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

June 30, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Zak Sally



imageZak Sally's Sammy the Mouse may be the big surprise of the comics year to date. It's one of those efforts that makes you go back and reconsider the cartoonist's career output; it engages a larger percentage of the cartoonist's personality than earlier work allowed, and puts the full range of his artistic skill on display. Serialized in the art-friendly Ignatz line, Sammy should continue to press at the outer edges of Sally's talent. Although it's way too soon to tell, Sammy feels like it has the potential to be a major effort.

Sally, in addition to being a cartoonist, a writer, and a musician best known for his stint anchoring the band Low, has also embraced comics publishing with La Mano 21. He was so brutally honest about describing that venture I became worried about his emotional state. Even the moments of laughter described below were of the nervous variety, so after we got off the phone I called a mutual acquaintance to double-check if the truth-telling the Minnesota-based artist put on display was typical or aberrant. I was assured by that friend and Sally himself that he's more than fine, and remains positive about his new career. I wish fervently for the day when Sally and La Mano find their proper audience.


TOM SPURGEON: It's been about two years since you've made the switch over to comics artist and publisher, a move that was covered at the time in various music and comics press sources. Now that you know a little bit more about the comics industries, how has your attitude changed?

ZAK SALLY: I think I'm probably a little bit more desperate. [laughter] I think I actually read this on your site: there's a weird dichotomy going on right now that there's certain things happening with comics that are great news for cartoonists and publishers. People are reading more comics; they're being taken more seriously: that whole thing all of us nerds have been hoping for for ages. But as far as that trickling down to actual cartoonists making money? The kind of money that people can live on? I feel there's a gap there that will take years to catch up.

imageSPURGEON: It sounds like you have a better grasp of things now, but you're slightly depressed by what you found out.

SALLY: Maybe a little bit of that. I think the strangest part of it is that these changes are sort of glacial. These changes happen so slowly. That's the reality. It is changing. Everybody notices there is an interest in the medium outside the people who follow the medium. In the larger world there's more than a passive interest in comics as a means of communication or as an art form that's growing. How it's showing itself in real terms is strange and little frustrating. I don't know if that's any different than before. It's changed the way I look at La Mano, for certain.

SPURGEON: I know that you're coming at publishing from a 'zine background maybe more than a lot of the newer publishing ventures that come at comics from a traditional book background. I'm not sure there's been development for 'zine-like comics publishing concurrent to that for bookstores or even comic shops. It might even be worse for that kind of comic, that kind of distribution. Do you get any sense that the work you value has a place in this growth?

SALLY: Yeah. The whole thing about La Mano, from buying a press or even trying to take it up through different levels, was this deep-seated root feeling that these things have a place. And I'm finding [laughs] as I go on that having that feeling myself doesn't necessarily translate to actually selling books. My hope with La Mano is that I read something or a friend sends me something is that I feel this really needs to be out there. And my job is to figure out on what level it needs to be out there. I'm still undershooting and overshooting all the time.

It's not this feeling that it needs to hit everyone in the world. But when I put out the Mosquito Abatement Man book, there's a feel that John Porcellino's work has importance. He's a really good friend. I don't think now, three years later or whatever after I put out that book, I don't think there's any question that John's work could appeal to more people than it does. But that doesn't mean I'm not sitting a couple thousand books in my warehouse.

SPURGEON: Do you do shows? Do you meet people at shows and hand sell?

SALLY: I'm finding I'm kind of shitty at that. [laughter] That's where for better or for worse La Mano's business sense, I'm finding that whether or not I like to admit it or not that's where my interest takes a precipitous drop. Working with this person on this project that I think is really great, after the project is gone, it's taken a long while to admit my interest drops. [laughs] Maybe that feeling that doesn't work to my credit, is that feeling that someday people will find out about this. It feels like I'm so busy all the time I can't breathe anyway, so spending more hours trying to convince people in a world that's already choked with people trying to convince people that shitty things are great, there's a feeling that people will someday find out about this, and when they do they'll come to me, and I'll have it for them. It's very warm and fuzzy.

That's the long way of saying that the way I think about La Mano is sort of changing. The new book I'm doing with Jason Miles, I'm doing everything in-house. Every element is done by me, so my cost outlay is virtually nothing. It's all elbow grease. It's an edition of 500 and I think everybody's going to feel great with that.


SPURGEON: What is about Jason's work that struck you? I like his comics quite a bit, too.

SALLY: Jason's a really thoughtful cartoonist. The new piece he sent me... I don't know, I read it and it hit me in the gut not in a way I can qualify. It felt like a strong piece of work. It developed from there. I told him it was a great piece and asked him what he was going to do with it. He said he wasn't sure. Two phone calls later, we had worked it out.

SPURGEON: How much of your time is split between cartooning and your publishing? How much time do you spend on your various comics and your publishing efforts?

SALLY: I wish I knew. [Spurgeon laughs] I think that's the great thing about my life, and also the most annoying thing about my life. My wife is in school right now and I have a two year old boy. It seems like every day is different. As I was finishing Sammy the Mouse #1, things were such that I was able to devote a ton of time. I was able to come down to the studio every day for somewhere between four and eight hours. I was also pretty much out of my mind while trying to finish this thing up. So it felt like the family sort of suffered for me getting this comic done.

[pause] I think when I get back from MoCCA I might get a job at UPS, because it's a real amorphous thing, trying to deal with whatever comes up. A comic needs to get done, a strip needs to get done... it would be nice if things were a bit more standardized.


SPURGEON: You know, when I worked at Fantagraphics, they had been in existence for around 20 years, and they were just barely at the point where you couldn't automatically get someone at 2 AM by calling the office, the point where structure and accrued capital and managed resources were beginning to effectively buttress or supplant obsessive effort. That all-encompassing wall of work that needs to get done is very much a comics-culture thing. Even employees can get sucked into that, and find themselves working on the weekends, or staying around the office 14 hours a day. It sounds like you may be feeling the strain of riding your own version of that beast for a couple of years now.

SALLY: I think I am. My view toward La Mano has been changing, and part of that is knowing it's always there. Between cartooning and keeping it going, I'm busy all the time. For me to try to get ahead of the game, even with the stuff I'm done, I know full well I could spend 40 hours a week doing promotion, doing things better. It just drives me crazy. I'm not even sure La Mano needs to be competitive in that sense.

SPURGEON: Ideally, what would you have your press be? You had very modest beginnings -- the name originally was just something you used for artistic projects you wanted to do. There was no business plan or artistic manifesto. Do you have in your mind's eye the ideal La Mano?

SALLY: When John and I talk, John talks about presses like Black Sparrow. My goal I would love to hit with La Mano someday is to set up an infrastructure that was kind of like the early days of Sub Pop to tell you the truth. That I kept the quality of work high enough through La Mano where people could trust the fact that if it was coming out from La Mano it was going to be a nice thing. And that it could just reach the people that it needs to reach on whatever level that is. That I could do whatever project I was taking on and the infrastructure was there to do that project justice. If it was an edition of 50 [laughs], I could do that well. If it was a book like John's, that it would reach a certain number of people. That it could reach its level.

It would also be nice if I could pay myself someday. If it could make enough to keep in existence, continue to pay the artists -- I've always paid my artists, and at a rate better than most publishers, I think -- and maybe, just maybe, pay myself someday. If it were ready for projects that came to it, and projects come to it in a weird way. I don't have any aspirations to be Drawn and Quarterly. The more I have found out about the business thing, publishing and the book world, I'm kind of not that interested. I'm not interested in doing that sort of constant leg work to survive in that kind of industry. I'd rather hover around that industry. Some books are right for the book market, and some are not. Some are right for 'zines. I want to treat every project with that sort of in mind. But breaking into the book market is... you know... it's like being downtown and someone kicking you to the curb.

SPURGEON: Have you made attempts in that direction or are those avenues completely closed to you?

SALLY: I just fired up Baker & Taylor and I'm talking to other book distros soon. But even to them I'm an oddball. I can't tell them I'm going to put out three books a year, but I don't know if I'm going to like three books a year, or if three books are going to be appropriate. There are people I've been bothering for years for them to send me their books, and it's going to happen when it happens. When it does... we'll see. [laughs] We'll see.

SPURGEON: Let's talk about Sammy the Mouse.

SALLY: Okay.

SPURGEON: If anyone is still left. We might have people weeping at their monitors at this point.

SALLY: Did I sound depressing about La Mano? Do I sound depressed?

SPURGEON: You sound a little depressed. What strikes me about your situation is that you seem to have an beneficial mindset. You have mostly attainable goals, and there's historical precedent in comics to wanting projects to find their market and then be willing to hang in there until you see to it that they do. Infrastructures are built on the bodies of previous books. Your goals depend on your hanging in there. But you're right, it's bleak. La Mano may be more ill-served by the nature of the market right now than any other publisher. And I'm not sure there are compensating actions you can take until some things are made apparent further down the line. You know?

SALLY: I do. And to not sound depressing [laughter], like I said, I feel this is about 100 percent true, for instance the Nate Denver book. I read this book, and I look at this book, and to the core of me I think this book should be selling millions of copies. Anyone you hand this book to, across various strata of human beings, it has appeal. But from anybody's standpoint other than mine, it's kind of doomed. It's 50 stories, 50 words apiece, with drawing. And a full-length CD of music. Barnes and Noble took other La Mano books, but this... they don't know if it's poetry, they don't know if it's supposed to be funny, if it's supposed to be not funny. It comes with a CD.

It's La Mano's blessing and curse. I like books that are neither fish nor fowl. As far as people making sense of it, I still feel like Nate is going to be famous someday and I think everybody should read this book. Thinking I can make that happen, I don't have any illusions about that. Not that it shouldn't happen, but I can't force it. I can only put it out and make it available.

SPURGEON: Here's something I don't quite understand. You're publishing John Porcellino... how does putting John's work into book form fulfill your publishing mission? Is it about finding an audience through a bookstore? Because not only is John's work singular and excellent, but the 'zine form is kind of perfect for it.

SALLY: I agree.

SPURGEON: Therefore in a way, your book is kind of less vital than the original object. So are you just trying to facilitate sales through the book market, or is there something to this format that you find interesting in another sense?

SALLY: I think John wrestles with that a lot as well. It goes back to the beginning of our conversation about things finding their level. I am in agreement with you, and I know John is as well and most people that read King-Cat as well, that the 'zine is the medium for John. There is no better way to experience King-Cat. It's perfect in almost every way. But there was a feeling for me and I think for other people as well that more people should be exposed to John's work than solely the people interested enough to go out and find his work. Or that his body of work had grown to such a degree it might benefit from a different format. Plus there are issues of King-Cat you just can't get any more.

I've said it a million times, but I think John's a really important artist. He'll cringe when he reads that. But I do. And in that way you want people to see it. You want people to know about it. But I agree with you. It's tricky. There are certainly times when I sit there... the King-Cat Classix book is beautiful. It's got stuff I've never seen before. It's great. At the same time, it's such a different experience than reading individual issues of King-Cat. It brings up that question. Maybe people should just buy it in the 'zine format.

SPURGEON: So is it just a feel thing, that you're giving up one aspect of someone's work in order to gain a certain amount of exposure?

SALLY: Yeah. I think the idea that's set in my skull is that King-Cat the 'zine is going to be there. It's going to keep happening. John will do that the rest of his life. And those of us that know about it can keep getting it that way. And how people come to things... I used to feel differently about that, too. There's something about getting King-Cat that's very pure. I know that's why John does it. He's directly transferring this thing into people's hands in this human, great way. In this way that means a lot to them. I don't think that's the only way for people to find out about it. Maybe it's the best way. Who knows what's going to happen in the world?

SPURGEON: In some ways these are unanswerable questions, too. Now: Sammy. I assume this is the 400-page story about the talking mouse you talked about in interviews a couple of years ago.

SALLY: It is.


SPURGEON: How does one get the call from [Ignatz series editor] Igort?

SALLY: I didn't. I had finished Recidivist. The whole reason for finishing Recidivist was so I could get that out of the way and try something different.

SPURGEON: You've been really critical of your work in Recidivist.

SALLY: I think it was what it was.

SPURGEON: Have those feelings changed now that you have some space between you and that work?

SALLY: I think I'd have to read it again. They're just really... [sighs] I think I was compelled to make comics that would drive me nuts. Those were the only kinds of comics I think I could make. Those comics made me want to put a bullet in my skull. You know?

SPURGEON: Because of their level of accomplishment? Their message?

SALLY: I think with the final one I was able to get some distance. But they're pretty bleak, you know? It was like I had a compulsion to put myself through the wringer with those comics. I couldn't not put myself through the wringer in a serious way to make comics. It got to the point I realized that and I realized you have to be able to do other stuff. It was like a punk band where the guy just yells and screams all the time. Who knows why? I knew I had to move past this somehow. I think that's what Recidivist #3 was about. It's weird talking about things in this way, but it kind of worked. [laughs] I got done with Recidivist #3, and I'm like, "Now I can make jokes." That's as serious as I can make things and as serious as I want to be. Ever.

So I'd been planning this thing, and working on it, and trying to figure out how I was going to do it. How I was going to make myself do this long story that I had.


SPURGEON: Tell me about that process. Are you working in a sketchbook? Are you writing stuff out? Are you making notes to yourself?

SALLY: Yeah. I do have a notebook that's sitting around here someplace, with the first ideas I had about this thing. I drew this mouse when I was really drunk once. I sent it off to M. Doughty who was in Soul Coughing. I wrote this really hammered letter and sent it off saying, "Yeah, this is all I'm going to do from now on." Then the next morning I'm like, "I just sent off the only drawing I have of that great mouse." [laughter] I'm sure he threw it away. It was a joke more than anything.

Someday I'll do other kinds of comics. I've probably been taking notes for seven or eight years. Just kind of thinking about it. Probably thinking about it more than taking notes. At the same time, it seems kind of unreal. I'm kind of thinking about it, and about doing it, but to force myself to sit down and take this thing on, I wasn't sure how that was going to happen. So after Recidivist, I saw these Ignatz things coming out. I was writing Eric Reynolds about something else. I thought I was going to do the Sammy book on my own press, with the two colors.

SPURGEON: The band on the cover, is that because the original proportions were traditional comic book size?

SALLY: Nah, that was me trying... they're all going to have it. I think it makes it look classy.

SPURGEON: That would have been really cool if I had figured that out. [laughter] Now, at what stage were you when you knew it would become an Ignatz book?

SALLY: I was done with Recidivist, and I was thinking about trying to pull this off. I think I was still in Low. Or I was just leaving Low or something like that. I kidded around with Eric and said, "I have this long story; I should do an Ignatz." He said, "Are you kidding, or are you serious?" I said, "I don't know, I guess I'm serious." He put me in touch with Igort. Eventually I sent a pitch. "This is what the story is, this is how long I think it'll be, this is what I have in mind." Eventually he wrote me back and said, "Yeah, let's do it."

SPURGEON: Is it still the 400-page epic? That seems to me big for an Ignatz book.

SALLY: It's at least eight issues. I'm kind of worried that it will go longer. It's at least eight issues.

SPURGEON: Is there an editorial process at all. Did you receive feedback at any stage?

SALLY: I've heard virtually nothing from anyone. I did the whole thing, and nobody read it before it was finished. At least the first issue. I sent it off... It's weird because I'm happy and excited about it. That's never happened to me before.

SPURGEON: This kind of anthropomorphic work isn't unheard of -- it reminded me of Ted Stearn's work a bit -- was there anything that specifically informed Sammy?

SALLY: Um... I have a list. [laughter] It's the normal sort of list. It's in front of me. Crumb's Bearsies-wearsies, Carl Barks, EC Segar, David Yow, Kim Deitch... becoming friends with Kim Deitch has been sort of a big influence on allowing myself to be entertaining. It feels like for many years that was a dirty word for me. That if you were being entertaining you were that show Friends or something. That it was a bad thing. Talking to Kim and being a fan of his body of work made me feel like I wanted to tell a story and that there was nothing wrong with that. I think that more than anything... really watching Kim get this charge out of his work and telling his stories. There's certainly worse things to do in the world.

SPURGEON: He's an astounding cartoonist.

SALLY: Yeah. He works like crazy. Just seeing how into it he is, consistently. There's nothing he'd rather be doing. You just look at a guy like that.

SPURGEON: Did you have a similar feeling of being immersed at any time while working on this book?

SALLY: I think so. It was a little protracted. I think with any cartoonist, when you're doing the final push to get it done, it's usually not the fun stuff. It's that hard, difficult slog through getting it done. The writing and the sort of process... I'm in the second issue right now. It's exciting as shit. [laughs] There's always some point in the process where it's going to become painful and difficult to get it how you want it to be.

SPURGEON: One thing I think is interesting about the first issue is your approach to the page varies a lot.

SALLY: Yeah?

SPURGEON: You employ an almost dizzying variety of structural approaches. Full pages. Horizontal tiers. Vertical tiers. Backgrounds that connect. Pages with complex panel patterns. How do you approach the page?

SALLY: The only thing I can think of is that quote from [Art] Spiegelman where all of his experimental work led up to him doing Maus. I'm trying not to think too hard, you know? Your saying that about the panels and all that, I was like, "Oh yeah. I guess that's what I did." I'm actually drawing this thing, I'm scripting page by page. I'm writing it out, doing it on cheap marker paper. Roughing things in. It's really, really organic. I'm kind of working on the whole thing at the same time.

SPURGEON: You're not finishing pages, but going back and forth.

SALLY: It's like this big puzzle. I know I'll have a finished panel on this page that has to happen after this, and kind of working the whole thing at once until it finally gets whittled down into 32 pages or whatever. Trying to keep the next 100 pages in mind. I know A, B, C, D and X have to happen. I try to leave enough room. I'm really trying to have fun, you know.


SPURGEON: There are a lot of pieces of comedy in there. How do you look at those kind of bits of business? Once you got into doing the book, realizing you can entertain and do humor, how do you fold this routines into the wider aims you might have for the book?

SALLY: I think it was more just trying to figure out a way I could make comics. A cup that could hold whatever the fuck I wanted to put into it. I didn't set out to write bits or anything; it sounds so cheesy. But after what I was doing with Recidivist and some shorts it's not like I'm some bleak dude that walks around all day eating his spleen. [laughter] I laugh at a joke as much or more than anything else. Why is my comic not strong enough to handle that? Part of it's that I came up with these characters and trying to think about them and what was going to happen. I'd come up with stuff that would make me laugh out loud. I figured if it made me laugh out loud, that was good. [laughs] I want to make a comic that's good.

SPURGEON: Something that struck me about this first issue is that you have a family now and that this book is very much set in a single person's milieu.

SALLY: Yeah. When all is said and done, this story is as autobiographical as anything I've done in my life. Yeah. I guess that's all I can say.

SPURGEON: It describes a certain kind of adult relationship based on convenience and proximity.

SALLY: I was talking to my friend today, and I think that's the other thing with this story. Getting used to the fact that whatever you do, whether you know it or not, you're putting pieces of your life into it that you're probably not understanding at the time. Instead of worrying about that constantly, and worrying about what I'm revealing about my rotten soul, and worrying that people are going to find out about what a dick I am, you just sort of accept that this thing is part of your life, and part of your life is in it. In many ways you're not going to figure it out until years later, and it's going to be really uncomfortable. It's kind of that I've read too many comics in my life, and I think that kind of really seeped under my skin. So I'm not thinking too hard about it. I have this language. You don't think about speaking English anymore. I'm letting every comic I've ever read, bad and good, turn into mash and I'm chucking it on the page. If it reads okay. everybody wins.

SPURGEON: How did you develop the process used to color Sammy?

SALLY: You know how I was talking earlier about making everything really difficult for myself?


SALLY: Kind of like that. [laughter]

SPURGEON: How are you coloring the pages?

SALLY: I'm doing a black line, and then I'm taking that black line, and I've chosen the two colors, and that black line is basically 100 percent of each color. Then I'm doing two overlays: one in blue and one in brown. I'm still working out the process. Yeah, I'm drawing each page three times. I'm probably going to continue doing that if it's really achieving what I'm going for, and I'm not sure it did with issue #1.


SPURGEON: Can you articulate exactly what it is you're going for?

SALLY: Not exactly. I think in certain places that treatment felt a little flashy to me. It looked okay, but it felt in a couple of places like, "Hey, look at the process." I don't want it to be some sort of tricky thing that draws attention to itself. Ideally, what you'd be able to do is create a lot of different tones.

When you're working in graphite, nothing is actually 100 percent. So the way the different tones mix together would sort of give you a lot of layers to work with and two colors and a lot of depth. Looking at Roy Crane, the way he used that old duo-tone paper. That's what I aspire to with two colors. Sort of making this thing that adds depth in a simple way. I'm going to have to keep messing with process. When it goes into book form, I know there are things I want to change. The panel inside the baby bar, that works all right to me.


SPURGEON: I didn't notice at all what you were doing -- granted, I'm not real quick to notice visual things -- until late in the issue when two characters are climbing some steps. That sequence seemed to call more attention to itself.

SALLY: That's the part I was talking about where I feel like it wasn't as successful as I would have liked it to be. The problem with this process as well is that I'm doing it as two pieces of graphite over each other, so I didn't get to see how it would look until it was turned into those cover and put on top of each other. I thought those pages would be a lot more subtle than they turned out. I'm just trying to keep the bigger pictures in mind, and next time I'll have my process a little more streamlines and have a better way to come at it.


SPURGEON: Where did the gag with the rubber glove come from? I really liked that bit.

SALLY: It's happening with this issue, too, where I know that certain things have to happen, but I want to leave enough stuff open to have some fun.

I literally knew they had to get up there and do a couple of things up there. I drew the page, and knew they had to get someplace else. So two weeks passed where I had no idea how they were going to get off that thing. How are they going to get off? They can't climb back down. Somewhere in me there was, "He's going to blow up his glove." Cartooning or writing involves things you have to wait for. That made me happy than anything that I purposely sat down and planned out in my head. I'm trying to leave space for that kind of thing to happen.

SPURGEON: So what's on the plate right now?

SALLY: I'm doing #2. I'm really... I think my goal from here on out is to find a way I can work on it. It takes a ton of time and effort. I did have a teaching gig teaching comics for a while. I'm probably going to do more of that. Like I said at the beginning of the interview, in a perfect world, working on this would pay enough for me to eke out a meager living. But that's not the way it work. I'll keep working on it and try to get other gigs drawing. We'll see how that pans out.

SPURGEON: If we end the interview right here, we may drive dozens and dozens of people from the field.

SALLY: You should put "Zak paused and said, 'I'm fucked.'" [laughter] I've heard about this graphic novel fever and everyone's looking for the next graphic novel, and I'm like, really? I don't hear my phone ringing.

I was in Low for most of my adult life, making art or whatever you want to call it, and the good thing that was drilled into me was that you have to bust your ass. The same way that you work at any other job. Everything builds upon itself. By the end of ten years we were making an okay living. It wasn't because of what was new, but because of all the work we'd done over ten years. That's what I feel I'm doing in comics right now. I probably have another seven years of playing shitty dives. I'm building a body of work, and there's no easy or fun way to do that.

SPURGEON: I think you're at least oriented in a way that mitigates some of the disappointment that comes with comics.

SALLY: Because I come in disappointed? [laughs]

SPURGEON: Well, I think some of my musician friends are more cognizant of the fact that a lot of what constitutes success in art is being able to make a modest living at it. There are certain aspects of comics where the baseline expectation is reaching the success of the elite creators instead of the working ones. Syndicates aren't getting most of their 8000 submissions a year from people who hope to maybe make $31,400 after ten years of making a lot less.

SALLY: I don't talk to that many cartoonists, but I know a lot of them have that dream of just being able to do their work every day. I would love for this to be my job, that I could sit and draw comics. You can be George Herriman. Not that I'll ever be a genius [laughs], but that this is what you do. You're not going to get super-wealthy or super-famous but the dream of being able to do your work and make a living from it. That's the dream.


Sally asked for the following postscript:
I'd like it to be known that I in no way view Fantagraphics or Coconino as the equivalent of "a shitty dive." Obviously, Fantagraphics is one of the (if not the) most important comics publisher in America, and I'm truly honored as hell to be working with them.

I think my analogy still works, though, in that making the effort to see a band in a "shitty dive" is something that only someone who has an active passion about music (and that culture) would do. How, if, when or why the work makes its way out beyond that dedicated following into the mainstream is anybody's guess (and actually, most of the best shows are in shitty dives, so there's that).

The larger point I think can be made is about the realities of the market. Even though I am being published by the biggest "art comics" publisher in America (and the added fact that the work is being translated into 3 other languages under the auspices of another great publisher, which actually means the pay is a bit above "normal"...), it's still in no way anything anyone could live on, much less support a family. it's not bad or good, it's just what it is.


all art from the first volume of Sammy the Mouse except inside cover to Nate Denver's book, Dead Ringer image from Jason Miles and the operating room panel from an issue of Recidivist. Photos provided by Sally.


Sammy the Mouse Vol. 1, Fantagraphics, Ignatz Series, magazine-sized, 32 pages, May 2007, $7.95.



posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, bookmark: Mahendra Singh's blog

* go, buy: Art Spiegelman-designed tote bag

* go, read: first review of The Blot

* go, read: profile of Tom DeSanto

* go, look: artists and their business cards
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Seeman Ho

posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 58th Birthday, Mike Baron!

posted 10:07 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought of the Day

What was weirder about the movie Ghost Rider: that Eva Mendes and Nic Cage are both old enough to have completely different adult actors playing them at a younger age, or that Sam Elliott looks exactly the same now as he did in 1983?
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Long Beach, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

June 29, 2007

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from June 23 to June 29, 2007:

1. Harlan Ellison and Fantagraphics dispute resolves via mediation.

2. Court strengthens the notion favoring publishers doing "complete" collected editions in digital form.

3. Peruvian cartoonist claims government censorship.

Winner Of The Week
Andy Capp, although to be fair, there's really no week that Andy Capp does not win.

Loser Of The Week
Me, for misspelling the word "donor" as "doner" all week.

Quote Of The Week
"FLASH FACT" -- Michael Nicolai, and who really cares what the Flash Fact is?

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
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Happy 49th Birthday, Shawn McManus

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CR Review: Swamp Preacher


Creator: David Sandlin
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, magazine, 40 pages, November 2006, $5.95
Ordering Numbers:

The most interesting thing about the painter and cartoonist David Sandlin's late 2006 comics effort is how it, like many comics these days, covers a limited range from A to B in a narrative sense. In this case what the reader gets is the back story of the artist's Carl Bob deVille. Period. That's it. The story's heft, and this is one of the denser comics I've seen in this decade, comes from specifics inherent to the visual style employed and the straight-ahead, plodding approach to its story assignment. Half horror show and half pure nonsense, the story fairly oozes with an intense humor arriving from a neighborhood near the building blocks of life and still manages to take a few sudden, surprising turns into full-spread batshit insanity. There are very few cartoonists who could pull of this kind of visual sumptuousness with stopping the story dead, this manner of amusement park thrill-ride rock and sway storytelling, and I'm not sure any of them work in comics anymore.

Sandlin's painter's background comes to bear in showcase-level use of two-color printing process. He emphasizes the ooze and muck against which his scenes play out by stretching single colors over multiple textures. The effect is jarring to the eye as you try to grasp what you're seeing by color and outline, two different visual approaches which rarely combine to make anything easy. In other words: this is a really good-looking book, the kind that makes you re-assess other, tangentially similar art that may not be up to Sandlin's level.

The story proves a bit less impressive. It's well realized. Sandlin writes funny dialogue, has a nice sense of what kind of writing works on the comics page, and can turn a phrase. However, as a segment in a longer, grander storyline I'm not convinced Swamp Preacher will ever match the visual world built around it. There's also a sense you're reading a very specific kind of alternative, "outsider" type story that's every bit as well-traveled and unsurprising as any mainstream text. I'm not sure that if you come to Swamp Preacher having had experience with comics from people like Spain or Valium or Tony Fitzpatrick that you won't on some intuitive level know exactly what's coming next. Then again, you may not care. Swamp preacher is a wonderful-looking thing to lose yourself into for an extended period of time, and should be a familiar enough tale to anyone who's ever read a secret origin.

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Friday Distraction:

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Bugs In My Studio Must Now Beware


Holy crap, this thing is big. Like One Volume Bone big. And judging from the size of the type, this thing could have been 25 percent bigger without looking odd. Congratulations to Bob on the only book I'm likely to receive this year that comes in a box able to hold a DVD player.

This isn't the final cover, but I couldn't find the final cover at a respectable size.
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If I Were In Long Beach, I’d Go To This

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New Jeff Smith Series Teaser Cover


Smith has long talked about doing something in the science fiction/space fantasy realm after Bone and his Captain Marvel gig at DC, so this might be that.
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Howie Schneider, 1930-2007


Howard "Howie" Schneider, the creator of the successful, long-running Eek and Meek comic strip and a versatile cartoonist who worked in a number of comics' fields, passed away on June 28 from complications due to heart surgery.

Eek and Meek ran from 1965 to 2000 with Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and at its highest profile moment was in 500 client newspapers. It is perhaps best known for starting as a funny animal strip starring two mice and then in the late '70s and early '80s evolving into a strip about regular people, albeit ones still carrying some of the same visual motifs they had as mice. Schneider ended the strip in 2000 when it was still in 400 newspapers. A trio of paperbacks collecting runs of the work was released in the 1970s.

Schneider had a well-rounded comics career. He tried two other comic strips, Percy's World and The Circus of PT Bimbo, during Eek and Meek's run and a strip about older people, The Sunshine Club from United Features starting in 2003. He did children's books, drew for magazines including The New Yorker, Playboy and Esquire, and was the editorial cartoonist for the Provincetown Banner after putting Eek and Meek to rest. He won two awards from the New England Press Association for his work at the Banner/.

He is survived by a wife and a son.
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Happy 57th Birthday, Bobby London!

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Dispute Between Harlan Ellison and Fantagraphics Resolved In Mediation

By David Welsh

Various sources are reporting the successful resolution of the dispute between Harlan Ellison and Fantagraphics following yesterday's court-sponsored mediation session between Ellison and Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth.

At The Beat, Heidi MacDonald spots a message from Ellison at the Art Deco Dining Pavilion:


At Journalista, Dirk Deppey shares an e-mail message from Groth:

The virtually identical announcements suggest that the formerly disputing parties reached accord not only on the issues of the lawsuit but on subsequent public comment as well. (The additional period in Ellison's version does add an element of suspense, though.)

Partisans on both sides of the dispute seem pleased that it stopped short of additional hearings, at least as indicated by these two threads at The Comics Journal Message Board and the occasional congratulatory message at the Dining Pavilion.


This article was provided to CR without editorial intrusion by David Welsh.
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Happy 57th Birthday, Mike Richardson!

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Mark Siegel: American Born Chinese Headed to 100K Sales by 2008

This interview with cartoonist Gene Luen Yang of American Born Chinese fame and his publisher at First Second, Mark Siegel, includes the assertion that ABC will likely hit 100K in sales by the end of this calendar year. Six figures is an amazing figure for a graphic novel like American Born Chinese, or, really, any graphic novel at all, even one as well-liked and awards-friendly as Yang's book has been. Strangely, I have yet to see it in a bookstore.
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Happy 56th Birthday, Don Rosa!

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Price Floor Ban Ended by Supreme Court

A few people sent this article to my attention, which means someone out there likely had it first, for which I apologize. Whoever had it first probably has a better grasp on the implications for comics, although when it comes to producers setting minimum prices, this seems to me something that mainstream comics publishers could do to better benefit the Direct Market system of hobby and comics shops. As this message board thread describes, sometimes brutally cuts the price on some comics as an inducement for someone to come on and buy other items.
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Happy 53rd Birthday, Bo Hampton!

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Quick hits
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
Color Pages From Next Bone Volume

SLG Prepares For CCI
Comics Show About Europeans

Mike Lynch Profiles Eldon Pletcher

Brian Hibbs' POS Endeavors
Nobel Prize of Manga to HK Artist

Manhwa in Europe
Pulse: Scott Chantler
Around Comics: David Petersen
Newsarama: Carla Speed McNeil
Indie Spinner Rack: Andy Hartzell

Not Comics
Mattel-DC Toy Deal
Jacob Covey Says Buy Art
Gianfranco Goria Has The Best Vacation Posts

Amulet Vol. 1 is Complete
Glenat Re-Launches Manga Site

Brian Heater: Mineshaft
Evan Dorkin: The Aviary
Graeme McMillan: X-Men #200
Xavier Guilbert: Mon Bel Amour
Brigid Alverson: King of Thorn Vol. 1
Alan David Doane: Green Lantern: Sinestro Corp Special #1

June 28, 2007

CR Review: Little Lessons In Safety


Creator: Emily Holton
Publishing Information: Conundrum Press, soft cover, 160 pages, May 2007, $17
Ordering Numbers: 1894994221 (ISBN10), 9781894994224 (ISBN13)

imageA restless intelligence inhabits Emily Holton's work, now collected in Conundrum's Little Lessons in Safety. She passes back and forth between visual art forms, dissecting their presentational styles and then regurgitating them via some form of deadpan absurdity. About 80 percent of what's being done here is easily recognizable as comics, while 95 percent could inform comics work and a full 100 percent is worth looking at if you take Eddie Campbell's advice and decline to get work up about definitional constraints.

A pair of longer stories after the book's halfway point reach for a profundity that I don't think they achieve. In fact, the more visually bravura the short, the less I felt connected to it. I prefer the artist's work as simply presented as possible, as with the Karl Lagerfeld comics reprinted here, which kiss the reader on the lips and leave a tingle that I think comes from that tiny bit of focused intensity in the faces that stand out against the more suggestive feel of the figure drawing. Many of the shorts like the book's kick-off "Birdhead" manage a kind of casual intelligence that is the real strength of working from this kind of loose, sketchbook style. Nothing here screams major new talent, but I think most who see the book will be interested in the artist's next work. Hopefullly, that's less formal experimentation on the page and more of the direct quality present in her best shorts.

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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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

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James W. Babcock, 1919/1920-2007

imageJim Babcock, a longtime illustrator and sports cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee and Modesto Bee, died on June 23 following a period of despondency after losing his wife of 61 years several weeks earlier. Babcock was born in northern California and attended the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. An aerial photographer during World War II, he declined a job offer from the Disney Studios and eventually found himself in the Sacramento area at the beginning of the 1950s. In addition to illustrating articles, he made a Sunday historical cartoon called California Nuggets and created the popular Friday sports feature Sportoons, for which he drew separate entries for the Sacramento and Modesto newspapers. It is for that feature that Babcock is best remembered. He retired in 1983.

Jim Babcock was 87 years old. He is survived by a son, David, and two grandchildren.
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Happy 66th Birthday, Mike Royer!

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Fire In Ohio Store Ravages Stock

According to this newspaper story appearing in a Ohio University publication, a fire Sunday destroyed over $100,000 in stock at the University of Heroes comic book store in Athens, Ohio. An additional $200,000 was done to the physical plant. Unlike the damage to the merchandise, which included some rare collectible books, the damage to the building is covered by insurance. Owners Tom Green and Todd Grace have vowed to find a way to continue their business, which has been in Athens since 2000. One quirk about this store is that if I recall correctly from a couple of road trips to see MAC games, Athens has maybe 30,000 people, making this a successful retailer serving a smaller community. There's a photo of the damage through the link which I won't run here because it's not mine.

In a completely unrelated story, this article notes the closure of a used bookstore that used to carry comics. On-line bookselling has played tornado to the mobile homes of used bookstores for a decade now, and I think it's worth noting in terms of how the early comics shop had a lot in common with such places -- in my town, the comic shop grew out of a room in the back of a used bookstore.

In yet another unrelated piece, Lee Hester walks readers through the early days of his store via photos.
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Happy 63rd Birthday, Philippe Druillet!

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A Pair of Key, Official Hirings Noted

* Clifford Meth, a writer, creators' rights advocate and publishing industry veteran, has joined the comics publisher IDW as Executive VP of Strategies/Editorial, which will enable him to have a role in that company's direction without, it seems, drastically changing the roles or responsibilities of current IDW staff. Meth may be best known for the royalty settlement he helped secure from Marvel Entertainment on behalf of the late artist Dave Cockrum for his work on the X-Men characters in the 1970s. He is a co-founder of Aardwolf and was most recently a Vice-President of Creative Development at IDT.

* Stuart Moore will edit the joint Virgin Comics/Sci Fi Channel imprint that is due to start releasing titles by the end of 2007. Moore is a well-connected writer who was previously an editor at Vertigo and the Marvel Knights line.
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Happy 73rd Birthday, Georges Wolinski!

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A Few Random Publishing Notes

* HarperCollins has set an October 16 release date for the David Michaelis biography of Charles M. Schulz, one of two massively anticipated comics biographies hitting stands this Fall.

* The well-known publisher of comic strip collections Andrews McMeel includes a lot of the stronger series in collected form right now, like Zits, Get Fuzzy and Sherman's Lagoon (a feature some say does better as a collection than it does as a newspaper feature), as well as a 10th anniversary collection of Mutts featuring the cartoonist's favorites. The Andrews McMeel Fall line-up is a traditionally powerful one in terms of holiday sales.

* Telltale and Steve Purcell will be reprinting the 1995 book Surfin' the Highway: The Collected Sam and Max, with new material. The volume featuring the anthropomorphic pair is one of those rare recent books which is outright scarce and desirable.
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Go, Look: Nick Abadzis’ Blog

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Still The Best Site For Yesterday’s News

The collective memory for last weekend's MoCCA Arts Festival keeps growing and growing. Dave Roman declares this year's New York City small press showcase the best con ever, even though I'm pretty sure the best con ever was the 1982 show at Ball State where my friends and I smoked a bunch of dope and played nine hours of Fletcher Pratt's Naval War Game speaking in pirate voices.
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Go, Look: Steve Bell on Tony Blair

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Quick hits
I Like This Cover
Lea Hernandez Page
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
Eddie Campbell on Sandman Painting

Report From Joe Matt Tour
Appreciating Comics Report
Doug Wolk's MoCCA Report
Captain Tsubasa in Football Museum
Portland Appreciating Comics Article

Stuart Immonen: Cool Old Ad
Searle Talks Trinian's Inspiration

Kitson Leaves DC For Marvel

Interviews/Profiles DiD Publishing
PWCW: Eddie Campbell
PWCW's Go Comi! Profile II
Rick Remender Audio Interview Matt Fraction (with video)

Manga as Narrowcasting
Another Feature on Kaplan Manga

Josh Hechinger: The Spirit #7
Chris Butcher: Three Yaoi Books
Richard Bruton: Astonishing X-Men

June 27, 2007

CR Review: Gunslinger Girl Vol. 4


Creator: Yu Aida
Publishing Information: ADV Manga, softcover, 186 pages, July 2007, $9.95
Ordering Numbers: 1413903416 (ISBN10)

I'm not sure there's a lot of idiosyncratic literary substance to grasp onto in a way that would make a review of Yu Aida's Gunslinger Girl series, re-launched by ADV Manga after a poorly distributed third volume hit the market and then a two-year hiatus, a deeply nuanced and considered inquiry into theme and character. At its heart this is a sturdy but unimpressive collection of ideas bouncing around within a standard spy series set-up. A special program within a secret agency employs cybernetically enhanced little girls as ruthless, highly effective agents of espionage. They are paired with older men who serve as their handlers and, perhaps, as targets of what's left of the girls' ability to create and then nurture an emotional attachment. A standard plot features an external mission contrasted with some smaller issue such as the latest permutation on an individual girl's emotional state, like Triela's struggle to get over a recently failed mission. The resolution usually has an impact on both stories, or one will at least inform the other. Like most serial works, say a long-running TV show, stories build on the basic formula with various permutations each time out that deepen and inform without every managing to result in significant narrative progression.

The main strength of Gunslinger Girl, certainly on display in Volume 4, can be found in the accomplished, crystal clear action-adventure staging and the conceptual strength of the dualities it chooses to explore. It feels smart, put together. The number of contrasting elements which can be set against one another are impressive: the cuteness of the girls versus the violence they practice, the physical size of the girls compared to the world in which they operate, the distinction between the physical and mental state of the girls and their older handlers, the distinction between the physical competency and the recurring emotional shortcomings we see from the girls, the inside/outside of things like the physical plant and the clothing worn and the deceptions each provides, and so on. Throw in the age of the agents, and there's a potentially unsettling quality to many of the elements one can pair off that I think a lot of people find attractive, and certainly something that provides a kind of kick to what might be otherwise be standard, dull spy material.

The question becomes whether or not the book's familiarity indicates more of a generic quality underneath the slick art, story elements with hooks that may not be able to resolve themselves with the uniqueness that significant art demands. An episodic feel begins to seep into these stories by about 1/3 of the way through: the notion of Rico going to the opera feels like, "Oh, there's a 'Rico Going to Opera' plot line; that should bring out this element and this element" more than the event feels like a something that grew organically out of previous events. When every episode suggests something staged in that manner, the way a TV show about lawyers has trials where you go, "That lawyer will try that case because she has the applicable personal issues," the result may be a bit too artificial to sustain a reader's interest over the long-term. At least this reader's. I would call Gunslinger Girl a moderate guilty pleasure, but not in the sense that people scowl at as unfashionable, of liking something one knows is bad, but more in the way of something that has limited virtues, almost all of which are on the surface, few of which deepen over time.
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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 hurt feelings between me and my retailer.


FEB070077 ART OF BONE HC $39.95
I don't really know anything about this book, except some kind of Bone art book seems long overdue. There should be a lot of interest in how Smith built and designed Bone's world, which should be a natural subject of the book, and there aren't a lot of Smith books, period.

Two high-priced books, one not comics and the other not really comics. I don't have a great interest in either project, but I'd sure like to see both in terms of future gift-giving.

APR072348 CRIMINAL #7 (MR) $2.99
The best serial comic available this week, this is the Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips crime book, two fifths through its second cycle.

MAY073678 1-800 MICE #2 (MR) $3.95
I didn't see the first one of these, but Matthew Thurber comics are consistently excellent and I'd buy this new issue sight unseen.

This is almost certainly the book of the week once the surprise of a giant Jeff Smith art book fades away. The recurring theme of this week's books seems to be publicists that don't have me on their review lists any longer. This is an early 1970s work I think, and one of the few Osamu Tezuka works to deal frankly with sensuality and sex during the period that manga in general started to poke at that topic. Since you should have stopped reading when I typed "Osamu Tezuka," I'm not sure how much further I should go.


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, you're welcome to assume the worst of me, but it's likely I just missed it. Still friends, right?
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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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Peruvian Cartoonist Claims Censorship

I'm not sure there's much more to this story than the actual surface cause-result, but it appears the cartoonist Piero Quijano has told the Associated Press that a gallery show of his work was a victim of censorship when the government-funded entity removed three works, at least one of which was critical of the military. As a result, Quijano pulled all of his work from the gallery, and the director of the gallery resigned in solidarity.
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Happy 83rd Birthday, Paul Conrad!

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Copyright Law Decision Reinforces Publishers’ Right to Digital Content

If this means what I think it means, this appellate court decision has huge implications for comics, as it signifies a major strengthening of the publishers side in the recent run of court struggles with the idea of publishers repackaging material as complete archival-type offerings in CD-ROM or on-line accessible form without have specifically worked out digital rights for individual articles within such projects. I would imagine this could clear a path for major offerings that involve comics, such as a long-rumored complete National Lampoon, or writings about comics, like a complete collection of Wizard.
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Happy 79th Birthday, Joe Giella!

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Go, Read: Ben Towle on MODOK Mania

imageBen Towle pens a history of all things MODOK revival, explaining how a character goes from being a little-respected late-'60s Marvel villain with a distinct visual look to a focal point for nostalgia, comedy and quirky, satirical writing about and attention to superhero comics in all their tossed-off, junk-culture glory.
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Happy 48th Birthday, Dan Jurgens!

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Go, Listen: Mini-Comics at Heroes Con

I'm letting Ben Towle write the majority of my blog this morning: he recommends this audio file from Heroes Con featuring several mini-comics creator. It seems like a worthy subject and a reasonably well-selected group, so I play on having this going through my own audio system at some point today.

Speaking of Heroes Con, they're already announcing guests for next year's show, which will be held roughly the same weekend while this year's same-wekend competitor Wizard World Philadelphia scrambles back into late May.
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Happy 46th Birthday, Jackson Guice!

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Yesterday’s News Stories Again Today

* several entries have been added to the Collective Memory link-dump for last weekend's MoCCA Arts Festival in New York City, and are designated by a mark so it's easy to find them. The Sequart piece by Rob Clough seems particularly smart and thorough.

* I've received three smart letters defending the Serge Champleau piece in La Presse to which a writer objected: Hervé St-Louis, David Turgeon, and Patrice Roy.

* Joe Gordon at the Forbidden Planet International blog has another long reverie on on-line comics piracy. It's hard for me to engage it personally, since the assumption seems to be to judge the matter in terms of its overall ability to maximize sales. My view of the issue is that it's one of creative rights and control.
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Happy 46th Birthday, Bernie Mireault!

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Quick hits
Craig Thompson's Tool Talk
Another Sean Phillips Cover
Another Eddie Campbell Cover

Buy From GRNY Exhibit
Florida Series on Jewish Graphic Novels

Essay on Old Comic Strips
Doug Wolk on Comics' Hidden Gems

Another Virgin Comics Article
Hero Initiative's Regional Boards
Katherine Keller's CBLDF Challenge

PWCW: Gon at CMX
Rave: Eddie Campbell
Cecil Vortex: Dan Piraro
Newsarama: Matt Fraction
Comic Book Bin: George Jeanty
The Phoenix: Four Webcartoonists

Not Comics
Marvel Maybe Not So Hot
I'm Not Sure I Understand
Persepolis Film Pulled In Bangkok
PreTeena Characters To Blog Site

Silvia Ziche's New Site
Kaplan's Manga Imminent
Manga Series He's Soured On
We're Sorry It Ended Abruptly
IDW's Little Orphan Annie Due in Feburary

Jog: Fox Bunny Funny
Dorian Wright: Various
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Alan Gardner: Cul De Sac
Chris Butcher: Mome Vols. 7-8
Chris Mautner: World War Hulk
Bill Sherman: Death Note Vol. 12
Brian Heater: Black Ghost Apple Factor
Leroy Douresseaux: O-Parts Hunter Vol. 3
Nick Owchar: Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1


June 26, 2007

CR Review: Thunderhead Underground Falls


Creator: Joel Orff
Publishing Information: Alternative Comics, soft cover, 128 pages, May 2007, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 1891867881 (ISBN10), 9781891867880 (ISBN13)

imageJoel Orff's work has a rich, lovely quality that makes it difficult for me to make a rigorous appraisal of its overall worth. Orff seems fascinated by quiet moments of reflection and reverie, as well as the abandoned places and inarticulate fumbling that can provide certain occasions with a distinct, dramatic tension. In Thunderhead Underground Falls he slips back and forth between scenes anchored by a night and morning a couple spends together before one of them ships off to basic training. Being immersed enough to notice when the pair stops rattling around their shared town and hits the road may be the key to the work. The protagonist is heading towards an unavoidable fate, something that can't be outpaced no matter how many miles are driven; he's really going nowhere. At the same time, sudden trips are a pleasure that will be fundamentally denied him in his new life.

Even with its road trip section, Thunderhead Underground Falls presents itself as a series of tableaux rather than a propulsive narrative. The college town in which the couple finds themselves is shut down for the holiday. Most places lie covered in snow. A groups of items has been abandoned within view of the road. A friend is surprised with a sudden visit. A motel room fosters intimacy. My favorite scene finds the pair entering what seems to be an abandoned home and sitting in its living room, talking and looking at various items before being interrupted by the voices of people who were upstairs all along. Anyone's who has ever spent time with someone after hours, in a place that's otherwise locked up or closed, a location somehow totally out of sync with the rest of the world, will likely recognize themselves in some part of the story Orff tells. His art has improved as well, and Orff may remind some of a much less visually accomplished Richard Sala. There are fewer moments than in Waterwise where the drawing seems over-stylized or lifeless. A few pages come close to captivating purely on visual terms, which is not something I might have believed seeing Orff's early work.

The existence of so much that's positive make the book's shortcomings more regrettable, as you want to like it and think more of it than proves possible by the time you close the cover. There's something fussy, almost mannered about the way Orff piles on the special effects and magical moments, like a television producer trying to foist a season's worth of plot elements into a single episode. This could be part of the point: young people trying to cram experience into a brief period of time, or perhaps it's an observation on how events collapse on each other in memory. Since it's portrayed in a clumsy sense that feels more like watching something be staged than naturally unfold, I'm not sure I can extend the benefit of the doubt. The fades and blending between moments, particularly the short ones like how the couple met but even the longer portrayal of the soldier as he goes off to war, also seem a bit overwrought for how little seeing those scenes rather than simply sensing them adds to the narrative. Hopefully in future books Orff will reduce the level of excess through which he pushes his poetic view of the world.

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Serge Chapleau Cartoon: Anti-Semitic?


Did a recent cartoon by La Presse cartoonist Serge Chapleau step over the line into an Anti-Semitic caricature? This writer thinks so. You can see a better capture of the cartoon as part of a slideshow here.

My gut reaction is that the above is pretty offensive. However, I'm never all that surprised when cartoonists asked to dance up to the edge of controversy every single day sometimes trip and fall over to the other side on occasion, any more than I'm surprised when a stand-up comedian will let loose with some misogynous joke in the midst of their act or some random, shouty radio personality uses an obtuse ethnic insult word in one diatribe out of 50,000. In other words, without a load of documented similarities suggesting a wider problem, I'm of the school that these are usually unintentional and severely unfortunate errors far more often than a startling revelation of the true nature of the artist in question. I'm not sure we have any room in our public discourse to process something along those lines, though.
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Andy Capp Statue to Be Unveiled


Drunken, lazy, wife-beating philanderers all over the world will no doubt be taking a tea kettle-heated bath in the living rooms of their flats today in celebration of news that the bronze statue honoring Andy Capp is set to be installed in the town of Hartlepool in the near future. Appropriately, it will be placed outside of a bar. For those of you keeping track at home, this gives the late Reg Smythe's popular creation the best memorial and the best licensed product.

I could write about this story all day, but the vicar's at the door.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Collective Memory: MoCCA Fest 2007


Links to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning the 2007 Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Art Festival (Mocca Fest), held June 23 to June 24 at the Puck Building in New York City.

This entry will continue to be updated for as long as people .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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Alison Bechdel
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posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

It's important to remember that the Danish Cartoons Controversy of 2005-2006 was an important event in the historical development of journalism, as this article makes clear. Much less clear is the shape and substance of that journalistic legacy.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 73rd Birthday, Bob Weber Sr.!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Updates on Freelancer/Donor Firing

The story that a newspaper let go freelancer Paul Fell after his comments following the revelation that he had donated a small amount of money to a political candidate in violation of his client's ethics policy has garnered some additional or related coverage, as well as an update of Alan Gardner's coverage to which we linked yesterday.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, Tom DeFalco!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Two Great Pieces on FPI Blog

A couple of first-class entries appearing on the Forbidden Planet International blog in the last 24 hours or so:

* this post walks through the comics download issue based on information sent in to Dirk Deppey by a reader of his Journalista blog. It offers both a retailer's view and a balanced take on the issues involved. My basic take on comics downloads is that illegal downloads are a violation of a creator's right to determine how his work is made available, but that legal ones should by now be available from anyone with the tiniest bit of potential interest in seeing their work in that form.

* A compelling interview with seminal comics publishing figure Raymond Leblanc.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 30th Birthday, Tite Kubo!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Another Eddie Campbell Cover

Florida Con Report
Dick Tracy Parade Report
Is MoCCA Becoming Too Expensive?

Where Batman Came From

New Cartoonist in Fond Du Lac
Terry Fitzgerald to Apparel Company
Matt Fraction Reflects on Four Years In

CBR: Nick Lowe
Washington Times: Jeff Smith

Not Comics
Odd Questions Dept.
Low-Cost Rentals to Young Manga Artists?
Congratulations to Larry Young and Mimi Rosenheim

Cargo Video
Another India Industry Profile
Valiant Reprint Project Profiled
Good As Lily Previewed at New York

Matt Brady: Dragon Head
Henry Chamberlain: Lucky
David Welsh Revisits Series
Henry Chamberlain: Pet Noir
Don MacPherson: Phonogram
Geoff Hoppe: Green Arrow #75
Ed Sizemore: Mechademia Vol. 1
Bill Sherman: My Dead Girlfriend Vol. 1
Jamieson Villeneuve: The God Interviews

June 25, 2007

CR Review: Flash #13


Creators: Marc Guggenheim, Tony Daniel
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, June 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers: APR070194 (Diamond)

Because of an unhealthy, irrational love for series finales, this morning I watched the final episode of something called Stargate: SG-1, not having seen a single minute of the television show before today. From what I could tell, Stargate: SG-1 was a show about various quirky but ultimately competent to heroic people having lighthearted science fiction adventures. It's the kind of series where it's clear the fans love the actors like they were members of their own personal summer repertory company. This makes for an experience where you can almost feel people other than you out there somewhere delighting in a lot of humorous and character-intensive moments of narrative satisfaction, elements the first time watcher has no chance to understand. Stargate: SG-1 was on for ten years, 215 or so hourly episodes, with a movie's worth of basic set-up and a spin-off series adding to plot accrual. Despite all of this weight and avenues for white noise and complication, I had a better grasp of what the heck was going on during that final episode than I did reading Flash #13, a comic that's been around for 13 issues over approximately a year's worth of time, featuring a character I must have read 250 comics about when I was a kid.

imageI would imagine from gleaning a cascade of Encyclopedia Brown-like clues such as the small number of issues published and the advertisement for yet another re-launch coming after this one that this Flash series was an unsuccessful re-fashioning of the longtime character. Further, I'd guess it spun off one of the Infinite Infinities mini-series or some other cosmic walk through crowd scenes and speeches proclaiming the fundamental awesomeness of DC's superhero icons. This Flash series seems to have starred that little Flash guy from the 1990s who was always drawn with over-sized feet, ratcheted up design-wise into a bland, much less stylized adulthood. Iris (Mrs. Flash) and Barry Allen (1950s-1980s Flash), two longstanding DC characters I thought were dead, make guest appearances; the Mrs. makes an extended one. There is portentous talk of a Speed Force, which I believe is some great-mystery-of-the-universe explanation of that which provides the various DC fast-runners their superpowers. Bizarre but heroic life lessons are intoned. We experience foreshadowing so blunt it's more like foreactualthinging. There are gruesome fight scenes. Sadly, we know the rhythm even if we don't know the lyrics.

I'm not as clear on some of the plot specifics. There's a bad guy named Inertia revealed as a fraud that somehow tricked the recurring cast of super-villains. Since he's never introduced in terms of his former status, and therefore all I know about him is that he's a guy who was leaning against a wall, I lacked a firm grasp on that moment's significance, too. After leading up to it in a few previous sequences, the book's climactic moment shows the new Flash nearly beaten to death and then shot with various ray guns until he dies, briefly embodying the heroic lesson from page one (no build-up to that, either; he just busts it out, like a NASCAR driver thanking a sponsor). Flash informs us before he croaks that he saved some abstract number of people. This is a good thing, because although we were told some off-panel folks are in danger, we don't know from anything we're told what the exact stakes are and exactly what constitutes their being saved. I guess by cluing us in, Flash was being heroically polite. We could all learn from Flash. If you have to be beaten and zapped to death in front of your fans, that's no reason not to provide some necessary exposition. Anyway: superhero killed. Then we get some crying/somber super-pals: pie-tin hat Flash, the Robin on either side of the one Batman got killed and refused to memorialize in his Bat hide-out because Batman hates girls, and a heroine in a goofy 1940s-looking costume I think may be the daughter of the old Mort Meskin character Johnny Quick (sorry; Roy Thomas I'm not).

Does any of that sound fun? It shouldn't. It wasn't! It was sort of like being dragged behind a boat for ten seconds after falling off your waterskis. There's no permanent damage, but it's unpleasant as all hell while it's happening. The plot here practically defines dreary, as you're essentially watching someone get murdered, and the scriptwork seems ten years behind Guggenheim's recent stint on Blade (which I bring up because I actually read Blade and so I have a rare point of comparison). Much of the dialog has the dubious charm of dry exposition without the conveying information part (see below), which is quite the feat. People make strange points of emphasis when they talk. The treatment of heroism feels forced and arbitrarily injected into the narrative. (I really wanted the kid on the first page to say, "Why are you telling me this? Am I going to survive this issue?") The staging is all weird, too, close-up after close-up interspersed with a few medium shots, which I imagine is a choice that could have come from Guggenheim or pencil artist Tony Daniel or both. I never knew where anyone was, I never knew the exact progression of events within the fights, and I never could tell things vital to the plot like when it was possible for Flash to run away, or when he was too surrounded to do so. If this were a stage play, the bad guys would constantly distract the audience by running off stage every so often and then rushing back on.

I have no idea how to run a superhero comics company, and as such businesses make millions of dollars a year, I don't want to be backseat driving their licenses. Still, I can't imagine such a muddy, dreary conclusion to a mis-step in terms of concept works on any level for anyone. I guess this could be seen as a send off for those fans who liked this iteration of the character, but if there were enough of those to make that worthwhile, the series wouldn't have been canceled in the first place. More likely, the important thing here is that this new Flash "do the job" pro-wrestling style to help convince the audience Captain Cold and the gang are slightly less of a joke than usual, storytelling capital that will be spent during some mini-series on down the line and then forgotten. Worst child star ending ever.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Baton Rouge, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

J.B. Handelsman, 1922-2007


The cartoonist John Bernard (Bud) Handelsman, a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, Punch and Playboy known for the intelligence of his writing and the range of his intellectual interests, died on June 20 after a brief period of struggle with advanced lung cancer. He passed away at his home in Southampton, New York.

Handelsman was born in New York City in 1922, studied at the Art Students League and New York University, and served the in the Army during World War II. He married in 1950.

Moving to Great Britain, Handelsman began his cartooning career in earnest with sales to Punch. He would write the "Freaky Fables" feature for the print humor institution for 11 years. While in Britain he began to develop American clients including The New Yorker, where he developed a reputation for having a gentle touch regarding political and cultural issues and for being one of the best writers the magazine ever employed as a cartoonist.

The New Yorker's own memorial piece in the latest "Talk of the Town" indicates that between 1961 and 2007 Handelsman drew around 950 cartoons for the magazine, in addition to five covers. A slideshow is available here. As a book illustrator, he is perhaps best known for his work on the John Cleese/Robyn Skynner books Families and How To Survive Them and Life and How to Survive It. He also illustrated a number of children's history books for Scholastic.

He and his wife returned to New York in the early 1980s after their children had grown. He apparently took part in the famous New Yorker cartoonists lunches.

J.B. Handelsman is survived by his wife, Gertrude, a daughter, two sons, and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held this summer.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Daily Cartoonist on Paul Fell

I think Alan Gardner at Daily Cartoonist did a nice job summarizing a story about a freelance cartoonist losing his job for comments made about his donation to a friend running for office, so I urge you to read it there. That a newspaper would apply its ethics code to freelancers seems to me a really debatable policy. For one thing, I don't know how the heck they would assure this for every freelancer that they might want to run without a vetting process that would make impossible the prompt use of individual pieces. Gardner also catches that the main point of contention between the cartoonist Paul Fell and the paper seems to be low pay rates as much as anything.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: ImageTexT Vol. 3, #3

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: On ALA Conference

This piece from comics business news and analysis site on the comics presence at the weekend's American Library Association conference reads like a concise, smart report to me. I look forward to seeing or at least reading about Kat Kan's "core collection" resource when it's released; that's burbled about just out of sight for a long while now.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: New Andrea Bruno Book


thanks, Domingos Isabelinho
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Comics Writings From the Weekend-Plus

* Brian Hibbs talks about installing a POS system in his store. It's a good thing that retailers are going to these systems -- it's a sign of progress, and it should eventually yield interesting in-store and between-store sales numbers. I know people hate on comics retailers all the time, but there's a part of me that I know is going to miss the raggedy-ass aspects of the first three decades of Direct Market retail, a system for the delivery of an entire art form manned to a significant percentage by the merchant equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys.

* Salon runs a small excerpt from Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics. Eddie Campbell is first to comment. I like and respect Douglas, and I realize it's always dicey when you look at the result of gigs you couldn't get if you had a magic lamp, but that excerpt raised so many flags for me the inside of my eyelids looks like Red Square circa 1985. In two pages of 400-plus (!) there are at least three assertions for industry terms that either don't exist on a widespread basis or don't always mean what Doug asserts they mean, a dissection of comics labeling as if it were super-important when that kind of thing really only matters to writers about comics like Doug, and potentially the dimmest reading of Robert Crumb ever. I greatly look forward to reading the entire thing.

* Somebody tell me: why don't the big companies avoid delays on short runs and limited series by getting the whole thing in-house first? I know why the small companies don't: cash flow and a history of getting stuff out for their artists immediately.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
I Like This Cover
Borgman Does Summer
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
Steve Bell on Drawing Gordon Brown
Stuart Immonen Presents Life Drawing

Beano Exhibit
Art Show in Seattle
Tezuka Exhibit Review
Chicago Area Con Report
How to Appreciate Comics
Frank Santoro Hanging Art
Danny Sotomayor Exhibit Profiled
Bill Mauldin Exhibited in Southern California

Ibis = Hardcore
Erik Larsen on 1940s Comics
More Herriman Editorial Cartoons
The Legacy of Dark Horse Presents

MDA to Nurture Talent
The Great Comics Search
PR For New Marketplace Site

Newsarama: Elio Tom Stern Ed Brubaker
Comic Bloc: Wes Molebash
Star-Tribune: Douglas Wolk
Walrus Comix: Kevin Colden
Paul Gravett: Keiji Nakazawa
The Monitor: The Nave Family
Rutland Herald: Marek Bennett
Baker's Dozen: David Yurkovich
Wizard: Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez

Not Comics
Comics Set Trends
I Didn't Know About Nipper
Novelists Discover Funnybooks
Drifting Legend Inspired Initial D
Organizing Comics When Titles Change

Headline Candy
Cargo Launches
Book Devoted to Yam
Readers Save Shoe Slot
Marvel's Halo Effort Profiled
Comixpedia Becomes ComixTalk

Jog: My Boy
Gina Ruiz: Korgi
Admin: Peace #1
Ron Miller: Peace #0
Alex Haas: Peace #0
Robert Weiman: Peace #0
Xavier Guilbert: Tokyo Eden
Mark Andrew: Kampung Boy
Richard Bruton: The Eternals
Paul O'Brien: Highwaymen #1
Jason Green: Empowered Vol. 1
Jason Green: Annihilation: Conquest
Anonymous: Random Journeys #1-3
Richard Bruton: Strangers in Paradise
Anonymous: 19th Century Detective #1
Bill Sherman: Scarface: Scarred For Life
Paul O'Brien: X-Men: Endangered Species
Gina Ruiz: Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

June 24, 2007

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were in Laguna Beach, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

June 23, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Brett Warnock



imageTop Shelf Productions is celebrating their 10th anniversary this weekend, in conjunction with an appearance by the publisher at the MoCCA Festival in New York City. It's appropriate for the company to have their birthday party in coordination with a convention. Maybe more than any other mid-sized publisher out there, Top Shelf has practiced the gospel of hand selling and getting their works directly to an audience, and has done so for several years now.

In the following interview, co-publisher (with Chris Staros) and art director Brett Warnock talks about his comics past, the anthology that preceded the company, and some of the major events in the company's history. I'd identify three: publishing what would become an international comics hit, Blankets, by the cartoonist Craig Thompson; their direct plea to fans and customers for financial support through direct sales when a book distributor's bankruptcy caught the company at an extremely vulnerable moment, and their management of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls -- both in meeting the high demand for the expensive volume and negotiating the potential litigation waters that could have erupted at any moment due to its explicit content.

I've always enjoyed Brett as a person one sees on the convention trail, and I'm thankful he took time from his extremely busy ramp-up to the MoCCA Festival to answer a few questions.


TOM SPURGEON: Congratulations on your 10th anniversary. Have you had time to sit down and reflect on that accomplishment? Does it feel like 10 years?

BRETT WARNOCK: Thanks, Tom. The truth is, I've been reflecting on this often since last Summer with the release of Lost Girls, and more than anything I just feel thankful that I've been able to do this for the last ten years at all. In spite of the platitudes about following one's whim (which I believe in wholeheartedly), it's not always as easy as that, and yet here I am, ten years on, and I have indeed been living my dream. Like with having children, the time seems to have flown by, and yet I can't really quite imagine my life before Top Shelf.

SPURGEON: Brett, can you tell me about your life and relationship to comics leading up to your decision to start doing the anthology? It seems that you were widely read in comics.

WARNOCK: Well, that's a lot to chew on. I grew up a solidly middle-class kid in the suburbs of Portland. My dad was a firefighter, while my mom was a housewife through my childhood, up until I started high school, when she took up a job as the principle's secretary at a different high school. With a little sister, a lap-dog named Buffy, and a very typical ranch-style home, we were the prototypical nuclear family unit. Also not uncommon at the time, we also had some dysfunction in our family.

imageI consumed copious amounts of television from early on, and loved going to the Saturday matinee double-features at our local theater. At 11 years old in May of 1977, how could I not become a Star Wars acolyte. In middle-school I discovered and devoured [Edgar Rice] Burroughs (Tarzan, Barsoom, Pellucidar, etc.) and Robert E. Howard's Conan books. At the same time, always being a visually-minded kid, the [Frank] Frazetta covers on those Conan books literally blew my adolescent mind. I'd dabbled in comics as a kid, but mostly Richie Rich, Hot Stuff, Casper, Plop!, the occasional superhero book or reprints of the Atlas monster books. But when I was 14, my freshman year, at the local Plaid Pantry spinner-rack, three books hooked me, and I've never looked back. Claremont/Byrne's Uncanny X-Men, Wolfman/Perez's Teen Titans, and Frank Miller's Daredevil. This was my Holy Trinity, and made me the life-long fan of superhero comics that I remain to this day.

In 1985 I left home for college in Eugene at the University of Oregon. There was a comics shop right on campus, but boy did it (and still does) suck. Spandex and games, with nary an indy book to be seen. Had this store stocked a more vibrant comics spectrum, I would be at least four or five years ahead of the curve, but alas I rode out the last of my Marvel Zombie days while the then-current mainstream fare just got mired in lame continuity, and visuals which trended towards the horrible Image pin-up style. In the early '90s however, tucked in a dark corner in the back of the store, I found three crazy new books, all of which made an immediate impact on my comics buying habits: Peter Bagge's Hate; Dan Clowes' Eightball; and David Mazzucchelli's brilliant Rubber Blanket. This opened my eyes to the infinitely broad canvas of what the medium could offer.

imageAlso at the time, there was a kick-ass punk/anarchist bookstore in Eugene called Hungry Head Books. Here I expanded both my political horizons and more importantly, it's where I discovered the world of mail-order zines and mini-comics. This was back in the dark ages, before the Internet invaded our planet, and Factsheet 5 reigned supreme. Through mail order outfits like John P.'s Spit and a Half and the Wow Cool catalog, I read and befriended the likes of Tom Hart, James Kochalka, David Lasky, and even Craig Thompson. The Seattle scene was starting to rage, conventions like APE and SPX brought us all together, and the next thing I knew I was addicted to this world like crack.

I became something of a student of the history of the medium, as well as the business of comics. Starting with Comics Buyer's Guide, I soon moved on and became a devout junkie of The Comics Journal.

Anthologies like RAW, Blab!, No Zone, and Drawn & Quarterly were out and hugely influential, and yet at the same time, I felt these rising mini-comics stars were largely being ignored by the previous generation of publishers. Thus, the main impetus to launch the anthology Top Shelf.

SPURGEON: One thing I always wondered about you is that there was a lot of rumor-mongering when you first showed up on the scene, the way comics people will gossip, that you were this super-rich guy from Portland that was going to do this anthology until you ran out of money. Some of the stuff I've heard since makes me think that maybe the opposite was true, and that you were struggling during those early years to get out every single book. What was the real story of the early days of doing the anthology?

WARNOCK: I've never been super-rich. Sorry. (Not that I'm morally opposed to the idea.) What happened was, right out of school in Eugene I'd befriended a guy named Steve, another aspiring comics professional, and I was broke as hell. I started bartending back then to pay the bills, and together we struck out to make it big creating some fantasy-type comics, aimed at publishers like Eclipse, Dark Horse, and Sirius. I lived with Steve for a couple years, and we would spend all night working on our stuff, until the birds started chirping the next morning. It was a fun time, but Steve was an infinitely more talented artist, and I soon found that my talents lay more with production and design. (Steve has recently had work featured in issues of Heavy Metal, and will appear in this Summer issue coming up too, under the name Steven MnMoorn.)

In 1994 my mom died of cancer, and I decided to move back home to Portland, to be around my family. My dad told my sister and myself that we could each have upwards of $20,000 from mom's insurance policy, if we had a reason to spend it. I'd talked about visiting Ireland and Scotland for a few years, but decided to stay put and launch a small publishing company. (I was also signed up for film classes, but had to drop that as soon as I realized how much work was involved in publishing.)

So I had 20K, no idea what I was doing, a few one-shot projects, and the anthology. Thinking that that much money was infinite, I paid a $30 page rate for the anthology, nor did I shy away from nice production values. For the time (and possibly still to this day), for an alternative anthology, that was huge. It was more the idea of it than anything. Still, by the time SPX 1996 rolled around and the debut of Top Shelf issue #5, I was pretty much out of money. But with copious amounts of guerilla marketing and sweat equity also behind my efforts, I'd made enough of a splash, and enough connections, that I could cruise through early 1997, when Chris [Staros] then pitched the idea of a partnership that September, also at SPX.

SPURGEON: Is there anything about your working relationship with Chris that people on the outside might be surprised to hear? Do you guys share an interest outside of comics, maybe, or is there some way you guys interact that people might be surprised to hear?

WARNOCK: I think what surprises most people is how little we actually interact. I live in Portland, Oregon, and Chris lives in Atlanta. I'll see him maybe four or five times a year, usually at conventions, and we actually only talk on the phone maybe two or three times a month. Most of our communique is via email. Our division and overlap of duties is so natural, that as long as we're on the same page regarding scheduling and whatnot, we've achieved an ability to work almost independently of each other.


SPURGEON: Why do you think you work well together?

WARNOCK: More than anything we simply share a vision of what the medium and the business might be. We both like stories and ideas (in comics, film, etc.) of all stripes, regardless of genre, so long as there is an underlying humanity therein. And in an industry full-to-overflowing with cynicism, I think we might stand out because we look for upbeat and/or uplifting stuff when we can. I realize that might sound twee, but whatever...

We've also been on the same wavelength regarding trends in publishing. From day one we said we didn't think we could compete with that market segment which serializes comics in four- or six-issue mini-series, followed by a collected trade paperback. We opted for a straight-to-trade policy since the beginning, and if you look at the marketplace before Blankets, the only "phone book" collections you saw were From Hell and the Cerebus books. Since Blankets, everybody and their brother have followed suit, from Jeff Smith's giant Bone (no pun intended, Jeff!) to Linda Medley's Castle Waiting from Fantagraphics.

SPURGEON: How do you look back on your fund drive to stay alive when your distributor collapsed, now that there's been a few years between now and then? It's become kind of a popular way to get out of that specific problem... how confident were you that it would be successful? What do you remember about that period now?

WARNOCK: We had no idea it would be successful. None. This was Chris' idea, and it was an act of desperation, plain and simple. It was a heady time, because after the fans saved our ass, all eyes were on us to do something big. All of a sudden, we were on the radar. It was at this time that I quit tending bar and went full-time, and a year before before Blankets debuted. Man, I can't believe it's been five years already...

SPURGEON: You're one of the more respected designers out there, Brett. Could you name a few books that you think of as really successful designs you've done? How would you say your basic approach is distinct among all the very good designers in the field?

WARNOCK: Actually, my skills are limited, especially compared to the likes of someone like Jacob Covey, who I think is the king of comics design at the moment. I'm more of a traditional "art director." That is, I have a good eye for what looks good, even if I have limitations in executing my ideas. I often hire designers to do freelance cover designs, based on my art direction. When possible, I let the cartoonist of a given book do all of their own work. And in this regard, I think my best asset is in recognizing when a creator can do it on their own, or if I need to step in and assist. I pretty much fake it when I do step in and work on a book cover, and even in these cases, I call on the creator for input. The only directive I've had in all these years, is that I don't want any of our books to look like a "comic book." I've always intended our books to look more at home on the shelves at a book store, than to resemble the classic title logo/giant image inherent on comics covers.

Our best looking books, frankly, are ones I never touched: Craig Thompson's books (Chunky Rice, Blankets, Carnet De Voyage), Max Estes' books Hello Again and Coffee & Donuts, Aaron Renier's Spiral Bound, The Ticking (which Renee French designed with Jordan Crane), the Jeffrey Brown Girlfriend Trilogy, and the entire oeuvre of Matt Kindt (the Pistolwhip books, 2 Sisters, Super Spy). That said, I'm proud of some of the books I've overseen. The new From Hell design, Lost Girls, Cicada, the Bughouse Trilogy, the anthology...

SPURGEON: You guys have a reputation now as being really aggressive hand-sellers of your books. How do you feel about retailer complaints that publishers hand-selling their product is sales out of their pockets? How have you felt about some of the intense convention schedules you've kept the last few years?

WARNOCK: It's really sad, and pretty naive when a retailer thinks we're "stealing" from them by selling at conventions. They above all should realize what an almost impossible endeavor it is to make a living in comics, and in our case, upwards of a third of our annual income derives from convention sales. Again, it's about survival. Doesn't it make more sense that the more we hand-sell our books, the stronger our brand becomes, and thus the more likely our books will have viability on the retailer's shelves? (Certainly, if we had wide enough support from more retailers, and our advance orders paid for the cost of the book on its release, we wouldn't be so desperate to make up those costs in the post-release market.)

That said, I came to an amiable solution with one of comics' more vocal retailers, regarding this situation, and i think it's pretty fair. That is, to make our convention-debut books available to retailers in the same town as a given convention during the same weekend. That said, we've always been generous this way, and with some exceptions, we've offered fat discounts for wholesale purchases line-wide during a convention, at any time -- not just at the end of the show on the last day.

How do I feel about these intense convention schedules? Well, it's a grind. Part of the cost of doing business to be sure, but have you seen how much more salt is in my salt & pepper hair these days?

SPURGEON: Who is the best artist in terms of helping you sell at conventions? Who's the best?

WARNOCK: Good question, that I don't think I can answer by a list of names. More importantly, what you're getting at is a vital part of how we determine who we publish any more. We've discovered that two things are crucial in this process -- one is a commitment to producing (i.e. being relatively prolific), and the second is the desire and ability to attend as many conventions, book signings, and tours as possible. Like in music, or film, or the book trade, in order to compete in a media saturated world, it's the comics creators who produce, then get out there and make fans one at a time who are far more likely to build an audience for their work, than the cave-dwelling types who rarely produce and can't or won't do the work to promote what they do make. It's that simple.

Jeffrey Brown both produces excellent work at a brisk pace, and promotes himself like a fucking champion. It's no small wonder that he is one of our best sellers. He is an example for all aspiring comics creators.

imageSPURGEON: When I read your blog and talk to you, it seems like you have really broad taste in comics. And yet Top Shelf seems to have had a lot of success in recent years with a specific kind of wistful funny animal comic. Do you feel any pressure as a publisher to capitalize on certain ways the public sees you?

WARNOCK: Well I think we publish more than you maybe think we do, since the wistful animal output is in the minority of our line. The only pressure we have is to stay afloat. You'd think that ten years in, our brand would be strong enough that our books might be a break-even proposition out of the gate, line-wide, right? Nope. Sad but true. So if we find a niche at which we excel, as long as we refrain from publishing books that we don't believe in, just because they'll make some dough, why not?

Feeling pressure based on how the public sees Top Shelf? Hmmm... I don't know, but it seems like our reputation is based more on the undefinable aesthetic of providing an interesting story and cool package, than working in any particular genre or sub-category. I'd say we're certainly more populist in our tastes than the more "lit-minded" publishers, and that's something I love being a part of, because I think our appeal is to a wide range of mainstream readers. I like the tag, "we've got something for everyone."

SPURGEON: Do you think Top Shelf will personally be around for 10 more years? Are you in it for the long haul? At what point did you realize that Top Shelf could be around for quite some time?

WARNOCK: I can't even think about this question. It's just what we do. There's not much I wouldn't do to keep this dream alive.

imageSPURGEON: Did handling such a massive project as Lost Girls change Top Shelf? Are you a different publisher now for having been successful with such a project?

WARNOCK: The only way it changed us was in making us see the value in the long roll-out. The book trade already works a year or even two years ahead of release, and I think as the direct market continues to creep along as it does, our model will keep shifting towards this book-trade schedule, where we're thinking a year ahead ourselves, rather than three months ahead.

If we're a "different" publisher because of Lost Girls, it's only as far as it's given our brand more credibility. Every little ounce helps.

SPURGEON: How do you feel in general about the move of comics into bookstores? One the one hand, I imagine it's been good for you, but on the other, you publish a lot of young talent that's going to be attractive to larger publishers.

WARNOCK: You've more than covered this ground in your columns. Bookstores = more sales. Good. Bookstores = occasional returns. Bad. Mainstream enthusiasm = exposure for our cartoonists. Good. Exposure and success of our cartoonists = poaching by big publishers with deep pockets. Bad.

It's like Nirvana and the independent vs. major record labels back in the early '90s all over again.

All we can do is pay attention to our creators, treat them right, and hope for a little loyalty. Certainly, we don't expect anyone to turn down a mammoth advance, which we could never match. But if we're doing our job right, we're offering maybe a little more creative freedom, and some perks here and there, so that even if and when a cartoonist might take a gig with Pantheon or whomever, at the end of the day, we're still friends, and they'll want to keep our working relationship alive and well.

imageSPURGEON: If Top Shelf ended today, what do you think its legacy would be in terms of wider comics history? Do you ever think in those terms? Is it important to you that Top Shelf have a place in comics history?

WARNOCK: I'm sorry, Tom, but just thinking about this question makes me feel like a poseur. All I can say is that I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do, and have any affect on the medium and business at all. Between From Hell, Lost Girls, and Blankets, I think we've helped deliver some of the greats, and if that alone was our legacy, I'd die a happy man. Ask me again in 20 years.

SPURGEON: Finally, the most important question: Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?

WARNOCK: You're kidding, right? With the lone exception of the Great One, Michael Jordan, every dynasty depended on and revolved around the men in the middle. The Celtics had Bill Russell, then McHale and Parish. The Lakers had Kareem, then Shaq. The Spurs had David Robinson, then Tim Duncan. Even in the east a few years ago in Detroit, you had Big Ben Wallace clogging up the middle, defending the rim.

Many people are comparing the excellent Kevin Durant to superstar studs like Kevin Garnett (no rings), Tracy McGrady (who can't make it past the first round), and even Kobe (ditto, without Shaq backing him up). So the comparisons don't add up.

Greg Oden, baby! I can't wait to start taking my kid to games!


* a handsome variation on the Top Shelf logo
* photo of Brett Warnock by Whit Spurgeon (2004)
* three influential comics: Byrne/Claremont X-Men, David Mazzucchelli's Rubber Blanket, and Dave Lasky's Boom Boom
* the first Top Shelf anthology
* panel from Craig Thompson's Blankets
* a nicely-designed book by Matt Kindt
* photo of Jeffrey Brown by Whit Spurgeon (2004)
* cover to Aaron Renier's Spiral-Bound
* panel from Lost Girls
* cover to Top Shelf edition of From Hell
* Jeffrey Brown cover to the company's anniversary sampler (below)


* Top Shelf Web Site
* Brett Warnock's Blog


posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: Dan Piraro interview

* go, look: Chris Duffy's gag comics

* go, look: Pascal Gaggelli

* go, read: Jeet Heer reviews Canadian comics history

* go, look: Misaki Kawai
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Go, Look: Lily Comix

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First Thought Of The Day


Is the Underwood Devil the most under-appreciated corporate food logo ever, or what?
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Happy 53rd Birthday, Russ Maheras!

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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June 22, 2007

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from June 16 to June 22, 2007:

1. Gordon Lee trial date set.

2. Another period of more intense than usual political pressure in the Middle East, another round of accusatory articles about cartoons.

3. Summer convention season kicks off.

Winner Of The Week
David Petersen

Loser Of The Week
Marlowe & Company

Quote Of The Week
"Ah, to see the future..." -- Jog

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
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Happy 46th Birthday, Zoran Janjetov!

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CR Review: trilobite


Creator: Josh Frankel
Publishing Information: Self-Published, mini-comic, 48 pages, $4
Ordering Numbers:

imageThis is one of Josh Frankel's latest wave of natural history comics, in this case a wordless story that follows a trilobite around a stretch of Cambrian sea. I like the whole group of these comics together maybe more than the individual books, including trilobite; there may be a one-man anthology to be done at some future date.

In trilobite, our name-the-same-as-the-title star is poked by a fellow traveler, joins some other trilobites and then negotiates a stretch of ocean filled with larger and scarier creatures. The nicest parts about it are the confident storytelling chops on display -- you're never knocked out of the story to second-guess a creative choice -- and the way comics allows you to recover that part of looking at nature where the similarities and dissimilarities between forms of life prove unsettling, a feeling that's hard to maintain after 10,000 hours of nature shows and which the stop-start nature of comics helps rattle loose.

Although I wouldn't discourage it, I'm not sure I could suggest anyone buy this book sight unseen. There are definite limitations involved in the storytelling choices here that might disqualify a lot of readers without their disinterest serving as a vote on the quality of the comic. What I would suggest is giving them a look next time you're at a show with Frankel, or at one of the nation's half-dozen or so great mini-comics friendly funnybook shops.

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Friday Distraction:

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If I Were In Brooklyn, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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John D. “Jack” Drummey, 1926-2007

The cartoonist Jack Drummey, a community fixture in Medford, Massachusetts and a full-time cartoonist since 1981, passed away May 20, according to a lengthy, anecdote-filled reminiscence in the Medford Transcript. The artist contributed to the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and the Boston Herald as periodical clients. A veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II, Drummey was deeply involved in veteran's issues. He was buried in the National Cemetery in Bourne, and is survived by a wife, a daughter and a grandson.
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Go, Look: BD Fugue Sketches

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Manga Publisher Switches Owners

imageIf all manga publishing news were presented in the crisp, crystal-clear and well-linked manner embodied by this ComiPress article about Asahi Sanorama dissolving and having its operations taken over by shareholder Ashai Shimbun, even those of us who are manga-impaired would link to or make commentary on every single article about that industry's publishing maneuvers. The cost after transition looks to be one of four manga anthologies. I have no helpful contextual information, and I don't think this is particularly big news; I just wanted to draw attention to a smart, little story and reprint one of these odd cover.
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Go, Look: Tom Hart’s 5 Obstructions


Project explained here; resulting comics here.
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Go, Look: ACBD’s Must-Reads 2007

imageShaun Tan, Christophe Blain, Lewis Trondheim and Enki Bilal are among those creators on the essential summer reading list released by l'Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinee. It's 20 books long, derived from 10-book lists submitted by individual members. That seems like a good idea to me, even though a broad list tends to have virtues and limitations like any other sized list, in this case probably tending to be generally conservative. I always thought an American equivalent to the ACBD would be fun and twice got to the point of writing by-laws and listing potential members. Both times right before making initial contact I remembered I hate everyone and wouldn't join such a group if asked, the kind of realizations that work against a community-building impulse. Anyway, I'd just list the books here, but then you'd have no reason to follow the link.
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Go, Read: How To Make A Comic Strip


Scott Adams walks you through it. Sometimes literally.
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Smaller Publishers as On-Line Innovators

This article on smaller company efforts to figure out a system of on-line comics distributions works far better as a kind of rambling survey than it does as a polemic. As I'm much more interested in the former than the latter, I'm fine with that.
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Go, Look: New Family Prints

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Friday News Follow-Up Story Mania

* congratulations to the Center For Cartoon Studies for receiving the accreditation they need in order to give out Master of Fine Arts degrees. The school's first two-year class graduated in the Spring.

* it looks like Carlsen and Egmont will remain two separate publishers, the best hoped-for outcome after Aschehoug/Egmont purchased Bonnier Forlagene, Carlsen's parent company.

* potential citizen legal action regarding a joint operating agreement for Seattle's two newspapers ends. Seattle was in real danger of going from a two-newspaper town with two and a half papers' worth of strips, to a one-newspaper town.
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Happy 51st Birthday, Kevin Fagan!

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10 Things I’d Do At MoCCA Festival

I'm not going to the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art's Summer Festival tomorrow and Sunday at the world-famous Puck Building in New York, one of the finest showcases for small press, independent, alternative and arts comics in North America. But if I were to go, this is what I would try to do.

image1. I'd walk around the room at least once and look at every table.
It's a small enough show you can still do that, and it's a great way to take a snapshot of this aspect of the art form. Plus there are tons of bargains and forgotten goodies to be seen if you bend over and look.

2. I'd remember to go upstairs.
There are some people exhibiting upstairs. I'm sure they'll put some heavy hitters up there to draw people to the second floor -- MoCCA's the best show in terms of spacing out its big attractions -- but still I could see forgetting this if I didn't make a point of it. Like many multiple-time attendees, I'm not sure I could draw you a map as to where the stairs are in that place.

3. I'd go see the Kim Deitch and Alison Bechdel panels.
Those sound like the two most worth trudging over to the MoCCA offices to see. Hopefully, they're compensating for the geographic distance by setting up a way to record those panels for posterity's sake.

4. I'd drink like a dumbass until 4 AM thinking the bars closed at 1 AM and then show up hammered for my panel the next morning.
Wait, that's from 2003's list.

5. I'd look at the new comics
There's so much stuff coming out, I can't imagine buying anything just to get it a couple of days early. And thankfully, the day of my Chicago Con road trips solely to buy regularly-distributed comics because I never saw 90 percent of them anywhere else are long over. I'd probably look at some stuff, and maybe buy a book or two from friends for whom my con purchase would mean a greater amount getting into their pockets than my later store purchase, but in most cases I'd continue to buy through regular channels.

6. I'd buy all homemade stuff.
The great thing to me about the overwhelming commercial aspects of North American shows is that there are sometimes very creative ways in which people seek to fulfill this function. In other words, I can buy comics at the comics shop; at an art show I look at art, and original pages, and other one-of-a-kind material, like the special Arf! book pictured here.

7. I'd go from one place to another by foot, but only once.
If the weather gets halfway tolerable, there's nothing like a long walk in New York. I wouldn't do this with a lot of stuff to carry. Maybe a morning walk over to the Puck Building.

8. I'd go do something New Yorky.
I like going to see plays when I'm in New York. There are no writers with plays up in whom I'm interested. Actor-wise I'm sort of intrigued by the Frank Langella half of Frost/Nixon and the Christopher Plummer half of Inherit the Wind. I also like eating out in the kinds of places my town of 8000 doesn't offer and all the various big-name museums. And sports. And shopping. There's nothing I dislike, actually, about the city that would crop up during a short visit. New York!

9. I'd attend every party I could.
Except for the occasional impromptu get-together, the parties during MoCCA weekend are very egalitarian invite-wise, so I'd try to hit as many such gatherings as possible. Although I'm always afraid I'm going to get drunk at a Top Shelf party and wake up to find that Chris Staros has sold me 11,000 Max Estes books.

10. I'd have a long, nerdy discussion about some ridiculous piece of comics ephemera outside on the sidewalk.
Hey, you have your idea of fun, and I have mine. It's like the midnight bull sessions at university except this time the role of hall nerd is being played by everyone. Last year I got to meet the great Donald Phelps just by lounging out on the stoop like one of the Lords of Flatbush. You can't beat it.
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A Sort-of Repeat Note On Gordon Lee

Can we please dispel the notion once and for all that the Gordon Lee case is in any way about Lee screwing up and giving a kid a comic with Picasso's tiny, flaccid penis in it? The support of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is not now, nor has it ever been, a Retailer Merit Award. The day that Gordon Lee is charged by the Retailer District Attorney, and tried in Retailer Court, and has his case decided upon by a jury of 12 Angry Comics Internet Personalities, and runs the risk of being thrown in Retailer Jail if found guilty, then we can have a long and thrilling conversation about how his actions stacked up against other retailer or wannabe retailers and their fantasy administration of that night's same events.

Until then, can we all please recognize that this is horrible law, and if the CBLDF and Gordon Lee prevail, it's that horrible law that is weakened or goes away? Lee doesn't get an extra discount from Diamond if they win. He might go to jail if they lose. We get greater opportunity for free speech and expression if they win. We get reduced opportunity for free speech and expression if they lose. Is anyone not clear on this yet?
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Happy 36th Birthday, Eric Reynolds!

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Quick hits
Sean Phillips Inks
Kevin Huizenga Inks
Marshall Ramsey on Process
Another Eddie Campbell Cover

Denmark at MoCCA
Comics Folk Coming to AZ
Massive Heroes Con Report
Report on Souther Salazar Show
Changes Coming For Angouleme

The Greatest Thing I've Ever Read
Rome's Tom Sims Honored at Museum

No, They Aren't
Jerry Craft Up For Award
DVD Keeps Alan Moore Intro

Mr. Media: Peter Kuper
Ink Studs: Eddie Campbell
Shaenon Garrity: Carl Horn
Chasing Ray: Eddie Campbell
Indie Spinner Rack: David Mack
Forum: Frederik Schodt, Carl Horn
Steve Bissette: JP Coovert, Sean Morgan

Not Comics
Cars in Comics
Collecting Is Fun
I Hate Your Movie

James Vance on Cartier Comics

Jog: MOME Vol. 8
Eric Burns: Li'l Abner
Greg Burgas: Various
Xavier Guilbert: Tokyo Eden
Katherine Dacey-Tseui: Apollo's Song
Leroy Douresseaux: Gin Tama, Vol. 1
Graeme McMillan: X-Men: Endangered Species
Alan David Doane: The Saga of the Bloody Benders

June 21, 2007

CR Review: Hello, Me Pretty

imageCreators: Line Gamache
Publishing Information: Conundrum Press (BDang), soft cover, 64 pages, May 2007, $15
Ordering Numbers: 189499423X (ISBN10)

The first book in Conundrum Press' new graphic novel imprint BDang, Hello, Me Pretty is a translated version of the 2005 graphic novel Te Malade, Toi!. The story of a family with a mentally disabled youngest daughter (Josee) as it weaves in and out of local Montreal history of the late 1960s through the 1980s, Gamache's autobiographical story first and foremost offers readers an appealing art style that lies somewhere between Mark Beyer and Debbie Drechsler. Despite the highly stylized and almost grotesque take on character design, Hello, Me Pretty is an almost exhaustingly upbeat work. It insists from the start that Josee and others like her are angels visited upon the family, a fact which is asserted and supported by some side notions like guardian angels drawn into the narrative, but a take that's never tested by the narrative. Josee's wonderful nature is so much an ingrained part of the story's DNA we have no choice but to accept the author's word for it. It's not necessary, of course, that this work show the hassles and second thoughts that beset the family of Paul and Judy Karasik in The Ride Together, a book dealing with the same subject in a different family. It's more that one can't shake the feeling that Hello, Me Pretty would be much stronger if more attention were given to the intricacies of its family relationships, if a case for the family's ability to function was made rather than assumed. What's strange is that more time is given the matriarch's struggle with cancer or the more standard teenage rebellion that shakes the household than the role Josee plays at home. She's observed at several times throughout the book, but we geet few chances to see her engaged and involved.

The other difficulty in the work arises from uneven narrative flow. The first 13 pages of the work feel like they're from a different book altogether, with their intimate portrayal of a child's view of her mother's problems at the hospital and their strong, assured pacing. Everything after that seems to tumble forward, a series of spills rather than a controlled flow. For instance, a significant amount of space is given over to instances of Josee walking away from home or school: her adventures. We see enough of these that information is repeated, so that it seems like a build to a sizable payoff. Then that subplot suddenly ends. Other moments paint an incomplete picture. When Josee's maternal notions are described, it opens up questions regarding sex and intimacy that we really hadn't seen until then. While excellent art never seeks to push for a conclusion or a summary statement or even significant meaning, the satisfying and blessed life we're told exists lacks definition. That we take it so much about that life on faith indicates how much we're happy for it to be true. What could have been a remarkable work ends up merely a visually arresting one told from an interesting perspective.
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If I Were In Minneapolis, I’d Go To This

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

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CBLDF Makes Fundraising Push As Gordon Lee Trial Date Is Set

The case of Georgia v. Gordon Lee will go to trial August 13, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is making one last push towards raising money in anticipation of the costly event. In a notice sent out to multiple web sites, CBLDF Executive Direct Charles Brownstein set as a goal raising the $20,000 the trial itself is expected to cost the fun. The case has already cost the Fund $80,000, spent over an almost three year period where the defense was able to knock out most of the original seven charges.

Lee still faces two misdemeanor counts of Distribution of Harmful to Minors. Each charge could mean up to one year in prison and/or $1000 in fines.

Lee was charged after an incident on Halloween 2004. Lee and his shop in Rome were participating in a local merchant trick or treat celebration, and a copy of a Free Comic Book Day giveaway from Alternative Comics featuring incidental, non-sexualized male nudity in a contribution by Nick Bertozzi, accidentally found its way into the hands of a minor (or two minors, as the prosecution later held). The case has underlined or brought discussion to bear on a number of important points, ranging from the nature of Free Comic Book Day giveaways to an unfortunate impulse by some in comics not to support Lee because the case involved retailer error -- an impulse I believe ungenerous as well completely beside the point when it comes to the value and necessity of standing up against the abuse of law represented by the aggressive prosecution of something my Mom would have handled with a phone call.

You can read the full text of their release here, including multiple ways to donate or provide assistance.
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Happy 50th Birthday, Berke Breathed!

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Three Items Not Worth Their Own Entry

* go, look: Richard McGuire's super-handsome poster for a comics festival in Belgium.

* if you ever thought that the European comics scene was devoid of the kind of weird in-fighting and extravagant personalities that you find in the North American comics scene -- or just thought those industry folks on the whole not as likely to indulge in that kind of thing -- let this article about a comics festival uninviting a prominent figure stand as a reminder that there are fights and disagreements in every arts industry.

* I used to kid my friend Kenny for having Star Trek plates, but now I totally know what he was thinking.
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Steve Niles!

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Go, Look: Wizard’s Day at Marvel

If I were still 10 years old, this trip to the Marvel offices by a Wizard staffer would have been my all-time favorite Internet feature, bar none. And having remained ten years old for 28 years, I would likely be an international celebrity with terrifying Armageddon-like ramifications, so my opinion would totally count for something.

As it is, I still found it intermittently instructive for one of those kind of sunny PR pieces, although it comes from a place where I probably disagree with five or six underlying values going in -- on a good day. Added plus: Flo Steinberg sighting.

I haven't been paying attention, but I guess Wizard's high-profile, major site designer rumored-to-be-used re-furbishing can be said to be a complete non-starter at this point? I thought what they ran up the pole was kind of a sturdy approach, although abysmally non-functional. An aggressive video ad for an MMA show suggested different facets of the company may not have been on the same page, a notion that tends to come up where Wizard is concerned every six months or so, although I've never been able to get anyone at the company to confirm or even talk about it. Anyway, I was struck by the print magazine quality of this piece into thinking how difficult it can be to transpose a model that works in print into an on-line iteration, so it's not a shocker that Wizard may not have figured out those issues yet.
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Welcome, Helena Sophia Zura!


Congratulations to the lovely Janet Munger and my old fanta-flatmate Greg Zura, one of the best people in comics, bar none.
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Go, Look: Dilbert’s Proposal Pack 50

I wish someone would devote a site to promotional packets used by the syndicates to sell a strip to newspapers. Dilbert is such an odd duck in the history of strips that its syndication package isn't likely to be instructive to up and coming talents, but because of that uniqueness having them all in one place has its own special significance.
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Quick hits
Another Eddie Campbell Cover

Colleen Doran on Heroes Con
Mort Walker's Museum Still Homeless
Silent Auction at SDCC (June 20 Entry)
Daryl Cagle's Editorial Cartooning Panel at SDCC

I Just Like Looking At This
LA Times on Roger Armstrong
Fun George Thomas Delacorte, Jr. Profile

Top Ten in Japan
People Like Manga
I Am In Love With This Concept
Why Marvel Doesn't Listen To You
Joey Manley on Ceding Copyrights
Mobile Market Nearly $600 Million By 2012

Broken Frontier: Filip Sablik
Creative Loafing: Chris Staros
The Collected Comics Library: Timothy Callahan Maxwell James Singletary

Not Comics
Stan Lee Action Figure
Evan Dorkin on Collecting
Charles Burns Draws Brian Chippendale

RIP Punk Planet
Minx Line Profiled
Will Elfquest End Up On-Line?
New Chester Gould Biography
Go, Look: Gerry Alanguilan's All-Ages Series

Alli Katz: Fishtown
Luke Foster: NextWAVE
Michael May: Manhunter #25-30
Adrian F. Zettlemoyer: Casanova
Greg McElhatton: Yotsuba&! Vol. 4
Brian Hibbs: Tales From The Crypt #1
Xavier Guilbert: The Drifting Classroom

June 20, 2007

CR Review: Superior Showcase #2


Creators: Maris Hicks, Joey Weiser, Farel Dalrymple
Publishing Information: AdHouse, comic book, 32 pages, 2007, $2.95
Ordering Numbers:

This is not in any sense a good comic book, although at $2.95 and on sturdy paper stock it's certainly a nice vehicle for one. A spin-off of AdHouse's Project: Superior anthology, Superior Showcase provides a similar indy-comics take on superhero stories, by which I mean (mostly) good-natured satire that comes from tweaking values or perspectives or strategies typical to that genre. In this issue, that means short stories from Maris Hicks, Joey Weiser and Farel Dalrymple. Unlike a trade paperback where the number of stories means a greater chance a dud or two can be supported and the variety of approaches becomes its own selling point, Superior Showcase needs to have consistently excellent stories. These are not.

In fact, the Wicks and Weiser shorts are pretty much sub-standard as professional comics of any type. Wicks' take on a body servicing a wound in superhero garb is the kind of thing that one might have come across 35 years ago in an educational comic book freebie; you may have to resist an overwhelming urge to make a beep before turning the page. You'd pretty much have to be a craftsman on the level of Jim Woodring or Henriette Valium to make such a story interesting, and Wicks falls far, far short of that. Weiser's tale of a superhero who -- surprise, surprise -- is really a shy guy who can't talk to his crush-object superhero peer might be cute if you've never read any of the dozens of comic book stories created after 1980 that recast superheroes as having the hang-ups and peccadilloes of comics fans. Rather than providing a twist on that formula, Weiser plays it straight and gives us a short that's relentlessly predictable. It feels like it goes on forever. Only Farel Dalrymple's short adventure featuring the fat, street-level ass-kicker Hollis offers some interest, and that's almost all in the visual flair the cartoonist brings to his pages. The story itself is basically an exercise in laying out a concept as opposed to letting the concept develop within a narrative; it practically preens, and it's hard to figure out why.

If this book came out every month, you might forgive an occasional sub-par issue, but a publication schedule as infrequent as Superior Showcase offers fairly demands each one work on its own merits. This issue's not good enough to stand alone for anyone but super hardcore fans of gentle superhero satire, and it's not frequent enough to provide serial thrills. I can't believe it's doing anyone any good.
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.


APR070262 ARMY @ LOVE #4 (MR) $2.99
APR070218 SPIRIT #7 $2.99
Two old-fashioned regular comics series by interesting cartoonists I haven't been able to catch up with yet.

One of the odder developments in mainstream comics during the last 24 months is the lack of vital X-Men comics beyond the kind of All Star approach used by nostalgia-fueled writer Joss Whedon. This is Jeff Parker's attempt at writing stories featuring the original group of superhero mutants, basically running them up against a variety of early Marvel bad guys like the Lizard. I used to have a hamster named Werner Roth, so I'd definitely take a look at this. Although I'm thinking I could probably by the comics themselves for half this amount if I paid enough attention to the next 24 months of discount bins.

My favorite ongoing (in a translated sense) manga series, to the point I can work up the energy to mind the rougher, duller stretches of this absurd comedy. I even rented the live-action movie.

I loved the first one, collecting letters from Sim to a variety of folks during the first few months of 2004. This huge book offers up another couple of months worth of stuff from that year. You knew if you were going to buy this or not before you got to the $22.00.

APR074059 DEATH NOTE VOL 12 TP $7.99
The best continuing manga serial with a book out this week and right now one of the world's most notorious comics. Most comics shops and bookstores carry early books in a series as well as the latest books, so if you want to try a series you can probably do so at the beginning.

I'm certain these have already been listed once, but if you haven't bought them, they're great re-packagings of classic comics material, at a fine discount. I've already dumped by much-beloved trade paperback volumes.

APR073315 HICKEE VOL 3 #3 (MR) $2.95
Funny short stories done in variations on a style that no one else employs right now.

APR073695 MOME VOL 8 GN $14.95
Probably the best issue of the anthology yet, with more Al Columbia, a really funny exercise in rewriting, and the first major interview I can recall seeing with maybe the most exciting young talent in comics, Eleanor Davis.

A must-have for Schulz fans and fans of the comic strip and probably not something that would interest a casual reader, this is an effective re-packaging of Schulz's Christian youth magazine cartoon panels and related materials. What's great is that Schulz actually develops what could have been tossed off work into a feature with its own strange integrity, an ostensible lead and a narrow but interesting range of subject matter. Additionally, sometimes it doesn't work at all, providing a glimpse into how even the most skilled cartoonists in the world can sometimes misstep.

MAR073427 DELPHINE #2 $7.95
The latest round of Ignatz books and maybe the most consistently solid group since the books started to come out. Delphine is as pretty as anything Richard Sala's ever done, Sammy the Mouse is Zak Sally working balls to the wall on the first of what might be eight volumes, and Gilbert Hernandez's latest New Tales story offers some freakishly effective staging and exquisite use of dead space on the page.

A super-cute manga series about a kid in that manic, magic phase between, say, three and five years old that somehow manages to catch the spirit and energy of living with one of those strange creatures.

I'm not sure this book about comics writer Bill Mantlo is for me, but I'd definitely want to look at 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, you're welcome to assume the worst of me, but it's likely I just missed it. Still friends, right?
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Perseus Closing Marlowe & Co. Imprint

I'm working out of my area of comfort in noting this piece at GalleyCat -- for one thing, I'm not even 100 percent certain the "wellness imprint" is the same company I remember -- but it occurred to me there was a time when the soon to be folded into another company Marlowe & Company's brief, minor interest in comics during the 1990s with collections like The Cowboy Wally Show (or maybe just that book as I can't remember any others... Steve Purcell, maybe?) was not just a hopeful sign but first floated the notion that there was existing material that could be packaged for a book-reading audience.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 73rd Birthday, Rius!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Manga Newsbrief Round-Up

* if your fantasy world comics publishing rotisserie team included Shogakukan, it's time to jump on-line and talk smack to rest of your league -- the publisher surpassed Kodansha in February as Japan's #1 publisher for the first time.

* I always look at articles like this one less for their content but as a kind of early mission accomplished in the efforts to emphasize Japan's manga and anime culture as a major worldwide matter of importance. I know there's a chicken and egg deal here in that you can't have articles about people testifying to the life-changing nature of this material without having the people first, but there's something so confident and declarative in the article's style that makes me think of this differently than I would a piece that explored the concept with greater hesitation.

* Server operators held liable in a way that might impact the significant proliferation of manga scans?
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, John Workman, Jr.!


John Workman lettered Simonson's Thor, right?
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Rights To This Post Can Be Purchased

There are worse organizing principles in life than to never sign a work-for-hire contract, in effect deciding to never provide creative work for concepts that you do not own. I'm not religious about it, though, and there are any number of rich, rewarding and satisfying creative lives that can be led signing nothing but.

However, while we're in an era where I think someone could do some work for a company and sign contracts that re-affirm their non-ownership of such franchises via ink on paper without being looked upon as a moral midget, I think we're past the moment in comics' history where signing over ownership rights for a chance to be published or for some cash is going to be a good idea for most folks. There are too many other opportunities, too many alternatives, and the overwhelming historical evidence suggests that a good idea kept and nurtured by its creator is going to do better for that creator than a good idea kenneled with someone else's corporation.

The best that you can say for the latter is that some folks have overtly sold ideas to make some extra cash, that they were well-compensated in doing so, and that the quality of the ideas sold seems to suggest more something the creators dug out of a ring notebook at the bottom of the closet, not their likely life's work. Although as Dave Sim once said of Steve Gerber, sometimes you don't know what you've got until after it's published.

In the end, ceding ownership to something you create is just that, no matter how many friendly phone calls or gut feelings or friendly intimations you may have, and it's hard to figure out dismay and shock over the fact that someone might choose to enforce their half of the deal. Especially if it's a crappy one.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 38th Birthday, Nix!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

We’re Going To Have a GN Party Tonight reports that a never-produced 1990s, Alex Cox-penned, sequel script to Repo Man, an amusing 1980s indy film that was scoured for meaning like the Talmud by Mid-western kids on their family's first VCR desperate for an entry point into west coast punk music, will now become a graphic novel. No word yet if there's a similar treatment out there for Walker.

Clumped together with news that DC/Wildstorm is moving ahead with a Veronica Mars comic, the recent Buffy and Dark Tower success stories and the ongoing value the Dark Horse comics have had to the Star Wars franchise, and it seems obvious we're sort of well into a period of perceived franchise-goosing value by comics that far-outstrips the actual ability of those comics to reach a wide audience. If I were a freshman at Comics University, the folks in my dorm would be sitting in the hallway late at night, talking in an noodly fashion about what all this means.
posted 3:03 am PST | Permalink

AV Club on Ten Great FF Moments


This is a pretty standard fan article in a way, but I enjoyed it.

One strange bit of fall-out with the superhero companies rushing towards the millions of dollars available from film adaptations is that it's changed the nature of discussion on what makes the comics so great. The value placed on the original works now tends to focus on their conceptual strengths rather than their execution. I'm one who thinks the bulk of what made the early Marvel comics so awesome is that they were really fun, well-drawn, funny comic books, not that they were walking storytelling hooks. Articles like the AV Club's seem to be much more in line with what I enjoyed as a kid more than a few dry paragraphs on heroes with a feet of clay or heroes with a sense of family would be. I'm not against analysis, of course, I just feel that in subconsciously reducing superhero characters to pitches, the quality of the work itself gets short shrift.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Look Who’s Blogging Now!

Flemming Rose, editor at Jylland-Posten and key figure in the Danish Cartoons controversy of 2005-2006.
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Composite Milk and Cheese
The Invisible Fred Abberline
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
How To Become a Comic Strip Writer

Paul Madonna Event
Ed Cunard Loves MoCCA
Ben Katchor Event Report
Jeff Parker in Charlotte 01
Jeff Parker in Charlotte 02
Jeff Parker in Charlotte 03
Jeff Parker in Charlotte 04

Lisa Moore Will Die
Well, I Like the Skrulls
Calling All Popeye Collectors
Eddie Campbell on George Herriman

Another Contest
Flash Vs. Cootch
Another ROK Launch Article
Peter Sanderson Looks at Strip Reprints

Free Times: Tom Batiuk Rob Vollmar
Finding Wonderland: Svetlana Chmakova

Not Comics
Camp Comics
King of Moomin World
Marvel's Movie Development Slate

Peter David to She-Hulk
Comics Comics #3 Debuts
Graphic Universe Launches
Profile of DC's High-End Books
Guardian Line Profiled in PWCW
Hope Larson Upgrades Web Site

Steve Duin: Fell: Feral City
Matt Brady: Shojo Beat 0707
Brian Heater: The Plain Janes
Paul O'Brien: Sub-Mariner #1
Paul O'Brien: World War Hulk #1
Paul O'Brien: Mystic Arcana: Magik
Josh Hechinger: Heavy Liquid #1-5
Johanna Draper Carlson: Red Eye, Black Eye

June 19, 2007

CR Review: Mutts, May 13-19, 2007


Creator: Patrick McDonnell
Publishing Information: King Features Syndicate, single strips, May 14-19 2007, Free
Ordering Numbers:

Here's what runs through my mind looking at the Monday-Saturday run of daily strips reprinted above.

1. This run of strips preceded the graduation event at the Center for Cartoon Studies, for which Patrick McDonnell was the commencement speaker. So they're comics culture history as well as mainstream entertainment.

2. Each strip works on its own, but they also work as riffs on a single idea. A lot of angry, young "I could do this better" cartoon types might see the first four strips as McDonnell repeating himself in order to extend the amount of time he gets to spend on the single idea, but that kind of analysis ignores how strips are read. Newspaper strips are read by some people all the way through every day, by some people intermittently, and by some people maybe just once in a week or more. Comics need to work for all of those people. The only break McDonnell gets from this responsibility now that Mutts is a veteran strip is that he doesn't have to explain the entirety of each character's personality in every strip. The jokes still have to work for each of the strip's audiences.

3. Note how McDonnell's written the strip so that either Friday and Saturday could serve as the ending, or the two days can work together as a 1-2 punch. Some people don't get the Saturdays, and it's the least-read of the daily newspaper even for those that carry the feature six days a week instead of five.

4. McDonnell extends the timing and impact of funny moment in the last strip by making the middle panel wider.

5. He also makes the moment last longer by switching the staging so that the podium and Mooch's body positioning stop the eye. In the first four strips the staging remains static for complete moments (the figures don't all run left to right) but complete moments with gentle stops that rattle off 1-2-3.

6. For no particular reason, I really like Earl's tail wagging in that last panel in Saturday's strip.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Patrick McDonnell’s Speech to the 2007 Graduating Class at Center For Cartoon Studies

I am honored and happy to be here with you today on such an historic and special occasion -- the first graduating class of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, an institution that acknowledges the ascension of comics as a legitimate art form.


Like all of you, I have a total passion and love for this medium. Cartoons, comics, graphic stories, visual narratives, sequential art -- we're not sure what to label it. I call it magic.

Little scribbles that come to life to tell stories that make us laugh, make us cry, make us think. Little doodles that touch our lives and become a part of us. Pure magic.

Today we celebrate 18 young pen and ink magicians who have studied the old tricks and are now on their way to mystify us with some new ones.

Now, first of all, feel free to space out and daydream during my talk. You wouldn't be true cartoonists if that didn't happen. I'll try my best not to do that for the next 20 minutes, but there's no guarantee.

When I started to think about this speech, I tried to remember my own graduation. I went to the school of Visual Arts in NYC. It too started out as a cartoon college.

I tried to remember that day's commencement speech. No luck.

Then I tried to remember who the commencement speaker was. Blank. No idea.

But I do remember that my graduation was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue in the Egyptian wing. I do remember looking at all the wonderful hieroglyphics and thinking about how they might be the world's first comic strips. And that telling stories with words and pictures is such a rich part of human history. And that I might be on my way to becoming part of that history. And then I started daydreaming of mummies, pyramids, and cat gods and Cleopatra floating down the Nile. And about how cool it would be if our diplomas would be inscribed on papyrus to honor these Egyptian roots…and, of course, when I came to, the commencement speech was over.

This is something to watch out for. As artists we live such rich inner lives that sometimes we miss out on the moment.

You know how when you are making your art, drawing
your comics -- you are totally there.
You get in the zone.
Your mind and heart are working together.
You are following your instincts and just letting go, letting go.
Time stands still.
Your ego disappears.
You are part of something bigger than yourself.
You are right here, right now, in the present, and all is beautiful.

Well, now...

Practice doing that when you are away from your desk.

Cartoon Life Lesson # 1: While creating great art, don't forget to also create a great life.

I believe cartooning is something you are born to do. I’m a member of the National Cartoonist Society. I was once part of an online chat with a group of 12 other cartoonists, including Will Eisner and Bill Mauldin. We were all asked when did we know when we first wanted to be a cartoonist? We all gave essentially the same answer: five years old, four years old, as far back as I can remember. I'm sure it's true for most of you. You followed that early dream and it brought you here.

Some of my earliest memories are looking at my Mom's paperback collections of Pogo and Jules Feiffer. I was too young to read, but I was mesmerized by the pen and ink lines that were so alive on the page. I also remember my folks having a huge, definitive book on the art of Leonardo Da Vinci which I also enjoyed perusing.

Believe me, Leonardo was absolutely amazing.

But he was no Walt Kelly.

Then I discovered Peanuts. I grew up in the sixties at the height of Peanuts mania, and I've carried that strip in my head and heart my whole life. As a kid, I was vaguely aware of its melancholy overtones, but to me it was -- and is -- pure joy. Schulz's pen line and design (Charlie Brown's perfectly round head, Linus's stringy hair, Snoopy's dance, and each lovingly drawn blade of grass) just oozed with happiness. Schulz called that characteristic warmth.

The honesty and spirituality of Schulz's work touched me deeply. I knew I wanted to create like that, to give back some of the joy and comfort I found in Peanuts. Its magic is the main reason I became a cartoonist.

And the best thing about becoming a cartoonist was meeting and becoming friends with my boyhood idol Charles M. Schulz. He insisted that you call him Sparky. Upon first meeting him, I think I called him Mr. Sparky.

Sparky was everything you would want the guy who drew Peanuts to be: kind, generous, and very funny. A wonderfully complex, deep man.

Cartoon Life Lesson #2: Become a great cartoonist for what it will make of you.

Despite all his fame and wealth, Sparky was, at heart, still a working cartoonist -- like you and me. He inked, lettered, and made his deadlines just like the rest of us.

He loved meeting fellow cartoonists. Whenever we spoke on the phone he ended the conversation -- in his Minnesota accent -- with the cartoonist mantra: "Keep drawing those funny pictures."

Sparky loved to talk about comic strips and all his favorites. Captain Easy, Krazy Kat, Popeye -- he was still a fan.

We have a 100-year-plus history. You stand on the shoulders of some true giants. The classic illustrations of Winsor McCay, the poetry of George Herriman, the surrealism of EC Segar, the humanity of Charles Schulz, the power of Jack Kirby, the honesty of Robert Crumb, the autobiofiction of Lynda Barry, the intellectual angst of Art Spiegelman.

Of course they are all artists -- in every sense of the word. Great artists. When I was in college this was debated, but now I think it's understood.

This is a very exciting time to be a cartoonist. Just last year there was a major cartoon art show at Museum of Contemporary Art in LA and another show at the Library of Congress.

Graphic novels are the hottest thing in publishing today, with every literary magazine reviewing them. Many of the blockbusters now in Hollywood are animation. There are opportunities in self-publishing, magazine illustration, children's books, website and computer game design, movie storyboards…we live in a totally visual society.

Being a part of the first graduating class of the Center for Cartoon Studies, you are at the forefront of a new and exciting era.

After I graduated from SVA I printed up some business cards and started dropping off my illustration portfolio. I went to all the 2nd rate (cheesy) magazines in New York City, thinking they might be more likely to give an amateur a break. I ended up collecting rejection slips. So I figured I may as well get rejected by a classier clientele, and I dropped my work off with the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I was astonished when they actually gave me a trial job -- a spot illustration for the weekly Russell Baker column. I drew all that night and went back early the next morning with 15 finished drawings.

I got the gig.

I can tell you that I didn't necessarily feel I was ready to do a weekly drawing for the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

When I look back on my career I don't think I really ever felt totally ready for any of the opportunities that presented themselves.

Right after college I was asked to co-author a hardcover, 15,000-word book on George Herriman and Krazy Kat. I had never actually written even a term paper.

And I can tell you that no one is ever "officially ready" to do a daily comic strip. That's 365 original drawings and 365 new ideas every year, with no holidays.

Not to mention, getting an invitation to give a commencement speech.

Had I acted on my (well-founded) fears I would not have done any of these things until I felt I was so-called ready.

Cartoon Life Lesson #3: Jump in the pool. You'll never feel you are really ready but don't let that stop you.

Just do it. Give it your best shot and let it go.

Every great artist starts with baby steps. But the point is, you must first get off your butt.

And where will that first step take you? Who knows.

When I started my comic strip Mutts, it was just an idea about my own dog Earl, and a silly cat named Mooch. Seeing the world through the eyes of animals made me more aware and empathetic to their lives. I began to realize how tough it is for all animals on this small planet, and how fragile and sacred all life is. This became a big part of Mutts, and led to my becoming a director on the board of the Humane Society of the United States.

Saying that Mutts changed my life is an understatement.

Your own James Sturm helped start a newspaper in Seattle, contributed to The Onion, and went on to draw powerful, award-winning graphic novels. This led to his being inspired to create and run The Center for Cartoon Studies, which inspired all of you here today, and will continue to inspire many cartoonists in the future.

Charles Schulz drew a comic strip that started in only seven newspapers. It went on to having Snoopy actually going to the moon in Apollo 10. Did you know that it's the only launched space capsule still in space? As we sit here, Snoopy is circling the sun.

Cartoon Life Lesson #4: Be open to all life's possibilities and enjoy your journey around the sun.

Just the act of making art is so beneficial and sustaining. Cartoonists seem to live very long lives. Sparky was still working at age 77, Will Eisner at 87, and Al Hirschfeld at age 99. I think it's because we spend a lot of our lifetime at play. Play is very healthy.

And to the parents and families and friends and partners of this graduating class of 2007, I remind you that they are cartoonists. You don't have to understand them, you just have to love them. Learn to accept the late hours, the ink stains on the carpets, the piles of cartoon books and memorabilia, and that vague look that you sometimes get when you are trying to have a conversation with them.

And please, try not to ask them to draw too many birthday cards.

I'll end by saying the world today needs great artists. There's a Chinese proverb which states "May you live in interesting times." Well they don't get much more interesting than this.

I believe that art can promote the best in mankind. It can raise us to our higher consciousness. It inspires and transcends. It comes from a deeper place, from stillness, from love. It helps bring that mindset into this world. As artists and human beings, we need to manifest this in our work and in our lives. Art is magic, and one of its most magical powers is to heal. I think that's why we are here….

OK you can stop daydreaming now.

So, Andrew, Elizabeth, Colleen, Alexis, Sam, Jon-Mikel, Jacob, Sean, John, Lauren, Robert, Caitlin, aaron, Adam, Ross, Josie, Emily, and Christine…

Keep drawing those funny pictures.

Thank you.

thanks to James Sturm
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Philly, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Richmond, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Saul From Cincinnati

It's not really comics, but with most of the world cartooning stories falling on the depressing side and a palpable, summer crabbiness seeming to settle in on the North American and European industries, I found this story about the restoration of an 89-foot Saul Steinberg mural to be a happy and engaging read. As a bonus, Steinberg was one of those artists that informed comics and cartooning no matter what medium he happened to be employing at the time, so I'm sure the completed mural will be of interest. The mural was completed in 1948 and hasn't been seen since 1982.
posted 1:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: My Bitter Agenda


This is underground legend Skip Williamson's autobiography in progress.
posted 1:16 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

There's recently been a lot of stronger than usual rhetoric about the meaning of the Danish Cartoons incident, mostly opinion pieces in conjunction with a knighthood recently granted Salman Rushdie. The Danish cartoons make a cameo in the news stories about Rushdie-related protests, too. There's definitely a semi-dismissive "those crazy Islamic folks are mad again" feel in the air.

I've always been suspicious of the macho slant that the freedoms of the West were at stake with every action taken during the events surrounding the printing of caricatures of Muhammed in the Jyllands-Posten paper. I think it's a gross over-simplification, I think that the specifics of the actions taken by different folks at different times are important distinctions to make, and, frankly, I find a lot of the recasting of every action in the light of the violence and political turmoil that followed to be retroactive self-puffery. I do think there were elements to that story that spoke poorly to the strength of certain Western institutions, particularly the refusal of many newspapers to reprint the cartoons after they had ceased being a provocative stunt and had clearly become news that was driving violence. I found this particularly depressing in that what those cartoons looked like was a key, vital issue that needed to be communicated to people, and few with the responsibility to educate and inform chose to do so.

Although admittedly, I issued my own fatwa against Rushdie after reading The Ground Beneath Her Feet, so maybe I'm biased.
posted 1:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Yuko Shimizu

posted 1:12 am PST | Permalink

ADL Israel Decries Cartoon Portrayals

imageThe Anti-Defamation League office in Israel has issued a release drawing attention to portrayals of Israel in the Arab and Muslim press in light of recent instability in Gaza. In addition to the usual, unfortunate physical stereotypes are depictions of Jewish people as specifically manipulative of the current political situation. There are also the usual intimations of the United States manipulating the Israeli government.

These stories are pretty common if you track international cartooning issues for a long enough period. I don't suppose that makes them any less fortunate. Stories like it reached a fever pitch last summer during the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Among other things, they underline the importance of editorial cartoons in print media in that region of the world.
posted 1:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 91st Birthday, Mick Anglo!

posted 1:08 am PST | Permalink May 2007 DM Estimates

The comics business news and analysis site offers 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.

image* Overview
* Analysis
* Top 300 Comic Books
* Top 100 Graphic Novels

I guess the biggest news from this segment of the comics market is mainstream serial comic book publisher Marvel's relative dominance in the brief, fallow period between the end of one mega-event (Civil War, with superheroes on two sides punching each other) and the start of another (World War Hulk, where the Hulk punches people regardless of side). The person writing the site's overview article also shows the Buffy and Dark Tower comic books doing well in both new issues and re-runs. Heavy re-order activity on a serial comic book would seem to me just as likely to reflect a poor initial gauge of demand and therefore a potential lost opportunity rather than an achievement, but that's probably just me.

I'm not sure why it's not brought out in their analysis, but looking at their charts it looks like DC's weekly Countdown is still free-falling and may settle far below DC's last weekly series, 52. Also, moving what may be 7500 copies of a $25 Mouse Guard hardcover into a non-returnable market has to be good news for Archaia Studios, particularly as they try to move that book in a more significant way as a returnable.
posted 1:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Kevin Church’s Giveaway

posted 1:04 am PST | Permalink

Things That Keep Me Up At Night

Does anyone out there remember a television show or a movie stealing the "kills a little a girl and feeds the dogs the bones" story straight out of Watchmen? Does anyone remember what that was? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
posted 1:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: AdHouse Books at Heroes Con

posted 1:01 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Syndicated Cartoon Drops Its Specific-Market, Necessary Context

This article seems like it's pretty standard political issue grinding until you get to the revelation that when the cartoon being criticized appeared in its local market before syndication it had an entirely different meaning due to the content of a specific political button found on the page.
posted 12:50 am PST | Permalink

Happy 30th Birthday, Davide Gianfelice!

posted 12:45 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
AAEC Confab
Wizard World Philly Report

ROK Comics Launches
DC PR on Flex Purchase
Marvel Re-Configures Merchandising Dept.
Rich Johnston on Current DC Editorial Make-Up

CBR: Joshua Ortega
BestOfMostOf: Zak Sally
Boston Globe: Paul Ryan Terry Moore
Newsarama: Diana Schutz
Express: Brandon Graham Garrett Storer
Finding Wonderland: Gene Yang
Charleston Gazette: Emily Boggs

Not Comics
No Naked Blue Keanu
More Austin Grossman
Spider-Man 3 Toy Sales Slack
The Saddest Thing You'll Read About All Day

Cartier Comic
TCJ Library Honors Kurtzman

Matt Brady: Re-Gifters
Tpull: Various Marvel Comics
Michael May: The Clarence Principle
Brian Heater: Cat Getting Out of a Bag
David Welsh: MPD Psycho, King of Thorn
Don MacPherson: Strangers in Paradise #90
Mordechai Shinefield: The Professor's Daughter

June 18, 2007

CR Review: Wait, You’re Not a Centaur


Creator: Nate Denver
Publishing Information: La Mano, softcover, 120 pages, October 2006, $16
Ordering Numbers: 0976525526 (ISBN10), 9780976525523 (ISBN13)

Nate Denver's late-2006 book effort Wait, You're Not a Centaur flattered both Denver and Zak Sally's publishing company La Mano, although maybe not the way they and some of their fans might think. This book of microfiction mixed with sketchbook drawings doesn't feel like a breath of fresh air. I think the sentiment and approach will be familiar to most readers of this site. The illustrations will remind many of the Fort Thunder predilection for the junkiest corners of pop culture 1978-1994, the act of making clever summary statements in lieu of slowly-developed, lengthy and humorous stories should be familiar to anyone who's read a writer young than 40 in a bookstore or places like the McSweeney's web site, and the act of mixing writing with illustration is only radical if you've embraced a vision for comics that leaves out James Thurber and everyone that came after reminiscent of Thurber.

imageWhat Wait, You're Not a Centaur offers up isn't so much novelty -- although it would make a fine gift book, and you might bookmark its catalog page for potential future purchases, particularly if you buy a lot of presents for young, literate people -- but more of a consistently high level in its execution. I find Denver's work to be appealing; micro-micro stories like the following communicate a smart kid's cosmology and then follow the results to either acerbic interruptions of that world view or all the way to their sad, adult viewpoint conclusions. Mostly they're cute:

One night the wind blew so fast that it circled the earth and caught up with its tail. The front joined the back creating a wind loop around Earth with no beginning or end. Many windmills were placed in the wind-loop for electricity and rides and three people were decapitated.
The drawing is equally adorable, an array of robots and animals and monsters that feel like a sick 12-year-old's breakfast table jottings from a cracked-spine copy of the Monster Manual, a Deviled Ham sandwich growing stale set off to one side. There are a dozen or so baroque and design-intensive presentations that hint at more sophisticated artistic talent, but the heart of the book's visuals are crude and therefore familiar and accessible. Since they do roughly the same thing, the drawings and the words mix together in a way that easily allows you question to the interplay between them, affording the book a bit of depth. Given the handsome book design, the overall impact proves considerable when the slightest letdown in any area might have made the work seem cheap or tossed off. There's even a multiple-song CD in the back, of full-album length.

Wait, You're Not a Centaur suggests that Zak Sally's La Mano may have something to offer comics that's a big more Highwater than high profile, books that flatter the subject matter in a way that goes behind providing an attractive surface to make the case for projects being worth a look. That's not a bad place to be.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Ohio, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Summer Con Season 2007 Kicks Off


The summer third of the comics convention season kicked off over the weekend in Philadelphia, with Wizard World Philadelphia, and in Charlotte, North Carolina with long-time professional favorite Heroes Con. Although there's a danger in over-reporting on conventions due to their social role and PR platform nature, they're important comics business entities and, given the industry's structural shortcomings, can be a significant money-maker and exposure platform for folks, too.

In terms of this last weekend, each of the prominent shows has issues. While Wizard would be happy if Philadelphia staunched the audience and status bleed of its recent shows, they're probably too early in the reign of their new show-runners for it to be a make or break proposition. Heroes Con had a chance to build on goodwill whipped into a fury by Wizard trying to aggressively move into the region a couple of years back when that was a lot scarier in terms of its business implications. They also apparently raised exhibitor prices, which is one of those upward shifts that can be a big risk for such shows.

imageIn terms of the Philadelphia show, Wizard has a links page up here. That's probably more important than a usual sponsor's link dump because Wizard's show are structured as PR platforms for mainstream comics, with announcements as to who is working on what and the like. In terms of independent voices, Mike Manley provides three reports so far; his convention write-ups are generally among the best. His basic take on the show seems to be that it's a lot smaller than it used to be.

Update: Manley's concluding post on the con says he felt there were more people there than last year but still a serious decline from attendance five years ago, he wonders if the show will continue past 2008, and he makes a load of suggestions. His comment that there seemed to be fewer retailers may be the most telling thing in all of his posts. When a few years back it looked like Wizard might challenge for the overall convention season crown, which seems slightly ridiculous now, the most compelling reason given was that retailers preferred the hardcore comics-buying crowd of the Wizard shows over the Hollywood-interested casual $1-box buyers of a San Diego.

In Charlotte: I've always liked Ben Towle's con reports, and he does a general write-up previewing the show followed by Friday, Saturday, and Sunday reports. I don't know that anyone has definitively covered the show in terms of attendance and sales, but anecdotal evidence gathered in random link fashion suggests creators sold books, or otherwise had a good time.
posted 12:26 am PST | Permalink

Things To Note About On-Line Ventures

* PETA and the comic strip Deflocked have a close relationship worth paying attention to, up to and including exclusive content for the organization and top of the site linkage.

* Dave Ponce and Dan Wright's Rustle the Leaf seems to have gone into summer re-runs. If Rustle isn't the only single sponsor comic strip out there, it's one of a few, which I suppose would make its future dependent on the sponsor's wishes and future plans.

* Abhay Khosla is offering his own comics venture via download.

* Derik A Badman surveys strategies and examples regarding the on-line publication of long-form comics.

* Todd Allen plays on-line detectives and thinks DC is up to something.
posted 12:22 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: New Comics From Mark Burrier

posted 12:20 am PST | Permalink

Manga News: Honey Room, The War on Horror, DC’s Multiple-Platform Venture

* the Honey Room case, where the president of manga comopany Shobunkan was sentenced to jail before having his sentence reduced to a modest fine, has concluded in Japan with the final appeal of that penalty denied late last week. It is one of the first manga stories I can remember being covered in North America primarily through on-line venues.

* Simon Jones asks why more people aren't talking about DC's investment into Flex, a Japanese publishing venture that offers its content through multiple platforms, including web and mobile phone technology. The investment is described as "heavy," and DC's John Nee will sit on Flex's board.

The jerk in me says that there are few comments because people are shocked into silence by DC acting like a giant entertainment company and making a decisive investment in an emerging platform. The weary comics veteran in me standing outside the convention center smoking cigarettes says that there's probably little to discuss right now. I'd probably go with the smoker. The nature of DC's interest is apparent, the on-line to print model has been well established, and the promise of comics on cell phones is at a point where it will either work here or not.

* Jones also talks about the nature of titles recently targeted by Kyoto police as harmful.

* I'm too amused by potential "War on Horror" jokes to figure out if this article is a repeat of previously released information or not. I believe so, although the involvement of Death Note, the general trend towards authority's interest in certain titles and the interesting twist that these are counterfeit copies has given the story some legs.
posted 12:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 44th Birthday, Wataru Yoshizumi!

posted 12:16 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Conundrum Starts GN Line

imageSomehow it totally escaped my attention that Canada's Conundrum Press has started a graphic novel imprint within their already intensely comics-friendly line-up. That imprint is called BDang (backed by overlapping word balloons that separate the B, D, and ang) and that its first release is an English-language version of Te malade, toi! Line Gamache's 2004 account of growing up in the '60s with her mentally disabled sister, called Hello, Me Pretty. From what I can tell, this gives them a place to put the more recognizably straight-forward comics work, as I've seen a couple of books that are partially comics or that offer some cartooning that don't seem to carry the new imprint's name.
posted 12:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Emily Holton

posted 12:12 am PST | Permalink

CBLDF To Receive In Epstein’s Honor

Go here to read Newsarama's story on how you may remember their late contributor, the comics and pop culture journalist Daniel Robert Epstein: through a donation to his favorite charity, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. According to the piece, any gifts will be targeted to education and outreach. Epstein died last week at the age of 31.
posted 12:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 53rd Birthday, Dean Mullaney!

posted 12:08 am PST | Permalink

Monday Mornings Are For Complaining

* this article reminds me that the Heather Smith article about fancy comic strip reprints it references questions whether or not that the kid part of comic strips' audience are invited along for the hardcover, deluxe edition ride. Even though it's clear that the current market trend is away from brand-new initiatives focusing on cheap reprints in comic strips as well as other segments, I can't imagine the current wave of lovely reprints being an issue when it comes to young readers. 1) Trends correct. 2) Most existing comics reprint projects have continued as they always have, so there will be plenty of cheap comic strips available. 3) The most influential comic strip reprint ever as far as captivating a generation of future cartoonists and comics lovers when they were kids was the non-traditional, not-cheap Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. It's a cute point, but the recent flood of collections really seems more about more than it does about different.

* this odd article about sales on the Internet cooling, based on indications that the rapid growth of on-line retail may have shifted into a lower gear, serves as a nice reminder that on-line sales are a component of overall sales, and don't necessarily look right now what they might in ten years.

Still, it curiously ignores two pertinent factors, both of which likely also speak to wherever comics Internet sales fits into the picture painted in the article. First, the piece speaks more to choices made by current consumers than it does the likely practices of future consumers. There's bound to be correction when a group changes its habits. It's the group who will make these habits their own from the start that should prove way more interesting and important to future trends. Second, by stressing a brick and mortar comeback, the article doesn't allow that there are market niches where the physical sales component was all but obliterated by the rise in Internet sales. I'm not holding my breath for my favorite science fiction used book store in Chicago to hire hipper people and make the shopping experience more pleasurable, because that store is closed.

* I'm sympathetic to this direct market retailer's stance. He was underwhelmed by the plot point payoff by which it was suggested he buy many more copies than usual of a recent Marvel comic, and feels it's time he routinely had more information from which to make such ordering decisions. Asking the comics companies to stop treating retailers like children would be a compelling rallying cry except many do act like children, more like Goofus than Gallant. My source? History. And other comics retailers.

The comics companies can't trust stores with as fundamental a prohibition as not selling copies of comics early to press local market advantages; they certainly can't and logically shouldn't trust them with easily leaked plot information. Not only does history say many will try to gain an incremental advantage over local competitors, they may also press a Wizard's retailer arm-like advantage against their customers. A 100 percent rate of those who knew about Captain America kicking the bucket pressing this as an advantage isn't the kind of record that helps make the case for more information being released.

Diamond could guarantee good behavior by punishing stores that violated policy, but they've never shown the slightest inclination or ability to do so. As in many areas, when it comes to punishing shops Diamond tends to react like it's 1992 and they'll lose business to some significant competitor if they try and implement a bit of order. Like many issues facing the business of comics, this is the kind of thing that could be taken care of through difficult but sustained, widespread and principled business reform, and will never be solved by arguing the justice or injustice of a single point. It's actually not a bad thing to be treated as a child if you're treated as a responsible one. Even that feels like a long way off.
posted 12:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Panelists III At GRSF Sets

posted 12:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Manga Assertions Ramble

The notion that one can describe a recent manga to live action film deal in terms of "its original creator, unlike savvier US copyright owners, will receive not a penny" is one of the more alarming points made in this one-liner heavy, observational stew of an article.
posted 12:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Visiting Centre Belge de la BD
To Be Continued Exhibit at OSU

Lots of Great Pulpy Covers

Manga Quite Popular
Comics Shop Expands
Repulsive Comics Update
The Kids, They Love the Comics
Berke Breathed, Publicity Master
Big Wet Publicity Kiss to DC Comics

Flint Journal: Brian Germain
Washington Times: Jeff Smith Chad Essley

Not Comics
Kelly Leak = Rorschach?
Movie Makes Lots of Money
More Press For Grossman Book
Knife-Wielding Nerds on the Prowl
Big, Boosterish Article About Marvel
McFarlane to Enter On-Line Game Business

I Hate Your Cartoon
Marvel Publishing Plans
More on Kami no Shizuku
Fowles Has Graphic Novel In Works
Yet Another On-Line Collective Launches

Mel Odom: Birds of Prey Vol. 3
Collected Editions: Y -- The Last Man: Paper Dolls
Leroy Douresseaux: The Moon and the Sandals Vol. 2

June 17, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Paul Karasik



Paul Karasik's career output may be modest in terms of pages of project, but it's mighty when you measure their impact and effectiveness. Primarily a teacher of comics, Karasik's remarkable adaptation/breakdown of Paul Auster's City of Glass helped propel what might have been a forgettable project into best comics of the 20th century discussions. A memoir co-created with his sister Judy about growing up in a family where one member has autism, The Ride Together turned out to be one of the best realized books in the comics/prose blend model which has since carved out its own significant place within the world of wider comics sales. Karasik was involved with the fine Masters of American Comics exhibit which hit Los Angeles, Milwaukee and New Jersey/New York to much acclaim, is a well-known teacher of comics, and is a smart, funny and engaging writer about comics.

In I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets, Karasik shares with readers his devotion to the cult cartoonist of comic books' "Golden Age," Fletcher Hanks, the best way he knows how: reprinting his comics, with a short story of Karasik's own creation in the back of the book to deal with biographical questions. Hanks may be sold as the Ed Wood of the early comics era, but he's hardly a well-meaning incompetent like the famed film director. Hanks' bizarre comic stories of out-sized magical super-beings roaring around and ripping into the hearts of evil people may not be everyone's cup of tea, but to some of us they're beautiful and raw and wonderfully expressive. It's a joy to have them all in one place. Thank you, Paul Karasik.


TOM SPURGEON: Paul, I don't have a firm sense of how you spend your professional time. How does your work break down into your various comics-related pursuits? You teach, right? Where does a book like this fit in?

PAUL KARASIK: I have made most of my living as a teacher. This allows me to pursue projects that really mean something to me such as doing the Friday crossword puzzle with my wife who knows more about geography including the names of several crossword puzzle-friendly rivers in France.

Most of my favorite cartoonists have been journeymen; those who can go to the drawing board day after day and make consistently wonderful stuff. I simply am not a guy who is able to go into the studio on a set schedule to confront blank paper.

Instead I am a guy who can go day after day into a classroom to confront blank stares from my students. I have just completed a semester teaching Comics Narrative to a small class at RISD. It is thrilling for me to watch my students improve week-to-week. On the first day of class I made a promise to them that they would all leave class better cartoonists than when the entered. It was a promise I knew I could keep.

The class focuses on deconstructing comics into their components and then being very mindful of the manipulation of these components in creating comics. Hence, the emphasis in class is on the Process of making comics rather than the Product.

From time to time a comics project accosts me. I will be just walking down the street minding my own business when a project runs up to me, grabs me by the collar and shakes me mercilessly until I acquiesce or my dentures fall out. This is true, except the part about the dentures.

However, it seems that whenever I try to make a project come up to me and shake me by the collar, it doesn't work. Last winter I spent fruitless days at a sidewalk cafe ogling projects and showing a bit of leg to no avail. I drank a lot of Ovaltine with nothing to show.

When something like, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets comes along, a project that I have no choice but to work on, I become obsessed.

So, I guess to answer your question, I, myself, do not have a firm sense of how I, myself, spend my professional time, but I do have a firm sense that a four letter river that feeds the Seine is call the Aube.

SPURGEON: How did you come to be a Fletcher Hanks fan? Who made the initial discovery and presentation of this work? Was it difficult to find some of the pieces that weren't anthologized?

KARASIK: Jerry Moriarty, the cartoonist, painter, and teacher, brought the work of Hanks to the attention of Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman during the time I spent as Associate Editor and Coffee-Maker-In-Chief at RAW Magazine. We were all immediately struck by the work and reprinted a story from Fantastic Comics #7.

Aside from a Fantomah story reprinted in Cartoonist PROfiles this had been the only Hanks story reprinted.

This is a project that, in many ways, owes its existence to the internet. Prior to the Net it would have been next to impossible to smoke out the collectors who hoard this stuff. Overall I was in contact with close to 15 collectors and the search took over three years. I began my sleuthing about the same time that the U.N Weapons Inspectors began their search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. My task turned out to be a lot more fruitful. The big difference being that these Hanks stories really exist.

imageSPURGEON: At what point did your interest include putting together a book?

KARASIK: Hanks worked in comics from 1939-1941. Then he simply disappeared.

When I discovered what really happened to my "hero" Fletcher Hanks I had no choice but to tell the story (see the 16-page afterword, "Whatever Happened to Fletcher Hanks?") and that naturally led to the notion of putting together an anthology which naturally led to four years of years of my wife reconsidering her decision to wear my ring and my daughters shaking their heads sadly and murmuring things behind closed doors about their dear demented Papa. My 89 year-old mother still thinks I'm nuts.

When I began to collect these stories I was not certain that they would, indeed, make a book. The first few that I culled were nowhere near as good as the one we reprinted in RAW. But the gems started to trickle in and after I saw my third Fantomah story that made my jaw drop, a book seemed necessary.

Fortunately we are in a golden age ourselves of comics reprints. The planets have aligned and the buyers are lining up for collections of Peanuts, Popeye, Calvin and Hobbes, Gasoline Alley (a series that I cannot recommend highly enough), and Krazy Kat. Will they line up also for the stories of Stardust the Super Wizard? If it is ever going to happen it is going to happen in 2007.

SPURGEON: Why did you go with such a straightforward presentation of Hanks' work? There's no written material, as I think many might expect, just Hanks' comic and then your own.

KARASIK: I really like the work of the American painter George Bellows.

There are several books on Bellows containing lengthy essay by art historians gassing-off about why his work is so Essentially American.

This is the sound of me sleeping: "ZZZZZZZ".

I cannot find a single book on Bellows that simply has page after page of full color reproductions of his juicy wet brushwork. I like art books that allow the work to speak for itself. Hanks' work roars.

SPURGEON: How do you go about making an honest appraisal of the quality of the work from an artist like Hanks without simply turning it into an exercise in kitsch? Is he an Ed Wood, as some of the early takes on his work suggest, or does his work have value beyond its strangeness? What is the nature of that value?

KARASIK: This is exactly the sort of postulating that I pointedly avoided from cluttering up my book. However, in an interview like this I have no compunction about gassing-off.

The "Ed Wood of comics" line is one that gets a lot of play 'cause it's so cute and catchy. "I Am the Walrus" is also cute and catchy, but it, too, makes no damn sense. If calling Hanks the "Ed Wood of Comics" will get a trendy youth to pick the book up at the Outsider Art Museum Bookstore, fine with me.

O.K., granted, the two guys have things in common. Principally they are auteurs who were overlooked within their lifetimes.

However, Wood was really trying to make good films as best as he knew how. To do this he tried to follow the conventions of contemporary filmmaking but on a slender budget that resulted in aspects that we find endearing today.

Hanks was trying to make comic book stories--but at a time when the conventions of the medium were not standardized. He just did what he did and collected the paycheck.

Beauty is in the stomach of the beholder. Some find this work nauseating and revolting. Some find it tangy with a hint of peppery grape. Fine to them. Some, however, find it campy and cool because it is so "stupid." Nuts, I say, to them.

I respect the rights of other idiots to have their lame friggin' opinions, but really, they are barking up the wrong tree if they like this work for its campiness.

The storytelling is clear. The imagery is powerful. The drawing is dynamic and, honestly, quite beautiful. What is there not to like?


SPURGEON: If Hanks work was unique and powerful, why didn't it stand out more at the time? Was there a lot of idiosyncratic work like his? Did people simply not pay attention? What do you think it is that we see now looking back that may his peers wouldn't have noticed about another crude comic? Or did he make an impression back then?

KARASIK: I asked Will Eisner for any impressions he might have had of Hanks. He (barely) remembered him as the guy who could not draw as well as Basil Wolverton but did all the work himself and got the work in on time. He did not recall that the stories had the power of a howitzer pointed at your temple. This may speak more about Eisner (ever the businessman) than Hanks, but I don't think that at the time the work made any heads turn.

Frankly, the boys were too busy just filling up comic books with any artwork that they could get their ink-stained mitts on. I guess that comic books have never really changed. It's still mostly crap.

The publishing world had changed overnight in 1938 with the publication of Action Comics #1. Suddenly dozens of comics books were born and a lot of lousy cartoonists found employment. The level of competence is extraordinarily low in those early comics. This is one of the reasons why Hanks got overlooked. It had been simply assumed that there could not be any shinola in all that shit. On a cursory glance, Hanks' work, with its standard hero/villain pulp plots, is camouflaged by all the lurid, garish four-color packing pellets it is surrounded by.

Hanks work was not featured or spotlighted. It was generally stuck somewhere in the middle of the comic book, easy to overlook. Many of the collectors from whom I got the stories from were unaware of Hanks. Because of the volume of superficially similar stuff filling old comics it took a guy with a sharp eye, like Jerry Moriarty, to notice this work.


SPURGEON: I enjoyed your comic about Hanks' background; is there anything about the experience of meeting his son or other ways you've learned a bit bout Hanks that explains the lurid quality of his work, either visually or some of the more bizarre story points? From what experience would an alcoholic sometimes-painter being working out of in your opinion to come up with some of the more alarming things in his comics?

KARASIK: The people who read it as I was working on it, particularly my sister, Judy, and the cartoonist Mark Newgarden, both steered me away from any postulating in public, but to simply present the story as I heard it.

Hanks was the son of a Minister and, as you can see, there is plenty of hellfire and brimstone blazing through these stories. He was also various other things as well and his hard-edged life plays counterpoint to the fantastic worlds he created while at the same time reflecting the bitterness of the man, himself. I hope that one of the pleasures of this book will be for readers to wade through the 15 rings of Hanksian Hell and to be surprised -- and also not surprised -- in my Afterword by finding out something of the personal history of the guy who created the stories.


SPURGEON: Is there anything in your personal reading of these comics that you think other people may not be as quick to pick up on, or find as important? Has your relationship to the comics changed over time?

KARASIK: In the three years that Hanks made comic book stories he completed close to 12 pages a month: writing, penciling, inking, and lettering. One extraordinary thing about Hanks' work is that, while the plots are almost all identical, and he uses many short-cut methods to meet the constant deadline, there is very little visual repetition in these tales. At the end of I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets the reader will not feel that he has been short-changed in the graphic blitzkrieg department.

A certain air of iciness coats these stories. In Hanks' world all objects are given equal attention. There is no loose sketchiness to his drawing: everything is in equal focus. This effect, combined with certain stiffness of character gesture, form a feeling of life in a vacuum. Even when objects are hurtling through space there is an icy detachment to the action.

This chilly atmosphere is reinforced by the characters themselves. A typical Hanks plot begins with either Stardust or Fantomah looking down, godlike, at the evil-doings of miscreants below. A detachment exists between the hero and the rest of humanity.

When justice is served it too is served coldly. And here is where the true creepiness lurks. In an airless world of no shadows there is no place to hide. Stardust does not change expression as he mangles thugs with his mighty mitts, turns them into rats or bugs, shrinks them, or makes them melt.

No, he performs these brutal acts of retribution without gritting his teeth, or, for that matter, even cracking a grim smile. Justice is not mean. Justice is not sardonic. Like everything else in the world of Fletcher Hanks: Justice just is.


SPURGEON: I want to ask you about a couple of recent big projects from which you might now be removed to the extent of having a different perspective on them. Was there anything about the way The Ride Together was received and the intimacy of that project that made doing that book a unique experience?

KARASIK: Tom, thank you sincerely for the nice things you have said in print about, The Ride Together. It was a labor of love that otherwise got very little attention in the comics community.

Unfortunately I feel that the book never made it into the hands of the people it was really made for: siblings of those with disabilities. The Ride Together came a few years too early to get embraced by librarians as part of the graphic novel bait that now stock the shelves to lure innocent teenagers to the local library. Part of the problem for librarians and bookstores was the unique format of the book: they did not know where to put it.

The Ride Together is a memoir co-written with my sister, Judy, about growing up with our oldest brother who is developmentally disabled with autism and mental retardation. Chapters in prose, written by Judy, alternate with chapters in comics, by myself, as we take the reader chronologically through our childhood and up to the present.

It was a much more personal project for me than the Hanks book and one that was more difficult and painful to create. Not only was I working with a smart collaborator with a hair-trigger Bullshit-O-Meter, but we were both uncovering material that was often uncomfortable to discuss. I was not merely sending out e-mails to collectors trying to get copies of old decaying comic books.


SPURGEON: Paul what was your specific involvement with the Masters of Comics exhibit? Did you think it traveled well to Milwaukee and New York? How do you feel about the general criticism that no female cartoonists were part of the exhibit, or Spiegelman declining to have his work shown in Newark?

KARASIK: I'll admit to have been part of the discussion determining the Masters. I would like to underscore the notion that the title of the show was Masters of American Comics, not THE Masters of American Comics. Other groups would have made other choices.

Picking our 15 cartoonists was not an easy task. We have been accused of devising an intricate point system whereby each candidate was given a score based on a variety of exacting factors including sales, specific gravity of ego, ink preference, income from merchandise licensing, personal grooming habits, and penis size. Sorry, not true.

I think that cartoonist, Jessica Abel, summed it up honestly: "There were women comics artists, but they were not as important (as [George] Herriman, [Winsor] McCay, Chester Gould and the other 12 who made the final cut). I love Dale Messick, but was she on that level? No."

My major contribution was the task of finding 15 great writers to write about the 15 great cartoonists. This was originally regarded as a potentially heinous task. Simply coming up with a list of potential top-notch writers who would know enough to write well about a particular cartoonist was hard enough. Then we anticipated rejections from these writers who are constantly being asked to write on demand.

But you know what? The first guy to sign on was Dave Eggers who wanted to write about his chum, Chris Ware. For some reason, after that the rest were easy.

Some of the essays are very casual, but a few really stand out. Stanley Crouch's take on [George] Herriman is one of the best things ever written about the guy. Glenn Gold's essay on [Jack] Kirby gets to the heart of things accurately by a guy who knows how to manhandle the English language but is a proud fanboy at heart. Pete Hamill jumped at the chance to chat about [Milton] Caniff whom he corresponded with and whose work he adored. It was fun to work with these people.

Art had compelling reasons to decline hanging his work in the East coast venues as he has detailed elsewhere. Frankly, given the limited space of the Jewish Museum, he did those other guys a big favor on one level by freeing up wall space.


SPURGEON: What was the physical act of putting together the collection like? Did you use old comics? Whose?

KARASIK: In pursuing these old comics I came across some very interesting collectors.

Have you noticed that when people use the word "interesting" they often mean "weird"? Actually, most of these collectors were generous enough to allow me into their comic vaults without a strip search. Have you ever had a retinal scan? Not pleasant.

Two collectors were especially generous: Jon Berk and Mark Verheiden.

While I am singing the song of the unsung heroes I must say that Paul Baresh at Fantagraphics did a fantastic job cleaning up the pages and making them look like, well, like old comic book pages. This was important. With Photoshop it is much easier these days to take the imperfections out of reprinted comics, to clean them up too much, to saturate the color. I wanted them to look as if they had just rolled off the 1939 press and Paul nailed 'em right on the head.

Jacob Covey was a pleasure to work with in developing the design. I am very proud of the cover and overall design of the book which was a mutually satisfying collaboration. The road to publication was filled with potholes, but Kim Thompson stood by the project the whole way.

imageSPURGEON: You and I spoke recently about a few folks wondering if Fletcher Hanks was a prank. What do you think were responding to when that idea occurred to them?

KARASIK: What has surprised many collectors is that Hanks has been under their collective noses and few have caught a whiff. They reason, "If this guy is so damn good (or important, or weird) why haven't I heard of him?" Several of the guys I went to for scans of original Hanks stories could not believe that I was not interested in the mint Lou Fine covers that many of these early mags sport. I wanted this strange story in the middle.

I did not realized until this hoax business happened that I had been waiting all my life to be accused of perpetrating a hoax. What a compliment!

I think I might really try my hand at real hoax perpetration some day. Not immediately, mind you, but far, far into the future when everyone has forgotten all about this interview maybe I'll come up with some wild hoax involving the discovery of a Major Piece of Unknown Comics Americana.

SPURGEON: What's next?

KARASIK: I've discovered an unpublished story by Harvey Kurtzman.

Before he jumped the Good Ship E.C., Gaines suggested that Kurtzman come up with his own "New Direction" title. All that remains of his proposal, "True Beat Magazine" is a six page adaptation of a short story by Jack Kerouac. called, "My Friend, James Dean".

It's based on an anecdote that Dean told Kerouac about his brief but torrid affair with Marylyn Monroe. Drawn as a kind of audition piece, Kurtzman had each of one of the six pages inked by a different artist: Page 1: Will Elder, Page 2: Jack Cole, Page 3, Jack Chick, Page 5, Ernie Bushmiller, and Page 6, 10 year-old Art Spiegelman.

In all truthfulness and honesty I must say that it is a Major Piece of Unknown Comics Americana.


I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets Fletcher Hanks and Paul Karasik, Edited by Paul Karasik, Fantagraphics, softcover, 1560978392, 120 pages, $19.95.


posted 2:50 am PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: another long-running web strip I've never seen before

* missed it: Alfe video

* go, listen: R. Sikoryak on NPR

* go, read: Jack Kamen's fun facts page

* go, read: a full list of Overstreet's various ages for comics; the more ages that get added, the more the whole damn list seems silly
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

June 16, 2007

Wally Wood Would Have Been 80 Today

posted 11:30 pm PST | Permalink

Happy Father’s Day!

posted 11:30 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought Of The Day

I'm of the opinion that while most comics artists got their start tracing covers to Marvel comic books, most comics writers got their start filling in the open caption to "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions."
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 59th Birthday, Chance Browne!

posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Hilary Barta!

posted 10:05 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Chicago, 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

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from June 9 to June 15, 2007:

1. Egmont acquires Bonnier, promising potentially huge and perhaps unwanted changes in various European markets.

2. More and more stories of police pressure against the Death Note manga series.

3. Comics world shocked by word that prominent interviewer Daniel Robert Epstein died at age 31 in his New York home.

Winner Of The Week
McSweeney's, rallied around by their fans and well-wishers.

Losers Of The Week
The creators of the Vilebrequin album, at odds with their publisher.

Quote Of The Week
"First of all, I didn't recognize Jeff Bridges at first. I thought that was Lemmy." -- a typically great first question from the late Daniel Robert Epstein, this one to Terry Gilliam, one of his favorite interviews.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications

posted 12:00 am PST | Permalink

June 15, 2007

Happy 77th Birthday, Frank Thorne!

posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 34th birthday, Vito Delsante!

posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: Breaking Up


Creators: Aimee Friedman, Christine Norrie
Publishing Information: Scholastic Graphix, soft cover, 192 pages, January 2007, $8.99
Ordering Numbers: 9780439748674 (ISBN13), 0439748674 (ISBN10)

It's amazing that I can't find any of Christine Norrie's interior art for Breaking Up on-line, because I would have to imagine it a selling point. Norrie offers up a lovely line here, and simplifies a lot of her staging without skimping on the background details in a way that makes the book a much more sumptuous read than it has any right to be. The best scenes feature only-in-comics visual-verbal tableaux to suggest a state of mind or a situation that prove highly amusing, and would be totally off-putting if not outright awful in a lesser artist's hands. It's a good-looking, slick book, much nicer looking in its way than anything I've seen from the Minx line or its previews, and in that sense I'm kind of surprised it sort of sank like a stone exposure-wise after its release.

That's not to say it doesn't have multiple shortcomings, or that on the whole it's not those limitations which define the work more than its better moments. I think it does and they do. The story of four juniors in high school that drift apart as romantic entanglements slip in to assume the self-definition function previously held by peer to peer relationships, Breaking Up suffers from some of the usual shortcomings of teen literature. The characters, even the mousy ones, are flat-out gorgeous. The world which they inhabit feels sealed off and certain in a way that most kids' lives fail to match. Two of the four characters in the central social circle are reduced to cyphers. There's an over-reliance on the lead's ability to articulate every single thing that's going on around here in a way that's closer to someone writing a letter in a Ken Burns documentary than it is your usual confused teen. There's also a very conservative set of values, a kind of TV show ethics, that operates without a single event that might call into question its certainty about the way the world works. There are even a few clumsy scenes that betray the writer's nascent comics scripting skills or tax Norrie's ability to make those moments crackle the way they should: a scene in a restaurant where all four characters have to engage in a conversation with a few interruptions complicating the event is almost a disaster it's so roughly staged.

In the end, though, I don't know that many of these things matter to the intended audience. It's said that school-based soap operas tend to appeal to the group of kids one age lower than the people being depicted. Middle school kids may not have a stomach for a complicated ethical or moral display, and may not care if some characters are developed while other aren't, and might enjoy watching a group of wholly attractive city girls with hands-off parents that meet for iced lattes who dress well without being drawing a lot of attention to it and actually sip a bit of alcohol at parties. They'll certainly see attractive art in choosing to enjoy those things here.
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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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European Parliament Declines to Distribute Eisner’s The Plot to Members


Breaking story here. The presentation of the late Will Eisner's last major work, which denounces the century-old documents accusing Jews of plotting for world control, and an accompanying essay were made to that body by the Transatlantic Institute. They were apparently refused on the grounds of being advertisements and irrelevance in terms of the parliament's current legislative duties.

thanks, Denis Kitchen
posted 3:09 am PST | Permalink

Tardi Returns to Adele Blanc-Sec


FPI caught word that the great Jacques Tardi will serialize a ninth album in his Adele Blanc-Sec series, nine years after the last offering, from June 27 to August 22 in Telerama. An album collecting that work will follow. Although one of the most popular and well respected mainstream BD series in the last 25 years, the Adele Blanc-Sec material has been something of a non-starter through US translations.

image from an old album
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Happy 62nd Birthday, Don McGregor!

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News Free Comics Mag Launches

Alan Gardner's caught word of a local publication that feature syndicated work in print form that the owner now hopes to take national. Someone seems to try this every ten or 15 years or so, it seems, but none of the comics-only publications has ever caught fire in a significant way. That combination makes this try worth a mention. Interestingly, News Free Comics Publisher Randy Vanfossen believes he can make a go of it with 2000 subscribers.
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Happy 52nd Birthday, Brent Anderson!

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MoCCA Festival Announces Programming

I'm probably the last person to notice this, but here's next weekend's Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival's programming. The MoCCA Festival is one of the two or three top arts, indy and alternative comics gathering in North America during the calendar year. General information here.

Saturday, June 23

* 10:15-10:55 AM: Paul Karasik on Fletcher Hanks

* 11:00 AM-12:15 PM: D+Q Cartoonists' Showcase (Gabrielle Bell and Anders Nilsen)

* 12:20-1:25 PM: Applying for a Xeric (Cosponsors: The Center for Cartoon Studies, Xeric Foundation)

* 1:30-2:35 PM: Festival Award: Alison Bechdel

* 2:45-3:55 PM: Keith Knight

* 4:00-5:00 PM: Jeffrey Brown

* 5:05-6:10 PM: Lauren Weinstein

Sunday, June 24

* 10:30-11 AM: Minx Comics: The Face of Modern Fiction

* 11:00-11:40 AM: Austin Grossman (reading from his novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible)

* 11:45 AM-12:45 PM: Reportage, Memoir and Comics David Axe, Brendan Burford, and Greg Cook

* 12:50-1:55 PM: AWP Roundtable (Gabrielle Bell, Alex Holden, Tom K., Jon Lewis, Aaron Renier, and Karen Sneider)

* 2:00-3:00 PM: Kim Deitch

* 3:00-3:55 PM: Craig Yoe

* 4:00-5:00 PM: Joe Matt

* 5:05-6:05 PM: Nordic Animation Screening

That's kind of an odd list, and nothing here says must-see the way Jonathan Lethem interviewing Dan Clowes did a couple of years ago, but certainly Alison Bechdel on Saturday and Kim Deitch on Sunday are really solid.
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Happy 1000th Comic, Peter David!

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Cartoonists Forming Studios News

* a bunch of people with made-up Internet names are joining Dean Haspiel at the DEEP6 Studio in Brooklyn. You can read, bookmark or "friend" their group blog here.

* the studio formerly known as Mercury Studio is now the studio known simply as Periscope. The Portland studio is almost certainly the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.
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Ed Cunard Reveals His Bookshelves


I could spend 72 hours straight looking at other people's bookshelves.
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Quick hits
Another Eddie Campbell Cover

Best Idea Ever II
CRN Dinner July 6
Alex Noel Watson Exhibit
Richard McGuire's Event Poster
iFanboy Goes to SiP Finale Party
Superheroes at Montclair Art Museum
Mike Manley Previews Wizard World Philly

Asterix Too Gaulish?

The Art of Licensing 01
General World Comics Profile
Up, Up and Oy Vey Wins Award

Blog TO: Labyrinth
Inkstuds: Barron Storey
Esquire on Killed Cartoons
Newsday: Shel Silverstein
Newsarama: Chris Oliveros Periscope
Gazette-Times: Warren Ellis
Hyphen Blog: Tak Toyoshima
Broken Frontier: Renee French

Not Comics
Captain America Next Marvel Movie

FBoFW Major Site Expansion
Mark Bagley Ends Run on Ultimate Spider-Man

Jog: Golgo 13 Vol. 9
Dorian Wright: Various
Matt Brady: Deogratias
Steve Duin: Exit Wounds
Bart Croonenborghs: The Salon
Dave Baxter: New Avengers #31
Don MacPherson: Countdown #46
Stephen Holland: Alice in Sunderland
Joe Gordon: Tank Girl: The Gifting #1
Bill Sherman: Graphic Classics Vol. 14
Graeme McMillan: Tank Girl: The Gifting #1

June 14, 2007

CR Review: Dee Vee: Molotov


Creators: Eddie Campbell, Amber Caravan, Gary Chaloner, Michael Evans, James Kochalka, Christy McMurray, Mandy Ord, David Tang, Daren White
Publishing Information: Dee Vee Press, magazine-sized comic, 48 pages, 2002, $4.95
Ordering Numbers:

This is I believe the second to the most recent this-decade iteration of the Dee Vee anthology that was one of the better-known anthologies of the 1990s. It's scheduled for another go-round this month which piqued my interest in one of the hardier survivors of the CR to-review basket. Like most anthologies, you can judge the success of Dee Vee: Molotov by how well it provides what one expects of a good comics publication of its type within the parameters of its chosen theme or organizing principle. It's my understanding that Dee Vee should be seen as a a snapshot of the Australian comics scene, and although there are comics here that don't fall under that general conception -- James Kochalka here, Jeffrey Brown in the newest -- that would seem to accurately describe the thrust of the project.

I think the most generous appraisal off Dee Vee: Molotov is that it's one of those anthologies that's like an old Disney theme park ticket book with the E ticket already pulled. There's no Maus (RAW), or Robert Crumb short story (Weirdo), or From Hell (Taboo) or even a Kim Deitch (the later issues of Zero Zero) to set the tone and crystallize reader interest. This may be a casualty of its chosen area of exploration -- if the Australian scene of the moment doesn't have a Maus or near-equivalent, it may not appear in the anthology that spotlights its best comics. So already you're talking about one of those books that has to impress with its overall strength rather than one grand hit. This isn't unheard of in comics -- that's how Blab! and Buzzard and World War III present themselves -- but the degree of difficulty is rather high.

Unlike some of the previous issues of the anthology I've read, Dee Vee: Molotov sticks around for this fight, and bloodies a few noses along the way. A Daren White/Eddie Campbell collaboration "The Playwright" shows Campbell's skills as a straight-up comedy cartoonist, a role he fulfills quite well. Depth is provided by Christy McMurray, with a strange Huizenga/Campbell mix of lighthearted nonsense told in an illustrated tale style, and Mandy Ord, with a grotesquely designed but well-observed story of a woman falling in and out of dreams as she rides public transport. An illustrated essay by Gary Chaloner (a great idea for a book like this one) and a couple pages of the better James Kochalka sketchbook diary cartoons, and that's five features worth getting into, with two of the five being largely unfamiliar talents. That's an anthology worth picking up, and that makes me look forward to the new book.
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Hitler Mouse Banned in Germany

imageThis may be the calmest, most sprightly-toned article ever about a picture being banned from publication, likely because everyone knows swastikas are the iconographic can't-go-there of German publishing so a ban wouldn't be surprising, but I still sort of admire the calm way Tom Scott faces the exclusion of a cartoon featuring a mouse in a Nazi outfit from a new German edition of his 1996 book The Great Brain Robbery. He talks about how the picture came about, how the imagery is recognizable enough that no caption has ever been needed in previous editions in several countries, and how the excision make for a potentially strange double-standard considering the cartoons that survived.

I'm not sure this is an important story or 100 percent relevant to this site's day to day mission, but I'm afraid no one can resist the hypnotic pull of Hitler Mouse.
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Happy 63rd Birthday, Jordi Bernet!

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Album Page Shuffle Dismays Creator

What do you do when your publisher prints your book in a way that totally ruins a specific artistic effect you intended? If you're the author of Vilebrequin you try to get the book pulled and reprinted, and when that doesn't work, you go public.

I once saw an artist at a con whose book was printed missing sixteen pages and even through the printer was going to make good on a reprinting the cartoonist sat there with a look on his face that indicated that tears or murderous rage could roar onto his face at any moment. I can't imagine the level of distress a cartoonist must feel when this happens and then the publisher refuses the make-good.
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Happy 57th Birthday, Cosey!

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FPI: German Comics Awards Bonanza!

The Forbidden Planet International blog has two fine write-ups on the Munich Festival awards and the ICOM awards directed at small- and self-publishers. Because their write-ups are so good, I won't try to assemble one here, but here are two pertinent-art links for you to click-through.

Munich Comics Festival


ICOM Awards

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What Other Folks Are Talking About

* this is probably the most interesting stand-alone feature article out there today, a report by Henry Jenkins on a three-day conference in Berlin about the relationship of comics to the city.

* continuing his flurry of recent article-writing, Alan David Doane pushes comic book stores up against the ropes and begins throwing knees and elbows. I disagree with about 80 percent of what he writes, to be honest. Beyond specific disagreements, my general point of departure would be that while I do think there's value in being a full service store, I tend not to conflate how a store approaches their basic business strategy -- what to sell, what to emphasize -- with how successful they are in providing basic services like not being filthy or terrifying.

I do wish that comic shops would recognize their place as a gateway to the entire form, and realize, for example, that they might have people walking in who want a comic that's not something they generally carry but that it still benefits them to find a way to offer this person a reasonable way to get this material. My local bookstore does that. My local music store does that. But that's more because I see value in it more than I have a list of what a store can and should do. I would also point towards problems in distribution as an equally pernicious barrier in making this happen on a regular basis. If my cousin Jane were to walk into a comics shop looking for Persepolis, would that store owner be able to order her one in a prompt and professional manner, or would he be better serving Jane to suggest Amazon? The way orders work, I'm not sure.

I live in a small town, and the nearest comic shop (two hours away!) has gaming tables and shares space with a paintball business. I wish it were Quimby's West, but I'm okay with the fact that it's not.

* there are three manga stories driving chat. The first two are slightly ominous-sounding local police investigations in Kyoto and Osaka, the third is this article that asserts UK booksellers may not be as aggressively racking manga across categories as US booksellers have been. I don't really recall aggressive cross-category shelving in the US bookstores I've visited, and it seems I'm stepping over kids in one section only, but I'm not exactly Bookstore Betty.

* Mike Manley notes during his on-the-ground look at China that there seems to be a lack of a consistent in-country industry to support the form, and questions how much of what he's seeing is bootlegged. I guess the article is kind of a downer, although I'm certain that someone out there just did that Reginald Van Dough thing of money signs taking the place of eyeballs over the idea that China is an unploughed field for comics. That's one big-ass potential market.

* as much as I care, which isn't much, I'm with Parker. I'm afraid I have no opinion on this at all.
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OTBP: The Bottomless Belly Button

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More on Daniel Robert Epstein, RIP

Eric Reynolds has collected some comics-related links for the late journalist and interviewer Daniel Robert Epstein, who is also remembered fondly by a wide variety of acquaintances and professional admirers, including but certainly not limited to Mark Millar, Chris Arrant, Sean Collins, Max Evry and Patton Oswalt (at the end of a longer, lovely post from a pair of Suicide Girls colleagues whose names I couldn't quite track).

Epstein, a massively prolific pop culture journalist and arts interviewer whose expertise encompassed comics in addition to books, film and music, died yesterday morning after being found in his home in Astoria, New York. He was 31.
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Quick hits
Stuart Immonen's Tool Tray
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
More Box Design From Evan Dorkin
Other Characters Cameo in Stone Soup

Con Vs. Con
Best Idea Ever
SDCC Room Available
Rob Harrell at Depauw
500 Attend Alaska Exhibit Opening
Fantastic Comicfestival Munchen Video
Dave Lasky on Olympia Comics Festival
Mike Lynch From Shel Silverstein Book Launch Party

Carl Barks Pages
Dr. Doom Vs. Superman

I Hate Your Cartoon
How to Break Into Comics
Articles Like This Always Make Me Laugh

Newsarama: Pia Guerra
Wizard: Carmine Infantino
Wilmington News Journal: Tom Batiuk

Not Comics
On the Ebaying of Sketches
Writers That Borrow From Comics
On the Notion of Transcending Genre

New Wrestling-Related Series
Frank Cammuso Joins Blogosphere

Tim O'Neil: Activity Book
Geoff Hoppe: The Plain Janes
Jog: Tank Girl: The Gifting #1
Rob Clough: Project: Romantic
Richard Bruton: Wimbledon Green
Amir Muhammad: Where Monsoons Meet
Jeffrey Wilson: Tales From The Crypt Vol. 1

June 13, 2007

CR Review: House


Creator: Josh Simmons
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, soft cover, 80 pages, July 2007, $12.95
Ordering Numbers: 1560978554 (ISBN), 9781560978558 (ISBN13)

When I was a kid, my family spent the summer on Lake Wawasee, two hours from where we lived and went to school. About a mile and a half down the shoreline, at the end of a sidewalk cracked and warped by trees attempting to uproot in tornado season, just past the house where old man Eli Lilly lived with two dogs and a refrigerator full of Coca-Cola, sat an abandoned seminary and prep school. It was a humongous building whose history stretched back to the early part of the 20th Century and the days when Lake Wawasee was a favored vacation stop for Chicago residents both upper and criminal class. Among our youthful, demented non-water activities of choice, including laying pennies on the railroad track and jumping off of cliffs into the soft sands of a local quarry, was to squeeze through a broken window and explore that old building, roaming its corridors and marveling at the left-behind equipment and the raised floors like graves and most of all the cottony stillness that soaked into everything wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

imageIn House, Simmons captures a lot of that singular feeling in a wordless graphic novella about a tragedy that befalls three travelers digging deep into an older building, its neighbors, its hidden depths and secret passages. After a promising debut in the autobiographical Cirkus New Orleans, Simmons put out the scatter-shot Happy series and a collection's worth of short stories for 'zines and small-press anthologies. Many of these comics worked into their body extreme expressions of violence and evinced a kind of general disdain for the human species. Unlike many of his same-age peers, Simmons can sometimes suffer from too many ideas, snapshots of the human condition that animate and kind of spill off the sides of his comics pages. In House and the forthcoming Jessica Farm, Simmons works in what seems like a more tightly controlled way, infusing his comic with the energy and tension of a wound coil. When the second half of this book goes dark, both literally and figuratively, it feels like being lowered into a pit where you don't start clawing at the walls until well after the ladder is pulled up. At some point during House, he'll have you.

Simmons is an under-appreciated craftsman, and while his figure work isn't always consistent, he knows how to make powerful visuals. His depictions of the discoveries in the first half of the book, this intricate world just out of sight, are as compelling as any artist out there could have drawn. Simmons also pulls two very advanced storytelling tricks on the reader. First, he reduces the scope from the panoramas at the story's beginning to heavily-bordered tiny pictures of tragedy near the book's end. In fact, he uses these moments of context-broadening awe as the first half's primary artistic effect, a rhythm that he takes away from the story at a certain point in a telling way, as if to represent the reduction of our lives into moments of individual choice and widespread struggle over shared, transcendent vision. Second, Simmons puts forward a kind of soap opera veneer on the early proceedings that leads one to think that the culmination of the overall story and this plot-line will be closely related. No such luck. Simmons prefers a kind of horror that's random and hopeless and arbitrary and in House he delivers all of those things. It's a lovely performance.

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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 hurt feelings between me and my retailer.


Of all the showcase releases thus far, I seem to remember this group of stories being the best on a one on one basis when compared to Green Lantern or the Flash. I could be wrong, though. I still sort of wish these books were priced at $9.99.

I hope the production on this comes close to matching the content, because DC's choices on how to present their archival material can be odd, sometimes, and no one's felt the brunt of that like the King of Comics. I really like these books; I think they're very affecting, and beautiful to look at. I always think they work according to little kid logic as well as any books out there, and that's an undervalued thing.

Having this come out the same day as the Fourth World book is sort of like opening two blockbusters of the exact same type on the same day; it's the retailers that will take it in the chops, of course. Some of the best adventure comics ever made.

The best volumes from the best manga series out this week, and both are ones I'd suggest everyone at least look into.


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 likely I just missed it. Still friends, right?
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Daniel Robert Epstein, 1975-2007

Newsarama is reporting that their contributor and the very prolific interviewer Daniel Robert Epstein died this morning at age 31. Epstein provided dozens of high-quality, short interviews with comics creators to his various clients, perhaps most consistently Suicide Girls. He was also well known, perhaps more widely known outside of comics, for his interviews of people working in film and music, where his personal approach stood out against a lot of similar content that depended on rote questioning designed to serve a publicity cycle.

Epstein managed to approach the cartoonists, comics writers and comic book artists on his docket in a way that made his articles interesting reading for both mainstream readers and hardcore fans. He was very good at what he did. Our condolences to his family and friends.
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Universal Press Rep: “Cathy Is Solo!”

imageR Stevens apologizes for giving public voice to rumors that Cathy Guisewite was handing over her Cathy feature to a new creative team, opening up the possibility that papers would give features like his own a second look. In its 31st year, Cathy would probably be due to lose a few clients in the current strip climate anyway, so there was no need for anyone to jump to conclusions. Although with a wedding in the feature's recent past and Lynn Johnston's impending sort-of retirement, it's not surprising that rumors would swirl.
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I’m Also Terrified This Will Somehow End In More Seasons of “According to Jim”

Maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine doing a continuation of the Veronica Mars TV show as a comic book would be a good idea. This is even though I thought VM was a fine program, particularly its first season.

The problem with directly translating film to comics is that even if the writing works the same way in another medium -- never a guarantee -- it takes a unique and highly skilled artist to replicate any of the naturalistic qualities that actors routinely bring to characters, let alone the full range of them, let alone the kind of emotional subtext that frequently works its way across the faces and through the bodies of the Veronica Mars cast. I don't think this element works in Joss Whedon's stuff, either, although his fans project onto the characters with such a thoroughness it mitigates against this effect. There's no reason Veronica Mars couldn't be the greatest comic book ever, of course, but I really doubt it.
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OTBP: Dream of the Rarebit Fiend

posted 2:20 am PST | Permalink

I Can’t Be The First Person To Think This

Is the marketing and PR position at Image Comics starting to become a revolving door on the level of being Spinal Tap's drummer or what?
posted 2:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Hulk Hogan Manga Scans


I apologize for using one of the scans, but I can't figure out a better way to link to this
posted 2:16 am PST | Permalink

Iran = That Angry Guy on the Comics Message Board That No One Likes

Add Saudi Arabian editorial cartoons to a list that includes Danish caricature, roach cartoons, Marjane Satrapi and Frank Miller, in terms of comics-related entities that the nation of Iran or at least significant critics within the country don't much like.

I'm scanning the Internet every day for potential headlines "Iran Disapproves of Mary Jane Watson Statue," "Iran Feels Post-Civil War Comics Fail to Live Up to Promise of Original Series" or "Iran Declares Adrian Tomine Overrated; Cites Own Webcomic as Just as Good."
posted 2:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 51st Birthday, Frank Cirocco!

posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Thibaud Desbief Interview

It's in French, but I liked this short interview with translator Thibaud Desbief. It's the kind of nuts and bolts "here is my job" chat I'm not used to seeing in coverage of comics, particularly from Europe.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 40th Birthday, Kris Dresen!

posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

“Mote, Meet Beam” Department

Self-professed comics know-it-all chastises writers for defining entire comics industry as certain superhero comics when the medium's recent history surely indicates the entire comics industry should be defined as all the superhero comics.

Okay, that's not news, but I found it kind of amusing.
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OTBP: Vowels

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

It’s Going To Be A Weird Summer

This has to be the strangest note from a publisher ever, triply so because I don't remember seeing a lot of personal missives from Mike Richardson anymore.
posted 2:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Taylor-Morse Collection


This is a fine-looking site (click through the above) devoted to imagery that the famed Bazooka Joe creator Wesley Morse did for Ziegfield Follies beauty Avonne Taylor during a brief but intense period in the early 1920s -- near the beginning of his long, varied and largely forgotten career.
posted 2:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Tezuka Exhibit Review
Jeffrey Brown on England Tour
Next Two Schulz Museum Exhibits
Photos From James Kochalka GRSF Event
Cartoonists With Attitude Event Planned for DC

Happy 10th, Augie
Repulsive Comic Update
IDW and Transformers License
ADD's Latest Direct Market Rant

MyRant: Sean Ford
Suicide Girls: Joe Matt
PWCW: Cathy Malkasian
PWCW: Jason Thompson
Express: David Petersen
Scripps: Ethan Van Sciver
Newsarama: Tom Sniegoski

Not Comics
The Campbells Discuss The Sopranos
Ike Perlmutter's Stock Option Bonanza
Worst Danish Cartoons Comparison Yet
Andrew Farago Interviews Patton Oswalt
Berke Breathed Pokes Pundits With Stick

S&S Pursuing Kids GNs
Help Pick Strips for The Engine
Secret Asian Man Through Universal
Jeremy: The Complete Strip Collection

Don MacPherson: Fun Home
Hervé St-Louis: Daredevil #96
Hervé St-Louis: Daredevil #97
Koppy McFad: Teen Titans #47
Koppy McFad: Birds of Prey #107
Leroy Douresseaux: Batman #658
Koppy McFad: The All-New Atom #12
Panels and Pixels: Alice in Sunderland
Leroy Douresseaux: Thunderbolts #113
Rob Vollmar: Hokusai: First Manga Master
Jog: The Black Diamond Detective Agency
Al Kratina: Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock #1
Matt Brady: The Black Diamond Detective Agency
Brian Heater: Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations

June 12, 2007

CR Review: Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall


Creators: Bill Willingham, Esao Andrews, Brian Bolland, John Bolton, Mark Buckingham, James Jean, Michael Wm Kaluta, Derek Kirk Kim, Tara McPherson, Jill Thompson, Charles Vess, Mark Wheatley
Publishing Information: DC/Vertigo, Hardcover, 144 pages, October 2006, $19.99
Ordering Numbers: 1401203671 (ISBN)

This is a very lovely book, and in many ways a fascinating one, in that it seems to exist in multiple places at once. It's both an entry-level hook into Vertigo's successful Fables comic book and trade paperback series and a stand-alone volume. It's a single narrative and an anthology. It's a showcase for top-tier artistic talent and a throwback in terms of the type of talent on display. It's a prequel and in several ways an addition to what the reader knows about the series' main characters. It's told in a modern voice, but may remind many of fantasy comics from 25-35 years ago, with a bit of violence and a few moments of nudity. The book neatly encapsulates all the pleasures of the series and Bill Willingham's entertaining modern soap opera take on all that classic bedtime story material, but also shows how that material continues to rattle around, a rough fit for the kind of Vertigo treatment that feels more whole than Fables has. Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall is the kind of story that has some pleasure to it on a first reading, but you sense even then that it doesn't all fit together as well as it would like.

imageOne of those weird loose ends comes right up top, with the story's overarching concept. The conceit is that Snow White seeks the aid of the Persian King Shahryar against the Adversary that has dogged and pursued and killed the European fables characters. This is the same king from the legend of Scheherazade, the Persian queen who so entertained and educated the king with her 1001 nights of stories that she avoided a one-night-and-then-beheading edict that he put in place due to tragedy and a broken heart, and married him. According to this volume, she pulls the same trick a bit earlier, and the comics shorts are the result. This is clever, although I can't be the only reader to make the uh-oh face when considering the implications of a white woman enabling the Scheherazde legend by getting there first. The flip-side of using such rich source materials is that they're both general and specific, and all apologies to Joseph Campbell and his notion of translatable archetypes, moving a very specific iteration of a folk tale from one context to another can sometimes set loose unintended messages. In other words, it's not so much that any reader will think the creators are racist by putting Snow White over the Persian Queen, but they may notice that things don't fit together as well as they might.

I found a similar dissonance took place within the stories, where sequences seemed out of place or strangely paced according to what I can only guess is something that would resonate with series fans. This includes a page where Prince Charming is made out to be sort of rake in "The Fencing Lessons," some back and forth between Snow White and Rose Red in "Diaspora" that didn't track as having much to do with the affairs on hand, and the curious decision to end "Fair Division" and the stories themselves, with King Cole signing legislation into effect that has dramatic impact within the comic. In fact, I'm not sure how Snow White avoided execution with that last one. The entire notion of the Adversary and his army of bad folks, also ended up being one of those half and half deals: the invading army remains appropriately brutal and violent and frightening, but there's something about the entire notion that doesn't feel as specific and grounded and organic as the fables from which these stories sprang. I don't know the series well enough to know if this is intentional; I can certainly see a point being made about the difference between fables and fantasy.

That's not to say there isn't a lot to enjoy here. Much of the book is gorgeous. There are illustrations by the team of Kaluta and Vess, pages by Jill Thompson, and designs by Tara McPherson that are top-notch fantasy. The book also use artists like Brian Bolland and John Bolton extremely well. Willingham's scripts are much more lively and funny than I'm used to from a lot of Vertigo work, and I found myself kind of liking his twist on the Seven Dwarves story (as obvious as it is) and the Big Bad Wolf (which never would have occurred to me). I know if I were a fan of the series, I would probably very much enjoy this kind of handsome addition to the canon. As someone on the outside, it still feels more like a concept that spends as much time shaking itself apart as it does in bringing a new perspective to old tales.

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News I Don’t Quite Understand


* I am so completely out of my depth analyzing this article by Didier Pasmonik, as I have no real knowledge of major European industry players, and it seems that more than half of the piece is given over to potential implications and the like without making some basics clear. It's worth noting, however, that what seems to have happened is that Egmont Media has purchased assets of Bonnier which will make for a new, consolidated publishing platform in countries like Denmark and Norway. This is odd in that Egmont and Bonnier (through Carlsen) were the twin forces that dominated comics early on in the development of the modern comics industries in that part of Europe, it's contextually worth noting because of the massive activity by big companies in European publishing generally, and it really is worth talking about in terms of potential trends, because if this move proves successful other countries could see similar deals being made.

That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it until someone .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), which should be pretty quickly.

UPDATED (ONE HOUR LATER): Thomas Thorhauge explains the implications in full at Metabunker. Looks like I scored Hunch 10, Details 3.

* I'm also not quite grasping the nuances of this article about Turkish-American cartoonist Murad Gumen being revealed as the driving force behind an anti-Armenian web site. I did find it interesting that Gumen was traced through correspondence with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and that the writer firmly believes that this revelation will cost the cartoonist any future Disney work.
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Happy 59th Birthday, Len Wein!

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Punisher Book Pulled in Singapore


This article about branches of Singapore's National Library pulling copies of Garth Ennis' The Punisher: Barracuda from its shelves after a parent complained manages to maintain an admirably semi-detached tone throughout. This may be because this seems like a simple shelving error rather than a giant scandal, or even one of those unfortunate events where a library wants to shelve something and a parent doesn't want them too. In fact, it seems like the library had no intention of shelving the book or any book like it. Further, it seems the error could have been avoided if someone had read the books, or at least paid attention to covers with explicit content warnings. So it seems to me more one of those "there it is" stories more than a "here it comes."
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Happy 51st Birthday, Scott Roberts!

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Jack Edward Oliver, 1942-2007

imageJ (Jack) Edward Oliver, a prolific British magazine cartoonist that emerged in the 1970s with a variety of features that showcased his skill with parody and gentle satire, died on May 26. He was born in Dartford, Kent and after school worked a job for eight years before putting together a humor comic book called Instant Garbage, which he released in 1968. Features in papers followed, with Oliver's best known platform being a single page of his own in Disc. It was there he created his signature character, Fresco-le-Raye (pictured). He was eventually dropped from the publication in the late 1970s. His next extended gig came with IPC's humor magazines, as they began the process of slowly fading away. According to his personal web site, Oliver drew the last page of Buster in January 2000.

A musical featuring Oliver's lyrics was staged in 1984. He was married this last March to Elizabeth Hales.
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OTBP: Sundays Anthology

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Roger Armstrong, 1917-2007

Roger Armstrong, a versatile cartoonist who worked in both comic strips and comic books as well as being a beloved teacher and mentor to several artists and an accomplished painter in watercolors, died on June 7. He was 89 years old.

imageArmstrong was born in Los Angeles and attended Chouniard Art Institute (since merged into the California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts), in the late 1930s, dropping out after a downturn in financial circumstances to take a job at Lockheed. He was hired away from that job to draw Bugs Bunny comics for Western Publishing. This began a five-decade creer for Armstrong as an artist on various Western publications and those companies which fulfilled that publisher's niche in later decades, doing comic book version of popular characters in animation ranging from Warner's Porky Pig to Disney's Seven Dwarfs. According to an information-packed remembrance by Mark Evanier linked to above, he ghosted several strips including Charlie Plumb's Ella Cinders, where he took over for longtime artist Fred Fox, and Little Lulu.

He remained a painter throughout, and was a proud practitioner of the California school most popular in the first half of the 20th Century, whose virtues he taught even as other school came into greater popular favor.
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Go, Look: Alternative’s Summer ‘07

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Go, Buy: McSweeney’s Benefit Sale

* it looks like I'm not on the McSweeney's mailing list, but luckily Dirk Deppey is, so he has word of their latest sale, starting today, designed to ameliorate some of the debt incurred because of someone else's bankruptcy. Subscriptions $5 off, new books 30 percent off, backlist 50 percent off, and I assume all of this information will be replicated in their store starting around right now. They have both published comics and published illustration by cartoonists; anecdotal evidence suggests they have also caused every person that goes on a second date with a writer under the age of 40 to ask why their dinner companion isn't being published there.

* in another effort, this one designed to support the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), you can bid on these two parody cartoons from the great R. Sikoryak, which were used in the Daily Show book.
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Go, Look: Big Time Attic Comics

I've enjoyed Kevin Cannon's Far Arden 288-hour comic experiment enough that I went to the Big Time Attic web site to see if there were any other comics being done by that group, and I noticed that two of their blog categories are comics content-driven.

Big Time Attic: The Comic


Chapter 99


Click through each image for the comics.
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Quick hits
Box Design From Evan Dorkin
Well-Traveled Video of Milo Manara Drawing

Vess Exhibit
Cagle at CCI
SLG's Con Season
Summer in Manga
Toronto Con Photos
Toronto Con Links 01
Toronto Con Links 02
Heroes Con Saturday
Romita Jr., Pak at JHU
Long Island Museum Report
Immonen Toronto Photos One
Immonen Toronto Photos Two
Review of Comic Abstraction Show
Report From Comics and Cards Show

About Tad Dorgan
Legend of the Spy Smasher
Chris Mautner on Silver Surfer Character
Let the Herriman Editorial Cartoons Begin!

You Suck, Marvel
They Still Miss Calvin
Critique of WSJ Article
Discussion of Web Comics
Discussion of Strip Comics
Kids Are Reading... Comics
Andy Schmidt Leaves Marvel
Heather Smith on Fancy Books
Archaia Proud of Robotika Award

The Pulse: Spike
FPI Blog: Asia Alfasi
Wizard: Eddie Campbell Rutu Modan
The Mirror: Gerald Lazare
Paul Gravett: Rian Hughes
Bookslut: Cecil Castellucci
Comic Book Queers: Robert Aguirre-Sacasa

Not Comics
Movie People, They Love The Comics
Artist Leaves Home Featured in Cartoons

Tundra to Bellingham Herald
Cul de Sac Prepping at Universal
Next D&Q Showcase Cover (Scroll Down)

Andy: Garage Band
Jeff Chon: Black Hole
Travis Pullen: Various
Nathalie Atkinson: Various
Sam Lagrone: Drawing From Life
Jeff Vandermeer: Autobio Comics
Don MacPherson: The Boys Vol. 1
Rob Clough: Fantagraphics Horror
Tina Tsai: Crimson Hero, Skip-Beat!
Bill Sherman: The Homeless Channel
Susan Tomaselli: Regards From Serbia
Kurogane: Free Collars Kingdom Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: Detective Comics #826
Max Loh: Junk -- Record of the Last Hero Vol. 1
Scott Green: Yotsuba&! Vol. 4, Gunslinger Girl Vol. 1

June 11, 2007

CR Review: To Terra Vol. 1


Creator: Keiko Takemiya
Publishing Information: Vertical, soft cover, 344 pages, February 2007, $13.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781932234671 (ISBN13), 1932234675 (ISBN10)

imageYou get to a certain age, you no longer put forward dissenting views for the simple pleasure of being contrary. Besides, I found the conventional wisdom on Vertical's To Terra to be pretty much spot-on: 1) there are few signs in the first volume it will ever transcend its mighty array of 1970s science fiction cliches to become something of unique, significant, artistic and literary value, and 2) it's pretty enough a lot of people probably won't care. What interest there is in the project comes from holding the book at arm's length and asking over and over again, "Why do you figure that was a good idea?" It's not that you ever doubt Keiko Takemiya, an extremely versatile cartoonist working with all cylinders firing here art wise, but you ask the question in frustration out of not being able to connect. The presentational style shoves itself in insistent fashion right up to the edge of some strange abyss of baroque. It's as if Takemiya dove into the story determined to use multiple underlying visual subtexts where one might have done the trick. I count three recurring motifs: size and placement, movement from one space to another, and the physical separation of characters according to emotional state. That's a lot of different visual signatures to follow, and there are times when the reader might feel hustled from place to place. At times, reading To Terra Vol. 1 feels sort of like working one's way through the length of a jarring Disney World ride.

Certainly something worth noting could develop from this approach, and I wouldn't dismiss subsequent volumes out of hand. One reason that things like the forced stratification of society and aberrant underworlds and people rattled by the isolation of space travel became cliches is that they were used over and over again to fine effect. Something particularly powerful about 1970s science fiction of the kind that touched a bit on the great split in American society that took place in the 1960s is that many books and movies were anticipatorily pessimistic, like they ran out in front of everyone else to display their shitty outlook badges. Thirty-five years ago it was still possible to have a notion accepted as gospel in one part of the country, when the very thing it was a statement against had yet to develop in others. White plastic societies assumed control over civil liberties in books and on screen popular on the coasts just as the hair was starting to get a bit longer in some of the smaller Midwestern towns. That to me at least is what's interesting about the idea of children in these stories: not children themselves, but a metaphor for those much less practiced in a society whose future is a couple thousand miles away. Now everything travels much faster, of course, and there's a self-awareness about the prophetic nature of art that didn't exist when To Terra was made. Although it would take a minor miracle for this to become a story of heart and import, it's worth remembering how information was processed not in the future, but our past.

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Your 2007 Shuster Awards Winners


Darwyn Cooke was the big winner at the just-past The Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards, hold the same weekend as the Toronto Comicon. Cooke won two awards, for writing and cartooning, and shared in a third, for art, with J. Bone. Drawn and Quarterly was named the Outstanding Publisher and webcomics creator Dan Kim won in both his category and in the "fan-favourite" category for English-language cartoonists.

imageOutstanding Artist
Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone, Batman/The Spirit
Outstanding Cartoonist
Darwyn Cooke, The Spirit #1
Outstanding Writer
Darwyn Cooke, Superman Confidential #1-2
Outstanding Publisher
Drawn & Quarterly
Outstanding Web Comics Creator
Dan Kim, April May & June, Kanami, and Penny Tribute
Outstanding International Creator
Brian K. Vaughan, Pride Of Baghdad, Ex Machina, Runaways, Doctor Strange: The Oath and Y: The Last Man
Fan-Favourite Creator (English)
Dan Kim, April May & June, Kanami, and Penny Tribute
Fan-Favourite Creator (French)
Michel Rabagliati, Paul a la Peche
Harry Kremer Oustanding Retailer Award
Happy Harbor Comics & Toys (Edmonton, Alberta)
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Go, Read: Far Arden, Chapter 9


this message board post gives you all the contextual information and links you need if you're not familiar with Kevin Cannon's project
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Taizo Yokoyama, 1917-2007

The manga author Taizo Yokoyama, brother of the popular cartoonist Ryuichi Yokoyama and creator of the four-panel political strip Shakai Gi-hyo (translated as Social Satire or some version of same), died June 10 at his home following a bout with pneumonia. Shakai Gi-hyo ran in the newspaper Asahi Shinbun for almost 40 years, from 1954 to 1992. A live-action film of his most famous character, Pu-san, was made into a live action film of the same name in 1953 by the director Kon Ichikawa.

Yokoyama was trained at the Kawahata Illustration School and served on the Chinese front during World War II. He was 90 years old.
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OTBP: Glister #1


Image isn't exactly off the beaten path, but an Andi Watson comic from Image might be
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Japanese Market Snapshot Spectacular

This article seemed to me stuffed with all sorts of observations about aspects of the Japanese market, none of which are fully developed. Included are notions about the shrinking of the magazine market from mid-'90s highs, people wanting to enter the market anyway, the size of the book market for two popular series and the fact they've grown as the manga carrying their serials declined, the notion of target marketing, the notion of changing layout and other structural issues to better reflect today's audience and the looming threat of the Internet. It's like a Super-Friends of feature article ideas about Japanese comics publishing.

In comparison, this Reuters piece engages a single idea, that of foreign students hitting schools to learn about manga even with little hope of entering that market successfully.
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OTBP: Sugar Booger #2

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Not Comics: This Totally Makes Sense

Why, of course that Mac/PC ad campaign is translatable into other countries. Now I want all of them to team up.
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Tad Dorgan Boxing George Herriman


Tad Dorgan's induction yesterday into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, as announced a long time ago, provides opportunity to post this great cartoon featuring Dorgan squaring off against George Herriman, which is discussed here.
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Pop-Up Sempe
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
Hutch Owens' Five Obstructions
One More Shazam Production Journal
Page of Warren Ellis Script to Last Planetary

BEA 2007 Report
Spiegelman Talk Report
Women of Comics II Report
Report From Toronto Comicon
Photos From Toronto Comicon
Olympia Comics Festival Report

Metabunker's Herge Drawings
Lincoln Cartoons (June 9 Entry)

Terry Moore to DC?
Repulsive Cover Update
Eddie Campbell Wins a Lempi
NPR Suggests Multiple Comics

Mr. Media: Trina Robbins
Newsarama: Ed Brubaker
Comic Book Bin: Jim Rugg
Patriot-News: Bryan Talbot
The Villager: Mikhaela Reid
Newsarama: Becky Cloonan
Mike Manley: Chinese Comics
Dazed & Confused: Gabrielle Bell
Confessions of an ACA Fan: Dean Motter
Broken Frontier: Mike Carey, Louise Carey

Not Comics
Scott Adams Philosophical at 50
Book About Grant Morrison Released
Gary Sassaman Reviews Kirby DVD Documentary

Paris in August
Yalla Italia Effort
Neufeld Posts AD Chapter 4
Cathedral Child Now On-Line
David Welsh Looks at Previews
Editor Explains Dropping Get Fuzzy
Doonesbury Vs. Rex Winner: Comics!
RC Harvey Blogging at
Ann Telnaes Animations at Guardian Site
Sorcerers and Secretaries Vol. 2 Imminent

Erin F.: Otaku USA #1
Richard Bruton: Various
Jog: The Fun Never Stops!
Geoff Grogan: Kramers Ergot
Shaenon Garrity: Pure Trance
Richard Pachter: Alias the Cat
Paul O'Brien: New Warriors #1
Paul O'Brien: Black Summer #0
Paul O'Brien: Uncanny X-Men #487
Sarah Morean: Sara Bauer Comics
Richard Pachter: All Star Superman
Josh Mishka: Absolute DC: The New Frontier
Hervé St-Louis: The New Avengers: Illuminati #3
Graeme McMillan: Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock #1

June 10, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Joe Casey

imageIf he's amenable, I would like to interview the writer Joe Casey once every couple of years for the rest of the time he and I both work in or near comics. Casey's current projects include the extended meditation on mainstream cosmic comics GØDLAND, with the artist Tom Scioli, and Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin, with artist Eric Canete. Casey is also I think pretty typical of today's mainstream comics creators in that the work he does anchors a wider variety of interests in television (he's part of the Man of Action group responsible for the recent animated series BEN 10), music (he's played in several bands) and film (he's recently directed a movie).

An admirable element of Casey's work is that recurring values of obvious personal importance show up in his comics no matter how out-sized or fantastic they might otherwise be. As we established in a longer interview for The Comics Journal, one of those issues for Casey is personal responsibility. One that I think comes out in his most recent round of work, which includes GØDLAND and a second installment of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes retro-Avengers series, is the notion of psychological trauma as an expectation of certain vocational choices, what we do to cope when we have a daily existence that makes us feel really, really bad about ourselves.

Other reasons I like talking to Joe is that I think he sees the process of interviewing as a valuable thing in and of itself, and he's practically unfazed by any stupid, rude notion I'll put on the table.


TOM SPURGEON: What do you know now about writing for comics that you didn't know five years ago?

JOE CASEY: Heh... talk about a loaded question. I think, at this point, the language of comic books is completely second nature to me now. I've written enough that the basic semiotics involved just seem to flow without effort. Now I don't mean to suggest that, just because I know the language, every comic I write now is great, chock full of skill and brilliance and perfect in every way. Far from it. But telling a story using the medium is so ingrained now, it's hard wired into my brain. The trick now is to continually challenge myself and find areas of the craft that feel new and different to me. It gets tougher and tougher, because there's not a lot of techniques I haven't at least tried. But, for better or worse, I do think I found my voice and so these days, it's just about refining it as best I can. I'm always learning.

SPURGEON: Two years ago I watched you do a couple of panels at San Diego. You were at the center of the Image panel, and kind of off to the side of the Marvel one, and I thought that sort of reflected where you were at the time. How do you feel about where you are in a career sense right now?

CASEY: Let me put it this way, if you catch me on a panel this year at Comic-Con, I'd be shocked. Having said that, I'll probably do the Image panel, because I'm really just representing myself there. Plus, it's very low key (as you saw last year). But I've got a very "been there, done that" attitude to a lot of the accoutrements of a professional comic book writer's career. I'm ten years in this game, Tom. I've experienced the ride as both boy and man. At this point, I'm only interested in writing good comic books, fun comic books, and letting my creative juices flow where they will. You can't hold onto these things too tightly, you'll strangle them. So, when it comes to my career, I try to tone down my Type-A personality and just try and do good work. It's actually interesting that you made a distinction between the two panels and the two companies' place in the comic book landscape, as if there really were a "mainstream" within the publishing hierarchy. I suppose there is, but I don't really make those distinctions any more. It's all comics to me.

SPURGEON: You did an autobiographical comic book I think about five years where you kind of stepped back and saw yourself really working hard and almost lost in your work. How much of your time is spent on comics now? How much time is spent on other writing?

CASEY: I'd say about one-third of my time is spent writing comic books, which I guess is just about right for me at this point. I've got family obligations now that have come to the forefront, and obviously I've ventured out into other kinds of writing. With Man Of Action, having created BEN 10 opened quite a few doors in animation, and I'm in post on a film I wrote and directed. If there's any work I get "lost" in now, it's probably the film... mainly because it takes so much focus and energy to make a film. At the same time, it's also been the most rewarding creative experience I've had in the past few years, so naturally I'm going to gravitate to the thing that engages me the most. Having said that, I love comic books too much to ever give stop doing them. Those are skills that were too hard won to ever put down.

SPURGEON: What was the experience like working with the later Avengers material in your Earth's Mightiest Heroes miniseries as opposed to the early material? What do you feel changed in comics between the first period, 1963 or so, and the second, 1966-1967?

CASEY: EMH2 was the series I was really looking forward to writing, even as I was writing the first series. The Roy Thomas era was one I was more familiar with (mainly because the Stan Lee stories -- especially the first year of Avengers -- weren't the most compelling comic books he'd ever written). I tried to approach EMH2 in the same manner that Thomas wrote his stories... more soap opera, more of a potboiler, more character continuity... all the things that made Thomas' run crackle with a specific kind of energy. Of course, he also had John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Gene Colan, Barry Smith and Neal Adams drawing his run... always a bonus.

I think, if you're comparing Stan and Roy, it comes down to this... Stan created the universe, but Roy was the first writer that really got to play in it. That's the difference. It's obviously rewarding to create something... but it's also great fun to play. That's basically the reason to write anything for Marvel or DC... because you get to play.


SPURGEON: Why can't anyone seem to write Iron Man?

CASEY: The thing is, anyone can write Iron Man, if they meet certain criteria. You have to 1) know how to write superhero comics, 2) know the character and its history, 3) have some insight into the character and its history, and 4) Marvel Comics has to hire you to write Iron Man. In a way, the idea of quality doesn't have to enter into it. It does for me, but those are my own personal standards. Actually, the only one that really matters out of that list is #4. For me, Iron Man is a childhood favorite (especially his appearances in Avengers and the Michelinie-written runs of his own book), so I take that gig extremely seriously (in the sense that I'm serious about having fun with it). Just like my work on the EMH mini-seires, I hope the die hard Iron Man fans enjoyed The Inevitable series I did with Frazer Irving and that they'll dig the IM/Mandarin mini I'm currently writing (with art by my former Mr. Majestic collaborator, Eric Canete).

SPURGEON: Tell me more about the film project. In fact, tell me as much as you can about the film project.

CASEY: Honestly, there's not much I want to say... until it's finished and ready to be seen (which will hopefully be in the next month or so).

SPURGEON: Why are you reluctant to talk about it?

CASEY: C'mon, how many times have we seen guys announcing an option or some nebulous Hollywood deal, puff up their chests and soak in the envy they assume we're all feeling, and then nothing happens? The list is long and tedious. I did an end run around all that bullshit by simply going out and making a film. I went the indie route. The thing is, I'd rather create than talk about creating... which absolutely makes me an anomaly in practically every field of entertainment, including comic books.

The experience itself was amazing. Putting together the production, assembling all the pieces to make the thing happen, then working with the actors... it was all great. The shoot was blessed from day one, no major disasters, we made all our days, etc. Post has been kind of a drag, because you scale back to a small crew again and I really miss all the folks from the shoot, but I think the end result will be worth it. Writing comic books is a lonely life. Making a film is an extremely social endeavor. Sometimes it's frustrating, because of the sheer size of a feature... but overall, the positives absolutely outweigh the negatives.

SPURGEON: Outside of your own perspective ten years ago to now, how do you feel about the way your friends and peers are treated in the industry? It seems to me you've reached that point where you're all no longer on the same page as up and coming guys... so is it a good place to work? Do you feel like your generation of creators is being treated well as you head into your second decades?

CASEY: I think I've seen every kind of career trajectory play out around me over the past decade. I don't necessarily think there's a blanket statement I could make about the "treatment" myself and my peers have received. Everyone ultimately receives the treatment they deserve, and it's always a case-by-case basis. I also have to be completely honest, I've gotten to the point where I'm fairly disinterested in the "moves" that I see being made. Except for my friends in the business, where I have an interest beyond their careers, it's just kind of... boring, really. To hear publishing reps -- and even creators -- talk about their participation in company-wide crossovers like no one's ever thought of doing this before is laughable. It's all been done before! Marvel in 2007 is no different than Marvel in 1997 or 1987. Same with DC. It's about crossovers and events and gimmicks. That's what mainstream publishers are supposed to do. But just don't act like you thought of it or that you're doing it better than it's ever been done before. I guess I have been in the industry long enough that I now see the patterns pretty clearly... I've experienced the cycles myself.

SPURGEON: We've seen exponential growth and untold money and attention pouring into comics the last five years. Are creators sharing in that wealth and attention to the same extent it's coming in. If not, why not?

CASEY: Is this a trick question?

SPURGEON: I hope not.

CASEY: Creators will never share the wealth in a manner that anyone could classify as "fair." We've talked about this before... creators get screwed. Artists get screwed. The model for the industry has always been that way, and probably always will be. We do get the attention, so if that's what you're after as a creator, to see yourself in Wizard Magazine or be mentioned on G4TV, then I suppose it's all good. But having "fame" is one thing... having power is another. Fame is easy. So easy, I can't even tell you. But getting some power is a much trickier thing, and in the long run, is much more valuable to a creative person. And I mean real power, not the power I see people trying to trick the rest of the world into thinking they have.

SPURGEON: But certainly the last two periods of growth led to increased benefits for creators, particularly those working mainstream American comic books. The 1980s Shooter-driven growth provided creators greater benefits through a royalty system. The 1990s Image period, for all of its excesses and horrors, provided some cartoonists with previously unheard-of financial opportunity. Has anyone benefited at all in this new period? Who? Where?

CASEY: My feeling is that we're now operating in a landscape that's pretty wide open at this point. How a creator benefits from that all depends on what they ultimately want to get out of comics. Look at Frank Miller... not only did he co-direct, but it was an adaptation of his own comic book. Dan Clowes is another example of a creator who shepherded his own comic book material into new media. So, the walls have broken down significantly, just in the past five or six years.

When I broke into the field as a professional, comic books seemed so off the cultural radar, it never occurred to me that I could parlay the work in one field into work in another. Now, here we are and not only are comic books a main source to be exploited in Hollywood and other media, the creators themselves often have the clout to be intimately involved in the translation of their creations. We're been taken much more seriously for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we often control our creations, we own them fully. And ownership is everything in Hollywood. Y'know, I suppose the real trick is not falling out of love with the medium that provided you with all these new opportunities in the first place...

SPURGEON: In our interview for The Comics Journal, you expressed a level of dismay for the fundamental lack of respect for the professionalism of creators you'd experienced during your years as a freelancer. Has that changed, or are you still treated poorly? If it has changed, how have you noticed it to change and why do you think it has?

CASEY: Well, I think it's more that I've changed. I tend to expect less and that tends to make it easier. Or, at least, I don't leave myself open to abuse. I also seek out better people to work with. I'm pretty happy with the editors I've worked with at Marvel over the past few years. They've been pretty professional with me and that's all I could ask for.

The fact is, freelancers are treated "poorly" only when they open themselves up for that treatment. I've done it in the past, and hopefully I've learned my lessons. If a publisher offers you a shitty deal, don't take it. After ten years of writing comics and getting my work out there... there's no one project that's make-or-break with me anymore. Sometimes people I work with don't quite get that, and have tried to somehow hold me hostage by what they think is my own burning desire -- that "I'll do anything"-desire" -- to see a project come to fruition. But I'm just not desperate like that, and I have no intention of bending over for anyone just to get any one project out there. Besides, I've worked long enough and hard enough that I have plenty of options for whatever I end up wanting to do. Right now Image has been a real home to me in the projects I've had a genuine desire to do. Couple that with the fact that they have the best deal in the industry and there ends up being no reason whatsoever for me to have to take shit from anybody.

SPURGEON: That's kind of depressing in its implications, though, Joe, isn't it? Aren't you basically saying that comics is an abusive, exploitative system by nature and the way to get around that is to a) not give a shit and b) take enough crap for long enough you get in a position where you have other options? That's like the G. Gordon Liddy school of creator's rights.

CASEY: Without seeming too glib about it, welcome to the entertainment business. There is a fray and you can place yourself above it all, if you so choose. Especially after you've been in it for a while and gotten a taste of it (or a distaste, as the case may be). I'm certainly not suggesting my approach to the business is the best approach, it's just the one that's worked out for me and my sanity. Let's be real here... fundamentally, exploiting artists is what every facet of the entertainment business is all about, including comic books. The word "exploit" can be used in its most negative connotation, or it can simply be the word that describes what goes on. Both can apply, depending on your point of view.

The thing is... artists can exploit the entertainment business right back. When I write for a mainstream publisher, am I exploiting them and their considerable presence in the Direct Market to get my name out there more? Sure I am. Are they exploiting me by paying me less than I'm worth for a product they'll get a lot more in return for? Absolutely. I think it's only depressing when you have a different view of what the entertainment business should be. Particularly one that somehow owes you something. I don't have that view, and to do the work I enjoy doing, I need to master the system that's there, evolve when it evolves, bob and weave when it throws another punch. I'm not depressed about it at all, really. You can yearn to change the system, but you have to realize going in that the system doesn't want to be changed. And at this point in my life, there are other things -- other people -- much, much closer to me that I can actually have a direct effect on, where I can affect real change, so that's where I tend to concentrate those particular energies. I hope no one thinks that I'm somehow ducking a cause... but it is my life, isn't it?

imageSPURGEON: What's the single thing that you and other pros talk about that readers would be surprised to hear is something on your minds? Is there something in pro-bitching zeitgeist we can get out there on the table for everyone to consider?

CASEY: No, it's still the same petty bullshit we're always talking about. It is funny to hear some of my friends bitch about the things I used to bitch about. Actually, this may not be so surprising to hear, but I get a kick out of it... pros can look at other pros' careers and know instantly ways to "fix" them. But their own career... no clue whatsoever. It's easy to look at someone else's situation with an analytical eye and really come up with solid solutions or even just valid insights but it's terribly difficult to turn that eye inward. And, of course, the last thing pros want to do is take the career advice of fellow pros. I've seen readers on the message boards try to play career counselor, but they never quite get it like we do in the trenches of the industry. You could name me five writers or artists and I could instantly tell you what they should do next to further enhance their careers. But for me...? Hell, I feel like I'm just winging it most of the time. I'd never be able to analyze my own career with such certainty.

SPURGEON: How has working on BEN 10 changed the way you view how comics work?

CASEY: BEN 10 has been a nice paycheck. One day I'll actually watch the show.

SPURGEON: What can comics offer that film and animation can't?

CASEY: Comic books at their best have an autonomy that no other medium can provide. Now, I should qualify that statement... it's not complete and total autonomy. But it can be significant. Especially for a writer/artist/cartoonist. I'll never have the kind of autonomy that guys like Kyle Baker, Jeff Smith, Jim Mahfood, Erik Larsen or Evan Dorkin have. Those guys don't need anyone to make comic books, which is fantastic. I would think that, in that respect, animation, film and TV could learn more from comic books, not vice versa. If anything, comics -- the industry, not the medium -- have learned the wrong things from Hollywood, in terms of behavior. But, that's how it goes, I guess.

SPURGEON: You mentioned the notions of playing a couple of times. If you and other are writers find the greatest benefit in working in a setting like the Marvel Universe in that you're getting to play, how come so many of those comics are fussy and depressing?

CASEY: Well, I can't speak about how other writers get their rocks off when they splash around in the Shared Universe Pool. I only know what I get out of it. And I honestly don't read too many Marvel comics so I can't attest to how fussy and depressing they are. I guess it stands to reason, since most of the writers working at Marvel were probably '80s readers and haven't shaken the Moore/Miller influence yet. Hell, that influence has infected film and television, too, hasn't it? Talk about fussy and depressing!

SPURGEON: How has wanting to have more fun in your work changed the way you approach your work? Are you as concerned with things like the development of theme or saying something through your work? Do you have aspirations for work like GØDLAND, that they achieve a certain level of greatness or quality?

CASEY: I suppose my main aspiration these days is to get rid of as much self-consciousness as possible in the writing. With GØDLAND in particular, it'd be real easy to get caught up in the "bigness" of the ideas... cosmic gods and the origins of the universe, etc. It could easily fall into some trap of self-importance that, for me, would really undercut the fun of the whole thing. Superhero comic books are entertainment, first and foremost. What I get out of writing them personally is my business. What any reader gets out of reading them, above the pure entertainment value, is their business. It's not that my expectations are low, but I've already gotten off just getting able to write the thing. Anything past that is icing on the cake. But it's about the act of creation, the sheer fun of making shit up.

SPURGEON: Do you think GØDLAND has been interpreted unfairly and perhaps dismissed as a Kirby pastiche?

CASEY: Tom's art invites those comparisons. If anyone has dismissed the book on that basis, that's their choice. I can say without question that it's a lot more than a Kirby pastiche.

SPURGEON: How would you articulate your wider aims with the series?

CASEY: I may sound like a broken record at this point, but I've always seen GØDLAND as a thoroughly modernist series. Plus, Tom and I both know we'll never be as good as Kirby, so why even try. He did his books, we're doing ours. He played in the sandbox he created, we're doing the same. Tom's use of the Kirby style is nothing more than the use of a specific comic book language. GØDLAND was created to speak in that language.

SPURGEON: One of the interesting things about GØDLAND for me is that it's reframed a certain kind of mainstream comics as a 20th Century artifact, as in, say, the way they approach Armageddon-like threats from the sky. What does a comic like GØDLAND say about right now that might be different than how these stories were used in the 1960s and 1970s?

CASEY: I think I'd take what you said one step further... those "Armageddon-like threats from the sky" are really our future that's just come a' knockin'. In the past, that particular dramatic trope was representing things that were much more sinister in nature... the enemy beyond our shores, for instance. More than anything, I think the book demonstrates the ignorance of humanity. How we're fearful of change, how we hate what we don't understand, even as it comes from within ourselves. I'd hate to get too deep about it, but the real antagonist in GØDLAND is a humanity that doesn't embrace the future.


SPURGEON: In your first Earth's Mightiest Heroes series, you did a nice job unpacking the Iron Man character in terms of his feelings of responsibility towards holding together a lot of disparate threads, some of which involved doing things that are a lot less gratifying than giving someone the finger and walking away. In this latest one, I thought you provided a nice snapshot through Giant-Man of the horrible psychological pressures that must face people constantly undergoing life or death pressure. Would you say this is an extension of your interest in vocation and adulthood? Do you realize you're exploring this kind of thematic material as you write?

CASEY: I would say that kind of stuff is in there somewhere, although for the most part it's probably as unconscious a thing as it ever was. With the Hank Pym character in EMH2, I approached it like this... there's the man you want to be, and then there's the man that you truly are. It's a question of self-image. Can any of us be completely honest with ourselves about who we really are? It's something I struggle with quite a bit, actually. Especially in a field like comic books, where you're thrust into branding yourself as a part of the normal career path. The brand may not be reality, but how we wish others to perceive us.

With Hank Pym, this was a character that I felt had a lot of integrity. He wasn't pretending to be a greater hero than he was. But, eventually, being that normal and well-adjusted in a world of gods and monsters will get to you... and Hank Pym cracked. In a way, his persona as "Yellowjacket" was a subconscious commentary on just about every other superhero he'd ever encountered over the years, from the bluster of Thor to the wise-cracking of Spider-Man and so on. Now, add to that the fact that my ideas on what "adulthood" is tend to morph and change over time... I guess I can't help but to explore that in the work.

The other thing about the Avengers is how, when I was reading the book as a really young kid, I always associated that particular team with the concept of being an adult. These were adult characters, often with adult problems, talking to each other as adults, doing a job (the Avengers got paid a stipend, y'know). I honestly felt like I was sneaking a peek into the adult world. If anything, that's a testament to the writers at the time -- [Steve] Englehart, [Jim] Shooter, [David] Michelinie -- not writing down to their audience, which at one time consisted mainly of children. Hard to believe now... when it seems like hardly any kids are reading Marvel and DC comics.

SPURGEON: Your career is marked by long runs on stand-alone titles, while the industry is becoming increasingly driven by event books and crossovers. Good idea or bad idea for mainstream comics to move in that general direction? Why?

CASEY: I actually don't mind event comics or crossovers... as long as they don't suck. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case. It's when retailers get fooled into ordering shit comic books because they think they "matter" to the event that I get a little nervous about the future. It's a real chicken and the egg situation... what comes first, retailers' desire to make a buck... the publishers' desire to exploit that fact... or the readers' desire to be completists? And do those desires overlap from group to group? I think they do... which makes it even more of a fucking quagmire.

SPURGEON: Your run on Adventures of Superman was distinguished by never having the lead throw a punch. This is the same tactic employed in the recent Superman movie. Would you like to apologize for that film sucking?

CASEY: All I can really say about that is... the Superman I wrote was happily married. To a woman. Nuff said.

SPURGEON: Wait, are you suggesting that heterosexuality is a crucial component of the Superman myth?

CASEY: I wouldn't necessarily know the answer to that, my friend. It's been a while since it was my job to think about the crucial components of the Superman myth. Ask Dan Didio or Paul Levitz that one... and let me know what they say (in case I ever write the character again).


SPURGEON: There seems to be a disconnect between the way you talk about your GØDLAND work as play and fun comics and the way you're presenting that work in a massive hardcover out this summer, complete with testimony about the work in essay form included in the book. Does this reflect some sort of ambiguity you have about creating serious works of meaning, or doubts that you have about your ability to the same? All deflective bullshit aside, Joe, how good do you think this work is? And if you don't have a high opinion of it, why should a reader?

CASEY: Don't get me wrong, Tom, I think GØDLAND is the greatest thing since sliced bread. But that opinion comes from my own personal experience writing the thing. It's as close to the thrill of being a kid, making up comic book stories on the floor of my bedroom, when I was just doing it for myself. Having said that, I'm extremely proud of it, and of the fact that it's lasted this long. And the work that Tom Scioli, colorists Bill Crabtree and Nick Filardi, and designer Richard Starkings have done truly deserves this Celestial Edition format. As [Howard] Chaykin once said, it's not going to replace sex, but it's definitely work that I'd put up there with the best stuff I've done.

Besides that, I have to admit that while I'm gratified that Image thinks it's worth putting out this hardcover, it wasn't my idea to do it. Nor was it Scioli's. The thing is, we're now in a market where hardcovers are a viable publishing option. Marvel puts out hardcovers like they're going out of style... but that's because there's a market for them. So, why shouldn't GØDLAND compete in that market, if we're given the opportunity? Besides, you wrote such a great essay for it... people have to be able to read that in a permanent edition, right?


SPURGEON: I'm always writing for the trade, Joe. Hey, say you're given an opportunity to jump in the wayback machine and and travel back in time to have a business lunch with the 1998 version of Joe Casey, but you're only allowed to give business advice. What would you encourage him to do differently?

CASEY: Oh, man... I don't know. That's a loaded question. My first though is that I wouldn't want to fuck anything up for Casey '98, because all the shit he'll/I'll go through gets me to Casey '07, which ain't a bad place to be. Even being a loudmouth got me to places I never thought I'd get to, so I don't know if I'd even dissuade him/me from doing that. I don't have any serious regrets, so it's weird thing to consider. Plus, there's always the possibility that Casey '98 would never agree to having a "business lunch" with an old fuck like Casey '07. Interesting question, Tom... do you happen to possess a Flux Capacitor that the rest of us don't know about? Oh, wait... you said "wayback machine." My apologies, Mr. Peabody.

SPURGEON: How can that be a loaded question or even an interesting one when your answer is a serene "I wouldn't change a thing"? What are you reluctant to say?

CASEY: Well, c'mon... it's loaded because I could tell Casey '98 everything he/I would need to know to become King of the Fucking World, couldn't I...? And I'd be tempted to, believe me. Hell, the pitfalls of a comic book career would be small potatoes when it comes to that kind of power. But then, that would expose the inherent megalomania that I try so desperately to lock down. Ultimately, I do take a Captain-Kirk-in-Star-Trek-V approach to life: "I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!"

SPURGEON: Has the pleasure you derive from the act of writing changed in the last 10 years? How would you describe how you feel about the physical act of putting work onto paper at this point in your life? You talk in terms of really busy times, fully absorbed in your work. Is that an intensity you can maintain when you get older?

CASEY: I think I'm becoming more efficient in the time I spend at the keyboard. I have more outside concerns now than I did even two years ago, so it's less likely that I want to sit here, 24/7, like I've done in the past. I sometimes miss the workaholic I used to be, because it was a great, gratifying period to be so into the work I was doing. Just completely immersed in it. But you have to move through a period like that, you have to evolve beyond it. I've had to learn how to let other things take precedent in my life. The benefit of that, I think, is that it begins to inform my work in new and interesting ways.

You pointed out that a lot of my work related to a search for and an exploration of adulthood. Of maturity. Of being a grown man, not an overgrown kid. I'd never disagree with that, I think it's true. But, I think I'm here now... more than I ever imagined I would be. Even working on the film -- which is as immersive a project as I've tackled in the past few years -- doesn't take my focus away from my family like it might've a few years ago. At least, I hope it doesn't. And, if it does, I get frustrated and even angry about it. That's certainly a big change from before, when I tended to use work to try and escape from those things.

Does that sound too self-aware? Yikes...

SPURGEON: During our Comics Journal interview a few years back, we talked about the fact that a writer you admired, Mike Baron, wasn't working a lot at that particular point in time. Now that you're old enough we can point to established, working writers who came after you -- Robert Kirkman, Matt Fraction, for instance -- do you ever worry about being one of those writers who one day no longer gets work? If not, what is it about you that you don't think this will happen? If so, are you comfortable with that notion?

CASEY: Well, I think something that might've been seen as a career detriment has actually turned out to be an advantage for me in the long term... which is that no one, neither editors or fans, can completely pin me down as to what I "do". If you took something like my work on [Adventures of] Superman or Cable and compared it to something like Automatic Kafka or GØDLAND, I don't think you'd think it was the same writer. I may have a voice, but there's not a style or a genre that I've been pigeonholed in so it's kept me out of being lumped in with whatever fads might have come and gone -- in the mainstream at least -- over the last decade. That's kept me pretty viable as a writer. Also, I've never been a top guy, the Hot Shit for this year. And I'd rather be tenth in line for twenty years than first in line for one.

I'm running a marathon here, not a sprint. So there's that... but there's also the success that Man Of Action is having with a show like BEN 10, which is just the tip of the iceberg for us. That sense of not having to completely depend on writing comic books -- not for the mainstream publishers, at least -- gives me a lot of freedom, a lot of room to maneuver in my career. And I think I've been enough of a student of my heroes in this medium to learn from their mistakes as best I can. They made their various choices and sacrifices and mistakes so that I don't have to repeat them.

Having said that, it's beginning to look like I'll have more mainstream work in the coming year than I've had in quite a while. That's come mainly from being fairly precise about what I want to do in the mainstream, and going after those projects with some degree of tenacity. Writers fall out favor when they start to expect that publishers and editors will just automatically keep offering them work, and that it'll always be like that. That's just setting yourself up for a rude awakening. You can't coast when you're dealing with the Big Two. You can't depend on a corporation's generosity and your certainly can't count on their loyalty. If you want something from them, you have to get in there and fight for it... creatively speaking. I've never shied away from that process.

For instance, this mini-series I'm writing for Marvel, Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin, is a project I brought to Tom Brevoort, pretty much as a cold pitch. I brought on Eric Canete as the artist. It wasn't something that Marvel had lying around, in search of a creative team. The series wouldn't exist if I hadn't thought of it first. I kinda' dig that. It all came down to my own initiative. And had they not accepted and approved the project, I wouldn't have been too broken up about it. That's just how it goes. There's always another idea.

imageSPURGEON: You mention a few questions back that you enjoyed the act of creating GØDLAND because it took you back to being a kid and making comics on the floor of your room. I was thinking of the fact that you created Stacy X, one of the least-liked characters in modern superhero history, and the two acts of creation may make you uniquely qualified to answer this question. Given the talent and resources that have been put into superhero comics, why aren't there more successful, iconic characters created? Is it that it's a genre that's suited for child-like outlook? Because I don't think of Jack Kirby as child-like. Is it a restrictive genre? A poorly utilized one?

CASEY: First of all, let's not gang up on poor Stacy X. She was an honest character before other writers fucked her all up. At least she got people talking. I do think you might have something close to a point there... to really create something that breaks through barriers and becomes iconic is, to me, an instinctual thing. I always felt that's how Kirby worked... completely on instinct. You can't over-intellectualize something like that. And I'm not sure you can do it purposefully. I can't imagine Superman was created to be an icon. Or Batman. Or Spider-Man. Comic books is a medium of accidental icons. And I think the dominance of DC and Marvel superheroes for the past 50 years pretty much answers your question about whether or not its a restrictive genre.

SPURGEON: You've had some difficulty throughout your career with your endings. Do you have ending in mind to your professional career? What one thing would you like to accomplish -- even if it's just doing comics consistently throughout -- before you go?

CASEY: There's no such thing as retirement for writers. At least, not as I see it. It's much more than a job, it's a life. And a "career" is generally a byproduct of simply doing the thing that you're inexplicably compelled to do, the thing that you'd do for free anyway. It's amazing to me that I've been doing this professionally for ten years now. I followed my bliss and it actually worked out for me. It's the longest commitment I've ever had to anything...! At this point, I guess I don't think much about what I want to do for the breadth of my career... I spend more time just thinking about what I want to do today.

SPURGEON: Why are there so many ugly people in the comics industry, Joe?

CASEY: You mean, physically? Or spiritually? That's a good question... even if it's a rhetorical one.

SPURGEON: When was the last time you were really, really frightened and why?

CASEY: Hmmm... probably something to do with a personal family situation that your readers would no doubt find very boring.

If you're alluding to what has frightened me, comic book career-wise... I wouldn't have a good answer for that, either. First of all, there's nothing or no one in comic books that's worth being scared of. I used to think there was such a thing as "making it" in the comic book field. I guess it used to stir up some fear and anxiety in me that I would never make it, whatever that meant to me at the time. Now I see that you don't "make it" in comic books. You never cross a magic threshold of success where you can kid yourself that all your problems are gone. Has Alan Moore "made it"? DC still pulped his book when they felt like it. Has Frank Miller "made it"? I guess we'll find out when his Batman-vs-Al-Qaeda book comes out. It's the fallacy of fame, isn't it? So anyway, once I realized that, so much anxiety I'd had about the business just went away.

Wait, I take that back, Tom... your question about Superman and heterosexuality frightened me a little.



* Godland Celestial Edition, Joe Casey and Tom Scioli, Image, hardcover 360 pages, July 2007, 1582408327, $34.99

* Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes Vol. 2, Joe Casey and Will Rosado, Marvel, hardcover, 192 pages, July 2007, 0785118519, $29.99

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If I Were In Munich, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: Ivan Brunetti signing at Fantagraphics store

* why discounts some comics up to 80 percent and where to set your bookmark to check on such deals

* go, look: the comics of Gianluca Costantini

* not comics: NY Post on DC Vs. Marvel in the movies

* via Jog: Karisuma animators page
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Go, Look: Stella So

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June 9, 2007

Happy 56th Birthday, Charles Vess!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Scott McCloud!

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First Thought of the Day

They should bring back Sand Superman.
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If I Were in Olympia, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Munich, I’d Go To This

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If I Were in SF, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from June 2 to June 8, 2007:

1. A shipment of comics seized on its way into Canada, throwing a spotlight on how such a seizure may represent costs and trouble far beyond the desire of any proprietor to fight against them.

2. Another international book fair, another incident of improper material offered there.

3. The appropriate Tintin rights holder tells editorial cartoonist Bill Leak they have no objection to his use of the Tintin image as a parody directed at politician Kevin Rudd, but they don't want him selling prints with that imagery on it.

Winner Of The Week
Berke Breathed, who score a Sunday Funnies spotlight at Salon with his feature Opus.

Loser Of The Week
Algerian cartooning.

Quote Of The Week
"I'd just prefer not to have my work lumped into a discussion about Mary Jane's ass, honestly." -- Ed Brubaker.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
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June 8, 2007

Happy 79th Birthday, Bob Bolling!

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Happy 53rd Birthday, George Perez!

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CR Review: Girl Stories


Creator: Lauren R. Weinstein
Publishing Information: Henry Holt, soft cover, 240 pages, 2006, $16.95
Ordering Numbers: 0805078630 (ISBN10)

imageLauren Weinstein's 2006 entry into the confessional memoir genre and one of the more anticipated books from a young cartoonist I can remember in terms of people wanting to see it at the time of its release turned out to be a very charming book, with a distinct visual imprimatur. Weinstein details several months in her life during that period of adolescence when self-definition demands multiple, trustworthy mirrors: family a bit, friends a lot, a peer group perhaps even more than your actual friends, and, if you're lucky, a boyfriend or girlfriend. Weinstein's take on the time period is different than most artists: she lives in the mainstream of folks that fall between the popular table and the kids that eat by themselves on a bench outside, and she's completely, hilariously self-aware that her actions in trying to negotiate the social morass in front of her frequently fail, and that her behavior can fall somewhere between wretched and unforgivable.

Girl Stories includes comics done over the first three and last two years of a seven-year period. It appears as if most appeared on-line as stand-alone works. The reason why Weinstein's book failed to make a greater impression, I think, is that it seem suspended uncomfortably between an extended meditation and a bunch of loosely assembled shorts. It might have been a smoother ride had the book featured either more strongly defined set pieces or displayed a greater sense of narrative momentum and build. Doing neither does allow Girl Stories to remain closer to its source material in terms of a reading experience. Girl Stories unfolds in semi-scattered fashion reminiscent of picking up the journal of a young teen and trying to make sense of it, turning it over and over in your hands. The problem is that doing neither increases the degree of difficulty exponentially; if you're going to present different kinds of stories there needs to be pitch-perfect tone, or a rigorous approach, or something that connects it in a way that's felt in the gut of the person experiencing it and not just read on the cover. I've gone through the book three times and my impression on leaving it each time lingered on the lovely color and Weinstein's expressive cartooning more than it did anything said or intended. Although I'm not certain I remember much more of the comparative period in my life, I wanted something just a bit more substantial out of re-visiting someone else's.

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Friday Distractions:

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If I Were In Europe, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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Profile of A Canadian Comics Seizure

It looks like there's a time lapse between the seizing of erotic comics by Canadian authorities and this article reporting on the same. The piece still seems to me definitely worth a read as it does the best job it can explaining the process of how something like this happens, and goes into some of the side issues, like the owner of the store Priape not wanting to fight for the material through appeal, and the publisher not wanting to, either.
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Happy 74th Birthday, Jan Kruis!


best hair in comics
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Your 2007 Prix Uderzo Nominees

Francois Boucq received the lifetime achievement award and a book each from Soleil, Dargaud and Dupuis were divisional winners in the fifth annual Prix Uderzo ceremony, which according to the pictures in Didier Pasmonik's write-up seems to have taken a place where there's food and Gerard Depardieu (inserez une plaisanterie ici).

Here according to that same article are the winners.

Le Sanglier d'or
* Francois Boucq

Le meilleur dessin:
* Trolls de Troy Vol. 9: Les prisonniers de Darshan, Arleston, Mourier (Soleil) [WINNER]
* Legende Vol. 3: La grande battue, Yves Swolfs (Soleil)
* Universal War One Vol. 6: Le patriarche, Denis Bajram (Soleil)
* Les technoperes Vol. 8: La galaxie promise, Janjetov, Beltran, Jodorowsky (Humanoides Associes)
* Le Scorpion Vol. 7: Au nom du pere, Marini, Desberg (Dargaud)

Le meilleur album:
* Dieu n'a pas reponse a tout, Barral, Benacquista (Dargaud) [WINNER]
* Retour a la Terre Vol. 4: Le deluge, Ferri, Larcenet (Dargaud)
* Les naufrages d'Ytaqh Vol. 3: Le soupir des etoiles, Arleston, Floch (Soleil)
* Sillage Vol. 9: Infiltrations, Morvan, Buchet (Soleil)
* Navis Vol. 3: Latitzoury, Morvan, Munuera (Delcourt)

Le meilleur album adulte:
* Largo Winch Vol. 15: Les trois yeux des gardiens du Tao, Van Hamme, Francq (Dupuis) [WINNER]
* Le chat du rabbin Vol. 5: Jerusalem d'Afrique, Sfar (Dargaud)
* Le Janitor Vol. 1: L'ange de Malte, Sente, Boucq (Dargaud)
* Alpha Vol. 9: Scala, Mythic, Jigounov (Lombard)
* Niklos Koda Vol. 8: Le jeu des maitres, Dufaux, Grenson (Lombard)
* Bouncer Vol. 5: La proie des louves, Jodorowsky, Boucq (Humanoides Associes)
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Happy 50th Birthday, Scott Adams!

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Creator on Nymphet Cancellation

An entry at something called Japanator notes that Kaworu Watashiya, the author of Kodomo no Jikan, which was to be known here as Nymphet before the plug was pulled on the project, has written at some length about the project's stillbirth and the corresponding controversy. As written about in multiple sources over the last several days, a decision was made by the American publisher Seven Seas to pull their translated version of the project. According to statements this decision was made over the series subject matter: a child's sexually-implicative pursuit of an adult teacher.

I think the cartoonist's view is worth reading, even though I'm not sure the creator has the clearest grasp on the exact notions that caused the project to be pulled. Rather than some quality in certain details from the second volume to the first, I think what's driving the car in this case is the fact that among those things that audiences in different cultures may find funny that American audiences tend to find objectionable is personal or sexual discomfort that involves a taboo relationship of some sort or a societally responsible line inadvertently being crossed. Although you might see some elements of that vein of humor in a lot of titles, including kids' books, a series where such a notion is the central concept and that situation is relayed to the reader in a variety of ways would very likely become quickly problematic for its North American publisher. To me that seems pretty straightforward decision-making, although maybe I'm missing some complexities and hidden depths.

this was e-mailed to me, which likely means someone prominent had it up first; my apologies for not being able to provide you credit
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Go, Look: Eagle Front Pages

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Zippy the Pinhead Visits The Senator

I enjoyed this article about Bill Griffith's recent trip to Baltimore and fans imploring him to include the city's last, big one-screen movie house in his Zippy the Pinhead comic strip.
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I Like This Dustin Harbin Image

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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

This article give a summary of recent Yemeni press freedom issues coming to light in a new report. This includes a final tally of how these issues flared up during the Danish Cartoons controversy of 2006: three newspapers closed for publishing the cartoons, and the conviction and sentencing of four journalists.
posted 2:50 am PST | Permalink

The Rest of Us Can Go Home Now


"When the suit was brought to court, the judge threw it out, pointing out to Franklin that no reasonable person would believe that he had shrunk to a height of six inches." -- Ben Schwartz on Joe Franklin suing Drew Friedman, reprinted in the necessary and brand-new Friedman omnibus The Fun Never Stops!
posted 2:45 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Rediscover Love For Comics in Olympia, WA
Eric Reynolds' Report and Photos From BEA 2007
Jim Demonakos' Report and Photos From BEA 2007

Return of Valiant?
Manga Headed to India
Happy 10th Birthday, Tom the Dancing Bug!
Minnesota Creators on GLBT Trends in Comics
Marvel To Kill Another Prominent Female Character?

Lavender: Joan Hilty
Blog@Newsarama: Neil Kleid
Indian Comics Scholar Profiled
Comic Book Bin: Cathy Malkasian

Not Comics
Upper Deck Sues Topps
Review of Dagwood Sandwich Shoppes
In Praise of First Second's BDDA Trailer

IDW's Terry Starts in July
Paper Drops Four Older Features
Biography of Milton Caniff Imminent Changing to Comix Talk
Galleycat Analyzes Army@Love Coverage
Profile on Mainstream Efforts to Court Female Audience

Xavier Guilbert: Hebi-Onna
Bryant Jordan: Army@Love
Rob Clough: The Three Paradoxes
Leroy Douresseaux: The Plain Janes
Graeme McMillan: Spider-Man Family #3
Rob Clough: Escape From Special, Stuck in the Middle
Brigid Alverson: Kurosagi Corpse Deliver Service Vols. 1-2

June 7, 2007

CR Review: Elfworld, Vol. 1


Creators: Jeffrey Brown, Martin Cendreda, Dalton Sharp, Matt Wiegle, Grant Reynolds, Ron Rege Jr., Souther Salazar, Erik Nebel, Jesse Reklaw, Francois Vigneault, Jason Turner, Jody Turner, Dave McKenna, Ansis Purins, Liz Prince, Sean Collins, Jason Overby, K. Thor Jensen, Kazimir Strzepek
Publishing Information: Family Style, soft cover, 128 pages, April 2007, $12.95
Ordering Numbers: 9780979417801 (ISBN13)

imageAn anthology of straight-ahead fantasy stories by small press and indy talents, Elfworld thwarts expectations. Typically these books feature one or maybe even two jaw-droppers, one more dependable to solid effort, and then a run of disasters from people who didn't get the concept or couldn't be bothered to turn in accomplished work. Elfworld, for its part, is almost ruthlessly cohesive. While there's no one must-have short story within its pages, there are a number of solid shorts, among them one-pagers by Matt Wiegle (please someone give him a solo comic) and his longer, viscerally satisfying adventure story collaboration with Sean Collins "Destructor Comes to Croc Town"; funny and diverting stories from Kazimir Strzepek and K. Thor Jensen, a lovely two-pager by Jeffrey Brown, and fable-like stories from folks like Dalton Sharp that are modest but surprisingly satisfying. The book also features colorful art direction that sits smartly between being reminiscent of one's old Arduin Grimoire, with the maps and incidental drawing and classic guidebook size, but managing to avoid that sad, desperate lurch into full-time fetish object.

imageUnfortunately, because it fails to offer one or two superior pieces, the individual reader's appetite for Elfworld likely depends on that person's enthusiasm about such material in the first place. Not only isn't there an artistic achievement that will demand asses be put into seats, the book sabotages a common expectation some might have for this group of artists working on this kind of material. It's not difficult to grasp the notion that a serious treatment of this material may be more interesting than a dozen parodies and multiple inter-species rape jokes, but I'm certain someone out there will be disappointed there isn't more of it in Elfworld, or, really, any at all. There may also be more routine disappointments in the length of stories and the number of artists whose absence is not just noteworthy but felt. A bigger story from Jeffrey Brown would have been extremely welcome. Two of the most consistently excellent young cartoonists, Andrice Arp and Eleanor Davis, do a lot of their work in fantasy, so I sort of expected to see one or both, the same way I expected to see Kaz Strzepek and got him. Something for future issues, I guess. In the end, this is a group of fine stories that will fade from memory the moment the last page is read -- like a lot of work in its genre of interest.

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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Munich, I’d Go To This

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Missed It: Le Prix Asie-ABCD 2007

The first prix Asie-ABCD, which I think has been instituted to recognize the massive number of books from Asian markets translated into French and published to great success in Europe, will be awarded July 7 at the Japan Expo festival. There is both a list of nominees and a supplementary list of recommended reading.


* Fleur, Park Kun-woong (Casterman)
* Massacre au pont de No Gun Ri, Park Kun-woong and Chung Eun-yong (Vertige Graphic)
* Gen d'Hiroshima, Keiji Nakazawa, (Vertige Graphic)
* L'Orchestre des doigts, Osamu Yamamoto (Milan -- Kanko)
* Journal d'une disparition, Hideo Aduma (Kana)

Supplementary Reading:

* Hato Osamu Tezuka (Cornelius)
* Les Vents de la Colere, Tatsuhirko Yamagami (Delcourt)
* Oreillers de laque, Hinako Sugiura (Piquier)
* Shiori et Shimiko, Daijiro Morohoshi (Doki-Doki)
* Un Bouquet de fleurs rouges, Rumiko Takahashi (Tonkam)
* Orange, Benjamin (Xiao Pan)
* Yotsuba&!, Kiyohiko Azuma (Kurokawa)
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Happy 83rd Birthday, Frank Bolle!

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How To Get Removed Like A Porn Star

imageA copy of Neil Strauss and Bernard Chang's Fall 2006 HarperCollins effort How to Make Money Like a Porn Star was removed from display at the World Book Fair in Singapore, this well-traveled article reports, due to its sexual nature. The book had been previously disallowed by the country's Media Development Authority, but not only managed to show up at the fair, but did so in a section aimed at kids and teens. The article notes that if enforced, local laws against carrying obscene publication could bring a fine of a few thousand dollars plus a year's jail time.
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Happy 58th Birthday, Larry Hama!

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Joann Sfar’s Greffier In the News

* Matthias Wivel provides the first major English-language review of Joann Sfar's Greffier, which covered in comics form the Charlie Hebdo trial. As you may recall, in 2006 three Muslim groups sued the French satirical magazine for defamation due to republishing the Danish Muhammed cartoons and providing an original cover featuring Muhammed; the magazine was acquitted earlier this year. Wivel finds the book engagingly drawn but a bit information-light and loaded in a way that forces the sympathy into a place that probably wasn't the cartoonist's intent.

* has an exchange between Sfar and the lawyer from the Mosquee de Paris, one of the three groups involved in the suit. Sfar called Bigot "the lawyer of the idiots" in Greffier.
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Happy 55th Birthday, Rick Hoberg!

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Missed It: First Second’s Fall 2007

Jog had a link somewhere in one of his articles recently to a page revealing First Second's five-book Fall 2007 publishing slate, which I somehow managed to overlook.

* Notes For A War Story, Gipi
* Robot Dreams, Sara Varon
* Laika, Nick Abadzis
* Sardine Vol. 4, Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar
* Town Boy, Lat

I am particularly looking forward to Town Boy, which has a sterling reputation, and Laika. Laika was one of First Second's first projects to become kind of known to people, and I think had a nice effect on convincing people the line would be worthwhile and might be an opportunity for a few under-appreciated cartoonists.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 52nd Birthday, Mark Schultz!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

So Long,

Like a few other generalist comics folks I've heard about, I deleted my account yesterday. It seems to be working great for a lot of people, but all I seemed to do was go on there and delete 800 or so weird news bulletins from people I'd never heard of before.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sonny Liew Sketches
A Drawing From Paul Pope
Another Eddie Campbell Cover

More on Chicago Area's Hal Foster Exhibit
Library Holds Series on Jewish Graphic Novels

Swiss Post Celebrates Herge 100th

Do Awards Mean Anything?
Steven Grant on Industry Problems
Happy 2nd Birthday, Atomic Age Comics
David Welsh: Why Not Write About the Manga?

CBR: Terry LaBan
Bodog Beat: PlusEV
The Suburban: Dan Piraro
Newsarama: Kevin Colden
Stage Noise: Eddie Campbell
Forbidden Planet: Willy Linthout

Not Comics
Stan Lee Signs First Look Deal With Disney

New Schodt Book
Jim Shooter Writes
Otaku USA Site Launches
UK Manga Podcast Launches
Manga Publisher Blog Launches
New Mike Wieringo Site Launches
Mouse Guard: NPR Summer Read
Alex Robinson To Do Fantasy Comic
Why Was Loners #3 Cover Swapped?
David Welsh Suggests Omnibus Titles

Geoff Hoppe: Countdown #47
Brian Hibbs: New Warriors #1
Jason Mott: After the Cape #1-3
Jason Mott: Incredible Hulk #106
Jason Mott: Punisher War Journal #7
David Welsh's Initial MPD-Psycho Notes
Jog: The Black Diamond Detective Agency
Brigid Alverson Loves British Girls' Comics

June 6, 2007

CR Review: Three Comics

imageTitle: Coyote Collection, Vol. 2
Creators: Steve Englehart, Butch Guice, Chas Troug, Bob Wiacek, Tom Orzechowski, Steve Leialoha, Steve Oliff, Christie Scheele, Bob Sharen, Alan Weiss
Publishing Information: Image, soft cover, 128 pages, 2005, $12.99
Ordering Numbers: 1582405131 (ISBN)

I'm not sure if Steve Englehart's Epic comic book series Coyote made enough of an impression to carve out more than a passing mention in anyone's history of mainstream American comics. If it slips in anywhere it might be into a paragraph about heroes motivated by sex. Set in Las Vegas and mixing Native American legend with a vaguely defined, controlling-the-world conspiracy feel, Coyote features a hero who is kind of a horndog, the type of person that uses their superpowers to ogle babes when he's invisible or to press his advantage with them one-on-one in a kind of super-cocky young celebrity at the nightclub manner. It's strange that for all of their desire to mimic the dramatic high points of the real world, the vast majority of superhero comics seems to feature gorgeous, powerful and famous characters who get about 1/10th the action enjoyed by Frankie Muniz. So on that level, Coyote makes a lot of sense, and feels a bit present-day.

It's still very much a creature of its time when it comes to getting past its one-sheet pitch, however. The stories here substitute a surfeit of soap opera style complications (including the old perfect-mate deal) for development of the personal story and trot out a series of pulp novel obstacles (leagues of assassins! monsters in fighting pits!) to drive the main narrative. Setting a fantasy adventure story in the real world with some semblance of motivation beyond altruism should expand the story possibilities, but here everything that should make Coyote more interesting never gets past the first gear represented by genre correction. This is one of the few comics that would probably benefit from today's slower-building storylines because the variety of ingredients on hand might have a chance to develop on separate tracks. Unfortunately, this is a collection rather than a series launch. Coyote remains a creature of his time, sex drive and all.

imageTitle:Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1
Creators: J Torres, Chynna Clugston, Guy Major, Rob Clark Jr., Steve Uy
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, May 2007, Free
Ordering Numbers:

I liked the relatively complicated presentational style DC presents young readers with this cartoon-related Free Comic Book Day giveaway. The jump cuts and multiple levels of narration and framing don't always come across to me as perfectly realized, but rather than spoon feeding its potential audience a straight-forward narrative the comic presses the notion that kids reading escapist literature may be more prepared to accept sophistication from story technique than from moral shadings and mature character motivations. That's an impulse that's driven a lot of kids to fantasy literature of all types, but rarely gets employed in comics because of the perceived difficulties the medium may present all on its strange, hybrid art-form own.

The story itself is predictably goofy, as it features the perpetually never-over Legion of Super-Heroes, who in superhero terms are like those actors that keep landing parts on prime time TV shows without ever quite being successful with one: the Paula Marshall or Dennis Boutsikaris of the comic book world. The Legion seems to maintain a measure of appeal on a variety of levels. I think the most important are its long and uniquely benign Silver Age history and its appeal on the basic conceptual level of futuristic teens with superpowers, although all the avenues by which the series is enjoyed likely contribute to its present-day fandom. Each re-launch or re-adjustment draws on one element more than the others, irritating that group of vocal fans that approaches the book from the other angle and freezing out most new readers who I think feel like they're getting the John Stamos-era Beach Boys instead of the real sauce.

This iteration seems more New Monkees than Monkees reunion special, and with sharp enough characterizations could get over with a kid audience, one supposes. The story deals with DC's lame Young Superman re-casting of the Superboy concept, and that character's role as a member of the teenaged super team ("to get us on TV" isn't mentioned), placing this book into the grand tradition of kids' comics with some of its content driven by a courtroom decision. Okay, I just made that last part up. I have no idea if there are others.

imageTitle: Countdown #51
Creators: Paul Dini, Jesus Saiz, Jimmy Palmiotti, Tom Chu, Travis Lanham
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 31 pages, May 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

I'm not the target audience for this book, and not just because I'm reading a weekly comic something like 21 days after it came out. It's more a content thing. In fact, I'm so not the target audience I could probably put myself to sleep 14 days in a row trying to imagine what such a person would be like: those who love the minute details of DC's accrued history and those who find the application of such details engaging and quirky instead of baffling and dull, I guess. In this kick-off issue to a series that is a sequel to a similar weekly and a prequel to the company's next mega-crossover, two characters with whom I'm completely unfamiliar conduct a mini-throwdown over custody of a Britney Spears-type semi washed-up pop singer when they're interrupted by a bad-ass super-meanie who ratchets up the violence and story significance of said encounter.

There are also a few two- or three-page presentations of different quandaries for characters with whom I'm slightly more familiar, such as DC's Nickelodeon TV series-ready Mary Marvel and various members of the Flash's please-kick-my-ass club or whatever they're supposed to be called. They feel more like actors happy to be given a plotline on a long-running TV show than larger than life good guys and bad guys. Remember that hopeful look on the affected actress' face when the early '90s Star Trek would feature one of its rare "Dr. Crusher" or "Counselor Troi" episodes? That's what the supporting cast folks look like here. It's hard to get into the adventures of characters that seem like they can't believe their name appeared on the call sheet.

All of this plot grind seems to be in service of cosmic shenanigans of the type where the big bads play chess with the heroes just to show how powerful they are (I myself have a chess set of comics industry people I pull out from time to time to play games with the ghost of Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson). Or, if you prefer, it's the kind of story where the signs and portents of the end-of-the-universe variety reveal the powers that be to be superhero continuity geeks. In the end, while it's fun to tweak the nose of this kind of stuff, I remain just as baffled about its intended audience now that I'm done with the comic as I was before taking in the first page. What this particular brand of sound and fury seems to signify is an abdication of smaller pleasures and a divorce from an ongoing relationship with individual comic book series for wall to wall, over-inflated, Armageddon-tinged, extended musings on the awesomeness of DC properties. I wish I were still young enough to feign interest. Wait, no I don't.
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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 hurt feelings between me and my retailer.


I haven't seen this yet, but I buy all of Tony Millionaire's work the second I do, so I'm sure that I'd be just as happy to do so with this. A previous Sock Monkey mini-series contained one of the best sequences in the last 25 years in comics, the guilt-ridden protagonist running across a Victorian house's yard wracked with guilt over the death of a small bird. If there's anything in this latest work half that creepy and funny, you should buy two copies.

If I remember correctly, this features super-pretty art by one of superhero comics more interesting, out-there stylists, Ladronn. Maybe not for all of it, though.

Eddie Campbell's second First Second book, this one an adaptation of a screenplay about a detective agency's case near the end of the 19th Century. Eddie Campbell is always worth buying, but if you're a specific fan of his autobiographical writing, this book probably isn't a must-have on its very first day.

MAR073413 EXIT WOUNDS HC (MR) $19.95
Rutu Modan's sharply observed graphic novel features the resolution to some pacing problems that would have killed many cartoonists right there in front of their drawing boards.

APR073694 HOUSE GN $12.95
A super-creepy and elegant first graphic novel. Comics doesn't tend to offer up the kind of super-bleak horror that Josh Simmons puts together here, and after seeing how effective this book is, you'll join me in asking why.

The real secret behind this anthology is that Fletcher Hanks' work was actually not as crazy and crude as we'd like but was in its own way beautiful and engaging. Hanks published solely in super-crappy mainstream comic books of the World War II era and his subject matter was creepily passionless super people inflicting hideous punishment on n'er-do-wells. The fact that such comics work on a lot of levels is what makes them odd. It's not their incompetence that makes you stare.

A solid and I believe long-delayed short graphic novel from Paul Hornschemeier, handsomely mounted.

FEB073453 COMICS JOURNAL #283 $9.95
I haven't read one in about two or more years now, but Lewis Trondheim and David Sandlin is a killer interview line-up.


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.
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“Do As I Say, Not As I Do” Dept.

The potential irony of this press conference was not lost on the reporter, who notes that many of the people covering Jacob Zuma's criticism of press abuses in Zimbabwe are being sued by the prominent South African politican in a way some observers feel crosses the line from justifiable action against journalistic excess into its own kind of abuse. In fact, Zuma addressed that issue as well.

In related news, this article notes the threat of legal action against the cartoonist Gado in Kenya.
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Go, Read: Basil Wolverton Profile

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No Way to Put Comics on the Air

Editor & Publisher pulls a very entertaining description of comics' role in the newspaper business out of some politically-driven wikipedia start-up.
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Happy 81st Birthday, TK Ryan!

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Recent Comics Awards Round-Up

* Missed It: Alison Bechdel won a Lambda Book Award for her graphic novel memoir Fun Home.

* The mountain states office of the Anti-Defamation League honored Mike Keefe of the Denver Post with their Freedom of the Press Award on Monday.

* Gardner Fox and George Gladir will be this year's recipients of the Bill Finger Award For Excellence in Comic Book Writing, which is given out each year during the Eisner Awards ceremony at Comic-Con International.
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Happy 65th Birthday, Charles Brownstein!


he's probably not 65
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Go, Look: Jordan Crane’s Postcards

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Quick hits
PWCW on BEA 2007
Buzz Report: BEA 2007

Jack Chick Photo?

Publishers Claim Strip Sales Success
Repulsive Comics Update: Douglas Wolk
New Death Note Press Agent: Nation of China
Chris Mautner: Um, There Are Comics For Kids Now

PWCW: Adrian Tomine
LA Times: Osamu Tezuka Cecil Castellucci
Metro Times: Mikhaela Reid
Newsarama: Alison Bechdel
Newsarama: A David Lewis, Jason Copland

NBM Publishes Manhwa
PWCW on Nymphet Cancellation
Dick Hyacinth on DC's All Star Line
Countdown Drops Massively at One Shop

Greg Burgas: The Spirit
Charles Yoakum: Rocketo
Matt Brady: Kampung Boy
Tim O'Neil: Feeble Attempts
Five Reasons to Buy Curses
Clayton Neuman: Toupydoops Vol. 1
Alan David Doane: The Three Paradoxes
Shawn Hoke: Seven More Days of Not Getting Eaten
Katherine Dacey Tsuei: The Times of Botchan Vol. 1-3

June 5, 2007

CR Review: Schulz’s Youth


Creator: Charles Schulz
Publishing Information: About Comics, softcover, 296 pages, May 2007, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 0975395890 (ISBN10), 9780975395899 (ISBN13)

About Comics' Schulz's Youth makes a fine companion volume to both The Complete Peanuts and About's own 2004 collection of the It's Only A Game material. Although made up mostly of single-panel cartoons that were run in the Church of God (Anderson) magazine Youth, publisher and editor Nat Gertler has supplied three supplementary sections: illustrations from a youth convention, a series of illustrations and cartoons from the book Two-by-Fours and cartoons in the same vein as the Youth material that ran in Reach at the end of the 1960s. It's a nice suite of work.

image In addition to seeing a looser version of Schulz's linework and coming face to face with the still-startling oddity of his teenager designs after years of immersion in the kids-only Peanuts, the great thing about Schulz's Youth is that the strip doesn't always work that well. It is a legitimate creative effort; it doesn't feel tossed off. If it's casual work, it's casual work from a cartoonist so skilled that there's not an underlying conceptual strength to the proceedings. In fact, the way Schulz settles on something of a main character and starts to restrict the areas in which he finds humor is the same winnowing process that all strips undergo, even panel features like the one presented here. Schulz grasps at a potentially interesting subject matter that's going to make this material inaccessible to a lot of people: reasonably pious kids struggling to honor their faith. The kids are still full of crap, like most teenagers, but the backbone of the feature takes their commitment seriously.

Schulz plays around with various approaches, and occasionally slips into straight-gag material -- my favorite is a kid who declines an officership by declaring himself too stupid to hold it -- but for the way to best explore the strip's primary concern he tends towards jokes that show an unrealistic sense of how religion is applied to day to day living. This makes for some pretty obtuse humor, which isn't aided at all by what feels like a few overwritten captions. Still, there's something lovely about learning that Schulz took the work and the kids for whom it was intended seriously, but in terms of their being readers and fellow Christians.
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Sid Ali Melouah, 1949-2007


The great Algerian cartoonist Sid Ali Melouah died June 4.

Melouah helped to found M'quidech, recognized as the first Algerian comics magazine, as a teenager in 1968. He studied at the Academy of Commercial Art in Copenhagen, and graduated in 1975 with the intention of going into commercial illustration. Instead, by 1978 he was firmly established as a cartoonist and journalist.

He split time between childrens' comics and work intended for adult audiences, and was also according to press reports a long-time illustrator for various Algerian publication including the newspaper El Moudjahid. Melouah first published in France in 1982. According to his entry at, his best known albums were La Cite Interdite (his first album) and 1984's La Secte des Assassins (80,000 copies sold), which grew out of that cultural sweet spot suspended between history and legend. He also created comics for the Algerian government, and the 1986 album Le Grand Tresor for the United Nations. In the early 1990s, Melouah was instrumental in starting the brief-lived (I think) Algerian satirical magazines El Manchar and Baroud, even publishing a best-of collection from the former in 1997 when the magazine's publishers feared reprisal. It looks like another prominent creation of the cartoonist, Inspecteur Bounif, appeared in the Algerian edition of Le Soir. wrote this morning that the cartoonist's last album was 2003's Pierrot de Bab el Oued, and other reports indicate he was a prolific contributor to French comics magazines until a few years ago.

He received the Caran d'Ache award at Lucca, but I'm seeing competing reports that this was either in 1982 or 1995 -- I believe that may be a lifetime achievement award, and that he may have been the first to receive it. He received the Crayon de Porcelaine the Salon du Dessin de Presse in St-Just Martel two years later. Two years after that, he received the Premier prix international de la satire politique at the Italian festival at Forte Dei Marmi. He was throughout his career a widely exhibited cartoonist. In 2004, Rome's Expocartoon gave Melouah a Yellow Kid award for best artist.

Melouah made his home in France starting in 1997 because of attempts on his life by fundamentalists for acts as a cartoonist and journalist. According to the date provide by Lambiek, he was 57 years old.
posted 3:34 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* This article is probably as far away from the actual comics-part of this reverberating new story as I'll ever likely go, but you do get more about original bounty offerer Mullah Dadullah and the strangest use of a Three Stooges picture I've ever seen.

* I really doubt the Danish Cartoons incident could have gone nuclear, but I appreciate the audacity of the rhetoric.

* There are going to be "well, why didn't you feel that way about the Muhammed cartoons" articles for years yet.

* This article suggests that the violence of the Danish Cartoons protests will be used to add implied muscle to legal harassment pursued by Islamic groups.

* I agree with the notion floated in this interview that so many US news sources deciding not to publish the Muhammed caricatures when what those cartoons looked like represented crucial information is an important story; however, it's simply not true that only one US paper published the cartoons.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Bill Leak May Use But Not Sell Tintin


According to a new wave of articles, editorial cartoonist for The Australian Bill Leak may continue to use Tintin imagery to depict the prominent politician Kevin Rudd. He just can't commercialize the image by selling those cartoons through his web site. Leak's use of the image in his depiction of the opposition leader had been in some dispute, when the rights holder to the serial-album cartoon icon had publicly objected and sent a letter asking for a percentage of monies earned through sale of the cartoons. I can't really tell from the article whether this is an offer by the Tintin people or an agreement already accepted by both parties.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: Electrocomics


I stumbled across this seemingly wonderful site for on-line comics downloads, which even goes by the clever title of "screen comic publisher," in the process of tracking down something for Fantagraphics art director Jacob Covey the other day. I don't know that I'd heard about it before, although there's always a chance I had and then forgot about it while I was reading a Frank Robbins-drawn issue of Man From Atlantis or something. Artists represented include Anna Sommer and Andrea Bruno.
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Ronald Reagan, Devoted Comics Fan

Ronald Reagan once scared the crap out of me in a comics-related way. He was appearing on a presidents-meets-kids television special and one of the kids asked him what part of the newspaper he read first. The Gipper said the comics page. I thought this was cute, and then Reagan accurately described the storyline to that month's Amazing Spider-Man. Although my heart has softened since then when it comes to adults taking time for the funny pages, teenaged me was convinced this made President Reagan a total idiot, and that our lives had been in the hands of someone likely to be thinking about Dr. Doom instead of whatever information was necessary to decide whether or not to bomb Russia.

Anyway, there's a cute snippet in the 11th graph of this piece about Reagan's diaries involving a phone call to Berke Breathed in 1985 that I won't ruin for the article writer by copying and pasting here. It's worth a peek.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Vote: Herriman Scans, Please


Please go here to convince Allan Holtz to continue posting a bunch of George Herriman political cartoons that he found.
posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: NYT Comics Round-Up

John Hodgman writes on Bertozzi, Trondheim & Sfar, Deitch and Segar. I'd kill to be able to pull off asides like "some kind of chubby tern, I think" the way Hodgman does.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Another Eddie Campbell Cover

San Jose Supercon Report
TCJ Previews MoCCA Festival
Periscope Studio Show Thursday
Shojo Beat's San Diego Con Guest

RC Harvey Snippet on Canon
Tom of Finland's Forgotten Benefactor
The Complete Guide to Cartooning Excerpted

Repulsive Cover Update
Silly Daddy Celebrates 16th
Cagle Adds Multiple Feeds to Site
Blog@Newsarama on Female Creators

CBR: Mark Haven Britt
TCJ: David Sandlin (Excerpt)
TCJ: Lewis Trondheim (Excerpt)
Blog@Newsarama: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Comixpedia: Sonia Leong, Lloyd Prentice

Not Comics
Topps Battle Heats Up
Oliphant Sculptures in Exhibit
Arlo & Janis Springboard to Theory
Comics Fans Largely Refuse to Consider Failures

Post Drops Hart Strips
Yen Announces Two Titles
Legal Matter Forces Name Change

Jog: Otaku USA #1
Brian Heater: Spent
Kiel Phegley: Wizard
Patti Martinson: Runaways #26
Broken Frontier: Marc Bernardin
Shaenon Garrity: Rica'tte Kanji!?
Ginger Mayerson: Jonah Hex #21
Ginger Mayerson: Jonah Hex #22
David Welsh: Various Humor Manga
Layla Lawlor: Under the Midnight Sun
Suzette Chan: The Wandering Stars #2
Leroy Douresseaux: Thunderbolts #112
Nathaniel Jonet: Troubletown Told You So
Rebecca Buchanan: A Capella: Open Heart
Damian Madden: Black Diamond Detective Agency
Johanna Draper Carlson: Finder: Dream Sequence
Rebecca Buchanan: When Are You Coming Home?
Joamette Gil: Drawing Comics Is Easy! (Except When It's Hard!)
Patti Martinson: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home Part III

June 4, 2007

CR Review: New Tales of Old Palomar #2


Creators: Gilbert Hernandez
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, Ignatz series, 32 pages, May 2007, $7.95
Ordering Numbers:

I like to imagine that when there's an opportunity for comics fans to talk about the greatest living cartoonist, Gilbert Hernandez's name surprise those debating the matter in terms of how long it hangs in there. Like most of the all-time greats, Hernandez is prolific, linked to a significant comics movement, and can boast both a half-dozen sterling individual works and a body of artistic output greater than the sum of its individual components. I think it's the productivity that may keep him from the credit he's routinely due, the perception that his work isn't as substantive as a cartoonist we may see once or twice every few years. The speed with which he creates is one of his great advantages; the depth of his Palomar work isn't hinted at but actually accrued over hundreds and hundreds of pages.

New Tales of Old Palomar depends on two other Hernandez trademarks: his narrative audacity, and his under-appreciated work as an illustrator. Set in a kind of lost period between familiar Palomar generations, the story follows Gato, Pintor and Manuel through an aborted youth-gang initiation as they're taken and held by mysterious, silent, futuristic observers. Chelo follows them and eventually leads them home. Not many cartoonists could add a fantastic layer to what started out at their heart as very naturally observed stories of human behavior without sending their audience into convulsions. Hernandez has made startling shifts and re-contextualizations like this one his entire career; he doesn't need our permission or our patience, because the story works right away.

The main reason the story ends up being evocative rather than feels like it's pressing is that Hernandez sets the majority of his narrative in a terrifyingly depicted open plain, an almost ruthlessly harsh, oppressive space that's antiseptic in a way that reinforces what little we see of the observers, but also somehow crackling with energy. Hernandez's art has never been better than when depicting the human figures, small and naked, against this hostile landscape. The vista even loops back into the story's revisionist look at the older Palomar works in that it depicts a nearby part of the countryside to which we've never been exposed. New Tales of Old Palomar doesn't feel essential, but it's hard to deny the power of the cartooning, and the pleasure in getting one more view regarding one of comics' greatest places.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

BEA 2007: Monday’s For Sleeping

imageThat lingering pause you sense out there is any number of comics professionals getting on planes or otherwise resting up from last weekend's Book Expo America in New York City. Graphic novels are now an acknowledged part of the book publishing landscape, and it's a place where you can find a unique mix of cartoonists, such as the great Pat Oliphant in the photo by Gary Esposito to the left. Click through the image of Mr. Oliphant for Esposito's full photo array, which should be up by 1:30 PM ET.

In the meantime, you can check out's report, Heidi MacDonald's diary entry and news story, Bully's excellent daily reports, a CBR report, and this interesting thing at about the nature of on-line reviewing. As if in celebration of the long weekend, Diamond released figures that most people probably thought Diamond already released.
posted 5:37 am PST | Permalink

Viz Magazines Add/Drop Features

Viz's popular Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat publications, not only popular comics anthologies but because of their newsstand distribution a pair of the most widely distributed comics magazines in North America, have announced or at least strongly suggested various forthcoming line-up changes.

* NANA will apparently leave Shojo Beat for graphic novels-only publication, and will be replaced by Chika Umino's mega-popular Honey and Clover. Baby & Me will be replaced by Mizuno Tooko's Harukanaru Toki no Naka de.

* According to this seemingly knowledgeable person whom I will trust for no particular reason, Shonen Jump will make a number of tweaks: more Naruto per issue, a jump forward in plotline to match that of the book's this fall, Shamen King ending before its time, Yu-Gi-Oh! completing its run exactly at its time, and a mysterious new feature.
posted 5:25 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: God Is Not Great


someone out there has to have this up, as I don't get a pair of e-mails on week-old material without someone having it up first, so my apologies to that person
posted 4:51 am PST | Permalink

Berke Breathed’s Opus Lands at Salon

Mark Evanier caught the fact that Berke Breathed's Sunday-only Opus will now be published at the on-line magazine institution Salon. I think there are a few things interesting about that, even though Salon has and will continue to run plenty of comics. First, it kind of mirrors at least symbolically the Slate relationship with Doonesbury. Second, it's a boost for the strip, which hasn't performed up to the expectations that preceded -- although truthfully, Opus suffered from some really unreasonable pre-launch predictions. Third, I'm all for any new relationships of any kind between comics and on-line publications, if only because there's no way any possible relationship should be excluded at this early stage in the development of on-line media. Douglas Wolk's interview is worth checking out for its own merits.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 78th Birthday, Dick Locher!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Harvey Award Nominees

It's probably not a good sign for comics awards in general that I had to check and see if this announcement was brand new or weeks old, but the 2007 Harvey Awards nomination slate has been released by the organization. Duck comics seem to be a significant item of interest this year for the historically idiosyncratic awards program, featuring both a nomination and final awards process driven by popular peer vote.


* Ed Brubaker, Daredevil, Marvel Comics
* Grant Morrison, All-Star Superman, DC Comics
* Steve Murphy, Umbra, Image Comics
* Don Rosa, Uncle Scrooge, Gemstone Publishing
* William Van Horn, Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Gemstone Publishing
* Brian K. Vaughn, Y: The Last Man, DC/Vertigo

* Brian Fies, Mom's Cancer, Abrams
* Renee French, The Ticking, Top Shelf
* Stuart Immonen, Nextwave: Agents of Hate, Marvel Comics
* Frank Quitely, All-Star Superman, DC Comics
* Don Rosa, Uncle Scrooge, Gemstone Publishing
* William Van Horn, Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Gemstone Publishing

* Jaime Hernandez, Love & Rockets, Fantagraphics
* Kevin Huizenga, Curses, Drawn & Quarterly
* Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness, Oni Press
* Don Piraro, Bizarro, King Features Syndicate
* Don Rosa, Uncle Scrooge, Gemstone Publishing
* William Van Horn, Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Gemstone Publishing

* Jon Babcock, Uncle Scrooge, Gemstone Comics
* Chris Eliopoulos, Franklin Richards, Marvel Comics
* Hope Larson, Gray Horses, Oni Press
* Troy Peteri, Necromancer, Marvel Comics
* Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo, Dark Horse Comics
* Willie Schubert, Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Gemstone Publishing

* Jaime Hernandez, Love & Rockets, Fantagraphics
* Ryan Kelly, Local, Oni Press
* Steve Leialoha, Fables, DC/Vertigo
* Danny Miki, Eternals, Marvel Comics
* Joe Weems, Hunter-Killer, Top Cow / Image

* Susan Daigle-Leach, Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Gemstone Publishing
* Steve Firchow, Hunter-Killer, Top Cow / Image
* Jamison Services, Will Eisner's The Spirit, Vol. 19, DC Comics
* Lark Pien, American Born Chinese, First Second
* Scott Rockwell, Uncle Scrooge, Gemstone Publishing

* John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men, Marvel Comics
* James Jean, Fables, DC/Vertigo
* J.G. Jones, 52, DC Comics
* Don Rosa, Uncle Scrooge, Gemstone Publishing
* Marc Silvestri, Hunter-Killer, Top Cow / Image

BEST NEW TALENT (Representative work listed)
* Lilli Carre, Tales of Woodsman Pete, Top Shelf
* Brian Fies, Mom's Cancer, Abrams
* Alexa Kitchen, Drawing Comics is Easy! (Except When It's Hard), DKP
* Matthew Loux, Sidescrollers, Oni Press
* Stjepan Sejic, Witchblade, Top Cow / Image

* Civil War, Marvel Comics
* 52, DC Comics
* Necromancer, Top Cow / Image
* The Spirit, DC Comics
* Wasteland, Oni Press

* Daredevil, Marvel Comics
* Local, Oni Press
* The Spirit, DC Comics
* Umbra, Image Comics
* Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Gemstone Publishing

* Antiques: The Comic Strip, J.C. Vaughn, Brendan Fraim & Brian Fraim, Well-Defined Productions
* Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau, Universal Press Syndicate
* The K Chronicles, Keith Knight, United Comics /
* Maakies, Tony Millionaire, Self-syndicated
* Mutts, Patrick McDonnell, King Features Syndicate

* The Best American Comics, Houghton Mifflin
* Flight, Vol. 3, Ballantine Books
* Hotwire Comix and Capers, Fantagraphics
* Mome, Fantagraphics
* Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Gemstone Publishing

* Absolute New Frontier, DC
* Castle Waiting, Fantagraphics
* EC Archives, Gemstone Publishing
* Ghost of Hoppers, Fantagraphics
* Polly & the Pirates, Oni Press

* Civil War, Marvel Comics
* Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel, Houghton Mifflin
* Ganges # 1, Fantagraphics
* Mom's Cancer, Abrams
* Pride of Baghdad, Brian K. Vaughn & Nino Henrichon, DC/Vertigo
* Schizo #4, Fantagraphics
* Solo #11, DC Comics

* Abandon the Old in Tokyo, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Drawn and Quarterly
* Kampung Boy, Lat, First Second
* Klezmer Book One: Tales of the Wild East, Joann Sfar, First Second
* Moomin, Tove Jansson, Drawn and Quarterly
* Ode to Kirihito, Osamu Tezuka, Vertical

* American Elf, James Kochalka
* The Chelation Kid, Robert Tinnell & Craig A. Taillefer
* Girl Genius, Phil & Kaja Foglio
* Perry Bible Fellowship, Nicholas Gurewitch
* PVP, Scott Kurtz

* The Absolute Sandman, DC Comics
* Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress, Abrams
* EC Archives, Gemstone Publishing
* The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion, Gemstone Publishing
* Lost Girls, Top Shelf
* Popeye: I Yam What I Yam, Fantagraphics

* American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang, First Second
* Billy Hazelnuts, Tony Millionaire, Fantagraphics
* Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel, Houghton Mifflin
* Pride of Baghdad, Brian K. Vaughn & Nino Henrichon, DC/Vertigo
* Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Oni Press

* Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, IDW Publishing
* Complete Peanuts, Fantagraphics
* EC Archives, Gemstone Publishing
* Popeye: I Yam What I Yam, Fantagraphics
* Walt & Skeezix, Drawn and Quarterly

* Evan Dorkin, Dork, SLG Publishing
* Michael Kupperman, Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Fantagraphics
* Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness, Oni Press
* Don Piraro, Bizarro, King Features Syndicate
* Don Rosa, Uncle Scrooge, Gemstone Publishing

* Art Out of Time: Unknown Comic Visionaries 1900-1969, Abrams
* Comic Art, Buenaventura Press
* The Comics Journal, Fantagraphics
* Making Comics, HarperCollins
* The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, Gemstone Publishing


The awards will be given out on September 8 in conjunction with the Baltimore Comic-Con. Information on how to vote can be found through the initial link.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Wendy Pini!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Quill Award Nominees

The esteemed Quill Awards, the awards program probably best known as "the one with the TV show," has announced its 2007 nominee slate. Nominated in the graphic novel category are:

* Alice in Sunderland, Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
* Aya, Marguerite Abouet, illustrated by Clement Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Making Comics, Scott McCloud (HarperCollins)
* Ode to Kirihito, Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)

American Born Chinese was apparently nominated in the Young Adult/Teen category as well.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 39th Birthday, Steve Weissman!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Texas History Movies Textbook Returns

Kent Biffle profiles Texas History Movies, both the original version and a revamp by the late Jack Jackson. I'm not sure exactly why this article struck me as worth pulling out, except that a) I like the idea of a long-time comics textbook, and I like the idea that Jack Jackson's work will live on with a number of young people.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Another Cover By Eddie Campbell
Another Cover By Eddie Campbell

Supercon Report
Adventure Con Preview
Foster Exhibit Comes to Fruition

Canon Vs. Continuity
Boody Rogers Profiled
Max Gaines Letters Found
How Star Wars Saved Marvel
Two-Page Spreads on One Page
Rad Old Comics-Format Cookbook
Various Pros on Jack Kirby's Legacy

Best List Ever
More Negative Lio Reaction
Chris Butcher Responds to CR Essay
ADD Meditates on Editors, Catwoman
Manga Download Penetration: 40 Percent

WKSU: Trevor Mills
Metabunker: Jan Solheim
Suicide Girls Eddie Campbell
The Bryan Times: Paul Combs
Black Enterprise: Michael Davis
Glowing Profile of Virgin Comics
Time Out Chicago: Ivan Brunetti
Arizona Republic: Alison Bechdel

Not Comics
Too Many Big Words
Comics Curmudgeon: LIVE!
Love Your Daughter, Love Naruto
Personal Treasure in Stack of Comics
I Can't Believe America Doesn't Have One
London Review of Books: Animation-Related Round-Up

Cagle Adds Two
Humorous Maximus Tumult
Kaplan, Tokyopop Team Up
Otaku USA Launches This Week
David Welsh: Forthcoming Manga
Comic About Wilhelm Reich Announced
Adrenaline Moves to On-Line Serialization

Paul O'Brien: Various
David Welsh: Solfege
Sarah Morean: Blindspot
Paul O'Brien: Pyongyang
Paul O'Brien: Target X #6
Paul O'Brien: Gutsville #1
Sterfish: The Art of Reboot
Chris Mautner: Rebel Visions
Greg Oleksiuk: Criminal #1-5
Graeme McMillan: The Boys #7
Koppy McFad: Wonder Woman #9
Leroy Douresseaux: Criminal Vol. 1
Kitty Sensei: The Dark Goodbye Vol. 1
Don MacPherson: Drawing From Life #1
Kadzuki: The Gentlemen's Alliance Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: All Star Superman #7
Jason Mott: World War Hulk: World Breaker
General Love For Modern Superhero Comics
Koppy McFad: Legion of Superheroes in the 31st Century #2

June 3, 2007

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

CR Feature: Six Comics Problems

As a companion piece to last Sunday's look at positive strategies that comics industry players could embrace in ways that would benefit everyone, and as a way to sort my own thoughts, here are three problems facing comics where it's not as easy to see a potential solution.

1. The Greatest Issue Facing the Direct Market?
imageThe best argument for the comics shop model of direct market sales is not that they are the most efficient facilitator of existing, perpetual demand. Rather, it's that a comic shop's presence, their manner of creating and nurturing an audience, increases the interest in and demand for what they sell. Unfortunately, a combination of factors over the years has left many areas of the country without a viable comics outlet beyond the presence of Wizard, Shonen Jump and Betty & Veronica Digest at the local Albertson's. Not only do those invested in the Direct Market system need to increase coverage, they need to find a model to do so that will work in communities that may not have had a thriving comics outlet since before the Black and White Boom and Bust of the middle to late 1980s.

2. Syndicates and Self-Knowledge
imageThere was an interesting series of postings by Mark Evanier after the cartoonist Johnny Hart passed away in which he made strong arguments in favor of the Hart family continuing the BC feature. One notion offered up was that if the resulting post-Hart BC strip were good or bad, the market would react accordingly. However, I'm not certain the strip market acts according to supply and demand, or at least not in a direct fashion. The strip market is very conservative. Success and failure is measured by editorial placements, not viewer eyeballs or reader satisfaction, and the decision whether or not to run a strip is driven to a large extent by factors like nostalgia, apathy and fear of incitement. It takes a great deal of momentum to significantly change the market status of any strip that has spent decades picking up clients. This has its advantages: it's nice that Doonesbury is relatively insulated from market free-fall if a dozen or two dozen papers were to suddenly decide not to run it any more for political reasons. But it also has its disadvantages, in that the market is going to be a less fertile arena for new work based solely on the quality of that work than maybe any other creative outlet that provides its successful creators a high standard of living.

Where this becomes a problem is that it suggests the potential for a disconnect between what makes a feature successful on the comics page and what makes a strip more likely to function effectively over the next 25 years of apocalyptic changes potentially facing the newspaper industry. There is no comics industry that has better met the unique demands of its clients than newspaper strips, and no industry that has had a more realistic grasp as to what will work and what won't in their primary market. Now they face a period which may be similar to the collapse of newsstand opportunities that ripped through comic books from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. Newspapers don't just face a loss in circulation: they face a loss in circulation, a perceived massive future loss in circulation when the current generation of newspaper readers dies out, and the loss of traditional revenue models between now and then to competitors like on-line classified services, all taking place while necessary costs and energy are being sunk into structural changes so that such institutions have a better chance of staying relevant in an on-line world. At the very least, syndicates will now have to deal with a potent secondary market which may feature fewer of the built-in peculiarities that have helped shape the successes and failures of the last 90 years. Those in charge of the syndicates will need an enormous amount of clarity and ruthless foresight to negotiate a period where the primary demands facing their clients may undergo rapid and perhaps irrevocable change.

3. The Mainstream Comics Event Comics Publishing Dilemma
imageThe jury's still out on whether or not a market living on a constant diet of event comics is preferable to a market driven by the sales success of individual comic book series. I'm not suggesting that the jury will come back one way or the other, although I have a guess. It's more that the sheer amount of time it's taking for an answer to suggest itself has become its own problem: a successful market driven by hunches and holding one's breath that takes a long, long time to fully establish its strengths and weaknesses. We should at least have a better idea of the current model's sustainability as we head into what looks like a not-quite-as-appealing cycle of such comics over the next year.

4. The Alternative Comics Serial Comics Publishing Dilemma
imageTo make serial comics succeed on a more regular basis, alternative comics publishers need to publish enough work in the category so that fans of that type of work have a reason to hit comics shops on a regular basis. However, there's a definite ceiling as to how many titles that market will sustain, complicated by the fact that the majority of shops choose to ignore that market altogether. Fifteen years ago, with little choice but to publish serial comics, companies found the sweet spot of market saturation by publishing more comics than the market could sustain and then cutting back. Now, with other revenue streams demanding attention, it has to be a conscious choice: an extremely difficult, almost impossible, and yet still very important conscious choice.

5. Manga's Publishing Dilemma
imageAs a category-level hit and one that works from a model that seems perfectly sustainable at levels of sale half as much or twice as much as what such books enjoy today, manga doesn't really have that one publishing quandary hanging over its head. I wonder, however, at what people in that industry think in terms of what their US market landscape will look like five to ten years from now. Is the expectation that new series will replace the current crop of super-performers? Is there an expectation of a broader but still significantly vital market driven by mid-level hits? The US manga industry has really never communicated a sense of its own publishing future, in a way I think such silence actually detracts from the ability of some market mechanisms and some readers to fully invest in what they're doing.

6. Loss of the Professional Class?
imageI'm becoming more and more of the mind that the recent surge in business for many comics industries has for the first time in the medium's history not had an identifiable, corresponding impact on the fortunes of comics creators. In previous decades comics rates went up when the business was booming. Even in the early 1980s, a period perhaps most directly reminiscent of this one in terms of monolithic company dominance of certain avenues, the industry's recovery from the malaise that almost killed it in the 1970s brought with it a new era of widespread creator royalties and greater opportunities for successful self-publishing than what existed before.

Now, despite the opening of new markets for new creators and the obvious relative health of the direct market when compared to five years ago, the stories about people receiving corresponding remuneration generally relate to opportunities seized outside of comics, not within it. In fact, there's some initial evidence that a few of the new models even when they're working full-bore may offer up rewards more of the struggling artist rather than the successful artist variety. We should not judge the financial success of comics on a bottom-line number of how much money goes to shareholders, swollen editorial crews and company executives, nor should we mistake the giddy, legitimizing enthusiasm that comes when a work of merit receives attention and plaudits and market opportunity as an automatic confirmation of the bottom line. Part of us should withhold judgment and wait and see how the creators themselves benefit, and in what ways, to what extent. A long period of diminished opportunities for creators to participate in the success of their creations will dramatically alter who makes art and what kind of art is made.
posted 4:08 am PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* not comics: Ivan Brandon's nominee for strangest comics-related ebay auction ever

* not comics: photo gallery at the Raymond LeBlanc Foundation

* not comics: James Kochalka video from 1989

* not comics: The Artist Within ebook preview

* not comics: a link to this APE 2007 photoset was still sitting in my inbox
posted 1:29 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Chihoi


That might be the most adorable wedding card I've ever seen.
posted 1:26 am PST | Permalink

First Thought of the Day

Where did Harry Potter's parents get all that money?
posted 1:25 am PST | Permalink

June 2, 2007

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

A Blog I’ll Be Checking All Weekend


Bully visits Book Expo America 2007, in New York City.

I'm sure there are many more worthy blogs out there covering BEA from a comics-oriented angle, and I hope to do a collective memory when the weekend's over, but this one seemed liked the most bang for the rather-be-outside weekend buck.
posted 3:07 am PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from May 26 to June 1, 2007:

1. Word hits the international wire services that Pakistani artist Muhammad Zahoor avoided potential injury or worse when armed gunmen were thwarted from entering his home in the middle of the night. Zahoor is an award-winning newspaper cartoonist.

2. Comic Foundry and Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. reach a compromise in terms of the distributor carrying the comics magazine.

3. Bill Leak asked to stop using Tin Tin image in depicting a prominent Australian politician.

Winner Of The Week
Bill Amend

Loser Of The Week
Iran, unwitting press agent for Persepolis

Quote Of The Week
"Immodium. In the 20 years I've attended I've only needed it once, but better safe than sorry. You do not want to subject yourself to those toilets in that condition with 100k+ nerds using them." -- best item to have at Comic-Con advice ever written, from Rantz Hoseley.

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

June 1, 2007

CR Review: Exit Wounds


Creators: Rutu Modan
Publishing Information: Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 168 pages, June 10 2007, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1897299060 (ISBN10), 9781897299067 (ISBN13)

Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds tells the story of a young man in Tel Aviv who starts out investigating the possible death of his father by suicide bomb and ends up taking a much more nuanced but equally dramatic look at his own life and its many dissatisfactions. Getting from the first place to the second would be daunting for a work three times as long, but Modan judiciously keeps her various tools for dramatic impact in line: the story is kept at ground level and focuses on communicating an unfolding series of events, the art conveys mood within a scene and a general sense of place throughout, dialog between individuals defines their personal space, and the character work adds pathos to past discoveries. Exit Wounds is a very assured story, with very little muss or fuss that spills out along the way. It's as cohesive a statement from any artist that I've seen from comics in years.

What makes this noteworthy is that none of the lessons facing Koby Franco prove to be easy ones. Modan seems to be gently exposing the degree of general disconnect with which Franco has built a live as none of the revelations he unearths comes without underlying doubt, or implications that are as troubling in their way as the question that has just been answered. Franco is always denied a clean break. His father's removal from his life isn't cathartic. His discovery of his father's other relationships only causes him to speculate on a bigger, closer to home, mystery. Instead of creating their own space, his attempts to forge a relationship with his father's girlfriend merely reinforces the number of ways in which their bond is dependent on and informed by their older connections. It's tempting to see the story's final moment as a testament to trust, a nod in the direction of blind faith as a determinant of life's happiness. What's not entirely clear is how this decision is any different at its heart than the half-dozen or so made before it. Has Koby Franco embraced faith and trust merely become inured to the utility of expectation? Is he leaping towards something or merely allowing himself to fall?


If there's any one shortcoming to this fine, short comics novel, it's that the keenness of the psychological exploration on display far outstrips the poignancy of cultural insight provided. A lot of that comes outside in, as accrued detailed, give voice through characters and situation that exist outside of the story's firmest course. Then again, in the ways that matter most, in the uneasy critique of certainty that pervades everything, psychology and place might be one and the same.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

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

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

I Hadn’t Noticed This New Listing Yet


Nor did I notice not one but two entries for new books from Chris Ware.

thanks, Brad Mackay
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Planned Mediation For Ellison Case Against Fantagraphics Moved to 6/28

By David Welsh

At The Beat, Heidi MacDonald reported that the mediation session between the parties involved in the Haran Ellison vs. Gary Groth, Kim Thompson and Fantagraphics suit, which had been tentatively scheduled for May 29, had been postponed until June 28.

Groth explained the delay via e-mail: "It's pretty prosaic: I have to go to the [Book Expo America] tomorrow [Thursday, May 31]. I'm a single father and it was just too much traveling to schedule in a single week."

As to the potential timeline of the mediation process, Groth said, "My understanding was that the court expects us to have an agreement hammered out by the end of the day or not at all. There may be some leeway there -- if 90 percent of it is settled by the end of the day, maybe we can hash the rest out after the fact -- but I'm not 100% sure of that.

"The court hopes it will be settled in this forum, but if it isn't, the case simply continues with our appeal to the 9th Circuit Court in California."

Groth noted that Thompson would not attend the mediation session in person but "will be available to consult by phone."

This article was provided to CR without editorial intrusion by David Welsh.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Article on Lubki

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* the cartoonist Terry Mosher, better known as Aislin, made the 2006 cartoon crisis a significant item of discussion in his recent address to graduates of McGill University.

* the protests had an impact on tourism in Turkey, officials say.

* while I had a hard time following the exact political permutations of this complaint, it's clear that stances taken during the cartoons controversy have been used as a tool to dissect subsequent policies towards art.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 71st Birthday, Gerald Scarfe!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Apply: Webcomics Wikipedia Chief

imageXavier Xerexes has asked for the attention of all people interested in webcomics for his announcement on the future of Comixpedia: The Webcomics Encyclopedia, found at It's a good site, a useful site, but it needs a new home because Xerexes doesn't have time to take care of it anymore. If this ends up being you, your first order of business should be finding a big logo image for people like me to use as links and as art in stories.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

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