists and An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories, respectively -- that have come out in a crowded year to not as much fanfare as might have happened in, say, 1998, when either would have been treated as the second coming. They're also from the same publisher, Yale University Press, which is probably more of a factor. Something with these books' pedigrees coming from such a good publisher should never be off the beaten path, but it's that kind of industry now.

Anyway, here's a Brian Doherty piece on Hignite's book from the great "Hit & Run" section of Reason.
posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

F-Minus Strip Hits Day After Nerve

On Tuesday, 16-year-old Philadelphia high school student Shane Halliagan fired a gun at a school before turning it on himself, ending his life. A cause? Pressure for better grades. The next day, former college cartooning superstar and now syndicated cartoonist Tony Carillo's F-Minus strip features a troubled teen named Shane for whom it's suggested grades might be a problem.

And just like that, Tony Carillo gets the kind of feature article that cartoonists who play around with rough humor dread. Not that it was Carillo's intent to provide commentary of even the most oblique kind: the strip was likely done four to six weeks earlier.

It's interesting to note that Carillo didn't use a odd or outdated name, like Hubert or Percival, which is the way many cartoonists try to avoid this kind of ugly coincidence.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Art and Francoise Take Manhattan
Guest List Released For 2007 NYCC

Profile of Project Wonderful
BC Pearl Harbor Strip Draws Complaint
Titan Magazines Hiring Writers And Artists
Alex Ross Explains Comments Some Took as Anti-Gay

Being Brian Bendis
Draw!: Alex Horley
SkullRing: Steve Niles
IBN Live: Neeraj Gupta
Newsarama: Frank Cho
The Trades: Gene Yang
Newsarama: Andy Helfer
Fremont Tribune: Chris Cogdill
Baltimore City Paper: Brian Ralph

Not Comics
All Hail Hizzoner
Who Needs Pictures?

Rob Clough: Lucky
Jog: The Spirit #1
Jog: Kramers Ergot 6
Ryan McLelland: Apocrypha #1
Don MacPherson: The Spirit #1
Doug Harvey: Various Art Comics
Cindy Widner: Sloth, I Love Led Zeppelin

December 13, 2006

The Saddest Christmas Cartoon Ever


Its story here.
posted 2:22 am PST | Permalink

It’s All About Le Derniere Fois

* this month's issue of the French magazine about comics, Bang!, may be the last one.

* Cosey says his latest album is the last time he's likely to draw Tibet.

* the recent public event "La Fete De La BD," just a few years old, may have seen at least its last spring/early summer version due in part to lack of publisher support.
posted 2:20 am PST | Permalink

BDZoom: Peanuts Series An Event


Here's an article on Dargaud's version of the Fantagraphics Complete Peanuts series, which seem to be pretty much the same except for a slight name change and different introductions -- the edition above offers one by F'murr. The article features a rhapsodic appreciation of the strip. I'm not exactly sure why I found this interesting; I don't know anything at all about the French-language market for strip collections. Maybe it's that it never registered with me that Dargaud had picked up the series.
posted 2:16 am PST | Permalink

PW: Dudley Jahnke Out At Viz Media

PW Daily has a brief news item that Director of Sales For Publishing Dudley Jahnke, has left Viz Media and his responsibilities have been split between CEO Hidemi Fujuhara and Gonzalo Ferreyra. I have no idea what that means, but Viz is a big enough company it's certainly worth noting. Jahnke previously worked at M.E. Sharpe and Davis-Kidd. I believe Jahnke followed his wife, Viz Media Veep for Consumer Products Carol Roeder, into a position at Viz, but that could be so wrong they'd have to invent a new word for wrong, and it seems certainly beside the point.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 45th Birthday, Philippe Francq!

posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Piccadilly Lounge, RIP

Drawn and Quarterly's Peggy Burns notes that San Diego's Piccadilly Lounge has been closed as part of the re-furbishing of host hotel Pickwick that was taking place in every place but the bar during last summer's Comic-Con International.

The Piccadilly was a dive bar favored by the alt- and art-comics communities because of its open floor plan, accessibility to the Broadway group of hotels, the lack of comics' scenemakers, its general ratty personality and the reliable cheapness of its beer. Although it started to be used ten or so years ago by that crowd as a place to finish up nights or as an alternative to more elaborately planned events, it had the last couple of years become the main hub for that group's social gathering. (And this really was recent: unlike the scene shown from earlier this year in Peggy's photos, the place was nearly empty on Saturday in 2003.)

Why is this worth mentioning at all? Well, it might not be. But there's basically one other sort-of dive bar in or near the entire Gaslamp, at least that I know of, and that bar kind already gets a crowd by being a dive bar in the Gaslamp. I remember a classic dive bar in Little Italy, but that feels far, and the Turf Club is about ten blocks east, but is way more of a dinner place. All this detail adds up to the undeniable fact that downtown San Diego has continued to gentrify, and this has meant added cost, first seen in lodging but now beginning to be felt in other areas, for comics folk that wish to attend their industry's biggest show.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Hiti Draws The Movies

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Alan Moore Essay In Arthur

I thought this was reported a long time ago, but I guess maybe not. Anyway, this month's Arthur has a long essay by Alan Moore called ""Bog Venus vs. Nazi Cock-Ring: Some Thoughts Concerning Pornography," which is apparently eight pages long and contains illustrations. I must be about 2000 miles away from anyplace that carries the comics-interested magazine, but I'm for those of you out there that do have access to it that this essay could be a nice way to celebrate the legally quiet 2006 enjoyed by Moore's Lost Girls.

You can read about the essay here and here.

Update: Many of you were kind enough to write in and say the essay is also available as a free PDF download.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Happy 41st Birthday, Kyle Baker!


source: CBG
posted 1:44 am PST | Permalink

Cartoonist Jailed and Flogged… in 1993

Something called The Middle East Research Institute has excerpted a list from a Tunisian weekly compiling a list of free speech abuses by Middle Eastern and Near Eastern countries as well as extremist groups over the last several years. It includes this gem from 1993:
In Iran, cartoonist Manouchehr Karimzadeh is sentenced to 10 years in prison for sketching a soccer player who slightly resembles [Ayatollah] Khomeini. The cartoonist and the editor of the newspaper [that published the cartoon] are flogged. Their [prison] sentences are later reduced.

I'm linking to it just in case anyone thinks that cartoonists being treated poorly in some countries is completely a fluke of post-Danish Cartoons anger.
posted 1:37 am PST | Permalink

Happy 38th Birthday, Joseph Michael Linsner!

posted 1:33 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
David Sandlin at Printed Matter 12/14
Brunetti and Hignite at Chicago Comics 12/16

PWCW: Dark Horse Celebrates 20

International Comic Strip Contest
Fun Home Makes Capital Times' List
Hachette To Hire Editorial Assistant; Japanese Translation Necessary

PWCW: Hikaru Sasahara
PWCW: Svetlana Chmakova
Tehachapi News: The Friesen Family

Not Comics
CWR Holiday Shopping Guide
How Do I Grade My Comic Books?
Comic Books [Heart] String Theory
Lee Judge Offers Original Art For Donations

PWCW: Public Square Books' Plans

Sheena McNeil: Tony Loco #1
Jenni Moody: Walking Dead #32
Dorothea Cantero: Ms. Marvel #6
Dorothea Cantero: Ms. Marvel #7
Dorothea Cantero: Ms. Marvel #8
Erik Weems: Detective Comics #826
Dorothea Cantero: Wolverine: Origins #7
Dirk Deppey: Girl Genius Omnibus Edition Vol. 1
Jennifer Franklin Elrod: Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #0
Jennifer Franklin Elrod: Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #1

December 12, 2006

Bus Griffiths, 1913-2006


Bus Griffiths, the artist and cartoonist best know as the author of the 1978 logging industry graphic novel Now You're Logging, died on September 25 in his beloved British Columbia. Moving to that area at a young age, Gilbert Joseph Griffiths worked in logging during the decade depicted in his comic, the 1930s, and after doing some comics during the 1940s when many homegrown companies popped up because of import restrictions on United States funnybooks, divided his time between cartooning and logging until 1961, when he retired from the tree-downing trade. Griffiths had been doing the occasional strip about logging for an industry magazine, and in 1972 began the graphic novel that was published by Harbour. This puts it right in the discussion of first graphic novels in the longform comics stories published like prose books sense. It has since been reprinted twice, and Griffith continued to pursue illustration and art at least up until a 2003 stroke.

Now You're Logging is a fascinating comic in a lot of ways, with its mix of educational tract-type work, nature scenes and old-fashioned movie-type moments and plot developments. The writing is serviceable, and the art varies wildly from some depictions of the great outdoors and the clear explications of how different facets of logging worked, all the way to some odd but expressive figure and face work. If nothing else, Now You're Logging evokes a sense of what Griffiths' young life must have been like, an unsparing but still romantic look at a way of living spent mostly outdoors plying a trade that had honor and purpose.

Bus Griffiths is survived by a wife of 66 years, two sons and five grandchildren. A service was held October 21.

I can't imagine a better obituary than the one prepared by Sequential on his behalf.
posted 2:22 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Best UK Political Cartoonists

The Independent draws little word portraits of the best political cartoonists of the day, which is nice because of the scattershot quality of this information on the Internet generally.
posted 2:14 am PST | Permalink

Best Christmas Gift 2006 and Maybe Ever: The Souther Salazar Chess Set


swiped from Mr. Covey
posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

A Force So Strong You Can’t Resist

Go here for photos and a report on a Public Enemy appearance and parking lot concert at Phoenix's Atomic Comics, in support of the group's comic book series. This sounds more entertaining than the usual comics signing by a factor of about one billion.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, Doug Marlette!


source: CBG
posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Newsarama: Paul Levitz Interviewed

The comics news site Newsarama is running a two part interview with DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz. It's very polite and as broad as I can remember this type of talk ever getting, so it's hard to find any detail to dig into.

I imagine some people may react to Levitz's benign take on the state of the market as pollyannish thinking, or even purposefully evasive, and I certainly see the argument that the way DC uses the direct market -- as a rallying point for hardcore customers where market share is more valuable than growth -- doesn't really speak to problems like saturation, in-market penetration, and increasing the overall customer base. But you have to remember this is Paul Levitz, perhaps the best manager a couple steps behind front-runner status in industry history. His positive attitude towards all markets right now mirrors his attitude once upon a time towards the more restrictive Direct Market, as an opportunity for DC to make hay, to follow and fill (or flood, if you're cynical) without the pressure of public top dog status. As far as the DM stuff goes, the most important point he makes is the continued growth of DC's backlist sales, which is really the only figure he can offer up that indicates something other than the same people buying more comics for more money, unless 1) comics fans really do buy multiple copies of Watchmen; 2) the shape of the back list has rapidly expanded in recent months for a temporary bump in acquisition by hardcore fans.

Anyway, where this might be additionally valuable for some people is in contrast to a recent Dan Buckley talk at In comparison to recent years, where representatives of each company came across as measured if not clipped, both Buckley and Levitz sound kind of serene.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 53rd Birthday, Mark Landman!

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Baltimore’s Atomic Empire

Here's a nice profile of Benn Ray, one half the ownership team of the Atomic Books and Atomic Pop store in Baltimore, Maryland. Ray's comic book is profiled, and the attractive idea of the retailer as cultural hub is floated.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
SLG Holiday Party
NCS Holiday Party
Fantagraphics Holiday Party

Ambrosia Launches Digital Comics Arm
Missed It: 2006 Ranan Lurie Cartoon Awards
Jeff Darcy Expected To Return To Work in 2007
Via Dirk: Tokyopop Presents At Conflicted Library

Fleen: Scott Kurtz
Fleen: David Berner

Not Comics
Origin of The Cad
Gifts For Manga/Anime Fans

12/7 BC Pulled For Insensitivity
Last Son Storyline Moved Back An Issue
Writing Assignment Questioned By Previous Comments

Paul Gravett: Herge
Don MacPherson: Meltdown #1
Marc Sobel: Love & Rockets #9
Dorothea Cantero: Civil War #1
Dorothea Cantero: Civil War #2
Ginger Mayerson: Jonah Hex #9
Ginger Mayerson: Jonah Hex #10
Ginger Mayerson: Jonah Hex #11
Leroy Douresseaux: Blank Vol. 1
Dorothea Cantero: Dr. Strange: The Oath #1
Dorothea Cantero: Amazing Spider-Man #532
Johanna Draper Carlson: Love Roma Book One
David Welsh: Welcome to Tranquility #1, Hero Squared #4, Crossing Midnight #1

December 11, 2006

Today’s Harlan Ellison/Fantagraphics Court Hearing Moved to February 18

The hearing on a motion to strike filed by comics publisher Fantagraphics in response to Harlan Ellison's lawsuit against them that was scheduled for today (Dec. 11) has been postponed. Fantagraphics Co-Publisher Gary Groth, one of the defendants in Ellison's suit, explained via e-mail:
"Ellison's lawyer asked for a one week extension for filing his rebuttal to our motion to dismiss because he missed the deadline and got [the extension] from the court. His rebuttal is due today, our reply is due December 18, and the court's hearing on the motion has been moved to February 18."

This entry was written and placed by David P. Welsh as a favor to this site, without editorial intrusion
posted 8:11 am PST | Permalink

Holocaust Conference Begins In Iran; Muhammed Cartoons Cited As Parallel

A two-day conference in Iran investigating the extent and degree of the Holocaust begins today, according to the BBC, with such noted worldwide famous historians as Klansman/politician David Duke expected to present. The conference in many ways believe to be a planned act of political provocation tied into what Iran feels is Western hypocrisy concerning free speech that came out during the Danish Cartoons controversy surrounding publication of caricatures of Muhammed in a Denmark newspaper. The conference has been condemned by several countries and related entities, as well as Iran's most prominent Jewish politician.
posted 2:50 am PST | Permalink

Simon: What Was Crumb Thinking?

imageDirk Deppey caught this item posted at Joe Simon's site this morning, whereby the longtime comics figure notes a cover illustration from his 1975 The National Crumb magazine reprinted in the The R. Crumb Handbook and claims that it has been used in a way that suggests R. Crumb drew it. The entry goes so far as to name counsel retained by the Simon family.

The picture in question does appear on page 185 of the book, between two comics, in a section about Crumb's growing fame. It's cited in the back of the book with other Crumb illustrations, although not explicitly as a Crumb illustration or, it's worth noting, as something belonging to Simon as are some other comics images. The art itself is only describing as being culled from Peter Poplaski's personal collection. It's hard to imagine what kind of damage to any copyright could be proved through legal action over one drawing in the copiously illustrated book, although I guess it's certainly the Simon's family right to pursue such action if they think they were wronged. It's probably worth noting that Crumb lives in France and publisher MQP is located in London, so I'm not sure how that would work, either.
posted 2:20 am PST | Permalink

Martin Nodell, 1915-2006

imageMartin Nodell, mainstay artist of the American comic book's first great flush period and either the sole creator or co-creator of the Green Lantern character, depending on if you emphasize design and concept or first comic book story, died on Saturday morning in West Palm Beach.

Nodell was born in Philadelphia and studied at the Chicago Academy of Art and the Chicago Art Institute near the height of those institutions' influence on the commercial and illustrative art fields. Moving to New York City, he also attended classes at the equally well-known Pratt Institute. He began freelancing for minor comics houses in 1938, but soon grew tired of the shaky nature of the comics business at its lower runs and forged a relationship with Sheldon Mayer at All-American Comics, a company that would eventually be absorbed into industry leader DC Comics. His break into the big times came with the creation of the Green Lantern character for All-American, to which the writer Bill Finger was assigned to complete his first comic book story.

The Green Lantern character is an interesting one for superheroes because it combined a magical background, via a mystic ring that exuded an energy that obeyed the commands of its wearer, with a superpower that expressed itself through active and passive elements, a perfect match for the comic book form in which anything could be drawn by an artist with an active imagination. In a way, the Green Lantern character could be said to be the most comic bookish superhero of them all, enjoying a status on that level with characters like Batman and Superman as the best-realized of the single-device superheroes, but never enjoying the crossover success into other media, probably because of the uniquely creative nature of the character's power when put into use. Both the original Green Lantern and the science fiction-style 1950s makeover of the character continue to play an important role in DC's ongoing storylines.

In 1947, Nodell left DC for Martin Goodman's Timely, where for Editor Stan Lee he drew their big three superheroes: Captain America, the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner. In 1950, he left comics for advertising, and enjoyed a long career in that field, a highlight of which was working on launch of the phenomenally successful Pillsbury Doughboy campaign.

In 1987, some 11 years after his retirement, an art assignment or two led to Nodell being rediscovered by a comics fandom eager to connect on a personal level with the remaining members of what had been termed comics' "Golden Age." He became a fixture on the convention circuit for several years after that, drawing for fans and charming attendees with kind overtures, smart conversation, and the affectionate interaction clearly on display between the artist and his beloved wife and constant companion, Carrie. The larger comics community was in a way very protective of the Nodells, coming to their defense if they weren't treated well at a show, and solemnly noting Carrie Nodell's passing in 2004. Those works of art directly for fans were Mr. Nodell's final contribution to comics art. His last published work one source cites as coming in 1991, although I recall a Superman-Green Lantern pin-up being published by DC after 1994.

Martin Nodell was 91 years old.


Mr. Nodell's entry can be found here, and his wikipedia entry here. Mark Evanier's usual, sterling remembrance can be found here. He points to Mike Catron's video including Mr. Nodell here. Maggie Thompson and several pros remember Nodell here.
posted 2:16 am PST | Permalink

CBLDF: Sit Where Frank Miller Sat

imageComic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein has announced the Fund's end-of-the-year ebay auction, designed to raise funds from donated items to buttress the organization's coffers heading into a contentious 2007. Early up next year is the trial of Georgia retailer Gordon Lee, for which the Fund has already spent a significant amount of money and expects to spend more.

This also doubles as the opening a comics' oddest last-minute Christmas gift shop, with original art by Will Eisner, signed items by artists ranging from Neil Gaiman to Jean-Claude Mezieres, and Frank Miller's art chair among those items offered. Pictured here is an In The Shadow of No Towers item as signed by Art Spiegelman. The full list of items is available here.
posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

Bill King, 1922-2006

Bill King, a longtime editorial cartoonist for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey and well-known for his depictions of New Jersey high school football, died on Thursday in his home, state wire services are reporting. No cause of death has been announced.

A veteran of World War II, King also worked as a sportswriter in 1952, the year he sold his first cartoon. He became full-time as a cartoonist in 1968, and worked for twenty years before retirement. He also contributed cartoons to the Ocean County Sun and the Numismatic News.

King is survived by a wife of 60 years and his three daughters.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 83rd Birthday, Morrie Turner!


CBG and Lambiek have today; his wikipedia entry has tomorrow
posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Ted Rall and the AAEC

I believe I totally missed this, but this article on animated political cartoons in which Ted Rall makes an appearance mentions that the cartoonist will be the next president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. He's currently the Vice-President. I did not know that the VP assumes the presidency, but that makes some sense, and I know civic organizations that do it like that.

Speaking of the AAEC, they have a nice list of cartooning prizes and deadlines up at the site right now.

Correction: Rall will take over in 2008, following Nick Anderson. They just line 'em up ahead of time.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Paul Karasik In Rapallo

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Human Rights Exhibition

According to the Forbidden Planet blog, there's a nice exhibit organized by Turkish cartoonist and legal organization about the issue of human rights communicated through cartoons.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Comics Don't Get No Respect
Saul Steinberg Exhibit in New Jersey
Hero Foundry Raises Money For NO Library

Two Types In The World: Asterix and Tintin
Matt Stucky: Comics Are Underappreciated
Comic Books For Christmas/Blue Lights On The Tree

Silo Roberts Runs Last Day
Patrick Stutz Wins Fill-In Contest

Up All Night: Paul Gravett
Washington Post: Michael Davis

Not Comics
Donald Dohler, RIP
Profile of Lightning Bolt
Micawber Books Closes
James Kochalka Designs An Album Cover

Jog: Cold Heat #1-2
Jog: American Head Vol. 1
Douglas Wolk: Popeye Volume One
Erik Weems: Tintin The Black Island
Brigid Alverson: After School Nightmare
Don MacPherson: George Perez: Storyteller
Brett Warnock: Batman/The Spirit #1, King-Cat #67
Derik Badman: Big Fat Little Lit, An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories

December 10, 2006

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go See This


Scroll down to "A Sketchy Neighborhood."
posted 6:55 am PST | Permalink

CR Sunday Magazine

A Short Interview With Joe Ollmann



Go, Look: Ben Samuels' Cover Galleries



Five Link A Go Go

* massive, excellent Eddie Campbell post on illustration and cartooning, among other subjects

* go read Chris Butcher analyze the Bone covers

* self-described "counter monkey" Jeff Lester checks out Alternate Reality Comics in Las Vegas

* the best American comics page, according to Steven Grant

* a classic link: what's in Popeye's pipe?


Go, Look: Daisuke Ichiba (adults only)



Go, Look: T. Alixopulos' Sketchbooks



First Thought Of The Day
It's only depressing not being in the Holiday mood when you're quite accustomed to being in the Holiday mood.
posted 1:47 am PST | Permalink

December 9, 2006

Martin Nodell, RIP

posted 4:51 pm PST | Permalink

December 8, 2006

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from December 2 to December 8, 2006:

1. Yemeni editor Mohammad al-Asadi of the Yemen Observer convicted and fined for reprinting the Danish Muhammed cartoons back in February, despite putting an X on them to show scorn; al-Asadi worries that conviction will make him target of extremists who want grander punishment.

2. Bill Amend takes strip hit FoxTrot to Sundays-only.

3. Ludovic Debeurme wins Prix Goscinny.

Winner Of The Week
First Second, selling lots of copies of American Born Chinese, and various other books as well.

Losers Of The Week
Fans of Narbonic and Tamara Drewe; the latter ends, the former soon will.

Quote Of The Week
"The pages of the 'Anthology' make cases for nominations for Clowes, Green, Adrian Tomine and Kim Deitch, to start: Clowes for irony so complex that it seems the very bio-system of his comic-book world; Green for his nightmare humor — nuns administer shock treatments through cross-topped metal helmets! -- and sweet vulgarity; Tomine for his graceful evocation of loneliness and rage; and Deitch for her cynical romance with the past and sheer kookiness of spirit." -- from an admirably laudatory review of Ivan Brunetti's new anthology in the New York Times' Book Review, not much for fact-checking gender.

even the fish in the cover is confused by this cover
posted 11:05 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

posted 5:49 am PST | Permalink

Debeurme Wins ‘06 Grand Prix Goscinny


Ludovic Debeurme has won the 2006 Grand Prix Goscinny for his Futuropolis effort Lucille, according to a report by Didier Pasamonik at The prize was created by the famile of the late Rene Goscinny to honor a young comics talent. Past winners include Joann Sfar and JP Stassen.

Debuerme's Lucille looks to be one of the major award-winners this year as the season progresses; Bart Beaty's review can be found here and his discussion over an aspect of the book with its author here.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Angouleme Festival Raises Its Prices

imageIt can't be that important in the big scheme of things, but Angouleme's relative health has rightly or wrongly been the matter of discussion here and there in recent months, so a price raise from 9.5 to 11 euros for a one-day pass is worth noting, if only as something to potentially keep in mind when discussing Festival attendance figures in 2007.

As the article at goes into with great enthusiasm, there are also a couple of stand-alone exhibits at the Festival this year that will require an extra ticket. There are also passes that combine adult and children entrance fees to keep encouraging families.

If I'm translating the currency figures right in my head, the increased entrance fee still sort of sounds like a bargain.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Siegel On First Second’s First Year


The comics business news and analysis site follows up their discussion with First Second's editorial director on American Born Chinese with a chat about the companies first year in general -- and things look good.
posted 2:55 am PST | Permalink

Porn Cartoon Town Hall Scandal

It's not polite to be amused about people losing their jobs or unwelcome incidents in someone's work day, but the dry quality of the writing in this article will probably put a smile on your face.
posted 2:50 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Walt Disney’s Chicago Area Birthplace Now Available On Ebay


Article here.
posted 2:45 am PST | Permalink

Flemming Rose On The Circuit

As suspected when he showed up in Colorado earlier this week, Jyllands-Posten editor Flemming Rose has apparently hit the lecture circuit. This article talks about an appearance at Georgetown.

I haven't heard or read all of Rose's remarks, but his suggestion that critics are out there saying they should have known what would have happened rings kind of false to me. I haven't read anyone suggesting that, which makes me think it's not exactly widespread. I myself agree with Rose they could not have known the response, which is yet another reason, in my opinion, why it's bad for journalists to get into the provocation business above and beyond the provocation that comes in the course of reporting the news as effectively and thoroughly as possible.

In related news, Ahmed Sheikh of Al-Jazeera talks a bit about in this interview how his news organization covered the riots. It includes his decision not to run the cartoons, despite the fact that they were news, which is sort of interesting to contrast with his statement about digging into a speech of the Pope's he thought was newsworthy.
posted 2:14 am PST | Permalink

EC Segar: Born 112 Years Ago Today…

posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

... And So Was James Thurber; Nice Day

posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Bloomsbury Buys First Graphic Novel

At least the article leads me to believe that the graphic novel purchase of a project involving Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou is their first. I'm not sure why this seemed noteworthy to me beyond that, except maybe in a last bastion sense. That's some pretty significant brain power, now that I google them. The article's odd enough it could be totally wrong, too.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 44th Birthday, Erik Larsen!

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

Tad Dorgan Makes Boxing Hall of Fame

The great Tad Dorgan has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Dorgan was the prominent sports cartoonist of his era, and greatly influential in several sports' rise from barely-organized violence and into the American mainstream.

Roberto Duran heads this year's class. There's a lovely poem about Duran written by the artist Tony Fitzpatrick in his book Hard Angels, if you ever get the chance.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Today’s Launch:


A review and community site brought to you by retailers Dan Shahin and Rory Root.
posted 2:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Dudu Geva Exhibit Review
Coverage of Marvel Then and Now
Review of NYC African Comics Exhibit

CBR: Filip Savlik
Newsarama: Stan Lee
CBR: Marc Guggenheim
Newsarama: Steve Niles
Newsarama: Ed Brubaker Joss Whedon
Nichi Bei Times: Yoshitaka Amano

Not Comics
Paul Di Filippo Reviews Addams Family DVDs

Gonick Book Delayed
Seven Seas PR on Prose Line
Mike Carey to Write Virgin's Enigma
Cancer Vixen Makes Slate's Best Books List

Ian Brill: Supermarket
Abhay Khosla: Popeye
Dirk Deppey: Ohikkoshi
Bill Sherman: Black Cat
Jeff Vandermeer: Various
Josh Cook: Pride of Baghdad
Ian Brill: Batman/The Spirit #1
Chris Mautner: New EC Volumes
Carrie Jones: The Left Bank Gang
Jog: Green Tea (Glenn Ganges Remix)
Don MacPherson: Justice Society of America #1

December 7, 2006

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go See This


Chris Ware in conversation with City of Chicago Cultural Historian Timothy Samuelson, The Jewish Museum, 6:30 pm, $15 for the general public, $12 for students and senior citizens, and $10 for Jewish Museum members. 212.423.3337.
posted 5:42 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

posted 5:34 am PST | Permalink

What FBoFW Fans Want For Christmas


I'm not much for commenting on comic storylines, but while it's not as grand a return to form as Doonesbury achieved with its BD-related strips the last couple of years, it's worth noting how much passion Lynn Johnston is whipping up with her "Who Will Liz Patterson End Up With?" saga in the steadily winding down For Better Or For Worse. Not only is there on-line wailing in horror at potential future plotlines, but I heard someone talking about this at the food co-op.

The three interesting things about the whole affair are that 1) fans are referencing both the strips and the fact that Johnston is ending the strip as fuel for thinking something major is going to happen in Liz's love life, 2) fan opinion against potential life partner and former childhood boyfriend Anthony may be more heavily weighed against him than any character in comic book history and can only be described as furious hatred, bringing with it hilarity, and 3) no one really has any idea where Johnston is going with this -- it's perfectly conceivable Paul could show up and propose, leading to a May wedding, or that he could dump her and Johnston really thinks Anthony is dreamy.

(For the record, this writer is anti-Anthony, pro-anybody else, up to and including Snuffy Smith)
posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Peter Brook: Cartoonist of the Year

That's not me saying it, it's the Political Cartoonist of the Year awards saying so, held last night in London. The awards also acknowledged a cartoon by Dave Brown of the Independent as the cartoon of the year over 27 other entries, while presenter Daniel Franklin of The Economist spoke about the year just past, including the Danish Cartoons controversy. Peter Brook works for the Times.
posted 2:33 am PST | Permalink

Tintin Documentary Now On-Line

posted 2:29 am PST | Permalink

More on Yemeni Danish Cartoons Fine

The good thing about waiting a day on a story like Wednesday's news that Yemeni newspaper editor Mohammad al-Asadi of the Yemen Observer was fined for republishing the Danish Cartoons of Muhammed is that a lot more stories and takes on the issue rear their head. The bad thing is that some of the facts may not line up and likely few of the name-spellings will.

* This is the version that made it to one American newspaper, which devalues the amount of money in the fine from $2550 USD to $2400 USD, and notes that Yemeni President Saleh has vowed to overturned prison sentences which makes a sentence in the form of a fine either bitterly humorous in a way or kind of despicable.

* A report in the Yemen Times identifies the exact court and the newspaper's lawyer.

* The Committee to Protect Journalists reveals in talking to the editor that one outcome may be that a conviction, even without a jail sentence, may open the convicted up to militants as a target for retribution. It also notes that two more journalists, Abdulkarim Sabra, the managing editor and publisher of Al-Hurriya Ahliya, and Yehiya al-Abed, one the paper's journalists, should learn about their own sentences within a week or two.

* This article describes a packed courtroom and mentions that the cartoons were crossed out to show condemnation, which makes the decisions that much more extreme.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: I Know Joe Kimpel Launch


For your bookmarking consideration: clicking through the image above takes you to I Know Joe Kimpel, a mini-comics sales and distribution site started by and focused on Center For Cartoon Studies students and cartoonists working near the campus. There are so very few places like this where one can buy mini-comics that I thought it worth a pull and a mention.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

One Last Thing About FoxTrot Move

I forgot to mention this in my two previous posts this week on the publishing news story that strip cartoonist Bill Amend was taking his FoxTrot to Sundays-only, but I admire the move in that it's beneficial to the comics page. At his client level, it would be very easy for Amend to hire ghost creators to do the FoxTrot dailies and reduce his work load in a still-significant way by merely supervising the quality of the scripts; at worst, people would have thought him a bit burnt out and off his game. With Amend's choice to end the dailies outright, there are now opportunities for other strips to find a wider audience. If only every cartoonist were as gracious.

It's also good to hear, as it was with Aaron McGruder, about a talented person choosing to pursue the opportunities they want to pursue rather than be stuck in a job they don't like anymore, even a lucrative one.
posted 1:48 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read Christopher Butcher: With Great Power Comes Brief Frontal Nudity

posted 1:34 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Superhero Movies Question

Is it my imagination, or does every superhero movie requiring the casting of a woman who must change her hair color?
posted 1:15 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Brave New World Hosts Jingle Ball 2

Bryan Munn On Snow In Comics
Ed Howard Discusses Dogs and Water
Amy Lago On Cursing In The Funny Pages

Newsarama: Stan Sakai
Newsarama: Geoff Johns
Newsarama: Ron Garney
Leader-Call: Marshall Ramsey
Sequential Tart: Nick Bertozzi
Sequential Tart: Frazier Irving
Sequential Tart: Peter Johnson
Sequential Tart: Zack Giallongo

Star Wars Slate For Spring
PR: Fruits Basket Hits A Two Million Mark
Marvel Plans Another Special Military Comic

Edward Liu: Ode To Kirihito
Eric Weems: The Creeper #4
Christopher Seaman: Train Man
Holly Ellingwood: Kashmashi Vol. 1
James at Toon Zone: Ode To Kirihito
Vichus Smith: 52 #22Allison Cook: Minus
Leroy Douresseaux: Rose Hip Zero Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Nextwave: Agents of HATE, Vol. 1

December 6, 2006

If I Were In St. Louis, I’d Go To This

posted 7:30 am PST | Permalink

How Hicksville Changed His Life


Gil Roth reminds us how some comics can be worth much, much more than cover price.
posted 4:56 am PST | Permalink

Yemeni Editor Fined For Danish Cartoons

A court in Yemen has fined Mohammad al-Asadi, the editor of the English-language Yemen Observer approximately $2500 USD for reprinting Danish cartoons in the publication earlier this Fall.

On November 25th the editor of al-Rai al-Aaam Kamal al-Olufi was sentenced to a year in jail and that paper was closed. A Yemeni journalists group had just made a call for closing the file on such cases when the latest sentence was announced.

In related news, it looks like Jyllands-Posten editor Flemming Rose may have hit the lecture circuit.
posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Wonderfool World


Wonderfool World, David Sandlin, 160 pages with multiple fold-outs, $25, available at Printed Matter, Forbidden Planet International, St Marks Bookhop, Rocketship, The Ganzfeld, Fantagraphics, the author, and I'm sure other like-minded places.
posted 1:52 am PST | Permalink

Bill Amend Talks to Editor & Publisher About Taking FoxTrot Sunday-Only

There's a nice piece up at E&P where cartoonist Bill Amend lays out the basic thinking process behind taking his popular FoxTrot to Sundays-only, ending the dailies run and costing him at the very least the significant number of his four-figure client number that represent purchases of the dailies package. Basically, he has reached a point he was contractually able to do so and writing the dailies was a too-big portion of a 60-hour work week. The time he'll get back he plans to spend on family and other projects. Amend plans nothing different with the Sunday version, which is interesting to me in that the Sunday always seemed to assume a knowledge of the characters best garnered through the dailies.

I've heard from about a half-dozen strip people on the surprise announcement, four of whom mentioned that they think the big beneficiary in terms of picking up clients may be Mark Tutulli's Lio. It looks like Universal Press Syndicate may push Stone Soup.
posted 1:39 am PST | Permalink

Happy 77th Birthday, Frank Springer!

posted 1:08 am PST | Permalink

Castree’s Murder Trial Set For June

There have been a couple updates in the arrest of former British comics retailer Ronald Castree, who was arrested November 3 as a prime suspect in the famed 1975 murder of 11-year-old schoolgirl Lesley Molseed. According to this piece, which isn't exactly new but ran a week after my last posting, Castree appeared before a judge and had a provisional trial date set of June 5. Preparatory business matters leading up to that trial were set for January and March. Also, this is the first place I read the former Manchester-area retailer will be defended in this case by Jonathan Rose, a lawyer who wrote a book on the case in 1998.

The Lesley Molseed case is a famous one because of the horrifying nature of the crime and because the wrong man was initially convicted. Stefan Kiszko was exonerated in 1992, and died six months later of a heart attack.

The gallery for Castree's hearing was packed with family and interested parties.
posted 1:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 40th Birthday, Leonard Kirk and a Happy 45th Birthday to Robin Riggs!


It's not like they're the same person or married or anything -- well, at least as far as I know they're two different people -- but I don't think I've ever found a shared piece of art from two birthday people before the first time I looked for one or the other. More on Kirk here. More on Riggs here.
posted 1:04 am PST | Permalink

Happy 41st Birthday, Paul Jenkins!

posted 1:03 am PST | Permalink

Uncanny Dave Cockrum HC in 2007

Clifford Meth has written to give a publication date for The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Hardcover, a refurbishing of the benefit book The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute, which helped the now late artist in 2004. It will be published in February 2007. A rundown of added participants, various changes and reactions from those involved can be found in the full press release offered up by Aardwolf Publishing.

The artist Dave Cockrum passed away in late November from complications due to diabetes. The much-liked artist was a key figure of the fanzine era of the 1960s-1970s, and a contributor to a great many Marvel and DC comics and covers, most notably a franchise-establishing run on the biggest comic book title of the last 30 years, Uncanny X-Men.
posted 1:02 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: ComicSpace Site Launch


The ComicSpace on-line comics social network site should pass 1000 members sometime this morning, a day after its initial launch. Although focused mostly on the on-line comics world, this seems like an interesting and perhaps useful idea. Friend me up!
posted 1:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Report From MoCCA Panel on GNs

Sammy Harkham On The One-Pager

Not Comics
Comic Foundry: Creators' Wish Lists
Zits, Funky Winkerbean: Seattle Paper's Top Searches

PWCW: Dash Shaw
PWCW: Chris Pitzer
Pitchfork: Brian Chippendale
Fist Full of Comics: Joe Kubert
Comic Foundry: K. Thor Jensen
Comic Foundry: Kazimir Strzepek

Comic Foundry To Try Print
Preview of The Spirit's Return
Hachette's Future Publishing Projects
Recent News From a Chicago Perspective
Prism Gives $1000 Grant to Megan Gedris

Marissa Sammy: Blankets
Don MacPherson: Raised By Squirrels
Rob Clough: Let Us Be Perfectly Clear
Rebecca Buchanan: When Worlds Collide
Jen Contino: Disney Comics: The Classics Collection

December 5, 2006

RSF Open Letter Discusses Ahmed Abbas

Reporter Sans Frontieres has released an open letter about abuse facing journalists in the Maldives, including cartoonist Ahmed Abbas; it can be read here.
posted 4:24 am PST | Permalink

FoxTrot Goes To Sunday-Only 12/31


Bill Amend is ending the daily iteration of his popular FoxTrot comic strip in order to follow other creative pursuits, Universal Press Syndicate has announced. As Dave Astor at Editor & Publisher notes, Amend's strip is currently in the 1000-plus clients club, a club with fewer than 20 other members. Because comic strips are sold in Sunday and daily packages, and because a few may drop the Sundays in order to give the exposure to a strip on their daily page, one imagines that Amend may be taking a 50 percent or more pay cut from the move.

On the other hand, I would think he'd be freeing up perhaps as much as 80 percent of his time, given the general difficulty of writing daily sequences and the specific hassles that FoxTrot would seem to offer. One of Amend's underappreciated strengths, and I think a key to the enormous success of his strip, has been his ability to forecast geek trends and work them into the fabric of his dailies. That seems to me a bit easier to do on a once-weekly basis, or at least with a smaller number of exposures at stake if he picks the wrong object for Jason's obsession.

The bigger news, of course, is that this opens up a huge opportunity for other dailies to find slots, kind of like a store throwing a sale in advance of a sale everyone knows is coming (the sale everyone know is coming is For Better Or For Worse ending). I would imagine the biggest beneficiary will be some strips in the 200-400 range as opposed to anything new coming out. My hunch is that editors will want to replace an acknowledged hit with a growing hit if they can. I can't think of anything in the 80-150 range that really fits the bill in a way they'd get a same-type-of-strip boost.
posted 3:51 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Fantagraphics Store Opening


You can see the now officially opened Fantagraphics store and the gallery nearby hosting an exhibit for the Fantagraphics book Beasts!, both with tons of people in them last Friday evening, by going to the Fantagraphics blog generally or entries here, here, here, here, here and here specifically. There are a lot of comics industry folk and cartoonists to look at as well as checking out the scene aspects of the grand opening event.

I think the Fantagraphics store is interesting because it potentially hits a way different audience for books than the average comic shop: weekend shoppers, out-of-town visitors/tourists, and event-goers. It would have been great to have a space like this for events when I was in Seattle, and I look forward to directing comics folk to someplace nicer than the Fantagraphics warehouse when they ask me about things to do in my former place of residence.
posted 3:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: David Saylor Interview

I nearly missed it, but this interview with Scholastic's David Saylor about the Graphix imprint has enough interesting detail that it deserves to be read in full. Saylor confirms the seven-figure Bone sales number for the color books that's been out there, and lists a ton of forthcoming projects by various creators. I'm curious as to how they can do a Knights of the Lunch Table book considering the long-running Knights of the Dinner Table -- not in a legal way, because "lunch" and "dinner" are of course two different meals, but in a "let's avoid being jerks" way, but I suppose fair game is fair game.
posted 3:11 am PST | Permalink

Happy 82nd Birthday, Sam Glanzman!


source: CBG
posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Why The New York Times Irritates

The New York Times is hardly the magazine of record it still pretends to be, but it remains so for enough people that coverage in its feature sections can have a noticeable benefit, and I think it's been that way for comics a couple of years now. But ever since it began to acknowledge comics in kind of a month-in, month-out way, its coverage has been odd -- a lot of pr-driven DC pieces and a few articles of that same, soft type about other companies that almost feel like apologies for lack of coverage, and then the occasional well-meaning but sigh-inducing article like this one in the Book Review extolling the virtues of Ivan Brunetti's recent comics anthology from Yale University Press.

Timothy Hodler does the detail work on why the article reads as odd, saying basically it comes across like a piece by a writer who hasn't done the amount of research necessary to engage with the material in as smart a way as the subject of any such profile demands. It's a piece that gives respect to the medium and Brunetti's book through its assertions, but disrespects the medium through its king-maker tone and lack of detail work. And while that's the kind of thing you might understand of a feature piece by a 23-year-old at the Ball State Daily News, the New York Times should do better.

Is that jealousy? I guess it could be; I know that accusation is made whenever writers about an art form grapple with mainstream-type pieces on the form, particularly when public curiosity begins to grow. Beyond the check that might be offered, I don't have any particular interest in working for the Times or other mainstream publications; for one thing, my prose would have to be worked over pretty mercilessly, and even then I'm not sure I'm a good enough stylist to work such gigs. I'm happy writing here for the rest of my comics-interested life. On the other hand, I certainly know a half-dozen qualified writers for articles and books that are eminently qualified to do either or both, writers that deserve to stand on any platform, that have actually read the whole of Ivan Brunetti's work, that know how and why Little Lulu is funny, that know Kim Deitch is a dude, that wouldn't have to have people do interviews afterwards explaining quotes that made them sound idiotic, and that have something compelling to say about comics beyond "Here's comics!"
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bid: 2006 CCS Holiday Auction


James Sturm Explains: Thanks for listing The Center For Cartoon Studies as a charity in your holiday guide. CCS is actually having a holiday sale and auction next Saturday, December 9th, from 1-4. Most of the items will only be sold in White River Junction but three items available through e-bay. All info can be found here. If anybody wants to to bid on any item that's not on e-bay they can e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) up until Saturday, December 9 at 12 noon.
posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

Eisner Awards: Judges, Submissions

All right here in their press release. I'm trying to work up the energy to comment on the judges or something, but I'm just not feeling it. I'm not sure why.

If you published comics in 2006, you should probably think about submitting.

The Eisner Awards will be given out in San Diego on the evening of July 27.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Super Vision Opens at ICA in Boston
Report From Stan Lee/Joe Quesada Event

Mike Rhode Profiled

Local Shop Profile: Geeks and Gamers

Fleen: Dave Kellett
Newsarama: Steve Wacker
Daily Record: Sean Delonas

Not Comics
Artist Inspired By Crumb
Jules Feiffer Featured on PBS?
Comics Easier On Library's Shelves
Telltale Releases Director's Cut Bone Games

Call for Webcomics Submissions
David Baillie Re-Launches Web Site
Corey Randolph Ends Barkeater Lake
Ryan Brown Launches Fascist America
What Minx Can Learn From Shojo Manga
Tad Pietrzykowski Re-Launches The Dark Nebula

Greg McElhatton: The Killer #1
Derik A Badman: Whoa, Nellie!
Ian Brill: American Born Chinese
Bill Sherman: Batman/The Spirit #1
Don MacPherson: Mail Order Ninja Vols. I-II
Jeremy Adam Smith: Various Political Comics
Greg McElhatton: StormWatch: Post Human Division #1
Greg McElhatton: The Lost Colony Vol 1: The Snodgrass Conspiracy

December 4, 2006

American Born Chinese Hits 25K Mark

The comics business news and analysis site has a solid, casual and revealing interview up with First Second's main man Mark Siegel. Although the main subject is the sales success of American Born Chinese and the role played in that success by the book's recent National Book Award nomination, Siegel lets drop some information about how the first year of the Roaring Brook Press imprint has done in general.
posted 4:14 am PST | Permalink

2006 Awards Season Eases In


I may have simply missed this, but the short story "The Only Child" by Erin Pringle and Warren Craghead has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, after its appearance in the third issue of the Baltimore-based literary magazine, Barrelhouse. An interview with the pair can be found here.


Nicked from Dirk: Moto Hagio's four-volume effort from Shogakukan Barubara Ikai has won the 27th Japan SF Grand Prize. The grand prize is selected not just among novels like many science fiction awards but is extended in manga, animation and live-action film. Katsuhiro Otomo's Domu is a past winner. Other candidates this year were: Ai no Monogatari by Hiromu Yamamoto, Shangri-la by Eiichi Ikegami, Tenku no Toride by Issui Ogawa, and Toki Wo Kakeru Shoujo by Mamoru Hosoda.



I think I underplayed this the first time around, or missed it all together, but Kazimir Strzepek won the first Maisie Kukoc Award for Comics Inspiration back in late October. Since organizer Jesse Reklaw plans on making this an annual thing, and will add a more formal judging panel next year, I think it's worth a re-mention. Strzepek won a cash award of $50, which automatically makes the Kukoc better than most in comics history.

The award is named after "a character in the comic book King-Cat, self-published by the inspirational cartoonist John Porcellino since 1989." I think this means John's cat.
posted 2:22 am PST | Permalink

John Styrk, Jr., 1973/74-2006

The artist John Styrk Jr. was killed over the weekend in an early Saturday morning auto accident in Michigan after being hit by an SUV that ran a stop sign. Styrk was the artist behind the small press comic Boomtown Scabs, and had just the night before attended a meeting of a local comics group. Styrk's mother described her son as fun-loving in the news story. The accident is still under investigation.
posted 2:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Paul Pope Has A Blog


thanks, Chris Arrant
posted 2:16 am PST | Permalink

A Reintroduction To Mervyn Peake


This article up at Time's Europe arm looks at a new biography of Gormenghast author Mervyn Peake and talks of attempts by fans and other interested parties to claim for the novelist, poet and illustrator his rightful place in the Modern Pantheon of Imagination. It's not really comics, but although better known (and I think rightfully so) as a writer, Peake the illustrator is a definite influence on more than a few cartoonists.

image copyright 2006 the Mervyn Peake estate
posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

Cartoonists Write To Tell Me Things

* Shad Petosky on the potential creation of a social network for comics:

"At Comic-Con, Kelly Sue mentioned that MYSPACE was going to add a comic channel like they have with their film and music channels. I think this could be pretty interesting and keep meaning to check into it. Speaking of Myspace: Jenna Fischer, star of The Office, keeps promoting comics on her page and blog. She's mentioned Joe Matt and Renee French a bunch. Word has it that Jenna is a cartoonist."

* Paul Karasik on a series I said looked like a Time-Life series for Comics:

"I noticed that you had a mention of the Coconino/La Republica series a while back and have been meaning to let you know about it. It is a collaboration between the most popular Italian daily newspaper and Coconino Press. Each week a new volume appears at the newsstands but if you miss a volume, I think that they are available by mail. The books have been designed by Coconino so they are as handsome as all Coconino books. In all there are ten volumes in the series. The American books are: Maus, Blankets, Palestine, David Boring, and City of Glass. They all contain extra goodies largely unavailable elsewhere: interviews, sketches, articles...but your Italian needs to be pretty good to be able to read them. Mostly I look at the pictures. Blankets, Palestine, David Boring contain interviews between myself and the individual artists. City of Glass contains the interview that ran in Indy magazine between myself and Bill Kartalopoulos. They are on week number 4."
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

ActuaBD: Dupuis Adding Kids Lines


The comics news site has a piece up about two new collections from Dupuis targeting kids: Puceron and Punaise. Puceron is for kids approximately three years old; Punaise is for kids around the age of six. Reasons given for the line are the lack of similar lines, the success of a book called Game-Over, which was aimed at younger kids and sold around 60,000, and the chance to instill a love of and a sense of appreciation for comics that they hope will draw kids into the lines meant for older kids when they reach that age.

A long list of creators involved can be found in the original article; the article states about 15 titles are planned for 2007. I think that figure means from both lines combined.

from sample art run in's article
posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Simmonds’ Tamara Drewe Concludes


thanks, Nick Mullin. episodes 86 through the conclusion remain up
posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Shaenon Garrity To End Narbonic

imageShaenon Garrity has officially announced the ending of the long-running Narbonic daily on-line comic strip, one of the well-known touchstones of the post-2000 rise of webcomics. Originally conceived as a feature with a beginning and an end, the last strip will appear on December 31, having started July 31, 2000. During its run, the writer, cartoonist and editor has started other well-received features, become known for some of her informal and more formal writing about comics, was nominated for Friends of Lulu awards (Kim Yale 2001; Lulu of the Year 2005) and won the 2005 web cartoonists choice award for best writer. A rerun/added extras feature complete with podcast will start January 1, while the fourth of six planned print volumes should appear later that year.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, Regis Loisel!

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
A Sketchy Neighborhood 12/10
Comics Critics Circle at Meltdown 12/9
Meltdown Team Tours In Support of Comic
Report From George Gladir Appearance in SLC Announces NYCC Programming Slate

Seattle P-I Profiles Fantagraphics Store
Local Shop Profile: Fat Cat Comics and Games
Company Announces Tokyopop Mobile Content Distribution Deal

Not Comics
More Coverage For Dagwood Sandwich Shop

New Pope Comic Is Out
Apparently, Hollywood Is Interested In Comics
Raleigh Comics Page Changes Met With Resistance

Jog: 52, Action Comics #845
Don MacPherson: Whisper #1
Rob Clough: SPX Mini-Comics
James Kochalka: Scott Pilgrim
Marc Sobel: Love and Rockets #8
Pauline Wong: Night of the Beasts Vol. 1
Ben Rhudy: Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda
Johanna Draper Carlson: Pride of Baghdad
Houston Chronicle Recommends Malcolm X
Johanna Draper Carlson: The Perhapanauts
Sumana Harihareswara Reads All The Comics
Comics All Over Denver Post's Holiday Book List
Ben Yagoda: Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life
Erik Weems: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1-5

December 3, 2006

CR Sunday Magazine

Notes From The Editor

image1. I have a question: is it just my imagination, or is sports manga far less popular here than conventional wisdom suggests it should be? If so, what does that say about the make-up of the North American manga readership? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

2. I like the work of many of the artists involved, and I have several friends with teen or near-teen daughters that like reading comics, so I was happy to hear about the Minx imprint.

3. Still, as far as the marketing part of that story, I'm not knocked out by DC spending a low six figure amount on such an effort in concert with a company that has worked with similarly-targeted properties.

* First, there are companies in comics that have routinely spent more on single properties than DC will on their line launch. It's not new to comics because it's new to DC.

* Second, being impressed that DC is finally in this case acting sort of like a real publishing company -- the kind of move that's obviously been in the cards since they started reconfiguring their sales and marketing department two years ago -- feels like it serves the publicity bounce they must be going for by making this information public, and not much else.

* Third, it remains to be seen how much these specific moves will have in the way of a real impact -- a impact that will be twice as difficult to measure now that these moves have become public. When you make a policy public, you're invested in the success of that policy in a different way than you are if it's not made public. Historically, this means anything that can be claimed on that policy's behalf will likely be claimed for it, at the potential expense of other factors.

* Fourth, if DC's moves have the impact hoped for, it remains to be seen how the information coming back to editorial will potentially shape the line, if only like a finger placed in a running stream. Although some will disagree with me, I think DC's line of the last 20 years has obviously been shaped by the success of other books and other more rudimentary methods of ascertaining reader response. I don't think it's out of the question to suggest the more sophisticated feedback available through marketing initiatives might be utilized the same way.

4. Site Note I: We're doing some back-end revamps here at Comics Reporter at the end of the year, so if you have any suggestions as to how to improve the site, now would be a great time .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

5. Site Note II: Thank you to the reviewers out there that have been sending in their links for inclusion in the quick hits section and the end of the year review. I greatly appreciate it, and promise I'll soon figure out a links-gathering rotation that will make your e-mails unnecessary.

6. Site Note III: If I haven't been running links to your reviews, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) It's only temporary.

image7. I liked the Cromartie High School live-action movie. The pacing is really rough and sabotages a lot of the jokes, some of which wouldn't have come close to being funny given the best staging possible. Still, there's a laudable sequence near the end where the main characters form a global defense force to march into a fight against some great-looking aliens that includes a perfectly realized Masked Takenouchi gag and a near-masterful sequence where during a kung fu battle three of the characters are shown to be upstairs watching an episode of Pootan, the painfully abstruse TV show within the comic. For me, that was daffy and transporting enough to be worth watching the whole thing. The detail work was mostly good. Although as many have pointed out, the movie really did need a hulking, Caucasian Freddie and seven seconds or so of Queen music to play whenever he appeared. The gorilla, Mechazawa and Mechazawa Beta were all slightly better than hoped.

8. 235 days until San Diego Con.

9. Back around Memorial Day, I posted at Warren Ellis' The Engine a long list of potential directions for advocacy from members of comics' creative community, that would, as a whole, make for a better industry. In other words, I wanted a list of things a group of fired-up creators could actively and reasonably pursue, instead of the kind of industry advocacy where one describes making over reality with a wave of the hand. It was a fun exercise, not because all of my suggestions are good, as some of them are quite ridiculous, but because I'm more comfortable as critic and skeptic, especially when it comes to industry activism, and it was fun to think in the other direction.

Here they are in case anyone's still interested, and so I can find them more easily in the future.

* Re-devotion to single creator titles with quarterly or better distribution. Perhaps create a virtual mini-Image with no identity whatsoever (think logoless comics like Martin Goodman's were at times) and a lower sales threshold that stresses publication for promotion rather than publication for profit.

* Back plan by retailers to make entry into the exisiing distribution DM system much, much tougher with severe penalties for underperformance or bad behavior over first two years. Make exempt from sales penalties for 24-month periods any and all titles granted this via petition to a blue-ribbon arts-for-arts sake panel. Use rules of petition process to screen irredeemable garbage.

* Work with a retailer group to study and isolate a small-store model that works, and advocate for loans and business guarantees with the goal of creating 1000 new comic book shops in the next ten years on that model, with a further goal that half be owned by women. Different locations bring with them different sets of incentives, with an eye towards getting stores into places stores aren't or where they are but suck.

* Back an ambitious, low- or no-cost franchising plan for the Small Press Expo, all to benefit the CBLDF.

* Create a system of downloadable comics at a reduced price available at point of release in the manner of role-playing games and then offer that as a service (or an inducement) so that brick and mortar stores that carry the paper version of those comics are doing the selling.

* Create a "house pro" system marrying creators to specific comic book shops.

* Start a comics speaker's bureau with an established service.

* Encourage someone to start a web site listing comic books for the last five years that says with authority whether something is still available or not and from whom.

* Start an Albris for comics to help make for a more active, self-regulating and appealing back issues market.

* Back the creation of a social network system for comics.

* Back the creation of a Rotten Tomatoes for comic books.

* Create a cartoonists version of an illustration yearbook, on-line, which is then presented to publishers, agents and entertainment lawyers only. High threshold for participation.

* Back the creation of an group to help coordinate release schedules among non-exclusive comics companies.

* Encourage your publishers to compare book distribution deals. Hold your publishers to having a plan for library sales, point of contact sales, and bookstore sales.

* Encourage the pursuit of deals that mirror other deals, but don't look upon them as automatic opportunities. Just because Scholastic sells certain comics through their book fairs doesn't mean that schools are a market there for the taking. At the same time, cartoonists need to be more active about following up news of, say, a non-fiction line by getting an agent to propose to a publisher their own non-fiction project. This happens a little bit, but not enough, from what I've been told. Most breakout hits with the potential to change things around them are not the first project in a category.

image10. There's a really snotty part of me that, whenever I read about people dismayed by the seething misogyny and other general, horrifying values embodied by the fruits of the American mainstream comic book industry, kind of marvels at the casual familiarity so many of those criticizing have with the offending material. I wonder if this is one of those weird cultural constructs we can trace back to Dr. Jerry Bails and other original, hardcore fans -- this notion that you're not interacting with a specific product that could and should be given the finger, walked away from and mocked when it turns sour, but that you're invested in this tradition of serial readership that asks for your commitment, a tradition that, when it fails you, calls on your ability to reform it and set things right.

11. This book is super-pretty.

12. Here are a few news stories to watch for in 2007:

* Lewis Trondheim at Angouleme

* New York Comic-Con Part 2: "Elbow Room"

* America Meets Marjane Satrapi Part 4: The Movie

* Minx Imprint launch

* Lynn Johnston ending For Better or For Worse, hopefully with the death of Anthony.

* R. Crumb's Book of Genesis thing with WW Norton and corresponding, much-deserved valedictory lap (hopefully jumping the gun by decades) around the worlds of art and popular culture (although that seems like the kind of book that's naturally delayed if it hasn't been already)

* Two or maybe even three significant new imprints/lines

* Off the top of my head, three creator comebacks, one from each generation of underground-alternative cartooning

* A lingering Muhammed cartoons hangover, particularly in various countries' legal reforms that make it easier to prosecute cartoons

It should be a fun year!


Go, Look: Cartoons By Milenko Kosanovic



Five Link A Go Go

* continuing their solid run as of late, Fanboy Radio interviews Mike Mignola

* you can't escape Scott McCloud's radio appearances, and you shouldn't even try

* you may not feel good about it, but you'll laugh

* don't forget the CR Holiday shopping guide, now with reader commentary sprinkled throughout

* bigger-than-usual commentary thread at The Beat on DC's Minx line


Go, Look: Hendrik Dorgathen



Go, Look: 1950's Robin Hood


The article linked to in the image above focuses on DC's and Quality's versions of the archer-hero; there were several others. It also occurs to me that a lot of articles of this type that were around in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s seem to have dropped off the virtual planet, so it's nice to see this one.


First Thought Of The Day
You ever wake up thinking that the CD for your printer is in a billfold in a drawer so you know it's there to scan some things in later that day, but then you're delayed all day, and by the time you get back to your printer it's like 5 PM and the stuff has already scrolled out without art, and then you look in that billfold and your CD isn't there, so you just give up and write some cranky, numbered message at the top of the page?

Yeah, me neither.
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink

December 2, 2006

Happy 47th Birthday, Mike Saenz!

posted 11:36 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 45th Birthday, Don Simpson!

posted 10:39 pm PST | Permalink

December 1, 2006

If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

posted 11:52 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Charlotte, I’d Go To This

posted 11:49 pm PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from November 25 to December 1, 2006:

1. Slipping right past both officials and some of us watching the case, beleaguered Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani left Iran for Dubai before his appeal on charges of upsetting the Azeri minority with a cartoon and is now in Europe, seeking asylum from a UN body.

2. DC announces line of North American-style comics for teen-aged girls, and with it a modest but partnered-up-like-a-real-book-publisher marketing effort in support of same that represents the culmination of their overhaul of sales and marketing department since, if I remember correctly, early 2005.

3. Yemeni editor sentenced to a year for publishing Danish Muhammed cartoons.

Winner Of The Week
Christophe Chaboute and Pascal Rabate, early BD awards season winners.

Loser Of The Week
Wizard Entertainment, who fired Editor-In-Chief Pat McCallum, a long, long longtime employee, capping a year of firings and hirings, in a way that provided a negative publicity bounce.

Quote Of The Week
"X-Men Illustrator Dies In Superman Pajamas" -- whether you found it charming or depressing, definitely the most memorable headline in a while, on the passing of Dave Cockrum.

happy birthday, Johnny
posted 11:27 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 82nd Birthday, Jack Davis!


a couple of sources have a birth date of 1926
posted 10:53 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 35th Birthday, John Hankiewicz!

posted 9:20 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 4:58 am PST | Permalink

Pope Pays Homage To Father Santoro

Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute yesterday to Father Andreas Santoro as part of his controversial trip to Muslim-dominated Turkey. Father Santoro was shot and killed in February by a Turkish youth supposedly upset about cartoons published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Fall 2005. Father Santoro's murder -- which the perpetrator has since called an accident based on his wanting to scare the priest -- was one of the key, alarming incidents in the wave of violence and protests coming out of Europe in February over the cartoons, and the fact that coverage of the Pope's tour includes mention of the incident show just how much of an impression those events made on the political consciousness of Europe.
posted 3:51 am PST | Permalink

Jeff Smith Starts Talking SHAZAM!


Now that cartoonist Jeff Smith has returned from his overseas tour in support of several foreign editions of Bone, the last two entries on his blog discuss the forthcoming SHAZAM!: Monster Society of Evil, with links and commentary. If you're interested in the project, I'd say it's time to bookmark Smith's site. It looks like a lot of fun, and other than a few issues of the Solo anthology, I can't remember thinking that a whole lot about DC offerings the last few years. I'd link directly to the Captain Marvel-related posts, but the nearly food-porn photo of a cheeseburger a few entries down needs to be seen, too.
posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

News You Only Seem To Get On Fridays

Miscellaneous news, some weird and some simply hard to place, from hither and yon:

* Scott Adams gently chastised for backing a Bill Gates for President bid and a Bill Gates for President web site, because 1) the web site isn't forthcoming about its ownership, and 2) cartoonists are appropriate objects of scorn, seemingly.

* Ivan Brunetti and Todd Hignite appear on the first episode of the Yale University podcast.

* Derik Badman says Scott McCloud appeared on this radio show yesterday morning, although I don't see it listed.

* The Center For New Words has a series of celebrity auctions going, including items from cartoonists Jennifer Camper, Mikhaela Reid and Alison Bechdel.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

Wall-Hidden Rockwell Brings $15.4M


Maybe my favorite "not comics" story ever comes to a (financial) close: the Norman Rockwell original once hidden in the walls of Henry cartoonist Don Trachte Sr., sells at auction. Also, if you see Steve Martin at breakfast in the next week or so, you should ask him to buy.
posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Wizard Downplays EiC Dismissal

To follow up on yesterday's story, Wizard Entertainment later Thursday morning posted this release, which lists the departure of Editor in Chief and original staffer Pat McCallum as just another corporate maneuver. In a way, McCallum leaving the company does make more sense in terms of a kind of broad corporate re-staffing that's going on at the company, although I don't know anyone that thinks any of the issues facing Wizard right now are broad, bland corporate ones as opposed to very specific, pernicious ones that need to be solved in the field, as it were.

I'm certain that if you take a quick look around the comics ghetto of the Internet you can read a lot of people kicking the rest of the release in the nuts: no one other than maybe a few folks at Wizard thinks the company had the grandly positive year portrayed, and the release itself fails to stay on point when describing all these new hires as a move to "strengthen" a company supposedly operating at record-setting levels in all departments. While I don't think the situation on its convention and magazine fronts is anywhere near hopeless, by failing to show in any way why McCallum leaving solves problems rather than creates them, Wizard comes that much closer to looking like they're floundering instead of reloading.

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Amphigorey Again


I didn't know there were 250 pages left to collect of Edward Gorey's work, but I swear this is only a month or so old.
posted 2:03 am PST | Permalink

Two Papers Pulling Bite Me Comic

Editor & Publisher reports that only two of 350 newspapers have asked for a substitute so as not to run a Pearls Before Swine strip that featured the naughty-if-you're-three phrase "Bite Me". The news here is that Pearls Before Swine has grown to 350 clients; I swear they were at 200 or so the last time I checked. With 350 clients, Stephan Pastis' strip should run for as long as the cartoonist wants it to run.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Happy 31st Birthday, Matt Fraction!

posted 2:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Report on Jules Feiffer at ASU
Name Jack Cassady's Character
George Gladir At Night Flight 12/2
Comic Book Artists Exhibit In Grand Rapids

Gene Deitch on Gasoline Alley Tributes
Terrifying Fumetti/Comics At Fantagraphics Blog

Suicide Girls: Dame Darcy
Pasadena Weekly: Paul Conrad
Jewish News Weekly: Joann Sfar
Suicide Girls: Aline Kominsky-Crumb

Not Comics
Gifts For The Comics Fan

John Cole Starts A Blog
DF Plans Stan Lee Guides
Del Rey's Latest Manga Acquisitions
Missed It: Comic Book Galaxy on Hiatus
Students Need Better Name For Their Comic
Seven Seas Titles To Sell Through Book Fairs

Tim O'Neil: Seven Sons
Jog: Zombies Vs. Robots #1
Erik Weems: Batman/The Spirit #1
Tim O'Neil: Are We Feeling Safer Yet?


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