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

May 31, 2007

CR Review: Yotsuba&! Vol. 4


Creator: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publishing Information: ADV Manga, softcover, 200 pages, June 2007, $9.95
Ordering Numbers: 1413903452 (ISBN10), 9781413903454 (ISBN13)

The fourth volume of the domestic comedy Yotsuba&! makes a welcome, surprise appearance on the mark some two years after the first one. The story of a small girl square in the midst of those years where kids function as actual but super-odd and sweetly naive human beings, this volume works its way through nearly a summer's worth of (non-) events. The first time we see Yotsuba she's losing multiple games of rock/paper/scissors and getting hit on the head with a newspaper after every one. The fury of her reactions provides a great deal of the humor, and her delight in being exposed to entirely normal facets of the world and seeing them as the most amazing things ever offers up much of the book's delight. Yotsuba is an idealized kid of that early age, retaining a wide-eye wonder and furious energy, minus the things that crop up at that age like cruelty and deception. Reading her adventures is like a super-pleasant day of babysitting where you catch a pretty good at all the right moments.

If anything, the comedic sequences in this book are sharper than what I've read before. One nearly pitch-perfect story shows Yotsuba administering support to a lovesick young woman by repeating she's told about her by the other older folks to whom she's brought her quandary, including the opinion someone gives that the young woman's legs are too fat. Having missed the previous two volume I have idea if the progression of time represented is reflected in some incremental soap opera -- certainly there were issues raised in the first book that may have seen some resolution by now. I don't think it matters much when it comes to deriving pleasure from the work.


There is a creeping sense that maybe the characters are too clean, too perfectly functional; as opposed to the first book I had a greater sense of watching something put together for a specific artistic effect rather than an observed reality with emphasis on certain, special factors. I think the quality of the jokes overcomes a lot of this artificial quality. In particular, Yotsuba&! never shies away from mining humor out of the horror and pain that kids feel for no reason, or for stupid, overwrought reasons. My favorite moment in this volume comes in the aforementioned lovesick story when Yotsuba is trying to understand Fuka's heartbroken state and she asks the kid to imagine her dad doesn't lover her anymore and she starts to melt down China Syndrome style, not understanding the parameters of the exercise. You never get that from most kids' book, but these comics are confident in the fact that over reaction is a symptom of innocence as well as joy, and misapprehensions go away and a happier order will be restored in no time at all. These are sweet, serene and well-crafted comics short stories.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

This Isn’t A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market


Here are a few books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick them up and look at them, potentially resulting in mean words and hurt feelings between me and my retailer.


APR073913 ELLE HUMOR HC (MR) $40.00
Who better to kick off a week of expensive art-comics books than a Julie Doucet hardcover with practically no cartooning in it at all. Doucet works within the broader arena of visual art in this one, even manipulating found art. The result a deeply fascinating book for itself and what it says about the author, although the price point makes it something that may keep it out of all but the hands her most ardent fans.

APR073529 ELVIS ROAD HC (MR) $24.95
An early book of the year candidate: a monstrously good time to be had by all that enjoy edge of page to edge of page cartooning, with every nook and cranny filled. I've looked at mine almost a dozen times.

The cynic in me says the greatest thing about these collections from great cartoonists well-respected by not roaring with popularity is that if you like their work you're like, "Oh boy, a fancy book full of one of my favorites!" and if you're not the biggest fan, you're like, "Oh boy, I buy this one book and that's pretty much all of his work I'll ever need to own!" Maintaining a diverse library is the older comics fan's version of series completion disease.

I'm definitely in the first camp on Edward Sorel, and you should be, too. The only worry I'd have with an Edward Sorel book is that the production values really need to match up with his distinctly attractive art in order to best show it off. Given Fantagraphics' recent history in terms of the reputation of its art department, I'm not worried about it at all with this one.

Sports manga! This one about a hockey team. I was talking with my brother the other day about what we read prose-wise when we were kids, and how that was reflected (or not) in the comics we liked. I think if I were 9 years old today there's a very good chance I'd be reading sports manga instead of superhero comics.

FEB073463 OUR GANG VOL 2 SC $12.95
I like the cover, and I like the look of Walt Kelly's work no matter where it may appear. This would be a low-priority purchase for me, but I know I'd want it eventually.

APR073700 PERCY GLOOM HC $18.95
I'm not certain if this is a re-offer or if I just reviewed it early, but Percy Gloom marks an astonishing comic debut. It's also a handsome package offered at a stellar price point. What starts out as another in a long line of emotionally-wrought fantasy for adults becomes more through the quality of Cathy Malkasian's visual imagination and her strength in story construction.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, it's probably just because I missed it. It could be because our tastes differ. It's not because I hate you. I'm quite fond of you.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This


posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Ben Wicks Cartoons Back to Family


An enormous number of original cartoons from the late, popular cartoonist left behind by Ben Wicks' family during a move have been ordered to be returned to the family, according to yesterday's decision. The cartoons had been in the possession of a fan, Richard Harnett, who contacted the family about a publishing venture because of their ownership of the copyright.

The case threw a spotlight on issue of left-behind property and instigated some discussion among cartoonists about how best to secure the care of one's work once they pass on. It also through Eddie Campbell brought into public discourse a greater appreciation of the garbage bag as an art storage tool.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Bill Leak Asked to Stop Depicting Politician as Tintin by Rights Holder

This article seems to indicate that the rights holder for Tintin has asked the political cartoonist Bill Leak to stop depicting a prominent politician as the renowned comics figure, although the language reprinted in the piece may indicate a focus on paying copyrights for the sale of art using that depictions -- the emphasis is kind of unclear

Not only do I have no idea what the laws are generally like in various countries concerning this kind of thing, I'm not even sure what I personally believe regarding the practice, even a simple gut reaction. I mean, on the one hand Tintin is sort of a public icon and there's a long, justified history in being able to use such imagery. Plus I always want to err on the free speech/use side of things. On the other hand, I would imagine there's a point at which the use of someone else's cartoon imagery as the framework for parody can become less about the parody and more about the strengths of the imagery being borrowed.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

I Love Going To The Comics Shop

Dave's Comics and Paintball, Las Cruces, New Mexico, May 30, 2007










Total Cost: $7
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Publishing News: A Few Quick Notes

* Jason Lutes plans on releasing the second volume of Berlin in 2008, at which point he'll have caught up on its comics serialization as well.

* Rex Libris goes to trade, and will feature a one-pager by Chester Brown.

* Del Rey Manga attempts a discounted omnibus strategy to hook readers into longer-lasting series.

* Nice catch by Johanna Draper Carlson to note that the DC deal with the Elfquest property is coming to an end. Much speculation in the comments as to what happens generally takes a weaker-than-hoped-for performance by the books for granted. A future iteration of the series could come on-line. I'm kind of amazed that the concept has had as long and diverse a life as it's had thus far, as I always thought of it as an accidental franchise rather than an intentional one.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, David Anthony Kraft!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: A Survey of Trend Pieces

For some reason this morning seemed to offer up a lot of articles that touch on things that might have an effect on comics, but aren't really comics articles.

* I thought this was a good snapshot article on how brutal and cutting the changes in the newspaper market feel right now to those on the front lines. The overall health of the newspaper business, as well as how syndicated product plays into the plans of those papers as they reach the other side of this tumultuous period, are of significant concern to the comic strip market.

* I always wondered why I never heard about technology that would help people track how their content is used without their permission on the Internet, and now I find out it's because they're just now implementing things that.

* the Chicago Defender -- the last remaining black-oriented daily, the longtime home of Chester Commodore, and a paper that switched to an all-black comics line-up in 2006 -- may stop daily publication for weekly or twice-weekly.

* a citizen's group that supports keeping Seattle a two-newspaper town -- which means the city would remain a city with more than four pages of comic strip placements -- wants a look at a new Joint Operating Agreement just to make sure there aren't secret plans included to close one of the papers.

* Borders hemorrhaging money can't be good for any print-focused industry, can it?

* The freelance copy editing field has its first potential star; I assume someone will fulfill this role in comics in the next couple of years, if there isn't someone out there already doing this.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 40th Birthday, Dean Haspiel!


please tell me Dean is naked when you look at the picture, too
posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Russ Manning Nominees

The nominees for the 2007 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award were announced yesterday afternoon via an e-mailed press release. The Russ Manning Award is one of the traditional comics prizes given out during the Eisner Awards ceremony, Friday night of Comic-Con International. Past winners include Jeff Smith, Steve Rude and Eric Shanower. The list as presented in the PR:
* Steve Bryant, artist of Athena Voltaire, comics series published by APE Entertainment
* Joelle Jones, artist of 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, graphic novel published by Oni Press
* Rolo Ledesma, artist of Phoney Baloney and Toxic Teddies, comics series published by Terminal Press
* David Petersen, writer/artist of Mouse Guard, comics series published by Archaia Press
* Buddy Setiawan, artist of Roadkill Zoo, comics series published by Novaris Entertainment
The awards have been given out since 1982.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Ink Thor

Comic Craze Reviewed
Review of Tezuka Exhibit
Mort Walker Lends a Hand
See Adrian Tomine at BEA
Comic Craze to Close Gallery
Anti-Smoking Cartoon Exhibit
Zograf, Talbot To Appear in Florence

The Smith Family Ran 43 Years?
Jon B. Cooke Interviews John Buscema

Weekly BD Ratings
Weekly Manga Rankings
Fan Artist Pays Publisher
Comic Shop Photo Porn: BD Fugue
What Do Librarians Know, Anyway?
Another Naruto, Another USA Today 150 Appearance

Wizard: Jason Lutes
Newsarama: Joe Casey
Comixpedia: Ryan Armand
Newsarama: Jeffrey Brown
Flipped: Lillian Diaz-Przybyl
The Cord: Nicholas Gurewitch
Newsarama: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Wizard: Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson

Not Comics
Photo of CCS Grads
Annoying People Is His Job
Telegraphed Joke of the Week
Moore-Gebbie Wedding Photos
The Kids, They Love The Deathnote
Kulick Meets Spider-Man Story Has Legs

Nymphet Round-Up
Meg Cabot to Write Manga
Espinosa On To Killing Girl
Maya Shinjo Leaves Shogakukan
David Welsh on Forthcoming Manga
Reid, Wood: Books, Marriage Forthcoming

Jog: The Plain Janes
Chris Mautner: Various
Shaenon Garrity: Golgo 13
Recommendation Flagellation
Graeme McMillan: Percy Gloom
Scott Rosenberg: Make 5 Wishes
Hervé St-Louis: Girls Who Bite Back
James Nokes: Uncanny X-Men #66-71
Paul John Little: American Born Chinese
Graeme McMillan: Legion of Super-Heroes
Rob Clough: Stop Forgetting to Remember
Brian Heater: Stop Forgetting to Remember
Johanna Draper Carlson: Kabuki: Skin Deep
Leroy Douresseaux: Justice Society of America #1

May 30, 2007

Comic Foundry/Diamond Compromise

Tim Leong gives details.
posted 3:19 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: An Army of Lovers Will Be Beaten Book One


Creator: Bernie McGovern
Publishing Information: Rockwell Farmer Press/Short Pants Press, magazine-sized comic book, 44 pages, June 2007.
Ordering Numbers:

This is the latest from the Short Pants Press group in Chicago, one of the half-dozen most reliable sources for quality mini-comics going right now. Magazine-sized yet still boasting handmade touches such as a cover of plain paper adorned with a color sticker, An Army of Lovers Will Be Beaten promises a long epic-sized story across a dozen "books," the kind of extended narrative you don't tend to see in the small press these days. The story involves a war hero going to a port town and finding himself fairly tossed about by the odder, outsized aspects of the town's culture, culminating in a daring rescue of an object of beauty from one of those satirically-loaded forms of physical danger.

imageMcGovern obviously brings a significant amount of artist talent to the table; and there are snatches of beautifully drawn sequences, particularly those accompanied by painted color. I am not a fan of the figure design utilized here, a variation on stick figure proportions given a bit of depth and flesh -- I know I've seen another artist take the same basic approach, but I can't remember where. I find it displeasing, and frankly more off-putting than uniformly symbolic of the similarities between folks or any other subliminal effect. The narrative proves more ramble than story, which puts a lot of pressure on the theme work to deliver. Except for a funny sequence where a llama snorts at the object of which its life has just been risked, what seems to come through is more a children's book-level distrust of war and veneration of romantic beauty not for the object but for the sake of how such reverie has a positive effect on the disposition of the person enjoying the self-reflection. That's not quite enough to capture my continued interest. I'd like to see where future books go, but right now this fails to offer enough in terms of admirable craft or unique artistic value.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

This Cartoon Makes Me Laugh


I would buy a whole book of popemobile cartoons. NPR interview with David Wallis here.
posted 5:20 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

Jytte Klausen at Salon writes the longest article I can remember seeing -- in a North American publication at least -- about the impact of the Muhammed caricatures on Danish politics; the focus of the piece is on politician Naser Khader.
posted 3:41 am PST | Permalink

Archaia Studios Still Positive on SFBC

imageRecent word that the venerable Science Fiction Book Club might be on its last legs after its dedicated employees were let go got me thinking, particularly after reading smart, knowledgeable people suggest the club will be folded into the more generalist Doubleday book club: would this have any effect on any of the more recent comics-related deals, particularly that with David Petersen's Mouse Guard: Fall 1152? Could they be left holding a printing bill? Apparently not: Brian Petkash responded to my inquiry as follows:
"My understanding is that, while our liaison is leaving SFBC, SFBC will continue under the stewardship of another Doubleday Entertainment editor... So, no, we're not left holding the bag on a print bill or anything. We're still comfortable with our relationship with SFBC."

Petkash notes that the title is featured prominently in the most recent issue of the book club's magazine.
posted 3:27 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Mauldin on Memorial Day

This editorial on the late, great Bill Mauldin's report on a speech in 1945 given by Lucian Truscott at Nettuno, Italy appeared in I think a couple of places on Monday for Memorial Day. It's well worth reading for Mauldin fans that will recognize a lot of his concerns and interests and for those anticipating author Todd DePastino's forthcoming biography of the cartoonist.
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Go, Look: Jack Ruttan’s Sketchblog

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Literary Award Goes to The Arrival

imageShaun Tan's gorgeous-looking The Arrival won the Community Relations Commission Literary Award for 2007, announced at the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards dinner held in Sydney. Tan's work deals with migrant experiences, and its wordless nature has been lauded as a plus in terms of reaching multiple members of that specific audience and communicating the universal aspects of those experiences. Tan received $15,000 in conjunction with the honor.

Some of you might remember Eddie Campbell's passionate essay about Tan late last year or looking at Tan's web site after seeing the book mentioned here at CR on Eddie's recommendation. The web site is down right now, one guesses because of the increased attention brought by the award, but you should bookmark it for later if you haven't poked around over there. Strangely, I had forgotten all about the book since writing about it.
posted 1:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, Mike W. Barr!

posted 1:08 am PST | Permalink

Those Times When Publishing Isn’t Easy

Two different articles on publishers negotiating material that could be seen by segments of their perceived potential audience as inappropriate material popped up in the last 24 hours. Retailer Chris Butcher writes about his doubts on whether or not to publish J. Bone's "Jett Vector" story in the Free Comic Book Day offering Comic Festival for which he's the driving force. He ended up putting the matter into the hands of Diamond, and their review of the material, and there were no complaints. He apparently has some regrets about having gone this way. The comics business news and analysis site reports that Seven Seas has decided not to publish Kaworu Watashiya's Kodomo no Jikan (which would have gone by the title Nymphet), a comedy about a student making sexual advances upon a teacher, despite previously announced plans and the publisher's recent insistence they have every right to do so.

I don't know that there's anything much to be found that's compelling in the key mechanism of either story, although the nature of the material is going to drive some interest. Given the regrettable, lingering confusion surrounding Free Comic Book Day in terms of what kind of material is desirable or that retailers are likely to make best use of, and the current ambiguous legal landscape in some states, I would imagine being rigorous about questioning your material is a smart, conscientious thing. And deciding not to publish something because the material might be funny in another culture and not your own, or in this case, might be funny in another culture and might seen as super creepy and entirely too reminiscent of recent news stories of teachers raping their students in your own making for a lot of cross people regarding your decision to publish it, well, I kind of understand how a publishing company might say no thanks to that, too. There's no compulsory element to Free Speech issues as I understand them, let alone one that obviates the legitimacy of other concerns. Unless I'm missing something, these articles seem most noteworthy not for the decisions involved but for their transparency.
posted 1:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 45th Birthday, Kevin Eastman!

posted 1:04 am PST | Permalink

A Couple of Notes of Historical Interest

* The cartoonist Russ Maheras lets the database-impaired among us know how to find the World War II service records of cartoonists and comics folk in a thread at The Comics Journal's message board. That war and the service it required of many founding industry members plays such a huge role in the history of the comics art form in the 20th Century that it's great to have a way to access some of that information.

* Through comics proto-blogger NeilAlien comes a brief discussion of a specific-focus historical book on the collapse of the distribution opportunities for Martin Goodman's comic book publishing company in early 1957 that created the primordial stew from which modern Marvel Comics would later emerge. I could have sworn the book, Tales of the Implosion by Thomas Lammers, has been out for a couple of years, but I still haven't read it, so it's like a brand new book for me, at least.
posted 1:02 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: I Had A Black Dog


Profiled here.
posted 1:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Hope Larson Coloring Tutorial

Comics Programs at BEA
Dave Lasky Reports From McCloud Signing

First Pogo Strip
Article on Fandom
Winsor McCay Was Neat
On Vacation With Betty and Veronica
Go, Read: Alan Moore Dissects Arcade

Garry Trudeau is a Meanie
Oral Contracts Hard to Enforce
Steven Grant on Use of Supergirl
Please Take Comics Academics Seriously

PWCW: Wendy Pini
Pulse: Colleen Coover
Newsarama: Jordan Gorfinkel
PWCW: Frazer Irving, Simon Spurrier
Plain Dealer: Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner
Blog@Newsarama: The Secret Headquarters

Not Comics
Nancy LP Cover
Pupshaw Sighting
Stuart Immonen Posts An Ad
Cartoonist Wants to Quit Day Job
Headline Writer High-Fived Himself

Criminal Out In France
Fourth Scott Pilgrim Cover
THB Comic From AdHouse
AfterElton Profiles BL Twist
Tales From The Crypt Redux
John Marshall Receiving Credit

Paul O'Brien: Various
Paul Gravett: Various
Matt Brady: Elk's Run
Mark Andrew: DeTales
Discussion of Superfolks
Paul O'Brien: Wisdom #6
Elizabeth Bolhafner: Gear
Paul O'Brien: X-Men #199
Yukiko's Spinach Discussed
Matt Brady: Death Note Vol. 11
Carlos Ruiz: All Star Superman #1-2
Don MacPherson: Drawing From Life #1
Evan Dorkin's LiveJournal: Recent Comics
Leroy Douresseaux: All Star Superman #6
Johanna Draper Carlson: Beauty Pop Vol. 1-3
Leroy Douresseaux: Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 13

May 29, 2007

CR Review: Three Comics

imageTitle: Blade: Undead Again
Creators: Marc Guggenheim, Howard Chaykin Edgar Delgado
Publishing Information: Marvel, softcover, 144 pages, May 2007, $14.99
Ordering Numbers: 0785123644 (ISBN), 9780785123644 (ISBN13)

In a sign of either how rapidly I'm hurtling through time towards my own old age and eventual passing or just how quickly things move in the mainstream comic world, Marvel's new Blade series has already turned to dust and been swept off to one side. This new trade collecting its first six issues provides some potential reasons that have nothing to do with the general skill of its execution. The page-in page-out skill displayed was actually quite high. I found this the most handsome of Howard Chaykin's recent comics, the colorist Edgar Delgado kept it dark without obscuring the art like so many of his peers do, and Guggenheim's scripts were lively and frequently funny. (There's a vampire designed to look like the Yellow Kid, of all things.) If there were a huge army of people my age that read comic books casually the way people did in the late 1940s, Blade would be the kind of book they'd go for.

Those people don't exist, and what you're left with is one of those books that will build an audience complete out of current superhero fans looking for exactly what the series offered, and an accrual of fans over time that pick it up in discount bins as the exact appetite for such a series hits them. The strange thing is you can see how a book like this doesn't fit within the story itself. It feels at once more greatly stuffed with plot than its contemporaries but still locked into a presentational style that makes going deep with any of that story nearly impossible. This worked within the gonzo first issue when the shifting effect became part of the overall effect, and not as much in the later ones or in the book when the reader is looking to sink into the comic a bit. There are also those maddening nods to present-day Marvel continuity, which upset only in that Marvel-day continuity 40 years after the idea of a shared universe was exciting proves to be tedious and boring; they intrude on Blade's regular business like a threat hanging over someone at work of being dragged into a deathly dull meeting in the conference room that everyone knows about and no one wants a piece of.


imageTitle: Ballast #1
Creators: Joe Kelly, Ilya, Richard Starkings
Publishing Information: Active Images, comic book with a spine, 48 pages, 2005, $4
Ordering Numbers: 0976676125 (ISBN10)

The first issue of Ballast feels like a little undercooked in the concept department and a bit of a misfire in terms of its execution, which is perhaps why I can't find evidence a second issue has been done as of yet. A truly rotten super-spy type hitman has fallen into a relationship with a god-like being that has pushed him onto a path of doing good, or at least less evil. This allows for exploration in terms of issues like redemption, say or the difference between a beneficial outcome and purity in motivation. It's at this point the book starts to get in its own way. For my taste, and probably no one else's, the use of a really broad and slightly fantastic character and setting cuts into the contrast between the scenes of violence and introspection and perhaps even weakens our interest in the moral questions the protagonist might face by making them out-sized. A more rigidly determined setting would have thrown greater focus on the uniqueness of the arrangement that should be the series' heart.

Kelly presents his story through a series of indeterminate scenes, without anything in the way of explanation either within moment scenes to any great effect, or without them at all. In other words, he constructs his story to present salient points that the reader must discover as they go along, one of comics' classic strengths and a choice that counts on a certain amount of sophistication from the reader. The problem with that approach here is that it extends the story's dramatic moments out past the impact of its revelations; you end up processing the arch approach as a storytelling choice rather than naturally giving yourself over to its way of presenting the narrative. Ilya's art is a solid as Kelly's scripting, and I can't imagine too many artists who would look forward to such massive shifts in style, or at least these specific changes. In general, however, this feels like a sort-of superhero story that was assigned rather than something that grew out of any single passion. In a field so crowded in comics as action-adventure can be, any effort that fails to hit immediately with everything it can is going to have a hard time.


imageTitle: Supernatural: Origins #1
Creators: Peter Johnson, Matthew Dow Smith
Publishing Information: DC/WildStorm, comic book, 32 pages, May 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

It's weird to me that there are so many TV shows that have some sort of nerdy element to them that a lot of them can blend into the background that I don't even notice they're on. It's not that I'm a devoted watcher of such shows, but I used to be at least aware of what any such offerings were all about. Interestingly, my confusion extends to the comic book itself, which I've just read twice and recall less than 10 percent of the proceedings. My guess is that the TV shows is about the two brothers presented here as kids, and that the series represents their first encounter or near-encounter with a crazy, magical world. I assume that fans have probably seen parts of what takes place on the show, and it is told here with a wider perspective and maybe even all in one place for the first time. It's much more skillfully executed than a lot of crossover comics of its type; the writing is seamless and professional, and the art reminds me of Tommy Lee Edwards -- a very handsome, utilitarian approach to the fantasy/horror blend in which these kinds of projects tend to negotiate. So this was surprisingly okay, but not exactly anything I'd read left to my own devices. If there were a baseline standard for modern American comic books, this one would be pretty near that line.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Missed It: Various News Stories

Here are a few news items on which I'm slightly behind and happy to bring to your delayed attention in one fell, information-packed swoop.

* A group of armed men tried to break into Pakistani cartoonist Muhammad Zahoor's house late last week, and exchanged shots with a local watchman as they made their retreat. This is one of those stories that's so terrifying to think about, it almost doesn't register: you sort of sit there and intermittently have it dawn on you that this guy had people show up at his house at 2 AM to kill him because of his cartoons. Zahoor lives in Peshawar and works for the Daily Times.

* Mikhaela Reid continued her coverage of the recent East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia with a write-up of the Having Our Say: Black Women Discuss Imagery panel. I love Reid's format.

* UDON Entertainment to unveil a Manhwa line starting this October. Wielding my ignorance of Asian comics like a magic charm, I'm having a hard time putting my finger on why this might be significant beyond, you know, a new line -- it may be that a new line is a bigger enterprise at this point than when the sources of those comics were less accessed, or maybe most of the manhwa that's been out thus far has been folded into other line.

* Bernice Eisenstein's I Was A Child of Holocaust Survivors has been shortlisted for Canada's Trillium Book Award. The book incorporates cartoon imagery and its nomination makes it the first book with a comics hook to receive that particular recognition.
posted 4:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Dave Lasky Sketchbook

posted 4:16 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: E&P Profile of Tom Toles

Editor & Publisher marks the five-year anniversary of Tom Toles' tenure as editorial cartoonist at the Washington Post with a semi-lengthy profile. It concentrates on the most noteworthy ongoing issue with which he's had to deal: Iraq, where his opinions are much different than those of his employer's editorial board, and, once upon a time, Washington DC in general.

Toles is one of the great editorial cartoonists of the moment, and because of a combination of the respected run by the late Herblock that preceded Toles and the paper's position at the heart of a city dominated by American political opinion, the Post job is kind of the editorial cartooning equivalent of playing center field for the New York Yankees or quarterback at Notre Dame.

For further reading, the Post offers a gigantic Toles archive.
posted 4:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 87th Birthday, Jack Kamen!

posted 4:12 am PST | Permalink

Said Rahimi Benefit Set For June 23

Canadian editorial cartoonists Terry Mosher, Brian Gable and Graeme MacKay will speak at an event designed to bring attention and money to the family of the late Said Shiraga Rahimi, an Afghani political cartoonist that died in January when the pizza delivery van he was driving was struck by a train. Rahimi was in the process of settling his rather large family after their move to Canada, and had plans to become accredited as a courtroom artist.

The Pearl Company in Hamilton, Ontario will display 40 of Rahimi's cartoons at the event schedule from 7-10 PM June 23.
posted 4:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Larry Marder!

posted 4:08 am PST | Permalink

Gene Yang Wins Reuben Division Award

A complete list of this weekend's Reuben award winners is as follows:

* Advertising Illustration: Tom Richmond
* Animation Feature: Carter Goodrich, Character Designer, Open Season
* Animation Television: Craig McCracken, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
* Book Illustration: Mike Lester
* Comic Books: Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese
* Editorial Cartoons: Mike Ramirez
* Gag Cartoons: Drew Dernavich
* Greeting Cards: Carla Ventresca
* Magazine Feature Magazine Illustration: Steve Brodner
* Newspaper Illustration: Laurie Triefeldt
* Newspaper Panels: Hilary Price
* Newspaper Strips: Stephan Pastis

A service award and a career recognition award were given out as well.

* Silver T-Square: Joe McGarry, Luke McGarry
* Gold Key Award: Mort Walker

It's probably worth noting that Pastis' win sets up him as a potential Cartoonist of the Year winner of the next five years.

The winner of the Cartoonist of the Year award, as released more widely earlier, was Bill Amend, who can be seen in his tux here. I believe the E&P story has been updated. ComicMix had a story, too. Mike Lester's paper recognizes his award here.

The Reubens take place every year during the meeting of the National Cartoonist Society, which rotates from city to city. There's a giant avalanche of photos from the weekend here.
posted 4:07 am PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Jim Salicrup!

posted 4:06 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Least Surprising Story Ever

Iranian officials blast jury prize win at Cannes for Persepolis.
posted 4:05 am PST | Permalink

I Like This R. Crumb Catalog Cover

posted 4:04 am PST | Permalink

In Case You Missed It, The 2007 San Diego Con Guide Was Posted Monday


I wanted to mention the piece today because 1) some of you are back at work where you do things like read gigantic, semi-humorous con guides, and 2) the final major section of reader-contributed suggestions, probably the most useful part of the preview, has a bunch of new stuff since the con guide's initial posting.

I assure you the full report does not feature any photos as terrifying as the one above.
posted 4:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Eddie Campbell on Another Cover
Eddie Campbell on Another Cover
Eddie Campbell Craft Postings Directory

Belgian GN Show
Dave Sheridan Exhibit
Schodt on Manga Exhibit
Dundee Hosts Comics Event
Playback: 2006 Warren Ellis Panel
Steinberg Exhibit Will Go To Cincinnati

All About Batman
Spider-Man is a Jew!
Tehran Displays Ancient Comic
Year 2000 Article on Boondocks
Metabunker Celebrates Herge 04
Metabunker Celebrates Herge 05
Metabunker Celebrates Herge 06
Metabunker Celebrates Herge 07
Metabunker Celebrates Herge 08

Win The Homeless Channel
Odd Response to Mike Lester Cartoon
This Made Me Vomit in My Mouth a Bit
Do Canadians Pay Too Much For Comics?

Playback: Marjane Satrapi Larry Lonsby, Jr.
The Escapist: Antony Johnston Darren Toliver Nate Creekmore
SignOnSanDiego: Charlie Roberts
The Flint Journal: Nate Creekmore
Comic Geek Speek: David Petersen
Comic Book Bin: Janet Hetherington Stephan Pastis

Not Comics
Whose Isn't?
Fake Slaine Trailer
Best of Polite Dissent
Playback: Persepolis Review
Cannes Other Animated Winner
Bring Me The Head Of Charlie Brown
Mint Not Happy With Silver Surfer Coin
Garry Trudeau Graduation Speech Report
Update on Street Art Following Public Space Closure

Rich Koslowski's Next
Publishing Choice Brings Acrimony
New Pekar Suggested as Beach Read
On Passion Fruit Line Being Out of Print
Gaiman Hard at Work on Second Sandman Volume
Colorado Springs Gazette on Marvel's Classics Effort

Julie Gray: Flight Vol. 1
Brett Berliner: She-Hulk
Nick Main: Meltdown #1
Jason Green: Shojo Beat
Jason Green: Girls Vol. 2
Shandy Casteel: Death, Jr.
James Nokes: The Boys #1
Byron Kerman: Batman Year 100
Leroy Douresseaux: Bleach Vol. 19
Elizabeth Bolhafner: The Plain Janes
James Nokes: Eternal Sabbath Vol. 2
Jason Green: CSI: Dying in the Gutters

May 28, 2007

CR Review: The Ancient Book of Myth and War


Creators: Scott Morse, Lou Romano, Don Shank, Nate Wragg
Publishing Information: AdHouse Books, hardcover, 80 pages, May 2007, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 0977471519 (ISBN10), 978-0977471515 (ISBN13)

The Ancient Book of Myth and War is an art book, in the same vein as the Fantagraphics Beasts! anthology that came out earlier this year, pop-savvy portraits of odd variation on a classic theme. This time, however, it's four artists providing multiple illustrations in what is overall a much thinner volume. The title of the book clues you in as to the subject of the portraits, and they're presented on one over-sized page with a facing page to explain the scene and to perhaps indicate the artist's approach. It's handsomely mounted, which counts a lot on this kind of project. I don't have an artist's eye when it comes to looking at how art printed, but nothing seems obviously off-register. The cover is an eye-popping orange with a soldier's bust kind of set into the cover material itself.

I would have killed for this book when I was a kid; now I'm more at the point where I'd kill to be able make pictures like Nate Wragg, who for me is a new artists. All of the artist here offer up a kind of 1960s angular, very lushly-colored style, with various tendencies towards abstraction that tend to play out in noticeable ways across a series of pictures. Wragg is the most consistently funny. Most of his illustrations portray squat, big-foot figures doing horrible things to the other person unlucky enough to be trapped in the picture with them. It's historical moment and mythic truth reduced to vaudevillian punchline, and I found myself returning to his portraits as I wrote the review far more than any of the others. All of the artists are talented; Morse is probably the biggest name among the four and his pictures are staged in more provocative ways than I can remember him attempting in other projects, with figures layered into his tableaux.


I don't think The Ancient Book of Myth and War is transcendent work; even with Wragg, were he more familiar to me I might not check back in on his work as many times as I have recently. The book never coheres into a compelling survey or powerful statement like other projects of this type. It's mostly solid, and amusing, and accomplished, and that's not a bad thing. Apologies to cartoonists like Josh Cotter, but I almost wish AdHouse could stick with the art books.


art from the cover process, Don Shank and Nate Wragg pictured
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

May 27, 2007

Welcome to Nerd Vegas: A Guide to Visiting and Enjoying Comic-Con International in San Diego, 2007!


Comic-Con International, also known as CCI, Comic-Con and San Diego Con, is the largest gathering of comics industry professionals and fans in North America. It is a show of growing importance to hundreds of pros in related publishing, merchandising and film businesses. Comic-Con International is traditionally held over four days, Thursday through Sunday, with a Wednesday preview night added on for good measure, at some point between mid-July and mid-August.

In 2007, the show is scheduled for July 26-29, with a preview night on July 25.

What follows is a long list of numbered observations that will hopefully augment your San Diego con-going experience. I hope you have a good time, and if you have any tips of your own, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) I'd like to make a list of reader tips at the bottom of this document.

Although the article has been updated with many new photos and several brand new jokes of dubious value, I realize you may not want to read the whole thing again. If you're a long-time reader who doesn't have time for the whole document, try The Update. If you're too busy to read something this long, try The Short Form.

Otherwise, enjoy!





Four Things CCI Offers

1. A massive main floor marketplace featuring exhibitors including but not limited to publishers, individual artists, comic book back issues dealers, movie studios, toy companies and individual artists, many of which have wonderful things for sale.

2. In rooms of varying size at other places in the building, convention programming including but not limited to previews of big-company titles, small-publisher spotlights, single-artist slideshows, themed-issue discussions, film presentations (celebrities), and sneak peeks at forthcoming TV shows (more celebrities).

3. At night there are entertainment activities both formal and informal, including Friday evening's Eisner Awards ceremony and Saturday's famous costume Masquerade.

4. All around San Diego at all hours of day and night comics industry employees, writers, artists, fans, retailers, Hollywood types, and press people are taking morning meetings, breaking bread over long lunches and sharing late-night drinks, socializing and seeing to informal business matters on a massive scale.


Seven Reasons to Attend CCI

1. The show's size.
Between exhibitors and attendees, nearly twice as many people attend Comic-Con International as live in my hometown. It's therefore a tremendous opportunity to interface with a lot of comics constituencies at their most fulsome: creators, customers, editors, you name it.

2. Its proximity to Los Angeles' film business.
Making a connection with some sort of film interest is a significant and growing concern for many professionals and fans. The marriage of film and comics at the show has led to the development of an entire wing of programming to previews and advance publicity. Other pop culture industries have followed film's lead by increasing their presence as well -- toy makers, animation studios, television shows and book publishers, just to name a few. I'm a comics guy, not a film guy; I tend to forget the movie people are even there. Still, I'd be lying if I told you that the proximity to the film industry hasn't been a major and unique driving force in the con's development or if I downplayed in any way the fact that it's hugely appealing factor for tons of people who go.

3. Left coast roll call.
There is no other sizable West Coast comics industry show during the summer season, which makes CCI an even bigger attraction for the major comics professional communities in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, as well as in the medium-sized ones like Las Vegas and San Diego itself. It's a national show, for sure, but the percentage of comics folk west of Denver who make it down to San Diego's convention center is extraordinary.

4. A well-run convention.
Years of experience on staff not only helps the show function, there is enough institutional memory for staffers to be sensitive to -- and invested in -- a lot of different con-going experiences.

5. Meet and greet.
Practical business really does get done there. There is a ton of looking at talent, a lot of talking about future plans, a great many people having introductory meetings, and so on. Just touching base with people in person can yield enormous benefits later on.

6. Special guests.
Although there are other major comics shows in places like Angouleme, France and New York City, Comic-Con remains big enough it can bring in special guests from around the world of cartooning. For example, the writer Warren Ellis will make a rare convention appearance at the show this year.

7. The year doesn't feel the same without it.
CCI is one of the few recurring, reliable experiences on the calendar by which comics people can mark the passage of time as they waste their once-promising lives.


Seven Reasons To Skip CCI

1. It can make you hate comics.
Some cartoonists express particular discouragement at the excesses of the show's omnivorous, pop-culture focus. Life is tough enough as a cartoonist without inviting a soul-destroying, four-day migraine.

2. Money.
It costs a lot to exhibit and it can cost a lot to attend.

3. Who needs it?
You might feel, and you might be right, that you can get much of what a big convention offers elsewhere for less expense and trouble. If you're only going in order to buy comics, for example, you might be better off spending your San Diego hotel and food budget at an on-line comics store or your local shop.

4. Too big a tent.
Some might feel more comfortable at a show that better matches a specific interest, like Wizard Entertainment's Chicago show (mainstream American superheroes) or the MoCCA Festival (small press and handmade comics) or Austin's Ikkicon (anime and manga).

5. You've got things to do.
You simply can't find time in your schedule for that many days away from home. If it's a work trip, you may need an additional day or two once you get back home to decompress and for follow-up, so you have to figure that in, too. That's a full week away from the drawing table and/or writing desk.

6. What? Leave home?
Your distaste for crowds and travel far outweighs any benefit you might see from attending.

7. I can't believe it's July again already.
Even though you've liked it in the past, and you might like to go in the future, you'd just rather not go this year.


Six Questions to Ask Before You Commit to Attending


1. "Do I Really Want to Go?"
Again: If it's a chore in any way, don't go. It's not a requirement. If you're connected in any way to people that are going, you may feel a twinge of regret caused by being left out, but it goes away really quickly.

2. "Do I Need to Be There the Whole Weekend?"
I never go the full length of the show. Greatest benefit? There's no better way to reduce the costs of a convention than to cut the time spent there. If your goal is to socialize and see the big panels, think about Friday-Sunday. If you want to shop and network, think about Wednesday-Saturday. Think about going one night, even. You may miss one out of five things you wanted to do, but you'll also be much less likely to get bored or burnt out. You may even leave wanting more.

3. "Do I Need a Room or Just a Bed?"
Figure out exactly what you need and what you're willing to accept. A bed is easier to find than a room. If going means taking the whole family for multiple nights, and you haven't done any planning until a few weeks before the show, you might reconsider your attendance.

4. "Do I Want to Go for Realistic Reasons?"
A comic book convention is not a young-woman-with-her-first-job-in-the-big-city movie. If it were, you probably wouldn't be the star. It's best not to go assuming you'll engage in long conversations with your favorite writers, powerful comic book editors will solicit your opinion on where to take their characters next, Pantheon and First Second will enter into a bidding war for your mini-comic, and you'll cap off your evenings doing shots with the cast of Battlestar Galactica at J6Bar. It's a convention, people are working, and you're one of 130,000 people experiencing the moment. Enjoy the experience you're having, not the experience you think you deserve.

5. "Will I Have Too Much on My Plate?"
The more commitments you make = the more stress to which you're exposed. Don't agree to every single thing if you can help it. Besides, some stuff people choose to do at CCl -- portfolio reviews, say, or obtaining certain autographs -- have a lot of line-time or other dead time built in that might end up squeezing the other parts of an ambitious, complicated itinerary. Free time is good. It's nice to just wander and go with the flow. When someone tells you, "You gotta go see this booth," it's great to have the time to go see that booth.

6. "Do I Need to Stay in a Hotel Really Close to the Convention Center?"
It's nice, but not necessary. I've stayed a few miles away and a lot of miles away, and neither weekend stands out in memory as a horrible experience. Anyone insisting you have to stay 100 yards away from your hotel bar of choice is either being lazy or way too precious about their vacation time.




Lodging Choices Ranked By Status

1. One of the hotels extremely close to the convention center (Omni, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt)
2. A friend's place you get all to yourself
3. House rental
4. One of the hotels sprinkled throughout the Gaslamp (Solamar)
5. One of the hotels on Broadway (Westin Horton Plaza, US Grant)
6. Staying at a friend's place with that friend
7. Apartment rental
8. One of the hotels north of Broadway, south of the highway (Radisson, Best Western, W)
9. Bed and Breakfast
10. One of the hotels across the bay where a water taxi is available for the morning jaunt but you have to take a regular cab to get home
11. Hotel Circle (Red Lion, Handlery)
12. Tijuana
13. Way up the coast at a sleepy beach hotel
14. Your car
15. Steps of the Convention Center
16. Staying up all night, sleeping in someone's room during the day
17. Commuting back and forth from Los Angeles
18. On the beach
19. With whomever takes you home from a Hyatt bar
20. In the convention center, underneath the Mile High Comics table, in a series of complicated tunnels you've created from old copies of Steelgrip Starkey
21. A stranger's car
22. State-run lodging.


Fourteen Random Observations About Various Hotels

image1. The venerable US Grant -- home of a fine lobster bisque, quiet and well-appointed rooms, decent brunches and a lovely bar no one in the comics industry visits -- has reopened for Summer 2007. I mention this here because all three people that felt its absence are regular readers of this site.

2. In eight years of staying there, four days per visit, the only comics-related person I have ever seen in the Westin Horton Plaza's exercise room is Kevin Eastman. In general, use of hotel facilities like pools, hot tubs and exercise rooms seems to be really light during the convention weekend. Taking a couple of extra hours in the morning to pamper yourself or get in a workout can be fun and a great stress reliever.

3. The security people at the Hyatt will follow you into a bar in order to yell at you for not obeying their orders, but you pretty much have to take a swing at one to get thrown out. Don't test this.

4. My favorite hotel out on the Hotel Circle is the Red Lion Hanalei. I'll be staying there one night this year, in fact. The Red Lion features easy parking, a hot tub, an exercise room, a pool and a cheap breakfast buffet -- everything necessary to spend a quality, quiet morning before heading out to the convention hall.

5. If you don't want to drive but are staying out on Hotel Circle north of downtown, check your hotel's proximity to a train; some are close enough to walk to a station while others are not. There are also a few hotels across the bay to the south and to the northeast that can get you near the convention hall via water taxi, which is a cool way to start your day but may be sort of impractical depending on your schedule. You can likely get to the convention center via a water taxi, but they might stop running before you want to go home.

6. Staying until Monday or Tuesday? Think about moving to a different, less expensive hotel. Two times I've stayed for an early Monday flight, I've switched to a cheaper hotel out by the airport, and, sadly, used the money I saved to buy a complete run of Defenders. I'm hideous! Don't look at me!

image7. The Holiday Inn on Harborview is the place I keep seeing comics people I thought could afford a fancier hotel. It's also a world unto itself, with a beer-focused bar, a seafood restaurant across the street, a Denny's a block or two away for late nights, and its own feel and atmosphere. An underrated convention headquarters.

8. The hotel I've heard people complain about the most is -- by far -- the Westin San Diego Emerald Plaza. In summary: 1) isolated 2) has tiny rooms 3) and sports thin walls. It is, however close to the Y building and one of the easier, nicer places to eat breakfast. The runner-up in terms of bad vibes is the Hyatt, getting specific low marks for grumpy staff.

9. A nice place to meet and chat that's close to the show and very quiet is the bar in the Horton Grand. The Horton has some nice things going for it. It's really close, its own prices aren't much more than the CCI discount so it's a good place to get a back-up or safety room if, for instance, you think you might come out a day early as you can cancel the day before and not get penalized, and, as long as you're not facing the street, the rooms are quiet and nice enough. Its most bizarre quirk is a guestbook in every room into which about 50 percent of the guests scrawl obscenities.

10. The Westgate has very large, nice rooms, but don't try to stuff extra people in there -- of all the San Diego downtown hotels, the Westgate has the fiercest reputation for keeping the number of crashers down. To that end, they don't offer roll-away beds the way the Westin Horton Plaza does, and they're not above charging you for an extra person if they think you had a non-reported person in your room for the entirety of your stay.

11. When I win the lottery, I'm staying at the Hotel Solamar and throwing a fancy party.

12. I hear there is another group using much of the Hyatt the weekend of this year's Con, busting its status down from the convention's official hub to its unofficial hub. May God help those poor people. Also, this makes me wonder if there's a chance that this may change the hotel's lenient attitude about the various late-night functions, like all the people sprawled out on the lawn.

13. There's fun to be had at every hotel in San Diego, from the diviest dive to the swankiest suite. Enjoy your stay no matter where it might be.


Six Things To Remember About Reserving a Hotel Room Through the Con

1. It's great to get the hotel discount offered through Comic-Con, but it's not the only way to get a discount and there are desirable hotels not on that list. Also, in a few cases it's worthwhile to have the ability to cancel at the last minute. Given the crush of people who want to use it, you should see the con's room brokering service as one option, not the only option.

2. You're pretty screwed if you've just now looked into the Comic-Con hotels, and at this point you have some work ahead of you, period. The most desirable hotels for the most people, meaning those close to the convention center, are snapped up within ten minutes on the first day they are offered. That's just the way it is. By the time you're reading this, that was months ago. In fact, with more companies being pushed by their attending employees to buy hotel rooms in advance, many of these hotels are booked the old-fashioned way long before their discounted rooms come up. I'm told a few boutique hotels were almost totally booked one week after last year's show.

3. It's probably worth noting that with almost every room guaranteed to sell out, there's very little incentive for hotels to make a lot of rooms available at discount. It's really not going to get any better in the near future, and with so many on-line media sources now, more than enough people are going to be aware of the exact moment the rooms become available to make getting a room a pain in the butt. Accept the pain for what it is; you'll be happier for it.

4. Two tips for using the Comic-Con site if you weren't on it getting a room on that first day. 1) Check back often, even now; the most desirable hotels won't have rooms open up, but several of the mid- and lower-rung hotels will. I saw open rooms on there in late April, the last time I checked. 2) You may have more luck stringing reservations together on a day by day basis as they open up rather than waiting for a four-day window to become open. Friday is the toughest single evening to secure.

5. Once you secure a room, bookmark your hotel's web site to check on potential specific hassles. The convention won't tell you if there's construction in the parking lot, say, or if the pool is down, but your hotel's web site almost certainly will.

6. If you got your room from the con, or even if you didn't, you may want to confirm that reservation before you go to San Diego. Seven months is a very long period between reservation and stay, in which a lot of stuff can happen.


What Eight Things Should I Do As It Gets Closer to the Con and I Still Need A Room?

1. Again, check aggregate sites like, Kayak and Do it today!

2. Wait until deposits begin to come due for rooms reserved through the convention, in June or early July. This is when rooms are dropped from people deciding not to go, people moving to another hotel, and people that were hedging 0their bets.

3. Reach out to your friends and see if any of them can help. There may be people who are looking to drop a room, or others looking for a roommate or two. Be creative. Many hotels do a roll-away for an extra $20 or so. You might look into that kind of thing if you can find willing roomies. All of the major comics message boards where people gather will usually accommodate people posting about needing a room or roommate. Here's one for 2007 on The Engine.

4. Consider Bed and Breakfasts. I did this once, and had a great time.

5. Google "San Diego Vacation Rentals." Think about renting a house or an apartment. This could be cheaper than a hotel in many cases. I suspect people will be doing this a lot more frequently over the next few years.

6. Consider local places off the beaten track like La Pensione in Little Italy, a little hotel with tiny rooms and no air conditioning that's nice for the less than $100 price. It's totally sold out this year, of course, and anyone who took my advice in last year's heat is probably still saving up the strength to come punch me in the jaw, but the key is to look around.

7. If you're an AAA member, some hotels may keep a few extra and nearly all the hotels give a discount for those customers.

8. Stay calm. You're really only in danger of not finding anything if you wait until just a couple of weeks before. You're probably going to have to stay slightly further away than right next door, or stay someplace you'll need to use cabs or a car, but where there's a will, there's almost always a way.


Four Uncomfortable Conversations I've had in the Elevator of My Hotel About Comic-Con International

1. 2001:
Man With Wife: Are you going to the comic book show?
Me: Yeah.
Man With Wife: We should go to that Saturday, honey; everybody who goes is a weirdo.
[Awkward Silence]

2. 2004
Woman In Her 30s: Are you here for the convention?
Me: Yes.
Woman: That's so cute.
Me: Really?
Woman: Well... how old are you?

3. 2005
Teenager With Friend: Are you here for Comic-Con?
Me: Yes.
Teenager With Friend: Are you anybody?
Me: No.
Teenager With Friend: I haven't met anybody.

4. 2006
Woman in Her 50s: Are you with the Comic-Con?
Me: Kind of. I'm attending the show.
Woman in Her 50s: Well, they should have kiosks.
Me: Kiosks?
Woman in Her 50s: They should have kiosks in hotel lobbies so people can buy something that don't want to go.
Me: Why don't you want to go?
Woman in Her 50s: Those people are dangerous!



Seven Ways To Maximize Your Hotel Experience

1. Remember that the hotel is there to get you to the con.
This is one for the pros out there, although the principle applies to a lesser degree to everyone. The best hotel room in San Diego county is no consolation if getting from the hotel to the convention center is either a) impossible, or b) such an ordeal it forces you into a tension-releasing orgy of violence a la Robert Stack in Airplane! on the first group of people that approach your table.

In other words, if your trip counts on you getting to the convention center and back carrying a bunch of supplies, you're probably not going to be able to stay way out on the Hotel Circle or up the shore. You're going to want to make that much greater a priority out of staying downtown. I can stay just about anywhere, but I'm not carrying piles of art and drawing supplies back and forth; I'm carrying my wallet, a camera and a few notes for my Sapphire and Steel pitch. I'm a great believer in making every trip work the best it can, but for pros, distance is going to be a bigger factor than it is for most people.

2. Put everyone's name on the room.
Hotels won't give an unlisted person a key, even if that person swears that they're staying with someone that told them they would leave an extra key at the front desk. On the other hand, someone screwed over by their roommates in this fashion may get a comped room just so the desk staff can get to the next person in line. Trust me on this. I wouldn't count on it these days, though.

3. Register at your hotel as close as you can to when check-in times begin.
Hotels can and will bump you; I've heard stories about being shoved out to the boonies without compensation. Secure your room!

4. Consider using everything your hotel offers.
Check out the various options you have for hotel services, from pools to room service to spas, to add value and variety to your trip.

5. Make friends with the concierge.
This is a person in the lobby of nicer hotels who is paid to answer your questions. Ask some. Make one up if you have to.

6. Start a tradition.
Bagels and the morning Internet in the Westin's cafe, a nightcap standing on the lobby looking out over the Holiday Inn pool, counting hookers on the street from the lower-level rooms at the Bristol: it's fun to connect a hotel with a certain thing you enjoy doing, no matter what it is.

7. Sign up for the points program.
If your hotel has them, sign up for the frequent stay program or point program or guest program -- whatever they call it. You may be able to check in and check out more quickly, you may get a bonus upgrade or similar reward for joining, if something happens that's inconvenient in a very busy weekend for the hotels you can be more easily compensated, and if you go to multiple conventions over the years you can earn free rooms even when you sign up through the con.




Three Travel Sites to Bookmark

1. -- A good starting point for cheap flights. In the past I've used Orbitz, and as well. I don't travel frequently enough nor do I pay enough attention to the travel industry to know which sites are the best, but those are ones I've used.

I travel just enough to know that you should check every result from sites like those above against the airline in question's web site, to see if the latter is a better deal.

2. -- I've taken Amtrak to San Diego from LA and would recommend it for the laid-back traveler. The traffic on Interstate 5 on arrival and getaway days can be brutal (although that doesn't mean it will be; last year it was very nice). Amtrak may allow some leeway on which train to take on your travel days, so if you have a ticket on Sunday and suddenly want to sleep in or do a late lunch with a friend you didn't even know was there until 10 PM Saturday night, you can go on a train later that day -- don't take my word on that without confirmation, though.

Anything over six hours on Amtrak can be shaky in terms of comfort and is almost guaranteed to be a bust in terms of timeliness, so I would not recommend the trip from the Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, or any point due East. The Bay Area trip might work if you're on a super loose schedule, but even then you're likely to step off the train back home cranky, exhausted and in desperate need of a shower.

3. San Diego Transit -- If you're driving into town, this is a good place to map out the transit stations where you can leave your wheels and train the rest of the way. (I used to use the one to the east of Petco Park.) It's also the place to find out how to use public transit to get to Tijuana (as I recall, the trolley to Tijuana is $3 or $4 for the round trip).


Five Things to Prepare Well In Advance

1. Business cards
I never give out more than 15 or 20, but there's a certain class of folks that are pretty adamant about preparing for future contacts through a card exchange. Plus this makes me feel like my dad, although his business cards didn't have cartoon versions of himself on them. Remember to put all relevant information on your card.

2. Any art to give out
If I'm taking a mini-comic to give away or trade, I try to prepare it well in advance so it doesn't feel like yet another con expense. This is frequently impossible, I know. I would suggest getting it done in advance, because time to hit a kinko's to finish something like this us is pretty rare at a show like San Diego's.

3. Any art by which to get jobs or published
I'll put a little section with links to portfolio review advice below, but in general if you're taking a proposal to show publishers or to pitch to publishers or to give to reviewers, the one thing my friends seem to regret most is not bringing enough copies of the proposal or ashcan or whatever form it's in. Plus be prepared to re-send it when you get home, because people lose things.

4. Cash, both on your person and in your bank
Make sure you do the basic travel thing of making sure you have enough money around or in the right accounts to cover your trip and emergencies. One year I went down to San Diego with a single debit card tied to an account that had been closed without my knowing it. That was so not a good weekend. Also, CCI costs a lot: there's travel, there's a couple of $15 cab rides in there, most likely, there's food, there's hotel rooms that can be a lot of money at night. Make sure you budget for the show far in advance. You don't want to have the stress of stretching a dollar down there when you're busy if you can help it.

5. Things to Sell
Again, the only time I hear regrets is when people don't bring enough to sell and are out of stuff by Friday morning or whatever.

Here's a related piece of advice you might want to consider. If you're counting on a publisher to bring your books in order to facilitate your signing or selling them, you might want to double-check with them to make sure this is being done. They're busy getting ready for the show, too, and it's easy for them to forget that extra box with your book, particularly if you're not a big artist for that publisher.


Five Things To Think About Packing

1. Drugs -- Aspirin or similar pain relief can be a blessing.

2. Germ protection -- Hand lotion or wipes to keep your germ exposure down are nice to have if that's a concern for you. A few people have told me they use immunity boosters like Airborne in the days leading up to San Diego and right on through the week. This seems to me a great idea.

3. Watch/Phone -- I know this makes me sound like Jeremiah Johnson, but I don't carry a phone anymore nor do I wear a watch, so I borrow them both for the convention. You'll want to know what time it is and have a way to stay in contact with your friends old and new.

4. Postage Supplies -- Don't want to carry a suitcase loaded down with books? Mail stuff back. Buy a cardboard tube; stuff it with tape, a sharpie and a couple of big envelopes; stick it in your luggage. There is a post office convenient to the Broadway-area hotels right next to the Westin Horton Plaza lobby; it's open on Saturday. There are also some mailing services at the convention itself, although I can't personally vouch for them.

5. Light Jacket -- It can get a little chilly at night in San Diego, and some of the most commonly utilized nighttime social spaces at CCI are beaches, courtyards and decks. Don't get caught being that cold person that everyone feels sorry for. A sturdy long-sleeve shirt will do the trick for most people.



Five Things to Tell People On the Airplane

1. "It's a gathering of tribes. Strange, nerdy tribes."
2. "Rumor is they've discovered some sort of comics in Japan."
3. "I'm one Burl Ives and two of the nymphos away from completing my collection of Sam Fuller action figures."
4. "Iron Man? Based on my dad."
5. "Ironically, as a kid I spent my summers playing golf and drinking martinis."





Seven Quick Notes About San Diego's Transit Options

1. Walking is good. If your hotel is downtown, from Broadway to Harborview particularly, you'll probably be doing a lot of walking.

2. No one ever smiles on the trains pictured above, and most cartoonists and industry folk I know avoid them like the plague. I've never had a problem on one and found them a convenient way to go from parking garage to convention center. They don't exactly run on a tight schedule, though.

3. Like many mid-sized cities, San Diego boasts a small downtown perfect for jumping in and out of taxis, so consider doing so at those moments when a walk seems daunting or problematic. The late nights aren't scary in downtown San Diego, but it's still a city and that means you can get in trouble stumbling around at 2 AM. I don't think I've ever spent more than $6 on a cab ride not to the airport. To go outside of downtown, you're talking more the $15-25 range. Think $15-ish from the downtown hotels to the airport.

4. It's probably worth mentioning that in terms of getting home from many places until sort-of late (as opposed to really late) there's always the option of the convention buses. And of course, this is an option during the day, too. The convention has buses that run all day and into the night on various circuits from hotels to convention center and back again. It's kind of like the city bus I used to take to the good arcade, but with more people in costume. Most folks I know take the buses if they're tipsy at night and it's early enough they're still running, if they leave the convention center tired and sore and don't want to walk back to their hotel, or even to the convention if they're at a hotel across Broadway serviced by the bus circuit. Check out this link to get to the bus schedule PDF, but it won't be up until closer to the show. Don't stress about it if you forget; you can pick it up when you get there.

5. Like in Las Vegas -- only without the excuse of being, you know, Las Vegas -- there are various places around town where cabs will simply not come and get you. I used to go to this skeevy but fantastic Mexican place in a horrible neighborhood and learned the hard way that it would be a bus trip back into downtown proper. I've heard other, similar horror stories. Try not to depend 100 percent on cabs.

6. If you have a car and put it in a garage, most of the city garages stay open really late into the night for con-goers. Please double-check how late. I remember being locked into a parking garage once, although the security guards in the adjacent building were nice enough to help me get out, after much pleading and weeping.

7. San Diego has pedicabs -- bicycles that can hold a driver and two passengers where otherwise an ice cream freezer might go -- but the only time I took one was in 1999 when a guy gave me a free, pity ride rather than see me pummeled to death by CBLDF-hired security. Some people really like pedicabs when they're exhausted, which also helps in that you're too tired to care how potentially goofy you look. Get a price beforehand -- that's important -- and also be sure to tip if you liked the service.


Four Web Sites to Bookmark For Use In the Weeks Leading Up to the Show

1. -- A well-maintained resource for checking out when things start and end and checking out the programming before you arrive.

2. -- Mark Evanier hypes his own panels at the show, which are generally excellent, old-school panels of the intimate, talk among friends variety. Mark also provides a lot of plain-speak advice about general con issues. Mark's skinnier this year so you can trust his advice that much more.

3. Virtual Guidebook to San Diego -- See the sights before your visit.

4. The Beat -- Heidi MacDonald is a longtime CCI attendee and will likely post about any big news story that might have an effect on the show.



Twelve Places You Should Know Ahead of Time To Have a Basic Lay of the Land

1. The Convention Center
2. The Marriott
3. The Hyatt
4. Seaport Village
5. Rail stop for Little Italy
6. Horton Plaza
7. Ralph's Supermarket
8. Gaslamp Quarter
9. Towards Petco Park
10. Fed Ex/Kinko's (actually a block north, on C street)
11. US Post Offices
12. Omni Hotel




Five Tried and True Pieces of Con Advice That Bear Repeating

1. "Wear Comfortable Shoes"
The convention floor is huge. It's bigger than the room Steve Geppi keeps his duck comics. It's bigger than that soundstage where they filmed the emperor's arrival in Return of the Jedi. It's sit down and make you cry big. It's make strange excuses not to walk the whole thing more than once big. Wear nothing that will harm you, weigh you down, or make you sweat more than anyone near you would like. But most of all, do no more harm than is necessary to your feet.

2. "The Convention Center Food is Expensive and Bad"
This has been true of every convention at every convention center everywhere in the world since 1952, and remains true at CCI. No need to apologize if you like the food, but don't act surprised if you don't.

3. "Get in Shape for The Con"
Yes if it's to drop five pounds in anticipation of squeezing into your Lucy from Elfen Lied costume. No if you need to get in better shape simply to survive a few days of walking around tracking down back issues of Werewolf By Night. I know how you feel, I'm quite large myself, but if you honestly need to get in shape just to pursue some attentive loitering for four days and five nights, please consider staying at home and spending your con money on a YMCA membership and personal trainer. We want you at all the cons yet to come, not just this year's show.

4. "Please Don't Smell Bad"
Be considerate enough to work hard at being presentable, even when it's difficult to be at your freshest. Don't worry too much about not being post-shower, ready-for-cotillion fresh -- it's summer, it's a big show and there's a lot of walking. It's really only the people that don't seem to care a lick, that have visible stink lines coming from them, that make others mad.

5. "It's Not Your Basement"
Be friendly and courteous and open to new experiences and you will probably see some amazing sights, meet lots of nice people, chat with a few art heroes and even get in a good dose of informal networking. People are there to meet and be met. As is the case with summer camp and jury duty, people make convention insta-buddies all the time, and sometimes they develop into enduring friendships. On the other hand, snort loudly, muscle into conversations and fire off abrasive commentary in the faces of people you don't know, and you will probably be hired by Diamond. Ha ha, I'm just kidding. You will have your choice of comics-related jobs.


Six Things to Take to the Show Each Day

1. Lunch
Consider packing a lunch or large snack in case you end up wanting to do things in the Convention Center that make it hard to leave for a sit-down meal. You can get a lunch ahead of time at places like Ralph's, Redfield's at the Hyatt, or at the Westgate Hotel.

If you're meeting someone for dinner that's working at the show, or if you yourself are working, dinner will probably be later than you think because people at the show usually don't get out until 7 PM. If you pop out for a burger at noon your lunch won't go to waste; it can be called into duty as a 3 PM snack or a 5 PM blood-sugar boost to a friend that has that wild look in her eye. For a place to eat your packed lunch, the convention center has a lot of outdoor balcony space accessible from its second floor with nice views of the surrounding area.

2. Cash Money
Don't get caught cash-short and have to stand in The Line of Compulsive Nostalgia Indulgence in the convention center lobby. The nearby hotel ATMs can be a better bet speedwise, but unreliable, particularly on the weekends. I generally take two credit cards, approximately $150 in cash and a couple of checks to the convention center each day, although everyone's needs are different. I also carry about $200 in $3 bills with Prez Rickard's face on them, but only Chris Pitzer takes those.

A convenient way to meet your cash needs is to get cash back on a purchase at the grocery store -- say bottled water -- on the way over to the show. Or hit your own hotel's ATM as you head out the door. Credit Cards are pretty widely accepted, but don't count on every exhibitor being able to take them.

Also, please don't mug me.

3. A Backpack or Carry Bag
Over-sized giveaway bags have been popular promotional items the last two years, although you can't always count on that kind of thing being made available and may want to take your own. Bags and backpacks are also fun for knocking over other people's children "by accident." Don't leave your bag in a room while you go pee, because it may be stolen. Trust me on this.

4. Water
It's easy to refill your bottle at the con's water bottle.

5. Business Cards and/or Handouts
If you brought things to distribute, don't forget them to take them to the convention center!

6. Pen and something to write on
This is a magic spell deal where if you don't have them you will want them, but if you do have them on you you will never use them. It's your choice which is more frustrating.


Five Con Registration Tips

1. If you can get an exhibitor to register you, you won't have to wait in line and can simply obtain your badge from them rather than at the registration desks.

2. If you qualify as both a professional and a media person, the media line is shorter than the professional line. Plus there's a press room handy if you want to interview someone or simply stare at a roomful of bizarre celebrities.

3. Although things improved greatly last year, the professional line is still more bearable on off-hours and days. I've registered on late Friday mornings without any line whatsoever.

4. I don't even know what to say about that generally monstrous attendee line. Good luck with that. I'd suggest coming at an off time but that might be risky, too. It's amazing how quickly they process the crowds, but holy crap that line is long.

5. Badge Skills! If you don't want people to keep staring at your chest or mumble "Yeah, yeah" when you ask them questions because they have no idea you're their buddy Paul from the Bendis Board, don't give them the excuse of a lanyard that flips around. Display that badge and display it proudly, that's what I say. After eight hours in the visual-overload nightmare that is the CCI convention floor, I wouldn't recognize Mr. T without seeing his name to be sure. Keep those badges forward!


Eight Notes on Parking a Car at the Show

1. Parking is a bear. A big bear with sharp teeth and a bad attitude, hopped up on powdered No-Doz. Mark Evanier jokes that if you want to find a parking space, then leave right now. That's a lie: Mark isn't joking. Do whatever you can to avoid it. There are stories of people who drive down from LA, can't find a space, and drive back to LA.

2. If you're going to park at a hotel, count on spending $20-$25 a day.

3. Make sure you have the right to take your car out and bring it back without extra charge before you do so.

4. Many people I know decide that having a car simply means sucking it up and going in earlier than they might have gone were they not with car, in order to find a parking space in close proximity to the convention center. Others park at garages near transit stations, or downtown, and then walk/train/cab over.

5. When I used to drive a car to the show, the parking garage at the 12th and Imperial station (east on Broadway to 12th, turn right) was my friend for a lot of reasons. One, it was one stop away on the trolley line. Two, at the time nobody used it . Three, despite the parking garages being open really late, when this one was full it was in a neighborhood where at least on the weekend you could find parking nearby on the street. I have absolutely no idea if this is still true. I kind of doubt it.

6. You might go in even earlier the first day to at least scope things out.

7. Don't be shy about parking far enough away there's a short walk, convention bus trip or trolley hop involved.

8. If it makes you feel better while suffering the hassle of having wheels, your carless friends aren't able to pop out to Hodad's for a burger. If you have a car at the show, make use of it by extending your dining and social options.




Three Things About Approaching Famous People; You Will See Famous People

1. Walk up, offer firm handshake and smile. "Hi, [honorific] [last name]. My name is [your actual name, or, if you can't remember it, "Steve Lieber"]. I'm a great fan of your work in [comic, show or movie]. Can I help you [or if the person is with someone, "you folks"] find something?"

2. If someone is approachable, nine times out of ten it's because they're lost or confused by the assault of product. And if they're not approachable, leave 'em alone, you creep.

3. Please don't follow famous people around, stopping as they do, blocking everyone else's foot traffic. Because I will hate you.


Five Things to Make Time For at the Show

1. The Eisner Awards (Friday Night) -- You know that speech by Wallace Shawn in Heaven Help Us? The Eisners is like that, but three hours long. If you work in comic books, you should go at least once just to see it. Be warned that attendance by pros seems to have gone up in recent years, so you can't count on a table up front with the nominees just by showing up the way you could ten years ago, when the Fantagraphics table consisted of me, Rich Johnston and I think the drummer from Foghat. Another reason to go is there's usually a smallish cocktail party afterwards that's useful for seeing people you might not run into otherwise.

2. The Masquerade (Saturday Night) -- Showtime at the Geekpollo. This is another amazing thing to watch, if only once, although you may get depressed when you realize the participants are probably having way more fun in those few moments than you had the entire weekend. This is packed, and there's a line, so count on investing the evening.

3. Go to a Panel -- A good rule of thumb is that if you can't find something in the programming that specifically interests you, go to anything featuring Sergio Aragones.

4. Shop the Convention Floor -- What's easily available at Comic-Con seems to ebb and flow. This decade CCI has become a great place to buy original art, cheaper 1970s comics, and, as of 2004, boutique toys. Keep an eye out for convention-only mini-comics or similar, con-only offerings. I believe in shopping early and gawking late -- there are a few people that cut prices on Sunday to lighten the return load home, but not as many as you'd think, not with a Chicago show in a couple of weeks.

5. Walk Artists' Alley -- This is the part of the convention consisting of rows of tables set up with artist after artist behind them. Somewhere in the scores of people is someone you didn't know was still alive and someone whose work you've just started enjoying. I guarantee this.



Four Types of Comics Panels to Consider Attending

1. Panels With That Year's Featured Non-North American Cartoonist(s) -- You'll probably get to see a slide show of pretty art, and the person/people likely won't be back. I've seen artists like Lorenzo Mattotti, David B., Permalink

Amend: Cartoonist of the Year Reuben


Divisional winners include Stephan Pastis, Hilary Price and Mike Lester.
posted 4:30 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Persepolis Shares Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival


Marjane Satrapi is one of those total superstars that does things like have the film she co-directed based on her bestselling comics share the Jury prize at Cannes and your first reaction is always "Of course she did." The film opens in Europe late next month and an English-language version is due in North America this Fall.

For more Persepolis-related stuff, even if you can't speak French it's hard to resist the page.
posted 3:25 am PST | Permalink

CR Commentary: Five Industry Changes

For your perusal and musing purposes, a few thoughts on things that comics entities of varying types and sizes could do right at this moment to make for a better group of industries. I've tried to focus on direct, mechanical efforts and policy changes as opposed to wish-based outcomes and projections of the "comics should be more like this" variety. I may have failed, though. I hope you enjoy the speculative thinking on this lazy holiday weekend, and that this triggers similar thoughts from you, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

1. Marvel Should Hire an Ombudsman

imageIf the sports channel ESPN can use Le Anne Schreiber to process the point of view of its fans regarding such issues as sports anchors that yell too often or the lack of balanced coverage regarding sports like hockey, surely Marvel could put someone in place to better engage things like sexualized content aimed at children or the unfortunate spectacle of a cover showing one of their few prominent black heroes being set on fire.

Without a focused way to deal with such issues, what you have is exactly what we saw this week in comics' on-line circles regarding passionate discussions triggered by an idiotic-looking Mary Jane Watson statue and an icky Heroes for Hire comic book cover: scatter-shot reactions ripping into the issue from a dozen, slightly different viewpoints where those differences are then set against one another, and the target of those criticisms choosing a strategy of dismissal and denial rather than open themselves up to what is admittedly a scary level of laceration and potentially deep, chaotic repudiation. An ombudsman would be a first step in giving Marvel a way to embrace such concerns comics from its fans and industry critics, if only by symbolically admitting that mistakes are going to be made and need to be overcome or negotiated, not argued away.

I can't imagine how it wouldn't be to comics' benefit to have someone on the inside of one of these companies -- or all of them, really -- that was going to take up such issues on its behalf.

2. Diamond Should Grant Its Long-Time Clients a Greater, Partnership-Based Status

I don't think there's anything that can be done at this late date about some of the ridiculous deals signed by Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. with several publishers in the 1990s regarding cover space and the counter-intuitive way some books are presented to Direct Market buyers. Barring aggressive language in contracts that explicitly forbids certain deals with other people -- which I can't imagine the Justice Department ignoring no matter how they define comics distributors -- Diamond could finally rid itself of the last vestiges of its pay-for policies from the era when they competed with other comics distribution specialists in terms of offered services. Diamond should more fully partner with its established publishers in a way designed to increase the bottom line for the industry, not Diamond directly.

To that end, every publisher with over ten years of listing product through Diamond should be granted access to any and all information Diamond has to where and to whom their comics sell, where related works sell and so on -- whatever Diamond has that one can reasonably argue will help publishers sell their product. In addition, the fee aspect (as opposed to the cost aspect) of any and all targeted marketing should be eliminated. Any company that's been with Diamond for ten years is in no real danger of wasting resources to circumvent Diamond's link in the consumption chain, as the company has long been said to fear. Getting the information in the hands of the right people so they can use it will increase the bottom line over time and make for a healthier, more ethical market.

3. Comics Companies Should Release Reliable Sales Numbers

Okay, this will never happen. Keeping actual numbers close to the vest offers ethically dubious yet undeniable advantages in areas ranging from how companies present themselves publicly, how they're able to negotiate professionally in lot of different arenas, and how they orient themselves through certain strategic initiatives.

If it did become a priority, legitimate, bottom-line accountability could transform the business and culture of comics. A lot of what proves to be unnecessarily toxic about comics as a professional culture comes from an ongoing, inaccurate portrait of the field's potential rewards. A more rigorous attention to actual numbers would benefit those comic books that currently perform in ways that are difficult for those that accumulate estimates to recognize. In comic strips, editors would have another, easily-accessible tool on which to base their decisions on what to carry, and comic strip fans would have a way to latch onto features of growing interest. It would be a world of better informed decisions and fewer degradations caused by a diet of perpetual BS.

Still: never going to happen.

4. Digital Comics Initiatives Should be Accelerated But Also Re-Considered In Terms of Existing, Beneficial Partnerships

imageI have no idea why every comic book out from a major publisher isn't available right this very moment in digital form. And I say this as someone who deplores comics' front-running impulse, the way that one strategy for selling work is presented as the future and everything else is depicted in almost savage terms as a brutal, obsolete past that should be ignored if not eliminated outright.

Even for someone who values traditional markets like I do sees there's a new avenue for sales through digital means; a way of getting comics to people that hasn't waited on the full participation of certain brands, or even legal permission. I don't see any reason why a new market shouldn't be pursued. If it's a matter of poisoning existing business relationships, as I suspect it may be, that's an argument that initiatives should be adjusted to include these existing partners in the discussion. It's not a sign that the discussion shouldn't take place or take place so slowly that eventually you shrug your shoulders and claim that you have to follow a certain path because the nature of your participation has been decided upon for you. If it's a matter of biding one's time until optimal platforms present themselves, waiting until the market ossifies reduces the room for movement that might be necessary to see to any outside concerns.

In all areas, comic strips is astonishingly further along than comic books in finding a suite of on-line strategies that make sense and meets needs, but they still haven't found that last crucial solution for a way of presenting comics through on-line newspapers that matches the role comics play in attracting readers and revenue in print. So they have work to do, too. The only thing that will make any of this impossible is not trying.

5. A Group of Comics Companies Should Consider Embracing a Variation of the NFL's Rooney Rule

The National Football League requires that teams interview minority candidates for head coaching jobs. The smartest aspect of this initiative is that it simply requires an interview, not automatic or encouraged hiring. It solves a perceived traditional lack of opportunity with actual increased opportunity, and trusts in both the self-interest of the owners and the quality of the minority coaching candidates for an eventual positive outcome -- stressing also that simply including certain voices in the interview process is a positive for both sides.

Could something similar be done in comics? Could every pitch at a mainstream comics publisher for a pledged period of time, say two years, include at least one from a person not a white male? Could every fifth proposal considered at a proposal-driven comics company for a pledged period of time be from a person not a white male? I can see every possible way in which this could be insulting to some people and also could also be abused or ignored or downplayed in its execution, but if an enterprise as big and successful and as much a piece of modern Americana as the NFL sees a benefit in goosing traditional recruitment practices for the sake of bringing more people into the process, why wouldn't a group of comics companies -- and comics in general -- benefit in the same way?
posted 3:00 am PST | Permalink

May 26, 2007

Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: a video walk-through of Fantagraphics' retail establishment in Seattle; if doing video walk-throughs of comics stores became the hot new trend, I'd be so happy

* go, read: interview with Josh Neufeld

* not comics: Martin Kellerman's Rocky to TV, then Film

* not comics: bunch of people I don't know talk about film sequels including superhero film sequels, making points I'm not sure I understand or support

* not comics: video from former Fantagraphics and Devil's Due art director Evan Sult's band
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Graham Annable’s Site

posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought of the Day

Were Amish people drafted?
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from May 19 to May 25, 2007:

1. The Center for Cartoon Studies graduates its first class.

2. Hergé's 100th birthday celebrated worldwide; the biggest peripheral story concerned the nature of the great cartoonist's death.

3. The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists clears more than $5K via auction for its educational programs.

Winner Of The Week
The Center for Cartoon Studies

Loser Of The Week
Simon and Schuster

Quote Of The Week
"The actual Spider-Man comics are considered such an a distant ancillary to Spider-Man Inc. that they can afford to publish books with Spider-Wang and statues of lusciously-rendered Spider-Bewbs. If they can get away with doing that for a character with one of the top two or three most successful franchises in film history, well, obviously the standards for Misty Knight and Power Girl are going to be a wee bit lower." -- Tim O'Neil

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 12:00 am PST | Permalink

May 25, 2007

Happy 68th Birthday, Herb Trimpe!


image swiped from Kevin Church
posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 40th Birthday, James Kochalka

posted 10:15 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: Arf Forum


Creators: Various; edited by Craig Yoe
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, softcover, 120 pages, June 2007, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1560978325 (ISBN), 978-1560978329 (ISBN13)

When I was a kid there was an older teen whose house was stuffed up and down with all sorts of comics, prose, and pop culture ephemera. A friend of my brothers, he had old MAD Magazines, a complete run of TV Guide, humor recordings I've never come across in all the years since, and one of the first VCRs I'd ever seen. I always remember that house when I look at Craig Yoe's Arf series of books. Yoe's third book, Arf Forum further establishes this series in my mind, at least, as less the collision between low and high art that the publicity on its behalf sometimes stresses, and more of a walk through Yoe's kick-ass and very, very deep collection of comics art from the medium's junkier, sometimes self-aware, mostly blissful and easy to please forgotten past. If you were to compare anthologies, it's sort of like Blab!'s plaid-jacket wearing, foul joke-telling uncle, only instead of Monte Beauchamp's unique take on what's valuable in today's visual art Yoe has let history take care of the first round of aesthetic sorting.

He's a good student. In this issue alone, we get comics and/or heavily illustrated features on Max Ernst, Jack Davis, Bill Holman, Russ Heath, Otto Soglow, Ted Scheel, William Ekgren, George Crenshaw and Whitney Darrow, Jr. The supporting material proves to be kind of hit and miss. The Arf books are solidly hosted entertainment, where the binding element is not just what Yoe chooses to present, but how Yoe presents them, which usually involves the backstory of his interaction with the material and the creator. Stories of Yoe choosing a piece of Holman original art or hanging out with a former student of the Italian girlie artist Kremos kind of lose out in the end to the Smokey Stover pages or the Kremos pin-ups, the same way when I was walking around that musty house back in Indiana the sound of my brother's friend's voice kind of collapsed into a whisper whenever I became absorbed in something fascinating on the bookshelf right in front of me. The presentational style makes some sense when you come across a guest-spot mini-essay by Stan Lee; as with Lee's exhortations, what you remember from Yoe is the enthusiasm more than the content of what the comic's ostensible host imparts.

Admittedly, I also don't much care for the "look at all this crazy stuff" school of diving into comics past except for one thing: comics kind of needs it. The very focused thrust of comics over the last several decades towards adventure comic book and humor strips has left so much material out there to be discovered and looked at that it really doesn't matter if it gets brought under my nose in a respectful leather-bound volume of complete works or from Uncle Craig's trunk of fun, or wherever he stores his extra copies of the Arf books. I'll take the musty whiff of old-timey lustfulness and the faint hint of self-satisfaction that wafts from the pages if I get to look at this many artists and either be reminded or learn for the first time what makes them valuable and worth tracking down. In the end, there's a bargain element involved, too. These are beautiful-looking, very affordable survey anthologies, and I can't imagine not wanting to seek them out, particularly at a bookseller's discount. You'll find something in them worth the price.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Cartoonists Descend Upon Orlando


The National Cartoonists Society will hold their annual meeting in Orlando this weekend in their traditional Memorial Day-related slot. The highlight of the weekend is the formal Reuben Awards dinner. This year Dave Coverly, Bill Amend and Dan Piraro will battle it out for the cartoonist of the year prize. Mort Walker is due for a big weekend as well as this year's Gold Key award recipient.

I would imagine there are going to be a lot of interesting discussions on the floor, everything from Jay Kennedy's passing and Brendan Burford's ascension at King Features to the ever-shrinking newspaper page and staffed editorial cartoonist roster, as well as many more stories on which I'm totally blanking this morning.

The only article I could find trumpeting a local cartoonist's attendance was this one.
posted 3:24 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

Here's something I didn't see mentioned many times during the Danish Cartoons Controversy at the height of its turmoil-creating march across the international stage: apparently, there was a sustained effort to attack and screw with all web sites carrying the Danish suffix .dk. According to reporter Bernhard Warner, this was a continuation of a trend toward e-warfare stretching back in an overt, noticeable, public iteration to the late 1990s. This article seems to indicate the Danish cartoons reaction marked a significant step forward in a way of fighting battles of various types that should continue to see exponential growth.
posted 3:22 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, Barry Windsor-Smith!

posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Cartoonist Campaign $$$

Milo George offers up a compelling post drawing attention to how some famous comics figure have made political campaign donations and to whom. I'd discuss further in a "lookit here" kind of way, but I don't want to re-post any of the information Milo dug up, as it would be unfair to him. Instead, I'll just double encourage you to check out what he wrote.

thanks to those who e-mailed
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 54th Birthday, Stan Sakai!

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Bigger, Better Comics Page In Dover

I don't hold out much hope for a massive industry-wide trend towards bigger and more dramatic displays featuring comics in newspapers of the kind talked about in this story about one paper's efforts. My gut tells me that even if a paper found a way to devote a whole section to comics printed at 1934 sizes, for most papers there's not going to be enough return on such an investment to counter the deeper, more fundamentally broken aspects of the modern print newspaper. Still, it's a strategy that has the overall greater good of making comics a strength of the paper rather than an afterthought or even a weakness, which is the kind of thinking I applaud, and I wouldn't complain if my local paper were to do it, that's for sure. Good luck, Dover!
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 51st Birthday, Sal Velluto!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

British Cartoonists on Political Changes

This article that's starting to appear in newspapers worldwide is a classic of the covering comics form: the reaction of cartoonists when faced with a political change such as that brought about by British PM Tony Blair's recent decision to stand down. If you've read many of these articles in the past, this one may seem like a twist in that the cartoonists seem glad to have the new guy because the old one was so initially slippery.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Marc Hempel!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Dropping Comics As Separation Anxiety

There are lot of articulate statements from comics fans regarding their reading habits for one to devour in this two-part discussion at Evan Dorkin's on-line platform. I think I liked best this ramble by Dorkin himself, where he talks about both the fact that dropping comics is a bigger decision than just accepting or refusing a reading experience, and that while comics have retained a number of fans by investing in a storytelling experience that rewards long-time devotion you're probably leaving out some readers who enjoyed the merits of the original concept more than the soap opera construct that came along to support it.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Terry Nantier!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Final Update on Tom Artis Family Fund

I checked in one last time with Marine Bank, the hosts of a fund set up to benefit the wife and children of the late artist Tom Artis, and they report that money continues to come in from comics folk in various locales and that the money is reaching the family. They say they are likely to keep the fund open at least another six months and probably until the end of the year, although that depends on the wishes of the family. If any of you are coming to this information at a future date, I think you can count on the money getting to them for a while yet. If you're more than a couple of months in the future from this posting (made on May 25) and want to double-check to see if the fund is still open, contact the Dirksen Parkway branch of Marine Bank in Springfield, Illinois and speak to the person who opened the account, Gale Krueger.

For now and the immediate future, though:

* Donations by mail: Write a check or fill out a money order to "The Tom TC Artis and Family Memorial Fund" and send it to Marine Bank, Attn: Gale Krueger, 1401 North Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, IL 62702.

* Donations by paypal: Since some people out of the country kept asking me about ways to donate via paypal, I decided to go ahead and process some of them through my account. I'll be mailing a check on Monday. About a dozen of you have taken me up on this offer so far, and I'm thankful you trust me to do this for you. Anyone else out there that's interested please .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The artist and illustrator Tom Artis died in early May after a long and debilitating series of physical setbacks. That circumstance combined with other unfortunate events to put his family at need. Because he died at an early age, and because of the way the industry has been structured for the last 30 years, I believe Tom Artis will be the first among many in his generation and generations to follow who are at risk of financial instability near the end of their lives. Hopefully, by helping the Artis family in this modest way, we can be reminded of the work ahead for all of us in this area, and prepare ourselves for working hard to better ensure a degree of economic justice in terms of our industry's business practices and future periods of working together when a direct hand may hopefully do some good.

We wish the Tom Artis family the best.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Eddie Campbell on Staros Report Cover

Metabunker Continues Herge Celebration
Report From Art Spiegelman in Cleveland
Photo Array From Stuck in the Middle Event

Buffalo News Editorial Cartoon Contest Winner
David Welsh's Favorite Comics Created by Women
Via Dirk: Comparison Of Two Strips' Political Emphasis

CBR: Jim Ottaviani
Ink Studs: Ron Rege, Jr.
Newsarama: Andi Watson
Newsarama: Ed Brubaker
Broken Frontier: Mike Carey
Broken Frontier: Fred Van Lente
Steve Bissette Salutes CCS Grads
Thousand Oaks Acorn: Nat Gertler
One Simple Ad: Nicholas Gurewitch
Indie Spinner Rack: CCS Graduates
Go Triad: Ryan C. Rubio, Thomas Boatwright

Not Comics
Slow News Day
Fan-Made Stardust Video
Help Alan Moore Receive Recognition From Crown
Peter David, Todd Nauck Make NYT Sports Appearance

Coming Soon: BL Twist
MODOK Starts Blogging
I Thought This Hiatus Note Was Cute

Jason Green: Sorrow
Xavier Guilbert: Coree
Matt Brady: La Perdida
Xavier Guilbert: Moni Moni
Jason Green: Winter Beard
Geoff Hoppe: Countdown #49
Zak Edwards: Newuniversal #6
Elizabeth Bolhafner: Alias the Cat
Alan David Doane: Please Release
James Hokes: Eternal Sabbath Vol. 4
Graeme McMillan: Madman Atomic Comics #2
Jason Green: Marvel Illustrated: Treasure Island #1

May 24, 2007

CR Review: Opening Lines, Pinky Probes and L-Bombs


Creators: Justin Borus, Andrew Feinstein
Publishing Information: Santa Monica Press, softcover, 144 page, 2006, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 1595800158 (ISBN), 9781595800152 (ISBN13)

Newspaper comic strips can be a horrible grind, and there's something about the effort required in simply getting one out while working within restrictive creative parameters (nothing that offends, no strip can count on knowledge of previous strips, etc.) and recurring tides of self-doubt that makes me want to tip my hat in the direction of anyone who tries it no matter what I think of their work. Complicating matters, strips are like Congressmen in that while they may stay in office for years based on momentum, getting elected in the first place means they had to connect with somebody somewhere in order to overtake somebody else's hard-won calcification. Many armchair critics step over the line into idiocy when they go past applying standards to a strip and assuming those standards could be adopted by the artist working within very special parameters. In my own strip experience, I had one very smart person tell me they thought the strip I was working on at the time would be a lot more like Maakies. Would that we lived in a world where every gig that presented itself to us brought with it that kind of freedom.


I'm saying all of that because while I'm sure that Justin Borus and Andrew Feinstein are nice guys who make certain people laugh, I hated this book. This is a presentation of several strips from the feature Girls & Sports, a feature that claims 200 clients, a number that indicates both men might be making a living from their work -- an achievement, not an avenue for mockery. Rather than a straight-up presentation of the strip work, Opening Lines, Pinky Probes and L-Bombs is more of theme book that uses the strips as context or to illustrate a point being made. The humor on display proves to be kind of like a less cutting-edge According to Jim. Guys love sports and are good-natured and blustery and probably don't know how to function in a relationship. Women are desirable, frequently inscrutable, and sometimes outright illogical. Let the mild wackiness begin. It's sort of like an early Fox sitcom, something that might star a Lawrence twin, but it's hard to compare it to anything other than exactly what it is: a surface-oriented observational humor strip. There are lot of jokes like the following, which really aren't jokes but a kind of statement of comedic concept passing as a joke.


The presentation is done in a super-garish rainbow of colors and confusing layouts that read like 1970s film strip supplementary material. This manages to make the book uglier than it might have been just using the super-crude strip art. Visually, the feature recalls Bill Amend's Fox Trot as drawn by Scott Adams. It offers nothing in the way of expressive content. There are almost no laughs due to visual bits, and all the artwork manages to do in most installments is identify the speakers and communicate the basic situation. Adams gets away with this level of crudity in Dilbert because his designs are simplistic but compellingly weird, and his take on the general subject matter of office inanities is uniquely his own in a way that the approach seems a logical extension of his satiric point of view. Girls & Sports fails to provide interesting design or a unique take on its subject matter. I was never surprise the way great serial humor provides hidden delights and revelations. I'm certain the book makes some people laugh because of the size of its client list and the fact a publisher is rolling the dice on a color softcover. I wish them all the best. This first collection failed to do a thing for me, except make me feel grumpy and despairing.


please note the work picture is from recent strip offerings rather than that presented in the book
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* Did a prominent figure at a major American university use intimidation and veiled threats of violence in helping to suppress a group in its desire to display the Danish cartoons in 2006?

* Kenan Malik rips into incitement laws, which he believes were used by the courts in Great Britain to unfairly jail leaders of protests against the Danish cartoons. Ironically -- the kind of irony that makes you want to lie down -- the legal suppression of certain forms of speech got a boost in many countries by laws designed to go after the original expression. So both unpopular speech and protests against the same have been used as platforms to reduce free speech.

* any North American bloggers or print folk that complain about anything concerning their jobs should be stuffed in a box and shipped to Yemen, where legal action against papers covering the Danish Cartoons controversy is merely one movement in a symphony of horrors visited upon that country's journalists.

* it's not always easy to agree with Christopher Hitchens, but I think he's dead-on when calling out American newspaper editors for not printing the Danish cartoons when it was right and necessary to do so.

* this article notes a groundbreaking decision for press freedom in Indonesia that involved legal action following a newspaper's publication of the Danish cartoons.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Dylan Horrocks’ Other Blog


One of my favorite writers about comics and one of my favorite cartoonists -- the same guy, Dylan Horrocks -- has a new blog going. It's always uncertain how long the concentrated posting will last with any busy cartoonist, but there is the expected flurry of initial offerings, from close studies of skateboard art, photos from a NZ comics event, and an excerpt from a new comic about Barry Linton. Enjoy them while you can!
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

What Motivates The Manga Scanners?

With not one but two declarations that failed artists work at McDonald's, I'm not certain how accurate a picture we're getting through this article's depiction of the cutthroat nature of the manga market, but the step-back nature of the question as to what motivates people to anonymously scan in pages of a public work without permission to do so is one that bears repeating. Not in an "inscrutable mysteries of the universe" way -- it's not hard to make a list of why people might do this -- but more as a way to keep in mind that motivations may be different than what we'd assume from reading an article about their being arrested for it.

Speaking of manga, while it's certainly worth noting all that's worth noting about the forthcoming Japanese government prize of foreign manga, the "Nobel Prize" comparison seems kind of not useful to me. Admittedly, no one's making fun of it, at least not that I've seen.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Peter Bagge at Reason


This time the cartoonist goes after the co-dependency between sports team owners and big cities, the kind of flailing about his hometown of Seattle has made an art form the last 10 years.
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Zuma Speaking to World Journalists

Here's one to watch for a couple of reasons that may not be immediately apparent on a first reading: Jacob Zuma is on the list to be among those who will speak before the World Newspaper Congress at its meeting in Capetown. This is noteworthy in that Zuma may be best known as the South African politician suing several journalists including prominent cartoonist Zapiro for their coverage of some of his legal difficulties. Hopefully, that will be a contentious Q&A.

The international event is considered a potential major turning point in the development of the African Press. One of the major issues of that press, which in many countries features a thriving editorial cartooning element, is the way some political figures are using the courts to perhaps intimidate or punish coverage they don't like.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 82nd Birthday, Carmine Infantino!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Marvel Movie Biz Primer

Although some of the details and flourishes may grate (for instance: there's nothing that indicates a geek's knowledge of Marvel is necessary to helm its movie future except that it makes for a cute article wrap-up), Devin Leonard's article on Marvel's movie future seems like a pretty decent starter article in terms of who the major players are and what's at stake, as well as suggesting with dwelling on it the corporate attitude towards the films at certain times. There's also some detail work about Arad's take from his stock that seems brand new to me, although I can't be sure.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
More On Pope's Art Book Plate
Scott Saavedra on Cover-Making

Toonfest Announces Special Guests
Shojo Manga Exhibit Hits Minneapolis
Photos From Berke Breathed Signing
Josh Neufeld on NYC Herge Celebration

RC Harvey Profiles Jay Kennedy
Classic Chester Makes Him Laugh
Early Bryan Lee O'Malley Spider-Man
Metabunker Wishes Herge Happy 100th

Friends Remember Muff Mills
Top Traditional BD Album List
Top French-Language Manga List

CBR: Louise Carey
CBR: John Romita, Jr.
Newsarama: Dan Slott
KUOW: Kim Thompson
Newsarama: Ed Brubaker
Newsarama: James Turner
Newsarama: Marv Wolfman
Silver Bullet Comic Books: Matt Silady
Curzon Cinema Podcast: Bryan Talbot
Silver Bullet Comic Books: Tom Beland

Not Comics
Strangest New Item Today
Satrapi Reax to Iran's Reax
Pooh Illustrations Go For Less Than Expected
French Press Excited About Sfar Animation Deal

Missed It: Blade Cancelled
Local Artist Appears in Comic Strip

Jog: Various
FPI On 100 Great Pages
FPI On 100 Great Pages 2
Don MacPherson: Various
Bill Sherman: The Plain Janes
Greg McElhatton: Slimline Series
Sarah Morean: Tales to Demolish
Don MacPherson: The Plain Janes
Leroy Douresseaux: Please Release
Johanna Draper Carlson: Cancer Vixen
Geoff Hoppe: BPRD: Garden of Souls #3
One Writer's Favorite Works by Female Creators


May 23, 2007

CR Review: Charlton Spotlight #5


Creators: Joe Gill, Steve Ditko, Jim Amash, Mark Burbey, Gene Phillips, Steve Skeates, Ron Frantz, Ramon Schenk, Howard Leroy Davis, Nicola Cuti, Dan Stevenson
Publishing Information: Argo Press, magazine, 80 pages, Fall 2006, $7.95
Ordering Numbers:

Magazines like Michael Ambrose's Charlton Spotlight serve a triple-tiered function in terms of journalistic inquiry. They fill in the blanks from long-forgotten nooks and crannies that can be found all over in the study of comics in the 20th Century. They widen the base of knowledge gathering so that more people get on the record about more events than if traditional magazines and fanzines were the only available outlet. Best of all, they allow for a counter-myth to the ingrained notion that the bulk of mainstream comics could be found first in DC Comics, then in Marvel Comics, and finally a contentious relationship between the two major corporations. It's because of magazines like this that we have a better and more complete view of the great, sloppy and periodically rich canvas that was North American comics production over the last 75 years.

With that in mind, it's hard to judge such publications according to a rigorous standard for excellence piece by piece. Because in part they're writing to the historical record, there are clunky pieces that might be at some future date valuable because they carry key bits of information. What can be said is which pieces stand out. In this issue, there's a fun interview by Jim Amash (known as the Barks-like "good interviewer" to some circles) of the writer Joe Gill. Amash doesn't have a focused aesthetic view with which he engages his subjects, but he's aces with the names and places and ebb and flow of personnel between companies back in the 1940s and 1950s. Gill is not only funny, and was not only a dozen or more places of interest in his long career, but he's brutally honest about his drinking: what it may have cost him, and the fun it provided up to a certain point. I also very much liked a piece by Gene Phillips on Steve Ditko's Blue Beetle, a lively reading that concentrates on the blending on the great comic book artist's philosophical and dramatic interests.

Another thing that's nice about the last decade's growth in such magazine is that it's almost impossible to tell anyone they want a certain issue or, barring a rare editorial disaster, that they don't. This is the Joe Gill and Steve Ditko issue of Charlton Spotlight and whether or not you want it is probably dependent on that description more than the execution.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

This Isn’t A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market


Here are a few books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick them up and look at them, potentially resulting in mean words and hurt feelings between me and my retailer.


Although you can't tell by the visual above because the colors aren't as rich, the first volume of Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba's Casanova has to be the best looking book Image has ever published. It boasts a wrap-around cover with the ink set right into the material of the cover rather than a paper slipcover. Kudos to the artist and the art director Laurenn McCubbin.

The material inside made for a frequently compelling read in serial form, a spy story using the visual iconography of 1960s cinema and comics that pays attention to issues of family and maturity and personal loss. It should be fun to see how reading it all at once changes the reader's perception, if at all.

MAR070223 SPIRIT #6 $2.99
JAN071935 GODLAND #18 $2.99
JAN072366 CAPTAIN AMERICA #26 $2.99
MAR072131 CRIMINAL #6 (MR) $2.99
These are four solid serial adventure comics, well-crafted and imaginatively executed according to the dictates of their respective genres. I am either following or periodically catching up with them all.

FEB073405 IRON WOK JAN GN #24 $9.95
I've never seen this and I've always wanted to.

I always liked Kolchak the Night Stalker. He wore the same clothes every day, he somehow convinced his editor to keep him on "monster beat," he had the 1970s TV-show reporter thing whereby he seemed to have unlimited legal access to any information he wanted and was constantly able to browbeat cops into doing stuff for him. Best of all, he would occasionally murder folks right when the cops busted in and all he had to do was scream "It was a monster!" and the cops were cool with it. I dream of covering the comics industry the same way.

I didn't know he had a comic book, which means it's probably not great, but I would look at it if I were in a comic book shop today.

MAR073654 RABBIS CAT SC $16.95
If you don't have this, you want this. It is beautifully drawn.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, it's probably just because I missed it. It could be because our tastes differ. It's not because I hate you. I'm quite fond of you.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Dash Shaw on Dr. Strange


I think this is the first official thing I've seen anything regarding Marvel's Indy Comics-driven anthology in the works, although I easily could have missed earlier word. With a number of artists working on the book, which is being put together on Marvel's end by Aubrey Sitterson, unofficial word of the forthcoming book has been out there for a while now. Anyway: this is Dash Shaw's take on Dr. Strange.
posted 5:22 am PST | Permalink

Jan Egesborg Arrested In Vienna

The Danish cartoonist Jan Egesborg, who has in the last few years made a name for himself across Europe as a political protest artist working primarily with posters, has been arrested in Vienna for putting up a piece of art criticizing the soon-to-visit Russian President Vladamir Putin's treatment of journalists. Egesborg has pursued this type of political protest in several cities, including Belgrade, Baghdad and Colombo. The article notes that this may be part of an effort by Russian authorities to curb media criticism in anticipation of Putin's visit.
posted 4:12 am PST | Permalink

Freddie and Me Moves to Bloomsbury


Mike Dawson wrote in yesterday in with news that his autobiographically-soaked Freddie and Me has moved from small press AdHouse to larger press Bloomsbury; the story has enjoyed both hand-made print and on-line iterations. Apparently, other folks received the same e-mail.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Back and Forth Continues on That New Simon and Schuster Standard Contract

It's worth tracking the back and forth between Simon & Schuster and the Author's Guild over whether or not the publisher's revised standard contract allows them to keep material they are no longer promoting or able to sell, even though very few cartoonists (I can only think of two) publish through them, and both of them would be working with the previous template.

One reason this is important is that one big publisher doing something makes it more likely that within a few years all publishers will be doing it, which would irrevocably change a vital market for comics publication. Another is that comics perhaps even more than prose trends toward republishing material at various presses over the lifetime of an individual cartoonist. A third is that it's hard to see what's being proposed as anything other than crappy for creative people.

Here's the latest exchange.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Mikhaela Reid at ECBACC


Masheka Wood and Keith Knight are among those at last weekend's Glyph Awards and the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention receiving photo and prose coverage by Mikhaela Reid at her Boiling Point Blog. Part One here. Related: PWCW's coverage.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Ed Wood Is No Fletcher Hanks

imageI realize I'm supposed to be knowledgeable and jaded about how marketing works and thus OK with the notion that the grandly odd Golden Age-era comic book artist Fletcher Hanks is being portrayed as a comic book version of the gold standard for bad art, film director Ed Wood. I mean, I'm totally aware "Comics' Giovanni Pastrone" is going to kick-start a grand total of zero feature articles, let alone nice pieces of placement like this.

But seriously, just in case people start to buy into this idea, let me put into rhetorical play the thought that there's a vast distance between a well-meaning incompetent apparently in love with his medium who tried to make such art and failed wildly for much of his professional life like Wood and the bizarrely imaginative Hanks, who worked only briefly in comics, likely for the money involved. Hanks' comics don't fail to meet a basic professional standard as much as they're just totally out-there and weird and seemingly don't give a shit about any of the rapidly coalescing standard formulas of his time. He is not only not an incompetent comics maker, he may have been a great one -- albeit despite himself.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, John Bolton!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Biographer: Herge Died From AIDS

A lot of sites are picking up on a news story that I think originated here where biographer Philippe Goddin states that the cartoonist Herge died of infections brought on by AIDS, likely picked up by the artist in a blood transfusion. It was previously believed that the culture-defining cartoonist, real name Georges Remi, had passed away because of leukemia.

I'm not certain this is all that interesting beyond it being an historical footnote and a window on a time when blood reserves were improperly screed: both leukemia and AIDS make you dead, after all.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 44th Birthday, Mike Deodato!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Brief Update on Tom Artis Family Fund

If you wanted to donate to the family fund established for the wife and kids of the late artist Tom Artis but didn't want to physically send a check to Springfield, IL, I'm collecting paypal donations from a few of my friends and sending a check off on Memorial Day. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Tom Artis was a cartoonist and comic book illustrator who passed away in May at age 51. The circumstances leading up to his death and other personal setbacks combined to leave his family in state of financial need. What struck me about this case is that 1) by dying at an early age Artis is among the first of what I feel is a generation of comics folk at financial risk in this way, and 2) I think there's every reason to believe that this specific point of need can be met by a number of small donations.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Wim Lockefeer’s Ephemerist


Lots of comics content I haven't seen before.
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Matt Davies on TV

OSU Festival Solidifying Guest List
Angouleme '08 To Shine Light on Argentina

Cranius Mania-us
Go, Look: The Art of War
Retcons Save Us From Stuff Like This
I Thought Half of Them Would Say Elfquest
Awesome Picture of Charles and Barbara Addams

Dear Joe Quesada
P. Shaw Disses Somebody
PWCW on Golden Age of Hong Kong Comics

PWCW: Rutu Modan
PWCW: PictureBox, Inc.
Radar Blog: Jim Woodring
Newsarama: Adam Hughes Bob McLeod
Video Profiles Gene Deitch Book
Blog@Newsarama: Ryan Claytor
Broken Frontier: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Quick Stop Entertainment: Berke Breathed

Not Comics
Fun Home Raffle
How to Beat an Artist
Marjane Satrapi at Cannes
Rube Goldberg Contest Winer
Rutland Herald on CCS Graduation
Japan Promotes Comics Diplomacy
Ted Rall on That '04 NYPD List Thing
Fleen Still Waiting on Goldman Follow-Up
Steve Gerber Provides Own Health Update

Bispectacult Launches
Steven Grant to Big Head Press
How DC Is Pushing Highwaymen
Nomad and CCS Do Kids Textbooks
Ultimates Team's Follow-Up Preview Art

Jog: Elvis Road
Amanda Marcotte: Lost Girls
Bill Sherman: The Plain Janes
Sean Carroll: Jane's World Vol. 7
Johanna Draper Carlson: Genshiken Vol. 8
Shawn Hoke: The True Adventures of Jep Comix
Hervé St-Louis: Lucifer's Garden of Verses Vol. 4

May 22, 2007

CR Review: Syncopated Volume 3


Creators: Various
Publishing Information: Syncopated Comics, softcover, 104 pages, $15
Ordering Numbers:

I wanted to write an early review of Syncopated Comics Vol. 3 for a pair of reasons. The first is that the initial two volumes were more rumor than comic shop shelf presence in a lot of circles. If you didn't go to the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art's summer festival and look carefully at all the tables, you may have missed out on seeing them at all. As this new issue appears in this month's issue of the Direct Market catalog Previews, maybe a mention here and there will put it in the minds of potential retailers and consumers. The second reason I wanted to write about Syncopated Vol. 3 is that I liked this issue much more than the first two, and I think it's close to becoming a year-in, year-out consistent performer.

Editor Brendan Burford -- the new comics editor at King Features -- explains the book's title by suggesting that this group of comics, by focusing on first-person journalism and reportage, is similar to music that stresses "the weak beat." In other words, it's an anthology that defines itself against the direction of the market generally, and I think comics anthologies as well. Knowing there's a specific type of stories being presented, and I'm not sure I did before, changes the way you evaluate the works. This has both fortunate and unfortunate outcomes. Tom Devlin's three pages of doodle comics might fit into a general anthology but seem woefully out of place here. Text pieces that might seem indulgent if they were to work their way into something like MOME reinforce the theme and certainly seem like fellow travelers to the comics stories themselves.


The comics are a mixed bag, although the work is generally accomplished by the standards of art comics. The two best stories in the book embrace vastly different artistic approaches. Greg Cook's figures in "My Dorchester Neighbors" look almost like puppetry, inky shapes with distinct outer edges of the kind that are employed against a wall or even against a light source. The way Cook rattles off the fate of a few soldiers that live in the veteran cartoonist's home area in terms of their hopes for vocational success when war gets in the way proves unexpectedly affecting, providing emphasis without becoming maudlin about the interruption that each soldier's trip to Iraq represents. Paul Hoppe's "The Williamsburg/Greenpoint Waterfront Discussion" is unpacked in a series of one-panel-per-page comics, drawings accompanied by writing more than a blended, traditional comics effect. Hoppe's vistas are well-selected, and the series of empty buildings will remind folks of any time they drove or walked past empty or little-used buildings whose size and scope are echoes of an age long gone.

I don't doubt that Burford can keep his narrow focus and decline to use those comics that don't quite fit in. He may even tighten it -- it really does seem like there's a New York version of this same approach that could carry an issue. One reason he can maintain such tight control without losing vitality is that his anthology retains a central tension that he himself indicates in his description: comics with a narrator talking about an issue or story where they are the gateway for the reader (Burford's own comics, like "The Seaport") and comics that are straight re-tellings of an event (Jim Campbell's "TR and the Thieves"). It's eye-opening how clear that simple distinction becomes as you read the stories. Some in both camp are weaker than the others -- my least favorite were comics by Dave Kiersh and John Martz -- but none of them stick out as throwaway material, which in an anthology featuring young cartoonists may be the greatest achievement of them all. This is a solid book, that even if it doesn't develop that one must-see feature that usually brings attention to a group effort stands a chance of staying coherent and increasingly evocative by way of general consistency.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Hergé Born 100 Years Ago Today


Here is a smattering of links for you to enjoy on this, 100 years from the birth of one of the five foundational cartoonists of the 20th Century.

Standard Listings
A Short Biography of Hergé
Objectif Tintin
Tintin and I

Pieces Related to Centennial 2
Associated Press
India eNews
Kuwait Times
Metabunker 2
The News
The Star

Audio and Video
An Image Stream
Bob Garcia on Tintin
posted 3:53 am PST | Permalink

Two Stories On Which To Keep An Eye

* apparently, we're about to see a wave of major newspaper site re-designs. It's not a priority, but I've always thought that sooner or later there would be from the publication end the discovery of a new way to use comic strip content in that specific on-line format.

* it's unclear if the image is enough to raise an eyebrow for most people, or that given the routine use of sensational imagery on comic book covers this should even register, but it's super creepy to see a cover image on a superhero comic book featuring a black guy on fire. It freaked me out enough I missed the tentacle porn.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Terry Moore Finishes SiP


Congratulations to the cartoonist Terry Moore for finishing his work on his long-running Strangers In Paradise series, one of the few remaining active books from what may be the last great wave of traditionally self-published comics.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Fantagraphics Needs Your Pogo Help

Forbidden Planet's blog notes that Fantagraphics has sent out a plea for help on their forthcoming Complete Pogo collections. It doesn't seem like one of those "we need this and this and this strip" as much as it looks like they're building a general data base of collectors to help fill in any blanks they might discover as they do the initial work of prepping for the project. If you're a Pogo collector who might be willing to help them out when they reach a pothole, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

It's really difficult to work with a mid-century strip like Pogo because a lot of papers shrunk their space for comics, which means that even some good clippings folks have from that era can have ends or bottoms snipped off.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink April 2007 DM Numbers

imageThe comics business news and analysis site has come through with their usual array of lists, estimates and analysis regarding the performance of comic books and graphic novels in the Direct Market of comic and hobby shops.

Top 300 Comic Books
Top 100 Graphic Novels

There are several publishing-news type stories to track here: numbers are generally up, DC's one-month boost from folding in a mini-event called World War III into its ongoing weekly comic event 52; Marvel's initial post-Captain America's death grief porn offerings have done extremely well, books bearing the names of Joss Whedon and Stephen King have held much of their respective audiences past their series' initial issues and the big-team books from both companies seem to be leading their more standard offerings. David Welsh provides a manga-centric look.

I still find it kind of unsettling from a traditionalist standpoint that both main X-Men books sell under 82,000 copies, but it's 2007 and the Replacements aren't together anymore, either, and I should probably just let that go.
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

One Shop Opens, Another Shop Closes?

The Arizona Republic's on-line companion site notes that a new store in the Atomic Comics chain will open up in Gilbert, one of those large communities that surround Phoenix proper. That will put Atomic Comics at five stores, which has to make them a top five chain, right? Top three? Tied for first? Anyway, I think I shopped in one of their stores in Mesa. It was a classic hobby and comics shop, well-lit in that strip mall way, comic-book focused, odd hobby elements with which I was unfamiliar, not a ton of alt- or art-comics stuff -- although as I recall the conversation at the counter was about the then-hot indy mini-series Demo.

I've received multiple e-mails this morning (meaning people out there are blogging it ahead of me) drawing attention to this few-days-old post by Ben Towle indicating that MacGuffin: The Graphic Novel Bookshop in Newport News, Virginia has apparently closed down. I think there's some some confirming that needs to be done on that one. If true, I wouldn't say this is a huge surprise, given that MacGuffin has been operating to my understanding as essentially a specialty bookstore where the specialty is comics trades. This is a fascinating way to position your shop as few stores of MacGuffin's size do it. On the other hand, specialty bookstores have been receiving a mid-'90s Steven Seagal-style butt-kicking from a number of market factors for about 10 years now.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

George Baker Would Have Been 92


I always felt sad for the kid who had the same birthday as the most popular kid in the class.
posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

AAEC Raises $5747 For CftC Program

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists raised $5747 for its Cartoons for the Classrooms project through a recent ten-day auction of art and prints from its members. The educational project makes available to educators free material to assist in teaching certain subjects through cartoons. E&P has the respectable report, and Alan Gardner provides a handy chart of whose art brought in what. You can't make direct comparisons, because there's a ton of factors involved including some people didn't auction original art. Still, it's fun to note whose work went over $300, and how relatively cheap one could have had just about every one of these cartoons.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Happy 38th Birthday, Mimi Rosenheim!

posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Gerry Alanguilan Re-Colors Art
Another Day, Another Eddie Campbell Cover Entry

Author of A Boy With a TV For Head
Go See Claude Moliterni at Aubenas
Dora Carrington Illustrations on Display

Snoopy Acts Out
More Immonen Found Art
Are Comics Too Grim Now?
E&P Takes Note of Dundee Strip
BBC Takes Note of Dundee Strip
Spunky the Monkey Dating Crisis

Award to Honor Non-Japanese Manga Authors
Would Fans Buy More If Comics Were Cheaper?

FPI: Michel Gagne
Newsarama: Bryan Hitch
Comixpedia: Brad Guigar
Los Angeles: Lalo Alcaraz
Daily Leader: John Jennings
Newsarama: John Jackson Miller
The Plain Dealer: Jordan Gorfinkel
Library Journal: Rumiko Takahashi
Wild River Review: Marguerite Abouet

Not Comics
Cold Heat: The Band
Rube Goldberg Contest Gallery
Rest Up and Get Well, Eric Reynolds

Panels and Pixels on Minx Line
Comics To Teach Banking Principles
O'Malley Previews Next Scott Pilgrim
Repeatings From The Land of Beatings
Newsarama Previews Next Eddie Campbell

Michael May: To Dance
Mike Gold: Stagger Lee
Graeme McMillan: Various
Matt Brady: The Plain Janes
Jeffrey Wilson: Empowered
Derik A Badman: Yukiko's Spinach
Zak Sally: King-Cat Classix, Alias the Cat
Leroy Douresseaux: Essex County Volume One: Tales From The Farm
David Welsh: The Moon and the Sandals, Ichigenme… The First Class is Civil Law


May 21, 2007

CR Review: The Plain Janes


Creators: Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg
Publishing Information: Minx, softcover, 176 pages, May 2007, $9.99.
Ordering Numbers: 1401211151 (ISBN10), 9781401211158 (ISBN13)

One of the pitfalls when confronting a work as high-profile as The Plain Janes, the first offering in DC's ballyhooed Minx line of book-length comics aimed at the teen girl market, is embracing the project's marketing aims as the only artistic standards that matter. Any kind of demographic focus exacerbates this by reminding -- almost warning -- that you're not the core audience. So with that in mind, let me be honest in that I have no earthly idea if The Plain Janes will reach its intended audience. I can't proclaim it a likely hit or a certain disaster. I can't be certain of its cultural impact. It looks like fine, respectable art product, and I can imagine an audience for the pleasures that it offers, but that's about as far as I can go in terms of rubber stamping the publisher's hopeful storyline regarding its release.

My personal reaction is that this is a better than average idea marched through a poorly executed story. It manages to exude enough charm to mitigate its more routine disappointments, but it ends with a heave and collapse I don't think anyone will remember fondly.

imageIt starts in promising fashion. A victim of a minor terrorist attack, Jane latches onto a comatose John Doe she helped at the scene. He's an artist who carries a sketchbook, which she keeps and uses as a guidebook for reinvention away from her popular clique. When Jane's parents move her from the big city to the suburbs for safety's sake, she struggles with finding a place in what she sees a specific group of outsiders, girls who all happen to share a variation on her name. One of the more poignant observations writer Cecil Castellucci makes is that these girls aren't a group with a different social standing, but a selection of individuals lacking any kind of cohesive relationship. This means there's no group for Jane to become a part of. Frustrated by attempts to connect with the girls individually, she ends up pushing her almost therapeutic interest in public art onto the other Janes, turning them into local art pranksters.

Like most entertainments that traffic in this sort of fanciful plot, a lot of creative shorthand becomes necessary in order to move things along. There's almost no dissension in the ranks of the girls despite an identity that is forced on them from one relatively aggressive person. None of the unpleasant aspects of Jane's initial outlook on the sophistication of her new environment becomes an issue; in fact, the narrative justifies some of those biases. Resistance to the art stunts in the form of Jane's mother and a local police officer proves buffoonish, so the moral certainty behind what the girls are doing never becomes a question. A sort-of boyfriend side-plot seem almost tacked on; it feels like a popular actor dropped into a struggling TV show to goose ratings. Except where we see it in direct conflict with an element of the narrative, none of the parents or their children have issues or concerns or life circumstances of the messy and inconvenient kind that intrude on life all the time. Everything exists to get us from point page one to page 176. A potential rollercoaster turns out to be a ride on a monorail.

It's a well-appointed piece of public transportation, at least. Jim Rugg's storytelling is as clean as fans of Street Angel will remember, and he offers up a lovely mix of page designs that provide informational and emotional context in a graceful and understated manner. Some moments unfold within sweeping panoramas within which are a half-dozen individual character moments, while others are broken into tightly focused, specific instances in time. You can almost diagram the characters' anxiety levels according to the size of panels in a sequence, but you'd have to pay attention in order to see it. It's a wonderful resume for future work of this type. Rugg's designs are much less nuanced. His female characters, his characters generally, are idealized in a way that adds to the book's depiction of an overly romanticized high school experience, despite its suggested self-aware veneer. It feels like a cheat that everyone is as generally attractive as Rugg makes them, a notion that Castellucci mirrors by making her teens amazingly articulate, at least when it comes to talking about the moment.


This soft touch makes the story feel hollow; the book ends with a sigh rather than a contented "Of course!" because the stakes have slowly been drained away. In the end, the worst thing that happens to any of the characters at the high school is one doesn't get a part in a show and another gets laughed at because of her cell phone. Add up everything bad that happens in this suburb over the several months shown in this book and you have a typical Monday before noon for most of the kids with whom I grew up. It's not like there was a danger of Jane's motivating experience seeming inadequate in comparison to anyone else's they might have shown: she was in a bombing, for pity's sake. The book's heroine has a uniquely compelling life situation and psychological profile that deserve a rich and contentious landscape in which to play out. The Plain Janes provides neither of these things, and seems at time to go out of its way to make things less interesting.

This could be the strategy by which the creators are thwarting expectations and working with a non-traditional escalation in drama, but there's a point at which I fell out of the plot entirely, and started counting the things that made little to no sense. A high school where the popular girls control the drama club? A world where it's as easy to acquire several dozen stuffed animals as it is to knit a few hats for fire hydrants? Teenagers that get fired up for public art stunts enough to be dislodged from their own focused pursuits? A suburban school without noticeable class or race divisions? For a book about the healing power of art and self-identity, The Plain Janes embodies a curious cynicism about the ability of its readers to deal with complexities in either.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Congratulations to 2007 CCS Graduates!


Above is a scan of the Center for Cartoon Studies' first "Certificate of Completion" (they'll be called diplomas after Vermont gives CCS permission to grant degrees). They were designed by Ivan Brunetti.

James Sturm reports that graduation day speaker Patrick McDonnell doodled on every student's certificate and gave each graduate an inscribed "Art of Mutts" book. Apparently McDonnell's strip for the week of May 14 showed Earl and Mooch preparing the speech, although I'm not sure given King Features policies you'll be able to find those anywhere.

Local newspaper coverage can be found here.

My congratulations to all of the graduate, and to James Sturm and Michelle Ollie and all the instructors and staff on a their last "first." Starting a school may be the most impressive thing anyone I know has done that isn't making human beings in their bodies.

Below please find the back cover of CCS's face book. Written by Inky Solomon; drawn by Joe Lambert.

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Vote: The Lulu Awards 2007

Anyone with a computer, an ability to type and an inclination to participate in the process can vote in the Friends of Lulu Awards for 2007. Go here to make your voice heard.

Congratulations to the nominees:
Women Cartoonists Hall of Fame:
Colleen Doran
Lily Renee Phillips
Donna Barr

Lulu of The Year:
Alison Bechdel
Abby Denson
Donna Barr

Kim Yale Award for Best New Female Talent:
Rachel Nabors
June Kim
Joelle Jones

Women of Distinction Award:
Jennifer de Guzman
Joan Hilty
Karen Berger

The awards will be handed out the weekend of Comic-Con International in San Diego. You have until June 30 to vote.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 51st Birthday, Gary Reed!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Ben Wicks Cartoon Trial Updates

* In case it wasn't clear from this site's strangled prose on Friday, the hearings are over and it's in a judge's hands.

* The Toronto Star spends some time with Ben Wicks' daughter Susan McLelland.

* Eddie Campbell can totally see the same thing happening to him at some point. This is worth noting as many folks believe that Wicks' family comes across as uncaring custodians for the original art because the art was stored in garbage bags and left behind. Campbell has been front and center pointing out that sometimes garbage bags is how you store art, and that art sometimes gets left behind, too.
posted 3:07 am PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Glyph Award Winners


The 2007 Glyph Award winners, as announced at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention, held last Friday and Saturday at Temple University in Philadelphia:

Story of the Year
Stagger Lee, Derek McCulloch, writer, Shepherd Hendrix, artist

Best Writer
Derek McCulloch, Stagger Lee

Best Artist
Kyle Baker, The Bakers

Best Male Character
Stagger Lee, Stagger Lee; Derek McCulloch, writer, Shepherd Hendrix, artist; inspired by the life of Lee Shelton

Best Female Character
Thomasina Lindo, Welcome to Tranquility; co-created by Gail Simone, writer, Neil Googe, artist

Rising Star Award
Spike, Templar, Arizona

Best Reprint Publication
Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda, First Second; Mark Siegel, editor, Alexis Siegel, translator

Best Cover
Stagger Lee, Shepherd Hendrix, artist

Best Comic Strip
The K Chronicles, Keith Knight, writer and artist

Fan Award for Best Comic
Storm, Eric Jerome Dickey, David Yardin & Lan Medina and Jay Leisten & Sean Parsons
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 41st Birthday, Mark Crilley!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Manga File-Sharing Arrests

It's a pretty self-explanatory story in terms of its initial detail: three people were arrested in Kyoto for violating copyright law by uploading comics from various popular magazines onto the Internet for others to read. The implications are staggering, given the amount of material scanned in for sharing and the benign role that kind of activity plays with a certain kind of reader. Also, there's always the chance there's a hidden underbelly to the basic facts of this story, I guess based on the statement that no one knows where they got some material before official publication.
posted 3:03 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Spunky the Monkey

posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Iran Protests Persepolis

It can't help that some of the writing about the Cannes Film Festival have mis-labeled Marjane Satrapi's project as a film from Iran, rather than a film about Iran, but as expected by anyone familiar with the content of the comics on which the movie is based, the country isn't happy about its portrayal.
posted 3:00 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Chris Harding on Syndication


Great catch by Alan Gardner of a two-part essay from cartoonist Chris Harding on the difficulties he had during syndication of his Feet of Clay.
posted 2:55 am PST | Permalink

On Various Magazine-Related Stories

* Although Guy LeCharles Gonzalez appreciates Tim Leong's candidness, he criticizes what he feels is a lack of planning and preparation for his Comic Foundry project.

* Warren Ellis weighs in on the Comic Foundry story and writes about the kind of criticism he'd like to see.

* Not comics, but sort of related given the above: the writer and critic Richard Schickel attacks blogging again, which is the kind of retro criticism and widespread irritant that one might want to get behind just to be contrary. Unfortunately, it's way too Grandpa Simpson-ish to take seriously.

* Hervé St-Louis of Comic Book Bin looks at the latest in a series of cross-promotional efforts between North America's most popular news/review site about comics and the latest big-company item of interest and asks if you can trust Newsarama. Fair question. The answer is you should never trust any media source, including this one. This is good for the reader in that it promotes a mind set that allows the engagement of truth bigger than and distinct from any piece of news coverage or single point of view, and it's good for publications in that it absolves them of the responsibility to look respectable, putting the focus on actual impropriety rather than appearance of same.
posted 2:50 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Pin-Up
Eddie Campbell on Covers
Mike Manley Colors a Cover
Eddie Campbell on Covers 2
Obtuse Curtis Defies Explanation
Kazu Kibuishi on Finishing Amulet

Really Big Comic
De:Code on Bristol
Down The Tubes on Bristol
I Have No Idea What This Is
Photos From Floating World Show
De:Code Photo Array From Turino
Dave Sim Art Sale to Benefit Shuster Awards

Carl Barks Vid on YouTube
Where Did Comics Come From?
Spidey In Black Costume a Fan Idea
Lea Hernandez Hurting Comics Essay
Greg Hatcher on Comics as Grindhouse
David Wallis in LA Times on Killed Cartoons

Where Is Yen Press?
Western Comics To Vietnam
Breezy Virgin Comics Profile
Phables Wins SPJ Column Prize
Virgin Closing More Megastores
State of Brit Comics in Australia
Pastor Peeved by Falwell Cartoons
Man Who Brought Oliphant to US Dies
Keefe Comes Out Against Pulitzer Including Animations

Metromix: Tim Sale
WCAX-TV: Harry Bliss
BDZoom: Herve Desinge
Daily Courier: DJ Coffman
The Pulse: Steve Hamaker
Hey, Bartender: Matt Kindt
Fanboy Radio: Matt Fraction
Talking Pictures: Paul Zanetti
The Escapist: Christian Gossett
Delhi Newsline: Sharad Sharma
Arizona Daily Star: Tony Carrillo
Northwest Herald: Berke Breathed
De:Code: Carmine Di Giandomenico

Not Comics
Comics Go Boom
Etgar Keret Goes to Hollywood
Barks in Good Housekeeping = Big Bucks
Comics Comics and Paul D Recommend Films
Colleen Doran's Artis Family Art Auction Ends Today

Navy Employs Manga
Marvel to Push Santerians
Steranko Covers The Spider
Hutch Owens Goes to France
Natsuki Takaya Begins New Serial
Akimine Kamijyo Begins New Serial

Jog: Arf Forum
Xavier Guilbert: Hante
Paul O'Brien: Exiles #94
Colette Bancroft: The Salon
Matthew Price: First In Space
Paul O'Brien: The Plain Janes
Dorian Wright: Ultimates #13
Kadzuki: Yakitate!! Japan Vol. 3
Paul O'Brien: Uncanny X-Men #486
Xavier Guilbert: Anywhere But Here
Leroy Douresseaux: Rhysmyth Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Stagger Lee
Paul O'Brien: X-Men: First Class Special
St. John Barned Smith: Anatomy of Fear
Johanna Draper Carlson: Genshiken Vol. 4
Leroy Douresseaux: Yakitate!! Japan Vol. 2
Johanna Draper Carlson: Kitchen Princess Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Inubaka: Crazy For Dogs Vol. 1

May 20, 2007

If I Were In Detroit, I’d Go To This

posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

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

posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Sunday Interview: Manuel Auad

posted 3:45 am PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* if Wizard's site hadn't apparently been blown up and returned to an earlier iteration, this link would lead you to a Dean Haspiel interview, and maybe it will again soon

* go, read and go, watch: the James Kochalka segment in that WCAX profile series

* go, look: big gallery of Ad Reinhardt comics (thanks, James Kochalka)

* go, look: Art Saaf comic art gallery, featuring a number of interiors

* go, look: USDA uses comics to teach kids 1) nutrition, 2) panthers are friendly and approachable (thanks, Erik Weems)
posted 3:40 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Trinca, La Revista


This is apparently a blog celebrating a youth comics magazine that displays an astonishing array of styles in several click and blow-up pages.

thanks, Brian Moore
posted 3:29 am PST | Permalink

First Thought Of The Day

Burt Young was 35 years old when they filmed Rocky.
posted 3:26 am PST | Permalink

May 19, 2007

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:31 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Missoula, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Philly, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Detroit, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

May 18, 2007

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from May 12 to May 18, 2007:

1. Trial over claims of ownership regarding the late Ben Wicks originals apparently left behind during a move captures attention for the seemingly odd nature of some of its details as well as the major issues involved.

2. Ellison Vs. Groth, Thompson and Fantagraphics, Inc. heads towards mediation in late May or early June.

3. Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. declines to carry Comic Foundry, causing a great deal of attention to be focused on the struggling comics magazines-about-comics market.

Winner Of The Week
Ted Rall

Loser Of The Week
Iranian student organizers harassed ostensibly because of an offensive cartoon, but more likely as an act of political reprisal.

Quote Of The Week
"As a 90 year-old Christian and preacher, I am very disappointed in your Editorial Cartoon regarding Jerry Falwell." -- line from a letter received by Michael DeAdder, a Canadian editorial cartoonist who drew a cartoon that depicted Falwell arriving in Hell. Apparently, Pastor Perry Rockwood pulled all of his ads from the paper that carried the cartoon, which is what makes it worth noting. If you could make up a fake advertiser to depict the current, fragile state of newspaper advertising, it would probably be a 90-year-old that pulled ads after reading cartoons they didn't like.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: The Three Paradoxes


Creator: Paul Hornschemeier
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, hardcover, 120 pages, April 2007, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 1560976535 (ISBN10), 9781560976530 (ISBN13)

There's a love scene about a third of the way through Paul Hornschemeier's The Three Paradoxes where the author goes with his father to turn off the lights in his small-town office. It's a shot of Hornschemeier's father disappearing up the stairs, just a panel of two of his presence, then absence, that provides the best moment. It perfectly captures those too-steep, crowded stairwells that would allow you to brace yourself on the walls with your elbows were you to desire. The reader feels not only that second but all of the times the author as a child must have faced that same stairway, the expectations of seeing his father in the office at top in both good times and bad. There are a few moments like that in the story, grace notes of observed behavior that are lovely and unexpected. The scope of the book, a simple visit home before a potentially life-changing event and the flood of memories that crowd in and around one's art, flatters these exchanges. For a cartoonist who sometimes seems to reach for literary significance and then fills in narrative blanks as a secondary concern, this reduction in dramatic scale yields a number of delights.

imageMore ambitious but ultimately less successful is some of the subject matter where childhood memory and post-adolescent writers' block run into one another or slip to the side on an ebb and flow basis. Here the events take the loftier grandeur of tragic story points, recognizable in a dozen such treatments of the same emotional terrain. Hornschemeier's ease at shifting between modes makes for the most interesting work in those sections; the best one comes in an extended sequence about an injured child that lasts far long than you'd expect it to, challenging the casual disinterest with which slip from engagement with the greater dramas of other people's lives. Hornschemeier also has the standard alt-cartoonist's skill with humor of cruelty, and the way the events conspire against the younger version of the author so that he receives an egregious ass-kicking of the first order is funny because everyone but the victim sees it coming. Because of the title -- a reference to the three strongest of Zeno's paradoxes, which discredit the notion of progress by pointing out in various ways that between one point and another lie an infinite number of halfways -- we have to assume that Hornschemeier means for the book to question the idea of personal and artistic growth. His own work here, where the casual storytelling far outstrips the grasps at significance, suggests the problem may not be in an element of the journey but in the push to get from A to B.


* current cover
* image from previous cover

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Newsmaker: Tim Leong

When a print iteration of Tim Leong's Comic Foundry was rejected by Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. for distribution purposes to North American comics and hobby shops, Leong's public plea for support generated a firestorm of opinion articles and news stories on issues ranging from the state of publishing material about comics to Diamond's selection practices.

I checked in with the young publisher-to-be to see how things were progressing from his position at the eye of the storm.

TOM SPURGEON: Any update on the status of the magazine?

TIM LEONG: I guess the update is that we have options at this point. There's been a really good response on-line, and a lot of people are interested in helping out. We're getting a lot of feedback and possible options from publishers, on-line distros... I think there's a possibility of working something out with Diamond as well. At this point we're trying to figure out what's most financially advantageous for us.

SPURGEON: So you're thinking of taking Comic Foundry to a publisher and going that route.

LEONG: We're definitely considering it.

SPURGEON: Has it been gratifying to hear from so many people?

LEONG: It's been absolutely amazing. Because there's so much going on on the Internet, a lot of the time it feels like you're working in a vacuum. You put something out there and your friend is like, "Hey, this is a cool story." Or whatever. And we have all the stats. But to actually hear from people that write in, and voice their opinion, tell you they support you, it's really overwhelming. I'm not an emotional guy or anything like that, as many of my previous girlfriends can attest, but it's really been getting to me. It's amazing. We've been getting a lot of big name creators writing in, which is fantastic and I greatly appreciate, but we've been getting a lot of reader response as well. That's what's really been blowing my mind. Dedicated readers that appreciate our content, writing in. That's what really has been getting me.

SPURGEON: Have you been talking to your contributors to keep them informed?

LEONG: Yeah, the core writers, we've definitely kept them in the loop as much as possible.

SPURGEON: I'm not sure I know exactly what it is you submitted to Diamond.

LEONG: I submitted the standard submissions package to Diamond. The one sheet of all the details. Solicitations, page count, price, distribution plan, who your printer is. That kind of thing. Some marketing materials. They typically want a full issue, and we wanted to get this in for the September Previews, because we have September-themed content. I originally wanted to get it in for August, but due to poor planning on my part, I missed that deadline. Diamond told me that to get it in for September, I needed to to have it in in a couple of days. So I went on a crazy work spree. There was a three night period I got like six hours of sleep total. Just to get stuff into them. We didn't submit a whole issue, but more like half. Which they said was fine. So they had half an issue.

SPURGEON: Do you think their appraisal would have changed if they had had the full issue in front of them?

LEONG: I don't think so. What we sent was pretty representative of how other pages were working out.

SPURGEON: How many pages was the magazine as you submitted it?

LEONG: The initial plan was 80 pages -- we sent Diamond 27 pages. We had others, but I didn't want to send anything unfinished.

SPURGEON: How much of what kind of stuff would we get in Comics Foundry?

LEONG: That's kind of the one thing that's still a great unknown right now. One of the things I've read on-line is that I've come across as vague, that I've been promising new ideas without showing any of it. Which is a fair criticism. To answer your question, really it's taking a lifestyle approach to comics. Covering lifestyle and culture. Which I don't think anyone is doing in print. Some people say they are, by covering more pop culture things, but that doesn't equate to me as lifestyle. I don't think anyone has covered culture and lifestyle before. I don't think it was really possible to do so. It's only in that comics has become more mainstream, and has enjoyed widespread acceptance, that it's possible to cover culture and lifestyle in comics. That's our main focus, approaching content that way. It is kind of positioning ourselves between Wizard and The Comics Journal, trying to cover superheroes, indy, manga -- a little bit of everything in that regard.

SPURGEON: What form does that take, though? When I pick up The Comics Journal, I know I'll get an interview or two. With Wizard I know I get a price guide. What do I see when I pick up an issue of Comics Foundry?

LEONG: You won't see any reviews. You won't see any breaking news. The way the Internet works, it'll be completely out of date. Even the Wizard exclusives hit on-line a couple of days before the issue comes out. I don't want to mess with reviews. Reviews, everyone has reviews on-line. Our goal was to offer content you can't get anywhere else. Our defining characteristic will be lifestyle. I hope, at least. It's more the approach.

SPURGEON: Rotating features based on a core idea, not so much a rigid presentational style. Is that fair?

LEONG: Tone as well. That's a big thing for us. Not being too fanboy or... [pause] Just trying to speak to a mass audience.

SPURGEON: I want to ask you some stickier questions. First, what makes you think there is an audience for your magazine? Many smaller magazines are tightly focused because they depend on the specific passion of those fans. What makes you think a general fan would even want to read a comics magazine?

LEONG: That's a fair question. Not to bash on other people's success, but I feel Wizard and The Comics Journal are both polarizing in content. They both do what they do very well, and hit the audiences they go after. But I think a lot of their content leaves people out in the cold. Also I don't think those two magazine are representative of comics readers. I think there are a lot of people coming into comics, maybe not hardcore people, but passers by, and I think they would be intimidated to jump into either of those two magazines.

SPURGEON: So with that in mind, the editorial focus on lifestyle represents accessibility for this new, perceived audience.

LEONG: I hope so. I mean, I could totally be wrong here. We might not sell any copies. [Spurgeon laughs] It could be me and my Mom at the store buying copies. Maybe I'm just too hopeful. I think there are readers out there, and the e-mails I get indicate that.

SPURGEON: This might be a silly question, but did you give any thought to taking Diamond's suggestion and adding color?

LEONG: One of my main concerns is that we were shooting for September. We have September-themed content. That was my worry, and I was opposed to color right off the bat because of it. Like I said earlier, we had earlier been aiming towards August, and by moving into September we had already started changing stuff around. I didn't want to have to do that again for October. The carry-over stuff wouldn't be applicable at all.

The other thing is, being a small group here, we know we're not going to have the greatest circulation off the bat, so print-rate wise it was not advantageous. It would have been a much higher price point. I don't think that would have been smart from a sales standpoint.

SPURGEON: Even though you have a general audience in mind, you're using the old DM system to get your magazine out there. What was your expectation for how you would find your audience? Because there seems to me a slight disconnect there. What were your expectations for building a subscription base and advertising?

LEONG: We're virgin publishers here, and we might be making tons of mistakes, mistakes we might not even realize until months later. If we decide not to go with a publisher, and publish on our own, we would definitely go to conventions, and sell on-line. Subscriptions might be harder, because we don't have a structural database set up to do print labels. It might be more low-tech at first, but I'm open to subscriptions. Advertising is tricky for a magazine that hasn't come out yet. There are people interested in advertising, which is fantastic. We'll have advertising in the first issue. Hopefully we'll have more in the second. I'm considering bringing in different ad teams. I'm working some of the connections I have in my actual-actual job.

SPURGEON: Is there a model in terms of another magazine or publication covering an industry that you feel is a role-model?

LEONG: Maybe not financially at this point, but in terms of how we broke up editorial, yes. If you saw the living room in my apartment, I have walls covered in pages torn out of magazines and tear sheets and post-it notes all over the place in terms of how they break down content. Setting good examples. One I look to editorially in terms of how to do the front of the book is Wired Magazine. It's a fantastic magazine across the board.

Wired is really interesting. They break down the front of the book into "Start" and "Play." "Start" covers a lot of industry stuff, the new things going on. The second section, "Play," is the more life-applicable stuff. The cool things you can do at home. Which I thought was a good example of how I wanted to break down Comic Foundry -- covering the insider-industry things but also a section where you can talk about the comics without actually talking about the comics themselves.

imageSPURGEON: I'm trying to figure out a way to frame my exit question. Do you have a timetable that dictates where you go from here?

LEONG: We are definitely on a timetable, because I still want to go into September's Previews; I still want to print for September. This will all be said and done in the next week and a half. I think. I think we'll know more next week once we hear back from different publishers, Diamond, and other distros as well. The options are still coming in, and then we'll do a number crunch and figure out the specifics of the different situations. We're definitely keeping our options open across the board.

SPURGEON: But the crucial motivating force is getting the issue into that September slot.

LEONG: And continue to work on the magazine in the meantime.

SPURGEON: Are there any floating misconceptions out there you want to clear up?

LEONG: I'm very thankful for everyone's support so far. It's been pretty amazing. I expected a response, but I don't think I expected a response to this magnitude.

SPURGEON: You know, the nice thing about your support has been that it usually comes along the lines of, "Tim is a good-looking man, and I support him." [Leong laughs] Usually the support you get in comics is more like, "Even though I find him physically repulsive and a moral toad, I still support this person." So it must be nice to get a compliment and a statement of support.

LEONG: I'll take what I can get!


* a page from the first print edition
* Leong's sign reacting to the rejection

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If I Were In Philly, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Detroit, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Update on Tom Artis Family Fund

I just spoke to Gale Krueger at Marine Bank in Springfield, Illinois, just to double check and see that donations to the Tom TC Artis Family Fund were getting to the fund. She says that they've been receiving about 10 envelopes a day for the last week, from all over the country, and that these have all gone straight into the fund. So that's good news.

If you've contributed something or plan on it, thank you. It sounds like the family is going to be able to use it. Also thank you to people like Colleen Doran, Dan Vado, Evan Dorkin and Lea Hernandez, who are among dozens rallying support for the family through their respective web presences.

The cartoonist Tom Artis passed away on May 1 at age 51. The long period of illness leading up to his passing and other unfortunate and untimely circumstances combined to leave his family in a state of financial need. Friends set up a fund at the local Marine Bank. Anyone wishing to make a donation -- and I have to imagine every dollar helps -- can write a check or fill out a money order to "The Tom TC Artis and Family Memorial Fund" and send it to Marine Bank, Attn: Gale Krueger, 1401 North Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, IL 62702.
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Newspaper Cartoon Stories Update


* Alan Gardner over at the Daily Cartoonist notes that the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has dropped their use of freelancer Mark "Marquil" Wilson, after using his cartoon making fun of an armed standoff as handled by New York's state police. Complaints were received. I find dropping a cartoonist and then kicking him in the ass as he heads out the door simply because he created an opinion piece which you didn't believe in but ran away to be pitiful, frankly. I think the cartoonist should find more work: I can't speak to how the above cartoon acts as political commentary, but I like the gag.

* Bryan Munn writes the best Wicks trial updates. Today's news: yesterday's closing arguments.

* When I said yesterday that Jerry Falwell wasn't a beloved figure among evangelicals to the point I thought many would leap to his defense over cartoons criticizing the excesses of his political statement and activities, I didn't mean to suggest that a cartoonist drawing the late religious leader in hell wouldn't rile up the masses. Daryl Cagle has one such story in his May 18 entry.
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Guild Warns That Latest Simon & Schuster Moves May Lock Books In

John Rieber on The Engine points to this press release talking about terms in the new Simon & Schuster standard contract that may expand the notion of keeping something in print in a way that will deny authors the ability to move books to publishers who want to publish paper book versions of their work. Since I can't think of anything Simon & Schuster publishes comics-wise other than that Mark Siegel/Siena Cherson Siegel To Dance ballerina thingamabob (hopefully I'm not forgetting an entire imprint), I'm not certain this is a huge story right now.

Of course, this becomes a huge story if this becomes a standard practice with lots of publishers, particularly those with major graphic novel lines. It's a story of particular interest to cartoonists because a certain portability when it comes to moving to more amenable publishers and doing reprints has become a significant part of the business in the last several years.
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Friday Distractions: Rian Hughes


A fine interview and a bunch of art, including the photo that you'll probably see posted around today because of Grant Morrison.
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Friday Distractions: Videos of Interest

* a Tintinologist tells it like it is en francais

* a catchy Lavender Diamond song

* Marc Bell's Pizza Pie
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Happy 54th Birthday, Arthur Suydam!

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Go, Read: Fernez on Humanoides has pulled out a brief section of Didier Pasamonik's interview with Josianne Fernez of Humanoides Associes and expands on recent attempts to rectify payment issues stemming from a period of financial instability at the company. The whole interview's worth reading as well -- even though it reads as straight promotion at times -- for the snapshot it provides of the Humanoides' party line on the refashioning of their catalog over the last couple of years, including sub-strategies like further investment in science fiction.
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Happy 35th Birthday, Gabrielle Gamboa!


via David Lasky
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Chabon Pooh-Poohs Oprah K&C Rumor

Ron Hogan again.
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Friday Distractions: Ad Reinhardt ‘Toons

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Quick hits
Best Professor X Panel Ever
More Eddie Campbell on Covers
Stunning Craig Thompson CD Case Design

Chat With Cartoonists Later Today
CCI's Strip-Related Special Guests
ACen '07 Manga Translating Panel Report

Blog Homage to Moto Hagio Classic
Commentary on the Crossgen Universe

DrunkDuck Updates
John Porcellino Popular in Denver
Jeff Lester Leaving Comix Experience
Chris Butcher: TwoMorrows Dilutes Own Product
What Getting Late Comics In Means to Brian Hibbs

CBR: House of Sugar
Inkstuds: Melinda Gebbie
WCAX-TV: Alison Bechdel
Newsarama: Miss Lasko-Gross
Baker's Dozen: Jesse Rubenfeld
Around Comics: Cecil Castellucci
Kane County Chronicle: Berke Breathed
Herald-Standard: Jim Rugg, DJ Coffman

Not Comics
Keep On Hucksterin
Repulsive Statue Update 1
Repulsive Statue Update 2
Repulsive Statue Update 3
Sergio Bootleg on Ebay Follow-Up
Kaja Foglio Well Enough To Go Home
Not That There's Anything Wong With It

Lloyd Dangle Returns
Graphic Lit Notes Minx Line
Quillblog Notes Complete Popeye
The Next Project From Malcy Duff
E&P: New Our Gang Collection Out
Unseen Peanuts Sees Second Printing
TCJ UK Diamond Distribution Problems
Dean Koontz, Queenie Chan OGN From Del Rey

Matt Brady: Vampire Loves
Geoff Hoppe: Batman #665
David Welsh: The Plain Janes
Jog: All Star Batman and Robin #5
Martha Cornog, Steve Raiteri: Various
Al Kratina: 28 Days Later: The Aftermath
Sean Carroll: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser
Brian Hibbs: All Star Batman and Robin #5
Leroy Douresseaux: Yakitate!! Japan Vol. 1
Graeme McMillan: All Star Batman and Robin #5
Johanna Draper Carlson: Superhero Comics Worth Reading


May 17, 2007

CR Review: Dragonslippers


Creator: Rosalind B. Penfold
Publishing Information: Grove/Atlantic, softcover, 257 pages, March 2006, $15
Ordering Numbers: 080217020X (ISBN)

I've been fearful of reviewing this large, limited-scope memoir about one woman's experience within an extremely abusive relationship for a couple of reasons. First, I find myself so extremely far away from the audience likely to find this work powerful and affecting that I'm not sure I can be fully engaged with what it does and how it does. Second, this book has an obvious therapeutic purpose that I not only can't access, but I'm loathe to pass judgment on it in any way. Whether or not something has an effect on your life or a life issue the way this book likely has for a lot of people is to my mind something quite a bit different from its value as art. The most affecting thing I ever read in my life was a story I read off a typewriter ribbon in a refurbished word processor; however, it wasn't something I think would work for a large number of people as a published manuscript.

imageAll of that confessed, Dragonslippers doesn't succeed for me as a work of art, let alone scales the heights that some reviewers have afforded it. Too many of the choices in presenting the story made me wonder after the emotional vulnerabilities of the protagonist and even the monstrous qualities of the horrible, abusive other half of the relationship. This would be fine in and of itself -- for all I know, she's exactly as portrayed and the guy was ten times worse -- but the cartoonist lacked skill in the craft of panel to panel scripting and cartoon art that would allow me to better trust the consistency of the character's portrayal.

I also felt the art and writing was generally crude, and while I imagine that some might think the direct nature of such work more convincing, intimate and authentic, I'm not sure I'd agree with them. There were elements like the machine lettering and the cursory portrayals of supporting characters that cut against those notions, for one. Worse, I frequently found myself wanting to stop and parse out exactly what was going on. This usually didn't last for very long before the story bluntly and firmly told me what I was reading. There's a lot of tell, very little show in Dragonslippers, and when accompanied by art that's inexpressive or inconsistent it makes one think that the directness arrives out of a limited ability to portray subtlety. This puts the reader in a natural but awful position of wanting to push back against such a controlled narrative, or at least question it, which runs counter to the more human emotion of wanting to respect what happened and the bravery that comes with making art about it. In the end, I was left imagining there couldn't be too many experiences in life as awful as the author endured, and equally convinced there had to be more graceful, more profound and even more powerful ways to present it.
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Whatever Happened to Alan Doane?


Nothing much, he explains.
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Missed It: Cold Heat Series Ends


Cold Heat the well-reviewed but slightly controversial comic book offering from Ben Jones, Frank Sontoro and Tim Hodler of PictureBox Inc. will apparently no longer be published in comic book form as of its latest, issue #4. The story will conclude in a 200-plus page graphic novel version to be released next year. The comic book effort utilized a loose art style and limited-palette but strong coloring in a way that delighted some critics but had some retailers looking at it cross-eyed in a "kids today and their crazy art comics" sense.
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Wicks Cartoon Ownership Trial Update


The story about the family of a cartoonist attempting to regain ownership of original art left behind during a move continues to be closely covered in the Canadian press, with a fine example of yesterday's back-and-forth here. Two other articles jumped out at me. One is a radio interview with Sue Wicks McLelland where she tries to explain what all that work was doing in garbage bags (she says most cartoonists store it this way) and why it was left behind. The other is a news story looking at the testimony of Richard Harnett, the history teacher that found the bags, discarding one.
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Ted Rall’s Site Under NYPD Surveillance

Not comics, but just disturbing enough to mention: Documents have been released concerning the New York Police Departments surveillance efforts performed in the course of pursuing security concerns related to the 2004 Republican National Convention. Apparently, this includes reading cartoonist and newspaper strip consultant Ted Rall's site, both his postings and the comments section.
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Jerry Falwell’s Passing: The Cartoons


Both Editor & Publisher and Daryl Cagle have short pieces on how editorial cartoonists are treating the passing of Jerry Falwell as a news story. Most stop short of getting their Hitch on, but many are negative.

I think the issue of how Falwell's being engaged might have more crackle and spark if Falwell were held in passionate esteem by more of the evangelicals I know. As it is, I don't think anyone is really leaping to defend him from the acerbic or negative commentaries, at least not loaded for bear with a lot of fire in their voice.
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Shueisha on Beijing Authorities Banning Local Copies of Death Note Manga

Local authorities in Beijing crack down on manga so popular it diverts students from their studies. Local publisher Hualing vows to resist and claims a strong and virtuous business relationship with the work's initial publisher. The work's initial publisher, Shueisha, denies they have any such relationship and distances themselves from the whole affair. Yikes.
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Go, Read: Far Arden, Chapter 8


A lot of this work is gorgeous given the parameters of the exercise.
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Comics Magazine Print Squeeze Two

Updating yesterday's post about the pressures being felt on several fronts by many comics-related magazines:

* Guy LeCharles Gonzalez rips into what he seems to feel is blind support for Tim Leong's attempts to get Diamond to carry the print version of his modestly-trafficked web site Comic Foundry, and floats the notion that Leong's pursuit of a magazine that hits an imagined sweet spot between hardcore devotees of art comics and superhero comics may not be worth supporting at all.

It's a good article, and I think it adds a valuable idea to the discussion, if only through my inference. Having to call on the reserves of focused public pressure to get past the hurdle of simply being carried by Diamond doesn't speak well to any magazine's chances for eventual, general success. This goes double when the standard for success depends on reaching a projected audience no one's sure exists in large-enough numbers to support a magazine given ideal conditions. This goes triple for a magazine launching in a market for new periodicals that resembles the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.

As I said yesterday, I think Diamond should carry Comic Foundry. Not because I think it's going to be good. No one knows if it will be good. Not because I think Comic Foundry is likely be successful. I don't know that, either. It sure isn't because I like the guy. Most people like Tim Leong.

The reason Diamond should carry Comic Foundry is because it's in their best interest to do so. As with Dan Nadel's and Hope Larson's respective publishing efforts that were scrutinized in much this same fashion in 2006, Diamond is better off in the long run embracing those devoted in a perceptible, professional sense to bringing comics and related publications to the market. The less likely the chance a project has to succeed in a Rotisserie Publishing sense, the more it should be given the benefit of the doubt that comes with a couple of inches of listing space for a half-dozen issues. If the project tanks, it adds to that market's collective wisdom of what strategies work and what won't. If the publisher finds a way to make their listing work, and some will, the market is transformed just a little bit for the better.

* Dick Hyacinth muses on what the rough launch for Wizard's latest on-line magazine bearing its name says about that company's self-conception. And it is a rough launch, let's be clear on that.
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Happy 51st Birthday, Dave Sim!

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Oprah to Choose Kavalier & Clay?

Ron Hogan profiles.
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Paul Di Filippo on That New Look Being Sported By Betty & Veronica

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Quick hits
Go, Look: Hermann Mejia
Eddie Campbell Building a Cover
Stuart Immonen Would Be Happy With Vince Colletta

ECBACC This Weekend
Photos From BD Panel at Torino Festival
Evan Dorkin Posts About Last Night's Signing
Dick Tracy Retrospective to Woodstock, Illinois

Al Taliaferro and Donald Duck

Sergio Aragones Bootleg Market
Viz Celebrates SB Birthday With Tezuka

CBR: Frank Tieri
WCAX-TV: Ed Koren
CBR: Doug Tennapel
Newsarama: Steve Rude
Comic Book Haters: FCBD
Newsarama: Doug Tennapel
Indie Spinner Rack: CCS Part 2
Steve Weissman Is Worth Suffering This Front Page

Not Comics
Congratulations 1
Congratulations 2
Congratulations 3
Get Well Soon, Kaja Foglio
Everyone Will Be Linking to This Today
This Person Does Not Care For Shitty Superhero Movies

Platinum Publishes Backlog; Adds Credits Later

Tom McLean: The Plain Janes
Brian Heater: Feeble Attempts
Don MacPherson: Shenanigans
Bill Sherman: Death Note Vol. 11
Jog: All-Star Batman and Robin #5
Brigid Alverson: Murder Princess Vol. 1
Geoff Hoppe: All Star Batman and Robin #5
Sammy Harkham: Things Get Away From You

May 16, 2007

CR Review: Daybreak Vol. 1


Creators: Brian Ralph
Publishing Information: Bodega Distribution, softcover, 48 pages, 2006, $10
Ordering Numbers: 097776722 (ISBN)

imageI wrote at some length about Brian Ralph's on-line comic turned unlikely print serial Daybreak in a preview, featuring several pages directly from the work. This review is more a reminder that it's still there. I kind of forgot about it myself. That's perhaps the disadvantage for artists like Ralph who have a real knack for the strengths of serial form but who operate in a market that favors graphic novels: you don't get that constant reminder that they're there and working and that they remain prolific.


Daybreak is a fun little comic, a promising first chapter to a thriller that employs a number of subtle comics effects. Your point of view is that of a post-apocalyptic survivor, engaged with a pair of fellow travelers during several moments of rising anxiety caused by their conflict and the omnipresent threat of human-but-not malevolent aggressors. Ralph smartly keeps them offstage. They would fit into the general description of modern zombies, although the limited visual evidence could go multiple ways. They're scarier as unknowns.

If in Ralph's earliest work he seized the readers' focus by bending the environment of his protagonists around them, here he uses a more subtle method of constraint, fashioning for the reader a story where you're locked in and paying attention, first out of politeness and then building into those horrible moments where you don't look around too much for fear of seeing something awful, or opening yourself up for attack. No longer dependent on tunnels, Ralph provides the first chapter in a comic book nightmare built on tunnel vision.
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This Isn’t A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market


Here are a few books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick them up and look at them, potentially resulting in mean words and an angry stare from my retailer.


MAR070024 BPRD GARDEN OF SOULS #3 (OF 5) $2.99
MAR070029 CONAN #40 (MR) $2.99

I don't read either of these comics, but it occurs to me that with pulpy fantasy series like these, Dark Horse smartly buttresses their Star Wars efforts a bit in terms of shop saturation and does their part in a recent, slow and perhaps doomed resurgence of publisher interest in the traditional comic book format.

I'm trying to think of a comparison here, where a popular, almost iconic talent like Frank Miller dives into work that is a Benny Hill-like series of slaps to the back of the head for so many of his fans. I'm totally coming up empty. Late because it's funnier that it's late.

FEB070235 PLAIN JANES $9.99
I think this is the first comic from DC's Minx line aimed at teenage girls. According to my college football position coach, I qualify.

MAR073498 30 DAYS OF NIGHT EBEN & STELLA #1 $3.99
Another spin-off of Steve Niles' vampire property, another writer destined to get a lot of comics work over the next five years (Kelly Sue DeConnick, co-writing this with Niles).

I can't be the only one baffled by Artesia.

A collection of Ivan Brunetti's self-demolishing early issues of Schizo, a comic book series that would have been the last word in 1990s autobio except that it's hard to form words where you're howling straight from the gut. Frequently brilliant, always lacerating material where even the parts you dislike you remember 13 years later. This thorough collection includes the funniest letters page of the last 20 years, from issue #2.

FEB073160 MOUSE GUARD VOL 1 FALL 1152 HC $24.95
An extremely popular comic that reads like a children's book where instead of text blocks you get more illustrations that work in all the sequential ways you come to expect from the funnybook form. This has a chance to be quite handsome, so I'd pick it up to see how it was designed.

Walt Holcombe had the worst timing of any cartoonist in the modern age. He came along ten years too early to capitalize on today's market for whimsical tales of sweetness and longing. He hit first with a book called The King of Persia long before bookstores were equipped to take a book like that and turn it into a runaway hit. The first issue of his Poot was a post-Chris Ware design mis-step that looked more like a mini-comic than a proper and distinctive series launch. The period of his greatest artistic output perfectly spanned the era of the Direct Market's greatest combination of hostility towards arts comics and general sales free-fall suckage. This new, beautiful-looking book not only rights some personal wrongs done Holcombe, it should all by itself be enough to ensure him a comics legacy.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, it's probably just because I missed it. It could be because our tastes differ. It's not because I hate you. I love you.
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If I Were In Cheyenne, I’d Go To This

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Brian Fies Wins A Blooker Prize


Brian Fies' Mom's Cancer has won a $2500 category award in the 2007 Blooker Prize program, according to the sponsoring group's web site. The program is intended to honor works that start out on-line and then move into print, a path which Fies' lauded memoir certainly took.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Mumford, Bell, Steinberg

image* Via the Drawn and Quarterly blog comes word of this Artnet profile of new works by Steve Mumford, with whom D&Q did the 2005 book Baghdad Journal. It's an extremely handsome series of paintings based on a new trip to the country some two years after the the previous suite of work. The accompanying article is worth a full read, too, I think.

image* Somehow I've missed draw full attention to the latest exhibitions at the cartoonist-friendly Adam Baumgold gallery in New York: Marc Bell and Saul Steinberg. The Baumgold gallery site tends to offer up a lot of art from their shows, presented in exquisite fashion; you could lose an afternoon clicking around there. The Bell show features new work and the Steinberg exhibition seems to feature a lot of interesting but relatively minor (minor for Steinberg, anyway) pieces in various presentational forms related to visual media.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: New Destroyer Duck Collection


Destroyer Duck: Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Collection, Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby, introductory material by Steve Gerber, About Comics, Softcover, 128 pages, 0979075025 (ISBN), July, $8.99.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Comics Magazines Feel Print Squeeze?

I was hoping to wake up this morning and connect the dots between a few stories about the struggles of various comics magazines right now, which is odd only in that most facets of the comics market covered by such magazines are experiencing a surge in sales. Several bloggers beat me to it. I still want to get this information into one post for my own edification, so I'm going to copy off of their papers and add some thoughts of my own.

* The first news story came a few weeks back when the folks behind The Comics Journal admitted that Ingram and other magazine distributors were no longer carrying the publication, because of publisher's choice.

As I understand their thinking, and they have my e-mail if I'm wrong, they feel the way that more and more magazines make newsstand distribution work is that they can sell advertising according to the higher circulation number printing for Border's and Barnes and Noble makes possible. So even if sell-through isn't there they're financially protected against a wash of returns. The Journal doesn't have that kind of huge advertising base, and thus the returns in a largely recalcitrant market ossifying in terms of saturation and attempting different racking strategies for magazines not huge hits are basically losses, not loss leaders.

* Here is Johanna Draper Carlson's recent post on rising postal costs as it has an impact on a company that depends on mail-order, TwoMorrows.

* Graeme McMillan notes another factor driving TwoMorrows' emphasis on on-line sampling and continued direct mail-order: their saturation in the direct market bites, to the point that free stuff fails to appeal to a significant number of stories. I sympathize. I remember trying something similar back in '98 with a Frank Miller issue of the Comics Journal directed at shops that carried significant numbers of Frank Miller's comics, and receiving a similarly tepid response.

* More an anthology than a magazine of the same type described here, but sharing an interest in historical inquiry many comics magazines have, Big Fun Comics Magazine seems to have moved into a more targeted, high-end reader format, as opposed to something designed to reach a more general audience on the stands, even by its own focused interests. Note the differences in price.

* A lot of folks like this esteemed publisher are apparently writing Diamond in support of Comic Foundry, Tim Leong's magazine whose print iteration was rejected by Diamond. You can see Leong's video on the matter here.

They should carry Comic Foundry. I think it's bad form for Diamond to reject brand-new publishers evincing even arguable merit before they have a chance to see if they can sell through the Direct Market system. I still see a lot of people out there perpetuating the fallacy that Diamond carrying a publication is some sort of award for merit that can be negotiated by pointing out similar examples or by extolling the virtues of a specific approach. It'd be great if that's what was at issue, but it's not. I fully expect Diamond to carry the magazine, but what Diamond will note is the widespread nature of the support, not so much the arguments about, say, there being an untapped market between Wizard and The Comics Journal, the comics equivalent of the Seven Cities of Cibola.

* You know what I don't hear anymore? Rumbling that the print edition of the mainstream-focused comics magazine Wizard is reeling or otherwise in trouble. I don't know if that stuff's simply been drowned out by complaints about their new on-line version or if it could be that recent, mocked cosmetic changes have had a positive effect on their bottom line.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 53rd Birthday, Daniel Goossens!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

A Few Notes on Wicks ‘Toon Tussle

* There are a number of updates and supplementary stories on the fight by the heirs of Ben Wicks and the people that found the comics left on the Wicks' old property, most notably here.

* Eddie Campbell wrote in to suggest that we maybe shouldn't judge the Wicks children for storing their father's work in garbage bags, as some garbage bags have a light-reflection and humidity-controlling element to them that makes them a good place to put original art.

* Campbell also notes that it's his understanding that Australia has a law by which the Wicks work would have been returned without all this fuss.

* Marc Arsenault wrote in to pass on this link from Neil Gaiman on writers protecting their property in a way that gives it a better chance to be stewarded properly after their passing, the kind of planning which likely applies to cartoonist and their work.

* Somebody whose e-mail I can't find -- Dave Knott, maybe? -- wrote in to say my unintentionally snotty (I was trying for sober) line about there not being a huge audience out there for a big Wicks collection is true but for the exact opposite reason my statement could have been read to suggest. The one thing likely to drive down demand of another big Wicks collection is the fact the work has already been published out the wazoo.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 47th Birthday, Chester Brown!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Surrealism From David Lasky
Elijah Brubaker Draws Conan
Mike Reddy Draws the Movies
Mike Manley's Figure Drawings

Turin Preview
Comic Art in Antwerp
No-rio Yamanoi in Istanbul
Peter David Signings Saturday
More Matt Madden Photos From Napoli
Oklahoma Museum Augments Holdings
Cartoonists at Maine's Festival of the Book

P Shaw Commentary
Old 2000 AD Coverage
Another Odd Nancy Sequence
Excerpt From Joe Sinnott Book
Platinum Waited To Sell Comics?

Where Are You, Ice Kunion?
Doonesbury Vs. Rex Morgan, MD

PWCW: Fred Gallagher
PWCW: Christian Slade
Herald-Mail: Penny Arcade

Not Comics
Free Tony Rosato
Repulsive Statue Update
Broad Comics Podcast Article
Anime Bootleggers Sentenced
Codex Thingamacus Postedcus

Fear Agent to DHC
Scholastic Picks Up Kids' Book
Cover to French Edition Eddie Campbell Stuff

Tim O'Neil: Lone Racer
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Rex Libris Review Round-Up
Brian Hibbs: Countdown #50
Graeme McMillan: Empowered
Gina Ruiz: Essex County Vol. 1 -- Tales From the Farm

May 15, 2007

CR Review: The Cross Bronx


Creators: Michael Avon Oeming, Ivan Brandon
Publishing Information: Image, paperback, 128 pages, April 2007, $14.99
Ordering Numbers: 1582406901 (ISBN10), 9781582406909 (ISBN13)

imageUnlike many of the comics in the recent mini-trend toward crime from bigger, more mainstream publishers, The Cross Bronx features an artist, Michael Avon Oeming, who employs a highly stylized form of cartoon art, with an animator's liveliness shining out from his figures and most scenes in general drenched in shadow. This makes for some lovely scene work, particular establishing shots where Oeming captures the mood across several moments in a series of individual gestures and poses. The downside is that it may take the reader an extra effort to become grounded enough in the world he and Ivan Brandon give the reader so that the narrative's fantastic element seems like a harrowing disruption of the reality they present. It takes some skill to find a level of immersion at which the story moves the way it should, to take it at an honest point of engagement.


Much of the creators' skill is on display throughout. The story of a cop featuring a crisis of malaise confronted with events so far beyond his conception of faith and justice that he's forced to scramble to safer mental ground, The Cross Bronx provides a great deal of dramatic interest by having a hero that constantly questions the ongoing acts of vengeance that pace the narrative. The text touches on interesting notions of comparative faith and the nature of partnership in the time-honored way of comparing relationships and incidents right within the story, allowing the reader to draw her own inferences. While it might please fans of the crime-influenced mainstream works done by Ed Brubaker, say, or some of Brian Bendis' work (Oeming worked on the similarly toned Powers), it fails to transcend its genre to become a book of compelling general interest. There are too many scenes and moments that feel like they exist not as a logical outcome of the world the artists create, but because they're expected of a crime drama. There are scenes between our man Detective Aponte and a family survivor of two horrific crimes, Mrs. Ortiz, that feel staged in a way that entertains within the scene but kind of kills the momentum of the story in general. Detective Aponte and his wife talk in such broad generalities it's almost like they knew people would be listening in so they rid their dialog of complexities and specific elements of history ahead of time. So while The Cross Bronx may provide the appeal of a crime paperback, you'll never forget that's what you're reading.

updated to change names around, because I'm a dumbass
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Ellison Vs. Fantagraphics To Mediation

By David P. Welsh

In his "Lying in the Gutters" column for Comic Book Resources, Rich Johnston reported that parties in the Harlan Ellison v. Fantagraphics, Inc., Gary Groth and Kim Thompson lawsuit will enter into mediation May 29. Groth confirmed the attempt at mediation via e-mail, though he noted that the session date had not been finalized, with June 6 also being a possibility.

The last official movement in the suit was the defense's filing of an appeal of a judge's ruling denying the defendants' motion to strike the suit. At the time, Thompson was unable to estimate when the appeal might be answered, and no promise of a speedy resolution to the appeal presented itself.

At the Harlan Ellison Webderland message board, Ellison reported another, less formal development in the legal action, this time regarding the often heated on-line discussions between the involved parties and their supporters:
"Attorneys for my litigation-in-progress re Gary Groth-Kim Thompson-The Comics Journal-Fantagraphics... and attorneys for the Defendant(s), have asked for an unofficial 'moratorium' on remarks made by either side. The recent prolonged airing on the Publishers Weekly internet site, The Beat, has taken the case to a wider awareness by the media and by interested -- but not always polite -- bystanders.

"I ask that hereafter no one comment on this case until it goes to the [9th] Circuit. I will say nothing in public or in print of any nature, including internet. (Please note: several interviews were given previously, that have not yet surfaced. It is my assurance to one and all, that from this point forward, my side of this will be silent.)

"I ask all of you to respect this proper progress toward a legal and binding cessation of all problems between the Defendants and myself."

Groth confirmed the moratorium via e-mail:

"We have agreed to hold our fire until we determined if the mediation resolved matters. This was evidently thought prudent after the exchange that appeared on The Beat."

Both Groth and Ellison are evidently referring to these comments in response to a weblog posting at The Beat.


This entry was written and placed by David P. Welsh as a favor to this site, without editorial oversight or intrusion.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Cartoon Leads to Suppression in Iran

This political story has a compelling take on news that authorities have arrested students from Amirkabir University of Technology involved with the publication of a cartoon featuring Ayatollah Khamenei: the cartoon of the country's Supreme Leader may not have been a worry as much as being a convenient excuse to kneecap the growing student movement at one of its campus strong points.
posted 3:22 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: New Fletcher Hanks Site


Paul Karasik has launched a site in support of his new book, I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks. The new volume collects the work of the sublimely odd and little-known Golden Age comic book artist. Click through the image. Included on the site is a story apparently not in the anthology.
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Three Garbage Bags Full of Cartoons

This feature on an ownership tussle over the cartoons of Ben Wicks serves an interesting take on the differences between physical ownership and right to publication. The family left behind three garbage bags of the late cartoonist's originals during a move. The house's new owners have since asserted their ownership of the physical cartoons (the non-maggoty ones) and seek to split costs with the Wicks Family in seeking a deal for a collection. I would imagine that in most cases people who gained the physical ownership of the work this way would relent and restore the work to the family, at least before it went to trial, particularly as the world probably isn't dying for a Ben Wicks collection and you're left arguing the principle of the matter.

I would imagine there's also something to be said here about ensuring your work is going to be taken care of in a specific manner while you're still around.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 71st Birthday, Ralph Steadman!

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* a lot of what follows is a bit of a stretch, but I wanted somewhere to note that Mullah Dadullah, a Taliban commander who made international news in the Winter of 2006 by putting a bounty on the head of Danish soldiers because of the Muhammed cartoons, was recently killed.

* this article is pretty typical of those that claim the Danish Cartoons controversy has had an effect on criminal litigation involving non-visual commentary that chooses to engage Muhammed or other keystones of Islam.

* also, there may have been ripples at the UN.

* this peace-loving Imam saw that period as a test.

* this article could be seen as an attempt to marry the Muslim immigration element of the Danish Cartoons controversy with the growth of manga's influence worldwide into an unstoppable super-story killing any and all that stand against it, but it's really just a more traditionally conservative piece about the uniqueness of Western values through art, with a couple of comics-related asides.

* of course, if you were really looking for a heady feature article stew, you could compare 2006's riots and violence to fast-zombie attacks.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Big Fun Comics Magazine #5


Since a few of you have asked: by "OTBP," I mean "Off the Beaten Path." These are comics that are not from one of the major publisher in their categories, or may not be available on the Direct Market grid at all. Today's selection, for example, I've only seen in one comics shop and then in the discount bin: the wonderful Big Fun Comics Magazine, which in its latest issue features 200 pages of Warren Tufts' adventure strip Lance, which as one of the last full-page newspaper offerings should look great at the proportions offered in a magazine.

Really, you should bookmark this site.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: State of Editorial Cartooning

Here's a measure of how bad things are in editorial cartooning: I can't even tell if this particular essay on the state of editorial cartooning that employs David Wallis' Killed Cartoons as its springboard is brand new or a re-posting of something from the recent past.

Whether or not I'm reading it for the first time or reading it with different eyes, I like the article. It brings the figures, noting that in the last 50 years full-time editorial cartoonists have fallen from 275 to 84. It provides some humor, with lines like "That means that a baby born today is roughly five times more likely to play in the NBA than draw full-time for a newspaper." And it interprets the trends, by noting that sizable newspapers as well as smaller ones are dumping their editorial positions.

Its strongest point, though, is in its tacit admission that the trend has less to do with comics specifics and more to do with a shift in newspaper culture and journalistic emphasis coming home to roost. I don't believe as Wallis is quoted as saying that this is an issue of political timidity so much as a broader change newspapers have made in the last 50 years to take on a role as a provider of services as opposed to affirming their place as a civic institution with certain responsibilities. I think that change was forced on a lot of newspapers as television advertising rose and radio retrenched as a local alternative market to market, and also because of general cultural tendencies away from a valuation for trenchant criticism. When editorial cartooning is turned into a feature, as opposed to a bayonet on the end of a rifle that is a paper's editorial mission and role in the community, it works into the fabric a bizarre counter-value that ultimately devalues the entire profession in the eyes of too many readers.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Tom Neely’s The Blot


The Blot, Tom Neely, 180 pages, July 2007.
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Thoughts on Digital Comics

As far as I can tell, this short essay at Geekscape adds very little that's brand new to the ongoing discussion about on-line comics, but the general issue has enough importance I think it's worth placing in front of people as frequently as someone dives in. The focus is on recent statements by Dan Vado about SLG's efforts through Eyemelt.

Vado's company is a good place to start with such discussions right now because a switch to digital sales in his case avoids the binary thinking where some folks might seethe and insist that all print comics must switch over to digital form right now or be left behind, and instead focuses on the digital model as a replacement for a traditional method of serial publication that has deteriorated on its lower end over time to the point it fails to sustain a number of previously viable (barely) books. It also ducks another problem in that Vado's solution is a real-world solution and one he can manage as opposed to an assertion for industry-wide change in practices made from a position of influence outside the business. I think that changes the tenor of the conversation for the better.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 34th Birthday, Stephane Blanquet!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Leong: Diamond Rejects Comic Foundry

imageAccording to a mass e-mailing by publisher Tim Leong, Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. has taken a pass on carrying the print iteration of the lifestyle-focused comics magazine Comic Foundry in its catalog, the primary source for purchasing in North America's comics shops. He asks for your help in convincing Diamond there is a market for his publication.
posted 3:03 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Wizardworld Site Goes Live

The second of several big-time comics-related site re-designs expected in 2007 went live yesterday with Wizard Entertainment's new effort. I'm clearly not running on the cutting-edge of web design here at CR, so please take anything I have to say about other people's hard work with a huge grain of salt. Also, new sites tend to get kicked repeatedly in the nads until people get used to them and the site-runners adjust to the platform through daily use. Quick, summary judgments frequently misrepresent the final product.

That being said, the one thing that jumps out at me is the prominence of the video screen. Two reasons. The first is the rather strange choice of having it come on automatically, which I don't see on a lot of sites that might attract repeat daily business. The second is that it indicates the wave of the future, comics-related content in the form of video and film bits.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

New Book Rental Service U-Decide


A potential Netflix of book rentals with a sure-to-grow graphic novels section, or a $287.88 library card? (Found at THE ENGINE.)
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Moore-Gebbie Wedding Invite

I Don't Know Why I Haven't Linked to This
Scott McCloud to Speak at August's SIGGRAPH

Flash Vs. A Lesbian
Mike Lynch: Look Day
Time to Reclaim the Term Comics
Black Superheroes of My Childhood

Your '07 Eagle Awards
Best Awards Name Ever
More Von Allan Rumination on Cons
Lynn Johnston's Daughter Joins Studio
How Gamekeeper Works For Guy Ritchie
The Legend of Hong Kil Dong Gets Festival Award

Flipped: Simon Jones
Toon Zone: Jason Hall
Evening Sun: Casey Coulter
iF Magazine: Arthur Suydam
Comic Book Bin: Marlena Hall
Mainichi Daily News: Keiji Nakazawa
Houston Chronicle: Terry & Robyn Moore
Panels and Pixels: DC's Countdown Effort
Collected Comics Library: Joseph Rybandt

Not Comics
Okefenokee Swamp Burns
Superheroes Sing For Peace
That Manga Driving Wine Sales Story Again
University of Mississippi Press Should Offer Shipping Options

Why Wouldn't They?
Download Bristol Fumetti to Mobile
Big Plans Offered Through Diamond
Dofus' Arrival in English Drives Comics
Sparkplug Offers Asiaddict Through Diamond
Joe Infurnari Launches Snazzy-Looking Process
Missed It: TwoMorrows Launches Comics Introspective

Andy: Big Baby
Jog: Activity Book
Don MacPherson: Various
NYT: Pair of GNs as Kid Lit
Edward Liu: To Terra Vol. 1
Scott Rosenberg: First In Space
Scott Cederlund: Phonogram #6
Matt Brady: Maggie the Mechanic
Leroy Douresseaux: Yurara Vol. 1
Mark Allen: The Power of Iron Man
Collected Editions: Wonder Woman
Blogger's Mom Reviews FCBD Books
Michael May: American Born Chinese
Michael Vance: Cyberforce/X-Men #1
Mark Allen: The Black Coat: A Call To Arms
Johanna Draper Carlson: Mini-Comic Round-Up
Christopher Seaman: Gunsmith Cats Burst Vol. 1
Wilma Jandoc, Jason Yadao: Fanfare/Ponent Mon Comics
Nick Mullins: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
Melinda Lauber: Brewster Rockit: Space Guy -- Close Encounters of the Worst Kind

May 14, 2007

CR Review: Aya


Creators: Marguerite Abouet, Clement Oubrerie
Publishing Information: Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 132 pages, March 2007, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1894937902 (ISBN10), 9781894937900 (ISBN13)

On the second to last page of Drawn and Quarterly's handsome mounting of Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie's Aya, it's noted that artist Oubrerie served jail time in New Mexico for working without papers, perhaps the only person of Parisian descent to fall prey to the state's firm attention to undocumented workers. There are quirky pleasure like that throughout the comics narrative as well, bits of throwaway dialog or incidental visuals that may fail to push the comic to a single goal but provide color and entertainment along the way.

imageDespite the fun to be had along the way Aya will likely be remembered for its central conceit, a creative choice about as astute and compelling and ultimately fruitful as any in recent years. Marguerite Abouet's story is set during a brief, flush period of hope and optimism in the history of the Ivory Coast. As a narrative, it unabashedly embraces the tropes of soap opera, specifically the misunderstandings, romantic longings and attention to class that comes with that genre. This gives the story its narrative backbone as we watch couples, friends and families negotiate various romantic affairs as well as moments of vocational and family achievement. The choice further provides the writer a chance to meditate on the values involved in the culture by contrasting how certain characters participate in the story, and, best of all, covers the whole period of time in a romantic sheen, playing up its vulnerable qualities in terms of the life of its heroines but also creating a warm light that reflects back on the community in which they participate.


I do think it's possible just to enjoy the ride, because it's a fun book and Oubrerie's art is expressive, his characters breezily designed and the entire bookis easy on the eye. The creators provide a few first class, gently humorous set pieces, like a father counting feet sticking out from under covers to make sure all his children are safe and sound, or a girl upon hearing she's pregnant immediately stating she's never had sex. A lot of the book should put a smile on anyone's face. What has me anticipating the next volume, however, is the underlying fragility, the sense we get from life and in history that things depend on arbitrary events, either far outside of our control or beyond our ability to seize it.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Mario Cubbino, 1930-2007

imageThe Italian illustrator Mario Cubbino died May 2, according to a posting at afNews. This ended a long period of illness.

Cubbino began in comics in 1952 on Pantera Bionda assisting Enzo Dufflocq Magni. He would go on to a long and fruitful career as a solo illustrator, splitting time between titles in England (where he spent the late '50s and early '60s) and Italy. In a realistic rendering style, Cubbino drew everything from girls' comics to erotica to some of Italy's best-known action-adventure series. Titles and series to which he contributed included My Friend Sara, Shirley, Roy Dallas Pecos Bill, Zip e Jungla followed by Wallenstein il Mostro Karzan Rick Ross Tahy Tim, Dylan Dog and Diabolik.

His entry at indicates his collaboration with the publication Il Corriere dei Ragazzi, starting in 1973, as a productive and fruitful period. A bibliography available through Wikipedia also indicates a great deal of work being done in the middle 1970s.

The artist was 77 years old.
posted 3:56 am PST | Permalink

Signe Wilkinson Cartoon Draws Protest


I admire the cartoonist Signe Wilkinson's ability to frequently irritate people to the point of protest, particularly on local issues. The above cartoon caused a bit of a scene last week, although I don't really understand the nature of the protest. In fact, it's something that I hear in comics from time to time, that a specific criticism somehow has to provide enough context to also be an accurate appraisal of an entire career and the careers of other people in proximity to the person being criticized, or whatever wider area people have in mind when they jump up and down shouting that this standard has to be part of whatever cartoon or article.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Iraqi Cartoonists Profiled

USA Today last Friday had a short but informative piece up on the state of editorial cartooning in the country of Iraq: lots of cartoonists leaving the country, lot of potential for violence and discomfit, and lots of subject matter. It also occurs to me that if all of the editorial cartoonists in the country's biggest professional association are working, their number may come within shouting distance of American working editorial cartoon cartoonist figures.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Spider-Man’s Circ. Numbers


Click through the above image for John Jackson Miller's look at the Spider-Man circulation numbers through the years.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Stantis Blasts Animation/Pulitzer Link

Editorial and newspaper strip Scott Stantis uses the appearance of the word "zany" in the recent Pulitzer Prize summary statement about cartoonist Walt Handelsman to rip into the awards making animations a part of their method for judging their editorial cartooning category. It's hard to argue against his most basic claim that while they're nice, cartoons simply aren't comic strips. I think the key isn't so much the differences between media, but whether or not the newspapers posting them on-line makes them a part of the category. I would say not, particularly in that podcasts of news reports or commentary on same have yet to be considered a factor in determining those categories. Or Clarence Page appearing on the news to talk about the subject of one of his columns or something like that. At least this doesn't happen as far as I know.

As I've severely disliked to the point of headaches and nausea every animation of this type I've seen, it's kind of discombobulating for me to think of them as added value to anyone's Pulitzer resume, and yet all three category finalists from this year were animators of this type in addition to being traditional cartoonists.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

OTP: Uncanny Dave Cockrum HCs

imageA new edition of the book The Uncanny Dave Cockrum, a series of essays and devotional art designed to benefit the late artist and his family, is now available through Bud Plant in a signed and numbered and a deluxe edition. Because the book is a benefit, it's being released there first because the percentages of return to the family are greater on a book offered that way. It will be distributed through other DM channels in the Fall. I haven't seen the book, but I contributed an essay to the new edition.

Even if you're not interested in the kind of work the artist did, I think Dave Cockrum's passing is important for all comics fans to note because his was one of the first notable names of the fanzine generation to die of causes that weren't accidental or bizarrely out of the ordinary for a man of his age and health. The issues he dealt with, such as his significant contributions to various comic book company franchises that have benefited from those contributions via film and what that did and should mean for an artist, are issues with which the industry will be dealing for the next 15-25 years with increasing intensity.
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Turkish Cartoon Commentary

imageThe Forbidden Planet blog has a nice contextual post up commenting on this post of Turkish cartoons on the division between secularist and religious political factions in Turkey. Tracking issues of significant contention through editorial cartooning is a game I think best played on foreign soil, as the cartoons involved usually have that extra vibrancy of mattering to a significant number of people for the issues they conceptualize, not just as tools in a political fight over who's being kept from getting their message over without interference by the evil press.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 46th Birthday, Francois Avril!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

A Couple of Notes On FCBD, Its Comics

Getting a stack of Free Comic Book Day efforts from Brian Hibbs at Comix Experience (thanks, Brian!) put me in the mind of the days when I used to come home every Friday with a pile of new funnybooks. The thing that jumped out at me about the books themselves is that I thought this watch contained more books with density and heft -- not just compared to other FCBD effort, but to comic book formatted comics in general. What I mean is that many of the offerings were stuffed with material that took a long time to read. This was particularly true of efforts like the Fantagraphics Unseen Peanuts and the wonderful Lynda Barry Activity Book from Drawn and Quarterly, but there were efforts like the Comics Festival book and the Eddie Campbell First Second effort that also seemed that way, and even the Spider-Man seemed like it took me longer to read than most superhero comics do today.

imageSometimes I think all the second guessing about ease of format and making sure that comics aren't confusing to newcomers or extolling the virtues of clear, accessible types of stories above those that require the reader to work a bit draws comics folk away from a lot of traditional virtues of certain comics formats. Things like perceived value, or work that's exciting because it's heartfelt and communicates a desire to be told to the reader even when baffling on the surface, or even the notion of putting out enough books to better to reach that tipping point at which readers will start into recursive shopping behavior.

In related news, I found this essay on FCBD to be kind of odd and wrongheaded. For one, there are assumptions that don't match up with what I know about some of the folks involved. As an example, saying that publishers participate in order to get their material over with comics audiences is a gross oversimplification. It neglects those companies that are savvy as to their realistic chance of actually doing this, and companies that want to support the system rather than judge their participation on how much product gets moved as a result in the short-term. Free Comic Book Day offerings can also generate publicity, and serve as a giveaway at book expos if you're the kind of company that attends them.

In general, though, it's precisely because comics hasn't been a mass medium since 1947 and has as part of its overall distribution network a specialty market that an event drawing attention to that part of the market potentially has value. There are dysfunctional aspects in that there's national (at least on-line) advertising suggesting material that will likely not be available at a majority of the local events, which is slightly insane. Downplaying the national specifics to allow local stores much greater leeway in how they want to participate makes sense to me, for sure. Some stores are still going to be more like clubhouses and won't make a value of growing the business in a way that allows them to participate in a non-pathetic way. In general, however, systems that aren't part of mass media at their lowest common denominator-broadest need to do things to increase business incrementally, and FCBD still seems to me like an opportunity for many shops to do so.

Speaking of FCBD offerings, I have a couple extra copies of Activity Book I'd be happy to drop into the mail for anyone in the continental US that wanted .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Thanks. (Updated: All gone now; thanks.)
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
FPI: Bristol Report
FPI Previews ICA Event
FCBD Included Donation
Gianfranco Goria on Turin
Heidi MacDonald in Barcelona
Hawthorne High School Con Report
Photos From 2006 Grant Morrison Signing

Writer Sees Anti-Jewish Cartoons
Historically, Comics A Good Thing
Why This Person Likes Spider-Man
Mike Sterling Examines Schulz Drawing
Stuart Immonen Defends Vince Colletta

JCA Awards Announced
Sorry About That Cartoon
This Nerd Hates Comic Books
Warren Ellis Dominates Eagles
Comic Relief is the Ideal Comics Shop
Cartoon Categories in AltWeekly Awards
National Newspaper Award to Marc Beaudet
Sequart Research & Literary Organization Founded

CBR: Mark Waid
Tokyopop: Anika Hage
Wizard: Marc Bernardin
NY Times: Tony Millionaire
Marjane Satrapi TV Interview
Alan Moore Art, Arthur Interview
Lynn Johnston Named to Order of Manitoba

Not Comics
Persepolis Trailer
Vote For Drinky Crow
Repulsive Statue Update
Indian NGOs Use comics
What I Watch When I'm Sad
My Write-In's Going to Fleshbot
Marvel's Lady Bowling Crossover
Jean-Luc Coudray Runs For Office
Best Wishes to Scott at Polite Dissent
Rick Stromoski's Home Studio Renovation
Best or Worst Merchandise Ever, I Can't Tell
Storage Auction Jockeys Pan For Comics Gold
Neil Gaiman: Photos From Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie Wedding

Star Wars Fall From DHC
NASCAR Comic Gets Underway
DHC: Groo Special, Mini-Series
More Funky Winkerbean Vs. Cancer
Otomo Working on Tour of Italy Comic
British House Plans Shakespeare Manga Line
Thank God: Another Superhero Line Launched
Pastor Spreads God's Word Through Cartoons
Stephen Frug Launches Series of Page Studies
Gerber's Dr. Fate Title Folded Into Countdown Book

AV Club: Various
Kadzuki: Gyakushu
Paul O'Brien: Various
Shawn Hoke: ZOD #7-8
Graig: The Clarence Principle
Paul O'Brien: Countdown #51
Paul O'Brien: New X-Men #38
Bill Sherman: FCBD Offerings
Zak Edwards: New X-Men #38
Lindsay Beaumont: Translucent
Kadzuki: Millennium Snow Vol. 1
Greg McElhatton: Phoenix Vol. 9
Koppy McFad: Green Arrow #74
Bill Sherman: God Save the Queen
Pauline Wong: Nosatsu Junkie Vol. 2
Paul O'Brien: Wolverine: Origins #14
David Welsh: The Professor's Daughter
Koppy McFad: Green Lantern Corps #12
Leroy Douresseaux: The Cain Saga Vol. 1
Kurogane: Hayate the Combat Butler Vol. 2
Leroy Douresseaux: Grand Theft Galaxy Vol. 1
Collected Editions: Superman: Strange Attractors
Sarhad Ahmed: The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers
Johanna Draper Carlson: Backstage Prince Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #27

May 13, 2007

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

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Bristol, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Sunday Interview: Jordan Crane



When you work with the hope of discovering the latest alternative-comics cartoonists, there are generally two ways you find out about new talent: someone familiar sneaks up on you by putting out work which breaks with all of their past efforts, or you suddenly start hearing a new name one everyone's lips, usually after convention-season time. Jordan Crane was one of the latter. People started talking about his work that they saw at West Coast cons in 1996, particularly the anthology magazine Non. Non not only carried some of Crane's early, intriguing comics but made a second, equally important impression for its overall look. Although perhaps better known in recent years as a designer, Crane has long been working to put his comics work front and center, attacking a variety of stories and serials through venues in print and on-line. His most significant offerings -- or at least those which seem best able to fulfill the breadth of his early promise -- are books. This includes The Last Lonely Saturday, a small and elegant piece which has gone through a number of printings in a variety of formats, and Above the Clouds, a prime example of an all-ages comics story that offers beauty, humor, an idiosyncratic set of visual moments and a great deal of clever writing.

It is the French-language edition of the second book just mentioned, Dans Les Nuages, that is the trigger for my talking recently with Jordan Crane. Needless to say, the Dargaud-published book which dropped in late April isn't a straight-up foreign edition but an entire re-working of the book as it appeared in North America. I spoke to Crane as he maneuvered into and then around his studio. When he gets going, Crane talks like an aggressive painter splashing color onto a canvas. We spoke about the new book, how an exacting designer approaches the inexact printing that sometimes comes in comics production, and his ongoing series, Uptight.


imageTOM SPURGEON: Where do you work now? Do you have studio space somewhere?

JORDAN CRANE: I have a studio. It's above this store on Fairfax. It's great. I get to get out of the house every day. Actually go to work. [laughs] It's pretty awesome.

SPURGEON: Do you share your space with other cartoonists?

CRANE: Just Sammy [Harkham] right now. He's gone so often it's basically just me.

SPURGEON: That whole block, that whole area of Los Angeles is being re-done, right?

CRANE: It's slowly sort of changing over. It's kind of still in progress. There's definitely still some crummier places on the block, and some more interesting places. If it wasn't for the crummier places, it would be just kind of a hip block. The crummier places make it a little more interesting.

SPURGEON: You never want your neighborhood to gentrify too quickly.

CRANE: Yeah, exactly. We can wait on the hordes of Japanese tourists that are already showing up.

SPURGEON: I got the idea for doing the interview from Dargaud... you know, I've never said that word out loud before.

CRANE: That's how Kim Thompson says it. [laughter]

SPURGEON: Can you tell me how you ended up doing a version of The Clouds Above (Dans les nuages) with them?

CRANE: Basically through Kim Thompson. They were looking around to sell the rights to Clouds Above, and Dargaud was interested in it. I had never been with a big company before. So I figured let's try it and see what happens. I don't know. I published something else with Pasteque. They were really cool. They sent me pages really promptly and did it exactly how it wanted. I was thinking I would go with them. But I also was thinking France sells a lot of books, apparently. So let's see what happens with a huge company that has a larger distribution network. I thought I would try it. And to be honest, one of the biggest selling points was that they were going letter the book for me. [laughs] When I re-lettered Col-Dee for Pasteque it was just a fucking hand-cramping nightmare. But Dargaud ended up completely botching the lettering! I had to basically fix the whole book. The biggest selling point ended up not being a selling point at all.


SPURGEON: Didn't you reformat the book in general?

CRANE: Completely, yeah. Completely. They gave me two options when we talked about doing the book. They said, "We can just republish the book exactly how it is." Or, and they would prefer the second one, "We can reformat it into the European format." Initially I thought I just wanted it the way it was. That's great how it is. It's already been done, why change it? But then I thought, you know, maybe I can change it. Then I thought I could do giant splash panels, and that would be fun. That kind of clinched it. Great. I'll reformat the whole thing and do giant splash panels. In theory, it will go pretty fast. I thought I could do it in a couple of months, and it ended up taking half a year.

SPURGEON: Are you re-drawing?

CRANE: I had to draw more. It had to be 48 pages. When I reformatted it at six panels a page, it ended up being 32 pages or something dismal. I thought, "That's fine, I'll do 10 splash panels, that takes up four panels on a page." I thought I'd only have to do a few of those. It started expanding and expanding and expanding; it was a big undertaking I wasn't expecting to have to do. That's why Uptight #2 isn't out yet.

SPURGEON: Are you happy with the final result?

CRANE: I haven't seen the book-book. But the story? Yeah, that's improved. I like it more the way I've re-done it. There are a few things that when I re-did it it made more sense the way I revised it. It worked better narratively. Really happy with how it came out. Definitely.

SPURGEON: Are there changes in the rhythm of it with the splash pages? Because there's a very deliberate rhythm to the US edition.

CRANE: The splash pages ended up being almost like chapter breaks. Chapter breaks and almost sort of like cymbals. C-Y-M cymbals. When there was a really big thing, I could make it big. I thought back on what I would have done differently. I kind of like the idea of using the splash pages in the same format with Fantagraphics, but instead of using the bordered panels doing panels with full-bleed, and that would work the same way in the old format. It was a nice break from the monotony of the panels as I had them. It was good to think about that, and think about breaking it up.

It lead to some other stuff where I'm not exactly breaking the grid but expanding... I've been doing six panels a page for years and year and years. And now I'm attaching two panels together. [laughter] I know, I know. It's like, "Wow, that's daring." But now I know why I'm doing that now. I'd always been reluctant to do that, because "Why do that?" Now I feel like I have an understanding of it.

SPURGEON: Is that the reason you were so rigid, you couldn't think of a reason not to be?

CRANE: I don't feel it's entirely necessarily to tell a story outside of the panels. I feel like having each panel the same size and the same number on the page, the same spacing and all that, kind of relegates the story to everything that happens inside the panels. The sensational things, the high points and the low points, and the extra dramatics rely on the narrative flow rather than drawing it bigger. So that's what I tried to focus on: the content of the panels rather than drawing it really big, relying on that. That had always really bothered me in comics. Splash page: this means it matters. This part is important. It always really bugged me. Also with manga, it's what you do. You make the page all fucking weird. You know?

Oh, God, reading modern superhero comics, none of it makes any fucking sense. It's not a language. It's just a bunch of drawings where you can read the words and string it together narratively and get through it. But there's no language, there's no punctuation, there's nothing that makes formal sense about it. I suppose you could argue that that sort of intuition on the part of the reader is the leap that art can make, and all that sort of thing. But I really don't buy it. Not on your average issue of Teen Titans or whatever the fuck.

Spider-Man is one I looked at recently because I was buying it for my boy, and it was crazy. It was just a bunch of pictures. The pictures are nice and all, but it's sensational bullshit. Sensational meaning crazy drawings. Not even crazy drawings, but fabulous looking drawings that don't have a language. So that bothered me. As I'm wont to do, I took the opposite stance, and I'm like, "Okay, everything happens in the panels." And I relied on this very strict flow and timing and everything is the same. Everything in the panels creates a story. That's a really long explanation. [laughter] Probably still about as unclear as when I'm started.


SPURGEON: No, I think it's all there. So you're back on your comic book series Uptight now? You've mentioned it a couple of times without prompting, which usually means it's something the interviewee is excited about.

CRANE: Yeah. It's great. I feel like for the first time ever -- and this is something that having a studio has helped to bring about -- but for the first time ever I wake up, I go to work, and at the end of the day I go home. It's this steady progress of working. Every day there's writing, and the very first thing I do is write until I have got a clear path for at least the day ahead of me. At best a couple of days in the future. So I can keep moving everything forward. In a concrete way. By writing I mean actually doing the final draft on the page. And then I ink. It's this sort of unrelenting feeling of this is what I have to do every day. It's made it easier to face. When I wasn't doing it every day regularly. I'd think, "Oh God... I'm going to fuck it up. I'm going to do this, and it's not going to be good. It's not going to work." I have to get this big boulder of emotional bullshit out of the way before I can attempt to do the story. Now it's just what I have to do. And I sit down and do it. Regularity breed familiarity.

SPURGEON: There's a certainly logic to comics that I think people are re-discovering, this one man, one comic philosophy where you have something that you put out that you're responsible for. It's not like you're split between a ton a different projects. There's a bottom line towards getting something out that keeps you working. You're one of a group of artists at Fantagraphics publishing through comic books again.

CRANE: I'm certainly not looking at doing anything differently in terms of storytelling than I used to. Okay, because I have a comic I do get to do more short stories, which is something that's great for me. For years I've been doing long stories. Doing a short story is good for many reasons. You get to be done with something. That's probably the biggest one. But in getting to be done with something, by completing a narrative arc, I feel like it's instructive. You get to reflect on something. You feel like there's growth. You get to try crazy new shit with new characters. You get to go into new worlds every story you do. I don't think I'd be doing that if it weren't for having a comic book to do it in.

Outside of that, which is something I'd been wanting to do, within every longer story there's a lot of episodic things that stand on their own. That fits very well into the periodic nature of comics. It can hold the longer stories as well. For me it's kind of like as long as it can sustain itself, it's a lot more gratifying than what I'd be doing otherwise, putting it on-line. I'm not going to kid myself that there's going to be a resurgence in comic books or anything like that. I'm sure the comic book is a fucking relic. It's a relic that I love. I love it. It'd be cool if it had a baseline life, and didn't die. I don't know that it's going to die. I'm sort of an alarmist. I'm hoping that it has a baseline life, and I'm sure there's a couple thousand people out there interested in buying it. You know?


SPURGEON: One of the big differences between now and 15 years ago is that art- and indy-comics publishers have allowed the overall category to slip below the saturation level in terms of books coming out, past that tipping point at which you give a devoted readership a reason to go to the comics shop every week.

CRANE: Yeah, that's true. There are so few comics coming out. I can go to San Diego every year and get them all there.

I think a lot of people have gotten uptight about the literary-ness of comics, that there have to be giant masterworks. That was something I was attracted to more when I was starting out than I am now. I think there's the aspect of making stories, and not being too precious about thinking I know all the answers. It's better to march forward blindly than to just sit and wonder about things. The most important thing is the making of stories. It seems like a lot of cartoonist have gotten bunched up trying to make one good story, making their comics so damn good that it doesn't come out with any regularity at all. It's really frustrating. I think that urge towards excellence, it probably clouds the issue.

SPURGEON: The cover to Uptight #1 was pretty.

CRANE: Thank you.

SPURGEON: A lot of your work is. Is it difficult to get the effects you want through comics production? Because I would assume it would be more difficult to control the final product the way you can when you're silk-screening or something more hands-on.

CRANE: Let's see. Yes, it is difficult to get the exact effect I'm looking for in print. But I don't care that much that I don't get it. I kind of expect not to get it. So when I'm drawing it, and doing all the colors and all the layouts -- specifically the cover, say -- I'm kind of expecting them to print the colors too dark or too light, so I set things up to be kind of fucked up. "That's how it's going to be."

If you look closely at the first issue of Uptight, there's actually two different paper stocks. It seems like they ran out of one and just started up with another. [laughter] The papers are two different colors. You know? I like that. It's good. I was telling Kim I wanted this book to be as cheaply made as possible, the cheapest paper stock, no cover stock. Like I said earlier, if it wasn't for the comic being able to sustain itself -- and it might not, at any issue they might go, "Uhhh... this is not happening" -- I'd have to put it on-line and I don't want to that. I like having a comic book.

Furthermore, I'll save the fanciness for the actual book. There is something really satisfying about a comic book that I don't have to worry about. I have all these comics that I do have to worry about. Even Love and Rockets has that stiff cover on it. It's nice having a comic you can kind of bend in half. I wanted it to be cheap to make, cheap to buy, and to that end I make everything when I put it together pretty sturdy so the printer can fuck it up pretty bad before it's ugly. Even the best printer can't seem to color match everything. I'm thinking it must be really hard work to color match anything. So I try to make my colors sturdy enough they don't have to match.

SPURGEON: Was putting out a special edition of Clouds Above motivated at all by your wanting to work on a level of execution you couldn't get with the regular edition?

CRANE: I like books with handmade parts to them. I like getting books from artists that have book plates in them, or that are screen-printed or whatever. I wanted to make a version of the book that was extra special... just extra special. Something I could give to my friends and something someone could buy if they wanted the most beautiful version of the book they could get.

SPURGEON: Are you generally a fan of high-end books?

CRANE: Yes, I am. This is an artist's version of a book. I don't like collectible for collectible's sake. What I liked about making this extra fancy version was doing this six-color screenprinted cover that was detailed and having gold bookplate in it. The perfect version of the book. I wanted to have a dustjacket on the other version, but we couldn't afford it. So this is like making my version of it. I love books like that. If I knew Edward Gorey had done those books back when you could buy them cheaply, I'd have all of them. There aren't a lot of artists that make special versions of their books.


SPURGEON: Do you have a peer group, do you think there are artists that share your outlook?

CRANE: In making fancy books?

SPURGEON: Artists that you think generally understand where you're coming from.

CRANE: It's kind of a high and low end thing for me. I appreciate a lot of work going into a book. At the same time, I don't need a lot of work going into it. All the work in the world isn't going to make a good story... it's not going to make a bad story good.

It's a learnable skill. Making a beautiful book is a learnable skill. Arguably writing a story is a learnable skill, but it's a lot harder and takes a lot more work to learn. Whereas making a good book is just a matter of doing this, this, this and this, and your book will be attractive. At the end of the day -- I hate that expression -- I think I value it but don't require a perfectly made book. I think that's probably what I mean. But it's something I do for all my work.

SPURGEON: How do you feel about the book-centric part of comics publishing?

CRANE: I don't know anything about that world. There's a lot of manga, soap operas for teenage girls to read. I can see a market for that, but it's not something I'm interested in myself. You could get a book deal if you were going to write popular fiction, Michael Crichton-type stuff. If you can write that stuff decently, it seems there's a market. But I'm just not interested, so I haven't had much overlap with that market.

SPURGEON: There's an impulse in comics where the focus is on making comics, and let's see what happens, whereas other artists may work on securing a deal and then doing the comic -- I don't want to bust on one or the other.

CRANE: I'll happily bust on one or the other. [Spurgeon laughs] Telling stories that someone thinks are going to sell, unless they're real to you, is bullshit. And I think the stories will ring false because of it. I bet what's his face, the guy who wrote Red October?

SPURGEON: Tom Clancy.

CRANE: I bet Tom Clancy really fucking likes writing political intrigue thrillers. They're popular -- not that I like reading them -- because in a perfect world he would write these books. I think that's why they're successful. Someone who would prefer to write soap opera having to write a political thriller, it would probably ring false or at least not have that same level of excitement that Tom Clancy is supposed to have. I like using these shitty examples, because I think I'm talking more in popular success than critical success. I don't know why, exactly. [laughs] I guess I'm saying that if I'm ever popularly successful, I'd prefer for it to be something I'm interested in writing rather than something that can sell.

I would personally loathe working for a book company, because with Fantagraphics I can do anything. Anything! Anything! And also I don't want to deal with an editor who doesn't know anything. Prose has grammar, at its bottom this whole set of rule where you can say, "This sentence is not formed correctly." With comics there's not even that. There are so few people that aren't cartoonists that can speak the grammar of comics -- and they're not editors. Except for Chris Duffy. He'd be a great editor at a book company. He's a great editor at Nickelodeon.

SPURGEON: Is Chris hands-on?

CRANE: He's really hands-on. Except for the fact that he doesn't smoke cigars, he is that cigar-chomping editor that's like, "Kids, you need to pump it up. You need a fart joke in panel three." [Spurgeon laughs] He's seriously hands-on. The thing is, he is always right. It's awesome.

That kind of thing is rare in any medium, and much, much more rare in comics. There aren't any editors I would trust like Chris Duffy. So what it would be is people who are concerned whether or not the book will sell. I say this based on my limited experience in the book world/corporate world. It usually seems to end up being "What can we sell?" "What can we get sued for?" "What's going to be a problem?" Instead of saying, "What's the best thing about the work?" Fantagraphics actually does that -- they put the work first. It's amazing.

I don't know if you knew this: when we first talked about doing Clouds Above the way I wanted to paste the book was one panel per spread -- remember how The Shortcut was one panel per spread?


CRANE: Kim said, "Okay." It would have been a 450-page book. He was okay with that. The only reason it is like it is now is because when I got the proofs for the 450-page book it read differently in color than in black and white. The pacing slowed down because of the color. It's all theory, but I think there's more... your eye stays on the panel longer because of the color. The panel has more impact -- it feels like you spend more time there. It has the same effect I feel. I feel it had more impact. But it was entirely my choice, and I made that choice right before the book went to print. And they were cool with it. And that's awesome.

I respect that in a publisher because I was that way as a publisher. The work is the most important thing, and we'll suffer anything else. Why be involved in an art medium if that's not going to be the attitude? I think art comes much before commerce. If people like it, then that's a bonus. [laughs] And of course, if people don't like it, then stop publishing it. That's fine, too. That's acceptable. But I don't think publishing an abridged version of it, an altered version of it, that's altered for an imagined consumer's response to it, is a good idea. And I feel like the major book companies are like that all over. So I would never want to deal with that world.


SPURGEON: It sounds like you're pretty happy where you are.

CRANE: I couldn't be happier. Just somebody publishing it is a bonus already. It's like I make $2000 a book every time I put one out because I'm not paying for the printing. [laughter]

SPURGEON: So the French-language market will see the Dargaud book soon [it was published mid-April 2007], and we'll see the next issue of Uptight in San Diego?

CRANE: Yeah, definitely. I'm getting Uptight off no later than the 25th of June, and then I'll work on screenprints for the next month and then there's San Diego. So I'll have some new screenprints and I'll have a new book. I'm doing a postcard set for Chronicle. It's 30 of my prints in a little booklet. I'll have a box or two to sell at San Diego. I think maybe I'll have the journal I'm doing for them, too. A whole bunch of crap. New crap.


* the new book
* the cartoonist, at the 2006 MoCCA Festival
* one of the chapter-break style big panels from Dans les nuages
* a sequence of panels from The Clouds Above stacked on top of one another
* a page from Uptight #2 featuring not a six-panel but nine-panel grid
* a page from Uptight #2 that breaks from the six-panel grid
* cover image from Uptight #1 that I really liked
* piece of art sold on Comics Art Collective as a stand-alone illustration, although I think it may be the panel from the short story "The Hand of Gold"
* image from Last Lonely Saturday
* image from Col-Dee
* black and white image from The Clouds Above


Dans les nuages, Dargaud, 220505922X (ISBN), 2007, 13 Euros.
The Clouds Above, Fantagraphics, softcover, 280 pages, 1560976276 (ISBN), September 2005, $18.95.
Uptight, Fantagraphics, comic book series.
The Last Lonely Saturday, softcover, 80 pages, 1560977434 (ISBN), August 2006, $8.

posted 12:45 am PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: great Matt Madden report from Napoli Comicon

* go, watch: video of a tour of MAD's office

* go, bookmark: James Vance increases his web presence; Steve Gerber's blog has been updated

* go, download: great randomly assembled bunch of articles and other writings with a 1960s Marvel Comics focus

* go, look: Jamie Cosley says he inked this and other recent comics with his son's Crayola magic marker
posted 12:25 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Mika Lietzen

posted 12:20 am PST | Permalink

First Thought of the Day

It's time to let go of that generation of Moms that threw out comics collections and start celebrating that generation of Moms that drove their kids to comics shops, even the ones that were kind of skeevy-looking. Thanks, Mom.
posted 12:15 am PST | Permalink

May 12, 2007

If I Were In Bristol, I’d Go To This

posted 6:31 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

But First I’d Probably Go To This

posted 6:29 am PST | Permalink

May 11, 2007

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from May 5 to May 11, 2007:

1. Cartoonist Ahmed Abbas freed in the Maldives months after being put in jail for statements in a newspaper. He reports he spent much of the time drawing.

2. Marvel's latest Spider-Man movie opens up with the expected big box office numbers; the yawning chasm of what comes now brings attention to Marvel's second-stage movie strategy and the longterm health of the media company. As noted, none of this seems to have an effect on the publishing division.

3. FCBD concludes without much in the way of controversy, a solid if not universal part of the comics landscape.

Winner Of The Week
Clay Bennett

Loser Of The Week
Todd Goldman

Quote Of The Week
"It's been a whirlwind of a year." -- Kim Artis

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: Agents of Atlas


Creators: Jeff Parker, Leonard Kirk
Publishing Information: Marvel, hardcover, 256 pages, April 2007 $24.99
Ordering Numbers: 0785127127 (ISBN10), 9780785127123 (ISBN13)

imageAt its best, Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk's Agents of Atlas satisfies the reader in both the cheap thrills and self-reflective commentary departments, a feat worth noting in this day where superhero comics read like tenth generation copies of pay-TV crime series. The story of a band of 1950s superheroes brought together for a brand-new mission in Marvel Comics' modern day universe, the characters are drawn from the company's less successful action-adventure and superhero titles of the 1950s, when the comic book company presented itself for a period as Atlas. There are funny, character-based moments galore, such as a few outlandish encounters between Jimmy Woo and the Yellow Claw, or the sight of Gorilla Man operating guns with hands and feet. At its most subtle, Parker and Kirk assemble a critique of old comics worship, suggesting that old comics concepts may have been much less than we pretend they are. I like best those moments when the characters resist pushing forward on their adventures for more quotidian activities like taking a dump or hanging out at the beach. In most Marvel Comics such moments suggest, "Hey, occasionally we're people, too, and sort of act that way." In Agents of Atlas, the message feels more like, "We'd totally rather be doing something like this." On the loopiest pages, the Agents of Atlas story feels less like a cadre of superheroes reassembled to solve mysteries than a community theater company reunited to do King Lear; it's more Seacaucus 7 than Magnificent 7.

imageIt's the middle expanse between satire and pulp verve where the book bogs down a bit. If I understand the supporting material correctly, Agents of Atlas started not just as a revamp of the '50s characters, but in part as a refashioning of a 1970's take on the Eisenhower Era superheroes that appeared in an issue of What If...?. This seems to me sort of like trying to say something of value about the popular music of 50 years ago through Sha-Na-Na or Lenny and the Squigtones, the kind of task I wouldn't wish on anyone. Because they're reprinted in the same lovely hardcover, readers will see 1950s work that's crude but also vibrant and nutty and sincere. Under Parker and Kirk's guidance, the Agents assume not just modern dress but many of the expectations superhero comics readers have for what that kind of story entails. The gorilla wisecracks. The alien is less connected to the physical world. Jimmy Woo's older adventures appeared like they were one thing but may have meant something else entirely. No character moment surprises.

This could be more commentary. Superheroes in the 1950s frequently lost their personalities and interior pages to more popular genres, like it or lump it, and there's nothing better received in the modern era than the revamped superhero. There's also a mournful quality to Agents of Atlas that's odd for a superhero comic book of any era, that feels a bit like self-awareness. Intentional or not, the adherence to modern tropes makes the drama and texture of the work duller than it has to be. There are moments in the main plot's resolution as well as the potentially terrifying reveal behind the most benign character's identity that seem drawn from some of the more gonzo aspects of the original comics. Unfortunately, playing these situations out through the stand and emote interplay of today's superhero dramas saps these developments of their energy. In the end, this is a perfectly fine comic book, adroitly written in several places and drawn with aplomb. It's a nice package of comics that should hold any fan's attention, and Agents exudes another rare quality in that it feels like it could be read and enjoyed by younger fans. For those of us not naturally inclined to read and enjoy one of today's superhero efforts despite its pedigree, it's the comic we see in the margins or hinted at in a dropped line of dialogue that we wish were given center stage.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Iowa City, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

All Hail The Original Comics Reporter


Jack McGee, National Register, 1978-1988
posted 2:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: CSM on CCS and Its Grads

posted 2:20 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* Iran agrees to repay Denmark for damages caused to the Danish embassy in Tehran during last year's violent protests linked to a 2005 publication of Muhammed caricatures in a Denmark newspaper. I believe Syria has also agreed and Lebanon hasn't yet, but I'm not entirely certain.

* Crikey.
posted 2:18 am PST | Permalink

Friday Distractions: Strip Credits


An amazing list of known newspaper strip credits.

that's William Overgard's Rudy above
posted 2:16 am PST | Permalink

Your Post-Jonet Media-Participations

Didier Pasamonik has a short newsbrief up at sketching in a bunch of positions at media giant Media-Participations following the death of that company's president, Jacques Jonet, in April.
posted 2:14 am PST | Permalink

Friday Distractions: Andria Lo’s “Primp”


This is a small photo gallery taken at a Comic-Con International, specifics of which are described at the page you find by clicking through the above image.

(thanks, Amy Beadle)
posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

Steve Bell on Drawing Tony Blair


I enjoyed this short piece by the great Steve Bell on drawing Tony Blair over the years, if only because I marvel at anyone that can manage to toss the words penis, testicles, armpit, fart and Klingon into a big-time newspaper article and still come across as smart and engaged.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

Funky Winkerbean Cancer Plot Details


I can't ever remember a storyline in a comic strip being as publicly set in stone months in advance as an extended sequence on cancer currently gearing up in Funky Winkerbean. According to this article at Editor & Publisher, creator Tom Batiuk already has the book deal ready to go.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 52nd Birthday, Matt Feazell!

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

Friday Distractions: New Image Site

A new web site for Image Comics is worth noting for a few reasons. One, it makes clear how important Robert Kirkman's Invincible is to the company. Two, it's the first of a few anticipated web site re-designs due in 2008; others to come include Fantagraphics and Wizard Entertainment. Three, there are a lot of comics in Image's on-line comics section for your Friday perusal.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Charles Schulz on Cartooning

Kean Soo on FCBD
Women of Comics II
Show of Persepolis Designs
Hawthorne High School Con Guest List
I Just Like Saying Interactive Manga Lounge

More on DHC Shortages
How One Store Survived the '90s
Telnaes Wins Dutch Festival Award
Sean Ford Wins CCS/First Second Scholarship

CBR: Josh Ortega
Newsarama: Ron Lim
Newsarama: Steve Englehart
Chicago Tribune: Jason Aaron
Indie Spinner Rack: Steve Bissette
Inkstuds: Gary Groth, Kim Thompson
Silver Bullet Comic Books: Greg Weisman

Not Comics
OzComics: Alan Lee
Cool Sculpture Array
Nick Anderson Injury Video
Dan Vado on Why You Should Send Money to the Artis Family

Boilerplate Moved to 2008 on Viz Art Books Fall '07
David Welsh on Emergent Manga-ka
Matt Madden Previews Convention Mini
List of Top Shelf Books on Way to Printer

Xavier Guilbert: Morlac
Richard Bruton: Various
Leroy Douresseaux: Aya
Xavier Guilbert: Cinderalla
Colleen Mondor: Wire Mothers
Shaenon Garrity: Mariko Parade
Johanna Draper Carlson: Levitation
Mark Andrew: Various Eisner Winners
Graeme McMillan: Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #2

May 10, 2007

CR Review: SpinUP & SpinDOWN


Creator: P. Shaw!
Publishing Information: Self-Published, mini-comic, 80 pages, 2006, $10
Ordering Numbers:

I promised the cartoonist I would review this book; the length of time between getting the book and providing the review is way too embarrassing to mention here. I'm making note of that because I think if I were totally comfortable with P. Shaw!'s comics, if I understood them as well as I should, then I would have found time much sooner to pen a short piece. I love the way his comics look; I love the stylized figures and the color. In SpinUP & SpinDOWN, there's a central gimmick of having to flip the comic over and reading it back to front doubling the amount of material in the book and making for a lot of structural problems in terms of having the specifics of each panel work for both captions. You can see what he's going for here.


There isn't really a great thematic accompaniment to this like you might see from a similarly experimental European comic; it's just a couple of creatures going to the mall and fighting a lot. The dialog's funny, which helps greatly; in fact, it's a funny comic generally, and mimics real-life conversation better than anything I've read in a while. It's also a reminder of how comics work as a way to bracket segments of a conversation, which I think is an underrated effect of the medium. Other than all that, I'm not sure I have much more to say.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

AAEC Auctioning Cartoons To Benefit Their Cartoons in the Classrom Program


Editor & Publisher reports on an auction starting today and running through May 20, put on by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists to benefit their free-to-educators Cartoons in the Classroom program. It's a real murderer's row line-up of working editorial cartoonists they've put together, from Tony Auth (above) to Jim Morin to Signe Wilkinson to Tom Toles, and it looks like they're being good at listing exactly what is up for auction in each case.
posted 4:31 am PST | Permalink

Tom Artis Family In Need of Donations

This article paints one of the most depressing pictures I've ever seen about the financial situation facing the family of a sick and now deceased comic book artist, Tom Artis, who passed away recently in Illinois.

Friends of the family have set up an account for the family at a local bank, one of those things where they encourage you to walk in and make a contribution. In other words, it's not one of those things set up to take advantage of the Internet. But having just talked to the bank, you can also mail a check or money order in.

You can make the check out to:

The Tom TC Artis and Family Memorial Fund

You can send the check to:

Marine Bank
Attn: Gale Krueger
1401 North Dirksen Parkway
Springfield, IL 62702

Would you please consider doing so? Even just two, three, five bucks. I can't send much, either, but I'm going to send something.

I think there will be a whole lot of cartoonists in the next two decades that will be in need, and maybe there will be some talk between now and then about other, bigger things that can be done, but right now that's a family that's been through a lot that has a specific point of need where I think even the tiniest amount could be a help.

If anyone else wanted to write about this, that would be swell. If someone could bring that first link to the attention of the Hero Initiative people, I'd appreciate that, too. (Updated to Note that someone has indeed contacted the HI folks. Thanks!)
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Watch: Rare Franquin Interview


en francais, but still: I've never seen one before
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Hey, Kids (With Willies)! Comics!

I'm not certain I agree with her specific implications, emphasis or even the way the argument is constructed, but Johanna Draper Carlson floats the interesting notion that maybe superheroes are targeted towards boys because superhero comics are boys comics. A modicum of flipping out follows.

imageOne of the odd things that crops up whenever you get into a characterization discussion regarding superheroes is that there's still an underlying assumption with some folks that superheroes should be subject to criticism and reforms as if they were the entirety of comics. This notion crops up in other places; it led to a long period where many comics critics conflated the growth of the art form with the reform of a genre, even demanding the application of literary standards to works that might naturally and rightfully resist such standards.

In other words, when I was 10, my idea of an artistic achievement in comics and the best Spider-Man comic ever was the same: maybe Peter Parker could go on a journalistic assignment in a foreign land and leave his costume at home. When I got older I figured out I'd rather read Joe Sacco on the journalistic assignment and that Peter Parker was better off spending two pages at the Coffee Bean and 22 pages punching Green Goblin in the head.

So I think looking at a genre to provide everything you want it to is an historical leftover from a time when superheroes felt like everything, and that maybe there's something right and natural or at least not-wrong or dismaying in superheroes appealing mostly to boys -- at least in that historical/traditional sense that you can say something appeals to a gender, which I guess is a whole new level of potential problems with this exercise. That's it, I'm going back to bed.

And sure: that doesn't mean it always will, or that you can't tweak a genre, or that there aren't several women out there whose favorite comic is Judge Dredd or whatever. All the usual, sensible caveats apply. Maybe more so.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: Craig Thompson’s Blog


I would assume by the number of e-mails that this has been blogged thoroughly, and my apologies to those who had it first
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Marvel Entertainment Stock Round-Up

I'm not huge on these Marvel Entertainment stock stories, nor do I pretend to know half of what these people are talking about. That being said, this looks like a pretty good round-up of financial analysts' takes on the health and direction of the company through those stock prices at an interesting moment in the company's history: flush from the Spider-Man 3 opening, but with an uncertain future marked by 1) something other than that sweet, sweet Spider-Man cash and attention, and 2) the start of a shift to producing their own film slate, which has a lot of doubters. I think it's worth noting.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy Vincent T. Hamlin Day!


The author of the greatest time-traveling caveman strip ever was born 107 years ago today.

You know, I doubt it's on anyone has-to-be-done list, but it sure would be nice if someone out there picked up on the Kitchen Sink Alley Oop reprint efforts at some point. Those were really satisfying books. I like looking at Alley Oop more than I like reading it, but that's mostly because I really like looking at it. No one carved space and layered their staging like Hamlin.
posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Archie Parody Site’s “Chilling” Note

So if I'm understanding the pair of e-mails and my own quick look at it, there's a livejournal account called Improved Archie whereby folks write in new captions for random Archie panels leached of same, for comedic and satiric effect. This site has now received a letter from the Archie people targeting one of those completed panels and a banner ad saying they violate copyright. So the owner has to decide whether to assert rights of fair use and risk the time-suck and potential financial penalty that could come with it, or they could wrap things up.

It's an interesting little story, although only tangentially comics. From one side of things, it seems these kinds of efforts exist not because they've gone through a rigorous legal vetting process but because those rights are assumed and companies don't really care enough if they exist or not to run around pressing the point. From another entry point, these kinds of efforts may cease to exist not because the owner/operator feels they've done anything wrong, but because they don't particularly care to embrace the hassle and potential cost of establishing their right to do what they do.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
I Like These Little Heads
The Pulse: Laura Martin on Coloring
Kevin Church on Mainstream Comics Narrative Devices

FCBD on the Isle of Man
How One Shop Used FCBD
Newsarama Discusses FCBD
FPI: Gerard Way FCBD Book A Hit
FPI Previews Basel Fest's Comics Day

Least Important Comics Story of All Time
Lieber: Brad Meltzer Not First With Comic In Book

Manga on the Charts
14-Year-Olds Win Award
Nausea: Comic Books As Film Enhancements
Report: Rentals Depend on Knowing About Rentals

CBR: Darwyn Cooke
Wizard: David Wallis
Newsarama: Paul Dini
Frank Springer Is Cool
Newsarama: Greg Rucka
Newsarama: Terry Moore
Newsarama: JM DeMatteis
Newsarama: Jim Valentino
Newsarama: Grant Morrison Ariel Schrag
Suburban Journals: Matt Kindt
Little Chimp Society: James Jean
David Thompson: Fletcher Hanks Scott McCloud
Broken Frontier: Shaenon Garrity

Not Comics
Bill Gates to Paper: See Ya
E&P on Tony Millionaire Cartoon
Warren Ellis: Dear Bjork, You Suck
Tim O'Neil Didn't Like Spider-Man 3

Viz on 2007 Prose Releases
Why No Fuss About Aqua Bless?
They Still Publish X-Men Comics?
Paul Pope Travel Piece In July GQ
Virgin's Digital Program Kicks Into Gear
TwoMorrows Launches On-Line Initiative
I Don't Suppose They'd Wish It A Failure
Modan Blogging, Cartooning at NYT Select

Jog: God Save the Queen
Tim O'Neil: Fox Bunny Funny
Scott Campbell: Parasyte Vol. 1
Graeme McMillan: Countdown #51
Sarah Cannata: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight

May 9, 2007

CR Review: Dungeon Parade Vol. 1


Creator: Lewis Trondheim, Joann Sfar
Publishing Information: NBM, softcover, 96 pages, April 2007, $9.95
Ordering Numbers: 1561634956 (ISBN10), 9781561634958 (ISBN13)

If comics were to suddenly decide that pleasing me were to be its primary objective, there would be a lot more books like Dungeon Parade Vol. 1 out there. I've always had a bit of difficulty tracking exactly how NBM was releasing this work. I know they tried black and white comic books, and have settled in on a series of smaller than usual graphic novels at manga-equivalent prices. I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that the original Donjon albums are being released in semi-haphazard fashion: six different series, with a lot of different artists being brought in, even on those series that were supposed to be limited to one or two talents.

imageFortunately, I just sort of buy these in whatever form I can find them. The Dungeon books are comedies built around conventions of the fantasy genre at its most rigid and ridiculous, centered but certainly not limited to a dungeon of the gaming variety lorded over by a sitcom-style bad boss and populated by a group of vaguely disgruntled, feckless employees -- primarily the hyper-competent dragon Marvin and the wimpy everyduck Herbert. This book features two European album-length stories. The first involves a Disneyland-style dungeon arising next to our characters'; the second is a goof on a magic wish-granting lantern that involves a field trip. There's not much more to it than that.


What I like about most of these books is that they feature a kind of humor grounded in set pieces and crossed motivations that's almost entirely absent from American comic books since Peter Bagge quit doing Hate on a regular basis. No matter who is doing the art, the comics are drawn in humorous fashion, which softens the horrifying outcome of violent death that is frequently on the table for everyone but the leads. It's sort of like a second stage Warner's cartoon, or the way The Muppet Show felt like postgraduate work after its "cast" developed characters and routines on the educational shows. There are inspired bits of nonsense, such as Marvin's cooking in the first story and the eminently sensible cowardice of the town folk in the second. Unless you greatly prefer comedy that has no relation to a fictional narrative, have an automatic gag reflex when it comes to fantasy work of any kind, or have little patience for what are essentially comedic stage scenes, I can't imagine these books not appealing on some level.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

This Isn’t A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market


Here are a few books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick them up and look at them, potentially resulting in mean words and an angry stare from my retailer.


Unless I'm totally missing something, the first collection of this solid crime comic book series from two of mainstream comics' most consistent, skilled creators is the obvious new book of the week. Nice get on the introduction, too.

Marvel's cheap black and white collections moves into the really weird and continuity-specific phase of the company's flagship title. Although it's the kind of work that really bottomed out by the end of the 1970s and risked the whole company to an end, stuffed together at this price it's both daffy superhero adventure books and an entry point into what other Marvel creators saw as valuable in the Kirby run.

FEB073366 PARASYTE VOL 1 GN (OF 8) (MR) $12.95
This looked kind of cool when Shaenon Garrity wrote about it.

MAR073096 REX LIBRIS #8 $2.95
I'm way behind on James Turner's humor-adventure series, but I think there's something to his work in general.

Two essential manga trades being re-offered; if you don't have 'em, check 'em out.

The dean of the second wave of specific-focus fan magazines, and almost always worth a pick-up and stare.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, it's probably just because I missed it. It could be because our tastes differ. It's not because I hate you. I love you.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

And The Weirdest Place I’ve Ever Seen a Random Photo of Chris Ware Is…

... this NBA Playoff preview.

(thanks, Michael Drivas)
posted 4:56 am PST | Permalink

Clay Bennett Wins 2007 RFK Award

imageFor some reason I thought this was already announced, and if today's announcement is the first it's happened later than similar news stories in 2005 and 2006, but the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists reports that Clay Bennett of the Christian Science Monitor has been named the winner of this years RFK Journalism Award for Editorial Cartooning. The winners will formally received their honors on May 23 in Washington, DC. This is the 39th year for the awards program.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Completed Manga Series List


Looking at this rough list of completed manga series made me think of a television show: Slings and Arrows, the Canadian series about stage actors and the push and pull of their institutional support system I'm currently watching on DVD. I think I read manga like I watch TV now: in a way that favors completed series and delayed viewing and odd entry points way more than it does riding a wave of material as it comes out. Even the new manga series I follow I'm usually a volume or two behind on. This isn't new to comics, but I think this might become interesting in that I'm not certain comic shops or big-box bookstores are equipped to carry a lot of completed series over the long term. This makes me wonder if we're going to see a lot of stuff republished if there's any excuse to do so, and perhaps the development of a market for older manga that is more reminiscent of used bookstores than a collectible store.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Chris Butcher on Dark Horse

The reason it's worth reading retailer and commentator Chris Butcher's criticism of Dark Horse promoting books that the publisher either hasn't printed or can't keep in print isn't to enjoy a second-hand raspberry in the direction of Milwaukie, Oregon. Rather, it's because Butcher's criticism hits at a real core issue for comics retail: intermittent but frequent baseline dysfunction in sensible publishing practices.

As long as they're working with people instead of robots, all publishers are going to have the occasional delayed book or hitch in their ability to put out their books on a sustained, rational schedule. And in fact, many of the worst offenders from 10-15 years go are smaller companies that are now more disciplined than ever because of demands from book distributors or as a result of better ensuring economic survival. But it does seem to me there's a conscious choice, particularly among the top publishers, to sacrifice maximizing the way books are releases in a way that benefits their retail partners for the sake of having some wiggle room when it comes to working with talent. If it doesn't change, we'll never know how well certain systems can perform.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Small Kirby Cover Gallery


I was going to ignore this small array of covers by Jack Kirby from the 1970s, particularly as much more powerful blogs than my own have already drawn attention to it, but on a second glance it struck me that Forever People is a really under-discussed and under-examined comic in the Kirby oeuvre. The above cover is a classic case of using strong lines and over-sized visual elements to overcome the restrictions of a generally text-driven and deadspace-heavy design.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: More Tony Auth Fall-Out

There are still a smattering of opinion pieces like this one that discuss Tony Auth's recent cartoon depicting the five Roman Catholic judges who voted against certain abortion rights in April in bishop's hats and the resulting backlash against this as an anti-Catholic smear. I'm still not seeing it, and I think the lingering, mostly non-committal writing on the subject shows that there is little consensus when it comes to approaching the issue of religious influence on public policy.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Cosmic Monkey Photo


I love photos of the insides of comic book stores, so I was happy to see this one from Cosmic Monkey Comics in an array of Free Comic Book Day photos.
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Plus I Was Hoping Haldane Was a Prison

You don't see this particular construction in comics articles as much as you used to, but it's always sort of amusing. How many books do authors own? How many tunes on a musician's iPod?
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 44th Birthday, Ty Templeton!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
I Like This Drawing of a Car
LCD Monitors and Coloring Problems

CICAF Report
A Different Take on FCBD
Report From 2000 AD Party
Report From Scott Adams Event
Syndicated Creators at MoCCA Festival
From D&Q: Fake Stupid Daddy Show Report

Colliers Cartoons
Great Lois Lane Splash Page
Mark Evanier Corrects the Corrections
Scans From Society of Strip Illustration
Another Eddie Campbell Posting on Vinnie Colletta

PWCW Sales Chart
Ramping Up Cancer
Archie to Expand Into India
Yomiuri Cartoon Contest Numbers
Teen Scores Contract With Random House Fruits Basket Over 18 Million in Japan

CBR: Ed Brubaker
PWCW: Kim Deitch
CBR: Marc Bernardin
Newsarama: Gary Frank
Newsarama: Terry Moore
PWCW: Lone Star Comics
Suicide Girls: Ed Brubaker
City Paper: Tony Millionaire
Newsarama: Tony Millionaire
NPR Maryland: Berke Breathed
Jody McGregor: Eddie Campbell
Toronto Star: Svetlana Chmakova

Not Comics
Gene Deitch's Munro
Comic Book Films, Worst to Best

Pibgorn Finds Home

Daniel J. Stasiewski: Flood!
RC Harvey: Killed Cartoons
Brian Hibbs: Countdown #51
Tom McLean: Countdown #51
Dirk Deppey: King-Cat Classix
Leroy Douresseaux: Gothic Sports Vol. 1

May 8, 2007

CR Review: Rocketo Vol. 2


Creator: Frank Espinosa, Marie Taylor
Publishing Information: Image Comics, softcover, 212 pages, April 2007
Ordering Numbers: 1582407355 (ISBN10), 9781582407357 (ISBN13)

In this age of graphic novels so rigidly circumscribed it's hard not to see the pitch to the publisher staring back at you from their pages, it's rare enough to encounter anyone attempting an ambitious fantasy that isn't satirical commentary on ambitious fantasy that it socks you in the gut to even think about nitpicking it to death. The story of adventure fiction archetypes defending a lost city in a hidden land in a broken world of the far future, Frank Espinosa's Rocketo carries the shortcomings of 20th Century adventure pulp right out where everyone can see them, as if blended into the square jaw of its mythical traveler-hero. Its broad characterizations are a mile wide and gossamer thin, the narrative outcomes seem rigidly tied into a heroic formula that leaches suspense and complexity from the plot, much of the dialog creaks and wheezes, and there's an awkwardness in the staging of individual scenes that serves as a cruel reminder of how a story like this one depends to a critical degree on action and ascending levels of visual flair.

imageWhat makes Rocketo different than your standard transposition of some writer's long-ago role-playing game experiences is its art and a kind of all-encompassing faith in itself that together should help many readers over the rough patches. Espinosa eschews representational illustration for a feathery, sometimes broken line and watercolor combination. When anchored by expressive figure drawing, the combination of line and color allows for a compelling start and stop effect. Even when standing still his characters seem to pulsate, like actors settling into position a micro-second before the curtain comes up. And yet some of the best pages are oblique and moody to the point you have to puzzle out what you're looking at. His strength is in single imagery rather than panel to panel storytelling, but that's not a bad thing in a comic driven by fight scenes and high fantasy reveals. There is a lovely two-page spread that thwarts my ability to scan artwork that features most of the protagonists in action in a way that not only carves out a visual moment for each but drags the eye across the page in a way that slowly builds energy, like tracking a line of ink squirted into water. It's a fairly standard trick in comics to hint at marvels just off the page and allow the reader to fill in the blanks; Espinosa promises visual wonders and then does his best to drag them onstage for his audience to gawk at. If one is to work in a storytelling mode that depends on action and design, it's a definite positive to be skilled in both.


As comics, however, I think how well Rocketo works for you will depend on whether it convinces that its story is worth the naked investment that flatters its direct charms. There are hints at deeper meaning, or at least idiosyncratic beliefs, that might allow readers that act of generosity. Where the old-fashioned nature of Rocketo Vol. 2 appeals the most is in a declaration of values bound up in its protagonist. Rocketo's central metaphor isn't conflict or self-actualization or, happily, anything having to do with modern politics or culture. Espinosa's hero helps people get from one place to another, and his story within the story deals with competency and vocation and leaving home as an experience that binds fellow travelers more than it provides a series of peak moments or opportunities for epiphany. Rocketo has a good heart, and it's hard not to forgive it anything it asks of you.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

That New L&R Book Series and Its Impact on the Title’s Publishing Picture

By Tom Spurgeon

More or less quietly given its slew of big-name comic strip reprint projects, art books and original graphic novels, venerable art comics publisher Fantagraphics finds itself in the midst of yet another treatment of the first 50-magazine volume of the groundbreaking Love & Rockets comic book, an endeavor more noteworthy for its modesty more than high-end re-formatting. This new series is in a smaller, paperback format, and collects in seven volumes, three each from Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez, what had previously gone into a successful series of magazine-sized, numbered hardcover/soft cover editions. As I wrote here, I like them quite a bit.

Committing to a brand new format for an established series with multiple bookstore entry points begs a slew of questions, or at least it did for me. I became curious about the scope of the new project and its implications for the other two book series collecting that work. I bothered Fantagraphics publicity flack Eric Reynolds until my questions were answered. Here is what I found out.

image* There are four volumes out right now in the new paperback book series. Maggie the Mechanic (early Jaime), The Girl From H.O.P.P.E.R.S. (middle Jaime), Heartbreak Soup (early Gilbert), and Human Diastrophism (middle and late Gilbert). Two more volumes should be out by the end of the year: La Perla Loca (later Jaime) and Beyond Palomar (middle Gilbert, essentially the Poison River and Love and Rockets X stories). A final volume collecting odds and ends, Amor & Cohetes, will be released by summer 2008.

* Barring a massive downturn in sales -- the initial print runs were 10,000 for each book -- Fantagraphics has plans to eventually release the post-L&R Vol. 1 material in this format as well.

* The original hardcover/softcover album-sized volumes with numbers on the spine, like Duck Feet (Vol. 5), will now go out of print.

* However, Fantagraphics has plans to continue doing hardcover graphic novels of individual stories, like the recent Ghost of Hoppers, before releasing that material into the paperback series.

* With a smaller overall price tag for the amount of material collected -- close to 1/3, by Reynolds' estimate -- and therefore a smaller return to the artists for the same amount of narrative content sold, Fantagraphics believes that increased sales will make up the royalties difference. From their perspective, new sales should come in part because the new volumes are not only attractive and cheaper for the consumer, and also because they'll be easier for bookstores and comic shops to carry: less shelf space, less of a financial commitment in terms of investment.

image* The huge collections -- 2003's Palomar (pictured; 520 pages) and 2004's Locas (780 pages) -- will remain in print. There may even do sequels. "They sell to a different demographic, and unlike the new series, are not comprehensive but rather abridged collections," says Reynolds.

The publicity director also stressed that despite rumors that Gilbert Hernandez's stated desire to do more original graphic novel work might have an impact on the comic book-sized second volume of the Love & Rockets series, that there are no plans to delay or suspend the title, one of the few remaining alternative comic books on the market. Gilbert will simply concentrate on short stories starting with issue #20, and will no longer serialize longer works in the periodical.

I hope to make occasional one-shot feature stories out of lingering questions concerning comics projects or news stories, and ask for your patience until I get up to speed on how they should be written and figuring out appropriate subjects for inquiry.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Xeric Announces Spring ‘07 Winners

imageThe Xeric Foundation released the names of its latest round of comic book project recipients earlier today: $27,235 for seven projects. Artists and projects are as follows, capitalization according to the press release.

* Ryan Alexander-Tanner (Television #1)
* Sam Gaskin (Pizza Wizard #1)
* Tyler Page (Nothing Better Vol. 1: No Place Like Home)
* Jeremy Smith (ROPEBURN)
* Steve MacIsaac (SHIRTLIFTER)
* Erik Evensen (Gods of Asgard)
* Kevin Colden (FISHTOWN)

The press release notes that Kevin Colden has declined the grant money and will continue to post his project (pictured above) in serial form on-line.

The next deadline is July 31.
posted 4:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Todd Goldman News Article

The St. Petersburg Times has a nicely written summary piece on the Todd Goldman affair that roared through the comics Internet some days ago, including indications of forward movement in a couple of areas of which I was unaware.
posted 2:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Christopher’s Punctured Romance

posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

Cartoonist Banned From Iran University

Nureddin Zarrinkelk, a cartoonist best known for his animated film work, has been banned from the University of Tehran for insulting a female student wearing traditional Islamic coverings. The 70-year-old award-winning illustrator of several cartoon-driven books and former caricaturist was also banned from teaching shortly after the 1979 revolution. He is heavily involved in illustration and animation organizations.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 69th Birthday, Moebius!

posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Christopher Hitchens Slams Editors for Not Publishing Danish Cartoons

This profile of the essayist Christopher Hitchens indicates that a part of his speech to the American Society of Magazine Editors at a recent luncheon involved him lambasting the group's members that refused to publish the caricatures of Muhammed as part of their coverage of 2006's Danish Cartoons Controversy, an objection to those cartoons that drove riots, political turmoil and economic retaliation. As much as I feel the original publication of the caricatures was needlessly provocative and ineptly managed, I agree with Hitchens that the subsequent decision by many publications not to fulfill their primary obligation to educate and inform when the nature of those caricatures was at issue around the world should be seen as a critical failure on their part, and was largely driven by fear as opposed to a competing principle.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 34th Birthday, Hiromu Arakawa!

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Massive Zapiro Archive

I'm not certain why I haven't noticed this before, but the on-line presence of South Africa's Mail & Guardian has a gigundus Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro archive. Shapiro is one of the world's most popular editorial cartoonists, and is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the politician Jacob Zuma in a libel case that could have international implications.
posted 2:03 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: India’s Dracula Comics

posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Marvel Entertainment Seeing Spider-Man Film Related Benefits

For those of you tracking the general health of Marvel Entertainment, this article about its first quarter and this article about the company reiterating their expected financial outcome for the rest of the year indicate the company's expected boost in a year with a Spider-Man movie in it. I'm no financial analyst, but this seems to set a pretty dramatic stage for the company-produced movies starting next year with Iron Man and I wonder if recent, glowing talk about future Spider-Man sequels isn't about softening the future for the company in some way.
posted 2:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
John Collins Exhibit
Salon/CBLDF Party Pictures
Matthias Wivel on OCX 2007
Schulz Museum to Show Funny Ladies
Report From Cartooning For Peace Event

Mark Evanier on Vince Colletta
Metabunker Reprints Funny Sarkozy Cartoon

Novelists Do Comic Books
The Shadow of Calvin & Hobbes

Wizard: Eric Powell
CBR: David Gabriel
Bookslut: Eisner Judges
Forces of Good: Jeff Parker
Daily Egyptian: Dan Stearns
Bookslut: Marguerite Abouet
Newsarama: Eddie Campbell
St. Petersburg Times: Denis Gajus

Not Comics
Souther Salazar Spends $5 on Gifts
Newspaper Wins Award For This Shelving Editorial

Changeover at Elderberries
David Welsh on Naruto Assault
Lynda Barry FCBD Offering With Every D&Q Purchase

Chris Barsanti: Korgi Vol. 1
Marc Singer: Army@Love #1-2
Steve Flanagan: The Professor's Daughter

May 7, 2007

CR Review: Johnny Hiro #1


Creator: Fred Chao
Publishing Information: AdHouse Books, comic book, 32 pages, May 2007, $2.95
Ordering Numbers: MAR073077 (Diamond)

This is a reasonably cute, traditional comic book offering from AdHouse Books. Johnny Hiro's girlfriend Mayumi is kidnapped from their New York apartment by a Godzilla exact-alike. This causes Hiro to attempt a rescue while heavily shuttling back to reminisce on his own life of massively unsuccessful heroics. Similarly, Godzilla tromps up the street and turns inward to think on how he was defeated by a giant robot last time he hit a big city. The book ends with an extended cameo by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That's about it, really. Chao has one of those amiable comic styles that you used to see more frequently back in the 1980s; it feels like you could spend eight or eight hundred pages in his world and enjoy every page. His figures are drawn with an understated elegance, and his visual pacing within individual scenes move the eye beautifully. While perhaps most noteworthy for Chao's choice to have Mayumi speak in an over the top, limited English that will likely make 60 percent of this comic's well-meaning white audience squirm, the writing in general displays understanding of comics craft.

The big downside to Johnny Hiro arises from the fact that so little happens. Not only is the reader saddled with a passive protagonist, there's almost no plot progression. Step back, and the entire episode seems to have taken a couple of minutes. This gives the entire comic a weird sense of rhythm: the flashbacks aren't anchored, and therefore tend to overwhelm the present-day narrative through-line. The Michael Bloomberg pay-off feels so hefty and involved and stately compared to scenes Chao burned through earlier in the comic that it's almost like this is a story solely designed to explain Mayor Bloomberg's philosophy of political service. Chao would need to be a divine visual and extremely prolific cartoonist to portray his world through such limited exposure and make us appreciate its details and quirky way of doing things. He's not quite that accomplished, and one doubts that even if if he were that AdHouse is going to publish a monthly. What remains is a pleasant comic distinguished more by its unrealized potential than by any one unique thing it chooses to offer. Like Johnny Hiro, you may by comic's end prefer to simply stare out the window.
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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RSF: Ahmed Abbas Freed on May 3

Reporters Sans Frontieres is reporting that the cartoonist Ahmed Abbas was freed on May 3 after serving a six-month jail term in the Maldives. Abbas had been jailed for a statement to a newspaper concerning that nation's police force. He says he spent much of his time in prison drawing.
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OTBP: Chris Ware’s Uninked


This is the book for the Phoenix Art Museum exhibition curated by Chris Ware showing off art from cartoonists Seth, Gary Panter, Ron Rege, Jerry Moriarty and Kim Deitch. I'm told it's a lovely object itself.
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Does Satire Work the Same Way Now?

There are two reasons to scan through this opinionated feature article on the trouble people in Great Britain have had in satirizing Tony Blair. The first is testimony from Steve Bell on how he came to initially understand Blair which I think says a lot about how cartoonists think in visual terms; the second is a provocative statement by a critic that really nails an idea I haven't seen discussed before in terms of political cartooning. According to Steve Richards at the Independent, cartoonists are operating out of the same savage satirical framework as, say, 50 years ago, but the wider society no longer defers to people in power in a way that justified going after such figures in that way. I don't agree with his concluding statements that this makes such an act cynical, or his supporting statements that satirists hold more power. But I do think there's something to the idea that such cartoons reinforce rather than challenge the status quo, and at the very least, a shift in attitudes might change the overall effectiveness of such cartoons. Is it even possible to puncture a deflated balloon?
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Go, Look: Fantagraphics’ Early 2008


Fantagraphics' latest catalog is the first on-paper word we've seen from a major publisher on the subject of 2008 books. We're compiling that information here, if you have anything .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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Iraqi Wins International ‘Toon Contest

Iraqi cartoonist Mohammed al-Adwani has won the International Editorial Cartoon Contest sponsored by the Canada Press Club. This year's theme was "Shooting the Messenger," and the winning cartoon showed a paper boy being escorted by government security as he tries to ply his wares. I'd reprint the cartoon here, but that feels more like stealing than linking -- it's in the link, though. Iraqi ambassador to Canada Ambassador Howar Ziad accepted the award Thursday in Ottawa on al-Adwani's behalf.
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Happy 65th Birthday, Tony Auth!

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Collective Memory: FCBD 2007

Links to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning Free Comic Book Day 2007, held May 5 at various locations around the world.

This entry will continue to be updated for as long as people .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Free Comic Book Day Web Site

Blog Entries
Johnny Bacardi
Lea Hernandez
Mercury Studio
Mike Rhode 1
Mike Rhode 2
Mike Sterling
Mike Sterling 2

Message Boards

News Stories and Columns
Arizona Republic
Foster's On-Line
Green Bay Press Gazette
Kane County Chronicle
Memphis Flyer
North East Reporter
Norwich Bulletin
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Sandusky Register
The Courier-Journal
The Herald
The Patriot-News
The Review
Trib Total Media
WSJV's Retailer Reports
Bart Bush of Atomik Pop #1
Calum Johnston of Strange Adventures
Chris Powell of Lone Star Comics
Chuck Hancock of All Heroes Comics
Dean Phillips of Krypton Comics
Gabriel Hagmann of DreamStrands Comics, Inc.
Glen Soustek of Westlake Cards, Comics & Coins
Jake Bell of Atomic Comics
Jay Bardyla of Happy Harbor Comics
Joe Murray of Captain Blue Hen
Josh Weddleton of Bosco's
Mahdi Abrahams of Readers Den Comic Shop
Ralph DiBernardo of Jetpack Comics
Steve Bennett of Dark Star Comics
Sydney Walton of Bad Apple Comics 2

Bill Sherman
Graeme McMillan
Johanna Draper Carlson

Aaron Albert at

Green Brain Comics 1
Green Brain Comics 2
Green Brain Comics 3


.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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Happy 56th Birthday, Michael T. Gilbert!

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Prix Lyceen de la BD 2007 Winners

The Ninth Annual Prix Lyceen de la bande dessinee were announced late last week after multiple juries met at multiple schools. The winners who can pick up their award at the 21st Festival BD de Colomiers, held in November.

Grand Prix 2007
Les petits ruisseaux, Pascal Rabate (Futuropolis)

Meilleur scenario
La memoire dans les poches, Luc Brunschwig and Etienne Le Roux (Futuropolis)

Meilleur graphisme
Fantagas, Carlos Nine (Les Reveurs)

Meilleure BD Humour
Beret et Casquette, Jean-Luc Coudray (La Boite a Bulles)

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Quick hits
Where Cartoonists Get Ideas
Teddy Kristiansen Art, Studies

Impressions From OCX
Saturday Was Cartoonists Day
Review of Saul Steinberg Exhibit
Carlo J. Caparas to Speak May 11
Black Comic Book Art Exhibit Review
Pittsburgh Con Report From 10-Year-Old
Severed Leg Nearly Cancels Talbot Signing

Fans Talk Favorites
Comics Were American Humor
Paul Gravett: 25 Years After Fast Fiction

GNs in India: 4X Growth?
Irwin Hasen Suffers Stroke
Reinventing Micropayments
Paper Increases Size of Strips
Robert Ariail Wins State Award
Jonas Moore Targets Ipod Users
Jack Higgins Wins Bar Association Award
Newspaper Adds Mallard to Balance Doonesbury

SFist: Paul Madonna
Wizard: Andy Diggle
WBIR: Scott Stewart
The Pulse: Marv Wolfman
Torontoist: Scott McCloud
Newsweek: Berke Breathed Steve Rude
Register-Guard: Dustin Reese
Short Film on Lorenzo Mattotti
The Enquirer: Berke Breathed Phil Jimenez
Comic Book Bin: Joshua Fialkov
Panels and Pixels: James Kochalka

Not Comics
Birth of a Mascot
Reviews of Dramanga
PDF Comic About BEA
Evan Dorkin's Odd Pub Photo
Various People Love Superheroes
Manga As Education Tool: A Case Against
Washington Post: Homeless in Manga Cafes
Nina Paley's Cartoons Controversial in India

Minx Line Preview
Super Librarian Effort
Licensed Property I Hadn't Thought About

M&C: The Salon
Paul O'Brien: 52 #52
Paul O'Brien: Various
The Observer: Various
Paul O'Brien: X-Factor #18
Matt Brady: Rocketo Vol. 2
David Welsh: Yurara Vol. 1
Douglas Wolk: FCBD Comics
The Star: Crimson Hero Vol. 4
Alex Good: This Will All End in Tears
Paul O'Brien: Astonishing X-Men #21
Faith and Values Culture Corner: Homeland
Adam Stephanides: The Carbon Copy Building
Leroy Douresseaux: Welcome to Tranquility #1
Dirk Deppey: Avril Lavigne's Make 5 Wishes Vol. 1
Geoff Hoppe: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #3
Johanna Draper Carlson: The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer Vol. 6

May 6, 2007

If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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May 5, 2007

CR Sunday Magazine

A Short Interview With The GT Labs Creators Behind Levitation and Wire Mothers: Jim Ottaviani, Dylan Meconis and Janine Johnston



Five Link A Go Go

* go, download: Larry Young's FCBD Offerings

* go, read: Simson Garfinkel on the funnies on-line

* go, read: NYT profile of Nick Bertozzi's The Salon

* missed it: making of The Salon video

* go, listen: This Song Is In English


Go, Look: Kozue Amano



First Thought Of The Day
If the Kentucky Derby were a half-mile race, I totally had the trifecta.
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May 4, 2007

If I Were Anywhere Else, I’d Go To This

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FCBD For Those Without a Shop

Here are a few ways you can take advantage of today's Free Comic Book Day promotion without leaving your computer.

* Go to Wide Awake Press on May 5 and download a free issue of EATS.

* Send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on May 5, and the nice people behind Hogan's Alley will send you a free copy of that magazine.

* Go to Twomorrows' site and get their FCBD offering Comics 101 for printing and postage costs. You can also download PDF issues of Alter Ego #65, Back Issue #21, Jack Kirby Collector #47, Write Now #14, Draw #12, and Rough Stuff #3. Those offers seem to be ending Sunday.

* The 2005 issue of Comics Festival! is available for download here.
posted 11:19 pm PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from April 28 to May 4, 2007:

1. Resolution comes quickly in the New Zealand manga shelving story.

2. Matt Boyd investigated for terroristic communication after making a webcomic.

3. Not comics: Spider-Man 3 opens, marking the beginning of the end of the larger Marvel company's initial phase of post-'90s rebirth that was largely driven by licensing films to high-end Hollywood partners. Phase 2, and taking on the production of the movies themselves, begins in earnest with 2008's Iron Man.

Winner Of The Week
Generation iPod, placing its first major comics executive.

Loser Of The Week
This person.

Quote Of The Week
"Asking if the market is too dependent on event comics is like asking if we're too dependent on comics that people want to read." -- Carr D'Angelo, new ComicsPro board member.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: Campo Di Baba


Creator: Amanda Vahamaki
Publishing Information: Canicola, softcover, 54 pages, 2005, 8 Euros.
Ordering Numbers:

This is one of the first stand-alone efforts -- perhaps even the first stand-alone effort -- from the publishing collective Canicola, whose same-name anthology won the fanzine award at the Angouleme Festival this year. A truly international effort, Campo di Baba (translated as "The Bun Field") is from a Finnish cartoonist and is printed in the Bologna-based group's Italian. It shares with Canicola the innovation of placing the English translation in same-type lettering at the bottom of each page. It's enough like having the work subtitled I'm amazed this isn't the way all such translated comics are done. The book is that attractive literary journal size that's popular now, and handsomely printed.

Camp Di Baba is also a very fine short story. Vahamaki's dream-like tale starts in literal fashion with a child in bed dreaming. The child is awakened and then marched through a series of standard little-kid nightmares: the strange intruder at the breakfast table, driving a car, participating in an adult activity (drinking), being sick and cared after and then, finally, the impossible task, which occurs in the field in the story's title. Vahamaki works with an extreme economy of words and in shaded pencils; she has a lovely way of expressing gradations in emotion through facial expressions and grand gestures. Much of the story is unsettling in a funny way, including a long sequence with a bear driving a car and teasing the boy that wouldn't have been out of place in the bounciest issue of Paper Rodeo.


The set pieces are strongest when Vahamaki hits on some piece of observed behavior that feels absolutely true and out of place and therefore just a little bit terrifying. This includes the changes in a child's face during different facets of that first dream, what a table of adults in a bar looks like when you're a kid and standing in the door, and the way a younger child in diapers rides a bike over a non-paved surface and hunches their shoulders when talking. It's at those moments that Vahamaki overcomes the more precious qualities of her work. It's then that the reader stops being told a dream and starts being in one.
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If I Were in Salt Lake City, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were Attending SCAD, I’d Go To This

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Friday Distractions: NYC Retailers Article

It's not weird at all that the New York Times is whipping up a frothy feature related to Free Comic Book Day. Really, it's not.
posted 3:43 am PST | Permalink

Friday Distractions: CR At The Track

Comics has a lot in common with horse racing in that both were way more popular six to seven decades ago and there are large factions within each community that can't quite get over that fact.

Here is my short list of horse betting and general racetrack guidelines for those of you that can't be bothered to learn how to read the racing form and/or plan on spending your time at the track at some level of marginally functional inebriation. They are applicable to the various races in horse racing's Triple Crown -- the Kentucky Derby (tomorrow), the Preakness Stakes (two weeks from tomorrow), and the Belmont Stakes (three weeks after that).

image1. The Kentucky Derby tends to be much more wide open than the odds reflect. Plus, as the last genuinely popular race, a lot of people bet that don't bet on other races. This means favorites tend to be bet on more than they should, driving down their value. I think the best value is to find one or two horses you like that are going off as moderate long shots (8-1 to 30-1) without being extreme long shots.

2. If you're betting at your local track on the same day as one of the Derbies and want to bet on some local races, pay more attention than usual to the jockey's record. There's a greater disparity in skill at that level, and the winning jockeys seem to get the better rides with much greater regularity than they do at the elite levels.

3. At the Preakness, look at horses that run locally but first check the Kentucky Derby winner to see if they go off at more than 6-1. A lot of experts will stick to their Kentucky Derby choice to save face, and run down what they feel is a fluke Derby winner. This means that these horses can be undervalued.

4. At the Belmont, look at the horses that won the Illinois and the Arkansas Derbies. It's also a fun race to bet long shots.

5. If you like a horse, back up your bets by betting them across (win, place and show) rather than simply to win. If you're smart enough or have a good enough hunch to pick a 65-1 shot to run a good race and they run so well they manage to lose by just a couple of inches, you deserve to be rewarded.

6. Mint juleps are nasty.

7. If you've wondered about it for even a second, yes, you're too old for the infield. Even if you never thought about it at all, you're 99 percent likely to be too old for the infield.

8. The most unfortunate yearly image in all of televised sports is the film they show of the owners and their families cheering on their horses. No one cares if rich people are rewarded in one of their extravagant hobbies.

9. It's fun to sing My Old Kentucky Home.

10. Gambling is an addictive activity, so be careful. Stay addicted to comics.

I haven't yet looked at most of the horses, but I liked Scat Daddy, Cowtown Cat and Teuflesberg when I took a brief peek earlier this week. It feels like a year for favorites, I have to admit, but I'm sticking with my general principles.
posted 3:30 am PST | Permalink

Webcomics as a Terroristic Activity

This posting by Gary Tyrell reveals an incredible-sounding and I guess still-developing story that webcartoonist Matt Boyd was visited by the police due to making a webcomic about being fired due to some unhealthy post-Virginia Tech paranoia regarding his talking about his hobby of target shooting. It's indicative of our times that this kind of thing used to take a practical joke element to get going; now our system has absorbed and integrated the absurdity of such practical jokes right into daily operations.
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Friday Distractions: Cartoonist Profiles


A really solid and compelling piece with Peter Kuper.



The latest in a year's worth of Scott McCloud profiles; this one includes hints of his next book.



A career-snapshot kind of article, featuring Kyle Baker.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: CCI Board Member Faces Massive Civil Suit For Stock Fraud

According to a news article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, a civil suit has been filed against Comic-Con International Board of Directors member Robin Donlan and her husband and fellow science-fiction fan Vencent Donlan for a scheme that may have netted them almost eight million dollars. Both Donlans are San Diego-area teachers. The accusations have to do with the Donlan's work for the San Diego-based Wireless Facilities and not anything having to do with the convention group. Donlan's listed position on the board is VP, Events. Criminal charges are potentially forthcoming.
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Happy 29th Birthday, Shaenon Garrity!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Avi Arad Interview

From a comics perspective, I think there's one thing worth noting about this Avi Arad interview at Wired, and it isn't the description of various CGI solutions. It's this quote: "I had loads of confidence in the company, but felt the only way to take it where it deserves and belongs is to make movies -- big, live-action movies." A lot of people in comics will tell you they totally saw Arad's vision for Marvel coming true -- at least for as far as it has come true so far -- but I'm not sure we should believe them. Marvel itself never acted like it truly valued their characters until the post-bankruptcy executive infusion. I suspect Marvel Comics would be much the same publishing outfit if Marvel Entertainment's sole film offering was a year 2000 Spider-Man starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and John C. McGinley that cost $45 million and made less than twice that. Still, comics is different in many quieter, baseline-shift ways for that new orientation.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Look At All The FCBD Funnybooks!

A few of the comics I won't be picking up tomorrow at a comic book store, as I don't have one.








posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Stuart Immonen on Fontifier

Nimes Preview
FCBD In Lacey
FCBD in Victoria
FCBD in Warsaw
FCBD In Oshkosh
FCBD In Huntsville
FCBD In Burlington
FCBD in Crown Point
FCBD In Fredericksburg
FCBD Event CAPE Gears Up

I Think The Blondie Artists Are Wrong

UPS Opens Up Lulu Store

The Hub: Jason Howard
Newsarama: Alex Cahill
Newsarama: Kyle Baker
WUKY: Brooke McEldowney Scott McCloud
SLG Interviews Crab Scrambly
Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Mell Lazarus
Panels and Pixels: James Kochalka

Not Comics
Mutts Receives 1000 Shelter Stories

Publishing on Tripwire Annual
Dilbert is Freaking Me Out, Man
Grounded to Comics@Newsarama

Chris Randle: Spent
Xavier Guilbert: Shisso Nikki
Dorian Wright: FCBD Comics
Jog: Supernatural: Origins #1
Graeme McMillan: FCBD Comics
David Welsh: Flower of Life Vol. 2
Jiffy Burke: Cryptozoo Crew Vol. 1
Sheena McNeil: Gothic Sports Vol. 1
Geoff Hoppe: Savage Sword of Conan #13
Sheena McNeil: Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy Vol. 3
James Caron: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

May 3, 2007

CR Review: 3 Superhero Comics

imageDynamo 5 #2
Creators: Jay Faerber, Mahmud A Asrar, Ron Riley, Charles Pritchett
Publishing Information: Image, comic book, 28 pages, April 2007, $3.50
Ordering Numbers: FEB071905 (Diamond)

What little I've seen discussed about the superhero comic book Dynamo 5 indicates a two-pronged sales appeal: its high concept of illegitimate children of a superhero inheriting one power each and taking his place, and its employment of a simpler, old-school type of superhero storytelling. It's the latter aspect that dominates upon a first reading, and not in a good way. Issue #2 reads like every nondescript superhero comic book that came out in 1996. From its declarative, overwrought dialog that would seem out of place on the most broadly-played television show to its generic scene and background work that provide nothing in the way of a distinct sense of place to its saucy exchanges between its blandly good-looking leads, Dynamo 5 should be familiar to every reader of a comic book since the middle 1970s. Unlike Robert Kirkman's Invincible, where the central plot twist was buried in an affectionate take on solid storytelling values only to be revealed a year or so in, Dynamo 5's conceit is right up front, a talking point that is re-emphasized in the book in frequently unnatural ways. One character even tells another that she's the kind of attractive lady with whom he spends social time except for the fact she's his sister, which hits the required story point in workmanlike fashion and brings with it the additional oomph of being gross.

In issue #2 we meet a couple of supporting characters and follow the leads as they complain about their situation, go on patrol, say mostly innocuous but lusty things (think David Leisure or Richard Kline) and fight a generic monster-creature guy. Honestly, I could barely tell the characters apart. I remember there's one that sports a ludicrous amount of muscles but the psychic powers, in what I'm sure some folks will think is a terrific twist on comic book stereotypes. That kind of thing just bores me, much like the rest of the book does. I'm past soap opera and the application of powers and smarmy lines and tight costumes and fight scenes and characters that talk alike and rooms that look much the same. I'm certain as funky and morose and complicated as many superhero books are these days that Dynamo 5 might appeal to a certain fan base, one for whom these ideas work or at least provide comfort and entertainment on a level they've come to appreciate. It may find an audience among those experiencing this kind of comic book for the first time. But it's not executed with enough skill to keep my interest. Any random issue of X-Force or Teen Titans or Gen 13 you can find in a discount box for less than this issue's $3.50 would bring with it the same entertainment value.


imageAmazons Attack! #1
Creators: Will Pfeifer, Pete Woods
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, April 2007, $2.99

Reading the first issue of the latest DC mini-series Amazons Attack! hit me in two different ways. The first was that I felt like I was trying to catch up to the rest of a story that either took place in another comic or was simply being ignored due to some whim of modern comic storytelling. Wonder Woman's people, the Amazons of Paradise Island (well, traditionally that's where they're from; I'm not 100 percent certain what the current plotlines say) attack the city of Washington D.C. This visually promising larger than life incident as depicted looks more like they've attacked a stage set of Washington, D.C. where a couple of hundred people live. This includes the President, who makes his home in a White House of super-spacious hallways where apparently no one else works or lives. There's a lot of patented new-style superhero plot chat and general talking (the book is handsome and well-scripted) shoehorned in between the intermittent and extremely orderly violence outside. These transitions prove more and more disorienting as they accumulate; they lend an air of cheap, artificial play-acting to the whole affair.

The second thing that struck me here was how horrifically awful and historically serious the actions shown would be if you step even just a couple of inches away from comic book reality. An invading force gutting tourists on the National Mall, beheading the statue of Abraham Lincoln and blowing up a few key seat-of-power buildings would seriously traumatize everyone in the country for the next dozen years, and reset reality as we know it. Despite what I'm guessing is the usual round of promises from the good folks involved, I don't see anyone remembering these things in significant fashion six months from now. Maybe a re-set button will be involved, or maybe it will just fade when a bigger event comes along, but there's something cynical and kind of fundamentally unpleasant about balancing the usual superhero comic plot-driven backstage drama with a casual and brutal body count.


imageJustice Society of America #5
Creators: Geoff Johns, Fernando Pasarin
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, April 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

The oddest thing about Justice Society of America #5 is that artist Fernando Pasarin draws nearly every male with broad shoulders, a wide torso and an impressively bulging... six-pack of abs. I'm not kidding. Once it gets into your head, the muscle definition on the characters is such you spend more time worrying about the impending failure of our heroes' kidneys than you do whatever bad guy they happen to be facing at the moment. It might not have been noticeable except that there's a two-page spread of life-sized Legion of Super-Heroes statues, where everyone but the extreme body types (Blok, Bouncing Boy) is sporting slight variations on that same, odd design. That moment, and the occasional quirk like a depiction of Arkham Asylum as both a high-tech hospital and an old-fashioned European dungeon, threw me right out of the book. I mean, I wasn't in too deep to begin with, but I had to blink and shake my head before diving back in, which can't be the effect they're looking for.

Justice Society of America #5 is two team-up installments featuring JSA team members grouped with big icons from the Justice League of America as they split up and perform individual missions -- the kind of thing Mike Sekowsky and Gardner Fox would do in four pages. The mystery being investigated revolves around the Legion of Super-Heroes, the future teen superheroes that have since the 1980s struggled through multiple reboots and ongoing tension between serving old and finding new fans. It feels like nothing happens, and in the Superman half of the comic book, nothing does. That half belongs to some nostalgic talk that seems generally designed to show how neat a guy Superman is in that even teen girls love him. If he were an actor, you'd suspect Superman of having written this scene himself.

I guess Justice Society of America #5 is what passes for a perfectly serviceable comic book now: it has some action, it has a lot of talk, it has a few character moments, it spends a significant amount of time convincing you of the awesomeness of its characters, it rewards the longtime reader. It's only when you look at it a bit more closely that you begin to wonder how much is work from the gut that makes a seamless whole, and how much is held together with strings, duct tape and someone's deep affection for the cartoon icons of their youth.


As superhero comic books from two giant publishers, all three books should be widely available in the Direct Market of comic book shops and hobby stores.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were in Portland, I’d Go To This

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Newsmakers: New ComicsPro Board Members Trujillo, Lowell and D’Angelo


At their recent summit in Las Vegas at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, the retailer organization ComicsPro named three new members to their board: Rick Lowell, of Casablanca Comics in Portland, Maine; Benjamin Trujillo, of Star Clipper Comics in St. Louis; and Carr D'Angelo of Earth 2 Comics and Collectibles in Sherman Oaks, California. The new members bring the board's size to nine; they will serve for three years.

For the purposes of getting to know the retailers and some of their general thoughts on industry issues and the ability of ComicsPro to make a difference, CR sent each gentleman the same nine questions. Their responses, for comparison and contrast purposes, can be found below. CR thanks the new board members, and Brian Hibbs for suggesting a focus on the trio.


QUESTION #1: Now that it's had some time to settle in, how do you feel about being on the board?

RICK LOWELL, CASABLANCA COMICS: I feel honored to be working with retailers who are striving to make our industry stronger.

BENJAMIN TRUJILLO, STAR CLIPPER COMICS: I feel a little overwhelmed and excited. After seeing how much the original six board members have achieved with the organization, I hope I'll be able to contribute as much.

CARR D'ANGELO, EARTH 2 COMICS AND COLLECTIBLES: It's an honor and a responsibility with lots of hard work ahead. I kept thinking of Robert Redford at the end of The Candidate when he says, "What do we do now?" An election may be the culmination of one process but it's the beginning of the journey and I look forward to it all.


QUESTION #2: Is there something about your store, or your background, that you think you bring to the board that may not have been there before, maybe a perspective or a skill set?

LOWELL: There are several things. First, I have 20 years multi-store retail experience in a very small market. Geographically, my store is about as far away as possible from some of the other ComicsPRO board members but we all have common concerns and goals. I have a great deal of experience working with the library community as we regularly deal with over 100 libraries helping them build and maintain their collections.

TRUJILLO: I think each of the new board members brings something different to the table: we all have different but successful business models; emphasize different product lines outside our core products; and have cultivated our unique store character. One of the really great things about ComicsPRO is the variety of member retailers and their diverse and valuable approaches to the industry, and I look forward to the opportunity to learn from their experience.

D'ANGELO: Earth-2 opened its doors in 2003, making us one of the newer shops. In some ways, this may give us a unique perspective on the current market. since we came into the business at a time when collections were as important to the bottom line as single issue comics.

Before opening a comic book shop, I spent many years in the entertainment industry as an executive and producer, which gave me lots of experience in building consensus among diverse points of view.


imageQUESTION #3: What for you is the most important issue facing the Direct Market? Is there a short term answer and a long term answer to that question?

LOWELL: I do not think there is one big issue. There are a series of issues. I believe one issue is that the Direct Market needs to grow the number of places where comics are sold. This can be accomplished by the expansion of existing retailers and the addition of new stores in the Direct Market.

TRUJILLO: I believe the single biggest issue facing the direct market is marginalization. By contrast to book retailing at large, our industry is small, overlooked and often dismissed by the average consumer. Recently comics have experienced a level of mainstream exposure that has been absent for several decades. In the long term we need to capitalize on this phenomenon to lead the genre back into the mainstream; in the short term we must increase membership in the ComicsPRO trade organization so that retailers can effectuate a coordinated and successful penetration of the broader market.

D'ANGELO: The short term and long term answer is "growth." The Direct Market used to represent a subset of the outlets that provided comics to the public, and now it is the primary outlet. It's vital for the DM to grow so that comics continue to find a new audience. Publishers are pushing the envelope with projects like Dark Tower, Buffy and Pride of Baghdad which have all brought new readers to comics; We need more shops where they can satisfy their appetite.


QUESTION #4: What do you feel is the one thing ComicsPro needs to get done by next year's meeting in order for the year to have been a successful one?

LOWELL: ComicsPRO needs to expand its membership in the coming year. I was extremely impressed with how well everyone worked together at the meeting in Las Vegas. The existing benefits already make joining worthwhile and we are working on adding more benefits in the coming months.

TRUJILLO: I would be extremely happy if we could double our membership. Membership level is the key to success for ComicsPRO and we need to capitalize on our recent success to persuade other retailers to join the group.

D'ANGELO: I don't think there's one thing because the organization is moving forward on multiple fronts. I expect in the next year we will announce plans for additional membership benefits and see progress in our dialogues with vendors that influence policy to help all retailers. Success will be defined by our many achievements, not a single action.


imageQUESTION #5: Do you think the state of the market is a healthy one? Beyond the bottom line, which has improved greatly since 2002, do you feel the shape and structure of the market is one that bodes well for the future. For instance, is the market too dependent on its biggest publisher? Is it too dependent on Event Comics and mega-crossovers?

LOWELL: I think that the market is healthy. There is incredible potential for continued growth. We are seeing more people than ever looking for the products that we sell. Direct Market stores have become a destination stop for more of the general public, not just traditional comic book fans. The event books may bring people into the stores, but it is all of the other things that we offer that keep them coming back.

TRUJILLO: The market is certainly experiencing short-term growth. The question to me is how we can parlay current short-term success into sustainable industry growth. I think many publishers recognize this and are making an effort to increase public awareness of the comics medium, but it's important to note that many of the recent works to receive mainstream recognition and commercial success have not been published through the typical comic standard-bearers.

D'ANGELO: The market is quite healthy now and I believe it is sustainable because we are serving an audience of readers, not just the speculators who ignited the 1990s boom and bust. Trade paperbacks and hardcover collections do for the comics business what DVDs did for the movie business, providing a long-term revenue stream for what was previously a periodical-based business model.

Asking if the market is too dependent on event comics is like asking if we're too dependent on comics that people want to read. Event comics are the "watercooler comics" that make fans feel like they are part of a larger universe. But the other mainstays that are driving the business are the longterm series like Fables and Y the Last Man and Walking Dead that are great gateway comics for people who want involving stories that don't require you to know 30 or 40 years worth of continuity.


QUESTION #6: How many of the problems facing the Direct Market can be solved by retailers working together? Are there any that are beyond your reach to fix?

LOWELL: I think many of the problems can be fixed. The retailers of ComicsPRO are working together with our vendors and distributors to try to make things better for everyone. There was some very meaningful dialogue at the meeting in Las Vegas and I look forward to more discussions.

TRUJILLO: I can't think of any problem facing the Direct Market that can't be solved by organized retailers working together with the creators, publishers and distributors of Direct Market merchandise.

D'ANGELO: Since the Direct Market is a partnership among publishers, retailers and distributors, retailers can't resolve every issue by themselves. However, the meeting in Vegas demonstrated that getting retailers together will always have a positive effect. Even though we are mostly independent business owners, everyone benefits from the camaraderie, support system and brainstorming.


imageQUESTION #7: If you could make any change not in a retailer but at a company or from your distributor in order to best benefit the Direct Market, what would that change be?

LOWELL: I would do everything within my power to deliver product when scheduled.

TRUJILLO: Some publishers seem inclined to maintain an adversarial relationship with Direct Market retailers instead of a cooperative relationship. I think those attitudes need to change.

D'ANGELO: Since retailers are professionals, I would like to see more marketing and solicitation information aimed directly at retailers. Right now, retailers receive the same information as consumers at the same time as consumers and that limits our ability to stock our stores wisely and efficiently.


QUESTION #8: How do you solve the problem of encouraging new stores when so many retailers are hostile to new stores being started in their area?

LOWELL: I do not understand that. I go out of my way to visit with other retailers. That is one of the great joys that I have in the comics industry. New stores will expand the market, not take away from existing stores. I do not think that opening next to an existing store is a wise idea when there are so many under-served markets out there right now. If someone wants to open a store and be successful there are plenty of opportunities. ComicsPRO is working on a mentoring program just for this purpose.

TRUJILLO: Some markets are badly under-served and some markets are served badly. I believe that the industry needs more healthy and well-run stores, to bring the level of professionalism in the industry up to a higher standard; one which the customer and the product deserve. We attempt to solve the problem by using a mentoring program to help new stores reach a minimum level of professionalism and using the advice of ComicsPRO members and the availability ComicsPRO services to help existing stores better serve their markets.

D'ANGELO: The definition of growth is finding new customers to serve not simply splitting an existing market. I believe the mentoring program will encourage new retailers to find locations that will help them generate new business.


QUESTION #9: What would you like the legacy of your three-year term to be?

LOWELL: I would like to help ComicsPRO be a clear voice for direct market retailers. I would like to help ComicsPRO develop additional benefits to make membership even more valuable.

TRUJILLO: I've got to do this for three years? I haven't considered anything so lofty as a legacy -- I can only hope that after three years I will have helped to build up the membership in the organization and contributed to a clear articulation of industry and retailer specific goals that will positively affect the long-term health of the Direct Market.

D'ANGELO: Inspiring other retailers to commit their time to ComicsPRO so that the membership continues to grow. Strength in numbers.

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: John Porcellino Interview

posted 5:07 am PST | Permalink

Of Flies, Armbands and Rolling Over…

imageFor a short article that repeats one of its main points, a lot of compelling notions are floated in this news brief about Jean Plantu's caricature work on French politician Nicolas Sarkozy. One is that when Plantu added a fly to a cartoon portrait of Sarkozy, the politician was familiar enough to write the longtime Le Monde fixture with concern that the fly had previously been a sign the cartoonist used to mark his depictions of Jean Marie Le Pen. The cartoonist replied by adding more flies and an armband. It's hard to imagine a North American politician being that familiar with one cartoonist's visual cues, or most cartoonists digging in like that when challenged. There's also the notion floated that Plantu goes after Sarkozy so savagely because of the perception that the other editorial parts of the paper were much too lenient in their dealings with him.
posted 3:25 am PST | Permalink

Ali Dilem: Remember My Cartoons

This feature-y type article on the Cartooning For Peace project and their latest presentation in coordination with Press Freedom Day contains about a half-dozen great quotes from Algerian cartoonist Ali Dilem, including the notion that he wants his work to be remembered far more than he wants to be remembered as a persecuted cartoonist. This is the moment I'd post a link to a bunch of Dilem's work, but he may be onto something as it's a lot easier to find his news interviews.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 80th Birthday, Mell Lazarus!

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Tom Artis, RIP

imageComicMix reports that the artist Tom Artis passed away Tuesday in Springfield, Illinois due to complications from diabetes. Artis worked for a variety of publishers, including Marvel, DC, Fleetway/Quality, Dark Horse, and First. He was also a well-regarded and productive artist in Springfield. He was the co-creator with the writer Peter Gill of the title Tailgunner Jo for DC. I will add information to this story as it's sent to me or as I'm able to find it.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 68th Birthday, Denny O’Neil!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Worst War Ever

Pyotr Romanov goes on the record early to note that if the movie 300 contributes in any significant way to eventual armed hostilities between Iran and the United States, this war would automatically shoot to number one on the Dumbest Wars Ever chart, rocketing past 1969's El Salvador and Honduras battle stemming from a soccer game.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 49th Birthday, Bill Sienkiewicz!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

First World Manga on USA Today List?

Brigid Alverson thinks that the appearance of Erin Hunter's Warriors by Dan Jolley and James Barry on the USA Today Top 150 books list is the first for a manga title not generated by the Japanese industry and then translated, and I have no reason to disbelieve her.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 40th Birthday, Adam Hughes!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Cagle on Cartoonists Day

Daryl Cagle's May 2 entry at his blog looks with a wry perspective upon Saturday's other comics celebration, Cartoonists Day, and how it's faded from view.
posted 3:03 am PST | Permalink

Happy 33rd Birthday, Derek Kirk Kim!

posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
FCBD In Italy
Jeff Parker on FCBD
FCBD In Washington, DC
FCBD in Minneapolis/St. Paul
Daniel Sotomayor Event Report
Herge's 100th Around the World
National Cartoonists Day in Pittsburgh

Mark Evanier on Comic Pacs
Craig Yoe on Big Boy Comics
The Five Worst Comic Books Ever Written
Eddie Campbell in Praise of Vinnie Colletta
Remembering The Mystery of the Black Bag

Gil Thorp Pays Tribute to Clients
Maryland's Top Educator Pushes Comics

Newsarama: Shawna Gore
Cambridge as a Manga Hub

Not Comics
Iron Man Photo
Herge Is Money
Article on Japan Cool
Female Bowler Meets Spider-Man
Review of Will Eisner Documentary

Four New Viz Titles
Edison Lee Launches Web Site
Fourth World Omnibus Preview Pages
Ivan Brunetti Covers The New Yorker
DC Applauds Those Who Worked on 52
Cartoonist Gets Good Advice From Editor
Sammy Harkham/Guy Davis To Team Up

Jog: 52 #52
Brian Hibbs: 52 #52
Don MacPherson: 52 #52
Tracey Gray: Wolverine #52
Patti Martinson: Runaways #25
Katherine Keller: White Tiger #5
Ginger Mayerson: Jonah Hex #19
Ben Pogany: The Three Paradoxes
David Welsh: Maggie the Mechanic
Joamette Gil: Lovebunny & Mr. Hell
Jenni Moody: The Walking Dead #37
Leigh Dragoon: Liberty From Hell #1
Ginger Mayerson: Wagamama Kitchen
Tracey Gray: Fallen Son: Wolverine #1
Rebecca Buchanan: Texas Strangers #1
Geoff Hoppe: Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1
Leroy Douresseaux: Death By Chocolate: Redux
Patti Martinson: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #2

May 2, 2007

CR Review: Manhole #2


Creator: Mardou
Publishing Information: Self-Published, magazine-sized mini-comic, 24 pages, Spring 2006, $4
Ordering Numbers:


The second issue of Mardou's self-published omnibus Manhole leads with an impressively ambitious story called "King of It." The story and the other short in the issue, "Snapshot," read like works straight from that rich no-man's-land between fiction and autobiography. The author's confession in the comic's foreword about the first story's basis in real-world emotional truths proves almost unnecessary; I can't imagine anyone reading this comic without thinking there's some reflection of the author's life in its pages.

In "King of It," readers follow a writer, 29 years old, through a brief trip where she cheats on her boyfriend with another writer, a person with whom she's been exchanging letters. We see the affair as it unfolds and bear witness to the lead's rapidly churning state of mind concerning what's happening to her. It's bracing how relatively complex a character progression Mardou allows her main character in a time when so many comics authors are slowing things down to depictions of single moments and specific states of mind. We see such delicate emotional states as whether or not one can know someone through their writing and that panicked, sad feeling one falls into when a personal encounter moves in ambiguous fashion between friendship and greater intimacy. In many ways, "King of It" is what most would think of as a comic with literary values. Like many prose short stories, it tracks one character's changing perceptions played out in terms of a series of experiences, perhaps all in her head, where everything including the narrator's relationship to the reader can be interpreted in multiple ways. The generosity in working on such ambiguity terms intrigues and appeals.


As admirable as her light touch might be as a writer, Mardou's handicapped in both stories by her still-developing artistic skills. It's not that you can't tell significant or moving stories the way Mardou draws. It's that the kind of observed realism through which she portrays the personal encounters suffers for the clumsiness of the figures and the relative dearth of richness in their world. Unlike with "Snapshot," where better art would have simply augmented certain effects and moments of humor, in "King of It," Mardou loses the ability to press a specific interpretation of what's happened or suggest that all interpretations are valid -- she gets the latter by default. This puts way too much pressure on staging and dialog to communicate the story's points of emphasis. One clever formal trick with white space impresses, but it almost works against the story by suggesting a force to the narrative that's missing on other pages. The end result is that at times the writing feels forced, even cliched, putting the reader in a position similar to figuring out if a song has any power by reading the lyrics. It's a balance that Mardou hopefully one day finds and employs; I don't think she's far away from doing so.


this book is more than a year old, but the artist's web site is here
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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This Isn’t A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market


Here are a few books that jump out at me from this week's probably mostly accurate list of books shipping from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. to comic book and hobby shops across North America.

I might not buy all of the following -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick them up and look at them, potentially resulting in mean words and an angry stare from my retailer.


JAN072400 ASTONISHING X-MEN #21 $2.99
MAR072108 RUNAWAYS #26 $2.99
Chris Butcher gathered these three books together on his list, noting that they're all written by Joss Whedon. I don't know if it's a good thing to have all the books by the same guy coming out on the same day or not. On the one hand, you can refer a customer for one to the others. On the other hand, I would imagine it's better to have people coming in the shop every week to look for something. Still, there it is; it's not like the two companies involved are going to compare notes and coordinate their release schedules. I'm not buying any of these series, so I can't really comment on their content, but this in and of itself might be reason enough for a lot of folks to hit the funnybook shop today.

The best trade out this week in a week suited for curiosity browsing. If you don't have it, you want it. I have to say, I never got the feeling there was a huge demand for a brand new edition of Eric Drooker's silent story. Hopefully, this one looks nice and will be kept in print.

JAN071930 WALKING DEAD VOL 2 HC (MR) $29.99
Two new books in overlapping trade programs for Robert Kirkman's popular, sprawling, zombie epic. This may be Image's flagship title right now. I'm not a regular reader, so don't ask me about the insides. Lots of cliffhangers and biting.

FEB070244 52 WEEK #52 $2.50
I didn't like the only book in this weekly series I read -- or I didn't like one and I've totally forgotten the other -- but I always watch the last episodes of television shows whether or not I watched the series itself so I'd be tempted to look at this. Also, this review is making a number of people give the series a second look. A definite success for DC Comics; I would have lost thousands of dollars were I to have been able to bet against it retaining so many readers throughout its run.

Jeff Smith's charming series continues. Since I have two copies of Flood!, I'd probably leave the comic shop having looked at all the others listed here but buying this one.

I'm not exactly a whiz with mainstream comics history, but I believe these army men vs. dinosaurs stories originally ran in Star Spangled War Stories. The ideal delivery system on these comics would be individual books stuffed into a wicker basket that you would discover on the porch of somebody's lakehouse when looking for something to read when your parents are keeping you out of the water for 30 minutes after lunch (damn you, cramps!), but a black and white version under one cover might do, too.

This is another reason being near a comic book shop can sometimes be a great thing. I have a lot of friends that are Walt Simonson fans that were older and disinterested in comics by the time this material came out. So if I could pick it up and see how it looks, I might keep it in mind for a present or two.

FEB073807 KORGI VOL 1 TP $10.00
The latest in Top Shelf's Owly-style group of all-ages or all-ages-like books; I'm not certain this is in any way, shape or form something for me, but what I've seen of the art confused me a bit, so I'd like to pick it up and flip through it.


The full list of this week's releases, including some titles with multiple cover variations and a long, impressive list of toys and other stuff that isn't comics, can be found here. Despite this official list there's no guarantee a comic will show up in the stores as promised, or in all of the stores as opposed to just a few. Also, stores choose what they carry and don't carry.

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, try this.

The above titles are listed with their Diamond order code in the first field, which may assist you in finding comics at your shop or having them order something for you they don't have in-stock.

If I didn't list your new comic, it's probably just because I missed it. It could be because our tastes differ. It's not because I hate you. I love you.
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Fortune on Marvel Stock

I tend not to breathlessly post links to every article about Marvel's stock situation, but I thought this piece by Fortune's David Stires seemed concise and rational rather than the usual bloviation the topic seems to engender. I'm not even sure I share Stires' slightly dire outlook, but I think he makes the correct argument about when the new attitude came in at Marvel and I believe he's spot on with his reminder that the shift in film financing model is more important than the usual stock price surge that comes with every Spider-Man movie.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: Cornelius Blog

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

FPI on French Manga Publishing Fears

Using an article as a springboard, the Forbidden Planet International blog puts into wonderfully plain and sensible English the idea that's been lingering for a couple of weeks now that the election of Segolene Royal to the French presidency could have potentially negative consequences. Something to read and issue on which to keep an eye. The same piece mentions a resistance to manga by French BD shops that I hadn't heard full articulated, either.
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Go, Look: Tom Hart’s Spider Week

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The State of the Editorial Cartoon

imageThe American Political Science Association has devoted the April issue of its publication Political Science & Politics to the practice of making editorial cartoons. If nothing else, the placement of that material on-line has yielded a bonanza of original content in PDF form , including an interview with Clay Bennett and an interview with Ann Telnaes. The whole affair is presided over by longtime Comics Journal contributor and recent MoCCA Festival fixture Kent Worcester, so I expect most of what you'll find here is worth a read. I know I'll be digging into it.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 63rd Birthday, Howard Cruse!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Tezuka Prize Nominees

I'm a little unclear if the works listed are the Manga Grand Prize nominees in Asahi Shimbun's 11th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes or the pool from which all four prizes are selected -- I'd guess the former -- but these are the nominees that the manga-focused web sites are carrying.

The awards will be named on May 10th. Past winners of the Grand Prize include Monster and Times of Botchan.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 52nd Birthday, Jerry Scott!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Steve Hamaker Videos on Coloring Shazam
Eddie Campbell on Collage Work and Scanning

FCBD in Lapeer
FCBD in Boulder
FCBD in Jamestown
FCBD in Connecticut
FCBD in Battle Creek
FCBD in Ft. Lauderdale
Win a Copy of The Salon
PWCW on SVA Senior Events
PWCW Report on Kids' Comic Con
PWCW Report on Hangzhou Festival
Daily Cross Hatch Report on Microcon

Mike Sterling Posts Old Nancy Ads
Tim O'Neil Spotlights Weird X-Men Period

Garry Trudeau to Be Honored at Ken Book Awards

Newsarama: Ron Marz
Express: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Broken Frontier: James Vining Erica Friedman
Newsarama: Andy Runton, Christian Slade II

Not Comics
Matt Richtel Finds Time For Novel
Funny Handout From Pittsburgh Con

Free The Incorrigible Hulk!
Viz Adds Five Shojo Series
29th Dilbert Book Imminent
Spot the Frog Book Imminent
Soleil's L'Echo des Savanes Examined

Jog: House
Matt Brady: To Dance
Wil Moss: God Save the Queen
Erica Friedman: Honey & Honey
Leroy Douresseaux: The Spirit #4
Johanna Draper Carlson: First In Space


May 1, 2007

CR Review: Percy Gloom


Creator: Cathy Malkasian
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, hardcover, 150 pages, June 2007, $18.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781560978459 (ISBN13)

Fantagraphics decided to publish Cathy Malkasian's lovely new graphic novel Percy Gloom after seeing the first third of it. This act of faith may not have been extravagant, but it likely paid off better than they can imagine. While the author's first sustained comics work carries considerable surface charms which you can see from page one, the book's greatest strength is how well it all comes together as a singular, creative statement. It's rare to see a graphic novel that evolves and changes throughout, becoming complete only on its last page. It's uncommon to seen any long comics work this good from a first-time author. Percy Gloom is one of the best books out this year.

imageI was prepared to hate it. Fragile Percy Gloom ventures forward from his room in hopes of landing his dream job: writing cautionary literature about the dangers inherent in everyday items. Becoming an object of desire for one of the city's leading lights after healing her toenail with his saliva -- the first time in the history of the world that particular sentence has been written -- Gloom slowly sheds the grief caused by the loss of a loved one and despite his own inward nature begins to assume a major role in the community's secret, ongoing drama.

In less assured hands, Percy Gloom might have been another offering in a recent wave of works featuring fairy-tale settings and hearts worn on sleeves. Malkasian, perhaps learning from the structural storytelling demands that come with directing feature film-length work, has put together a consistently rewarding narrative that builds to a series of satisfying climaxes, each of which re-casts the entire work in a slightly new way. Her artwork is somber yet attractive; her designs are sturdy and even spry; her understanding of comics pacing through panel structure and directing the eye are judiciously applied. Most importantly, her conceptual set pieces are strong enough to reward deeper exploration, opportunities for which prove ample because of the deliberate pacing. Unlike many cartoonists, Malkasian introduces ideas into her longer work that are clever enough you want to share them with people independent of the comic, and she uses them to make statements of value that correspond to her themes.


Beyond testifying as to Malkasian's skill and describing the parameters in which she's decided to work, I'm not sure how much there is to say about Percy Gloom other than I recommend you read it. This kind of arch, adult fantasy is likely not everyone's cup of tea, and some may have no use for patiently dispensed life lessons no matter how seamlessly they're brought to light. For my part, I can't imagine we'll see a more assured and surprising debut this year.


thanks to Rob Goodin for help with the art
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Denver, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Newsmaker: Brendan Burford



On April 23, a little more than a month after the sudden passing of Editor in Chief Jay Kennedy, King Features Syndicate named Associate Editor Brendan Burford to the position of Comics Editor, where he has assumed the comics-related duties of his longtime mentor. What makes this news worthing noting isn't just that the giant syndicate named a well-liked member of the King Features family to the position, but that Burford cuts a slightly different profile than any major comic strip editor that's come before him: he's a cartoonist, a graduate of School of Visual Arts, he was briefly an employee of a major comic book company, he's a small press comics anthology editor and publisher (Syncopated), and he's younger than 30 years old. Mr. Burford was nice enough to give me a few minutes of his time late last week. We talked about the significance of his place in comics, some of the issues that King Features may face in the years ahead, and what he learned from his predecessor and friend.


TOM SPURGEON: When your promotion was announced, I think it was [King Features President] Rocky Shepard who in one of the articles indicated that you were the heir apparent. Were you aware of this? Was this position something you felt you might want someday?

BRENDAN BURFORD: Regardless of how I felt about it, initially speaking at least, it was made very clear to me by Jay [Kennedy] and by the president of the company that I would, if I stuck around, take over for Jay one day. Before Jay passed away, that could have meant a year from now, or it could have meant five years from now. There was no timetable. Jay and I always spoke candidly and frankly. "You know, if you want to, one day you can run this place. You just have to stick around until I'm gone." He sometimes talked about moving on to try other things, or retirement, he was never one of these guys who knew he was going to be at King Features until he was 65. He lived for the day.

SPURGEON: He had gone through such a massive life event himself several months before his passing it wouldn't be surprising to me if he had turned reflective.

BURFORD: It's possible. I had noticed that in various aspects of his life. But in terms of his job, it's not like he re-evaluated his job. He always had this attitude of living for the day. He was always cognizant that a year from now he could have moved onto another thing.

imageHe was a very considerate person towards King Features in thinking, "I'm not going to leave them high and dry if I am gone one day." So there was kind of this grooming process with me. He wasn't just considerate to King Features. He was considerate to me. This is really not a difficult transition for me to make aside from the emotional impact that it's had on me because I've lost a very good friend. But as far as knowing how to do this job, I can do the job.

SPURGEON: Is there any specific duty you have now for which you haven't been trained? Have you done any hands-on editing with the strips?

BURFORD: Yeah. I've launched a couple of strips with King where I was the primary editor of the strip. Jay and I basically split the chore. When it came to launching new stuff, it was like he would take one out, and then I would take one out. When it came to the existing list of features we represent, anybody who needed hand-holding he would take some, I would take some. A lot of them were just on autopilot. We have our copy editors down in Orlando, who if any flags went up they probably... the last two or three years they would just usually call me because they would just get an answer from me quicker. [laughter]

A lot of that stuff hasn't changed. There's a learning curve on a couple of things. I was never really dealing with contract negotiations, and I'm probably going to have to step in and do more of that. In the end, we have smart lawyers here, we have people who know how to draft contracts. King Features writes a really fair contract, too. You know this.

SPURGEON: Yeah, sure.

BURFORD: We're not interested in screwing anyone. We want to cultivate a long-term, healthy relationship. It's not like it's a monumental task that's now fallen on me.

SPURGEON: In terms of both in-house and the cartoonists, has there been support for you during this transitional period?

BURFORD: Absolutely. It's really flattering, actually. We have a great team internally here. Some really sweet people we work with. And some really smart people we work with, too. They know what they're doing. I've had a relationship with these people for over seven years now. It's grown from the beginnings on the lower part of the totem pole where I set up, and I've climbed up through the years. Everyone has been supportive and sweet about it. The cartoonists as well. I've gotten dozens of e-mails, phone calls, letters, all of that, expressing either support or joy or relief or whatever it is. "If Jay can't be there, we're glad you are." It's been encouraging and flattering. I don't feel like I have to swim upstream too much when it comes to convincing people. I start in a good spot, and I just have to continue.

imageSPURGEON: One thing I was confused by is that Jay's title was Editor in Chief while you're Comics Editor. Did Jay have the columnists, too?

BURFORD: Not really. We have a gentleman here named Glenn Mott. He's the managing editor. He handles columns. He is also our director of book publishing, because he comes from the book publishing world. Glenn has been working here for about six years now. Jay let him do what he needed to do with columns, and that's how it's going to continue. Jay was his boss, and Jay was my boss. Jay had Glenn on the columns side and me on the comics side. Now essentially Glenn and I neither of us answers to either one. He runs the columns program and I'm running the comics program.

SPURGEON: I think people are familiar with how you might conduct a relationship with a new cartoonist, or a developing one, but as Editor how do you interact with the well-established pros?

BURFORD: Sometimes months will pass where I don't talk to some cartoonists. There's constant contact between them and our copy editors. I might need to call them if there's a problem with a strip. "Hey, we can't say that." Or "We have to pull this strip or it's going to get us in trouble." Sometimes it's damage control. Other times it's working on promotional programs for one of those established strip, being the creative guiding force, and even kind of a conduit for the creator to our marketing and PR department, or our sales department or whatever. Jay and I were always the guys who could speak their language and translate it to everybody else.

Our basic relationship is that whenever something does come up and there is something that needs editorial guidance or translation or whatever, we're there for that. I think I generally have a good rapport with the established cartoonists. They think I know a lot about comics. They respect my opinion about things. It's all very comfortable.

SPURGEON: One more technical question about the transition. How much of Jay's work is still in the backlog? How much are we still going to see that's Jay's?

BURFORD: There's a strip coming out in May called My Cage by Ed Power and Melissa DeJesus. It's a work environment/home environment strip about these anthropomorphic animals. It's got a manga-influenced art style to it, so we're trying to appeal to the younger readers. It's very much a young person in their 20s working a professional job and the life they lead. It's a slice of life strip. It certainly isn't manga, but it has that influence in its look. Jay was really high on that strip and was really super-instrumental in getting that developed and launched. I didn't have a whole lot to do with that strip myself. But now I've taken over and been a guiding force for the creative team.

Basically, that's it. There's a strip I'm taking out to the May sales meeting at the end of May called Arctic Circle, by this cartoonist named Alex Hallatt, who lives in New Zealand. Jay said "We'd like to give you a development deal," and then handed it over to me. It became more my strip than his strip towards the end. He had a million things going on, and he said, "Hey, do you want this?" And I said, "Sure." I also have a couple of strips that date back to before Jay's passing in the development queue. I'm up to the beginning of 2008.

SPURGEON: How would you characterize the DailyINK effort at this moment in time? I'd be particularly interested in how your perception of the initiative might have changed now that you have a couple of years under your belt.

BURFORD: I think DailyINK is a logical digital application of the print syndication cartoons. You have the stuff, and of course you want to put it out there every which way you can. DailyINK is a way to put it out there. Philosophically we don't want to put everything out there for free. We want to hold back as much as we can. We think there's value to this stuff. How do you expect the cartoonists to get paid and etc., etc. Granted, most people know the majority of the money comes from print revenues, but we have to start precedents. It's a logical extension of print syndication. It definitely needs to grow, but I think people still are kind of trying to feel it out and see what's going to happen.

We certainly recognize that it's something that needs to be attacked, something that needs to be done, but our attitude and our philosophy all the way back to us wanting to hold back on giving away free comics is to just slow down, wait for things to develop, make the move when it makes sense and it's right. I think there's so much figuring out to still be done. How is this a business? If it is a business, and we try to apply it, are we going to kick ourselves for having gone out too soon with that business. Are we going to be disappointed in that business for not having greater returns and if that is the case, how long do you stick with it before you change course? So it's an ongoing research project to figure out where we want to make our mark and how we want to make our mark. All of that said, I think you can expect some things from King Features in the next year or two. Big things, where digital space is concerned.

SPURGEON: Would you describe that effort as augmenting what DailyINK does or supplanting it?

BURFORD: I think it's more of an augmentation than anything else. You can't supplant it. If you're going to go direct to your consumer, you want to do it in as friendly a way as possible. Like I said, it's such a logical, easy extension of what we're already doing, we have the strips. We have coding to make it so that people can pick whatever strips they want, pay for them, search through the archives, enlarge them, all those bells and whistles that come up. You have to do that in my mind.

SPURGEON: I'd like to ask you about the state of the market. My eyes got a little wide a few months back when Foxtrot dumped its dailies, and there was no clear successor, you had strips at all levels picking up papers. It seemed to me that indicated a market of really diverse access points, not a successive hit market anymore. I know this is a lot to ask, but do you have a basic grasp on where the market is right now and how King Features approaches this moment in strip history?

BURFORD: I think the Foxtrot discussion is a good segue into this larger discussion. What it taught me and I imagine the other syndicates as well was that this whole, "This is the logical replacement for this strip because it meets that old strip's demographic need, etc., etc."? That's all bullshit.

Editors, if they want to buy a new comic strip, it probably means they had to drop something to fit it in. Either a retiring strip, or a strip that polled weakly, or a strip they got angry letters about. There are a million different scenarios that occur. When that happens, the editors at these newspapers have their wish lists. Often very high on their wish lists is something like Zits. When Foxtrot falls out, what happens? Well, there's no real logical demographic replacement for that necessarily anyway, it had a uniqueness to it. If any syndicate went out trying to find that logical demographic replacement for Foxtrot, I think they learned quickly that newspapers put in whatever was first on their wish list. If Zits was first, that's what they put in. If our new strip Edison Lee was first, that's what they put in. Tina's Groove picked up a lot of slots; Tina's Groove and Foxtrot are two very different strips in terms of demographic, but Rina Piccolo benefited from that.

SPURGEON: How much is demographic appeal a driving factor in strip development. It seems that there are two competing impulses in new strips. One is this unique artistic contribution, and the other is a strip that appeals to a certain demographic, "This is the strip for this kind of person" kind of marketing. How much is each a part of King Features' philosophy? How do you balance those impulses? I know it's not a clear delineation.

BURFORD: It's a little bit of both, right? First of all, very perceptive question. This is something that I'm conflicted about and don't know the answer to. The business part of me says if there was a formula we'd be out with it every time. But there isn't a formula. I think if you look at the last ten launches from King Features, back to the early 2000s, you'll find an even distribution of strips that are built solely to meet some kind of demographic need, or it's built in with all kinds of hooks that those hooks are going to be what actually sells it. And then there's the strips where we're selling it just on the merits of the cartoonist, the unique voice, who this person is. And then there's going to be with that, the overarching that they're all talented enough to become syndicated, and some might have hooks.


Perfect example: we came up with a strip called Retail. It's in the title! [Spurgeon laughs] It's a strip about retail workers; we want to appeal to this part of the demographic. It makes perfect sense. It's someone who is not represented. Something like 33 percent of the US workforce has worked in retail at some point in their life. It's obvious. But the guy's talented. He [Norm Feuti] writes good gags and has created some characters I think are likable. On the other hand, I have this strip I'm taking out for my May sales meeting. It's a very simple premise. It's not necessarily hook-laden. It's a unique cartoonist with a unique voice. We're going to sell it based on the fact that this is a humorous strip.

If you look in the past, how do you categorize Calvin and Hobbes? How do you really characterize Zits? How do you characterize Mutts? Oh sure, it's "Oh, that's the animal strip." Or "That's the teen versus the parents strip." Those are so general you can't call them hooks. On that general level you could categorize everything. What we're really looking at with Calvin and Hobbes and Zits and Mutts is that it's the geniuses behind them that make them tick.

That's a long way to get to "I don't know." [laughter] My default setting is go after the voice. I like to think of myself as an artist's advocate-type editor. I'm super-liberal when it comes to that debate. I always defer to someone I think is a talented person, and I try to let their talent and their impulses shine through more than some kind of contrivance, some kind of concoction. That's what I lean towards.

imageSPURGEON: What happens to Syncopated now?

BURFORD: I don't plan on stopping. I think that comics as first-person journalism, or comics as journalism, is a great, viable way of introducing comics to a non-comics reading public. That's what I kind of want to go for with Syncopated, an easy entry point for literate people. I plan on it growing; I want it to become better. I want it to become less of a guy doing it out of his home studio [laughter] and more of a professional type periodical.

SPURGEON: When I thought of Syncopated recently, it occurred to me you might have the first small-press anthology with 4000 submissions, just from people trying to get your attention due to your day job.

BURFORD: It's so funny. My personal e-mail address is out there, you just have to look for it. My King Features e-mail isn't necessarily. I'm getting e-mails from people about King on my personal e-mail address now. It's like, "What do I do? Do I change it? Do I shut it down?" I think I can kind of keep church and state separate.

SPURGEON: Of the one or two things I thought might be specific challenges for a syndicate right now, one is the changes in marketing and publicity due to the rise of new media. Is there any thought to changing how you get the word out and how you maintain a level of buzz about your properties as the media landscape changes?

BURFORD: So much of what King Features offers are just pop culture icons. They won't disappear overnight. They'll still be around. As far as new stuff, I'm excited about new media possibilities for market awareness. And if digital media itself ends up being something we get very, very involved in, I'm going to be able to call on cartoonists I've never been able to call on before. That excites me to no end. Don't get me wrong. I like the classic business of comic strip syndication to newspapers. But we need to be nimble and think about the future. We're going to continue to do that for a very long time, even inside the strict parameters of what's acceptable. But to me the sky's the limit. I don't see any reason why a company that's lasted over a hundred years can't last another hundred just because there are changes in platform.

SPURGEON: How much of your job is maximizing these properties with which you're in partnership? Is it more a matter of managing the strip aspects and what happens, happens, or are you a driving force behind seeing these properties succeed in all areas?

BURFORD: Essentially the buck stops here. Anything that happens creatively with one of our comic strips, it's not going to happen without crossing my desk.

SPURGEON: Do you have input on something as specific as the new Popeye book from Fantagraphics?

BURFORD: With that particular book, we deferred to Fantagraphics. As far as the deal is concerned, Glenn Mott comes from the book publishing world and he's involved with structuring deals. I get involved when there are creative questions. There weren't a lot of creative questions on Popeye. Boy, that was a beautiful book.

We're very involved with a new Blondie book coming out, the creative back and forth with the publisher. It's a case by case thing. There's no overarching policy. We've published some beautiful books for Patrick McDonnell through Andrews McMeel and Abrams... and you'd be an idiot not to defer to Pat McDonnell on projects like that. He has one of the best eyes in the business. We're here to facilitate that.

SPURGEON: Do you have people in Hollywood? Licensing agents and all that?

BURFORD: We're constantly involved with finding opportunities for our properties. But it's a limited world of possibilities and we have a really big list. You want to make everybody happy. But oftentimes you go with the stuff that's proven to work, or something that's on the table at the moment. When someone comes to us that prompts activity with that strip. We try to pay equal attention to everything, obviously. If there's an event or something's occurring out there that makes us think it's a good time to pay attention to Bizarro, for example, that thinking is constantly turned over and renewed. I think we do a pretty good job of juggling a list of about 70 comic strips in an incredibly finite world.

SPURGEON: Let me ask you about that, then. Is there any thought that with declining newspaper circulation and the shrinking number of papers, period, that you're carrying too many features, that there's bloat in your back catalog that doesn't serve the whole?

BURFORD: That's a good question. I don't know how I feel about that question, and I don't really have a stance on it necessarily. But I can tell you the reality of it. Philosophically is another question, but the reality of it is this. King Features takes out about two or three new comic strips a year. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. You know this. And it's not necessarily based on the merits of the comic strip. In my perfect world, Franklin Fibbs would have been right there with the rest of them making everybody money. But it didn't take.

I've deviated from your question a bit, but the point is this. We launch two to three new comic strips a year. When we launch those new comic strips, it gives our guys a new opportunity to call on an editor at a newspaper and talk to them about the list, and talk to them about what we've got that's new, or something on the back list they might be interested in. If they failed all that often, we wouldn't take that many out a year. There's room enough for them to survive. In the end it's a business. We believe in the comics business. We believe there's room for more than a dozen cartoonists. We want to put as much good stuff out there as possible. That's kind of the purist take on it. It makes it exciting for me. I get to work with these great new people all the time. It makes me want to report to work every day.

SPURGEON: I never considered the idea that having new strip might be a positive beyond selling that strip that day.

BURFORD: It's good to get that feedback, to find out if we were just thinking in a vacuum when we cooked something up. We don't always know. I think we generally come out with good stuff. Some of the really good stuff doesn't always survive, but if there was a formula, we'd take advantage of it.

SPURGEON: I've noticed more comic strip cartoonists at conventions like San Diego and MoCCA, and more book signings and the like. Is this something you'd like to see continue, comic strip cartoonists taking their seat at the table for all comics?

BURFORD: I worked at DC Comics for a year as an editorial assistant. I was talking to one of the editors there. Some pages from Walt Simonson came through and I said, "I always thought he was such a great cartoonist." He stopped me and said, "You know you're one of the few poeple that calls comic book artists cartoonists." I'm like "Don't give me that bullshit!" I don't care if you're Frank Frazetta or Charles Schulz or anyone in between, you're a cartoonist. A few people are illustrators, but most are cartoonists.

The reason I bring that up is to let you know that to me comics is comics. Whether you're a comic strip, a superhero comic book, or Robert Crumb, or some autobiographical underground thing, or you're an editorial cartoonist or you're doing Dr. Seuss-type stuff. It's cartoons. Comics is comics in my mind. So the whole convention thing makes sense that syndicate cartoonists are mentioned and recognized in the same category in the same vein as whoever the flavor of the month might be in the alternative comix world or the superhero world or even the manga world. Appearing at a convention solidifies in my mind this definition of comics being all married and all connected by this common thread.

Even more fundamentally, you're probably seeing a little more awareness towards convention because comics are big again. The graphic novel boom. The manga boom. And it's reported on. Guys like you and Dirk [Deppey] and Heidi [MacDonald]. It's reported on. It's an awareness factor I think.

SPURGEON: Are you going to have travel more in this position?

BURFORD: Probably a little bit more. I did some traveling before. Three times a year we have a sales meeting. It's not always here in New York. So I'll do some traveling for that. I attend the Reubens every year. I travel for that. The Ohio State cartooning conference they have every third year. There's probably going to be more traveling as an ambassador, more the stuff Jay used to do.

SPURGEON: Have you given that aspect any thought? You're the face of King Features now to a lot of people.

BURFORD: I wouldn't think of myself that way. The face of King Features is the comics, and I'm the guy who's facilitating it.

SPURGEON: Sure, but when you walk in a room now, King Features has shown up.

BURFORD: That was happening before, to be honest with you. I'd go to an NCS Christmas party, and a million guys -- of course a million guys would be exaggerating -- a couple of guys would approach and say, "Brendan, I have a great idea for a strip. Can I send it to you?" I was probably deflecting a lot of it for Jay. Maybe I'll notice an up tick in that attention now.


SPURGEON: Have you ever had someone pitch you a strip in a weird place?

BURFORD: A weird place?

SPURGEON: Like a taxicab or at a cocktail party. Because as much news as there is about the bleak prospects, there's still massive interest by people in getting a strip into the newspapers.

BURFORD: Everybody and their mothers thinks they can do it, because it's so deceptively simple looking. It really is one of those last Cinderella professions, where it seems like something an average guy can accomplish. As opposed to something like professional baseball. I should dispel that, though, because I think a good cartoonist works just as hard and has just as much innate talent as a major league baseball player. It's probably harder to get a job for a cartoonist than it is for major league baseball player.

SPURGEON: But while a sports team might once in a blue moon time some guy's 40-yard dash in the parking lot, you're primarily known for an open submissions process.

BURFORD: It is different. Everyone's welcome. You can imagine the shit that comes through here because of that. [Spurgeon laughs] Even then, with the open submissions process and everything, so much of what we wind up taking out for syndication is something that we sought out. Sometimes it does come through the submission process, but usually what it will be is someone that has been submitting for years and years and years and they've finally honed their craft and they've landed on a premise that will work. Or we've teamed them up with a cartoonist that's right for their sensibility. The actual Cinderella scenario? Kind of rare. The first submission ever that comes out of nowhere? The cartoonist phenom? Rarely happens. We have our radar up and we know what's out there.

SPURGEON: I remember asking Jay about webcartoonists once. He said while he liked many of them, there weren't any he'd want to distribute. Is that an area you're interested in, that you keep track of?

BURFORD: I try to stay on top of it. There are several that I am impressed with and I think to myself, "It'd be great to run a comic strip by this person if it was appropriate for the newspapers."

That's what I was talking about before when I said there may come a time when I can call on a lot of these people and I really couldn't before. You talk to any book publisher or any arts outlet they're looking at bloggers and do-it-yourself artists. Look at the comic book world. How many graphic novels come from mini-comics artists? John Porcellino. Jesus. He's a genius. Gabrielle Bell, all these people. That's what I get excited about. People that are passionate enough to do it with their own free time and fold and staple and save their money and deal with a printer. It smacks of ultimate passion for this thing you're guaranteed not to make money at.


SPURGEON: What are your ambitions for your own comics?

BURFORD: Pretty modest. I don't think I'm a very talented cartoonist. I have a pretty good grasp on what I want to do, and I experience some level of frustration in not always being able to accomplish what I have in mind because of my limitations or whatever. I just want to make a small contribution. With Syncopated, if I can sprinkle in a story here or there, that's all I need. That makes me happy.

SPURGEON: What is the specific appeal for you in making comics?

BURFORD: I think it's the same for most people. Having worked really hard on something, getting it into the hands of others and having those who do have their hands on it reacting in a positive way. Their saying, "I really liked that." Or "You have an interesting way of drawing." Or "You have some really interesting sensibilities when it comes to writing." That kind of feedback, that kind of reward, you could pay me half a million dollars, and I'd take the other over the money any day. [laughs]

My whole life I've been living and breathing comics. Since I could literally read, since I could pick up a pencil, it's been comics comics comics for me. Just to be involved in the industry to the capacity I am with King Features is an amazing reward for me. To be able to draw some comics and get some feedback is an amazing amount of reward for me. To save my money and deal with a printer and get a book printed up is an amazing amount of reward for me. These are very different things: the cartoonist, the publisher, the editor -- all these aspects of the comics payoff that I really do feed off of.

SPURGEON: This might be too ludicrously broad for you to answer, but think ahead a year: how will the office of cartoon editor at King Features be different than it was a year ago?

BURFORD: In a general sense, we're two different people, Jay and I, as much as we had these amazingly parallel lives in what we did with ourselves and how we go about our lives and the accomplishments we've had, etc. We had different sensibilities. We're two different men. We disagreed a lot. Always very constructively, never angry at each other, but I'd walk into his office and say, "Yeah, this has got to go. This doesn't look good to me. I think it's shit." He'd say, "I don't know... I think it's pretty great. I think we should go with it." I'd be like, "Well, my opinion is that if we go with it, we'll look like idiots." He said, "You know what? I'm the boss and that's what we're doing." And I'd say, "Well, I just want you to know I disagree with you wholeheartedly, but I respect that you're the boss." That was the typical Jay and Brendan disagreement. I'm at a very different point in my life. I'm 28 years old. He was 50.

SPURGEON: [laughs] Holy crap...

BURFORD: I'll be 29 this year! It's all just a number.

Because we had our differences, I think you'll see how our sensibilities are different, and that will be recognized by people near to the situation. As far as what King Features puts out there, I mean, the parameters are tight, right? If I find a genius cartoonist, that genius cartoonist is going to speak more for themselves than the fact that I found them and gave them a developmental contract. I would just have been fortunate to be there at the right time. I think Jay would have said the same thing.


SPURGEON: Something I enjoyed about Jay is that it appealed to him on one level to facilitate a Patrick McDonnell, but there was also getting, say, a new artist on a soap opera strip and that appealed to him, too.

BURFORD: I like that, too. It's like we were talking about before that comics is a wide spectrum. You'll talk differently to a guy that's a fill-in artist on a soap opera strip than someone like Patrick McDonnell, but you'll get equal satisfaction out of helping both work. Jay and I had that in common. It's not all that important to me to walk around with the WWJD wristband -- What Would Jay Do? I'm my own man. I'm going to be my own man and run this the way I think it should be run. That said, so much of what I know and how I've developed comes from being mentored by Jay. He was perfectly generous in giving me his knowledge.
posted 3:30 am PST | Permalink

Tony Auth Cartoon Discussion Continues

The issue of Tony Auth's Philadelphia Inquirer cartoon that questioned the recent partial-birth abortion ban decision from the Supreme Court that broke down along Roman Catholic/not Roman Catholic lines continues to burble along in a paper here and there. Most significant, if you can avoid puking in your mouth that the discussion on The View is somehow worth noting as high as the third graph, is this Washington Post article.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 67th Birthday, Alex Nino!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

NZ Library Resolution on Issue of Manga Shelving Fails to Please Complainer

David Welsh notes that it seems to be all over but the whining in the case of a parent complaint about the availability of manga in a New Zealand library.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 51st Birthday, Tim Sale!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Vote: Lulu Awards 2007

According to this post by Heidi MacDonald at The Beat, Friends of Lulu has opened up their awards process this year. If you're inclined to vote in these kinds of things, I encourage you to do so in this one.

Here are a few suggestions in each of the four categories. Much more information, guidelines for each award and a list of past winners can be found at the nominations form page. The awards are traditionally given out the Thursday of Comic-Con International.

Women Cartoonists Hall of Fame
1. Lily Renee Phillips
Lily Renee Phillips is one of the pioneering female comic book artists, a notoriously under-appreciated group. It looks like she's planning to be in San Diego this year.
2. Aline Kominsky-Crumb
One of the most important female cartoonists of the underground comix generation, and one of the most influential autobiographical cartoonists, period.
3. Roz Chast
Maybe the last great and truly distinctive New Yorker cartoonist.

The Women of Distinction Award
1. Francoise Mouly
Through RAW, The New Yorker and the Little Lit series, Mouly is one of the most influential editors of the last 30 years.
2. Deanne Urmy
A Houghton-Mifflin senior editor and a guiding hand behind their comics works, including Fun Home.
3. Amanda Fisher
One of America's most prominent not-on-a-coast retailers and a driving force behind the rising ComicsPro retail association.

The Lulu of the Year Award
1. Alison Bechdel
A talented cartoonist with a book many considered the book of the year last year. As we've seen with the success of Fun Home she's a wonderful spokesperson for the art form as well.
2. Renee French
Coming up on 15 years of unforgettably powerful comics and a similar, smaller run in children's book illustration, each of her major books seems to improve on the last.
3. Hope Larson
Cartoonist and publisher, with significant achievements in both areas this year.

The Kim Yale Award
1. Jillian Tamaki
Artist who occasionally works in comics to splendid effect; her Gilded Lilies was one of the under-read gems of 2006.
2. Cathy Malkasian
A highly-regarded animation director, her Percy Gloom is as good as debut as anyone's seen in quite some time.
3. Eleanor Davis
A seemingly prolific and artistically fruitful year; the sky's the limit.

There are, of course, dozens of qualified nominees out there, which is a great thing.

Go here to submit your nominations.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 51st Birthday, Phil Foglio!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Daily Cartoonist: Post-Hart BC Drops

Alan Gardner at Daily Cartoonist provides one of his best services through a canvas of individual newspaper reports to see what's being picked up and dropped, this time to note a few papers switching to other features after the late Johnny Hart's run has ended. This is of course a drop in the bucket given the features overall client list, but it is still probably more movement than you would have seen 20 years ago in a similar circumstance.
posted 3:03 am PST | Permalink

Happy 40th Birthday, Chris Pitzer!


if I'm wrong about this, it's MySpace's fault
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Eisner Doc Screenings Today, Sunday

Jon Cooke's PR with the times and locations can be found here.
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
French Comics Discussion Continues at Metabunker

SPACE Report
Thurber Exhibit Preview
Shannon Wheeler on APE
Pittsburgh Comicon Preview
FCBD: What About the Girls?
Calgary Comic Expo Round-Up

Bring Out Yer Dead
Wilhelm Busch Profiled
List of Spider-Man Milestones
Vince Colletta's Goodbye Letter
Snapshot of OSU's Manga Holdings
Stuart Immonen Posts Old Comics Ad Page

DC's Woman Problem
Roger Schillerstrom Wins Lisagor
Don Asmussen: Best In The West
Strange Re-Ordering Anecdote About World War III

Newsarama: Mark Crilley
Newsarama: Peter Kuper
FPI Blog: Paul Grist's Kane
Sequential Tart: R. Stevens
Sequential Tart: Matt Silady
Sequential Tart: Erik Burnham
Patriot-News: James Kochalka
Sequential Tart: Bill Willingham
Broken Frontier: Christian Slade
Vulture Previews King City Vol. 1
Newsarama: Andy Runton, Christian Slade

Not Comics
Uncle Ron!
Steve Ditko BBC Profile Planned

OzComics Launches
Autistic Child Publishes Comic
Jog Looks at Fanfare/Ponent Mon
2nd Volume of Dungeon Parade Planned
David Welsh Looks at Fanfare/Ponent Mon
Bob Weber Jr. Launches Kids Cartoons Blog

Matt Fraction: 52
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Johnny Bacardi: Various 2
Michael May: Kampung Boy
Greg McElhatton: Alias the Cat
Rob Clough: Love and Rockets
Dirk Deppey Defends Day by Day
Keith Phipps: It Rhymes With Lust
Leroy Douresseaux: The Spirit #3
Candice Weber: The Poor Bastard
Derik A Badman: American Elf Vol. 2
David Welsh: Prince Resurrection, Parasyte
Christine Pointeau: 12 Reasons Why I Love Her
Shaenon Garrity Beats on Day By Day Some More

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