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

July 31, 2007

If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Bill Kitchen, 1928/1929-2007


Bill Kitchen, the longtime illustrator and cartoonist at the Miami Herald, passed away in his home last Wednesday after a short battle with pancreatic cancer, the family reported to local news media. Kitchen was 78.

During a 25 year run as a Herald staffer, Kitchen was best known as the paper's news story illustrator and the artist for the popular, consumer-oriented Action Line. A more rigorous editorial cartoonist career may have been out of the cards because of his right wing beliefs. Kitchen also worked for papers in Huntington, West Virginia and in Lakeland, Florida over his long career.

He was a high school dropout and a veteran of the Korean War. Bill Kitchen is survived by a wife, a son and a daughter.
posted 4:20 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Various News Updates

* charges against the creators of a cartoon cover for the Spanish satirical magazine El Jueves have been reduced. Once facing jail time and fines, artist Guillermo and writer Manel Fontevilla now only face fines.

* this fairly scattered and I'm afraid ineffectual article from the Guardian's book blog weighs in on recent complaints about the sexism in many mainstream superhero comics. I'm never sure there's much to say about these kinds of things but acknowledge the awfulness and buy/complain accordingly. Deciding not to purchase stuff that upsets and even humiliates seems obvious to me. Therefore, it's not surprising that the mini-essay doesn't move the subject much past that stage, either. There's also some fascinating rhetorical work where the writer seems to want the punch of conflating superhero comics with all comics -- which allows you to downplay counter-examples outside the cape and cowl crowd -- but at the same time certainly knows comics are at least as widely defined as to include Joe Matt.

* South African booksellers aren't moving Tintin in the Congo to a different set of shelves, they're dumping it.

* The "at least three" comics previously announced as returning to the LA Daily News in response to fan outcries when they recently dumped ten features has become eight comics restored, Editor & Publisher reports.
posted 3:42 am PST | Permalink

CR Commentary: CCI 2007 Wrapped


Here are my final thoughts about Comic-Con International 2007, July 26-29 with a July 25 Preview Night at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

So How Were The Eisners?
1. Overall, I quite liked the Eisner Awards this year. The music makes such a difference getting people on and off the stage. Bill Morrison is a charming and low-key host. The presenters were consistently amusing with three of the pairings (the Reno 9-11 guys, Brian Posehn and some other fella, Jonathan Ross and Neil Gaiman) about as good as you're ever going to see. Jane Wiedlin was a hit with her natural target audience of males aged 35-40. Also, and I think this was huge, no one struck a sour or inappropriate note the entire time: no super-dour proclamations of doom, no self-serving or smarmy wisecracks, no stories of cartoonists borrowing money in a public washroom. What you heard from folks was mostly gratitude with a dash of perspective. Other than the fact that every single person that hit the stage should have kidded Paul Pope about his shirtless vest ensemble, the show itself went as well as could ever be expected.

2. Only one major no-show: Darwyn Cooke.

3. There were things I didn't like about the Eisners. There seemed to be more technical glitches this year, from things mis-identified on the overheads to broken equipment that needed adjusting to people not knowing how to pronounce names. It's still way too many awards. Europe has a more diverse industry and I think Angouleme sports fewer than 10 awards at their big ceremony. As always, I'm not sure the voting was inspired, even with the categories mostly split so as to prevent a lot of superheroes/vertigo vs. indy/alt battles. Are this year's winners really the greatest books and creators of comics' greatest era? Perhaps combining exhaustion from a number of awards and some sloppy voting habits, someone at our table pointed out that a lot of first choices as listed on the ballot won during the last hour, and in general.

4. There's one thing about the Eisners that continues to drive me batty over all other factors, though. It's a major pet peeve of mine that actual cartoonists and major industry figures like Hilda Terry and Michelle Urry, for example, respectively, can somehow fail to be honored with a memorial tribute, while people in related art forms (the kids' end of the pool, naturally) or active in the fan community are honored. There's something that seems selfish and maybe even self-loathing about that. Nothing will likely ever be as ridiculous as the year where a cartoonist's spouse was included (a lady I liked very, very much, by the way) and William Freakin' Steig was left out, but it continues, and it should stop right now.

5. But yeah: best ever. First time I was ever surprised by a presenter: Jonathan Ross. He killed, too. As one pro put it, "I have never uttered these words before but I will now: the Eisners were fun."

Pressing Issue: The Size of the Show
1. Although it didn't come out, the photo above is of a young woman holding up a sign looking for a ticket.

2. I think what the heck CCI plans to do to manage the crowds is the major issue heading into 2008. Other than praying that this latest cycle of geeky TV shows and movies works itself out, and that ain't going to happen anytime soon, there's going to have to be positive steps taken. I don't know if that means taking over some space somewhere nearby with tent cities like the Hilton lawn had going, moving the biggest TV and movie panels off site, or what. Something.

3. If there aren't steps taken, that means the Con just sort of hopes that none of the stresses of a swollen convention become fractures -- something violent that gets exacerbated by the elbow to elbow crowding, for example, or maybe just someone big falling on one of those bitty kids and really hurting them -- and that the stress of people trying to get tickets as they become desired by more people early into the year doesn't turn the whole six months before the show into that horrible Tuesday morning when the convention hotels go up for reservations.

4. It really feels awful on the floor. It's a new reality, and people deal, and a lot of people have no problem "editing" what the con is to them. At the same time, I remember walking around the floor used to be something a lot of people looked forward to. The con is already more Balkanized than it was just a few years ago, with crabby movie people suggesting a name change and comics people feeling isolated and left out of some things. I think that continues if people feel it's not worth the hassle to dabble, scope out things outside your particular interest and just kind of naturally enjoy the entire scene. The press of humanity isn't so bad at certain places on the floor, aka comic books, but that makes it doubly worse for those isolated booths out of their natural habitat, enduring tight crowds naturally disinterested in their work and keeping people from wanting to walk over. I think you may see another round of people dropping out because of general weariness, both publishers who find the whole weekend exhausting and people there to see related media who aren't willing to camp out for seats and are thus consistently turned away from the biggest TV show.

5. My solutions would include taking a cricket bat to anyone in costume who stops and poses, blocking the flow of traffic for 100 feet or whatever, and rousting squatters from every event in the biggest halls, but I'm sure there are more humane ways to approach these troubles. Every bit counts. For instance, anyone standing in front of their table to sell their goods is extending their booth space at the cost of people moving around in the aisles and therefore should be discouraged. There needs to be hands-on monitoring, though, and attention must be paid to the details.

6. Another thing that might be coordinated is an aggressive track of multiple art shows throughout the city, thus solving two problems: no art shows like the European festivals making SDCC seem extra-crass, and giving at least a few thousand people something to do as an option other than heading to the convention hall. I might spend a morning away seeing a group show or two somewhere if they were good. I bet a lot of people would now that might not have two or three years ago.

7. Is it crazy to suggest that the shrinking and perhaps even endangered Artist's Alley space go to people with more comics credits over those who are illustrators, those who are prepared to draw while at the show rather than using it as simply free booth space, and perhaps maybe those who pledge to do kids' work at a certain discount or even just at all? How about lifetime banning anyone who doesn't spend at least 2/3 of their time with that space manned? I think some of the traditional spaces can be made more vital with a higher entry point that emphasizes certain roles such spaces play at the con.

8. The on-site registration seems to have improved 400 percent since two years ago, even, and now seems able to handle large crowds as best as anyone could imagine. I also like the flow system used to clear panel rooms with some hallways being exit hallways and some being entrance hallways.

With So Many Things Not Comics, Name Three That Struck You
1. It's sort of weird to go to a San Diego Con and not see a single Star Trek person. There were so many Klingons running around in the mid-1990s you could fill a couple of dozen photos with an arbitrarily selected subset like blonde Klingons or kid Klingons or Klingons in wheelchairs. Now? Nothing.

2. The dressing up thing is perpetually odd, no matter how the individual cycles play themselves out or how we get inured to the fact of having a book show in the midst of a costume party. We should stop pretending that it's normal. It's not bad or anything, but one reason why people fixate on the costumes is that no other industry convention or arts festival features it. Is there any explanation for the explosion of costumed people at these things over the last decade more comprehensive than simply the rise of cosplay?

3. We had no problem parking mid-morning within five blocks of the convention center and only a minor one finding a seat at Sun Cafe on a Saturday morning. Go figure.

What Was Buying Comics at the Show Like?
1. What used to be a show that stressed more expensive collectible comic books, and then seemed in recent years to put a lot more emphasis on bargain comics, this year seemed totally dominated by discount comics in the $3-$7 range rather than $1 range. I don't know exactly why that is, but I'm not complaining. Has the non top-line Silver Age comics market collapsed recently or something?

2. It does make me slightly worried that retailers seem to be making new stabs every year at what will sell, which indicates a shallower level of commitment than might be healthy.

3. There seemed to be fewer straight-up comics retailers than ever before. This could be fewer exhibitors of that type, or exhibitors diversifying what they bring in so it appeared like fewer comics.

4. Also almost totally gone compared to what it used to be: off-major 1940s and 1950s comics (your Dells, your Standards), once a big attraction.

5. The more book publishers that enter into comics means more cartoonists will have books out with multiple publishers means dealers like Rory Root, Chuck Rozanski and Bud Plant will serve as that much more of a purchasing backbone for the con. I heard people invoke Stuart Ng's name this year more than the past five years combined.

What Did You Think of Programming?
1. I thought the comics-related programming was solid this year: there was a lot of it, spread across all four days, and the panels themselves seemed well attended. Like I wrote before the show, I would have liked to see an aggressive macro-industry panel or two, mostly because I think these issues are just as important to talk about when things seem slightly flush as they are when things seem abominable, but what the programmers chose to execute over the weekend they did so very well.

2. The thing that was best about the four or five panels I saw, and this could be luck, is that none of them had panel/audience connection problems. The panels with a lot of sophisticated talk up front seemed to garner sophisticated questions, while the more basic panels seemed to have an audience for that level of discourse, too.

Three People That Attendees Asked After and Then Made a Frowny Face When I Said, "No, I don't think they're coming."
1. Dean Haspiel
2. Patrick McDonnell
3. Adrian Tomine

The Five Comics Publishing Announcements I Can Remember Without Looking
1. Writer Grant Morrison and Artist JG Jones getting DC's Final Crisis assignment, meaning that very important event series for the periodicals-slipping publisher might be good in more than a "solid effort of its type" way. That's might be, mind you.

2. Paul Pope takes hist THB to First Second, which threw a big spotlight on that company heading into the rest of its first five years.

3. The crush of prose authors or just sort of vaguely famous people moving into comics via various deal structures, which 1) might be read by some as a slap in the face to some of the existing creators working certain areas, 2) practically guarantees a lot of clumsy, mediocre comics on the horizon, and 3) shows that it's still a concept with some PR and marketing legs.

4. Darwyn Cooke to leave The Spirit and DC Comics to work on a pair of original graphic novels; Jeff Smith courted as part of the creative replacement on the DC title.

5. Dark Horse's manga efforts expanding out of their favored genres and into a potential new format.

25 Things People Were Talking About On the Floor
1. Book deals, particularly swirling rumors about the size of certain advances.
2. Death of comic book comics as a viable platform for alt-comics people.
3. Douglas Wolk's new book Reading Comics.
4. The still unannounced Ellison-Fantagraphics lawsuit settlement.
5. Where the next Pickwick -- an alt-comics favorite bar now closed -- is going to be.
6. Moebius (I kid you not; I was in three separate conversations about Moebius, three more than in 2006, when he was in attendance).
7. The tricks creators use to get publishers to comp them a copy of a book they want.
8. Whether or not CR makes any money.
9. Leveraging whatever deal is out there to be leveraged; absolutely no one was saying, "I'm going to concentrate on ______ this year."
10. The Eisners.
11. The ongoing culture change at DC Comics and its emphasis on more sophisticated marketing.
12. Marvel Comics building a big DM sales lead on DC, and whether it's a big deal or not. (Weight of argument: it is.)
13. Whether there's a deep, rich pool of webcomics or a few aberrations that are actually good while a ton more exist hugged to the bosom of a forgiving arts sub-culture.
14. Whether webcomics will ever make serious money as a group.
15. Next year's Russ Manning Award front runner: Fletcher Hanks.
16. Old San Diego (stabbings, bums) vs. New San Diego (William Morris Agency parties, Starbucks)
17. The new wave of book publishers completely not getting a) conventions, b) what artists need to use and deal with the Direct Market
18. A seemingly sudden shift to a lot more companies buying people dinner.
19. Video, video, video coverage everywhere.
20. Some of the more kid-hostile elements of the show -- the endurance test aspects, the sexualized costumes -- as more of my friends consider bringing their kids and start to ponder the positives and negatives.
21. Mainstream press coverage reversion into "look at the freaks" mode.
22. The extravagance of newer boutique hotels like the Ivy and Hotel Solamar.
23. Special Guest Warren Ellis.
24. The trains blocking access to the convention center, and their exquisite sense of timing.
25. Twittering.

Next Up: July 24-27, 2008
Overall, I think CCI 2007 was a solid show, with the con showing a lot of depth and skill in programming, a lot of folks on hand showing their veteran con-going skills in dealing with some unpleasant crowding-type concerns, and the Eisner folks pulling off their best show ever. The attendance has to be as bad as it's ever going to get -- by definition, right? -- which is a relief, but the overall growth of the show and its attendant difficulties in terms of travel and lodging may cost the con some mid-list exhibitors among comics publishers and, perhaps, more retailers unless that group grasps onto a more solid foundation for what's going to sell. Like comics itself right now, the positive feelings about the convention outweigh the nagging suspicion that things may be rotting from the bottom up a bit. At least many of the problems facing the convention can be isolated and attempts to solve them may be pursued.

All that said? I had a real good time.

CCI is an advertiser here
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Gary Barker!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Welcome, Baby Neufeld!

posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Manga as Expression of Cultural Power

Manga For iPhone
I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
New DM Shop Opens
Snapshot of Philippines Industry
Your Science Idol Cartoon Contest Winner
Science Idol Contest Winner to Lunch With Toles

MWC: Ben Heine
Dallas News: Matt Groening Joseph Young
Contra Costa Times: Minx Line

Not Comics
Simpsons Secret
Dave Itzkoff: Soon I Will Be Invincible
Another Editorial Cartoonist Starts Animating

Warren Ellis to do Webcomic
Dave Lasky Needs to Draw This
Five New Filipino Comics Launch
First Sci Fi/Virgin Title Announced
Jenna Jameson Something or Other
Tokyopop Plans Second Star Trek Volume

Don MacPherson: Various
Gilbert Bouchard: Various
Don MacPherson: Doktor Sleepless #1
Don MacPherson: BTVS Season Eight #1-4
Richard Krauss: King-Cat Comics & Stories #66

July 30, 2007

CR Review: Full Color


Creator: Mark Haven Britt
Publishing Information: Image, soft cover, 176 pages, July 2007, $15.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781582408408 (ISBN13)

imageMark Haven Britt's Xeric-sponsored graphic novel gets points for going in a completely different direction than the majority of today's original longer narratives. A blend of crime and relationship dramas, Full Color trades in a kind of heightened reality, a vividness of character type, that is more common to film and stage plays. Perhaps the best thing about it is that Britt ably captures that moment in a young person's life when things are starting to lock in and settle down, the hideousness of day to day living begins slapping you in the face hard enough to leave a mark, social interaction still has the mocha swirl look of one's college and post-college days, and, maybe for the first time, events have consequences.

Full Color also puts on display a curious blend of character worship that you most often see in film and TV. Nearly everyone turns out to be special in some slightly artificial and hard to believe way, like Britt fed his script pages through a Sorkintron. There are some pleasures in that. For instance, his most overtly larger than life character is a ex-Marine ass-kicking African-American female painter named Boom. As one can count the number of super-assertive cool female black protagonists in comics history on one healthy foot and another foot ravaged by frostbite, it's good to see one more. That doesn't make her a less ridiculously over the top character. Some characters, particularly minor ones, kind of blend into the background, or, given the spotlight, grate with overly precious set pieces, like a psychologist that rips one of her former patients in a way that feels like a staged guest appearance rather than organic to the plot.

Mostly, though, it might have been smart for Britt to scale back his book's ambition in terms of its visual approach. Some of the individual images are rich and even occasionally lovely, but many are muddy. The setting never comes alive in a consistent fashion. When Britt drops backgrounds to concentrate on one or two characters it somehow feels like the world has been cleared of all other humans. As you can see from the cover image, sometimes the characters lack heft and volume, and appear more like refrigerator magnets placed against a background than real-life human beings that exist within a world. Some effects designed to drag our eyes across two-page spreads fail miserably, and you have to stay extremely invested panel to panel to always keep up with the dialog flow and the visual narrative. Speaking of dialog, count me in on those that think typesetting one's text is almost always a bad idea. It's distracting visually, for one thing, it's sort of unlovely, and Britt punts the opportunity to use that tool to draw distinctions between his characters. Some of the word balloons here aren't even well-placed. If Britt's creative roles were characters in the comic, the writer would be one of the more assured ones, and the artist would be one of those that's in trouble and seeking help. To use the old saw, Britt the writer cash checks on which Britt the artist can't make good.

If Britt can avoid biting off more than he can chew and continues to improve his craft, I think he could be around a while. The other complaints, well, once you make a story about a bunch of friends, you usually stop making stories about a bunch of friends. It's a rite of passage no less problematic than that experienced by the characters in the book, and Britt is likely much better off getting his out of the way early.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Your 2007 San Diego Con Update


Notes and Observations About or Caused by Comic-Con International, Taking Place July 26-29 (With a July 25 Preview Night) in San Diego, California


1. With a weekend marked by sell-outs, it's safe to say this is the best-attended Comic-Con International ever.

2. The con is committed to San Diego and its convention center through 2012, and moving the show at any point now or then after such a long relationship with the city might cause way more problems than it solves. This puts directly on the table how the show will deal with the increased demand and all the cracks and pressures of swelling that come with it.

3. One of the pressures ready to make itself known: two publishers good enough to be in the Eisner nomination pool this year spoke on the floor out loud that this was likely a last year for them to exhibit.

4. Another one: complaints of panel access for press, which once I was tipped off were pretty easy to track down. Press has the same access privileges into convention panels as attendees, so if things fill up, they can't get in. Contributing causes may include a combination of increased pool coverage (a lot of the entertainment magazines went from one reporter to five or six) and general high attendance at a lot of panels. I would imagine of all the hassles that might face the show, this is one that will be most easily handled by an administrative effort or two.

5. Then again, maybe the pressure will be seen in more and more ultra-violence committed against press people. Holy crap.

6. I really liked this Chris Butcher update featuring a few graphs from Peter Birkemoe.

7. I guess some of the film people think they should re-name Comic-Con International to better reflect its status as a film festival not really called a film festival. I never see any of the film people, never go to those panels and never notice they're there unless I see someone at the hotel or slumming at a party, so I don't really have an opinion on this. It's not that I dislike film as much as I don't care for previews and hype, I don't care to scramble after movie passes when I can go experience it a few weeks later in a comfortable theater I didn't have to wait to get into, and if you take away the shiny celebrity-ness of the film-related panels, I'm not sure what you have left. To be honest, all the San Diego film-related panel reports I've ever read make them sound smarmy and kind of dim.

8. I'll probably always remember this year for the moment when my pal Jordan Raphael and I were walking in an upstairs hallway to take part in the comics media panel and some Hollywood-looking guy literally elbowed past us, bellowing in a gruff voice, "Sorry, fellas. I have a panel to be on." This was obvious, as the two seconds needed to go around us in the 40-foot empty hallway was apparently two seconds too many. "Out of the way, you shitbag comics people; movie guy coming through!"

9. Granted, I was walking like Fred Sanford.

10. The media panel was enjoyable. Positives included getting to meet Nisha Gopalan of Entertainment Weekly and see Graeme McMillan, who is currently sacrificing years of his life by diving into the deep end of mainstream American comic books at Savage Critics. Graeme's general, genial silence was noted by the final questioner, who asked: "Who are you, and what do you do?"

11. The negatives of the media panel were 1) a long digression into a topic in which my disinterest cannot be measured by physicists working in conjectural fashion, whether or not "nerd" is a word for meanies, and 2) moderator Douglas Wolk talk-blocking me on the best question of the night.

12. Sometimes I find it hard -- not working at a factory hard, but degree of difficulty in hitting the landing just right hard -- to be on panels where I feel like I have little in common with my fellow panelists. I always feel like when I'm making distinctions between myself and them it ends up sounding like I'm touting my ethical or strategic superiority instead of just opting out of an assumed term of commonality or suggesting a different path than the standard one.

13. In other words, it's hard to answer a question about what draws people to your site if you never look at your numbers; it's hard to say "I don't look at my numbers" without sounding like a massive, elitist tool. I don't care if I sound like a jerk, but it sometimes gets in the way of being understood.

14. Then again, it should probably be noted that as I don't make anything, I'm not on many panels. So it's like this is an ongoing source for major feelings of disenfranchisement.

15. I was surprised by a couple of notions floated on the media panel. The first one was Douglas Wolk's statement that conversational back and forths are the future of on-line coverage. I don't think anything's set in stone, and as I recall the appearance of blogging nuked a similar but then message board-driven notion when it made the rounds 10 years ago. Put into this category a related notion made by someone I forget that somehow twittering or observational quote gathering or other accrual methods or even video has become something with which traditional written media coverage will have to compete. Other than in the broadest ways possible, which I guess does have its own impact, I can't see how most things compete. I could be wrong, but I feel more in competition with not sucking than I do with podcasts, video or phone based technologies. I don't feel any compulsion to move into those areas except maybe someday as their own thing.

16. The other notion I found surprising was one floated that there is no *real* comics journalism on the Internet, which I think is an unfortunate argument. I'm a believer in noting the excesses of coverage tendencies that reveal themselves through on-line media, for sure. I just don't agree that the best standard on which to judge a score of developing media enterprises is whether or not they practice certain kinds of journalistic inquiry. At least not over how they practice the kinds of journalism in which they do engage. Not quite yet, anyway. If there is less corroborative journalism in three years time, I might consider this something to note.

17. On Saturday, fleeing the con, I ran into the writer Warren Ellis outside smoking. He was extremely gracious, and I was happy to see him. The debut prose novelist and longtime comics writer was flanked by one of his charming, funny Engine enforcers, Rachel Young. If I remember correctly, the notoriously convention-shy Ellis was cajoled into attendance by an enthusiastic publisher willing to make good on a list of not-ostentatious but still very specific demands.

18. Ellis was the subject of one of the bigger announcements of the mainstream comics side of the show, that he'll be taking over what is probably the mutant comics flagship title Astonishing X-Men when Joss Whedon leaves.

19. Ellis' blogging on the event (you may have to scroll down until you get into the thick of it) feels like a bunch of war dispatches from a far-away jungle, which all in all is rather appropriate, I think.

20. Fantagraphics' Fletcher Hanks book edited by Paul Karasik, I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets, not only sold out at San Diego, it sold out of its first print run, with a second print run of equal size on the way.

21. Karasik and the great Mark Newgarden are teaming up for an expansion of their How to Read Nancy essay.

22. First Second not only has books planned through 2009; it has a rough idea of what's coming out in 2011. So I guess they're going to be with us for quite some time. One book I hadn't heard about features the re-teaming of the It's a Bird... pairing Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen.

23. It was entertaining that if you asked any Man of Action studio member where the untalented member of their crew was instead of being at the booth, they know without asking that you're speaking of Joe Casey. Either Joe doesn't spend a lot of time at the table compared to the rest of the gang, or they don't like him much.

24. Speaking of Casey, I hadn't known his Godland co-author, the artist Tom Scioli, is young enough I bet he gets carded.

25. Saturday night I had dinner seated near a number of smart and interesting people, including Eddie and Callum Campbell. Father and son had a number of highly amusing travel stories, including one from several years back about Callum taking all of his 10-year-old pocket-filling junk out of his pockets at an airport, including some sort of metal weapon and a bunch of candy cigarettes stuffed into a discarded real cigarette container.

26. Along with a decline in traditional comics-industry parties due to exhaustion, lack of funds to compete in San Diego's downtown spaces and perhaps even a shift in creator personality types away from the aggressively social has come a proliferation of parties, cocktail gatherings and dinners by various larger publishers and Hollywood players. For instance, my understanding is that there were multiple parties/gatherings/dinners held by agencies, not just studios with people on-hand.

27. I didn't go to many parties, but I did hit the cocktail hour launch on my way to the Eisners. I met and quite liked John Cunningham from DC Comics, and was happy to meet and see a number of fellow writers. Dan Goldman was there, and almost Zen like in his convention-going state. I caught Tim Leong by the door and he seemed to be extremely happy about reaction to the first printed issue of Comic Foundry.

28. Gene Yang was still beaming about his graphic novel category Eisner win 24 hours later when I saw him in a restaurant Saturday night. Because of timing, that award was likely the last in a long series of honors and recognition for his American Born Chinese, and he mentioned how pleased he was to get that award from people he knew and/or whose work he knew and admired. Gene also had the same child in his lap he had during the previous evening carried up onto the Eisners stage, which saddled me with the vision of Gene carrying the kid everywhere, perhaps even drawing his next comic around him.

29. I'd have to check to see how things played out in the past, but it may be subtly significant that the last category at the Eisners was a graphic novel category as opposed to a best ongoing series one.

30. I think because of the overwhelming number of things to do, the moments after panels were a key meeting point for a lot of people targeting someone they wanted to find. The con -- I can't remember if it was for the first time -- split the hallways upstairs into exit and entrance hallways to help traffic flow, so there were a lot of groups of people outside just-completed panel doors talking throughout all four days.

31. There was also one memorable security guy with a scary, deep voice that kept on asking people to move closer to the wall. This man terrified me.

32. One subject on the lips of many comics folks: the proliferation of semi-sizable advances for book contracts, including some rumored ones that I would term jaw-droppers considering the perceived station within the field of the folks involved and the perceived profit potential of what they might create. One con panel was closed with the moderator suggesting a cartoonist might even have career problems getting another book because no future pay out would likely match the advance they had just received.

33. I was lucky to be asked to moderate a panel about archival comic strip collections, a growing and important segment of the comics industry. Here are some of the notions floated during that hour, and other observations.

* Tom Devlin spoke about how he designed D&Q's Moomin not like the Gasoline Alley and Peanuts to make the books a more comfortable object to be held by children.
* RC Harvey was like a 1960s TV panelist, making jokes and telling funny stories about working on his massive, beautiful book on Milton Caniff. All that was missing was few references to having dinner with Groucho Marx.
* Apparently, Harvey had done the first chunk of the book when Caniff was still alive, and the cartooning great gave the comics historian a funny note upon reading them that he couldn't wait to see how things turned out.
* Harvey also proclaimed that this new wave of reprint books came about because he told the publishers to make it happen. I never disagree with Mr. Harvey.
* Don Rosa and talented comedian/voice actor Tom Kenny were among those in attendance.
* Walt Kelly's daughter Carolyn noted that one of the things she really wanted when looking for the right publisher for this year's launching Complete Pogo series was to do the Sundays in black and white rather than in color so the beauty of her father's line work could be more fully captured for the ages.
* There was at least one potentially major slam from one panelist to another if you listened closely enough. I didn't; I had to be told later on!
* The future is likely to see the bigger companies negotiating an expected decline in interest in later books and publishers of all types and sizes exploring the deep catalog of the various syndicates projects in a more in and out fashion, like the Mary Perkins On Stage books (Classic Comics Press's Charles Pelto announced a two-volume Dondi effort at the panel I hadn't heard about) and D&Q's recent Clare Briggs book.
* Fantagraphics made public previously discussed plans to do a complete volume of the Bill Mauldin Willie and Joe cartoons.

34. A lot of folks seemed to have luck during their off hours accessing bars, restaurants and hotels just outside the main 4th to 6th avenue Gaslamp District main strip, especially places east.

35. As one of those whose computer skills failed them on the first day of hotel registration through the convention, I stayed at a strung-together group consisting of the Westin Horton Plaza, the Hilton Gaslamp and finally the Crowne Plaza Suites out on the Hotel Circle. I had a pleasant experience with all three. I had never stayed as close to the show as that Hilton place is, and that was kind of amazing.

36. Some numbered observations were so potent they were later redacted to protect the innocent!

37. Sales stories were all over the place in terms of what sold and how well, but what I heard from people in general suggested that Wednesday and Thursday sales may have improved; Friday through Sunday sales may have been down.

38. Strangest line where I still knew absolutely what they meant: "If I couldn't have my wife with me at these dinners, I would want Paul Karasik."

39. There needs to be some kind of booth location czar to stop things from happening like PictureBox, Inc. and Sunday Press not being in the more directly alternative/arts area. Such placement would have helped their sales and sales for the entire area. And maybe there could be a dedicated area for supplies and art improvement services the way there is for small press or toys? I often think those get overlooked by people when they're isolated between two publishers, for instance.

40. Speaking of which, holy crap are the Sunday Press actual-size Gasoline Alley books nice-looking.

41. Top Shelf has hired Leigh Walton to do marketing and PR.

42. ComicMix is apparently going to re-launch at some point in the near future.

43. Stan "The Man" Lee was hustled through the hall Beatles-style at one point Friday afternoon, which was weird in that the aggression between any interaction between group and the crowd seemed to emanate 100 percent from the people with Lee; none of the fans seemed particularly dying to get any closer to comics legend.

44. Frank Santoro says that the recently canceled Cold Heat will be completed and collected sooner rather than later. We shared some disbelief over positive coverage of that comic book reaching as far as Wizard.

45. One of my favorite stupid memories from this year's show will be watching Wizard's Kiel Phegley at a panel walk up and take pictures like some sort of journalistic super-pro: walk, walk, pause, click; walk, pause, click; walk, walk, walk, click.

46. One item that was among the most impressive in a look-what-we-did-to-prepare-for-the-show way was a Wolff & Byrd companion book to be sold only at conventions; it doesn't even have an ISBN. I hadn't realized that Lash started that book in 1979.

47. According to the super-glossy Tripwire Annual, which looks terrific and features an nice prose-portrait triptych of Simpsons interviews (Matt Groening, Bill Morrison, Ian Boothby), I am one of the 25 most powerful people in comics. Before you ask, I'm definitely the only one in the "Who the hell is that?" category on the list; it's not a quirky list, but minus me a very straight-forward one. Apparently my power, which has yet to express itself in any discernible manner, is somewhere in the same vicinity of those on either side of me on the alphabetical list: powerful millionaire movie director Bryan Singer and generation-defining cartoonist and designer Chris Ware. I am both flattered and sure to hide the magazine from my brothers who will make fun of me for three years if they find out about it. Also, if it weren't clear to us all before now, comics is clearly doomed.

48. The rumor of Monday as an additional show day has been vehemently denied by con officials.

49. I don't think a full Wednesday is likely, either, as that would involve having Tuesday to set up -- Preview Night could be called Sneak In An Extra Day Night, if you think about it.

50. Two other rumors I'm putting here so I can remember to track them down or look up someone else tracking them down: 1) the question of continued existence of Artists Alley on the floor of the show. It was cut down this year. I can't see this going away, but it's a prime candidate to be moved. 2) Cold Cut, now for sale, and its sponsorship of a kind of independent publishers' pavilion.

I'll have a summary comment section regarding this year's show up tomorrow, based in part on what gets written Monday by returning pros, fans and reporters. With the anticipatory coverage now extending weeks before the con, I don't want to drag things out on the other end. Additional coverage relating to the con itself should include an Eisners commentary piece that will also hopefully go up tomorrow, a collective memory that should go up tomorrow and run until the end of the week, and an interview with show executive David Glanzer or some other CCI heavy once they get settled back in and have a better grasp on their own information and do their initial rounds of chatting. There are of course tons of stuff for the site that were set up while at the show, but those should appear over the normal course of things around here.


Five Things I Picked Up At The Show







For coverage of general comics news outside the convention and for differing views of the convention itself, I recommend my peers at, Publishers Weekly, Journalista, The Beat, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and The Pulse. Groups of photos from the show can be found here.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

July 28, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Bart Beaty



imageI've known Bart Beaty for about as long as I've worked in comics. I consider Dr. Beaty the best writer about European comics going, certainly the best in English. We worked together on his column "Euro-Comics For Beginners" at The Comics Journal, and I consider his "Conversational Euro-Comics" the crown jewel of this site.

ECFB was an important tool for many English-language readers in re-discovering European comics. This came as a new generation of creators began to surface and followed a period when a few writers in the USA had basically dismissed the continent as a land of kids books and pretty, genre-soaked entertainments. It's through Bart that I found out about many cartoonists I have since made a regular part of my comics reading: people like Fabrice Neaud, Lewis Trondheim, David B., Dupuy and Berberian, Joann Sfar, Thomas Ott, Blutch and Baru.

In his book Unpopular Culture, Beaty describes the rise of a new breed of author-driven comics within the greater European comics industries, and paints a compelling portrait of comics as cultural expression. Not only is Unpopular Culture authoritative in a lot of ways as the English-language description of the great period in European comics that is the last 15 or so years, but Bart's a funny and smart reader of comics in general. His throwaway observations are worth more than some people's entire columns, and for that analysis and the way Europe can be used as a mirror to learn things about North American comics, Unpopular Culture is one of the better books written about English-language comics currently on the stands. It's that good.

I know that there are a lot of potential problems taking this space to interview one of the site's columnists, but I really dig Bart's book and I thought an interview would be a good feature to run the Sunday of San Diego Con when I and many others are on the road.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy our conversation, and I thank Bart for taking the time.


imageTOM SPURGEON: There's one thing I've always wanted to ask you. What does your comics collection look like?

BART BEATY: I have two collections. In my basement are about 7000 American pamphlet-sized comics which are the result of a quarter-century of reading these things. All the usual suspects for someone of my generation. Long collections of Daredevil, X-Men, and Amazing Spider-Man from when I was a kid, and Yummy Fur, Eightball and Love and Rockets from when I was in university.

Upstairs, in our dining room, I have two walls that are floor-to-ceiling covered in more contemporary comics. Two of those shelves are American material, five are French and one carries everything else: Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, German, and so on. All the comics that I can only sort of read, or, in the case of the Finnish comics, which I can't read at all. I've arranged all the work alphabetically by the artist, which seems to work in terms of being able to locate work quickly. I probably have about 1000 comics on those shelves, which were the basis for this book. I read 1000 but wrote on a small fraction of that.

SPURGEON: Would Unpopular Culture have happened outside of academia?

BEATY: I don't think that there is any chance at all that this book would have been written if I didn't have my day job at the University of Calgary. It's possible that a different book would have been written, but not one where I use the term "heteronomous principle of the marketplace" on multiple occasions.

The genesis of this book was a desire to take the writing that I was doing in The Comics Journal on European comic books to the next level, by tying it to larger theoretical issues that have informed my scholarly work more generally. It really came from a desire to marry my work life and the writing that I was doing as a hobby, but that necessitated writing in a more theoretically informed manner.

SPURGEON: For everything else that it offer, has academia been a fruitful platform for you when it comes to writing about European comics?

BEATY: I can't complain at all, really. This book was funded by a substantial three-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I'm incredibly grateful that SSHRC was positively disposed to the project and didn't simply say "Oh, comic books, that's not worth studying." SSHRC grants are extremely competitive, but I've never had any sense from them that they look down on comics. And their support really strengthened the book substantially by allowing me to spend six months in Europe over three summers, talking to artists and publishers, seeing stores and exhibitions, and buying books. Without that support, this would've been a very different book, and probably not nearly as interesting.

SPURGEON: How much has writing about European comics in commercial outlets -- such as they are -- changed the way your academic writing has developed?

BEATY: I think that writing in non-academic outlets has really made my academic writing a lot stronger. Writing is a skill that requires practice, and too many academics forget that. They write a dissertation, which is like running a marathon, but then they stop for a few years and find it hard to get back up to speed when it comes time to write a book. But if you ran a marathon and then didn't run again for three years, you're not going to do well in the next marathon, it's going to be a tough slog. So writing comics reviews and the columns that I write for Avenue Magazine in Calgary help keep me in shape, so to speak.

It also allows me to test a lot of ideas. There are bits in the Dupuy-Berberian section of Unpopular Culture, for example, that were developed first in The Comics Journal and other places that I've written about those guys. Same with the section on Trondheim, Comix 2000, and pretty much the entire chapter about the avant-garde seems like a re-purposed "Euro-Comics for Beginners" greatest hits collection. I'd say that my comments on Donjon in the book are almost verbatim the same as what I wrote about the series in TCJ.

SPURGEON: Do you have to switch voices?

BEATY: Very much. I try not to say "heteronomous" on Comics Reporter. The expectations are totally different. One requirement of my SSHRC grant was that I publish a book with a scholarly press. Those books are peer-reviewed, that is, they are read by experts in the field who provide the press anonymous feedback on the question of whether the scholarship is sound. Those reviews can render a completed book totally unpublishable if the referees declare the work not sufficiently sophisticated. So, in this book I'm writing first and foremost for my academic peers. That's very different than writing reviews of books where I'm trying to make an argument about whether someone should bother to read something or not.

As a critic/reviewer I sort of see myself as a tour-guide, pointing out the highlights in a sea European publishing, but as a scholar I see my role much more in terms of an analyst examining the larger social questions that the success or failure of some of these books bring to light. As an academic, I'm asking questions about what the success of Persepolis implies about immigration in contemporary France. As a critic I'm concerned with whether or not it's an interesting read.


SPURGEON: So what does the success of Persepolis say about the changing face of European immigration? And given the new levels of success she's likely to see because of the film, how do you see her as a phenomenon and as an artist?

BEATY: I walked right into that one! Glibly, I'd have to say that if Marjane Satrapi had not existed in real life at this point in time, the French would've had to invent her. So much recent discussion in France has been about French identity and new immigrant populations, particularly Muslim immigrants. These discussions have flared up around the riots of 2005, this year's presidential election, and, in 2004, around the decision in France to ban the wearing of veils in French schools. Satrapi, whose book talks extensively about the politics of the veil that she was forced to wear during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, was quickly caught up in the debate. She came out opposed to the veil but also opposed to the law that had been proposed by Jacques Chirac, a pretty nuanced position born out of her own experiences (a good article in The Guardian provides her position).

I think for a lot of French critics, Satrapi is the "good" middle-Eastern immigrant. She speaks French, is dedicated to a secular society, fits in nicely with notions of Frenchness (although she is still very critical of many aspects of French life). She's a model of integration. And her work touches on so many issues that are so important in France right now: identity, personal history, and so on.

I don't want to seem to suggest, however, that she only has this platform because of the politics of who she is. I think that the work has to have value for people to respond this strongly to it, and I think that she is an intelligent and important voice. That said, there are other intelligent voices out there in similar situations (I think immediately of Yvan Alagbe), who are far less well known, and I think that part of that disparity can be attributed to stylistic differences. Alagbe's work is less traditional than Satrapi's, and I think, in part, that accounts for the different ways that their work has been received.

SPURGEON: Would writing about comics have been different for you, do you think, if Mark Nevins had written the initial Journal column with you as we had intended?

BEATY: Mark's a really good writer, so he might have pushed me to raise my own game even higher. Actually, I owe a ton to Mark, and not just because he had to drop out of that Journal gig. Mark is the person who first invited me to Angouleme, and who introduced me to many of the artists that I now write about. All of those initial contacts came through him.

But it was really the Journal connection, which came through you as editor, that facilitated all of this. Having written on European comics for the better part of a decade at TCJ meant that when I went to research this book I wasn't just some Canadian academic pounding on publisher's doors across Europe, but was actually someone with a track record and a certain degree of name recognition within the world that I was writing about. The Comics Journal really opened a lot of doors for me, for which I am extremely grateful.


SPURGEON: Say you were talking to one of this site's readers who was flipping through the book and saw the weight it gave to Lewis Trondheim. How would you describe Trondheim's central importance to your conception of European comics?

BEATY: I didn't want to give Trondheim his own chapter when I started writing. I didn't want to give any artist that much attention, and set them apart like that. So I planned to talk about his work when I talked about L'Association, when I talked about autobiography, when I talked about experimental comics, when I talked about big series like Lapinot and Donjon. And then it didn't make sense to not give him a chapter. Basically, everything that I wanted to cover in the book I could do through Trondheim because he is so massively prolific and has worked in so many diverse styles. So he became a good case study to sum things up with.

My one regret about the book is that it went to press just before Trondheim won the Angouleme grand prize, since obviously that would have been the fitting coda -- Trondheim winning Angouleme but also leaving L'Association. Sadly, scholarly publishing is very slow, so I couldn't make those changes.

Having said that, Trondheim has been very central to shaping my way of thinking about this subject precisely because he balances the experimental and personal side that is emerging so forcefully now and the traditions of the album series that has dominated Franco-Belgian comics for generations. He really does exist in both worlds, which makes him fascinating. I can't think of a comparable American cartoonist who can do both things so fluidly. My book is really interested in the shift from the one style of comics to the other, so Trondheim is really apt because of that.

SPURGEON: How has the book been received by European academics? By European cartoonists?

BEATY: I'm pleased with the way that it has been received by most of the cartoonists that I've heard from. I've had some really interesting discussions about it, and no one has told me that I'm completely wrong. Yet. Maybe they're just waiting.

A lot of the complaints about the book have been of the "I can't believe you don't talk about Artist X" variety, which there's not much I can do. There's no effort in my book to be comprehensive about, say, Italian cartooning in the 1990s. It's just not the book that I wanted to write. This is really seven related essays about topics that arise from the small press revolution in Europe, not a complete checklist of all the authors and books involved.

SPURGEON: Has any reaction to the book surprised you?

BEATY: A number of French readers point out to me that this notion of the "small press" is an idea that is alien over there, it's just not a term that gets used but is something imported from an American context. I think my failure to define the term has caused a bit of a problem for some readers. That's not a surprise to me, per se, so much as a disappointment. I should have factored that into my thinking and added those sorts of definitions.

SPURGEON: Aside from Trondheim's symbolic ascension at Angouleme and his departure from L'Association, what are some other significant factors to have changed about the European comics landscape since you finalized the book manuscript?

BEATY: There are a few. Manga is something that I don't talk about much in the book, although that one I acknowledge in the book itself, and it has just gotten stronger and stronger. If I were writing this book today, I would've dealt with that more concretely, probably through a figure like Jiro Taniguchi, an artist that I positively adore.

The expansion of the number of books published each week, which is related to manga, is a constant fear for a lot of artists, and I don't think that the book really deals with the sense of doom that a lot of artists are feeling. If things collapse soon, people will look back and criticize me for being too naive in my belief that things are changing. It is always possible that a backlash is coming and that the pendulum will swing back, as it did in the 1980s after the creative expansion of the 1970s.

I think one of the things that has not changed, however, is the next generational shift. One thing that my book is really about is this giant wave of cartoonists who were in their 20s in the 1990s and who kicked down a lot of our assumptions about what comics were or could be. Now some of those people are passing into their 40s and suddenly they're thinking "comics is a young person's game" and wondering how they're going to pay the bills for their kids. So I think that some of the energy of the movement that I wrote about will naturally dissipate or be redirected elsewhere. But I haven't really gotten a strong sense that the next generation has arrived. There are great next generation cartoonists, to be sure, but I'm not sure that they are feeling the same need to overthrow the generation that preceded them. There's a certain lack of revolution in the air right now, largely because I think that the comics scene is very permissive. So you want to do a hand silk-screened comic printed on burlap sacks? Ok, that sounds good. There's very little that the market won't consider at the moment. It's tough to be a rebel when everyone is in an accommodating mood.

SPURGEON: The rise of art comics in North America is as much a story of developing an audience for such comics as it has been the creators that make them. How has the audience developed for works like the one you talk about in Unpopular Culture? Is there a significant audience now and where does it come from -- passionate readers of all kinds of comics, former exclusively mainstream album readers, where?

BEATY: I think that you're exactly right, it is about audiences. Sadly, I think that the answer to developing an audience is a very gradual and often painful process of trial and error. To go back for a moment to Satrapi, who has sold more than one million copies of Persepolis worldwide (four hundred thousand in France alone), her overnight success is hardly an overnight story. The foundation for her success was laid by autobiographical cartoonists like David B., whose followed in the footsteps of [Art] Spiegelman, who followed [R.] Crumb and Justin Green. It took 40 years to prepare the market for a blockbuster like this one. That's difficult work.

At the same time, one of the keys to the movement that I've been writing about is its commitment to what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls "the long-term" approach. That is, initial sales might be small, but they're durable over time, they continue to sell and to sell. Over the course of years, those sales add up, and, if the work is good, it will be taught in schools and universities, and it will eventually become a classic (hopefully not before the artist is dead!). Bourdieu gives the example of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which sold fewer than 200 copies when it was first published, but has now sold millions, while the bestsellers of 1952 may have sold a hundred thousand at the time, but where are they now?

That may be cold comfort for a cartoonist thinking "I need to pay my rent today," I know, but it is a proven model. Many of today's best-selling comic book writers and artists will have trouble finding work in 20 years when tastes change (ask yourself what some of the big name superhero creators of the 1970s are doing today), but at the same time a lot of cartoonists who aren't making what they'd like today will still be reaping the benefits of their early work for generations. It's not a guarantee, of course, there are tons of great artists who may never find the audience that you or I would think they deserve, but 20 years from now a lot more people will be reading Seth than will be reading Dean Motter. I think that for the generation of cartoonists that I'm writing about there is a real belief that quality will prevail in the end, and so they are fundamentally and unwaveringly committed to their visions of what comics should be.

SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about the idea of conventions as a method of cultural organization? I thought that was really interesting. Can you further give a snapshot of what you feel are the differences in European and North American convention in terms of how each fosters or fails to foster art comics?

BEATY: It may be the case that I privilege conventions and festivals because that is where so much of my interaction with European comics takes place since I tend to try to time my travel with these sorts of events. At the same time, it is clear to me that these events really are the heart of so much of what happens in comics.

As many, many cartoonists have pointed out, comics is an isolating job, with conventions being one of the few places where artists get together and talk about their work, and talk with publishers and editors about upcoming work. I think that anyone who has spent anytime at a convention in the company of working cartoonists can come up with examples of deals that were struck over dinner or drinks. It's not really any different from a music festival, where two musicians might sit around jamming and then decide to contribute to one or the other's album. I was hoping to point out the important way that decisions about who is going to exhibit at which comics festivals has a really profound impact on how ideas move. When you bring an American cartoonist and a French cartoonist to a festival in Portugal, they're likely to start cross-pollinating ideas about what comics could look like.

As for North America, I inevitably get yelled at when I offer the opinion that there are things to learn from Europe on how to run a festival that will attract a public beyond the already committed readers of comics. In the U.S. most shows from San Diego to SPX are destinations for fans and people working in the industry, and they don't do a whole lot to make non-insiders feel particularly welcome. The one time I took my wife to San Diego she lost interest in about five minutes because it seemed like a lot of noise. To be fair, the one time that I took her to Angouleme she lost interest too, but it took a full day for that to happen because at least there were exhibitions to look at.

Angouleme and San Diego are both pretty hostile to art comics, obviously. But I think Haarlem or Luzerne or Bastia are much more supportive of art comics than are APE and SPX and MoCCA simply because they tend to place a greater emphasis precisely on the artistic rather than the commercial aspect of comics.


SPURGEON: I was interested when you talked about countries that don't have a commercial structure that anchors the art form, like Portugal. How are such countries' comic scenes different for that missing element?

BEATY: I was surprised when I first visited Lisbon about how much work there was going on. I left with a suitcase full of books by some outstanding cartoonists like Pedro Burgos, Filipe Abranches, Pedro Nora and literally dozens of others. I couldn't believe that I hadn't heard of so many of these people, other than a couple of books that had been published in French by Amok. But Portuguese is far from a dominant language in Europe, and they just seemed to be this tiny bastion of people putting out fascinating work that no one is really seeing. Like Hicksville, maybe.

I think that two things happen in the case of a small commercial infrastructure, either people reach out to other scenes around Europe and internationally, or they sort of turn in attach themselves to a local arts scene in the fine arts and gallery scene, or in the traditional book stores and hope to make breakthroughs there. I'm struck by the fact that Optimal Press, in Sweden, publishes so many books in the pocketbook format, but it was explained to me that this was important to get bookstores to simply put them on store shelves as if they were traditional books. And there are always people in these countries fighting the good fight. Lisbon has the Bedeteca, for example, and Stockholm has Serieteket, both are comics libraries. But it is an uphill fight, absolutely.

SPURGEON: For that matter, what differences between the French-language and North American comics scenes can be tied into what differences between their supporting commercial and distribution structures?

BEATY: I think that a big difference between France and the U.S. in terms of putting out really experimental and personal material has been the system of grants that exists in France. I remember having lunch with Charles Berberian and some American cartoonists at SPX a few years back, and the Americans were complaining about not being able to fund a project that sounded very interesting. Charles just said, "Well, why don't you get a grant?" And they asked from whom, and he said "Don't you have a Ministry of Culture?" I think he was stunned to learn that there isn't one. But if you look in the front of all those books from L'Asso, you always see a thanks to the Centre National du Livre, and those kinds of funding sources have really allowed a lot of work to happen that probably would not have otherwise.

Of course, in the past few years, there has been a real narrowing of the differences between Europe and North America, with the exception of the grants. The big difference used to be the tradition of serializing everything in the U.S., but now so many publishers have given that up in the pursuit of the bookstore market. This is a really important change and one that I think will allow a lot more interesting work to come out. I'm still surprised by how thorough the change has been. I haven't bought a single pamphlet sized comic since Cerebus ended, but I still bought three new books this week (Fletcher Hanks, Rutu Modan, and Paul Hornschemeier).

I think that the fear in both markets is that the bookstore thing might collapse. The biggest concern I hear these days is about display -- that a book might have only a week or two at the front of a store on display before it is displaced to the shelves, where people are less likely to find it. That's something that has to do with the massive scope of comics production at the moment, and it might not change until there is a contraction in the market. That might happen if the manga market constricts or collapses, but I don't see too much evidence that that is imminent.


SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit more about your take on European autobiography? Why is it that North America hasn't yielded as many significant autobiographical works since Maus as the French-language scene?

BEATY: I want it noted that you said that, so I don't hear from American autobiographers, of whom there are many, many great ones!

That said, I'm not always sure why Europe turned out so many great autobiographers in contrast to the U.S. I think that one of the differences is a greater level of self-reflection and less straight reportage. A lot of North American autobio material is very story driven, even among the greats (I'm thinking of Joe Matt or Joe Sacco). Whereas if you look at Epileptic or Fabrice Neaud's work, it is much more introspective and uses the medium in a more expressive manner. I don't think that is a function of these artists being European so much as it is that they set a very high standard for the form, and now subsequent artists feel a need to try to match their accomplishment.


SPURGEON: Is there a great small European scene that no one talks about?

BEATY: I'm really fascinated by the Finns, and I'm sad that every time I've hoped to visit Finland things haven't worked out. The couple of cartoonists that are sort of well known from there -- Matti Hagelberg, Pentti Otsamo, Jenni Rope, Kati Kovacs, Katja Tukiainen (and none of these are exactly household names in the US!) -- all impress me as having highly individual styles. Tukiainen does work that really floors me -- I buy her work even in editions that I can't read just to look at the images (fortunately she's starting to become more widely translated into languages I do read).

But there is also what seems to be a great deal of activity around a number of small-press anthologies there. Tommi Musturi, himself a really interesting cartoonist, edits Glomp, the latest issue of which could probably pass as Kramers Ergot #7 if you didn't know any better. Napa, which is edited by Rope and Jussi Karjalainen, is also always really high quality. There are probably half a dozen or more others that I'm slighting off the top of my head.

One thing that is great about this scene, though, is that they are out promoting themselves. No one reads Finnish, so they include subtitles in their comics. They get out to the festivals, so that I frequently see Johanna Rojola (who basically read me her new book, Tati Jaksaa Heilua, at Angouleme), Tommi Mutsuri, and Kaisa Leka around promoting their work, and that of their colleagues. And, of course, Ville Ranta seems poised to have a big breakthrough, having done a book (Celebritiz) with Trondheim, and a recent translation from Ca et La (Papa est un peu fatigue). I get the sense that there are more first-rate cartoonists in Finland than in Canada, but that they're sort of just up there doing their own thing.

SPURGEON: In your conclusion, you discuss JC Menu's theory of co-optation, the notion that the achievements of comics like L'Association's have been co-opted by bigger publishers and certain lines. Something I've never been able to understand is the mechanics of how this is supposed to work. In Menu's view, what does the existence of of French-language edition of Blankets really do to the L'asso books? What happens that is harmful? Is it a perception issue? Does he feel like people will develop worse taste for viewing this material as avant-garde? Does he feel like people will buy Thompson instead of Blutch? Why is the existence of work that he feels fall short of what the best comics do more harm than work that's completely absent of every value he holds?

BEATY: Voltaire's maxim that "better is the enemy of good" probably applies. That's a sentiment that Gary Groth has used a lot in The Comics Journal, and Menu is a lot like Gary in his rhetoric.

Without trying to put words into Menu's mouth, I think he sees the very real possibility that the big publishers could wipe out the movement that my book talks about. Here's the nightmare scenario: Big, well-financed publisher X comes along and says "Hmm. These small press guys get a lot of good reviews and critical acclaim, and some of them make some money. I bet we could sign them up and maybe have the next Persepolis on our hands." Certainly Big Company X (BCX) could probably outbid L'Asso for the talents of a lot of cartoonists. But will BCX sign up everyone? No. They would want the biggest names, the artists with the best chance of breaking through. That would leave L'Asso and the other small press publishers with all the real difficult material, and likely not enough revenue to survive. The success of Persepolis funds a lot of L'Asso's riskier material, just as the success of Peanuts funds a lot of what Fantagraphics can do. If Satrapi left, L'Asso would have a big problem, maybe even a fatal one. So there is that predatory sense of the big publishers coming after the most popular small press artists. I don't want to name names, but some of the figures I've heard have been really shocking. It's the same with, say, Pantheon in the U.S.

imageMany of your readers are probably thinking, "Well, tough, that's capitalism", but if you think that way then you probably don't fully understand the dynamics of this particular art scene. Menu's position is that if we allow the head of the avant-garde to be decapitated, that might be it for the art form. I'm not a big believer in the idea that we can just leave this up to the market. Most of the best books I've read in the past few years have been ones that may never a dime. It's precarious business putting out these books, so efforts to undermine that (as Menu thinks Casterman has done with Craig Thompson, for example) are going to be controversial.

SPURGEON: What effect has the authored comics movement had on the mainstream beyond those comics talked about by Menu? Has there been an insinuation of authored comics values into mainstream comics above and beyond those works which resemble the fruits of that movement?

BEATY: This is the other half of the co-optation movement, and something that I discuss with reference to Sfar, [Christophe] Blain and [Emmanuel] Guibert in the book, although Trondheim is a great example, and so are Dupuy-Berberian, David B., and others. In the mid-1990s the bigger publishers began recruiting some of the small press stars, many of those with fairly traditional graphic styles, to do traditional albums. This work was very different from the small press work -- there is a big gap between Epileptic and David B.'s westerns, for example -- but there are some common affinities, and it did change the face of French comics, to a degree. It didn't displace the best-sellers, the [Jean] Van Hammes and Zeps, but it added a new dimension to the mainstream in the same way that Nirvana moving from Sub Pop to David Geffen changed the face of mainstream music in the 1990s. Neither ended the pop formula, but each opened new avenues for exploration within the mainstream.

SPURGEON: Has there been a re-appreciation of any past comics or groups of comics?

BEATY: Actually, this is the topic of a paper that I recently wrote for an anthology that's being edited by Mark McKinney. L'Asso, Cornelius, and Fremok have all been very active recently in terms of reprinting older work, which I argue is their way of rewriting the history of comics so that it draws attention away from the best-selling works of the past and refocuses on a number of forgotten works that more closely resemble the material that is published by, respectively, L'Asso, Cornelius and Fremok.

It's interesting to me that Freon and L'Asso so clearly had artistic forefathers who they recruited into their fold, in Alex Barbier and Edmond Baudoin respectively. But L'Asso has really ratcheted up the reprints in recent years, with work by Gebe, Touis-Frydman, their recent book by Caro, several by Jean-Claude Forest. What is interesting about this tendency is the way that in reprinting forgotten work by, say, Forest (best known for Barbarella), L'Asso is able to suggest that there is an entire forgotten history of great artist-driven work that predated theirs, but which was ignored by the kind of commercial presses that Menu bemoans in Plates-bandes.

SPURGEON: What would you hope, ideally, in terms of who the book reaches?

BEATY: With scholarly books you sort of hope that you'll sell 300 copies! Actually, for the book there's a couple of audiences. I'd be really happy if it gets some attention from academics working in related fields who might not otherwise think of comics in this light. I was just at a film conference and talked with a couple of colleagues who do work on avant-garde cinema, and that led to a discussion of my work on avant-garde comics. They reacted like: "There are avant-garde comics? Who would have guessed?" So I hope to reach some of those people.

Otherwise, I would like to hope that the book is readable for people with an interest in comics generally who might not know much about the movement I talk about. In that sense I could have called it "Advanced Euro-Comics" and targeted at the readers of my column.


SPURGEON: What about your columns? If you could sit down with individual readers of this site and kind of make a case for what you hope they got from European comics, what would that be? An awareness of certain artists? A sense of the movement? An opportunity to look for more cartoonists they like? Is there an ideal reaction to your work?

BEATY: I worry with my columns that I come off as too much of a cheerleader because I rarely review books that I don't like. I do sort of view the columns like I'm a tour guide, pointing out highlights and things that people might want to take the time and go explore on their own. I'd like people to remember that there's a ton of work out there worth checking out. It's why I read material about manga, which is an area that I'm lacking in.

In terms of the ideal reaction, I think my ideal would be that a lot more of this work gets translated and is made available to people. When I started writing in the Journal, there was very little being translated. Now there's considerably more. All the credit for that goes to Gary and Kim, to Chris Oliveros, to Mark Siegel, to Terry Nantier and to all the other publishers who've taken the risk of putting this work out. Still, half the time when I go to write a column I want to start with the line: "For God's sake, someone publish this book in English!". I'm not one of those guys who liked Joann Sfar more before Sfar became well-known here. I want to proselytize for the artists that I like, and if that helps them in any small way create a market for their work, that's awesome. Certainly the biggest highlight of my critical career came when I was told by a publisher that one of my reviews directly led to the decision to translate a book that I love.

SPURGEON: I love the sound of your next couple of books. Can you talk about them a little bit, and what lies ahead on the research road?

BEATY: I'm on sabbatical for the rest of 2007, and I'm hoping to finish the manuscript of a book that I've been working on for a few years about the relationship between comics and the traditional fine arts, painting and sculpture in particular. This isn't really about cartoonists who paint, Alex Ross and the like, but about why it is that comics were excluded from art history for so long, and why they're being included now. What has changed that you see Crumb in the Carnegie Biennale? That we get a Masters of American Comics show? That Seth's work is collected by the Art Gallery of Ontario? I'm really interested in the sorts of institutional relationships that exist around comics and the fine arts in sites like auction houses, galleries, museums and the arts press. I want to call the book "What if Comics Were Art?" but my wife thinks that's too inflammatory.

After that I'm moving on to a new SSHRC-sponsored project about the relationship of comics and film. It's sort of the inverse of the current one, and looks at comics and the way that they are caught up in the entertainment complex. I don't really want to talk much about things like adaptation or formal issues, but am more interested in the relationship of, say, the Asterix comics to the films to the theme park outside of Paris. So the next two projects are basically comics and art, and then comics and entertainment. I've thought that after that I should do comics and literature, but by the time I'm done with these projects I might just have said everything that I want to say about this art form and it will be time to move on to something new.


cover to Bart's book
Bart's publicity photo
photo of part of Bart's comics collection
from Marjane Satrapi
from Lewis Trondheim
from Jiro Taniguchi
from Pedro Nora
from Fabrice Neaud
from Jenni Rope
cover to Craig Thompson Casterman book
from Joann Sfar
from Katja Tukiainen (below)


Unpopular Culture, Bart Beaty, University of Toronto Press, 320 pages, December 2006, $29.95


posted 11:30 pm PST | Permalink

Your 2007 San Diego Con Update


Notes and Observations About or Caused by Comic-Con International, Taking Place July 26-29 (With a July 25 Preview Night) in San Diego, California


1. I'm traveling this morning, so this report may be delayed until 1 PM ET or so, or, if necessary, blended into tomorrow's.

2. That doesn't mean I don't like you.

3. Even if I don't find a computer and get back on-line this morning, the rest of the site should be fully updated in the manner you've come to expect on Sundays, including a massive interview with Dr. Bart Beaty on his groundbreaking book covering the modern European comics scene, Unpopular Culture.


For coverage of general comics news outside the convention and for differing views of the convention itself, I recommend my peers at, Publishers Weekly, Journalista, The Beat, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and The Pulse. Groups of photos from the show can be found here.
posted 11:25 pm PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: video interview with Sylvain Despretz and Moebius

* go, look: Lorenzo Mattotti in Turin

* go, watch: Cromartie High School music video

* go, watch: Stan Sakai in Paris

* go, watch: Vaughn Bode video interviews
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Katja Tukainen

posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 60th Birthday, Baru!

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 52nd Birthday, Dave Stevens!

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought Of The Day

New San Diego, same San Diego homeless.
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

July 27, 2007

Your 2007 San Diego Con Update


Notes and Observations About or Caused by Comic-Con International, Taking Place July 26-29 (With a July 25 Preview Night) in San Diego, California


1. Eisner Awards results with winners in bold can be found directly underneath this list. Short form: Jonathan Ross, Brian Posehn and the guys from Reno 9-11 are funnier than most comics people. Ed Brubaker and Paul Pop each win two; Bill Willingham is the king of comics. Neil Gaiman blushes when he kisses. I'll write a full report next week.

2. In addition to the fans and pros out there, there are several writers with an interest in comics on the convention floor.

* RC Harvey says his original Milton Caniff manuscript was perhaps 40 percent longer than what made it into his new book. Since the book is a size of a small dog, this is terrifying.
* Ben Schwartz and Brian Doherty were on hand. Doherty, of Reason fame, was there to interview Joe Matt at a spotlight panel.
* I met Ron Goulart yesterday; he has a book on good girl art coming out and was carrying that manuscript around.
* I always enjoy catching up with Alex Chun, who has been editing a series of Fantagraphics pin-up books in addition to his LA Times work.
* Marc Mason is apparently adding an advice columnist to his comics site.
* I'm pretty certain I met Rich Watson briefly; he does the GLYPHS site. He seemed very nice. I was probably acting like an ass.
* I saw George Khoury on Thursday evening as he was anticipating his Image Founders panel that took place Friday.

3. Retailer Lee Hester notes that in the last several years he's done better with his Comic-Con presence by diversifying the material at his booth. In addition to his discount comics rack, where I picked up some early '70s Marvel reprints at $2 a pop, Hester offered an array of merchandise and was one of the few retailers carrying this week's comics in addition to his other items. Something I hadn't known is that when Hester started retailing 25 years ago, he did so with almost no capital build-up beforehand.

4. One notion that I discussed with several retailers (well, four), none of whom was Lee Hester, is that the ability of stores to profit off of the current boom period has a lot to do with how the store was uniquely set up to enter into this specific historical moment in the first place. For instance, any store that has had to build inventory or needs to continually ramp up its inventory to keep pace with growing product lines has likely down worse than a store that was already over-carrying product.

5. Best new con hotel: The Ivy. Best new hotspot: Eden Rooftop. Best new breakfast: Cafe Chloe.

6. Your 2007 Friends of Lulu awards winnners:

* Women Cartoonist's Hall of Fame: Colleen Doran
* Lulu of the Year: Abby Denson
* Kim Yale Award for Best New Female Talent: Rachel Nabors
* Women of Distinction Award: Jennifer De Guzman
* Volunteers of the Year: MK Reed and Robin Enrico

7. Lee Hester was among those with a kid on-hand: Lee Hester IV, who was working the booth and taking in cash. Eddie Campbell's son was at the show with his for the first time in several years.

8. Ellen Forney showed up at the show for the first time in a long while. She spoke glowingly of teaching comics as a way to reignite her own interest in the form. Forney noticed as many had that there was a much more sedate feel at the show. One of her students a few years back was current Fantagraphics employee Adam Grano. Forney's next comics project is Lust: Kinky Online Personal Ads, a 172-page hardbound collection from Fantagraphics coming out in early 2008.

9. One oddly affecting San Diego memory someone shared with me was from several years ago when a couple of small publisher employees climbed out on the fire escape in the middle of the night after an evening of big parties and watched skateboard kids ride up and down the city street from their vantage point high above.

10. One item of conversation has been how predictable and calcified the Direct Market has become, to the point that you can almost pinpoint performance for everything but the very top comics, and sometimes those as well. This was brought up to me in conversation twice by people with work at the opposite ends of that market.

11. Mark Waid will apparently become Editor-In-Chief at Boom! Studios, which seems to be an interesting and astute choice. Although he's best known as a writer, he has editorial experience as well, and I think I remember him doing some consulting work with the mainstream publishers, too.

12. Hooray for San Diego: both Eddie Campbell and Michael Martens lost important items for a period of time and both had them returned intact.


2007 Eisner Award Results
Winners In Bold

Best Short Story
* The Black Knight Glorps Again, by Don Rosa, in Uncle Scrooge #354 (Gemstone)
* Felix, by Gabrielle Bell, in Drawn & Quarterly Showcase 4 (Drawn & Quarterly)
* A Frog's Eye View, by Bill Willingham and James Jean, in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC)
* Old Oak Trees, by Tony Cliff, in Flight 3 (Ballantine)
* Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man, by Stan Lee, Oliver Coipel, and Mark Morales, in Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man (Marvel)
* Willie: Portrait of a Groundskeeper, by Eric Powell, in Bart Simpsons's Treehouse of Horror #12 (Bongo)

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
* Batman/The Spirit #1: "Crime Convention," by Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke (DC)
* A Late Freeze, by Danica Novgorodoff (Danica Novgorodoff)
* The Preposterous Adventures of Ironhide Tom, by Joel Priddy (AdHouse)
* Skyscrapers of the Midwest #3, by Joshua Cotter (AdHouse)
* They Found the Car, by Gipi (Fantagraphics)

Best Continuing Series
* All Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)
* Captain America, by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (Marvel)
* Daredevil, by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, and Stefano Gaudiano (Marvel)
* Naoki Urasawa's Monster, by Naoki Urusawa (Viz)
* The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard (Image)
* Young Avengers, by Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, and various inkers (Marvel)

Best Limited Series
* Batman: Year 100, by Paul Pope (DC)
* The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M, by Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier, and Ben Templesmith (Desperado/Image)
* The Other Side, by Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart (Vertigo/DC)
* Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli (Dark Horse)
* Sock Monkey: The Inches Incident, by Tony Millionaire (Dark Horse)

Best New Series
* Criminal, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel Icon)
* East Coast Rising, by Becky Cloonan (Tokyopop)
* Gumby, by Bob Burden and Rick Geary (Wildcard)
* Jack of Fables, by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Akins, and Andrew Pepoy (Vertigo/DC)
* The Lone Ranger, by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello (Dynamite)

Best Publication for a Younger Audience
* Chickenhare, by Chris Grine (Dark Horse)
* Drawing Comics Is Easy (Except When It's Hard), by Alexa Kitchen (Denis Kitchen Publishing)
* Gumby, by Bob Burden and Rick Geary (Wildcard)
* Moomin, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly)
* To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel, by Sienna Cherson and Mark Siegel (Simon & Schuster)

Best Humor Publication
* Flaming Carrot Comics, by Bob Burden (Desperado/Image)
* Onionhead Monster Attacks, by Paul Friedrich (Hellcar)
* Schizo #4, by Ivan Brunetti (Fantagraphics)
* Tales Designed to Thrizzle, by Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics)
* Truth Serum, by Jon Adams (City Cyclops)

Best Anthology
* Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, by Bill Willingham and various (Vertigo/DC)
* Hotwire Comix and Capers #1, edited by Glenn Head (Fantagraphics)
* Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, edited by Frederic Boilet (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
* Kramers Ergot 6, edited by Sammy Harkham (Buenaventura Press)
* Project: Romantic, edited by Chris Pitzer (AdHouse)

Best Digital Comic
* Bee, in Motel Art Improvement Service, by Jason Little
* Girl Genius, by Phil Foglio
* Minus, by Ryan Armand
* Phables, by Brad Guigar
* Sam and Max, by Steve Purcell
* Shooting War, by Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman

Best Reality-Based Work
* Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
* I Love Led Zeppelin, by Ellen Forney (Fantagraphics)
* Mom's Cancer, by Brian Fies (Abrams)
* Project X Challengers: Cup Noodle, by Tadashi Katoh (Digital Manga)
* Stagger Lee, by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix (Image)

Best Graphic Album--New
* American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
* Billy Hazelnuts, by Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics)
* Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
* Ninja, by Brian Chippendale (Gingko Press)
* Scrublands, by Joe Daly (Fantagraphics)
* The Ticking, by Renee French (Top Shelf)

Best Graphic Album--Reprint
* Absolute DC: The New Frontier, by Darwyn Cooke (DC)
* Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics)
* Mom's Cancer, by Brian Fies (Abrams)
* Shadowland, by Kim Deitch (Fantagraphics)
* Truth Serum, by Jon Adams (City Cyclops)

Best Archival Collection/Project--Strips
* The Complete Peanuts, 1959-1960, 1961-1962, by Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics)
* Mary Perkins On Stage, by Leonard Starr (Classic Comics Press)
* Moomin, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Popeye: I Yam What I Yam, by E. C. Segar (Fantagraphics)
* Walt & Skeezix, vol. 2, by Frank King (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Archival Collection/Project--Comic Books
* Abandon the Old In Tokyo, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Absolute Sandman, vol. 1, by Neil Gaiman and various (Vertigo/DC)
* Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969, by Dan Nadel (Abrams)
* The Eternals, by Jack Kirby (Marvel)
* Ode to Kirihito, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
* A.L.I.E.E.E.N., by Lewis Trondheim (First Second)
* De:TALES, by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)
* Hwy 115, by Matthias Lehmann (Fantagraphics)
* The Left Bank Gang, by Jason (Fantagraphics)
* Pizzeria Kamikaze, by Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka (Alternative)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material--Japan
* After School Nightmare, by Setona Mizushiro (Go! Comi)
* Antique Bakery, by Fumi Yoshinaga (Digital Manga)
* Naoki Urasawa's Monster, by Naoki Urusawa (Viz)
* Old Boy, by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi (Dark Horse Manga)
* Walking Man, by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

Best Writer
* Ed Brubaker, Captain America, Daredevil (Marvel); Criminal (Marvel Icon)
* Bob Burden, Gumby (Wildcard)\
* Ian Edginton, Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (Dark Horse)
* Grant Morrison, All Star Superman, Batman, 52, Seven Soldiers (DC)
* Bill Willingham, Fables, Jack of Fables, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC)

Best Writer/Artist
* Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin)
* Renee French, The Ticking (Top Shelf)
* Gilbert Hernandez, Love and Rockets, New Tales of Old Palomar (Fantagraphics); Sloth (Vertigo/DC)
* Paul Pope, Batman: Year 100 (DC)
* Joann Sfar, Klezmer, Vampire Loves (First Second)

Best Writer/Artist--Humor
* Ivan Brunetti, Schizo (Fantagraphics)
* Lilli Carre, Tales of Woodsman Pete (Top Shelf)
* Michael Kupperman, Tales Designed to Thrizzle (Fantagraphics)
* Tony Millionaire, Billy Hazelnuts (Fantagraphics); Sock Monkey: The Inches Incident (Dark Horse)
* Lewis Trondheim, A.L.I.E.E.E.N. (First Second); Mr. I (NBM)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
* Mark Buckingham/Steve Leialoha, Fables (Vertigo/DC)
* Tony Harris/Tom Feister, Ex Machina (WildStorm/DC)
* Niko Henrichon, Pride of Baghdad (Vertigo/DC)
* Michael Lark/Stefano Gaudiano, Daredevil (Marvel)
* Sonny Liew, Wonderland (SLG)
* Steven McNiven/Dexter Vines, Civil War (Marvel)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)
* Nicolas De Crecy, Glacial Period (NBM)
* Melinda Gebbie, Lost Girls (Top Shelf)
* Ben Templesmith, Fell (Image); The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M (Desperado/Image); Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse (IDW)
* Jill Thompson, A Dog and His Boy in The Dark Horse Book of Monsters; Love Triangle in Sexy Chix (Dark Horse); Fair Division, in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC)
* Brett Weldele, Southland Tales: Prequel Saga (Graphitti); Silent Ghost (Markosia)

Best Cover Artist
* John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men (Marvel); The Escapists (Dark Horse); The Lone Ranger (Dynamite)
* Tony Harris, Conan (Dark Horse); Ex Machina (WildStorm/DC)
* James Jean, Fables, Jack of Fables, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Vertigo/DC)
* Dave Johnson, 100 Bullets (Vertigo/DC); Zombie Tales, Cthulu Tales, Black Plague (Boom!)
* J. G. Jones, 52 (DC)

Best Coloring
* Kristian Donaldson, Supermarket (IDW)
* Hubert, The Left Bank Gang (Fantagraphics)
* Lark Pien, American Born Chinese (First Second)
* Dave Stewart, BPRD, Conan, The Escapists, Hellboy (Dark Horse); Action Comics, Batman/The Spirit, Superman (DC)
* Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #17 (ACME Novelty)

Best Lettering
* Ivan Brunetti, Schizo (Fantagraphics)
* Todd Klein, Fables, Jack of Fables, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall; Pride of Baghdad, Testament (Vertigo/DC); Fantastic Four: 1602, Eternals (Marvel); Lost Girls (Top Shelf)
* Clem Robins, BPRD, The Dark Horse Book of Monsters, Hellboy (Dark Horse); Loveless, 100 Bullets, Y: The Last Man (Vertigo/DC)
* Richard Sala, The Grave Robber's Daughter, Delphine (Fantagraphics)
* Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #17 (ACME Novelty)

Special Recognition
* Ross Campbell, Abandoned (Tokyopop); Wet Moon 2 (Oni)
* Svetlana Chmakova, Dramacon (Tokyopop)
* Hope Larson, Gray Horses (Oni)
* Dash Shaw, The Mother's Mouth (Alternative)
* Kasimir Strzepek, Mourning Star (Bodega)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
* Alter Ego, edited by Roy Thomas (TwoMorrows)
* Comic Art 8, edited by Todd Hignite (Buenaventura Press)
* The Comics Journal, edited by Gary Groth, Dirk Deppey, Michael Dean, and Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)
* The Comics Reporter, produced by Tom Spurgeon and Jordan Raphael
* ¡Journalista!, produced by Dirk Deppey (Fantagraphics)

Best Comics-Related Book
* The Art of Brian Bolland, edited by Joe Pruett (Desperado/Image)
* Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress, edited by Harry Katz (Abrams)
* Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book, by John Hitchcock (Octopus Press)
* In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, by Todd Hignite (Yale University Press)
* Wally's World, by Steve Sarger and J. David Spurlock (Vanguard)

Best Publication Design
* Absolute DC: The New Frontier, designed by Darwyn Cooke (DC)
* Castle Waiting graphic novel, designed by Adam Grano (Fantagraphics)
* Lost Girls, designed by Matt Kindt and Brett Warnock (Top Shelf)
* Popeye: I Yam What I Yam, designed by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics)
* The Ticking, designed by Jordan Crane (Top Shelf)

Hall of Fame
* Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
* Dick Ayers
* Bernard Baily
* Matt Baker
* Wayne Boring
* Creig Flessel
* Harold Gray
* Irwin Hasen
* Graham Ingels
* Joe Orlando
* Lily Renee (Peters) Phillips
* Bob Powell
* Gilbert Shelton
* Cliff Sterrett
(Judges' Choices: Robert Kanigher and Ogden Whitney)

Other Awards
Bill Finger Award: Gardner Fox, George Gladir
Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award: Neil Gaiman
Russ Manning Award: David Petersen
Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award: Earth-2

Honored During the Memorial Service: Will Eisner, Leah Adezio, Tom Artis, Jerry Bails, Joe Barbera, Don R. Christensen, Dave Cockrum, Arnold Drake, Daniel Robert Epstein, Joe Gill, Johnny Hart, Brant Parker, Drew Hayes, Jay Kennedy, Marty Nodell, Bob Oksner, and Marshall Rogers. I think.


For coverage of general comics news outside the convention and for differing views of the convention itself, I recommend my peers at, Publishers Weekly, Journalista, The Beat, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and The Pulse. Groups of photos from the show can be found here.
posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 62nd Birthday, Jim Davis!

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 47th Birthday, Jon J Muth!

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 40th Birthday, Will Pfeifer!

posted 10:02 pm PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from July 21 to July 27, 2007:

1. Spain's high court orders creators to court to face charges regarding a satirical magazine cover featuring members of the royal family.

2. Comic-Con International, comics' biggest event, kicks off in San Diego.

3. IDT buys a controlling share of IDW.

Winner Of The Week
Bill Willingham

Loser Of The Week
This fella

Quote Of The Week
"Any fucker could be called Harvey." -- Jonathan Ross

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

Your 2007 San Diego Con Update


Notes and Observations About or Caused by Comic-Con International, Taking Place July 26-29 (With a July 25 Preview Night) in San Diego, California


1. Friday single-day passes are sold out as the con increasingly fills. I had two people ask in my general vicinity why anyone would buy a Thursday-only pass, and I think the scarcity of passes later on would be the answer.

2. I don't get a sense from anyone I talk to that the con is an unbelievable burden or that survival is the main factor. Quite the opposite: this seems to be a a show populated by savvy old-timers. Also: not a ton of traffic at the comics end of the hall. Lots, but not unbelievably awful or anything.

3. I hadn't heard that Juliette has left Last Gasp again several months ago.

4. The Fletcher Hanks book I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets is Fantagraphics' top seller, and there was a line of people waiting for editor Paul Karasik during his signing.

5. The gentrification of downtown San Diego near complete in a very noticeable "wow, look at all the coffee shops way," a lot of stories of old-time San Diego are starting to leave people's lips. The most strange: one longtime con guest and his then-spouse witnessing a street person stabbing a block away. I think there's probably a Starbuck's there now. I did see 1-2 homeless people in the street the way there used dozens starting one block away from the Gaslamp; this time it was over at about 10th or 11th and Market.

6. Joel Meadows of Tripwire says his book of in-studio photographs from various cartoonists may see the light of day at Image. He's using the time to get a few more cartoonists in there, including hopefully Moebius.

7. The cartoonist Darwyn Cooke is wrapping up his Spirit run at issue #12 rather than a previously committed-to 24 issues I think from what he was saying because he won't have the same support team in place for a second year. His next project takes the cartoonist out of mainstream comics altogether -- two original graphic novels over the next two years. One is a fable-like science fiction story that should be readable by all ages; the other is a sex and violence romp with an ordinary-man protagonist and a lot of paranoia. The books haven't been sold to a publisher yet by Cooke's choice, and sounds like they may not be until considerable headway is made.

8. Cooke's panel had a long line for a comics spotlight event and was mostly packed. Guy Delisle's panel had about 50 people, which is twice what I've ever seen for a cartoonist of similar skill in that particular time slot. The questions from the audience were mostly about the political implication of his Pyongyang book, translated in the US by Drawn and Quarterly. I thought the most fascinating thing he said was how he was dedicated to his publisher despite their rejecting a new book he then took elsewhere. I can't imagine a North American cartoonist having the same attitude about a publisher that just rejected a book. Also it was interesting to hear him describe how he masked or did not portray a lot of the confidences between himself and some of the North Koreans with whom he interacted.

9. Jeff Smith's RASL preview cuts a startling profile tucked underneath arms on the convention floor.

10. Brendan Burford of King Features seems genuinely and particularly excited about the first strips he's rolling out. A new one from a New Zealand cartoonist comes out first, a few weeks after the show. That would be only the second non-North American cartoonist in King's long history. Burford split time over the weekend between Los Angeles and San Diego, and expressed a desire to one day try living in Canada.


For coverage of general comics news outside the convention and for differing views of the convention itself, I recommend my peers at, Publishers Weekly, Journalista, The Beat, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and The Pulse. Groups of photos from the show can be found here.
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

July 26, 2007

Jesse Marsh Born 100 Years Ago

posted 10:12 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 69th Birthday, Pierre Christin!

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 67th Birthday, Ernie Chan!

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
San Diego Special: Interviews at Daily Cross Hatch
Daily Cross Hatch: Joe Matt 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Joe Matt 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Jeff Smith 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Jeff Smith 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Will Vinton 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Will Vinton 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Ben Rosen 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Ben Rosen 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Patton Oswalt
Daily Cross Hatch: Nick Bertozzi 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Nick Bertozzi 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Aaron Renier 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Aaron Renier 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Jeremy Tinder 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Jeremy Tinder 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Dawud Anyabwile
Daily Cross Hatch: K. Thor Jensen 01
Daily Cross Hatch: K. Thor Jensen 02
Daily Cross Hatch: K. Thor Jensen 03
Daily Cross Hatch: Paige Braddock 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Paige Braddock 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Craig Thompson 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Craig Thompson 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Raina Telgemeier 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Raina Telgemeier 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Raina Telgemeier 03
Daily Cross Hatch: Shannon Wheeler 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Shannon Wheeler 02
Daily Cross Hatch: Shannon Wheeler 03

Your 2007 San Diego Con Update


Notes and Observations About or Caused by Comic-Con International, Taking Place July 26-29 (With a July 25 Preview Night) in San Diego, California


1. Wearing your costume on Preview Night is hardcore; wearing your costume on the flight to San Diego is NERDCORE.

2. You know you've been coming to the same hotel for a lot of years when the Director of Security remembers your name.

3. I mean, it's bad enough that you remember it's the same Director of Security.

4. The limit for the pool at my hotel is 147 people. So: 147 is fine, 148 and the pool falls through the floor.

5. The big comics-related news so far is that Paul Pope is taking his much liked science fiction-y career-maker THB to First Second, who will release it in 2009. A few things pop out about that announcement. First, a projected 1200 or so pages seems to me to indicate a lot of comics yet to come in the promised ending. Second, First Second is planning things out until 2009, so I guess they must be okay. Third, it's going to be color, with the colorist First Second has been using on books like Laika, which I find interesting. Fourth, google around for the press release. Paul Pope is the only cartoonist in North America who could get away with comparing his own action science fiction epic to Akira and not make everyone hate him. I say that with admiration. An oversized duluxe edition to follow collecting all three planned books should be impressive.

6. The best comics I was handed last night were Livon Jihannian's funny mini-comics sketchbook Ordinary Fieldbook and that new booklet of Jordan Crane's postcards. I'm actually going to buy one of the Crane sets to keep as a book, it's so attractive.

7. If I overheard the people at the Fantagraphics right, Linda Medley has released an enormous amount of work over the last several months. (Kim Thompson wrote in to object to the word enormous to describe a comic coming out every six to eight weeks; I thought the word appropriate given the long interruptions in production in Medley's career and the general rate of production for alt-comic books right now.)

8. I saw and talked to Scott McCloud. I didn't see his family, which supports my theory that they left him on that tour back in October and Scott has been blogging in all of their voices since. Anyway, he had nice words for the webcartoonist R. Stevens, even dubbing him one of the more important and connected members of that entire community.

9. Jeff Smith's Art of Bone apparently had its genesis as an art catalog for a show that didn't happen. Now that it's come out as its own (and I think very impressive) hardcover, there will be a exhibition, and a separate art catalog. This kind of turn of events is not surprising if you follow Smith's career.

10. The booth I like best is the Image Central booth, weirdly enough, although most people on Preview Night seemed fascinated with a) wherever the freebies were, and b) the big box with Iron Man or whatever in it at the Marvel booth. Anyway, I liked the Image booth because of its ring of creators, which kind of emphasizes what that company's all about in a way the more elaborate and editor/PR people mazes of the other big companies kind of show what they're about.

11. Not comics: I spoke to a TV writer while I was in line. The thing she likes best about CCI? The TV people are happier and much less guarded than at TV-focused events. The thing she likes least? The physical difficulty in getting from one place to another.

12. The press and pro registration lines were so smooth I think we can start talking about them as a past hardship in the Old Man walking through the snow to get to school voice. Of course, we won't be exaggerating how much they sucked.

13. I'm sure I'm forgetting a ton of stuff.

14. Elvis Road is beautiful if you lay it out from end to end, as Buenaventura Press has at their booth.

15. The cartoonist Jason Miles says he saw someone buy a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 in cash.


For coverage of general comics news outside the convention and for differing views of the convention itself, I recommend my peers at, Publishers Weekly, Journalista, The Beat, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and The Pulse. Groups of photos from the show can be found here.
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

July 25, 2007

Go, Bookmark: Chris Duffy’s Blog

posted 10:12 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 37th Birthday, Jon Lewis!

posted 10:11 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: King Mini Blog

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Yan Cong

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
San Diego Special: Reviews From Chris Allen
Chris Allen: Exit Wounds
Chris Allen: JSA All-Stars
Chris Allen: Red Eye, Black Eye
Chris Allen: A Tim O'Neil Review
Chris Allen: The Fun Never Stops
Chris Allen: Two-Fisted Tales Vol. 1
Chris Allen: The Invaders Classic Vol. 1
Chris Allen: The Alex Toth Reader Vols. 1-2
Chris Allen: Thunderhead Underground Falls
Chris Allen: Scary Book Volume One: Reflections

CR Review: The Architect


Creators: Mike Baron, Andie Tong
Publishing Information: Big Head Press, comic book, 80 pages, 2007, $9.95
Ordering Numbers: 9780974381442

The Architect puts a lie to one ongoing piece of conventional wisdom: that small presses should be forgiven lousy production values because they're small. In a sense, this book from Big Head Press is at least in the ball park with standard mainstream comics efforts: color, sturdy paper, and a cover of professional-enough standing that should cause second glances from its intended audience when placed on the comics shelf. It's nice to be reminded that a publisher can contribute something to the making comics beyond good intentions, a childhood desire to be involved in the comics industry and a vague desire to become a movie producer. That this story was first serialized on the Internet makes its slick look now that it's on paper even more of a rare thing. If nothing else, the overall appearance is an advertisement for the publisher that should go over well with future creators.

imageUnfortunately, the comic itself is as ordinary as any black and white comic on lousy paper, name your year. The Architect is a horror story drawing on elements of Frank Lloyd Wright's life, or at least the Wright we tend to see through the prism of fiction like Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. The borrowing proves clumsy; the figure at the story's center is even named Roark. I sometimes get a sense when I read comics from writers currently over 50 that they depend too much on a facile, broad take on non-mainstream culture that doesn't play as well as they think it does in our current cultural atmosphere of deep junk passions and an Internet that allows us to fake them. It's not cool or interesting for someone just to be doing a comic with Lloyd Wright's life and legacy as a springboard, not anymore, not the same way it might have once been amusing for Baron to bring Elvis's downward spiral into Nexus for little or no reason. Something of value has to be done with these references for us to appreciate their use.

Mike Baron and Andie Tong do a workmanlike job from a craft perspective, but The Architect never feels like anything other than a job. In fact, the mid-1990s DC mainstream look to Tong's art -- muscular and angular figures, mostly dropped or spare backgrounds, a dollop of manga influence -- blends with Baron's early 1980s-style anthology storytelling quirks (at one point the female lead actually vows to fight for her man) to create what's almost a summary statement on a certain kind of C-minus American comic book. It never for one second stops being a comic, if that makes any sense. It never loses the artificial feel that we're being marched through a story that's going to give us certain elements of soap opera and the fantastic. Unoriginal ones at that.

Tong and Baron each seem to embody tried and trues ways of working. Once upon a time, those modes fought for respect. That struggle and its flashes of passion is sorely missing from The Architect. The irony becomes obvious in that this is a book devoted in part to the notion of making excellent things that are one of a kind. It's also about a giant fungus, more memorable in its brief appearance -- even in its limited way -- than the ideas which ostensibly drive the graphic novel in its entirety.

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 of the darn things -- 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.


Jack Kirby, Alan Moore and maybe Grant Morrison are the only superhero comics creators where I'll buy just about anything put out with their name on it, including collections of random material from a devoted work-for-hire period like this book of Moore's work at WildStorm. The notion of WildStorm as the best group of interconnected comics since the 1960s Marvels comes almost entirely from the work of writers like Moore, Joe Casey, Warren Ellis and Ed Brubaker on various titles once the imprint had been around for a few years.

APR070234 GON VOL 1 $5.99
I like the idea of miniature ass-kicking silent-manga dinosaur mega-star Gon more than I ever liked reading the little creature's comics, but I can't imagine I would walk past it on the shelf without taking a look.

I'm not one to response to price points all that frequently, but I have to admit I would probably be buying these DC reprints more frequently had they kept their original price of $9.99. This is material with which I'm not familiar, nor am I aware of any hidden but great work here. Still, I'd certainly make note of it.

APR071871 INVINCIBLE #44 $2.99
MAR071860 WALKING DEAD #39 (MR) $2.99

These are three action-adventure serial comics -- two with superheroes, one with zombies -- of the kind I would likely buy were I in the same city as a comic book shop and went there regularly. The first two are Robert Kirkman's Image Comics vehicles and the comics I hear most cited by mainstream cartoonists as desirable gigs in terms of their being creator-owned and selling well. The third is Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction re-imagining a minor 1970s kung-fu superhero by way of The Phantom, which is interesting in that you'd think more superhero comics would borrow from that obvious super-precursor. All three feature solid, evocative art.

MAY073448 ANGRY YOUTH COMIX #13 (MR) $3.50
I like Johnny Ryan's crude, funny comics as comic book more than in any other form.

MAY073458 LOVE & ROCKETS VOL 2 #20 (MR) (NOTE PRICE) $7.99
An over-sized comic marking this great title's 25th anniversary in comics. This is the comic I would buy if I only had money to buy one comic, for a few weeks in either direction.

This marriage of Pope's always-expressive art and AdHouse Books' smart and attractive production choices sounds like a winner.

This week's hidden gem is a huge compendium of early work from promising cartoonist Nate Powell first released I think almost two years ago and now out again with improved printing. I'm not sure how many of the qualities that struck me in Nate Powell's collection of recent work released this earlier this year was present in the older stuff, but I'm dying to find out. This is the one graphic novel I would buy this week were I forced to choose.

MAY073879 ALTER EGO #70 $6.95
MAY073880 BACK ISSUE #23 $6.95
APR074117 COMICS REVUE #255 $6.95
JUN073556 SQUA TRONT #12 $9.95
MAY073903 WRITE NOW #16 $6.95

Right around convention season, the various specialty and specific-focus comics magazine all seem to release new issues. One guesses this is to facilitate sales at cons, but it could just be that it's summer and it's time to get an issue out. Anyway, at some point I usually end up looking at a whole bunch of these in the store. Squa Tront making that list is kind of like Ted Hawkins popping up on American Idol, but I admit I'd likely look at it with the others in mind.


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. I suck.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

I Still Miss Hal Foster


Gone 25 years today.
posted 3:24 am PST | Permalink

July 24, 2007

Creators To Appear In Court Today As Spanish Cartoon Crisis Moves Forward

If you haven't read any of the articles about cartoonist Guillermo and writer Manuel Font de Vila appearing in court today for their cover for the magazine El Jueves, you might try Metabunker's fine write-up. You also might bookmark Daryl Cagle's web site and go there for updates, or one of the links recommended at Metabunker. The cover created by the pair showed two members of the Royal Family having sex as part of a commentary on the idleness of royalty and a new government payment to couples having children. It has not only caused alarm in free speech circles around the globe, but a lot of people in Spain are fairly stunned such an issue has come up in their country in this day and age.
posted 10:22 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 66th Birthday, S. Clay Wilson!

posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink


IDT Internet Mobile Group announced that it has purchased a controlling interest in mid-major comics publisher IDW. I don't really know what it means. If you read the press release, then it seems to indicate that IDT has an interest in IDW as a supplier of content for a previous mobile phone content provider purchase. If you read this analysis by Ray Cornwall, you find that he's sort of confused why that particular company is interested in that particular publisher, given that it sold its previous comics division and its core business seems unrelated. My guess is that it's a small enough purchase for IDT that it doesn't really have to boast a particularly noble or complicated or ambitious cause.

Perhaps a more interesting question is why IDW would want to be bought. My hunch is that the San Diego-based publisher has gotten to that point where a lot of what it wants to do next requires a certain level of investment that's near-impossible for a comics company of that type being able to count on from its comics revenue. They could have an interesting next few years.
posted 10:18 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 60th Birthday, Ted Benoit!

posted 10:16 pm PST | Permalink

Links I Couldn’t Place Anywhere Else

* the Washington Post profiles Peter Bagge's work at Reason.

* the cartoonist Ethan Persoff puts a 1970 anti-drug comic on-line, continuing his series of similarly odd comics postings.

* the French National Library's archival efforts have resulted in some very old magazine cartoons being placed on-line.

* as if in answer to a very odd and specifically-phrased prayer, a sub-site at Nickelodeon features nothing but all-ages Johnny Ryan gags.

* today's kids are reading Maus in preparation for the upcoming school year. When I was 18 years old, all the university gave me to read before I got there was a ten thousand page catalog telling me the various ways I wasn't going to be able to sue them. Art Spiegelman's work being used by a college campus made news a while back when his politically charged In the Shadow of No Towers was placed into a similar role.
posted 10:14 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 58th Birthday, Alex Wald!

posted 10:12 pm PST | Permalink

CCI ‘07 Launches With Preview Night

Notes on Coverage
Scant hours from now folks will be hitting the pre-registration lines in San Diego's convention center to pick up passes for this year's Comic-Con International. Let the griping begin!

I'll be there as well, "covering" the show. I'm not sure these shows exist to be covered, and if they do, I couldn't do it all by myself. I will be providing notes on things I've heard or learned; they'll go up each morning. A wrap-up will come early next week, then an exit interview with some con official a few days after that about show issues. Since I'm going to the Eisner Awards to watch Eric Reynolds accept on Mr. Deppey's behalf, I'll likely do something on that experience as well.

Potential Story That Just Occurred to Me
I hope every pro from outside the country was able to get into the US for the show.

A Final Pair of Links
* Kelly Sue DeConnick points me towards this flickr group page set up to handle photos for 2007's show. So if you want to see a best-of photo array from this year's convention, bookmark that.

* I can't tell if J. Chris Campbell wrote to remind me that there is neat stuff to buy in San Diego, or to mock me for not being able to afford any of it. Perhaps both.

Worst San Diego Ever
Fantagraphics' Greg Zura saw yesterday's note that the under-35s need to get off their butts and make with a crazy party somewhere that we old guys can crash. He feels my pain. "Because there were no parties thrown by the under-35 crowd last year, I was forced to go to a movie theatre to watch Dupree and Me," Greg says.

Please See My Panels
I think they'll all be at least pretty good, and I'd love to see you.

4:00-5:00 Spotlight on Guy Delisle -- Guy Delisle is the cartoonist behind the bestselling and critically acclaimed Drawn & Quarterly graphic novels Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea and Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China. In his first U.S. appearance, Delisle will be interviewed about his work by editor Tom Spurgeon. Room 3

10:30-11:30 Meet the Press: Writing About Comics -- From blogs to books to magazines, the public conversation about comics is livelier -- and faster -- than it's ever been. Heidi MacDonald (Publishers Weekly), Nisha Gopalan (Entertainment Weekly), Tom Spurgeon (The Comics Reporter), Tom McLean (Variety), Graeme McMillan (The Savage Critics), and moderator Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics) discuss the state of the art of comics criticism. Room 3

1:30-2:30 Great American Comic Strips -- We're living in a Golden Age of comic strip reprints, and this panel discusses the many ongoing series of books devoted to this great American art form. Moderator Tom Spurgeon ( talks to Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics Books (Peanuts, Krazy Kat, Popeye and the upcoming Pogo); Carolyn Kelly, daughter of Pogo creator Walt Kelly; Tom Devlin of Drawn and Quarterly (Walt and Skeezix, Moomin, Oh Skin-nay); Bruce Canwell of IDW (Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie); Steve Tippie, VP, marketing and licensing, Tribune Media Services; Charles Pelto of Classic Comics Press (Mary Perkins On Stage, Dondi); and noted comics historian and author R. C. Harvey (Meanwhile... A Biography of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon) about the sudden growth of high-quality chronological reprints and the art of the American comic strip. Room 4

Everybody please travel safely.
posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, Chip Bok!

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Not Comics:  Keiji Nakazawa Featured in Hiroshima/Nagasaki Documentary

This link should take you to information on the forthcoming documentary White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which will premier a week from Monday. According to the PR stuffed in my mailbox, one of the survivors interviewed is Keiji Nakazawa, author of the comics memoir Barefoot Gen, a book series that details his own experiences during that time. I don't think Barefoot Gen has ever really been fully accepted in literary comics circles, but there are moments of Nakazawa's testimony in that book and in interviews that just stop me in my tracks every time I read them, such as a story about moving the remains of family members around in a bucket. I never want to carry anyone from my family in a bucket.
posted 10:06 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Ray Billingsley!

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Holy Crap, What a Gorgeous Page
More on Kings In Disguise's Underground Influence

Portland Is Awesome
Eisner Awards Preview
Crime at the Comic-Con!
Handelsman Co-Chairing Charity Event

Retailer Walks Through '90s
Retailer Walks Through '90s 02
This Guy Loves Captain America

Manga Seized in Thailand
Yen Press Hires Ju-Youn Lee
James Vance on Manga Upload Arrests

Wizard: Mike Mignola Mark Siegel 01 Mark Siegel 02
Walrus Comix: Simon Fraser
Sequential Tart: Tony Bedard
Blog@Newsarama: Simon Gane

Not Comics
Shinders Owner's Sad Story
Prediction for My Feet at SDCC
Alan David Doane For President!
Odd Hollywood Casting Riles Fans
Andi Watson Makes a Cut-Out Doll
Critic Eliminates Need to See Movie
Another Comic Book Culture-Related Movie
People I've Never Heard Of Provide Recipes

WoW Comic on the Way
Yen Press Absorbs ICE Kunion
I'd Never Seen This Site Before
Panels From East Coast Rising Vol. 2
Dave Sim: Reworked Annie On Way?
Finally: Comics For 80-Year-Old Ladies
Karin Slaughter Imprint Launches at Oni
Brian Hibbs: Why Countdown Not Working

Rob Clough: Spent
Abhay Khosla: Various
Greg McElhatton: Plain Janes
Patti Martinson: Reborn Vol. 2
Jeff Lester: Drifting Classroom Vol. 6
Don MacPherson: Green Lantern #124
Jiffy Burke: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Vol. 3
Jiffy Burke: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Vol. 4

CR Review: The Black Diamond #1

imageCreators: Larry Young, Jon Proctor, Dennis Culver
Publishing Information: AiT/Planet Lar, comic book, 32 pages, 2007, $2.95
Ordering Numbers:

It struck me as I put it down that the new six-issue mini-series The Black Diamond would have been a fine addition to the Roger Corman's Cosmic Comics line. Run by Dark Horse and Fantagraphics veteran Robert Boyd for a brief period in the middle 1990s, RCCC boasted a number of titles based on or even serving as upgrades on some of the more popular Corman movies: Burial of the Rats, Caged Heat 3000, Death Race 2020, Rock 'n' Roll High School and Welcome to the Little Shop of Horrors. In fact, coming from Corman himself as a substitute for movies and potential breeding ground for sequels in other media, you could argue the company in significant ways contributed the "Season X" model that's proving popular right now. You probably wouldn't win the argument, but you could hang in there a while.

A standard comic book with color art and a movie tear-sheet style front cover, The Black Diamond copies the Corman company's comic book model of a B-movie plot serialized from issue to issue with a rotating cast of set-in-the-world-of back-ups filling out the page count (this issue's is by Dennis Culver). All The Black Diamond lacks is a movie for it to be based on, although a reader who cared to could probably fool someone that one exists. The plot of The Black Diamond involves a super-super highway built across the country that has become a kind of no-man's-land not just for aggressive drivers and car builders but for all sorts of crazy folks, as well as potentially acting as a haven for folks maybe not so crazy and merely out of step with the country's increasing conservatism. It's the kind of plot that makes for run-on sentences in reviews and an easy 10-minutes of forced exposition in your standard John Carpenter film or 1970s Andy Griffith TV movie. By this first issue's conclusion, we have a taste of the status quo and learn how our ostensible hero becomes personally motivated to leave the safer world and enter the wilder one. We don't get very far along in this first issue, which is sort of humorous given the speeding cars motif. Then again, these kinds of films usually built slowly as well.

Despite a love for action movies' way of looking at the world so deep and abiding he would happily give one a ride to the airport at 3:30 in the morning, Young showed in his Astronauts in Trouble work that he has the structure gene that a lot of mainstream American comic book writers would kill for. Everything he does feels sturdy, even when, as in this issue, he plays a bit around the edges of form and is dealing almost exclusively in cliches. Artist Jon Proctor offers up a style that's either photo referenced or apes the surface appearance of such art. It feels appropriately futuristic in a bleached, antiseptic way early on, and shows off the hardware to fine effect. It's not exactly a subtle set of tools when it comes to showing nuances of emotion, and some of the panels end up looking like outtakes from Our Gang shorts where Cuba Gooding Jr. is playing all the parts. The real problem becomes how those panels break the flow of the narrative. Comics panels that feel like stills from film can work if used smartly; comics that start to feel as these do like panels from another, better, comic book with more pages to let the story flow, those almost always fail. Although it's impossible to know how the series will progress, all the reader can see in the first issue of The Black Diamond are its limitations. We know what it's not. It could be a long drive.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Creators Called to Spanish Court

The cartoonist Guillermo and the script writer for the offending El Jueves cover cartoon of two members of the Royal Family, a drawing that stunningly led to a judge asking the magazine be seized, will appear in court tomorrow. Strangely, the prosecutor has already decided he won't make it.

Related: El Jueves' apology cover made me laugh.
posted 12:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Richard Cowdry Galleries

posted 12:12 am PST | Permalink

Upload Manga, Go To Jail For Year

I'm not sure how I missed this, but one of the defendants arrested in Osaka in mid-May for uploading manga to a file-sharing site (are file-sharing places sites?) was convicted last month and faces a potential year in jail. Someone will undoubtedly come along and tell me why my reaction shouldn't be "yikes," because I tend to have news intuition straight from Bizarro World when it comes to manga, but my initial reaction is indeed in the yow/yikes neighborhood.

Speaking of manga, I assume this will drive a decent amount of conversation.
posted 12:10 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Goodnight, Irene

posted 12:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Nanda Sooben Article

A short profile of the South African cartoonist Nanda Sooben talks about his recent international awards, and as a bonus the photo accompanying the feature includes a dick joke. I also like the fact that newspapers in South Africa apparently still have sports cartoonists.
posted 12:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 72nd Birthday, Pat Oliphant!

posted 12:04 am PST | Permalink

Five Stories to Watch, CCI 2007

Okay, it looks like this is more like two and a half stories and a bunch of nonsense, despite my best efforts. It's not like there won't be stories coming out of the show, but there's nothing that occurs to me in the imminent or likely categories. Anyhow:

1. Full House -- the show is bursting at the seams based on pre-registration alone. There are many ways a stuffed-to-the-gills show can split and rupture a bit, all of which are a possibility. The most interesting thing to me is that CCI has at least five more years in this facility, with no cap on the attendance demands in sight. The other thing is that someone, somewhere in the main hall will get no foot traffic despite the entire population of Fort Wayne, Indiana being in the building.

2. Image Isn't Everything -- with the founders panel and then its own publishing announcements featuring a crew of creators that's beginning to approach critical mass in terms of making the company an every-week factor in most comic shops, Image could actually see a nice PR boost coming out of the show.

3. Video -- there should be hours and hours and hours of video coverage coming out of the show.

4. Marvel Has a Booth -- this is worth noting because it reminds us that Marvel went for years without a booth. Marvel not having a booth because for a few years they couldn't afford one is funny; Marvel blowing off getting one for several years just to be butts is funny.

5. Industry Talk, RIP -- correct me if I'm wrong, but they don't have macro-industry talking heads panels anymore, do they? Oh, well. I guess the other question is whether or not backseat driving companies to fantasy maximize their sales figures counts as industry discussion in the first place. Because if it doesn't, this may be dead everywhere, not just San Diego. I always think if the Marvel Jack Kirby Art thing broke out in today's comics scene, 10 percent of the people going to the resulting panel would be for Jack, 15 percent would be for Marvel, and 75 percent would be there to scope out seats for the next hour's Battlestar Galactica panel.

(Bonus) Everyone Younger Than 35 Is Boring -- now that the alt-comics generation is old enough they go to dinner and then go back to their hotel rooms and straight to bed and then lie the next day that they only intended to take an hour nap, those of us living vicariously through young people are still waiting for the under-35s in attendance to throw one of those parties in a big house where metal objects are routinely tossed through windows, underage locals are hitting on toy company spokespeople and Glenn Danzig shows up out front in the Son of Satan's chariot being pulled by hookers. Instead, they seem to really like hotel bars and the kind of "hey you, I know you" socializing that kicks off the first hour of a class reunion. Go figure.

A few last links: Shannon Wheeler, the U-T over-quotes an idiot, the collectors' view, Floyd Norman remembers, Sergio Aragones' famous convention poster.
posted 12:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Naji al-Ali Gallery


The BBC remembers the Palestinian cartoonist, shot critically in the face on a London street 20 years ago last Sunday, with a cartoon gallery.
posted 12:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
How to See Beyond Superheroes

Paige Braddock at CAM
Thousand Pay Tribute to Fontanarrosa
Newsarama's SDCC 2007 Booth Breakdown

Robin Bougie Vs. Joe Chiappetta
Dad to Groening: You Can't Draw

I Hate Your Cartoon
Editorial: Borders Is Wrong on Tintin

Leader-Call: Russ Farris
Inkstuds: Joe Chiappetta
Newsarama: Joe Quesada
Steve Duin: Douglas Wolk Robert Luedke
Times Online: Matt Groening
The Olympian: Mike Swofford PLB Comics
First Coast News: John Graziano
San Diego Union-Tribune: Shannon Wheeler

Not Comics
Ted Rall v. Michelle Malkin
Clowes and Spiegelman Join Moore on The Simpsons

Spock Lives!
RIP, Weekly World News
Anne Gibbons Joins Six Chix

Don MacPherson: The Order #1
Jog: Notes For A War Story

July 23, 2007

CR Review: Sardine In Outer Space, Vol. 4


Creators: Joann Sfar, Emmanuel Guibert
Publishing Information: First Second, soft cover, 112 pages, Fall 2007, $13.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781596431294 (ISBN13), 1596431296 (ISBN10)

imageFrom my perspective there's not too much to say about Sfar and Guibert's young-readers space adventure series; it's well-crafted, light entertainment and I would need the time machine they have in the story to regress to a point where I'm the intended audience. I look looking at them, though, and I'm always reminded of two things when I pick it up. First, if you're around little kids enough, you know how capricious they can be about the appeal or repulsion or relative scariness of an item with which they're asked to interact. I always smile a bit when I see these Sardine books, because the characters don't wear costumes outfits, they dress up to play with you. Second, it's interesting to me how well these books work as an assemblage of components. The words are funny and easy to parse, at least in the translations. Sfar's pictures are fun to look at it, and invite the reader to pay close attention and linger on their details. This isn't the combination of the two that we think of when we think of comics, but kind of a back and forth conversation that's controlled by the eyes of the reader. Perfect for kids. One forgets that as much as there's a way to read comics that scholars and critics might promote, a kind of propulsive synthesis of picture and words, kids are going to ignore those roles. They will treat the books themselves as an object with many points of entry.

The most memorable story in this fourth volume involves the kid pirates traveling into the future, with a resulting shift into adult bodies. Little Louie makes a grab at the older Sardine, explaining that ending up with her has always been his dream -- a dream no doubt influenced by the lack of available other potential future girlfriends, but a dream nonetheless. Sardine answers with a variation on "Not my problem," which is funny because it's so blunt but is kind of poignant in its own way, too. In a sense, it's not her problem because the series doesn't offer problems like that. What few problems Sardine has are external, and few of them can stand up to her application of ingenuity and force of will. I don't know if kids like the book, but unlike a lot of material that comes from established cartoonists seeking a younger audience, it's easy to imagine how a kid might have a bit of a crush on Sardine.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

LA Daily News’ Strip Dump Update: Dropped Comics Are Coming Back

After a barrage of complaints, the LA Daily News has announced that some of the comic strips and feature dropped in a recent, unpopular move by the paper will be returning to the publication. This includes the features they say were most frequently mentioned by complainants: Mallard Fillmore, For Better or For Worse and Funky Winkerbean, which they say will return in a few days. The paper also invites readers to comment on Sunday comic strip moves, about which the blog posting fails to provide details.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Otto Soglow Cartoons

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Spain’s High Court Orders the Seizure of El Jueves Issue

imageAs reported widely last Friday afternoon after it broke on International wires, Judge Juan del Olmo of Spain's High Court ordered the seizure of the latest issue of the satirical, cartoon-heavy magazine El Jueves. At issue is a cartoon depicting Prince Felipe saying that sex was the closest thing he would do to working, commentary about royal idleness and the country's new policy of paying couples for each new baby. The reason given for the seizure is the perceived insult to the royal family, which if can be worked into a slandering charge carries a potential two-year prison sentence.

The court also called for the magazine to provide the name of the contributing cartoonist.

There's a short response on the front page of the magazine's site expressing incredulity at the situation, noting that not only have they lived by the principle of free expression, they've done hundreds of cartoons and even a book depicting the royal family for purposes of satire. What I'm hearing from readers is a similar general expression of disbelief, for the reasons above and also because Spain has been for the most part free of such censorship battles.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: KAL Economist Blog

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Comics News Story Update Round-Up

* Editor & Publisher notes that the first two books in a partnership between Universal and self-publishing facilitator have become available. They are Circling Normal, A Book About Autism from Clear Blue Water's Karen Montague-Reyes, and Come Here Often? Bad Pickup Lines and Other Dating Atrocities from JC Duffy of The Fusco Brothers. The deal was announced in May.

* A blogger at the New York Times surveys the Tintin re-shelving solution and name-checks Dave Chappelle.

* Tom Bone details his experience at this year's AAEC conference interacting with Jyllands-Posten editor Flemming Rose and related panelists on the subject of the Danish Muhammed cartoons. Bone is skeptical about the necessity of the contest that started it all. I might dispute a couple of the facts -- the caricatures hit news sources quickly enough links to coverage ran here same-month -- but I appreciate Bone's genuine sifting through of the fact and explanations presented to him.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 60th Birthday, Mike Vosburg!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Mitchell Brothers Article

Go here for a long piece in this weekend's San Francisco Chronicle about the famous porn impresarios Jim and Artie Mitchell, and how they interacted with a host of Bay Area artists. This includes cartoonists such as Dan O'Neill. Jim Mitchell recently died at the age of 63, some 16 years after he shot and killed his brother.

thanks, James Langdell
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 45th Birthday, Kelley Jones!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Today’s Comic-Con Countdown Notes

* this is the last informal countdown-style update. I'll try to have some kind of ramp-up notes the next two days. Although the San Diego con doesn't officially begin until Thursday morning, I figure the thing starts when enough people to fill one of the bigger halls touch down at the airport. A quorum for a meeting of the World Nerd Parliament, if there was one. The day that happens would be Tuesday. So any countdown has to be over.

* as expected, the convention has announced a Saturday sell-out. This means that in addition to the four-day pass sell-out they won't be selling single-day passes for Saturday, either, and I wouldn't want to be a press person trying to register for that day and that day only, either. It's my understanding that there will likely be some pro registration taking place that day because there will be enough of an influx of LA-based professionals that have no idea the con is sold out that turning them away would be a train wreck.

* speaking of the press, which I just sort of did, I received my press pass confirmation via an e-mail on Thursday. My hunch is that it doesn't mean you're totally screwed if you don't have one yet. I might be slightly worried, though, and I would make doubly sure I had my credentials together when I hit the convention hall.

* did you know that Fanfare/Ponent Mon was going to be exhibiting? You would read if you read CR's comics-focused convention PR dump.

* if anyone wants to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) commentary on experiences had at the convention or photos or a Xerox of an arrest sheet or whatever rather than putting them up in some space of their own, I'll run just about anything I receive that's even halfway coherent under the First Person designation in the News section to your right. I'll run links, too, in a collective memory starting a day or two after the con. I imagine most people have a home for this stuff or a paying gig somewhere, but in case you have no on-line home or want a new credit on the resume, I'm here for you.

* this is the funniest link I've seen this month: someone bringing our attention to this week's liquor sales at Ralph's. It's not the most useless, either. Samuel Adams' Boston Lager would be a fine, sturdy room beer.

* Paul Pope recommends the Alex Toth documentary panel. I hope that everyone out there picks out at least one comics or comics-related panel to see.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Watch: MoCCA Video Interviews

posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Erdogan’s Party Re-Elected

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party won Turkey's election by a wide margin on Sunday, according to wire reports. Erdogan should be familiar to CR readers as the Prime Minister most likely to sue cartoonists and those that publish them for depicting him in a manner (or as a species) which he does not approve.
posted 3:00 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Comic Book Camp
How to Go To San Diego When You're Not Into It

More on Cheng Shifa

I Hate Your Comic
Mike Lester Picks Up His Award
Praise for Sargent's Lady Bird Tribute
How Big Was Marvel's June DM Victory?

Variety: Neil Gaiman
Comic Book Bin: Steve Niles
Globe and Mail: Douglas Wolk

Not Comics
Save the Chicken Man
MTV's Movie-Centric CCI Preview
Aussie PM Read American Comics

Lucha Libre at Image
The Next Issue Project
Publisher That's New To Me
Crisis On Infinite Bill Hinds Strips
AnimeOnline Gone; May Re-Launch
Discussion of Forthcoming WoW Books
Another Funky Winkerbean Cancer Feature
Luna Brothers Announce Next Image Project

AV Club: Various
Mark Evanier: Meanwhile...
Richard Krauss: Aprendiz #1
J. Bowers: Genshiken Vols. 6-7
Max Loh: Cromartie High School Vol. 1
Elizabeth Bolhafner: Essex County Vol. 1
Chris Allen: Black Diamond Detective Agency

July 21, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Adrian Tomine



I first became aware of Adrian Tomine when he was a mere 20 years old, the year the accomplished debut issue of his Optic Nerve was released by Drawn & Quarterly. I quickly discovered he had been around a few years by then, with a tremendously popular mini-comic bearing the same name as his comic book and a recurring strip in the Tower Records store magazine Pulse! Now just past its 11th issue, Optic Nerve has become one of the most popular comic books of its kind in industry history. That it continues to be published today in a form recognizable to someone buying its first issue, while other artists have concentrated on bookstore-friendly formats, and some have moved away from serial comics in any form, may make Optic Nerve a kind of last alt-comic standing. In addition to his comics, Tomine has placed a considerable amount of illustration work in magazines and on CD covers, most prominently and frequently at The New Yorker. He also edits the Yoshihiro Tatsumi book series at D&Q.

Tomine's latest story, serialized in Optic Nerves #9-11, is the longest he's ever attempted. It will be published as the graphic novel Shortcomings this Fall. Tomine plans to support the book with a tour. Among its many virtues, Shortcomings features dialog work to stand with anyone's in comics. Tomine has wiggled free from the precise and perhaps overly-measured line readings that characterized his early comics for more vibrant back and forths that emerge from character and mirror the potency and even inanity of real conversations.

This interview was coordinated for this weekend in part to remind fans, Direct Market retailers and booksellers that Shortcomings is on its way, and the cartoonist himself not far behind it in support, hopefully to a venue near you. Ask for it by name and appropriate code:

* Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine, Drawn & Quarterly, hard cover, 112 pages, ISBN: 9781897299166, Diamond Code: JUL073524, Diamond Code: $19.95.

I enjoyed talking with Adrian, and wish him the best of luck with this new book and all such projects in the future.



TOM SPURGEON: I've noticed that you begin a lot of your pages with a figure directing our eyes from a still point left towards the right, and end with firm stop of a character or line at the right side of the last panel. How much attention do you pay to page design, and what elements are important to you in creating a page?

ADRIAN TOMINE: That's an interesting observation. You might be picking up on something that I'm doing intuitively, or just by accident. I probably don't pay as much attention to the overall design of my pages as I should. I guess I have some vague aesthetic standards in the back of my head when I'm composing my pages, but for the most part, I think I'm focusing more on the content of the story. Someone like Chris Ware or Dan Clowes can make the design of a page actually accentuate or deepen the content without distracting from it, but obviously I'm not on that level, and I'd hate to run the risk of someone looking at one of my pages and immediately thinking, "Gee, what a clever page design! Now let me force myself to read it."


SPURGEON: Optic Nerve has a remarkable letters page. How do you select what runs?

TOMINE: As I'm working on an issue, I save any interesting mail I get in a binder, and then when I'm putting the issue together, I go through a surprisingly involved and considered process of picking and arranging the letters for print. My main criteria is "Will this be interesting to read?" I try to keep my own ego out of it as much as humanly possible, and just run with anything that seems intriguing or amusing.

SPURGEON: What percentage of material do you run?

TOMINE: I get a lot of mail that, for a variety of reasons, just isn't going to see print. Not to discourage the kind, polite letter writers out there, but I don't think anyone wants to see a letters page comprised entirely of articulate, effusive praise. Of course, I love getting letters like that personally, but it feels weird to flaunt them. In terms of percentages, I'd say I probably end up printing about one out of every fifty pieces of mail. Keep in mind that my comic comes out very infrequently, so I end up with a lot to choose from.

SPURGEON: How do you feel about the confessional tone in the kind of mail that you receive?

TOMINE: I'm consistently surprised and flattered by it.

SPURGEON: Why do you think you continue to run letters when so many people have moved away from it?

TOMINE: Here's one theory, and you'd probably have some insight on this: it might be that the comics letters page has been virtually wiped out by the internet. I've never published an email address, and I think that's sort of forced people to write me real letters, and that process generally requires a little more thought and effort on the part of the writer. I get the impression that once you start getting email feedback, the amount of dashed-off/inane/offensive responses increases exponentially. Also, I think there's probably a small gratification that can come from seeing one's letter in print and making a point publicly, and I guess some people get that same gratification from posting on message boards or writing online reviews. In any case, I'm very grateful that people still send me letters. The ritual of going to my p.o. box has been such a constant part of my life over the years that I'd be sad to see it go.


SPURGEON: I think your dialog work in Shortcomings fairly crackles. Have you ever made a point of studying film, stage or comics dialog?

TOMINE: Thanks, that means a lot to me. If by studying you mean like formally, at school or something, then no. But as a fan of books and movies, then, yes, quite a bit. I've always gravitated towards authors or filmmakers who put a real emphasis on dialog. Those are the kinds of things that I keep going back to, and discovering new things about. You hear it said of certain artists that they have a "natural gift" or an "ear" for dialog, and I wonder if that's true... like, does this stuff just come easily and naturally to them, or do they just work harder on it? Because in my case, I know that all the dialog is really thought out and revised and even kind of "performed" out loud. I sweat over it.

SPURGEON: How do you approach writing a comic in terms of working in dialog? Is it something you write in advance? Is it something for which you have a rough idea when you decide on visual elements?

TOMINE: I'm sure it varies depending on the project. Shortcomings is the most dialog-heavy thing I've ever done... the whole story pretty much depends on what the characters say (or don't say), so that was given top priority in the writing of it. That was one of the luxuries I enjoyed about doing a longer story: I didn't always feel the need to strip every conversation down to the most bare-bones, concise version, and my hope is that will give a little more veracity to the story. So the process involved a lot of back and forth between roughing out little thumbnails of the visuals, and then going back to my notebook or computer and refining the dialog, and then trying to make it all fit together.

SPURGEON: How much writing and rewriting are you allowed given the fact that you have a visual element with which to contend?

TOMINE: Even though I just referred to the greater freedom I had with this story, I was still somewhat constricted by the fact that the story was comprised of three chapters, each 32 pages in length. So I'd occasionally have to use a little brute force here and there to make something work, but I also trusted myself to make last minute changes, sometimes even as I was putting the lettering down in ink.

SPURGEON: Are you as dedicated as you seem to the serial comics format? Because you can argue that Optic Nerve is sort of the last of its kind -- the last successful, regularly published showcase comic minus a spine. Do you think you reach a different audience for having your work available in that way? Do you ever see a time when you might not have a comic book?

TOMINE: In general, I have a hard time with change... even when it's largely positive, like the way the comics industry has been evolving in the last few years. I'm thrilled to see big "graphic novel" sections in bookstores now, but at the same time, I still like comic books, and I like buying them at comic stores. I don't know if this process of serializing and collecting stories will always remain viable, but I'd like to try to stick it out as long as possible.

imageI know a lot of the changes that we're talking about here are dictated by economics, and especially by what the large bookstores deign to place on their shelves, but I really wish we were in a situation where the content of the comic could dictate its form more. It seems like right now, everything has to be published in book form, and I think that really changes how a work is received. Apparently it's not much of a price difference between printing books hardcover or soft-cover now, so now everything is a beautifully produced hardcover with a belly-band and a dust-jacket or whatever. And I know that for an artist, that's a virtually impossible-to-pass-up opportunity. Who wouldn't want their work to be so beautifully presented? That said, there've been some good comics recently that I think have actually been hindered a bit by their fancy presentation. Maybe that's just my own weird perception, but it played into how I wanted my previous book Scrapbook to be published. I thought the work inside was perfectly suited to a soft-cover production. I'm not trying to be falsely modest here... I honestly thought that if it came out as a deluxe hardcover coffee-table book, the content just wouldn't hold up.

I'm not sure of the numbers, but it almost seems like D&Q is publishing my pamphlets as a courtesy to me, kind of like the way some record labels will still put out a very limited pressing of a band's album on vinyl just to appease them. There was some talk of even just saving the third chapter of Shortcomings for the book collection, but it was important to me to stick with the serialization, and I felt like I owed it to the faithful readers who had bought the first two chapters. And then when Optic Nerve #11 was published, I got all this angry feedback about how the time between issues, especially with a continued story, was just unforgivable! I actually got a letter from a guy who informed me that he was removing Optic Nerve from his "saver list" at the comic store because of my lazy work ethic. I thought there were some people who still enjoyed serialized publication, even if it meant a wait between installments, but maybe I'm wrong.

SPURGEON: Do you do any work on your comics when they move from serial form into trade form?

TOMINE: There is some slight editing and re-touching that's done, but I try to force myself to not let it get out of hand. I know myself well enough to know that it's kind of a slippery slope from making a correction here and there to becoming such an insane perfectionist that the thing never gets published. But there actually is a lot of work involved in that process from comic to book form that is largely invisible. I do all the production and design on my books, so I end up wasting time on things that pretty much no one will ever notice or care about, like "What color should the head-band be?" And just for the record, that's a reference to a part of the book's binding, not my wardrobe selection.


SPURGEON: Do you read comics?

TOMINE:I still go to the comic store on a regular basis. I'm as big of a comics fan as I ever was, but it's a rare Wednesday that I end up buying more than one or two things.

SPURGEON: Are they any cartoonists you read now that you weren't reading five years ago?

TOMINE: Sure. Vanessa Davis, Jonathan Bennett, and Dan Zettwoch spring to mind. They're all relatively new artists (at least to me), and I'm really impressed by the work they've done already. I'm actually really impressed by the amount of new talent that's springing up in general, and the diversity of it. It really does seem like the improved status of comics in our society is attracting a wider range of talent than ever before.

SPURGEON: I ask this because you were so precocious in your development that cartoonists of interest that are around your age have kind of appeared behind you in a sense, after you'd been publishing a while.

TOMINE: Maybe, but I'm actually quite envious of the people who are just starting out now. It's a great time to be a new cartoonist, much better than even a few years ago. And not to impugn any of my books specifically, but I do think my "publishing career" began prematurely, and some of that stuff might've been better off relegated to the "practice run" file.


SPURGEON: Now that you've done high-profile illustration work for a while, is there a development curve in that field? It's such a commercial endeavor that I've always wondered how much room you're given to improve and develop or even shift styles; is there anything you think is different about the work you're doing in that area now than what you were doing five years ago?

TOMINE: One change that's happened in the last five years is that I've been lucky enough to develop a few really strong, comfortable working relationships, like with The New Yorker. So a lot of the confusion and worry and head-butting that can happen when you start working for someone new has kind of evaporated for the most part. I'm also fortunate enough that I can be a little more selective in terms of which commercial assignments I take on, so (at least for the time being), there's a much smaller chance that you'll see some illustration by me where you can just tell I was gritting my teeth to get that damn paycheck.

As far as shifting styles, it's much harder to pull this off in the illustration world than it is in the comics world, unfortunately. The first comics project I started working on after Shortcomings felt like a blank slate for me, and I took the opportunity to try some different things. Now, I'd be more apprehensive about trying that when the clock is ticking and I've got an assignment due for a client that's expecting a certain something from me.

imageSPURGEON: Has there been any effect on your art since moving to New York, either in terms of the proximity to certain opportunities or a different energy or feeling that might inform your work?

TOMINE: It's kind of hard to say, because I feel like I've gone through a lot of personal changes in conjunction with moving to New York. But on a very specific level, it really helped that I had moved to New York by the time I had to draw the part of Shortcomings that takes place here. When I plotted the story out years ago, I was living in Berkeley with no foreseeable changes on the horizon. So I figured I'd have to take a little research trip to NY to gather reference, and maybe even rely on some of my friends who lived there for help. And then, just in time, I ended up moving here! I'm sure that my work will be informed and affected by wherever I live to some degree, but the truth is that I stay home a lot, and when I'm sitting in my studio, I really could be anywhere.

In terms of illustration work, I can't say definitively, but I have this sneaking suspicion that the very thing that I'd been afraid of when I lived in California is true: it helps to be in New York. I don't even know why this would be the case in the era of email and FedEx, and maybe I'm wrong, but it does kind of seem that way.

SPURGEON: You expressed some trepidation when you first started Optic Nerve #9 about doing a 100-page story, and even kidded after completing the first third about it being just like one of your short stories, but slowed down. What is your perspective on the length and ambition of the work now that it's completed? Was that a comfortable length, do you feel you achieved what you wanted by doing a piece that long? For that matter, is it something you want to continue or something where we might see you go further?

TOMINE: I'll be honest: doing this story wasn't easy for me. I think maybe I should've refined or streamlined my drawing style a little bit for something of this length, because by the time I got to the third chapter, and I was trying to draw Brooklyn architecture in two-point perspective, I kind of wanted to blow my brains out. But now that's it's done and I have a printed version of the book here in front of me, I'm glad I did it. Doing a single book-length story has been a goal of mine for many years, so I feel really relieved that I've at least done one, regardless of what people make of it. I'm sure I'll embark on another long story eventually, but there's a lot of things I've learned from this book that will certainly inform how I approach the next one. It sounds kind of silly, but there's a tiny bit of existential terror in committing to a long comics story. I deeply admire the artists who have finished long stories, or are currently embroiled in them, but it does scare me to think of being halfway through some multi-year project and just running out of steam.


SPURGEON: I don't want to talk too much about any autobiographical factors in your work, and you've been fairly straightforward in the past that you've drawn on elements in your own life. Now that you're building a body of work, can you describe what kind of element you're drawn to that might turn into a story? Is it a character type, a situation, a relationship, an offhand comment... is there any continuity between works of that nature, or does your life inform your work from a variety of perspectives?

TOMINE: When I was first starting out, I took my inspiration from my very immediate surroundings, with not a lot in the way of processing. The most extreme case would be like, "I had to change a flat tire today and I hurt my back. I'll do a story about that!" Even when my work started to get a little more fictionalized, I was still drawing heavily on my own very recent personal experiences. And now I realize what a luxury that was. Especially after Shortcomings, I feel really self-conscious about what I choose for subject matter due to the fact that each new thing is basically viewed in relation to the things that came prior. One of my goals now is to trust my imagination and creativity a little more, and not always feel so dependent on first-hand experience for inspiration.

SPURGEON: Do you feel that sometimes people overemphasize your characters as mouthpieces for what you yourself believe to be true?

TOMINE: Definitely, especially with regards to this story. I've sensed that some readers have had a negative reaction to aspects of Shortcomings because they're assuming that the characters' views are my views. I have a lot of letters that angrily take me to task for things that these fictional characters said. I guess it's partially my fault for making the main character kind of look like me, but even still, I definitely misjudged how some readers would approach this story.

SPURGEON: Are you ever tempted to sound off in that way through your work?

TOMINE: It could be argued that, in a way, I do sound off through my work, but I don't think it's as simple as using characters as direct mouth-pieces for my opinions.

imageSPURGEON: I was struck re-reading the comics what a major and likable presence Alice is, almost to the point that she seems a co-lead at times in terms of what I took away from the story. Did you intend for her relationship with Ben to become kind of a through-line with which the contentious nature of his other relationships are compared? In other words, I'm kind of interested why you anchored the book with that friendship rather than making Ben a loner.

TOMINE: I'm glad you say that, because I agree that Alice is almost as much of a main character as Ben. She certainly seems to evolve more over the course of the book, and she's the one who ends up with a more conventionally happy ending. She was important to me because I wanted to show that there was at least one person in the world that Ben could get along with and be kind of likable around. I don't know if anyone would've stuck with the story if I made Ben a total loner! And on a practical level, it was necessary to have at least one relationship in which Ben could express his true feelings a little bit and just be honest, especially in a story with no thought balloons and no narration. I guess I've just known a lot real life Alices, so it was fun to try to get that character down on paper.

SPURGEON: I know that you do your own design work; is that a driving passion or just something you prefer to do? Do you have design influences? How did you settle on the snowball look, the hidden and obscured faces of Optic Nerve #9-11?

TOMINE:I've always been interested in design, and I feel like it's an integrated part of the cartooning process, not just some ancillary duty that I agree to take on. One of the things that I love about Drawn & Quarterly is that they are on the same page about this, and they really let me do whatever I want. I think if I had to hand over the design step of the process to the publisher, I wouldn't even want to do the book at all... it would just be too disheartening.


SPURGEON: Can you reflect on the experience of editing the Yoshihiro Tatsumi books with D&Q? I'm specifically interested if working that closely with that material has had any effect on the way you look at your own work, and if there was anything memorable about having him visit the United States last year.

TOMINE: The Tatsumi books have been one of the most fascinating and rewarding projects I've been involved with, and the fact that they even exist (aside from my involvement) is like the fulfillment of a long-held dream for me. As a fan of Tatsumi's work, and as someone who can't read Japanese, I've been wanting to read these stories since I was a teenager.

imageI'm not a good judge of whether or not working on the books has affected my own comics directly, but I do know that the process of editing them has forced me to think about the language of comics in a more objective and analytical way than ever before. At least for me personally, it's the kind of engagement that's nearly impossible to have with my own work, and it's very enlightening.

And when Tatsumi came to America last year, I think that was easily the greatest time I've ever had at the San Diego convention. Okay, maybe that's not saying much, but it was one of the highlights of my life, to be honest. It was pretty amazing to see the crowds of people lining up to meet him. I got the impression that it was a bit overwhelming for him, but also very gratifying to finally meet so many enthusiastic, genuine fans of his work. And on a more personal level, I just loved hanging out with him. I kept thinking that he was just like all my other cartoonists friends: very kind, polite, opinionated, and maybe a little bit uncomfortable being anywhere other than at the drawing board.

SPURGEON: After Shortcomings sees its release, what can we expect from you next?

TOMINE: The project I jumped into right after finishing Shortcomings was my contribution to the next Kramers Ergot, and that was the perfect thing for me. It's a self-contained short story, it's full color, and each page is huge. It's exactly what I wanted to do after working on Shortcomings for five years. It's a weird little story called "My Porno Doppelganger."

The next big chunk of my time is going to be taken up by the least creative aspect of being a cartoonist: promotion. I'll be spending a good portion of the Fall out on the road, doing signings and talks in conjunction with the release of Shortcomings. And then after that, I suppose it's back to Optic Nerve, which will almost certainly be something different than it was before.


* cover to Shortcomings
* photo of Tomine by Peter Stanglmayr, provided by Drawn and Quarterly
* full page from Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #9)
* panel from Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #11)
* panel from Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #9)
* panel from Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #10)
* panel from Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #10)
* panel from Shortcomings (Optic Nerve #10)
* portrait of Batman provided by the artist
* art from New Yorker featuring In the Mood for Love
* art from New Yorker featuring Sean Penn
* image from Yoshihiro Tatsumi
* image from Yoshihiro Tatsumi
* (below) self-portrait, provided by Drawn and Quarterly
* (bottom) art from New Yorker featuring a bar scene in Chinatown




Shortcomings, collecting Optic Nerve #s 9-11, Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 1897299168 (ISBN10), 104 pages, September 2007, $19.95.


posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 10:25 pm PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: Joann Sfar playing a ukelele

* go, look: Thomas Ott-inspired video

* go, look: Sfar video I'd not seen before

* go, look: showing of work from the illustrator-artist Yoann

* go, look: Sigur Ros video from (based on?) Enki Bilal movie
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Bunny Aken

posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 38th Birthday, Shawn Hoke!

posted 10:05 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought of the Day

It doesn't count as San Diego anxiety if you know it's going to happen.
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Harlem, I’d Go To This


And I would go to 135th between 7th and Lenox and I would visit Jerry Craft.
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from July 14 to July 20, 2007:

1. Four protesters from last year's Danish Cartoons Controversy demonstrations in London sentenced to jail.

2. Twin Cities Newsstand mainstay turned collectibles retailer closes after decades of existence.

3. LA Daily News drops 10 comic strips.

Winner Of The Week

Loser Of The Week

Quote Of The Week
"I've seen the children of the future: they are morbidly obese and they are blowing each other constantly." -- Abhay Khosla

This week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications. I don't know, this may be the greatest cover I've ever seen.
posted 12:00 am PST | Permalink

July 20, 2007

Happy 59th Birthday, Garry Trudeau!

posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: Town Boy


Creator: Lat
Publishing Information: First Second, soft cover, 192 pages, July 2007, $16.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781596433311 (ISBN13), 1596433310 (ISBN10)

imageThe follow-up to Lat's career-making, autobiographical Kampung Boy follows the young cartoonist through an extended period of adolescence. One of the more clever aspects of the book is that Lat shows the beginning and the end of the period in greater detail, mirroring the way memory captures those periods of uncertainty that bookend a moment in life more effectively than the great, routine expanse that makes up its bulk. So we get Lat's childhood as a cautious youth and a slack teenager, and we experience his first important out-of-the-household friendship at its genesis and when the pair separate, perhaps for good. It's a frequently lovely book, filled with striking pen and ink work and stuffed to the gills with Lat's broadly humorous and humane approach to character design. There are times when reading Town Boy feels like watching through a street fair after it rains, everyday existence altered by an event just enough to make everything stand out. You can get lost in the cityscapes. In fact, I recommend it.

Most people I know consider Town Boy a greater work than its predecessor, but for me the follow-up's narrative has an unfortunate tendency to substitute summary moments for a lot of the poignant specifics of Kampung Boy. The pace is quicker, and the cursory treatments of time and place fail to live up to the extended, offbeat reveries that Lat does so well. A marvelous scene in Town Boy's first quarter shows the protagonist visiting the home of a classmate. Watching the child settle into a bigger, better version of himself once returned to a familiar environment and seeing the children interact in the foreign but familiar staleness that is always someone's home when kids are left alone should remind anyone of all the first times they visited someone else's house. The by-the-books teenage slouching and pushier-than-they-need-to-be anecdotal sideshows can't compare. The encounter with the unattainable beauty that seems to serve as a climax offers up a few nice details (she's not haughty, just protected by her family) but not enough for it to transcend its general lack of insight and inauthentic feel. It's weird to be negative at all when a single sequence of Lat's work -- say the one where the teenagers rest against a grass background the moment right after the future became a little locked in and a bit scary, or a goofy monologue from a teacher seen through the students' eyes -- can be as wonderful as entire books from lesser cartoonists. In the end, I guess I prefer the smaller scope and more tender, circular experiences of the Kampung to the rush of firsts that arrive in Town.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Friday Distraction: Massive Matt Groening Interview in LA Weekly

posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In Berkeley, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Roberto Fontanarrosa, 1944-2007


The Argentinian cartoonist and author Roberto Fontanarrosa died of heart failure on Thursday, according to Rodrigo Baeza at Comics Commentary. Born in 1944, Fontanarrosa kicked off his career as part of a generation of satirical cartoonist that came of age in the 1970s. He is primarily known for two characters that became best-selling series anchors: Inodoro Pereyra and Boogie, el aceitoso. Fontanarrosa was widely prolific, working in a number of magazines, publishing collections of gag work, becoming a well known novelist and short-story writer particularly of football (soccer) stories, and even, as Baeza mentions, putting together the occasional stand-alone projects such as an anthology of shorts in different styles called Continuara, books that might have served as the entirety of other cartoonists' careers.

In his final months, Fontanarrosa suffered from a debilitating disease that in January of this year forced him to give up drawing. He continued to write for his ongoing features. Roberto Fontanarrosa was 62 years old.
posted 3:24 am PST | Permalink

Tintin Re-Racked In Australia, Too

It looks like Border's re-racking program of Tintin in the Congo, instigated by a British commission's complaints that the depictions of African characters were unacceptably racist despite the contextual text provided at the beginning of the latest release, has gone international with preemptive re-shelvings of the book in Australia.

This kind of story makes me barf in my mouth a bit. I understand and sympathize with the notion that the book has unacceptably racist elements indicative of a time and a place we're better off now being past. But I don't understand why re-shelving it helps. It doesn't make the book's treatment of folks from Africa less racist, and it's adults who had the objections in the first place. I think kids can process material without slavishly copying it or seeing it as a ringing endorsement which should not be questioned. At least the kids I know can do this. They didn't get that way by being sealed in plastic until their critical faculties developed by magic. The book in question seems to me to have added value, because it allows kids to engage the idea of history being wrong. Maybe it's different when you have kids of your own, but it seems to me if you're going to expose your kids to books at all, sooner or later they're going to confront issues, circumstances and beliefs that are not a ringing endorsement of their own versions of these things. That was such a huge factor in the education I got through my own reading that I'm sad some kids will be denied this particular lesson.
posted 3:22 am PST | Permalink

ICAF Launches Site, Changes Name


The International Comic Arts Festival is now the International Comic Arts Forum, and has a new web site to prove it. On the site is the first public announcement of panelists and guests for this Fall, including such luminaries as Kyle Baker and Lat.

thanks, Marc Singer
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Cartoonist Confesses to Not Graduating

This article on folks lying about their academic careers has a strange focus: the cartoonist Lee Hyeon-se, a college dropout that had lied about it in an early interview and kept the lie as part of his resume. I say strange because I can't imagine any advantage a cartoonist would gain by having people think they received a college degree over their being a drop-out or getting kicked out of the first grade or something. In fact, if St. Peter gives me a quiz on education levels of cartoonists after I kick the bucket, I'm likely going straight to hell. A cartoonist might as well have told a lie about whether or not they rode a horse. If you think about it, most lies about resume stuff -- even those that pop up in the American comics industry -- are there to press some sort of unfair career advantage. Does Korea have an active bias towards non college-educated artists or something?
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 30th Anniversary, Lone Star!

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* another book.

* I don't read opinion articles unless I'm compelled to, but is this piece by Alan Dershowitz what passes for American punditry these days? Sheesh. I'm including it here because of the notion floated that one's reaction to the Danish Cartoons Controversy might serve as a future political litmus test.

* this is the first article I've seen that suggests the British protesters sentenced to jail this week suffered special treatment according to the current political climate.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Download or Just Go, Look: Paul Pope Covers PDF Mag MGZN


thanks, Jeff Newelt
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

E&P On NW Herald Post-Firing Ad

Editor & Publisher tracks the objections made to a media criticism article that was the subject of an earlier post here at this site, that spoke to the Northwest Herald running an add featuring a fired cartoonist's work. The letters from the principals are all there, so you can make up your own mind. The thing that's weird to me about it is that the paper seems to be claiming for itself a much lower burden of accuracy than it's affording the analysis in question. In general I don't see anything to suggest that media piece stepped out of the bounds of reasonable conduct, but it seems doubly clear that the NW Herald almost certainly did. Of course, you may disagree.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Me, Myself & Daniel

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Today’s Comic-Con Countdown Notes

* ladies and gentlemen, start your Airborne.

* if you don't follow message board threads, there are a couple pertaining to comics pros being in San Diego and what they'll be doing here and here.

* a classy downtown casino of a Comic-Con guide to this site's horrifying On-The-Strip monstrosity, Mark Evanier's The Official POVOnline Convention Guide has lots of good advice and is written in Mark's soothing, jocular tone. I read it before CCI to get in the mood the way some people read Charles Dickens before Christmas. OC Weekly has a guide, too. Since they're sort of local, I guess that makes them the Orleans.

* veteran con-goer Jeff Smith makes his plans.

* let the newspaper feature previews begin: Riverside, Phoenix, Orange County.

* SLG notes the focus of the LA Times dedicated web site covering the convention.

* speaking of the movies side of the show, Fox pulls out of their big presentation due to stuff not being ready or content concerns, depending on who's talking. The OC Weekly article notes that a preview of Batman Fights Heath Ledger or whatever it's called is being held for Wizard World Chicago. If that's for any reason other than it's not ready yet, that's kind of interesting.

* if you haven't been keeping up with this site's list of PR notices regarding the show, there have been a bunch of additional people writing in and it might be worth your time to scan it for publishers and creators that interest you.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 75th Birthday, Dick Giordano!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Inks
Mike Manley's Fake Cover
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
James Vance On Kings In Disguise's Underground Influence 2

SDCC Preview
TCAF Postcards
Cartoonists on Garibaldi
Kyoto Manga Museum Exhibit
Bill Tidy Supports Charity Event

Writer Stunned Katzenjammer Kids Still Exist
No Such Thing As Mary Marvel Marching Society

Cancer in the Comics 01
Cancer in the Comics 02
Cancer in the Comics 03
Winner of Kodansha Contest From North America

Houston Chronicle on Buffy Comic
Newsarama: Alex Ross, Jim Kreuger

Not Comics
We Are All Bart Simpson
Weissman's Pretty Stickers
Those Masks Are Terrifying
Eddie Campbell on Norman Jewison
Comics Britannia Show Still On the Way Tatsunori Konno Interview 01 Tatsunori Konno Interview 02

Viz in 3Q '07
STY4 Coming
TCJ Raises Price
Goodbye, Bo Nanas

Richard Bruton: Various
Steve Duin: Flight Vol. 4
David P. Welsh: Clubbing
Don MacPherson: Various
Steve Duin: The Art of Bone
Graeme McMillan: Countdown #41
Vichus Smith: Various Marvel Comics
Barb Fraze: Stories of the Saints Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Flower of Live Vol. 3
Geoff Hoppe: Conan: The Beast King of Abombi and Other Stories

July 19, 2007

CR Review: Three Comics

image1-800-MICE #2
Creator: Matthew Thurber
Publishing Information: Picturebox Inc., comic book, 24 pages, 2007, $3.95
Ordering Numbers:

I'll admit right up front I don't understand what the hell is going of here a lot of the time, nor am I always aware on what basis I should be deciding if 1-800-MICE is any good or not. Usually with comics like this, the second in a series from Matthew Thurber and PictureBox, I concentrate on the pleasure I get from the drawing and try to find some surface sympathy with the story. That's possible here. Although there are several short stories that seem self-contained, a longer narrative deals with the quest of three chefs hired by the Shogun of Los Angeles to retrieve and kill (not necessarily in that order) a rogue member of the Shogun's staff, his former assistant Peace Punk. Peace Punk distracts the trio by directing them to a secret concert where getting a ticket involves renting a crappy apartment and working a minimum wage job. I feel ridiculous even expending the energy to describe the plot, though, because the way I'm reading the latest issue seems to have more to do with picking it up and reading random panels to see if any look cool -- which they do; Thurber's an imaginative artist with chops to spare whose stuff in the bulk of the comic looks looks like either a) Jessica (formerly Jeff) Johnson making art from Mat Brinkman's visual bible, or b) Brad Johnson working with an editor that makes him redraw half his page -- and if they make me laugh.

They made me laugh. I'm semi-helpless before crude comics hi-jinx and inspired nonsense, particularly when the writing can go toe to toe with the art like Thurber's can. Here's a Thurber line, from a supplicant before some sort of king: "Acknowledged, sir, this odd-looking bitch upsetteth my wood pulp bucket spilling a day's worth of mandible toil." Mandible Toil! Here's another, from a teenager in a cab. "I spent way too much time on the Internet today. It's fucking up my DNA." Or a third. "... Things have been quiet at Colostomy Studios ever since a firecracker blew out my eardrums on the Chinese New Year." Who the hell talks like that? Who the hell thinks like that? Why would I possibly desire to pay greater attention to this stuff and potentially ruin my enjoyment of looking at it sideways from 100 yards across the room? Enough reviewing already.

imageAll-Flash #1
Creators: Mark Waid, Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Manuel Garcie, Joe Bennett, Daniel Acuna, Joshua Middleton, Bill Sienkiewicz
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, July 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

If the end of the last Flash series felt like a car wreck, than the first issue of the new series reminds me of a stop and walk through a mostly uninteresting roadside attraction. All Flash #1, and by the clunkiness of the title I suppose they're all out of Flash-related names now, reads like the kind of comic I must have read 8000 of between my childhood on the couch and my mid-20s in Seattle reading the DC box: a solidly crafted distraction from the outside world that works as unsophisticated action-adventure but also comments in some small way on the general heroism, decency and all-around humanity of its main character. It probably says something not very nice about mainstream comics right now that meeting aims this modest feels like a towering achievement.

The story by veteran hand Mark Waid marks the return of the Wally West Flash, whom I assume is more popular than the Bart Allen Flash whose death at the hands of a gaggle of super-villains drove the last series finale and fuels this debut. There's kind of a sturdy charm to the book. The action is clear, the motivations aren't too difficult to grasp on a first read, and the situation that presents itself seems to connect just enough with real life to provide a basis as to what's going on and why. It feels like one of those TV series where James Brooks or Joss Whedon returns to one of their babies and writes or directs an episode after a particularly troubled later-season run. While the comic is still gunked up with enough plot detritus to fill a personalized museum, Waid is enough of a pro to emphasize and stress things that ground the reader in the essential fantasy of decency and effectiveness that drives many superheroes over the long-term.

Where the comic gets a little strange is that Flash penalizes Bart Allen's killer not by taking him to jail or even losing his cool and hurting the villain but by thinking it through and then sentencing him to eternal torture of a kind far more demented than anything I've seen in a comic since the 1940s, when such moments were played as arch and fantastic. In fact, being frozen into place while one's mind still works is one of the classic nightmares, and it's a bit disturbing that this gets presented to the readers as a kind of "you asked for it" twist. I haven't witnessed a fate this blithely ugly in a mainstream comic book since the semi-famous Ms. Marvel mind control and rape scenario years ago in an Avengers, and the WTF quality of that particular maneuver was corrected relatively quickly and redirected for dramatic effect. I hope that's the case here. In fact, I hope it becomes a part of a future storyline, because if DC takes seriously the veneer of dramatic realism in which its modern comics trade, you can't have good guys torturing bad guys. Another, odder reason surfaces to hope the situation is further explored: it's just about the only thing of interest I took away from my reading.

imageMagic Hour #2
Creator: Alex Holden
Publishing Information: Self-Published, mini-comic, 16 pages, April 2007, $2.00
Ordering Numbers:

The thing I like best about Holden's delicate folding of fantastic elements into a story about urban teenagers is its pitch and the level of minutiae in which some of the extended scenes trade. On the one hand, the story in this second issue is about zombies and werewolves. On another, it's about teens dealing with boredom and self-confidence issues. On yet another (it's a monster book), it's about teenagers trying to steal cans of paint. The series' modest goals kind of let the level of craft on display off the hook. When I say "level of craft" I mean the more general impression that the power of its execution doesn't quite match the ambition Holden as a writer seems to have for the story. It could be that he draws well enough to do this story in a way that blows the doors off but hasn't figured out a style he enjoys, it could be that he's working more quickly than he needs to. When he finally settles into a groove, this could be a fun little book, a compelling cross between Stevie Weissman and early Ed Brubaker. As it is, it's your typically ragged, but somewhat affecting mini-comic. If you don't like it, at least you'll learn how to distract a store manager the next time it comes up.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Jay Stephens Harassed at US Border; Kept From Emmy Awards

imageMy definition of comics news doesn't extend to news just because it happens to cartoonists, and this is really an animation industry story, but a lot of you may be interested in cartoonist Jay Stephens' disturbing odyssey at the US border, and how it's restricted his ability to work on his award-winning cartoons.

As a coward hailing from a long line of cowards, I don't actually mind the idea of rigorous border crossing requirements, the same way that if there was an American airline that searched every piece of luggage and did background checks on people and patted them down before getting on the planes I would gleefully wait the 3.5 hours to board. But as has often been the case this decade, the application of any policy requiring forethought, investment, willpower and consistency has been so capricious and weird and poorly communicated and feckless that it's more national disgrace than national face.

Also: Steve Bissette is really pissed off about this.
posted 4:35 am PST | Permalink

Cheng Shifa, 1921-2007


Chinese painter Cheng Shifa, an esteemed artist in his country and internationally who spent a period of his life working in comics and continued to produce work published that way even after his more formal arts career took off, died Tuesday in Shanghai. He was 86. Shifa was considered a master of traditional arts, including landscapes, calligraphy and later in his life well-regarded portraits of working class existence.

After studying at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Art in the late 1930s with the support of relatives (his father having died when the artist was nine), Shifa began painting as a young man. He turned an eye towards comics in 1949 and fostered a relationship with the Chinese publisher Shanghai Art Publishing Agency in 1952. His series included Rulin Waishi (with Wu Jingzi), La Foret des Lettres, Peau Peinte, Kon Yiji, Cent Huit Tableaux d'apres la Veridique Histoire d'Ah (maybe his most famous work, published in 1963), Zhaoshutun and Nannuono, Ebing and Sangluo and Tenace jusqu'a la Victoire. The first book on that list won a prize at the Leipzig International Book Exhibition in 1959.

It looks like that Shifa's role may have been more that of an illustrator of stories rather than a cartoonist or even comics artist in the sense that we think of such things; I'm not completely able to tell, and it's not like a precise definition makes his artistic achievement any less than what it is. He is described in the Shanghai Daily piece as an "old kid" with a humble demeanor. He is survived by two sons.
posted 1:26 am PST | Permalink

Glaad Cites Another Delonas Cartoon


The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has issued a call for action regarding the above cartoon from Sean Delonas, which ran in the New York Post on July 16. In the piece, the group describes what they find offensive and asks those reading to contact the publication and the cartoonist to voice their displeasure. At issue is a depiction of New Jersey's gay former governor Jim McGreevey as a prospective beauty queen, which the group terms as one in a number of "dehumanizing anti-gay stereotypes."

The group claims that twice in October 2006 Delonas made similar jokes at the expense of gay people, one equating gay marriage to a union of a man and a sheep, and one starring McGreevey and a sheep.
posted 1:24 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: City Pages Comics


thanks, Kevin Cannon
posted 1:20 am PST | Permalink

BBC Profiles “Angry Men,” Now Jailed

Although many might object to the characterization of the four men sentenced to jail in Britain yesterday for actions taken during protests in February 2006 triggered by the Danish Cartoons Controversy as "Angry Young Men," this BBC News piece about the four men is probably the most significant feature to arise since the news of the sentencing came out yesterday. For one thing, I didn't know there was a 60-person protest of the sentencing until reading the article. With the recent flash of terrorist activity in that country, and a general intolerance for the more out-there excesses of free speech in many European nations, it's hard to imagine there being much sympathy for anyone choosing to explore some of the potentially unfortunate elements of this case's outcome.
posted 1:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, Richard Pini!

posted 1:16 am PST | Permalink

Two Follow-Ups: Kudzu’s End, Shinders

* Daily Cartoonist has picked up on the Reed Brennan Media Associates announcement indicating the late Doug Marlette's Kudzu will end in August (dailies 08/04; Sundays 08/26). RBMA does the production work on dozens and dozens of syndicated comic strips. Sometimes a cartoonist or those working in their name will have worked way ahead; I remember Andy Capp being something like 18 months ahead at the time of Reg Smythe's passing.

* An item on the closing of Twin Cities newsstand mainstay turned retailer and collectibles dealer Shinders at the business news and analysis site adds little of substance to what we already know about the lurid, recent back story. But it does offer up a killer photo. If you're old enough to remember buying comics on the newsstands, and it's something I did visiting Chicago as a little kid in the 1970s, it's interesting to think how one's orientation towards the experience of publicly available comics has changed now that we no longer see them. It has for me, anyway.
posted 1:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, Bob Burden!

posted 1:12 am PST | Permalink

Village Voice Starts Print-Only Comic

Michael Wartella, who cartoons as M. Wartella, wrote in to say that his reportorial comic Runnin' Scared will appear in the Village Voice as a print-only product, with no on-line version being produced. Mr. Wartella describes himself in his e-mail as an underground cartoonist, which I assume means he has an artistic affinity for those comics rather than the majority of his work is distributed through head shops. He also name drops Punch and Thomas Nast, which aren't bad names to be dropping. His site and beat (everyday life in NYC) are both attractive enough for me to want to see the feature. I hope it's good.
posted 1:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 48th Birthday, Luke McDonnell!

posted 1:08 am PST | Permalink

Today’s Comic-Con Countdown Notes

* The artist Jesse Hamm has a nice round-up of tips and suggestions here. For instance, I've never thought about making the fact you should empty your bag/backpack/purse at every opportunity a piece of formal advice, but it's a good one. Jesse and I agree on group dinners, too.

* The LA Times has a devoted on-line coverage section in support of the convention.

* Special guest and rare convention-goer Warren Ellis has posted his full schedule. I met Ellis the last time he went to San Diego and took a photo of him for my news files. He seemed so appalled by the place that in the photod he's actually leaning towards the nearest exit.

* I found this routine piece of pre-convention PR from manga giant Viz to be sort of interesting, because the announcement draws on a lot of different tracks from people that work with Viz in addition to the specific things Viz has planned.

* What is... The Toy Growers Cultyard? Read this post for the mystery, and its comments thread for the answer.
posted 1:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 46th Birthday, Terry LaBan!

posted 1:04 am PST | Permalink

Glenet Finalizes Albin-Michel Deal has a news brief up about Glenat finalizing its assumption of the Albin-Michel catalog, and why a deal didn't happen with Soleil. The piece notes this likely puts Glenat over the 20 percent market share point and that no one yet knows what this means for the title L'Echo des Savanes.
posted 1:02 am PST | Permalink

ComicsPRO’s First Position Paper Out


Let the advocacy begin. The retailer industry alliance group ComicsPRO has released its first position paper on industry policy, this time on the subject of variant covers. According to the release, 90 percent of that group's voting membership support the paper.
posted 1:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Evan Dorkin TCAF Art
Marvel's Color Problem
Eddie Campbell Roughs
Eddie Campbell Roughs

Licensing Expo Report
Exhibition Honors Didier Lefevre

David Fitzsimmons on Slow Decline
Is It A Good or Bad Sign When Your Fans Ask This?

Comics to PSP
PWCW: Cold Cut For Sale
Weekly Japan Manga Ratings
Classic Moto Hagio Re-Released
LA Daily News Comics Drop Garners Attention

PWCW: Tom Beland Tom Flammer

Not Comics
Felix Arencibia, RIP
Book Market Expects Growth
Long Piece on the Mitchell Brothers
Exhibition Empire Built on the Funnies

Giorgio Salati Launches Blog
Daily News Notices BTVS Season 8
James Vance on Manga Shakespeare
Fantagraphics: Special Edition of Palestine

Tim Hodler: Various
Brian Heater: Macedonia
Don MacPherson: Levitation
Geoff Hoppe: Black Canary #2
Geoff Hoppe: Usagi Yojimbo #103
Todd Klein: Will Eisner's The Spirit
Zak Edwards: Ultimate X-Men #84
Chris Mautner: Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1
Andrew Farago: The Amazing Spider-Man Vs. The Prodigy

July 18, 2007

CR Review: Ted May’s Injury #1


Creators: Ted May, Jeff Wilson, Jason Robards
Publishing Information: Buenaventura Press, comic book, 32 pages, July 2007, $4.95
Ordering Numbers:

imageReading Ted May's new comic book reminded me of following a favorite stand-up comedian into their brand-new television sitcom. There's so much of the established performance in the new work that it's hard to determine what its long-term value will be. In Injury #1, May provides sharply realized variations on work with which readers that have been following his career output should have great familiarity. There's the violent, abstracted superhero battle with funny insults of "Your Bleeding Face," the more standard but still funny take on a corner of real life experience in "Panama Red" and some gag strips where a fantasy figure receives absurd treatment including some awareness of the strip as a strip in the "Heracles" shorts. Only "Panama Red" feels like even a slight departure, probably because of the involvement of collaborator Jeff Wilson.

This isn't to say the features aren't solid, or funny, because they are. May's appealingly designed figures and general playful take on page design has only become sharper over the years. May's approach to humor focuses on observed stupidities and a deep appreciation of human pettiness, the way each person's grander vision of their own self fails miserably to match up against reality and the way people in general are quick to whine, kvetch and do crummy things as if an inner metronome compelled them to do so, with any positive behavior depicted climbing out of the same well of fecklessness and low standards almost as if by accident. There's a lovely twist in "Panama Red" where a high school student debases himself after some shitty behavior and instead of the expected beating those he's prostrated in front of laugh at him for being such a hilariously over-dramatic ass. While the comics here aren't as ragged or gloriously dumb or even as energetic as some of their similarly-themed predecessors, it's good to see May re-establish his view of the world in such a solid and amusing fashion. One hopes that Buenaventura Press can present May to a new audience that will appreciate being brought up to speed, and that this is finally the vehicle May settles into and pushes at the outer limits of talent, becoming the cartoonist his readers have seen in him for nearly a decade.

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 of the darn things -- 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 like the Casper animated cartoons. I think a dead kid wandering around asking people why they won't be his friend is funny, and I've found most kids connect to the rejection displayed in the original shorts with scary conviction. The comics don't work quite the same way, but I like the comics, too. I think a lot of people are curious to see what Dark Horse does production and art direction wise. I know I am.

A new release in a foundational series. It's a sign of the times that there's so many comics with which comics fans perhaps more easily connect that no one seems to talk about these.

Barring a sudden, awful plot twist that screws the pooch, Jeff Smith concludes his re-working of the American comic book classic and retains all the class he had going in. We'll probably look back on this project and wonder at some of the peculiarities of its presentation and support, and the fact that no one thought those things odd at the time.

MAY070183 SPIRIT #8 $2.99
MAR071841 GODLAND #19 $2.99
If I were going to a comic book shop every week and had a job managing a returns warehouse for QVC, Inc., I would probably be buying these serial adventure comics right now and reading them at lunch while my peers at the next table were talking NASCAR. I'll buy them eventually with the life I have now, too.

APR073468 FLIGHT VOL 4 GN $24.95
I'm way behind on Flight, but it always feels a little bit more like the summer convention season when you hear about one of these illustrator- and animator-driven anthologies coming out. Thank goodness some of the ridiculous rhetoric surrounding this series has faded away; they're good books, and quite lovely, and shouldn't have the burden of saving comics or developing the next generation of comics gods or whatever. Preview here.

The first volume of this First Second offering -- and this could be a re-solicit, so it might have been out for a while -- featured the oddest takes on coloring and page design that I think I've ever seen in a first book. It was like reading a movie shot through a kaleidoscope being swung around on the end of a rope. Just try keeping me away from at least checking out if Grady Klein continues down that same, mad path.


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. I suck.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In ABQ, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Britain’s Convicted Danish Cartoons Controversy Protesters Sentenced

All over the wires at this very second (early morning MT in the US) is news that the four men convicted for various actions at protests instigated by the publication of Muhammed caricatures in a Denmark newspaper have been sentenced to jail for their crimes. Mizanur Rahman, Umran Javed and Abdul Muhid were convicted at separate trials, and received two sentences today: six years for soliciting murder and three years for stirring up race hate. The three years will be served concurrently with the six. Abdul Saleem was cleared of the soliciting murder charge but was sentenced to four years for a race hate charge.

The incident took place in London in February of 2006, and involved the man indicted playing a role in directing or exhorting the 300 protesters that showed up. Although there was some buzz early on that the trials, which kicked off in the second half of 2006 to much publicity, were an excuse for officials to cut off the head of an increasingly agitated and potentially troublesome young Muslim community through the largely indefensible excesses of rhetoric used at the protest, discussion along those lines has all but vanished since. The oldest of the four men is 32; the youngest 24.
posted 3:24 am PST | Permalink

Actes Sud Absorbs Editions de l’An 2

imageThere's always a chance I'm going to punt a key detail, but it looks to me this article indicates that Editions de l'An 2, Thierry Groensteen's eclectic line that had suspended operation at Angouleme this year, will be absorbed into Actes Sud, with the line keeping a significant amount of creative control. Among the books that should see publication in a timely manner are an art book featuring Jean-Claude Forest and a Fletcher Hanks anthology. Among the authors published by Editions de l'An 2 are Simone Lia, Olivier Schrauwen and Groensteen himself.
posted 3:22 am PST | Permalink

I Hadn’t Seen This Cover Yet

posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Peru’s President Backs Censorious Act

According to a press release alert from the attentive International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), Peruvian President Alan Garcia has come out in favor of an incident where art from the cartoonist-illustrator Piero Quijano was removed from an exhibition because they criticized military officials. The general line to come out of the show, which was state-sponsored, is that such speech shouldn't be given the support of being exhibited in a public space, but it's not censorship because otherwise the person is free to distribute their ideas. This seems more of a staked-out position you're gearing up to defend on a radio talk show than it is an effective articulation of an ostensibly free society's support of principle, but maybe that's just me.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Contribution to TCAF’s FCBD Comic


Explained here.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

American Publisher Passes on German Kids’ Book and Its Cartoon Nudity

imageI've been meaning to post this for a couple of days now but for some reason keep forgetting, so this may be considered a "Missed It" at this point: Spiegel Online has a nice summary article about American publisher Boyds Mills Press taking a pass on popular German author Rotraut Susanne Berner's Wimmel series. (Actually you might prefer the Independent write-up that remembers to include the name of the book series.) The reason: a pair of cartoon breasts and a microscopic cartoon penis as art in a museum.

This is interesting in that you can sort of see the publisher's point in this case. A children's book with incidental nudity would almost certainly cause some consternation given the lack of cartoon nudity in the ten billion other kids' books out this year. At the same time, it's kind of shameful to admit that this kind of innocuous thing -- the series is published in 13 countries, where I'm going to assume no one is running through the streets eating the flesh from people's faces -- could actually lead to criminal proceedings here. It's like that kid who can't invite other kids home to play after school because of some hard-ass, live-in relative.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Indie Spinner Rack Anthology

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Wizard Fan Award Nominees

This Wizard Fan Awards have announced their nominees for this year's ceremony, to be held at the Wizard World Chicago convention in August. The Wizard Fan Awards are highly focused awards. They are centered on American superhero comic books and those occasional outside elements of heroic fiction which fans of superhero comic books frequently adore.

imageI like them because they still give nominations out to the armless statue people, it's fun to see what alt-comic related project pops out of the awards' belly like that scene in Alien (and this year's party-crasher is... Art School Confidential?), and every so often there's something that makes an eyebrow arch, like the in-story murder of one of Marvel's half-dozen prominent African-American heroes making the Comics Greatest Moment category. Did anyone reading Civil War really think that moment was awesome? Was "greatest" redefined as "slightly depressing" without my realizing it? Would Wizard editors watch The Godfather and come away raving about Luca Brasi's death scene? I'm imagining kids sitting around when one of them reading the comic yells "Eat it, Black Goliath!" and they all high-five each other. That was like the 3,189th greatest moment in comics last year, between Glenn Ganges entering a room at #3188 and every panel from Blade #6 tied at #3190.

See? This post is a lot more fun to write than the one for the Harveys. Anyhow:

Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man)
Brian Michael Bendis (New Avengers)
Geoff Johns (Infinite Crisis)
Ed Brubaker (Captain America)
Joss Whedon (Astonishing X-Men)

Steve McNiven (Civil War, New Avengers)
Steve Epting (Captain America)
Phil Jimenez (Infinite Crisis)
John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men, Planetary)
Tony Daniel (Teen Titans)

Danny Miki (Moon Knight)
Andy Lanning (Infinite Crisis)
Stefano Gaudiano (Daredevil)
Mike Perkins (Captain America)
Dexter Vines (Civil War)

J.G. Jones (52)
Simone Bianchi (Detective Comics)
Gabrielle Dell'Otto (Annihilation)
James Jean (Fables)
Arthur Suydam (Marvel Zombies)

Morry Hollowell (Civil War)
Laura Martin (Astonishing X-Men)
Bill Crabtree (Invincible)
Moose Baumann (Green Lantern)
Dave Stewart (B.P.R.D.)

Richard Starkings & Comicraft (New Avengers)
Nick J. Napolitano (Infinite Crisis)
Todd Klein (Fables)
Rus Wooten (Invincible)
Chris Eliopoulos (Civil War)

Steve Wacker (52)
Tom Brevoort (New Avengers)
Peter Tomasi (Batman)
Scott Allie (B.P.R.D.)
Axel Alonso (Amazing Spider-Man)

Captain America (Captain America)
Ralph Dibny (52)
Daredevil (Daredevil)
Spider-Man (Amazing Spider-Man)
Luke Cage (New Avengers)

She Hulk (She-Hulk)
Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman)
Ms. Marvel (Ms. Marvel)
Renee Montoya (52)
Black Canary (Birds of Prey)

Superboy Prime (Infinite Crisis)
Lex Luthor (52)
Annihilus (Annihilation)
The Governor (The Walking Dead)
The Red King (Incredible Hulk)

Winter Soldier (Captain America)
The Question (52)
Foggy Nelson (Daredevil)
Jimmy Olsen (All-Star Superman)
Debbie Grayson (Invincible)

Captain America (Marvel)
The Walking Dead (Image)
Daredevil (Marvel)
52 (DC)
Runaways (Marvel)

Infinite Crisis (DC)
B.P.R.D.: The Black Flame (Dark Horse)
Marvel Zombies (Marvel)
Nova (Marvel)
Civil War: Young Avengers and Runaways (Marvel)

Villains United Special (DC)
Annihilation Prologue (Marvel)
The Goon 25-Cent Issue (Dark Horse)
Winter Soldier: Winter Kills (Marvel)
Civil War: Casualties of War (Marvel)

Dark Horse

Hawkeye Statue (Bowen Designs)
MiniMates Galactus Statue (Diamond Select)
Dr. Doom Helmet & Hood (Limited by CAS)
Jennifer from Liberty Meadows Statue (CD Moore Studio)
Sexy Slave Leia Statue (Kotobukiya)

Marvel Legends (Toy Biz)
DC Superheroes (Mattel)
Alex Ross' Justice (DC Direct)
Superman/Batman (DC Direct)
Marvel MiniMates (Diamond Select Toys)

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros)
X-Men: The Last Stand (Fox)
Art School Confidential (Sony)
Superman Returns (Warner Bros)
Casino Royale (MGM)

Christos N. Gage (Union Jack)
Ed Benes (Justice League of America)
Ivan Reis (Green Lantern)
Daniel Acuña (Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters)
Greg Pak (The Incredible Hulk)

Death of Superboy (Infinite Crisis #6)
Death of Roger the Homunculus (B.P.R.D.: The Black Flame #3)
Spider-Man unmasks (Civil War #2)
Clone Thor kills Goliath (Civil War #3)
Death of Booster Gold (52 #15)

Lost (ABC)
Battlestar Galactica (SciFi)
Heroes (NBC)
Smallville (The CW)
Justice League Unlimited (Cartoon Network)

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros)
Superman Returns (Warner Bros)
X-Men: The Last Stand (Fox)
Ultimate Avengers II (Marvel)
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Warner Bros)

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Activision)
Justice League Heroes (Warner Bros Interactive)
Superman Returns (EA Games)
Gears of War (Microsoft Game Studios)
The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess (Nintendo)
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Half Of Dorkin MAD Spread

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Today’s Comic-Con Countdown Notes

* it's probably worth making a special point of the National Cartoonists Society panel (12:30 Saturday Room 4 -- Alcaraz, Breen, Cagle, Feinstein, Jantze, Kelley), and their booth number (1307), if only because some people forget that strip cartoonists are there. That sounds like I'm being mean, but they're a pretty low-key group -- even when Editor & Publisher runs an article dedicated to their panel.

* you know, that panel where all the Image founders are going to appear at the same time in the same place is going to be a tough seat.

* The writer and comics industry pundit Steven Grant has a long piece up on San Diego worth reading. I don't necessarily agree with all of his reasoning, but it's as well-argued as readers have come to expect.

* Here's an OTBP item that looks like it will be spread around a few tables during CCI instead of settling into one place: the documentary Independents: A Guide For The Creative Spirit, which boasts a nice interview line-up.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Apocatastatis

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Eddie Campbell's Roughs
Scary-Ass Manga Peanuts
Comic Art Featuring Towns of Europe

Photo Reportage From Annecy
International Manga Contest Trip Diary
Exhibit Highlights Manga's Influence in Australia

Joyce Carol Oates Loves MAD

I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
Borders Moves Tintin in the Congo
Guy Gilchrist Has a Phone Deal, Too
Decline of Indian Newspaper Cartoonists
Tintin in the Congo Sales up 3800 Percent

Wizard: Matt Fraction
The Book Show: Jeet Heer
Newsarama: G. Willow Wilson
The Professor Blog: Pekka Alan Manninen
Collected Comics Library Podcast: Ralf Schulze
Good Brian Heater Summary Interview on Zuda

Not Comics
Scripps Killy Cincy Post
John Layman Joins Cryptic

Mobile Comics Daily Launches
David Willis Kids Funky Winkerbean
Ennis Doing Frontier Comic For Avatar

Jog: Rogan Gosh
Abhay Khosla: Various
Don MacPherson: Various
Don MacPherson: Full Color
Bill Sherman: Tek Jansen #1
Erik Pederson: Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1
Chris Mautner: Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1

July 17, 2007

CR Review: Robot Dreams


Creator: Sara Varon
Publishing Information: First Second, softcover, 208 pages, August 2007, $16.95.
Ordering Numbers: 9781596431089 (ISBN 13); 1596431083 (ISBN10)

imageSara Varon's Robot Dreams is one of the new breed of all-ages fables told in (mostly) anthropomorphic guise. A dog takes his robot friend to the beach in late summer. The robot becomes immobilized by the sun, and the dog, not quite sure what to do when this curious circumstance presents itself, abandons the robot. The bulk of the story is a back and forth between chapters featuring the dog trying and mostly failing to make new friends, and the robot's fate on the beach, where he mostly dreams of a kinder fate. It's a cute story, one that kids will appreciate for its surface value informed by the slight veneer of adult inscrutability, and one that adults will enjoy puzzling out, and for its at-times bleak sense of humor.

While Varon's designs are fun and her restrained, tasteful sense of color is soothing to the eye, the comics themselves lack a vibrancy that I think comes from an uncertain sense of pacing and staging. There are a few times where the eye expects characters to be in one place and they're suddenly in another that breaks the visual flow. The stories feel designed to illustrate their basic points rather than things that happened somewhere according to a world that has a life of its own. This is exacerbated by the fact that none of the scenes are truly surprising, even as accomplished as many of them are in terms of communicating levels of emotional distress and character shortcomings. Also, while the basic designs are superior, when they come alive the characters feel more like attractive stickers placed on a refrigerator in amusing tableaux than they do characters with a life and core of energy they call their own. This is a nice book, and a visually attractive one, but it's a comic that never transcends its initial impression to become something great.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

LA Daily News Drops 10 Comic Strips

According to its in-house opinion log, the Los Angeles Daily News recently dropped ten strip features, including the venerable Funky Winkerbean in the midst of its attention-grabbing cancer storyline. I can't find any original announcement, but the feature linked to on reader complaints lists most of the features dropped.

Semi-radical shifts like this seem to be a part of the general, looser attitude towards the once-notoriously conservative strip publishing world that many newspapers seem to engage in these days. And by bringing in the word conservative, I'm indicating there seems to be a greater chance for strips and even groups of strips to be picked up and/or dropped right now than there used to be.

Speaking of Los Angeles media and the comics world, the great Tim Cavanaugh writes an editorial I can't keep on the screen long enough to read because a part of it burns my eyes. I'm sure it's good, though, and funny, like almost everything Tim writes.

thanks, Alex Chun
posted 3:55 am PST | Permalink

Twin Cities’ Shinders Chain Closes

imageShinders, a Minnesota newsstand chain that was a key retail presence and provider of comics in the 1980s Twin Cities comics community, becoming as well if not better known as a collectibles business, has closed down its eight remaining stores after an extended series of business setbacks and accusations of major, potentially criminal malfeasance by its current owner. As a longtime magazine seller whose heyday moving comics coincided with a growth period in retail locations that took place from late 1970s to the early 1990s, Shinders enjoyed what was likely a unique perspective on comics selling among a growing class of comics specialists coming from places like those dealing in back-issues at conventions and those making new comics sales part of their used book and collectible comics businesses.

thanks, Donnie Sticksel
posted 3:40 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

With sentencing news in the case of Muslims convicted from crimes rising out of riots in London about the 2005 Danish newspaper Muhammed caricatures expected tomorrow, a piece of news I missed stands out today. Apparently, last week Denmark's Islamic Faith Community lost a libel case stemming from being accused of "treason" by going on tour in part to drum up international support for their position on those newspaper cartoons. It was determined that the term was used extensively in public debate, and was therefore not libelous.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Giovanni Boselli, 1924-2007

imageVarious European-focused web sites are reporting the passing of the Italian humor cartoonist, children's book and magazine illustrator and animator Giovanni Sforza Boselli. Boselli was born in Africa, in the then-Italian colony of Eritrea. His family moved to Italy when Boselli was 10, where he began his study of art. His entry at has Boselli working for Il Giornalino in 1969 on the feature Susy La Rossa. Later efforts included Gec Sparaspar, Bellocchio e Leccamuffo and Il Signor Beniamino, a feature he also wrote. In the 1980s he drew Dodo & Coco for longtime client Il Giornalino.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Red Sonja v. Red Sonya

I don't have any commentary on this piece about a forthcoming hearing on claims by two companies surrounding the Red Sonja character, recently popular in comics again for a bunch of reasons some of which I probably don't want to explore. In fact, I had no idea there was a dispute out there, let alone that there was a character called Red Sonya that may or may not have informed Roy Thomas' long-ago insertion of a female foil for Conan into that character's popular 1970s funnybook. The notion that PR where you kind of let people maybe believe in something that might not be true is actionable is an interesting notion as well.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Mollusk #4

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Mort Walker Launches Free Magazine

Dave Astor has a nice article profiling Mort Walker's trial run at an ad-driven free magazine geared toward regional editions, a publication containing a great deal of comics and cartooning content in its editorial package, The Best of Times. This is interesting in and of itself, and for its reflection on Walker's entrepreneurial spirit, and for a couple of other reasons that might be harder to notice. One is that it's reminiscent of previous attempts to do a free comics-driven publication of this type or a tab to go into existing magazines, which is something that publishers always seemed to be talking about in the 1990s. Another is that the success of such a magazine is almost impossible to quantify from the outside in, because it depends on executing a thoughtfully conceived business model based on ad sales and budgeting more than any outside measure of health. All you can really do is wait to see if it continues to come out, and maybe track new hires and markets entered.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

I Miss Superheroes Smoking A Butt

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Array of Quality Features

For some reason, today was all about more significant than usual features:

* It should come as no surprise that Stan Sakai of the extremely well crafted and highly entertaining comics series Usagi Yojimbo makes extremely well crafted and highly entertaining con reports, too. His latest is on the recent seven-day Japan Expo in Paris.

* The Forbidden Planet International Blog has posted an engrossing interview with Ramallah-based cartoonist illustrator and cartoonist Katie Miranda.

* Two fairly major art-driven previews: 1) From Jeff Smith's The Art of Bone, which is interesting in that Smith isn't doing it himself, Bone doesn't have a ton of supplementary material, and I'm not really aware that Dark Horse has done a ton of such books. Smith talks about his personal reaction to seeing the book here. 2) From Flight Vol. 4, the latest in a series of books that have been the main mover in a mini-trend for animators and illustrators to kind of reach into comics and do some work there. That may seem pretty common now, but it's certainly something that didn't happen a whole lot of the time 10-15 years ago.

* Matthias Wivel posts a fine, unpublished 1999 article comparing and contrasting David Mazzucchelli's lauded "Big Man" short story with Alex Toth's 1975 Warren Publishing effort "Daddy and the Pie."
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 90th Birthday, Gus Arriola!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Today’s Comic-Con Countdown Notes

* Interactive booth map found here (found on The Engine). Except for what appears to be a smaller artist's alley, and maybe a slight consolidation of toy people, it appears to my untrained eye to look much the same as last year's set-up. This makes a certain amount of sense given the continuity that's settled in in terms of who sets up at the show. For those of you who haven't been, note the links in the upper left-hand corner which will move you around the floor; the whole thing doesn't pop up at once.

* Also at The Engine: anecdotally at least, a fair number of rooms seem sort of open; NBM needs booth help; and the best way to drive to Phoenix.

* To provide some clarity on something I mentioned yesterday, I believe that press folks attending the show will likely receive their confirmations this week via e-mail.

* The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a lot more information on their auction up. Press release here. Visually-driven preview here. The CBLDF counts on convention auctions to raise money for its work, including defending Georgia retailer Gordon Lee in his forthcoming trial, now slotted for mid-August.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips' Pencils
Eddie Campbell's Roughs
Mike Manley Paints the Wolfman

SLG CCI Sked on iPod
Schulz Museum Self-Examines

Tintin In The Congo Summary
Evan Dorkin Hectic Planet Drawings

Manga Bible NT Extreme
Challenges to Foreign Manga Artists
What It Takes To Be A Comic Shop Clerk
Chip Mosher to Marketing and Sales at Boom!

Comic Bloc: Mike Wieringo
Newsarama: Marc Bernardin Nate Creekmore

Not Comics
McDonnell Against Vertical Traps
New Shitty Nerd Behavior Standard-Bearers

DHC's PBF Pre-Hype
Retail Collection Comics-Plus
Sun-Times Looks at Minx Line
Kodansha: One Canceled, One Planned

Eric Olsen: Macedonia
Pauline Wong: Canon Vol. 1
Rob Clough: Comics Comics
Don MacPherson: King City, Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: BTVS Season Eight #2

July 16, 2007

CR Review: Tales From The Crypt #1


Creators: Kyle Baker, Rob Vollmar, Marc Bilgrey, Mr. Exes, Ortho, Tim Smith, Laurie E. Smith, Mark Lerer, Jim Salicrup, Rick Parker
Publishing Information: Papercutz, comic book, 44 pages, July 2007, $3.95
Ordering Numbers:


Tales From The Crypt #20, EC Comics, 1950

Tales From The Crypt #1, Papercutz, 2007










I'm not comparing art from the first issue of EC's re-titled, early-'50s Tales From the Crypt series and Papercutz' newly-licensed debut issue to be cruel. For all I know, many people might prefer the newer art. However, I think the art makes clear that the basic failure of the Tales From The Crypt #1 -- and I think it's a great, heaving collapse on all levels -- has as much to do with tone as it does with craft. I suspect that the line and therefore this book targets young readers, but there's a point at which if you're not going to give readers something scarier than a guy pointing a gun somewhere oddly off panel, a few vaguely threatening zombies and some animated action figures, why do a series of comics with this title in the first place? With so many options available to readers, even in horror directed at young folks, what about this laconically paced, unlovely, and magnificently cliched work should make anyone want to return?

You could build a house from discarded copies of uninspiring licensed comics, but this effort depresses more than usual in that Papercutz is an imprint of NBM. For all that I go back and forth on some of that company's individual titles, the traditionally admirable thing about NBM is that they've led with content -- translated European albums and their take on an American equivalent -- and then found as much of a market for their books as they can. I suppose in these times where we're actually starting to see the rise of comics industry-targeted marketing consultants that the Tales From the Crypt brand can be leveraged into some places other comics can't go and can be used to whip up press coverage other comics would have to buy. Hey, I might not be doing this review if the book were called Papercutz' Heebie-Jeebies. But wherever this comic goes and whoever buys it when it gets there, they'll be reading some really uninspired stories. The great EC-style twist here is that the dragged-out stories and at-best desultory art are more like the comics that served as the background against which that fabled line's attention to craft and basic storytelling values popped. Tales From the Crypt made my stomach churn, just for all the wrong reasons.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were in West Tisbury, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: British Danish Cartoons Protester Mizanur Rahman Guilty Again

According to this news source, the first of the British protesters found guilty for crimes stemming from their participation in 2006 London protests related to the publication of Muhammed caricatures in a Danish newspaper was recently found guilty of another crime: inciting murder. Mizanur Rahman was also convicted last November of inciting racial hatred; the jury failed to reach a verdict on inciting murder at that time. Rahman, Umran Javed, Abdul Saleem and Abdul Muhid are scheduled to be sentenced on their various related convictions this Wednesday.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Doug Marlette Remembered


Several articles and features were posted over the weekend that may put into greater context the late editorial and strip cartoonist Doug Marlette and his various contributions to comics. Here are three I thought particularly insightful, and four featuring cartoonist reactions suggested to me by JP Trostle:

* a round-up of recent cartoons from his last editorial cartooning at the Tulsa World; click through the images for a slideshow

* a number of friends speak to the writer of this article about Marlette and the funeral services

* another report on those services

* Cullum Rogers in the alt-weekly The Independent

* the editorial cartooning community's response

* Ed William, Marlette's former editor at the Charlotte Observer

* Former Indy Editor John Yewell
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Far Arden, Chapter 10

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink June 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 suppose the biggest news is that a market that folks suspected was primed to benefit event comics revealed itself as a market primed to benefit event comics, with the relatively minor line anchor World War Hulk posting significant sales and boosts to related comics. I suppose there could be something to the relative non-volatility of the Buffy and Dark Tower efforts, which are significant non-traditional action adventure titles doing well in that comics market. It's difficult to tell the difference between a book maintaining its level by continuing to appeal and one that stays in one place because it's straining against a restrictive ceiling, so any firm conclusions are probably best left off the table.

DC's current event build-up/event unto itself series, Countdown, continues its steady sales hemorrhage. Depending on how many books are out next month, it may fall out of the top 20 entirely. With Justice ending and whatever they're calling the Flash comic a risk not to hold its numbers of its snuff-comic predecessor, DC might have one of those gut-check months in July. On the other hand, their newest Fables book fairly crushed by DM standards. I note once again that Wolverine is the only X-Men book in the top 20, and as that group of books seems to be suffering from a combination of long-term narrative exhaustion and a loss of potency as some of its signature qualities seep into the general line, it's hard to imagine what a comeback strategy would even look like.

As always, as long as we're hearing about discrepancies between these numbers and what creators are reporting, it's best to take these lists not just as estimates, but as estimates of the broader trends only.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 37th Birthday, Pierre Wazem!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: The Savage Critics

The Savage Critics web site owned and operated by Brian Hibbs out of his Comix Experience retail location has opened up its roster to bring in a number of prominent writers about comics.

Johanna Draper Carlson, Diana Kingston-Gabai, Abhay Khosla, Joe McCulloch and Douglas Wolk will join current SC regulars Hibbs, Graeme McMillan and Jeff Lester to make up what in his press release an effusive Brian Hibbs calls a "magnificent seven," a term more familiar to many people as "eight."

I kid because I love. They had me at "Khosla."
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: The Birds

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Today’s Comic-Con Countdown Notes

* Too late to get a four-day pass, too early to start taking Airborne...

* In case you missed it, next week's Comic-Con International has reached its limit on four-day passes, and is in danger of running out of its three-day ticket package (skipping Saturday) and individual day attendance tickets before the show kicks off.

* Since five or six of you wrote in to ask specifically about press passes, I checked and the Con is indeed still processing its press pass requests, so there's no reason to think that just because you haven't heard word back yet that there's something wrong with your application. In fact, they're hoping to send out confirmations so that you receive them this week.

* Although I'm not really set up to best communicate to you everyone's schedules and hype, I have set up a clearinghouse post in the letters section for those notices I end up receiving, perhaps by accident. The two sort-of interesting notices in there right now are Justin Eisinger's that IDW is accepting applications for an editor's job at the convention (drop off your resumes; maybe get interviewed at the show), which could result in a tidal wave of resumes, and a anonymous announcement of a CBLDF benefit party on Thursday night at the Westgate backed in part by Scholastic, who used to (and perhaps still will) do a tasteful cocktail party that same evening.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

I Post Everything Fred Hembeck Asks


Even though I'm guessing everyone's already seen it.
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
AAEC Convention Report
Another Preview of NJ Exhibition

Superhero As Society's Mirror
One Talk Show Host's Collection
A Short History of Dark Horse Comics

Shop Expands
No Harry Potter Comics
Racism Charge Drives Demand
Comics Canadian Pricing Sometimes Ridiculous

Doug Marlette Appreciation
R. Crumb Article, If It Loads

Not Comics
Howdy, Thor!
Matt Richtel's Novel
Decorating With Comics
Catching Up With Rick and Ariel
Go, Look: CR Photographer Whit Spurgeon's New Video

Next Raisin Pie Cover
Another Bible Comics Article
NY Post on Manga Shakespeare
DS Fails to Flower in Buck Owens Country
Chuck Austen = Harbinger of Things To Come

Bob Weinberg: Macedonia
Richard Krauss: Ka-Whump! #2
Richard Krauss: Various Webcomics
How Rachel Cooke Learned to Love Comics
Bob Weinberg: Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus

July 14, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Graham Annable



Graham Annable is one of those artists that comes along where you wish that the entire industry could shift a bit towards a business structure and an artistic landscape that better fit his talents. An animator and long-time comics fan, Annable is probably best known for the highly-stylized simplicity of his characters, these slouching, boxy stick-figures that the Portland resident marches through a series of horrors and physical traumas that are made inevitable by their own hubris. It's classic cartoons come to comics, in that way, a pared-down version of what the similarly under-appreciated Roger Langridge achieves.

I'm a fan of Annable's. I've enjoyed both his solo work like Grickle as well as the comics he does for the anthology Hickee. The third issue of the third volume of the latter book is the springboard for our short chat. Hickee is a very energetic anthology, and I think its greatest strength beyond the quality of its material is that there's a shared aesthetic between the cartoonists that seems to make the book bigger than the sum of its parts. I wish it came out every month.


TOM SPURGEON: Graham, I don't know anything about you other than that you're a friendly guy and you make funny comics. Is there a short history you can give me of how you came to do comics? Were you a comics reader as a kid?

GRAHAM ANNABLE: I was definitely a huge comics reader as a kid. Big into Spider-Man. I definitely preferred the Marvel comics to DC as a young lad. I couldn't never figure out what the hell was going on with most DC characters. They were always meeting up with doppelgangers and reversing the time space continuum and whatnot. Too confusing for my simpleminded head. Marvel always seemed to have stuff that related to my tiny world view at the time.

I was also really into Peanuts and Archie comics. I hoarded tons of the paper digests that reprinted the Schulz strips and old Archies. I could never get enough of that stuff.


larger version of above available here

SPURGEON: Am I right that you work in animation? Can you tell me about the day job? How much time in a week, say, do you get to do comics?

ANNABLE: I spent 12 years as an animator in the games industry, most of it at LucasArts. I did both traditional hand drawn stuff and computer animation. I'm currently working as a story artist on the stop motion animated feature Coraline from Laika. It's pretty much my dream job in the animation industry. Working from written scripts and conversing with the director, I get to take the first step in translating the story from words into visuals. It's a wonderful and challenging process and I absolutely love doing it. It's also not a far cry from doing comic work, which is great. I feel like the story work has definitely sharpened my compositional and storytelling skills, which I hope translates into better comics.

The amount of time I spend on comic work really varies depending on what sorts of projects I have going on. If I had to give an average I'd say I spend about six to eight hours a week total on comics. That number spikes up when there's a specific deadline involved of course.

SPURGEON: This is a second volume of Hickee, right?

ANNABLE: [sighs] It's actually the third volume now.


ANNABLE: It's a bit bizarre how it's come to be three volumes of Hickee material. It's due to us constantly changing the scope and format of the book early on. Jeff Mason first published a collection of our previously self-published Hickee comics into a trade paperback appropriately named Hickee #1. At the time I think we all thought it would be a one shot sort of a deal. But further down the road Jeff expressed desire in publishing Hickee on a semi-regular basis, so we re-introduced Hickee as a new series from Alternative Comics (Hickee vol.2 #1.) This particular comic was an odd size (it was based on the weird format we had self published the comics with) and ultimately it became problematic for comic shops for shelf placement. So, after much deliberation we decided to re-launch Hickee again in a standard size and format. Jeff felt it was a good idea to just start fresh and so Hickee vol.3 #1 was born.

All of these changes and #1s happened within the span of about two and half years which I'm sure has been incredibly bewildering to anyone outside of our little circle. I feel confident in saying that I don't see this latest format changing anytime soon. Who knows? We might even get up to issue #4 this time!


larger version of above available here

SPURGEON: How did you arrive at your stylized version of figure drawing? What is it about that style that you like best, that you think works best?

ANNABLE: I've got a pretty short attention span when it comes to visuals. I like to just get to the point and move on if possible. Drawing the acting and emoting of the characters is far and away the most satisfying part for me. I like the idea that I'm evolving a simple and direct enough style for myself that it becomes like hand writing. Instead of using words I'm communicating with my little grickle fellas and you can recognize the style instantly, like someone's writing.

SPURGEON: Is Hickee edited?

ANNABLE: Hickee is edited by me. And when I say editing, I mean I'm the person that gathers all the finished stories and assembles the book. I don't know if that's truly deserving of the title of editor, actually. Maybe organizer is a better term for what I do. As a group we always wanted to keep everyone's participation in the comic very loose and fun, with as little interference as possible. So I don't really mess with each artist's contribution much. If something feels wrong for the tone of the comic or there are some gross grammatical problems I'll definitely address it. But most of the time folks are pretty much policing themselves as they create their Hickee stories.

SPURGEON: Was that Anna Nicole Smith piece completed before or after she passed away? It's sort of impressive in its bile either way.

ANNABLE: I believe Vam created that after hearing the news. I find Vam to be impressive, so I'm not surprised his comics are, too.

SPURGEON: You mine a very specific kind of humor, based usually in out-sized, aberrant behavior that is recognized as such within the strip -- the fact that someone is chasing someone with a chainsaw is funny in part because there's a realization in the comic how horrible this is. What do you find funny about those moments of violence and cruelty?

ANNABLE: I always gravitated towards that type of humor my whole life and I suspect it's genetic. My mother, a very quiet, soft-spoken woman, always seemed to derive great humor from watching people in distress. And by people, I mean usually my father.

I grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada, and we used to get some pretty icy days there. One morning as my dad was preparing to go to work he slipped on the front door steps and slid across the driveway on his back and right under our car. My mother had witnessed the whole thing from the doorway and could not stop laughing as just my dad's head poked out from beneath the car. Thankfully my dad was unharmed by the incident. That kind of humor has always appealed to me most.

SPURGEON: Who might be an influence that hard to see in your work at an initial glance?

ANNABLE: I absolutely love Harvey Kurtzman. I wished he'd been able to create a dozen books like Jungle Book. I read an inordinate amount of E.C. Segar's Popeye growing up and I think that stuff seeped into my work, or at least I hope it did. Charles Schulz was another cartoonist that I read backwards and forwards and I'm certain is permanently lodged in my psyche. I guess those are all pretty standard influences for just about any cartoonist these days.


larger version of above available here

SPURGEON: Nathan Stapley's comics really stand out in this latest issue. Can you talk about one or two of your Hickee peers and what you appreciated about them?

ANNABLE: Nathan's sensibility never ceases to surprise me. He's a fine artist at heart and doesn't really read comics much at all, so his stuff feels straight from the gut to me. I love it. I'm really amazed by the motley crew of artists that form Hickee. Some are straight up illustrators, and others are animators, but our comic work is tied to the same wavelength of humor. We really crack each other up when we get together and draw and that's the vibe I've always wanted the Hickee comic to capture.


larger version of above available here

SPURGEON: I'm told that Jeff has over the last five years or so scaled back a bit on the books he releases. Has this had any impact on your ability to publish through him as often as you'd like? How is Jeff as a publisher generally?

ANNABLE: I'm not sure that Jeff's schedule has really impacted the Hickee comic much. We've always had a sort of sporadic existence with Alternative. Part of it is Jeff and part of it is us. The comic ebbs and flows as people's lives and work situations change. I moved up to Portland last year and started a new job, and that definitely put a crimp in my comics time (and subsequently Hickee's time). Other folks have gotten busy before and we've always played it by ear, working with Jeff to establish when the next best time would be for a new book. It's quite free-form, and it's been a mutually effective setup, I think.

That said, I would like to establish a slightly more regulated schedule for Hickee in the future to make it easier for fans of the comic. I know it can be frustrating waiting long periods of time between issues and never being sure when the next one is coming around the corner.

SPURGEON: How do you balance your interests between shorter stories like those in Hickee and the longer, stand-alone pieces that you do? What would you most like to be remembered for?

ANNABLE: For me the Hickee stories are an opportunity to try new things, both visually and thematically. I want to keep them slightly experimental, to test out ideas and make it fresh and fun. They're like doing exhilarating little sprints instead of a long marathon like the Grickle books are.

I suppose I'd like to be remembered as a cartoonist that was able to express pathos and/or humor effectively through an efficient, direct, style. And if not that, then at least a fellow that either disturbed or amused a few people with his doodles.


Hickee Vol. 3 #3, Various, Alternative Comics, comic book, 32 pages, 9781891867958 (ISBN13), 1891867954 (ISBN10), APR07 3315 (Diamond), June 2007, $2.95


front and back cover
page 4 - Razmig Mavlian
page 10 - Graham Annable
page 15 - Nathan Stapley
page 21 -- Joe White
page 27 (below) -- Scott Campbell



larger version of above available here
posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: Eddie Campbell on Bill Peet

* go, look: Chuck Norris as drawn by Steve Ditko

* go, listen: Silly Daddy theme song

* go, look: Ryan Iverson

* go, look: Dan Zettwoch draws on canvas shoes
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Ahko

posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 37th Birthday, Kelly Sue DeConnick!

posted 10:02 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought Of The Day

I always think it's nice of them in those Harry Potter movies when they say that Cedric Diggory was killed by Lord Voldemort, when he was actually killed by Timothy Spall's goofy character.

Also: God, could I please have a dollar for every "the boy who lived/the boy who died" turn of phrase we read/see/hear in the next two weeks, twice that for a headline? Thanks. You're aces.
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

July 13, 2007

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from July 7 to July 13, 2007:

1. Stan Lee Media sues Stan Lee.

2. Pulitzer Prize-winner Doug Marlette dies in an auto accident at age 57.

3. Cold Cut is apparently for sale.

Winner Of The Week
Slave Fetishists

Loser Of The Week
Stan Lee; the Stan Lee Media case against Stan doesn't seem as ridiculous as their $5 Billion suit against Marvel.

Quote Of The Week
"He is given an amazing wheelchair." -- Odd line of description from the Stan Lee Media case against Stan Lee.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 11:30 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 80th Birthday, Mike Esposito!

posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 73rd Birthday, Gotlib!

posted 10:45 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 31st Birthday, Alex Cox!

posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Jog The Blog!

posted 10:25 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: Just When You Thought Things Couldn’t Get Worse

Creator: Edward Sorel
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, softcover, 170 pages, June 2007, $18.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781560978589

imageFor as much as Edward Sorel's cartooning has been kept mostly to the margins of a rightfully lauded career as an illustrator and portrait-maker, the comics in Just When You Thought Things Couldn't Get Worse prove remarkably consistent in their outlook and applied craft. Split into several areas of modern living, the bulk collected here by longtime fan and editor Gary Groth touch on political and cultural issues. Refreshingly, Sorel goes knives out for the hypocrisy of modern conservative politics and the presumption of truth inherent to the doctrines of the right and the left. A recurring theme to Just When You Thought... is that each side of American politics achieves the same results through slightly different means and emphases. If it seems Sorel spends more time pummeling the conservative side of the spectrum, well, it's been that kind of half century. It's easy to imagine Sorel as an otherwise placid student suddenly beating up the playground bully, and then when the laughing from the prone kid's rival gets a little too loud, Sorel grabbing bully #2 by the hair and giving him a few shots for good measure. You can even track Sorel's voice through the pages if you're so inclined, a generous and funny presence in the midst of so much venality.

Where the notion of variety makes its presence known is through Sorel's approach to the art: color and black and white, a style in each that favors dozens of thin line marks to achieve texture and two more that make use of solids, single drawings and sequential comics, borderless two-page spreads and rigidly structure tiers. They are all lovely, although I favor the thickly textured color pages. Format gets a workout, too. The book was selected from a wide variety of publications (about 50 additional publishable cartoons didn't make the cut), and we therefore see everything from first person reportage over multiple pages to single-drawing summary statements on periods from the past. I liked best some of the two-page spreads featuring a borderless, single scene against which a series of actions play out, and a genuinely sweet strip about the artist having lunch with his mother. Although the most significant impression remains not one or two strips but many, wave after wave of cartoons that could have been summary statements from four or five skilled illustrators, and the way they're all bound by Sorel's animating intelligence. It's not a perfect book: some of Sorel's jokes are more obvious than insightful, particularly on popular culture, and a few of his choices on the page don't always end up clear to the eye. The strengths win the day, however. I usually don't like sampler volumes, but Just When You Thought Things Couldn't Get Worse makes an eloquent and necessary case for Sorel as a formidable cartoonist.


posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Friday Distraction: JB Handelsman


thanks, Brad Mackay
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Is This The Biggest Story in Comics?

After the period in which people died in riots and political protests related to a series of cartoons, and before a potential radical shift at media companies that could hasten certain depressing trends in editorial cartooning and newspaper strips, I would suggest the story of right now is the ongoing comics and graphic novel boom, and, particularly, the nature of that boom and extent to which it benefits not publishers, entertainment company board members, Hollywood agents, or even an editorial class, but creative and retail communities.

My basic thesis is that despite measurable gains in the specialty Direct Market, the emergence of a traditional book market and even signs of a rapidly developing on-line market, a lot of the celebrated growth isn't wholly reflected in a beneficial way where it deserves to go most: the creators who make the comics, and those on the front lines of putting them into people's hands.

Moreover, analyzing the boom becomes tricky because while things may look good on the surface, many of the markets serving comics seem to be suffering from complications arising out of long-term dysfunction in the way comics are made and distributed. This makes the problem infinitely more complicated. Say there was business reform; it could be that long-simmering trends or deeply ingrained ways of doing things could lock into place an unfair market once held together by more rigorously punitive structures. So while I'm not holding out hope for a revolution, I can and will continue to press for a more reserved, brutally honest appraisal of who benefits and to what extent, and ask that you join me. We can at least be honest about that.

It's not all bad news. Some good news, some even great. But I think overall things have changed less for the people for whom a Golden Age should matter most. It would be ironic in a horrible way if comics were to emerge from its first six or seven decades as a brutal, bottom-line industry into a fuller artistic and even commercial flowering only to serve its creative community less effectively than when junk was king, when original art was destroyed rather than returned and people publicly denied working in the field.

It looks like re-orders specialist Cold Cut being up for sale stirred some of the same feelings in people. Not only did a company that somehow survived the years 1994-2002 announce its intention to sell to someone else, but no one seemed particularly surprised they would do so. Industries that grow by percentage points year after year in multiple markets tend to provide more opportunities for established business, not potentially fewer. Flush industries don't glumly accept business leaving the field as a logical outcome.


1) Retailer Chris Butcher recently thought out loud on some of these same issues. Click through the link here.

2) SLG's Dan Vado wrote to this site and forwarded an essay specifically on the subject of Cold Cut, which I'm reprinting below. I think his letter hints at some of the divides that have deepened despite the overall upswing in certain markets as well as the frustration many feel in trying to solve decades of stunted development from any one vantage point. Mr. Vado:
Hi Tom, I am probably going to post this on my blog, but feel free to put it wherever you might like as I may never get around to actually posting it.

This is more on the subject of your pondering about the industry and boom times more than it about Cold Cut. I have never seen the stratification of the industry as bad as it is right now. While, historically speaking, the business has always been dominated by the top two companies, there always seemed to be something of an audience left for everyone else. The comics business in general and the direct market in particular seems to have become a zero sum game, where gains on one side result in losses on another. One thing which I think is killing the direct market is a combination of non-returnability of unsold product and a dangerous reliance on pull-lists and the Diamond Previews. As it stands right now the retailer eats what he doesn't sell and has no incentive to take chances or even attempt to attract a wider and more diverse audience. The client base seems to be expected to always order out of this giant, ugly catalog two to three months in advance based on not much other than general listings and sample smaller than a postage stamp. We aren't really in a boom time, it's just that our standards of success have become lower as our expectations have been driven further and further into the dirt.

The one retailer who wonders about Cold Cut's lack of additions of new items to their catalog, well that guy needs to wake up and smell the rotting fruit because in this day and age of exclusives with Diamond where most promising new publishers give all of their business to Diamond BEFORE THEY EVEN PUT OUT A BOOK, well there just isn't much new of any real quality that will make it into Cold Cut's catalog.

While that sounds like a slam at Diamond, it's not, it's a slam at my fellow publishers. Cold Cut was taking a risk on doing reorders for lots of people and doing their best for a good number of publishers well before Diamond discovered the book trade and the need for exclusivity. Of course Diamond is going to ask for exclusives, why shouldn't they? But most publishers who jumped out of Cold Cut's catalog for a Diamond exclusive didn't even bother to ask about carving out a spot for Cold Cut. Diamond is SLG's bookstore distributor, and yet we still make our product available to Cold Cut. I insisted on that, same with Last Gasp. Why? Because Cold Cut and Last Gasp were instrumental in the success of many of our books like Milk & Cheese, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Lenore. Without Cold Cut, without the hard work put in by Mark, his former partners Tim and Cathy and all of the people who work for them, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac would have died on the vine. Cold Cut was the one keeping that book available to the direct market before Diamond even figured out that small press reorders were important and potentially profitable. I and all of our creators owe a lot to Cold Cut and I have this crazy thing about loyalty. Honestly, Cold Cut got screwed for what amounts to pennies.

Mark and everyone else at Cold Cut worked really hard for a lot of people who wound up turning their backs on the to get access to a sales channel that doesn't give a shit about what they do anymore than the direct market does. In all that I never read Mark go into any anti-Diamond screeds or call for lawsuits or anti-trust action. He and all his partners worked extra hard and showed nothing but class while dealing with an increasingly awful situation.

I have known Mark Thompson for almost 20 years, he is a class guy and I don't blame him one iota for wanting to bail on this shitty-ass business and devote his time to something better. If I were smarter and maybe had some skills which translate outside of this business, I might be following him out the door.

For now I think we'll leave it there.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 76th Birthday, Ernie Colon!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Chicago Reader: The Old Sack and Brag

The Chicago Reader has posted an article with an interesting perspective on the firing of editorial cartoonists at papers across America. The Northwest Herald fired their award-winning editorial cartoonist Scott Nychay, and then featured him in a television ad designed to bring people to the publication. Whoops.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 65th Birthday, Mike Ploog!


CBG has a birth date in 1940
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Tezuka Cultural Award Primer

ComiPress is going to become a real favorite of mine if they keep running short, fact-filled, beginner's-style articles like this one on the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Awards. I particularly enjoyed the newspaper announcement reprinted. I'm not sure I ran a link to the latest version of these when they were announced; "Terpsichore" is certainly a handsome-looking word.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 65th Birthday, Tom Palmer!


actually, I'm not 100 percent sure that is Tom Palmer, so if anyone knows, please tell me
posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

CCI Sells Out of Four-Day Memberships

As they practically guaranteed would happen, Comic-Con International has sold out of its first sets of badges related to attendance at the show, which starts a week from Wednesday with a Preview Night. According to David Glanzer's press release, four-day memberships are no longer available. The release goes on to promise that other memberships, such as one-day badges for Friday and Saturday, may sell out before the show starts. So if you're planning on going, nail down your attendance right now.

One thing that should probably be natured is that because the Con negotiates the last attendance spots in a way to facilitate a number of different kinds of entry points into the con, the selling out of four-day passes indicates a sell-out of the allotment that fits into their overall strategy, not a sign that the convention is now right at this moment packed and bursting to the seams. Thus the other tickets' availability, and that you can get to all four days without having a four-day pass. Well, for now.

The interesting thing from a step-back-and-look perspective is that selling out of even some of the memberships before the show -- for the first time -- is pretty extraordinary given that it shows the con's continued growth and momentum. The convention has a likely five years or so left in its commitment to San Diego and their convention center. This makes me think that someone is cooking up a plan to release some of the attendance problems like a pressure valve, maybe through a second site, although I'm not particularly certain how that could be done. Or maybe we're due five years of sell-outs, earlier and earlier in the calendar year. Or maybe there will be an industry-wide scaledown, like with the video people. Or maybe there were will be a release of pressure from the Hollywood end of things as a certain type of fantasy film hits the down part of its popularity cycle. It should be fun to watch.

In other con news, the Comics Journal has released their publisher and creator appearance guide, if you want to find out what some of your favorite alt- and indy-comics entities will be up to at the show.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Erik Larsen on Kirby's Art
Eddie Campbell on Catching Details

Kids, They Love The Manga

Kevin Church on Comics' Greatest Panel

Trial Date For Gordon Lee
Marlette Funeral Tomorrow
Nichi Bei Times' Manga Suite
Latest Naruto to #53 on USA Today Chart

AnimeonDVD: Michael Gambos
The Brooklyn Paper: Brian Wood

Not Comics
Great Second Headline
E-Mailing With Tony Millionaire
Matt Madden Live From Semana Negra

Jeff Lemire Launches Site
Hero Initiative Launches Blog
Coconino Summer Special Profiled
Fred Gallagher on Kodansha/Megatokyo Deal

Alan David Doane: Alive
The 24-Hour Review-A-Thon
Mike Sterling's Video Review
Johanna Draper Carlson: The Plain Janes
Shaenon Garrity: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
Nancy Gail: De: Tales Stories From Urban Brazil
Don MacPherson: Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #1
Graeme McMillan: Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #1
Bill Sherman: The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen


July 12, 2007

CR Review: Apollo’s Song


Creator: Osamu Tezuka
Publishing Information: Vertical, softcover, 544 pages, July 2007, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1932234667 (ISBN10), 9781932234664 (ISBN13)

The scene I like best in Apollo's Song is a throwaway sequence in one of the book's unstuck in time moments, when our "hero" Shogo Chikaishi finds himself in the role of a future human assassin plotting against a more-than-human, synthetic queen of Japan. He finds out through a conveniently-placed guide that most of humanity went extinct due to atmospheric pollution. However, instead of dryly providing that information in the course of a conversation, which certainly would have worked, master storyteller Osamu Tezuka has Shogo confront a previously busy city district and a ballpark now covered in gravestones. The tokens of the dead overwhelming the common space of the once-bustling living haunts far more effectively than you might think; you can almost feel the hard stone of the markers interfering with the basic function of movement and motion that previously defined those thriving places.

imageApollo's Song tends towards grand, deliciously cartoony statements like this. In fact, the book starts out with a scene of thousands of naked men in a full sprint towards one woman as representative of sperm fertilizing an egg. There are other equally florid moments. An animal eats her young to protect them, a woman beats her child in a slinky negligee, the bombing of a concentration camp transport train concludes in a nature scene with trees made into logs littering the foreground, a robot hugs its master to death... The show-stopper is in one of the book's initial extended metaphorical reveries/fantasies/leaps in time, where Shogo discovers a secret animal sex grove on an Eden-like island. And while it's tempting to pick up this massive graphic novel and love it like a new parent loves their child for simply being the kind of book that offers as an important plot point a secret animal sex grove, I would downgrade Apollo's Song from the potent genre stew and periodic looking to the heavens that was Vertical's last Tezuka project, Ode to Kirihito. If that book was like a Sam Fuller film that cuffed and yanked the reader from moment to moment with superior displays of craft, this is more like some super-odd home movie touched by genius that no one really wants to talk about over coffee afterwards.

I've read that this manga, serialized over the course of 1970, comes from a period where sexual content suddenly became a part of the toolset for comics creators, one imagines as part of the overall cultural revolution that hit Japan just like it did most other countries starting in the late 1960s. Shogo Chikaishi is a young man with an unfortunate tendency to stomp on animals for their suggestions of caring and intimacy, a proclivity that left unchecked authorities believe will flower into severe adult misbehavior. He undergoes two courses of therapy: his modern-day doctor pursues an aggressive line of electroshock therapy that eventually drives him into running away and hiding out with a woman who trains him as a marathon runner but is actually a student of his doctor interested in getting at the roots of his problem, his inability to love. Meanwhile, a supernatural representation of love has cast him into a time-traveling or past lives/future lives odyssey where he falls in love with a person and loses that person, over and over again. The clever twist to the narrative is that the present-day narrative begins to conform to the pattern of the outlandish tableaux, and in fact we find that they're one and the same. The ending, with its certainty that Shogo's ordeal will continue, almost feels like the end of a TV pilot.

Where I don't think that the manga is as strong as some of Tezuka's other work is in the assumptions the author makes going in. On the one hand, Tezuka's certainty as to how the universe works give us wonderfully potent and assured epiphanies. On the other, these moments begin to feel as if they're oversimplifications of the life conditions they deign to explore. Great cartooning can't all by itself hammer something as complex as sex into the round hole represented by love through male/female intimacy, as the world view of Apollo's Song repeatedly suggests. That these impulses and emotions are reflected in the natural world feels kind of like a cheat because they're given expression through Tezuka's eerie, human-like animals. A lot of the more abstract ideas, such as the synthetic humans versus real humans comparisons, feel like metaphors selected to match a pre-existing assumption about meaning. There's no sense of exploration, no conception that these scenes are doing anything other than proving in heavy-handed fashion what Tezuka knows coming in.

This is exacerbated by an ending that comes fulls circle, a narrative choice that seems to willfully ignore any progress maintained or lessons learned in the 500 pages that come previous to it. That may be Tezuka's greater point, and there's something to be said about seeing this as less a book about the nature of love and more about how any exploration of love can be frustrated by an increasingly cold and modern world. In the end, I'm not sure he's earned the sweeping statement no matter how he wants to phrase it. When its heart reveals itself, Apollo's Song proves a bit more lecture than dialog, a ride around a cul-de-sac rather than a journey down a road. Even when it takes the form of masterfully evocative comics, I'm not sure anyone how much anyone wants to hear one man's sermon, on love or anything else.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Cold Cut For Sale: The Other Side

One of the difficult things in working with a story like Cold Cut putting itself up for sale is that it's hard to really nail down the potential impact. Business like comics distributor run on assurances, and when they hit rocky times or consider a change in direction the assurances usually continue. Still, it has to be dismaying to hear that one of your business partners may is moving toward potentially going away. Simon Jones at Icarus has a publisher's reaction; Armando Milicevic looks at the retail perspective.

The thing that's odd about the story to me is that it seems to me line another downbeat comics story where no one is surprised by some crappy circumstance, and yet you look at Direct Market sales figures from 2002 and compare to them to now, or you just look at some year-end articles, or you spend some time talking to people, and it's clear that the DM is in a growth period. Shouldn't there be business opportunities in a growth period instead of wheezing, scale-downs and closures? What is it about the shape of that comics market where a boom period is felt more through articles claiming "This is a boom period!" than it is in the wallets of creators and retailers?
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Stripburger Puts Out International Call For Female Cartoonist Submissions

posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

What Daryl Cagle Asked Flemming Rose

imageWhen uber-popular comics and cartoons web host Daryl Cagle had the chance to meet Jyllands-Posten Editor Flemming Rose at the recent Association of American Editorial Cartoonists conference, he asked him about something that's been bothering many of us since the Danish Cartoons Controversy broke in Fall 2005: What the heck is the cartoon reprinted here, one of the infamous 12, trying to portray? According to Rose, the cartoon was the last one turned in, and was by the 80-year-old cartoonist Erik Abild Sorensen. It came in on an envelope, which leads to one of the best exchanges ever between Cagle and Rose. Anyway, it's a nice piece, and to reveal any more about it takes away from rather than adds to it.

That same cartoon led to the funniest mention in this article that analyzes all of the cartoons.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: I Like These Covers

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Catching Up on Stuff I’ve Missed

* This Comic Book Resources article notes that Marvel raised its prices for Canadians and for newsstands without telling anyone. Sticking it to the Canadians is hardly news, although there's some interesting friction that comes up when smaller companies in particular aren't keeping up with the exchange rates and putting outdated prices on their books. What I found more compelling is the newsstands angle. I guess it makes sense, being a different market and all, but I don't recall ever hearing about someone doing that before now. Is there a history of pricing for the newsstand I don't know about?

* Ted Rall wrote in to explain how the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists elections work, since I was perplexed by the recent slate of announcements that included Rall.
The usual presidential track for the AAEC is a three-year arc. The person who becomes VP in Year 1 becomes President-Elect in Year 2 and President in Year 3. He or she serves on the Board in Year 4. The idea is to assure continuity and to give future presidents a learning curve from watching their predecessors plan conventions and undertake other association business.

Terms run from September 1 to August 31. Conventions are usually in June. The nominating committee presents a slate of candidates at the convention. They, plus those candidates nominated from the floor of the convention, are voted upon between June and September.

Big boost in membership is courtesy of an influx of alternative editorial cartoonists as well as lapsed AAECers catching up with their dues.

Rall also mentions that a recent boost in AAEC membership comes from an influx of alt-paper cartoonists and some attention to going after lapsed members and getting them back into the fold. Thanks, Ted.

* The experiment at Soleil Manga in series from Korea and Japan is over, and ends with a definite thud as all series are expected to be suspended with hope of closure. In addition to sales lethargy, they note outright resistance from some of their core customers.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Matt Madden’s Illustrations


I hadn't noticed that part of his site before; I'd always gone straight to the blog.
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

British Commission For Racial Equality Targets Tintin In the Congo Sales

The Commission For Equal Rights has come out against the sale in bookstores of Tintin in the Congo, one of the series best-known albums, for its depictions of black people. The article requires little explanation. Personally, I always thought you could acknowledge something has massive shortcomings like that and still sell the result in bookstores, and in fact something might have some deplorable aspect and still have value, but I'm not sure I could articulate my reasons for thinking that without pissing off 1/3 of my friends.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 37th Birthday, Phil Jimenez!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Jeff Smith, Jim Lee Rally Pros to CBLDF

Two longtime supporters of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Jeff Smith and Jim Lee, who also happen to be heavy hitters in the world of comic books, exhort their fellow professionals to support the Fund and its efforts to raise money at Comic-Con International. Smith is even donating a page of art for their auction, and Smith almost never sells his work.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: All Hail the CBR Boat!


Roving action headquarters are going to be the next big thing in convention going.
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Report From Japan Expo
NYC Spider-Man Exhibit Extended

I Hate Your Cartoon
Brian Hibbs Adopts POS #5
Chris Arrant's Comic Giveaway
Kodansha Announces 2nd Competition

BlogTO: Patricia Storms David B. Schwartz
The Montclair Times: Joe Kubert
Woodland Progress: Joshua Hale Fialkov

Not Comics
Dylan Horrocks Has a Cool Step-Mom

Marvel MAX PR
Bo Nanas To End July 28
Liefeld Back to Image for Project
Tokyopop Launches New Web Site
Herge Biographer Plan Clear Line Book

Jog: Various
Robert A. Cohn: The Quitter
Brian Heater: Notes For A War Story
Chris Mautner: Two Nick Bertozzi Books
Hervé St-Louis: Nexus: Space Opera #1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Absolute Boyfriend Vol. 4

July 11, 2007

CR Review: Three Very Small Comics, Vol. III


Creators: Tom Gauld
Publishing Information: Cabanon Press, mini-comics suite, 35 pages total, January 2007, Four Pounds
Ordering Numbers:

imageThis is Tom Gauld's recurring series of mini-comics packages, lovingly printed micro-minis in different formats (fold out poster, accordion strip, regular paged mini) bundled together in a tiny envelope and solid as a limited edition. I've like the past ones a lot, and I enjoyed this one, two. Unlike the edition just past, the strength here isn't the poster, a drawing of an odd collection of items within some sort of display case that really didn't engage me. I suppose that's good news for those who broke up their last set to do something with the fold-out. The other two minis proved to be strong enough to recommend the set: "The Art of War," one of Gauld's patented, downbeat tweakings of man's epochal follies, and "Gardening," an amusing, whimsical tale of palace revolt and social stations that happily never makes good on its threat to dwell in a specific moment for too long a time.

Gauld uses a spare style that kind of feels like Kevin Huizenga's, only reduced three or four more times, if that makes sense. I have no idea if such work could eventually be made into an "Amphigauld" collection or not, or what that would read like, or if the work that seems so smart and sharp in mini-comics form would just scatter and blow away in the face of a more significant publishing effort. At this size, I know it's a perfect package of appealing message and accessible form at a level of accomplishment that only Dan Zettwoch, Davis/Weing and John Porcellino have regularly achieved in the last decade. I only wish there was a new one every week.

posted 11:00 am 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 of the darn things -- 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 largely skipped these series, but this is Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons, individual creators each with an impeccable action-adventure comic pedigree, on the final chapter in that character's life.

APR070257 CLUBBING $9.99
This is another Minx book, one that can offer Andi Watson. If there's a spiritual antecedent to what DC is trying to do with Minx, it would probably be a comic done by Watson.

The Summer of Kirby Collections continues with 1) a work for Pacific that may have more historical value than aesthetic value, and 2) one of the least distinguished titles from 1970s run at Marvel (although one I peronsall . I'm not sure which I'd buy first, but I'll probably check various retail web sites to see how much the original comics cost before making that commitment.

APR073661 SPENT HC (MR) $19.95
Two trades that may or may not have appeared on previous shipping lists, each worth at least a pick-up-and-look. Spent is Joe Matt's latest masterwork about being cheap and masturbating a lot. NextWAVE: Agents of Hate is Warren Ellis' latest comedy that makes fun of people that are cheap and masturbate a lot.

APR073914 COMICS COMICS (MR) $2.95
This is over-sized newsprint, lovely-looking (see above) and full of engaging essays where writers stake out a unique aesthetic position and then defend it. A lot of comics coverage leaves off that first part. The third and best issue.

APR074012 DEEVEE 2007 $4.95
An Australian anthology that never quite managed to enter the first ranks of comics collectives but steadily improved with each and every issue. A new incarnation therefore sounds promising.

MAY073691 NEXUS #99 SPACE OPERA ACT 1 OF 4 $2.99
I plan on reading it wearing a sleeveless, mesh t-shirt and a pair of plastic wraparound Merritt Butrick-style visor shades.


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. I'm sorry.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Doug Marlette, 1949-2007


Doug Marlette, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, an award-winning author, and a successful, nationally syndicated strip cartoonist, died yesterday morning in Marshall County, Mississippi. Marlette was the passenger in a car that struck a tree while driving on a wet road.

Marlette was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. His official biography says he was raised in North Carolina, Mississippi and Florida. The five-member Marlette moved around because of the patriarch's career as a medic in the Marine Corp. While in Florida, still in high school, Marlette took a job at the Sanford Herald. After going to Seminole Community College for two years, a period in which he worked for an Orlando paper, Marlette transferred to Florida State University. There he worked on the campus paper as a cartoonist. Upon graduating from Florida State University in 1971, Marlette worked for the St. Petersburg Times for a half year before he began a long and distinguished career as an editorial cartoonist in earnest by moving to the Charlotte Observer in 1972. After working there for several years he moved to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1987, winning a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning for work split between the two papers in 1988. His submitted cartoons hit very heavily on the rise and tabloid follies of Southern evangelical leaders.

Marlette moved to a number of publications after the Journal-Constitution: New York Newsday (beginning in 1989), Tallahassee Democrat (2002) and his current position at Tulsa World (2006). His work was syndicated starting in 1975, the same year of his first book's publication.

Marlette launched the syndicated strip Kudzu in 1981, which Don Markstein notes was part of a trend at the time for successful editorial cartoonists like Marlette, Jeff MacNelly and Mike Peters. Kudzu was steeped in southern and religious culture, which sets it apart in strip history. Markstein notes that a live-action pilot went unsold in 1983 and was produced ten years later on stage as a musical comedy: Kudzu, A Southern Musical. Ten years after that a cast CD was produced. According to Marlette's official biography, the play was published by the Samuel French company.

Nineteen volumes of his comics works have been published.

imageAs if those accomplishments and the accompanying cross-appearances of his work on television and in magazines weren't enough to fill his schedule, Marlette wrote a novel, The Bridge, which was published in 2001 and won approbation on important year-end lists. A follow-up work called Magic Time was released in 2006 with a paperback edition out last month. He also taught, at the University of North Carolina and the University of Oklahoma, and wrote for several publications, including Esquire and Salon.

Marlette was an potent essayist and castigated the West for its stance on the 2006 Danish Cartoons Controversy. He drew one of the more notorious editorial cartoons in recent history, reprinted above. That cartoon's ironic exclusion from David Wallis' recent book on killed cartoons became its own news story.

In addition to the Pulitzer, Marlette won three National Headliners Awards, two Fischetti first place awards, and two Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Awards. He is the only cartoonist to win one of Harvard's Nieman Fellowship.

Doug Marlette was 57 years old.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Thrill-Power Overload

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

June 9: Stan Lee Media, Inc. Files Expected Lawsuit Against Stan Lee

The current owners of Stan Lee Media, Inc., an entity incorporated in Colorado, have filed a lawsuit against that company's representative personality, the comics industry legend Stan Lee. This follows a lawsuit filed in New York last March against Marvel.

Here is the June 9 filing in its entirety in PDF form.


A few notes.

1. This could be a more serious lawsuit than some think. The firm filing this one, O'Donnell and Associates, seems more of a major player than one tends to see filing shakedown suits for some get-rich-quick folks swinging for the fences. They would likely charge more than someone trying to shake a settlement out of someone would want to pay. Pierce O'Donnell is perhaps best known for representing Art Buchwald in his famous Coming to America lawsuit against Paramount Pictures. The firm has a number of significant clients, and its litigators have a celebrity case pedigree.

2. If you've been following the story, you know that at its heart is an Employment Agreement/Rights Assignment that the plaintiffs believed Lee entered into with Stan Lee Media in October 1998. (That date is in dispute, some saying it wasn't formalized until 13 months later; others noting that it may have been an agreement with an SLM precursor.) Basically, the plaintiffs feel that agreement assigned all of Stan's business endeavors and rights to same to Stan Lee Media, save for monies earned for the publicity duties Lee performed under a lifetime contract with Marvel. This includes all the work he did for the company, all the work he started while at the company that has since gone on to be utilized by POW!, things like his newspaper strip work, and, most importantly in a dollars and cents way, a claim for 10 percent of Marvel's film profits that Lee's lawyers later negotiated into a settlement for a sum believed to be in the low eight figures.

Of course, nearly every word in those last two sentences is up for debate, too.

3. Although I suppose its legal standing will be the issue, I note that unlike some cases you read about, where some contractual clause pops up like a lost Aunt, it's not like this agreement (however it came to be) came out of nowhere when the lawyers showed up. It was actually a point of reference in the early days of SLM. At the time, however, Stan signing that document was more of a big deal for the company's launch in a PR sense, as it showed Stan publicly throwing his weight behind the new venture over Marvel.

4. There's a lot of bankruptcy timeline material and tracking more current SLM activity as the plaintiffs believe pertains to Lee that I had a much harder time following in their specifics but I think the general nature of their inclusion in the filing is pretty clear. One interesting thing is that it may switch the case's focus away from whether or not Stan Lee signed the craziest employment agreement in the history of the world and the nature of his relationship to the material at Marvel, probable plaintiff weak points, and more onto whether or not Lee managed assets for his own benefit that no matter their origin should have gone to work on behalf of the bankruptcy difficulties SLM suffered.

5. There is also a long list of formal SLM properties like Stan's Evil Clone that some may want to read about even if they have no interest in the legal issues involved.

6. Because Lee's assets can be found within those companies, the suit includes Lee-related business QED and POW! Entertainment.

7. A birdie told me, and one should always take avian legal commentary with a grain of rice, that depending on where Lee's assets are located there could be court decisions that place resources in dispute off the table and out of Lee's reach, making it more difficult for Lee to maintain a defense. I'm not sure I have that right; lots of chirping.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Sundays With Walt & Skeezix

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Cold Cut Distribution For Sale

Cold Cut Distribution, one of the few remaining distributors of comic books to the Direct Market system of comics and hobby shops following the exclusives period in the middle 1990s, is up for sale according to this post at the company's livejournal site. The sales notice indicates that a new owner could continue working the comics industry margins as Cold Cut has for 13 years, or be repositioned in various way to serve tangentially related markets. That notice also indicates that the company will not close in the mean, nor will the attempt to sell in and of itself have any effect on discounts or terms of sale.

Cold Cut has an interesting history of trying to position itself as a viable alternative for shops on books that were increasingly taken away from them as more and more people decided to work closely and even exclusively with dominant-market distributor Diamond. This meant becoming a re-order specialist for the books available to them. The last time I can recall the company making the news was when it abolished a tiered-system in pursuit of a better way to present itself as an order alternative. The company was founded in 1994.

this appeared in my inbox, which usually means someone else had it up first
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Lee’s Comics History 03

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Kevin Woodcock, 1942-2007


Kevin Robert Woodcock, a distinctive cartoonist best known for a run of single- and two-panel silent cartoons in Private Eye from the 1970s to the 1990s, a satirical magazine that also published Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe, died on July 6. He worked most frequently in pen and ink, with a note of the surreal in the visions he portrayed. Born in Leicester, he was trained at that city's College of Art in the early 1960s. A series of odd jobs preceded his entry into full-time freelance cartooning a decade out of school. Woodcock freelanced for a variety of publications, and three collections of his work were published, including a Best Of in 1987. His cartoons were exhibited both by themselves in dedicated shows and as part of exhibitions devoted to the history of Private Eye. A reclusive man, Woodcock's only known appearance, according to the Independent article which provided nearly every scrap of information in this post, was a 1981 interview for a documentary.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 39th Birthday, Dirk Deppey!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: DHC Republishing Gor

Dorian Wright catches what has to be the strangest comics publisher prose project news of the year: Dark Horse Comics apparently re-publishing John Norman's Gor series in omnibus editions.

I'm not even sure how to describe the Gor series in a way that doesn't end up with me getting e-mail from ding-dongs except to say it's kind of like early 20th Century pulp fantasy as written by the most openly misogynous man in the entire world. Kind of a "slaves are slaves and they like it" situation. Pages upon pages upon pages of delving into this notion and its underpinnings as the series progresses. So, yeah: odd choice. I suppose there's a chance there's all sorts of Gor distinctions to be made, like maybe the early books don't have that same quality or something.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Mike Manley Doodles
Comics Is Not A Medium

Details on Yaoi Con
Lasky/Stump Comics Class Canceled
Gilchrist Academy Announces Benefit
Why Eric Reynolds is Attending the Eisners

Comic Strips and Memory

I Love This Photo
Cape Contest Announced
Charney to Marvel's Board
Eric Burns on
New Guidelines For Adult Doujin

The Statesman: Herge
PWCW: Laurell Hamilton
Ganter/Kibiushi Winterview
ABC News: Walt Handelsman Jason Wilson
Newsarama: Danielle Corsetto
Persian Mirror: Bruce Bahmani
T&T's Newsday: Warren Le Platte

Not Comics
Paul Pope on New Words
Septimus Hodge is Dr. Manhattan
Patton Oswalt on the Motivation of Critics

RASL Previews at CCI
PWCW: Kodansha Taps Megatokyo
Martha Washington Book Previewed
Joss Whedon's First Runaways On-Line
Dean Haspiel Assumes Billy Dogma Domain

Tom McLean: Thor #1
Sean Bieri: Elvis Road
Chris Mautner: Various
Tom McLean: Silverfish
Jeff Vandermeer: Various
Koppy McFad: Supergirl #19
Drew Nellins: The Other Side
Koppy McFad: Countdown #43
Derik A Badman: All About Coffee
Anonymous: Hic Sunt Leones Vol. 2
Tom McLean: The Black Diamond #1-2


July 10, 2007

CR Review: A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Saga of the Bloody Benders


Creators: Rick Geary
Publishing Information: NBM (ComicsLit), hard cover, 80 pages, July 2007, $15.95
Ordering Numbers: 1561634980 (ISBN10), 9781561635989 (ISBN13)

The ninth volume in Geary's extended series of Victorian Murder comics, The Saga of the Bloody Benders turns out to be a little gem of a book. Is it possible there are eight others this good? The story of a 19th Century family of serial killers living in Dick and Perry territory almost 100 years before Truman Capote made murderers from the prairie into American icons, Geary precisely and in matter-of-fact fashion walks us through the elements of their roadside inn trap, reminiscent of the perils facing Theseus in Greek myth, while at the same time telling the story of their arrival and eventual discovery. It's an meticulously intertwined narrative much more difficult to pull off than the veteran cartoonist makes it look. The story stays with you. Something about the way Geary delineates the proportions of the living area gives the recurring crimes a horrifying intimacy, and when the nature of what's going on is revealed as the narrative progresses the thoroughness with which the Benders cleave to murder and atrocity astonishes.

I think what makes this book more effective than the usual solid Geary offering are those elements of dramatic flair that aren't totally central to the narrative. For one thing, Geary's skill with white space is put to excellent use in depicting the American Midwest, the way the awesomeness of the sky presses into the ground and crushes everything around it. It's an inspiring background against which to set such furtive, all-too-human wickedness. Geary employs a number of insets that look like the ovals in which we often see Victorian-era photographs, at times blending such flourishes into maps or diagrams. It's a fun comic that way; there's a playfulness to its presentation that's refreshing on a lot of levels. If there's anything that feels lacking in the work, it's that it doesn't feel ambitious. It has the urgency of a ninth volume in a continuing series, if that makes any sense. That, and a laconic storytelling style that makes the story seem shorter than it is may cause the book to hit with some readers as inflated, a talk that the author gives while briskly walking down a country road while you ride a bike alongside as opposed to something where he makes you sit down and pay attention to every word. Still, I don't think it's right to dismiss this kind of casual skill working to such a pleasing effect. This is an engaging comic, by an under-appreciated craftsman, and at the very least worth a pick-up-and-look.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Doug Marlette, RIP


He passed away this morning in a single-car car accident. A full obituary for the Pulitzer Prize-winner, author and strip cartoonist will appear tomorrow.
posted 7:06 am PST | Permalink

Robert “Buck” Brown, 1936-2007


Buck Brown, the creator of over 600 cartoons for Playboy magazine including its naughty "Granny" character, died July 2 in a hospital near Chicago from complications following a stroke June 23. He was 71 years old.

imageBrown was born in Tennessee and he moved to Chicago when his parents separated. He served in the United States Air Force in the mid-'50s, and it was there he first began to be noticed for his cartooning. His first Playboy cartoon was accepted by Hugh Hefner in 1961, and appeared in 1962. His Granny character, supposedly named by a secretary and fan that used to greet the artist when he'd bring work into the office, first appeared in 1966, the same year Brown received his B.F.A.

A terrific and bittersweet anecdote about his later days working for Playboy can be found at the top of the page here.

A veteran of Dollars and Sense, The New Yorker Ebony, Ebony Jr., Jet and Esquire in addition his long-running Playboy gig, Brown also enjoyed success as a painter of humorous subjects and images and situation drawn from life. He was an avid golfer both before and after his semi-retirement, and enjoyed a recurring poker game.

He is survived by a wife, a mother, a brother, a sister, a daughter, a son and six grandchildren.
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Bookmark: Transmission X

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: AAEC Officers, Cap, Europe

* The ACBD has given its Prix Asie to the new issuance of Keiji Nakazawa's Gen d'Hiroshima from Vertige Graphic.

* I've given up trying to figure out how the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists elects and announces their officers, although if you feel like plunging into the latest announcement, I won't stop you. I swear I've known since late 2006 that Nick Anderson was going to become President and Ted Rall was going to become an officer with an expectation to become the organization's president at some point. So I don't quite understand what's being announced now. It could be that Rall's expectation to become president was only informal and now that he's been made made President-elect it's official, and that the rest of the board had yet to be announced, I don't know. If I'm wrong, and if someone would like to explain it to me, I'll do an update here. Also: membership's up. It's interesting that members outnumbers staff positions by about 5 to 1; not that there aren't other guilds where greater percentages of that type exist.

* All of your Captain America NPR coverage in one place, including a new piece with writer Jeph Loeb about his burial. Whenever I see stuff like this, I always wish that the coverage had begun earlier, so I could get a better sense if this stuff is going to sound as weird 30 years from now as listening to a roundtable of deep thinkers talking about Richard Nixon as head of the Secret Empire would be at this time.

* Glenat ends up with BD du groupe Albin Michel, once rumored to Soleil.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 58th Birthday, Bob Larkin!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

James Redington, 1978/79-2007

imageJames Redington, a fixture of the British indy comix scene and the writer of The Panel column for the Silver Bullet Comics site, passed away suddenly last Thursday from a heart attack. He was 28 years old.

Redington was a devoted Superman fan and founded the small press publishing outfit Portent Comics in 2005. Portent's titles included The Adventures of Rob & Ducky, Elite, Company and Halo Slipping.

As this thread notes, Redington was not the Jim Reddington who posts to the web site The Engine, despite some coverage yesterday that may have led people to think so.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 50th Birthday, Gerard Jones!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Brussels Journal On Quebec Cartoons

Brussels Journal, the most consistent source for continental news reportage during 2006 Danish Cartoons Controversy, has a decent-sized essay up about recent cartoons published in Quebec some consider Anti-Semitic in nature. I don't read as much (or really, much of anything) into the press silence as the essayist does. It's interesting to note that there was more than one cartoon during the same period and the implication that this is treated differently because it's Quebec feels right to me on a certain level.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 43rd Birthday, Sandra Chang!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: A Tradition in Plagiarism

This ComiPress article draws together a lot of pieces on issues and events relating to the idea of plagiarism. It's worth reading to refresh your memory on the basic outline on some of these stories. It's also well-illustrated, and there's some fun to be had in comparing Japan's severe industry reprisals with China's lax laws and the United States' typical schizophrenia on the matter.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Mike Manley Sketches
Eddie Campbell on Paper 05
Eddie Campbell on Paper 06
Eddie Campbell on Paper 07
Vance Discusses Underground Influences

Party at Periscope
Webcomics Tables at CCI
Mark Evanier on Anthrocon
Yaoi Press Starts Fan Convention
Greg Stump, David Lasky to Teach Comics Class

More Herriman
More Herriman
Classic Kurtzman Comics

Two Hires at Viz Media Europe
Advice on Retailing at Conventions
Dreamland Chronicles Wins Fan Award

Wizard: Nick Bertozzi
Newsarama: Mark Schultz Mark Leiknes
Asbury Park Press: The Kuberts
Sydney Morning-Herald: Jean Plantu

Not Comics
Neil Gaiman Namedrop
Organizing Comics
Patrick McDonnell on Trapping
Stuart Immonen's Work Space
Please, God, Enough With the Viral Marketing

You're Still Here?
Shounen Fang, RIP
Shazam #4 Imminent
Luann Still Adding Papers
FSG To Publish Wordless Book
Two From Del Rey Manga in 2008
Sadowski Planning Krigstein Bio Sequel

Paul O'Brien: Thor #1
Ken Tucker's Good Taste
Graeme McMillan: Thor #1
Greg Burgas: Four Women
Jason Green: Garage Band
Travis Pullen: Marvel Comics
Rob Clough: Meathaus Vol. 8
Paul O'Brien: Black Canary #1
Geoff Hoppe: Black Canary #1
Josh Hechinger: Usagi Yojimbo
ADD: Tales From The Crypt #1
Paul Gravett: Late-Period Eisner
Andrew Wheeler: Ode to Kirihito
Geoff Hoppe: Action Comics #851
Andrew Wheeler: Fox Bunny Funny
Paul O'Brien: Uncanny X-Men #488
Johanna Draper Carlson: Pictures of You
Ronin On Empty: Cromartie High School Vol. 11
Graeme McMillan: Criminal #7, The Black Diamond #2
Shaun Manning: Manga Shakespeare: Hamlet Illustrated

July 9, 2007

CR Review: The Rabbi’s Cat


Creator: Joann Sfar
Publishing Information: Pantheon, soft cover, 152 pages, June 2007, $16.95
Ordering Numbers: 9780375714641 (ISBN13)

Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat, a collection of three French-language books, has recently been published in a softcover edition after a hardcover release nearly two years ago. This is good news for those waiting for a cheaper but still handsome version of the book and for critics like me who didn't rate the first edition. The great joy in a lot of Sfar being released here (Klezmer, Vampire Loves and The Professor's Daughter are all in the top tier of the nascent First Second catalog) is not just getting to enjoy his art with English-language accompaniment -- and Sfar is a wonderfully idiosyncratic and skilled cartoonist -- but also getting to experience his reserved sense of pacing, the elliptical way many of his stories unfold.

imageThe Rabbi's Cat consists of three stories: "The Bar Mitzvah," "Malka of the Lions," and "Exodus." The general point of view we experience is that of the cat. We see his interactions with his rabbi master, and enjoy his sometimes prickly, sometimes endearing observations of the rabbi, the rabbi's daughter, and the various people close to them. In the first story, probably the funniest and most pleasurable, the cat gains the power of speech by eating a bird and presses the rabbi for a bar mitzvah, which he wants not because he believes in God but for personal reasons. The dialog between the preening and selfish cat and the reserved yet most jocular local religious community leader reveals hidden depth in both of their characters. "Malka of the Lions" is a domestic comedy wrapped around the idea of the rabbi potentially being removed from his post in Algeria in the 1930s, and the third is an even more complex and at times outright agitated reflection on family and marriage and art that takes place mostly in Paris.

I liked them all; each short is distinctly pleasurable, the conversation easy to the ear and the art, particularly in Sfar's color work, rich and beautiful and an oasis upon which to rest your eyes. One great thing about the art is that Sfar will pull out a different approach to illustration if it suits the moment, giving us various views of the cat and, perhaps most memorably, a close-up of Malka's face that more dramatically depicts his intense gaze. To be honest, I haven't figured how he conveys variety on a page of potentially similar visuals, to the point I'm beginning to think there's no set pattern to anything Sfar does, that he swirls about and draws whatever the hell he wants to when he wants to. That doesn't mean there isn't a rhythm to his comics; there are a lot of jokes and highlights that bring emphasis to the final panel on a page, and the book adheres to a six-panel construction with religious fervor.

Oddly, The Rabbi's Cat put me in a nostalgic mood. Sfar's work is so assured that my own reading abilities, shaped by years of reading comics from people creating work with a crazed, desperate intensity designed to re-shape an industry severely reluctant to change, seemed a crude instrument with which to engage it. In a way, it's like watching a film from one of the "cool" French directors after years of subjecting yourself to John Milius movies. I wonder sometimes if we're still at the point as American readers where a lot of high-end work from Europe is simply going to register below our ability to process great art, making it all the more difficult to tell what work is fully engaged and what work offers a pleasing surface and a sophisticated presentational style. I'm more than happy to take The Rabbi's Cat for the sumptuous, even meditative work it presents itself to be; it's funny at times, smart at others, and beautiful throughout. I'd be more comfortable if I could detect something propulsive and fevered in the act of its creation, but I think that's a hitch in my critical faculties, not anything that reflects on this lovely comic.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

More on DC’s Initiative


As noted yesterday, on Sunday DC announced through their press partner the New York Times either the entirety or a huge aspect of their long-rumored on-line program:, through which creators can submit material and be selected for paid publication of that material through the DC-owned and operated site.

Also, as expected, there are initial think pieces and interviews with principals up at this hour:

Newsarama (Interview)CBR (Interview) (News Article With Analysis)
Dirk Deppey (Analysis)
Publishers Weekly (News Article)
Alan David Doane (Analysis)

Two things jump out at me at this point. One is that the PR people obviously didn't sit down and work with Team Zuda on how to answer the question, "What makes different?" Because the answers have been kind of all over the place, and half of them are insulting (i.e.: we pay, quality) in a way that you probably shouldn't be if you're looking to eventually bring creators over from these sites to which they're already loyal.

The second and more important thing is that we're getting an idea of how the site will work. An initial pay out akin to the newspaper syndicates' pay-out when a strip goes into rotation, and then a more complex contract in terms of rights and participating after that. No royalties based on hit count. The site doesn't expect to pay for itself. A page rate that may be determined with an eye towards print page rates. The contracts to be posted on the site.

Basically, it's an intellectual property farm. Whether or not you believe in DC as a good farmer... well, that's going to be the decision some people are going to have to make as this moves forward.

One side thing that interests me is that by focusing on creator-generated comics they're going with a non-editor intrusive model. In other words, they're not going to hear from writers who will then be matched with artists by controlling editor-type folk. At least not yet. This seems to me a different kind of creator than DC usually works with, and a different way to work with them, which could be interesting.
posted 3:24 am PST | Permalink

News on Ellison v. Fanta Imminent?

Rumblings on various message boards and via e-mail indicate there may be movement towards the Ellison Vs. Gary Groth, Kim Thompson and Fantagraphics story, which seemed to have come to a climax a little over a week ago with a voluntary, mediated outcome. This site is a bit slower than some when it comes to getting news on this story out the second it happens, so you might check message boards and other sites if you need to know about this news as quickly as possible. We will of course have a story up as soon as we have one.

posted with David Welsh's permission; Welsh is covering this story for Comics Reporter
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Zapiro Wins 2007 Cartoonist’s Rights Network International’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award


Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro has won this year's International Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from the Cartoonist's Rights Network International Cartooning Award, given out each year to a recipient who speaks "truth to power." Zapiro has routinely been threatened for the subject matter of his cartoons, and won some notoriety this year when he was included in a series of lawsuits instigated by South Africa politician Jacob Zuma. Zapiro has continued to do cartoons about Zuma and about the lawsuit since.

The award was given out in Washington, DC on Friday during the annual CRNI dinner. Shapiro thanked his wife in his speech and noted that on the whole, violence has been an effective deterrent. Past winners of the award include Musa Kart, the Danish cartoonists, and Ali Dilem.

classic Zapiro, from '97
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: More Gag Book Covers


David King is posting them.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

AAEC 2007 Conference News Round-Up

Various news articles relating to the 50th annual conference organized by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, held this year in Washington, DC.

* in addition to the awards given out near the conference's conclusion, which are discussed below, the big news coming out of the group's meeting is probably the Thursday town hall meeting intended to foster various ideas that might help secure a better future for the troubled profession. Suggestions included surveys, sponsorship of public events and more services geared towards freelancers.

Personally all of these sound like good things, but I don't know if anything can solve the decline of the editorial cartoonist. Three factors: the overall newspaper business is in decline, over time fewer opportunities will mean fewer highly skilled practitioners getting into the field leading to greater decline, and I'm not sure there is any solution for the fact that at a certain point of decline, syndication becomes an avenue for substitution (not fully, of course) rather than augmentation of an existing service.

This wouldn't work, either, and would likely get me called a communist, but has anyone suggested a free cartoons syndicate made up of staffed cartoonists with clients limited to those papers employing a staff cartoonist?

* political animation a life-saver for a few cartoonists let go from their staff positions.

* editorial cartoonists hold a range of opinions regarding blogging as part of their professional duties.

* what can an editorial cartoonist do if they don't editorially cartoon?

* Flemming Rose, Nik Kowsar and Joe Szabo speak on international issues.

* Dennis Kucinich spoke.

* in awards, the Herb Block Foundation and the late Jay Kennedy received Ink Bottle Awards; student cartoonist Kory Merritt won the John Locher Memorial Award; and Nate Beeler won this year's Golden Spike for best killed cartoon.

* much praise was heaped upon outgoing president Rob Rogers.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 81st Birthday, Murphy Anderson!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Plus I Just Kind Of Hope It’s Not True

No offense to the person doing PR for the Superman-Doomsday DVD, but has their Death of Superman graphic novel really sold more than the two million copies it would need to even get into the discussion of best-selling graphic novels of all time? If I had a yellow circulations figures box to put onto the surface of a spotlight, I'd be shining it over John Jackson Miller's house right now.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: The Tale of Old Lady Merrell

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Today’s Comic-Con Countdown Notes

* For no particular reason other than perhaps being a butt (I'm kidding; I always do this for my own use), I took the Comic-Con International programming and boiled it down to comics-only events. A positive trend in recent years is that they seem to be making a greater point of balancing their programming, which for most people means their favorite TV show panel is on a Thursday instead of a Saturday but for me it means the opposite: a greater likelihood for hardcore comics nerd programming on Saturday. Hooray!

* Here's my wonderfully abbreviated panel schedule, which sort of makes it sounds like I planned it that way. I'm just not very popular, like some people are. And by popular I also mean insane.

* Remember, CCI thinks they're likely to sell out of at least one day and potentially all four, which is totally going to screw anyone who wants to come last minute, doubly so since traditional ways to snag an extra pass like exhibitors putting in for ones for "Moe Howard" and "Deanna Durbin" or people lying and saying they're press have tightened up as well. So do any pre-registering you can now, and tell your friends, too.

* As expected, hotel rooms are being released, particularly for Wednesday and Thursday night.

* The final section of this site's CCI Guide continues to grow, with a section on computers I forgot and a bunch of reader suggestions, so if you haven't read it since the first day, you might want to take another peek.

* I'm not going to seek them out or even specifically solicit for them, because CR's not really a hype vehicle, but anyone who sends me their CCI-related PR will be included in this post featuring CCI-related PR at the top of the heavily-trafficked letters section. What do you have to lose?
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Blueberry Wanderings Art

posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Review of Superhero Exhibit
Please God Never In Comics

1978 Costume Contest
Manga Was Transformed in 1967
Apparently, Sue Storm Reads Pynchon
Sarah Boxer on Herriman and Krazy Kat

Didio Assures Us Industry Will Live
Lots of Articles Like This One on Cage and Son Book
Chris Butcher on What Men's Manga Market Really Means

ComicBloc: Dan Didio
Profile of the IDW Gang
Mr. Media: Chuck Dixon
Anime Online: Yohei Takami
StarNewsOnline: Robert Luedke
Commercial Appeal: Martheus Wade
Silver Bullet Comics: Mark Haven Britt

Not Comics
Teens Are Reading
Interview with Death Note Director
Comics One of New Techniques Used By Prose Writers

Retail Picks Up Canadian Client

Carlo Wolff: Various
Kitty Sensei: To Terra
Cliff Froehlich: Various
Don McPherson: Thor #1
Charles Young: DMZ Vol. 2
Alan David Doane: Thor #1
Richard Kraus: Bigfoot Comix #6-9
Hervé St-Louis: Ultimate Power #6
Alan David Doane: Reading Comics
Alan David Doane: MOME Summer 2007
Leroy Douresseaux: Flowers of Life Vol. 3
Jason Green: The Irredeemable Ant-Man Vol. 1

July 8, 2007

DC Announces On-Line Initiative

I suppose this is the long-rumored major DC Comics on-line initiative, or part of it, which the article describes as a submissions-driven online comics site close to the model. If you've ever worked at a comics company, the description of a slush pile as a resource for all sorts of promising projects instead of a repository of comics we're going to be reading in hell might be pretty funny, although admittedly there are out-of-nowhere success stories at all companies.

The obvious question left hanging in the air by the typically puffy New York Times treatment of a DC Comics endeavor is the rights situation, which I'm going to assume that someone who can get their calls returned by DC* will follow up on Monday morning at which point I'll update and repost. Apparently, DC does have the rights to publish the comics submitted in print form as well as on-line.

* I mean figuratively, in that they have an ongoing active newsgathering relationship with DC. The people they have there now are very nice to me and return my calls.
posted 6:30 pm PST | Permalink

July 7, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Jeet Heer



Jeet Heer is one of the leading lights among writers writing about comics for mainstream publications, and one of the first writers to assemble an impressive client list for such articles. He has since put that journalistic impulse into the service of writing essays for collections of classic comic strips. In addition to two pieces for the Krazy & Ignatz series at Fantagraphics, Heer is currently co-editing and providing the massively rich introductions to the Drawn and Quarterly Gasoline Alley books. The Gasoline Alley work and his introductory essay to the recent Clare Briggs reprint effort Oh Skin-nay are the main subjects of this interview. I'd like to thank the very busy Mr. Heer for his time, and Tom Devlin at D&Q for providing samples of art.


TOM SPURGEON: Did you read comics when you were a kid? At what point did your interest in comics intensify closer to what it is today?

JEET HEER: My history with comics has some peculiar local coloration but it also follows a common trajectory. I was born in India in 1967 and moved with my family to Canada when I was five years old. My first language was Punjabi. To help us learn English, my father gave me and my brother comics from the Amar Chitra Katha series, published by India Book House. Virtually unknown in the West, these comics can be described as Classics Illustrated with a masala flavor. In classic comic book style, they recount stories (both mythological and historical) from India's past. This series is published in many languages; the ones I read were in English. So the books served as a bridge between the old world and the new, letting me learn about India's history in the language of my adopted homeland.

Apart from this parental gift, I started reading a lot of comics when I was six or seven: Peanuts and Beetle Bailey in the newspaper as well as comic books like Uncle Scrooge, Archie, the Charlton horror line, Superman and Batman. A desire to master English was a big part of what made comics attractive; they seemed like a fast-track to literacy. The school board had labeled me a "remedial reader"; ashamed of this stigma, I tried to learn as much English on my own as quickly as I could.

I quickly morphed into your typical teenage geek of the comic book fan genus: over-weight, no athletic prowess, too shy to talk to girls, an easy prey for bullies, and possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of the DC and Marvel universes. That part of my history is of course fairly familiar, replicated in the lives of millions.

What perhaps made me a little bit different is that I also had an interest in the broader history of comics, extending to comic strips and magazines like The New Yorker. Partly this was because I was also a history nerd and loved anything that hailed from the early 20th century, be it Buster Keaton's virtuoso pratfalls or Robert Johnson's hypnotic voice. It was a matter of timing. The 1970s saw the blossoming of the modern nostalgia industry, so at bookstores and libraries you could see thick volumes reprinting the best of Buck Rogers, Dick Tracy and Orphan Annie.

imageAn absolutely pivotal experience for me was first encountering, while still coping with the onset of puberty, The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics (edited by Bill Blackbeard and Martin Williams). For me this is a volume almost as important as the New Testament or the Koran. It's where I first encountered Krazy Kat, Little Nemo, Polly and Her Pals, Gasoline Alley and countless other treasures. The book gave me my first sense of how great the early comic strips were, a lost Troy waiting to be excavated.

Popular histories by Jules Feiffer and Jerry Robinson also whetted my appetite for old comics. Later on, I pored over The Comics Journal and Nemo, along with the reprint volumes published by Richard Marschall, Bill Blackbeard, Dean Mullaney, Cat Yronwode, and Denis Kitchen.

Living in Toronto made it easy to be a comic scholar/nerd: The Dragon Lady comic book store (as you can guess by the name) was run by a fan of old comic strips. The store published its own magazine line which reprinted many classic cartoonists (including Roy Crane and Harold Gray). Soon after, there was The Beguiling, one of the world's great comic book stores, which stocked anything I could care to read. A good comic book store is as beneficial as a good teacher: it can help guide and nurture your taste. Reading alternative cartoonists like Robert Crumb, Kim Deitch, and Seth only reinforced my interest in comics history; so many of the best current comics were done by artists steeped in the past.

SPURGEON: How did you end up writing about comics? How much of your professional time is currently devoted to comics-related writing and projects?

HEER: Well, there are two sides of this, since I write about comics both as an academic and as a journalist. When I went to grad school, I decided to do my doctoral thesis on Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, a great comic strip that offers a chance to say something new about the history of American conservatism. To support myself through grad school, I've worked as a cultural journalist for newspapers like the National Post and the Boston Globe, as well magazines like The Virginia Quarterly Review and Slate.

When pitching ideas, I found the newspaper and magazine editors, having grown up on comics and wanting strong visuals for their publications, were receptive to articles about cartooning. This was about five or six years ago, at the beginning of the graphic novel boom. So a good chunk of my journalism (about a third) has been comics-related, although I also write extensively on literature, film, and politics. Actually, the most widely read article I ever wrote was on the political philosophy of Leo Strauss, a subject far removed from comics. Right now, because I'm devoting myself to my thesis and book projects, almost everything I write is about comics, but that will change when I return to a more normal routine. I'd like to settle for writing half on comics, half on the rest of life.

SPURGEON: How do you feel the audience has changed for writing about comics since you've been doing it? Is your own writing different to reflect any perceived changes in the audience? Are you able to write more sophisticated and longer pieces now, for instance?

HEER: When I first started writing, every article had to be introductory and rudimentary. You know the genre: "POW! BAM! Comics Aren't Just For Kids Anymore." That's really changed in the last two to three years. You can expect readers to know about Maus now, so you don't have to start with a potted history of comics or justify why you are writing about comics in the first few paragraphs. The pleasure of writing longer articles, like my 7000-word essay on Winsor McCay for The Virginia Quarterly Review, is that you can get even farther away from elementary writing and explore topics in depth. I've noticed that other writers are doing this as well: Sarah Boxer in the New York Review of Books and Douglas Wolk in Salon. It's a welcome trend, showing a more receptive and sophisticated audience.


SPURGEON: Can you tell me how your involvement in the Gasoline Alley project came about?

HEER: There is a short version and a long version. The short story is that Chris Oliveros liked my newspaper writing and asked me to write the introductions for the series.

The long story goes back to the Smithsonian book mentioned earlier. Joe Matt was born in 1963; Chris Ware and I in 1967. When the three of us were growing up, Frank King was a virtually forgotten figure. Comic strip fans of the 1970s had an entirely skewed sense of history: they tended to be aging man-boys who wanted to reread the adventure stories of their youth. They doted on Hal Foster's anatomical accuracy, Milton Caniff's cinematic storytelling and Alex Raymond's flowing drapery. What they tended to dislike and ignore were the cartoony cartoonists who told stories that were funny, warm and human: Segar's Popeye, Gray's Annie, King's Gasoline Alley, and Herriman's Krazy Kat. The Smithsonian book changed all that.

Separately, but around the same time, the three of us read the Smithsonian volume and it blew our little minds. Right from the start, my favorite comic in that book was the Sunday page done in woodcut style where Walt and Skeezix go for a walk in the woods. From that point on, Chris and Joe started to collect all of King's art and I started researching the history of American comics. Eventually Joe convinced Chris Oliveros that King's work deserved reprinting. Because Chris Ware and I had already done a great deal of research, we were ready to take on the project. Everything came together beautifully. The seeds that Blackbeard and Williams planted bore fruit.

SPURGEON: At what point did you decide on such lengthy introductions?

HEER: Right from the start, Chris Oliveros wanted me to do long introductions. But to be honest, when he first contacted me, I didn't know if there was going to be enough I could write about King's life and work. What changed my mind was a trip I took in the summer of 2003 with Chris Ware and Chris Oliveros to meet Drewanna King, the grand-daughter of the cartoonist. Lucky for us, it turned out Drewanna was devoted to her family's history. She was an avid genealogist and pack-rat. Her basement was jam-full of King goodies: original art, photos, diaries, and letters. With great generosity, Drewanna shared not only her family treasures but also her memories. Meeting her convinced me that I could write about King's life at length, in a way that would enrich the reading of his comic strips. King was essentially an autobiographical artist, so facts about his life deepen our appreciation of his art.

I should add that in writing the introductions, I always work closely with Chris Ware. Aside from his well-known gifts as a cartoonist and book-designer, Chris has several hidden talents. He's an excellent editor, with a strong narrative sense of how to unfold a story. So Chris and I discuss a great deal how we want King's life story to slowly reveal itself to readers.

imageSPURGEON: What is the process for selecting, researching and then putting together the introductions? For instance, for volume 3, how did you settle on licensing as a topic, and how did the material come together that was photographed for that section? Are you drawing from one collection? Many?

HEER: I try to make each introduction reflect something that happens in the years being reprinted. For example, the merchandising of Walt and Skeezix took off around 1925. So for the current volume, which reprints the strips from 1925 and 1926, I made licensing the main topic. The main source for this introduction is the private collection of Chris Ware, which of course made it easy to photograph. So far, we've relied on a few collections: Drewanna King, Chris Ware, Joe Matt, and others. There are other collections waiting to be tapped for future volumes, so I'm not afraid of running out of material.

SPURGEON: Tell me about your involvement in the Briggs/Nesbitt book and how that developed into a stand-alone project.

HEER: Again, a short answer and a long one. To be brief, Tom Devlin bought a copy of Oh Skin-nay; he loved the book and found out it would be feasible to republish it. He tapped me to do the intro.

The more verbose answer would go like this: I became interested in Briggs because he was a mentor to Frank King. Aside from Richard Marschall, most comic strip historians haven't given any attention to Briggs, which is a shame. He was immensely popular in his time, and his work remains fresh and alive. Because of the affinity between King and Briggs, it made sense for Drawn and Quarterly to do the book, and for me to write a biographical essay.

Along with Walt and Skeezix, I hope the Briggs book will help rewrite the history of comics. I really want to challenge the canon that exalts illustrators like Hal Foster and Alex Raymond. To me, the great comic strips aren't Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers. I much prefer Gasoline Alley and Oh Skin-nay.


SPURGEON: The book introduces Briggs as an important figure on multiple tracks: as an influence on multiple school of cartoonists, as a important voice in the new form of humor about marriage, as an artist who worked with nostalgia. Is there an aspect you think most important of all the different things he did?

HEER: For me, Briggs should be remembered as the founder (along with John T. McCutcheon) of the "Chicago school of cartooning" or perhaps "the mid-western school of cartooning." With his low-key humor, his fidelity to ordinary life, his feel for quiet moments, Briggs created a style of cartooning that was very different from the hurly-burly vaudeville vulgarity of the New York school (Dirks, Outcault, Opper). Briggs's approach influenced not only panel cartoonists like J.R. Williams but also the whole Chicago Tribune stable of newspaper strips: Sidney Smith, Frank King, Harold Gray, and even Chester Gould. They all owed a debt to Briggs. Thanks to Briggs, mid-century newspaper cartooning became a reflection of middle America.

imageSPURGEON: What was the appeal of nostalgic work like Oh Skin-nay at that moment in time? You see it in writing of that same period, too, these almost blissful reveries about a way of life that seemed to be just past.

HEER: Along with Mark Twain and Norman Rockwell, Briggs was one of the great inventors of American nostalgia, the mythos of small town life that still governs the nation's imagination. Briggs belonged to the middle of this trinity: he took inspiration from Twain and mentored Rockwell. In my essay, I try to bring out the paradox of Briggs' life: although his work celebrated the quaint rustic past and he was born in rural Nebraska, Briggs himself was a big-city boy all his adult life. He was a skirt-chaser who hung out at speakeasies and loved playing cards with his uptown friends. But in many ways, the paradox of Briggs was also the paradox of America in the 1920s. The nation had roots in the countryside and small towns, but the real action was in bustling cities like New York and Chicago. So Briggs fit the temper of the times perfectly: he was an urbane man who hankered for a half-imaginary past.

SPURGEON: What has the reaction to the Walt and Skeezix series been like so far? Has any element of the reaction or any individual response you've heard surprised you?

HEER: The response to Walt and Skeezix has been extremely gratifying. The first book sold out and went into a second printing. It was reviewed widely and many of the reviews were not just positive but also discerning in their appreciation. To some degree, this came as a surprise. I knew I loved King's work, but I was afraid that a contemporary audience might not like it. Part of me thought that King might be too dated, too much a part of the distant past, to resonate now. Yet both reviewers and ordinary readers responded to King's "ineffable grace and infinite gentleness" (to quote Charles Taylor). I'm happy to say I underestimated the audience of the book and King's ability to transcend his time. One reason why readers responded to King, I now think, is because contemporary cartoonists like Seth and Chris Ware have proven that comics can be subtle. Awakened to the potential of the comics, an audience was ready to rediscover King.

SPURGEON: Are there other projects like this one you'd like to work on?

HEER: I have several projects in the works, but I can't talk about them now. So in lieu of that, I'll list off dream projects that should exist. I'll give not only the name of the project, but the cartoonist who should work on it.
1. The Best of Otto Soglow's The Little King (designed by Ivan Brunetti).
2. The Best of Milt Gross (also designed by Ivan Brunetti).
3. Segar's Thimble Theatre: the pre-Popeye Years (designed by Kevin Huizenga).
4. Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse (designed by Kevin Huizenga)
5. Jimmy Frise's Birdseye Centre (designed by Joe Matt) -- a great forgotten Canadian strip.
6. Garrett Price's White Boy (designed by Dan Clowes)
7. The Best of Kate Carew (designed by Trina Robbins)
8. The Art of Chester Gould (designed by Charles Burns)
9. The Best of J.R. Williams (designed by David Collier)
SPURGEON: When you're done with the King introductions, what would you most like people to take away from those pieces, and how do you feel they complement the cartoons? Is there any chance they could be compiled into a book?

HEER: My goal for Walt and Skeezix is to create an integrated whole. I want my words to be woven in seamlessly with the other elements of the book: the design, the photos, the comic strips, and the historical notes provided by Tim Samuelson. The effect I'm hoping to achieve is something like a house of mirrors. I want readers to be engaged by the story of Walt and Skeezix, and then see how the tale reflects aspects of King's life as seen in family photos and diaries. Then Tim's historical notes provide another angle of reflection, so we see Walt and Skeezix in the context of King's era.

In a weird way, the model for Walt and Skeezix is Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire. In that novel, you have a long poem (written by a fictional poet), a crazy introduction, and an even wackier explication of the poem, topped off by a sly index. The glory of Pale Fire is that all these elements play off each other to create a disorienting whole. Walt and Skeezix is much more sober, but it also tries to be a multi-layered book.

Again, I should emphasize the project is very much a collaboration. Really, the idea of doing the book as an integrated whole came from Chris Ware. I don't think I would have tried to do anything so ambitious if I didn't have his encouragement.

In the future, I might write a full-scale biography of King. But because the introductions to Walt and Skeezix are so closely tied to the books, I wouldn't just gather my essays together. Rather, I would have to write something fresh from scratch.


* Oh Skin-Nay!: The Days of Real Sport, Clare Briggs and Wilbur D. Nesbit, Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 136 pages, 1894937929 (ISBN10), January 2007, $24.95.

* Walt and Skeezix, Vol. 3, Frank King, Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 400 pages, 1897299095 (ISBN10), July 2007, $29.95.


cover image from Walt & Skeezix Vol. 3
the Smithsonian book referenced several times
one of the dozens of great historical photos of Frank King throughout the introductions
photo of ancient Gasoline Alley-related toy
Clare Briggs rarity reprinted in Oh Skin-nay
another Clare Briggs rarity
more licensed merchandise from Heer's introduction -- handkerchiefs and packaging
a page from each project showing how Heer's introductions look (below)


posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: the real belles of St. Trinneans

* go, look: Tom Tomorrow photographs Indiana Jones' 1957 (not comics)

* go, read: Craig Yoe on the German-published McCay book

* go, look: William Auerbach-Levy

* go, read: Alex De Campi pitches at Vertigo
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Colan Ho

posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 89th Birthday, Irwin Hasen!

posted 10:06 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 48th Birthday, Stan Woch!

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 44th Birthday, Whilce Portacio!

posted 10:02 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought of the Day

I've had access to the Internet for 1/3 of my life.
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In Utah, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from June 30 to July 6, 2007:

1. Washington Post declines to run a Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon featuring Dick Cheney, throwing a spotlight on their unfortunate habit of dropping installments of strips and not telling their readers.

2. Association of American Editorial Cartoonists holds 50th meeting, ponders state of the field.

3. Comic-Con International heads towards potential four-day sell-out; while it's still only potential at this point, administrators warn folks to pre-register for the best possible outcome.

Winners Of The Week
Matt Madden and Jessica Abel confirm they're the new Best American Comics series editors.

Losers Of The Week
Longtime fans of For Better or For Worse who hoped that the character Elizabeth might leave home and make a life for herself that was somewhat different than the life she had in eighth grade. It ain't over 'til it's over, but right now things don't look good.

Quote Of The Week
"Blech -- there isn't enough gin in the world to take the sour taste of this plot line out of my mouth." -- Professor Fate, in the Comics Curmudgeon thread on the Elizabeth/Anthony kiss.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

July 6, 2007

CR Review: Gotta Have ‘Em


Creators: R. Crumb
Publishing Information: Greybull, slipcased hard cover, 224 pages, 2003, $55
Ordering Numbers: 0967236681 (ISBN10), 9780967236681 (ISBN13)

As a publishing project, Gotta Have 'Em: Portraits of Women falls into one of those 'tweener areas. It has the production values, paper stock, binding, price point and printing quality of an elite R. Crumb project that might appeal to the high-end fan. It has the editorial mandate of a broader, mainstream product, singling out from more comprehensive sketchbook printings a series of portraits of women drawn by the underground comix great over several decades. If there's any cartoonist currently working that might have a fanbase big enough for two such distinct groups to overlap, and to actually draw buyers from both, it's Crumb. I received the book as a gift, and it's perfectly lovely, the kind of book that more than distinguishes itself from other volumes which might carry the same material.

As with any work that brings art from various years under one cover, one obvious wayy to approach this collection is as autobiography. The astute reader should be able to track Crumb's growing artistic skill, the people in his life, and, you probably knew you weren't going to get away from this in a Crumb book, his specific physical interests. This is made apparent in the models he chooses, the women in his own life he chooses to draw, and how he approaches each drawing. You can concentrate on the range of physical shapes, or the similarities between models, or even the words he put in some of the posers' mouths, tossed off phrases that are frequently hysterically funny. Watching Crumb draw his longtime companion Aline or to see the way he clearly adores drawing his daughter, and how he works every piece may present its own specific drawing problems, may remind us that both making great art and keeping the people closest to us happy involve seeing before acting.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Madden and Abel Become Best American Comics Series Editors

A lot of cartoonists seemed to know about this, although I sure didn't, and checking with Matt Madden (nice enough to e-mail in from Spain) it's true: the cartoonists and comics educators Matt Madden and Jessica Abel have taken over for former Comics Journal and Punk Planet Editor Anne Elizabeth Moore on the Best American Comics series from Houghton-Mifflin. The married Abel and Madden are a well-known arts comics power couple, as much as such a thing exists, as well as highly respected cartoonists each with a little more than a decade of publishing through various venues behind them. They are the very definition of well connected insiders. It should be interesting to see what they do with their stint, which I understand will be at least two volumes.
posted 6:06 am PST | Permalink

FPI: French Vs. Piggish Court Decision

imageThe increasingly indispensable Forbidden Planet blog has a nice suite of links up relating to efforts by French cartoonists and industry players to work against decisions like that facing those involved with the 2001 book Vos Papiers!, including the artist who drew a version of a police officer with porcine features. In addition the previously reported benefit book Tous Coupables, apparently there's now a professional organization devoted to working against such decisions, called Les Cochon Enrages.
posted 3:22 am PST | Permalink

E&P On AAEC Convention Programming

Editor & Publisher is running short articles on various facets of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonist conference as part of their ongoing coverage from Dave Astor:

* a macro-discussion on major issues facing the field.

* highlights from Helen Thomas' address

* Reporter Dana Priest thanks the assembled for their Walter Reed cartoons
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Happy 60th Birthday, Katherine Collins!

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Anthony, Liz Kiss: Fans Recoil in Horror

imageWith a wedding kiss played as romantically as she can manage it, it looks as if Lynn Johnston at For Better or For Worse is moving towards pairing elder Patterson daughter Elizabeth off with grade-school sweetheart Anthony. (There could be a reversal, which would be awesome.) This follows a courting period that included an awful-looking mustache, shared testimony at an attempted rape trial (one of my personal go-to moves), creepy and not-reciprocated thought-balloons, a creepier fenced-in basement play area, lots of hectoring comments from Mom and Dad, and every other guy in Liz's life being revealed horror-movie style as suddenly unworthy of her. Comics Curmudgeon likely has the funniest commentary and best reader responses. This person recaps Shaenon Garrity's hilarious jeremiad on the subject.

It's not really typical for so many people to comment on a plot point within a strip, at least not since my Aunt Barbara was reading Terry and the Pirates the way that kids now watch Guiding Light. For that reason and many others, I think this is an interesting subject. One, it marks a probable resolution in the final major lingering plotline question in the long-running For Better or For Worse before it ends its real-time run and turns into a trapped in amber framing sequence/old strips hybrid. Two, it shows that people can become deeply involved with the outcome of a strip storyline and that this can be fostered by a place to go to complain (the Internet). Three, I think through its contrasting elements it says something about the kind of fan entitlement-flavored protests that pop up in comics like so many broken bed springs in a cartoon featuring hillbillies.

Where the Anthony/Elizabeth issue feels different than a lot of recent comic book protests is that the people trashing this now-likely plot development are doing so as criticism, not as a demand it be changed back to suit them. Additionally, the criticism here speaks to the specific artistic outlook of one creator rather than some temporary variations and sales stunts masterminded by a feature's 67th writer. I think the criticism is kind of poignant, too, that Lynn Johnston seems to prefer an outcome for young people where they stay close to home and marry a safe, dependable person with whom they're familiar and whose best point may be the proximity of their seventh grade locker to their own. So one child moves into the old home, one child marries the boy she first kissed (I'm guessing there), in slightly improbable, seemingly forced fashion. It's not exactly the life that many readers of their same age imagined for themselves, and thus the scorn. That seems to me a different set of issues than someone not getting Spider-Man exactly right.

The other thing worth noting is that if this is the direction she's going, than we could be very near the feature's end in terms of plot movement, if not actual strips.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, John Byrne!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

CCI: We’re Not Sold Out For 2007… Yet

I spoke to David Glanzer yesterday about the tickets sales for Comic-Con International, which kicks off with a Preview night on July 25. A rumor had popped up that the convention had sold out, and Glanzer wanted to make it clear 1) that this wasn't the case and 2) it could certainly happen between now and July 25. According to Glanzer, the Con trys to negotiate the last stages of attendance as fairly as they can. For example, last year they shut down on-line registration for a couple of the convention's days to better ensure processing people who were standing in line. This year they moved back both professional and press registration, with a warning that press registration on-site would be subject to any overall attendance caps, in order to get a bigger number of pre-registered people of both type and minimize the last minute crush.

So: while at this point says all tickets are open, you should try to take care of any ticket buying that you can take care of as soon as possible. Individual days or types of tickets might be subject to limits as they get closer to the date, and the show itself might present another wave of problems.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Christy Marx!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

On Burne Hogarth Vs. Joseph McCarthy

When the New York Times wrote their obituary on the passing of School of Visual Arts co-founder Silas Rhodes, I expressed wonderment at a story that had Rhodes and his SVA partner the cartoonist Burne Hogarth appearing before Joseph McCarthy. The dates didn't quite match up to what I remembered being McCarthy's heyday, I'd never heard the anecdote from the tens of thousands of interview words from Hogarth I've read, and the phrasing seemed specific but kind of loosely anecdotal.

So I asked around. The Times writer declined to e-mail me back, Hogarth interviewer Gary Groth said he vaguely remembered something like such an appearance and that it was not out of the question, and Ammar Abboud reminded that Burne Hogarth was known to be a member of the Communist Party before World War II. Bart Beaty, however, tracked down what had to have been the Times writer's source: an article in the Times from 1956. Bart:
I was in the library today doing some fact-checking for another project and so wandered down to the microfilm room and grabbed the New York Times from 1956.

Here is the deal on Rhodes and Hogarth as communists, taken from the Silas Rhodes obit.

A Jan 19 1956 story entitled "3 School Owners Deny They're Red" reported on hearings in Washington. The "balky" (great term!) witnesses were Michael Freedland, who ran the Radio and Television Technical School in Allentown PA, and Rhodes and Hogarth, who ran the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York.

According to Paul Tierney, attorney for the Senate subcommittee, the CIS had received $1,176,712 from the government because they had 278 former GI's enrolled, about 46% of their total enrolment.

Joseph McCarthy was a member of the subcommittee, which was chaired by John McLellan (Democrat, Arkansas). The NYT quotes the exchange that is cited in the recent Times obit of Rhodes, with McCarthy insisting that their decision to plead the fifth was proof that they were communists, and Rhodes firing back about his war record.

The article notes that both Rhodes and Hogarth insisted that they had not been party members since opening their school on August 20, 1947, but would not testify about their membership prior to that date.

So there you go, the bit from the obit is basically recounted straight from the original reporting from 51 years ago.

As to why Hogarth never talked about it, that one is a mystery to me too.

Anyway, that's an interesting footnote to comics history. I don't know if it's yet another footnote or a pertinent follow-up that the school changed its name to its present-day iteration later that same year.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 54th Birthday, Joe Zabel!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Two Articles on Manga Worth Noting

Among the article touting the fate of one or another company's proposed lines or even the fate of single books are two pieces that take a wider view on where the manga market is right now and where it will be in the near future.

* The comics business news and analysis site sees a potential glut of titles this Fall as more and more people hit the market. Although comics people with long memories might feel muscles in their face voluntarily start to twitch on the mention of a glut, it's worth noting that the manga market overall is far better suited to handle such a swell in product, and if it doesn't work the damage will be felt in the publishing companies, not isolated in their sales partners.

* David Welsh suggests that the bookstore power enjoyed by manga aimed at guys may be kind of limited.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Eddie Campbell on Drawing Paper 3
Craig Thompson on Creating Chunky Rice
Video on How To Create Pages in Cold Heat

Go See Zapiro
Japan Expo Report
Tell Jacob Covey Your CCI Plans Thread on CCI Offerings
Con Lauded as Innovative Programming
MoCCA: Reporter, Memoir and Reportage

Walking Through 2000 AD

More Modok Mania
I Hate Your Cartoon
Pros on Effect of the Internet

Beliefnet: Phil Yeh
Playback: Matt Kindt
Word Balloon: Jeremy Haun

Not Comics
Best Headline Today
Hollywood = Nerd Town, USA
Evan Dorkin Uses Word Unguents
Prominent Bookstore Changes Hands
Hard to Back Book Review Section Supporter

New Viz Licenses
Todd Klein Launches Site
Netcomics Releases Manga
Strip Changes Horrid Name
Eden is Not Specially Troubled
Wendy Pini Webcomic Launches
DHC: No Star Wars Comics News This Summer

Jason Thompson: 888
Jog: All Star Superman #8
Bill Sherman: The Re-Gifters
Sarah Morean: Elfworld Vol. 1
Richard Bruton: Various By Jason

July 5, 2007

CR Review: Noose


Creators: Mark Burrier
Publishing Information: Self-Published, mini-comic, 32 pages, $4
Ordering Numbers:

Mark Burrier is one of the more consistent mini-comics artists working. His latest, Noose, provides a reasonably effective showcase limited by the modest aims of the book. A noose stands over a hole. A procession of individuals interact with that noose or hole (I guess they could be different, similar ones), to wildly different results. My favorite is "Birds," which despite the obvious references to the film in the title and within the story's narrative is nicely staged via Burrier's uniform six-panel page. In contrast to the other stories, "Birds" seems the most oblique and weird, with none of the literary short story earnestness that drives some of the other tales. The most impressive element to be found within the comic may be the staging in "The Break-Up." Burrier maintains visual interest through a series of perspective changes that manage to avoid boring us to death without calling attention to a moving "camera."

Burrier's art has become sharp enough that reading his stories here and the way they vacillate between short-story twists and single, considered effects makes one wish for a bit more, or at the very least may remind of watching an accomplished singing artist open their latest set with a standard perfectly suited for their vocal range. The book is also handsomely mounted, with an attractively colored cover on a stock (French cordtone paper, Burrier's site says) pleasing to the fingers. Noose a fair introduction to Mark Burrier's creative voice, as it were, a style and approach as effective as its ever been. I just can't see this being the comic that sets someone who reads it scurrying to find everything Burrier's ever done.
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 of the darn things -- 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'm way behind on my Usagi Yojimbo trades, but someday there will be a rainy Saturday afternoon and my schedule will be clear and I will spend a few hours devouring hundreds of pages of this excellent all-ages series and it will be a good day.

APR070173 ALL STAR SUPERMAN #8 $2.99
Mainstream comics' best series? Probably. One of the two-three prettiest and idea-driven, even if it doesn't hook you in.

MAY072156 THOR #1 $2.99
You can make the argument that Thor was at one point the flagship Marvel comic book, back in the mid to late 1960s. It was certainly the Marvel comic that depended most on execution over concept, and one that was uniquely suited to Jack Kirby's art and John Buscema's take on the Kirby model, which is probably why there's been pretty much one successful iteration of the character since. I don't hold out much hope for this version given the fussiness that's overtaken most of Marvel's comics recently, but done right this is a real little boy's comic, bigger than life and with lots of heroic smashing, and it would be nice if someone could make it work.

APR073978 DRAGON HEAD VOL 7 GN (OF 10) (MR) $9.99
The latest book in a compelling series; if you're not up to date, most stores tend to carry series starters as well as the current volumes.

A smarter than usual alt-comics anthology built around the concepts of memoir and reportage, brought to you by the most powerful small-press anthology editor of all time, King Features Comics Editor Brendan Burford.

Tezuka's on the short list of five or so cartoonists where your comics library is almost always better off having the latest book than not having it. This is a major series.


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 Portland, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

George Melly, 1926-2007

imageAlan George Heywood Melly, the flamboyant critic, jazz singer and memoir writer, died earlier today in his London home, various members of the British Press are reporting. He was 80. In addition to his out-sized public persona, his performances, his authorship of a number of books on a variety of subjects, and all the other things for which he is rightfully best known, Melly wrote scripts for the satirical strip Flook during its most influential and admired stretch as a feature in the Daily Mail in the 1960s. That feature was drawn by his friend and fellow jazz performer Wally Fawkes under the pen name Trog; Melly was one of Fawkes' distinguished collaborators over the years.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 49th Birthday, Bill Watterson!

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Washington Post Declines to Run Cheney-Focused Tom the Dancing Bug

According to a mention at ComicsDC, the cartoonist Ruben Bolling was telling people at the "Cartoonapalooza" AAEC meeting kick-off that the Post had declined to run his latest Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon, which apparently features Vice-President Dick Cheney killing aides that brought him bad news.

There's a hitch in my step when it comes to labeling this sort of "I'll take a pass, thanks" maneuver as censorship in the way that I think of censorship, and I'm not sure I can articulate why, especially if someone for whom this was automatically and obviously censorship were to sit in a chair across a table and fume at me about it. I mean, is dropping a strip altogether an even more egregious example of censorship? Is choosing a syndicated Paul Conrad strip over a Gary Varvel syndicated strip to run that week censoring Varvel? I think I'd have to have a crystal clear snapshot of the reasons involved for not running Bolling's strip and maybe even develop a more considered viewpoint on the obligations between a newspaper and content provider.

What is clear is that the Post's recent tendency to take a pass on controversial strips for no stated reason and then not tell anyone they're doing so is crappy editorial policy that badly serves the Post's readership and makes the paper an untrustworthy partner for content providers.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 31st Birthday, Steven Goldman!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

It Was Only Fifty Years Ago Today

According to this reportorial piece at Editor & Publisher, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists kicked off their 50th meeting with a few comments from folks who were there at the first meeting. As noted earlier in the week, the AAEC was formed for some of the same factors seen to afflict the editorial cartooning profession right now, such as a perceived diminished sphere of influence.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 30th Birthday, Chris Butcher!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Iran Vs. Satrapi

In this news analysis piece, the Guardian takes a look at Iran's international news-making objections to the film version of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and cuts through some of the more egregiously loaded rhetoric employed.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Brush Strokes With Greatness

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Mike Manley at the Beach
Eddie Campbell on Drawing Paper 03
Long Discussion of Milton Caniff Cover

Train Man Exhibit in DC
Blair Departure Exhibition
Hana Hajjar Exhibition Report

Bully's 76 Covers
Early Kevin O'Neill
More Proto-Comics From Immonen

I Hate Your Cartoon
Comics Macro-Industry PR
More on Pressure to Do Animated Cartoons

Backstage: Brigid Alverson

Not Comics
Believe It... Or Not
This Made Me Laugh
Go, Buy: Gary Panter's Vans
My Dad Loved Stuff Like This
What Scott McCloud Can Teach Animators

Dreams Do Come True
Yen Press Site Launches
Transmission X Launches
Dark Horse Manga Acquisitions

Michael Moran: 52 Vol. 1
Don MacPherson: True Story Swear to God #7
Web Behrens: The Other Side and DMZ Vols. 1-2
Don MacPherson: True Story Swear to God Vol. 1

July 4, 2007

Your (Not Always) Comics News Briefs

* has a short article up by Didier Pasamonik indicating that the Paris store Le Monte en l'air has recently received some unwanted attention and even pressure from local police for a poster in their window expressing support for the family of Lamine Dieng.

* There are not one but two stories out there this morning about cartoonists and their eyesight. George Zaleski retires due to declining eyesight; Mervyn Meredith may lose his ability to see due to a hiccup in funding for a potential treatment.

* It somehow escaped my attention that Joann Sfar is adapting Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince into comics form for a line of similar adaptations. Unless my lousy French is stabbing me behind the kneecap, which is entirely possible.

* Rumors swirl (well, one tiny swirl) that this month's Comic-Con International is already sold out for some of its days.

* Christopher Noxon's "rejuvenile" formulation gets another workout, including the required comic book collector mention. I'm not sure what to make of aged comic book collectors being at the heart of a national cultural trend rather than standing as the complete opposite of cultural anything, but the general argument seems to have some merit.

* AnimeExpo drew a record number of attendees, despite a move to a smaller facility and the fact that last year's attendance was driven by an appearance by the creative collective CLAMP. According to this brief from, one of the ways they managed the smaller facility was via satellite events.
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Happy 231st Birthday, United States!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Lee’s Comics History 02

Certainly the most endearing and probably the most fun writing about comics being done right now can be found in Lee Hester's photo-driven history of his Lee's Comics retail establishment. Newest chapter here, including pictures of the Hateball tour stop, of all things. First part here.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Monsters are Afraid of the Moon

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Mike Luckovich Returns to Cagle Site

Mike Luckovich returns to Daryl Cagle's high-traffic web site after a four-year hiatus. The 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the country's most distinguished editorial cartoonists joins Tim Eagan, Jeff Darcy and the team of Allen Forkum and John Cox as new features on the site. Cagle introduces the cartoonists in the July 3 entry on his site.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Welcome, Eve Amelia Ullman!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Sunshine Club to Close September 1

United Media has announced plans on how it will close the late Howie Schneider's current strip, The Sunshine Club. It will end on September 1 after completing the summer for its 100 newspaper clients with a combination of remaining strips and re-runs. I would imagine that a lot of the papers will pick up new strips as the summer goes along, although you never know.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Happy 39th Birthday, Laurenn McCubbin!

posted 2:45 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Wizard World Philly Report
PWCW Report on AnimeExpo

Essay on Superheroes and War

Interviews/Profiles Batem
Newsarama: Mike Carey
Sequential Tart: David Yurkovich
Sequential Tart: Ivy, Winter, Sky McCloud

Not Comics
Maximizing Search Engine Exposure
Mike Sterling Says Goodbye to a Customer

Thor Coming Back
Haspiel's Brawl to Image
Sequential Tart Goes Weekly
Rosen Doing Comics Interview Series
Simpsons Publishing Plans for Summer Movie

AV Club: Various
Chris Butcher: Questionable Content

July 3, 2007

CR Review: Utility Sketchbook


Creator: Anonymous
Publishing Information: PictureBox, Inc., soft cover, 64 page, 2007, $6.57
Ordering Numbers: 0978972244 (ISBN10), 9780978972240 (ISBN13)

Utility Sketchbook reprints a bunch of comics from a series of strips that many of you may have seen here and elsewhere referred to as simply "the dog cartoons." Episodes of these comics appeared in a few Fort Thunder-related publications during the mid-1990s and since then have shown up on random sheets of circulated paper and as jpegs. I myself have 10 or 12 on my hard drive, and I have no idea how they came into my possession. For some reason the book doesn't credit the cartoonist. He was known back then as Keith McCulloch, or at least that's the name I was given at the time. I was told he was a neighbor who lived in close proximity to the Fort Thunder art collective, and was only intermittently interested in comics. Of course, there's always the chance that Keith McCulloch doesn't exist, and this is an otherwise known artist from that group and time adopting a personality for the side project. I have no idea. So anonymous it is.

imageI don't like the presentation. PictureBox has packaged this as a small paperback, and I found some of the comics difficult to read as a result, a hassle that was not ameliorated by an equal, compensating virtue. The price point is lovely, to be sure, and it's certainly a dense, longish read, for those of you who care about those kinds of things. You do have to read these comics to get them: the drawing is humorous and the design work more solid than it may first appear, but the great joy in the individual strips is how they come together as comics into a state of pure, smirking nonsense. For that you have to dig in. There seems to be a trend in comics for publishers and artists to mistrust providing a context for works like this, and while I understand the impulse I'm not certain I agree with it. As most of these strips were creatively viable as Xeroxes passed along with a direct explanation one person to another, does making it into more of an art object add anything to our collective enjoyment of the work other than to keep some easily frustrated people away?

Despite these general caveats, and even with some of the obvious crudity in the art and writing and the fact that several of the strips are unrealized, I recommend Utility Sketchbook. Highly. If you see it at a show, or are brave enough to order it from this on-line store, I'd suggest picking it up immediately. How often does someone with this unique a sense of humor come along in comics? About once every three years? Five years? The comics in Utility Sketchbook aren't just odd and affecting; they're funny. They look funny, they use comics in a funny manner, and the written jokes are funny. No cartoonist is better at capturing characters in undeserved mid-strut than the author of Utility Sketchbook, and few are as skilled at portraying characters puffed up with nonsense and shooting off at the mouth. Reading this book is like having that friend whom you tell disbelieving friends and acquaintances is the funniest person you know suddenly gift you with proof.



A Sample Strip

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In DC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* Plantu in New Zealand: anti-political correctness yes, hate no.

* I'm not sure I'd follow this Ohio State University student all the way into a roots of Imperialism argument, but the assumption that all Muslim criticism of the Danish Cartoons betrayed a complete and total misunderstanding of the concept of free speech was a pretty pernicious argument during the cartoons controversy in 2006, and an issue I hope some patient scholar pursues some day.
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Hugh McLeod’s Gaping Void


I was reading this article when about halfway it casually mentioned that the cartoonist Hugh McLeod was considered by some the most influential blogger in Great Britain. I'd never heard this, and have been only tangentially aware of Mr. McLeod in any manner. Since it's the day before a holiday, I thought it might be an opportune time to invite you to join me in acquainting yourself with the vastly influential Mr. McLeod.

His blog can be found here, an article on How to Be Creative which might mean something to some of you as you re-charge for the second half of 2007 can be found here, and a recent Q&A about social networking and related on-line media can be found here. Lots of cartoons throughout.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Kyle Baker Cartoon

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

AAEC Kicks Off Its 50th Convention

Dave Astor at Editor and Publisher has about as fine a pre-convention write-up as you'll ever read. Instead of a comic book convention he's writing about the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists meeting, the 50th of which kicks off this evening. Highlights include a fine Robert Plant anecdote (the world needs more Robert Plant anecdotes), the fact that th organization came into existence to fight its biggest issue today, that of vocational decline, and at least one person admitting that the gatherings may be the most important thing the organization does. If I remember correctly, the boards switch over at the meeting, and I believe Ted Rall is an officer in the forthcoming year. Could be wrong about that, though.

This widely-circulated article about the state of editorial cartooning, which I linked to earlier for a different reason, could be re-read if you want an idea of some of the issues likely to be on people's minds at the conference.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Hire a Horror

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Andrew Keen’s Critique

A few people e-mailed me a link this book review of Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur, which means someone in comics probably had it up first, so I apologize for not knowing who that is. I think what's obvious to take away in Keen's almost gleefully critical nut-kicking of on-line culture and values -- a lot of which I'll probably find strained or wanting given details -- is his warning that a migration to the Internet does not automatically mean that models will spring up for financial support and profit on the same level as what existed before the advent of the technology. It might, but there are no guarantees, and the fact we're still talking in terms of potential for these kinds of efforts more than we are in structured choices probably indicates something as well.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Le Muscle Carabine

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

On Satirical Comics’ Elder Statesmen

* Ron Hogan takes a look at the latest MAD collection and seems surprised to find some truly vicious and pointed barbs in work going back to the year 2000, whetting his appetite for more.

* Writer Matt Fraction's survey of recent comics reading includes a mention of two older National Lampoon books featuring lots of beautiful Russ Heath work. With the recent court decision making easier the republication of material into archival digital media packages, I have to imagine a complete National Lampoon and all of its comics is one that's likely to be published in the next few years. Of course, I thought some book publisher out there would make a complete Trots and Bonnie happen by now, too.

Completely off the topic of comics, I've never understood how whoever owns the NL brand at any one time hasn't managed to come out with some sort of print or on-line package based around the kind of smart, funny, Jean Shepherd-ish first-person memoir that resulted in the Animal House and Vacation movies. There are so many smart memoir writers and humorists out there right now, and one imagines there are dozens of singularly funny periods in those writers' lives that could make for great writing and a number of fresh film opportunities. Instead, it seems to be a brand that lurches from its grave to be attached to really generic, low-grade, crude humor vehicles before going away again.

* Four new issues have been scanned and are ready to be enjoyed in Ethan Persoff's ongoing project to archive Paul Krassner's The Realist.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 45th Birthday, Tom Heintjes!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

When Publishing Stunts Go Wrong

Mike Sterling walks through the steps of how a Flash series from DC Comics that was apparently intended to be a stealth mini-series hurt retailers who ordered it as if it were an ongoing series. This is one of those weird things where some abstract industry goal -- in this case, the juice of a shock finale -- gets in the way of working with their retail partners in a rational manner with as much information given them as possible. In DC's defense, the market frequently rewards goofy stunts at the retailers' expense, or at the very least fails to punish a lot of bad behavior.

Meanwhile, DC has released another teaser image from which I guess fans are supposed to glean clues about upcoming company-wide storylines. Other than the thought that we should drop everything we're doing to build an underground railroad to spirit away the Fawcett characters from DC's slightly pervy modern superhero soap opera treatment of those lovely kids comics icons, the image did nothing for me.
posted 3:03 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: I Killed Adolf Hitler Preview

posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Thumbnails
Paul Pope Makes a Cover
Jeff Smith Makes a Cover
Eddie Campbell Talks Paper 02
Scott Saavedra Designs a Book

Anime Expo Crows
Japan Expo Preview
Emad Hajjaj to Exhibit
FBI Store Welcomes Punk Pioneers
Blast Off Event at Asian Art Museum
Late MoCCA Report From Mike Baehr
Late MoCCA Report From Brett Warnock

Paul Gravett on George Herriman
Whatever Happened to the Stanhattan Project?

Lucas Turnbloom Wins Awards
Swann Foundation Selects New Fellows's First Half 2007 Sales List

CBR: Abby Denson
CBR: Marc Andreyko
Matt Fraction on Paul Pope
Anniston Star: Leilah Rampa
Staten Island Advance: Tom Batiuk

Not Comics
Henry Darger Desserts
Steve Gerber's Anxiety Attack
Stuart Immonen's Work Space
James Vance Objects to Aging Peers
David Welsh Looking For Information

Amelia Rules Excerpt
Charlos Gary Launches Blog
Diesel Sweeties Adds Another Paper
New FoxTrot Collections Has Last Dailies

Dana: Various
Andrew Austin: Various
Don MacPherson: Various
Jog: The Black Diamond #1-2
Geoff Hoppe: Green Arrow #62
Rob Vollmar: Dragon Head Vols. 1-3
Don MacPherson: Poison: The Cure #1
Graeme MacMillan: Wonder Woman #10

July 2, 2007

CR Review: Marvel Fanfare #25


Creators: Doug Moench, Pat Broderick, Brett Breeding, Rick Parker, Dave Sim, Bill Mantlo, June Brigman, Terry Austin
Publishing Information: Marvel, comic book, 32 pages, March 1986, $1.50
Ordering Numbers:

With today's frequently long-delayed individual issues of comic book series and tightly controlled continuity between books, it's hard to think of Marvel as a publishing house s awash in inventory pieces and off-genre one-shots. But that's exactly what they were 20 years, as evidenced by the mid-1980s anthology Marvel Fanfare. Marvel Fanfare was for its fans an experience like sitting around a favorite restaurant after close with a chef bringing around various items from the fridge. Some are better than what's on the menu, some are dog food, but all are presented in a kind of laid-back, no-pressure kind of way. Comics by David Mazzucchelli and Barry Windsor-Smith and Charles Vess were among the best of what the magazine offered.

imageThe issue presented here doesn't have those kinds of stories; the ones they do have are pretty awful. A forgettable Bill Mantlo and June Brigman piece featuring Captain Universe, the hero who could be you, provides some unintentional humor in that its overheated public school hallways filled with full-on teacher assaults and slit throats can be seen as a concentrated version of the nightmarish New York City that all of Marvel's second generation seemed to depict in those days, a roving street gang in every alley. It's still pretty miserable.

The lead story is part of a Weirdworld serial. Weirdworld was Marvel's answer to JRR Tolkein's popularity and the superhero comic's mid-'70s decline, a series of uninspired fantasy comics that strongly indicate the exact question put to Marvel included the words "lifeless" and "cheap-looking." "Raven's Dark Sorcery" includes scenes of generic fantasy mayhem and magic of the Lee Horsley variety. It's the kind of story where one of the characters being called "Mud-Butt" approximately 57,000 times is supposed to be hilarious rather than make you want to kill yourself, the female lead sports a fur bikini and Barbara Mandrell's hair, and the dwarves look like Michael Jeter with a bushy mustache. This issue's tale, an arbitrary march down passageways and through various secret portals so random and perfunctory you can practically smell the Cheetos, Mt. Dew and plastic dice, fails to entertain even according to the not very rigorous standards of Weirdworld.

The real reason anyone would want this comic these days is that the issue's pin-ups were drawn by Dave Sim, working in a kind of roughly-realized distant relative of Neal Adams' art that one finds in Cerebus from the original Palnu trilogy up through the second half of High Society. The portraits are odd and blocky and weird, more of a reflection on Sim's approach to such art than a road not taken for mainstream funnybooks. You also get a sense of what characters the noted self-publisher found interesting, and in that Sim shows good taste. That may not be reason enough to spend a lot of money on this orphan of Marvel's mid-'80s flush period, but it's hard to imagine anyone asking for more than a buck.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

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

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Your 2007 Doug Wright Nominees


The 2007 nominees for the 3rd annual Doug Wright Awards for Canadian cartooning were announced this morning. The winners will be announced August 17 at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Best Book
* Shenzen: A Travelogue From China, Guy Delisle (Drawn and Quarterly)
* This Will All End in Tears, Joe Ollmann (Insomniac Press)
* Scott Pilgrim and The Infinite Sadness, Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press)
* Gilded Lilies, Jillian Tamaki (Conundrum Press)
* Nog A Dod, Marc Bell ed. (Conundrum Press)

Best Emerging Talent
* Gray Horses, Hope Larson (Oni Press)
* House of Sugar, Rebecca Kraatz (Tulip Tree Press)
* Was She Pretty?, Leanne Shapton (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)
* Bacter-Area, Keith Jones (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Mendacity, Tamara Faith Berger & Sophie Cossette (Kiss Machine Presents...)
posted 6:26 am PST | Permalink

Silas Harvey Rhodes, 1915-2007

The New York Times is reporting that Silas Rhodes, co-founder of the School of Visual Arts, died June 27 at his home in New York.

Rhodes was born in the Bronx, was educated at Long Island University, and received post-graduate degrees in English from Columbia University. According to the Times obituary, In World War II he flew missions in the South Pacific and Asia.

imageAt the time of the founding of what would become the School of Visual Arts, Rhodes was working for the Veterans administration. Hogarth said in a 1993 interview with Gary Groth that Rhodes was also teaching English, and that it was Rhodes' suggestion that Hogarth and he go into partnership and transform the classes Hogarth was teaching on a pay-per basis into a formally credited institution, allowing veterans to spend their educational allotment from the GI Bill at the school. That institution came into existence in 1947 through the investment of both partners and the help of a $40,000 personal loan from a friend of Hogarth's and was originally called the Cartoonists and Illustrators School. According to the Times, the original faculty numbered three people and the student body 35. The school would change to its present name in 1955.

School of Visual Arts enjoyed singular success as both a place for educating generations of cartoonists and artists, but also as a successful and unique institution. According to Hogarth, Rhodes and he split the duties with Rhodes primarily responsible for managing the business and administration end of the school and Hogarth in charge of curriculum, although the Times piece suggests a more fluid relationship, with Rhodes teaching some of the Humanities course and pushing for a fuller student curriculum. The Rhodes-Hogarth relationship would eventually deteriorate and in 1970 the cartoonist retired from the school. Under Rhodes' stewardship, the school became accredited to give out Bachelor's degrees in Fine Arts, and swelled to almost its current number of 3000 graduate and undergraduate students.

Rhodes' son and current SVA President David Rhodes told the Times his father died after a full day in his home office.

Silas Rhodes is survived by three sons and six grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Beatrice. Silas Rhodes was 91 years old.

It should be noted that the NYT obituary spends a few graphs on describing how Rhodes and Hogarth appeared before Joseph McCarthy in one of his investigations of communist influence on various institutions, leading to a confrontation between Rhodes and McCarthy. I've never heard this story before and I can't find immediate confirmation. I do have a crap memory, though. I'll ask around and see if I can find some more information. If I can, I'll add a graph to the above.
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Charles Brownstein Interview

imageTim O'Shea catches Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein ramping up for the Gordon Lee trial and full of information that's pertinent and useful. Brownstein talks about the managing money aspects of the Fund in terms of hiring legal counsel whose expertise should allow for the most direct outcome, a pledge from Brownstein to start having more events in their home base of New York City starting this September, the fact the Fund raised $7000 at a recent benefit party in conjunction with the finale of Terry Moore's comic book Strangers in Paradise, and on which general laws the CBLDF is keeping a watchful eye.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Fantagraphics Publishing Book of Jack Cole’s Betsy and Me Strip


So I was looking up R.C. Harvey's name to see what his next project was going to be after the publication of his massive Milton Caniff biography, and I was surprised and pleased to see that it looks to be some work on a collection of the existing work for Jack Cole's Betsy and Me for Fantagraphics. This was the newspaper strip that Cole launched in the Spring of 1958; the magnificently talented cartoonist killed himself when the strip was only a few months into syndication. I greatly look forward to the book. If you want to see some of the work and read a solid piece on the feature, Ron Goulart's article is the best on-line.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

More on Ellison/Fantagraphics Mediation

By David Welsh

While both parties in the recently resolved Ellison v. Fantagraphics lawsuit are unable to release details of the court-mediated agreement reached Thursday, June 28, Fantagraphics co-publisher did elaborate on the mediation process via e-mail.

"We both signed what's called a short-form agreement yesterday [June 28]. The long form agreement will be completed and approved by both our lawyers in a couple weeks and once we sign it, we will release it to the public, but are prohibited by the terms of the agreement from commenting on the lawsuit beyond that."

According to Groth, the mediation process was instigated -- though not mandated -- by the courts.

"Evidently, at this stage in litigation, the court always calls up both parties and asks, separately, if they're interested in court-sponsored mediation. We said we were interested and Ellison evidently said he was, so it happened. It was therefore merely the opportunity offered by the court that led us into it. The court told me that 80% of such mediations are successful, and US courts would prefer this to a litigation that sucks up two or more years of the court's time."

This piece from The Third Branch: Newsletter of the Federal Courts offers more information on mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and their usefulness in the U.S. court system:

"The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California was one of the pioneers in the use of ADR. The district has developed a sophisticated, multiple-option system offering a variety of ADR options, including mediation, ENE [early neutral evaluation], nonbinding arbitration, and settlement conferences. 'We're committed to working with our district's lawyers and parties to find the best ADR option,' said Howard A. Herman, the district's Director of ADR programs, 'but we've found that mediation is the most popular. We believe it's because it's the most flexible of all the options.'"


This article was provided to CR without editorial intrusion by David Welsh.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: The Wildwood Flower

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Ali Farzat Interview

A total must-read interview from the Arabic-language Newsweek with the Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat can be found over at Farzat's weekly Al-Doumari was shut down in 2003 in large part because of the cartoonist's uncompromising and brutal cartoons. He is now apparently preparing animated versions of his work for the BBC. I don't know if it's the fact that getting his work out there is such a struggle, but Farzat comes across as almost piercingly clear in terms of his vision, values and beliefs.

Mostly what such an article displays is how vital a force editorial cartooning can be within the region. For another example, the Middle East Media Research Institute has produced a survey of cartoons about a single political issue and how it's dealt with in various by the Arab Press, with brief but able commentary.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Piero Quijano Case Gains Press Traction

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

People Are Talking About Various Issues

A few on-line discussions out there worthy of note:

* Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort's use of old sales figures at his blog has proved intriguing for a lot of folks, particularly when it comes to making comparisons to the market back then, at the height of a flush period that included a lot of back-issue collectibles speculation, and now, when things are better than they were five years earlier but are nowhere near the raw figures of 15-17 years ago. In other words, "Why can't we sell 8,000,000 copies of Spider-Man anymore?"

One thing I think worth noting is that while speculation was a huge force at the time Brevoort's charts represent, particularly for boosting the three or four titles at the absolute top of such lists, it should be noted that the overall delivery system allowed for that much product to be moved. It also sustained way more titles over 100,000 copies. In other words, the notion of blockbuster comics as it existed in the early '90s exploited a system that was obviously better suited to delivering a higher number of superhero comics overall. One of the things I try to track about today's comics is the effects when the same sort of top-title mentality is unleashed on an underlying market that isn't as healthy top to bottom.

I think it's likely a smarter market. There seem to be more longtime retailers with a degree of savvy generated by years of experience. I also don't get the sense of active hostility from the mainstream companies aimed at driving books of the stands as I saw 15 years ago, although that's largely because it's a battle that's already been fought (and won) in most stores. My hunch is that there's a lot of dross (a policy aimed at maximizing the top end of sales in a flush market when the market is not quite that flush) being spun into gold (smart, careful ordering that allows the market to act as if it's healthier and more stable than it is) by the Direct Market retailers as a group.

Still, it makes me wonder where that market would be right now if Marvel and DC paid more attention to replicating the market conditions that preceded the gorging period Brevoort's charts depict, and building a more solid infrastructure on which much even more sizable hits could be built. Simply avoiding the absolute worst excesses of a period can never be enough to fully maximize the modern period's potential. I think we're seeing that despite actual, sizable gains over the last five years, the difference between now and then isn't just speculation, it's the degree of big-company investment in their best market that made capitalizing on speculation possible.

* Articles like these on micropayments or similar issues where generally the hoped-for result hasn't come through tend to deal in speculation of another kind, imagining how something might be true, that I have a difficult time investing myself in any of the arguments that follow. Your mileage may vary. The only thing I took away from it is probably too laughably basic and dim for me to say it out loud, but I honestly hadn't considered that a huge factor in bringing the notion of payment into something is the consumer culture that precedes it.

* Alan David Doane advocates that comic book shops pursue every avenue of comics distribution available to them because of repeated displayed shortcomings in distribution from Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., but what I found valuable is his note that the store The Beguiling doesn't use a first-look program of early shipping in order to better prepare itself for the ups and downs of the periodicals market. The thought that the maybe the best way to share information with stores about upcoming product -- giving them the product -- exists as a pay-for program instead of routinely used in the course of maximizing sales for a book speaks to a key dysfunction in that comics market, as, from the other end of things, does word that a retailer used to sell those comics to Doane.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Light Children

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Fumihiko Yamada Interview

This interview at ActuaBD with Fumihiko Yamada, a cultural attache in the Japanese embassy in Paris, proves generally interesting, and a couple of specific points of appeal for me. One, Yamada puts France as the fourth leading market for manga exports, behind Korea, Taiwan and the US, and ahead of China. I have no idea how accurate that count is, what it means, or how it's tabulated, but the order seems worth noting. Two, Yamada makes a point about the importance of manga as a cultural and commercial export where I think he's basically saying that one of the reasons the Japanese government has been able to take an interest is because you have a generation of politicians that grew up with comics, in a market that resembles the current one. In other words, there's a comfort level there that probably didn't exist with the previous generation.

For another view of the same approximate nature, this article suggests that the much smaller but still growing export of Korean comics has its own unique breakdown by percentage of whole, with Europe overall coming in first.

thanks, Ammar Abboud
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Hey, Kids! Comics!


Who doesn't remember those summers past? You'd take a trip with one of your parents into town, wearing your swimsuit and a t-shirt and maybe flip flops. You'd stop by the Ben Franklin's and with the quarters you'd been saving in the tube sock from your clothes drawer you'd walk past the toys and past the candy and even past the fireworks right to the comic book section, just for the chance to buy 32 pages of wall to wall, cover to cover, morose reflection on death. Life was never better!
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Another Eddie Campbell Cover
Another Eddie Campbell Cover

Anime Expo Report
Vintage Comics Art From Mexico

All About Modesty Blaise

Worst Headline Ever
Comic Book Adventures!
Choose Your Science Idol
Respect the Graphic Novel
American Journalism Sucks
Cartoons Over Comics In India?
Decline in Manga Magazine Market
Home Birth Storyline in Stone Soup

Maisonneuve: Rutu Modan
Profile of Manga Nobel Prize Runner-Up Juggernaut Comics & Collectibles

Not Comics
The Get Fuzzy Bump
Profile of Drinky Process
Review of Soon I Will Be Invincible
Review of Soon I Will Be Invincible
Comic Book Drawering Shore Is Weird

Wahoo Morris Publishing Path
Strip Page Turnover in El Paso
Additional Use For FCBD Nexus
Popeye Snuff Comic Ill-Received
Discussion of Editorial Cartoon Animation

Craig Taylor: Various
Peter Wong: Black Summer
R. Krauss: Cornelia Cartoons
Julie Gray: Dragon Eye Vol. 1
Mike Everleth: Muscles & Fights
Collected Editions: Batman: Face to Face

July 1, 2007

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

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I’d Go See This


Okay, I probably wouldn't. But if I did, I would certainly enjoy the witticisms of scheduled panelist Len Wein.

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Daily Blog Archives
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
Full Archives