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

August 31, 2007

CR Review: The Kat Who Walked In Beauty


Creators: George Herriman; Derya Ataker, Jacob Covey
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, hard cover, 200 pages, August 2007, $29.95
Ordering Numbers: 1560978546 (ISBN10)

I believe that just about everything concerning personal expression in comics can be traced back to impulses that parade through George Herriman's Krazy Kat, and this freakishly beautiful and surprisingly modest art object from editor Derya Ataker and designer Jacob Covey puts that notion into full display. A suite of episodes chiseled from Herriman's great work whose highlight is a 1920 sequence featuring a group of famous "panoramic dailies," The Kat Who Walked in Beauty may be the best book I've ever seen in helping explain the feature's many virtues. The earliest strips reprinted spotlight Herriman's formal playfulness and genre tweaking, a group of restored sequences run in vertical fashion put on display the cartoonist's ability to string together sustained moments of whimsy, the beautiful and jaw dropping sequences will give the reader a sense of visual poetry and staging, while a final group of cartoons linked to a popular stage show allow the strip's gentle power to be reflected back onto newsprint in a way that seemingly enhances their essential loveliness and vibrancy. That breakdown may sound oddly brusque, and perhaps sort of ridiculous, but I have a hard time speaking about Krazy Kat. I find its virtues rather self-evident, and I'm just beginning to be able to take in the entirety of what made it great. It feels like its own desert setting that way, a strip that almost too hard to drink in with eyes fully open.
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Friday Distractions: Milt Gross, FPNY

Milt Gross Archives

I'm late to this fine collection of Milt Gross cartoons, but maybe you are, too:


Those FP NYC Home Movies

I've already linked to these mid-'80s videos of a retail establishment in full flush, but still:

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If I Were In Georgia, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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Various Friday News Story Updates

* Reporters Sans Frontieres continues to monitor political reaction to the Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda running the Lars Vilks cartoon of Muhammed with the body of a dog. Pakistan followed Iran in summoning a Swedish diplomat to receive their official protest, while the Organization of the Islamic Conference called for the cartoonist and editor to be punished.

* The banned Opus story heads into its second of two weekends where one eighth of the strip's client base decided not to run a pair of cartoons having a go at Islamic themes and humor. Editorials like these I think show just how confused the issues have become, and how easily they're manipulated to make a weak political point about biased media or to assert the general superiority of a certain culture. I mean, after you've vomited the notion up on the table that something about the confused reaction to the 2006 Danish Cartoons Controversy somehow means that nobody should ever do cartoons about Christians, either, do you go anywhere with that, or are you just making a strident point for the sake of making a strident point?

* The Chicago Reader follows up on some of their media beat coverage of the story with a full profile of Scott Nychay, the cartoonist whose paper entered him in contests and used the results for publicity after laying off the cartoonist.
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Go, Look: Senator Craig Round-Up


Daryl Cagle presents groupings of editorial cartoons according to the popular news stories they cover, which is often a great way to look for emerging themes and broad conclusions on a controversial subject. As his gallery of cartoons about Senator Larry Craig shows, Cagle's round-ups can be equally compelling when a story touches on so many potential issues without commenting in effective fashion on seemingly any of them.
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Comics Retailer’s Magic Check Scam

In yet another odd story about a comics retailer running afoul of the law, police in Altoona, Pennsylvania were earlier this week issued a warrant for the arrest of George Newton Hampton Jr., the operator of an Altoona, Pennsylvania comic book shop, for several charges related to an altered check he received from a local judge. According to the local media report, Hampton took a check for the amount of $16.98 and altering it into a check for the amount of $1500. He then used the check to pay a variety of bills and to make a few cash transfers, maxing out at about $10,000.

Hampton's store, Excalibur Collectibles, was locked and empty at the time of the newspaper story's filing.
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The CR Misinformation Department


* When I wrote that Mark Evanier's sure to be excellent, forthcoming biography on Jack Kirby, Kirby: King of Comics was such a major event as to make it the only book of its type this Fall worth considering, I clearly was harboring some sort of odd resentment against Charles Schulz biographer David Michaelis, whose equally anticipated Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography will also debut in the weeks ahead. Peanuts guru Nat Gertler has an early review. One thing I want to see is if Schulz's marital drama will be the centerpiece of how the book is presented through the press, and if so, how that notion will be tied back into his work or the progression of his career. Or if it will be.

* a couple of people wrote in to tell me to hold my horses when it comes to suggesting that DC delaying a bunch of Showcase editions featuring work from the company's more eclectic portions of its catalog reflects a winnowing of that reprint line in a way that would favor their bigger licenses. Turns out that the material in question are later books where different rights situations apply, and DC needs extra time to clear the rights before they can publish that material. Although there's a truism applicable to comics that says a book that doesn't get published still has a chance of not being published, the explanation sounds fair to me and I look forward to more of the odder Showcase books hitting the stands at a later date.
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Go, Read: Edward Gorey’s Star Trek


Shaenon Garrity draws a line between cartoonist Edward Gorey and one of his favorite shows, and receives bonus points for not going with a Gashlycrumb Tinies set-up. As a bonus, Garrity reprints an article about what might be Gorey's first TV obsession. Gorey would later be quoted enthusing on behalf of some odd shows, enough of them that we made fun of it at The Comics Journal.
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Go, Read: Superhero Line Analyses

* Newsarama takes a look at event fatigue, the notion that comics fans are over time becoming tired with mainstream comics companies' mega-events and crossovers, and that such books are locked into a cycle of diminishing returns. It's a very important question because of how such series drive the industry at this time. While the article proves to be a quality survey of different viewpoints from the retailer community, I feel that comics retailers are so wildly diverse in terms of approach and culture that drawing industry-wide conclusions from them, or even a group of them, may prove impossible.

* here's a litmus test: do you read this article by Tom Bondurant about things DC could do to more effectively secure his business and think a) those are largely sensible things and I don't really understand why they aren't already in effect, or b) screw you, old man! It's a fascinating question, and one without an easy answer. On the one hand, the vitality of mainstream American comics has traditionally been rooted in its ability to reach a continually refreshing swathe of young people. On the other hand, that audience faded significantly starting with the advent of television and in accelerated fashion after the collapse of newsstand comics distribution that one could make the case that comics like these are a specialty niche that needs to cater to its audience much more than make phantom grabs at an audience that hasn't been there since Eisenhower was president.
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Bone Series Hits 2,000,000 Sales Mark


Cartoonist Jeff Smith notes that Scholastic's edition of Bone 6: Old Man's Cave has gone into a third printing for a total of 260,000 copies, while the overall series has pushed past the two million mark in sales. This is astonishing, even more so when you consider how the work in question was released in multiple iterations before this one.
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Quick hits
Fan Expo Report
Political Cartoon Exhibit in Ohio
SPX Adds Wagner, Deitch, Smith
Basil Wolverton's Work Exhibited
Comic Foundry Launch Party Report
Chris Butcher's Official TCAF Wrap-Up

Remembering Hy Rosen
Profile of La Maison Des Auteurs

I Hate Your Cartoon
Spanish Cartoon as Part of Anti-Royal Sentiment

Pulse: Scott Shaw!
Pulse: James Kochalka
Seattle P-I: Ellen Forney
Broken Frontier: Warren Ellis
Times-Picayune: Josh Neufeld
Inkstuds: Vancouver Interviews
Bill Randall Profiles Warren Craghead
Sequential Tart: Steve Ahlquist, Chris P. Reilly

Not Comics
Mike Manley: Back to School
Sarah Morean on Minneapolis Scene
Danish Cartoonist Makes Anti-Christian Film

SLG Confused By Diamond
Ministerial Comics Flood Public Schools

AV Club: Various
Brian Hibbs: Various DC
Edward Sorel: Krazy Kat
Book Nerd: Castle Waiting
Jeff Lester: Buffy Vs. Buffy
Rod McKie: Narrative Corpse
Geoff Hoppe: Action Comics #855
Matt Brady: Drifting Classroom Vol. 5

August 30, 2007

CR Review: The Highwaymen #1


Creators: Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, Lee Garbett, Jonny Rench, Rob Leigh, Brian Steelfreeze
Publishing Information: DC Comics/Vertigo, comic book, 32 pages, June 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

The first issue of the five-issue Vertigo mini-series The Highwaymen reminds me of one of those movies that wants to celebrate a genre while at the same time satirize some of its excesses. I'm not sure how much of the latter we're talking about here. The characters and set pieces are broad enough to suggest a parody; there's even a guy with an English accent who calls people "mate." More significantly I think, the plot is set at some future year with references to the rich, glorious past represented by Bill Clinton's presidency, which indicates the prime-time of Vertigo's ascendant period is there to be utilized and celebrated. The execution, however, is more on line with The Big Hit (Hong Kong action films) than it is with Shaun of the Dead (zombie movies); too much at least in this first outing remains unexamined, and there's not enough dissonance between approaches to keep the reader from becoming a co-conspirator in terms of wallowing in the cliches. I found much of the issue kind of boring; I've been there before, and merely putting the tongue a bit in cheek this time around doesn't change the essential nature of the narrative landscape. This is going to require a massive shift in tone to recapture my interest, and I'm not waiting up.
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I Hear Trumpets… Trumpets in the Sky

imageThe shift for the mega-popular strip For Better or For Worse from real-time soap opera into a hybrid strip of frozen-in-time framing sequences around older runs of the feature will come sooner rather than later. Really sooner. Universal Press Syndicate has announced that the new format begins Monday, September 3.

That the strip's current format would end soon had been a rumor for a couple of years and an announced reality since last Winter. A September date for the shift had been bandied about for quite some time. Still, nothing had been 100 percent confirmed until this week. In fact, Johnston's recent talk about giving the controversial Anthony/Liz romance plot more space had led some folks -- myself included -- to believe that the strip would continue for at least a few weeks longer. Oddly, Johnston has continued to assert that the Anthony/Liz relationship needs more time to develop. Whether this makes it something she wants to do within the hybrid format, or if we're supposed to believe the cartoonist simply hasn't wrapped her mind around the forthcoming change or if it's supposed to indicate that tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday will cover an astonishing amount of ground, I couldn't pretend to know.

The first flashback will use Michael and his kids as a framing device and cover the romance between leads John and Elly.

Editor & Publisher has a lengthy article about the various issues around the shift and on Lynn Johnston in general, folding an older and informative piece about the switchover into its body.

Update: This will teach me to read all of my daily sources for links before posting and going back to bed. Brad McKay writes in to inform me that Alan Gardner at Daily Cartoonist has already solved the Anthony/Liz fate problem:
The strip's current storyline will be interlaced with Michael's remembrances until it gradually reaches a natural closing stage sometime early next year. When that happens, time will stop for the extended Patterson family, but not their stories.
So there you go.
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Happy 64th Birthday, R. Crumb!

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Today’s Publishing News Round-Up

* a lot of comics commentators out there noticed before I did that DC Comics has delayed or canceled or virtually canceled by way of delaying a bunch of their Showcase titles. The released list of not-gonna-see-its in the discount line include a second Jonah Hex volume and one featuring Captain Carrot. This is worth noting as one of the greatly appealing things about having a line of discount trades emanating from a big publisher like DC is the possibility for the more obscure characters or concepts like Suicide Squad to receive their one trade's worth of reprints in this format.

* Johanna Draper Carlson takes a look at the new publisher Transfuzion deciding on a publishing strategy that includes not accessing the direct market of comics and hobby shops through their traditional supplier, Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. She actually warms up to it by post's end. I'm a bit more conflicted. While I see the virtue in recognizing market realities and devoting one self to your comics beyond that market's ability to immediately make a place for them, I do think there's a danger in bringing comics into the market through whatever door without the kind of marketing and publishing support that gives them a chance to succeed.

* Here's press copy from Viz's Naruto Nation effort, where they're accelerating the production of the popular series of graphic novels in order to kind of re-boot it at a more popular point in the serial this winter. I think that bears watching, as there's just not enough of a track record to determine whether or not manga fans will buy three episodes of a serial in a month, and the effect on the market in general is unknown. Direct Market shops seem to have traditionally done poorly with a sudden flood of material, but the more important bookstore market Not only is the immediate effect on sales worth watching, but one should also keep an eye out for a hangover effect come the new year -- it's usually the sales effort after the one hitting strangely with fans that suffers, not the divergent effort itself. On the other hand, this could be a roaring success. Still, with the size of that properties fan base, those are some giant dice being rolled.
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Happy 61st Birthday, Jacques Tardi!

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Indie Publishers Wooed In Odd Fashion

Calvin Reid's article at Publishers Weekly on the New York Comic-Con may have surprised some in the number of confessional moments in regards to show improvements it wrung from organizer Greg Topalian. Comics isn't exactly an industry that embraces self-criticism, something that's seemed apparent in aspects of previous coverage and commentary on the growing New York show.

The piece also struck about a half-dozen readers who e-mailed this site as odd for the way it broached the subject of wooing independent/alternative publishers to the show. This element caught the attention of Chris Mautner, who subsequently pointed out on Blog@Newsarama that it's one thing to pledge the devotion of resources to bringing on board publishers like the article's name-dropped Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly and another thing to show you're doing this by announcing you've signed someone. Turns out that Mautner was right in seeing something weird. Talking to sources at Fantagraphics and D&Q yesterday, neither one of them has plans at this time to exhibit at NYCC in 2008, and both expressed to me they were kind of surprised to see their names pop up in the article. I believe that if you compare Mautner's pulled quote to the PW article as it now exists, you'll find a bracketed aside in the PW piece noting Fantagraphics won't be there.

I think this is intriguing beyond the e-mails asking for follow-up in that it shows the role that such publishers can play in the overall perception of a show beyond what they likely add to the bottom line. Heck, if help is to be offered to get such publishers to attend, I guess they may have value when they take away from the bottom line. I also think it's worth noting that we're now at the point where the convention schedule is diverse enough that mid-major publishers can decide to attend one of only five of the top shows, or two of the five, perhaps concentrating more of the tightly-focused arts shows, and not feel a significant, negative impact.
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Team Comics Discredited For All Time

Because really, if the combined forces of comics can't be mustered behind voting Dame Darcy onto Flavor of Love, what good are they?
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Quick hits
Tim O'Neil Talks Composition

Stripburger at Ljubljana
Dead Artist Teaches Children?

Immonen Finds Comics-Format Ad
Wayne Cowan Talks Doug Marlette
Ramsey Looks at Katrina Cartoons, Blogging

Illustrator Vs. Cartoonist
Thoughtful Editorial on Ho Cartoon
What Can You Do With New Shelf Space?

Interviews/Profiles Philip Brophy
The Leaf Chronicle: Pooch Cafe Kazu Kibuishi
Style: Jesse Bausch, Jim Callahan Tony Millionaire, Eric Kaplan

Not Comics
Hate Your Pets?
Rick Remender's Positive Attitude
Antony Johnston's Productivity Strategy

Publishing Launches
Stay Tooned Set For Fall Debut
Eric Powell Re-Imagining Bizarros
Rabbi's Cat in Hebrew/Arabic Same Day

Chris Miller: Scott Pilgrim
Bill Sherman: Good as Lily
Chris Mautner: Various Manga
Don MacPherson: X-Men #121
Steve Duin: Alice In Sunderland
Leroy Douresseaux: Poison Candy Vol. 1
Matt Brady: Eden: It's An Endless World Vol. 1
Don MacPherson: 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #1

August 29, 2007

CR Review: Forever Nuts: The Early Years of Mutt & Jeff


Creators: Bud Fisher; Jeffrey Lindenblatt
Publishing Information: NBM, hard cover, 192 pages, July 2007, $24.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781561635023 (ISBN13)

Jeffrey Lindeblatt's presentation of Bud Fisher's seminal comics strip might frustrate the casual comics fans who by now have grown accustomed to complete runs and larger than life -- or at least nearly as large as original publication -- presentation of older strips. This is definitely more survey than slab; the editors pick and choose sequences from several years in the run. For those of us that like to drop in and are interested in the strip's historical significance, Forever Nuts ends up being a smart, extremely well-illustrated essay on character development and comics' sometimes uncomfortable dialog with tone. You can see both characters develop, and what makes each one special, the way that figure design not only reveals character but almost guarantees this person or that person's ultimate fate. By fusing the anything goes nature of cartoon with the proscenium-focused staging of vaudeville, Fisher was one of the first to envision the tightly-wound tensions that would help drive interest in the medium for years to come. And when Fisher relaxed into his characters a bit and developed skill with shading to match the humor of his direction, Mutt & Jeff was as readable and entertaining as anything out there.
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This Isn’t A Library: New and Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market



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

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


JUN070035 USAGI YOJIMBO #105 $2.99
Don't hate Stan Sakai because his comic book comes out regularly. Celebrate him.

I have a fondness for that period of Marvel comic books between Kirby and Claremont, where the sales were still high enough to justify certain books being published seemingly without end in sight, but there was really no imperative that they be any good or receive a jump-start to make them a hit. There's a shabbiness about them that appeals to me. My favorite comic of this type is early-'70s Sub-Mariner, but a close second is Daredevil from the period represented here, which I believe includes the character's move to San Francisco. I would have once upon a time bet money that the move was because a Daredevil TV show was in the works during that period, but I was told by a much better comics historian than I am it was probably due to the fact that a lot of the company's writers were moving west.

MAY073713 ASTHMA GN (MR) $17.00
I buy John Hankiewicz work unseen, because 1) it's very good, and 2) good luck finding a description that makes a lick of sense. (His publisher does a pretty good job of the latter, actually.)

JAN073615 CHANCE IN HELL HC (MR) $16.95
I buy everything Gilbert Hernandez does, too, and this is a fascinating work on a lot of levels, including but not restricted to the fact that the story exists as a movie in Gilbert's main ongoing narrative in Love & Rockets.

Jeffrey Brown doing his own version of the Transformers. If you just went "Awww..." or "Cool!" I'm suggesting you buy it. If you just went "Ick!" or had no reaction at all, I'm suggesting you don't. I'm guessing this is fun, but forgettable.

JUN073913 SUPER SPY GN $19.95
I have this to read. What seems like a series of one-offs by Matt Kindt detailing various adventures in the lives of a group of spies apparently begins to cohere in unexpected ways. That certainly sounds like my kind of thing.

I've sort of lost track of what Frederic Boilet efforts have and have not been translated into English. I think this effort, in partnership with Benoit Peeters and Jiro Taniguchi, actually precedes the terms "nouvelle manga" by a couple of years.


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 am not a good person.
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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A Bit More On Opus’ Multi-Paper Drop


A few more stories and opinions have surfaced on the decision by approximately 25 newspapers not to run last and this week's Sunday installments of Opus, by Berkeley Breathed.

* Editor & Publisher notes the Catholic League's objection, which is probably better stated that papers are more solicitous of the feelings of Muslim readers than they are of Catholic readers than it would be that they should get to it and start pulling Catholic-related cartoons, too.

* this mini-editorial asks the same question, although they use a broader basis for the comparison and focus the decisions on the Washington Post deciding not to run it.

* video version of the story, some sane commentary, and what one hopes is a really old promotional photo of Berkeley Breathed can be found here.

* Reason looks at the story, again from the Post angle, and ties it into the DCC-reminiscent Vilks thing over in Sweden.

I would say this isn't a big story, and that newspapers being overly cautious probably isn't a story at all. What it does, though, is pick at a tidal wave of insecurity and anger just below the surface having to do with 1) what many feel was outright capitulation in terms of press coverage during the Danish Cartoons Controversy, and 2) a more general feeling that media shouldn't embody or promote or facilitate any kind of opinion except some idealized, fantasy-land, perfectly balanced series of opinions that happen to work out so that they portray one's personal views in the most positive light.

It does strike me as a bit weird that the Post and the syndicate which bears its name have such different policies on what's acceptable to put out there -- I know I had strips rejected by my syndicate when I was doing one, so I honestly don't know why a syndicate would distribute material its flagship paper wants nothing to do with -- but to be honest, I don't know the details of those two companies' relationship.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Connecticut Comic Shop Owner Pleads Guilty to Selling Pirated CDs, DVDs

Local media reports indicate that Robert Miller, the owner of Sarge's Comic Store in New London, Connecticut, has pleaded guilty in federal court to selling pirated CDs and DVDs. Miller will be sentenced in November, and may end up serving a year in prison and facing stiff fines. Apparently, Miller was caught by an undercover agent, sales to whom led to a search warrant and discovery of such material. Court documents available by following the link. Accusations of pirated CD and DVD sales are part of the comics landscape, although it's something that usually surfaces at conventions when people believe the show has on their floor a retailer or two devoted to material of that type.
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Go, Read: New Dave Kiersh Comics

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Diamond: Moves Warehouse to Mississippi; Steps Away From Valiant

* According to this short piece at the comics business news and analysis site, Diamond has decided to not to solicit Valiant Entertainment's hardcover Harbinger: The Beginning because of a trademark dispute between that company and a company called Valiant Intellectual Properties LLC. That book contained "digitally colored and re-mastered" versions of the stories in the 1992 Harbinger comic book series issues #0-7 and a new Harbinger story written by series creator Jim Shooter. The book will still be available directly from the publisher.

* Diamond will move its Memphis warehouse facility approximately 20 miles away to Olive Branch, MS and into a facility that has more than double its current warehouse space, says the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. The paper points out that the company was granted financial incentives to move its Sparta, Illinois operations to Memphis in 2001. According to the article, the Memphis warehouse serves 1500 stores. As the number of regional warehouses has been consolidated into I think three larger warehouses by Diamond, the size and effectiveness of the physical plants has become more of an issue in terms of shops getting all of the material they're due on the dates they need them.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Seiichi Hayashi Profiled


* mini-essay on blog about forthcoming Drawn and Quarterly edition of Red Colored Elegy (8-24 entry)
* D&Q biography for Seiichi Hayashi
* Hayashi web site
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Recent Comics History Coverage

* Roger Green talks about the Fantaco Chronicles series, a kind of specific permutation of the early Direct Market that shines a light on how things worked just 25 years ago.

* Tim O'Neil looks at the problems Marvel has with their Spider-Man property in terms of the character being married when many believe the character probably functions more effectively as a single person. This kind of thing fascinates me. Unlike a character like Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man and the other Marvel characters have to function as broad plug-in archetypes with which you can make movies and toys and as characters buffeted by change and growth on the level of progressive soap opera that engages fans paying close attention on a monthly or even weekly basis over the course of several years. There's no good way to solve the problems that causes that isn't eventually exhausted as the decades pile up, so Marvel has to kind of perpetually fudge matters, letting the character change and then scaling things back to the status quo in a demented cycle of innovation and aphasia.

* Holy crap! A series of home movies from 1986 about Forbidden Planet NYC were added to YouTube a couple of weeks back with little fanfare. I could watch videos like these all day:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
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Go, Bookmark:

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
NYCC Plans Indie Outreach

Early Frank King Cartoon
Notes From a Former Great White Hope
Background on Doujinshi and Obscenity

Winner Announced in Platinum Property Contest

E&P: Rob Rogers
PWCW: Kyle Baker
Wizard: Mike Mignola Sage Stossel

Not Comics
Details on BBC Comics Suite
Paul Pope Quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald

Free Inkspot For Downloading
Long Piece on Return of Dan Dare
PWCW: Details on Tekkon Kinkreet
Mark Evanier Analyzes DA Cessation
Evan Dorkin on Photos of Comics Readers

Praise for Shooting War
Erik Pederson: Exit Wounds
Chris Mautner: Various D&Q Books
Eddie Campbell: American Elf Vol. 2
Brian Heater: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto


August 28, 2007

CR Review: Brevity 2


Creators: Guy Endore-Kaiser and Rodd Perry
Publishing Information: Andrews McMeel, soft cover, 128 pages, September 2007, $12.95
Ordering Numbers: 0740768409 (ISBN10)

I know that the thing that you're supposed to do with the one-panel strips that have followed in the wake of the monolithic Far Side is to slam them automatically for not exhibiting the specific writing genius and strange, squirrelly qualities that made Gary Larson's feature a signature newspaper comic of the second half of the 20th Century. However, if one were to apply that standard to, say, stand-up comedy, you could watch one of the better Bob Hope films and listen to That Nigger's Crazy and safely wash your hands of 98 percent of everything that's come since. That's a lot of laughs to leave on the table.

I think the telling factor with Brevity is that Guy & Rodd, a cartooning team that sounds like a country-western act, put on their cover a gag featuring old people instead of a parody of a popular style or a proclamation of their pop culture-soaked wackiness or even a panel featuring some take on a dubiously relevant, recent piece of entertainment news. Their feature has a workman-like charm along those same lines, and as their craft improves, you start to see fewer mouthful-type rambles through something weird and more sharply staged, to the point, hits. I really liked a tennis joke that involved not just a guy watching the opposite direction of the crowd following the ball, but a woman focused on that man, smitten with his oddball ways. In other words, I like some of their gags, and I like the fact they're focused on the gags, and they're clearly becoming better at presenting them. Sometimes you want to leave the fringe festival and its perfomers' admittedly admirable destruction of tropes and see a guy in a tie come out on a stage and present solid material in a 20-minute set.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

August 27, 2007

Go, Read: Bourdain/Pekar Comics


Two surprises concerning the episode of Anthony Bourdain's food-driven television travel show No Reservations featuring Cleveland and a promised appearance by Harvey Pekar. The first was that instead of what you might usually think of a guest appearance on such a show, Bourdain spent about a half-hour of TV time roaming around Cleveland with the writer, during which he was deferential to the point of hero worship. The second was that both Pekar and Bourdain (two parts) did short comics on the experience that are on Bourdain's site. Pekar's was folded into the show segment. The artist on both was Gary Dumm.
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Not Comics: John Pham Goes to Pax


Photo/sketch album here; blogging here. PAX, of course, is the Penny Arcade Expo, the growing gaming show with the on-line strip Penny Arcade as its fulcrum.

thanks, Gus Mastrapa
posted 10:16 pm PST | Permalink

Jack Kirby Would Have Been 90 Today

The late Jack Kirby, one of the five foundational comics artists of the 20th Century, would have turned 90 today. Click through the image for a tiny sampling of his visual genius.

posted 10:12 pm PST | Permalink

Congratulations to the McCloud Family

On completing the 50-states part of their 50-state tour in support of Scott McCloud's Making Comics. This is remarkable in that I once destroyed my relationships with 53 friends and family members during a single 17-hour trip to New Orleans. My thanks to the McClouds for all the jokes about Scott having his wife and kids leaving him back in October and deciding to make up their on-line contributions for the remainder of the trip, and about the kids, if interested, having immediate grounds to seek emancipation.
posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 51st Birthday, Benoit Peeters!

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Various Chat & Theory News Updates

* This article still has Lynn Johnston ending the current real-time incarnation of the For Better or For Worse strip in September.

* Eric Burns, once and perhaps still the most widely-read writer about comics on the Internet, weighs in on newspapers dropping Opus from a useful angle: what it means in the history of the strip, once presented to editors as a savior of newsprint.

* Speaking of which, Sheila Musaji at The American Muslim says she wasn't offended; Eugene Volokh labels the first of the two dropped cartoons as lame.

* Matthias Wivel responds to my assertion that scholarship on cartoonists like Rodolphe Topffer aren't really debunking a widely-held, firmly-argued myth that comics started with The Yellow Kid. I'm not all that convinced by Wivel's restatement, and I find a lot of his rhetoric slippery. For one, I very obviously didn't show in my original argument that Gary Groth is ignorant of 19th Century comics-making in favor of a view of Yellow Kid as the genesis of everything. What I pointed out is that Gary was unfairly portrayed that way in a film trailer when I thought it pretty clear he was looking at Yellow Kid as a landmark starting point in terms of industry impact and locking into place a firm path of development at that point forward -- the way Christopher Columbus discovered America for modern Europe despite entire civilizations already being here, or the way you can point to seven or eight American college football games as the first one depending on your standards for doing so.

I think the Topffer scholarship is valuable and Kunzle's work admirable and enlightening, but I don't think learning about Topffer has ripped the scales from anyone's eyes or shattered anyone's view of comics, and I think that's the basis of a claim being insinuated on its behalf. Even as a college student with a half-assed interest in comics, I knew about artists like Wilhelm Busch and William Hogarth. Even a promotional interview at Newsarama contains language qualifying Yellow Kid as a seminal work, and an American one, and clearly using the industry cohesion construction when making it more sweeping historical claims. I wonder sometimes if there isn't an underdog mentality to comics that makes people want to state all achievement in terms of casting down a nefarious orthodoxy.

* Steve Flanagan takes up the same issue, with a specific example:
You asked, "Did anyone worth considering ever really take the Yellow Kid seriously as an artistic starting point?"

I have in front of me "The Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics" (Kitchen Sink, 1995) in which Bill Blackbeard argues
just that, using a definition of comics (multi-panel, word balloons, no text outside the frame) designed to exclude all predecessors. It's as hugely unconvincing as his assertion that the Yellow Kid was cancelled because the Spanish-American War made the colour yellow unpopular with New Yorkers (it's in the Spanish flag, you know).
Okay, I'll confess, some people do believe this. There's all sorts of theories people have, like the one that Peter Arno was the first to do third-meaning cartoons and thus is either a progenitor or an exemplar of the form, or that it's useful to split the history of comic books into Olympic medal categories according to developments in one genre. But I don't think it's a widespread, bedrock notion among serious writers, not anymore.

* I think I totally skipped another recent flare-up of comics argumentation, or, as R. Fiore put it, another instance of several bald men fighting over a comb, in this panel from San Diego about comics not being literature. Neil Cohn comments. T Hodler comments.
posted 10:06 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 36th Birthday, Joann Sfar!

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips on Deadline
Stuart Immonen: Art Underappreciated

Report From Star Clipper Signing
Recording of Romita Family Panel

Classic Dorkin Print Re-Surfaces
Garry Trudeau 1983 Commencement Report

I Hate Your Cartoon
An Open Letter to Lynn Johnston
Do Bookstore Owners Really Buy Based on DM Trends?

LA Times: Josh Neufeld
Comic Bloc: Mike Baron
All Hail Judge Dennis Budd
Newsarama: Mark Thompson
Panel and Pixel: Jamie McKelvie
Comic Book Bin: Homeless Channel
Wright Opinion: Jamie S. Rich, Joelle Jones 01
Wright Opinion: Jamie S. Rich, Joelle Jones 02

Not Comics
Neil Gaiman and Friend
Chris Ware Playing Skeezix Tune
More Coover-Tobin Wedding Pictures
5400 Sleeping in Internet, Manga Cafes

Mankato Adds Dick Locher
Signe Line Re-Orients Self
DC Comics Recruits Canadians
Best of Bo Nanas on

Paul O'Brien: Various
Paul O'Brien: Bonds #1
Graeme McMillan: Various
Derik A Badman: The Salon
Paul O'Brien: Wolverine #56
Marc Singer: Batman #667-68
Eddie Campbell: Oh, Skin-nay!
David Welsh: Otaku, Shojo Beat
Paul O'Brien: X-Men: First Class #3
Paul O'Brien: Cable & Deadpool #44
Stephen Weiner: Human Diastrophism
Leroy Douresseaux: Johnny Ryan's XXX Scumbag Party
Johanna Draper Carlson: Inubaka: Crazy For Dogs Vol. 3

CR Review: Where’s Dennis? The Magazine Cartoon Art of Hank Ketcham


Creators: Hank Ketcham; Shane Glines and Alex Chun
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, soft cover, 200 page, September 2007, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1560978538 (ISBN10)

The wonderful thing about Fantagraphics' small series of books focused on pin-ups, gags and magazine cartooning is that it fills in the blanks for careers and periods of comics where those outlets played a huge part. In the introduction to Where's Dennis?, we not only get a smart, short history of Hank Ketcham's early career, we find out Ketcham received art advice from Noel Sickles, that he was friends with Virgil Partch, and that there was a community of cartoonists in the Monterey Peninsula. This utility extends to the book itself. While we know that many of the cartoonists who came of age in the 1950s grew out of gag and magazine cartooning, except for Charles Schulz few of the greats have had this work collected.

Editors Alex Chun and Shane Gline splice in a few direct descendant Dennis panels next to their magazine progenitors, the entire book presents itself in relation to what is to come in a more profound and subtle way. The 1940s Ketcham roams from style to style, rattling within the confines of rigid gag set-ups in his early features to a broader take on post-World War II life, bouncing back and forth between dozens of ways to make people laugh. Where's Dennis? could be read entirely for how Ketcham slowly and rigorously perfects the way his bodies lean against and away from each other in slight and telling ways, an approach to describing human relationships that when with paired with the Dennis feature's beautiful line work locked into place one of the exquisite, recurring stage shows in comics history.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

“Ho” Cartoonist Will Keep His Job

Ed Gamble will apparently not be let go from his job at the Florida Times-Union despite controversy and calls for his firing last week related to a cartoon about the "Don't Snitch" phenomenon where a character used the term "Ho" in addressing a child witnessing a crime.
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Arctic Circle Samples


Alex Hallatt's strip launches today from King Features Syndicate.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Happy 61st Birthday, Denis Kitchen!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Controversies Simmer About History of Comics and Its Modern Nature

Two conversations spread across the Internet worth noting: Eddie Campbell on the graphic novel and how more sloppily conceived definitions fall short of the mark; the Metabunker fellas on Rodophe Topffer as the earliest cartoonist.

I find Topffer interesting in all the same ways as everyone else does, but did anyone worth considering ever really take the Yellow Kid seriously as an artistic starting point? I see that mentioned whenever someone brings up Topffer -- Gary Groth gets beaten with that argument construction in this movie trailer as if the other comics people caught him in a goof-up. I remember writing about 19th century German cartooning as comics when I was a graduate student in 1992, and I wasn't exactly rich in my comics knowledge. I always thought it was pretty clear that the Yellow Kid began comics the same way Christopher Columbus discovered America -- not in any literal sense, but in a sense where the economic and cultural forces were now combined behind it to lock into place a certain kind of future development for the industry. Did anyone after 1974 or so think otherwise?
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 41st Birthday, Phil Hester!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

“Opus Dropped” Story Goes Into Week 2

Several newspapers including the Washington Post refused to run yesterday's Opus strip by Berkeley Breathed for content reasons, apparently related to its tweaking of Islamic fundamentalism and the proximity of a salty joke. Many of those same papers are expected to drop the strip this weekend as well. Daily Cartoonist has a count, bloggers are discussing the matter, and Spokane has the most direct and most eloquent rationale for running the controversial strips.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Icecreamlandia Blog

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Stuart Immonen Thumbnails
Larry Marder Draws Blindfolded
Eddie Campbell Makes a Photocopy

Brett Warnock on TCAF
SF Tezuka Panel Report
Schulz Museum Celebrates 5th
SDCC Not-Literature Panel MP3
Wieringo Week at Project Rooftop

Can I Buy A Vowel?
Religion Has A Place
Happy 50th, El Loquito!
Mike Sterling on X-Factor Launch
Evan Dorkin Has Been in Comics 21 Years

UK Sales Figures
Abidin Tops at Bermada
Jack Kirby Birthday Contest
What Exactly Hurts the Industry?
Oklahoma Proud of Thunder God
Why the Ed Gamble Story Mattered
Go! Comi, Others Launch Fan Manga Contest
Kevin Boyd Switches Sides in Toronto Con War

Express: John P.
CBR: Josh Fialkov
Wizard: Aaron Diaz
ADD: Harvey Pekar
Drawn!: Jeremy Eaton On-Line Strips Marjane Satrapi
No Media Kings: Carla Speed McNeil The Penny Arcade Guys
The Chronicle Herald: Rebecca Kraatz

Not Comics
Wizard Cancels InQuest
Bookstores Now Rare Destinations
Matty Ryan Designs Hawks Costumes

Dan Dare to Virgin
Look and Learn Returns
Are Comics Good Value?
State of Euro-World Cooperation
Thinkpiece on Mobile Phone Comics

Jog: Various
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Dan Traeger: The Architect
Jog: Incredible Change-Bots
Richard Krauss: Sourpuss #1
Sarah Morean: Inside Job #1-3
Richard Krauss: No Buses. Chickens.
Leroy Douresseaux: We Shadows Vol. 1
Stuart Moore: Complete Peanuts, 1965 to 1966
Brendan Wright: Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol. 5
Richard Krauss: The Life and Times of Baby Otto Zeplin #1

August 26, 2007

Congratulations, Paul and Colleen!


From the person nice enough to send me this photo: "On Saturday, August 25, 2007, cartoonist Colleen Coover (Banana Sunday, Small Favors) and writer Paul Tobin (Spider-Man Family) were married at Laurelhurst Park in Portland, Oregon."

Tobin's writing credits also include Banana Sunday, as Root Nibot.

Congratulations to the happy couple.
posted 11:42 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

If You Read One Comic Strip Today…


... you should read the first of two installments from Opus several newspapers declined to run.

And if you read one article, you should look at this nice editorial about Jack Kirby in the New York Times.
posted 3:00 am PST | Permalink

A Short Interview With Comic-Con Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer

imageEvery year I try to end the summer with a look back at the summer's convention season via a short chat with Comic-Con International spokesperson David Glanzer. Comic-Con puts on WonderCon and the Alternative Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco and the massive Comic-Con International in San Diego. This year's show saw sell-outs three of four days and multiple caps on ticket options throughout. A huge boom in interest stemming from Hollywood studios, manga publishers, traditional New York publishing houses and toymakers has pushed the San Diego show over the top and into pop culture event status.

While there has been on several tracks a corresponding rise in interest in comics-related material -- I know that I moderated panels that were three times the size of such panels five years ago, all with smart, attentive question-askers -- the overall financial investment required by the show and changing market strategies at several companies have called into question some folks' commitment to such a big event. Some comics booths had their best year ever, but I also spoke to multiple medium-sized exhibitors on the comics end who told me they were seriously considering making 2007 their last show. A couple of those were considering not coming back despite having a great year. With the convention in San Diego through 2012 and not likely to change very much in terms of attendance capacity over the next five years, and a changing calendar that effectively gives the corporation the first major show and the last major show of the season, I really wanted to talk to someone from CCI this year.

Do we make too much of conventions, particularly San Diego's? Maybe. Still, they're important comics businesses and a key access point into the culture and state of industry health for comics as well. Having made my goal for next year to be invited to no parties, sit in the audience at the Eisners and pay for all my own dinners, I'm less interested in the social outlet factors of cons -- although those have changed, too, as the Internet has become what cons used to be in terms of a place to meet like-minded fans, making conventions more of a place to continue/crystallize/consummate such relationships -- and more interested in their role of providing a public pop quiz to comics folks in terms of their priorities and ability to put a certain face forward. The fact that you can practically define some companies' current approach to comics by simply noting they don't exhibit at the show tells you just how large such events loom.

I appreciate Mr. Glanzer's time, and note that his employer is (at least for now) an advertiser here.

imageTOM SPURGEON: I want to ask you a couple of questions about the 125,000 attendance figure you gave Jonah Weiland Comic Book Resources, which I assume is rigorously accurate as I know you guys really work the numbers when the show is over. First, how exactly does a full sell-out three out of four days as opposed to last year's less dramatic one-day temporary shutdown only result in overall attendance gains that small?

DAVID GLANZER: Well, the short answer is we placed caps on attendance for each day this year and once those caps were met we basically shut down. And while our official number is 125,000 I think the actually number is plus that by a few hundred.

We opted, some time back, to forgo the money generated by selling exhibit space in Hall H (which is a pretty big hall) by turning that into a theater and filling it with chairs. Were that hall utilized as exhibit space, it might have resulted in us having to place these attendance caps much sooner.

In the past we sold a variety of different packages; Four-Day, Three-Day, One-Day etc., and while those were popular, the majority of sales happened at the door.

When we got to a point last year when we had to halt sales, we decided to look at registration in terms of how many different packages we sold, as well as registration from different departments and what was done at the door.

The caps we placed this year allowed us to accommodate at least as many people as came last year, as well as a small increase. So while we stopped registration we were well within our comfort zone of the center not reaching capacity.

SPURGEON: Did you curtail things too much? Could you have handled more people?

GLANZER: No and yes. I don't think our caps on attendance were too conservative. I know this will sound like a line, but honestly one of our main concerns for people attending the show is safety. There's a tremendous amount of people congregated in one place for four and a half days and we want to be sure that those who attend can do so in relative comfort. I know many will claim it was anything but comfortable at times, and I would agree. But safety is paramount so no I don't think we were overly conservative in our caps.

The answer to the second part of your question is yes, I think we could have accommodated more people, and generated additional income. But it really isn't about the bottom line. It is about providing as safe and comfortable atmosphere as possible. The attendance caops was an experiment in that direction and I think it worked well.

SPURGEON: To give an idea how you compare to some of the other festivals in terms of congestion, how many people do you figure are on site on your busiest day?

GLANZER: Wow. Well, conservatively I'd say at least 50,000 + on each day.

SPURGEON: How many four-day participants were there as opposed to 2006? How many of the special three-day passes were you able to sell?

GLANZER: There was a jump in four-day memberships this year compared to last year. And when the four-day's sold out, some bought three-days and a Saturday only. So some people mixed and matched their packages.

SPURGEON: Three thousand press passes sounds like a lot of press passes to me. In fact, David, that's the same figure I've seen for press passes issued for the Super Bowl. I'm not seeing a Super Bowl-level of press saturation. In fact, I'm not sure that I'm seeing three thousand stories. How would you explain the discrepancy?

GLANZER: Honestly, I'm sorry to say that I think some who attend as press probably aren't filing stories about the show.

SPURGEON: Does this concern you at all? Is there a benefit to a liberal policy when it comes to giving those out?

GLANZER: Yes, it does concern me, but it's a difficult beast to tame. We have always been fairly liberal in issuing press passes though with capacity concerns, I don't know if this is a policy we can continue.

I have to say it's very disconcerting to find websites that give instructions on how to thwart our very thwartable press registration system.

It really is a cause of concern.

Also, I can't believe I used the word -- or made up word -- "thwartable".

SPURGEON: You told me something very interesting about how you value a variety of press sources, from on-line to print to film media. Can you talk a little bit about your organizations general take towards the press?

GLANZER: Well as you can imagine we welcome a variety of press from a number of organizations, from major magazines and newspapers to online press and bloggers.

We have always held online press in high regard. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had where people refer to major publications as "legitimate" press, while insinuating that online press are not. For us, we probably hold online and fan press in higher regard that what some might consider "legitimate" press.

While a major publication or newspaper may write about us once a year, it's the online press and even bloggers who tend to write about us throughout the year. For us that is extremely important.

This year we had a very impressive guest list. But I have no doubt that of those 40 or 50 names, major press and publications would probably only know about a hand full. Online and fan press, on the other hand, not only know who they are, but their importance to this industry and they may write about their coming appearance at Comic-Con. And even if they don't, they know that those people will be there and may decide to cover a panel they may be on.

SPURGEON: I saw a few people complain about press not being able to access certain panels, and yet when I asked around, I couldn't find anyone who was unable to get access to events they were covering. While I'm all for a general ramping up of the press pass power to superhuman, immediate access levels, was this a legitimate issue from your perspective?

GLANZER: Trust me, no one would like to infuse the press badge with Gamma Radiation more than me and, by the way, how cool would that be? But I guess with 3000 press, it really isn't possible to allow all press special access to every panel. Some rooms don't even hold that many people. And with over 350 hours of programming, it's a safe bet that a reporter is probably not going to be able to cover everything they may hope to.

That being said, no one wants to turn away someone who wants to cover a panel. I don't know what the answer is yet, but it's something we're definitely looking into.

SPURGEON: Could you maybe go to a targeted press pass that allows comics press instant access into comics events but makes them stand in line to gawk at actors from Lost?

GLANZER: We are looking to some changes, but I don't know that it will be changes to the pass itself.

I have an idea that I've kicked around, it might work, it may not, but it's going to have to be taken apart, and discussed further. I really don't mean to be coy about this, it's just we do take this very seriously and I would hate to give a half answer before we've looked at the issue from a variety of angles.


SPURGEON: Assuming you're going to be working at near full capacity for the next few years, what can you now do to generally improve the experience knowing you're going to be working a variation of the same crowds from here through 2012?

GLANZER: My personal hope is that we can entice some people to work with us to program some off-site events. I know there was an event on Friday evening at PetCo Park , which we had no involvement with, but an big event like that, during the day, might be a partial solution to the crowding situation at the center.

Granted, one event won't alleviate the problem, but a number of events? It's something worth exploring and that might allow us to re-examine the attendance caps we utilized this year.

Again, this is just my personal take on things and is truly off the top of my head at the moment.

SPURGEON: I've seen you give some kind of vague answers about maybe pursuing off-site facilities for some of aspects of programming, like maybe finding a separate home for the big movie/TV preview track. More concretely, can we reasonably expect a new venue next year? When would you know? Is it a priority for the convention?

GLANZER: Currently there is no off-site facility that can accommodate the 6500 people that would normally see a presentation in Hall H. While PetCo Park may be able to accommodate the crowd, I don't know that they can present the clips and program in such a way as to rival the screens and sound of Hall H.

Another issue we are facing is limited resources. As you can imagine the show is an expensive one to produce. And we are, conceivably, at a point now where we can't accommodate very many more exhibitors or attendees so revenue probably won't increase very much in the future. However our expenses do.

This year alone, we saw some dramatic increases in some of our expenses. And I can only assume, that will continue.

But yes, it is a priority for us to see how best we can accommodate all those who want to attend the show.

SPURGEON: Speaking of which, what is the priority for the convention coming out of the 2007 show? What one thing would the convention like to see different at the 2008 show, or what one thing is most important stay a high priority?

GLANZER: Well certainly safety is a primary concern as I mentioned earlier and of course space. In regard to space, every department is touched by this one issue of how to accommodate the people who want to attend and those who want to exhibit.

I have read some reports that question why we didn't think of this or why we didn't think of that. And in many cases we may have, but for whatever reason it just wasn't possible to implement.

We have a big show on our hands, and thank goodness people want to return year after year. It really is up to us to try and accommodate them as best we can. And I can promise you that while it may not seem like a lot is being done in this area, we truly are working on it from so many different angles.

SPURGEON: There will be some adjustments in the convention calendar next year. Does any of this schedule shakeout have an impact on your plans for WonderCon or APE?

GLANZER: No I don't believe so. Especially with WonderCon and APE (and to a much smaller degree Comic-Con) we are really at the mercy of the convention facilities to give us dates that will work for us. But ultimately, it is up to them as it relates to the dates they offer.


SPURGEON: Is there anything the convention can do to alleviate some of the enormous crowding concerns on the floor itself? I have to be honest with you, David, there were times I was scared for some of the small children I saw, that somebody large or several somebodies might fall on them.

GLANZER: Yes, the first is limited attendance. The second I think would be some off-site programming.

We've always been able to move our attendees around pretty well. They're a seasoned bunch and are pretty familiar with how best to enjoy the show. But with the number of people at the show, and the number of children, yes, it's a major concern and one that we take very seriously.

Limited attendance means less people on the floor, and off-site programming space means the same thing.

This year there were several events that were held off-site and they proved pretty effective. I think we'll look more to that in the future.

SPURGEON: Can you speak to continuing rumors you might add a Monday or go a full week? You pretty much shot this out of the sky when we spoke at the show, but if you could do so here, I'd love to have it on the record. Can I take it you're committed to the four day plus preview night formula from here on out?

GLANZER: Yes. We will not add a Monday or go to a full week. And we are in San Diego until 2012.

Adding days is much more complicated than it might otherwise appear. The first issue would be trying to book the center for additional days.

Typically facilities book several years out and San Diego is no different. Because there are typically shows right before we move in and right after, I would imagine the soonest we could even entertain something like that would be several years down the road. But, again, it's not something we're entertaining.

The other is expense, both in terms of facility rental and expenses for exhibitors as well. Once you add a day, or a few days, you're talking about additional cost for space, additional hotel nights, additional food and, in the case of retailers, additional time away from their stores.

And this isn't even taking into consideration that anyone, whether they are organizers or exhibitors, or press for that matter, would want to spend any more time at the show than they already do.

There really can be too much of a good thing.

SPURGEON: Was it important for the con to get Marvel back a full exhibitor?

GLANZER: Sure. I mean, from a purely fan perspective absolutely. And I honestly hope it was as good for them to be back as it was for us to have them.

SPURGEON: At what point do you plan to start talking to San Diego about 2013 and beyond? Is there any one factor that you're looking at before you sign another extension?

GLANZER: Well to be honest a five year contract is pretty long. It's typical to have a three year contract and see how things progress. This year was a little different in that there was someone else looking at summer for those years. So we had to make a decision.

With 2013 some years away, I would think any serious talk about location would happen around or after 2010.

imageSPURGEON: I talked to almost seven medium-sized exhibitors who were seriously considering making 2007 their last year. Is there any thought from the con's views of doing things of doing some things that might make it easier for those exhibitors that don't have dedicated staff or a lot of resources? Would you be willing to hear feedback and suggestions from such exhibitors? Or is this just a case where the market will bear out?

GLANZER: Of course we would be willing to listen to exhibitors. I think there's a perception out there that we just do what we want, when the tuth is we really do try to do what is best for those who attend, whether they be exhibitors or attendees.

I know we go to some lengths to try and assist exhibitors with breaks on move in and such, but certainly, I would hope any exhibitor knows they can contact Justin (our exhibits manager) to discuss any issues they may have had, or suggestions for a smoother running event.

imageSPURGEON: Were there any complaints about the smaller artist's alley? Can you guarantee there won't be more space lost in that part of the show? Does the show follow up to see that those spaces are used?

GLANZER: By moving the Art Auction upstairs we were able to add more spaces to Artists Alley. Were there complaints about space? Yes there were.

SPURGEON: I'm sorry, I'm not quite following your response. It was my understanding that the number of artists alley slots were reduced this year. Are you telling me they increased?

GLANZER: Artist Alley (as well as some booth spaces) were to be reduced in that section of the facility this year to make space available for consessions. We were able to move the Art Auction upstairs to the Sails Pavilion so we didn't lose any tables in AA. In fact, I believe we increased space by by about 25 tables over 2006.

Can I guarantee there won't be more space lost in that part of the show? No I honestly can't. Not because we're planning on cutting space, but because the floor is always fluid. Artists Alley wasn't always in that location. It has moved around, as has the entire floor. It really depends upon the layout of the floor, and the layout is based on a great many things including aisle ways, space and the like.

I think it is true that there are some tables that aren't utilized during the entire show as much as we might hope, but to be honest, many of those people may be on panels or programs.

And no, we do not formally look at that space to see how constantly those tables are occupied.

SPURGEON: There's a notion that conventions have a different role as a place to consummate (in the g-rated sense) on-line friendships as opposed to simply being a place where people meet other like-minded people for the first time. Am I take it that you've seen some increase in things like use of space by clubs?

GLANZER: Oh yeah, this year more so than ever before. Each year we make available some rooms for clubs and organizations who want to meet at the show and for the first time in my memory, we actually reached capacity in some of those rooms.

SPURGEON: Was there anything that surprised or disappointed about the overall coverage of this year's show? Is there an aspect to the San Diego show you feel is under reported?

GLANZER: Oh, there were a couple of things. Probably the most frustrating is when information is disseminated that is inaccurate or just plain wrong. Again this year I read complaints that we've left our roots of being a convention dedicated solely to comic books in favor of embracing Hollywood. It is true that we are a comic book convention. It is also true that our main focus is comics and it always will be. But to suggest that only recently we decided to have a film or Hollywood aspect to our event is ignoring history as a review of any of our old program books will attest.

SPURGEON: How has the proliferation of Indy Cons and arts festivals had an effect on APE, if any?

GLANZER: If anything it has had a positive affect. I think most people are surprised when I say that having more comics conventions isn't a bad thing, it's a good thing.

Looking at Comic-Con through 2007 eyes you would think that comics were always popular and held in high regard, that Hollywood, or reporters, were always clamoring to see what the next big comic book story would be. You and I both know that is far from the truth.

But the more conventions that are held each year, the more people attend them. And, ultimately, the more people who read comic books can only have a positive affect on this industry. As we have long said, comics are as valid a form of entertainment as any other and we work very hard to get that message across. To see more shows with a focus on independent or self published comics can only be a good thing for everyone and it's something we are truly very excited about!

SPURGEON: I've seen WonderCon described as both an old-fashioned con experience but also as maybe the show which has benefited the most from the comics/movie crossover because of its calendar position to promote late spring/early summer movies. What would you like to see out of that show in five years? What would you want people to think when they hear Wonder Con?

GLANZER: I would love to see WonderCon continue on the path it's on right now. Which is a venue where fans and creators can meet on a more relaxed environment than the bigger show in San Diego.

WonderCon turned 21 this year and it's no fluke that it's been around for as long as it has. My wish for WonderCon is that it gets more recognition as a fun show than it has in the past. I hope people will take a chance and visit the show from back east and see what a terrific show it truly is.

SPURGEON: Here's my biggest complaint and the one I think you should devote all of the show's resources to solving: would you please make the typeface on the badges bigger so that I can see people's names? Please? Pretty please? I not only have bad eyesight, I'm much too shy to keep staring at people's torsos until my eyes focus.

GLANZER: Trust me, for someone who just had to get glasses, this was something that I was very much aware of. This was a suggestion we heard from several people and are seriously looking to see what our registration company can do about that.

SPURGEON: What is August like for you? Are you drunk the whole month? Do you come to work in flip flops and a undershirt and take five-hour lunches?

GLANZER: Oh, that we could. Honestly, while things aren't nearly as crazy as the month prior to the show, there's still a tremendous amount of work to be done. The show takes a great deal of time to wrap up. Bills must be paid, follow up meetings for what went right, and what went wrong, and planning for the year ahead are all things that consume us during August.

September is a little slower to be sure, but planning our other shows are just as important to us as planning for Comic-Con and with WonderCon in the early part of the year, things start to ramp up early for us.

But sitting in flip flops and shorts, drinking something with an umbrella in it sounds pretty nice right about now.

SPURGEON: What's the last good comic book you read?

GLANZER: Oh gosh, do I have to pick just one? I don't think I can really. I tend to read more Indy stuff, but I was just handed a set of a superhero title that I really liked.

One thing I will say, however, is that I read a very promising comic book some time back. It had a good story, good characters, a little more attention could have been paid to the editing, but it had so much promise. I was so excited about it that each Wednesday I'd ask about the next issue.

Sadly that was last year and there never was an issue two. And all this time later, I'm still smarting about it. I even thought of writing a script and sending it off to the publisher because I so wanted the story to continue.

As if I don't have enough on my plate, eh?


* Joan Crawford's signed message of love to the San Diego Con; San Diego Con people tend to emphasize the argument that the con's always had an interest in Hollywood and film, which 1) I think the better journalists already know, and 2) doesn't really get at the real issue of degree of attention, even though it's certainly historically accurate. Still, if it leads to fun art like this piece, I'm all for it

* a person holding up a sign that indicated she was looking for tickets; you can't read her sign, because I can't take quality photos

* Petco Park, once and potential future home for off-site events

* maybe the only place I could use a blurry floor photo; this was actually one of the places of great relief on the convention floor, just 15 minutes into Friday, showing how bad the crowding could get throughout the hall

* Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books, with whom I did a short interview about his company's ability to show at such a huge con that I hoped would accompany this piece; I have temporarily misplaced this interview because I suck

* I believe this is Whilce Portacio drawing in Artist Alley; if not, it's someone sitting in his spot

posted 2:00 am PST | Permalink

Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: impressive interview with Lynn Johnston

* go, read: Dan Clowes interview at NYT blog, including word of his next few projects such as his forthcoming NYT magazine strip

* go, watch: Dame Darcy talks about Peter Bagge

* go, watch: that ancient, recently re-surfaced Schulz-Rose interview link also contains a host of others

* go, watch: while we're on the subject of classic comics-related video links, the writer James Vance recently recommended this iconography-filled Brigitte Bardot video, which I'm not sure has been seen for a while
posted 12:00 am PST | Permalink

August 25, 2007

Go, Look:

posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought of the Day

The last Saturday of the year before football on the radio or even inside one's living room on the big screen -- that's one long Saturday.
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

August 24, 2007

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from August 18 to August 24, 2007:

1. Ed Gamble of the Florida Times-Union criticized for cartoon.

2. Several newspapers take a pass on two weeks of Opus.

3. Legal action against Tintin in the Congo dropped in Sweden.

Winner Of The Week
Verily, 'tis Thor

Loser Of The Week
Apparently, the United States

Quote Of The Week
"Huzzah! None of us shall now be despised. He shall win acceptance for us all. LA LA LA LA LA LA!" -- Michael Kupperman

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

Happy Walt Kelly Day!


Mark Evanier will have something nice up for sure on what would have been Walt Kelly's 94th birthday.
posted 10:45 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 60th Birthday, MW Kaluta!

posted 10:30 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow


Creators: James Sturm, Rich Tommaso
Publishing Information: The Center For Cartoon Studies and Hyperion Books for Children, 96 pages, December 2007, $16.99
Ordering Numbers: 9780786839001 (ISBN13)

The second of the historical biographies for young readers made possible by a team-up of the Center for Cartoon Studies and Hyperion Publishing, Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow provides an almost mirror image to line's previous book Houdini: The Handcuff King. Where that book compressed history into one day and dug into peculiar details of its subject's life, Satchel Paige covers a decade and a half and show its larger than life object of attention as seen through the eyes of a former competitor turned spectator. Paige not only doesn't appear for the majority of the book, he doesn't even enter the concluding athletic contest until it's nearly over. It's a compelling approach for a short story, and a daring one for a history.

imageAgain functioning in direct opposition to the earlier book, Satchel Paige seems to be a better short story than it is a jumping off point to historical study. The baseball scenes are tautly portrayed, the bold lines on the page during action breaking the visual stillness with a flood of vibrancy similar to the way sudden movement rips into the static look of a baseball diamond. Satchel Paige cuts a heroic rather than a clownish profile here, and the comic is effective in its myth-making (see below). The removal the reader feels necessary to build this spectator's view of Paige makes the direct subject matter slippery to the grasp; the mythic portrayal is so complete it doesn't ask any questions as to the details of its subject's life, the intricacies and ironies. He's perfect just the way he is, seen from the grandstand, felt in the clapping of the crowds and the stomping of the feet in the poorer sections of the small stadium where most of the action takes place.

What this does, however, is put a great deal of pressure -- maybe too much -- on Paige's symbolic value as a figure above or even counter to the specific brand of extreme racism experienced in the American South in the first half of the 20th Century. The poetic shorthand that serves the portrayal of Satchel Paige so well when he's bearing down on an opponent feels like it lacks the kind of rigorous detail one might desire when it comes to describing the life of the sharecropper/protagonist who serves as narrator. And although one can see the logic in making Paige a figure that might transcend the culture of oppression in which so many struggled to give people hope that they or their children might find a life's calling at the outer edge of their ability, I'm not sure the structure of the narrative makes the case that this could have truly been the case for more than a very few people. For those of us that know of Paige's major league baseball career, it's clear from the flashes of brilliance he showed as a 42-year-old rookie and even beyond that in the end he suffered, too.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

August 23, 2007

Swedish Artists to Mount Exhibition Featuring Muhammed as a Dog?

imageKey Danish Cartoons Controversy figure Flemming Rose brings the English-language world's attention to another heated debate over the depiction of the Prophet Muhammed 1) at all, and 2) in less than immediately and obviously flattering terms. This one's in Sweden, and has to do with the rejection of a drawing by artist Lars Vilks that showed Muhammed as a dog. Now a group of artists want to mount a special exhibition. This has apparently led to heated debate in Swedish parliament, and a lot of speculation over what kind of protection for such a thing is really necessary.

I think this is distinct from the Danish Cartoons Controversy in that stirring up controversy for the sake of stirring up controversy and making a point is what artists and exhibitors do, and I'm not sure you can say the same thing about a newspaper. But otherwise, the echoes of Fall 2005 are palpable. Digging around on Vilks' site has to be the most entertaining outcome. Among the things posted are an invisible ink drawing of Muhammed (a blank canvas) and a portrait of Jesus as an elephant.
posted 10:24 pm PST | Permalink

European Commission Removes Comic

imageThe Brussels Journal, a conservative blog that very much distinguished itself with excellent on-point attention to the Danish Cartoons Controversy in 2005 and 2006, notes that the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, will remove a comic from its web site after complaints regarding what some felt were insensitive portrayals of racial minorities. The frying-pan-to-the-face level irony here is that the comic, translated into several languages, was designed and apparently was being used as a teacher's aid in fighting racism. There were print copies at one time; these will not be re-published. This just seems so odd from so many levels my brain keeps shutting down, so I'm afraid you'll have to make up your own commentary.
posted 10:22 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: 1935: Camp Lake Kedgewick


I received three e-mails drawing my attention to this series of vacation-related drawings made by Alec Longstreth's great-grandfather, which means that someone or many someones out there likely had it up on their blog first. My apologies.
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Reports: Doujinshi Artist Was Arrested For Publishing Obscene Manga

A wave of reports indicate that an illustrator named Masaya Miyashita was arrested in Matsuyama, Japan for distributing obscene manga through multiple bookstores. Thousands of copies of his doujinshi were confiscated at the time. By far the most thorough write-up, links and analysis, at least English-language, comes from Simon Jones. Jones also gets points with me for asking the first thing that popped into my mind, why this cartoonist and not so many others, and by pointing out how damaging such charges can be as they spread out into actions against people who had the nature of the job they were doing changed after the fact by an arrest.
posted 10:18 pm PST | Permalink

CR’s Friday Craft Corner Link-A-Rama


Von Allan on inking, digital inking, and All-Star Superman.



Bully on the amount of words in Spider-Man comics, then and now. (I would suggest those looking to see this as a comparison of two different approaches to putting words on a page rather than the basis of a value-driven comparison.)



Steve Hamaker, who probably doesn't get enough credit for the ease with which he turned the black and white Bone into a lovely color comic, gets into the how-to business and launches a blog.
posted 10:16 pm PST | Permalink

Breathed: Opus Pulled From Papers

Cartoonist Berke Breathed's site is down as I write this, but other blogs have picked up on his recent declaration that many of the client newspapers for his Sunday comics for this week and next have declined to run what he offered. The subject of those strips, he says, is Muslim fundamentalism. The Washington Post is one of those papers declining to run what Breathed is offering. Breathed is no stranger to controversy on the comics page, although I can't remember him being stuffed at the rim for two consecutive weeks, or for this particular subject.
posted 10:14 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Jon Sukarangsan

posted 10:12 pm PST | Permalink Disney Adventures Closes

Apparently, Disney is shutting down operations on its Disney Adventures digest magazine, which was still reaching over 1 million readers. I have no idea what this means, but I do know it was a longtime great client for many cartoonists. Many indy comics fans might remember the magazine for the fact that Jeff Smith's Bone received its first wide exposure -- and I think its first color treatment -- in its pages, at a time when there weren't exactly hundreds of bookstore outlets and media sources clamoring to bring such work to a wider audience.
posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Collective Memory: TCAF 2007


Links to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning the 2007 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, held August 18 and August 19 at the Old Victoria College Building in Toronto.

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


Location of Show
Web Site

Blog Entries

Bryan Lee O'Malley

Calavera Kid
Canned Lizard
Chris Butcher 01
Chris Butcher 02
Chris Butcher 03
Comics and More

Daily Cartoonist
Dave Merrill
Dave Merrill 02
Diana Tamblyn
Donald Simmons
Drawn and Quarterly (8-22-07 entry)
Dustin Harbin

Evan Dorkin

First Second
Fresh Baked Sketches

Hope Larson


Jasmine's Blog
Jason Marcy 01
Jason Marcy 02
Jason Marcy 03
Jason Truong
Jim Zubkavich
John Maynard
Joshua C. Cheung

Karl Kerschl
Kathryn Immonen

Laurence Ashmore

Maritime Expatriate
Matthew Forsythe
Michael Cho
Myra Phan

Need For Information


Paul Rivoche
Paul Rivoche 02
Possum Press 01
Possum Press 02

Plenty of Nothing

Raina Telgemeier
Ray Fawkes
R Stevens

Sequential on Doug Wright Awards
Stuart Immonen

That's The Heavy
Toronto Street Fashion

News Indexes
Chris Butcher Round-Up of Preview Coverage 01
Chris Butcher Round-Up of Preview Coverage 02
Sequential Day 1 Links
Sequential Day 2 Links

News Stories and Columns
CBC On Doug Wright Awards
Editor & Publisher
National Post
Toronto Star

A Matthews
Best Of Most Of
Brad Mackay
CK, Writer
Drawn and Quarterly (8-20-07 entry)
Drawn and Quarterly (8-22-07 entry)
Dylan Williams' Humongous Photo Archive
Flight 4
Possum Press 01
Possum Press 02
Raina Telgemeier
R Stevens
TCAF Photo Pool on Flickr
The Beat
The Doodlers
Jamie Coville's Massive Photo Archive

Misc: Photos of Seth-Designed HoF Medal


thank you, Brad Mackay

In a word, Fantastic, but I am very glad to have it done. I try not to be the official voice of the festival, acting (and working) more as a "very-involved-founding-sponsor" than the "director" title I have. While the counts haven't been done, and there is still much to sift through it is fair to say the show was an even greater success than either of the previous versions. All the breaks rolled our way this year, with great weather, great media coverage, and the public responding bye coming out to the show and spending. All the work that went in was clearly worth it with the number of vendors reporting record sales to us.

We had scores of volunteers show up to make the work manageable, a store staff that gave their all, a new director this year, Matt Seiden, to help carry some of the much needed organizational weight in putting the show together. However, anyone involved on the inside knows that Christopher Butcher did the work of five men on this festival over the last year, insanely still running half of the Beguiling at the same time. People have had small and legitimate criticisms of things that could have been done better, and I know that I could have done more, but I also have heard how many people go into planning many of the other shows out there, and through Christopher, I know we will have set some man-power to results ratios that will never be broken.
-- Festival Co-Founder Peter Birkemoe of The Beguiling




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


posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Not Comics: I Totally Missed This


apparently, kids today get coloring books with R Crumb art in them. I hate the kids today
posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Die, Speech Bubble
Mike Manley Sketches
Dave Lasky Makes a Poster
Matthias Wivel on Darwyn Cooke Page
On Adapting Prose Novels Into Comics

Jewish GNs Seminar in Amherst
Jeff Parker Previews Stumptown

This Guy Loves Comics
John Gibson Backs Ed Gamble
Raymond LeBlanc Submissions Call
Fruits Basket High in USA Today 150
Local News Article on Dark Star Switch

IFC: Paul Karasik
SBC: Bryan Talbot
Express: Paul Karasik
The Union: Bob Crabb
Newsarama: Amy Hadley
BBC Collective: Rutu Modan
Suicide Girls: Jhonen Vasquez
Wilmington Star: Tom Fleming
Seattle Times: Penny Arcade Guys

Not Comics
Album Covers With Comics Art

Star Trek Manga Continues
New Khalil Bendib Book Out
Brendan Wright Launches Blog

Jog: Soldier X #1-8
Shaenon Garrity: Domu
Eric Weems: The Spirit #9
Avi Weinryb: Deep Fried #1
Matt Brady: 100 Bullets Vol. 11
Hervé St-Louis: Birds of Prey #109
Leroy Douresseaux: Stand By Youth Vol. 1
Jog: Krazy Kat: The Kat Who Walks In Beauty
Brian Heater: I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!
Graeme McMillan: Outsiders: Five Of A Kind: Metamorpho/Aquaman #1

CR Review: Hurricane Season #1


Creators: Jon Sukarangsan
Publishing Information: Fortune Cookie Press, comic book, 48 pages, 2007, $4
Ordering Numbers:

Surprise, surprise. I've never heard of Hurricane Season, and I have only a slight memory of the name of its creator, Jon Sukarangsan, that I can't actually place. And yet unlike the vast majority of similarly self-published comics of this type that appear out there every year in the time period between the early-summer MoCCA Festival and the mid-fall Small Press Expo, a period roughly equivalent to that described in the title, Hurricane Season #1 turns out to be a breezy, entertaining read.

imageHurricane Season's first issue introduces us to a dislocated "survivor" named Billie -- never in danger, she spends the night of the storm getting drunk at the Marriott -- who loses her present (and childhood) home in flooding caused by Hurricane Anne. This not only loosens the tethers Billie has to her present situation, but it nearly severs ties to a past already weakened by the loss of her parents. Not helping matters is a husband who is unable or unwilling to cut a business trip short and return home. Maybe helping matters is a stranger with whom she makes friendly contact in a bar, and almost certainly on her side is a childhood friend who stumbles back into her life. The characters are more stock players than they are memorable individuals, but Sukarangsan easily shakes into clarity a Polaroid of each cast member's personality. He employs a sturdy, even occasionally elegant art style reminiscent of Craig Thompson's, and seems perfectly confident in his ability to fully depict Billie's world.

The best and worst elements of this first issue both center around the narrative. I love its ambling pace. It's not the kind of story where you can see the commercially imposed "very special graphic novel" epiphany and conclusion bearing down on the first few pages from a 128-page horizon, and it's not one that's forced along with an imposed from the outside genre-fiction plot or even one juiced with a kind of storytelling density designed to push and shove the reader around until they pay attention. It's more straight-forward than that, and more laid back, and the hooks into character development are personal, not life-threatening. You're eased into the story, and that's so not where most comics are right now it's almost stunning. That approach also reinforces a sense of place, the laid back cities circling the Gulf Coast, and the personal inability of the protagonist to simply gather up the goods and make a sudden reversal.

On the other hand, some of the set pieces feel more staged than they should, sometimes running right up against far more effective moments. There's a scene where Billie paddles out to her home with an uncle, and the nature of the devastation, the odd uncle character, and seeing someone grapple with major life issues while in a rowboat lends the scene a quirky energy. A follow-up scene, where Billie tries to convince her husband to return home, reads like a high school actress trying out for a part by doing a few pages from a friend's under-developed one-act. The neighbor character seems generally over-manic, like he stumbled over from a caper comedy, and the use of long-ago diary entries seemed like it was being checked off a list on a narrative scavenger hunt. I don't want to overpraise a book that has modest aims and hits most of them square on, and I don't want to punish the artist with loftier than necessary expectations because one can see promise in his work as well as skill. I'm not afraid to say the strengths really do outnumber the weaknesses in Hurricane Season, and I want to see more. If there's artistic growth that reveals itself as more pages are completed, I'll feel happier for having been on board.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

August 22, 2007

Tintin Au Congo Avoids Swedish Ban

An attempt by a Swedish citizen of Congolese origin to ban Tintin in the Congo on the grounds that it's racist was rejected by Swedish authorities earlier today. Prosecturos wrote Jean-Dadou Monya to tell him that the case was not going to be pursued for reasons including the fact that the time for lodging a complaint against publisher Bonnier Carlson had long passed. A Congolese student in Belgium's legal action to have it banned is still being processed.
posted 10:22 pm PST | Permalink

New Ben Katchor Book Cover Posted


The above finally showed up on Looks great!
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Missed It: Defense Attorney Speaks to Issues in the Michael George Case

Checking to see if there had been any substantive developments in the case of Michael George, the Pennsylvania shop owner and con organizer accused of killing his then-wife 17 years ago in his store in Michigan, I saw nothing of that sort. I did, however, run across this piece, which includes video footage of the accused and statements to which I don't remember linking from George's defense attorney Carl Marlinga. This includes a snapshot of George's concerns at the moment of the story, and the claim that the defense will supply multiple alibi witnesses for the accused.
posted 10:18 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Ed Wheelan Comics


From Chris Duffy:
You might be interested in these two blog posts from animator Sherm Cohen featuring an Ed Wheelan comic book series I've never seen reprinted (or heard of):

Episode 1
Episode 2
If you're not familiar with Ed Wheelan and want to refresh your memory, go here.
posted 10:16 pm PST | Permalink

Missed It: Dissection of DC’s Problems

It says something about the nature of the Internet that I feel I'm coming late to this analysis of DC's recent problems by Valerie D'Orazio, and it's only a couple of days old.

I'm not in a great position to counter any of these observations. I don't follow the mainstream companies with an equivalent level of devotion and passion, and like a lot of editorial analysis, I'm not certain that engaging the points one by one is a useful reaction as opposed to simply noting that they've been made and figuring out for yourself if they're reasonable and accurate or not. However, I do think that you can describe a company's dysfunction during a down period and it's not always those elements that are directly contributing to the market shortcomings they face.

My own take on DC's recent Direct Market mini-slump is that they're simply scrambling a bit after a failed attempt to shift the momentum from a line driven by a succession of big event books (Infinite Crisis) into a line driven by strong, regular, ongoing titles ("One Year Later"). My hunch is that this failure was caused by a little bit of a lot of things: they didn't really hit the landing editorially, they no longer have as many mechanisms as one might wish for to support regular and ongoing titles, and the system overall remains oriented towards big, line-wide events which Marvel, not DC is providing. This puts more pressure on their Countdown series than it's probably designed to handle, sends the market scrambling after more event-ish DC Comics many of which only come out intermittently, and locks everyone's focus in on their next big crisis event series in a way that makes them look like they're pressing. If they had been able to transfer their big event sales momentum to more of the regular titles, a lot of the editorial culture's perceived shortcomings would still be in existence, it would just be swept under the rug of strong sales.

Anyway, it's a fun article, well worth reading, and the fact that a certain segment of people paying close attention to those companies is that highly critical is something worth observing in and of itself.
posted 10:14 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 42nd Birthday, Chris Bachalo!

posted 10:12 pm PST | Permalink

Like Passing Notes In the Back of Class

* the cartoonist and artist David Lloyd writes in because he wants you to know that he's still out there promoting his crime graphic novel Kickback. He asks any and all withing posting distance to let folks know they can come see him during Atlanta's Dragon*Con, August 31-September 2. For those of you who look for a comics-related reason to attend Atlanta's big early Fall hobby show, that is one very good comics-related reason.

* one of my favorite cartoonists and comics teachers Greg Stump writes in to say that he has a new, cool gig at The Stranger putting letters into comics form. He also has a massive, completed graphic novel that if you're a publisher, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

* the cartoonist, comics theorist and recently appointed Best American Comics series editor (with Jessica Abel) Matt Madden, writes in to with a bunch of information for cartoonists out there, which is probably better expressed in his own words:
Summer is coming to an end and with it the publication window for The Best American Comics 2008. August 31 is the last eligible publication date for consideration for the book. Just as importantly, the last date we can accept ANY books is September 7, 2007.

If you are already sending books to Houghton Mifflin, have no worries, they are regularly being forwarded to us. This is just a reminder to take a last look at your end of summer publication schedule to make sure you are sending us everything you want to have considered.

Houghton Mifflin has put up a website featuring our submissions guidelines and a FAQ.

Also, remember to keep sending books published after August 31 because they will be eligible for The Best American Comics 2009.

And be sure to tell your friends and colleagues! (feel free to forward this mail or post it on message boards)

In the meantime, you can also take a look at the website for the Best American Comics 2007, guest-edited by Chris Ware, here.
* Months of checking Paul Karasik's site every day have been rewarded with a new post, this one on his experiences at San Diego's Comic-Con International, 2007!

* Stefan Dinter writes in to suggesting going to a series of festival photos and scrolling down for a terrifying picture of Rocco Vargas' Daniel Torres!
posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, Terry Austin!

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Two Recent Stories Briefly Updated

* The excellent writer about comics Ben Schwartz sent e-mail with some insightful commentary on my posting yesterday about the reaction being afforded Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics.

* E&P and local news media outlets have chimed in on the San Antonio Express-News firing cartoonist Leo Garza. Those article feature a bit more detail than the original media criticism sites that noticed Garza was let go.
posted 10:07 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: High School’s For Girls

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Missed It: Andrew Steven Harris to IDW

I keep forgetting to post word that former LA Times staffer and once-upon-a-time Wizard writer Andrew Steven Harris was the editor hired by IDW during its "we're taking resumes at the con" period late last month. Harris will oversee the company's Transformers and Star Trek lines.
posted 10:03 pm PST | Permalink

Whoa: Craig Thompson Does Mizuki


Via Flog!
posted 10:01 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
I Want To Go To This Show

Gregg Easterbrook Explains Spider-Man

I Hate Your Cartoonist
Great Britain Loves Graphic Novels
Cartoon Used to Raise Awareness of Corruption

Seattle Times: Minx

Not Comics
Spirit Shooting Near Me
Marshall Ramsey Shames Us All
Khalil Bendib Is Running For President

Another UPS/ Effort
Marvel Plans Dorian Gray Book
FBoFW Site Rounding Into Shape

Don MacPherson: Various
Julie Gray: Manga: The Complete Guide
Hervé St-Louis: Outsiders: Five of a Kind Week 4


CR Review: Click


Creators: Sara Ryan, Dylan Meconis
Publishing Information: Coldwater Press, mini-comic, 16 pages, 2007, $2
Ordering Numbers:

I liked Click the best of all the Sara Ryan short-story mini-comics I've read, I think mostly because the situation that presents itself has an emotional rawness and authenticity that works against Ryan's tendency to make her characters into narrative abstracts. Battle and Erin form one of those in-school insta-friendships that pop up every now and then before slipping away. This could be a fade in light of renewed previous relationships, a smashing up against certain ingrained social structures within the setting, or a simple burn-out due to one person misapprehending the interaction's significance. Ryan deftly avoids letting us know exactly what happened, and focuses on Battle's reaction to it.

Even if we've never been treated exactly the same way, the loss of a friend that probably wasn't a friend to begin with is one of those great specific universals to which everyone can relate in great detail, even if just second hand. To dig in after that formulation requires a fine observational eye. Although her characters still seem like types at several moments rather than individuals that might exist outside of the comic -- nothing either main character does proves surprising, or seems quirkily idiosyncratic, or speaks to a wider set of concerns outside the story's selected ones -- the general dismay Battle feels isn't forced, and the character's inability to force things into a conclusion all play to Ryan's credit. Meconis' art is clear and her setting expressive; I can imagine her working in comics' current publishing landscape for decades to come. I did have a difficult time placing the characters' ages, and figuring out the setting, but I think that was largely a function of the writing.

I don't think Click transcends the basic needs of a Young Adult audience in terms of it being a more fulfilling, widely-felt artistic experience -- it's a pleasant short story, competently told, and fairly uncomplicated -- but if you were to read it over your kid's shoulder, you might respect its ambiguity and subtleties more than the blunt approach wielded by others of its type.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

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



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

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


JUN070214 SPIRIT #9 $2.99
MAY071873 INVINCIBLE #45 $2.99
APR071884 WALKING DEAD #40 (MR) $2.99
APR073929 AMELIA RULES #18 $2.95
These are the most highly regarded traditional continuing series comics out this week about which I have nothing special to say. One of them is the beginning of Darwyn Cooke's last four issues of Spirit. I'm not familiar with Amelia Rules, but it's well-liked and I'd enjoy checking one out.

The two best manga series with new volumes out this week.

NOV060041 AKIRA CLUB HC $29.95
In the out of left-field department, we have two versions of a full run of issues from a Martin Goodman monster and sci-fi title-changing series, ostensibly aimed at an older reader. The final issue features the debut of Spider-Man, but it's the Kirby- and Ditko-drawn genre pieces that make up the bulk of the book that are the real attraction here. We also have an English-language version of a much waited-for companion art book to a legendary manga series.

JUN073548 COMPLETE PEANUTS 1963-1966 BOXED SET $49.95
JUN073547 COMPLETE PEANUTS VOL 8 1965-1966 HC $28.95
Already more than half way through the '60s... wow.

MAY073541 COMPLETE TERRY & THE PIRATES VOL 1 1934 1936 HC $49.99
I recently spoke about this anticipated reprint series from IDW in a Fall preview, and everything I said three days ago applies now: it's one of the great mainstream success strips of all time, and probably the most misunderstood by modern audiences.

MAY073192 MOUSE GUARD WINTER 1152 #1 (OF 6) $3.50
I would imagine a fair number of CR readers probably missed this series' first go round, a kind of children's book illustration adventure comic featuring woodland mice organized into a society featuring a noble, protective warrior tradition. This would have been my favorite comic going 25 years ago. It has a quality, and I think the success of future volumes will depend on creator David Petersen's ability to find ways to avoid adventure story cliches as he gives us more of his fantasy world, and, I think, an improvement in his skill to pace individual set pieces.

JUN073514 LUCKY VOL 2 #1 (MR) $3.95
JUL073560 RAISIN PIE #5 (RES) (MR) $3.50
A couple of rare, honest to goodness, art comics. Lucky Vol. 2 #1 is Gabrielle Bell's solo title debut, while Raisin Pie features Ariel Bordeaux and Rick Altergott. For those of you under 30, Altergott used to be the Fantagraphics artist a certain kind of fan complained about until Johnny Ryan showed up. Jog says this is Ariel's last issue.

JUN073546 COMICS JOURNAL #169 (O/A) (MR) $3.00
The TCJ they're re-offering is a Neil Gaiman issue from early 1994, and boasts a pretty fair interview with the writer, as I recall. Comic Foundry ends its long distribution experience with a first issue stuffed with slick-magazine lifestyle pieces, only this time almost entirely about comics.


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 am not a good person.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

August 21, 2007

Still More Ho Cartoon Complaints


A cartoon by Florida Times-Union cartoonist Ed Gamble on the "don't snitch" cultural concept continues to draw negative reaction from Jacksonville and national leaders. This article points out how local community leaders have reacted, including a call for Gamble's firing. It also mentions that the paper's reader advocate explored the subject in his column, including a statement from Gamble that the perceived social insults were a portrayal of people that have those opinion rather than endorsement of same.
posted 10:28 pm PST | Permalink

San Antonio Axes Leo Garza; Ends Paper’s Bi-Partisan Cartoonist Set-Up

This article on Leo Garza being let go by the San Antonio Express-News has a boring and sadly predictable ax to grind, but it's the first one that I can recall seeing that notes both Garza's loss of employment and that Garza and John Branch constituted a conservative/liberal team approach to having cartoons on the newspaper page. Branch, identified as the liberal half of that pair by the article, remains on staff.
posted 10:26 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Bertozzi and Sturm’s Black Diamond Detective Agency Pitch

posted 10:24 pm PST | Permalink on Perrard to Dupuis

I have a hard time understanding some of the French-language sites' orientation towards certain elements of their stories, so again I ask you to accept my take on this and other articles with a grain of salt. If I'm reading this article at correctly, their reading of Olivier Perrard taking over for Robert Baert at Dupuis is that Perrard has a more significant orientation towards massaging along international sales and licensing hits of the kind that dominate the entertainment landscape right now. That would be sort of interesting in that I wasn't aware such companies weren't already oriented that way to a significant extent, and it seems to me that some of the issues facing the French-language market are not going to be about top of the catalog hits but how the bulk of books operates in an increasingly crowded market.
posted 10:22 pm PST | Permalink

OTBP: Cartoon Modern

posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Daryl Cagle on Contests

Daryle Cagle has a nice mini-rumination (August 21 entry) on all the cartoon contests out there, their relative legitimacy, and their potentially noxious effect on the work of editorial cartoonists. Included within is as succinct an indictment of the move to editorial cartoonist animations as you're ever likely to read.
posted 10:18 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 52nd Birthday, Will Shetterly!

posted 10:16 pm PST | Permalink

Manga Wants YA Novel Readers, Too

Brigid Alverson points something out about some recent publicity regarding a three-part manga series called Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives that makes a lot of sense and is something I hadn't considered quite that way. Manga companies like Tokyopop and teen-focused efforts like DC's Minx line share not only a desire to capture the same audience, but very often take pursue them through divergent but roughly similar publishing strategies. In this case, Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives isn't just manga with a hook that appeals to a certain demographic, it represents roping in a uniquely popular series and specific author and going after her prose audience. That isn't too different than what Scholastic is doing with Ann Martin.

I know that makes me sound slow, but at times it's hard to see this flush of properties out there in terms of something other than genres and approaches, and at times I think there's a tendency to see manga's audience as a kind of calcified mass of devotees instead of also as readers.
posted 10:14 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 43rd Birthday, DG Chichester!

posted 10:12 pm PST | Permalink

Can Modest Print Runs Be Successful?

Apparently the kinds of sales that used to lead to immediate cancellation of books and much tearing of garments in grief over their crappiness are now looked upon as being successful, if you read between the lines of a couple of newer articles. This profile of the University of Mississippi Press makes no bones about print runs in the early four figures, while an imminent sell-out of 1000 copies of House of Sugar has put a smile on publisher Hope Larson's face.

I think this is a pleasant change from a model of publishing that demands higher minimums to remain in operation. In fact, if you look at a broader view of comics publishing over decades rather than months, one of the grand trends is towards models that favor smaller print runs. I would imagine that changes in technology make this less of a burden to their publishers, while expectations have become both more sober (more people realizing the low sales and building it into a publishing plan; or simply not demanding their endeavor supply them with a full-time publishing gig) and broader (publishing as a resume builder or to secure other work). I think it makes for a richer art form when marginalized work can still be viable, and a more stable industry when publishers are producing work according to their financial ability to handle their needs.
posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Douglas Wolk: More Harm Than Good?

Although I'm still reading it, one of the more interesting things about the reaction afforded Douglas Wolk's book about comics Reading Comics is that people seem to be grappling less with any of the book's specific readings and more with the idea of how we process comics at all, and why, taking some of Wolk's pet notions -- his discomfit with the thrust of scholarly dissection of the comics form; the value he finds in modern superhero comics -- as an opportunity to grapple with their own takes on the form, finely tuned or not. This Chicago Tribune feature seems pretty typical of some of the conversations I've been having on-line and on the phone about the book. The Tribune piece offers an impressive mish-mash of general theories, some odd conclusions (on no planet was the early comic book industry and its avalanche of shit a coming to glory for the form; Exit Wounds is by far the most praised graphic novel ever, although it's a well-liked one) and an even odder timeline of significant works.

Eddie Campbell notes that article with this comment:
Douglas Wolk is a nice enough bloke, but my feeling right now is that his book "Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean" (Da Capo, 2007), which I haven't read, is probably doing more damage than good. I'm tired of having it all lumped together as though we are all doing the same thing. As my pal Evans once quipped; "Did Ingmar Bergman have to justify Star Wars every time he sat down for an interview?"
That's funny, and I feel for Campbell in that his best work is so frequently processed through this prism of it either not being a tale of crying Superman or teeth-clenching Batman, or being a more enlightened version of the same thing. I suspect we're a far way away from the day when comics are routinely engaged without the detritus of the medium's specific historical and cultural history gumming up the works in all sorts of strange, pathological ways. On the other hand, my gut says a lot of film critics writing about film over the last half century will feel similarly compelled to write about both Elisabet Vogler and Obi-Wan, or maybe just Obi-Wan. I'm not sure to what extent books like Wolk's should be expected to work outside of this formulation, especially when it seems to reflect the author's range of interests. Frankly, I'm not sure of anything.
posted 10:06 pm PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Hey, Arthur’s Back

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Store Sells Off New Comics Business columnist Steve Bennett talks here about his shop's owner selling the new comics portion of Dark Star Books to a former manager who is opening up a shop called Super-Fly Comics & Games a short distance away. Bennett casts the move as an opportunity to develop some of Dark Star's other product areas, which will include back issue comics and graphic novels. I think it's a potentially noteworthy story not just for how both stores now develop, which will certainly be worth checking in on, but for how it calls into question how stores are conceptually structured right now. Is it possible to sell other types of comics without the churn of new comics sales and the customer loyalty weekly business engenders?
posted 10:02 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
PWCW on Comiket
Jeff Smith Still Touring
Cool-Looking Launch Party
Review of Reflecting Culture Show
David Reddick on Recent LA Star Trek Show

Paul Gravett on Naruto
When Archie Met the Punisher
Where the Metal Men Came From

I Hate Your Cartoon

Art City: Max Estes
Pulse: Andi Watson
Wizard: Garth Ennis
PWCW: Satoru Kannagi Todd McFarlane Andy Wood

Not Comics
Superhero Portraiture
Unholy Marriage Continues
Watchmen Director on Gibbons Poster

Push for Miki Falls
Udon Adds Manhwa
Italian Comics/Film Blog Launched

David Welsh: Gin Tama
Graeme McMillan: Various
Rob Vollmar: To Terra Vols. 1-3
Johanna Draper Carlson: Finder Vol. 8
Michael C. Lorah: Shortcomings, Notes From a War

CR Review: A Pair of Superhero Comics

imageWorld War Hulk #3
Creators: David Finch, Greg Pak, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Christina Strain, Chris Eliopoulos
Publishing Information: Marvel, comic book, 48 pages, August 2007, $3.99
Ordering Numbers:

My favorite part of World War Hulk #3 involves a nod in the direction of Iron Fist's improved status within the Marvel Universe. It's not that Marvel's blond-haired kung fu master gets to do anything now that he's in his own, well-regarded comic, it's just that before he gets punched into subconsciousness he's allowed to get a nice shot in and some complimentary dialog from one of Hulk's allies. For those of us old enough to remember Wolverine getting knocked out by one of the Ani-Men years before popularity demanded the character become the best there is at he does, it's nice to see another character start a slow climb up the asskicker charts. This issue of WWH also features an amusing scene with a superhero called Sentry, who I take it is essentially the Marvel formula turned up to 11: he's not just superpowered, he's the most superpowered; he's not just saddled with a few personal shortcomings, he's a screaming basket case. What's worth noting about the scene is that it's played for humor, and since there's a Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder feel to the Sentry, I don't see any other way to use him.

This issue's plot continues to follow Hulk through the latter portion of a combined superhero and armed forces assault against his person and his partners involved in an intergalactic invasion of Earth, an assault caused by the green behemoth being exiled to another planet a while back by a superhero cabal working Star Chamber style. Although I thought him dead, Thunderbolt Ross kicks off this issue's installment by doing his Coyote chasing the Roadrunner impersonation, as the Hulk smashes all of his no-doubt ACME purchased artillery. Luckily, the good General hangs in there long enough to grunt out some needed back story. Dr. Strange takes his best shot at trying to calm the Hulk down, gets tricked by the fact the Bruce Banner side of Hulk's personality is on board with the Hulk's current round of smashing, and then rallies in good form against an otherworldly mystical assault. Throw in a couple of pages of the Hulk preparing I think Madison Square Garden for gladiator fights, and that's about it. It's really one big fight scene and a couple of down moments reasonably well portrayed by the writer and artist, if you're into that kind of thing.

Now that we know the deaths of a few thousand people and the destruction of several city blocks can change world history, I'm not always certain how Marvel keeps a straight face when it asks fans to believe in thrice-yearly Armageddons like the emptied and blasted-out New York the Hulk's forces have taken over here. Still, the House That Jack Built is outfitted with some pretty sturdy shoulders when it comes to making an end of days work as many times as editors feel necessary to keep the sales figures juiced. World War Hulk #3 is light on events, and in that way is sort of like a half-hour TV show pumped up to 90 minutes to fill a post-Super Bowl slot. As the key moments seem less about continuity and clumsy metaphors and more about doling out the beatings, at least I'm not baffled by its popularity.

imageBooster Gold #1
Creators: Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, August 2007, $3.50
Ordering Numbers:

I can't tell if this first issue of a new Booster Gold mini-series is just sort of aimlessly bad, or reflects a reading experience focused on DC continuity issues that requires proclivities I no longer have. I suppose it could be both. In Booster Gold #1, the brightly-colored publicity hound superhero from the future gets a new set-up as a custodian of DC's continuity, which makes him the first superhero that's sort of like a comic book editor. Seriously, though, I guess the appeal is you stick a relatively benign and lighthearted superhero and give him a monumentally important, even cosmic task and see what frictions develop. Booster's new charge will no doubt involve time travel, appearances by other DC time travelers like this issue's Rip Hunter, some portentous hints about future plots in other books, lots of people misunderstanding our hero's motives and a Fantasy Island episode's worth of guest stars from issue to issue. My guess is that it will also be an abbreviated mission, although stranger things have happened.

What it isn't is fun, at least not this first issue, I think mostly because the narrative resembles an editorial meeting rather than an action-adventure story. An opening fight with the Royal Flush Gang (who deserve better on the basis of their killer design alone) is more significant for the fact that it allows some superhero to subsequently pull out a bit of Booster Gold trivia than for any drama inherent within the tussle itself. You see where this is going. I felt more like I was sitting through somebody's barely-disguised seminar about recent superhero plot developments than something that was its own comic with drama and meaning. Booster Gold feels so tied into recent DC comics events that one can imagine copies ceasing to exist if walked 200 yards away from other comics. It frequently seems comics like this exist to supply the two or three sentences of plot description that are part of the real entertainment -- tracking the convoluted plot of the wider, fictional universe.

The comic also fails on levels of basic execution. Booster is one dull dude, although long-time fans might be able to fill in the blanks when it comes to providing his empty suit a personality. The supporting characters are equally boring -- one or two sentences of cliche in goofy-looking, skin-tight costumes -- and all speak in approximates of the same voice. The art drops a lot of backgrounds for storytelling's sake, lending Booster Gold #1 a generic air, without the usual compensations in flow. There are also several strange feats of anatomy on display, mostly in the way people flex and strain while the story indicates they're probably just standing around. There's a view of Superman's neck that looks like the fleshy horrors Manhog might encounter in a Jim Woodring story. The staging within scenes could also use some work, which is surprising given some of the veteran creators involved. A conversation between Booster and someone more obscure than Booster features the figures placed in a way that makes it look like the pair was talking by ramming their heads together and then leaping backwards across the room and into a semi-crouch.

All this comic made me feel is so divorced from my own childhood and my enjoyment of such comics that I can't even get upset about it anymore. I mean, I know I don't care if DC's continuity has a costumed defender and is well taken care of, but now I can't imagine why anyone would.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Comic Strips Call Iraq War: We Lost

Here's a nice catch by E&P that takes advantage of the traditional role of the comics page as a cultural bellwether: both Doonesbury and Funky Winkerbean refer to current fighting and US presence in Iraq as a lost war. There are worse ways of judging the development of a point of view among the American people, as cartoonists are generally sensitive to echoing what they feel they're hearing from their audiences, although it's hard to ascribe specific significance to yesterday's confluence of opinion.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 78th Birthday, Marie Severin!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink July 2007 DM Estimates

imageThe 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, this time for July 2007.

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

I'm not sure what the fact that a re-launch of Thor is the #1 comic book in all of comic shop land for the month of July actually means. While the character was gone for a reasonably long period in comics time and therefore ready for a re-launch, and the creative team is well-liked by enough people I guess, and Marvel's having a great year overall, the Thunder God's long and established history as at best a moderately popular character should make folks wonder if it's the "re-launch" part more than the "Thor" part that's at work here. Also, the company used a multiple covers stunt with the issue, which employed sparingly can still goose sales. With that in mind, I'd suspect this really shows how much the big companies can shape certain events. Sustaining them, on the other hand, usually proves more problematic, even with the DM's tendency to have numbers conservatively hold their shape.

One of the people much more practiced at looking at such estimates, Marc-Oliver Frisch, examined my dour reading of DC's position on these charts last month and proceeded to cuff me around the room a bit, justifiably so, noting that certain solid performers for the company failed to be released in June, so July wasn't going to see the bottom drop out. A surface glance indicates Marc-Oliver was right and I was wrong, as DC's presence at the top of the charts seems roughly the same: two titles in the top 10, eight in the top 25, and a couple of solid performers right below that blinking in. However, DC's weekly series Countdown is still losing readers, close to a tenth of its sales from the beginning of June to the end of July, and this is a month that includes a Flash title that I believe launched with incentives and the rare for DC convergence of both of their intermittently published All-Star comics coming out on the same calendar page. I'll be interested in seeing how the number crunching actually pans out, but even though they're hanging in there I can't imagine there's a lot of high-fives being exchanged at 1700 Broadway.

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

Go, Look: Judy Junior Comic Book

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Cartoon Use of “Ho” Draws Complaints

imageThis article provides a clear snapshot of complaints within the newspaper industry over a cartoon in the Florida Times-Union created by cartoonist Ed Gamble and approved by that paper's editorial page editor Mike Clark. That cartoon used the word "ho" in the service of drawing attention to "no snitching" culture, a value within certain communities that's been the subject of several feature stories and debate across media over the last couple of years. It's kind of hard to believe that two newspapermen in this day and age would think the word "ho" would pass by unnoticed -- or, in my opinion, that much of anything about this blunt, rudimentary and potentially insulting cartoon on multiple levels was worth space on the page -- but then again, I guess figuring out why such language would be passed over is at the heart of many of the complaints.

Also: Al Sharpton has commented.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Leah Hayes

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
GNs in Edinburgh
Go See Scott and Rory
Comiket Attendance Figures
Go See Betsy Streeter at CAM

Stan Lee: Geek Prophet

I Hate Your Cartoon
Mobile Comics Outlook
Iranian Cartoonist Honored
Malaysia Celebrates New Talents

E&P: Rob Rogers
LAT on Slab People
Wizard: Warren Ellis
News Journal: Brian Crane
News Journal: Hector Cantu
News Journal: Stephan Pastis
Ottawa Citizen: Jack Briglio, Alex Serra

Not Comics
Gareth Gaudin Loves The Troops

E&P on Arctic Circle Launch
Comics Page Changes at Wilmington

Good As Lily
Good as Lily Review 01
Good as Lily Review 02
Good as Lily Review 03
Good as Lily Review 04
Good as Lily Review 05
Good as Lily Review 06
Good as Lily Review 07
Good as Lily Review 08
Good as Lily Review 09
Good as Lily Review 10
Good as Lily Review 11
Good as Lily Review 12
Good as Lily Review 13
Good as Lily Review 14
Good as Lily Review 15

Richard Pachter: Various
Rick Harmon: Steve Canyon
Peter Terzian: Reading Comics
Leroy Douresseaux: Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace 1953-1954


August 20, 2007

CR Review: Reactor Girl #6


Creators: Anne Bernstein, Vincent Delbaere, Laurent Cilluffo, Jeff Evans, Gary Dumm, Joe Zabel, Dylan Horrocks, Paul Hunter, Eric Searleman, Eric Theriault, Adrian Tomine, Michel Vrana
Publishing Information: Tragedy Strikes Press, comic book, 32 pages, February 1993, $2.50
Ordering Numbers:

Reading long out-of-print anthologies can give you a better snapshot of a time period than just about any array of graphic novels or stand-alone comic book titles. Those works tend to have a longer shelf life, with more successful artists, of the kind that continue to shape the field far outside of their initial publication date. Anthologies give you a broader idea of who was out there working, both those that hit, and those that didn't. The sixth issue of Reactor Girl, edited by Michel Vrana at about the point Tragedy Strikes Press transmogrified into Black Eye Press, contains several cartoonist who have done significant work since: Adrian Tomine and Dylan Horrocks contribute short stories featuring a much less streamlined art style than what they would eventually develop; Gary Dumm and Joe Zabel work on a story that looks exactly like every other Gary Dumm and Joe Zabel since the beginning of time; and cover artist Laurent Cilluffo showcases the abstract style (think of John Porcellino, Jordan Crane and Rian Hughes sharing a page) that would later cause little hearts to float and pop from the cranium of critics like Bart Beaty.

Perhaps more fascinating are the people you barely remember, like Anne Bernstein's slice of autobiography that's visually interesting but sometimes simply fails to scan, while the Erics Theriault and Searleman contribute a pair of shorts. Only Paul Hunter's story of a pair of creative arsonists, "Points 2 Remember," feels totally out of place, with its sudden shifts in perspective and stylized, fantastic and unconvincing plot line. The overall sense one gets from the comic isn't so much pleasure from the stories, although the Evans/Dumm/Zabel, Tomine and Bernstein stories offer varying levels of pleasure and the Horrocks and the Cilluffo (with Vincent Delbaere) works are dense and compelling. The feeling I had when I put down the comic was one of regret that anthologies like this don't exist anymore. I can't imagine anyone being able to spend a couple of years putting together a readable comic from two- and five-page comics shorts. Not anymore. We live in an age of six figure book contracts and squarebound anthologies (RAW really did beat Weirdo in the end). A comic book, ragged and scruffy, and designed to hold smaller stories, intending to introduce new artists that are actually worth being introduced to, that's no longer on the table. Is it right as a reader to miss the days of lesser economic opportunity?
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Updates on Various Comics Passings

* the Tulsa World has launched a memorial web site devoted to the late Doug Marlette, including a selection of his work. The World was I believe Marlette's last full-time employer.

image* a fine set of testimonials and a few pieces of art, including that one at left, on the passing of veteran British artist Phil Gascoine may be found here. I've had e-mail from three artists in the last 72 hours all mention in passing that Gascoine was a nice man, all unsolicited, something I've never seen before.

* our gathering of links into a Collective Memory related to the passing of artist Mike Wieringo, which hit the comics community one week ago, continues with, among others, a new round-up of creator testimonials at Newsarama, a sensitive report from the funeral by Jeff Parker and a nice tribute at
posted 2:22 am PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Vancouver Cartoonist & Animator Shot and Killed by Police

This just sounds awful, and while this is an animation story rather than a comics story, I seems to recall that Vancouver's animation scene has a lot of folks from both worlds in it.
posted 2:14 am PST | Permalink

OTBP: Drawing Down the Moon

posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink

Various News Stories Rounded Up

* rare art including pages from Avengers #1 turns up, supposedly purchased at a garage sale. Any way you look at it, this is an odd story. Because the art was reported as stolen from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, the police are involved. I have no idea if this is true of the art in question, but a lot of early Marvel art has "stolen" as part of its transactional legacy long before the Dallas-Fort Worth airport might have been involved.

* the secret origin of the secret origin of the new Batwoman, a one-time recipient of a PR bonanza who's so secret now you never hear about her. Surfing the PR of an event with positive ramifications for gay people and then burying that event/character/plotline later on, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is such a part of the American corporate entertainment landscape it would probably have a name except nothing sticks around long enough to give it one. Then again, it's not like it's been five years since her debut, so the character is hardly beyond reclamation, and it's not like DC needs another low-selling comic book.

* so I'm guessing they basically took the super-stuff out of the film adaptation of Mark Millar's Wanted?

* the first issue of Comic Foundry will hit the stands this week; the comics lifestyle magazine had at one point run afoul of Diamond's distribution system before they reconsidered and relented. Jog and Johanna Draper Carlson review. According to advance copies of the magazine, the publication will go quarterly in 2008.

* for some reason, I found Neil Gaiman's reading of Bob Kanigher-era Phantom Stranger comics deeply hilarious, even though I never read Phantom Stranger.
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

It’s All Going To End in 2012, Isn’t It?


In compiling a list of Fall releases, when it got to selecting something from PictureBox, Inc. I didn't even consider previewing Brian Chippendale's Maggots because I automatically figured there was no way this long-delayed book was ever going to come out. When Douglas Wolk put it on his list, I thought he was being funny or simply naive. Turns out I was wrong, and not only will this book come out this Fall, but PictureBox apparently had advance copies at TCAF.

I've only seen the multiple minis that came out of sections of this work, and I think either some of the original or high-end copies Tom Devlin had at one point, but I really liked what I saw. Because of the furious nature of Chippendale's image making wedded to a winding narrative approach which seemingly gives not a crap about the sequence of panels working left to right or up to down, Maggots was a much whispered-about book of the late 1990s, one of the easier Fort Thunders to grasp in terms of differences with traditional comics making, and one of the more difficult in terms of figuring out its worth. Having it out now won't have the impact of having it out back then, but this is good news.
posted 2:08 am PST | Permalink

Rustle the Leaf Dries Out, Blows Away

imageRustle the Leaf, a web strip created by Dave Ponce and Dan Wright, has gone from summer hiatus to outright cancellation, artist Wright confirmed to CR. The strip was noteworthy for its environmental focus and for supporting its artist through a single sponsorship designed to bring attention to a company's nature friendly products. Also, as drawn by Wright in full-color it was consistently among the most attractive strips appearing on-line. I believe Rustle ran from 2003 -- Ponce writes that's when the character was created -- to earlier this year.
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 49th Birthday, Daniel Torres!

posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Eddie Campbell on Logos
Eddie Campbell on Logos 02
John Byrne's Dr. Strange For Unhappy Golden Fan (via Neilalien)

170K, 180K, 200K Attend Comiket
CBC Reports on Doug Wright Awards

Hugo Pratt Remembered
Dave Lasky's Star Wars Art
The Death of Superman Funeral Procession

I Hate Your Cartoon
Sexism Issue Continues to Dog DC on Ellison-FBI Settlement
Metabunker on Ellison-FBI Settlement
Ellison-FBI Settlement Hits Local Press

GQ: Casanova
Peggy Loves LA
PingMag: Simona Pini
Wizard: Jeffrey Brown Jason Burns
Seattle Times: Megan Kelso
Blog@Newsarama: Douglas Wolk Bodega Ave Crew

Not Comics
Popularity of Rail Travel Reflected in Manga

Bodog Plans GN
Dabel Bros Plan Koontz Book
Eddie Campbell Finishes a Book
95-Year-Old Cartoonist Back to Work
Eric Burns: Someone Should Do Ersatz FBoFW

Tim O'Neil: Scott Pilgrim
Richard Kraus: Monsters
Jog: The Programme #2
David Welsh: Good as Lily
Allan Holtz: Chester Gould
Richard Kraus: Aprendiz #2
Brigid Alverson: E's Vols. 1-2
Leroy Douresseaux: Missing Vol. 1
Richard Kraus: Time Warp Comix #3
Richard Kraus: Time Warp Comix #4
Collected Editions: Captain Atom: Armageddon
Cheeky Monkey: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

August 19, 2007

CR Sunday Feature: And Now, Let Us All Look To A Potentially Amazing Fall 2007

I don't really do seasonal previews, but I think it's important that time to time as readers we remind ourselves that comics are worth our collective investment of time, energy and resources. Here are several books that are coming out before the New Year that I greatly look forward to seeing, and some of the reasons why I'm anticipating their arrival.

This is not a complete list. I've tried to limit myself to presenting one item per publisher (I failed once), and I've skipped perennials like Complete Peanuts and Moomin. I also had a hard time finding books from a couple of publishers. In some cases this difficulty seems to stem from the fact that they loaded the books that I like from their line into the first half of 2007, and in other cases I experienced difficulty figuring out exactly what they're putting out (for instance, one company has a book I like promised for October, but it was also listed as having shipped from Diamond a couple of weeks ago). Please don't take anyone's absence from this list as anything other than my inability to get the information I needed in the amount of time I scheduled. Plus I'm sure I simply forgot about several obviously awesome books.

Those comics that did make it onto this quickly-assembled list seems to me as a group to represent an embarrassment of riches, pleasures high and low, a snapshot of what the field looks like ten minutes before noon during Comics' Great Day in the Sun. And on a lazy Sunday afternoon, what's better than daydreaming of great experiences yet to come?


Azumanga Daioh Omnibus Vol. 1, Kiyohiko Azuma, ADV Manga, 686 pages, 9781413903645, November, $24.99

I know that a bunch of stylized schoolgirls posing for what looks like a yearbook photo isn't the kind of cover many of you expect to see on the top of a preview list of considerable works, but Kiyohiko Azuma's potent work on Yotsuba&!, particularly the cartoonist's ability to convey the subtle changes in perception that arise from a child's world view and then mine humor from it, has me dying to go back and check out this equally lauded high school soap opera in its newest iteration.


Betsy & Me, Jack Cole, Fantagraphics, 104 pages, 9781560978787, November, $14.95

In a career cut tragically short by suicide, Jack Cole became an all-time comic book artist (the Plastic Man stories in Police Comics) and a world class gag cartoonist (in Playboy). The aborted strip Betsy and Me would have been his third stab at pantheon-level greatness. As it's also a sterling example of the American newspaper's strip period of flirtation with a certain approach to slick, stylized figure drawing that never quite took as some thought it might, having all of Betsy and Me in one place is a minor miracle.


Edison Steelhead's Lost Portfolio, Renee French, Sparkplug Comic Books, 88 pages, $9

Already available via direct order, this a no-doubt beautiful mini-collection of Renee French art deftly organized into a meta-fictional conceit as a series of drawings by the protagonist of her 2006 major book The Ticking. French has quietly become a skilled portrait artist; the material in this book should begin to clue you in on the gut-wrenching nature of this facet of her illustration skill.


Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 3, Jack Kirby and Mike Royer, DC Comics, 396 pages, 9781401214852, November, $49.99

I prefer the original comic books, but these shelf-ready trades seem to be a not-bad way for fans to watch Jack Kirby climb the last great, creative mountain of his long and exemplary career. Count me among those that think the most important part of these early 1970s comics was their fun house mirror take on the horrors of war and their potential recalibration of some fundamental aspects of the superhero formula: questioning the value of fighting, any kind of fighting; people lose according to where the power lie no matter how popular they are or noble their intentions.


Leadership: Cartoons & Sculptures From the Bush Years, Pat Oliphant, Andrews McMeel, 128 pages, 9780740726743, October, $19.95

Since no one is rigorously collecting Tom Toles, the best editorial cartooning book of the Fall should come from the field's Lion in Winter, Pat Oliphant, an under-appreciated legend who still rushes at his targets knives out, no apologies. He also draws extremely well. After reading so many newspaper cartoons where it seems the reader is expected to compensate for odd stylistic choices and a lack of craft, reading a bunch of Oliphant is like moving mid-bite from vanilla wafers to rum-laced chocolate cheesecake. He's one of the few cartoonists in that field who can communicate -- and punish -- with the quality of his art alone.


MW, Osamu Tezuka, Vertical Inc., 600 pages, 9781932234831, October, $24.95

A cooler columnist would probably focus on Vertical's publication of some more action-oriented comics, but I still have Tezuka on the mind, and it's all their fault. The mini-spate of non-traditional, pulpier Osamu Tezuka books from Vertical over the last year or so has been a revelation in ways that aren't always comfortable. Engaging topics such as sex and religion, these books reveal an ambitious side of Tezuka where he puts his magnificent understanding of comics craft in service of stories about human issues and subtle progressions of spirit. It's sort of like watching your uncle divorce and start dating again, in that the occasional bad choice makes you cringe in sympathy, but damned if you don't understand the guy a whole lot better the next time you shoot the breeze over Thanksgiving dishes.


My Life as a Foot, Richard Suicide, Conundrum, 80 pages, 9781894994262, October, $15 CDN.

It doesn't help matters that the promotional copy for this book invokes Robert Crumb, a comparison that seems not only inexact but massively unfair to any unfamiliar artist. Still, the cartooning on display in the sample pages looks like a lot of fun, and Conundrum seems determined to carve out a very specific niche for itself as a discoverer of significant, under-published Canadian cartoonists. Hey, if I had told you a year ago one of their books would win a distinguished award over works from Bryan Lee O'Malley and Guy Delisle, you'd have looked at me funny, admit it.


Omega the Unknown #1, Jonathan Lethem and Karl Rusnak and Farel Dalrymple and Paul Hornschemeier, Marvel, 32 pages, October, $2.99

I know that the list of writers crossing over into mainstream comic book company writing has only grown longer since Jonathan Lethem's involvement with this Steve Gerber/Mary Skrenes character was announced, but there's something that seems almost old-fashioned, very 2003, about an established literary author's reconsideration of an under-utilized comic book character. I have no idea if this will be any good or not, and past history seems stacked against it, but with the creators involved I'm looking forward to checking it out.


Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Oni Press, 200 pages, 9781932664492, October, $11.95

I'm not as smitten with this engaging series of books as some people seem to be, but the way its fans talk about it makes me think this is a seminal comics experience for a lot of readers, particularly those from about 22-30 years old. I'm not sure there are a lot of those anymore.


Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4, Josh Cotter, AdHouse Books, 56 pages, AUG073288 (Diamond), October, $5

I almost chose the second issue of Zack Soto's Secret Voice #2 for an AdHouse representative on this list; that series burns with the weird energy that all great creator-owned comics exude. On second thought, though, I believe Skyscraper of the Midwest #4, likely the last issue of Josh Cotter's funny and touching sort-of memoir of childhood in an American small town, is the company's biggest release of the Fall. It's also a good time to take a second look at what Cotter's accomplished. I'm not sure any cartoonist has done as effective a job in capturing adolescent self-absorption on paper, and the art itself has wonderful texture.


Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White, Taiyo Matsumoto, Viz, 624 pages, 9781421518671, September, $29.95

I have no idea what it reads like, but it sure looks gorgeous enough for me to want to find out.


The Best of Mutts, Patrick McDonnell, Andrews McMeel, 256 pages, 9780740768446, September, $24.95

It feels like Mutts has been around a lot longer than 10 years, but there's the birthday notice, right in the promo material. I think this book of McDonnell favorites could be the perfect springboard for re-appraising one of the two or three best current strips. Not only do we get to see what should be some of the cartoonist's finest work, but it's my understanding that McDonnell is writing a significant amount of introductory material for this volume. Author's commentary from Walt Kelly and Bill Watterson helped cement their reputations as all-time greats, and the opportunity may be there for McDonnell, a very good writer, to suggest the light by which we historians make our first considered impression of his life's work.


That Salty Air, Tim Sievert, Top Shelf, 112 pages, 9781603090056, November, $10

What would a season in comics be without a promising-looking book from a cartoonist under the age of 25?


The Complete Terry And The Pirates Volume 1: 1934 - 1936 A Library Of American Comics Original, Milton Caniff, IDW, 368 pages, 9781600101007, September, $49.99

A rollicking adventure strip that transformed itself into a great American romance about the country assuming its place on the international stage as a metaphor for adult responsibility, Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates is gorgeous to behold. It also takes a long time to pick up on rhythms that people probably had a more immediate grasp of 70 years ago -- some folk find Terry impossible to read -- so a bunch of this work in one place should yield significant benefits.


The Arrival, Shaun Tan, Arthur A. Levine Books, 128 pages, 9780439895293, October, $19.99

I'm not saying this for effect: I've had one cartoonist whose work I admire tell me The Arrival is a great, great book, and I've had another cartoonist whose work I hold in equal, high esteem tell me it's a piece of lightweight garbage. Who doesn't want to see a book that comes with that kind of divided recommendation? Finally making its debut after being up for awards Down Under, Shaun Tan's book is at least likely to be a high point in the encroachment of a certain kind of picture story into areas of communication more traditionally trafficked in by comics.


The Goddess of War Vol. 1, Lauren Weinstein, PictureBox Inc., 32 pages, $12.95
PictureBox, Inc. is one of those companies that doesn't tell you exactly what's coming out and when, but of all the forthcoming work, this is the one I think has the best chance of appearing before Christmas. (In fact, I think it will be out by Christmas, whereas I'm not sure anything at all will come out from a similarly coy publisher, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, who as late as a month ago were saying "winter" instead of "fall.") Cartoonist Lauren Weinstein seemed onto something significant in her Girl Stories volume, despite that book having to hold together work from a broad range of years and approaches. Her making a 180-degree shift in pursuit of a suite of artistic effects as far removed from teenaged autobiography as seems possible, well, that seems admirable to me, and potentially rewarding.


The Dairy Restaurant, Ben Katchor, Schocken, 224 pages, 9780805242195, December, $19.95

That square isn't blank as some sort of clever commentary; it's blank because I don't think anyone has seen the cover of this book. I don't know what it's about beyond the fact it's categorized as Jewish history and I can't even be sure it's comics as opposed to an illustrated work of prose, but The Dairy Restaurant is Ben Katchor and that's all that matters. I get such great pleasure out of Katchor's comics, his idiosyncratic take on American cultural history and the power of places and objects, that even the chance of another major volume keeps its page in my bookmarks.


The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories, Nicholas Gurewitch, Dark Horse, 96 pages, 9781593078447, October, $14.95

When Nicholas Gurewitch's strips are good, there's a special energy to the Perry Bible Fellowship that somehow blends everything I loved about early 1990s alternative comics into one crazed stew, sort of like Dennis Worden scripting gag comics for Jeremy Eaton. It's also very pretty, and should look good in printed form.


Town Boy, Lat, First Second, 192 pages, 9781596433311, October, $16.95

Although Town Boy failed to impress me on the same level as its predecessor Kampung Boy, for nearly everyone I know this is the book that cemented Lat's reputation as a world-class cartoonist. If nothing else, it's a graphic novel full of lovely moments, including street scenes that are all by themselves more humane and remarkable than some cartoonists' entire careers.


White Rapids, Pascal Blanchet, Drawn and Quarterly, 156 pages, 9781897299241, October, $27.95

I know very little about this book except the art, which I found intriguing enough that it somehow stuck in my mind ahead of new, potentially major works from Adrian Tomine and Julie Doucet. Conclusion: I am shallow and easily distracted. Still, it looks like an approach to cartooning with which I'm not always comfortable, and so presented to me by D&Q becomes automatically of interest. I look forward to the experience of diving in and figuring things out.


Bonus Book About Comics: Kirby: King of Comics, Mark Evanier, Abrams, 224 pages, 9780810994478, October, $40

In sense there's no other book about comics this Fall, such is the shadow cast by Mark Evanier's long-awaited biography of one of comics' foundational talents. Instigated by Evanier's personal relationship with the man and his family and driven by personal memory and massive amounts of meticulous research, Kirby: King of Comics came together reasonably quickly in terms of moving from contract to bookshelf, so I'm interested in how the whole thing turned out.


Bonus Magazine About Comics: Comic Art #9, M. Todd Hignite, Buenaventura Press, 9780976684862, October, $19.95

A sleek beauty of a comics magazine, packaged with a small book on cartooning by Ivan Brunetti I would make a trip to the store to buy all on its own, M. Todd Hignite's latest issue boasts three potentially great profiles: one on Abner Dean, one on Gluyas Williams and one on Kaz. The last of the three is written by Ben Schwartz, who may be my favorite working writer about comics.


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Douglas Wolk
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August 18, 2007

Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: discussion of pin-up masters

* go, watch: TV show's presentation on Elvis comic

* go, watch: amazing Sof'Boy figurine video

* go, watch: the not-comics awesomeness of Purple and Brown

* go, watch: I still can't take my eyes off of this not-comics craziness, ten months later
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Go, Look: Kongkee

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Happy 63rd Birthday, Skip Williamson!

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 41st Birthday, Stefano Gaudiano!

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First Thought Of The Day

Am I the only that hates the Little League World Series?
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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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Your 2007 Wright Awards Winners

imageThe 2007 Doug Wright Awards for Canadian cartooning were given out last night in Toronto, as part of a kick-off for this year Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Joe Ollmann's This Will All End In Tears won Best Book, while Rebecca Kratz won Best Emerging Talent for her House of Sugar. The late Rand Holmes was inducted into the Giants of the North Hall of Fame. The ceremony featured the reunion of Joe Matt, Chester Brown and Seth.
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CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from August 11 to August 17, 2007:

1. Industry reacts to the loss of artist Mike Wieringo, who dies at age 44.

2. Mediated settlement in Harlan Ellison vs. Fantagraphics case made public.

3. Gordon Lee trial scheduled to begin Wednesday; postponed until November because of sick judge.

Winner Of The Week

Losers Of The Week
Syrian Fans of Ali Farzat

Quote Of The Week
"I don't know Anthony." -- Lynn Johnston

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
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August 17, 2007

Happy 40th Birthday, Brian Michael Bendis!

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Happy 33rd Birthday, Kevin Church!

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CR Review: Yesterday’s Tomorrows


Creators: Rian Hughes, Grant Morrison, Tom DeHaven, John Freeman, Chris Reynolds
Publishing Information: Forbidden Planet International, Hardcover slipcased, 260 pages, June 2007
Ordering Numbers: 9780861661589 (ISBN13)

The Rian Hughes collection Yesterday's Tomorrows is as conceptually sound as an iPod. It features an artist of interest with a number of quality, interesting works behind them, it's immaculately designed and produced, and it's aimed at the high-end collector who might know of the book's first strong point and appreciate the book's second. The version I have is an exquisite slipcased hardcover from Forbidden Planet, although Internet searches come up with a slightly less expensive version and a different ISBN. Just for the production values alone, most readers should take notice.

imageHughes has an angular style that derives color and shading not from some sort of inherent vibrancy of the figures but from the key placement of light sources. His overall style may remind some of a commercial art style, but one successful folded over into comics -- think Richard Sala or even Seth for comparable crossover success in terms of making the comics work as comics despite pages that are fun to look at and admire for their slightly end of Cold War take on early Cold War figures and design. The book includes plenty of commercial illustration work, which is almost uniformly striking. It's not a style I warm up to naturally, but Hughes uses it effectively. One legitimate way to see this work is as a sort of stylistic journey with comics serving as the road map -- introduction writer Paul Gravett's voice available if you tune in to 690 AM.

The gem of the book is Dare, one of Grant Morrison's lacerating anti-Thatcher screeds and, like a couple of other pieces, a rumination on the loss and or corruption of the future as an idea, concept or goal between 1950 and 1985. Dare's almost too blunt a work to take seriously as comics literature, but its raspy-voiced nastiness has aged well if not extended outward into the seemingly benign corners of the book. I wasn't entirely sold on Hughes' Philip Marlowe (even with novelist Tom DeHaven as his creative partner), and the other comics I found mostly forgettable, but I was happy to read a bunch of "Really and Truly," a forgettable but eminently collectible and enjoying piece of comics fluff. I guess in the end this is about the best Rian Hughes book I can imagine, and I was surprised by how much I was ready to read one.

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Friday Distraction: Spire Comics Archive

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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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Mediated Settlement in Harlan Ellison v. Fantagraphics Released to Public

By David P. Welsh

The mediated settlement between parties in the suit filed by Harlan Ellison against Fantagraphics, Gary Groth, and Kim Thompson has been finalized and released to the public. (A PDF of the complete settlement document is available here.)

Here are some of the highlights:
1. The action initiated by Ellison has been dismissed.

2. Neither party admits any liability in the action.

3. No monetary payment will be made by either party, and each will bear the burden of their own legal fees.

4. "(1) Defendants shall refrain from making ad hominem, personal attacks on the Plaintiff so long as Plaintiff shall live, and (2) Plaintiff shall refrain from making ad hominem, personal attacks on the Defendants so long as Defendant shall live (or be in existence, in the case of a business entity)." They need not refrain from comment or criticism of each others' "work, writings, advocacy, public statements or other public activities, broadly construed."

5. Neither party will offer any comment on the settlement.

6. Two passages will be removed from Tom Spurgeon's Comics as Art: We Told You So, a history of Fantagraphics in particular and independent comics in general.

7. The interview with Ellison will be excised from future printings of The Writers, edited by Spurgeon.

8. Ellison will permit the defendants to post on his web site for 30 days a rebuttal of no more than 500 words regarding Ellison's comments that Groth had embezzled "funds in the Fleisher litigation and solicit[ed] contributions to the Fantagraphics Legal Defense Fund under false pretenses, and that likened Mr. Groth to a child molester." No liability will attach to the Defendants as a result of anything included in the rebuttal.

9. There will be no further solicitations for donations to the Fantagraphics Legal Defense Fund, though the Defendants may continue ongoing auctions of original art and other items, provided they state that proceeds from the fund-raising auctions will be used defray legal costs already incurred.
The document concludes with a few pages of legalese that I believe come down to, "Let us never speak of this, or sue over it, again."

This entry was written and placed by David P. Welsh as a favor to this site, without editorial oversight or intrusion.
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August 16, 2007

Go, Read: New Peter Bagge at Reason

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Phil Gascoine, 1934-2007

imageHeidi MacDonald at The Beat caught mention that veteran British cartoonist Phil Gascoine died this week following a brief illness. Gascoine was in comics for nearly all of his adult life, leaving school at the age of 15 to work in artists' studios. Gascoine is probably best known for a run of military comics through features like "The Sarge," which ran in Battle Action, and for a subsequent run on North America's roughly equivalent titles like The Unknown Soldier. Other credits include girls comics such as Jinty, Marvel UK comics like GenitiX and strips for Loaded.

Phil Gascoine was 73 years old.
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Happy 69th Birthday, Trina Robbins!

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Miscellaneous News Story Round-Up

* Prominent retailer Brian Hibbs talks about the changes at his story since investing in a Point of Sale system.

* I may be wrong about this, but it seems this piece about their upcoming THB books with Paul Pope indicates a four-volume collection when it was previously announced as three.

* Long summary of the current legal issues in the Siegels Vs. Time Warner Superboy case.

* Todd Allen suggests Wizard World move its Chicago show to Navy Pier. Even Cabrini Green would be preferable to Rosemont for a true Chicago experience, but I think if anyone seriously considers that move that it's a real sign the show is shrinking and struggling. One reason why old Chicago conventions worked despite not being in the city is that it was actually more convenient for the legion of people traveling from all over the Midwest to get to Rosemont than to brave downtown Chicago. Move it into Chicago and I think you're basically saying the show's appeal to thousands of drive-ins has severely diminished. Also of note is that the show seems to have radically shifted from a high-end collectors' show to a discount bin-a-thon. The stuff about coming after San Diego's show is moot as of next year.

* The legal teams for the Michael George case have been assembled.

* Matt Madden enthuses about his gig as the new co-editor of Houghton Mifflin's Best American Comics series, with wife Jessica Abel, a move we noted a few weeks back. He also announces their first deadline.

* This article ponders the question why there was a controversy about Tintin au Congo right at this very moment, and fails to come up with a good answer.

* Also from comes word of a potential copying scandal, which looks like it will be treated as an aberration.
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Happy 51st Birthday, John Romita, Jr.!

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Collective Memory: The Sudden Passing of Artist Mike Wieringo at Age 44

imageLinks to accounts, news stories and remembrances concerning the late artist Mike Wieringo, who passed away on Sunday, August 12 at age 44.

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Institutional and General Information
Initial Posting From Family Entry
Posting From Family on Memorial Service
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Aaron Sowd
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Abject Conjecture
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Scott Kurtz 01
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Message Boards
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The Engine

ADD's Five Questions With Mike Wieringo
Chapel Hill Comics' Free Tellos For Donations to Wieringo-Selected Charities
Interview With Mike Wieringo at Richmond Comix
Interview With Mike Wieringo at Zona Negativa, 2005
Marvel's Obituary, Testimonials and Lovely Cover Gallery
Mike Wieringo Posting on Drew Hayes' Passing
The Drawingboard Shutting Down for 24 Hours (August 16 approximately only)
The Ringo Project

News Stories and Columns
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Appearance on 2005 Spider-Man Panel 01
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Appearance on 2005 Spider-Man Panel 07
Appearance on 2005 Spider-Man Panel 08


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posted 11:18 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 49th Birthday, Andrew Helfer!

posted 11:12 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Is WW-C Worth It?
Go See Roger Stern
Is WW-C Worth It? 02
Comiket Expects Half Million
Go See James Sturm at LSU
Evan Dorkin: See You at TCAF
Bryan Lee O'Malley: See You at TCAF
Behold This Year's Stumptown Poster!

Elvis Loved Comics
Mark Evanier on MAD

Interviews/Profiles Stan Lee
NAM: Stephan Pastis
Supernot: Peter Bagge Dick Ayers
Inkstuds: Farel Dalrymple
Broken Frontier: Brian Reed

Not Comics
ADV Revises Site

Space Lizards Imminent
Radical Publishing's Plans
New Whiteout Series Planned

AV Club: Various
Jog: Booster Gold #1
Paul O'Brien: Clubbing
Paul O'Brien: Un-Men #1
Don MacPherson: Various
Shaenon Garrity: Flower of Life
Paul O'Brien's Ultimate X-Men #85
Johanna Draper Carlson: Girl Genius Vol. 2
Adam Stephanides: At The Mercy Of The Waves

CR Review: Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened


Creators: Harvey Pekar, Josh Fialkov, Michael Gaydos, Phillip Hester, Matt Kindt, Stuart Moore, Antony Johnston, Noel Tuazon, Micah Farrito, Rick Spears, Rob G, Tom Beland, Robert Tinnell, Brendon Fraim, Brian Fraim, Neil Kleid, Jake Allen, Ande Parkes, Joseph Bergin III, A. David Lewis, Danielle Corsetto, Matt Dembicki, Jason Copland, James W. Powell, Drew Gilbert, Jason Rodriguez, RJ Rodriguez, Seamus Heffernan, Jay Busbee, Tony Fleecs, Chris Stevens, Gia-Bao Tran
Publishing Information: Villard Books, hard cover, 160 pages, 2007, $21.95
Ordering Numbers: 034549850X (ISBN), ISBN-13: 978-0345498502 (ISBN13)

I don't doubt that the editor of and creators involved with Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened had the best of intentions in making their hard cover anthology from Villard, but the end result is a mostly terrible book. Its second-greatest failing is that it feels like a stunt more than it does anything having to do with art; you never lose a sense of the concept and get lost in the art. Books like these are always going to feel packaged on some level, but here every page feels like a commercial assignment in service of an idea for a book. I can't speak for any of the pedigrees of the work involved, but it never feels like any of these stories would exist if not for being commissioned in service of this project; that's true of a lot of stories, commissions frequenty do drive work, but not to this degree of desultory.

Things would be different if most of the stories were good or inspired, but they're not. This is not overall an A-list bunch of creators, not a group that would be assembled for anything without a high concept, and it doesn't feel like anyone here is raising their game. Nearly all of the choices are to do a short narrative-driven story of a rote nature, with pedestrian script work and art that sometimes doesn't come close to being accomplished enough to pull off the specific setting require. There are a few artists that distinguish themselves, like Michael Gaydos and Phillip Hester, but most of what you get just kind of blends together into some gray-toned, blurry memory. Even normally fun cartoonists like Tom Beland and Danielle Corsetto read like they were forced to make things duller, like they're relating a story during tea time at Grandma's house.

Perhaps the worst story in the volume comes from headliners Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner. Despite assurances from our editor that their story is excellent, what they provide is a listless, criminally lazy and almost nonsensical short story that's about on the level with a art school student anthology effort. It's ostensibly the story of their life together in postcards, although I don't believe that most of the super-cursory and obvious insets are actually postcards, as we're told, unless the Letterman show sends out postcards on a strange, postcards-only letterhead. Also, apparently Pekar and Brabner's collaboration with Matt Kindt is a top 20 event of their life together, as that gets equal play with their having met and the American Splendor movie. I liked Kindt's art, but just about anyone who's read an author blurb on Pekar and Brabner could have written the story I'm guessing they were paid more money than anyone else to provide. An average writer could script this story in less time than it takes to read the thing. It almost made me rally behind the cartoonists who while not communicating "I'm at the top of my game" were at least giving the appearing of showing up for work.


Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened might work for you a) if you've never seen a comic before, or b) you're such a devoted comics fans that just about any cartoonist working in what seems like a half-assed fashion perks up your ear in terms of the stylistic quirks on display. If you're one of those people, nothing I say is going to stop you. If you're anybody else, I pray you'll reconsider any feelings you had about picking up this book. All of these people can do better work, and every single one with whom I'm familiar has. Why pick up second-tier work at a horrible price point when there's so much other stuff out there worth buying? I'd ask why publish such a book, but it's too late for that question to do any good.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Harlan Ellison/FBI Mediated Settlement


this is where David Welsh's report will go, if/when he sends me one
posted 10:33 am PST | Permalink

CR Newsmaker Interview: Toronto Comic Arts Festival Co-Founder Chris Butcher


The 2007 edition of the every-other-year Toronto Comic Arts Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday at that city's Old Victoria College. The free show brings a variety of skilled cartoonists working various corners of the medium into one place, and comes complete with judiciously selected but generally powerful programming and the social interaction that comes with several dozen cartoonists descending on one arts-appreciative city. I spoke with co-founder Chris Butcher, also an employee of the show's primary sponsor The Beguiling, about this year's festival.


imageTOM SPURGEON: How big of an event are we looking at this weekend?

CHRIS BUTCHER: The 2007 Toronto Comic Arts Festival is looking like it will be roughly three times the size of our last event in 2005 (the show happens every two years), at least physically. We've got roughly double the guests lined up, and our conservative attendance estimate is 10,000 over two days, up on 6,000 over two days in '05. We're still a young show and we're trying to find a venue and set-up that best-suits the type of events we see in our heads, but this is definitely going to be a big one...

SPURGEON: Tell me how TCAF started. What were the important developments in its progression as a cultural entity?

BUTCHER: If you're reading this site and it's a safe bet that you know about The Beguiling. The store and its owner Peter Birkemoe were involved in a lot of smaller comics events in the late '90s and up through the early 'oughts. I had been shopping there since ought-one, and had more-or-less pierced Peter's icy exterior immediately, and begun 'suggesting' he put on a larger event to utilise and promote the vast array of talent in Toronto in a bigger way than a reading or signing could provide.

The biggest change is in TCAF moving out of mine and Peter's hands to become a larger, more shared effort. Our Festival Director this year is Matthew Seiden, a known art-collector, long-time customer at the Beguiling, and volunteer since day one. The fact that the festival could go on existing without Peter and I helming it is probably the most relevant cultural progression. That said, despite some pessimism about the state of the industry, I'd say a much higher percentage of our creator guests are making a living in the comics industry in 2007 than they were in 2003, and that's both important and gratifying.

imageSPURGEON: How did you get involved and what's the nature and extent of your involvement at this time?

BUTCHER: Well, in October of 2002 I weaseled my way into a road trip with Peter Birkemoe, Joe Matt, Marcel Guldemond, Marc Ngui, and maybe Jason to SPX ("The Expo," that year) in Maryland. After seeing what was great and what could be improved about that show, I basically berated Peter the entire eight hour car trip home until he finally said "Fine, you do it." and so TCAF was born. I ended up working on TCAF from the store so much that they finally made me an employee and since then I've become the Manager.

The extent of my involvement at this time is a little nebulous. My titles are "Guest Liaison" and "Co-Founder," but I'm working on a little bit of everything, bringing Matt up to speed, and getting ready to step back a little for next time and concentrate more on the guests and the promotion. But yeah, if you look at any aspect of the Fest I've either had a hand in it or done it entirely. I'm a bit of a control freak.

SPURGEON: What is it about TCAF that you think works as an actual show when compared to other conventions, the actual show itself and not the scene it creates?

BUTCHER: The atmosphere. No offence intended to SPX, but coming out of that fateful car trip the one thing we all decided is that we didn't want to be a "Hotel Con." Being in Toronto, despite being your neighbour to the north and all, it's just a different type of city with a different vibe than the states. We want to do a show that's integrated into the everyday of Toronto, that engages the populace as well as appealing to the comics devotee. Our locations have always been adjacent to the University district, either in historical buildings (a lovely old church in 2003, a 100+ year old University building in 2007) or smack-dab in the middle of the street in 2005.

I really think that guests who come here have a good time, and that combined with fair-to-middlin' sales from an open-minded group of attendees means that (with a few exceptions that were entirely our fault) our guests go home happy and with positive feelings about the show. Better still it primes the pump for all of the attendees to get out there and read, support, and create their own comics, and supporting publishers and encouraging new fans is what it's really all about.


SPURGEON: Say I'm a guy who lives in a Toronto suburb who likes to read about five to ten graphic novels a year. I know who Dan Clowes and Jeffrey Brown are; I don't know the difference between Tim Hensley and David Heatley. I read Doonesbury at Slate, but I wouldn't recognize Chris Onstad if he carved a week's worth of his comics into my desk. I can't fathom being interested in going to a party with cartoonists. I haven't drawn a comic of my own since the fifth grade. Why should I go to TCAF?

BUTCHER: Hah, that's the thing. In a Toronto suburb, you're much more likely to know who Seth and Chester Brown are than Clowes or Brown, and they're at the show (actually, Jeffrey Brown is as well). I see what you're getting at, but at least on the guest front we're really fortunate to have Canadian "Brand Name" artists attending that speak to readers of literature and fiction, comics or otherwise.

imageBut if you're just sort of aware of comics and you need a reason to come down, the big messages we put out there are about access and knowledge. A show like TCAF offers an unprecedented level of guest access to the 'known quantities', whereas someone like Seth or Joe Matt or Darwyn Cooke or Paul Pope are relatively elusive figures at a lot of shows, at TCAF they're doing appearances for 3-5 hours a day, including lots of signing time. As for "knowledge", we work with local media to increase the public knowledge and perception of comics and graphic novels through interviews and feature articles, and then provide plenty of free on-site programming to give newcomers something to really sink their teeth into. This years panel on manga, for example, features Paul Gravett, the guy who wrote the book on manga, Jason Thompson, who's read every manga in the English language, a host of "World Manga" creators including Svetlana Chmakova, Becky Cloonan, and Bryan Lee O'Malley, and then a translated manga re-writer from Tokyopop named Lianne Sentar is moderating the whole thing.

If you're a parent who wants to figure out what the hell your kid is reading, you're going to come away from a panel like that with a very, very good idea (maybe even too good.)

SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about the Beguiling? Has the Beguiling seen exponential growth in success the way the DM sales figures and new markets for comics would indicate possible? How would you quantify or specifically qualify your store's success beyond descriptive adjectives? What's different about the business today as opposed to 2002?

BUTCHER: I guess we can talk about The Beguiling, seeing as they are the premier sponsor of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, this weekend in Toronto, Canada. [coughs]

The Beguiling continues to grow, but not exponentially. We're on a very steady upward curve, which is gratifying and lets us build our staff and systems in a more considered way. As sales grow larger and larger, we have to hire more and more staff to make those sales work, and there's higher delivery bills and more shows to set up at, etc. etc. You can look at things like our employees and see that there are three times as many people on the payroll as there were in 2002, or even just the volume and the density of the stock and go "alright, there's a lot of growth here." The joke amongst our customers is that after five years of constant renovations and fixture upgrades, the only other place to put new stock is on the ceiling (and believe me, we're trying figure that one out).


SPURGEON: Has the Beguiling been uniquely suited in any way to capitalize or make good on this latest round of interest in comics, in ways not available to other stores? How?

BUTCHER: I think The Beguiling is a more-or-less wholly unique store in North America. We're on a side-street that's known within the city as an "artists' community" and we fit in nicely next to cafes, two art-book stores, a decorative glass shop, and an antiques store. We're designed to appeal and be interesting to the general public, sort of like a "curiosities" shop where the main curiosity is "I didn't know they made comic books I might enjoy!"

The mandate when I joined the store was to carry one of everything, and that really hasn't changed much. We were already working with book market distributors, with Cold Cut, and sourcing new product lines when the success of yaoi manga or books from Pantheon made those things a necessity for any comic store worth their salt. I don't know if our way of doing things is any easier, it's more like a necessity; a snowball rolling down a hill gathering more and more snow, getting heavier and faster at the same time. We don't currently have much of a choice, but as I mentioned we're constantly building systems so that we can be a little choosier, if we want.

imageSPURGEON: Let me ask you about some of your muckraking. If I'm reading my e-mails correctly, I think some people may see you as someone who likes to criticize without caring to so much if there's a solution. Ideally, and granting you a wide range of powers that would make any initiative you put forward likely, what would you have mainstream comics companies do right now in terms of their comics' pervasive sexism? What would you have DC Comics do with What one thing would you for comics in general?

BUTCHER: I'll admit that I'm not afraid to put a critical thought or two out there, but I try to restrict myself to situations that I feel could be solved, whether by common sense or a swift kick in the pants. I rarely bitch just to see my words on the screen -- I simply don't have the time. I also think it's just... well, what's half way between pointless and immense hubris? I think it would be arrogant to assume I had all the answers, but I can quite easily look at something and go "That's not right, and here's why" and I think that's valid and maybe even necessary.

"Solutions" are also not always forthcoming because I am smart and those solutions are likely worth money to the people who need them, and I am available for freelance consulting. However, since you're doing this interview, I'll play along:

The number one thing I'd do to stop pervasive sexism at the majors would be "Bring Your Wife and Daughter To Work Day." DC (at least the DCU) and Marvel editorial are pretty male-centric heterosexual environments, so I'd start "Bring Your Wife and Daughter To Work Day" for all of the editors, assistant editors, anyone with decision-making power. And then the editors pass their books to their wives and/or daughters and say "Honey, do you think this is offensive? Do you think this portrays women in a negative light that has nothing to do with story concerns?" and the editors can't use the excuses "But the fans love it!" or "He's a fan-favourite artist!" to defend the work. And if it doesn't pass the wife/daughter test? It either gets sent back to the drawing board or scrapped altogether. Those books would look awful different in about 60 days.

As for I keep hearing about this "iTunes for comics" idea that no one has gotten to, yet. I bet DC could beat Joey Manley to the punch if they wanted to. Zuda as a method to do digital distribution of existing DC properties, Zuda as a talent-search for existing properties, Zuda and their reader as an attractive platform for creator-owned work that would be based off of an ad-sales revenue model, I dunno. The sky's the limit there...

The one thing I would do for comics is to magically let everyone know exactly what their talent, enthusiasm, and ideas are worth, in the hopes that so many people would stop settling for less.

SPURGEON: Do you feel you're under-read or paid too much attention to?

BUTCHER: A little bit of both. With the blog at, I've had two very interesting conversations in the past two years. One with Calvin Reid and one with Darwyn Cooke, and they both said the same thing: People Read What You Say So Watch It (in fact, I've gone back and edited my answers to this interview twice already). I have the site stats and I'm comfortable with my readership, though I'm certainly not at the level of you or Dirk or Heidi. I tend to be read by industry people and other bloggers more, and the general public less.

On a day where I get a measly 400 unique visitors, I'll write a post that inspires five or six other folks to write about (and link to) what I've written, and the next day the hits are through the roof. If I bitch about CompanyX or AssholeY, the next day it's everywhere... I've had to give that sort of thing a lot of thought when deciding about whether or not to write about company trips to the strip clubs at Wizard World. Sure, it'll make my point for me, but then I get angry letters from comics professionals and I have to keep trolls out of the comment section and the stress usually isn't worth it.

I'm annoyed I didn't get an invite to the Zuda Party at San Diego though, I would have liked to have been bribed with free food and drink. Apparently I need to be doing Tom Spurgeon business to score a DC invite.

imageSPURGEON: What's the best comic you've read in the last five years?

BUTCHER: Scott Pilgrim. By Toronto Comic Arts Festival guest Bryan Lee O'Malley. I think that because I lived a lot of it I have absolutely no distance when it comes to the work, but it is quite literally the comic written for me. So I love it. Luckily, I could pull four or five hundred other people out of the woodwork to say the same thing, so that makes me look a little less biased.

My non-biased answer is probably Curses by Toronto Comic Arts Festival guest Kevin Huizenga. I think Kevin is one of the most important creators in comics, blending formalism and experimentation and compelling narrative and real drawing chops and a design aesthetic and vitality into something really... I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but "transcendent." Man, this is going to make seeing Kevin this weekend awkward. But yeah, I think Kevin Huizenga is doing work right now that, while he might consider it 'fumbling' or something similarly humble and understated, is going to last a very, very long time and be capital-I Important to comics.


* text from TCAF publicity
* photo of Butcher
* Darwyn Cooke art from TCAF FCBD offering
* Chester Brown art
* please tell me if this isn't Becky Cloonan
* old Beguiling logo
* recent sexist Marvel cover
* stand-alone Scott Pilgrim image


Editor's Notes:

1) The bias Chris talks about in answering the last question "Scott Pilgrim" is that he is a close friend and I believe former roommate of its artist, Bryan Lee O'Malley.

2) Speaking of biases, I had to check the front page to be sure, but TCAF is an advertiser on this site.

3) Despite Chris's assertions to the opposite, the traffic here at CR is almost certainly dwarfed by or PW. I say "almost" because I don't look at numbers (mine or theirs) to know 100 percent. I'd bet a few of my fingers on it.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

Tezuka in the USA: A Manga Publishers' Forum
Thursday, August 16
6:30-8:30 pm
Samsung Hall
Free with museum admission ($5 after 5 pm)

Meet representatives from Tezuka's US publishers and gain insights into one of the fastest-growing segments in book publishing in America: manga (Japanese comics). The panel will be moderated by Alvin Lu of VIZ Media (publisher of Tezuka's Phoenix), and will include speakers Anne Ishii of Vertical (publisher of Buddha), Carl Gustav Horn of Dark Horse (publisher of Astro Boy), and Ian Robertson of VIZ Media. Speakers will discuss the experience of bringing Japan's "God of Manga" to American shores and how Tezuka's influence continues to pervade the current manga boom in the US. Plus: special previews of new and forthcoming publications. This program offered in conjunction with Tezuka: The Marvel of Manga on view through September 9, 2007.
posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Gordon Lee Trial Delayed… Again

News from Georgia yesterday indicates that the trial of Rome retailer Gordon Lee, set to go to trial on charges relating from the inopportune inclusion of a comic containing non-sensationalized nudity in a Halloween giveaway back in 2005, has been delayed once again -- to November. The cause this time is a sick judge.

The delay should add to the public sympathy many feel for Lee in terms of years of his life being turned over to a case stemming from a complain that many feel could have been handled with a phone call and an apology, and is an example of how any case handled by the CBLDF can steamroll in terms of expenses due to circumstances completely outside of their control.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Nora Krug

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Annie Baron-Carvais, 1952/3-2007

imageFrench comics sites are reporting that the writer about comics Annie Baron-Carvais died in New York on August 13 at the age of 54. She is probably best known as the author of Que Sais-Je: La Bande Dessinee, a 1985 volume translated widely that was about to see another edition released next month. A well-known presence on various panels and at conferences on comics, Baron-Carvais also wrote a number of articles on comics (she also published in other areas of academic expertise), and was a member of France's l'Association des journalistes et critiques de bande dessinee (ACBD). She was presently working with Didier Pasamonik on a book called La Diaspora des Bulles, scheduled to appear from Denoel Graphic in 2008. A bibliography for the author can be found here.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Rare George Wallace Comic

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Go, Look: Phil Barrett’s Touched

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Eddie Campbell’s Review of RC Harvey’s New Caniff Biography

imageI found Eddie Campbell's recent piece on RC Harvey's new, massive biography of Milton Caniff a thoughtful and even intermittently elegant short piece of writing. That no one sees Caniff as an obvious influence on Campbell I think points to a massive and unfortunate shortcoming in the way comics are processed now, namely an inability to recognize that a certain kind of dramatic sensibility can at times be just as sophisticated and knowing about the human condition as, say, a humorous framework that reaches people in a similarly broad fashion. Plus Campbell finds a really good scan of a comic that I drove myself nuts trying to find earlier this year, the Terry and the Pirates goodbye strip. I think that's a great strip in a lot of ways, not the least of which being the craft with which it's accomplished, an element that has its own sweep and pull independent of everything else.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Becky Cloonan Draws
Love For Comics Showing, Not Telling

PWCW: WWC Report
D&Q at TCAF (8-14 Entry)
B-CC Plans Wieringo Tribute

25 Years of MAD Article
With the Goo-goo-google-able Eyes
Howie Schneider Was Buried Tuesday

Baen to DBD UK
Three Manga in Top 150
Margulies Wins Clarion Award
Weekly Japan Manga Rankings
Fox, Rall, Bors Win Fair Courts Competition

Wizard: Phil Briones
SBC: Jennie Breeden
Newsarama: Les Dabel Erika Blanco
PWCW: George RR Martin
Daily Herald: Russell Lissau Erika Blanco
Mr. Skin: Los Bros Hernandez
Steve Duin on Shel Silverstein
Lancaster On-Line: Dominic Vivona

Not Comics
Let's Not Be Rock Critics
New Home for Engine Refugees
Get Your War On Stageplay Reviewed
Tom Toles Among DC's Most Powerful
10 Least Sucky Comics-Related Games

Educational Manhwa
PWCW on Viper Comics
New Shojo From Viz in 2008
Image Claims Multiple Sell-Outs
True Story, Swear to God Previewed

Jog: Valerian
Elizabeth Bird: Laika
Francis Bear: Making Comics
Michael May: Lost Colony, Vol. 2
Graeme McMillan: Booster Gold #1
Leroy Douresseaux: Heaven!! Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: Monster, Vol. 10
Geoff Hoppe: Extremely Silly Comics #1
Leroy Douresseaux: Ultimate X-Men #85
Brian Hibbs: Justice League of American #1
Geoff Hoppe: Zen the Intergalactic Ninja #1


August 15, 2007

CR Review: Brodo Di Niente


Creators: Andrea Bruno
Publishing Information: Canicola, soft cover album, 80 page, 2007, 12 Euros
Ordering Numbers: 9788887827682 (ISBN 13)

Andrea Bruno's latest release from the Canicola collective, Brodo Di Niente (which I think is Brodo of Nothing) will probably remind many of Gipi's Notes From a War in its treatment of the effect of wartime lawlessness and urgency directly and indirectly on the lives of young people. The work it most remind me of is Lorenzo Mattotti's Murmur. That book was one of the first I read in an attempt to broaden my reading of European comics in a way that's now much easier than it was then, and Mattotti's art, like Bruno's here, was so overwhelming in its ability to communicate theme and effect I almost couldn't read the text. Murmur was "dubbed," with a translated text; Brodo Di Niente is subtitled, with Canicola's clever translations across the bottom of each page. I know both approaches work, so it's really the quality of the art itself that keeps me from fully integrating the experience.

In other words, if this comic contained a lobotomizing device that shot from its page and penetrated your brain until no comprehension of the text were possible at any time, I'd still recommend it for Bruno's art. The inky effect is noticeable from the start, but as you begin to delve into it, you see how deftly Bruno manages variation of style within his character work, backgrounding and foregrounding despite the impressive amount of electricity the flat surfaces generate, sublimely confident choices when it comes to staging, particularly in keeping visual interest while building a scene out of mundane story elements. I can't even tell if this is a real place or an imagined, extrapolated Italy with its feuds and monster-like institutions leaning heavily into frame, but the gut feel of the moment to moment interactions roil across the page with power and intensity and counter-intuitive clarity.

I'm not sure I'm ready to review this work yet, but don't let that stop you from seeking it out.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

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



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

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


JUN070263 ARMY @ LOVE #6 (MR) $2.99
This is the only serial comic out this week that I recognized and can say that I like.

I've never seen any of these, and now that I've seen one listed, I really want to.

The first two were perfectly fine books for kids -- maybe not something you yourself would buy to push on a kid, but nothing you'd be disappointed to see a youngster pull from a backpack of their own accord. My guess is that this will appeal to kids younger than those involved in the story because little kids can imagine what it would be like to be that far-off age and have those friendships and those concerns. I'm not sure I can make a guess for significant artistic achievement, though, although some of the cartooning is deft. I'm curious as to how the books' elements of what I call "decency fantasy," an idealized view of the world within a story where events may frustrate but don't thwart and never capsize the largely protected and able protagonist, will play with the series' target audience over time.

This isn't in my bookshelf, so I'm guessing it's new. I'm amused by most of the Donjon translations, although the creative teams have shifted around enough I can't say I'd buy any of them without double-checking (advance hype promises Sfar, Trondheim and Larcenet; indicates Sfar at least). Still, unless I'm missing several books, this volume's mix of satire and vibrant cartooning is the one with which I'd likely head home.


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 am not a good person.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

CBLDF: Gordon Lee Trial Begins Today

imageAccording to the official Comic Book Legal Defense Fund press release, the Gordon Lee trial is underway this morning, August 15. I would guess some people had it earlier confusing Monday's docket-setting day and then a possible site-related delay of same. The Georgia retailer has suffered a number of charges -- many since dropped -- stemming from an incident whereby an historically accurate and non-sensational visage of a naked Pablo Picasso got into the hands of a child taking advantage of a Halloween-related free comics promotion. Today's litigation is on those that remain. Conclusion by the end of this week seems to be a possibility.

from the eventual book of Nick Bertozzi's strip The Salon; the naked Picasso appeared in an earlier on-line iteration
posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

August 14, 2007

OTBP: Never As Bad As You Think

posted 10:12 pm PST | Permalink

My Pet Peeve #2329: Whining About Bad Autobio, Refusing to Name Any Names

imageThis PWCW article by writer A. David Lewis perfectly encapsulates a weird, pervasive and lingering element of modern comics culture: complaining about tons of supposedly lousy autobiographical comics out there, while not providing examples of any. It's a rhetorical stunt that if I had to guess probably sticks around because 1) it's funny, 2) it's easy, and 3) it plays well with both the self-lacerating qualities of many alternative and arts comics readers and the defensiveness that many genre fans exude like flop sweat in an old-timey newspaper strip when it comes to having their tastes challenged.

I would like to make the argument that it, not autobiographical comics, should go away.

Making fun of autobiographical comics has become a facile position for critics and wannabe critics to take. You can make this general argument in snotty comments to the troops like "If I have to read another mopey comic about some guy who wants to talk to a girl, I'll die," or you can make it into a funny comic like Johnny Ryan has, or you can fill your essay with truisms about the difficulties of modern autobiography and making comics like Lewis does at PWCW. There's one big problem, and that's not even getting into Lewis' prickly and unsupported reading of great autobiography in prose or his bizarre definition of memoir or even his offering Walter Conkrite as an exemplar of journalistic excellence. The primary fact remains that when it comes to naming all these supposedly awful autobiographical comics out there, no one, including Lewis, ever seems up to the challenge.

In fact, if you hunt in Lewis' article, the only artists mentioned are brought in for praise, not scorn. Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel, Craig Thompson, Harvey Pekar, Marjane Satrapi, Tom Beland, Joe Matt, Phoebe Gloeckner (she's done decades of comics, btw, not just her recent hybrid work as the article suggests), Jennie Breeden, Joe Sacco, Alex Robinson and Grant Morrison are all complimented. Robert Crumb's mention is neutral. Not a single person or work is brought up in a negative fashion.

Okay, fine, maybe politeness keeps Lewis from actually naming names, although in that case I'd argue refusing to be specific certainly weakens his argument and the seriousness with which we should take his points.

But there's a bigger problem. Look at those names. That's a dozen names, even if you don't add anyone else, like Julie Doucet or Chester Brown or Eddie Freakin' Campbell. Take out Robinson and Morrison because they're described in the article as using autobiography rather than doing it. Limit each cartoonist to a single book or creative effort, which is of course absurd. That's still 10 works.

For there to be such a deluge of crappy autobio that it needs to be singled out repeatedly, by so many people, there should easily be 10 times the number of lousy autobio comics, right? That's to make the normal ratio established by Sturgeon's Law! Really, if autobiographical comics are such a scourge that we need to hear about it so often, it should be easy to rattle off two or three hundred lousy autobiographical comics and their creators. A hundred of them should have equal market penetration, surface skill and impact as the comics Lewis mentions for his argument to work, otherwise you're doing the equivalent of criticizing Broadway for the efforts of your local high school's drama club, but I'd take a straight up list of 300 bad autobiographical cartoonists.

Would anyone care to make and defend such a list?

Of course not.

It's a stupid argument.

There was a brief time around 1992 or so when it seemed like a lot of cartoonists were doing autobiography. I don't think there were actual high numbers of cartoonists doing autobio when compared to the hundreds of cartoonists in the field, but it probably seemed that way. Such works provided a sharp contrast with both the still-dominant fantasy superhero genre at its highest point of unsophisticated stupidity since World War II due to Image and the previous generation's dominant response to such comics through long-form fantasy comics of one type or another which were now mature enough we began to have a grasp on their quality and impact. Also, a lot of that early '90s autobiographical work was potent, a few even groundbreaking, and so probably made the category seem more dominant than it was.

Unfortunately, the too-easy criticism of a long-ago period's minor excesses has stuck around like a rotting animal in comics' drywall, stinking up the place. It's time we let it go. All comics genres are difficult. All comics genres have a minority of great works. There are easily more arguably good autobiographical comics of stature than stridently awful ones.

Like many PWCW articles, this seems like an assignment designed for a byline more than it does an urgent argument about the art form intended to educate and enlighten; most editors require examples, after all. The reason why it deserves to be kicked in the face over and over again instead of dismissed like so many others is because it deigns to be prescriptive, to tell cartoonists what comics to pursue and what kind to avoid. Forget the critical argument if you must, which Lewis loses without scoring a point, and the historical argument for which he fails to show. Artists should make whatever comics they feel compelled to make, and they shouldn't be cowed by half-assed, poorly argued essays that fail to bring the goods.
posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Happy 54th Birthday, Paul Gulacy!

posted 10:08 pm PST | Permalink

I Still Miss Ernie Bushmiller…


... gone 25 years ago today
posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Lynn Johnston Interview

Chris Mautner has posted the full text of the interview that was turned into a feature at his full-time newspaper gig. (Don't let the "part two" fool you; the "part one" is the feature story, not more interview.)

One thing that's interesting in there is that Johnston denies she's planning on one of those big Andrews McMeel complete collections, at least at this point, something I thought might be possible to mark the occasion her strip makes the transition from real-time daily into a flashback feature. With Pogo and now For Better or For Worse off the table, can we consider that initiative dead? Also: Johnston was at one point hiding a little naked man in the strip. If anyone can find one of those naked dudes and .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), I'd be in your debt.

Updated: Chris Mautner writes in to point out that Johnston has an entire site devoted to her naked man, who isn't Anthony, thank God.
posted 10:03 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: 1982 San Diego Con Photos


photo by Alan Light
posted 10:02 pm PST | Permalink

Quick hits
The Oddest Thing With Which Eddie Campbell Drew
The Second Oddest Thing With Which Eddie Campbell Drew

Manga Presented
Politikin Zabavnik Exhibit
McCloud Tour Hits Hawaii
CCI Image Founders Panel Epilogue

Asok Mania
Cool Old Con Poster
The Basis for Mandrake?
Comics Are For Everyone
Paul Pope on Picasso Proto-Comic

Living the Dream
June Sales Analysis
I Hate Your Cartoon
Bill Monroe Opens Web Site
Summer Reading List Includes Comics

TV Blend: Stan Lee
SyFy Portal: Stan Lee
Tandem: Simone Bianchi
Durham News: Dennis Draughon
Branwyn at Walrus Comix: Joe Matt
Business Standard: Vineeth Abraham
Subversive Cross Stitch: Ray Fenwick
Pensacola News Journal: Andy Marlette

Not Comics
Dr. Lat
The Plot Argument
Grow Old, Collect Comics
Profile of Comics Convention Models
Production Company Targets Comics
New Mike Thompson Freep Animation
Cartoonist Now Suspected of Steroids
Cartoonist Wants to Donate Collection
Japanese Pop Culture Huge in Germany
New Yorker Cartoon Captions: The Game

Jellyfish Status
Free On-Line Manga
Smurfs Return to Italy
Jason Rubin to Comics
Shooting War Previewed
More Frazetta Image Comics
Missed It: Yen Press' Fall '07 PR
New Krazy Kat Volume Previewed

Laurel Maury: Various
Richard Bruton: The Other Side
Someone at AfterEllen: Sugarshock
Don MacPherson: The Naked Artist: Comic Book Legends

CR Review: Chance in Hell


Creators: Gilbert Hernandez, Rick Altergott (cover painting)
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, hardcover, 128 pages, 2007, $16.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781560977698 (ISBN13)

imageGilbert Hernandez is one of the best cartoonists in the world, and every project he does deserves attention. Chance in Hell is in a new cycle of books featuring pulp movie stories, I think those movies in which the Fritz character from Love and Rockets played a part. The story concerns a young girl named Empress, whom we first meet as a little girl wandering seemingly unaffected through a wasteland pseudo-community based among the garbage heaps. Although she hardly seems exploited, in fact she is, and the community rallies to protect her as best it can from the worst of it, with horrifying results. This kicks off a cycle of relationships throughout her life where she's protected and cared for, with an ever-widening fissure filled with pain and heartbreak eventually overtaking every situation.

Hernandez has classic storytelling chops, and displays mastery of visual rhythms that probably have more to do with mainstream comics artists of the '60s than they do the latest art-comic hero. Perhaps most noticeable in Chance in Hell is the cartoonist's use of full page or nearly full page moments to drive home an important point or beat. Most of these are thrilling, chords played across a set of visual strings that feel rich and resonant. One could probably write a paper on how Hernandez approximates film here with a variety of panel structures rather than a static one that simply represents screen. Mostly what intrigues is Hernandez's ability to delve into really dark subjects, in this case a criticism of society as a mechanism for control and order, no matter how fully implemented into the lives of its people.

posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Sunday Pages Comparison


I really enjoyed this article on the relative size of Sunday comics pages, one of those agreed-upon pieces of conventional wisdom where the details truly matter and therefore should be more common knowledge.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Lynn Johnston May Extend Current FBOFW Incarnation for Liz/Anthony

This interview-driven feature by comics-savvy journalist and critic Chris Mautner with Lynn Johnston of mega-client boasting strip For Better or For Worse surprisingly deepens rather than lightens some of the recent confusion regarding the strip's move into a hybrid form rather than concluding. This can't have been her intention. Johnston recently wrote letters to key editors to remind her current client base that the strip was not retiring as some articles had phrased it, but was moving into a hybrid form where runs of classic strips would be mixed into current-day frameworks where the characters would stop aging and settle into a specific age.

Mautner's article, however, indicates Johnston may extend a perceived-to-exist (perhaps only for Johnston personally) but not yet announced deadline for ending new, continuing story-lines. This is to allow to breathe and develop a controversial plot thread whereby daughter Liz returns home and reunites with early boyfriend Anthony. So other than the facts that we know what the hybrid will look like, and how strongly Johnston feels that these not be perceived as retiring the strip, we're not sure when the current incarnation of her hit strip will end, or if there could even be carryover into the new form.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 64th Birthday, John Costanza!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Happy 57th Birthday, Gary Larson!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Marvel/Dabel Brothers Arrangement Concludes; Marvel Retains Rights

This is like a Jim Shooter-era story lurching out of the past in its mustache-twirling implications and odd, related but pertinent facts, but in the end it feels very now. According to a press release, the arrangement between Marvel and the Dabel Brothers studio has ended. This ends speculation caused by an empty Dabel Brothers booth during all of the recent Wizard World Chicago event, which to me falls just short of beheading the studio owners and parading their heads around on sticks in terms of symbolically indicating a split. Empty booths are funny even when unintentional, like that old trick of leaving a chair empty for someone you know won't show up at a debate. And, just to make a number of people do the Little Rascals surprise face quickly followed by the "Of course that's what happened" TV detective face, Marvel will continue to publish all of the titles that DB brought to the table in the original arrangement, such as Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter and Hedge Knight.

The original deal indicated a more devoted expression of Marvel's intermittent favoring of outsourced work, and was seen by some as a capitulation to the wider-genre demands of the bookstore market. My initial reaction is that it now looks like this was sort of a bookstore-focused rights acquisition followed with a service contract, and it's the latter relationship that ended, which is important only in that it puts on display the company's general unwillingness to work with contracts not owned by them. That could all change once I actually gather information and learn stuff, though. My second hunch is that maybe Marvel wants to have an arm like this, but wants a different company fulfilling that role, perhaps one of the groups/lines currently with Image or a bigger stand-alone company. So a follow-up announcement wouldn't be a huge surprise My third is that since this is a bunch of licensing agreements that have seemingly moved from one company to another, and not original creations, Dabel Brothers -- no stranger to jumping from here to there -- should have plenty of opportunity to rebound strongly.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Peter Blegvad!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Collective Memory: WWC 2007

imageLinks to stories, eyewitness accounts and resources concerning the 2007 Wizard World: Chicago, held August 9 through August 13 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois.

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


Location of Show
Web Site

Blog Entries
B. Clay Moore
Kevin Cannon
Matt Brady
Matt Silady

Message Boards
Image Comics 01
Image Comics 02

News Story Indexes

Other News Stories and Columns
Chicago Tribune
Comics and More

Matt Silady




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posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Sean Phillips Inks
CCI Quick Draw Videos

SPX Announces Guests
One Man's Hype Fatigue
Jim Woodring Lecture Report
Jim Woodring Lecture Picture Set
Why Cons May Like Crowds and Lines

Nerdiest Blog Post Ever
Ask Stan Lee a Question
Bryan Lee O'Malley's Ninjadungeon 1991
Jim Vance on Experience With Art Forger

Awards Deadlines
Please Help the CBLDF
Go Work For Daryl Cagle
Marvel's 2Q Results Conference Call

Mr. Media: Joe Sinnott
Newsarama: Shaun Tan
Cartoonist Explains Killed Cartoon

Not Comics
When Retailers Blog
Satrapi as Part of Trend
Sucks to Be a Bookstore
Sean Phillips Shelf Porn 01
Sean Phillips Shelf Porn 02
Mark Evanier on Original Art Sales
Film Connection Drives WWC Post-Coverage

Crickets #2 On Way (08-10)
Hataki Begins Serialization 8-28
King Features Launching Arctic Circle
Scott Nickel Launches Two on GoComics
Cartoon Island Stunt Drops First Two Strips

Rob Clough: Various
David Welsh: Various
Jog: Yesterday's Tomorrows
Shaenon Garrity: Yakitate!! Japan
Graeme McMillan: Countdown #38
Erica Friedman: The Last Uniform, Vol. 1
Andrew Wheeler: Notes From a War Story
Brian Heater: Habitual Entertainment: Others
Johanna Draper Carlson: Sara Ryan's Comics

August 13, 2007

CR Review: DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest: Legion of Super-Heroes #8


Creators: Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, George Klein, Dave Cockrum, Jerry Serpe, Bob LeRose, Mike Grell, Cary Bates
Publishing Information: DC Comics, Digest, 98 pages, April 1981, 95 cents
Ordering Numbers:

This is a book from an extended effort in the early 1980s by DC Comics to put out digest-sized comics, the sort of thing that Archie has done so well over the years -- impulse buys for young readers at the grocery or drug store that can be racked in a variety of ways close to the check-out line. The book reprints a trio of classic Jim Shooter/Curt Swan efforts from the late 1960s and a couple of Dave Cockrum-drawn comics from about a half-decade later. They are perfectly fine and serviceable comic books. The Legion of Super-Heroes and Superboy get into a certain amount of trouble, with huge world-at-risk stakes but nothing that manifests itself in a way that's dire or unpleasant, and then they work their way back, but employing some sort of mechanism introduced within the story or re-aiming one of their own powers in a way that makes the problem go away.

imageThe late 1960s through about the period that the Dave Cockrum efforts encompass was a good period for the future teen super-team, who have one of the most passionate fan bases in comics. Except for a period of comics done by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen using this era's stories as a sort of springboard that proved to be the most popular period for the series overall, subsequent events to match the a more general audience with the concept have been doomed to failure. Reading these old stories, what might strike the reader is how the entire presentational style is different. While many scenes are shown, and Shooter has fun with the fearsome Validus design, others are both shown and told. It's a kind of lead-by-the-hand storytelling style that's no longer in vogue, and with the inundation of more sophisticated styles I'm not sure it can come back, but it must have been a great boon for the kids for whom this was a first comics reading experience.

Like many comics of its era, the Legion work trades in both showing something viscerally and through dialog but also by explaining and hinting and unpacking what you're really seeing. Whatever concept is grafted onto the Legion, I'm not sure we can ever go back to the sunny appeal of having someone sit down and explain the future to you.

posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Mike Wieringo, RIP


Popular superhero artist Mike Wieringo died of a sudden heart attack yesterday at age 44. Newsarama has the story of his passing here and a follow-up thread of industry remembrances here.
posted 5:12 am PST | Permalink

Syria Hampers Ali Farzat Collection?

imageThere's only the one article saying so, and it's a summary of a blog citing a newspaper report, and the subject in question is I believe a 2005 book which doesn't exactly scan with this being breaking news, but if all of that is on the up and up Syrian authorities may be disrupting the distribution of Ali Farzat's A Pen of Damascus Steel. Farzat, a Syrian cartoonist currently publishing through Al-Watan in Kuwait, has a history of criticizing the lack of freedom of expression in parts of the Arab world.
posted 3:22 am PST | Permalink

Michael George To Fight Extradition

A couple of substantive updates late last week in the case of Pennsylvania retailer and Pittsburgh Comicon organizer Michael Ralph George, arrested on charges from Michigan authorities in Macomb County that he murdered his then-wife in 1990 in his Michigan comic shop. First, George will fight extradition from Pennsylvania to Michigan. Second, he claims he's innocent of the charges facing him. Third, he faces one count each of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and using a firearm during a felony; he may face charges from a suspected false report regarding comic books he claimed were stolen at the scene of the crime that was originally put forward as a motive in the slaying.

A couple of background notes that you can get by reading between the lines in the above links: prosecutors suspect that George committed the crime to get out of the marriage in order to pursue another relationship; defense attorneys will hit on lack of evidence.
posted 3:18 am PST | Permalink

Happy 88th Birthday, Jim Mooney!

posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

Lio Quietly Hits The 275-Client Mark

This article at Editor & Publisher notes that Mark Tatulli's 18-month old Lio has reached the 275-client market, which makes it a solid success and indicates it should be around for a while. One strength is that its silent format makes for an easier sale to overseas markets, including several in Asia. I thought Lio was a winner in the post-Fox Trot race for daily space last winter, although no feature absolutely killed there.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Happy 55th Birthday, Donna Barr!

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Harishchandra Lachke, 1919-2007

Harishchandra Lachke, a cartoonist who worked for more than eight decades becoming one of the most popular cartoonists in Central India, died on July 24. He was 88. His cartoon juxtaposing a pigeon and an atomic bomb was published in Times of India on August 17, 1945. It is one of the more famous cartoon concepts regarding the Atomic Age, and made Lachke the first Indian cartoonist to have work featured prominently on the front page of the Times during British rule of India. He published over 1000 cartoons throughout his career, during which he was also an animator and a prose humorist. He is survived by two children.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 47th Birthday, Bret Blevins!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Oscar Jackson Smyrl Jr., 1923-2007

Longtime illustrator and newspaper cartoonist Oscar Jackson "Jak" Smyrl died Tuesday at his home in Camden, South Carolina. He was born in Camden in 1923, and spent the majority of his childhood and teen years in the throes of the Great Depression. It was there he learned to draw as a low-cost amusement source for his various siblings.

Smyrl attended Auburn University before World War II. After serving in the US Marines in the Pacific and then for a while after the war stationed in China, he sought further education in Pennsylvania and California and eventually landed a job with the State and Columbia Record. He would become staff artist at those publications for 32 years, contributing memorable comic maps to State Magazine and sketches to the Smokey the Bear fire prevention campaign. He was also a noted caricaturist.

Jak Smyrl is survived by his wife, Betty. They married in 1958.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 41st Birthday, Shannon Wheeler!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Ivan Brunetti: I Almost Drew Nancy

Winners in Bursa Competition
Retailer on On-Line Discounting
Possibilities for Amazon Flexible Payments?
What If The Charts Were Corporate Capeless?

Bookslut: Anne Ishii
Wizard: Matt Fraction
Wizard: Douglas Wolk
The Gazette: Marc Jett
Newsarama: Kieron Gillen Dallas Middaugh
Sequential Tart: Gail Simone
Sequential Tart: Tony Bedard
Sequential Tart: Renee French
Sequential Tart: Jeremy Tinder
Blog@Newsarama: Brian Hibbs

Why Does Image Still Exist?

Jog: Various
Jog: Various
Jog: Robot Dreams
Gary Tyrell: Flight, Vol. 4
Graeme McMillan: Various
Abhay Khosla: Multiple Warheads #1

August 12, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Doug TenNapel



Douglas TenNapel is a potent comics maker. To my mind he's a cartoonist working in the manner most reminiscent of the furious indy-comic ink throwers of the first half of the 1980s, that period in comics history when ambition and productivity were a forced marriage whether you approved of the union or not. TenNapel's latest in his recent, furious run of original graphic novels over the last half-decade is called Black Cherry. It's an odd mix of anachronistic visuals, modern setting, ugly curse words, humor so broad Benny Hill might express disbelief a scene could be played that way, meticulously staged set pieces, straight-faced explorations of faith from a series of right angles, a dash of science fiction, a dollop of horror and a heavy amount of old-fashioned American violence. There are few comics out there like it.

One day I'd like to dig deeper into some of the issues we begin to get into here, because certainly there's much to discuss, but for this piece I wanted TenNapel's point of view in order to facilitate insight into the work. Speaking of which, I dithered while assembling the questions for this interview, coming back to them off and on over a long period of time. I'm not sure why. For his part, TenNapel was lightning quick to respond. I think that suggests something about the spontaneity with which he's creating, although it's fairly obvious in the work, too. I greatly enjoyed our discussion.


TOM SPURGEON: Doug, you've been really prolific since turning to graphic novels in a more dedicated fashion a few years ago. How much of your work time is devoted to comics? Can I ask what your work day is like in general?

DOUGLAS TENNAPEL: I've learned that it's never a good time to write and draw anything. Life has a way of making that decision to write today difficult. I have "real jobs" to do, I'm neglecting my wife and four children, the house is falling apart etc. So to some degree, I have to just hit the comic at least once a year no matter what.

My life always seems flexible enough to squeeze in a graphic novel a year and that's even during some busy years. The reason is that I write and draw comics from a different place that isn't being used at all in my other life pursuits. For instance, the graphic novel is one of the few places where I have to answer to nobody... that already cuts the work time in half. These stories are also coming from a pretty deep pool in me that's pent up, untapped my whole life. When I turn that faucet on it only has one mode-- full blast. I find energy I didn't know I had to make the graphic novel.

My work day in general starts with my kids waking me at 6 AM. That means I'm writing and drawing by 7 AM. By 9 AM I'm at my peak and finishing up by noon. The rest of the day is for family, friends, "real jobs" and even then I can usually wrap up my work by 7 PM to help get the kids a bath. I've found there is no room for TV, video games, travel or non-essentials. I don't ever feel guilty for wasting time because I can't think of the last time I wasted an hour of my waking life.

imageSPURGEON: You make an interesting statement right up front in your graphic novel about its use of language and nudity. Have you experienced a negative reaction to these kinds of story elements in the past?

TENNAPEL: I've had a lot of flack for using "damn" from Conservative Christians so I knew I'd get some criticism from my more conservative readers. I don't blame them at all, by the way, since I think their position is reasonable in a culture that has always pushed the envelope on making the taboo the norm. A recent fan said that he would be passing on Black Cherry and I said, "Skip this one with my support... but check out my next book which will be for everyone."

SPURGEON: The design to Black Cherry echoes the old EC comics. Are you a fan of EC? What do you feel your new book has in common with those comics?

TENNAPEL: I'm not so much a fan of EC... I'm more respectful of those works. They have these dark stories, usually stand-alone where they just dive into a dark place and try to shake up the reader, then get out of the story. The whole premise attracted ballsy story-telling that sacrificed care for power. Black Cherry is a very careless story in that I really tried to get to the hard core bottom shelf of my person as quickly as possible. I also didn't care what publishers, my audience or my family might think about the story. I don't mean that I don't respect these influences, just that I thought being overly conscious of what they think would hurt Black Cherry.

SPURGEON: Given the potential offense some might take in the material, do you feel that there are any limitations you need to place on your depiction of such characters and setting? Or to put it another way, Doug: do you really need all the jokes about gays in order to accurately portray that world?

TENNAPEL: I'm an equal-opportunity offender, and I didn't feel the need to edit out the gay jokes any more than the cussing. I did put two limitations on myself that I just couldn't stomach in the material and that's using the word "nigger" and showing genitals or the actual act of sex. It was only because I thought that doing that would be so distracting from the story that it would halt all of my readers pulling them out of the world for that moment.

In the cultural machismo world of men, gay jokes come up often. I don't know if I needed as much of it as I used, but it seemed character-appropriate in every time it happens in Black Cherry. "Faggot" is a big word to us, but it's not a big word to the L.A. Mafia and a bunch of urban gang-bangers. There are no men actually practicing homosexual behavior in the story so I'm not making a comment on how we should treat gays any more than I'm laying down an example for how we should treat race or religion. If anything, I didn't put enough gay jokes in to accurately portray that world from what I've seen of that world.


SPURGEON: What do you feel is the artist's responsibility to draw the line? You're not showing hardcore sex, so you're obviously making some choices on what to show and what not to show. Do you feel there's any danger in presenting a world and endorsing a worldview or philosophy through what you choose to emphasize in your comic?

TENNAPEL: I feel absolutely responsible for every word or image I put on paper. When I sign my name to something I say, "I endorse this"...but if a fictional character makes gay jokes, lies, uses drugs, mocks Catholicism, commits murder, it's not an endorsement of behavior. The story is pretty clear that all of the characters are pretty jacked up people and I hope the take-away is that these are not models for behavior. In fact, of all the bad behaviors shown in Black Cherry I'd say that gay and racial bigoted statements rank pretty low compared to demon worship, murder, heroin use, etc.

SPURGEON: Black Cherry features this incredible array of kind of cartoony character types: a Mafioso soldier-style hood, black gangsters, priests, strippers, even creatures not of this world. Can you talk about how you went about building this setting and these people? Did the story demand this many character types? Do you start with characters or setting you want to use and assemble a story from there?

TENNAPEL: It all started with the straight up crime story of the first act. That's pretty typical stuff where a criminal deals with loyalty issues between competing bosses, etc. The same with the troubled girl, this is standard stuff in crime noir. I found a lot of Catholicism within the mafia stories, probably due to the gothic nature of those worlds as well as a tie between Italians and their faith of choice.

But after the first act I gave myself permission to twist the genre. A stolen body isn't human, the mafia has supernatural ties and once a few of those fantastic elements get into a story they jack things up pretty quickly. I didn't want the wheels to fall completely off the wagon so I forced these fantastic elements to serve the crime noir structure. I don't want to give away the ending but it is a by-the-books crime noir ending that proves the whole story was serving the genre canon, not the twists I added into it.

I'm a plot guy so I tend to not let my characters run off on too long a leash. It probably makes my characters a little stunted but it makes my plots bigger and more complicated without getting myself into story trouble. Some find the graphic novel's length a great way for characters to meander even farther down the road before they have to wrap things up but I find the long form suits bigger plots the best.

SPURGEON: While we're on the subject, what was the specific genesis of Black Cherry?

TENNAPEL: Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Miller's Crossing and Sunset Blvd. I like what those movies have to say about humanity but I knew I couldn't pull off a straight up crime noir work. I thought it would be a fun arena to do my thing and out came Black Cherry.


SPURGEON: One of the obvious themes to Black Cherry that you even explicitly acknowledge I think at one point, is that people tend to have serious spiritual concerns or thoughts on their place in the universe, no matter their station in life. Is there anything in your own life that led you to that point of view?

TENNAPEL: My biggest beef with the portrayal of Christianity in comic fiction is how it is presented as a thin world view. Black Cherry has protagonists wrestle knee deep with the cost of sins, regret, guilt and what happens when forgiveness isn't detected by the five senses. They don't just laugh it off and say, "Ha-ha! Well, I'm done with that philosophical crisis. When's lunch?" They find the tough economy of Christian forgiveness as hard to swallow, their doubts wreck their conscience, they find their old life-styles inescapable... and appealing.

My personal life... needs to remain personal. But I don't think the regrets that keep me up at night are any different than any of my readers. I think profound guilt over past sins, even forgiven sins, are things that every person can relate to. Maybe I'm projecting and if that's the case I won't be the first author to project his idiosyncratic dilemmas into his own work. I've found that I can be flip about bad things I've said and done and then I find those things keep me up at night ten years later.


SPURGEON: There's a ton of humor on display in Black Cherry. There may be more funny moments in this new book than I can remember in any of your other works. Can you talk about your humorous influences, both in comics and in general? Do you have any particular role-models? Is there anyone you feel is extremely funny?

TENNAPEL: I love everything funny. I have the highest respect for physical actors: Keaton, Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy because it looks really hard to do. My role models are the Coen Borthers because they're so good at presenting humor while expositing a convoluted plot. Guys I think are extremely funny are Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and the gang. They think fast and surprise their audience with just about everything they do. There's also a nervous tension with them where you fear what they're going to do and say, like that drunk uncle that might just jump up on the Thanksgiving dinner table and pull down his pants.

It's a guilty pleasure, not humor I'm proud to enjoy, but there you go.

I agree that BC is one of my funniest graphic novels and it's probably because of the R rating makes it easier to tell jokes at the crotch level. G rated humor is the hardest to do and the one I respect the most. R rated humor is the easiest to do and the one I respect the least.


SPURGEON: Do you believe that demons and angels play an active role in earthly matters?



SPURGEON: Do you believe in life on other planets?


SPURGEON: How does your belief or non-belief in these matters come to play in your using them in the comics?

TENNAPEL: It doesn't that much. I don't believe in Bigfoot but he's in my comics. Even the Christianity I present in my books is not the Christianity I believe. The Christianity I believe doesn't necessarily make for interesting graphic novels and in the end I want to weave a good story.

I don't fear using Christianity in my books and I know there are people who are trying to make that a "no-no". Almost all of the criticisms I get about using Christianity in my works come from our modern Relativist world view. They will fall into these kinds of critiques: "Who are you to judge?" "You actually think your world view applies to everyone else." "Your Christianity is fine if you keep it to yourself but don't march it out in public."

There's an implication in a philosophical world view called "Materialism" where only empirical (things we see, touch, taste...) materials are true. If I imply that non-empirical things are true and true in a sense for everyone and not just my little Christian ghetto then some are conditioned to attack. Authors like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are shaping pop culture to not only disregard the Christian world view, but to call it dangerous, delusional and on par with Radical Islamic terror.

Deep down inside, I work hard to completely ignore voices that can't tolerate my world view. I tolerate their world view... and tolerance is in no way endorsement. Okay, I feel like I'm really flying off the handle here. Sorry, but if you want to crack into how my world view influences my work this is where we're going to go.


SPURGEON: How do you approach a page? Is the overall design of an individual page an important factor to you?

TENNAPEL: The overall design is important to me but I really stink at that part of comic art. Guys like Eisner, Mignola and Miller really know how to put a page together. They make works of art that if you squint the panels cohere into a single, powerful graphic statement. I have a really hard time with this because I really do compose at the panel level and not much higher. This makes for ugly, random or unclear full page compositions. We all have something to work on and this is one thing on my long list of things I need to get better at.

SPURGEON: In Black Cherry, there's a lot of three-tiered pages, many that run the width of the page. How big a factor on each page is pacing the action?

TENNAPEL: I got the three panel formula from Scott Morse...and it's more a short-cut than a feature of the page. I knew I was going to need big panels because I was inking with a huge bamboo horse-hair brush. Mignola can put 16 panels on a page when drawing with a Micron pen and his pencils are super-tight. But I knew BC was going to be loose, so I geared the workspace for speed and expression over appeal and accuracy.

Pacing isn't difficult since I work form tight script break-downs and some thumb-nails. I feel like my pacing of late has been suffering and I'm not sure why. It could be that I'm forcing action into a plot instead of letting the characters breath in their particular situation. Again, this isn't my strength and I've got something to work on for the rest of my life. I'll go to digital drawing someday and that will make editing and changing panels around a piece of cake.


SPURGEON: You use a silhouette effect several times in the course of Black Cherry. Is there a certain reaction you want from the reader when you use that approach, or is it more of an intuitive act on your part. Why are those specific panels done in silhouette?

TENNAPEL: Silhouettes look like ghosts to me, you know? They character is represented by a featureless body so it turns the moment into an icon and I LOVE IT. I don't always have a reason for doing it but it always feels good to put one in when I do. I can usually decide to go silho' at the pencil stage... when all of the information can be communicated without the interior detail that panel just became a candidate.

imageSPURGEON: Doug, I like the way that you plot out your set pieces: like the fight with the jilted lover and her husband near the book's beginning, or Eddie swiping the body, or Black Cherry's dream where Eddie pays her. Do you pay special intention in staging a special scene like a big fight, or does that just naturally flow with the rest of the narrative? Do those scenes get special consideration?

TENNAPEL: Yeah, they are meticulously choreographed... usually for clarity without sacrificing impact. In those cases you cite they were probably particularly convoluted in the script where I say, "I don't know where I am in the room" so I'll do an overhead schematic of the room, even placing furniture, doors and windows so I can block out a scene. Those tend to be more cinematic moments since I'm so influenced by composing for animation where everything is exaggerated for both drama and clarity.

SPURGEON: How do people respond to your pursuit of spiritual issues through your comics? Has any reaction ever surprised you?

TENNAPEL: No matter the response, they are always passionate. These topics cut a reader to the core and all of their offenses, defenses and deep feelings are usually hit at some level. I get two responses that really surprise me. One is by the Christian kids who read my work and tell me, "I didn't think a Christian was allowed to tell these cool stories. Now I have a new perspective on my pursuit of the arts." That's by far my most common response.

The other response I get from atheists or ex-Christians who can appreciate the work even though it doesn't agree with their world view. Some of my biggest fans are atheists. I think deep down inside, they have a soft spot for the religious culture they may have been raised with. Some appreciate the role Christianity has had on the west and don't buy into the modern paranoia of America's favorite religion.

At this point, nothing surprises me. I love to read what people think of the work and given the variety of responses, I think I'm onto something that just isn't present in other graphic novels. I didn't set out to do X or Y but I don't run from whatever story I choose to tell either.

SPURGEON: Something I think you do well is balance a kind of illustrator's approach, where your images are nice to look at, with a sense of movement and flow that's reminiscent of animation. How do you balance making an image that people want to pore over while at the same time communicating a certain amount of activity from panel to panel?

TENNAPEL: I learned how to draw comics by being an animator. Even "Silhouetting" is a foundational principle in animation. I studied design and composition most of my adult life so I have those elements working in me... at least at the panel level. I don't find a dichotomy between communicating story and making images that hold up to a long viewing. I'd say my images are better at telling story than hold up to being studied for more than a few moments. Comics as a medium means that every image only exists to tell the story. It's not an art contest and it's not my very best work by far. I know the panel is done when it does the job of telling the story, not when it impresses my art friends or even the reader.

imageSPURGEON: You've been an important part of Image's revival in the last few years.

TENNAPEL: That's funny because I've always seen Image as been an important part of my arrival in comics.

SPURGEON: Do you feel comfortable at Image? What is that company's greatest appeal to you?

TENNAPEL: I feel very comfortable at Image. Part of that comfort is their deal with me which is no deal at all. I can leave or they can quit publishing me whenever and that means we're both about making just that graphic novel and getting it out to the public. Image holds hands very well with my philosophy on most of my graphic novels. I think if I ever needed a sizable advance on a book I might part company with them for just that book and I think Image would be the first to be okay with that.

Image's greatest appeal is that they love comics. They didn't get into comics to make money on my movie deals and all of the Image gang have their own creations to work on. It's weird, because even though they are fellow comic creators they aren't in competition with me. It's not presented as a zero-sum gain where their careers are somehow threatened because [my] career goes good or bad.

SPURGEON: Do you feel a kinship with other Image creators? Which ones?

TENNAPEL: I feel a kindred spirit with Todd [McFarlane] because he's seen as a bit of a prick and he just creates his own stuff. I don't get the sense that he gets up in the morning to take a poll about what the industry thinks of him before he dives in and does his thing. I also like Erik Larsen a lot because he's like the responsible daddy-figure over there. His own comic work is mind blowing when you consider his non-comic duties at Image. I guess every comic artist has a hyphen by his job title in some way.

SPURGEON: What's next?



*Black Cherry, Doug TenNapel, Image, soft cover, 192 pages, 1582408300, 9781582408309, July 2007, $17.99


posted 12:30 am PST | Permalink

August 11, 2007

Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: Brian Hibbs concludes series on in-store POS technology transition

* go, read: Robert Beerbohm on why he won't exhibit at WizardWorld shows

* go, buy: lovely Rian Hughes art cards

* go, look: boss Jim Woodring storm cloud

* go, read: ADD interviews James Howard Kunstler (not comics)
posted 10:20 pm PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Nathan Stapley

posted 10:10 pm PST | Permalink

Not Comics: Happy 20th, NHS ‘87!

posted 10:02 pm PST | Permalink

First Thought of the Day

It's weird to go to your hometown comic book store.
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink

August 10, 2007

CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from August 4 to August 10, 2007:

1. Pittsburgh Comicon organizer and retailer Michael George arrested for the murder of his then-wife in 1990.

2. Tintin Au Congo will be investigated after racism complaint filed by student against publisher.

3. Time Warner wins latest round of Superboy court battles, with judge vacating earlier decision and some of the facts in evidence.

Winner Of The Week
Marvel Publishing, now with proof the last year's gone really well.

Loser Of The Week
The Siegel Family, back to court against Time Warner

Quote Of The Week
"Just because my deadline isn't through a big syndicate that's paying, it doesn't mean that there's not the exact same amount of pressure. Because in essence, I have, oh gosh, I don't know, 30 to 60,000 different 'syndicates' every day who are waiting for me to put up my work. And if I don't put it up, they're less inclined to support it. So I have to deliver no matter what." -- Chris Onstad

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

Happy 43rd Birthday, Jim Lee!

posted 10:04 pm PST | Permalink

CR Review: The Princes of Time


Creator: Jon Vermilyea
Publishing Information: Self-Published, newspaper tabloid, 16 pages, 2007
Ordering Numbers:

There's not much to Jon Vermilyea's The Princes of Time. It's a solid example of silent, fantasy storytelling closer to Mat Brinkman than Frank Frazetta, presented in the free tabloid newspaper style that gets my vote for most under-appreciated comics format. Three pipe-smoking, suit-wearing, and likely men's social club attending professors named Gordon Hammie, Ashley Glasscock and Barnabus Conrad go back in time to some point when monsters roamed the earth. They draw the ire of a local wizard, and fight both some local monsters and, finally, the wizard himself.

The joy in The Princes of Time can be found in the details, and its strength is in Vermilyea's imaginative picture-making. The professors drive a car with three steering wheels, and when they defend themselves it's with karate chops that split monsters in two or with "atomic snuff" that melts them outright from a super-inferno deep inside, Miyazaki-style. The monsters and wizard are a lot of fun to look at, with grotesque elements that stretch border to border. Vermilyea also makes great use of panel depth, pushing creatures forward and backwards in a way that adds a lot of visual interest. In the end, this is a trifle, but a pretty cool one, something from a back-issue of a Dragon Magazine in a world where Gary Panter and not Gary Gygax worked on Dungeons and Dragons.

There's a PDF of the comic available through the artist's web site. I'm afraid to go there, because it keeps blowing up my computer, but it's easily google-able.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

Friday Distraction: Stupid Comics Archive

posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Anne Ishii Leaving Vertical, Inc.

According to an e-mailed announcement, popular Vertical, Inc. marketing manager Anne Ishii is leaving that company, effective later this month. She will be replaced in the position by Steve Vrattos. Ishii was a key figure in the company's move into long-form comics work, particularly in presenting ambitious, hard to categorize works like Ode to Kirihito to the comics and mainstream press. Like so many other folks in comics, we will miss working with Anne and wish her all the best.
posted 7:18 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

News Free Comics Shuts Down

Alan Gardner at Daily Cartoonist catches a mention that Randall Vanfossen's attempt to do a mail-order service featuring strip comics without the newspaper surrounding it (which I believe is there to keep the comics page dry) is now off the table, before getting to the publication stage. I guess what happened is that a subscription model was floated, but the reaction was so small it not only didn't raise capital for the project it outright indicated there was going to be little interest. Any money raised will be returned.

I understand looking at sales figures and deciding not to do a project, and Vanfossen mentions he had enough capital on hand to do a couple of years if there had been more significant interest. Still, it's hard not to be reminded of all those instances in comics where a publisher doesn't bring the capital to the table necessary to launch an idea, support it, and make a successful model that will eventually attract customers because they believe it's a good one. I think if you look at the most successful things in comics, almost all of them lost money for an extended period at their start. I hope that someone in the future will try different publishing models with the strip form, and get further along in their plans.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Cameron Stewart

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Barry Bonds Cartoons

The Barry Bonds as Home Run King story with its backdrop of steroids and never-quite-convincing underlying theme of asserted racism in coverage was kind of a compelling one in that the story when it finally burst into flame never quite matched most sports-followers expectations of the bonfire being built, wood plank by wood plank, by hundreds of sports writers and pundits.

Still, as always when a cultural moment flowers, there's Cagle's helpful round-up of related editorial cartoons, and Editor & Publisher has a piece up on the subject.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 52nd Birthday, Eddie Campbell!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: Bring Out Your Dead

I'm a huge sucker for historical round-ups like this one from the AV Club on memorable comic strip deaths. Kudos to the writers for remembering John Darling, that dead bird from Calvin & Hobbes and Mary Gold (from The Gumps); demerits for leaving off Raven Sherman, a prominent character from Terry and the Pirates that died in I think October 1941. My aunt talked about Raven Sherman 35 years after this happened; she, like many girls, followed strips with a soap opera element the way high school girls of my era videotaped The Young and the Restless.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Mike Manley's Tarzan Boards

OSU Weekend Approaching
Permanent Display Space in Bangalore
Schulz Museum Kicks Off 5-Year Events

Scary Don Heck Heads

PWCW: Eijoro Shimada
SuicideGirls: Matt Fraction Charles Vess

Not Comics
Neil Gaiman's Star on Rise
Scott Adams Mentoring Cartoonist
Mike Carey Short-Listed For Prose Award

Fantagraphics' On-Line Archive
D&Q Offering Phoenix Comics Art Show Catalog
Someone Should Buy Dave Lasky These Comics

Brian Bethel: Spent
Richard Bruton: Various
Timothy Hodler: Various
Paul O'Brien: Metal Men #1
Don MacPherson: Various Oni
Chris Mautner: Levitation, Wire Mothers


August 9, 2007

CR Review: Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics #13


Creators: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber, Paul Reinman, Artie Simek, Don Heck
Publishing Information: Marvel, comic book, 64 pages, 1967, $0.25
Ordering Numbers:

The amazing thing to me about 1960s Marvel isn't that Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and company could launch a line of superhero comics that were much more entertaining and lively than DC's stiffer, more classic funnybooks. That was going to be done by someone if those books stayed profitable. What's remarkable is that those books developed past that initial period of crude counterpoint to as visually sophisticated and accomplished in their scripting and storytelling as anything DC's better-paying outfit could manage. It was that move from market alternative to market rival that really put Marvel's superheroes on the map, not the various series as initially sprung from Jack Kirby's or Stan Lee's or even Martin Goodman's head. It's a story of comic book execution that too often gets told as one of character creation inspiration. An irony of today's market is that while selling their books to an audience increasingly made up of longtime fans, the sales base has almost no patience for slow growth of the kind that created the books they enjoyed in the first place.

Marvels Collectors' Item Classics has a unique pedigree in a lot of ways -- Douglas Wolk says it was the first item to label itself for collectors, and more generally Marvel's continuity-heavy comics engendered a perceived value for past stories that was a not-insignificant factor in the modern back-issues market. In issue #13 of the reprint comic, the reader sees snapshots of a number of series in development. The Fantastic Four's issue-long fight with a Super Skrull hints at the blend of comedy and science fiction yet to come, and helps nail down a useful motif of the superhero team as overmatched underdogs. An Iron Man story plays to Don Heck's strengths with a lot of figure drawing in a more sedate non-action setting and also delves slightly into the areas of espionage and Cold War politics where the comic seemed to have ambitions that never quite worked. A Dr. Strange story featuring a battle between the Sorcerer Supreme and dream-baddie Nightmare nails down one extremely effective thing that feature does: shows very simplistic, fantastic notions in a way that counts on comics' lurid qualities to ratchet up the tension. In this particular tale, the simple notion is the Unstoppable Monster. There are other comics; all of them together hint at the Marvel juggernaut of the middle 1960s. It's odd how little on display has been exploited in the years since.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

All Industry Eyes Fall On Chicago


Actually, not all industry eyes. The Wizard World shows have more of a specific focus than other prominent comics-related conventions, tending to spotlight the mainstream comic book publishers and related show business concerns. Well, okay, pretty much Marvel takes the main stage at these things, with DC in second -- and not really even a close second, but second like the way Richie Cunningham was the second most popular character on Happy Days. Everybody else falls somewhere between Ralph Malph and Jenny Piccalo, except for the alternative publishers, some of whom haven't exhibited in years (or ever), making them Chuck Cunningham.

Extended crappy metaphors showing my age aside, Wizard's Chicago show has some interesting backstage elements as an industry event worth watching. At one point a couple of years back, Wizard's convention arm seemed on a mighty roll, with some thought that Chicago had supplanted San Diego as the best mainstream comics show and rumors that the company might challenge CCI on their southern California turf. A couple of years of Reed Exhibitions picking the New York plum right underneath Wizard's nose, so many professionals backing Heroes Con at the idea of a competing con's expense, new hires, and, finally, general malaise at the smaller shows make it a whole new ballgame.

Wizard will move the Chicago show out of its role as the San Diego Hangover event and back towards its early to mid-summer roots starting next year, but I think they need a big, buzz-worthy event to give them some momentum in doing so. I could see a time in the very near future where this is Wizard's only show, or at least their only one that matters, and for them to stay in the con business it needs to do well every year for the next few.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Hal Foster Advertising Art

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Clearer Picture in Michael George Case

As these stories tend to develop, a few more details have slipped out on the arrest Pittsburgh Comicon organizer and Pennsylvania retailer Michael George for the 1990 of his then-wife at a retail establishment he owned in Michigan. Reading this local piece from a bit earlier in the week we find out the scope of the Michigan investigation into the cold case, the fact that there may have been new details about where the gun came from, and a family member lets slip that it seems as if her family thought George a suspect for quite some time now. Next up for George is an extradition hearing; I suspect there will be some news about the status of the Pittsburgh Comicon coming up as well. There may be some right now, and I just haven't seen it yet.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Happy 62nd Birthday, Posy Simmonds!

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Ralph’s Comic Corner Burglarized

While many of were sitting around pondering the fact that the David Mazzucchelli story "Big Man" is apparently taking place in Holland in Lego form, prominent blogger/retailer Mike Sterling brings news that his shop, Ralph's Comics Corner in Ventura, California, was robbed early Tuesday morning.

As is the case when unfortunate things happen to bloggers instead of normal people, the news is made much more entertaining by photos and snarky commentary about what the thieves decided to take and the mess they caused in doing so. There is also a local news story.

Mike Sterling talks about the store's history with burglary in an entertaining post here.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 46th Birthday, Ted Stearn!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Listen: Neil Gaiman Interview

posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Mike Manley Sketches
Garfield as Existential Art

Homer Davenport Days
Grady Klein Art Show Report
Schulz Museum Celebrates Five Years

BD: Bien ou Mal Culturel
More Kings In Disguise Underground Antecedents

Chris Butcher on

Bookslut: Anne Ishii
Newsarama: Nikki Cook
Comics Alliance: Eddie Campbell

Not Comics
Weleyan Vs. Gawker
McFarlane Likely to Pass on Latest Ball
Best Partially Comics-Related Item Ever?

Gantz to DHC PR
Desperado Re-Launching
Slylock Fox Adds LA Times
Drew Sheneman Launches Blog

Paul O'Brien: Shanna #1
Brian Hibbs: Countdown #38
David P. Welsh: The Ride Home
Paul O'Brien: Uncanny X-Men #489
Christopher Tayler: Reading Comics
Whitney Matheson, David Colton: Various
Leroy Douresseaux: Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 4

August 8, 2007

CR Review: Uptight #2


Creator: Jordan Crane
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, comic book, 20 pages, July 2007, $2.50
Ordering Numbers: MAY073466 (Diamond)

I wanted to say a few more words about Jordan Crane's Uptight; I had mentioned it last week as one of only a few publications on an entire list of publications worth looking at. The format may be worth noting. It's 20 pages, on cheap cover stock, and you don't notice either because Crane makes the cover beautiful and the stories inside are dense and ambitious. It's one of those comics where you can imagine an entire industry or at least Crane's alt-indy segment of it adopting comics of this size and variety and giving people a reason to go to the comic book shop every week -- and if we know anything about comics history it's that tipping points, a mass of books of a certain quality boasting a certain format or approach, are far more crucial than innovation.

imageMostly, though, I wanted to draw attention to Crane's fine comics work in the issue. The first and third story are more typical to Crane's career output, particularly the segment of Keeping 2 that appears here: it's elliptically told, boldly drawn and shaded, and features characters worked up into a frenzy of conflicting thoughts and emotions. The book's initial short "Take Me Home" isn't something we're used to seeing from Crane but is a story type familiar to alternative comics fans, a slice of life with a heavy, portentous act flowing into center stage like so much molten metal, crowding and burning and settling in until story's end. It's a well-controlled piece, and wouldn't have been out of place in, say, an issue of Reactor Girl or Zero Zero.

The second story, "Before They Got Better," has to be one of the better short stories this year. Here Crane drops the more luscious drawing and the heavy use of black space for the most part, featuring a thin line that's meticulous and elegant. The fat, heavy shadows make sudden, swooping guest appearances and an extended cameo, feeling more like the encroachment of night and mortality than just about anything I've seen this year. Crane's older protagonist is one of his patently awkward characters, ramrod straight and boasting elbows and knees that feel longer than they have any right to be, a body that must have made for a painful pair of early teenage years. There's a priceless scene where the man, chased into the basement by an upset daughter after he lets his granddaughter handle a lightbulb for which she's not ready, opens a window and checks out the neighborhood from the vantage point of barely above ground. The exchange between granddaughter and grandfather feel real, too, the girl's hesitant speech and grandpa slowing down to swirl in her moods and fears for a moment, easing them aside the way he might blow an eyelash from her cheek. I fairly swooned.

posted 2:00 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.


I'm not familiar with this material, but Alan Moore doing anything is likely a cut above what it should be, and I have a tiny bit of affection for the war set-up of the superhero back story in question. Pick it up and look at it? I sure would.

I have no idea how this material would stand up, and I'm in no great hurry to find out. I'd definitely put this one on the wish list, though.

JUN071876 CASANOVA #8 (MR) $1.99
Comics Comics of all places had an interesting review of this series, focusing on its attitude towards borrowing material from other pop culture creations. It's now entering its second extended arc, so I guess this might be a place to pick it up, especially in what my super-quick glance at the list indicates may be a light week. Plus it's cheaper than most comics.

JUN071888 GLISTER #1 $5.99
Andi Watson, and it looks kind of adorable.

MAY072169 CRIMINAL #8 (MR) $2.99
I'm way behind on this series, but I can't think of too many widely distributed crime books from major mainstream talent right now, so this would engender interest on that basis alone.

MAY072111 DAREDEVIL #99 $2.99
More work from Eisner award-winning writer Ed Brubaker. My brother likes the series, and I tend to pick it up in chunks here and there. I seem to recall some recent controversy which has completely gone away since.

The latest from Gipi, quickly becoming a must-read artist -- it's on my bed side, but it looks promising.

JUN073574 ROBOT DREAMS GN $16.95
I wasn't the biggest fan of this material, but it may be the class of today's offerings. It's an extended, funny fable about the ways we tend to drive our best friendships into the ground.


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 am not a good person.
posted 9:00 am PST | Permalink

Investigation Into Tintin Au Congo

An agency designated as the Brussels public prosecution department will investigate charges of racism against publisher Moulinsart, which holds the rights to Tintin Au Congo, claiming that its outmoded and outdated depiction of people from that part of Africa is racist and insulting. The book had recently come into some controversy when a few gigantic book chains worldwide decided to move the book from the children section to the adult section of their retail establishments. Some called for more, and at least on some level, it looks as if one student heard them.

The first step will be a preliminary hearing about the case's admissibility.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Don Zettwoch’s Cartoons


yes, there's a cartoonist named Dan Zettwoch, too; read on -- he put this site up
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

From Hither, Yon: Various News Notes

* As always it's hard to quantify what it means, but Fantagraphics has sold out of some of its bigger summer offerings.

* I can't imagine Tom Toles' use of this phrasing and terminology is going to sit well with certain groups of people, even some who aren't just playing outraged for rhetorical and political effect. I'm too frightened to do a blog search to see what people are saying.

* E Simms Campbell's Esky returns in the new Esquire re-design.

* GoComics adds Jeff Smith's Bone to its line-up, although I could swear I already knew that.

* Lynn Johnston's campaign to clarify that her For Better or For Worse strip won't be going away but into hybrids now includes letters to prominent editors as well as interviews.

* Rich Johnston unearths news that Scott Dunbier is on a leave of absence, since confirmed, that he relates to recent in-house struggles over various issues, including those related to the latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book. That book faces copyright difficulties that will restrict it to a US-only release. Something doesn't scan right logic-wise in that news -- the news itself, not Rich's take on it -- but I can't put my finger on it.

* Cartoonist Jeff Kilpatrick recently lost over 3000 pieces of scanned art as well as several personal items to a robbery: making back-ups doesn't work all that well when the back-ups are robbed, too.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Jeremy Tinder’s Site


most of the art on the site is in the blog
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Con Runner Murder Charge Hits Hard

News that Pennsylvania comic shop owner and Pittsburgh Comicon co-organizer Michael George was charged with the murder of his then-wife in a Michigan comic book shop in 1990 has hit fans of that show with the expected shock and dismay.

Among the interesting aspects of the case that have been released is that 1) it could be up to 30 days before Mr. George is extradited from Pennsylvania, where he was arrested, to Michigan; 2) instead of a fake robbery of $30,000 in comic book that I and I'm guessing others had assumed took place in 1990 to help cover the crime, it now looks like that may have been a phantom robbery, and no comics were taken from the store; 3) there is no new evidence, only a judicious re-examination of the cold case starting in January of this year; again, I had assumed someone had come forward.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 83rd Birthday, Gene Deitch!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Mavel Punts Toys; Propels Comics: Publishing Up Amid 2Q Profit Shortall

Increased competition and bad decision-making in its toy division led to less than expected increases in earnings per share for Marvel stock as second quarter reports come out. According to the best write-up -- Forbes' concise analysis -- publishing is up to $32.9 million from $25.1 million in 2006. What does this mean? It means that Marvel needs to get a boost from its movies in order to perform as expected: just not in comics. This puts even more pressure on their 2008 movies, although granted the Iron Man and Hulk properties are fairly toy-friendly. The news also gives some real-world weight to Marvel's recent surge in sales as its big-event series seem to hit with more Direct Market consumers than rival DC's.
posted 3:02 am PST | Permalink

August 7, 2007

Quick hits
Paul Hornschemeier in Portland
Korean Comics Exhibit in St. Louis

CBR Re-Launches Contest
PWCW's August Bestsellers
UK Distribution for Yen Press
Another Boosterish Manga to Mobile Article

PWCW: Donna Barr
Onion: James Kochalka
PWCW: Persicope Studio
PWCW: George RR Martin

Not Comics
ENGINE Closing Down
More on Scariest Cartoon Ever
Neil Gaiman on Various Movies
Another Stand-Alone Property Sold
Another Franchise Rumbles Back to Life

Preview of Black Cherry

Jason Green: Good as Lily
Don MacPherson: Glister #1
Don MacPherson: The Architect

CR Review: Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1-4


Creators: Jeff Smith, Steve Hamaker
Publishing Information: DC Comics, four square-bound comics, 48 pages each, 2007 $5.99
Ordering Numbers:

imageWhen I was a kid I watched a show on TV called Superstars, where various sports personages gathered in Hawaii and competed against one another in various decathlon-style sporting events. It was a fun show because the events ranged from straight-up footraces to the world's most famous obstacle course, because people from soccer and skiing seemed to have just as much of a chance to win as Walter Payton, and because it kind of served as a de facto litmus test for the overall athletic prowess of some of your favorite jocks. Granted, it was a silly one, because running through a tube or tandem pedaling weren't exactly Olympic-level skills, but over time you could kind of compare and contrast. It was at least a consistent measure.

I always think of Superstars when I see my favorite cartoonists who usually work with their own material take a trip around the block with a mainstream property or two. I learned a lot about creators like Matt Wagner and Howard Chaykin and Eddie Campbell when I saw them what they did with the consistent measures represented by characters such as Blackhawk and Batman, the choices they made and the choices they didn't. Jeff Smith is the latest to dip his toe into the mainstream comic book pool, and his work on Shazam! Monster Society of Evil brings certain aspects of his skill into relief, too. For one, Smith is an under-appreciated character designer. His monsters are terrific, the giants close to awe-inspiring, even, and his children are like little sweaty, dirty Ronny Howards in a medium that tends to give us pristine, perfect Dakota Fannings. Even those designs where I prefer the original, such as Mr. Mind and Talky/Tawky Tawny, it's hard not to recognize the craft and genuine intelligence behind the creative choices Smith makes in presenting his vision.

imageIt is his vision. The mistake some may make in judging Smith's Shazam! is to see his version of the Captain Marvel mythos as a regurgitation of classic tropes in the face of whatever latest slightly depressing and probably titillating mucking around with the characters DC is inflicting on its readers in the "not special mini-series" books. But actually, Smith's take is fundamentally different than Binder and Beck's. The original Captain Marvel comics traded in everyday, broad fantasy but were rooted on a real sense of space and foreboding and turning a corner as a rite of passage that only New York City exuded 60 years ago. Smith's take on the legend, which even includes a gentle social satire, seems more a dream-like fantasy makeover of that same NYC territory, only this time played for its specific local effect rather than broadened outward. Where Billy's immediate community was I think understood in the early comics, and added to externally, Smith goes to great pains to show an entire group of people transformed or affected along with Billy. Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil has a sweet quality that comes from an outsider's view of place rather than a fevered imagining from one stuck in the belly of the beast. Smith is definitely that outsider, both in terms of his relationship to New York and to the mainstream comic book industry that calls it home. It's classy work, and now we know that Jeff Smith can negotiate an obstacle course with the best of them.

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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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August 6, 2007

Pittsburgh Comicon Organizer Michael George Arrested For 1990 Wife Murder

The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Pennsylvania reports that Michael Ralph George, owner of the shop Comics World in Windber, Pennsylvania, has been charged by Michigan authorities for the killing of his then-wife in 1990.

Barbara Marie George was found in the back of Comics World in Clinton Township, Michigan, in July 1990, dead of a single gunshot to the head from a .38. Approximately $30,000 of comics were taken at that time as well, and initial inquiries pursued the robbery aspect of the crime. A mother of two, George had been killed after closing the shop to plan a birthday party for her husband. Authorities in Michigan indicated that she may have died while kneeling.

As several people have pointed out more familiar with the show and the retail scene in Pennsylvania, this is apparently the same Michael George that organizes the Pittsburgh Comicon. That show, one of the larger regional conventions, is set to celebrate its 15th year in 2008.

George was picked up in a retail establishment near his store on Saturday. He has since remarried. Next up for the accused is an extradition hearing.

A report from the local Michigan paper can be found here.
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Go, Look: Salgood Sam Sketchbook

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Newsarama Gets Into Valiant v. Valiant

Matt Brady at Newsarama has a smart piece up about two entities making claims on the Valiant name and the Valiant characters, and the legal dispute that exists between them, using the dissemination of an ashcan preview at San Diego Con as its kick-off point.

Valiant was a Jim Shooter-involved company created in the late 1980s that enjoyed a modest wave of success, depending on your view, a) drafting behind more aggressive market leaders like Image and Marvel, or b) providing a sturdier, more stable structure than most lines of the time in part because of investment in classic comics editorial-driven storytelling. Given the rigidity of the marketplace, one might wonder why anyone would bother beyond the chance the line could be mined possible movie franchises and the like, although I suppose that's more than enough to motivate most people.
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Happy 50th Birthday, Paul Dini!

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Censorship, Firing at Veterans Paper

I'm a little unclear as to the exact nature of the newspaper, its publication origin and the source of its funding -- is it related to Stars and Stripes in some satellite way, or are they talking about that longtime soldiers' paper as if it were an in-house publication based in Iowa, or neither? -- but it seems pretty clear when someone gets fired and a review board is threatened over an expression of opinion in a cartoon that there's something going on worth noting.
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Happy 40th Birthday, Steven Dupre!

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Go, Read: Odd Mideast Youth Article

Randomly capitalizing type reminds me of the Delirium character in Neil Gaiman's old Sandman comics more than it does an expression of cool, young-person speech, and the article generally rambles like an extended solo by the Grateful Dead, but I think there's something here in terms of how Arabic comics are going to present themselves in the next few years and how many of the claims made on their behalf are going to overlap and be contested.
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Happy 1st Birthday, Chemistry Set!


that's what Vito Delsante told me, anyway
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Quick hits
DC Ruled Eisners
Michigan Celebrates David Petersen Award

Monty Adds Client
Pickles Adds Client
This Town Loves BC
I Hate Your Cartoon
Another Comics Vote
Another Comics Vote
Fiore to Universal, uClick
Another Comics Page Change
Another Comics Vote Backlash
Tulsa World Re-Organizes Post-Kudzu Page
Complaints Against Toles Part of Industry Culture

Interviews/Profiles Neil Gaiman
Daily Cross Hatch: Margo Dabaie Stephan Pastis
Chronicle Herald: Svetlana Chmakova

Not Comics
Media Adaptation Book
DHC a Movie Wannabe?
Live Action Barefoot Gen
Comic Strip Studies at OSU
Review of Ellis, Carey Novels
Oliphant, Trudeau Part of Digital Content Experiment

Next Zits Book
Troops-Focused Comic
I Have An Alternate Explanation
Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White PR
San Diego + X-Factor = Comics Are Healthy

AV Club: Various
Jason Green: Various
Jason Green: Good as Lily
Roger Sabin: Reading Comics
Leroy Douresseaux: Gon Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: I Hate You More Than Anyone

CR Review: The Immortal Iron Fist #6-7


Creators: Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Russ Heath, Matt Hollingsworth, Travel Foreman, Leandro Fernandez, Khari Evans, Derek Fridolfs, Francisco Paronzini, Leandro Fernandez, Victor Olazaba, Dan Brown
Publishing Information: Marvel, comic books, 32 pages each, 2007, $2.99 each
Ordering Numbers:

I don't know that writers Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker have really nailed down the tone they want on their take on the 1970s oddball blend of martial arts and Lost Horizon, Iron Fist. Except for one funny bit of business regarding poisoned cups in issue #6, the comedic interjections feel a bit precious coming from the narrators and forced coming from the characters themselves. As I've probably mentioned before, I always wonder at the intended audience, too. My guess is that one of the reasons the crossovers hit with the mainstream companies' audience is that they're the most superhero-y of all the publications out there. You pick up something like World War Hulk, you have various costumed characters beating the pee from each other while verbally poking at their reasons for doing so. Iron Fist is pretty squarely a Legacy Warrior fantasy, and while the mutt category we call superhero can encompass multiple genre and sub-genres within its generously empty suits, I'm never quite certain how well they assimilate such material, how well they're likely to really make something special of it.

One thing Brubaker and Fraction have done well is re-solidify the base of a wobbly character, goosing his power -- which makes story sense in that if a magical city is going to invest its ability to change the world into a single champion, that champion should be able to accomplish things the applied resources of that entire city cannot -- and broadening the base of a lost city and legacy that not only felt wafer thin in the original series, it felt like it was stocked with generic characters pulled from magazines and books that happened to be sitting around the Marvel offices (I seem to remember mean, sentient trees). Iron Fist is a lot sturdier now, with an in-story reason for not getting his ass kicked early in the next crossover's big fight scene. As much as these series are ways for Marvel to bring new creators to reinvigorate properties, these two issues a part of a solid performance.

One for one, I actually preferred the more continuity-heavy, fight-filled issue #6 to the stand-alone story of a past holder of the Iron Fist title in #7. David Aja does a nice modern fight scene, with a jumble of panels and white space and tableaux trading off with single-action panels in a cramped, chaotic fashion. Russ Heath's atmospheric pencils breathe a lot of life into some staid flashbacks. There's even an intense story moment of the kind that drives modern comics and most of cinema, a small set piece that sounds as good when you talk about it (it involves a character's heart) as it does when you look at it unfold on the page. The first arc of the series ends with an event that has weight and a hint of the next story that follows out of this arc's events in a natural way that provides a great deal of anticipation. The Legacy Warrior motif now established, we're on to a legendary martial arts tournament story.

In contrast, issue #7 features a tumble of artists, none of whom are working in a very distinct style let alone with the kind of clear conceptual breaks that might allow each to unfurl their wings a bit. The story features early Iron Fist Wu Ao-Shi, a woman who won the mantle more quickly than anyone, male or female, had before. Unfortunately, nothing in her story develops as much as we're told it happens. Most of what is shown is a banal love story -- did it have to be a love story? -- that's no less fundamentally limp for the writers' arch attitude towards its absurd elements. Like many of Marvel's characters, I think I preferred Wu Ao-Shi in smaller doses with a hint of greater things behind her. Maybe someday someone will do for her what Fraction, Brubaker and Aja are doing for her modern descendant.
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Go, Read: R. Kikuo Johnson In NYT

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New Superboy Ruling Apparely a Boost to the Time Warner Side of Things

Enough folks have sent this link to someone reporting on and posting the results of the latest decision regarding the ownership of the Superboy character that it must have run multiple places in the comics word; I apologize for not knowing where. In a nutshell it looks like a big win for Time Warner, who get a new hearing and have managed to make it so that facts in evidence the last time around won't be in evidence this time.

At the very least, if you're at a computer that can handle a big PDF download, you should take a look at the ruling for its treatment of the legal battles from 60 years ago to present day. There's a lot of mythologizing about the relationship that Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had with DC Comics that's unfortunate because it's unnecessary to over-emphasize the screwing they received and (occasionally) blow it up to Dickensian proportions -- it's still wrong, in the end, when a corporation profits as an individual suffers. This ugly business shall likely continue for a long while now.
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Top Shelf To Do Marshal Law Omnibus

imageTop Shelf has landed one of the few reprint project gems still out there waiting to be repackaged and dropped into the modern trade-heavy and perennial-seller marketplace: Marshal Law, the satirical superhero-killer superhero series by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill that had previously found a home at Marvel and Dark Horse. Marshal Law was one of the two or three most important superhero comics since the mid-1980s, particularly in terms of extending the darker treatment made popular by Frank Miller and Alan Moore twenty-some years ago while at the same time ripping into its excesses. Marshal Law also had a considerable number of fans among a wide spectrum of comics readers, in sort of the same way that Hellboy has fans that respond to the evocative style of the work that might not otherwise particularly care for the represented genre. Top Shelf plans a full-color omnibus of all the comics to date, which sounds just about perfect to me.
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Go, Read: Chris Onstad Interview

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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

I liked this Financial Times profile of one of the Cartooning For Peace summits, mostly because it brought to the table statements from people other than Plantu and Ali Dilem -- not that those two gentleman aren't eloquent and thoughtful, but they tend to dominate press coverage. It's also filled with some interesting details. One such is that there's a film crew making a documentary of Dilem's life. Someone floats a really interesting notion that editorial cartooning represents a Western tradition even as it's become popular in Africa, to the point that basic elements of caricature were difficult for one of the participating artists to grasp.

Perhaps the most interesting note, and certainly the one appropriate to the above headline, is that apparently the Danish cartoonists responsible for caricatures of Muhammed that led to worldwide political turmoil and violence are still under police protection and still feel as if they're at risk traveling abroad to certain places. That's pretty amazing, considering today's short attention span culture and the fact that we're coming up on the two-year anniversary of the publication of those cartoons.
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Go, Look: 24-Hour Comics Sites

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Go, Read: Naji S. Al-Ali Profiled

This profile of the great Palestinian cartoonist Naji S. Al-Ali may be a bit dry in parts, but a knowledge of his career is really vital for understanding the history of modern editorial cartooning, as well as any beginning grasp at the role of cartooning in the Middle East. Therefore any chance I have to send you to a piece on his life and times, I'll take. Al-Ali was a powerful cartoonist who was killed for his art. I think he was also one of the better cartoonists of all time when it came to using recurring characters in an editorial cartoon setting.
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OTBP: Quiblets

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Jay Kennedy Tribute Found In Zits

imageAccording to an Editor & Publisher report, a character named Steve that manages a movie theater in the Jerry Scott/Jim Borgman strip Zits is meant to physically resemble the late Jay Kennedy. The blond-haired, bespectacled Kennedy, the longtime Editor in Chief at King Features who launched Zits, died last Spring while on vacation. Apparently, word got back to E&P through another cartoonist who wondered about the character and asked artist Jim Borgman. This was the most recent strip I could find featuring the character.
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Quick hits
The How To Draw Comics and Cartoons Site

Devlin Thompson's Childhood Dial H Submissions 01
Devlin Thompson's Childhood Dial H Submissions 02
Devlin Thompson's Childhood Dial H Submissions 03

Onion: Alex Cox
Wizard: Paul Pope
Wizard: Johnny Ryan
Paul Pope Video That Killed My Computer Twice

Not Comics
Terrifying Animation

Publishing Launches

Elizabeth Chou: Asthma
Richard Krauss: The Ranter #1
Steve Duin: Sundays With Walt and Skeezix


August 4, 2007

CR Sunday Interview: Tom Neely



imageI was vaguely aware of Tom Neely before The Blot hit my desk, both as a cartoonist and an animator. What I've discovered since devouring Neely's debut graphic novel is that he splits time between animation, illustration, fine art and comics, with noticeable output in each area. That range of influences reveals itself in the The Blot a meditation on intimacy, creativity and the loss of control over one's environment. It's a fine debut graphic novel, and one that hints at interesting work ahead, in whatever area he chooses to ply his trade. A personal aside: I also enjoyed the crap out of listening to a path to comics creation that was as much about school and training and figuring out how to express yourself as much as it is the objects of childhood affection.

The LA-based Neely was extremely helpful throughout the entire process of this talk, and I want to thank him for his time. He will be sharing a table with Sparkplug Comic Books at TCAF and SPX if you'd like to meet him personally or buy his book directly from him.



TOM SPURGEON: Tell me a bit about your childhood, specifically as it relates to comics. It's my understanding that your interest in fine art and comics were both fostered fairly early on.

TOM NEELY: I've been drawing as long as I can remember. My mom says I used to draw my Star Wars action figures rather than play with them. I was a nerdy kid with so many allergies that I couldn't go out and play much, and was sick in bed a lot. So I spent a lot of that time reading books and comics all the time. I drew my first comic when I was six yrs old, and used to make stop-motion animated Super-8 movies with my toys.

My Mom was a housewife but also wrote a newspaper column about things for parents to do with their kids. I was the guinea pig for most of her crafty ideas, so we were always doing creative things like making puppets and costumes. My dad was a farmer and cattle breeder who turned into an English and Literature professor. He was always reading and introduced me to a lot of literature. My grandmother had an interest in art and had a lot of big art books in her house. She gave me a subscription to the Mickey Mouse, Scrooge and Donald Duck comics as well as the Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics for my birthday when I was about 10 years old. Pretty soon I was obsessed with comics and that's all I wanted to do.

Even though I grew up in a the very small town of Paris, Texas, my family traveled all the time. We went to Europe when I was very young and seeing those museums and castles made a big impression on me. I remember going to a lot of art museums when I was young. I was very fortunate to be exposed to many different things, and my parents were very encouraging of anything I wanted to do artistically.


SPURGEON: Can you talk about your schooling in San Francisco, the formal training you received and how you got there? Am I remembering right in that you're kind of ambivalent about art training?

NEELY: San Francisco seemed like a bad time while I was there, but in retrospect I think it was a really great experience for me. I went to undergrad school in Tulsa, OK, which was only about three hours from where I grew up in Texas. That was a great school for me at the time, and I had some good teachers. I got my BFA in painting with a double major in art education.

Then I started teaching at Tulsa Community College and soon found out that I wasn't really comfortable with that -- most of my students were older than me. At the time I was doing very abstract work, large paintings with some collaged elements, kind of like Rauschenberg or Cy Twombly but not as good. I dreamt of going to New York and being the next Basquiat or something. I started applying to grad schools kind of blindly. I picked the top five art schools and applied to all of them. I ended up choosing the San Francisco Art Institute because one of my professors from T.U. recommended it. If I did it all over again, I would have found out what schools had a strong painting program before making my decision, but I didn't know any better at the time.

imageWhen I got there, I was immediately faced with a student body and faculty that were largely against painting. I still remember the first day of orientation, having a group of "new genres" students say things like, "Why would anyone want do paint? Painting is dead!" and "I can't imagine why anyone would want to create an object that would hang on somebody's wall." I managed to meet a few painting students that I got along with, but I felt completely lost. I was in all these classes that taught us how to be conceptual assholes who don't produce any actual art, when all I wanted to do was learn how to be a better painter. It wasn't until my second year that I found a teacher, Brett Reichman, who seemed to understand me and what I wanted to learn.

Around that time, I had sort of re-discovered my love of comics and defiantly decided to throw all the high-falutin' snobbery of my classmates back in their face by making oil paintings that were the equivalent of one-panel comic strips. A lot of those paintings were directly making fun of many of my fellow students and teachers. I got a lot out of art school, but what I got was completely different than what I originally wanted to go there for.

SPURGEON: How exactly did you rediscover comics, and how did that lead to your wanting to do some?

NEELY: Well, I always drew comics and read comics. Even when I was trying to paint like Cy Twombly, I was also drawing my own comics in my sketchbooks. I did this kind of autobiographical, humorous super-hero comic called Tom-Man for a while. [Spurgeon laughs] Growing up in Texas, I had never read any indie or underground comics. I had never even heard of Crumb until the Zwigoff movie came out. I was still reading the Spider-Man Clone Saga at the time. Obviously my knowledge of comics was very limited.

My first revelation was when I found an issue of Renee French's Grit Bath in a quarter-bin at a comic shop in Tulsa. I thought it was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. I actually made bootleg copies of it for my friends because I wanted more people to see it. Later, there was a local sci-fi convention that I attended because Shannon Wheeler was going to do a panel discussion on self-publishing. That was the first time I'd ever heard of the concept of self-publishing.

Fast-forward to San Francisco: I started to find all these other alternative comics like Chester Brown, Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Steve Weissman, Seth, etc... Suddenly, I realized that anything could be a comic. To that point, I thought that you could do superheroes or you could do newspaper strips... I had gone the path of fine art and painting because I wanted to express something through my art that I didn't know was possible with comics. For the first time I realized that you could make a comic about anything, with any kind of style, and it could be as expressive and interesting as any great work of "fine" art. So, I started doing these paintings that involved this menagerie of anthropomorphic characters and making a comic book that told more of their story. I was able to combine both of these worlds in my own art, and it finally felt right. The comic, and the paintings, became an autobiography of my life in art school and in San Francisco.


For my MFA thesis show, I had 50 oil paintings of these monkeys and bunnies and stuff, and along with it, I self-published my first comic book called Aminals that starred the same characters. Somehow that impressed even the most conceptual of professors at my school, and even students who were attaching bubble-wrap to walls, and calling it art, seemed to like what I was doing. Basically, I got my MFA in painting by doing comics.

SPURGEON: Was your conception of what you wanted to do with comics when you started doing them again the same as it is now? If it's changed, why do you think your expectations are different?

NEELY: I've been through a lot of changes since I started doing comics. Right now, I'm more serious about it and I have a better understanding of what I'm doing as an artist, which has grown out of a lot of experimenting, a lot more reading and a lot more exposure to the indie comics world. I went to my first San Diego Comic Con in 2000 (the year I graduated from SFAI) and saw that there was this whole world of people self-publishing their comics and selling them. I had a bunch of copies of Aminals #1 and #2 in my backpack and gave them to every cartoonist I met. It was such an amazing thing to meet so many other cartoonists. I finally felt like I'd found "home" as an artist.

The year after that, I was offered half a table to share with Martin Cendreda, and I made a new comic. At the time, I was working for Disney and was inspired to do a comic that reflected my love of old cartoons from the '20s and '30s. It got my foot in the door, and I met even more cartoonists and made a lot of friends in the industry. A lot of people bought those early comics and seemed to like them, but after doing three issues of it, I lost interest. It just didn't really work as a comic because I was trying to imitate animated cartoons and silent movies.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and erase those, but I learned a lot in the process of making mini-comics and going to lots of conventions and selling them and meeting a lot more cartoonists and learning from them. I hadn't found my own voice yet. I was having fun making funny animal comics, but I wasn't doing anything that expressed myself as an artist. But then around 2004 my art changed. That's when I started doing paintings in the Blot series and as that series of paintings grew, the comics followed and this book started to take shape.

I guess my expectations have changed in that when I started doing this seven years ago, I thought of it as something fun to do and not take too seriously... then somewhere along the way I realized that I was taking it seriously and started putting a lot more thought into it as my art. It's like I had this limbo period where I wasn't really putting myself into my artwork, but at the same time I was learning how to do it. Now, I feel like I'm doing something really good, but I feel like I have to convince people to forget my earlier immature attempts at comics and take my new work seriously.

imageSPURGEON: Can you talk in more detail about your various influences, particularly Floyd Gottfredson? Is there an influence we might not immediately see, or be surprised by?

NEELY: Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse comics were probably the first comics I ever read when I was a kid. I read them constantly and studied them and copied them and learned a lot about drawing from them. I also had a subscription to the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics by Carl Barks, but there was something about Gottfredson's stuff that was more attractive to me. There's something grittier and weirder about them with his approach to a panel and the kind of manic energy that is always present in all of his drawings. Carl Barks, though I love his work too, just seemed more subdued, a little more conservative. Later I got into superhero comics and was hooked. I really wanted to grow up to be the next great Spider-Man cartoonist.

By the time I reached high school, I was becoming more serious about art and comics didn't seem like the medium for me. I still loved drawing comics, but I started getting more into surrealism and began painting on canvas. My biggest influence from the surrealists is Rene Magritte. Practically everything about Magritte fascinates me. He was one of the first painters I ever really connected with. His use of metaphor is still a big influence on my storytelling, though he always refused the idea that any of his symbols stood for anything other than their literal definition.

Philip Guston was probably one of the things that "saved" me in art school. I read several books about him and was inspired by the way he broke away from a successful career as an abstract expressionist and started doing his figurative cartoon-influenced work. That inspired me to break away from the pretentious bullshit of my art school surroundings and start making paintings of my comics. Through studying Guston's work, I learned about great old comic strips like Krazy Kat and Mutt & Jeff. I like old comics that have a bit of oddness, like Bud Fisher's and Billy DeBeck's.


imageI look through a big book of old comic strips and find myself randomly transfixed on a single panel where all you see is the foot of someone who has just walked out of the panel. That stuff kills me. I think it's the painter in me that likes to look at those panels as sort of abstract paintings, rather than something that serves a larger story. Actually, I think I read once that Franz Kline sometimes drew inspiration for his abstract paintings from comic strips as well. Another, more recent influence was Gene Byrne's Reg'lar Fellers. I found a collection of those a few years ago, and it wasn't long before more hatching and loose squiggly lines started to make their way into my work. E. C. Segar's Popeye is another huge influence, but the Fleischer Popeye animated cartoons have also influenced me, particularly in my animation work. Other inspirations, outside of comics, are painters like Lucian Freud, Egon Schielle, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Honore Daumier, L.S. Lowry, James Ensor, Otto Dix and George Grosz.


I often like to make reference to artists in my work. Early in the Blot series of paintings, I did a piece designed after a painting by Lucien Freud, which inspired part of the first chapter of The Blot and is drawn into the upper left panel of page 24. The first page of the chapter called "Broken" is inspired by a Van Gogh drawing called Worn Out. I saw it last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Van Gogh's paintings have never really blown me away, but his drawings are so beautiful I had tears in my eyes while seeing that show. I like making those little references as a little way of paying homage to the artists I love.

I think the work I'm doing post-Blot is becoming less "Gottfredson." I'm mixing a little more realism into the cartoonyness. My line work is becoming more expressive. I think it's a result of absorbing my influences rather than imitating. It feels more natural now. I used to look at a lot of reference materials and other artists for how to draw things in that old style. Now I just draw things the way I draw them and it feel much better.


SPURGEON: You've mentioned a few times that a work like The Blot fits into an everyman-driven continuity that involves a number of other works, including fine arts painting. Can you talk a bit about how you came to that idea as the way to approach your work, and how that grander conception has an effect on the individual works like The Blot?

NEELY: The "everyman" idea came as a result of frustration with the other characters I've used in the past. I had all these anthropomorphic characters that were, in various ways, self-portraits or stand-ins for my self. Those characters started taking on their own personalities and eventually became restrictive to work with. I wanted to create sort of a generic, nameless man that I could do anything with; a character that could represent me or anyone else. But when I started this series of paintings with him, something still felt stifled about the way I was working. That's when I started dropping ink on top of the paintings. I would finish one, lay it on the floor and drop ink on it Pollock-style to break myself away from the preciousness of constructing a picture. I wanted some kind of random, abstract, chance element to literally obliterate parts of the painting to liberate me from the rigidity of my normal painting process. Pretty soon, those ink blots began to take on a life of their own. They became a conceptual element within the paintings as well as a formal abstract element.

I approach each painting as if it needs to tell a story, or as if it's a part of a larger story. I want my paintings to have some sort of narrative element. After doing a lot of these, some of them started to feel connected, so I began writing a story around them. The process that has grown out of this is that the paintings serve as a space for me to freely express some stream-of-consciousness ideas without having to worry about the bigger picture. Then later, I come back and see if they work their way into the comics.

About a year ago I had reached a point where I had all of these short stories worked out that were based on paintings. When some difficult things happened in my personal life, I tied all those short stories together with some autobiographical elements, and that's what became the final book "The Blot." There are lots of paintings and ideas that didn't make it into this book, and may be a part of a future book. Vice-versa, there are parts of the comic that later become paintings. Ultimately I want the different works of painting and comics to inform and compliment each other as one large body of work.


SPURGEON: Tom, I know that you show in galleries, but I'm never sure that what means. How much of your living is tied into gallery work and illustration?

NEELY: When I first graduated from SFAI I had a big show at a gallery in SF. It could've been the beginning of an art career, but at the time I was so burnt out on art that all I wanted to do was go get a job in animation and escape it all. In retrospect, I'm really glad that I escaped it, because I wasn't ready for a career as an artist yet. Now I am ready for that career and I've been trying to get back into the art scene, but that's a hard thing to do. I mainly show in smaller galleries and group shows that are more open to unknown artists. The bigger "fine arts" galleries won't pay attention to me because my work is too "cartoony." So, I often get lumped into the "low-brow" art scene, but I don't feel like I'm a part of that world of hot-rods and devil-girls. I feel like I'm caught between the two. I do shows pretty regularly and sell lots of paintings through the galleries I've worked with, but it only amounts to about 10% of my income because the smaller galleries can't sell work for as much. I tried to get work in illustration for a while, but I soon realized that it's just as difficult to break into that world as it is into the art world and chose to focus my attention on more fine art and comics. My bills are paid by working freelance in animation, online video games, and Japanese cell-phone animations for places like Disney and Nickelodeon.

imageSPURGEON: The stand-alone, credited animation I've seen from you seems very accomplished.

NEELY: If you mean my Muffs music video and the Bush cartoon, I think they're somewhat accomplished and I'm very proud of them. But I see their flaws now and I think if I do more animation in the future I'll approach it differently.

SPURGEON: How has your work in animation been informative in an overall sense as to how you do comics?

NEELY: It was a weird jump from art school to a cubicle at Disney. But at the time, it was a refreshing change. Luckily, I had a friend who worked there and set up an interview for me. I moved to L.A. a week after graduating from SFAI and was very happy about that. But after two and a half years there, it didn't feel right anymore and I felt myself longing to devote more of my time to my own art and comics. That's when I left Disney to be a freelancer and spent more time painting and drawing. My time at Disney was almost like a second degree in commercial art after my fine arts degree. I learned everything about design and using computers from that job. I also think it improved my drawing skills by having to mimic all the different styles of Disney characters. One day I'd be drawing Mickey, the next day Cinderella, then Mulan, then Dalmations... and the style-guides are so strict that you have to really learn how to nail all the quirks of each different character. While working for Disney, I began to read more about Walt Disney and studied his films extensively. If anything has really lingered from that, it's that I always want to put a strong emphasis on story in whatever I do, no matter how experimental I may try to be.

SPURGEON: Is there a reason you self-published instead of taking this to any number of publisher I'm sure would have been happy to work with you?

NEELY: In 2005 I self-published the first chapter, "Tuesday," as a mini-comic, released it through conventions in 2005 and then submitted it for a Xeric. After it was rejected for the grant, Top Shelf was interested. At first I really wanted to do the book with them, but when it got down to talking about book design and what they were willing to do with the printing, I started to feel like I was giving up control over this very personal work. This book is very connected to everything I'm doing as an artist now, and the thought of putting it in anyone else's hands just didn't feel right. That's when I decided to pull out of that and publish it myself.

Now that my house is full of boxes, I'm mildly regretful of that... but really I think for this book I had to do it myself. [Top Shelf's] Chris [Staros] and Brett [Warnock] were very cool about my decision and very supportive. I think it was the best thing, but ask me about that in three years when I'm still sitting on boxes and I might have changed my mind.


SPURGEON: Do you enjoy the publishing and promotional aspects of comics?

NEELY: I don't really enjoy the business end of publishing. I'm terrible with math and organizing spreadsheets and all that stuff. And I hate going to the post office to mail stuff, even though there's one just three blocks from my house. But I'm trying to make myself do that stuff and keep the books flowing out of here. In the future, I'm not sure whether I'll publish myself or look for someone else to do it. I like the idea of working with a publisher, but it would have to be the right relationship in which I felt comfortable with the amount of control I have over my work. As a self-publisher I have all the control, and I like that. But it would be nice if someone would handle all the business and the expenses.

SPURGEON: I don't want to get too deep into a discussion of the thematic aspects of The Blot, because I think that people are probably going to be better off carving their own meaning out of the work. Let me ask this, though: Are there feelings about work or the nature of art or relationships that you deal with in The Blot that have already changed since the time you did that work? Would The Blot be different if you did it now?

NEELY: I have very personal ideas about what the work means, but I always hesitate to give anyone a defined meaning because I think, in some ways, that's the death of a work of art. I like working with strong symbols and metaphors, but I want them to be ambiguous enough to be interpreted in many ways.


My life has changed a lot since beginning this book. I started it during a very dark time, and it deals with a lot of that. The book was like therapy for me. Since then, everything has just continued to get better and better. I just got engaged and my life is much more peaceful and happy now. I think The Blot would be different if I did it now. It had to have been made during last year to come out the way it did. And for that reason, I worked really hard to finish it all in one year while all those emotions were still fresh in my memory. I fear that my work might get boring now that I'm happy, but I don't think that will necessarily happen. My work has already evolved since I finished The Blot. Though it's still a continuation of those characters and ideas, I think it's actually getting a bit weirder.

imageSPURGEON: You wrote what is a mostly silent book. You talked a bit about this earlier, but did the various vignettes exist independent of the work's through-line; did you develop them one by one? You use an awful lot of different approaches to page design in terms of your panel placement. How much did you have written when you approached a page?

NEELY: Since my comics are an extension of my paintings, I think of them as silent. I like the ambiguous use of image over the more defined use of words in a narrative. But when writing the story I wanted the female character to have a voice. It gave her a disruptive power over the man that works as a guiding force but also shows her as a destructive intruder into this silent world.

A lot of the vignettes developed first as paintings. Then I started to write a story that strung those vignettes together. My ideas come to me in many different ways -- sometimes from a dream, sometimes from an actual event, sometimes just from my trying to work out a formal composition on a sheet of paper. I try not to over-think a painting. I think about it later to figure out what it is about and where it fits into the greater story. Once I figure that out, then I start writing it in my sketchbook. The first chapter was done independently back in 2005 -- the part I released as a mini-comic. The rest of it was all written around March and April of '06. I had the whole story arc figured out. Then I spent the next six months or so thinking about it. I did rough pencils of the entire book -- during this stage, I do any editing and page designing to make sure it all flows correctly. Then all the hard work is done and I get to enjoy the inking process. That took about two months.

I finished the whole book -- with the exception of Chapter One -- in just under a year.

SPURGEON: How important was panel to panel pacing for you in contrast to individual page design?

Neely: I think of those things as inseparable. I worked very hard to make the pages work together. I paid particular attention to where certain pages would happen. I tried to design pages that would fall next to each other as a pair, rather than individually. I used a lot of black pages to add a pause or space between moments -- like the waking point between dreams. I think the pacing is completely reliant on how I design the pages, and pacing is probably what I think about the most when I'm working out a story. When working with a silent comic, it's very important to try and slow down the reader so they get it all. It's very easy to read a wordless comic in a couple of minutes. I'm even guilty of often just flipping through and looking at the pictures quickly. But if you can find a way to slow the reader down and make them absorb it, then you can really get through to them.

I recently read Destin by Otto Nuckel and that is a book that only works if you spend a lot of time on each page, and then come back and re-read it a few times. I hope I achieved that kind of pacing, but it's hard to tell what other people will do with it.


SPURGEON: How did you achieve the wilder effects using the blot? Was that done directly on the page? Was control a factor in doing those sequences?

NEELY: I've become very skilled at dropping ink on the page... It's all done directly on the pages. I finish a page, mask around the panels with tape, and I drop the ink on top of the art. There's always a chance that I'll screw it up completely and have to start over. I don't use any whiteout. The painter in me likes to see a finished presentable piece of art in the end. So all of my pages are just clean ink on paper. If I screw up, I'd rather start over than leave a visible correction. Luckily, I only had to redo three pages in this book. There are some places where the ink landed wrong, but I left it alone because I like that chance element to be a part of the book. A few of the pages where there is a "negative" white blot (like pages 138 & 139 or the girl's eyes in pages 152 & 156) are created by using Winsor Newton Art Masking Fluid, which is a rubber-cement like glue that's used in watercolor painting techniques. I would drop and spatter that stuff on the same way I would the regular ink blots, then paint ink over it, and when the masking rubber is removed it leaves a nice negative blot effect.


SPURGEON: Does living in Los Angeles inform your work at all? Is there such a thing as an LA artist?

NEELY: I don't know how L.A. does or doesn't affect my art. There are an awful lot of artists in this city. But we're all so spread out, and if they're anything like me, they hate to drive across this city, so I don't see other L.A. cartoonists much.

A few years ago, I was feeling very isolated as an artist in this city, so I called up three other artists and proposed that we meet up once a month to drink a few beers and talk about art. We became an artist collective and called ourselves the Igloo Tornado. It's me, Levon Jihanian, Gin Stevens and Scot Nobles. We're all very different kinds of artists, but we're all at relatively the same stage in our careers and we all have similar goals. If you saw all of our art together, you wouldn't imagine we'd work together, but I think that's part of what has made us successful as a group. We all push each other to try new things, I know I've grown immensely as a result of that process. We had our first gallery show together last year and it was very successful. We have another one scheduled for February '08 and we hope to be able to put together some kind of book, too. I like a lot of other L. A. artists and cartoonists. Souther [Salazar], for example, is one of my favorite contemporary artists right now. You'd think that with all the cartoonists in L.A. there'd be a big club where we'd all hang out. Maybe there is and I don't know about it, but I don't really have much connection to many artists outside of the Igloo.


SPURGEON: Do you think you'll do another long work like this one? Ideally, what are your future plans for comics?

NEELY: Yes. I want to do another long book. Right now, I'm working on a couple of series of paintings for my first solo art show. (my shameless plug: The show is called "Self Indulgent Werewolf" and will be at Black Maria Gallery in Los Angeles opening September 15th.) There are three new series of paintings that sort of continue with the same main character from The Blot. I'm doing a lot of stuff with werewolves. But at this stage, the story is still in the early part of the development. I don't really know where the story is going right now. It's sort of about evolving as an artist, but I've got so many ideas going in different directions I'm not really sure yet. I think I'll eventually figure out how to tie them all together to make my next book. I love making comics. I think this book is the best thing I've done as an artist so far. Making comics is harder than anything else I do, but holding that book in my hands now is a very satisfying feeling. Of course, seeing the boxes full of those books disappear would be even more satisfying.


Art for this interview provided by the cartoonist. That's the cover to the new book up top. In general, the black and white pieces are the ones from The Blot, while the color pieces are painting and other work. As the cartoonist says, a lot of the subject matter jumps back and forth between the exact same subject, and you can see similar characters and themes in different kinds of art. An Aminals cover is also up there somewhere. That was Neely's first mini-comic.


The Blot, Tom Neely, I Will Destroy You, softcover, 192 pages, 9780974271583 (ISBN13), July 2007, $14.95.


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Five Link A Go Go

* go, watch: video clip from forthcoming VH1 documentary series, this one featuring great Jim Rugg comics work

* go, read: How Not To Enjoy a Vacation

* go, read: review of documentary film on Jeffrey Brown, as it makes festival rounds

* go, bookmark: Ed Hall starts blogging

* go, read: Paul Di Filippo's unexpected gift
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Go, Look: Lai Tat Tat Wing

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Happy 54th Birthday, Steve Mitchell!


I hope that Alan Kupperberg will forgive me using the above photo as I'm using it as a link to his fun interview and not as an illustration for my own purposes; I think it's more indicative of the piece than any drawing would have been
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First Thought of the Day

Have you ever heard someone telling a Helen Keller joke and then you feel bad because you always get Helen Keller mixed up with Anne Frank, and no one should make fun of that poor little girl who was killed by the Nazis, and then you realize you had it wrong, and you feel bad for having mixed it up, because Anne Frank and Helen Keller have nothing in common at all, except maybe high school drama productions of their life stories per year, and then you feel worse because it makes you think that deep down this means you probably believe Helen Keller should be made fun of and Anne Frank shouldn't, and that's totally just wrong, because it's not like Helen Keller could hear you and totally get in your face, or really Anne Frank for that matter, which if nothing else just underlines how lame jokes are about either one.
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If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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CR Week In Review


The top comics-related news stories from July 28 to August 3, 2007:
1. Comic-Con International 2007 comes to a close, as an industry puts on its blindfolds and starts groping the elephant that is its largest gathering.

2. Lynn Johnston reaffirms her FBoFW plans: no retirement; hybrid strip instead.

3. Jay Stephens' problems at the US Border throws spotlight on travel-work issues between Canada and the United States.

Winner Of The Week

Loser Of The Week
According to comedian Brian Posehn, all nominees not winning the actual Eisner Award.

Quote Of The Week
"It's becoming an incessant whine that their profession is in decline -- but it's been that way for over 50 years and I'm starting to gloss over on the message." Alan Gardner

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
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Happy 65th Birthday, Rick Norwood!

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Happy 57th Birthday, Mike Gold!

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August 3, 2007

Happy 55th Birthday, Franco Saudelli!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Charlie Adlard!

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Friday Distraction: Shaw Brothers


Not comics, but there's a great deal of drawing. The design and visual-verbal blend elements should be instructive, too.
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If I Were In Martha’s Vineyard, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Cincinnati, I’d Go To This So Frequently I’d Know The Guards’ Names

The Cincinnati Post previews that city's "Saul Steinberg: Illuminations" show, running through late September. This show not only includes a fine retrospective of the artist's cartooning career, but the nearly complete and restored remains of a 75-foot mural that used to hang in one of the Queen City's finer hotels.
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Go, Look: Vincent Vanoli

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Two Stories That May Not Be Stories

* I'm not really equipped to have an argument about on-line anything with Cory Doctorow, any more than I'm prepared to go up against Tommie Harris in a one on one football pass-blocking drill. That said, I always think these sorts of download comics now articles/exhortations miss a huge point. Mainstream comics don't act like a standard entertainment market. About 25 years ago -- by invite, mind you -- comics shifted the most significant burden and risk from suppliers to retailers. Since then, they have set about slowly boiling away any and all remaining notions of consumer-reward rationality and logic from this system. The end result is a market that is high-strung and fragile and resource-light in a way that makes Aesop's grasshopper roll his eyes. A shift in emphasis, any significant change in readership, even with greater rewards at an unspecified point down the line, could shred the existing market in a way that simply isn't as crucial a risk for any other industry. You can argue standard models and cross your arms and harrumph in comics' direction all you right, but comics' On-Line Solution will either be specifically tailored to comics, or will come from the outside and capsize it. That's not a culture that can change on its own, not in that way. Not since maybe 1987 or so.

* As I said a couple of times during this site's Comic-Con International coverage, 1) there are going to be several issues involving the hassles that arise out of the show operating at full capacity over the next five years, and 2) that an immediate issue is press access. Heidi MacDonald making note of this at her The Beat is interesting mostly because it reminds that the press access issue is an issue of attendance and crowds, too, and her comments section reveals what I'm sure is a significant backlash of "to heck with the press, anyway; this show is for the fans" sentiment.

I think this is a fun issue to talk about, but not one that's really significant or even one that requires a daunting solution. There are simple administrative procedures that can limit the number of press people asserting their presumed access in a way that has nothing to do with their work, while getting those press folks who need to do their jobs into the areas they need to be. For instance, a "comics track" designation on my badge and the ability to skip the line and know I have a seat would have led to my covering at least the two Image panels on this site, while still keeping my ass away from the chair desired by some Heroes fan in the big hall. What might become interesting is watching how the con negotiates the needs/desires of their most important relationships -- with the on-line press -- and the needs/desires of the attending studios, whom I presume may have different priorities and press targets. I'm sure it will work out, and imagine most articles between now and then are going to hash out the issue because it's fun to do so.

* Speaking of which, don't the general panel attendance issues and the issue of people squatting presentation to presentation make moving that whole part of the show off-site and into a bigger hall a no-brainer?
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Happy 58th Birthday, Reed Waller!

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Collective Memory: CCI 2007

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Happy 53rd Birthday, Gianfranco Goria!

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Quick hits
Go See Gene Yang
Art Show in Quad Cities
Exhibit at the Horse Barn
Horsey to Exhibit in Louisiana

Fantaco's X-Men Chronicles

Retail Shop Closes
Another IDW Deal
I Hate Your Cartoon
Backlist Dropped from DCD Order Forms
How Do You Take A Company Out to Dinner?

New Yorker: Roz Chast
Newsarama: Joe Casey

Not Comics
Fotonovelas as a Recruitment Aid
Cartoonists are the Worst Neighbors Ever

Rhymes With Orange to Ecw
Best of Mutts HC in September
Paper Admits Comics Too Small

Josh Cook: Exit Wounds
Don MacPherson: Various
Jog: The Punisher Max #50
Shaula Clark: Reading Comics
Shaenon Garrity: Tekkon Kinkreet
John Zuarino: The Three Paradoxes
Chris Barsanti: The Living and the Dead
Chris Barsanti: The Professor's Daughter
Johanna Draper Carlson: The Surrogates
Matt Brady: Templar, Arizona: The Great Outdoors
Benjamin Jacob Hollars: Thunderhead Underground Falls

August 2, 2007

First Person: Darwyn Cooke’s Comic-Con International 2007 Report, With Photos


By Darwyn Cooke

This was a big year for Marsha and I at Comicon, and I thought it might be fun to do a brief report of the show and maybe clear up a few questions I've read the last couple days.

imageThe trip from Halifax to San Diego is a killer. Two planes and twelve hours with a four-hour time change, but we survived the flight into Los Angeles. We arrived on Tuesday in LA to meet with Gregory Noveck, DC's man in Hollywood. Marsha was much impressed to see the Warner's Lot had an actual water tower and before lunch I gave her a quick walking tour. We met Greg and his brilliant and personable assistant Will in their office and Greg treated us to a first look at the New Frontier teaser and footage. The piece looked great and I have to admit, hearing Kennedy's actual voice lead the piece off was electrifying. After a fab lunch in the commissary Marsha and I said our goodbyes and headed for the fun part of our LA overnight. Ever since True Romance, I've always wanted to stay at the Safari Inn. The rooms were no big deal, but the place is straight out of New Frontier. A quick swim and then we had dinner with my pal David Bullock and his lovely gal Kellie. Dave is a friend from back in the day at Warner's, and he directed the New Frontier DVD. We're close friends and it was great to skip the fancy stuff and drive over to Ribs USA and gorge like proper Americans.

Wednesday morning found us up and onto the highway for San Diego. Marsha had never been down the PCH, so we took the relaxed way down, digging the beaches and seaside vibes. A little sun and a little Amy Winehouse and before we knew it we were parking at the Hyatt in SD. Another quick swim (this time crashing the Marriot's superior poolside) and we shot out to the Mission Bay area where our Canadian buds had rented a condo near the beach. Dinner and drinks and just a mellow start to the show with Cameron Stewart, Michael Cho, Karl Kerschl, Scott Hepburn, Ramon Perez, Brian McLachlan, Steve Manale and of course my man J. Bone and his man Kimball. Rian Hughes was a surprise addition, and it was a wonderful evening of chat under balmy skies.

Thursday morning it was time to hit the ground running. After a quick bite Marsha and I made our way on to the convention floor to give Jim McLauchlin and the Hero Initiative a piece of artwork for auction. It's the duoshade piece I did for the Eisner tribute issue of Comic book Artist, so when you see it come onto the market, bid generously. It's for a great cause. Frankly, the con floor freaked me out. Dry ice and lasers are a bit much for me before noon. After hooking up with Jim, we made our way to our first panel.

Had a fun hour talking story with Carla McNeil, Cameron Stewart and the darling Colleen Coover. It was a shame the panel was anecdotal instead of demonstrative. I do hope the incredible mass of people who attended got some sound advice out of our ramblings.

After a quick chat with some folks we made our way to the part of the show that hard me a little nervous; my spotlight panel. I'm a fairly opinionated person (no, really?) and I try to avoid the kind of "pr" approach to panel. That kind of makes me nervous, 'cause sometimes you're handed the tough questions. I was absolutely stunned to see how many people attended and was buoyed up by the sight of several friends and colleagues, not the least of which was my ever-lovin' partner, J. Bone.

J. moderated the panel, and after some kibitzing he turned it over to the floor for questions. I really prefer this approach, because you get to speak to the audience about the facets of all this that they are curious about. The problem is you have no road map for the panel, and basically have to follow the tenor of the questions.

imageI suppose the part that made me most nervous was breaking the news that we would be wrapping up The Spirit after #12. I hate to let people down when it comes to my work, and I hope that everyone understood that my reasons are the best imaginable: we want to stop while we're doing well. I can't do it without J. I didn't realize that until I was faced with the possibility of it. I hadn't ever considered doing The Spirit without J. and when I did, I realized it was a losing proposition to try. We'd exhausted a search for the right talent and other tangential issues deepened my concern for the ability to keep things on the quality level the Eisner name demands. To balance the downer of that news, I was thrilled to be able to finally break my plans for some creator-owned projects. That is something J. and I are both very excited about, and I hope it came through. Right now I feel as though I'm at the beginning again, filled with the excitement that comes from staring up a new mountain and getting ready to climb.

There are a few things I'd like to kinda clarify because as I said, the questions drive a panel like that, and certain angles of certain stories get lost.

Off the bat, I'd like to say there's no rift between DC and I. DC has been the home of my work for hire projects and always will be. My comments regarding what they want and don't want weren't an indictment, simply a statement of what is happening right now in the market. That's why, if you want to own a brand new creation, you have to look elsewhere. That isn't me leaving DC, it's simply me going elsewhere to do a different type of comic book.

To hammer this home, I'll simply say that this spring you'll all be seeing a special one-shot from me and DC that will make our readers as happy as pigs in... truffles.

I guess the other thing I wanted to say is that when I say "Direct Market" I don't mean "Retailers." I mean the entire system, from soup to nuts. Publishers, creators, readers, retailers and distributor (singular intended). The retailers I've met over the last seven years are among the most dedicated and resourceful members of our industry. But I want them to grow and evolve with the forces around us, so they will continue to thrive and survive as we all move forward. Change is constant and the direct market is running on material from the '40s and '60s. We have to diversify our in-store content and broaden the appeal of the actual experience. James Sime, Cal Johnston and Peter Birkemoe are three men who jump to mind as leaders in how to move forward. So any retailers who felt I was dumping, sorry. Not my intention at all.

Finally, I've read a lot of comments that suggest I was bailing on The Spirit because of low sales. Well, check my sales overall -- my books are never chart toppers. Where I make it work for DC is in the collections. My work seems to sell outrageously well collected, and DC and I have known for a few years now that the monthly figures on the floppies are only the tip of the iceberg.

The highlights of the panel for me where being able to shout out to Glen Wong and Adam Van Wyck, two of the mad geniuses that helped make the NF DVD sing.

Before you could say Please Sign My New Frontier Absolute Edition with Slipcase the panel was over. Saw my pal Steve Hurley and dozens of others after the panel, and got a quick moment with Tom Spurgeon, who has the snappiest stationery this side of Doc Allred.

Bam! Upstairs to sign for the rest of the day. Again, I was completely knocked over by the number of folks that were lined up. Several had to be given Robaxacet for the searing lower back pain caused by hauling ANF around the con all day. You're the real heroes! Great signing, made better by the fact that J. sat in and everyone got both our sigs on their Spirit books. My man Jake Bell stopped by with the other Arizona boys and the signing was complete.

Yay. We made it through the day. Back to the hotel for a quick shower and such.

Played it cool and had dinner in the hotel with friends Andy B, Manale and the rest of our Northern cronies. Stayed local that night and jawed with all the friends I never get to see like Justin, Jimmy and Amanda. Went to bed feeling good and ready for Friday.


Breakfast at Lael's, a San Diego tradition. Broke bread with my friend Mike Stratford from Sony and just caught up with the last year. First up for me was a sketching session at the Hero booth, which was some kind of Gametap booth. Jen kept things from getting too insane and I powered through as many as I could. I took a list for the rest of the folks and promised I'd have them done for Saturday am. Did I ever fail there! Didn't finish 'til 4 Sunday, and still have three to do and send out. Ah well, it just isn't San Diego unless you let someone down. Sorry guys.

Stopped to see my art dealer Albert Moy and say hello before I hustled to the Eisner Legacy panel. I was thrilled to be a part of this as it was my first meeting with Ann, Will's lovely wife. To be seated with her on such a panel was an absolute tonic. A wonderful woman whose love for Will seemed bigger than the show itself. My brief time with her and the words we shared are memories I'll keep with me. Thank you for your kind words, Ann. Also on hand was another man who I greatly admire, Mr. Denis Kitchen. The panel was a great time, and the fans were especially pleased to hear about Frank's upcoming picture from producers Michael Uslan and Deborah Del Prete.

I would like to note that during this panel a Comicon staffer came up on the stage to discretely ask me how many were in my party for the Eisner's. I told him four: Myself, J. Bone, Marsha and Kimball. He wrote this on an expansive ream of lusty paper and said they just wanted to make sure everything was set. This is meaningful later.

Done for the day! I bid Ann and Denis goodbye, knowing I'd see them later that evening at the Eisner's. Little did I know that it wasn't to be.

Back at the hotel, we took a little more care getting ready for the evening, 'cause it was Eisner night. We were joining friends for an early dinner, and then the awards. Marsha had bought a killer dress for the awards and looked every inch the blond Audrey Hepburn. Off to Fleming's Steakhouse to meet up with Jimmy P., Amanda, Justin Gray, Billy Tucci, Dave Mandel, Phil Noto et al for an Olympian beef festival.

J. Bone and Kimball met us there and the four of us headed across the tracks to the Eisners.

This part is still hard for me to understand, but we arrived a few minutes into the show, so it had started. When we got to the door, a staffer asked me who I was and referred to her list. She looked up when she found my name like something was gravely wrong. "I'm sorry, Mr. Cooke, but you're down here as one." Which is to say, my party wasn't on the list. No big deal, right? We're all con pass holders and the show is free. "I'm sorry Mr. Cooke, but we don't know if there is seating for your party up front. I'll tell you what -- why don't you go in and look around and if you can find four seats you come back and get your friends." I looked at my lovely wife and my friends. Then I looked back at the three staffers on the door that were going to stand there while I went into a dark hall that seemed just slightly larger than Shea Stadium to try and locate seating without a floorplan. I said thanks anyway. Without incident we left (contrary to some crazy stories we've heard) and since we were all blinged out we headed for the DC party thrown by Greg Noveck over at Deco's.


Great bash! Marsha and I get to both geek out. She sees Paul Reubens and I see Neal Adams. We had a terrific night, and I even got up and danced a bit with Miss Marsha. Had "that drink we never had before" with my buddy John Cassaday and things went kinda celebratory as the Eisner text messages hit the party. Dan D and Paul Levitz kept me updated and something I never could have imagined occurred. Hat trick! By some horrible mistake, I won three Eisners. I'm still not certain this actually happened. What a night to end up unable to attend.

My apologies to all, especially Ann Eisner. Wish I'd been there.

Back to the party, which had now flowed back to the Hyatt. The lobby was a monster. A quick trip to the room for some drinks (can't handle the bar line at the Hyatt) and then back down. The elevator doors opened at lobby level and it was like the belly of an aircraft carrier or football stadium full of people. The hum of the voices was like some huge turbine purring through the hotel. More celebrating with all our friends, and Marsha even treated the patient to a few Newfoundland reels.

Another night to remember. When we got back to the room I couldn't sleep, despite the physical exhaustion. I kept catching my ugly reflection in the window over the harbor and my beautiful wife sleeping peacefully and I don't think I've ever felt luckier or happier in my life. At 6 AM, my body finally shut me off for a couple hours.

Saturday. I went out of my way to schedule nothing at the show Saturday. Can't handle the crowds and I promised Miss Marsha a day at the beach. After a quick lunch with my pal, Steve Hurley, it was off to Cameron and J.'s condo to hook up with the gang and head to the beach. Had an incredible day bodysurfing and laying in the sand. Total recharge, and a lot of laughs. We must all be twisted because the biggest laugh of the day came when Scotty was stung in the face by a jellyfish. The poor guy had us in tears describing his ordeal. I am also fairly sure I saw two small boys from Missouri tandem surfing on top of Nick Derrington. Few know it, but Nick's height and natural buoyancy make him a fantastic longboard for a certain weight class.

Sunset and we're walking back to the condo. I must be getting punchy 'cause everything I see is beautiful. For a long moment, best shared with old friends, the world is simply beautiful. Thanks for having us out that day, guys. It was a real time.

Dinner finds Marsha napping while J., Kimball and I brave the gaslamp for sushi. The less said about that, the better. At least our bellies were full. Back at the Hyatt things are in full effect, and David Bullock has finally reared his swarthy head. So many great friends. A blur of happy talk and good cheer. What's keeping me awake? John Cassaday's twinkling eyes? Red Bull? Brian Azzarello's Wilfred Brimley-like moustache? Amanda Connor's hypnotic silver pendant? J. G. Jones and I share a few good laughs and The Lohan debacle prompts me to coin the phrase, "the only men left in Hollywood are twenty year old women." I make a mental note to use that in Spirit #10 on the back of the only scrap of paper up there that isn't completely covered with incoherent scribbles. Jimmy P. makes with the funny and I surrender to the party.

Sunday finds Marsha in top form after some rest and me still propped up by some artificial energy I'm becoming happily suspicious of. First up was a meeting I can't talk about just yet, but something has been put in motion that I hope will blow some heads off some shoulders when it's announced. It is the big news for me at the show, and I promise my readers and fans that it is going to make them very happy. There is actually a clue to what this is sprinkled in one of my panels from the weekend, but that's all I can say. Tease complete.

The crack of 10:30 has me on the panel I've been waiting for, the Kirby Tribute that Mark Evanier has turned into an annual event. I'm totally humbled to be up there with Neil Gaiman and Erik Larsen and did my best not to seem stupid. Shame Mike Royer wasn't able to make it, but we had a great time celebrating the King. Cannot wait for Mark's Kirby bio-opus. In the insane crush that occurs after an SD panel, I barely got a chance to say hi to John Morrow. Sorry John! BTW, I have something for you... guess I'll send it along this week via FedEx. Also met John Hitchcock, author of Dear John -- the Alex Toth Doodle Book. I was thrilled to hear that John had shown my story about Toth ("The Alex," from TCAF's Comics Festival) to his family and they were quite touched by it. We made a deal to supply John with the story to post on the Tothfans website.

imageUp next was lunch with Dan Didio and Jan Jones. Besides the food being incredible, we had a great straight ahead chat and made a commitment for a one-shot special this spring that will make some folks mighty happy. So much for me leaving DC. I have to learn to be more clear at my panels. I'm the type who is happy to talk about our troubles as an industry in an effort to move past them and I sometimes forget the obligatory disclaimers such critiques should carry. So don't worry fanboys. This Spring we've got it covered.

Speaking of things that have been blown out of proportion, Axel Alonso stopped by during lunch and said hi. As some of you know, Axel and I haven't seen each other in a couple years. We chuckled and I suggested Jan catch a pic on her phone to send it to Newsarama so we could all get over it. If there's one thing I love about Dan, it's that he doesn't screw around. Lunch is 55 minutes and I shoot back to the hotel to grab some artwork and the sketchbooks I have to fill.

I hit the booth where Amanda and Jimmy are stationed. It's like a who's who of the modern masters there. Phil Noto, Art Adams, Tim Sale, J.H. Williams, and on and on. Finally see Tim and we share an hour at the table while I finish my sketches. Tim looks great (the bastard) and having never seen him sketch before, I'm just knocked out watching him swing that wash brush. As the con finishes, the gang asked if I'd like to join the booth next year. I'm kinda stupid, but even I could see that I was way outclassed by these artists. So of course I said yes. Always good to be seen with the best.

With the con over, we had one more celebration. J., Kimball, Mar and I headed out for dinner with our editor this past year, Scott Dunbier. Scott has been an instrumental force behind our work on The Spirit, and saved our asses countless times as we tried to make the most out of the book every month. Met his lovely family and bid a bittersweet adios to Denny Colt. God bless you, Scott. I've never worked for a guy who had what I needed creatively so well figured out. You are the best.

Sunday night at the Hyatt. It's winding down and most people are at Chappie's Dead Dog party. We play it quiet and hang out at the hotel. As the evening wound down, Steve Manale, Mike Cho and I were getting ready to call it a night. It seemed it would end on a quiet note. As if reading my mind, Bob Burden appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Steve and I with a gregarious hug. I wanted to go to bed. I ordered a drink. Y'see Bob was launching into his pitch for a miniseries titled "Rollerbarn." Bob had arrived like a toreador in the final moment of truth, and drove his sword through the heart of the teetering monster. I attended to his final flourish and excused myself. For the first time in five days, I slept like a baby. Rollerbarn. I love you, Bob Burden.

Marsha and I would like to thank everyone at Comicon who made this the greatest year imaginable. To all the Comicon, DC and Hyatt staff, fans, readers, critics, cosplay freaks, and to our many friends old and new; thanks and God Bless. See you at Wondercon.


all photos supplied by Mr. Cooke except the one up top, taken by me and manipulated in some terrifying Latverian knock-off of Photoshop. The covers are to Spirit #11 and Absolute DC: The New Frontier. The person in the party photo with Cooke is John Cassaday. The other couple in the photo of two couples is Jimmy Palmiotti/Amanda Conner.


Jackie Estrada's letter in response.
posted 2:49 pm PST | Permalink

If I Were In DC, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: New Picturebox, Inc. Site

posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

Newspaper Cartooning News Round-Up

* I wasn't aware the Bill Watterson Honk! interview was on-line, but there you go.

* Cartoonists out of their element: Matt Wuerker is making appearances on Aljazeera English's Riz Khan Show, talking about cartoons.

* blogger Jon Swerens points out that Bo Nanas made its recent announcement it would end its run while appearing in less than 10 United States newspapers. And for anyone who thinks it's a guarantee for a hit, Bo Nanas had at least one book collection. The market is scary and somewhat brutal at its lower end.

* cartoonist and strip industry consultant Ted Rall, live and on stage this Monday.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Go, Read: John Stanley’s Crazy Quilt

posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Lynn Johnston: FBoFW Will Still Be Here

Editor & Publisher notes that Lynn Johnston has just put out a press release reaffirming her plans to move her 2000-plus client For Better or For Worse into a hybrid state, meaning re-runs with framing sequences set in the time established at the strip's end. The article notes Johnston's claim that rumors persist as to the strip's ending outright. I haven't heard any of the rumors, although I can imagine they persist given the inadequacy of direct language describing what Johnston is doing.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Go, Vote: In The Harvey Awards


you must vote by August 3 to be eligible
posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Happy 43rd Birthday, Danny Hellman!

posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Pin-Up Controversy Clusterfuckage 01
Pin-Up Controversy Clusterfuckage 02

Robb Armstrong Speaks
SF Cartoon Museum Fundraiser
Analysis of CCI Attendance Trends

On Ron Garner

Minx Puffery
Express: Paul Karasik
Crave On-Line: Stan Lee
Willamette Week: Douglas Wolk

Not Comics
Cosplay Summit
I Hope Hilary Swank is Ant-Man
Rick Ankiel Jokes Are Always Funny
Helen Thomas vs. Garry Trudeau Vs. My Eyes

Mousewax Returns
Your Summer in Spandex
Heroes to DC Announcement
Disney Acquires Sava Project
DHC/ Actual Site
Family Circus' Vacation Summer
DHC/ Announcement

Josh Saul: Various
Sam Leith: Various
Brian Heater: The Blot
Andrew Wheeler: Spent
In Praise of Bomb Queen
Don MacPherson: Metal Men #1
Bill Sherman: xxxHolic Omnibus
Matthias Wivel: Unpopular Culture
Rob Clough: The Baby-Sitters' Club
Jog: Marshall Law: Fear and Loathing
Johanna Draper Carlson: Sorcerers and Secretaries Vol. 2

August 1, 2007

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.


I have a short essay in here, I think. While I don't think I can suggest anyone get on board with this lovely, lively, but hardly generation defining superhero comic book at this particular price point, you might put it on your radar for future discounting. Plus if you're already a fan I would think this might be a nice way to interact with the series.

MAY073466 UPTIGHT #2 (RES) $2.50
I really liked the new issue of Jordan Crane's one-man, one-title omnibus. I thought it was sharper than usual, as if Crane has made one of those 10-20 percent shifts upwards in quality that used to be pretty common back in the early '90s when every cartoonist was doing a solo book. So the heck with the rest, whatever they are: buy this. Mine looked different than the reproduction shown at the top of this post; I don't know if he went a different way with the cover or if I have some sort of preview copy, but the interiors are what did it for me. I mean, heck, everything Jordan does cover-wise works.


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 SF, I’d Go To This

posted 6:30 am PST | Permalink

Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update


This article seems to indicate that definitely the Danish Muhammed caricatures and perhaps the Iranian football team as suicide squad soldiers cartoon by Klaus Stuttman are on display right now in Germany. Kudos to Stuttman for having a cartoon for which he received death threats up in his archives like any other piece.
posted 3:16 am PST | Permalink

What Happened to Jay Stephens at the US Border Back in April of This Year

Here's a more complete article about the lousy experience the cartoonist Jay Stephens had at the US border while trying to cross over into the states from his native Canada for some animation consultancy work he was doing. This is really an animation industry story, but as Stephens is a well-known comics cartoonist as well as an award winning animator, and the borders are there to be crossed by people in comics as well as an in animation, it's probably worth keeping an eye on things.

I had wondered if there might be any problems with people coming into North American for Comic-Con International, so I asked around. All I found was people complaining that coming into the US totally sucks now, but I didn't hear about anyone stopped or detained.
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink

This is What 29K In Print Looks Like


Drawn and Quarterly has announced a fourth printing of the first volume of their Moomin series, which they say brings the in-print totals of the Tove Jansson book up over 29,000 copies. This seems astounding to me. The second volume is due in October.
posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink

What I Really Want For Christmas

Asking that somebody buy me a collection of correspondence and other documents relating to the late 1940s litigation between Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and longtime recognized Superman owner DC Comics seems self-indulgent and, well, slightly insane given what they'll likely bring.

What I am hoping is that someone out there will purchase this and make it available to all historians. Pretty please?
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Slam Dunk to Viz


News that Viz has licensed Takehiko Inoue's Slam Dunk interests me on several levels, none of which are probably legit:

* I would love for a sports manga featuring a sport where people sweat to actually get over in a significant way with audiences, and I'm not sure why I feel that way. Viz has a much better chance of making this happen than the title's first North American license-holder.

* To my mind, this is the first big do-over of the modern manga era, meaning this series didn't do all that well with its initial rights holder.

* I may be wrong about this, but I seem to remember that Slam Dunk had a crucial role in the development of North American manga in that Tokyopop's Stuart Levy was inspired in part by his enjoyment of the then-popular animated series version of this manga to pursue publishing such material.
posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink

Alan Gardner Decries Prevalency of Editorial Cartoonist Victimhood Pose

At Daily Cartoonist, Alan Gardner speaks to the detrimental effects of casting editorial cartooning as a profession in decline. I sort of agree with Gardner that's probably not the wisest way to play it if you're in the profession. However, since I'm not, I'm happy to point it out whenever it's relevant.

A couple of side issues get floated, too. The reason why it's talked about more now than it as when the profession started its decline is because the way media has developed encourages such talk and, like all things in decline such as, oh, the air in a room, it's more worrisome at a point of further decline than it is at a point in initial decline. Three factors you can point to that make it a bigger issue now are 1) the perception that editorial cartooning jobs are in danger has now gone so far as to change the orientation of the profession to embrace animation work, 2) the complaints against editorial cartoonists often include "that person isn't from around here" and it's actually true now, which I think suggests a tipping point in the way people relate to editorial cartoonists, and 3) there is no easy-to-grasp conventional wisdom about who gets let go and who doesn't suggesting less of a trend than a potential category collapse. The other side issue floated is in the comments thread where someone is basically saying, "I'm doing okay; show me this decline." I don't think that musters enough of a serious question to be answered, frankly.

In related news, Tulsa World announces it will be hiring to replace the late Doug Marlette.
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink

Happy 76th Birthday, Tom Wilson!

posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Jon Vermilyea

posted 3:01 am PST | Permalink

Quick hits
Massive Jewish Art Exhibit by Pasamonik

Paul Gravett: Superheroes Now and Then
Superheroes Grow Up; Everyone Else Regresses

I Hate Your Cartoon
What Stores Want From Mini-Comics
Cape Contest: Double-Check Conditions

PWCW: Warren Ellis Moebius
Playlist: Joe Chiappetta
PWCW: Arina Tanemura
Inkstuds: Jim Blanchard
Blogcritics: Lloyd Dangle
Bear Alley: Reg Wootton
Express: Cathy Malkasian
Newsweek: Osamu Tezuka
Baker's Dozen: Charles Pelto
Mundo Fantasma: Mark Newgarden
Mundo Fantasma: Steven Weissman
Comics Worth Reading: Rachel Nabors

Not Comics
Your Scribe Award Winners

On Bleach
Young Neil Young
New Digital Comics Start-Up
Whedon and Moon at MySpace
Fiore Goes Animated on uClick
Howard Cruse Launches Local Magazine

Jog: Chance in Hell
Rob Clough: Garage Band
Paul O'Brien: Doktor Sleepless #1
Don MacPherson: Doktor Sleepless #1
Don MacPherson: Battle of the Bands Vol. 1
Greg McElhatton: Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1-3
Kevin Panetta: Casper the Friendly Ghost Vol. 1
Andrew Wheeler: The Saga of the Bloody Benders
Burl Burlingame: Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1
David Welsh: Samurai Commando Mission 1549, Translucent


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