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











December 31, 2007


Happy Slightly Less Depressing Than This Downer of a Cartoon New Year!

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winning hearts with upbeat cartoons like this one is why we're a socialist nation today
 
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December 30, 2007


Happy 51st Birthday, Steve Rude!

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Happy 51st Birthday, Lela Dowling!

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Happy 45th Birthday, Fabian Nicieza!

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Julie Doucet!

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I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
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December 29, 2007


CR Week In Review

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There is no Week In Review for this week, but I sure enjoy that cover.
 
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December 28, 2007


Happy 47th Birthday, Jay Geldhof!

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December 27, 2007


Happy 85th Birthday, Stan Lee!

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Happy 40th Birthday, Chris Ware!

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I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
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December 26, 2007


Happy 52nd Birthday, Mark Bright!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Joan Hilty!

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Happy 86th Birthday, John Severin!

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I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

image

I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
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December 25, 2007


May God Bless Us Every One

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I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
December 23, 2007


Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* go, read: Faith Erin Hicks profiled.

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* go, look: Booksteve presents the 1972 Comic Art Fan Awards results.

* go, read: various comics pros tell The Daily Cross Hatch their five favorite comics for 2007.

* go, listen: Jamie S. Rich talks to Marjane Satrapi

* go, roll your eyes: only if Ian Brill agrees to be the new Bucky.

* go, thrill: Fantagraphics Holiday Party Bowling Duel

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* go, read: Marc Sobel reviews one of the ten best single comic book issues of all time, the issue of Love & Rockets Vol. 1 (#28) with Gilbert's Frida Kahlo story and multiple stories using multiple approaches by Jaime, including the still-astonishing "Tear It Up, Terry Downe."
 
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Happy 59th Birthday, Joost Swarte!

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I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
December 22, 2007


Happy 50th Birthday, Tony Caputo!

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December 21, 2007


CR Holiday Interview #7: Julia Wertz

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*****

imageJulia Wertz is one of growing group of young cartoonists with a variety of projects on their plate, none of which have anything to do with traditional serial comics publishing. My primary interest in her comes through the Fart Party collection Atomic Books put out this Fall. Like the on-line comics turned mini-comics from which this volume is collected, The Fart Party perhaps shouldn't work as comics as well as it does. But you can't make things funny unless you see them funny first. Wertz's view of the world is so distinct that her decision to not get in its way, to be as direct as possible in telling her jokes and to use the simplest art style that still communicates what's going on, proves to be the best decision she could have made in bringing her unique sensibility to the page. I don't know if Wertz will be doing comics of this type ten years from now, but if she's making comics at all, I would like to read them. She was extremely nice during the brief exchange that led to the interview below. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: Can you give me an idea of all of your comics work right now, what you have going on? You're still doing Fart Party on-line but you also have some other projects along with the Fart Party book coming out, right?

JULIA WERTZ: I'm currently editing an anthology of comics based on missed connection ads from Craigslist and newspapers, it's being published by Three Rivers Press in early 2009. I'm working on a review web site called The Cranky Clam and mulling over some longer stories I want to turn into comics. Since the Fart Party book is out already so I don't have to worry about it anymore, and hopefully there will be a second book since there's more than enough material for it.

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SPURGEON: How do you work? Is there a daily routine you follow? How much of your working life is given over to working on these creative projects instead of other work? Unlike a lot of cartoonists who write about themselves, I perhaps thankfully don't get much of your working life.

WERTZ: I work as a bartender in Brooklyn, and I have no set schedule so my routines are boiled down to the few mundane activities I can enjoy on most days, such as drawing at cafes and playing scrabulous on Facebook. Bars in New York close at 4 AM so I rarely get up before noon, which is the opposite of my old life in San Francisco where I opened the cafe at 5 AM. I used to have a much more set routine in SF and I got a lot more work done. I feel kind of lost in NY without any routine I can rely on for the comfort of stability. I don't make too many comics about my work because while a lot of funny stuff does happen at my job, those types of inside jokes and conversations with lonely regulars don't really make for good material. I probably should devote more time to my creative projects, but I'm still new to NY so I'm stuck in that adventure/touristy phase still. I wander around when I should be drawing.

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SPURGEON: Are you hearing back from new readers that just started to read you because of the book? Are those readers' reactions any different than fans who came at it from on-line work or the mini-comics?

WERTZ: Yes, and it's very interesting to hear what new readers have to say compared to the old ones. New readers who just read the book often have many misconceptions of how the relationship story panned out and how much my life has changed since then. My comics have changed since then too -- the content tends to be a little heavier and not as consistently humorous. Old readers sometimes express dismay with that, but I really don't really care because I'm making comics for them, I'm making them for me. It's kind of like a diary, but public. (And heavily censored -- I don't include most things that actually happen.)

There are plenty of encouraging, loyal, long-time readers, but there are also many people -- specifically people on the Internet -- who can be complete assholes about it. But I do really enjoy hearing from readers who were there from the very beginning when it was just a few comics on a really crude web site, because they've followed my life for the past two years, during which so many things have happened that it's almost difficult for even me to keep it all straight. It's a strange feeling knowing that there are strangers who've been watching my life for the last two years, and I don't even know their names.

SPURGEON: In the introduction, you talked about reading a bunch of comics while you were sick and that kind of driving you into comics. What were the comics that particularly grabbed you? I can maybe see Julie Doucet and perhaps Sam Henderson in the way you set up some of the comedic elements in Fart Party, but were there other comics that you liked or that really hit you hard, or was it just the group of them, or all of them at once?

WERTZ: I think that rather than specific individuals, it was just the medium itself that kind of just stormed into my life almost overnight. It was like being bitch slapped with destiny stick. I'd never paid much attention to comics before getting sick, and I'd definitely never drawn one before. I remember the day I got all those comics from the library and I was up all night reading them, furious that I hadn't found them until so late in my life. (I was 21) Then I remember drawing a comic as a joke for a friend's birthday but as soon as I was finished with it, I went over to my brother's and said, "This. This is what I want to do with my life." and he said, "Then fucking do it." So I did. And I still do. And hopefully always will in one form or another. So while I could give you a list of people I found influential, it was more of a whole package thing. I've been making comics almost every day since then, and honestly, I can't recall what the hell I used to do to fill that void of time. Lord knows I wasn't sitting around knitting or petting kittens. I guess I went to college, but, you know, meh.

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SPURGEON: Can you talk about taking the strip on-line? Was there a moment that made you think that was a good idea or did it just sort of happen?

WERTZ: It just kind of happened. I never meant for it to be a web comic, I actually had no plans for it and no idea what I was doing. Back then it was just me drawing funny comics for friends, and then finally they convinced me to put them on the Internet so they could look at them at work. I did, and then it just took off from there. I was just as surprised as everyone else was. It probably was a bad idea since I hated -- and still do -- most webcomics, I refuse to read comics online and because I didn't plan anything out, the name Fart Party (which was a total last minute joke) stuck. It's kind of the equivalent of getting drunk and getting a really horrible, giant tattoo cause it sounded funny at the time but the next morning you're like, "Fuuuuuck I will have this huge tattoo for the rest of my life." Um, I've never done that, just for the record. I got my stupid tattoos when I was sober.

SPURGEON: Was there a point then at which you knew you were going to be doing Fart Party for a while, that it might become something that could turn in a major project?

WERTZ: I never really thought it would turn into the major project that it has, but I do recall that after my first convention, which was APE 2006, after finally meeting other cartoonists, that I realized it was a world I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my life, so I threw myself into it head first. I went to tons of conventions and traveled all around the US meeting other cartoonists, many of whom are now roommates, close friends and collaborators. I don't know how long Fart Party itself will last, I keep thinking I'm going to quit or start new projects and then someone says something really funny and I'm like "Well, there's another Fart Party comic," so I can never actually stop making them.

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SPURGEON: Peter Bagge makes a point in his book introduction about the moments of rage that come through your stand-in character at inexplicable times. Is that a fair assessment?

WERTZ: The whole rage thing is the most fictionalized part of the book, which many readers find disappointing when they figure that out. I'm actually a very even tempered person and it takes a lot to make me mad. I'm from Northern California, where everyone is nice and mellow so all the overreactions and violent comics I do are more just because I think it's funny. I don't really have the desire to rip off peoples' heads and shit down their neck, but thinking about doing it amusing.

SPURGEON: Have your cartooning peers been valuable to you in terms of how the strip has developed? How are those professional friendships meaningful?

WERTZ: The manner in which the strips have developed has been mostly influenced by the circumstances in my life, and less so by my cartoonist friends. Since I do autobio comics, there's really not much advice they can give me, and since the style of the art is so simple. I have done some other projects that they've been a great help with. Matthew Bernier has helped me learn a lot about perspective, Laura Park taught me a lot about realistic drawing and Alec Longsreth showed me how to get mini comics out there and self promote. However, all of those relationships are anything but professional- we're just a bunch of kids drawing pictures in boxes at cafes and bars together.

SPURGEON: Peter also talks about the direct nature of your approach. Is that why you go with the style you have? Because it seems pretty clear you have other styles available. Does the way you draw most of the Fart Party strips appeal to you in terms of it being direct and easy to communicate that way.

WERTZ: When I started drawing comics, I had practically no art background beyond a year of high school art class, which I cut most of the time anyways so I didn't learn anything. The style I came up with was simple and served the purpose of telling silly jokes, so I just kind of stuck with it. I did a lot of stick figure comics before I came up with the current style, but I stick with it because it's simple, I can draw them quickly and they kind of match the overall tone of the comic. I mean, can you imagine if I drew the Fart Party like Craig Thompson or Phoebe Gloeckner? It'd look fucking ridiculous!

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SPURGEON: I swear to God I only have one and a half questions like this, but: Most of the Atomic Books collection covers the breadth of a long-term relationship you had. How do you feel about having that work out there where people can read it? Has anyone commented on the relationship aspects of the book in terms that you've found interesting, or have you yourself seen anything in looking at all these comics at once that maybe wasn't as obvious at the time about hat relationship? I don't know many people who have a record like that when it comes to a relationship.

WERTZ: Most comments I get about the relationship angle is along the lines of other people's relationships being so similar, or that they could relate to a lot of it. When I read over it all again, I still think it was a very sweet, fun relationship, but I also realize (with the help of the knowledge of stuff that I didn't put in the book) that there's no way it would have lasted. I wasn't completely honest with myself about what I really wanted out of a relationship and while it was a great two years, it was time to move on. I grew a lot, changed a lot and learned a lot about myself during that relationship, but I've done even more so since I've not been in one. I really enjoy being single because I can be selfish, I can stay out all night and the cheese is always on the right shelf in the fridge. I don't think I'll ever chronicle another relationship to the extent that I did with that one, because there's nothing worse than coming home from the bar at 4:30 AM, feeling homesick and nostalgic and then rubbing your face in it with 200 pages of the past.

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SPURGEON: The half question is I wonder how you approached doing the strip called "Oliver Left For Vermont Today," which I thought was affecting, particularly for the shift in point of view. Do you remember how that strip came about?

WERTZ: I really couldn't think of what to draw without it being way too sappy, so I just settled on a simple door and suitcase scene. I thought it was a more temperate way to end the book than some crying/goodbye/cheesy comic.

SPURGEON: Has your relationship to your inspirations and influences changed as you yourself have been doing a comic now? Is there someone you admire more now?

WERTZ: There are a few cartoonists whose stuff I liked before I knew anything about comics, and now I can't even look at them because they're just awful. My relationship with comics has been more extreme than most only in the manner that I went from knowing nothing at all to the last two years being a crash course in a world I knew nothing about. And it's not like learning about something in the classroom, it's like being thrown into a lake when you've never even taken a bath before. Man, this interview is full of retarded metaphors, sorry!

There have been many influences and inspirations from outside of comics, such as the Sedaris', Jonathan Ames, Lesley Arfin, Neva Chonin, Ira Glass, Tina Fey, Aaron Cometbus, and even some musical inspirations such as when you're listening to a certain record and then you have to so something really lame like draw a picture of yourself listening to it. I tend to do that with Okkervil River, Blind Willie McTell and Cat Power. Yeah, I said Cat Power, and I'm not embarrassed about it either!

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SPURGEON: How do you feel about the self-promotional aspects of what you do, going to shows and meeting your readers and representing yourself on deals? Is that comfortable for you?

WERTZ: I really don't enjoy conventions. I enjoy after the conventions, the parties, karaoke, etc.... but sitting behind a table is kind of uncomfortable. And I feel like people expect me to be funny or to entertain them somehow when really I just want to get the hell out of there and hang out with my friends. I'm not normally an awkward person, but there's something about conventions that is just inherently awkward and it rubs off on me. As for representing myself on deals, I actually have an agent now (due to the missed connections book) and she does that for me since I have no idea what I'm doing. The contract with Three Rivers was 14 pages long, and I understood about half a page of it, so I'm very grateful that she can sort things out for me. I did all the work for the Fart Party book since it was done before she came long, but it's smaller press and Rachel and Benn of Atomic Books are awesome so it was no problem. They really care about the artist and not the money and they've been great to work with.

SPURGEON: Is there a strip or a joke you like more than any of your readers do?

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WERTZ: I like the reoccurring strips titled "today everything is shit" and "today everything's alright" because it's a good way for me to remember little things that happened that aren't worth making a whole comic about, and it breaks up the structure. I think maybe for readers they're kind of boring though since there's no punchline. And people seem to dislike whenever I complain about being homesick, but I love making comics about San Francisco. (Thus the entire cheesy mini comic I made about if after I moved to New York.)

SPURGEON: Five years from now, ideally where will you be and what will you be doing?

WERTZ: I really have no idea where I'll be in five years. I know I plan to move to Chicago in about a year or so, and I'd like to live in Seattle for awhile too. I think people should move around a lot before something ties them to one city for a long time.

But in 10 or 20 years, I hope to be living in a cute one bedroom in a Victorian back in San Francisco. I'd like to have a dog and maybe some houseplants. And maybe I'll stay there forever, cause, you know, you can't just leave your houseplants!

SPURGEON: Which guy from the TCJ message board was mean to you?

WERTZ: K Thor Jensen. If I ever see him, I'm going to kick him in the shins.

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* art from the Fart Party site or book except for the Cranky Clam picture, which was cross-posted to the site

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* Fart Party, Julia Wertz, Atomic Books Company, soft cover, 178 pages, October 2007, $12.95

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Happy 56th Birthday, Tony Isabella!

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Happy 51st Birthday, Bill Willingham!

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December 20, 2007


CR Holiday Interview #6: Tim Hodler on the Year in Art Comics

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*****

Despite having worked on some of the initial issues of The Ganzfeld, the writer Tim Hodler didn't show up on my radar until the debut of Comics Comics, kind of an ad-less Comics Buyer's Guide if the Spiegelman/Mouly RAW and the Claremont/Byrne X-Men had switched commercial and cultural places 25-30 years ago. Hodler's writing on comics is smart and to the point. It isn't designed to get himself over with a perceived audience. It's not a wedge to get the author's foot in the door for a career writing comics. He doesn't rant, or even vent. What he does is carefully analyze each book in a way where it seems as if he's come to every comic he talks about with wide-open eyes and a complete lack of agenda or obvious bias. I was pleased that he decided to talk to me a bit about himself, his work and the year in art/alt comics now fading. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: Where the heck did you come from? Suddenly I turn around and you're writing and you're married to a prominent alt-cartoonist and you're working with PictureBox. What did I miss? I take it you're an artist, or that you've done art?

TIMOTHY HODLER You didn't miss much, really. I'm not an artist at all, outside of the occasional mindless doodle, though I've taken a few courses in drawing here and there. Besides the handful of short comics stories I did as a child, the only comics I've ever published were two stories I wrote and drew in college for my school's student-run annual comics anthology, Bug. Both of them were pretty awkward and sophomoric, though people seemed to think they were funny at the time. I was going for a Doug Allen type of vibe, and was very proud to have successfully figured out how to use a brush.

I attended Washington University in St. Louis, where I majored in English literature (thesis on Dostoevsky and D.H. Lawrence) and minored in religious and film studies. That's where I first met a lot of the people who I still know very well, including my wife Lauren [Weinstein] and my Comics Comics co-editor Dan [Nadel].

In my senior year, I became the editor of the aforementioned Bug, along with another good friend, Patrick Smith, and we actually published Lauren's very first comic strips. At the time, I was also the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper's weekly entertainment magazine, Cadenza, where I published and edited an early column by Dan called Hey Kids! Comics!, in which the young legendary anthologist- and publisher-to-be regularly and strenuously promoted the idea that comics weren't just for children anymore. (I should dig some of those old articles out and post them on the Comics Comics blog to embarrass him some time.) I also asked a really funny guy named Marc Deckter to draw a comic strip for the magazine which I thought was hilarious, though many people seemed to find it idiotic. This fueled my youthful imagination with the idea that Marc was the George Herriman to my William Randolph Hearst. (Last I heard, Marc's now working for John Kricfalusi, by the way, which is perfect.)

imageAfter I graduated, I moved to New York and worked in the book publishing industry for a couple years as a scouting assistant, which allowed me the opportunity to read literally hundreds of terrible and not-so-terrible not-yet-published novels (one of our clients was Oprah Winfrey, which meant I got to read a lot of empowering stories about recovering from domestic abuse). Dan and Patrick moved to New York the following year, and in 1999, the three of us co-founded and edited The Ganzfeld, which, if you haven't read the first issue, was much different then than it is today. We wrote almost all of the contents ourselves (I did most of the unbylined "humor" pieces), and Patrick drew a really amazing wordless comic -- somewhat reminiscent of a collaboration between Jim Woodring and Richard McGuire -- that I still hear admiring comments about from cartoonists to this day. Patrick's gone on to do some very remarkable work in painting (www.smithpix.net) and on the Web (www.vectorpark.com), but apparently got comics out of his system in one go. His new stuff is so great that it's had to fault him for that, but I'm still sorry I never got to read any more of his comics.

Anyway, we got a surprisingly positive and welcoming response to the first issue of The Ganzfeld, but due to various creative disagreements about the direction of the magazine, the partnership broke up. Patrick left after the first issue came out, and I left shortly before we finished putting the final touches on the second. At the time, it all seemed like a monumental tragedy, but I think it worked out in the end. We were all young and stupid (well, Patrick wasn't). Dan ended up turning The Ganzfeld into a fantastic publication of a much more professional and impressive kind, and it eventually led him to PictureBox and all of his various other endeavors. I left book publishing at around that time, and have since worked as a writer and researcher for New York and Details magazines. Also around that time, Lauren was pitching an animated series to Nickelodeon, and she asked me to help her write it. Nothing ever came of the series (more proof of my Midas touch), but it led to us getting married in 2005, so that was good. Around then, Dan and I patched up our differences, which by that time seemed petty and unimportant, and Dan generously asked me to start contributing to The Ganzfeld again, specifically pushing for a long story on Steve Gerber. That ended up not seeming appropriate for The Ganzfeld, but by that point, Comics Comics had been born.

SPURGEON: Can you describe your comics reading from the point it intensified until now? Did you grow up reading comics and the move into different types of comics like a lot of readers? Is there a comics reading experience that you remember as being particularly important in terms of still having a echo effect today?

HODLER You shouldn't ask that question unless you have a lot of time to kill... I was one of those kids who year after year, when assign
 
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I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room, and I have to not screw up -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
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December 19, 2007


CR Holiday Interview #5: Tom Devlin

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*****

I met Tom Devlin in the late 1990s, either months or minutes before he was about to launch the infamous "Marvel Benefit Issue" of Coober Skeber, I can't remember. He would go on to use that well-publicized event to orient his Highwater Books into a unique place in the late-decade comics publishing landscape. Highwater had a brief but interesting life, among other things drawing attention to the cartoonists in and inspired by the Fort Thunder arts collective. He now works at Drawn and Quarterly doing a variety of tasks, one of the more public being the spearhead for their efforts reprinting the Moomin comic strips by Tove Jansson. He lives in Montreal with Peggy Burns and their two children. Tom is one of those vital cogs in the North American arts comics scene with whom I love talking comics and visiting generally. D&Q is turning out to be a better home for him than I could have imagined; if nothing else, as he points out, his presence means they're capable of producing more work in any calendar year. My thanks to Tom for the chat. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: What is your title there at D+Q, what does that mean exactly, and how do you break down various responsibilities? In what area do you feel most confident? Least?

TOM DEVLIN: I am the "Creative Director" which is a title I actually gave myself as it seemed fancier than "Production Manager," but I am basically a designer and editor. Oh and right now, I'm also a retail store manager.

imageSince D+Q is still a pretty small shop, Chris Oliveros and I share the production work. We divide up the books or comics and then work with the interns and part-timers to put them together. I handle the bulk of the design -- so I do catalogs, web-design and the book covers for some of the artists who don't design the covers themselves. I will make suggestions for projects to Chris but it took me a couple of years to feel confident in my role in the company and Chris' trust in me to do so.

I feel most confident editorially -- I trust my taste in comics or in what will be generally appealing to our audience. I could feel more confident about my design skills. I'm always trying to improve on that front.

SPURGEON: Can you take a few sentences to describe how exactly you went from the end days of Highwater and ended up at D+Q and eventually moved into your current role? My memory is that you simply followed Peggy there and then just started doing work around the office until you were more fully invested, but I'd like to hear your version.

DEVLIN: That's pretty close. Initially, when we moved here it was just Chris and Peggy in the office and I was still running Highwater from home. For people who don't know, Peggy is Peggy Burns who used to be the publicist for DC and Mad Magazine. We were dating for a couple of years before she took the publicity job at D+Q. I started packing orders once a week or doing freelance design on labor intensive books or picking up a catalog or ad to design in order to alleviate the load on Chris until the company grew enough to hire me as well. I was hired as the company was switching distribution to FSG, and we had to put out 10 books a year, at least.

SPURGEON: They'd take away my press card if I don't ask, so are all the Highwater accounts settled now, one way or the other? Does Highwater still exist as legal entity in any way?

DEVLIN: I don't know if you could say Highwater was ever a legal entity. There are still a few outstanding debts here and there but I have payment plans with most of the folks to whom I owe serious money and many of the others are gracious enough to not mention the debt to my face.

SPURGEON: What has your influence been most concretely felt there at D&Q? What is different about the company for your involvement, do you think?

DEVLIN: There's more talking in the office? No, I'm not sure. I hope the company doesn't seem too much different to people honestly. It's no longer just this one sweet Canadian guy working out of his apartment. Now there's brash loudmouth Americans in the mix.

I've always been leery of diluting Chris' editorial vision with mine (not that they are so wildly dissimilar but the company is very editorially consistent under Chris' direction.) But I very much did not want to storm in and "Highwater-ize" the place, I like to think I am very respectful of what Chris and all of his cartoonists have created over the past two decades. He has the most consistent vision of a comics publisher ever. The last thing I would want to do is come in acting like I know more than "The Chief"; it's just not possible. I hope that my involvement on a small level complements all that Chris has achieved.

Pragmatically, I think my presence has helped the company to grow in how many titles we are able to put out a year.

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SPURGEON: Was it gratifying to reach five-figures in terms of sale with the Moomin books?

DEVLIN: I think it may be my crowning achievement in comics. The Moomin series really is gratifying both artistically and financially which is beyond what I ever could have anticipated. The series has done so well -- in comics circles and beyond comics -- that I'm still dumbstruck that it had never been available in the North America before. The whole project has been a dream; I asked Chris if I could pursue the rights, he said yes, it took about two calls, and in about two weeks we had a deal. It's amazing to see so many people respond so strongly to a comic strip one feels is great and has championed for so long before it saw print. I've always had a little bit of that editorially-speaking but the response to the Moomin comics has been overwhelming. We receive letters every week from all over the world thanking us.

SPURGEON: How do you see the material that you've released so far; what is it about that work that really speaks to you?

DEVLIN: I just read the third book in the series it's even better than the previous two volumes. Tove starts to hit her comedic storytelling stride in the second book and it really takes off in the third. Her writing feels distinctively Scandinavian (or perhaps what we view as typically Scandinavian here in North America). There's a sharp wit that is tempered by a humanist outlook rather than the "fallen world" viewpoint. I think Tove found everyone kind of bumbling and humorous rather than just choosing to lampoon a certain group. She acknowledges depression or insecurity in a way that seems very original. As far as her artwork goes, I'm not even sure what to say. Her character design, her overall design is just impeccable. Every flower, or table-leg, or beach is so perfectly realized when I look at it, I think, "That is the way to draw a table leg, there is no other." I'm pretty sure that she is my favorite strip cartoonist to just look at.

imageSPURGEON: Is there a similar re-appreciation of Lynda Barry now that you're gearing up to work with her?

DEVLIN: I've never stopped appreciating Lynda! And I know that the world at large outside of comics hasn't stopped appreciating her. She is such a strong, fantastic voice. It's pretty exciting working on her books. She's sending in her pages for What It Is now and they're these fully-painted ornate drawings with glitter glued on (she knows it can't be reproduced but she just has to put it on there). She writes us these long doodle-filled letters on yellow legal paper and scans and emails them to us because she prefers the act of handwriting over typing. Then she mails them to us. I certainly can't wait to meet her in person. Sometimes I can't even believe that I have the good fortune to be working on a book with Lynda Barry, that just seems impossible to me. I'm about to start working on her mini-site, which will be up in 2008.

SPURGEON: This may be a loaded question, but you've lived and worked in two of the five great North American cities for comics: New York and now Montreal. Can you contrast the two cities as comics cities, and what you've liked about each?

DEVLIN: What about Boston?! I don't know about viewing them as comics cities when you're there though. What makes a comics city? I lived a block away from Tom Hart and Gabrielle Bell when I lived in NYC and it was great when we would meet up at this bar called the Pencil Factory to drink and draw but I didn't see them that often. The one thing I liked about NYC was that everyone goes through there and it is just endless with events and exhibits that you can go to or not.

Montreal is really two comics cities, French and English. I wish I knew French, because I imagine that the French comics city of Montreal is just like NYC, every French cartoonist passes through, a couple of years ago there was a Le Dernier Cri show right around the corner from my apartment. One funny thing upon moving here that whenever I talked comics with someone other than Chris O., they invariably mentioned Moebius and Mike Diana. On a personal level, I've gotten to know Joe Ollmann and Billy Mavreas pretty well, and wish I saw more of Bernie Mireault.

SPURGEON: How do you feel Dan Nadel and PictureBox is doing as the primary publisher for many of the Fort Thunder and related art collective comics? Do you have a good relationship with them? How do you appraise the job Randy Chang has done at Bodega?

DEVLIN: Dan is one of my closest friends in comics outside of the Highwater family. I am in awe of how he's managed to publish such beautiful high-production books one after the next. Dan is a consummate professional and I think most people in alternative comics don't know what to make of someone so together.He's the first publisher in years to start off with a solid business sense, (as opposed to acquiring bits and pieces along the way from making mistakes). He had a first-class distributor that wasn't Diamond, contracts, grants, before he started publishing, I don't think any other independent art comic publisher can say that. He exhibits at the Basel Art Fair and SPX. He's pretty much the perfect publisher for the Fort Thunder artists.

I am also jealous.

Randy is great -- he used to intern for Highwater and has taken what he learned there and has thrown most of it out the window -- as he should. He's so low key and just puts the books out and they're great. As a fan, I wish he put out more books. He told me that he only has time to do three books a year so that's what he'll do. And I think the fact that he knows his limits, and therefore his strengths, right now as a company and publisher is great; I wish I had known that when I started out. I like that Randy is willing to try oddball stuff too like conceptual t-shirts (the Tom Gauld Yeti) and temporary tattoos (Daybreak) just because they crack him up.

Again, I'm jealous.

Another friend from when I lived in Brooklyn is Leon Avelino who is starting Secret Acres with every single great mini-comics artists you haven't heard of yet. People have been trying to make money publishing and distributing mini-comics for years and I think Leon will be the guy to do it.

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SPURGEON: What do you feel Highwater's legacy will be?

DEVLIN: The answer to that question is not my place to say. It's for everyone on the message boards to generalize and dismiss and leave me in tears.

SPURGEON: I've never talked to anyone who worked at D&Q before: what's Chris Oliveros like as a boss? For someone so influential, there's very little known about him. What should comics readers know about Chris?

DEVLIN: Chris is the best boss anyone could ever have. He is very reserved most of the time. He's called "The Chief" by his cartoonists. I think the reasons why his cartoonists appreciate him as a publisher are the same reasons why he is a fantastic boss. He focuses on your positives, he's patient and agreeable. Chris is also very opinionated and articulate about what he likes and doesn't like. He's very trusting of the people he selects to work with, whether it's cartoonists or employees. Knowing he believes in you makes us all work harder to justify that trust. Honestly, none of this is ass-kissing b.s.; he's a great guy. Also, he actually slaps his knee when he laughs.

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SPURGEON: Marvel's going to release an alt-comics anthology featuring their characters, and there have certainly been other attempts at re-imagining those icons through the artistic perspective of alternative comics. Do you feel that you should be blamed for this because of Coober Skeber's Marvel benefit issue? What are your memories now of that project and how it came about? It's hard to imagine anyone doing something like that now.

DEVLIN: I was trying to put an end to that alternative superhero nonsense!! I was naive. When we did that book it was pretty exciting -- people were talking about it, WIRED wrote about it, I was able to launch a publishing empire. At the time I had a few ideas: I wanted to do a children's book with one pagers by alt-cartoonists, a Sunday strip tribute again by alt-cartoonists, and finally a superhero book. Ron Rege wanted to draw Spider-Man and convinced me to do the super book. I actually drove to Quebecor with a couple of Fort Thunder guys to pick it up and they stopped us at the border in both directions because we looked so dicey. I remember the customs agent looking at the Power Pack/Darger spread with a flashlight and somehow missing the fact that he was looking at a bunch of juvenile penises. I thought we were all going to jail for that one.

SPURGEON: You just released a huge Julie Doucet book and the second ACME Datebook, and your plans with Lynda Barry are well-known. What else is on the slate that you can tell people about? Anything you're particularly looking forward to seeing?

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DEVLIN: I'm just finishing up work on Haunted by Philippe Dupuy that is really amazing and will be out in early 2008. The book is similar to the stories he did in Maybe Later but with a heavy allegorical spin. In the Spring, we are publishing Red Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi, which is another vintage manga similar to the [Yoshihiro] Tatsumi series that I'm about to send off to the printer. The book is a real mind blower. It is so far ahead of anything that was going on in North American comics at the time. It's really ambitious stylistically, very fractured plot-wise, and heartbreaking. I think it's going to surprise a lot of people.

In Fall 2008, we have new books by Rutu Modan, Gabrielle Bell, Guy Delisle and Seth, each year, we think "Wow, this was such a strong year," and we think the next can't possibly be better, and then the list gets finalized and once again we end up with a lot of great and surprising titles.

SPURGEON: Your strips output has been relatively modest so far; is there any chance of a third major strip series or more one shots?

DEVLIN: We're always working on ideas. We have a Don Freeman book coming out next fall. He's the guy who did the children's book Corduroy. There are a couple of other things that are just too early in the planning stages to disclose.

imageSPURGEON: Drawn and Quarterly is essentially out of the periodicals business except for a couple of left-over titles from your big stars. And even there you see some attrition -- it's my understanding that Chester Brown's next project is going to come out as one big chunk. Did D+Q leave the periodicals business of its own accord, or did it leave you?

DEVLIN: We do comics pamphlets if the artist wants to. We explain that this is not a viably economic option for them or us and it may not be even good for their career in this "graphic novel age" but we're happy to make the art that the cartoonists want to. Some artists love the back and forth communication with their peers and fans that the pamphlet provides.

The periodical business definitely left us but I think it's a fair trade off for the increased revenues and exposure that book store distribution brings. These great cartoonists really do deserve to be on the sales charts with Phillip Roth and Dave Eggers.

imageSPURGEON: Do you still draw? Are you at any point going to make more comics?

DEVLIN: Jeez, I hope so. It's hard with kids and a job though. I'm trying to write stuff so when I have my evenings back I can start drawing. Right now, I do a lot of drawings in crayon on a miniature easel at the orders of my daughter Georgy. I just drew a Lavender Diamond poster for a show at the D+Q store last night.

SPURGEON: Now that comics have started to work their into bookstores, what are your thoughts about what makes good design? Are there projects in which you were involved design-wise of which you're particularly proud?

DEVLIN: I'm not much of a design nerd and I'm not very sophisticated in my design tastes. I really had to become a designer out of necessity because I couldn't afford to hire anyone to do the work for me. Like any book designer, I want people to notice a book and pick it up and when they pick it up there's something tactile that pleases them. That's about it. I'm especially happy with Exit Wounds and King-Cat Classix -- I think those books have an indescribable feel to them. And I'm really pretty happy with the size and feel of the Moomin books. I had a plan with those books and I wasn't sure it would work but I think it really came off.

SPURGEON: You worked at Million Year Picnic. Why aren't there more great comics shops?

DEVLIN: Part of me can't begrudge the guy who opened a shop to sell his collection and get a discount on his weekly comics even though most of us would consider that a terrible shop. There were a couple of things we did at the Million Year Picnic -- we aggressively courted the casual consumer (people who might buy Dilbert or Calvin + Hobbes collections) and we stocked really deep on comics from Fanta and D+Q and the like to help make the store a destination. We hired a staff that was very interested in the alternative comics. We actually hired women to work in the store. The super stuff sold itself, that clientele knew what they wanted. I'm not sure if you or many of your readers have ever been there but it's a tiny store and most of the wall space is still devoted to weekly superhero comics, but almost every other bookshelf is devoted to a different aspect of comics. We created a place where a diverse group of people felt comfortable. Comic shops are pretty cool places to begin with so you just have to make it welcoming. Maybe most comic store owners aren't interested in what other people think makes a good store.

Also, people could see into the store because we didn't cover the windows with Alex Ross posters that eventually faded from the sun.

SPURGEON: If I remember right, you enjoy the rarest of all industry distinctions of actually meeting the mother of your children at San Diego Con. What advice would you give to the hundreds of other folks that are looking for love at these shows?

DEVLIN: Don't be such a big comics snob that you won't date Superman's publicist.

SPURGEON: The last time I saw you, you were laughing because you had just tracked down Jeffrey Brown not to talk about his comics but to compare daddy notes. What's the best advice you ever got from a cartoonist about being a dad?

DEVLIN: I don't remember anyone giving me advice. It's fun exchanging kid stories with other cartoonists though. Peg says that we have become slightly more interesting because now we don't just talk about comics but we talk about comics and kids. But somehow I think that has actually made us a lot less interesting.

*****

* photo by Theresa Dillon provided by Tom Devlin
* from the Moomin Strip
* page from the Lynda Barry's greatly anticipated What It Is previewed in last year's FCBD giveaway
* art from Devlin
* Coober Skeber Vol. 2
* Red Colored Elegy promotional art from when the project was announced
* one of the increasingly rare D&Q comic books
* poster for Lavender Diamond show by Devlin
* photo by Theresa Dillon provided by Tom Devlin

*****

Drawn and Quarterly
Drawn and Quarterly's Blog
Drawn and Quarterly's Store

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*****
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posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* must-read post: Jeannie Schulz on Schulz and Peanuts

* the man behind the man known as Fletcher Hanks, Paul Karasik, is offering his Fantomah and Stardust t-shirts at $12 a pop, which sounds like a pretty good last-minute gift to me. He also report that Mr. Hanks will be the cover artist on the next Comics Journal, which I did not know. Chris Butcher has some last-minute gift ideas. Original art makes a pretty good late gift because you can use the page from the comic it's from to present the gift to your gift recipient. Any and all late adds to my own Christmas gift are getting this book.

* the cartoonist Dash Shaw asks Marvel, DC, Tokyopop and all such companies to consider his plan for Company-Sponsored Doujinshi.

* congratulations to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden on the Sunday birth of their daughter, Aldara Juliet Abel Madden.

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* another Top Comics For 2007 list, this one from Kevin Church as a supplement to his list from yesterday:
1. Age Of Bronze Volume 3: Betrayal (Part 1), Eric Shanower
2. Agents of Atlas, Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk
3. All-Star Superman Volume 1, Grant Morrison, Frank Quietly, and Jamie Grant
4. Amazing Fantasy Omnibus, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Various
5. The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen, Various
6. Annihilation: Books 1-3, Various
7. Batman: Year 100, Paul Pope
8. Betsy and Me, Jack Cole
9. Beyond!, Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins
10. Blade: Sins of the Father, Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin (cover art pictured)
11. Captain America: War and Remembrance, Roger Stern and John Byrne
12. Carl Is The Awesome!, Marcos Perez
13. Casanova Volume 1: Luxuria, Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba
14. The Claws Come Out, Pat Lewis
15. Comic Book Holocaust, Johnny Ryan
16. The Complete Peanuts, Charles Schulz
17. Devil Dinosaur Omnibus, Jack Kirby
18. Dr 13: Architecture and Morality, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
19. Dr Strange: The Oath, Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin
20. Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 2, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Various
21. Fell Volume 1, Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith
22. GODLAND: The Celestial Edition, Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
23. Gotham Central: Dead Robin, Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, Kano, and Stefan Gaudiano
24. I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets, Fletcher Hanks
25. The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja
26. Invaders Classic Volume 1, Roy Thomas and Various
27. It Rhymes with Lust, Arnold Drake, Leslie Waller, and Matt Baker
28. Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Volumes 1-3, Jack Kirby and Various
29. Jack Kirby's Silver Star, Jack Kirby
30. Kamandi Archives Volume 2, Jack Kirby and Various
31. Kane Volume 6: Partners, Paul Grist
32. Krazy & Ignatz: The Kat Who Walked in Beauty, George Herriman
33. The new Love and Rockets Bookshelf Collection, or whatever Fantagraphics is calling it
34. Madman Gargantua, Mike Allred
35. Marvel Masterworks: Nick Fury, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, and Various
36. Mean, Steven Weissman
37. The Middleman Volume 3: The Third Volume Inescapability, Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine
38. Misery Loves Comedy, Ivan Brunetti
39. Nextwave Volume 2: I Kick Your Face, Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen
40. The Nightly News, Jonathan Hickman
41. Palestine: The Special Edition, Joe Sacco
42. Paris, Andi Watson and Simon Gane
43. Phonogram, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
44. Popeye Volume 2: I Yam What I Yam, E.C. Segar
45. The Punisher: Barracuda, Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov
46. The Punisher: Man of Stone, Garth Ennis and Leandro Fernandez
47. The Punisher: Widowmaker, Garth Ennis, Lan Medina, and Bill Reinhold
48. Runaways Volume 3, Brian K. Vaughn, Adrian Alphona, and Mike Norton
49. Sandman Mystery Theater: Dr. Death and the Night of the Butcher, Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle, Guy Davis, and Vince Locke
50. Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine
51. Showcase Presents: Adam Strange, Various
52. Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes, Various
53. Showcase Presents: The Flash, Various
54. Showcase Presents: The War That Time Forgot, Various
55. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: Volume 1, Sean McKeever, Takeshi Miyazawa, and various
56. Superman: The Bottle City of Kandor, Various.
57. The Three Paradoxes, Paul Hornschemeier
58. Thor: The Eternals Saga Volume 2, Roy Thomas and Various
59. The Ultimates Volume 2, Mark Millar and Brian Hitch
60. Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse Volume 1, Ben Templesmith
61. X-Men: First Class, Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz
62. Zombies vs Robots, Ashley Wood and Chris Ryall
* go, look: Pilgrim's Progression

* did I already mention this bit of stray publishing news? I keep getting e-mail like I didn't.

* go, read: Homesick by Joseph Lambert

* go, read: Punch 21, Punch 22 and Chris Butcher in Japan 14

* some good news: the Beloit Daily News has reinstated Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur due to the local and national support the strip received after its recent dropping.

* the Newsarama year-end interview with Paul Levitz is certainly one of those must-read things for industry followers (part one, part two); however, modern comics historians might pop a blood vessel a few graphs into part one, so BE CAREFUL.

Here's the thing. Levitz claims that after Marvel decided to distribute itself with Heroes World that the entire industry might have collapsed had DC made different choices. I was around back then covering the industry, and I can't fathom what Levitz is talking about, and I would love for someone to explain it to me. I've never heard anyone else claim the market was that particularly fragile at that point -- in fact, I've always felt it's only the market's strength that kept the downside of the decisions made during those months from killing comics. And if the market was a week away from ending in 1995, how do we possibly find words to describe the real fallow period that followed four to seven years later? Anyhow, no one back then that I'm aware of saw DC as saving itself. Rather, the feeling is that DC pressed a business advantage when Marvel decided on self-distribution by fashioning a hugely favorable deal with the strongest distributor in North America. Other than deciding not to publish comics for three years in protest of Marvel distributing through Heroes World, I can't fathom a decision they could have made right then that would have ended comics. In fact, while most of the other options would have been less beneficial to DC than being first on board with Diamond, none of them would have been harmful, and a lot of people feel they would have been more beneficial to everyone else and even the big companies in the long run. To suggest DC might have taken a pass on pressing the advantages available to them due to Marvel's stupidity is somehow equivalent to their helping the industry entire to duck Armageddon seems to me untenable according to all the information I've seen.

There's a lot of information I haven't seen, of course. Was DC perhaps the agency responsible for deciding that Diamond would cover Capital's accounts when Capital went under? That would count as a decision that had it gone the other way might have punched a fist Authority-style through the chest of the modern comics industry. I sort of doubt it, though. That would suggest a far greater relationship between the two companies than we've ever seen before, plus DC going to Diamond is what started the string of events that finally pushed Capital out the door.

Seriously, if anyone knows what Mr. Levitz is getting at, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
posted 9:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 58th Birthday, James Van Hise!

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posted 9:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 54th Birthday, Mack White!

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posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
December 18, 2007


CR Holiday Interview #4: Will Pfeifer

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*****

I knew very little about the writer Will Pfeifer before I decided I wanted to interview him, although what I did know was kind of intriguing. I knew he had a full-time job as a newspaperman. I knew that although he'd gotten his start on the well-liked Vertigo series Finals, he had written nothing like it since. Instead he had become a dependable and respected writer of superhero comics, building a resume from a mix of short runs, one from-the-ground-up project (HERO), and now as an increasingly tenured writer on the Catwoman book. That last assignment has its own challenges: Pfeiffer and his collaborators must operate to the Ed Brubaker-era conceptualization one would guess so as to continue the book's positive aspects from that run, but must avoid directly aping those comics and tiring the audience. Pfeifer also wrote one of the more poorly received mini-series from the recent past, a mini-series called Amazons Attack! where Wonder Woman's countrypeople attack Washington, DC. His good humor in confronting some of that book's many critics and his insistence that it still worked closed the deal, I think. I'm glad I took the time to call. He seems like a good guy, modest and intelligent, a lot like the other newspaper people I know. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

imageTOM SPURGEON: One thing that occurred to me as a first question is I was looking at a list of books you've done, and you started with Finals. And then there's nothing on the rest of the list that's remotely like Finals.

WILL PFEIFER: I know. You're completely right. Finals was the first book I did; I did that with Jill Thompson back in 1999. Then, there was a year or two where I didn't do a whole lot else. And then, the door that seemed to open was more of a standard superhero comics kind of door. I'd love to do something else like Finals, but my plate has been full and the opportunity hasn't presented itself since then.

SPURGEON: So were you always interested in working in comics no matter what the type, or were you thwarted from working on projects similar to Finals and just kind of fell into the other kinds of comics?

PFEIFER: I think after Finals, which, to be honest, did OK but didn't exactly sell through the roof, I pitched a few other ideas. I really liked working with Joan Hilty, who was my editor on that book. But nothing caught on then, so I kept in touch. Eventually someone else at DC got my name, and eventually it led to what became HERO. They needed a writer on a superhero book, and I was that guy. I was happy to be that guy. I enjoyed doing it. I'd be happy to do either type of book.

SPURGEON: You've talked in the past about doing small-press comics, so I wondered about your connection to superhero books. When you were doing those early books, was eventually doing mainstream superhero titles part of your conception of what you might end up doing in comics?

PFEIFER: I first started doing small press comics back in '85 or '86 when I was in college. I did them just for fun. I'd always drawn comics when I was a kid, but I really enjoyed that with small press comics that you could do them and get some feedback -- some other people would actually see them. I was a big fan of comics -- I'd read them since I could remember -- but I never really thought I'd write them professionally.

imageWhen I was going to college at Kent State, I was friends -- and still am -- with Jay Geldhof, who did a lot of comics in the late '80s, early '90s. He worked on Grendel on a couple of the runs. He and I had always bounced around the idea of working on a character he created way, way, way back for a Fantagraphics anthology called Threat! called Bob Mercenary. We'd planned out this whole nine-issue series. He was going to do the art, and we were going to co-write it. Because we both had a lot of other things going on around then, it never happened. I had always thought that if I was going to get into comics, it would be through that kind of side door. Looking back, I don't know who we would have sold the book to if we had actually come that far.

SPURGEON: We're talking on your writing day, the day you're not at your full-time job. You're kind of known for having a job that's different from writing comics. It's more of a common thing in strips than in comic book for someone to have a full-time, salaried job. Although maybe you know of other people in your situation?

PFEIFER: I don't really know too many other people. The reason I have the full-time job and have kept it is because I had the full-time job long before I got any kind of regular work in comics. And by the time the comic book worm took off, I had a house, and now I have a kid. And so -- especially with the comics market the way it is -- it would be a leap to give up regular income with health benefits. [laughs] Might not be the smartest move right now.

The plan has always been that when my daughter hit kindergarten age, which will be in about three and a half years, to maybe try and go full time in comics. We'll have to see if the comics industry is still around then. [laughter]

SPURGEON: I read in another interview you saying that you intended to explore that option, writing full-time in comics, and I thought that a pretty confident statement.

PFEIFER: I'd like to. There's been time since I've been working regularly that I've turned down certain jobs in comics just because I wasn't ready to quit my full time job, and I didn't want to take on so much comics work that I'd be blowing deadlines left and right or it'd be crappy and rushed. It's something I still struggle with sometimes, because I'd like to go full time in comics. I just don't think I'm ready for that yet. Especially with my daughter still in day care -- which is more expensive than I ever would have imagined. [laughs]

SPURGEON: Do you think there's anything about having a full time job that orients yourself to the comics writing a bit differently than other people? For instance, maybe you don't press for work, or maybe this allows you to develop more effectively without being overworked?

PFEIFER: I can see what you're saying. On the one hand, it's nice not to be scrambling for work. When I knew HERO was getting canceled and I knew I was leaving Aquaman, I also knew when I went to the Wizard World show that summer that I wanted to talk as many editors as I could to try to get something lined up. But it wasn't that I had to or I'd have no money. [Spurgeon laughs] Having a full-time job does let you pick and choose a little bit more. If there's a project that comes along and you don't think you're quite right for it, you don't have to grab it because it's there and it's something that will pay the mortgage next month. And it's not just money. I work at a newspaper, where I've worked since college. I'm around other people all day. I hear people talk. I think as a writer the more you're out in the world and dealing with other people, it can only help your writing. And with newspaper experience, I can deal with a deadline on a daily or an hourly basis. [laughter] So I'm pretty good at hitting that monthly deadline. That's something that working at a newspaper definitely taught me.

SPURGEON: You know, that's a whole industry worried about decline.

PFEIFER: Yeah, I'm in two industries like that. [laughs]

SPURGEON: Is there any way the two situations compare? There's an almost apocalyptic sense in both fields.

PFEIFER: There really is. The common thread between both of them is that they seem to be pinning more and more hopes on the Internet. Our newspaper has shifted from calling it a newsroom to a quote-unquote "information center." If we get a story, breaking news or not, we'll put it up on the web site, and then at the end of the day we worry about what goes into the print newspaper. It's a good plan, and it's definitely shifting resources to the Internet. But like in the comics industry, the one thing I wonder is if there's any money to be made from that -- especially enough money to pay the salaries of the people working at the newspaper. In newspapers and comics, the two main costs are the same: personnel and newsprint. The prices on both are going up. I do see a lot of similarities. The Internet has hurt both industries but both industries hope it will be their salvation. They're both putting a lot of focus into that area.

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SPURGEON: I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about your Catwoman work. What about your writing previous to that assignment do you think got you that gig?

PFEIFER: The editor when I first started working on that book was a guy named Matt Idelson, and he had worked with Joan Hilty. I think he saw a certain sense of humor he saw in my work, and maybe liked some of the things I brought to HERO about a superhero or somebody in a costume that's out of their element. How they're living in this big DC Universe-type world, and how they cope with it on an individual basis. I think somehow Matt thought that would fit in well with Catwoman. She's sort of a step apart from the rest of the superheroes in the book. A) She's mostly a criminal, and B) the way I see her and the way I think Ed Brubaker tried to write her is that she looks at the craziness of the whole DC Universe with a sideways glance like she can't really believe it. It's fun to write a character with that perspective.

SPURGEON: Is there anything difficult about coming onto a character where you have a recent run that was so well-received? That seems to me quite different than coming onto a book where the reference points are 60 years old. With Catwoman, the character's been around for 60 years, but a lot about what the character means right now hinges on this much more recent work by Ed Brubaker -- by Darwyn Cooke as well. Do you have to have reverence for that recent material?

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PFEIFER: I don't know if it's reverence... I was a big fan of the book. I was reading the book long before I ever got the chance to write it. I tried to take the elements that I enjoyed reading -- the intelligence of the character, the careful plotting that Ed would do, the cast of characters -- those elements, and tried to bring that along in my scripts. I don't know if it was a conscious process, or almost organic, but as I would write issue after issue and plot out story arcs, I would bring in things I liked. I think I had more action, more over the top superhero elements running through my books, maybe a little more humor, maybe a different kind of humor. Eventually, and I couldn't pinpoint how or when, I just sort of made it my book because I was writing what I wanted to read. It is a little tricky to come onto a book that was definitely seen as someone else's book, and especially as Ed's book. It helps that when I came in Pete Woods was the new artist. It's always nicer when everything changes instead of "here's the new guy." Then people don't expect you to be so much like the old guy.

SPURGEON: How important is it to consciously bring in elements that are yours? Or is it all unconscious? Do you need to do put your own stamp on it in order not to become a caretaker for someone else's work?

PFEIFER: I think there is an ownership process. I think you can tell when someone is trying to do over and over again what was done before. When I was writing Aquaman... I only did eight issues. But taking over a book that nine million people had written --

SPURGEON: -- and nobody liked. [laughs]

PFEIFER: Well, yeah. The thing about comics was that in comics he's seen as kind of a joke -- rightly or wrongly. But my Mom knows who Aquaman is. Everybody knows who Aquaman is. You know? I remember I was writing that book and Pete Tomasi, who was the editor, he said, "It's your book now. Write what you want. You're the writer." That was one of my early assignments, so that was a good lesson to learn. When you write the book it is your book, you're determining it. With a situation like DC, there's a lot of continuity that sort of limits what you can do, and there are big events that come along that you have to be a part of. But you're the guy they're paying to come up with ideas to write the book. It's a pleasure -- and it's your responsibility to make it your own.

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SPURGEON: In the One Year Later narrative jump that hit Catwoman and a lot of other DC books, Catwoman had a daughter. And it seems like since then a recurring theme has been baby in danger stuff. I couldn't help but remember that in the not-so-recent past you brought home a daughter of your own.

PFEIFER: Right. It would have been April of 2006 that we brought home Allison from China.

SPURGEON: So was this just a massive working off of baby protection paranoia that you had?

PFEIFER: The timing [laughs] was a complete coincidence. The idea of Selina having a baby came from on high. They wanted something dramatic for the One Year Later jump. At first Matt Idelson and I were like "I don't know..." there's so many cliched situations you end up doing. And then the more I thought about it, the more I saw it as a big step, one that could be fun to write and might show another side of Catwoman's character. Meanwhile, my wife and I were in the middle of the adoption process, which is a long, complicated process. Those things just happened to be going on at the same time. [laughs] But then Allison and Helena arrived around the same time.

imageSPURGEON: Better Catwoman pregnant than Batman, I suppose.

PFEIFER: Everyone thought, "Oh, it's going to be Batman's baby." It never was going to be Batman's baby, and I never thought anybody would ever think it was going to be Batman's baby. Let's face it, if Batman's going to have a kid, it's going to be in the Batman comic books. That's just how comic books work.

SPURGEON: I had Alfred in the pool.

PFEIFER: There you go! That would have been funny. We bounced around who it was going to be. It ended up not being that important. The baby was the story, not the father.

imageSPURGEON: So the baby in peril stuff didn't really play with the worries and fears you have as a new father.

PFEIFER: It wasn't so much baby fears... Allison was nine months old when we adopted her, but a baby relies on you for everything. Not just food and a place to live. But to make sure the baby gate is closed on the steps. Making sure you don't leave a pair of scissors on the floor... I guess it's just more I that realized that for someone in Catwoman's line of work how dangerous it would be for a baby. If before she had the baby she's being attacked by these random villains, then after the baby is born they're going to go for the baby to hurt her. That's where a lot of those situations came up. But I also knew how cliched putting the baby in jeopardy is. I know as a new father how it's almost a taste issue. Put the baby in danger too many times -- I'm not going to say I'd have a moral problem writing like that, but it does start to feel weird. [Spurgeon laughs] To milk the reader's feelings by torturing the baby.

When Selina had the baby, there was never any doubt the baby would be gone eventually. She wasn't going to have the baby forever. But right from the beginning I said I don't want to kill off the baby. I didn't see the point of a dead baby in the book. She was never going to be there forever, but she wasn't going to die, either.

SPURGEON: A lot of your peers have talked with me about superhero comics as a way of examining the notion of responsibility, and it seems this might fall into that sort of discussion, the obligations you have for a child. It would have been odd for her to keep it around.

PFEIFER: I don't know if you read the last issue where she gave up the baby, but to me that was the responsible thing to do. She could have given up being Catwoman -- except for the fact that the book is called Catwoman -- so that wasn't going to happen. [laughter] I tried to establish the idea in the book that even if she gave up being Catwoman, all these enemies she built up for years would always be looking for her, she'd always be looking over her shoulder. So the responsible thing for her to do as a parent was to stop being a parent. And then I saw readers saying she could have left the baby at Wayne Manor, or hired a bodyguard. That's not a way to write a comic book. Write a story. [laughs] If your character has a problem, they have to deal with it, and hopefully in an interesting, emotional way. I guess to get way back to your original question, having my own daughter impressed on me the huge responsibility it is. You always kind of know that in the abstract before you have a kid, but when you have the kid, it's staring you right in the face, 24 hours a day. It would have felt hypocritical to write it any other way.

SPURGEON: One of the things I liked about your Catwoman comics is that the physical stakes are high. In one comic book you have these super-villains that are terrifying because of things a lot of superhero comics take for granted: they can fall off buildings, they can be shot without being hurt... you also did HERO, which also strikes me as the kind of book where like Catwoman you can isolate certain aspects and examine the superhero genre itself. Do you feel like you have greater insight into the superhero genre based on working on comic books like that?

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PFEIFER: Yeah. Especially with HERO, where the first arc was about a guy who grew up living in a world with superheroes. If you grew up in a world with Superman or Batman, especially the heroes with superpowers, would you feel inferior every day of your life? No matter what you did, you're never going to be Superman. You're never going to be Aquaman. You're never going to be the lowest-powered hero. You're never going to be able to do any of that stuff.

To me, the most fun in writing a book like HERO, a book like Catwoman, is that it takes place in this world that is just crazy. People can fly, villains wear crazy masks, aliens are landing every other day. Being a relatively normal person, that to me is what is most interesting. I've always tried, even writing books with big cosmic stuff or battle stuff like Amazons Attack!, I've tried to provide the perspective of a normal person. If everything is cosmic, if everything is super-powered, than there's no way for us to connect with it. If you try to write that normal person's perspective into it, than hopefully the reader can learn what's scary about it, what's funny about it, what's exciting about it. When it comes down to it, that's what I like about writing superheroes. You can explore the way that world works and the way it's different than the average world we live in. You know -- "Earth Prime."

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SPURGEON: Now that you have a little bit of space between you and the series, what do you think the basis was for so many people to have a negative reaction to Amazons Attack!?

PFEIFER: Was there a negative reaction? [laughter]

I think at its most basic, people have an idea about whatever superhero or character they love and have their ideal version of that character somewhere in their head. When you go against that version, some people are going to react very strongly. Amazons Attack! is right there in the title. They kill that guy and his kid on the very first page. People were really upset about that. But it was supposed to be shocking. It was supposed to be upsetting. It wasn't supposed to be a triumphant moment for the Amazons. People who have been reading Wonder Woman for however long they've been reading Wonder Woman -- and some of them have been reading for a long time -- they didn't like the fact that the Amazons were attacking and were evil. They also didn't like the fact that in Amazons Attack! that there wasn't enough Wonder Woman, and that Wonder Woman wasn't driving the plot along. The reason for that is that there's another book called Wonder Woman [Spurgeon laughs] where all that was happening.

I've worked on a few crossovers before, but this is the most closely I've been involved. It was almost a year ago exactly that I went to the DC offices for a weekend. We sort of plotted out the whole six-issue series, and we talked about all the tie-ins and this and that. When you're working on a big crossover like this, a lot of the plotting is just connecting the dots in a way. This is going to happen here, we'll deal with this here, and then over in Teen Titans this will happen, and then we'll deal with this, and then we'll deal with that. Readers may not like it, and in some ways it can be a pain to write, but that's what a lot of modern comic books are. The big ones that sell and the big ones that people seem to like are the ones that have crossovers crossovers crossovers. When you're writing it, the object is to hit those plot points. As a writer you try to work in those human emotions and twists and surprises and fun and action along the way. But you have to hit point A, B, C, and D because in another book, somebody's going to be hitting it.

[laughs] I think there are a lot of reasons people didn't like Amazons Attack! I realize that's a terrible answer.

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SPURGEON: I don't have that affection for DC characters, but it struck me that there was a disconnect. You have this title, Amazons Attack! --

PFEIFER: -- like Mars Attacks!, yeah --

SPURGEON: -- and it had that element of wide-vista, antiseptic action that such a title entails. Monsters. Famous monuments destroyed. All the superheroes teaming up. And then you had this turgid plot stuff and a few gruesome details that seemed to clash with the spirit of those elements.

PFEIFER: I know what you're saying. Sort of the big, '50s old-fashioned violence, and then the brutal, close-quarters nasty stuff.

SPURGEON: There were elements that made it seem like it would have worked well as a classic back-up story, where you'd see Batman helping Wonder Woman one issue and then Atom the next, but there were also these moments of grim-faced seriousness. These confusing plot elements, too... Okay, now I sound like I'm just griping.

PFEIFER: [laughs] That's okay.

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SPURGEON: I guess I was wondering if you feel more comfortable with certain kinds of storytelling over others. The relatively upbeat stuff seemed more in line with your other material, maybe more than the grimmer, or the more convoluted material...

PFEIFER: That's a good point. I will say that the whole opening, where we killed off a guy and his kid, that was my idea. We wanted to start it on a "we're not kidding around" kind of a note, and then I tried not to do too much like that for the rest of the stories. There were moments, but I didn't want it to be a bloodbath, bloodbath, bloodbath kind of thing. This is sort of the same topic, but I was looking through an issue of Wizard where they were profiling the great moments of the year. Virtually everyone was someone killing someone else. Wolverine chops off somebody's head or something. I'm not a big fan of those kinds of comics. I know that comics are getting darker. But I'm not a fan of everything having to be dark and gritty, and it was strange to be writing something where people felt like a lot of that was happening. That wasn't the intention. The idea was to have one of those all-the-superheroes-team-up-to-fight-a-menace kind of book.

I love Watchmen, and I love the original Dark Knight. A lot of that stuff -- the comics that kicked off the darkness trend. But my favorite things coming out today are things like Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman. It's the best comic I've read in years. It's not dark. It's got a hopeful feeling, and it's really emotional. When I write Batman in Catwoman, I try not to make him a dick like he's been in a lot of comic books. I don't connect to that. I don't think that's fun to read. I don't think a guy like Batman would act like that. I don't like comics that are nothing but violence and people acting like assholes to each other. [laughs] So I don't know how Amazons Attack! turned out like that.

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SPURGEON: It seems like a clash between your sensibilities and the demands of modern comics, to a certain extent.

PFEIFER: These big crossovers... there's a lot of different elements working. Like I said, there's a lot of plot points to hit. Some of them are your ideas, some of them aren't, and you work to integrate them as best you can. In the end, I think it was a fun book to read, and there are nice bits strung through it. But do I read it and see things I would have done differently? Sure. But I see that with everything.

SPURGEON: How might you approach the next one differently?

PFEIFER: For a crossover like that, there are so many changes, there are so many things you have to do, it's tough... maybe I would have... maybe just step back from writing it when you're focusing on this scene and that scene and look at the whole thing and see if it's doing what I want it to do. Catwoman is coming up on another somewhat crossover with this Salvation Run DC's doing. They're sending all the villains -- including Catwoman -- to another planet. My editor and I came up with an idea where, as part of the crossover, we can concentrate on Catwoman and pretty much ignore the rest of it.

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SPURGEON: Is the Film Freak character all yours?

PFEIFER: Sort of. There was a character in the '80s named Film Freak, but all I know about him is that his name was Film Freak. I never read those books. I know the whole vibe of him was different back then. So yeah, he was pretty much my creation.

SPURGEON: It seemed like you had fun with that.

PFEIFER: Oh, yeah.

SPURGEON: But it also seems to me the sort of thing to which comics readers might have a negative reaction, perhaps thinking that it was too silly or too playful. Did you have any negative reaction to that character?

PFEIFER: Some people really liked him. People who are big movie fans seemed to like him. Although it's weird that I got some movie fans that said the references were way too obscure, and I got some who said they're way too obvious. So I have no idea what was happening there. Some people thought he was no villain for Catwoman: he doesn't have any powers, he can't do anything. They wanted someone more formidable or famous. But I liked the idea that he was this manipulator. To me he was like a classic Batman villain. He has his gimmick. He commits his crime based on his gimmick. He has a movie in his head that he's the star of. I had a lot of fun writing him obviously, because I'm a big movie fan. But I thought he made a pretty decent villain for Catwoman because he viewed their relationship and his relationship to the world in a completely different way than anyone else. He thought he was the star of his own movie so he could do whatever he wanted.

imageSPURGEON: Now, do you think in terms of subtext when you work with a character like that, either in creation or afterwards?

PFEIFER: I guess when I was first coming up with him I thought it would be a fun thing to do. He was commenting on the idea of the heroes and the villains and the supporting characters in the story. I suppose the idea that everyone is the hero of their own movie, or think they are, when maybe they're just an extra, or maybe they're someone who gets killed in the opening credits or something like that. So there was definitely some of that. Writing him that long, especially a guy who talked as much as he did, I guess this sort of subtext would come out. [laughter]

SPURGEON: Speaking of film, you're on the record as being a fan of Jerry Lewis.

PFEIFER: I am.

SPURGEON: I wanted to nail you down on exactly why. Is it just the nature of his celebrity?

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PFEIFER: I think that's the main thing. That's part of it. I was actually e-mailing back and forth with Fred Hembeck of all people about this. And one of us, I don't remember who said, "He's entertaining when he's being funny, but when he's not being funny he's even more entertaining." A lot of people like Jerry Lewis as a joke. Not me. I think he has a lot of talent and a couple of his movies are legitimately great movies. Not many of them, but a few. It's just the way he has this ego about himself and his place in cinema, and he lives life on this level that I can barely imagine anyone living in, let alone myself.

A few years ago I went to see him in Chicago, and he was doing a book signing and a speech. Five minutes into the speech, these protesters started reading statements. He has protesters -- the Jerry's Kids/Jerry's Orphans thing. Most celebrities would have had the people removed, or talked to them, or walked off the stage; Jerry flew into a rage. And then he just left. I remember thinking "how often do you see a celebrity having a real moment?" It was fascinating. People in the audience were crushed because he was only on stage for a few moments. I thought it was the best thing that could have happened because it was so interesting.

I think when most people hear I like Jerry Lewis they think it's a joke, and that's part of it, but in a weird way I'm legitimately fascinated by him.

SPURGEON: Are you interested in celebrity beyond Lewis?

PFEIFER: I guess he represents that interest. Not like Paris Hilton or Britney [Spears], but a guy like Frank Sinatra or Bob Hope, that were so famous you could barely imagine it. I don't know what fascinates me about it. There's just... something interesting. Boy, that's a great answer. People that lived on that certain level. I know that Sinatra was wildly talented, but he could also be a tremendous jerk. I guess it's that mix of the public and private persona. That's the closest you're going to get to a superhero is that level of fame, people that manipulate their images for whatever reason and then every so often the real person slips thought.

SPURGEON: You talked earlier about Aquaman. [laughter] But there really is a cultural impression that something as silly as Aquaman leaves. Does that interest you as part of your working in comics? Are you interested in being a part of that, playing around with that?

PFEIFER: I think that's part of it, more the playing around with it. People will know who Aquaman is long after I die. I loved writing a book like Finals, and I'd love to do it again. But there's something special about writing one of the big name characters. I still remember the first time I wrote a DC Secret Files that summed up some crossover they did. When I wrote a page with Superman on it, I realized this wasn't me at home playing at writing Superman, I was really writing Superman now. As geeky as it sounds, when I'm writing Catwoman and Batman appears in a scene, there's a tingle in your spine that you're actually writing him. You're not going to change Batman or Superman in any meaningful way, but it's fun to play with these icons.

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SPURGEON: It seems like you see the humor in it, too. You mention in an interview about having to deal with fan complaints over Aquaman's orange shirt. You seemed kind of amused by it, but also resigned to the fact that this orange shirt was important.

PFEIFER: It's true. That was a weird thing. Some people were like, "Oh, thank God they're bringing back the orange shirt." And other people were like, "Oh, no, it makes him look like an idiot." The orange shirt, the orange shirt defines who Aquaman is. If he's wearing it he's one thing, and if he's not wearing it, he's another thing. People care about it. The amazing thing about writing anything is that people really care. People who like it, or people that hate your guts for doing it. They're not kidding around. This really matters to them. Someday, whether Catwoman gets canceled or whether I move on to another book. I may still read Catwoman after I leave; I may not. But these people will. As far as they're concerned, I'm just the guy who's there right now. They were there before me, and they'll be there after me.

It's almost comforting in a way because you can write and people can care so much. But when all people care about is continuity... it's like, "Don't you want a good story? Don't you want to be surprised?" Some people, all they want is for the character to act how they think that character should act and the moment you step over that line they're going to be upset about that. Tim Callahan did a book about Grant Morrison, and he talked about there being three levels of reality. The primary is what the hero is doing -- the actual story of the comic. The secondary level is where the writer shows himself in the comic (like Grant did in Animal Man). The tertiary is where you see the writer at a desk writing a book. That first reality for a lot of people is the most important reality. The characters are doing what they're doing because they're doing it. They know that people are writing and drawing these adventures, but that doesn't matter to them. The characters -- and what they do -- matter the most.

SPURGEON: One thing that struck me looking at your career is that you started out in '99, during a real down period for the industry.

PFEIFER: Oh, yeah.

SPURGEON: And now to hear you talk about maybe going full-time someday, I was wondering if you had thoughts about how it's different now to work in comics than it was eight years ago?

PFEIFER: The biggest change I can see is that people used to buy books for the artist. Now it's almost completely writer-driven. A big-name artist might sell a book, but people follow books because of the writers. People like Ed Brubaker or Geoff Johns or [Brian] Bendis, sometimes you can't say who's drawing it, but you know who's writing. So that puts the ball in my court a bit more, maybe.

Another trend that's more hopeful although it may come around and bite everybody in the ass, is that virtually everything is collected now. I would think if I wrote Finals now, Vertigo would collect it. Catwoman does okay, but it doesn't sell gangbusters. Still, I know I'll be able to pick up a trade in Border's. The most positive trend may be all the book publishers coming out with stuff, I can get Peanuts back to 1950, those new Love and Rockets collections, that seems to be where the explosions are. For a guy who's written mostly superhero comics at DC, it should be interesting to see that when things shift from monthlies to collections, where superheroes fall on that spectrum. Maybe superheroes are just a fad that's lasted a hugely long time. Maybe in ten years or so... Batman and Superman will still be around, but I don't know if there will be that many superhero books. God only knows what I'll do then. [laughter]

*****

* cover imagery from Catwoman
* cover from the Finals series
* Jay Geldhof's Bob Mercenary
* from Catwoman
* Pete Woods' version of the Catwoman character
* Helena, Catwoman's daughter
* Batman plays with Helena
* imagery feature Helena
* cover from Pfeifer's HERO
* cover from Amazons Attack!
* superhero team-up, from Amazons Attack!
* the civilian death the opened the Amazons Attack! mini-series
* I'd like to ask a question: why would someone want to read about throat-slitting in a superhero story?
* the Catwoman foe Film Freak
* Film Freak comments on film and maybe, indirectly, comics
* Fred Hembeck covers a Bob Oksner Jerry Lewis effort
* that orange shirt on Aquaman; from Pfeifer's run
* (below) cover imagery from Catwoman

*****

* Amazons Attack!, DC Comics, hard cover, 160 pages, 1401215432 (ISBN), December 2007, $24.99
* Catwoman, DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, ongoing, $2.99

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* the cartoonist Sarah Becan wrote in to say what Short Pants Press has in store for 2008: a new chapter of Bernie McGovern's Army of Lovers, second issues of Bone Closet (Robert Stevenson) and Sucker Punch (M. Jason Robards), a collection of Neil Brideau's Sock Monster comics and the debut issue of an anthology called The Shortpants Observer. That last book will feature material from four artists at a time, with the first issue's line-up being Becca Taylor, Anya Davidson, Jeremy Tinder (work pictured) and Corinne Mucha.

* the Stumptown Comics Fest moves to April; I hope to see you there.

* go, look: Marcos Mateu-Mestre

* go, read: a Pekar/Bertozzi collaboration on politics in Ohio.

* the editorial cartoonist and ex-Mormon Steve Benson says that Republican candidate Mitt Romney would be a bad prez unless he disavowed church doctrine and he hasn't done that yet. Personally, I believe not enough has been made of Romney's bizarre first name.

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* another Top Comics For 2007 list, this one from Kevin Church:
1. Acme Novelty Datebook Volume 2: 1995-2002 by Chris Ware
2. All-Star Batman And Robin, The Boy Wonder by Frank Miller, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams
3. All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison, Frank Quietly, and Jamie Grant
4. Angry Youth Comix by Johnny Ryan
5. Apollo's Song by Osamu Tezuka
6. Army@Love by Rick Veitch and Gary Erskine
7. Ask For Janice by Jim Mahfood
8. Atomic Robo by Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener
9. Awesome: The Indie Spinner Rack Anthology by Various
10. Batman by Grant Morrison and Various
11. Biff Bam Pow by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer
12. Black Metal by Rick Spears and Chuck BB
13. Black Summer by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp
14. Blue Beetle by John Rogers and Raphael Albuquerque
15. The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson
16. Captain America by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, and Various
17. Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
18. Chance in Hell by Gilbert Hernandez
19. Crecy by Warren Ellis, Raul Cacares
20. Criminal by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips
21. Cromartie High School by Eiji Nonaka
22. Daredevil by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, and Various
23. DMZ by Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli, and Various
24. Don't Go Where I Can't Follow by Anders Nilsen
25. Empowered by Adam Warren
26. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
27. Garage Band by Gipi
28. Geraniums and Bacon #4 by Cathy Leamy
29. GODLAND by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
30. Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm
31. The Goon: Chinatown by Eric Powell
32. Guardians of the Kingdom by Tom Gauld
33. Gyakushu! Volume One by Dan Hipp
34. The Homeless Channel by Matt Silady
35. House by Josh Simmons
36. House of Sugar by Rebecca Kraatz
37. I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason
38. Johnny Hiro by Fred Chiang
39. Justice League Unlimited #36 by Simon Spurrier, Min S Ku and Jeff Albrecht
40. King City by Brandon Graham
41. Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki
42. Laika by Nick Abadzis
43. The Last Call by Vasilis Losos
44. The Living And The Dead by Jason
45. Lower Regions by Alex Robinson
46. Lucha Libre by a whole mess of Belgians
47. Madman Atomic Comics by Mike Allred
48. Mail by Housui Yamazaki
49. Marvel Adventures: Avengers by Jeff Parker and Various
50. Mister Wonderful by Dan Clowes
51. MOME by Various
52. Moving Pictures by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen
53. MPD Psycho by Eiji Otsuka and Sho-U Tajima
54. Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham
55. New Tales of Old Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez
56. Notes From A War Story by Gipi
57. Percy Gloom by Cathy Malkasian
58. Pirates of Coney Island by Rick Spears and Vasilis Lolos
59. The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert
60. The Salon by Nick Bertozzi
61. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Brian Lee O'Malley
62. Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith
63. Silverfish by David Lapham
64. Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4 by Josh Cotter
65. Speak of the Devil by Gilbert Hernandez
66. Special Forces by Kyle Baker
67. The Spirit by Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, and Dave Stewart
68. Suburban Glamor by Jamie McKelvie
69. Super Spy by Matt Kindt
70. Superman #666 by Kurt Busiek and Walt Simonson
71. Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK's 11 by Fred Van Lente and Francis Portela
72. Tales From The Farm: Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire
73. The End by Anders Nilsen
74. Wonton Soup by James Stokoe
75. Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma.
* this press release makes it sound like maybe things are returning to normal at Wizard, except ironically I think the contact person listed at the very bottom with an e-mail icon (Mel Caylo) is one of the people no longer with the company.

* discussion of Howard the Duck comic during analysis of and reaction to analysis of the Howard the Duck movie.

* whee! Death!

* congratulations to Mark Evanier on his 8th anniversary of blogging. Mark's is the only blog that's ever linked to this site where I got the following message from an old friend: "I just saw your name on newsfromme! You're famous!"
 
posted 9:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 55th Birthday, Peter Gillis!

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posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
December 17, 2007


CR Holiday Interview #3: Simon Gane

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*****

I've been aware of Simon Gane since the 1990s, where his lively-looking mini-comics were one of the great pleasures of going to work in the industry and becoming cognizant of a wider array of what was out there. That said, I was totally caught by surprise when his new book with Andi Watson, Paris, crossed my desk. I had missed the series from which it's collected, and wasn't aware the Gane had made close to a full return to comics though projects like this one and a gig on Vertigo's The Vinyl Underground. I think I would have enjoyed Paris no matter what Gane had brought to the book, but I was surprised by how much more versatile, visually pleasing and attentive to narrative detail his art had become. His art ended up a perfect match for what's essentially an old-fashioned romance of the kind they keep telling us need to be made more often. If you're one of the people who's been saying that, I hope you'll consider picking it up. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Simon, I know very little about you and almost nothing about your formative years. How did you make that last step, going from someone maybe interested in comics to someone who actually made them?

SIMON GANE: I always made them, from childhood on. In my middle teens I wrote various stories entirely derivative of Herge's earliest black and white work. I really took to it from a young age because its crudeness in comparison to his polished color albums made drawing comics of my own seem just that little bit more within my grasp. Anyway, they featured a cabin boy who was essentially Totor in appearance, the precursor to Tintin. I drew them at home and at school, alongside other friends who were drawing comics. We did so in the library, instead of attending lessons. Anyway, my dad had copies of each "adventure" printed at his work, complete with covers. On the back of the second one I was already clearly carried away, because I wrote "Have you got them all? 2 to collect!"

Given their print-runs of two, the step was rather making comics that people actually read and this happened through self-publishing them in a punk fanzine friends and I made back in '92. Then Pete [Pavement] at Slab-O-Concrete offered to publish my comics and through corresponding with other zine-makers I hooked up with Ian Lynam who wrote some for me to illustrate, too. Throughout the '90s I was actually quite "prolific" (hey, those aren't my words, they're the Journal's!), but drew relatively little of merit, sadly. I'm directing that at my own work, not any of my many collaborations. I then had a period of a few years where the day jobs took over and I was getting some freelance illustration work, too, so I had little spare time for comics. I missed them, though. Whilst other parts of my life were more fulfilled without being tied to a comic project, I actually felt a void without one. I got back into them when I was asked to draw a strip for the punk band Subhumans and when Tom [Pomplun] from Graphic Classics contacted me at the same time about doing an adaptation for him. A couple of months later I hooked up with Andi at the local Bristol comic convention and that's when we decided to work on Paris together.

SPURGEON: I hope you don't mind me asking, but how much of your professional life is devoted to comics? Do you have other professional obligations? I'm just trying to get a sense of what you do.

GANE: I do take on some graphic design and illustration work but thankfully 90 percent of my professional life is currently devoted to comics, although that's only since penciling a Vertigo title. Previous to that I was a freelance illustrator, designer and laborer and it was during that time I drew Paris. It was always the last thing I should have been doing because I had bills to pay, of course, but I loved drawing it too much. I guess comics are a compulsion rather than a career.

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SPURGEON: The first thing that drew me in when I first saw your work is this marvelous texture to it, this almost patterned sense of how things looked. What were some of your influences and how do you feel that early look developed?

GANE: Ah, it might just be that fine art, which I studied, has been a slight influence after all. Back then my preferred artists were always the sort of mid-20th century ones like Dubuffet, the ones concerned with texture, the one's whose work was always more about marks on a surface than creating the illusion of depth. And in comics my favorite artists likewise gleefully show us their hand or brush or nib. Current artists like [Christophe] Blain and [Joann] Sfar are good examples of this. I love that the very same dash can represent an eye, stitching on a garment, a dent in a wall, or a hyphen in a speech balloon for that matter. A huge cartooning influence is definitely Tardi, who would always include the decorative aspects of things: a tweed overcoat, a cobbled street or a tiled floor.

I think it's more about arranging things on a page for clarity's sake and the patterns come with the repeated elements. For example the leaves I got rather carried away with in Paris were drawn individually because if I drew all the leaves on a tree you wouldn't see any of them. They'd also be too dense to show the architecture I wanted to draw behind them, so this process of arranging things became more about order than the haphazard or perhaps even about abstraction over realism. But as importantly, they were just therapeutic to draw! An editor once critiqued a drawing I'd done of a child's bedroom floor cluttered with toys and so on by saying the objects should be overlapping for realism and not so arranged. But I didn't like that idea, I wanted to draw all of each individual object, not hide parts of them. I don't know, I just find lots of smaller things assembled to make up a whole aesthetically satisfying somehow, like a mosaic, or a cut 'n' paste fanzine page, whatever it may be.

SPURGEON: I don't have any grasp of comics beyond yours of the type you were doing ten years ago when I first became aware of you. Were there a lot of cartoonists making comics like yours? Was there a community of artists? Or were you kind of operating independent of any friends or influences?

GANE: I was operating independently for the most part, maybe because I didn't really see myself as a cartoonist. My stuff was better known in the punk scene, I think. I did have a number of collaborations with UK small-pressers though and followed comics in general closely. I was very inspired by mini-comics: Tom Hart's, David Lasky's and Adrian Tomine's for example. I'd talk with my non-comic making friends about my stuff but had no specific community beyond meeting up with people at conventions and so on. Which in Britain seems to be more about beer than comics!

SPURGEON: How do you know Andi Watson? Do you remember at what point you decided you wanted to work with him -- was it a particular comic he had done, for instance?

GANE: Andi's more about a nice cup of tea on the other hand! I knew him through his work first. I bought his first Samurai Jam mini-comic and later saw his Slave Labor titles in comic shops. I was like "Wow, Andi's doing mainstream comics now!" He was also published by Slab-O-Concrete on occasion, so we were kind of associated through that too -- or so I like to think! I can't remember if at the Bristol comic convention he offered to write me a story or if I begged -- I think the former, remarkably -- but either way it was a wonderful favor on his part and I'm indebted to him for it. I think Breakfast After Noon was the book that made me most want to work with him. It appealed because his fantasy elements had been stripped away and his story remained engaging. More so for someone uninterested in sci-fi, etc. There's just a gentleness and hopefulness in his work that I find comforting; I wanted my stuff to have that too, if possible.

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SPURGEON: You've said that Paris took the shape it did largely because of what you wanted to draw. Can you break that down specifically? As an artist, what appealed to you about what factors you suggested?

GANE: Yes, Andi asked me what I'd enjoy drawing and also what books, movies, painters and so on I liked. This was partly because he knows comics are difficult to draw if the subject matter doesn't interest you and also served to start the ball rolling for him. I must add that the non-cliched aspects of the book are more likely his ideas than my own! The suggestions I made such as it being about artists in postwar Paris and the vague "feel good" Audrey Hepburn-type movie setting was important because it was a place I wanted to go. Drawing it made me happy. I wasn't able to work on it all the time of course, but that was maybe beneficial in a roundabout way because whenever I did return it was like being transported back to a favorite holiday.

That makes me sound like a complete loser, but it's the truth! I didn't want to have to draw unpleasant subject matter everyday, and I love Paris and am interested in the lives of its artists over the years so it made sense to suggest them. I also wanted it to have a non-conformist message, but a slight one tied to everyday life, not the one-note sloganeering I was only capable of.

SPURGEON: How much preparatory work did you do in terms of scene-setting and character design before you launched into the pages itself? How did you and Andi work together during that stage of the project? How much visual evidence did you collect?

GANE: I did three drawings on Andi's request because he was heading to San Diego and would be seeing SLG's Dan [Vado] and Jennifer [de Guzman] whom he'd be asking to publish it. I drew the two leads and a third picture of them exchanging a glance beneath the Winged Victory sculpture in the Louvre. As it turns out that image sums up the book in many ways, such is Andi's skill. Anyway, he would send me the scripts for each issue and I'd show him the pages as I drew them. Being a kindly soul, he didn't suggest many amendments at all, but when he did he was spot-on. In the last panel of chapter two I'd drawn full figures, but he knew a big close-up would be better.

I wouldn't work this way again but I did no preparatory work, no thumbnails, I didn't know what thumbnails were when I started drawing Paris, between you and me. I tackled each page in running order as I came to them. I didn't really know how the splash pages would turn out until they were finished because I'd pencil and ink the different elements as I went along. I'd write lists of things that needed to be included or props and character types I wanted to draw in the backgrounds and it was a case of juggling them and simply fitting in as much as I could.

Visual reference was essential. I already had lots of books of Parisian photographs and so on, but collected many more as I went along. They weren't just a practical help, they were inspiration itself and characters from the photographs of such famous artists like Doisneau appear in the comic from time to time. The intention was to build this sense of familiarity, firstly for me. Nods to cartooning influences are in there, too: the fish monger from Asterix, a girl reading Tintin magazine, a doorman reading Spirou, Popeye as a gallery exhibit and so on. Whilst I did look at '50s fashion, furniture, vehicles and so on, I wasn't really slavish to historical accuracy. Gritty realism wouldn't have worked anyway. I did visit the city a few times whilst drawing the story, but that was for the wine and bandes dessinee!

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SPURGEON: The street scenes and various, similar tableaux seem to me greatly and maybe even obviously reminiscent of Herge. Can you talk about Herge as an influence, and how you approached doing those street scenes. How do you think they worked in flow of the story?

GANE: I don't know if they help the flow but hopefully they serve as fitting scene settings and contrast with the insular nature of the romance. I think part of any similarity you note might be linked to the era, given that Tintin' s most intricate titles were also set in the '50s and therefore clothing, cars and so on are alike. But I did consciously draw certain background figures in the style of the time, it was a fun way of trying to represent the setting.

Herge goes beyond influence, really. I wouldn't be drawing comics now were it not for a life-long love of his work. It's the way in which everything in the world is rebuilt in his consistently crisp style in the books. It's just convincing and evocative, everything fits. I think it makes for a more believable reading experience than very realistic styles do. The main thing I tried to do with those street scenes was to give everyone a personality, including the pigeons, to reflect the bustle of a city, but I wouldn't even hope to have his attention to detail.

SPURGEON: What does an Andi Watson script look like? How much information does he provide, how much does he leave up to you? Do you go back and forth while working from his script in a way that changed the final result or was there a certain measure of fealty to the original script?

GANE: It changed only in that we added the introduction and a couple of pages in chapter four before the individual issue was released, but on my part I just tried to be as loyal to the script as possible. When I wasn't it was due to error or inexperience.

His scripts are strong and precise. Because he's an artist too he thinks very visually and knows how to balance words and pictures. All the "acting" is described, the facial expressions and so on. For instance there's only three speech balloons in the last 14 panels, but of course all 14 were excellently instructed. The backgrounds were more open for me to interpret but described or suggested when essential to the plot. Each issue had a couple of spare pages allowing me room to draw some of the bigger pictures and he a quiter life! At the start he said, "I want this book to be a showcase for your art." I'll probably have to dispose of a body for him at some point in return.

SPURGEON: You once said that the best thing about Andi's writing was how he understood the subtleties of comics creation. Can you point to a subtle moment or instance in Paris that would be an example of something that Andi engages that other writers might not?

GANE: Rather than it being something noticeable from panel to panel, it's more that he'll actually tell the sort of story others might not. The fact he keeps doing so in an industry his stories are often the opposite of is remarkable. But attempting to be more specific, stories in which a character takes the time to sniff an envelope before opening it, as Juliet does in Paris. That's not something twee shown for the sake of it, it tells you more about who the letter's from and Juliet's reaction to it that than any subsequent pictures or words really need to.

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SPURGEON: In terms of your art, the most impressive about Paris to me was your work with figures and faces, maybe especially the latter in terms of a kind of elegance and expressiveness that appeared different than a lot of your past work. Further, I would think this important to a story that deals with the kind of relationship it does. It's funny to ask you this consider it's sort of its own sub-plot within Paris, but how much attention did you pay to capture facial expression and incremental shifts in mood?

GANE: I'm very happy you should say that, Tom, because it was something I had to pay attention to because so much of the story was told through the faces, the expressions tell the main plot. It was a learning curve because as you rightly say it was a departure from my previous work which was often slapstick and therefore without such the need for subtlety. It's hard to get them right without "over-acting." Most of my white-out, to use the American term, went on the faces! I made life tough for myself because I don't think the faces I chose were that ideal for achieving a wide variety of expressions, I guess because I'd been doing a lot of one-off illustrations before hand. But I did so to the best of my ability at the time.

SPURGEON: In a lot of way, Paris is not just retro in terms of the milieu and setting, but it also has classic, broad comedic characters that should be familiar to people that read books of this type or watch movies set in this period. Was it ever a concern of yours how to keep some very familiar characters and scenes interesting and fresh visually?

GANE: I think the familiarity of some of the secondary characters is beneficial. That they're immediate means less back story is required because we already know how they operate and in the case of the authority figures such as the chaperone and stuffy art tutor we're better able to understand the respective predicaments of the leads. It is only a short tale, so we need to (hopefully) relate to them as quickly as possible. In the ball scene where Deborah is in a room packed with upper-class English bores, their stereotypical faces and mannerisms serve to isolate her vaguely more naturalistic look and therefore from them too. And again, this familiarity of certain characters such as the fiery beatnik served as inspiration for me because it was in part actually about re-creating them if possible.

SPURGEON: Was there any feedback, negative or positive, when the original series came out because the leads were both female?

GANE: I hope people consider it simply a human story applicable to both sexes and all sexual orientations. I concede it might put some intolerant people off perhaps, but that's a problem they have, fuck 'em. It wouldn't have got past the Previews-ordering stage with them anyway.

SPURGEON: Did that change anything for you in terms how you approached the art, how you approached certain scenes visually?

GANE: Their features might be slightly softer in places, but overall I didn't approach the art any differently, I think I'd have wanted to draw it that way if they were men. It might have more attention to the pretty elements of their wardrobes, certain interiors or of Paris in general, but that's only because this stuff is beautiful anyway.

SPURGEON: Is there anything you'd have readers take away from Paris other than its entertaining, sumptuous aspects? Are there values in the work that you share, or do you even think in those terms?

GANE: If a reader was to consider it entertaining and sumptuous it'd mean the world to me, Tom, but there are values in the work I share, yes. It wouldn't be the labor of love I consider it if not. I shouldn't have drawn it, really. It cost me on both a personal and financial level because, as with all comics, it was so time-consuming. But I had to! In that respect the themes of the story are indeed ones I share. It's the dilemma of all artists, the need to follow their passion and the inevitable difficulties and compromises they must face in order to do so. It's not just the dilemma of artists though, it's more universal, gentle and slight though the book is. For instance I'm glad it's about a so-called non-conventional relationship because they are under-represented in comics and I don't feel they should be.

SPURGEON: What's next, Simon?

GANE: Well, I'm currently penciling for Vertigo which takes up much of my time. I' m very fortunate to be doing so and to be associated with unbelievably talented artists like Cameron Stewart and Ryan Kelly is a privilege I never imagined I'd have. It's been a steep learning experience and I've benefited from the safety net not just of their abilities but from the increased editorial control too, because it's advanced my awareness of the story-telling aspects of comics. But naturally a part of me still enjoys the freedom my collaboration with Andi gave me as well. Therefore, I'm forever harassing him to nail down our next project but the trouble is, I need him more than he needs me! Grr. In the meantime I have a 22-page Conan Doyle adaptation called "John Barrington Cowles" coming soon from Graphic Classics, I think coinciding with free comic book day. I also recently wrote about 20 pages of notes for another story I want to draw. I'm trying to work out what made Paris so pleasurable to work on so that I might repeat the experience.

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SPURGEON: Can you talk about the way you did the credits as an opening sequence in a film? How much did film in general influence the work, and were there specific movies you were referencing?

GANE: Yes, I think it only seems filmic because the credits are divided across panels rather than all in the same one, but that's not to say it wasn't intentional. I did it like that for a number of reasons, one was that I wanted the book to have a consistent design-style, not that there is much by way of design. The credits had to be that size and dropped on top of the pictures to match the cover and chapter headers etc. I wouldn't be without the introduction now, it's essential and my favorite part because it's the most recent, but it was an after-thought and spread over more pages than Andi scripted, so I wanted people to read it quickly for fear of them feeling the story took too long to get going. The credits split from panel to panel therefore create a rhythm in time with Juliet's walk. Maybe the credits appearing like the start of a film lead one to think there might be music playing, too, for this is a light-hearted intro. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it doesn't convey this, but it did allow me to continue drawing it after I should have finished and it does set up the tone of the story and the locale. You realize that this is romantic Paris, the city as idealized by admiring foreigners in films such as Funny Face. Beyond this the influence of film is quite superficial, really. There are nods to Roman Holiday and The Red Balloon and I used certain films of the era for visual reference on occasion. I prefer comics; they're more intimate.

*****

* all art from Paris, and supplied by Mr. Gane

*****

* Paris, Andi Watson and Simon Gane, SLG, soft cover, 136 pages, 9781593620813 (ISBN13), 2007, $10.95
* The Vinyl Underground, Si Spencer and Cameron Stewart and Simon Gane, Vertigo, monthly comic book, 32 pages, ongoing $2.99

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it doesn't matter how many Christmas parties you've attended, this is the most interesting anecdote you'll hear all holiday season.

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* another Top Comics List For 2007: Salon, as selected by their comics columnist, Doug Wolk. Books mentioned, although you'll have to read it to know which ones he ranks and what he says about them:
* Apollo's Song
* All-Star Superman, Vol. 1
* Beyond Palomar
* Bookhunter
* Chance in Hell
* Death Note
* French Milk (cover image above)
* Heartbreak Soup
* Human Diastrophism
* I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!
* Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays
* Maggie the Mechanic
* MW
* Ninja
* Perla La Loca
* Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
* Speak of the Devil
* Terry and the Pirates, Vol. 1
* The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 1
* The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.
* The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier
* The Salon
* Two-Fisted Tales, Vol. 2
* The Blot
* the comics business news and analysis site has published their Direct Market sales estimates for November 2007. Not a surprise: World War Hulk leads the way, and keeps the bulk of the sales from the previous issue. Actually, I'm not sure why a last issue wouldn't sell slightly more, but maybe that's 1980s-style thinking. It also looks to me on a first glance that the X-Men titles are starting to creep up. Anyhow: story, analysis, top 300 comics, top 100 trades.

* the cartoonist and occasional writer-about-comics Shaenon Garrity will be January's cartoonist-in-residence at the Cartoon Art Museum, says E&P.

* not comics: it looks like someone is doing a movie on Bill Watterson. In other movie news, people seem awfully excited about this trailer where Beetlejuice fights Batman, causing the caped crusader to enlist the aid of Easy Reader. Also, Michel Gondry is set to film an adaptation of Gabrielle Bell's Cecil and Jordan in New York with Bell co-writing the short piece.

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* another Top Comics List For 2007: Jeff Lester, from Savage Critics, and again I'll list what he mentions and you can go to the list itself how it's pulled out and talked about:
* American Elf Vol. 2
* Azumanga Daioh Omnibus
* League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier
* Buffy Season Eight Vol. 1
* Crecy
* Criminal: Coward
* Criminal: Lawless
* Dr. 13: Architecture & Mortality (cover image above)
* Drifting Classroom
* Exit Wounds
* Flower of Life Vols. 1-3
* Fourth World Omnibus Vols. 1-3
* Kamandi Archives Vol. 2
* King City Vol. 1
* Misery Loves Company
* Monster
* Parasyte Vols. 1-2
* The Professor's Daughter
* Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
* Apollo's Song
* Ode to Kirihito
* MW
* Yotsuba&! Vols. 4-5
* ComixTalk hosts their annual virtual roundtable of pundits and commentary-makers. Virtual roundtables are kind of like convention panels except afterwards you don't have to stand in the hallway talking to people for 10 minutes.

* five highlights of five years of The International Cartoonist Conspiracy.

* here's a nice long talk with Jeff Smith, whose RASL is among the most anticipated releases for 2008.

* not comics: whenever I see something about E. Simms Campbell or his work at Esquire, even tangentially related, I always wonder if RC Harvey has seen it yet. Also, I know that time speeds up when you get older, but I swear this Forbes list of rich fictional people, along with that list of rich dead people, comes out more than once a year.
 
posted 9:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the name and the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and there has to be room -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
December 16, 2007


CR Holiday Interview #2: Jason Thompson On His Complete Guide And The Year In Manga

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*****

I don't know Jason Thompson, but I enjoyed reading his Manga: The Complete Guide this year. Thompson's resource about manga not only contains the expected 1000-plus capsule reviews (the number on the cover I'm told was based on an early estimate), it offers a concise history of the publishing industry supporting those comics and descriptions of various important genres and touchstone works. I thought it was solid, and it's helped me to find new works and compare my opinions to more knowledgeable writers about manga I've read. Thompson is also a cartoonist who has recently returned to his major on-line comics project, The Stiff, and a North American manga publishing veteran who seems more than happy to talk about his experiences working for, and now with, Viz Media. I enjoyed asking Jason questions. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about how you ended up with the Manga Guide project? It's my understanding that you were recruited for the gig after it had crashed and burned with its first author.

JASON THOMPSON: I was contacted by Dallas Middaugh in late 2005, and he, together with then-editor Tim Mak, asked me if I would like to write the book. The story about the original author dropping out is true, although I've never had any contact with him (though I'd like to), and apparently he didn't turn in any text. I assume the issues involved were more personal than contractual. Dallas was aware of my previous manga book pitch which I had made to Viz in 2000, and so he knew I was interested in doing something like this. Del Rey's idea for the book was pretty loose -- the only thing they requested was that it be organized by title, not author, and that star ratings be used -- so once I accepted the job in early 2006, I was allowed to pretty much do what I wanted.

SPURGEON: Am I right that it took you about a year to do? This seems like a massive undertaking. Can you provide as much detail as you can possibly stand about how you approached the task.

THOMPSON: Not counting the proofreading, I worked on it from mid-February 2006 to January 2007. I started by listing all the manga publishers and translated works I could think of, and then I calculated how many reviews I would have to write per day to meet the deadline. In terms of getting the manga, I owe a lot to Alvin Lu of Viz, who gave me the entire former manga library of Animerica magazine. They were in a space crunch at the time, so it was all in boxes, and they were considering throwing it out. I also talked to Rory Root at Comic Relief in Berkeley, and he gave me permission to come to the store nearly every day for several months and read manga in the back room. Lastly, there was the public library, and publishers' donations, and whatever I could buy.

imageAfter assigning some of the manga to other writers, I had to write three manga reviews a day to meet my original deadline. Some I was already familiar with, of course, but in most cases I reread them, or I was reading them for the first time. In some cases I went back and re-evaluated and rewrote a review several months later, because I'd read another manga which changed my perspective of it. For instance, I hadn't read much Boy's Love before I started working on the book. After I'd read a bunch, there were a lot of elements in shojo manga that suddenly clicked to me. Or, after I read King of Bandits Jing I realized that Dream Gold was obviously inspired by it. In a way, I was educating myself as I wrote it... filling in the gaps. I hope this doesn't make me sound bad ("Gawrsh! I'd never even read a manga before!"), but I did discover a lot of titles I wasn't aware of. I hardly received any line editing from Del Rey -- they gave me a tremendous amount of freedom.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated just how much manga I'd have to read, because I didn't realize just how many new titles would be picked up for translation in 2006. I also didn't factor in enough time for the articles. So the last few months of the project -- November, December, January -- were really chaotic.

SPURGEON: The book's structure I think is intriguing. The main section is pretty all together and then you have call-outs for specific genres within that grouping. Yaoi and Adult get their own sections. How did you decide on that structure and what effect did you hope for in making the choices you did there?

THOMPSON: I copied the structure from The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986), one of my favorite books from my teenage years. It's an encyclopedic listing of horror films, novels and authors, as well as essays on various topics and subgenres, all mixed together in alphabetical order -- so that under "S" you have "Saki" and "Bram Stoker" and "Surrealism" and "The Shining." Of course, in Manga: The Complete Guide the authors are delegated to the index, so it's just manga and articles in the main section. But I felt that this was a fun format -- the articles break up the text, so instead of having a mammoth block of reviews and a mammoth block of articles with little connection between them, you can read it from beginning to end and encounter a variety of material. And of course the articles are listed on the table of contents and are in alphabetical order so you can find them.

The Yaoi and Adult sections were segregated because I didn't want pornographic titles rubbing shoulders with children's material, and because I felt they were distinct enough genres that they could be separated without a lot of argument over what belongs where. Although one reviewer felt that 18+ titles should be moved to the Adult section too, which I think is ridiculous -- Dance Till Tomorrow or Wounded Man may have a lot of sex, but there's no comparison to a Mangerotica or Icarus title. Even Banana Fish has an 18+ rating.

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SPURGEON: How did you approach the general section and what made you decide on that length as opposed to dropping it altogether or running something 10 times as long?

THOMPSON: The length of the reviews was my preference based on reviewing manga for Animerica and PULP. My first editor did ask me to trim the text, so I went through it and cut some sentences on the first proof. At one point I was worried that the articles might get dropped for space reasons, or that some of the more obscure manga (the old Antarctic and Studio Ironcat stuff, the Japanese bilingual editions) might get dropped, so I made sure to do all those reviews first so there was no chance they'd get cut. But in the end none of the reviews or articles were removed, and Dallas was happy with the length, so it all worked out. The only section that got trimmed down from my original plans was the artist index -- I wanted to have bios of many more artists.

SPURGEON: Are there schools of history with manga, different interpretations that you know of? Could anything you've written be seen as controversial or bordering on same?

THOMPSON: There are differences of opinion about manga history -- some people deemphasize Osamu Tezuka and champion other artists from that formative period, for instance. The development of shojo and josei manga is also a huge topic which I could have covered more thoroughly. However, if there are any major controversial points in Manga: The Complete Guide (apart from the reviews, of course), it's probably due to some mistake on my part. There is also the opinion, expressed in Takeo Udagawa's amazing Manga Zombie that manga publishing became more conservative and commercial in the 1980s. I agree with him, but still, I love a lot of modern titles -- I have to be able to see their good points and rate them relative to other books which English readers will actually be able to get hold of.

SPURGEON: How closely did you work with the other writers that were involved? Did you work with them in the middle of the process or go back over stuff with them? Did anyone turn in material that you decided you simply couldn't use? How did you divvy up material?

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THOMPSON: For the most part, I chose writers who I trusted and then let them write what they wanted. To me, the challenge of reading -- or at least becoming familiar with -- every manga in English was something I looked on as an opportunity, so I mostly asked the other contributors to write about manga which I'd already read, such as Ikegami and Tezuka, or manga which I didn't have any interest in reading, such as DiGi Charat and various anime spin-offs.

In the best cases, I tried to assign manga based on the reviewer's area of knowledge. For instance, Mark Simmons, who did the Gundam manga reviews, used to be employed by Bandai as the official Gundam expert. And Patrick Macias loves old-school macho manga, Go Nagai and Kazuo Koike and so on. The risk with this is that someone who is incredibly knowledgeable about a subject may be so in love with it that they are charitable to all their favorites. However, I did break my editorial objectivity and replace two or three reviews because I strongly disagreed with them. Actually, if I updated the book I would like to replace a few more reviews; it's not that I don't like the original reviews, so much as that I have the megalomaniacal need to be involved with as much of the book as possible. I would have preferred to do more reviews myself from the beginning, but the deadline meant that I had to parcel out some of the titles.

SPURGEON: With your own pieces in the book, it strikes me that you've been a lot of things in your young career: a fan, a cartoonist, an editor... how do you think your aesthetic has developed over time?

THOMPSON: I don't know if this exactly answers the question, but... I think my tastes have gotten broader and more accepting than they were when I was first working at Viz, but at the same time I have to be careful and remind myself not to be jaded.

SPURGEON: That's exactly what I was looking for.

THOMPSON: When I was younger I was very much into authors like Franz Kafka and Herman Melville, Jorge Luis Borges and H.P. Lovecraft, who were all about theme and description, rather than character or plot. Theme and mood, or supposedly high-concept "what if" scenarios in the science fiction sense. While I still like those authors, one thing which I think I've learned from manga (and other authors) is, I've developed a much greater appreciation for stories about human characters and human motivations. By this I mean, stories centered on character interaction and believably -- note the emphasis on believably -- portraying all the conflict and emotion and tragedy and comedy which is possible when people interact.

But not just character but plot as well. Too much manga is, frankly, character-focused and static on the level of an American daily comic strip. Like dojinshi, it's just fannish obsessiveness over the supposed charisma of some fetishized character. When I was in college I used to complain about manga which tread water and just recycle the same storylines over and over, but lately I've come to the decision that in some cases, any story is better than no story. To create a story that's actually worth reading (with the exception of a few rare titles supported solely by theme or atmosphere, or exceptionally w ell-written sitcoms and character studies), you need to actually be able to write plot twists, surprises, and developments, which may arise out of the character but also transform the character. I know I'm not saying anything which isn't obvious to any author or editor, but it's important. A story doesn't have to aspire to deep meaning, but if not, it should at least try to generate actual tension and pathos and humor based on (at some level) realistic behavior.

imageI've also developed, or like to think I've developed, a craving for originality. This is simply the result of seeing so many manga which look so similar, and manga which shamelessly recycle from other manga -- O Parts Hunter, Shiki Tsukai, etc. I suppose it's not much different than the similarity between, say, Marvel and DC comics in the 1970s and 1980s, and sometimes I worry that I can't recognize the differences in art style... that I lack the vocabulary to express the subtle, if not inconsequential, differences in style between mainstream manga artists. It's that which makes an artist like Moyoco Anno (though her style was originally derived from Erica Sakurazawa) or Eiichiro Oda so exciting. Of course, originality of story is just as important, if not more important, than the art. Lately I've been really enjoying Yuki Nakaji's shojo manga... for teenage shojo titles they really stand out for their plotting and dialog.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around how some artists can consciously produce work so derivative -- I assume they must be aware of what they're doing but they just want to be able to work in the manga industry. I mean, I've been reading manga for a long time, but I'm sure that most people who are professional manga artists in Japan, who grew up immersed in manga, are much better-versed in it than I am. So they have no excuse for such blatant rip-offs of one another. Of course, to every new generation, the old cliches are new again, and I have to be on guard for just developing a general old-man grouchiness about everything. It's a critic's dilemma. To use an American example: I'm young enough that Art Adams looks like Art Adams to me, not like a follower of Michael Golden. Or perhaps it's a cultural difference -- perhaps a Japanese observer who can read a zillion stories about young-boys-with-secret-power-buried-inside-them looks at Watchmen and Doom Patrol and thinks, "Oh god, another story about caped superheroes, this is so lame, Stan Lee did all of this so much better in 1963."

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SPURGEON: You told Andrew Farago that one of the reasons you were doing The Stiff as a horror comedy is because there were two things you thought manga did well. Why do you think that is?

THOMPSON: This may just be my personal preference for those genres, but I think romances and love-comedies have been popular manga genres for so long, there's a huge pool of excellent material. (Of course, there's many wretched, cliched examples of those genres, too.) When I was first discovering manga and anime in late high school, I at one point theorized that manga had the same sort of nervous, shyly romantic attitude towards sexuality that hadn't existed in American media for decades and decades -- some could call it immaturity, but I as an adolescent adored it.

I think one of the startling things that manga and anime brought to America, culturally, was the willingness to depict pseudo-sexual situations in material aimed at teenagers... and yet there's also that certain softness, that yasashii ["gentle"] style, which distinguishes itself from comparatively crass American teen-sex offerings like Porky's or American Pie. Not that there isn't really crude, raunchy humor in Japanese comics as well. But it was the cross-gender appeal of love-comedy manga like Ranma 1/2 and Oh My Goddess! that helped create the first boom in female manga readers in America, and pave the way for shojo manga. If manga degenerates totally into stories about magical high schools and teenage ninja, and loses its last grip on realism, romances and love comedies will be the last non-fantastic genres to go.

Admittedly, given the amount of realism in typical love-comedy manga, I use the term "non-fantastic" loosely. Most manga are fantasies, and love/sex stories are generally just another type of fantasy -- but it's one of the many areas where manga blossomed while American comics of the same genre were atrophying. Manga, like most Japanese pop culture, has a certain emotional openness which American media often lacks. Americans tend to view everything with a certain hipster cynicism, but manga has that earnestness, that bombast, that heartstring-plucking. (Of course, earnestness can also express itself as a non-ironic willing to pander.) Also, the super-simplified character designs of manga give its romances an element of prettiness and idealism which appeals to many people, including myself.

imageAs for horror comics, I think Kazuo Umezu is the greatest horror comics artist of all time, with Hideshi Hino up there in the top 10 as well (I can't slight Steve Bissette, John Totleben and Richard Corben). The great length of Japanese comics, together with their primarily visual nature -- those "cinematic" techniques everyone always talks about -- are both perfectly suited for horror. This is the same reason that manga does action sequences so well, but in horror, it's coupled with a cultural willingness to confront the terrifying and nihilistic. Furthermore, unlike action manga, horror sequences are usually unburdened with speedlines and screentone overkill and big sound effects -- good horror manga (note that I don't mean "action horror") is just pure visual storytelling without too much flash or text, like those text-heavy old EC Comics.

As for how all this relates to my comic The Stiff, the answer is, perhaps not much -- I'm from a generation that was raised unfamiliar with love-comedy comics, so to me, The Stiff is a tribute to manga, simply being the virtue of being a relationship-themed comic and by giving the main characters that nervous, shy feverishness of adolescence (as opposed to, say, the prematurely burnt-out teen sexuality of, say, Charles Burns' Black Hole, which I also love in a different way). And I do try to mimic the techniques that I enjoy in Japanese horror comics. But in the end I'm just as much, or more, influenced by American autobiographical/indy comics. I try to write comics which depict relationships in a realistic fashion, rather than intentionally drawing something to a particular formula. And psychological realism is an area where translated manga has fallen behind. Another area where all manga tends to be lacking is originality of artwork... magazines such as Margaret and Nakayoshi have house styles as strict as a straitjacket, and there is little variety in most of the popular "otaku/moe" art styles either. There are good Japanese underground comics, both professional and dojinshi, but we see so little of them... indy comics make up a proportionally larger amount of the American comics market.

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SPURGEON: You may have already answered this, but why a star system, again?

THOMPSON: That was Del Rey's request. I originally just wanted to have the reviews in the text. But I'm happy with how the stars turned out -- I think it adds a certain aura of authority to the reviews, even if it's just an imaginary authority, like saying that Goku in Dragon Ball has a power level of 8000 instead of 7000. It's something to chew on, and it did lead me to ponder for many hours whether Guru Guru Pon-chan was objectively equal to Parasyte, and whether Night of the Beasts deserved two stars or two-and-a-half stars, and so on.

SPURGEON: How's the book been doing?

THOMPSON: Not bad, the amazon sales have been steady and it's gotten a lot of positive coverage. The biggest criticism I've received was a review from otakubooty.com where, although they liked the reviews and the general writing in the book, they essentially asked, "Is there really anyone who wants to know about manga who doesn't already know about it? And is there really a market for encyclopedia-type books in the age of the Internet?" Well, good questions. I'd like to think that Manga: The Complete Guide has a tone and personality and a frame of critical reference which is lacking on Wikipedia or Anime News Network, but I did keenly feel the competition of the Internet while I was writing it.

As for their first criticism, well, I hope there are still people who might like manga who haven't discovered it, or there really is no seinen and josei manga market in America. I wish there was more coverage of the book within the mainstream non-comics media, but I'm sure everyone who's written a book about comics wishes the same thing. I wrote the book hoping that it would on the one hand appeal to fans, and on the other hand, introduce some people to manga who weren't familiar with it previously. I don't know if it's succeeded at the latter. I've gotten positive reviews from places like the Library Journal, at least.

SPURGEON: Andrew Farago's interview with you at TCJ.com was very good in tracking where you were and what you were doing and a general sense of American manga history along the way, and I don't want to repeat that stuff, but a couple of things sprung to mind. First of all, what was it like working at Viz just on a basis of the office atmosphere or the interpersonal relationships? Was it a warm place to work, or very business-like, or very supportive and enthusiastic? Was it young-seeming; old-seeming? How would you describe what it was like where you worked in a way that maybe didn't touch on what you were doing? And did that change?

THOMPSON: When I started there, Viz had already been in existence as a company for 10 years, but it was a much smaller company, and I felt like I was a bumbling guest at a private party. Eventually everyone warmed to me, and vice versa. At the time, Satoru Fujii, who was the editor-in-chief, had a close relationship to the small pool of editors. Most of the manga titles they picked were either his personal favorites or favorites of some of the editorial pool. There were company dinners, karaoke, that sort of thing... it was a warm little clique. It was a good place to work; several editors, including Ian Robertson, Urian Brown, and Patrick Macias, worked their way up from the shipping department to the editorial department, based chiefly on their personality and their passion for manga.

Later, around the time that Pokemon became a hit, the company grew a lot and things became more bureaucratic. It was the editors vs. the marketing department, or the editors vs. the supervising editors who didn't actually work directly with the manga. Most of the older people, myself included I guess, got pushed aside or could not adapt to the new bureaucratic system and the new layers of management. The censorship, the increasingly complicated approvals process and oversight from Japanese licensors, and so on. And frankly, with the merger between Shueisha and Shogakukan around 2002-2003, the Japanese side brought in a lot of management people over and really "cleaned up shop' and changed a lot. Cross promotion with merchandising and anime became a lot bigger, and more major decisions were made in Japan and imposed on Viz from overseas. Which was surely always the plan at some level -- it was always a wholly owned subsidiary of a major Japanese corporation. As companies go, it's still a very good company to work for, but very different from what it once was. How could it not be? It's got 10 times as many employees now.

Incidentally, when they changed to VIZ Media, LLC a few years ago, they officially "turned the clock forward" as a company -- they now celebrate the anniversary of VIZ Media rather than the anniversary of Viz Communications in 1986.

SPURGEON: The other thing that strikes me when I hear you talk is how young the manga business is, where people are just figuring out things that work really well three to five years ago, not decades. Do you think the North American manga industry is well-established, or are there any big changes left to come?

THOMPSON: I'm sure it's going to change, but I can't predict how. Manga-reading teenagers are growing up... e-books and webcomics are challenging print, unsuccessfully so far... people are out there constantly negotiating distribution deals, tie-ins, cross promotions, trying to launch new publishing lines. The only way in which the market is currently set in stone is that most of Japan's major manga-publishing players are already on the field, Shogakukan and Shueisha through Viz and Kodansha through Del Rey. There's still a lot of smaller Japanese players that haven't fully committed to one company or another -- for instance, Kadokawa, which owns Kadokawa Shoten and MediaWorks, might try some big venture -- but the major Japanese shojo and shonen licenses are increasingly put on the fast track for American publication. Josei and seinen and assorted specialty manga, on the other hand, are still relatively neglected, so that's an area that might see growth.

imageSPURGEON: Manga as a business has been driven in certain ways by the success of various formats. I've been seeing a few big omnibus books like the Azumanga Daioh one. What are companies thinking with something like that? Is it a price point issue? Do you think that format will have a longterm market presence?

THOMPSON: I think the Azumanga Daioh omnibus is a great value, and I know Viz is working on similar ventures with the Viz Big line. Though it's worth mentioning that both of those are financially supported by the fact that they're just reprints of already-translated and lettered material. Furthermore, the fact that they're reprints will ensure that they don't make as big a splash as the initial printings. However, I'm sure that similar experiments will proliferate. From the perspective of Japanese manga publishers (such as the Japanese Shonen Jump editors), American releases are still too expensive, even at $9.95 for 200 pages. If they can make it work economically, I'm sure they'd love to make the page-per-dollar point even more generous, in the hopes of luring new readers.

SPURGEON: A few weeks ago by the time this sees publication, a Books-A-Million location hit their local news with a really poorly-reported story about a parent's complaints regarding the location of a manga within the store. Some manga fans I know just assume that it's a matter of time before something fairly filthy will generate trouble in a market that's fairly conservative and there will be a sort of legal apocalypse. How do you feel about manga's ability to skirt this kind of controversy? And if one happens, will it be a big deal?

THOMPSON: Since, as I indicated in my answer to the love-comedy question, I think the promise of violence and sex is one of the appeals of manga to American kids, I have to admit I'm surprised this sort of thing hasn't happened more. I think most publishers are a little frightened of it too, which is why there's been so much more censorship of manga in the past five years. But Viz is as cautious as any publisher, and it still happened. Yet I take comfort from the fact that it seems to have been an isolated incident, and hasn't led to any huge backlash or media inquiry (at least as far as I know -- it's always possible that some big distributor or retailer is even now getting cold feet and calling Viz on the Censor-Phone Hot Line demanding changes or else). I predict more caution and censorship on the part of the major publishers, but not necessarily any big backlash. More disturbingly, manga censors are on the prowl in Japan as well... Comipress has posted a number of articles about it recently.

imageSPURGEON: Is there anything we can take from Viz's Fall of publishing lots of Naruto other than the fact that Naruto is really popular?

THOMPSON: I think the company is reacting to what it knows from experience with titles like Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh!: "strike while the iron is hot." The merchandising life cycle for manga and anime is fast here, with titles often on the way out in Japan just as they're becoming popular in the U.S., and that window of opportunity is all-important. Back when manga publishers would release a graphic novel every six months or so, we knew to our chagrin that we were continually dropping farther and farther behind the pace of the Japanese series. I remember back in the 1990s calculating how long it would take for us to finish Dragon Ball Z and Ranma 1/2 and estimating that we'd be finished in the far-future year of 2008 or thereabouts. Nowadays, the pace of manga translation is much faster, and I think it's a better situation for readers (if they can afford to buy all those books, that is). Manga which is originally published in a weekly or biweekly format, in particular, reads best in large chunks. And you always run the risk of a fickle public deserting a long series in the middle if it takes too long. On a more cynical level, admittedly, I'd rather see Viz focusing more attention on some of their lower-selling series rather than putting everything into producing as much of their best-seller as possible... but that's just business.

SPURGEON: This may be a stupid question, but why isn't there a North American equivalent to dojinshi? Or if there is, why isn't it bigger?

THOMPSON: There is, you just can't find it at comics tores or bookstores. It's technically illegal, after all, and one of the main reasons dojinshi is so accepted in Japan is because their copyright laws are stricter than America's -- Japanese publishers don't risk losing their rights to the work because they knowingly fail to prosecute dojinshi artists. Most dojinshi produced in America is sold at anime conventions, or it's simply done as webcomics. I have a friend who does professional Boy's Love comics and is also involved with an American print dojinshi circle, Studio Plug N' Play. Actually, Studio Plug N' Play acquired some infamy because they were threatened by Shogakukan over an Inu-Yasha dojinshi not too long ago. In terms of dojinshi which are closer to the indy-comics scene but sort of have a dojinshi spirit, I guess you could count Life Meter and perhaps even Elfworld... or, going back a few years to the point where the dojinshi resemblance is only coincidental, the Marvel issue of Coober Skeeber.

But it's true that, even setting aside distribution and legal issues, Japanese fans produce much more dojinshi -- both original and parody -- than their American counterparts. Why this is, is a good question. It's probably due to the greater awareness of comics in Japan, although one wonders whether Japanese fans have a better work ethic. Although frankly, most dojinshi is pretty trivial stuff intended solely as a hobby, stuff which comes from a totally different aesthetic than the American indy-comic perspective... what Bill Randall called the Artist Hero aesthetic in the 2005 Comics Journal Special Edition. When I think of American indy comics I feel that most of the artists -- or at least the ones I like -- are very consciously trying to Be Original or to Say Something Important, even if they just feel that this is something they should pose at, and while there are some dojinshi artists doing this, the majority of them are just playing around with parody-tributes, making it closer to fanfiction or fanzines than the indy-comics scene. I'd love to see a small publisher arise that's dedicated to translating the best Japanese original dojinshi; so far only ALC Publishing has really done anything like that.

SPURGEON: Is there any story about manga that struck you as important that maybe wasn't reported on? Do you feel that side of the industry is accurately and thoroughly reported on? What could be better in terms of serving those readers who are interesting in that kind of news?

THOMPSON: There's so many bloggers commenting on manga news that I think the field is pretty well covered. I love Ed Chavez's Japanese manga magazine reports and publisher updates on mangacast (I loved them even more when he was showing the covers of every new publication, which was apparently incredibly time-consuming). One thing I am surprised by is the fact that there is no regularly updated, comprehensive database of censorship and alteration to U.S. editions of manga. Maybe it's such a colossal task that no one wants to do it, or maybe the field is just too scattered and has no central identity of fandom anymore -- people who enjoy underground art-manga or dirty adult manga don't care enough to comment on changes to some manga aimed at 13-year-olds, and so forth.

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SPURGEON: Are there a few titles either ongoing or just out of print that you would suggest for comics-savvy but manga-experience light reades? Maybe somethng that doesn't get brought up a lot. From what I hear from people, I think finding on-ramps into the material is a problem for certain comics fans who might not have the time to sprawl out on the floor at Barnes & Noble.

THOMPSON: Comic Geek Speak asked me the same question, but I always have a hard time answering this one. We're talking about an entire country's comics output, and I don't really know if there is such a thing as "must-read" comics or manga which transcend genre; it's much easier to recommend something within a given genre or demographic. Having said that, some of my personal favorites for adult readers are Fumi Yoshinaga's Flower of Life and Antique Bakery, most of the Fanfare/Ponent Mon output, Blast Books' out-of-print Comics Underground Japan, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Honey and Clover, Paradise Kiss, Cromartie High School, Junko Mizuno, Hideshi Hino's Panorama of Hell, Maison Ikkoku, Moyoco Anno's Flowers & Bees and (though it starts out slow) Happy Mania. The former are mostly underground comics and shojo/josei (women's) relationship stories. Then there's classics like Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Gishiden, Osamu Tezuka's MW and Ode to Kirihito and Black Jack and Phoenix, Swan, To Terra, Please Save my Earth, Dr. Slump, Barefoot Gen, Golgo 13, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and Kazuo Umezu's Reptilia and The Drifting Classroom (which I must admit that I am the editor of). Among current commercial boys' action-adventure titles I'd recommend Yuji Iwahara's King of Thorn and Chikyu Misaki, Death Note, One Piece, GTO, Shaman King, Eyeshield 21 and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (another one I edit), and among men's action titles, Hellsing and Berserk.

SPURGEON: Where do you think in broad terms the manga industry might five years from now that people wouldn't expect? What will you be doing?

THOMPSON: I wish I knew. My ears really perked up at Al Kahn's fan-baiting comments at this year's icv2 conference: "Manga is dead, bookstores are inconsequential, we're looking outside Japan for next big thing," etc. It seems like he's embracing his role of manga fandom's new bogeyman, since the third google listing on his name is a petition of how to kill him for making changes to shows like One Piece. My reaction to his total dismissal of graphic novels and manga is kind of "Bring it on, sucker, let's see what non-Japanese licensed property you manage to take over the world with." In a way I was glad to hear him say that because it kind of draws a line in the sand between manga and merchandising: if manga won't be driven by merchandising and anime tie-ins forever, then we'll just have to cross our fingers and see if it can stand up on its own two feet.

I already talked about this a bit in other forums, but the two biggest questions I have now about manga's future are: (1) will the tween age group continue to make up the majority of the U.S. market and (2) will manga lose its "Japanese" identity entirely. This is partly my age talking, but to me, the area that's most ripe for translation is seinen and josei manga aimed at adult men and women -- stuff like Morning, the Big Comic magazines, and a greater variety of women's manga. The way I see it, fandom in America could go in two directions as the fans get older -- they could start thinking, "Gee, I'd like to read manga which is more realistic and has more diverse, less fantastic subject matter," or they could start thinking, "I'd like to read a new Naruto manga, where Naruto is older and has a new costume." Guess which path I think American superhero comic readers have already chosen? I'd like to be encouraged by the grownup manga market in Japan, but even in Japan, tween material produces the majority of sales and merchandising money.

imageWhen I talked to Eijiro Shimada of the venerable Morning magazine, I asked him why there weren't more "mainstream" manga magazines like Morning, and he said, "We don't consider Morning to be 'mainstream' manga, we consider it to be 'manga for general audiences.'" Which could be a translation error, but what is suggests to me is that even in Japan, a title like Morning, which is aimed at people in their twenties and up, is not something which is mainstream in the sense of Naruto. It's not something which necessarily evolved out of reader demand. Perhaps it's more like something created by the publisher to sort of dangle in the faces of non-manga-reading adults, trying to entice them to read manga. Perhaps the frequent adaptation of Morning titles into live-action TV series should not be seen as a sign of Morning's influence, but rather, a way for "normal" Japanese people to experience these stories without having to actually undergo the excruciating act of reading manga. A form of merchandising, like Spider-Man movies in America. This is speculation, of course; I hope I'm wrong, and I don't mean to misrepresent Shimada, because he was a great interview subject.

Manga has rejuvenated -- or really, created -- the American comics market for children and teenagers. It's been such a sweeping transformation that I can understand if Marvel and DC, and indeed anyone who doesn't associate themselves with "manga," is freaked out. I think the people who may have the most to lose are people who do "all-ages" comics in a non-manga style, people like Jeff Smith -- he's been drawing for years in that Disney/Walt Kelly style to try to "bring kids into comics" and along comes manga and it's like the bar scene in Bone when everyone is buying beer from Phoney Bone and no one's buying from Lucius. On the other hand, manga hasn't really made much inroads in the indy/experimental/adult comics market, partly because that's not manga's greatest strength, and partly because American manga publishers would rather focus on sure things like Naruto and Fruits Basket.

Of course, new OEL manga publishers are springing up all the time too, and a hybrid style is forming. What'll become of this, I don't know. There are OEL artists whose work I really admire, like Svetlana Chmakova, Felipe Smith and Tintin Pantoja, or Bryan Lee O'Malley, to go farther afield from "manga style." But it's clear that a lot of publishers are fixated on manga because it's "what the kids are reading" or worse, because "it's easier to get kids to read manga than real books." And frankly, getting back to my critical snootiness, the more manga becomes synonymous with "young adult paperbacks," the less interest I have in it. When I hear some huge screaming press release about X-Men manga, or Star Trek manga, or Maximum Ride manga, I have absolutely zero interest whatsoever. Because of course, good comics are original material, not spin-offs. Otherwise we're back in merchandising territory.

The generation that's now reading manga is also a generation that's drawing manga, or comics, or whatever word people call it, but the works that are really going to interest me are the less genre-oriented, more personal works. Some creators are doing these works now, some will do 'em when they're more experienced, and some will never do them. If a bigger pool of comics creators, and translated manga, produces more of these kinds of works, I'll be happy. I would like it, however, if some publishers were able to push these seinen and josei and underground works successfully and expand the public definition of manga. To those who say that publishers can't affect trends, I'd say, look at Tokyopop with their "authentic manga" line in 2002, which is now the industry standard. I'm talking now about my personal wishes rather than what I think is most likely to happen, but that's what's on my mind.

*****

* please note a higher than usual likelihood I blew one of these
* cover to Manga: The Complete Guide
* King of Bandits: Jing volume cover
* from Bananafish
* from Ryoichi Ikegami
* work from Mayoco Anno
* panel from The Stiff
* study from Kazuo Umezo
* more The Stiff
* that Azumanga Daioh omnibus cover
* a volume of Naruto
* Morning magazine
* still more The Stiff

*****

* Manga: The Complete Guide, Jason Thompson, Del Rey, 9780345485908, 590 pages, 2007, $19.95
* The Stiff

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist and musician James Kochalka is interviewed over at Wizard. Link courtesy James Kochalka.

* USA Today surveys the state of comics course at institutions of higher learning.

image* the cartoonist Josh Simmons has re-worked his site and put up that killer Batman story he did in mini-comic form.

* a couple of folks have sent me a link to something called The Small Press League.

* the highly successful self-publishing effort Tundra is signed by King Features.

* you know, I don't remember a lot of interviews with Dean Young.

* not comics: the Belles of St. Trinian's re-make previewed.
 
posted 9:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 53rd Birthday, Beau Smith!

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posted 9:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, Matt Hollingsworth!

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posted 9:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
I Want To Wish You A Happy Birthday

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I enjoy wishing comics industry people and artists a happy birthday here at Comics Reporter, but there are many birthdays of which I'm totally unaware. If you're a working pro and would like to have people know to wish you a happy birthday, or you know someone for whom this applies, please send me the birth date. And yes, I need the year.

I can't guarantee every e-mail will result in a posting -- I have to have heard of you, for one thing, and I won't do it without a birth year -- but I could definitely publish two or three times the number of these I'm doing now.

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posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
December 15, 2007


CR Holiday Interview #1: Joe Sacco

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*****

imageWhat's not to like about Joe Sacco? One of the few cartoonists in the last 25 years to whom you can give credit for an entire way of doing and looking at comics through the notion of comics journalism, Sacco's funny, intelligent and his work is consistently excellent. There is nothing that makes me happier about the shape of comics over the last decade and a half than that Joe Sacco has a prominent place in it. I talked to the cartoonist, who is currently hard at work on another major piece which will likely be seen in 2009. Fantagraphics has released a hardcover Palestine: Special Edition, which is the subject of most of what follows. It's a nice-looking book, with excellent back material and even some lacerating self-analysis from the author. The story itself proves to be one of those rare comics efforts that's grown in power with age, and it was pretty damn considerable upon its initial, serial publication. I had a great time doing the interview. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: Is there a reason why you're doing this project right now? How did the project come about?

JOE SACCO: I think Eric [Reynolds] came up with it and passed it through Kim Thompson and then one or the other contacted me and said, "How about this?" What sounded good to me is that they were going to put the book in hardcover. Maybe I've related this story to you before. A long time ago I asked Kim if they were going to release this in hardback. And Kim said, "Yeah, we could do that, or we could go to the top of the Space Needle and throw out buckets of money." [Spurgeon laughs] To me, the idea of having a hardcover, it was like, "I arrived." The idea of this thing as a money loser, now it actually makes them money. It just made me feel sort of good. And I think, "Why not? It should be in hardcover." I wanted it to be in hardcover originally. But it really wasn't worth the hardcover before for commercial reasons. And now it is.

If you're going to put something like that together, then of course you think, "Well, maybe there should be some extras." I'm a little ambivalent about it. Part of me feels like I'm interested when other people explain their work, and part of me feels like the work should always speak for itself. I decided to go along with it, because basically I feel that so many ask me these sorts of questions about my working methods. I talk about this stuff. If I'm going to talk about it, I might as well be honest about it. I might as well demystify it to some extent. So that's the purpose of all the extra information. Comparing my photographs to the drawings, having excerpts from my journal entries, just so people can get an idea of how I go about doing things. Maybe they won't ask me those questions in interviews anymore. [laughter] It'll be there for them to read.

If you're going to put out a hardcover in this day and age, people sort of expect some extras. They don't want to buy the same book again. This is sort of an impetus for them to say, "Okay, well, the softcover's falling apart. Maybe it'd be nice to have this volume." Fantagraphics did a beautiful job. Adam Grano, he did a great job with it. So why not, I guess. But there was no real reason why this was the moment to do it.

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SPURGEON: I was impressed by the supplementary material. I thought it among the best I've seen; almost certainly it's the best I've seen in a comic in terms of the quality of insight.

SACCO: I'm glad to hear that, because I don't look at supplementary materials of other people's work, really, I can't even remember looking at some stuff like this. My thing is I relate it to CDs, and how when I was first buying CDs, I was always into the bonus track. Now I can't stand that stuff. Unless it's something really revelatory and interesting, it's just wasting my time with alternate takes, and it's like, "Give me a break. I don't want to hear that stuff."

SPURGEON: It looks like it was time-consuming. Even if people hated everything that ever came out of your pen, they would have to admit you really spent some time digging into the older material and related issues.

SACCO: It was a lot more work than I thought. Once you get started on a project like that, you think, "Is this going to be half-assed, or am I actually going to put some effort into it?" My feeling is if people are going to be spending any more money on this thing, it better be worth it. I'm always thinking in those terms. I really think commercially in a way. Not just in the sense of "Okay, I need some money, so this is a good thing." But also if it's going to be a bargain for the reader. I feel like people deserve a bit of a bang for their buck. So yeah, I put some effort into it. And there was a lot of back and forth about the design. And yeah, it took a lot of digging... always trying to go that extra step, even though this was kind of my off-hours project.

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SPURGEON: Another thing re-releasing a work allows you to do is to look at the work again with new eyes. I guess we'll see how readers react, but there were moments in the supplementary material where you indicated your own thoughts about re-visiting that work. Was there a process of re-reading the book anew? It seems like it might have been an interesting experience for you to go back and look at this important work for your career.

SACCO: That's true. To be honest, I've never read the book all the way through since it came out. I've read parts of it again. Sometimes I'll open it up for some reason because I need to refer back to it for whatever reason, and I'll sort of lose myself in it for five or ten pages. There's some sections I almost know by heart, because I've actually looked at them again and thought, "Could I ever capture this atmosphere again?" Sometimes I see it as the standard that I'm not sure I ever met. Sometimes I see great problems in the work or things I would really change. I think that's typical. You see things and you think, "Oh, I could never match this." And you see other things and you think, "Boy, I've really improved." [laughter]

The thing that struck me the most... Whenever I look at it again, I realize how much writing was important to me, making words sound good. Making it sort of entertaining and moving it along in a way. And I know, just because my work has become more self-conscious, that in some ways I've downplayed that or turned the knob down on that. You realize with comics that the pictures have to speak more, and sometimes you can write a really nice passage, and the wording can be really nice, but sometimes that can get in the way of the strict journalism of it. Now when I edit my scripts I'm much more ruthless about cutting things out. Because I just want the thing to move. What Palestine had is a different kind of energy to it. In some ways, I don't know if I'll ever be able to write like that again with strict journalism. I think some of that was in The Fixer in a way. I was able to sort of write, because I love words, be able to let myself go a little with the writing there. In other projects I'm doing like the one I'm doing now and even the Gorazde book [Safe Area: Gorazde], I was much more restrained.

imageSPURGEON: You make the point about the work's energy in the supplementary as well. I was struck by that, because it lines up with what I hear about the work. A reason a lot of people I know hold Palestine so dear is that it has this kind of careening energy to it, this reflection of a very specific experience, a flow that doesn't appear in any of your work since. I was almost amazed that you would pick up on that, too.

SACCO: If you look at my work subsequent to it, you'll see elements of Palestine in there, some of the craziness of the angles and all that. Which actually really comes from my Yahoo books. If you look at the Yahoo material, I think that's where it really comes from. It sort of reached full fruition in the Palestine work. I just use it when it's really necessary now. I think that sort of manic energy that's in the Palestine book really reflects in a way who I was at the time and how I was approaching the material. I was much more jumpy. Much more overwhelmed by the things I was seeing and how I was trying to get the story. I was unsure of myself. Not so much in the drawing, but when I was there. And it reflects that.

Now when I do these sorts of work, I'm just more experienced, so I'm more low-key. Panic isn't the word, but I don't frighten as easily. So the drawing reflects that. The drawing reflects a shift in my maturity. It's not because I don't appreciate who I was during the Palestine phase. I think that stuff is entirely true to who I was. But if I used all those techniques in that same kind of way, I think that wouldn't be true to who I am now. If that makes me works now perhaps slightly drier, that's just how it goes. I accept that.

SPURGEON: Has there ever been a serious backlash anywhere to Palestine that you know of?

SACCO: Not serious. Every now and then I feel like someone comes down on it, or some store gets in trouble temporarily. I know that some places don't carry it because it's the personal viewpoint of the owner. Which is the prerogative of the owner. But no, no.

SPURGEON: Some of the things you hint at in the supplementary material made me wonder. There was one remarkable anecdote where you talked about someone reacting negatively to the caricature aspects.

SACCO: Yeah. There was a Palestinian-American person who tore up the book without really reading it. When something like that happens, I'm not the kind of person who goes, "Well, fuck you." I'm the sort of person who thinks, "Does this person have a point or not?" You kind of examine it or weigh it.

SPURGEON: One thing about Palestine is that you were left alone during its creation, which I think may have contributed to a cohesion that it seems to me would be harder to maintain in subsequent projects.

SACCO: I don't know, because I'm working on a project now that's probably the most ambitious thing I've ever done. I think any cartoonist who's really doing good work is going to tell you it takes extraordinary discipline to keep it up, day in and day out, year after year. So I still have it in me. Honestly, you always wonder if you'll have it in you when the one you're working on it's done. Because when you're working on it, as much joy as it gives you, and as much drive as you have, it's so difficult you don't know if you're going to be able to do it another time.

SPURGEON: A lot of what's been written about you has been in terms of your approach, the fact that you pursue journalism in comics form. Are you surprised that there aren't more people doing exactly what you're doing? You see the occasional first-person report and comics essay, but almost no one in more considered journalism. Do you feel a kinship with anyone out there?

SACCO: I know people like Ted Rall have done something along these lines, and it seems like magazines are open to cartoonists doing 1-, 2- or 4-page strips. Art Spiegelman at Details was sending people out to do some journalism. There are a number of French cartoonists where I think their work is journalistic. I don't feel like I'm the only one doing it. What I do know, and I'm not claiming any title for myself, what I do know is that when people want to talk about comics journalism, they tend to call me up. I'm still kind of the go-to guy, for whatever that's worth. In some ways, that's flattering. It doesn't really matter, because you wrestle with your work all the time and you know your own limitations. You know how things can be better. So you put everything into perspective. [laughs]

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SPURGEON: Is it ever a concern for you that you might write more for an audience now because, well, you have an audience now?

SACCO: I don't think that enters into my thinking. I was definitely aware when I was doing Palestine it sold so miserably as a comic book that I was able to do it under the radar. The good thing about selling miserably is that no one has any expectations. No one is talking about your work. And no one is criticizing it, [laughs] I mean, not in that way that really matters. I was doing it, no one was really buying it, and then it came out in a book, and it became successful as a book after the Gorazde book became successful. If I'm not mistaken, the soft cover single volume came out after the Gorazde book came out.

SPURGEON: I'm almost certain of that.

SACCO: So I'm aware now that people are interested in my work. I just try to use that to my advantage. I do those shorter pieces you mention for magazines. That to me is almost ideal. I don't know any other term for it, but I like to be in the field. Those magazine pieces allow me, when I do them, to sort of go somewhere and get a story. I have a lot of interests. That doesn't mean I won't work in the long-term format again. But I'm also interested in doing shorter pieces. It keeps your blades sharper when you can do that. Here I am sitting at my desk and I've been almost sitting for five or six years. Okay, I made a trip to Iraq that was pretty short. I was gone three weeks. In five or six years you're sitting there just drawing, drawing, drawing. Anything you do a lot of you're going to be better at. What I'm not doing a lot of is journalism. And I miss it.

As far as what people expect... you know what I've noticed? Whenever I do something that's maybe more humorous, people think, "Ah, this isn't serious stuff." That's what I'm most aware of. As far as my journalism goes, I don't really pay attention to what I think people want, although I know they might be more interested now, certainly. It's not like I'm paying attention. What I think about most is, "Can I ever do anything other than this and have people take it seriously?"

SPURGEON: Really?

SACCO: Yeah. What if I wanted to do fiction or some sort of essay stuff? I think people would say, "OK, that was whatever it was, but his real serious work was this, this and the other thing." And it is my real serious work, but a personality has more in him or her than serious work. [laughs]

SPURGEON: Do you think you'll eventually move in that direction anyway?

SACCO: Yeah, I think so. At the very least, what I think I'm going to do is try and balance it a little. There are other things I want to do.

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SPURGEON: I saw some photos that Eric Reynolds put up of your recent appearance at the Fantagraphics bookstore. I don't know if that's an appropriate hook on which to reflect, but it occurs to me you have a very different profile than you had in the 1990s that is not just reflective of the growth your career has had, but kind of the way that comics are treated now differently now than 10-15 years ago.

SACCO: Yes. That's definitely true.

SPURGEON: How is it different for you? Do you ever reflect on how things are different for you now just as a functioning professional? Palestine was such an odd duck in its comic book iteration, and now there seems a much greater context to appreciate what you're doing.

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SACCO: The difference between the days I was working on the Palestine comic book and now is like night and day. Comics, the way they're perceived and the way they're treated, it's almost hard to imagine it's the same medium, or the atmosphere is even the same. What you're breathing, the air you're breathing now is very different than what it was then. Back then there were people doing good work and working at the top of their game, but it seemed at around the year 2000 everything seemed to coalesce. There was almost like enough stuff was coming out that was serious or really well done, and people sort of just turned their heads and thought, "Oh, there's a bunch of this stuff." It doesn't mean there wasn't stuff before, because there was, and there are a lot of people that did a lot of serious work that will be mentioned years from now as a precursor or whatever. Things have changed a great deal. I can make a living off it now. And back then... thank God I was doing the Palestine books when I was in my early 30s. Now when you think about it that's pretty old to be doing something like that. I was still at the point of renting a room for $250 and that kind of thing.

imageThings have changed a lot. It doesn't mean it's easy financially. But it's much, much easier. To me that's a big deal. If things work out for you financially, you're more apt to continue on the same path. If you're getting rewarded for what you're doing, you think, "Okay, I'll keep doing this. I love doing this." But there came a point in the middle of the Gorazde book where I thought, "I'll finish this book, and then I'm wrapping it up. I'm not going to do any more comics." How long can you beat your head against a wall? Those are the subjects I'm interested in. I thought if I did humorous work it wasn't what I wanted to do right then. I was interested in these very serious subjects. I didn't have anything in me other than that. I saw how Palestine had done. I thought, "You know what? I can't keep doing this. I can't work this hard and make this amount of money. I can't even have a personal life." It was kind of like that. So I was actually half-seriously thinking about becoming a mathematics teacher. For me, math is pretty easy, so doing something like that and that's it. That's the difference. The difference is now magazines call my agent -- I have an agent now -- and say, "Is he interested in doing this?" People are contacting me relatively frequently with ideas or offers. That's where I wanted to be back then. That was my ideal situation. Now I'm working on a long book and sometimes I can't take all these offers. I can't do all those things that are really tempting.

SPURGEON: That is a change.

SACCO: It's a huge change. You look at what your peers are doing, also, and it just gives you hope. You see the sorts of books that are coming out, and the impact they're having, and the fact they're getting reviewed, and you see the fact that the New York Times Magazine is running comics pages, and boy there's a big change.

SPURGEON: I recall that at one point you moved to New York to better pursue professional opportunities.

SACCO: That's it. At the end of the Gorazde book, I was about to give up, and I thought what I'll do is move to New York and I'll make the Last Stand. Even though New York is a difficult place to get by, I thought, "Here's the center of the publishing world. Maybe that's the right place to be." Let's see if that works. It sort of worked in its way. The Gorazde book came out and it was well-reviewed and those things seem to matter if they're reviewed in big mainstream publications. I did something for Time. I was closer to a group of people who made me feel like I was doing the right thing. It helped. It was a shot in the arm that way.

SPURGEON: One of the things I find intriguing in the back material of the new Palestine book was that balance you found between inserting yourself in the narrative and keeping yourself at a remove. I don't know if that was calculated or if it was something that you just felt your way through. I was also wondering how that element has changed for you since then.

SACCO: I think I felt my way through that. If someone really wanted to look at where that all comes from, I think it comes from the tone I achieve in Yahoo #5. No one's ever asked me that question, so I've never really answered it. Yahoo #5 is called "How I Loved the War" and takes place in Berlin. There's a tone I had, sort of a cynical, skeptical tone that I had that carried over. The next project I did as far as going somewhere was Palestine. I went to Palestine and then came back and did Yahoo #6. But really the tone of Yahoo #5 carried over into how I did Palestine. It wasn't something where I'm sitting back and thinking, "Oh, I'll do it in this way." It was a very organic process of writing. That's how I felt. That's how I wrote it. If I can say anything about Palestine, it's that it's really organic.

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SPURGEON: That's a wider journalism question, too, that pops up in everything from embedded journalism to Oprah standing near a crime scene and weeping on camera. It seems to be about how much of yourself is smart to put in there, how much will work.

SACCO: It wasn't the only thing I was doing, but I was doing autobiography in the Yahoo series, like a lot of cartoonists were doing and are still doing. So when I was thinking, "I'm going to go to the Middle East," I thought of it in terms of maybe there will be some elements of journalism in this, I'll probably talk to people and all that, but it seemed almost second nature to think of it as a personal travelogue without thinking of the consequences of that. I came out of a milieu. I came out of autobiographical comics. People like Chester Brown, Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb. There were just cartoonists doing that, so you did [laughs] in a way. It was part of what people did. It seemed very second nature-ish to go and write about my experiences.

Now as far as how to balance that when you're actually drawing it, how much to leave yourself in or out of it, that's just an artistic consideration. For me, I realized Palestine was so episodic. There isn't one driving story or plotline. It's just a series of episodes. The only thing connecting them is myself. Of course you take a part of yourself and you make it your character. I didn't include certain aspects of my personality that wouldn't be interesting or would have undercut the story. You have to be very sparing if you show yourself feeling emotion. That doesn't mean I wasn't feeling emotion when I was hearing these stories or seeing the things I was seeing. It's more important to emphasize the humorous parts of your personality in those situations instead of "I'm really broken up. I feel like I'm about to cry now." Let the reader cry. You don't have to cry for them. [laughs]

SPURGEON: You know, issue #6 of Yahoo was completely different than #5 in terms of tone and your presence in the story.

SACCO: I think I wrote that before I went to Palestine, and I was drawing it while I was in Palestine.

SPURGEON: Did your perception of how that worked in relation to how #5 worked have an impact on how you approached Palestine?

SACCO: No. No. Not really. At that point, I wasn't sure how I was going to approach Palestine. I thought I would just continue Yahoo on some level, too. To me, Yahoo was a means of experimenting, and sort of finding a voice, or shifting my voices, because I was never interested in having a set of characters that lived in a situation, that gets a bit too sit-commy for me. I'm not that kind of writer. Some people are good at that. I'm not. So if I continue Yahoo I probably would have just shifted gears each issue somehow.

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SPURGEON: You've talked about doing stories that aren't journalism, but is there a kind of journalism you want to practice you haven't practiced yet? Is there a kind of story that you haven't covered? Is there any impulse to say, follow Barack Obama around for a year or dissect economic policy?

SACCO: The way it is now for me is that I choose what I'm interested in and then I'll approach someone. That's the only way I really look at things. The only time someone called me up and convinced me that this was a good story idea and I did it was a story that's not been released but it's been completed for about three years about Chechen refugees. So many people contact you about things, and you think, "Okay, whatever." But this person was serious and wanted to put her money where her mouth was, basically, and send me somewhere. So I thought, "Why not?" So I did a crash course on it. And I got really pulled into it. But that's really the only time I've done a story that wasn't self-generated. All the Iraq stuff, it was a question of contacting my agent and saying, "Hey, I'm interested in going to Iraq. Do you think anyone is interested in printing a comics piece?" And a month later she talked to people and came up with a list. That's a positive way my life has changed. People take me seriously now.

This is the big difference: Back in the old days, you'd do a piece about Palestinians and people would say, "It's in comics form?" And that would seem ludicrous. And now it's like because something is in comics form, they want it. They would almost rather have it in comics form. That's how comics has sort of changed now. Editors are searching for this sort of stuff. It's a big, big difference. I'm sure it's same for a number of people. The younger cartoonists who are starting out now probably have some paths cleared for them. But people like me, and I hate to say it, my generation of cartoonists, our paths were also cleared for us by certain people. Art Spiegelman. Even the underground people. The Hernandez Brothers and Peter Bagge, those people cleared a path. You always benefit from what others have done.

SPURGEON: I don't have any more questions as much as I'm just sort of happy for you; it sounds like you've found a rational and fruitful way of conducting a major part of your professional life.

SACCO: Well, thank you. I don't have that many complaints. I overwork myself, because it's hard to be in the same creative space for a long period of time. You kind of want to move ahead. You have a lot of ideas. But cartooning is labor intensive. Or let me say this clearly: it should be. [laughter]

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* cover to the new Palestine: The Special Edition
* self-portrait
* page from new edition's back section, showing how a cover was colored
* two of the careening, wilder pages from Sacco's Palestine era
* from one of Sacco's freelance works
* photo from Sacco's signing, provided by Fantagraphics
* cover to an issue of the Palestine comic book
* inset from Safe Area: Gorazde I nicked from Dan Raeburn's article on Sacco
* another page from Palestine
* a scene from Palestine, I think

*****

* Palestine: The Special Edition, Joe Sacco, Fantagraphics, hard cover, 320 pages, November 2007, 9781560978442 (ISBN13), $29.95.

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posted 10:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #103—2007 In Review

Five For Friday #103 Results

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Five -- And Only Five -- Comics or Comics-Related Publications You Enjoyed Reading This Year." Here are the results.

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1. Storeyville, Frank Santoro
2. Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine
3. The Kat Who Walked In Beauty, George Herriman
4. House, Josh Simmons
5. Betsy and Me, Jack Cole

*****

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Sean T. Collins

* Notes for a War Story, by Gipi
* The End, by Anders Nilsen
* The Immortal Iron Fist, by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja, and various
* Powr Mastrs Vol. 1, by C.F.
* Green Lantern, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and various

*****

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Daniel J. Mata

1. Silverfish by David Lapham
2. New Engineering by Yuichi Yokoyama
3. Comic Art #9 by Buenaventura Press
4. Misery Loves Comedy by Ivan Brunetti
5. The Arrival by Shaun Tan

*****

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Art Baxter

1. LOVE AND ROCKETS Volume 2 Number 20, los Bros. Hernandez
2. COMIC ART ANNUAL #9
3. MOOMIN Volume 2, Tove Jansson
4. THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM Volume 5, by Kazuo Umezu
5. NIGER #2, Leila Marzocchi

*****

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Charles Hatfield

1. Percy Gloom, Cathy Malkasian
2. Chance in Hell, Gilbert Hernandez
3. Notes for a War Story, Gipi
4. The Arrival, Shaun Tan
5. MW, Osamu Tezuka

*****

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Grant Goggans

1. I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!
2. 2000 AD
3. Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together
4. Super Spy
5. Bookhunter

*****

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Marc Arsenault

* Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together - Bryan Lee O'Malley
* Daybreak Vol. 2 - Brian Ralph
* The Escapists by Brian K Vaughan & company
* UnInked edited by Chris Ware
* The Comics Journal 285 - the Darwyn Cooke Interview

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. The Completely Mad Don Martin
2. Girl Genius Vol. 6: Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite
3. Gods of Asgard
4. Mantlo: A Life in Comics
5. Pirates vs. Ninjas

*****

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Will Pfeifer

1. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN -- Best mainstream comic in years.
2. Matt Kindt's SUPER SPY
3. I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS -- Amazing stuff, as everyone mentions, and perfectly capped off by the comic strip about Fletcher Hanks' son at the end, which almost no one seems to mention.
4. PULP HOPE
5. The latest volume of THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY, especially knowing it's just going to get better.

*****

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Charles Brownstein

1) Army@Love by Rick Veitch -- Month in and month out, my favorite current comics series. Veitch's smart satire takes on the current war & the culture of branding with a delicate balance of outrageousness & restraint. Fine black humor, and solid comics.

2) Shazam: Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith -- Every panel in this book exudes the joy of drawing & story in a way that few other's do. Smith captures the goofiness & innocence of the characters alongside gentle political satire in a book that is a smart choice for adult readers with a nostalgia for comics' old days as well as kids growing up after 9/11.

3) Multiple Warheads by Brendan Graham -- Something about this book immediately grabbed me. Maybe it was the odd size, maybe it was the charming drawing on the pleasing cover stock. Whatever it was, it held me through to the last line. Graham builds a strange, whimsical world with a tinge of darkness that is simultaneously titillating, absurd, and vaguely adorable. It's loaded with weird ideas and a visual inventiveness that feels spontaneous. It's like an underground comic edited by Mort Weisenger.

4) Love & Rockets -- Yeah, yeah, no one needs to no one needs to plug the Hernandez Brothers, since we all acknowledge that they are gods among men. But while their greatness is universally acknowledged, the constant inventiveness and visual polish of their new work isn't discussed as much as it should be. Gilbert's descendants of Luba stories are so singular and have achieved such a compelling rhythm and audaciousness that they seem to exist just outside of this reality. I love the characterization, the shifts in time, the risky decisions, and the delicate line between trashy telenovela and generational saga novel that he continues to maintain. Jaime also seems to be taking more and deeper chances by illustrating a muddy moral landscape and depicting the visceral feelings of watching one's youth pass by with increasing velocity. The guys draw pretty comics, sure. But they never stop taking chances and that is to be celebrated.

5) Hutjack'd by Alixopulous -- Not new, and in fact, I've read and given away so many copies of this comic over the years, I really wasn't sure I needed to buy a replacement for my last one when I was at APE. But I bought one anyway and reread it and love it more every time I read it. Trevor Alixopulous manages to create a compelling irreverent satire that harkens back to the socially relevant yet anarchic days of underground comix. Taking on the Asian tsunami, reality tv, and rich world bureaucracy in a non-pious but judgmental smart ass (and hilarious) way, Hutjack'd is a classic mini-comic that deserves to be read by smart people everywhere.

*****

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Jason Michelitch

* Crecy (Warren Ellis, Raulo Caceres)
* Sock Monkey: The Inches Incident (Tony Millionaire)
* Bookhunter (Jason Shiga)
* I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets (Fletcher Hanks, Paul Karasik)
* Comics Journal #284, specifically the presentation of "Mugwhump's Big Night" by Roger Langridge

*****

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Josh Lambert

1. Exit Wounds
2. Criminal
3. Notes for a War Story
4. All-Star Superman
5. Love and Rockets Digests

*****

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John Vest

1. A Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography Of Emma Goldman, Sharon Rudahl
2. Criminal Vol. 1: Coward, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
3. The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy Volume 2, Chester Gould
4. Maggie The Mechanic: The First Volume Of "Locas" Stories, Jaime Hernandez
5. The Fun Never Stops!: An Anthology Of Comic Art 1991-2006, Drew Friedman

*****

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Jamie Coville

1. Invincible -- Image
2. The Walking Dead -- Image
3. Monster -- Viz
4. I''s -- Viz
5. Path of the Assassin -- Dark Horse

*****

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Dan Coyle

1. Human Diastrophism by Gilbert Hernandez, Fantagraphics
2. Golgo 13 by Saito Pro, Viz
3. Nat Turner Book Two by Kyle Baker, Image
4. Casanova by Matt Fraction, Fabio Moon, and Gabriel Ba, Image
5. Thunderbolts by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato, Marvel

*****

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Brian Nicholson

Including books that came out before 2007 that I didn't read until 2007:

1. Jimbo: Adventures In Paradise, Gary Panter
2. Tekkon Kinkreet, Taiyo Matsumoto
3. Powr Mastrs, Chris Forgues
4. The Mourning Star, Kazimir Strzepek
5. Marbles In My Underpants, Renee French

*****

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Joe Schwind

* LAIKA by Nick Abadzis
* COMIC ART 9, Todd Hignite, Founding Editor
* THE ORIGINAL ART OF BASIL WOLVERTON, From the Collection of Glenn Bray
* WALT AND SKEEZIX Volume Three 1925-1926 by Frank King
* WALK A MILE IN MY MUU-MUU by Bill Griffith

*****

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Francis Peneaud

* The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill, America's Best Comics.
Because it's mad and you need annotations to really enjoy it.
* Poison the Cure #1, Jad Ziade & Alex Cahill, New Radio Comics.
A fully-realised dark future with convincing aesthetics.
* Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan, Drawn & Quarterly.
One of the most understated stories I've read recently.
* Agents of Atlas, Jeff Parker & Leonard Kirk, Marvel Comics.
What super-hero comics can aspire to: fun and engrossing, with unexpected twists (and not bloodily violent!).
* Shiny Beasts, Rick Veitch & others, King Hell Press.
Only Veitch could write and/or draw these weird short tales.

*****

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Kiel Phegley

1. Madman Atomic Comics by Mike & Laura Allred
2. Glister by Andi Watson
3. Reading Comics by Douglas Wolk
4. Blue Beetle by John Rogers & Rafael Albuquerque
5. The Last Call by Vasilis Lolos

*****

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Dan Boyd

1. Moomin, Tove Jansson
2. Notes for a War Story, Gipi
3. Daybreak, Brian Ralph
4. Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O'Malley
5. Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan

*****

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Patrick Godfrey

* The Blot by Tom Neely (I Will Destroy You)
* Maxwell Strangewell by the Fillbach Brothers (Dark Horse)
* Black Adam by Pete Tomasi & Doug Mahnke (DC Comics)
* Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)
* Gutsville by Simon Spurrier and Frazer Irving (Image)

*****

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Fred Hembeck

1. The Spider-Man Omnibus by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
2. Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones
3. Mary Perkins, On Stage by Leonard Starr, Volume 1
4. The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen by Mort Weisinger and Various
5. John Romita And All That Jazz by Roy Thomas and Jim Amash

*****

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Marc Sobel

1) Love & Rockets, Los Bros Hernandez
2) Superspy, Matt Kindt
3) Sandman Mystery Theatre, Matt Wagner, Steven Seagle, Guy Davis
4) Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, Charles Hatfield
5) New York Times Funny Pages (especially Mister Wonderful)

*****

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Aaron White

1. 1-800 MICE. Matthew Thurber taps right into the sweet spot where my best dreams happen.
2. The Job Thing by Carol Tyler. I'm sorry that her whole corpus to date pretty much fits in two slender volumes; there's so much to love in what we've got, though!
3. The Hobbit by Marc Bell and Peter Thompson. The pantheistic blending of character and landscape spellbound me.
4. Moomin. If my stuffed animals could still come to life and act out stories for me it might come out a bit like this.
5. The Comics Reporter. Part of this nutritious breakfast.

*****

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Dan Morris

The Blot
Super Spy
Multiple WarHeadz #1
Maggots
Storeyville

*****

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Alan David Doane

1. Crecy by Warren Ellis and Raul Caceres (Avatar)
2. Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon)
3. A Treasury of Victorian Murder: Saga of the Bloody Benders by RickGeary (NBM)
4. Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (Marvel)
5. The Comics Journal, edited by Michael Dean and Gary Groth (Fantagraphics)

*****
 
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David Gantz, RIP

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posted 8:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Wizzywig Vol. 1: Phreak

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posted 8:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 39th Birthday, Ariel Bordeaux!

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I Like This Stefano Ricci Art

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I received these two postcards too late to plug Stefano Ricci's show in Ravenna that opened in November, but I sure like the art.

 
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First Thought Of The Day

This is the year I grow up. (I know, I know, but it was my first thought.)
 
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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from December 8 to December 14, 2007:

1. Rob Felton and Wizard part ways, the latest in a series of hirings and firings at the company.

2. First New York Anime Festival ends with claims for modest success.

3. A potential cartoons controversy ends with an apology and then an acceptance of that apology.

Winner Of The Week
Comics readers.

Loser Of The Week
Asok the Intern

Quote Of The Week
"The company is a disaster." Marc Mason, on DC's 2007.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Centaur Publications
 
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December 14, 2007


Happy 54th Birthday, JM DeMatteis!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Philippe Dupuy!

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Ted Slampyak!

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Happy 40th Birthday, Zep!

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Five For Friday #103—2007 In Review

Five For Friday #103: Name Five -- And Only Five -- Comics or Comics-Related Publications You Enjoyed Reading This Year

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1. Storeyville, Frank Santoro
2. Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine
3. The Kat Who Walked In Beauty, George Herriman
4. House, Josh Simmons
5. Betsy and Me, Jack Cole

*****

This subject is now closed. Thanks to all that participated.

*****
Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.

Five For Friday will return on January 11, 2008
 
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Friday Distraction: Romitaman.com

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Egypt: “Cartoon Is An Art Of Assault”

Western readers frequently learn about cartooning culture in places other than North America, Europe and Japan when things are in crisis, which I think tends provides a distorted view of things, and sometimes leave one scrambling for the context of the event. I therefore greatly enjoyed this piece on the power that cartoons currently have in Egyptian news publications, both print and on-line, and recommend it highly. Watch all the pictures flashing through in the bottom image!
 
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Go, Bookmark: Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Site, Information, Deadline

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist Paul Pope writes a thoughtful essay about the "literary" graphic novel.

* Blog Flume points to an awesome site set up to feature nothing but money-shot shelf porn. I would do this, too, but all it would be is photo after photo of fake books holding liquor.

* did you know that Stan Lee was about to receive the Jules Verne Lifetime Achievement Award; I did not. Did you know that the Stan Lee-related Marvel works were going to be the subject of a Coober Skeber style art show? I didn't know that, either. I am dumb.

* the writer Kevin Church notices more New Frontier comics, something I'd missed, and then looks at the possibilities.

* ANN breaks down the YALSA list by publisher.

* this longer than usual interview with Matthew Diffee at Print not only talks about his new rejected cartoons book but paints a fair portrait of the life of someone working in panel cartoons.

* the writer Chris Butcher talks about his recent piece on yaoi manga.

* the best not-comics link of the day comes from Mike Lynch and his noticing a kind of narrated travelogue from Harvey Pekar of one of his former neighborhoods.
 
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Go, Look: Satchel Paige Mega-Site

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This looks pretty first-class to me as far as sites devoted to individual books go.
 
posted 4:08 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Another Top Comics List For 2007

Whitney Matheson:

* Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Joss Whedon and various (Dark Horse Comics)
* Super Spy, Matt Kindt (Top Shelf)
image* The Professor's Daughter, Joann Sfar (First Second)
* Micrographica, Renee French (Top Shelf)
* Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Ghost Stories, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)
* The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam
* The Plain Janes, Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg (Minx)
* Criminal Vol. 1: Coward, Ed Brubaker (Marvel)
* A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, Josh Neufeld (Smith Magazine)
 
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Go, Look: Evan Dorkin In Heeb

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Missed It: Top Comics List For 5767

Heeb:

1. The Salon, Nick Bertozzi (St. Martin's Press)
2. Alice in Sunderland, Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
3. Things Just Get Away From You, Walt Holcombe (Fantagraphics)image
4. Recess Pieces, Bob Fingerman (Dark Horse)
5. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
6. Alias the Cat, Kim Deitch (Pantheon)
7. Lucky, Gabrielle Bell (Drawn & Quarterly)
8. Testament, Douglas Rushkoff and Liam Sharp (Vertigo)
9. Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
10. American Splendor: Another Day, Harvey Pekar, Dean Haspiel (Vertigo)
 
posted 4:02 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Charles Yoakum on Portfolio Reviews

Exhibits/Events
Photos From CBLDF Event at The Beat
Massive CBLDF Party Mini-Interview Suite

History
Punch 19
Punch 20
Story of the Superman Symbol
Great Photo of Crowd at 1970s Con

Industry
Fans Wonder What's Wrong With X-Men?

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Rafael Navarro
Inkstuds: Frank Santoro
Shuffleboil: Andy Hartzell
NewsOK.com: Chris Ryall
Playback: Nicholas Gurewitch
Panel Borders: Charlie Adlard
Horror Yearbook: Clifford Meth
NWI.com: Dreamtime Collectibles
Kristy Valenti: Secret Headquarters
CBR: Ryan Rubio, Thomas Boatwright
Let's Not Talk About Comics: Brendan McCarthy

Not Comics
Aislin Wins An Explainer
Go See Lavender Diamond at D&Q Store
Persepolis Movie Garner Golden Globe Nomination
Another Manga Leads to Increased Wine Sales Piece

Publishing
The Goon Previewed
Saurav Mohapatra Joins Comics Waiting Room

Reviews
Jeff Newelt: Madman
Xavier Guilbert: Lost Girls
Keith Giles: American Flagg!
Sarah Morean: The Fart Party
Chris Beckett: Chance In Hell
Sean Kleefeld: The Middleman Vol. 3
John E. Mitchell: It Ate Billy On Christmas
Shaenon Garrity: Bambi and Her Pink Gun
Emonome: The Education of a Comics Artist
Don MacPherson: Courtney Crumrin & The Fire Thief's Tale
Erica Wetter: As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You can Do to Stay in Denial
 

 
December 13, 2007


Two Major On-Line Comics Stories

* the New York Times gets into the on-line for free/pay for print model used to successful effect by Diary of a Wimpy Kid and now Shooting War, and provides some helpful numbers in understanding that success. That likely means this set-up is now a huge deal or it's totally over, I can't tell.

* the writer Warren Ellis notes that we are one week away from a downloadable version of 2000 AD getting its start. This interests me because the model seems a lot more like the one that I think will -- or should -- become an industry standard: a publisher putting out an on-line version of a print product in addition to that print product as a way to reach potential readers who have a hard time being served by existing distribution methods but have no desire to download illegally. I mean, I would totally buy a 99-cent Hate Annual today if one were available to me.
 
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Happy 46th Birthday, Philippe Francq!

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com receives word from Wizard's Gareb Shamus confirming that Rob Felton and the company have parted ways. They report it as "left the company"; Felton described it in an e-mail he sent out as his position being eliminated. Shamus claims that publisher Jim Silver will be remaining with the company in the same general role. Despite ICv2.com's assertion that Silver's departure had been reported, I don't recall anyone doing that. A couple of sites including this one reported that multiple sources connected to Wizard were saying that Silver may have stepped away from his current position and if so may be taking on another role at the company, a fair target given the general chaos at Wizard in terms of staffing right now. ICv2.com also provides the Wizard empire's founder and CEO's view on his mixed martial arts venture IFL.

* I thought this chart of the Pirates of Coney Island release schedule were interesting, given what looks like an 11 month period of lateness for issue #6, now released.

* if every student who ever drew a swastika was a person of police interest, my 1985 studyhall would have shut down my hometown's local police force all by itself.

* a name familiar to many comics fans, Scholastic's David Saylor has been promoted to the newly created position of Vice President, Associate Publisher & Creative Director, Hardcover Books. He was previously Creative Director for Scholastic's trade division and as the founding editorial director at Graphix.
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Kyle Baker!

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Another Top Comics List For 2007

Favourite Comics and Art Books of 2007, From Drawn!:

* Notes for a War Story and Garage Band by Gipi
* Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream (minicomic), Laura Park
* Trois Ombres (Three Shadows), Cyril Pedrosa
image* John Cuneo's nEuROTIC
* Ragni, by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl
* Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine
* The Other Side by Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart
* Paul a la Peche (Paul Goes Fishing), Michel Rabagliati
* Scott Pilgrim 4, by Bryan Lee O'Malley
* This Will All End in Tears, by Joe Ollman
* Process Recess 2 by James Jean
* Flight 4 by various artists
* Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
 
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Happy 39th Birthday, Joseph Michael Linsner!

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Eisner Awards Call For Submissions

Here's the letter we received.
Eisner Awards Now Accepting Submissions for 2008

Submissions are now being accepted for consideration by the judges for the 2008 Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards. Publishers wanting to submit entries should send one copy each of the comics or books and include a cover letter indicating what is being submitted and in what categories.

The tentative categories include best single issue, best short story, best continuing comic book series (at least two issues must have been published in 2007), best limited comic book series (at least half of the series must have been published in 2007), best new series, best title aimed at a younger audience, best humor publication, best anthology, best graphic album--new material, best graphic album--reprint, best reality-based work, best archival collection, best U.S. edition of foreign material, best writer, best writer/artist, best penciler/inker (individual or team), best painter (interior art), best lettering, best coloring, best comics-related book, best comics journalism periodical or website, and best publication design. The judges may add, delete, or combine categories at their discretion. The cover letter should include both a mailing address and an e-mail address.

Creators can submit materials for consideration if: (a) their publisher is no longer in business; (b) their publisher is unlikely to have participated in the nomination process; or (c) they have severed connections with the publisher or have similar reasons for believing that their publisher is unlikely to consider nominating them or their work.

Publishers may submit a maximum of five items for any one category, and the same item or person can be submitted for more than one category. Each imprint, line, or subsidiary of a publisher may submit its own set of entries. There are no entry fees.

All submissions should be sent to Jackie Estrada, Eisner Awards Administrator, 4657 Cajon Way, San Diego, CA 92115, before the deadline of March 14.

Entries are also being accepted for the category of best webcomic. This category is open to any new, professionally produced long-form original comics work posted online in 2007. Webcomics must have a unique domain name or be part of a larger comics community to be considered. The work must be online-exclusive for a significant period prior to being collected in print form. The URL and any necessary access information should be emailed to jackiee@mindspring.com.

The Eisner Award nominees will be announced in April, and ballots will go out in May to professionals in the comics industry, including creators, editors, publishers, distributors, and retailers. The results will be announced by celebrity presenters at the gala awards ceremony on the evening of July 25 at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Further information on the Eisner Awards and a downloadable pdf of the Call for Entries can be found here.

Anyone with questions about submitting entries for the awards can e-mail Ms. Estrada at jackiee@mindspring.com or call her at (619) 286-1591.
Oh, won't you join me?

 
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Go, Look: J. Chris Campbell

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Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Photos From CBLDF Event
Simon & Schuster Contest
Heidi MacDonald's NY Anime Festival Report
Report on Norman Rockwell Museum Exhibit

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoon
Mike Peters Mentions Post-Gazette
There's a Comics Podcast Network?
Piece on Canadian Custom Seizures
Alice in Sunderland Selling Like Hotcakes
Post Congratulates Its Editorial Cartoonist
Garfield Foundation Buys Educational Web Site

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Andy Runton

Publishing
Superman Vs. Action Comics
uClick Relaunches Comics Store

Reviews
Alasdair Stuart: Robot Dreams
Graeme McMillan: World's Finest #283-284
John DeFore: The Completely MAD Don Martin
 

 
December 12, 2007


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

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*****

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.

*****

OCT070014 BPRD KILLING GROUND #5 (OF 5) $2.99
SEP072010 WALKING DEAD #45 (MR) $2.99
Two of the better-regarded fantasy adventure comics. They're due for a big plot shift in Walking Dead, I think.

OCT072158 CRIMINAL VOL 2 LAWLESS TPB $14.99
This is the Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips crime book, and the only Marvel effort I pursue into multiple formats.

OCT072194 ESSENTIAL DR STRANGE TP VOL 03 $16.99
I can't resist the Essential series. They could have Essential Hostess Ads and I'd buy it. Essential Stan Lee's Soapbox. Essential Forbush Man. Essential Photos of Bearded Twenty-Somethings Playing Softball. I don't care, I'm there.

SEP073595 ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK VOL 2 HC (MR) $39.95
This is a stunning book and my carry-around companion for the forthcoming holiday season.

AUG073862 ART OF BRYAN TALBOT SC $19.95
MAY073373 ART OF P CRAIG RUSSELL HC $49.99
Two formidable artists and cartoonists should make for two pretty good art books, or at least a couple I'd take off the shelf.

SEP078140 BLACK HOLE COLLECTED HC NEW PTG $27.50
I don't know exactly what this release is, but that's a great-looking book you'd probably want in hard cover.

SEP073494 DONDI VOL 1 TP $21.95
SEP073491 LEONARD STARRS MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL 1 TP $19.95
SEP073492 LEONARD STARRS MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL 2 TP $21.95
SEP073493 LEONARD STARRS MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL 3 TP $21.95
I think I would rather have any of the Mary Perkins' book than the new Dondi release, but I'm curious to see what it looks like.

AUG073648 HATE ANNUAL #7 (MR) $4.95
If I lived near a comic book shop, I would go in just to buy this.

SEP074047 NARUTO VOL 25 TP $7.95
SEP074048 NARUTO VOL 26 TP $7.95
SEP074049 NARUTO VOL 27 TP $7.95
This is I assume the last of the well-publicized three-book releases in the Naruto series designed to draw attention to the book and get everything onto a more popular point in the serial.

SEP073916 NEXUS ORIGIN ONE SHOT $3.99
I don't know what this is, and I remember Nexus origin while having completely forgotten my CPR training, but I like Nexus and everything.

SEP073935 POISON ELVES #80 (RES) (MR) $3.50
SEP073937 POISON ELVES PENCIL SKETCH PORTFOLIO (MR) $24.95
Inked by Tupac Shakur.

*****

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 LA, I’d Go To This

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Conservative Blog: Time List Biased

I don't really pay a lot of attention to the media critiques coming from politically-oriented blogs, but I thought it worth noting this post that of five cartoons featuring political figures on Time's best-of list for 2007 all five feature lampoons of political conservatives or republicans. Actually I'd say four of five, because there's nothing politically critical of Cheney in the Star Wars cartoon that isn't also critical of Obama's fitness to lead.

My problem is I'm never sure what an article like this is supposed to mean beyond its grousing aspects. Should we look on Time with suspicion now? Aren't people in powerful positions generally more funny than people running for office? Wouldn't the Lurch-like Fred Thompson be funny no matter what side he came in on? What I do know is that articles like this should serve as a warning that all political expressions in newspapers, including cartoons, are going to be pounded by both sides, especially conservatives, in the 2008 presidential election season. Brace for it.
 
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Happy 110th, Katzenjammer Kids!

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Missed It: CPM vs. Libre Update

Comipress caught word that I sure didn't of this update on the dispute between Central Park Media and Japanese publisher Libre Publishing, including the assertion that Libre is refusing to talk and just waiting out the terms of the licensing contracts in dispute. That sounds even uglier than last time.
 
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Happy 87th Birthday, Fred Kida!

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the publisher Dan Nadel announces that Lauren Weinstein's Goddess of War has been moved back to February. I mean, we knew it had been moved back because it hadn't shown up, but I at least wasn't sure where it had been moved to.

* the winners in the 8th annual Tehran Cartoon Biennial were announced yesterday. Congratulations to to all the winners.

* this contest is being announced as the first of its kind in Vietnam.

* this piece dwells on the heightened importance of satirists like political cartoonists when a democracy, like South Africa's, is only 13 years old.

* I enjoyed this report on James Kemsley's recent memorial service.

* Allan Holtz continues his look at the 1940 Christmas-related comic strip Santa's Secrets. Holiday strips used to be a pretty big deal on the newspaper page, and one of those things that in my hopelessly nostalgic holiday swooning I wish could take off again. nobody invested in them like the NEA, where this strip's creator, Howard Boughner, worked in the bullpen.
 
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Happy 84th Birthday, Morrie Turner!

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many sources have his birthday on December 11th
 
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Big Books Coming From Feiffer, Doucet

Traditional American comics culture has long displayed a healthy vein contempt in the way it interacts with straight-up publishing news. I'm not sure why, although I'd like to think the reason might have something to do with that the periodic trumpet fanfare that one might hear when actual books of significance come out has been subverted into a relentless kazoo solo of constant hype that even on its better days doesn't go much further than a new direction for Robin, the Boy Wonder.

Two interviews today spotlight what I would think of as pieces of publishing news, and good news at that. Julie Doucet releases her 365 Days into that "comes out in December but no on really sees it until January" slot, while Jules Feiffer gears up for the March release of his prime-time Village Voice strips in a Fantagraphics volume called Explainers, work that has been severely underexposed for its influence and general excellence.
 
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Happy 54th Birthday, Mark Landman!

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posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink
 

 
So What’s Wonder Woman’s Problem?

This article genially and a lot more thoroughly than usual marches through an analysis of how DC has perhaps failed to capitalize on DC Big Three Character/Licensing Icon Wonder Woman as much as they could have. I'm most sympathetic to Greg Rucka's point that they've shifted the character around and re-launched it too frequently for any of the modern versions to gain traction, but I would probably go a step further and just suggest no one's really hit on an appealing modern version that worked with the potential core audience and has therefore informed any and all variations since, as happened with fellow Big Three members Superman and Batman. It might just be bad timing: there was cross-over interest in the character in the 1970s, but that really wasn't the era of appealing character makeovers. Also unlike other characters, leaning on the Golden Age conception of the character for a measure rejuvenation becomes difficult because those Wonder Woman comics are so different than the kind of comics people make now, in ways both good and bad.

Me, I think they should embrace rather than process through soap opera and/or quietly move away from the fact that she broke some dude's neck in a recent all-important crossover event I can't even remember the title of now, and fashion some kind of demented Kurtzman/Elder conception of the character, where she's this peace-talking, harmonious superhero that happens to snap a lot of necks. Granted, I'm no character doctor.
 
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One of The Best Things About Comics During the Holidays: Cartoonists’ Cards

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this one's from Robert Goodin
 
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Quick hits
Craft
Bryan Lee O'Malley Draws
Mike Manley Paints Interiors
Richard Thompson Changes Jokes

Exhibits/Events
More On UN Program
Photo From R Suicide Signing
Report From Fantagraphics Store Celebration
Video Selections From Fantagraphics Store Celebration

History
Oni Adds Letter Section for New Comic

Industry
Join Broken Frontier
Resources for Wannabe Retailers
What Can I Expect From a Page Rate?
D&Q Notes Exit Wounds' Placement on Lists
Free Magazine Comic Gumbo Ceases Publication

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Andy Runton
Daily Mail: Tim Sale
Pulse: Ty Templeton
PWCW: Katsushi Ota
CBC: Pascal Blanchet
Flipped: Eijiro Shimada
Newsarama: Tom Waltz
Newsarama: Ed Brubaker
Newsarama: Steve Wacker
PWCW: David Boller, Mary Hildebrandt

Not Comics
For Some Reason This Made Me Laugh
More on US-Style Copyright Laws in Canada
Terrifying Early Peanuts Appearance in Macy's Parade
They Make Computer Displays Like Dungeonmaster Screens Now

Publishing
Local #11 Anticipated
Chris Butcher on Yaoi
First Photo of New ACME Release
Stack of Books Coming From D&Q
Cartoon Books' RASL Preview On-Line
DHC Reminds They Have Indiana Jones

Reviews
Jog: Octopus Girl Vols. 1-2
Zak Edwards: Northlanders #1
Jeff Vandermeer: Shooting War
Leroy Douresseaux: After I Win
Greg Burgas: The Ice Wanderer
Brian Heater: Apocalypse Nerd #5
Charles Yoakum: Howard the Duck #3
Andrew Wheeler: Owly Vol. 4, The Arrival
Michael Dirda: The Completely MAD Don Martin
Kevin Church: Punisher War Zone: Goin' Out West
Johanna Draper Carlson: Welcome to Tranquility #11's Back-Up Story
 

 
December 11, 2007


Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* a story last month whereby a Muslim group in South Africa complained about a Zapiro cartoon depicting Muhammed has apparently ended with the editor of the publication apologizing and then the group accepting that apology.

* invite a Prime Minister to your journalism conference, expect to hear some opinions about journalistic responsibility, including a bit on the subject of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammed cartoons.

* I can't recall Jerry Robinson speaking on the subject before, but I suppose he probably has.
 
posted 3:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Jochen Gerner

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posted 3:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* more departures at Wizard are being at least heavily rumored. I've heard from multiple sources that VP/Associate Publisher Rob Felton and the company parted ways yesterday (two sources said "fired," although that's a term that has a specific meaning between employer and employee that may not be replicated in more general passed-along news, so I can't say that's sourced) and that Jim Silver may have left his current role as Publisher last week and if that's so he may continue to work for one of the company's publications. Other rumors seem more individualized and thus a step less trustworthy, but clearly something seems to be going on at Wizard in terms of a massive shift in personnel and operations, including relatively high-profile folks like Felton.

* is it my imagination, or does this story happen every other month?

* the cartoonist Awpikye's cartooning work is among a number of Burmese artists banned from publication or telecast for those artists supporting the not-sitting-government side of a Fall 2007 uprising. The cartoonist's commercial illustration work isn't affected by the ban, and unlike some of the figures involved that seem to be in hiding, Awpikye appears to have remained relatively above ground.

* waiting until the latter half of this month to update the birthday list means I missed 40th birthdays for two swell gentlemen and talented cartoonists: Dave Lasky (December 8) and Jason Lutes (December 7). My apologies to both, and I hope you'll visit their sites today and learn more about them.

* a pair of prominent comics columnists are posting a bunch of memoir-style mini-essays about their experiences with comic books: Valerie D'Orazio at Occasional Superheroine, and Greg Hatcher at Comics Should Be Good
 
posted 2:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 50th Birthday, Peter Bagge!

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posted 2:12 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Another Top Comics List For 2007

SELECTION JEUNESSE 2008:

* Anna et Froga Vol. 1: Tu veux un chwingue?, by Anouk Ricard (Sarbacane)
* Chocola & vanilla, Vol. 3, by Moyoco Anno (Kurokawa)
* Dans les nuages, by Jordan Crane (Dargaud)
* Doraemon, Vol. 3, by Fujiko F. Fujio (Dargaud -- Kana)
* Harry est fou, by Pascal Rabate (Gallimard)
* Ippo, la rage de vaincre, Vol. 4, by George Morikawa (Kurokawa)
* Kid Paddle, Vol. 11: Le retour de la momie qui pue qui tue, by Midam (Dupuis)
image* Kitaro, le repoussant, Vol. 3, by Shigeru Mizuki (Cornelius)
* La foret de l'oubli, Vol. 3: La fille sauvage, by Nadja (Gallimard - Bayou)
* Les enfants d'ailleurs, Vol. 1, by Bannister/Nykko (Dupuis)
* Lou, Vol. 4: Idylles, by Julien Neel (Glenat)
* Mamette, Vol. 2: l'âge d'or, by Nob (Glenat)
* Messire Guillaume Vol. 2: Le pays de verite, by Matthieu Bonhomme and Gwen de Bonneval (Dupuis)
* Ratafia Vol. 4: Dans des coinstots bizarres, by Nicolas Pothier & Frederik Salsedo (Treize Etrange)
* Sardine de l'espace, Vol. 6: La cousine manga, by Emmanuel Guibert (Dargaud)
* Seuls, Vol. 2: le maitre des couteaux, by Bruno Gazzotti/Fabien Vehlmann (Dupuis)
* Sillage, Vol. 10: Retour de flammes, by Philippe Buchet/Jean-David Morvan (Delcourt)
* Trolls de Troy Vol. 10: Les enrages du Darshan (II), by Jean-Louis Mourier/Christophe Arleston (Soleil)
* Une Fantaisie du Dr Ox, by Mathieu Sapin (Gallimard)
* Wizz et Buzz, Vol. 2, by Winshluss/Cizo (Delcourt)
* Yakitate Ja-Pan - un pain c'est tout !, Vol. 11, by Takashi Hashiguchi (DelcourtAkata)
 
posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Another Top Comics List For 2007

Time:

image1. Achewood, Chris Onstad.
2. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill
3. All Star Superman, Vol. 1, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely
4. Marvel Zombies, Robert Zirkman, Arthur Suydam, Sean Phillips
5. Jack of Fables, Vol. 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape, Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Aikins, Andrew Pepoy
6. Erfworld, Created by Rob Balder, Jamie Noguchi
7. The Principles of Uncertainty, Maira Kalman
8. Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan
9. Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm, Percy Carey, Ronald Wimberly
10. The Complete Peanuts 1963-64, Charles M. Schulz
 
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: “Ed Emberley and Me”

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posted 2:04 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Hypnotic
Matt Madden Pencils
Stuart Immonen Mashes Up
Dick Hyacinth on How to Criticize Art

Exhibits/Events
Go See Roz
Julie Doucet in Montreal
Go See Jhonen and Jenny

History
On Pete Morisi

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoons
Changebot Fan Club Swag
Ongoing Comics Page Surveys

Interviews/Profiles
Pulse: Jim Mahfood
The Tech: MF Grimm
Bangor Daily News: Josh Alves
Arts on Sunday: Dylan Horrocks
Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Mo Willems

Not Comics
Kazu In Japan
Go Look: Mr. Supercool
He's Still Not Winning Shit
Oleg Gazenko, 1918-2007
Warren Ellis Makes Me Laugh
Evan Dorkin's Odds and Ends
I Once Bagged and Boarded a Lion
The Arrival Among X-Mas Suggestions
The Arrival Among X-Mas Suggestions
Happy Birthday, Column I Don't Read!
That Dave Cooper Painting Again, With Video

Publishing
IDW's Dr. Who Previewed
Next Thomas Ott Previewed
Pulphope Blog One Year Old
More on Black Jack at Vertical
Sacramento Humor Times Goes Subscription Only

Reviews
Jog: MOME Vol. 10
Loleck: Polyominos
Paul O'Brien: Various
Paul O'Brien: Northlanders #1
Brian Cronin: Northlanders #1
Richard Bruton: Recess Pieces
Dan Rafter: Alice in Sunderland
Paul O'Brien: Ultimate X-Men #88
Doug Wolk: Following Cerebus #11
Andrew Wheeler: Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil
Paul O'Brien: What If? X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire
 

 
December 10, 2007


If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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posted 5:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Al Scaduto, 1928-2007

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Mike Lynch brings word that Al Scaduto passed away on Friday, December 7.

Scaduto was born in the Bronx, took classes at the Art Students League and graduated from the School of Industrial Arts in 1946. He was immediately employed upon graduation by King Features Syndicate. In 1948 he began to assist the late artist Bob Dunn on Jimmy Hatlo's They'll Do It Every Time and a comic book version on Jimmy Hatlo's other popular feature, Little Iodine. The comic book assignment ended in 1962, but upon Hatlo's passing a year latter Dunn and Scaduto expanded their work with They'll Do It Every Time. When Dunn died in 1989, Scaduto took over the feature on a full-time basis. The panel currently has approximately 100 clients.

Lynch's link provides a personal look at Scaduto, complete with his involvement with the Long Island chapter of the National Cartoonists Society, known as The Berndt Toast Gang. Mark Evanier provides a much better appreciation and obituary than this one here, and Josh Fruhlinger expresses a fondness for They'll Do It Every Time and its perhaps old-fashioned humor. Scaduto was clearly a highly skilled cartoonist, with a handsome line and fine sense of composition that he used in both single-panel and divided panel conceptions of They'll Do It Every Time. His feature, if you look at it, may be the only current comics offering that would have looked completely in place style-wise running on a comics page in the 1930s. It is unknown at this time if the feature will continue under another artist or pair of artists.

Scaduto's biography at King Features note that he took on a number of outside illustration and related gigs, although apparently nothing else in comics.

They'll Do It Every Time won the NCS divisional award for panel cartooning in 1979 and in 1992. Scaduto is survived by two daughters.
 
posted 4:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Wayne Howard, 1949-2007

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Wayne Wright Howard, an artist best known to comics fan for a prolific run at Charlton Comics from the 1970s through the middle 1980s, has passed away. His wikipedia entry says the cause of death was a heart attack, and gives the date of his passing as December 9. As of 2001, the artist apparently lived in Connecticut.

Howard studied at Wesleyan University and came out of the fertile fan comics scene of the 1960s, joining Wally Wood's studio in 1969, where he began his comics work. A friendship and professional relationship with the writer Nic Cuti led to his long relationship at Charlton, where Cuti served as managing editor. Howard developed the horror anthology Midnight Tales for the publisher, and in return his name was prominently featured on the cover, a distinction common now and thought to be unprecedented at the time.

Other Howard clients, although their cumulative project number paled in comparison to the Charlton workload, included Major Magazines, Warren, Gold Key, DC and Marvel.

Howard is survived by his wife.
 
posted 4:14 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Warren Miller Cartoons

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posted 4:12 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the US House of Representatives has apparently buttressed recent over-encompassing anti-child porn initiative made law with legislation that would call on Internet providers to turn in users that cross this new, poorly conceived line.

* the writer and manga columnist David P. Welsh backs me up on Books-a-Million's place in the great mass of land between the coasts, or at least in his corner of that vast space, and comments generally on a complaint about a book being shelved either in or near a section for children that might not have been smartly placed in that location. Dirk Deppey says: not that adult a book.

* not comics: a bookstore inside a church has won an architectural interiors prize.

image* the cartoonist Craig Thompson speaks about his Grammy nomination for his work on the packaging of Menomena's CD Friend and Foe.

* Jeet Heer has a nice post up about John Updike and comics.

* the writer and critic Kevin Church points out that some of the YALSA nominees have less than sterling critical pedigrees, and that at least one features Spider-Man's incidental nudity and his killer radioactive semen.

* Asok, we hardly knew ye.

* the folks at Marvel would like you to pay a second round of attention to their Dark Tower hardcover hitting the #1 slot on the Bookscan charts, which at least should end all discussion of whether or not the project was worth doing without Stephen King being more heavily involved.

* the ombudsman at the Washington Post discusses the Barack Obama article that led to Tom Toles creating an editorial cartoon critical of his own paper.

* finally, the New York Anime Festival held over the weekend at the Jacob Javitz center looks to have been a modest success. Passing for big news is word that Del Rey and Marvel will work together on a four-book deal featuring Marvel characters, apparently to be two two-volume Wolverine series. I found this breakdown of the forthcoming Yen Press manga magazine to be the most interesting announcement-type publishing news, although it could be that everyone that follow manga more closely already knew about it. Heidi MacDonald has the best pictures.
 
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Happy 87th Birthday, Dan Spiegle!

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posted 4:08 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Another Top Comics List For 2007

New York:

image1. The Arrival, Shaun Tan (Scholastic)
2. Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
3. Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, Fumiyo Kouno (Last Gasp)
4. Apollo's Song, Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
5. The Three Paradoxes, Paul Hornschemeier (Fantagraphics)
 
posted 4:06 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 48th Birthday, Chas Truog!

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posted 4:04 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Comics Christmas Shopping Update

A couple of quality comics-related recommendation lists have popped up over the last real full shopping weekend, suggestions that one might use to supplement those made at the CR Holiday Shopping Guide:

* comic strip collections make the middle section of this tiered geek gift recommendation list from Texas.

* the Atlanta Journal-Constitution offers up a fairly complete list of holiday shopping options.
 
posted 4:02 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Johanna Rojola

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posted 4:01 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
History
Political Satire in Wales
DC Saving Its Own Bacon?
Remembering 10-Cent Comics

Industry
Jones Jones For Translations
Marvel Congratulates YALSA List Nominees
How Do We Reinvent Comics For the Digital Age?

Interviews/Profiles
Wizard: Dean Trippe
Blog@Newsarama: Jog
Boston.com: Jodi Picoult
Boston.com: Hilary Price
E! Online: Josh Fruhlinger
Advocate: Brian K. Vaughan
Newsarama: Gordon McAlpin
Sequential Tart: James Vining
The Statesman: Don Markstein
Comic Book Talk Radio: Various
Indie Spinner Rack: Ted McKeever
Berkeley Daily Planet: Khalil Bendib
Panel Borders: Duncan Fegredo, Sean Phillips

Not Comics
Chris Butcher in Japan 11
Kansas City Comics Community

Publishing
Maximum Ride Manga
Afghani Comic Book on Human Rights
ComiXology Launches Academia Column

Reviews
Jog: Heavy Metal
Carlo Wolff: Various
Tucker Stone: Various
Shannon Smith: Maose
Matthew Brady: Reptilia
Michael Quartano: Spent
Captain Comics: Various
Dave Baxter: Chiaroscuro
Beth Davies-Stofka: Spent
Siban Mohan: I Am Legend
Brendan Wright: Macedonia
Kevin Church: Northlanders #1
Shaenon Garrity: Chikyu Misaki
Brian Doherty: The Shooting War
Brian Hibbs: The Ultimates Vol. 3 #1
Paul O'Brien: The Ultimates Vol. 3 #1
Zak Edwards: The Ultimates Vol. 3 #1
Dick Hyacinth: The Ultimates Vol. 3 #1
Johanna Draper Carlson: People and Poses
Charles Solomon: The Complete Dream of the Rarebit Fiend
 

 
December 8, 2007


Emptying the Big Basket 02

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CR receives two to three comics a day. That adds up. It's more than we can handle in our 200-plus formal reviews a year.

Some comics are reviewed right away. Some comics are never going to be reviewed. The remainder go into a giant basket. When the basket is full and must be emptied, it's time to run whatever commentary we can muster. It may not be a full review -- and even that ain't much -- but least it's something.

We greatly appreciate you sending in your material for review. Thank you. It helps us track what you're doing, and what's going on in the field. All of it gets read. If it doesn't end up reviewed that's my fault for not coming up with a proper idea. I hope you'll forgive me.

Below please find today's skeleton of reviews, a skeleton that will be filled with words throughout the day.

*****

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Title: My Life as a Foot
Creator: R Suicide
Publishing Information: Conundrum Press, soft cover, 80 pages, October 2007, $15
Ordering Numbers: 1894994264 (ISBN10), 9781894994262 (ISBN13)

The nicest thing about a collection of work from an artist like Richard Suicide is the most fundamental one: this is like the only Richard Suicide book that many folks would want to own, and now they can. That's not something to dismiss in a comics industry where work can be spread out over 30 different publications, some of which go right into the trash seven days after being put out. Suicide combines a kind of underground big foot energy and socially questioning eye with that textured comics feel you get form many artists working out of a fine arts tradition. The collections allows us to see how many different variations Suicide manages in what seems like a limited approach -- I think I like a couple of the older and rougher-looking short stories the best, but it's also fascinating to see what looks like a couple of one-page reportage assignments, social observations if you will.

*****

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Title: Awkward and Definition
Creators: Ariel Schrag
Publishing Information: Touchstone, soft cover, 144 pages, April 2008
Ordering Numbers: 1416552316 (ISBN10); 9781416552314 (ISBN13)

I'm looking forward to fully reviewing this work at some point in the spring closer to their re-release by Touchstone; I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that Touchstone is doing three books with Schrag in the new year. This one and Potential are out in April, while a new edition of Likewise will be out in September. I'm kind of surprised they didn't find a new title for this particular re-publication of two works, but I'm convinced all three will do well.

*****

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Title: The Cynic: Jugs, Beavers and Exploding Balls
Creators: Jeff Swenson
Publishing Information: Self-published, soft cover, 132 pages, 2007
Ordering Numbers:

This is a selection of strips from the more recent years of Jeff Swenson's daily striop The Cynic, which has been going in one form or another since 2000. I've only seen the strip a couple of times; it's not my sense of humor, not by a thousand miles, but god bless anyone who's worked in the strip format for that long a period. Reading a bunch of them at once I'm struck by how much I don't like the lettering, enough to make it a major issue in my getting to read it. Talking about a craft element like that is something that often enrages web cartoonists who feel that such things shouldn't matter because they've said so, or because it doesn't matter to the majority of their readers. But for me it made everyone seems as if they were talking in an agitated, warbling voice, like being yelled at by Julia Child. This was exacerbated by a staging that seems to feature a lot of individuals with their mouths wide open and the figures kind of gripping that mouth, as if they're once again shouting to be heard. While many may argue that to talk about these elements misses the wider point of the strip, I can't help but think I'd see the humor and the interpersonal relationships in a lot different light if I could better process how they're presented to me. I might still find myself on a completely different planet than the kind of jokes being told, to put it lightly, but I would have suspicions that there are different ways to read them.

*****

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Title: Everyman #1
Creator: Justin Crouse
Publishing Information: Low Key Comics, comic book, 24 pages, October 2007, $2.50
Ordering Numbers:

I kind of like that cover, at least the design choices to go with a strong purple and shove all the technical information to the bottom. Imagine my surprise when I open up the book and it's a superhero parody. The twist this time is that it's a middle-aged garbage man that gains power rather than college student or whatever. There's nothing in the black and white art and fairly straight-forward characterization that indicates there's going to be a lot that's special about the author's exploration of this single, not-very-dramatic twist. If it's like dozens and dozens of similar titles that have come out in the last 30 years, it won't stick around past a few issues so that we'll see.

*****

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Title: PVP Vol. 2 #37
Creators: Scott Kurtz
Publishing Information: Image, comic book, 24 pages, November 2007, $3.50
Ordering Numbers:

I'm not certain why people have such a strong, negative reaction to Scott Kurtz's comics. It may be that we live in a rocks/sucks world at which gaming culture teeters on the cutting. It could be that people simply don't like Kurtz whom I recall is known as an outspoken creator. Or maybe they just have a straight-up reaction to the work that I don't share. While it's not my sense of humor, the work seems solidly constructed in a way that serves its jokes, it's cleanly designed and there are some interesting formal elements -- I'm not sure I know another creator who makes frequent use of a five-panel grid, for example. Another thing I always hear is that PVP is somehow baffling if you aren't immersed in gamer culture, but I have yet to encounter a joke I don't understand and the last game I played was a basketball video game in 1991 that let me load up by ball team with all of the LA Lakers' useless back-ups, much to my opponents' disdain.

Where I do see some signs of danger is in the strip become too cloistered or repetitive over time, something that hits a lot of features several years in. While the strip is set up to represent a variety of opinions as they pertain to gaming, I'm not sure that all of them are equally versatile in areas of interest outside of that, the kind of things that become more important as a strip shows its age. There's no shame in that; some strips have a longer life than others. I'm not just certain what kind of feature PVP is in those terms, at least not yet.

*****

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Title: Fearless #1
Creators: Mark Sable, David Roth, PJ Holden
Publishing Information: Image Comics, comic book, 32 pages, November 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:


 
posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: this review more than anything else I've read says to me that the new Ultimates series is a total train wreck. If they shorten the series enough in terms of number of issues, the sales might not reflect his negative reaction.

* go, watch: Mafalda video

* go, look: apparently, Amazon.com has copyrighted the concept of real names. Well, sort of.

* go, read: Mike Sterling looks at the launch of DC's 1980s Swamp Thing, and makes an important historical connection between Adrienne Barbeau's breasts and the comics art form.

* go, read: sex advice from Dean Haspiel, Molly Crabapple, and people I've never heard of.
 
posted 8:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

God help me, but I think I like Christmas shopping.
 
posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

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

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If I Were In Montreal, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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posted 4:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
December 7, 2007


CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from December 1 to December 7, 2007:

1. Multiple states sue RJ Reynolds over cartoon imagery in a Rolling Stone ad.

2. Tribune Media Services sued by group, including Jeff MacNelly's widow, in charge of making Shoe.

3. Tor and Seven Seas announce they're launching a manga imprint.

Winner Of The Week
Steve Breen

Loser Of The Week
Fans of Tom the Dancing Bug in the Washington Post

Quote Of The Week
"Continued frustrations in dealing with people who really ought to know how to do their jobs properly, for instance, and the lethargy that seems to always set in just in time to really complicate the already exceptionally complicated rush into the holidays." -- Greg Rucka

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

 
Happy 45th Birthday, Erik Larsen!

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posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five For Friday #102—Meta

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Five For Friday #102 -- Name Five Future Five For Fridays

1. Name Five Comics Brothers
2. Name Five Memorable Comic Strip Plotlines
3. Name Five Things In a Comic Book That Confused You
4. Name Five Comics You Haven't Read
5. Name Five Memorable Comics Cars

*****

This Subject Is Now Closed. Thanks to All That Participated.

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.
 
posted 7:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Friday Distraction: Audio Interviews

All from something called Wired For books.

* Glen Baxter
* About the Madeleine Books
* Bruce Jay Friedman
* Robert Hughes
* Harvey Kurtzman
* Art Spiegelman

thanks to Jeffrey Meyer
 
posted 7:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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posted 4:30 am PST | Permalink
 

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

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posted 4:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
WaPo Drops Tom The Dancing Bug

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In an extension of their move to save space by moving from three pages devoted to comics to two pages devoted to comics, the Washington Post will also stop carry Ruben Bolling's Tom The Dancing Bug feature. That strip runs weekly, in a larger space, and is currently carried by approximately 50 publications. Plus it's good. Bolling says in the article that the Post was the first daily to carry the strip.
 
posted 3:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Steve Breen Wins 2007 Berryman

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Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune has been named the 2007 Berryman Cartoonist of the year by the National Press Foundation. He will receive the award in February at the Foundation's annual dinner. Above is one of the five cartoons Breen submitted.

Breen won the Pulitzer in 1998 while at the Asbury Park Press.
 
posted 3:14 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Some Sort of Manga Bookstore Story

I can't tell from this report if we're talking manga in a kids' section or manga near a kids' section or if the location of the manga section will be moved away from the kids' section in one or all the Books-a-Million stores, but it's clear something happened, a complaint was made and action was taken. I'll see if I can find out more early next week.

The one thing that jumps out at me is that Book-a-Million is a big growth account for manga recently, and it's my understanding that the chain has shown up in some towns that haven't had a bookstore in a while. That would mean the store has increased coverage for manga in addition to simply increasing the number of outlets where it's available.
 
posted 3:13 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: James Turner Illustration

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posted 3:12 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the writer and critic David P. Welsh analyzes the latest Great Graphic Novels for Teens so you don't have to. Okay, more like so I don't have to.

* something called The New York Anime Festival debuts this weekend, which will included a lot of attention paid to manga. With Reed Exhibitions running the show, The Beat, Publishers Weekly and next week's PWCW should have major reportage on any announcements and who goes to dinner with whom. There should also be reporting on the ICv2 Conference on Anime and Manga preceding the show from those sources and ICv2.com itself.

From what I've been able to read early this morning, the news seeping out seems to be on two fronts. On the one hand, there is Milton Griepp's presentation of a market report on manga's continued if slower growth in 2006 and (likely) 2007. On the other comes some panel drama based on two people from completely different sides of the manga and manga-related industries disagreeing about the nature of the present moment in terms of business opportunities. I don't get that latter one: why would these two people be expected to agree on anything? Why should we care that they obviously disagree? Besides, the view that Japan hasn't produced any cross-merchandising hits to match those from the mid-'90s is several years old. I don't get it. At any rate, you can read about both of those incidents fueling news stories here.

* the twenty-three year old cartoonist Jason Chatfield will take over the Ginger Meggs strip from the late James Kemsley.

* this profile of Pakistani cartoonist Nigar Nazar is interesting for her various, admirable achievements, but it also mentions something I find compelling, that many Middle Eastern and Asian cartoonists have a presence on television.

* a cartoonist not Zapiro has won a cartooning contest in Africa. Actually, the contest and program preceding it sound pretty cool.
 
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Bookmark: Simon Gane’s Blog

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posted 3:08 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Comics Christmas Shopping Update

* perhaps too late for use this year, I like this Dave Kiersh Hanukkah card enough I'm bookmarking it for next.

* Chris Mautner provides a list of potential Christmas gifts to his central Pennsylvania audience.
 
posted 3:06 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 44th Birthday, Katsuya Terada!

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posted 3:04 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Go See Steven Lait
Go See Doug MacGregor
Report From Boston Exhibit

History
Remembering Milton Caniff

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoon
Howtoons Webcomic Profiled
Sun-Times on On-Line Initiatives
Teshkeel Exclusive With Diamond
Cartoonist Despairs Over Teddy Bear Story

Interviews/Profiles
Inkstuds: Brian Ralph
Crave Online: Jordan Mechner
Belfast Telegraph: Garth Ennis

Not Comics
Michael Nutter Clips His Own Cartoons

Publishing
Apparently, the Hulk is Red Now

Reviews
Kiel Fleming: Calvin and Hobbes
Darren Garnick: The Completely MAD Don Martin
Christoph Mark: 20th Century Boys, 21st Century Boys
 

 
December 6, 2007


CR Review: Little Things

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Creator: Jeffrey Brown
Publishing Information: Touchstone, soft cover, 352 pages, April 2008, $14
Ordering Numbers: 1416549463 (ISBN) 9781416549468 (ISBN13)

Jeffrey Brown hasn't made any comics as good as what he achieves in the final chapter or so of Little Things. At that point in the book our understanding of Brown feels sort of like a series of table place-mats dropped on one top of the other in rough fashion. We've seen enough in the way he operates -- low-key, solicitous but fairly self-absorbed, seemingly as fond of perfectly crafted, conducted personal experience of a minor nature as he is of any potential life epiphanies and hopelessly not in sync with his potential love interests -- to get a sense of how he works. Brown's leap forward makes us re-think everything we've read to date as it replaces the single-guy memoir by placing us into a period when he's settled down and with a child. At that point you realize you didn't know him as well as you thought you had before that moment, and then, maybe, that by seeing him as a much more complete and content person after he's moved into a certain direction you may suddenly know him so much better than you had intended.

That final effect is more than worth the cover price, although there's more to the volume. Brown offers up for inspection the usual amusing but quotidian life moments that are as entertaining as ever. Little Things contains a wonderful sequence when Brown is faced by a confusing street incident that should feel familiar to anyone who's ever lived as a young, mostly lightly resourced person in a major city. I wonder at some of the pacing of the earlier segment, the way that a couple about music don't fit in as well with the recurring effect I found so strongly played later on. Still, this the best work of his I've read to date, less dependent on fearless revelation than on the quality of the cartoonist's observations.


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

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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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

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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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Prix Rene Goscinny 2008 Goes to Jul

imageAccording to this short news brief at ActuaBD.com, another of the French-language comics industry's major awards has been announced: the Prix Rene Goscinny, going to Jul for his album Le Guide du Moutard, which I take to be the story of a pregnancy that coincided with the recent presidential election. If I remember correctly, the award named after Rene Goscinny is a juried award that goes to the best comics writing of the year from a young comics writer. I do know that there's a (approximately) $7300 (USD) prize, Gipi was a past winner, and that you can find handsome photos of some of the folks involved here.
 
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“This should be big news.” American Elf Re-Design; Offers Up Free Archives

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It's been down most of the morning, but James Kochalka e-mailed around last night saying that the re-design of his popular American Elf diary comics site now includes free access to archives of the feature. That's a much different strategy than the site had pursued; whether or not to have free archives is one of the questions hitting a lot of comics caretakers and makers as the push to get on-line continues. There are also various news features. Clicking through the image should get you there, if it's up.
 
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Tor & Seven Seas to Launch Imprint; Prison Manga Wins Art Festival Prize

Publishers Weekly has announced that Tor Books, best known for its fantasy and science fiction books, will work with Seven Seas on a new manga imprint that will publish six to eight titles a year including books in the Afro Samurai series. The existing Seven Seas backlist will be added to the developing one. There's a lot of empty marketing speak in the article, but the deal basically and obviously gives Seven Seas the resources to acquire more licenses and the distribution muscle to get them out into bookstores. Heidi MacDonald hints at a joint Marvel/Del Rey project.

ComiPress has a short story up about Mamora Gouda's Mori No Asagao winning the grand prize at the 11th Japanese Media Arts Festival. It is apparently a work devoted to examining the idea of capital punishment through the story of a prison officer. Check out the list of other winners. I love the idea of an "Encouragement Prize."
 
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Happy 78th Birthday, Frank Springer!

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Anatomy of a Lost Illustration Gig

imageOne of the most important things to remember about comics is that for as much time as the business may spend shooting itself in the foot or elbowing its way to greater economic glory, comics and cartoonists also participate in other industries that can change from underneath them no matter how skilled their contributions. Any smart history of comic books will include elements like the general state of newsstand print sales at key moments through the decades, or how commercial illustration has found a place for or closed the door on comics art and comics artists via different companies and different trends.

Has another market begun its final decline? The cartoonist and illustrator Robert Ullman used to provide illustrations to the City Paper in support of Dan Savage's syndicated "Savage Love" column. He was recently informed that he would no longer be asked for such work at the end of this calendar year. Ullman's a fine illustrator with a slick, appealing style, but the Savage gig seems to have been one of classic "added value" -- spooning on a bit of attractive art onto what is generally a popular feature. It's value in which the paper is no longer interested. So a gig that Ullman tells CR he's had since mid-2000 is over, unless Ullman can rally reader support to his cause. He reports a significant amount of contact from readers and friends and fans, both on-line and during a recent appearance at SPX, from people whom one would suppose will now present his case to the publication's editor.

imageWhat makes this story interesting is that it's a sign of two elements hitting alt-weekly publication that have caused them, like their more traditional daily print cousins, to consider ways to cut costs: the loss and fear of continued loss of advertising revenue to on-line alternatives, and the purchase of publications like City Paper by bigger media companies which bring with them the usual regime change tweaks and perhaps, it's been suggested, a more rigorous approach to the bottom line. Not only should this have an impact on illustration work, but such papers' comics are obviously going to be in play. Lynda Barry as much as said so in moving her work on-line in a more significant fashion, and if you stop and think about it, it's hard to think of anyone who's broken out of that once-vital corner of the comics world in a dozen years.

You can read a lot of artists' perspectives on the matter on this thread at TCJ.com, including pretty damning words from Michael Kupperman. As for Ullman, he remains generally hopeful about the market and paper he continues to serve despite the recent, specific setback. Asked if his situation represented a general trend away from illustration in order to better serve the bottom line, he replied. "I think that's the way it's trending, definitely, but I'm not ready to pull a sheet over the corpse quite yet. I do, and have always done, a lot of work for alternative papers, and I've always seemed to be able to keep my head above water...at least up until now. I don't know, I would think that with all the conglomeration that's going on with alt-weeklies these days, that there'd be more money for things like illustration, not less."
 
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Happy 46th Birthday, Robin Riggs!

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ICv2.com On 2007 Watchmen Sales

The comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com picks up on a line in a recent NY Times article about comics in gift-ready formats, the claim that sales on the venerable Watchmen may number 95,000 in 2007, and provides a bit of helpful secondary analysis as to why this is and what we can expect in the immediate future.

As a matter of course, I distrust any and all exact and semi-exact DC Comics sales numbers because of holes in outside reportage of such figures and the arbitrary nature by which DC itself makes such figures known. I think that reluctance has long been driven by a desire by the publisher to control for their own, intermittent advantage what would be industry-beneficial information. Still, it's worth noting that the sales are really high, both in bookstores and in comic shops, and that this will likely continue if not intensify for another 15 months before the release of a Watchmen film. I assume that film will still be promoted as coming from little-known or even "underground" source material, despite years of high sales. Unless it's awful, I assume the film will do pretty well.
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Paul Jenkins!

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I've been unable to find out little more about the late John Garcia than the mysterious picture painted by a vigorous google search -- I was able to add commentary from two comics industry folk that worked with the artist: Larry Young and James Vance. If anyone has any more information, in particular things like birthdate and survivors, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

* this is the best essay I've ever read about what it used to be like to buy comics.

* slightly reminiscent of (I think) basketball player Charles Barkley claiming not to have read things in his own autobiography is the writer of a recent, unpopular Spider-Man arc saying he didn't like what he wrote, either. I said slightly reminiscent. Actually, the odder thing about it is any mainstream comics writer from this generation of mainstream comics writers declaring any level of dissatisfaction with a high-profile gig just completed. Dick Hyacinth provides analysis. If the unpopular "deal with a devil" storyline whereby Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson traded their marriage and knowledge of it for the few whispers of life not yet lived by 140-year-old Aunt May somehow ends with a skeevy Peter Parker chasing women all over the Marvel Universe, I have to admit I will be delighted to read the complaining on the message boards.

* there's a good point in this essay by Matt Maxwell about the fetish object status of many elaborate book re-packagings in comics right now; I can't say as I approve of the stuff up top, though.

* it's my understanding from multiple sources that Brian Warmoth has also given his notice at Wizard; I thought I might have already posted that, but apparently I haven't. Wizard has recently parted ways with a number of staffers.

* the South African cartoonist Zapiro has won another comics award, this one concerning cliched images about the African continent. I'm beginning to think it's only news when Zapiro doesn't win the award.

* the writer Brian Doherty praises the latest volumes of the ongoing Popeye and Peanuts collection by stressing the awesomeness of their content, which is about the only way you can go with that stuff.

* a Happy Birthday one day late to our comics coverage pal Chris Mautner of Panels and Pixels, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, The Comics Journal and Blog@Newsarama.

* you should really go see the Suiho Tagawa Slide Show on the new Blog Flume.
 
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Happy 41st Birthday, Leonard Kirk!

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Another Top Comics List For 2007

Another pair of top comics lists for the year -- at least roughly so -- 2007. The first is the essentials list from the Angouleme Festival of comics to which we should pay attention, something they instituted last year as a different way of citing works beyond a nominations/winners list where comics are broken down by category. The second is the list of historical prize nominees, meaning collections and re-presentations of past work. A ton of French-language editions of work familiar to North American audiences is on the list, including cartoonists like Ware, Tardi, Matsumoto, Marchetto, Yang, Sfar, Medley, Delisle, Matt, Bagge, Trondheim and De Crecy. The second list includes works by Jansson, Feiffer, Franquin and Crumb.

The link right below this graph is a fun one because the Angouleme site runs all the covers.

La Selection D'Angouleme 2008:

* ACME Novelty Library, by Chris Ware (Delcourt)
* Adele Blanc-Sec, by Jacques Tardi (Casterman)
* Amer Beton -- Integrale, by Taiyo Matsumoto (Tonkam)
* American Born Chineses, by Gene Luen Yang (Dargaud)
* L'Autre Fin Du Monde, by Ibn Al Rabin (Atrabile)
* Baudelaire, by Casanave & Tuot (Les Reveurs)
* Cancer and the City, by Marisa Acocella Marchetto (L'Iconoclaste)
* Capricorne, by Andreas (Le Lombard)
* Chaque Chose, by Julien Neel (Gallimard/Bayou)
* Le Chat Du Rabbin, by Joann Sfar (Poisson Pilote/Dargaud)
* Chateau L'Attente, by Linda Medley (Ca et la)
* Chroniques Birmanes, by Guy Delisle (Shampooing/Delcourt)
* Les Cites Obscures: La Theorie Du Grain De Sable, by Francois Schuiten & Benoit Peeters (Casterman)
* Construire Un Feu, by Christophe Chaboute (Vents d'Ouest)
* Death Note, by Takeshi Obata & Tsugumi Ohba (Kana)
* Le Dernier Mousquetaire, by Jason (Carabas)
* Djinn Djinn, by Ralf Konig (Glenat)
* Donjon Parade, by Manu Larcenet, Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim (Delcourt)
* L'Elephant, by Isabelle Pralong (Vertige Graphic)
* En Route Pour Le New Jersey, by Peter Bagge (Rackham)
* Epuise, by Joe Matt (Le Seuil)
* Exit Wounds, by Rutu Modan (Actes Sud BD)
* Faire Semblant C'est Mentir, by Dominique Goblet (L'Association)
* Le Feul, by Jean-Charles Gaudin & Frederic Peynet (Soleil)
* Fido Face a Son Destin, by Sebastien Lumineau (Shampooing/Delcourt)
* Le Grant Autre, by Ludovic Debeurme (Cornelius)
* Le Gros Lot, by Nikola Witko (Carabas)
* Gus, by Christophe Blain (Dargaud)
* Helter Skelter, by Kyoko Okazaki (Sakka/Casterman)
* L'Ile Bourbon 1730, by Appollo & Lewis Trondheim (Shampooing/Delcourt)
* Jerome K. Jerome Bloche, by Alain Dodier (Dupuis Reperages)
* Journal D'Un Fantome , by Nicolas De Crecy (Futuropolis)
* Journal D'Une Disparition, by Hideo Azuma (Kana)
* Kiki De Montparnasse, by Catel & Bocquet (ecritures/Casterman)
* La Ou Vont Nos Peres, by Shaun Tan (Dargaud)
* Ma Maman Est En Amerique, Elle a Recontre Buffalo Bill, by Jean Regnaud & Emile Bravo (Gallimard)
* La Marie En Plastique, by Pascal Rabate & David Prudhomme (Futuropolis)
* Moi Je Et Caetera, by Aude Picault (Warum)
* Mourir Partir Revenir -- Le Jeu Des Hirondelles, by Zeina Abirached (Cambourakis)
* Par Les Chemins Noirs, by David B (Futuropolis)
* Pascal Brutal, by Riad Sattouf (Fluide Glacial)
* Pettite Histoire Des Colonies Francaises, by Otto T. & Gregory Jarry (Flblb)
* R.G., by Peeters & Dragon (Bayou/Gallimard)
* Le Roman De Renart, by Bruno Heitz (Fetiche/Gallimard)
* La Topographie Interne Du M, by Jean-Christophe Menu (Les Requins Marteaux)
* Trois Ombres, by Cyril Pedrosa (Shampooing/Delcourt)
* La Veritable Histoire De Futuropolis, by Florence Cestac (Dargaud)
* La Vie Secrete Des Jeunes, by Riad Sattouf (L'Association)
* Vilebrequin, by Obion & Arnaud Le Gouefflec (Kstr/Casterman)
* XIII, by Jean Giraud & Jean Van Hamme (Dargaud)

Prix du Patrimoine:

* L'Ame Du Kyudo, by Hiroshi Hirata (Akata/Delcourt)
* L'Art Attentat, by Francis Masse (Le Seuil)
* Je Ne Suis Pas N'Importe Que, by Jules Feiffer (Futuropolis)
* Mes Problemes Avec Les Femmes, by Robert Crumb (Cornelius)
* Moomin, by Tove Jansson (Le Petit Lezard)
* Orfi Aux Enfers, by Dino Buzzati (Actes Sud BD)
* Spirou et Fantasio, L'Integrale, by Andre Franquin (Dupuis)
* Un Gentil Garcon, by Shinichi Abe (Cornelius)
 
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Happy 40th Birthday, Claire Wendling!

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Christmas Comics Shopping Update

A few quality comics-related gifts and sales have made themselves known just a bit too late to merit consideration on the CR Holiday Shopping Guide:

* the I Know Joe Kimpel Blog has a fund-raising E-Bay auction going.

* Shawn Munguia suggests Kirby for Christmas. Or, barring that, a hardback presentation of a comics version of some television show that's apparently popular, although maybe less so than six months ago.

* Alan Gardner at the Daily Cartoonist names a few sites where you can get in the Christmas mood, including the awesome array of Christmas cards from cartoonists posted at Hogan's Alley.
 
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Go, Look: Liberatore’s Lucy Site

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Quick hits
Craft
Autobio Vs. Memoir
Nick Abadzis Sketches Baltimore
Bryan Lee O'Malley Makes Pictures
Elijah Brubaker Draws The Black Panther

Exhibits/Events
ROM Show Anticipated

History
Punch 17
Punch 18

Industry
James Kemsley Mourned
WildStorm Studios Adds One
Utah Paper Trying New Strips
James Kemsley Remembered
Three Comics on Book Award Long List
Dabel Brothers' Creative Definition of Monthly

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Dan Slott
IESB: Team Brevity
Newsarama: Ellen Forney
Let's Not Talk About Comics: Roger Langridge

Not Comics
In Terry Moore's Studio
New Record For Peanuts Original

Publishing
Fearless #1 On-line
Are Zombies Dead?
Resurrection Previewed
Pink Lemonade Launches
New Fantagraphics Site Imminent
La Cucaracha Reaches Fifth Birthday
New Elijah Brubaker Comic Launches
Happy 4th Blogiversary, Mike Sterling!
Rucka Passes on Renewing DC Exclusive
Brandon Jerwa Lands at Comics Waiting Room

Reviews
Paul O'Brien: Various
Tucker Stone: Various
Jog: The Crusaders #18
Brian Heater: Lower Regions
Don MacPherson: Dan Dare #1
Brian Heater: The Complete Persepolis
Scott Campbell: Coyote Ragtime Show Vol. 2
Jeremy Nisen: Captain Estar Goes To Heaven
Leroy Douresseaux: Yearbook Stories: 1976 to 1978
Noah Berlatsky: Chunchu: The Genocide Fiend Vols. 1-2
 

 
December 5, 2007


CR Review: The ACME Novelty Datebook 1995-2002

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Creator: Chris Ware
Publishing Information: Drawn and Quarterly, hard cover, 208 pages, December 2007, $39.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781897299180 (ISBN13)

imageI reserve the right to write a longer piece later on, where I might try to string together what it all means or even (although I can't fathom it) to confess the shudder and heave of a major disappointment. For now I wanted to pen a brief review of the second volume of The ACME Novelty Datebook, covering the years 1995-2002, in the course of my reading of it, because I feel like I've been punched in the face I'm enjoying it that much. Ware's sketchbook materials offers up studies, notes, sketches, little paintings, and even rough cartoons. Many of them are hilarious -- I expect a lot of reviewers will republish the Mary Marvel gag -- and nearly all of them offer up some insight about or nugget from the cartoonist's life. I think I would pay half of the $40 for the China travelogue on pages 166-167 all by itself. Back when I participated in The Comics Journal's Top 100 comics of the 20th Century, I was initially perplexed by Gary Groth's insistence that we include Crumb's sketchbooks. I see that wisdom now. While Ware's work may not quite hit those heights, this modest book that some may see as a luxury item to be bought or ignored as some sort of supplement to the cartoonist's more lauded, straight-forward comics publications may end up being one of the best comics reads and one of the most enjoyable books about comics for a quality calendar year, all under the same -- and lovely -- cover. This is the book that is going with me on holiday, and I can't think of another comics-related work with which I could do that.

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Go, Bookmark: Blog Flume

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

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*****

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.

*****

OCT070015 LOBSTER JOHNSON IRON PROMETHEUS #4 (OF 5) $2.99
AUG072016 INVINCIBLE #47 $2.99
OCT072024 SWORD #3 $2.99
AUG072034 SUBURBAN GLAMOUR #2 (OF 4) $3.50
OCT070241 NORTHLANDERS #1 (MR) $2.99
OCT072121 OMEGA UNKNOWN #3 (OF 10) $2.99
These are the stronger fantasy adventure titles out this week. I heard that some fans may not like Sword.

JUN070039 SIGNAL TO NOISE 2ND ED HC $24.95
This is my favorite of the Dave McKean/Neil Gaiman collaborations, which I'm told makes me a horrible snob.

AUG074028 OWLY TP VOL 04 DONT BE AFRAID $10.00
I haven't read any of this material since Vol. 1, but the series has been very successful.

AUG073644 POPEYE VOL 2 WELL BLOW ME DOWN HC $29.95
The gem of the week, and some of the greatest comics of all time. Has comics had a War and Peace or a Ulysses? No. But what other art form has a Thimble Theatre? None!

OCT073513 COMICS JOURNAL #287 $11.95
I would like to read Tom Crippen's Mort Weisinger essay.

AUG073275 FOLLOWING CEREBUS #11 (RES) $3.95
I'm behind on these, but I sort of liked the first few. I look forward to catching up.

*****

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

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

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

If I didn't list your new comic, 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 Montreal, I’d Go To This

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Six States Sue RJ Reynolds Over Imagery Used in Rolling Stone Ad

The story is pretty much as it is in the headline. The move stems back to a 1998 settlement between the tobacco company and a huge number of states that included a pledge to no longer use cartoon imagery as a sales tool, which the attorney generals involved must believe happened with the recent doodles-driven Rolling Stone advertisement. The definition of cartoon imagery gives this story a bit of an extra watch-me oomph, in that it never would have occurred to me to link the imagery in that ad to Joe Camel and I'm a comics guy, as does the tobacco company's claim they had no control over the flier created by the magazine on their behalf. RJ Reynolds recently decided to pull all print advertising in magazines and newspaper for 2008.
 
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Chronicle Books Picks Up Dropped Rotraut Suzanne Berner’s Kids Books

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Remember the kids' books that were dropped by Boyds Mills Press because the author wouldn't change a couple of tiny incidents of incidental cartoon nudity?

Good news. Chronicle Books has picked up German author Rotraut Suzanne Berner's Wimmel series and will be putting out four books in an omnibus edition, with the nudity included. They talk about their decision here.
 
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Michael George Trial Set: February 26

The trial of Pennsylvania retailer and Pittsburgh convention organizer Michael George in the slaying and then cover-up of his then-wife in 1990 in his since-closed Michigan comics shop, will begin February 26, 2008. According to this article, George faces charges from having the firearm used to kill Barbara George and the insurance claim for books that police believe were not taken but instead part of a diverting robbery motivation set up by George.
 
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OTBP: Giles’ London

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* my spam filter automatically sorted away an e-mail called "Dave Cooper's Impressive Piece," but I happened to open my bulk mail folder and found it was a report from Brad Mackay on Dave Cooper's astounding new piece of art. Really, you want to see this.

* major film studio Warner Brothers has apparently begun a six-month campaign to make me not want to see their superhero movie. You too, rummy. Is it called viral marketing because it makes some of us queasy?

image* the blogger Alan Gardner provides a first look at Signe Wilkinson's upcoming strip Family Tree. It occurs to me that this may be the strip that Ted Rall has reportedly been looking for since moving into a consulting position at United Features: a quirky but character-driven rather than gag-driven feature that recalls without copying in any way the beats and rhythms and family interplay of For Better or For Worse.

* the writer John Jackson Miller remembers the magazine Comics & Games Retailer, to end print publication with its February issues, and makes a good point about how publications like that are in some ways a constant scramble from beginning to end.

* I can't decide if this headline is oddly poetic or just silly.

* if you're a comics news buff, you might want to join me going through this massive, thorough-looking Comixtalk take on the year 2007 at some point in the next few days.

* this profile of the recent Dandy annual compares it to the first Dandy comics and comes away horrified by the sanitized and dumbed-down qualities... of the former.

* this essay sweetly suggests that for some readers outside of the US, advertisements in American comic books sometimes operated as windows into our junk-culture universe.

* The DC Comics web initiative Zuda Comics has launched their second round of potential big corporate/little guy synergy superstars. Vote early, vote often.
 
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Go, Look: Maria Skov’s Blog

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Washington Post Shrinks Comics Section

Editor & Publisher notes the latest player in a growing trend towards reducing the comics pages in metropolitan newspapers: the Washington Post will reduces its two Sunday comics section into one, losing Wizard of Id to on-line only status and shrinking a number of other features. As print newspapers scramble to deal with the potentialities of declining ad revenue and the certainties of rising personnel and newsprint prices, comics pages are a prime target for reform. That will in some cases involve shrinking features -- which some people believe is like a radio station offering music but making sure it's available only in mono rather than stereo -- and in other cases may involve dropping a few or several features. This story also has one of the related trends bound to follow this kind of a story: pointing out a strip's web availability now that it's dropped from print.
 
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Happy 83rd Birthday, Sam Glanzman!

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Comics Christmas Shopping Update

A few quality comics-related gifts have made themselves known just a bit too late to merit consideration on the CR Holiday Shopping Guide:

* the great letterer Todd Klein and the lauded writer Alan Moore have collaborated on a print called "Alphabets of Desire," an exploration of language and words which looks like it will be lovely. Klein talks about the project at length here, which is a fun read even if you aren't shopping.

* the defunct comics-interested magazine The Drama has either a lot of their back issues for sale or all of them for sale in print or PDF versions, I can't quite tell. Great magazine full of obscurities, though. Get them today before you're scrambling for e-bayed copies ten years from now.

* Dylan Horrocks recommends without reservation step-mom Shirley Horrocks' documentary about New Zealand cartoonists The Comics Show.
 
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Go, Look: Johnny Ryan’s Horrorshow

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Quick hits
Craft
Evan Dorkin Cartoons
Steve Weissman Makes Comics
Bob Fingerman Draws the Goon
Nate Creekmore Names Influences

Exhibits/Events
Von Allan Exhibits
I Wish I'd Gone To This
Go Listen to Mark Evanier
Report From Jan Eliot Lecture
Maggie Thompson Visits The OSU Collection

History
Batman = Dick
Gay Superheroes All Warren Ellis' Fault

Industry
Sardine Fan Mail
Debating Non Sequitur
How To Break Into Comics
Comics Fans Sometimes Don't Like Gay Characters

Interviews/Profiles
PWCW: Ben Towle
PWCW: Drew Rausch
Newsarama: Jeff Parker
CBR: Paul Hornschemeier
Newsarama: Fred Hembeck
Pulse: Shaenon Garrity, Andrew Farago

Not Comics
Chris Butcher in Japan 09
Dylan Horrocks Reads Lolita
Marjane Satrapi's Eye on Smoking Crown

Publishing
RASL Previewed
New TCJ Previewed
New Testament Volume Previewed

Reviews
David P. Welsh: Various
Matthew Brady: Wonton Soup
Derik A Badman: White Rapids
Treasure of Baghdad: Palestine
Michael May: Hawaiian Dick Vol. 1
Alan Gardner: Pretending You Care
Chris Mautner: LOEG: The Black Dossier
Johanna Draper Carlson: The Ride Home
Noel Murray: Girls and Sports Vs. Cul-De-Sac

 

 
December 4, 2007


CR Review: Shonen Jump Vol. 6, Issue #1

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Creators: Various
Publishing Information: Viz, magazine, 392 pages, January 2008, $4.99
Ordering Numbers:

Shonen Jump is the only new comics publication that I can buy without driving two hours and fifteen minutes from driveway; you may know it as Viz's newsstand anthology. Its place in comics publishing is fairly certain but rarely examined. It's probably best recognized for its humongous value when compared to American comics, offering up hundreds of pages of comics for less than five dollars in a square-bound transference/approximation of Japanese anthology packaging. That the comics themselves are almost always chapters of long-running serials may be the impression it leaves for those who open it up, or maybe it's the right to left reading experience that is mirrored in stand-alone manga volumes. Both of those elements speak against comics culture conventional wisdom about new readers widely held into this decade. It's not that a younger audience doesn't understand comics; give them something they want and they'll be happy to experience through a barrage of convoluted serials where you have to read it "backwards."

imageThis is an important issue for a couple of reasons: first, it's an anniversary issue, and as the publication begins its sixth year, which would make the title a success story if it went away tomorrow. Second, it's the debut of the older Naruto, meaning the serialization of Masashi Kishimoto's international comics juggernaut has reached a point where the story leaps forward a few years, a more popular run of titles than the chapter previous to which Viz has now better aligned the stand-alone volumes by speeding up their release schedule this Fall. Although this is gross over-simplication, Naruto seems to me to most strongly appeal on three levels: its thematic tidiness in how the characters interrelate and how the different sets of relationships work within the storyline, its exquisite and imaginative displays of action, and the appeal of the Naruto character himself as not just an underdog but specifically as that kid who bites off more than he can chew and then chews it anyway. From a reading of the first few chapters in this new phase, the first element has to re-establish itself but looks like it will have every opportunity to do so, the second element may benefit the most by the characters being older with grander applications of their ninja abilities, and the third element may be subverted a bit by the aging but readers have likely also started to feel added affection for the character simply by experiencing so much of his life story. If anything has an effect on the serial's popularity, it will probably be that combination of old-fashioned cause of exhaustion, the fact that people tend not to sustain enjoyment of something over such a long period, or they've latched onto elements that didn't develop in the way they hoped they would. I guess we'll see.

One element of the size of Shonen Jump that comes into play is that folks may not read every chapter. I'm hopelessly confused by the One Piece serial, although I admire its elasticity in terms of plot progression, Yu-Gi-Oh GX seems like generally weak material to me, and I don't know that I have the energy to start into the very popular Bleach. Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo (above, inset) remains a bit too arch for me to remember it from issue to issue, but it does offer up the visual chaos on the level of a weird television cartoon you stop and watch a quarter hour of at a time just to try and scope out its rhythms. The bedrock of the magazine is in its Hikaru No Go (below) and Yu Yu Hakusho serials. The latter is a straight-forward fight manga with an appealing crudeness to the art (I can't imagine liking it animated) and a way of pacing that emphasizes these minute distinctions in power and approach that I would have loved at age 12. The former is an effective sports manga and probably the only serial here I'd buy on its own merits. Without Naruto's more highly-publicized campaign, Hikaru No Go seems to have stepped past a semi-turgid period involving the training and tests by which its protagonist becomes a professional Go player and I'm guessing will now enter into a number of series-wide payoffs before coming to a close. I imagine that's the most difficult thing about editing a package like this, making sure the serials are at different levels of development so that at least one is hitting or about to hit on all cylinders. So far, it seems to be working. For now, all eyes on Naruto.

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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James Kemsley, 1948-2007

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James Kemsley, a prominent Australian cartoonist best known for his long run on the popular strip Ginger Meggs, died Monday of motor neuron disease.

Kemsely was born in Sydney, and had worked as both an editorial cartoonist and in children's television before studying drama in the UK. It was during that period he served as a cartoonist at the magazine In Focus. He later worked as a tour guide and created his first comic strip for a travel magazine, The Decker.

He took over Ginger Meggs in 1983, following the late Lloyd Piper, after having worked on a Ginger Meggs the year previous. Kemsley's popular run saw the strip move into several countries outside of Australia, and a boost in popularity for the feature domestically. He served as president of the Australian Cartoonists' Association, and won several national awards for his work.

Kemsley was 59 years old. He is survived by a wife and three sons.
 
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OTBP: Reich #3

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Go, Watch: Martin, Schulz Slideshows

* according to a few of you fine folks' e-mails, a Don Martin retrospective slide-show can be found here. Speaking of Don Martin, did anyone notice this? That was sort of weird.

* for some not-particularly good reason I was all but ready to blow off Slate's much linked-to slide-show essay about Charles Schulz from a couple of week back, but when I recently saw it was prepared by Brian Doherty, ten times the writer I am, I immediately jumped over to it and was glad I did.
 
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John Garcia, 1954-2007

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Dirk Deppey brings word from Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth that John Garcia, a Boston-based illustrator who worked in a variety of comics venues over the last three decades, has passed away. This is confirmed by a brief note on the contact page of his web site, that puts the date of his passing at November 30. He died at his home in Randolph, Massachusetts. A funeral mass was performed on December 5 at St. Mary's Church in Randolph.

Garcia drew as a child inspired by Harvey Kurtzman; the obituary provided by the family says he inspired by his father's military service in Vietnam. He was educated at Northern Arizona University, skills he would use in work as a storyboard and magazine advertisement artist.

Garcia's collaborators included Nic Cuti (at Warren), James Vance (on the Kitchen Sink western Owlhoots), Craig Shaw Gardener (on The Big Whosis), Harvey Kurtzman (on the Byron Preiss revival of Two-Fisted Tales) and Neil Barret (on an adaptation of a Joe Lansdale short for the Atomic Chili collection). He worked briefly at DC in the early 1980s on a few short comics that appeared in non-superhero anthologies. He was also a contributor to the EC-focused historical magazine Squa Tront.

Larry Young and Steven Grant confirmed that Garcia was currently working on a comics project called Red Sunset, from a script by Grant, to be published by Young's AiT/Planet Lar. Young told CR about his dealing with Garcia:
image"I'd never met John Garcia, and only corresponded with him. But in addition to the various business issues we would discuss, it seemed that John always had a pithy comment on the state of affairs in the comic book industry, an observation on pop culture I'd enjoy, or a sage bit of wisdom for me, speaking, as he was, as an old hand in the advertising trade. I remember a vivid exchange where I was extolling the virtues of my old paste-up job in the early 80s, at the swap-over from waxers and lightboards to the Macintosh and its awesome eight fonts you could output yourself, without waiting for the Linotype jobber to get your copy to you.

"'Old ways are tried-and-true,' he'd responded, and as I grow older I certainly see the appeal of the remark. He seemed the sort of guy who'd have a story to tell you, that'd sneak up on you and deliver its insight when you weren't really paying attention. I'd looked forward to grabbing a
cup of coffee with him when Red Sunset was completed, and I regret I won't have the chance."
The writer James Vance recalls working with Garcia on Owlhoots, and remembers a nice man even if their creative partnership wasn't exactly a hugely fruitful one.
image"If I had been a tepid partner, John made up for it with his own ebullience. Hardly a day went by when he didn't call, and I frequently received long handwritten letters filled with character sketches, bits of Western trivia, nice words about the scripts and more general cheerleading than I've ever gotten from any other artist. Long after the series died, he continued to send me letters filled with artwork, chatty news about his upcoming projects and encouragement to come up with something else that we could work on together. I still have the hand-drawn wedding announcement he sent me several years ago, its familiar rough-hewn linework all but bursting with joyful exuberance. Maybe we weren't a good fit in storytelling terms, but I suspect that I would have liked John Garcia in person very much."
Very little continues to be known about Garcia beyond his few professional gigs. A mention in the Washington Post indicates he was a friend of the late writer Pierce Askegren.

Mr. Garcia is survived by a wife, Cecile, his parents, three brothers, a sister, and several nieces and nephews.

*****

* from Garcia's web site
* from Red Sunset
* cover to Owlhoots #2

*****
 
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Happy 56th Birthday, Regis Loisel!

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* our condolences to Patrick McDonnell and family on the loss of their dog Earl, an inspiration for McDonnell's highly successful Mutts and its long-time recognized muse, as well as a frequent guest in profiles and stories about the cartoonist. Earl was 18 years old. Anyone inspired to give on Earl's behalf to a charity selected by the McDonnells will find that information through the link.

* if you academic or potential academics out there haven't seen it yet, there's a religion in comics conference this Spring in Boston being co-hosted by A. David Lewis, and he's putting the call out for papers.

* imagethe image at right is "Heat Vision," as interpreted by Bob Kessel in his Pop Unintentional series.

* more praise for Tom Toles' cartoon late last week castigating his own Washington Post for an article many believed was there to stir up outlandish rumors dogging the presidential candidate Barrack Obama in the guise of being an article about the effects of outlandish rumors on campaigns.

* one of the more interesting mainstream stories you can track through various blogs and sites is fan and reader reaction to a recent Spider-Man plotline where the devil-in-underpants character Mephisto saves Aunt May in return for the allowing him to take Peter Parker's marriage to Mary Jane Watson away. This satisfies what many people believe is a long-simmering insistence from Marvel editorial that the marriage ages Spider-Man, makes him harder for young people to relate to, and generally restricts certain storytelling ideas. In general, I don't like backseat driving vast entertainment conglomerates, and it's fine line between criticizing such moves as narratives and doing just that, nor would I personally care if Spider-Man were to marry Leiko Wu, leave New York, gain a robot arm and spend the next three years of stories fighting the Badoon. I'm not being mean, it's just that my lifetime Spider-Man tank is pretty much on "Full." Still, it's interesting to at least note how strange some of the underlying cultural notions in play can be on a shift like this one, and how divorced comic book plotlines can seem from what makes those characters popular crossover success stories. Here are Valerie D'Orazio, Sean T. Collins and Christopher Bird.

* add the Catholic Church to the list of organizations using custom-made comic books in an attempt to deal with a specific aim, in their case combating a social ill.

* this has to be the lengthiest "Off the Beaten Path" profile I've ever seen, although the subject of the comic does seem compelling.

* Hey, Wizard is hiring.

* the New York Times picked up on the New Jersey paper illustration of the governor story, concentrating on its digital manipulation aspects.

* this is a long, rambling analysis of Peanuts and Krazy Kat, or Peanuts through Krazy Kat or something like that. There may be other stuff in there, but I couldn't get all the way through it. I do admire any paper that runs something this freewheeling in an age of, to use the cliche, easy sound-bites and jacket quotes.

* this short post seems to me in a lot of ways the perfect embodiment of the collection of views you hear a lot against moves like Marvel and DC are current making against sites that enable downloads of comics material, complete with things asserted as true that 1) no one really knows (how many people have what motivation) and 2) are highly questionable or depend greatly on specific context (stating that comics sales are down).
 
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Happy 47th Birthday, Geof Isherwood!

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Your 2008 Decoincer la Bulle Nominees

Thirteen artists were named into twelve nomination slots for the prize Decoincer la Bulle 2008, according to media releases noted by ActuaBD.com.

* Jean Bastide and Vincent Mezil for La Guerre des Sambre (Futuropolis/Glenat)
* Frederic Blier for Amere Patrie (Dupuis)
* Alexandre Clerisse for Jazz Club (Dargaud)
* Olivier Dauger for Ciel en ruine (Paquet)
* Xavier Delaporte for Chaabi (Futuropolis)
* Benjamin Flao for La Ligne de fuite (Futuropolis)
* Jerome Heydon for Aarib (Vents d'ouest)
* Xavier Lemmens for Commando Torquemada (Fluide Glacial)
* Raule for Jazz Maynard (Dargaud)
* Anne Renaud for Hel (Delcourt)
* Shaun Tan for La ou vont nos peres (Dargaud)
* Bastien Vives for Elle(s) (Casterman)

The juried prize carries with it a an approximate $4425 (USD) prize.
 
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Go, Look: Apocatastasis

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Not Comics: Cuts at San Diego U-T

I'd recommend this article for anyone wanting a snapshot of the staffing concerns facing metropolitan newspapers right now. Apparently, the San Diego Union-Tribune faces a twelve percent reduction. Like most publications, they'll try voluntary buy-outs first and then move into lay-offs only if necessary. Also note that certain departments are protected, including the on-line and editorial cartoonists elements of the paper, which indicates which parts of the paper the publishers see as vital to future operations. I wouldn't be surprised to see this process taking hold at a majority of papers over the next three years.
 
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Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Steve Duin Reports on Shannon Wheeler Event
Brandon Wright Reports on Shannon Wheeler Event

History
Remembering City of Glass
I Always Wondered What Roy Did

Industry
Phil Hall Hates Us All
Torpedo's First Contest
Persepolis as Part of Wider Literary Trend
I Used To Go To The Elks Club For The Free Steaks

Interviews/Profiles
NTV: Brett Coats
Pulse: Garth Ennis
iFanboy: Mike Wieringo
Mr. Media: Mort Walker
Baker's Dozen: Naomi Nowak
Phillyburbs.com: Henry Martin
Downtown LA Scene: Stan Lee
Sequential Tart: G. Willow Wilson
Austin Chronicle: Tony Millionaire
Apple.com: Hybrid Design and Super 7

Not Comics
Charity Cookbook Includes Cartoons

Publishing
New Cartoonists Invade SLC
Family Tree Client List Shaping Up
He's Right: That Is a Terrible Name
Kevin Church on Fantastic Four Trade Dress

Reviews
Matthew Brady: Flink
Paul O'Brien: Dan Dare #1
Paul O'Brien: X-Men #205
Pauline Wong: Uzumaki Vol. 1
Jeff Lester: Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4
Graeme McMillan: Dan Dare #1
Kurogane: Murder Princess Vol. 2
Noah Berlatsky: My Most Secret Desire
Paul O'Brien: The Zombie: Simon Garth #1
Leroy Douresseaux: The Complete Peanuts Vol. 3
Leroy Douresseaux: The Drifting Classroom Vol. 9
Richard Bruton: The Black Diamond Detective Agency
Don MacPherson: 50 Reasons To Stop Sketching At Conventions
Bill Sherman: Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation
 

 
December 3, 2007


CR Review: Essential Captain America Volume One

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Creators: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, John Romita, George Tuska, Various
Publishing Information: Marvel, soft cover, 528 pages, July 2000, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 9780785107408 (ISBN13), 0785107401 (ISBN)

When your most experience with Captain America is the modern day, grim ass-kicking machine to whom all other heroes are deferential, it's odd to read a bunch of stories that count on him being perceived as something of a pussy. The first several pages in the Essential Captain America Volume One collection of old mid-1960s solo adventure tales is a short story where a bunch of minor-league bad guys decide to storm Avengers Mansion when Captain America is on duty because of all the Avengers, he lacks powers. Captain America eventually defeats the baddies with a combat style based on athletically tumbling around the room and applying judo as well as punching and shield-throwing. Unlike the present day, however, the result seems at least a little bit in doubt. Captain America's relative wimpy qualities would be an issue for a lot of his run up until the 1980s, most prominently in Avengers comics by Roy Thomas and Jim Shooter; I have no idea if this says more about American self-image now and then, or about superheroes, or both. It certainly provides the character an appealing underdog quality, and throws the spotlight on the various artists' gifts with action to move the audience from doubt to certainty about the physical outcome of what we're seeing. Since Marvel can play the Kirby card with about 60 percent of these stories, advantage Marvel, although John Romita and George Tuska provide decent turns as well.

imageI think more than any of these big, black and white cheap-o reprints, this volume of Essential Captain America reflects the chaotic nature of Marvel's mid- to late-'60s middle list titles. Sharing time with Iron Man in a book called Tales of Suspense for most of this volume, Captain America flips back and forth between the past and present day, and even floats between more standard superhero fare and international espionage-type missions of a kind that were very popular on movies and TV during that decade. It's amazing how satisfying most of these comics are in a direct, adventure comics way. Soap opera and overall plot progression gets moved to about four panels an installment to make room for more and more action, clearly and vigorously presented. There's an all-time fight scene with Batroc the Leaper, of all people, and some really clever sequences of movement and escape when Captain America fights various Nazi "sleeper" robots. There's an unfortunate tendency early on where Lee tries a bit too hard to get Captain America over Reed Richards-style via various people talking about how awesome he is, but it's balanced by a hilarious tendency I'd completely not remembered where Captain America shouts confident statements at his enemies. Comics' poorest excuse for smack talk ever, these square-jawed boasts nearly always made real across some sap's chin less than a half-page later make it look like Captain America is simply being mean, like a Nixon-era dad describing the spanking his soon-to-be-paddled kid will receive once he stops running around the dining room table. This is excused in almost every case as the trait shared by Captain America's rogues gallery is that they're all seething, psychotic dickheads, the kind of people you want to see kicked in the face by someone coming out of a double somersault over and over again.

The greatest appeal this book might have is that it's work that hasn't been reprinted several times or re-examined a whole lot, even for devotees of 1960s Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, and/or Jack Kirby. I'm a fan of all three, and I've read roughly one in five of the comics here. There's probably just as much that doesn't work here that also doesn't work in modern comics -- although granted the Captain America comics have a fine caretaker right now in Ed Brubaker -- but the problems in this book are in crude execution of dramatic elements, not the general queasiness which seems to emanate from a lot of such books today. In many ways that count, Captain American is less a symbol of American ideas or expression of certain political formulations or a set of fanboy fight-outcome expectations than he is a guy who sees someone fall off a building and jumps out the window after him, counting on his training and ability to save them both. The comics may have been simpler 40 years ago, but it's hard to argue that they weren't a better match to their subject matter.

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Tribune Media Services Sued Over Shoe

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In what reads like an excellent, concise news story, Dave Astor has received documents that indicate Blue Ridge Salvage, the company owned by Jeff MacNelly widow Susie MacNelly and responsible for the production of the comic strip Shoe, has sued Tribune Media Services in order to facilitate a transfer of that strip from TMS to King Features Syndicate.

At issue is a letter signed by TMS in 2000 and whether or not it or the 1995 contract which it references allows the syndicate to refuse to allow the move. At stake is the feature's approximate 600-paper client base, potential licensing revenue Blue Ridge Salvage believes is possible at King Features, a six-figure bonus mentioned in the documents that will be due Blue Ridge Salvage if they make the move, and the status that TMS has enjoyed working with MacNelly's popular strip -- MacNelly was an enormously popular editorial cartoonist for the related TMS newspaper company Chicago Tribune, and that strip has been that company's modern flagship and a significant player on a roster dominated by classics from the first half of the 20th Century.
 
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Open Letter Objecting to Marvel Policy Leads to “Thanks; Now You Desist, Too”

Comics download tracking site (do I have that terminology right? I feel like my Mom trying to describe these things) ComicSearch wrote a letter to Marvel objecting to their in-the-news treatment of similar site ZCult FM. The result was a thank you and a similar request to remove all enabling links by which people going to that site might be assisted in securing free downloads of Marvel Comics. TorrentFreak has the story.

I notice that the story ends with a floating suggestion that the site might move to a server in Sweden. I know of political sites where people have apparently avoided action against them by having their sites hosted overseas when that person lived over seas, but while I don't know anything about any of the legal history, I can't imagine that automatically being a inviolable solution forever and ever for people doing their physical business here, the way that people who are working with or simply making use of non-US based and hosted gambling sites are starting to get hit. I'm happy to run letters telling me how stupid I am for believing that, though.

While we're throwing out things for which I'm likely to be called an idiot, I'm not sure why not having an equivalent model in place (downloads vs. subscription model web viewing) should open a company up to having other people do that for them. I dream of having a modest book collection of a strip I did out there someday. Because I don't yet, should someone be allowed to publish one? This stuff makes my head hurt.

This seems sort of related: a Japanese retail chain specializing in dojinshi manga and related good has opened a Download Store.
 
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Go, Read: Stereotypist’s 50 Answers

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I Can Simply Log On To Doonesbury.com

Alan Gardner I think noticed this article from Cincinnati Post managing editor Keith Herrell about his perspective on the comics page, having been before his current position the editor of the section at his paper carrying the comics. It's good for a lot of reasons, including his articulation of a negative view of Classic Peanuts, which is something I've heard in conversation but not yet read in print. Where your attention might see the most reward is in taking in his comments about Doonesbury, from which we can infer the paper is dropping that feature December 31. First is a nod towards how happy Herrell was 25 to be working on a paper that carried Doonesbury, which is reminder of how passionately that feature was viewed for its first decade and a half in particular -- people forget that about Garry Trudeau's strip, and of course it seems absurd now. The second is his throwaway line that once it leaves his paper he can still read it every day at Doonesbury.com.

I don't think that an on-line presence of a strip has worked against a strip directly and for the bulk of its readership. What I wonder if it's starting to have an impact in one particular way: as an out aimed to negotiate against the objections of hardcore fans. Individual strips count on passionate fans reacting to their being dropped in order to maintain their position, for example when Zippy was famously dropped in San Francisco or several times during Doonesbury's first years where papers were convinced by that feature's young fans they would not be pleased by its absence. If devoted fans can be assured of reading the feature on-line, will they have the same passion in seeing that it maintains a slot in their local paper? That seemed to me an underplayed lesson from the Houston Chronicle dropping a page of comics, too: and diverting criticism via assurances the reader would still get a chance to see their favorites on-line. Combined with the dominance of one-paper towns over the last 30 years, I can see a lot of papers taking a shot at reducing their number of comics features in the next five years, and using this angle of rhetoric to soften the blow by reducing the ultimate worry of a traditional force that kept features in papers.

UPDATED: Okay, about ten of you just wrote to point out that the Post is ceasing publication, not just dropping Doonesbury. I'll leave this up because I think the general principle still applies, and that this would be apparent if I had been not-dumb enough to have selected a better example. One thing: it should be interesting to see if remaining papers pick up the Post strips with the speed and certainty they might have 25 years ago.
 
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Happy 55th Birthday, John Warner!

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Due to my poor e-mail skills I totally missed being able to list the release party for Zirp #3 by Till Thomas. Please make it up to him on my behalf by visiting his site and considering a purchase of the publication as one of those "Off the Beaten Path" items. It looks cool.

* go here to read a lengthy and interesting review of Amazing Fantasy Omnibus, written by Jeet Heer.

* I also rather liked this casual analysis of Stan Lee's influence as a dialog writer on the character of Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, in the Lee/Kirby run on Fantastic Four. My guess would be any contribution by Lee along these lines would reflect how Lee felt a character like that should be treated, and isn't a reflection of any interpersonal relationship.

* the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) has organized an Ebay auction driven by prominent cartoonists in order to raise money for the seemingly endless (from the prosecutor's end) Gordon Lee case. There's a lot of nice stuff in there. The auctions will close on Sunday.

* our industry pal Brett Warnock from Top Shelf is parting with his Russ Cochran EC hardcover sets. Prices and related information here. Those are some of the best comics publications of all time, no joke. Their place of pride in the Fantagraphics library was one of my great visual memories of my first day there.

image* Joel Meadows has written in to say that they've found a definite home for their artists-in-workspaces book Studio Space: Image Comics, where the 320-page book will come out next May in both paperback and hardcover. That's Joe Kubert in the picture at right.

* according to an e-mail forwarded to me by co-creator Rich Tommaso, the Satchel Paige biography he did with James Sturm won an award in something called the New York Book Show: "Congratulations! It is our pleasure to inform you that your entry: Satchel Paige, in the category of Children's Trade, Graphic Novel, has won an award in the 2008 New York Book Show."

* there are some more pictures of the Drawn and Quarterly store in last Wednesday's post on the hard to link to specific entires D&Q blog. Scroll down a bit further for the new tied-for-#1 CR Holiday Gift Guide item.

* I really hope this becomes the final cover.

* First there were so many comics coming out it became hard enough to keep track of all of them so that today awesome books show up on the shelves to scare the crap out of you, now there seems to be enough in the way of books written about comics and cartoonists that it's hard to keep track of all the new ones. Never has being disconcerted been so much fun.

* Comics & Games Retailer, RIP 2008
 
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Happy 48th Birthday, Mike Saenz!

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Comics Christmas Shopping Update

* This New York Times feature examines the high-end comics reprint, a gift-item staple for sure

* Bill Radford at the Gazette in Colorado Springs looks at a few gift-type comics items out there including The Marvel Vault, which I totally forgot about while making this year's CR Holiday Guide because deep down I must have issues with Peter Sanderson and Roy Thomas or something. That's a Marvel history with multiple replicas of various Marvel items, from sketches to fan club ephemera.

* Michelle Lalonde at the Gazette in Montreal takes a look at some children's comics in book form, including the latest from Elise Gravel.

* Peter Trinh at the University of Waterloo makes some alt-comics gift-giving suggestions.
 
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Happy 46th Birthday, Don Simpson!

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Another Top Comics List For 2007

Washington Post:

* Army@Love, No. 1, Rick Veitch and Gary Erskine, Vertigo/DC Comics
* Aya, Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie, Drawn & Quarterly
* Beyond!, Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins, Marvel
* Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan, Drawn & Quarterly
* Luxuria: Casanova, Vol. 1, Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba, Image
* The Other Side, Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart, Vertigo
* The Plain Janes, Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, Minx/DC Comics
* Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm, Percy Carey and Ronald Wimberly, Vertigo/DC Comics
* Silverfish, David Lapham, Vertigo/DC Comics
 
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I Really Like This Comic Book Cover

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Quick hits
Craft
Mike Manley Draws
Sean Phillips Sketches
Richard Thompson Roughs
Steve Lieber Faux-Engraves
Paul Guinan Makes a Portrait

Exhibits/Events
Go Listen To Tom Wilson
25th Stockdale HS Show May Be Last

History
The 40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings
Sara Ryan's Amazing Scrapbook Finds
Action Comics #1 Cover Debate Part Two

Industry
Zuda's First Winner
SHQ Wins Fox Best of LA Poll
Reader: What's Up With Lynn Johnston?
More Women & Adults Enjoying Comics & Gaming

Interviews/Profiles
Heeb: Paul Pope
Newsarama: Paul Tobin
Newsarama: Fred Van Lente
Jerusalem Post: William Steig

Not Comics
Todd Nauch Drawing For Charity
Stuart Immonen Remembers Evel Knievel
Brian Crane Designs McDonald House Card

Publishing
On Re-Publishing Palestine
The Next Captain America?
New King Kong Comic Discussed
99 Ways To Tell A Story In Dutch

Reviews
AV Club: Various
Joules Taylor: Akira Club
Chris Allen: Shortcomings
Richard Krauss: Zod #7-8
Chris Allen: Special Forces #1
Dan Rafter: Stuck Rubber Baby
Richard Krauss: Zine of Bronze #3
Katie McNeill: The Tarot Cafe Vol. 6
Chris Allen: Amazing Fantasy Omnibus
Katie McNeill: The Demon Ororon Vols. 1-4
Chris Allen: American Splendor: Another Day
Chris Allen: Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!
Byron Kerman: Screw Heaven, When I Die I'm Going to Mars
 

 
December 1, 2007


CR Sunday Interview: Brian Wood

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*****

imageIt's been ten years since Brian Wood released Channel Zero to a wave of critical acclaim and laudatory reaction from fans. In that time he's penned a significant number of graphic novels that draw on his interests in design, politics, relationships, emotional scarring and turning genres on their heads at every moment possible. His best-known works include The Couriers, Local, Supermarket and Demo, the last of which will soon be re-released in collected form by DC/Vertigo. His ongoing project DMZ at Vertigo has been one of that line's solid performers as well as one of a recent wave of comics works lauded for their commentary on present-day policy, culture and circumstance.

Wood's latest is Northlanders, with artist Davide Gianfelice, which begins serialization this Wednesday with an issue #1 sporting the cover seen above. Northlanders is the story of Sven, a soldier in the employ of the Byzantine emperor who returns to his Viking homeland to seize a fortune he believes he's due. It's an odd title for Vertigo in a lot of ways: its visual dependency on open space, a rigorous approach to historical detail, and a rough, almost prickly examination of how we become the people that we become. I enjoyed my back and forth with Brian, who seemed as happy to talk about the theme work he's done on his new book as he was the background on his recent publishing deals. In addition to the two ongoing series and their resulting trade paperbacks, Wood recently wrote a book for DC's Minx line, The New York Four, which will be published in 2008.

*****

TOM SPURGEON: What's it feel like to launch a new series in this market? Are you wary, cautious, optimistic...? Can you afford to be anything other than super-positive considering the potential message it might send out? For that matter, does it get any easier to launch new series?

BRIAN WOOD: I think I was stressing harder when I launched DMZ, since I was basically breaking in at Vertigo, at least in terms of a monthly book, and I really had no idea at all what to expect. So with Northlanders, I feel like I know what my floor is, I feel like I know that at a minimum it will be as successful a book as DMZ is right now. But it's not like I'm kicking back relaxed about it. It's really a terrifying thing, launching a book, especially with the way a lot of other Vertigo books have recently launched. Everyone's seen the numbers or heard the talk online about how low they all are. So I've really been working at it, being super-positive like you said but also trying to be frank about the situation, especially talking to retailers -- which has been the focus of my promotion up until this week. They have to buy the book, for most of them sight unseen, with no way to return unsold copies, and sell them to a readership that, in increasing numbers, seems to prefer waiting for the collections. I really understand all that, and have been trying to get them as much information and help as I can scrounge up.

SPURGEON: I was looking at the Vertigo line-up and that's not a big publishing house. Do you have a sense of your place within Vertigo, what you might offer the line that they've decided not to get from someone else?

WOOD: God, how do I answer that? It's the impossible question. I want to say nothing, no, there's nothing I can offer Vertigo they can't get or have gotten from any of a number of true superstars they've published. My place within Vertigo... I guess I must have one. I'm sure my editor has an answer to that. But at the risk of sounding all "aw shucks" and humble pie, I don't think I write books like anyone else exactly and Vertigo's seen some value in what I do. I fit in somehow. I just don't know how exactly.

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SPURGEON: Some of the articles I've seen on Northlanders have latched onto elements of the story that they found to be trademark elements of your work. Now that you've been doing this for a while, do you feel that there are recognizable elements that cut across your work? What might they be? Do you feel comfortable having your work discussed in that way?

WOOD: It depends on how well-informed the discussion is. I liking hearing how my work is perceived by readers and how they would categorize my "style," but too often its a sweeping observation based on just one book, or one type of lead character. I grow very weary of snark, and just today someone pointed me at a review that said every single one of my characters was "privileged and white," which is, purely looking at the facts, just not true. But getting too upset about that is the path to madness, as is trying to correct people's ignorance.

I think there are a few commonalities, though. DMZ and Channel Zero are very political... DMZ is in a lot of ways a stylistic follow-up to CZ. I wrote a lot of wise-ass action books that were essentially all part of a series, The Couriers, and the more recent Supermarket was me deliberately revisiting that past, because it can be a lot of fun to write. I am never sure how to label books like Demo and Local, but those two absolutely fit together and are a big part of what I do. I know I do like writing about relationships, both romantic and also just how humans interact with each other. I like fucked-up emotions, flawed people, unconventional romances, sad stories, etc. It's just so much more interesting. Why should the guy get the girl at the end when instead, the guy could alienate the girl because he is so self-centered that any attempts to woo her fall flat and just expose what an emotional cripple he is? I guarantee you that is more accurate to real life and ten times as interesting a character study.

I just got done writing The New York Four for DC/Minx, which is about four girls starting college at NYU. Each one has something wrong with them... we have an extreme recluse, a voyeur-turned-stalker, a user and manipulator, and a boy-crazy girl with no sense of boundaries. So much more interesting, in my mind, than a bookworm, an athlete, a tomboy, and the, I dunno, the girl who goes clubbing.

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SPURGEON: You're rightfully pointed out that there's never been a good Viking comic. Why do you think that is?

WOOD: I've not seen one that I personally like, no. I never really liked the mythological aspect of them, in comics or in history or literature. I think most comics, that I've seen, tend to put that stuff front and center and it immediately turns me off. I've always been more interested in the practical, day to day things, like how they built their boats, or the tactics of fighting in shield walls, what they ate, how they dressed, etc., all things that don't seem like they would make for a ripping comic book. But I'm going to try.

SPURGEON: As a fan of Viking stories, what are some of your artistic touchstones in other media, and why?

WOOD: Just other books, fiction and non-. I did look at a lot of movies when I was writing the pitch for Northlanders... nothing specifically Viking, but historical epics like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. Actually, The 13th Warrior was decent, adapted from the [Michael] Crichton book Eaters Of The Dead. Probably the best Viking movie out there. But I wanted to study what made these movies work. I want Northlanders to have that sense of scope, that sort of epic-quality.

When I was in Iceland I bought a copy of what is supposedly the Viking movie, called The Raven Flies. And I quite enjoyed The Virgin Spring, the Ingmar Bergman film set in medieval Sweden, which is quite beautiful but a tough film to watch.

imageSPURGEON: My understanding is that the Vikings more than any great civilization in world history have been subject to vagaries of history and art about them: from centuries of being portrayed as monsters, but also including a strong romantic streak and today a much better understanding of their culture and their need for land acquisition. What strikes you about that people and their culture; what in particular interests you or has held your interest since a younger age?

WOOD: One thing that always strikes me is, as you said, their need for farm-able land and food sources. It's almost refreshing to think how, as a people, the Vikings invaded and conquered for such straight forward and understandable reasons... compared to the ideological reasons virtually everyone who's come after them for doing the same thing! That, couple with the fact that the Norse and Danes etc., readily assimilated themselves into the native cultures to keep the land they conquered shows a... I don't know. A pragmatism that I can respect.

SPURGEON: I'm not sure that I know the genesis of Northlanders. Where did you start, and at what point did it begin to cohere in your eyes into roughly the same story that is now being published?

WOOD: I was talking to Steve Wacker, an ex-DCU editor who I've known for a long time. We were kicking ideas around, thinking up old DCU properties that I might be able to bring back. The Viking Prince was one of them, and even though I never pursued that particular title, but something had clicked in my head... I liked Vikings, I always have, but up to that point it had never occurred to me that maybe I would want to write about them.

I was also in the middle of watching The Yakuza Papers again, and I thought maybe I could write a Viking book for Vertigo, some dark and nasty crime saga set in that time period. That was how it started. My editor Will Dennis had asked me for another project and made it clear he expected me to pitch something well outside of my "comfort zone." So that's what I did.

The final version of the pitch was a lot less dark, and it wasn't a crime story anymore. I would say it best resembles something like Rome, the HBO series, in terms of style and tone. A stylized historical epic.

SPURGEON: Can you talk a bit about the breadth and depth of your research on the project? I read that you went to Iceland, but I'm not exactly sure what you did there.

WOOD: I have a compulsion for collecting research. I'm serious when I say it's part of my OCD. I buy a lot of books, I read as much as I can, and yeah, in the case of Northlanders, I went to Iceland. It doubled as my honeymoon so it wasn't pure research, but I went to all the museums, looked at the original Saga manuscripts, visited ruins and other places of historical interest. I soaked up what I could, took hundreds of photos for my artist, and spent a lot of time thinking about this series. And this is a comic book -- I'm not writing a thesis or an academic text, so much of the trip just saw me soaking up the scenery, getting inspired, geeking out, trying on armor, etc. Northlanders isn't a project that needs its writer to spend several years reading books and traveling the world collecting notes... show me a comic, any comic, that requires that. But I have the resources and the knowledge and the inspiration, all I need, to write this book with authenticity and respect.

SPURGEON: Have you pinpointed this story in history? It's been a long time since European History 201, but did the resurgent, cosmopolitan Constantinople overlap the height of the Viking period, or are the Vikings you're dealing with in their historical decline? For that matter, how strict are you with the history?

WOOD: The first Northlanders story takes place in 980 AD, and concerns itself with only a couple locations: Constantinople and the Orkney Islands off the northern coast of Scotland. The Byzantine Emperor did hire Viking mercenaries for his palace guard, called Varangians, and did so for a great many years. And in 980 AD, much of the British Isles, and absolutely the remote northern reaches, were firmly under Viking rule. It was called Danelaw at the time. Actually, if King Alfred hadn't managed to rally his supporters and bring England back from the few acres of swampland he controlled at his more dire point, England would probably be known as Daneland now and we'd be speaking some form of Danish.

In time, as the series progresses, I want to skip around and cover a few different points in time. I'm outlining a two-issue story about the raid on Lindisfarne, the event that is considered to have kicked off the Viking Era, and I'd like to do a story about the famous Greenland settlement, which is probably the end of the Vikings as we knew them.

SPURGEON: It seems like you're coming at this story with an appreciation for the modern elements of that ancient time, as in elements of secular cynicism and the multi-nationalistic sphere in which Sven operates. How are you able to work with similarities between that world and ours?

WOOD: In really broad strokes, but I'm trying to define certain parallels as closely as I can because I think its important -- crucial -- to give readers someway to connect what their reading to themselves, especially with something like historical fiction. The Viking Era was all about war and conquest and occupation and rapidly changing culture and technology... clashing ideologies and aggressive religions and fear of the future. Not unique to the Viking age, of course, but something that we can see both then and now.

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SPURGEON: In the first issue you're very quick to establish some of the negative aspects of your protagonist's personality, in that he aggressively goes after the combat that takes up the first few pages, and he kills the person who brings him the information about his father's passing. What's different about working with a lead that's not heroic? Is there something you find particularly appealing about that kind of character?

WOOD: I remember walking out of Gladiator, the Russell Crowe film, puzzled that we as viewers were meant to see Maximus as a hero. The movie I just saw, he slaughtered his way through it, almost blind with a desire for murder and revenge. But I guess that's the times the movie portrays, and let's face it, Vikings killed people. They did a lot of other things as well, but they weren't shy to kill people. Their afterlife was a pretty great place as advertised, so I guess it must not have seemed like such a crime.

Anyway, I do prefer to write less-than-perfect characters and I know some readers don't have a lot of interest in reading characters like that. But like I've already said, I find it more interesting that way, and this is probably why I've not really pursued writing company-owned superheroes. I remember during the year I spent writing Generation X for Marvel, back in 1999, I would get into frequent arguments with my editor over his decree, which he said was Marvel's decree, that no matter what happens in a story, at the end of the 22 pages, the "hero" -- meaning the lead character(s) -- had to be nothing but heroic, blameless, spotless. I have zero interest in signing onto something like that. How lame... and boring! Stuff like that feels quaint and way out of date, belonging to a simpler, less cynical time.

In Northlanders, Sven's an accomplished warrior and he's arrogant because of that. He didn't just kill that messenger, he and his men killed everyone in that boat. He'll change over the course of the story, get more complex, more open-minded, and more well-rounded.

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SPURGEON: I want to ask about the suggestions of theme in that first issue. The first one is the thought of returning home, which seems very up front in the work. Sven seems reluctant to return home, for good reason; at the same time, he appears intrigued by his own resistance to returning home, despite the potential for great wealth that would seem to provide an obvious motivation. Does this mirror any of your own experiences coming to terms with home and family and legacy? Is there something that strikes you about these issues that you don't see other people exploring in art?

WOOD: I think the idea of a person returning home after a period of time is a classic theme that's been done thousands of times. Actually, just looking at Vertigo right now, Loveless and Scalped both work with that theme in different ways. Talk about relating to your reader... who doesn't have strong feelings, one way or the other, about their hometown? What about high school reunions? Ever fantasize about going back and kicking the ass of the bully that gave you such a hard time in the 8th grade? I know I have.

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It took a tremendous effort on my part to leave my hometown, and really I was only able to because I inherited some money. For about ten years I had a real love/hate thing going on, and its only been after I was into my 30s that I could think about it all objectively. That's where Local came from, my thoughts on the idea of hometowns, geographical locations and how they connect to us emotionally. In Northlanders, Sven has nothing but loathing for where he comes from, but it can't be that black and white, can it? He comes off, initially, so dispassionate, walking the streets he ran in as a child, seeing familiar faces, and he's so unmoved. But it'll catch up to him. No one is that bulletproof.

SPURGEON: The other theme that initially presents itself is a discussion of man vs. nature. You return to not only the extreme elements Sven faces, but his hard-won inclinations when it comes to effectively dealing with them. Just the fact that you use such wide-open spaces in your work kind of sets this book apart from a lot of other titles. This seems like it might be further from your own experiences than some of the other plot points, but is man's ability to deal with harsh external circumstances a matter of interest to you?

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WOOD: Looking back at what first got me into Vikings, when I was young, a huge part of it was their environments. I'm not 100 percent sure why, but the idea, the mental image of these men stalking across frozen moors, or sailing their ships through icy waters, or fighting desperate battles on a rocky beach somewhere was thrilling. My family comes from Scotland and would talk about it often, and I visited there a few times in my teens, and I think that really cemented it for me. People who cope with rugged environments impress me, whether it be some island in the North Sea or a war-torn Manhattan or even a dysfunctional family... overcoming obstacles, being put through trials. Why is that so interesting to me, I wonder? I just know it is. Certainly I admire it in people. I think it makes for great reading. As a kid I was quite obsessed with Jack London novels.

The Tourist is a book of mine that's very close to my heart for these exact reasons.

SPURGEON: Can you talk a little about Vertigo landing Demo? Was it a difficult process in taking it from its initial publisher and finding it a home?

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WOOD: Yes and no. Vertigo seemed to have their eyes on it for a long time. I know that probably sounds predatory, but I don't mean it that way. Demo was the book that got my editor, Will Dennis, interested in me as a writer, and I suspect the same thing happened with [Demo artist] Becky [Cloonan] and Shelly Bond (she got in at Vertigo parallel but separate to me). So I know they liked the work, and I knew even back then that I would likely be taking the book away from AiT when the contract expired, so in that respect it was easy. When I signed my exclusive deal with DC, we had an understanding, a handshake deal on the side that they would get Demo when the time came. Becky and I were thrilled about it.

In the middle there, there was some awkwardness, because AiT obviously would have preferred to keep the book. I have to hand it to AiT, though... way back when, in late 2004, I was having a frank conversation with them about what I could do to help, to help market my books to increase sales, to grow my career. I wanted a career in comics, all or nothing. I didn't want it to be what I did on the side after my real job was over for the day. But I wasn't going to get that selling the amount of books I was at the time. AiT was very honest and upfront and basically said, "This is it. We're a small shop and this is probably as good as it'll get for you here." So that was helpful, actually. It helped me take the next steps, to "level up." Within a month I had pitched Local, Supermarket and DMZ (to Oni, IDW, Vertigo) and placed The Tourist at Image.

And thinking about Demo, its such an important book to both of us, to Becky and I, that we naturally want to give it a better chance to be out in the world, to reach more people. I look at what Demo sold to date compared to the DMZ trades, let's say, and its a difference of tens and tens of thousands of copies. There is a potential that the book hasn't reached yet.

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SPURGEON: Now that you're a couple of years into doing DMZ, has that experience been what you thought it would be? Has it been surprising in any way. On the one hand, there's a jumpiness and prickliness about political ideas as seen in the recent incident where Scott King was hassled at an airport because of some of the imagery in your comic; at the same time, we're a very satire-rich culture where you can say just about anything and it seems to become a part of things rather than dangerously standing out. Are you able to accomplish what you want to accomplish with DMZ given the tenor of the times?

WOOD: Sometimes I am a little surprised it hasn't been received as more "shocking" than it has, considering current events, but like you said there is a lot of similar material out there. Everywhere I go, everyone I know, people are fully aware of how fucked up and shitty our government is, how illegal and crooked they are, and how wrong the war is. So DMZ is preaching to the converted, absolutely, so what it takes to stand out is what angle you take, the style you work in. DMZ definitely has its angle. And yeah, I am accomplishing what I want. I've not once been censored or talked out of anything by anyone at DC.

I feel like I am very lucky, very, very lucky to have this opportunity, to have a publisher and to have the means to write books and see them published and to say what I want to say in public. I don't want to blow that, or do it half-assed or be compromised. I never take my career for granted, so I try and make everything count. It was with Demo that this first dawned on me. To sort of quote something Matt Fraction says on a similar subject, it was time to start sticking my landings.

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SPURGEON: You recently attended the festival at Lucca, which is probably the European festival that's been most historically friendly to US creators but in many other ways is about as European a festival as exists. Now that you've had a little bit more time to reflect, how was that experience? Has it had an effect on how you look at your career, your industry?

WOOD: Those columns I wrote for Newsarama while I was there, I was having such a fantastic time I don't think you could have got a balanced report out of me if you had a gun to my head! But even with time to reflect, it really was amazing and it absolutely changed everything for me.

The biggest thing, speaking personally, was how I was received there. I knew the Italian-language Demo had won a fan award, and I was working with a couple Italian artists... Riccardo Burchielli, my DMZ artist, is quite famous over there. But I considered my invitation to be more of a tag-along thing, but as the time neared, it seemed like I have a career there, a really good one, and a readership. This stunned me a bit because here in the US, I've spent ten years actively working my ass off to build a career, but over there is just happened on its own with no efforts from me, really. I wasn't going to cons there, doing signings, spending time on their message boards, working with retailers... I simply arrived at Lucca where there were three books of mine in Italian being released for the show. There was a huge gallery exhibition for DMZ, I won an award, similar to an Eisner, for Demo , and I had steady lines at my booth... something that never happens here. And all on the strength of the work itself, not because I was good as self-promotion or someone was hyping me or taking me "under their wing," etc. It felt really good.

And the positivity... I'm sure that it exists to some degree, but I saw no negativity, no beefs, no snark, no rivalries. It was just this great show where comics are art, and I use that word properly, not capital-A art or art with finger quotes around it but a legitimate art form, like it should be everywhere. Imagine an industry that's truly balanced, where the overall output resembles more the catalog from First Second than it does the Marvel insert in Previews. Where instead of being stuck in a warehouse convention center somewhere, the show warrants an immense outdoor set-up in one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe? I dunno, Tom... I don't know how it could have been better. The people were warm and happy and friendly, the food was amazing, the energy nothing but positive. It makes a lot of shit we deal with completely irrelevant. I come back to the states and see things like this, where people I don't even know are mad at me for having a good time in Lucca? Being there gave me a perspective on things that has made me happier overall, and I'm untouched by the negativity here now. It's just not worth thinking about. It's not worth anything at all, really.

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SPURGEON: Brian, I know that you've said your piece about articles on sales estimates, but one thing that interested me is that it made me think about how long you've been actively on-line as a creator. Have you ever thought about how that aspect of comics has perhaps had an effect on your career, or how things have changed on-line since you started participating in forums and the like?

WOOD: I think it's had a profound effect on my career. I was entirely ignorant of the internet when I first started, but when I did get online (1998) and started poking around, the first place of interest I stumbled across was Warren Ellis' old Delphi forum, the WEF -- I immediately made my own, lesser forum, which I ran for something like six years. The WEF is really where I came up, learning a lot from Warren, who gave me advice and assistance any time I asked. Now, there are days I wish the internet never existed, it can get so frustrating, especially and most recently with the shit about the sales estimate charts. That's a funny thing, actually, seeing bloggers rake me over the coals about it and claim I have no fucking idea what I'm talking about, while at the same time getting emails from a whole bunch of creators thanking me for speaking up.

Obviously, being active online is crucial to any creator's career, but its a minefield. I had a dark period of a couple years when I was making books for AiT and also working a day job that was, all melodrama aside, crushing my soul. Comics just felt like a hobby at the time -- I wasn't yet taking it seriously -- and I would blow off a lot of steam on the message boards and made a lot of people dislike me, intensely in some cases. I'm still digging myself out from that, actually, some 4+ years after it all. Very, very ugly, all of it. Stupid choices on my part, aligning myself with the wrong people, and not taking anything as seriously as I should.

SPURGEON: As someone with a displayed appreciation for the political nature of a delivery process. Do you have any thoughts about the decline of the comic book in general? Is there anything that comics potentially loses by changing from a series of tiny booklets distributed in independently owned, almost hidden shops into a bunch of book sold in a Barnes and Noble, for example?

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WOOD: Tom, I've spent pretty much my entire career writing these creator-owned black and white books for the small presses and struggling to make a career out of it. As far as I'm concerned, the idea of tiny booklets in hidden shops can just up and die already. I'm sick of it. Did you know that prior to DMZ, there was not one year where comics made me the equivalent of minimum wage? My first check for DMZ (a script and a cover) was equal to an entire year's worth of royalties on my back catalog. As far as I'm concerned, and I want this to be true for me and everyone else in comics, the more our books are sold in Barnes and Noble, the better.

The decline of singles does worry me, though, mostly from a financial standpoint. As a reader, I am firmly on board with trades and graphic novels. It puts me in a funny position. I see lots of "solutions" floated online about how companies, like Vertigo, should ditch the idea of monthlies altogether and publish the trades. Instead of DMZ singles every month, you'd get a DMZ graphic novel every months. Sounds good, but that's a lot of ad revenue lost, killing the single issues, as well as income from sales. Would I still get my page rate for writing DMZ, or would it be more of a book deal, an advance against royalties? Could I still pay my mortgage and feed my kid's college fund? Could DC still cover its costs? I really don't know.

SPURGEON: How will you know when Northlanders is a success?

WOOD: In increments. What is it selling on its first issue? Where's it at when the monthly orders stabilize? Will it get collected? Will that sell well? Can I keep going? A series of small victories over time will tell me.

*****

* cover to the first issue of Northlanders, out this week in Direct Market retail establishments
* publicity photo provided by Wood
* seven bits from sequences in Northlanders #1
* from The Tourist, with Toby Cypress
* from Demo, with Becky Cloonan
* from DMZ, Wood's modest yet definite break-out hit at Vertigo
* photo from this year's Lucca Festival, provided by Wood
* two more from DMZ, the latter being the first issue's cover
* a full page from the first issue of Northlanders, emphasizing empty space

*****

Northlanders, ongoing comic book series, Vertigo, first issue out 12/5/2007

*****

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posted 8:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Fff Results Post #101—Super-Laundry

Five For Friday #101 Results

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Two Costumes You Like, Two You Hate, and One You'd Wear Yourself." This was a topic suggested by Eric Reynolds. Here are the results.

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Sub-Mariner's swim trunks -- nothing speaks to any character's personality more than the fact Namor keeps showing up for fistfights wearing only a Speedo
2. Howard the Duck's suit -- he looks 90 percent not like the character when they lose the tie; plus: pantsless
3. Captain Ultra -- Makes me want to become a super-villain... dedicated to kicking ass of this guy's designer
4. The Phantom -- Ghost Who Sweats
5. Mr. O'Malley -- Mittens!

*****

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James Langdell

1. Dr. Strange -- Whatever he wears, on or off the astral plane, looks great.
2. Gentleman Ghost -- The costume wears itself.
3. Venom -- The costume wears itself, but not in a good way.
4. Aquaman -- Whatever outfit (even if it happened to be the fine classic Aquaman look) that replaced the amazing Craig Hamilton's mini-series costume.
5. Talky Tawny -- Great suits! I want one!

*****

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Sean T. Collins

Like:
1. Spider-Man's black costume. Not only is it cool-looking, it makes a lot more sense than his normal costume, because spiders are black, not red and blue.
2. Batman's black and gray costume (esp. from The Dark Knight Returns). Not only is it cool-looking, it makes a lot more sense than his normal costume, because bats are black and gray, not blue and gray.
Hate:
3. Blue Wolverine-hair underwear-monkey Beast. This is kind of more of a look than a costume, but it's really the underwear that makes this the crappiest costume ever. Cat/Cocteau Beast is vastly superior even in his John Cassaday wrestling trunks, let alone his Frank Quitely leather gear.
4. Penance, aka "Speedball the Cenobite." Besides taking a great, crazy, chipper Steve Ditko design and ruining it for the sake of grim'n'gritty emo nonsense, it doesn't even work as a costume. How the fuck does he see out of his mask? It has no eye holes! Did no one bother to point that out?
Would wear myself:
5. The Punisher's T-shirt, black jeans, and trenchcoat look. Hell, from about 11th grade onward, I wore it about every third day!

*****


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Tom Bondurant

Like:
1. Silver Age Green Lantern -- simple and flexible. Good for all shapes and sizes.
2. Original-version Robin, short pants, pixie boots, and all. Hey, it lasted 50 years (including 3 TV seasons) without a radical redesign.
Hate:
3. Jericho (original version, in case it's been redesigned lately). Muttonchop sideburns or not, that's a hideous outfit. It belongs in a Mardi Gras parade.
4. The early-'90s Sue Richards MILF Special with the thigh-high boots and boob-window "4" symbol (see, e.g., the cover of FF #375).
Would wear:
5. The Shadow's hat/cape/suit/scarf combo. Couldn't pull off the laugh, though.

*****

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David Gallaher

1. Batman -- He looks scary, gothic, and you know ... like a bat.
2. Nova -- The bucket helmet is so iconic. And you can't go wrong with that old school costume.
3. Wolverine -- Real wolverines aren't yellow and blue - and they don't have stripes.
4. Spider-Man -- The red and blue duds are terrible. When was the last time you saw a bright red and blue spider?
5. Jack Knight -- Practical and stylish. One of the best costumes in recent history.

*****

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Valerie D'Orazio

Blue & Yellow Wolverine : Only Logan can work a color combination like that.
Destiny From The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants: Elegant mask looks like something out of Modigliani.
Rage: The mask was uncool before Luchadores were cool.
Moondragon: Just...no.
Squirrel Girl: That might be my San Diego costume next year.

*****

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Gil Roth

Costumes I like
* Black Lightning (original) -- Puffy sleeves, collar open to the waist, and a mask that had an afro-wig attached to it. If only he had the Luke Cage chain-belt.
* Doctor Doom -- All biznass. Plus, he always carried a sidearm, even when he was rocking the Power Cosmic.
Costumes I hate
* White Tiger - I would never be able to keep that clean. I mean, I'd probably have it on when I'd go out for wings, and accidentally wipe my hand on my leg or something. Don't get me started. (I don't know how Black Panther kept ash off of his costume, either.)
* Hate Monger -- I mean, that was kinda the point, but still, I think the "H" was over the top.
Costume I'd wear
* Dazzler -- But only if I was going to a Scissor Sisters show. Since I'm not gay, I'll have to go with the original Mister Terrific, because his tunic had a curtain drawing back on the words "FAIR PLAY."

*****

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Nat Gertler

Costumes I love:
1. Silver Surfer. Really, just underwear and polish
2. Phantom Stranger, ever ready for a love-in
Costumes I hate
3. Clark Kent. If the goal is to fit in and pass as normal, your suit shouldn't be bright blue.
4. Elektra. If your costume is designed to make you stand out among the ninja, you ain't thinking like a ninja.
One I'd wear:
5. Wonder Man's safari jacket

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Silver Age Aquaman. Orange scales and green leotards. With fins. Love it!
2. The Invincible Man. I don't know what it is about this outfit, but I've always thought it was really cool and sorely under-utilized. This is why Kirby was King.
3. Plastic Man. Long sleeves, but no pants? An open chest and back? And what the heck is the deal with those bee stripes? That's just wrong all over.
4. Any superhero costume which consisted of wearing a leather jacket over their old uniform in the 1990s. Not because the visual effect was always horrendous, but its intent almost certainly was.
5. Neal Adams' Green Arrow. 'Cuz I think I could actually pull it off.

*****

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Ben Schwartz

Two I like:
* Junior Tracy: spiked-haircut, proto-Doc Martens, Goodwill jackets, bright check knickers, and the black socks make JT the first ska-punk in Chicago by decades.
* Brainiac 5: (as drawn by Curt Swan or John Forte) wears a simple purple jumpsuit, matching yellow boots and force-shield belt, and NO annoying, merch-bait logo on his chest. It's both a leisure and an action-wear outfit that shows the one thing DC Comics got right about the future is that one day everyone will wear running suits in public.
Two I hate:
* Ditko's The Creeper: red-boa, fur-cuffed gloves and boots, green trunks (striped no less) -- if Ditko's rule about costumes was that you should be able to recognize the character from any part of it shown, then Mission Accomplished: this cross-dressing circus geek is spottable getting out of the clown car from miles away.
* Zatanna: Top hat, fish nets, and white pumps on a superhero? Whether she has the day-time bikini top or the Alex Ross formal evening wear cummerbund, she should be tap dancing singing telegrams, not fighting evil. Criminals, if I understand my DC Universe, are a cowardly, superstitious lot -- not a Disney Channel-approved variety show audience. She should be fighting crime with a ventriloquist's dummy.
One I'd wear:
* Mr. Tawny: a suit comfortable enough for a tiger, that's for me!

*****

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J. Caleb Mozzocco

Two I like:
1. Ragman's
2. The Red Bee's (Laugh at his trained bees if you want, but anyone willing to fight crime while dressed like that is obviously one tough customer)
Two I hate:
3. Penance's (i.e. "Dark Speedball")
4. Gambit's
One I'd wear myself:
5. Spider-Man villain The Grizzly's (but probably just around the house)

*****

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Eric Reynolds

1. Silver Surfer -- like Namor, almost all-nude, but unlike Namor, also covered in silver body paint (and carrying a surfboard). Point, Surfer.
2. Mr. Miracle -- More Kirby, I just always loved those colors as a kid.
3. Tie: Captain America's motorcycle helmet as worn by Reb Brown/Matt Salinger's plastic ears as Cap.
4. Iron Man during his short-lived 70s nose phase.
5. Brother Power, the Geek.

*****

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Chris Randle

1. The Question -- The most autobiographical superhero costume ever, Grant Morrison's included
2. Hawkman -- Kubert rendition only
3. Rainbow Raider -- Failed artist; so was his designer, because this guy managed to look stupid even by Flash villain standards
4. The Spectre -- I love the character, but not those little green booties
5. Black Jack -- It's the "huge quasi-mohawk + Victorian detective" combo

*****

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Chris Duffy, age 40

1. Doctor Strange -- Ditko version with cloak of levitation. Perfect fit of character to costume.
2. Captain Triumph -- less is more.
3. Baron Zemo. I don't feel afraid of him. Do you?
4. Giant Man. Any of them. Sorry, guys!
5. Hutch Owen. I've got the hat already.

*****

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Pete Duffy, age 9

1. Spider-Man. Because they can't see your eyes and you can see theirs.
2. Captain Underpants -- "Hey, I like to run around in underwear, once in a while."
3. Batman. If you're trying to be sneaky, don't put a big yellow sign of a bat on your shirt.
4. Wonder Woman. If she was from a different country, don't you think she would not be wearing red, white, and blue?
5. The Chameleon. It's one of the only suits that actually HAS a power.

*****
 
posted 8:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: Alex Cox adapts the Brunhild Myth.

* go, submit: the quarterly mini-comic anthology Candy or Medicine is apparently looking for contributors for next Spring's volume.

* go, read: Matthew Springer was nice enough to drop a line drawing my attention to his blog AlertNerd.

* go, read: report from Rejection Collections 2 party

* go, brood: 15,000 fewer jobs in books than six years ago.
 
posted 8:20 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 83rd Birthday, Jack Davis!

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posted 8:08 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 41st Birthday, Andy Mangels!

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posted 8:04 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 36th Birthday, John Hankiewicz!

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posted 8:02 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

Apparently, I go from "Happy Holidays" to "Fuck You" in three words -- "No, Merry Christmas."
 
posted 8:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
I’ve Wasted My Multiple Lives

According to what I could glean from this list of official DC alternate earths released to-date, here's what I am likely to be doing on multiple planes of reality throughout the Multiverse.

Earth-1: Blogger
Earth-2: Kinder, Gentler Blogger of Generations Past
Earth-3: Evil Blogger
Earth-4: Blogger at New Frontiersman
Earth-5: Blogger for WHIZ
Earth-8: Slave Blogger
Earth-9: Blog still called "The Comics Reporter," but about professional baseball
Earth-10: Blogger bought out and assumed into larger blog
Earth-11: Female Blogger
Earth-12: Old, cranky blogger training younger blogger
Earth-13: Dark, arcane blogger
Earth-15: I've assumed the mantle of NeilAlien's blog
Earth-16: Blogger, son of iconic blogger
Earth-17: Dead blogger
Earth-18: Pony Express Blogger
Earth-19: Ye Olde Timey Blogger
Earth-21: Brightly Optimistic Blogger
Earth-22: Jaded Blogger that lacks understanding of how to blog heroically, but looks awfully handsome
Earth-26: Some sort of Beaver that bites news into logs
Earth-30: Comrade Blogger
Earth-32: Dark Blogger
Earth-34: Castrato Blogger
Earth-37: Retro Blogger
Earth-40: Foreign Correspondent Blogger
Earth-43: Vampire Blogger
Earth-48: New Blogger No One Really Likes
Earth-50: Perpetually Re-Launching My Blog Blogger
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
If I Were In Rohnert Park, I’d Go To This

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posted 4:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
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